Solidarity message to Nigerian Youth League on the occasion of its 1st Public Seminar, with the theme: “Next Generation Nigeria”, held on Saturday November 5, 2011 at the Ikeja Business Club Hall, 50 Hakeem Balogun St. (Opp. The New Afrika Shrine), Agidingbi/Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos State, submitted by Baba Aye, National Chairperson, SWL
The Socialist Workers League extends fraternal salutations to the Nigeria Youth League on this auspicious occasion of the 1st Public Seminar of your organisation. This programme is coming up at a critical time in our country’s history and indeed in the annals of humankind. A lot of what seemed accepted as conventional “wisdom” in how modern industrial society has been run for centuries, particularly over the last three decades of its most rabid and anti-people, neoliberal incarnation have shown themselves to be nothing but gods with feet of clay. A generation of youths and working people are seeking and indeed fighting for alternatives of how to make another Nigeria, another Africa, another world, a real possibility. This is the more reason why the topic of your seminar, Next Generation Nigeria, is very apt, to say the least.
We appreciate the opportunity to be part of the discourse at this programme, through your extension of an invitation to the SWL, and to my humble self as a speaker at the programme. While, I regret my physical absence, due to other pressing assignments within the working class, cadres of the SWL will be actively involved in the seminar, just as we have been in mobilizing for it, based on the warm relations the SWL & NYL have established in such a short while. This has seen us participating together in meetings and networking with several other organisations of youths and change-seeking Nigerians, both on the internet and, -more importantly- in the physically material sense, in both Lagos and Abuja. We look forward to further cementing this collaboration in the unfolding period.
At the risk of pre-empting the seminar’s discussions, it might be pertinent to raise a few questions and proffer perspectives based on these, in relation to the seminar’s theme and the times we are living in.
Why is the world presently in turmoil? Why do we as youths and working people need to be concerned about the “next generation Nigeria”? What could we aspire for if we seek lasting, emancipatory change? How can we change the world and in changing it, lay the foundations for a new generation of humankind where; hope would not be an empty word for many, destitution would not be a constant companion, economic growth would guarantee comprehensive, qualitative and inclusive development and the exploitation and oppression of the immense majority of humankind by an infinitesimal minority would have become ugly parts of society’s past?
There are two distinct but interwoven dimensions –negative and positive- of the turmoil. The first is the economic crisis that confronts the world capitalist economy. Inscribed in the capitalist system is the logic of cyclical crises. We are confronted with the worst of such crises in eighty years, causing untold hardships for the 99% in even industrialized countries and placing many countries’ governments in dire straits. The second strand of the turmoil has been the glorious one of resistance and revolution. Across the world, scores of millions have risen and are rising in several ways. The most spectacular of these have been the revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East, the pueblo movement of los indignados, in Spain and the current “Occupy Wall Street” and everywhere movement, which both inspired. But resistance and revolution has also included huge waves of strikes and reclaiming of the streets. These two strands reveal two further issues of great importance. One, capitalism as a mode of production has gone beyond its progressive hour in history and has now become a fetter on humankind’s development. Two, the marginalised majority believe indeed that another world is possible; and are actively fighting for change.
Our concern for a much better Nigeria for the next generation stems from the failure of this and the past generations to transform Nigeria. This has led to a sense of Nigerian particularism. The Nigerian situation is presented by quite a number of people as a peculiar one, laden with corruption, religiosity and ethno-regional gravitations. Yes, there are things peculiarly Nigerian in the parlous state of our country. But then, in every capitalist country, especially –but not limited to- those in Africa which suffered late colonization, the crises-laden nature of capitalism which is a general reality, takes on concrete form and can take on such, only through the particular elements of the general. Be that as it may, we need to fight for a better Nigeria. But we must situate this within the broader, general struggle of humankind for a new world, which our particular struggle for the next generation Nigeria is a part of.
It is of the utmost importance that we have an idea of what we intend to replace the present degenerate system with. If capitalism has shown itself not to work, what alternative could be sought? With the authoritarian monstrosity that passed itself off as “socialism” in the “USSS” and Eastern Europe, for the better part of last century, would any sensible worker or youth, desirous of liberation, equality and justice, really want to fight for something similar, even if it were the non-degenerate or un-deformed version of such bureaucratic dictatorships? We very much doubt it. Many of us, including myself, who became socialists in the 1980s started by being “anti-Communists” as we were appalled by what we saw in the Soviet Union. A more careful study of what socialism is (and what it definitely is not) helped to clarify for us a lot about humankind’s historical march to freedom, which lies in the pathway of the working class self-emancipation. As socialists though, we do not hold our perspectives to be divine truth, as practice is the sole criterion for truth. However, without revolutionary theory, it is almost impossible to build a revolutionary movement. Theory without practice might be lame, but practice without theory could as well be blind.
Probably the most important of the questions we have posed above, particularly in relation to the theme of the seminar, has to do with “how can we change the society”? There are no maps for the way forward, but we could forge a compass, rooted in theoretical and historical analyses. Critical understanding of: why the world is in turmoil; the need for a progressive new generation Nigeria &; a clear vision of the better Nigeria, the new world, we intend to bring to birth on the ashes of the old, is at the core of such compass. Even when we have the necessary instrument of a compass for direction, we need to take action. Without active movement on the part of the subject, even the best of compasses would lead no where. “Freedom cometh by struggle”, struggle guided by understanding, but primarily; struggle, struggle and ceaseless struggle.
In our struggle for a better society, organisation and collaboration are central to mobilising the masses for us as a people to seize our fate in our hands. All working people and youths will not come to the conclusion of (self-) emancipatory struggle at the same time. Thus, those who have come to realise the need for organising for change, and that share similar basic ideas combine their energies as individuals together, through organisation. Different organisations exist, which are committed to struggle for a better world. This is why collaboration is of utmost essence. We should let a thousand flowers blossom and a thousand ideas contend. But we must do this, we believe, with a reasonable level of sincerity and the consummation of the over-aching goal that bind our collaborations in view, through the twists and turns ahead.
In talking of the way forward, it needs to be stressed that such organisations as the SWL or the NYL, which are voluntary organisations of persons with political and ideological commitments of some sorts or the other, cannot on their own alone bring about revolutionary change. The social force which by its place in the process of production is alone consistently capable of leading the transformative struggle for emancipation to its logical conclusion is the working class. We have seen this over the years in Nigeria. Similarly, the turning points in the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions were marked by the decisive entry of workers independently as a class into the popular uprisings. Thus, groups like ours have to march with and work within the working class and collaborate with its class organs such as trade unions, as much as possible. This is why SWL is an affiliate of the Joint Action Front of pro-labour civil society organisations that along with NLC & TUC constitute the Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO). We enjoin NYL to also consider joining JAF.
On a final note for now comrades, we once again salute you as you hold this Public Seminar. Apart from the importance of such in general which we have explicated on thus far, such public enlightenment and engagement forums as these would be of great importance in mobilizing mass resistance to the impending fuel pump price hike. The hike could very well be the spark for a Nigerian Harmattan in this period of crises, resistance and revolution spreading across the world. We seize this moment to also invite you to a symposium on November 19, at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, being organised by the Socialist Youths League (the SWL structure on campuses), SYL South-West Zone Council. Together, and working with a broad array of groups of progressive Nigerians and working people within and beyond the shores of this land, “we shall bring to birth a new world on the ashes of the old” and build a world that later generations would know the fullness of freedom and lack of want, in.
Workers and Youths! Unite and Fight!
Revolution from below!! Forward to a better World!!