Far from being an imaginary or delusional mental construct or esoteric historical metaphysical contest of ideas, the battle for ideological supremacy is an ever present reality, impacting billions of lives, in terms of beliefs and actions on culture, economics, politics, religion, society etc., and therefore compels Namibians and Africans to reassess both their positioning on the ideology continuum, and requisite capacity to lucidly expound their worldview as a people.
Simply put, it is insufficient only to know that we need and want better infrastructure, wealth, land, housing and employment, as we need to understand the fundamental thought-systems informing the processes causing the scarcity of these things in our lives and how to synchronize, adapt, or transform such thought-systems to our daily-wants and needs.
Therefore, any emotionally charged and personalized responses to questions of ideology, instead of adding value to the sum-total objective which is the improvement of the Namibian and African societies, as symbolized by the SWANU Secretary’s lexes in last week Friday’s New Era edition would with due respect to my SWANU elder, be a distractive, sterile, infertile exhibition in ineffectuality.
Had the SWANU elder carefully scrutinized the commentary (even the full length version in The Patriot Newspaper online), he would have realized that it strictly mentioned the SWANU president in an entrée context, since the parliamentary question on ideology emanated from him. It nowhere declares itself negatively on the SWANU grandee, but primarily responded to the principal assumption that Namibia operates within an ideology vacuum.
On the contrary, SWANU is cited in the commentary due to its historical birthing in 1958 by the Herero Chief’s Council, and invaluable national liberation movement role alongside SWAPO in the decolonization process, albeit with a lesser national impact given the then narrow membership circle of mainly Herero intellectuals.
However, the SWANU response typifies a classical Wild West shooting from the hip approach (in the SWANU socialist parlance, they failed to subject ‘the appearance of the known text’ to the rigours of dialectical materialism to ‘discover reality’).
Be that as it may, on the claim of defection to a capitalist ideology, the author’s commentary is instructive that the neo-liberal ideology (market fundamentalism) is the most dangerous system of capitalism though, and that the country should guard against the commodification, pauperization and criminalization of the poor, just to achieve the time monetization efficiency goal (profit motif), above the equally important political and societal goals such as national public health, education, wealth redistribution, worker rights, etc.
SWANU’s contention that the author has indicated that SWAPO has no ideology is unfounded, as the commentary opined that SWAPO’s ideology as per its constitution is an eclectic blend of patriotic nationalism and social democracy supported by developmentalism as an economic system. As to the pronouncements of the SWAPO Party in the 70s, a genuinely peoples’ centered ideology is dynamic, contrary to the dogmatism of an orthodoxy centered ideology as will be illustrated later on.
The same ideological blend of the ruling party underpins the philosophy of the Namibian State, complemented by a dosage of State Welfarism, the commentary had noted. Interestingly, our Social Democracy can also be termed as a liberal democracy depending on which side of the coin one is standing.
On the opposite spectrum, sometimes adherents of Democratic Socialism (different from Social Democracy and in a limited sense from Marxism-Leninism) espoused by parties such as SWANU, typically pursue ideology for the sake of its canons. Although Democratic Socialism advocates for political democracy in conjunction with social ownership of the means of production, its emphasis is not on parliamentary democracy, but on the democratic management of enterprises in a socialist economic system.
Democratic Socialism is unequivocally committed to the systemic replacement of capitalism (private property ownership) which they see as inherently incompatible with social ownership. Presumably, SWANU’s democratic socialism brand can be categorized as willing to tolerate and even work with SWAPO’s Social Democracy reformist agenda, using existing democratic institutions such as parliament until it (SWANU) has acquired sufficient capacity to overthrow such institutions and the bourgeoisie.
Regarding SWANU’s reference to the current “predicament of Namibia,” it is an attested fact that armchair critics of e.g. a soccer game are the best players, issuing instructions without facing real opponents in a real game on the soccer pitch. Conceivably, such critics once empowered to the call, may turn out to be worse than the objects of their critique.
In contradistinction, due to SWANU’s radicalized democratic socialism agenda, a most probable hypothesis would be the instant degeneration of SWANU as a ruling party into an abyss of failed parties e.g. by transforming the country in some sort of a quasi-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat in which religion, including the Herero holy fire, would have been outlawed and dissenting voices including the media thrown into jail.
Tyranny of Ideology
The lesson is that political theory is not the same as praxis due to a multiplicity of variables which cannot be successfully manipulated and replicated under different cultures, societies and conditions e.g. Karl Marx because he is not omniscient could never imagine in future the idiosyncrasies of e.g. Josef Stalin which would lead to Stalinism and not Communism.
Some countries were able to learn from their incorrect implementation and change course from rigid dogma towards flexibility to bridge the gap between ideological orthodoxy and praxis. For example China, having realized the economic inadequacy of Maoist ideology following the disastrous Great Leap, the Cultural Revolution and other similar Maoist continuous revolutions theory cataclysms, characterized as the tyranny of ideology, changed course. And introduced a peoples-centered mixed economy under the appellation of a “Socialist Economy with Chinese Characteristics” under the visionary leadership of Deng Xiaoping in 1978, yet still keeping the ideology of an enlightened communist system.
Therefore, if those having experienced the practical application of Karl Marx and Engel’s ideologies on their lives decide to take a break, no individual in Africa or elsewhere being mere theoretical consumers and not the innovative implementers can claim undisputed puritanical ancestry and proprietorship thereof.
Thus, it is probable in future that America too could jettison its market fundamentalism and vote for a candidate such as Bernie Sanders, with strong social democratic leanings.
We need more homegrown Harambee Prosperity Plans (HPP), for development, and own “Harambee Werengendje” slogan innovations to fuel them. We, Africans, should desist from uncritically subjecting ourselves to the mercy of “any windstorm of superior” ideas of others, clinging like a house Negro to such ideas whether from the left or right (however impracticable and ill-suited in the frame of the tragically lost protagonist, in the Danish fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”), and defending them to death, even when such ideas become extinct dinosaurs. Borrowing and incorporating only the best into our own innovations while discarding the non-utilitarian is the way innovation functions best for development, e.g. China and Russia are cases in point.
• Moses Pakote – This commentary is written strictly in my personal capacity as a citizen of the Republic of Namibia.