Buhari, APC & PDP Have Failed
TIME FOR A MASS WORKING PEOPLE’S ALTERNATIVE POLITICAL PARTY NOW
The past six years under rule of the All Progressive Congress (APC), plus that of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and other capitalist parties in the states they control, have brought nothing but a harvest of misery. The hope and expectation hinged on the coming to power of the APC nationally and in particular President Muhammadu Buhari has exploded in an orgy of agony for the vast majority. Of this, there is no more doubt among major sections of the working class and broad masses.
By HT Soweto
Expectedly, the regime now totters on a shrunken social base as many who initially invested hope in it have deserted it. At the point of its weakness, it also finds itself beset on all sides by economic crisis, health emergency, a social crisis, insecurity and militancy of all shades. To a large extent, features of a failed state now exist in Nigeria. Portions of the Nation’s territory in the North but also in the South are now ruled by kidnapping gangs, bandits, Boko Haram, ISWAP, Niger Delta militants and others. Reportedly the military are now active in 35 of the country’s 36 states.
A WEAKENED CAPITALIST REGIME
The regime’s increased use of dictatorial methods to deal with dissent voices and mass struggle against its policies is not a sign of strength but of weakness. A mighty mass movement can bring the regime crashing down even before the next general elections. This is alongside the possibility of the multi-faceted crises consuming the regime or the capitalist ruling elite intervening through a military coup, possibly with a civilian face, for the purpose of using maximum force to stabilize its rule. But even if the regime manages to survive till the 2023 general elections, there is no prospect of the election ushering in a government that would implement policies in the interests of the working people. This is primarily because of the absence of any viable political alternative strong enough to challenge the capitalist elite for political power.
All of these possibilities, none of which can be ruled out given the complex situation, make it the more urgent that the working class begin to prepare politically and organisationally for what lies ahead. For Marxists, what is concrete throughout the thread of possible developments is that the crisis is not one of the corrupt or ‘wrong’ people ruling the country, but the capitalist system which has failed to develop the country. What is needed are not simply honest leaders but a mass political party of the workers, youth and downtrodden. Without such a party existing in a situation where mass struggle brings the regime crashing down, power will simply pass into the hands of other sections of the capitalist class or other forces which do not stand for the genuine interest of the mass majority.
Similarly in a situation of a military takeover, only such a party placing itself at the head of tens of millions can ensure that the struggle for the restoration of civil rule ends in victory for the working class and downtrodden. And lastly in a situation where the previous two possibilities fail to materialise and general elections are to be held in 2023, only the existence of such a party can ensure that the elections are used as a launch pad to fight to wrest political power from the capitalist elite and place it in the hands of the workers, the youth and downtrodden.
A huge vacuum has opened for such a party today. The #EndSARS movement showed the regime’s isolation. Even the strategists of capital know this hence, the attacks on anti-establishment parties which betray their fear of the future. This includes deregistration of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), the take-over of the Omoyele Sowore-led African Action Congress (AAC) as well as other undemocratic steps to further limit or roll back the liberalisation of party registration and candidacy achieved in 2002.
But this is not the first time that similar opportunities for building a mass workers alternative have been presented and missed. At least since the birth of the short-lived Nigeria Labour Party (NLP) of 1989, numerous opportunities for the building of a mass workers political alternative have come and gone. Hence the importance of the series of discussions that is now taking place within the left like the one being organised by the Alliance for the Survival of COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB) with the objective of rallying together a pan-Nigeria coalition of left and pro-working masses organisations to build such a party.
PARTY IDEOLOGY AND PROGRAMMES
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) welcomes all genuine efforts and initiatives to build a mass workers political alternative. These new efforts are not however restricted to ASCAB. Of recent, Seun Kuti (Son of late Afrobeat maestro and government critic, Fela Kuti) re-launched the Movement of the People (MOP) with a view to applying for registration as a political party. More initiatives are likely in future as layers of oppressed people continue to seek a way out of the capitalist quagmire.
However, right from the outset, it is important to stress that given the over one century of capitalist misrule in Nigeria and its harvest of limited development, mass poverty and misery for the majority, there can be no doubt that any political party that wishes to come to the rescue must stand for ideas and programmes that are antithetical to the reigning capitalist anti-poor and neo-liberal policies of the current ruling parties of the bourgeoisie – the APC and PDP. For us in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), only the ideas of Socialism and the revolutionary programme of socialist planning and public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under democratic workers control and management can distinguish such a party from the ruling parties and from other capitalist parties.
At the same time the DSM has always supported any genuine attempt to form such a party even if, at the beginning, it did not have a clear socialist programme. Within a new party the DSM would argue that crucial to the success of such a party is the need to avoid the ideological debacle of the old Labour Parties (LP) internationally which stood for years on a reformist programme – a halfway house between capitalism and Socialism. Today, these LPs have ceased to exist in most places and where they still exist, they are generally hardly distinguishable from the parties of the ruling class by their programme, position on national issues and calibre of candidates.
As is usual with any political projects that aim to capture the support of the mass of millions, there would be pressure to water down the programmes of the party so that it does not challenge the essence of capitalism .Conceding to this pressure would amount to taking a shortcut over a cliff. The revolutionary mass party cannot simply place itself at the head of the masses. Its first duty is to fight among the masses it aims to lead for the acceptance and enthusiastic support for appropriate revolutionary ideas and programmes to conduct the struggle for political power. It is via a victory in this inevitable ideological struggle that the mass party will earn its historical and legitimate place at the head of the working class and mass of downtrodden people.
At the same time within such a party there will be debates on how to work and on programme, in particular what is socialism and how to achieve it . The DSM would argue that a mass party can only conduct this kind of struggle successfully if it anchors itself on the revolutionary ideas of Socialism and base itself on the most revolutionary class in society, the working class.
FORMS OF ORGANISATION
For such a party to truly be a mass party, it must endeavour to encompass all the active and living forces in the class struggle. This includes the trade unions, affiliates and workers activists, pro-masses organisations, Socialist groups, radical youth and student movement, professional bodies like the NMA, NBA etc., left and anti-establishment political parties like the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and the National Conscience Party (NCP) as well as community associations, traders association, artisan and farmers/peasant groups and informal workers.
For such a party to succeed, it must be scrupulously democratic and make provision for active internal party life with regular checks on the leadership. For this purpose, we strongly recommend a confederal arrangement to attract broad layers and forces to the task of building the party. This would also give ample room for political groups and organisations while jointly building the party with others to also be able to freely canvass their idea and raise criticism within the party both through their own press and the party press so far those ideas are not in contradiction with the aims and objectives of the party. Party membership should be by individual registration but the political grouping that members belong must also be stated. This is to prevent the existence of undeclared or hostile groups. To fund the party, all members must pay a monthly subscription. This is aside other forms of resources like struggle fund, fundraisers and donations from trade unions, pro-masses organisations and members of the public.
To prevent corruption and careerism, party leadership at all levels must be by election and all officials must not collect more than the average wage of a worker and they must be recallable. Also, party candidates for general elections must be democratically elected by delegates representing party members.
The culture of using sale of contest forms to raise money to fund the party must not be allowed in the new party. Not only would such an approach prevent the workers and downtrodden which the party aims to organise from aspiring to take leadership or candidate positions, but such an approach will also open the door of the party to opportunists and careerists particularly members of the capitalist class who will work to hijack the party for their own use as they did with the Labour Party launched in 2002 by the NLC. All party candidates must also sign to a public declaration not to collect more than the average workers’ wage and fulfil the party manifesto while in political office. They also must be recallable while in political police should they be found to have departed from the aims and objectives of the party. As the experience of the SPN during the 2019 general elections shows, only a party built in this manner stand a chance of convincing the working masses that it is a genuine alternative party.
A PARTY OF STRUGGLE
Last but not the least, such a party cannot just be built as an electoral machine. It must also serve as a party of struggle – combining electoral challenge with active intervention in the struggles of workers, community people, youth and the poor masses. In other words, such a party should mobilize the working masses against all anti-people policies like hike in electricity tariff, petrol price increase etc. Only through this can the party win the masses into its ranks.
As things stand today, the only registered left political party in Nigeria is the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN). Though initially deregistered following 2019 general elections, the party won against INEC at the Court of Appeal and now awaits the final pronouncement of the Supreme Court. Rather than reinvent the wheel by trying to register a new party, the DSM would strongly recommend the SPN to the Nigerian left and trade unions to adopt and build it into a mass workers party. In particular, we suggest that the conference in March 2021 should discuss the SPN alongside other options towards achieving the objective of building a mass party.
However, whatever is the outcome of the March conference vis-à-vis the above proposal for the adoption of the SPN, i.e. even if this proposal is rejected, the DSM will continue to be committed to the goal of collectively building together with other genuine fighters a mass workers party on Socialist programmes – something which has been our goal right from inception.