[The following article first appeared in AfricaFile's At Issue Ezine, vol. 12 (May-October 2010), edited by John S. Saul, which examines the development of the southern African liberation movement-led countries. It has been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.]
Frelimo poster for its third congress in 1977
By John S. Saul
I first knew Mozambique through close contact in Dar es Salaam with Frelimo [Frente de Libertação de Moçambique, the Liberation Front of Mozambique] in the early and difficult years – the 1960s and the first half of 1970s – of its armed liberation struggle. Then Mozambique was seeking both to unite itself and to find political and military purchase against an intransigent and arrogant Portuguese colonialism. And Frelimo – under the leadership of, first, Eduardo Mondlane (to be assassinated by the Portuguese) and, after him, of Samora Machel – did indeed manage, by 1975, to lead the country to victory. Along the way, Frelimo succeeded in liberating zones in Mozambique adjacent to its rear bases in Tanzania and Zambia where it built a new social infrastructure of agricultural co-ops, schools and health services. Equally important, it forged an impressive corps of politically conscious and disciplined leadership cadres (see Cabaço, 2001 and 2009).
Then, in the very first years of Mozambique’s independence, Frelimo also launched a bold experiment in socialist development. The intention: to implement a society-wide program that would liberate the country’s economic potential while also meeting the needs of the vast majority of Mozambique’s population. The result? As Norrie MacQueen, a careful chronicler of the The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa (1997: pp. 236-7), would firmly state of former "Portuguese Africa," the initial plans of Portugal’s "guerilla enemies" did offer "a clear alternative to the cynical manipulation of ethnicity and the neo-colonial complaisance of the kleptocratic elites who increasingly defined African governance in the 1970s and 1980s".
Read more here.