Tuesday, May 10, 2005
What is Better Than Mass Action?
Permanent Mass Mobilization!
At Least That is What Onyango Oloo Thinks Anway...
Part TWO of My Digital Reflections on Organizing Wananchi for Political Power
1.0. Eight Theses on Mass Mobilization in the Kenya of 2005
A couple of people missed by sixteen kilometers, the central thrust of the first part of this two part blogging on mass action in the contemporary Kenyan context.
Those clueless few who missed the boat divided neatly in two broad categories:
1.Those who think that Onyango Oloo is cautioning AGAINST mass action (oh my goodness!) and
2.Those who think that Onyango Oloo is totally intoxicated with wild and romantic ideas about mass action.
You know something folks?
I may as well have composed my
English essay in
Gujarati using a
Japanese script for all my strenuous attempts at communicating a very simple point, dear readers!
So to demystify both sets of befuddled misreaders of my last digital contribution , let me be as clear and as transparent as a freshly washed,
brand new wine glass:
Like millions of Kenyan wananchi, Onyango Oloo is SICK and TIRED of the present Kenyan government and wants to see it OVERTHROWN as SOON as POSSIBLE. Point number one.
Being a consistent KENYAN socialist and democrat, I believe that this very patriotic duty must be a job description entrusted chiefly to the broad masses of the Kenyan wananchi- not night-time coup plots in this or that shady five star hotel in Nairobi. Point number two.
The wananchi are not like maji mferejini to be turned on and off so that the Kenyan elite politicians can vanquish each other. We must move beyond stop and go, intermittent bursts of “mass action” to embrace the richer concept of permament mass mobilization. Point number three.
The most credible, honest and consistent reformers and revolutionaries are to be found everywhere in Kenya, but most certainly the bedrock for reform and a national democratic revolution is among the wananchi. Point number four.
Mainstream Kenyan politicians who are genuine patriots, democrats and revolutionaries must realize that mass action is a weapon, it is part of the arsenal of tactics that the our people can use to seize power in a democratic fashion and should never, ever, ever be seen as an end in itself. In other words, we need to have an overall STRATEGY that incorporates the various political tactics of which mass action is but a component. Point number five.
We can not have genuine constitutional reforms in Kenya without completing the political tasks of our national democratic revolution. In other words, all the mainstream wanasiasa and their moribund parties must make way for a new, national democratic liberation movement that finally accomplishes the goals set by earlier generations of Kenyan wazalendo like Koitalel arap Samoei, Elijah Masinde, Me Katilili, Muindi Mbingu, Dedan Kimathi, Oginga Odinga and all those Kenyans who want land for the landless, jobs for the jobless, homes for the homeless, hope for the hopeless, food for the hungry, justice for the oppressed, equality for the downtrodden, unity for the divided and transcends tribal and regional suspicions to achieve national harmony, peace and reconciliation-after locking up the Biwotts, Sunkulis, Murungarus,Mjombas, Miritis and Opiyos and all those who committed crimes against the Kenyan people. Point number six.
We in Kenya are not looking nor should we be looking for a Moses, a Joshua or a Daniel. No political miracle workers or messiahs will save Kenyans from the corrupt, venal, two faced political warthogs who have been shortchanging, hoodwinking shafting and shagging them over and over and over again for the last forty two years. What we want in Kenya is a new way of conducting democratic politics. We need to have a Kenyan al Mubadara-in other words, a national democratic movement that is NOT subordinated to the ambitions of this or that political overlord to ascend to the highest office in the land. This does NOT mean, that this new Kenya movement will not enter into tactical or even strategic alliances with mainstream politicians whose maximum programs, goals and demands do not venture beyond capturing political office. The important thing, the most crucial thing to grasp is that unless we build a strong, mass based, revolutionary-democratic political movement that is Kenya-wide we are basically EFFT. Point number seven.
Try and read the whole of this essay before rushing to trash it. Point number eight.
Or should I just tell myself:
Oloo, what the heck, say it in your mother tongue, Dholuo and have a Turkana born translator do the rest of conveying the gist of my ujumbe, ama?
2.0. Theoretical Reflection is the Twin of Political Praxis
One thing you should know about your average Marxist-Leninist. Your average Communist is a bookworm. That's right.
Unlike those "spontaneous", allegedly "militant" and impatient, raring to go "activists" who like boasting about their deep political illiteracy and their aversion to the printed and bound written word, Marxists rely on a very methodical, often boring and routine and regular close study of other patriotic, democratic and revolutionary experiences in helping them reflect on their own, immediate, concrete and unique national political realities.
For example, I know in Kenya we are pining for a new democratic Katiba and we would like to kick Kibaki's and NARC's ass, but in order to do that, we must look back and see how other people-the South Africans, the Senegalese, the Sudanese, the Surinamese, the Swedes, the Sri Lankans, the Samoans, the Venezuelans, the Vietnamese, the Zambians, the Zimbabweans, the Congolese, the Togolese, the Mozambicans and the Mexicans-how all these people have dealt with questions of repression and fascism, democracy and reform, socialism and revolution.
I am constantly amazed when some diablos online bark, crow, neigh and oink at me for my temerity of spending more time in an online library rather than a seedy downtown Montreal bar...
That is why today, I asked one of those creepy critters who in their slimy, morbid fervid and furibund way striddle and shadow me around on the internet, that is why I implored them to do the following for me in one of the Kenyan online forums:
can you please shake your head from side to side for me?
From: Onyango Oloo - email@example.com Mon, May 09, 12:26 PM
can you now confirm how much WATER is still soaking the EMPTY SPACE between your ears?
More seriously, I am convinced that any serious Kenyan democrat may want to reflect on the following passages from two of the most gifted political thinkers of the 20th century-Vladimir Lenin and Le Duan:
One will readily agree that any army which does not train to use all the weapons, all the means and methods of warfare that the enemy possesses, or may possess, is behaving in an unwise or even criminal manner. This applies to politics even more than it does to the art of war. In politics it is even harder to know in advance which methods of struggle will be applicable and to our advantage in certain future conditions. Unless we learn to apply all the methods of struggle, we may suffer grave and sometimes even decisive defeat, if changes beyond our control in the position of the other classes bring to the forefront a form of activity in which we are especially weak. If, however, we learn to use all the methods of struggle, victory will be certain, because we represent the interests of the really foremost and really revolutionary class, even if circumstances do not permit us to make use of weapons that are most dangerous to the enemy, weapons that deal the swiftest mortal blows. Inexperienced revolutionaries often think that legal methods of struggle are opportunist because, in this field, the bourgeoisie has most frequently deceived and duped the workers (particularly in "peaceful" and non-revolutionary times), while illegal methods of struggle are revolutionary. That, however, is wrong.. But revolutionaries who are incapable of combining illegal forms of struggle with every form of legal struggle are poor revolutionaries indeed. It is not difficult to be a revolutionary when revolution has already broken out and is in spate, when all people are joining the revolution just because they are carried away, because it is the vogue, and sometimes even from careerist motives. After its victory, the proletariat has to make most strenuous efforts, even the most painful, so as to "liberate" itself from such pseudo-revolutionaries. It is far more difficult—and far more precious—to be a revolutionary when the conditions for direct, open, really mass and really revolutionary struggle do not yet exist, to be able to champion the interests of the revolution (by propaganda, agitation and organisation) in non-revolutionary bodies, and quite often in downright reactionary bodies, in a non-revolutionary situation, among the masses who are incapable of immediately appreciating the need for revolutionary methods of action.
for a revolution to take place it is not enough for the exploited and oppressed masses to realise the impossibility of living in the old way, and demand changes; for a revolution to take place it is essential that the exploiters should not be able to live and rule in the old way. It is only when the ’lower classes’ do not want to live in the old way and the ’upper classes’ cannot carry on in the old way that the revolution can triumph ... revolution is impossible without a nation-wide crisis...
Victory cannot be won with a vanguard alone. To throw only the vanguard into the decisive battle, before the entire class, the broad masses, have taken up a position either of direct support for the vanguard, or at least of sympathetic neutrality towards it and of precluded support for the enemy, would be, not merely foolish but criminal. Propaganda and agitation alone are not enough for an entire class, the broad masses of the working people, those oppressed by capital, to take up such a stand. For that, the masses must have their own political experience. Such is the fundamental law of all great revolutions…when it is a question of practical action by the masses, of the disposition, if one may so put it, of vast armies, of the alignment of all the class forces in a given society for the final and decisive battle, then propagandist methods alone, the mere repetition of the truths of "pure" communism, are of no avail. In these circumstances, one must not count in thousands, like the propagandist belonging to a small group that has not yet given leadership to the masses; in these circumstances one must count in millions and tens of millions. In these circumstances, we must ask ourselves, not only whether we have convinced the vanguard of the revolutionary class, but also whether the historically effective forces of all classes—positively of all the classes in a given society, without exception—are arrayed in such a way that the decisive battle is at hand—in such a way that: (1) all the class forces hostile to us have become sufficiently entangled, are sufficiently at loggerheads with each other, have sufficiently weakened themselves in a struggle which is beyond their strength; (2) all the vacillating and unstable, intermediate elements—the petty bourgeoisie and the petty-bourgeois democrats, as distinct from the bourgeoisie —have sufficiently exposed themselves in the eyes of the people, have sufficiently disgraced themselves through their practical bankruptcy, and (3) among the proletariat, a mass sentiment favouring the most determined, bold and dedicated revolutionary action against the bourgeoisie has emerged and begun to grow vigorously. Then revolution is indeed ripe; then, indeed, if we have correctly gauged all the conditions indicated and summarised above, and if we have chosen the right moment, our victory is assured...
“... A revolution is not a coup d’etat; it is not the outcome of plots. It is the work of the masses. Hence, the mobilization and rallying of the mass forces... is a fundamental and decisive problem. This task must be approached in a vigorous and sustained way both throughout the period when a revolutionary situation has not yet appeared and the period when such a situation has arisen and matured. To realize this task, one must mingle and be active with the masses in everyday life, even within enemy organizations. One must keep abreast of the situation in the enemy’s camp as well as ours, correctly appraise all schemes, moves and capabilities of the enemy, accurately assess all changes developing in his ranks, and at the same time be fully aware of the state of mind, wishes and potential power of the masses. In this way one can put forward appropriately incisive and timely slogans which will arouse the broad masses to action, direct them from lower to higher forms of struggle, ceaselessly heighten their political consciousness and help expand the army of the revolution both in scope and in depth. On the road to the seizure of power, the only weapon available to the revolutionary masses is ORGANIZATION. The hallmark of the revolutionary movement...is its high organizational standards....”
“... Far from pinning our hopes on antagonisms within the ranks of the enemy, we are fully aware that the development of these contradictions and the extent to which they be capitalized upon are in the last analysis determined by the strength of the revolution. The experience of all genuine popular revolutions shows that the stronger the revolutionary forces become and the higher the revolutionary tide rises, the more the enemy’s ranks are torn by contradictions and are likely to split Ultimately the time comes when these conflicts have grown so exacerbated as to render impossible all compromise between the various enemy factions. This constitutes one of the unmistakable signs of the maturity of the revolutionary situation. The revolution then breaks out and the enemy’s rule is overthrown in decisive battles....The victory of the revolution depends primarily on a correct determination of the general orientation and strategic objective, as well as the specific orientation and objective for each period. But just as important as defining the orientation and objective is the problem of how to carry them into effect once such decisions are made. What road should be followed? What forms should be adopted? What measures should be used? Experience has shown that a revolutionary movement may mark time, or even fail, not for lack of clearly defined orientations and objectives, but essentially because there have been no appropriate principles and methods of revolutionary action. Methods of revolutionary action are devised to defeat the enemy of the revolution, and in the most advantageous way, so that the revolution may attain its ends as quickly as possible. Here one also needs wisdom as well as courage; it is not only a science, but also an art. Decisions over methods of revolutionary action require, more than in any other field, that the revolutionary maintain the highest creative spirit. Revolution is creation; it cannot succeed without imagination and ingenuity. There has never been nor will there ever be a unique formula for making a revolution that is suited to all situations. One given method may be adaptable to a certain country but unsuitable in another. A correct method in certain times and circumstances may be erroneous in other situations. Everything depends on the concrete historical conditions..... It is a matter of principle that either in the daily policies or in the practice of revolutionary struggle... a revolutionary should never lose sight of the final goal. If one considers the fight for small daily gains and immediate targets as ‘everything’ and views the final goal as ‘nothing’... then one displays the worst kind of opportunism which can only result in keeping the popular masses in eternal servitude. However, it is by no means sufficient to comprehend only the final objective. While keeping in mind the revolutionary goal, the art of revolutionary leadership lies in knowing how to win judiciously step by step. Revolution is the work of millions of popular masses standing up to overthrow the ruling classes, which command powerful means of violence together with other material and spiritual forces. That is why a revolution is always a long-term process. From the initial steps to the final victory, a revolution necessarily goes through many difficult and complex stages of struggle full of twists and bends, clearing one obstacle after another and gradually changing the relation of forces between the revolution and the counter-revolution until overwhelming superiority is achieved over the ruling classes...”
- Le Duan, “The Vietnamese Revolution: Fundamental Problems and Essential Tasks, New World Paperbacks, New York, 1971, pp22-27
3.0. Ingredients of Effective Permament Mass Mobilization in Kenya Today
From the foregoing it should be obvious by now that my quibble with some of the conceptions of "mass action" is not with the concept itself, but rather its application in the concrete Kenyan context.
"Mass Action" should NOT be a "threat" but a PROMISE.
"Mass Action" should not be a political scarecrow used by one section of the mainstream Kenyan elite to shtua shtua and tisha tisha another section of the comprador and petit-bourgeois elite.
On the contrary it should be a reaffirmation of the old truth that Yote Yawezekana Bila KANU, Yote Yawezekana Bila NARC, Yote Yawezekana Bila FORD, Yote Yawezekana na Umoja wa Wananchi!
Mass Action should be exactly what it means: conscious, voluntary, organized and ongoing political activity by the Kenyan wananchi.
Like I said, mass action should NOT be a
mfereji that is turned on and off whenever
this or that person
wants to up the ante and terrify their political rivals.
Mass action should not be a once-in-every-three-years public gimmick or stunt employed to drive an ideological point home.
Kwani, who says it is OK to banish the wananchi to the shadows every time the Kenyan elite cuts a power sharing deal among themselves and recall them when these deals turn sour?
Why is it that the Unbwogable Mass Actions of 2002 were followed by the Andu Aitu Cynical Demobilizations of 2003 and 2004?
Why is it that the NCEC Mass Actions of 1997 were followed by the post-IPPG Disillusioned Demobilizations of the same year?
Why did the Mageuzi Mass Actions Fizzle and Sputter?
You know why?
I will tell you why!
It is because the "leaders" used and abused the wananchi and then flung themselves aside the way you
use and discrard Kleenex paper after blowing your nose.
More than that, it is because we as Kenyans have never bothered to organize ourselves as a permanent mass force that survives elections, fallouts within ruling coalitions and storms in comprador bourgeois tea cups.
I think it is time we corrected this anomaly.
I have given broad hints on how we can do this many times.
Here is one link.
Here is another one.
Here is a here is a third one.
Here is yet another one.
And that is just from only one person.
We should have a Kenyan national conversation about this.
That is it.
I am done with this essay.