The Relevance and Impact of Ukombozi Library Study Classes

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It has been over 15 months since Ukombozi Library begun hosting study groups geared towards studying radical theory and practising progressive ideals in Kenya. These study groups bring together progressive comrades, human rights and social justice activists and students from various academic institutions. The study groups include weekly sessions conducted at the library that inspired and guided the formation of similar study groups and political programs in the communities and movements in the country. The formation of the Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL) was largely inspired by these study groups. In addition, these study groups have influenced follow – up ideological seminars and other progressive events in the country.

Through learning, knowledge is shared and the values of revolutionary study become more practical than just theoretical. It is through this study – by learning, observation and experience that a different political path can be established and change realized. These studies have united the political understanding of our people who on a weekly basis have shown high levels of commitment. This commitment has instilled a revolutionary vigour which continues to equip progressive activists with socialist ideals that are fundamental for the socialist revolution.

The global covid-19 epidemic dealt a devastating blow to the study sessions and the first two months of enforced governmental national lockdown and curfew made it impossible for comrades to meet in flesh for the sessions. However, in the same way a sailor adjusts to the rough winds of the seas, comrades adjusted and improvised. The virtual study model was adopted and the turnout, ever since, has been commendable as comrades have faithfully proved their commitment to the classes.

In a critical and dialectical analysis of these classes it is important to understand the genesis of this political program and the various dialectical materials studied.

Origin of the study cells
It was on the 11th of June 2019 when 13 comrades gathered at the Education Building, Main Campus of the University of Nairobi for the first political education class. This was a follow-up of previous week’s discussion on the need to start political education classes whereby the true history of our nation and continent, the material conditions of our people and the socialist solution to the decaying capitalist system would be analysed. This would help to anchor a broader, non-biased scientific understanding and practice of revolutionary socialist change. These comrades, drawn from Ukombozi Library, Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL), Social Justice Centres and academic institutions in the city of Nairobi were inspired by similar initiative across the world by both historical revolutionaries and contemporary revolutionary socialists.

The ultimate goal of every revolutionary study class is to raise the consciousness of every cadre and to instil in them a sense of ideological clarity so that they can subscribe to the same political philosophy. It is this philosophy that impacts their material understanding of the universe and the development of human societies. The first chapter is studying history because it is impossible to know where you are going to if you do not know where you are coming from. Based on this conviction, the first class focused on Kenyan history, way-back before the invasion by the Arabs at the coastal towns, the coming of the missionaries and then the colonialists.

The history of a people does not start when such a people are in chains. In re-learning the history of the Kenyan people before the advent of colonial rule and colonial history written for our people, comrades were full of revolutionary anger. In all that misery-type of history, the nobility, social relations and existence of the pre-colonial Kenyan people inspire one to continue learning about the strides made at different historical times by social and political organizations and individual leaders in striving for a better humanity. The roles played by home-guards in pre-colonial and post-colonial Kenya was exposed through this study and the true liberation heroes emerged from the bottomless pit of historical incorrectness.

The first class also analysed the role of Kenyatta in the spread of liberalism and entrenchment of neo-colonialism, the historical importance of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army, popularly known as Mau Mau, the land issues and corruption in the system. These topics among others are mentioned briefly as an introductory to the political classes that are to be carried forward. Bildad Kaggia’s book, Roots of Freedom, is a seminal book every comrade is advised to study. Comrades understood that every revolutionary struggle therefore is a class struggle and the struggle requires both subjective and objective conditions to happen.

The next two classes were held at the same venue – the University of Nairobi – and were useful in shaping the understanding of comrades in regards to reforming the study, mass work, criticisms and self-criticisms and combating liberalism as expounded by Chairman Mao Zedong. In reforming the study, understanding current conditions in the political, military, economic and cultural aspects is important. The study of international revolutionary experience and universal truth widens our scope and impacts on the internationalism mentality required for every socialist revolutionary. These became the first revolutionary materials to be studied and comrades accustomed themselves to revolutionary theory as a guideline to revolutionary work.

The continuation of the classes required guidelines that would ensure disciplined and consistent class discussions in the foreseeable future. Comrades therefore agreed to adhere to the following resolutions during the third class.

  1. From the fourth class (held on July 1st 2019) every class was to be held at Ukombozi Library every Monday from 5pm-7pm.
  2. Ukombozi library was to provide the reading materials five days before the next class of discussion.
  3. Every comrade was to read in advance to encourage informed contributions during the discussion process.
  4. Every comrade was to be consistent and disciplined in time and character during class discussions.
  5. The need to consolidate all the progressive forces such as industrial workers, community activists and students into a stronger united revolutionary movement.
  6. Study of the December Twelve Movement (DTM) Report and the history of Workers Movement/trade unions.
  7. Revolutionary campaigns before every political education (study how it is done in the Philippines)
  8. Start own publication (a platform to unite and gather resources and ideas.)

Some of these resolutions, however, were not adhered to by comrades at all times. There has been inconsistency by some comrades in the study classes and this has made it difficult for them to be at par with everyone in ideological grounding as they have missed vital classes which would have helped in shaping how they perceive and analyse things. Another major problem has been inability/ indiscipline by some cadres in reading the class materials in advance and this has always made some classes one sided as only a few comrades contribute during the classes. Comrades are yet to study and analyse at full length the DTM report and critical study of workers movement across the continent. These are the demerits that comrades must combat in future studies for they remain key pillars in the continuation of revolutionary theory.

What, therefore, has been the relevance of carrying out these study classes?

Relevance of the study classes
The study classes have created a sense of belonging and patriotism in every cadre who has ever attended any of them. In these classes, comrades have widened their scope of understanding the true history of Kenya and the African people and of the continent. Through a variety of study materials and films shown in several classes, comrades have learnt the different faces of the oppressive capitalist class. These studies have enabled comrades to combat liberal tendencies that derail revolutionary study and practice. Through these studies, comrades have studied various works by socialist philosophers, leaders, writers and analysed different occurrences in the world.

Some of the topics and study materials among others analysed include:

  • Historical and dialectical materialism by Karl Max and Friedrich Engels
  • Criticisms and self-criticism, combating liberalism, Teachings on Practice and Contradictions by Mao Zedong)
  • The State and Revolution, Imperialism; the highest of capitalism by Vladimir Lenin
  • Women Emancipation (Speeches by Thomas Sankara)
  • Religion
  • Feminism
  • History of Kenya
  • Classes and class struggle in Kenya
  • Pan-Africanism
  • Capitalism and multi-national corporations.
  • Economic impacts of the Covid-19 epidemic
  • International solidarity
  • Nationalism, cultural nationalism and revolutionary nationalism (materials by Huey Newton of the Black Panther Party)
  • The Land question in Kenya
  • Nationalism in Kenya
  • Socialism and communism.
  • Culture and revolution.

These among other topics have been discussed extensively by comrades and their relevance has been influential in the analysis of the existing system.

Impact
Since the introduction of the political education program at Ukombozi Library, many other political education classes have been formed directly or indirectly by comrades in other communities within the informal settlements in Nairobi. These political classes inspired, started and conducted by comrades of the Ukombozi/RSL political study classes include; Mukuru political class in Mukuru kwa Njenga; Ruaraka political class in Ruaraka and Komarock political class in Komarock, among others.

These classes have been attended by a representative of Ukombozi library and before the epidemic they were some of the most lively and progressive political education classes. The impact on the cadres in these centres has been great since their willingness and consistency is something worth celebrating. Through these classes comrades have been able to practice their revolutionary theory by recruitment and continuation of the studies among community members.

Political educations classes in Dandora and Mathare are a result of indirect influence of Ukombozi Library study classes. The need to spread and start other political education classes across the country remains a long term project.

Another impact has been the practical organizing of ideological seminars after a certain period of time. The goal was to have such seminars after every two months of intensive study classes whereby whatever had been studied in different study classes across the various classes would be discussed in a public forum. On the 8th of October 2019 an ideological seminar was held on Culture and Ideology. This seminary focussed on discussing different materials by Amilcar Cabral (National Liberation and Return to the Source), Kwame Nkrumah (Society and Ideology) Consciencism and Sekou Toure (Cultural Liberation and the Struggle to Liberate Women).

This seminar was important because comrades learnt about the role of culture in shaping the revolution and the importance in liberating women. This seminar was attended by representatives from Ukombozi Library, RSL, Social Justice Movement, All – African People’s Revolutionary Party (AAPRP), University students and other members of the public.

Through a collaboration with the International League of Peoples Struggles (ILPS), Ukombozi Library organized a solidarity talk with the peoples of Sudan, Algeria and Latin America whereby neo-liberal manifestation in these countries were discussed and the relevance of connecting our different peoples struggles were analysed. Indeed it was a powerful impact since the deliberations from the attendees were fruitful and progressive.

The study sessions have also guided the celebration of different historic days in Kenya such as Kimathi Day, Africa Liberation Day, and Pan-African Women Day among others by revolutionising the celebrations and sharing revolutionary socialist ideals.

Revolutionary Seeds
The revolutionary seeds planted almost 14 months ago have started growing despite the thorny environment in which they were planted. These classes, based on revolutionary theory will guide the revolutionary actions which have been important in exposing the rotten capitalist society in Kenya. The intellectual sacrifices made by these committed and patriotic comrades continue to inspire and influence many people across the country and in the continent. The discipline and consistency exhibited by individual comrades proves their commitment in bringing socialist change in Kenya. These are people who now understand their past and current material conditions and are ready to chart a progressive future. The future in which repression, domination, exploitation and oppression by man against man has been abolished and total liberation for humankind achieved. The dream of a socialist society remains a reality.

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