Trade unionism must be based on morality and patriotism

Saturday March 11 2017

Francis Atwoli, the secretary-general of the Central Organization of Trade Unions - Kenya, at the Labour Day celebration at Uhuru Park in Nairobi on May 1, 2016. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Francis Atwoli, the secretary-general of the Central Organization of Trade Unions - Kenya, at the Labour Day celebration at Uhuru Park in Nairobi on May 1, 2016. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By DOMINIC WAMUGUNDA
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There is currently a prevailing environment that would make the lighthearted think that the end is here. I am not so sure that the current wave is a good one for the sustenance of our development.

In this confusion, we have our doctors who have been out of work for the last three months. Our public universities are not quite functioning due to the lecturers’ strike. Then a natural catastrophe comes into play by way of the drought that is actually threatening both human and animal life in our country. As we have seen in the last one week, the threat is bigger than one would want to imagine. A rancher was killed the other day by Kenyans who had invaded his territory. Matters of climate change and global warming are not ones that I am so familiar with but I now admit that they are real issues and we can only ignore them at our own peril. Whether these things are natural or man-made is really not the point here. What is important is for us to accept that we now have those dynamics to deal with.

MORE MUNDANE

The things that occupy my mind right now are more mundane matters which, in my humble submission, are issues we have control over. There was an interesting philosopher, Karl Marx, who borrowed a theoretical framework from another one called Hegel. The latter’s idea was that the world evolves through a process in which directly opposed ideas or, in this case, directly opposed interests push their opposition to a point where a “consensus” emerges. Hegel called this a synthesis built out of a synthesis against an antithesis. Since Marx’s biggest passion was the fight against capitalism, he saw an opportunity in Hegel’s thought process and introduced the opposition between the owners of capital and the owners of labour who, at the end of the day, give life to the capitalistic institutional establishments. That thinking is the foundation of the trade union movement.

We know that a time came when a section of the trade union movement in Kenya became a little politicised. When trade unionists allow a situation where their activity is used by others to further their political interests, then there is a total departure from the original idea of the fight between opposites which gave origin and legitimacy to the reality of the labour movement. Authentic trade unionism has to be based on morality, patriotism, pragmatic thinking and a modicum of professional approach to things.

Dominic Wamugunda is dean of students, University of Nairobi.

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