The PALC Teach-in:
On March 16, the Pan African Liberation Committee (PALC) sponsored a teach-in on the relationship of Gulf Oil Corporation to the national liberation struggle in Angola. Robert Van Lierop, a black American filmaker who had recently returned from Mozambique, another Portuguese colony, showed slides depicting life inside the liberated areas of that country. Then Van Lierop and Abel Guimares, a member of the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) who is touring the United States, answered questions from the audience.
They spoke on a number of the broader issues that have been raised by the PALC's campaign to force Harvard to divest itself of Gulf Oil stock. Because the teach-in was sparsely attended, we are printing the following edited transcript of the question and answer session.
Question: Have there been acts of sabotage by the revolutionary army against Gulf's equipment in Angola? Abel Guimares: Oh yes! Cabinda is one of our main objectives. One of the things we tried to do was destroy the operations of Gulf. But Gulf has supported the Portuguese troops and mobilized a local militia.
Robert Van Lierop: Part of the agreement that Gulf has with Portugal is that Gulf will provide so much money per year to the Portuguese military effort and the Portugal shall keep Gulf's operation safe from interference by third parties. Another part of that agreement requires Gulf to maintain its own private army. Where do you think these people come from? They are former Katangese mercenaries and gendarmes from the Congo.
Question: Could you describe the relationship between Portugal and South Africa, and describe their joint plans to build the Cabora Bassa Dam in Mozambique?
Van Lierop: Cabera Bassa. Remember those two words. Cabora Bassa is a proposed hydroelectric dam that the Portuguese are going to build in Teti province along the Zambezi River.
Why are the Portuguese doing this. Number one, they want to internationalize their struggle because they are on the ropes, and the only way they can do this is to involve the Western countries deeper and deeper and deeper.
Before these revolutions, Portugal used to be very jealous about foreign investment. They wouldn't let foreigners invest in Angola. Mozambique or Guinea Bisseau. They were particularly afraid of South Africans taking over. But as these revolutions have progressed, the Portuguese have discovered that they need help; that they can't do it alone. So now you have West German, French, British, American, and South African capital involved in building the Cabora Bassa dam. They have conceived Cabora Bassa as the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa, larger than the Aswan high dam in Egypt. And they plan to settle one million Europeans along the site of this dam. The European presence will not only create a second line of defense, but also create an emotional involvement to protect the million Europeans from the African nationalists. The dam itself will provide hydroelectric power not only to the Portuguese but also the Rhodesians and the South Africans. And they have told Zambia and Tanzania. "If you stop acting so African, we'll let you have some of this power too." Frelimo, the liberation movement in Mozambique, vowed that this dam will never by built. And as soon as the Portuguese began construction. Frelimo went into action, politically and militarily.
Politically, they organized a series of demonstrations, actions such as the one that is happening now on this campus, in Sweden. There is a Swedish company called ASEA which has a patent for a specialized process of stringing AC wires long distances from the dam site into the heart of South Africa. The Swedish government was forced to make this company withdraw on the pretext that this company couldn't be sure that Rhodesia wouldn't do some of the work, which would break Sweden's economic embargo against Rhodesia, and thus be a violation of Swedish law. But the real reason was that they looked out the window, and saw all those Swedish people out in the streets.
Then a British company, operating under a licensing agreement with ASEA said. "Don't worry about it, Portugal. We'll take the Swedish company's place." Frelimo contacted support groups in England. They organized the same sort of activity in England that had taken place in Sweden. And the English had to withdraw before they ever got in.
Then Frelimo, through the offices of Kenneth Kaunda. President of Zambia, told Italy that if the Italian government guaranteed export credits for Italian firms participating in Cobora Bassa, all Italian property in Zambia would be expropriated and nationalized. The Italians backed down. The Portuguese and South Africans flew off to Bonn and Paris, where they got increased backing. Political activity in Germany and France has not yet reached the level that it did in Sweden and Britain. So those companies are still involved.
Militarily, the Portuguese and South Africans vowed that no Africans would be allowed to cross the Zambezi River. Yet last year, while I was inside Mozambique. I monitored a South African radio report which admitted that Frelimo had crossed the River in force and that the Portuguese could not get them out. While we were there, President Banda of Malawi, one of the great traitors to the African people, was scheduled to visit the Cabora Bassa construction site. Comes the day when Banda is supposed to land at Cabora Bassa, Radio South Africa was shocked to admit that his helicopter could not land because "terrorist" activity had created a security problem. The following day he was supposed to have lunch at so-forth-and-so-on Officers Club, and they had to admit that he was forced to dine on a boat because the "terrorists" had created a security problem on the land and they couldn't guarantee his safety.
Plus, last year in an ambush, Frelimo killed two South African engineers and captured a vehicle containing maps, charts, diagrams and equipment to be used on Cabora Bassa. The South Africans were furious. The South African engineering company withdrew its engineers and said "The Portuguese are incapable of protecting us." They requested and received more South African troops at Cabora Bassa to supplement the Portuguese garrison. And right now, today, Frelimo is within twenty miles of the construction site, and soon they will be able to begin shelling the dam. And then the Portuguese will send in more troops, and the situation will get very tough. But Frelimo is committed to the fact that that dam will never, ever be built.
There is another one that they are trying to build in Angola, called the Kunene River Scheme. This is not one big dam, like Cabora Bassa, but a series of eighteen small dams. Here they plan to settle a half-million European settlers as a second line of defense. And here they hope to set up a buffer zone. They've learned a little from Cabora Bassa. This time, in Angola, they are depending primarily on Portuguese and South African capital.
Question: What is the significance of the Harvard campaign around Gulf's involvement in Angola in terms of building a national movement that can force Gulf out?
Van Lierop: I think it's very important to try to understand what the system tries to do to us. They try to take each one of us and put us in a small narrow box with four walls surrounding, and say that our political interest must be limited to events inside our boxes. They are very happy if our political consciousness is limited to affairs in our own country, and they're happier if all you care about is your own state. And they are even happier if your political consciousness is limited to your city. And they reach nirvana when all you care about is yourself.
Our objective has to be to kick down the walls of that small box and expand our political consciousness to recognize that a corporation like Gulf is doing business in Angola because it doesn't recognize national boundaries. What has happened in the twentieth century as the corporations grew and matured and capitalism reached new and higher levels of development is that the nation state became an artificial concept, and international corporations developed that had budgets and expenditures and profits and losses that were greater than the GNP's of most of the countries of the world. Gulf is one of those companies.
What Gulf will try to do is tell you and me that we shouldn't care what Gulf does in Angola. And yet, if we stop to think about it. Oakland, California is 3000 miles away, and Angola is only 4000 miles away. What difference should that extra 1000 miles make. The very minute that those slave ships left Africa and sailed to the Western hemisphere, oppression of our people became international in scope.
The system has succeeded to a certain extent in telling some black people that what we have to do is concentrate on what's happening in our own back yard. A big proponent of this approach is Jesse Jackson, and some of the other so-called "national" leaders. They are trying to subvert the work done by people like Malcolm X, who raised our consciousness, who expanded our political interest, and who for the first time raised the struggle of black people in this country to an international struggle. And people outside began to look at us in a different light. They began to look at us not as a people who helped subjugate the Indians, not as people making a narrow self-serving demand to be included in this system and to participate as equals in the exploitation of resources of the Third World. They began to look at us as Third World people ourselves, engaged in a struggle not just for nationhood, but against American imperialism.
It's very important for the comrades in Angola, the comrades in the bush in Mozambique, the comrades in Guinea Bissau to know that they are not alone. That they have some allies in other places. And our goal and objective is not to participate in this system, but to participate in the world-wide revolutionary movement. The future of the world is going to be decided in Third World revolutionary struggles.
Because one of the things that American corporations have been doing is exporting class contradictions. Inside this country class contradictions are exported to the Black, Puerto Rican, and Chicano communities. White workers are exploited, but they don't know it. We are lucky in a way, because of our race. We are exploited to an even higher degree. We are exploited both as a race and as a class. We have a primary contradiction with the ruling class, and a secondary contradiction with the white working class. That secondary contradiction exists because they are too ignorant to understand the nature of their oppression.
On a grander scale, they export class contradictions from this country to the Third World. Every person in this country participates indirectly in the exploitation of people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. We have an inflated standard of living as a result of that exploitation. What the Third World revolutionary groups are doing is sending those class contradictions back, because when those Third World countries are free, the standard of living in this country is going to drop. Be prepared for that: understand the consequences of what we are about.
And when the standard of living falls in this country, then those class contradictions are going to rebound, like a boomerang. They are going to hit America right back in the face. What our job as black people has got to be is likewise exporting the contradictions in the black community right back to the white. Imagine when they don't have niggers in this country any more. And the white workers become the niggers of the ruling class, and those white workers realize that there is no longer another class for them to look down upon. Then the class struggle in this country heightens.
In effect, American imperialism will be strangled as the arms and legs that currently feed it are cut off. Then Imperialism can't eat any more. He can't eat the blood and the flesh of people of Third World. He can't eat the blood and the flesh of Black people. Indians, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans in this country.
What you're doing here at Harvard is in a very real and pragmatic way bringing these class contradictions right back to America. You are saying to our comrades in Angola. "We are part of the same struggle." We're saying that what Gulf Oil does in Angola is only an extension of what they have done in this country. And so as part of our struggle we've got to broaden our scope, and attack at every single level that we can. That means demonstrations; it even means letters to Congressmen. In every way, raise the price of what they do in the Third World.
Attack...Attack...Attack. Until they can't stand it any more. We've just got to persevere and hang in there.
And what you're doing here is a part of the educational process that is necessary to inform people. It's a part of political consciousness raising, because you'll politicize people.
And what you're doing here is a part of the confrontation process, because Harvard is one of the outstanding representatives of the liberal establishment. They have a very nice, clean-cut liberal veneer. The President of Harvard never called anyone a nigger. But the same Harvard President would participate in the exploitation of the resources of the people of Angola, which is just as bad as a racial epithet. And you have got to make that clear.
Question: What is your response to Gulf's argument that social welfare expenditures in Angola have gone up concommitantly with the increase in oil revenues. And also, what success have you had in organizing black workers at Gulf.
Van Lierop: The first part, about social benefits increasing: that is a direct response to MPLA military and political success in Angola, not a function of Gulf revenues. Ever since the revolution started, the Portuguese have tried to offer the people plums. But the people have said. "It's too late. You've had your chance. From now on, we don't care how many schools you build. The object is how many schools we build, because it's our country. It's our oil. It's our resources."
About the second question--organizing black workers--Gulf doesn't have very many black workers. Recently Gulf bid for the franchise on municipal oil in Dayton. Ohio. They were refused on the grounds that they were discovered to be an unequal employer. In addition, the City Council took note of Gulf's activities in Angola.
Guimares: All of these questions of social welfare under Gulf are irrelevant to the Angolan people. They don't want more schools, or whatever, that Gulf says it will provide. They want their own country.
Van Lierop: One more thing. As long as Portugal is in control, if Gulf goes out, then another oil company will come in But that doesn't mean we don't struggle against Gulf. If Gulf goes out and Esso goes in, we struggle against Esso. If Esso goes out and Shell goes in, we struggle against Shell. Our goal is to get them all out. Gulf is there right now, so that's what we're concentrating on. Harvard is a large Gulf shareholder, and that's why we're concentrating on, Harvard is a large Gulf shareholder, and that's why we're concentrating on Harvard. We don't buy for one minute the argument that since there are others that will go in so why should we come out. It's the same as a theif saying "If I don't rob you, someone else will." That's the same line of argument that Harvard is using about how it ought to remain in Gulf as a "responsible shareholder."
Voice from audience: That's know as the real bastard theory. If I don't do it then a real bastard will.
Van Lierop: Harvard has got to learn that it's not dealing with just 600 black students. It's dealing with thirty million black people in this country. It's dealing with a lot of progressive whites in this country, who are watching Harvard. Every day...strip away that liberal veneer, and expose it as what it is. It's up to Harvard now to respond. If it doesn't respond, we're not about to give up. We're going to keep coming back.
Guimares: I will be going back home soon. I will let the Angolan people know that there are people here who are concerned about their situation. You actions in favor of the struggle against Gulf here at Harvard will certainly please the people of my country