Contemporary European History



Portugal's First Domino: ‘Pluricontinentalism’ and Colonial War in Guiné-Bissau, 1963–1974


NORRIE MACQUEEN 

Abstract

Portugal's presence in Guiné-Bissau through eleven years of intense guerrilla war was justified by the doctrine of ‘pluricontinentalim’. In this view concession to nationalist pressure in one part of the ‘indivisible state’ would lead inevitably to the collapse of the whole. The defence of Portuguese Guiné, therefore, was the price to be paid for the maintenance of the infinitely more valuable territories of Angola and Mozambique. While the Salazar regime was rigid in its adherence to this doctrine, some movement was detectable under his successor from 1968, Marcello Caetano. The governor-general in Guiné, General Spínola, was permitted to explore possibilities of negotiation. Politically insecure in the face of residual Salazarist power in the regime, however, Caetano abandoned this approach in 1972. This apparent loss of nerve would contribute to the overthrow of the Lisbon regime by its own military in 1974 – despite recently revealed secret talks between Lisbon and the Guinea nationalists on the very eve of the coup.