Essay On Ujamaa

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date: 14 March 2018


Summary and Keywords

The idea of Ujamaa emerged from the writing and speeches of Tanzania’s first president, Julius K Nyerere, from the late 1950s and into the 1960s. Usually translated as “familyhood,” it was a form of African socialism that blended broadly conceived socialist principles with a distinctly “communitarian” understanding of African societies, and a strong commitment to egalitarian societies. It was to form the bedrock of efforts to institute profound social change from the late 1960s, directed and shaped by the state. At the heart of the idea of Ujamaa were ideas around self-reliance (people should build for themselves their futures), total participation of all in developing the nation (“nation building,” and self-help), communal labor in the rural sector and communal ownership of land, and nationalizations in the private sector and of public services. Ujamaa as an idea was to have a profound impact on Tanzanian economic and development policies from the late 1960s, but also had a wider continental impact in contributing to and shaping a distinctive form of African socialism in the 1960s and 1970s.

Keywords: Tanzania, Ujamaa, Nyerere, Villagisation, African socialism, nation building, Arusha Declaration

Ujamaa as an Idea

Ujamaa as an idea was presented initially as a moral code and a broad set of values rather than the framing for the concrete policy it was to be after 1967. Although the 1961 TANU constitution committed the government to a “democratic and socialist” form, this aspiration was not put into actual practice in the first six years of independence. Until the publication of the Arusha Declaration in 1967, Tanzania pursued a set of economic and social policies largely inherited from the colonial state, emphasizing Africanization, incremental change, and a focus on industrial development, rather than collectivization and nationalization of the economy and an emphasis on rural development.

During this period, however, Nyerere began outlining his vision of Ujamaa and African socialism through a series of pamphlets, speeches, and broadcasts, outlining the theoretical basis of Ujamaa ideology. The first major attempt to define Ujamaa was to be found in Nyerere’s 1962 pamphlet Ujamaa—the Basis of African Socialism, in which three of the key ideas that were to shape the evolution of the ideology over the next six years were to be found. The first idea was the importance of communitarian values, explicitly linking to precolonial ways of living in which individuals were supported through the community.

In our traditional African society we were individuals within a community. We took care of the community, and the community took care of us. We neither needed nor wished to exploit our fellow men.1

Importantly, communitarian values extended not only to mutual support, but also to communal ownership, including (and especially) communal ownership of land—an idea that would become critical to the policy of Ujamaa villagization. The pamphlet secondly emphasized the importance of creating an egalitarian society, again drawing on an idealized version of the precolonial past in which, despite differences in wealth between individuals,

Both the “rich” and the “poor” individual were completely secure in African society. Natural catastrophe brought famine, but it brought famine to everybody—“poor” or “rich.” Nobody starved, either of food or of human dignity, because he lacked personal wealth; he could depend on the wealth possessed by the community of which he was a member. That was socialism. That is socialism.2

Nyerere believed Tanzanian (and African) societies, which had experienced no industrial or agrarian revolution creating distinctive and conflicting “classes”, were characterized by equality rather than social division. Ujamaa was thus always focused more on egalitarianism than on class conflict, in contrast to European socialism. The third point embedded throughout the pamphlet was a call for all to be actively engaged in creating the new future promised by the idea of Ujamaa. This exhortation, and warning against non-participation (“He has no right to expect anything from society because he contributes nothing to society,”3) was to become an important component of the move toward greater statism and autocracy in the following decade, as resistance or reluctance to fully participate was cast as treachery against the whole Ujamaa—and through that, nation building—project.4 It contributed to the growing belief by Nyerere and the state that people had to be transformed as much as economic systems. Over the next five years, Nyerere continued to expand upon these ideas in national and international speeches, pamphlets, and broadcasts.

As disillusionment with the development model adopted in the early 1960s grew, Nyerere increasingly championed his vision of Ujamaa as the solution: placing the development of the rural sector at the heart of the country’s development policies, through a program of radical social change, a perspective reinforced by Nyerere’s state visit to China in 1965.5 In February 1967, the Arusha Declaration was approved by the ruling party, TANU. Together with further elaboration in Freedom and Development and Socialism and Rural Development, the tenets of Ujamaa were set out in policy terms, radically shifting the direction of government so that the power of the state was to be directed toward achieving the aims and goals of Ujamaa through economic and social change. In doing so, it also transformed the idea of Ujamaa from a moral code into a road map for social engineering on a massive scale.

The Arusha Declaration set out the objectives of government policy: it was to seek to establish a society based on democracy, equality, and dignity of all; a program of economic nationalization would be implemented; and the attention would be shifted from the industrial to the rural sector. Socialism and Rural Development looked to how socialism could be achieved in the rural sector, setting out the priorities of creating

rural economic and social communities where people live together and work together for the good of all, and which are interlocked so that all of the different communities also work together in cooperation for the common good of the nation as a whole.6

And in outlining this position, the concept of the Ujamaa village—the principal way in which Ujamaa was to be implemented across Tanzania over the next decade—was established. Other documents applied the general principles to areas such as education (Education for Self-Reliance, published in March 1967), non-racialism (Socialism Is Not Racialism, published in February, and an important statement in a country with a relatively large Tanzanian-Asian population that dominated small trade).

Ujamaa in Practice: Everyone Must Live in Villages

1967 marked a turning point in government policy, with the vague commitments to socialism enshrined in the TANU constitution now expected to be put into practice by the government. Nationalizations of businesses, housing, small retail ventures, and health and education services, proclaimed under the logic of Ujamaa, followed over the next decade.7 But by far the most significant implementation of Ujamaa came in the form of Ujamaa villages: new settlements designed to put living together and working together into practice.

The movement of people from scattered settlements into new villages had been advocated under the World Bank model of early independence-development policy, as a means for more efficient delivery of social services, advice, and support for agricultural production and other infrastructural support. Alongside official government resettlement schemes (which prioritized increased production over particular modes of living and working), Nyerere had encouraged the formation of alternative, voluntary settlements based on the cooperative production principles of Ujamaa from the early 1960s. Schemes, such as the Ruvuma Development Association in southern Tanzania, sought to put Nyerere’s ideas into practice.8 The first official resettlement campaign had collapsed in 1965. The Arusha Declaration, in emphasizing rural development over industrial, revised the idea of mass villagization, fusing the process of resettlement with Ujamaa, in the form of Ujamaa villages: places where people would not only live together, but work together on communal farms and other communal enterprises.

Dean McHenry9 has identified three phases in the post-1967 efforts to implement Ujamaa in the rural sector. During the first period, 1967–1969, the government relied on persuasion to encourage people to voluntarily create and join new settlements. But after two years of slow progress and participation (with only around 5% percent of the population living in Ujamaa villages), the government moved to a new, more proactive phase in 1969 (the “inducement phase,” as McHenry calls it). In March 1969 Nyerere ordered that all government policy was to be geared toward the implementation of Ujamaa villagization; rural services were henceforth to be situated in the new villages, and rural-development funding was to be withdrawn from those not living in, nor intending to move to, Ujamaa villages. Over the next three years, the government implemented a number of district-wide operations in Chunya, Dodoma, Iringa, Kigoma, and Rufiji, directed by local officials and involving little participation from those being resettled.10

By 1973, such efforts had led to the establishment of around 5,000 villages, with a population of around 2 million people. However, despite the efforts of the local administration backed by a central government increasingly seeing compliance with its resettlement policy as essential, the operations had only added another 10 percent or so to the population now living in officially designated Ujamaa villages. Indeed, by 1973, it was clear that the policy was unpopular with a large proportion of Tanzanians passively and in some cases actively resisting being moved. Throughout 1971 and 1972, reports of violence and coercion as part of the official resettlement operations began to spread. According to a report from an NGO working in Tanzania during this period, the village of Lupatingatinga was destroyed as part of Operation Chunya in 1971; and a World Bank report of 1972 noted the “overzealous” action of officials determined to enforce the policy.11 In 1971, a former regional commissioner was killed in Iringa in a dispute over villagization.

Faced with growing resistance and continued slow progress in implementing plans to establish Ujamaa villages, the government issued an order in September 1973 that villagization was to be made compulsory: all Tanzanians were expected to be living in nucleated village settlements within three years. McHenry calls this phase the “compulsion” phase, characterized by increased pressure, violence (chiefly against property), and force in enforcing resettlement.12 In 1974, the government launched Operation Vijiji (Vijiji meaning villages in Swahili), targeting new areas. An operation in Mwanza resettled some one million people in the space of a few months. By 1976, over 95 percent of the population lived in officially registered villages, the culmination of Africa’s largest-ever resettlement program.

A question remains, however, over the extent to which the ideology of Ujamaa still suffused Ujamaa villagization by the mid-1970s. Between 1967 and 1972, Ujamaa principles dominated the government’s discussion of what it was attempting to create. The plans for new villages contained large communal farms, in addition to smaller plots allocated to individual households. Yet by the time the government moved toward compulsory villagization, the ideals of Ujamaa appear to have been quietly dropped as key priorities. When announcing compulsory villagization in September 1973, the government simultaneously dropped the requirement for communal production, instead advocating the creation of large block farms divided into individually worked plots. Kjell Havnevik sees the period from 1972 as one in which the emphasis in government policy switched from the ideological (Ujamaa) to the economic (increasing agricultural production).13 The principle of communal production and economic ventures was replaced by a new priority on mass villagization, as Ujamaa was sidelined as the driving force behind government policy. Such a transformation in approach appeared to be confirmed in 1975 by the Ujamaa Village and Village Act, which recognized as official village settlements those which did not prioritize communal production.

Ujamaa as the ideology underpinning government policy was to continue officially until the 1990s. But in practice, for all intents and purposes, it had ended by the mid-1970s. For some, this shift in emphasis was the result of a crisis in food production generated by the forced resettlement of huge numbers of people, often at critical periods during the agricultural season (the 1972 harvest was particularly poor, necessitating large imports14), coupled with the economic problems associated with the doubling of oil prices between 1969 and 1973. Production levels, rather than socialism, were to be the driving force of policy.15

For others, the changes reflected less economic priorities (important though those were) than the politics of power. The rise of Ujamaa to the forefront of government policy in 1967 had not been universally accepted. It represented the victory of one faction, led by Nyerere, over others. McHenry has identified a key battle in government and TANU during the 1960s and 1970s as being between a group he calls “ideological socialists” and one labeled “pragamatic socialists.”16 For McHenry, the key divide was not over whether socialism was to be the goal of Tanzanian policy, but how that goal was to be achieved. With the Arusha Declaration, McHenry argues, the ideological socialists gradually secured control over the party.17 Yet other ways of thinking about the tensions at the heart of government are also instructive. By 1969, barely two years after Nyerere had successfully embedded Ujamaa at the heart of policy, a group within government and TANU (led by Vice President Rashidi Kawawa) who saw government control over policy implementation and direction as being more important than the ideology that Ujamaa had begun pushing for a more frontal, state-led approach to implementing Ujamaa.18 By the early 1970s, concern over lack of government authority within the rural sector allowed those wanting a more statist model to gain the upper hand, culminating in compulsory villagization and the dropping of the core underlying principle of Ujamaa, its commitment to communal production. Ujamaa remained as a rhetorical commitment, but no longer drove policy or state-run social engineering.

Ujamaa and African Socialism

Ujamaa clearly had a significant impact within Tanzania, shaping economic and social development for around a decade. However, on the international stage, it was also a distinctive voice within global discourses on socialism. Nyerere’s conception of Ujamaa was critical to the emerging African socialism discourse that emerged in the 1960s. As with Ujamaa, African socialism was characterized by an emphasis on communitarian values (as opposed to a class-based discourse more characteristic of European socialism), a strong emphasis on social development, and on the importance of creating egalitarian societies. Nyerere was not alone in developing these ideas: leaders of newly independent African nations such as Nkrumah in Ghana, Sékou Touré in Guinea, Leopold Senghor in Senegal, Kaunda in Zambia, and Modibo Keita in Mali similarly outlined a model of socialism that emphasized links to a precolonial past as a foundation for development of the new nations forged from the collapse of exploitative European empires. As with Nyerere, many of these leaders had been strongly influenced by socialist ideas during periods of study in the home nations of European colonial powers, in Russia, and in the United States, and had received support from left-wing socialist organizations during the nationalist struggle against colonial occupation (e.g., the Fabian Colonial Bureau in the United Kingdom).

Along with Nkrumah, Nyerere was perhaps one of the most articulate, and internationally recognized, of African socialist thinkers, and African socialism went further and lasted longer in Tanzania than it did elsewhere. It became the standard bearer for African socialism, with Nyerere garnering tremendous respect and support among an international following, despite growing inconsistencies in its articulation by the state, and its erosion by the end of the 1970s.

As was the case in Tanzania, African socialism became synonymous in many cases with the rise of an administrative elite and expansion of the administrative bureaucracy over vast swathes of both economic and social policy.19 It remained alive largely in the writings of its ideological champions in universities (of which the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania was a leading light throughout the late 1960s and 1970s), and among the international supporters of African socialism, even as in practice it was ever more used as a cover for the extension of state power and a growing intolerance over resistance to policies carried out under its name.

Ujamaa’s Legacy

Nyerere resigned as president in 1985, having refused to sign an agreement on an economic recovery program within the IMF and World Bank. Within a year, his successor, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, had signed the agreement, instituting an era of structural-adjustment reforms and liberalization of the economy. When Nyerere stepped down as chair of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM—the name adopted by TANU in 1977) in 1990, the separation of government from party and adoption of a multiparty constitution in 1992 formally ended the commitment of Tanzania to socialist development. However, as we have seen, in reality this commitment had been eroded and effectively ended by the mid-1970s, when the government began to see control and power over the rural sector, and increasing production, as more important than implementing the communitarian values underpinning Ujamaa and African socialism more widely.

Tanzania was the last of the major proponents of African socialism to continue down that path, and continued to be seen as such by international observers until the end of the decade, when the financial crisis of the early 1980s effectively killed off any possibilities for its resurgence. Ujamaa was increasingly discredited and blamed for economic failure and collapse within Tanzania in the 1990s. Public debates around it were revived following the death of Nyerere on October 14, 1999, as part of the remembering and reevaluation of his government and influence. Debates focused on the success in limiting inequality, and on the moral values officials people were expected to live by (in contrast to the perceived rampant levels of corruption at all levels of the state). But few called for its revival. As an idea, Ujamaa had been relegated firmly to the past.

Discussion of the Literature

Surprisingly, perhaps (given the scale of villagization and the impact that the philosophy of Ujamaa had on a generation of mostly left-leaning international supporters), academic discussions of Ujamaa have not featured as prominently in historical and political science literature as one might expect since the early 1980s. Nor indeed for much of the period following Nyerere’s retirement from the presidency until his death in October 1999 did it feature very prominently in political and popular discourses within Tanzania. From the mid-1980s until the turn of the century, where Ujamaa and villagization were discussed or debated, it was very much in terms of an ideological experiment that had (sadly for its supporters, inevitably for its detractors) failed, and Tanzania’s brave journey along a path of its own imagining ended. Nyerere’s death from leukemia in a London hospital on October 14, 1999, led to new public and academic discussions of Nyerere and his impact and legacy.

We can detect three broad schools of writing in relation to Ujamaa. The first looks at Ujamaa primarily through an ideological lens, a body of literature that engages primarily with the idea of Ujamaa, what it stands for, and the extent to which implementation supported or betrayed its core principles. The second frames Ujamaa through nationalism, presenting it primarily as the means through which the “flag nationalism” of independence was to be transformed into a meaningful sense of nationhood and citizenship. The third, linked to the growing critique of Nyerere and challenge to earlier, perhaps more hagiographic, treatments of the man and his record in power, presents Ujamaa within the frame of the rise of the authoritarian state.

Contemporary Writing on Ujamaa

Much of the writing on Ujamaa that emerged contemporaneously with the implementation and subsequent collapse of policies aimed at its establishment engaged primarily with the idea of Ujamaa itself. Nyerere was central to debates inasmuch as he was recognized as the original architect of the ideas, principles, and growing ideology of Ujamaa that drove policy from the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s; but the real focus of the literature was an attempt to answer the question as to what went wrong. Why had the promise of Ujamaa failed to deliver the utopia it promised? Was it a failure of policy and its implementation, or a betrayal of the rural dwellers by a power-seeking bureaucratic elite determined to use Ujamaa as a mask for a power grab?

Cranford Pratt20 divided the camps into “Marxist socialists,” and “democratic socialists.” The former, epitomized by the work of Andrew Coulson, Lionel Cliffe, Michela von Freyhold, and perhaps above all Issa G Shivji,21 portrayed Ujamaa as a good policy destroyed by the politics of a bureaucratic bourgeoisie, seeking to establish its dominance as a class through the implementation of policies around Ujamaa. For this camp, the abandonment of communal agricultural production was a betrayal of the ideas of Ujamaa and the confirmation of the “true” purposes to which the ideology was now being put. Issa G Shivji led the charge for this group of writers, outlining his argument as early as 1970 (in a mimeograph later to be published in the radical University of Dar es Salaam journal Cheche) that state functionaries dressed themselves in socialist clothing, but were actually using villagization, nationalization, and the other elements of Ujamaa policy to aggregate power to themselves.22 “Democratic socialists,” including people such as Goran Hyden, Bismark Mwansasu, and Prat himself,23 and among whom Pratt included Nyerere, argued that it was the policy itself that was flawed, and problems in the implementation of that policy. For the Marxist socialists, villagization was a tool for the deliberate subordination of the peasantry; for democratic socialists, the policy failed because by concentrating on peasants in villages, it made it more likely that demands would be articulated on a state that could not meet them.24

The focus for almost all of this literature was the ideology of Ujamaa, which provided the focus point, the fulcrum around which the arguments over who or what was to blame (policy implementation or class betrayal) revolved. The literature was also characterized by the deep involvement and personal stake in Ujamaa of many of those writing at the time: the task of explaining what was going on was not just about understanding and documenting, but about influencing, shaping, and securing the legacy of Ujamaa.

Ujamaa and the Building of the Nation

While Ujamaa did not disappear entirely from the analytical gaze of historians and political analysts from the mid-1980s (both Kjell Havnevik25 on state-led development, and Dean McHenry’s work on factional disputes within CCM,26 offered critical new insights and arguments in relation to the Ujamaa period), the collapse of socialism in Tanzania, Nyerere’s departure from government, followed by that of many of the international intellectual champions of Ujamaa, led to a decline in the previously prolific body of literature on Ujamaa.

From the late 1990s, and especially following the death of Nyerere and the analysis of his impact on Tanzanian and international politics and debates that emerged, historians turned their gaze to the Ujamaa period once more. Two new trends emerged. The first saw Ujamaa within the perspective of nation building and nationalism; the second focused on the ways in which Ujamaa reflected and enabled the construction of an authoritarian state.

During the 1990s, questions of nationalism, sectarianism, ethnic and communal violence, and the collapse of states came to dominate academic analysis and political debates. From the collapse of the Soviet Union at the start of the decade, and the civil wars and ethnic violence that followed in the states that made up the former Yugoslavia, to the collapse of Somalia into conflict and chaos, and the genocide in Rwanda, the question of how meaningful nations, in which all citizens bought into a sense of common national identity that overcame regional, ethnic, religious, clan, and other tensions, became critical. During this period, the example of Tanzania as a stable and meaningful nation became more prominent. Historians looked back to the idea of Ujamaa and saw in it the deliberate construction of a national(ist) narrative. The socialist underpinnings of the idea of Ujamaa were perhaps less important than the call of nation building.

For Emma Hunter, Ujamaa and the ideas of Nyerere were “sufficiently fluid to carry a range of meanings organized around the broad themes of social and economic justice,” essential for the purpose of creating a nation after the flag-nationalist moment of independence.27 James Brennan points similarly to the ways in which Ujamaa discourse contained within it a powerful call to what it meant to be a Tanzanian citizen: nationalism was about eradicating exploitation of citizens, and Ujamaa was the mechanism for achieving this.28 Ujamaa was about defining a sense of “Tanzanianness,” one side effect of which, as Brennan and the work of Andrew Ivaska show, was to exclude non-African Tanzanians in popular representations of the ideal citizen.29 Similarly, my own work looks at the rhetoric and language of Ujamaa as a narrative establishing an official nationalist vision that was to be exported, through villagization and other policies in this period, to the rural areas as part of a nationalist and nation-building exercise.30 As Paul Bjerk writes, “It is clear that Tanzania’s socialism was at the same time a claim to sovereignty—ideological, economic, and political.”31

Ujamaa and the Rise of the Authoritarian State

If early writers grappled primarily with the politics of Ujamaa (many asking, essentially, was it radical enough?), then more recent framing of Ujamaa has emerged alongside a stronger critique of the “idealistic, decent, but failed” narrative of Ujamaa. There is a much stronger emphasis on the ways in which Ujamaa is seen as an example of a shift to ever-more-authoritarian rule (Ujamaa is the example, rather than the driver, of those authoritarian instincts of TANU/CCM, and Nyerere himself). In this body of analysis, the presence of Nyerere has loomed larger than in other accounts, and the legacy of a principled man let down by a venal bureaucratic bourgeoisie, overzealous officials, and internal factional struggles is challenged through a focus on his own authoritarian instincts, and of that of the government he headed and led.

As with the Ujamaa-as-nationalist-project theme within the literature, the focus on Tanzanian governance and authoritarianism similarly reflects wider debates on governance, democracy, and development in and within social-science literature, and on writings about the nature of the African state that emerged especially from the 1990s in response to the impact of so-called third-wave democratization that gathered pace throughout this decade. Seeking to understand why shifts in governance had not led to the promised gains in economic and social development (and why political reforms were so often characterized as stalled or flawed), the legacy of Africa’s largest resettlement program, and one of the continent’s most prominent alternative ideologies to orthodox economic thinking, loomed large. James Scott’s analysis of statist social engineering for development presents Ujamaa as an example of “authoritarian high modernism” that can be compared to, for example, Soviet collectivization.32

The authoritarian nature of the state is a central feature of this approach to thinking about Ujamaa. Leander Schneider, for example, emphasizes the coercive nature of villagization, and its contrast with Nyerere’s statements and writings on freedom and participation, arguing that villagization was a state project in which the power of the state was used to enforce compliance.33

This trend within the historiography is, however, intimately linked to a recasting of Nyerere, away from what might be considered earlier hagiographic accounts. Schneider, for example, stresses the importance of seeing Nyerere as central to all the policies that emerged under the Ujamaa umbrella, including the coercive and violent implementation of villagization. He points to the “developmental paternalism” of Nyerere.34 Others writing on Nyerere (e.g., Tom Maloney, James Brennan, Marie-Aude Fouéré) from the standpoint of a decade or more after his death have similarly presented a more complex picture of the man, one that uses such new perspectives to reflect on the tensions, contradictions, and problems that emerged during the 1960s and 1970s around Ujamaa.


(1.) Julius K. Nyerere, “Ujamaa—the Basis of African Socialism,” in Ujamaa: Essays on Socialism, ed. Julius K. Nyerere (Dar es Salaam: Oxford University Press, 1968), 6–7.

(2.) Nyerere, “Ujamaa,” 3–4. Emphasis in original.

(3.) Nyerere, “Ujamaa,” 6.

(4.) Michael Jennings, “A Very Real War: Popular Participation in Development in Tanzania during the 1950s and 1960s,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 40.1 (2007): 71–95.

(5.) James R. Brennan, “Julius Rex: Nyerere through the Eyes of His Critics, 1953–2013,” Journal of Eastern African Studies 8.3 (2014): 459–477.

(6.) Julius K. Nyerere, “Socialism and Rural Development,” in Ujamaa: Essays on Socialism, ed. Julius K. Nyerere (Dar es Salaam: Oxford University Press, 1968), 120.

(7.) Andrew Coulson, Tanzania: A Political Economy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982).

(8.) Michael Jennings, “‘Almost an Oxfam in Itself’: Oxfam and Development in Tanzania in the 1960s and 70s,” African Affairs 101 (2002): 509–530.

(9.) Dean McHenry, Limited Choices: The Political Struggle for Socialism in Tanzania (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1994).

(10.) Michael Jennings, Surrogates of the State: Non-Governmental Organisations, Development and Ujamaa in Tanzania (Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian, 2008).

(11.) Jennings Surrogates, 38–39, 54.

(12.) P. Raikes, “Ujamaa and Rural Socialism,” Review of African Political Economy 3 (1975): 50;Kjell J. Havnevik, Tanzania: The Limits to Development From Above (Motala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1993): 47;Goran Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: Underdevelopment and an Uncaptured Peasantry (London: Heinemann, 1980), 144.

(13.) Deborah Bryceson, “Household, Hoe and Nation: Development Policies of the Nyerere Era,” in Tanzania After Nyerere, ed. Michael Hodd, 36–48 (London: Pinter, 1988), 42–44); Havnevik, Tanzania.

(14.) Bryceson, “Household, Hoe and Nation.”

(15.) Frances Hill, “Operation Dodoma, 1969–71,” in African Socialism in Practice: The Tanzanian Experience, ed. Andrew Coulson, 112 (Nottingham: Spokesman).

(16.) McHenry, Limited Choices.

(17.) McHenry, Limited Choices, 18–21.

(18.) Jennings, “Almost an Oxfam.”

(19.) Giovanni Arrighi and John S. Saul, “Socialism and Economic Development in Tropical Africa,” Journal of Modern African Studies 6.2 (1968): 141–169.

(20.) Cranford Pratt, “Tanzania’s Transition to Socialism: Reflections of a Democratic Socialist,” in Towards Socialism in Tanzania, eds. Mwansasu and Pratt, 193–232 (Buffalo, NY: University of Toronto Press, 1979).

(21.) Andrew Coulson, “Peasants and Bureaucrats,” Review of African Political Economy 3 (1975): 53–58;Andrew Coulson, “Agricultural Policies in Mainland Tanzania,” Review of African Political Economy 10 (1977): 74–100;Lionel Cliffe and John S. Saul, eds., Socialism in Tanzania: An Interdisciplinary Reader, vol. 1 (Nairobi: East Africa Publishing House, 1972);Michela von Freyhold, Ujamaa Villages in Tanzania: Analysis of a Social Experiment (London: Heinemann, 1979);I. G. Shivji, Class Struggles in Tanzania (Dar es Salaam; Tanzania Publishing House, 1976).

(22.) Paul K. Bjerk, “Sovereignty and Socialism in Tanzania: The Historiography of an African State,” History in Africa 37 (2010): 275–319.

(23.) Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa; Bismark U. Mwansasu and Cranford Pratt, eds., Towards Socialism in Tanzania (Buffalo, NY: University of Toronto Press, 1981); Pratt, “Tanzania’s Transition.”

(24.) Pratt, “Tanzania’s Transition.”

(25.) Havnevik, Tanzania.

(26.) McHenry, Limited Choices.

(27.) Emma Hunter, “Revisiting Ujamaa: Political Legitimacy and the Construction of a Community in Post-Colonial Tanzania,” Journal of Eastern African Studies 2.3 (2008): 471–485.

(28.) James R. Brennan, “Blood Enemies: Exploitation and Urban Citizenship in the Nationalist Political Thought of Tanzania, 1958–75,” Journal of African History 47 (2006): 389–413.

(29.) Andrew Ivaska, “‘Anti-Mini Militants Meet Modern Misses’: Urban Style, Gender and the Politics of ‘National Culture’ in 1960s Dar es Salaam,” Gender and History 14.3 (2002): 584–607.

(30.) Jennings, “A Very Real War.”

(31.) Bjerk, “Sovereignty,” 276.

(32.) James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998), 224.

(33.) Leander Schneider, Government of Development (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014);Leander Schneider, “Freedom and Unfreedom in Rural Development: Julius Nyerere, Ujamaa Vijijini, and Villagisation,” Canadian Journal of African Studies 38.2 (2004): 344–392;Leander Schneider, “Colonial Legacies and Postcolonial Authoritarianism in Tanzania: Connects and Disconnects,” Africa Studies Review 49.1 (2006): 93–118.

(34.) Schneider, “Freedom”, 347.

Primary Sources

The main primary sources for Ujamaa are the National Archives of the Tanzanian state, based in Dar es Salaam. Consisting of government (regional and central) records dating from the colonial times, the files for the Ujamaa period (roughly 1960s to early 1980s) are all open and can be accessed. In addition, individual regions maintain their own archive collections, although in many cases this merely repeats documents available in the National Archive collection.

However, one can find useful sources in the archives of organizations working in Tanzania at the time, especially those of non-governmental organizations who were intimately involved in providing support for the project, and many of whom (as organizations, and the individuals who made up those organizations) were strongly attracted to the principles and ideals inherent to Ujamaa. The archives of the British NGO Oxfam (housed in the University of Oxford) are an excellent resource, not just of international responses to Ujamaa, but of official papers, and reports, and evaluations on the implementation of villagization. Christian Aid (papers housed at SOAS, University of London) also have interesting papers, especially those of non-state organizations involved in supporting the policy. Other NGOs active at this time are likely to prove a fruitful source.

Further Reading

Bjerk, Paul K. “Sovereignty and Socialism in Tanzania: The Historiography of an African State.” History in Africa 37 (2010): 275–319.Find this resource:

Brennan, James R. “Julius Rex: Nyerere through the Eyes of His Critics, 1953–2013.” Journal of Eastern African Studies 8.3 (2014): 459–477.Find this resource:

Cliffe, Lionel, and John S. Saul, eds. Socialism in Tanzania: An Interdisciplinary Reader, volume 1. Nairobi: East Africa Publishing House, 1972.Find this resource:

Coulson, Andrew. Tanzania: A Political Economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.Find this resource:

Hunter, Emma. “Revisiting Ujamaa: Political Legitimacy and the Construction of a Community in Post-Colonial Tanzania.” Journal of Eastern African Studies 2.3 (2008): 471–485.Find this resource:

Hyden, Goran. Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: Underdevelopment and an Uncaptured Peasantry. London: Heinemann, 1980.Find this resource:

Lal, Priya. African Socialism in Postcolonial Tanzania: Between the Village and the World. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

McHenry, Dean. Tanzania’s Ujamaa Villages: The Implementation of a Rural Development Strategy. Berkeley: Institute of International Studies, University of California, 1979.Find this resource:

Jennings, Michael. “A Very Real War: Popular Participation in Development in Tanzania during the 1950s and 1960s.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 40.1 (2007): 71–95.Find this resource:

Mwansasu, Bismark U., and Cranford Pratt, eds. Towards Socialism in Tanzania. Buffalo, NY: University of Toronto Press, 1979.Find this resource:

Nyerere, Julius K. “Ujamaa—the Basis of African Socialism.” In Ujamaa: Essays on Socialism, edited by Julius K. Nyerere, 1–12. Dar es Salaam: Oxford University Press, 1968a.Find this resource:

Nyerere, Julius K. “Socialism and Rural Development.” In Ujamaa: Essays on Socialism, edited by Julius K. Nyerere, 106–144. Dar es Salaam: Oxford University Press, 1968b.Find this resource:

Scott, James C. Seeing Like a State. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.Find this resource:

Schneider, Leadner. Government of Development. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Books by Julius Nyerere

Freedom and Unity / Our Leadership and the Destiny of Tanzania  /  Ujamaa: Essays on Socialism / Freedom and Development

Africa's Freedom  /  Arusha Declaration Ten Years After / On Socialism  / Crusade for Liberation  / Man and Development

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The Basis of African Socialism

By Julius Kambarage Nyerere


Socialism, like democracy, is an attitude of mind. In a socialist society it is the socialist attitude of mind, and not the rigid adherence to a standard political pattern, which is needed to ensure that the people care for each other's welfare.

The purpose of this paper is to examine that attitude. It is not intended to define the institutions which may be required to embody it in a modern society.

In the individual, as in the society, it is an attitude of mind which distinguishes the socialist from the non-socialist. It has nothing to do with the possession or non-possession of wealth. Destitute people can be potential capitalists--exploiters of their fellow human beings. A millionaire can equally be a socialist; he may value his wealth only because it can be used in the service of his fellow men. But the man who uses wealth for the purpose of dominating any of his fellows is a capitalist. So is the man who would if he could!

I have said that a millionaire can be a good socialist. But a socialist millionaire is a rare phenomenon. Indeed he is almost a contradiction in terms. The appearance of millionaires in any society is no proof of its affluence; they can be produced by very poor countries like Tanganyika just as well as by rich countries like the United States of America. For it is not efficiency of production, nor the amount of wealth in a country, which makes millionaires; it is the uneven distribution of what is produced. The basic difference between a socialist society and a capitalist society does not lie in their methods of producing wealth, but in the way that wealth is distributed. While, therefore, a millionaire could be a good socialist, he could hardly be the product of a socialist society.

Since the appearance of millionaires in a society does not depend on its affluence, sociologists may find it interesting to try and find out why our societies in Africa did not, in fact, produce any millionaires--for we certainly had enough wealth to create a few. I think they would discover that it was because the organization of traditional African society--its distribution of the wealth it produced--was such that there was hardly any room for parasitism. They might also say, of course, that as a result of this Africa could not produce a leisured class of landowners, and therefore there was nobody to produce the works of art or science which capitalist societies can boast. but works of art and the achievements of science are products of the intellect--which, like land, is one of God's gifts to man. And I cannot believe that God is so careless as to have made the use of one of His gifts depend on the misuse of another!

Defenders of capitalism claim that the millionaire's wealth is the just reward for his ability or enterprise. But this claim is not borne out of the facts. The wealth of the millionaire depends as little on the enterprise or abilities of the millionaire himself as the power of a feudal monarch depended on his own efforts, enterprise, or brain. Both are users, exploiters, of the abilities and enterprise of other people. Even when you have an exceptionally intelligent and hard-working millionaire, the difference between his intelligence, his enterprise, his hard work, and those of other members of society, cannot possibly be proportionate to the difference between their "rewards." There must be something wrong in a society where one man. however hard-working or clever he may be, can acquire as great a "reward" as a thousand of his fellows can acquire them.

Acquisitiveness for the purpose of gaining power and prestige is unsocialist. In an acquisitive society wealth tends to corrupt those who possess it. it tends to breed in them a desire to live more comfortably than their fellows, to dress better, and in every way to outdo them. They begin to feel they must climb as far above their neighbors as they can. the visible contrast between their own comfort and the comparative discomfort of the rest of society becomes almost essential to the enjoyment of their wealth, and this sets off the spiral of personal competition--which is then anti-social.


Apart from the anti-social effects of the accumulation of personal wealth, the every desire to accumulate it must be interpreted as a vote of "no confidence" in the social system. For when a society is so organized that it cares about its individuals, then, provided he is willing to work, no individual within that society should worry about what will happen to him tomorrow if he does not hoard wealth today. Society itself should look after him, or his widow, or his orphans. This is exactly what traditional African society in doing. Both the "rich" and the "poor" individual were completely secure in African society.

Natural catastrophe brought famine, but it brought famine to everybody--"poor" or "rich." Nobody starved, either of food or of human dignity, because he lacked personal wealth; he could depend on the wealth possessed by the community of which he was a member. That was socialism. That is socialism.

There can be no such thing as acquisitive socialism, for that would be another contradiction in terms. Socialism is essentially distributive. Its concern is to see that those who sow reap a fair share of what they sow.

The production of wealth, whether by primitive or modern methods, requires three things. First, land. God has given us the land, and it is from the land that we get the raw materials which we reshape to meet our needs. secondly, tools. We have found by simple experience that tools do help! So we make the hoe, the axe, or the modern factory or tractor, to help us to produce wealth--the good we need. And thirdly, human exertion--or labor. We don't need to read Karl Marx or Adam Smith to find out that neither the land nor the hoe actually produces wealth. 

And we don't need to take degrees in Economics to know that neither the worker not the landlord produces land. land is God's gift to man--it is always there. but we know, still without degrees in economics, that the axe and the plough were produced by the laborer. Some of our more sophisticated friends apparently have to undergo the most rigorous intellectual training simply in order to discover that stone axes were produced by that ancient gentleman "Early Man" to make it easier for him to skin the impala he had just killed with a club, which he had also made for himself!

In traditional African society everybody was a worker. there was no other way of earning a living for the community. Even the Elder, who appeared to be enjoying himself without doing any work and for whom everybody else appeared to be working, had, in fact, worked hard all his younger days. The wealth he now appeared to possess was not his, personally; it was only "his" as the elder of the group which had produced it. He was a guardian. the wealth itself gave him neither power nor prestige. the respect paid to him by the young was his because he was older than they, and had served his community longer; and the "poor" Elder enjoyed as much respect in our community as the "rich" Elder.

When i say that in traditional African society everybody was a worker, I do not use the word "worker" simply as opposed to "employer" but also as opposed to "loiterer" or "idler." One of the most socialistic achievements of our society was the sense of security it gave to its members, and the universal hospitality on which they could rely. But it is too often forgotten, nowadays, that the basis of this great socialistic achievement was this: that it was taken for granted that every member of society--barring only the children and the infirm--contributed his fair share of effort towards the production of its wealth. 


Not only was the capitalist, or the landed exploiter, unknown to traditional African society, but we did not have that other form of modern parasite--the loiterer, or idler, who accepts the hospitality of society as his "right" but gives nothing in return! Capitalistic exploitation was impossible. Loitering was an unthinkable disgrace.

 Those of us who talk about the African way of life, and, quite rightly, take a pride in maintaining the tradition of hospitality which is so great a part of it, might do well to remember the Swahili saying: "Mgeni siku mbili; siku ya tatu mpe jembe"--or, in English, "Treat your guest as a guest for two days; on the third day give him a hoe! In actual fact, the guest was likely to ask for the hoe even before his host had to give him one--for he knew what was expected of him, and would have been ashamed to remain idle any longer. Thus, working was part and parcel, was indeed the very basis and justification of his socialist achievement of which we are so justly proud.

There is not such thing as socialism without work. A society which fails to give its individuals the means to work, or having given them the means of work, prevents them from getting a fair share of the products of their own sweat and toil, needs putting right. Similarly, an individual who can work--and his provided by society with the means to work-- but does not do so, is equally wrong. He has no right to expect anything from society because he contributes nothing to society.

The other use of the word "worker," in its specialized sense of "employee" as opposed to "employer," reflects a capitalistic attitude of mind which was introduced into Africa with the coming of colonialism and is totally foreign to our own way of thinking. In the old days the African had never aspired to the possession of personal wealth for the purpose of dominating any of his fellows. He had never had laborers or "factory hands" to do his work for him. 

But then came the foreign capitalists. they were wealthy. they were powerful. and the African naturally started wanting to be wealthy too. There is nothing wrong in our wanting to be wealthy; not is it a bad thing for us to want to acquire the power which wealth brings with it. But it most certainly is wrong if we want the wealth and the power so that we can dominate somebody else.

Unfortunately there are some of us who have already learned to covet wealth for that purpose, and who would like to use the methods which the capitalist uses in acquiring it. That is to say, some of us would like to use, or exploit, our brothers for the purpose of building up our own personal power and prestige. this is completely foreign to us, and it is incompatible with the socialist society we want to build here.


Our first step, there fore, must be to re-educate ourselves; to regain our former attitude of mind. In our traditional African society we were individuals within a community. We took care of the community, and the community took care of us. we neither needed nor wished to exploit our fellow men.

And in rejecting the capitalist attitude of mind which colonialism brought into Africa, we must reject also the capitalist methods which go with it. One of these is the individual ownership of land. To us in Africa land was always recognized as belonging to the community. Each individual within our society had a right to the use of land, because otherwise he could not earn his living and one cannot have the right to life without having the right to some means of maintaining it. But the African's right to land was simply the right to use it: he had no other right to it, nor did it occur to him to try and claim one.

The foreigner introduced a completely different concept, the concept of land as a marketable commodity. According to this system, a person could claim a piece of and as his own private property whether he intended to use it or not. I could take a few square miles of land, call them "mine,' and then go off to the moon. All I had to do to gain  a living from "my" land was to charge a rent to the people who wanted to use it. If this piece of land was in an urban area I had no need to develop it at all; I could leave it to the fools who were prepared to develop all the other pieces of land surrounding "my" piece, and in doing automatically to raise the market value of mine. 

Then I could come down from the moon and demand that these fools pay me through their noses for the high value of "my" land; a value which they themselves had created for me while I was enjoying myself on the moon! Such a system is not only foreign to us, it is completely wrong. landlords, in a society which recognizes individual ownership of land, can be, and usually are, in the same class as the loiterers I was talking about: the class of parasites.

We must not allow the growth of parasites here in Tanganyika. The TANU government must go back to the traditional African custom of land holding. That is to say, a member of society will be entitled to a piece of land on condition the he uses it. Unconditional, or "freehold," ownership of land (which leads to speculation and parasitism) must be abolished. We must, as I have said, regain our former attitude of mind--our traditional African socialism--and apply it to the new societies we are building today. TANU has pledged itself to make socialism the basis of its policy in every field. The people of Tanganyika have given us their mandate to carry out that policy, by electing a TANU government to lead them. So the government can be relied upon to introduce only legislation which is in harmony with socialist principles.

But, as I said at the beginning, true socialism is an attitude of mind. It is therefore up to the people of Tanganyika--the peasants, the wage-earners, the students, the leaders, all of us--to make sure that this socialist attitude of mind is not lost through the temptations to personal gain (or to the abuse of positions of authority) which may come our way as individuals, or through the temptation to look on the good of the whole community as of secondary importance to the interests of our own particular group.

Just as the leader, in our former society, was respected for his age and his service to the community, so, in our modern society, this respect for age and service will be preserved. And in the same way as the "rich" elder's apparent wealth was really only held by him in trust for his people, so, today, the apparent extra wealth which certain positions of leadership may bring to the individuals who fill them, can be theirs only in so far as it is necessary aid to the carrying out of their duties. It is a "tool" entrusted to them for the benefit of the people they serve. it is not "theirs" personally; and they may not use any part of it as a means of accumulating more for their own benefit, nor as an "insurance" against the day when they no longer hold the same positions. That would be to betray the people who entrusted it to them. If they serve the community while they can, the community must look after them when they are no longer able to do so.

In tribal society, the individuals or the families within a tribe were 'rich" or "poor' according to whether the whole tribe was rich or poor. If the tribe prospered, all the members of the tribe shared in its prosperity. Tanganyika, today, is a poor country. The standard of living of the masses of our people is shamefully low. But if every man and woman in the country takes up the challenge and works to the limit of his or her ability for the good of the whole society, Tanganyika will prosper; and that prosperity will be shared by all her people.

But it must be shared. The true socialist may not exploit his fellows. so that if the members of any group within our society are going to argue that, because they happen to be contributing more to the national income than some other groups, they must therefore take for themselves a greater share of the profits of their own industry than they actually need; and if they insist on this in spite of the fact that it would mean reducing their group's contribution to the general income and thus slowing down the rate at which the whole community can benefit, then that group is exploiting (or trying to exploit) its fellow human beings. It is displaying a capitalistic attitude of mind.

There are bound to be certain groups which, by virtue of the "market value" of their particular industry's products, will contribute more to the nation's income than others. But the others may actually be producing goods or services which are of equal, or greater, intrinsic value although they do not happen to command such a high artificial value. for example, the food produced by the peasant farmer is of greater social value than the diamonds mined at Mwadui. But the mine-workers of Mwadui could claim quite correctly, that their labor was yielding greater financial profits to the community than that of the farmers. If, however, they went on to demand that they should therefore be given most of that extra profit for themselves, and that no share of it should be spent on helping the farmers, they would be potential capitalists!

This is exactly where the attitude of mind comes in. It is one of the purposes of Trade unions to ensure for the workers a fair share of the profits of their labor. but a "fair" share must be fair in relation to the whole society. If it is a greater than the country can afford without having to penalize some other section of society, then it is not a fair share. Trade Union leaders and their followers, as long as they are true socialists, will not need to be coerced by the government into keeping their demands within the limits imposed by the needs of society as a whole. Only if there are potential capitalists amongst them will the socialist government have to step in and prevent them from putting their capitalist ideas into practice!

As with groups, so with individuals. There are certain skills, certain qualifications, which, for good reasons, command a higher rate of salary for their possessors than others. But, here again, the true socialist will demand only that return for his skilled work which he knows to be a fair one in proportion to the wealth or poverty of the whole society to which he belongs. He will not, unless he is a would-be capitalist attempt to blackmail the community by demanding a salary equal to that paid to his counterpart in some far wealthier society.

European socialism was born of the Agrarian Revolution and the Industrial Revolution which followed it. The former created the "landed" and the "landless" classes in society; the latter produced the modern capitalist and the industrial proletariat.

These two revolutions planted the seeds of conflict within society, and not only was European socialism born of that conflict, but its apostles sanctified the conflict itself into a philosophy. Civil war was no longer looked upon as something evil, or something unfortunate, but as something good and necessary. As prayer is to Christianity or to Islam, so civil war (which they call "class war") is to the European version of socialism--a means inseparable from the end. Each becomes the basis of a whole way of life. The European socialist cannot think of his socialism without its father--capitalism!

Brought up in tribal socialism, I must say, I find this contradiction quite intolerable. it give capitalism a philosophical status which capitalism neither claims nor deserves. For it virtually says "Without capitalism, and the conflict which capitalism creates within society, there can be no socialism!" This glorification of capitalism by the doctrinaire European socialists, I repeat, I find intolerable.

African socialism, on the to her hand, did not have the "benefit" of the Agrarian Revolution or the Industrial Revolution. it did not start from the existence of conflicting "classes" in society. Indeed I doubt if the equivalent for the word "class" exists in any indigenous African language; for language describes the ideas of those who speak it, and the idea of "class" or "caste" was nonexistent in African society.

The foundation, and the objective, of African socialism is the extended family. The true African  socialist does not look on one class of men as his brethren and another as his natural enemies. He does not form an alliance with the "brethren" for the extermination of the "non-brethren." He rather regards all men as his brethren--as members of his ever extending family. that is why the first article of TANU's creed is "Binadamu wote ni ndugu zangu, na Afrika ni moja." If this had been originally put in English, it could have been "I believe in Human Brotherhood and the Unity of Africa."

"Ujamaa," then, or "familyhood," describes our socialism. It is opposed to capitalism, which seeks to build a happy society on the basis of the exploitation of man by man; and it is equally opposed to doctrinaire socialism which seeks to build its happy society on a philosophy of inevitable conflict between man and man.

We, in Africa, have no more need of being "converted" to socialism than we have of being "taught" democracy. Both are rooted in our own past--in the traditional society which produced us. Modern African socialism can draw from its traditional heritage the recognition of "society" as an extension of the basic family unit. But it can no longer confine the idea of the social family within the limits of the tribe, nor, indeed, of the nation. For no true African socialist can look at a line drawn on a map and say, "The people on this side of that line are my brothers, but those who happen to live on the other side of it can have no claim on me." Every individual on this continent is his brother.

It was in the struggle to break the grip of colonialism that we leaned the need for unity. We came to recognize that the same socialist attitude of mind which, in the tribal days, gave to every individual the security that comes of belonging to a widely extended family, must be preserved within the still wider society of the nation. But we should not stop there. our recognition of the family to which, we all belong must be extended yet further--beyond the tribe, the community, the nation, or even the continent--to embrace the whole society of mankind. this is the only logical conclusion for true socialism.

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. —Jamie Byng,Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)  / Gil Scott-Heron & His Music  Gil Scott Heron Blue Collar  Remember Gil Scott- Heron

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