by Olawale Ogunruku
The Socialist Youth League (SYL) Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife branch held its end of session workshop for members on the 1st and 2nd of Feb 2013. The workshop had in attendance Baba Aye, the National Chairperson of Socialist Workers League, Kunle Ajayi, the National Coordinator of the SYL, and elevn members of the SYL OAU branch. There were four broad sessions of the workshop, during which there were lively debates and exchange of ideas.
The first session, which came after an initial review of the state of the campus in the session just rounded up looked at the topic: Nigeria in crises, which way forward? A leadoff for discussion was presented by Lanre R, a member of the branch executive committee. He pointed out the anger of Nigerians at the alarming state of corruption in the country, noted the high degree and different dimensions of insecurity, and assessed the reinvigorated spirit of workers and youths struggles since the revolts that shook the country in January last year.
In the course of discussion, members observed that, while corruption is indeed a significant problem which activists should not run away from fighting against, it is more of a severe symptom. The primary problem is the nature of capitalism as an exploitative system which corrupts virtually every aspect of social life by promoting the amassing of wealth by a few over the needs of the working masses.
The increasing state of insecurity in the country was equally discussed as part of the crises Nigeria is presently soaked in. Rising crime rates and violence in urban centres was shown to be closely linked with the heightened unemployment, particularly of youths. This is a reflection of Nigeria’s growth without development. The ruling class continues to massively exploit natural resources and the labour of working people, while the masses continue to wallow in poverty.
Islamist violence, with Boko Haram as a case study of Salafi-Jihadism was discussed in depth. The ideology of radical Islamism ot was agreed, could acquire deep roots where poverty, and gross underdevelopment prevail in places which have significant Muslim population such as states where Boko Haram is based. Radical Islamism is one of the faces of a political ideology, where Islam is not just taken as a religion but is presented as a political solution. The radical face of Islamism, which amongst other things demands justice for the poor has a dialectical relationship with the conservative that limits the liberties of working people.
The session was rounded up with critical appraisal of the January uprising one year after. Members agreed that the revolts and general strike were of historic significance. Events after these have also shown that we are in a new era of struggle. But socialist workers and youths have to be armed with the correct perspectives and not one that fails to understand the full contradictory situation we are presently in.
Baba Aye presented the leadoff for the second session on the theme: “Global crises, the working class and youths; problems and prospects”. He chronicled the socio-economic and political development of capitalism as an international system, setting a background to understanding the current situation. Drawing from the arguments in his book, Era of Crises and Revolts: Perspectives for Workers and Youths, he then presented a broad picture of how crises and revolts are unfolding in different regions of the world.
Members discussed extensively on the revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East. The revolutions in Egypt and Syria were given particular attention. Increasing strikes and street protests in several countries in Africa and Europe also reflect workers anger and fight back. Youths have been very active in the protests and a few might get carried away with the feeling of youth power. But it is the might of the working class demonstrated through mass strikes that can bring down anti-poor governments. It is also the workers who can lead the struggle for transforming society.
There is every need to unite the resistance within and across countries. Members were in one accord that working class solidarity and the unity of fighting youths with the workers are central to the struggle for a better world that can come out of the current crises.
“The method of Marxism, and revolutionary socialism” was the topic of the third session. It was chaired by Wale O, the SYL OAU Branch Secretary. Marxism, as members noted during their discussion, is a science of society, and not a dogma or “ideology”. It includes tools for activists to use in analysing history and the current situation, in the struggle of the oppressed working people for their self-emancipation. Revolutionary activists do not try to “create” reality in conformity with their theory. Rather, practice being the sole criterion for truth is verified in and through our practice, to be revised in line with lessons from concrete reality. This, it was noted, is the most distinguishable element of the International Socialist traditions which SWL/SYL, is a part of.
Socialism cannot be won for the working people. It is through revolution from below, involving workers and their allies’ self-activity over time, at the work places, on the campuses and on the streets that workers and other toilers can come to learn how to break the haughty power of the capitalists and other elites, and enthrone workers power, which is necessary for building socialist society. Revolutionary socialists, even as students, must thus be rooted in the daily struggles of workers, fighting besides them and with them, while pointing out the ultimate goal of overthrowing the capitalist system. This, members agreed, is the Marxist method or approach to struggle.
The retreat ended with intense discussions on the fourth topic: “building the League: possibilities and challenges”. The session which was chaired by Kunle Ajayi, the SYL National Coordinator, focused on the tasks of: building the branch politically, organisationally and theoretically and; tactics for building closer relations with the working class. It was noted that members of the SYL from five different branches in Osun state, including the OAU Ife branch were at the fore besides workers in the fight for the implementation of the National Minimum Wage Act by Osun state government, last year.
The state of the national students’ movement was also rigorously examined. The branch affirmed the SYL national leadership’s collaboration with like-minded radical and progressive students groups on the platform of the Coalition of Left and Progressive Students (CLAPS), noting that this was in line the resolutions of the SYL National Conference during the SWL Convention last May.
The SYL branch has equally been very active in building alliances and united fronts with Left groups in the OAU campus. The sectarian approach of some orthodox Trotskyist groups, particularly DSM, the members observed, was not helping matters. The branch however resolved to try its utmost in ensuring that the collective strength of socialist and progressive groups is pooled together, to fight for the reinstatement of the students union on resumption, and in continued defence of the students’ rights in the school.