January 18, 1934

18 January 2021

#Inthisday January 18, 1934, the revolutionary or insurrectional general strike broke out, one of the fundamental events in the history of the portuguese workers movement.

The strike was a response to the “fascização of trade unions”, imposed in September 1933 by the “Statute of National Work”, inspired by Mussolini’s “Carta del Lavoro”. It was organized by anarcho-syndicalist scumaries of the General Confederation of Labor, communists of the Inter-Union Commission, linked to the Communist Portuguese Party, socialists of the Federation of Workers’ Associations and autonomous unions organized in the Committee of Autonomous Trade Unions, and also provided for sabotage, bombs, armed actions, cutting of communications and roads and a republican military uprising.

However, the movement was quickly and easily controlled by the regime, which had made a series of arrests in advance.

The strike had limited adtake and duration. In Almada, Barreiro, Silves or Sines the workers went on strike, in Lisbon a bomb explodes in the Poço do Bispo, the railway is cut in Xabregas and Póvoa de Santa Iria gives a parade. In Coimbra, a bomb explodes at the power plant. In Leiria communications are cut off. There are also explosions on the Martingança railway, sabotage in Tunes or the obstruction of the road between Vila Boim and Terrugem.

Only in the Great Navy the events reach greater proportions. Land of strong traditions of glass fights, it is their union, affection for the communists, leading the process. Groups of workers occupied the GNR post, the city hall building and the CTT and the attack on the residence of an industrialist is recorded. It is proclaimed the ephemeral, but full of symbolic charge, “Soviet of the Great Navy”. But the military quickly puts an end to the insurrection and within hours control the situation.

To the courage and determination of the labor movement, the regime responded with violent repression.

A strong wave of arrests and deportations of communist and anarcho-syndicalist leaders, several participants on January 18 would later die in Tarrafal: Pedro Matos Filipe, Augusto Costa, Arnaldo Simões Januário, Casimiro Ferreira, Ernesto José Ribeiro, Joaquim Montes, Mário Castelhano, Bento Gonçalves, Manuel Augusto da Costa and António Guerra.

With the murder of Bento Gonçalves and Mário Castelhano, the leaders of the two dominant currents in the labor movement that had been in the 18th of January were beheaded: anarcho-syndicalist and communists, but their example of courage would continue to inspire the portuguese workers.

Image: The individuals arrested as having taken part in the Communist insupation of the Great Navy. Torre do Tombo National Archives

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