Cold War and Decolonization in Guinea, 1946-1958

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Guinea claimed its independence in September 1958, voting "No" to a constitution that would have relegated it to junior partnership in the French Community. In all the French empire, Guinea was the only territory to vote "No." Although Guinea's stance vis-a-vis the 1958 constitution has been recognized as unique, until now the historical roots of this phenomenon have not been adequately explained.

Based on previously unexamined archival records and oral interviews with grassroots activists, Cold War and Decolonization in Guinea, 1946-1958 argues that Guinea's vote for independence was the culmination of a decade-long struggle between local militants and political leaders for control of the political agenda. Orchestrating the "No" vote was the Guinean branch of the Rassemblement Democratique Africain (RDA), an alliance of political parties with affiliates in French West and Equatorial Africa and the UN trusts of Togo and Cameroon. Since 1950, when RDA representatives in the French parliament severed their ties to the French Communist Party, conservative elements had dominated the RDA. In Guinea, local cadres had opposed the break. Victimized by the administration and sidelined by their own leaders, they quietly rebuilt the party from its base. Their voices muted throughout most of the decade, leftist militants gained preeminence in 1958, when trade unionists, students, the party's women's and youth wings, and other grassroots actors pushed the Guinean RDA to endorse a "No" vote. The significance of this book extends far beyond its primary subject. In illuminating the Guinean case, Elizabeth Schmidt helps us understand the dynamics of decolonization and its legacy forpostindependence nationbuilding in many parts of the developing world.

About the Author:
Elizabeth Schmidt is a professor of history at Loyola College in Maryland

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A compelling narrative of the history of nation building in Guinea.... Schmidt deftly portrays the events from an African perspective, using colonial archives, interviews with activists, the era’s popular political songs, and photographs.... What simultaneously emerges in this nuanced treatment is a richer understanding of the pragmatic rather than purely visionary leadership of the famous Sékou Touré.”

“Schmidt’s study is a masterpiece of African, Guinean, and colonial historiography that should be read by all students of empire.”
Journal of Asian and African Studies

“(A) vivid portrait of the political environment and pressures facing the Guinean RDA in the years following the Second World War.…Schmidt’s contributions to the study of the RDA and decolonization in Guinea will likely remain unparalleled for the foreseeable future.”
— Jeffrey Ahlman, West Africa Review

“The publication of Cold War and Decolonization in Guinea is a welcome event. Its archival and oral documentation create original possibilities for Anglophone readers in particular to explore diverse dynamics and tensions within late-colonial Guinean society and politics."
Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History

“Although other political histories of Guinea use independence as a starting point, in this work Elizabeth Schmidt takes a critical step back to analyze how Guinea arrived at its historic ‘No’ vote.”
The Historian

“By setting African divisions against an international background of cold war and French repression, (Cold War and Decolonization in Guinea) provides a welcome and informative account, in English, of the distinctive Guinean struggles for independence.”
International History Review

“Unlike a considerable number of works on decolonization in Africa, especially those published in the immediate aftermath of these epochal events, Schmidt moves away from the staple historiography privileging the role of the educated elite and restores the voices of the masses—including those of women—to the history of decolonization.”
African Studies Review

“Supported by clear and strong historical evidence, (Elizabeth Schmidt)shows that political decision making in Guinea was far more influenced by the bottom rather than the top.... (Cold War and Decolonization in Africa) is rich with data and empirical examples that illustrate some of the major themes in the history of decolonization, African nationalism, and the rise of one-party states in Africa.”
 — International Journal of African Historical Studies

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821417638
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 10/22/2007
  • Series: Western African Studies Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Schmidt is a professor of history at Loyola College in Maryland. Her previous books include Mobilizing the Masses: Gender, Ethnicity, and Class in the Nationalist Movement in Guinea, 1939–1958; Peasants, Traders, and Wives: Shona Women in the History of Zimbabwe, 1870–1939; and Decoding Corporate Camouflage: U.S. Business Support for Apartheid.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations     ix
Abbreviations     xi
French Colonial Officials, 1944-59     xiii
Introduction     1
Reformed Imperialism and the Onset of the Cold War, 1945-50     8
The Break with the PCF and Dissension within the Ranks, 1950-53     45
The Fraudulent Elections of 1954 and the Resurgence of the RDA, 1954-55     68
The RDA's Rise to Power and Local Self-Government, 1956-57     97
The Renaissance of the Left: From Autonomy to Independence, 1956-58     125
Defiance and Retribution: The Referendum and Its Aftermath, 1958-60     157
Conclusion and Postscript     180
Acknowledgments     187
Notes     191
Bibliography     283
Index     293
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