Mozambique: A Case Study
The Origins of FRELIMO and Mozambican Socialism
Mondlane had been educated in South Africa, Portugal, and in the United States, where he became a university professor. Later he made contacts and acquired crucial knowledge on international politics as an official at the United Nations.3 He was a close friend of Nyrere and others in the West which made financing his liberation project fairly easy. Also, his high level of education and achievement, despite the racial segregation and limited opportunities within the Portuguese colonial administration, endeared him to those crushed or otherwise undermined by the system. Mondlane's presence above all showed that there existed viable alternatives to a white led administration of an independent Mozambique.4
Two years after its birth, FRELIMO decided upon taking a militaristic approach to the liberation of Mozambique, particularly as it recognized that its wish to monopolize support from the Mozambican population was based on its ability to seize hegemony over the existing spate of armed resistance to the colonial order.5 FRELIMO benefitted particularly by virtue of being a second generation group in relation to the earlier anti-colonial struggles of the 1950s and 1960s, drawing lessons about guerrilla warfare from both the aborted uprisings in Angola and Guinea, and the successful revolutions in China and Vietnam. Mondlane's group also profited from the support of Algerian and Tanzanian militants as well as receiving training, logistical support, and supplies from both the Soviet Union and China. All this occurred under the nose of the West, thanks largely to Mondlane's impressive diplomatic skills in assuaging US fears, and undoubtedly, his education in the United States.6
After the consolidation of the group under Mondlane, FRELIMO committed itself to a strategy of armed insurrection which began in late 1964. Initiating combat on the colonial state with only 250 men, a sporadic guerrilla war was fought with the Portuguese colonial authorities, with the infant guerrilla army effectively confined to the sparsely populated and economically unimportant northern provinces of Niassa, Cabo Delgado, and Nampula.7 However, it wasn't until four years later that this exile-founded and led movement first promulgated its policy line at its Second Congress in July of 1968. This was due to the many internal ideological arguments incumbent to FRELIMO's status as an umbrella organization formed from disparate Mozambican liberation movements.8 This successful Congress was boldly held on liberated territory within Mozambique, a highly symbolic gesture of both resistance to the legitimacy of Portuguese rule and the "return" home of a strong national liberation organization. The core results of this Congress were as follows:
Importantly, this socialist ideology, interested mainly in social reform and substantive national autonomy, clashed in many important ways with the Cuban model and methods while also maintaining a fundamentally different nature. This is an important detail because during Castro's insurrectionary war, his ideology and aims were not well established. In the case of Mozambique, the policies pursued FRELIMO had been forged during the many disputes between its internal factions during the late 1960s.10 These particular differences as expounded by Gillian Gunn and Alex Vines serve not only to show the differences between the Cuban and Mozambican plan, but reflect that in the face of an imposition of a foreign model a unique ideology was formed and articulated for the particular needs of Mozambique. The Cuban model and recommendation, as expounded by Che Guevara in Dar es Salaam during the mid-1960s, promoted the importance of the working class in the liberation struggle while downplaying the need for the long term mobilization of the peasant masses.11 Mondlane disagreed vigorously with this template. He saw instead that,
The particularities of the Mozambican condition did much to make Marxist policy choices an attractive and necessary option. However, the socialist path decided upon by Mondlane, and later his successor Samora Machel, who had succeeded him after Mondlane's death in 1969, were first and foremost part of the liberation project which sought to raise the quality of life in a decolonized Mozambique. It was a development plan devised and defended, with the help, of but not at the behest, of China or the Soviet Union in the realm of Cold War polarities, and was indeed framed and instituted by the Mozambicans with much autonomy. Of particular interest to support this necessity of policy choice and commitment to socialism was the fact that the Cuban model, a Third World sister who had also looked to implement socialism after a national "liberation" struggle, was rejected. Thus, the socialist project in Mozambique can be perceived to be an autonomous and historically necessary revolution used as a vehicle to right the wrongs of hundreds of years of colonialism, and also to set right gender and class bias present in the indigenous cultures of Mozambique.
Independence Era Socialist Development: Gains and Failures under FRELIMO
The decisive push came on the 25th of April 1974, when a coup d'état headed by General António de Spínola took power. This group embraced the idea of self-determination for the colonies, which naturally gained support among the demoralized military forces serving in Mozambique. These events led to the rapid decision Portuguese withdrawal from Mozambique, and the institutionalization FRELIMO as the single party and administrator at the helm in Lourenço Marques, soon to be rechristened Maputo, was set.16
While there existed little challenge to the legitimacy of the FRELIMO government, it was still a party created and led by exiles, many of whom, like Mondlane, had been outside the country for many years. Most crucially, it was above all an élite party based primarily on theory, with little attachment to vast numbers of regular Mozambicans and conditions on the ground. However, this élite were modest enough to acknowledge that large steps needed to be taken in order to understand the unique needs of a unified Mozambique and therefore intense studies of the history, social structure, and economic development were compiled so as to formulate appropriate policy based on correct information.17
This research led to the consolidation of the socialist project as proclaimed at the Second Congress seven years previous:
Early on, FRELIMO had felt that it was indeed the Mozambican people who would be able to make the rational choices required to propel the advancement of society. It thus reached out to the traditional leaders of African society, as well as the oppressed groups of workers and women. This was a plan originally cast in the administration of the three northern provinces that it had controlled up to the eve of independence, where it had made impressive advances in setting up schools, clinics, and stores as a way of protecting its support base while amassing popular support.19
Now thrust, however, into responsibility for the administration of all ten Mozambican provinces, FRELIMO policy was required to introduce a major change in the execution of its socialist development plan; that of a centralized, vanguard Marxist-Leninist state. Despite the moniker and its connotation of intolerance, Malyn Newitt asserts that the state was quite conscious of the dangers posed by the single party system, which it took pains to avoid while allowing a modicum of dissent and promoting self-criticism.20
While FRELIMO, the guerrilla liberation army, looked to overthrow Portuguese colonial oppression, the FRELIMO social revolution promised by the government sought to destroy all forms of internal oppression, in particular that of ethnic rifts and gender bias, as well as the problems caused by ignorance. In creating equality through social integration, the government focused on universal literacy. While a goal in and of itself, this skill was crucial as a stepping stone to the future development of the country, that of a modern economy based on mechanized farming and industrialization run by educated and properly trained Mozambicans. The Portuguese tongue, ironically, was introduced as the official language and the state attempted to eliminate gender, ethnic, and rural schisms by standardizing the community construction itself through the introduction of communal villages with democratic structures. All of these measures were a way to achieve Samora Machel's vision of Mozambique's modernization: "The main objective of the revolution is to destroy the system of exploitation and build a new society which releases the potential of human beings, reconciling them with labour and nature."21
Machel, head of FRELIMO since Mondlane's assassination by FRELIMO dissidents and traditionalists in 1969, had been at the forefront of policy aimed at such goals. His projects paid off early. In the first six years of independence primary school enrollment nearly doubled from 700,000 to 1,376,000 and the adult literacy campaigns were beginning to have an effect. Half a million adults were enrolled in the campaigns, 40% of whom were women.22 The report of OXFAM, a development non-governmental organization (NGO) in Mozambique, noted that in the eagerness to raise the standard of living of its population, the government used its new vanguardist centralization to great effect, winning international praise for its success in establishing an efficacious health care system and improving literacy while simultaneously fostering an impressive production efficiency. The group also notes that secondary school enrollment increased from 20,000 to 135,000 and that, by the end of the 1970s, Mozambican health workers had vaccinated approximately 90% of the population against smallpox, tetanus, and measles. Most dramatically, the infant mortality rate dropped by 20 percent in the space of just a few years.23
As is always difficult in developing a modern society from a colonial structure based on exploitation, FRELIMO had to grapple with both the elimination of traditional and colonial social structures and to find a way to manage meager resources, not the least of which was time, a precious commodity in subsistence agriculture, which was asked particularly of rural Mozambicans in order to carry out education initiatives and literacy campaigns. This was the beginning of tensions between Maputo and the rural peasants who largely tended land only for the survival of themselves and their extended families.
The economic aspects of FRELIMO's administration originally focused on agricultural production as a base in order both to gain hard currency for imports as well as to support the vast array of social programs embraced by the Maputo central government. The commodification of agriculture further looked to create food surpluses with which to feed the urban population, which it felt could only be done through forming state-owned farms. As part of its socialist development project, it also looked to instill the sense of a New Man, much like the metaphysically free argument stated earlier by Che Guevara, about how the material conditions in a socialist society bring about a man motivated by moral, not material, incentives. Thus the rural population was organized into farming collectives.24 While feeding the widely dispersed population of Mozambique, the hope was that in the collectivization and commodification of agriculture, cash from its sale abroad could be invested in industrial development, which would propel the country into developed status while providing the country with domestically growth subsistence for its nutritional and caloric needs.25
Like the agricultural sector, the state control over the industrial realm of the economy was seen to achieve two goals fundamental to socialist development:
As such, the thrust of FRELIMO economic policy was also rooted in the idealism of socialism and pushed by a central government with little else than theoretical knowledge of agriculture and industry, as had also been the case in Cuba. It therefore could be expected to run into problems in its concrete implementation. Particularly problematic to the development of socialism in extremely undeveloped countries is the over reliance on its only immediately available natural resource, human labor. "Moral incentive" and sacrifice therefore were expected to overcome the lack of other resources or funding. Failures and mobilization problems were then interpreted by the centralized authority as a lack of will power or, worse, counter-revolutionary attitude.28
Also, the idealism of FRELIMO's socialist policies compelled them to express a moral solidarity over economic reward at the macroeconomic level. In trying to serve as an example of the New Man through their leadership, the government chose to disrupt two traditional forms of income that Mozambique had traditionally relied on in for its hard currency, that of acting as a passage way for goods from the interior and eliminating the migrant labor system with South Africa.
During 1976, less than a year after independence, and probably one of the less than pragmatic decisions taken by the young government, Mozambique shut its borders with the white settler regime of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. This was done in cooperation with international sanctions against the government in Salisbury as well as to help Robert Mugabe's black liberation insurgents succeed. In closing its borders to, and thus cutting its economic ties with, its landlocked neighbor who had long depended on Mozambican sea outlets, this meant for the already resource-strapped coastal country:
Hall and Young similarly estimate that this cost Mozambique "250 million in revenues but add that the early attempts by Rhodesia to destroy border infrastructure amounted to another "21 in damage.30
Likewise, the effort to disrupt the migrant labor patterns between Mozambique and South Africa was a principled stand that it could ill-afford to maintain. The FRELIMO administration was ideologically committed to the elimination of this system because it exploited its inhabitants. The seasonal migration patterns disrupted family relationships, caused health problems, and took its young productive age males out of the Mozambican economy.31 Maputo was forced to compromise on this issue, however, since it was a major source of income for the country. It did choose to systematically disrupt the system by various means, but unlike the Rhodesia sanctions, this hurt only the Mozambican income and therefore impoverished its people and caused unemployment within the country. Moreover, it was a decisive step and once FRELIMO chose to reinstate some migration, it did not reenter the lucrative system as it once was:
Thus the government of Mozambique compromised its idealism by returning to the well-paying, but ultimately exploitative, relations with South Africa but gained less remuneration than before due to South Africa's efforts to solve its labor crisis by recruiting from more friendly governments like Malawi.33
In short, the internal problems with socialism in Mozambique were the non-connectedness of the élite Mozambican FRELIMO administration with practical needs of the country which alienated the peasants in particular, but also the workers; the over-extension of resources to social programs which did not take into account the costs of such policy, which compounded massive debt due to the failure of the agricultural initiatives; and the decision to eliminate the system of migrant labor with South Africa along with refusal to act as a passage way for Rhodesia to the Indian Ocean.
External Factors Subverting Mozambican Socialism
However, unavoidable disasters and external factors also played a huge role in subverting the structures that socialism depended upon in order to maintain its viability as a development model. Portuguese colonial infrastructure and economic were not designed for use by a Mozambique free of the colonial core, so much of the economy needed to be built upwards from its foundations. Also, in the harvest seasons right after independence floods had ruined crops and droughts threatened a large scale famine. To top it off, Mozambique's formative years came within the context of the market conditions caused by the OPEC oil crisis of the earlier 1970s. Economic conditions resultant of this last factor resulted in the degeneration of its terms of trade with other nations as well as forced Mozambicans to divert a greater percentage of their resources to the purchase of petroleum products.35
Rachel Waterhouse discusses the result of Mozambican independence:
Newitt continues by noting that the nationalization process of housing, as well as abandoned enterprises and lands, fueled a snowball affect. Those who saw property nationalization fled the country, and in turn, the state nationalized the abandoned property, thus continuing a rapid cycle of flight and state takeovers.37
While the economy was drained of capital and skilled personnel during the exodus, the economic structures that they had left behind were already inappropriate for use even in the hands of the new government:
Hall and Young explain that in addition to the unexpected amount of work left ahead of the Maputo administration due to the destruction of any real economic framework and people with which to operate it, environmental disasters in the years immediately after independence destroyed agricultural production. Admittedly, these authors concede, better agricultural policy could have alleviated the problems of food provision during the times of these crises, but they are also quick to point out that the problems imposed by environmental conditions on the Mozambicans were particularly nasty in the late 1970s:
Machel's government after independence aligned itself closely with fellow liberation movements in southern Africa, as Tanzania's Nyrere had done for Mondlane and others a decade earlier. Here ideology and racial solidarity had won out over practical considerations that would have done more to develop Mozambique itself. Before independence and the subsequent blockade of its western border, FRELIMO had allowed Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwean majority movement to operate from FRELIMO's liberated territory on the Rhodesian border, and in so doing provided them with a safe haven against Rhodesian retribution. After independence, as discussed earlier, Mozambique shut its border with Rhodesia. This well-intentioned policy choice was the result of fervent revolutionary idealism, but was to become what could be called the first shot in the civil war that was to engulf Mozambique until the end of the Cold War and the fall of apartheid. What began as a blow to the economy of Mozambique soon culminated in severe political and military concussions.
The Rhodesian response to the embargo was not long in coming, and within a few months, in June of 1976, Salisbury had created a group calling itself the MNR, which in Portuguese came to be known as RENAMO, The Mozambican National Resistance. The group began by broadcasting propaganda against the Mozambican government and complemented it with pro-Rhodesian rhetoric. Later in the year it began to train recruits in Rhodesia, culled mainly from the black diaspora in Johannesburg and Lisbon, with Intelligence Service funding and resources. The core of the group came to consist of "a mixture of disgruntled Portuguese and black Mozambicans, dissidents from FRELIMO, veterans of the colonial army (black and white and many of whom had fled to Rhodesia upon Mozambican independence), some intellectuals, middle class businessmen, and régulos (traditional chiefs)."40
Following Rhodesia's transfer to a majority ruled, non-racial society and name change to honor the pre-colonial African kingdom of Zimbabwe, South Africa inherited the reactionary anti-FRELIMO insurgents. Pretoria's original tiff with Maputo was its inclination to support black liberation groups in the region. For South Africa this meant that Mozambique would likely aid its main black insurgent banned political group, the African National Congress. Later impulsion to interfere with the sovereignty of its neighbors came from the fear of further Soviet operations in the region which had been supplying war matériel to the Cubans in Angola. The trepidation that the Soviets would aid black liberation groups within South Africa caused it to adopt a policy bent on curbing the Evil Empire's influence in the region. This proactive anti-communist initiative became known as the "Total Strategy."
Furthermore, the neighboring black-ruled states had recently kicked off an initiative to reduce the region's economic dependence on South Africa, embodied in the SADCC, the South African Development Coordinate Conference, which was seen as a political expression of regional solidarity.41 Thus, South Africa was compelled to subvert the Mozambican government for three specific reasons,
The government of Mozambique then found itself embroiled in a civil war fought against a rebel movement manned by young, impressionable, and often genuinely disgruntled Mozambicans but controlled and coordinated from outside. Ostensibly, the group espoused freedom and democracy as the processes necessary for the development of Mozambique. In reality, RENAMO had no alternative governing manifesto. They sought only to discredit the ruling party, this is evident in how they carried out their rebellion. If they were interested in protecting the interests of the nation a large, one wonders why they chose a campaign of terror. The targets of this group included roads, railways, power plants, and other economic installations, the main thrust of the assaults being against symbols of FRELIMO. Therefore, the objects at which RENAMO directed its wrath were the main accomplishments of the FRELIMO government, i.e. the state-run schools, health clinics, local administrations and their administrators, leaving a swath of infrastructural damage and discouragement that destroyed the government's ability to carry out its social policies effectively.43
In the final analysis, the price paid by FRELIMO's decision to implement socialist development policies was war. OXFAM estimates the cost, one can only surmise the loss of potential:
This war, and the government who supported its insurgent antagonist against FRELIMO was rightfully condemned in the publication of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission last year, whose job it is to seek justice for the wrongs of the apartheid government. They found that:
Regardless of South African motivation, the war could be seen as the decisive factor in Maputo's decision to retreat from socialist ideals towards more pragmatic policy based on liberal capitalism. A shift away from socialism was seen as the only way to both cope with the costs of war and to pacify the opposition. Therefore the war started from outside, above all, was the reason for the end of socialism in Mozambique.
Chapter 3: Notes1. Margaret Hall and Tom Young, Confronting Leviathan: Mozambique since Independence (1997), 12.
2. Rachel Waterhouse, Mozambique: Rising from the Ashes (1996), 8.
3. Eduardo Mondlane, The Struggle for Mozambique (1983), i.
4. Hall & Young, 12-13.
5. Malyn Newitt, A History of Mozambique (1995), 523.
6. Hall & Young, 13.
7. Hall & Young, 17.
8. Alex Vines, RENAMO: Terrorism in Mozambique, (1991), 11-14.
9. Newitt, 526.
10. Vines, 2.
11. Gillian Gunn, in Sergio Díaz-Briquets, ed., Cuban Internationalism in Sub-Saharan Africa (1989), 79.
12. Untitled glossary entry.
13. Gunn, in Díaz-Briquets, 80.
14. Newitt, 529.
15. Hall & Young, 35.
16. Hall & Young, 36-37.
17. Newitt, 541-542.
18. Newitt, 542.
19. Newitt, 542.
20. Newitt, 544.
21. Newitt, 547-548.
22. Newitt, 549.
23. Waterhouse, 10.
24. Hall & Young, 91.
25. Hall & Young, 108.
26. Hall & Young, 91.
27. Hall & Young, 93.
28. Hall & Young, 91.
29. Stephen Chan and Moises Venâncio, eds., War and Peace in Mozambique (1998), 2.
30. Hall & Young, 108.
31. Christopher Saunders and Nicholas Southey, A Dictionary of South African History (1998), 113. 32. Hall & Young, 113. 33. Hall & Young, 113.
34. Waterhouse, 10.
35. Hall & Young, 106.
36. Waterhouse, 10.
37. Newitt, 551.
38. Hall & Young, 90.
39. Hall & Young, 106.
40. Chan & Venâncio, 3.
41. Chan & Venâncio, 5.
42. Chan & Venâncio, 5.
43. Waterhouse, 12.
44. Waterhouse, 14.
45. "The Truth and Reconciliation Report," as published in the Cape Times, 2 November 1998. Extract one, sections 6, 7, 8.