Uganda’s Next Revolution: Marxian, Not Marxist.

The real visionary
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Karl Marx. Many of his disciples waiting in the wings in Uganda? Artist: P. Nasarow und N. Gereljuk/Wikimedia Commons.

[The View From Uganda]

In 1851, the world was a different place. A surge of revolutions had just swept away the vestiges of Europe’s old order in 1848. In 1851, The New York Herald Tribune under the sponsorship and publishing of Horace Greeley, employed the writer Karl Marx as its foreign correspondent based in London. 

At the time, Marx was stone broke. He constantly appealed to Greeley and managing editor Charles Dana for an increase in his salary of $5 per article, a salary which he and his confederate Friedrich Engels labeled as the "lousiest petty bourgeois cheating."

Nobody bothered to help Marx, so he quit The New York Herald Tribune and devoted his efforts to the cause that would “bequeath the world the seeds of Leninism, Stalinism, revolution and the Cold War”.

If only Marx had been treated better and remained a foreign correspondent in The New York Herald Tribune, history might have been different. The world may have been spared the bloodshed of the Paris Commune of 1871, the reign of Mao in China which claimed over 72 million lives, the bloody Korean and Vietnam wars and the fatal posturing of the pseudo-Marxist, Yoweri Museveni. 

You see, revolution and bloodshed are essentially the byproducts of economic meltdowns. Whose symptoms are ungainful employment alongside mass unemployment. 

Yet Uganda’s government is intent on creating many Marxian destitutes with policies that favor indigents and indignations over progress and prosperity. 

How else would one understand Museveni’s appointment of singers Jennifer Namutebi Nakangubi “Full Figure” and Mark Bugembe aka Buchaman as “presidential advisers”?

Not only do these two ignoramuses only know “Marx” as “points” received at a beauty contest, but they join a list of over 150 presidential advisors to a president whose name “Tibahaburwa” translates to the words, “he who would not accept advice”!

Such disguised unemployment costs the taxpayers incredible amounts since these presidential “advisors” who do nothing earn salaries ranging between 2.2 million shillings ($600) to 7 million shillings ($1,900) in a country where average income is under $800. Marxian hordes of discontents bubble under bully-pulpit of officialdom with sentiments of revenge. 

To forestall such “revanchism”, we need a meritocracy. So we can pivot merit, not what’s meretricious, by employing the Marxs of our society in official capacities to rescue a foundering economy. While the “Full Figures” of this world can benefit from such brilliance. Sadly, President Museveni has never been one for correct economic planning. 

William Pike, the former head of New Vision Printing and Publishing Corporation, recalled a conversation about economics with Museveni in his book “Combatants: A memoir of the Bush War and the press in Uganda”: 

Museveni advocated, “sixteen different exchange rates which would make it cheaper to import essential goods like spare parts and more expensive to import luxury consumer goods. I knew that African currencies had appreciated by over 40 per cent on average in the late 1970s while at the same time their economies were in decline. 

Therefore in most African countries, prices were absurdly expensive at the official exchange rate. This forced people to change their money on the parallel or ‘black’ market. The best way forward was to have a realistic exchange rate which discouraged imports and encouraged exports while undermining the parallel currency market. 

Taxes or subsidies could encourage or discourage a particular category of imports or exports. This would be administratively less cumbersome than a system of multiple exchange rates. Museveni would have nothing of this.”

Once in power, Museveni’s “voodoo economics” led to barter trade and other atavistic practices before he settled on IMF/World Bank-guided polices to drive the economy. Of course, these led to growth. But much of this growth is stolen or misused by Museveni himself.  

Recently, Uganda’s parliament approved a 5.4 trillion shillings ($1.5 billion) loan to finance the budget deficit for the current financial year 2020/2021. The approved funds are meant for items like classified expenditure for State House. 

This money is being raised through 3.25 trillion ($884 million) through domestic borrowing and the approval of $600 million (2.2 trillion shillings) from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Yet State House—the operations of the presidency—is using this money to keep afloat an elephantine bureaucracy peopled by such freeloaders as Full Figure. 

The burden of this bureaucracy ensures that such disguised unemployment fosters greater unemployment. For the wrong people are employed to do jobs which could motorize an economy running on empty, if only those jobs were done by the right people. 

In 1851, Karl Marx’s earnest pleas fell on soundproof ears. So he was forced down the thorny road of revolution. Subsequently, he changed the world. Meanwhile, The New York Herald Tribune shut down in 1966. A year in which American forces in Vietnam reached 385,000 men, with an additional 60,000 sailors stationed offshore. In this year, 6,000 Americans were killed and 30,000 wounded. 

History is indeed a tale of ironies, often leading to unintended consequences. So if the NRM doesn’t shape and ship out soon, the policies it has inflicted upon the Ugandan populace may grow into a revolution from the most unexpected of sources. 

Our only hope is, at the hour of change, our own Marxs recall the words of Karl Marx: “History calls those men the greatest who have ennobled themselves by working for the common good; experience acclaims as happiest the man who has made the greatest number of people happy.”

 

Columnist Philip Matogo can be reached via mugashop74@gmail.com

 

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