(From a speech delivered at the opening of a World Assembly of Youth seminar in Dar es Salaam in 1961)
I am a firm advocate of African Unity. I am convinced that, just as unity was necessary for the achievement of independence in Tanganyika, or in any other nation, unity is equally necessary for the whole of Africa to achieve and maintain her independence.
I believe that, left to ourselves, we can achieve unity on the African Continent. But I don’t believe that we are going to be left to ourselves! I believe that the phase from which we are now emerging successfully is the phase of the First Scramble for Africa, and Africa’s reaction to it. We are now entering a new phase – the phase of the Second Scramble for Africa. And just as, in the First Scramble for Africa, one tribe was divided against another tribe to make the division of Africa easier, in the Second Scramble for Africa one nation is going to be divided against another nation to make it easier to control Africa by making her weak and divided against herself.
It is for this reason. Therefore, that before we can talk complacently about ‘African Unity’ we should examine carefully the external ideas which are likely to be imposed upon us – imposed not for the purpose of uniting us, but for the purpose of dividing us.
Now today the world is divided into two blocs; what one might call the ‘Capitalist Bloc’ and the ‘Socialist Bloc’. They are generally referred to as the ‘Western Bloc’ and the ‘Eastern Bloc; I have said ‘Capitalist Bloc’ and ‘Socialist Bloc’ for a good reason: it makes it easier to understand the forces behind these divisions.
What is wrong with capitalism? To my mind, capitalism went wrong when it divorced Wealth from its true purpose. The true purpose of Wealth is to satisfy the very simple needs: the need for food, the need for shelter, the need for education and so on. In other words, the end of Wealth is the banishment of Poverty; and Wealth is to Poverty what Light is to Darkness. There is enough Wealth in every state for every individual to satisfy these basic needs. But the moment individuals in any single state begin to use Wealth not for the satisfaction of those needs, not for the abolition of poverty, but for the purpose of acquiring power and prestige, then there is no longer enough. Then Wealth tolerates Poverty; then Wealth is no longer to Poverty what Light is to Darkness. There is not enough Wealth in any nation to satisfy the desire for power and prestige of every individual, so what happens? There is then ruthless competition between individuals – not to get Wealth to feed themselves, or to clothe themselves, or to house themselves – but to seize enough Wealth to give themselves more power, more prestige than their fellows. That is, Wealth which exceeds their real need and which will enable them to dominate other individuals. When that stage is reached, one millionaire is prepared to spend millions simply in order to destroy another millionaire.
I believe the purpose of socialism was to correct this thin of Capitalism and to return Wealth to its original use – the satisfaction of simple human needs. I think it would be hypocrisy on the part of Capitalist countries (the so-called ‘Western’ Countries) not to recognise the fact that this is happening in the Socialist countries; that within those countries personal wealth is not a symbol of power or prestige, and Wealth is used to banish Poverty.
But I believe that the Socialist countries themselves, considered as ‘individuals’ in the larger society of nations, are now committing the same crime as committed by the Capitalists before. I believe that, on the international level, they are now beginning to use Wealth for the purpose of acquiring power and prestige! It would be equally hypocritical on the part of the Socialist countries to deny this. Internationally they are engaged in using Wealth in exactly the same way, now, as the Capitalist countries have always used it – for power and prestige. And Socialist countries, no less than Capitalist countries, are prepared to behave like the millionaire: to use millions to destroy another ‘millionaire’; – and it need not necessarily be a Capitalist ‘millionaire’, it is just as likely to be a Socialist ‘millionaire’. In other words, Socialist Wealth now tolerates Poverty-which is an even more unforgivable crime.
I believe that no under-developed country can afford to be anything but ‘socialist’. I believe, therefore, that we in Africa are bound to organise ourselves on a socialist pattern. But let us at least provide another corrective to Socialism, and prevent the Wealth we are beginning to build in our own countries from being used for the purpose of acquiring national power or prestige. Let us make sure that it is used solely for raising the standards of our people. Let us not allow the Wealth that we are creating to live side by Poverty and tolerate that Poverty.
We, in Africa, must be aware of being hypnotised by the lure of old slogans. I have said already that Socialism arose to remedy the mistakes which Capitalism had made. Karl Marx felt there was an inevitable clash between the rich of one society and the poor of that society. In that, I believe, Karl Marx was right. But today it is the international scene which is going to have a greater impact on the lives of individuals that what is happening in Tanganyika, or within Kenya, or within Uganda. And when you look at the international scene, you must admit that the world is still divided between the ‘Haves’ and the ‘Have-nots’. This division is not a division between Capitalists and Socialists, nor between Capitalists and Communists; this division is a division between the poor countries of the world and the rich countries of the world. I believe, therefore, that the poor countries of the world should be very careful not to allow themselves to be used as ‘tools’ of any of the rich countries – however much the rich countries may seek to fool them that they are on their side! And don’t forget that the rich countries of the world today may be found on both sides of the division between ‘Capitalist’ and ‘Socialist’ countries.
All this may not seem to have much to do with African Unity, but in fact it has a great deal to do with it. I believe the danger to African Unity is going to come from these external forces and slogans; slogans which bear no relation to the facts of the world today; and from the facts of the world today the rich countries of the world – both Capitalist and Socialist – are using their Wealth to dominate the poor countries. And they are trying to divide and weaken the poor countries for that purpose of domination. That is why I said at the beginning that if we, in Africa, were left on our own we would achieve Unity of our Continent, but that I do not believe we are going to be left alone. I have explained why I think we are not going to be left alone.
But there is no need for fear. All we need to do is to use our intellect; to know what is good for us. We need to listen to the outside world; to accept from them what we think is in the best interest of Africa and of African Unity, and to reject (and reject in no uncertain term) what we believe is not in the best interest of Africa and of African Unity. And that includes all those attractive, but misleading slogans about ‘democracy’, ‘socialism’ and so on, which are too often used to cloak the real designs of the power-hungry. These slogans bear little relation to what Africa is doing, and they are generally used by those whose purpose is to divide Africa into opposing camps.
At the beginning I used the phrase “The Second Scramble for Africa”. It may sound far-fetched in the context of Africa in the Nineteen Sixties, to talk about a Second Scramble for Africa. But anybody who thinks this is far-fetched has been completely blind to what is happening on the African continent. Take the example of the Congo. There were obvious weaknesses in the Congo situation, but those weaknesses were deliberately used in the scramble for control of the Congo. There are obvious weaknesses in the African Continent; we have artificial ‘nations’ carved out at Berlin conference in 1884, and today we are struggling to build these nations into stable units of human society These weaknesses, too, are being exploited. We are being reminded daily of them. We are told that tribalism will not allow us to build nations; but when we try to take measures to deal with tribalism we are accused of ‘dictatorship’. Whenever we try to talk in terms of larger units on the African Continent, we are told “it can’t be done”; we are told that units that we would so create would be ‘artificial’ – as if they could be more artificial than the ‘national’ boundaries within which we are already building successfully! Some of the people, who are saying this, are merely pointing, quite sincerely, to a difficulty; but I believe many of them are deliberately emphasizing the difficulties on our continent for the express purpose of maintaining them and sabotaging any move to unite Africa!
The technique is very simple. One power bloc labels a move for unity “A Communist Plot”; not because it is Communist, but because they don’t like it. Another power bloc labels another move for unity “an Imperialist Plot”; not because it is so, but because they don’t like it.
What annoys me is not the use of these labels and slogans by power-hungry nations; that, after all, is something we expect. But what does infuriate me is their expecting us to allow ourselves to be treated as if we are a bunch of idiots!
So I believe that the Second Scramble for Africa has already begun in real earnest. And it is going to be a much more dangerous scramble than the first one. For what happened in the First Scramble? One imperialist power fought another imperialist power for the booty.
But what do you think is going to happen in the Second Scramble? No imperialist power is going to fight another imperialist power for the control of Africa today; that would be too crude a method for the Nineteen Sixties.
This time, one imperialist power is going to arm one African nation, and another imperialist power is going to arm another African nation; and African brother is going to slaughter African brother – not in the interests of Africa, but in the interests of the imperialists both old and new!
That is why I have often thought we must find a method which will enable us, in Africa, to avoid the weaknesses of the ‘national’ state. We have the example of Europe before us, where one national state arms itself against another national state. In the world as it is today, nobody could seriously suggest that any African state can arm itself, or be armed, in order to defend itself from the attack by one of the F=Great Powers of the world. If an African state is armed, then, realistically, it can only be armed against another African state. I think we should be very careful about this. We must not find ourselves committing the same mistakes committed by the nation states of other continents: arming ourselves against ourselves, destroying our chances of not only raising the standards of living of our people (which is what we are here for) but also destroying forever the chances of an African Unity.
That is why, during the difficulties in Congo, when the idea of an African Command was first proposed, I was very taken with it. I do think we, in Africa, should think seriously about how that idea could be put into practice. All that we need within our national boundaries are sufficient police forces for the purpose of maintaining law and order within those boundaries; as far as larger commitments are concerned, these should be on an African Basis. If such a thing could be don, it would achieve two objectives at least. First, it removes the danger I have already referred to – the danger of arming ourselves against ourselves and thus depriving ourselves of the chance of achieving African Unity and f the materials for raising our people’s living standards. Secondly, it provides a realistic force for the defense of Africa against external aggression. Once again, I know, people have said “This is impossible”, “This cannot be done”, but I believe it can be done.
Africa is a young continent. It is young in two respects. Internationally, its nations are young nations; but Africa is also young In another sense – it is governed by young people. O think one of the troubles in the modern world is that nuclear power is being handled by people who were born in the Nineteenth Century and educated in the Nineteenth Century; people with a Victorian turn of mind, who have been overtaken by the achievements of science and by modern ideas about human society. They have not been able to adjust themselves; and while they repeat some of the slogans which sound very ‘modern’(I have already said that many of the slogans they shout are not, in fact, modern at all!) their actions are those of the past. They talk ‘peace’ and they arm. They talk ‘unity’ and they divide. One advantage of youth is that it doesn’t have this dichotomy. The young have had an education which is present-day education; their ideas are present-day ideas. We in Africa, then who have not inherited the prejudices of the Nineteenth Century, should be able to put into practice the ideas which modern society demands – but to which the slogan shouters do little more than pay lip-service.
The role of African Nationalism is different – or should be different – from nationalism of the past. We must use the African national states as an instrument for the unification of Africa, and not allow our enemies to use them as tools for dividing Africa. African Nationalism is meaningless, is anachronistic, and is dangerous, if it is not at the same time Pan Africanism.
Julius K. Nyerere.
To read Nyerere’s full bibliography, including his various speeches click here.