It is on record that Mwalimu began thinking Socialism
during his student days in Britain.  He is quoted saying:  “It would
be surprising to find a progressive student in those days who did not think in
terms of Socialism”.

But Mwalimu was not a Marxist, partly because Karl Marx was
influenced by Darwinist racist theories that relegated African peoples to
second-rate human beings.  He also did not import European Socialism
because it derived its arguments from class conflicts.
Mwalimu’s argument for African Socialism was summed up thus:
 “For a Third World country, once you have accepted the idea of Socialism,
there is a problem of succumbing to the ideology of evolution.  Marx says
backward countries go through stages of development, with one stage leading to
the other, and socialism is the product of developed capitalism”.

He goes on:  “But it is very difficult for an
intellectual to say I’ll engage myself in building capitalism in order to later
go on to Socialism.  So I felt we really have no choice at all if we are
going to try and build socialism, we have to begin where we are…. And where we
are is underdevelopment, not capitalism”.
When it came to applying African Socialism (Ujamaa) in
Tanzania he says:  “Although people wouldn’t believe it, we did not
abolish capitalism.  We gave it a less of a go-there wasn’t much capital
around….In the meantime we have some African capitalists, actually we have what
the Chinese call “nationalist capitalists” – sort of natural capitalists,
although it is very difficult for them to survive without the tentacles of the
In the beginning, Mwalimu deliberately kept ideology out of
the process of building TANU as a nationalist movement: “I thought if we get
involved in ideologies, we’ll divide the people.  I wanted to get rid of
the British. That was far more important than thinking capitalism versus
Mwalimu says the opportunity to formulate the socialist
vision for Tanzania arose out of the need to solve a practical problem of
social justice:  “Before independence, the British used to give loans to
the colonial officers to buy cars, but only to white staff.  After
independence, there was a lot of pressure on me to give car loans.  I said
no, but I’ll give loans to build houses.  Later the facility was extended
to politicians.  One of them was my brother; he had built one house and
was in the process of building another.  I thought to myself they cannot
do this, these fellows are becoming businessmen, simply selling houses….
 So I thought I should produce a series of articles on self-reliance”.
Out of Mwalimu’s deliberations came “The Arusha Declaration
for Self-reliance”, which he admits summarises the vision of the Tanzanian
society which he wanted to build:  “That was one of the best things we’ve
ever done for this country.  It gave clarity to what we were trying to do.
 People may now want to oppose it, they can oppose it.  But they know
what they are opposing”.
Several years before retirement, Mwalimu was asked for what
he would best like to be remembered by his countrymen; his answer was:
 “For trying”.
As to the validity and relevance of the Declaration he said:
 “In the basic things, I would not change a thing.  I do not think I
would change the Arusha Declaration; with hindsight I would try to implement it
differently, possibly in two areas”.  
About nationalization, he said he would have nationalized
carefully, or taken joint venture with the owners, rather than nationalize
On rural policies, Mwalimu said, he would have turned down
“Siasa ni Kilimo” (Agriculture is politics), the rallying cry of the Iringa
Declaration that led to the not so popular “Villagisation”; Mwalimu laments:
 “I would have emphasized the family but encouraged the people to work
together.  We wasted too much energy trying to develop communal farming.
 We could have been more relaxed about it…..  But the object would
have been exactly the same”.
On the demise of the defunct East African Community in 1977,
Mwalimu reveals that he had prior warned President Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya about
the intrigues by the people around him.  “But your people are destroying the
Community”, he had told him.  He notes that Jomo was committed to the
Community, but he had some narrow-minded people around him.
He personally traces the cause of the Community’s collapse
to Kenyans’ resentment of a strong fraternity between himself, Milton Obote of
Uganda and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia.  He says:  “Some fellows in
Kenya felt isolated, and when I tried to get Zambia into the Community they
felt it would become three to one.  But they got it all wrong”.
Mwalimu reveals further that in any case the Community would
have survived had it not been for the “chaotic situation in Uganda with Idi
Amin there….  Tanzania and Uganda would have continued the Community,
which would have meant not a breaking but withdrawal by Kenya; and Kenya would
have not withdrawn”.
The other possible reason of the Community’s collapse was
capitalist Kenya’s resentment of Tanzanian socialism:  “But I said this to
them, and I will say it again; I am much more an African nationalist than a
socialist.  The priority for Africa is not socialism; the priority for
Africa is development and unity.  I would rather have a united capitalist
Africa than a bunch of non-viable little things under socialism.  Over
that I was absolutely clear”,  he clarifies.
Mwalimu admits that he may have been resented because he had
been vocal about his vision:  “Some times when you are more vocal you
anger more people.  So I annoyed more people than those who were not
active….and therefore I was more disappointed”.
Throughout his political life, the organization of the Party
was at the top of Mwalimu’s personal agenda, beginning with the drafting of the
original TANU Constitution (based on CCP in Ghana, extracted from George
Padmore’s Ghana Revolution), his resignation as Prime Minister soon after
independence to re-organize the TANU, and finally the formation of the Chama
cha Mapinduzi (CCM) to accommodate the politics of the Union with the island of
Zanzibar, for which he remained Chairman for a couple of years after retiring
as President.
Was Mwalimu ever against the multi-party system?  He
replies in the negative:  “No!  No!  I was politically brought
up by the British and I never saw anything wrong with the parliamentary
The historical fact is that, the earlier post-independence
elections were multi-Party.  It is also true that, Mwalimu’s democratic
sensibility was unhappy with the success of TANU as a result of which
opposition parties were annihilated to such an extent that up to 80 per cent of
TANU candidates were being returned un-opposed.
Although he was ideologically a one-party man, Mwalimu was
not ideologically opposed to multi-party system.  It was Mwalimu who
lifted the lid off the debate on multi-partism in Tanzania:
 ”Ideologically I’m a socialist.  Ideologically I’m a one-party man.
 But I have introduced the debate on multipartyism because the idea that
it is taboo to question our constitution is undemocratic….  I mean I
cannot accept this”, Mwalimu pointed out.
Article by Joseph Mihangwa


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