Kenya was a victim of colonialism for decades before armed resistance by people brought independence. Hopes were high then that the aims of resistance would be met: stolen lands would be returned to their rightful owners and a democratic, socialist state in which the people have the rights to be free from economic exploitation and social inequality would be established. But imperialism had other ideas. It was not going to let a rich economic and strategic country out of its grips. Small impediments such as independence do not come in the way of imperialist desire for profits and power.
One of the weapons imperialism used to retain control over Kenya — and other parts of Africa and the world — was capitalism which it had introduced right from the early days of colonial plunder. With its sharp class divisions, capitalism created an elite comprador class which was the natural ally of corporations and the ruling classes in imperialist countries. Bribing the Kenyan elite with other people’s land, state power and all that goes with it was easily done as part of the independence package. There remained the small matter of the working class, the peasants, the poor, the landless and the unemployed who were necessary to capitalism in order to ensure that wealth continued to be produced to feed the imperialist-friendly elite and, of course, the corporations which supported them. But it was the workers and peasants who resisted imperialism, as they did colonialism. Imperialism then controlled this resistance through tough ‘law and order’ measures. When that failed to subdue them, the police, GSU, and the military trained by imperialism were ready to deal with ‘dissidents’, ‘terrorists’ and ‘communists’. The new rulers turned Kenya into a prison without walls for the working people
The people of Kenya did not choose capitalism, capitalism chose them as its victims. Having enslaved African people for centuries, capitalism changed tactics in the face of people’s resistance. It unleashed the ‘free’ market forces to continue its exploitation. People had chosen socialism ‘in light of the demonstrable superiority of socialist over capitalist methods in the task of overcoming the legacy of centuries of colonial oppression and to build a society free from exploitation’ as Dubula (1965, 24) observed. Africanus (1963, 53) added, ‘Africans have seen and suffered from capitalism at work in their midst, with its ruthless exploitation of human labour, its criminal disregard of the welfare, lives, health and interests of the people’. Kwena (1962) reinforces the message of the failure of capitalism:
A system based on private ownership of the means of production and whose sole purpose is to make profit, capitalism and its variants — colonialism, imperialism and fascism — has miserably failed to satisfy the needs of the mass of humanity … This is the case not only with regard to Africa, Asia and Latin America but everywhere where the system obtains.
But colonialism and neo-colonialism saw the danger that socialism posed to its freedom to loot, pillage and massacre and took steps to silence the message of socialism, in the process murdering, ‘disappearing’ and rendering powerless the leaders who stood for socialism: Pio Gama Pinto and Karimi Nduthu, to name just two. But the voice of socialism never died, it remained just below the surface and comes up every now and then. The Kenya Socialist is one such voice that stands with working people in their demand for equality, justice and freedom from exploitation and oppression which is possible only under socialism.
The Kenya Socialist will promote socialist ideas and a socialist world outlook as a challenge to those of capitalism and imperialism that dominate Kenya’s and Africa’s mass media, education and government policies. It will provide the missing socialist perspective on issues of national interest. It is not neutral and is committed to supporting people’s resistance to capitalism and imperialism whose ideology has been made the prevailing force since independence, while the voice of socialism has been systematically and forcefully silenced.
The starting point for The Kenya Socialist is Lenin:
We want to achieve a new and better order of society: in this new and better society there must be neither rich nor poor; all will have to work. Not a handful of rich people, but all the working people must enjoy the fruits of their common labour. Machines and other improvements must serve to ease the work of all and not to enable a few to grow rich at the expense of millions and tens of millions of people. This new and better society is called socialist society – (Lenin’s Collected Works, Vol 6, p.366).
This matches with the aims of Kenya’s war of independence, as summed up by Pio Gama Pinto:
Kenya’s Uhuru must not be transformed into freedom to exploit, or freedom to be hungry, and live in ignorance. Uhuru must be Uhuru for the masses — Uhuru from exploitation, from ignorance, disease and poverty.
The sacrifices of the hundreds of thousands of Kenya’s freedom fighters must be honoured by the effective implementation of KANU’s policy —a democratic, African, socialist state in which the people have the rights, in the words of the KANU election manifesto, “to be free from economic exploitation and social inequality” Pio Gama Pinto (1963): Glimpses of Kenya’s Nationalist Struggle.Pan Africa, Kenya Uhuru Souvenir issue, 12-12 1963.
The Kenya Socialist will:
- Promote socialist ideas, experiences and world outlook
- Increase awareness of classes, class contradictions and class struggles in Kenya, both historical and current
- Expose the damage done by capitalism and imperialism in Kenya and Africa
- Offer solidarity to working class, peasants and other working people and communities in their struggles for equality and justice
- Promote internationalism and work in solidarity with people in Africa and around the world in their resistance to imperialism
- Make explicit the politics of information and communication as tools of repression and also of resistance in Kenya
The Kenya Socialist does not stop at making theoretical and historical material available to readers. An equally important task is the one it shares with Vita Books and the Ukombozi Library: connecting and working with communities and peoples. It is an activist journal and hopes to work with, and for, the marginalised and oppressed people through their trade unions and social or community organisations.
This first issue covers several areas that remain neglected in public discourse in Kenya. The study of class remains one such topic and Kimani Waweru’s article, Class and Class Struggle in Kenya, fills this gap.Waweru also contributes a briefing on ideology as a weapon of oppression or liberation. He will continue his theoretical explorations in the next issue with an article on gender and women’s oppression and liberation.
History is never far from any liberation struggle. Nicholas Mwangi looks at Mau Mau and the origin and meaning of the term ‘Mau Mau’.
Njoki Wamai’s contribution is her presentation at the All African Peoples’ Conference in Accra in 2018. Wamai documents the pioneering Ukombozi Library established in Nairobi by the Progressive African Library & Information Activists’ Group (PALIAct) in partnership with Vita Books and Mau Mau Research Centre as a ‘library to liberate minds’ and highlights the needs for relevant information in people’s struggle for liberation.
Linking up with the launch of the Ukombozi Library, the question arises, ‘What is the role of information in liberation?’ Shiraz Durrani answers some question from Julian Jaravata on various aspects of information.
Finally, Durrani looks at the challenge by Wakamba wood carvers to the information embargo under President Moi.
Africanus, Terence (1963): A Note on Mr. Mboya’s ‘Socialism’. South African History Online. Marxist- Leninist Study. https://www.sahistory.org.za/…/Acv2n463.0001.9976.002.004.1963.9.pdf [Accessed: 26- 05-9].
Dubula, Sam (1965): A Socialist Label for Bourgeois Thinking. South African Communist Party. Available at:https://www.sahistory.org.za/sites/default/files/DC/Acn2265.0001.9978.000.022.1965.5/Acn2265.0001.997 8.000.022.1965.5.pdf. [Accessed: 25-05-19].
Kwena, Jalang (1962): National Independence & Socialism: A continent in search of a formula. South African History Online. Available at: https://www.sahistory.org.za/sites/default/files/DC/Acn1062.0001.9976.000.010.Jul1962.7/Acn1062.0001 .9976.000.010.Jul1962.7.pdf [accessed: 27-05- 19].