'Our politics' is shorn of politics we need to go back and start from the beginning


JF-Expert Member
Jan 14, 2010
By Jenerali Ulimwengu
Posted Monday, November 15 2010 at 20:39

How I wish we could go back to the way we were.

Nostalgia, someone once said, is a thing of the past. He/she was wrong, because although we are always nostalgic about things past, we miss them in the present.

The beauty of it is proved by the fact that the good days are always the old ones. Indeed, what good would it be for us to miss what we still have? The old adage holds true: You don’t miss your water till your well runs dry.

I for one do get nostalgic from time to time, and these past few days have brought wave upon wave of reminiscences of how politics used to be in this country. So, when a scribe in Nairobi recently lamented the absence of “left-and-right” politics in Kenya, I sat up.

Yes, indeed, why are we denied choice, why is there too much of a muchness in our politics, the choice being between Tweedledum and Tweedledee?

That tickled my nostalgia one more time as I reminisced about the late 1960s and early 1970s and the way things were with all who had a passion for politics.

Back then you were known by the colour stripes of your political views. You were either a ‘progressive’ or a ‘reactionary.’ You were either a ‘revolutionary’ or a ‘counter-revolutionary.’ In other words, you were either of the left or of the right.

To a certain extent those terms signified something real in a person’s worldview. If you were of the left, at home that would mean that you sided with the ‘wretched of the earth’ the downtrodden, and you tended to be upbeat about the eventual triumph of socialism.

Though Julius Nyerere and the Arusha Declaration were points of reference, you tended to be to the left of these, searching the horizon for more humanising theories and movements, from 1215 (Magna Carta) to 1789 (la Bastille) to 1917 (the Bolshevik Revolution) to 1949 (Chairman Mao) to 1959 (Fidel and Che), all the way to 1961 (Sharpeville).

Your comrades included some very dead people like Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky and Voltaire, and some living ones like Mandela, Samora, Nkrumah and Cabral. You read Das Kapital, if you dared, but generally you would found it easier to read Robert Tressel’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Jack London’s The Iron Heel and suchlike.

You were familiar with the Communist Manifesto and the spectre haunting Europe, and if you could sing a line from l’Internationale (Arise ye starvelings from your slumbers, arise ye criminals of want/ For reason in revolt now thunders, and at last ends the age of can’t ) you got extra oomph. Oh, was it good!

As for those of the right, well they did things of the right and they got no oomph. But at least they were known to belong to the reactionary camp, with such nasties as Mobutu, Bokassa, Salazar and Marcos.

Today, how I wish even these were back, with their pro-imperialist views, so that we could at least have the pleasure of an argument.
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