Pragmatism and liberation: Freli MO and the legitimacy of an African independence movement | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 14, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1476-413X
  • E-ISSN: 1758-9509



This article introduces a new paradigm for scholars interested in liberation movements’ political development and strategies for legitimation. Specifically, the article argues for the historicity of revolutionary pragmatism as a lens to study liberation movements. The decisions, discourses and, most importantly, actions of the leaders of the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO – Mozambique Liberation Front) during the 1960s reflected a series of evolving strategies that were necessary to achieve legitimacy for the liberation movement during the anti-colonial war against Portugal. As an attribute of its early political development, legitimacy was an essential aspect of FRELIMO’s status as a liberation front because it was the foundation upon which to establish a viable authority that appealed to both Mozambicans and international observers. FRELIMO’s leaders actively sought to establish and maintain the loyalty of many ordinary Mozambicans who either joined the liberation front or, at the very least, sympathized with the movement’s efforts to fight the Portuguese and liberate Mozambique. The initial interactions between FRELIMO cadres and Mozambicans from 1962 to 1968 necessitated organizational adaptability to contend with the unpredictable contingencies of war. As a hallmark of the liberation movement’s revolutionary pragmatism, then, FRELIMO leaders held a foundational First Congress that established a framework of ideological and ‘governing’ strategies in order to achieve the desired ends of independence.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): FRELIMO; legitimacy; liberation movement; Mozambique; pragmatism; revolution
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