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International Socialism, Winter 1960/61


Eric Morse

African background


From International Socialism (1st series), No.3, Winter 1960/61, p.31.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Central African Emergency
Clyde Sanger
Heinemann. 30s.

Race and Politics
Edward Clegg
Oxford University Press. 30s.

Year of Decision
Philip Mason
Oxford University Press (for Institute of Race Relations). 21s. cloth 12s 6d. paper.

Books on the Central African Federation are now commonplace. The above three each make a distinctive contribution to our knowledge of Nyasaland and the two Rhodesias.

Year of Decision is shorter and cheaper than the two others. It contains copious data for those who favour the statistical approach. Academically inclined, eschewing the very idea of political proselytising, it takes the form of a well-planned text-book. Statistics cover wages (white and black), production, education, government expenditure, immigration and much more. The paths ‘open’ to the Federation are enumerated. All seem to lead into some capitalist garden or other.

Race and Politics tells us of the land in its pro-white era. The ‘Dark Continent’ had civilized institutions at a time when the Elizabethan state had little to commend it.

Central African Emergency deals with the conquests and ‘protections’ introduced by the white man about a century ago. It recounts the respective roles of missionary, mining prospector, South Africa Company official, African chief and British Government. It is a long tale of intrigue, religious and industrial zeal, and even the occasional good intention. The African often got a better deal from the traders of Nyasaland, on the basis of their obligatory respect for him as a customer, than was his lot at the hands of the mining companies. The farmers were quick to exploit the ‘master-servant’ relationship which followed the military defeat of the Matabele by Rhodes’ Pioneers.

Throughout the trilogy we repeatedly encounter the internecine clash of white interests. Southern Rhodesia, with its com-paratively large white settler population, inclines far towards South Africa’s apartheid tyranny. Nyasaland has fared a little better from the African’s point of view. African advance, it is true, depended for many years on the interwhite struggles. But tosee this as its motive force is to lose all sense of focus. The fall of Garfield Todd’s government two years ago epitomised the bankruptcy of colonialism. It did not initiate it. It irresistibly brought forward the Africans as the major political force’ in their own land. Welensky and his confederates have since maintained a virtually permanent state of emergency (now bolstered by the notorious Vagrancy Act in Southern Rhodesia).

Clegg gives some interesting details about movements below government level: about industrial organization, black and white, and about the effects upon it of the Second World War. He portrays the rise of Roy Welensky from trade union bureaucrat to government spokesman, with a knighthood en passant, a rise similar in many respects to that of Ernest Bevin.

All three books fall short in evaluating the class content of the struggles they describe. They remain however an excellent collection of factual material, which socialists mights use to their own ends.

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Last updated on 14 February 2010