Socialism: Ideals, Ideologies, and Local Practice

By C. M. Hann | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

The construct of 'Africa' in 'African Socialism'

Ralph Grillo


THE AFRICAN SOCIALISM OF SESSIONAL PAPER NO. 10

In spring 1965, 1 the Kenya Government published its long-awaited policy statement, 'Sessional Paper No. 10, African Socialism and its application to planning in Kenya' (Republic of Kenya 1965). It is this document, which one observer thought 'sounded as if it had been drafted by neither an African nor a socialist' ('Critic' in Nationalist of Tanzania, 28 June 1965, cited in Odinga 1967:310), which is at the core of this chapter.

Though African Socialism's socialist credentials were integral to the debate surrounding Sessional Paper No. 10, and I will address them, the emphasis of this chapter falls rather on its conception of 'Africa'. For what is distinctive about African Socialism (and the Paper is only one convenient example) is the way its proponents sought to identify certain traditions, cultural practices, and modes and principles of organization as inherently or essentially socialist. I wish therefore to explore the construction of Africa within African Socialism. This will entail looking backwards (and forwards) from 1965, through writing of the 1930s, by Africans and others, examining how and why 'African' socialism was such an attractive concept and to whom, its purpose and function, and its meaning for those who embraced it.

African Socialism was not primarily or even significantly a Kenyan concept. During the decade preceding the Paper's publication, it had become diffused throughout Africa through the advocacy of Nkrumah, Nyerere, Senghor, Sékou Touré, and many others. By the 1960s, says Mohiddin (1981:13) 'to espouse “African Socialism” was one of the most respectable things for any leader to do' (cf. Brockway 1963:14). None the less there were local contributions, most obviously from Jomo Kenyatta and Tom Mboya, and a socialist tendency could also be identified within 'Mau Mau' or the 'Kenya Land and Freedom Army'-the anti-colonial movement of the 1950s.

Kenyatta, an associate of George Padmore and C.L.R. James in the International African Service Bureau, founded in 1937, and of Padmore, Nkrumah, and others in the Fifth Pan-African Congress of 1945 (Hooker

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