Review from ROAPE Volume 8 Number 22
Violence, a novel by Festus Iyayi is being hailed as the first Nigerian proletarian novel. This description of the novel should be examined before it becomes established in our literary critical vocabulary and taxonomy. To discuss whether Violence is the first Nigerian proletarian novel, we may first ask what we mean by ‘proletarian’ . The term is used to refer to the working class; and ‘working class’ does not mean everybody who goes out to work, as the term is often used in Nigerian newspapers! In Marxist political economy, ‘proletarian’ means workers of a specific nature, although this nature is often subjected and still subject to discussion and closer definitions. Of the workers in a society, Marxist analysis stresses the distinction between productive and non-productive workers. The former are exclusively wage-earners, sometimes termed direct producers, whose labour produces value and, especially, the additional or surplus value appropriated by the capatilist and constituting the return on capital (Jake, 1977). It should be noted that only the production of commodities, that is, material goods with an exchange value, can give rise to new surplus value. Thus, productive workers are those who produce such material goods and collectively constitute the working class. Jake argues that non-productive workers who contribute to the accumulation of capital belong with productive workers who struggle against capitalism and that together with the industrial working class they constitute what Marx defined as the proletariat, that is, all the workers who labour ‘increases capital’ .