AFROCOMMUNISM by David & Marina Ottaway Ottaway


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Washington Post correspondent Ottaway and his wife Marina, co-authors of books on Algeria and Ethiopia, here juxtapose the communist regimes of Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Angola with the ""African socialist regimes"" of Algeria, Tanzania, Guinea, and Zambia--with sometimes interesting, ultimately unsatisfactory results: they don't, for one, demonstrate that such a thing as ""afrocommunism"" exists. To one degree or another, Algeria et al. sought a specifically African form of socialism based on a presumptive ""tribal"" sociability. The Ottaways have little trouble in showing how the various ensuing schemes fell apart--from Tanzania's slide into government-led improvements in living standards without popular participation or economic growth, to Algeria's state-centered industrialization and scuttling of workers' participation. Low levels of economic development together with economies tied to single sources of trade--as in Zambia and Guinea--helped defeat these experiments. But the real ""African"" nature of the efforts, together with the solidarity they espoused in foreign policy, creates the impression that the subsequent ""communist,"" or Marxist-Leninist, regimes have more in common than they do. These regimes reject the specificity of African social forms in favor of a universally valid notion of social development, and also disvalue participation in favor of vanguard parties. The Ottaways record all this, as well as the significant differences among the ""afrocommunist"" countries (Mozambique retains more of the participatory element as a leftover of the guerrilla war against Portugal, while Ethiopia is strictly a top-down affair); but they leave the impression that the Communist states' stronger ideological mind-set and more organized approach to government leadership may help them avoid the pitfalls experienced by the socialist states. What they've really shown is that Third World communist movements have a lot in common, while the African socialist states were more interesting. Their continental lumping only detracts from the otherwise informative--if time-bound--reporting on developments toward social change in Africa.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1981
ISBN: 0841910340
Publisher: Holmes & Meier