(Notes For Presentation As A Panelist At The TUC Conference On Workers Political Engagement)
By Jaye Gaskia
Setting The Context:
There is no doubt that as a nation, as a people, as a class, and as a movement, we are presently at another critical juncture in our collective history.
This context and juncture is characterised by a significant systemic crises of existential proportions. The various crisis in the and of the economy, the polity, the social fabric and way of life – that is the culture of our people and nation, as well as the crisis of social services delivery; all of which have been building up over years, if not decades; all which have been and continue to be engendered and driven by the complete failure of ruling class leadership, the hollowing out of the state, exposing its fangs, and the consequent governance vacuum and near collapse of the infrastructure of social cohesion of the society; have all, and are all coming together, combining to produce this creeping and protracted existential crisis, of potentially high cataclysmic nature.
Our country is dying, the structures and organs of our society are atrophying from extensive disuse and abuse; and our people are being threatened with collective extermination and extinction.
But these monumental and complex crises have also called forth, and continues to call forth the more or less organised, more or less conscious and more or less determined, more or less active resistance of the toiling masses and the working peoples of our country.
It is the coming together of all of these various aspects of the current historical juncture that has made it necessary for us to place workers and working people’s political participation and electoral engagement on the front burner of public discourse. And it is this that has provided us with the opportunity to examine and interrogate the relationship between the moment and the movement, within the context of navigating the dialectical nexus between the twin necessity to combine Strategic Patience with Tactical Urgency.
The Moment And The Movement:
As part of my intervention in, and contributions to the #EndSARS Protest movement discourse, I had raised and tried to address the question of the phenomena of the moment and the movement, and the dialectical relationship between the two.
In the particular intervention, in December of 2020, two months after October #EndSARS Youth Rebellion, which was titled “How Not To Build The Barricade”, I had discoursed the twin phenomena and the relationship between thus;
“Given the trajectory of our history, and of our struggle through the decades, it is not surprising that the 2020 pro-democracy summit is concerned with and focused on the notion of the necessity for a transition from moment to movement, and of the radical transformation of the moment into the movement.
However, what does this mean? Or rather what does this imply? A political moment is a definite or defined period in time, a historical period, short and transient by its very essence. In this sense, the student rebellion of 1986 in the aftermath of the ABU massacre, the Anti-SAP Uprising of May 1989, the January Uprising of 2012, and the #EndSARS youth uprising of October 2020 are historical, political, and revolutionary moments.
A movement on the other hand is a sustained, long duration mobilisation of solidarity by organised groups increasingly acting together and collaborating, around a set of common grievances, articulating a set of common demands arising from those grievances, the resolution of which will mitigate or eradicate the cause of the grievance.
Central to both the historical moment and the political movement though is the essential necessity for solidarity, for activating, building and enhancing solidarity. Building solidarity however requires the ability and the capacity to initiative and nurture broad ranging relationships – interpersonal, and organisational, and inter-organisational.
A moment may or may not be the outcome of the conscious effort of a movement or of movements, but to have any chance of being sustained till the ends are met, it must spawn a conscious movement; one that will be able to consciously initiate new moments in the course of a more or less uninterrupted prosecution of the struggle and the cause over the long period.
Moments thus can be seen as apogees in the flow and ebb of a resistance and or revolutionary struggle. However, for each crest of the wave to be connected to subsequent crests, a movement is essential, otherwise it becomes random and chaotic, without a discernible pathway towards societal transformation.”
I retain my understanding of the moment and the movement, as well as of the relationship, necessarily dialectical, between them. However, I will only add that, a moment is more precisely a defined historical period, within a specific historical conjecture, that is characterised, in the political and social context of our usage, by not just a deepening of the systemic crisis of the society presided over by a failure ruling class, but also by the more heightened and intense nature of the class struggle, and the resistance of the toiling masses and working peoples to the deepening and seemingly intractable systemic crises. During such moments, the class struggle becomes more and more overt, the resistance becomes more intense, even if not always concentrated and sustained, as a consequence of the repressive character of the state becomes more and more exposed, the with ruling class and the state relying more on the use of force – that is overt repression, to maintain its hegemony and control over society.
In our country today, we are once again at such a moment. On the other hand, in our country today, we are seeing, once again, the conscious, deliberate, painstaking and systematic combination and recombination of organised social forces and radical left formations into an incipient Movement, in the organised and structured/structural sense of the phenomenon – The Peoples Alternative Political Movement [TPAP-M]; the process to consummate which began in August of 2020, and led to The Peoples Alternative Political Summit of March 2021 [A year Ago], and which gave rise to the establishment of the movement at the end of the political summit.
The Relationship Between The Moment And The Movement;
What are the defining characteristics of the current moment? And what role can our movement play in transforming this moment into a revolutionary crisis, and in doing so, convert it into a revolutionary opportunity for our people and nation?
The essential characteristics of the current moment include the intractable economic and political crisis, occasioning deep seated political instability and raising real prospect of economic collapse and societal disintegration. This have been compounded and heightened by endemic insecurity, ravaging poverty and mass immiseration of the toiling masses; the ongoing and deepening energy crisis – continuing crisis of availability, accessibility and affordability of fuel and electricity [unending fuel scarcity, skyrocketing fuel prices, epileptic and erratic power supply, and repeated hikes in electricity tariff]; on the one hand.
On the other hand, is the rising anger of the people, heightened and palpable tension in society, the eroding confidence of the people in society as it is presently organised and run, and the increasing sense of urgency among the people that something is bound to give, that something is about to give; amplified by their wish to see this tearing at seams hastened up.
Hanging over all of these, is the fact of the upcoming general elections of 2023. And of course, the crises and the elections are intertwined and interconnected. The way and manner the crises develop will play a significant role in deepening the political crisis, and as well in determining the outcome, for good or for bad, of the general elections.
What role is there for the movement, for our movement, in all of these? The potential of our movement [TPAP-M] derives from the fact that in its conception, in its foundation, in its development and evolution, and in its political discourse and organising, it is a movement of the working peoples and the toiling masses; A movement embracing organisations of the working class and working peoples, as well as conscious individuals and activists from among the working people and the working class. Its program – both the Political Action Program and the Economic Action Plan responds consciously to the interests and aspirations of the working people and the working class.
This is very aptly summarised in the self-description of the movement by the movement as “a movement committed to the emergence of a mass workers party and the socialist transformation of Nigeria.”
The role of the movement is therefore to provide an ever widening platform for the conscious organisation of the resistance of the working peoples and the working class, to provide leadership and strategic direction in the waging of this struggle, and to provide strategic linkage between the socioeconomic resistance struggle and the political struggle, the effective combination of which can enable the working peoples and the working class to take political power, and utilise that power to reorganize society along the part of socialist transformation of society.
Our collective tasks at this historical juncture, during this specific historical moment, is to organise and combine the socioeconomic and political struggles of the oppressed and exploited working class and working peoples, and channel this mighty and focused torrential energy of the class towards achieving the mutually reinforcing aims of resisting exploitation, hardship and repression; and organising to wrest political power from the ruling class and using this power to organise the transformation of society.
The Dialectical Nexus Between Strategic Patience And Tactical Urgency:
It remains now to examine the nexus between strategic patience and tactical urgency, and interrogate the relationship between this twin phenomenon and the other twin phenomenon of the moment and our movement.
By strategic patience, I refer to the conditions of organising and mobilising, on the one hand, as well as of individual and collective attitude and behaviour, on the other hand, that are necessary, and in fact are a perquisite for building a Movement that is not only viable in the short term, but also sustainable in the long term; that is a movement that can be effective in the immediate processes, while also developing and improving its capacity to provide leadership and focus for the collective social resistance of the working peoples and working class, in the medium to long term, as well as to organise the class to eventually take power, and lead the process of radically reorganising, and socially [in the socioeconomic sense] transforming society.
Strategic patience is thus an essential requirement for successfully building effective mass and democratic political movements of the toiling masses and working class.
In contrast, but dialectically related to it, Tactical Urgency encapsulates the immediate tasks of the moment, urgent tasks that a movement must fulfil in order to for the movement to become fit for the moment.
The relationship between these two, and the relationship is dialectical and mutually reinforcing, is such that orienting the movement and building and developing its capacity to respond to the urgent tasks of the moment, and meet the immediate needs of the resistance, provides the foundation and the arena of practice for the movement to perfect those essential capacities and capabilities.
Furthermore, the more able and capable the movement becomes in terms of its resilience to the class struggle waged against it by the ruling class, and with respect to its capacity to provide a growing and more constant beckon of organising for ever wider sections of the oppressed and exploited masses and classes; the more the movement is equipped to identify and take advantage of opportunities inherent in historical moments, enabling it to harness the potential of the moment for the historic task of wresting power and leading the transformation of society.
What therefore are the essential elements of a movement that enables it to play this historic role, and that will enhance its ability to understand, the nexus between strategic patience and tactical urgency, and deploy this understanding in realising its task?
In the same paper referenced earlier, I had identified six of such essential elements of movement building and movement political organising. I had developed the formulations further in a subsequent updating of my reflections on the January Uprising of 2012 [this updated reflection was written for the purpose of the publication on reflection on the nexus between national security and the civic space, by WISER, with the support of OSIWA]. The updated formulation is presented here:
“From the foregoing, In my opinion, six elements are essential to and necessary for the successful building of a barricade, for the success of the moment, and for the triumph of the movement, for the successful building of a movement of solidarity. These include Organisation; Mobilisation; Leadership; Initiative; Purpose; and Politics.
It is important to note that these same essential elements of building an effective movement of solidarity, also create the potential for an enabling environment to work out in practice the intersection of national security and civic space in the course of a developing amplified civic activism”.
In the course of further reflection however, I have come to the conclusion that there are seven , not six  minimum and basic essential dimensions of a movement. The seventh dimension is overarching, and it comes into being as the outcome of the combination of the other six dimensions hitherto identified. And what is this seventh dimension? It is the dimension of Autonomy.
Taking cognizance of this therefore, let us resume the presentation of the now revised updated formulation below.
In my opinion, and after further reflection on the collective practice of our movement, there are seven essential dimensions, criteria, and or characteristics of a Movement of Solidarity, a Mass Social Movement for Social Justice and equality, a Social Movement for Social Transformation. These are Organisation, Mobilisation, Leadership, Initiative, Purpose, Politics, and Autonomy.
The first is organisation, and by organisation in this instance we refer to both the structure in the form of a distinct body or bodies driving the barricade building; as well as process, in the form of how the activities of the barricade building are conducted and brought to life.
Organisation in this twin sense is central and essential to any political enterprise, and particularly one that is mass in nature. The presence of distinct, visible, tangible and conscious organisation is of paramount importance and has significant implication for the cohesion of the various activities and processes of the barricade, and for the ability of the political enterprise to successfully reach out to wider segments of society; and to concentrate, channel and focus its influence and impact on society.
An identifiable and visible organisation behind the movement and responsible for coordinating the effort imbues confidence in potential supporters, and makes it possible to prevent the diffusion of the focus, and mitigate against dispersal of its energy.
For a barricade to be successfully built, for it to attract and sustain the attraction of wider segments of society to its cause, there has to be effective mobilisation strategy in place. Such a mobilisation strategy will include targeted messaging, clear communication of the rationale for the resistance and clear communication of clearly articulated demands and messages.
Any effective mobilisation is for a targeted purpose and directed at targeted groups. And whereas mobilisation involves communication, effective mobilisation requires active interaction, direct outreach activities and processes.
A political mobilisation process is essentially a process of active dialogue and negotiation with the target audience, with not only members of the movement, but also with the wider society.
For such a process to be successful, it must be organised and structured, and it must be linked to a visible and identifiable organisation, regardless of whether that organisation is organising clandestinely or not.
The negotiation with the rest of society, the active dialogue with citizens, that a political mobilisation entails, is one that requires tangible interaction between the mobiliser and the those who are being mobilised, whose support is being sought.
Effective mobilisation requires effective organisation that can be directly linked to an identifiable organisational entity and structure; otherwise, the mobilisation will become diffuse and dissipated.
Leadership is the act of giving direction and guidance, and without direction and guidance the barricade will disintegrate and rapidly unravel and become dispersed, pulled in different directions. Every movement is has a tendency to be pulled and pushed in different, and sometimes even contradictory and mutually exclusive directions, given that a movement is an agglomeration of interests and interest groups; a leadership, that is known, that emerges from the movement, and that is accountable and responsible to the movement is however needed to help to balance between these various interests, and achieve the aggregation of the interests in such a manner that movement is united behind a common purpose.
Without such leadership, a movement can very easily disintegrate, just as the absence of an organisation, leaves any emergent leadership unaccountable to the movement, and thus not subject to the collective discipline of the movement.
An organisation helps to evolve and enforce collective discipline within the movement, helps to ensure the existence of accountable process for the emergence of representative leadership.
A collective of individuals enabled by the structure and culture of the organisation emerges to give leadership to the organisation, while the organisation as a whole, and as an entity, in turn exercises and gives leadership to the movement.
The way that leadership is earned within the organisation is the same way that the organisation earns leadership of the movement and provides vanguardship for the movement, the resistance, barricade, and the revolution.
The diffuse nature of organisation and form of leadership preferred by the celebrity leadership of the uprising, was deliberate, and was intended to prevent the consolidation of working-class consciousness and identity, and provide a bulwark against the movement tending towards the left.
To possess initiative is to be able and willing to take risks, to be prepared to embark on a bold new process.
We saw rampant individual initiative with the #EndSARS protest and youth rebellion, and at best incipient organisational initiative with respect to individual organisations on their own, and very little organisational initiative with respect to active and actual inter organisational collaborations.
Effective initiative in a mass and political enterprise such as a protest movement, a barricade, an uprising is a function of organisation and leadership.
Without the existence of organisation and leadership conscious of the task at hand, conscious of the moment, conscious of the potential trajectory of the moment, there can be no effective political initiative.
Every movement must answer the question of purpose. What is the purpose of the movement? To what end is the protest or uprising? It is the ability to clearly define and understand the purpose, and its changing nature in the dynamics and fluidity of the processes of the barricade, and evolution and development of the movement, that makes it possible for the movement to identify potential allies, build solidarity, build alliances, and take initiative.
The politics of the barricade and of a movement is informed by its purpose, and in turn informs the types of initiative it will undertake; while the purpose is itself defined by the rationale of and for the movement or barricade, and shaped by the forms of its organisational expression and leadership.
Politics in the sense used here refers to the kinds of relationships, intra and inter organisational, as well as between the movement and the rest of society; as well as subsequent activities flowing from these relationships; entered into and undertaken by the movement, or the barricade with respect to the pursuit of its cause. If there is no definitive, visible, identifiable, tangible accountable organisational entity and leadership, then the ensuing politics will be diffused, amorphous and inchoate. This is why although the movement was driven largely by working youths and the children of workers, nevertheless, its politics was not Working-Class Politics/Workers Politics.”
A Movement of Solidarity, a mass social movement for social justice and equality, and one that aims at triggering, initiating and undertaking a process of radical social transformation, must possess Autonomy; Such a movement to be effective and to be successful must acquire the capacity for Autonomy.
And by Autonomy, we mean the ability, capacity, and capability of a Movement to identify, recognise, and act in its own interest; that is in the interest of the movement and the social classes and formations that constitute its base; to act, and be able to act independently of the organisations, institutions and processes, of the social formations and social forces that drive, are the basis of, and that are the beneficiaries of the structures and processes of unequal power relations, of entrenched inequality, of the inherent injustice, exploitation, oppression and repression of the existing system; and against which the movement and the social base it represents is undertaking a struggle; the defeat of which is a necessary condition for the victory of the movement.
Possessing, and acquiring each of the previous [six] characteristics and dimensions, should lead a movement to the acquisition of the capacity for autonomy. However, this is not necessarily automatic, or given. The quest for autonomy must be consciously, deliberately, and strategically pursued.
When a Movement has acquired the combination of these seven characteristics; such a Movement becomes not just “a movement in itself”, but decisively, also “a movement for itself”. That is not jus a movement because it is waging a struggle, but a movement aware of its own interests, and conscious of its historical duty and purpose.
Making The Movement Fit For The Moment:
It is clear that in order for us to build a movement that can seize the moment, and one that can respond to the demands of tactical urgency, within the context of Strategic Patience; that is one that undertake immediate tasks without stopping, or detracting from its efforts to continuously build, improve and enhance the scope and quality of its reach within and leverage among the people, its relationship with and ties to the toiling masses and working peoples; we must respond to and address the urgent and continuous necessity to acquire, build on, develop and improve these essential elements, as the underlying capacity of the movement.
What therefore is our task during this moment? Our task as I see it is twofold. However, these tow tasks are dialectically related and mutually reinforcing.
What are these two tasks? The first is that we must continue to broaden the base and deepen the reach of the #ResistHardship struggle, including broadening the base and deepening the quality of the #ResistHardship Alliance at the head of which is our movement [TPAP-M]. This ongoing effort must continue and we must redouble our efforts towards achieving its end, and be prepared to strategically deploy the weapon of mass protests.
The second, interrelated task, is that we must build a Political Alliance for direct Political Engagement and Electoral participation. This political and electoral alliance should include our movement [TPAP-M] and her allies; along with organisation of the working class in the formal and informal sectors – that is trades unions and their federations and their industrial union affiliates; and artisanal and traders and professional associations. It should also primarily include left leaning, left oriented and radical political parties and fractions, registered or unregistered. The Peoples Alternative Political Movement [TPAP-M], that is our movement will need to undertake a key and central role in the organisation of this political alliance, as well as in providing leadership and direction for the political engagement.
By playing key roles in the Resist Hardship struggle, and in the Electoral Political Alliance, TPAP-M will facilitate the conscious linkage of the two struggles, and we shall be able to not only make the issues being addressed in the resist hardship struggle to the political arena and the election campaigns, but also to make sure that these issues become the dominant issues of the election campaign.
Our duty thus is to organise and link both processes of struggle and dialectically unite them in a campaign to transform society that combines resistance to immediate systemic issues of hardships, and the urgency of organising politically to achieve, and or precipitate the conditions for system change, that is a Revolutionary crisis, and one that can place the question of revolution on the agenda.
To do this we must understand that protests can be deployed in the interest of political participation and towards posing the question of power; while also understanding that mass action can be effective tool in mobilising mass participation in voting, and mass participation in mandate protection.
Ultimately, everything that we do, the collective struggle we are waging, should eventually culminate, in the taking of power, the establishment of a workers or working people’s government, the rapid building and consolidation of workers, or working people’s power, and the unravelling of the current capitalist state, and the reconstitution and reconstruction of a new type of state, the Workers, or Working Peoples state.
The class struggle, and therefore class politics, will not cease, stop, or be paused on the morning after an electoral victory, or on the morning after the declaration of the establishment of a worker’s government. On the contrary, the class struggle is bound to be intensified after such a victory, and the necessity for a more rigorous pursuit of class politics will become even more necessary.
To undertake the task of radical social transformation, the task of socialist transformation of society, it is not sufficient to simply take hold of the capitalist state and the institutions of the bourgeoise state and attempt to utilise them unchanged, untransformed, in the quest for socialist transformation.
The prerequisite for embarking on the task of socialist transformation, include not just the establishment of a worker’s government, but also more decisively, the establishment of a worker’s state, in place of the bourgeoise state; a task that will require the radical root and branch overhaul of the inherited state, and the reconstitution of a new type of state and new type of state power. In the period of the transition to socialism, the working class and the working peoples must become elevated to become the ruling class; without the working class becoming established as the dominant class in society, no transition can be undertaken.
Coming nearly a year from the Historic Political Summit that led to the founding of our movement, this political summit by the TUC, and that of the previous week by the NLC could not have come at a more apt historical moment – in the thick of an intractable systemic crises, on the edge of a deepening political infighting among the ruling class and its various fractions and factions; in the wake of an intensifying mass anger and mass resistance bordering on mass defiance; and on the even of a general election.
The crisis is ripe, the moment is here; can we rise to the occasion and emerge as the Movement For This Moment; provide strategic leadership and direction, and take the initiative, and seize the time?
(Gaskia is a member of TPAP-M Secretariat)