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International Socialism, Winter 1964/5


Ioan Davies

African Studies


From International Socialism, No.19, Winter 1964/5, pp.31-32.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The King’s Men
Ed. L.A. Fallers
East African Institute for Social Research/OUP, 40s.

Politics in Ghana 1946-60
Dennis Austin
Chatham House/OUP, 63s.

Britain and Nyasaland
Griff Jones
Allen & Unwin, 36s.

These books are interesting both for their pictures of different societies and for their methodological approach. Buganda, Ghana, and Malawi are covered respectively by a co-ordinated research team under anthropological directors, a Chatham House political scientist, and a former Colonial District Officer. From the point of view of independent Africa the three territories are significant. Buganda offers an example of a monarchy heading the transformation of a traditional social structure (other African states in similar position include Northern Rhodesia, Ethiopia and Burundi). Ghana is the classic example of a state led by a professnonalised political cadre which is concentrating economic power in government hands and attempting to remould the social organisation to a kind of ideological formula: Guinea, Egypt and Tanganyika provide variations on the same theme. Malawi is headed by almost the only ‘intellectual’ around, is totally dependent on external economic interests, exports a large percentage of its manpower, and has little recognisable government ideology: most of the ex-French West African territories are in a similar position and the High Commission territories may be in the future.

The ideal method in studying such (or any) states is by describing the economic foundation of social life, the network of traditional relationships and the extent to which they are transformed or integrated by the impact of colonial, economic and local political influences, and the new economic classes and political machinery brought into being by independence. Of these books, The King’s Men is much the most outstanding in drawing the material together and presenting a lively picture of social change and the idiom of a section of modern Africa. A serious attempt is made to collect anthropological, economic and sociological material that describe the emergence of modern Buganda and at the conclusion we get a rounded impression of the place. It would have been useful to have a more elaborate study of economic influences instead of a spurious piece of socialpsychology on leadership attitudes, but on the whole this book is very useful and probably indicates that anthropology is at last looking at real problems. It would be pleasant to say the same about political science, but Dennis Austin, apart from giving some Detail on palace intrigues, provides little that is either illuminating or original. We are not told why Ghana produced Nkrumah, what the social conditions were that gave impetus to such a political structure, and only briefly are we allowed to view the changing social structure. Dr Austin’s sense of shock is understandable, but it hardly helps to be given over 400 pages of How answers to what should be Why questions.

The same applies largely to Griff Jones’ bitter attack on the British administration. Defending the colonial police, civil service and the ‘average’ African against the Colonial Office and the British ‘public’, we are given a curious vision of a colony. Nyasaland was a cheap source of manpower for the industrial centres of South Africa and Northern Rhodesia; the Central African Federation was imposed to perpetuate this state of affairs. After the Federation had been initiated, British politicians vaccilated over attempts to put this into practice. The British public was given a softhearted liberal view of things by its press. MacLeod stepped in and gave a blank cheque to a charlatan like Banda. Mr Jones resigned in disgust. This is all very well, but who are the Malawi? How is the Malawi social structure changing? What is the emerging pattern of government and on what foundation is it based? The Malawi preferred Banda to Jones and his colleagues. How sad. In sympathy one almost forgets that Banda is the Malawi Tshombe.

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