SEASON OF STRUGGLE AS WORKERS FIGHTBACK AGAINST NEO-LIBERAL ATTACKS
SEASON OF STRUGGLE AS WORKERS FIGHTBACK AGAINST NEO-LIBERAL ATTACKS
NLC and TUC Must Build a Mass Working Class Political Alternative to Take Political Power
All over the country, workers, youths, students and poor masses are being confronted with brutal neo-liberal attacks against their living and working conditions. These attacks range from privatisation of public enterprises, deregulation of the oil sector, failure to meet obligations on workers’ wages and working conditions all of which have led to serious worsening of the conditions of the working and poor masses. Not surprisingly, all political parties of the PDP, ACN, ANPP, APGA and other big bourgeois parties are united in these neo-liberal attacks.
It is important to stress that this brutal attack on the living standards of workers, youths and students is a worldwide phenomenon, which flow from the inherent contradictions and injustice of the capitalist system where 1% own 80% of the country’s resources while 99% wallow in abject and extreme poverty.
LABOUR MUST RESPOND WITH STRIKES, RALLIES AND DEMONSTRATIONS
In Greece, France and South Africa, workers, youths and poor people faced with similar neo-liberal attacks are fighting back courageously. Nigerian workers and poor masses must follow their examples by fighting consistently against these attacks through strike actions and mass protests. As a matter of urgency, the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) must immediately declare nationwide strike action and mass protests to compel government to reverse the sale of public enterprises and place them under workers’ democratic control and management, for a new minimum wage and a halt to all neo-liberal policies.
However, the point must be stressed that the unrelenting wave of neo-liberal attacks which the Jonathan government has unleashed in all sectors of the economy is a reflection of renewed confidence of the capitalist ruling class in its own invincibility as a result of the consistent failure of the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to lead workers on a fight back against these neo-liberal policies, as well as labour’s ideological capitulation before the government’s neo-liberal policies and failure to provide political leadership for the aspirations of impoverished Nigerians for regime and system change.
For instance, formally the labour leadership have been agitating for a N52, 200 minimum wage since December 2008. However, instead of pursuing the agitation as a mass struggle involving workers in strikes, rallies and mass protests, the labour leadership preferred to engage in fruitless negotiation in the government boardrooms totally isolating the mass of workers. At the end of the day, the Federal government agreed to a paltry N18, 000 minimum wage. Despite the inadequacy of this offer, the labour leadership have not even been able to compel government to pay it not to talk of fighting for a better offer. Instead, they have resorted to issuing mere threats on the pages of newspapers.
Secondly, despite the glaring failure of successive governments to use society’s resources to guarantee a better life for the mass of people, the leadership of organized labour have consistently failed to counterpose to the governments’ neo-liberal policy of deregulation and privatization with a working class economic and political alternative anchored on public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under the control and management of democratically elected committees of workers and poor masses. Instead, they have often pursued a very dangerous policy of assuming that the lives of the Nigerian working masses can be bettered under this unjust capitalist system which places profit above peoples’ welfare. In pursuance of this illusion, the leadership of the NLC and TUC are members of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) where they engage in fruitless argument for privatisation with ‘human face’ and payments of entitlements to workers disengaged as a result of privatisation and deregulation instead of outright rejecting these anti-poor and neo-liberal policies and demanding public control of the economy.
2011 ELECTIONS: WORKING AND POOR MASSES HAVE NO CHOICE
Therefore, as the 2011 general election approaches, the working class lack a party of their own which they can use as a lever to vote out the capitalist looters and crooks in government at Federal and state levels. To make matters worse, all the major bourgeois parties and their aspirants are campaigning on neo-liberal and anti-poor policies of privatization, Public Private Partnership (PPP), deregulation and other neo-liberal policies all of which have led to the impoverishment of majority of the people and the enrichment of a few. Against this background, there is bound to be low participation in the 2011 general elections as the working and toiling masses as well as change-seeking youths have no party or aspirants they can trust.
However, if a fighting, mass-based and class-conscious workers’ party anchored on socialist programs and trusted by the people were to exist today, it can through its campaign in the 2011 general election galvanise the working and poor masses to vote out the corrupt capitalist ruling class from power especially given masses’ disenchantment with the anti-poor policies of the government of the day. This kind of party can lay the basis for the formation of a workers and poor peoples’ government which will take over all privatised firms and nationalise the commanding heights of the economy under workers democratic control and management.
Unfortunately, the Labour Party is not being built to achieve this. The labour leadership formed the Labour Party (LP) in 2004 but instead of building it as a genuine, mass-based and fighting workers’ party anchored on socialist programs, they abandoned it for careerists who now use the party as a platform upon which odious and corrupt capitalist politicians like Andy Uba of Anambra State, Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and Femi Pedro could achieve their self-serving political ambitions. As a result, the Party has become unattractive to many workers, youths and poor masses looking for an economic and political alternative to the crisis of capitalism and its unjust policies.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?
The on-going global economic crisis which has seen millions of job losses in U.S and economic devastation in Greece, Italy and Spain, again shows that nothing but horror await workers in Nigeria and the world if the capitalist system persists and reinforces the urgent necessity for the immediate overthrow of capitalism and the taking of political power by the working masses in order to establish a socialist society where the resources of society can be democratically controlled and managed for the needs of all. Unless the Labour leaders jettison their false belief in the ability of the capitalist system to cater for the needs of the working masses and embrace socialist program and orientation in its struggle against deregulation and privatisation, they will be unable to fight consistently to defend the economic and political interests of the working class and poor masses.
Therefore, labour leaders must pick up the gauntlet by immediately and with utmost urgency take back the Labour Party (LP) from the careerists who are ruining it and build it as a genuine party of the working masses with socialist programs and policies. Even, if this party is not able to offer workers a political voice come 2011 general elections, it would have set a good foundation through which workers can wrest political power from the hands of the corrupt capitalist ruling class and replace it with a democratic socialist society where the resources of society shall be used democratically to cater for the needs of all.
At the same time, labour, civil society and youth activists must also, through the workplaces and communities, build from below a movement against all anti-poor and neo-liberal policies. This will involve organising solidarity actions with various struggles of workers and ordinary people against privatisation, for improved wages and working conditions like the PHCN workers, striking doctors and education workers as well as against the tolling of the Lekki-Epe expressway among others. This kind of movement can, in the event the labour leaders are not prepared to fight, provide a platform through which the mass of people can be mobilised to defeat neo-liberal policies and build an alternative fighting political party anchored on socialist programs and policies through which the economic and political interests of the working masses can be ventilated.