A COMMENT ON ‘TOWARDS SOCIALISM IN TANZANIA’

TOWARDS SOCIALISM IN TANZANIA
Edited by Bismark Mwansasu & Cranford Pratt

The last issue of the Bulletin carried a review by Terence Ranger of this important collection of papers. We thought that it would also be of interest to have a Tanzanian view so we asked Daniel Mbunda (Director of the Institute of Adult Education) for his comments. He responded with enthusiasm and my apologies to Daniel that we only have space for a very shortened version of his reflections.

The contributors to this book seem to agree that the Tanzanian social phenomenon is novel, unique and evolutionary. They also seem to me to sense the elusive character of the subject but I would like to suggest some of the elements which complicate the analysis and understanding of the situation.

First there is the lack of appropriate terminology. As Pratt clearly says (p.194) most of the social scientists who subjected the Tanzanian phenomenon to analysis and conceptualization were western oriented. However, Bantu way of life is appreciably different from western nations – for instance to translate “ujamaa” as “socialism” falls short of what the term and concept “ujamaa” really means to a Tanzanian. He may be unable to define it, but he appreciates what it is. The word ‘socialism’ does not have a ring of life and sentiments which ‘ujamaa’ has. With all good intention a foreign language cannot sufficiently describe a different culture. This is what I would call a kind of cultural impenetrability. In describing the Tanzanian situation doctrinaire use of such terms as ‘feudal’, ‘capitalist’, ‘bourgeoisie’, ‘proletariat’- what sense do they register in the Tanzanian social scene? Do these terms impose their connotation on the event they describe, or do the events sufficiently fit in these categories? We need to describe the Tanzanian experience in its own terms.

Secondly, in interpreting a social phenomenon statistics may help, but they are not the single/necessary tools to warrant a judgment of success or failure. We cannot draw a valid social conclusion that Tanzania is less or more self-reliant because in a particular year Tanzania happens to have used less or more foreign aid in her projects. Human intentions defy mathematical laws. Nyerere said in ‘Ujamaa – the Basis of African Socialism’ that ujamaa is basically an attitude of the mind.

It is unrealistic to assess the performance of Tanzania with a preconceived ideal of socialism. The Tanzanians should set their standard, their assessment and evaluation. No foreigner can feel and appreciate the sense of ujamaa better than the Tanzanians. Why are the authors of this book so impatient about the pattern of procedure of Tanzania’s road to socialism? Let us hope they are honest seekers of their own model of socialism – they will never get it realised by Tanzanians, I am afraid. Human development and change or acquisition of patterns of behaviour takes time. These authors, at least some of them, would love to see the Second Jerusalem or the millennium appear in their own time. They come to Tanzania with such a naive conception of social change! I have the impression that the authors had not fully appreciated the fact that Tanzania is not building ujamaa from scratch! We are not instituting ujamaa for the first time with the Arusha Declaration. You have to appreciate traditional ujamaa in order to discuss ujamaa after the Arusha Declaration. Ujamaa is a way of life, a combination of systems of values, relationships, and hence a basis for social organisation and patterns of behaviour in the political and economic life.

Most of the papers are strewn with sentences that Tanzanian society is in a state of tension, conflict, contradictions between the bureaucrats and the masses, the party and government, the workers and the peasants and so forth. This situation is, however, portrayed as being abnormal and undesirable. Presumably the desired state would be a classless society with no tensions or contradictions. What society, where on earth has such a phenomenon arisen? Where there is development process tension is inevitable. Such a situation is not unique to Tanzania.

The distinction between the role of the Party and that of the Government does not seem to me to have been fully appreciated by the authors when they discuss the implementation of the villagisation campaign. Mwansasu’s paper clearly establishes the philosophy, the distinct roles and the modus operandi of the two social mechanisms of development. The Party’s modus operandi is by persuasion, exhortation; and the Government’s modus operandi is by force, when necessary even by physical force. Even in the so called ‘most democratic societies’ the arm of the government is not denied the right to use force when it seems necessary to implement a decision it considered in the interest of the majority.

In conclusion, I would say that genuine friends of Tanzania are often frustrated because they do not see their own image in her, while her enemies search for failures to confirm them in their theory that ujamaa has failed even in Tanzania – Tanzania’s failures written large. But Rome was not built in one day.

Daniel Mbunda

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