Nigeria: On “The Labour Files” Investigative Report by Al Jazeera

By Oladipupo Jimoh, International Liaison Personnel of Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard, Nigerian Section of the RCIT. 27th September, 2022.


Al Jazeera has released a not so shocking investigative report about how the Labour Party bureaucracy in the UK systematically frustrated and eventually undermined Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

The documentary speaks to the approach that some self-acclaimed socialists, who have also referred to the UK Labour Party in order to defend their support for Nigeria’s Labour Party and by extension Peter Obi in the coming elections. First and foremost, and without question, Jeremy Corbyn and Peter Obi are miles apart just as the radical instances in the history of the UK Labour Party dwarfs the ruling class spare-part role the Nigerian Labour Party (NLP) has played all along.

However, what is important here is the penchant of our Labour activists to reap where they have not sown. True Jeremy Corbyn came after core right wing figures like Tony Blair in the Labour Party yet can the emergence of Corbyn be ascribed majorly to the campaign of socialist activists in the movement or was it just due to the ebbs and flows of a socio-economic system in crises in a society begging for an alternative.

One could imagine that while JC was leader of the UKLP left currents such as the ones now proposing rapport with the NLP/PO movement tried to remain in the good books of JC and his supporters without raising fundamental criticism of the politician (JC) or even questioning the manner in which the UKLP was structured.

And as such, the documentary reveals how horrendous acts damaging to the internal democracy of the UKLP was carried out on a full scale by a tiny unelected bureaucracy. Outright sabotage against progressive currents without minding if this would bring the whole party into the mire was launched. Rabid racism; unfounded allegations of homophobia and antisemitism were the instruments of this witch-hunt that led to large scale excommunications and suspensions as though under martial law.

This is the thing that Joint Action Front (JAF) and the likes are doing with the NLC and NLP — no serious criticism of the Wabba leadership nor a thorough going campaign for his removal from the workers movement. Now they want to focus on the NLP due to its popularity as a result of the crises in the ranks of the Nigerian ruling class and with the emergence of PO as flag bearer. This is a classic example of hoping to reap where you haven’t sowed.

You want to engage the youths trooping to Peter Obi’s Labour Party, fine! But what of the youths in PDP and APC have they become irredeemable to the point that they mustn’t be engaged? If not, can this engagement serve as an excuse for supporting PDP and APC? Can revolutionaries also be called to join PDP&APC because, you know, one acronym stands for “Democratic” while the other for “Progressives”.

If these comrades could not carry out a thorough going campaign against Wabba and his moribund cohorts how can they face down the crowd of Obi supporters? Will they also avoid criticism of Obi with hopes that the tide may turn someday? This is far from the approach of socialists who must maintain an independent profile in any left wing or radical platform they partake in.

Such methods didn’t work in the UKLP and will certainly have more disastrous effects in the NLP. For one thing, while JC supporters, Momentum members and the progressive strata in the Party were being humiliated, harassed, wrongly accused and effectively witch-hunted by a notorious party bureaucracy, Corbyn himself did next to nothing. No fight back, no attempts to protect progressives or even his supporters, nothing. Even if it can be argued that the bureaucracy of the UKLP was reactionary and nothing can be done unless it were changed why didn’t Corbyn raise such critiques. Or why didn’t he just split the LP? Oh let me guess it is the “Labour” party we’re talking about here, it mustn’t be touched. Either that or the man may be putting considerations of his political career first.

Either ways JC stands suspended from the LP, thousands of progressives who joined the UKLP have been dispersed due to the humiliating defeat of the Labour Party in 2019. It seems as though the whole momentum has gone down the drain. This would not have been the case if Corbyn had fought for principles he laid claim to and the movement that was rising behind him. More importantly, things would have been different if the self-acclaimed socialists would have challenged the status quo of the Labour Party itself and Corbyn’s left reformism. But then again if these left currents could not spearhead this campaign before Corbyn’s emergence when the party had less attention how could they do it after.

While it was correct to support Jeremy Corbyn at that time; deepen the movement around him (instead of just cheering them on) and support the Labour Party that had again become popular. It was not correct to suspend all criticism of the left reformist politician and the Labour Party. Similarly, PO has again brought the NLP to limelight the only difference however is that he does not represent anything progressive, and he is basically a splinter from the bourgeois ruling class who is every bit still pro-establishment. So, to be clear and as this piece has indicated before PO is more of a Tony Blair than a Jeremy Corbyn.

Had Corbyn fought the LP bureaucracy which, at that time, was hellbent on sabotaging the Party; had he faced the burning political questions in Britain like Brexit head-on, by pedagogically but consistently explaining to the masses that neither British or EU imperialism was in their interest. The UKLP may not have been defeated or the defeat would not be so devastating. And in the advent of such defeat the movement would still be very much alive be it within or without the LP.

This is the summary of the limitation of Corbyn’s left reformism which seeks a kind of middle ground or equilibrium between the right and left at the expense of the actual radical left wing forces. But all of this is because Corbyn’s rise and the radical mass that swelled the ranks of the Labour Party after him was not the work of consistent party building by revolutionaries, it was just the tide of the time. Because if it was why then did this group of revolutionaries stop or fail to deepen their campaign during the Corbyn era. So, the movement fizzled out faster than it crystallized.

The same is true for Peter Obi. Those comrades who now call for support of the Labour Party did nothing to bring it to this stage of popularity so how can they tell people to join. “We were in the NLP before Obi” they say, but how come the same party can accommodate you and a bourgeois bad apple like Peter Obi? Even if they argue that it is never too late to start serious work within the NLP, then the place to start is the NLC. Telling people what the NLC and NLP should stand for and what they are now. The end of this position must then be the removal of the Wabba leadership and the rejection of Obi’s candidacy. Any other thing is mere popular frontism and trying to build on thin air.

The election and campaign period provides ample political ambience for advancing the cause of revolutionary socialism. The platform of a moribund Labour Party is superfluous in this regard. The popular masses will turn to our ideas as a certain tipping point in the socio-economic conditions is reached. This point cannot be predicted by anyone with complete accuracy but can be further delayed by distortions of, and estrangements from the tenets scientific socialism and its revolutionary praxis!