BOOK REVIEWS

Towards Socialism in Tanzania. edited by Bismarck U. Mwansasu and Cranford Pratt, Tanzania Publishing House, Dar es Salaam, 1979, pp. x and 243, available from Third World Publications £5.95.

This book consists of the papers of a conference held in Toronto in April 1976 with some revisions and additions. Three papers discuss the role of the Tanzanian Government and its agencies; three discuss Socialism and rural development. Around these six studies comes a joint introduction by the editors and a concluding paper from each of them. The papers are generally lucidly and effectively written, free of jargon or pretension. For someone like myself who has been out of Tanzania now for ten years, they provide an admirable opportunity for catching up. There is no doubt that this is a book that most members of the Britain-Tanzania Society will want to buy and read.

I have three reservations, however, to my generally good opinion of the book. It is a pity that it has taken three years to appear. This is not, unhappily, an unusually long time after the event given the lassitude of academic publishing, but a book of this sort suffers more than most from such a delay. The writers were able to take cognisance of universal villagisation but they were not able to go far in assessing its consequences.

Then there is the problem of the book’s character as a debate. The publishers tell us that it is ‘written from a wide range of perspectives’; that ‘the viability of Nyerere’s approach is a matter of continuing debate’ among Marxist and non-Marxist scholars and that the book ‘includes vigorous statements from both interpretative schools.’ But this is a little misleading. In his concluding chanter Cranford Pratt lists a number of prominent ‘Marxist Socialist’ commentators on Tanzanian affairs and a number of ‘democratic Socialist’ commentators. Only one of the first list appears in this hook; three of the second. Many of the papers refer to the work of Shivji but he does not contribute; John Saul, who is identified as the most sophisticated of Marxist commentators and who is based in Toronto, does not appear either. In his final chanter Pratt debates with ‘ultra-left’ scholars. I am not certain whether any of the chapters in the hook fall into this category, but it seems doubtful. The result is that in order for the debate to take place ‘ultra-left’ positions have to be summarised by Pratt himself. It is hardly surprising that the book has not concluded the debate, which has been carried on with some vehemence in the pages of the Canadian Journal of African Studies.

Finally, I could not help feeling a little unhappy about the argumentative focus of the book – the focus on whether or not Tanzania is becoming Socialist. I do not dispute that this is an important question – or at least that many important questions are contained within it. But there seems at the moment a prior question about Tanzanian rural development. Certainly it will be important to discover how rural production surpluses are being distributed and amongst whom. What worries me, however, is whether villagisation is going to lead to a surplus at all. This massive feat of social engineering is also a massive gamble: concentrated settlement and block agriculture has never succeeded before in most parts of Tanzania and one would like to know what chance it has of succeeding now. Adolpho Mascarenas’ paper tells us something about the agricultural mistakes made in the process of villagisation. Mascarenas remains optimistic and I, too, since so much depends on the success of the villagisation, hope very much that it succeeds. But I would wish to see some informed discussion of the question of production.

All this meant that I finished the book wanting to know more and to hear more argument and to know what had happened recently. But then that is in its way a compliment to an open-minded, and honest hook.

Terence Ranger

‘African Socialism in Practice : The Tanzanian Experience‘ edited ‘by Andrew Coulson. Published by Spokesmen and obtainable from: The Review of African Political Economy, Bertrand Russell House, Gable Street, Nottingham. Price: £2.95

The debate on the nature of Tanzanian society and the validity of its claim to be developing on socialist lines is largely conducted through the pages of learned journals which are neither easy nor cheap to obtain. As Professor Cranford Pratt explained in his address to the annual meeting of the B.T.S. the Marxist critics and the social-democratic defenders of Julius Nyerere rarely actually engage in face to face debate. Indeed, it seems doubtful if they even read their opponents’ books. The audience reads or hears the criticism or the defence demolished on the basis of evidence to which most of them have no access. The British audience depends on secondhand information or sparse personal experience.

So we should be grateful to Andrew Coulson and Spokesman for producing, at a very reasonable price, this source book for the Marxist criticism of Tanzania’s development and policies.

The first section contains four policy documents, three by Nyerere – ‘The Rational Choice’, ‘Freedom and Development’ and” ‘The Arusha Declaration Ten Years After’ – and the Mwongozo-TANU Guidelines which was originally published in Swahili and has not been readily available in English.

The remainder of the hook consists of fourteen case studies of development projects which describe in detail how plans were implemented and the difficulties encountered. The examples include the creation of an ujamaa village, the Dar es Salaam automated bakery and the management of the Tanzanian Publishing House.

The contributions provide valuable information and they not only make fascinating reading but are a considerable help towards understanding what has actually been happening on the ground in Tanzania over the past ten years, even for those who will not accept the authors’ interpretations of and reasons for events.

The political debate on Tanzania is not simply of academic interest; ideas which gain acceptance eventually shape policy. ‘Tanzania’ has become an idea, an inspiration and an option for other Third World countries. If that idea is destroyed, whether by Marxist philosophy or the dogma of the I.M.F., there will be profound consequences for the future of the Third World.

Friends of Tanzania need the information which this book contains in order to be able to understand and take part in the debate.


‘Tanzania’s Ujamaa Villages’
by Dean McHenry Jr. reviewed in the July, 1979 Newsletter, is obtainable from:
Institute of International Studies
University of California, Berkley, CA 94720, USA. Price: $5.95

1 Comment »

  1. Tanzanian Affairs » A COMMENT ON ‘TOWARDS SOCIALISM IN TANZANIA’ said,

    November 11, 2011 at 5:07 am

    […] 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 […]

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