David Breen

Class “Democracy” in Kenya

(April 1954)

From Socialist Review, Vol. 3 No. 8, April 1954, pp. 4–5.
Transcribed by Ian Birchall, Nina Kidron & Richard Kuper.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Five and a half million Africans were “awarded” one Minister, in Lyttelton’s new Council of Ministers in Kenya. Thirty thousand Europeans got nine. Africans outnumber Europeans 183 to 1. African Ministers are outnumbered 9 to 1. To mix up matters even more, the Indian element has been isolated from both sides, with two Ministers to represent their 200,000 population.

And what Ministers! Anything of any importance – the portfolios for Police, Defence and economic affairs, such as the agriculture that supports this huge African majority – anything that counts, in fact, is securely anchored to the British Administration – those “Official Members” of the Council who never have to face an election, but walk straight in from their executive posts to their newly-created legislative ones. While the African Minister has the enormous responsibility of the Portfolio of Communal Development, whatever that may mean.

Together with these “liberal” reforms, Lyttelton proposed a “War Council” to cope directly with the “present emergency.” Five and a half million Africans form the emergency, but not one is represented on the “War Council.”

In spite of all this, Lyttelton is afraid he has overstepped the mark. After all he may have been too democratic. The reaction may be greater than he could foresee. “If you give a finger he may want the whole hand.” So Lyttelton has already prepared an emergency exit:

“If ... the Secretary of State is satisfied that the constitutional arrangements set out above have become unworkable, either before the next election, or as a result of it, the position will revert to what it was before the emergency and Her Majesty’s Government would be free to take such action as they think fit.”

No wonder the Africans refuse to co-operate.

And this shameful state of affairs has raised not a murmur out of the Labour Party leadership. Strictly no comment. So interested has this Labour Party leadership become in the intricacies of the capitalist investment schemes in Africa and the

technique of production, that when it comes to the most elementary demand for Democracy, they stare blankly and sometimes manage a “They’re not ready yet.” Nor were we a century ago, when we British workers fought for our first basic democracies and gained them.

Only by uniting with the forces fighting for Democracy against British Capitalism in Kenya and elsewhere can we win Socialism in the teeth of British Capitalism in Britain.

The British Labour Movement must fight for a withdrawal of British troops from Kenya and for the full Democratic rights of the people of Kenya without distinction of race.

Last updated on 16 February 2017