By David K Mafabi
“People have always been the foolish victims of deception and self-deception in politics, and they will always be until they have learnt to seek out the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises”. V.I. Lenin, 1913.
In the false “succession” debate we mentioned recently, a number of “songs” are mixed up: “Uganda has never witnessed a peaceful handover of power”; “Yoweri Museveni has stayed on for too long”; “the challenge is not succession, it is transition”; Etc. The newest is, “a new generation is ready to take over from the old generation – and solve all political and economic problems”.
The common denominator to all these, is the absolutely false construct that the removal of Yoweri Museveni from the leadership of the country and the Movement, is the magical elixir that will solve “all Uganda’s problems”.
There are two major complications with these “songs”. First, there is a clear lack of understanding of the origins of norms and values in society. Our political class and intelligentsia erroneously believe that norms and values of “good governance”, arise from “good intentions”, “good will”, “good leaders”, etc. They have no appreciation whatsoever of “democracy” as a historical and socio-economic category. They now want to “remove” perceived “bad leadership”, and usher in some kind of messianic variety, and “all shall be well!”
Second, and arising from the immediately foregoing, the political class and intelligentsia fail to recognize the existence of objective imperatives for successful national economic management and transformation. They do not understand that the rigorous and relentless implementation of those imperatives, is the anchor for democratic governance, national integration, as well as for the qualitative leap from backwardness to modernity.
The best they do in the situation, is to rush up and down blind alleys, in the search for short cuts and instant coffee solutions to “our problems”! They even seek to re-invent themselves as “the new generation”, in a futile and directionless spurt of energy!
In 1960, American economist Walt Whitman Rostow, published, “The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto”.
This quickly became an important model of economic growth. It can be a useful tool (alongside others) in evaluating our take-off to modernity and first world status – its limitations notwithstanding. Prof. Rostow posited that the more advanced countries have tended to pass through 5 stages to reach their current degree of economic development.
He further argued that economic take-off must be initially led by a few individual sectors.
Prof. Rostow’s schema comprised the following stages.
Traditional Society. This is an agricultural economy of mainly subsistence farming, little of which is traded. The size of the capital stock is limited and of low quality resulting in very low labour productivity and little surplus output left to sell in domestic and overseas markets.
Pre-conditions for Take-Off. Agriculture becomes more mechanized and more output is traded. Savings and investment grow although they are still a small percentage of national income (GDP). Some external funding is required – for example in the form of overseas aid or perhaps remittance incomes from migrant workers living overseas.
Take-Off. Manufacturing industry assumes greater importance, although the number of industries remains small. Political and social institutions start to develop – external finance may still be required. Savings and investment grow, perhaps to 15% of GDP. Agriculture assumes lesser importance in relative terms although the majority of people may remain employed in the farming sector. There is often a dual economy apparent with rising productivity and wealth in manufacturing and services contrasted with stubbornly low productivity and real incomes in rural agriculture.
Drive to Maturity. Industry becomes more diverse. Growth should spread to different parts of the country as the state of technology improves – the economy moves from being dependent on factor inputs for growth towards making better use of innovation to bring about increases in real per capita incomes.
Age of Mass Consumption. Output levels grow, enabling increased consumer expenditure. There is a shift towards tertiary sector activity and the growth is sustained by the expansion of a middle class of consumers.
Alongside Rostow, I propose to borrow from Karl Marx, in delineating objectively defining parameters of national economic management and socio-economic transformation – and suggest we read him together with Rostow.
Karl Marx’s immortal contribution to political economy in general and specifically on the value of commodities, benefited immensely from the earlier pioneering work of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, etc. However on the question of how societies reproduce and transform, he borrowed heavily from the work of the French economist of the physiocratic school, François Quesnay.
In the second volume (1885) of his seminal work “Capital: Critique of Political Economy” or Das Kapital, Marx distinguishes between what he calls “simple reproduction” in the economy on the one hand, and “expanded (or enlarged) reproduction” in the economy, on the other. With simple reproduction, no economic growth occurs, while in the case of expanded reproduction, more is produced than is needed to maintain the economy at existent level, making economic growth possible.
This is then, in Marxian terms, is the first strategic imperative in national economic management and transformation: saving (accumulation) plus re-investment in production (expanded reproduction), is a condition sine qua non for achieving sustained economic growth.
The second strategic imperative in national economic management and transformation is regards the division of the total product or all production of society into what Marx called “two great sections” – the two departments of social production. These are the “means of production” (Department I), and the “means of consumption” (Department II).
While “means of production” refers to commodities which are utilized in production or productive consumption, “means of consumption” refers to commodities having a form in which they pass into the individual consumption of members of society.
The strategic imperative here is that, expanded or enlarged production aside, Department I (as described above), must produce means of production sufficient for its own needs, and at the same time produce means of production sufficient for the needs of Department II which deals with the production of means of consumption! In modern society, this is the condition sine qua non for the qualitative leap from backwardness to modernity and transformation!
Production in Department I is the production of: energy, infrastructure, heavy industry, metallurgy, machinery, machine tool production, electronics and cybernetics, chemical industry, etc. When this is combined with the all-round development of the human resource, the country is set for take-off.
In our enclave or peripheral capitalist economy, a “succession debate” where the strategic imperatives for national economic management and transformation are severely blurred, is an exercise in irrelevance. The philosophical roots of the false debate are to be found in our local pseudo-liberalist discourse – which uncritically imbibes Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History and the Last Man”, 1992; Samuel Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order”, 1996; Thomas Friedman’s “The World is Flat”, 2005; Jeffrey Sach’s “The End of Poverty: How We Can Make It Happen In Our Lifetime”, 2005; etc, etc.
To paraphrase these ideological high priests of contemporary Globalization: with the collapse of the Soviet Union “western liberalist values have triumphed” – and humanity has reached the “end point of … ideological evolution …”!! This discourse serves to totally disorient our political class and intelligentsia, and to subvert the evolution of alternative national democratic trajectories. This, is tantamount to treason against the vital interests of the African people!
Against the foregoing background, we shall next turn to the contemporary National Question in countries like Uganda – and there-in discuss the character and mission of the national liberation movement, as well the historical role and place of its founders. We shall discuss why this must be central to any serious conversation regarding Uganda and Africa’s walk into the future. This is the historical context in which President Yoweri Museveni’s postulation on the Strategic Bottlenecks bedeviling our development, must be comprehended.
The writer is a Senior Presidential Advisor/Special Duties