Marxist School 2017: a big step forward for the Nigerian Marxists

The Annual Marxist School of the Nigerian section of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) was held over the weekend of 26th–27th August 2017.

Comrades travelled from Ibadan, from Ife and from Kano in the North of Nigeria to be part of this highly educational and inspiring school which was hosted by the Lagos branch of the organisation. A total of 18 comrades eventually participated in the school, despite the harsh economic conditions. The enormous enthusiasm displayed by the comrades and the quality of the discussions made the school one of the most successful in recent times. It marks the beginning of a big step forward for the Nigerian Marxists.

Permanent Revolution

The first session began on Saturday, 26th August, with the discussion on “The Theory of the Permanent Revolution” introduced by comrade Rashy. She gave a well-researched lead-off on the topic. She began by stating that the theory of permanent revolution was developed in 1904 by Leon Trotsky who, taking his starting point from Marx, developed the idea into a worked-out theory applicable to present day conditions. She stated that Trotsky, while accepting that the objective tasks facing the Russian workers were those of the bourgeois democratic revolution, nevertheless explained how in a backward country in the epoch of imperialism the “national bourgeoisie” was incapable of playing a progressive role.

She further stated that the Permanent revolution was confirmed in the positive sense by the October revolution in Russia in 1917, when the proletariat, in alliance with the poor peasants, first solved the basic problems of the bourgeois democratic revolution, and then went on, uninterruptedly, to carry out socialist measures and, while recognizing the fact that socialist revolution cannot succeed in one country not even in a backward country like Russia, Lenin and Trotsky made a personate appeal to the workers of the world to follow their example. Thus the revolution is permanent in two senses, it began from the bourgeois tasks and moved directly to the socialist tasks, and it started in one country and continued on an international level.

She also emphasized how the Menshevik-Stalinist theory of two stages, which advocated the subordination of the Communist Party to the progressive national bourgeois, led to one defeat after another, especially in the colonial and ex-colonial countries. She cited the examples of the Chinese Revolution of 1925, the Iraqi Communist Party in the 1960s and also the massacre of Indonesian Communist Party members in 1965.

She concluded by stating that the theory of permanent revolution provides all the answers to the Nigerian situation, that the immediate tasks facing the Nigerian masses are simply bourgeois tasks; that is, building a genuinely modern national industry, solving the agrarian question and providing constant electricity, good roads and potable water.Unfortunately, the Nigerian bourgeois are born completely subordinated to their former colonial masters and are highly dependent on foreign capital. Therefore, they are completely counter-revolutionary and cannot play any progressive role in society. The tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution will only be solved, as stated by Trotsky in 1904, by the Nigerian working class in alliance with the poor masses which will then proceed uninterruptedly to the socialist tasks. The Nigerian revolution will thus be the beginning of a revolution in Africa and the world.

The three component sources of Marxism

nigeria meeting 2The second session was on the “The three component sources of Marxism”. The introduction was given by Comrade Musa who gave a concise and informed lead-off on the three topics combined, that is, “Historical Materialism, Dialectical Materialism and Marxist Economics”. He stated that Historical Materialism is the application of Marxism to historical development. He pointed out that contrary to the assertions of the bourgeois apologists that private property has always been and will continue to be, humanity did not begin with capitalism or private ownership. He said that the idea of private ownership was a recent development in human history. He traced the social and economic developments that existed before capitalism, from primitive communism where there was no private ownership and no classes, to the slave owning societies, the first class society in history, to feudalism, to the present socio-economic system of capitalism. He described Dialectical Materialism as the Philosophy of Marxism and stated that Philosophy is simply the way we look at the world. He distinguished extensively between materialism and idealism and also stated the Laws of Dialectics. On Marxist Economics, he spoke extensively on how capitalism works. He stated that capitalist profit is the unpaid labour of the working class and also spoke extensively on the Labour Theory of Value. He concluded by saying that capitalism has entered an impasse but will not just collapse of its own accord. We need to consciously organise to overthrow it.

Lessons of the October Revolution

The first session on Sunday 27th August, began with the discussion on the “Lessons of the October Revolution”. This was the most engaging of all the sessions. The introduction was given by Comrade Kazy. He gave a thorough and extensive lead–off on the topic. He traced the history of how the Bolshevik Party, which led the successful socialist revolution in Russia in 1917, began from a group of just five people. He made extensive distinctions between the policy of the Menshevik and the Bolshevik parties. He elaborated on the exceptional qualities of Lenin and Trotsky, the two great revolutionaries that made the October revolution in 1917 a success. He answered convincingly many questions posed, especially by the student comrades, on the false assertion of the bourgeois apologists about the October revolution being a coup carried out by the Bolshevik party without the participation of the masses and also on the difference between genuine democratic socialism as advocated by Marx, Lenin and Trotsky and the bureaucratic caricature of socialism that collapsed in Russia. He concluded by stating that it is possible to have a revolution without a revolutionary party, as revolutions occur at the point when people can no longer tolerate what they have accepted before and begin to take their destiny in their hands, but that a successful revolution is not possible without a revolutionary party. He also emphasized that the revolutionary party must be prepared before the movement begins as it cannot be improvised when the movement has started. He stated that the party must also be led by a revolutionary leadership who understand the tasks of the revolution, like Lenin and Trotsky during the October revolution.

The National Question

The Second session began with a discussion on the “National Question”. The lead-off was given by comrade GOK. He stated that the National Question is a very sensitive issue and emphasized the need to have a correct approach to it. He stressed the fact that if not for the correct approach of Lenin to the National Question, the October revolution in Russia in 1917 would not have been successful. He spoke extensively on how the renewed agitation for a Republic of Biafra by some people from the Eastern Region of the country cannot be in the best interests of the oppressed majority of Nigerians. He buttressed this point by reminding the gathering of how the declaration of Biafra in the first republic led to the civil war in 1967-70 which led to the killings of thousands of people in Eastern Nigeria. He concluded by stating that the genuine solution to the Nigerian crisis can only be achieved by the Unity of Nigerians from below against their oppressors that cut across all the regions, the Northern, Western and Eastern regions, and emphasized the need for the oppressed to be united against their common oppressors.

Perspective for the Nigerian Student Movement

nigeria meeting 1The last session of the school began with the discussion on the “Perspective for the Nigerian Student Movement”. The introduction was given by comrade Revo. The lead-off was very educational, most especially to the student comrades who responded enthusiastically. He started by tracing the history of the student movement to the first student organization which was the West African Student Union(WASU). He spoke extensively on how radical and influential the Nigerian student movement was in the time past. He pointed to how the Nigerian students unilaterally stopped the policy of Anglo Defence Pact, which was an agreement between the Nigerian government and the British government which would allow the British to have a military base in Nigeria. He stated how the Nigerian students vehemently resisted an attempt by the Nigerian government to remove the subsidy on education in 1978, a movement popularly known as “Ali must go”. Colonel Ali was the then Minister for Education. He emphasized the fact that although the student movement then was powerful, the Student organization was not run democratically. The organization was led by student leaders that subscribed to the ideas of Stalinism and looked to the Soviet Union as a pole of attraction. When the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s, these leaders became seriously disillusioned. This resulted in serious ideological collapse of the organization and the beginning of right-wing leaders taking over the organization which has now degenerated to a situation whereby most of the people leading the National students’ organization called NANS are non-students and agents of the government. He concluded by stating that the key to reclaiming the National student body lies in the need to build a strong student union on the various campuses and stated that the question of either taking over NANS or forming another National student organization should be left to be democratically decided by the students.

The national school came to an end around 4:30pm on the Sunday. Comrades left with high hopes and very good spirits with the promise to redouble their efforts towards building the organization.