Editorial: What is to be done?


The question “What is to be done?” has troubled many writers and revolutionaries. Leo Tolstoy, the Russian writer addressed the same in his treatise, What Then Must We Do?  He was referring to the perennial aspects of the human condition relating to poverty, exploitation and greed in the Russia of his times. Vladmir Lenin, the socialist revolutionary sought a way out of this dilemma in his pamphlet, What is to be done?, in response to the burning questions of the international socialist movement. Both references hark back to the Biblical reference in Luke 3:10–14.

It has often been argued that too much analysis leads to paralysis. Analysis upon analysis continues in various progressive quarters in this country as feuding, populist politicians jostle for political power in the forthcoming elections in 2022. The question on whether progressive leftists should engage in bourgeoisie elections has often been a bone of contention.

Professor Issa Shivji has reflected on this dilemma in his think piece titled, How to do Left Politics, in the Review of African Political Economy journal, No. 158, 2018. Shivji writes in a section of the paper:

“ – a mix of generations and gender, agonizing over ‘ what to do?’Rather than ‘what is to be done?’ We more or less knew “what is to be done’ – transform our societies and liberate them from the clutches of imperialism and capitalism – but what are we supposed to do to advance the agenda of ‘what is to be done? “

Shivji argues that “..Ideology hegemony has to be won at the level of civil society before winning and sustaining power at the level of the state.” This is winning the battle of ideas, the battle for hegemony. “In other words, doing left politics where the masses are and not simply where (state) power resides…”

Elections present opportunities for heightened political mobilization, excitement and awareness among the masses. They cannot be ignored. Lenin opines in the pamphlet, “Left-Wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder,’ That such “….will constitute useful and fruitful revolutionary work that will simultaneously train the “leaders” to be worthy of the working class and of all working people, and train the masses to be able properly to understand the political situation and the often very complicated and intricate tasks that spring from that situation.”

It seems increasingly uncertain the emergence of a radical social movement in this country that would be capable of tilting the scales and balances of political power away from ego-centric politicians in the forthcoming general elections. What is visibly unfolding is the emergence of seasoned social justice activists preening themselves as candidates for elections at various levels, especially at wards and constituency levels. Perhaps leftists need to capture political power at base levels of wards and constituencies as a means to forge and create some form of liberated zones. This would serve as an opportunity to present our kind of politics; the kind of country we would want to build – our vision for society. Ndungi Githuku who is garnering for a seat as Member of the County Assembly (MCA) for Kabete Ward in Kiambu County refers to this strategy as “Changing Africa, One village at a Time.” This might seem a tall order, utopian politics at best, but they are well within realms of endless revolutionary possibilities.

Ukombozi Review will continue to amplify the voices of progressive people’s struggles happening at all levels in our ambitious mission to connect these struggles and possible liberated zones in all spheres of influence. This 7th issue of the publication continues with this mission by presenting thought pieces in various areas.  Mashujaa column is in particular topical as it highlights the heroic exploits of Yusuf bin Hassan aka Don Geronimo, the leader of the resistance against the Portuguese at the Kenyan Coast in 1630 whose patriotic legacy is largely unknown and unrecognized.

Enjoy this read, and as usual, feel free to share your feedback. Look out too for the section on the menu on submission guidelines if interested to contribute your reflection to the publication in whatever form.

Ahsanteni sana.

In solidarity,

Njuki Githethwa
Managing Editor

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