Final words on Brenner/Wood
jenyan1 at uic.edu
Thu May 31 14:39:27 MDT 2001
On Wed, 30 May 2001, Louis Proyect wrote:
> 2. THE SEARCH FOR A PROGRESSIVE BOURGEOISIE IN KENYA
> All these theoretical declarations are merely a prelude to his main task,
> which is to demonstrate the vibrancy of Kenyan capitalism. His notion of
> the centrality of class relations is less about identifying and focusing
> attention on potential gravediggers of the system, but on how the system
> can "develop" under the auspices of the native ruling class.
> He makes much of the transfer of expatriate-owned ranches and coffee
> plantations to African owners. "Passenger road transportation was also in
> African hands by 1977 as were tour companies, laundries and dry cleaning,
> and a rapidly growing share of the hotel and restaurant sectors."
I liked your post. I'd like to make a tangential remark about the Kenyan
bourgeoisie and it's rule. The most powerful elements in this group owe
their positions to the largesse of one Johnson Kamau (aka Jomo Kenyatta).
After independence in 1963 there were various schemes to "nationalise" the
economy and reduce the grip of the British settlers, especially over the
best agricultural land. And strangely enough, these schemes seemed to
greatly enrich Kenyatta's family and his immediate coterie who gained
at the occasional expense of the settlers. Many coffee farms in the
highlands and wheat farms in the rift valley were "nationalised" in this
way. Needless to say those who had borne the brunt of British repression
during the Mau-Mau, which was after all a rebellion to recover lands which
had been forcibly grabbed by British settlers over the previous seventy
years, had to make do with the leavings from the table of this new
As for the Kenyan industrial sector, it has never constituted more than a
handful of knock-down car assembly plants (owned by foreign capital) and a
few foreign owned factories which to this day supply the rest of East
Africa with such items as toothpaste, cooking oil and soap.
It's also interesting that Leyes should be talking of the Kenya of the mid
1970's. This is about the time that Kenyatta was dealing with dissidents
by such means as throwing them off the rift valley escarpment. If I
remember correctly, one J.J. Kariuki, who had a reputation as a mildly
progressive dissident in Kenyatta's regime, met such a fate. Another, Tom
Mboya was mysteriously shot in broad daylight a few years before this.
In short, I have to wonder how any observer could describe the Kenya of
the mid-1970's as anything other than the actualization of the worst
aspects of dependent capitalism.
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