By Jaye Gaskia
“There is one army stronger than all armies in the world; this is an idea whose time has come…..” Victor Hugo
Setting The Stage:
As you begin to read this write up and go through it, I will plead from the very beginning for patience, and tolerance to go through it and digest its contents, as if you were studying for an examination.
We again begin by paraphrasing Karl Marx, Frantz Fanon, Leon Trotsky, and Vladmir Lenin! Why is it necessary to set the context by invoking these historical figures? To emphasise the nature of the revolutionary, and therefore potentially radically transformative times that we are living through now; and as well to underscore the immense life changing potential in our heightened collective action.
First, Marx it was who observed that ‘Philosophers have always interpreted the world, the point however is to change it’; and additionally that, ‘Human beings make history, but not entire according to their will, rather under conditions inherited through generations’.
Frantz Fanon, a leader of the Algerian Revolutionary war for independence from France had also gone on to observe that, ‘Every generation must out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it’.
Long before Fanon, Trotsky, co-leader of the Russian revolution of 1917, while describing revolution and the conditions for it had also said something to this extent; ‘To a slap on the cheek, we each react differently, but to being hit by a sledge hammer, we all react in the same way’. He went to define revolution as ‘the rude collective intrusion of the mass of oppressed peoples unto the stage of history’.
And Lenin, leader of the Russian revolution, had described the conditions for revolution as thus: ‘the gravity of the situation is such that the ruling classes can no longer rule in the old way, while the oppressed classes no longer want to be ruled in the old ways’.
This Moment In History:
We are truly living through interesting times globally and nationally. As a system into which all countries are sucked; the fortunes and misfortunes of capitalism, the global market and free enterprise system affects all.
We are in the era of a global organic that is comprehensive and all embracing crisis of capitalism; one that has also spawned a global resistance movement to the life threatening impact of that crisis. This crisis is total, organic, because it is at one and the same time a combination of five different crisis; a global financial, economic, political, ecological and food crises rolled into one!
It is a crisis that has demonstrated the structural failure of capitalism in the most graphic dimensions. Multi and transnational corporations have failed spectacularly threatening the world economy; just as national economies have collapsed further compounding the global economic crisis. What this has engendered is a situation where global corporations and national economies have gone bankrupt and gone burst, all needing bailouts from public treasuries, contrary to the mantra of the cult of free enterprise and the market!
In response to these comprehensive global crises, ruling classes everywhere have responded by bailing out the private sector, while shifting the burden to the working and exploited classes through austerity measures, and drastic cuts in social spending.
Not surprisingly the response of the working and toiling peoples across the world to this inhuman attack on their conditions of living and working has been a groundswell of global resistance, which has manifested in different ways. Thus it is that we have had and are still witnessing the intensified wave of general strikes across Europe, the emergence of the Global Occupy Movement, the resurgence of the left globally, the return to power of left parties in Latin America, the January Uprising and all the subsequent movements of resistance since in Nigeria, etc.
This mutually antagonistic responses of the main historical actors globally; the ruling and subordinate classes respectively to the combined crises, is illustrative of Lenin’s conditions for revolution: ‘The ruling classes not being able to continue to rule in the old ways, while the exploited classes begin to refuse to be ruled in the old ways’.
If at the beginning of the twentieth century Lenin described Imperialism as the highest phase of capitalism, on the eve of the subsequent two world wars; then at the beginning of the twenty first century we can describe Globalisation as the highest phase of Capitalist Imperialism.
Coming Back Home: January Uprising And Since:
It is important to make it clear that what I describe as the complex and historic revenue crisis facing the Nigerian state and the Nigerian ruling class is rooted squarely within this global crises. Of course in our own case the impact of the global crises is compounded by the unsustainable public treasury theft rate amounting to about N2.5tn annually or N220bn monthly in recent years!
It is a combination of fluctuating international prices for our main commodity, and the intensive looting of the public treasury that has produced the spectacle of an endemic systemic revenue crisis for the Nigerian state. And it is the response to this crisis that is fueling the subsidy removal drive, and which eventually triggered the January Uprising of 2012.
That Uprising has become the defining life changing political process for a generation. As a process, it has and its experience continue to radicalize and politicize a new generation which is awakening to its historical duty; emerging from relative obscurity, discovering its historic mission, and increasingly choosing to fulfill it.
And for the generation radicalized by a previous period of intensified struggle, the anti-military campaigns, the January Uprising served to reinforce and reinvigorate not only their convictions, but also their organisations. In this context, the historic coalitions; Joint Action Front [JAF] and United Action For Democracy [UAD] have emerged revived and repositioned.
The experience of the January Uprising has and continues to create a new wave of activists and active citizens picking up causes to fight for, at different junctures in our history since the uprising.
It is important to see and draw strength from the continuity between the January Uprising and all the protest, resistance, and governance influencing movements that it has since spawned. And we can list these; the various Anti-Corruption campaigns that have emerged; the campaigns and popular struggles to protect the livelihoods of the poor and defend their homes [the movements in support Okada riders, mini bus operators; the movements to stop demolition of suburbs where the poor and powerless live]; the waves of workers strikes in different sectors of the economy; the emergent youth movements in particular their proactive engagement with the constitution reform, resource allocation and budget transparency processes; etc.
Each of these waves of popular struggles and resistance since the January Uprising have their individual significance not only in galvanizing popular responses to particular issues, and helping to place popular checks on particular excesses of the ruling elites; It has also helped in sustaining the momentum initiated by the January Uprising, while building the self confidence of the subordinate classes and their movements not only in the desirability of change, but also in the possibility of change in our time!
Politically, this new momentum of resistance to injustice and failed governance, this new and rising level of collective popular confidence, is manifested in the renewed wave of activities with respect to formation of expressly political and proto party platforms, on our side, on the side of the subordinate classes. Here we refer to the number of emergent new party formations.
On their side too, on the side of the treacherous, treasury looting ruling elites and class, there is also political commotion, manifested in on the one hand in the intense internal antagonistic struggles within the parties [PDP, APGA, etc]; as well as in the self serving power grab drive of some opposition parties towards merger [APC – CAN, CPC, ANPP].
The Significance Of The “ChildNotBride Campaign:
Within this broad spectrum of revival of active popular struggles, the emergent ChildNotBride campaign holds a special significance on the road to 2015.
If the January Uprising unleashed the momentum, pointed the way, and engendered confidence; the ChildNotBride campaign, has served to confirm that rising confidence, and presents us with a projection of our capacity to effect change, and ensure a fundamentally different outcome in 2015 from the past!
These urgent lessons of this latest campaign needs to be identified immediately, and integrated into the emergent political processes towards national liberation and social emancipation of our country and her peoples.
What are the lessons that must be learnt? First, a new generation radicalized by the January Uprising has shown that it can recognize and seize historical moments; that it can organise on its own, autonomously of established movements and personalities; and that we can overcome a lot of the challenges posed to popular organising and mobilising by combining effective use of the new social media, with active real life and on the ground community mobilisation to build a movement that can go viral with respect to its influence and its potential.
This effective use of the social media to reach out; to undertake mass enlightenment; to put out and push a message; to call for action; to ginger popular conscience and consciousness; to identify volunteers; and to coordinate the actions of these volunteers in organising and mobilising people in their various localities; were lessons learnt during the January Uprising, and reinforced in a magnified way in the ChildNotBride campaign.
What are the implications of these lessons? The implications seem to be clear; First that we can organise, and need to organise politically autonomously of the political platforms and parties of the ruling elites; Second That we can organise and mobilise independently of ‘Godfathers’ within the treasury looting political elite; Third that we can build and mobilise a nationwide movement capable of responding to the issues of our peoples, and capturing popular imagination; and Fourth, that if we put these lessons to use, we can build a political movement or party that can represent not only an effective challenge, but also a viable alternative to the parties of the thieving ruling elites towards 2015 and beyond.
In Greece we have had the emergence of the Radical Left party as the largest single party; In Italy the emergence of the radical Five Star Movement, also as the single largest party; In France the return of the Socialist Party to power and the increased electoral share of radical left parties; In Spain, the rise of the Indignato Movement of Youths and workers; In Latin America, the consolidation of Left Parties in power [Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua, Venezuela, etc]; And In the Arab spring, in particular in Egypt, the emergence of the Tamrod Movement of the youths, and the Revolutionary Left Front – both of which have effective control of the streets [Tahir Square].
There is no reason why in the context of Nigeria, against the backdrop of the global revolutionary situation, and within the context of the momentum generated by the January Uprising and accentuated by the ChildNotBride campaign, we cannot achieve similar feats or even go beyond, and transcend the limited, but significant successes in the examples above.
It is thus in this light that we need to welcome and actively participate in all the processes towards the formation of new and fundamentally different parties from among us; and why we all need to work towards the Convergence of all these proto party efforts at most by the first quarter of 2014.
Our experience since the January Uprising through to the ChildNotBride campaign proves that, ‘if we actively organise to resist injustice, we can win; and when we win, we can fundamentally transform our conditions of living.
As Murtala Mohammed said with respect to the liberation of Angola and Nigeria’s support for it; ‘This is the time to reflect, to rethink, and to Act’.
It is therefore upto us to take our destiny into our own hands and organise to Take Back Nigeria Now.
(Visit: takebacknigeria.blogspot.com; Follow me on twitter: @jayegaskia & protesttopower; Engage on: Take Back Nigeria FB page; #DPSR)