Second Party Congress

Second Party Congress

The Second Party Congress of the MPLA-PT, held in December 1985, focused on two main themes: greater economic efficiency and improved defense capabilities. The party had little to celebrate in view of the deplorable conditions that then prevailed. Politically, the party lacked sufficiently educated cadres, and economically, the government was forced to import 80 percent of its food and had become dependent on Western oil companies to keep the economy afloat. The large number of party members attending the congress who were also military officers (about a quarter of all party delegates) exemplified the MPLA-PT's emphasis on the defense sector. The Central Committee report to the congress projected that more than one-third of the government budget would go to defense and security over the next five years.

During the congress, party officials expressed their dissatisfaction with economic policies patterned on Soviet models that had failed to revive Angola's agricultural sector. In fact, the most significant results of the congress were a purge of Soviet hardliners and an influx of well-trained nationalists with more pragmatic viewpoints. Within the party's senior ranks, many leading ideologues were demoted, as were a number of mestiços; they were replaced with younger black technocrats and the president's closest supporters.

An unexpected change involved one of the most prominent members of the pro-Soviet group, Lúcio Lára, who had been considered the second most powerful figure in the MPLA-PT. Lára lost his position in the Political Bureau and ended up with the largely honorary position of first secretary of the People's Assembly. Overall, the most notable outcomes of the congress were the enhanced prestige and authority of dos Santos and a more professional and loyalist party leadership, in which the armed forces were heavily represented.

By the late 1980s, Angola had far to go in its quest to become a viable, sovereign state. More than 50,000 Cuban troops remained in the country to provide security; UNITA and the SADF launched attacks with impunity; the oil sector--and hence the treasury-- suffered grievously from the worldwide slump in petroleum prices; and hundreds of thousands of Angolans, in the countryside as well as in the increasingly crowded cities, were malnourished. Yet, in late 1988 there were a few reasons for optimism. United Statessponsored negotiations were finally successful, opening the door for a settlement of the Namibia dispute, the withdrawal of Cuban forces from Angola, and an accord betyween the MPLA-PT and UNITA-- in short, the conditions necessary for Angola to resume the process of nationbuilding and to prepare a better future for its people.

Sources emphasizing the early history of the Africans in Angola are Jan Vansina's Kingdoms of the Savanna, Douglas L. Wheeler and René Pélissier's Angola, and Joseph C. Miller's Kings and Kinsmen. The best accounts of Portuguese expansion in Angola are Gerald J. Bender's Angola under the Portuguese and Lawrence W. Henderson's Angola: Five Centuries of Conflict, both of which deal extensively with the brutality of Portuguese colonial policies and institutions. Other useful works are Malyn Newitt's Portugal in Africa, C.R. Boxer's Race Relations in the Portuguese Colonial Empire, 1415-1825, and John Sykes's Portugal and Africa.

By far the most complete and valuable account of the Angolan nationalist struggle is John A. Marcum's The Angolan Revolution. This work is divided into two volumes: The Anatomy of an Explosion, 1950-1962 and Exile Politics and Guerrilla Warfare, 1962-1976. Keith Somerville's Angola: Politics, Economics, and Society is an exhaustive and wellwritten account of the MPLA's institutions and policies.

A wealth of material exists on Angola's security problems and the escalation of Soviet and Cuban military support. Some of the best sources are Tony Hodges's Angola to the 1990s, a special report published by the Economist Intelligence Unit; John A. Marcum's paper prepared for the United States Information Agency titled "Radical Vision Frustrated: Angola and Cuba"; Gerald J. Bender's article in Current History titled "The Continuing Crisis in Angola"; two chapters by John A. Marcum titled "UNITA: The Politics of Survival" and "A Quarter Century of War" in Angola, Mozambique, and the West, edited by Helen Kitchen; two articles by Gillian Gunn titled "The Angolan Economy" and "Cuba and Angola," also in Helen Kitchen's edited volume; and Arthur Jay Klinghoffer's The Angolan War.

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