Monday, May 08, 2006

The next liberation struggle?

John Saul – The Next Liberation Struggle

Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy in Southern Africa

Excerpts (Mozambique)


The Failures of African Socialisms

… the fact remains that when holding power (after 1975) Frelimo failed to avoid the authoritarian and vanguardist practices, the stiff intolerance towards cultural diversity, and the economic strategies, top down and technocratic, that had come to characterize the Marxist-Leninist brand of Marxism elsewhere.

Indeed it could argued that Frelimo’s domestic policies stand as virtual archetypes of what not to do in Africa when seeking to build anything that might be thought of as socialism.

.., with the limited room for manoeuvre available for progressives in power in the then-polarized world of the Cold War, the party’s development agenda came to be distorted by the impact of assitance from the Eastern bloc, upon which it became overly, if almost inevitably, reliant.

…, in the event, the movement was drawn away from the peasant roots of its liberation struggle towards a model that, by fetishizing the twin themes of modern technology and ”proletarianization”, forced the pace and scale of change precipitously, both in terms of inappropriate industrial strageties and, in the rural areas, of highly mechanized state farms and ambitious plans for the villagization (”aldeias communais”) of rural dwellers.

Liberal democracy vs. Popular democracy

With the advent of parliamentary democracy and the creation of corporatist-type policy-making fora and institutions, as well as the emphasis on national reconciliation, pressures towards incorporation and demobilization have never been stronger” (Adler, Webster)

…, despite the narrowness of its victory, the post-electoral Frelimo government seemed inclined to operate, rather high-handedly, on a ”winner-takes-all” basis. Might this not, at best, produce a Mozambican version of the facto one-party state, and at worst be so provocative as merely to reactivate civil strife?

… Frelimo, once the proponent of a clear (if controversial) socialist development alternative, ran than a campaign centred on ”show-micios” and rallies in which show business, the trivialization of issues, and the glorification of the candidate took precedence over real substance.

As trade union and women’s movement structures have been liberated from the deadening hand of monoparty control, they have begun to assert themselves in new ways.



For in Africa many of the left illusions of the past have also been smashed: any notion that nationalist movements, whether spawned by active liberation struggles or other more pacific means, could merely shift gears and deliver ”socialist transformation” to the masses by ”benevolent” leaders from above, for example; and any sense that Stalinist practices, political or economic, had anything to teach us.

In this context we may even want to conceive, as I do, that Africa is standing on the brink of a crucial new phase of its history – a moment akin to that of 1945, when few could have anticipated the speed with which African nationalist movements would win independence for their territories from colonial rule (or for that matter, the speed with which that independence would in turn be translated into neo-colonial domination).

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