Angola Table of Contents
The government has had difficulty mobilizing support from peasant farmers.
In the early 1970s, rural volunteers were the backbone of the MPLA fighting forces, but after independence few peasant fighters were given leadership positions in the party. In fact, most farmers were purged from the party during the rectification campaign of the late 1970s for their lack of political commitment or revolutionary zeal. Criteria for party membership were stricter for farmers than for urban workers, and a decade later MPLA-PT leaders generally conceded that the worker-peasant alliance, on which the socialist transformation depended, had been weakened by the rectification campaign. When debating the reasons for this failure, some MPLA-PT members argued that their urban-based leadership had ignored rural demands and implemented policies favoring urban residents (see Effects of Socialist Policies , ch. 2). Others claimed that the party had allowed farmers to place their own interests above those of society and that they were beginning to emerge as the rural bourgeoisie denounced by Marxist-Leninist leaders in many countries.
Policies aimed at rural development in the early 1980s had called for the establishment of state farms to improve productivity of basic foodstuffs in the face of shortages in equipment and technical experts. Cuban and Bulgarian farm managers were put in charge of most of these farms. These advisers' objectives were to introduce the use of mechanization and chemical fertilizers and to inculcate political awareness. By the mid-1980s, however, the salaries of foreign technical experts and the cost of new equipment far outweighed revenues generated by these state enterprises, and the program was abandoned.
Many farmers reverted to subsistence agriculture in the face of the spreading UNITA insurgency and what they often perceived as government neglect. Convincing them to produce surplus crops for markets presented formidable problems for party leaders. UNITA forces sometimes claimed crops even before they were harvested, and urban traders seldom ventured into insecure rural areas. Even if a farmer were able to sell surplus crops, the official price was often unrealistically low, and few consumer goods were available in rural markets even for those with cash (see Agriculture , ch. 3).
In response to the apparent intransigence of some rural Angolans, the MPLA-PT attempted another strategy for mobilizing political support by creating farmers' cooperatives and organizing them into unions to provide channels of communication between farmers and party leaders. In late 1988, these unions represented only a small percentage of the rural population, but some party leaders still expected them to succeed. Rural resentment of the urban-based MPLA-PT leadership was still fairly widespread, however, and this resentment contributed to the success of UNITA in Angola's southern and eastern provinces.
Data as of February 1989