History repeats itself

first as farce, then as tragedy

I don’t want to be accused of impugning the reputation of the president and deputy president of Kenya by claiming they read anything beyond how to steal our money and security briefs on who was killed where by their security organs. Or which sector can they stuff or is it staff with their minions. Talking of which, I have never heard any of them cite any work. Nada. Nor have I heard them say anything that is worth quoting and no, I am not talking of silly things like mnataka nifanye nini or Ruto wept or security starts with you. 

In 1875, Engels, in an essay titled On social relations in Russia, wrote, and I will quote it extensively because it almost applies word for word for our situation in Kenya.

It is clear that the condition of the Russian peasants since the emancipation from serfdom, has  become intolerable and cannot be maintained much longer, and that for this reason alone, if for no other, a revolution is in the offing in Russia … Her financial affairs are in extreme disorder. Taxes cannot be screwed any higher, the interest on old state loans is paid by means of new loans, and every new loan meets with greater difficulties; money can now be raised only on the pretext of building railways! The administration, corrupt from top to bottom … The entire agricultural production … completely dislocated by the redemption settlement of 1861 … The whole held together with great difficulty and only outwardly by an Oriental despotism the arbitrariness of which we in the West simply cannot imagine; a despotism that, from day to day, not only comes into more glaring contradiction with the views of the enlightened classes and, in particular, with those of the rapidly developing bourgeoisie of the capital, but, in the person of its present bearer, has lost its head, one day making concessions to liberalism and the next, frightened, cancelling them again and thus bringing itself more and more into disrepute. With all that, a growing recognition among the enlightened strata of the nation concentrated in the capital that this position is untenable, that a revolution is impending, and the illusion that it will be possible to guide this revolution along a smooth, constitutional channel. Here all the conditions of a revolution are combined, of a revolution that, started by the upper classes of the capital, perhaps even by the government itself, must be rapidly carried further, beyond the first constitutional phase, by the peasants; of a revolution that will be of the greatest importance for the whole of Europe, if only because it will destroy at one blow the last, so far intact, reserve of the entire European reaction. This revolution is surely approaching.

If I were to rewrite the above quote to reflect what is going on in Kenya, it would read something like this

It is clear that the condition of the Kenyan worker (citizen) since the emancipation from colonial rule, has  become intolerable and cannot be maintained much longer, and that for this reason alone, if for no other, a revolution is in the offing in Kenya … Her financial affairs are in extreme disorder. Taxes cannot be screwed any higher, the interest on old state loans is paid by means of new loans, and every new loan meets with greater difficulties; money can now be raised only on the pretext of building railways! The administration, corrupt from top to bottom … The entire agricultural production … completely dislocated by the redemption settlement of 1963… The whole held together with great difficulty and only outwardly by an Oriental despotism the arbitrariness of which we in the West simply cannot imagine; a despotism that, from day to day, not only comes into more glaring contradiction with the views of the enlightened classes and, in particular, with those of the rapidly developing bourgeoisie of the capital, but, in the person of its present bearer, has lost its head, one day making concessions to liberalism and the next, frightened, cancelling them again and thus bringing itself more and more into disrepute. With all that, a growing recognition among the enlightened strata of the nation concentrated in the capital that this position is untenable, that a revolution is impending, and the illusion that it will be possible to guide this revolution along a smooth, constitutional channel. Here all the conditions of a revolution are combined, of a revolution that, started by the upper classes of the capital, perhaps even by the government itself, must be rapidly carried further, beyond the first constitutional phase, by the peasants; of a revolution that will be of the greatest importance for the whole of Africa, if only because it will destroy at one blow the last, so far intact, reserve of the entire African reaction. This revolution is surely approaching.

That, my friends is the state of the republic as it currently stands and as I have said, our leaders don’t read. It is likely they will progress with their heads buried in the sand while giving us the one finger salute.

 

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This post has no title

I said somewhere I am reading Zola’s the earth. It’s such a work!

Somewhere he writes

Is misfortune ever at an end? This universal suffrage, now, it don’t bring meat to the pot, does it? The land tax weighs us down, they keep on taking our children to fight. It’s not a bit of use having revolutions, it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other, and a peasant always remains a peasant.

And for some reason, this would almost reflect the situation of the poor in Kenya. First, the concern of most people is food. I would call it the politics of food. In place of land tax, I would name the many varied taxes the thieving government imposes on the working classes. And maybe, one would almost conclude elections don’t help us. The poor almost always remain poor.

the case for a revolution in Kenya

All class struggles are political.

In the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Karl Marx writes

Hegel says somewhere that that great historic facts and personages recur twice. He forgot to add: “Once as tragedy, and again as farce.” Caussidiere for Danton, Louis Blanc for Robespierre, the “Mountain” of 1848-51 for the “Mountain” of 1793-05, the Nephew for the Uncle. The identical caricature marks also the conditions under which the second edition of the eighteenth Brumaire is issued.

He could as well have been writing about Kenya. We have Johnstone Kamau and now we have the identical caricature in his son, Muigai wa Kamau.

In the first case, the one borrowed money from the British Government and the World Bank to pay off or rather to buy back land that had been stolen by the British settlers. This money ended up in either his pocket or those of his cronies. The son is borrowing billions of shillings in the name of building infrastructure, a big chunk ends up in his pockets or those of cronies.

The first one through constitutional means concentrated power in his person. The caricature through use of force and pretenses like fighting corruption has usurped the will of the majority.

In claiming to have a big four agenda, the son has found means to continue the family legacy of theft and corruption. In 1975, the New York Times had this to say

In recent years, however, Mr. Kenyatta has damaged his political image and alienated more and more Kenyans by abuses of power, by piling up a growing fortune and by moving to stifle the development of a freer society in this East African nation.

This has not changed. The caricature has ensured that we continue to lose money through graft and especially by people closest to him. Reading the article above, one would be forgiven for thinking time has stood still for Kenya. Elsewhere they write

Another situation involving the President that has disturbed Kenyans is that he has neither restrained nor disciplined his family and his closest associates in their amassing of wealth, much of it through evasions of law and the exploitation of such national resources as wildlife and forests.]

which is still true.

The Left in Kenya, if there was ever one, has become moribund. If it exists, it has failed to have a unified front, a coherent message nor has it been able to marshal the peasants and the workers together and speak in one voice. Unemployment is at an all time high. Cost of living is above the roof and the Left or whatever is left of it has either been co-opted in the capitalist and violent repressive state or they do not know what to do.

This crisis offers the best time for revolt.

In anticipating Brian, why revolution and not democratic means like the ballot? Because the caricature and his cronies have control of the electoral system. They will kill and maim to stay in power. Only a revolution can change this.

What are the goals of the revolution? For me it is simple

  1. To change the property relations that exist currently where a few people own the land leaving the majority destitute.
  2. In his defense before the judges, Fidel Castro said

The first revolutionary law would have returned power to the people and proclaimed the 1940 Constitution the Supreme Law of the State until such time as the people should decide to modify or change it. And in order to effect its implementation and punish those who violated it – there being no electoral organization to carry this out – the revolutionary movement, as the circumstantial incarnation of this sovereignty, the only source of legitimate power, would have assumed all the faculties inherent therein, except that of modifying the Constitution itself: in other words, it would have assumed the legislative, executive and judicial powers.

this would be the second goal of the revolution. To return to constitutional dispensation. The sovereign belongs to the people. For these words to have any meaning, the people must be in a position to determine how they are governed and what the government does on their behalf. This must include but not limited to infrastructure projects, military spending and so on. If the people cannot vote on these, what then is the vote for?

The Left in Kenya must take this opportunity presented to it by the present crisis to call for revolution. A critical mass is not necessary to begin the revolution. The people will join once the call has been made. It must be radical and it must offer a coherent alternative to the neo-liberal democracy that we find ourselves in.

Viva la revolution.

And here is a song for the revolution

Who are the people?

In his defence following the first attempt to overthrow the government in Cuba, Fidel Castro, while talking about the people limits his definition to those who, for lack of a better word, are oppressed, the lowly paid and in a way those who believe they have nothing to lose but everything to gain if the regime should be changed.

Michelet and other French historians while talking of the revolution, refer only to the revolutionaries. They exclude the rich classes.

The same thing is seen in the case of Kenya. When the people are talked about, a certain group are excluded.

My question then is, who are the people?