Workers Hammer No. 215
Kenya's independence struggle in the 1950s
The Mau Mau uprising against British imperialism
In April four elderly black Kenyans appeared in the High Court in London seeking recognition of atrocities committed against them during British imperialism’s brutal colonial rule. The Kenyan claimants, Ndiku Mutua, Paulo Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara are survivors of the barbaric torture that was meted out to countless thousands of black Africans in detention camps between 1952 and 1961. Of the four claimants (a fifth died before the High Court hearing) Jane Mara was subjected to sexual abuse, one man was castrated and another was beaten unconscious during an atrocity in which eleven men were clubbed to death. British imperialism pillaged and exploited Kenya and used savage repression to crush the anti-colonial revolt known as the Mau Mau uprising.
The survivors are demanding that the British state take responsibility for their treatment in the camps and that the government pay around £2 million, a trifling sum, into a welfare fund. With swinish racist arrogance, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) insists that Britain cannot be held responsible, and that any atrocities that may have been committed under colonial rule became the responsibility of the Kenyan government that took over at the time of independence in 1963. Furthermore, says the FCO, too much time has elapsed for the claims to be valid.
The High Court has yet to decide whether or not the case will proceed to trial. But if the British state had got its way, the evidence in this case would never have seen the light of day. Since independence, the former colonial overlords have kept a tight lid on the documentary record of repression in Kenya. Nonetheless, much effort by researchers and advocates for the survivors has resulted in a significant victory. In May the FCO was forced to hand over 300 boxes of files, some 17,000 pages, including material relating to the suppression of the Mau Mau revolt. The departing colonialists destroyed many of the files at independence and removed others, having “made a calculated decision not to hand over any of its colonial era files to the Kenyan government” (guardian.co.uk, 5 April). A letter dated 7 November 1967, issued under Harold Wilson’s Labour government, explains that the general practice at independence was not to hand over files that “might embarrass HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] or other governments” or members of the police or military forces (guardian.co.uk, 5 April).
The mass torture and imprisonment of Kenyans during the uprising has long been documented by historians. To this day, any attempt to expose the truth of what happened has been sharply contested by apologists for imperialism. Caroline Elkins, author of the book Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya (2005), who is an expert witness for the survivors in the current court case, noted that: “My book was resoundingly criticised at the time of its publication. Historian Andrew Roberts wrote that I had committed ‘blood libels against Britain’” (Guardian, 14 April). Elkins estimates that between 160,000 and 320,000 people were detained in camps and at least 100,000 killed. David Anderson, author of another major work, Histories of the Hanged: Britain’s dirty war in Kenya and the end of the Empire (2005), documents 1090 hangings of alleged Mau Mau. Mark Curtis in Web of Deceit (2003) estimates that 150,000 black Kenyans died as a result of British policy in this period.
The British capitalist rulers have carried out mass murder and torture on an immense scale, from the brutal occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq to the bombing of Libya today. Much of the wealth that laid the foundations of British capitalism was acquired from trade in African slaves. Brutal subjugation of the colonial world was part and parcel of imperialism’s drive to secure world markets, cheap labour and raw materials. From Kenya to Aden, Cyprus, Malaya, Nigeria and the Indian subcontinent, the globe is strewn with colonial victims of the British Empire’s pursuit of profits.
In Kenya the colonial rulers imprisoned in concentration camps a large proportion of the million and a half Kikuyu people, the country’s largest ethnic group. The Mau Mau rebellion was essentially a peasant-based revolt of the landless Kikuyu people against colonial rule that had dispossessed them of their lands, the basis of their existence. Although it was ultimately defeated, the uprising forced an end to colonial rule. In its terminal years, British rule consisted of naked state repression, culminating in an official “State of Emergency” lasting from 1952 to 1960. Arrayed against the Mau Mau was the armed might of the British colonialists combined with that of their Kenyan stooges, including the Home Guard and other forces. The colonial regime co-opted a layer of rich peasants composed of land-owning, educated Christians. These “loyalist” Kenyans included Kikuyu landowners who were deeply hostile to the landless Kikuyu masses and supported the British in suppressing them. This deep social polarisation within Kenyan society is key to understanding the independence struggle in Kenya and its outcome.
With independence in 1963 British imperialism was forced to relinquish direct rule over Kenya, just as it had been driven out of many of its other colonial holdings in Africa and Asia following World War II. Reverting to indirect domination, the imperialists now relied on the national bourgeoisie which in turn became more directly the oppressor of the masses. Nationalist leader Jomo Kenyatta, who had been locked up for supposed Mau Mau sympathies, was released from prison in 1961. He was correctly regarded by the imperialists as safe hands for maintaining their interests in the region. Kenyatta had denounced the Mau Mau and was regarded by the more militant leaders of the movement as a traitor to their goals of land and freedom, which indeed he was.
The national bourgeoisie that came to power in Kenya was incapable of resolving any of the fundamental problems forced on the Kenyan masses by imperialist subjugation — dire poverty, lack of education and all the attendant social and economic backwardness. The land-hungry peasants did not regain their lost lands; the plantations and large white-owned farms were not expropriated. The outcome of the Kenyan independence struggle confirms in the negative the programme of permanent revolution codified by Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky, who with Lenin led the 1917 October Revolution in Russia. The Bolshevik Revolution established the dictatorship of the proletariat, expropriated the landlords and capitalists and granted land to the peasants. The programme of permanent revolution means that in the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the proletariat must draw behind it the millions of peasant poor to oust the colonial powers in a struggle for a socialist revolution against the local bourgeoisie. This requires a Leninist-Trotskyist party dedicated to international proletarian revolution both in the neo-colonial countries and in the imperialist centres.
Imperialist subjugation of Kenya
Britain first laid claim to Kenya and other East African territory when Africa was carved up by the imperialist powers in the 1880s. The rapid expansion of the system of world trade fuelled competition between dominant capitalist powers to establish spheres of influence and to control land, raw materials, markets and sources of cheap labour. In contrast to Congo and South Africa, where the imperialists extracted enormous mineral wealth, British interest in Kenya was mainly strategic. To control access to the source of the Nile, the British built a railroad from Mombasa on the Indian Ocean coast to Lake Victoria in inland Kenya. Completed in 1901, the railway was financed by loans from the British government. The colonial overlords decided the loans would be repaid, and the cost of administering the colony would be met, through profitably farming the millions of acres of land through which the railway ran. To make this land productive, they brought in white settlers, mainly from Britain but also from South Africa, to produce cash crops.
The first British settlers arrived in 1902, lured by the British government’s promise of cheap land and unlimited cheap labour. Writer Colin Leys describes the rationale behind it thus: “The settlers would invest capital and produce crops; the railway would earn revenue by carrying them to the coast, and by carrying the imports inland they would earn abroad”, while “the government would finance its activities by levying tariffs on these imports”. The British capitalist rulers were determined to force the toiling black masses to bear the cost of imperialist domination over them. As Leys describes it:
“The highlands were ‘alienated’ to Europeans; that is, Europeans bought the land at nominal prices from the colonial administration. But at first they had neither the knowledge nor the capital to farm it very differently from the Africans on their land. They had not, moreover, come to Kenya to work as peasants. Their ‘farms’ were extremely large — an average of over 2,400 acres per ‘occupier’ in 1932. There was therefore only one solution, to make the Africans work for them. This the Africans had no reason to do, unless the Europeans had been willing to pay in wages more than Africans could earn from farming on their own account. But such wages would have meant little or no profit for the Europeans. Therefore Africans had to be compelled to work, partly by force, partly by taxation, and partly by preventing them from having access to enough land or profitable crops to enable them to pay taxes without working for wages.”
— Underdevelopment in Kenya (1975)
Roots of nationalist revolt
In order to claim the farmlands of the Central Highlands, part of the Great Rift Valley, the British slaughtered Kikuyus by the thousands. Many indigenous Kenyans driven off their lands were pushed onto “native reserves” set up by the colonial regime in 1915. These reserves were separated by ethnic grouping as part of reinforcing divisions among the Kenyans. As the population in the Kikuyu reserves grew and more British settlers seized the arable land, subsistence became even more difficult. The landless and impoverished black population was subjected to a system of racist laws regulating land, as well as a poll tax and a hut tax. There were also pass laws (kipande) like those in South Africa, prohibiting free movement including in the search for employment. Access to education for the poorest was nil; a small privileged layer was able to attend schools run by Christian churches.
The early British settlers were heavily drawn from the notoriously racist aristocracy. According to Robert Edgerton (Mau Mau, An African Crucible, 1990) “the Norfolk hotel, where they congregated when they visited Nairobi, quickly became known as the ‘House of Lords’” and “their goal was to recreate the Virginia plantocracy in which white gentlemen of breeding and leisure oversaw vast plantations worked by black men”. Sir Charles Eliot, the High Commissioner appointed to rule the East Africa Protectorate, as it was then known, proclaimed Kenya a “white man’s country”.
Outside the reserves other displaced Kikuyu became squatters on the white settlers’ farms in conditions akin to serfdom, raising their own livestock and crops for local sale in return for working the settler’s plantation. Beginning in 1925, with a surplus of available workers, the colonial government and settlers turned the screw on squatters. Rights of tenancy and to own livestock were cut back to the point where squatters laboured for the white farmers for below-subsistence wages. During the depression and World War II, forced labour was instituted to keep the settlers’ plantations functioning. By the mid-1940s there were over 200,000 registered squatters in the so-called White Highlands. With market prices for their produce set far below what the settlers earned for the same crop, the squatters were reduced to starvation conditions. Floggings by landlords were commonplace and squatters were evicted if they refused to sign new labour contracts on worse terms.
In the years leading up to the revolt the squatters were transformed from independent tenant-producers to rural, desperately impoverished wage labourers. Resistance among squatters took the form of illegal cultivation and sale of produce, mass refusal to sign new contracts and in some areas organised strikes. As described in a study by Frank Furedi, by the late 1940s, this resistance became “transformed into a militant wing of Kenyan nationalism”. The Mau Mau revolt was “the last stand of the Kikuyu squatter before his final destruction as an independent peasant producer” (The Mau Mau War in Perspective, 1989).
Although there were other ethnic groups among the squatter population, the Kikuyus were the most numerous and were subjected to special repressive measures. Pastoral groups such as the Nandi people, who included many police, were regarded by the colonialists as potential allies and largely exempted from the anti-squatter measures. By the late 1940s the movement of resistance among the squatters had linked up with resistance in the reserves and Kikuyu radicals in Nairobi.
Kenya’s agricultural resources — principally coffee, tea and sisal — were profitable cash crops grown for the export market. World War II led to increased British investment in mechanisation, resulting in vastly increased profits for the settlers while forcing more black labourers off the farms and onto the reserves, which were already unable to support their population. This fed the disparity between the landed elite and the desperate and landless masses among the black population. By 1948 the population of the colony comprised some 30,000 European settlers, 5.2 million indigenous black Africans, and 98,000 Asians who were brought in as cheap labour but were banned from owning arable land and composed a mercantile layer. The White Highlands — the best farmland in the colony — was in the hands of the white settlers, some 0.7 per cent of the population.
During WWII more than 75,000 black Kenyans joined the British Army and fought in the King’s African Rifles and other regiments in Africa, Asia and the Near East. But in contrast to white settlers who served in the British Army and were rewarded with land and low-interest loans, blacks returned to worse conditions than when they left. Many returning black soldiers were inspired by independence movements like those sweeping the Indian subcontinent. With no land, some gravitated to Nairobi where the scarcity of jobs and housing forced many into an urban lumpenproletariat. Amid mounting bitterness towards the colonial power for which they had risked their lives, landless war veterans formed an organisation called the Forty Group which would go on to play a key role in the Mau Mau.
Divisions within African nationalism
The Kikuyu Central Association (KCA) had been founded in 1924 in opposition to the theft of Kikuyu land and lack of education. Jomo Kenyatta, an educated Kikuyu who had spent some 16 years in Europe, was a leading member of the KCA at this time. On behalf of the KCA he went to London in 1929 to pressure the colonial government for better terms for the Kikuyu. But contrary to a perspective for independence, his programme was for “meaningful cooperation between the colonial state and his people” (Mau Mau and Kenya, Wunyabari Maloba, 1993). Kenyatta returned to Kenya in 1946 where he was widely revered as the Kikuyus’ leader, the “Burning Spear” who symbolised the growing anti-colonial sentiment among the black population. After the KCA was outlawed in 1941 the Kenya African Union (KAU) was formed in 1944. In 1947 Kenyatta became the leader of the KAU, nominally a nationalist party of all African ethnic groups but dominated by the Kikuyu. The KAU included some trade union militants; its leaders were educated and some had lived abroad. Its demands centred on better conditions for the black population under colonial rule. Although the KAU was for independence in principle it did not see this as attainable in the near future.
The organised working class was relatively weak, but was young and combative. The trade union component of the KAU leadership represented urban workers including government clerks, taxi drivers, shop workers and others. The African Workers Federation was formed by Chege Kibachia, who organised a strike of dockers — a potentially strategic workforce — in the port city of Mombasa. He was arrested in 1947 while fighting for a general strike in Nairobi and detained in a remote outpost for ten years. In 1949 the East African Trade Union Congress was formed by Fred Kubai, who was later imprisoned, and an Asian communist, Makhan Singh. This organisation was banned in 1950 and Singh was deported and held in a remote area near the Ethiopian border for eleven years.
By late 1947 evicted squatters had become frustrated at the lack of any gains through the gradualist methods of the KAU. Members of the KCA led a militant illegal society and began using the Kikuyu oath to cement unity in struggle. The Kikuyu fighters referred to themselves as the Land Freedom Army or “the movement” but came to be called Mau Mau. The colonial rulers seized on the oathing to demonise Mau Mau and to legitimise savage repression against the Kikuyu people. The Mau Mau became the vehicle for mass resistance to the eviction of squatters from white farms. The core of the guerrilla fighters, led by WWII veterans, trained and lived in the forests of the Aberdare Mountains and Mount Kenya. Their weaponry was sparse and they were barely fed and clothed — and then only due to the heroic efforts of sympathisers in the reserves.
It is impossible to overstate the extent of racist hysteria among the settlers and colonial government, which reverberated in the pages of the Daily Mail in Britain. Whole pseudoscientific theories were concocted about the “illness” particular to black Africans. Typical was the ranting of colonial secretary Oliver Lyttelton who wrote: “The Mau Mau oath is the most bestial, filthy, nauseating incantation which perverted minds can ever have brewed” (quoted in Mau Mau, An African Crucible).
The colonial state used widespread repression between 1950-52. However, the audacious daylight killing by Mau Mau of a prominent loyalist chief in October 1952 was seized on by the new colonial governor, Evelyn Baring, as a pretext for declaring a State of Emergency and letting loose a reign of terror by the security forces. Kenyatta and other KAU leaders were imprisoned and later convicted of masterminding Mau Mau in a sensationalised and rigged show trial.
The deep division between wealthy loyalist Kikuyu and the landless poor was brought home in the Lari massacre in March 1953. Lari, near the Aberdare forest not far from Nairobi, symbolised the dispossession of land once farmed by peasants and systematically stolen, much of it now in the hands of wealthy loyalists. Mau Mau fighters killed a major loyalist chief and some 97 others at Lari, indiscriminately targeting families, including many women and children. In retaliation, up to 400 Kikuyu were slaughtered by the government forces, including the Home Guard, which was a key military force alongside the British Army and the colonial forces. Eventually 71 people were hanged for the Lari killings. This episode sharply fed the racist frenzy among the settlers and in Britain and increased the polarisation among the Kikuyu people.
Under the State of Emergency the settlers, British Army and Home Guard were permitted to summarily execute anyone who failed to stop when ordered. Thousands of Kikuyu were shot on sight. The Kenya Regiment and Kenya Police Reserve, both made up of settlers, were notoriously brutal. However, many authors also stress the extreme brutality of the Home Guard, loyalists who often had personal scores to settle with their neighbours. And they were not few: there was in fact an aspect of civil war to the Mau Mau uprising, between those who had benefited from co-operation with colonialism and those who were dispossessed and recipients only of brutality and exploitation. There is a similarity to the French colonial war in Algeria that took place at the same time, in which the French imperialists killed a million people — over a tenth of the population. In both cases there was a colonial settler population and a large loyalist militia co-opted from among the indigenous population.
Virtually the entire population of one and a half million Kikuyu were rounded up and “screened” during the Emergency. In Nairobi, where the rebel command was based, the colonial forces carried out a devastating month-long siege in April 1954 known as Operation Anvil, in which all Kikuyu in the city were rounded up and up to 30,000 were taken away for further “interrogation”. Screenings were usually performed by loyalist Kikuyu who wore hoods to conceal their identities from people they had often known their entire lives. With a nod of the head, these stooges sent their neighbours to detention camps. The camps were part of a vast system of prisons, interrogation centres and torture outposts known as the “Pipeline”. This included over a hundred camps and prisons, not counting the camps run by individual loyalist chiefs and white settlers throughout the Rift Valley and central provinces. In the camps, jails and screening centres Kikuyu were starved, beaten and tortured until they “confessed”.
In 1954 the government began the “villagisation” policy of uprooting Kikuyu and resettling them in new villages — actually barbed wire-enclosed concentration camps under the control of the Home Guard and military. The villages the Kikuyu left behind were burned down and their livestock confiscated. The aim was to cut off the Mau Mau fighters’ supply lines by virtually imprisoning that part of the Kikuyu population not already in detention camps. Between June 1954 and October 1955, 1,077,500 Kikuyu were relocated to 854 “villages”. One survivor recounted to Caroline Elkins the treatment of the “villagers” by the Home Guard and British:
“some people who had refused to confess were being put in sacks, one covering the lower part of their bodies while the other covered the upper part. Then petrol or paraffin would be poured over the sacks, and those in charge would order them to be lit. The people inside would die writhing in the flames. Many people were dying every day. And it was the people who refused to confess, even after all the bad things that were being done to them; they were always killed in order to instill fear into others who might think of concealing the truth.”
— The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya
By 1954-55, the colonial government undertook a programme of land consolidation called the Swynnerton Plan which anticipated the land settlement that would be agreed at independence. The plan aimed to reinforce class divisions, rewarding loyalists with large parcels of land, declaring: “Former government policy will be reversed and able, energetic or rich Africans will be able to acquire more land and bad or poor farmers less, creating a landed and a landless class. This is a normal step in the evolution of a country” (quoted in Underdevelopment in Kenya).
By late 1956 the guerrillas had been militarily defeated but mass detention and torture continued into 1959. That same year, public opinion in Britain turned sharply against colonial rule in Kenya when evidence came to light of a massacre in Hola camp, a particularly brutal detention centre for Mau Mau, in which eleven men were beaten to death in March.
Kenya achieved independence in an international context in which British imperialism had suffered profound decline following WWII and national independence struggles had forced an end to colonial rule in India and were raging throughout Africa. The war on the part of Britain, France, Germany, Japan and the United States was an interimperialist conflict in which the working people and oppressed masses had no side. The working class did however have a side in defence of the Soviet workers state. The Soviet Union was no longer the revolutionary workers state that it was under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky, having undergone a political degeneration, beginning 1923-1924, under the bureaucratic caste led by Joseph Stalin. Nevertheless it remained a degenerated workers state until counterrevolution triumphed in 1991-92. It was the Soviet army’s victory over the imperialist armies of Nazi Germany that ended the carnage of WWII.
Following the war the imperialists ramped up their anti-Soviet Cold War and in the 1950s a central preoccupation of the colonial powers in Africa was to curtail the influence of the Soviet Union, which had provided support to nationalist movements, albeit within the framework of “peaceful co-existence” with imperialism. At the time, “anti-imperialist” rhetoric poured forth from bourgeois-nationalist leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, leader of newly independent Ghana, and Patrice Lumumba in the former Belgian Congo, who was murdered by the CIA in 1961. In 1960 South African troops massacred 69 black activists at Sharpeville who were protesting the hated apartheid pass laws. The CIA worked with South African armed forces and in 1962 tipped them off to Nelson Mandela’s whereabouts, leading to his 27-year imprisonment.
Kenyatta: henchman of imperialism
In a 1957 speech then British prime minister Harold Macmillan said, referring to the peoples of Africa, “if they are exposed to the full force of nationalism, it is up to us to see that they are steered away from Communism” (quoted in African Affairs, January 1970). Jomo Kenyatta was certainly an asset to the imperialists in that regard. When released from detention in August 1961 he was still widely revered by the masses and seen as the leader who would take Kenya to Uhuru (freedom). As the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o, who was imprisoned for his outspoken criticisms of the Kenyatta government, noted: “Looking at Kenyatta people tended to see what they wanted to see rather than what there was: petty bourgeois vacillations and opportunism” (quoted in Maloba, Mau Mau and Kenya).
Kenyatta preached “forgiveness” towards the murderous chiefs and Home Guard who had been the eager jailers and torturers of the Kikuyu masses, saying they were “all brothers and sisters and there should be no revenge”. He assured the European landowners their property rights were safe. He became the leader of the Kenya African National Union party, composed of mainly Kikuyu and Luo people, which saw itself as successor to the KAU and which was voted into government in 1963. Formal independence of Kenya was granted in December of that year.
With regard to the all-important question of land ownership, Kenyatta & Co accepted a rotten deal which allowed for the rich Kikuyu to buy land from the white settlers, for which they could obtain loans from the British government. The large plantations and ranches owned by foreign capital were untouched. Needless to say the mass of peasants remained landless. Kenyatta and his cronies were prepared to give the white settlers everything; the black peasants received only continued poverty and repression. Mau Mau veterans who rejected the deal formed a new Kenya Land and Freedom Army demanding the return of stolen lands. The Kenyatta government cracked down on these fighters, sentencing them to long prison terms. As one of the former leaders of the radical wing of the KAU, BM Kaggia, commented bitterly: “We were struggling to regain our own lands which were stolen by the British colonial government. We were not fighting for the right to buy our own land ” (East African Standard, 22 April 1965). Kenyatta turned to the police and army, just like the British who had detained him. A famous anecdote tells of a meeting two years after independence between president Kenyatta and former colonial governor Baring who was visiting. Baring said: “By the way, I was sitting at that actual desk when I signed your detention order twenty years ago.” Kenyatta replied: “If I had been in your shoes at the time I would have done exactly the same.”
Under capitalist rule, much of the wealth of the former colony continued to flow into the coffers of the erstwhile colonial masters. After independence Britain continued to dominate the economy in Kenya. The rising black bourgeoisie were at one with the propertied settlers in stifling the Asian entrepreneurs and ensuring racist economic policies and legislation discriminating against Asian-owned enterprise. Such policies culminated in the mass expulsion of Asians in 1967-68 in Kenya under so-called “Africanisation”. Soon after in Uganda, this same policy was carried out by Idi Amin to a particularly brutal degree.
The bourgeois nationalists who came to power in Kenya reinforced tribal divisions and upheld backward anti-woman practices. From the 1920s, the Kikuyu-based KCA was a vigorous defender of female genital mutilation (FGM). In response to a 1929 campaign waged by the Christian churches in Kenya in alliance with the educated elite against FGM, the KCA and Kenyatta defended FGM as part of “African culture”, thus condoning this retrograde and barbaric practice which is widespread today in parts of Africa, Asia and the Near East. There is nothing new in the British imperialist rulers hypocritically purporting to defend women’s rights in the colonial world — such as opposing suttee (immolation of widows) in India and the veil in the Islamic world — as a cynical ploy to dress up imperialist occupation as a “civilising mission”. While we fight every aspect of imperialist oppression, we vehemently oppose practices such as FGM, an especially brutal aspect of the oppression of women which maims them and means a lifetime of excruciating pain. (See “The Crime of Female Genital Mutilation”, Women and Revolution no 41, Summer/Autumn 1992.)
For permanent revolution throughout Africa
To this day Kenyan society is riven by murderous tribal and ethnic violence which is a legacy of colonial rule. At the time of Kenyatta’s death we wrote that the “Grand Old Man” of Kenya rose to the residency as a Kikuyu tribalist. We added:
“An Oxford-educated elite may be at home in the capitals of Europe, but as soon as any serious social unrest breaks out, the underlying tribalism and other indices of backwardness are quickly bared. This is not merely a holdover from the past: imperialism actually intensified and formalized ethnic rivalries with its divide-and-rule policies. Today the same patterns are fostered by the requirements of maintaining a political base in an environment of massive poverty.”
— Workers Vanguard no 214, 8 September 1978
A workers and peasants government in Kenya would expropriate the highly mechanised and capital-intensive large white-owned farms and transform them into modern large-scale collective and state farms. Councils of workers and rural toilers would decide on land distribution. A collectivised economy must be extended to neighbouring countries in the context of a socialist federation in sub-Saharan Africa.
The proletariat is the only class with the social power to bring the capitalist system to its knees and replace it with the dictatorship of the proletariat. The powerful South African proletariat is key to a revolutionary perspective in the whole region. Our comrades of Spartacist South Africa (SSA) fight to build a Leninist-Trotskyist party to lead the struggle for socialist revolution — for a black-centred workers government. Adequate housing for the millions in the townships, squatter camps and villages, electricity and water for the entire population, free quality education, the eradication of lobola (bride price) and other traditional patriarchal practices oppressive to women: these desperately needed measures require the socialist transformation of the economy and society under the dictatorship of the proletariat, fighting to promote socialist revolution throughout the African continent and worldwide. As a recent article written by the SSA said:
“As part of a socialist federation of Southern Africa, a black-centred workers government would fight to extend revolution to the imperialist centres of the U.S., West Europe and Japan. It will take an international socialist planned economy to lift the urban and rural masses out of poverty and create a classless society of material abundance — the beginning of a communist society. This is the essence of Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution.”
— Workers Vanguard no 964, 10 September 2010