Gulf in Angola
There is in this turbulent land a storehouse of pain and trouble confused mother of fear, Hell in Life.
Land of Oppressed peoples, rubbish heap of Portugal where she purges her evil and her scum.
Where the lie and falsehood theft and malevolence, selfishness, represent vain glory.
Where justice perishes, for want of men to understand it, where God must be sought to achieve salvation....
-Written in Angola in the Seventeenth century by an anonymous Portugese.
ANGOLA, a land as full of sorrow as any on earth, has been at war with the Portugese colonialists for nearly 500 years. In the last month the struggle of the Angolese people for their independence has been linked to Harvard's investment in Gulf Oil Company. This summary of the history of Portugal's colonialism and Gulf's neocolonialism is an attempt to clarify some of the background to the investment decision. My account is wholly derived from the research of others, and has been compiled from four principal sources: Race to Power: The Struggle for Southern Africa, written by members of the Africa Research Group: Gulf Oil: Portugese Ally in Angola, published this month by the Corporate Information Center of the National Council of Churches: Angola, written by Douglas L. Wheeler and Rene Pelissier and published as part of the Praegar Library of African Affairs; and documents of the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), published in its journal Angola in Arms. All statistical references and factual statements are properly footnoted in the works from which I have drawn.
In 1482, the Portugese navigator Diego Cao discovered the mouth of the Congo River, went ashore, and made envoys to the largest kingdom of West Central Africa: the Kongo. Relations with the Kongolese were friendly at first, and the African lords permitted the Portugese to gain a foothold for their slave trading with colonies across the Atlantic. But soon the Kongolese came to have misgivings about the Portugese designs, and open warfare broke out. In 1665 the Portugese Army crushed the Kongolese army in a decisive battle at Mbwila.
While the Portugese had still been at peace with the Kongo, they had sent troops south to the Kingdom of N'Gola, or Angola, to extend their slave-trade resources. Portugal waged war for human capital, either capturing the Africans or buying them cheaply from black client chieftans. One explanation of their march on Angola and forcible seizure of its natives is that the cotton cloth and other goods which the Portugese had up till then used in barter for slaves were of such inferior quality that the Africans refused to do business. Indeed, through the history of her subjugation of Angola, Portugal-known as the "little Turkey of the Occident"-has used force where the loftier French and English imperialists used subtler means.
The number of black Angolans shipped away from their homeland in Portugese vessels is estimated at four million. Many came to America to work the Southern plantations. Although black clients were established in Angola to deliver up their brothers, almost ceaseless struggle against the slave trade was waged by the native peoples.
In 1836, the Portugese government, after much pressure from its maritime ally Britain, issued a royal decree abolishing further exportation of slaves in Portugese vessels. Gradually, the international trading ended, leaving Angola scarred and underpopulated, and still in the hands of the Portugese.
ALTHOUGH the International trading of Angolans had ended, the Portugese continued to run their colony on the principle of enforced slave labor. The new trade in Ivory, rubber and minerals was built on the backs of the Angolese who had remained in their homeland. Needed agricultural goods were produced on slave plantations for the home market. Although Portugal's empire was tawdry by comparison with those of mightier European nations, the Portugese could not bear to give it up. As one trader-colonist wrote in 1882, "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed are king. As poor as I am now, if I returned to Portugal today, I would amount to zero. On the other hand, I am who I am here as long as I possess one piece of trade cloth."
By the 19th Century Portugal itself was so poor and hopeless that the very existence of colonies aboard was a consolation to the ruling elite, if none to the impoverished mass of Portugese peasants. "In this cursed country," wrote a Portugese to the Spanish philosopher Unamuno, "all that is noble commits suicide; all that is vulgar triumphs. Our illness is a type of moral illness, of moral fatigue...In Portugal, the only belief worthy of respect is the belief worthy of respect is the belief in the freedom of death...."
Colonialism was a heritage of a more glorious age in which the Portugese nation was not so moribund. Moreover, the exploitation of the colony, if not so efficient as British or French methods, eased the financial burdens at home.
By this century it was clear to outsiders that efficient exploitation of Angola's resources required capital and management skill that did not exist in Portugal. A small mulatto middle class might have been schooled into the sort of administrative elite that the British created in India. Instead, all non-whites were scorned, and the middle classes coalesced toward a series of national liberation movements from the beginning of the century.
Still the Portugese, now under the iron hand of the dictator Salazar, persisted in their non-maximizing forced labor schemes and their refusal to permit foreign investment. Angola struggled along with a moderately profitable coffee-producing economy. Yet no quality of forced labor could overcome the capital deficit. And the Portugese had no capital, only force.
Abroad, Portugese colonialism was ridiculed as anachronistic by the more sophisticated of the neocolonialists. International opinion among those less cynical focused on the forced labor issue. Pressure, like that applied a century earlier against slavery, was brought to bear in the 1950's against Portugese labor policies, and the Portugese responded as they had earlier, by making small changes that appeased the critics.
Yet de-facto forced labor persisted in Angola, much as it did in Protugal itself, where Salazar's police state forbade the right to organize or strike. Angolan workers were even exported to South Africa to work in the diamond mines.
IN 1961, a reckoning with the rank and bestial exploitation emerged spontaneously. A group of Africans being forced to cultivate cotton in Baixa de Cassange in the interior of central Angola stopped working and refused to pay taxes. The cotton workers' families had averaged an annual income of twenty to thirty dollars the year before. The Portugese army was called out to intimidate the striking workers. The rebels would not budge. According to non-Portugese estimates, 10,000 Africans were massacred. The final struggle for liberation was begun.
The night of February 3, 1961, the MPLA-their slogan "Victory is Certain"-responded by attacking a police patrol, the Prison of Sao Paulo, a police barracks, and the radio station of the capital city, Luanda. On the following day, February 4, the infuriated Portugese retaliated with a random massacre of Africans. By March there was a revolt led by another nationalist organization, the UPA, among the black peasants in the northwest of Angola, and liberation forces took control, of more than one third of the country, including the Cabinda enclave, where Gulf Oil Corporation had been making drilling explorations since 1957.
The Portugese responded as if their one eye had been put out. they conducted a savage witch-hunt, arresting and executing any who were suspected of being leaders or potential leaders of the liberation movement. Along the railway line from Luanda to Malanje in the interior, troops, police, and militia massacred Africans at will. Using weapons donated by NATO countries, the Portugese re-won control of most of their colony. Liberation forces scattered to isolated forest areas where they remain in control to this day. All told, up to 50,000 Africans are said to have died in the 1961 fighting, against 500 Portugese.
SOME CHANGES have been made in Portugese policy in Angola since 1961, but only those that have been deemed necessary to ensure Portugal's continued rule. Salazar's foolish old policy of prohibiting foreign investment has been replaced by more modern economic exploitation of the colony. Foreign investment has been encouraged, and profit-hungry American corporations have begun capital intensive production in Angola. The President of the Portugese Council of Ministers rationally admitted, "Economic development was the best foundation for maintaining the defense effort necessary for the nation's survival."
The Portugese have realized that they cannot maintain their colony on their own, and have enticed American capital and foreign exchange. They have been quite cunning in manipulating capitalist corporations and governments to mutually-beneficial deals. When, during the United Nations outcry that followed the slaughter in 1961, the United States voted for a resolution condemning Portugal, the Portugese threatened to withdraw American rights to the highly strategic Azores Islands. By the next year the United States had judiciously reversed its vote of censure, and was supplying the Portugese military with needed arms.
Moreover, the Portugese consolidated their pacification program for the colonies. In late 1961, they abolished the distinction between "civilized" and "non-civilized" Angolans, and announced some further reforms in their labor codes. Bolstered with American arms, capital investment and dollar exchange from multinational corporations, and American economic credits. Portugese colonialism entered the twentieth century, with its own strategic hamlets programs, and napalm, and defoliants.
THERE ARE thirty American corporations now operating in Angola. The largest enterprise is that of the Gulf Oil Corporation, whose Cabinda exploration-disrupted in 1961 by the popular uprising-has paid off very handsomely. In 1966, huge reserves of high quality oil were discovered, and by 1971, production had reached 150,000 barrels per day. Gulf had invested $150 million in exploration, construction and production outlays, and is now considering building a $100 million deep water port to service the oil fields.
The Board members of Gulf Oil are not stupid. They knew from the first that there would be public opposition to their economic links with the Portugese colonialists. They went ahead because, in the words of Cabinda Gulf manager Robert F. Ward, the Cabinda oil strike is "one of the major growth areas of the Corporation." The Cabinda fields are estimated to have reserves of at least 300 million tons, and they will gush at the rate of 150,000 barrels a day for forty years. And given the low labor costs if Portugese rule continues, that will add up to a lot of profit.
Gulf has rewarded Portugal quite dearly for the Cabinda concession. According to a "Working Copy" of the Cabinda Gulf contract of 1966, as amended in 1969 and 1971, which was submitted to a United Nations investigating committee, payments to Portugal totalled $11 million in 1969, rose to $16 million in 1970, and are projected by United Church of Christ officials to rise to between $33 million and $50 million this year.
These American dollars will help to pay a large portion of Portugal's critical expense in Angola, the military budget, which was $50 million in 1970. Gulf payments are made in several ways: there is a surface rent of $70 per square kilometer on the concession land; there is a barrel tax of ten cents a barrel on the extracted oil; there is a royalty of 12.5 per cent on all petroleum produced, which may be taken by Portugal either in foreign currency or in oil, both of which help to fuel the war machine; finally there is an income tax of 50 per cent on all net profits, which must be paid in advance. Bonuses of $350,000 are to be paid on all new or renewed contracts.
The most crucial provision of the contract-in terms of the ongoing suppression of the Angolese and the people of the other white-ruled enclaves of Southern Africa, is the clause specifying the right to purchase of Cabinda oil by Portugal. As the Angolan Governor General said, "In the mechanized wars of our times...petrol plays such a preponderant part that without reserves of this fuel it is not possible to give the Army sufficient means and elasticity of movement. The machine is the infrastructure of modern war, and machines cannot move without fuel. Hence the valuable support of Angolan oils for our armed forces."
The Cabinda Gulf contract specifies that in addition to its 12.5 per cent royalty in kind, the Portugese may purchase up to 37.5 per cent of the Gulf oil, and in event of war, all of it. Moreover, the Cabinda oil is especially crucial to the South African regime, which has almost no oil reserves of its own, and would depend on friendly Portugal and friendly Gulf in the event of an international embargo.
There is a final mysterious provision that may or may not lie in the contract. Portugese law requires that any company with earnings of more than $1.7 million must pay a special defense tax of 28 per cent. Gulf has denied making such payments before the U.N. committee. Yet it seems unlikely that Gulf would stand in violation of Portugese law. And the full text of the contract, and records of all of Gulf's payments, have not yet been made public. Thus the United Church of Christ's proxy campaign has demanded full disclosure of Gulf's Angola transactions. Gulf's consistent refusal to produce its financial records must be taken as a hint that such payments have likely occurred, further binding Gulf to the Portugese war effort.
IN THE FACE OF mounting public criticism of its role in Angola. Gulf has donned a public relations mask of corporate responsibility, B. R. Dorsey, Chief Executive Officer of Gulf, wrote in an article in Go Gulf, the company magazine. "We've seen too little of the world around us. As business managers, we must now tune in to society's needs, turn on our know-how to tackle those needs, drop into society to help solve them."
What Dorsey means is that Gulf is in need of a better advertising image. For in 1969, this responsible corporation spend four times as much on advertising as it paid in Federal income taxes. In their desire to make the company look good, Gulf's and men have gone so far as to say that not only is Gulf's role in Angola not detrimental to the African population; it is positively to their benefit!
Gulf's major argument for its involvement in Angola has been that it provides good jobs for Africans, thereby raising the standard of living. And yet Gulf's total non-white employment in the Cabinda fields is 33 per cent, according to figures submitted by Gulf to the United Nations. And since all native residents-black or white-are considered Portugese, Gulf's agreement to hire 85 per cent "nationals" by 1978 means very little. Gulf presently employs four times as many white Portugese as it does black Angolans.
Gulf's second claim, that faithful to the "white man's burden" it supports Angolan education, must be understood to mean that it has put aside a little money to help train an elite client class of blacks to do its work. Gulf told the United Nations that it gave $34,965 in 1970 to the Mining Development Fund to train black mining engineers and managers. In addition it donates ten scholarships a year for secondary school and university students.
The MPLA has described its struggle for national liberation in an editorial in its journal: "We are fighting for a right. The right is TO BE FREE. The right is TO PRESENT OURSELVES TO THE WORLD WITH OUR OWN POLITICAL AND SOCIAL PERSONALITY. The right is TO BE RESPECTED AS A PEOPLE who have for centuries contributed to the progress of mankind."
Against their struggle is arrayed all the horrible technology that the Vietnam War has yielded to the science of human slaughter. In an interview with The Standard, a Tanzanian newspaper, Iko Carreira, a member of the MPLA Executive Committee, described recent developments in Angola:
"Since 1968 the tactic has been massive bombing, followed by sending in commandos. They weren't able to stop the advance of our fighters that way either.
"Now they are using the last weapon they have-famine. The destruction of all crops with defoliants. They want to destroy life in the liberated areas through hunger.
"Today two-thirds of our crops in the liberated areas have been completely destroyed, and the destruction is continuing. The bush has lost most of its leaves.
"They are throwing chemicals into the rivers to kill the fish. From helicopters they are shooting wild game, which is the source of meat for our guerrillas...
"The enemy tries but they are not going to succeed. They may burn our crops, but we will grow more....
"What friendly organizations and individuals can do is to help break down the silence around our struggle so we can get the aid we need so much to destroy this colonial monster."
The silence surrounding the struggle of black Angolans against centuries of slavery and colonial rule has been broken at Harvard by the Pan-African Liberation Committee. We have all been made to understand that the phalanx of Portugese military and American economic power arrayed against the Angolan people stretches to Harvard, which owns a substantial holding of Gulf Oil stock. Like the Angolans in 1961, we at Harvard must make a beginning.