The socialist world outlook is the most elevated paradigm for peaceful co-existence any and everywhere in the world. Nowhere else testifies better to this than the Scandinavian countries where the Human Development Index speaks to how to put the people first. It may not be such a perfect template or even socialist by the concept but they have tamed the anarchy that their Others have not. Yet, Socialism, however understood, is at risk almost everywhere.
Not only are revolutions not taking place again, the agenda setting capacity of socialism is dwindling. The symbols are few. Although China, the emergent great power, is even a communist state by label but China is about ‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics’, a self-understanding implying its own prescriptions on dealing with social change and with the world.
Add to that the pace capitalism is developing as to make itself so natural. In spite of the intense intellectual and activist contestation of it, from the knowledge industry to the factories to the streets and to politics, it is still the pace setter on the direction of the world. Notwithstanding the huge contradictions it embody, it is still developing to an overwhelming size. This is such that, in certain contexts, it looks stupid to talk about socialism as more people try merely to get along with what works rather than what works better. The stock of socialists is rising but also dwindling remarkably.
Corresponding to its size, Nigeria, for instance, had such a huge concentration of socialists. They have, almost to the last man, been routed from the traditional spaces they dominated, not numerically but in terms of discursive power. Such spaces were the media, academia, labour and politics, to some extent. It is difficult to mention up to 10 credible socialist politicians in Nigeria today, particularly those who have held office and left behind any legacy that can be classified close to the socialistic. They predominate in the NGOs but NGOs are too diffuse in nature or orientation to be constituted to serve socialism, notwithstanding the equalitarian proclamations. There is collective material weakness in addition to ageing. Ageing is a unique threat in a context in which self-reproduction or the production of a successor generation was so violently disrupted by both the Nigerian State and developments in the wider world. The worst affliction is the ideological disarray. Creativity with the Marxist world outlook that shapes much of socialist politics has brought about damned too many traditions and sects in socialist politics as different socialists respond to the specificity of their own challenges as we see in the Chinese idea of ‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics’.
Above all, nationalism/ethnicity and religious awareness have also risen or been manipulated? to contest the space with orthodox Marxism as the subjective self clashes with the dogma of the materialist interpretation of History. In fact, there has even been the claim that nationalism, more than liberalism and Marxism, has been the most successful ideology in human history. This is on the ground that, like Christendom or Islam in the Middle Ages, liberalism and Marxism have had to utilize the sovereignty of the nation-state while nationhood itself has known no boundaries in its historical triumph. The final tragedy is that the chance to clarify ideological interruptions has also dwindled as Whatsapp replaces political education classes.
But the society is adrift. In the words of Prof Attahiru Jega, The Nigerian State is currently conquered and occupied, with perhaps very few exceptions, by mostly vandals and bandits interested only in accessing the public treasury for their personal aggrandizement, without any belief in or commitment to the basic tenets of liberal democracy, in terms of rule of law; transparent and accountable governance, participatory democracy, popular representation, and conduct of elections with credibility and integrity. If and when essentially undemocratic elements commandeer the state for selfish and self-serving objectives, there is little if any hope of developing and entrenching a stable democratic polity. On the contrary the country would only be a galore of crises and conflicts, violence and anarchy, underdevelopment and chronic instability.
Some people are interpreting Jega as, in a way, reminding both conservatives and radicals of Claude Ake’s memorable alert that if Africa does not go socialist, it will embrace barbarism. Right now, the society is taken over by barbarism. Life is brutish and nasty but the road to socialism has not been communicated in a manner that makes socialism very, very commonsensical, natural or hegemonic.
So, what is to be done? This is considered an apt question to pose on the 74th birthday of Comrade Bene Madunagu, a pioneer of the educated, middle class Marxist-feminists who took it from the classroom to the organisational level. Although the Women in Nigeria, (WIN), where this played out is part of the socialist wreckage in Nigeria today, the testimony is that she, indeed, played her part in the making of WIN. Intervention has been told there would be no parties at this birthday but there will be joy at 74 in the light of a past that may be reflected upon by all but not with regrets at all, whatever the situation might be today.