He Kongde (何孔德)’s “The struggle of all the people in the world against American imperialism will be victorious!” (c 1965)

Maoism & The Question of Self-Reliance in Tanzania

“In the fight for complete liberation the oppressed people rely first of all on their own struggle and then and only then on international assistance. The people who have triumphed in their own revolution should help those still struggling for liberation. This is our internationalist duty.”
(Talk with African friends, 1963)

The above quotation from Mao’s Little Red Book certainly solidifies for its Chinese audience an expansion of its revolutionary duties. Therefore, now there is not only a duty to continue to progress at home, but it’s also in the agenda to give a little push to China’s fellow socialist nations around the globe. Just as China had to push themselves forward in their revolutionary progress, Mao sees the same for other nations who are aiming towards the same. Priya Lal’s piece “Maoism in Tanzania” speaks to the specific situation in Tanzania and its respective relating of Maoism as whole to their socialist revolution. This paper, however, aims to examine more closely Mao’s idea of self-reliance and its interpretations in Tanzania as offered in Lal’s work.

Maoism had taken more of a firm anti-imperialist stance following the Sino-Soviet split in the 1960’s. With China’s own history of being at the hands of Western bourgeois powers, it’s no surprise that fellow colonized nations would find a common thread with socialist China as opposed to the Soviets. The importance of self-reliance would, therefore, speak to this “asymmetrical relationship” between the colonizer and the colonized, between the oppressor and the oppressed (Lal 97). In other words, after Tanzania had won their independence from the British imperialists, it was important for the nation to learn to function without “help” from its previous exploiters. Given this background, therefore, it’s interesting to note that both the quotation above and the Lal piece note an “asymmetrical relationship” to be of importance (Lal 97). Mao’s first sentence essentially levels the playing field through his mention of “oppressed people” between China and other socialist nations with a colonized history. However, the relationship must in some way be unbalanced for one to be in a position to offer aid and to receive it. This is another part of Mao’s quotation that deserves closer examination.

Guo Hongwu (郭宏武)’s “Revolutionary Friendship is as Deep as the Ocean” demonstrates China bringing modernization to a country in Africa with red tractors, a symbol of Chinese revolutionary fervor.

Mao claims that nations who have “triumphed in their own revolution” shall only proceed to aid others if they have fulfilled this requirement. This then begs the question of what a triumphant revolution actually encompasses? As Tanzania had adopted this notion of self-reliance through ujamaa, Lal notes, “TANU leaders sought to reinforce their new calls… by repeatedly pointing to China as both a model of the correct path of self-reliance and an illustration of the concrete benefits of pursuing a developmental path” (Lal 103). While Maoism definitely ideologically permeated and aided beyond China’s border, a major goal it seems for Tanzania was economic stability after being left in poverty. This economic stability may translate for the Tanzanian leader Nyerere as fulfilling this status of having a “triumphant revolution” (Mao). It is then more specifically interpreted to mean technological and human capital when Nyerere writes, “China has set an excellent example… Tanzania must take this road too. It’s the only way to make our country strong and prosperous” (Lal 103). Mao refers in the quote above to the triumph of becoming self-reliant by being capable of helping others.

As Tanzania had also upheld self-reliance, their own way of interpreting this can be seen in the way they dealt with other African nations striving for the same. Lal points out, “Tanzania served as a base for anti-colonial and anti-apartheid movements… housing their operational headquarters and facilitating their militarization provided by a range of radical foreign sources” (Lal 106). China was one of these sources of aid but the dynamic among African nations is an interesting one considering how Mao had highlighted the importance of reaching one’s own status of a successful revolution. Seeing as how Tanzania was still receiving aid from other powers and they themselves became a leader for their region, it shows that they perhaps thought of themselves as capable of helping other nations. It could be said that they were adhering to their internationalist duty while still working on their own revolution at home. At the same time, it also speaks to the flexibility behind the ways in which “self-reliance” was actually practiced.

Maoism had certainly resonated with nations that were themselves striving to achieve the amount of progress made in China, at least as it was known abroad. In this way, the connection was mutual in that China started to see it as essential to aid others when other imperialists wanted to interrupt and intervene in the progress of fellow socialist nations. Just as Maoism had attracted others for its adaptability to circumstances at “home,” wherever that might be, the same can be said for its adherence to self-reliance. Tanzania had been an example of how it was applied and influenced in places beyond China.