Effects of Socialist Policies

Angola Table of Contents

Beginning in late 1977 with the First Party Congress of the MPLA, at which the conversion of the MPLA to a vanguard party was announced, party leaders attempted to define the kind of society and economy they wished to develop. The process of definition was by no means systematic and often simply drew on Marxist-Leninist clichés borrowed from the Soviet model. Nevertheless, from time to time statements of either purpose or criticism focused on specific features and problems of Angolan society as these leaders saw them. Sometimes, the solutions offered appeared to have conflicting implications.

Running through the statements of leaders and editorials in Angola's largest newspaper, Jornal de Angola, and other party and state publications were frequent and strong references to the need to eliminate all signs of ethnicity, regionalism, and racism. On several occasions, the statements and editorials asserted that ethnicity and regionalism were not the same, but their differences were not spelled out. Because there is a link between ethnolinguistic category and location, the differential effects on behavior of ethnicity and regionalism are often difficult to determine.

At the same time that the party cautioned against racism (the reference is to mestiços and to those Portuguese who remained in Angola after independence), it also discouraged attitudes of superiority. Presumably, this was an allusion not only to the preindependence attitudes of Portuguese and mestiços but also to those of urban, educated Africans, who would in former times have been called assimilados. In fact, it is unlikely that the Portuguese in the party would act in the style of the Portuguese colonial official or settler, but some mestiços, uncommitted ideologically, might act in such a way; educated Africans, secure in their racial situation, were even more likely to exhibit a sense of superiority to ordinary Africans. The sensitivity of the party to popular perceptions about racism and attitudes of superiority were partly responsible for attempts in the 1980s by the dos Santos regime to remove from the top party echelons a number of mestiços, who dominated the party structure, and replace them with a more ethnically diverse group.

In the 1980s, there was a significant shift of attitude on the part of government and party officials toward private enterprise and what the party had previously labeled "petite bourgeoisie." In the 1970s, the term was widely and pejoratively used to discourage individuals from activities in which they could accumulate personal wealth. Although self-aggrandizement was still discouraged, the party recognized that economic and agricultural centralization had failed as development strategies and that movement toward private enterprise would be necessary to boost domestic production, increase the supply of goods available to the Angolan population, and generally improve the economic picture.

The implications of these policy changes for the structure of society, including economic support for individual peasant farmers and an increase in the role of private traders, were extensive. Where the party once discouraged the existence of an entrepreneurial bourgeoisie both in urban and in rural Angola, some observers believed that efforts to develop the country and come to grips with its economic and technical problems might generate not only a bureaucratic middle class and elite but also a business middle class less amenable to control than a salaried state bourgeoisie.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress