Angola, People’s Republic Of

Angola, People’s Republic Of
   When Portugal relinquished its colonial hold on Angola in 1975, the socialist Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola—MPLA) successfully fought off opposition groups to emerge as the leading post-independence power. They immediately announced the creation of the People’s Republic of Angola and under the guidance of Agostinho Neto set about transforming the West African country along MarxistLeninist lines. Though the MPLA remains in governance 30 years on, long-serving ruler José Eduardo dos Santos eradicated any last vestiges of Marxism– Leninism from party doctrine in the early 1990s.
   The decisive factors in the MPLA’s victory over rival factions vying for control of Angola were aid from the Soviet Union and Cuba, and the halting of assistance from the United States to those other groups. By 1976 Neto’s MPLA was widely recognized as the legal government of the newly founded republic, and Angolan admission to the United Nations followed in December. Though the MPLA had not previously claimed to be of a Marxist–Leninist orientation, it soon became clear that the course it had mapped for Angola heavily leaned toward that taken by the Soviet Union. This became apparent through 1976, firstly with the introduction in March of the Law on State Intervention, paving the way for the nationalization of 80 percent of private industry and enterprise, and then the signing in October of a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with Moscow. The treaty meant Angola’s fortunes became inextricably linked with those of the Soviet Union, and though Neto had initially argued for the transformation of the country through the implementation of an African socialism similar to that advocated by Amilcar Cabral, the MPLA soon formally adopted the scientific creed of Marxism– Leninism as its official ideology.
   At the 1976 plenum of the Central Committee, orthodox Sovietstyle measures were undertaken, with the creation of a secretariat, a commission to direct and control the newly founded Department of Political Orientation, and a Department of Information and Propaganda. A year later at its first congress, the MPLA, previously thought of as a movement rather than a formal political organization, transformed itself into a vanguard party with strictly limited membership as propounded by Vladimir Ilich Lenin, elongating its name to the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola–Workers’ Party (Movimento Popular de Libertação de AngolaPartido de Trabalho, MPLA-WP). Though the MPLA-WP instigated measures to encourage mass participation and mobilization similar to those adopted in Cuban Marxism (for instance, in promising “broad and effective participation in the exercise of political power” and creating neighborhood committee groups), genuine authority remained in the hands of the closed, party-based Council of the Revolution. Owing to its ailing infrastructure, however, Angola could not feasibly embrace Marxism–Leninism with the relish of, for example, Eastern European countries, and to this end trade with the capitalist West never halted. Indeed, the country came to rely on western investment in its oil fields for survival, a fact which hastened the smooth transition to market capitalism in the early 1990s. The beginning of the end for Angolan Marxism–Leninism came as early as 1979 with the replacement of the cancer-stricken Neto by the moderate dos Santos. While attempting to remain on the road to socialism, the MPLA-WP was constantly bumped off course as its former enemies, with backing from the Marxism-loathing South Africa, waged a bloody civil war throughout Angola. Resources intended for mass education and health programs instead went on military arms, and with an increasing number of party officials expressing disgruntlement at Angolan adherence to Soviet economic policies, hard-line Moscow cadres were ejected from the government and replaced with moderate nationalists. Pragmatism was beginning to win the innerparty ideological battle against idealism.
   As the civil war dragged on amidst numerous short-lived peace agreements, continuous economic decline, compounded by a world oil crisis and combined with the desire of new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to be free of third world entanglements, meant the end of Angolan Marxism was nigh. 1987 saw reforms to reduce the role of the state sector, and moves to seek membership of the International Monetary Fund. In December 1990, at its Third Party Congress the MPLA-WP voted to transform itself into a social democratic party, pledge Angola to a free market future, and introduce a multi-party democratic system. The Angolan experiment with Marxism–Leninism was over before it had barely begun, though the MPLAWP has continuously held power ever since its cessation.
   Throughout Neto’s short term in office, the Angolan commitment to Marxism–Leninism remained apparent. In his tenure Angola officially adopted and espoused classic Marxist–Leninist scientific socialism. The MPLA-WP advocated the existence of two distinct groups in Angolan society, the workers, representing the “leading force” of the revolution, and the peasants, who represented the “principal force.” The two would come together in a worker–peasant alliance to execute the revolution and bring about socialism. This socialism was only rendered feasible by the implementation of a planned economic framework, which in turn would allow for planning to permeate each and every aspect of society. All of this would be underpinned by the righteousness of the cause of Marxism–Leninism. However, given the exhausting civil war dos Santos was met with when he replaced Neto in 1979, there was simply no scope for ideological purity, and pragmatism meant the end of Angola’s once deep-seated devotion to scientific socialism.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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