‘Tanzania- A Political Economy’: Andrew Coulson, Clarendon Press, 1982. £6-95 (paper).
Tanzania currently suffers from many shortages, but it has been studied and written about in abundance. Much has been published about aspects of Tanzania’s history, politics and economic development, but it is not easy to obtain, or always comprehensible. Andrew Coulson has drawn together the writings of the past decade to produce a comprehensive and highly readable account of the development of modern Tanzania. Its scope and clarity give it a strong claim to be the standard work on the country, which has long been needed and as such it will have considerable influence and its interpretations could become a generation’s judgment on Tanzania.
As Coulson makes clear in his first chapter, he is writing on two levels, an introductory outline of the country and an analysis of the ‘underlying, historically determined economic position.’ The story of the creation and development of Tanzania is interwoven with a rigorous comparison of official policy and actual performance, that some readers will feel to be so unrelentingly critical of both colonial and independent governments as to verge on the destructive.
The first third of the book is ‘the story of the incorporation of this land area and these people into the ‘World capitalist system’. The failure to resist or deal with the consequences of this are seen as the root cause ‘of Tanzania’s current problems. Prior to colonisation, the tribal societies were probably better fed than today’s population, crafts were developing and there was considerable internal trade. These achievements had been assisted by imported innovations, but were reversed by colonial conquest and the associated destruction and epidemics. The skills which had been evolved to survive in the harsh environment were lost as a new economic pattern was established, the production of crops for sale and labouring on plantations providing for European industry.
The subsequent efforts by successive governments to revive peasant agriculture have been characterised by assumptions of peasant idleness and ignorance, whereas they have proved themselves enterprising and efficient on the occasions when they have been given clear incentives. The colonial powers also prevented the establishment of industry, which might have been developed, based on the exploitable minerals and the processing of crops. Both the official attitude to the peasants and the belief that the country could not support viable industry were largely inherited by the nationalists after independence.
Colonisation also brought a fundamentally different concept of education. Coulson gives a brilliant, concise explanation of the devastating impact of western education on traditional society. His denunciation, in highly ideological terms, of mission and government education provision will offend those who were involved or have knowledge of the personal dedication of the teachers and administrators, who struggled in difficult conditions with pathetic resources, but he makes a powerful case.
There is an important reassessment of the achievements of Cameron, whose governorship between the wars has been regarded as crucial in setting the country on the road to eventual independence. Cameron is credited with resisting the aspirations of European settlers and encouraging limited African development, but he did not understand and ignored the damaging influence of Kenya’s more dynamic economy. His commitment to indirect rule could not make it a reality in Tanganyika, where tribes had never become fully formed and many legitimate chiefs had not survived the German conquest.
Despite his criticisms of colonial policies on education and industrialisation, Coulson sees the growth of nationalism as a consequence of education and the expansion of towns. He has a sympathetic note on Martin Kayamba, whose African Association established for the educated elite became the basis on which TANU was organised, although there is an implied criticism that TANU ought to have evolved from Eric Fiah’s African Welfare and Commercial Association, which had political aims and claimed to speak for all Africans.
In his assessment of Nyerere, Coulson rejects both the adulatory biographies and those who manage to write about Tanzania without mentioning his name. There is respect for his political skills, which have enabled him to survive, but Nyerere’s vision of agricultural development being achieved through living in villages is considered to be fatally flawed. The total commitment to modernisation theory, the dismissal of traditional forms of agriculture and the adoption of government as the main, perhaps only, provider are identified as the essentially false assumptions of Nyerere’s ideas and policies. This is a criticism of Nyerere’s basic philosophy, not of his failure to ensure the implementation of his policy by unsympathetic subordinates, but it is questionable as a summary of Nyerere’s thinking, which ignores his appeal to traditional values in ‘Ujamaa- the basis of African Socialism’, his repeated pleas for the use of ox ploughs and good thatch rather than tractors and corrugated iron sheets and the self-reliance objective of the Arusha Declaration.
It is certainly true that Nyerere did not transform TANU into the instrument of government. Independent trade unions were suppressed and there has been a huge expansion of an authoritarian state requiring the employment of a large bureaucracy divorced from the life and experience of most of the population. The combination of the idea of progress through villages and a bureaucracy distanced from the peasants produced the political and economic damage of the villagisation operation. Villages were required to enable government-supplied social services to continue to expand. Increased production was assumed, but it was never explained how it was to come about. Indeed, peasant production had been growing steadily in the years between independence and the Arusha Declaration. The chapter on ‘Ujamaa and Villagisation’, Coulson’s special interest, is exceptionally good and deserves careful reading and study.
The bureaucracy, the effective ruling class, is held responsible not only for the failures in agricultural and rural development, but also for Tanzania’s general economic stagnation. While drought, oil prices and the world economic recession are by implication difficulties that a developing country must expect to have to deal with, the root cause of Tanzania’s problems is its own ruling class, who ‘are not accumulators, have little experience of industry or large scale agriculture and little faith in small scale agriculture, thinking not in terms of investment, but social services, authoritarian with no tradition of self-criticism’, almost totally unsuited to bringing about economic transformation. Coulson sees parallels between the Tanzanian civil service and the British labour Party and his own argument is almost Thatcherite. High taxation has financed a bureaucracy to staff services such as agricultural extension, which have no appreciable effect, and the parastatals with their poor output and productivity records. The consequence has been no resources for productive investment.
This is a harsh indictment. Coulson does not produce a comprehensive alternative strategy, but he clearly believes that if villagisation had been left to happen voluntarily through small politicised groups and the peasants given reasonable price incentives they could have continued to produce enough food to feed the country and enough export crops to finance a basic industrial strategy. The cost would have been growing rural inequality as larger farmers expanded production by hiring labour and possibly a slower rate of growth of social services.
Inevitably in attempting to cover so much there has to be a great deal of compression, but this is offset by five appendices providing case studies of development. Of these, the one dealing with the Ruvuma Development Association is most welcome. Coulson, in common with many writers, including Rene Dumont, sees the decision to disband the RDA as a watershed, when the Party hierarchy decided that an independent organisation, however committed to socialist development, could not be tolerated. Writings on Tanzania frequently refer to RDA, but this is the first published account of its story.
Coulson will be accused of over-concentration on Tanzania’s failures, underrating its problems and ignoring its achievements and also of using valuable pages to explain his concepts of ‘class’ and ‘state’ in the only boring sections of the book, but his explanation of what is happening in Tanzania depends on understanding the nature of the class which controls the state rather than the number of adult literacy schemes organised, or village water schemes provided.
Professor Cranford Pratt once complained at a meeting of the Britain-Tanzania Society that the problem of trying to understand Tanzania was that the rival factions of commentators never read each other’s work and an author’s allegiance could immediately be identified by the references quoted. Coulson breaks out of this sterile constraint and also provides suggestions for further reading on the subjects of each chapter and a useful bibliography. Little about Tanzania is simple. The words ‘paradox’ and ‘ambiguity’ seem to occur in most chapters and it is possible to value and enjoy Coulson’s book without sharing his despondent conclusion that ‘despite elements in its favour, the contradictions and stagnation of the nineteen seventies are likely to continue’.
‘Development and Religion in Tanzania – Sociological Soundings on a Christian Participation in Rural Transformation’: Jan P. van Bergen, Dar es Salaam, 1981.
This book was written as a result of the Senate of the University of Dar es Salaam granting Mr. van Bergen the status of research associate, a post held until 1976; the subsequent write-up emerged in 1981. The book highlights the Church’s reaction to institutions and programmes which sprang up after independence. There was an initial fear of development being overtaken by communism. This was especially so after the Arusha Declaration. There is also current anxiety about a possible increase in Chinese influence. The involvement of Muslims in various political structures also causes great uneasiness. The government controlled newspapers, the Daily News, the Sunday News and Uhuru, appear to many Christians to be hostile to the original teachings of Christ and what they imply in relation to marriage customs and family life in Africa.
With regard to villagisation, the reaction of the Church has been very mixed. Pastoral considerations have always been in favour of people living together in clusters, because it makes for easier contact with people and parochial activities. The missions with their buildings, plant and plots of land became natural centres for the planning of new villages. However, when villagisation programmes got under way, new settlements were planned far from the traditional church-parish complex. When whole communities were moved, the Church leaders angrily condemned this, because they would be separated from their people and church buildings would become obsolete.
As van Bergen points out, ‘the community concept of Christians differs from that of ujamaa’. The latter is less exclusive. Its focus is different from the Church and does not contain reference to a special religion or faith. Julius Nyerere writes: ‘The Tanzanians themselves have religion, but the community has not. The Sheikh has his religion, the Christian has his faith, the traditionalist has his convictions. But there are also religions which cause unrest and trouble’. The President has held meetings with Party officials, members of the government and religious leaders so that there is a real dialogue and mutual feelings of misunderstanding, if not dispelled, are “freely communicated. The President has also discussed ways in which the clergy could involve themselves in the ujamaa experiment.
At the end of his book, Mr. van Bergen spells out what he thinks is valuable in the struggle for power-sharing, which could be established between the Church and the state and other ideologies, which do not completely complement each other:
The image and ideology of the Churches influence their credibility in proclaiming values and ideas in the field of nation building. This does not mean that the relationships between Church and state are bad or hostile. Neither is it true that the Churches do not try to contribute to the formation of good citizens. The delicate balance in ideology remains because both institutions realise that they need each other. The Party needs the Church because of its influence on the masses, its educated leadership and its financial potential. The Churches need the Party because. in a secular society in which several world views, faiths and religions are present, the political Party is the unifying identity.
‘Mozambique and Tanzania – Asking the Big Questions: Frances Moore Lappe and Adele Beccar-Varela: IFDP, San Francisco, 1980.
The material for this book, which aims to compare the efforts made by the leaderships in Tanzania and Mozambique to achieve food security, was collected during a summer trip to both countries in 1978. The authors do not mention how long this trip lasted, but they do admit that they were not able to talk to many ordinary Tanzanians and Mozambicans due to shortage of time and language barriers. Their essay is essentially ‘an attempt to define how the leadership in each country defines the development process they are helping to shape’.
The central argument throughout the book is that, although Mozambique and Tanzania both claim to be on a socialist path and the leadership in both countries aims at equity, participation and cooperation, there are sharp contrasts in the methods adopted by each to achieve their socialist goals. The picture painted is of Tanzania’s elitist approach, in which decisions are made ‘top down’ and policies implemented coercively at the expense of aims to mobilise and involve the people. Mozambique, however, due to its experience of the armed struggle against Portuguese colonialism and the peasant and worker mobilisation in the liberated areas, has created more democratic and accountable leadership structures, that are more grass roots based, and its policies seek to gain the active participation of the people.
Whilst the authors admit several times the difficulty in drawing comparisons between a country like Tanzania with 18 years experience of independence and another like Mozambique with only 4 years and with such different histories and physical infrastructures, they say they are only attempting to compare the approaches and priorities of the leaderships in each and not their success records. The authors emphasise that Tanzanian socialism is not of the scientific marxist type, but is based on the moral bedrock of ‘goodwill’ in which the interests of the whole community are put before personal and private interests. Nyerere claims that these principles were embodies in traditional African communities. Mozambique’s socialism, on the other hand, whilst founded in the experience of intense exploitation of the Mozambican people and their life and death struggle to throw off that exploitation, is based on the theory of the class struggle. Hence, Mozambique aims to transform traditional tribal life not conducive to scientific socialism, such as superstition and passive obedience to village elders. The rationale for cooperation and collective solutions to development problems stems not from African tribal traditions, but from practical experience gained in the liberated zones during the armed struggle and scientific socialist ideology.
The book then looks at the practical approaches of the leadership in each country in relation to development, production, leadership style and structures, popular participation, villagisation and attitude to foreign aid. The authors find that Tanzanian leaders define development in organisational terms. The main task of leadership is to create effective organisational structures to implement central government decisions at local level. Mozambican leaders, on the other hand, see the task of transforming the people’s concept of themselves and mobilising the people to participate actively in the new society as the key to the country’s development.
Tanzania comes in for serious criticism when the authors examine leadership and the origin of its authority in each country. They find that in Tanzania the leadership has retained the patriarchal attitude towards the people, who they consider must be led by means of the carrot and the stick ‘for their own good’. Decisions made by the central government are to be implemented at village level by appointed village managers, who as outsiders to the communities they lead can ensure that decisions are implemented in an organised and impartial manner. The authors admit that:
‘because this view of leadership in Tanzania resembles closely what we receive from our own culture, it was hard even to perceive whilst we were there. Only after we had spent some time in Mozambique did we become aware of the possibility of alternative assumptions’.
In Mozambique they found that the leadership saw the people as a source of energy and direction and leaders saw themselves as accountable to the people and to the decisions taken at the 3rd. Congress, of FRELIMO in 1977, which defined the’ leadership structures and the direction of policy. The civil service is controlled by FRELIMO, which since it was restructured in 1978 has now become a broader-based vanguard party. However, the most important characteristic of Mozambiquan leadership is the inbuilt practice of criticism and self-criticism, which is encouraged and practised at all levels. Leaders who abuse their power, or fail to meet their responsibilities, are criticised and if they continue to behave incorrectly they are ousted. The Minister of Agriculture, who failed to give sufficient priority to rural agricultural development, was criticised and subsequently dismissed.
When the authors examine popular participation, they find that in Tanzania there appears to be a ‘top down’ approach, with the authorities at both national and local level identifying problems and local leaders supervising the people in their solution. Mozambique, however, has both upward and downward channels for participation and decision making and their structures rely on local initiative and experimentation, which if successful will be passed on to other communities or groups with similar problems. The selection of Party members and representatives for the local, provincial and national assemblies is done at meetings of people, who put forward suitable candidates, which the Party and local people present at the meeting evaluate politically and finally select. These procedures have resulted in far more peasants, workers and women being selected as leaders. In Tanzania, the author’s impressions are that the vast majority of Party officials work as civil servants and are drawn from the already privileged class of bureaucrats.
On villagisation, the difficulties encountered by the Tanzanian government over the last 14 years in persuading people to move into ujamaa villages are described. In the late 1960’s the government encouraged people to move voluntarily, but progress was so slow that by the 1970’s it had resorted to coercion and consequently many Tanzanian leaders lost faith in cooperative principles. The Mozambican leadership, on the other hand, appear to be prepared gradually to implement their plans for people to form communal villages. As popular participation in the planning and formation of such villages is crucial to their long-term success, the Mozambican government does not intend to take short cuts – an example where lessons bitterly learned in Tanzania are useful to the leadership in Mozambique.
Finally, the authors briefly look at the different attitude in each country to foreign assistance. The role of the ‘cooperante’ (expatriate) in Mozambique is one of assistance in implementing FRELIMO policies, not that of making policies, whereas in Tanzania foreign experts from for example the World Bank have been permitted to design policy, provide their own additional staff, select suitable Regions for their projects and even participate in appointing Tanzanian staff to work on their projects. The authors feel that this heavier reliance on foreign ‘experts’ has had the effect of dampening self-help initiatives and discouraging the willingness of Tanzanians to experiment.’
Whilst I feel that the authors have not been fair to Tanzania in their analysis, perhaps not giving sufficient weight to the different historical circumstances in which the leaders in each country have emerged and not really exploring how the policies work at grass roots level, I think that they have identified some of the most important ways in which the Mozambican leadership is trying to involve its people in building the new independent socialist society. What still stands out in my memory of Mozambique is the accountability of the leadership, the active participation of the people and the control of expatriates like myself. These are the aspects where the authors of this book have found the contrasts between Tanzania and Mozambique are sharpest. Only time will tell if the Mozambican leadership reverts to a more elitist conception of development and to a more bureaucratic and authoritarian mode. This in part will depend on the political quality of the cadres at present in the new socialist schools.