Today, Nkrumah Street offers little hint of its illustrious past. Beginning by Dar es Salaam’s old railway station, it leads south out of the city centre. Its shabby art deco façades and shaded colonnades exude a certain charm, but nothing more to attract the attention of the casual passer-by. Yet Nkrumah Street and its environs were once the heartbeat of revolutionary Africa. In the 1960s, these same buildings were emblazoned with an alphabet soup of signs: ANC, PAC, SWAPO, ZANU, ZAPU, FRELIMO. The occupiers of these offices were guests of the Tanzanian government. They were unusual guests: exiles from the white minority ruled territories of southern Africa. They were also sometimes troublesome guests, as we will see. By day, the liberation movement leaders organised anticolonial struggles and canvassed for support. By night, the revolutionaries gravitated towards Dar es Salaam’s upmarket hotels, where they were regular fixtures at the terrace bars of the Kilimanjaro and New Africa.
The rest of the world took notice. Journalists crowded into press conferences as guerrilla leaders gave updates on their wars of liberation. Cold War diplomats looked for snippets of valuable intelligence and sought to turn the revolutionaries’ ears. Despite its peripheral place in the global economy, Dar es Salaam became host to an array of foreign embassies of all geopolitical stripes. One American described the city as ‘a real United Nations, as much as the UN Plaza in New York. No-one is riding particularly high, and everyone watches everyone else – civilly, for the most part.’Footnote 1 Dar es Salaam became a propaganda battlefield. Chinese booksellers pushed volumes of Marx, Lenin, and Mao. East and West German diplomats engaged in clandestine attempts to besmirch their rivals via the local press or anonymous pamphlets. This revolutionary vibe attracted radical academics from around the world to the city’s university. Meanwhile, Tanzania’s postcolonial elite attempted to build a non-aligned ‘African socialist’ state, rejecting the Cold War poles of capitalism and communism to stake out their own ideological path to modernity.
For some, Dar es Salaam was a city of hope and dreams. A Namibian exile recalled his excitement at the revolutionary possibilities present in this mecca of liberation. ‘We had heard much talk about Dar es Salaam while still in Namibia’, he wrote. ‘It became every Namibian’s dream to one day see Dar es Salaam.’Footnote 2 The city’s lecture halls and newspaper columns buzzed with calls for socialist nation-building that looked to China, Cuba, and Vietnam for inspiration. For others, particularly in the West, the city was a dangerous staging ground for communist penetration – ‘a pistol pointing at the heart of African troubles’, as one British journalist put it.Footnote 3 The Tanzanian government’s approach sat somewhere in between. It was without question among the most committed African supporters of the continued struggle against colonialism. The country’s first president, Julius Nyerere, spoke powerfully of shining a torch from Mount Kilimanjaro to provide a beacon of hope across the unliberated territories of the continent. But these commitments were tempered with anxieties about their consequences. Nyerere’s government feared the destabilising effect of these external forces on the country’s politics, especially given the scant respect for Third World sovereignty exhibited by the superpowers and the white minority regimes. ‘Vigilance’ became a national watchword. The Tanzanian state decried the subversion of its employees and the propaganda wars fought out by foreign powers in Dar es Salaam. In a word which captured his anxiety about the dangerous consequences of loose political gossip, Nyerere dubbed the capital ‘Rumourville’.
This book explains how Dar es Salaam became a hive of revolutionary activity in Africa. It examines the politics of Cold War rivalries, African liberation movements, and socialist state-building in a Third World state. These dynamics were thoroughly enmeshed. This created opportunities for furthering political ambition and interests but posed obstacles to their successful pursuit. From cabinet ministers and parliamentarians to journalists and guerrilla leaders, Dar es Salaam’s African elites brokered relationships with outside powers and projected their own ideological agendas into the Cold War world. At the same time, this book argues that the challenges which these transnational connections posed to Tanzania’s fragile sovereignty were a significant factor in the shutting down of political space in the country. It approaches these developments through a multilateral and multiarchival study of revolutionary state-making in Dar es Salaam.
Revolutionary Cities, Cold War Cities
The rise of ‘global’ and ‘transnational’ approaches to history has profoundly altered the way in which we think about the longue durée process of decolonisation in Africa. Breaking with nationalist narratives, these new histories have shown how struggles against imperialism and postcolonial state-making projects were shaped by the movement of people, texts, and ideas. Although these approaches have helped us to move beyond the containers of empire and nation-state, they come with their own potential pitfalls. Tracing transnational dynamics reveals a world in motion, but also brings teleological dangers in following individuals and ideas across the globe while disconnecting them from the physical spaces which they occupied along the way. As Tim Harper reminds us, ‘rather than solely looking for connections – as the pursuit of the transnational seems to impel us constantly – it is equally important to recreate the neighbourhood itself’.Footnote 4 In this light, this book joins a growing number of works which explore the potential for cities to serve as a geographic lens for writing political histories which ground global and transnational dynamics in local contexts.
The Dar es Salaam of the 1960s and 1970s took its place in a long genealogy of globally connected revolutionary cities. Their rise and fall were shaped by the processes of colonisation and decolonisation, underpinned by technological and infrastructural change. During the high tide of European colonialism around the turn of the twentieth century, global networks linked imperial peripheries with metropolitan capitals to turn growing cities into incubators of new forms of political dissent. In East Asia, the late nineteenth-century communications revolution in marine transport, the telegraph, and the rise of the press gave rise to politicised, multicultural colonial publics.Footnote 5 These same infrastructural transformations turned cities as distant as New York and Beirut into sites of radical and anarchist activity.Footnote 6 In early twentieth-century London and Paris, interactions between imperial subjects encouraged the formation of anticolonial nationalisms, black internationalism, and nascent Third World solidarities.Footnote 7
The double helix formed by the twin dynamics of decolonisation and the Cold War sustained these older cosmopolitan nodes, while also creating new urban centres of vibrant revolutionary activity. As the colonial world became the Third World, cities that lay on the fault lines of international geopolitics and anti-imperial struggles became hives of intellectual and political activity. Another revolution in global communications, particularly the expansion of air travel, facilitated intercontinental movement between urban centres. Rangoon briefly established itself as a pivotal city in the coordination of socialist organisation across Asia and Africa.Footnote 8 Hong Kong functioned as a grey zone in the Cold War in East Asia, through which capital was channelled between communist China and the West, as well as a base for superpower intelligence operations.Footnote 9 Having been an outpost of espionage during the Second World War, Mexico City became a key Cold War battleground in Central America.Footnote 10 These ‘Cold War cities’ were not just the site of diplomatic and intelligence activity. Rather, their radical politics were driven by interventions and claim-making from beyond the state. For example, Saigon became a centre not just for American military organisation, but challenges to the South Vietnamese state from students, religious leaders, and other urban opposition movements.Footnote 11 In South America, a peripatetic mixture of intellectuals and revolutionaries migrated from one city to another – Montevideo to Santiago to Buenos Aires – as a chain of coups brought to power military regimes that cracked down on the left.Footnote 12
In independent Africa, radical governments turned their capitals into continental centres for revolutionary thinking, organisation, and mobilisation. Situated at a geographic and ideological crossroads between Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, Cairo was the first of these cosmopolitan cities to emerge. The city’s strategic location and Gamal Abdel Nasser’s presence at the forefront of the pan-African and pan-Arab movements attracted aspiring political figures from across the region.Footnote 13 In Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah’s government seized the torch of African liberation. Accra drew anticolonial leaders from across Africa and the diaspora to major conferences and provided institutional support for the continent’s liberation movements as they began to organise armed struggles.Footnote 14 In Algiers, groups advocating for a diverse range of radical and emancipatory causes, such as Palestinian independence, Brazilian democracy, and Black Power, operated missions alongside revolutionaries from southern Africa.Footnote 15
If Algiers was, to cite two recent book titles, a ‘mecca of revolution’ and ‘Third World capital’, then Dar es Salaam became a similar entrepôt of anticolonial liberation south of the Sahara. Even before Tanganyika attained independence in 1961, the city had developed a reputation as a meeting place for the region’s political movements. Independence, as well as Dar es Salaam’s location on the ‘frontline’ in the fight against minority rule, quickened the pace of this influx of exiles and refugees. To an even greater extent than Algiers, Dar es Salaam was also a contact zone in which this revolutionary politics was enwrapped in local state-making practices, as the ruling Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) attempted to construct an African socialist society. By the mid-1960s, Cairo, Accra, Algiers, and Dar es Salaam were Africa’s major urban sites of anticolonial mobilisation. They were part of a global network which spanned the former metropolitan centres, the capitals of the communist world, and other revolutionary cities across the Third World. This urban anticolonial archipelago was held together by a mobile cast of politicians, intellectuals, and other activists who possessed the means to obtain an air ticket. They were tracked by the agents – declared and undeclared – of the superpowers, their allies, and the white minority states.
The Cold War was a global conflict, entwined with the longue durée process of decolonisation. Across the Third World, the superpowers promoted their ideological models of modernity, proffered aid packages, intervened in liberation struggles, and became entangled in the civil and regional wars which often followed.Footnote 16 Away from these zones of hot conflict, African capitals became sites of ideological competition and information gathering. After Tanganyika became independent, the Cold War powers and their allies rushed to set up embassies in Dar es Salaam. The Soviet Union and China sized up the credentials of guerrilla leaders and sought to influence the direction of Tanzanian socialism. The United States, forever on the defensive against a local stream of accusations of neo-imperialism, attempted to counter these communist advances. Among these bigger beasts of the Cold War, a host of smaller states pursued their own agendas. East Germany and West Germany turned Dar es Salaam into their own Cold War battlefield, as Chapter 3 shows. This politics was not solely the preserve of accredited diplomats. It was practised by a host of intermediaries, including news agency correspondents and journalists, who built transnational connections with local powerbrokers.
The Cold War powers descended on Dar es Salaam in such numbers because of the presence of the anticolonial movements in the city. At their offices, hotel bars, and embassy receptions, the revolutionaries made use of the grey diplomatic spaces which existed in Dar es Salaam to seek aid and arms from the superpowers. Like their comrades elsewhere in the Third World, African guerrilla movements became key actors in the local political scene which they encountered in Dar es Salaam.Footnote 17 Their activities were influenced by Tanzanians who occupied powerful gatekeeping roles in the state apparatus. Just as Christian Williams has shown in the case of training camps in inland Tanzania, exile was an experience characterised by tension as much as unity.Footnote 18 Whereas the guerrilla rank-and-file and other refugees experienced the austerity of camp life, in Dar es Salaam their leaders fraternised with diplomats and journalists from across the Cold War world in the capital’s upmarket hotels. These encounters were vital in mobilising international support for the liberation struggles, but they could also open up divisions within movements, as shown by the case of the assassination of Mozambique’s Eduardo Mondlane in Chapter 4.
Africa’s ‘Cold War cities’ were the product not just of a vibrant political cosmopolitanism, but also of the geopolitical anxieties of the era. The states inherited by Africa’s first generation of post-independence leaders were mostly fragile constructions. The dramatic events in Congo reminded Africa’s elites of the precarious nature of their authority. The fate of Patrice Lumumba, murdered in 1961 by his Katangese enemies with the aid of American intelligence and Belgian mining interests, cast a long shadow. The ‘hidden hand’ of the CIA or its communist counterparts seemed to lurk around every corner. The spate of coups which took place across the continent provided further cause for alarm. The consequence was the emergence of what Priya Lal has dubbed a ‘Cold War political culture’, which left its mark on both the conceptualisation and implementation of socialism in Tanzania.Footnote 19 Official discourse was replete with fears of foreign subversion and an incantation for citizens to remain vigilant at all times. Nyerere himself was aware that this was verging on paranoia. ‘It is perfectly true that many of us in Africa are in danger of getting a phobia about foreign plots and of attributing to foreign machinations all the evils we suffer from’, he admitted. But, at the same time, ‘no intelligent and knowledgeable person would deny that outside forces do take advantage of African division for their own benefit’.Footnote 20 It was this Cold War political culture that also provided the justification for the increasingly authoritarian approach of the Tanzanian state in the enforcement of socialism into the 1970s.
The Cold War became inscribed into the urban politics of Dar es Salaam. The Tanzanian government developed an obsession with the subversive activities of rumourmongers and foreign spies in Dar es Salaam. It portrayed bars and cafés, particularly cosmopolitan locations like the New Africa and Kilimanjaro hotels, as sites where enemies of the nation might elicit or overhear idle chatter that endangered national security. It tried to crack down on the foreign propaganda which was pumped into the city’s public sphere by the Cold War powers. This suspicion of political gossip and subversion drew on a broader disdain for urban life which characterised the official language of socialist Tanzania. Government rhetoric and street discourse presented the capital’s inhabitants as a parasitical class, which diverted human and financial resources away from TANU’s revolution. In a similar vein, Dar es Salaam’s public sphere echoed with criticisms of the liberation movement leaders for leading indulgent lifestyles in the city rather than fighting at the front alongside the rank-and-file.
However, Dar es Salaam’s political life was not always viewed in such a negative light. As a revolutionary capital, the city produced more optimistic visions of a postcolonial future. The liberation movements contributed to a more dynamic, forward-looking political scene marked by the language of pan-Africanism and Third World solidarity. The popular euphoria which greeted TANU’s landmark ‘Arusha Declaration’ of 1967 tapped into this feeling of postcolonial possibility, even as its proponents recognised the challenges which they faced in fulfilling their aims. Just as students elsewhere in the world struck out against imperialism and injustice, Dar es Salaam’s youth condemned superpower interventions from Vietnam to Czechoslovakia. Its university established an international reputation as a centre for radical scholarship in Africa. Chapter 5 examines the elaboration of youth protest and mobilisation in an urban context, as the government attempted to channel the popular forces of the ‘global sixties’ towards its socialist political goals.
Like other African cities, Dar es Salaam’s population grew rapidly in the twentieth century. In 1900, it was estimated at around 20,000, rising to 93,000 by 1957, and then trebling in size again to 273,000 by 1967.Footnote 21 The city has been the subject of a range of historical studies linked to this phenomenon of urbanisation. These histories recognise that the city’s human landscape represented dangers for governments seeking to maintain control over this expanding population, as well as opportunities for citizens to bend the urban order towards their own agendas. Andrew Burton investigates colonial-era policing practices for managing these expanding numbers. James Brennan explores how city planning and the provision of social services were enwrapped in the formation of national and racial identities. Andrew Ivaska examines the postcolonial government’s attempt to develop and define a ‘national culture’. Recent work has pushed beyond the colonial and immediate postcolonial years to reflect on the urban histories during the period of acute economic crisis from the late 1970s onwards. Emily Callaci addresses the contribution of ‘popular intellectuals’ to Dar es Salaam’s public sphere amid the breakdown of socialism. Chambi Chachage traces the trajectories of the city’s African entrepreneurs from colonial origins to the neoliberal present. Emily Brownell shows how the capital’s inhabitants responded creatively to environmental degradation and commodity shortages.Footnote 22 Breaking with the focus on urbanisation but still informed by its plural experiences in Dar es Salaam, this book transposes these fruitful approaches to the plane of high politics in the capital.
Anticolonial State-Making After Empire
Tanzania fashioned itself as a spearhead of Third World revolution. Whereas many of Africa’s postcolonial governments were fearful of rattling the cages of stronger powers, Tanzania routinely adopted the most radical stances towards questions of anticolonial liberation on the international stage. Revolution beyond its borders went hand in hand with revolution within them, as TANU embarked on an ‘African socialist’ path to development. The idea of ujamaa (‘familyhood’) located the basis for socialist development in the supposed communal traditions of the African peasantry rather than Marxist theories of class antagonism. Following the blueprint set out in the Arusha Declaration, TANU emphasised rural transformation over heavy industrialisation. The most striking of the state’s subsequent interventions was the mass relocation of millions of peasants from scattered hamlets into centralised ujamaa villages – a phenomenon which has become a magnet for social scientists and historians.Footnote 23 This book turns in the opposite direction: away from the countryside and grassroots experiences of socialism and towards the capital and governing elite.
Tanzania’s socialist project was among the most ambitious of the Third World’s responses to the challenges of decolonisation. Even as TANU enshrined the principle of African liberation at the forefront of its national credo, the country’s leaders recognised that political self-determination could not be an end in itself. As the political theorist Adom Getachew has explained, anticolonial thinkers like Nyerere appreciated the need for the genuine decolonisation of the continent’s economies.Footnote 24 Whereas Kwame Nkrumah had urged Africans to ‘seek ye first the political kingdom’, Nyerere argued that real independence required what he termed kujitegemea (‘self-reliance’). This concept underpinned the developmental logic of ujamaa, which aimed to end Tanzania’s dependence on aid and investment from abroad. It also informed Nyerere’s foreign policy. He challenged prevailing ideas of the Cold War order by arguing that the main division in the world was between ‘imperialists’ and ‘anti-imperialists’ or a wealthy global North and poorer postcolonial South, rather than communist East and capitalist West.
This historical study of Tanzanian socialism and its entwinement with foreign policy challenges persistent trends in the literature on state formation in Africa. Much political science work subscribes to the premise that the modern state was simply a colonial imposition on Africa, that the anticolonial forces which challenged it took their inspiration from European nationalism, and that the failure of postcolonial governments to deliver on the hopes of independence was therefore unsurprising. Instead, this literature holds, ruling elites turned to the violent practices of their colonial predecessors to maintain control over their populations and exclude rival claims to power.Footnote 25 Another branch of work on the state takes its cue from the school of dependency theory. It presents African societies as being trapped in a world of neocolonial capitalist exploitation, abetted by the comprador ranks of postcolonial elites. Both these bodies of work suffer from tendencies to generalise and dehistoricise.Footnote 26 They present the scope for African governments to shape their own futures in a positive fashion as minimal.
These teleological interpretations of the genesis of the African state obscure histories of choice, possibility, and agency in the making of a world after empire. Historians have challenged assumptions that the path from colonial territory to postcolonial nation-state was inevitable. They have demonstrated how African politicians and intellectuals gave serious consideration to a plethora of regional federations, continental unions, and reconfigured relationships with the metropole.Footnote 27 Taking inspiration from this work, historians are now revisiting the early decades of independence. They have shown how, from rural communities to urban centres of power, Africans debated and pursued a wide range of approaches to state-making and development. The postcolonial era was replete with choices: for governments deciding on domestic and foreign policies; for politicians looking to translate the fruits of the nationalist struggle into new instruments of power; and for a whole range of actors, such as businessmen, journalists, bureaucrats, for whom independence opened new vistas of possibilities. These choices involved brokering relationships inside and outside of the country, developing ideological visions of the future, and securing new-found nodes of power through patronage relationships.Footnote 28
This book foregrounds the creative state-making endeavours of this postcolonial political elite. In the early years of independence, political scientists strove to pinpoint the origins and characteristics of this new ruling class.Footnote 29 This book does not seek to make such definitive interventions: it recognises that they were a diverse and constantly evolving cast. The term ‘elite’ then, used here, refers to a heterogeneous group of actors who were involved in various capacities in high-level debates about state-making in Tanzania. It encompasses cabinet ministers, senior bureaucrats, prominent members of parliament, party leaders, journalists, and intellectuals. In a mixture of private and public spaces, mainly located in Dar es Salaam, they participated in a national but globally informed conversation. To adopt this top-down perspective is not to deny that actors outside of these circles exercised significant agency in shaping the socialist experience in Tanzania. But the individuals found in the pages of this book – mostly, though not exclusively men – played a critical role in setting the parameters of debate about political economy and the country’s engagement with the rest of the world. In doing so, this book also moves beyond the figure of Julius Nyerere. Tanzania’s first president remains an influential, often decisive voice in the histories which follow. Yet his ideas were neither uncontested nor always triumphant.
This elite owed their positions to opportunities for self-advancement which arose during the late colonial era. Some had gained leadership experience as businessmen, through the cooperative movement, or in trade unions. Others had staffed the lower ranks of the colonial bureaucracy. They were wealthy by comparison with the average Tanzanian, but scarcely so in international terms. More significantly, they were relatively well-educated. Almost all had experience of secondary school in Tanzania at a small number of colonial institutions. Some had travelled abroad for higher education. During the liberation struggle and the post-independence years, they acquired further cosmopolitan experience through international conferences and on visits to Cold War capitals. As they travelled around the globe and became exposed to technocratic practices at home, this elite became socialised into a world which was inflected by a certain global cosmopolitanism and urbane sensibility. They were at ease in the genteel surroundings of diplomatic receptions in Dar es Salaam, on the conference circuit, and on aid-seeking missions. This was a world characterised by cordiality rather than confrontation. These experiences attuned them to the significance of Tanzania’s foreign relations and image abroad, even as they differed as to how these might be conducted and represented.
Tanzanian politics in the time of ujamaa was marked with ideological pluralism and power struggles that were often masked by official rhetoric and its emphasis on national unity. Tanzania’s elites drew on a pastiche of ideological influences, including from among the Cold War’s protagonists and other Third World revolutionaries.Footnote 30 Yet African politicians neither swallowed whole the superpowers’ world views nor talked in Cold War tongues simply to access external patronage.Footnote 31 In fact, the key split in this elite did not align with the ‘left-right’ spectrum which dominated the interpretative frameworks of contemporary onlookers and academic commentators. Instead, it came to run along rough divisions which pitted a small number of more economically versed ministers, senior bureaucrats, and technocratic expatriate advisers who advocated a more cautious way forwards, against a growing number of TANU leaders, who viewed development as a political task to be attained through popular mobilisation through party institutions. The latter group became an increasingly dominant force in Tanzanian politics during the ujamaa years.
Another source of division concerned the conduct, if not principles, of foreign policy. Under Nyerere’s guidance, Tanzania became a prominent voice in continental and global international forums. However, it proved a difficult task to balance its commitment to the cause of Third World liberation with that of non-alignment, while also cultivating an aid-friendly public image and maintaining a sense of international respectability. Among the paradoxes of ujamaa was that the drive for ‘self-reliance’ required external support.Footnote 32 While Nyerere and other senior figures around him remained suspicious of imperialist machinations, they were convinced that Tanzania’s socialist project required development aid. Even powers which were routinely pilloried in Tanzania for their neocolonial interventions in Africa remained desirable partners. The Tanzanian government did not want to endanger these relationships through needless provocation or a misrepresentation of its foreign policy. On occasions, this involved the intervention of Nyerere himself, in ordering party activists, journalists, and even government ministers to tone down their language. Their protests and polemics may have been motivated by the same anticolonial logic that formed the basis of official policy, but they were not deemed the respectable behaviour of a state which was demanding that its arguments be taken seriously on the international stage.
However attractive it might be to bask in the lights cast by Dar es Salaam’s phosphorescent revolutionary moment, this book argues that Tanzania’s commitment to the cause of anticolonial liberation was closely related to its shift towards a more authoritarian state during the ujamaa era. In its support for wars of liberation against the white minority regimes and attempts to overcome the Cold War order, Tanzania created powerful enemies for itself. The government responded by becoming more and more insular and fearful of subversion by imperialist powers and their local accomplices. By the mid-1970s, Dar es Salaam was a far more austere city than it had been in 1961, the year of uhuru (‘freedom’ or ‘independence’). The opportunity for political dissent was minimal. The local media was in the hands of a one-party state. Ujamaa went from a rich source of debate to official doxa. The internationalist rhetoric of Tanzania’s political elite, which promised freedom to the oppressed peoples of the Third World, rubbed up against a disciplinarian approach to their own citizens. Cold War rivalries, liberation struggles, and Tanzanian politics therefore proved to be deeply contingent upon one another. To excavate these connections, we must turn to the scattered records of the ‘postcolonial archive’.
The Postcolonial Archive and International History
In much of sub-Saharan Africa, underfunded state archives lie in a state of neglect or environmental degradation. To a large extent, this reflects both a lack of resources and the consequences of institutional instability. Where paper records have been preserved, access can be problematic.Footnote 33 Research on politically sensitive topics is especially restricted, as incumbent governments recognise the potential of archives to unsettle hegemonic narratives which legitimise their claims to authority in the present. In denying researchers access to its documentary record, Achille Mbembe asserts, the state falls back on ‘its ability to control time, to abolish the archive and anaesthetise the past’.Footnote 34 Paraphrasing Mbembe, Omnia El Shakry concludes that the postcolonial state ‘devours the past through either the material destruction of the archives or the presentation of a history purified of antagonisms and embodied in empty commemorative accounts’.Footnote 35 This epistemological violence is sharpened by the charged circumstances of contemporary politics, which encourages the mutilation or muzzling of the archival record.Footnote 36
These verdicts may well be too pessimistic. Certainly, they overgeneralise a situation which varies from state to state.Footnote 37 Historians have worked in state archives in various African countries – like Ethiopia, Ghana, and Zambia – in order to write international histories of the postcolonial era, as well as move beyond the overquoted public speeches and writings of ‘great men’.Footnote 38 But it remains the case in Tanzania that access to archival material on the inner workings at the top level of government is highly restricted. This book does draw on small amounts of material from the Tanzania National Archives in Dar es Salaam and the National Records Centre in Dodoma, including minutes of important TANU meetings. However, like many researchers in recent years, I was unable to access the archives of the Chama cha Mapinduzi (Party of the Revolution, CCM), which include TANU papers on the period covered by this book. The most insightful unpublished Tanzanian documents used in this study come from the private papers of Amir Jamal, a long-serving cabinet minister and Nyerere’s economic guru. Perhaps tellingly, they are housed at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.
Given both the paucity of relevant collections in Tanzania and the international scope of this book, it turns to archives which are mainly located outside of Africa. As Jean Allman argues, Africa’s postcolonial archive ‘does not reside in one place or even two or three. It is a global, transnational archive.’Footnote 39 This book therefore draws on a wide range of source media in multiple languages, including newspapers, memoirs, oral interviews, and official publications. However, the substance of the evidence which drives the histories below comes from foreign diplomatic archives. These sources provide us with insights into the evolution of the foreign policies of various external powers, which were important participants in Dar es Salaam’s politics in their own right. Used critically, they can also serve as sources on the city’s African politicians and other actors, especially in terms of their transnational connections.Footnote 40 A multiarchival, multilingual approach not only permits an examination of Dar es Salaam’s political life from various vantage points, but also provides paths into Tanzanian affairs which were hidden from the public gaze at the time.
The archival research involved in this book was the outcome of intellectual and practical choices. To some extent, these decisions were intended to account for the various geopolitical and ideological perspectives which different state archives reveal. Yet these choices were also constrained by the questions of accessibility and my own language proficiencies. In particular, the latter rendered impossible work in several Eastern Bloc archives, which are providing fresh insights into Africa’s experience of the Cold War. I conducted longer periods of research, totalling a month or more, in archives in Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, and the United States. In addition, I made a series of shorter visits to Belgium, the Netherlands, and South Africa, plus Poland, where I worked with the assistance of a translator. This research also draws on digitalised documents from the Australian and Indian national archives. The travel involved was made possible not only by generous funding, but also my own education and nationality, which equipped me with the skills for multilingual research and a passport which permitted flexible freedom of movement. Such privileges are not available to all. While acknowledging the benefits of multiarchival work, global and international historians must be wary of the danger that the transnational methodologies that characterise their work foreclose opportunities for many of their colleagues in the global South.
An immediate criticism of this approach might be that it risks writing a ‘Eurocentric’ history of Dar es Salaam’s revolutionary politics. Certainly, the documents contained within these archives are characterised by the ideological, geopolitical, and racial world views held by their authors, who were mostly white men from outside of Africa. Reports written by American and British diplomats interpreted developments in Tanzania through the lens of the Cold War, seeking to understand manoeuvres in their relationship to the Soviet Bloc or China, often accompanied by implicit racial assumptions. The despatches of their West and East German counterparts reveal a remarkable, near obsessive and all-consuming fixation with the day-to-day activities of their rivals in Dar es Salaam. Whereas Tanzanian newspapers often referred to the liberation movements as ‘freedom fighters’, Portuguese and South African reports classify them as ‘terrorists’ and highlight their ‘communist’ connections. But as Luise White argues, with regard to Zimbabwean revolutionaries, the use of such labels assumes ‘that individuals can be fixed in political positions’. Cosmopolitan Third World politicians were adept at speaking in different voices to different audiences. Therefore, White continues, ‘the worlds in which one was a nationalist, pro- or anti-Chinese, or alternating between Moscow and Washington during the 1970s were complicated and contentious’.Footnote 41
Rather than simply retelling a history that reproduces these ideological and geopolitical world views, this book understands them as part of the mental landscape of the global Cold War. By structuring contemporary interpretations of African politics, they shaped the responses of foreign actors in Dar es Salaam. For example, as Chapter 3 demonstrates, the tendency of East German officials to interpret developments through the rigid framework of Marxism-Leninism accounts for some of their ill-judged decisions when brokering alliances with Tanzanian politicians. When Western diplomats and journalists depicted Dar es Salaam as being overrun by extremist revolutionaries acting as communist proxies, they moved the Tanzanian government to curate the public image of a non-aligned state more carefully still. In truth, no state’s archives are free of such assumptions and representations. Even if this book had been able to draw extensively on Tanzanian documents, it would have faced a challenge in narrating a history that did not reproduce the official nomenclature of ujamaa.
The ‘Cold War’ diplomatic archive is replete with African voices, captured in memoranda of official meetings and reports of more informal encounters. Yet some are more visible than others: the diplomats tended to deal with government ministers, rather than TANU leaders, who often wielded greater influence. Certain sections draw heavily on certain relevant archives: American files when discussing the war in Vietnam; Portuguese documents when addressing Mozambican liberation movements; German files when exploring the ‘German Cold War’ in Dar es Salaam, and so on. But the footnotes are also studded with more surprising references, acknowledging that an anecdotal detail originated in a Polish telegram or a magazine clipping in a South African file. The archives of foreign ministries represent more than a paper trail of official communications: they contain newspaper clippings, transcripts of speeches, government circulars, documents from other diplomatic missions, mimeographed flyers, and other ephemera. Nonetheless, these archives are certainly not complete records of diplomatic activity in Dar es Salaam. In many instances, details have been redacted, individual documents have been excised, and whole files remain inaccessible to researchers. Those are just the officially acknowledged ‘gaps’: scandals regarding secret caches of colonial-era documents point to what else might be kept away from the public.Footnote 42 The intelligence archives of the major powers are essentially off limits to researchers.
This book supplements these archival sources with a range of other material. Local Tanzanian newspapers, in both English and Swahili, are valuable sources of information and commentary, while also a subject of inquiry in their own right, as Chapter 6 demonstrates.Footnote 43 The international press, some of which can now be keyword-searched online, offers perspectives on how Dar es Salaam and Tanzanian socialism were represented outside of the country.Footnote 44 Oral interviews with a number of Tanzanian politicians, bureaucrats, and journalists provided reflections on the ujamaa years even as they proved less helpful in providing the nuts and bolts of the granular histories which this book addresses. Finally, there is a growing body of autobiography in Tanzania (and also in Mozambique, as Chapter 4 shows).Footnote 45 As a corpus of evidence, these sources allow us to revisit revolutionary Dar es Salaam from a sweeping range of perspectives – sometimes corroborating, sometimes conflicting.
The histories set out in this book are full of twists and turns. At its heart is the idea of contingency in state-making in Africa after empire. However, taken together, these stories illuminate the rise and fall of Dar es Salaam as a ‘Cold War city’ and mecca of liberation in East Africa. From multiple angles, they follow the genesis of Tanzania’s revolutionary state-making project, which involved not just the construction of a socialist society but the liberation of Africa. These include the perspectives of a range of Tanzanian politicians, liberation movement cadres, Cold War diplomats, radical journalists, and youth activists. This book contends that, against an international backdrop which highlighted the threat to the country’s body politic from external subversion, Tanzania’s socialist project became increasingly inward-looking. Space for dissent became highly circumscribed and political organisation beyond TANU almost impossible.
The book begins by explaining how Dar es Salaam became a ‘Cold War city’ in Africa. This chronological and geographic exposition sets out the principles which informed the basis of Nyerere’s engagement with the outside world – a set of foreign policy coordinates which remained remarkably consistent throughout the period covered by this book. It then shows how a violent revolution in the Zanzibar archipelago pushed Tanganyika into a hasty union with the islands, while an army mutiny in Dar es Salaam exposed the fragility of Nyerere’s government. A series of foreign policy crises with major Western states followed. Meanwhile, Tanzania reached out to the socialist world and developed close connections with China. By the mid-1960s, Dar es Salaam had attracted the attention of the Cold War world. The remainder of Chapter 1 then demonstrates how a ‘Cold War political culture’ became inscribed into Dar es Salaam’s political geography and public sphere.
The political debates about the future of the Tanzanian state in the mid-1960s, which culminated in the Arusha Declaration, form the theme of Chapter 2. It sets out the contours of conversations about development in the 1960s, as Tanzania’s elites groped for a path forwards that would translate independence into meaningful socio-economic progress. After showing how Nyerere’s decision to embark on a radical programme of socialist reform was motivated by local unrest and the fate of postcolonial regimes elsewhere in Africa, it then revisits the little-understood politics of the Arusha Declaration and its fallout. Offering an alternative dimension to readings of Arusha as a stimulant for national unity, the chapter demonstrates how Tanzania’s revolution created fissures among the political elite. It represented a critical turning point in Tanzania’s postcolonial history that narrowed space for dissent, while also sowing the seeds for future challenges to the TANU party-state.
Chapter 3 examines the ‘inter-German Cold War’ in Dar es Salaam. The chain of upheavals in East Africa in 1964–65 led to Dar es Salaam becoming the first African capital south of the Sahara in which the German Democratic Republic (GDR) maintained a diplomatic mission. This turned the city into a propaganda battlefield. East Berlin strove for full recognition from Tanzania, while Bonn tried to prevent such a development from coming to pass. In the face of this rivalry, Nyerere’s government sought to pursue a non-aligned foreign policy and broker aid agreements to further its socialist project. Adopting a triangular approach, this chapter demonstrates how Tanzania’s relationship with the two German states turned on developments in Central Europe, especially West Germany’s Ostpolitik. It reveals the challenges of upholding non-alignment in a Cold War world which did not revolve around simple binaries and was complicated by politics ‘on the ground’ in Dar es Salaam.
In Chapter 4, the focus shifts from international diplomacy to liberation movement politics. The presence of the guerrilla leaders in Dar es Salaam was fundamental to its emergence as a ‘Cold War city’. This chapter shows how their activities became embedded in the capital’s political life through the case of the assassination of the president of FRELIMO (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique, Mozambique Liberation Front). Eduardo Mondlane was a skilful politician who used the city’s international connections to publicise his movement’s cause and canvas for foreign support. However, as FRELIMO sought to draw on Cold War patronage to wage war against the Portuguese, it was gripped by an internal crisis that split the movement’s leadership along ethno-racial and ideological lines. Powerful gatekeepers within the Tanzanian political establishment aligned with Mondlane’s enemies to challenge him in public and undermine his security in private. These schisms facilitated the assassination of Mondlane in 1969 and clouded the waters of subsequent inquiries into the crime’s perpetrators.
Chapter 5 locates Dar es Salaam’s urban politics in the context of the ‘global sixties’. Tanzanian youths shared common ground with their contemporaries around the world in protesting against Cold War interventions in Vietnam and Czechoslovakia. In doing so, they drew inspiration from the landscape of radical ideas and texts of revolutionary Dar es Salaam. But in contrast to the dynamics of counter-hegemonic protest elsewhere, the Tanzanian government’s foreign policy meant that it could channel radical critiques of superpower imperialism into its own nation-building project. The language of anti-imperialism could also be deployed against more immediate threats, as the case of Malawi’s claims to Tanzanian territory demonstrate. While recognising the significance of transnational Afro-Asian and Third Worldist solidarities in these movements, the chapter integrates these dynamics into a national story. The state circumscribed the autonomy of youth activism, especially when it risked upsetting Nyerere’s carefully calculated foreign policy.
Similar dynamics become apparent in Chapter 6, which analyses the evolution of the press in Dar es Salaam after uhuru. By the mid-1970s, Tanzania had just two national daily newspapers, one of which was owned by the party, the other by the state. But this was not the outcome of a teleological slide from an independent to a muzzled media, as liberal Cold War-era conceptions of the ‘freedom of the press’ would have it. This chapter shows how the press became a contested site of socialist politics in Dar es Salaam’s internationalised media world. Stakeholders debated questions of who should own newspapers, who should work for them, and what they should write in them. Even when the government nationalised the country’s only independent English-language newspaper, it placed it under the control of a radical, foreign editor and emphasised the need for it to serve as a critical voice. However, when this editorial independence transgressed Tanzania’s foreign policy, the state moved to bring the press under closer control, justified by Third World trends towards ‘development media’.
The final chapter explores the circumstances in which Tanzanian politics became radicalised further in the early 1970s, and with what consequences. It shows how a combination of internal unrest and an array of developments in Africa – read in Tanzania as ‘neocolonial interventions’ – pushed TANU into a gear-change in its socialist revolution, the ‘Guidelines’, or Mwongozo. These steps were taken with misgivings from Nyerere and proved fractious among several of his trusted colleagues. While the government continued to talk the language of continental revolution, this was accompanied by a toughening of the national institutions of the party-state. Power became concentrated in the hands of TANU. The motor for development was increasingly believed to be popular mobilisation through party organs rather than economic planning, which had previously tempered revolutionary interventionism. Meanwhile, the troublesome regime in semi-autonomous Zanzibar was brought to heel. National unity was achieved and enforced from above but came at a political (and likely economic) cost.
This book is not intended to be a comprehensive history of Dar es Salaam’s experience of decolonisation and the Cold War, and still less a history of ujamaa-era Tanzania. Readers with some knowledge of Tanzania’s postcolonial history will observe that there is little direct discussion of the country’s relations with China, or its involvement in the Zimbabwean endgame, or the rise and fall of regional integration in East Africa. These and many other topics would all be worthy of dedicated books of their own. The history of FRELIMO presented in Chapter 4 comes with its own nuances, though an account of the exile experience of any one of the liberation movements would have been equally illuminating. Rather, the intention is for the selected threads, as expressions of dynamics rather than case studies, to serve as a keyhole into Dar es Salaam’s central position in the international politics of the era.