It is too costly to vie for elective positions in Kenya and this is one of the reasons elections are dominated by the wealthy. It becomes extremely difficult for an ordinary citizen, however popular, to win an election unless they pay homage to political parties run and controlled by the ruling class. Upon being elected, their allegiance goes to the bwanyenye (bourgeois) party rather than to those who elected him. In Kenya, major political parties are usually controlled by the bwanyenye class (powerful and rich people) imbued with the ideology of capitalism. These intrigues are not apparent to ordinary citizens due to the tight control of the means of communication (media) by the same class. These bwanyenye parties deceive the masses by articulating issues affecting working people and promising to solve their problems. Once in power, they renege on their promises which are contrary to their true class interests and replace them with capitalistic policies geared towards acquisition of wealth at the expense of the poor.
In the recent past, key leaders and the lieutenants of these political parties have been traversing the country deceiving Kenyans by telling them what they want to hear and not necessarily what they can do for them. The politicians dwell on attacking their fellow bwanyenye opponents from other parties, implying they are better than them. Ironically, their rallies are well attended by the oppressed and suffering Kenyans who innocently believe them in the hope that their lives will be easy upon electing either of the rival politicians.
The reality of Kenyan elections over the years has been the dominance of elites and the wealthy, most of who owe allegiance to the former colonialists. It is therefore not surprising to see that all Kenyan general elections have over the years been backed by western imperialists countries. They make sure that the competing political parties, especially the bigger ones, share the capitalistic ideology of individualism, stealing wealth from workers and peasants, and promotion of antipeople neoliberal policies. Where there is no leftist or pro-people party or it is weak and its ideologies unknown to the people, like in Kenya, the imperialists feel strong enough to dictate to the bwanyenye political parties on how to conduct their affairs. These bwanyenye parties, on the other hand, are not homogeneous; some are liberal, right wing, centre right, social democrats while others pose as leftist but when push comes shove, they jump to petty bougeosis tendencies. It is no wonder that one finds members of such pseudo leftist parties asking voters to vote for them and vote for their affiliated bourgeosis presidential candidate especially when they are contesting in areas where a certain presidential candidate is popular. The lack of strong leftist party makes the imperialists choose among the bourgeoises parties; the one that accommodates their interests the most. Once they choose one, the other bwanyenye parties which are not favored normally castigate the imperialists, telling Kenyans that their problems cannot be tackled by the western/ foreign countries as if they would not have worked with the imperialists had they been chosen instead. In case a socialist party gains strength and people understand its ideology and thereby threatens the bwanyenye parties, the imperialists mobilize all the bwanyenye parties irrespective of their stand and make them end their differences by uniting them by all means against such a leftist party. This tactic was exercised very well in Nicaragua when all rightist parties were forced to support one candidate (Violeta Chamora) against Sandinista candidate (Daniel Ortega) in the1990 general elections. This conspiracy saw Violeta emerge the victor.
In 2017 general elections when bwanyenye political parties i.e. ODM, Jubilee, Wiper, ANC and Ford Kenya were competing, the imperialists did not interference apart since they knew that either camp will side with them upon taking power. Another thing one needs to understand is that even if imperialist countries share the same ideology, they compete among themselves for the wealth in the countries of the South since this is a rule of capitalism. They work together on some fundamentals but differ on nonfundamentals. The contradiction between the USA and UK is not a fundamental one while that between the Kenyan people and the comprador regime which is in service of the imperialists is a fundamental one. Therefore, if the two imperialist countries differ, Kenyan people should not assume that they are not together on fundamental issues affecting our people.
What is to be done?
Some leftist individuals in Kenya have over the years boycotted general elections citing lack of changes in the regime as reasons for refraining. Others have claimed that since the regime is controlled by the bwanyenye parties it would be hard for them to make any impact. Yet another group, due to either opportunism and/or ideological weaknesses which renders them unable to understand that the struggle for genuine change takes long time, get tired and opt to join bwanyenye politics. They justify their opportunistic move by arguing that for one to change the regime, one has to be inside it. Upon election, some of these people get disillusioned once they realize that they cannot change a neocolonial state from within, as any positive initiative is frustrated. Some end up joining the bandwagon of other MPs in looting and corrupting the country, thus enriching themselves.
The issue of progressive or leftist individuals participating in bwanyenye election is one which needs to be debated seriously since it is complex. In some cases, there is a need for participating while in others it may not be wise. For one to make the right choice, a scientific analysis of the situation has to be undertaken. The analysis should look at the forces behind the bwanyenye regime and also the strength of the alternative force (leftist party). The needs of the poor masses (workers, peasants etc.) should also be considered since one is participating in elections to help them achieve their goals. If such participation will boost the struggle for the people against neocolonial regime and ripen the revolutionary situation, then doing so will be right. But if nothing will be achieved and instead the neocolonial regime will take advantage in entrenching itself and confusing the masses, then participation will be a betrayal of the revolutionary struggle and the masses. But the most important point to note is that one needs to contest through a socialist party. It is the party that should do the analysis and decide whether it is appropriate to contest.
In Kenya, like in many countries in the South, the objective conditions for revolution are ripe but the catalyst (a revolutionary party) is weak. This has led to subjective conditions or the consciousness of the masses being very low. In such a situation, the progressive patriots should continue organizing and exposing the contradiction within the capitalist society and exposing the political bankruptcy of the neocolonial state through a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist party. They should continue to advocate for the immediate needs of the masses in a situation in which the neocolonial state does not implement measures such as the nationalization of public utilities, provision of free medical care, resettling of landless people, free and compulsory education, subsidizing basic commodities such as food and the provision of housing, among others. In so doing, they will be in a good position to win the masses to their side and expose the deception of the bwanyenye political parties. This act should be waged in a determined manner knowing very well that it is only by doing so that the battle will be won. This will contribute to hastening the revolutionary moment whereby it will be easy for the masses to turn against the proimperialist parties and embrace the socialist political party. We should also be aware that the reactionary forces will not just wait and let things turn to the advantage of the socialist party. They will use the state machinery which they control to hamper any move that could make them lose power. But if the party cadres are ideologically equipped with a scientific theory – such as Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM) – to demystify the capitalist system which oppresses and exploits our people, and to illuminate the path to be used in liberating themselves, they will be able to overcome such challenges and lead the party to victory.
Last, I want to conclude by reading out a passage from Bob Avakian, the Chairman of Revolutionary Communist party of USA:
“The capitalists control the system of elections, and every other dominant institution, in this country. Voting under this system, for either the existing bourgeoisis parties, is voting for ruling class parties who are determined to keep this system going, despite the terrible cost to the masses of humanity, and even with the very real threat this poses to the existence of humanity. No matter what promises these politicians make—and no matter what schemes people try to come up with to make things more “just” or “equal” under this system—none of this can change the basic nature of this system and the way it has to operate because of its very nature. The relations of exploitation and oppression that are built into this system are enforced through its institutions of official power and violence— the parliament and the presidency, the courts, and especially the police and the military.”