Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
The Journal of African Modern Studies. Vol 15, No. 1. (Mar. 1977), pp. 25-45.
In contrast with the study ofpre-colonial societies characterised by well-established traditions, the writing on contemporary Africa seems to be in the stage of infancy. Thus it has largely avoided assessing the performance of 'revolutionary' leaders in an objective manner, and has often exhibited paternalism, idolisation, or dogmatism. If the study of modern history and politics aims at what actually is, rather than at what might be or ought to be, a more balanced view of political mobilisation and performance should result. An attempt will be made from this perspective realistically to appraise Guinea under the Parti democratique de Guinee in terms of its internal consistency.
Guinea was part of the Federation of French West Africa. After the military uprising of 13 May 1958, which brought de Gaulle back to power in France, it achieved wide recognition because of its opposition to the reforms which the French Government planned to grant to the colonies. There was to be a strong presidential regime in France, with bilateral ties between Paris and all the colonies at the expense of the Federations of West and Equatorial Africa. The referendum stipulated that each colony had to choose 'either local autonomy within the newly created French Community or total immediate independence with all its consequences' 1. Guinea's overwhelming vote against becoming a member of the new Community set the example of independence which was followed by all the other francophone territories within a few years, and the Guinean political system came to be regarded as the most effective mass movement in black Africa. In a pan-African spirit, many Africans and West Indians went to Guinea and helped to alleviate the manpower shortage created in the public sector by the abrupt and disruptive departure of the French. The Non vote of the Guineans became the basis of the heroic myth and revolutionary image of Sékou Touré, the Head of State and Government since 1957.
The history of modern political organisation in Guinea goes back to World War II. The early movements operated on a regional or ethnic basis, and were limited to urban groups primarily concerned with their own interests — notably
Among local French parties, the Front national — which became the Parti progressiste de Guinée in 1944 — had a significant impact on the growth of African nationalism: Sékou Touré once served as its deputy chairman. It created the Groupes d'etudes communistes (G.E.C.) numbering 44 around 1947 3, and introduced young urbanised Africans to Marxism. Three supra-ethnic parties resulted from the merger of these regional and voluntary associations, and dominated the political scene between 1947 and 1958:
To a large extent, the subsequent history of political development in Guinea centred around the struggle for power between the B.A.G. and the R.D.A. from 1949 to 1957. Hence it is useful to recall how the rather insignificant P.D.G. in 1947 became the dominant movement ten years later.
The creation of the R.D.A. at the congress of Bamako in 1946 reflected the need of social mobility in the colonies, and of unity among Africans elected to the French assemblies 6. This process mainly aimed at an effective anti-colonialist struggle and political performance through broad and well-organised mass support. The subsequent rise of the R.D.A. as the leading inter-territorial movement in the 1950s, with goals and structures defined in an anti-colonialist perspective, ought to be perceived as a revolutionary step in the early history of African nationalism. Sékou Touré, a labour leader influenced by Marxism, was present at the Bamako congress of the R.D.A., but the Guinean section — the P.D.G. — only emerged in May 1947 and operated on weak foundations until 1951. The fact that no well-known political or influential leaders were associated with its early history partly hindered its development. The P.D.G. also proved then incapable of withstanding the challenge of regionalism and voluntary associations; in Touré's words, 'each ethnic group maintained its own representation within the Comité directeur 7. The extremism of the P.D.G., and its alliance with the Communists, made members the target of police harassment, while the administration's tampering with the elections negatively affected its electoral fortune.
After Touré's rise to the position of General Secretary in 1951, the P.D.G. was reorganised on an integrative basis, and began to formulate broad policies of action and goals applicable to Guinea, and to stipulate militancy and democratic centralism as conditions for strength in the regions and ultimate national dominance 8. The principle of effective unity and interdependence between the masses and the elite was conceived as a potent means of political integration and authority. To achieve these goals, the P.D.G. regularly published its own literature, despite prohibitive fees and censure 9, and maintained strong links with the most important trade union then existing in Guinea, the branch of the French Communist Party-dominated Confédération générale du Travail led by Touré. This collaboration, to quote Ruth Morgenthau, gave the P.D.G. access to funds, travel, training, political experience, and metropolitan allies against the local administration 10.
The trade-union base broadened the attraction of the P.D.G., and familiarised its leaders with the techniques of mass movements and protest, notably strikes, demonstrations, and strenuous party discipline. With the beginning of the exploitation of bauxite and iron ore in the coastal region — of which Guinea has become the leading producer in West Africa — and the subsequent urbanisation, the rôle of the P.D.G. became more significant. The long general strike from 21 September to 25 November 1953, and Touré's success in gaining better wages and working conditions, made his movement both progressive and attractive.
By 1954, the membership of the P.D.G. had risen from about 100,000 to several hundreds of thousands of individuals organised in cells, and with a higher level of political sophistication relative to other parties 11. The election of 1954, though officially won by the B.A.G., gave ample indication of the popularity of the P.D.G. in all regions: it dominated the cities and had become a strong challenger in the countryside, the traditional stronghold of the B.A.G. The 1956 municipal elections which almost coincided with the implementation of the loi-cadre — a major reform bill introducing autonomy in the francophone colonies — saw the P.D.G.'s overwhelming success with its candidates in control of the 13 newly-created townships. The elections of January 1956 to the French National Assembly also testified to its popularity: it took two seats out of three. This pattern was again confirmed by the elections of March 1957 to the Guinean Territorial Assembly: it triumphantly gained 57 seats out of 60. At this point, the victory of the P.D.G. ought to be understood both in terms of the boldness of its social programme — its appeal to workers, women, castes, and poor people, notably by its opposition to the traditional oligarchy — and also essentially in terms of Sékou Touré's organisational capacities. [The 1955-58 period also witnessed recurrent PDG-led ethnic and political clashes. See, for instance, Camara's La lutte entre le régime du PDG et son opposition. — T.S. Bah]
Thereafter Touré headed the first Guinean Government. One of his initial tasks was further to strengthen the constituency of the P.D.G. through the suppression of customary chieftaincies — the power base of the opposition parties — in December 1957 12. Touré also decried the loi-cadre for its:
These considerations of unity and responsibility became crucial after 1956. The P.D.G. and other Guinean parties, despite their differences, agreed on the issue of federal unity, and thought that a unified West Africa was a prerequisite both for the establishment of a United States of Africa and for economic development. As a result, they unanimously opposed de Gaulle's proposal of the Fifth Republic constitution, and asked their members to vote Non 14. Shortly after independence, the opposition parties unconditionally joined the P.D.G., although the constitution recognised the principle of a multiple-party system. Thus, the history of the P.D.G. and that of post-independent Guinea have been intimately related.
Because of Touré's emphasis on organisation and structures for mass mobilisation, the P.D.G. has been present in all parts of Guinea through a pyramidal system of committees serving as 'points of articulation between the leadership and the masses' 15. The party operates at four main levels:
Each of these units has its consultative body, and its executive organ known as the bureau, generally including one or two women, and a representative of the youth organisation. The supreme organ of the P.D.G. is the Bureau politique national (B.P.N.), with nine members and headed by the General Secretary.
Although collegiality is the operational principle of the P.D.G;, the General Secretary makes all major decisions. Recruitment into the party is theoretically from a very broad base. However, to hold a position of leadership requires three years of effective participation at the local level, total conformity with the official views, and the support of Touré himself. Women's participation was of great significance during the colonial period, given their numerical importance and rôle in the forefront of demonstrations. Since independence, they have been represented at all levels, although their overall position has been negatively affected by their higher rate of illiteracy. In 1972, there were 9 female members of the Assemblee nationale out of a total of 75, and this relatively high number has been a cause of pride for the regime 16. The college graduates have been less successful, because Touré and the old leaders with little formal education have been sceptical of their motives and attitudes, if not jealous and fearful of their potentialities. Indeed, to substantiate such suspicions, the party has often referred to the leading rôle of this group in the 'plot of April 1960', and the part played by the unions of teachers and students in the 'conspiracy of November 1961'. The presence of graduates in the decision-making bodies of the P.D.G. has thus been limited, although they constitute the elite in the administration. Their political position shows that the P.D.G. recruitment process has yet to achieve its goals. Mobility within the party, although determined by effective participation at the local level, has remained very restricted.
The P.D.G. has absorbed the Confederation nationale des travailleurs guineens (C.N.T.G.), the only trade union operating in the country, the youth movement, and the Guinean women's organisation. These bodies hold the political views of the party, and hence are represented at all its levels. Of course, their integration into the P.D.G. has created problems in the sense that the defence of their interests may lead to them being labelled corporatist, deviationist, and counter-revolutionary, as happened to the delegation of teachers to the 1961 C.N.T.G. conference in its attempt to discuss working conditions and income disparities. Thus, it is the nature of the Guinean one-party system to be totalitarian — that is, to encompass all groups and institutions and to restrict individual and corporate liberty. In other words, it seems that the ideal of the P.D.G. is to foster not individual freedom, but a collective sense of'togetherness' and justice. The validity of this approach, however, has been hampered by the extreme concentration of the state apparatus and coercive power in the hands of the President. Yet this process is regarded as democratic.
According to Touré, the third stage of the 'Guinean Revolution' began with the liberation of the territory from colonialism and the establishment of a national democracy, designed to suppress ethnic and social contradictions, and to lead the people in the struggle against neo-colonialism, underdevelopment, and injustice 17. To the President, this regime is different from a people's democracy in the sense that it does not presuppose the class struggle, although it does require the existence of the one-party system. Unlike a people's democracy led by the representatives of the proletariat, it calls for a broader mass basis and national unification. Accordingly, Touré has viewed national democracy, because of its organisational methods and goals of social justice, as a stage towards the development of socialism in Guinea.
This raises the issue of democratic centralism which prohibits dissent from a policy after it had been agreed upon, and refers to an ensemble of organisational principles aiming at unity and collective responsibility with freedom of speech. According to Touré, this process is the result of a patient search for effectiveness in revolutionary action, and requires a strong relationship between political and administrative structures. Therefore, the supreme power lies in the people and their elected representatives, and leaders must be regarded only as agents of the masses. The existence of committees from the lower to the upper echelons, and the flow of information between these two levels, make the ideal horizontal and vertical characteristics of democratic centralism. This means that the centralisation at the top is related to the diffused nature of the lower level, and that harmony must exist between what the base expresses and what the top does — essential conditions of democracy and unity. In theory, democratic centralism fosters mass participation and solves the contradictions between individual rights and collective needs. This may explain why the P.D.G. has been related to all other organisations in Guinea, and has developed a national body of theories applicable to every group, professional or ethnic.
Within this context, the P.D.G. has become the focal institution — that is, it has penetrated all aspects of the life of the country, individual as well as collective, and has established its supremacy over the trade unions and the administration. It holds supreme political, cultural, judicial, financial, and economic power, and has thereby become the supreme guide in the struggle for development. The Bureau politique national (B.P.N.), in whose hands the ultimate decision-making power is concentrated, is the focus of power both in the party and in the nation. No decision can be taken in any department of the Government without prior discussion by the Bureau: from here emanate all directives to the lower echelons of the party 18. All its members hold major ministerial positions.
However, the reality of Guinean politics since 1960 does not conform to the ideals of democracy in either a classical liberal or socialist sense. Although any definition of democracy is arbitrary, it should include all or part of the following principles: free choice, political participation and competitiveness, distribution and accountability of power, greater social justice, and equitable distribution of wealth. Are these criteria met in the P.D.G. system ?
Guineans are denied such basic rights as freedom of expression and travel. To criticise Touré's reports is considered a counter-revolutionary move, and leads to imprisonment, as it did in the case of Balla Camara, an able administrator arrested at a conference in 1969 and later condemned to death. The idea of a second party, although constitutionally possible, resulted in 'the discovery of the 1965 plot' and the subsequent arrest and condemnation of Mamadou 'Petit' Touré and his brothers and many influential leaders, among whom was Diawadou Barry, the former B.A.G. leader [see Erratum]. As said earlier, the '1961 plot', the closing of schools and the arrest of students and teachers — including the historian Djibril Tamsir Niane — related to an open discussion of educational problems at the union conference. To make a public speech without quoting Touré is seen as a sign ofintellectualism contrary to revolutionary ideals, and hence endangers your promotion, if not your life. The failure by students to show a mastery of the President's theories by large quotations of his philosophical and poetic works leads to academic failures. To buy a motorcycle, a car, or construction materials at the official price generally requires a presidential order. Touré has emerged both as the only source of the law and the supreme judge. The magnitude of autocracy contradictory to all democratic ideals has destroyed individual initiatives and rights, and has produced a Kafkaesque world generally unknown to outsiders 19.
In other words, Guinea under the P.D.G. has an autocratic system with the façade of a people's government. There is only one theoretician who has confused democracy with 'democratism', which is primarily concerned with the forms rather than the content or implementation of democratic ideals. Guinea has a parliament, a government, and courts of justice. But all officials are appointed by Touré, and none can make any major decision without consulting him. The National Assembly, composed of people of his own choice, convenes at his request and deliberates according to his orders, as the 1971 events substantiate.
A group of ill-prepared Guinean exiles supported by foreign powers and Portuguese troops invaded Conakry, the capital, on 22 November 1970, in order to topple Touré's Government and to free the Portuguese prisoners kept by the Partido Africano de Independencia de Guine e Cabo Verde. The failure of the aggression led to the arrests of more than 160 people inJanuary 1971. The B.P.N. called an extraordinary congress of the party which, upon hearing Touré's indictment against the 'plotters and enemies of the Revolution', condemned them to suffer expropriation and death 20. Afterwards, an emergency session of the National Assembly was held on 18 January to 'judge the crimes of those indi- viduals directly involved in or accomplices of Portuguese imperialism and colonialism in their odious aggression against Guinea 20.
In the meantime, Touré published his long poem 'Adieu, les traitres' against political prisoners, and temporarily abdicated his constitutional right as President to grant pardon. He demanded that the Assembly be faithful to the decision made by the party at its extraordinary congress, and that each Deputy 'bring the best of his contribution by the rigour and firmness he will add to the discussions; overlook subjectivity, sentimentality, tribalism, and irresponsibility; and act as a loyal interpreter of people's demands'. Every member ended his speech with thanks to 'Comrade and Brother Ahmed Sékou Touré, the Responsable supreme de la Revolution, for trusting him and giving him the opportunity to show his allegiance to the Party and to the Enlightened and Faithful Servant of the People' 21. As expected, the Assembly acting as a supreme court, after listening to lengthy exposes by the members of the B.P.N. and the Government, faithfully enacted the orders of Touré: 92 were condemned to death and 67 to life imprisonment. The 'plotters' were subsequently hanged in Conakry and other major towns on 25 January 1971, in a kind of P.D.G. carnival atmosphere. These procedures of 'revolutionary justice' are questionable on political, humanitarian, and legal grounds, as the Revue de la Commission internationale de juristes reported:
The excessive accusations levelled in Conakry, the impossibility for the accused to defend themselves, the absence of the most elementary guarantees ofjustice, [and] the heterogeneous nature of the list of the condemned which evokes blood feuds rather than a court verdict, led to many international protests, including one from the International Commission of Jurists...
In reality, the Fifth Column's trial on the Guinean radio marks a major date in the annals of legal history... Men and women of all ages and conditions accuse each other of [all kinds of] crimes from 'economic sabotage' to 'attempts upon the President's life' and 'crimes against the internal and external security of the state'. However, usually the 'judges' cannot see the accused, [and] do not know how the depositions being broadcast have been made. As in the case of the 'plot of October 1965' and the 'plot of Fodeba Keita and Colonel Kaman Diabi in March 1969, the accused were tortured before they 'confessed'. Thus they were heard through tapes, without being seen by their 'judges', and without having the possibility to defend themselves or to be defended by lawyers 22.
Note. The confessions of the alleged participants in the Kaman-Fodeba Plot were not aired. Public broadcasting of Camp Boiro prisoners recordings began in 1971. Ismael Touré, the regime's chief prosecutor, seemed to confirm this during his interrogation of Alpha Abdoulaye 'Portos', a former cabinet member. See L'interrogatoire in La Vérité du ministre, specifically, his following statement: « You have seen Fodeba's confessions… there was almost nothing in them, still we liquidated them… —T.S. Bah.
The preceding account shows how democratic centralism and justice have functioned in Guinea. The regime, like the 1793 terror government in France, has no regard for judiciary procedures, and justifies people's courts and summary condemnations in the name of popular sovereignty. To substantiate this view, compare the following arguments:
In Guinea, we recognise only the people as law experts, and they can practice it when needed. In our regime, justice cannot be independent from the people. The people remain the unique foundation of justice, legitimacy, and legality. [Sékou Touré, Horoya, 19 January 1971.] The exercise of justice is an attribute of sovereignty; the people take it, if needed. The people by being avenged [on the counter-revolutionaries] were practising justice... This action was a necessary means of public well-being. [The Jacobin argument for the establishment of popular tribunals after the massacre of September 1793. Quoted by A. Soboul, La Révolution française (Paris, 1961), pp. 214-15.]
Touré's opinions become laws as they are uttered. The recognition of this supremacy directly proceeds from that of the party's sovereignty, and hence its Responsable supreme can and must simultaneously exercise all powers, political, executive, legislative, and judiciary. He intervenes at his own discretion in legal cases, and decides the verdict in the name of the people's will which transcends any written code. As such, he is the embodiment of the nation and the ultimate law-giver and interpreter. This has resulted in the weakening of the autonomy of the Assembly and the judicature, and in the suppression of private law practice. The party holds jurisdiction over all major matters. Detention without charge and condemnation without trial have become 'normal' features of every-day life.
This situation has made Guinea a one-man show, in which Touré is the unique actor while others dance, applaud, or sing in his honour and according to his whim. He is not only the living hero, but also the Guide et Stratège de la Révolution, whose expertise includes all the aspects of human knowledge from philosophy to agriculture. As an example, he has written about 20 books, and many long poems which teachers and students must memorise 23. He also settles inter-familial disputes and even advises the national soccer team.
As should now be evident, the structures of the P.D.G. closely follow Marxism-Leninism in its Stalinistic model of organisation marked by self-righteousness, intolerance, and brutality. This, in part, may be due to the impact of the G.E.C. and other Communist-led organisations on Touré and the first generation of P.D.G. leaders. Yet there are other reasons to explain the attraction of Stalinism to the Guinean elite. First, African nationalism came into existence at the time when, in the words of Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, 'the intellectual climate of the world was heavily impregnated with socialist principles and visions of society' 24. The emerging Guinean leaders had already witnessed the inefficiency of liberalism and capitalism, and had begun to opt for an alternative. Socialism was not only a theory to explain imperialism and colonialism, but a concrete doctrine of development — as Touré had learnt from his trade-union studies, and from the economic success of a number of socialist countries. The G.E.C. initiated young Guineans to the fundamentals of Marxian praxis, discipline, and jargon, but perhaps not to a sophisticated analysis of the system; they popularised Marxism and fostered dogmatism, a process consistent with Stalin's dominance over national Communist parties in the 1940s 25. As a result, a causal relation exists between the autocratic forms of the P.D.G. and Stalinism, because it was then that Touré's generation became acquainted with Marxism.
New factors began to operate after the attainment of independence in 1958. When China and other socialist countries recognised Guinea and offered assistance much earlier than the West, this was interpreted as displaying their lack of a superiority complex or arrogance of power, and reinforced the view that socialism fosters friendship and partnership among nations. Another reason for the attraction of socialism lay in its opposition to the exploitation and alienation inherent in capitalism. And, since Touré became increasingly concerned with his own position, Stalinism became further relevant because of its rigid bureaucratic nature.
The influence of Marx on the doctrine and organisation of the P.D.G. notwithstanding, it is difficult to label the Guinean system Marxist or even fully Stalinistic. Indeed, Touré has rejected materialism and the class struggle as being inconsistent with the African reality, and has accepted the control of international capitalism over the most productive sectors of industry and agriculture — namely, mining and tropical fruit plantations. Until 1970, Guinean leaders rarely applied the label 'socialist' to their regime, although they saw socialism as a valid strategy of economic development and liberation. WVithin this context, the philosophy of the P.D.G. has been one of the first African political doctrines to be inspired by Marxism-Leninism, as its theory of imperialism and its ideological orientation show. Touré has been consistent in his support of African national liberation movements, the Viet-Cong, and the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and in his verbal denunciation of imperialism. In Guinea, broadcasts and public speeches end with:
'Imperialisme, à bas !
Capitalisme, à bas !
Colonialisme, à bas !
Gloire, au Peuple !
Honneur, au Peuple !
Victoire, au Peuple !
Prêt pour la Revolution !'
Yet inconsistency has marked the relations of Touré's Government with international capitalism. Immediately after independence, the P.D.G. created import and export enterprises to reduce the reliance on French companies, and nationalised banks, insurance companies, transportation, and the public utilities. In March 1960, the Government created its own currency, then known as the Guinean franc, distinct from the French-dominated C.F.A. franc used throughout francophone Africa. The national economy was designed according to some general socialist guidelines. A three-year plan of development was formulated at the Kankan conference in April 1960 to bring about industrialisation and higher agricultural productivity through modernisation and collectivisation.
In general, the qualities of socialism were seen as being compatible with traditional African communalism, and conducive to economic development and national integration. Thus, socialism has had a strong mystique for mass mobilisation, and socialist watchwords have dominated the P.D.G.'s phraseology.
Nevertheless, a closer examination of this economic programme shows many contradictions and flaws. First, the issue of the inconvertible currency in 1960 was ill-planned, if not premature. This judgement neither implies nor advocates the continuation of a policy of monetary dependence inconsistent with national sovereignty and dangerous for stability and growth. The political situation in West Africa in 1960 required a revision of the monetary and fiscal policies with France. Hence, although the creation of the new currency reflected valid political and economic considerations, the way it came about reinforced the isolation of Guinea because it ended official trade with neighbouring countries, and expressed an unwarranted confidence. That the money had neither tangible support, such as gold and foreign currency — only, to quote Touré, 'the will and trust of the Guinean people 26 — nor international guarantee and recognition, made it a weak and unstable system from the beginning. Furthermore, the Government appeared too optimistic in its belief that the money, because it was printed in Czechoslovakia, and because Guinea maintained friendly relations with the Eastern bloc, would be accepted by these states and by China under some type of agreement, and hence would improve the balance of payments.
The same optimism characterised the first three-year plan designed to establish the bases of industrialisation and collectivisation. A large percentage of the total cost was to come from foreign loans and assistance, which often did not materialise fully. As a result, many major projects had to be modified or abandoned. Most of the light industry, such as textiles, furniture, breweries, tobacco, and matches, were plagued with mismanagement and shortage of primary materials. Agriculture remained backward, with the exception of research and technical stations, and production gradually declined after the mid-1960s, creating a major food problem 27.
With regard to heavy industry, the P.D.G. — notably by the seven- year plan of 1967— has never precluded the existence of a major capitalist sector through the 'mixed-economy' system — that is, partnership between a foreign company and the Government. For instance, the French Pechiney Corporation has been operating the multinational bauxite and aluminium complex of Fria since 1957, and its installations and assets have never been threatened by nationalisation. The French Societe des Bauxites du Midi, which substantially reduced its activities after independence, was nationalised and transformed into a joint enterprise between Guinea and Aluminium Ltd. of Canada.
The Government has 49 per cent of the shares in the most important multi-national corporation in Guinea: the Boke industrial complex created by the California-based Harvey Aluminium Corporation.' This special agreement was ratified by the convention of October 1963 which enabled the Government to obtain a major loan from the International Bank of Development — with the guarantee of the U.S. Department of State — to build a new city, port, and railway system for efficient production and export. Touré has praised the 'revolutionary aspects' of this Corporation: 65 per cent of the profits go to Guinea, and the chairman is the Guinean Minister of Development, although the Harvey Company controls the management. This example shows that Guinean 'socialism' is rather flexible in its dealing with international capitalism, albeit narrow in its overall scope. Questions about some aspects of this agreement immediately come to mind. Assuming that the regime is really socialist, how does it allow itself to be backed by the United States? How are the real profits of the Corporation monitored, given the lack of Guinean managerial staff sufficiently knowledgeable about the complexity of multi-national operations?
Other flaws of the P.D.G. regime appear in the organisation of the commercial sector. Soon after independence, and partly because of de Gaulle's adamant opposition and the subsequent boycott by French companies, Guinea began to experience serious economic difficulties, including shortages of necessary commodities and a deficit in foreign trade. To reduce dependence on France and to improve the overall situation, the party created the Comptoir guinéen de commerce in February 1959 with monopoly rights for the import of basic commodities, and the regulation of other goods through licenses to be issued to traders or companies. In theory, the establishment of this organisation with branches throughout the country seemed to be a positive step towards socialism: it aimed at the elimination of capitalist firms, and the appropriation by the state of profits which would otherwise go to Europe. Yet several factors made this experience a failure: notably, the emphasis on the import of luxury items rather than of goods necessary for capital equipment; the corruption of the managers by bribes from traders eager to receive large amounts of merchandise, or by threats from high civil servants and leaders involved in the joint ownership of stores with merchants 28; the excessive managerial concentration in Conakry; and the mismanagement mostly due to inexperienced appointments to executive positions by Touré. This latter practice has continued despite the suppression of the Comptoir in 1960, and has become a process of rewarding relatives or proteges of the party leaders.
Furthermore, the multiplicity of state stores created after 1960 have adopted the old colonial habit of buying local commodities at the lowest prices and selling imported items at high prices, thereby reducing the incentives for productivity in the agricultural sector. For instance, the production of bananas, avocados, pineapples, and coffee — extremely important in 1958 — has reached an all-time low level, and these fruits have become luxury items in Conakry 29. According to some informants, the trade agreements signed with the Soviet-bloc countries, the main partners of Guinea since 1959, make it necessary to sell in advance the bulk of certain export crops at fixed prices. Consequently, the state monopoly on import-export trade, although revolutionary in the sense that it broke the ties with the colonial trade economy, led to a dependence on socialist states that has been detrimental to economic growth. This new system, according to a French sociologist who taught in Guinea, produced a
worsening of terms of trade at the international level with the Eastern-bloc countries as well as with the Western ones, even if bartering has prevailed in the former case, since the agreements state that such quantities of manu- factured goods having a high value-added will be delivered for such quantities of agricultural products or raw materials which generally have a low value-added 30.
Within this context, the state stores appear to be mainly propaganda agencies rather than efficient organs of trade, crippled as they have been by mismanagement and fraud. The history of trade since 1960 has been marked by shortages and embezzlements, by the trial and imprisonment of accountants, by the appointment of new managers, and by economic conferences by Touré. The loi-cadre of November 1964, which nationalised interior trade and expropriated the property of most Guinean merchants, led to a massive diaspora towards neighbouring states, thereby depriving the consumers of expertise and worsening the distribution of goods. This has been aggravated by the establishment of almost prohibitive customs charges and trade regulations between regions, by the high rate of inflation, and by the weakness and subsequent changes of the currency 31.
By 1973, the economic situation in Guinea had become so critical that Touré asked that crops and cattle be accepted for tax per capita and for the fares of the Mecca pilgrimage. Farmers and others were exhorted to buy machinery in kind. The use of the 'black market' has become general, while the economic position of the political leaders has steadily improved because of the dependence of store managers on their support. The members of the governing elite, as the beneficiaries of the system, do not experience shortages, and can buy all items at official prices. They can even afford late car models and beautiful villas. This group's life and prosperity contrast with the hardship and poverty of the population, and are inconsistent with the P.D.G. ideals of equality and justice.
A brief look at other aspects, such as the health situation and the development of regional infrastructure, reveals similar inconsistencies. For instance, a major discrepancy has developed between the rate of urbanisation and the development of medical centres. The population of Conakry has risen from 100,000 in 1958 to more than 300,000 in 1972, but the two main hospitals date back to the colonial period and are jammed with patients. Mismanagement has hampered the efficiency of all medical centres because of the appointment of inexperienced individuals to hospital administration. Medicine shortage has been so endemic and crucial that Touré decried it in 1972 as a 'plot by the physicians to discredit the Revolution'. Most tragic of all was his denial of a cholera epidemic in 1973, despite reports of many casualties in Conakry. It is hard to consider the P.D.G. system as 'democratic' and 'revolutionary' if these notions imply social justice and equal access to health care. Emaciated Guineans have flocked-almost like the smugglers — to Bamako in Mali for better medical care at the expense of their relatives living in exile, while political leaders and their families are flown to Europe.
The few major development projects in the interior tend to be determined according to the P.D.G.'s longevity in the region, rather than by criteria of economic and national integration. By way of example, Dabola in Fouta-Jallon, Diawadou Barry's home town, and Kankan, Guinea's second largest city and the metropolis of Upper Guinea, are both regarded as 'bastions of the counter-Revolution'. Not only has the complete deterioration of the railway weakened their economy, but the new tarred road from Conakry to Kissidougou has isolated them to the advantage of Faranah, an insignificant centre but Touré's birthplace. The construction of an international airport, which had begun in Kankan in 1965, abruptly stopped in 1968 — the project and the equipment were transferred to Faranah — and did not start again until 1973. The construction of a dam in Kamarato to provide electricity to Kankan and its region also came to a halt in 1971, thereby ensuring that most of the city is periodically in darkness. Furthermore, the bulk of the industries created since 1960 have been concentrated around Conakry, thereby making the interior only a source of labour and an area of economic neglect and political oppression.
If one measures political success and performance by the longevity of the system, it is clear that the P.D.G. has had the greatest political success in tropical Africa — this was due, until about 1964, to its highly integrated organisation and mass appeal. The effectiveness of the party has also created the conditions for political stability, as has been exemplified by Touré's position. However, one has to go beyond such criteria to fully evaluate a regime. Although the P.D.G. has controlled Guinea since 1957, it has not yet improved the economy significantly, despite many industrial and agricultural potentialities. The poor state of the country has raised serious questions about the managerial capacity of the leaders: the use of the revenue received from diamond exploitation, the profits from joint enterprises, and the royalties paid by autonomous corporations such as Fria, have put the honesty and integrity of Touré and his team at stake. Many questions then may be legitimately raised about the nature of the Guinean regime.
Both the language and elements of the P.D.G. doctrine give Touré a socialist outlook, and reinforce the view that he aspires to carve such an image for himself. As part of this strategy, he has encouraged the notion that the capitalist stage is not necessary for developing socialism 32. He also has defined 'socialist edification' as one of the main goals of his regime, and has attempted to build psychological conditions for socialism through revolutionary language and the Cultural Revolution, a programme established in 1968. Yet, at the same time, he has rejected the principles of the class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat for the conciliatory system of national democracy, thereby redefining the Marxist concept of suppression and extinction of the state as a process of 'decentralisation' that allows all the people 'to participate directly.. and control the structures and mechanisms of the state' 33. Socialism thus becomes 'people's happiness and freedom' and may co-exist with capitalism:
In each country, there are capitalist and socialist perspectives, which develop jointly or separately, expressing the tendencies that mark economic relations and determine their quality… The doctrine of the P.D.G. aims at building the happiness of the society upon which that of the individual mainly depends. Our regime is democratic, and progressist, it is socialist … We are opting for socialism, that is, we firmly want the continuous progress of social justice… Socialist Revolution is, above all, an enlightened consciousness, a resolute will of general betterment, a firm courage in the continuous action which only can create social harmony and human happiness 34.
This quotation corresponds to a romantic vision of society irreconcilable with strict Marxian orthodoxy as expressed both by Marx in his notion of the preponderance of the mode of production over the superstructures, and by Engels in his analysis of the contradictions existing in non-proletarian states 37. Thus, from a Marxist point of view, socialist revolution cannot be a conscience, because this is an effect rather than a determinant of social conditions. Furthermore, 'socialism does not aim at creating a socialist psychology as a prerequisite to socialism, but at creating socialist conditions of life as a prerequisite to socialist psychology' 35. Touré as an idealist believes in universal harmony, and hence perceives that the main role of the state is to reconcile class divisions. This opinion is consistent with his definition of national democracy as being more comprehensive and relevant in Africa than a people's democracy. But, the principle of unified one-party democracy, that might have validated the idea of national democracy in Guinea when the opposition parties merged with the P.D.G., gradually became a meaningless notion with the establishment of a 'permanent state of plots', and with the subsequent arrest and condemnation of all likely opponents. Thus, Touré has had a strong hold over Guinea because of the development of a sophisticated repressive system which includes arbitrary arrest and torture. Even without this serious situation, it would still be difficult to label the Guinean regime as a model of democracy or socialism, given the capitalist dominance in the industrial sector, the rise of socio-economic inequities, and the development of a personality cult.
These remarks lead to the broad issue of'African socialism', which several African leaders believe can be established through gradual reforms and plans. Assuming that there exists such a variety of socialism, one may say that, in its extreme diversity, it is a pragmatic ideological compromise between capitalism and Marxism, designed to provide an appearance of autonomy vis-a-vis capitalism and imperialism which have been portrayed as perpetuating underdevelopment. One of its main goals, therefore, is to help legitimate the elite's power, and to act as a tool for mass mobilisation and control through egalitarian and optimistic slogans of development. As the Guinean example shows, this doctrine is more concerned with the form rather than the content of socialism — that is, it fosters a one-party system with its totalitarianism, and with plans 'lacking in real content, political support, or potential for implementation' 36. It thus expresses a mystique rather than a true ideological commitment. In the words of Yves Benot:
socialist ideologies in Africa are ideologies in the sense of sublimation of reality, a deformed ideal view of this reality inconsistent with the present context. Most often, it is not these ideologies which provide the key to under- standing the development of African countries, but to the contrary it is the study of the development which helps to demystify the ideological scheme or to find its hidden meaning 37.
In the case of Guinea, the economy is controlled by the state operating in conjunction with international capitalism, and legitimizing its incompetence and oppression in the name of social justice.
The ideology of the P.D.G. clearly appears as an ensemble of philosophical and moral generalisations stemming from different sources, and centering around such idealistic concepts as man, consciousness, harmony, and progress. Indeed, for Touré, 'Socialist Revolution is an enlightened consciousness' 38; and 'Man [is] the most precious capital Guinea has, to whom all means will be made available if… the best conditions of development can be created thanks to foreign investments' 39. This view relates happiness to foreign capital, and politics to metaphysics. Human aspirations thus become those of a fictious individual — that is, a Man who has been stripped of existential and sociological characteristics, and given an ideal personality. The love of the generic Man justifies the torture and sacrifice of true living beings, thus creating the conditions for dictatorship. The freedom of the citizens of Guinea is conditioned by the needs and sovereignty of this Man whose infallable self-appointed servant and spokesman is Touré himself. Such practices require neither people's effective participation in the decision-making process and national wealth, nor the establishment of autonomous conflict-solving mechanisms. Touré attaches more importance to ideas than to reality, and perceives himself as the 'theoretician and voice of Africa's consciousness'.
Not surprisingly, the Guinean context is reminiscent of the 1792-3 virtue-loving Jacobin regime in France, with its mass arrests, confiscatory policies, and self-righteousness. Marat's exhortation to 'organise the despotism of liberty to smash the despotism of the kings' 40 is fully echoed by Touré's slogan: 'against the imperialist violence, oppose the revolutionary violence' 41. As the Jacobin leaders were partly inspired by the ideals of Rousseau, a closer reading of Touré's works reveals similar influences. As an example, his reference to consciousness as 'the illuminating light, the only faculty that allows man not only to master nature but also to master himself' and 'the only force able to move society continuously because it is the only just and infallible guide of men and societies' 42, conforms to Rousseau's well-known exhortation:
'Conscience is the voice of the soul… Conscience never deceives us, it is the true guide of man… Conscience! Conscience! divine immortal and celestial voice; sure guide… infallible guide of good and evil, who makes man like God!' 43
These remarks help to appraise the nature of Guinean politics and ideology. First, it would be an erroneous assumption, as has been shown, to consider the regime as being Marxist, despite the presence of many recurrent socialist themes. Touré has primarily been anAfrican nationalist who has dreamed of an independent Africa free from the two world blocs. Trapped in the contradictions of his system, and by his subsequent inability to properly identify even the economic priorities, let alone promote development, he has developed the argument of 'permanent conspiracies' to explain the crises of Guinean society, and to justify autocracy and terror 44. At this level, the socialist organisational model has become relevant because — unlike capitalism whose contradictions and effects are clearly discernible — it can justify inequalities, oppression, and mass control in the name of an alleged future happiness. Touré's great contribution to the rise of an African ideology thus has been to adapt Marxian terminology to nationalism, and to radicalise it through the development of an integrated political party.
This has made the ideology of the P.D.G. an amalgam of Marxism, Africanity, populism, and idealism, the latter two components being dominant in its content. Guinea has become a classic example of an idealist revolutionary state, because its leader's main preoccupation has been with rhetoric and contemplative ideas. It is imagined that revolution stems from a radicalisation of language and the development of psychological conditions. Violence is stressed for the sake of violence, rather than for a positive re-structuring of the bases of the society. In other words, the system has lacked the ideological consistency necessary for sure, viable socio-economic and political development.
In conclusion, the time is long overdue for a clear delimitation between the aspirations and the real achievements of African leaders. Future studies must be based upon performance not idolisation. If this realistic approach is applied to Guinea, the practices of people's courts, massive arrests, and executions testify to the rise of a police state, and explain the stability of Touré's rule. The P.D.G. was successful in the struggle against colonialism, but has not yet achieved, despite almost two decades of domination, the expectations of the Guinean peoples for better living conditions and for security from tyranny.
The author wishes to thank the University and the Social Science Research Council for supporting his research.
1. Charles de Gaulle, 'Speech in Conakry', August 1958. Cf. also Ruth S. Morgenthau, 'Constitution of the Fifth Republic', in Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa (Oxford, 1970 edn.), pp. 385-92.
2. Mulatoes, Dahomeans, and Senegalese living in Guinea had their respective organisations.
3. Sékou Touré, L'Afrique et la Révolution (Switzerland, n.d.), p. 49. See Morgenthau, op. cit. pp. 22-7 for the role of the Groupes d'études communistes in the development of political parties in French West Africa.
4. [Of these leaders]
5. Members of the ethnic or voluntary associations integrated with either the R.D.A. or the B.A.G. according to their political preferences. The French expatriates who owned huge plantations of tropical fruit or who were involved in administration, also joined the party of their choice when the double electoral college — according to which French citizens had voted separately and had been given a number of seats in the Territorial Assembly disproportionate to their number — was abolished in 1956. See Morgenthau, Trade Unionists and Chiefs in Guinea, op. cit. pp. 219-54.
6. According to L. Gray Cowan, the creation of the R.D.A. was in response to the dissatisfaction felt by African deputies at the defeat of the first constitution of the Fourth Republic in May 1946. See his 'Guinea', in Gwendolen M. Carter (ed.), African One-Party States (Ithaca, 1962), p. 158. I believe that the emergence of the R.D.A. expressed much larger concerns.
7. Sékou Touré, L'Expérience guindenne et l'unite africaine (Paris, 1959), p. 13. Quoted in Gray Cowan, loc. cit. p. 160.
8. See Victor Dubois, 'Guinea', in James S. Coleman and Carl G. Rosberg (eds.), Political Parties and National Integration in Tropical Africa (Berkeley, 1964).
9. The spread of the P.D.G. propaganda is associated with the history of three journals: Phare de Guinée (Guinea's Lighthouse), 1947-50; Coup de Bambou (Bamboo Stroke), 1950-1; and Liberté (Liberty) which became Horoya after the proclamation of independence. There existed an international R.D.A. organ, Le Réveil (The Awakening) [published in Dakar].
10. Morgenthau, op. cit. p. 227.
11. Touré, L'Afrique, p. 62. 28.
12. See Jean Suret-Canale, 'Chieftaincy in Fouta Djallon, Guinea', in Michael Crowder and Obaro Ikime (eds.), West African Chiefs (New York, 1970), pp. 79-95, and 'The End of Chieftaincy in Guinea', in Irving Leonard Markovitz (ed.), African Politics and Society: basic issues and problems of government and development (New York, 1970), pp. 96-117.
13. Touré, L'Afrique, p. 68, and L'Expérience guinéenne, p. 168.
14. Out of a total of 1,405,986 on the list, 1,200,171 voted: 12,920 ballots were spoiled or left blank, 56,959 voted Oui, and 1,130,292 voted Non — more than 94 per cent. Touré, L'Action politique du P.D.G. pour l'émancipation africaine, Vol. II (Conakry, 1959), p. 9.
15. See Touré, L'Afrique and L'Action politique; also Gray Cowan, loc. cit.
16. The names are given in L'Agression portugaise contre la République de Guinée: livre blanc (Conakry, 1971), pp. 265-7. Jeanne Martin Cissé, a former Guinean ambassador to the United Nations, was the first woman to chair the Security Council in 1972. [She was elected subsequently to the Bureau politique national of the PDG. And in 1977, as a member of the investigation committee at Camp Boiro, she participated in the repression against the Women's revolt of August. — T.S. Bah]
17. According to Touré, the first two stages of the 'Guinean Revolution' were 'la cristallisation et la canalisation des revendications ouvrières' and 'l'élargissement de l'action politique aux masses rurales'. L'Afrique, pp. 62-77 and 116-19.
18. Gray Cowan, loc. cit. p. 183.
[Diawadou Barry was arrested, tried in absentia, and secretly executed by firing squad on May 27, 1969, along with Fodéba Keita and other 'convicted' plotters, in the so-called Kaman-Fodeba plot. — T.S. Bah].
19. See my ' Cultural Revolution, Artistic Creativity, and Freedom of Expression in Guinea', in The Journal of Modern African Studies (Cambridge), xiv, 2, June 1976, pp. 201-18.
20. See Horoya (Conakry), 15-18 January 1971, and Revue de la Commission internationale de juristes (Geneva), 7, December 197 , pp. 4-9.
21. L'Agression portugaise, p. 262.
22. Ibid. p. 264. 3-2.
23. Revue de la Commission internationale de juristes, loc. cit. pp. 6-8, my translation. For more information, see Horoya, February-May 1971.
24. See Kaba, loc. cit.
25. Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, 'Nationalism in a New Perspective: the African case', in Herbert J. Spiro (ed.), Patterns of African Development: five comparisons (Englewood Cliffs, 1967), p. 44.
26. See Sheridan Johns, 'The Komintern and South Africa', in The Review of Politics (Notre Dame, Ind.), 37, 2, 1975, pp. 200-34, for one example of Moscow's dominance.
27. Sékou Touré, 'La Monnaie guinéenne...', in L'Afrique, pp. 330-7.
28. See Michael O'Connor, 'Guinea and the Ivory Coast. Contrasts in Economic Development', in The Journal of Modern African Studies, X, 3, October 1972, pp. 409-26.
29. Sékou Touré, Défendre la Révolution (Conakry, 1969), pp. 243-6. 38. Ibid. pp. 46-8, and L'Afrique, p. 15.
30. Guinean informants, Dakar and Abidjan, January 1976. Cf. O'Connor, loc. cit. p. 412.
31. Claude Rivière, 'Les Bénéficiaires du commerce dans la Guinée pré-coloniale et coloniale', in Bulletin de l'I.F.A.N. (Dakar), 33B, 1971, p. 283, my translation.
32. The Government has changed the currency four times since 1960: the latest is referred to as the sily, and is valued at 10 old francs. The U.S. dollar equals 20 sylis at the official rate, and around 150 on the black market. Since 1971, the free flow and trade of major commodities, including grain and sugar, have been forbidden within the country, while other goods are subject to customs fees.
33. Touré, L'Afrique, pp. 111-15. By 1970, however, Touré had clearly opted for socialism: see his PDG-RDA: le chemin du socialisme (Conakry, 1970).
34. Touré, L'Afrique, p. 159.
35. Ibid. pp. I71-4.
36. See F. Engels, Origine de la famille, de la propriété et de l'état (Paris edn. 1954), pp. 155-6. See also the preface by Karl Marx to Critique de l'économie politique. 37. Leon Trotsky, Permanent Revolution and Results and Prospects (New York edn. 1970), p. 99.
38. G. K. Helleiner, 'Beyond Growth Rates and Plan Volumes - Planning for Africa in the 1970s', in The Journal of Modern African Studies, x, 3, October 1972, p. 333. 39. Yves Benot, Idéologie des indépendances africaines (Paris, 1969), p. 170.
40. Touré, L'Afrique, p. 173.
41. Sékou Touré, L'Action politique du PDG, et lutte pour l'émancipation africaine (Paris, 1959), p. 7.
42. Marat, Textes choisis (Paris edn. 1963).
43. Touré, L'Afrique, p. 299, and Horoya, 19 January 1971.
44. Touré, L'Afrique, p. 103. This view also has a certain religious connotation consistent with idealist attitudes.
45. J. J. Rousseau, The Creed of a Priest of Savoy, translated by Arthur H. Beattie (New York, 1956), pp. 36 and 43. Obviously, this is not a critique of Rousseau, but rather a testimony to the magnitude of his influence.
46. See Sékou Touré, 'Complot permanent', in Défendre la Révolution, pp. 24-51. This is consistent with Marat's argument of permanent conspiracy; op. cit. pp. 131-5. The Guinean Government has discovered at least 14 'plots' since independence, including an alleged recent invasion from the Ivory Coast, strenuously denied by President Houphouet-Boigny; The Times (London), June 1976. Subsequently, several Guinean leaders, including Captain Lamine Kouyate, former Military Governor of Kindia [he was the commander of the Keme Bourema garrison in that town], and Telli Diallo, Minister of Justice (the first Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity), were arrested for 'plotting against the Guinean Government'. See Jeune Afrique, 18 June and 9 July 1976.
[The alledged invasion threat may have been a diversion. In reality, those two officials and ordinary citizens arrested in 1976 were accused of fomenting the so-called Fulani Plot. Sékou Touré oversaw the killing of the above along with a dozens of others. In rabble-rousing speeches, he tried to wage ethnic warfare against the Fulbe, and —regardless of their grades— he officially barred Fulbe students from receiving the much-coveted foreign scholarships. Telli Diallo, Alioune Dramé, Dr. Alpha Oumar Barry, Lt. Alhassane Diallo were starved to death, “diète noire”. In his last days, Captain Kouyate said that he knew he was doomed because he had carried out Sékou Tourés order and killed Amilcar Cabral.!!!—T.S. Bah].
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