By Martin NgatiaMore than four decades after “independence”, Kenyan workers continue to be cheated. The labour day has been celebrated in Kenya at a time when no politician, trade unionist or political Party is challenging the continued mistreatment of workers.
Employers continue to display a high level of arrogance in the face of starvation wages that are destroying the lives of millions of workers across Kenya. The working conditions in our country are very poor and workers have constantly been exposed to hazardous working conditions without the intervention of Trade
Unions, the government or mainstream political parties.
Trade unions are themselves controlled by pro-regime Trade Unionists led by Atwoli while Trade unions are also banned from practicing politics by law. Due to political control, Workers in Kenya are not allowed to form independent Trade Unions even if their own Unions fail to deliver. This means that over 9 million workers across the country are without political representation because their leaders are dancing to the tune of politicians who whine and dine with the ruling class at every opportunity.
Strike actions by workers struggling against starvation wages, poor working conditions, lack of proper remuneration, better working conditions, harassment by bosses and other rights have routinely been defeated. These defeats are a consequence of lack of political organization of workers in Kenya where the general belief is that workers cannot engage in politics directly.
Although the concept of a “Workers Party” is deeply rooted in western democracies, consciousness on the question of political organization of workers in Kenya is still lagging behind. Since ideology is not yet a factor in the country and because many politicians are still leaning on the politics of ethnicity in our country, it has been difficult for Kenyan workers to begin thinking seriously on the possibility of a Party that can directly address issues affecting them across the country.
Trade Union leaders continue to strike deals with employers to derail worker’s struggles, a weakness that continues to grow because of lack of a Worker’s Party.
As Kenyans prepare for the next election, Workers should also begin to think seriously on the possibility of a Workers Party that can address their collective interests after the gigantic failure of COTU to do so.
What this means is that there will have to be some ideological input in Kenyan politics along the lines of Socialism because capitalist forces across the world are not known to support the struggles of workers seeking to liberate themselves from super-exploitation by agents of capitalism whose agenda in the labour market is profit.
Although the Trade Union movement has made significant gains in the last few years, the Movement has shown lack of ideas aimed at placing Kenyan workers on the path to power in our country. The struggle for power has been limited to individual politicians riding on ethnic Parties which have no agenda for the working people.
As Kenya moves towards elections, Kenyan workers should focus on the post election period and begin to think seriously of setting up a Party of their own which bases itself on the ideas of a Workers democracy and Socialism.
Capitalism has failed in Kenya and unless new ideas are injected into the country’s politics, the situation will not change and the suffering of workers will continue unabated. Capitalism needs to be challenged and this point needs to be made over and over again. Efforts should be made by progressive forces on the Left to intervene in the situation.
KESDEMO Executive committee