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For the Nigerian Left: Facing 2022

By Edwin Madunagu
05 January 2022   |   2:14 am
My difficulties in this discussion began with how to construct a title for it. I could break down what I wanted to say into bits of statements and questions.

My difficulties in this discussion began with how to construct a title for it. I could break down what I wanted to say into bits of statements and questions. But I could not agree with myself on how to craft a befitting title for the discussion, even a provisional one, in the manner of many writers. Before finally adopting the title that now appears I had serially considered several alternatives. One of the earliest, the one I loved most, was “Marxism in our time”, which simply lifts the title of Leon Trotsky’s essay written in Mexico in 1939, but titled and published posthumously in 1970. Thereafter I had asked myself: Should Trotsky be rather adapted or modified to read: “Marxism in our time, in our land”? Or, should it be “The universe of Marxism and Marxists, through history”, partly adapting the title of Sina Kawonise’s 2014 collection of essays?

Or, indeed, should the title of what I wanted to say be a long one, in the manner of the columns of Comrade Biodun Jeyifo (BJ) in Nigeria’s The Nation on Sunday (and earlier, in The Guardian on Sunday)? That adaptation would then have led me to: “Critical and heuristic questions on theory and use of Marxism for Marxists, in our time, in our land”. In this title, as in BJ’s column, each word or phrase is a definitive aspect of the discussion and makes a definitive contribution to it. Eventually I returned to my earliest, even unlisted title, as I often do, without repudiating any of the latter alternatives. I do request readers to bear this in mind as they go through this fragmentary piece.

It is almost certain that at least one fairly large Left party or “Left-leaning” party will emerge as a contestant for power or office in the 2023 general election in Nigeria. It is also clear that even without this emergence or early emergence, popular-democratic struggles, organized and spontaneous, planned and unplanned (against mass poverty, impoverishment, immiseration, “insecurity”, corruption and neofascist dictatorship) will intensify and expand in the period leading up to the election, and beyond. The main task of the Nigerian Left and Nigerian Leftists in this period is therefore “cut out for them”, as the saying goes. That task is to actively “guide” this trend as responsibly as possible, mitigating negative effects and consequences of possible errors and, of course, preventing foreseeable ones.

Beyond all the above, but equally as important: I would propose that by the end of 2022, the Nigerian Left would have established a functional National Consultative and Coordinating Centre (NCCC) to assume the functions that the name suggests including the publication of a periodic newsletter. I know that there exists, or can be found within the movement, at least one or a small group of Leftists that can volunteer to pay the rent and underwrite the cost of running the Centre for the first five years. The history of the Nigerian Left has taught us all that in matters like this, individual small monetary donations and pledges can play only a small material part beyond the moral, the ideological and the symbolic.

Among the possible “byproducts” of this broad projection, if nurtured by older Leftists, especially Marxists, will be the emergence of a much needed People’s Manifesto for the Nigerian Left or a clear qualitative advance to its emergence; and the engagement in dialogue of segments of the Nigerian Left who have been alienated by their “unpopular” or “minority” positions on several strategic and tactical issues, including the question of electoral strategy and the issue of “national unity”. A “byproduct” is used here to deliberately designate its ordinary meaning, that is, “a secondary and sometimes unexpected consequence” or “a product made during the manufacture of something else”. It is on the last listed possible “byproduct” that we shall now focus in the remaining part of this piece. I preface this with the affirmation that the question of “national unity” has been central in the agenda of the Nigerian Left right from its birth several decades ago.

Some weeks ago, on Sunday, December 5, 2021, I called up a younger comrade of mine to re-state a conclusion to our discussion of the day before. Since the telephone line was unclear that previous day I was not sure that he properly understood me. The discussion was on “national unity” and the attitude of the Nigerian Left to it. That conclusion which I thought needed a re-statement may be framed like this: I find it difficult, as a revolutionary Marxist and as a Nigerian, influenced by Samir Amin’s youthful but highly heuristic description of Marxism as “the social science of revolutionary socialist praxis” to break with a Nigerian Marxist comrade solely on the ground that she or he is a secessionist agitator — if she or he had not taken up arms. The situation, of course, changes if she or he becomes involved, at any level, in an armed struggle, that pinnacle of Marxist revolutionary politics. That changed situation is outside the scope of the present article.
To be continued tomorrow

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