Lack of class consciousness legacy of opportunism during liberation struggle

Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

One cannot agree less or more with the recent article in The Namibian by the Legal Head of the Affirmative Repositioning, Matjituavi Kavetu, headlined “Workers Lose when Unionists Dine with Capitalists.”

Because he touches on what is supposed to be a fundamental issue regarding socio-economic radical transformation in Namibia, which cannot take place without the requisite class consciousness. First and foremost among workers. More pertinently among the unions and/or trade unionists. But class consciousness cannot be for its own sake. This is only if we as Namibians perceive of a Second Phase of the Revolution. Meaning what Namibia do today and wants to do tomorrow must tie in with what she was, colonised politically and economically in the name of Capitalism, and that is what some of us believe that was what we fought against. Thus aspiring for both political and economic freedom. Our struggle thus must and could not have been informed purely nationalist and/or patriotic inclinations, for the love for the Motherland/Fatherland.

If, what then having recaptured the Motherland and/or Fatherland from the claws and jaws of Imperial Colonialism, and its progenitor, Capitalism. What then after we have gained the political, and/or flag independence as is currently the case? The political kingdom as erstwhile Pan Africanist, Dr Kwame Nkrumah would have it? Ala him political kingdom was and could not have been the intrinsic end. But “all other things would follow”. One of the key things to have followed, if it has not followed yet in many of the African polities, including Namibia, is economic emancipation. But could this economic emancipation have been envisaged under the same Capitalist system, mother of colonialism and its attendant exploitation? Certainly not. Hence the concept of the Second Phase of the Revolution. Emphasis Second Phase of the Revolution, meaning not simply substitution of one breed of political drivers, movers and shakers and what-have-you, for others.

Foreign political apparatuses for African ones. Not this cannot and could not have been the meaning of the Second Phase of the Revolution. Not in the ideological parlance of Kavetu having today “unionists dining with capitalists”.

On the contrary the Second Phase of the Revolution means a complete and fundamental break with past relations of production, based on Capitalism, which are intrinsically exploitative. Meaning that the current socio-economic dispensation, essentially a Capitalist one, which we inherited from Capitalist Colonialism, does not by any means resembles and/or represent let alone the foundation for the next Phase of the Revolution, but an end in itself. Even if one was to start unravelling and untangling the current state of socio-economic dispensation, post-Colonial, and/or neo-Colonial, as may currently pertain in post-independence Namibia, which ultimately may mean one thing, essentially and fundamentally a Capitalist mode of production, thus Capitalism. But one needs exactly what Kavetu raises in his article, class consciousness. Because if there’s anything that has been missing in the assumed and presumed revolutionary mantra of current Namibia, among would-be or aspiring revolutionaries, is class consciousness.
That is why one finds in what Kavetu aptly points out, which is clearly borne out by the headline of the article, the contradiction of trade unionists dining with capitalists. Not only this but trade union leaders who are shareholders and part and parcel of fundamentally capitalists ventures, such as having shares in companies and corporations which by no means resembles communes in the interests of workers. Not on behalf of the workers, the authentic owners, who are benefitting little and/or absolutely nothing from such shareholding. But such benefits accruing exclusively to the leaders of the unions, whose leadership of such unions have become nothing but comfortable and convenient cash cows while the workers are reeling in poverty. For most of the unions in Namibia, if not all of them, trade unionism has nothing to do with the fundamental interest of the workers, which goes beyond the rudiments of low wages, but is essentially about them being the owners of the means of production. On the contrary for the
leaders of the unions, trade unionism is for all intents and purposes about careerism. For them trade unionism is not informed at all by class consciousness as Kavetu have well observed.

This admittedly is not a problem only within the trade union movement in Namibia, and for that matter current to Namibia only. It is a regrettable legacy, by design or default, of the entire Namibian liberation struggle, which for most part was devoid of a radical ideological outlook towards a revolutionary transformation of the status quo, Capitalism, to different relations of production devoid of the exploitation of the workers and where the workers are the owners of the means of production, however one would define and/or characterise such a socio-economic system, Socialism or “Socialism with Namibian characteristics”? But the fundamentals are the same. Ultimate equal ownership of the means of production by all who work it. This is a far cry from today’s independent Namibia because of the very pertinent issue of ideological indisposition, what Kavetu aptly refers to as lack of class consciousness. A legacy if you wish of the opportunism of some key elements in the First Phase of the Revolution, the nationa
l liberation struggle, who have today become the drivers of the presumed development in Namibia. Development of what and towards what? The current ideological context and even the envisioned ideological one has never, until lately, been defined and/or debated. Once again due to the sad historical legacy of the liberation struggle, which in the end admittedly has delivered a negotiated settlement that has left all the key tenets of Capitalism intact, if not more entrenched.

While the situation on the ground, the objective conditions as Marxists-Leninists would have it, has been unbearable for the workers but with little or no whimper from the workers themselves or their leaders. Obviously, for understandable reasons, there is not much realistically one can expect from the union leaders, the presumed stakeholders they erroneously make themselves naively believe, while opportunistically allowing themselves to be hoodwinked into the continued co-exploitation of the workers by the Capitalist labour relations sustained by so-called tripartitism.

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