This is an extract from Julius Nyerere’s book titled Freedom and Liberation. In this particular chapter, called The Process of Liberation, he warns against the failure to attain economic freedom and also the need to deal with neo-colonialism in Africa.
Most of Africa is now free from colonial rule; and of all of Africa has been awakened out of these dreams! All independent African states are still desperately poor and underdeveloped. To a very large number of Africa’s people, independence has brought no change in economic conditions; and very little, if any, social change. Progress is very slow, when considered in the light of what we know to be possible for life on earth. And justice, any tyranny, is rampant in a continent whose people demanded independence as a remedy for those same evils.
To liberate mean to set free; to set free from something which inhibits action or thought. Liberation is therefore not an absolute, but relative condition. It is relative to what could be. A shackled man can liberate his arms from bondage while his legs are still bound. He can achieve physical freedom, while still being mentally unfree.
Liberation is a historical process. It is not a single action which can be completed and have that completion celebrated annually. And, for Africa, liberation has four aspects or stages. First is freedom from colonialism and racial minority rule. Second is freedom from external economic domination. Third is freedom from poverty, injustice and oppression, imposed upon Africans by Africans. Fourth is mental liberation – an end to the mental subjugation which makes Africans look upon other people or other nations, as inherently superior, and their experiences as being automatically transferable to Africa’s needs and aspirations.
These different stages are not always and necessarily, stages in time. Mental liberation in particular can, for some individuals precede all types of political and economic liberation. But mental liberation is a personal and individual achievement. And, for most of us, it grows out of active participation in the liberation struggle of our society, our nation, and our continent, rather than preceding these things. It is, therefore. The social and community aspects of liberation which I shall be emphasizing: liberation from colonialism and racism.
The foundation of all other kinds of liberation for Africa is political freedom from external rule, and from racialist minority rule. Despite all the horrors that we have seen in independent Africa, I still assert that it is better to be ruled oppressively within a free nation, than to be part of a colonial empire, however mild its rile may be!
For, colonialism implies the inferiority of the colonized, acceptance of it means an automatic limit to self-respect. Further, a people who do not rule themselves have no power to control their own economic progress, or to fight against other inequities, or injustices, within their own community. They are not full members of one world community of mankind, because they are prevented from acting as they determine to, and, therefore, from being responsible to their fellow-men for what they do. For, the community as for the individual, self-determination is both a moral and a spiritual necessity in order to be, we have to be responsible, even, and perhaps especially, for our mistakes.
Once it is attained, political power has to be used, and used aggressively, if it is to be followed by an improvement in the day-to-day lives of the mass of the people. That is the lesson of the last fifteen or sixteen years. It has to be aggressively not against other peoples of Africa, or against any particular external power, but against the next obstacle to liberation, neo-colonialism.
The reality of neo-colonialism quickly becomes obvious to a new African government which tries to act on economic matters in the interests of national development, and for the betterment of its own masses. For such a government discovers immediately that it inherited the power to make laws, to direct civil service, to deal with foreign governments, and so on; but that it did not inherit effective power over economic developments of our country. Indeed, it often discovers that there is no such thing as a national economy at all!
Neo-colonialism is very real, and very severe, limitation on national sovereignty. The total amount of credit, and its distribution to different sectors of the economy, for example is determined by the banking system. The persons, or groups who control the banks, therefore, have a fundamental, almost a deciding, effect at two points. The first is on the level of current economic activity in a money economy. The second is on the comparative expansion of say, peasant agriculture as against estate agriculture, or agriculture in general, against the development of local industry or scale.
In economic matters, therefore, our countries are effectively being governed by people who have only the most marginal interests in our affairs, if any; and even that, only in so far as it affects their own well-being. That, in fact, is the meaning, and practice, of neo-colonialism. It operates under the cover of political colonialism, while that continues. Its existence, and meaning, becomes more obvious after independence.
Neo-colonialism is, thus, both a reflection of our poverty, and a major factor its continuation. Winning liberation from it has to aspects. First we have to loosen is grasp on our internal affairs. And secondly, we have to deal with its effects on our international economic activities. Of course these aspects are linked.
The fight against neo-colonialism, however, is a more difficult process than attaining political independence. In the modern world environment, there is more political independence odium than glory attached to the possession of colonies. For, a colonial power, the continuation of its rule over a colony, therefore, becomes primarily a question of how best to safeguard continued access to markets, and to raw materials, on an exploitative basis. And this exploitation is not affected by flag independence, as such. The colonial power may, consequently, decide to agree to political decolonization, and it will often make this decision with the active support of powerful economic interests in its own country.
The obvious implication of the fight against neo-colonialism is, thus, the development of a planned economy, including an incomes and wages policy, as well as control over major investment decisions and of imports. This has nothing to do with socialism, although I speak as a socialist. Fascists also plan! The point is that, in free enterprise economy, the internal production pattern, and the import pattern, is determined by the effective demands of the wealth, rather than by the national policy decisions. This is true whether national policy favours the needs of the majority and of the future, or supports some less amiable internal objective. And wealth of the world is concentrated outside our own borders. There are rich individuals in African countries; but they are usually either remnants of past feudalism, or the agents or compradors of external economic interests.
It must be clear that liberation from neo-colonialism also involves, for our poor countries, the deliberate rejection of western standards of consumption, both for individuals and for the society. Instead we have to establish, and to implement, economic goals more appropriate for our present and our expected level of national wealth production. An African country which looks at the pattern of consumption in the United States, and Western Europe, and decides to “catch up”, is bound to fail!
It will not the have the resources to do it. Western standards of living are based on the exploitation of the rest of the world, and of their own poor people. Top the extent that an African nation does succeed I introducing these consumption standards, or in maintain them for the privileged, its success will be based on the creation of a small class of very wealthy people, who are exploiting a large class of very poor people.
Achieving internal liberation means enabling all the citizens of a state to live in conditions of human dignity, personal freedom, and justice. It necessarily involves the acceptance of human equality as the basis of all social attitudes and structures. It is, therefore, not an abstraction, nor an individual condition. The aim cannot be to enable each individual to do as he likes, regardless of the effect on others. For, man cannot be divorced from the society in which he lives, and he certainly cannot achieve freedom in isolation. The objective of this final liberation struggle must also be to secure for each individual, as much personal freedom to develop himself or herself, as is consistent with equal freedom for all other individuals.
Every economic, political and social decision, is thus, relevant to this struggle for freedom. It is not the absence of legal or conventional restraints which marks its success. For, personal freedom and personal well-being do not come as an automatic by-product of individual actions, although enlightened self-interest can be harnessed to the pursuit of social purposes. It is achieved by the deliberate joint action of people, working together for their common good, on a basis of their human equality.
The internal liberation struggle involves a struggle for civil rights, both positive and negative. Freedom from political oppression, from arbitrary arrest, from baseless slander and from socially unnecessary restriction on liberty of expression, movement and organization, are all parts of this. So, too, is freedom of religion and worship. But, these things, by themselves, are not enough.
I am a socialist. I do not, and cannot, believe that we can leave economic questions out of account, when we are considering human freedom. For the freedom to starve, to be diseased, or ignorant, it is not a freedom which I am willing to accept, for myself or for others. And I cannot believe that the poverty of our people was irrelevant to their struggle against colonialism.
Freedom from exploitation is an essential part of human liberation. But, just as political equality and freedom is incomplete and insecure, without this movement own. True liberation requires political democracy and economic democracy. For the individual, as for the nation, political freedom is incomplete without economic freedom, and vice versa.
For man in society, there is no inconsistency between these two aspects of freedom. For people regard the prohibition on murder as a limitation on their freedom. Slavery is not accepted as necessary to the individual freedom of the potential slave-holder. It is equally absurd to think that the power to exploit another is essential to human liberty. Exploitation of one man by another is both immoral and antisocial. Human liberty is extended by its abolition, not by its legalization. The total struggle for liberation is complex.
Further, enemies and friends in the liberation struggle cannot be identified by their colour, their national origins, or their ideological label. These are friends of human rights and economic justice, in the rich world and in the colonial states. There are traitors to the liberation struggle among poor and among the exploited.
The struggle from human liberation, in all its aspects, is thus a difficult, complex, and continuing one. There will be genuine differences of opinion about priorities, and about the measures, among people who are all working for the same end. The opponents of liberation will use these differences for their own purpose. And it is always difficult, if not impossible, to make the right judgement on national and international issues. Indeed, only posterity can really tell which is the right judgment! Even while we action it, we need always to remember that our decision may be wrong, and to respect the humanity of those who disagree with us.
But, it is imperative that the struggle for liberation should continue, against colonialism and racialism, against neo-colonialism, and against oppression and exploitation, within our own lands. And for this we, the immediate post-independence generation of leaders and educated states, the national ethic, and the political and economic conventions, are still being formed. Each one of us has to choose the part he or she is going to play in the liberation struggle.
We can concentrate on our personal advancement and individual freedom from restraint. Or we can choose to give service to our fellow-men, and thus, to ourselves as members of the society. If we choose the latter, we shall be working for social and economic justice, with emphasis on the needs of those underprivileged and deprived, who now constitute the majority of our fellow citizens. We shall be working for liberation.