The Roots of the Ultra-Colonial War in Angola
by Franz J. T. Lee
Article in „Review of International Affairs“, Vol. XIV, No. 329, Belgrade, December 20, 1963
In the twenty years after World War II there emerged what French geographers and social scientists call the Third World - Tiers Monde. It stretches from Latin America, across Africa and the Middle East, to Indonesia and the tropical Pacific Islands. It is populated by almost two thousand million people - two-thirds of the world population. These „native“ peoples share a common past: a past of humiliation, exploitation and poverty. This legacy binds them together in a vast „Commonwealth of Poverty“. Angola - Portuguese West Africa - is one of these emergent states, trying to shake off the shackles of colonialism, and aiming at securing universal peace and equal relations throughout the world.
The forced-labour system
Like the Republic of South Africa, and, in fact, all the African colonies still in the fangs of imperialism, Angola has a well-organized system of forced labour. One can divide labour into four classes:
1. Correctional labour. Africans who break the Criminal, Civil or Labour laws are penalized this way.
2. Obligatory labour. When there is a lack of voluntary workers, Africans by law can be forced to assist in the construction of public works, the laying of rails, the making of roads or the building of bridges. Those who fail to pay the native head tax also receive such penalties. In reality, most of these taxes imposed are simply to force the African to work.
3. Contract labour. This is the vilest form of forced labour. Any African who cannot produce evidence that he worked for at least six months in the previous year, must do compulsory labour for the state or private employers. Wages are restricted to a shockingly low level and vary according to employer and area. On the plantations, e.g., an African earns on the average 1) (approx. DM 0.50) a day.
4. Voluntary labour. The African contracts directly with his employer. Normally, the wages are even lower than for contract labour. Nearly all the workers in the agricultural concerns are mainly „shibalos“ - forced labourers.
Apart from these four, there are still „forced cultivation“ and „migrant labour“. Although these forms are practised in Angola, yet Portuguese East Africa, Mozambique, bears the biggest brunt. According to the Mozambique-Transvaal (South Africa) Convention signed in 1940 about 100,000 Mozambique Africans south of the 22nd parallel and north of the Zambesi River are imported as workers to the Rand gold mines - in return, South Africa exports annually 47.5% of its seaborne exports from the Transvaal through Lourenco Marques, also some 340,000 cases of citrus fruit. Further, Portugal gets R 3.80 (approx DM 18.) for each recruit and also half of his wages, which are supposed to be paid to him on his return after 18 consecutive months of employment. There is no difficulty in recruitment as the wages are higher in the mines, about R 0.50 (approx. DM 2.50) a day. There were lately some 173,000 registered Mozambique workers, and a large number of un-registered ones, in South Africa. In Angola about 20,000 Africans are recruited for labour in Northern Rhodesia and South West Africa.
In Mozambique cotton is cultivated. In the northern part, Africans are granted seed by the monopoly companies and must cultivate cotton on their soil. These crops are sold to the companies at fixed low prices, adjusted well below free market prices. The African farmers have no choice, and the natural crops - maize, kaffir corn, manioc and beans - drop to famine level. In 1956, for example, 519,000 African sellers were paid an average of 250 escudos (approx. DM 40.00) for a year’s cotton crop. In some districts the African is paid 50 escudos (about DM 7.00) for cotton from land on which the owner could cultivate grain worth 50 times this value.
This forced labour, forced cultivation and wandering over the continent in search for work in order to live; in short, this human exploitation and oppression has created a feeling of hatred and disgust towards the white man throughout the ages. Portuguese forced labour is the nadir of African misery; the zenith of their endurance they reached in 1961, soon to reach its breaking-point. Surreptitious emigration in Angola is responsible for the serious demographic anaemia of the natives. Physical decadence has become a reality and a death-rate of 40% among workers is not uncommon.
European Settlement in Angola
Efficient exploitation of a colony in Africa demands not only cheap native labour but also effective white presence and control. The first settlers were Boers from Cape Colony. To escape British control these „Dorsland Trekkers“ - being hungry for land - left the Mafeking area in 1875. In 1880 300 survivors reached Angola, and settled at Humpata. This annoyed the Lisbon Government, hence Portuguese immigrants had to be sent to Southern Angola to insulate them.
About 1900 Portugal abandoned its emigration policy. At this time the Portuguese population in Angola was about 9,000. In 1927 the white and mestizo (mixed race) population was 42,843. The total population was about 3,000,000. In 1960 the white and mestizo population had risen to about 200,000, the total population being over four million.
There is acute large-scale unemployment noticeable among the whites. This is a phenomenon in Africa. In 1960 „Le Monde“ reported a figure of 20,000 white unemployed. An „Observer“ correspondent quoted 10,000 for Luanda alone (total white population: 50,000) in 1961. The reasons for this critical state are most probably the low level of capitalization in Angola and the precarious economy of Portugal. A number of government settlement projects have been organized lately. In Cela on the Huila plateaux, about 375 families have been settled to cultivate 12,000 acres. The Government provides them with houses, gardens, orchards, livestock and agricultural implements.
Normaly the colonization of an underdeveloped country involves the transformation of the indigenous population into a dispossessed rural peasantry and urban working class, contained within an economic system, controlled and manned by whites of various levels of skills. However, Portugal has created a European colonial proletariat. The population pressure was merely relieved in the mother-country. The bulk of the Angolan whites are peasants, and perhaps just a little more skilled than the Africans. It seems as if the Portuguese countryside had been physically transplanted to Angola. In these factors Portuguese ultra-colonialism and „reflex“-colonization have their origins.
The role of the Missionaries
Why have all the European powers, even the most dechristianized ones, encouraged and supported Christian missionary activities in their colonies? Mutatis mutandis, the answer is briefly as follows: To convert the native populations mean to incorporate them into the intellectual and cultural universe of „White, Christian, Western Civilization“. Conversion also has an important function for the white settlers. Often an immense fear seizes the white settler and he becomes psychologically unbalanced when he experiences the mysterious culture of the „Dark Continent“: he trembles at the blackness of African society. Somehow organized religion intended to convert the „barbaric races“ again reassures him. Further, a colonial system needs ipso facto a certain minimum level of Europeanization for its subject native population, in exploiting them of course too much European culture and techniques are again dangerous. The Christian religion offers enough to secure the fruits of the former, without endangering the latter. The African obtains enough white culture to become an obedient and disciplined servant, but not enough to acquire initiative and competence. The 1961 barbarism and vandalism show to what extent this enterprise has been successful in Angola.
According to the 1950 census there were about 1,500,000 Catholics and 540,000 Protestants in Angola. In 1957 there were 387 Catholic priests and 300 Protestant ministers. The quality of Protestant teaching seems to be higher. A quasi-elite of Protestant-educated Africans appears to have been formed. These were suspected of providing the leaders of the national liberatory movements. In fact, both Roberto and Pinnock, leaders of the UPA which merged into the FNLA (see later), received their education in British Baptist mission schools. Portugal cannot check the usurpation of Catholic spiritual authority by the Protestant section. In spite of Catholicism playing a crucial role, yet there is no developed political ideology.
Ideology and Practice
Angola is governed as an „integral part of the Portuguese state“. The Portuguese policy for the indigénas is based on the „assimilado“ or „civilizado“ system. In a nut-shell, an African who satisfies certain standards, mainly educational ones, may become a white Portuguese except in colour. An African can never become a full citizen unless he first becomes Portuguese. Concretely, the assimilado system is a Portuguese refusal to accept the African as he is.
A scrutiny of the educational system shows quite clearly the difficulties encountered by an African of becoming an assimilado. This is done deliberately and by design. In 1956, out of a total population of about 4,200,000 only about 85,000 attended school. In 1954 there were 25,367 pupils in the „rudimentary“ schools, which are reserved almost exclusively for Africans. The final examinations were written by 1,712 students and only 959 passed. In the secondary and commercial schools the position is far more critical. In the same year a mere handful, only 747 Africans, attended these schools. There are no universities in Portuguese Africa. A few go to the universities in Coimbra, Lisbon or Oporto. The outcome is that about 99% of the African population is officially reckoned to be iliterate. Thus in 1950 the African assimilados were about 10,000, i.e., 0.24% of the total population. This figure includes the semi-automatic assimilation of wives and children.
Although Portugal claims that the distinction between native and non-native is cultural and not racial, yet the very definition of a native is without question unambiguousIy racialist. They are „persons of Negro race or their descendants“ (Decree Law No 39.666).
In principle and practice, this system, including its manifold ramifications, is just like that of the „White South African Republic“ and to a certain extent even Southern Rhodesia. In fact, apartheid, baasskap or racial discrimination in other forms are practised. The African has to carry his „cadernato“ - passbook - to control and enslave him efficiently. It is no coincidence that Portugal and South Africa work hand in hand. Portugal was lately South Africa’s defender at the United Nations. At the beginning of July, 1961, the South African Defence Minister, Fouché, paid a judicious visit to Portugal. Soon South African military forces moved into Ovamboland (S. W. A.). The northern border was patrolled by aircraft to watch for Angolan refugees or infiltrators. Hence Portugal must have asked for military help, and beyond doubt Verwoerd actively supplied it. However, both Portugal and South Africa will be faced with severe political, economic and social crises in the near future.
There is no adequate factual material from which may be obtained an accurate account of foreign capital in Angola. It is, however, of value to mention the major projects initiated in 1960-1 in either Portugal or her colonies. Some are: Montigo Steel Unit-Damag (Western Germany), Dondo Aluminium Plant (Angola) Pechiney (France), Tagus Bridge Project (USA), English Electrica de Portugal, Angola Mining Projects and Constancia Pulp Mill (England).
The bulk of the Angolan economy is derived from sisal, maize, cotton, diamonds and, above all, coffee. 90% of the coffee, sisal and maize production is exported. The Companhia Agricole de Angola (CADA) and settler estate farms control 80% of the coffee production. To indicate the immense profits made and the sky rocketing effects of human exploitation, depression, repression and oppression, the following example will suffice. In 1958 CADA had a declared capital of 7,775,000 dollars, in the same year, it made a profit of 7,441,195 dollars.
The production of cotton and maize is controlled by large companies. Firms like Companhia de Diamantes de Angola (Diamang), Cia dos Betuminosos de Angola, Empresa de Cobre de Angola, and Cia Mineira do Lobito, all rob Angola of its mineral sources. Diamang is the „arch-exploiter“, in the double meaning of the word, and a branch of the great Anglo-American Diamond Corporation Limited. Further European capital participation in the sugar companies makes the economic complex of Angola still larger.
Finally, the covert condominium reveals the same debility as the existence of white unemployed, the decrepitude as the utilization of forced labour and the same powerlessness as the failure of Catholicism.
Short review of the native populations and the national Liberatory Organisations
There are five major ethnic groups in Angola: the Bakongo in the north - 500,000; the Kimbundu in the area below Luanda - 1,000,000; the Ovimbundu (Bailundu) on the Benguela plateau - 1,000,000; in the east, the Lunda people - 350,000, and the Ganguela people 320,000- (1950 census figures).
Due to extreme repression and censorship, political activity was chiefly clandestine throughout the fifties. The two principal parties are the Movimento de Libertacao de Angola, led by Agostinho (MPLA) and Mario, and the Uniao dos Populazoes de Angola (UPA), led by Pinnock and Roberto. Lately these leaders of the UPA formed the Frente Nacional de Libertacao de Angola (FNLA).
On the whole, Cuba and Algeria have shown how premature speculations can be about the exact political character of liberation movements - hence the armed struggle should rather be analyzed as an objective and typical PROCESS, relatively independent of the specific organizations involved in the struggle. Having made a survey of the roots and origins of the dissatisfaction, poverty and misery of the Africans, we can now see the effects and results of this „hell“ in the armed insurrection of 1961. The Angolan people much as they hate violence, blood-baths and massacres grew tired of begging and soft words; they had no alternative but to burst into open rebellion and revolt, although they knew that they would have to sacrifice thousands of lives for freedom and human dignity. As usual, in decolonisation they lost 50 times or even more lives than the whites, in their fight for African unity and world peace.
The 1961-62 Insurrection
a) The first phase: The sudden Uprising.
On February 4, 1961, military and police points were suddenly attacked. Further attacks were on the military prison, the police barracks and the civil prison. Isolated units on the outskirts of Luanda were ambushed. Officially 7 Portuguese and 14 Africans were killed, 53 wounded and 1,000 arrested. The next day a white mob rioted, shouting: „Mata Todos“ - „kill them all“. They attacked every African in sight. On the 7th raids were made on the African quarters. 24 Africans and 3 whites were killed. The African townships were soon cordoned off and patrolled by saracens and paratroops.
On March 10, the Security Council voted for a discussion of the Angolan question. On March 15, the day of the vote, the national insurrection broke out. The attacks had surprised the government. Within a few days the whole of northern Angola was in the hands of the nationalists. By March 21 there were 3,580 refugees (Portuguese) in Luanda. On April 1, the Vicar-General, Canon Manuel, was arrested for „organizing terrorism“. In the major towns educated Africans were dragged out of their homes and shot. At this time there were about 3,800 metropolitan Portuguese and 7,000 provincial (including native) troops in Angola. On May 7 the „Observer“ reported that about 20,000 Africans had been-killed, while thousands were in concentration camps. By May 20, there were reckoned to be 40,000 Angolan refugees in the Congo. Towards the end of May about 1,500 Africans had been arrested in the Lobito area. There are no camps in this area, and the local prison only holds 100 people. These arrested Africans simply disappeared from the face of the earth, Assimilados and almost all literate Africans were arrested. Possession of a grammar primer, a radio set or even a bicycle led to the disappearance of Africans. About 1,000 Portuguese and 40,000 others were thought to have been killed.
June opened with the placing of Angola under administrative military command. Now the nationalists systematically destroyed the coffee plantations. Roads and bridges were methodically destroyed. The Portuguese planned to burn savannah and forest in order to force the nationalists out of their hiding places. This shows how little the Portuguese knew about guerilla warfare. They could not destroy enough of the trees and thick vegetation which would conceal groups of about 50 men. The nationalist offensive could not penetrate farther south than Vila Salazar and Malange. Communications with the Congo were too difficult from the south, also the ethnic centre changed to Ovimbundu, and finally, the terrain was too open. Reinforcements from Portugal arrived. By July 8, the Portuguese had 18,000 troops in Angola.
b) The second phase: The Portuguese Offensive.
On July 18, the Portuguese army marched towards a mountainous and afforested area near Nambuangongo, where they believed the „rebels“ had their headquarters and their administrative capital. In fact, no guerilla army has „fixed“ military headquarters, let alone an administrative capital. Hence one can see their archaic way of thinking as regards war. The towns and villages were soon recaptured, and on October 8 the Legislative Council announced that the rebellion had ceased. They did not realize that the war had entered a new phase.
c) The third phase: Stabilized Resistance.
On November 27, the Angolan resistance suddenly struck across the north. The resistance had regrouped and redeployed its forces. The classic „mercury“ tactics of guerilla warfare were now applied. They no longer attacked en masse, and the front became fluid. Ambushes were reported in the various provinces. The nationalists now used modern equipment - machine-guns, rifles and grenades. Further, the units were using landmines, bazookas and plastic explosives. In Thysville, in the Congo, a training-camp was erected. FLN-trained cadres were returned from Tunisia and assumed command in the area. Now the Portuguese Government was busying itself with faked concessions and the introducing of dummy governments. By the end of 1961 the Portuguese had to be satisfied to occupy the forest regions of the north from the sky in their bombers.
The nationalists in Angola know that victory lies in the continuation of the war. They are aware of the classical parabola of decolonization. The longer the war continues, the more isolated and introverted the Salazar regime will become. All countries that are sincerely interested in world peace, active co-existence, solving the colonial problems with the least spilling of human blood and lives, should ACTIVELY boycott such countries as Verwoerd’s Republic of South Africa, and Angola; i. e., not only in words but with the full force of deeds in practice. It is not only necessary that we know that the world must be changed, that we want a better life and a more hopeful future for HUMANITY; it is far more necessary to put our theories into practice. As Bloch says: Man still lives in his pre-history. The real world is not created yet. The true, real Genesis is not at the beginning but at the end. All men over the earth should contribute towards a better world, a more hopeful future for Humanity.