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2015 - Repressive Dynamics and Political Subjectivities: the Case of Peniche Prison , e-Journal of Portuguese History, volume 13, number 1, June 2015, pp. 106-124.

This paper analyzes the experience of political prisoners in the final stages of the Estado Novo dictatorship. It uses the Peniche Fort prison as a case study, exploring the way in which political identities were defined, and even reinforced,
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  Repressive Dynamics and Political Subjectivities: the Case of Peniche Prison 1   Miguel Cardina 2   Abstract  This paper analyzes the experience of political prisoners in the final stages of the  Estado Novo  dictatorship. It uses the Peniche Fort prison as a case study, exploring the way in which political identities were defined, and even reinforced, throughout the struggle against coercive dynamics. Physical confinement, rules, isolation, surveillance, and punishment laid the foundations for a punitive structure that aimed to produce “docile bodies.” On the other hand, prisoners built up resistance strategies intended not only to escape the objective reality of incarceration, but also to assert their militant subjectivity. The article explores how ideological splits led to distinct cultures of protest and ways of experiencing everyday life inside the prison,  whilst also revealing how prison life interacted with broader political dynamics. Keywords Power, subjectivity, prison,  Estado Novo , political opposition Resumo Este artigo analisa a experiência dos presos políticos no troço final do Estado Novo. Tomando a cadeia do Forte de Peniche como ponto de observação, explora-se o modo como as identidades políticas foram definidas, e até reforçadas, através do conflito com as dinâmicas coercivas emanadas da prisão. O confinamento, as regras, o isolamento, a vigilância e a punicão construíram uma teia punitiva destinada à produção de “corpos dóceis”. Diante disso, os presos contrapuseram estratégias de resistência que não só buscavam elidir a realidade objectiva da clausura como reafirmar a sua subjectividade militante. O artigo explora o papel das clivagens ideológicas entre os presos na operacionalização de distintas culturas de reivindicação e modos de vivenciar o quotidiano do cárcere, mostrando ao mesmo tempo como a vida prisional interagia com dinâmicas políticas mais amplas. Palavras-chave Poder, subjectividade, prisão, Estado Novo, oposições políticas   1  The author would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions and Tiago Fernandes for his thought-provoking comments on a previous version of this article (presented at IPRI Lunch-Seminar: Comparative Politics/International Relations, Lisbon, FCSH/UNL, January 10, 2014). 2  Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal. FCT Investigator (  IF/00757/2013/CP1164/CT0004).    E -  mail  :   miguelcardina@ces.uc.pt .    Cardina Repressive Dynamics and Political Subjectivities    e-JPH, Vol. 13, number 1, June 2015   107 In his study of Brazilian resistance to the dictatorship, Luci Gati Pietrocolla chose the concept of “living in brackets” to encompass three paradigmatic situations: going underground, going into exile, and being a prisoner (Pietrocolla, 1995). Containing different levels of fear, nostalgia, and hope, these situations create high levels of both physical and psychological constraint. Furthermore, they become key aspects of political engagement, particularly in countries governed under dictatorships and authoritarian rule, and consequently serve as powerful mechanisms for creating political identities, even though prison would, at first sight, appear to be the situation in which a suspension or severe decline in militancy becomes most evident.  This article analyzes the experiences of Portuguese citizens jailed for political reasons during the  Estado Novo  period. Taking the Peniche Fort prison in the last years of the dictatorship as an observation point, it shows how “living in brackets” inside the prison  was intersected by tensions between the coercive dynamics established by the existing repressive structures and the different resistance strategies adopted by political prisoners.  At the same time, the article explores how ideological splits gave rise to distinct cultures of protest and ways of experiencing everyday life in prison, showing how prison was permeable to broader external political dynamics. Prisoners and prisons: the case of Peniche  The repressive apparatus of the  Estado Novo  consisted of a series of legal provisions, courts, police organizations, and prison structures. Whilst adopting some of the mechanisms for political control already in place or at least embryonic during the First Republic (1910-1926) and the Military Dictatorship (1926-1933), the  Estado Novo  also introduced a classification of political and social offenses (Decree No. 21942, of December 5, 1932). This was replaced on November 6, 1933, by Decree-Law 23203, governing the penalties for political offenses. Later, in 1945, Decree-Law 35015 defined crimes against the security of the state as “attacks and offenses against the Head of State and the government” and “crimes against the organization of the state.” This included rebellion or inciting rebellion in order to bring about a change in government, the incitement or organization of factory closures, and the “incitement to collective disobedience of the law” through “false or biased reports,” the distribution of “written papers for the same purpose,” the incitement of the armed forces, and the encouragement of “political struggle  Cardina Repressive Dynamics and Political Subjectivities    e-JPH, Vol. 13, number 1, June 2015   108 through violence or hatred.” It also established the penalties for those instigating such events “in speeches or words spoken aloud in public, or in any form of published writing” (Decree-Law 35015, of October 15, 1945).  The  Estado Novo  clearly established a justice system that was based essentially on the secret police. Its work was anchored in a series of plenary courts with the power to judge political offenses, and a group of prisons destined to accommodate those convicted of attacks “against the security of the state” (Pimentel, 2007; 2011). According to Fernando Rosas, such “punitive violence” represented a second “security ring” that could be used  whenever the internalization of obedience and order failed, and this turned out to be one of the reasons why the regime survived so efficiently (Rosas, 2012: 183-210). On the other hand, as already stressed, the effects of repression also ended up shaping the political organizations and dynamics of militants engaged in fighting the  Estado Novo  (Accornero, 2013). Prison was the final link in this chain of repression. Between 1933 and 1936, the  Estado Novo  expanded the system, establishing new prison buildings or refurbishing old ones. The most widely used of these were Aljube Prison in Lisbon (1933-1966), the  Tarrafal Penal Colony on Santiago Island, Cape Verde (1936-1954 and 1961-1974), Caxias Fort (1936-1974) and Peniche Fort (1934-1974). In addition, there was a PIDE/DGS prison in each of the main cities in the country and some prison and concentration camps in Africa. From 1971 onwards, Caxias also functioned as a prison hospital and an interrogation centre. While on remand, men could be held at the PIDE delegations in Coimbra and Porto, but they were usually transferred to Lisbon and stayed in Aljube or Caxias, where women who had already been convicted were also held. After the trial, when the sentences had been handed out, the men were transferred to Peniche Fort. Peniche prison was located in the city of the same name and had operated as a military fortress from the sixteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century. It played a significant role in defending the Atlantic coast and later became a prison base. At the beginning of the twentieth century, it was used as a refuge by Boers fleeing the Boer war in South Africa. Between 1916 and 1919, after Portugal entered the First World War,  Austrians and Germans were imprisoned there (   Aljube  … 2011). In 1934, the fortress was turned into one of the PVDE 3  prisons, and in 1945 it was placed under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice. Although it was not under PIDE jurisdiction, this police body had access to information (increasingly so from 1965 onwards, when it opened a station in 3   Polícia de Vigilância e Defesa do Estado ("State Defense and Surveillance Police"), created in 1933.  Cardina Repressive Dynamics and Political Subjectivities    e-JPH, Vol. 13, number 1, June 2015   109 Peniche) about important events that took place inside the prison. Documents produced at the PIDE/DGS station in the town reveal that the secret police enjoyed a substantial knowledge of everyday prison life. In fact, this included several reports written by guards  who were informers, as well as internal prison documents, analyses of the moral attitudes of the prison staff and the prison doctor, information on the kinds of conversations held at  visiting time and even descriptions of the permanent tension between guards and prisoners. 4  Descriptions that have survived from the earlier years of the fort as an  Estado Novo  prison tell of very poor conditions: prisoners were held in the former stables and old derelict sheds, where the cells were infested with rats, cockroaches and bed bugs. In this respect, it is worth comparing how communists, such as Fernando Miguel Bernardes and  Jaime Serra, found prison conditions with the account given by Henrique Galvão. 5  In his diary, written in Peniche in the summer of 1953 and published immediately after April 25, 1974, Galvão describes a general scenario of filth, a lack of proper medical care, cells full of damp and saltpeter, and the constant nuisance of fleas and chickens fed by the guards in the yard with the leftovers of food he describes as “daily poison.” This “anti-communist among communists,” as he describes his situation, identifies discrepancies in the way in  which the prison management dealt with him and with the communist prisoners.  According to Galvão, this was due not only to an explicit willingness by the prison authorities to distinguish him from the communists, but also to his stubborn refusal to do certain chores, such as peeling potatoes, cleaning toilets or unloading firewood (Galvão, s.d.: 36-37). Fernando Miguel Bernardes and Jaime Serra, on the other hand, emphasized some improvements that took place at around this time. According to Jaime Serra, better food and overall conditions were granted in the 1950s, thanks to the prisoners’ struggles and their persistent protests, which included refusing meals and going on hunger strike (Serra, 1997: 72). The food was still bad and the medical care inadequate, but Fernando Miguel Bernardes lists a couple of examples as evidence of the positive outcome of prisoners’ protests and their greater ideological awareness: clandestinely sharing cigarettes with those 4  The GNR (  Guarda Nacional Republicana  , National Republican Guard) also sent reports directly to the PIDE/DGS about occurrences inside the prison, such as the hunger strike in 1970, in which it was called upon to intervene. ANTT/PIDE/DGS, proc. 14, NT 1149. 5  On Henrique Galvão, see: David Raby (2004), “Transatlantic Intrigues: Humberto Delgado, Henrique Galvão and the Portuguese exiles in Brazil and Morocco, 1961-62.” Portuguese Journal of Social Science  , 3, 3, 143-156; Francisco Teixeira da Mota (2011), Henrique Galvão. Um herói português  . Lisbon: Oficina do Livro.  Cardina Repressive Dynamics and Political Subjectivities    e-JPH, Vol. 13, number 1, June 2015   110 in the “segredo,” 6  reading and collectively discussing the newspapers, organizing a library – the Soeiro Pereira Gomes 7  library, established in 1951 – and setting up Portuguese, French, math, philosophy and political economy classes taught by prisoners with a knowledge of these subjects (Bernardes, 1991: 75-77). The 1950s was also a time when a few escape attempts, both successful and unsuccessful, took place, all involving members and leaders of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP). 8  As it was becoming increasingly clear that the prison was showing no signs of being able to prevent further escapes, new premises were designed and opened between 1956 and the end of 1961. The new buildings (Pavilions A, B and C) had better hygienic facilities, but also allowed for closer scrutiny of prisoners. 9   Exercising power Imprisonment was aimed primarily at depriving the subject of the possibility of any involvement in legal or underground political activity. However, through torture and disciplinary action, it was also designed to wear down the prisoner’s subjectivity. This procedure began immediately after arrest, in the early stages of the pre-trial proceedings  while the prisoners were held by the PIDE/DGS and were frequently subjected to torture.  After this, the prison authorities reinforced their attacks on the prisoner’s subjectivity. Physical constraints, rules, inspection rounds, bans, isolation, a poor diet, and punishments created a coercive network designed to generate “docile bodies,” to use Michel Foucault’s concept (1975: 137-171). In the late 1950s, Erving Goffman coined the term “total institutions” to describe places – such as mental hospitals, barracks or prisons – where a number of “like-situated individuals cut off from the wider society for an appreciable period of time, together lead 6  Literally, “secret.” This was a small isolated space where inmates that were being punished remained in solitary confinement. 7  Soeiro Pereira Gomes (1909-1949) was a leading name in the Portuguese Neo-Realist movement and a prominent member of the Portuguese Communist Party. 8  On November 3, 1950, Jaime Serra and Francisco Miguel escaped from the old barracks on the north side of the Fort. Francisco Miguel was recaptured the following day. In 1954, a group attempted to escape through a long tunnel dug by the prisoners. On December 18, 1954, Dias Lourenço escaped from the “segredo.” On January 3, 1960, the famous escape of prominent communist leaders and militants took place, involving Álvaro Cunhal, Joaquim Gomes, Carlos Costa, Jaime Serra, Francisco Miguel, José Carlos, Guilherme Carvalho, Pedro Soares, Rogério Carvalho and Francisco Martins Rodrigues, accompanied by the GNR soldier José Alves, who helped the escapees. For a description of the escape, see Pereira, 2005: 702-732. 9  Pavilion A had two floors with common rooms; Pavilion B, the last to be opened, had three floors with individual cells; and Pavilion C, opened in 1956, had two floors with common rooms and a third floor with individual cells. These new arrangements had the capacity to accommodate 147 inmates, even though that figure was never reached. AHMJ (Historical Archive of the Ministry for Justice), 01.17.01/295, proc. 1 to 100 (Ministry for Justice Cabinet), Prison Services Headquarters, Information.
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