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50 Years Ago : Jomo Kenyata

Sir Patrick Renson, the Governor of Kenya, recently refused to release Jomo Kenyatta and gave two reasons for his decision. They were:

“The political campaign for Kenyatta's release, ‘which has roused many emotions and which has not allowed divisions and personal fears a natural atmosphere in which to diminish.’
Kenyatta's refusal to ‘make any statement or reveal his thinking about the great issues which Kenya is facing,’ in spite of the fact that six Ministers, including three Africans, had visited him in August’…”

Dictators have often put people in jail, or kept them in exile, because they have “made statements” or “revealed their thinking” about public issues; this must be the first time a political leader has been kept in exile because he refused to take up a political stand

The Socialist position is straightforward. We are opposed to any attack on democratic freedoms, whether it is jailing for political reasons, restrictions on the right to vote, or any other weapon in the colonialists' armoury. But we are not blind to the real nature of the struggle in Kenya, it is the old struggle between land and capital. It is the old struggle between capitalists, whether they are those who hope to establish full-scale industrial capitalism in Kenya, or those who have already established it in Great Britain. We welcome any extension of democracy in Kenya which this struggle between two rival propertied classes has produced or will produce. But we know that democracy is never safe in a capitalist society. That has been seen in Germany, in Italy, in Spain, in Czechoslovakia and the rest. Only in a Socialist society will democracy be safe from overthrow.

(from ‘The Passing Show’, Socialist Standard, April 1961)