The objective of this review is to highlight key features of the political landscape that are considered to affect both the prospects for and the outcomes of agricultural commercialisation in Tanzania. It will highlight key dynamics and actors that subsequent empirical work within the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) programme should pay attention to. A defining feature of Tanzania’s political system is the hegemonic position of the ruling party, Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), which has held power continuously since independence in 1961. However, during this period the character of CCM has changed considerably, especially in response to economic crisis in the 1980s and the challenges presented by multi-party electoral competition since the 1990s. Firstly, to maintain its dominant position in a multi-party context, the party has embraced business interests that were officially shunned during the socialist era presided over by Julius Nyerere. Secondly, a consequence of the regular need to mobilise votes is that officials at the lower levels of the party structure (from district down to neighbourhood) have acquired additional influence over the party’s fortunes. Thus, the party has transformed from a relatively disciplined organisation with a clear ideological orientation to the vehicle of choice for people who are ambitious for power or money, irrespective of their ideological persuasion. Moreover, within the party, power has become less centralised as contrasting groups – major funders and local cadres – have acquired holding power in internal debates and struggles. As a consequence, a shifting array of individuals and groups across multiple levels of the party structure now contest the formulation and implementation of. This paper illustrates these dynamics in relation to policies for agricultural commercialisation. It argues that the evolving nature of CCM helps to explain observed agricultural policy and performance and sheds light on the current and potential future trajectory of agricultural commercialisation in the country. The paper focuses on the presidency of Jakaya Kikwete and the transition to the presidency of John Magufuli. While the period of multi-party electoral competition started in 1995, the full impacts of the changes within CCM are best observed within this period. In turn, the changes within CCM threaten its ability to deliver developmental benefits to particular social groups, including rural households for whom smallholder farming remains an important livelihood activity. The final section of the paper, therefore, considers the political challenge facing President Magufuli if he wants to (re-) establish CCM as a party that delivers livelihood improvements to this important group of voters. The paper advances its arguments through reference to three commodity case studies on rice, sugar and cotton.