Sowing the Seeds of revolution - collective production

Sowing the Seeds of Revolution

This speech was given by FRELIMO (Liberation Front of Mozambique) co-founder Samora Machel in 1972, as a set of directives issued at the beginning of Mozambique’s productive cycle of 1971-1972. You can listen to the speech here.

Each week of African Liberation Month, we will be offering something from the archives of the African Liberation Struggle as a centering piece of the theme. In keeping with this week’s theme “Organization is the Only Way!”, we hope that ancestor Samora Machel’s reflection on the necessity of using revolutionary organization to build true self-determination will help us reflect on the disorganization of the current moment, and how we can move collectively to overcome it.

We shall soon be starting to prepare the land for new crops.

To many people production may seem a rite, a necessity, just something we are obliged to do in order to eat and clothe ourselves. It is true that production is aimed at satisfying our basic biological needs, but we also need it to free ourselves from poverty, to better know, control and use nature, and to educate ourselves politically. We are revolutionaries, our activities always have political meaning and content. Therefore our production, besides having an economic meaning and content, must also have political content.

In the enemy zone, under capitalism, under colonialism, there is also production. There too man wields the hoe to break the soil. There too, on the factory machine – which we do not as yet have in our zone – man makes things. Yet we say that production in the enemy zone is exploitation, whereas in our zone production liberates man. But it is the same hoe, the same man, the same act of breaking the soil. Why then is there this dividing line? Almost everyone knows the G3 gun. In the hands of the enemy the G3 is used to oppress and slaughter the people, but when we capture a G3, it becomes an instrument for liberating the people, for punishing those who slaughter the people. It is the same gun, but its content has changed because those who use it have different aims, different interests.

What use is made of the produce of a Mozambican peasant who grows rice in Gaza? Is it used to feed him, to satisfy his family’s needs? To a certain extent perhaps. But what is certain is that out of what he gets for his produce he has to pay the colonial taxes, taxes to pay the police who arrest him, taxes to pay the salary of the administrator who oppresses him, taxes to buy arms for the soldiers who will tomorrow drive the peasant off his land, taxes to pay for transporting and installing settlers who will occupy the peasant’s land. The peasant produces to pay taxes. Through his labor, the peasant finances the oppression of which he is the victim.

Let us continue with the example of the peasant who grows rice. In order to live he needs other things apart from rice. He needs clothing. He needs oil. He needs many things which he has to buy in the shop. To buy he needs money, and money does not fall from heaven. This means that our peasant has to go and sell rice to the store or company. He sells his things at low prices and buys at prices four or five times higher than what he sells for. Many meters of cotton cloth, many shirts, can be made out of one sack of cotton. When we sell a sack of cotton however, the money we get for the one sack is barely enough to buy one shirt. This means that what we produce, our sweated labor acting on the soil, benefits the companies, the traders who do nothing.

In the enemy zone these are the mildest, the least cruel forms of exploitation. There are others which are much worse. There is the sale of workers to the mines, the many strong young men who go off to the mines. Many die in mine disasters. More than 2,500 die in the mines each year. Others, we do not know how many, return without arms, without a foot, with their lungs eaten away by tuberculosis. The mine owners are the richest men in the world. The wealth extracted from the mines is sold at very high prices, but how much do the men who die in the mines earn?

Along the Zambezi, are the rich lands of Sena Sugar. Sena Sugar makes many thousands of contos a year. But how much do those work on the rich land of Sena Sugar earn? In the Moatize coal mines, in the Zambezia company’s power groves, in the Gurue tea highlands, everywhere Mozambicans are cultivating rich lands, building big buildings, making complex machinery produce goods, but nowhere is it those who work, who sweat over the soil, who risk their lives in the mine shafts, who benefit from their own labor.

In the enemy zone, manual labor, the labor that creates everything, is for the poor, for the “stupid,” the “illiterate.” The less a person works, the more educated he is, the less he works, the more civilized he is, the more he exploits the labor of others and the more he is respected, the higher his status in society. Who can imagine a governor, a doctor, a general or a banker with calloused hands, his feet in the soil, sweating under the sun with the effort of hoeing? It would be though dishonorable, shameful, low. In the enemy zone where the exploiters live like leeches off the labor of the exploited, in the schools, on the radio, at the cinema, everywhere contempt is taught for manual labor and veneration of the exploiters.

In our zone it is different. Here labor does not serve to enrich companies and traders, speculators and parasites. Labor is to satisfy the needs of the people and the war. This is why our production is the target of constant enemy attack.

In our zone labor is a liberating activity because the product of labor benefits the workers, serves the interests of the workers, i.e. it serves to liberate man from hunger and poverty and to advance the struggle. This is because in our zone we have abolished the exploitation of man by man, because what is produced is the property of the people, serving the people. We are producing in our own interest. It is in our interest to bring up healthy children, children free from disease, strong children free from hunger and rickets.

Through production we are contributing towards feeding our children and our people properly. By cultivating the land we are producing vitamin-rich foods. We are growing carrots, which have vitamins that are good for our eyesight. We are growing cassava, which has leaves rich in iron. We are growing an infinite number of crops, from maize to tomatoes, from beans to lettuces, which strengthen the body and which, owing to the very diversity and wealth of them, provide us with a diet which, because it is varied is not only more agreeable but is also a more balanced diet, in itself a defense against many diseases, making us more resistant. Moreover, the physical effort of agricultural production especially, not only strengthens the muscles, hardening our bodies, but, because it keeps us in contact with nature, keeps us in the sun, which provides us with vitamins which are necessary for the body’s resistance creating the condition for us to enjoy good health.

At the same time, it is through production, by advancing it, and only through production that we will succeed in meeting our growing needs. In certain regions, because we are able to export our surpluses to friendly countries, the clothing problem has been attenuated. What we export provides us with the means to buy things we do not yet produce.

Our needs in clothing, footwear and soap can be solved in only two ways. One is to step up our exports, thereby enabling ourselves to buy more. The second way, which is more effective but a long-term prospect, is to produce these goods ourselves. We are purposely talking about cloth, footwear and soap. The reason for this is quite simple. Our country, our cultivators, grow the cotton from which the cloth is made. Craft production of cotton cloth is within the realm of our possibilities. We have the skins of cows, goats, and many other animals, and such skins are used to make footwear. Craft production of leather and shoes is within the realm of our possibilities. We have the agricultural raw materials from which soap is made and experiments in Cabo Delegado have proved that we are in a position to make soap.

At the same time, increasing production through better use of our resources – >using manure and irrigation, improving agriculture and livestock raising, etc. – is possible, as proved by experiments made at certain military bases and in pilot centers. Production therefore serves to solve the essential problems of a rich diet for health and to meet all our needs. This is why work is respected in our zone and why he who works is praised, while he who lives by exploiting the work of others is criticized, denounced, fought against and despised.

Through work we are also becoming more united, cementing our unity. If I am a Nyanja, and cultivate the land alongside an Ngoni, I sweat with him, wrest life from the soil with him, learn with him, appreciating his efforts, and I feel united with him. If I am from the center and am with a comrade from the north, discussing with him how to use a plot of land, how and what to plant, we plan together, fight the difficulties together and share the joy of picking the ear of maize which has grown through our joint effort. I and that comrade are united, our liking for each other increases. If I am from the north and learn how to make a kitchen garden with a comrade from the south, how to water the fleshy red tomatoes, or if I am from the centre and learn for the first time how to grow cassava with a comrade from the north, I am becoming more united with those comrades, tangibly living the unity of our country, the unity of our working class. With him I am destroying tribal, religious and linguistic prejudices, all that is secondary and divides us. Unity grows with the growing plant, with the sweat and intelligence we both mingle with the soil.

In FRELIMO we always emphasize the importance of production. To our army we give the tasks of fighting, producing and mobilizing the masses. To our youth we give the tasks of studying, producing and fighting. In our discussions, in our documents, we constantly stress the importance of production, pointing out that this is an important front in our fight and a school for us. We can see that production is satisfying our everyday needs at the same time as liberating and uniting us. But we do not yet see that production is a school, that we learn through production. Some people might be surprised that in our schools there are those who devote long hours to production, and that our army also has this task. These people might feel that this is absurd, that it would be more worthwhile for the pupils to spend this time reading books, attending classes, that the army’s job is is to fight and not to produce. But we also learn through production. Our ideas do not fall from the skies like rain. Our knowledge and experience do not come from dreaming in our sleep. Without ever having been to school, our illiterate peasants know more about cassava, cotton, groundnuts and many other things than the honorable capitalist gentleman who has never touched a hoe. Without knowing how to read, it is clear that our mechanics know more about car engines, how to assemble them and repair them and how to mend broken parts, than the honorable capitalist gentleman who has never wished to soil his hands with motor oil. We see our “ignorant” masons, our “stupid” carpenters and laborers, so despised by the capitalist gentleman, making beautiful houses, beautiful furniture which the honorable gentleman appreciates immensely and which he has no idea how to make. This clearly shows that we learn through production.

What we learn we do, and when we do, we see what is wrong. So we learn also from our mistakes and achievements. The mistakes show where there are no shortcomings in our knowledge, weak points which have to be examined. This means that it is in the process of producing that we correct our mistakes. Production shows us that if good tomatoes are going to grow in it, this soil needs more manure, that there more water is needed. It was by making experiments that failed our pupils learned how to make soap. It was by making soap that they improved the quality of the soap.

Production is a school because it is one of the sources of our knowledge, and it is through production that we correct our mistakes. It is by going to the people, that we both learn and teach the people. If our army did not produce, how would we have grown cassava in Tete when the people had no knowledge of cassava? If we had contented ourselves with making speeches about cassava, would the cassava have grown? What better way of defending our production in Tete against bombing raids, chemical weapons and enemy incursions than diversification of production, introduction of new crops and crops which are resistant to enemy action?

How can the people improve their production methods, how can they know what is wrong and what is right, unless they produce? We are in the habit of saying that it is in the war that we learn war, which means, in fact, that it is by carrying out a revolution that one learns how to carry out a revolution better, that it is by fighting that we learn how to fight better and that it is by producing that we learn to produce better. We can study a lot, but what use is tons of knowledge if it is not taken to the masses, if we do not produce? If someone keeps maize seeds in a drawer, will he harvest ears of maize?

If someone learns a lot and never goes to the masses, is never involved in practice, he will remain a dead compendium, a mere recorder who is able to quote by heart many passages from scientific works, from revolutionary works, but who will live his whole life without writing a single new page, a single new line. His intelligence would remain sterile, like those seeds locked in the drawer. We need constant practice, we need to be immersed in the revolution and in production, to increase our knowledge and, in this way, to advance our revolutionary work, our productive work.

The seed of knowledge only grows when it is buried in the soil of production of struggle. If we already have so greatly transformed our country, if we have won so many successes in production, education, health and combat, it is because we are always with the masses. We consistently apply what we know to production, correct our mistakes and enrich our knowledge.

But we should not be satisfied. Practice is not enough. One must also know, study. Without practice, without being combined with force, intelligence remains sterile. Without intelligence, without knowledge, force remains blind, a brute force.

There are still many shortcomings in our work which me must and can correct. These shortcomings are a result of the insufficient use of intelligence in our work. All our shortcomings boil down to two aspects: political shortcomings and shortcomings in our scientific knowledge.

In many places we could produce more and better with less effort and with greater protection from enemy action. If we do not do so it is because we have not adopted our political line, because we are still strongly influenced by the individualism and corruption inherited from the old society. However energetic they may be and however hard they work, one man and his family can’t cultivate many small plots all at the same time, i.e they can’t disperse the enemy’s targets, in other words protect production. This man and his family can’t at the same time cultivate various plots providing different crops and, therefore, a richer diet. It is impossible for him to organize a system of guarding and protecting all the plots, all the granaries, his house and the village from enemy incursions and looting. One man can’t do productive work and at the same time patrol various areas to watch out for the enemy and prevent surprise attacks. This means that individualism and the private property mentality, (I have my plot and my cattle, you have your plot and cattle, I have my granary and my house, and you have your granary and your house), lead to defeats, making us lose the cattle, plot, house and granary.

Another serious consequence of a lack of collective spirit in production, of shortcomings in collective methods, is that this prevents us from learning from each other, from benefiting from mutual experience and knowledge. There was no progress in the past, because we did not discuss our knowledge and experience. The knowledge and experience passed on to us by our grandparents had become a dogma which no one discussed, and we remained sterile, without initiative.

Therefore, we leaders, cadres, fighter and militants must work hard to make the masses adopt and live by the collective spirit, using collective methods of production, which will make it possible to enhance the spirit of collective living, thereby increasing the sense of unity, discipline and organization. Adopting a collective consciousness in work means renouncing individualism and considering that all the cultivated plots belong to us, to the people, that all the granaries and houses are ours, the people’s. It means that I must unite with others in a co-operative, in a production brigade. We will cultivate, harvest and stand guard together, and together we will protect that which belongs not to me or you, but to us. That field is not mine or yours, but ours. The pupil in the school, the soldier in the base, and the patient and the nurse in the hospital all have a collective consciousness. No one looks upon the school, the base or the hospital as their private property, and everyone therefore takes an enthusiastic interest in advancing the work of the school, base or hospital. As a result progress is made, the work advances, and the enemy can’t so easily attack. Where there is a collective spirit, we are more organized, there is better discipline and a proper division of labor. There is also more initiative, a greater spirit of sacrifice and we learn more, produce more and fight better, with more determination.

Other shortcomings are a result of superficial or even mistaken ideas on the laws which govern natural phenomena. These are shortcomings in our scientific knowledge. We often live near a source of water – a river or a well – waiting for rain for the crops, although there is water there which would solve our problems. Other times we go about complaining that the soil is poor, completely ignoring natural fertilizers, the animal and human manures which enrich the soil. We have the raw materials for making soap, yet we go on doing without soap. We can grow, spin and weave cotton and yet we go on doing without clothing. There are many examples, all of which show that our lack of scientific knowledge blinds us. The solution to a problem facing us is right under our noses and we do not see it, we do not have the courage to show initiative. We are fighting our insufficient knowledge through study, learning, discussion and practice.

There are comrades who look down on study because they do not know its value. Study is like a lamp in the night which shows us the way. To work without studying is to advance in the dark. One can go forward, of course, but at great risk of stumbling or taking the wrong path. At some bases, among some comrades, the regular habit has been established of devoting some time to study. This is good, but it is not enough. All leaders and cadres, together with the units must organize consistent and regular study programs. Depending on the situation at least one hour a day should be devoted to study activities. Study should be organized in the spirit of collective work, collective consciousness, with small groups in which some teach others and everyone fights ignorance together. Because our starting point is a fairly weak one, we advise that in this first phase every effort should be made to raise the level of basic knowledge, especially by wiping out illiteracy in the units and among the cadres.

The Political Commissar, in co-operation with the Department of Education and Culture and working closely with the Provincial organizations, must organize the program of fighting illiteracy and ignorance in such a way that each FRELIMO bases becomes a base for fighting against obscurantism. Closely related to this program should be a program of seminars for comrades with higher scientific knowledge – agronomists, engineers, mechanics, sociologists, nurses etc. – to help raise the general level of knowledge of leaders and cadres in the districts and provinces. These should be specialized seminars on precise subjects such as irrigation, hygiene, mill construction, the introduction of new crops and the introduction of new production methods.

In this way our comrades will be able to relate their scientific studies to practice, and raise the level both of their own work and of the work of the masses. Soil without manure produces weak plants, but manure without soil burns the seeds and also produces nothing. Our intelligence, our knowledge, are like that manure. Manure must be mixed with soil, intelligence with practice. Because their very existence depends on exploiting us, capitalism and colonialism keep knowledge away from the masses, creating an educated elite which does not work and is used only to better exploit the masses.

We say that it is the workers who must have knowledge, who must rule and who must benefit from labor. This is what we say and practice. And this is why our Armed Struggle has been transformed into a Revolution, why everything is in constant transformation and we are liberating the creative energy of the masses. This, finally, is why the enemy hates us. Nothing exists without production, and nothing exists without workers. The planes and bombing raids, the colonialist crimes, are aiming at keeping the workers producing for the capitalists, at keeping them exploited. The target of our bullets, the purpose of our struggle is, definitely, to end the exploitation of man by man, colonialism being its principal form in our country today. Our objective is to hand production over to the creative ability of the masses.

We are about to enter our eighth year of war. Next year we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the founding of our Front. We are growing a great deal, but to grow more, to meet the growing needs of the war and the people, it is essential that our production increase in both quantity and quality, that more things be produced in our country.

Revolution liberates man. It liberates his intelligence and his work. This liberation manifests itself in the development of our production, which serves the people, which serves the struggle. Therefore, at this time when preparations are being made in agriculture for sowing the crops of the new season, we say to all the comrades: TO PRODUCE IS TO LEARN, LEARN IN ORDER TO PRODUCE AND STRUGGLE BETTER.


More from this Writer

“To educate the masses politically does not mean, cannot mean, making a political speech. What it means is to try, relentlessly and passionately, to teach the masses that everything depends on them; that if we stagnate it is their responsibility, and that if we go forward it is due to them too, that there is no such thing as a demiurge, that there is no famous man who will take the responsibility for everything, but that the demiurge is the people themselves and the magic hands are finally only the hands of the people.”
― Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth