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Liberation struggle of the PALOP countries and support of the USSR / Russia


Text of the report delivered by TÓ BRAGANÇA*
Cristovao Antonio Bragança, Press and Culture Attache at the Embassy of the Republic of Angola in the Russian FederationThe results of the colloquium «From Underground Movement to the Declaration of National Independence: Reminiscences about the Past That Is Still Alive Today» recently held in the Palace of Congresses (working place of the Angolan Parliament) in Luanda, have shown clearly that time has come to look without any taboos at the various aspects of the recent history of African countries having Portuguese as the official language (PALOP).

Using such an approach it will be possible to hand over and legate to the future generations the knowledge of our national histories which will be as authentic as can only be achieved.

The scientific forum that I had the honour to participate in, has come to the conclusion about the necessity of establishment of contacts with leaderships of the countries that supported the liberation movements in the former Portuguese colonies, for gathering and studying historical documents. The forum also recommended enhancing and deepening the exchange of information and experience which will make it possible to create a PALOP Nations Archive whose main purpose would be preservation of various sources constituting memorial evidences of the liberation struggle in these countries.

On the issue of the liberation struggle in the PALOP countries, I decided to speak in the framework of the colloquium's sub-section «The Outer World and National Liberation Struggle».

I have chosen this sub-section for reminding the audience about the help rendered to the liberation movements of the PALOP countries by the world's progressive forces and about the former Soviet Union's efforts resulting in the fact that in the 1960s the United Nations adopted the Declaration «On Giving Independence to the Countries and Peoples of the Colonies».

It is worth mentioning that in my report I frequently referred to an informational account made by the outstanding Russian historian Vladimir Gennadyevich Shubin. He presented his report at the scientific and practical conference dedicated to the Peace Day and the National Reconciliation. The conference was held in April this year in Moscow at the Embassy of the Republic of Angola in the Russian Federation.

Vladimir Shubin, who is now Deputy Director of the Institute of Africa of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the audience of a number of little known episodes in the history of relations between Angola and the former USSR, and appreciated highly the manner in which Angolans, being the masters of their own destiny, made historical decisions, and in this connection he mentioned such examples as the beginning of the armed struggle for national independence on February 4, 1961 and the achievement of peace on April 4, 2002.

After the heroic action taken on February 4, 1961, the former USSR, other countries, as well as various political forces in the world had to assume a certain attitude towards the anti-colonial wars that had started in Africa.

Pyotr Nikitovich Yevsyukov's memoirs illustrate well that manner in which the former USSR materialized its policy in respect of Angola and other Portuguese colonies.

This policy can be clearly seen through analyzing the example of activities performed by Yevsyukov as a responsible employee of the International Department of the Central Committee (CC) of the Communist party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). For 15 years he dealt with solving problems connected to assistance rendered by Moscow to the liberation movements in the Portuguese colonies (which is especially important in view of the fact that until now researchers have no access to the most important documents of that epoch).

Among representatives of the liberation movements in Portuguese colonies Yevsyukov was known as «Camarada Pedro».

"In 1961", recollects Yevsyukov, "the International Department of the CPSU Central Committee knew about the existence of the National Movement for Liberation of Angola from various information sources, mainly from press publications, though Portugal did its best to conceal the information on the events in Luanda."

Mario de Andrade, who was then the acting chairman of the MPLA and Viriato da Cruz, Secretary General of the organization, were the first MPLA representatives who «made an inquiry about possibility of visiting Moscow» in the second half of 1961.

That visit took place already after the beginning of the armed struggle in Angola, and it resulted in Moscow taking an important decision on rendering comprehensive help to the MPLA organization.

Several months later, Agostinho Neto who was at that time in Portugal under home arrest, managed to leave that country illegally and then he immediately arrived in Moscow.

"Negotiations conducted with him, ended quite successfully", remarks «Camarada Pedro» in his memoirs.

Such was the beginning of history of direct contacts between Moscow and the MPLA and of the process of the USSR's involvement, first indirect and then direct, in Angolan affairs, including the military involvement.

In the same period, other socialist countries and many African states - both directly, and through the Liberation Committee of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) – as well as left-wing political parties and non-governmental organizations in Western countries started supporting the anti-colonial struggle in Angola.
In the second half of the 1960s, besides the solidarity committees that already existed in East European countries, a number of West European countries began to form committees for supporting the liberation struggle in Angola and other countries in the South of Africa.

Thus, Great Britain was the scene of energetic activities of the Committee for Freedom of Mozambique, Angola and Guinea-Bissau, headed by the outstanding British Africanist Basil Davidson and the then quite young Lord Anthony Gifford (Soviet representatives used to call him, half jokingly, “Сomrade Lord” or “Lord Comrade”).
These "Western" committees began to hold conferences - often during Easter holidays since many active workers of the committees were students. Starting from a certain moment, these conferences began to invite representatives of committees from "Eastern" countries.

But especially significant for the further expansion of powerful movement of solidarity with the anti-colonial struggle was the International Conference in Support of Peoples of the Portuguese Colonies that took place in Rome on June 27-29, 1970.

Speaking at the solidarity conference in Rome, Agostinho Neto declared openly: «We are sure that the Roman Conference is opening a new stage in rendering the material, political and moral support needed by the Angolan nation».

It is necessary to point out that «Camarada Pedro», the outstanding lawyer Professor Igor Pavlovich Blishchenko and Vladimir Gennadyevich Shubin himself were members of the Soviet delegation headed at that time by Director of Institute of Africa of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and Vice-Chairman of the Soviet Committee of Solidarity of Asian and African Countries Vasily Grigoryevich Solodovnikov.

Yevsyukov qualified the Roman conference as «a crushing blow delivered at the Portuguese colonialism», and named the following arguments in support of this statement:

- Firstly, the policy of Portugal, a NATO member country, was severely criticized.

- Secondly, the conference was attended by Agostinho Neto from the MPLA, Amilcar Cabral from the PAIGC and Marcelino dos Santos from the FRELIMO, and these leaders were also received by the Pope of Rome Paul VI in Vatican.

«It was a very heavy blow against the Portuguese dictator Salazar and the Portuguese branch of the Catholic Church that supported the war waged by colonizers in the colonies», writes P.N.Yevsyukov.
The Portuguese authorities, Portugal's Catholic Church and the local press criticized harshly the Pope of Rome for this step which essentially was recognition of legality of the struggle of the peoples in the colonies for their independence.

In his speech in Rome, Agostinho Neto remarked also: «Colonial Portugal that has been rejected by all countries and is getting more and more isolated on the international scene, will hardly avoid a catastrophe if it continues turning a deaf ear to the voice of reason».

But the impact of the Roman Conference attended by representatives of 177 international and national organizations, and, perhaps, especially that of the Vatican meetings, manifested itself not only in the Catholic countries.

Thus, immediately after the visit to Rome, A.Neto was for the first time invited to Sweden.

The invitation came from the then ruling Swedish Social-Democratic Party (SSDP) represented at the Roman conference by Pierre Chauris, responsible for the party’s international relations.

Besides the political discussions at the headquarters of the Social-Democratic Party and in the Swedish Foreign Affairs Ministry, Agostinho Neto attended a meeting in the Swedish International Development Agency (ASDI).

On the basis of the meeting’s results, the ASDI advised the Swedish government to render financial aid to the MPLA for the first time, for assisting the education and public health services.

In March 1971 the ASDI guaranteed financing the MPLA in the amount of 500 000 Swedish Crowns for the above specified purposes, as well as for purchasing motor transport vehicles.

This was the beginning of the Scandinavian countries’ support of the struggle for independence of Angola.

But let us return to the Roman Conference. It led to one more consequence. Before the conference, for almost a decade practically all information on the Soviet assistance to fighters for freedom of Angola and other African countries, even of strictly humanitarian nature, was thoroughly concealed from the public, both in the USSR, and abroad.

Only upon his return from Rome, V.G. Solodovnikov received the “blessed” permission from the Vice Chief of the CPSU Central Committee’s International Department Rostislav Aleksandrovich Ulyanovsky "to reveal" in an interview to the newspaper "Pravda (Truth)" that Moscow was sending to fighters for freedom in these countries «arms, transportation vehicles, communication facilities and equipment, clothes and other goods that are necessary for success in struggle against the colonizers».

In the interview he also remarked that the USSR was training and educating military and civilian experts for the liberation movements.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that exactly V.G. Solodovnikov had a full moral right to make that statement already on 31 July 1963, at a session of the United Nations Security Council, when he, as the Soviet representative, voted for adopting a resolution demanding that Portugal should immediately give independence to its colonies – while delegates of the Western countries abstained from voting.

And the assistance rendered by Moscow, was really versatile. «Camarada Pedro» recollects such a curious episode. In case of urgent necessity, liberation movements' leaders who knew his pseudonym - «Pedro Dias » - and a letter box number, could, among other opportunities, send him a letter by ordinary international mail.

Once there came a letter from the MPLA Chairman. The sender «complained that there was a lack of cartridges for the "ТТ" pistol and asked ‘Pedro’ to send them urgently. The touchy aspect of the matter was that for confirming his request and for avoiding a possible mistake, the sender enclosed a pistol cartridge as a sample into the envelope. This episode is, probably, the only one of its kind in the history of the postal service».

Besides other forms of support, the liberation movements received also purely financial assistance.

For example, according to archive records, the amount of 50 thousand dollars was allocated to the MPLA in 1963.

A decade later, by 1973 the annual support's amount increased to 220 thousand (compared to 150 thousand for the liberation movement in Guinea-Bissau and on Cape Verde islands – PAIGC, and 85 thousand - for the Front of Liberation of Mozambique).

These finances came from the so-called International Trade-Union Fund for Helping Left-Wing Workers’ Organizations.

That fund functioning formally under the Romanian Council of Trade Unions, was established in July 1950 on the initiative of the predecessor of the Central Committee’s International department - Foreign Policy Commission of the VKP(b) – for the purpose of rendering financial aid to "foreign left-wing parties, workers’ and public organizations which suffer from prosecution and reprisals".
There exist many rumours about "the Kremlin’s gold", but though Moscow played originally a leading role in distribution of the fund, only half of contributions to it came from the USSR, while the rest was from China, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Poland, Hungary and the GDR.

Later, in 1958, the financial fund was joined by Bulgaria. On the other hand, in 1962, during the Soviet-Chinese political "split" the Chinese ceased their support to this fund.

Though a Marxist orientation of some liberation movements was welcomed in Moscow, such orientation was not at all considered as a preliminary condition for rendering them assistance.

Vladimir Shubin quotes R.A.Troyanovsky's recommendation given to the Soviet delegation that participated in the famous Roman conference: «We should not insist on liberation movements being ideologically loyal to us».

As far as national-liberation movements are concerned, they took a position of full independence, which fact was especially emphasized by Agostinho Neto when he spoke at the Roman conference: «In our struggle, in which we do not lose courage in spite of numerous difficulties, we have always retained an attitude of independence, required from us by the supreme interests of our people. And we would like all our sincere friends to perceive this attitude of ours correctly».

In conclusion, just as I did it during the colloquium, I pay a tribute of deep respect to the outstanding liberation movement leader and the staunch and invincible fighter for independence of PALOP countries Marcelino dos Santos, the great brother-in-arms of Agostinho Neto, Amilcar Cabral, Eduardo Mondlane and Samora Machel.

Marcelino dos Santos participated in the colloquium, sharing interesting historical facts with the audience, and finished his speech with the following words: «While there still is a revolution that should be made anew, the time has not yet come to die».

I wish you all the best!

Bibliographic references

- The colloquium «From Underground Movement to the Declaration of National Independence: Reminiscences about the Past That Is Still Alive Today». Final conclusions. Luanda, May 10, 2005.

- Neto, Agostinho. The Roman conference of solidarity, 1970. Selected political speeches. The DIP Publishing House - 1987.

- Shubin, Vladimir Gennadyevich. «The Decisive Role of Progressive Forces in The Struggle for Liberation of Angola and the Influence of the USSR - Russia on Protection of Angolan People’s Achievements on the International Scene». Moscow, 06.04.2005.

- Dos Santos, Marcelino. Speech at the colloquium «From Underground Movement to the Declaration of National Independence: Reminiscences about the Past That Is Still Alive Today». Luanda, 09/05/05.

- Embassy of the Republic of Angola in the Russian Federation. Press release. Scientific and practical conference in Moscow, dedicated to the celebration of the Peace Day. Moscow, April, 2005.

* TO BRAGANÇA (Cristovao António Bragança), Press and Culture Attache at the Embassy of the Republic of Angola in the Russian Federation, Bachelor of Journalism, a graduate of the Journalism Faculty of the Lvov Military-Political Academy (Republic of Ukraine). Got his degree in Political Science at the International Relations Institute of the Marxism-Leninism University in Lvov (Ukraine). Has graduated with honours, obtaining a distinction, from the Law Faculty of the Moscow State Open University.

Press-center of Angola Embassy in Russia

On the photo:
K.A. "Tó" Bragança;
Sr Bragança with Mozambic politicist, poet & sociologist Marcelino dos Santos.