ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

International Socialism, Summer 1964

Tony Young

Developing Theory

From International Socialism (1st series), No.17, Summer 1964, p.31.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Corruption in Developing Countries,
Ronald Wraith & Edgar Simpkins
Allen & Unwin, 30s.

Freedom and After,
Tom Mboya
Andre Deutsch.

Corruption in Developing Countries is a disappointingly incoherent book, which turns out to be an attempt to deal with only a very limited sector of its purported subject – corruption in Nigeria at the present day (80 pages) and in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries (116 pages). Despite a fund of more or less striking or amusing examples of bribery and frauds by public men in both countries, the authors – one of them a Labour councillor in Islington – have failed to organise their material. They explicitly state that ‘the concept of theft is the same’ for all countries and classes – a reflection of their unthinking acceptance of the norms of modern capitalist Britain as in some way obviously the absolute criterion for all times and places. They are patently quite innocent of any inkling that anyone seriously holds otherwise, and would not begin to understand what Proudhon meant by his statement that property is theft. The authors succeed in combining their belief in absolute values with a mechanical-materialist identification or industrialisation with efficiency and economy – hopeless over-simplification; and from this liberal hodge-podge they draw equally eclectic conclusions, recommending a disparate set of remedial measures including the spread of education, the raising in prestige of accountants, and the personal witness of individuals. In general, the authors reveal an ignorance of the Marxist outlook which is really rather disgraceful to-day in anyone who presumes to offer his opinion in print on any social question. It is not that they have never heard of Marx, whom they once refer to in passing, together with Einstein and Freud, as ‘three of the great leaders of science in the first decade of the twentieth century.’

It is unfortunate for Tom Mboya that he and his colleagues had to recall the British capitalist army to suppress his own, presumably composed of natural ‘African Socialists.’ But in contrast with the book just discussed, Freedom and After is a most readable work, giving a graphic account of Mboya’s own development and the recent history of Kenya, as seen by an intelligent representative of the ‘moderate’ section of the emerging African state-capitalist class. The reader can hardly to obtain a greater understanding of how both Kenya and the world look to such men, and if, as is to hoped, more British socialists are going to apply their minds to the problems of the American revolution, it will be among the essential preliminaries of their reading list.

Clearly in Africa the word ‘socialism’ has become as obligatory a label for any system of exploitation that is to be successful as is ‘democracy’ a required boast in Europe. Mboya quotes Nyerere extensively on the concept of ‘African Socialism,’ and makes it quite evident that they share with opportunities everywhere the conviction that ‘their own’ country or region is exceptional in that the class struggle they can see elsewhere cease to operate at their borders. I am afraid that ‘extended family,’ the proffered African short-cut to socialism, will avail Mboya and his associates no more than the supposed natural communism of the Russian peasants helped Stalin. Smart operators as these men undoubtedly are, the more likely development would seem to be that they will be displaced by the more thorough-going state-capitalists, who attach less importance to collaboration with Western imperialism.

Top of page

ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 9 April 2010