Mozambique, People’s Republic Of

   When the Portuguese “Carnation Revolution” of 1974 saw the colonialist dictatorship in Lisbon jettisoned from power, the southeast African colony of Mozambique was able to declare independence. From 1977 until 1989 the country’s Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique—FRELIMO) government practiced MarxismLeninism as official state ideology. Radical nationalists in FRELIMO had taken up arms in 1964 in a bid to bring a halt to Portuguese rule. FRELIMO was led following the 1969 assassination of its founder Eduardo Mondlane by guerrilla fighter Samora Machel. Having overseen the move to independence in 1975, Machel became the inaugural president of a one-party state. Early in its tenure the FRELIMO government displayed its radical tendencies by implementing inherently socialist policies, with widespread collectivization of rural areas and nationalization of the industrial economy. In this context, the official state adoption of Marxism–Leninism in 1977 was hardly revelatory. A mass “villagization” campaign was launched to curb the influence of religion on Mozambicans and replace it instead with the teachings of Karl Marx. FRELIMO converted into a Leninist vanguard party, and efforts were made to encourage support and aid from communist companion countries such as the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic. In turn, Machel and his administration lent their own assistance to black revolutionary movements in neighboring Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa.
   However, when the governments of these two countries reacted by sponsoring the formation of the anti-communist National Resistance Movement (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana—RENAMO), the decision to back such factions inadvertently plunged Mozambique into a 16-year-long civil war. From 1977 until after Marxism–Leninism had all but disappeared from the Mozambican political terrain, fighting between the FRELIMO administration’s troops and RENAMO guerrilla soldiers resulted in up to one million fatalities. Many of these deaths resulted from a crippling famine that had arisen owing to the draining of the economy and decimation of the country’s fertile land by the conflict.
   In this context, by 1984 the continuation of Marxist–Leninist rule looked uncertain. Under the influence of Western states, Machel began to move the government away from an orthodox position, for instance through the introduction of a mixed economy, and attempted to make peace with South Africa under the auspices of the Nkomati Accord. When Machel, after all the architect of the revolution, perished in an air crash in 1986 to be replaced by the reformist Joachim Chissano, the end of the ideological stranglehold of Marxism–Leninism over Mozambique appeared imminent. Thus, between the conclusion of 1989 and the commencement of 1990, the government renounced adherence to the doctrine, and implemented a new constitution that promised and delivered multi-party elections. Owing to the underdeveloped nature of the country, attempts to apply Marxism to Mozambique necessitated a malleable approach to the ideology. On the one hand, there was the 1983 “Operation Production” program that sought to relocate over 20,000 urban dwellers to rural areas, perhaps in recognition of the country’s lack of the “advanced” conditions required for the transition to actually existing socialism (such eschewing of orthodox Muscovite edicts no doubt influenced the decision not to allow Mozambique entry into Comecon in that same year). On the other, the Marxism frequently espoused by FRELIMO was rooted in abstract theory provided by foreign thinkers of a very different context and era. It was perhaps the inherent contradictions of such malleability, alongside a protracted civil war, that led to the abject failure of Mozambican Marxism.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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