The social media is an important resource for oppression — or resistance, depending on who you are and where you stand. A recent posting on Facebook from Khatija Suleman asked an important question: ‘What’s preventing the 99% from overthrowing the 1%’. A simple question, but with no simple answer. Machari Chege responded: ‘the masses are in prison. Imprisoned by education and religions such that they can’t see the walls of their prisons’. Just so, like the open air prison in Gaza that the so-called state of Israel has created in occupied Palestine. There are no walls in this prison, says a Kenyan song goes. The present author continued the discussion on Facebook: …’Also suppressed economically, politically and with armed forces [of the imperialist nations]’.
That is where we are now. The global South watched helplessly as the same imperialism eliminated populations of North America and claimed it as their own states, like Israel today. They called it USA and Canada. Similar situation in Australia. They enslaved Africans and transported them to the ‘new world’.. A slightly different tactic in Africa, but the results were the same: massacres, murders and stealing of land and resources that goes on to this day.
These example of early imperialists is being followed today by ‘Israel’ in occupied Palestine. The same game continues. The 1% who grabbed power continue to oppress and suppress the 99%. So Khatija Suleman’s question is a valid: What’s preventing the 99% to overthrow the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie?
Dictatorship of Bourgeoisie
The answer lies in understanding the political, economic, social and military situation implied by the term ‘dictatorship’. The first step is to understand what dictatorship is. Gould (1947,2019, p.35) explains what dictatorship is:
Rule by force of one class over another, or over other classes. In the capitalist democracies, we have the concealed dictatorship of the capitalists; in fascist countries, the open terrorist dictatorship of the big capitalists.
So the key point is to understand the class structures under capitalism. It is the dictatorship of capitalist that is commonly referred to as the 1% ruling over the rest of the people. But this dictatorship is ‘concealed’, as Gould says. It is a monster with hundreds of arms, each controlling the 99% in different fields and in different ways. The key one is finance which syphons off the wealth of working people to off-shore banks owned and run by the same capitalists. They are armed with the international bodies they have set up to cover their crimes: IMF, World Bank and WTO. No country can escape their clutches easily. It punishes those who challenge NATO, yet another arm of capitalism. Thus many countries in the world are under imperialist embargo, the main ones are Cuba, Iran, Russia. Those leaders and countries who refuse to follow the commands of capitalism face a grim future: leaders are assassinated and countries are reduced to ‘failed states’. Somalia, Libya and Palestine are some examples.
Culture, mass media, religion, education are other control-mechanism used by imperialism to prevent people from resisting its rule. And the final weapon of armed attacks under NATO and similar ‘alliances’ clear up resistance that has not been suppressed by the earlier methods.
So that seems to answer the question as to what is preventing the people from overthrowing the bourgeois dictatorship. Or is it?
The answer needs to be seen in long-term historical trends. The French rule in Algeria, Belgium in Congo, British in Kenya were at one time seen as permanent features. Over time, armed resistance ended these rules. And an even longer time perspective sees the end of Spanish, Portuguese, French and British empires. So what is the future of the current USA empire in such historical time scale? Historical trends indicate the end of this empire too.
This process of the decline of the USA Empire has already begun. At the economic level, it faces challenge from BRICS who provide an alternative to the international capitalist finance under IMF and World Bank. BRICKS also provides an alternative political perspective to the aggression of the capitalist world. China is developing technologies that challenge the monopoly of the capitalist world.
At another level, trade unions, the weapon of working class, are taking a strong ideological stand against capitalist exploitation in many countries. Perhaps the most important example of strikes comes from India, as Countercurrents (2020) reported:
India saw one of the biggest nationwide strikes by workers, joined by protesting farmers today. Several states saw a complete shutdown. Over 250 million workers across sectors participated in the strike, called by 10 central trade unions and hundreds of worker associations and federations.
Kerala, Puducherry, Odisha, Assam and Telangana witnessed a complete shutdown while normal life was partially affected in several other states as workers struck work and took to the streets, protesting against the “anti-worker” and pro-corporate policies and labour laws as well as the new farm laws brought in by the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata party government, among other demands.
250 million workers today. In just one country. What happens when they are joined by millions in other countries? They demand nothing less than the overthrow of the dictatorship of bourgeoisie and its replacement by dictatorship of the proletarian which, as Gould (1947, 2019) explains, is:
the open dictatorship of the proletariat (in alliance with other toilers, the vast majority) over the former exploiting minority of capitalists and landlords.
This process of transition from the capitalist, imperialist stage of history to another has been going for many years. However, it has got a massive boost by the action of imperialism in Palestine. While socialists and communists are guided in their actions by the changing reality around them, capitalists and imperialists are blindly driven by their need for more and even more profit and so ignore — or do not understand — the changing reality around them. The attacks on Palestine by imperialist forces for over 70 years has changed the position of the capitalist world in ways it has not yet understood. They are guided by their thinking of the days of the massacres of people in USA, Canada and Australis and cannot see the changing situation in the world today where similar massacres build up people’s forces around the world. In almost every country of the world, there are huge demonstrations in support of Palestine and against ‘Israeli’ and USA-imposed genocide. But this time, they are linking the struggle of the people of Palestine with their own struggles against their own 1%, the comprador agents of imperialism.
Kenya, the Imperialists’ Favourite country under Ruto
History shows that defeating imperialism will not be easy nor a bloodless affair. The countries that imperialism has not yet turned into ‘failed states’ are being groomed to be their agents to propagate capitalist values and as showcase of not resisting imperialism — besides being turned into sources of cheap raw material and labour. Kenya is one such example. It was the centre of CIA activities under Jomo Kenyatta. It has been a favourite of imperialism since independence when they promoted, Jomo Kenyatta first, then Daniel arap Moi, as the frontmen of capitalism. They have now begun their charm offensive for their new captive president, William Ruto. The country is now under total control of IMF and is rushing to privatise almost all key industries and services so as to serve imperialism better.
What hope is there, then for resistance to capitalism and imperialism in Kenya? An important institution that has in the past played an important role in resisting capitalist exploitation and for national liberation was the trade union movement under the East African Trade Union Congress led by Makhan Singh and Bildad Kaggia. Mburu (2023) gives a good analysis of the state of trade unions today:
A strong pillar in the fight for freedom and workers’ rights, and a political force to be reckoned with have over the years been the hallmarks of trade unions in the country. Wielding enormous power with their sizeable constituency, country-wide structures and the potential for mobilising members on social or political matters, trade unions have been a thorn in the flesh for successive governments.
Due to their central place in the agitation of workers’ rights and dreaded power of influence, trade unions became a breeding ground for national leaders – Pio Gama Pinto, Tom Mboya, Dennis Akumu and Fred Kubai – —to name but a few. Led by firebrand leaders, the trade unions have always made industrial action a tool to keep the government of the day and employers in check.
However, Mburu’s conclusion on trade unions shows a grim picture: ‘Trade unions have lost their spark and are a pale shadow of their pioneers’. As if to confirm the death of militant trade unions, Central Organisation of Trade Unions-Kenya (COTU-K) Secretary General, Francis Atwoli — ‘Ruto’s friend’ as the Daily Post calls him — has defended the capitalist policies of President Ruto. He has ‘told off Kenyans complaining of high taxes and the high cost of living…Atwoli insisted that it is time for Kenyans to accept that there are things that cannot be changed’ (Oruta, 2023). This is the reality of new trade unions created by imperialism where trade union leaders ask workers not to complain about high cost of living and to accept that the imperialist reality cannot be changed! So much for expecting the current trade union organisation to challenge capitalism and imperialism in Kenya.
The future is then in the hands of rank-and-file workers and shop stewards who see reality from a very different perspective from that of the official COTU position. They are joined by young activists who have taken to streets demanding that the cost of living be reduced. They organise workshops and study classes to understand the capitalist realities they are forced to live under and to explore their resistance options. Ukombozi Library organises online courses on Trade Unions, Class and Power — topics rarely heard of in official Kenya.
And here’s the all-important link of the struggles of the people of Palestine and people of Kenya. The debates and discussion do not see imperialist presence in Kenya in isolation. It is seen in a global perspective, particularly as it links with the struggles of the occupied Palestine. Kenya may not be occupied in the same way as is Palestine; but the struggles for liberation are related and the enemy is the same: US imperialism, using ‘Israel’ in Palestine and the comprador Ruto in Kenya. And the young activists in Kenya are quick to see the links. Resistance is everywhere.
Resistance is everywhere. While imperialism is busy attempting to eliminate Palestine and its people thought genocide, bombing and media attacks, these actions have united people around the world as never before. They are linking up with each other and also linking their local struggles with the struggle for Palestine. There may not be immediate stop to the imperialist expansion, but the ground under its foundation is being dug out slowly. They will see the results of the global anti-imperialist struggles in years to come. Their eyes and ears are closed to the cries of Palestinian babies, children, women and men. They cannot see or hear the demands of people around the world for an end to imperialist expansion and aggression. Just as they cannot see the impact of the economic and political changes being brought about by global South and BRICKS. But they cannot ignore these trend-setting changes for ever. The time for the death and destruction of imperialism is not that far off. History provides the links for the current and past failures of empires of aggression and death. But the struggle has demanded the sacrifice of the Palestinian child. History will not judge imperialism kindly. The victims of imperialist power games will have their say.
Countercurrents(2020): 250 Million Workers And Farmers Strike Nationwide In India. 26-11-2020. Available at: https://countercurrents.org/2020/11/250-million-workers-and-farmers-strike-nationwide-in-india/. [Accessed: 06-12-2023].
Gould, L. Harry (1947, 2019): Marxist Glossary. New York: New Outlook Publishers.
Mburu, Peter (2023): Death of trade unions: workers’ lobbies are no longer powerful voices. Daily Nation. 18-09-2023).
Oruta, Brian (2023): Atwoli tells off Kenyans complaining about high cost of living. The Star (Nairobi). 04-12-2023.
Shiraz Durrani is a Kenyan political exile living in London. He has worked at the University of Nairobi as well as at a number of public libraries in Britain. He then lectured at the London Metropolitan University. Shiraz has written many books and articles on aspects of Kenyan history and on politics of information in the context of colonialism, capitalism and imperialism. His forthcoming publication is A Struggle of Sixty-Two Days, A Play based on the 1936 strike for eight-hour working day in Kenya.
Some of his articles are available at https://independent.academia.edu/DurraniShiraz and books at: https://www.africanbookscollective.com/search-results?form.keywords=shiraz+durrani