On the Background of the Recent Split in the Pacesetters Movement and the Plans of the RCIT Supporters in Nigeria
Interview with Sanyaolu Juwon, former Organizing Secretary of the Pacesetters Movement and long-time National Coordinator of the Student Movement ‘Alliance of Nigerian Students Against Neoliberal Attacks’, 4 September 2018, published by the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), www.thecommunists.net
Question: Hi, comrade, good to have you with us! Could you first tell us a bit about yourself?
Answer: My name is Sanyaolu Juwon. I am 26 years old. I have been a revolutionary activist since 2011. That's close to 8 years now. I was the National Coordinator of the Students Movement 'Alliance of Nigerian Students Against Neoliberal Attacks‘ (ANSA) for close to two years before handing over two a new leadership about two months ago. I have been the Organizing Secretary of the Pacesetters Movement since February 2017 till September 2nd 2018.
Q: Could you tell us about the meeting of the Pacesetters Movement on 2 September?
A: At this meeting, a split took place between the Trotskyist wing of the organization and the old Stalinist guard. We wanted to put forward a resolution about the political and organizational reorientation of the organization. But before we could do so, the bureaucratic apparatus took disciplinary actions against us (they already tried to do the same against me inside the leadership body for several months). As a result we had a separate meeting where we decided to launch a new organization as part of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT).
Q: What has been the background of this development?
A: The Pacesetters Movement exists already for decades. For a long time, it has been a purely Stalinist organization. In the last years, it formally broke with Stalinism. This is why I and a number of other young activists joined it. However, we found out that the organization had only formally broken with Stalinism but not in substance. As a result, a number of comrades including myself, have fought for a real change since some time. While we have been able to push back the Stalinist influence, we could not break their hold over the apparatus.
Q: What have been the main points of your proposal for a political and organizational reorientation of the organization?
A: Concretely, we proposed, first, a full break with Stalinism. Secondly, we demanded a break with national isolationism and a turn to consistent working class internationalism. As a consequence we proposed to join the RCIT as a sympathizing section. Thirdly, we demanded an end of passive routinism and a turn to an activist orientation building the organization among the working class.
Q: Can you explain this a bit more in detail?
A: Yes, of course. We have collaborated closely with the RCIT in the past few months. We have discussed the RCIT’s Africa Manifesto (https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/manifesto-for-the-revolutionary-liberation-of-black-africa/) and agreed with the comrades two important international joint statements (Global Trade War: No to Great Power Jingoism in West and East! https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit/joint-statement-on-the-looming-global-trade-war/; Warmongering in the Middle East: Down with all Imperialist Great Powers and Capitalist Dictatorships! https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/joint-statement-warmongering-in-the-middle-east/). As a result, we have established fraternal relations between our organizations (https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit/fraternal-relations-between-rcit-and-pacesetters-nigeria/). For us it has been clear that we want to draw the organisational conclusions from this by becoming the Nigerian section of the RCIT. We are convinced that it is crucial to fight for the socialist revolution as part of an international organisation.
Q: And this was opposed by the old Stalinist guard?
A: Yes, Stalinism believes in the possibility to build socialism isolated in one country and, consequently, to build a revolutionary party isolated in a single country. We consider the method of Lenin and Trotsky superior – the socialist society and the party fighting do such a society will be built by internationalist methods or not at all. This has been understood by the young activists and this is why we broke with the old Stalinist guard of the Pacesetters. It is clear for us that Stalinism is an obstacle in building an authentic Marxist and internationalist organization!
Q: You have been a leader of the student movement ANSA for several years. Can you tell a bit more on this?
A: When we began our work in the Pacesetters Movement this organization was pretty isolated among the youth. It had a presence only on one campus. We began an energetic campaign of building ANSA as an authentic student movement which is fighting for the interests of the working class youth. Today we have a presence on 31 campuses. (See e.g. https://punchng.com/closure-lautech-students-set-mass-protest/; https://punchng.com/video-tasued-students-with-gov-amosun-during-protest-on-fees-hike/; https://socialistworkersleague.org/2017/06/16/education-is-a-right-ansa-protests-at-lsha-students-attacked-by-thugs/) We have also been a leading force in the Save UNILAG Coalition of which I have been the secretary. (See e.g. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/04/coalition-demands-release-detained-13-unilag-students/; http://saharareporters.com/2017/02/28/save-unilag-coalition-announces-mass-action-demand-reinstatement-rusticated-students; http://thenationonlineng.net/students-protest-colleagues-rustication-unilag/) As a result of our revolutionary activities, a number of young activists, including myself, have repeatedly been suspended from schools and universities. (For a recently published ANSA statement see e.g. https://www.thecommunists.net/forum/ansa-statement-on-reinstatement-of-9-student-activists-in-nigeria/)
Q: Did this cause conflicts inside the Pacesetters Movement?
A: Yes. One point of our resolution at the General Meeting on 2 September was: “That the organization puts an end to reducing it cadres to campus tigers and build the movement as a genuine working class international organization.”
Q: What are “Campus Tigers”?
A: A “Campus Tigers” is a figurative speech used to describe cadres whose best days as revolutionary activists starts and ends on campus. The Stalinists orientated to this kind of people. But we Trotskyists are totally opposed such an approach. In our opinion, it is crucial to build an organization which is based on serious activities among the working class in general and the working class youth in particular.
Q: So what are your plans for the future?
A: Nigeria is a very big country with 190 million people and a strong proletariat! The capitalist society is full of explosive contradictions and we expect sharp class struggles in the near future. Our task as revolutionaries is to prepare for these developments and to build a revolutionary internationalist party! After our split with the Stalinist Pacesetters Movement we are currently building a new, internationalist and authentic Marxist organization as a section of the RCIT. It will be active, strong amongst the youth and orientated to the working class and its struggles! You will hear soon more from us!
Q: We look forward and wish you all the best, comrade!