Apparently, Paul Krugman and I crossed paths—way back in 1976.

According to his “maudlin memories of youth,” Krugman was one of five MIT graduate students sent to Portugal during the summer to work on the national accounts and to offer economic advice to the folks running the central ban—in a continuation of a long line of mainstream economic advisers from the United States to the Portuguese government stretching back to the 1960s.

Me, after graduating from college, I went with a Watson Fellowship to study the prospects for socialism after the Carnation Revolution of 24 April 1974, with a project titled “The Political Economy of the Portuguese Revolution 1974-1976” (which I mention briefly in this interview).

Krugman found a country that was “fascinating, lovable, and still very poor.” I found a country that, from north to south, was struggling to explore and expand its new-found freedoms and to debate its future after the end of fascist regime of Marcelo Caetano and the Portuguese Colonial Wars in Africa and East Timor. That summer, liberal Mário Soares was elected Prime Minister of a weak minority government (in coalition with the Social Democratic Party), and proceeded to impose austerity measures that were criticized by the opposition Communist Party and the Armed Forces Movement, while collective farms continued to operate on millions of acres of occupied lands in the Alentejo.

1976 was also the year I decided to return to the United States and to apply for a graduate program in radical economics. Places like MIT held no interest for me. Instead, I applied to Stanford (where Paul Baran had taught), the New School, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst and ended up, in 1977, enrolling at UMass.

Today, the right-wing Social Democratic Party led by Pedro Passos Coelho, elected in 2011, is hellbent on imposing the troika-sponsored austerity policies that have resulted in a shrinking economy and 18 percent unemployment.

And, while to my knowledge Krugman and I have never crossed paths again, the Portuguese people have been forced to take to the streets once again to find a way out of the economic crisis.

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