AUTHORITARIANISM IN CRISIS: PORTUGAL, CZECHOSLOVAKIA, AND ‘1968’
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This article makes a comparative analysis of political developments in Portugal and Czechoslovakia during the 1960s and early 1970s, focusing on the historic year ‘1968’ and its preconditions. The two countries experienced authoritarian regimes that went through a crisis of both a systemic and a moral kind, reaching a climax in 1968. In Czechoslovakia the liberalization policy of Alexander Dubček and his reform-communist coalition triggered spontaneous political and cultural activities among the population, which became a threat to the system of one-party rule. The Warsaw Pact invasion in August 1968 put an end to this experiment and the illusion of reform communism. The analysis of the causes, contradictions, and failure of liberalization remains a challenging subject for contemporary historians. Comparing the Czechoslovak experience with the evolution of the right-wing dictatorship in Portugal during the same period, may help to deepen our understanding of the nature and limits of authoritarianism in Europe. In Portugal the protracted regime of António Salazar came to an end in the same year 1968 after a series of manifestations of political crisis in the 1960s had shown its weaknesses and the inevitability of reform. However, his successor Marcelo Caetano maintained the regime’s authoritarian core and only carried out some cosmetic changes to keep Portugal with its colonies afloat. The Portuguese had to wait until 1974 for the regime to collapse, a short period of time, however, compared with the twenty-one more years that the Czechs and Slovaks had to wait. The extent of political space for opposition activity and the nature of elite disunity are among the critical questions examined in this article, which makes a comparison of Portugal and Czechoslovakia a challenging endeavour.
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