THE POLITICAL CONTEXT

The greatest misfortune which can befall a small country is for it to become a battleground on which its larger neighbours struggle for supremacy. Tanzania has become a battleground in an ideological war which, while it may not cause immediate physical destruction, may in the long run have profound consequences both for Tanzania itself and for the Third World. Under the leadership of President Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s governing political party – formerly TANU and now CCM – proclaimed its intention of developing socialist solutions for the country’s problems. Since 1967 Tanzania has established an international reputation for its style of development and its adherence to principles in the face of the severest difficulties.

Nyerere sees Tanzanian socialism as rooted in traditional African values and practical communal support provided by family and village. To this has been added the experience of other countries. The rural policy of creating villages as viable economic units, some on a co-operative, others on an individual basis, shows the influence of both Israel and China. The organisation of nationalised industries and services under semi-independent corporations closely parallels the Herbert Morrison pattern of nationalisation in Britain.

Tanzania has adopted policies and methods which suit her people and circumstances; she has not allowed any other country, capitalist or socialist, to dictate her policies, Just as Tanzania believes that she must work out her own ideas, so she has never claimed that her policies can necessarily be exported and applied elsewhere without modification, However, Nyerere’s policies, home-grown for home consumption, have made him a statesman of international stature and put Tanzania at the centre of international events and controversies. Nyerere’s political strength rests on his ability to talk directly to peasants, who make up the majority of the population, in a way which they can understand and appreciate. At the same time he has a remarkable facility to write lucidly, expressively and concisely in English; the essentials of his ideas are contained in half a dozen pamphlets.

Nyereres’s analysis of his country’s problems and his strategy for dealing with them galvanised his people, but also produced a profound response in the Developed World. What Nyerere was saying seemed so simple and yet so right. It had especial appeal to the generation in Britain with no colonial experience, disillusioned by what it saw as the failure of British and U.S. reformist governments, and politicised by the Vietnam war. Tanzania became more than a country, it was an idea and an ideal. Tanzania in the late 60s and early 70s became the focus of progressive and left-wing hopes and enthusiasm. Volunteers from Britain and Scandinavia went to Tanzania anxious to be involved in the new society, and expatriate socialists and Marxists became influential in the Social Science Departments of Dar-es-Salaam University. The European left brought with them the political doctrines and and analysis which had been developed in urban industrialised societies. They also brought their personal frustrations at the refusal of the electorates of western democracies to behave as the theories required. Tanzania became their laboratory; here the theories would be demonstrated. However, Nyerere, having rejected the domination of European capitalism, had no intention of allowing Tanzania to be recolonised by European Marxists or Socialists; their advice was seen as irrelevant to the development of a largely agricultural country and it was ignored. By the mid-70s the Marxists were abandoning Tanzania and returning home to write jargon ridden articles in obscure journals denouncing Nyerere for his failure as a revolutionary.

Nyerere was also a great disappointment to the European political Right. They had hailed him as a moderate and were shocked by his hard line on freedom for southern Africa; then came the Arusha Declaration, the nationalisation of foreign companies and the visit to China. Nyerere was clearly a wild man of the left and his socialist policies had to be presented as failures. The British Right Wing Press was particularly incensed by the emergence of an African politician as a moral leader gaining the influence and respect of the world which they thought belonged by right to Britain alone.

Hence, when natural disaster and the rise in oil price s combined to throw the Tanzanian economy into crisis in the mid- 70s, she found herself with few friends except the Scandinavian countries and West Germany. When Tanzania actually found herself at war in ’79 with a savage dictator, she was not only left to fight alone , but was offered only the most grudging help after she had freed her neighbour from tyranny and was left with responsibility for a country in chaos. It is as if Britain had managed to defeat Hitler without the assistance of the USA or the USSR and had received no post-war Marshall Aid.

War, drought, floods (yes, Tanzania had both in successive years), oil price increases and decline in world trade, have inflicted immense damage on Tanzania’s economy and have produced intense social strains. Plans have been set back, people have been disappointed and the great ideals are further from achievement.

Most outside commentators have ignored the effects of natural disaster and world economics and what is happening in Tanzania has been discussed in Britain as the consequences of political mistakes, either the failure of Socialism or the failure to apply Socialism. Tanzania is being used to make points in the British or European or western political debate. Nyerere himself has become a target for the type of journalist who makes a living by trying to show that he has discovered that a hero has fallen. We believe that Tanzania can and should only be judged in its own terms. We do not underestimate Tanzania’s difficulties but they must be set in the context of what she has endured and achieved. The truth is that Tanzania has survived, her economy is reviving and, with proper help, it will continue to improve. A general election has been held at which nearly half the Members seeking re-election – including two Ministers – were defeated) their form of democracy is not the same as ours, but it works. Progress in many rural communities has been substantial and impressive. 85% of the children are entering the primary school. Half of the population has access to safe water. Life expectancy at birth now just exceeds the average for the thirty-eight poorest countries. Despite the narrowing of income differentials, corruption in high places is rare.

The following reports seek to give a factual account of Tanzania’s negotiations with the IMF, the present state of the economy and the composition and working of the National Assembly. These will, it is hoped, provide a context within which Tanzania’s problems and achievements may be more fairly judged.

John Arnold.

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