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9— 'We are all Portuguese!' Challenging the Political Economy of Assimilation: Lourenco Marques, 1870–1933
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'We are all Portuguese!' Challenging the Political Economy of Assimilation: Lourenco Marques, 1870–1933

Jeanne Penvenne

Cultural relations provide collective identities based on common ethnicity . . . language . . . religion . . . nationality, ascribing distinctive 'ways of life' and values to these shared characteristics . . . [Cultural relations] can be a medium of domination and subordination and consequently an area of struggle. . . . The meanings and identities provided by culture and ideology are 'lived' through social relationships which reinforce, modify or challenge practices which characterize relationships.[1]

Introduction and Perspective

Shared cultural identities are central in providing a criterion for determining whether, and how, people share access to decision making, to land, to control over labour, factors and instruments of production, to favours of all sorts, and indeed even whether, and how, people labour or allocate the product of their labour. People who think of themselves as comprising a 'we' hold notions of sharing which emerge from a multi-level, ever-changing kaleidoscope of meaning and identity. The notion of comprising a 'we' is as important at any single moment as it is difficult to nail down. What at one moment, on one level, is the consciousness of a sharing 'we' can, at another moment and on another level, split into a consciousness of 'we' and 'they', with notions of sharing altered accordingly.

This essay is concerned with one such situation. In the early decades of this century a group of educated black males in Lourenco Marques conducted a prolonged struggle against the realignment of their cultural frames of reference which occurred as the Portuguese colonial state sought to subordinate the majority black population of Mozambique to the evolving political and economic demands of the colonial capitalist system. Jockeying to share as 'we' and to exclude others as 'they' was an on-going process, ebbing and flowing at all levels of society as the economy contracted, expanded, or simply changed. What clearly emerges from an overview of this period is that hard times caused by a myriad of economic and political factors were paralleled by the redefinition of both individuals and groups into sharply narrower categories. Shared cultural characteristics were energetically deployed to reduce the sharing 'we' as


economic opportunities to share were reduced. With each crisis members of the black elite lost ground vis-à-vis the white community and experienced severe tensions among its own members. While the ultimate fate of nineteenth century educated Africans, compradores and culture brokers was commonly displacement and subordination, the timing and nature of the process varied considerably, as did perceptions of shared meanings and identities.[2]

This essay explores the experience of a generation of predominantly Catholic, mission-educated Africans and mulattoes who were associated with the Grêmio Africano, a social clique and political lobby founded between 1906 and 1908. It relates their struggle to participate in the colonial economy as unfettered Portuguese citizens, the class orientation of their struggle, and the often conflicting co-identities within the urban black elite as the political economy changed. The Grêmio's struggle emerges in the articles, editorials and correspondence published in their newspapers, O Africano (1908–1918) and 0 Brado Africano (after 1918), particularly in relation to their campaigns to oppose what they called 'laws of exception'. These laws included both legal and social constraints tied to racially determined categories of citizenship. The Grêmio's opposition to exceptional requirements for persons considered by the Portuguese colonial state to be indigenas ('natives') forced the issue of just who was to be considered an iodigena and who was not. Their challenge in turn prompted the formulation of yet another exceptional category: assimilado (culturally assimilated black or honorary non-native).

That the Grêmio identified these constraints and sought to undermine their legal promulgation or, failing that, to thwart their implementation is revealing at two general levels. First, it demonstrates a keen awareness that any and all forms of legal exclusion which coincided with racial distinctions compromised all black persons, even those of privileged status. From the outset, the thrust of the campaign was the unacceptability of race as a criterion for distinctions among citizens. The Grêmio's refrain 'We are all Portuguese!' asserted equality tempered with the assurance of loyalty.[3]

At a second level, the struggle sheds considerable light on conflicting co-identities within the black elite. Although as a group they remained unwilling to concede the basic premise from which racist relations of domination ultimately proceeded, individuals and sub-groups within the elite nevertheless manoeuvred to enhance their own interests in the narrowing arena, with some being able to present themselves as 'more Portuguese' than others.

The elite's campaign against laws of exception took different forms at different times. It originated in the first decade of the century in opposition to legislation designed to restrict the freedom of blacks to market their labour in Lourenco Marques. The campaign gained momentum as the state attempted to gain greater control over African activity between 1913 and 1919. It was subsequently blunted in the 1920s, when, for a number of reasons, some members of the black elite found it expedient to cooperate with the laws of exception. Competition with the rapidly growing urban white population to secure employment became more difficult as patronage linked to Portugal began to take precedence over local patronage—a process sharply intensified with the overthrow of the Republic in 1926. Politically inspired job protection and social welfare programmes intended for whites only which were developed by the state to alleviate the devastating economic consequences of the Depression exacerbated social tensions at all levels so that by 1933 educated blacks barely bothered to oppose the principle that a legal process should separate them from their citizenship. Divisions within the elite emerged in sharp relief, and unity within the mature elite and between the mature and


younger members crumbled under this burden.

Although the Grêmio framed its challenge in terms of common values and a 'way of life' entitling them to participate in the colonial economy on an equal footing with any other Portuguese, the challenge was replete from the start with contradictions based on gender, class and ethnicity. My purpose is to demonstrate neither that the elite was capable of mounting an intellectually impressive argument for unfettered citizenship—which it was—nor that the elite had so internalized the meanings and identities of the hegemonic Portuguese middle class culture and ideology that, despite its often brilliant manipulation of meanings and identities, it could not convincingly challenge colonial domination. Rather, I shall explore the changing economic and political relationships in the struggle to decide who would and who would not share and under what circumstances. Through such an investigation one may arrive at a more general understanding of cultural relations as a medium of domination and subordination. Why were idioms of cultural identity projected and manipulated by both dominant and dominated groups at different times to advance their conflicting postures? And what were the limits of such manipulation?

To avoid misunderstanding from the outset, I must summarize the basic perspectives which shape this essay. First, this is a study of male protagonists in the public sphere of the growing capitalist sector, based on their published thoughts, recapturable actions and socio-economic identities. Women most often emerged in Grêmio publications subsumed in terms of 'ours' and 'theirs'. The developing economics of assimilation revolved around a series of changing combinations of rights and obligations, inclusions and exclusions, tempered by varying degrees and types of privilege and harassment, but all assumed the subordinate position of women. As the parameters of the struggle took shape in the first quarter of the century, the status of women did not even merit explicit recognition in law. By 1927 when qualifications for 'non-native' status were tightened, the assumed subordination of women was made at least implicit: wives and children of those persons considered non-native would be considered non-natives if they lived in their husbands' or fathers' house (Dip. leg. 36, 12 November 1927). The ways in which women interacted in the rearrangement of the social basis for economic and political participation in the city in this period is therefore only indirectly considered here.

Second, the record of published thoughts and recapturable actions draws more heavily on some sections of the black elite than on others. By the early twentieth century the black elite of Lourenço Marques was made up of several intersecting and overlapping groups. Each group comprised families who generally intermarried, shared the same religion, spoke the same language, and looked to one another for social support. There was a slight tendency for male members of each group to be employed in similar sectors of the economy—a tendency which reflected religious and linguistic characteristics—but places of employment and public forums were usually the venues at which various elite groups interacted. There were two principal elite groupings, one Catholic-educated and Portuguese-speaking (the Grêmio group) and the other Protestant-educated and Rjonga-speaking, many of whom later came to comprise the membership of the Instituto Negrófilo.[4] Consideration of other groups here tends to reflect the intensity of their interaction with the Grêmio group. The men who originally came together in casual association in 1906 and then formed the Grêmio Africano in 1908 were from at least two groups. The majority were Catholic, Portuguese-speaking Afro-Europeans and Afro-Goans, but some of the most revered members—Estácio Dias for example—were Africans.[5]


Finally, in contrast with those who find a critical division in Portuguese colonial society between persons who came to be legally classified as indígenas and those who did not—thus emphasizing the gap between indígeaas on one hand and mulattoes and assimilados on the other—I argue, following the legislation which eventually fashioned such legal categories, that the line fell between 'all persons of the black [later Negro] race and descendants of the same' and all others.[6] I therefore use the term 'black' to refer in general to both mulattoes and Africans.

Southern Mozambique in the Late Nineteenth Century Regional Economy

Paradoxically, the area in which this self-consciously Portuguese-speaking black elite had grown up was one which had wavered in the margins of Portuguese consciousness and control for centuries. It was only in the last quarter of the nineteenth century that significant and sustained links between Lisbon and Lourenço Marques were established.[7] Before this, the town and its hinterland were oriented towards the Indian Ocean and southeastern African trade worlds, having only rare contact with Lisbon.[8] The flow of persons and goods in the town's economic hinterland usually proceeded oblivious to metropolitan interests—untaxed, unsanctioned and producing little revenue for chronically empty state coffers.

Smuggling was so pervasive in southern Mozambique that Portuguese officials hesitated to try to increase customs duties, fearing that higher duties would only drive all trade outside the customs house.[9] Lisbon was equally frustrated by its inability to sell Portuguese goods in the area because of competition from Indian Ocean traders. Lisbon began seriously to address the problem of controlling the trade of southern Mozambique only in the 1870s, at a time when the state's coffers were particularly empty and when the trade of Lourenço Marques was beginning to appear especially alluring. Reining in Mozambique's economy, however, proved difficult.

Portugal began trying to raise revenues by strengthening its economic links with its African colonies. It determined to encourage an increase in the volume of Mozambique's foreign trade, hoping that it would generate greater customs and handling revenues. In 1877 Portugal opened Mozambican commerce and shipping to all countries. Between 1877 and 1892 the value of legal foreign trade in Mozambique increased by 300 per cent.[10] Yet, while foreign trade grew, Portugal's own trading position remained weak. In 1885, for example, the bulk of Mozambique's trade was in British or British Indian hands, with Portugal controlling a mere 7 per cent of the total value.[11] At the same time, southern Mozambique was also rapidly being drawn into the developing regional economy based on the sugar plantations of Natal and, most importantly, the mineral deposits of the Transvaal.

In the early 1890s Portugal underwent a severe economic crisis that prompted the government to reassess its liberal colonial tariff policies. As a consequence, in 1892, it promulgated protectionist measures that established throughout most of Mozambique a wide-ranging set of import and export duties designed to raise revenue. Lourenço Marques district, however, was specifically exempted from the new duties lest they drive its commerce into adjacent British territory.[12] As a result of this exemption, the value of Mozambique's trade in foreign hands, dominated especially by the rapidly growing trade through the port of Lourenço Marques to and from the Transvaal, continued to grow unabated, increasing


another fivefold between 1892 and 1899.[13] In 1880, customs revenues from the District of Lourenço Marques amounted to 47,000 milreis, while in 1896 they contributed 600,000 milreis in revenues.[14]

It was this commercial vigour that set Lourenço Marques apart from other Mozambican ports. In central Mozambique's Zambezia area, for example, the new Portuguese tariff policies throttled a promising experiment in peasant agriculture, bringing about a drop in the value of exports between 1891 and 1901 of some 80 per cent.[15] In Inhambane, to the north of Lourenço Marques, where itinerant trade from the hinterland comprised the bulk of export commodities, trade similarly languished throughout the 1890s. By 1899 Inhambane's overseas trade was 30 per cent less valuable than it had been a decade earlier. Lourenço Marques, however, with its firm linkages to the Witwatersrand gold fields and its exemption from the new protectionist tariffs, enjoyed a trade boom.[16]

The movement of people also drew southern Mozambique into the wider regional economy. From the 1860s on, but increasingly from the 1870s and 1880s, Mozambican men sold their labour in the growing capitalist economy of South Africa and fuelled local trade with repatriated wages.[17] Clearly, the economy of Lourenço Marques had taken an important and decisive turn in the last three

Figure 9.1
Trade in late nineteenth century Mozambique. Total value import/export in milreis.


decades of the nineteenth century. If Portugal was to maximize its revenues from this new situation, it would have to develop initiatives quite different from the essentially mercantile tactics it was then applying in Angola. The new policies were to have a far-reaching impact upon the area's local elite.

The Origins of the Black Elite—Trade and Influence

During the late nineteenth century establishing control over southern Mozambique's population was as frustrating an endeavour for Lisbon as controlling the area's trade. Throughout the century Portuguese soldiers and civilians, whether deported, contracted, cashiered, or assigned to duty in Lourenço Marques, frequently followed the flow of trade goods and opportunities along routes to the interior.[18] The European population drain from Lourenço Marques was so marked that in 1875 the Governor General of Mozambique prohibited further deportations to the town since those condemned to serve there quickly disappeared into the interior.[19]

Pockets of Portuguese, naturalized Portuguese and Portuguese Indian itinerant backwoods traders (sertanejos ) lived their adult lives hunting and trading in the Lourenço Marques-Inhambane-Transvaal triangle during the mid-nineteenth century.[20] From at least mid-century, Portuguese, Dutch, Ronga and Englishs-peaking traders, many of whom became quite successful and politically influential, also carried out long-distance trading throughout this area.

Most of the Lourenço Marques black elite of the early twentieth century derived from this earlier trading community. Their grandparents had been variously boatmen, caravan leaders, traders on a large or small scale, and clan-leaders. The leading mulatto members of the Grêmio Africano came from this background.[21] The city's wealthiest black women were similarly related to early traders.[22] Their status was originally based on their control and influence over people and property. According to historian Alexandre Lobato:

The social organization of the period . . . was one of a manor type house managed by a housekeeper, a capable Negro or mulatto woman and common law wife. The housekeepers of Lourenço Marques . . . were the native wives of the whites . . . famous mulattoes, mestiço descendants of the founders, powerful people in Mafumo with influential family in Mozambique city. Some were of royal blood, traced to former white alliances in the African interior, and were therefore capable at mercantile diplomacy.[23]

The continuing prosperity of these families, however, depended upon ecological, economic and political conditions in the trading hinterland and upon the changing politics and shifting terms of trade at the coastal entrepôt. Personal relations between hunter-traders and local authorities that developed over many years were the basis for trust and trade. The results of such diplomacy were vulnerable to both political disruption and population movement. From the 1860s onwards Lourenço Marques's itinerant traders and hunters were increasingly hampered by deteriorating conditions for their trade both in the interior and at the coast.[24]

The Gaza civil war (1861–1863) was the first of a number of setbacks for the hunter-traders based in Lourenço Marques. It forced them to take sides and thus compromised their ability to trade with everyone. The spread of famine, smallpox and cattle disease in the war's aftermath 'shattered the economy of the northern and central Delagoa Bay [Lourenço Marques] hinterland', dislocating thousands of people and severely undermining the production and marketing of trade


commodities.[25] Even the large businesses of influential men suffered severely from the disruption.[26] Trade routes remained precarious into the late 1870s because of winter raids from the south by Swazi regiments taking advantage of the area's weakened and unstable political situation after the war.[27]

The Luso-Gaza wars of 1894–95 and 1897 forced remaining traders to take sides again. Traders who successfully rallied their African allies to Portugal's cause gained stature, while those who failed to do so lost face. Protestant missionaries, including highly esteemed local pastors, were suspected of sympathy with the Gaza elite and several were summarily deported. Portugal had long exploited existing inter-group hostilities in efforts to dominate the political economy of the region south of the Sabi river, but the patterns of loyalties struck during the hostilities of the 1890s continued to influence social relations amongst the area's peoples well into the twentieth century, partially because of the brutal impact of the war and the resulting socio-economic upheaval on the population.[28]

At the level of the international commodities market, conditions were also changing, and successful accommodation and anticipation were similarly important for local traders. In the last quarter of the century, as itinerant trade in ivory, skins and agricultural products became less profitable and more difficult for a number of reasons, the 'changing terms of trade made commoditization of labour power more profitable than commoditization of the product of labour'.[29] Labour recruitment, retail trade with returning miners, and the rental, sale or development of town properties to new or expanding businesses became increasingly lucrative alternatives to hunting, trading and porterage. The development of speculation in state concessions for services, industries and trade held similar promise.[30] While some potential alternative opportunities for the black elite developed as a result of Portugal's initiatives in the area south of the Sabi river, changing socio-economic conditions at both the local and international levels severely undermined the elite's position at the very time Portugal moved to strengthen its hold on the area.

Lisbon's interests lay in increasing the volume of trade in Mozambique and, if possible, increasing its participation in that trade. Its focuses, therefore, were the transit trade with the Transvaal and the circulation of migrant labour. Portugal was uninterested in the well established, but now weakened, itinerant trade. Aside from the burst of traffic accompanying the completion of the railway to the Transvaal in 1895, the realignment of economic interests between the local elite and the state was gradual. Hunter-traders, for example, were commonly involved in aspects of labour recruitment and brokerage long before the state harnessed and formalized labour recruitment.[31] The importance of retail trade with returning miners was similarly gradual in its growth. As early as 1866, the gold-based currency introduced to the country in the form of repatriated wages was acknowledged as an important factor in Lourenço Marques retail trade, and by the 1890s all administrative reports for the area emphasized the strong relationship betyween migrant savings and local retail trade.

From 1870 to 1900, then, Lourenço Marques changed from a quiet trading port exporting the various animal and vegetable products of its hinterland into a bustling commercial port increasingly involved in the interrelated and complementary movement of Mozambique's human resources and the Transvaal's mineral resources. Those people who prospered in the long distance and itinerant trade because of their ability to amass the necessary trade goods and porters, to negotiate safe and rapid passage, and to see to a profitable exchange of goods and services through their knowledge of local conditions were progressively displaced. State-sponsored modern transportation facilities rendered


their routes uncompetitive and redundant and the nature of trade goods changed, increasingly moving from local to alien control.[32]

These changes in the area's economic patterns set the stage for a struggle as to who would dominate the new opportunities being opened up by the rapid transformation of Lourenço Marques. In the long run, Portuguese metropolitan and foreign interests triumphed and the established trading elite declined.

Changing Demography and Social Relations

While acknowledging the often inaccurate and inadequate nature of most colonial statistics, the single statistic most likely to be valid is the number of Europeans censused in the port towns. The statistics for Lourenço Marques indicate that between 1861 and 1885 the town's European population averaged around a hundred, while between 1887 (with the arrival of the first boatload of white miners headed inland) and 1894 (the year before completion of the rail line to the Transvaal) the European population averaged just over seven hundred. From 1894 onwards the white population of the town increased steadily, more than trebling in the decade following the completion of the railway.[33]

The growth of the white Portuguese population was directly linked with Portugal's efforts to gain control over the revenues of the Lourenço Marques area. Encouraged both by the MacMahon Award of 1875, which confirmed Portugal's title to the area, and by reports of its potential as a gateway to the interior, Portugal moved to realize that potential. Its early public works initiatives of the late 1870s in Lourenço Marques were more significant as indications of Portugal's enlivened interest in the area than for what they actually accomplished. In the 1880s Portugal secured control over the lucrative transit trade to the Witwatersrand by the seizure and ultimate completion of the originally British-funded rail line from Lourenço Marques to the Transvaal.[34]

The defeat of the Gaza state in the 1890s enhanced Portugal's control over the increasingly important movement of migrant labour, thereby furthering its political and financial interests. Finally, state-initiated modernization of port facilities at Lourenço Marques at the turn of the century confirmed Lisbon's intention to develop the transit trade and the related phenomenon of labour brokerage as its principal interests in the area. Portugal's tactic was oriented towards licensing, taxing and brokering the existing movement of goods and persons, and it required investment of capital and labour to develop and maintain the necessary transportation facilities and bureaucracy to sustain such a process of accumulation.[35]

It was in conjunction with these investments that ever-larger groups of Portuguese immigrants arrived in Lourenço Marques as state-sponsored soldiers, civil servants or contracted labourers.[36] These Portuguese immigrants—the contracted railway workers and public works crews of the 1870s and 1880s and the police and soldiers of the 1890s—were recognized by twentieth century white Portuguese to be Portugal's pioneers. They were accorded the prestige of being the original 'we'. Ignored were the earlier traders and administrators with their mulatto progeny. Ignored also was the key role of local African people who had both supported and helped to extend Portuguese sovereignty in the area. These white pioneers, such as Roque de Aguiar, were revered in their old age regardless of their economic status. People like João Massabulana, who was acknowledged to have given important service to the Portuguese in the Luso-Gaza war, were treated quite differently. Massabulana died in 1925, allegedly owing his hut tax for that year, and his wives and young sons were seized for penal labour to work off the tax.[37]


To be considered truly Portuguese it was increasingly insufficient to accept and project Portuguese hegemony. As with Cape Coloureds in South Africa, black Mozambican elite members began to be nudged out of the privileges of domination despite their sharing language, Christianity, nationality and way of life with the white Portuguese. As competition grew between new immigrants and the local black elite over jobs, land, licences and concessions, race became an increasingly important differentiating criterion in the struggle to share.

This process was nowhere more startling than in the case of the decline in prestige and prosperity suffered by mulattoes from the 1860s down to the 1930s. In the 1860s and 1870s mulatto children of Portuguese were commonly censused at

Figure 9.2
White population in Lourenço Marques


birth as whites and acknowledged as sharing the whole of family privileges, property and responsibilities. They were the so-called brancos da terra, the local whites.[38] By the 1890s, however, that was no longer commonly the case. Mulatto babies were censused as such, and some adults whose birth certificates registered them as 'white' were redefined as mulatto.[39] Some mulatto children certainly continued to enjoy protection by white parents through formal adoption or informal patronage, but whites were increasingly unlikely to assume full responsibility for their mulatto children and ensure that they were fully entitled to share as family members.[40] Illegitimacy became increasingly identified with miscegenation. Illegitimacy was not simply a social stigma. It was an important impediment to the transfer of wealth and property from parent to child—in short, to the reproduction of privilege. While the mulatto elite of the early 1930s decried the stigma of illegitimacy, asserting that to be a mulatto did not necessarily mean one was a bastard, by 1940 if one was a bastard, one was quite likely to be a mulatto. Indeed, 96 per cent of all babies born in circumstances deemed illegitimate were mulattoes.[41]

The declining fortunes of local mulattoes, while most immediately linked to the competitive relationship emerging between local and immigrant whites, was also an aspect of a number of other interrelated processes. Portuguese whites and the black elite also competed for advantage with numerous foreigners. Up to the close of the nineteenth century the Portuguese had been but one of a number of foreign groups trading in Lourenço Marques, and they were not always numerically or influentially dominant.[42] From the opening of trade to all countries in 1877, the population of British Indian traders increased, and from the first gold strikes in the Transvaal the pace of foreign European immigration similarly quickened. In 1885 Portuguese comprised 55 per cent of the town's European population, but in 1887, with an influx of foreign miners, the Portuguese proportion temporarily dropped to but 12 per cent of the European group.[43] Large numbers of foreign businessmen sought out the town for its opportunities in land and concession speculation, retail sales, and service industries. Foreigners had entrenched themselves as an important business minority from at least the 1870s.[44] Competition for concessions, markets, licensing and employment in the promising but unstable town economy was strong, and Lourenço Marques took on the characteristics of a wide-open boom town. Groups and individuals pulled every string and explored every avenue in their efforts to secure a livelihood or skim off a fleeting profit. Portuguese immigrants hoped to exploit political sympathies to economic advantage, but there were severe limits on their control of the political economy.

There were certain sectors of the economy which the well-placed members of the Portuguese community simply did not have the capital, skills or business connections to develop successfully or to take over, and these passed into foreign hands. They included such key sectors as, first, the recruitment and processing of Mozambican migrants as labourers for South Africa and, second, retail sales to returned miners. The South Africa-based Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (WNLA) had been the largest, most consistent, best managed recruiting agency operating in the area south of the Sabi river, and in February 1906 the Portuguese granted it monopoly recruiting privileges.[45] The following year, with the town in deep recession, the local Portuguese community cast a covetous eye at WNLA's profit of almost £89,000 in 1906. They aggressively, but vainly, urged the state to transfer the WNLA monopoly to the Secretaria de Negócios Indígenas (Native Affairs Department) so that the jobs and profits could be made available to them.[46]


With regard to the retail sales sector, British Indians were seen as the main interlopers. They competed in trade at the port from at least the 1870s, but by the 1890s they dominated virtually all retail sales to returning miners in rural areas as well as dry goods sales in urban areas.[47] By 1901, for example, 96 per cent of dry goods retail licences in Lourenço Marques were held by Indians, 80 per cent of whom were British Indians. Licences for urban cantinas (combination bar, grocery and dry goods stores), which depended heavily upon sales of cheap Portuguese wines to draw customers for their usually uncompetitive dry goods, were more broadly held: Portuguese whites, 56 per cent; Chinese, 27 per cent; Portuguese Indians, 6 per cent; and British Indians, 3 per cent.[48] While the Portuguese proved unable to do much more than complain about the dominance of Indians in dry goods commerce, they lobbied increasingly successfully for cantina licences to be granted preferentially to white Portuguese.[49]

In sum, despite their open identification with and defence of the Portuguese state, the local black elite's power and prosperity in the regional economy suffered almost in direct proportion to the state's growing initiatives. At every turn they were displaced, either with or without state complicity. White railway and port workers oversaw the movement of transit goods instead of black caravan leaders, raftsmen, guides and porters. Portuguese administrators and soldiers took over direction of important recruitment and labour control functions. Some of the black elite eventually found work as labour recruiters or overseers within new companies, but they lost their independence as agents or middlemen and became simply employees in a managerial capacity. Competition between local blacks and immigrant whites was further exacerbated by the narrowing of the overall local field for economic activity because of the monopolization and near monopolization of key sectors of the economy by WNLA and British Indians. Political pressure from immigrants covetous of business and civil service positions held by blacks, a chronic shortage of cheap controlled black labour, and the ups and downs of the regional economy all bolstered the tendency to engineer the subordination of all black people within the rapidly changing capitalist economy. Portugal's self-proclaimed 'civilizing mission' comprised an important ideological aspect of this engineering process.

Portugal's Civilizing Mission: Engineering Inequality

When A.F. Nogueira published his study, A Raça Negra, in 1881 he hoped it would be 'useful to my country and to the poor race to which it is dedicated'.[50] He admonished Portugal to halt the violent and arbitrary plunder of its colonies' human and natural resources by soldiers, missionaries, merchants and administrators and advocated a more systematic approach toward using the colonies' critically important labour resources to place Portugal on a more competitive footing with its colonial neighbours in southern Africa.[51] Nogueira went on to point out that: 'Everyone knows that the whole matter of civilization in Africa comes down to a question of labour. There are a plethora of opportunities for enrichment and a shortage of workers to exploit those opportunities.'[52] Portugal would have to 'civilize' its population so that African labourers could be 'freed' to sell their labour in conditions which would enable Portugal and the Portuguese to enrich themselves:

The Negro is for us, due to the circumstances, the active instrument of labour, as the white is the necessary element for guidance and progress. The two races find themselves, therefore, in a situation where their interests combine perfectly, instead of mutual antagonism they must assist one another.[53]


Presaging the Portuguese corporativist ideology of the future, Nogueira thus neatly subsumed the whole concept of struggle and opposition between labour and capital. The attraction of his combination, however, would seem to depend upon one's position within his equation—whether or not one was doing the labouring or the getting rich.

Nogueira, a colonial liberal, was so anxious to affirm that Africans were not innately poor labourers—they should not be considered just so many 'buffalo' or 'dromedaries' necessary to grub Africa's wealth for their European masters, but rather recognized as individuals capable of being fine workers—that he failed to consider Africans beyond the level of 'instruments of labour'.[54] He did not pose the important question 'What if . . . ?' What if Africans aspired to directing rather than being directed, to getting rich themselves rather than enriching others? What then? Such a question would throw Nogueira's equation off its comfortable assumptions.

By the turn of the century, however, Portuguese policy makers had passed beyond confirming that Africans could and should labour for Europeans, to consider the ramifications of 'What if . . . ?' In his Royal Commissioner's Report of 1893, António Enes, while admitting that the abolition of slavery in 1875 had been a good thing, maintained that the legislation had been incomplete in that it had failed to convert the Africans into workers. To complete this long overdue task, he felt the government should legislate to compel people to work in the same fashion that governments in German East Africa, South Africa and Réunion had done, making their blacks 'submissive, sober and hardworking'. Enes warned that the state should quickly and firmly relegate Africans to the position of working for lower wages and in inferior conditions to those enjoyed by whites, both skilled and unskilled. Some literate Africans, he observed, were already making dangerous suggestions such as employing Europeans under African supervision.[55] A.A. Freire de Andrade, Governor General of Mozambique between 1906 and 1910, echoed Enes's concerns:

The education to offer the native ought to be above all intended to turn him into a useful labourer—and not to engender the false idea that he is equal to whites or has the same rights. . . . But how can one prevent the worker from becoming an employer, an engineer, a foreman or in a word, turning himself into a directing force instead of a directed force? Such results can only be prevented by a labour law, which improperly interpreted could easily be called slavery. And if we make the native an engineer, lawyer or boss of any kind of industry, where will they employ whites of equal skill? Will they be paid equal wages, and will they mix with their colleagues of different colour?[56]

White workers both anticipated and echoed such official sentiment throughout this period as they strove to make a living in Lourenço Marques. Testimony before the Junta Consultiva do Governo in April 1891 illustrated the keenness of whites to have the state extend the privileges and protections enjoyed by Portuguese capitalists in the city to Portuguese workers. In their efforts to achieve that end, proletarianized Portuguese workers stressed the mutual interests of the entire 'European colony' in successfully controlling blacks who were clearly not yet dependent upon the sale of their labour to survive and support their families:

In Europe the worker is in reality more dependent upon the capitalist than vice versa, but in Lourenço Marques . . . the Europeans . . . are dependent upon black labourers, who in their turn barely depend, or do not at all depend upon whites. . . . It is incumbent upon the government to defend the interests of the European colony which more and more become identified with the interests of the state.[57]


Local white bourgeoisies have generally been credited with initiating and sustaining efforts to organize white interests toward the generalized subjugation of black people. David Hemson, for example, acknowledges the importance of competition between black and white workers in neighbouring Durban, but locates the thrust for cooperation amongst all whites with the bourgeoisie:

The articulation of racism [in Durban] was closely meshed in the class consciousness of the local bourgeoisie, aware of the stratification in each racial group, but determined to submerge class antagonism within a cultural and racial order, not class against class, but civilization against barbarism, enlightenment against ignorance.[58]

A reading of the white working class press of the early twentieth century in Lourenço Marques, however, suggests that, for all the contradictions involved, white workers there took early and sustained measures to mesh their interests with those of the dominant white bourgeoisie. For all their strident, doctrinaire anarcho-socialism, they appeared, consciously and unconsciously, determined to benefit from pitting 'civilization' against 'barbarism' and 'enlightenment' against 'ignorance'. White labour leaders saw themselves as united with other white workers, generally considering them 'our labouring brothers', but in the same breath emphasizing their distance from 'filthy' Africans and 'indolent and unproductive Asians' who shared or aspired to share the same workplace.[59]

From Nogueira in 1881 to the socialist workers' organizations of the 1920s there was an important and sustained current which portrayed Africans, directly and indirectly, in smothering negatives: poor, enslaved and miserable, lazy and somehow innately dirty.[60] The current of negatives became a flood in times of scarcity when the question of precisely who would share in available resources took on greater importance. During the economic slump of 1907, for example, the white workers' press complained:

Here [in Lourenço Marques] any vagrant gets 500 reis per day for which he sings and dances the entire day and does nothing. In Portugal men earn 300 reis per day working dawn to dusk bending over a hoe. . . . Here a crude and stupid black who does nothing earns 500 reis per day with 11 to 1 off to eat and rest . . . hundreds of vagrants trip around the streets drunk, nearly nude, living by theft and eating off those who are employed. Here they don't have the guts to make these people work. . . . Lourenço Marques is being transformed into a kraal of filthy Negroes.[61]

This quotation reveals fundamental facts and attitudes which were basic to the engineering of inequality, illustrating some of the attitudes which shaped the internalized baseline from which people competed for scarce resources. White workers perceived few alternatives to the sale of their labour and expected that their wages would provide the minimal material basis to reproduce their working class lifestyle—including the purchase of essentials such as shoes and clothing. At this early date, however, most blacks clearly perceived a range of alternatives to wage labour and could still use their wages to provide more than what they considered the bare essentials.

It is hardly surprising that white workers felt threatened by competition from blacks. Blacks could be paid less than whites, it was asserted, not because whites were fully proletarianized and blacks were not, but because blacks were inferior workers and inferior people. The Fabrica Nacional de Tobacco took up this line in 1914 when it emphasized that while rough tobacco was sorted by trained African personnel, after the sorted tobacco was disinfected it was handled and prepared only by whites.[62] In 1922 the socialist workers' press complained that South African bread kneaded by whites earning one pound sterling per day sold for


4 pence, whereas in Lourenço Marques bread kneaded by 'filthy blacks' cost 6 pence.[63] Whites were not 'vagrants'. They were 'unemployed'. Unemployed blacks were 'vagrants'. Whites who were employed 'worked for their money', whereas blacks sang, danced, stole and lived off others. These were the kinds of stereotypes necessary to sustain a concept of differential exploitability in all its circularity: black people who were poor, enslaved, miserable and filthy could be paid less because 'their customs burden them with considerably fewer living expenses'.[64] It simply did not cost much to be poor, miserable and filthy.

The black elite's members were not above manipulating a similar argument in efforts to promote their interests in a world of shrinking opportunities. They claimed that contacts with Europeans had engendered in them 'different needs, different ambitions', and that unlike 'bush blacks' who 'lived in sloth', they held important jobs and aspired to even better ones.[65] They were not always able to extricate their fate from that of the poor and miserable, however. During the plague scare of 1907, for example, the shabby wood and zinc houses owned by blacks and Indians and rented to casual black labourers were summarily destroyed in the sweeping sanitation efforts despite the fact that the acknowledged source of the disease was the city's own public works barracks located at the opposite end of town.[66]

Acquiring, distributing and overseeing cheap unskilled black labour was already a principal concern for the colonial state and the local bourgeoisie by the 1890s, but the concern raised by Enes and Andrade, the 'What if . . . ?', became increasingly important during the South African War and the recession which followed quickly upon the heels of the post-war boom between 1900 and 1904. By 1907 to 1910 many of the Portuguese who had arrived in the boom years, with or without contracts, found themselves out of work. It is from this period of economic recession that the legislation and ideology of labour control began more clearly to reflect a two-pronged squeeze: pushing black males into ill-paid wage labour and keeping them out of attractive jobs coveted by whites.[67]

It was in the context of this recession that some members of the Lourenço Marques black elite formed the Grêmio Africano, took up matters of concern to their membership and to the black population as a whole, and issued a journalistic challenge to the new trends. That the ensuing struggle would encapsulate a maze of contradictions was evident from the outset: the Grêmio, having finally managed temporarily to fund a school to teach African children the Portuguese language as a first step toward the goal of unfettered citizenship, named their school after António Enes!

The engineering of inequality thus involved forcing some blacks to labour for their employer's profit so as to reap the benefits of 'civilization'. It also involved limiting the ability of educated and skilled blacks to reap the benefits of shared cultural characteristics by marketing their skills, products and property as full Portuguese citizens. Whereas the myth of equality, one of the 'civilizing mission's' stated goals, was developed to legitimize metropolitan colonial policy at many levels, the engineering of inequality was necessary to reproduce the relations of domination upon which colonial control and capitalist development increasingly came to depend. The black elite's demand for equality as Portuguese citizens struck at the heart of those relations. To square the elite's demand for equality, which was couched in the very terms of the state's ideology of equality, with employer demands for cheap and well controlled black labour, white workers' demands for privilege, and the Portuguese administration's fear that blacks with notions of equality would soon challenge white political domination, the myth of differential exploitability emerged piecemeal together with a body of legislation


which cumulatively sculpted the clearly subordinate cultural and legal categories of assimilado and indígena . The economics of assimilation were the mirror image of the economics of indigenization: domination articulated in terms of shared and non-shared cultural characteristics.

Challenging Assimilation: 'We are all Portuguese!'

In their study of plantation protest, Vail and White demonstrate how ideas for reinforcing, modifying and challenging practices which characterize social relations can be articulated in ritualized song and dance when those forms are understood by the participants to be the appropriate vehicle for such expressions.[68] The Lourenço Marques black elite of the turn of the century accepted the press and petitions to colonial administrators as their vehicles for such expressions, and they developed their press with a gift for allegory and mockery suggestive of the most effective ritualized song.[69] Their declamation, 'We are all Portuguese!', was often in that sense richly charged. In one breath it dared anyone to suggest that they were not the equal of any metropolitan middle class white and at the same time mocked Portugal with the contrast between the posture and reality of her much vaunted 'civilizing mission'.[70]

When the Grêmio published its first newspaper in 1908, the stage was set for struggle. Many whites were out of work, and hard times and heightened racism combined to make the crucial division in day-to-day relations between people one of race. The intensified struggle had a different impact at different levels, however, and such differences reflected the important divisions existing among 'those persons of the black race and descendants of the same'.

The challenge 'We are all Portuguese!' was itself situationally fluid, but it evoked an implicit order in the minds of the Portuguese-speaking, Catholic elite of the Grêmio, who were its principal proponents in this period. They perceived themselves as the natural leaders of the majority population, 'civilized people who are moral, principled and know how to civilize', and therefore deserving of recognition (and sometimes employment) as such.[71] At one level they asserted their identity as middle class Portuguese nationals and their conception of themselves as key figures in the extension of capitalist relations of production. At other levels they argued for the weight of shared cultural traits over different racial characteristics, thus stressing their own superior position vis-à-vis both working class, uneducated whites and educated blacks who were Muslims or did not speak Portuguese.

The Grêmio elite pointedly described white workers in the very terms whites frequently reserved for blacks: common, illiterate, filthy, and slothful. The mature elite was still sufficiently confident to allow much of the crude racism of the white press to slide off its back. They were not, after all, miserable, poor or filthy. They did not sing and dance at work, but rather dressed and lived for the most part like petty bourgeois Europeans. They no more identified with Portuguese peasant culture than did their Portuguese counterparts. They were just as appalled by the ill-clothed, frequently unwashed Portuguese immigrants who indiscriminately cursed, spat, and defecated in the town's streets as they were with similarly behaved Africans. They neither doubted nor sought to confirm their social distance from poor blacks or poor whites in this period.[72]

One must appreciate the class confidence of the black elite in these years to understand the extent of their subsequent disillusion. By the 1920s, as it became ever more clear that race, not class, was pivotal in colonial relations of domination and that that process would continue to erode the economic position of the


remaining black middle class, the elite increasingly faced up to the implications of the crude racism which they had formerly largely ignored. They could still maintain the distance necessary for effective mockery, however:

 . . . leave the native in a state of primitive ignorance so that the Negro only serves as manual labour under the yoke of a white man, illiterate though he may be, so that the white man can honestly issue his whip lashes if the black does not tip his hat or doesn't stand when [the white man] goes by. . . . All this would be tolerable if it were simply the case with bush country blacks, but Merciful Lord, this is spreading to the middle class![73]

Like their contemporary petty bourgeois counterparts throughout southern Africa, they portrayed themselves as the natural leaders of the majority who 'generally justif[ied] their authority by an ethic of service and by universalistic virtue of achievement by merit'.[74] They largely subscribed to free market values and the naïve belief in the role of the state as fair-minded 'referee'.[75] In keeping with their capitalist orientation, they condoned certain kinds of controls over all workers and in general advocated temperance, discipline and diligence at work.[76]

Their refrain 'We are all Portuguese!' reflected their identification with Vasco da Gama's idealized 'civilizing mission', and the Portuguese Republic's heralded 'Equality, Liberty and Fraternity'.[77] They thus rejected all notions of civilization which were rooted in white privilege and black servility. If 'civilization' meant that Africans be the pack horses, the rickshaw pullers and eternal slaves who were just literate enough to read the laws which raised their hut tax, they asserted, then surely savagery was preferable.[78] If whites alone were fit to hold colonial positions as full citizens, then what was all this nonsense about 'Equality' and 'Fraternity': 'What colour citizens did Portugal expect to find in her African empire after all, citizens côr de rosa ?'[79] By the 1920s, when the colonial administration began to pressure black children out of public schools to avoid 'mixing of different psyches', the elite's self-assurance had become strained and the Grêmio's response was angry:

Our youth will go to carry coal, rob and prostitute themselves. Throw them out of school, do away with passes and álvaras de assimilac'ão and simply brand them with an iron. Did someone say Portugal came to Africa to civilize?[80]

Despite their attack on Portuguese racism and hypocrisy, the Grêmio elite returned to the 'more Portuguese than thou' argument, particularly in hard times, in their struggle to rise to the mesa de funcionalismo (bureaucratic table)—to feed at the public trough as civil servants.[81] The Grêmio elite's self-promotion aggravated existing tensions within the black elite. Educated Muslim Makua, for example, competed with the local Christian elite for much-coveted positions as office workers at the port authority. Throughout this period both the white workers' press and the Grêmio's newspapers joined in periodically railing against allowing Makua to hold such positions. The Grêmio members felt those positions should be theirs as the 'most Portuguese' of the local elite. They ridiculed the Makua as 'vassals of the Sultan of Turkey, Abdul Hamid Khan', and alleged they 'roasted goats to Allah' and lived from the sale of drugs and the prostitution of their women.[82]

At each of these levels the Grêmio elite emphasized what they considered to be their own merits. They conceived of their status in a variety of terms but, clearly, cultural self-identification as Portuguese citizens was central to the manner in which they framed their assertions. It is difficult to judge the extent to which the elite's emphasis on a shared cultural and national identity was in part encouraged


by white workers tending to frame their demands for jobs and better treatment in similar terms.[83] It is evident that there were elements of manipulation for self-promotion and sincere internalization of sentiments involved throughout, but the proportions differed depending upon the writer and the period. As early as 1909, for example, Grêmio leaders realized that not only would the best educated, most privileged blacks in Mozambique be competing with better educated, better trained white immigrants, but that, all qualifications aside, whites would utilize patronage and political sympathies in seeking placement in better jobs, at higher wages, and with more social, economic and political privileges than 'people of colour'. José Albasini, an official forwarding agent, co-editor of O Africano, and one of the most prestigious Africans in the town, editorialized in 1909:

It is no longer by one's merits that a person's worth is judged, it is by one's colour. . . . What one needs in order to compete for a position today is to be white. . . . If you are coloured, live on a few crumbs of bread—the land is for the white man.[84]

Albasini's conception of the state as a fair-minded referee may have been shaken by increased racial discrimination in civil service hiring, but although such disillusionment fed a certain radicalization among the elite, in this period the elite never approached the insight that 'States were and are engines of oppression, not civilization.'[85] They were rather more likely to respond with a challenge to the state to live up to its claim to be guarantor of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Albasini's positivism, basic moderation and loyalty to the state overshadowed his consistent criticism of forced labour and racial discrimination. He was lauded by colonial authorities as 'a fine guide for the native masses, very considerate and never allowing any compromises in the prestige enjoyed by those who governed the colony'.[86]

Not every writer in the O Africano stable could expect similar praise, and there were limits of official tolerance for criticism framed in assurances of loyalty. One of the great strengths of the Grêmio press when it was strong, however, was its ability to argue issues in terms which the Portuguese administration would find both powerful and awkward to suppress. Brado Africano's editorial of 14 October 1922, written during the period of the League of Nation's hearings inspired by the critical reports submitted in cooperation with the Anti-Slavery Society and the Human Rights League, took that tolerance near its limit:


Every now and then our English friends, from simple bad faith, challenge us with being slavers and other nasty things. We must say, in the service of truth, that slavery as such does not exist at least in the Province of Mozambique. The police unconstitutionally seize peaceful citizens on the pretext of not having a [labour registration] tag, and then rent us out to anyone needing labour. This . . . isn't slavery. We don't really know what it is, but . . . it isn't slavery. Local administrators order citizens to be seized and rented to white planters, and the crops of these poor blacks are lost because while they are away working for the whites their crops are neglected. Clearly this isn't slavery, just as it isn't slavery to imprison women on the pretext that their husbands owe their hut tax . . . etc, etc.

But foreigners, those who aren't familiar with our administrative processes, see these things which we have mentioned, and other things which we haven't mentioned, and they think of it as slavery. . . . Our Consul, Sr. Alpoim, was correct to protest forcefully what these foreigners are saying . . . but it is not enough to protest this, we must change our attitudes and treat the black dog (the nigger) like a human being—he is.[87]


In sum, the Grêmio elite mustered their conceptualization of shared cultural characteristics in a variety of situations and at a number of levels. They argued that it entitled them fully to share the privileges of citizenship; they used it as a shield behind which sharply to challenge political practice; and they used it as a wedge to promote themselves ahead of others. The acuteness and confidence of the Grêmio's campaign periodically wavered as individual writers felt disillusion temporarily engender despair, but despair and apathy did not emerge as sustained intellectual currents undermining the Grêmio elite until the 1930s. It was then that a sequence of events transformed a confident elite which sought non-racial patronage links with the dominant group in the hope of ensuring their prosperity and leadership role into an apathetic, disunited and profoundly disillusioned generation.

The Laws of Exception

Members of the black elite were not solely concerned with their own social position, at least initially. While many blacks in Lourenço Marques may have understood that each law of exception, each tendency to treat and perceive black people as inferior, contributed to a pattern of domination which would have an impact seemingly out of all proportion to the sum of its parts, their feelings were not recorded. Contributors to the Grêmio's newspapers, however, realized that, if such a pattern were allowed to proceed unchallenged, racist laws would soon appear colour-blind. The elite may not have suffered directly from increased oppression of common black labourers in Lourenço Marques in the period prior to World War I, but they nonetheless recognized that such practices nourished the ideological basis which could gradually combine with the growing demand for cheap controlled labour and efforts by Portuguese whites to stake out and protect profitable and privileged positions, to relegate all blacks to subordinate status. Such a process could proceed piecemeal, but crisis quickened its pace, as in the case, in 1907, of the plague's being used to justify the disposal of a considerable amount of black-owned property. The elite recognized that cardinal aspects of accumulating and reproducing capital, such as acquiring profitable and secure land tenure, access to employment, training, investment and business opportunities were all at stake. The ideological justification, which was argued largely in cultural concepts, and the formal and informal engineering of the subordinate categories of indígena and assimilado comprised a whole. The elite recognized the unity from the outset.

The labour demands of the maturing capitalist economy encouraged Portugal to turn away from simply commandeering labour towards a more systematic structural exploitation of labour along the lines pursued by other contemporary colonial powers. That process, however, necessitated that Portugal formulate appropriate legislation so as not to have it 'improperly interpreted' as slavery. Hay and Wright observe that the relationship between legislation and practice can be viewed from polar perspectives: 'On the one hand, law can be seen as a reflection of norms, customs, and rules through which society regulates itself; on the other hand, law may be viewed as directing social behaviour.'[88] Had Portugal instituted legislation which genuinely reflected the norms, customs and rules of its early twentieth century colonial society it would not have been internationally acceptable. Portugal was chronically embarrassed by the gap between internationally acceptable legislation and the continuing slave-like labour conditions existing in its colonies. In 1902, for example, the Governor of Lourenço Marques District asked the Governor General that the 'very old custom' of having town


police arrest local Africans for disobedience, disorderly conduct and drunkenness, for summary sentencing to prison labour on state and municipal works, be reflected in a proper law.[89]

The black elite attacked such attempts to give legislative legitimacy to contemporary abuses and efforts to mould future social conditions in such a way as to confirm and reproduce specifically racist forms of domination. While a great many challenges appeared in the pages of O Africano and O Brado Africano, protests against the abuse of black workers and against the laws which, by placing blacks in exceptional legal circumstances, invited such abuse were the most prominent. The abolition of black labour conscription (chibaro or shibalo ) and the end of all laws of exception were principal themes up to the mid-1930s.[90]

In the early twentieth century efforts to generate cheap controlled labour in Lourenço Marques consisted mostly of rounding up Africans who drank too much alcohol, wore too few clothes, or happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time—those snared through 'old customs'. The elite focused on the underlying processes illustrating their lucid perception of the developing modes of domination.[91] They identified the crucially important process of creating criminals: the state profited from the proliferation of cantinas selling cheap Portuguese wines to Africans through revenue from licensing, fees and fines paid by drunks and also from the steady supply of unpaid prison labourers arrested for drunken and disorderly conduct and then set to work on urban sanitation projects, construction and roadwork. Blacks were not trained or hired, but criminalized and thus forced to work in disadvantaged circumstances by a process which did not apply to whites. The facts that violence bred of alcohol abuse ravaged black neighbourhoods and that white drunks were not arrested, but escorted home to sober up, were pointedly noted as well.[92]

In 1904 the first attempt was made to mesh custom and aspirations regarding black labour in town in a proper law. The Regulamento de Serviçais e Trabalhadores Indígenas of 9 September 1904 was intended to organize the registration and identification of black domestics and day labourers in town through a pass system which would simultaneously facilitate tighter enforcement of municipal vagrancy statutes. This law posed the first direct legal threat to the mobility of black volunteer workers in town. As criminals, blacks were not only to be compelled to labour—'civilized' to their moral obligation to work as it were—but now even as volunteers they were to be forced to work in disadvantaged circumstances.[93]

The Regulamento's impact on the black working population as a whole was blunted, however, by its uneven and halting application. The town's rudimentary administrative and police forces were simply not yet equal to the task of enforcing the legislation except to seek to regularize the supply of day labour to the port.[94] While the law was important for its harassment of workers, keeping them insecure and vulnerable, by 1911 the town's principal employers were clamouring for more effective legislation.[95]

The black elite's press quickly recognized the Regulamento's important ancillary purpose. The revenues generated by the schedule of fees and fines were seen as necessary to finance extension of both the police and administrative forces which could then be used to implement firmer laws. The oppressed were being forced to pay their oppressor's salary and to contribute to the development of a more effective system of labour coercion.[96] The process was already under way with regard to municipal fines for drunkenness: between 1906 and 1909, for example, between 43 per cent and 53 per cent of the municipal police budget was funded by fines for drunkenness paid by Africans.[97] In the first years of its


implementation, the Regulamento had cost the state money, but by 1908 the police had become more interested in the law's potential for yielding revenue than in its utility in labour control. That year the Regulamento began to pay its own way. By 1909 it was generating a surplus.[98]O Africano correctly saw this and later control regulations as serving largely to finance the burgeoning state bureaucracy, referring to their implementation as the 'caça da quinhenta', the hunt for the fifty centavo registration fee.[99]

By the period between 1913 and 1917, however, discriminatory controls over labour and over social and professional mobility moved threateningly closer to the elite itself. Legislation promulgated in this period, while still not evenly or effectively implemented, no longer limited its scope to domestics and dock workers, but encompassed urban blacks as a whole. Individuals within the black elite were still commonly exempted from the principal constraints of the new legislation by virtue of their class status as property holders, merchants, civil servants, office and commercial employees, typesetters, headmen, and educated people, but they nonetheless had to be specifically exempted from the legislative constraints. They found themselves lumped with so-called 'natives' on the basis of their race, and therefore formally shared their status as an exceptional community. Through the exemption process the elite could secure a special badge, but they were nonetheless required to wear that badge.[100]

The new legislation brought about a subtle but important shift in emphasis, a shift which demonstrated the progressive weakening of the elite's position. The press continued to contest the basic premise of racist exception, but with the spread of discrimination at many levels and the enhanced bite of the new measures there was increasing practical concern with just who was an indígena, and therefore legally subject to the more rigorous controls, and who was not an indígena, and therefore legally eligible for the privileges of citizenship. At one level this shift signalled the beginning of the end: part of the basic premise was conceded or compromised in the shift of focus to within the designated exceptional community. It became more difficult for the black elite to identify with persons of like cultural orientation regardless of race. Whites, regardless of class, nationality, or cultural orientation had no need to concern themselves with the possibility of being incorporated into the exceptional community. Blacks, regardless of class or nationality, increasingly had to come to terms with discrimination in one way or another. The change forced the elite to turn its attention from broader concerns and thereby sabotaged their attempts to challenge changes in policy on the grounds of principle.

João Albasini and the Challenge to 'Assimilated' Status

In the midst of this still tentative restructuring of the legal arena, legislation creating a new and separate category of assimilado was promulgated. The state may have intended to buttress the tighter social controls by buying off the elite with a special privileged category similar to the former exempt status—a category separate from that of indãgena, but still a racially determined 'middle' category. Initially, the gambit failed.

Assimilado status was presented in terms of equality among all civilized men, and as a laurel to black achievement, but it elicited what was surely an unexpected response.[101] The elite, far from grasping the proffered distinction, rejected it as galling and humiliating. They were still sufficiently confident to challenge the idea


of a legal process through which they should demonstrate their educational, material and cultural merit so that in the end they could be considered the political and social equal of uneducated, poor, uncouth whites: 'Portugal sends us her unclean, illiterate criminals who live off rural African women. Must we assimilate to be their equal?'[102]

The challenge to assimilation mounted through the newspapers O Africano and Brado Africano was spearheaded by João dos Santos Albasini (1876–1922) who, with his brother José Francisco Albasini and Estácio Dias, was the driving force behind the Grêmio press. Albasini was a close personal friend of the Republican High Commissioner, Brito Camacho.[103] A mulatto with still powerful patronage ties to influential Portuguese Republicans, Albasini was clearly in a favourable position to mount a challenge with a minimum of personal risk or cost.[104] If Albasini had restricted the challenge to the question of equality among all so-called civilized men, his would have been a much less interesting story. Albasini was, however, a perceptive, complicated, and ultimately tragic character who took up the struggle at many levels. He perceived the increasing complexity of changing relations of domination, and infused his challenge with his own complex and passionate identities. Even within the limits of his short life, his challenge illustrated the kaleidoscope of issues, interests and factors at play.[105]

For Albasini the questions of non-racialism and of Portuguese national identity were of equal importance. He was as proud of his Mpfumo ancestors who had allied themselves with Portuguese initiatives in Lourenço Marques as he was of his Portuguese grandfather and namesake, Joáo Albasini. He saw no conflict in being both Portuguese and Mpfumo, in part because he felt white Portuguese and black Mpfumo to be peoples and races 'in no way inferior to others'.[106] He did recognize differential status in terms of education, however,' and seized upon equality of opportunity as the crux of any struggle, particularly emphasizing the importance of educational opportunities for African women.[107]

Within Albasini's complex range of identities he recognized and enjoyed different degrees of sharing and exchange. At one level, Portuguese intellectuals were ambivalent toward Albasini's role as a forceful thinker. He was the product of the best Catholic mission education available in Lourenço Marques, and was broadly self-educated. A member of the Conselho do Governó recalled in 1927 that Alabasini was 'a learned person of unquestionable merit'.[108] But, because he was black and not formally educated, his considerable intellectual accomplishments were often discounted and ridiculed by those with whom he felt he shared an intellectual tradition. He was caricatured in a Lourenço Marques almanack as the 'Doctor of Laws graduated from the University Chuabe-Dembe', and Governor Freire de Andrade, who publicly lauded many of Albasini's initiatives, privately dismissed him as 'a mulatto of no real education or credit'.[109]

After years of championing education in Portuguese under the guidance of Portuguese nationals, Albasini criticized aspects of Catholic mission education of African women, and the Catholic missionary editors who had purchased his paper O Africano took the opportunity to deride him saying, 'some Africans in their capulanas [wrapped cloth skirts] are more civilized than João Albasini with his pants and white shirt', suggesting a superficial sheen of Portuguese culture when Albasini was already an accomplished Portuguese writer.[110]

At another level, the city's poorest workers were equally ambivalent toward Albasini's role as champion of black labour. While Albasini basically opposed military or civilian labour conscription, he nonetheless held that able-bodied adult males should contract their labour for so-called public works and capitalist agriculture to build a more prosperous Mozambique for their children. The thrust


Joäo Albasini, 'Doctor of Laws graduated
from the University of Chuabe-Dembé'.
O Africano (Almanach), 1913


of his position was that if workers were treated with respect, properly housed and fed, and if upon completion of their contract they were transported quickly and safely home and fully paid, then conscription would be unnecessary. From 1913 until his death in 1922 Albasini, in his combined capacity as newspaper editor and head of so-called native services at the port and railway complex, drew attention to work conditions for railway labour, decried alcohol abuse among workers which he felt was encouraged by Portuguese cantinas, and advocated higher wages for port and railway casual and salaried personnel—the majority of the black labour force in those areas. Between 1918 and 1921 there were frequent strikes among casual and salaried workers at the port, while chibaro labour was relatively quiet. It remains unclear if Albasini played any role in keeping chibaro workers outside the mainstream of port worker action. Aside from his published support for worker demands, particularly the demands of salaried workers of whom he was one, the extent of Albasini's involvement with strikers is also uncertain.[111]

His paternalistic attitude toward chibaro labour, however, was reflected in their attitudes toward him. Chibaro workers remembered Albasini as the 'important' black man on the white horse telling people what to do and also as the man who earned a percentage by selling his brothers to the Portuguese.[112] The compound which formerly housed railway chibaro workers in Lourenço Marques was popularly known as 'Nwandzengele', Albasini's nickname in the Ronga language. Ironically, it is in some ways fitting, since Albasini supported compound housing. He felt such compounds offered better housing, board and treatment of workers than the contemporary arrangement of rented rooms in cantinas, temporary shelters and sheds, but he minimized the importance of the whole question of a person's choice to labour and live how and where he or she wanted.[113]

Albasini paid for his criticism of the system, despite his identification with it. He suffered ridicule, rejection and material loss. When O Africano was in the midst of a heated challenge to colonial maladministration, focusing on the beating to death of an African police auxiliary and simultaneously printing full coverage of strikes in the Transvaal and sympathetic coverage of the International Commercial Workers Union in South Africa, Albasini was fired from his post as official forwarding agent by the state and suspended from his position at the railway.[114] He subsequently regained both posts, but because he flatly refused to accept assimilado status, he was denied a whole range of salary bonuses reserved for tenured civil servants.[115]

Albasini saw no contradiction in his passion for Portuguese culture and his equally passionate rejection of the assimilation process. His insistence that study of the Portuguese language be central to all educational endeavours in part reflected his genuine conviction that literacy in Portuguese was a prerequisite skill in the quest for unfettered citizenship for blacks or whites. It was also part of an overall effort to convince the government of the Grêmio's potential role as its link with the majority population and as a tactic to gain government support for educational initiatives by playing upon government hostility toward Protestant mission education which relied on instruction in the vernacular. There was indeed an aspect of self-promotion.

As a strategy for acquiring government support for education, however, it was effective. Albasini was able to convince two important government officials, Freire de Andrade and Brito Camacho, to support (respectively) a training course for Portuguese language instruction and a school for literacy and technical training for African women.[116] This strategy also had important drawbacks, however, in that it both alienated the Protestant-educated elite leadership and


helped legitimate the government's harassment of Protestant mission endeavours. Albasini eventually recognized Protestant educational efforts as among the most effective and beneficial in the region.[117]

The Paralysis of Elite Black Opposition in the 1930s

Although the promulgation of assimilation legislation thus initially forged a revitalized return to basic issues among the black elite, it also was soon to reveal the growing weaknesses and divisions within it and lead ultimately to the collapse of the elite's opposition to assimilation. Changes in three key areas affecting their material condition increased tensions both within the black elite and between that elite and their white colleagues during the Republican era as a whole and, particularly, between 1913 and 1925. These were, first, changes in the availability of local patronage; second, changes in the availability and perceived usefulness of local education; and, third, changes in the economic position of the local elite's members.

Every important political change in the metropole brought in its wake 'an invasion of place-seekers' hoping to exploit metropolitan political sympathies and connections to secure a post in the colony's patronage-ridden civil service.[118] With the consequent decline in political patronage controlled by local figures went the protection and relative advantage enjoyed by their local black clients. Throughout the Republican era (1910–1926), demands for technical qualifications and inadequate patronage links increasingly stood between the black elite and a position or promotion in the civil service. Well before the strident nationalism and economic crises of the early Salazar era facilitated the implementation of explicit legal protection for white Portuguese workers and business people in the 1930s, Republican social programmes and the ascendance of metropolitan centred patronage networks protected the establishment and reproduction of white Portuguese privilege.

Immigrants from the metropole and people with family in the metropole (with whom they could board their children for schooling) also benefited from an increasingly important educational advantage. The anti-clericalism of the early Republican period undermined the position of local missionaries, many of whom had been important patrons for both the Protestant and Catholic elite. In 1913 the Republicans abolished mission schools, thus removing virtually all educational opportunities from the majority black population. The limited state-sponsored alternatives to mission schools were increasingly tailored to please the growing Portuguese population. Although Lourenço Marques was the centre for educational opportunities in the colony, by 1926 secondary education was still very limited. Liceu (secondary school) 5 de Outubro, opened in 1910, had matriculated only 16 mixed race students and none listed as African by 1926. As late as the 1940s the number of black Mozambicans with advanced degrees could be counted on the fingers of one hand.[119]

In the late 1920s education became an issue of direct concern to the editors of the Brado Africano . The press law of 3 September 1926 revised qualifications for the directors of colonial newspapers—directors had to hold a bachelor's degree and could not be public functionaries. Since no one in the Grêmio could now qualify to direct the newspaper, a series of sympathetic Portuguese assumed titular direction while Grêmio members continued as de facto directors. The law, enacted shortly after the coup which overthrew the Republic, had a dramatic impact on journalism in the colony as a whole, cutting the number of newspapers published from 97 to 42.[120] It was an early bellwether of the tighter and more


systematic controls to be implemented later by Salazar's young New State in the crisis atmosphere of the Depression.

The undermining of mission education and prestige, the increasing size and political influence of newly arrived white Portuguese settlers, and the consequent decline of local networks of patronage in the increasingly important civil service, all sharply curbed the advantages which members of the black elite had enjoyed. But there was also another factor working to change the elite's perception of their position in Mozambique. Mozambique used two currencies: a currency linked to the British pound sterling and a paper currency in escudos. Being paid in the currency linked to sterling was a privilege related to one's legal civil status. The Republican decision to enter World War I and its pattern of gross political and economic mismanagement in later years contributed to the effective halving of the value of the escudo against the pound between 1914 and 1917.[121] By 1924 the pound reached twenty-four times its 1914 value in escudos, and the escudo was still falling (see Graph 3).[122] It became crucially important, therefore, to receive one's salary in inflation-resistant and commercially acceptable gold-based currency rather than in rapidly depreciating escudo bank notes. In this situation blacks who resisted being classed as 'assimilated' risked being paid in escudos and seeing their wages swallowed up by the pace of inflation and the escudo's declining value. It was a heavy price, and not all members of the elite judged themselves to be in a position to carry on the challenge to assimilation.

Figure 9.3
Pound value in escudos—Lourenço Marques, 1914–1933

The state experienced resistance to assimilation legislation, but it also reaped the benefit of a further divided elite. Those Africans who ultimately judged the cost of resistance too high suffered the humiliation of applying for assimilation status—as application was seen to be a concession of weakness—and felt resentment towards those who were still in a position to ignore the law. Those who ignored the law, in turn, resented those whom they perceived as 'selling out' by


complying with the law. The mutual recriminations tended to highlight the surviving advantages enjoyed by some mulattoes over most Africans. Elite mulattoes still had some family ties in the white community among prominent people. The great majority of applications for assimilation under the law of 1917, and the slightly more strict successor laws dating from 1919, were filed by Africans, the not mulattoes. Assimilation records show that African Grêmio members petitioned for assimilation in this period, whereas the adult generation of the mulatto Grêmio members did not.[123] Some mulattoes quietly ignored the law and went about their business much as they had as informally exempted persons,

Significantly, the first important split among the Grêmio elite dates from this period. J. T. Chembene, Samson Chambala, Lindstrom Matite and Benjamin Moniz, mostly Protestants and all members of the Grêmio before this period, withdrew and began to publish a paper, entitled Dambu dja Africa, under the editorship of Chembene and Moniz. The paper, published largely in the Rjonga language, ceased publication in 1922. Chembene moved to South Africa, and Moniz and several others resumed their regular contributions to the Ronga, Shangaan and Zulu sections of the Grêmio newspapers. The rift did not disappear, however, and by the early 1930s many of the earlier splinter group were associated with the foundation of the Institute Negrófilo, later called the Centro Associativo dos Negros de Moçambique.[124]

Subsequent legislation, particularly dating from the early New State era, made be ignoring the law increasingly costly by firmly linking mobility and earning power to 'native' and 'non-native' civil status. Employment in certain categories, consideration for certain apprenticeships, the right to union membership and to family bonuses were all eventually determined by civil status. There was increasing incentive to accept the special badge of assimilation at the same time that qualifications for assimilation were being tightened.

The challenge to assimilation was lost in part as soon as the assimilation laws were promulgated in full and important sectors of the elite felt obliged to apply for their badge, the álvara de assimilação . The challenge faded still further with the untimely death of João Albasini in 1922. His colleagues Estácio Dias and José Albasini continued to pursue the issue of black civil rights with regard to labour abuses, particularly in the wake of the scandals occasioned in the mid-1920s when the Ross Report described labour conditions close to slavery in Angola and Mozambique, but the tenor of the debate changed qualitatively. The change was partly because the Grêmio's members considered the assimilation legislation promulgated between 1917 and 1922 to have been revoked by 1923–1924 'upon reconsideration of their effect and in view of the protests raised against them'. When similar, indeed more strenuous, assimilation legislation was proposed in 1927, they were once again aroused. They confronted the government council with a petition signed by 154 people insisting that the matter of assimilation be dropped once and for all.[125]

The serious and persistent cycle of inflation and the shocking dismantling of white port and railway workers' benefits with the bitter strike of 1925–1926, however, raised economic and social tensions within the city. The overthrow of the Portuguese Republic in 1928 and the rapid slide from recession to Depression between 1927 and 1933 ushered in a wave of alarming economic measures, from the replacement of thousands of casual workers at the port by chibaro gangs to the promulgation of racist hiring quotas to promote white Portuguese interests in the crush of widespread unemployment. The Grêmio continued its formal objections, increasingly in private petitions and correspondence rather than editorials, but its leadership became progressively fragmented and disillusioned. These were very


heavy straws to place on an already weakened camel's back.[126]

As the elite leadership's challenge flagged and racist domination took on increasingly painful aspects penetrating to all sectors of the elite, individuals and groups within the elite struggled within their diminishing arena of action to secure their own positions. Disunity amongst members reigned. Tensions in the 1920s emerged in part from personal animosities, but were greatly exacerbated by the impact of tying salary bonuses, the currency in which one was paid, and fringe benefits to one's legal civil status. By the 1930s, however, the full weight of hard times set people scrambling for their very jobs, homes, and futures.[127] The divisions wrought in those circumstances left permanent scars on that generation.[128] By the late 1930s the public self-confidence and ebullient challenges typical of the bright elite of the early Republican period had been replaced by a sickening servility. The challenge of claiming what was one's due as a Portuguese citizen had been replaced by unsolicited assurances of gratitude for minor concessions from an unpredictable patron state.[129]

The cumulative impact of the elite's few victories and its many compromises and defeats was that the generation coming of age in the mid-1930s was faced with a polar crystallization of white privilege and black subordination, of white solidarity and black disunity, which could scarcely have been imagined by the previous generation. The complex combination of factors, both within and beyond the elite's control, had moulded changes which meant that the elite, far from wedding itself to a burgeoning prosperity as full citizens, could only hope to be the most prosperous of the colony's increasingly oppressed and impoverished majority: 'men make their own history, but not under conditions of their choosing'.[130]

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9— 'We are all Portuguese!' Challenging the Political Economy of Assimilation: Lourenco Marques, 1870–1933
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