First Published: The Call, Vol. 4, No. 4, January 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The contention between the two superpowers over Angola has reached greater proportions than ever before. Recent news reports have detailed the deluge of arms and troops dispatched in the interests of one or the other superpower to the newly independent southwest African country.
In Washington, it was revealed that the CIA, with President Fordís approval, was funneling $50 million worth of arms into Angola. In addition, magazine advertisements for mercenaries were reported in publications from California to Colorado. All the while, Daniel Moynihan, the U. S. ambassador to the United Nations was denouncing “Soviet attempts to colonize Africa” as if the colonization of Africa was a new phenomenon, unknown to U.S. Imperialism.
On the other hand, new reports have come out of Angola indicating the greatest Soviet arms build-up yet. Weapons which the Soviet revisionists refused the Angolans when they were fighting Portuguese colonialism, are now flowing freely into the capital city of Luanda. This arms build-up is a graphic demonstration of Soviet attempts to promote one side and stir up civil war among the Angolan people. Soviet weapons being shipped to the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) include MIG aircraft, 122 mm rockets with 12-mile range, and vast quantities of T-54 tanks, SAM-7 missiles and armored cars. The New York Times commented December 7 that these massive arms shipments were the decisive factor in the tide of battle in Angola.
In addition, Western news accounts have reported the presence of 40 Soviet military “advisers” with MPLA and an estimated 4,000 Cuban troops manning the Soviet weaponry and participating in combat.
It is only a few short weeks since Angola gained its independence from Portugal after centuries of struggle. How is it that it has become such a theater for the contention of the superpowers?
Since the 1960’s, three Angolan organizations fought heroically for the liberation of their country. In addition to the MPLA these included the FNLA (Front for the National Liberation of Angola) and UNIT A (Union for the Total Independence of Angola). While differences between the groups existed, all three met as recently as last June to cement a program for coalition government and common anti-colonial struggle.
Both superpowers feared this unity and a genuinely independent Angola. They stepped up their intrigues and arms shipments. The U.S., however, was fresh from its defeat in Indochina. As a result, it did not intervene with its traditional massive military operations. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, anxious to get a strong footing in southern Africa (traditionally a bastion of U.S. strength), went all-out in its efforts to gain domination in Angola.
Its main tactic was throwing exclusive support behind the MPLA, urging war on the other forces, and providing the arms with which to do it. It ran roughshod over the efforts of the liberation organizations themselves and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to bring about unity and peaceful settlement of differences. In this way it tried not only to undermine the independence of Angola, but the whole OAU, which in the last few years has played an important role in mobilizing opposition to all big powers in Africa.
In addition to its arms and divide-and-rule strategy, the Soviet social-imperialists launched a propaganda campaign throughout the world, making use of its fraternal revisionist parties such as the CPUSA here. In order to cover its own tracks of intervention and imperialistic acts, it slandered the FNLA and UNITA, calling them “counter-revolutionary” or “non-revolutionary.”
Soviet intentions in its massive Angola intervention are two-fold: In the first place, Angola is a juicy plum which both superpowers would like to pick, with its oil, diamonds, minerals, and coffee. At the same time it is a window on the Atlantic Ocean, where naval control is crucial to the Soviet Union in its rivalry with U.S. imperialism. NATO officials recently concluded that the strategic position overseeing Atlantic oil shipments and naval routes is the main objective of the Soviet campaign in Angola.
Secondly, the Soviet Union is testing the waters for war. How far can it go in its contention with the U.S. under the banner of “detente?” Will the U.S. respond militarily?
They also hope to make Angola a testing ground for how well the Soviet Union can draw Third World countries into their web so they are experimenting with making countries like Cuba shoulder the burden of military aggression. This is part of social-imperialism’s desperate gamble to gain allies and split the unity of the Third World.
But the social imperialists are meeting a tide of resistance. Idi Amin, Chairman of the OAU, for example, has maintained a policy of opposition to foreign interference and support for Angolan unity.
Samdech Norodom Sihanouk, the Cambodian head of state, recently visited Uganda, and declared his full support for the OAU policy. At a December 5 press conference, Sihanouk said that national conciliation and peace could be restored in Angola if foreign intervention were stopped. He condemned those countries like the Soviet Union which interfere in the internal affairs of Angola.
During the course of debate at the United Nations, China reaffirmed its support for the OAU position. In a speech on the attitude of China towards Angola, Lai Ya-li declared:
“We have always treated the three Angolan liberation organizations on the same basis and in a friendly way, and we provided them with various kinds of assistance including military assistance, in their struggle against Portuguese colonialism. In our opinion, the three Angolan liberation organizations are fraternal organizations, who were comrades-in-arms in the days of arduous anti-colonialist armed struggle. They have every reason to restore their unity and no reason whatsoever for confrontation, division and war.”
The Chinese representative continued, “After they reached agreement with the Portuguese government on achieving independence at a scheduled date, we stopped giving new military aid to the three organizations. The Soviet slander about Chinese interference in the internal affairs of Angola is the despicable trick of a thief crying ’catch the thief.’ Nothing can cover up the countless crimes committed by social imperialism in Angola.”
In addition to the superpowers, other reactionary forces are at work in Angola, including the racist South African regime. Making use of the civil war situation, South Africa has intruded into Angola militarily. While the presence of all foreign powers must be opposed, only a united Angolan people will be able to repulse the South African racists. Such unity can only come about when the superpowers stop their meddling.
The Soviet revisionists, desperate to justify their acts, claim that unity is “impossible” among the liberation forces. In the first place this lie flies in the face of the history of the Angolan struggle, even up to such events as the Alvor agreement. Moreover, unity is not only “possible”–it is the only way to keep both superpowers from sharpening the swords of war at the expense of the Angolan people.