DEMOCRATISATION and popular participation are urgently required in our countries in order to check the blatant abuses of human rights, conflicts and their adverse consequences; and to ensure accountability, probity and transparency in government.
Therefore, the needed transformation in the political process should go beyond multipartyism or concessions granted by the government. It is necessary to strengthen civil society at all levels including peasants, workers and student movements, non-governmental organizations, academic groups and others. The ultimate check on authoritarianism is empowering the masses through “People’s Power”.
One wonders however, whether concessions granted by the ruling parties will be sufficient to meet the requirements of governance for people’s liberty and development. The rulers may allow other parties to function on their terms but will this change the status quo? How has the recent general election in our country reflected this freedom?
If at all the status quo is to be changed through political liberalism, any serious political party must address itself to, and adhere to the five tenets which to me, are the essentials for political democracy. These are the organic theories of society, country, liberty, natural law, and the rule of law.
History records no example of a fixed political theory however successful, which does not appear wrong, and even ridiculous in the eyes of succeeding generations. Similarly, no living organism can remain static and alive.
A political party which is not open to “changes” is as good as a dead one. A living society can only change healthily when it changes naturally, that is, in accordance with its required and inherited character and at a given rate. Is for example, Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), the ruling party in Tanzania ready for change? How is it nurturing such changes?
Some four centuries before the birth of Christ, Plato had already remarked upon a certain general pattern in the constitutional development of the city-states of the time. According to this pattern monarchy gave way to aristocracy, aristocracy to democracy, and the chaos produced by democracy as then understood to dictatorship. Later, this pattern reproduced itself again and again in Western Europe.
Similarly, we have observed a certain common pattern in the great revolutions of our own time. There are after all, three classical models for the modern world: the English Revolution of 1640 – 1660, the French Revolution of 1789 – 1815 and the Russian Revolution of 1917. Other parallels present themselves. History never exactly repeats itself, but there is sufficient general similarity to permit deductions to be drawn.
In each case there was a strong indictment to be drawn against the existing system of government. In each case, a long period of more or less agitation punctuated by violent outbursts had led to no fundamental reform. In each case, the refusal of the administration to yield to these dangerous symptoms produced in the end a revolt led by more or less moderate elements animated by the highest motives (Hampden, the Girondins, Kerensky).
In each case, the moderate elements who tried to govern constitutionally without the mystique of a traditional authority were overthrown by a more violent and ruthless minority who claimed that the revolution could only be saved by strong arm methods (Cromwell, the Jacobins, the October Revolution). In each case the tyranny imposed by these fanatics led to a reign of terror. In each case, terror was succeeded by dictatorships (the Protectorate, the Empire, Stalinism). At this point the pattern diverges.
Napoleon, as dictator, tended to conform more and more to the traditions of a monarchy of the orthodox pattern. Cromwell showed the same tendency politically without modifying the religious policy of the revolution. Stalin showed the same tendency to revert to Tsardom, but retained much of the ideology of 1917.
In the case of the English Revolution, disgust at the tyrannical methods of military dictatorship, brought about the restoration of the traditional monarchy tamed the experience of Charles I. The French Revolution ended in the same collapse as Hitler brought on Germany and for broadly similar reasons.
From all these, we cannot fail to draw certain lessons. The first is for us: To yield to legitimate pressure for reform is in reality the surest guarantee against revolution. In our case here, a review of the present constitution is inevitable if we are to survive as one peaceful nation.
A second lesson is of even greater importance. Reformers who put the revolution first and do not make due concessions to tradition, to the living nature of society which requires changes to be made gently, at a gradual speed, inevitably involve themselves in the use of dictatorial methods, and usually and by producing a reaction which defeats the very object which they mean to serve.
This brings us to a second point of comparison between societies and living creatures. Like creatures, human societies have individualities. These are ultimately indefinable, though they may often be understood in the light of economic development and the likes.
When, therefore, they are asked what their parties stand for, party chiefs would do well to begin their answers by saying “variety”, and “the kind of change which should take place in a healthy living organism”.
Political parties exist for the sake of promotion of the good of the country in which they operate. A party should be based on its love of country. A party must be national or it is nothing. Country must be the first any party’s political principle; her honour by which I mean, the fulfillment of her moral purpose, her security, her prosperity.
By saying that a party is based on love of country does not mean that only members of that party are patriots. That would be a false and unworthy doctrine. Nor could any country long survive in which one party enjoyed the monopoly of patriotism.
Patriotism is the only condition upon which democracy or any other system of free government can be made to work. In this sense patriotism consists in a loyalty to the constitution of your country which stands over and above party affiliation; a loyalty which, as compared with that affiliation is absolute and not conditional.
Democracy fails in most countries where it is tried, and in most countries where it is not tried at all, because it so manifestly would fail. Tyranny and aristocracy are the normal forms of human government, not because self-interest is the main enemy of patriotism, but because group solidarity normally overrides patriotism.
There are one or two quite simple practical tests by which it can be known in the modern world in peace conditions, namely: Is leadership open for all, the rich and the poor? Is there a right to free expression of opinion, and of oppression of opposition and criticism of the day? Have the people the right to turn out a government of which they disapprove?
Are there courts of justice free from violence by the executive and free of threats of mob violence and all association with any political party? Will these courts administer open and well established laws associated in the human mind with the broad principles of decency and justice? Will there be fair play for poor as well as the rights of the individual subject to his duties to the state, be maintained, asserted and exalted?
Is the ordinary peasant or workman earning a living by daily toil and striving to bring up a family free from the fear that some grim police organization under the control of the party will tape him on the shoulder and pack him off without a fair or open trial to bondage or ill-treatment?
These simple practical tests are some of the title deeds on which our countries could be founded. Political liberty is nothing else but the diffusion of power. All power tends to corrupt, absolute power to corrupt absolutely.
It follows that political liberty is impossible to the extent that power is concentrated in the hands of few men. It does not matter whether these be popularly elected or not. Give men power and they will misuse it. Give them absolute power, that is, concentrate in their hands all the various kinds and degrees of power, and they will abuse it absolutely. If power is not to be abused it must be spread as widely as possible throughout the community through elaborate Constitutional means, not by and through political propaganda.
For since political liberty is nothing other than the diffusion of power, the splitting up to political and legal power into different parcels is the essential means of securing it.
Some critics are likely to deny the value of freedom. What is freedom, they may ask, under liberal policies or freedom to starve? It is not enough to enjoy a political democracy, it is necessary to have an economic democracy as well.
In this sense, this criticism is correct. But what is meant by economic freedom or economic democracy? One may be tempted to reply in a single sentence thus: Just as political democracy and political freedom mean the diffusion, the sharing of political power, so economic democracy, economic freedom, means the sharing, the diffusion, of economic power, that is property, as widely as possible throughout the community.
This means that, democracy will not reign where economic power is concentrated in the hands of a few minorities in society at the expense of the majority.
Where it does, political power will reside in the economically powerful in that, wealth will buy politics and politics will buy wealth. This is the case of “takrima” – political corruption and “ufisadi” at will in our country.
By the way, will the fourth phase government wake up to fight this eye sore malady? We remain to speculate as the country’s social fabric continues to degenerate in want of rescue.