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International Socialist Review, Spring 1965


Political Awakening in the Congo


From International Socialist Review, Vol.26 No.2, Spring 1965, p.63.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Political Awakening in the Congo: The Politics of Fragmentation
by Rene Lemarchand
University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1964. 357 pp. $7.95.

This book is a detailed description of Congolese political groupings from the pre-colonial period through the secession of Katanga in 1960. From this clearly defined standpoint, it sheds some light on the complicated problems of present-day Congolese politics, where over 200 political parties may be differentiated on programmatic, regional and ethnic grounds.

Mr. Lemarchand singles out many of the more important of these parties for extensive treatment, covering their localities, main leaders, and basic programmatic differences. His text includes a breakdown of the election results of the May, 1960, pre-independence contest.

However, much of the information which one would need for an adequate understanding of the unique Congolese proliferation of political parties is missing. Lemarchand’s description of the eighty-year period of Belgian colonial rule is superficially limited to a discussion of the various boundary agreements between Brussels and the Belgian colons living in the Congo.

Lemarchand fails to trace the implications of this “divide and rule” strategy in the divisions between Congolese political groupings. His treatment of the Congolese economy and the extent of foreign control is also sketchy and incomplete, and makes no allowances for possible class divisions between the Congolese leaders, themselves.

For all its detail, Political Awakening in the Congo falls short of answering the question suggested by its subititle: What caused the “fragmentation” of Congolese politics?

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