Cape Verde, Republic Of, and Republic Of Guinea Bissau

   After a prolonged struggle to free themselves from Portuguese colonial rule, between 1974 and 1975 the twin Northwest African nations of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau gained independence. While remaining as separate sovereign states, both were to be governed by the same, Marxist-oriented political organization, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (Partido Africano da Indepêdencia da Guiné e Cabo Verde—PAIGC). Following its inception in 1956, the PAIGC, led by Amilcar Cabral, fought tirelessly for liberation from Portugal and the adoption of a Marxist program. While Cabral’s theoretical commitment to Marxism was always evident, he steered the PAIGC toward a fluid approach to ideology, and as such circumvented doctrinal splits within the party. That stability was threatened, however, when he was assassinated in January 1973. Yet the inexorable pursuit of independence did not halt, and nine months later the PAIGC, now under the tutelage of Amilcar’s brother Luis de Almeida Cabral, announced the end of Portuguese rule over Guinea-Bissau. Cape Verde gained autonomy from Portugal in 1974, and as the sole governing force in both independent countries, the PAIGC committed itself to the aim of their unification. Though each had separate presidents from the offset (Cabral in Guinea-Bissau, Luis de Almeida in Cape Verde), policy and governance were to be inextricably linked in the early postcolonial years.
   The PAIGC set about remedying the economic morass they inherited through the implementation of Marxist measures. In each of the two states banking, currency and credit were swiftly nationalized and the monopoly of Lisbon-based business conglomerates emphatically curtailed. Road networks were improved to facilitate the distribution of food and expand the fiscally essential fishing industry. To constitutionally reflect the embracing of Marxism, political structures were overhauled to increase popular participation, culminating in the creation of People’s National Assemblies. Given the unusual system of single party rule over twin sovereign states, schisms inevitably meandered below the surface. Disgruntlement came from hard line MarxistLeninists, who fulminated against the decentralist nature of the PAIGC government and the overemphasis on agriculture, and from Guineans who perceived there to be a Cape Verdean hegemony on significant political stations. This feeling was accentuated following the PAIGC’s party conference in November 1977. Here a motion to transform the party into a vanguard Leninist organization was defeated, paving the way for increased bureaucratization, and allowing Cape Verdeans such as President Cabral the opportunity to further augment their stranglehold on power. Accordingly, the aim of unification was relegated to the status of ultimate possibility.
   In Guinea-Bissau, these events occurred against a backdrop of amplified economic discontent. The legacy of the war for independence, the rising price of oil, widespread drought and governmental mismanagement of resources all took their toll, and in tandem fueled opposition to the PAIGC hierarchy. On 11 November 1980 a military coup spearheaded by former guerrilla commander João Bernardo Vieira overthrew and arrested Cabral and his cohorts. The new incumbents were quick to deny their coup was a counter-revolution and assert their credentials as loyal apostles of the doctrines of Amilcar Cabral. However, these attestations proved apocryphal, and as the decade progressed the Vieira regime gradually shed all remnants of Marxism and began to embrace the capitalistic program of its major creditors, chiefly the International Monetary Fund. Predictably, as the PAIGC formally relinquished its Marxism so it did its political monopoly, and in 1991 multi-party free elections were held. President Pereira reacted to the 1980 rebellion by calling an extraordinary party conference, at which it was decided that Cape Verde would now pursue its goals by liquidating the PAIGC and replacing it with a new organization, the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (Partido Africano da Indepêdencia da Cabo Verde—PAICV). Despite 42 • CAPE VERDE, REPUBLIC OF, AND REPUBLIC OF GUINEA-BISSAU 11 years of pragmatic, peaceful and internationally accredited solo party rule, the PAICV could not avoid the clamor for democracy engulfing mainland Africa. Thus, plural and free elections were held in January 1991, and the ardently capitalist Movement For Democracy Party elected.
   The Marxism of Amilcar Cabral informed much of what the PAIGC undertook through its struggle for liberation and in the early of years of its reign, as solidly Marxist measures were tempered with practical considerations. Amilcar Cabral emphasized the central importance of avoiding ideological rigidity for the sake of ideological rigidity, preferring instead a flexible system that would wield actual gains rather than a pure “to the book” form of Marxism. For Cabral, abstract ideas were always secondary to practical considerations of time, place and context. In the 1980s, though, the rulers of both Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau were concerned evermore with the pragmatic element of this standpoint to the extent that as the decade wore on, the Marxist core of Cabral’s thought was squeezed out entirely.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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