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International Socialism, Autumn 1964


Ioan Davies

Red and Black


From International Socialism, No.18, Autumn 1964, p.33.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Africa and the Communist World
Z. Brzezinski
OUP, 32s 6d.

The USSR and Africa
David Morison
IRR/OUP, 9s 6d.

Vol.V No.4, China and Africa Today
Institute of Race Relations, 12s 6d.

The problem with the growing literature on communist influence in Africa is that it remains largely a branch of Kremlinology, written by people more interested in the communist states than in Africa. However interesting this is in illuminating the growing curiosity of Eastern European and Far Asian conflicts and evolutions, it tells us very little that is specific about African problems. But, as with much cold war writing, the literature does give some information. The questions that should be asked begin with African social structures and the development of political consciousness. How extensive is industrialisation and trade-union organisation? What role does the military or bureaucracy play? Will societies educated to mass literacy before industrialisation (as in Ghana) pose radically different problems from those not so educated? What opportunity is there for political education? Is there – in the interests of the workers – much difference between the elite party of, say, Ivory Coast, and the ‘mass’ party of, say, Ghana? It is only in the context of such questions that we can make much sense of the various exercises of Western and communist states in Africa. The first two of these books are concerned with the impact of communist state activities on that picture-book character The African. We have a lot of useful factual material on Czech trade-union schools, Russian universities, technical and personnel aid. There are plenty of whimsical stories about the mistakes of Russians and Chinese in Africa. And it becomes clear that African governments are beginning to view communist states as separate states and not as segments of a monolithic bloc. Ideas and techniques are borrowed as they seem to fit needs or whims of politicians. Some features of communist social structure may be imitated – collectives, centralised trade unions under political control, one-party states – but without introducing ‘communism’ in any form to Africa.

As Morison suggests, diplomatic strategy rather than ideology or workers’ contact is dominating the policies of the communist states .The Emperor of Ethiopia or Sir Abubaker T.B. is supported as much as Nkrumah or Ben Bella, and there is very little personal contact between Russian or Eastern European advisers and Africans.

The main hope, however, lies in the increasing independence of communist government policies. Race in its special issue in China and Africa brings this out more honestly. The prospects for socialism in Africa depend on the stimulation of debate among workers and the creation of lively mass parties. China and Yugoslavia have already made sure that the presentation of a communist argument will not be the monopoly of any one state. What the Africans do with all this is of course up to themselves.

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