I want to recommend a book that was published last year, namely "Cheche - Reminiscences of a Radical Magazine" edited by Karim Hirji. The authors of the book belonged to the University Students African Revolutionary Front located to the University of Dar es Salaam. USARF was formed in 1969 and lasted for only a few years. The group started the journal Cheche, Swahili for 'Spark', which subsequently was banned and renamed into 'Majimaji' (referring to the first cross-tribal upraising against colonialism in Tanganyika). The undersigned was attached to USARF and wrote one article for Cheche ("How Socialist is Sweden?"). Find below extracts from a critical review of the book that I made earlier this year. Despite my critique I strongly recommend the book. It provides a good overview of Marxist analysis of Africa today as well as of the radical debate on development of the 1970s. The book can be ordered from Amazon for 30 dollars.
Dick Urban Vestbro
Member of the Swedish Left Party
Comments to ”Cheche – Reminiscences of a Radical Magazine” by Karim Hirji (ed), Mkuki na Nyota, Dar es Salaam
Dick Urban Vestbro
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I find it stimulating to reread the critique of Nyerere’s ideas on African Socialism and the disastrous ways he implemented his policies. I think that it was not only Nyerere’s way of implementing his policy that failed, but also the fact that Tanzanian social structure did not provide a basis for a development in a socialist direction. In the book the authors dismiss the doctrine that a pre-capitalist country must go through capitalism before being able to embark on a socialist path. I agree that the ‘stage theory’ was doctrinaire, but on the other hand we do not find any good example of socialism being established in a country without some degree of capitalism. Both in Russia and Cuba there were small working class segments, but not very well developed. Perhaps socialism failed in Russia because of it absence of a large and well organised working class, and perhaps socialism is fragile in Cuba for similar reasons.
A phenomenon that the left of the 1970s did not foresee was the strong development of the informal sector in low-income countries. We Marxist had more or less the same opinion about his phenomenon as the right-wing, namely that this sector is non-productive, perhaps even parasitic. I have changed my mind about the informal sector. It seems that this sector is quite productive and that this type of small-scale capitalism may be a precondition for reducing poverty and in the longer perspective providing a basis for a socialist movement.
As I see it, Tanzania, like most other African countries, lack modern popular movements such as trade unions, peasant and agricultural workers’ associations, strong feminist and environment movements, tenants’ associations etc – movements that can become bearers of socialist ideas. Political life seems to be still dominated by individual leaders, and by nationalist, religious or ethnic thinking. The formation of microcredit organisations and associations of urban slum dwellers seems to be interesting new features that raise hope for some kind of socialist development. The book does not mention these factors.
In the 1970s there was a polarization between capitalist and socialist ideologies. It seems that both the free market and the socialist road have failed in low-income countries. Those that succeeded to overcome underdevelopment (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, China) did so by promoting state-supported national capitalism. This perspective is lacking in the book. One may argue that state-supported capitalism has not eradicated poverty among the masses, but one may also argue that the exploited workers in the ‘tiger economies’ are getting a share of the accumulated richness, and that they can get an even higher share when they engage more in working class struggles. In Tanzania it will not help the poor if they fight against the ruling class because there is still not much of richness to share.
In the book there is much reference to Pan-Africanism. The authors seem to be rather uncritical to this un-Marxist ideology. African states may have a common interest in relation to the imperialist powers, but by emphasizing the common interest of Africans one is also reducing the importance of class differences, a crucial factor for the spread of socialism.
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Dick Urban Vestbro
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