Control & Crisis in Colonial Kenya: The Dialectic of Domination

By Bruce Berman | Go to book overview

repair the relationship by encouraging indigenous capitalist forces among the Kikuyu, in order to reward the loyalists and restore them as an effective instrument of control and collaboration. At the same time, the state also constrained and limited that development in order to mute the internal class struggle it engendered among the Kikuyu by protecting the land of the middle peasantry. It gave them access to some of the material benefits of commodity production, and so forestalled a challenge to the position of the settler estate sphere. Second, consistent also with more haphazard and locally varied patterns of action analysed in earlier chapters, the state moved to regain control over access to major sources of wealth in the reserves, this time through a further and even more massive escalation of its increasingly centralized and bureaucratized control over production, marketing and finance in African agriculture. The task of legitimation, which had fallen by the wayside during the years before the Emergency, once again came to the fore. What was new at this point was that there was a conscious effort, accepted at the centre as official state policy, to increase the value of the surplus product retained and distributed within the reserves among both the wealthy petty bourgeoisie and the mass of middle peasants. Through this the state succeeded in its immediate objective of detaching the middle peasantry from its alliance with the landless and dispossessed extremists that lay behind the 'Mau Mau' struggle," thereby isolating the landless and enabling them to be crushed by the coercive power of the state, and also at least temporarily pasted over the contradiction between the petty bourgeoisie and the middle peasantry by emphasizing their common interest in landed property and commodity production. However, insofar as the reforms were predicated on the maintenance of established structures, the contradictions contained within the latter continued. As a result, the reforms failed to achieve the further objectives of restoring stability and legitimacy. Instead, they resulted in a series of unforeseen and unintended consequences that interacted with the increasing influence of the metropolitan state and capital finally to undermine fatally both the settler estate sphere and the colonial state itself.


Notes
1.
Interview 214F.
2.
Kenya National Archives, Nairobi (KNA), DC/MRU 1/9, 'Meru District Annual Report, 1953'.
3.
Interview 219F.
4.
John Spencer, 'KAU and "Mau Mau": some connections', paper presented to the conference on the Political Economy of Colonial Kenya, 1939-52, Cambridge

-371-

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