African Socialism. Fenner Brockway. Bodley Head, 12s. 6d.
Fenner Brockway, ‘Member for Africa’, belongs to the third generation of a missionary family. His goodwill towards Africa cannot be questioned. He has written a pleasant and sympathetic book on Africa, giving encouragement to all its leaders. He believes that Africa is on the way to becoming united and socialist.
He presents a picture of unadulterated optimism. Colonialism was ‘marred’ by its excesses and its exploitation. But the British, one is assured once again, were more ‘enlightened’ than other powers, and ‘set themselves the goal of colonial self-government’ (at some unspecified period), evolving directly from the aims of indirect rule. In fact indirect rule, coming only after ruthless take-overs and periods of direct rule, undermined the old structures, maintaining but a shell convenient for colonial administration—and such no less was its avowed function. Fenner Brockway sees a different shell—for him the hope of the Africans and their socialism spring from colonialism as well as anti-colonialism. ‘As Africans surge from these back streets and take possession of the shell and enjoy its fruits, they should remember sometimes that without the Europeans it would not yet have been constructed.’ The mixed metaphor (fruits growing from shells) reflects the unfortunate contradiction in Brockway’s thinking. In a similar vein he maintains that ‘one of the most impressive socialist achievements on the whole continent: the Gezira scheme . . . was initiated when Britain was responsible for the Sudan’s administration’.
African leaders and their avowed aims are treated with equal indulgence. ‘One can say that three of Nigeria’s four regions are moving, if slowly, towards socialism.’ ‘Uganda will move towards socialism as certainly as other African countries.’ ‘The makers of the New Africa have seen the vision.’ ‘The socialist sector of Africa—the territories with independent governments which have a declared socialist purpose (my italics)—now includes the uar, Tunisia, Algeria, Mali, Senegal, Guinea, Ghana and Tanganyika.’ ‘Uganda . . . and the Congo (!!) have socialist Prime Ministers.’ But more. ‘The socialist potential of Africa is, however, much greater than this sector. At an early stage we shall probably have socialist-pledged governments in Kenya, Zanzibar (this ironically enough has come to pass, but not because of the coming to power of the ex-Sultan’s government), Nyasaland (can he really mean Banda’s dream of a pastoral haven?) and Northern Rhodesia.
The prominence he gives to the disingenuous theories of Nyerere and Senghor about ‘African socialism’ are complemented by his introduction of a
At the least, however, Fenner Brockway is not as culpable as his prosecutor, Rita Hinden, editor of Socialist Commentary (Encounter, March 1964). She finds even his measured distaste for communism too mild for her. Her most heart-felt complaint seems to spring from petulant ethnocentrism. She suggests that a ‘socialist Ghana’ could not possibly precede a ‘socialist Britain’ as ‘us European socialists have struggled so hard’ in ‘sophisticated countries’. She takes exception to the most serious aspect of his book, namely his attempt to give a detailed account of two régimes in Africa which do have some bearing on the problems of socialism: the uar and Ghana. i.h.