Adopted: December 1978.
Published: January 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The following position is limited and partial because a) we don’t have an overall line on the international situation and the nature of the USSR in particular, b) our limited resources and time prevent us from doing a thorough investigation of the situation and c) we were not an active participant in the polemics at the time of the war in Angola (1974-6). (Indeed, we did not characterize ourselves as an ML organisation at the time.)
Our reason for takings public position on this question at this time is that the war in Angola has sparked a protracted struggle in the US-ML movement over the question of international line. Since Angola is often used as a lens through which these issues are analyzed, we feel that having an analysis of the situation there, albeit a partial and limited one, is important in our attempts to play a role in the party-build movement.
Equally important, we feel, is the fact that the struggle in Angola and all of Southern Africa will only intensify in the immediate future; having an analysis of the situation there allows us to build support for these liberation movements in our work here.
Historically, the Milwaukee Alliance and the Wisconsin Alliance before it, have opposed US imperialism throughout the world and supported the just struggles of the African peoples. Members individually and the organization collectively have, since the early seventies, raised money for African liberation organizations (FRELIMO) sponsored forums on the various aspects of struggle in Southern Africa, covered the liberation struggles in our past newspaper, The Wisconsin Patriot, and most recently participated in forums and demonstrations in Milwaukee called by the Milwaukee Committee on Southern Africa and the African Liberation Support Committee. (The former includes people associated with the radical Catholic movement, the CPUSA, the YSA, and independents; and the latter includes people from the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters and independents.) Throughout our history, we have consistently supported the PAIGC, FRELIMO arid the MPLA. During the Angolan war, the informal position of the MA was that US imperialism must be completely withdrawn, that the MPLA should be supported, and that we had questions about the role of the USSR. Most individuals initially supported Cuba’s intervention to fight South African troops, although our organization never took a formal position on it.
Since the rise of imperialism, nationalism in the Third World has taken on a revolutionary character. The situation in the Third World is correctly summarized by the slogan, ’Countries want independence, nations want liberation and people want revolution.’
Colonial and neo-colonial struggles go through two stages: national democrats and socialist. Since WWI, national democratic struggles have shown a revolutionary character. As seen by the Chinese revolution and other revolutions since then, a correct strategy for national democratic revolution consists of a united front of all classes, led by the proletariat through its vanguard party. Within such a front, the bourgeoisie plays a contradictory, vacillating role; at times opposing and at other times uniting with imperialism. The proletariat is the only class capable of providing consistent revolutionary leadership.
The political program of “new democracy” is pro-independence, anti-imperialist and anti-feudal. The economic program generally calls for a) ’land for the tiller’, b) state control of large industry, and c). protection of private capitalisms on a small scale, e.g., both in China and Vietnam, capitalists were allowed to continue after the seizure of state power.) (See Mao Tse Tung On Coalition Government, Sel. Wks. Vol. III, p. 231.)
While class struggle exists in all national movements, a national struggle directed against imperialism is progressive even if it is led and/or consists of backward class forces. We would say that an anti-imperialist bourgeois force could be considered:
a) progressive, to the extent that they oppose foreign domination of their countries.
b) revolutionary, in the sense of, and to the extent that they support national democratic revolution. However, such forces usually are vacillating supporters of national democratic revolution, and are very rarely in favor of socialist revolution.
Stalin stated this principle clearly when he stated that:
Under the imperialist yoke, a nationalist movement may have a revolutionary trend even though it does not embody any proletarian elements, even though its program is neither revolutionary nor republican, and even though the movement lacks a democratic foundation. Objectively considered, the struggle of the Amir of Afghanistan to secure the independence of his country is a revolutionary struggle, despite the fact that the Amir and his adherents are monarchists and not republicans, for the movement on behalf of the independence of Afghanistan tends to weaken, disintegrate and undermine imperialism. (Stalin, Foundations of Leninism, Chapter 6, our emphasis)
Thus we support communist led united fronts that include bourgeois and petty-bourgeois forces (e.g. the NLF in Vietnam), bourgeois-led nations such as Egypt in its fight against Zionist Israel, and the bourgeois-led front of bourgeois forces in OPEC in their struggle against the oil monopolies.
A revolutionary position also holds that we mustn’t support every “national liberation” struggle; that the criteria is whether it tends to weaken and overthrow imperialism. Again, we quote Stalin:
Of course this does not mean that the proletariat ought to support any and every nationalist movement, at all times and in all places, no matter what the concrete conditions may be. The proletariat should support nationalist movements which tend to weaken and subvert imperialism, not those which tend to strengthen and maintain it. (Stalin, ibid.)
Stalin gives us the example of how Marx supported the Polish and Hungarian nationals movement, but opposed the Czech and Yugoslav nationalist movements because the latter were “outposts of Russian absolutism”. He goes on to quote Lenin about how any particular national struggle must be put in the context of the international class struggle:
The various demands of democracy, and among others the right to self-determination, have no absolute value, but are parts of the world-wide democratic (nowadays, socialist) movement. In concrete instances, the interests of the part may conflict with the interests of the whole. If that is so, we must repudiate the part. (Stalin, ibid.)
Examples of such reactionary national struggles in modern times include the Biafran sessionist movement, the Katanganese secessionists in 1964, and the Bangla Desh rebellion.
Support by one imperialist power of a national liberation struggle is never grounds in and of itself not to support such a struggle. A key characteristic of imperialism is inter-imperialist rivalry, dividing the world into spheres of influence and contending for cheap labor, raw materials, markets and trade. Thus it is correct for progressive forces to play on contradictions among imperialist powers (or social-imperialist powers if that is one’s characterization of the USSR) to benefit the liberation struggle. Lenin clearly said:
The fact that the struggle for national liberation against one imperialist power may, under certain conditions, be utilized by another “great power” for its own, equally imperialist, aims, . . . (should not). . . make the Social-Democrats refuse to recognize the right of nations to self-determination. . . . (Lenin, The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination, thesis four)
Hence, the central vantage point from which to analyze a liberation struggle is not ’where does one get one’s money and aid ’ but ’who does one fight against? ’. Thus, it would be permissible for a national liberation movement to get aid from an imperialist power to fight its primary imperialist oppressor – though receipt of such aid, even by the most developed liberation group, can have negative consequences according to internal contradictions in the group and its political line. The education of people to such consequences is one function of revolutionary propaganda.
The reverse is also true: Support of a liberation struggle by a country or party is no indication of ’proletarian internationalism’. Such support might be done for opportunist or imperialist reasons. Examples of this include: the British support of native struggles against the Portuguese in the West Indies; French support of the American revolution against the British; USA and USSR’s “support” of Egypt against the Tripartite Aggression of 1956; and USA’s support of certain Asian national struggle against the Japanese in WWII.
’The struggle against imperialism is a sham and a humbug without a struggle against opportunism.’ (Lenin) This opportunism on international line has historically shown itself in two ways:
a) The social chauvinists of the 2nd International who supported their own bourgeoisies in the inter-imperialist WWI. These opportunists also failed to support the colonial struggles against their own bourgeoisie, thinking that a “socialist motherland” was the best way to civilize the barbarian natives. The analysis of WWI was the basis of the split in the 2nd International.
b) The modern revisionists headquartered in the CPSU and best represented in our country by the CPUSA have pursued an opportunist policy of hegemonism and national chauvinism, putting the interests of the USSR ahead of the interests of the international proletariat (we have not yet determined whether or not this opportunism is in turn rooted in the development of “social imperialism” in Soviet policy. But the opportunism is fairly clear, and manifests itself in the following ways:)
1) not giving full support to national liberation struggles by either: blanket opposition (eg. Cambodia, Phillipines, Thailand, Eritria, etc.); hesitation and slowness in giving support (eg. PLO, certain African liberation struggles, etc); refusing to give fullest support (e.g. faulty rifles to the NLF, refusal to give heavy arms to MPLA prior to 1975, etc.); and only supporting part of a liberation movement (eg. only the ZAPU in Zimbabwe and ANC in S. Africa).
2) By proposing ”peaceful transition to socialism” as a strategy for revolution which has had bloody, deadly ramifications in Indonesia in 1965 and in Chile in 1973. In terms of liberation struggles, this means a strategic emphasis on negotiations and diplomacy over people’s war.
3) Reliance more on weapons and military hardware than on people’s war. This is evident in the 1 1/2 billion dollars worth of aid given by the USSR to the Ethiopian regime.
4) Theory of non-capitalist development (e.g. Egypt and India)
5) Bullying of and intervention into the affairs of Eastern European nations, (e.g. Czechoslovakia in 1968).
These examples of opportunism are in no way meant to be totally complete and inclusive but only to establish certain guidelines for the analysis of the Angolan situation.
Imperialists all use the method of “divide and conquer” in order to weaken their adversaries and subjugate colonial peoples. This has taken the form of direct and indirect intervention to stir up ethnic, religious, tribal, national and class differences as in Ireland, Lebanon and Angola. Revolutionaries must strive to unite all those who can be united on a national level in order to fight the principle enemy of that country.
A revolutionary position therefore is one which wholeheartedly supports all national movements and organizations which tend to weaken or subvert imperialism, and opposes such movements that strengthen imperialism. In particular, revolutionaries in the USA have a particular responsibility to target US imperialism and the US ruling class, while opposing all forms of imperialism and opportunism.
The history of colonialism in Angola is the history of nearly incomprehensible pillage, rape and destruction of a native culture, their productive forces, their language, their whole people. Luanda, the present capital of the People’s Republic of Angola, was the greatest slave port in Africa. From I580, four million Africans from Angola and the Congo were exported, three million from Angola alone. Twenty to thirty percent of those died on the voyage to the Americas. It was not until much later that the coffee, oil and other minerals began to figure prominently in the minds of the imperialists. Along with Zaire and South Africa, Angola is one of the richest nations in Africa in natural resources.
Oppression breeds resistance. That is what happened in Angola with the native rebellions occurring every few years for nearly four centuries. As early as 1578 it is reported that about 2,000 Portuguese were lost to fevers and ’enemy’ weapons when they pushed seventy miles up the Cuanza River. The Bakongo people of Northern Angola struggled throughout the sixteen hundred’s and were defeated finally in 1665. Another major peasant rebellion took place in 1872-3 (the Dembos War) and again in 1913-14 the Bakengo people rose up against the Portuguese appointment of a puppet king.
Since Portugal has been a particularly weak imperialist power, after WWII it was unable to “give in”, like other European powers, to pressures for independence and attempt to establish neo-colonial regimes. The Portuguese colonies remained some of the few left in the world. Also noteworthy is that Portugal, up to 1974, was a fascist state, and all anti-colonial movements in Portugal had to remain underground.
Portugal distinguished itself from other colonizers by having a policy which gave status to ’assimilados’, some but not all of whom were Mestizos. These ’native’ Angolans were utilized in the colonial bureaucracy. In Angola in particular, Portugal encouraged immigration and so it took on the form of a white settler state not unlike Kenya, Southern Rhodesia and South Africa.
Since WWII, US imperialism has played a central role in supporting Portuguese colonialism. Through private investment, military support through Nato, CIA intervention and support through Zaire and South Africa, the US imperialist have played a key role in maintaining the oppressive colonial system, and were the main benefactors of it.
The origins of modern Angolan resistance begin in the 1950’s when the Movimento Popular para a Lebertacao de Angola (MPLA) and the Uniao das Populacoes de Angola (UPA) were formed. The MPLA was formed by urban educated ’intellectuals’ in Luanda and Lisbon, including Amilcar Cabral and Agostinbo Neto. They struggled with the Portuguese left to see that the national liberation struggle was principle over the class struggle in Portugal. The UPA was organized among migrants living in Leopoldville, Congo, and led by Holden Roberto. The migration, mainly from the Bakongo tribe, had occurred as people were attempting to escape the forced labor policy of Portugal (which was in effect until 1961) and sought jobs in the relatively more developed Congo. The UPA was actually formed in 1954 as UPNA, with the ’n’ meaning “north”. This ’n’ was dropped in 1958, and in 1962 while aligning with some neighboring ethnic groups, the UPA became the FNLA ’Frente Nacional de Liberatcao de Angola).
According to Immanuel Wallerstein, the former President of the African Studies Association, each group faced different problems:
The problem of the MPLA was to enlarge its base vertically in terms of popular support. The problem of the FNLA was to widen its base horizontally in terms of ethnic support. In the 1960’s, the MPLA was to show itself far more successful than the UPA-FNLA in resolving its problem. The key point to remember, however, is that the present split in Angola of two competing forces had already crystallized by 1960. (from “Luanda is Madrid”, in The Nation, Jan. 3-10, 1976)
The military struggle against the Portuguese started in 1961 with the MPLA launching an armed attack on February 4 to free prisoners in the central prison. It was a military failure and the Portuguese government responded savagely, killing some 3,000 in Luanda and forcing thousands to flee. The MPLA then had serious internal crisis with, among other things, Viriato du Cruz and a small faction leaving. Wallerstein claims that the crisis “almost caused it (MPLA) to disintegrate by 1963.”
The UPA organized and planned an uprising on March 15, 1961. The February Rebellion in Luanda had attracted worldwide attention and the Security Council of the UN scheduled a discussion of the matter, with March 15 set for the debate. Although some sources, like the Liberation Support Movement, claim the March uprising was totally spontaneous, it seems clear that the UPA (later to become the FNLA) had organized extensively and led the uprising in two northern provinces, which had a definite anti-white character to it with several hundred colonialists being killed. The Portuguese, relying on NATO equipment, put down the rebellion and an estimated 150 000 more people fled to the Congo, bringing up the total number of refugees to 350,000. (See Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth p. 134 for a description of the rebellion.)
With the MPLA in a weak position, in 1963 the FNLA seemed to be effectively leading the struggle. It formed the Governo Revolutionario de Angola em Exil (GRAE) which received recognition from the newly formed African Liberation (Committee of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). It was recognized as both the government and the sole legitimate representative of Angolan nationalism. At that time GRAE was not at all interested in uniting with the MPLA, although the latter was interested in uniting with FNLA/GRAE.
The MPLA had suffered a setback in 1960 when Lumumba was ousted from power, and the coalition headed by Mobutu took over the Congo. The MPLA had supported the revolutionary nationalist Lumumba, while FNLA had supported Mobutu who was Holden Roberto’s future brother-in-law. Neither group supported the arch reactionary Katangan secessionists. Since 1960 the Congolese border was open to FNLA and closed to MPLA. It wasn’t until progressive governments took over in Congo-Brazaville (July, 1963) and Zambia (1964) that MPLA had a base area to work out of. Ironically, the military downfall of FNLA-GRAE seems to be the brief period when the Congo’s border was closed to them, during the time Tshombe was Prime Minister of the Congo in 1964. (Tshombe, leader of the reactionary Katangan secessionists repayed Portugal which had supported the secession, by closing off the border to the FNLA), The FNLA did not rebuild itself from this decline until the early 1970’s.
During this time of crisis for the FNLA, its “Foreign Minister”, Jonas Savimbi; “resigned dramatically at an OAU meeting in Cairo in July, 1964.” He publicly accused Holden Roberto, President of GRAE, of being an agent of the Americans. According to several sources, Roberto had been receiving $10,000 per month from the CIA. The OAU eventually recognized the MPLA in 1965 and finally withdrew recognition of GRAE in 1968, recognizing the FNLA and the MPLA on equal footing.
In March of 1966, Savimbi formed the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) inside Angola. UNITA was and is based mainly among the Ovimbundu tribe, the largest tribe in Angola.
In the ensuing years, the MPLA developed base areas in the rural areas to the east of Luanda, while FNLA floundered, and UNITA claimed a lot of support. According to various sources, it seems that the MPLA did most of the fighting against the Portuguese. According to the LSM, “The UN Committee on Decolonization, which went through Portuguese military communiques for the years 1968-1970 found that UNITA was only mentioned once, whereas the name of the MPLA occurred again and again. In 1973, secret Portuguese reports were published, disclosing that, of 2,518 acknowledged actions by guerrillas in Angola in 1970, 59% were ascribed to the MPLA, 37% to FNLA operating from Zaire), and only 4% to UNITA. Another confirmed that in February, 1971, the great majority of clashes and practically all ’fire actions’ (engagements with Portuguese troops) were with MPLA.” (LSM News Vol. 2, Issue 4.)
Despite a certain tribalism attributed to the FNLA and UNITA, the actual written program of all three liberation groups promised certain reforms. The Program of the FNLA says: “The regime that (they) will establish in Angola will be democratic because the power will be exercised by the people for the people. . .the lands will be distributed to those who work them.” UNITA constitution says: “to affirm preemptorily the necessity to form a democratic front of all fighting forces in Angola.” And ’to promote agrarian reform on. . . the principle that the land belongs to those who till it.’ It even goes so far as to call for the “construction of socialism in Angola.” A comparison if the Program of the MPLA would show that the MPLA has the most progressive program of the three groups.
The US CIA aid to the FNLA increased over the years, sometimes being given to the group directly, other times through Zaire. It seems that UNITA collaborated with the CIA, and even the Portuguese and South Africans, at least as early as April, 1974 coup, if not before. According to Bill Sales, UNITA never responded to documented charges in Afrique-Asie magazine of collusion with the Portuguese. Other sources date similar charges as far back as the founding of UNITA in 1966 (by way of distinction, while FNLA manifests glaring weaknesses in its political line, we have seen no allegations that they have collaborated with the Portuguese though it later did collaborate with Western neo-colonial interests). Currently, UNITA is said to collaborate with the South Africans in their attempts to maintain control over Namibia.
From the beginning of the groups, differences emerged, which sometimes manifested themselves in armed struggle between the groups, particularly between the MPLA and the other two. As early as October, 1961 the UPA is said to have captured some MPLA people and executed them (ACA, Angola Chronology). This seems quite likely – the history of the three groups is one of conflict carried on in varying degrees and varying levels. To our knowledge, no group had a consistent united front policy; each assessed the others purely in tactical terms.
For instance, despite the armed conflict in the early ’60’s, by 1963 the MPLA wanted unity with the FNLA because of the MPLA’s weakness and the FNLA’s strength at that point. The FNLA, riding high, would have none of it. According to several sources, the MPLA restructured and rebuilt itself, using mainly Soviet small-arms aid, and Chinese aid (our understanding is that of all three groups, China gave the most aid to the MPLA, and had done so sine the sixties. We further understand that in 1973 China began giving aid to FNLA through Zaire, and in 1975 after signing of the Alvor agreement, cut off aid from “all three” organizations, the implication being that it had given some aid to UNITA).
As the MPLA grew stronger, and as it recognized the ties that the FNLA had with the CIA (ACA claims that Holden Roberto began to receive CIA funds from December of 1962 through 1972), it didn’t want to unite with FNLA in any way. Thus, in 1970, an MPLA document calls the FNLA and UNITA “counterrevolutionaries”. Yet, in December, 1972, under pressure from the OAU, MPLA and FNLA agreed to form a Supreme Liberation Council which included both Unified Military Command and a unified Angolan Political Council (the former headed by Neto, the latter by Roberto – see Southern African Committee, Southern Africa Feb 1973, p. 16). According to Wallerstein (op. cit.), “The MPLA hoped, in vain as it turned out, that the pact would open the Zaire frontiers for its men and arms. The only one who gained from the pact was Holden Roberto, to whom it gave renewed legitimacy.” MPLA soldiers who went to Zaire were arrested, and the agreement never became a reality.
Another futile attempt at unity was made in January, 1975, when the MPLA, FNLA and UNITA established joint procedures for negotiating the Alvor Agreement with the Portuguese and a structure for a coalition government (see ACA, Angola Chronology). The latter attempt at a coalition fell quickly to armed combat between the groups, spurred by massive CIA aid to FNLA and UNITA.
Without trying to explain in detail the situation after the coup in Portugal, let us point out a few important things. Right before the coup, another significant split took place in the MPLA with Chipenda, an opportunist who commanded strength in the southern section, leaving the MPLA and linking up forces with the FNLA. So, at the time of the coup, Wallerstein assessed the situation militarily:
The three main Angolan groups. . . have distributed themselves de facto in different geographical areas: FNLA in their northern Bakongo bastion near the Zaire border; UNITA and the Chipenda forces in Ovimbundu areas in the south; and the MPLA in the capital, Luanda, as well as a broad central belt running across the country plus the enclave of Cabina. (op. cit.)
The LSM claims that the support of the MPLA was even strong in the south and the north.
It should be noted, that up to and during the time of the coup, the MPLA for certain had the most progressive programs within the liberated areas. According the French newspaper, Le Monde, MPLA made a practice of establishing popular power committees in neighborhoods and factories, ran schools and health clinics in liberated areas and built strong women’s and students organizations. No such activities of such depth appear to have existed among the other groups, particularly the FNLA. This helps to explain why the MPLA was able to rebuild itself from the weakened position it faced in 1963, while the FNLA seems to have stagnated or declined from 1064 up to the point of the coup in Portugal in April, 1974.
As the situation developed in 1974, it appears that UNITA and FNLA with Chipenda increased attacks on the MPLA, particularly in the capital city of Luanda. According to the American Committee on Africa, in September 1974 Spinola, head of the Portuguese government, and Mobutu of Zaire met secretly at the Cape Verde Islands and agreed to a government with all groups except Neto’s MPLA. The plan failed, as Spinola was ousted by the end of the month. At this point, and thereafter, Roberto of FNLA and Savimbi of UNITA increased the stridency of their verbal attacks on the MPLA, in terms sure to please imperialist ears:
Roberto: “I am calling on the West to save Africa from Communism. . . . But I can also say, in all sincerity, that I am asking the West to save itself. . . . The United States. . . is the guardian of world freedom. But it is a historical fact that the US moves too slowly in this role. In Vietnam, it was always too little, too late. Now in Angola, it is happening the same way. (quoted from Newsweek, 12/29/75)
Q: Do you think that the foreign companies exploiting Angolan natural resources should be nationalized?
Savimbi: “Never, I oppose it. Nationalization is a disease, because the foreign companies are manned by experts who know how to develop our petroleum, diamonds and copper. (quoted from African Development, July 1975)
Savimbi: “Here I am fighting Communism. Trying to stop the Russians from taking over Angola. And instead you hold me me up to ridicule over the Whites! You do this to your own Presidents, too, don’t you? What’s the matter? Don’t you want to live in a democracy? (quoted from Newsweek, 11/24/75)(the three quotes above are taken from LSM News, Vol. 2 No. 4 Winter 1975-76)
This anti-communism seems to become more pronounced after the coup as the two groups asked for increased Western aid.
The chronology of events that follows seems to be accurately summarized by the ACA in their Angola Chronology. Their claim that the aid from the CIA (totally over $600,000) and the invasion of South African troops came before the massive aid from the USSR to the MPLA is supported from a strictly anti-MPLA source, the Organization of Angolan Communists, who write:
At the time of its (OAC) first conference, October 1975, an invasion force, starting from Cunene and composed of European mercenaries and South Africans had captured Lubango and Mogamedes which aroused the anger of people throughout the country. At this period, Soviet supplies of arms to the MPLA were small and consisted mainly of light weapons, and there were about 300-500 Cubans in the country. (Ikwezi, No, 5 p. 58)
We maintain that at a certain point after the coup in Portugal, the principal aspect of the policies of the FNLA and UNITA changed over to support of, not opposition to, imperialism. It seems clear to us that the histories of both groups are laced with aspects of racism, tribalism, a growing opportunism, and narrow nationalism. But the qualitative leap that their opportunism took over their nationalism into support of Western neo-colonialism circa 1974-75, is crucial, and to overlook it in an analysis of the forces in Angola is a serious error. Interestingly enough, the policy of Tanzania confirms our perspective. Tanzania had always held that the three groups should unite and work out their differences peacefully. It initially refused to recognize the People’s Republic of Angola established by the MPLA because of this perspective. What changed the mind of President Nyrere? When it became clear that FNLA and UNITA were colluding with SA forces, the Tanzanian government immediately recognized the PRA and closed down the UNITA and FNLA offices in Dar Es Salaam.
We are not positive exactly when the principle aspect of each group changed; we would guess it was sometime between April, 1974 and December, 1975, a time of great upheaval in all the colonies of Portugal and in Portugal itself. While all three groups opposed Portuguese colonialism (to a greater or lesser degree), UNITA and FNLA did so on the basis of extremely contradictory and often backward political lines. It was these weaknesses in line which set the stage for their receiving support from the CIA and from reactionary elements in Africa (e.g. Mobutu of Zaire), of being ’groomed’ for a neo-colonialist role.
Under these conditions, as imperialism’s need for a neo-colonial solution played into the opportunism and elitism of FNLA and UNITA, the reactionary aspects of these groups ascended to primacy, and FNLA and UNITA moved forward into the role of neo-colonial agents.
With the consolidation of power in the hands of the MPLA, and the establishment of the People’s Republic of Angola under MPLA leadership, it is clear that certain progressive developments have taken place internally in the country. At the same time, questions exist as to the integrity of the MPLA as a revolutionary organization: such as the charge that the MPLA and PRA are dominated by whites and Mestizos; the status of groups such as the OAC; and its charges that the MPLA pursued a petit-bourgeois line that stifled the democratic initiative of the Angolan masses.
We have no independent source to corroborate or deny these charges of the OAC (for their source, see Ikwezi No. 5). But we see the continued presence of a large Cuban military contingent, and the extensive relationship of the USSR to the Angolan government and the Angolan economy in terms of “advisors” and relations of trade, as disturbing circumstantial evidence that would lend some weight to the charges that the MPLA has not relied primarily on the Angolan masses for the victory and defense of their liberation.
It is important to note that amongst the ultra-’left’ forces there were different lines on Angola. Certain anti-’left’ forces have failed to recognize this fact, which only weakens the anti-’left’ position.
The ultra-’left’ failed to do a concrete investigation of concrete conditions and in so doing failed to fully support groups that tended to weaken imperialism (MPLA) and oppose those groups who strengthened imperialism (FNLA and UNITA) as of the spring of 1975. The ultra-’left’ also mistakenly analyzed the principal contradiction in Angola. Lastly, the ultra-’left’ had a bad line on building the anti-imperialist united front in this country, and in so doing allowed the liberals in Congress to be the leading force in opposing US intervention in Angola. Let us look at those three criticisms separately:
a) Failure to support groups that oppose imperialism and oppose groups that support imperialism
While we agree that in many liberation struggles all groups that, in the main, oppose imperialism, despite internal and even sharp differences, should be supported, it is incumbent upon Marxists to continuously analyze the situation and recognize that things are always in the process of change. Our analysis is that, while both the FNLA and UNITA had serious weaknesses, they in the main opposed Portuguese colonialism and only secondarily opposed the MPLA and served US and South African interests. No less of a proponent of the MPLA than The Guardian, for example, described the FNLA and UNITA as “liberation groups”, “liberation organizations”, “anti-colonial movements”, and “liberation movements”. (Dates are, respectively, 10-22 and 11-19; 9-10; 8-20; and 9-10-75. Source is PUL, On The “Progressive Role” of the Soviet Union and Other Dogmas (Sept. 1978, p. 76.) By on 1-26-75 The Guardian calls them “instruments of interests which have utter disregard for the national rights of the Angolan people.”).
This was the case up to the middle of 1975, when there was an all-out attack on the MPLA by the FNLA-UNITA-Chipenda forces, backed up with over 4,000 South African troops, over $600,000 of US military supplies and logistical support, and Zairean troops. It was during this time that the UNITA and FNLA’s dominant aspect completed its swing from mainly opposing imperialism (in the form of Portuguese colonialism) to mainly supporting imperialism in the form of collusion with S. Africa and USA attacks on the MPLA.
To argue, as some ’leftists’ do, that the FNLA and UNITA were equal to the MPLA in that the former received money from the US imperialist and the latter receives money from the “social imperialist” is faulty methodology and theoretically unsound, first, it is assuming that external factors, such as aid from an imperialist power or superpower contention in general, are principal over internal causes. Placing such external causes in such a central and determinant role in an analysis, as many ultra-’leftists’ do, is sheer metaphysics.
The internal basis for MPLA’s anti-imperialist stance lies in its political line and its organizing. While the MPLA is not comparable – as some, like the LSM and Detroit M-L Org., would have us believe – to the NLF, or even the PAIGC or FRELIMO, it was nonetheless able to organize significant mass support and politically educate people. The same cannot be said for the tribal opportunist politics of FNLA and UNITA.
We would also like to raise whether the ultra-’left’ really holds to the Leninist principle that national liberation groups can accept aid from any imperialist power. Most claim they do and say it was acceptable for the MPLA to get aid from the Soviet Union. But, then these same groups turn around and say “Superpowers Out of Angola”. We assume from the beginning that the USSR has opportunistic designs in mind behind its intervention in Angola. But so what? When the ’leftists’ raise the slogan “Superpowers Out of Angola” and condemn Cuban intervention, what else can they mean but to restrict the right of the MPLA to get aid from any source possible to fight Portuguese colonialism and US neo-colonialism?
In response to this, the argument has been made that we are being inconsistent by holding this position while condemning the FNLA for accepting US imperialist aid. We feel that this argument misses the mark somewhat, because our main criticism is not that the FNLA or UNITA get aid from the US imperialists, but rather that both directed their attack increasingly on the MPLA and not the Portuguese, and most significantly, not the US neo-colonial interests.
It is entirely conceivable to us that US imperialism would support an anti-colonial group, in hopes of establishing a neo-colonial situation after the anti-colonial struggle has been successful. In fact, we understand that in the early 70’s, the US did give such aid to FRELIMO in hopes of strengthening the position of the rightist elements within FRELIMO. This aid must have ended when it became clear to the imperialists that it was counter-productive. In Angola, on the other hand, US aid increased dramatically, after the colonial struggle had been won, thus, on the surface, making it appear that the FNLA was, at that point, going to fulfill the neo-colonial role the US wanted. We are not saying that the external US aid was the principle factor, for we do hold that the internal nature of the FNLA, its class and tribal composition and its vacillating and opportunist line, provided the basis for it to become a neo-colonial force.
Given that internal contradictions exist in liberation groups, what is the correct approach to take towards support for liberation struggles? We believe the correct policy is to support all groups who direct their main attack against the main imperialist enemy. At the same time, we take note of the contradictions and make distinctions in our work. Thus, an appropriate policy would be to support all groups in agitational slogans, factual newspaper articles, etc., so long as they deserve support; while, at the same time, supporting more politically advanced groups in propaganda work, speaking tours, party-to-party relations and so on.
b) Mistaken Analysis of the Principle Contradiction Facing the Angolan People
Up until the Alvor Agreement (1-15-75), the principle contradiction in Angola was between the Angolan masses, represented primarily by the MPLA and to a lesser degree by FNLA and UNITA, and Portuguese colonialism, which is supported by US imperialism. After the withdrawal of Portuguese colonialism, the question of neo-colonialism came on the agenda: the contradiction being that between the Angola masses, represented primarily by the MPLA; and US-European imperialist interest represented increasingly by the FNLA/UNITA/Chipenda/Zaire/South Africa forces.
What of the neo-colonial interests of the USSR? Well, reality is not fixed and immutable; a secondary and growing contradiction does exist between the interests of the Angolan masses and those of the USSR. It is unclear to us what role the MPLA will play in this process as the contradiction develops. In any case, the history and extent of US-European imperialist exploitation of Angola is too widely documented to need repetition here; whatever the future designs of the USSR on Angola might be, it is idealist and metaphysical to glibly state that the two superpowers are of equal danger to the Angolan people, without some proof that the USSR posed a danger as great as that posed by the US. To our knowledge, no such proof was ever offered. The two superpowers may be of “equal danger to the world as a whole”, but Marxism demands concrete examination of concrete conditions – in this case, in Angola. The ultra-’left’ rejects this. Even given the concern we all should have about the maintenance of Cuban troops in Angola and the developing military, political and economic ties between Angola and the USSR, it is still clear that the principle contradiction between 1974 and 1976 was between the Angolan people and US imperialism. (We should note a similar concern about the relationship between Vietnam and the USSR, and yet, this does not lead us to metaphysically assert that, in retrospect, the principle contradiction in Vietnam was between Vietnam and the “two superpowers”.)
It is in this light that we approach the policy of the People’s Republic of China in regard to Angola. It is our understanding that China gave aid to all three groups with the bulk going to the MPLA which it began supporting in the early 1960’s. It terminated its aid in 1975, contingent upon the establishment of unity between the three groups. It did not back the FNLA-UNITA-Zaire-South Africa-US axis, which lunched an all-out attack on the MPLA in the fall of 1975. It did point out the USSR as the main danger to the people of Angola.
As noted above, we feel that this analysis of the USSR in Angola, as of 1974-976, was incorrect. This analysis, we assume, contributed heavily in the Chinese decision not to offer support to the one genuine liberation group operating at the time, which was the MPLA. The call for unity between the three groups, while correct in principle, did not correspond to the reality of FNLA-UNITA swinging ever more to the side of western neo-colonialism by 1974.
c) The Ultra-’left’s’ Error of Failing to Unite All Those Who Could Be United in the struggle Against US Intervention in Angola
This was related to the ultra-’left’s’ incorrect analysis of the concrete situation in Angola, but it also goes beyond that to errors around the nature of united front work itself.
The ’left’ perspective was to raise “Two Superpowers Out of Angola” to a point of unity for the united fronts they built instead of targeting US imperialism and doing Communist propaganda about the negative role of the USSR. This was the case of a ’left’ united front that formed in the Bay Area, and, we assume, in several other cities.
Roots of this error stem from both errors of methodology and viewpoint. As explained above, there were errors of idealism and metaphysical dogmatism in methodology. It was idealist in that it replaced fantasies of the ’left’ for objective reality e.g. the ’left’s’ refusal to mention that the FNLA received CIA aid since l962, the collusion between UNITA and South Africa, the progressive developments in MPLA liberated areas, and the assertion that major Soviet and Cuban aid came prior to US and South African intervention. They made metaphysical errors, in that they confused the general with the particular (this criticism stands, even if one assumes that the two superpowers are equal dangers in the world – something the MA doesn’t have unity on), and in confusing principle and secondary contradictions, and the role of internal and external forces.
Errors of theory revolve mainly around how to build united fronts. The ultra-’left’ adopted certain semi-anarchist biases and wished to maintain their political independence and purity by raising the level of unity of united fronts unnecessarily high, thereby objectively abstaining from political struggle and acting in a sectarian manner towards much of the left and the masses.
This general ’left’ line was bad enough, but much of the ultra-’left’ went even further.
The pro-Albanian left, MLOC and the Canadian CP (ML) gave exclusive support to UNITA, condemning the FNLA and the MPLA for being puppets of the superpowers.
The CP-ML made a point of not only having the political line of the united front at too high a level (to say nothing of it being incorrect), but actually directed the main blow of their propaganda and actions against the USSR and not the USA. This was shown in their demo at the Soviet Consulate in Washington DC and their chants of “USSR Out of South Africa!” at a demonstration in the Bay Area.
Other groups went out of their way to denounce the MPLA as ’Soviet puppets’ ’social fascists’. No facts have been supplied to back up these serious charges.
It is true that some groups consistently held to the Chinese line – and support three groups, including the MPLA throughout the civil war. Thus, we see groups the IWK and RWH not publicly criticizing the MPLA and the latter even selling MPLA literature on a consistent basis (at least in Milwaukee). But such a position which was correct in the sixties, became increasingly questionable and finally incorrect in the seventies. (In fact, the Chinese seemed to have begun supporting the FNLA in 1973, a time twelve years after Franz Fanon had described Holden Roberto as a “Leader of the Angolan people.”) Much went on in those years, and as we have tried to show, the FNLA increasingly directed its attack away from the Portuguese, toward the MPLA, which was objectively doing the most fighting against the Portuguese.
Thus, we see two general areas of error made by the ultra-’left’. First, the actual analysis that the “two superpowers” posed equal dangers to the Angolan people was incorrect. At least, up to the present moment, we feel that it is clear that US imperialism is the principal danger and the USSR is a secondary danger to the Angolan people, though this relationship may not remain fixed in the long run. Second, and based on the error of analysis, the line used in forging united fronts in this country did not target US imperialism, uniting all those who could be united against the principal enemy. This policy would be an error even if a group saw the main danger to the Angolan people as being the two “superpowers”. In such a case, a correct, in fact, obligatory, strategy would have been to build a united front targeting US imperialism, and within that front, do propaganda work warning of the danger posed by the USSR. To raise the danger of the USSR to a level of unity for a united front in this country around this issue was incorrect.
By its idealist and metaphysical approach to an analysis of the Angolan situation, and by its sectarian and semi-anarchist approach to building a united front against US intervention in Angola, the ultra-’left’ line rendered the broad anti-imperialist movement impotent at the crucial moment, denied it the opportunity to collectively carry out and then sum up a strategic line in a unified manner, and allowed the initiative – in appearance, if not in fact – to fall into the hands of the Congressional liberals; by over-estimating the danger of “social imperialism” in the particular case of Angola, 1974-76, the ultra-’left’ line conciliated with US imperialism and neo-colonialism.
We have seen only a few written anti-’left’ analyses of the Angolan situation, including articles in the Guardian , the Organizer, (Newspaper of the Philadelphia Workers Organizing Committee), Obreros en Marcha, (newspaper of El Comite-MINP), materials from the Liberation Support Movement, and a lengthy paper from the Detroit M-L Organization (DMLO). On the whole, by targeting US imperialism as the main danger in Angola, by attempting to unite all who could be united in opposition to US intervention, and by support of the MPLA, the anti-’left’ groups have played a much more positive role in the recent anti-imperialist movement than has the ultra-’left’.
We recognize differences among these other anti-’left’ forces around their Angola analysis, but caution comrades that there seems to be a general tendency to ignore certain facts about the nature of revisionism and the danger revisionism and the USSR pose to the world today.
The errors we have seen range from mis-analyzing the political situation among the groups in Angola to downplaying the need to struggle against revisionism.
For instance, both the LSM and DMLO compare the MPLA equally to the NLF in Vietnam. El Comite-MINP correctly states:
In raising the ’examples of Vietnam’, we are not attempting to equate the NLF with the MPLA, that would be committing the same error we criticize in others. There are some obvious and glaring differences, particularly in the application of the concept of prolonged armed struggle and self-reliance between the two organizations. (Obreros en Marcha, vol. I, No. 13, January 1976, p. 12)
To this we would add that the MPLA, as noted above, has been unsuccessful in developing a united front policy which would unite and mobilize the broad masses of Angolans while neutralizing opportunist elements. The NLF was led by a Marxist-Leninist party based on the proletariat; the MPLA is not. The NLF did not request troop support, though it faced an enemy many times larger than that faced by the MPLA.
We make these points, not to denigrate the MPLA or downplay the objective difficulties it faced in its struggle. It is important to realize, however, that Angola is not Vietnam and that the differences between the two, and between the two liberation movements, have to be taken into account. Loosely equating the MPLA with the NLF does nothing to aid this analytical process.
The PWOC, in its generally correct criticism of the OL (now CPM-L) line in its January-March 1976 (vol.2 no. 1) issue of the Organizer, reduces revisionism to a “policy of accommodation with imperialism”, not even mentioning the possibility of the USSR attempting to develop an exploitive relationship to Angola.
The DMLO goes a bit further. While saying that ’We must criticize the intentions and methods of Soviet aid and relations with certain African nations and the priorities and politics of such aid. . . . ; we believe that these nations and movements can best make that criticism themselves from within the contexts of their own situations.” Thus, the DMLO avoids reaching any definitive conclusion about the ’intentions and methods of Soviet aid’, and wraps any apparent criticism of the USSR in a vague cloud of agnosticism.
They claim, for example, that it is not their purpose to analyze “the pros and cons of this Soviet theory on the ’noncapitalist path of development’.” Yet, they state categorically that Soviet aid has “In Africa and Asia. . . . meant an opposition to all (our emphasis – MA) efforts of western neo-colonialism,” that “the USSR does not have the basis to control the economic life of these Third World nations even if it so desired” and that “as to whether the MPLA is a puppet of the Soviet Union, we are confident that the organization’s stated program of non-alignment is the program which will be followed and that the Vietnamese example of independence can and will be repeated.” (DMLO, The Struggle for Southern Africa and the War in Angola, no date, p. 19-21)
To us in the MA, even with our very limited analysis of the USSR and the international situation, we find such statements a little worrisome. If the USSR’s aid has meant an opposition to all efforts of neo-colonialism, what of its support of the neo-colonial Lon Nol regime in Cambodia and the Marcos regime in the Philippines? If the USSR does not have the basis to control the economic life of the Third World, then what about the Soviets’ past relationship to Egypt and India, and the ever present influence in Cuba? As to whether the MPLA will remain as “independent” from the USSR as Vietnam, what can we say? Time will tell for both countries.