Tuesday, January 19, 2021
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The Fight over State Power: A Personal Perspective

By Faisal A. Roble

One of the most enduring epistemologies Karl Marx introduced to social science is the theory of class struggle as he had outlined in the Communist Manifesto written in a pamphlet format in 1848. The undying value of Marx’s outline lies in the depiction of human history as the history of “class struggle” or the fight between the oppressed and the oppressor.

To each society, there is the haves and the have nots. In short, there is that group that controls or owns the state and those that are subjects and drive no significant benefit from their own land, labor, or country.

Were the Communist Manifesto written today, it would be revised to soften the language over class and instead read it as a document that speaks to inequity and inclusion. Yet, history would always be evaluated with the lens that Karl Marx originally formulated – the struggle between two opposing sides or groups over the spoils of the state, the economy if you will, will characterize the basis for societal conflict.

In the Black American context, you had the fight between the slave-owning white master and the African slave. That conflict produced Nat Turner who revolted, and upon capture by slave owning whites his skin was mutilated and sold pieces of it for women’s purses. 

Slavery was the cruelest system where the slave was part of the production tools towards increasing surplus value for the White man. Today, in the era of police brutality, as seen in the racist murders of George Floyd, Bryana Tylor, Ahmedo Diallo, and others, fighting against racism and institutionalized inequity is the new form of struggle. 

In colonial Africa, aside from the Afro-European unequal relationships, we had the neocolonial petty bourgeois versus the rest of African masses. The suffering of the Africans after the white man departed is not that different for the impoverished multitude. 

One need not go far but see the difference between the Kibera slum neighborhood and its adjacent affluent quarters in Nairobi. In French colonial Africa too, we have the “evolve” class versus the peasantry that is stuck in grinding poverty and powerlessness.

The “evolve” is a class that by all practical purposes turned and fully endorsed the French culture and mastered the French way of life, thus only remaining African in skin color but not culture or pattern of consumption.

Kenya and Ivory Coast, and many other post-independence Africa, for example, easily fit this paradigm of social division where a Europeanized affluent class with a foreign-oriented consumer tastes controls the state at the expense of those still locked in African culture living under a pervasive grinding poverty.

Similar division exists within the Somali society although its elite is narrow both in number and in cultural assimilation to that of its former colonial power. In the Somali case, there is a terse and ruthless fight over the control of the state. Once a group controls state power, in this case clan elite, it does so tightly and by using the hypnotizing power of clan calculus. 

By far, clan consciousness is the most spurious and fictitious belief system. Masses consume clan loyalty like opium without deriving any material benefit but only hurting themselves or damaging the greater good of the society. Despite devastating experiences since the 1920s, Somali masses continue doing all things all the time with a clan sentiment including the destruction of their governance system. Thus, the saying of “doing all things the same way all the time” produces the same result.

Supporting and criticizing the state in the Somali society need not be based on data; accountability and transparency are foreign concepts to clan-based state ownership. Corruption is done with impunity because the clan protects the accused politician. Even schooled individuals do not escape from this curse of clan. 

Due to the total domination of one group/clan over power, those outside the domain of state ownership never lets their guards. Even if it takes to destroy the state, the relegated group would so to recapture state. As a result, group confrontation is high, conflict resolution tools are absent, and therefore state collapse is looming large. 

Which side one takes, thus, is not an accidental but a well-calculated decision. 

When you hear or read next time accounts that seek to justify actions taken by a less inclusive administration, assess them with a critical eye. Also, just for your own global understanding of politics, it may serve you well to reflect on Machiavelli’s wisdom and ask yourself this: how do rulers succeed in maintaining their rule if they are unfair to the majority? 

According to Machiavelli, rulers are “great liars and deceivers.”  Deceivers they are in that ruler tell the governed that all politicians are deceivers and liars, hence their lie and deception should be ignored. In other words, they normalize deception, deceit, and chicanery!

Faisal A. Roble
Email: [email protected]
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Faisal Roble, a writer, political analyst and a former Editor-in-Chief of WardheerNews, is mainly interested in the Horn of Africa region. He is currently the Principal Planner for the City of Los Angeles in charge of Master Planning, Economic Development and Project Implementation Division.


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