Tshisekedi’s death opens up new possibilities of revolutionary struggles in the Congo

LONDON––The press announced the death of 84-year-old Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba on Wednesday, February 1st, 2017. The main leader of the opposition to the regime of Kabila in the Congo was dead, in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, where he was treated for pulmonary embolism. 

Today, Tshisekedi’s UDPS (Union for Democracy and Social Progress) created in 1982, is the largest national organization in the Congo today and enjoys huge support and prestige amongst the poorest and most dynamic sectors of the African working class, as well as support from the African petty bourgeoisie throughout Congo.

UDPS was created to contain the growing militancy of the dispossessed masses under neocolonialism who were dissatisfied with Mobutu’s regime, by liquidating the genuine national liberation struggle and replacing it with a vaguely-defined one in the name of democracy.

Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba began his career in the first neocolonial government of counter insurgency in Congo

Mulumba started his political career as deputy justice minister of the “College des Commissaires,” following his first coup in September 1960, whose main objective was to remove Patrice Lumumba from power and replace him with a white power puppet government. This was also the first neocolonial, illegitimate and illegal black government made essentially of young and newly graduated students. .

After Mobutu’s second coup in 1965, he appointed Tshisekedi minister of interior. Tshisekedi became one of the pillars of this brutal and anti democratic regime. As interior Minister, he shared responsibility in the framing and public hanging of Emmanuel Bamba, Evariste Kimba, Alexandre Mahamba et Jérôme Anany, accused of plotting a coup against Mobutu’s new regime in May 1966, in front of a crowd of 20,000 people in Kinshasa.

In 1967, Tshisekedi was instrumental in drafting the “Nsele Manifesto,” the document that lays out the political vision of Mobutu’s dictatorship and forms the basis of instauration of their newly-created single political Party, the MPR (People’s Movement for the revolution).

Why Tshisekedi is mourned today in Congo

Depending on social class and national interests, people mourn Etienne Tshisekedi for different reasons. The masses mourn him because of the absence of a viable alternative led by genuine revolutionaries and anti-imperialist forces on the ground, living and fighting alongside the people.

There has not been a serious mass political education attempt amongst the people since the assassination of Pierre Mulele in October 1968 that halted the process to initiate the creation of a revolutionary communist party in the Congo.

Most of the African petty bourgeoisie mourn Etienne Tshisekedi because he represents the petty bourgeoisie aspirations of “democratic rule” under neocolonialism in opposition to personalized neocolonial power symbolized by Joseph Mobutu and Joseph Kabila.

Neocolonial power is class peace between black petty bourgeoisie and white bourgeoisie. Tshisekedi’s struggle was never against white power.

The African petty bourgeoisie revered “Ya Tshitshi,” as they affectionately called him, because he was a cover for them against the rage of the masses. He redefined the neocolonial problem as a product born out of our enslavement and colonization rather than the intentional imperialist result of bad governance, absence of rule of law, etc..

This opportunistic explanation that elevates one neocolonialist individual as the problem has contributed to the current situation. Opportunists used to say Mobutu must go, we will sort out the rest after! Now that Mobutu has gone, we are still trying to solve the same problem in the form of Kabila.

UDPS’s job was to recruit, contain and pacify the millions of Congolese masses thrown out to the galleys by hunger and despair. Tshisekedi and his UDPS trained our people to be nonviolent in face of neocolonial violence; it was UDPS that defined our struggle as being a struggle for democracy within neocolonialism. That is why he is applauded today by the entire imperialist and neocolonialist world.

Despite the sacrifices of the young workers who faced bullets, grenades, tear gas and jails for decades, UDPS’ non violent dogma and democracy without national liberation have resulted in confusing and disarming the masses ideologically, and left them with no practical program that speaks to their interests. They came to believe that the election of their leader is the answer. Everything revolved around getting Tshisekedi elected as president of the Rassemblement Démocratique Centrafricain (Central African Democratic Assembly, RDC). UDPS never engaged in a practical struggle to transform the conditions of the people anywhere in the country.

The defeat of the revolution and the rise of the myth of democracy and the rule of law

In the absence of Patrice Lumumba, Pierre Mulele, Joseph Okito, Maurice Mpolo, Nzuzi Emmanuel and Leonard Mitoudidi, all martyrs in the national liberation struggle between 1960 and 1970, and with the complicity of the African petty bourgeoisie, the revolutionary movement remained stagnant.

Tshisekedi died at a critical and explosive time in Congo. A key component of the crisis in the Congo today is that President Joseph Kabange Kabila, whose mandate expired December 19, 2016, has agreed to share power with the opposition represented by two main factions: Tshisekedi ‘s faction and Kamhere’s faction.

In this power sharing agreement, ministerial posts will be shared between opposition and government forces. Kabila would stay president for a year until he organizes the Presidential election, and the Opposition would be offered the post of the prime minister.

Tshisekedi, as the leader of the opposition, wanted to be the one to determine who becomes the prime minister. Joseph Kabila wants to have the final decision on the matter too.

The problem is that the death of Tshisekedi adds uncertainty to the crisis: will the neocolonialists unite to share neocolonial power, or will his death spark the movement of masses of impoverished workers, no longer contained by Tshisekedi, towards the direction of revolution?
In the sixties, the anticolonial sector itself, dominated by the African petty bourgeoisie, was incapable of committing class suicide, which would have meant taking a decisive and necessary move of building a revolutionary Party made of workers and peasants. Therefore, we never resolved what social forces are necessary to lead the revolution

One of the consequences of this African petty bourgeoisie neocolonial rule is the eclipse, decline or altogether disappearance of anti-imperialist leadership amongst the masses. This means that the content of the struggle has been changed: where we used to say independence and revolution, we now say democracy and the rule of law.

Tshisekedi’s criticism of the Mobutu or Kabila regime, in its essence, is no different from that of Amnesty International, Oxfam and the rest of the imperialist bourgeoisie. In fact, Tshisekedi validates the liberal imperialism concept of democracy in neocolonial Congo.

Three generations have grown under his leadership that have never experienced revolutionary or anti imperialist leadership. Lumumba led the last period of mass struggles against white power; it was brief and lasted less than two years.

Pierre Mulele initiated, in January 1963, the first mass struggle to overthrow neocolonialism in Africa, but about two years later, the military crushed his revolutionary movement. U.S., Belgian and U.N. imperialism mobilized the entire imperialist world to defeat this inexperienced yet determined movement.

There is no democracy and rule of law in general. We are currently under the international imperialist system as the imperialist bourgeoisie designed the vast majority of international laws and protocols to protect themselves.

The neocolonialists and their imperialist masters have succeeded in convincing the masses of our people that following the law and participating in democracy without overthrowing neocolonialism is the answer to all our problems.

Without revolution there is no democracy in Africa

Yes, we want democracy that will come as a result of organized poor people toppling the current neocolonial State and replacing it with a State apparatus that will be an expression of poor workers and peasants and all their allies in arms.

For many, the rule of law means having systems similar to those of England, France, Canada, or the U.S. Basically the rule of law in those countries requires the existence of a relationship between oppressors and oppressed countries. Basic bourgeois democratic rights and civil liberties are not synonymous with self-determination.

Tshisekedi‘s concept of democracy does not in practice challenge the domination of Europe and North America over Africa. There is no self-determination without a rupture of the parasitic relationship that binds us, against our will, to the oppressor white nation led by the U.S.

If the workers, peasants and all wretched peoples in Congo want true democracy and rule of law, they must come into power themselves. Our concept of democracy presupposes the defeat of white power over Africa and black people; it presupposes the existence of a strategic process to consolidate a continental black State power in the struggle to overthrow parasitic capitalism.

All power to the Workers!

Rebuild the Black revolution in the Congo!


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