Last Saturday the Activist School hosted a day-long seminar with renowned activists and ideologues like Lucy Edwards-Jauch, Gerson Tjihenuna and Shaun Whitaker from the Marxists Study Group.
The seminar attracted participants from far afield as the Zambezi region, predominantly young people with a healthy balance of gender. It is encouraging to see such a blend taking a keen interest in the debate or/and seminar unpacking the virtues and vices and/or merits and demerits of Socialism versus Capitalism. Especially in a country like Namibia, that while emerging from Colonial Capitalism, have been seeming a-ideological if not unideological and anti-ideological.
This seeming state of ideological ambivalence, in which the country has been finding herself since independence, as demonstrated by the notion of mixed economy, whatever this essentially means knowing that the country is purely Capitalist, indeed warrants such debates. This is if the country is one day to embark earnestly on a purposeful radical transformation of society. Transformation from Capitalism, which as has been proven in many other countries, including Namibia herself, is unsustainable, at least in terms of addressing gross inequalities, as opposed to on the contrary being a fertile ground for inequalities and glaring poverty and squalor. Inequalities and the attendant poverty and squalor has continued since independence, an unmistakable feature of the post-independence Namibian society. One cannot agree more, or disagree less, with the apt realisation by especially Namibian governing bourgeoisie that the glaring and crippling inequalities, today still a hallmark of the Namibian society, is a legacy of Colonial Capitalism.
But the truth of the matter is that as long as we continue to maintain Capitalism in Namibia, and even entrench it as has been happening since independence, without any pretense at one day ever doing away with it, we cannot dream or hope of doing away with inequalities. Because inequalities are natural to Neo-Colonialism, and Capitalism, which are the realities of the post-independence Namibia.
That being the unpalatable truth and reality, nevertheless there has been little effort in terms of ideological class consciousness. Because dealing with inequalities in Namibia cannot and shall not and shall never be realised by and with Capitalist economic experiments. But only be possible with the requisite class consciousness among the whole society, most importantly the workers, and their natural allies, who are and can be among the foremost cardinal and consequent drivers of meaningful transformation. It is undeniable that today Namibia suffers from an acute lack of class consciousness, itself a legacy of the liberation struggle, which was nationalist in nature, and has never been rooted in, and/or base on class contradictions.
Partly, this is because during the colonial period, first starting with the early days of colonial resistance, and later the liberation struggle, Namibia’s struggles were driven by an eclectic if not a loose class alliance or social formation in which the workers were an undeveloped if not silent majority. In addition to peasants serving rather a feudal, than mercantile mode of production as opposed to a fully industrialised Capitalist system. Meaning that both objective and subjective conditions for a true revolution has never been in existence in Namibia. Objective and subjective conditions to dictate a revolution, meaning a complete overthrow of the prevailing Capitalist system. But that does not mean that since the emergence of colonialism, Capitalism has not been in existence in colonial Namibia, to the present in a post-independence Neo-colonial Namibia. However any form of Capitalism may have been termed throughout the political economic history of the country.
Pertinently, for a seminar of its nature, Tjihenuna delivered a paper titled, “Was SWAPO as a liberation movement a socialist party?”. The question the presentation posed is important in many aspects and respects. The Swapo Party as the governing party in Namibia today, is to some degree the ideological compass of the country, or ordinarily expected to have been the ideological compass of the country. Not to mention Swanu of Namibia, which together with Swapo postured if not pretended during the liberation struggle to have been leftist in their outlooks, instilling fear in their would-be enemies of the time that they would bring communism to Namibia with liberation.
But as Tjihenuna would make his audience wise, there were only pockets of leftist leanings due to the nature of Swapo as a movement as opposed to being a party with any firm leftist or socialist ideology. “Swapo as a liberation movement was not and could not have been a party-let alone a socialist party. The main objective of that time was the independence of Namibia and everyone who ascribed to that objective was welcome to join the movement,” said Tjihenuna. He could not have been more precise.
Likewise there can be no argument that the original basic document of Swanu, later diluted if not completely revised by essential left centrists within the party pandering to and pampering white liberals within the Namibia National Front (NNF), prior to the 1989 elections, was fundamentally socialist.
This were and are essentially the ideological playing fields prior to independence within the country with two liberation entities, Swapo and Swanu, on the forefront, but essentially a former shadow of themselves ideologically. Hence the ideological vacuum post-independence and ambivalent policies that the country has seem to be having with no ideological compass of note.
That is why the seminar by the Activist School, as indeed the debate that has started within Swapo, is welcome and most instructive if Namibia is to assume any measure of leftist ideological sanity.
Among them the three presenters unpacked the old schism between Capitalism and Socialism, as the seminar hosted by the Economic and Social Justice Trust whose initiative the Activist School is