[By Gregory Kaputula]
Socialism, a term coined in the 1820s, originated as a reaction to individualism. In place of individualism, earliest writers proclaimed an organic conception of society, stressing ideals such as brotherhood, community, and social solidarity.
Socialism is based on the idea that the vast resources of society must be used to meet people’s needs and expectations. This means that if citizens are hungry, the state must feed them; if citizens are homeless, the state must build them houses; if citizens are sick, the best medical care and facilities must be provided. The same goes for education and other public goods like roads, water and security.
Interestingly, just like there is no blueprint for life, there is no blueprint for what a socialist society should look like. Different generations and societies determine their own way of living. In recent years, a number of Zambian commentators have proclaimed that socialism is dead as an ideal. I wish they were right, but their obituary is premature. Socialism as an ideal is actually thriving. Reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. There are millions of socialist supporters in Zambia and the world.
A manifesto is a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives. It is a written statement that highlights the beliefs, aims, and policies of an organisation, especially a political party. Something that is manifest is easy to perceive or recognise, and a manifesto is a statement in which someone makes his or her intentions or views easy for people to ascertain. Perhaps the most famous statement of this sort is the Communist Manifesto, written in 1848 by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to outline the platform of the Communist League.
And, as though to prove doubting Thomases and reports of the death of socialism in Zambia wrong, the Socialist Party successfully launched its 2021 – 2026 manifesto on 17th June, 2020 at its Garden Compound offices in Lusaka. In setting the tone of the manifesto launch, the Socialist Party’s presidential candidate, Fred M’membe stated that it is a manifesto of revolutionary change. A manifesto that will bring fundamental changes to Zambians and their lives. It is a manifesto premised and anchored on justice, equity and peace.
In their 2021 -2026 Socialist Party manifesto booklet, they write; “We are a party of the humble, by the humble for the humble. We are a party devoted to the humble, the poor; to fighting against abuse, injustice, and the degradation of human beings. This manifesto demonstrates the tragedy the humble masses, the untainted, ordinary people – students, nurses, clinical officers, doctors, peasant farmers, small business people, maids, security guards, cleaners, garden ‘boys’, drivers, teachers, farm labourers, agriculture extension officers, police officers, soldiers and security personnel, construction workers, fisherfolk, preachers, civil servants and other public workers, retirees, the unemployed and many others. Many will find this manifesto an exact portrait of the distressing difficulties they each face today.”
The Socialist Party in their 2021 – 2026 election manifesto is promising the following:
1. Equity in access to education: The Socialist Party in government is promising to provide compulsory, quality, free education from nursery school to Grade 12. College and university education will be free for all Zambians. There will be no fees; uniforms, books, pens, pencils and school meals will be provided. The socialist government is promising to provide state of- the-art 21st century education. Computers, science laboratories, and quality teaching aids will pave a way for a science-based curriculum. Under the socialist government, everyone will be provided with an opportunity to learn, to read and write. The literacy campaign started by the party in June 2018 in Lusaka will be extended to cover the whole country. Illiteracy will be completely eradicated within 10 years.
2. Universal healthcare for all: In order to achieve universal health coverage, the Socialist Party is saying it will; (i) invest 20 per cent of the national budget in the health sector and give Zambians the modern, well-resourced, services they need for the 21st century; (ii) expand primary healthcare to include social care and mental health; (iii) tackle the social-economic determinants of health (housing, water, sanitation, clean energy, air pollution, alcohol and substance abuse, traffic accidents and sedentary lifestyles), and thereby reduce over 30 per cent of the current disease burden; (iv) grow the pharmaceutical industry in Zambia to ensure patients get fast access to all the drugs covered under the Essential Drugs List; (v) expand sexual health services, especially HIV services, which will include reducing the rates of undiagnosed and late-diagnosed HIV, ending the stigma of HIV in society, and promoting the increased availability of testing and treatment; (vi) invest in health and care workforce. The long-term goal is for the Zambian health system to have the best-trained staff in Africa, ready to deal with both communicable and non- communicable diseases, and to provide services to the rest of the world.
3. Dignified housing, safe drinking water and sanitation for all: When in power, the Socialist Party is promising to restructure town and country planning to favour construction of houses for the masses. The cost of building materials will be reduced. Construction skills will be taught to all those intending to build their houses. The party is promising to construct 50,000 low-cost houses every year from savings to be made from MPs’ and presidential allowances, trips, and taxes on their salaries and benefits. The Party is saying good governance begins with the ones entrusted to lead, so it will lead by example.
When in government, the party is saying it will have to drastically increase the supply of fresh water. This will entail investment in the reuse of water for multiple purposes, efficient methods of harvesting rainwater, better extraction of groundwater, and conservation. Special attention will also be paid to the safety and quality of the water distribution system, education, and hand washing, as well as chlorination. The Socialist Party is promising to adopt the four principal recommendations set out in the first ever World Health Organisation guidelines on sanitation and health; (a) Sanitation interventions will ensure entire communities have access to toilets that safely contain excreta. (b) Each sanitation system will undergo local health risk assessments to protect individuals and communities from exposure to excreta, whether from unsafe toilets, leaking storage or inadequate treatment. (c) Sanitation will be integrated into regular local government-led planning and service provision to avert the higher costs associated with retrofitting sanitation, and to ensure sustainability. (d) The health sector will invest more and play a coordinating role in sanitation planning to protect public health.
4. Adequate food for all: Today, Zambia is the fourth hungriest country in the world after Chad, the Central African Republic and Madagascar. When in power, the Socialist Party is promising to draw up plans that will meet people’s needs for basic foodstuffs as much as possible and as soon as possible. Key aspects of this plan will be the following; (i) Production of healthy food for all (ii) Adoption of agroecology (iii) Adoption of mechanisation that is compatible with nature and rural labour (iv) Adoption of cooperative agribusiness (v) Agricultural education and (vi) Peasants and the people in rural areas as keepers of the collective goods of nature.
5. Dignity for the working class: The Socialist Party is promising that it will ; (i) give all workers equal rights, regardless of their employment status, so that working conditions are not driven down; (ii) legislate to encourage sectoral collective bargaining; (iii) guarantee trade unions a right to access workplaces, so union representatives can speak to members and potential members; (iv) raise the minimum wage to the level of the living wage for all workers aged 18 and over; (v) enforce all workers’ rights to trade union representation at work; (vi) strengthen protections for women against unfair redundancy – because no one should be penalised for having children; (vii) institute gender pay auditing so that all workers have fair access to employment and promotion opportunities and are treated fairly at work, and; (viii) abide by and enforce the global labour standards of the International Labour Organisation conventions. (To be continued)
The author is a social commentator and law student. Send comment to: gregory.kaputula @gmail.com/EC/SM