You are on page 1of 24

8

Indigenato Before Race? Some


Proposals on Portuguese Forced
Labour Law in Mozambique and the
African Empire (192662)
MICHEL CAHEN
WHEN ASKING INDIGENATO BEFORE RACE?, my purpose is quite obviously not
to conclude that Portuguese colonial law organised only social discrimination and
therefore was not racist. One need only read the successive Native Statutes and
the Colonial Act to be convinced to the contrary. Nor is the aim to answer the
question of the function of Portuguese colonial racism: it is very easy to point out
that it was an ideological tool to dene who was native (and was to be compelled
into forced labour up to 1962) and who was not. People were black and therefore
native or not civilised (with the small exception of assimilados), or white and
therefore never native and always civilised, even when completely illiterate.
Nevertheless, these realities do not sufce to show exactly how it all worked.
But let me digress for a moment. Is it correct to translate the Portuguese indgena
as native in English (in particular American social sciences English)? One first
problem is that indgena in Portuguese is at the same time a noun and an adjective,
whereas indigenous is only an adjective in English: this implies translating um
indgena as a native and, in general terms, this will probably run. But in old
Portuguese African colonies, there were whites and mixed-race or black Luso-
Africans, sometimes since generations earlier. Were they native? It was obvious
to everybody that they were not indgena. They were Angolan or Mozambican,
that is to say white, mixed-race or black Portuguese from Angola and Mozambique,
but not indgena. Would it, in the case of completely black Luso-Africans, be the
same in English: would those blacks really not be natives? Moreover, in the
Portuguese African empire, indgena became a legal status within the juridical
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
I thank Maria da Conceio Neto (University Agostinho Neto, Luanda) for her remarks and criticism,
which drove me to change or better qualify some aspects of the original version. That does not mean
she will agree with all my nal proposals.
Proceedings of the British Academy 179, 149171. The British Academy 2012.
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 149
duality imposed on the colonised (indgenas, or not-civilised, versus cidados,
or civilised). In that sense, indgena might be translated by [colonial] subject,
but it would thus embrace the whole of the local colonised population, when
assimilados were (officially) full Portuguese citizens, as well as the Indians of
Goa and the Chinese of Macao and when the Cape Verdeans were neither indgena
nor assimilados (citizens) and enjoyed an intermediary status. Maria da Conceio
Neto points out the absurdity [which] could be seen at So Tom where the
natives (indgenas) were not those born locally but those brought there as contract
workers (contratados) from Angola and Mozambique, since the very So Toman
natives were not compelled to forced labour and therefore not called indgenas,
but forros.
1
In this text, I will translate indgena (adjective) as native when it refers
to the legal status or the condition of living within this legal status (native policy,
Native Code, etc.), and as indigenous when it refers to the fact of being
historically from that place (indigenous customs and habits, but a locally born
European or Goan will not be an indigenous because his origin lay abroad), with
some special cases (I will translate imposto indgena as hut tax). Often, I will
simply use the Portuguese words, in italics. Furthermore, it is impossible to translate
indigenato (the legal status and the social category) as indigenousness, which
would be an indigenidade which does not exist in Portuguese.
Even if the Portuguese noun indgena had been used before,
2
among many other
words, to refer to African peoples (cafres, gentio, selvagens, pagos, or kafrs,
horde, savages, pagans), its generalisation as a concept in order to refer to colonised
native peoples in Portuguese continental Africa (and probably elsewhere) is more
recent. Such a generalisation was linked to Lisbons effort to produce a systematic
legislation for its new empire, from the beginning of the last quarter of the nineteenth
century and above all after 1885. Before then, in the days of the slave trade in the
rst age of colonisation, it is well known that the coloniser concluded alliances with
some African states to secure the capture of slaves in other states. Arab or Swahili
slave traders did the same. That meant that not all black people were to become
slaves: it depended on the alliances. In contrast, under colonial capitalism, all black
people became natives (indgenas), unless they succeeded in extracting themselves
from their race. In Portuguese colonies, this was done with a remarkable degree of
systematisation.
The concepts indgena and indigenato as a legal category
3
are therefore more
or less contemporary with the implementation of colonial capitalism. It could be
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
Michel Cahen 150
1
Mara da Conceio Neto, personal communication, 8 May 2011.
2
Francisco Bethencourt points out that, in the rst edition of Mores, indgena already exists with the
modern meaning, and it may have existed before (Antnio de Moraes Silva and Rafael Bluteau, Diccionario
da lingua portugueza composto pelo padre D. Rafael Bluteau; Reformado, e accrescentado por Antnio
de Moraes Silva natural do Rio de Janeiro (Lisbon: Ofcina de Simo Thaddeo Ferreira, 1789).
3
Ana Cristina Nogueira da Silva, A cidadania nos Trpicos. O Ultramar no constitucionalismo monrquico
portugus (18201880), unpublished PhD thesis, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, 2004, pp. 442.
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 150
said that this was a logical consequence of the victory of abolitionism,
4
indirectly
linked with the expansion of capitalism, and it could also be said that indigenato
and forced labour replaced slavery. But it is this very notion of replacement that
needs to be discussed. Situations differ greatly according to whether we are looking
at the French Caribbean before 1848, Brazil before 1888, the creole Portuguese
archipelagos of Cape Verde or So Tom, or the continental colonies of the
Portuguese empire before 1878. The key is whether, in all these places where slavery
occurred, there was or there was not a slave plantation economy, a plantation
complex.
5
The result of abolition was obviously different according to each case.
It is well known that in the South of the United States, Brazil, the French Caribbean,
and Runion, the plantation economic system declined quickly after the end of the
multiple extensions of time granted to the former owners of slaves in order to oblige
the freed slaves to stay. With obvious differences from one place to another, the
majority of former slaves did not stay and preferred to become labourers in industrial
cities, smallholders in the mountains, or even landless peasants, engendering a
massive plebe that was poorly integrated into the capitalist production process.
Nevertheless, that scenario does not seem to t the case of So Tom and Principe
the Caribbean island of Portugal in equatorial Africa.
So Tom and Principe
So Tom and Principe seem to be an exception, a case of the lingering survival
of a closed system of slavery in a plantation economy (the cocoa roas) up to the
Second World War. This may be explained by the peculiar history of the genesis
of creole society,
6
which prohibited the imposition of forced labour on the natives
(lhos da terra, or forros)
7
and required the late and growing importation of slave
INDIGENATO BEFORE RACE?
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
151
4
Since the new uniqueness of human kind needed the codication of its categories.
5
Philip D. Curtin, The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex: Essays in Atlantic History (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1990). In this chapter, when I speak about plantation, it will always be
large plantations and not the peasant self-subsistence agriculture which, nevertheless, may be very
intensive in some areas.
6
I am calling creole not only the colony-born whites, but all the colonial (not colonised) social
milieus produced by, or at the margins of, the imperial state apparatus. The longevity of the Portuguese
rst age of colonisation made it peculiar; Isabel Castro Henriques, So Tom e Prncipe: A inveno
de uma sociedade (Lisbon: Vga, 2000); Elisabetta Maino, Le kalidoscope identitaire. Anthropologie
historique de So Tom e Prncipe, unpublished PhD thesis, cole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences
Sociales, Paris, 2004, pp. 712; Augusto Nascimento, S. Tom e Prncipe no sculo XIX: Um espao
de interpretao das mudanas sociais, in Valentim Alexandre (ed.), O Imprio Africano (Sculos XIX
e XX) (Lisbon: Edies Colibri, 2000), pp. 95116; Valentim Alexandre, Poderes e quotidiano nas
roas de S. Tom e Prncipe, de nais de oitecentos a meados de novecentos (Lous: author, 2002).
7
The last attempt to impose forced labour on the forros provoked the war of Batep in 1953; Gerhard
Seibert, Le massacre de fvrier 1953 So Tom, raison dtre du nationalisme santomen, Lusotopie
4 (1997), pp. 17392.
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 151
manpower (named serviais from the end of the nineteenth century) due to the
insularity and small size of the archipelago, as well as the violence of the colonial
state of a weak metropolitan capitalism. However, even in this case, the growing
difculties of maintaining the system led to its criminalisation: in the 1950s, being
sent from Mozambique to So Tom was not a question of forced labour for
indigenous people, but very often of penitentiary labour for native convicts.
In other words, So Tom represents one case of a slave plantation complex,
and the fact that this complex needed a few decades more to die than was the case
in the Americas does not change anything. Thus, it must not be understood as a
transition where slavery was slowly substituted by forced labour; rather, forced
labour was tried, but never successfully.
8
Historically speaking, in So Tom, there
was no transition: there was an attempt to continue slave exploitation, and
afterwards, the convulsions of its decline. Social improvements for serviais after
the Second World War in order to stabilise them were concomitant with the crisis
of this single-crop farming and of its protability.
9
Deep convulsions occurred too
in the Americas: the difference is that in So Tom, capitalism hardly replaced
slavery. It was the transition from slavery to nothing.
The problem the social sciences face today is that the analysis of forced labour
in Portuguese continental Africa has been and remains excessively inuenced by
the case of So Tom, which fed famous scandals and abolitionist protests from
the end of the nineteenth century up to 1925.
10
The issue was always that forced
labour was no more than modern slavery, and forced labour in Angola and
Mozambique was seen as forming part of other plantation complexes as early as
the nineteenth century or beginning of the twentieth.
11
Obviously, slavery is literally
a kind of forced labour. But this does not mean that twentieth-century forced
(officially indentured) labour was modern slavery, at least if seen from the
viewpoint of the mode of production and its historical path.
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
Michel Cahen 152
8
See the rst chapter of Gerhard Seibert, Comrades, Clients and Cousins: Colonialism, Socialism and
Democratization in So Tom and Prncipe (Leiden: University of Leiden, 1999), pp. 1849.
9
Alexander Keese, Early Limits of Local Decolonisation: Forced Labour, Decolonisation and the
Servial Population in So Tom and Prncipe, from Colonial Abuses to Post-Colonial
Disappointment, 19451976, International Journal of African Historical Studies, forthcoming.
10
In particular the famous Nevinson and Ross Reports: Henry W. Nevinson, A Modern Slavery (London:
Harper and Brothers, 1906); Edward A. Ross, Report on Employment of Native Labour in Portuguese
Africa (New York: Abbott Press, 1925). For a recent anlysis, see Miguel Bandeira Jernimo, Livros
Brancos, Almas Negras: A misso civilizadora do colonialismo Portugus c. 18701930 (Lisbon:
Imprensa de Cincias Sociais, 2009), esp. chs 2 and 5.
11
See the unambiguous title of the famous book by James Duffy, A Question of Slavery (London: Oxford
University Press, 1967).
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 152
Late but extensive slave trade; weak slavery;
modern forced labour
What was the situation in the Portuguese colonies on the continent? With few
exceptions, the former slave traders, being white, mulatto or black, did not become
planters. Some managed to nd their place among the very small urban elites in
Luanda, Benguela or Momedes in Angola, or Quelimane, Moambique or Ibo
Island in Mozambique. But the new plantation companies were generally not theirs,
and were a new phenomenon stemming from foreign or metropolitan capital, and
in any case external capital. Even the descendants of the prazeiros of Great
Zambezia in Mozambique, who could have been best placed to transform their
prazos into latifundios, failed to do so, rst for military reasons: they sought to
defend their freedom to be slave traders too long and too late, and they had to be
defeated by metropolitan Portugal.
12
With the very tiny exception of the Mossuril
peninsula facing Moambique Island the so-called terras firmes where slave
plantations existed and a few places in the hinterland of Luanda in Angola,
Portuguese (and also Swahili) slavery in these areas was domestic and above all
for exportation. Obviously, domestic slavery did include some slaves working in
quintas (small plantations), but I believe it is right to emphasise that the slave
trade never produced a plantation economy in continental Portuguese Africa
comparable to that in Latin America. The rst reason for this was a military one:
in order to create those plantations, it would have been necessary to defeat a number
of African states, some small and some larger, in order to dominate large areas of
land directly. It was far more protable to export slaves, all the more since Brazilian
production (even after independence) answered to the needs of legitimate trade in
tropical commodities.
13
This effective conquest occurred very late, which is to
say, at the very moment when abolition was actually implemented, between the
Berlin Congress and the First World War. Even if they had wanted to do so, the
former slave exporters had no more time to develop slave-worked plantations.
In the Portuguese African empire, forced labour and indigenato were not
implemented to maintain former slaves on the plantations (or in the mines), for
INDIGENATO BEFORE RACE?
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
153
12
Allen Isaacman, Mozambique: The Africanization of a European Institution: The Zambezi Prazos,
17501902 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1972); Allen Isaacman and Barbara Isaacman,
Os prazeiros como trans-raianos: Um estudo sobre transformao social e cultural, Arquivo (Maputo:
Arquivo Histrico de Moambique), 10 (1991), pp. 548. About the last period of the prazos, see
Leroy Vail and Landeg White, Capitalism and Colonialism in Mozambique: A Study of Quelimane
District (London: Heinemann, 1980); Ren Pelissier, Naissance du Mozambique: Rsistance et rvoltes
anticoloniales (18541918), 2 vols (Orgeval: Ed. Plissier, 1984); and Srgio Chichava, Le Vieux
Mozambique: Lidentit politique de la Zambzie, unpublished PhD thesis, Universit de Bordeaux,
2007.
13
Gervase Clarence-Smith, The Third Portuguese Empire, 18251975: A Study in Economic Imperialism
(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985).
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 153
such plantations or mines scarcely existed (with the exception, as we have seen,
of So Tom, probably up until the Second World War).
As is known, the rst Portuguese law against the institution of slavery was the
decree of the Marqus S da Bandeira ordering the end of transatlantic trade in
1836, which became effective only in 1850 when Brazil issued a similar decree.
Obviously, this supposed end of the transatlantic slave trade was not the end of
slavery. The same Marqus S da Bandeira issued a series of anti-slave laws
between 1854 and 1858, freeing some slaves and establishing 1878 as the nal date
for abolition. In 1869, the slaves were made libertos and in 1875 the ex-libertos
had to stay in the service of their former masters for two more years (18768).
These twenty years were thought of in Lisbon as a period of gradual abolition and
orderly transition from slavery to free labour: the Portuguese government visibly
hoped that slaves who could no longer be exported would therefore stay with their
owners, who would then be able to create plantations and transform their slaves
into wage-earning workers. But in the great majority of cases, these plantations
would be new ones, and not former latifundios full of former slaves. Unlike in
Brazil or the French Caribbean colonies, the twenty-year intermediate period
conceived in Lisbon was not to give time to slave-based plantation owners, but to
allow a transition to a new, capitalist economy. The key point in the 1875, 1878
and 1899 legislation was that (with some hesitation and contradictory minor changes
between these rst three Portuguese native labour codes) the prohibition of forced
labour referring to the former slavery was enacted alongside the vagrancy
clause under which the non-productive African could be judged a vagrant and
made to contract for his services. It amounted to no less than the creation of modern
forced labour.
But this is not the same thing as slavery.
14
On the moral level and that of day-
to-day life, similarities can easily be found between slavery and forced labour
(above all before the 1950s); and it was on these grounds that Portugal was
denounced by anti-slavery movements throughout the rst half of the twentieth
century. But historically speaking, forced labour and indigenato were not the
product of a long process of the decline of slavery: they were the direct consequence
of the new age of colonialism, meaning the colonial capitalism now made possible
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
Michel Cahen 154
14
Portuguese has two separate words: escravatura for the slave trade, and escravido for slavery in
plantations, mines, and so forth. When I refer here to slavery it is to escravido. Portuguese colonial
literature in the 1930s sometimes distinguished escravido, used specically for domestic slavery of
Africans by Africans (excluding any reference to forced labour) from escravismo (or esclavagismo)
for the European system and doctrine. When the World Trade Organization was investigating forced
labour, the Portuguese authorities understood this voluntarily as slavery indeed in the colonial
ofcial vocabulary, trabalho forado refers to slavery and answered that there was no longer such
escravismo but there was some escravido remaining, which they were ghting against; Maria Emilia
Madeira Santos and Vtor Lus Gaspar Rodrigues, No rescaldo da escravatura. As cincias sociais
chamadas ia nos anos 30 (sculo XX), Africana Studia (Porto) 8 (2005), pp. 25973.
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 154
by effective military conquest of the land and the defeat of the former social groups
based on the economy of war and the slave trade. Between slavery and forced labour
and indigenato, there was no continuity or even transition; there was a break. It was
a matter of a change in production modes, which could now concern the whole
African population, thanks to military conquest, while slaves had been only a
minority of the African population. Military campaigns were not only a conquest
of land, they very often involved the violent destruction of the former colonial
economic system based on coexistence of an indigenous economy and long-distance
trade by Luso-Brazilians, Portuguese, Luso-Africans (in Mozambique, in particular
the prazeiros), Indians, Swahilis, or (obviously) African trade caravans, themselves
linked with African states further into the hinterland. This point is very important.
The peculiarity of the Portuguese break with slavery
Nevertheless, it can be said that the continental Portuguese empire in Africa was
not the only one where there was no European-owned slave plantation complex,
but almost exclusively slave trade exports, and therefore de facto no transition from
enslaved manpower to forced labour manpower on European plantations.
15
But this
simply provides a further reason to revise the history of this transition.
Moreover, in this short chapter it is impossible to discuss important cases of
development of domestic slavery within African societies, and even production in
market-oriented slavery in some African pre-colonial states, both stimulated by
legitimate and illegitimate colonial trade on the coast. But even in the latter case,
which indeed represented a first means of capitalist penetration within African
states, its social formation prevented its possible use by new direct European
imperialism to develop large forced labour plantations.
16
First, the African cases
of market-oriented slavery very often did not produce a plantation complex, the
slaves being spread among the local population as captives or forming special
villages, but not working in plantations. Secondly, in the few (albeit important)
INDIGENATO BEFORE RACE?
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
155
15
See for example Emmanuel Terray, Une histoire du royaume abron du Gyaman: Des origines la
conqute coloniale (Paris: Karthala, 1995); Robin Law, Ouidah: The Social History of a West African
Slaving Port, 17271892 (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2004); Kristin Mann, Slavery and the
Birth of an African City: Lagos, 17601900 (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press,
2007).
16
That does not mean that nothing in African slavery could be used by new European plantations. For
example, the plantations in Zambezia sometimes recovered the old ensacas of the prazos as forced
workers. Ensaca here must not be confused with the same word in the Portuguese of Brazil or Portugal
(packing into sacks or bags) but refers to the nsaka, the ten- to twelve-slave soldier squads which were
the local structure of the Achikunda (the slave soldiers of the prazos). One can immediately see that
such a use of ensacas for a rural gang forced labour system was based on the military defeat and
humiliation of the Achikunda who, as proud slave soldiers, desperately resisted against their liberation
by the Portuguese trying to indigenise them.
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 155
cases where a full plantation complex occurred, as in the Caliphate of Sokoto (in
modern northern Nigeria, based on cotton) or in the kingdom of Dahomey (based
on palm oil), the colonial conquest provoked their disintegration: slaves ed from
the plantations due to the colonial conquest, or the social planters milieu was
militarily defeated and broken up. The European plantations had therefore to be
new ones, with another organisation, and other social relations of domination. The
only exception could be the case of the formation of a plantation complex based
on cloves in Zanzibar (fully developed by the 1840s) and part of the Swahili East
African coast, which English and German colonisers had partially conquered.
17
But
this must be considered as only a partial exception, since it represented conquest
by new colonisers of former colonisers, the Arabs of Oman, and not of an indigenous
planter class.
In the space occupied today by Mozambique, market-oriented slave production
by Africans seems scarcely (if at all) to have existed;
18
but going further into the
hinterland, the case of the Lunda empire is well known and covered part of eastern
twentieth-century Angola and the Belgian Congo. The Lunda empire made
intensive use of slaves in production tasks, but not within a plantation complex.
19
Generally speaking, these African social formations based on slavery had to be
defeated with the exception already noted.
But even comparing the neighbouring Portuguese Angola and the Belgian
Congo, or other European empires in Africa, there are huge differences. In the
Portuguese empire, unlike in other European empires, but similar to what occurred
in Latin America, there were old creole elite nuclei dating from the first age of
colonisation. One might have expected them to have developed slave plantations
and then passed to forced labour (and later wage-earned) manpower, thus leading
the transition. But as in other European empires, and unlike in Latin America,
there was no transition. The thesis of a transition from slavery to forced labour in
Portuguese Africa is thus based rst on a wrong understanding and generalisation
of the So Tom case, and second on misinterpretation of the reaction of pre-existent
old elites when the age of modern imperialism dawned.
The peculiarity of the continental Portuguese empire thus lies not only in the
very absence of any transition which is, with the exception already noted, the
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
Michel Cahen 156
17
Frederick Cooper, Plantation Slavery on the East Coast of Africa (1977; Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann,
1997); Frederick Cooper, The Problem of Slavery in African Studies, Journal of African History
20:1 (1979), pp. 10325; Jan-Georg Deutsch, Emancipation without Abolition in German East Africa
c. 18841914 (Oxford: James Currey, 2006).
18
Malyn D. D. Newitt, Portuguese Settlement on the Zambezi (London: Longman, 1973); Allen F. Isaacman
and Barbara S. Isaacman, Slavery and Beyond: The Making of Men and Chikunda Ethnic Identities in the
Unstable World of South-Central Africa, 17501920 (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2004).
19
Isabel Castro Henriques, Percursos da modernidade em Angola: Dinmicas comerciais e
transformaes sociais no sculo XIX (Lisbon: Instituto de Investigao Cientca Tropical/Instituto
da Cooperao Portuguesa, 1997).
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 156
general case within the new European imperialism in Africa but in the fact that
there was no transition in spite of the existence of old social colonial milieus for
whom S da Bandeira had legislated from the 1850s because they were expected
to produce such a transition.
There is another way to approach the same Portuguese peculiarity. For other
European countries, Africa was a case of New Colonies the Old Colonies
being those in the Americas and Caribbean and there were no, or insignicant,
creole populations.
20
In the Portuguese case, the New Colonies were conquered
from the Old ones and with territorial continuity. The Old Colonies lay within the
New ones the Le temps long dans le temps court of Fernand Braudel with the
decline but survival of their old elites within the new social context.
It is worth noting one further aspect, in particular with regard to the Congos or
French West Africa: between the end of slave exports and the generalisation of
forced labour, forty years or so
21
elapsed in the Portuguese empire, whereas France
and Belgium developed harsh and massive forced labour immediately.
22
Although
the legislation was all ready, and forced labour was expanding after the First World
War, the 1929 crisis and the rigorous nancial policies of Salazar slowed down
economic growth and so the need for indigenous forced manpower on plantations,
which cannot much have exceeded 100,000 people in each of Angola and
Mozambique in the middle of the 1930s. Thus, the generalisation of forced labour
(in plantations, fisheries, and harbours, as well as in regions of forced peasant
production)
23
actually did not occur before the end of the 1930s and during the
Second World War. In the Portuguese empire, then, this chronological gap stresses
even more forcefully the rupture between slavery and forced labour as distinct
historical periods.
Nevertheless, this assessment does not include the compulsory use of native
people as porters (carregadores freely furnished by pro-Portuguese or subdued
traditional chiefs) for Portuguese traders up to the 1920s, or for building roads or
other public works, all of which was highly disruptive for the social life and
production process of the Africans. In Angola, this was the case particularly under
the rule of Norton de Matos as Governor (191214) and Alto-Comissrio (19213).
24
INDIGENATO BEFORE RACE?
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
157
20
I do not tackle here the very specic cases of Sierra Leone and Liberia.
21
Only twenty years in the case of diamond exploitation in the Lunda region (Angola).
22
Adam Hochschild, King Leopolds Ghost: A Study of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa
(Boston: Mariner Books, 1999); Crawford Young, The African Colonial State in Comparative
Perspective (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994).
23
For cotton and rice, there were generally not European-owned plantations (as there were for tea, copra,
coffee, sugar cane, or coconuts), but concession areas where companies heavily organised and pressured
the Africans to cultivate such crops at the expense of their food production.
24
Maria da Conceio Neto, Nas malhas da rede: O impacto econmico e social do transporte rodovirio
na regio do Huambo c. 1920 c. 1960, in Beatrix Heintze and Achim von Open (eds), Angola on the
Move: Transport, Routes, Communications and History/Angola em movimento: Vias de transporte,
comunicaes e histria (Frankfurt: Otto Lambeck, 2008), pp. 11729.
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 157
Is it possible, then, to view these practices as lling the aforementioned gap of forty
years between the end of the slave trade and the generalisation of forced labour,
and therefore as constituting a transition? There could be good grounds for thinking
so, since the use of carregadores for the traders and small coffee plantations of the
hinterland, and of forced native workers for the development of Angola as dreamed
by Norton de Matos, was systematic, harsh, and violent.
25
Such a use of compelled
recruits may indeed surely be considered as a lingering legacy of slavery, for some
natives; even if it was now part-time slavery, since they were no longer sold when
arriving on the coast or in the cities (except for those sent to So Tom, but not
specically recruited from the carregadores).
Nevertheless, I do not share this historical interpretation, for three main reasons.
First, even if some legacy of slavery may be found in the guise of the carregadores,
this did not equate to preparation for modern forced labour. During the same period,
the continuing export of serviais to So Tom plantations did not prepare for any
change in the archipelago, but was the tendency of lingering slavery. Carregadores
were slaves up to 1878 (and after), and then forced workers, and did indeed represent
the main case of sector-based transition, since they carried out the same activity,
probably for the same traders or their immediate descendants. But this is rather an
exception. Were the latter transformed, two or three decades later, into forced
labour-based plantation owners or shareholders of concession companies of forced
cotton production? Had they been able to keep their former slaves to work on the
new plantations? Generally speaking, I do not think so. Even if some managed to
become modern traders, or even medium-sized planters (fazendeiros), in no way
did their social milieu become the dominant one in twentieth-century Mozambique
and Angola. The major plantations represented a new period, with new people and
a new process. It comes as little surprise that during several decades, slavery
continued in declining forms, while forced labour appeared and developed alongside
it; but the simultaneity of both does not at all mean that the rst was producing the
second, economically and socially. Rather, this was the competition of two historical
ages.
Secondly, the quantitative aspect is also a qualitative one. Except in the case of
So Tom, the half-slave/half-forced-labour regimes of the 1890s, 1910s, and 1920s
cannot be compared with the systematic recruitment of any native male for forced
labour in plantations, sheries and mines, and the forced production of cotton and
rice, in the 1940s and 1950s. Now, rather than thousands of people a year, hundreds
of thousands were implicated (see below).
Third, and linked to the rst point, the development of huge estates (Portuguese-
owned or not, chartered or not), very often created from the end of the nineteenth
century but fully developed by the end of the 1930s, or even the spreading of many
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
Michel Cahen 158
25
Maria da Conceio Neto, personal communication, 8 May 2011.
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 158
medium-sized settler-owned plantations in the 1950s (with the settlers often recent
arrivals), is a completely distinct social phenomenon from the families, the capital
and even the culture of the former slave traders of the nineteenth century.
We now come to a new contradiction: it was indeed forced labour that allowed
capitalist domination of Mozambique, Angola and areas of Guinea (and of other
empires), but forced labour is not really a mode of capitalist exploitation. We will
have to return to this contradiction. But rst it is necessary to go into the detail of
the workings of the Statute governing indigenato.
The social signicance of indigenato
In this chapter, my analysis will not begin with the colonial labour legislation of
1875, 1878, 1899 or even 1914, but will start directly with the legislation of 19268,
since it was between 1926 and 1942 that all the main legislation concerning the
national-colonialism of the Estado Novo was issued, shaping the whole system
until 1962 and partially up to 1974. But once again, one must emphasise that the
new legislation was not brought in to discipline and govern huge crowds of post-
slavery forced workers. The forced labour legislation of 19269 must therefore be
analysed as developmentalist, with a forward-looking view of what Angola and
Mozambique should become: a general work camp for Africans.
Who was who?
It may seem strange to remark that before 1926, there was no rule to dene clearly
who was native or not civilised and who was civilised. One was notoriously
recognised as being gentio or assimilado. As Jill Dias has shown, self-denition
as Angolan or even African within the African elite of Luanda and its hinterland,
Benguela, or Momedes, was not at all similar to being gentio or indigenous up
to the late nineteenth century.
26
The liberal monarchy during its last years main-
tained this absence of a denition. In 1917 (at least in Mozambique), a rst text
required former assimilados to obtain an alvar (certificate) from the court
certifying their assimilation. After 19267, terms for obtaining the assimilation
certicate became more and more restrictive: henceforth, the aim of legislation was
clearly to define who would not be exempted from forced labour. Since James
Duffy, Douglas Wheeler, Ren Plissier, Gerald Bender, Malyn Newitt and other
more recent researchers have already studied the content of such legislation, I would
like to only stress some specic aspects.
INDIGENATO BEFORE RACE?
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
159
26
Jill Dias, Uma questo de identidade: Respostas intelectuais s transformaes econmicas no seio
da elite crioula da Angola portuguesa entre 1870 e 1930, Revista Internacional de Estudos Africanos
(Lisbon) 1 (1984), pp. 6194.
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 159
Who did work?
The Estatuto Poltico, Civil e Criminal dos Indgenas de Angola e Moambique,
issued on 23 October 1926, and extended to Guinea in 1929, denitely established
the principle that metropolitan and colonial law must be different, in spite of the
unity of the Nation.
27
It precisely dened natives as individuals of black race or
being descended from them, who, by the way of their instruction and customs, do
not distinguish themselves from the common people of this race (article 3).
According to this Estatuto, colonial governments had to dene who would be native
by a special diploma in each colony. In Mozambique, for example, the Diploma
legislativo denindo as condies especiais que devem caracterizar os indgenas
ou no indgenas performed this role.
28
There were slight differences between the
different colonial diplomas or their successive versions in 1927, 1931, and so on,
regarding conditions for becoming assimilated, but three conditions were always
included: rst, to have completely abandoned indigenous habits and customs;
second, the ability to speak Portuguese; and third, to practise a profession, trade
or industry or to own goods being enough for their subsistence (article 1). In the
1931 Angolan diploma, this third condition was more precise: practise a profession
[. . .] compatible with European civilisation.
29
The issue here is: what was more segregationist in this law serving as a tool
of discrimination and what was more socially structuring? Even if the questions
of knowledge of Portuguese and having abandoned indigenous customs and habits
would obviously lead to a huge range of arbitrary judgements by local admini-
strators, my hypothesis is that the third point, regarding profession, was by far
the worst. Actually, knowledge of the Portuguese language extended to very few
people at the time, but living in a city, or within a mission, or working for a company
could give rise to such an ability. But what is understood by profession is only
an activity fully integrated within the monetarised economy and on a permanent
basis: a native person working in his eld for his own subsistence, or a native person
working in a European company on a two-year contract, did not have a profession.
In Mozambique, owning goods being enough for their subsistence was dened,
for example, as having 100 head of cattle or five hectares of land on a private
basis. The meaning is very clear: the denition of indgena is any (black) person
not directly integrated into the capitalist economy. This is a mixture of what I will
call literal racism, or even racial racism (because it dealt only with blacks), and
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
Michel Cahen 160
27
Decree no. 12,533, 23 Oct. 1926, Boletim Ocial de Moambique (Loureno Marques), 1st series,
28, 27 Nov. 1926.
28
Diploma legislativo . . ., no. 36, 12 Nov. 1927, Boletim Ocial de Moambique (Loureno Marques),
1st series, 46, 22 Nov. 1927.
29
Diploma legislativo . . ., no. 237, 26 May 1931, art. 1, quoted by Elisabeth Ceita Vera Cruz, O estatudo
do indigenato e a legislao da discriminao na colonizao portuguesa: O caso de Angola (Coimbra:
Novo Imbondeiro, 2005), p. 106.
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 160
social racism (not only social discrimination), since it deals with the whole cate-
gory of people not living within capitalism. The two types of racism form a whole,
but the second is far more effective: actually, since the 1899 Labour Code had
introduced a vagrancy clause, any person not working was a vagrant and could
therefore be obliged to choose freely his employer. The whole people was made
vagrant, in an early kind of clash of civilisations.
Within the context of the scandal provoked by the Ross Report on So Tom,
Angola and Mozambique in 1925, it might be noted that the vagrancy clause
disappeared in the 19269 legislation on native labour (Estatuto and Cdigo). In
the same way, the obligation, moral and legal of working returned to the pre-1899
formulation of moral obligation. Was this new legislation less harsh than the
former one? It has been suggested that it was, but I very much doubt it: at the same
time, the coup dtat of May 1926 ended the Republic with the mute approval of
the British government, and supporters of open forced labour came to power.
30
If
they did so, it was because any change in the labour regime could be merely
cosmetic. The reason is that the colonial administration no longer needed such
precise clauses; the simple fact of not considering as work the traditional activity
of the indgenas had been sufficient to put them under the moral obligation to
work (dever moral do trabalho), which could allow (and actually allowed) for
administrative intervention. African people perhaps were no longer vagrant, but
since their day-to-day self-support activity was not recognised as labour, this was
irrelevant. From vagrant people to not relevant people, no progress was made
at all.
Late but massive forced labour
Many years ago, during my doctoral research on Mozambique, I calculated that in
the 1940s and 1950s, all males who could be recruited for forced labour that is
to say, any male between the ages of 15 and 60, not serving in the army or rural
(native) police, a traditional chief, a domestic in a European family, or a permanent
worker in a harbour or on a railway, and who had not emigrated had in fact been
recruited, for six months a year or one year in two in companies, or permanently
in forced food production. Indeed, in 1940, when Mozambique had a population
of 5 million, of 1,197,028 native males aged between 15 and 60, some 533,780
were chibalo (forced) workers in plantations (latifndios of tea, copra, coffee, sugar
cane, or coconuts), railways and ports, mines, and so on, 331,000 were forced cotton
producers, and 60,000 forced rice producers, for a grand total of 924,780 people;
that is to say, 117 per cent of the legal number of males liable for legal recruitment
INDIGENATO BEFORE RACE?
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
161
30
The legislation on forced cotton growing was published at this very moment.
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 161
(who should have numbered 793,370).
31
It is worth stressing that these gures were
calculated a minima, do not include women, who were legally not to be recruited
but who were very often as forced as their husbands to produce cotton, rice and
castor oil, and do not include day-to-day forced work on roads or for other public
tasks (in Mozambique this invisible forced labour was legalised as the
contribuio braal, the arm drudgery).
The situation became still worse after 1947, and the number of forced labourers
by the end of the 1950s became very large, even though it was at this very moment
that the internal economic crisis of colonisation began. What was more, vagrant/
not relevant people were prohibited from entering the civilised occupations;
particularly from the 1940s, these occupations were open only to those holding a
professional card issued by white trade unions. The tiny number of assimilados in
Mozambique 4,353 out of 5,733,000 black inhabitants in 1950, or 0.008 per cent
was thus the product not of direct racist measures against black individuals, but
of large-scale forced labour among a whole people that had been made vagrant or
not relevant. When someone was subjected to forced labour, it became almost
impossible to change their situation, except by illegal emigration. Forced labour,
not direct racist behaviour, was the reason for the weakness of the African elite in
Mozambique but obviously, forced labour is per se a racist process, against a whole
way of life. In Angola, the number of assimilados was tiny too, but far greater than
in Mozambique 30,089 assimilados out of a black population of 4,036,687 people,
or 0.75 per cent because of the persistence of old social milieus stemming from
the nineteenth century or even before, and not at all a product of the twentieth century.
This is the general framework, but regional differences were important. Indeed,
forced labour created strong contradictions within colonial society: for example,
it prevented Africans from producing on their own and selling their products to
Portuguese merchants. According to Manuel Loff, in 1943 white traders blocked
a train transporting contratados, on the grounds that these emigrations were
excessive and injurious to their trade.
32
Maria da Conceio Neto stresses that, in
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
Michel Cahen 162
31
That is to say, the total number of indigenous males aged from 15 to 60, minus the categories of
other labour status listed supra. Personal calculations from data in: Misso de Inqurito Agrcola,
Recenseamento agrcola de 19301940: Contribuio para o recenseamento agrcola mundial
(Loureno Marques: Imprensa Nacional de Moambique/Repartio Tcnica de Estatstica, 1944);
Nelson Saraiva Bravo, A cultura algodoeira na economia do Norte de Moambique (Lisbon: Junta de
Investigaes do Ultramar, 1963); Armando Loureno Rodrigues, A produo no sector indgena de
Moambique, BA dissertation, Instituto Superior de Estudos Ultramarinos, Lisbon, 1960; and Armando
Castro, O sistema colonial portugus em frica (meados do sculo XX) (Lisbon: Editorial Caminho,
1978), which was written but not published in 1959.
32
The Labour Shortage in Angola, 15 Nov. 1950, by Scott (Assistant Information Ofcer of the British
Embassy in Lisbon), National Archives, London, Foreign Office 371/80861, JP2183/2, quoted by
Manuel Loff, As colnias portuguesas de frica entre a II
a
Guerra Mundial e a Guerra colonial: A
viso anglo-americana, in Adriana Pereira Campos (ed.), Trabalho forado africano: Experincias
coloniais comparadas (Porto: Campo das Letras, 2006), pp. 395442, see p. 432.
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 162
spite of forced labour laws, in some regions of central and south-central Angola,
forced labour (in the form of work on plantations or in fisheries) was never
completely imposed on peasants, in order to allow them to grow and sell a signicant
surplus of cereals to the Portuguese, even if invisible forced labour was imposed
on all.
33
Malyn Newitt has recently published part of the diary of Charles Spence,
the British director of a trading company in Loureno Marques, who made a tour
of Mozambique in 1943. In the north, local Indian traders were all complaining
that trade in native products had more or less come to a standstill on account of
the emphasis imposed by the government on cotton growing. Since the Nyassa
Companys charter had come to an end, direct administration of the region had
changed priorities from a focus on commercial activity (principally in African
grown crops) in the imposition of a systematic administration and the commercial
control of the cotton and rice monopoly concessionaires.
34
In Mozambique, during the Second World War, when forced labour recruitment
was widespread, Portuguese law also made it possible, in exceptional instances, to
escape forced labour laws. The Estatuto do Agricultor Indgena (Statute on African
Agriculturalists) exempted some peasants from the contrato to allow them to
develop their own farms, in full contradiction of the Estatuto dos Indgenas. Thus,
if any peasant had not distinguished himself from the common people of his race
by owning private land or 100 head of cattle, he must be native and subject to the
moral obligation of labour.
35
If he had so distinguished himself, he must become
an assimilado. But this special statute, introduced to authorise a very few Africans
to plant large amounts of cash crops, simply allowed small Portuguese traders to
buy products at native prices, that is to say below the ofcially xed prices of the
direct white settlers. The allocation of this status remained at the discretion of the
administrador da circunscrio (district colonial officer) and was obviously a
question of poltica indgena discussed at the highest level in the province.
Moreover, since it allowed several thousand Mozambican peasants to avoid
seasonal forced labour, it alleviated one important contradiction of the system.
But it must be noted that this very special statute undermining the Cdigo dos
Indgenas categories was itself undermined, since peasants on concessions for
forced production of cotton and rice were often considered agricultores africanos
and therefore exempted from forced labour (seasonal work), to be compelled to
work on forced crop growing. This was particularly the case in the Nampula
INDIGENATO BEFORE RACE?
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
163
33
Maria da Conceio Neto, personal communication, 27 April 2011.
34
Malyn Newitt, Uma viagem pelo Norte de Moambique durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial, in P.
Havik, C. Saraiva and J. A. Tavim (eds), Caminhos cruzados em Histria e Antropologia: Ensaios de
homenagem a Jill Dias (Lisbon: Instituto de Cinas Sociais, 2010), pp. 14358. Quotations are from
the original manuscript in English; I thank Malyn Newitt for sending me this document.
35
Estatuto do agricultor indgena, aprovado pelo diploma legislativo no. 919, de. 5 de Agosto de 1944
(Loureno Marques: Imprensa Nacional, 1944).
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 163
province of Mozambique in the 1950s, as a way to disguise the statistics of forced
cotton growing. Marvin Harris had already remarked that for the south of the colony:
According to the 1950 census, the active male population between the ages of 15
and 55 years in the regions south of Zambezi roughly the distritos of Tete, Beira,
Inhambane, Gaza and Loureno Marques numbered 593,834 men. Of this group,
33,766 were listed as exercising the profession of agriculturalist. Of the latter, it is
not clear what percentage held the certicate of agricultor africano. There is no doubt,
however, that most of these ofcially recognised agriculturalists were merely engaged
in the production of cotton under the governments forced planting program.
36
How not to proletarianise: gendering and subalternising
What has to be stressed immediately, following these quantitative thoughts, is that
forced labour did not in any way produce a process of local integration within the
capitalist production process. On the contrary, the Portuguese administration
resolutely fought any tendency towards the formation of a proletarian class. S da
Bandeiras old dream of seeing former slave traders become employers of
permanent employees was soon abandoned. This was not only for political reasons
fear of a proletarian mass but above all because it was far more protable not
to have a proletarian class. A proletarian person must be paid at the cost of his social
reproduction, and this was still too expensive. The Cdigo do Trabalho dos
Indgenas nas colonias portuguesas de frica, the Labour Code of 1929, was very
clear on this.
37
Contracts were never permanent ones, because Africans had to rest
and return home. Salary was not calculated in relation to the value of work, but
in relation to the amount of the hut tax;
38
actually, salary was no such thing, but
rather a payment calculated under the cost of social reproduction of the worker. It
did not generate any native market. This is why the worker had to return home to
his family and lineage, not to rest, but to help reconstitute the domestic economy
that was weakened in his absence, in spite of the relentless work of the women.
We have here one of the two most basic features of the forced labour system: its
highly gendered structure. It was this domestic economy that would make up the
shortfall between the payment by the forced employer and the social cost of
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
Michel Cahen 164
36
Marvin Harris, Portugals African Wards: A First-Hand Report on Labor and Education in
Mocambique, Africa Today 5:6 (1958), pp. 336, p. 18. www.cultural-materialism.org/portugalsafrican
wards.pdf
37
Repblica Portuguesa, Cdigo do Trabalho dos Indgenas nas colnias portuguesas de frica,
aprovado pelo decreto no. 16:199 de 6 de Dezembro de 1929 (Loureno Marques: Imprensa Nacional,
1929).
38
Article 197 species that the monthly wage must be 25 to 40 per cent of the imposto indgena, which
means that the indigenous must work at least 2.5 to 4 months a year only to pay the tax; possibly more,
since it is not clearly indicated if the wage is only the monetary part of income, or includes the value
of food, blankets, and so forth.
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 164
reproduction. Therefore, there was no local economic basis for such a system that
was cheaper than proletarianisation, except colonial violence to ensure it.
Nevertheless, no system can endure and rely solely on violence, above all a
colonial system like the Portuguese one, where the forces of coercion were very
weak: a chefe de posto had just six cipaios (native police) under his command, with
guns from before the First World War. In order to understand how such a forced
labour system could work, one has to remember three factors. First of all, the
collaboration of some of the traditional chiefs but this collaboration was efcient
only when these chiefs were the legitimate ones. Linked to this first point, it is
necessary to remember that, in the 1930s and even the 1940s and 1950s, only one
or two generations had passed since the military conquest of the land. As Ren
Plissier has clearly demonstrated, this conquest was very violent and deadly;
memories of it were still very present in communities, and any chief, any indigenous
person, knew that although there might be only six cipaios, other stronger forces
could be quickly sent.
39
But recruitment was not the only problem: it was necessary
also to prohibit the indigenous from staying in the harbours or cities or on the
plantations, where they would begin to become proletarianised. For that purpose,
the Portuguese administration used a very efcient tool, the pagamento diferido
or deferred payment: at least half of the salary had to be paid not in the workplace,
but after returning home.
40
This system had several colonial functions: rst, the native had to come back
home to the domestic production sphere where he had been registered in the census;
second, the hut tax was deducted without any problem from the deferred pay-
ment, since the company sent the money through the administration; third, local
Portuguese traders demanded that this petty money should not be spent only in the
big companies shops; and last but not at all least, this tiny amount of money became
essential in particular in the 1950s when the amount slowly rose precisely
because of the weakening of the domestic economy. Forced labour had partly
succeeded in creating its own necessity, when it moved slowly at the end of the
1950s and 1960s towards seasonal migrant work: the weakened domestic economy
was no longer able to sustain many families.
The main issue is to understand that deferred payment was the mark or the
brand of an economic process that needed a combination of colonial constraint
and the maintenance of the domestic economy in order to be globally protable
for the colonial institution. This process did not integrate natives into a fully
capitalist production process and capitalist social relationships system, but it did
operate to submit them to capitalist domination. That is to say, we have here a
legal expression of what Marxist anthropologists and historians conceptualised
INDIGENATO BEFORE RACE?
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
165
39
Ren Pelissier, Les campagnes coloniales du Portugal, 18441941 (Paris: Pygmalion, 2004).
40
Article 203, Repblica Portuguesa, Cdigo do Trabalho . . ., p. 54.
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 165
from the 1960s and 1980s as the unequal articulation of modes of production:
41
deferred payment was the very practical demonstration that workers were paid
under the cost of social reproduction, which implied their regular return to the sphere
of a maintained and subalternised domestic economy. We have here the second
basic feature of the forced labour system: its very existence not as a whole but as
one branch of a very authoritarian articulation of modes of production. On the
ideological level, it is what I have before called the social racism of Portuguese
colonialism.
The last but not the least
On 20 May 1954, decree-law 39,666 was published, that is, a new Estatuto dos
Indgenas portugueses das provncias da Guin, de Angola e Moambique; a new
Native Statute.
42
The constitutional reform of 1951 had replaced the former
colonies by overseas provinces, reviving the old concept of liberal monarchy.
43
Thus, the unity of the Nation was politically reinforced: there was no longer one
metropole and colonies belonging to the same empire, but only one Portugal.
Everybody was therefore directly Portuguese, which implied the existence of
different personal statuses within the same Nation and political constitution.
Therefore, the new 1954 Statute aimed to respond to a situation in which the number
of detribalised natives was growing: it created, for example, the possibility of
special native private ownership (urban and rural) which could prevent a few of
them from being recruited for forced labour. But it answered above all to the need
to prohibit a growing number of natives from becoming assimilated, when, in
fact, a great number of urban Africans could have been considered as having
abandoned native habits and costumes, as speaking Portuguese fluently, and so
forth. On the other hand, some Portuguese employers preferred to engage skilled
black workers, paying them as natives. But this would have represented
unacceptable competition with petty white workers in the cities.
44
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
Michel Cahen 166
41
Pierre-Philippe Rey, Colonialisme, no-colonialisme et transition au capitalisme (Paris: Maspro,
1971); Claude Meillassoux, Femmes, greniers et capitaux (Paris: Maspro, 1982); Bruce Berman and
John Lonsdale, Unhappy Valley: Conict in Kenya and Africa. 1. State and Class (London, Nairobi
and Athens, OH: James Currey/Heinemann/Ohio University Press, 1992); see too the retrospective, by
Emmanuel Terray, of his research, Dernire sance, Cahiers dtudes africaines (Paris) 50:198/199/200
(2010), pp. 52944.
42
Dirio do Governo (Lisbon), 1st series, no. 110, 20 May 1954, pp. 5605.
43
Constituio poltica da Repblica portuguesa, actualizada de harmonia com a Lei no. 2.048 de 11
de Junho de 1951 (Lisbon: Assembleia Nacional, 1952).
44
On this aspect and the activity of (white) labour unions aimed at protecting white manpower, see my
article, Corporatisme et colonialisme: Approche du cas mozambicain (19331979), Cahiers dtudes
africaines (Paris) 92 (1983), pp. 383417, and 93 (1984), pp. 524.
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 166
Contrary to what has sometimes been written, the 1954 Statute did not soften
the conditions of assimilation, but actually worsened them, and even endangered
the very situation of being an assimilado:
First, the status of indigenato or assimilation was now made strictly individual
throughout the entire Nation:
45
the wife and children of an assimilado would
no longer automatically become assimilados, as before; they could apply for
this status if they were living with the husband and father, and if they fullled
the second and third conditions (see below).
46
Since it was necessary to be over
18 years of age to apply for assimilation (paragraph A, article 56), that meant
that sons of an assimilado could be obliged to go to native missionary schools
instead of going to better state schools; because of the unity of the Nation, a
native migrating to metropolitan Portugal would remain a native there.
Second, it was not only necessary to speak Portuguese, but from now on also
accurately.
47
Third, it was necessary to display good behaviour (for example, not to
participate in an African Ethiopian, Zionist or Tocoist church) and to have
acquired the instruction and habits required for the integral application of public
and private law of Portuguese citizens (paragraph D, article 56). Community
ownership, and polygamy, including being a chief, were therefore incompatible
with assimilation.
Fourth, the stipulations regarding the profession, trade or industry or ownership
of goods being enough for their subsistence (paragraph C, article 56) remained
exactly the same as in 19269. Very signicantly, this new Native Statute was
not followed by a new Labour Code: the 1929 Cdigo do Trabalho dos Indgenas
remained, without any change and without any step towards authorisation of the
formation of a permanent working class. With few exceptions, the only existing
permanent working class was that of assimilados and mulattos, a very tiny one
since the great majority of black assimilados and mestios did not work as
industrial workers, but in services.
For all these reasons, I consider the 1954 Native Statute to be the last archaic
type of effort by the Portuguese administration in the middle of the 1950s, as the
INDIGENATO BEFORE RACE?
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
167
45
A point unique to Article 1: The statute of the Portuguese native people is personal and must be
honoured in any part of the Portuguese territory where the individual who enjoys it is found.
46
Article 57: The native woman who is married to an individual who obtains citizenship [. . .] and the
legitimate children or illegitimate children who are legitimated, and who are less than 18 years old,
and who live under the direction of the father as of the date of said acquisition, may also obtain it, as
long as the requirements in Paragraphs (b) and (d) of Article 56 are met. Furthermore, the new code
did not contemplate or allow for the case of a native single woman, or even a separated woman, who
applied for citizenship, or for a married woman to apply independently of her husband.
47
Paragraph (b) of Article 56: Falar correctamente a lngua portuguesa.
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 167
economic and political crisis of colonisation approached. Actually, this new Statute
never really worked. In Mozambique, Africans were no longer even trying to
become assimilados: the most violent period of forced labour was now disappearing
(except in forced labour cotton-growing areas), and it was slowly becoming a
seasonal migrant activity. In urban areas, to be an assimilado would mean more of
a problem in getting jobs, since Portuguese employers would be obliged to pay the
same as for whites and would therefore prefer to employ whites. The number of
applications for assimilado status was strongly decreasing in the second half of
the 1950s.
From native to rural: an answer to the Third-Worldisation
of the colonies?
Does all of this mean that Portugal no longer wanted to avoid the formation of a
permanent proletariat which must be paid at the cost of its social reproduction?
Not at all, because, as we have noted, the Labour Code of 1929 remained the same.
But the economic crisis in forced cotton growing at the end of the 1950s, and the
beginning of the armed anti-colonial liberation struggle in 1961, led Salazar to
authorise his Overseas Minister, Adriano Moreira, to take some important reformist
measures. On 6 September 1961, decree-law 43,893 revoked the Native Statute of
1954.
48
The concept of indgena ofcially disappeared, but the same day, decree
43,897 recognised local habits and customs and integrated them globally within
Portuguese written private law.
49
Legal hybridism became, in a way, official.
Assimilation applications were replaced by a mere declaration, since any individual
may submit to [Portuguese] written private law, by the way of a mere formality at
the registry ofce, and his descendants would automatically be included in this
written law (article 3). Urban Africans were considered under written law (article
5). Traditional chiefs could, with the approval of their council, authorise private
appropriation of land by individuals (article 8).
As there were no longer natives (indgenas), therefore, could the two separate
spheres be managed: those of qualied professions and undifferentiated masses?
First, the 1929 Labour Code remained in force for one more year, being revoked
in turn on 27 April 1962, when Adriano Moreira issued his Cdigo do trabalho
rural (Rural Labour Code) by way of decree 44,309.
50
What is interesting is to
understand the meaning of rural as dened in articles 1 and 2:
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
Michel Cahen 168
48
Boletim Ocial de Moambique (Loureno Marques), Supplement, 1st series, 14 Sept. 1962.
49
Boletim Ocial de Moambique (Loureno Marques), Supplement, 1st series, 14 Sept. 1962.
50
Dirio do Governo (Lisbon), 1st series, no. 95, 27 April 1962 (Supplement); Jos de Albuquerque
Sousa, Cdigo do trabalho rural do Ultramar. Edio revista, com indices alfabtico e sistemtico
(Coimbra: Coimbra Editora, 1962).
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 168
1. Manual workers without a dened profession, occupied in activities related to
agricultural exploitation of land or gathering of produce, are considered rural
workers [. . .]
2. For the implementation of the present Code [. . .] those workers whose duty is
reduced to mere provision of manpower, not classied because of the nature of
the service in any categories of employees or workers specifically qualified,
are equivalent to rural workers [. . .]
That means that a European managing a modern farm in the bush was not a rural
worker, but an urban African on a building site or road works or a street trades-
woman would always be classed as a rural worker. The vagrancy clause (ofcial
or implicit) had disappeared but the ideological watertightness between the two
spheres of social life remained intact. Therefore, article 69 could stand, that for
equal work will always be attributed an equal salary, since this was within the rural
sphere. Last but not least, article 80 completely reproduced the deferred payment
system: 50 per cent of the earnings would be given to the worker after his return
home. That meant that until 1974, the key institution of work paid under the social
cost of reproduction remained current. Adriano Moreira had not invented the
concept of rural labour, but had taken it from post-slavery Brazil. Anyway, the
system no longer worked with all these details conceived by the Portuguese legal
mind. During the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, Mozambique and Angola
were already very much Third World countries. But there is no doubt that the
duration of forced labour and the existence of an alleviated form of it up to the end
of the 1960s, with the corresponding existence of a large community of petty whites
occupying almost all qualied jobs, were the main obstacle to the formation of an
African working class and elite.
51
The new 1962 Labour Code was no longer a forced labour Code, but it was still
a Native Code, now called rural, with two ofcially different spheres of social
life. It must be understood as a desperate attempt to combine the economic
developmentalism of the 1960s with the will to slow down the proletarianisation
of African workers, as antagonistic to the protability of colonial enterprise. The
1962 Rural Code never worked well either: the two spheres of social life did not
need a detailed and bureaucratic Code to exist, since Angola, Mozambique, and
Guinea were entering the situation of normal Third World countries, in which
the massive urban informal sector and plebeian social milieus were the ones Adriano
Moreira once wanted to make rural.
INDIGENATO BEFORE RACE?
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
169
51
That does not mean that no working class existed, as studied by Jeanne-Marie Penvenne, African
Workers and Colonial Racism: Mozambican Strategies and Struggles in Loureno Marques, 18771962
(Portsmouth, NH, Johannesburg and London: Heinemann/Witwatersrand University Press/James
Currey, 1995).
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 169
The ideology of petty-white colonialism within a
weakened old capitalism
This was obviously the reverse of the ofcially proclaimed doctrine of assimilation,
even when reinforced by the capture of neo-lusotropicalism of an increasingly dated
Gilberto Freyre. But while Freyres original lusotropicalism praised the process
of racial mixing as the achievement of a new civilisation, Salazarist lusotropicalism
saw it as a path to the racial and cultural whitening of African society by the way
remaining assimilationist. But the huge contrast between ideology and reality does
not mean that the doctrine of assimilation was mere propaganda or mere cynicism.
An ideology does not exist to serve a political design; it is only a posteriori that
the historian may analyse it in those terms. Ideology expresses the habitus of a
social milieu, of the hegemonical group within a nation: it serves this group or
nation to speak to itself, to represent itself in its own eyes, to imagine its own future.
The question is therefore not to analyse assimilation as an inefcient process or
cynical propaganda, but as the sole ideology possible and operating for a colonial
capitalism short on capital and facing, thanks to masses of petty whites, political
danger from abroad and foreign investment.
Codication of the two spheres of social life in Portuguese colonial labour law
(capitalist or civilised versus traditional or vagrant; integral application of public
and private law of Portuguese citizenship versus rural) is no more than one
expression of the existence of non-capitalist forms of capitalist domination, at the
periphery of capitalism. As Immanuel Wallerstein showed, capitalism has always
preferred non-capitalist forms of domination or exploitation, since it avoids paying
for social reproduction at its cost;
52
and this was made possible in all the frontier
areas of capitalist expansion where indigenous societies still survived. As we have
seen, the deferred payment system is one trademark of this specific economic
process.
Portuguese colonisation was obviously a racist system and produced a highly
racialised society. We have seen that the founding texts of the colonial system are
based on the notion of race more exactly, race was used almost exclusively to
designate black people, while the Portuguese were a nation.
53
But black colour was
never ofcially mentioned for direct discriminatory purposes against individuals:
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
Michel Cahen 170
52
Immanuel Wallerstein, Le capitalisme historique (Paris: La Dcouverte, 2002).
53
This does not mean that the concept of race was never used to designate Portuguese people: for
example, the Dia da Raa (the Day of the Race) was a national day in Portugal up to 1974. But within
the colonial legislation, race is used exclusively to name the Africans. This is understandable: the normal
law was the one in Portugal, and in Portugal, law need not specify the race of the inhabitants. Therefore,
the normal law in the colonies was for a tiny minority of the population (the civilised people), while
the exceptional law devoted to a specific race was for the huge majority. The race of the (white)
nation need not be named, since it was the whole of the nation with the not relevant massive exception
of the Africans.
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 170
it was mentioned to designate the whole of a people the vagrant people which
in turn would have the greatest consequences for individuals. It is what I have called
social racism, a racism that defined Otherness not only by the skin colour of
individuals, but as much by the denition of the non-capitalist sphere of social life
of a whole people, even if petty whites and natives could live side by side in some
neighbourhoods.
54
In certain ways, social racism transformed native people into
something closer to a caste than a race; a kind of professional stratum. In that
way, in its social consequences, indigenato was far more important than blackness.
It was indigenato more than blackness that prohibited the social formation of
a black elite, expressing the proximity racism of petty whites in Portuguese
colonialism, different from the distant racism of other more capitalised forms of
colonialism.
INDIGENATO BEFORE RACE?
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
171
54
In order to avoid possible misunderstanding, I will stress that, obviously, all of this is capitalist
(forced labour is perfectly integrated in the capitalist world-system). But all of it does not work under
the capitalist mode of production. It is a founding feature of capitalism to need such an articulation of
modes of production, in order to nullify the contradiction of having to sell its products to the same
persons it directly exploits.
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 171
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
Racism-00-p.qxd 7/2/12 11:28 Page 172