Revolution at the Grassroots

Community Organizations in the Portugese Revolution

By Charles Downs

Series: SUNY series in Urban Public Policy
Paperback : 9780791400678, 215 pages, July 1989
Hardcover : 9780791400661, 215 pages, July 1989

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Table of contents


One Introduction

Two A Short History of the Portuguese Revolution: The Dialectic of Popular Mobilization

Three The Revolution in One City

Four Neither Spontaneity Nor Manipulation: Roots of Urban Social Movements

Five Transforming City and Society: The Impact of Urban Social Movements

Six Theory and Practice of Urban Social Movements: Implications of the Portuguese Revolution


A. Case Histories of Selected CMs

B. Guidelines to the Alliance Between the People and the MFA

C. Statutes of the Conselho de Moradores

D. COPS: Proposal for Popular Organization

E. Occupational Composition of Neighborhoods

F. Complete List of CM Demands

G. Complete List of CM Accomplishments

H. SAAL Projects in Setubal

I. Communique from the Setenave Housing Group

Abbreviations Used





The book outlines the history of the revolutionary process at the national level and as it was experienced in one major Portuguese city. While generally little known, the achievements of grassroots organizations in Portugal far exceeded those of other developed countries, and their examination provides insights, poses important questions and suggests unexpected answers relevant far beyond Portugal.

The Portuguese revolution provides a unique window through which to examine, not only the role of community organizations in a time of revolutionary change, but also the dynamics, potential, and limitations of majority participation. Over a period of nineteen months — beginning with a military coup which ended the longest lasting European dictatorship (the period brought to a close 500 years of colonialism in Africa) and ending with another military coup — the Portuguese society and political debate were significantly transformed, largely by the unanticipated development of mass movements advocating direct democracy and social, economic, and political change.

Charles Downs is Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at Columbia University.


"Downs' book is good both for its theoretical and its descriptive qualities. It is absorbing reading. " — Pierre Clavel

"The author successfully marries empirical observation and theoretical analysis to transcend the limitations of most prior work on this topic. He shows a great deal of sensitivity to the complexity of the events he examines and (unlike many who write in this area) is not blinded by theoretical presuppositions or slavish empiricism. " — Richard Rich