Reflections on Pan-Africanism
by CLR JAMES
Transcript of speech given on November 20, 1973;
Transcribed: by Damon Maxwell.
Transcribed: by Damon Maxwell.
A very distinguished writer, George Lamming, a West Indian, makes it a rule to despise what is called “suspense.” He says he has no use for it in his writing and I think that in regard to what I have to say in these two evenings I should get that subject clear and keep you out of any suspense you might have. Tonight I am going to speak about the history of Pan-Africanism up to the independence of the Gold Coast and Ghana, and certain things that grew from it. Tomorrow night I am going to speak about developments after that; then the perspectives of what is taking place in Africa,what we are seeing and what the future is likely to be. So that tonight up to the Independence of the gold Coast and Ghana and certain things that flow from it so that we know where we are. Now much of it will deal with my personal experiences and personal responses to people. There is this book, Africa, Britain’s Third Empire by George Padmore and it is dedicated by Padmore to W.E. Burghardt DuBois, father of Pan-Africanism, scholar, and uncompromising fighter for human rights, Harvard, Fisk, Wilberforce, Fellow of the American Association, International President Pan-African Conference. Now that is the attitude that Padmore had to Dr. DuBois and that is the attitude that all of us had to him. For us he is the originator of the Pan-African movement both in theory and in fact and it is astonishing the number of subjects and the spheres of intellectual organizational activity in which Dr. DuBois was 25 years ahead of all other persons in the United States and a good many elsewhere. When Dr. DuBois died, I know an editor of an American magazine wrote me asking me to write something about it. He told me what the others are going to write and I wrote to him and told him that I wasn’t going to write that at all and I would like him to understand that I would not refer to Dr. DuBois as a most distinguished black man and a most distinguished leader of our people. That is no good. It is lowering the man from what he is.
He is one of the most remarkable persons of the 20th century. In field after field he was 25 years in advance of all the persons who lived with him. Now Padmore dedicated this book to Dr. DuBois and we looked upon him, not as our leader, I wasn’t thinking of him as a leader in those days, but he was a man, whose books we read, all of us who were interested in those matters. And we also read the books of Marcus Garvey. Dr. DuBois had begun historical writing both on the history of Africa and the history of the United States, he had formed the Pan-African Conferences. One after the other, from about 1919 until about 1929 and that was part of his conceptions and of what he wrote regularly in the NAACP paper which he founded. We grew up on that. Padmore and I in the West Indies: we read Garvey’s paper, “The Negro World.” I used to buy Garvey’s paper every Saturday morning in Frederick Street about 10 or 15 yards from the police station. That is important, because the paper was banned by the police, and I am certain that inside the police station a lot of them were reading it, too. too. So we were brought up on Marcus Garvey and his “Negro World.” None of us thought of going to Africa, but we read Garvey and were quite satisfied and pleased with him and we read Dr. DuBois. That educated us. As far as I know that was the only way we got some education on the affairs of black people in the Caribbean. Otherwise we learned what they taught us in the schools. They were very good schools, secondary schools. All they taught us about Africa was how backward they were and how beneficial the British invasion of Africa was and the slave trade was not so bad because it brought backward people in touch with civilization and taught them Christianity. It may not have taught them very much Christianity but at least it got them on the road. And that is what we learned. So it was Garvey in his paper and DuBois in his books and a paper that he published later that changed our whole attitude. George Padmore and I were very friendly. I knew him and I knew his father, his mother. I knew his sisters. His father was a teacher. My father was a teacher. We were boys together. We never talked about Africa. We talked about the West Indies. He went to St. Mary’s college, I went to Queen’s Royal. We would spend vacations together. Neither of us thought about being political leaders of African emancipation. We didn’t think about Africa at all. That was not in our conception. Well, Padmore left Trinidad and went to the United States and there he got in to talk to Dr. DuBois, that is the reason for this dedication. He understood the kind of man he was and the expansion of the intellectual habits of black people and the way they looked upon themselves and the way they looked on the world around them.
He joined the Communist Party. Then the Communist party recognized that he had great ability and took him to Moscow where he became head of the International African Negro movement. All the communists were doing for the African people and people of African descent, Padmore was in charge of. It was a position of tremendous importance. He published a paper called “The Negro Worker” and he was interested in all the political leaders and so forth. I don’t think up to that time any black man had held a position of such importance. I left Trinidad in 1932 and I went to Britain and there I rapidly became a Marxist and began to become a practitioner and finally became one of the persons most prominent in the Trotskyist movement in Britain. I wrote a book of Trotsky’s ideas and I wrote a book on the Revolution in S. Domingo which established the state of Haiti. But I wrote that Trotsky book first. And in Britain about 1934 I was going around looking at everything, seeing everything as much as I could, and I heard of a man called George Padmore, a negro who was a great leader of the communists internationally. And who was having a meeting. I went to the meeting which was held not far from where I lived. And we sat there waiting, about 50 or 60 of us, half white people, half black people. About five to eight this person walked in and he as my old friend from Trinidad, George Padmore. I was quite astonished. I listened to him speaking. He spoke with great authority and the people listened to him. Afterwards I told him let’s go home to the flat and I took him home and we talked till four o’clock in the morning. At that time I was already a Trotskyist and George was connected with Moscow but that never caused any dissatisfaction with me. We understood that we were concerned with the African movement, I felt that I could be a Marxist, a Trotskyist and also be completely devoted to the African colonial movement. So we never quarreled. But something peculiar happened that night.
He said, “You came here in 1932.” I said, “Yes, I came here in March 1932.” He said, “ I was here in March, 1932, I came from Moscow looking for black people to take to Moscow to educate and organize in the movement. I needed some people badly. If I had known you were here I would have asked you to go.” “If you had asked me in 1932, I most certainly would have gone without a shadow of doubt!”
Well, George went away and sometime in 1934 or 1935 I formed an organization called the International African Friends of Ethiopia, that was in regard to that Ethiopian war and members of my committee were Jomo Kenyatta, there was another splendid man from West Africa called Wallace Johnson; I hear Wallace is a bit old now, but he was one of the finest politicalists I have known, utterly fearless, stood for his political principles and did not waver. There was Dr. Danville who wasn’t too political but he was a very learned man. He was ready to fight, to join the committee and carry on.
We formed this organization and we did rather well. But one day, sometime in late 1934 or 1935 there was a knock at my door and I went do the door and there was George Padmore. Padmore was an extremely handsome man and very neat and careful in all his ways, he always had his papers in order, himself in order, everything in order. But today he looked a little strange. I had never seen Padmore unshaven. Never. But he looked a little strange. I asked him to sit down and then I asked him what was wrong. I don’t know why I asked him what was wrong but things did not look right. He said, “I’ve left those people you know.” And that was the biggest shock I received since I had gone to Brazil three years before. “I have left those people” meant he had left the Communist Party. And he was the biggest black man in Moscow, dealing with black people and the colonial revolution. So I said, “What happened?” And he told me. He said, “They are changing the line and now they tell me that in future we are going to be soft and not attack strongly the democratic imperialists which are Britain, France and the United States. That the main attack is to be directed upon the Fascist imperialists, Italy, Germany and Japan. And George, we would like you to do this in the propaganda that you are doing and in the articles that you are writing and the paper you are publishing, to follow that line.” And George said, “That is impossible. Germany and Japan have no colonies in Africa. How am I to say the democratic imperialists, such as the United States is the most race ridden territory in the western world. So I am to say that Britain and France who have the colonies in Africa and the United States, can be democratic imperialists and be soft to them but be strong against Japan, Italy and Germany. That is impossible. What do you think of that?” I said, “But George, there is not much you can say about that, that is the line, and when the Communist Party says that is the line, that is the line.” I want to make a remark about a man called Harold Cruse. He has written a book about black intellectuals, I haven’t found very much in the book to interest me. But I noticed him saying that the Jews are responsible for what is taking place or what took place in regard to black people in the United States. That man is crazy. Then the Communist Party took a line. You got it in Germany, in Japan, Italy, Germany and in the United States, in Arabia, in Latin America, in Asia, everywhere. So if the Communist Party in the United States was taking a line in regard to blacks: the line was the Moscow line. No Jews were responsible for that.
That is absolutely wrong, I am sure, a great ignorance of the fundamental features of the world believe in. They told George “That is the line.” “Well,” he said, “I’ll take my own line.” And he left them. And so he came to London and joined the International African Friends of Ethiopia. He was very valuable. But the time came when Ethiopia was very obviously under the control of Italy. For the time being the society didn’t t have very much to do and George Padmore formed the International African Service Bureau. That was the only movement in existence that fought, agitated, and organized for the independence of Africa. That was the Pan-Africanist movement formed in 1935. There was no other that we knew about. DuBois was not doing anything about it except writing now and then. But that movement was the movement for the independence of African people. Garvey was finished about that time. It was a very peculiar movement. There were not many African, not many black people or people of African descent in Britain. There were for the most part about 10 of us, and peculiarly enough, I may talk about that next time, if you ask me, most of us were West Indians. And there we were, talking about the independence of Africa, organizing for the independence of Africa, writing books and getting them published, writing pamphlets and constantly going to meetings, holding meetings. And most of the people who were there, looked upon us as well meaning but politically illiterate West Indians. “Independence of Africa.” What kind of nonsense was that. Of course Britain was going to give Africa Independence but in a 100 years or so. But to talk about something recent like that was really not reasonable. George Padmore founded a paper and I was the editor. But he was the leader of the movement and we never quarreled, I continued with my Trotskyism, and George was head of the movement, a man of political tenacity and a one-sided attitude toward what he was doing. I have not seen his equal anywhere else. I have heard of one or two others. But he was the most dedicated, the most devoted political leader you could think of. And what he was thinking about was the independence of Africa, including the colonial countries. Now to go into what we did. We agitated, we wrote books, we wrote pamphlets, we had meetings, etc.
Now I want to speak about two people. I will speak about Jomo Kenyatta. At the time, and even today, he was not very bright. But he was a devoted African nationalist. You could depend on Kenyatta at any time. If anything came up that was concerned with African nationalism against the nationalist imperialists, Kenyatta could be depended upon. He could understand, he could not understand, he always voted against. And such men are valued, I assure you. There were one or two other members of the organization of whom I should speak. One was Padmore’s wife, Dorothy. She was an English woman, an educated person, she knew both French and German and was very familiar with Marxism, and history and so forth. And she was tireless in the support of George. Not only in support of the work he had to do, helping with typing, etc., but the number of people who filled up the house and who Dorothy fed, talked to, educated them. That was her work. She died the other day and nobody has ever said a word about her. I am writing some memoirs of George Padmore and I intend to spend a page or two on Dorothy and what she did. The other person was a man now living in Kenya, called Dr. Makkonnen. This was not a doctor who could write a prescription for me. His name was not really Makkonnen but that was a name that he assumed after the Ethiopian business and whether he is a doctor of medicine or a doctor of philosophy, I don’t know, but he was a member of our organisation and “Mak” was absolutely tireless and did everything required. He was a very valuable man. If we wanted a meeting, we talked about the meeting, about the hall and everything and then said, “’Mak’ what about it?” and “Mak” would arrange everything. ‘Mak’ would get the hall, ‘Mak’ would get the pamphlets, ‘Mak’ would do everything. And after everything was in order, ‘Mak’ seemed happy to sit in the front and hear me or Padmore on the platform. And I remember seeing his face, smiling, happy that we were doing well. We rented a big building in Grove, upstairs about 8 to 10 rooms. We paid the rent. How, I don’t know, believe me. If I heard today that ‘Mak’ had some means of making money that could not be distinguished by the police I wouldn’t say no because ‘Mak’ got the money. We were never thrown out. We always had money for what we wanted to do and ‘Mak’ brought it. Some of us brought some money, but ‘Mak’ could be depended upon in a crisis. When the rent was due, ‘Mak’ would say, “I’ll see what I can do.” and he always was able to do it. I used to suffer from stomach ulcers and ‘Mak’ would look at me and say, “You are not looking well, I know what you need.” And he would cook some fish for me in the West Indian style. And it put me right. And that is the kind of person ‘Mak’ was. He is today in Kenya. I don’t know if he is doing very well. He worked with Nkrumah in Ghana. He was an absolutely indispensible person. And these are two personalities, Dorothy Padmore, George’s wife, and Makkonnen, the organizer, who were absolutely necessary and indispensable for our organization. But we were alone. There were only eight or ten or us. There were no people. But we kept on writing. We published books. I published two or three. George published two or three. We published a number of pamphlets and we published this paper I was editor of until I left. But everybody knew us, we were at every meeting, we passed resolutions and so forth. But something happened which lifted the organization to an important place that it didn’t suspect. President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill met together and made a statement that after the war the colonial territories of Britain would be given independence. Mr. Roosevelt didn’t have any colonies because where the United States was in charge they didn’t call it a colony, they called it a territory. So the Virgin Islands were a territory and that was different. So they signed the statement. There was an organization in Britain, a very militant organization called WASU, west African Students Union, and I used to go down there and speak quite a lot. And WASU decided to ask Mr. Churchill, formally and officially, if when he talked about independence for the colonies, he meant West Africa. So Mr. Churchill said Yes, he meant West Africa. But he sent Major Atlee down to make them understand that when he said immediately he meant immediately for everybody, but not immediately for Africa, that would take a little time. So there was a great disturbance. People began to say, “Why don’t you mean what you say?” So after the war the British decided that they would get a lot of Africans from Africa and they got a whole lot of them and I will read you something that was said about them afterwards. They brought them from Africa to Oxford for a conference to explain to them that immediate independence referred to independence immediately but not quite at once. It will take a little time. So they had this conference at Oxford. And there was Padmore in England with his poor organization. And a lot of these Africans were living alone in England, paid for by the British Government, fed and organized by the British government.
So Padmore decided to hold a conference in Manchester. He invited them all up and they came. By himself he could never have had that conference. If he didn’t have that organization he couldn’t have held that conference. So he had dozens of them up to Manchester and there was a very famous conference. At that conference there was Kenyatta, there was Nkrumah, and there was laid down at this conference the policy which Nkrumah carried out afterward in the Gold Coast. Now I have to tell you how Nkrumah got in touch with Padmore and how that organization came to have these two men together. I was in the United States in 1941 and a member of my political organization came to me and told me:
“There is a young African here and he says be would like to see you.” I said, “Well, why should he say he would like to see me.” “Well, I told him about you and he has read your book and I told him I could take him to see you and he said his name is Francis Nkrumah.”
So Nkrumah turned up, very neat, very graceful, very assured, he always has been, and we got together and we got to be friendly. And he spent two years with us. We used to go down to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, he would come up to New York and spend some time with us. We were very close until in 1943 he said he was going to England to study law and I wrote a letter, a letter that is famous in our annals. I said, “Dear George, there is a young African coming to England to study law. He is not very bright, but nevertheless he is determined to throw the imperialists out of Africa. Do what you can for him.” George met him at Waterlee station and there began that combination. Now, why did I say that he was not very bright? Nkrumah used to talk about surplus value, capital instead of commodities. He had picked up these from some superficial quarters. He did not understand them really. About two years afterwards I saw Nkrumah and had read an article that he had written on Imperialism. He had learned from Padmore’s extensive library and all sorts of papers and clippings. It was fully organized particularly in regard to the colonial policies of the African powers.
And Nkrumah was able to learn and was educated a great deal by Padmore. In addition to that, Nkrumah brought much creative energy and knowledge of Africa and instinctive political development which fortified Padmore and the two of them became a tremendous power together in the movement. Well in 1947, Nkrumah went back to Ghana and there I am going to speak of two things in regard to the development of colonial Africa, I will leave South Africa for next time. But I am going to speak first of all tonight of the Gold Coast and on the other side Kenya. Nkrumah went to the Gold Coast and when he landed he said he wasn’t sure if they would let him land or not, But the man who was in charge, he said, “Hello, glad to see you.” He said he had been active in Britain and in France where people knew him. When he went there he knew no one, nobody had any idea of him, he had to begin from the bottom. But Nkrumah began and the struggle in the Gold Coast was a political struggle of the western type. Because the Gold Coast has got three areas. There is the coast itself which is very western, everybody speaks English although he may speak a native language. Then there is Ashanti and then beyond Ashanti there is another modern area in the north. And Nkrumah went there and began to organize on the coast and he built a movement. Now the Convention Party was a party of the African intellectual, the African elite. In all these colonial territories there is always a native elite and the more backward the territory the more elitist the elite. These people were there to form a party and they had sent for Nkrumah to come to organize their Convention Party. They were busy with law and medicine and so forth. So in Nkrumah they wanted someone to organize the party, they weren’t going to leave it to anyone to organize a political party and Nkrumah came and he organized the party and what he did is something I will refer to, so please do not let me forget this. He built a party from the ground up. Nkrumah went all over the Gold Coast, to the country people and in the towns, building the party, let people know that a political party was for self government. Everybody in the Gold Coast was for self government, everybody. Nkrumah added one more word, “now” – “Self Government Now.” And that upset everyone, because the idea of “Self Government Now” meant that you were going straight at it. Self Government sometime or another meant that you could perhaps make a manoeuvre and Nkrumah didn’t negotiate – he mobilized the population for Self Government now. Now I have to tell you something about what happened to the Gold Coast people, unfortunately, it is very difficult for me to speak about the African revolution in the way that they ought to be spoken about. One thing that I have to tell you is that Nkrumah went to jail and he won an election. I think the vote was 23,000 against 700. Yes, Nkrumah received 22,780 out of a total of 23,132 votes. So that convinced even the British that he had some support. Now, what are you going to do, how are you going to govern the country. They had to take him out of jail and make a leader of him because they couldn’t govern the country otherwise. The same thing happened with Jomo Kenyatta. They put Kenyatta in jail, they put him away for six years and when they took him out they told him he was not to come near Nairobi. He was kept outside, but they had him in because they couldn’t govern. When a population decides that they don’t want you to govern then you cannot govern them anymore – it is absolutely impossible. That is what they found. These populations may not be able to read but once they get something in their heads... The British people made one big mistake and they won’t do that again. They would take somebody they wanted to get rid of and put him in jail. They should have made him political leader and their representative. Then he would have disgraced himself soon enough. But once they put him in jail, then the public says, “That is my choice.” So they took Nkrumah out of jail and made him leader of the government.
Now I want to tell you they put Kenyatta in jail, they had to take him out; they put Nkrumah in jail, they had to take him out. I am emphasizing that because it shows the tremendous influence that the mass of the population had on the winning of independence. You can’t read that in books and it is very difficult to write it but you will have to bear it in mind. It will sound as if all the politics is going on above and the mass of the population simply acquiesced. Well, that was not so – the mass of the population was making its presence felt. And there is one notable example of that.
It took place at Saltpond, Ghana, sometime in 1949. Nkrumah had gone there in 1947 and he had built up the party, the Convention Party. He was the secretary of the Convention Party. But he had his own people in the party. He had built up a youth movement. So there was a conference at Saltpond and there was a conference that met to decide what would happen to Nkrumah and what was going to happen to the youth movement. Well, they were uncertain, there was a lot of back and forth at the conference and, in addition to the hundreds of delegates, there were thousands of people outside who were coming to hear what was going on because it interested them. So they wanted to dismiss Nkrumah from the post of secretary and an old chief said no, he didn’t think that should be done. They should appoint a committee to go and talk it over and see what should be done, and they appointed a committee, consisting of a chief and an educated African, named Ginn, as far as I remember, and they went and discussed. And Nkrumah agreed more or less to a policy which would enable him to remain in as secretary but he was not to have the influence over the general movement that he had had. And Nkrumah agreed. It seemed to him that there was nothing else to be done. He went to the conference and there the people inside the conference started to make opposition and to make proposals and to object and the people outside, Ginn told me this himself and Nkrumah told me afterwards, called Nkrumah out – they had heard what was going on. Nkrumah came out. And they told him, “You resign; You leave those people in there.” And Nkrumah wrote the resignation on the back of one of the persons who bent before him on a piece of paper given to him and he sent it in to them and said, “I am not coming back.” That is the way that the Convention People’s Party began. Because he did not want to get away entirely from ‘convention’ so they had the ‘convention’ and he formed the Convention People’s Party. And that was Nkrumah’s party. That was the way the party was formed. I want you to understand, not only did the people have a tremendous influence on the attitude that the government had to the political leaders as can be seen in that they had to be taken from jail to rule, but they actually intervened in political affairs and on the great occasion which was the formation of the CPP they called Nkrumah to come out of there, leave those people, send in your resignation, and he wrote it that and sent it in. Let us not forget that the African people played a role, a role that they are still playing. So Nkrumah had this political party, the CPP, he had the youth, he had a lot of young people with him, they were called the Verandah Boys because they were not supposed to have beds inside with all sorts of mosquito nets and so forth, but they slept on the verandah or they went outside in the yard. Now they started to negotiate with the government and they decided they wanted to have a meeting to decide on the constitution, an assembly. So the Governor said you cannot have a constitutional assembly, we are going to appoint some Africans who will tell you the kind of constitution you can have. And Nkrumah said, “No,” we will decide about a constitutional assembly. “You don’t have to have a constitutional assembly, I will hold a constitutional assembly.” And he held his own constitutional assembly. There were at the time something like 70 organizations on the Gold Coast, political organizations, aborigine organizations, cricket organizations, whist organizations, all sorts of organizations. All 70 of them came to the assembly except for one. And Nkrumah said, “Everybody is for us, the Governor doesn’t know what to say.” But at the same time the trade unions were carrying on a strike for trade union rights and Nkrumah invited them to the assembly, they passed all the resolutions and he called for positive action. Positive action was his name for what we knew as a general strike. The whole country faced the government, everything stopped dead. The trade union movement, the civil service, everybody. So the Governor had only one policy to do – he put them in jail, put the leaders in jail. However, he left out some and they were busy organizing. And then the municipal election took place and the CPP got 58,858 votes and the supporters got 5,570. Now in eastern Europe they have elections, they put up one candidate and he gets 98% of the votes. He hasn’t defeated anybody. I am waiting for the day when one gets 110%. But this is a genuine victory, 58,000 votes against 5,000 and Nkrumah himself got 22,780 out of a total or 23,000 votes cast, So the British government was persuaded that it had to do something and the only thing it knew was to take Nkrumah out of jail and make him head of government business. And that was in 1953. Now from 1953 until 1957, Nkrumah and Clark, and when Nkrumah got independence in 1957 he dismissed Clark and sent him back, but before he sent him back he made a speech. He said, “If I am to write what took place between 1953 when I came out of prison and the present time when we have independence I doubt if I would find any publisher able to publish it.” Because there was real fighting and intrigue, to squash him, to beat him down, but he managed to survive and come out victorious. And there is a story about that. Because George Padmore and his wife, Dorothy, told me and made it clear to Francis that he should have gone to independence almost at once, I know that, and in 1957 I asked him, “Well, what do you think about it?” He said, “Well, frankly, I don’t know. I could have gone to independence without a doubt. Nobody could have stopped me. They couldn’t have done anything, but I was uncertain of what would happen because I thought that the commissioners of police and the men in charge of the various areas, they would all have gone, and the government would have collapsed and up to now I don’t know whether I did right or wrong.” I didn’t tell him anything because you don’t go around telling people who have different situations to decide and up to some years later they don’t know whether they decided right or wrong. But I think that he made a mistake and part of the degeneration of his government was due to that period of ‘53 to ‘58 when he manoeuvered with the British government and the ministers lost the revolutionary drive which had got them into power and which they could have carried on. Padmore insisted that they should go on, but he said “no,” and they didn’t. I don’t think they would have collapsed. I only found that out afterwards, because in Guinea, the French wrecked the whole country when they left, in the beginning when they became independent there was nothing to speak of in Guinea, but they managed to hold on together. And Nkrumah would have held on and his government would not have degenerated the way it did. But it was independent in 1957. And I am going to spend sometime speaking about Kenya, but would like to say something here. That Nkrumah became independent in the Gold Coast under the name of Ghana in 1957, and he and Padmore and I sat down and talked. We had been talking a lot about independence for Africa but if anyone had told us that by 1967 there would have been, at least 30 new African states and there would have been at least 100 million African people who would have gained political independence, we would have said – “That is a dangerous man. He has been sent by the British government to stimulate the people to act in such a way as to smash them down because it is madness to believe that you will have 30 new African states within ten years. What kind of nonsense is that? But he would have been right. We would have been wrong. Because by 1967 there were over 30 new African states and 100 million people had become politically free. This went with a speed and a range that I don’t know with any other political organization. What happened in Africa between ‘57 and ‘67 was not to be believed. It was far beyond all we thought possible. It just happened like that, one after another they went. So we have to remember that in a country like the Gold Coast it took a certain form, a certain political form. Nkrumah built a political party, he had a newspaper, he had political organizers, he challenged the government, he called a general strike, he was put in prison, he won an election and came out with the enormous figures by which he defeated his opponent.. That was a definite political struggle. When we go to the other side of Africa, we have something entirely different and this will give you the two different types of political independence that were won in Africa. I want to go over to Kenya. Now Kenya was quite different from the Gold Coast. People like to tell you that the African fighting for his independence had always fought for land. That was not true. In West Africa, Nkrumah did not fight for land because the whites did not own land in West Africa. It was a political struggle for political independence, to get rid of the imperialists. But that was not the same kind of struggle that took place in Kenya. In Kenya you had some highlands and up there the climate was good and was not too different from the European climate, the territory was good and you could plant coffee. You had a political power that taught you that the Africans were not intelligent enough to plant coffee properly so you prohibited him and you concentrated the coffee on your land. And there was a built-in European section of the population, the only European section of an African population, an acceptance of Africa, which is something new. The white man in South Africa feels that he is part of that, he has lived there for hundreds of years, he is fond of the language and he believes he is part of the landscape, he is part of the territory. But nowhere else in Africa were any white settlers able to establish themselves except in Kenya on the highlands where the white people established themselves. They came from Britain. After World War I some of them who had fought in the war and had helped Britain were rewarded and given land in Kenya. Some South Africans came up from South Africa and established themselves on the plateaus and you had a white population in Kenya. Well, this went on for some time and the Kenya people were taught Christianity, a few of them were taught democracy. Some of them went abroad to be educated, not many but one by one. And they came back. And the result was that white people were firmly established in Kenya which has been British only since the beginning of the 20th century. So by 1950 Kenya, then, presented a spectacle very different from any other colony in Africa. There was this white population constantly increasing and they were saying that they ought to be free of the British Colonial Office, they ought to be given independence because they could govern themselves. These Africans could in time, a generation or two, by degrees, they could do it. And everything looked fine. And everybody agreed that that was what it ought to be except the African himself. And after a time, about 1950, they broke away, they could not do it as it was done in the Gold Coast. They formed an army and they went into the forest and raided from outside and those who were outside got together and would strike political blows when they could. They struck political blows at the whites, but they struck more political blows at the blacks who were supporting the regime, who were the Loyalists. So this civil war took place. There was never any civil war in Ghana. But there was a definite civil war in Kenya. Generals China, Kimathi and the rest of them had their armies in the forests and they fought the British troops. And the British sent out regiment after regiment properly armed, with helicopters, airplanes, etc., bombing their people and they fought a battle to the finish. And what is to be noted is that the black army in the forest was defeated. After a number of years they could not go on anymore. They were unable to have communication with each other and the British forces in the country didn’t have control. It was very difficult to have control of people who are in the forest. But they were unable to take action in the way that they wanted. Furthermore, the British caught some 50,000 Kenyan people and put them in concentration camps and began to examine their health because they found that they were deficient, some form of insanity, and they put them in there together and they got a lot of doctors, neurologists, psychologists, to examine them because the Africans could not understand that the British were there for the benefit of the Africans themselves. They put them together, they had defeated them in the forests and they had 50,000 of them put away in concentration camps being examined by psychologists and neurologists because of this insanity – their incapacity to understand the British were there actually for their benefit and they should be glad. The Africans could not see it. The British used to promise some of them, “If you agree that the thing is as we say it is, we will let you go.” Some went out and when they got home the disease got them again. But there were some who were worse and could not be cured at all and they would remain. So this is what happened. The British found that they had put them in prison outside the forest, they had practically defeated the army but they couldn’t govern the country. What to do?
Now there took place a series of events which I don’t have time to show you in detail, maybe someone will do it for me. The Colonial Secretary would form a constitution, they would discuss the constitution in Kenya and in the British House of Commons and then in the House of Lords, that this is the proper constitution by which the Kenyan people should be governed. They would send it to Kenya, the Kenyan people would say, “No.” Well, they would consider the question. They would make another constitution, the Kenyan people would say, “No.” They kept on making these constitution s, the Kenyan people kept rejecting them until, ultimately, they had to give them independence. And that was the end of the attempt of the whites in Kenya to establish the white settlers group in Kenya, the only attempt they have been able to manage. There are whites all about who have the power still and we will come to that tomorrow. But this attempt to form some part of the population who are white was defeated. It was defeated not as in the Gold Coast by political means – it was impossible to have a political demonstration. These fellows were in charge of everything, they had won everything, they had locked up the fighters, they had defeated the army, they had caught them, they had killed them, and yet they couldn’t govern. Independence was won in Kenya by a civil way. Independence was won in Ghana by political struggles which bought Nkrumah out of jai l ultimately. Now I have one thing to show you. I have a letter here by Mr. Creech-Jones. Now it appears, in 1963 I think, that I may have written or somebody may have written an article speaking about the Manchester Conference and what the Manchester Conference did. Because it was from the Manchester Conference that Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta and various others went back to Africa and began the struggles for independence which ended as they did. So I want you to read Mr. Creech-Jones’ letter, understand what happened in Kenya, it was a civil war to the end. That Nkrumah was put into jail with the other leaders and it was after this tremendous vote that the British took him out and for five years they fought him until he finally gained independence. So Mr. Creech-Jones’ letter is worthwhile. He said:
“I was a member of the post-war Labor Cabinet and therefore was Interested in your leading article on African Nationalism on August 24. The great political revolution overseas, except in the case of India, has little place in the memoirs of my former Cabinet colleagues, and Padmore’s record of the Manchester African Congress of October,1945 may give the Conference greater significance than the Labor Government gave it. The Labor Government gave it no significance at all, absolutely none.
Now he goes on to say, and this is typical of what is taking place today:
“But, for the record, it is well to point out that at the beginning of the Second World War the Colonial Office was studying the Royal Commissions’ Report on the West Indies, the Hailey Survey of Africa, the problem of colonial development and welfare, and the Palestine issue. At the beginning of the war they were thinking about it. During the war, too, it worked, with a depleted staff, on colonial post-war staffing, higher education, and certain constitutional work, in addition to the colonial contribution to the war effort.”
Now you realize what happened in the Gold Coast and what happened in Kenya was typical of what took place all over the British colonial territory. Creech-Jones is lying with a straight face. When the Labour Government took office there had been for some years a Party Executive Committee concerned with Imperial and colonial matters. And since 1933 to 1940 the Fabian Colonial Bureau had been at work shaping a constructive policy for the colonies. A constructive policy to put colonial leaders in jail.
“It did not require the impetus of the Pan-African Congress or the demand for Indian freedom to induce the Labour Ministers at the Colonial Office in 1945 to delve ahead with political, social and economic changes in the colonies.”
Now that is a terrific lie. The Labour Government comes, into power in 1945. 1947 Nkrumah goes there, 1951 Nkrumah goes to jail, Kenya fights a civil war. And General Kimathi is caught and shot and General China remains and today is free but everybody calls him General Chanu. And this fellow says that it did not require the impetus of the Pan-African Congress or the demand for Indian freedom to induce the Labour Ministers at the Colonial office in 1945 to drive ahead with political, social, and economic changes in the colonies. This is absolutely untrue.
And that is what they write and that is what they teach the young people in Britain today and what they teach young Africans if the politicians are not sharp enough.. “We already had plans and projects for consultation with the colonial governments.” Most untrue. “We hardly noticed in shaping policy the Manchester Congress.” They hardly noticed it, they never noticed it until the people of the Gold Coast and the people of Kenya made them understand that those who had formed the Manchester Conference were in Africa waiting to form a new Africa. That is when they noticed it. And listen to this! “Though the individual members of the Congress were soon to matter in their own respective countries (as if that only happened by accident) it was our liberal thought and constructive ideas which shaped Labour’s activity in the Colonial Office.” Every sentence is a lie. “Time was ripe for change as a result of the impact of way, the new international spirit and the spread of nationalism. Public interest, however, was still at a low ebb because of the preoccupation at home with the national economy and the restoration of peace conditions.” Public interest was not at a low ebb in Kenya, there was a civil war. It was not at a low ebb in the Gold Coast, Nkrumah had to be put in jail and win an election by 23,000 votes to 700. And he said: “Public interest is at a low ebb.” And that is why in Britain they were not concerned with the Manchester conference. We went for it nevertheless. You know you have to be a minister to be able to lie like that. We went forward, nevertheless, with the devolution of authority from London and the giving of greater responsibl1ity to the colonies. They gave greater responsibility to Kenya and Kenya rejected it constantly. So in the end they had to give up altogether. “Now, thus began the crowded plans for progress in the colonies. In spite of all limited resources of men, materials and finance we launched a revolution of change.” The only revolution of change in the British government was the one that Mr. MacMilllan launched. He went to South Africa and talked about the wind of change.” “We launched a revolution of change from which the delegates from Manchester were able in their own countries late-on carry out rapid development.” That is a lie. Now I have to spend some time on one minister. He was the colonial minister who did these things. He was one of the leaders of the Conservative Party – McLeod. Some years ago he was speaking at Cambridge University and was able to say something which he had wanted to say for some time and which needed saying. He said:
“Some people say that we gave the Africans independence early, and some say that we hadn’t trained them sufficiently in order to give them independence. But I want to say, I was the minister responsible, and we had to give it to them because we either had to give it to them or shoot them down. And we couldn’t shoot down all the people so we gave them independence.”
But this fellow was saying how the Labour Party had initiated change and as a result those persons at the Machester Conference had gone home and gained power in their respective countries because they had carried out the policy of the Labour Party. That was not so. They gained power in their territories because they had carried out the policies of the Manchester Conference and to this day George Padmore is known as the founder of African independence, and that is a title that he deserves. And I have said it and will say it again, that such names as Lord Lugard and Marshal Lyautey, the Frenchmen, and such like are being heard less and less in Africa and above all you are hearing more and more the name of George Padmore who organized and initiated the Manchester Conference from which sprang the peoples who led Africa, to independence within a few years.
Transcript of speech given on November 21, 1973.
In some respects the descent has been equally as rapid or perhaps more rapid than the ascent of political independence. That we have to examine and I will give you some ideas about this and that. I could deal with what has appeared in Africa, the Arusha Declaration, related documents and ideas, and the stand that has recently been taken by President Kaunda of Zambia, and show that we understand what Nyerere is doing and follow him along. I will begin with a paragraph from the Black Jacobins (p. 265). so that you can understand that is the spirit in which we worked, the spirit which was embodied in the Manchester conference, the spirit in which everyone who left the conference, including those who organized it, went to Africa to do their business. This was what we had in mind and this was written in 1938. Nothing had appeared then. It speaks about Toussaint sending millions of francs to the United States in order to prepare for an expedition to Africa where he could make millions of Africans “free and French.”
And I asked, “What spirit was it that moved him? Ideas do not fall from heaven. The great revolution had propelled him out of his humble joys and obscure destiny, and the trumpets of its heroic period rang over in his ears. In him, born a slave and the leader of the slaves, the concrete realizations of liberty, equality, and fraternity was the womb of ideas and the springs of power, which overflowed their narrow environment and embraced the whole of the world. But for the revolution, this extraordinary man and his band of gifted associates would have lived their lives as slaves, serving the commonplace creatures who owned them, standing barefooted and in rags to watch inflated little governors and mediocre officials from Europe pass by, as many a talented African stands in Africa today.”
Now that was written in 1938 and that is the way we approached the situation. And what is very curious is that there were very few people thinking in those days. There were very few Africans who were thinking in those days. And I remember at a meeting George Padmore saying, without hostility or bitterness, that many times the work that he and we were trying to do was opposed by many of the very people who were seeking to unloose from the chains which held them. So that is the spirit in which we approached it. And last night I told you that the rapidity with which some 30 or more African states became independent after 1957 was something which none of us suspected or would have believed. We would have thought it dangerous if somebody had put that idea forward. But in 1963, while on the one hand these tremendous developments were taking place, the African states began to descend, and I am going to read for you some statements from 1963, 1964 and 1965. I wouldn’t bother with 1966 and 1967 although they are worth it.
1963, January 13: Assassination of President Olympio of Togo by the military. August 12-15: Overthrow of President Youlou of Congo (Brazzaville) October 19-28: General strike and demonstrations against President Maga of Dahomey, coup d’état led by Colonel Soglo. December 3: Attempted military coup in Niger failed to overthrow President Diori.
Now that is month after month, that is what has been happening every year from 1963. I will read 1964. It is a moderate year. Moderate in disasters. Only 4. January 12: Popular armed uprising, overthrow of the government of Zanzibar. January 20-24: Military mutinies in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. February 18: Military group overthrew President Leon M’Ba of Gabon. November 22: Imperialist attack on Stanleyville and temporary defeat of popular forces. Same thing in 1965. Same thing in 1966. Same thing in 1967. 1967 perhaps is worse. January 13, January 24, March 22. March 24, April 17, December 16, 17, 22. That is the state of Africa since 1963. And I can tell you something about 1968 in which my reaction was very positive. I was in Makerere and everybody was telling me, “Well, you know people in Kenya you know so and so, it is very easy to go there. You will fly and in a few minutes you can go to Nairobi.” So I said I wasn’t going. They found that strange because I knew people there. I said that was why I was not going. And I wouldn’t go and the reason why I wouldn’t go is what happened recently. I was expecting that. A lot of people were expecting it but it would matter to me because if I went there the reporters would all come and the reporters are a great nuisance, especially if they know you, or if you know anybody. They will have met me “Oh, Mr. James, you know Mr. So and So, you know so and so, well, what do you think of what is happening?” And if I told them what I was thinking about what was happening they would have told me to get on the plane and go away at once. So I didn’t go. And what has happened is no surprise to me. For that matter it is no surprise to people in West Africa, and East Africa, they had been expecting it. Kenya was a powder keg and they are not finished yet. I was fairly familiar with the situation in France and I said, “Well, you can’t do much if there are only a few of you.” And I left France alone. I said I would gather material and fellow it closely because things will begin when that old man is dead. But the French people didn’t wait for the old man to be dead. They put him out while he was very much alive. So I looked at the situation and I was very much inclined to say the people in Kenya will wait until another old man is dead. But they haven’t waited. The Kenyatta government had to suspend the elections and suppress the opposition – always a bad sign. So I am trying to show you that this list of disasters and military coups and degeneration is something that has been characteristic of Africa from 1963 to the present day. Kenya is the latest of the uprising and declining. The state of all the African states is one of the features of the last ten years as the rise of the states to political independence was one of the features of the previous ten years. We have to deal with that and we will spend some time on it. Now first of all, there is nothing wrong with the African people. I begin from there. Where Dr. DuBois used to say that all the magnificent things he had done had originated from the fact that he thought the black man, the African, was a man of ordinary human intelligence and responses and would make an ordinary response to an ordinary situation and vice versa. He says that in everything, there was nothing else in his attitude that made him change and discover so many remarkable things in so many fields. And we must begin by noting that the African people had been under slavery for some two or three hundred years and then under colonialism for another hundred years. You don’t get out of that and slip into a normal society in ten years time. One has to began from there. This transference from a society dominated by certain sections of the population into a modern society with a development, etc. We have examples of it through the centuries. In England it culminated in the military dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell. Now I believe Oliver was a great man, but the fact remained he couldn’t help it and it ended in military dictatorship. In France a few years after 1789, it ended in the military dictatorship of Napoleon. In Russia it ended in the dictatorship of a man who in the end called himself Marshal Stalin. In China it was a military dictatorship from the beginning. In Cuba, which is a revolution which I very much respect, it was a military dictatorship that fought the revolution. So when you see these things taking place in Africa, there are no tears about the unfortunate Africans, they do not know, they do not understand. What is taking place in Africa is a normal development and in my opinion, in some respects, it is a very creditable and helpful development because those who won power and won independence thought, obviously, that they were in for some time. What has happened is that the people soon showed that they were expecting something from independence which these people were not giving. And the result was that it was very easy to overthrow them. But I have made my opinion clear and I have been watching this African situation closely for the last 30 years. If those military dictatorships do not satisfy the desires that have been raised in the population, they will be overthrown. Africa faces a difficult period but one can hope that the people who won independence will in time bring some sort of political stability. They are not going to the military dictatorships, because they are military dictatorships. The point is, to govern Africa today you have to govern a people whom the British imperialists did not have to govern. After the people of Kenya has fought for their independence and the people of West Africa had fought for their independence and these victories had been won everywhere, the people who now have to be governed are very different from the docile people who it appeared the British and the French were ruling over. This was something entirely new and that they have not been able to manage it within a few years is no surprise to me. I have written before that it would have been remarkable if they had settled down immediately. Everybody is saying “Hooray,” now that Busia is in power in Ghana and is going to put a stop to corruption – I wish it were so, but we will see. I don’t mean that Busia is corrupt, not at all, but to stop the corruption, that is a political matter. And we have to see why these states have done the way that they have. Now let us look at the average African state. You must remember that the British and the French attempted, crudely, but they have managed it pretty well. The British did not allow an African state to develop. When they saw that the situation was ripe, they said to the French, well, they said, “You come and rule and take over this government.” And they sent the Princess, or the Princess Royal or the Duke or somebody with his little piece of paper and he said, “Well, here is independence, here is a wonderful new flag.” They played God Save the King and the new national anthem and everything is new and this fellow is in charge. But be is in charge of a British imperialist colonial t government which was constructed for British imperialist purposes and not for the purpose of governing an African population. So the thing started that way. I have listened to Dr. Banda on television and speaking to the people. He speaks in English and somebody translates. And the governments of all these territories are imperialistic European-type governments. These fellows have just come in and are seeking to administer, black people are administering, the old imperialistic government, the laws that they make, parlimentary procedure, that is what they are doing. And it is not working. They have to work out something of their own. What is the old African state from which independence was gained? There was the colonial government, a government, is extremely important in any underdeveloped country. I mean the government has power beyond belief. In. Britain, there is Oxford, there is Cambridge, there is Eton, there is Harrow, there are a whole lot of schools, a whole lot of universities. The government gives the money and it pays some fees for students. But those scholastic establishments are independent. Even in the United States, these establishments are independent. For the university is a good one for begging for money, not only from the government, but from all sorts of people. But in an underdeveloped country this is not so. Any kind of secondary school, any kind of university college, any kind of teacher, if it is the government that establishes it, then the government pays. So that the government is in charge of everything. No other modern government has the power that the most democratic, liberal-minded of governments in an underdeveloped country has. They rule everything. And some body comes in to establish this kind of business, he has to ask the government for authority. In the old days, you didn’t have to ask the government so much, the British government let you go, but today every single aspect of social, political or educational life is governed by those who are in charge of the government. Which makes this struggle for the government such a fierce business Now who are the people who are interested in the struggle for government. They are descendents from the pre-independence days, some people, the director of this, the minister of that, he used to be a white man but he usually had a lot of black people around him and they were educated at the university college or an independent school, because the British and the French government needed educated black people because they couldn’t fill up the organization of the country with a lot of white people. These remained. Black people in the civil service, black people in the police force, not in the highest places but once you had independence with a tremendous fight and the British chose the one who was most effective, more revolutionary, and said, “You govern.” And he came in and took over the whole government. What he didn’t take over were the banks, the business firms, the organizations, etc. To this day, in many of these territories in Kenya, they have taken over nothing. In Kenya they have got that land back, the land that they fought about, that land on the plateau. But for the rest the people who rule in Kenya are typical of the new rulers in Africa. They have all the legal power, they may have a different name, etc., but that is all. They succeed to this type of government, they have some civil servants for the most part they have the police, they have the people who educate and so forth and they have some schools. But the mass of the population is not involved. The government is the same type of government that the British or French had from which the population is removed. So that in all these African countries you have an entirely new population, a population that has been stimulated to tremendous action and that meets a government that is very much like the old government except the people administering it are black. Because the old government had prestige, it could run to the British and ask for some money, it could run to the United States and ask for something, it could bring the Queen and have a big celebration and the Queen could say “Rise up and so and so.” But this government has no prestige. All they can do is beg for money and beg for people to start some industry. Now what industries could they start? Sometimes a local businessman will show some business acumen – he will start some beer. Beer seems to be something that the colonials can manage without difficulty. They go further. They make some gin. Then there is another fellow who will get about a hundred young kids together and he will make some shirts. But what he will demand is that if the shirts that come into the country cost about two or three dollars each, he will demand that his shirts, since he is giving employment to a hundred local people, he wants to sell his for three dollars and he wants an embargo put on the shirts that are coming in. He becomes a supporter of the government if the government puts an embargo on the other shirts and doesn’t let them come in. That is the kind of thing that is going on. Any serious change in the industrial structure of the country, there is none. But there is one serious change that takes place. Formerly, about ten years ago, the prices of the single commodities which most of these countries in Africa depend upon were at a certain height. Today they are far below. In fact, every African financier will tell you that if they had given them the prices which they had reason to expect would continue from 1954, 1955, ‘56, before independence began, they wouldn’t want any aid. Let them keep their aid. Just give us the prices which we should get and which we were getting when we were not independent, and we would be quite happy. We wouldn’t be doing too well, but we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in and we wouldn’t heed what you call aid; you are giving us aid, a small amount, and then taking away from us a substantial amount of commodities and so forth. Secondly, these countries want to advance themselves. They have to buy all sorts of mechanical and highly developed goods and the prices are going up. The advanced countries say “We can’t help it, the workers say we want another year of schooling, we want fringe benefits, and we have to raise the prices.” So the prices of the commodities are going down and the prices of the goods they need are going up and they have an old style government, which is an imperialist colonial government which they have to run and they are in constant trouble. Those governments are falling to pieces. There is something else that is taking place that is very important. There is the development of education and the development of education is the education of people who have certain qualifications and capacities to help advance the country. But the model of that education is the secondary education of the advanced countries. I am a product of that education and people who know Africa tell me that in the African schools, they are taught by people who are European educated, have a European outlook, who receive the same salaries the Europeans have. They are separated from the population by the very kind of education that they are getting. When they are sent abroad and they come back, they are worse than they were. So you have two sections of the population. You have some people who are carrying on this ancient government, who are being educated away from the population, who have the same difficulties, even greater difficulties, that the colonial governments had and who are separate from the population which now demands what the population obviously didn’t demand in the old days where there was the colonial system. That is the situation that we are in. And if you see that clearly, there is no reason to doubt that they are going down, and will continue to go down. That is a fact. Now there is something that is going on that shows you the scare these governments are in. They know that the people who put them in power, or whose indirect actions resulted in their being in power, don’t like the system that exists. When you were carrying on an activity under the colonial system you could always point to them and say they are responsible. And their system was the capitalist system. Every single African who opposed and wanted to establish political independence somehow talked about the capitalist system which was the source of capitalistic exploitation in the colonies. But when he comes into power, what about this capitalist system well, he can’t touch it. So he does something which is very strange. He paints it up as much as he can in red and he calls it African Socialism. It is the same system, I give you one example. There is a statement on African Socialism by an African government. “African Socialism must be flexible because the problem it will confront and the aspirations and desires of the people will change all the time, often quickly and substantially.” An irreproachable statement. A rigid doctrinaire system will have little chance for survival, everybody can agree. Now this is what the African Already knew. This was an official document. Number one, make progress toward ultimate objective. Two, solve more immediate problems with efficiency. Now since the days of Adam and Eve was there any government which was not involved with making progress toward ultimate objectives and solving all immediate problems with efficiency?
This is characteristic of African Socialism. And one by one they are falling to pieces. They can’t manage the situations that they face. And I saw that situation very clearly some years ago and I was very concerned about it. I didn’t know what to do. I could see it. I will tell you of my experience. I was in Makerere a year or two ago and I spoke on television and there I said quite comfortably and easily what I have written many times and what we have always said, that the African states were going from precipice to precipice and it didn’t seem as if there was anything which would stop them. So I said that and one Kenyan there said, “no.” So I told him, “Now look, you are where you are because the Kenyan people came out and they put you there and if you want to improve the situation in Kenya you will have to find them and they will send it further.” Next day things were changed. I was walking about in town and people came up and spoke to me, told me that they had heard me talk. Then I heard that people had called the television station and demanded that I come on again. All of them know that that is what has been happening to African state after African state. But no one has said so. And here I have come and said it and they heard it on television and all of them know that it is so. Now that is the situation. They call it African Socialism and it is a complete mess, there is no holding it together at all. There is no holding any African state together. But a year or two ago I read in a paper the Arusha Declaration. I read it and I read one or two of the things about it and I said to myself this is remarkable. Anyway, I have known come other remarkable political declarations which ended in remarkable disasters. I have to go to Tanzania, or people I know have to go to Tanzania and see what is taking place and report, to me. Otherwise, I have nothing to say.And I kept my mouth shut. The opportunity arrived for me to go to Tanzania. I spent eight or ten days there. I talked to a lot of people, I travelled about a lot I had an interview with Nyerere and I am satisfied that what they are doing is something entirely new, not only for Africa but in the political systems of the world that we have known. Nothing like it has appeared since Lenin died in 1924. And I am going to spend quite a bit of time talking about Tanzania. And when you look at the situation in Tanzania you will see that Nyerere has understood what has been the cause of the collapse of the other African states and knew that if he didn’t put blocks in the road of that he was going to go the same way. This is the reason why this has taken place.
Now the Arusha Declaration, Part V. He talks about the leadership. Now in 1964 there took place a military revolt in Tanzania, in Uganda and in Kenya. And the governments were not overthrown because Mr. MacMillan, having given his “Wind of Change” speech in South Africa seemed to be aware of changes. So when this thing happened, these fellows said, “Mr. MacMillan, we have just won independence from you and would like your soldiers to save our government,” and that is why they are there today. Nyerere is very much ashamed of it, but he said, because his people told him, “We can’t be dependent upon the fact that you can remain. You had better go.” He ran away and for two, three or four days could not be seen. But he realized what had happened and has introduced policies which strike at all the weaknesses of the colonial African state, all the weaknesses that have remained and we are going to go into that in some detail. Now first of all he nationalised them. He called them in one morning and said, “Boys, you are nationalized. We will discuss the details of how much we pay you later but you are nationalised.” That is one of the things I regret very much that I wasn’t there, to see. But this nationalization was not what we thought it was 20 or 30 years ago. I don’t know what is your opinion of the nature the East African and the East European states, but it is quite obvious today that nationalization of the economy can take place with the most disastrous results in regards to development of the population. And today we have seen in Peru that a right wing military dictatorship has nationalised American property and land, all of them controlled by the Americans. They have done that because it was needed and if they didn’t do it they were giving strength to the communist left wing the trade union people. So that the national right wing military dictatorship nationalize not only the local economy but parts of the economy that belonged to the Americans. That is a very serious business. So that although Nyerere has nationalized, and that is very good, he knows that it is not sufficient. The rest of what Nyerere has done are the important things. The most important in my opinion is the leadership. Now I have told you that the people who have succeeded to the leadership are members of the civil service, one or two doctors, lawyers, and people who are committed to the European method of thought, European education, European social organization, etc., and they are running the business in a manner that the Europeans, they felt, would have run it if they had remained and they were getting into more and more difficulties because of the difficult situation they faced and the temper of the new populations. So Nyerere has known that you will watch that everything he says doesn’t only come from a clever brain, but he is someone who is aware of what happened in Africa, in the African states, and knows that unless he takes the necessary steps it will happen to him.
Number One: “Every TANU and Government leader must be either a Peasant or a Worker.” Now that makes 15% of government people in every country absolutely excluded from the government. He does not want any business men in there at all. You must be either a peasant or a worker. And surely nobody associated with the practices of capitalism or feudalism. Now that could cause a revolution in 90% of the countries that exist in the world today. Number Two: “No TANU or Government leader should hold shares in any Company.” And if they propose that in the Caribbean, of course, there would be a revolution at once. In Britain and these other places, the ministers, when they are defeated in the political system, the Tories come in or the Labour Party comes in, when they go out they get shares and places in companies and so forth and they hold some of those places and receive money at times when they are actually members. Nyerere has seen that sort of thing going on in African states and he says that is going to ruin us because it is a small section of the population that does this. So he says we don’t want that at all. He goes on to say “No TANU or Government leader should hold Directorships in any privately owned enterprises.” These are very drastic statements. Now “No TANU or Government leader should own houses which he rents to others.” That might seem an ordinary statement. What happens is this. This fellow becomes a Minister of the Government, or well established in the parliament or whatever they have and he goes to the bank and says “I want to borrow ten or fifteen thousand pounds.” They give it to him. He goes to the local concrete people, and good carpenters, and so forth and he says “I want to build a house.” And they build him a fine house. And he knows a lot of people who want housing, so he rents this house, and with the money he can pay back the bank. So he has a source of income there. Having built one, he goes out, borrows some more money builds another. So these fellows can have 4 or 5 houses and after five years they are drawing rents all the time. That is what Nyerere is putting an end to. “No TANU or Government leader should own houses which he rents to others.” That is not a general statement, it is a particular statement in that it is the way these fellows behave all over Africa and which makes the competition for government positions so terrific. Because you have the opportunity to do all these things. Then point number six: “For the purposes of this Resolution, the term ‘leader’ should comprise the following (now look whom they call leaders): Members of the TANU National Executive Committee; Ministers, Members of Parliament, Senior Officials of Organizations affiliated to TANU,... all those appointed or elected under any clause of the TANU Constitution, councillors and Civil Servants in the high and middle cadres.” In other words, anybody who is any kind of political leader in the government or in any kind of organization connected with the government is prohibited from taking part in all these things that ministers and their friends usually take part in. And in this context ‘leader’ means a man, a man and his wife; or a woman and her husband.” So the people there are no longer representatives of the old style of people who ruled, whether they are white, or black – they have cleared that up completely. That is the Arusha Declaration. It is not an article, it is not a speech, it is a statement of position by the government and that is what the people have to learn to do. Now it isn’t easy to manage. This is an extremely difficult thing, but all the young people and those in the universities, etc., are being brought up with this as government policy, and Nyerere really hopes that in time a new generation will come up which will govern itself by these objectives he has given to them, a new perspective, and the other African states had none but to carry on as best they could. Now he talks about education and the new generation. Nov, the great source of corruption in these governments is education, and the education you get, according to the European or American system, and then you join the government and all of you become a separate class. And it really says quite clearly that one class of people in the state can exploit the other class. The people in the towns, the educated classes. Now, there are the few who go to secondary schools, are taken many miles away from their houses. They take you away to the secondary schools. You live in an enclave, You have to get their permission to go into the town for recreation but do not relate the work of town or country to your real life which is lived in the school compound. Later a few people go to the university. If they are lucky enough to enter Dar-es-Salaam University College they live in comfortable quarters, eat well, and study hard for their degree. When they have been successful in obtaining it they know immediately that they will receive a salary of something like 660 pounds per annum. This is what they have been aiming for. It is what they have been encouraged to aim for. They may also have the desire to serve the community but their idea of service is related to status and the salary which a university education is expected to confer upon its recipient. Those are the sources of the corruption of the African population and the African states. And Nyerere is determined to break that up. He says the salary and the status become a right automatically conferred by the degree. You have to know the colonial situation to know the importance of this, because the large majority of the population are illiterate. And those who get the education s it in the seats of power and really control everything and are separate from the rest of the population. And they have so much power and there is so much to be got. That is why they fight so desperately for it. And that is why Nyerere has been that he has to finish with that. And then he goes on to say, “It is wrong to criticize the young people for these attitudes. The new university graduate has spent the larger part of his life separated and apart from the masses of Tanzania.” That is gospel truth. In the Caribbean it is the same. His parents may be poor but he has never fully shared that poverty. The moment you go into secondary education you are at once removed and you live a different life and your aim is at something that separates you from the population, which substantially is an illiterate backward population. So, he says, his parents may be poor but he has never shared that poverty, he does not know what it is like to live as a poor peasant. He would be more at home in the world of the educated than he is among his own parents. Only during vacations has he spent time at home and even then he would often find that his parents and relatives support his own conception of his difference and regard it as wrong that he should live and work as the ordinary person that he really is. In one or two novels they have singled out certain persons as characteristic of certain types, but a clear analytical statement of the situation in a colonial country – I have not seen it anywhere. This is what happens. In the Caribbean it is happening and in African territories it is worse because the population is illiterate and backward and they are being educated to hold important positions in the government and they become a special class. And as Nyerere says, “They are exploiting the people.” And he wants to put an end to that. He says, “The third point is that our present system encourages the pupils in the idea that all knowledge which is worthwhile is acquired from books or from educated people. The knowledge and wisdom of old people is despised and they themselves regard it as being ignorant and of no account.” And he is trying to break up that situation. The real source of corruption in these colonies is the secondary school and those who enter higher education, for they form automatically a section of society which can only exploit the mass of the population. They are in such a situation that in order to help they must get paid for it. And whether or not their own parents give them this impression of status, etc. That is what he is against. This is why in regard to the secondary schools he says, “Thus when this scheme is in operation, the secondary school has got to make its own money.” He says, “They have to go and clear their own bush to build their own schools.” And when you hear as African say that they have to clear their own bush you know there is real bush in Africa. In Britain you have 15 or 20 elm trees, they put a fence round it and call it a forest. But Nyerere says, “You have to clear your own bush, you have to plant, you have to make money, and don’t expect any money from the government. The secondary school has got to make its own money, draw its profits and then decide what it is going to do.” He says, “Thus when this scheme is in operation, the revenue side of school accounts would not read as it does at present – grant from government., grant from voluntary agency or other charity. They would read – income from sale of cotton, value of the food grown and consumed, value of labour done by pupils on new building, repairs, equipment, etc. Government subvention, nil. Grant from government nothing.” You would be startled if you were told that you were going to secondary school and you have to go out and make some money and determine how the school will go by the amount of money you made. I have not read this anywhere. Rousseau is the man who has made the conception of the modern individual, but nowhere have I read in any place at all that the secondary school must become a school in which people make their own money and learn the kind of work and activity which is carried on by the mass of population. Otherwise, they will certainly be separated from them and will not be able to teach them what is required, because they are going to live an agricultural life for as far as they could see and these students must not learn what is required by the professional classes and must not learn what separates them from the rest of the population, the very education that they practise, the schools that they make: What they do in the schools must prepare them to educate the mass of the population. Otherwise this separation will take place and the whole thing will fall apart. I think that the most important thing that I can’t tell you about Nyerere is this. On the slopes of the Cavarando thereare some African families who have done pretty well. They have done what the British and the Americans and the Germans taught them – you have a piece of land, you have to work at it, you have to sell, you have to save your money up, then you employ some labour. And these fellows are very successful, the land is good, there is a lot of water and they have done extremely well. And what Nyerere says is that those people, we can’t be hard on them, but we don’t want the rest of the population to do what they have done because everybody told them, “That is what is required,” And they are now employing some labour, making some money, spreading their good, becoming more and more expansive in regard to the land, etc. He says, we don’t want that. He says, what we have to aim at is the extension and development of the old African family because the African lived in the old days, and to some extent and in many places still lives, an extended, cooperative form of life. He says that is what we have to do. If we follow the habits of the people in western Europe and so forth and try to build up that we will wreck this country and we will never be able to put it in any kind of order. And it is very important to know that two of the greatest politicians of the 20th century had the same idea.
Gandhi mobilized the peasant and if he had not been able to mobilize the peasant the British would have been in India up to today. It was the mobilization of the peasant, those millions of people who have been removed from politics for so many centuries, that was the greatest shock. The British couldn’t hold them in order. There were too many people involved. And then Gandhi used to say, “We have to take the peasant for what he is.” The peasant wears just a little shirt or something – Gandhi wore one! The peasant did not like any of them to deal with cows, but they got milk from the goat – Gandhi kept his goat and he milked the goat. The peasant wove the cloth he wore – Gandhi wove his own cloth. And he made it clear to everybody, and the peasant included, that their way of life was to be the foundation of the way of life. He made it absolutely clear, he said “Don’t attempt to make these Indian peasants into peasants as in the advanced countries, as in Europe, etc. Number one, you can’t do it, and in any case, take them for what they are.” A second man who had very clear ideas about the peasant was Lenin. Lenin believed that the Russian peasant could only be changed if the Russian economy was assisted by the economy of the advanced countries who had become socialistic, because otherwise they are what they are and we can’t leave them. So the two of them, different types of men were very clear as to what was to be done with the peasants. And I could show you how close Nyerere is to Lenin’s proposal. Now, that is the situation. That is what he is doing. He has not only nationalized, he has changed the political system completely, the social construction of people who are going to administer and take charge. He has made that into something new and altogether he is breaking up the aid system, the system which they have inherited, and which black people are trying to run and which is causing nothing but complete failure. Now I knew these fellows, I knew their limitations.
Fanon is much more severe, he made it perfectly clear that nothing could be settled in those African states unless the revolution was continued not only against the imperialists but against those who are going to succeed. That is what his book says. He says the revolution must go on. You cannot go on in this way and that is what Nyerere is doing. He is creating the elements of a new society. Some people complain to me and say, “Don’t you prefer that it should come from below?” I say, “Sure it would be better if it would come from below, but it has come, and we should take it as it is.” They have difficulties, sure they have difficulties but he has done splendidly. And Kaunda had followed him and I will read Kaunda.
“Now during the hazardous road to political independence we recognized the fact that Africa was going to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest battleground, for this century’s ideological battle. As is well know, the present day ideological differences are based on certain economic and political theories and practices. Putting it very simply, one would say, it was a question of who owned or controlled the means of creating and distributing the wealth in any given nation.”
This is a key point, now follow what he is saying. For if the distribution of wealth is not done properly, it might lead to the creation of classes in society and the much valued humanist approach that is traditional and inherent in our African society would have suffered a final blow. What he is saying is what Nyerere has been saying, the old African cooperative family structure is what we have to develop. We must not develop into some peasants who have done well and some who have not, or the whole structure is going to fall apart. It is very strange that very rapidly these African politicians, have seen it, they have to build on what is African, They have to build on the basic structure that these people have had for thousands of years. They cannot try to develop a peasant on the economic structure of western civilization. That is sure to cause trouble and they cannot do it properly. This is something new that has appeared and I found in Africa that people are watching them. And I was told by many people, “We don’t know whether Nyerere will succeed, but if Nyerere is successful, the other African states will follow because they don’t know where they are going, they are drifting along and if this is successful, they will go with it.”
This is what the situation is. Now, he says, if this thing happened to the world as a whole and Africa in particular, we would be all the poorer for it, for we would then have the “haves” and the “have nots.” That is what they are trying to prevent. They are trying to prevent a society building up the type of relation that exists in the advanced countries. They are not aiming at repetition of western society, they are hoping to build on the African basis and on what they have. Politically they would be creating room for opposing parties based on the oppressed and the oppressor concept which again would not be in keeping with the society described above, a society in which the chief, as an elected or appointed leader of the people, held national property like land in trust for the people and was fully aware that he was responsible to them. He knew, too, that continuing to be the head depended on his people’s will. Now there has been a lot of mischief caused by a lot of lies and nonsense. Lord Lugard went to East Africa and he made a lot of mischief in Kenya through something that we call “Dual Mandate.” It is one of the most glaring pieces of hypocrisy and nonsense that you could find in any historical development. There was no dual mandate. What he called a dual mandate was, the central government was the British government, but it was dual because the chief was allowed to govern the people in what was known as the traditional way. What happened was that the chief was a servant of the British government. It was not dual mandate. There was no mandate that the British government had and a mandate that the chief had. If the chief didn’t do what the British government wanted, that was the end of him. And that was very different from the old position of the chief. The old position of the chief in many African states was that he had to listen to what the people said, he had to satisfy them. If he didn’t satisfy them, they killed him and put his brother in his place. Some of these chief families remained for hundreds of years. They had to listen to the population, listen to the people, and if they were not satisfactory the people got together and said we have to get rid of that fellow. And they got rid of him and decided that his brother would take charge, his sister’s husband or whoever. But they got rid of him, finished up with him. He couldn’t go on. And he knew that was waiting if he didn’t go on properly. So many of these chiefs did pretty well and people insisted that was a form of democracy. That is what Nyerere and TANU are beginning to find out, to restore, the African family, and to understand that this special group of people who are educated, who become bureaucrats, they are the ones who must be separated, they must be educated so as to become part of the population and bring the knowledge that they have as part of the population which the majority of the people constitute. Now I hope you understand what a serious and important thing that is. Nothing like that has ever taken place in Africa anywhere. Nkrumah, it seemed at the beginning, hoped to do something of the kind, but he didn’t make these drastic changes in the economic and social structure that Nyerere has made, and it is my belief, I have talked to Nyerere, that he did it because he realized that unless these fundamental changes were made and the old structures and the ideas that the British and the French had left behind, unless these were completely cleared out and the people given another perspective, the degeneration of the African state was bound to continue. Now I am going to conclude by telling you what I showed to Nyerere and he said he didn’t know it. Now Lenin had to deal with a state, there were many distinguished writers, there were many learned people in Russia, but the fact remained that in Russia the majority of the population was a very backward people, backward and illiterate. Now a man came to London about three or four years ago and he told George Lamming that he wanted to see me, he was an American citizen, he was living in Ghana. He told me he wanted to edit a paper that would be of the standard of the Lebanon Economist, a very good paper, a reactionary as all of them are, but fairly good. So I told him yes. And I told him I don’t want to write for your paper, it is a government paper, and what I write they will not like. And he said that was not so, that Nkrumah had told him they had absolute freedom, I said, “Yes, absolute freedom for Nkrumah, but not for people like me.” So I went away, he came back again and he took me to lunch and he had some people around and said, “Well, Mr. James we want you, we have been told that you are the finest of the writers on Africa and colonial territories, we want you on our paper.” I told him, “Now look, I am not going to write about Africa, but I will write about Lenin and what he was saying about Russia which was in a situation, the first of the underdeveloped countries that had to make the transition to the modern society.” He said, “All right.” And I wrote and didn’t mention Africa once. They read it and said they didn’t want it. Because I stated there what Lenin was stating in the last years. And I think I will give you some idea of it and you will see how closely Nyerere’s ideas approximate to what Lenin was saying. Lenin wrote some articles, at least two or three, in the last months of his life, and one of them is an article on cooperation. And there he says, his last words to the party and people of Russia and I am going to read them to you. “Two main tasks confront us which constitute the epoch.” There is not misunderstanding. In that sentence of six or seven words he is talking about what is essential to the w hole development. Now what arc these two main tasks. I will give you fifty chances, you will never be able to say what it was he said. He says, “The first is to reconstruct our apparatus which is utterly useless.” That is the Bolshevik leader. He says “We have to reconstruct the government which is utterly useless and which we took over in its entirety from the preceding epoch.” He used to say in his last years, “This Soviet government that everybody is talking about, it’s a Bolshevik government, it is led by Bolsheviks, it preaches materialism, it’s Marxist, but that is the same old Czarist government. It hasn’t changed.” And when I was in Nigeria, I said, “Well, I haven’t come here to tell you things about the Nigerian government but let us look at the Ivory Coast, let us look at Ghana, would you agree that it is the same old imperialistic government?” And everyone agreed that it was. If I had gone to the Ivory Coast I would have asked them about Nigeria. But Lenin says, we have had five or six years of the Russian revolution, but this government that we have is the same old, old Czarist government. To change a government is a very difficult thing. Lenin says that is the first thing we have to do. “Which is utterly useless and which we took over in its entirety from the preceding epoch during the five years of struggle we did not and could not make any serious alterations in it.” That is after six years of the Russian revolution; He says the government is the same old Czarist government. And Nyerere has realized that the government that he has is the same old imperialist colonial government and he is seeking to break it up. And he realizes that they cannot run it as well as the imperialists did. That is the situation. And the second point of Lenin’s. Last time, I gave you fifty guesses, this time I give you a thousand. Lenin says, we have the peasants, the worst thing is to change that government, and the second thing is to conduct educational work among the peasants. When I showed it to Nyerere he said he hadn’t read it anywhere. But I could recognize what he was going. There are all sorts of passages which show that Lenin was aware of what was necessary, they had to break up that system and it is a very difficult thing to break up an old system. And if you try to run it you can’t run it as well as the people who made it, who made it for themselves and knew what they were doing. And they are trying in African state, after African state to have black African people run what is essentially the old system with the worst economic possibilities. That is why they are in the mess they are in and that is why we must understand the seriousness and the radical approach which Nyerere has shown ... Now my last word here is my African friend with his African socialism. African socialism must be flexible, it must make progress toward its main objectives. What Nyerere says is that African socialism must break up all the remnants of the system that we have inherited and institute something new. And then this young man goes on to say, “Valid as Marx’s description was, it bears little similarity to Kenya today.” On colonialism and so forth, they make it very clear that Marxism is something that Marx had to say about the advanced countries, it had no relation whatever to the colonial territories now that they have become independent. The only relation they had to Marxism was to call themselves Socialism. But I was able to show that Nyerere has, in discovering the necessity of breaking up this system which he has inherited from the old imperialists, has discovered the same thing that Lenin after six years was telling the Russians.
Less Argument about words! We still have too much of this sort of thing. More variety in practical experience and more study of this experience! Under certain conditions the exemplary organization of local work, even on a small scale, is of far greater national importance than many branches of the central state work. And these are precisely the conditions we are in at the present moment in regard to peasant farming in general, and in regard to the exchange of the surplus products of agricultures for the manufacture of industry in particular.
Exemplary organization on this respect, even a single volost, is of far greater national importance than the ‘exemplary’ improvement of the central apparatus of any People’s Commissariat: for three and a half years to such an extent that it has managed to acquire a certain amount of harmful inertness; we cannot improve it quickly to any extent, we do not know how to do it. Assistance in the more radical improvement of it, a new flow of fresh forces, assistance in the successful struggle against bureaucracy, in the struggle to overcome this harmful inertness, must come from localities, from the lower ranks, with the exemplary organization of a small ‘whole,’ precisely a ‘whole’, i.e. not on one farm, not one branch of economy, not one enterprise, but the sum total of economic exchange, even if only a small locality.
Those of us who are doomed to remain on work at the center will continue the tasks of improving the apparatus and purging it of bureaucracy, even if in modest and immediately achievable dimensions. But the greatest assistance in this task is coming, and will come, from the localities.”
I hope I have made clear the tremendous attempt which is being made. There are difficulties as there are in Cuba. But there is one of the most important features of political development in the world today, not only for the underdeveloped countries but, I am positive, I have examined it, the advanced countries,in their systems of education in particular, have a lot to learn from what is taking place in Tanzania.