Myths & the Struggle of Socialists for Power in Nigeria – By Dr. Abayomi FerreiraAbayomi Ferreira, Articles, Columnists, NNP Columnists Saturday, July 9th, 2011
Dr Abayomi Ferreira, NNP – July 9, 2011- Nigerian Marxists parade some mythical concepts as essentials for the socialist transformation of the country. This writer wishes to discuss the myths and determine their loci in serious political work in Nigeria. We are of the view that undue devotion to the myths amounts to wastage of intellect, resources that are already scarce and energies. Indeed, we estimate that such long-standing posture on our part is adverse to the interests of the working and other exploited classes for which we pose to work. Consequently, we want to assess the situations to enable us expend our limited resources on what will advance the work for the socialist transformation of Nigeria. The issues we wish to discuss are
- Unity of the Marxists
- 2. Entreism
- The Labour movement
- A revolutionary party and the bid for power
I will proceed to the details of discussion:
1. Socialist unity
I was attracted into the Marxist movement as an undergraduate in 1960, precisely in November. An event of historical moment and national significance (Ferreira, 2006) brought that entry into occurrence. The point I wish to raise is that the Marxists were already having problems with the concept of unity at the time I came into the fold. That was forty years and seven months ago. Comrade Eskor Toyo, who told me in January 2011 when we exchanged the Season’s greetings by text messages on the phone that he was still alive, was already a respected Marxist in 1960. He is ever a consistent apostle of Marxist unity. The Season’s message he sent, most kindly to me was on socialist unity. In 1960, he was already a committed comrade to socialist unity.
Let us examine some highlights of our history.
The Socialist Workers and Farmers Party of Nigeria SWAFP was formed in 1960, a joint effort of comrades in the Nigerian Youth Congress NYC and the Nigerian Trade Union Congress NTUC. Apparently, all socialists were a part of the effort. However, a breakaway soon emerged as the Labour Party, one of the serial organisations that acquired that enviable nomenclature. Most unfortunately, none lived up to the name.
The Socialist Working Peoples Party SWPP emerged in the dark days of military autocracy. I did not take part in its activities. Its remnants continue to feature in discussions, particularly in respect of its newspaper, the Workers’ Vanguard. I believe this is a manifestation of the depth of the work of Comrade Ola Oni, rather than any other matter.
The Labour Party 1988 came on board in the efforts to participate in the open politics of the self-aborted baby of Babangida the dictator. It died. A part of its carcass became a part of the Social Democratic Party SDP, a creation of the master trickster Babangida.
The Democratic Alternative emerged in 1994 as a part of the fall-out from the crash of the Campaign for Democracy CD, a pressure group of mixed ideological composition whose leadership was negotiating a coup d’état with Oladipo Diya, a military dictator.
In all these years, Marxists and their cooperators were discussing and working for unity of Marxist efforts.
Today, in the eleventh year in the 21st century, some efforts are to give birth to a Revolutionary Socialist Party on a combined theoretical platform of socialist unity and other parameters (Ferreira, The emergence of The Revolutionary Socialist Party in 2010, 2010).
Comrades devote enormous debating and intellectual resources (Iyayi, 2010) to talking about unity. Effectively, there are no concrete efforts to add fillip to the almost religious desire. In a recent lecture, erudite Festus Iyayi again hammered on this issue of unity among the progressives. His description of the disparate funding sources that include foreign imperialists and right wing politicians at home to these groups should have gone further to the obvious conclusion that the different masters that they serve are a total blockade to that unity that he preached.
We are of the strong opinion that we must bury the issue of socialist unity for now. The paramount work is to build a political party to capture power. We must gear all intellectual resources and organisational efforts towards this inevitable and historic goal.
2. Political party and the bid for power
The Democratic Alternative emerged from the crash of the Campaign for Democracy in 1994. To date, it has the following assets
- 1. Firstly, we have laid sustainable foundation for the continuous derivation of financial resources for this party. We only have to build on them. We have
a) The party school that is a potential money earner if it performs its roll truly as a think tank for the party and provide training services for other left organisations such as the industrial unions, non- governmental organisations and even some government establishments
b) The publications of the party school can be sold at profit to make money
c) The school, if properly put on its feet is capable of raising grants and donations both in Nigeria and from friendly institutes abroad
d) The Altermodel Company Ltd is capable of starting the transport business immediately we have some funds
e) The bookshop is in the pipeline and is capable of generating both knowledge and funds
f) The party newspaper, if we are serious, we can run for profit. Other newspapers make profit. There is no reason why DA newspaper should not make profit in the process of spreading the gospel of the party.
g) As of now, the party has paid rent for its secretariat and liaison office for two years. If we do not have to pay rent again until 2012, there is no reason why we cannot use the intervening period, from now on, to build our financial resources from sustained monthly membership subscriptions.
h) The party at national, state, local and even ward levels can raise funds by engaging in fund raising activities seeking grants and donations from friendly individuals and organisations. The party constitution provides for that. Let us rise from slumber and work accordingly.
i) The party website which we will reconstruct
j) The party has some invested funds in the stock market
Of course, there are liabilities:
- Ideologically poor quality membership
- Logically from the above, equally poor quality leadership at national, state, local and ward levels of organisation
- A manifesto that arose in the thick of anti-military dictatorship campaign and thus tainted by some dose of liberalist posture
I consider it logical to enhance the quality of what we have in the DA than to start on a fresh effort for a political party. To my mind, the greatest asset of the party is the party school. A functional think tank is desirable as the new faculty of the party. For now, the faculty will provide theoretical and analytical solutions to the building of the party whilst simultaneously gearing up educational programme for the members. The faculty will also upgrade the party manifesto. We will use a national convention to evolve a new national leadership and adopt the upgraded manifesto.
At this stage, we will discuss the continuous call, at meetings for a revolutionary party. It is some curiosity when at a recent discussion precisely on Thursday 23 December 2010 two comrades proposed the concept to adopt the DA as our electoral party but still need to build a revolutionary underground party. We must address this concept. Do we need to build two separate political parties to get to power? Can we not practise revolutionarism and do underground work as dictated by the political demands working in the same party? Are we no longer Marxists? Do we have the Nigerian human material to build an out and out force fighting party to take over power? Do they exist, 44 good years after the formal training of cadres at the Patrice Lumumba Academy? Did Lenin and Stalin not use effectively the Russian Social- Democratic Party for both electoral and revolutionary work?
In this discussion, we will show that we are living all over again the tenets of utopianism, an error that is akin to the delay in the emergence of socialist development in Europe throughout the 19th century whilst by default concurrently allowed the blossoming of the capitalist system (Stalin, 1901). There were two issues: theoretical working for immediate socialism, small recurrent independent fights by the uneducated workers through strikes for better conditions of service in the sustained exploitative system. Indeed, there was a third issue, a consequence of the two: sustained exploitation with the workers and the theoreticians out of political power. Of course, the RSDP was taking part in electoral politics. Simultaneously, it was educating the workers and organising in their ranks. It won seats into parliament. That did not stop the party from taking revolutionary action as appropriate. Each successive revolutionary action was bigger than its predecessor was. The party annexed the gains of each strike. This strategy bolstered its striking power the next time around.
Some development was on in Cote d’Ivoire in respect of the utility of the working class and the use of the strike weapon for political objectives. Alassane Ouattara won the run up of the presidential election on 28 November 2010. Laurent Gbagbo, the erstwhile president refuses to relinquish power.
Ouattara has the backing of the United Nations, France, the United States, the European Union, the African Union and the regional bloc ECOWAS, but Gbagbo controls the security forces.
“The RHDP (party) calls on the youth, women, trade unions, civil society, workers, civil servants and the Ivorian population to conduct a pacifist struggle … to install the legal and legitimate authorities of Ivory Coast,” said Ouattara party spokesman Djedje Mady.
They plan to march on state broadcaster RTI on Thursday and government buildings on Friday to try to install their senior officials there, Mady told reporters at Ouattara’s base in the U.N.-guarded waterside Golf Hotel.
It was the first time Ouattara’s camp has called supporters onto the streets since he claimed victory and swore himself in as president. An increasingly isolated Gbagbo administration would probably suppress any demonstrations.
The point and lesson is, the workers did not heed the call for strike in the capital Abidjan and other main cities.
We discussed this concept in the work, The Struggle to develop Nigeria. I will make extensive quotation from that work
This rather innovative AC candidate is none other than the otherwise erudite politician of left origin, Rauf Aregbesola who has jumped into the camp of right wing politics since 1999 but still steals into left caucuses occasionally to pontificate on the politics of entreeism. We have examined the theory of entreeism in Savagery in politics, the hindrance to national development in Nigeria. Although, the concept is usually discussed at left meetings as a political process, however since we have come across Rauf Aregbesola at this point, we might as well discuss this practice now. The proponents of this queer theory have yet to describe the details of its application, management and outcome in the continuum of the Nigerian polity. To our mind, this is a classical issue of practice without theory that has invaded the politics of the left in Nigeria for about two decades. I very strongly believe this as one of the reasons the left is not making much headway in the struggle. Many younger comrades are so enamoured with entreeism as a verbal weapon that they have never bothered to find a definition for the term. At many discussions among Marxists in Nigeria, even in the year 2008, there is no definition of this concept, if it is one at all. At a discussion on 30 July 2008 of a paper, the redoubtable and well respected President of the Peoples’ Redemption Party PRP, Balarabe Musa recalled, Indeed, historically the activities of Nduka Eze in the Nigerian Labour Movement in the late 1940s and the early 1950s marked the zenith of socialist influences on the pre-colonial (sic) Nigerian landscape. Eze openly espoused Marxist-Leninist views and was not content with simply struggling for improved economic conditions for Nigerian workers but tried to integrate these economic struggles with revolutionary political actions and demands. Eze was the first trade union leader in Nigeria to amalgamate all the disparate unions in the country (in both the public and private sectors) into one central trade union federation and to affiliate this central trade union organisation to a political party, the NCNC, which was then the Nigerian leading nationalist party. A comrade at the meeting, Kunle Ladejo marked this paragraph on his copy of the paper as an incidence of entreeism. The political history of Nigeria shows very clearly that in the forties, the NCNC was the only political party in Nigeria that was struggling for a socialist Nigeria. We state this historical fact on page 3 of this work. We have also shown that, and we agree with Balarabe Musa that Nduka Eze was an early proponent and fighter for communism in Nigeria. Will it be entreeism for a Marxist to align the trade union movement to a political party fighting for a socialist society? Was the creation of the Socialist Workers and Farmers’ Party of Nigeria SWAFP in 1960 by the Nigerian Youth Congress NYC and Nigerian Trade Union Congress NTUC an act of entreeism? Is there a difference between the claims of Aregbesola and this definition or exemplification by Kunle Ladejo? Was the electoral candidacy of S U Bassey, a chieftain of SWAFP on the platform of the NCNC in the elections of 1963 by which Comrade Bassey became the Member of Parliament for a constituency in Calabar an example of entreeism? Were Aregbesola and Bassey practising the same thing but at different times?
4. The Labour movement
The Labour movement is presently in the hands of neo-liberals with some socialists trailing in the tail. That tail manifests in the civil society organisations that tend to coalesce around the NLC. They are visible on demonstration grounds. In between demonstrations, they are asleep. Of course, the labour movement has its own political party, the Labour Party, a neo-liberal organisation that is only different from the PDP in name only.
The issue arises: Marxists need the working people to function. We need to decide on creating all over again the workers platform for agitation. We cannot use the current labour movement for a Marxist programme.
5. A Revolutionary party and the bid for power
There is the need for a socialist revolutionary party. A socialist revolutionary party is very different from the right wing bourgeoise parties, i.e. all the existing political parties in Nigeria today. It is also not a protest movement, reacting to the right wing political gimmicks and coming out only in times of public protests and demonstrations. This party must bid for political power. It must have the following features
- Membership subscription is a desideratum to maintain membership
- Executive members must be up and doing all the time
- Democratic centralism is a desideratum
- The party must run a daily newspaper and a functioning website
- The party must have revenue generating businesses
- The party must take an ideological stand on the working class and politics
- Discipline must be actively maintained in party work. You cannot be a member of the socialist party and simultaneously hobnob with the right wing.
- Participation in public demonstrations will only be allowed after exhaustive examination of all parameters by the executive council.
- A party school is an absolute necessity for the development and regular upgrading of all members.
Some details are as follows:
There are certain essential elements that must characterise the party for sustenance. I write from my long experience in building the Democratic Alternative DA. These are
1) Every member must pay membership subscription monthly. The affairs of the party including operations, meetings, travels, publications, secretariats, school, businesses, etc will run with party funds. A party that wants to subsist on other peoples’ resources will not survive. The party willy-nilly dies once the Father Christmas dies. The members will not have the needed sense of commitment. A member who does not subscribe financially to the party is a parasite. Alternatively, even worse, some of them turn out to be opportunistic birds of passage. He is not a member. He will eventually go elsewhere for position and money. We have seen this despicable quality in many who claim to be revolutionaries, socialists, or Marxists over the years. The birds of passage obtain popularity and exposure to the non-discerning public by hunting with the hares, the left. Eventually, they occupy political posts among the wolves in the right wing governments, thereby reinforcing the forces of exploitation and oppression of the people. Such “comrades” climb on the genuine intentions and commitment of comrades and the movement to pursue personal political ambition in right wing political parties and governments, the very target of the work of committed comrades. It is deceit of the highest order to be a Marxist in a revolutionary party and simultaneously be running errands in the PDP or ANC or APGA. It does not work.
2) The party must run its own news media including community radio stations to communicate with the people of Nigeria. I agree entirely with the position of Eskor Toyo that the party cannot be a reactant to right wing political and economic initiatives. The party must develop its own literature.
3)There must be a fully functioning party school. Revolutionary membership derives from knowledge of revolution. They cannot pick it from the streets. We must impart the knowledge. The decadence of the Nigerian left arose mainly from the cessation of revolutionary moulding with the demise of the Patrice Lumumba Academy in January 1966. Without a party school, the materials for membership will not be different from those who populate the right wing political parties. That is the reason why I insist on a party school in the Democratic Alternative. There may be revolutionaries in Nigeria today. But we need to gather and garner them.
In conclusion, of this paper, I will state all over again that we must abandon the myths and work for a party of the exploited classes. We do not need to mount irreverent demonstrations the outcomes of which do not last; that is when there is an outcome. We cannot do all over again the same things that we have done for upwards of sixty-seven years without any concrete or sustainable results. Nigeria is become a hard-core capitalist country. We must reverse the trend.
Ferreira, A. (2006). Savagery in politics. Bloomington: AuthorHouse.
Ferreira, A. (2010, October). The emergence of The Revolutionary Socialist Party in 2010. Private circulation . Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria: Ferreira.
Iyayi, F. (2010, October 1). The ruling class. Unpublished material . Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria: Tony Iyare 50th birthday lecture .
Stalin, J. (1901, November 21). Marxists Internet Archive (2008). Retrieved December 27, 2010, from The Russian Social-Democratic Party and its immediate tasks: http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1901/11/x01.htm
Dr Abayomi Ferreira
5 July 2011
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