Is the ‘Influential left’ in Kenya dead?


Ndung’u Wainaina
has attempted to caricature what can be summed up as ‘CORD ideology’. He writes, ” CORD is a composite. It is home to everyone. It is Right Conservatives, Lib Democrats and influential Left. Consequently it has to keep playing on the middle ground to keep everyone in. The glue and engine in CORD is the Left although the minority. The problem with this Left is inability to harness and consolidate the Left outside the CORD arrangement…”
He continues, “this weak phenomena of Left began in 2003. This explains why the country is in a state of fragility and confusion. It is the LEFT with supportive of core group of Lib democrats that has always made Kenya make major progressive leaps forward. Bernie Sanders has forced the Lib Democrat in Democratic Party Hillary Clinton to adopt the Left policies. In Kenya, the Left is still mark timing rather than pushing through a radical policy political tsunami to liberate the country”.
I agree with Ndung’u on one fact. The ‘influential left’, which can also be referred to as the ‘radical left’ in CORD (and which is basically ‘ODM’) APPEARS dead. The death of the influential left in ODM (the engine of CORD) can be attributed to the movement of this wing to the centre-left, led by Raila Odinga himself. Raila Odinga’s move to the centre-left was recently candidly explained to me by Wafula Buke. In order to rule contemporary Kenya, thus implement the policies and projects that are central to a leftist’s fight for power, you must amass what Buke referred to as ‘bourgeois credentials’. In other words, you must be a ‘bourgeoisie’. You must show you have ‘stakes’ in Kenya.
‘Bourgeois credentials’ entails appearing -posturing – in the image and likeness of those who own the factors of production in Kenya. The first credential is that you must be wealthy. Sorry ‘poor people’ you can’t cut it in the Kenya of today. If you want be president of Kenya, poor friends, you start making money. Make a lot of it. You must be very wealthy. Fabulously wealthy. That’s why you see William Ruto is racing against time to ‘amass’. I don’t know how rich Raila is but I hear he is fairly endowed.
The second credential is that you must demonstrate that you can protect the interests of the wealthy; especially ‘old wealth’ gotten illicitly at the expense of Kenyans. This Raila has tried unsuccessfully. Or let me just say he is yet to succeed. Owners of ‘old wealth’ still do not see in him a person who can ‘protect’ them. To cut it you must be in the ‘in-group’. You must have the pedigree. Luos have a better way of saying it: You must who ka who.
The third credential is that you must not be a revolutionary. Old wealth hates drastic changes. Old wealth hates uncertainties. Old wealth hates the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. It doesn’t hope that the light is because of the rising sun. What if it is an oncoming train? Old wealth is distrustful. Old wealth doesn’t give the benefit of doubt. The owners of old know that revolutions – whether peaceful through the ballot or violent through the gun – have a way of recreating ‘relations’ between the bourgeois class and the proletariat. They prefer evolutionary changes. Slow, even stagnant, changes. They prefer changes that are less antagonistic.
The great American educationalist Horrace Mann got it right when he observed, “Property and labor in different classes are essentially antagonistic; but property and labor in the same class are essentially fraternal”.
There are other credentials which I would have elucidated but ‘time is money’. Raila Odinga remains the best bet for the poor and the dispossessed. He is the best bet for those with no wealth. The students. The workers. Those at the lowest ebb of the political food chain. As a social democrat, he still believes in the idea of a just and caring Kenya for all.
ODM remains the only social democracy party. We support economic and social interventions that promote social justice within the framework of a vibrant capitalist economy adhering to the fair rules of play in the enjoyment of our representative democracy.
ODM views capital as a means to an end; and that end being a more solidaristic and egalitarian society. We in ODM push for socio-economic policies which trickles down to benefit every Kenyan. In short, we don’t leave human beings to the devices and designs of the invisible hand of the market – for we know the market can be auctioned.
Yet, it is these ideas about the best development model of our country that is at the heart of the struggle to control the presidency, thus control ‘the enterprise’ – the old wealth and its tentacles in every facet of the Kenyan economy.
The ‘influential left’ in ODM isn’t dead. It has however undergone a political rebirth, accepting the need to build sufficient trust with the capitalistic owners of the factors and means of production in Kenya. The left has moved from the ‘far left’ to the ‘centre-left’. This shouldn’t be misconstrued that we’ve lost out to the conservative right.
In conclusion, I dare say that a bourgeois Raila Odinga, now fairly accepted by those who control the means and ways of Kenya is far better than a radical, far left Raila Odinga oozing revolutionary rhetoric and scaring the very shit he needs to temper among the owners of the ‘wealth’ of Kenya. Set a thief to catch a thief works. If we want a stake in this country of the bourgeoisie, by the bourgeoisie for the bourgeoisie, we must prop up someone in the image and likeness (I like using this phrase, damn) of a bourgeoisie!
If there is anything we’ve learnt in the thawing of relations between Raila Odinga and the conservative right then it is that the left must always re-imagine itself and recreate itself in a manner that doesn’t scare the corrupt and profit-minded right to cling even harder on power, thus keep plundering while making sure we only watch from afar. In our lifetime, Raila Odinga remains the best bet.
We are too close.

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