Prof Amukowa Anangwe - Socialist state will protect the poor - The Star

The referendum was not an ordinary event but a silent revolution. There have been great revolutions like the American revolution (1775-89), French revolution (1789-1815), Russian revolution (1917) and the Chinese revolution (1949) that were bloody and dramatic.

The Kenyan one has been creeping in over the last two decades in a peaceful manner, except for the post-election violence in early 2008.

A critical examination of the document reveals monumental and epoch-making changes that are in the offing.

There are changes anticipated in the social, political and economic spheres, but the socialist content of the new constitution needs to be highlighted to reorient the Kenyan polity towards a socialist system.

The new constitution has a high dose of socialism, and this should be perceived positively since Kenya is long overdue for socialist transformation given the disappointment with the current economic system that has impoverished and marginalised many, and nurtured ethnicity and individualism.

Modern-day socialism is no longer about the dictatorship of the proletariat, nationalisation of the means of production, or centrality of state ownership and accumulation.

The contemporary Chinese experience has shown socialism can coexist conveniently with moderated capitalism. Nonetheless, socialism is still about the enhancement of human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, human rights, and protection of the poor in the society,.
Equity signifies equal treatment for all, equality of opportunity and the full realisation of potential by the citizenry without hindrance on account of poverty, poor education, parental background and other environmental constraints.

Equity is not about equality, and the latter is not even desirable for the good of society that seeks to prosper, and generate wealth. However, there are degrees of inequality in society which threaten its legitimacy and stability and result in widespread alienation, strife, and misery for many.

An optimum, desirable and just state is one of moderate inequality where nobody is allowed to fall into destitution, even though others are free to get rich.

On the other hand, social justice acquires relevance in a society that is highly unjust and it is a term used to justify extensive income redistribution and creation of an egalitarian society. As a principle, social justice is geared to ensure that all persons access basic human needs, regardless of differences on account of economic disparity, gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship, religion, age, and disability.

A related provision in the new constitution under Chapter Four, Article 43, is on economic and social rights which are patently socialist. It is stipulated that all Kenyans have a right:

  • To highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services.
  • To accessible and adequate housing, and to reason¬able standards of sanitation.
  • To be free from hunger.
  • To education;
  • To clean and safe water in adequate quantities; and
  • To social security to be provided by the state to Kenyans who are unable to support themselves.
The realisation of equity, social justice and social and economic rights as provided in the new constitution would require a different policy environment which Kenya state has not been able to create since independence.

It is only a socialist state that has so far proved to be effective and willing to bring about a free, just and egalitarian society.

A capitalist state is inherently incapable of ensuring equity and social justice because, as Karl Marx pointed out, it is an instrument of a select few whose preoccupation is to exploit the majority in their quest to accumulate wealth.

If Kenyans want equity and social justice for all, they need to rethink on the current economic system and embrace socialism.

If Kenya were to embrace socialism, the policy agenda would have to change fundamentally with a focus on ensuring free education at all levels, free health services, gender equity and economic empowerment of women, poverty alleviation programmes and redistribution of land.

Realisation of such a policy agenda in Kenya would require ideological shift towards socialism that would have to be informed by the experience of the welfare state in Western Europe and former communist regimes in Eastern Europe where the role of the state in economic and social spheres expanded as a necessity.

Prof Amukowa Anangwe teaches political science at the University of Dodoma, Tanzania

This entry was posted in . Bookmark the permalink.