Speech by Samora Machel 1973
First Published: 1974;
Source: Samora Machel, Mozambique Sowing the Seeds of Revolution, Italy, pp. 7-15;
Transcription: Liz Blasczak.
Speech at the First National Solidarity Conference for the Freedom and Independence of Mozambique, Angola and Guinea-Bissau, at Reggio Emilia, Italy, on 25 March 1973.
Comrade Chairman of the Conference, Comrade Leaders and Militants of the Italian Democratic forces, Comrades of the MPLA and the PAIGC, Comrade Delegates and Observers, this demonstration of solidarity is a festival of friendship between people’s, a reaffirmation of the principal that all people who love freedom, justice, progress and peace, and that these are indivisible.
This magnificent celebration is taking place in the region of Emilia Romagna, where at every turn we come across concrete expressions of hatred for fascism and exploitation, examples of the people’s determination to defend their rights. Here the fight for Italian independence and unity reached great heights. One of the main centres of the fight against fascism and Hitlerism was established on this martyred and heroic land. Today Emilia Romagna is one of the Italian regions where people’s democratic power has been established, thereby defending the gains of the Italian resistance.
Correctly interpreting the interests of the people and keeping alive the deep feelings of the Italian resistance, the people of Emilia Romagna have turned their region into a front of Italian solidarity with the struggles of other peoples. Here in Reggio Emilia there is the Santa Maria Nuova Hospital, which is linked to the Zambezia Hospital by a friendship pact. In the Emilia Romagna too, there is the municipality of Bologna, also linked by a pact of friendship to our Education Centre in Tunduru.
It is this and the countless other demonstrations of solidarity, affection and friendship of the Italian people which we should like solemnly to hail today and to thank you for, on behalf of the Mozambican people and FRELIMO.
Apart from the tangible support that it represents, your solidarity is also a political act which helps us to educate our people.
Colonialism and imperialism made our people know the brutal face of aggression, exploitation, and oppression.
The land of the renaissance of European culture, of the freedom epic of Garibaldi, of the tenacious struggle against fascism, the land of the great Italian people, was unknown to us. The image we had of you was only of the FIAT G-91’s which sow death; of the Bologna food industries which exploit our peasants and workers in their cashew-nut shelling plants in Mozambique. Only the liberation war, which broke the isolation to which we were subjected, enabled us to come into contact with the Italian people and to discover their true character.
Your solidarity, in this context, makes our people understand concretely that there are no enemy races or people’s; that the enemy of our people is that of all people’s; colonialism which has no race, imperialism which has no country.
The visits made by your delegations to the Tunduru Educational Centre, to the Dr. Americo Boavida Hospital and to the liberated regions of Mozambique, were political lessons for our people.
Comrade Chairman of the Conference, dear Comrades, our conference is taking place at a time of great progress in our struggle.
In Mozambique we are in our ninth year of armed struggle. Profound qualitative and quantitative changes are taking place in our country.
The armed struggle has spread to the nerve centres of the economic system of colonial domination. It has reached the major centres of vital strategic and economic interests both of the Portuguese colonialism and of imperialism. Furthermore, this advance of our struggle is affecting both enemy interests in Mozambique and their system of domination of the whole of Southern Africa.
Mozambique’s 3,000km of coastline on the Indian ocean, with its excellent harbours such as Lourenšo Marques, Beira and Nacala makes our country a natural outlet to the sea for a vast hinterland rich in mining and industry, with prosperous agriculture and flourishing international trade. Mozambique’s geographical position makes our country a centre for the control of shipping around Africa, both between Asia and the Middle East, and between Europe and America.
The cold war mentality which persists in militarist and reactionary circles makes Western powers see our country as an essential factor in the control of the so called Cape route.
As the frontier of the white empire in Southern Africa, Mozambique is regarded as a buffer state by the racist regimes in Pretoria and Salisbury.
A country with the population of over 9 million, which makes it the second most populous country in Southern Africa, Mozambique is the main supplier of labour to the whole of Southern Africa. In the mines of South Africa and Rhodesia, on the plantations and in the industries of the racist empire, nearly one million Mozambicans sold by the Portuguese government are subjected to the new slavery for the benefit of the lords of the mines and the land.
The vast reserves of hydro-electric power and coal, the deposits of oil, gas, uranium, iron, copper, bauxite, gold and diamonds, and the fertility of our soil, have all attracted the interest of the big multinational companies.
It is this combination of economic and strategic interests which, by identifying with Portuguese colonialism, has enabled colonialism to survive to this day. It is against them that our struggle is directed, it is they who are being destroyed by our struggle.
Between late October 1971 and the beginning of November 1972, the FRELIMO armed forces undertook more than 800 operations against the colonial army, in the course of which 107 enemy military bases and camps were totally or partially destroyed, more than 3,000 Portuguese soldiers killed, and 344 military vehicles of all types destroyed. During this same period we shot down or destroyed on the ground 55 aeroplanes and helicopters (including a Rhodesian bomber and helicopter), and we sank 15 boats on the Zambezi River. Dozens of kilometres of railway line were destroyed, as well as 20 trains and 20 bridges.
But more important than combat statistics are the changes brought about in the political field and in national reconstruction.
Cabo Delagado was a province subjected to the exploitation of the cotton companies.
Tens of thousands of African families were forced by the colonial administration to devote their efforts to cotton production only to be paid starvation prices for their crops. The oppression of the companies was so brutal under colonial rule that hundreds of thousands of people preferred to cross the Rovuma river and work on the sisal plantations in what was Tanganyika.
Today the cotton companies have almost disappeared from Cabo Delagado.
The aim of the present activity of our fighters is to wipe out the few surviving enemy bases isolated in our areas, and to assure that the population is better protected against bombing raids. Thus, on 18 September, 1972 we launched a simultaneous offensive against seven enemy military bases, including the strategic land and air base at Mueda, the centre for Portuguese military operations in the middle of the province.
At Mueda 18 planes and helicopters, including two FIAT G-91’s were blown up on the tarmac. In addition, a number of military installations were destroyed or damaged, namely arsenals, living quarters, fuel deposits and runways. The offensive is still going on now and we have already destroyed several bases, the most recent were Quinhantati, Nacatar, Nangade, Ula, and Pundanhar.
The brutal oppression of the colonialists in Niassa the occupation of the most fertile land by settlers, the selling of labor to the mines and plantations in Rhodesia and South Africa, the cotton system and the lack of medical care for the people all served to decimate the population.
Covering an area of more than 120,000 square kilometers with fertile soil and a moderate climate, Niassa had a population of 250,000 people when the war started. Colonialism incited tribal and religious divisions among that scant population. The despotic and feudal rule of the chiefs (regulos) stifled the people’s initiative. Such was Niassa.
Today not only have the cotton companies and the sale of the workers ceased to exist, but the process of establishing new settlers has also been curtailed. The linguistic and religious groups are discovering the Mozambican identity, finding the fraternity which unites the oppressed.
The democratically appointed people’s committees of power have replaced the feudal and despotic rule of the former chiefs.
As in Cabo Delagado, the enemy is isolated, for the roads and railways are blocked. Here too our activity mainly involves the destruction of enemy bases. In the last few months we attacked and totally or partially destroyed Macaloge, Lunho, Massangulo and Valadim, and concentration camps such as Maua, were destroyed and hundreds of people freed.
Tete province supplied workers who were sold to the mines, tobacco plantations and farms of Rhodesia and to the Moatize coal mines. The colonialists used our men as beasts of burden to transport the settler and his goods. Men were taken to the Beira docks and to the settler plantations. The province, which borders on Rhodesia and Malawi, was center for international communication lines.
The deposits of coal, iron, uranium, copper, bauxite and gold attracted the interests and ambitions of the big companies. But it was above all the gigantic Cahora Bassa scheme with profound implications for Southern Africa, which made the big monopolies focus their attention to our country. Cahora Bassa, intended to supply cheap electric energy to South Africa and to Southern Africa, would be the starting point for the setting up of a common market which would subject our entire zone to the tutelage of Pretoria.
In the Zambezi valley, which is to be irrigated by the dam waters, colonialism has plans to establish one million European settlers, who would constitute a kind of human buffer against the advance of the liberation struggle.
But profound changes have taken place in Tete in the past five years. Although the enemy have considerably increased their strength in men and material, and are being further reinforced by the military intervention of Salisbury and Pretoria, the rapid expansion of the armed struggle to the whole province and its advance into Manica e Sofala have destroyed the enemy’s strategic and tactical plans, preventing them from exploiting their material superiority.
The practical effects of colonialist military defeat are the very great extent to which ground communication lines, including international ones, have been paralyzed, gradually bringing to a halt foreign economic activity in the fields of agriculture, trade, transport, and mineral prospecting, increasing the isolation of Cahora Bassa and the coal mining centre at Moatize, and breaking through the blockade of the Zambezi.
Our people are no longer beasts of burden and are no longer sold to foreign countries.
Forced labor has ceased, the brutality and humiliations meted out by the settlers and administrators are gradually being relegated to the past. Here too, Portuguese colonialism no longer exists as a system of administration and economic domination, and so assumes only its other features, those of an aggressor and criminal.
To mark the new stage of this process, while the struggle was raging in Manica e Sofala and 120 kilometers of railway line were destroyed, our forces launched a strategic offensive against the strongest enemy bases.
On 9 November the offensive began against the provincial capital and the Chingozi air base in the vicinity of Tete. Military, administrative and commercial buildings in the city center were badly hit, and at the same time, in Chingozi 17 planes and helicopters (including several Fiats) were blown up on the tarmac, as well as barracks, hangars, etc.
The offensive launched on 9 November is continuing to this day. The Fingoe and Furancungo bases, each with forces greater than battalion strength, have been destroyed. On 1 march, the strategic base at Malewara was completely destroyed, despite frantic help from the Portuguese and Rhodesian air forces.
The expansion of the struggle into Manica e Sofala on 25 July denotes a new phase in our struggle.
There are entrenched imperialist interests in Manica e Sofala regarded as vital in the context of both our country and all of Southern Africa. Big sugar companies like British Sena Sugar are established there. There are textile, cement, and engineering industries linked to foreign monopolies in this province. American, French, West German, and South African companies have been granted vast concessions for oil and gas prospecting, both on-shore and on the continental shelf.
The province dominates the routes linking the north and the south of the country. Several neighboring countries, especially Rhodesia, are supplied from the provincial capital, the port of Beira. The headquarters of the Portuguese military command is in Manica e Sofala. It is from there that enemy troops are deployed elsewhere. This explains the alarm caused in Portuguese, South African, and Rhodesian economic and military circles when the struggle was launched in that province.
The rapid spread of the people’s war of liberation has forced the Portuguese colonialists and their allies to continually review the distribution of their forces. The insoluble contradictions in which the enemy’s strategic and tactical thinking is floundering leading them to defeat after defeat.
The military victories achieved by our forces are creating the conditions for further developing and consolidating the process of establishing the structure of people’s power and making the situation more favourable for national reconstruction. Thus the dividing line between the liberated areas and the enemy zone is becoming irreversible. The masses who are directly experiencing freedom are prepared to defend that freedom against any attempt at enemy reoccupation.
The fact of liberated areas does not mean the total disappearance of the physical presence of the enemy. Enemy bases, though isolated, still remain there. The air force maintains constant activity. Enemy troops launch incursions.
The basic feature of the liberated areas is that the masses follow watchwords, are mobilized and publicly organized by us, and openly follow our line in their daily activities. This is how liberation from exploitation, the elimination of tribalism, and the birth of a nation are brought about, together with the practical establishment of people’s power in political, economic, and social structures.
This is what the liberated areas are, and hence their fundamental importance as centers of far-reaching change, as bases where, in the details of everyday life, the new balances of force in favor of the oppressed masses takes on material form. In short, the liberated zones are centers for the diffusion of our ideology, of the new life we are creating.
In the zones still occupied by the colonialists, increasingly large sectors of the population are joining our ranks. Although, according to their own statements, the colonialists have already interned over a million people in about a thousand concentration camps, called aldeias de proteccao (protective hamlets), they are unable to quell the masses desire for liberation. The concentration camps become new combat centers and the puppet militiamen, politicized through our mobilization, become anti colonialist combat detachments. The waves of arrests and murders unleashed in the rural and urban areas affect all strata in the population: priests, office workers, students, workers, and peasants.
Colonialist terror sharpens the colonialist contradictions with the masses, making the people more committed to the cause of liberation.
The just policies of FRELIMO, its respect for human dignity and freedom, its policy of clemency towards the Portuguese prisoners of war, the clear and correct definition of the enemy and of the objectives of the struggle, are leading towards growing sections of the European population to dissociate with Portuguese colonialism, to denounce and condemn its crimes, and in more and more cases already, to support our struggle. Because of this, the colonialist repressive machinery is now reaching large sectors of the European population. The students union at the university of Lourenšo Marques has been dissolved and its leaders arrested and deported. Several bishops have complained about harassment by the political police. Portuguese and foreign priests have been arrested, sentenced and expelled from the country.
The military defeats and the growing political isolation of the colonialists in Mozambique are being accompanied by similar developments in Angola and Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, thus reducing the enemy’s room for maneuver. The recent assassination of our comrade Amilcar Cabral, secretary general of the PAIGC, like the previous assassination in 1969 of president Eduardo Mondlane, had the same purpose of trying to paralyze the struggle by assassinating our leaders. It has been proved that these actions are criminal and futile.
In Portugal a fourth fighting front has been opened against fascism and the colonial war.
For the first time in the history of colonial wars, citizens of the colonial power have launched armed action in their country against the colonial war machine, as part of the strategy in the fight against the regime.
Besides encouraging our people, these actions weaken the enemy, forcing them to fight on more fronts.
The countries bordering on the Portuguese colonies, such as Tanzania, Zambia, Congo, the Republic of Guinea, and others, are standing firm and true to the duty of solidarity, often shedding their blood too, in the fight for the same cause. The historic assembly of African heads of state in Rabat, which renewed and deepened Africa’s commitment to its liberation, together with our liberating action, created a new situation internationally.
Internationally, Portugal’s isolation has become so great that its closest allies feel obliged to condemn it, as shown by the recent security council meeting on the Portuguese colonial question.
The UN has recognized the representativity of FRELIMO, and our representatives have observer status in the fourth commission.
In the Socialist world, our just struggle meets with the greatest moral, political, diplomatic, and material support. In Western countries there is the development of the popular movement of solidarity and support for our cause, and condemnation of the alliance of governments and monopolies with the Portuguese colonialists. Several governments of NATO countries, like Norway, Denmark, and Holland, have publicly shown the desire to dissociate the Atlantic alliance from Portuguese colonial adventures.
In Italy we are happy to see, as proved by this magnificent conference, that the solidarity movement is reaching all social strata and all political forces which prize the freedom and dignity of man.
Prominent religious and political figures from the world of science and the arts are joining the solidarity movement alongside workers and students, white-collar workers and peasants.
The vast popular front of solidarity with our struggle established in Italy, besides being an example, proves above all that the cause of anti colonialist struggle can win over all honest people.
Comrade Chairman of the Conference, dear Comrades, it seems to us that solidarity activities should be seen with this overall perspective. Solidarity activities must be imbued with political context, so as to be able to plan a concrete line of action and methods.
The Mozambican people’s liberation struggle is a struggle against Portuguese colonial fascist domination, against imperialism, a struggle to establish a new social order in our country with a popular and democratic content.
Portuguese colonialism and fascism are aberrations in our era. Colonial war encourages the lowest and most horrible crimes which appall the human conscience. Ever more courageous voices are being raised the world over to denounce and expose the horrors of Portuguese colonialism and its colonial war. The honest voices of priests and bishops in the last two years, are forcing growing sectors of world opinion to become aware of existing realities.
The fight against Portuguese colonialism and fascism is not different in essence from the fight against fascism and Nazism which took place in Europe. The European peoples who lost millions of dead in the holocaust to dreams of the domination of “superior” races, completely understand our struggle against this cancer in our country.
The destruction of the domination of the big imperialist companies in Mozambique and the shrinking of the buffer zones of the racist empires of Rhodesia and South Africa, concern all forces in the world which see the need to fight against imperialist plunder and the policy of aggression.
This is the fight of the Mozambican people and of all peoples. Also to be seen as a common fight is our struggle to establish a new popular social order in our country, which liberates man from the misery of exploitation, introduces justice in society and releases the creative initiative of the masses.
In this context, solidarity is not an act of charity, but mutual aid between forces fighting for the same objective. Liquidating the Portuguese colonial fascist system means destroying one of the main bastions of contemporary fascism, which is stimulating the growth of the fascist forces in Europe, including Italy.
In the present phase it is important that the solidarity movement set itself a certain number of objectives and methods of work.
In the first place the cause of struggle against Portuguese colonialism and fascism, as your experience shows, is a cause which concerns and mobilizes all honest people, regardless of their social origins and party-political or religious affiliations. In this context, we believe that a united solidarity movement must be developed, so as to reach the numerous sectors which are not yet involved.
Popularizing the solidarity movement means organizing and mobilizing the various sectors in factories, schools, universities, offices, hospitals, and churches. It means publicizing the horrors of colonialism and the nature and successes of our struggle. In this respect, it seems to us that it would also be useful for the conference to study ways of making the circulation of information between our liberation movements and the Italian people more rapid and efficient.
Mobilizing and organizing also means defining the tasks of the solidarity movement, mapping out lines of action. There are two main types of tasks today: political tasks and material support.
Politically our main concern is to isolate Portuguese colonialism from its sources of moral, political, diplomatic, economic and military support; and at the same time to make the international community recognize the political realities of our country, that the Mozambican people are regaining their sovereignty and exercising it through FRELIMO, which leads and represents them.
This twofold concern gives rise to different lines of action. Political parties, trade unions and other mass organizations are called upon for action involving vigilance, denunciation and pressure. Vigilance in detecting the activities of government and financial consortiums on behalf of Portuguese colonialism; denunciation of such activities; and pressure to put an end to them and make governmental institutions recognize Mozambican political realities.
Obviously this type of action must be developed at all levels: in the press, in parliament, in petitions and popular demonstrations.
At the last session of the United Nations, FRELIMO’s representativity was recognized in the Fourth Commission and we were granted observer status. Nevertheless, the opposition from western countries, including Italy, prevented the UN general assembly from drawing all the conclusions contained in the Fourth Commission’s decision.
The UN general assembly must recognize that in Mozambique FRELIMO is the only power which legitimately represents Mozambique. Portugal’s status is that of an aggressor which must unconditionally put an end to its aggression, and evacuate its forces of repression.
Recognition of the situation in Mozambique also implies material support to consolidate and promote national reconstruction.
This action can take place at various levels. In African countries, Socialist countries, and various Asian and Scandinavian countries, governments (either directly or through governmental agencies) make an important material contribution to national reconstruction. Italy should also be involved in such action, as happens in Emilia Romagna, where regional and local institutions of people’s power give material support to our medical care and agricultural development programs. This type of action, if it is widespread, can contribute immensely to the success of our work.
Mass organizations and political, trade union, cultural, and religious bodies can also contribute material support.
Fields in which material solidarity can be shown are as wide ranging as are our needs: health, education, child care centers, production. All sectors of work are in need of assistance.
Comrade Chairman of the Conference, Comrade Delegates, the tenacious struggle of brother people for freedom, independence, justice and peace is also solidarity with us. We warmly and affectionately hail the victories of our comrades in arms in the MPLA and PAIGC who are fighting Portuguese colonialism with us. Their victories are our victories and, like ours, they are made of sacrifices and bloodshed. All of us here today feel the absence of our brother and comrade Amilcar Cabral, Secretary General of the PAIGC, assassinated by agents of Portuguese colonialism and imperialism. His friendly presence, his talent, his cultured mind, his dedication as a militant and fighter and his vision as a leader are no longer with us. But the struggle continues, just as FRELIMO continued after the assassination of Eduardo Mondlane, its first president.
Amilcar’s great merit was that he was able to embody national unity and make it operative, using it as a weapon to destroy colonialism; he was able to establish a policy and structures making it possible for the struggle to survive the individual and draw new strength from his sacrifice.
We reaffirm our solidarity with the struggle of the peoples of South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia who, with us, are confronting imperialism in the trenches of Southern Africa.
We hail the victories of the African people in the struggle to consolidate the independence and unity of our continent. Their victories are ours, and they are creating the conditions for the development of our struggle. We also hail with respect, friendship and solidarity the peoples, parties and leaders of Tanzania, Zambia, the Congo, Guinea, and other sister countries which, under the difficult conditions of bordering on the war zones of Portuguese colonialism, are continuing to support our cause.
We welcome the successes of the Portuguese people in their struggle against the colonial war and fascism. The armed action of Portuguese patriots against the colonial fascist war machine encourage us and strengthen the friendship and solidarity between our peoples.
We support the just cause of the Arab and Palestinian peoples against Zionist aggression, for the recovery of occupied territories and for the national rights of the Palestinian people. We all join the progressive forces in the world in welcoming and rejoicing at the victory achieved by the comrades in Vietnam and Laos.
Our comrades, like the people of Cambodia, are proving that imperialism can’t survive in the face of people’s struggle, even when it is defended by the mightiest and most criminal power of all, the United States. We congratulate the Socialist countries for the victories they have achieved in building a new society, and for their high sense of international duty.
We hail the struggles of the peoples and workers of the world, and especially of Italy, for their defense of national independence against imperialism, for their fight for democratic freedom and the workers interests. That fight strengthens ours. Your solidarity represents a high peak of human fraternity, the affirmation that no people stand alone, that their suffering and struggle are shared by all peoples.
We shall take back with us and convey to our people the warmth, affection, friendship, fraternity and solidarity we are experiencing here, amid the Italian people. We shall tell them that far away in Europe, a people who have also shed their blood for freedom are today making sacrifices in our support. We shall explain your struggle, your difficulties, your spirit of solidarity, so that our people learn from your example and increase their steadfastness and solidarity in their revolutionary struggle. We should also like to assure you that the Mozambican people will always respect the sacrifices made for them and solidarity shown for them. We will carry on our struggle until final victory, thereby performing our national and international duty.
Long live the National Solidarity Conference for the Freedom and Independence of Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau.
Long live friendship and solidarity between the peoples of Mozambique and Italy.
Down with Portuguese colonialism and imperialism.
Long live the united struggle of the peoples of the entire world for freedom, justice, progress and peace.
United we shall win.
The struggle continues. Independence or death. We shall win.