Claims of a Namibian Ideology Void
Some relics of the Cold War era, claiming that independent Namibia is in the grips of an ideology paralysis due to a lack of an identifiable revolutionary ideology and forcefulness around which to mobilize the masses, most evidently suffer from a romanticized cold war philosophical after-effects, and a zero understanding of the core rationale of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), as well as the globally shifting ideology battle. Had these Cold War remnants, arm chair “revolutionaries,” wannabe revolutionaries, utopian socialists, and individual/egoist anarchists, cogently comprehend the motivations of historical political luminaries such as Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Sukarno of Indonesia and Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, who through the “Initiative of Five” refused to join the Cold War either with or against communist Soviet Union or capitalist America, and rather opted to establish NAM with the Declaration of Brijuni, 1956, Croatia, and cemented in Belgrade, 1961; their baying for ideology for its puritanical sake would have long ago evaporated in Namibia. During the Cold War (1947-1991) the Eastern bloc countries led by the Soviet Union were united in the Warsaw Pact (1955), against the Western bloc countries led by the USA in NATO (1949), and vice versa. This was a war of ideological battle and propaganda. Each bloc believed it had the best ideas for how countries should be governed and economies managed. And during this crucial time, the NAM movement founded on Nehru’s Panchsteel (five restraints), taking the middle route, refused to become sacrificial lambs in the two superpowers’ arms race at the altar of ideological orthodoxy and usefulness.
This is a key lesson in self-reliance and preservation that until this day particularly the armchair and wannabe radicalists and neoliberal frontmen/women feigning a puritanical vow towards socialism/capitalism never learned. Ideology as an active recipient of commendations for its own sake is like a non-beneficial demi-god to any nation building project, but good ideology have at its centre the welfare and service of the people as supreme: in theory and practice, not only in rhetoric. Namibia too took this middle route when it joined NAM upon ascendance to nationhood in 1991, and based on the Nam lessons for self-reliance and preservation chose an alternative political and economic development model, based on the exigencies of pragmatism. Therefore, the assertion in the question by the SWANU MP during the recent SONA 2017, to the Head of State as to what ideology he is espousing, and the follow-up rejection of the President’s response by a weekly newspaper columnist, with a volley of verbiage as a mere mystification of the question: implicitly submit that Namibia has no ideological credentials and operates in an ideological vacuum. However, as will be illustrated later on, such a rejection is bereft of any factual correctness. Namibia has a well-oiled ideology in terms of theory and practice within which the State functions.
Definition, Origins and Nature of Ideology
At this point it may suffice to define ideology as a collection of ideas or more broadly as a “certain set of ethical ideals, principles, doctrines, myths or symbols of a social movement, institution, class and or large group that explains how society should work, and offers some political and cultural blueprint for a certain social order.¹ Ideology is concerned with how to allocate power and to what ends it should be used.² Some parties adopt a single ideology whereas others take an eclectic approach, borrowing from diverse ideologies premised on relevance to political situations.
Ideological ideas are about the most suitable form of government e.g. nationalism (Fascism, Patriotism, National Bolshevism etc.); Liberalism (Conservative Liberalism, Neoliberalism, Libertarianism etc.); Conservatism (Neo-conservatism, Anti-communism, Christian Democracy etc.); and Anarchism (Anarchist communism, Indigenism, Anarcha-feminism etc.): and the best form of economic system e.g. capitalism or socialism. Within this broad ideological spectrum a person can to varying degrees be a leftist, centrist or rightist. Although ideology as first coined by 18th century French philosopher A. L. C Destutt de Tracy was meant to be a rational “science of ideas”/enlightenment, to exceed all superstitions, prejudices, and intolerance, of the Dark Ages, by producing a rational society, leading to diminish human suffering, it lapsed into a systematic intolerant violence of ideology- the crimes de logique.³ Some such as French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre developed the view that “dirty hands” are necessary in politics and that a person with so-called bourgeois inhibitions about bloodshed cannot usefully serve a revolutionary cause”. However, others such as the Algerian born French philosopher-writer Albert Camus, ascribed to ideology notions of justice, human decency, moderation, human warmth and joy, diametrically opposed to the Germanic tradition of fanatical puritan devotion to metaphysical abstractions (see the influence of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels). Camus in L’Homme (1951), The Rebel, argued that the true rebel is not the one who conforms to the orthodoxy of some revolutionary ideology but ‘say no’ to injustice. Similarly, to extremist leftist ideology of social engineering, is the most maleficent extremist rightist ideology of forcible Western liberal democracy exports which caused much social suffering, millions of deaths, and economic mayhem in the developing world including Latin America, Asia and Africa, and the recent so-called Arab Springs.
In its barest form, ideological supremacy is all about the domination and subjugation of indigenous ideas on government, economy and social mores through the imposition of the ideas of hegemonic super-powers (in this case the USA). Alternatively the uncritical wholesale adoption of such ideas by the intellectually deficient indigenes or politically weak African states as with the former Structural Adjustment Programs of the IMF and the World Bank, put them in a serious harms-way.
The Essence of Namibian Ideology
Since establishment in the 50s, the ruling SWAPO Party, unlike the SWANU opposition party which expressly defined its raison d’etre as to effect a socialist society, never claimed this laurel. Although its main support was derived from the Soviet Union, Cuba, China and others, most being socialist countries; SWAPO remained a vanguard movement of progressive patriotic nationalism under whom Namibians from all political and cultural persuasions e.g. Christians, social democrats, socialists, traditionalist, communists, capitalists, liberals etc. united for the single goal of achieving Namibia’s independence. In fact, the first Congress of SWAPO in an independent Namibia on December 6-12, 1991, and as amended by the SWAPO Party Extra Ordinary Congress of August 27-28, 1998, reinforced the democratic, nationalist, and developmentalist orientations of the ruling Party.
As per its aims and objectives the Party’s main ideologies are eclectic: nationalism (patriotism) and social democracy, and its economic system, although not in a classical sense is developmentalism (a cross disciplinary school of thought having development as the key strategy towards economic prosperity). It seeks sustained economic growth and promotion of citizens’ welfare through government interventionists, blunting of most negative effects of capitalist development, and advancement of national interests. 7 Like any other conceptual construct developmentalism has its critics both from the left and the right, e.g. its viewed as eurocentric, and denying the free market autonomy etc. Articles 95 and 98 of the Namibian Constitution further underscore the ruling Party’s ideological orientations by adding to the developmentalist record (reflected in the mixed economy), a welfarist dimension, to complete the ideological profile of the modern, post independent Namibia.
The Welfare State (L’Etat-providence-the providing State) concept implies a key role for government institutions to protect and promote the economic and social well-being of its citizens, through equal opportunity and distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life. The key delivery mode for such assistance is via social insurance, public basic education, health services and housing (sometimes at low costs or wthout charge), anti-poverty programs, personal taxation (when used to achieve a just income distribution, as opposed to mere revenue raising. The Welfare State is prolific in Scandinavian, Socialist and other countries. In its purest stage, the welfare State provides state aid to individuals “from the cradle to the grave.” 8
The Welfare State is an antithesis of the passive Laissez-Faire State, while developmentalism is an opposite of the more radical and Laissez-Faire capitalist set of ideas, or market fundamentalism, of the Washington Consensus mold, namely neo-liberalism, which seeks a minimalist role for the State and unfettered market freedom across the world. Neo liberalism includes extensive economic liberalization e.g. privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society. Neoliberalism Critics have decried it overemphasis on the importance of economic efficiency, or monetization of time at the costs of other social goods such as strong workers rights, public health, education, indigenous wealth redistributive policies and so forth.
It is associated with the emergence of the “precariat,” a new class of the acute socio-economically insecure and alienated, and the consumerization of populations. Other negatives associated with neoliberalism is the subverting of countries’ self-determination capacity (e.g. recent downgrade of the South African economy towards junk status by Standards & Poors following a Cabinet reshuffle ); deepening of inequality; social injustice (criminalization of poverty and mass incarceration of the poor, indebtedness of the middle class and allowance of the crimes of the top business echelons); increase corporate power via government induced policy changes; undermining of the basic tenets of democracy; increased environmental degradation, and resource depletion etc.
Namibia having learnt valuable lessons from the NAM movement on the need for an appropriate middle way to secure its own preservation, adopted democracy, patriotic nationalism (as opposed to Right-wing Nationalism, National Bolshevism or Socialism), and developmentalism as the economic delivery vehicle for prosperity, as its guiding ideologies, complemented by a welfarist State model. This does not mean that the country has in anyway become historically and politically revisionist and is negating and repudiation both the manifold support and political friendship it had (and continue to have post- independence) during the darkest days of its national liberation struggle, from tried and tested all weather friends such as Russia, Cuba, China and others with strong socialist ideologies. These bonds of friendship and solidarity forged in the crucibles of the liberation struggle fire with blood will continue indefinitely.
As the President regularly points out, the country remains a “friend to all and an enemy to none” a principle also applied from the valuable political experiences of the NAM. No doubt as Namibia progress along the development path its politicians and bureaucrats will become more adept at statecraft to ensure that the ideological battle does not get lost (through unsolicited neoliberal orthodox consultative advice of IMF & WB emissaries) to the pernicious path-breaking influence of neoliberalism (more taxes on the poor, financial austerity affecting mostly the poor, more laws criminalizing the poor, deepening inequality ect.), for special interests of the private sector to subjugate not only the economic, but also political and social spheres (This will constitute not only regulatory capture and State-capture, but a systemic ideology country–capture) through insistence on efficiency at all costs, over and above the social and political considerations. The backlash against this emerging tyranny of the markets and the business elites are visible in the “shock” Brexit vote and the equally “shock” victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the recent USA presidential elections. Both these events signaled the growing global impatience and strong rejection by the downtrodden of the divisive neoliberal economic model of societies into the criminalized poor, state influencing corporate rich and the indebted middle classes. Rather this is the real-life and new red flag frontier of ideology on which our political, social and academic commentators should focus their energies, other than the archaic prioritization of a socialist/capitalist epithets to prove a non-utilitarian, non-effective, non-pragmatic macho-bravado revolutionary zeal and ideological orthodoxy.