Monday, April 12, 2021

Don’t blame the Marxists

There is a fixation at the Botswana National Front, but more prevalently at the Botswana Congress Party, which wants to blame the failure of the opposition unity talks ÔÇô and indeed the opposition failure to take power in the past 40 years ÔÇô on Marxists in the Front.

A section of the gullible press also regurgitates this mistaken position with great vigour, hankering onto the tail end of the propaganda of the western media monopolies that day-in and day-out chant slogans about the ‘collapse of communism and the eastern bloc’.

They have since developed a repertoire that employs the words ‘democracy, freedom, justice, civilisation, human rights, value for life, globalisation’ as if they were synonyms with capitalism or western imperialism.

“Terrorism” is identified with the ‘non-capitalist’ ideologies, religions or philosophies whether it is socialism in China, Cuba, Venezuela or Ortega’s Nicaragua. Or whether it is the Muslim faith countries of the Middle East. They are bundled together with North Korea and Iran who represent a threat to the monopoly of nuclear weapons by the United States, Israel and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries.

Briefly, it has become both fashion and tradition, locally and in the western press, to use socialism, Marxism and everything else that represents an alternative to capitalism, as a scapegoat for the failures of progressive initiatives among the downtrodden to change their fate.

This contribution will argue that it is indeed the abject paucity of Marxists at both the Front and the BCP ÔÇô and among the nation’s intelligentsia in general ÔÇô which is partly responsible for the failure of the ‘unity talks’ and the efforts of the opposition to take power.

Otherwise, it is the over-abundance of quack Marxists and ideologically bankrupt political commentators on both ends which is responsible for the breakdown of the talks and the failure to deliver change for the majority of Batswana.

History will inform the Batswana political scientists that the predominant form of social organisation of the Batswana is feudal at the national level. It is a feudalism driven by international monopoly capital at the global level, here and there exhibiting the contraptions of social and political organisation that would otherwise be identified with the bourgeois democracies of North America and Western Europe. In practice, of course, these varieties of social relations interlock ÔÇô one into the other – to shape the particular character of pseudo capitalist relations of production in Botswana.
These are most evident in the mining and beef industries, extending to so-called parastatals, which are little more than glorified state enterprises.

The political parties build ÔÇô in addition to the education system, religion, civil society organisations and culture in general ÔÇô the subjective conditions that will support one or the other side among the conflicting social groups that are battling for command of the social resources that make livelihood possible.

On one side are the feudal aristocrats, chiefs, cattle barons, and large farmers, sitting side by side with the nouveau riche ÔÇô the captains of the state bureaucracy, real estate exploiters, retailers and a handful of politicians ÔÇô who aspire to join the class of the international bourgeoisie.

They dream the dreams of Bill Gates but their means limit them to the life of ordinary cheque book millionaires who could go broke if they were properly investigated by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime. They are, essentially, capitalists without capital.

Debswana characterises the symbiotic relationship between the Botswana state, representing the interests of the elite groups referred to above, and De Beers, which is essentially a private trans-national economic grouping that enjoys monopoly of western trade in diamonds.

So, Debswana represents the quintessential alliance between local feudalism and international capitalism in Botswana.

The Botswana Democratic Party is the adopted spokesperson for this lot.

On the opposite end are the miners, agricultural workers, the unemployed who form the labour reserve, workers in the South African chain stores and local small traders, the marginalised ethnic groups, particularly the Basarwa, the elderly, sickly, the illiterate, artists and women on the fringes of pastoral and crop farming.

There is also the selfÔÇôemployed group in the informal sector, tottering on the fringes of the ‘cash’ economy.

This is the lot that has been betrayed by the opposition, which has steadily shifted ÔÇô most significantly after 1984 ÔÇô in the direction of the BDP and to the defense of bourgeois privilege and private accumulation of property.

In his ‘BNF vs BDP, 187 policy and ideological differences’ Dr. Elmon Tafa -Comrade Moore, the BNF’s leading ideologue (perhaps after Otsweletse Moupo) says in No 41: “Unlike the BDP government, which has never had a single legal strike in three decades, the BNF shall restore the worker’s democratic right to strike action”.

It is a wonder why the BDP should have a legal strike! But of greater far-reaching significance is the observation that the post-84 BNF itself has never unequivocally supported any of the workers’ strikes referred to…legal or illegal. This despite the fact that the likes of labour leader at the Manual Workers Union, Johnson Motshwarakgole, were in fact BNF councillors who relied on the worker’s vote in Gaborone West to climb to the city council.

Ironically, there has been something of an acrimonious relationship between the trade unions and the BNF occasionally manifesting itself at May Day celebrations at which the Front has been castigated for ‘wanting to take the workers day over’. Invariably, it is the ministers of the ruling party and government officials who enjoy enviable hospitality at the trade union events!

Leading central committee members of the BNF were also heard at ‘freedom squares’ denouncing the theories of ‘dead bearded white old men from Europe’ – a reference to Marx and Engels ÔÇô while at the same time announcing an invitation to ‘workers, farmers and capitalists’ who were all welcome to the BNF!

These utterances, in addition to a general retreat from the ideological tenets that brought the BNF into the mainstream of popular politics pre-1984, can be explained, in part, by the recent revelation in the Sunday Standard on Page 7: –

“About the same time (as Mineral Resources Minister, David Magang was desperate for support for local beneficiation of Botswana diamonds), De Beers was jittery that Botswana’s political sands were shifting. The BNF returned 14 MP’s in the general election (of 1994) and its star was rising.

“A few days after De Beers’ first and only meeting with BNF President, Dr Kenneth Koma and his confidant, Michael Mothobi, the mining company went behind the duo’s back and sponsored the trip by BNF Vice President Michael Dingake and MP Otlaadisa.

“When Dingake and Koosaletse came back, their relations with Koma and his followers had broken down irreparably. A few months later, Dingake, Koosaletse and most BNF parliamentarians broke away to form the Botswana Congress Party.

“As it turned out, Koosaletse and Dingake never joined the beneficiation campaign. ‘Instead I heard that one of them got a De Beers scholarship for his child’, recalls Magang”.

What did Koma discuss with De Beers? What did Dingake discuss? Was it ever reported to the larger BNF central committee? How did the central committee respond if they did get information about this meeting from whatever source? By deciding to dump the beneficiation campaign and form the BCP? Did the BNF congress ever get to know that there were discussions even if the contents might have been kept confidential?

More questions arise: “Was it sheer coincidence that dialogue with De Beers came at the same time as the deepening animosity between Koma, and the rest of the elected BNF parliamentarians, except Kalake, who later broke away to form the BCP?

Needless to say, David Magang’s revelations regarding an award of scholarships, presumably in exchange for an opposition position against local beneficiation of Botswana diamonds, speaks volumes and requires no amplification from this writer!

It will be found, even without the benefit of the contents of Koma and Dingake’s dialogue with De Beers, that the Marxists at the BNF would have washed their hands ÔÇô not so much on the matter of dialogue with De Beers ÔÇô but on the party process which would have permitted and guided such dialogue.

Elmon Tafa, perhaps one of the targets of the smear campaign against the so-called Marxists at the BNF, might have titled his book “Comrade Moore vs BNF, BDP, BCP…” especially as regards the lack of commitment of ‘progressives’ across the board to the working class cause.

The same could be said on the issue of the forced relocation of the Basarwa out of the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve. On page six, Moore writes: “They (the BDP) promised to bring service closer to Batswana for any settlement with a minimum number of 150 people but went to do the very opposite by evicting 700 Basarwa from Central Kgalagadi game Reserve (CKGR) using a harsh scorched earth policy”.

The BNF has, to the best of this writer’s knowledge, delivered no categorical statement against the apartheid-like removal of the Basarwa from their ancestral lands at the CKGR.

In fact, BNF parliamentarians have been heard casting aspersions against assistance given to the Basarwa by Survival International…alarmingly in tune with the jingoistic messages that favour domestication of the Basarwa at New Xade, apparently for the sake of diamond exploration in the CKGR.

It was only the lone voice of BNF youth leader, Gabriel Kanjabanga, a sworn Marxist, which resonated against the chorus of BDP youth who favoured the government disinformation campaign against Survival International, Roy Sesana and the First People of the Kgalagadi on television.

If only on the basis of the three examples given above, it does appear that the Marxists ÔÇô among them Comrade Moore and Gabriel Kanjabanga ÔÇô do not by any stretch of the imagination command the dominant position among the popular ideological strains at the BNF.

Neither can they be identified with the conservative or reactionary tendencies that abandoned the workers struggle each time they were on strike.

They do not identify with the ambivalent position of the BNF on the issue of the Basarwa and indeed all marginalised ethnic minorities.

They are mentioned nowhere in the conspiratorial talks between De Beers and Koma, Dingake and Koosaletse; and they certainly have not received any scholarships for their children as a reward for campaigning against diamond beneficiation.

If the Marxists were the dominant group, it would, to the extent that BNF literature accurately reflects the real thinking ÔÇô or class interests – in the party, be reflected in the Social Democratic Programme.

If the Marxists were the dominant ideological tendency at the Front, it would be revealed in their language in parliament, at the freedom square and in political debate in civil society.

The positions that Moore announces in his book have not been realised in practice at the BNF. Kanjabanga’s position, and that of Moore, on the question of the Basarwa, is clearly a minority position, which has not been wholesomely embraced at the BNF.

At the BCP, the Marxists ÔÇô some of whom wrote the policy documents of the BNF – appear to have disappeared into the woodwork leaving loquacious amateur political commentators to stir the hate campaign against the BNF. They use the stigma that they attach to the Marxists as their excuse for the collapse of the ‘unity talks’.

Like the hypocrites that they are, they pose as if they themselves hold no political ideology. They proclaim neutrality in the world contest that pits revolutionary thought against the contrived theories of the Harvard professors that beautify capitalism and the miserable condition it has brought upon the largest majority of humanity.

They claim ideological innocence much like the petty bourgeoisie of the French Revolution who carried placards hailing the workers movement whilst they were dragging adornments on their tails that betrayed their aristocratic aspirations.

No, these are the real culprits in the breakdown of the unity talks and the failure of the opposition to transform popular disenchantment with the ruling party into change of government.

They are, in essence, BDP malcontents who would sooner identify with the British Labour Party’s campaign of lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, also fostering ‘regime change’ everywhere where the economic interests of western big business might be compromised.

They speak in fanciful cliches about ‘branding’ of political parties and the ‘charisma’ or absence of it among agents of change in the likes of, to offer one example only, Otsweletse Moupo.

In 1998 they abandoned Koma for what they claim to be tendencies towards a ‘personality cult’. In 2006 they are in bed with him at the unity talks and at the NDF for one reason only: to oppose the BNF and to thwart any of its efforts to unseat the BDP.
They and their equally garrulous opposite number at the BNF ÔÇô some of them reverse artists who sense greater opportunity for a return to parliament at the Front they had abandoned ÔÇô exchange political frivolities and puerile graffiti in the press for the comfort of the ruling elite.

These noise boxes and their parties multiply at the same rate as they regress into political senility. The Marxist position ÔÇô which will not prescribe any limit to the multiplication of the opposition parties ÔÇô favours one party for the rural poor and the working class and effective amalgamation of all the existing nonsense opposition parties.

The Marxists ÔÇô who can only be truly identified when they are in a socialist party ÔÇô will use it as a vehicle that will link the struggles of the working class in Botswana to the broader struggle of the international working class.

Rampholo Molefhe is a freelance journalist


Read this week's paper