Sunday, 30 December 2012

Special Report: Professor Toyin Falola Is Our Man Of The Year 2012

Professor Toyin Falola, a Nigerian born historian of International repute is a fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters and the Historical Society of Nigeria. He is a Professor of African Studies and the Frances Higginbotham Nalle Centennial Professor in History at the University of Texas at Austin, United States of America. 

He has authored and edited over a hundred internationally acclaimed books.

Professor Falola was chosen as chidi opara reports' Man of the Year 2012, because of his efforts at fostering free flow of qualitative discussions on major World issues with emphasis on Africa through the USA Africa Dialogue Series

Opinion: Preliminary Notes On Ultra-Left Pseudo-Radicalism

Jaye Gaskia(With Microphone)

By Jaye Gaskia

This is not going to be a full paper, and as it says in the title it is just some preliminary observations, still general, not yet specific!

There is a certain strain [call it brand, trend etc if you may] of ‘Ultra-Leftism’ which has always been around, which has always dogged the history of the global revolutionary movement, and which is of course present here in the midst of our own struggle for the revolutionary transformation of our country. Lenin dismissed it as ‘an infantile disorder’, and wrote extensively about it. In the end, and ultimately such ‘ultra-leftism always end in a most virulent form of sectarianism – something that elevates itself above the real world, absolutises itself, and dismisses every other effort as at best irrelevant, and at worst, counter-revolutionary!

This ‘infantile disorder’ [to use Lenin’s conception] starts by attempting to radically redefine the nature and character of classes in oppressive societies; the nature and character of the class struggle engendered by that oppression and exploitation; and consequently the critical and essential role and place of different classes in the struggle for national liberation and social emancipation, which by the way since the advent of the state always goes on hand in hand! There is no struggle for social emancipation which is not at once also a struggle for national liberation! This is because the class struggle within nations takes place within the same space and time as, and is an integral part of the struggle of classes across nations and national boundaries.

Capitalism engenders a situation of both internal exploitation and domination of a ruling class over other subordinate classes within a country; as well as that of the external domination and exploitation of a country by other countries – the phenomenon of imperialism. But this external domination occurs and is aided and abetted by the more or less forced collaboration of the ruling classes of the dominated country with the ruling classes of the dominating countries.

Enough of the introductions at this point; Let us come back to the subject of ultra-left pseudo radicalism! This ultra-leftism always aims at dismissing the revolutionary potential and the leading role in the revolution against the capitalist order of the working class. It does this by deliberately or unconsciously conflating the class as a whole, the class as an heterogeneous entity [the class in itself as well as the class for itself] with the various strata and institutions/structures/organs of the class. So for example the the trade unions as organs of the working class to mediate the rule of capital are conflated with the class and substituted for the class at a more general level. And at even more specific levels, the trade union bureaucracy and the emergent labour aristocracy is substituted for the trade union, and ultimately for the working class. So the general tendency of the aristocracy to seek accommodation with capital [essentially because that is the organic role of the trade union institution – it is not a substitute for a political party or platform]; then it follows that the working class is no longer a revolutionary class and must cede is vanguard role in the revolution against capitalism to other classes and strata.

Thus begins the rush and scramble to replace the working class, it’s historically conditioned revolutionary potential and revolutionary role in the revolution to overcome and transcend capitalism. All manner of candidate revolutionary classes and stratas are then lined up; from the peasantry through the urban petit bourgeoisie, radicalized middle class elements, the studentry [in the period of their heightened radicalism], through to so-called progressive [in our case progress-thief] bourgeois politicians!

In our student days back in the mid 80s to the mid 90s of the last century, there were those [who perhaps believing they would be formal students for ever] were very quick to proclaim the studentry as the new revolutionary class to lead the struggle for social emancipation! There were others who broadened the studentry to include all youths, and faithfully proclaimed the youth strata of society as the revolutionary class! And there were those who decided to look instead to the peasant farmer in the rural areas and to de-class elements in the urban ghettoes for the revolutionary substitute of the working class.

These tendencies to dismiss the revolutionary potential of the working class and ultimately dismiss collaboration and joint work with the organs of the working class usually become more visible and grow bolder in moments of revolutionary crises. The deeper the revolutionary crises and the more fluid the revolutionary dynamics of the class the class struggle, the quicker these ultra-leftists are to dismiss the working class and proclaim themselves the new revolutionary center and beacon.

So for instance in our situation, form the betrayal which concluded the January Uprising, the conclusion is drawn about the no longer progressive character and therefore new counter-revolutionary character of the whole working class! We must therefore no longer collaborate with labour in this ultra-left mode of thinking and acting.

There is also on the part of the labour aristocracy, consequent upon the revolutionary tensions engendered in revolutionary crises such as the January Uprising, to become disdainful of the non-trade union allies, to be dismissive of them as radicals whose only value is a nuisance one!

So when you have such ultra-leftism on one side and ultra unionism on the other, the end result is a sectarianism that weakens the movement and only plays into and inadvertently strengthens the hands of a weakened ruling class in the class contestation for influence over the direction of society, and ultimately power to effect that influence.

Other characteristics of this self serving and counterproductive ultra-left radicalism can be seen in the way other activists and other theaters and terrains of the class struggle are disdainfully dismissed. So these ultra-left radicals see counter revolutionaries everywhere; they have a siege mentality; NGOism [the believe that society can be transformed through reforms led by non state entities since the state has abdicated its role] is equated and conflated with any activist who just happens to be working [as a member of the working class] with NGOs! So in this warped conception of reality every activist who works with an NGO is an NGOist and is not and cannot be a revolutionary!

Similarly every activist who works with the trade unions as a paid worker and member of the working class is also ultimately a labour aristocrat, and therefore a counter revolutionary!

And these determinations are made by people who hunt with the foxes during daytime and forage with the hares at night time! People who justify a slide towards opportunism with the identification and proclamation of a so-called progressive [read progress-thief] wing of the bourgeoisie, with whom they associate and collaborate, while dismissing the revolutionary potential of others!

To include it is important to emphasize that it is not where one works or makes a living that makes one into a revolutionary activist! It is your political convictions, and how you organise and mobilize, working with others, that essentially defines your revolutionary activism.

To conclude, why have I written about this now, and in this way? Because one of the single most significant dangers and obstacles facing our movement of popular struggles for social emancipation is the subtle development of once again this tendency towards Ultra-Left Pseudo-Radicalism; and I am in agreement with Lenin in characterizing it as an ‘Infantile disorder’ which is feeding the ossification of a malignant sectarianism in our midst.

(Gaskia is National Convener of United Action For Democracy [UAD])