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Patrick Chabal
Amílcar Cabral: revolutionary leadership and people's war

Cambridge; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1983. xiii, 272 p.

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II. — Amílcar Cabral: formative influences (1924-1959)

Early Years (1924-1945)

Amílcar Lopes Cabral was born on 12 September 1924 in Bafatá, Portuguese Guinea 1. His father, Juvenal António da Costa Cabral, and his mother, Iva Pinhel Evora, were both Cape Verdeans from the island of São Tiago. When they met in 1922 they were both working on the mainland of Guinea. Juvenal Cabral was a primary school teacher and Iva Evora owned a shop and a small pensão (hotel). In 1928-29 the family was back in Cape Verde. Then Dona Iva returned to Guinea with her children; by that time she was no longer living with their father, Juvenal 2.

Juvenal António da Costa Cabral
Iva Pinhel Evora

According to his mother, Amílcar Cabral remained in Guinea until 1933, when he returned to Cape Verde to live with his father's family until his mother came back to the islands a year later 3. He was then 10 years old. He began primary school in Praia, São Tiago, at the age of twelve. Later Dona lva moved with her family to Mindelo, on the island of São Vicente, so that Amílcar could go to the only secondary school in the archipelago, the Liceu Gil Eanes. Amílcar finished his secondary education at the age of twenty. In 1944, he returned to Praia where he worked at the National Printing Office, biding his time, while trying to secure a scholarship to go to Portugal for higher studies. In 1945 he was awarded the scholarship offered by the Cape Verdean section of the Casa dos estudantes do Império in Lisbon to the best Cape Verdean student without the financial means to continue his education 4. In October of that year, at the age of 21, he left for Lisbon to start a course in agronomy.

Amílcar's father, Juvenal Cabral, came from a relatively well-to-do landed family from the island of São Tiago. Like others in his family he was given a proper education and, since he wanted to become a priest, he was sent to the seminary in Portugal. Although secondary schooling was available in Cape Verde, Juvenal Cabral's achievements were looked upon with respect and he became a ‘personage’ in São Tiago. Amílcar's mother, however, came from a very modest São Tiago family and did not receive any formal schooling at all. From a very early age she had had to work to earn a living and after her eparation from Juvenal Cabral, the burden of her family became even heavier. Her income was barely enough to feed them.
Although Amílcar's parent were separated in 1929, all accounts of his early life point to the influence that Juvenal Cabral had on his son 5. Amílcar's father had worked in many different parts of Guinea and he knew much about the social and economic conditions of the colony's population. In his memoirs there are detailed and perceptive discussions of the various regions in which he worked 6. Juvenal Cabral was a politically conscious man who did not hesitate to peak his mind. His concerns and the discussions which he i said to have had with the young boy were the first lessons in political education that Amílcar received. Juvenal Cabral was not yet a nationalist, his on Luiz Cabral recalls, ‘but he certainly was of the opinion that the government ought to have been doing a lot more for the population’.

The father's insistence on the links between Guinea and Cape Verde and the fact that he was so steeped in the two cultures had a determining influence on Amílcar's and Luiz's consciousness of that question. In view of the later importance of the issue of Guinea-Cape Verde unity in the development of the PAIGC, this childhood influence is extremely significant. Cabral was evidently sincere when he said in 1969:

It is clear that for us, the problem of unity of Guinea and Cape Verde is not the result of a personal whim. It is not because Cabral is the son of Cape Verdeans, born in Bafatá, that he has great affection for the people of Guinea and Cape Verde. Although that is true, it is not the reason [for unity] 7.

But clearly, the fact that he had lived in Guinea until he was nine did reinforce his father's emphasis on the link between the mainland and the archipelago.

His father's willingness to speak out on important issues also obviously impressed the young Amílcar. Juvenal Cabral once sent a memorandum to the Minister for Colonies in which he deplored the absence of government policies to alleviate the catastrophic effects of the drought in Cape Verde, and suggested several remedies. On another occasion he wrote an article following the collapse of a house in an overcrowded part of Praia, the capital of Cape Verde. There he denounced the appalling conditions in which people had to live when they were forced to come to the city to find food and employment.

In addition to political consciousness, the young Cabral acquired from his father a sense of intellectual curiosity and rigour, a respect for academic pursuits and for the written word. Juvenal Cabral was himself a poet of some talent and his abilities as a polemicist were considerable. Finally, it seems reasonably clear that Amílcar's choice of a career in agronomy stemmed partly from his father's long-lasting interests in the agricultural problems of Guinea and Cape Verde …

However, if Amílcar Cabral was influenced intellectually and politically by his father, from his mother he derived a strong sense of purpose, the will-power and determination to overcome the obstacles that made daily life so difficult. In Guinea, and especially in Cape Verde, Dona Iva worked as a seamstress but her remuneration was barely sufficient to feed the family and there were days when they went without food. Later, in order to send Amílcar to school, she had to supplement her income by taking employment in a canned fish factory 8. Although Amílcar's family did not starve like so many Cape Verdeans, they were very poor. Cabral never forgot the difficulties of his early years and later spoke of poverty as one of the reasons which had led him to revolt against Portuguese colonialism 9.

Life was always precarious in the archipelago because of drought and famine, and Portuguese colonial rule did little to improve the living conditions of the population. In the 1930s and 40s social and economic conditions on the islands were catastrophic. Famine reached new heights. Cabral later wrote that, between 1900 and 1948, starvation took the lives of 135,000 10 and that between 1940 and 1948 alone, at least 50,000 died out of a total population of 180,000 11. The worsening situation in the forties was no doubt due to the effect of the world economic crisis and of the second World War. But the pattern of drought and famine was familiar enough. Inevitably, Amílcar Cabral, like other young people at that time, was deeply influenced by what he saw around him. As he said in 1969, ‘I saw people die of starvation in Cape Verde … this is the fundamental reason for my revolt.’ 12

Some of the problems on the islands were amenable to technical solutions such as the opening up of new wells and the development of vegetation protection against land erosion. Others, such as the unequal distribution of wealth between a small minority of large landowners, a great number of peasants with insufficient land to live on, and an increasing mass of landless labourers, required social reform. But ultimately, as no doubt Cabral and his friends understood, Cape Verde's plight was a political question. They believed that Portuguese colonial rule could be directly faulted for its failure to improve social and economic conditions in the archipelago. This, then, was the reality of Cape Verdean life at the time when Cabral started school.

Amílcar Cabral thrived on education and from the very beginning he was clearly an excellent student. Manuel Lehman d'Almeida, who was in primary school with Cabral, recalls that he was by far the best student and that he passed his secondary school entrance exam with distinction. Although he entered primary school at the late age of twelve, he finished his period of study at the liceu by the age of twenty, thus completing the four years of primary school and the seven of secondary education in eight years. In the seventh (last) year of the curso complementar de ciências (equivalent to A-levels in the sciences), he achieved an average mark of 17/20 which, by any standard within the Portuguese educational system of that time, was an exceptionally high score. As concerns the curriculum which Cabral followed, it is important to re-emphasise that Cape Verdeans had access to the same education a their Portuguese colleagues. The focus was therefore essentially European, if not strictly Portuguese.

Although Cabral was a keen student and his school years were fruitful ones, he also spent much time on other activities. His mother recalls that, apart from his studies, he frequently put on plays and organised theatre for the neighbourhood children. He liked to perform and was apparently a relatively successful actor, a useful skill for a future political leader.

Much more importantly, however, it was at the Liceu Gil Eanes, at the time the intellectual centre of Cape Verde, that Cabral became familiar with the archipelago's literary renaissance. This cultural movement, appropriately known as Caboverdianidade, had developed around the publication of a new journal, Claridade. This shift in cultural consciousness, which also occurred in Mozambique, had begun in Angola at the turn of the century with the publication of A voz de Angola chamando no deserto 13. The book, a collective effort by Angolans, set out to refute the facile generalisations made about Africans by ignorant colonialists 14. In the thirties, Cape Verdean writers and poets turned their attention to the realities of their islands and tried to break away from the classical European models. This generation of young Claridade writers focused on subjects of relevance to people's ordinary lives: drought, hunger, starvation, migration, and so on. Poetry too, was for the first time linked to the colonial situation.

This new current of literature and poetry, however, was limited in two ways. First, as Mário de Andrade has pointed out, ‘it considered Cape Verde as an instance of European regionalism and therefore restricted its audience to a limited group of Western-trained readers’ 15. Secondly, the Claridade movement was essentially escapist, mistaking ‘realisme paysagiste’ for social reality. It did not seek to analyse the social realities of the archipelago, nor did it lead to any political consciousness 16. Cabral himself later wrote that “Cape Verde's poetry would only acquire personality, become of real value, if its conscious aim was to be the ‘eyes and mouth’ of the archipelago of drought.” 17

In sum, Claridade's poetry and literature were essentially attempts at translating into an art form what this generation of young Cape Verdeans saw as intolerable living conditions in the archipelago. Much like the work of Présence Africaine in Paris, it was not yet political but rather expressed a deep sense of cultural alienation.

The following generation of Cape Verdean writers and poets, who in the forties published another journal, Certeza, introduced two new elements. They focused their attention on the colonial dimension of the problem of Cape Verde and stressed the necessity for action. Marxism, rather than neo-realism, now provided the framework for their thinking 18. Secondly, they reintroduced Africa into Cape Verdean culture and acknowledged their African origins. No longer seeking to establish their identity in European terms, they now proclaimed their African cultural heritage. This new movement, which developed only after Cabral had left Cape Verde, led to greater political consciousness and to the emergence of nationalist ideas.

The texts and the poems which have survived from this period show that the form and content of Cabral's writings differed little from those of other young Cape Verdeans who used literature to express the new consciousness they had of themselves, of the harsh world of the archipelago, and of the chaos brought about by the war. There was as yet virtually no political content to Cabral's writings during this early phase. At the age of eighteen, in 1942, Cabral wrote a tale entitled ‘Fidemar’. The story of Fidemar, the tale's hero, is that of a young Cape Verdean who is driven to revolt because of the intolerable conditions on the islands. He calls for liberty and progress but, significantly, decides to leave the archipelago and to travel in the hope that one day he will become strong enough to liberate his country. For all this he dies in a battle at sea 19. No very great significance need be attached to this early text. The dominant theme was a common one, representative of Cape Verde's sense of isolation from the rest of the world and of the need to escape from this insular hell by seeking liberation outside.

In 1944, Cabral wrote a story entitled ‘Hoje e amanhã’ (Today and tomorrow) which again shows that in his frame of mind, if not in all his ideas, he was typical of his contemporaries 20. The form chosen for the message was slightly unusual for a young man of twenty in that he discussed his hope of having a son. But in essence the essay was a classic affirmation of the belief that, although today's world was a wretched world of war, hate, injustice and misery, tomorrow's could and would be better. Undoubtedly, Cabral was reacting to the horrors of the second World War by stating his optimism for the future; hence the desire for a child. But the text in itself was not in the least political and tended in fact to be a romantic statement about the clash between dictatorships and democracies and about man's eternal tendencies to exploit and kill 21.

The poems that Cabral wrote between the end of his secondary schooling and the beginning of his university studies also stressed the same themes: consciousness of, and outrage at, the living conditions on the islands; concern about droughts and famine; awareness of the isolation of the archipelago; anger, revolt, hope and optimism 22. These poems might have been written by any one of Cabral's colleagues in Claridade. Nothing set him apart either in the themes which he treated or in the poetic language which he employed.

What emerges, however, is that Amílcar Cabral was very much a young Cape Verdean. Although born and brought up until the age of nine in Guinea, he had, by the end of his liceu years, been fully assimilated into Cape Verde's cultural and intellectual milieu. The hero in ‘Fidemar’ did not go to Africa when he left the islands; the child in ‘Hoje e amanhã’ was to become a citizen of what Senghor would have called the ‘universal civilisation’. One might add , at this point, that there had always been a strong sense of cultural identity in Cape Verde. It would probably be inaccurate to call it nationalism at that time, but certainly the Claridade movement could draw on traditional Cape Verdean self-identity when it turned its attention to the problems of the islands as a region.

In an article on Cape Verdean poetry written in 1951, Cabral reflected upon the Claridade literary movement. To a large extent his comments must be read as a judgment of hi adolescent poetry. He castigated the sense of alienation which still remained in the work of Claridade. But more importantly, he rejected Claridade's romantic complaint and called for action:

the evolution of Cape Verdean poetry must not stop. It must transcend resignation and ‘hope’. Insularity and droughts cannot justify endless stagnation. The message which came out of Claridade and Certeza must be overcome. The escapist dream, the desire to leave, cannot remain the only theme. The dream must be different … No longer a desire to depart but to create a new land inside our land 23.

In summary then, what sort of man was Cabral on the eve of his departure for Lisbon? There is little doubt that his superior intelligence, his deep sensitivity to social injustices, and the ability to relate these social problems to the economic and political realities of the time were unusual. In part this was due to the education he had received from his father, a widely travelled, perceptive, and articulate intellectual. In part also, it was due to the personal experience that he had had of poverty as a child. But for all these noticeable features, it would be inaccurate to claim that he differed greatly from other bright young Cape Verdeans who also aspired to travel to Portugal and whose experiences of social reality was similar to his. He was not , in any serious way, politicised. His knowledge of political thought and political events was not particularly extensive. That there was little political consciousness in what he said or wrote at the time emerges clearly from the reminiscences of those who knew him soon after he arrived in Portugal.

The last question which might usefully be asked, in the perspective of his future political involvement in Guinea, is simply how far Cabral thought of himself as an African and whether he saw Cape Verde as being a part of Africa at all. Most Cape Verdeans at that time viewed themselves in some sense as Europeans rather than as Africans. To the Portuguese too this is how they appeared. The evidence is unclear but it seems unlikely that Cabral differed significantly from his Cape Verdean friends. Although after a few years in Lisbon he described himself as an African, this is not how he was perceived when he arrived there. To most Portuguese, who distinguished clearly between Africans and Cape Verdeans, he was obviously very much a Cape Verdean. The fact that he was black would have been of secondary importance to them. Culturally and intellectually he was seen by many, and he probably viewed himself, as a Portuguese despite the fact that he looked very much like an African.

Student in Lisbon (1945-1952)

Cabral's student years in Portugal were significant for several reasons 24. His training as an agronomist gave him professional competence and confidence. Life in Portugal sharpened his understanding of colonial society. Contacts with politics and polhical ideas led to the maturation of his political consciousness. Finally. it is in Lisbon that he and other African students sought to rediscover their African heritage before grappling with the issues of nationalist politics.

Amílcar Cabral began his course of studies in October 1945. He was one of 220 students to enter the Instituto superior de agronomia (ISA) that year. His scholarship covered the fees and provided him with a stipend of 500 (later 750) escudos. This was not sufficient to live on in Lisbon at the time and since his mother could not help him he had to supplement the scholarship with earnings from a variety of jobs, most frequently tutoring, during the academic year and the long vacation. The course at the ISA extended over five years and was very demanding. Out of the 220 who had started the course with Cabral, only 25 (a second source says 33) passed from second to third year. Maria Helena Rodrigues, later to become Cabral's wife, was one of the 20 women admitted the same year, and she was among the five to pass into third year. The course was divided into two sections: a theoretical part followed by a practical one during which the students undertook research for their theses. Most students did fieldwork as well as research in a laboratory.

Cabral submitted his thesis at the end of 1951 after successfully completing the courses required for the Curso de engenheiro agronomo and was awarded his degree on 27 March 1952. His academic record at the ISA was outstanding. A quick glance at his mark-sheet shows that his work was consistently good throughout the five years. He completed his courses with an average mark of 15/20, after having received 18/20 for his thesis. Although the students were not ranked, it was generally agreed among his classmates that he was one of the best at the ISA, and this opinion was upheld by several of his former professors.

One of them recalls having noticed Cabral because of his intelligence and particularly because of the quality of his writing: 'The Portuguese was not only flawless, but the style of writing itself was very good.' The extent to which he was assimilated into Portuguese life and culture impressed both his colleagues and his professors. It was not only that he spoke and wrote like any Portuguese student, but rather that his knowledge of Portuguese literature and culture was far superior to that of most of his colleagues. All the students at the ISA had concentrated on the natural sciences during their secondary schooling, a specialisation which placed little emphasis on the arts and humanities. Cabral's knowledge, therefore, was a mark of his breadth of interests and a consequence of his involvement in literature in Cape Verde. A significant indication of the high regard in which he was held at the ISA is that the Rector of the Institute asked him to tutor his own children. However, despite the distinction of his academic record it is his personality as colleague and friend which has remained most vivid in the memories of his contemporaries. Three aspects of his character were to prove of key importance in his later political career: his easy personal contacts and his ability to listen; his open mindedness and tolerance; and his dominating personality. The evidence on all these qualities is extremely consistent.

What was obvious to friends and colleagues alike was that Cabral was at ease with himself and with others. The colour-conscious quickly forgot that he was black because of his personality. His popularity amongst his classmates arose from his willingness to take an interest in them, to listen to them, and as many informants suggested, to make them feel that he understood them. He was rarely reluctant to provide help when asked and he willingly offered assistance to other students in their work. Maria Helena Rodrigues freely admits that he coached her through her studies. Although Cabral's superior intelligence was greatly admired by his colleagues, it was his readiness to share his knowledge that won him respect.

His open mindedness and tolerance are perhaps best illustrated by two incidents which occurred in Portugal during his friendship with Maria Helena Rodrigues. When Amílcar went to see Maria Helena's mother at her home in Chaves about their forthcoming marriage, he created a sensation in this small backwater of northern Portugal where no-one had ever seen a black man. This is how Maria Helena recounted the event:

Amílcar, during his stay, behaved in a very wonderful way. You see, the children in the village were running after him to see and touch him. He went along with them, satisfying their curiosity, letting them touch his head, for example. He explained to them where he came from, what Africa was and who the Africans were. He explained to them that despite colour differences all men were equal … But the adults in the village would not talk to him, only behind his back.

The other incident may be more significant because it reflected a more disturbing aspect of popular prejudice. On numerous occasions when he and Maria Helena were walking around the ISA, in a working class district, Cabral was insulted for being with a white woman. Maria Helena was outraged and, to his dismay, would often return the insults. He himself refused to respond to provocation. He would tell Maria Helena: ‘They are right, don't you see, they are right. You have to understand them, they are very poor, they have a very hard life. They don't even have enough to eat. They are ignorant and uneducated. And here you are, a nice girl with a black man! Theirs is a normal reaction.’ Although undue importance need not be attached to the specifics of the incidents, this aspect of Cabral's personality was typical. His unlimited patience and his eagerness to understand, and therefore to forgive, people's actions is a trait of his character which was in evidence time and again during the course of the nationalist struggle in Guinea.

However, from the point of view of his capability as a future political leader, it is the third aspect of Cabral's personality which is most directly relevant. His dominant character imposed itself on others. ‘He was always accepted as the leader in the groups where he worked,’ said Luiz Cabral. People were drawn to Cabral because of his warm personality, his tolerance and friendliness. But his ascendancy over others derived from his willingness to assume responsibility and the ability to assert his authority. Whether at the Casa dos estudantes do Império or at the ISA, he was often elected as a representative from his group. This is how, for example, he became the president of the Cape Verde section of the Casa dos estudantes do Império 25. It was also Cabral who took the initiative of creating, along with some of his African friends, the Centre for African Studies, where they secretly met to discuss African culture and politics.

On one occasion Cabral and his friends sought to gain control over the Casa de Africa, another semi-official social centre for Africans (though not exclusively for students) in Lisbon. The acting director, a pro-government African, knew that Cabral intended to transform the mainly recreational centre into a cultural and educational club for Africans. He therefore arranged, with the help of official support, to prevent free and fair elections. In the face of this, Cabral , who had taken up the case of the ‘reformers’, appealed to his colleagues to leave the meeting and boycott the elections: ‘Let all honest Africans follow me and leave.’ They all rose and left. This, as Mário de Andrade recalled, was Cabral's first political test and, although he was not elected, he had clearly demonstrated his authority.

Cabral's two most important writings during this period reflected his newly acquired knowledge in agronomy. The first was a series of articles entitled ‘Em defesa da terra’, published between 1949 and 1952. The second was his thesis on soil erosion in an area of Portugal known as Alentejo 26. The two were in fact closely related, both focussing on soil erosion, which he considered the single most important problem for the agriculture of Cape Verde. This preoccupation was natural for Cabral who, like his father, realised that the twin effects of drought and soil erosion had destroyed the basis of Cape Verdean agriculture. In his articles, Cabral discussed the central aspects of agriculture on the islands, analysing the problems and suggesting remedies. His conclusions, however, gave little evidence that his observations had raised his social and political consciousness, but it is likely that he exercised some degree of self-censorship when writing for Portuguese journals. ‘It is necessary,’ Cabral wrote, ‘that the Cape Verdean know his land, that he recognise the circumstances and the problems that condition his life … what is crucial is that Cape Verde should revive through man's actions.’ 27

His thesis was a much more substantial piece of work and, paradoxically, it had some clearer political implications. In 1950 and 1951 Cabral had worked as a tirocinante (practical worker) at the Estação agronómica nacional and in the region of Alentejo where he conducted his research under the supervision of Professor Botelho da Costa, a renowned pedologist 28. The thesis is an important work because Cabral ostensibly set out to challenge the prevalent orthodoxy in pedology and to work out an alternative methodology.

In the context of the time, the study was controversial because of the nature of the Alentejo region which Cabral chose to investigate, and because of the implications of the premises upon which the study was conducted. Alentejo was, and substantially remains, the poorest region of Portugal. Until 1974, agriculture was dominated by a small number of latifundiosos (owners of latifundias) . There was insufficient land for the small farmers to cultivate and, over time there emerged an increasingly large number of landle s peasants, dependent on seasonal employment for their survival. This mass of landless labourers lived in the most precarious conditions. This was the land property structure in the Cuba area of Alentejo, which Cabral studied in detail.

One can see that 1.30 per cent of landowners own approximately 80 per cent of the cultivated area of the district … furthermore, 0.95 per cent of the existing properties cover 70 per cent of the total area … It can also be noted that 54 land holders own 90 per cent of all cultivated areas. As we know, most of the population of the district (5,400 inhabitants) is employed in agriculture. We can conclude therefore that at least 80 per cent depend for their livelihood on those land owners 29.

Cabral's sympathies for this mass of landless labourers were laid out in the dedication of the thesis: ‘To the jornaleiros [landless peasants who become day workers] of Alentejo — workers of the land of the latifundiosos and men whose uncertain life is threatened by erosion.’

Cabral suggested that it was not possible to examine the problem of erosion in isolation from the overall analysis of the agriculture and economy of a country. To him pedology was a scientific subject, the focus of which could not be limited to the mere classification of the various natural causes of soil erosion. Soil erosion, Cabral argued, also had social and economic causes. He went even further. ‘The concept of pure science has no significance … Any scientific activity which does not [seek to] benefit mankind has no raison d'être. And pedology, because of the nature of the phenomena which it is studying, is one of the sciences which must be of most immediate service to mankind.’ 30

On the specific problem of erosion, Cabral emphasised that it was often man's activities in agriculture which altered the precarious balance between soil and climate. Thus, ‘the problem of erosion … is not the concern of agriculture alone, but of society as a whole’ 31. It was possible, Cabral believed, to restore this balance. Technical solutions were available, but they required the subordination of individual to general interests. The bulk of the thesis was devoted to the case study of the region of Cuba, Alentejo. The conclusions suggested that here erosion was largely a consequence of the landowning pattern. The interests of the latifundiosos were best served by maximising crop output and the size of their holdings was such that they could disregard the effects of erosion. The small landowners, on the other hand, also maximised output without regard for soil erosion because their immediate survival required it. In sum, ‘it is the property pattern which is the “Gordian knot” of the agrarian problem in the Alentejo. The poor utilisation of resources as well as the destruction of the soil are direct consequences of it’ 32. Although in parts of the thesis Cabral uses loose Marxist notions what emerges most clearly from the study is the emphasis on a proper scientific approach. He considered himself a scientist and his thesis reflected the care with which he went about collecting and analysing scientific data. The thesis evidently showed that he was fully equipped to undertake research in agronomy.

By the time he defended his thesis in 1952, he had completed a brilliant course of study and he had married Maria Helena Rodrigues. He had acquired a sound reputation as an agronomist and as such he could have looked forward to a promising career either serving in government as was customary or working for the private sector. There is in fact some evidence that he applied for a job as a civil servant, was ranked as the best candidate, but was denied the post because he was black. However that may be, he had also developed keen political interests in, and some real political understanding of, Africa, and it was in this direction that he turned.

Political and Cultural Influences

The context of world politics, as well as the political events taking place in Portugal at the time, were of great importance to this generation of African students from the Portuguese colonies. The end of the second World War, India's independence , the Chinese and Vietnamese struggles, the ‘consolidation’ of socialism in Eastern Europe, were among the events which shaped their ideals and sparked their imagination. Portugal, however, was and would continue to remain far removed from these important world events. The country had taken no part in the second World War and had on balance profited from its neutrality. Its economy, already rapidly developing before the war, was now flourishing. Salazar's Estado Novo was firmly in place and the regime could comfort itself at the thought that Portuguese colonies, unlike those of the other European powers, looked secure. Portugal, not a member of the United Nations until 1955, watched with disbelief and cynicism the beginnings of European decolonisation. It was the heyday of fascism in Portugal and the architects of the Estado Novo felt justified in their optimism.

In contrast to the rest of Western Europe, political activity in Portugal was virtually non-existent. In the absence of freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and organisation, and in view of the ban on all political and union activities, political opposition had no legal existence and no means of functioning. By the end of the second World War only the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) had managed to survive underground. In 1945, however, Salazar felt politically powerful enough to allow a measure of opposition to express itself. This led to the creation in October of the Movimento de unidade democrática (MUD), a wide coalition of liberal, democratic and progressive opponents to the regime. Although the MUD only called for a limited platform of elementary democratic rights, opposition to the Salazar regime grew rapidly and became better organised. Shortly afterwards, a youth section of the MUD, the MUD-Juvenil, was created, among others, by Mario Soares 33. The MUD-Juvenil was largely responsible for the development of political acttvities among the students and it thus had a measure of influence over a number of young Africans.

Those African students in Lisbon who were involved in the political events of the time were directly confronted with the realities of fascist rule; many established contacts with activists engaged in underground political activities. They also became more conscious of the poverty, ignorance and ill-health in which the mass of Portuguese lived. Cabral, who had become aware of these problems during his research in the Alentejo, was deeply affected by this experience. Later, as the leader of the PAIGC, he often referred to the poverty of the workers and farmers of Portugal. He rarely discussed the Portuguese political situation without emphasising, often in great detail, the implications of fascist rule for the mass of the Portuguese people.

The PCP was the dominant influence in Portuguese opposition in general, and in the MUD-Juvenil in particular. Some African students became members of the PCP and involved themselves directly in Portuguese politics 34. Agostinho Neto, Angola's first president, and Vasco Cabral, today an important member of the Guinean cabinet, were both members of the MUD-Juvenil and of the PCP. Vasco Cabral (no relation to Amílcar) was a student at the Instituto superior de ciências económicas e financeiras. In the late forties he was probably the most prominent African student involved in politics. Agostinho Neto was studying medicine. Although Amílcar Cabral and Mário de Andrade (later leader of the MPLA in Angola) were undoubtedly sympathetic to the activities of the MUD-Juvenil, they never joined the PCP or any other Portuguese party 35. They did, however, support major political campaigns such as the ‘Movement for Peace’, a petition against the dangers of nuclear power, and the election of the opposition presidential candidate, Norton de Matos, in 1948. Cabral also participated in several demonstrations organised in the forties and fifties, but he certainly was not among the most politically active African students. He always remained very cautious and, unlike many of his friends, he was never arrested. The many hagiographies of Cabral either gloss over this point or disregard the facts and readily transform him into an active militant in Portuguese politics. Vasco Cabral, in an interview, implied that Cabral might have been imprisoned, but there is no evidence to support this. Vasco Cabral's version tends to perpetuate the myth of Cabral the militant. Mário de Andrade does not hold this view. The difference between the two can largely be explained by the fact that Vasco Cabral was directly involved in Portuguese politics while Mário de Andrade was not.

Cabral's position was not accidental. At the time the Portuguese opposition had little to say about decolonisation and African emancipation. The PCP, most notably, did not question the framework of the Portuguese empire. Like the French Communist Party (PCF) it favoured the development in the colonies of communist parties rather than of nationalist movements. The re is in fact considerable disagreement over the PCP's position on the colonial question in the fifties. Non-communist politicians insist that the party did not favour independence until the sixties. Members of the PCP dispute this interpretation, but remain vague about the precise date when party policy changed. In fact it seems that the first reference to independence was made in 1957 36, but only around 1960 did the PCP unequivocally state its support for the right to ‘complete and immediate independence’ in the Portuguese colonies 37. Until then the PCP and the rest of the opposition took as their model the French colonies where African extensions of metropolitan parties had been created. Despite the election of Africans to the French National Assembly, the onset of the Algerian war and the dynamics of nationalist feeling in Black Africa soon showed the inadequacy of such a concept.

But Cabral's foremost concern was the liberation of Africa, while that of the metropolitan opposition was the overthrow of the fascist regime in Portugal. He thought then, and continued to think throughout his life, that the success of nationalism in the Portuguese colonies would hasten the end of fascism in Portugal. However, he did not believe that the reverse would necessarily be true because decolonisation was accepted neither by the Portuguese in general nor by the democratic opposition, who, apart from the PCP, maintained an ambiguous position on the colonies until the end of the sixties 38.

Perhaps more important from the point of view of Cabral's political consciousness is the extent to which he was exposed to and influenced by Marxist ideology and theory. Although there was strict censorship over printed material, students had access, mainly through the PCP, to Marxist books and reviews. In the forties, however, and even more so in the fifties after the Sino-Soviet split, the PCP followed Moscow's line and presented an orthodox Stalinist viewpoint. There was, for example, no access to Trotsky's or Bukharin's work, nor was there any mention of the Chinese revolution or of the Maoist interpretation of Marxism-Leninism. Cabral claimed that he never read Mao Tse Tung's writings until he went to China in 1960 39.

Marxist theory in its Soviet-Stalinist version said little that could have inspired Cabral, or other African students. It probably made them more aware of the nature of capitalist exploitation, something they could observe directly in Portugal. It may also have provided them with a theoretical and conceptual apparatus which yielded an explanation, however rigid or inadequate, of the development of history and of the transformation of societies. To this aspect Cabral responded positively as is evtdent in his the is. But on the issue of dccolonisation, such a Marxist theory was unsatisfactory. The orthodox view that, just as the Soviet Union was composed of many ‘independent’ republics, the colonial empires should become federations of socialist states was not att ractive to most colonial subject. The aim was to bring about socialism, not the independence of the colonies. It is likely therefore that Cabral, although familiar with the European critiques of Soviet orthodoxy, found the standard Marxist-Leninist view on Africa inadequate. This no doubt partly explains why he increasingly turned his attention to what he called the re-africanização dos espíritos.

This was an important period for Cabral and other expatriate Africans and it provides a key to their subsequent involvement in nationalist politics. As Cabral wrote:

At that time a group of students from the Portuguese colonies studymg in Lisbon began to think of ways of becoming Africans once again (maneira de se tornarem do novo africanos). The Portuguese colonialists counted on those Africans who had been privileged enough to get an education to renege on Africa and serve their own interests. At that time our job was to return to our African roots. This was so successful and useful that today the founders of the group in Lisbon are at the head of the liberation movements of the Portuguese colonies 40.

It is through this experience in Lisbon that Cabral, who was really a Cape Verdean, came to consider himself African and to look upon Africa as his home.

In part this process of ‘re-africanisation’ was similar to that which had occurred among French- and English-speaking African students in Paris and London. ‘Re-africanisation,’ Mário de Andrade later wrote, ‘was the first manifestation of the consciousness of an alienation. It was necessary to negate the colonised, the assimilated. We felt the need to cleanse ourselves, to wash our brains in order to liberate ourselves from the assimilation imposed by colonial education.’ 41 Everywhere this assertion of African self-identity started as a cultural statement. In Cape Verde, Angola and Mozambique, a cultural renaissance had already begun. In Lisbon, these lusophone African students became acquainted with the cultural activities of French-speaking Africans through the prestigious review Présence Africaine, of which Mário de Andrade was the Lisbon correspondent.

Because poetry was the most common form of literary expression used by Africans to combat cultural alienation, Senghor's anthology of African poetry published in 1948 had an enormous impact 42. On reading it Cabral wrote of experiencing

things of which I never dreamed, marvellous poems written by blacks from all parts of the French-speaking world, poems speaking of Africa, of slaves, of men … Much of this book touches me; among other things, the certainty that the black man, the ever so much exploited black man, is in agreement all over the world. It is not a selfish agreement like so many that history records, but a universal agreement of open arms for all men of good will. Without hate, but with love, a love that only servitude can bring to man's soul 43.

The fact that the Cape Verdeans had traditionally been isolated from both Europe and Africa made Cabral peculiarly sensitive to this call. Even the new cultural consciousness which Claridade had expressed in the thirties had not reconnected them to the distant continent of Africa. But now ‘négritude’ provided the missing link for Cabral. Négritude, as developed by French-speaking Black intellectuals, was a cultural movement whose primary object was to present an intellectually coherent argument about the existence and resilience of an African culture in no way inferior to European culture. By 1949 Cabral was referring to himself as an African. A poem that he wrote at the time, entitled ‘Rosa’, reflected his new sense of identity quite vividly. It was directly inspired by Senghor's Chants d'ombre, written in 1945 44.

The single most important reason why Présence Africaine had such an influence over Cabral and his friends is that it exposed the contradictions of the doctrine and policy of assimilation through which the Portuguese, like the French, justified colonial rule. Using the intellectual tools which the colonial power had employed in its explanation of the African world's inherent backwardness, these highly educated and articulate Africans challenged the ideological and cultural rationale of colonial rule. As Jean-Paul Sartre pointed out in the introduction to Senghor's anthology, since cultural alienation was the main consequence of assimilation, the first step towards the colonised's consciousness of his own cultural identity was the wholesale rejection of the colonial culture 45. Cabral made the same point later, showing how assimilationist policy must seek to destroy indigenous culture and to gain the support of the alienated few who have been educated within the colonial system. Negritude, then, had an important influence on the relatively isolated African students in Lisbon and it was largely responsible for Cabral's new consciousness of his African heritage.

From 1945 to 1951 Cabral and the other African students were very active in the Casa dos estudantes do Império. In addition to the usual social and sporting activities, Cabral and his friends organised cultural events such as poetry readings or lectures on topics relevant to African culture. Cabral himself read some of his poems and spoke on the subject of African agriculture 46. It was also at the Casa that the journal Mensagem was launched. Although of very modest dimension and circulation, Mensagem was the Portuguese-speaking African students' equivalent of Presence Africaine; in it Cabral published his poems and the essay ‘Hoje e Amanhã’. While political issues were undoubtedly discussed at the time, the main emphasis fell squarely on cultural themes and on negritude in particular. ‘We were a generation,’ wrote Mário de Andrade, describing what he later called ‘Cabral's generation’, ‘who read the same books, confronted the same problems, had the same preoccupation … We read the same books on Black Americans. We were attentive to what was happening m Brazil. We read the novels of Jorge Amado, and recited the same poems, such as, for example, Nicolas Guillen's “Sabas” 47.

As time went on, however, the student ' activ1ty at the Casa became more political. On the one hand they were no longer content with general discussion about the importance and originality of African culture. They began to question the legitimacy of Portuguese colonial rule itself On the other hand, Cabral and others were gaining ascendancy in the Casa where, because the officers were elected by the members, a greater number of students who were not supporters of the regime were now assuming office. As a result , by the early fifties the government stepped in and appomted its own administrative staff. The Casa and the Casa de Africa were no longer places where Cabral and his friends could safely meet and talk 48. Yet Cabral was now determined to organise his programme of ‘re-africanisation of the mind’.

It is within this context that we must view the events which occurred in the summer of 1949, when Cabral went on holiday to Cape Verde, and which have since come to be imbued with a somewhat exaggerated significance by some writers 49. What is not in dispute is that Cabral worked at the Radio clube de Cabo Verde while visiting his mother. This is how Cabral himself recalled what happened:

in 1949, during holidays in Cape Verde, we did everything we could to awaken Cape Verdean public opinion against Portuguese colonialism. They had confidence in us, and they allowed us to organise radio programmes, which we did in such a way that after a month the authorities stopped us. It is interesting to note that in Praia, for example, a great number of people gathered on the main square and requested that the programmes be continued. But the colonialists did not allow us to continue … On another occasion the Governor rejected a request that we had made in 1949 to be allowed to give adult classes at the Praia Central School. They asked what the programme was. We prepared it and showed it to them … they refused 50.

Manuel Lehman d'Almeida, a childhood friend of Cabral's, recalls the circumstances in which the radio programmes were proscribed. D'Almeida was working at the Radio clube de Cabo Verde and Cabral offered to help him. They prepared programmes on various subjects such as African culture, Brasilian music, Cape Verdean folklore, agricultural questions in Cape Verde, and so on. All programmes were routinely sent to the censorship board and most went through without any problem. On one occasion a programme was cut in which reference had been made to the problems of hunger and education in Cape Verde. As Cabral and d'Almeida refused to amend the programme it was withdrawn. The incident was minor in the sense that it in no way threatened Cabral personally. Censorship and cuts were routine and, had Cabral agreed to some revisions, the broadcast would probably have gone through. It is likely that the programmes on Cape Verdean agriculture were substantially similar to the articles which he was later allowed to publish as the series ‘Em defesa da terra’. What was new in the radio programmes was the emphasis on the links between the islands and Africa. This, however, hardly justifies some of the claims made today about the subversive nature of Cabral's broadcasts 51. What is more relevant is the importance that Cabral himself attached then, and continued to attach later, to education as a means of raising social and political consciousness.

Between 1949 and 1952 Cabral was the driving force behind the ‘re-africanisation’ programme in Lisbon. He now saw the acquisition of knowledge about Africa as the key to any future political action they might undertake. In 1951, Cabral and his African colleagues set up what later became known as the Centro de estudos africanos (CEA). The CEA had no formal headquarters and in fact constituted no more than an agreement between the participants to meet regularly and to prepare a weekly seminar. The centre, as Mário de Andrade recalled,

was the result of the convergence of all the ideas and discussions that we had had, and emerged from the necessity to think together about our problems and about a way of measuring our forces. We interpreted the problems of Africa and of the Black world. Here Cabral played an important role not only politically, but also as an agronomist 52.

Regular participants included Amílcar Cabral, Mário de Andrade , Francisco Jose Tenreiro, Marcelino dos Santos, Noémia de Sousa, Agostinho Neto (until he was jailed in May 1951) and Vasco Cabral. Each participant would talk about what he or she knew best. Amílcar Cabral discussed African agriculture, Mário de Andrade African languages and linguistics. Agostinho Neto looked at tropical medicine and at the social aspects of medicine in Africa. Francisco Tenreiro, an older civil servant from Sao Tome, lectured on African human and physical geography 53. All of them, but perhaps more particularly Noemia de Sousa (from Mozambique), Neto and Tenreiro, who were regarded as the best poets, read their poetry and shared their emotions of writing about Africa, the African ethos, and African life. What was particularly important to them was that they were now in a position to learn from each other. They no longer depended entirely on the literature they could get from outside Portugal.

From their seminars and discussions there rapidly emerged an awareness that resistance to cultural assimilation ultimately required a political challenge to colonial rule. They were slowly moving beyond negritude. In an article published in 1953 in Présence Africaine Cabral called for the first time upon educated African students to put their knowledge at the service of the African masses ‘who had no means of defending themselves and no voice to express their most elementary needs’ 54. Already Cabral and the other CEA members felt the need to move out of their small intellectual circle. They regularly visited the Clube Marítimo, a social centre where African sailors used to meet. These sailors gave the students a sense of the colonial reality from which their life at the university had disassociated them. They were also an important link with the Portuguese colonies and with Brazil, the only source of Marxist publications in Portuguese. Later, when nationalist agitation began in the Portuguese colonies, they were among the first to become politically active. Such contacts hastened the development of the consciouness which eventually led most of these students to political action.

A look at Cabral's private correspondence with his future wife shows quite clearly that it was during this period (1949-52) that he made the decision to go to Africa. Maria Helena Rodrigues told me:

He wanted to go to Africa with a clear political purpose in mind. He wanted to go to Guinea eventually but it was luck that he was able to go right away. You can be absolutely certain that his life's ambition was to go to Guinea and engage in political work. That was the only thing he talked about … He would always say that he had to go back ‘home’ and fight there. He used to say that he had to learn about his country and that it was only there that he would be able to fulfil himself.

In December 1951 Cabral married Maria Helena Rodrigues and, within a year, he was working as an agricultural engineer in Guinea. Soon Mário de Andrade and Marcelino dos Santos left for France. De Andrade went to work for Présence Africaine as a literary critic and a historian. Neto managed to finish his medical studies despite several arrests. Vasco Cabral was in jail. Francisco Tenreiro continued to work as a civil servant until he became a deputy in the Portuguese Assembly, following an opposite course from his friends of the CEA. Mário de Andrade and Agostinho Neto were both instrumental in the creation of the Angolan liberation movement while Marcelino dos Santos later became a prominent member of FRELIMO, the Mozambican movement for national liberation 55

Perhaps the best judgment on Cabral's frame of mind at the time is the analysis that he himself gave in 1972 of what he called the ‘alienated petite bourgeoisie’ from the African colonies. They are, he wrote, ‘prisoners of the cultural and social contradictions of their lives and cannot escape from their role as a marginal class’. And, in a forceful passage which seems to apply so well to himself, he wrote:

So the return to the source is of no historical importance unless it brings not only real involvement in the struggle for independence, but also comple te and absolute identification with the hopes of the masses of people, who contest not only the foreign culture but also foreign domination as a whole. Otherwise the return to the source is nothing more than an attempt to find short-term benefits — knowingly or unknowingly, a kind of political opportunism 56.

Cabral may not have expressed himself in quite the same way in 1952. He would not, however, have gone to Africa without a deep sense of commitment to political action.

Agronomist and Aspiring Political Activist (1952-1959)

In 1952 Cabral went to Guinea to take charge of the Estação experimental de Pessubé, a research station near Bissau (the capital), as second-class engineer in the colonial service 57. He later claimed, with some justification, that his decision to go to Guinea was based on a political commitment since he could easily have found better employment in Portugal. He wrote in 1969:

It was not by accident that we went to Guinea, nor because of material necessity. Everything was thought out, calculated step by step. We had opportunities to work elsewhere in the colonies or even in Portugal. It was the same for other comrades from other colonies who chose to return to their countries: It was, therefore, calculated with the aim of contributing to the preparation of the people for the struggle against colonialism 58.

Although allowance must be made for statements given with the benefit of hindsight, the evidence does support the claim.

His work at the station was to conduct research and carry out experiments on various agricultural products. The two main objectives were to improve the cultivation of existing crops and to attempt to introduce new ones. Cabral was responsible for making proposals relating to the cultivation and improvement of products such as manioc, bananas, cotton, millet, and so on. In addition he was required to carry out various experiments in horticulture. The job was difficult but, despite his political interests, he worked conscientiously. His wife later said:

‘Although he had a Portuguese boss he was free to work how he wanted. But he put in a whole day's work and he was scrupulous about that. He would get up very early and be at work when the workers arrived at the station.’

He now also had family duties. His wife had joined him at the end of 1952 and their first child, a daughter, Iva, was born in 1953. He had also sent for his family and they had come from Cape Verde. His father had died when Amílcar was in his fourth year at the ISA. Now that he had an income, Amílcar took care of his mother's and father's families. As a result his half-brother Luiz joined them. He took employment as an accountant in Gouveia, the subsidiary of the most important private firm in Guinea at the time, the Companhia uniao fabril (CUF).

Almost immediately upon his arrival, Cabral found friends in Bissau with whom he could discuss politics, and try to initiate political work. At first he sought to establish links with the Cape Verdeans who were working there, mainly as civil servants, and with some of whom he had gone to school in Cape Verde. Although most refused to contemplate political activity, some took an interest and Cabral met secretly with them. Among the first of these were Aristides Pereira and Abilio Duarte, both from Cape Verde, and today prominent members of the PAIGC 59. Cabral also maintained good relations with the workers of the station and it is clear that, with some at least, he engaged in political discussions.

It is even reported that Cabral planned the assassination of Governor Carlos Gorgulho due to be posted to Guinea 60. Gorgulho had become notorious for his harshness and cruelty and, most notably, was responsible for the February 1953 massacre in Sao Tome in which scores were killed 61. In the end the plan came to naught because Gorgulho did not go to Guinea. Although without direct confirmation it is difficult to establish the accuracy of this account, there is ample evidence of Cabral's political activities at the time.

In September 1953 Cabral was asked by the then Governor of Guinea, Captain Melo e Alvim, whether he wished to undertake an agncultural survey of the colony. The survey, ordered by the Portuguese Ministry for the Colonies, was the outcome of a promise made by the government to the Food and Agricultural Organisation in December 1947. The decision to fulfil that promise six years later was undoubtedly related to the fact that Portugal was at the time seeking admission to the UN. In any case, no agricultural survey had ever been carried out in Guinea before and Cabral therefore had very little to go by.

The survey required intensive field research and travel to all parts of Guinea. Cabral selected a team of about thirty for the research and they set out for the interior. His wife, also an agronomist, was a member of the team. By April 1954 the collection of data was finished. In five months the group had studied 356 population centres and 41 administrative districts which conta ined more than 2,200 lots cultivated by peasants 62. The analysis of the data was carried out during the rest of the year and by the end of 1954 the report was ready. It was published in 1956 63.

The report was a comprehensive survey of Guinean agriculture based on generalisa tions from representative samples 64. The data were broken down according to regions, crops, cultivated areas, ethnic groups, and other relevant analytical categories. The report was essentially a technical survey and, given the conditions under which Cabral had to work at the time and the lack of existing data, it is generally agreed that it was a solid piece of research 65. In the evaluative section of the report, Cabral was not optimistic about the prospects of Guinean agriculture. He criticised the effect of groundnut monoculture, emphasising the danger of over-reliance on the production of a crop so dependent on the fluctuations of the world market. He pointed out that such monoculture had led to a skewed distribution of acreage for cultivation and to the neglect of crop diversification. His conclusions, although couched in cautious terms, raised important questions about the possibility of developing Guinean agriculture further without an improvement in the living conditions of the villagers.

The opportunity to travel all over Guinea and to talk to the villagers was a crucial experience for Cabral, who, having been educated in Cape Verde and Portugal, had until then little real knowledge of Africa. It gave him an intimate knowledge of the socio-economic conditions in the country which later proved invaluable. He was thus presented with a unique chance to acquaint himself with and to understand the reality of life in Guinea under colonial rule. Although it was good fortune that he had been asked to conduct the survey, he was clever enough to use this opportunity to further his knowledge of Guinea and to initiate political work.

The research for the survey enabled Cabral to visit many different villages. ‘During that period,’ his wife recalled,

we travelled all over Guinea. Cabral would usually go and see the village chiefs while I remained in the district centre and collected data. In the villages he would hold meetings and it was in this way that he became familiar with the whole of Guinea. He was aware of the opportunity that it afforded him and he was determined to make the most of it. He used to say that the peasants were remarkable people. marvellous people. He did not really know the country and he was amazed by what he discovered. At that time he made a lot of contacts, either in the cities or with the chiefs.

However, Cabral also encountered difficulties in the course of his travels in Guinea. First, as he was to find out even more acutely during the struggle , the rural population had a natural suspicion of foreign ideas and were not easily convinced by them. Secondly. and probably somewhat to his surprise, Cabral found himself in an ambiguous position. He was a Portuguese civil servant of whom the villagers had an automatic and immediate distrust. They believed that the survey he was carrying out would result in tax increases. In addition, he was from Cape Verde, and at times the local population tended to resent both the work which the Cape Verdean civil servants were doing on behalf of the colonial government and the privileges which they seemingly de rived from it. Cabral referred to these difficulties on many occasions. But the experience was a useful lesson for the future leader of the PAIGC 66.

Cabral's position as a civil servant compelled him to exercise great care. Maria Helena Rodrigues recalls that on one occasion a Portuguese district officer had hit an old African woman in front of Cabral. She had protested while he had kept quiet . Later he told her that, although he had been sickened by the incident, it would have served no purpose to protest and it might have brought them trouble from the colonial authorities. ‘This is not the way to liberate the people,’ he said 67. Nevertheless, he made every effort to share his ideas as and when possible. Many of his meetings, at the Pessube station or in the quarters of Bissau, were clandestine, but he also sought to use every available legal avenue. As Cabral well knew, the use of legal, cultural or sports associations to promote the cause of nationalism had often been highly successful in British and French Africa. In 1954 he attempted to set up a sports, cultural and recreational club in Bissau but his application was rejected by the colonial authorities on the grounds that it did not discriminate between assimilado and non-assimilado members. However, he received permission to organise a club for young people where, for some time, he was able to come into contact with and influence some of the Bissau youth. The club was a success, but its activities were closely followed by the secret police (PIDE) and eventually a report was sent to the governor about the suspicious nature of the discussions taking place there 68. The governor, with whom Cabral was on friendly terms, warned him that these ‘illegal’ activities should cease. What happened then is not altogether clear but Cabral left Bissau in 1955 and returned to Portugal. The accepted PAIGC version of Cabral's de parture from Guinea stresse the fact that he was expelled and banned from the colony 69. Cabral's wife was unaware of this ‘official’ version until recently; she says that the immediate reason for their departure was that Cabral was very ill.

During the three year that he spent in Guinea, Cabral had met enough Guinean and Cape Verdean civil servants, urban workers and villagers to have some idea of what would be involved in the organisation of a nationalist movement. This alone can explain why he hould have decided to found the PAIGC in September 1956 during one of his short visits to Guinea Before that date the first Guinean nationalist organisation, the Movimento da independência nacional da Guiné portuguesa (MING), had had little success. It had comprised a small number of the nationalist petite bourgeoisie, a few workers and some members of the staff working at the Pessubé station with Cabral. Whether Cabral himself was a member is a moot point, but it seem likely that he was connected with it. The MING had not taken any practical action and was subsequently disbanded. There is no evidence that Cabral himself had attempted to organise nationalist agitation formally before he left Guinea in 1955. The failure of the MING as well as the events surrounding Cabral's departure from Guinea are difficult to evaluate because today many of the participants in or witnesses to these events freely mix fact and legend.

During this period Cabral published six articles on various aspects of Guinean agriculture, all drawing from the research he had conducted for the agricultural survey. A brief summary of some of the important conclusions relating to social or political questions will give an idea of his thinking at the time. One article on soil erosion in Guinea derived from his thesis. It emphasised that the solution to erosion was not technical but political and social, and that in the colonial context, the pressures of the colonial economy aggravated the existing problems of erosion. In another article on the mechanisation of agriculture in Guinea, Cabral gave an openly Marxist definition of the evolution of agriculture 70. He argued that the introduction of mechanisation in agriculture corresponded to a particular stage in the development of the productive forces. He concluded that the technological argument in favour of mechanisation was over-simplistic because it ignored too many other crucial factors affecting the development of the socioeconomic structure of Guinea.

In a third article Cabral discussed land utilisation in Black Africa 71. He claimed that colonial pressures to develop export crops aggravated the devastation of African land because it was in contradiction with traditional agriculture. He exposed the effects of this economic exploitation upon African villagers and concluded that only the rational use of scientific knowledge would bring about the development of African agriculture. This emphasis upon the progressive aspect of scientific knowledge is a common feature in many of his later writings.

In another article Cabral discussed the question of the balance between land cleared by fire (queimada) and fallow land 72. Once again he used a Marxist framework to describe how the colonial economic imperative to produce for export brought about a transformation of the mode of production and had drastic effects on African agriculture. In an interesting conclusion Cabral showed that the ratio of queimadas to fallow land grew with the increasing importance of the colonial export crop. As a result, the increase in colonial export crop cultivation led to the ‘progressive decrease of the possibilities of exploiting the land, to the lack of cultivable soil, to a decrease in fertility, to soil destruction through e rosion and laterisation and, consequently, to the deterioration of the already precarious economic situation of the indigenous peasant’. It was, therefore, the whole balance of African agriculture which was threatened by the fo rceful imposition of export crop cultivation.

This brief summary of Cabral's writings on Guinean agriculture indicates that he was well a ware of the economic impact of colonial rule. It also shows that even his technical writings on agriculture were informed by and couched in a methodology and sociology distinctly influenced by Marxism. The fact that Cabral's use of such Marxist concepts was crude, simplistic, uncertain and somewhat naive is an indication of the sort of Marxist theory to which he had been exposed in Portugal. The framework he used related particular aspects of Guinean agriculture to the more general economic and social questions relevant to the understanding of Guinean society as a whole.

Upon his return to Lisbon in 1955, Cabral had no difficulty in finding employment. For the next four years he was based in Portugal but often went on long missions to Angola as a consultant on soil analysis for various agricultural companies. In 1956 he worked for the Angolan company CADA; in 1957 for the Sociedade agrícola de Cassequel. He usually went on these missions with a team including some of his former ISA colleagues, most notably Alfredo Constantino and Rui Vaz 73. In 1958 he returned to Lisbon to resume work with Professor Baeta Neves at the Laboratório de defesa fitosanitaria dos produtos armazenados and at the Brigada de estudos de defesa fitossanitária dos produtos ultramarinos 74. During this period he was able to continue his work as a successful agronomist while intensifying his involvement in nationalist politics. His professional colleagues knew nothing about the political aspect of his life. He was very cautious about meeting other nationalists, and his clandestine political contacts were usually made at night. He thus managed to escape the close scrutiny of the PIDE.

In Angola, Cabral's work took him to coffee and sugar plantations and he had ample opportunities to travel inside the country. Unlike Guinea, Angola had been effectively colonised by Portuguese settlers and agricultural companies. Land had been appropriated , the African population expelled or displaced and forced labour was widely used. Furthermore, in Angola, unlike in Guinea, there had been a measure of industrial development. Most of the country's economy was under the control of non-Portugue e firms, thus making the link between Portuguese and foreign capital eminently obvious. Cabral was particularly sensitive to the working and living conditions of the plantation workers, many of whom were Cape Verdeans who had had to emigrate because they could not survive in the archipelago. He was appalled by the plight of his compatriots working in Angola.

While in Angola, Cabral continued his contacts with the Africans he had known during his student days in Lisbon. He was quickly introduced to national ist politics. He collaborated with the early Angolan nationalist organisation, the Partido da luta unida dos africanos de Angola (PLUA), attended their meetings and wrote pamphlets. In December 1956 three months after he had founded the PAIGC in Guinea, he participated in the founding of the Movimento popular para a libertação de Angola (MPLA). However, Cabral's political involvement in Angola remained discreet, largely because he did not wish to take risks which might jeopardise his work in Guinea and Cape Verde. Whether his decision to go to Angola had been politically motivated or not, it is clear that his experience there could only have hardened his resolve to end Portuguese colonialism. By 1958, when he returned to Lisbon, he had a more intimate knowledge of Portugal's African colonies than most of his nationalist colleagues. He had lived and worked in Cape Verde, Guinea, Angola and São Tome. He had also travelled secretly to independent Ghana and managed to visit Guinee, then on the verge of independence.

During the last two years of his work as an agronomist he held the position of chefe de secção de armazenamento (head of the section related to the storing of agricultural products) in Professor Baeta Neves' laboratory. His duties included research in the laboratory itself and phyto-sanitary control in and around the Lisbon area. These were fruitful years during which Cabral published a number of articles and monographs on entomological infection and phyto-sanitary control 75. Even if his professional life was secondary to his political activities, those who worked with him at the time all testify to the quality of his work. His natural authority was enhanced by his competence and his professional skills; no one disputed his knowledge and ability 76. Although his work could easily have brought Cabral success and rewards as a professional agronomist or as an academic, he never had any hesitation about his political commitments.

At the end of 1959 he secretly and permanently left Portugal, travelled in Europe (France, England and Switzerland) and to China, before preparing to go to the new PAIGC headquarters in Conakry. What, then, was the relevance of Cabral's professional career to his political life as the PAIGC leader?

First, his work as an agronomist, particularly in Guinea, enabled him to acquire valuable information about the countryside. Because of his training he was able to analyse the rural socio-economic structure of Guinea much more rapidly and thoroughly than would someone with a different background. It is difficult to over-emphasise the importance of his experience in the light of the development of the PAIGC strategy during the struggle. Many key decisions, especially at the beginning, were made solely on the basis of the knowledge he acquired during this period. In this respect, Cabral's experience was probably unique. Few twentieth-century revolutionary and guerrilla leaders were in the enviable position of having such a specialised and detailed knowledge of the country in which they proposed to launch a people's war.

Secondly, his training as a scientist and the seven years of experience as an agronomist reinforced his inclination towards an empirical approach. ‘He was a scientist,’ Luiz Cabral said; ‘he spoke of the struggle in the same way as he would speak of agriculture’. Already during his student years Cabral had preferred to study African agriculture rather than Marxism-Leninism. He was now even more convinced of the importance of factual knowledge and practical experience. This emphasis on facts and pragmatism was, as we shall see, one of the key aspects of Cabral, the party leader. By 1959 he knew that independence would have to be achieved by force and that a guerrilla struggle would have to rely on the participation of the villagers. Even more important, he also knew the difficulties involved in such an undertaking.

1. Much of the information set down in this section was obtained from interviews with Mário de Andrade, Luiz Cabral (Amílcar's half-brother) and Maria Helena Ataide Vilhena Rodrigues (Amílcar's first wife), and from a printed interview of Iva Evora, Amílcar's mother.
2. ‘Lembranças de Iva Evora, mãe de Amílcar Cabral’, Nô Pintcha II, 225 (12 Se ptember 1976).
3. Mário de Andrade says that Amílcar and his mother returned to Cape Verde in 1931.
4. See Processo individual no. 1895 in Cabral's file at the lnstituto superior de agronomia.
5. Such separations were common in Cape Verde. On the structure of the Cape Verdean family and for a description of the de facto polygamy which prevailed, see Carreira, Cabo Verde. Classes Sociais, pp. 21 ff.
6. Juvenal Cabral, Memorias e reflexões (Praia, 1947).
7. Amílcar Cabral, Alguns princípios do partido (Lisbon: Seara Nova, 1974), p. 33. Translations into English are by the author unless otherwise stated.
8. Cabral, Alguns princípios, p. 57.
9. Ibid., p. 33.
10. Cabral, ‘On the situation of starvation’, p. I , quotes figures from Lessa & Ruffié, Seroantropologia.
11. De Andrade, ‘Memória do povo da Guine e Cabo Verde: tres datas gloriosas’, O Militante, 2 (August 1977). p. 45.
12. Cabral, Alguns princípios, p. 33.
13. See Mário de Andrade, ‘Aspectos da literatura africana’, Nô Pintcha, 11, 213 (14 August 1976).
14. For an example of the Portuguese view, see José Julio Gonçalves, ‘As “élites” no ultramar portugues’. in Coloquios de política ultramarina internacionalmente relevante (Lisbon: Junta de investigações do ultramar, 1958), pp. 85-110.
15. Mário de Andrade, La poésie africaine d'expression portugaise. Evolutions et tendances actuelles (Honfleur: Pierre Jean Oswald , 1969), Introduction; Manuel Ferreira, Literaturas africanas de expressão portuguesa (2 vols.) (Lisbon: Instituto da cultura portuguesa , Biblioteca breve, 1977), vol. l , pp. 39-42.
16. Onesimo Silveira, ‘Prise de conscience dans la littérature du Cap Vert’, Présence Africaine, 68 (1968), pp. 106-21.
17. Quoted in de Andrade, ‘Aspectos de literatura africana’.
18. Ferreira, Literaturas africanas, p. 47.
19. Ibid., p. 109.
20. Amílcar Cabral (under the pseudonym Arlindo Antonio) , ‘Hoje e amanhã’, Mensagem, 11 (1949), reprinted in Nô Pintcha, TV, 511 (12 September 1978).
21. For a bathetic attempt to derive consequential political meaning from the text, see Mário de Andrade's introduction to the essay in Nô Pintcha, IV, 512.
22. Cabral , ‘Regresso …’ , Cabo Verde: Boletim de propaganda e informação, I (November 1949), p. I 1; Cabral, ‘Quem e que não se lembra …’, Mensagem, II, 11 (May-september 1946), Nô Pintcha, 11, 225 ( 12 September 1976). For a discussion of Cabral as a poet, see G.M. Moser, ‘The poet Amílcar Cabral’, Research in African Literature, 9, 2, (1978), pp. 176-97.
23. Cabral, ‘Notes sur la poésie des Iles du Cap Vert’, in Unité et lutte I, pp. 25-31.
24. Much of the information in this section was obtained from interviews with Maria Helena Rodrigues, Professor Eugenio Castro Caldas, Luiz Cabral, José de Sousa Melo, Maria Irene Moreira, Alfredo and Adalgiza Constantino, Dr Telmo Monteiro , Mario de Andrade and Carlos da Silva.
25. The Casa dos estudantes do Império was set up in 1945 by the government to serve as an administrative and social centre for students from the colonies. Its main function was to assist the students during their university yean; in Lisbon, and it was largely run by the students themselves. The majority of the membership was white.
26. Cabral, ‘Em defesa da terra’, Cabo Verde: Boletim de propaganda e informação, I (November 1949), pp. 2-5; I (March 1950), pp. 15-18; 11 (November 1950), pp. 19--22; 11 (December 1950), pp. 6-8; II (February 1952), pp. 24-5. Cabral, ‘O problema da erosão do solo. Contribuição para o seu estudo na região de Cuba (Alentejo)’, unpublished thesis, Universidade técnica de Lisboa, Instituto superior de agronomia, 1951.
27. Cabral, ‘Em defesa da terra’, p. 15.
28. Carlos da Silva, ‘Conhecí Amílcar Cabral. Contribuição tendo a vista o traçado do seu perfil’, Diario de Noticias, 10 September 1974.
29. Cabral, ‘O problema da erosão do sol’, chapter 3, pp. 8-9.
30. Ibid., chapter 1, p. 15.
31. Ibid., chapter 3, p. 34.
32. Ibid., chapter 4, p. 14.
33. Much of the information contained in this section was obtained from interviews with Mário Soares, Maria Helena Rodrigues, Dr Telmo Monteiro, Dr Armenio Ferreira, Vasco Cabral, Nuno Teotónio Pereira, Fernando Piteira Santos, Manuel Alegre, Veiga Pereira, Mario de Andrade, Aristides Feijiio and Noémia de Sousa. Mário Soares had been a member of the Portuguese Communist Party, but he left after a disagreement about the party's role in the MUD. He later founded the Portuguese Socialist Party and went on to become the first elected prime minister after the April 1974 Revolution.
34. Oleg Ignatiev, Amílcar Cabral: filho de Africa (Lisbon: Prelo Editora, 1975), chapter 1.
35. Vasco Cabral's description of Cabral as a militant in the MUD-Juvenil is inaccurate. ‘Depoimentos de Vasco Cabral e Mário de Andrade,’ Nô Pintcha, III, 423 (19 January 1978). See issues of Avante and O Militante, the two clandestine PCP publications, during the forties and early fifties.
36. See ‘Declaração do Vo Congresso do Partido comunista portugues sobre o problema das colonias portugueses’ (October 1957).
37. See Alvaro Cunhal, ‘Portugal num momento crucial da nossa história’, Revista internacional, 5 (July 1961); ‘La lotta contra il colonialismo e la guerra colonial — fatti e documenti’ (Reggio Emilia, 25 March 1973), a PCP summary of their position on the colonial question presented at the Solidarity Conference with the people of the Portuguese Colonies, held in Italy in March 1973.
38. See Francisco Lino Neto, A questão ultramarina (Santarém, October 1969); ‘Programa político da Commissão democrática eleitoral de Lisboa’ (Lisbon, October 1969); ‘Program a para a democratização da Republica’ (January 1961). See also Liberdade, the publication of the Frente patriótica de libertação nacional; and Portugal Socialista, the socialist journal.
39. Cabral, Return to the Source (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973), p. 87.
40. ‘Texto de Amílcar Cabral’, Voz di Povo, I, 11 (18 September 1975).
41. Mário de Andrade, ‘Amílcar Cabral ea re-africanização dos espiritos’, Nô Pintcha, 11, 225 (12 September 1976).
42. Léopold Senghor, (ed.) Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue française (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1948).
43. From a letter written by Amílcar Cabra1 on 12 April 1949, quoted in Mário de Andrade & Arnaldo França. ‘A cultura na problemática da libertação nacional e do desenvolvimentoa luz do pensamento político de Amílcar Cabral’, Raizes, I, 1 (January- April1977), pp. 3-4.
44. Cabral , ‘Rosa negra’, Mensagem-circular, 6 (January 1949), reprinted in Nô Pintcha, IV, 511 (12 September 1978) ; Léopold Senghor, ‘Femme noire’, in Poèmes (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1973), pp. 14-15.
45. Jean Paul Sartre, ‘Orphée noire’, in Senghor (ed.), Anthologie. At the time this essay had a profound influence on Africans and on the French. It was an endorsement of négritude by one of France's most prominent intellectuals. It was an attack on the assimilationist assumptions of many French liberal and left political circles. Finally, it was a brilliant analysis of the genesis and significance of négritude as a cultural movement.
46. Although Cabral wrote poetry, his work never acquired much literary significance, unlike that of Agostinho Neto and Noémia de Sousa, who are recognised as two of the finest poets from lusophone Africa.
47. Mário de Andrade, A geração de Cabral (Conakry, Instituto Amizade, 1973), p. 14.
48. Although under student pressure the government eventually allowed elections again, it continued to exercise close control.
49. Ignatiev, Amílcar Cabral, pp. 34-41 , gives a dramatic account of the events. For the ultimate in hagiography, see pp. 21-30, where Ignatiev amplifies the myth surrounding the incident.
50. ‘Texto de Amílcar Cabral’.
51. Manuel d'Almeida was incensed at the version given by Ignatiev in his book. The Soviet journalist gives no evidence, references or sources for his account.
52. De Andrade, ‘Amílcar Cabral e a reafricanização dos espíritos’.
53. Francisco Tenreiro, A ilha de São Tomé (Lisbon: Junta de investigações do ultramar, 1961).
54. Cabral, ‘Le rôle de l'étudiant africain’, in Unité et lutte I, p. 36.
55. Mário de Andrade was one of the first leaders of the MPLA. In 1963, after an internal dispute, he left the MPLA. Since then he has not returned to Angola. He continued to militate for the independence of the Portuguese colonies in the CONCP, the organisation coordinating the diplomacy of the PAIGC, MPLA and FRELIMO. De Andrade was Minister of Information and Culture in Guinea-Bissau until November 1980.
56. Cabral, ‘Identity and dignity in the context of the national liberation struggle’, in Return to the Source, pp. 62-3. This was a paper which Cabral read at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania on 15 October 1972, upon receiving an honorary doctorate degree.
57. Much of the information in this section was obtained from interviews with Maria Helena Rodrigues, Mário de Andrade, Luiz Cabral, Alfredo Constantino, Maria Moreira and Adalgiza Constantino.
58. ‘Texto de Amílcar Cabral’.
59. Pereira is the PAIGC secretary-general and the president of Cape Verde, while Duarte is Cape Verde's foreign minister. Others who used to meet with Cabral were Julio de Almeida and Fernando Fortes, later co-founders of the PAIGC.
60. Ignatiev, Amílcar Cabral, pp. 64-6. This was confirmed by Mário de Andrade in an interview.
61. For an independent account of the events known as the ‘February 1953 Massacre’, see René Pélissier, Le naufrage des caravelles (Orgeval: Editions Pélissier , 1979), pp. 229-42.
62. Cabral, ‘Recenseamento agrícola da Guine’, p. 50.
63. In Boletim cultural da Guiné portuguesa (BCGP), 11 , 43 (July 1956), pp. 7-243.
64. The methodology is discussed in detail in Amílcar Cabral & Maria Helena Cabral, ‘Breves not as ace rea da razlio de ser, objectivos e processo da execução do recenseamento agrícola da Guiné’, BCGP, 9, 33 (January 1954), pp. 195-201.
65. Today agronomists are working on similar surveys in Guinea-Bissau and their impression is that Cabral's research was properly carried out despite some inaccurate results. Private communication with Jean-Pierre Le Bihen, a French agronomist working in the Ministry of Rural Development in Bissau.
66. Gerald Chilcote (‘The political thought of Amílcar Cabral’, Journal of Modern African Studies, 6, 3 (1968), p. 375) exaggerates in his description of Cabral's problem in being accepted as a ‘local African’.
67. Ignatiev, Amílcar Cabral, pp. 74-80, has inexplicably transformed the account of this incident which Cabral's wife gave him.
68. Portugal's internal secret police force was known as the Policia internacional de defesa do estado (International police for the defence of the state), PIDE.
69. See Mário de Andrade, ‘Memória do povo da Guine e Cabo Verde: tres datas gloriosas’, p. 47; Rudebeck, A Study of Political Mobilization, p. 44; Davidson, Liberation of Guiné. p. 30.
70. Cabral, ‘Para o conhecimento do problema da erosao de solo na Guiné’, BCGP, 9, 33 (January 1954), pp. 163-94; and ‘A propósito da mecamzação da agricultura na Guiné portuguesa’, BCGP, 9, 34 (April 1954), pp. 389-400.
71. Cabral, ‘Acerca da utilização da terra na Africa negra’, BCGP, 9. 34 (April 1954), pp. 401- 16.
72. Cabral, ‘Queimadas e pousios na circunscrição de Fulacunda em 1953’, BCGP, 9, 35 (July 1954), pp. 627-43.
73. See Ignatiev, Amílcar Cabral, pp. 84-7.
74. ‘Emoção e saudade no Institute Superior de agronomia ao ser evocada a memória de Amílcar Cabral’, Nô Pintcha, III , 421 (14 January 1978).
75. Most of these articles and monographs were written in collaboration with his assistants at the laboratory. A complete list of Cabral's writings on agriculture appears in the Bibiliography, section 1A.
76. See Professor Baeta Neves' speech on the occasion of President Luiz Cabral's visit to the ISA in January 1978 in ‘Emoção e saudade no Institute Superior’.

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