By Fred M’membe President of the Socialist Party (Zambia)
Today I delivered a speech at the Lusaka launch of the second phase of the party’s literacy and agroecology programme:
It is my pleasure to come to this school, named after our great revolutionary leader Chris Hani. Without Chris Hani, I would not be standing before you today. He shaped my outlook on the world. He trained me, and nurtured me. He was not a Zambian, he was South African and I was Zambian. That’s how much we socialists are internationalists.
This school is special in many ways. You are the first special people to come to this special school. Comrades, illiteracy is a big political issue. It is an important social issue. It is a great moral issue.
In my faith, I believe one most important items in the Bible is found in John 1, the first verse of which says, “In the beginning, there was the WORD”, and with that word many things were created. Without the ability to communicate effectively, humanity would not be where it is today. Without the ability to communicate, to transfer your words to other people, for your words to be heard by other people, it would be impossible to have the civilisation we have today, and which we are hoping to improve upon in the future.
One of the greatest achievements of humanity is the ability to read and write. Without being able to read and write, communication becomes very difficult. The sharing of knowledge, the sharing of information, becomes very difficult. Even our faith transmissions would be difficult. Without the ability to write and read there would be no Bible, and imagine how difficult it would have been to preach the gospel without the Bible. The Bible is a written document. Imagine if that document – the Bible – had no people to read it other than the people who wrote it. How difficult it would be to evangelise.
For we revolutionaries, it is the same. The good word of the revolution would be difficult to spread if people could not read and write. In the century that we live in, the 21st century, it becomes increasingly imperative that every human being on the planet can read and write. If you can’t read and write, many things will be very difficult, and will pass you by. It will be a very difficult situation and your contributions to the development of the society will be minimal.
For us, this programme is the anchor of our struggle. We need a leadership in the Socialist Party that is enlightened, from the branches to the central committee. If you are unable to read and write you will be unable to understand the constitution of our party, the programmes of our party, the structures in the branches, wards, constituencies, districts, provinces and in the country, and also the direction the world is taking.
Unfortunately we still have so many of our fellow citizens in this country who cannot read and write. All of you who are here are able to read and write, but imagine if you were not able to, what would your life be? Then you will understand the difficulties, the torture some of our fellow citizens are going through, citizens who are not even able to send a greeting on the phone to their family members, friends, and lovers. It is a very difficult situation.
As I said, to us this programme is a political programme. We don’t have the capacity right now to reach every Zambian who is unable to read and write. The resources required are immense in terms of both human and financial capital. We don’t have those resources so we are limited for now to our party structures.
We will not extend this programme much beyond the structures of our party. The first priority is our branches, wards, constituencies and our provincial structures. When we are satisfied, then the surplus can be given to others. The priority for now is to ensure that the leadership of our party, which is all our members, are leaders. They need to be enlightened, need to be able to read and write.
Ignorance and illiteracy are incompatible with socialism. You can be a socialist if you are unable to read and write but it will be very difficult. We depend so much on being able to read and write to communicate with others, to receive the knowledge of others, to impart the knowledge we have to others. We socialists believe that those who don’t know have a duty to learn, and those who know have a duty to teach. So if you are illiterate, you have a duty to learn to read and write. If you are able to read and write, you have a duty to teach those who don’t know how to. This principle is important to you, the coordinators of this programme.
Our campaign would be very difficult if a great number of the members in our structures were unable to read and write. They would not able to read the party constitution, manifesto, or the programmes of the party structures at various levels. They would not be able to communicate with others.
We believe the highest political thought was reached when every human being, or some of our human beings, started to realise that the knowledge they had must reach all others. That is the essence of socialism. The knowledge we have should reach others. No human being has the right to be a lone wolf who keeps everything to him or herself. What we know must be shared with others.