Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Where Is The Nigerian Left?
Democratic Socialist Movement
Obafemi Awolowo Unversity, Ile-Ife
April 1, 2006
This question requires the highest level of seriously at this point when the nation is fast descending to the abyss of dictatorship and barbarism. Moreover, the reaction of the mass of people socially also boils down to the alternative they could see to the present rot engendered by the anti-poor, neo-liberalist government of the day. In fact, many progressively minded individuals who have witnessed the heroic action of human right and pro-democracy activists during the dark day of jack-boot militarism in the country are not comfortable with the present docility of the “Left”. They see a seemingly conspicuous and conscious silence of their past heroes at this time when mass of people are daily attacked by every pint of the state policies.
In the real sense, it is highly disturbing that the past heroes of the masses have lost almost the entire hallmark of representative of the downtrodden – from labour leaders, to human rightists to renegade self-proclaimed socialists and Marxists to radical student activists and intelligentsia to the progressive journalists – one sees an endless list of degenerates. The worst of them have dissolved into the various sections of the conservative and corrupt ruling class, defending what they yesterday claimed to be committing their entire lives to while the best of them (some with utmost sincerity – the Chima Ubanis, Bekos, etc) have become toothless bulldogs. Gone are the days when labour and student leaders’ pronouncement are taken with utmost seriousness by the ruling class – even those who sleep on bullets. Gone are the days of radical journalism when media men are people of high integrity not as a product of financial buoyancy but that of populism. But today, despite the worsening state of things – economic, social, and political; activism have undergone almost 180 degree turn – “upside down”.
However, for those who have foresight over astonishment as Karl Marx called true intellectuals, the present situation is not unexplainable. In fact, it is a product of a long and somewhat unperceived process that has led us to where we are now. the best days of activism can be classified into pre-1990 and post-1990. While the pre-1990’s represent those periods when socio-economic issues form the basis of any political issue. When issue of the system that breeds inequality, poverty and mis-governance is the starting point of any political system; when daily needs of the people are not only linked with the overall political struggle in newspapers and books but also on the streets and campuses of Nigeria; when the masses recognize those who understand their daily plight and ready to stand with them on the picket line. These were the periods when every strand of government economy policies was subjected to critical criticism; when it has to justify its policies before socialist “jurists”.
But the socialist “jurists”, despite their highly critical views could not see anything wrong in their model society – USSR which, despite the massive gains of nationalized economy which catapulted a backward society to the second civilization in the world, there was still a parasitic which stand on the head of the civilization and was eating it down – a ruling stratum that was eating deep into the economy of the country through undemocratic planning, privilege planning and sabotaging revolutions in order countries. All what this stratum represent would have been deemed impossible by the founding fathers of socialism (Karl Marx, F Engels, V I Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxembourg, etc.), except for the last of them Trotsky who saw and condemned the trend (before the ice axe of Mercader cut off his breath) at its infant state then represented then by Joseph Stalin (whose name was used to coin this grotesque caricature of Marxism – Stalinism). The best representatives of the masses in Nigeria then, could not see the fault in this model but continued to “pray” for its survival in Nigeria.
However, when this caricature of genuine socialism obeyed the negative prognosis of Leon Trotsky (that what was happening in USSR will dialectically contradict itself and lead to either political revolution for genuine socialist democracy or descent into capitalist barbarism), they could not explain what was happening but had to join the chorus of capitalist triumphalist choir led by Francis Fukuyama. Majority of them became advocates of face-lift capitalism by covering the contradictions of capitalist economy which daily reflect in the daily struggle of the masses; they became advocates of human rights (a superficial engagement under capitalism) forgetting that human rights and genuine democracy can never be truly achieved in a system of bare economic inequality. Some of them even dissolved into military juntas. To many (except few) who do not believe in dictatorship in the then USSR among the activists, the collapse of the Soviet civilization, without clear understanding, only reinforced their contempt for socialism. This conservative transformation was the features of anti-military rule struggles of the 1990’s which was pronounced in the Jun 12 mandate actualization (struggle to validate the mandate of Late M.K.O Abiola, a member of the imperialist class, though ironically representing the wish of the people, but would have become another Obasanjo if given the mandate then). A genuine socialist would have translated the anger of the masses against the military junta that have become symbol of their suffering, to a struggle for revolutionary change before the June 12, rather than being forced by movement of people to struggle for the mandate of a section of the bourgeois class. But can the veil of Stalinism and chain of human “rightism” could not allow them despite enjoying mass support.
The final stage of the human right movement is the post-June 12 struggle when “democracy” has become the new catch word. The human right community (who are being sponsored anyway by foundations and agencies of imperialism and imperialists) have become gradually alienated from daily economic struggle of the masses. They only superficially criticize privatization, retrenchment, etc, which have daily made them to lose the mass respect, unfortunately the ruling class which understands events than them could not be moved by their “ranting”. However, whenever they join the economic struggles of the masses, like fuel price hike, casualization, etc and make concrete political statements like regime and system change, they gain the respect and ovation of the masses. Unfortunately, the national labour leadership has turned this respect into an avenue to get more patronage from the ruling class while the rpo-democracy groups have not translated these statements to actions. The Nigerian “left” who could not gain the support of the masses from their so-called stance on democracy (which have made no meaning to the masses who see no gain of capitalist democracy) have now turned into anarchist activities – PRONACO, which neither has colouration of the representatives of the masses nor have any root in the daily mass struggles, even the popular fuel price struggles. They now want to present their own unpopular constitution (though some of the PRONACO leaders are popular) as against the third term documents called amended constitution of the Obasanjo’s sycophants.
The writer of this peace should not be misunderstood as being against human rights activism or the struggle against dictatorship, on the contrary, the writer believes in everything that can bring succor to the face of the downtrodden not only now but on the long term. Therefore, human right activism as being presently raised without satisfying the stated goals and rooting itself in the mass of people can only reinforce the present disillusionment. Also, the writer also agrees with the aim behind the PRONACO but against the heterogeneous and nebulous character, conduct and activities of PRONACO which itself is a function of the failure of its authors to identify with the daily struggles of the masses and the radical ideas being them.
On the third term issue, it is glaring that the human right and pro-democracy activists are confused and their activities are reflecting this. While they condemned the descent to complete dictatorship which the deprived section of the ruling class also stands against, they fail to distinguish themselves from this self-serving “democrats” who yesterday supported state-sponsored armed attack on people who protested against government misrule. However, creating the distinction is not automatic; it must be a product of the ability to expose the underlining capitalist socio-economic basis of this agenda – the quest to control the larger share of the stolen wealth of the nations produced by the working and toiling poor. It must also be based on the ability to proffer a lasting alternative to the approaching capitalist barbarism, by seeking for the collective ownership of the wealth of the country for the collective welfare of the working and toiling poor (who created the wealth).
This can only be realized through the nationalization of the commanding height of the economy as against privatization of the economy by imperialism and its local allies. It is through this that funds needed to massively fund social services like free education, free health, secured jobs for all, living wages, subsidized food, electricity, transport, water, sanitation, child care, etc., as against commercialization being practised now. The efficacy of nationalization has been shown by the gargantuan advancement that USSR witnessed before lack of democracy suffocated it. Therefore, as we must recognize the gain of nationalization, we must be able to guide against it collapse through genuine democracy where people will exercise direct control of the economy and politics at all levels. It is only when these programmes are explained to the masses on the barricade, pickets and daily protest that human right activism can make meaning and give realistic hope to the masses. When this is done, genuine pro-poor activists will be separated from self proclaimed democrats. Furthermore this must be given a political banner through conference of pro-people organizations to forge political platform that will base itself on these programmes and wrestle power from the present corrupt capitalist politicians.
Unless this is done, the human right movement will only be chasing shadow and will not be able to build a genuine student and young activists that will be able to represent the mood and yearnings of the masses. One must also appeal to the press to try and improve towards radical journalism as against the present situation where they are supporting the system that is enslaving them.
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