As another military takeover of the government is unfolding in Gabon, it has become imperative to once again critically examine the trend of military coups, within the context of the complex crises precipitating the usurpation of power, often undertaken in the name of the people, by armed forces personnel who have not consulted with the people, have no intention of subordinating themselves to the people, and who expect the people to be accountable to them, regardless of the circumstances.
But we must begin by addressing the question of the failure of the current model of capitalist governance, and of the chronic incompetence and associated failure of capitalist ruling class leadership on the continent. The unfolding crisis is often erroneously framed on the right, as well as on the left. The crisis is often tendentiously framed as one of a threat to ‘democracy’, or as a danger of ‘imperialist intervention ‘.
On the right, ruling classes in Africa and globally frame the crisis as one of illegality and unconstitutionality. The coupists are condemned and opposed as entities who are upturning the constitutional order. On the left, on the other hand, condemnations of these military takeovers, and efforts to reverse them are castigated as attempts at imperialist intervention, and opposed under the banner of anti imperialism!
For the right, we may ask the question, when is the constitutional order undermined? At the tail end when a military coup has been triggered? Or when sitting governments are oppressing, suppressing, and imposing impossible and inhuman hardships on their people? When sitting Presidents, maneuver to stay in office beyond constitutional term limits, or when hated sitting Presidents rig elections with impunity and declare themselves reelected?
How is any of this situation to be described? Are these processes not subversive of the constitution? And as such, do these actions not undermine the constitutional order? At what point along this spectrum is it to be determined that the constitutional order is being subverted , and has been overturned? And who makes this determination?
For the left, the situation is even more dicey, and ultimately more detrimental to the viability of the left and the cause of the people which the left purports to be representative of.
A very weak, or non existent left, in practical terms, rushes to the defense of military coupists, dress them up in pseudo revolutionary garbs, adorns them in the robe of messianism, proclaims them the saviours of the masses, and opportunistically embraces them. Yet as we have seen, from Sudan to Burkina Faso and Mali, through Niger to Gabon in recent past (or from Egypt, Syria, Iraq, through Liberia to Ghana, in the not too distant past), these Militaries are merely engaged in acts of self preservation, are inherently anti people, are quick to suppress the left, and ultimately are in no mood to permit, and or allow independent and or autonomous organising and mobilising by the working people and toiling masses; and have not hesitated to brutally suppress any such expression of organised, and or mass dissent by these social forces and their organisations.
Military interventions, and or threats of military interventions are vigorously denounced, while giving blanket support and cover for homegrown military adventurists and or authoritarian dictatorships in the name of anti imperialism. Yet, these are not the only two possible options with respect to appropriate response and informed political intervention by the Left.
We do not need to support different forms of militarism – homegrown military coups or foreign military interventions. Always, and at all times, our duty is to oppose every form of messianism, every form of solution, however attractive, that is not based on the organised, self conscious, mass activity of the working people and toiling masses.
It is the congenital weakness (ideological, political, and organisational) of the left that compels the left to opportunistically embrace seemingly quick fix solutions that are neither within the control of the left, nor within which the left has any significant influence or even potential influence.
Similarly, just as we should neither be applauding or supporting one form of ruling class political domination and rule for another, we cannot and should not also embrace and promote the substitution of one type of foreign domination (US, French, or Western imperialism), for another (Russian or Chinese imperialism), however attractive this option may look.
There’s no shortcut to fundamental systemic change and radical rupture, and to revolutionary transformation; nor can this be achieved without the left becoming the dominant (and ultimately hegemonic) political force in society, and among the working people and toiling masses, and without the organised left at the head of the organised popular masses acquiring autonomous capacity to undertake consequential actions, leading to the taking of power in its own name, and in its own interest.
Literally speaking, the left cannot operate on the basis of a strategy that seems to gatecrash other peoples party, and use their drink to provision its own party! This is the lesson that has been taught, repeatedly throughout history, and that is being reinforced in the course of the current unfolding crisis of the failure of capitalism and associated liberal democracy on the continent.
This task – of leading the process of organising for, and making revolutionary social transformation is ours to undertake at home and in the diaspora, it is not a task that can or should be outsourced to other organised forces or movements to undertake on our behalf, much Russia outsources its hegemonic military adventures to mercenaries organised into private military corporations.