First Published: Revolution, Vol. 1, No. 3, December 15, 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
On November 11, the Portuguese government lowered its flag for the last time in Angola. This signalled the end of Portugal’s 500 year old colonial empire in Africa. Angola is the most recent of more than two dozen African countries to win independence from colonial control in the last 20 years. This represents a great victory in the long struggle of the Angolan and African peoples for freedom.
But on the very day of this victory, Angola was in the middle of a deadly civil war between organizations that had fought to free the country from colonialism.
This civil war is a result of the rivalry between the chief international exploiters–the U.S. and the USSR–each of whom hopes to swallow up the country. Recently the Soviet Union has poured millions in aid and 3000 Cuban troops to Angola in hopes of winning themselves a lot of influence quickly. Meanwhile, a panicking U.S. capitalist class rushes around denouncing “Soviet colonialism” while they themselves spend millions backing other forces, hoping to thwart the Soviets and grab Angola for themselves.
Angola is one of the richest African countries, both in agricultural and mineral resources, with large gold and diamond mines and extensive oil fields. But for the two superpowers, control of Angola is a prize for more than its wealth.
Its location gives it key importance in influencing events in the southern tip of Africa, where the masses are fighting to overthrow white minority settler governments in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), Namibia and Azania (South Africa). Its ports are coveted by the superpowers for naval bases which, in the event of war, could be used to either protect or threaten the vital shipping lanes around Africa which carry oil from the Mideast to Europe.
Angola was originally within the U.S. “sphere of influence,” the division of the world among the imperialist powers. The U.S. reaped big profits from the Portuguese colonization of Angola, which dated back to the end of the 1400s. For example, U.S. oil companies like Gulf Oil still control the oil fields of Angola’s Cabinda enclave.
From the middle of the last century on, the people of Angola were in constant revolt against the grinding exploitation and terror of colonial rule. The Portuguese tried to put down these rebellions. They banned education for the Angolan people, fearing it would strengthen their resistance. They also promoted fighting among different tribes and built up tribal chiefs as the only leaders of the Angolans.
The Angolan people responded to colonial rule by launching a long guerilla war to throw the Portuguese out. Three liberation organizations arose: the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), and the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), each in a different section of the country and each drawing its main support from a different one of Angola’s three main tribes.
During this guerilla war, Portugal was given constant military and economic aid by the U.S. government, funneled through NATO, in order to maintain it? colonial rule in Angola. Napalm, for instance, which was dropped on Angola by the Portuguese air force, was supplied by U.S. military aid.
But these U.S. efforts to prop up Portuguese colonialism failed. Together with the liberation movements in the other Portuguese colonies, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, the Angolan people helped topple the old Portuguese regime and forced the new government to agree to unconditional independence. This was a serious blow to U.S. imperialism and one of the many defeats being dealt to it by the resistance and revolutionary struggle around the world.
With Portugal, the common enemy, defeated, the MPLA, the FNLA, and UNITA met in January at a conference of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), made up of the heads of independent African governments, and together set up a four-part transitional government with the Portuguese to prepare for independence November 11. But superpower interference in the internal affairs of Angola was soon to lead to civil war.
With Portugal on its way out, the USSR stepped up its efforts to get a big piece of the action in Angola and all of Africa, and to take advantage of the temporary defeat of U.S. imperialism. The Soviet social imperialists never gave much support to the liberation forces during the 1960s, giving small amounts to try to influence the MPLA. In fact, showing its true imperialist nature, the USSR actually sold military transport ships to Portugal from 1968 to 1971, according to a spokesman from the MPLA, at the same time they posed as “friends” of the Angolan people.
But once the fight with Portugal was over, the USSR began to flood Angola with military “aid.” As one African diplomat put it, they were “supplying weapons like armored cars and SAM missiles,” heavy weapons “which it had never supplied during the fifteen long years of the Angolan people’s struggle against Portuguese colonialism.”
The Soviet interference in Angola is typical of their role throughout the world as they seek to change the old division of the world that greatly favors the United States, in order to themselves become the chief world wide exploiters. In doing so the Soviets try to pimp off the genuine revolutionary aspirations of the people, especially their hatred of U.S. imperialism, to further their own imperialist aims.
For their part, the U.S. imperialists need just as desperately to ward off the Soviet challenge and defend and extend their robbery in Angola and all of Africa. For years they extracted billions in superprofits from Africa, and they are not about to give it up without a fight. Now that they are in a severe economic crisis they are striving to expand their exploitation abroad at the same time as they enforce more exploitation at home.
So even though the U.S. suffered a temporary defeat when Portuguese colonialism was thrown out of Angola, they have quickly switched their tactics in an attempt to recoup their losses. Even while they armed Portugal the U.S. had hedged its bets by giving a little aid to the FNLA and UNITA. Now they are funneling millions of dollars to the FNLA and are maneuvering to try to get a government friendly to U.S. investment and influence to take over.
This superpower interference in the internal affairs, of Angola touched off the present civil war. Fighting broke out in April between the different liberation groups and continued through the summer. At first the MPLA controlled most of the country’s large cities, but by the late fall a united command of FNLA and UNITA was rolling up MPLA from the north and south and driving them into a small area around the capital city, Luanda. All efforts by the OAU to work out a truce failed.
On November 11 the Portuguese left, and each side in the budding civil war declared itself the legitimate government of Angola. The Soviet Union rushed to recognize the “People’s Republic of Angola,” sending in Soviet military advisors and using its influence over. Cuba to send in over 3000 Cuban troops hoping to hide their imperialist aggression behind the phony “revolutionary” image of Cuba. With Cuban troops and Soviet aid, the MPLA has recouped some of its earlier losses on the battlefield.
For its part the U.S. imperialists immediately rushed to meet this Soviet attempt to cut into their profits in Africa. To back up its imperialist interests, the U.S. has already set up a $50,000,000 “aid” program to pump money to the FNLA-UNITA forces, who have declared themselves the “People’s Democratic Republic of Angola.” And leading spokesmen for the U.S. monopoly capitalists. Secretary of State Kissinger and UN representative Daniel Moynihan, are threatening further intervention, including introducing mercenaries.
The South African government has also jumped into this sordid act, sending troops to try to shore up their position in southern Africa.
With the blatant interference in the internal affairs of Angola the two superpowers have replaced Portugal as the main cause of the Angolan people’s problems.
The centuries old struggle of the Angolan peoples against colonial enslavement has been manipulated at the point of victory into a war to see whether the U.S. or the USSR will be the main bandit robbing Angola. Both superpowers must leave Angola alone. On their own, the Angolan people can resolve their present differences and struggle together to build a new life.