The Ruinist had been fortunate enough to be able to return to Lisbon and then be able to do some roaming of the streets and hills, stairways and alleys. Earlier on, The Ruinist had in a similar but different incarnation trod the boards of ultra-leftism and probably been through the rites of passage this requires – finding and reading the canon from the 1980’s ultra-left publishing adventure, ‘Poland 1980 -1982’, ‘Wildcat Spain Encounters Democracy’, ‘Shake It and Break It. Class and Politics in Britain 1979/1989’. And so on. Although these books were never going to set the fire to finally abolish capitalism, they did lay in store and preserve moments of lived total critique that remain vital, energetic, passionate and instructive for now, for any futures. Such a heavyweight theory that seeks practice always did produce a circle of friends that are active til this day and who remain incredible as much as they can. Although, by no means were these people anarchists, this was the milieu and mode that was their natural habitat despite it’s many problems and contradictions. As always, what anarchism needs as a theory, practice and as a scene are such theories which push anarchism (anarchists?) one step further. The Ruinist will say no more on this right now.
One of the books that definitely was mouldering in radical bookshop shelves of the mid-80’s was ‘Portugal: The Impossible Revolution?’ by Phil Mailer. The Ruinist would see it for years and be both wary of it and yet entranced. The day of reading it was yet to come. On the day of reckoning when the book could no longer remain remaindered, The Ruinist began it and read it through in one go. It also remains vital and passionate. What is a revolution like? What happens when it happens? What happens when it’s SNAFU? Who does what and why? That book is one the best insider accounts that attempts to answer those questions.
The Ruinist has long been interested in the moment and meaning of that revolutionary moment that lasted from April 1974 until November 1975. A short period of much – factory take-overs, land take over’s, housing take over’s and so on. Re-inventing, experimenting, fucking up, being sweet, attempting freedom which is what revolution seeks (and we sometimes forget that in the working of it). What does it mean anyhow to wake up in the morning and find that the Army has overthrown the dictatorship? How can it held together under these circumstances where the revolution pushes and pushes further at the revolutionary power that has seized control without a fight? And that tense feeling throughout these events - how long would it take for the counter-revolution to triumph?
1974 is not so long ago. These events are not so long ago. These events, outside of Portugal, and sometimes within Portugal, have also withered into the dustbin. The Ruinist sets themselves the double task of time-travel to 1974 and to the city in tense upheaval and to time-travel to now to see what gives about this revolution and how it lives. Does it live on? Does it move? Does it make any sense in crisis-wracked Portugal of 2013?
'General Strike', 2011
Whereas once the city was full of murals and graffiti to mark April 1974 as a memory of what could come, and whereas up until a year ago or so, the city was again full of posters and graffiti about the crisis and about manifesting against it, the city at December 2013 is seemingly empty once more.Where did the 2012 pushing and shoving at the Parliament building go?
Armed with a set of images of the movements on the streets of Lisbon throughout April 25th 1974, The Ruinist sought to reappear at these very sites and listen, be at, feel these sites in the here and now of 39 years later. The City itself feels very much like time has not moved fast here and only in certain quarters like Chiado does it feel like any urban re-jigging is going on and this even only as renovation of old buildings and less of a brutal displacing gentrification. It is in that feeling of something older that The Ruinist felt comfortable in Lisbon. Certainly doesn't move fast, people don't shout much, bars and cafes are either lonely or crowded yet the loners or the crowds seem mixed up and not exclusive. There feels like the City is shared and generous. The Ruinist doesn't know but this is how it felt.
1: Find image of April 25th 1975 that is likeable. Select from range of sites, known and unknown.
2: Identify location from memory or research. Research tools - walking, maps, Streetview, drift, intuition, chance, Internet searches for shop signs that appear in the 1974 photos.
3: Visit location and photograph as close as possible to the original photo. This done from memory means some re-photos are wonky. Be lazy and clip Street view twice when desperate.
4: Spend time at site and time-travel.
ABRIL 25th in 1974/ in 2013:
Calçada da Ajuda
Terreiro do Paço
Largo Trindade Coelho
Calçada do Combro
Calçada do Sacramento
Rua Serpa Pinto / Rua Garret
Rua da Misericórdia
Rua António Maria Cardoso
Calçada do Carmo
Rua Almirante Pessanha / Largo Do Carmo
Largo do Carmo
NB: Too avoid hysteria and life compression, The Ruinist has inserted no links in this post.