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Uganda’s revolutionary left: politics and pedagogy from London to Mbale, 1959-1970


This paper explores early postcolonial Uganda’s largely overlooked revolutionary leftist politics and pedagogy. It examines the ways the country’s far left was shaped by networks, cultures, and commitments cultivated in the (ex)metropole in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The paper recovers the engagements of two key activists – B. Chango Machyo and Dani W. Nabudere – with the Committee of African Organisations, the Communist Party of Great Britain, and African London’s leftist ‘study group’ culture. By tracing these connections and pedagogical forms through to 1970, the paper illuminates not only the nature of the Uganda People’s Congress Youth League’s leftist politics, but also its afterlives. Gradually relegating Uganda’s capital city to the margins, this account details the emergence of a Marxist-Leninist vanguard organisation and affiliated institutions of political education and international solidarity in and around Mbale Town, and the Obote state’s reaction.


This study reveals the disproportionate influence even relatively small leftist groups distant from state power could have on postcolonial African politics. It seeks to draw particular attention to the power of political pedagogy as a weapon – or even just as an idea – wielded from below. The paper simultaneously raises critical questions about the role of scholars in obscuring these histories.

The Role of Marxism-Leninism in the University Students African Revolutionary Front’s Opposition to Ujamaa


The University Students African Revolutionary Front (USARF) existed from 1967 to 1970 during which they arose as the chief critics of Julius Nyerere’s socialist program in Tanzania. Positioning themselves as the left opposition to the African socialism of Ujamaa, USARF embraced the ideology of Marxism-Leninism (ML). This paper argues that ML became both the organisational force behind USARF’s activities and granted them the ideological base from which to challenge the idealism of Ujamaa. To this end, the paper provides an event-driven and analytic narrative of USARF’s development and then focuses on the main disagreements between USARF and Nyerere – the utopianism of the Ujamaa project; Nyerere’s ignorance of neo-colonialism; and the interconnectedness of socialism and internationalism.


Relying on USARF’s publications from their magazine Cheche and an interview with a leading member of the group, this paper provides a historical analysis of the role of ML in USARF’s opposition to Ujamaa

Theoretical Advances in East-African Marxism in the 1970s


This essay takes up the question of the influence of Lenin on anti-colonial and anti-neocolonial struggles in East Africa, as well as the question of the contribution of East-African Marxists to Marxist-Leninist theory. It focuses on two aspects of Lenin’s thought which were influential on the theoretical outlooks of the Zanzibari Marxist Abdul Rahman Mohammed Babu (1924-1996) and the Ugandan Marxist Dan Wadada Nabudere (1932-2011). The first aspect is Lenin’s theory of imperialism and his account of the significance of national liberation struggles in light of this theory. The second aspect is Lenin’s critique of the Narodniks in Russia. This essay illustrates how Babu, through adopting Lenin’s understanding of national struggles against imperialism as part of the global struggle against capitalism, was able to provide a theoretical basis for the endorsement of Pan-Africanism from a Marxist-Leninist standpoint, by arguing that Pan-Africanism is the expression of African nationalism vis-à-vis a racialized imperialism.


This essay also shows how criticisms from the proponents of African socialism to the effect that Marxism was a foreign ideological import into Africa were met by Babu and Nabudere through a Leninist analysis of the class basis of African socialism (i.e., the characterization of African socialism as the ideology of the East-African petty bourgeoisie), and through a critique of the view of African history that was endorsed by proponents of African socialism, a critique which was consciously modelled on Lenin’s critique of the Narodniks’ view of Russian history.

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