National Union (Portugal)

The National Union (Portuguese: União Nacional) was the sole legal party of the Estado Novo regime in Portugal. It was founded in 1930 and dominated by António de Oliveira Salazar during most of its existence. Unlike in most single-party regimes, the National Union was more of a political arm of the government, rather than holding actual power over it.

The National Union was formed as a subservient umbrella organisation to support the regime itself, and therefore did not have its own philosophy. At the time, many European countries feared the destructive potential of communism. Salazar not only forbade Marxist parties, but also revolutionary fascist-syndicalist parties. In 1934, Salazar exiled Francisco Rolão Preto as a part of a purge of the leadership of the Portuguese National Syndicalists, also known as the camisas azuis ("Blue Shirts"). Salazar denounced the National Syndicalists as "inspired by certain foreign models" (meaning German Nazism) and condemned their "exaltation of youth, the cult of force through direct action, the principle of the superiority of state political power in social life, [and] the propensity for organising masses behind a single leader" as fundamental differences between fascism and the Catholic corporatism of the Estado Novo.[3]

The Portuguese corporatist state had some similarities to Benito Mussolini's Italian fascism, but considerable differences in its moral approach to governing.[4] Although Salazar admired Mussolini and was influenced by his Labour Charter of 1927,[5] he distanced himself from fascist dictatorship, which he considered a pagan Caesarist political system that recognised neither legal nor moral limits. Salazar also viewed German Nazism as espousing pagan elements that he considered repugnant. Just before World War II, Salazar made this declaration: "We are opposed to all forms of Internationalism, Communism, Socialism, Syndicalism and everything that may divide or minimise, or break up the family. We are against class warfare, irreligion and disloyalty to one's country; against serfdom, a materialistic conception of life, and might over right."[6]

Unlike Mussolini or Hitler, Salazar never had the intention to create a party-state. Salazar was against the whole-party concept and when in 1930 he created the National Union he created it as a non-party. The National Union was set up to control and restrain public opinion rather than to mobilize it, the goal was to strengthen and preserve traditional values rather than to induce a new social order. Ministers, diplomats and civil servants were never compelled to join the National Union.[7]

National Union

União Nacional
PresidentAntónio Salazar (first)
Marcelo Caetano (last)
Founded30 July 1930
Dissolved25 April 1974
HeadquartersLisbon, Portugal
Youth wingMocidade Portuguesa
Paramilitary wingLegião Portuguesa
IdeologyClerical fascism
Portuguese nationalism
National conservatism
Social conservatism
Lusitanian Integralism
Political positionRight-wing to far-right[1][2]
ReligionRoman Catholicism
Colours     Blue      White
Party flag
União Nacional Flag


The party was founded in 1930 during the period of the Ditadura Nacional. Officially it was not a political party, but an "organisation of unity of all the Portuguese". Salazar in the speech that launched the party was vague in terms of its role and he incorporated all the parties supporting the dictatorship, whether republican, monarchic or catholic. Its first organic principles expressly declared that “all citizens, regardless of their political or religious beliefs” would be admitted as long as they adhered to the principles of Salazar’s speech of 30 June 1930.[8]

The first party leader was the Interior Minister Colonel Lopes Mateus. The composition of the Central Commission indicated that the party was meant to support the regime rather than militate for it.[9] Salazar became President and Albino dos Reis, a former member of the Cunha Leal ULR, was nominated Vice President. The first Central Commission was composed by Bissaia Barreto, , João Amaral, a judge and an Integralist monarchist, and Nuno Mexia, who had been linked to the Union of Economic Interests (União dos Interesses Económicos) in the 1920s.[9] Appointment to lead the party meant either ‘retirement’ or a prestigious pause from government duties.[9] The absence of youth was a characteristic of the National Unionr, particularly in the 1930s. At the first Congress, 68% of the delegates were over 40 years old.[10]

According to historian António Costa Pinto The National Union is an example of extreme weakness among dictatorships with weak single parties. There was no internal party activity until 1933. From 1934 onwards, after the creation of the regime’s new institutions, the UN embarked on a period of lethargy from which it did not emerge until 1944. This lethargy can be partly explained by the affirmation by the regime that it did not attribute great importance to it, beyond its utility as an electoral and legitimating vehicle.[8]

The Estado Novo also created state bodies for propaganda, youth and labour, but they were not connected with the party.[11]

Organisational authors of the party were not inspired by the fascist model and when its leaders referred to fascist dictatorships, it was almost always to point out differences.[11]

In 1938 Salazar himself recognised that UN activities “were successively diminished until it had almost been extinguished”. It was with the end of World War II that the National Union came to life again. In October 1945, Salazar announced a liberalisation program designed to restore civil rights that had been suppressed during the Spanish Civil War and World War II in hopes of improving the image of his regime in Western circles. The measures included parliamentary elections, a general political amnesty, restoration of freedom of the press, curtailment of legal repression and a commitment to introduce the right of habeas corpus. The opposition to Salazar started to organise itself around a broad coalition, the Movement of Democratic Unity (MUD), which ranged from ultra-Catholics and fringe elements of the extreme right to the Portuguese Communist Party. Initially, the MUD was controlled by the moderate opposition, but it soon became strongly influenced by the Communist Party, which controlled its youth wing. In the leadership were several communists, among them Octávio Pato, Salgado Zenha, Mário Soares, Júlio Pomar and Mário Sacramento.[12]

The opposition Movement of Democratic Unity was legal between 1945 and 1948, but even then the political system was so heavily rigged that it had no realistic chance of winning.

The party won all seats in elections to the National Assembly of Portugal from 1934 to 1973. Opposition candidates were nominally allowed after 1945, but prematurely withdrew in the 1945 and 1973 legislative elections. In 1970, two years after Salazar had been replaced as leader and prime minister by Marcelo Caetano the name of the party was changed to Acção Nacional Popular ("People's National Action"), and subsequent to Salazar's retirement faced formal competition in the 1969 legislative election, nevertheless winning all constituencies in a landslide.[13]

The party had no real philosophy apart from support for the regime. The Portuguese Fascist leader, Francisco Rolão Preto defined the National Union in 1945 as a “grouping of moderates of all parties, bourgeois without soul or faith in the national and revolutionary imperatives of our time”.[14]

As a result of its lack of ideology, it melted away after the Portuguese Revolution of 1974. It has never been revived, and no party claiming to be its heir has won any seats in the Assembly of the Republic in modern Portugal.

List of Presidents

No. Portrait Name
Term of office
1 Dr. Oliveira Salazar - Ilustração Portugueza (06Set1942) António de Oliveira Salazar
30 July 1930 27 September 1968
2 Marcello caetano Marcelo Caetano
27 September 1968 25 April 1974

Electoral results

Corporative Chamber
Logo Election year Leader Overall votes Percentage Seats won +/–
União Nacional logo, 1938 version 1934
António de Oliveira Salazar
476,706 (#1) 100%
100 / 100
União Nacional logo, 1938 version 1938
António de Oliveira Salazar
694,290 (#1) 100%
100 / 100
União Nacional logo, 1938 version 1942
António de Oliveira Salazar
758,215 (#1) 100%
100 / 100
União Nacional logo, 1938 version 1945
António de Oliveira Salazar
Unknown (#1) 100%
120 / 120
Increase 20
União Nacional logo, 1938 version 1953
António de Oliveira Salazar
Unknown (#1) 100%
120 / 120
União Nacional logo, 1938 version 1957
António de Oliveira Salazar
Unknown (#1) 100%
120 / 120
União Nacional logo, 1938 version 1961
António de Oliveira Salazar
973,997 (#1) 100%
130 / 130
Increase 10
União Nacional logo, 1938 version 1965
António de Oliveira Salazar
Unknown (#1) 100%
130 / 130
União Nacional logo, 1938 version 1969
Marcelo Caetano
981,263 (#1) 87.99%
130 / 130
Acção Nacional Popular logo, 1970 1973
Marcelo Caetano
1,393,294 (#1) 100%
150 / 150
Increase 20


  1. ^ Griffiths, Richard (2000). An Intelligent Person's Guide to Fascism. Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd. p. 133. ISBN 9780715629185.
  2. ^ Leite, Naomi (2017). Unorthodox Kin: Portuguese Marranos and the Global Search for Belonging. University of California Press. p. 63. ISBN 9780520285057.
  3. ^ Kay 1970, p. 55.
  4. ^ Kay 1970, pp. 50–51.
  5. ^ Wiarda 1977, p. 98.
  6. ^ Kay 1970, p. 68.
  7. ^ Gallagher 1990, p. 167.
  8. ^ a b Costa Pinto 2000, p. 141.
  9. ^ a b c Costa Pinto 2000, p. 145.
  10. ^ Costa Pinto 2000, p. 147.
  11. ^ a b Costa Pinto 2000, p. 143.
  12. ^ Rosas, Fernando (dir.) (1995). Revista História (History Magazine) – Number 8 (New Series)
  13. ^ "Portugal, 1969" (PDF). PORTUGAL - Assembly of the Republic - Historical Archive Of Parliamentary Election Results. Inter-Parliamentary Union ( Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  14. ^ Costa Pinto 2000, p. 135.


Américo Tomás

Américo de Deus Rodrigues Tomás (or Thomaz), GCC, GOA, GOSE (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɐˈmɛɾiku dɨ ˈdewʃ ʁuˈdɾiɡɨʃ tuˈmaʃ]), (19 November 1894 – 18 September 1987) was a Portuguese Navy officer and politician. He was the 13th President of Portugal, and the third and last president of the Estado Novo.

António de Oliveira Salazar

António de Oliveira Salazar (; Portuguese: [ɐ̃ˈtɔniu dɨ oliˈvɐjɾɐ sɐlɐˈzaɾ]; 28 April 1889 – 27 July 1970) was a Portuguese statesman who served as Prime Minister of Portugal from 1932 to 1968. He was responsible for the Estado Novo ("New State"), the corporatist authoritarian government that ruled Portugal until 1974.

A trained economist, Salazar entered public life with the support of President Óscar Carmona after the Portuguese coup d'état of 28 May 1926, initially as finance minister and later as prime minister. Opposed to democracy, communism, socialism, anarchism and liberalism, Salazar's rule was conservative and nationalist in nature. Salazar distanced himself from fascism and Nazism, which he criticized as a "pagan Caesarism" that recognised neither legal nor moral limits.

Salazar promoted Catholicism, but argued that the role of the Church was social, not political, and negotiated the Concordat of 1940. One of the mottos of the Salazar regime was "Deus, Pátria e Família" (meaning "God, Fatherland, and Family").With the Estado Novo enabling him to exercise vast political powers, Salazar used censorship and a secret police to quell opposition, especially any that related to the Communist movement. He supported Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War and played a key role in keeping Portugal and Spain neutral during World War II while still providing aid and assistance to the Allies. Despite not being a democracy, Portugal under his rule took part in the founding of important international organizations. Portugal was one of the 12 founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1949, joined the European Payments Union in 1950, and was one of the founding members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in 1960, and a founding member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 1961. Under his rule Portugal also joined the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1962, and began the Portuguese Colonial War. The doctrine of Pluricontinentalism was the basis of his territorial policy, a conception of the Portuguese Empire as a unified state that spanned multiple continents.

The Estado Novo collapsed during the Carnation Revolution of 1974, four years after Salazar's death. Evaluations of his regime have varied, with supporters praising its outcomes and critics denouncing its methods. However, there is a general consensus that Salazar was one of the most influential figures in Portuguese history. In recent decades, "new sources and methods are being employed by Portuguese historians in an attempt to come to grips with the dictatorship which lasted 48 years."

Baltasar Rebelo de Sousa

Baltasar Leite Rebelo de Sousa, GCIH (April 16, 1921 in Lisbon, Santos o Velho – December 1, 2001 in Lisbon) was a Portuguese politician and a former minister and member of parliament and medicine professor.

Fascist paramilitary

A fascist paramilitary is a fighting force - whether armed, unarmed, or merely symbolic - that is independent of regular military command and is established for the defence and advancement of a movement that adheres to the radical nationalist ideology of fascism. Since fascism is such a militarist ideology, there are very few varieties of fascism where paramilitaries do not play a central role, and some kind of paramilitary participation is almost always a basic requirement of membership in fascist movements. Fascist paramilitaries have seen action in both peacetime and wartime. Most fascist paramilitaries wear political uniforms, and many have taken their names from the colours of their uniforms.

The first fascist paramilitary was the Blackshirts of Italian Fascism led by Benito Mussolini. While many of the Blackshirts were former members of the Arditi who had fought in World War I or the Fascio of the immediate post-war years, the most direct inspiration for the first fascist paramilitary was Giuseppe Garibaldi's Redshirts.

A number of other fascist movements established paramilitaries modelled after the Italian original, most notably Nazism with its Sturmabteilung and Schutzstaffel. Others include:

in Ireland, in the 1930s, the Blueshirts under Eoin O'Duffy

the gold shirts and the Red Shirts of 1930s Mexico

the Greenshirts of Brazilian Integralism

the Heimwehr in Austria, in the 1920s and 1930s

the Legionary Greenshirts of the Romanian Iron Guard

Iron Wolf (organization)

National Union (Portugal)Several fascist movements took their cue from the Sturmabteilung rather than the Blackshirts, such as the Greyshirts in South Africa and the Silver Legion of America. Following the Axis invasion of Albania, the occupation forces formed the Albanian Militia under the Blackshirts. Several fascist paramilitaries were active in Romania including the Lăncieri.

Some fascist movements have also established paramilitary youth organizations such as the Hitler Youth or the Mocidade Portuguesa.

A number of fascist paramilitaries have been deployed in conventional warfare. For example, in the later years of World War II the Italian Blackshirts developed into the Black Brigades. Likewise, the combat wing of the Schutzstaffel, the Waffen-SS, fought in many major battles of World War II. The Einsatzgruppen were death squads active in Eastern Europe which carried out the Holocaust and other political killings. In an act of desperation, the Nazis deployed remnants of the Hitler Youth and Sturmabteilung against the Red Army in the Battle of Berlin. At the eleventh hour of the war, the Nazis laid plans for a guerrilla resistance movement they called the Werwolf. However, these plans amounted to little more than a handful of sabotages and assassinations which were ineffective.

Neo-Nazis have used the white power skinhead scene as a recruitment base for neofascist paramilitaries like Combat 18. Soccer hooliganism throughout Europe is another source of recruits. Some groups in the white supremacist wing of the militia movement in the United States can be seen as neofascist paramilitaries.

Francisco Craveiro Lopes

Francisco Higino Craveiro Lopes (Portuguese pronunciation: [fɾɐ̃ˈsiʃku iˈʒinu kɾɐˈvɐjɾu ˈlɔpɨʃ]), GCTE, ComC, GCA, (12 April 1894 – 2 September 1964) was a Portuguese politician and military man. Decorated with the Order of the Bath and the Royal Victorian Chain, he was the 12th President of the Portuguese Republic between 1951 and 1958.

José Carlos Rates

José Carlos Rates (1879–1945) was one of the first General Secretaries of the Portuguese Communist Party, after the Party's foundation in 1921. Rates was chosen, in 1923, to lead the Party by the delegate of the Communist International in Portugal, Jules Humbert-Droz, after several problems inside the newly founded Party. He was replaced by Bento Gonçalves, in 1929, and later left the party. He joined the National Union in 1931.

List of fascist movements by country N–T

A list of political parties, organizations, and movements adhering to various forms of fascist ideology, part of the list of fascist movements by country.

Marcelo Caetano

Marcello José das Neves Alves Caetano (Portuguese pronunciation: [mɐɾˈsɛlu kɐiˈtɐnu], GCTE, GCC; 17 August 1906 – 26 October 1980) was a Portuguese politician and scholar, who was the last prime minister of the Estado Novo regime, from 1968 until his overthrow in the Carnation Revolution of 1974.

Mocidade Portuguesa

The Mocidade Portuguesa (Portuguese pronunciation: [musiˈðað(ɨ) puɾtuˈɣezɐ], English: Portuguese Youth) was a Portuguese youth organization founded in 1936 (dissolved in 1974) during the Portuguese President of the Council´s António de Oliveira Salazar's far-right-wing regime, the Estado Novo. Membership was compulsory between the ages of 7 and 14, and voluntary until the age of 25.

Óscar Carmona

António Óscar Fragoso Carmona, BTO, ComC, GCA, ComSE, (often called António Óscar de Fragoso Carmona, Portuguese pronunciation: [ɐ̃ˈtɔniu ˈɔʃkaɾ fɾɐˈɡozu kaɾˈmonɐ]; 24 November 1869 – 18 April 1951) was Portuguese army officer and politician who served as the 96th Prime Minister of Portugal and 11th President of Portugal (1926–1951). Prior to those posts he served as Minister of War in 1923.

Constitutional Monarchy (1834–1910)
First Republic (1910–1926)
Ditadura Nacional (1926–1933)
Estado Novo (1933–1974)
Third Republic (1974–)

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