Walter Rodney

Class Contradictions in Tanzania

First Published:1980
Source: An April 1975 lecture at North-Western University, published in The State in Tanzania: A Selection of Articles, Haroub Othman, ed. Dar es Salaam: Dar es Salaam University Press, 1980, 18-41.
Transcription:Susan Campbell
Markup:Steve Palmer
Copyleft: Copyright Dar es Salaam University Press.

My topic is specifically "Class Contradictions in Tanzania." Ten or fifteen years ago that type of topic would not have attracted very much attention except perhaps some raised eyebrows, because it might well have been considered as self-evidently absurd. Samir Amin, who is today one of the leading Marxist theoreticians on the African continent, wrote an article some 12 or 13 years ago entitled 'Class Struggle in Africa,' and it was anonymous. Very significant! At that time it was not even safe for someone to write an article on class struggle in Africa. Those were the days when Leopold Senghor and others were parading their theses which gathered or attracted world wide attention - theses to the effect that there were no classes in Africa. Today consider that changes have taken place both on the level of popular perception as well as in the academic sphere concerning the question of class and its relevance to an understanding of the analysis of Africa at the present and in the recent past, and indeed, using the broader scientific framework, in the more distant past.

Even at the very outset when the debate was raised in the early '60s, it was not true that there were no classes in African society. What was probably true is that the main manifestations of class contradiction within Africa then was still in the form of the extension of the class contradictions of the dominant capitalist metropolitan society. So that for all practical purposes, it was the capitalist class of Europe or Euro-America which was the exploiting class of the African continent and any intermediaries between them were relatively unimportant, and did not manifest real political presence. Consequently, when Marxists attempted to look at the interval evolution of class problems, they were seen to be or held to be not just alien but irrelevant concepts into the discussions of African society. Today, as I said, it has become sufficiently generalized that one does not need to be defensive about adopting this particular posture. For Tanzania, it is striking because Tanzania is probably one of the territories where class formation is least developed on the African continent, and yet it would excite no controversy at first sight to raise the questions of class contradictions in Tanzania. This indicates how well entrenched the position has become on the African continent today.

The Concept of Class

I will begin by trying to explain the concept of class formation before I look at class contradictions because I think that the classes in Africa are embryonic, they are still very much in process of formation. Perhaps one could say that no class is ever completed. In any society classes are continually undergoing change. But certainly there are periods when it is more difficult to utilize the tool of class because the individual's social groups that comprise the class are themselves moving toward an awareness of themselves, and do not necessarily have the organizational apparatus to express themselves as a class. By way of comparison, one may think of the 18th century in France. In writing about that period Marx had to make the point that the bourgeoisie was not in existence at the time of the French Revolution however much it may be called the bourgeois revolution. Elements which went into the making of the bourgeoisie were certainly present in 18th century France, and over the period of the late 18th century and early 19th century that class matured into the form which it came to take in the middle of the 19th century. The same applies to Africa. But here one must be careful; one must be able to understand that strands and strata are coming together to produce what could definitely be called classes.

The Process of Class Formation

While this process clearly began in the colonial period, for Tanzania my argument will be that class formation post-1960 has been as important if not more important than class formation before 1960 or before 1961, if you want to take the exact date of independence. It is a very recent phenomenon and it has been accelerated by the process of national independence. The low profile of classes in Tanzania before independence accounts, to my mind, for a number of the unique features of political and social development in that country. One of these features is political unity.

Political unity can only be explained in part at any rate as a function of the non-emergence of strong sectors of the petty bourgeoisie in pre-independence colonial Tanzania. By looking at the historical experience of a number of other places, say Ghana, the earliest and still in many ways the best studied of the African states moving toward nationhood, we find that in that country there had been a considerable proliferation of embryonic petty bourgeois elements of different types. Some had their matrix in the old traditional society: they had been chiefs, or sons of chiefs or they had been incorporated into the structure of the British so called native-authority rule; they had developed a base in the land and of course, in primary cash crop production of cocoa; they had professional classes that date back to the late 19th century in West Africa; they had a certain number of indigenous traders including the very important market women, and so on; they had fractions of a petty bourgeoisie in Ghana. I think that the development of these factions was such that the British were able to manipulate elements and create intraclass contradictions long before the bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie, had really matured. Already at this very embryonic stage, it was struggling within itself, and again that is not historically new. Sectors of classes, mercantile as opposed to industrial sectors, or of the capitalist class have always had their internal contradictions. And those contradictions became politically important because of the deliberate policies of colonial powers. Britain, in this case, tried to withdraw from Ghana, as from Nigeria, as from the Sudan and Uganda in such a way that the state machinery was left in the hands of different elements of the petty bourgeoisie.

In Tanzania, because the class or the stratum (perhaps we should say it was still a stratum, or several strata at that time) was not well developed, the attempt to play one section off against another was not very successful. Attempts to get what we may call conservative African nationalists to organize a political party to oppose TANU had far less success than similar attempts in Ghana to oppose the CPP. The low profile had this first consequence that it conduced towards national unity; and even after independence, again taking as a point of reference what has occurred in a number of other territories, notably Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, we find that the petty bourgeoisie politicizes ethnic differences in its search for state hegemony. Ethnic differences exist; of course they exist on the African continent. They are not necessarily political differences, however. They don't necessarily cause people to kill each other. They become so-called "tribalism" when they are politicized in a particular framework. And in post-independence Africa they have been politicized largely by sections of the so-called African elite. (I am referring to them as the African petty bourgeoisie, in the search for bases for their own maintenance in power).

In Tanzania again we see that this is rather unique. Occasionally one hears in internal discussions in Tanzania some reference to so called ethnic or tribal loyalties, but it has never reared its head within the state as a determinant of the direction of political change. Clearly this is not a function of the absence of ethnic groups, because Tanzania has as many or more ethnic groups as other areas. Nor is it the function of dominant ethnic groups, because if we broke Tanzania down, we could pick out two or three very dominant ethnic groups. The pattern in Tanzania is not all that dissimilar from, say, the pattern in what is now Zaire, where ethnic politics have become important. So the lack of politicization is mainly, in my opinion, not due to ethnic differences but due to the rather weak development of the petty bourgeoisie as a class. They didn't have the chance to get involved in jockeying amongst each other, utilizing their own ethnic bases for that purpose.

A third point, and perhaps the most important point concerning the process of class formation in Tanzania, is that the weakness of the petty bourgeoisie allowed the specific development which we see in Tanzania, which is the development towards what is called Ujamaa, or socialism or Tanzanian socialism, however you care to translate it. It seems to me we must try to explain historically why it is that this particular African country made that option. It's not merely a choice, a political choice, which any African state could have made. I think we should look for the conditions which made it possible for Tanzania in 1967 to declare so-called socialism, to announced the Arusha Declaration. In the search for the explanation, again as a prominent reason, I would suggest the weakness of the particular class who stood initially to lose from such a declaration.

In other parts of Africa where the petty bourgeoisie or some of its elements were already sufficiently entrenched, it would have been difficult to envisage an Arusha Declaration being made, and these elements simply retreating to their shells and offering no opposition.

I was fortunate to have been in Tanzania at that particular time; in seeing members of the leadership of TANU then, in 1967, one got a distinct impression of the discomfort on their part. Many elements, people that you could look up as individuals - ministers, members of the hierarchy and the civil service, were applauding the Arusha Declaration very painfully. Once could see that it did not exactly fall in line with their conception of where the country should have been going. And one must therefore say that in a certain sense they were coerced, or at least constrained, to move in that direction. And one could see the constraint: the constraint was a class struggle, it was between themselves and the mass of the people. The mass of the people, workers and peasantry, came out in such tremendous force behind the document that I don't think that the small fragile petty bourgeoisie could ever have had the confidence, or that anyone in that class could get up and say, 'We stand opposed to this option.' It would almost have been equivalent to committing suicide. They had no power base to confront the mass of the population at that time. Consequently we will see of course that they retreated and devised a number of stratagems to avoid a head-on confrontation, but a refusal of that position was just not possible, given the balance of class forces in 1967.

The same thing occurred in 1971 when TANU produced another important document, the TANU Guidelines or Mwongozo, as it is called. In many ways this is an even harder hitting document than the Arusha Declaration. One could perceive that in a sense the wording of the document, the elaboration of the document, was due to only a small number of individuals within the hierarchy of the party who took a particular position. But the others were not prepared to come out openly against it, again for the same reasons. It was too obvious that the vast majority of Tanzanian people stood in that framework, and that anyone who wanted to oppose it had to do so surreptitiously. Opposition had to be done in devious underhanded ways and not by coming forward and saying 'We are against the policy of socialism and self-reliance,' or 'we are against the policy of worker control,' or 'we are against an anti-imperialist line.' Except for a small handful, everyone felt constrained to at least mouth the slogans. There was a tiny handful who, after the Arusha Declaration, said 'Well, it's time for us to cut and run; we prefer property to socialist jargon and we will leave.' But quite a number decided that the best strategy was to say what they felt needed to be said, and then to try to vitiate it, try to trivialize and denude the concepts of their real meaning.

Of course, I'm talking about a relative situation - Tanzania relative to the rest of Africa, not relative to the rest of the world. To the rest of the world it is very obvious that class formation in Africa has not produced the same sharp differentiation it has historically in other parts of the world. But relative even to rest of Africa, in a significant number of African territories there has arisen a small landed class, a landed petty bourgeoisie, a kulak class to use the familiar Russian term. In Tanzania, analysts who have been looking around the countryside have also discerned what they call an emergent kulak class, but I think very often they are straining at the evidence. One kulak doesn't make a kulak class. What one could discern in Tanzania is that when you take the size of the country and the development of cash crop farming in certain isolated pockets of the country, you could go into a given community and you could find one or two kulaks, but it cannot be said that they began to operate in a way comparable to say, Ghana, or the Ivory Coast, or Western Nigeria or Senegal. There wasn't because quantitatively and qualitatively it was a different phenomenon. There was no real kulak class in Tanzania, no landed class comparable to either Uganda or Kenya in the East African countries. Of course, there were no industrialists; very few African countries had industrialists. But there were in a number of African countries a few African capitalists, timber traders or people having timber concessions, merchants of course, other than industrialists - the merchant class in West Africa or Central Africa, for example. But in Tanzania, as in the rest of East Africa, the presence of the Asians as the comprador class, as the merchant bourgeoisie, has meant that very few African[s] entered that pattern of trade, or acquired wealth through trade. And there were even very few professionals, less than in West Africa, and certainly less than in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. Kenya had less for different reasons, partly because of the white settler economy which had allowed very few African professionals.

What we find, therefore, is that the petty bourgeoisie in Tanzania was small. And not only was it small, but it also had a second important characteristic: it was limited to certain sectors of production or sectors of social activity, particularly the civil service, and as an extension of that, the other coercive apparatus - the police and the army. This is where African petty bourgeoisie found itself. I think this is as important to understanding the subsequent evolution as is the fact that it was a small petty bourgeoisie. It was small but its character was also circumscribed and limited to particular sectors. It was not mercantile. It was not involved professionally to any great degree. It did not have land. It was concentrated in effect in the area of the state, either the civil service or the policy-army apparatus. I believe that this established a certain determination, a certain predilection, for state or status solutions to their particular problems - a predilection that was not present, say in either Uganda or in Kenya, to use the East African neighbouring territories as ways of comparing and contrasting the Tanzanian development. In Kenya there is still a definite commitment to the landed bourgeoisie or the landed petty bourgeoisie, and the same applies to Uganda. In Tanzania, the emergent elites never had any real commitment to the land in the form of private ownership. Therefore, in a real sense, it wasn't too surprising that they began to pursue policies which immediately returned the land or confirmed that the ownership of the land should be in the hands of the population. Had there already been a substantial development of anything approaching latifundia, then it would not have been an option that could so simply have been put into effect, but because of the lack of development of a private landed class, it seems to me there was no barrier towards a development in this direction.

The Structure of the Working Class

Let us take a brief look at the working class before going back to look at the petty bourgeoisie who are really going to be the focus of the analysis. In Tanzania (as in so many of the African countries) the working class was small. It was a transient working class with a high proportion of migrant labour although there has been a fair degree of stabilization of migrant labour in the post-war years. But certainly the working class remained essentially rural, the larger proportion being on the sites of plantations, largely unskilled either in the same rural occupation or in other spheres such as the docks where they remained unorganized. The Tanzanian working class never achieved a significant measure of independent organization. And it is independent organization which ultimately makes a class. The workers of Tanzania engaged briefly in the struggle for their own organization in the early 1960['s] (or I should say really in the late 1950's and the early 1960's - that is the period just crossing the barrier between colonialism and independence). The trade unions which evolved by 1961-1962 were still continuing the same trajectory as they had in the anti-colonial struggle, i.e. a trajectory designed to ensure that workers were represented and that workers built an independent organ of expression. But by 1964 this was completely halted by an attempted army mutiny in which some of the trade union leaders were involved. The government acted to virtually put an end to independent trade union organization - independent meaning independent of the state, independent of the leading party. This was in contrast to, say Kenya where there is a lesser degree of trade union independence in any real organizational sense.

As a consequence, the working class subsequently has also been competing for power through the dominant party, TANU, and through the state. If the workers had retained an independent trade union organization, it is conceivable that we would have seen them as the instrument of their own struggle. But that organization post 1964 was incorporated into the governmental party machinery. Consequently, to whatever extent there is worker power in Tanzania, it is expressed through the party, TANU, or through the state which is, in some sense, the instrument of the ruling party. And therefore we have both the petty bourgeoisie and the workers concentrating their energies on the same social organization, on the same mechanism - the political party and the state becomes the arena in which the contradictions between the workers and the petty bourgeoisie still resolve themselves. That is what I would like to look at. How does the state serve? In whose hands does it rest? What derives from state policy?

The Workers, The Petty Bourgeoisie and the State

The Arusha Declaration is a starting point of modern Tanzania development. This was a response to internal crisis, a response to the stagnation of the neo-colonial economy in Tanzania, and it really marked the failure of the hopes of the petty bourgeoisie that international capital would have entered their situation to strengthen the class in [a] particular kind of way. The petty bourgeoisie had assumed that after independence, if they took the attitude of welcoming foreign capital and welcoming foreign aid, international foreign capital would be forthcoming. This was really the assumption. They imagined that there was some process of growth within the neo-colonial picture, within the post-colonial imperialist framework, which would allow them to develop as a class. But this was not in fact forthcoming. Any study of the period for Tanzania and for a number of other African countries shows very clearly the unfulfilled hopes of foreign investment and aid. Unfulfilled in many senses, particularly because (in many instances) it just did not come. Even when it came, it did not necessarily come when and where the government expected it to come. And when it was available, it was available with a number of other complications, political and economic, which the government of Tanzania found hard to accept. Therefore, by the mid-60s, the Tanzanian economy was definitely stagnant in the face of declining world prices for major products (like sisal and cotton). The option it seems to me was taken by the petty bourgeoisie under pressure from the working masses in the sense that the stagnation and decline of real standards were bound to raise their own current from the working people. That pressure had to be responded to and the response was in the form of the Arusha Declaration. This declaration was positive in the sense that it went along with popular aspirations and popular hopes that the producers would be able to control the product of their own labour and to control the shaping of the society to cut down the alienations which stem from the primary alienation of the product of a man's labour. Now that was positive 'Yes,' but at the same time the petty bourgeoisie were able to work out the strategy in which they would use this new intervention as a means of entrenching their control over the state.

Whatever the objective of the exercise of transformation, one thing was certain: the petty bourgeoisie intended to maintain their hegemony over the state apparatus. Indeed after 1967 they used the new policies as a means of reproducing themselves as a class. In a way this was almost axiomatic; since they were essentially a bureaucratic formation, they moment that they nationalized and began to engage in some forms of control over economic production, the bourgeoisie expanded itself, or extended itself into those sectors of economic operations. They built huge complexes like the National Development Corporation (NDC), the State Trading Corporation (STC), which became known in Tanzania as, in effect, extensions of the state, extensions of the old civil service. The people who benefited most from this were the young petty bourgeoisie.

In Kenya there was a different line because the Kenyans always had one advantage from their class perspective: Kenya was and still is a subimperialist centre in East Africa. It is the point of entry for foreign capital into the whole of the East African community, not just into Kenya alone. Consequently, the opportunities for pickings, if you like, were always higher in Kenya. The presence of the multinational corporations, partially determined by the presence of settlers in the colonial period, meant that Kenyans could actually think in terms of becoming directors of various multinational corporations. For Tanzanians, it was not feasible on ideological grounds. Besides there were very practical reasons that the petty bourgeoisie could not hope for very much in this direction. Tanzania was not that type of economy. The rate of expansion of multinational capital in Tanzania before 1967 was relatively small. Consequently it was through the state intervention that they could increase the possibilities of holding jobs equivalent to directorship. They wouldn't be directors of a foreign company; they would be directors of branches of the NDC or STC or they would be managers of particular plants. In effect they were extending themselves as a class.

At the same time the African petty bourgeoisie in Tanzania, as in the rest of East Africa, had an old opponent: the Asian commercial comprador element. This group had been foisted on the African people in many respects. In my opinion (and I think that the record indicates this), they had been deliberately promoted by the British government as a layer between foreign capital and Africans. They were allowed access to credit; most of them based their operations of [on] the 90-day credit system. They were in effect sponsored by the banks and the large import-export houses - the same banks which refused to give credit to Africans. The British government and the colonial states had sanctioned this by issuing credit restriction ordinances which made it impossible for Africans to advance as middlemen. So the experience of the so-called Asians, that is those from the Indian subcontinent, was linked with or part of British policies in East Africa. As so often happens, the comprador or the middleman often attracts the ire of different indigenous classes much more so than the metropolitan ruling class. In Tanzania and in Uganda also, there were what were called Asian riots or anti-Asian riots in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. For some people they may be classified as racial riots, but they were not racial riots, they were manifestations of class struggle, since you find the same kind of thing in Jamaica where you would find anti-Chinese riots simply because the Chinese happen to be the middlemen in that particular context. The ordinary peasants in the countryside, the working people in the sisal [e]states and in the towns found that their immediate enemy was the so-called duka walla, the Indian who controlled the duka, or the shop, because that Indian bought their product, he cheated them in weighing their product, he cheated them in reselling to them what he imported from abroad. Although this was petty in relationship to the fundamental exploitation of the market which was being established in Mining Lane in London, the peasant had to react to his immediate enemy[,] the worker had to react to his immediate enemy. And so there has been a considerable anti-Indian sentiment which is class-based. The African petty bourgeoisie too, as he began to move forward and to have certain aspirations for advancement felt that the Indian was the first obstacle. He couldn't see Barclay's Bank as the immediate enemy, because that was too distant, too powerful, and in his own horizons he didn't really aspire to become a competitor to Barclay's Bank, but he could aspire to become a competitor to an Asian merchant or an Asian professional or an Asian civil servant. So for the petty bourgeoisie too, the Asians were very often the immediate enemy. In the post-Arusha Declaration period in Tanzania, the Asians as a comprador class have begun to disintegrate. This is true in East Africa as a whole.

In Uganda the people are of course aware of the dramatic turn of events after Amin came to power. People may be less aware of what's going on in Kenya, but in Kenya there's also been a constant pressure and harassment of the Asian petty bourgeoisie by a would-be African commercial petty bourgeoisie. In Tanzania it did not take the same form. It did not take the form of individual Africans seeking to take over Asian shops. What has happened is that the state has encroached upon areas in which the Asian petty bourgeoisie were dominant, and since the African petty bourgeoisie controls that state it means the expansion of the bureaucratic class or the bureaucratic sector of the petty bourgeoisie as against the commercial petty bourgeoisie. The State Trading Corporation, for instance, took over a large number of the functions initially carried out by a host of private importers among whom Asians were predominant. Buying and selling abroad was initially taken over. Then slowly the STC has also attempted to establish itself with certain retail outlets. It has also meant that questions as to what is to be purchased, in what quantities, at what prices, and how it is to be sold - all these questions are now being determined by the state, by the African bureaucratic bourgeoisie, and not by the Indian merchant class, except in so far as they can react defensively and try to break out by certain stratagems which they do indeed adopt. But by and large initiative in these regards has passed into the hands of the African petty bourgeoisie, the bureaucratic African petty bourgeoisie.

The impact of the Arusha Declaration and the move towards social and towards state controls over production and distribution has been to sharpen that contradiction between the commercial petty bourgeoisie which was a particular ethnic grouping and the bureaucratic petty bourgeoisie. It has been resolved in their favour in the sense that the Asians, for the most part, seem to have decided that there is no further stake in East Africa; their main concern has been to try to liquidate their capital, to try to get it out of the country, which they have done in an infinite variety of ways. In Tanzania it is extremely difficult to get foreign exchange, to get money out of the country. Usually what happens, however, is that whenever there is a new edict concerning exchange control, it has come at least a year if not two years after the Asians have been using that loophole. Therefore the amounts of money already sent to London and to Canada and to this country [the U.S.] are quite fantastic. At the same time, the Asians do interact by attempting to form liaisons with members of the African petty bourgeoisie, utilizing the straight-forward cash nexus just to bribe them into an acceptance of the Asian position. So they are a declining class, but they can at the same time exercise an influence based on the fact that they do have some liquid funds and this is used to increase the amount of bribery and corruption that is present in the system.

Nevertheless, I would say that one could conclude at this point - even before the Asians are completely finished as a class - that there is no longer any future for them in the old roles which they had in East Africa and Tanzania. In Tanzania this has been done through the instrumentality of the state, in Uganda through the instrumentality of the army and other private African entrepreneurs, and in Kenya though the instrumentality of private entrepreneurs. Most important to the people of Tanzania have been those contradictions manifested between the petty bourgeoisie and what I will call the producer class - the peasantry of the countryside, excluding the very few kulak owners. There is also a contradiction between the petty bourgeoisie and the workers of the towns and the countryside. This contradiction, which is a much sharper contradiction, a much more antagonistic contradiction than the earlier one between the commercial element and the bureau element, manifests itself at all levels in a variety of ways. I will cite only some of what seem to me to be critical examples.

Ideology and Class Contradictions

In the education sphere, for instance, and having taught in the country I hope I am sensitive to what went on in that area, I would say that the class struggle was reflected in ideological terms and conducted in very sharp ideological terms in Tanzania, more so than in any other African countries with which I am familiar, with the possible exception of Ethiopia. There it was conducted in a rather different way, primarily by Ethiopian students as a part of a whole underground. In Tanzania it was conducted out in the open inside the education institutions, particularly within the university, a young university which had been established like so many of the Third World universities as just another factory being put into the Third World by the metropolitan countries. It was established in 1961 as a typical institution of bourgeois learning and functioned in that way, in terms of its curricula, its staffing, its programmes, its structure, and everything else in the mid-1960s when it was formed. But because of the move towards socialism, even at the level of rhetoric, since much of it wasn't put into practice the move towards socialism itself had behind it the power of producing classes in Tanzania, and this could not be kept out of the development of the University of Dar es Salaam. Therefore one found there a tremendous conflict taking place between bourgeois knowledge and scientific analysis which derived from looking at the actual practice of the producer classes in Tanzania and in the world at large at this particular point in time. Some of the questions were of theory; they had to address themselves to the whole plethora of bourgeois knowledge and understand its methodology, its perceptions, to understand the struggle between idealism and materialism. I presume it would not be necessary for me to go into that kind of detail. Those of us who took part in this in one way or another related to the students and related to the population outside of the university, so that it was, I think, a genuine reflection of changes taking place in the society as a whole. There were, of course, broad debates about the organization of the university, about how one organizes academic disciplines, and so on. But there were also a number of debates which were very pertinent to the immediate policy c[ho]ices of the Tanzanian government. The question of development, for example, was not evolved as an academic debate per se. It evolved from a perception of real choices in the policy sphere: what was to be done at the particular point in time in specific areas of economic, political, and social development. It arose out of the formation of the solutions to the so-called problem of underdevelopment. People began to question the kinds of theoretical framework and paradigms which bolstered particular kinds of solutions. If the solutions proved to be false in practice, their theoretical justifications were exposed to much more critical analysis, and ultimately to an onslaught in that institution, at any rate, from which they have not recovered. So the debate was at all times linked or at most times linked to the ongoing struggle within Tanzania.

From time to time students themselves would take the initiative. This was extremely useful because the students were not only students of the university but they were at the same time members of the TANU Youth League. Therefore it was ensured that this was a struggle that was at all times relevant to the immediate needs as many young Tanzanians saw those needs of their country.

That is one level. Within the university and within all other educational institutions, such as the secondary schools, the same kind of struggle went on to try to clarify theory and to recognize that the ideas which existed in that society were not simply free-floating ideas. They had historical roots. They had social class origins and one had to pin down these social origins if some progress were to be made in clarifying the said ideas.

Economic Policy and Class Contradictions

More immediate, and more critical, from a political viewpoint, were the contradictions taking place at the level of economic policy which were also partly tied up in some ways with the contradictions in the educational system. But major debates were also taking place on specific aspects of policy, say for instance, tourism. There was a whole year at least in which the question of whether Tanzania should promote tourism or not was an issue of national importance that people were battling back and forth on this option. In some ways you may look at it and imagine": "Ok, tourism, are you for it or are you against it?" This is a free decision. We express a position, we analyze the situation, we subject the data to some scrutiny and we come up with a position for or against. But it is not as simple as that. When one looks carefully at the way in which the debate was conducted, who stood for the tourism option, who opposed it, one sees there were class roots, very clear class roots in taking up a position for tourism or against it. Fanon, in his usual manner, remarked quite a long time ago in 1960-61, that tourism is a very important vehicle: a way in which the petty bourgeoisie organizes relaxation for the metropolitan bourgeoisie and uses that opportunity also to reinforce their class ties. It was very clear in Tanzania that, in spite of the protestations for socialism, this tremendous need to push tourism and to rationalize what after all, in purely economic terms, is one of the most meaningless so called industries, was linked with the necessity - this felt need on the part of the Tanzanian bourgeoisie to keep in touch with their metropolitan masters. In effect it wasn't particularly different from what was going on in Kenya. Kenya just did it openly. Kenya did their tourism in the name of capitalism. Tanzania was trying to do their tourism in the name of socialism. In fact it is already in shambles, but the need was to rationalize this position, which was a class position and the petty bourgeoisie conceptualized development along certain lines. They had a vision of what needed to be consumed, of what needed to be built, of the kinds of societies that derive from bourgeois metropolitan society. The hotels, the airports, the transit facilities, these were things which fitted the class perspective of the Tanzania petty bourgeoisie.

On the other side were members of the same class, naturally enough, engaged in a debate which required articulation in certain ways. Essentially this involved young Tanzanians who were of the same social class origins, but who were responding to different class loyalties and who were expressing different class loyalties. They were saying that our workers and our peasants are not concerned with those who want to come and watch the lions and gazelle and to watch the Masai and so on, and call themselves tourists: that this will not do anything for the mass of our population. On the contrary it will inhibit a development of serious economic options which could lead to real integrated development. It will introduce and reinforce cultural backwardness and cultural penetration and place our people continually in the position of servitors of Euro-America. This was an argument that was lost in the first instance by the anti-tourism elements. It was won by those who wanted to promote international tourism, but in the year that followed tourism has been proved to be simply economically unprofitable quite apart from everything else. It was pointed out that deploying such a large proportion of finances into this sector was bound to be disastrous and it has already proved to be that way. A huge modern automated airport was built between Kilimanjaro and Arusha where the game reserves are located only 10 minutes flight from Nairobi. This was completely unjustifiable in any terms, but it was claimed that with an airport more visitors would come to watch the animals. When the visitors did not come to watch the animals and this huge airport lay empty, the same petty bourgeoisie began to suggest that possibly they might do some market gardening around this airport. They might therefore freight fresh vegetables out and make some profit. The order of priority was not just due to lack of vision but due to a particular straight jacketing in which this class found itself. So they thought first of tourism and only subsequently when the tourism was in shambles did they begin to think about production; even then, of course, the production will have to be tied to the existing infrastructure which is a meaningless infrastructure because it is pointless to engage in production simply for export to Europe. But that is another question.

The same clash of views I think came out, not always as clearly as the tourism debate, with regards to questions concerning irrigation, choice of crops, and the general conduct of agricultural policy. The tourism debate was very sharply focused and people took sides. It may not be clear with regard to other aspects of economic policy such as cash crops, general crop selection, and whether or not the country should engage in irrigation, and other questions. But looking at it even at least with hindsight, one can perceive that there was a tendency on the part of the petty bourgeoisie to treat agriculture mainly as an intensification of that which had gone before. There was no conception of a break. To take sisal or cotton as examples, when the prices declined the tendency was to imagine that one could grow more. Certainly for cotton and sisal certain areas had to be abandoned, because they were not profitable. There was no new conceptualization of breaking with the international division of labour in which they as a class had emerged. Consequently, we find today significant sectors of Africa are suffering from famine. In suffering from this famine, each one, depending upon their religious affiliations, will appeal to Allah or God or the ancestors of whoever it is, or the rain gods, who are supposedly responsible for there being no rain. So it becomes a mixture of natural phenomena and the solution is a metaphysical or religious intervention. Of course, famine is neither natural nor metaphysical. It is a social phenomenon. Drought and famine are not just 'natural.' I don't know in what sense one can just describe them as 'natural,' when the society has the capacity technically and organizationally to plan firstly, to eliminate or at least reduce the incidence of drought and famine and, secondly, to reduce the consequences of drought and famine. So we see that these societies had continued their colonial policies of failing to deal with the critical question of food first, and being preoccupied with what they call "foreign exchange," they have been growing coffee, and cotton, and sisal and what have you.

That must be put as part of the historical explanation of why the famine and drought are so widespread throughout Africa at the present time. It is a reflection of the incapacity of neo-colonial societies to even feed themselves or to protect their populations from the vicissitudes that lie outside the immediate control of each individual, but do not lie outside the control of the society as a whole, if that society is geared towards resolving the problem. So these I would say are aspects of bourgeois thought, of petty bourgeois policy, and the fact that they were pursued when there were at least some individuals in the society arguing to the contrary is an indication that they were pursued in spite of the contradictions or by way of contradictions. They were not simply steam-rollered; it was not that the whole society was blissfully unaware of other alternatives. Alternatives were discussed and the petty bourgeoisie chose their own road which in most cases have lead to disaster.

To conclude briefly on the point about the Tanzania economic policy, there still is an ongoing debate about factors such as economic advisors, about the questions of economic agreements, so called "managerial agreements" by which nationalized or partially nationalized companies are placed in the hands of foreign management consultants. That debate about consultants and experts and advisors still goes on. In part it was attacked from a nationalist perspective. Some Tanzanians said, 'well, we need to nationalize or Africanize, so we can't have all these sensitive positions.' But nationalization has not been enough. In fact the nationalists themselves, the petty bourgeois nationalists stopped short at a particular point, because of a lack of confidence in themselves. To understand the petty bourgeoisie again go back to Fanon, look at the pitfalls of the national consciousness in The Wretched of the Earth. He captured that very well: the lack of confidence in a class that is an outgrowth of another historical experience that never controlled anything in its own right. It didn't control production. It didn't control property. It is derived from the colonial system.It has[n't] the confidence to challenge that system fundamentally. It is culturally dependent as well as economically and politically dependent. Consequently, they find it very difficult to break with this conception of foreign advisors, foreign management, etc., having no confidence to break, therefore they rationalize it by saying, 'Well, McKinsey isn't really advising us how to be socialists. McKinsey is merely giving us the technological expertise. We will account for the political inputs.' The capitalist firm comes in and goes through all our records and the Harvard advisory team and all those various paraphernalia of bourgeois individuals still trample around in and out of Dar es Salaam and the countryside. This is rationalized by saying, "We are taking from them a technical expertise and this is all. We will account for the political inputs." One of the most fundamental bourgeois fallacies is that you can separate technology from ideology, that you can separate the mechanics of a process from the fundamental direction in which you are going, from the class content of the kinds of advice which you get about organizational structures, and so on.

Production of Class Contradictions

For Tanzania, outside the economic sphere, the most decisive contradictions - the ones on which the real earthy manifestations of the class struggle are based - have come directly out of production, either in the countryside or in the towns. In the countryside, there have been contradictions arising out of policy of Ujamaa and its implementation: in the towns these are seen in the clash between bureaucratic management and the workers at the point of production. The policy of ujamaa itself has a great deal to commend it. It is not merely a form of social organization and of economic production. It is meant to be a social whole, a cultural whole. It is meant to be an environment in which the rural producers resume control over their own lives by participating in running their day-to-day lives, and making choices about fundamental things in their day-to-day lives. It intended to put a halt, as Nyerere made clear, to the incipient or more than incipient penetration of the money economy and the class formation in the countryside. It was intended to put a halt to the rise of any kulak elements, and to the accompanying rise of a landless proletariat. What has in effect occurred is that only a very few of the functions of this operation have been successfully concluded. In large measure there have been concluded a certain regroupment of forces, particularly in areas of the country that had been sparsely settled or where the pattern of spatial distribution of population and economic activity was such as to warrant a grouping of forces. This regrouping took place, for instance, in central Tanzania where there is a low density of population, and in western Tanzania where the homesteads were also scattered. This is useful because it allows people to come together and one can provide them or the government can provide them with medical services, schools, and a number of other things. It means that a government proclaiming itself to be socialist has had to carry out an historical task which in other societies had been carried out in a previous epoch. Capitalism, and feudalism for that matter, had helped in the grouping of populations and certainly capitalism very ruthlessly enclosed land and brought farms together. It also concentrated populations in urban centres.

In Tanzania, this programme of grouping rural populations had had some serious setbacks in recent years. Evidence of this came late in 1973 and 1974 when the programme for creating Ujamaa villages seemed to have bogged down. It had not reached the quantitative dimensions that had previously been planned, because a number of areas apparently had not moved into the villages as they were expected to. On some examination it does not appear as though there were serious political inputs into getting these individuals [to] move. To ask people to move, to ask them to make a new life, to participate in a whole new form of production would obviously require a considerable politicization. This was the premise upon which regrouping was based in China - mutual-aid teams though the brigades right up to the communes. It was a political process first and foremost, but to the bureaucrats they could only reduce it to a bureaucratic process, not one of entering in and with the mass of the population to effect transformation, but one in which they see it as a question of logistics and figures and maps with little pins stuck in to show where the Ujamaa villages are and what is growing where. They can conceptualize a problem which says, 'we need to move X number of people from this point to another and we need so many lorries, so you get the lorries, you go to the area, you get the police to come with you, and you break up people's villages, and tell them it will be much better you for. Possibly it will work out; possibly those people will decide it is better for them.['] But the world has had a great deal of practice of certain individuals telling other individuals what is good for them and telling them they will kill them for their own good if necessary. We see the end product of that in South East Asia today. Certainly from a socialist perspective, it is always dangerous that bureaucratization should parade in the name of socialism. It happened of course under Stalin and it did put a certain blight upon socialism for quite a long time. Therefore one does look with some concern at this same manifestation.

The high incidence of bureaucratic activity, of bureaucratic decision making within the context of the Ujamaa villages created a real contradiction because those peasants are fully aware of what is going on. Inside the villages once they are formed, there is a struggle over controlling the day-to-day policy. The peasants don't give up. They are quite tenacious. They have a way of bringing their perspectives to bear on the problems also. So it is not one-sided, but because the petty bourgeoisie are more in control of the state apparatus, it becomes rather difficult for the peasantry to win significant victories at this time.

And finally there are the workers themselves, a small class, judged in comparison with Europe, an insignificant class. A very tiny percentage of the total producing force can be regarded in any way as a proletariat. But, as it so often happens in this type of economy, the proletariat is strategically situated. It is situated in the capital town and other urban areas and in sensitive sectors of production and therefore what it says and does simply cannot be ignored. It strikes me that the contradictions between workers and the bureaucrats have really come out in a very sharp form as the working class itself has advanced in its own clarity, partially as a result of the same policies which have been pursued by the government. You see the ambivalence of policies: the elements within the petty bourgeoisie have allowed for the elaboration of a certain theory of certain ideas within the Tanzanian environment, which have further strengthened the Tanzanian working class. And the Tanzanian working class makes demands on the system in very enlightened terms. Not merely demands concerning increased wages (those have been made and they are necessary to defend living standards of the population), but going beyond that, workers have in the last several years in Tanzania been making a number of very advanced demands concerning their role in the productive process and in the control of the produce process.

Once the factories were nationalized, once an institution fell under the NDC and was either government-owned or partially government-owned, the petty bourgeoisie imagined that was the end of the process. It was now a Tanzanian enterprise and, as a Tanzanian enterprise run by Tanzanian managers, it was enough for the workers to fall in line and behave more or less as they had behaved previously. But this did not turn out to be the case. Workers began to raise questions that the nationalization of those industries meant that they had to be run by Tanzanians in a new kinds of way consonant with the interests, the self images, etc., of the Tanzanian working people. One of the consequences of this was that the party agreed to issue the party guidelines of Mwongozo which in effect addressed itself to the whole problem of bureaucratic management. It was saying, 'Well, bureaucrats cannot behave in the same fashion as the colonialists or the imperialists used to have,' or they said that the nationalization implies a whole new way of organizing production and change, a qualitative change in the relationship between the workers and the management during the period immediately following the proclamation of Mwongozo in 1971. But an interesting thing which occurred after the acceptance of the guidelines was that the petty bourgeoisie themselves recognized that this was too dangerous a weapon. The workers used to move around with a very small version of the guidelines, a document printed up into a very tiny booklet, which could be stuffed into a top pocket or any pocket. Workers had a habit of moving around with the Mwongozo and taking it out - as we understand the Chinese take out their little red book - and opening it to the appropriate page, and confronting bureaucrats and saying, "Well, look, according to paragraph 14 so, and so; this is what it says and now what you are saying there and doing is quite different from what is going on here. And then they would move on to paragraph 15 and so on and so forth, and this was becoming very dangerous. Workers were presuming to educate the educated. In other words, it was threatening to become a revolution.

Interestingly enough when this class contradiction manifested itself, the petty bourgeoisie began to withdraw from the issue of Mwongozo. They began to say, 'Well, each one in his own institution would come up with an exception why Mwongozo didn't apply there.' The doctors started to say, 'Well, look at this hospital. We are the doctors. After us come nurses and cleaners and so on. I mean this hospital has to be run by doctors. We have the expertise. You can't have Mwongozo and self-management and things like that in a hospital. People will die.' What they need to do is, of course, to go and look at the Chinese experience, to look at a book such as that by Joshua Horn, Away with All Pests, and they will understand that in a truly democratic society the hospitals are run by all, including the patients themselves. But they felt they were making a valid case for exceptions. The youngsters in schools began to flash Mwongozo and argue against the missionary type education, the pattern of hierarchy and the authoritarianism which still prevailed in a large number of boarding schools in Tanzania, and of course the headmasters and the schoolteachers said, 'Well, you are too young to know about Mwongozo. Mwongozo was written for adults, not for children. As children you are under our care.' They therefore seized all copies of Mwongozo which might be circulating among the student population.

Then in the banking institutions the bankers and the chief bankers would say, "This is a lot of money we have here. We can't be joking with this financial question. These workers don't understand accounts. They don't understand questions like: "What is the current rate of the Tanzanian shilling as compared with dollars and things like these. How can we have Mwongozo operating in our institution?" So in a variety of ways one saw the petty bourgeoisie retracting from the position into which they had been forced initially on the question of the Mwongozo, one found the workers advancing by raising the level of their demands, so that they constantly talked issues on principles. They constantly talked about incorrect behaviour in the factories. They talked about favouritism, firing in accordance with the kinds of ethnic loyalties of the manager. They exposed any ways of victimizing or exploiting the women in the factories, sexually or otherwise. Things of this sort began to increase considerably in 1971 and 1972 reaching a high point when in one factory, a rubber factory, the workers decided to lock out the management and run the factory themselves for a certain period of time (not a very long period of time; actually until the police came). The workers ran the factory because of the things that had been raised against the workers when they went on strike was that they were striking now that Tanzania has national property and therefore any strike was against the national interest, and not the interest of capital as used to be the case before the factories were nationalized. So the workers in that factory were answering that argument. They were saying, 'We are not going on strike. We are not putting an end to production in the country. We will increase production when we are running the factory.' So they were posing a more fundamental question: the question of who controls production; who is the boss in so-called socialist society. But for the time being, of course, the petty bourgeoisie is still essentially in control of the state and it could not allow the working class to exercise this type of initiative, so those workers had to be rounded up and scattered.


Many times when I speak about Tanzania, I find that I fall into the difficulty of trying to justify it against reactionaries and to clarify the realities against those who are romanticizing such realities. Each one is a different kind of operation. There are enemies of Tanzania who do not like the socialist content, so for them whatever is going on wherever it fails, that is so much the better. Against such an assault one has to be careful to be critical of the reality, and the transition, but to be critical of it from the viewpoint of its failure to live up to certain types of expectations, and the fact that the contradictions have not yet resulted in the positive benefits for the working masses. And then on the other hand when one is talking with the romanticizers, people who essentially have a sympathy with what is going on in Tanzania, but have not penetrated in day-to-day reality, then it is necessary to understand or to point out that social contradictions do not cease because a government issued a document.

The Arusha Declaration is very nice. Another document is issued which says that socialism is for self-realization or education for self-reliance and Mwongozo. All these are very positive, certainly better than neighbouring territories like Kenya and Uganda which either have no document or have some policy statements that are really absurd. But that is not an answer to the reality or a substitute for the reality. The position was a position in part won by progressive elements and by the pressure of the workers and the peasants, but it can only be worked out in practice depending upon the balance of class forces. And at the present time the petty bourgeoisie, although small in number, is in control of the state. It is reproducing itself. It still retains certain kinds of links with the international monopoly capitalist world.

It would be difficult at this time to make a prognosis about the immediate resolution of the said contradictions -- whether progressive tendencies or more reactionary tendencies will win out. I have a certain confidence, perhaps, a confidence tinged with hope, that the trend will in fact lead, even in the short run, towards the resolution of these contradictions in favour of the progressive elements among the working peoples. Clearly, I can not be quite certain. But that is not as important as the long run trends. Over the long run, there is no doubt about it: I think that the masses of the population are being brought into a politics of participation and that they have in these last five years entered into struggles in a way that is much more meaningful than for most other neo-colonial African territories. Therefore whatever happens in the short run, one can see the towns, serving their best interests in terms of the access to power, because these historical changes will not take place of themselves.

History is, of course, made by people. Marx and his followers clearly understood this. There is a tendency on the part of bourgeois detractors to suggest that somehow a Marxist formulation is talking about things and about abstractions, and reification, whereas in fact we are talking about people in society, and certainly history is made by people depending upon their particular level of consciousness. In this sense the contradictions are sharpening the consciousness of the most exploited and oppressed classes, heightening their consciousness and this must be in the long run a very positive fact.