We Must Fight Ideologies that Support Capitalism & Divide Working People


“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.”

Karl Marx in The German Ideology

In the German Ideology, Karl Marx theorized that ideas formed by human beings about themselves and what they should be dominate the parameters of what they consider possible or appropriate. Every society is dominated by a system of ideas, an ideology which has deep roots in how production is organized in such society. This system of ideas  is the basis of social values and institutions that guide interactions in the society. It equally informs the economic and political policies of the state and governments that run it and forms the basis for the popular art, music, movies and laws that govern that society. Nigeria, as with every capitalist country, has a capitalist ideology. Within the system of ideas that constitute capitalist ideology in the country, there is what I would call “corruption realism”.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Francis Fukuyama a political scientist proclaimed that history had ended and that we live in a post-ideological world. Since then, capitalism has been projected as the only one way of organizing the economy and society, with its inherent  profit incentive.

Nigeria is part of the world capitalist economy. Thus production and major economic activities in general are carried out as businesses to make profit. The ideology underpinning this practice led to massive privatisation in the early 2000s with the argument that services, including some social services, are more efficient if run for profit.

The idea that foreign investors are what we need to save the economy is continually proliferated as part of the neoliberal ideology of capitalism. There is also the illusion that the market is key to solving all problems in the economy and society. The idea behind this is that the only role of government is to make the country look for private (mainly but not limited to foreign) investment on the basis of the free market logic. This ideology has informed the formulation and implementation of government policies that have led to the massive devaluation of the naira, higher inflation, the taking of more debts which never benefit the working people, increasing social inequality, and increasing foreign control on the economy. All these have increased the hunger and suffering of working-class people in the country. To the capitalists, the only “sensible” way the economy and society can be organised is just the one that benefits only 1%  of the population and the capital of imperialist corporations.

An aspect of the capitalist ideology of dominance in Nigeria is what I will call the hustle culture. The average Nigerian youth’s goal is to make money, most times by any means necessary. The idea is that money is the answer to everything. In a society where money determines status and such status is everything, the desire to have as much money as possible is a driving force..

In theory, If you’re smart enough, work hard enough and keep up the grind you will become rich. Your work ethic and entrepreneurial skills are what will make you rich to buy anything you want. While a good work ethic is good to have, it won’t make you rich. The ideology of this hustle culture fails to include generational wealth as a leading source of wealth and the role of government favouritism in awarding over bloated contracts, subsidies, tax cuts and tax waivers to those capitalists close to the ones in government.

This ideology is very dangerous as it is all about the self with the 1% of society who appear to have “hustled” their way to the top being highly revered. The goal of hustling is to be free and buy whatever you want, be it the latest foreign car or designer clothing. In essence, the ideology projects consumerism as freedom. This ideology has fostered the normalcy of a population of youth living in a failing system but refusing to organise to challenge it as they are made to think it is their fault and that one more period of grind and hustling will turn their fortunes around. But this normalcy gets shattered from time to time by the objective realities of capitalism’s heavy blows on the people, as we saw with the #EndSARS Rebellion.

Another ideology which I think is probably the most dangerous, and which I earlier mentioned is “corruption realism”. This ideology as seen widely in the last election is the one of “there is no saint”. We heard people saying things like “We know he is very corrupt but he built that state. He is a builder, he should be president”.  “He was a very corrupt governor but he did build roads, we should appreciate him”.

This ideology has given officials the right to do away with the public commonwealth as long as they know they will great praise for the little “development” they added while in office. Another aspect of this ideology is “It is not really their fault, if you were there you would have done it too”. This has created the idea that there are no principled people and everyone would be a thief if given the chance. This has helped the rot of corruption to flow from the top down to the bottom in virtually every facet of the economy and society in Nigeria. There is a high rate of corruption in the civil service, and this has been used as one of the excuses for privatisation. But there is also a lot of corruption in the private sector as well.

The corruption at the top produces the one at the bottom which is then used to reinforce justification for the one at the top. There’s also a reverence for corrupt officials as smart people “wey sabi”. Even poor people want to be like them, be them and they do suck up to them. They become the followers of their oppressors in the hopes of getting crumbs from them or the belief that the government of one set of capitalists or the other will favour them in some way or the other, based on their loyalty.

In conclusion, as working-class and youth activists, we need to tirelessly propagate revolutionary ideas, countering the hegemonic ideology of capitalism in its different forms with perspectives of socialist alternatives. We must challenge the dominant ideas of the dominant classes within the ranks of our class, even as we fight the dominant classes themselves. Lived reality teaches our class through struggle. But their lived realities include the power of the backward ideas that help to bolster the continuity of capitalism promoting consumerism and individualism.  

Like Thomas Sankara, we must point out to working-class people like us that “We must either choose champagne for a few or safe drinking water for all”, adding that we are not likely to be the ones drinking the champagne in the first place, even if we hustle for all our lives.

by Emmanuel IRO-OKORO



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