Deepening Socialist ideas in a period when capitalism is in crisis
DSM Socialist School 2008:
Deepening Socialist ideas in a period when capitalism is in crisis
The DSM’s Socialist School 2008 proved to be a great success in advancing the political understanding and commitment of both established DSM comrades and new recruits.
Significantly, the School held between Saturday October 4 and Sunday October 5, was largely dominated by individuals attending a DSM national meeting for the first time. Among the new DSM members attending were from the Amalgamated Union of Public Sector Workers (AUCPCTRE) and a Lagos State government owned corparation.
DSM Socialist School 2008 – photo DSM
Between the two days about 60 people, including 5 women, attended the School. 8 branches were represented, with others coming from UNIBEN, LASU, UNILAG, University of Nigeria, Nssuka and UNIZIK Akwa.
The topics discussed at the School were the Nigerian political and economic situation, World Relations and economy, the Russian Revolution as a guide to Struggle for Socialism, Trotsky’s Transitional Programme and building he DSM.
The School was inspiring and electrifying. The participants expressed enthusiasm to learn about developments in Nigeria and around world, as well as well socialist ideas. Contributions were informed. Workers gave practical experience to illustrate the crisis of capitalism. Questions were asked on how to deepen and spread the ideas of socialism and build the DSM. Obviously, the recent battering capitalism has been receiving around the world, and which Nigeria has also had its own fair share, inspired interest in search for socialist analysis and alternative. The morale of comrades present was lifted.
Political, socio and economic situations and developments in Nigeria have continued to underscore the imperative of a fighting, mass-based working peoples’ party. Despite huge resources at its disposal on the account of high prices of crude oil, the neo-liberal economic agenda of the Yar’Adua government, like its predecessors, has meant that the vast majority of Nigerians are denied access to basic needs of life while the state of infrastructure is still primitive.
Instead of committing public resources to provision of education, health care, electricity, roads and other social and physical infrastructure, the government has ceded it to the profit interest and greed of private vampires under the arrangement called Public Private Initiative. The private sector is expected to provide funds and recoup its investment by charging user fees. The government has already announced that it would stop allocation in the budget for infrastructure. Unfortunately, Labour has not issued statement to oppose this position of the government. The country has huge external reserves placed at disposal of international financial sharks while there are monumental development challenges facing the country, which require resources. Nigerians have not been told how much in the real value of external reserves has been lost to the global financial meltdown. Now in Nigeria we face the situation that working people, having gained hardly anything when the oil export price was high, will suffer even more as a result of the oil price’s recent fall.
Nigerians have been asked to prepare to pay more for goods and services next year with planned hike in fuel prices and sales tax (VAT). At the same time the government has hedged its functionaries, who have already looted the treasury, against the effect of the price rises with a jumbo pay package. The DSM has called on Labour and pro-masses’ organisations (NLC, TUC and LASCO) to demand immediately a new minimum wage linked to rises in the rate of inflation and start the mobilisation for struggles against fuel price and VAT hikes.
More importantly, the DSM has been calling on NLC, TUC and LASCO to mobilise workers, youths and poor masses for the formation of a fighting working peoples’ party that could wrest political power from the thieving ruling elite and commit resources to basic needs of all and infrastructural development. Such a party when in power have to put under public ownership commanding heights of economy with democratic management and control by the working people. The DSM has argued that the Labour Party can serve as germ for such a party. Thus, we have been calling on Labour and pro-masses’ organisations to join the Labour Party and build it as a fighting organ that intervenes in daily struggles and demands of workers, youths and poor masses.
There was no better way to introduce the discussion on the world perspective than the monumental crisis gripping the global financial sector with telling effect on the larger economy. The global financial meltdown, which started last year with the sub-prime loan crisis, has come to height with collapse of major banks and financial institutions in US and Europe. The crisis has attracted huge government intervention that has not been seen since the Great Depression, yet it seems there is no light at the end of the tunnel as the list of the causalities is getting longer. But in the absence of an international revolutionary working class movement that could seize the opportunity of the crisis to enthrone socialism, capitalism will bounce back. However, it will do that without solving the fundamental problem of capitalism, which the crisis has underscored.
The crisis has shown that the hitherto boom in the world economy was fuelled by flaws and frauds which capitalism is fraught with. In the US over $1 trillion of taxpayers’ money has been earmarked to bail out some of the collapsing banking institutions and buy the rotten assets that litter the financial system. This is on top of the huge resources that have been spent on the prosecution of wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bail-out is nationalisation of rotten assets and bad debts. The capitalist commentators are wont to blame the crisis on the corporate greed and lack of proper regulation. But there is no capitalism without greed and even the reintroduction of regulation would not, on its own, end capitalist booms and slumps. The crisis is a fundamental crisis of capitalism and seems to be leading to a serious worldwide recession.
Incidentally the financial crisis is raging in the run up to the US election. It has catapulted the economy to the front burner of electoral issues. Both presidential candidates want the crisis to be solved before assuming the leadership, that is one of the reasons they are centrally involved in the bail-out deal. But this is a hallucination; whoever wins will surely have his fair share of the monumental crisis to contend with.
Most opinion polls have put Barack Obama in the lead in the contest. The Obama phenomenon is raging globally with same tempo and tenor as the financial meltdown. It is commonplace now to see cars on the streets of Lagos with Obama stickers. This is on the account of being the first African-American to be a nominee of either of the two pro-establishment parties in the US. His rhetoric has only iced the cake. Besides, the deep-seated unpopularity of Bush administration has rubbed off positively on the Obama-Democratic ticket. Even, McCain has been trying to avoid sharing public podium with Bush. They can avoid Bush like plague, but in reality neither Obama nor McCain is fundamentally different from neo-liberal economic policies of Bush. Both of them are candidates of big businesses whose interest they will strive to protect in office.
The emergence of Obama as presidential candidate shows that there is huge potential for change in the US polity. However, so lamentable is the option offered by Obama to the electorate. A combination of factors including possible gloom complacency among the electorate and racism could lead to victory of McCain. But if McCain wins it will be a continuation of a barefaced, ruthless attack on living standard and unwinnable and expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also possible that faced with unmitigated crisis of capitalism McCain could take some measures that would fly in the face of capitalist orthodoxy in order to gain popularity.
While the American electorate is faced with duopoly of the Republicans and Democrats, there is an alternative in Ralph Nader. Nader, a radical populist who contested in 2000 and 2004 elections and campaigns on anti-war, anti-corporate and pro-worker platform will attract a layer of radicalised young people, who are looking for a real alternative. It is the Democrats that would most likely develop goose pimples over the Nader contest. With the propaganda of Democrats that Nader contesting would swell the prospect of McCain victory in addition to the enthusiasm for Obama, Nader’s vote may be lower than what he received in the previous elections. If Nader is able to turn the radical votes into a political alternative platform (he failed to do this in the past) that could set in motion the process of emergence of a formidable political alternative that could stand up to the pro-business parties in contest for political power.
In the US and elsewhere the monumental global capitalist crisis could provoke social tensions and political struggles that could draw workers and poor masses to a socialist alternative. But if the workers’ movement does not offer a fighting alternative, right wing, chauvinist or religious populists could exploit the anger and divert it away from drawing socialist conclusions and challenging capitalism.
Side by side with financial crisis are the political crises thrown up by quest for economic control from different channels. From the Russia-Georgia war to South Africa and Zimbabwe it has been political struggle among different layers of ruling elite for turf control over self-serving economic interests. It was easy for Thambo Mbeki to be thrown out of power without a fight-back or mass protest because his anti-poor government unleashed virulent neo-liberal attacks on the masses. The celebrated economic growth under Mbeki government is a jobless growth. The rate of unemployment is on the rise. It has created social tension including attacks on African immigrants who are erroneously blamed for economic woes of the average South African masses. The working masses of the country have also taken to streets with massive protests against neo-liberal attacks. Jacob Zuma will most likely emerge as the President from next year’s election. On the basis of neo-liberal capitalism he will not be able to dislodge the few who control the commanding heights of economy. Besides, as the deputy of Mbeki when the going was good, he has proved not to be different on the economic policies of the government, which have meant poverty, unemployment, squalor and lack of basic needs for the vast majority of South-Africans.
In Zimbabwe the on-going power sharing deal between Morgan Tsvangiria and MDC and Mugabe has further underlined the fact that there is no fundamental difference between the policies of the two parties.
Like in Venezuela, Bolivia has also witnessed its own wave of counter-revolution. While there have been some social reforms and anti-imperialist actions, Chavez and Morales governments of Venezuela and Bolivia have not evolved programme to defeat capitalism. Rapacious capitalists who still have some control over the economy and right wing forces are regrouping because of the half measure approach of the left governments towards the revolution.
One important thing that the developments around the world have shown is that everywhere one turns it is capitalism in crisis. What has saved its collapse is the absence of revolutionary working people party. The formation of such party has been the major campaign of Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) and its affiliates across the World.
One major lesson of the October Revolution is that it is a proof that capitalism could be defeated. The collapse of the Stalinist deformed workers states of Soviet Union and Eastern Europe rather than a proof of unworkability of socialism; was indeed a confirmation of genuine ideas of Marxism. It was a Revolution betrayed. Understanding both the victory and betrayal of the revolution is an essential guide to struggle for socialism. It is a task for every comrade to understand class struggle, revolutionary party, permanent revolution, transitional programme, workers democracy, internationalism and all ideas and methods of Marxism. Comrades are advised to read the works on Russian Revolution.
Transitional Programme and Building the DSM
It is impossible to build a revolutionary organisation without a set of demands and slogans backed with political activities that would in the long run attract the interest of poor working masses to socialist ideas. Besides, a socialist organisation that is worth its onions has to intervene in the daily struggle for improved standards of living and the democratic demands of workers, youths and the poor masses. In doing so, it has to come with a set of transitional demands that will link the immediate and democratic demands to the imperative of struggle to defeat capitalism. The transitional demands like free education and health care, decent housing and jobs for all, constant electricity and water, good roads and railways etc help expose the inability of capitalism despite availability of human and material resources to provide for the basic needs of the vast majority on a lasting basis.
Specific demands encapsulated in transitional programme vary with time and space. That is, while the method is constant, what constitutes transitional programme in Britain is different from Nigeria for instance. Even in Nigeria, the transitional programme, i.e. a set of specific demands, during the military era is different from the present period. This means that the concept and method of the transitional programme have to be understood. Leon Trotsky’s Death Agony of Capitalism and Tasks for Fourth International should be read by all socialist activists who have not done so yet. Socialists have to be conscious of the transitional demands in our propaganda and intervention. Every political, economic and social issue has its channels to the imperative of socialist reconstruction of society through appropriate transitional demands.
The struggles, interventions and propagandas of the DSM at different epochs of its development have been on the basis of method of the transitional programme. A number of examples like 1989 Labour Party work, the June 12 struggle, the NCP, the Sovereign National Conference slogan, self-determination, minimum wage, resource control, anti-fuel price general strike, protest against 2007 election, CDWR, ERC etc were used to illustrate the applications of transitional programme by the organisation.
It is in spirit of transitional approaches to struggles and demands of workers, youths, students and poor masses we have formed interventionist platforms like the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR). This same reason explains the community organisation of our Ajegunle branch, the Aijeromi Ifelodun Community Association (AICOM). DSM comrades are conscious of the need to develop demands and approaches that help raise consciousness of those we have come in contact with, interesting them in ideas of socialism beyond their immediate demands. The DSM must introduce the most combative layers of contacts or members of ERC, CDWR and AICOM to the socialist ideas.
Specifically, DSM student comrades should not limit their activities to campuses or student matters alone. We have to build a working class orientation. While we in some areas the DSM may be currently mainly composed of student comrades, it should be noted that we are essentially a working class organisation. Thus, student comrades must always initiate or look for link with struggles and demands of workers and other strata of the oppressed within and outside the campus. Even the demands of students on fees, welfare, learning conditions, etc should be linked to the pro-capitalist programme and policies of government.
Every DSM student branch should aim to have a functional unit of CDWR, in addition to the ERC, with its coordinator on the branch EC. This will serve as a constant reminder for orientation towards struggles and demands of workers, youths and poor masses in workplaces and communities around us.
We cannot build active branch of DSM without regular programme of meetings and activities. Every branch is expected to send to the Secretariat monthly organisational, political and financial report. This should include paper sales, public meetings, intervention, recruitment, social composition of membership, subs, fighting funds, etc.
The school was also used to emphasise on the need to deepen the drive for resources. A struggle fund of N54, 830 was raised out of which a sum of N11, 330 has been so far collected.