African socialism is a product of a particular environment, especially one with the absence of distinct classes and a pre-capitalistic economy. President Nyerere of Tanzania has said that socialism, like democracy, is an attitude of mind rather than a set of doctrines. To Nyerere and others, the beginning of socialism is found in the traditional African way of permitting a person to occupy a piece of land only if he uses it. In Africa, there would be no need for an agrarian revolution to create the “landed” and “landless” classes, or an industrial revolution to create the modern capitalist and proletariat. Instead. African socialism would develop out of tribal socialism, under which members of a tribe would prosper if the tribe prospered.
Main Points of African Socialism
Thus, African socialism emphasizes the group or community and opposes the concept of the “class struggle”: yet, at the same time, some African socialists call themselves Marxists. Clearly, African socialism is still in a process of definition and development. Nyerere has compared governments in developing countries to governments at war. In developing countries the immediate goal is freedom from fear of starvation. Because economic planning and strong government are essential in wartime, such luxuries as opposition parties cannot be permitted. Democracy, according to Nyerere, is consistent with the one-party system as long as freedom of discussion is preserved and government by force avoided.
In other respects, the results are far from successful. The economy is approaching bankruptcy. There has been a shortage of consumer goods, widespread smuggling and corruption, except among higher officials, and a lack of concern and enthusiasm in all aspects of life. Tanzanian officials describe their difficulties as temporary due to failure to develop a vision of a better life. In practice, foreign aid has kept the economy afloat.