Relevance of Socialism in the 21st Century
Second Rotimi Ewebiyi Annual Symposium
Relevance of Socialism in the 21st Century
The choice of “Relevance of Socialism in the 21st Century” as the theme of the 2nd Rotimi Ewebiyi Annual Symposium and re-launch of Endowment Fund was highly apposite. The speeches at the programme attended by about 70 people mostly from trade union, academia, civil society, DSM and NCP attested to the undying relevance of the ideas of socialism and its imperative as the only viable alternative to the exploitative capitalist system in Nigeria and globally.
Rotimi Ewebiyi (1962-2004) was the DSM national organiser and a member of the International Executive Committee of the Committee for a Workers’ International and his tragic, early death has been marked by Symposiums that have discussed current issues facing the workers’ movement.
The speakers at this year’s occasion were Dipo Fashina, the former President, Academic Staff Union of Universities; Joe Ajero, General Secretary, National Union of Electricity Employees; Biodun Aremu, Convener, United Action for Democracy; Abubakar Momoh, lecturer, Lagos State University; Denja Yaqub, Assistant General Secretary, Nigeria Labour Congress; Segun Sango, General Secretary, DSM and Tony Iyare, Editor, Gleaners On-line.
Also present were Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, Chairman of Rotimi Ewebiyi Endowment Fund, Niyi Adewumi, Citipoint Chambers, Ayo Arogundade, Lanre Arogundade and the three children of Rotimi Ewebiyi, Bisi, Keye and Sanjo. Severally and collectively, all the speakers and contributors at the event, after critical analysis of different aspects of Nigeria’s socio-political situation concluded that socialism is not only relevant in the 21st century but has in fact become a necessity if the vast majority of humanity is to be rescued from the permanent capitalist induced mass poverty and political oppression and repression.
Segun Sango, in his opening remarks, extolled the immense contributions of Rotimi Ewebiyi to the DSM, the ideas of socialism and the struggles of workers and poor masses in Nigeria and internationally. He spoke on the endowment fund as a political act of solidarity rather than a charity to the dependants of the deceased comrade who dedicated his whole adult life to work only for the DSM.
Sango, thereafter, proceeded to x-ray the anti-poor neo-liberal economic reforms of the Obasanjo government over the last seven years and its devastating effects on the living conditions of the working masses and the poor and this, most tragically, in the midst of inexhaustible abundance. He branded privatisation of public property by Obasanjo government as the mother of daylight robbery. He said on the basis of capitalism, there is no permanent end to the vicious cycle of pervasive socio-economic crises that have become the defining feature of Nigeria, like every other third world country held hostage by world imperialism. He, thus, called for enthronement of socialist order in Nigeria and internationally with democratic management and control of the commanding heights of economy by the working people. He said this defines the mission of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), the international socialist organisation that has DSM as its Nigerian section.
Sango called on those that are not members of the DSM to join. He also reiterated the call of DSM for the labour, pro-masses organisations and parties to form a formidable working people political alternative with a socialist programme to wrest political power from the parasitic ruling elite of Nigeria and bring an end to the reign of capitalism with its exploitative and oppressive features in order to guarantee basic needs for workers and poor masses and enable the comprehensive development of the country.
For this end to be attained, Sango stressed the fact that the trade union movement needs a revolutionary transformation from its present servile pro-management, pro-capitalist outlook and conducts into a fighting instrument of the labouring masses and the poor in general. Sango further stated that during and about the periods of the seven general strikes and mass protests led by the Nigeria labour congress (NLC) against neo-liberal anti-poor policies, several capitalist ideologues within and outside the labour movement were falsely accusing the trade unions of embarking on political strikes at the expense of core, conventional trade union functions.
However, Sango lamented the fact that currently, the entire trade union movement is neither organizing any form of struggle/strike socio-political demands or on the so-called conventional trade union issues. He stated that the main feature of today’s trade unionism in Nigeria is that of total capitulation and helplessness on the face of ceaseless attacks on the living conditions and the previously enjoyed basic trade union rights by governments and employers of labour. To reverse this deplorable trend, Sango calls on all socialist and genuine labour activists to consistently intensify the campaign for a working class alternative and programme of action as the NLC prepares to elect new leaders to replace the Adams Oshiomhole led Executive Committee whose tenure ends very early in 2007.
The Lagos State University lecturer Abubakar Momoh, who was together with Rotimi Ewebiyi in the student movement at the University of Lagos, commended the initiative of the endowment fund. He suggested organisation of comprehensive endowment fund for all dead pro-labour and pro-democracy activists. While emphasizing the importance of education for the children of Rotimi Ewebiyi, which was the central essence of the endowment fund; he went further to reveal a scary statistics of unmitigated crises confronting the education sector in Nigeria.
Using Cuba as an example of workability of a planned economy, he compared the calamitous situation in Nigeria with its enormous riches to Cuba where comprehensive quality education and health care are obtainable in spite of the extremely limited natural resources at its disposal coupled with the imperialist economic blockade. He said further that capitalism in all its forms, mixed economy of yesteryears and the current neo-liberal economy reform, has failed the poor masses of Nigeria and called on the left forces to sharpen intellectual battle against the capitalist ideology. He enjoined those that profess socialism not to capitulate despite all odds.
Momoh said the penchant for taking grants from Moscow by the so-called socialists without being critical of the ways and manner Soviet Union was being run led to their repudiation of socialism after the collapse of Soviet Union as they could not analyse, explain and interpret what led to the collapse. These elements, he stated, have mainly transferred their allegiance to imperialism through NGO business. He consequently calls for mobilisation of Nigerians on the broad left platform in order to challenge and contest political power.
In his speech Biodun Aremu, Convener ofUnited Action for Democracy, gave a brief explanation of development of scientific socialism as propounded by Marx and Engel and its difference from utopian socialism that preceded it. He also analyzed how capitalism creates basis for socialism. He mentioned education crisis in Nigeria as one of the indices of several unresolved problems of capitalism. He called for the common ownership of means of production in order to guarantee the interests and aspiration of the working people. He concluded with commendation of members of DSM for their steadfastness in propagation of socialist ideas when most other groups professing socialism have become literarily dead. He said that continued relevance of DSM accounts for the sustenance of the endowment fund and its objective, upkeep and education of Rotimi’s children, while the children of the other deceased comrades/activists of other organisations have been left in lurch without a sustained organisational support.
Joe Ajero, apparently revealing the present mood of his union, the National Union of Electricity Employees, whose workplaces, the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN, formally NWPA â€“ the National Electric Power Authority) are being slated to come next under the hammer after the telecoms company NITEL, began his speech with the attack on the unwholesome privatisation policy of Obasanjo government. He said privatisation must be made an issue in the 2007 elections in order to know the position of every candidate/party on this anti-poor, anti-worker policy and thus, form a basis of who to vote for. He called for mass opposition to those who want to sustain the neo-liberal reform.
Speaking on the need for political alternative of the working people, he lamented the despicable state of Labour Party and bemoaned the roles by some Labour leaders in rendering the party lame and handicapped right from outset with the imposition of known moribund elements in its leadership. He spoke of the efforts of some Labour leaders including himself to repositioning the Labour Party, which had begun with the recent removal of its leadership, though some Labour leaders are trying to reinstate the elements that only hold down the development of the party. He called for the political alliance of Labour, pro-masses’ organisations and parties to articulate and defend the interests of workers and poor masses, challenge the IMF/World Bank inspired neo-liberal policies and wrest political power from the thieving capitalist politicians.
The former President of the , Academic Staff Union of Universities; Dipo Fashina, said he was proud to be at a gathering where socialism is discussed and propagated when many people have not only abandoned the idea but also dreaded being identified with it. He thereafter proceeded to briefly enumerate different trends of socialism. Speaking on the Soviet Union, he said that class cleavage had taken place right from 1924, after the demise of V.I Lenin. He stated further that before the collapse of the Soviet Union, working class was not in power, thus lacking the central ingredient of a genuine socialist society.
Fashina averred that, at present, global capitalism represented by IMF, World Bank and imperialist nations has taken over the political and economic relations of the World. He, however, argued that the global capitalism/neo-liberalism could not be fought by the NGOs that only scratch the surface. He asserted that capitalism has to be defeated by a social revolution in order to improve the lots of the poor working masses. In order to ensure this, he argued, there is need for a genuine party of the working people with a socialist programme to challenge political power. He concluded by stressing the fact that only a working class revolutionary strategy and tactics, built on a genuine internationalist foundation can defeat capitalism and imperialism which have became a global cancer destroying the lives of the working masses worldwide.
RE-LAUNCH OF ENDOWMENT FUND
The re-launch of the Rotimi Ewebiyi Endowment Fund (REEF) was introduced by Lanre Akinola, who coordinates the Fund. While giving the update of the account, he said N535,900 had been raised since the first launch of REEF in July 2004 out of which N500,900 had been expended on the upkeep and education of Rotimi’s surviving children. This left the balance of N35,000, which is not enough for the immediate needs of the children in the month. In fact, after the payment of the rent, which is already due for payment, what remains cannot pay the monthly allowance, let alone cater for other expenses. Segun Sango thereafter intervened to reiterate the unfortunate state of Fund and stressed the urgent need for cash donations, besides pledges.
A sum of N18, 900 was donated in cash while a total of N152, 500 was pledged. In addition, some made undisclosed amount in pledges. Besides, those who had made pledges in the previous launch but yet to redeem, re-affirmed the pledge and promised immediate fulfillment. More than this modest financial success, most of the participants at the event felt a big sense of political rejuvenation and for this pledged to deepen the struggle for socialist transformation of Nigeria and the whole world.