Courtesy Reuters

WHAT KIND OF RADICALISM FOR AFRICA?

"An excellent revolutionary situation exists in Africa" was the way Chou En- lai summed up his visit to the continent earlier this year. Was this mere wishful thinking on his part? Or was it a deliberate attempt to foster revolutionary thinking? The answer to the second question should be obvious. Not so the first. Chou En-lai thinks of revolution in Mao Tse- tung's terms of "the seizure of power by armed force; the settlement of the issue by war is the central task of the highest form of revolution." If Chou En-lai was indeed talking in this sense, his appraisal of Africa's present condition is incorrect. There are a number of African states (other than just the remaining colonial territories) where the violent overthrow of government is possible; but it is highly unlikely that "seizure of power" will herald a Mao Tse-tung-type revolution. There is little reason to suppose that this is what would happen if the present rebels in the Congo were successful.

And yet, if one thinks of revolution in a different sense from Chou En- lai's, there are strong grounds for the view that conditions in Africa favor a revolutionary rather than an evolutionary process. Changes are likely to be abrupt, drastic and even violent.

If one can talk about the "mood" of a continent, Africa's mood strongly favors radical changes, both internally and internationally. There are, it is true, strong internal resistances, especially where traditionalist tribal society remains strong; but the pacemakers who wield power enjoy a general sanction to "leap into the twentieth century." The authority of the modernizing élite is strongly reinforced by the energetic ambitions of Africans to liberate themselves not only from colonial rule but also from the bondage of backwardness and dependency. Both for themselves and their societies, they are impatient to become better educated and trained; to grow richer; and, above all, to achieve the dignity of equals with other races (especially with whites).

African independence is therefore an instrument to

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