Herbert Boyd's Angola article surprised me- not only because it was not- as advertised-an "eye witness report"-and not only because the SUN published it-but because it was so superficial, misleading, and inaccurate.
It struck me as a pseudo-academic apologia for a CIA supported movement reflecting many of the ideological confusions of those whose analysis is more "revolutionary" than that of real revolutionaries.
At the very moment that the UNITA faction in Angola seemed on its way to the proverbial dustbin of history, we have Mr. Boyd share his ambivalences and frustrations with us. The "informed" sector of the "Afro-American community self-exiled in Africa" and the "telex machine at the Kilamanjaro Hotel" -his two "sources" may have preferred another outcome in Angola, but, surely, one must deal with what did happen and why.
There is no lack of evidence linking South African troops, CIA financing, and mercenary killers to Mr. Savimbi's "prowestern" UNITA. Yet that evidence is downplayed in Mr. Boyd's polemic. Instead, we have a thinly veiled attack on the MPLA riddled with ideological babble about super-powers, tribalist assumptions, and an unwillingness to discuss the strategy of U.S. imperialism or the South African racists.
The MPLA today enjoys the backing of the OAU-and represents the only legitimate government of Angola. It has been so recognized by virtually every revolutionary movement and progressive government. (No governments, incidentally, ever recognized the rump "government" proclaimed by the discredited and militarily defeated UNITA-FNLA movements.)
Now that Africa has recognized the victory of the MPLA, will Mr. Boyd and the Michigan SUN do likewise.
News/WBCN, Boston, Mass.
Herbert Boyd replies:
Though my initial impulse is to ignore comments that point toward irreconcilable differences, out of common courtesy, again realizing the variance in our ideological perspectives, I will reply to your remarks.
From the top. Mr. Schechter, the story should have never been entitled an "eyewitness account." No where in the story is such an impression intended. Obviously, to have had only an ear to the door or an eye to the keyhole does not constitute an "on-the-spot" report.
However, the other "misleading" and "superficial" aspects you cite become a matter of debate, reference, and how one sums up history. And if you expect two thousand words to represent a definitive statement on the many contradictions that exist in Angola, then your "ex-status" with the Africa Research Group is quite understandable!
The overall purpose of the article was to show just one person's experience in attempting to reach a principled position on a very complicated situation. Your strong feelings for the MPLA would, of course, disallow any real appreciation for this kind of groping. Being an MPLA advocate (and that's not "thinly veiled"!) it would be impossible for you lo view this movement as a minority organization that destroyed the transitional igovernment in the fall of '75, which would have brought about the democratic elections for the possible political expression of all the people of Angola! While this may not be a crucial issue for you, for me. Mr. Schechter, it is fundamental It is this act that is central if you are to understand the subsequent civil war. But then, as mentioned above, your MPLA bias would never permit you to accept this fact in your poor assessment of the Angolan struggle.
And, of the ambivalence you mentioned, well, it grows out of a concern for the cessation of brother killing brother-a condition that has hardly disturbed the dogmatic sector of the international left one bit! It is truly sad that they (you) are calling for the blood of the majority Ovimbundo people, instead of the more practical and humane coalition government.
Less I dignify your response beyond courtesy, let me say in conclusion that if you think the "tribalist assumptions" are unreal, then you know nothing about the African experience, and it would be my privilege to see you caught in the middle of the violent antagonisms that sometimes exist between certain African tribes.
Like the African Research Group itself, Mr. Schechter, your best work appears to be behind you-and the struggle in Angola is far from over!