Zanzibar under Colonial Rule

By Abdul Sheriff; Ed Ferguson | Go to book overview
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On January 12, 1964, a violent revolution overthrew the system which had emerged at the end of a long political and constitutional process. It has become fashionable to view it as the overthrow of an oppressive racial minority by the downtrodden African majority. That view is simplistic, for social processes on the scale of revolutions are necessarily more complex phenomena. Fundamental differences which have appeared in society through time are revealed in a moment, while opposing forces clash to resolve these contradictions. In this conclusion we will identify contradictions and analyse the class forces that shaped the revolution in Zanzibar.

Class differences developed through the complex history of transition from a slave mode of production that had developed in the shadow of capitalism, to colonial capitalism dominated by imperialism. The old mode was partially dissolved to destroy its independence, while elements of pre-capitalist relations were preserved and articulated with the capitalist mode, but classes in general were prevented from maturing into classical capitalist forms under colonial rule. The exhausted classes of past years, such as the landlords, were neither retired from the stage of history nor transformed into a dynamic class. The peasantry was preserved in its semi-decomposed form as cheap migrant labour, but did not realise its full potential through the maturation of its component strata. The free working class that grew out of slavery was frozen in a semi-proletarian, semi-peasant condition, while the stunting of the industrialisation process in the colonial economy hindered the emergence of a true proletariat.

As a result, the Zanzibari social formation during the colonial period was riddled with unresolved conflicts whose basic class character was camouflaged by ideologies of race and communal


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