The Coalition for Revolution (CORE) had on Friday, 26th of March, 2021 declared its perspective concerning the recent political summit organized by a body known as The People’s Alternative Political Summit (T-PAPS) with the aim of uniting Political Movements, Civil Society Organizations, Progressive Political Parties, Women, Youths and Students organizations, Activists, social movements, and labour unionists across boards to form a progressive political coalition as an alternative to the existing corrupt political parties and elites that has kept Nigeria underdeveloped and Nigerians impoverished for decades.
Below is CORE’s statement signed by its co-conveners, labour activists Baba Aye and Gbenga Komolafe;
CORE’s Perspective On The People’s Alternative Political Summit
The Coalition for Revolution (CORE) welcomes efforts towards organizing a People’s Alternative Political Summit. The need for collaboration of left forces cannot be overemphasized if we are to win the total liberation of the poor masses and system change.
This has always been the stand of CORE. It informed our “Need for Concerted Efforts of the Radical and Revolutionary Coalitions” letter of 29th September to ASCAB and JAF. We will thus participate actively in any concrete initiative that helps us to forge such concerted efforts in practice.
Learning from our past for today
As Comrade Omotoye Olorode, Chair of the ASCAB Political Organising Committee which initiated this initiative pointed out in an opening remark on 16th December 2020, there have been several efforts to forge left and popular struggle unity over the decades.
While we have recorded some extent of successes, these have largely not been quite successful. And this, as he further noted, is despite the fact that “we have, and had, no fundamental differences”. We appreciate the critical moment we are in which calls for all radical and revolutionary groups with a sincere commitment to the fight for a better society to do their very best to set aside sectarian considerations, for the common good of working-class people that we are a part of, and fight for.
Thus, we must not let the past weigh down on renewed efforts such as that being initiated with this summit. It is however necessary for us to consider some of the reasons why similar efforts have failed, within the context of what is to be done in the current period. As a Yoruba adage goes “when a child falls, s/he looks forward, but when an elder falls s/he looks back (to see what caused the fall).
Considering the fact that we do not share fundamental differences in terms of the “what?” (i.e., the working people’s struggle for system change), a major part of our collective failings before, in our view, would be the “how?” of going about forging unity around a common political agenda.
Concretely speaking, we have been more successful where our efforts have been geared towards building alliances/coalitions. The Campaign for Democracy (CD) was arguably the most successful of such efforts. Its implosion marked an end to the era of a single unified fighting platform of the left. In its aftermath, we have had several competing coalitions such as UAD/JACON and more recently, JAF/CORE/ASCAB.
We have been far less successful in efforts aimed at coalescing all left formations into a single political party. Socialist Workers and Farmers Party (SWAFP) split less than a year after its formation in 1963, with the emergence of the Nigeria Labour Party (NLP). The All-Nigeria Socialist Conferences of 1977 and 1978 aimed at the formation of a single unified socialist party. But the result was the formation of the Socialist Working People’s Party (SWPP) and Socialist Party of Workers, Youth and Farmers (SPWYF) as two distinct parties that were not registered on one hand, and the gravitation of several forces on the left towards other parties including capitalist parties like the UPN and GNPP.
And in the wake of the demise of the 2nd All-Nigeria Socialist Alliance (2005 to 2010), efforts to form a unified Socialist Party of Nigeria resulted in the 2012 formation of a distinct SPN, which got registered by INEC on one hand and other groups which initiated the idea transforming into the Socialist Liberation Party (LiP) on the other hand.
If attempts in the past to forge a common political party platform proved Herculean, the situation now is even more complex. The earlier efforts entailed initiatives to establish a unified political party from existing groups none of which was yet so defined as political parties. Today, there are a few left parties, with their defined structures, ethos, and programmes. Transcending this situation and forging them into one single party might not be impossible. But it could well prove near insurmountable.
In this light, we consider the ASCAB Discussion proposition that: “The ultimate end of the process of mounting the joint political campaign and realizing the common political programme will be the emergence and building of a Radical, Mass Left Political Party in Nigeria, as the political party expression of a broad coalition of left initiatives”, as something that might not be immediately practicable. Indeed, it could lead to dissipation of our energies or even worse; more schisms than that which this summit appears aimed at overcoming.
What is to be done, and how?
There are a few things that need to be stressed before we look at what, in our view, is to be done and how.
First, our argument is not that a singular unified left party might not be desirable or is impossible to form. Our position rather stems from a concrete analysis of concrete reality. It is not impossible that building such a party could be feasible in the near future. It will take years of working together in several ways, building mutual trust and confidence, forging shared values beyond the immediately fundamental which we have no differences in, and most importantly building collective strength with roots in the working people and youth.
Second, the idea that the sole or even main reason why the left’s intervention has not been as significant as it could be in the struggles of the people is that we are not unified as a political party, is a myth. The whole might be greater than its components, but there is a dialectical relationship between the components and the whole. Without rebuilding the component building blocks that the different left parties and groups could be for such an envisaged unified political party, such a party is still not likely to make much difference.
Third, we think that the example of the APC as a party formed from the unity of several capitalist parties which “took many years to reach its current level of recognition” as an amplifier of “historical experience that electoral success depends on a broad coalition building, and with sufficient resources” . Fails to contextualize that experience. It actually did not take APC so many years to get to where it is. But there are key elements of its emergence and evolution that need to be put in perspective.
The component parties that formed APC were not only capitalist parties, but they were also parties in power in different states/regions of the country. The process towards their unification and the formation of APC on 3rd February 2013 also started almost three years to the 2015 elections and built on years of earlier collaboration between several of these component parties starting from 1999 . Our histories and realities as the left are quite different.
Fourth, the timing of this call for a unified party for (even if not limited to) electoral purposes gives cause for concern. This is particularly so as several persons and groups on the left, including leading organizers of the summit, have already indicated an interest in running for offices, including the presidency in the 2023 elections.
Trust is the cement that keeps the blocks of programme together for any revolutionary partisan politics. As we pointed out earlier, there is a need to build mutual trust and confidence before seriously broaching the idea of a unified political party. While we do not wish to think so, it would not be out of place to assume that the call for a unified party might possibly be a stratagem to shore up the left as a whole around a particular, already defined electoral agenda on the basis of that envisaged party or as an independent candidate, if the campaign for this is fruitful.
Fifth, the foregoing is not to say that we cannot have some form of a common programme for political struggle or jointly organize campaigns. On the contrary, we need to do these and in several ways. Getting to do this and successfully too would require steps that emerge from what subsists. We might be far from where we want to be and ought to be as radical and revolutionary forces, but we are not starting from zero. Thus, we propose:
- On a common political programme:
- As earlier pointed out, we do not have fundamental differences. Our aim should not be a reinvention of the wheel. The different organisations involved in these efforts have programmes. The common political programme should have these as its point of departure – distilling out their commonalities and including immediate actionable clauses,
- In this light, we are happy to submit the CORE Charter for Total Liberation . and urge other coalitions, parties, and groups to do likewise. An inclusive drafting body should then be established to work on such distillation and initiate discussion around this as a shared operational document.
- Fostering joint work and campaigns:
- Constituting a united front of left/left-leaning coalitions (such as JAF, CORE & ASCAB)
- Work with the trade union movement towards revitalization and reformulation of the Labour-Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) to include: NLC, TUC & FIWON as trade union components and JAF, CORE & ASCAB as radical CSOs component,
- Establish a united front of radical and revolutionary parties, such as AAC, LiP, MOP, NCP, PRP, and SPN,
- This united front of parties engenders collective support for particular parties where they are stronger to avoid left splitting of votes in electoral contestation against the parties of the bosses at all levels,
- The different coalitions and parties, working together as united fronts organize joint activities including demonstrations, symposiums, etc to deepen class consciousness and independent organization of working-class people.
Once again, we commend the initiative behind this summit, and we look forward to deepened collaboration on the left after this. Forging unity is a process and not an act. This process could be quick or long drawn. It will involve discourse, debate – which could even be heated. But these should be without malice or demonstrable ulterior motives.
Our participation in the summit, despite the malicious inclusion of a WhatsApp group (i.e., “Agitation for Revolution”) as an endorsing organization, by the summit’s central organizing committee, is a demonstration of our sense of commitment to collaboration. We do appreciate the fact that such and similar sectarian attitudes might be difficult to overcome in a day. But we must rise above them.
The challenges ahead are huge, we need to unite the struggles of the left and the working masses to win a better society. “The people united cannot be defeated!”.