Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Book Review - African Socialism or Socialist Africa

African Socialism or Socialist Africa by A.M. Babu, Tanzania Publishing House, 1971.

This is a very controversial book. It is a sweeping generalisation of scientific socialism and there are some interesting passages through which the author quotes from Marx and Engels to bolster his attack on "African Socialism" (nationalisation). State capitalism is the alternative offered and main theme of this book.

The author’s views are very polemical, especially when it comes to the use of the words people, workers, students and peasants, e.g.
"In the long term, it is only the workers who are capable of raising the banner of freedom for our people and for the people who are still under colonial bondage. The working class is the only class which is fearlessly to pursue policies which enhance the people’s well-being as well as their dignity. It is the only class which has nothing to fear from a truly free people."

Such and many more utterances are to be found on very page – to make everyone who has not lived in Africa convinced that workers and university students in Africa are revolutionaries.
Indeed the book was an inspiring contribution to Leninism. In its hey day when we take into consideration how the fact that the book was written during the decade when Leninism was a popular political ideology in Africa and elsewhere.

Our task is to synthesise the inherent contradictions between Leninism and dialectical Marxism, but I do agree with the author that the task of achieving socialism in Africa cannot be achieved through clumsy intellectual diatribes parroted by political scribes as the case may be.

We are forewarned by Babu that a "socialist development strategy " being scientifically enunciated in the book – read MANIFESTO - requires strict discipline in its implementation. Discipline among planners, implementers, and government institutions. The colonial states must be destroyed and replaced by a people’s oriented state!

The strategy we have been describing is a Leninist-Marxist strategy for neo-colonies in transition to self-reliant, self-sustaining independent economy. It is not yet a strategy for a socialist transformation, but a strategy for establishing the preconditions for socialist transformation. In other words, state capitalism is seen as a transition to socialism, which it is not.

More or less this book is a vitriolic onslaught of African economic development though it is everywhere overwhelmed by a Leninist political methodology that goes against the otherwise dialectical presuppositions.

The author openly admired and emulates "communism" (state capitalism) in China, Korea and Cuba and is very certain that workers and students in Africa are ready and eager to do the same.

I have found fault in the book in the sense that it was too flamboyantly written and because "socialism" in Africa is no longer the case so that the so-called prophetic lingua franca of this book is ephemeral. But the fact that the book was party written in prison, and during the decade when scientific socialism was a political issue in Africa, makes it an interesting and worthwhile contribution to political science.

K. MULENGA , Zambia


Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu was born in 1924 in Zanzibar in East Africa , died 5 August 1996 . Between 1964 and 1972, Babu headed various ministries in the Tanzanian government, in particular the Ministry of Planning. In 1972, Babu was arrested and imprisoned by Nyerere on charges of murdering President Karume of Zanzibar. Although never convicted, Babu remained in prison in Tanzania until 1978, when he was released . During his time in prison, Babu wrote his book "African Socialism or Socialist Africa?" .

1 comment:

Londonsocialist said...

Did you know that in an interview with an English newspaper in the 1960s Babu said he used to attend SPGB meetings when he was a student in London after the war. Not that, in the end, he seems to have learned much from this, turning out to be a Leninist rather than a Marxist and a minister in a one-party, would-be state-capitalist dictatorship.