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The political economy of agrarian transition in Mozambique

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The political economy of agrarian transition in
Mozambique
Alfredo Saad Filho
To cite this article: Alfredo Saad Filho (1997) The political economy of agrarian
transition in Mozambique, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 15:2, 191-218, DOI:
10.1080/02589009708729611
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Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 15,2, 1997
The Political Economy
of
Agrarian
Transition
in
Mozambique
Alfredo Saad Filho1
Introduction
This paper evaluates
the
attempted collectivization
of
agriculture
in
Mozambique,
and
the
process
of
agrarian transition associated with
it. The
careful analysis
of
this experience
is
important, first, because
it
sheds light
on the
relationship
between
an
important Third World revolutionary movement
and the
peasantry.
Second, because
it
illuminates
the
ways
in
which
the
movement's ideology influ-
enced
its
agricultural policies,
and
their effect
on
Mozambique's slide into civil
war. Third, because
it
contributes
to our
understanding
of the
current political
landscape
in
Mozambique.
Much
has
been written
on
this issue over
the
past
few
years. Broadly speaking,
two views deserve attention.2 Writers closer
to
Frelimo (Frente
de
Libertagdo
de
Mozambique, Mozambique Liberation Front) have generally attributed
the
civil
war
(and,
consequently, agricultural collapse)
to
external causes, especially
ag-
gression
by the
South African apartheid regime
and the
United States
(see, for
example, Hanlon
1984;
Minter
1994 and
Saul
1985,
1993).
In
contrast, progres-
sive writers critical
of
Frelimo emphasize
its own
political weaknesses
as the
main cause
of the
failure
of its
agricultural policies
(and,
therefore,
of the
trans-
formation
of
foreign-sponsored sabotage into civil
war; see, for
example, Cahen
1987,
1993;
Chingono
1994 and
Geffray
1990; see
also Clarence-Smith 1988).
These perspectives reflect alternative answers
to the
question
of
whether
or not
Renamo (Resistencia Nacional Mogambicana, Mozambican National Resistance)
was primarily
a
Mozambican, rather than foreign, phenomenon.
In what follows
it is
argued that, whilst
it is
impossible completely
to
untangle
'internal' from 'external' causes
of the
agricultural crisis
and war, two
things
are
clear. First, that Renamo would
not
have existed
or
survived without external
support. Second
(and
more importantly) Renamo would
not
have thrived without
extensive internal support from
the
Mozambican peasantry, especially
in the
centre
of the
country. Even though similar claims have been made
in the
past
by
some
of the
writers above,
I
reach these conclusions through
a
novel approach.
The analysis below builds upon
two
principal claims. First, that Frelimo
has
always been essentially
a
nationalist (rather than Marxist) organization. Second,
that
in so far as
Frelimo went through
a
'Marxist' phase,
its
understanding
of
0258-9001/97/020191-28
© 1997 Journal
of
Contemporary African Studies
192 Journal of Contemporary African Studies
Marx was marred by a strongly modernist flavour, which is ultimately incompat-
ible with the movement's libertarian aspirations. Frelimo's brand of Marxism
(which I call modernist Marxism) emphasizes the need to strengthen the working
class numerically as the means to legitimize the party's claim to hold political
power, accelerate the development process through industrialization, and build
the nation. This reading of Marx led to policy choices that eventually put Frelimo
on a collision course with the peasantry. A careful analysis of this conflict can add
much to our understanding of the onset of civil war in Mozambique.
This paper has six sections. Following this introduction, the paper dissects Fre-
limo's modernist Marxism, and shows why it may have appealed to the new
Mozambican elite. It then discusses the collectivization of agriculture, and re-
views the peasant resistance against the various aspects of collectivization. The
fourth section shows that the clash between modernist Marxism and peasant
interests and identity can go a long way towards explaining the transformation of
Renamo from a minor terrorist group into an army and, eventually, a large
political party. Section Five analyses what has become of Frelimo after it aban-
doned its project of socialist transition. In spite of the appearances, not much has
changed in this organization; Frelimo remains the party of the Mozambican elite,
deeply committed to nation-building, but it currently pursues this objective from
another political perspective. Section Six concludes the paper.
This paper is limited in one important way: it does not survey the agrarian
transition in different regions of Mozambique, nor does it present a detailed
chronology of events. Whilst undeniably important, these tasks are beyond the
possibilities of this article. In what follows, the broad features of the processes at
stake are summarized, on the basis of previous studies and documentary evidence,
with a view to their historical importance rather than their (changing) local
significance. This caveat is important, because (as will be pointed out below)
there were significant differences in the way in which peasants in distinct areas of
the country reacted to Frelimo's agricultural strategy; at the same time, these
policies themselves were applied unevenly, and changed in response to events.
However, none of this detracts from the conclusion that conflicts between the
Mozambican peasantry and Frelimo's modernist Marxism were the primary
cause of the civil war.
Finally, one word about Frelimo. Even though this paper is at times heavily
critical of Frelimo's policies, the legitimacy of its struggle for independence is
not questionable, and I broadly agree with its objectives during the first years in
power. Hence, my criticism should not be misconstrued as being entirely nega-
tive;
it is, rather, part of a broader study of the conditions for a successful agrarian
transition in the Third World, in the light of a failed experience.
Mozambique: Pol. Economy of Agrarian Transition 193
Modernist Marxism and the Frelimo State3
Frelimo was founded in Tanzania, in 1962,4 as an anti-colonial front similar to
many others in the Third World. Like them, Frelimo was heavily influenced by
small groups of exiled intellectuals. In its first years the organization lacked a
clear ideological orientation beyond a progressive nationalism; however, it soon
shifted towards the left, largely because of Portuguese intransigence.5 Support for
Frelimo was never evenly distributed in the country. It first achieved significant
penetration amongst northern Makonde groups, which have always been among
its main supporters. However, there has been a disproportionate presence of
relatively educated Southern Creoles and assimilados (especially Shangaan) in
Frelimo's leadership, and they have led the organization to this day.
Frelimo's leadership drift towards Marxism was all but complete when it seized
power in 1975. However, Frelimo's transformation into a conventional modernist
Marxist (or Marxist-Leninist) party was proclaimed only in its Third Congress, in
1977.
In what follows, I explain what is modernist Marxism, why it appealed to
the Frelimo leadership, and why it became the movement's ideology.
Modernist Marxism: An introduction
Frelimo's perception of the economic and social problems in Mozambique, and
its policies for socialist transition, were informed by modernist Marxism. This
reading of Marx has guided most traditional Marxist-Leninist parties, and shaped
the economic and political transformation in most former socialist countries. In
broad brushes, modernist Marxism is characterized by:
(i) The view that the development of the productive forces is the main agency of
history, and that it ultimately determines the relations of production. Modernist
Marxism heavily emphasizes Marx's dictum that the historical role of capitalism
is to develop the productive forces to the highest possible extent.6 When the
productive forces reach a sufficiently high level of development they become
antagonistic to the capitalist relations of production; at this stage a socialist
revolution becomes possible. The scope for human agency is heavily restricted,
and it can be argued that people's intervention can only speed up or delay the
inevitable outcome. If, as in Mozambique and the USSR, the relations of produc-
tion changed before the productive forces were sufficiently developed, the neces-
sary correspondence between them should be restored through the accelerated
development of the productive forces.
(ii) The optimistic view of the benefits of the 'modernization' of 'backward'
societies ('modern' and 'backward' being measured by the degree of develop-
ment of the productive forces). In its more extreme form, this view has led some
writers to emphasize the benefits of colonization and imperialism for the less
developed countries, because they are conducive to the development of the pro-
ductive forces there (see, for example, Warren 1980). Less extreme writers have
defended the alliance between the workers and the industrial bourgeoisie in the
194 Journal of Contemporary African Studies
Third World against the domination by imperialist powers and their domestic
allies,
which is perceived to promote dependence and retard national develop-
ment.
(iii) The neglect of the internal dynamics of the societies being analysed, and the
universal imposition of the modernist model. This implicitly rejects the 'late'
Marx's view that societies may reach communism through distinct paths, which
depend on the specific conditions in which class struggles take place (Kiely
1995:ch.2; Lim 1992).
For modernist Marxists the proletariat (essentially male, blue-collar industrial
workers) is the only class with both the commitment and the capacity to carry out
the socialist programme in full. Therefore, the numerical expansion and political
leadership of this social group are essential. In other words, the speed and
smoothness of the transition to communism depend upon the existence of a large
working class and its close links with the revolutionary party.
The detailed critique of this reading of Marx is beyond the scope of this paper
(see,
however, Kiely 1995). However, it clearly implies two things. First, that
Soviet-style socialism, the mode of existence of modernist Marxism, was largely
a programme for the rapid social and economic modernization of 'backward'
societies, with a view to surpassing their capitalist rivals. This was attractive to
Third World revolutionaries for many reasons, most notably because the socialist
countries seemed to show that alternative models of development were viable,
and could deliver accelerated growth with relative equality and substantial im-
provement in living standards.
Second, modernist Marxism implies that the legitimacy of socialism derives to a
large extent from the fact that it can develop the productive forces more quickly
and efficiently than capitalism. The emancipatory features of socialism are there-
fore neglected, and experience has shown that in the former socialist countries
(including Mozambique) this ideology can be used to justify major restrictions of
political freedom.
The demotion of the emancipatory aspects of socialism is a necessary aspect of
modernist Marxism, because accelerated social change based on industrial devel-
opment is costly and requires substantial transfers from other sectors, especially
agriculture. Hence, modernist Marxist policies require sacrifices from the bulk of
the population. The need to transfer resources from agriculture to industry was
one of the reasons why the peasants could often expect only 'moral' rewards to
their efforts (since consumer goods were chronically lacking), and why the fulfil-
ment of 'the plan' tended to be compulsory rather than indicative. This was
clearly a recipe for tension between the state and the peasants in Mozambique (as
we will see below).
Mozambique: Pol. Economy of Agrarian Transition 195
The Appeal of Modernist Marxism
Two factors led to Frelimo's espousal of modernist Marxism. First, as seen above,
in the 1960s many radical circles in the Third World (especially in Africa and
Latin America) considered colonialism, foreign exploitation and imperialism to
be intrinsic features of capitalism. In the case of Mozambique, this view was
reinforced by the support given by NATO countries to Portuguese colonialism
and, later, to its military campaign against Frelimo. For these radicals, true inde-
pendence required more than political decolonization. A decisive break with
capitalism, and the political and economic defeat of its internal agents, were also
necessary.
Second, and more specifically, strong internal forces led a substantial section of
the Mozambican elite to embrace modernist Marxism. We will now review this
phenomenon. It is well-known that one of the main features of Portuguese rule in
Africa was its sheer brutality. Portuguese heavy-handedness can at least partly be
explained by the economic weakness of the metropolis, which forced the colonial
authorities to rely very heavily on political and administrative measures to
subordinate the African population and protect the settler community. In contrast,
the greater economic power of Britain and France allowed them to rely to a much
larger extent on 'market' mechanisms to achieve what Portugal could obtain only
by brute force. This helps explain why forced labour and the forced cultivation of
cash crops survived in Mozambique until the middle of this century, while else-
where they had been eliminated much earlier {Departamento de Historia 1983,
1993).
The weakness of Portuguese capital limited the amount of productive investment
in Mozambique. Partly for this reason, some of the most important spheres of
wealth creation were in foreign hands, especially British and South African. In
contrast, the Portuguese exploited the colony mainly through crude forms of
'unequal exchange,' especially the low prices paid for Mozambican cotton,
cashew and other export products. They also profited from the remittances of
migrant workers in South Africa, and provided transport and other services for
neighbouring countries.
The group which had most chances of evolving into a domestic bourgeoisie, and
eventually challenging Portuguese hegemony 'from within,' were the Creoles.
They descended from old slaving families in the centre and north of Mozam-
bique; many had property, and others were established traders. They were also
influential in the colonial administration until the middle of the 19th century.
However, their political and economic advancement was blocked when Portugal
adopted more aggressive colonial policies in the wake of the Berlin Conference of
1885.
The coup de grace against the old Creole elites was the transfer of the
capital from the (northern) Island of Mozambique to (southern) Maputo early in
the 20th century.
196 Journal of Contemporary African Studies
In the new capital there was relatively little Creole penetration, and the Portuguese
monopolized the economic and administrative affairs of the city to an
extraordinary degree. At the same time, Portugal adopted a more aggres-
sive policy of settler colonization, which required that virtually all stable sources
of income were owned by the Portuguese. This included not only bureaucratic
positions in the colonial administration, down to their lowliest levels, but also
domestic transport and trade. As a result, Creole power and influence slowly
declined, while the African population found it virtually impossible to accumulate
capital or rise socially.7
Gradually, however, a new Mozambican elite started to evolve in the south, which
eventually became the most important social group to adopt modernist Marxism.
Because of Portuguese restrictions, this new elite did not have access to large-
scale production and trade, and its reproduction was closely linked with the
fortunes of the colonial state. It held a few minor administrative positions, and
was involved in petty trade and the provision of services to the colonists, the state
and its employees.
Even though this elite was merely embryonic until the last years of colonial rule
(the well-known anecdotes about the tiny number of lawyers, doctors and agrono-
mists left in Mozambique after independence illustrate this point), its economic
mode of reproduction was distinctive, and set it apart from the most important
ethnic groups in Mozambique. Because of its social position, this group was
obviously very sensitive to some aspects of colonial repression, especially racism
and the use of administrative mechanisms to block meritorious social ascension.8
Modernist Marxism could potentially articulate the world view and interests of a
large part of this group for four reasons.9 First, it explained the forms of oppres-
sion experienced by the new elite, offered a consistent discourse against colonial
and capitalist exploitation, and provided a viable strategy for the conquest of state
power. In the words of Eduardo Mondlane (1969:x):
[T]here is a qualitative transformation in thinking ... which permits me
to conclude that at present Frelimo is much more socialist, revolutionary
and progressive than ever ... the tendency is now more and more in the
direction of socialism of the Marxist-Leninist variety. Why? Because the
conditions of life in Mozambique, the type of enemy which we have, does
not give us any other alternative (see also Machel 1984).
Second, modernist Marxism could help articulate a national project through a
unifying vision of a nation without ethnic divisions and where traditional lineage
relations had no role to play. This was eminently sensible for a group that lived
(or aspired to live) out of the reproduction of the colonial state in the national
space as a whole (in contrast, the old Mozambican elite was, and remains, rela-
tively more responsive to regional or ethnic-based political projects). This is an
enduring feature of Frelimo, as can be seen from the two quotations below (which
are separated by 13 years of intense economic and political change):
Mozambique: Pol. Economy of Agrarian Transition 197
[T]he enemies of the Mozambican nation use tribalism, regionalism and
racism as weapons in their attempts to destroy the national unity. They
analyse appointments according to ethnic or tribal criteria. They evaluate
economic development plans from a regional approach ... The enemy
does this to create divisions between the party and the people, and
between the leadership and the rank and file (Frelimo 1983:78).
Frelimo reiterates that National Unity is the main goal of its activity and
a priority instrument in building the nation, fighting against all expres-
sions of regionalism, racism and tribalism (MNA 1996, emphasis added).
Third, as seen above, modernist Marxism was conducive to an energetic state-led
developmentalism, that would transform the social structure of the country and
'modernize' the nation. The power of the technocratic elite would consequently
increase dramatically. Hence, after independence Frelimo decided:
to promote the socialization of agriculture and launch the bases of its industri-
alization;
to accelerate the process of industrialization and promote the expansion of
heavy industry;
to develop and consolidate the leading role of the state in the economy;
to direct the development process through global economic planning;
to build a strong working class that, organized and led by its vanguard party,
will lead society (Republica Popular de Mogambique n.d.:3).
Fourth, modernist Marxism included a bureaucratic vision of democratic central-
ism as the mode of organization of the party and of society as a whole, and a
political discourse that legitimized the (single) party as the vehicle for the con-
struction of the nation. This virtually guaranteed that the group in control of the
party would also control the nation:
In order to transform ourselves and transform the people who come to us
every day, we must be organized... To be organized means first of all to
have structures. The structures are the organized presence of Frelimo in
our midst. They show us our tasks, how they are combined with all other
tasks,
and how we are thereby integrated in Frelimo's body. Without the
structures, in other words without our integration in Frelimo, we will be
isolated, like limbs without a body (Machel 1984:48).
We have already seen that the marriage of nationalism and developmentalism
through modernist Marxism is intrinsically authoritarian, irrespective of the po-
tential abuses to which it might lead in practice (and for which the dividing line
between legitimate and illegitimate often remains flexible other than in retro-
spect).
It justifies the indefinite perpetuation of the party in power, the repression
of real or imagined enemy groups (which may be built upon political, ethnic, or
198 Journal of Contemporary African Studies
regional identities), and is conducive to a modernizing discourse which, in
practice, de-legitimizes the interests and the way of life of the majority of the
population in the name of building a modern nation (see below).
This helps us identify an important thread running through Frelimo's discourse
and policies. Frelimo's analysis of Mozambican society has always highlighted
the role of colonial oppression in shaping the country as a whole. This has been
used to substantiate its claim that ethnic differences were unimportant (and,
contradictorily, that only 'enemies of the nation' played the ethnic card).11 Fre-
limo's heavy emphasis upon the construction of the nation (in contrast with its
changing domestic and foreign policies) substantiate my claim that Frelimo has
always been essentially a nationalist, rather than Marxist organization.
As a truly nationalist party, once in power Frelimo adopted Portuguese as the only
national language, and it has done more to diffuse it in 20-odd years than the
colonists in four centuries. Frelimo also created a national administrative system,
and centralized political power heavily. Local power structures based on ethnicity
and lineages were devalued and heavily repressed, and before the civil war
Frelimo never willingly accepted any form of social organization that it did not
control. This helps us understand why, even at the height of the purported 'social-
ist transition', Frelimo did not deliberately nationalize the commanding heights of
the economy (essentially, this was not necessary for its nation-building project;
see Cahen 1987:27-31, 134; Mengisteab 1995:117; Wuyts 1989). Finally, this
approach can help explain why many of Frelimo's policies were virtually identi-
cal with the Portuguese (for example, the concentration of the peasants in com-
munal villages, the mechanization of agriculture, and the uncritical
implementation of colonial agricultural, hydroelectric and transportation projects;
see Casal 1991 and Hermele 1988). In order to discuss some of these issues in
detail, we now turn to Frelimo's agricultural policies.
The Collectivization of Agriculture
Portuguese colonialism in Mozambique was brought to an end by Frelimo's
10-year guerrilla war, and by the triumph of the 1974 Revolution in Portugal.
However, as far as most settlers were concerned, an independent Mozambique
governed by Frelimo was simply not an option. By 1976, 90 per cent of them had
left Mozambique; most went to South Africa or back to Portugal. Their sudden
departure led to a major economic crisis because most machines, foreign.ex-
change and know-how in the country were either taken abroad or deliberately
destroyed (Adam 1991; Bowen 1990; Egero 1992:ch.4; Hermele 1987 and Wuyts
1989).
As a result, between 1973 and 1975 output declined by 38 per cent in
industry and 13 per cent in agriculture, and GNP fell by 21 per cent (Moura and
Amaral 1977:10; Wuyts 1978:29).
The incoming Frelimo government tackled this crisis mainly through large-scale
intervention in the economy (Wuyts 1989). In urban areas this was relatively
,
Mozambique: Pol. Economy of Agrarian Transition 199
straightforward, for it essentially involved replacing the absent managers with the
available cadres and carrying on as usual as far as possible. In practice, however,
this was both complex and costly, because of the lack of personnel qualified for
administrative tasks and the chaotic state of many firms (for an interesting case
study, see Sketchley 1985). In spite of the appearances, this policy had no social-
ist implications; firstly, because its primary purpose was simply to maintain the
level of activity. Secondly, because in most firms the takeover by the state
(directly or through the Grupos Dinamizadores) did not lead to changes in the
shop floor hierarchy or in work practices. Thirdly, because the interventions
targeted the abandoned firms rather than (Mozambican or foreign) capital, so
large foreign-owned conglomerates were often spared and continued to operate
unhindered (Cahen 1993).
The situation was quite different in the countryside, and so were the proposed
solutions. Three factors made the crisis in agriculture more serious than in urban
areas (O'Laughlin 1981). First, the sources of paid employment for the rural
population dwindled rapidly as most farms and plantations were abandoned, and
as South Africa halved its demand for Mozambican mine workers to 50 000 (First
1987).
Second, the trade and transport infrastructure (controlled by the Portu-
guese) collapsed, and it became very difficult for the peasants to sell their cash
crops and buy inputs and consumer goods. Third, Frelimo abolished the remain-
ing mechanisms of forced labour and forced cultivation of cash crops, which may
have contributed to the slump in marketable output.
Inspired by modernist Marxism and the Soviet experience, Frelimo eventually
decided that the best way to stave off the crisis in agriculture was to collectivize it
swiftly. Collective agriculture would have three main components. First, large
and heavily mechanized state farms, generally producing a single crop, which
would eventually produce most food for domestic consumption as well as export
crops.
Second, co-operatives would combine most peasant lands together and,
third, the peasants would live in newly built communal villages. All peasants
should join some form of collective production as members of a co-operative or
as employees of a state farm.
In contrast with the urban nationalizations, the collectivization of agriculture was
not merely defensive; quite the contrary, it was a strategic choice of major
significance. Frelimo knew that the vast majority of the population lived in (and
off) the land, and that the productivity of labour in peasant agriculture was very
low. Its leadership believed that collective agriculture based upon large state
farms and co-operatives was advantageous, because large farms should be more
productive than small farms and peasant production. If this premise is accepted, it
follows that the best way to increase the agricultural surplus (to feed urban areas,
export, and sustain internal accumulation) was to collectivize the land and engage
in large-scale mechanized production.12 More broadly, as seen above, Frelimo
believed that the collectivization of agriculture and the development of heavy
industry were essential to redress the imbalance between the relations and forces
200 Journal of Contemporary African Studies
of production, and that the transformation of the peasantry into a rural proletariat
would legitimize its claim to hold political power.
Moreover, Frelimo's leadership believed that family agriculture was embedded in
a thick layer of 'reactionary' social relations, that derived from the synthesis of
traditional African values (relations of solidarity, kinship, the traditional symbol-
ism, and the clan and ethnic power structure) with the rigid social hierarchy
imposed by colonialism. As a result, the peasantry allegedly held an anti-scien-
tific and retrograde world view, and the reproduction of family agriculture was
antagonistic to socialism and the construction of the nation.13 This viewpoint is
clearly represented in some of Samora Machel's speeches, for example:
Peasant societies essentially are underdeveloped because they are fatalist.
Mozambican society, even in the urban sector, carries the dead weight of
the fatalist, resigned, passive legacy of the peasant society (Machel, in
Chingono 1994:76n39).
In rural areas life is particularly disorganized, there is no conception of
plan or punctuality, and life is deeply dominated by routine and by
outdated traditions that inhibit progress and paralyse initiative ... Men
[sic] live in permanent contradiction with a nature that they ignore and
fear (Machel 1984:46).
In sum, for Frelimo (as for modernist Marxism in general) the existence of a large
and dispersed peasantry created a problem for socialist transition.14 The best way
to dissolve the traditional peasantry, increase the size of the working class and
raise the level of the productive forces was swiftly to collectivize the countryside.
The main objective of the collectivization was to eliminate the peasants' control
of the means of production, especially land: the asset that gives them not only the
means of survival, but also a sense of identity. The peasants would be trans-
formed into wage workers or, at least, members of co-operatives working under
close state supervision. As a result, Frelimo hoped to strengthen its political
power, bring the forces into line with the relations of production, and raise the
productive capacity of the country. Once again, the emancipation of the majority
through their own initiative is nowhere to be found.15
Frelimo's collectivization strategy is clearly a mirror image of the primitive
capitalist accumulation described by Marx (1976: ch.27), and of the primitive
socialist accumulation advocated by Preobrazhensky following the Russian
Revolution (Harrison 1985; Preobrazhensky 1965; Saith 1985b). Like them, Fre-
limo's agrarian transition was based on the expropriation of peasant land to
eliminate their capacity for self-reproduction. It should complete the transforma-
tion of the peasantry into a social group tightly subordinated to others and strictly
dependent on paid employment for survival. These strategies may lead to the
development of the productive forces, but only at the cost of massive transfers of
Mozambique: Pol. Economy of Agrarian Transition 201
resources and people to industry, to the extent that the standard of living in the
countryside may fall in absolute terms.
The collectivization of agriculture in Mozambique led to disastrous results. The
state farms went bust, even though 70 per cent of the total investment in 1975-84
was in agriculture, and 90 per cent went to the state farms (Castel-Branco
1994:54). Most co-operatives failed and were eventually dissolved, and the output
of the peasant sector fell because of the lack of support and active suppression by
the state. The collapse of agriculture was one of the most important causes of the
civil war; together, they led to starvation, huge population displacements, and
dependence on foreign aid. In the remainder of this section, I will show why and
how Frelimo's modernizing effort was challenged by the peasantry, to the extent
that its agricultural strategy became unworkable and eventually collapsed.16
State Farms
The state farms were generally created in land previously occupied by plantations
or abandoned by Portuguese settlers. Whilst understandable, because it spared the
cost of building much of the necessary infrastructure, this decision created serious
conflicts with the surrounding peasant communities. Many plantations and settler
farms occupied land expropriated from Mozambican peasants not long before,
and it was well known in the nearby communities which plot belonged to whom.
With independence, the peasants expected that 'their' land would be returned, but
this did not happen.17 For strategically important communities, which were ex-
pected to work in the state farms, Frelimo had expropriated them a second time
following the colonial precedent. This was hardly an auspicious start for the state
farms,
and it tainted the concept of collective agriculture in some of the most
productive areas of the country (for an extensive analysis of this problem in Gaza
province, see Hermele 1988).
When operational, most state farms ran into two kinds of problems. First, the
government's decision to maintain or increase their degree of mechanization, in
the context of a degraded trade and transport infrastructure and scarce foreign
currency, was clearly a mistake. The state farms were heavily dependent on
imported machinery, fuel, parts, chemical inputs, seeds, etc., and on other scarce
factors such as skilled workers, trained operators and administrative personnel. It
eventually proved impossible to have all the necessary inputs delivered on time
and in the quantities demanded by the technical characteristics of the state farms.
As a result, even though unit costs increased in proportion to the volume of
investment, mechanization did not lead to increasing yields per hectare. Conse-
quently most farms operated at a loss, in some cases so large that production costs
(exclusive of amortisation) were four times the value of output (Castel-Branco
1994:54; Newitt 1995:557; Raikes 1984:101-3). Bankruptcy was averted only by
the virtually automatic granting of credit to the state farms, which were not
allowed to fail because of their strategic importance.
202 Journal of Contemporary African Studies
Second, in spite of their mechanization the state farms continued to depend on the
supply of peasant labour in the peak seasons, especially the harvest. They also
needed a pool of employable workers ready to work at short notice, to compen-
sate for machines temporarily out of service for lack of fuel or parts. Unfortu-
nately, the demand for labour by the state farms (and, to a lesser extent, the
co-operatives) often conflicted with the needs of the peasant sector, that produced
crops with a similar pattern of labour demand. In colonial times this conflict was
solved by the employment of forced labour. After independence, in line with the
strategy of primitive socialist accumulation, the preferred route was the 'stabiliza-
tion' of the labour force, or the maximization of the proportion of permanent
workers in the workforce. This required that occasional workers were trans-
formed into permanent workers, or that a substantial section of the peasantry
became a rural proletariat.1
The attempts to stabilize the labour force were generally unsuccessful, because
most peasants rejected the alternative of becoming exclusively wage workers.
They resisted stabilization in many different ways, the most conspicuous being
absenteeism.19 Partly for this reason, the productivity of the state farms was often
lower than that of family agriculture (see, for example, CEA 1979a).
Co-operatives
Frelimo's strategy of co-operativization of the countryside faced two serious
problems. First, there were few if any landless peasants in Mozambique. There-
fore,
the co-operatives would lead to higher output only if their yields per hectare
were higher than in family agriculture. These gains could result from two sources:
from co-operation
itself,20
or from investment in irrigation works, water-pumps,
tractors, transport equipment, storage facilities, etc.
In the wake of the post-independence crisis, most poor and middle peasants had
few investible resources because they had lost their usual sources of wage income
and their marketed output had decreased dramatically (see above). The rich peas-
ants were often reluctant to join co-operatives because co-operativization threat-
ened their control over land, and because investment in their own plots seemed in
principle to offer higher returns (however, this was not necessarily the case; see
below).21 Support from the state was not forthcoming either, because the budget
was committed with the urban economy and the state farms. The breakdown of
the transport and trade infrastructures added to the problems of the co-operatives,
because it often prevented the timely arrival of the inputs and the sale of the
crops.
The second problem derived from the fact that many peasants joined the
co-operatives in the wake of the collapse of their traditional sources of paid
employment. In other words, socializing rhetoric aside, what most poor members
of the co-operatives wanted was a stable source of income (CEA 1979a:27-9;
1979b:50-2; and 1980a). It was only a short step for the poorer peasants to be treated
Mozambique: Pol. Economy of Agrarian Transition 203
as wage workers under the command of the administrators of the co-operatives,
usually richer and more articulate. To make matters worse, the desire of the
administrators and state officials to invest a large part of the value of the output in
a context of low labour productivity led to meagre payments to ordinary mem-
bers.
This proved to be a self-defeating exercise, because it led to the gradual
withdrawal of the poorer peasants to their own land, where returns were higher
(see Adam 1993; Bowen 1990 and, especially, Harris 1980).
The withdrawal of co-operative members was considered potentially disastrous
by Frelimo. However, instead of reconsidering its agricultural strategy and in-
creasing the support given to the co-operatives, Frelimo attempted to force the
poorer peasants into submission. In some areas the police blocked the roads to
prevent the peasants from absconding, and in others work in collective plots
became compulsory (Adam 1993:58-9). This was obviously counterproductive,
for it led to passive resistance and the further demoralization of the co-operatives.
As a result, most ceased to operate after only a few years, even if formally still in
existence. The failure of the co-operatives shows three things; first, that the
co-operative movement in Mozambique was highly vulnerable to being hijacked
by the richer peasants, whatever may have been Frelimo's original intentions
(CEA 1979a:33; CEA 1983:36-43). Second, that Frelimo's actions often pro-
moted private accumulation in the countryside in spite of its socializing rhetoric.
Third, the fact that substantial financial support was given to the state farms and
communal villages, whilst little was made available to the co-operatives, shows
that Frelimo was not prepared to abdicate from any aspect of its political and
economic control of the countryside (see below).
Communal Villages
The first and most important areas where the peasants were grouped into commu-
nal villages were the north (especially Cabo Delgado province) and the Limpopo
river basin in the south. In the north Frelimo was very strong politically, and had
successfully established liberated zones during the war. It planned to build on
these successes by transforming the villages where the Portuguese forcibly con-
centrated the peasants during the war into new socialist townships. In the south,
Frelimo activists used the floods of 1977 as the pretext to moving large numbers
of peasants swiftly into newly built villages, at a safe distance from the river.
The relocation of the peasantry into communal villages was one of Frelimo's
earliest and most important projects. Two arguments were offered in their defence
(Casal 1991). First, if the peasants are 'in the bush' it is very hard for the state to
provide them with health services, water, sanitation and education. Hence, the
communal villages would contribute to the diffusion of scientific knowledge as
opposed to the superstition and reactionary traditions allegedly widely held in the
countryside (Frelimo 1976:84). The upshot is that urbanization and the provision
of social services would help overcome the sharp opposition between city and
country, one of the main features of underdevelopment according to modernist
204 Journal of Contemporary African Studies
Marxism. Second, the communal villages were conducive to the performance of
collective labour in the co-operatives and state farms, in contrast with individual
labour in isolated plots of land. The experience in the northern 'liberated zones'
during the anti-colonial war had allegedly shown the enormous potential for
collective life and work, which should be drawn upon in the process of socialist
construction (CEA 1983).
The concentration of the peasants in communal villages was undoubtedly the
most important aspect of Frelimo's strategy to control peasant labour. In practice,
Frelimo intended these villages to be labour reserves for the state farms and
co-operatives. This is revealed, first, by the requirement that all peasants should
engage in some form of collective production, either as employees of state farms
or as members of co-operatives, and, second, by the extremely small plots allo-
cated to the villagers. In one of the earliest and most careful discussions of the
communal villages, the Frelimo Central Committee declared that
all families are entitled to have family property. The dimensions of these
properties are determined by the communal village; however, they must
not exceed 1/2 ha in the irrigated areas, and 1 ha in non-irrigated areas
(Frelimo 1976:93-4).
According to Casal (1991:58), these limits were incompatible with traditional
peasant cultivation patterns. If we take into account the usual system of crop
rotation, the area allowed for family cultivation in the communal villages was less
than 20 per cent of the minimum necessary. This directive implied that the
peasants would have to devote most of their time to collective forms of produc-
tion and would be unable to rely on their own plots for survival.
The attempt to move millions of peasants into newly built communal villages
where they would be cared for, educated, and work according to plan was bound
to fail, regardless of its initial popularity.22 There were three main problems with
the idea. First, lack of resources. The state simply could not finance the huge
investment necessary to build thousands of new villages from scratch according
to plan, and it was not prepared to wait. Hence the precariousness of the build-
ings,
the lack of planning (their location was often chosen in haste, far from water
and fertile land), and the difficulty to provide social services.23
Second, as Geffray (1990:27) rightly points out, Frelimo inherited the country
without ever having been confronted by its enormous social diversity and the
associated political problems. Frelimo's lack of understanding of Mozambican
society led to wide-ranging plans for socialist transition 'do Rovuma ao Maputo'
(from north to south) that were blind to local realities. Hence, whatever their
social systems and local histories, whether they were primarily peasants, hunters
or fishermen, migrant workers or producers of cotton, manioc, sorghum, or nuts,
and regardless of whether they lived in peri-urban areas or in the bush, all
Mozambique: Pol. Economy of Agrarian Transition 205
peasants should move into a communal village. The unrealism of the idea beggars
belief,
and the failure is easy to understand.
Third, the dislocation of large numbers of peasants created serious social imbal-
ances.
The idea behind the communal villages ignored the fact that Mozambican
peasants have very strong links with their ancestral land. Many did not want to
move because they would be far from the land traditionally cultivated by their
families, the graves of their relatives, and historically and ritually important
landmarks.
In spite of their initial tolerance (especially in the north), Frelimo officials eventu-
ally decided that a few reluctant peasants should not be allowed to block social
change. All were consequently forced to move, and their old dwellings were
frequently burnt down to prevent return.24 The dislocation of large numbers of
peasants, often under duress, into new areas contributed to the creation of a
fundamental social imbalance within the villages. Groups with roots near them,
and the wealthier and more articulate peasants, were given power over the
dislocated because of their control of the surrounding land. The dislocated were
often forced to choose between asking for land from the local leaders (and
therefore falling under their control), or regularly walking long distances between
their new homes and their old land, which reduced the time available for work
and their productivity (CEA 1986:12-4, 40-6).
It is therefore not surprising that, as the news spread and the facilities provided
failed to meet the high expectations, large numbers of peasants refused to be
drawn into communal villages, while others returned to their land.25 As far as the
government was concerned this was even more serious than the simultaneous
disaggregation of the co-operatives. The withdrawal of the peasants from the
communal villages was generally repressed, and the villages that sprung up as a
result of their fragmentation were deemed 'illegal'. These villages were often
treated as rebel areas, especially in northern Mozambique. Their alleged leaders
were arrested, and some were later deported to 're-education camps' or sent to
work in distant parts of the country. The illegal villages were refused all public
services, including schools and health centres, and even their water supply was
sometimes cut off. Many illegal villages were demolished or burnt down, but they
were often rebuilt (harrowing cases are described in CEA 1986:21-33, 55-9).
In the early 1980s, the treatment of the peasantry by the Frelimo state had become
increasingly arbitrary, and in some areas the situation was spiralling out of con-
trol. In certain regions the expression of doubts or criticism of Frelimo had
become arrestable offences. In others, work had become compulsory,26 and the
proliferation of the refusal to work (among other crimes) led to the reintroduction
of corporal punishment. In most parts of the country the work norms were tight-
ened,27 while the ability of the state to deliver agricultural inputs, services and
consumer goods declined because of the deterioration of the economy and the
increasing activity of Renamo bands. The police committed frequent abuses
206 Journal
of
Contemporary African Studies
against the rural population, among them the confiscation of personal belongings,
especially of peasants who attempted to travel without an official permit {guia de
marc
ha).
The increasing levels of repression did not stem the deterioration of the Mozam-
bican agriculture, nor did they restore Frelimo's fortunes in the countryside. In a
telling testimony given in mid-1982, the administrator of Ngapa village in Cabo
Delgado province reveals that:
[A]ll
our
national programmes
are
jeopardized.
We do not
have agricul-
tural co-operatives even
on
paper,
we
have
no
roads, people
do not pay
the national reconstruction
tax,
they
do not
join
the
literacy campaign,
there
are
bandits,
our
youth
is
marginalized, some
of our
villages
are
abandoned
... Our
assembly does
not
work;
it
does
not
respond
to our
problems (quoted
in
Adam 1993:53).
The main reason underlying
the
disaggregation
of
Mozambican agriculture
is the
conflict between peasants
and the
state.
It was
caused
by the
state's attempt
to
expropriate
the
peasantry
and
transform them into
a
rural proletariat, which could
be achieved only
by
force. That this
was at the
root
of the
impending agricultural
collapse
was
clearly visible
as
early
as 1979, as
shown
in
reports prepared
by the
semi-official Centre
of
African Studies
of
Eduardo Mondlane University:
[T]here
are
conflicts between
the
expanding
but
weak collective sector
and
the
sector
of
family agriculture which
is at
this time
the
real produc-
tive base
of the
[communal villages]. Within
the
collective sector there
are also conflicts between
the
development
of the
co-operatives
and the
expansion
of the
[state
farm].
Low
levels
of
participation
in the
co-operatives
and
their
low
productivity indicate that
the
major force
of
peasant labour
is
going
to
assure subsistence
in
family agriculture.
The
[state farm]
has
taken over land cultivated
by
peasants
and
land intended
for
a
co-operative,
but
cannot
at
this point provide permanent wage
employment
to
replace family production. Participation
in
co-operatives
depends
on
force
in
some villages
(CEA
1979c:4;
see
also
CEA
1979a:30-l
and CEA
1980a).
In spite of clear warnings Frelimo decided that its primitive socialist accumula-
tion strategy must be implemented. Hence the fertile ground for Renamo sabo-
tage,
and the subsequent economic collapse.
Modernist Marxism, Renamo
and the
Peasantry
Frelimo was hugely popular when it reached power in 1975. The movement
embodied the virtues and hopes of the Mozambican people, and its promises of a
dignified life and economic progress were greeted with enthusiasm. In many
ways,
Frelimo was the nation. However, the further specification of Frelimo's
modernist Marxist project, and the policies that accompanied it, gradually alien-
Mozambique: Pol. Economy of Agrarian Transition 207
ated large sections of the peasantry (in urban areas, especially in the south,
Frelimo remained popular as we will see below). It is impossible to identify the
(changing) political allegiance of the various strata of the peasantry, for there is
no neat correspondence between, say, level of income and support for Frelimo or
otherwise. However, certain generalizations are possible (Chingono 1994:84;
Geffray 1990:34,169).
Some rich peasants, traditional leaders and healers supported Frelimo because of
their patriotism or, more pragmatically, because its policies increased their ability
to accumulate wealth and power, as seen above. Most, however, firmly rejected
Frelimo's rule because it collectivized agriculture and challenged their status and
privileges. The latter tended to increase as the economy deteriorated and the
repression against representatives of the old order increased.
Most poor and middle peasants initially supported the Frelimo state because of
the promises of a better life, without exploitation, and because of its policies
which opened avenues for personal freedom and, in some cases, accumulation.
However, most eventually rejected Frelimo's policies because of their arbitrari-
ness,
the transfer to other sectors implicit in the low price of foodstuffs relative to
manufactures, and the chronic lack of consumer goods. On top of these differ-
ences,
ethnicity also played an important role; the Makonde of northern Mozam-
bique and the Shangaan in the south have always been staunch Frelimo
supporters. In contrast, the Ndau and other groups in the centre have tended to
oppose it.
The conflicts over income, labour and land described above, and Frelimo's in-
creasing hostility against the peasantry, led to a substantial erosion in its initially
broad support in the countryside (Adam 1993:59-76; CEA 1983, 1986). This is
essential to explain why and how Renamo bands became an army (and later the
second- largest political party in Mozambique), and external destabilization
evolved into a civil war even though Renamo's raison d'etre was to terrorize
the population and destroy the physical and human infrastructure of the state, as
the means to reinforce white hegemony in Southern Africa.28
The extraordinary and wholly unjustifiable level of violence in Renamo's actions
can be explained by two factors. First, as Newitt (1995:570-7) shows, exceed-
ingly violent episodes of banditry abound in Mozambique's history. In this sense,
Renamo was different only for the size of its operations and for its putative
political motives. Its actions largely repeated past episodes, in which bandit
groups expressed the dissatisfaction of certain sections of the population against
social groups hegemonic in specific areas, or the state.
Second, and more generally, Vergopoulos (in Amin and Vergopoulos 1974)
shows that the exploitation of the peasantry for the benefit of accumulation in
other sectors of the economy may lead to peasant revolt against the state and
society as a whole (in contrast with the targeted revolt of the proletariat against
the bourgeoisie, as seen in Marxian analysis). These peasant rebellions are his-
208 Journal of Contemporary African Studies
torically associated with unwarranted cruelty and the destruction of the lives of
many innocent victims, often with no visible gain for the perpetrators.
This is precisely what happened in Mozambique. However unwittingly (as far as
its South African masters were concerned), Renamo's actions expressed the dis-
satisfaction of many peasants with Frelimo's agricultural policies. Hence,
Renamo's destruction of communal villages, schools, clinics, bridges, and other
symbols of the state, and its massacres of state officials and villagers who refused
to return to the bush (which, if they did, would make them the target of govern-
ment reprisal actions; see Cahen 1987:82-3; 1993:54), somehow seemed to many
dissatisfied peasants to be a legitimate form of protest.29
For the (mostly well-off) peasants who voluntarily joined Renamo, this move-
ment expressed their hope of restoring the way of life destroyed by Frelimo's
'communism,' especially their privileges, and eliminating repression and exploi-
tation in the countryside.30 Needless to say, Renamo would never have been able
to carve up a constituency for
itself,
unless Frelimo's legitimacy was already
deeply in crisis.
Collapse and Revival of the Frelimo State
The early 1980s were a turning point for Mozambique. Renamo's sabotage
developed into a highly destructive civil war, Frelimo was increasingly demoral-
ized, and its economic strategy had clearly collapsed. Output relentlessly fell
from its post-independence peak in 1981 (see Table 1).
Table 1: Mozambique:
Sector
Agriculture
Industry
Construction
Transport &
Communications
Trade & Others
Total
1975
24.8
28.0
4.0
9.1
5.5
71.4
Global Social Product at 1980
1977
29.8
28.4
3.6
7.8
5.2
74.8
1980
30.8
32.6
4.8
8.1
5.9
82.2
1981
31.1
33.6
4.7
9.0
5.8
84.2
prices
1982
30.8
29.0
4.9
8.3
5.8
78.8
(million
1983
24.0
23.2
5.0
6.6
5.5
64.3
contos)
1984
24.4
18.0
4.5
5.1
5.8
57.8
1985
24.6
14.3
4.3
4.5
5.5
53.2
Source: Republica Popular de Moqambique (1986:27)
The heavy losses experienced by the state farms, and by the state sector as a
whole, drained the treasury, eroded the country's investment capacity, and led to
inflation (Wuyts 1989). At the same time, the trade balance and the current
account were persistently negative, a trend inherited from the colonial period (see
Table 2).
Mozambique: Pol. Economy of Agrarian Transition 209
Table 2: Mozambique: Balance of payments, 1980-87 (US$ million)
Trade Balance
Exports
Imports
Services
Revenues
Expenditures
of which:
interest
Current Account
Capital Account
Result of balance of
payments
Financing
of which:
change in reserves
(increase:-)
debt rescheduling
1980
-519.4
280.8
800.2
96.4
171.3
74.9
6.1
-367.1
364.2
-35.5
35.5
32.4
0
1981
-520.3
280.8
801.1
55.8
178.5
122.7
35.9
-407.1
409.1
-68.2
68.2
66.7
0
1982
-606.7
229.2
835.9
30.8
171.3
140.5
60.6
-496.5
395.3
-143.5
143.5
140.7
0
1983
-504.8
131.6
636.4
-0.1
165.8
165.9
88.2
-415.3
42.8
-363.3
363.3
15.4
0
1984
-444.1
96.6
539.7
-32.2
117.9
150.2
80.9
-308.5
-73.1
-355.8
355.8
-23.1
213.1
1985
-347.1
76.6
423.7
-92.9
107.1
200.1
117.3
-300.9
-29.7
-353.4
353.4
20.5
192.9
1986
-463.6
79.1
542.7
-158.7
119.1
277.7
154.7
-409.3
-49.9
-487.9
487.9
-23.5
0
1987
-545.1
97.1
642.2
-147.9
136.9
284.9
148.4
-388.8
-76.8
-440.9
440.9
-58.1
1091.1
Source: Boletim Estatistico do Banco de Moqambique (various issues).
Given the collapse of the internal sources of accumulation, and the inability or
unwillingness of the Soviet camp to provide additional help, the government
turned to foreign capital. The Portuguese and emigre communities were initially
approached, but it soon became clear that their resources were insufficient.
Hence, Mozambique felt it necessary to improve its economic and political rela-
tions with the West, in search of aid, credits, direct investment and, eventually,
new loans, rescheduling, and debt forgiveness. In 1980 Mozambique joined the
African Development Bank, and in 1984 the Lome Convention and the IMF. In
1987,
a stabilization and structural adjustment package was adopted in line with
the requirements of the IMF, which has supervised Mozambican economic poli-
cies ever since (Newitt 1995:566-67; Utting 1995:151).
These astonishing economic changes necessarily had internal repercussions. The
Fourth Frelimo Congress, in 1983, gave the first steps towards the gradual decol-
lectivization of agriculture. The largest state farms were broken up, and support
shifted to the family and private sectors. Prices were subsequently liberalized,
markets created or restored, and property rights more clearly defined, in line with
the requirements of international agencies and investors. Mozambique was there-
210 Journal of Contemporary African Studies
fore the first country to abandon socialism and embark on a transition to capital-
ism.
In retrospect it is clear that Frelimo's strategy of abandoning modernist Marxism
for social democracy has been spectacularly successful, for two reasons. First,
orderly liberalization and, later, the transition to capitalism helped to stem the
terminal decline of the economy by attracting aid, foreign capital and technology,
and opening up markets abroad. Second, it wrong-footed Renamo, whose politi-
cal platform was efficiently de-legitimized abroad. As Renamo could no longer
pose as a politico-military movement challenging a Soviet puppet regime, the
inanity of its programme became evident. Hence, Frelimo's strategic shift not
only protected Mozambique's collapsing economy, but its own power too.31
The dramatic economic and political shifts of the mid-1980s can be understood
easily, if one bears in mind that Frelimo has always been primarily a nationalist
organization, which had an instrumental view of socialism. For Frelimo, social-
ism was primarily a form of economic management, and only secondarily a
(transitory) mode of production (see, for example, Frelimo 1991). In other words,
for Frelimo modernist Marxism was an instrument of nation-building, rather than
part of a strategy for the abolition of the state. When it failed because of peasant
resistance and war, the party changed tack and remained in command without any
major internal splits or a loss of legitimacy, as far as its main constituency was
concerned. Frelimo could do this because even though nationalism is a political
doctrine, it does not imply anything with respect to the political and economic
organization of the country (or alternatively it is consistent with a variety of
political programmes; see Dore and Weeks n.d.:28).32
This analysis puts Frelimo's remarkable longevity and cohesion into context. In
30-odd years, Frelimo has undergone several major policy changes (from revolu-
tionary nationalism to modernist Marxism to dependent capitalism), whilst en-
gaging in two wars (against the Portuguese and Renamo), and winning the first
general elections in the country. This was achieved without any major schisms,
and its leadership has remained almost unchanged throughout this period. This is
no mean feat. In my view, this has been possible only because, in spite of all the
changes in Mozambique, the original nationalist project of the Frelimo leadership
remains largely intact (see, however, Hanlon 1984:272-4 and Newitt 1995:545).
This has happened in Mozambique (but not in other countries) for many histori-
cal,
political and economic reasons. One of them is that the generation that
formed Frelimo, fought the war of independence and went on to build the nation
in positions of command, participated in a unique historical experience. Their life
histories are woven together with the history of Mozambique; '[a]s a result, even
without being members of the party, many of the elite have been, and remain,
legitimist simply because they feel themselves to be part of 'Frelimo's people',
part of this nation-project (Cahen 1993:56).
Mozambique: Pol. Economy of Agrarian Transition 211
Conclusion
Peasant support for Frelimo's struggle for independence was largely due to an
elementary nationalism, and to expectations of a dignified life and an end to
exploitation. Frelimo's early policies seemed to point in that direction, and they
were greeted with enthusiasm by most Mozambicans, peasants or otherwise.
However, as we have seen, difficulties soon appeared because large sections of
the peasantry became increasingly sceptical of the policies and method of the
agrarian transition.
Drawing on Frelimo's legitimacy and propaganda, the co-operatives and commu-
nal villages (if not the state farms) enjoyed substantial support in their early days.
The reality, however, was somewhat different. As instruments of primitive social-
ist accumulation, the institutions of agrarian transition made sense only to the
extent that they facilitated transfers from agriculture to industry and the urban
economy. Hence, the well known argument that they (especially the co-opera-
tives) could have been more successful, had they received additional support from
the state is true, but beside the point. For their rationale was primarily to facilitate
control of the peasantry and its output by the modernist Marxist state, and only
secondarily to increase production. Hence, even though transfers to agriculture
would have helped increase output, they would also have slowed down accumula-
tion elsewhere at least initially, which was not an option.33
When problems such as resistance against, and disaggregation of, the communal
villages, failure of the co-operatives and bankruptcy of the state farms started to
appear, different responses emerged. Some poor, middle and rich peasants in
different parts of the country, each for their own reasons, persevered for a few
more years, with variable degrees of state support. Others rejected whatever
support was on offer, and returned to their own land. The party's response to both
was increasingly authoritarian (for example, compulsion to work and political and
military persecution), which, coupled with economic decline, entrenched peasant
resistance in large areas of the countryside. Renamo's parallel actions provided a
focus for peasant dissatisfaction, while the latter provided Renamo with a social
base which otherwise it would not have had. The history of peasant rebellions, the
traditions of popular revolt in Mozambique, and the conflicts in the 1970s and
1980s are all essential to explain why Renamo's actions were extremely violent,
and why (in spite of this) it represents a substantial section of the population.
On the surface, it is paradoxical that Renamo, the former terrorist group, enjoys
the support of large sections of the peasantry, while Frelimo, the former Marxist
organization, represents the emerging Mozambican capitalist class. This article
has shown that the paradox is only apparent. Frelimo has always represented the
Mozambican elite. In contrast, Renamo represents large social groups alienated
by Frelimo's modernizing agenda (either in its Marxist garb or under structural
adjustment), but it does so only as far as its conservative populism allows. It
remains to be seen if a new generation of activists will emerge and challenge in
progressive and democratic ways the developing political and economic
212 Journal of Contemporary African Studies
consensus, cemented by foreign aid and the culture of dependence, which now
holds sway in Mozambique.
What, then, was the alternative; and, more generally, how can socialism be built
in a poor country with a large 'backward' (in the modernist Marxist sense)
peasantry? This is not the place to provide an answer to this difficult question.
However, if the collapse of socialist construction in Mozambique and elsewhere
teaches us anything, it is that socialism cannot be built from above on the basis of
extensive social and economic change engineered by the party. It is nonsensical to
suggest that the socialist state represents the peasantry, if it regiments the peas-
ants to work agains</