PERSONALIZED, AUTHORITARIAN RULE is a worldwide, not just an African, phenomenon. Regardless of formal restraints of a constitutional nature, power tends more and more to be centralized under single party control and to flow from the top downward. Consequently, legislatures are losing power to executives on most continents; and individual rights have lost some of the sanctity of former times. Labour unions, universities, political groups, youth wings, and other independent centres of power are increasingly coming under governmental supervision and control in many countries, if not becoming instruments of the state itself. Other institutional restraints, in particular a federal-type solution, are regarded with suspicion. Thus President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, in opposing U Thant's three-phase plan to end the secession of Katanga, called on Premier Adoula and his government "to setyour face resolutely against any imposition on your country of a federal solution which would act as a permanent bar to the unity of the Congo . . . "Many a nationalist the world over would give similar advice. What these leaders share in common, for many and varied reasons, is a dislike and fear of institutionalized political diversity in their countries.
Although authoritarianism is an international phenomenon, it differs markedly from country to country. One must distinguish the totalitarian variety of the Communist states from the plebiscitary, but far less all-embracing authoritarianism of de Gaulle. The referenda of the French Fifth Republic give the general public a choice, but referenda are not usually a meaningful choice between two equally plausible alternatives. In the case of Hungary, however, even a students' and workers' revolution was not sufficient to unseat the regime. One must also distinguish between the authoritarianism of such non-ideological states as Portugal and Spain on the one hand and such ideologically-oriented countries as Guinea and Tanganyika on the other. These countries may not differ very much from one another in the extent of government centralization or control, but they differ considerably in their determination to transform their societies.
This essay intends to raise some questions with regard to the significance of this trend in Africa. However, before it can undertake this task, it is necessary to point out the major explanations for the increase in one-party states in much of the world at this time. An understanding of the causes of their rise and an evaluation of their significance should help to throw some light on their role in the Africa of tomorrow. How can one account for the trend toward one-party states ? In a larger sense, perhaps man is not the rational, responsible individual John Locke contended he was. Westerners such as President Woodrow Wilson of the United States assumed that people wanted the world made safe for representative democracy. In fact, the spokesmen of many societies, particularly in Africa, prefer collective to individual initiative. They see individual initiative, particularly in the economic sphere, as emphasizing false values. Naturally this suspicion of individualism has very real consequences in respect to political responsibility. The rights of the individual are never considered apart from or in opposition
to the state; rights become meaningful through participation in the state's activities. In the Rousseauist sense, forcing men to be free means compelling
them to live ethically through identification with and submission to the general will. In our more immediate time-place situation, a number of other factors clearly play their part in shaping this movement toward the administrative state. Because modern weaponry is enormously destructive and ideological differences are extensive, international tensions continue to increase. The very scale of these tensions and dangers abet the rise of a strong executive, regardless of system. Rocket wars require instant action, not prolonged debate on the means of response. A confrontation involving the major powers, arising out of a crisis occurring anywhere in the world, could lead to nuclear disaster. As leaders mobilize their strength to deal with these recurrent crises, they become impatient with any signs of dissension at home. Pluralism is seen as weakness, unity as strength. Moreover, as the stakes of diplomacy increase, the leaders tend to become more and more impatient with limitations upon their freedom to act. They 'know' the dimensions of the
crisis and the need for swift, decisive action. They doubt the public's capacity to determine such complex questions as war and peace, tariff reform, and recognition of states or governments. As the states rise, the executive seems likely to insist upon being trusted with an everwidening measure of discretion; the consequence of this trend could well be a corresponding decline in legislative restraints wherever these are still operative. Just as the citizen is becoming more and more removed from the decision-making process in the international sphere, he finds it increasingly difficult to make.......