DSM – Brief History
DSM â€“ Brief History
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), the Nigerian affiliate of the Committee for a Workers’ International, has already a history of over two decades of struggle. Formed by labour and student socialist activists we had our first, founding conference in 1986. Because of the era of military dictatorship in which it was born, our organisation was only semi-open between until July 1998 when the DSM was launched as an open organisation. During the period of semi-illegality, our organisation was identified mainly by the name of its newspaper, Labour Militant (1987 – 1994) and Militant (1994 -1998). We are committed to the socialist transformation of society in Nigeria and stand completely opposed to the pillaging of the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America by the imperialist powers.
The basic unit of DSM is the local branch. This exists in workplaces, schools and communities in many parts of Nigeria. The highest policy making body is the National Congress which meets annually. The next in rank is a National Committee comprising representatives of branches and which meets at least three times a year. A National Executive Committee, elected by the National Congress, directs the day-to-day work of the organisation.
The struggle against military dictatorship and for civilian rule and democratic rights was one of the central campaigns of the DSM in the first thirteen years of its existence. As a result, many DSM members suffered arrests and prolonged detention without trial under both the Babangida and Abacha regimes. A landmark in our involvement in this struggle took place on 5th July, 1993 when DSM activists sold over 10,000 leaflets on the streets of Lagos during a mass uprising against the annulment of the June 12th presidential election results by the then General Babangida junta.
Since the advent of civil rule in May 1999, the work of DSM has revolved around campaigns for:
- A living minimum wage of N20,000 per month with regular increases to match the rate of inflation
- Free education and health care for all N20,000 annual bursary for students in higher education
- Reinstatement of student and labour activists expelled from school or sacked from work.
- Formation of an independent mass working people’s party with a socialist programme.
- A workers’ and poor peasants’ government.
- Public ownership of the commanding sectors of the economy under workers’ democratic control and management
The DSM has also campaigned against:
- Fuel price hikes
- . Attacks on democratic rights and for free, and fair, elections.
- .Privatisation of public companies and commercialisation of social services.
- Retrenchment of workers
The DSM has played an important role in the general strikes and mass struggles against fuel price rises that have repeatedly taken place since 2000.
DSM members have played prominent roles, nationally and locally, in LASCO, the Labour Civil Society Coalition, and JAF, Joint Action Forum, consistently arguing for determined action to both stop fuel price rises plus a wider mobilisation to remove the rotten Obasanjo regime and replace it with a workers’ and poor peasants’ government committed to carrying out the socialist transformation of Nigeria.
DSM members were also active in helping to build the National Conscience Party from its foundation by Gani Fawehinmi in October 1994.
Since our inception the DSM has argued for the creation of a mass working people’s party with a socialist programme. In the 1980s we called on the NLC to actualise its call for a workers party and DSM members were active in the brief lived Nigerian Labour Party in 1989. The combination of the failure of the NLC leaders to seriously launch a workers’ party and the success of Gani Fawehinmi’s initiative has meant that currently many change seeking elements look towards the NCP. From 1994 the DSM worked to build the NCP while arguing that socialist policies are necessary if the NCP was going to be able to achieve its aim of “abolishing poverty”.
In the heavily rigged 2003 elections DSM members standing as NCP candidates scored the party’s highest votes, officially winning over 77,000 votes (9%) in the Lagos West senatorial district and 11,000 votes (14%) in the Ifako-Ijaiye federal constituency in Lagos.
In the run-up to the 2007 elections, we argued that Labour and radical forces, like the DSM and NCP, needed to form a working people’s platform in preparation for both struggles and the elections. However, not only was such a platform not formed but the NCP, after the Gani Fawehinmi stopped being Chairperson, nationally moved sharply to the right. This led both to the DSM-led Lagos State NCP being prevented from running candidates in the 2007 elections due in 2007 and the effective end of the NCP as a viable platform for working peoples’ struggles.
Amongst students the DSM has a long record of struggle. Some of our founders led NANS (National Association of Nigerian Students) nationally in the early 1980s and more recently we have frequently led NANS’s south-western zone. Currently, alongside different campus struggles against fees and other attacks, the DSM stands for the rebuilding of a campaigning national students’ movement.
Finally, with the repeated waves of ethnic and religious tension and violence in the country, the DSM also campaigns for the unity of the working people and youth of different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Standing opposed to sectarian strife, the organisation advocates joint struggles by the working people for better living and working conditions and against capitalist attacks on jobs, wages, education, health and other social services.
One of the major works of DSM is the education of a new generation of working class and youth activists in the genuine ideas of Marxism, of Trotskyism. Towards this end, seminars, symposia and schools are organised and education materials published from time to time.
Since 2002 the DSM has regularly maintained a website (www.socialistnigeria.org) that carries all our material.
Some of the printed publications of DSM are: Socialist Democracy (a bimonthly newspaper), Nigeria’s Crisis: Time For System Change (November 2003); Nigeria: civil rule in danger (August 2002); A Season of Struggles (September, 2000); Legacy of Leon Trotsky (2000); Nigeria’s Crisis: Breaking The Vicious Circle (1996); The Abacha Junta (1995); Programme and Perspectives for the Nigerian Revolution (1987).