Far-Right Hate and Extremist Groups
The contemporary far right in Portugal can be traced back to the traditionalist reaction to the liberal revolution of 1910, which overthrew the Portuguese monarchy and replaced it with the First Portuguese Republic. Unlike many fascist regimes in the early 1900s, Portuguese reactionaries were primarily backward-looking, still admiring the monarchist era before the rise of liberal and enlightenment beliefs. The defense of these traditionalist Portuguese values, and a rural lifestyle, was later picked up by the 20th-century dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, who expressed traditional fascist rhetoric, but in practice put in place a traditionalist, anti-modernist regime.
Active Club Portugal
Alternativa Democrática Nacional (ADN) (National Democratic Alternative)
Associação Portugueses Primeiro (Portuguese First Association)
Blood and Honour (B&H) Portugal
Chega Juventude (Chega Youth)
Ergue-Te (Rise Up)/Partido Nacional Renovador (National Renewal Party, PNR)
Escudo Identitário (Identitarian Shield)
Força Nova (New Force)
Movimento Social Nacionalista (Nationalist Social Movement)
Proud Boys Portugal
In the early 20th century, a generation of Portuguese nationalists began to be influenced by the writings of “Integralismo Lusitano” (Lusitanian Integralism), a traditionalist, anti-republican school of thought which consisted of eugenicist and scientific racism, as well as antisemitic beliefs often imported from abroad. One such early reactionary was Amadeo Vasconcelos Mariotte, whose text Os Meus Cadernos (My Notebooks), published in 1913, drew heavily from the antisemitic Action Française and the writings of Frenchman Charles Maurras. Mariotte referred to Jews as a “cursed race” and argued that the “cosmopolitan” nature of the Jews put them at odds with the interests of the Portuguese nation. Another major Lusitanian Integralist figure was António Sardinha, who called for purifying the “Lusitanian race” from the “Hebraic infection” in texts such as “O Valor da Raça” (The Valor of the Race). In 1923, the antisemitic hoax The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was translated into Portuguese under the name Os Planos da Autocracia Judaica: Protocolos dos Sábios de Sião. Its publication provoked a public scare and “denunciations” of prominent Jewish individuals in Portugal. Even though there was never a large Portuguese Jewish community due to a decree in 1496 by King Manuel I requiring conversion to Catholicism or expulsion of the country’s Jewish population, this attitude of “preventative antisemitism” lasted long into Salazar’s regime.
Portugal’s global empire at the beginning of the 20th century included East Timor, Portuguese India, Macau, and forts and plantations along the coasts of the African continent. Following the so-called “Scramble for Africa” between 1884 and 1914, when Europeans rushed to colonize the continent, this also included much of inland Angola and Mozambique. For nearly 400 years, up until the late 19th century, Portugal was top amongst colonizing nations to ship enslaved people across its maritime empire. The centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and brutal oppression of African and Indigenous people in the Portuguese colonies, set in place a system of racial superiority and forced labor that lasted until the fall of the Salazar dictatorship in 1974.
For much of the 20th century, continental Portugal and its colonial territories lived under the iron fist of dictator António de Oliveira Salazar. His Estado Novo (New State, 1933 – 1974) based itself on an ideological combination of both fascist and Catholic traditionalist thought. This combination meant the Estado Novo was a far different form of fascism from its German and Italian counterparts. Salazar preferred a passive public with political control in the hands of the traditional elite, such as the Catholic Church, the military, and large landowners. While Portuguese citizens who supported the Nazis and Italian fascists were tolerated if they supported the regime, organized challenges to the regime, such as Rolão Preto’s Falangist group the Movimento Nacional-Sindicalista (National-Syndicalist Movement) and their “camisas-azuis” (blue shirts), were repressed. Despite staying neutral during WWII, the Estado Novo collaborated with the Nazis throughout the war by exporting goods and materials to the Axis powers. Although they had their differences, Salazar was an admirer of Mussolini and Hitler, and organized three days of national mourning after the latter’s death.
From 1945 to 1969, the Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado, more commonly referred to as PIDE, operated as the state secret police, and had the power to repress any and all resistance to the Salazar regime. Anyone suspected of being a communist or left-leaning was kidnapped, tortured, or killed by the PIDE. The Portuguese phrase “as paredes têm ouvidos” (the walls have ears) comes from this era, as the Portuguese were unable to speak freely anywhere in the country for fear of being killed or tortured. All publications were heavily censored to reflect the ideological tenets of the Salazar regime.
The rights of minorities under the Estado Novo were extremely limited. Salazar’s “naturalist” conception of society led him to believe that women only served to maintain “family life.” In the Constitution of 1933, “citizens” were considered equal “save only the distinction due to women by reason of their nature and in the interests of the family.” Immigrants were seen by Salazar as groups who would diminish the “national spirit” and were turned away. The Portuguese state refused to help any Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust during the war, and the state dismantled clandestine networks creating falsified passports for them. Life in the Portuguese colonies was also incredibly violent and repressive; when rebellions broke out in the post-war era, the Portuguese state responded by mobilizing tens of thousands of Portuguese from the mainland, and violently repressed both those in the rebellious armed forces fighting for independence and civilians. Even so, at home, Salazar promoted “Luso-Tropicalism,” a false belief that argued that the Portuguese empire was a “kinder,” multicultural alternative to the other European powers. This of course ignored the history of atrocities, forced labor, and racial hierarchy that occurred in Portuguese colonial rule, which was ignored domestically in favor of glorifying the country’s maritime explorers and their “discoveries.”
The economic organization of the Estado Novo was corporatist, with a handful of individuals holding much of the property in a monopolistic fashion. While there was economic growth in Portugal during this time, economic inequality meant that most of these gains went to political elites close to Salazar. Up until the 1974 revolution, Portugal had the highest level of illiteracy, infant mortality, and the lowest living standards in Western Europe. Reporting from 1962 states that the population was “underfed, undereducated, underemployed, and underpaid.” Emigration was a common way to avoid political persecution and find better opportunities abroad. “Stable politics, not growth” was Salazar’s priority.
Despite the suffering of the population, Salazar was extremely hesitant to reform the state, which he saw as the path to subversion. “Stand firm, stand firm!,” he stated to his supporters in Lisbon in 1959 when faced with growing protests against the regime in Portugal and abroad, “That is all that is needed for the storm to subside and for justice to be done to us.” Moreover, it was widely believed that even if there were trouble in Portugal, the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco would send in troops to help repress any revolutionary activity. However, this never came to fruition, and the Estado Novo was brought to an end during the Movimento dos Capitães (Movement of Captains) on April 25, 1974, fomented by disaffected members of the armed forces and veterans of the colonial wars, during the Carnation Revolution.
The fall of the Salazar dictatorship brought about a new era for the Portuguese far-right. In the immediate aftermath of the April 25th revolution, several far-right groups organized separately from each other with the primary objectives of defending the Portuguese empire and opposing the communist factions of the Carnation Revolution. These groups included the national revolutionary party Movimento Federalista Português-Partido Do Progresso (Portuguese Federalist Movement – Party of Progress), the Catholic Salazarists with the Movimento Popular Português (Popular Portuguese Movement), the Partido Trabalhista Democrático Português (PTDP) (Portuguese Democratic Labor Party), the fascist Movimento de Acção Portuguesa (MAP) (Portuguese Action Movement) made up of former members of PIDE and Portuguese Legion, the Partido da Democracia Cristã (PDC) (Christian Democracy Party), and the Partido Nacionalista Português (PNP) (Portuguese Nationalist Party), formed by elements of the former Estado Novo and Portuguese Legion. These initial fragmented factions on the post-revolution far right were quickly rendered illegal and repressed by the military after they supported the counterrevolutionary coup attempt by António de Spínola on September 28, 1974.
With support for far-right parties falling after the repression of these initial counter-revolutionary groups, some turned to terrorism. The “Hot Summer of 1975” was a period immediately following their repression when three main far-right groups, the Exército Libertação de Portugal (ELP) (Liberation Army of Portugal), Plano Maria da Fonte (Plan of Maria da Fonte), and the Movimento Democrático de Libertação de Portugal (MDLP) (Democratic Movement For The Liberation Of Portugal) organized terrorist attacks on supporters of the revolution, primarily communists.
For the rest of the 20th century, the radical right was a marginal force in Portuguese politics. In the 1980 elections, a brief coalition between the Partido da Democracia Cristã (PDC) (Christian Democratic Party), the Movimento Independente para a Reconstrução Nacional (MIRN) (Independent Movement for National Reconstruction) led by Salazar loyalist and Luso-Tropicalist General Kaúlza de Arriaga, and the Frente Nacional (National Front), formed by national revolutionary and pro-Salazar Manuel Maria Múrias, attempted to revive far-right politics under the new republic, but failed miserably, earning only 0.4 percent of the vote. Another unsuccessful project was the Luso-Tropicalist and Salazar nostalgic party Força Nacional-Nova Monarquia [National Strength – New Monarchy], which sought to be an umbrella organization for right-wing nationalists of all types (akin to France’s Front National political party).
In the 1980s and 1990s, the Portuguese far right underwent a transformation that saw it replace much of its Salazarist influences with ethnonationalism and reorient itself around many of the same issues as the broader European far right. Decolonization, and an increase in immigration from former colonies, led to a transformation of the far right from being characterized by Luso-Tropicalism to being xenophobic and nativist in nature. This was especially pronounced among the “retornados,” (those who returned) from Portuguese-speaking Africa and native white Portuguese upset with the increasing multiculturalism in the cities. Many young militants from this generation ended up joining new far-right groups such as the Portuguese ethnonationalist group Movimento de Acção Nacional (MAN), and racist subcultures imported from the U.S. and U.K., such as racist skinheads and the white supremacist movement.
Since the turn of the millennium, the Partido Nacional Renovador (PNR) (National Renewal Party) has been the primary far-right party. This party balanced the factions of the old Salazarists and the new ethnocentrist right to form the ultra-nationalist and anti-democratic faction in Portugal prior to the arrival of Chega in 2019. On the surface, PNR leader José Pinto-Coelho used populist rhetoric in an attempt to mainstream his racist beliefs, but the party’s lack of a charismatic front man meant that they were unsuccessful in translating their polarizing rhetoric into votes. Moreover, the party’s connection to the infamous neo-Nazi Mario Machado and the Portuguese Hammerskins through the short-lived Frente Nacional (National Front) (2004-2008) tarnished the image of the party in a way that it never recovered from.
In Portugal today, there is a clear internationalization trend among far-right elements. Where once National Socialism, allegiance to the Salazarist regime, or Luso-Tropocalist visions of the Portuguese empire dominated much of the post-April 25th far right, today, the Portuguese far right increasingly pulls from the French neo-fascist (Movimento Social Nacionalista), Italian neo-fascist (Escudo Identitário/Força Nova), French Identitarian (Portugueses Primeiro/Escudo Identitário), and even American white supremacist (Proud Boys Portugal) movements. While not as influential as with their French counterparts, the white supremacist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, alleging a plot by “elites” or “globalists” to “replace” the native Portuguese population with a foreign one, has also taken hold in parts of the Portuguese far right.
The Portuguese far right is increasingly dominated by the far-right party Chega (Enough), led by the charismatic populist leader André Ventura. Since they seated their first MP in 2019, the party has worked to poison the national discourse with racist, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-immigrant, and anti-Roma rhetoric. Chega, which on its face resembles the typical populist far-right parties across Europe, is also the common vector for more extreme movements on the Portuguese far right, including nationalists, Identitarians, conspiracists, white supremacists, Salazar nostalgists, Christian nationalists, and others who support authoritarianism. Chega’s support amongst the Portuguese population has skyrocketed since 2019, and recent polls place them in a not-so-distant third place (around 13 percent of the vote as of June 2023). For most of the post-revolutionary era, Portugal was seen by many observers as an exceptional case of a country without a major populist far-right party, but the quick ascension of Chega is a reminder that no country is ever truly immune to exclusionary, demagogic forces, and tiny far-right parties can quickly expand their base of support.
Like in many other countries, the recent pandemic led to the blossoming of far-right conspiracist and antigovernment movements, appearing in opposition to the state’s imposition of public health measures. Now that the pandemic has largely subsided, many of these groups have moved into the orbit of other far-right groups such as Chega, and the National Renewal Party, recently renamed Ergue-Te (Stand Up).
In 2021, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights released a memorandum indicating that “racism in the police remains an issue of deep concern” in Portugal. The memorandum also pointed to Portugal’s “alarmingly high” level of violence towards women, primarily in the form of domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as a rise of “racially motivated hate crimes and hate speech” towards people of African descent. It concluded, “Further efforts are also necessary to tackle racist bias against people of African descent inherited from the colonial past and historical slave trade.” There has also been considerable harassment of the Portuguese anti-racist organization SOS Racismo and their leader Mamadou Ba by the far right in recent years, including by racist skinheads. Statistics also show that despite making up a fraction of a percent of the Portuguese population, anti-Roma sentiment remains prevalent in Portugal, and makes its way into the rhetoric of far-right groups including Chega.
What follows is by no means a comprehensive list of all far-right extremist groups in Portugal, especially concerning newly formed groups without a large presence in Portuguese politics, and those that have gone underground to avoid actions from the state. Groups that solely exist online are excluded from the scope of this report. An asterisk indicates a headquarters chapter of an organization.
Portuguese Far-right Hate and Extremist Groups by Ideology