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Opinion - On organisational cohesion vs factionalism

2020-07-31  Staff Reporter

Opinion - On organisational cohesion vs factionalism
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I want to elaborate on the concern about factionalism in the governing Swapo Party. Indeed, there are two main organisational shortcomings and dangers that bedevil any governing party. Firstly, the challenges of governance and political management of state power which impacts on the character and values of the governing party. 

More often, due to the preoccupation with managing internal conflicts, the governing party has not been able to mitigate the dangers that any governing party has to contend with and manage. These are the danger of social distance and isolation of the party from the masses; the danger of state bureaucratic and demobilisation of the masses; the danger of corruption and sins of incumbency; the danger of using state institutions to settle inner-party differences; the danger of gate-keeping and divisive slate electoral politics, wedge-drivers, and of character assassinations and most importantly, the danger of institutionalised factionalism, ill-discipline and disunity fuelled and inspired by the battles over the control of state power and resources. 

Secondly, it follows from this that the political life of such governing party revolves around insidious internal strife and factional battles for power. This is a silent retreat from the mass line to palace politics of factionalism and perpetual infighting. These circumstances produce a new type of party leader and member who sees ill-discipline, divisions, factionalism and infighting as normal practices and necessary forms of political survival. 

Projecting an image of a united and cohesive organisation does not necessarily mean that party members are not prone to internal contradictions. In fact, contradictions are part of the underlying reality of any organisation. Literature and practical experience show that these contradictions cannot be resolved by purging some members. Instead, contradictions can be resolved through a more intense struggle within the organisation that takes the form of robust engagements. 

Revolutionary theory tells us that if the organisational centre does not hold, many centres will emerge and cause confusion, information gaps and tensions which may fertilise the ground for factionalism to develop, grow and intoxicate members at all levels of the organisation. Factionalism requires members to be more loyal to the factions than to the organisation. Hence leaders and members of factions are even prepared to act in a manner that threatens the existence of the organisation they claim to cherish. This means that factionalism produces members who regard themselves as ‘super revolutionaries’ who are ordained to influence the direction of the organisation, even if their approaches have the potential of pulling the organisation to the bottomless abyss of self-destruction, thereby leaving the organisation exposed and vulnerable. 

Dialectically speaking, any change is a consequence of interaction between parts of the same whole. In organisations and society, human beings are at the centre of interactions which cause change; hence Holz states that: “… human beings are not the helpless objects of a fatalistic historical process, but are always the active subjects of history ...”. Mao Zedong said “some people think that once people join an organisation they become saints with no differences or misunderstandings on the issues because of their mistaken belief that all organisations are monolithic and for that reason there is no need for any talks about unifying members and leaders of the same organisation”. 

Unlike diametrical opposites, dialectical opposites are mutually reinforcing imperatives of the struggle, which reaffirms a long-held view that struggle and unity of the opposites are the fundamental concepts of dialectics. Dialectical materialism teaches us that organisations reflect contradictions of a societal environment in which they exist and operate. On this, Sciabarra says: “Society is not some ineffable organism; it is a complex nexus of interrelated institutions and processes, of conscious, purposeful, interacting individuals – and the unintended consequences they generate.” Here, Sciabarra draws our attention to the nature of societal dynamics which play themselves out in organisations. 

For this reason, revolutionary theory requires all revolutionary organisations to adopt the approach which according to Mao Zedong says: “… being analytical about everything, acknowledging that human beings all make mistakes and not negating a person completely just because he has made mistakes.”   In other words, Mao Zedong reminds us that there is no human being who is infallible. Lenin once said that there is no single person [anywhere] in the world who does not make mistakes. 

This means that making mistakes is part of human nature. Therefore, human nature dictates that even revolutionary leaders may make mistakes; hence a revolutionary organisation “needs patient and prolonged training of leaders through the many twists and turns, the victories and setbacks”.Thus, dialectically opposing ideas and views are to be expected in ideological and policy engagements in a revolutionary organisation. Hence, advocates of mistaken ideas and views need not be negated. Instead of negating a person for expressing certain ideas and views, Mao Zedong says: “[we must] …wage a struggle to rid him/(her) of his/(her) wrong ideas [and] proceed from good intentions to help him/(her) correct his/(her) mistakes.”

  What Mao Zedong emphasises is that any mistaken views advocated by members of a revolutionary organisation must be corrected through means commensurate with building members as it cannot be the task of a revolutionary organisation to destroy some of its members or leaders. 

It is true that in any organisation which claims to be revolutionary, constructive engagement should be encouraged within the context of promoting internal democracy. At all times, members and leaders of an organisation with a revolutionary outlook should be inspired by Voltaire who, in the spirit of promoting discussion and debate, once said, “I disagree strongly with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” 

Hence, the governing party must create a conducive environment for its members to raise their political views, albeit within the parameters of organisational discipline. When internal debate is neither allowed nor tolerated; some members may find platforms outside the formal structures and processes to express their own views as it was evidenced recently when the Swapo Party lost its 2/3 majority and 14 seats. 
Against this background, for Swapo Party to be united and coherent,  it should create a structure for the most senior veterans comprising of the founders of the party including retired former members of the Politburo of the Central Committee.  This body’s main political function would be to provide advice and counsel to the structures and leadership of the party. It therefore follows that due to the special place the veterans occupy, they should not contest leadership positions within the party but bring together all the warring factions at the same table to solve their disputes amicably.  I rest my case. 
*The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper but are solely my personal views as a citizen.

2020-07-31  Staff Reporter

Tags: Khomas
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