For our departed revolutionary idealists
Let me begin by saying that the term “idealist” is not used in this article in the philosophical sense. Were this the case departed comrades to whom the piece is dedicated would not be considered as Marxists at all. But they were all revolutionary Marxists. I employ the term “idealist” here in the ordinary sense of a person that “cherishes or pursues high or noble principles, purposes or goals” but without giving sufficient consideration to objective, historically-determined reality. When this description is applied to departed Nigerian revolutionary Marxists you begin to have a picture of the type of persons I have in mind and the type of revolutionary tendency they partly reflected. We shall return to this and conclude with it.
An indication was given in the closing paragraph of my last published article, “For Jeyifo (BJ) and Komolafe (KK)” which appeared early this month that the narrative was incomplete, or rather, that it required a proper conclusion which answers at least these two questions: What does the Revolutionary Directorate (RD) do now and what is the narrator’s tentative assessment of RD’s 45-year history? I shall, in this concluding segment, slightly expand the narrative and try to answer the two questions.
Although names of areas, places, periods and dates of key events will be indicated, names of personages will be given only when this is absolutely necessary for authenticity and as critical assistance to possible research. In concrete terms, only the names of a few personages will be added to the five or six names that were given in the previous piece to which the present one is anchored.
The meeting of Anti-Poverty Movement of Nigeria (APMON) in Lagos on Christmas Day of 1975 formally ended the “civil war” in the organization. This was in the early months of Murtala Mohammed-Olusegun Obasanjo-Theophilus Danjuma military regime and a couple of months after the last batch of APMON activists were released from detention. The meeting (a revolutionary congress, in retrospect) declared the dominant faction it represented as victor in the internal struggle (on how to proceed after detention) and the authentic progression of the revolutionary tradition of APMON. From Ibadan came Biodun Jeyifo (BJ) with a number of comrades. Tony Engurube, Bene Madunagu and I, together with some other comrades came from Lagos. Comrades from Kaduna/Zaria who were meeting most of the key participants for the first time – outside the newspapers – and who, on arrival, noticed the tense atmosphere, cautiously and justifiably declared themselves “observers” and were so admitted.
The meeting/congress issued a communique which, among other things – national and international – condemned the promotions being carried out by the new regime in the Nigerian armed forces and the regime’s harassment of students of the University of Ibadan for earlier voicing the same condemnation. In the international scene, we condemned the military intervention of Indonesia in East Timor. Tony Engurube emerged as National Chair (a new position); I was confirmed as National Secretary and Bene was named member of the Working Committee. BJ emerged as Editor-in-Chief of People’s Cause, the journal of APMON, and given full powers to constitute the Editorial Board – and he came out with a revolutionary and truly national working group.
As indicated in the preceding piece (“For Jeyifo (BJ) and Komolafe (KK”), the Revolutionary Directorate (RD) also emerged on that day – December 25, 1975 – with BJ and I as the only members. It was completely underground. As also indicated: with time, RD acquired three levels of membership: full-membership, alternate-full-membership and associate-membership.
To recap and proceed: Revolutionary Directorate (RD) has been introduced as the revolutionary core (vanguard) of a revolutionary tendency (RT) in the Nigerian Socialist Movement (NSM) and the Nigerian Left (NL). It came into existence in Lagos on December 25, 1975 at a revolutionary congress of Anti-Poverty Movement of Nigeria (APMON). The congress, together with the emergence of RD, was a revolutionary leap. But within six months of this leap, RD made another revolutionary leap: It combined with another group in what I have called “extraordinary engagement” and “revolutionary rural conscientisation” in an area covering parts of the present Osun, Oyo and Ondo States. That combination was called the Revolutonary Movement for the Liberation of Nigeria (REMLON). In making this second revolutionary leap, RD almost liquidated, through temporary abandonment, the Anti-Poverty Movement of Nigeria (APMON) whose revolutionary heritage it had shortly before then fought a bitter “civil war” to sustain and continue!
Now, what was the basic character of RD – not at formation, but in maturity? What, in other words, distinguished it from other tendencies, groups and formations in the Nigerian Socialist Movement and the Nigerian Left? The earlier article implicitly answered this question and went on to aggregate and summarize the programme of RD over the 45-year period. But at least three points should here be emphasized. The first point is that RD was committed, irrevocably, to the unity of the Nigerian Left and the emergence of a substantial, nationally-based revolutionary formation. It believed that it is not the present ruling class that will unite Nigeria – for it cannot. Rather, it is the Nigerian Left, having been united on revolutionary foundations, that will champion and lead the struggle for national unity under popular democracy and socialism.
If you respond that some groups can also stand up and insist on being counted for this commitment, I will respond that RD pursues this commitment while remaining Marxist and revolutionary. The second point is that all those questions which used to appear as appendixes to socialist programmes in Nigeria – including the national question and the women’s liberation question – must now be in the mainstream of the agenda of struggle. The third point is that in the struggle against capitalism and imperialism and for popular democracy and socialism the working class remains the most strategic segment of the fighting population.
RD’s experience over the years is dominated by a number of attributes which can be summarized under the following headings: Minimum continuity in the execution of its programme; regular discontinuity in the development and adoption of organizational forms through which it executes this programme; and revolutionary idealism in the execution of the programme. These attributes will be listed and described in the remaining part of this piece. Their historical and ideological roots go beyond RD: they are national, even international. They constitute another subject entirely.
To be continued tomorrow.
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