Angola: From the victory of the independence movement to bourgeois normalisation
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Angola: From the victory of the independence movement to bourgeois normalisation
Long live the Angolan victory and the emancipation struggles in black Africa!
Bourgeois normalisation in Angola

Angola: From the victory of the independence movement to bourgeois normalisation
Long live the Angolan victory and the emancipation struggles in black Africa!
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(From Le Prolétaire no. 214, February 21, 1976)

The victory of the young People's Republic of Angola and the rout of the hostile troops on all fronts is an event of great significance.

This country of six million inhabitants contains a fabulous wealth - it overflows with oil and agricultural treasures and abounds in minerals and diamonds. This fact, along with the additional pressures of a protracted armed struggle, compelled the new Portuguese regime to retreat from Mozambique and Guinea, so that it could concentrate all its forces on Angola, and all this behind a mask of deceitful socialist pretensions. It is in Angola where the source of Portugal's financial power lay - a financial power springing both from its direct participation in plunder and from its position as middleman and policeman in the interests of Euro-American, as well as South African, imperialism.

By provoking panic among the colonists and thus a massive exodus, the Angolan independence movement has magnificently ridiculed Lisbon and its backers. But it then had to face a double attack.

In the North there was the FNLA, operating thanks to Washington, the generosity of Paris, and the calculating hospitality of Kenshasu; it was militarily supplied through the good graces of Peking (which lost a little of its anti-imperialist prestige in the affair), reinforced by EuroAmerican mercenaries, and backed up by Mobutu's army and air force. In the South there was the attack of UNITA to which the Portuguese state had generously entrusted its black troops. This movement was fully supported by Pretoria, organised by its expeditionary corps in order to control Cassengua and Benguela, and continually propped up by the U.S., France and Germany, all of which in December 1975 began to stake their bets completely on it, much to the detriment of Roberto Holden's FNLA.

The MPLA, however, greatly aided by a strong Cuban contingent and by an imposing amount of Russian aid and advisors, not only routed the feeble FNLA and drove back Mobutu's troops and the mercenaries to Zaire, but it also drove off the column of South African intervention and literally wiped out Savimbi's UNITA troops.

The Western bourgeoisies were startled by these events, and for good reasons. Of course the fact that Russian imperialism has been able to set foot in this area is no small factor in their uneasiness. Moscow has achieved a very important victory in its strategical plan since from now on it can monitor the wealth leaving Zaire in the North and control that leaving by rail from Benguela, thus gaining a foothold on the route of the oil and minerals going from the Indian Ocean towards Europe and even the US - a route that it already watches from Aden, Somali and India. But it cannot be said that US imperialism cannot find some consolation in this disaster - hasn't Moscow dangled before Washington's eyes the possibility of economic aid for the reconstruction of a country devastated by sabotage and war?

Europe undoubtedly lost a great deal in this event, at least for the time being. After Portugal, its trump card in the region remained South Africa. But Vorsters' aid to Lisbon against the Mozambique rebellion proved to be incapable of preventing the collapse of the decrepit Portuguese Empire. South Africa also experienced a bitter military defeat in Angola, which it had considered to be within its sphere of influence.

The importance of the victory of the MPLA over South Africa, that policeman of southern Africa, whose guns are pointed towards all the emancipation movements in the region, goes far beyond the scope of a strictly military victory. It is already a tremendous encouragement to the struggles of the exploited and the oppressed of the cities and the countryside in this whole section of Africa, an area which is the most industrialised and at the same time the most explosive. But it has a still wider importance than this, a true historical importance. It is a victory of the emancipation movement of the black race against the age-old oppression perpetuated by the white race. The military success thus becomes an inspiring victory in terms of morale which blows a liberating wind over all of oppressed Africa, a wind which sooner or later will strike Russian imperialism itself in spite of its military contribution to the Angolan victory (incidentally we can be sure that Russia will use all its weight to minimise the political consequences of this victory).

If this victory worries the bourgeoisies of the large imperialist countries, it can only encourage their working class since the power of the states which oppress them comes from the double exploitation of the domestic working class and of the labouring masses of the oppressed countries.

But there is another thing in which the international proletariat has reasons to rejoice: these are the first steps made on the political scene by the young proletariat of Luanda and the other towns, by the proletarians and semi-proletarians of the plantations, and by all the exploited masses they draw in their wake, above all the poor peasants. And these steps in fact are quite full of promise.

The revolutionary masses of Luanda, in response to the intimidation and the repression of the Portuguese army aided by the FNLA and UNITA, armed themselves in spite of the leadership of the MPLA (in April the MPLA still affirmed that the «people did not need to arm themselves since the army sprang from the people and was in its service»). They brought down the provisional government and provoked the Portuguese exodus and the crumbling of the colonial administration. They forced the rupture of the alliance between the MPLA and Armed Forces Movement, and the destruction of the front between these two and the other local and imperialist interests. In doing this, the revolutionary masses compelled the MPLA to fight an open struggle against and to defeat the FNLA, UNITA and their masters, even if Russia was able to prevent their total annihilation. It is easily understandable why Sawimbi posed, in December 1975, the «demilitarisation» of Luanda as a condition for the reconstitution of a governmental coalition.

We have shown many times that the revival of the working class struggle in Portugal and the desertions in the army were given impetus by the revolutionary movement in the colonies, but unfortunately the still enormous weight of the opportunism and chauvinism manifesting itself even in the fringes of the «far left» did not allow this struggle to reach the point of an open attack against the common oppressor. And in Europe, without speaking of the U.S., the opium of social imperialism is still a terrible obstacle in the way of the class struggle. It prevents the linking up of the proletariat in the large imperialist countries with the exploited masses in the oppressed countries, which continue to support the weight of the struggle against imperialism all alone.

The weight of the last fact results in a situation where, in the oppressed countries, in spite of significant upheavals, the most radical parties have the greatest difficulty in surviving or even being born, and especially those which represent the interests of the working class. These circumstances favour parties which are the most ready for compromise, and within these parties, the most moderate elements. This fact has been proven in Luanda, where the MPLA has been obliged to accept the arming of the proletarian districts but where the opportune arrival of the Cuban troops allowed it to give a solid organisation and discipline to its army and to relegate the people's militia to an insignificant role, subordinating it to the armed forces; but at the same time it drove back to the borders those movements hated by the popular masses and repelled as well the mercenaries and enemy expeditionary corps. The MPLA has thus succeeded in satisfying the irrepressible needs of the revolutionary masses, but it has done so in its way - not the «plebeian» way. Through the prestige it received in this role, it has found the power to isolate and fight the most radical elements.

The MPLA has begun, thanks to the wise advice from the great Russian brother (which once more shows its counterrevolutionary nature), to «stabilise» the army by discharging the most restless elements and executing some extremist soldiers. It also instigated purges of the militias and decapitated the «leftist» organisations by prohibiting their newspapers and repressing them; in addition, it sharpened the struggle against the left wing of the MPLA, especially among the youth.

The counterpart of this policy is (no wonder) a certain «lack of enthusiasm» for going to the front, as well as in the factories and at the docks - thus the necessity to launch daily calls for «work», «discipline», etc.

It is not astonishing that, in experiencing their first political battles, the forerunners of the bourgeoisie realised, as did their elder brothers in other continents, that it is necessary to repress the impulses of the exploited masses, and above all of the young proletarian nuclei, out of the fear that in their impetuous burst the latter would leap at their throat to defend their separate class interests. It is this therefore, which necessitates the autonomous class party even before the national and democratic tasks have been achieved, even when the bourgeoisie and the other classes still have a progressive, or even revolutionary, character. It is this class party which is necessary in order to assert the separate proletarian interests in a struggle which will then be able to be that much stronger and in which the leadership, if conditions permit, will be able to fall into the hands of the proletariat - a struggle which, in any case, could serve as a springboard in preparing for the Communist Revolution.

The Angolan victory is a great step for all of Africa. It has avenged Lumumba and the Congolese disaster, and has avenged the heroic defeat of the Union of Peoples of Cameroon by French imperialism. A new era is opened for «backward» Africa, which has just given a lesson to «civilised» Europe and America. We must welcome the African struggle with the greatest enthusiasm!

And the African proletariat has just taken a still greater step, the step of a giant, pushing today with all its forces for a more radical independence movement, burning all bridges with the past. What will it not do tomorrow when it fights in its own name and under its own flag? May the proletarians of the imperialist countries take up its example, and hear its call to struggle, so that they do not again leave it all alone! May they find, in this example and in this call, the strength to struggle for their independent class interests and finally to take up again their tradition and their program, the single program of the proletariat of the entire world, that of communism!

Bourgeois normalisation in Angola
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(From Le Prolétaire no. 239, March 12, 1977)

«Only the proletariat can lead the bourgeois revolution to its end».
This statement of classical Marxism which some find so difficult to digest sums up the historical balance sheet of the forces which operate on the field of the national-democratic revolution and indicates the role which the proletariat must play in it.

This statement does not at all mean, as some pretend, that any revolution, even a bourgeois one, is impossible from this point on unless it is led by the proletariat. Instead it states the fact that - to recall the «phases» of the bourgeois revolution stated in Marx's Address to the Central Committee of the Communist League in 1850 - the radical bourgeoisie, then the radical petty-bourgeoisie inevitably stop mid-road before having achieved, in a consistent way, all the tasks of their revolution. The fear of being overrun by the social forces (in the first place the proletariat) which they were compelled to put into motion in order to defeat the old regime or in order to reach a favourable compromise with the latter force them to limit the scope of the revolution on the home front, on the national level, and also on the international level. It is from this fact that arises the importance of the proletariat to take up the baton from these classes in order to complete the democratic tasks. The proletariat both promotes the demands of the proletarian and semi-proletarian masses of the cities and countryside - demands which are directed at the elimination of every kind of oppression and exploitation - and also accelerates the spread of the revolutionary flame in the whole historical area of the revolution with the aim of destroying the status quo there, whose persistence means an unbearable weight both for the proletariat and for the impoverished masses which follow it.

The anti-colonial revolution in Angola is a further proof of this historical law which confirms that the parties of the bourgeois revolution do their utmost to stamp out the flame sparked by the national revolutionary struggle in order to prevent it from spreading to the whole area (in this particular case that of southern Africa) where it historically must blaze up.

We will not lengthily dwell on this point. It is sufficient to recall that the MPLA (just as its counterpart in Mozambique, FRELIMO) showed once it seized power, that it aimed at «stabilising» the situation in the region in upheaval from the chain of explosions set off precisely by the black victory over Portuguese colonialism. Thus while Samora Machel sought an agreement with the warden of this area, South Africa, Agostinho Neto on his part reached a compromise with the imperialist puppet state of Zaire. Through this agreement the puppet Mobutu stopped all official aid to the FNLA and recognised that the only movement «representing the Angolan people» was the MPLA. In exchange the latter undertook to prevent the opponents of this Katangan butcher who were taking refuge in Northeast Angola from infiltrating into Zaire in order to lead the armed struggle against imperialism and its puppet regime.

It is the tremendous upsurge of the Angolan masses which forced the MPLA to abandon the path of a «negotiated solution» with Portugal, whose thoroughly colonialist character had been masked, after April 25 (1974), with the criminal complicity of the so-called «revolutionaries of the far left». It is this upsurge which next forced the MPLA to break with the FNLA and UNITA, those agents of world imperialism. In the crucial months following independence, the magnificent determination of these masses permitted the young Angolan state to break the encirclement of Luanda and Cabinda, and thus to avoid a military defeat, the consequences of which would have been catastrophic in the first place for the masses themselves.

But beyond the hatred inspired in them by the white colonisers and the urgent need to liberate themselves from their yoke, the Angolan masses also were fighting for a radical change in their miserable living conditions and advanced demands which went far beyond the timid petty bourgeois program of the MPLA. Thus certain of its slogans such as «general popular resistance», «produce to resist», «people's power», etc. carried a popular content which Agostinho Neto's party had neither predicted or wished. Going beyond the MPLA's program, the masses constituted self-defence committees which took upon the organisation of all activity, from the organisation of production and distribution to the organisation of the armed struggle.

To win and maintain the support of the masses the MPLA was obliged to take up, at least in words, the demands advanced by the armed shantytowns. Therefore, once the critical moment of the military encirclement was over, it found itself in a delicate situation when the masses, taking the promises of their leaders seriously, wanted to pass from words into action.

Le Monde, with that mixture of cynicism and paternalism which characterises all «imperialist liberals», described the situation in this way:

«Today we are paying for the demagogy which we let ourselves slip into in our propaganda war [sic!] against UNITA and the FNLA the Angolan leaders told us. The population, above all in the urban centres, dreamed of a mythical independence where, without any effort, money would flow in torrents [read: an independence which would bring it a significant amelioration of its living conditions, something evidently «unimaginable» for the pen prostitutes in the service of imperialism]. The working class movement [...] lacks experience [meaning: these people are so backwards that they are not even capable of producing, as in our country, opportunist leaders well trained in peaceful collaboration between classes] and the imprudent promises of the MPLA in regard to the «elimination of capitalist bosses» have often been taken to mean ready money. All authority, private or governmental, still brings to mind a «boss» in the eyes of the workers, which reminds them of colonial oppression». The same newspaper reports the acknowledgement by a leader of the MPLA, of the irresolvable programmatic opposition between the proletarians and semi-proletarians on one side, and the petty-bourgeois on the other. They quote, «The idea of independence, such as the majority of Angolans conceive of it, is opposed to our conception of the socialist way» (Le Monde, Sept. 3, 1976). And for good reason!

The new Angolan ruling class had to immediately set out to reduce the discrepancy between the program promised by the MPLA and that which it actually had the intention of putting into effect. In other words it had to bring back the demands of the impoverished masses of the shantytowns within the moderate bounds of the petty-bourgeois program. The Cuban troops sent by Castro played a important and decisive role in bringing them to heel (1).

Lacking a solidly organised machinery for controlling the population, the MPLA sought to take control of the economic, administrative and military organisation which the masses had tended to assume themselves. It is the troops that arrived en force from Havana in the name of «proletarian internationalism» who have set up this machinery for control, thus enabling the MPLA to isolate the radical elements (including those within its own ranks) and to confront the push of the masses towards a more radical outcome of the revolution:

«In the most difficult moments of the «second war of liberation» anyone who was able to present themselves at the recruitment centres received a hasty training, sometimes lasting less than eight days, and left for the front. The 40,000 new «soldiers» recruited above all from the mass of urban unemployed [the quotation marks are the journalist's, for whom of course the only soldiers without quotation marks are those who received a good chauvinist training for at least a year under the iron fist of a military hierarchy steeped in a long tradition of colonial and imperialist wars] observed a semblance of discipline as long as the war was at its height. The authorities are attempting to separate those who are really part of the armed forces [read: those who bow to the MPLA program] from those who have donned a uniform and secured a weapon for often dubious reasons [read: for the defence of their class interests which go well above those of the small and middle urban bourgeoisie which is the social base of the MPLA]. The military command has set out, WITH THE DECISIVE ASSISTANCE OF THE CUBANS, to organise, discipline and control an army capable of wiping out the guerrilla and protecting the borders» (Le Monde, Sept. 2, 1976). Let us add that the liberal hypocrisy of our pen prostitute «omits»: and to repress the movements to come of the proletarians and poor peasants. The same thing has occurred in the area of production: «In the enterprises where they [the Cubans] apparently more and more often assume the functions of technicians, their diligence and their discipline stand out clearly against the nonchalance in which the workers have sometimes settled into» (Le Monde, Sept. 4, 1976). In short the Cubans troops play the role of foremen and - the supreme proof of proletarian solidarity - put these «lazy blacks» to work!

The support of these «internationalists» enables the MPLA to contain the poor masses where they are the most dangerous, that is to say in the army and the factories. The MPLA has been able to directly take in hand the administration of the state, and to entrust it quite naturally to the black, mulatto, and even white petty-bourgeoise, of which it is the political expression.

«Only the petty-bourgeoisie knows all the ins and outs of administration», explained a high official of the MPLA. «It is indispensable to us even if [after acknowledging the class nature of the revolution, a little demagogy in order to deceive the proletarians is required] we must strictly control it.» (Le Monde, Sept. 4, 1976). The grassroots committees have been taken in hand by the government which controls their membership against the will of the proletarians and semiproletarians.

Parallel with this, the government enacted a series of exceptional laws (July 1976): all wage negotiations were suspended; the National Union of Angolan Workers declared all strikes illegal which did not have its consent or spread beyond its control; those committing «economic sabotage» (2) are liable for forced labour. In short, the government has placed the poor masses which were the motive force of the revolution under a true iron heel!

The Angolan revolution, an integral part of the revolution in southern Africa, is still very far from having fulfilled the bourgeois democratic tacks. On one hand, the demands of the great masses have not been satisfied, notably in the countryside where the MPLA has done nothing substantial to launch the basis of an agrarian revolution able to answer the pressing needs of the rural masses. On the other hand, the constitution of a true national state is far from being established, be this only because this supposes precisely that which the MPLA has refused from the beginning - the upset of the status quo in Southern Africa, the shattering of all the black states of this area, those artificial states created and propped up by imperialism, and the struggle of the black masses against the white states of South Africa and Rhodesia, those policemen in the pay of world imperialism.

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  1. Castro's Cuban mercenaries «bring a certain stability to Angola» - Andrew Young, US Ambassador to the United Nations, quoted in Time, April 25, 1977. [back]
  2. The law considers as economic sabotage all «acts detrimental to the steady evolution of the revolutionary process in the field of the national economy» (Le Monde, Sept. 3, 1976). These guilty are subject to imprisonment from 2 to 8 years. Several days before the adoption of the law, the Minister of Labour had classified as «counterrevolutionaries»� the workers striking at a coffee packaging factory (Neue Züricher Zeitung, July 7, 1976). [back]

Source: «communist program», No. 3, May 1977

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