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International Socialism, Summer 1961


Peter Ibbotson

Africa and Russia


From International Socialism (1st series), No.5, Summer 1961, p.30.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


St. Antony’s Papers, number X:
African Affairs One
Editor: Kenneth Kirkwood
Chatto & Windus 18s.

This collection of essays on often unrelated aspects of Africa, ranges from the esoteric (Humphrey Fisher’s account of sectarian squabbles among Nigerian Muslims) and recondite (Wilfred Whiteley’s observations on the use of some political terms in Swahili) to the purely factual (Ellen Hellmann’s historical review of the application of ‘separate development’ in South African towns). But two related essays deserve special attention: Thomas Hodgkin’s note on The Language of African Nationalism, and Mary Holdsworth’s examination of African Studies in the USSR.

Mr Hodgkin sees a common political language, and a continual recurrence of common themes, in the various, national movements of sub-Saharan Africa over the past fifteen years. These themes owe more, he finds on examination, to Rousseau than to Marx; indeed, many of the metaphysical aspects of Marxism are deliberately rejected by the nationalist leaders. Despite the debt to Rousseau, however, and the adoption of certain Marxist tenets after adaptation to suit African conditions, Hodgkin sees the theory of African nationalism as one of a family of what he calls ‘revolutionary democratic theories’.

It is perhaps this nationalist rejection of Marxism which has led to the resurgence since 1952 of Soviet interest in Africa. Miss Holdsworth recalls George Padmore’s description of the Comintern’s former misconceptions about Africa and his rejection of Communism because of the Soviet leaders’ ignorance of and lack of interest in Africa. Since however, if Hodgkin is correct, African nationalism has rejected Marxism, the Soviet Union feels it cannot afford to be left out of the current struggle for spheres of influence in the newly-independent states. Hence the sudden re-awakening of interest and the emergence of a new and influential school of Soviet Africanists; neither of which can be allowed to go uncombatted.

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