Angola Table of Contents


During the 1960s, the MPLA established its headquarters at Kinshasa, Zaire, and then at Lusaka, Zambia, and Brazzaville, Congo. The MPLA's scattered bases and diverse constituent groups contributed to disunity and disorganization, problems that were exacerbated by personal and ideological differences among party leaders. The first serious split occurred in 1973, when Daniel Chipenda led a rebellion, sometimes termed the Eastern Revolt, in protest against the party's mestišo-dominated leadership and Soviet interference in Angolan affairs. Chipenda and his followers were expelled from the MPLA, and many joined the northern-based FNLA in 1975. Then in 1974, about seventy left-wing MPLA supporters based in Brazzaville broke with Agostinho Neto. This opposition movement became known as the Active Revolt. Shortly after independence, a third split occurred within the party, culminating in the 1977 coup attempt by Nito Alves. Later in 1977, the MPLA transformed itself into a Marxist-Leninist vanguard party and launched a lengthy rectification campaign to unify its membership, impose party discipline, and streamline decision-making processes.

In 1980 Angola was governed by a new head of state under a newly revised Constitution. The nation's first legislature, the People's Assembly, served as a symbol of people's power, but state organs were clearly subordinate to those of the party. Within the MPLA-PT, channels for political participation were being narrowed. Both government and party leaders established a hierarchy of organizations through which they hoped to mobilize rural populations and broaden political support. At the same time, MPLAPT leaders launched programs to impose party discipline on the party's cadres and indoctrinate all segments of society in their proper role in political development.

Overall goals were relatively easy to agree upon, but poverty and insecurity exacerbated disagreements over specific strategies for attaining these objectives. By the mid-1980s, the party had three major goals--incorporating the population into the political process, imposing party discipline on its cadres, and reconciling the diverse factions that arose to dispute these efforts. Some MPLA-PT officials sought to control political participation by regulating party membership and strengthening discipline, while others believed the MPLA-PT had wasted valuable resources in the self-perpetuating cycle of government repression and popular dissent. President dos Santos sought to resolve disputes that did not seem to threaten his office. However, much of the MPLA-PT's political agenda, already impeded by civil war and regional instability, was further obstructed by these intraparty disputes.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress