Posted by PrestoPundit on 04/10/2008

Obama on Socialism.jpgSELECTIONS from the paper “Problems Facing Our Socialism” by Barack Obama, Sr., the father of Barack Obama, Jr., published in the July, 1965 issue of the East Africa Journal, a paper which lays out the father’s socialist and anti-Western convictions, a discovery which I suggest reveals the “rosebud” of Barack Obama’s Dream’s From My Father.  Obama’s paper is a critique of Sessional Paper No. 10 titled, “African Socialism and Its Applicability to Planning in Kenya” written by Tom Mboya’s Ministry of Economic Planning and Development.


“[Session Paper No. 10] goes into use and control of resources.  The first statement concerns conflict of opinion on attitude toward land ownership.  It is true that in most African societies the individual had sole right as to the use of land and proceeds from it.  He did, however, own it only as a trustee to the clan, tribe or society.  He could give it on loan to someone outside the tribe to use, but he had no right to sell it outside the tribe .. How then can there be a conflict of opinion on communal ownership?  ..

It is surprising that one of the best African traditions [the communal ownership of land] is not only being put aside in this paper [in favor of private ownership] but even the principle is not being recognized and enhanced .. we can avoid economic power concentration and bring standardized use and control of resources through public ownership, let alone the equitable distribution of economic gains that follow ..

Will [land consolidation] be easily done through individual action, through co-operatives or through government ownership?  Realizing social stickiness and inflexibility and looking at the society’s distrust of change, one would see that, if left to the individual, consolidation will take a long time to come.  We have to look at priorities tin terms of what is good for society and on this basis we may find it necessary to force people to do things they would not do otherwise.

Would it not seem, then, the government could bring more rapid consolidation through clan co-operatives?  Individual initiative is not usually the best method of bringing land reform.  Since proper land use and control is very important if we are going to overcome the dual [rich Indian & European vs. poor black African class] character of our economy and thereby increase productivity, the government should take a positive stand and, if need be, force people to consolidate through the easiest way, which, I think, would be through clan co-operatives rather than through individual initiative.”


“If one says that the
African society was classless as the paper says, what is there to stop
it from being a class society as time goes on?  Is what has been said
in the paper, if implemented, enough to eschew this danger?  .. The
question is how are we going to remove the disparities in our country
such as the concentration of economic power in Asian and European hands
while not destroying what haws already been achieved and at the same
time assimilating these groups to build one country?

.. On class
problems, the paper states that since there was not such a thing in
Africa, the problem is that of prevention.  This is to ignore the truth
of the matter. One wonders whether the authors of the paper have not
noticed that a discernible class structure has emerged in Africa and
particularly in Kenya.  While we welcome the idea of prevention, we
should also try to cure what has slipped in.

The elimination of
foreign economic and political domination is a good gesture towards
this, so are plans to develop in order to prevent antagonistic
classes.  But we also need to  eliminate power structures that have
been built through excessive accumulation so that not only a few
individuals shall control a vast magnitude of resources as is the case
now.  It is a case of cure and prevention and not prevention alone.”


is a statement made on nationalization [in Sessional Paper No. 10]. 
True there are cases in which nationalization is bad, but there are,
likewise, quite a few benefits to be derived from it.  On this subject
I would like to refer the authors to Prof. Bronferbrenner’s
[sic] work on the “Appeals for confiscation in Economic Development”*
[sic — the referenced article is titled “The Appeal of Confiscation in Economic
Development”].  Nationalization should not be looked at only in terms
of profitability alone, but also, or even more, on the benefit to
society that such services render and on its importance in terms of
public interest ..”

*Econ. Development and Cultural Change — Vol III, No. 3, 1955 pp. 201-18


“There is also a statement that nationalization will apply to African enterprise.  How can we talk of nationalizing African enterprise when such enterprises do not exit?  If we are going to nationalize, we are going to nationalize what exists and is worth nationalizing.  But these are European and Asian enterprises.

One need not be a Kenyan to note that nearly all commercial enterprises from small shops in River Road to big shops in Government Road and that industries in the Industrial Areas of Nairobi are mostly owned by Asians and Europeans.  One need not be a Kenyan to note that when one goes to a good restraurant he mostly finds Asians and Europeans, nor has he to be a Kenyan to see that the majority of cars running in Kenya are run by Asians and Europeans.  How then can we say that we are going to to be indiscriminate in rectifying these imbalances?  We have to give the African his place in his own country and we have to give him this economic power if he is going to develop.  The paper talks of fear of retarding growth if nationalization or purchases of these enterprises are made for Africans.  But for whom doe we want to grow?  Is it the African who owns this country?  If he does, then why should he not control the economic means of growth in this country?

It is mainly in this country that one finds almost everything owned by the non-indigenous populace.  The government must do something about this and soon.”


“Theoretically, there is nothing that can stop the government from taxing 100 per cent of income so long as the people benefits from the government commensurate with their income which is taxed.”


“The paper wishes to encourage domestic accumulation.  This is a good gesture except for the underlying assumption which one only reads between the lines, that it is individual private enterprise and business that tends to encourage accumulation.  True, in the paper there is a realization that taxation can be used as a means of forced saving, but it is given a secondary place in this respect.  Certainly there is no limit to taxation if the benefits derived from public services by society measure up to the cost in taxation which they have to pay.  It is a fallacy to say that there is a limit and it is a fallacy to rely mainly on the individual free enterprise to get the savings.  Who are we going to rid ourselves of economic power concentration when we, in our blueprint, tend towards what we ourselves discredit?  In paragraph 47 the paper state that the company form of business organization is a departure from the direct individual ownership typical in Marx’s day.  Yet one who has read Marx cannot fail to see that corporations are not only what Marx referred to as the advanced stage of capitalism but Marx even called it finance capitalism by which a few would control the finances of so many and through this have not only economic power but political power as well.”


“It is a tautology to say that we want to be independent of other countries since every country has always wished this.  It would have been more important to talk of how we intend to break our dependence on other countries politically and economically, since this is fait accompli.  It may be true that this is still the case because of our lack of basic resources and skilled manpower, yet one can choose to develop by the bootstraps rather than become a pawn to some foreign powers such as Sekou Toure did.  While the statement of the policy of non-alignment is good and encouraging, one would wish to see it put into practice.”

[Note:  At the time Obama’s article was written Guinea President Sekou Toure was accepting aid from the United States and acceding to many of its foreign policy demands, after an earlier period when Toure had accepted aid from the Soviets and the Soviet block.  Relations between Toure and Moscow had cooled after Toure accused the Soviets of helping to plot the overthrow of his government.]


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