What Russia Got Wrong
Can Moscow Learn From Its Failures in Ukraine?
The problems which would beset post-colonial Africa were hardly recognized as the continent emerged into congeries of independent states ten years ago. Perhaps too great familiarity with detail made it hard for the colonial powers to see the problems clearly; too little familiarity with the realities made it hard for the United States; for both, and for the Africans themselves, belief in the sovereign power of freedom blinded them to the risks and tests which freedom entails.
But the problems lying in wait (which had much in common, also, with those of the new Asian nations) were not long in coming. The most dangerous of them was the legitimacy of the political system-how to establish the authority and sovereignty of a constitution so that it should be unquestioned even if governments ruling by it should change. Unlike uncolonized Ethiopia-or, in Asia, Thailand-the modern countries of tropical Africa had no traditional rulers to whom power could be naturally entrusted. Universal suffrage, for largely illiterate populations, was used as the legitimizing tool.
The economic problems derived from the dual economy created by colonialism- the small, largely Westernized "modern sector" of sophisticated production and consumption, versus the huge hinterland of somewhat disturbed rural life, tribalism and ancient cultural tradition. There seemed to be only a choice of emphasizing this dualism by further development of the modern sector through close economic relations with the West, or of trying to escape neo-colonialism by sacrificing economic growth.
Certain ideological and moral dilemmas have also been deeply felt by African leaders who wanted to avoid the materialistic capitalism of the West, escape the horrors of the nineteenth-century industrial revolution, and invent an economy which put social services ahead of the production of material goods (which in the West had financed the Welfare State). The resulting variants of state socialism have often placed upon thinly manned governments and communities which are weak in commercial skills the major burden of generating wealth, a function which in the West was largely performed by private enterprise. In some cases the emphasis on social expenditure has preëmpted resources urgently needed to expand the productive base of the economy.
Apart from purely economic and ideological issues, the dual economy has posed a more profound problem for national integration-the synchronous development of economic, political, social and moral elements in the society. One obvious symptom of social disarray is seen in the growing imbalance between educational output and employment, the frustration of unemployed graduates which at Independence already showed among primary- school leavers and was later to overtake first the secondary schools and then even the liberal-arts graduates from universities. And at a deeper level, this lack of integration shows itself in the huge divergences in attitudes, values and cultural continuity between the modernized and the traditional sectors. Here the educational system is obviously critical, and here the high-level manpower planners inadvertently widened the gap still further. As I wrote in 1962:
To abstract from the whole Western system just those elements designed to produce engineers or geophysicists (rather than the whole, which is designed to produce citizens and men) could be to fall into a grave mistake. For what is in issue in Africa is the growth of new nations, new societies of men, not merely the construction of new economies,...It would be unwise to assume that merely by "planning" and massive expenditure on a technological education any African country can turn itself in two decades into the reality, rather than the fagade, of a developed modern society. The real growth must have time to spread its roots deep and wide in the life of the community, aided by an education which fully replaces the old tribal training as a preparation for modern citizenship.[i]
There is a real dilemma here. To build into one and the same school system an education with a strong element of cultural continuity and a real relevance to the conditions of a slowly modernizing rural life, and a curriculum designed to produce the small but vital technical and administrative leadership with which to replace expatriates, has proved beyond the wit of politicians and planners and of their foreign advisers; it remains an unsolved and even more pressing problem today.
Finally, there was and is the problem of transfer of technology. Developing nations have been urged, and have been eager, to borrow both technology and institutions developed in and for a wholly different social and economic environment. But, as H. S. Frankel has pointed out: "Technical knowledge, the machine, and capital goods in general never exist in the abstract but always in the relatively fleeting form suited to the momentary situation and to that complex of unique problems to which they have been adapted. That is why they cannot readily be transferred from one situation to another." The dangers of transferring technology were fairly obvious; as to institutions-trade unions, universities, county councils-they were less quickly or clearly seen.
In a sophisticated age, so well stocked with analysts and critics, it is surprising that in face of this range of fundamental problems African independence was greeted first with such high expectations, and later with such disappointment and disillusion when the cracks began to show. There were critics, especially among the settlers and administrators who knew Africa best. But their voices were neglected, partly because they were seen as self-interested; partly (and very rightly) because they so often addressed themselves not to problems but to persons-to the alleged incapacity of Africans as such. If we turn now to the record, I think it can be demonstrated that it has been the problems rather than the persons which have made this decade a grueling experience-and yet still a hopeful one-for Africans and their well-wishers alike.
That the first independent governments should have been formed by "one man, one vote" elections was inevitable, because independence parties demanded it, because there was no other acceptable method, and because the colonial powers could not deny democratic ideals. That such a method should be satisfactory as a continuing form of government was highly improbable. As Dr. Lucy Mair has said: "Conferred from above on a populace which is not aware of any desire to manage its own affairs, democracy can never be anything but a mechanical system, to be manipulated by a few individuals for their own ends, while the majority remain indifferent to its proceedings." The result has been faction; and worse still, too often tribal, communal or racial faction, since such loyalties are the easiest and strongest foundations on which factional leaders can build support.
Certainly in Africa the leaders who succeeded in the first elections recognized the dangers, and their early years have been spent in constant appeals for national unity and condemnation of tribal and communal faction. (Discrimination against expatriates and aliens was an allowable safety- valve, since they could not threaten any government's political position.) Perhaps half-consciously, some leaders also saw that elections would not give "authority" (in Hannah Arendt's sense of instinctive reverence for the auctor or founder of a national tradition), and that without authority, which democracy in new countries lacked, neither constitution nor government would be secure. It was thus that, in a great number of African and Asian states, the single charismatic leader, backed by a single national party, animated by some overtly expressed national philosophy (Nkrumah-ism, Nyerere-ism, Kaunda-ism, Senghor-ism in Africa; Gandhi-ism in India; Sukarno-ism in Indonesia; U Nu-ism in Burma) can be seen as an attempt to found a tradition around which authority would form and grow. Government would then be legitimized, not so much by votes as by its succession from the founding fathers and their philosophy.
If we look at a few African states, we see that Nyerere, Kaunda, Sékou- Touré, Houphouet-Boigny are perhaps on their way to achieving this result. Kenyatta, too identified by tribal background, may not succeed in passing on his national authority. Obote in Uganda, having reached power by political skill and sustained it by armed force, has only just adopted a national philosophy in his "Move to Left" proclamation of October 1969. Nkrumah overdid a cult of personalism and economic ambition, and crashed. The old Belgian Congo never had a start. Nigeria, lacking a dominating central figure, staggered through some years of compromise among three national loyalties and is now in political ruins. There are parallels in Asia: Sukarno, like Nkrumah, overplayed his personal hand and ignored the warnings of economic disaster; U Nu in Burma, perhaps too gentle and betrayed by bad economic advice, had not the strength to maintain his role; Prince Sihanouk in Cambodia for a long time achieved, with fascinating skill, a marriage of the "authority" of monarchy and the mythology of development, but now also seems to have fallen from the razor's edge.
The failure of some of the first leaders-and West Africa particularly is strewn with failures-has been due not only to their lesser skill or to tribalism: it is certainly in part due to failure to control the greed of their henchmen in the modern sector. Without a tradition to control them, ministers, businessmen and some officials gave way to an orgy of corruption, intrigue and repression (bitterly described by François Fanon as neo-colonialism), which was enough to discredit all authority and leadership, however charismatic.
When authority fails, force, the oldest authenticator of governments, returns. We are still in the phase of military takeovers (two took place while this article was being written). Sometimes the General attempts to create a "Founder's" tradition, as Mobutu may be doing, and as Ayub Khan attempted in Pakistan. Sometimes, as in Ghana or Sierra Leone, the military phase is a pause for reconstruction: Ghana's new democratic experiment, thoughtfully designed, will be of extreme interest. Pakistan faces this third phase with extreme anxiety and little hope.
This political analysis is made in terms of authority rather than of the pressures on governments, simply because these pressures, from tribal groups, from intellectuals, from rivals, from half-educated unemployed, were always certain to be strong. The critical issue is the strength of government to contain them while some unity and authority are building. Indeed, it is perhaps surprising that some of the successful leaders, such as Nyerere or Kaunda, have not insured themselves by a greater armed force: the East African military revolts, trivial as they were, showed what a perilously narrow margin of security they have.
If this analysis is correct, there are clear implications, at least for Africa. First, that classical democracy, as such, was an unsuitable form of government for most emerging nations; in most countries, it has not succeeded and there may be more failures to come. Second, that perhaps the best hope of stability for Africa may be in those countries where a national leader, protected by adequate armed force and supported by an ideology carried widely through the country by a single party, is in power long enough for authority to grow around him, around his memory as founder, and around a set of ideas which succession governments adopt. It is perhaps in this way that a national consensus, vital to the working of a democratic system, could grow.
A dual economy, reflecting the contrast between colonial administration and investment on the one hand, and the indigenous economy on the other, was bound to exist in Africa. The early independence policies of industrializing and building a top-quality modern infrastructure, which were reinforced by foreign aid, widened the gap still further, gradually substituting an African élite for a European one. The result has often been described in terms of modern capital cities (surrounded by shack towns), trunk roads, airports, tourist hotels, a few modern factories and at least one superb university structure in each country. The rapid growth of (usually) more modest primary and secondary schools and of the provision of teachers for them has been the biggest contribution of the aided modernizing process to a better balance in society.
The difficulty of escaping from this situation has been under-emphasized ; perhaps the briefest glance at history will make it more clear. When Europe entered the industrial revolution populations were small and grew at a moderate pace-the highest rate in a decade in Britain was 1.4 percent per annum (1820-30). There was therefore a good chance of absorbing the extra manpower into rapidly growing industries. Besides, between 1600 and 1900 northern and western Europe conquered or penetrated Canada, the United States, South America, Africa, much of the Near East, India and Burma, Indochina, Malaya, Indonesia, the Philippines, the Pacific islands, Australia and New Zealand-that does not leave much of the rest of the world save for Russia, China and Japan. The growing industrial nations had a decisive technological superiority. It was therefore not necessary for British industry to await the expansion of consumer demand within the nation's own agricultural community, for the markets of a conquered world were open. Public expenditure on education and social services was small (primary education did not become universal until the 1880s in Britain, long after the main technical expansion had taken place). Nationhood had been established for centuries.
Contrast with this story that of Africa. Population growth has preceded industrial development, and at two and one-half to three percent per annum. There is no new world to expand into; there is no technical superiority to wield in existing markets; industry must wait upon the growth of consumer demand from among the vast bulk of rural population-in the 1960s Tanzania was classified as 95 percent rural, five percent urban; education and social services have come before industrial development on a large scale; national unity is barely 10 years old.
This list of contrasts is, to my mind, staggering. It faces Africa, and to a lesser degree most other developing countries, with a situation which is unique in modern history. With no large external market for manufactures, and without the ability of a Britain or a Switzerland to import raw materials, apply special skills and reëxport them, the foundation of African economies had to be laid in primary production-lucky were those with oil or copper-using agricultural or mineral exports to purchase equipment for industry. But industry in turn was limited to the internal market, and low productivity and low incomes in the massive agricultural sector narrowly limited chances for industrial expansion or for the growth of small-scale processing, commerce, distributive and technical services from which a more solid economy could grow. The small modern sector typically was burdened with overvalued exchange rates (favoring imports of sophisticated machinery and élite consumption goods), excessively high differentials between urban and rural earnings, a stagnant agriculture and a growing menace of unemployment. The mineral-rich countries (Zambia, Nigeria and the oil countries of North Africa) find it even harder to unify the high-reward mining economy with the subsistence hinterland.
It is this situation, not confined to Africa, which has led to rich cash- crop exports alongside miserable subsistence agriculture and to the paradox of widespread malnutrition and even hunger alongside complaints of limited demand for agricultural output. In Latin America it has led to the dreary sequence of development expenditure in the industrial sector-inflation; crisis; retrenchment; stagnation; development expenditure-a sequence sadly familiar to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In Asia, with a longer tradition of craft industry, metalworking and commerce, the duality has not been quite so marked, although even in India the neglect of food production gave a sharp lesson in 1966.
In short, the attempt to industrialize from the top downward by borrowing sophisticated techniques, while 60 to 70 percent of the population remained in a stagnant rural economy, represents an attempt to enter the twentieth- century world industrial economy before the domestic foundations have been properly laid. The worst symptom is unemployment, which will be the dominant problem of Africa in the 1970s; the way on is-"reculer pour mieux sauter"-to return to a really thorough development of the traditional agricultural sector, accompanied by a development of the processing, supply and consumer goods industries and services which a successful and modernized agriculture demands.
Unemployment is best illustrated by some simple figures on population growth, rural-urban distribution and salaried employment. When a two and one-half percent population growth is applied to a 75 percent rural population, the resulting increase in absolute rural numbers will far exceed the natural growth (two and one-half percent on 25 percent) in towns; it will exceed it even if growth plus immigration to towns adds up to six percent per annum. Thus, in the sharpest contrast to Western experience, the rural areas in Africa and Asia will have to give a livelihood to greatly increased absolute numbers for a generation or more. Even with a seven percent per annum growth in gross national product, in modern experience salaried employment seldom increases faster than two to three percent per annum. Thus, the towns will not be able to absorb their own growth; and the country will face ever-mounting pressure on land and jobs.
These grim calculations have been accepted only slowly. The first tendency in Africa, under the pressure of the foreign exchange drain in the modern sector, was to reëmphasize export crops, until markets began to be filled and the threat of unemployment sharpened. The second main response was to create very expensive settlement schemes; East and West Nigeria, Tanzania and Kenya have felt very sharply the cost and the small economic result (although in Kenya the political gain was worth the cost). Only in the last year or two has real attention moved to enriching, diversifying and commercializing internal food production, with its possible gains not only in nutrition but, above all, in employment. Hopefully, a highly intensive agriculture, with doubled farm incomes, could create a hum of construction as well as commercial, distributive, processing and servicing activity which could bring a substantial volume of wasted human and technical potential into productivity and start to build the economy from below.
The idea of the "green revolution" and the importance of agriculture are beginning to grow all over the developing world, and there have been remarkable successes in India, Pakistan, Taiwan, Mexico and at scattered points in Africa and Latin America. But there is still a long way to go before statements about the priority of the agricultural sector are borne out by priorities in resource-allocation: in physical investment, personnel, training, education, market incentives. How many countries still are content with one field extension officer to 1,500 or 2,000 farming families? Indeed, in Mexico and in India there are clear dangers that the green revolution will simply add a small group of the larger and more powerful farmers to the modern sector, leaving the other three-quarters of the rural economy relatively worse off.
A dual economy has meant a dual educational system-full Westernized education for the lucky few who are destined for the modern sector, a bare taste of education (also Westernized) for the multitude destined to stay in the rural economy. Again, this seemed inevitable at the start. The demand for full equality for at least some few in the newly independent countries implied equality in educational "standards," which was often confused with content. Africa certainly was not to be fobbed off with rural polytechnics instead of universities. After the decline of the fashion for high-level manpower studies aimed exclusively at the modern sector, the pendulum has swung back to a revived concern for an education more related to environment, to national cultural tradition and to economic and educational needs at the lower and middle levels of society. It has proved hard to translate this new approach into practice, whether in syllabus or in structure. For one thing, the association of education with superior employment has had time to be deeply engraved in the minds of parents and pupils alike. But above all, an education really suited to the rural environment in which the great majority of Africans and Asians live can become both acceptable and genuinely functional only when that environment begins to offer real opportunity and to require skills and knowledge on a large scale, which an education revised both in content and structure could provide. It is useless to dream of a revolution in education without a revolution in the economy. While opportunity lies only in the Westernized top of the dual economy, education will remain in thrall to that small sector. It will produce first enough and then too many graduates, and the surplus will then emigrate to greener pastures in the developed countries.
Thus, education, employment and rural development are an almost metaphysical three-in-one. Perhaps the most forceful statement of this trinity in Africa was made at the Kericho Conference in Kenya in 1966; it was followed up by the Kenya government and the university with a series of a dozen pilot schemes of integrated rural development, scattered in contrasting environments all over Kenya, the first of which are now emerging from the planning stage into action. The Indian "block development" system, older and covering an immense area, moves in the same direction, though with less consciousness of the critical issue of employment for the mass of school-leavers.
Both the need for employment and the need for social integration require the growth, from below, of a bridging middle to the dual economy, and an educational system consonant with it-more demotic, more practical and based on those elements of tradition capable of survival in the twentieth century. It is mainly on the Left-in Tanzania, in Cuba-that such ideas are being given practical expression: the Right would be well advised to take heed. The growing body of unemployed young school-leavers exasperated by a flick of irrelevant education, and the continued existence of "two nations"- these are beyond question the two major dangers from now on.
Developing societies, especially in Africa, are necessarily borrowing societies; we have seen them borrowing political forms, technology, institutions. The peculiar nature of this borrowing process is worth a closer look, for the light which it can throw on the whole development process described here.
If we look at an African country of five or six million people-say Uganda- its economy has much in common with that of Britain in about the seventeenth century when its population was also five million. It may seem absurd for Uganda to borrow twentieth-century techniques and social forms, the outcome of 300 years of subsequent social and economic change. Yet, while there is much to be learned from the steps by which Britain was transformed from an agricultural and craft society to an industrial one, it is equally mistaken to suppose that these steps must be simply repeated. The environment of 1650 Britain was Europe in 1650; the environment of Uganda is the 1970 world. Developing countries have a single great advantage, as latecomers in this environment; the sciences, which Europe had to find, are there for the taking. If development which took Europe 300 years is to be achieved in 50, this great accelerator must be borrowed and fitted somehow into the local social structure.
In fact, some technologies can easily be borrowed; radio, electric power to drive an illiterate peasant's tubewell, bicycles, typewriters, sewing machines, the truck and the DC3 find a ready use in rural areas from China to Peru. Some, however, will not fit; high-speed mass production machinery requires conditions (mass market, skills, prices of labor) which disqualify it for use in totally different economies. The degree of suitability for the environment may well be one criterion for the transfer of technology. (The problem of adapting technology is largely a market problem. As the Japanese have shown, if there is a market for small tractors, small tractors will be produced.) But it should be emphasized that technology is not science: the latter is not vitally connected with the environment that houses it; it is true for the world, and from it technologies adapted to social circumstances can be borrowed.
Clearly, the borrowing of social institutions will be far more difficult. It has also been far less studied. Why were trade unions, with their social reference to nineteenth-century European history and traditions shouting to high heaven, introduced almost forcibly into Africa? Why has the Rochdale Coöperative model been exported to three-quarters of the world, as though it was a philosopher's stone for all sorts and conditions of men? Why has the cohort of consultants and aid agencies continued to stamp British, French or American institutions on developing countries? A reasoned theory of the growth and appropriateness of institutions, and the changes in them which should accompany the uniquely rapid process of change in developing countries, is still to be found.
To put this abstract argument into concrete terms, it is possible to find rational criteria for the types of institution likely to succeed (or fail) in the development of small-holding agriculture, which occupies such a vast mass of Africans and Asians. For example, even the most fervent devotee of private enterprise can hardly believe that commercial firms can pioneer the distribution of fertilizer to tens of thousands of scattered villages, mostly inaccessible by hard road, when demand is infinitesimal and credit nonexistent; yet at a later stage of growth they may be easily the best agency. Even-one would think-the most patriotic American could not believe that the American model of university extension (developed for literate farmers, on sizable farms, with good access roads, supported by a trade press and aggressive commercial selling) would work for illiterate villagers on three-acre holdings requiring the simplest advice; yet 20 years from now this method might become appropriate. Why should county councils, served by poorly paid officials, manned by small-time politicians and village magnates concerned with private power or gain or the smashing of political rivals, prove a suitable choice of institution for improving the lot of small peasantry? What are the conditions in which coöperatives normally succeed, and the conditions in which they almost invariably fail? There are plenty of examples of both in Africa, yet the tool is still used, without rational discrimination, alike in promising and in totally unpromising circumstances.
If we look at the record of African countries over the last 10 years, we thus see them seeking desperately to contain the demands of economic growth and alien technical change within a social and political structure partly borrowed, partly invented, seldom reinforced by indigenous tradition. Alas, the tools chosen for this process, far from being closely adapted to local circumstances and stages of growth, have usually been "blanket" choices-of coöperatives, district commissioners, universities, development corporations or whatever-largely reflecting ideology, or fashion, or the home practice of the consultant who advises. In the 1970s the technical means of agricultural advance in the tropics will at last be widely available: now far more thought is needed on the administrative and institutional patterns through which the contribution of science-the one great accelerator-can be made effective in the unique combination of seventeenth-century society and twentieth-century technique.
There is not much that the West can do to help the developing nations with the crisis of political authority at the center, or in the choice between the authoritative commissioner, elected council or party machine in local administration, except to avoid giving bad advice or chanting our own political hymns. But we can, through well-judged aid, help cure the evils of the dual economy, particularly in the agricultural sector; help with population control; and refrain from selling our own educational system to countries which need a radically different one.
We can also recognize, in relation to the transfer of technology and institutions, that the path of social and economic development in Africa (and elsewhere) will be unique, and will require its own social inventiveness. Indeed, development is becoming, and must increasingly become, a path chosen by developing countries for themselves. Patronage, aid with ideological or political strings, the "selling" of Western techniques and institutions will be increasingly resented, at least by those nations which have the political will to break the deadlock which a rich, Westernized modern sector and a stagnant rural economy are imposing on their society. Aid-givers will have to talk less, listen more and think more creatively if they are to find channels to help bring about widespread, indigenous, self-sustaining growth.
Finally, there is a growing coalescence of ideas, politically to the Left, which have been generated in very different circumstances in the developing world and in the rich, white world. From Asia and Latin America they come as protest against the old establishment of landlords, merchants, corrupt industrialists and politicians; from Africa, as rage against the new establishment of Westernized African privilege and self-seeking. In all three the figure who is seen to lurk behind the local enemy, blocking the door to social emancipation, racial equality, economic independence is the white capitalist or "racialist" or "imperialist," whether in Washington (and Vietnam), London (and Salisbury), or even Moscow (and Prague). From the developed world comes an answering cry of protest, not only from idealist and anarchic youth, not only from racial and social minorities, but from a growing group of normal adult men and women oppressed by the blemishes of our own system-by injustice, poverty amid riches, materialism, destruction of the environment, bureaucratic arrogance, lack of participation. The radical experiments of a Cuba or a Tanzania or a Zambia may seem far away from such concerns. But they strike a common chord of protest, and this is a protest upon which civilization itself depends for its renewal generation by generation.
Growing violence in our world is a sign that this protest is not being heeded fast enough. The West cannot afford, for its own health, to be ranged among the old against the young. John F. Kennedy, whatever he was in fact, was seen by the outer world as one who listened to the protest, and his death was widely mourned accordingly. General de Gaulle, in the heartland of rich Europe, was swept away because he heard it too late. We cannot afford to look at the developing world, of Africa or Asia or Latin America, without sympathy for those forces in it which, whatever their faults, nevertheless stand for renewal; for the same forces are also within our gates; we too need renewal. Perhaps the growing awareness of the blemishes of our own system will also help us to look less dogmatically at developing countries, especially in Africa; to realize that their problems are not those which we thought we had solved 100 years ago, and that our old solutions will not suit them; and to show more patience and generosity at least to those new nations which are sincerely seeking a new political and economic formula for their future.
[i] I include this quotation, written in 1962, partly to avoid the obvious accusation of hindsight, and partly because it still expresses accurately the situation today.