Este é um pequeno e breve trabalho de seminário que apresentei no âmbito do meu mestrado na London Metropolitan University. Como frisei, é um trabalho muito sucinto que não tem a mínima intenção de esgotar a problemática do processo de auto-determinação dos povos da Guiné-Bissau e de Cabo-Verde. 









THE CLIMAX OF THE IMPERIALIST PORTUGAL                                                5




Definitions                                                                                                                      5


Portugal and Africa                                                                                                        5


Salazar and the Colonial Pact                                                                                         5


African Perspective and Nationalist Settlement                                                             6


The Colonial/ Liberation War                                                                                        7


The Indecision of Marcello Caetano and the Military Coup                                         9


The Second World War and the New International Order                                           10



BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                                                                        12    





‘The destructive impact of the Second World War upon the European overseas empires had been greatly exaggerated’. Do you agree? If you wish, you may confine your answer to one empire.








We start by defining imperialism. What do we (exactly) mean by imperialism and colonialism? The scope is wide and complicated. Different schools and different tendencies adopt, naturally, different concepts. Imperialism is the exploitation of one people by another. We reject Marxist position which identifies it as exploitation by monopoly capitalism, since the exploitation of people began before capitalism. We do agree with Brockway (1973) when he defines it as “the system of relationship between peoples when some nations, or a class within nations, control primarily in their own interest the collective life of other nations” (Brockway, 1973 p.14). In his study, Brockway (1973, p. 15) notes that “under imperialism the existence of subjected people is contained within a non-indigenous pattern”.


Portugal and Africa

The first European nation to reach Africa was the Portuguese. They first occupied Moroccan fortress of Ceuta early in the 15th century. The Portuguese arrived at the territory today known as Guinea-Bissau by 1490s. This was the beginning of five centuries of strained relations between Europe and the whole Africa (David, 1999, p.1). Portugal was the poorest nation in Europe, so it sought to escape its chronic poverty and the lack of manpower. By the sixteenth century some 10 per cent of the population of southern Portugal comprised black immigrants (Birmingham, 1999, p. 4) and, as Lara (2004) also notes, by 19750, 5% of Lisbon population was of Africa.


Salazar and the Colonial Pact

The Portuguese Monarchy was abolished in 1910. Fifteen years later, in 1926, military coup d’etat led the country to uncertain future. The military dictatorship in power between 1926 and 1930, with due political diffidence, was conscious of its own limited abilities in governance (MacQueen, 1997, p.9). It sought for civilians sympathetic to its right-wing Catholic ethos. One of these was Salazar, a former law and economics lecturer from Coimbra University, who joined the government as finance minister. Clarence-Smith (1985, p.146) notes that “the economic recession of the 1930s led Salazar to take some tough measures”. After his takeover, he launched a policy consisted on loan of £125, 000 to all colonies (except Angola) (Clarence-Smith, 1985, pp. 146 - 147). Portugal, as we stated, extended its monetary rigor to the colonies at the expense of savage cuts on government expenditure in order to stabilise its balance of payments.

In 1930 new legislative statement was approved. The Colonial Act (Acto Colonial) was published and incorporated to Salazar’s Estado Novo (New State) Constitution of 1933. The new Law putted emphasis on centralization, administrative integration and economic protectionism (Mac-Queen, 1997, p. 9), rejecting - absolutely - the republican colonial autonomy. To prove it is the position of governor-general which was reinstated in place of the proconsular office of high commissioner (p. 10). Hence the national economic interests were to be protected against the incursion of foreign capital.


African Perspective and Nationalist Settlement

Salazar, to silence international opinion, undertook some reforms. In 1961 the status of assimilado ended, and all citizens of the colonies, regardless of their own preferences, were elevated to the status of Portuguese citizen. For most of the urbanised anti-regime intellectual this was only part of Salazar’s propaganda (MacQueen, 1997, pp. 12, 13). We have to agree with this point of view, as despite the abolition of slavery in 1876 (officially), systematic abuses of the contract labour system continued. To prove it is the repression at the Pijiguiti docks in Guinea-Bissau in 1959, when the police killed 50 strikers. Furthermore, the indigenous population of Portuguese Africa, at least until 1960s, were the most disadvantaged of the European empires. A truly Africa with the effective nationalist movement only began in lusophone Africa with the recognition that even limited change within the authoritarian centralism of the empire was impossible by purely political means (MacQueen, 1997, p. 14). The first steps of the urbanized African intellectuals began with points of contact with the anti-regime forces in Portugal. Portuguese and African nationalists experienced the same disenfranchisement and worked under the shadow of the same secret police, the Policia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado [PIDE: International and State Defence Police). Thus the strategy to fight the imperialism, ironically started in the metropole as the dominant figures of the liberation as Mario Pinto de Andrade and Agostinho Neto of Angola; Amilcar Cabral of Guine-Bissau; Marcelino dos Santos of Mozambique, served their political apprenticeships together in Portugal. In September 1956 a small group of Cape Verdean ctivists formed the African Independence Party, which later became the African Independence Party for the Independence of Guine and Cabo Verde (PAIGC). There was, however, a nationalist party, the Front for Liberation and Independence of Guine (FLING), which had been formed in 1953. Based in Senegal, its durability was due to the support of the president Leopold Senghor, who kept his political options open by spreading his favour between FLING and PAIGC. Cabral was the most profound nationalist theorist in Portuguese Africa. For him decolonization was a continuing process rather than a single event. For the leader, the mere transition to auto-determination did not itself amount to decolonization, which required a continuing struggle which was not merely political or even economic but profoundly psychological.


The Colonial/ Liberation War

In Guinea-Bissau there was a positive condition for guerrilla struggle against colonialism to succeed. The dominance of a single movement pursuing a strategy based on relatively clear politico-military precepts gave cohesion to the armed struggle which was absent in Angola where both the MPLA and the UPA claimed to have initiated the liberation war in February-March 1961. As Lara (1994) points out “conflicts between the three nationalist movements which were eventually involved in the fighting frequently reached an intensity which suggested civil war rather than mere inter-group rivalry, even before the collapse of the Portuguese regime.

For the Salazar government, the nationalist uprisings served the image of Portugal in the front-line of the global anti-communist crusade, however, for the nationalists the struggle was important in the presentation of events as part of a common anti-imperialist resistance and as unified Euro-African struggle against ‘fascism.’ In Guinea-Bissau, the decision to pursue the military option was taken soon after the Pijiguiti violence, in September 1959. After the docks massacre, PAIGC agreed that any other forms of non-violence pressure would be futile. After this historic moment, an initial faith in the possibilities of political organization among the urban proletariat gave way to a focus on rural guerrilla warfare. Thus, the military phase began on 23 January 1963 with an attack on the Portuguese barracks at Tite in the south of the country, which was preceded by a necessary preparation for the armed struggle. Although the armed struggle began in January 1963, there had been a preliminary phase of a year and-a-half ‘direct action’ involving acts of sabotage and civil disobedience which coincided with a period of intense political mobilization among the peasantry of the south of the country carried out by PAIGC cadres. Central to Cabral’s vision of liberation was the doctrine of political primacy over military action. This aspect dominated the first congress held in the isle of Cassaca in February 1964. The discipline principles introduced by the leaders was disregarded by large number of Balanta fighters who had ignored political directives in their enthusiasm for physical attacks on the Portuguese. In this way, as the discipline within the party was ruthless, it involved a number of executions, seen as necessary at the time (MacQueen, 1997, p. 38). As we have said, the congress laid down the basic political principles, strongly informed by Maoist thinking, which was to guide the protracted struggle.

The PAIGC’s military victories came quickly. In July 1963, within six months of the beginning of the war, the Portuguese defence minister admitted publicly that the PAIGC controlled a significant proportion of the territory. After the dramatic advance of the early phase, the pace of the war began to stabilise. The Lisbon government then began to face the terrible truth: it was impossible to defeat the military struggles by force in Africa.

In 1968, Spinola was named to replace Mr. Schultz as governor, and introduced new policy. The General had firm conviction that the guerrilla could not be defeated purely by military means. Thus, he introduced a politico-military project that was summed up in the key slogan por uma Guine melhor (for a better Guine), enphacising social, political and psychological approaches to the war. Such move involved extensive civil action programme that including military resources, directed to public work to provide education and medical services. But “these initiatives were uniformly unsuccessful in both achieving their basic objectives, as all this policy took place against a background of continued bombardment of villages in the liberated areas, killing civilian populations”.

Another Spinola’s unsuccessful initiative lied on the secret talks with Senegalese president Leopold Senghor started in May 1972, and their obstruction by Lisbon. The non conclusion of this initiative had serious consequence on both Guine-Bissau and Portugal. Spinola meet Senghor inside Senegal on the Guine border. A comprehensive peace proposal was discussed by which Senghor was to mediate a cease-fire with the PAIGC, which would also include the nationalist rival the Front for the Liberation and Independence of Guine (FLING: Frente de Libertacao e Independencia da Guine). MacQueen states that “If the outcome of these talks had been successful there would have been ten-year period of internal self-government during which the form of future relations with Portugal would have been determined” (MacQueen, 1997, p. 40). “The options - as MacQueen insists – would have included total independence, participation in a lusophone community, or a federal relationship with Portugal” (Op Cit, Ib.). Lisbon, however, changed the course of the negotiations and ordered Spinola to end contact with Senghor.

The 1973 would, nonetheless, be the most fateful for both PAIGC and Portugal. The year began disastrously for the nationalist movement with the assassination of Amilcar Cabral in Conakry on 20 January. There are many theories and counter-theories about the circumstances of his death and the identity of the ‘real’ culprits. Spinola, by his side, consistently denied any part in Cabral’s death, suggesting at one stage that the Soviet Union may have been the real responsible.

On the diplomatic battlefield, 1973 was a bleak year for Lisbon. A mission from the United Nations decolonization committee had spent a week in the so called ‘liberated area’ of Guine and reported that PAIGC should be acknowledged as the sole and legitimate representative of the territory of Guine-Bissau (MAcQueen, 1997, p. 43).


The Indecision of Marcello Caetano and the Military Coup

Marcello Caetano, a former rector of the Universidade de Lisboa (Lisbon University) succeeded Salazar, who suffered a disabling stroke in September 1968. The change of leadership brought widespread expectations of reform in both metropole and in the colonies. Caetano’s first plans towards the colonial problem were that of some approach to the nationalists in order to negotiate the possibility of some autonomy. However, as MacQueen (1997, p. 64) emphasises, “The new prime-minister’s position was circumscribed from the beginning by the presence in the regime of powerful elements committed to the continuation of Salazar’s policies, particularly in Africa” (MacQueen, 1997, p.65). Among them was the president of the republic, Admiral Americo Thomaz. The latter who had been elected by Salazar himself in 1958, wanted to keep his loyalty to the dictator’s policy. Hence, Thomaz, in order to guarantee the continuation of the existing policies in Africa, warned of military intervention if any attempt were to be made to change them.

The guerrilla movements could not defeat the metropole militarily but created conditions for the liberation of the metropole itself. On the 24 April 1974, a military coup lead by the armed forces would lead Portugal to freedom and democracy after forty years of dictatorship. After a period of turbulences and indecision, an increasingly large section of the junior and middle officer ranks of the military saw their immediate priority to be the overthrow of the regime and the installation of an as widely acceptable as possible post-coup administration. The aim was the promulgation of the Law No 7/74, on 26 July which stated ‘Self determination encompasses independence. The Law recognized the right to self determination, including the acceptance of the independence of the overseas’


The Second World War and the New International Order

As Hargreaves (1996) quotes, “In Africa unlike eastern Asia, it was by no means clear that the war had fatally weakened the colonial empires” (Hargreaves, 1996, p. 90). The chaos of the war seemed clearly to be amassing in the favour of decolonization. After the World War II the colonization became more a moral issue. In 1957 Senghor defined it as ‘the abolition of all prejudice, of all superiority complex, in the mind of the colonizer, and of all inferiority complex in the mind of the colonized’ (Leopold Senghor, La decolonisation: condition de la communaute franco-africaine, Le Monde, 4 Sept. 1957). In France, for example, in which the Vichy government was isolated and helpless in Nazi-dominated Europe, and in which de Gaulle’s Free French were abroad with very limited resources, had the effect of compromising the empire. Hence, as the newer imperialism of Nazi German and Imperial Japan began its retreat, it carried along with it the old imperialism as well (Betts, 1991, p. 62). There is no doubt that the general disintegration of French political power throughout the world gravely weakened the old imperial authority. In June 1941, Syria and Lebanon was told by General Catroux, the Free French representative in the region that they would be ‘sovereign independent peoples’ (Betts, 1991). A little over a year later, beginning on 8 November 1942, the Allied invasion of North Africa took place bringing with it the further deterioration of the French colonial position. The region was primarily achieved by the Americans, known by their anti-colonialism principles, sought for new demands lied on colonial reforms. De Gaulle, addressing convocation of the University of Brussels in October 1945, expressed his idea for new Europe, in which France would play the leading role (Betts, 1991, p. 64). However, he defended that it would be foolish to assume that the colonial empire could continue as before. 1945 marked the beginning of the end of the French colonial empire.

In the Portuguese case, the power of the liberation movements in the relationship between colony and metropole at this time was enhanced by the diplomatic context in which it was played out (MacQueen, 1997, p. 213). Therefore, Portuguese Africa had been subject to a particularly high level of international attention. Salazar benefited from a lack of irresistible international condemnation. The liberation movements for they part, could exploit this western discomfort, frequently by going beyond governments to appeal directly to progressive opinion in particular countries, and could at the same time rely on at least the declaratory support of their Third World colleagues in the UN General Assembly, the Non-Aligned Movement and, most immediately, the OAU (MacQUeen, 1997, p. 214). The PAIGC, Frelimo and the MPLA remained dependent on the Soviet bloc for material support and, to an extent, for ideological model as well. As a result of the guerilla’s Soviet support, the stance of most west European states and of the United States itself was one of vague support to Salazar’s policy.



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