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- An ardent anti-colonialist from Africa

Abdul Rahman Mohamed Babu was born in Zanzibar in East Africa, then a British protectorate. In 1951, he went to Britain to study philosophy and English literature and was drawn first to anarchism and then to Marxism. London was then a centre for anti-colonial movements and Babu was to play a key role in the well-known left-led Movement for Colonial Freedom which had its base there.
Babu writes of the impact on his generation of Nkrumah's victory in Ghana in 1956, "coming as it did after the Chinese Revolution, the Viet Minh victory against the French at Dien Bien Phu and the Algerian Revolution, it gave us a new awareness of the importance and effectiveness of the `mass political party' against colonialism". In 1957, Babu returned to Zanzibar to become the Secretary General of Zanzibar's first political party, the Zanzibar Nationalist Party (ZNP).

This was the era when the movement for Pan African Unity was emerging, and Babu participated in the historic All African People's Conference in Accra, Ghana in 1958 along with Nkrumah, Franz Fanon and Partice Lumumba, whom Babu and his comrades 'discovered' when travelling through the Congo on the way to the Conference, and took with them to Accra. In the same period, Babu describes how "I was the first liberation fighter from the East and Central Africa to visit revolutionary China, 1959-60. From then on I was keenly following the ups and downs of Chinese experiences; meetings with Mao, Chou En Lai, Marshal Chen Yi, Deng Tsiao Ping, and others, immensely heightened my revolutionary spirit and optimism".

Seeing Babu as a threat to continuing post-independence neo-colonial domination, and a source of 'Chinese influence' in the region, the British, with the collaboration of reactionary elements within the ZNP itself, had Babu imprisoned for two years on charges of 'sedition'. The independence which was negotiated in 1962 led to the formation of a right-wing coalition government still controlled by the British, which intensified repression against the trade unionists, youth leaders and other progressive elements. By 1963 it was clear that the left could no longer play an effective role within ZNP and under the leadership of Babu, a mass revolutionary party, Umma (People's) Party, was launched, galvanising working class and peasant youth across racial groupings into action. The Zanzibar Revolution took place in 1964 - an uprising led by a number of political forces which the Umma Party was able to partially transform into a socialist revolution. For the U.S., Zanzibar was now the 'Cuba of Africa' from which communism would spread across the continent, and there followed a period of intense CIA activity. Only four months after the Revolution, the U.S. succeeded in engineering a union between Tanganika and Zanzibar (to form Tanzania) which effectively crushed the progressive potential of revolution and 'neutralised' Zanzibar.

It was during 1964-72, when he headed various ministries in the Tanzanian government, in particular the Ministry of Planning, he negotiated the construction of the historic Tanzania-Zambia Railways by China. He also played an active role in the international arena in this period when the Cold War was at its height, making links with Che Guevara, Castro and others. He had a deep relationship with Malcolm X and Babu was one of the key influences who led Malcolm to an anti-imperialist world view.

However, throughout this period there were sharp contradictions between President Nyerere's policies of so-called 'African Socialism' which focused on 'welfarism' neglecting the crucial task of restructuring the colonial economy, and Babu's scientific socialism to which the development of the productive forces was central.

Babu was also instrumental in the resurgence of Pan Africanism with a relevance to contemporary conditions. This led to the establishment of a Pan African Movement which held the historic 7th Pan African Congress in Kampala, Uganda in April 1994.

In 1995, when Tanzania held its first multi-party elections, the main opposition party in mainland Tanzania, the NCCR-Mageuzi, invited Babu stand as the Vice-Presidential candidate. He returned to Tanzania in August 1995 to a massive and ecstatic welcome from the people. However he was prevented from contesting by the legal manipulations of the ruling party.

Babu keenly followed the struggle of CPI(ML) in India and he and his followers have had periodic exchanges with the Party. Babu passed away on 5 August, 1996. We express our deep condolences to the dear near and ones of this tireless fighter.


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