The Power Of Occupy: Lessons in Radical Social Transformation For Nigeria. By Jaye Gaskia
Ruling political elites, the ruling class everywhere globally are united in trying to discourage and discountenance the organised, conscious mass self activity of the ordinary masses, the exploited and repressed subordinate classes and segments of society, who constitute the overwhelming majority of citizens. These ruling classes everywhere are quick to project in derogatory and negative terms popular mobilisations of the masses in direct mass actions, such as rallies, general strikes, mass demonstrations etc. The more potentially undermining of their authority, the more the aggressive campaign of calumny directed at such mass actions to demonise it. The quicker they try to erase its memory from popular consciousness too.
The last 7 years, particularly since the inception of the current global socio-economic crises has seen the return of huge mass demonstration, street processions, and rallies;, widespread active general strikes paralysing whole sectors, or entire national economies; as well as raging and widespread pitched street battles between security forces and the aroused population.
Before the revival of the mass protest movement of the last few years, it was fashionable and conventional for ruling classes all over the world to promote, perpetuate, and perpetrate the self defeating myth that real and significant transformational change only come through the gradual routine of existing conventional constitutional order. The emergence and revival of the Global Occupy Movement, in its many variegated streams and strands since 2007, has given the lie to this self serving and self perpetuating myth of change being possible only within the confines of existing constitutional order.
So the Occupy Wall street movement, inspired a revived global occupy movement across Europe, reinforced by mass general strikes. And then came the Occupation of Tunis, and the whole of Tunisia; the occupation of Cairo, and subsequently of Egypt as a whole; the Occupation of Benghazi, stretching out until Tripoli was also occupied; and ofcourse the Occupation of Nigeria with a paralysing nationwide mass general strike, combined with nationwide mass protests, which overcame more than 55 cities and towns at its height and paralysed the entire country in January 2012. The tremors and aftershocks of that January Uprising continued to threaten the polity all through 2012 and well into 2013.
Since then we have witnessed the phenomenon of permanent revolution unfold in Egypt as well as Tunisia, and more pronouncedly in Syria, where a civil war between the repressive regime, and a mass protest movement forced to arm itself, has been ongoing for more than 3 years. 2013 also saw the global wave of resistance berth in Turkey, which has since then witnessed several waves of turmoultous convulsions.
Not even Russia has been spared this wave of popular resistance, signifying a global revolutionary crisis, and presaging a global revolutionary situation. And now since November of 2013, Ukraine has been convulsing in a quickly maturing revolutionary crisis.
In the Americas and in Europe and the giant economies of Asia, concessions were forced from the ruling classes, forcing hasty reviews of conventional and received wisdom; in Latin America the movement towards electoral victories of popular left parties gained in strength and acquired renewed momentum. In the Arab spring across Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, governments were toppled, and their successors sent packing in quick succession. New constitutions were won, with tentative steps being taken towards new constitutional orders, under the watchful gaze of the popular masses in more or less permanent occupation of the streets.
In Iran, a hugely significant concession was won in the election of a new president intent on travelling a slightly different road from that of the arch conservative clerical autocracy.
In Syria, as well as in Turkey, in very contrasting contexts, existing regimes remain recalcitrant, while the mass protest movement have remained determined, leading to armed stalemate in Syria, and a civil stalemate in Turkey.
In Ukraine as we write, concessions are being wrested in quick successions from the regime, by a rapidly evolving mass uprising, that is growing increasingly self confident. And in Russia, even Russia, symbolic concessions are being won.
The most significant universal lesson being re-taught by the global experience of this ‘season of anomie’ is that settled constitutional orders, and with this, stable constitutionalism are the outcome of significant general mass societal upheavals; The magna-carta was won after an uprising; the American Declaration of Independence and constitution after a popular rebellion that overthrew colonialism; the defunct Soviet constitution and Soviet Union after the October Revolution of 1917; the current Russian constitution after the revolution that overthrew the soviet bloc order; the new South Africa and its new constitution after the victorious anti-apartheid struggle; the outlawing of segregation the American south after the mass upheavals of the civil rights movement. Need we go on with potent examples?
The implication of this global lesson for us in Nigeria is twin fold; the lie of the myth of significant radical transformative change occurring only within the bounds of existing constitutional order; as well as the futility of continuing to expect that we can make the revolutionary leap forward into a more socially just, more equitable prosperous future without witnessing deep seething revolutionary ferment, a fundamental rupture with the existing order, and the radical overturning and supercedence of existing constitutional order.
The import to me seems to be clear that, in this significant year of the national dialogue/national conference process, in this important year of the eve of the general elections with the deep seethed ferment in society in general, and tearing apart historical bonds within the treasury looting ruling elites in particular; in this year of the centenary; unless we stage a massive return to the streets, and revive our Occupation of Nigeria; unless we meet the power of the ruling elites with the power of our own ‘massquake’, we would not be able to achieve the goal and objective of a new constitutional order more favourable for us, and protective of our collective interests.
Without taking active concrete steps to re-occupy Nigeria, there will be no revolutionary leap forward, much less a new socially just constitution and constitutional order.
The choice is ours to make; the moment because it is characterised by crisis that is undermining of the existing order is auspicious; the timing is ripe; the harvest awaits our combined harvester.
In the words of Murtala Mohammed, at the height of Nigeria’s frontline role in the struggle to conclude the decolonisation of Nigeria; ‘This is the time to reflect, to rethink, and to act’.
Our Destiny Is In Our Own Hands; Let Us Act Together To Take Back Nigeria Now.
Organise Now! Mobilise Now!! Act Now!!!
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