[OPINION] Jaye Gaskia: Organising For Social Transformation: Experiences And Alternatives

[OPINION] Jaye Gaskia: Organising For Social Transformation: Experiences And Alternatives


This paper was originally written in 2010 in preparation for the

annual Nigeria Social Forum [NSF], which was to gather in Benin City.

The NSF is an integral part of the World Social Forum [WSF] movement,

which also holds annually about January. The WSF was first convened in

Porto Allegre in Brazil, in a state where the Brazilian Workers Party

was in power, before that Workers party took power nationally in

democratic elections under immediate past President Lula.

It was convened as a direct response to and rebuff of the annual World

Economic Forum [WEF] gathering of state and business leaders promoting

various versions of the free market, in its regulated or unregulated

forms. It was a gathering where government leaders of the dominant

economies held discussions with world business leaders on how best to

promote the interest of capital, and sustain capitalist exploitation


The WSF was convened as a direct follow up to the Seattle game

changing mass demonstrations against the World Trade Organisation

[WTO]. The mass demonstrations saw the coming together in joint

struggle of old and new social movements; the trades unions and the

movements of peoples and citizens across the globe. The mass

demonstrations paralysed the WTO, and prevented the worst outcomes for

developing countries and labour in general from being rubber stamped

by delegates.

From its outcome, in the revivalist atmosphere of its victory, the

decision to challenge the WSF with a rebuff and an alternative forum

for peoples was taken; hence the Social Forums Movement was conceived.

It is important to understand this context, and to understand that the

global situation that the social forums movement sought to respond to

has since deepened, and given rise to the Global economic collapse

which has since some of the longest period of economic crisis in

modern human history inaugurated since about 2007.

We are, globally and nationally still in the grip of these global

crises which has seen the convergence of 5 different currents of

global crisis: Financial, Economic, Political, Social, and

Ecological/Environmental crisis.

The resultant effect of ruling classes not being able to rule in the

old way, and subordinate classes not accepting to be ruled in the old

way, has been the global wave of resistance that have seen the birth

of the Arab Spring; the revival of the mass general and political

strike in Europe; the global Occupy movement; the January Uprising in

Nigeria [2012]; the February Uprising in Senegal [2012]; the avalanche

of inconclusive elections, hung parliaments and coalition governments

of strange bedfellows; as well as the revival of the

hard/revolutionary left measured in their increasing share in

electoral votes and increasing influence within the Global Mass


Nigeria is part of this global dialectic of crisis and resistance, and

it is within this context that we need to situate the unfolding

political crisis in Nigeria, and the historic task which confronts

this generation of subordinate classes, as we seek to seize the moment

to achieve our social emancipation and national liberation.


Against the background of ongoing preparations for the Nigeria Social

Forum and subsequently the Africa and World Social Forums, and within

the context of the discourse around the role of social movements in

social transformation, it has become urgent, and necessary to place

the debate within the perspective of class and class struggle.

This paper seeks to explore the class bases and class compositions of

social movements, and the struggle of classes, which is at heart of

social transformation. Taken this way it soon becomes quite clear that

the quest for social transformation by certain social classes or

alliance of social classes does not preclude, but in fact presupposes

the existence of ongoing social transformation process being driven by

some other classes or alliance of classes. This fact is important if

we are to properly understand the nature of social transformation and

the class interests driving and opposed to particular trends or

strands of it.


From the foregoing it becomes imperative to pose the question, ‘what

manner of social transformation is being organised for?’ Social

transformation is a process driven by the interaction of classes and

class fractions, in essence the struggles of social classes and class

fractions over access to and control of the means of production and

distribution, within the context of the social relations of production

corresponding to the mode of production and the level of development

of production forces.

For instance it would be quite unrealistic to presume that because

oppressed and exploited classes are struggling for social

transformation, that no social transformation has and or is taking

place over the several decades since independence, and before

independence! Of course social transformation has been taking place,

it has been and is being driven by elite and ruling classes and

alliance of ruling class fractions in coordination with imperialism

and imperialist ruling classes and class alliances with whom they

share core capitalist class interests.

Although this social transformation process has been driven by the

ruling capitalist class, its exact contours and nature have equally

been shaped by the nature and level of resistance and or acquiescence

of the oppressed and exploited classes and class alliance. The

implication of this is that a process of capitalist social

transformation has been ongoing in a dependent manner; dependent that

is on imperialism, since the catastrophic contact with and conquest by


So back to the question; what manner of social transformation is being

sought here? By what/which classes?; And in the interests of

what/which classes?

There are several responses that can be made to these questions.

Depending on how radical, deep and thoroughly democratic the social

transformation being sought is, the outcome maybe reform, even radical

reform of capitalism in order to mitigate exploitation, co-opt

resistance and blunt the edges of revolution. The outcome maybe

revolutionary, in the context of the establishment of new socialist

mode of production, and the building and construction of new socialist

relations of production on the basis of the new mode of production

that is being established. Or in fact the outcome maybe the mutual

exhaustion and destruction of the two main contending classes, and a

counter revolutionary restoration through the mediation of barbarism,

as was the case with fascism and the various manifestations of

Bonarpatism over the years through out the history of capitalism.

The outcome of a process of social transformation can therefore either

be reform of capitalism, revolutionary establishment of socialist mode

of production on the basis of the revolutionary overthrow of the

capitalist mode of production, or even counter revolutionary

restoration of the old order through say the victory of fascism.

That is social forces, that is social classes and or class fractions

engaged in the struggle for social transformation need to be conscious

of what they are struggling against, and what they are struggling to

replace it with.

It is in this sense that the struggle needs to define itself and needs

to be defined, not only by what it is against [e.g anti capitalist,

anti-globalisation, anti-imperialist, anti-war, anti-racist, etc], but

even more importantly by what it is struggling to achieve, a socialist

or other forms of organisation of society and human civilisation].

This is very important and decisive; for a revolution can be half

made, a process of revolutionary social transformation can be

inconclusive; as a result of the lack of understanding, clarity,

awareness, agreement, of the concrete outcome being sought. If we have

no clarity about what we want to replace capitalism, imperialism and

capitalist globalisation with, if we have no understanding of the

nature of the capitalism which we resist and oppose, if we have no

agreement about the nature of the outcome we seek, then it will be

difficult to avoid the cooptation of the struggle by the ruling class,

its defeat, and or it’s the harmless dissipation of social energy; and

therefore the reformist or counter revolutionary restoration of



At the heart of the struggle for social transformation are social

classes and or alliance of social classes and class fractions that are

organised into social movements.

Social movements are therefore a specific mode of active organisation

and mobilisation of social classes in the struggle to transform

society in their collective interest. As said earlier this maybe a

struggle to maintain the status quo in one form or the order, or even

a struggle to renew the status quo as a means of sustaining it; or it

may be a struggle to overthrow and supplant the status quo and

construct a new kind of society on the basis of a new mode of

production with its associated relations of production.

Human beings in order to meet and provision their basic means of

existence, interact with nature as well as with one another. It is the

manner in which this social interaction with nature and other humans

take place, which defines the mode of production and the relations of

production, which arise on its basis.

In the cause of these processes, the human community interacting with

nature and organising the production and distribution of things, goods

and services become differentiated into social collectives, which

coalesce into social classes and class fractions, defined and driven

by their place or location with the production process.

Where the nature of this social relations of production is

exploitative, and where the mode of production requires such

exploitative relations of production, then the social classes on the

basis of their location in this production system/process acquire

exploitative or exploited character. This is what gives rise to ruling

and exploiting classes on the one hand and exploited and ruled classes

on the other hand.

Under capitalism, the root of this exploitation is embedded in the

nature of extraction of surplus value. Surplus value, which is the

value of the labour of a worker in a capitalist enterprise, produced

over and above, that covered by the cost paid for the labour and the

cost of machinery, and which the owner of the means of production


The two main classes of capitalism are the ruling capitalist class,

the owners of the means of production either of goods or services on

the one hand; and the oppressed and exploited working class of

labourers from whose labour surplus value is being extracted and or

caused to be circulated and exploitatively redistributed among

capitalists and their business and industrial concerns. These two

classes have undergone significant transformations since the dawn of

capitalism, and now manifest their existence in various ways dependent

on the nature of transformations undergone by capitalism through to

its recent imperialist and current globalised phases.

Where a mode of production is exploitative, and the relations of

production consequent upon it are also exploitative, it follows that

such a mode of production will also be oppressive. And where there is

oppression, depending on the nature and intensity of the exploitative

oppression, there will be resistance.

This is the context within which, and the background against which the

class struggle takes place. The class struggle is the specific mode of

manifestation of the interaction of social classes, defined and framed

by the social relations of production, in exploiting and oppressive

class societies based on socially exploitative and oppressive mode of


At this juncture it is important to note that all classes, whether

ruling or exploited wage the class struggle, through the life span of

such classes and the mode and relations of production which have

produced them. Furthermore, because of the relative difference in the

development of class consciousness, that is the self awareness of a

class and its particular class interests, this class struggle between

classes is also waged within classes by class fractions motivated by

their specific interests within the social class and framed by their

level of development of their class consciousness. This is why Marx

and Engels spoke of social classes existing as class in itself and

class for itself. To undertake this transformation from a class in

itself to a class for itself, a social class needs to undergo a

process of refinement of self-awareness and class-consciousness

mediated by the manifestations of the class struggle. It is only in

the context of class struggle that a social class acquires

class-consciousness. Because of the way in which development processes

takes place in uneven and combined manners, certain fractions of a

class will be the first to acquire class consciousness ahead of other

fractions. This is determined by their location in the mode and

relation of production and their level of exposure within that system.

These class fractions that have acquired class-consciousness then find

that in order to organise effective struggles against the other

socially antagonistic class, they need to organise and mobilise their

class and proactively catalyse the development of class-consciousness

within the class as a whole.


The class struggle waged by all social classes can be expressed in

various forms. The form in which the class struggle is expressed is

determined by and dependent on the modes of expression of class

exploitation and oppression in that society.

The primary exploitative fault line in class society is that of class,

but this class fissure may then interact with other divisions in class

society which are not on their own exploitative by nature, but which

are then through such interaction co-opted by the exploitative mode of

production and integrated into the nature of class exploitation. Thus

such divisions as that between sexes become integrated into class

exploitation and take on the expression of gender inequality and the

oppression of women. This is similarly through of the differences

between religions and national cultures and ethnicities or races. A

difference in skin pigmentation, culture, language or religious

beliefs is integrated into the exploitative relations of production in

a class society, and members of human society characterised by such

differences then become largely marginalised, exploited, and or


In this situation majorities of this races, religious groups, gender,

national culture or ethnicity, then become integrated in exploited

labourers from whom surplus value is exploited.

It is in the absorption and integration of this differences and

divisions in human society into the exploitative character of the

social production process [mode and relations of production], that the

national, ethnic, religious, minority, race and women questions have

emerged and their development and manifestations shaped.

Thus it is that the class struggle can and is often expressed in the

form of the struggle for women’s’ right, minority rights, ethic and

national struggles and anti-racist struggles. But as it is already

stated the class struggle is waged by all classes, ruling and

exploited alike; and between and within classes; it therefore follows

that it is not only the members of the oppressed and exploited classes

among women, religious/ethnic/national/racial minorities that wage the

class struggle; the class struggle is also waged by members of the

ruling elites and classes within such groups. Depending on the class

or class fraction at the end of the struggles of these oppressed and

exploited groups, such struggles’ aims and outcome maybe the mere

inclusion and accommodation of the elites into the ruling class

structures of wider society; some form of generalised social reforms

which integrates the excluded group into the wider society proper,

guaranteeing citizenship and human rights; or the establishment of new

mode of productions and building of new social relations of production

on its basis. What this means is that for example as with nationalism

and the national and ethnic questions, the outcome maybe integration

into the nation state, the establishment of a nation state or the full

democratisation of production relations. The goal and outcome may

therefore be national self-determination or class social emancipation.

Similarly with the women question and feminism, the goal and outcome

maybe the guarantee of women’s rights, the integration of elite women

from the ruling class into the structures of political and economic

domination of society; or it may result in the democratisation of

production relations which transform women of the oppressed and

exploited classes alongside their men counterparts into class

conscious actors in the socialist transformation of society; This will

be a class social emancipatory outcome.

Effectively therefore two nations, or more appropriately classes, are

in the womb of every oppressed nationality/ethnicity/religious group,

and women; the nation of exploiters or aspiring exploiters, and the

nation of the exploited and oppressed ruling class.


Thus the organisation and mobilisation of a social class is required

not only to effectively prosecute the class struggle and defeat the

class enemy, it is required also to achieve the transformation of the

class in itself to a class for itself.

Social movements are thus organised and mobilised expressions of the

formations of the exploited and oppressed social classes, their class

fractions and alliances of classes. Social movements have emerged as

major vehicles of and organisational forms of waging the more or less

conscious class struggles of the oppressed and expressed classes.

The nature of social transformation being sought by a social movement

is defined by nature of social classes, class fractions and alliance

of social classes of which it is composed of, and which provisions its

leadership. The actual outcome of the struggle embedded in the

character of the emerging social transformative process is also shaped

by the class struggle. Whether the outcome is a new form of

organisation of society, a new mode of production and new relations of

production; or whether it is the consolidation in a reformed manner of

the old form of society, the counter revolutionary restoration of the

old mode of production and relations of production; depends to a large

extent on the mode of organisation and mobilisation of the social

movement and the struggle it is waging; its class composition; the

class origin or interests of its leading lights, and the nature and

intensity of struggle waged by the ruling classes. But the outcome is

also dependent on the level of development of class-consciousness

within the social movement, among its generalised membership and in

particular among its leadership. This class consciousness is also

reflected in the way and manner which the social movement describes

itself, either as anti one mode of expression of existing reality

alone [anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-war,

anti-globalisation, anti-racist]; or as also being a movement

representing a new and defined type of society, and or a movement

working towards a social transformation process which involves the

overthrow and supplanting of the existing social order, and even the

establishment and construction of a new more democratised mode of

production and relations of production.

The social forums have thus emerged as the space for the active

interaction of these social movements; the space for their joint and

collaborative definition and elaboration. And because it is a space

not a conscious organisational platform for mobilising and organising,

the social forums have failed to lead to social transformation of

society and the establishment of new forms of organising society

politically and socially.

The social forums nevertheless have provided space for the building of

international solidarity, and have driven the renewal of

internationalist organising and mobilising for global social


This is very important. For the capitalist system, which is organising

the dominant form of social transformation is a global and

international system. And althought this system will be breached

repeatedly from the weakest points in the imperialist chain, the

system will not be defeated or supplanted except it is globally

defeated and overthrown. The struggle to negate, overthrow and

supplant an international socio-economic formations such as

capitalism, and particularly in its globalised phase, can only be

victorious within the context of a global and international struggle

and a global and international revolutionary replacement of the

capitalist mode of production with a the more genuinely democratised

socialist mode and relations of production.


Those social movements which have triumphed and are engaged in the

construction of new forms of society, thus giving clear and concrete

expressions to the quest for social transformation by exploited and

oppressed classes and alliance of class forces, are those which have

not only correctly posed the question of power, but have gone ahead to

learn from their own and global experience, to make the transition

from challenging state power and the expressions of capitalist

domination and exploitation, to challenging for and proceeding to take

state power and on that basis proceeding to reorganise society in the

interest of exploited classes.

If we are to be victorious, we must not only organise and mobilise to

challenge state power and capitalist domination and exploitation; we

need to also concretely pose the question of power, and align and

build our movement in a manner that will allow us to challenge to take

state power, politically defeat the capitalist ruling classes and

alliance of classes, dismantling the undemocratic and exploitative

capitalist class state, replace with a popular workers democratic

state, and on the basis of this revolutionary political victory begin

the supplanting of the capitalist mode of production with the

socialist mode, as well as the building of new mass democratic

socialist relations of production on the basis of the new mode of



Social movements are composed of social classes actively waging class

struggle as an integral part of bringing about social transformation

of society.

The class struggle is waged by all social classes, and also between

and within classes.

The social forums have provided the space for renewal of

internationalism as well as the coming together of social movements.

But because they are not organised political spaces, they have been

unable to drive the process of transiting from challenging state power

to challenging to take state power.

Capitalism is a globalised international system; it can only be

defeated, supplanted and replaced within the context of an

international revolution.

The capitalist chain will be breached from time to time at its weakest

links/points, but unless those who have become momentarily victorious

build active solidarity with those who are still struggling in a

common and coordinated effort to globally defeat capitalism, the

system will internationally regroup, and organise and mobilise its

world supremacy to recover lost ground and re-establish itself

globally. The consequences of this will be disastrous for humanity, as

history has repeatedly shone.

The struggle for self-determination of oppressed nations, the struggle

of women for liberation and emancipation, the struggles of religious,

ethnic and racial minorities for human rights, are all forms and modes

of expression of the class struggle. Whether the outcome of the

struggle will be socially emancipatory for oppressed and exploited

classes within these groups, or end in some form of accommodation of

the demands of the elites of these groups by the existing capitalist

formation, will depend to a large extent on the class composition and

interests of the leaderships of these groups and their movements, as

well as on the balance of class forces within those groups and


Finally, the way a social movement understands its exploitation and

oppression; the way it defines itself and its struggle, the way it

poses the question of power; and the level of its awareness of itself

as a class with distinct class interests, separate from those of the

ruling class; will determine the way it organises itself and its

struggle; the nature of alliances it will construct; and the outcome

of the struggle for social transformation it is engaged in waging.

Visit: takebacknigeria.blogspot.com; Follow on twitter: @jayegaskia &

@protesttopower; Interract on Facebook: Jaye Gaskia & Take Back







The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not

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