On Saturday, 26 February 2022, the first batch of activists from affiliates of the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) commenced the first, in a series of intensive political education programs, of the coalition.
The program, which will end in May, was designed by the CORE political education working group that was set up in the second quarter of 2021.
CORE, a coalition of revolutionary leftist organizations and parties in Nigeria, has the aim of inspiring and supporting the full pursuit of liberation, through revolutionary struggle, by working people and youth in the country.
As a part of its political mandate, CORE has set out to fortify the knowledge and perspectives of activists belonging to its affiliate organizations with a series of cadre-development education programs. At the heart of these is a three-module education for revolution program.
There could hardly have been a more appropriate time to kick-start these programs. Nigeria, and indeed the world currently faces a precipitous general crisis, with political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions.
The high prevalence of banditry, kidnapping for ransom, farmers-herders clashes, religious-sectarian insurgency, and secessionist movements in some parts of the country have left tens of thousands of working people and youth killed. And a sense of insecurity pervades the land, matched only by the ghosts of hunger, unemployment, and disillusionment.
There has been resistance, in the forms of strikes, and mass protests, such as the #EndSARS. Nigeria is at an inflection point socio-politically. Young people and workers, in both the formal and informal sectors, who have been at the center of these social upheavals, have responded by reviving the nationwide debates that saturated the airwaves in the early era of flag independence, but which were stunted by a succession of military coups and the civil war.
As then, millions of people today are exploring solutions that fall under one of three different schools of thought. In the first case, we have incremental reformism, which includes federal restructurings and mass voter registration campaigns – spearheaded by the petite bourgeoisie – in pursuit of liberal aspirations.
In the second, there is the radical approach. This includes those advocating for systemic overhaul through revolution, supported by CORE and other revolutionary leftist tendencies. Finally, we have secessionism, which is pushed mainly by regional ethnonationalists.
The internal consistency of some of these tendencies aside, the fact that they are being loudly debated instructs us that the Nigerian masses are united in the view that the current socio-political system is no longer fit for purpose.
However, it is not simply enough to be united in seeking to displace the current system. This popular impulse must also be supported by a coherent body of ideas through which a more just system can be constructed in its place.
It is in this way that the collective desire for progress can translate into meaningful improvements in the material conditions of the masses. Political education is the only means through which this coherent body of ideas can reach mass appeal.
The CORE cadre training is thus envisaged to equip them to carry out state/branch-level education programs for members of the affiliates in the localities of those that have been trained, and to organize popular political education activities, for workers, students and residents of communities.
During the opening session, Baba Aye, a co-convener of CORE, discussed the importance of political education. His key message was that political battles have to be fought on the turf of ideas as well as at the barricades.
He stressed that, while the ruling class bases their ideas and praxis on the oppression of the masses, revolutionaries must base the ideas which inform their concrete action on working people’s self-liberation. And this is acquired or strengthened through political education.
According to him, without political education – which he defined as “a conscious process of expanding theoretical knowledge and building our practical skills for political struggle” – we cannot fully grasp the dynamics of what is happening [on a systemic level] and what is to be done [to change it].
In keeping with the Marxist tradition of aiming to understand the world in order to change it, the goals of the module of this first course were two-fold: (1) To provide activists with an accessible ideological and theoretical framework with which to interpret the systemic inequities that cause the poor living standards of the Nigerian masses, and (2) To examine principles and strategies that will guide us in our quest to organize for emancipatory change.
Following a rigorous review process that saw reviewers drawn from several revolutionary organizations in Nigeria and internationally, as well as some (at the time) prospective participants in the school revolutionary, the module was refined to reflect these goals under two broad subsections.
In the first subsection, “How do we define the system we are up against?”, topics such as the importance of political education, political economy, and the history of revolution in Nigeria were covered.
In the second subsection, “How do we change and transform the system?”, we examine the principles of internal democracy in revolutionary organizations, and strategies for organizing towards a revolution.
In total, fifty-three activists, drawn from the six geopolitical zones registered for the program. Many of the attendee-activists were meeting for the first time, which enabled them to learn from an impressive assortment of perspectives about the conditions and experiences that radicalized their colleagues.
The attendee-activists were constituted into twelve study groups, half of which attended the weekly sessions on Saturdays, while the other half attended the Monday sessions. This provided some flexibility to the participants who may have had commitments that made attendance on one or the other days challenging.
During the sessions, the different study groups were called upon to offer cultural segments, where they chanted, recited poems or sang revolutionary songs. This had the simultaneous effect of making the sessions lively, while also strengthening the bond of solidarity among the attendee-activists themselves, and between them and the facilitators of the sessions.
The response from the attendee-activists was overwhelmingly positive. For instance, Yil, an activist from Jos, noted that the readings and discussions that take place during the sessions made her appreciate the necessity of grounding praxis in revolutionary theory.
She also mentioned that the sessions deepened her insight and understanding of socialism, capitalism and the pivotal role that organization plays in political change.
On his part, Zubair, a human rights activist and writer based in Kaduna mentioned how the course enabled him to see beyond the belief that we have no real say in the running of society, and that change can happen if we engage in the political processes, with clear-cut ideas as well as practical commitment.
He also noted how, by exploring in a dialogical way the vast array of political ideologies that exist in the world, the course has helped him to concisely and coherently characterize his political ideology. Zubair said he is now able to watch events unfold worldwide, and confidently contextualize the actions and reactions of the actors and social forces they represent, using the ideological tools he learned during the program.
The program was not without some challenges, however. For example, the virtual nature of the program placed limits on how much tactile and practical learning tools could be leveraged. This was especially challenging with respect to physical and field learning activities.
In addition, the unstable internet connection in some parts of the country meant frequent technical disruptions in the smooth running of the course for some attendee-activists. The political education working group sees the development of the modules as an ongoing process, as new knowledge and methods will be incorporated through the co-learning that’s happening between the attendee-activists and the facilitators of the program.
To conclude, it is useful to situate this program within a broader perspective of historical processes, and no words do this better than those of one of Africa’s greatest revolutionaries, Frantz Fanon, who said “every generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it”. There is no doubt that this program is a step towards fulfilling the revolutionary mission of the current generation of Nigerians, and the enthusiasm shared between the coordinating committee of CORE, the course developers, the facilitators, and the attendee-activists gives us much about which to be hopeful.
by Idris AJIA