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International Socialism, Winter 1966/7


Harold Jackson

Whither Africa?


From International Socialism, No.27, Winter 1966/67, p.35.
Transcribed & marked up by by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Political Parties and National Integration in Tropical Africa
Eds. James S. Coleman & Carl G. Rosberg Jr.
University of California Press, 10 dollars

Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism
Kwame Nkrumah
Nelson, 42s

The Coleman and Rosberg volume is a survey of political parties in tropical Africa, both before and after independence, with twelve separate case studies divided into two groups. The first traces the development of the tendency to one party-rule in countries governed both by parties of the ‘pragmatic-pluralist’ type (in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Cameroons and Sierra Leone) and the ‘revolutionary-centralising’ type (Ghana, Guinea and Mali). The second looks at the role of parties in national integration, both ‘vertical,’ in pluralist societies, defined here as those where an alien minority has held oligarchic control (Liberia and Zanzibar), and ‘horizontal’ or territorial integration, the establishment of a unified political system over a dispersed and heterogeneous population (Nigeria, Congo [Leopoldville] and Somali Republic). In addition there are four essays devoted to the relations of political parties with non-party groups – voluntary associations in general, trade unions, traditional rulers and students.

It is, by its nature, impossible to review adequately but a few comments are in order. It is useful for reference purposes rather than for reading straight through: yet for reference there are probably better books (often by the same authors of these rather compressed case-studies). Its value lies perhaps most in the editors’ analytical summary on the mechanisms and progress of one party government and its prospects. Though they did not foresee the military coups, the analysis is perhaps not dated by them. What seems to be emerging everywhere is bureaucratic administration, with or without military support (it seems very unlikely that the military will anywhere displace the administrative bureaucracy; the settlements still to emerge will probably leave the military ill-equipped to administer the countries they have h’taken over, with a relatively minor role, for there is as yet no Nasser on tne scene.) That is, an administrative caste is emerging – and nothing else! Without greatly accelerated industrial development there is, apart from fragmentation, no meaningful alternative to the party-state, to a fusion of state and party for purely administrative purposes, or the no-party state, with the displacement of the party to the periphery of the political scene. ‘It is unlikely,’ remark Coleman & Kosberg, ‘that African one-party states will enter an industrial phase in the predictable future.’ Thus the image of Latin America since the nineteenth century beckons once again. Political scientists will probably have a field day (or decade or two) studying elite manoeuvres and machinations in societies in which the sole source of visible power is bureaucratic. What would interest socialists, the grass roots movements of struggle and protest within such a system, is unlikely to attract much ‘academic’ attention as history is once more reduced to the study of Kings and princes or, in this case, bureaucrats.

The greatest gap in the analysis is the question, why this should be so: relative industrial stagnation may well be the key to the understanding of African political developments, but the basic situation, viz. the perpetuation of the ‘colonial Situation,’ is not gone into. The promises of independence have not – cannot – be fulfilled, and more and more of the political development which follows is in response to this realisation by African leaders, and their attempts to hold on to and consolidate a system placed in their hands by the departing colonialists. What is so striking is how in this process an exact mirror image of the autocratic administration of colonial days is being reproduced.

Yet the bureaucratic system does not feed on air. Except in a very few places (like Northern Nigeria where it has superimposed itself on a still virtually intact traditional order) it is dependent on the (diminishing) returns of the export of the primary produce, on foreign aid and loans and on concessions from the international mining companies in particular, and foreign investors in general. With this in mind, Nkrumah’s Neo-Colonialism is a great disappointment. Tremendously useful as a compendium of facts culled from Western newspapers, trade journals and the like, it adds up to little more than a catalogue of investments, companies and banks in Africa. Neo-coloniahsm as a system is barely touched upon: one, the final, chapter of 16 pages is called The mechanics of neo-colonialism, but otherwise the book is a static presentation. One knows already of the vast scale of European (and American) investment in Africa, but there is little enough available, on how the companies operate, what the role of the CIA, the Peace Corps, etc. is in the African context. Nkrumah above everyone could probably have told something of the actual processes of political pressure to which leaders interested in economic and social development are subjected.

Instead there is argument by innuendo with the emphasis on wicked individuals coupled within a rather crude overall perspective. The class struggle in the West has been virtually replaced by that between the rich and the poor nations: when Africa unites and throws off the oppressors the Western proletariat will be forced to its senses and only then will it rise up and overthrow capitalism – so says Nkrumah. The pivotal role of the colonies, with their increasing immiseration, as the mainstay of .Western capitalism has been discredited, in socialist analysis, though it might still have some value as myth in the third world. But the picture of African socialism which Nkrumah believes in becomes bleak when it is realised that Africa won’t unite – not just yet. State capitalism is too dignified a term for the majority of African states – deflected state capitalism might be better, or just statism. How such a system is a response to. and and is utilised by world capitalism is what one wants details about – but of this Nkrumah tells us nothing.

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