DSM SOCIALIST SCHOOL 2008: 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
(By Peluola Adewale)
The DSM’s Socialist School 2008 proved to be a great success in advancing the political understanding and commitment of both old 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 those attending for the first time were new members from the Amalgamated Union of Public Sector Workers (AUCPCTRE) and a Lagos State government owned corporation. 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 School was inspiring and electrifying. The participants expressed enthusiasm to learn about developments in Nigeria and around world, as well as 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, of which Nigeria has also had its fair share, inspired interest in search for socialist analysis and alternative. 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 of the DSM.
Political, socio and economic developments in Nigeria have continued to underscore the necessity of alternative to capitalism. Even before the current world financial crisis, current and past government have not developed society or improved masses living standards despite huge resources at its disposal on the account of high prices of crude oil. Consequently, education, health care, electricity, roads and other social and physical infrastructure was ceded it to the greed of private vampires under the Public Private Initiative.
Now with the fall in oil price due to global economic crisis, Nigerians will 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 “bailed-out” its functionaries against the effect of the price rises with a jumbo pay package. All this shows that working people who did not gain anything during the oil boom, will suffer even more as a result of the continuous fall in oil price.
Unfortunately, the labour movement has not developed a coherent program of action even when it is clear that workers’ living standards are about to be attacked. This is the time for Labour and pro-masses’ organisations (NLC, TUC and LASCO) to immediately demand a new minimum wage linked to rises in the rate of inflation, and to begin mobilisation for struggles against fuel price and VAT hikes. More importantly, the DSM has been calling on labout to build a fighting working peoples’ party that could wrest political power from the thieving ruling elite. Such a party when in power has to take into public ownership the commanding heights of economy with democratic management and control by working people. The Labour Party can serve as a basis of such a party if labour and pro-masses’ organisations join it in order to build it as a fighting organ.
There was no better way to introduce the discussion on the world perspectives than by discussing the global credit crunch. The global financial meltdown, which started last year with the sub-prime loan crisis, has peaked with collapse of major banks and financial institutions in US and Europe. Despite huge government intervention, 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 but with grave consequences for the masses.
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. That both presidential candidates supported Bush’s $700 billion bail-out deal shows that whoever wins between the two will defend corporate greed when in power. Most opinion polls however have put Barack Obama in the lead. But the reality is that neither Obama nor McCain has fundamental differences with the neo-liberal economic policies of Bush. Both of them are candidates of big businesses whose interest they will strive to protect in office.
However, the emergence of Obama as presidential candidate shows that there is huge potential for change in the US polity. But the candidacy of Ralph Nader in the current elections reveals this potential the more. Nader, a radical populist who contested in 2000 and 2004 elections and campaigns on anti-war, anti-corporate and pro-worker platform attracts a layer of radicalised young people, who are looking for a real alternative. Of course, Nader’s vote may be lower than what he received in the previous elections. Yet if he is able to turn the radical votes into a political platform (he failed to do this in the past), this 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. While an Obama presidency could enjoy a brief period of honeymoon, he will never be able to resolve the socio-economic crisis in favour of the working and toiling people. This will therefore in the coming period place the class struggle on the agenda.
SOUTH AFRICA AND ZIMBABWE
The celebrated economic growth under Mbeki government is a jobless growth. This was what made it easy for Thambo Mbeki to be thrown out of power without mass protest. The rate of unemployment is on the rise. It has created social tension and xenophobia. The working masses of the country have had to take to the streets to protest neo-liberal policies. Should Jacob Zuma emerge as the President from the next year election, he is bound to continue the same ruinous neo-liberal economic policies of Mbeki’s government, which has meant poverty and unemployment for the vast majority of South-Africans. The immediate task before the working people of South Africa is for the trade unions and pro-masses organizations to pull out of the ANC in order to build a political alternative that can oppose neo-liberal attacks and also fight for political power.
In Zimbabwe, the on-going power sharing deal between Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC and Mugabe’s ZANU-PF has further underlined the fact that there is no fundamental difference between the two parties. With the highest inflation rate in the entire world, the country is certainly on the brink. Only the building of a political alternative by labour that can challenge the neo-liberal policies of ruling class will unite the Zimbabwean working masses and prevent civil wars which either faction of the ruling class will willingly plunge the country in order to guarantee their interest.
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, the need for 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 onion has to intervene in daily struggles for improved standards of living and the democratic demands of workers, youths and the poor masses. In doing so, it has to articulate a set of transitional demands that will link the immediate and democratic demands to the imperative of struggle to defeat capitalism. The transitional demands such as those for 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 changes, i.e. a set of specific demands, during the military era for example 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 comrades that have not yet done so. Socialists have to be conscious of the transitional demands in our propaganda, intervention and campaigning works. Every political, economic and social issue can be linked to the imperative of socialist reconstruction of society through appropriate transitional demands.
The struggles, interventions and propaganda of the DSM, at different epochs of its development have been formulated on the basis of method of the transitional programme. A number of examples such as 1989 Labour Party work, the June 12 struggle, the NCP work, the Sovereign National Conference slogan, demands for self-determination, a minimum wage and resource control as well as 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). Comrades have to be conscious of need to develop demands and approaches that help raise consciousness and interests of those we have come in contact with in ideas of socialism beyond their immediate demands. We must introduce the most combative layers of contacts or members of ERC, CDWR and AICOM to socialist ideas.
Specifically, our student comrades should not limit their activities to campuses or student matters alone. We have to build a working class orientation. While in some areas, we may be 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 student branch should have a functional unit of CDWR in addition with 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.