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Magufuli's Gorbachev Moment

Chama Cha Mapinduzi - Tanzania’s leading political party, modeled on socialist and revolutionary ideology. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union – the founding and ruling party of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The CPSU and CCM bear loads of similarities both in ideals and philosophy. Although CCM would deny this, but just like the CPSU it’s organization is based on Lenin’s concept of democratic centralism and Vanguardism. This Marxist concept prescribes to consensus majoritarian decision making within a political framework and in this case a political party. Both parties were built on the background of socialist consciousness and revolution. For CCM, formed in 1977 after the merger between the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) of Zanzibar and the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) of Tanganyika the idea of mapinduzi (revolution) is heavily borrowed from the triumph of ASP in the Zanzibar Revolution in 1964 while the socialist consciousness is a legacy of the Nyerere philosophy of Ujamaa (African Socialism).

Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin
I have been rereading Francis Fukuyama’s provocative work The End of History and the Last Man. Fukuyama narrates the worldwide liberal revolution in the late 1980s asserting that during that time both the communist Left and the authoritarian Right became bankrupt of serious ideas capable of sustaining the internal political cohesion of strong governments. It was at this time when Mikhail Gorbachev, USSR statesman had been elected as CPSU’s General Secretary after the death of Konstantin Chernenko. The USSR was experiencing a wave of change as seen in the publishing of articles critical of Stalin era in 1986. Press freedom expanded exponentially during that time. Gorbachev was credited for introducing reforms in the political and economic setting of the USSR as well as the foreign relations of the country.

Gorbachev’s reformist agenda also saw a restructuring of the party where he replaced the old gerontocracy with new faces. In this reform agenda he updated the party philosophy and through Glasnost, he expanded freedom of thought in the party including reforms aimed at reducing party control of the government. These proposals included a new executive mandate under a presidential format. In these reforms Gorbachev became the President of the Soviet Union. Sweeping reforms also saw the perestroika agenda, which meant restructuring. This involved restructuring of international relations based on nuclear disarmament and the development of democracy. 

Despite the reforms Mikhail Gorbachev was not able to prevent the demise of the CPSU in 1991, which also marked the end of the Soviet Union. Various theories have been fronted to explain the death of the CPSU under Gorbachev. But one was the imminent rise of nationalism in the Soviet Republics and the eventual failed coup in 1991 leading to his resignation.
Kikwete and Magufuli in Dodoma

CCM just like CPSU has experienced turbulent times since its inception in 1977. CCM’s turbulence in the 1980s was a result of disaffection of the Union especially from the Zanzibar side. This turbulent time between 1983 and 1984 saw was called ‘crisis of the Union’ rocked the party leading to the eventual downfall of Aboud Jumbe, Zanzibar’s second president and then Union Vice President. When CPSU was going under in 1991, Tanzania was moving to multiparty democracy. Tanzania which had hitherto been under single party rule allowed multiparty elections beginning 1995.

Despite varying opposition’s forays in five elections, CCM has remained a solid ruling party. It however faced its biggest challenge in 2015 General Elections. The party was rocked by the defection of its members including former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa who became the opposition’s presidential flag bearer. Admittedly, the party was grappling with internal schism, corruption and personality cults within. The nomination of John Magufuli as CCM presidential flag bearer in 2015 somewhat averted the collapse of the party. Magufuli went on to clinch the presidency of Tanzania and has since embarked on radical restructuring of the country.

Similar to Mikhail Gorbachev, Magufuli upon been elevated as the Chairman of the party in 23 July 2016, he outlined grand plans to restructure the party. In his acceptance speech President Magufuli vowed to cleanse CCM. Unlike his predecessor President Jakaya Kikwete, who is a CCM man through and through having served the party on various leadership positions, President Magufuli is an inexperienced novice in the party. He has not held any party position apart from being a member of various party departments. As President Kikwete outlined his service in the party during CCM party convention and later reading Magufuli’s CCM profile, you could see the glaring disparity in terms of party service. Regardless, Magufuli has been hailed as a technocrat and not a party cadre.

Magufuli’s ‘perestroika’ as outlined in his speech includes fighting party corruption, routing out disloyalty, revamping the party’s constitution, weeding out unnecessary party positions and strengthening the financial position of the party. Just like the Gorbachev’s reforms, Magufuli’s proposals are noble and timely for the green party. Just like the conservative elements within the CPSU which frustrated Gorbachev’s reforms, similar dissidents exist within CCM who will not be happy with Magufuli’s plans. Magufuli admitted that there exists of ‘ndumilakulwili’ or two-faced people within the party who “support CCM during the day and Chadema during the night”. The convention that brought CCM members to Dodoma to witness the elevation of Magufuli as Chairman on 23 July 2016 seemed united but it is evident that there are some factions that are not pleased with the pace of President Magufuli who has even promised to move government activity to Dodoma in four years. The party has also promised to bring on more educated people on board to steer the party into new thinking and direction similar to Gorbachev’s plan. Will John Magufuli face the Mikhail Gorbachev fate in his quest to cleanse CCM?     



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