DSM National Committee Meet to Discuss and Organize For a Socialist Alternative
DSM National Committee Meet to Discuss and Organize For a Socialist Alternative
Segun Sango giving lead-off on Nigeria – photo DSM
On Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 September 2011, the National Committee (NC) of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) â€“ CWI Nigeria â€“ met in Lagos. The purpose of this NC meeting, as DSM General Secretary Segun Sango said when introducing the discussion on Nigeria, was to evaluate the political and economic situation in the country today and how best a revolutionary organisation like the DSM can respond to this development.
Discussions at the meeting ranged from Nigeria’s perspective to the world economic and political situation most especially the mass movements in North Africa and the Middle East, Spain and Greece. In the evening of the first day, comrades watched a film on the mass movements against capitalism around the world and the intervention of CWI sections. The film, which helps to show in graphic details the scale and depth of capitalist crisis and the world wide resistance of workers, youth and poor, was especially inspiring for socialists in a country like Nigeria where capitalism has wreaked one of the most tragic disasters of the modern world â€“ a stupendously rich oil-exporting country having one of the highest indices of mass poverty and unemployment.
The series of strikes for implementation of N18, 000 minimum wage that have broken out in quick succession among public sector workers have broken the grand illusion, invested in President Jonathan government by the spokespersons of the capitalist ruling class in Nigeria, that things would get better.
Not only have things gone from bad to worse for the working masses, youth and poor since President Jonathan’s full term presidency began on May 29 2011, equally there is a rise in ethno religious crisis as we can see in killings and bloodletting in Jos as well as the terrorism of the Boko Haram Islamic fundamentalist sect which recently bombed the Nigerian office of the United Nations in Abuja.
According to Segun Sango in his lead off, all this cannot be divorced from the condition of mass poverty, unemployment and misery which confronts the vast majority of people in the country. While the DSM calls for a genuine Sovereign National Conference (SNC), dominated by elected representatives of the working people and poor, for a democratic discussion about whether Nigeria should be or not, it is only the building of the struggle of workers for the new minimum wage, and linking this with a mass struggle of the other categories of the poor and oppressed masses against all neo-liberal capitalist attacks on living conditions, that can begin to undermine ethno religious crisis and terrorism in Nigeria.
Capitalism is incapable of developing Nigeria and guaranteeing a living wage for workers, decent shelter for the homeless, education for students, and better life for the farmers, artisans and self-employed neither gainful employment for the youth. All capitalism has been able to guarantee in the last 51 years of Nigeria’s existence is stupendous wealth for the top 1% of the population constituted of corrupt politicians, bankers and multinational oil companies.
This is why we have the tragic paradox wherein against the backdrop of over 80% poverty levels in Nigeria, the salaries of political office holders in Nigeria is higher than their counterpart in Europe and America and a Nigerian businessman Aliko Dangote is the new richest man in Africa! Equally while the sixth largest oil exporter of the world, Nigeria is on the last rung of social indices whether you talk of education, health, social amenities, yet Nigeria is one of the most stupendously rich countries of the world.
The DSM has always argued that things will not get better as long as Nigeria remain welded to the capitalist profit-first approach of building society. While the bourgeois were creating false hope around Jonathan, the DSM in an article published in the May/June edition of the Socialist Democracy (SD) shortly after the election, which among other things stated: “In the period before the elections, the preponderant propaganda in the capitalist West and their media is that once Nigeria is able to hold a credible, free and fair election, its rapid and rounded economic development is guaranteed, of course with an implied suggestion that the advanced capitalist West will henceforth flood the country with sufficient material and strategic support to fast-drive the nation’s socio-economic development â€¦ The DSM is bold to say that no significant economic development or improvement in the living condition of the masses should be expected on the basis of the governance of the political parties and elements that have been voted to power through the 2011 general elections”. Now what is happening today has graphically confirmed this perspective.
The strikes that have taken place across majority of states for implementation of this year’s minimum wage agreement shows that the working masses can and are beginning to take the initiative to struggle for improvement in living conditions. This is happening despite the foot-dragging of the official trade union leadership who called off a 3-day warning general strike called initially to begin on July 20.
This, together with the continuous refusal of the trade unions to unite the series of strikes of workers by calling a general strike and mass demonstration, represents a crucial drawback of the minimum wage struggle. This of course reflects the pro-capitalist illusions of the labour leaders who despite all evidence to the contrary continue to entertain hope that Nigeria’s corrupt capitalist ruling elite can agree to a raise in workers’ wages without a fight. This was also why they climbed down from the original demand of N52, 200 minimum wage to a paltry N18, 000.
As the DSM has always warned, the capitalist ruling elite cannot grant the slightest concession to the working masses unless confronted with strikes and mass protest. The minimum wage struggle bears this out especially with the attempt by state governments to avoid implementing the wage agreement. Unfortunately the trade union leaders seem not to have learnt this lesson. This is why many of the strike actions that broke out have found them unprepared and unwilling. They only grudgingly agree to lead some of these strikes when it went beyond their control.
To get an improvement in the living standard of the working masses especially against under this crisis-ridden capitalism needs first and foremost concrete preparedness to engage in a relentless mass struggle. But that is not enough. Labour must have an orientation of fighting for a working people’s government that can implement all these demands. This is because there is no amount of minimum wage can be paid by the capitalist ruling elite that can solve the crisis of mass poverty. Many are not even employed to benefit from the minimum wage.
On the basis of this implementation, the jobs of many are threatened. In many states, retrenchment is being planned. Even without fully implementing the minimum wage, the government is planning to increase the price of petrol from the current N65 to about N190 per litre as well as electricity tariff hike. This means that the paltry wage rise will be clawed back through the consequential increase in food items, rent, transport, education, health and other means of living.
One key economic program of the Jonathan’s administration, just like its predecessors, is privatization of the wealth of society under the guise of making failed state enterprises to work. It is good that the trade unions have called a demonstration against privatisation. However the DSM has continued to argue that privatization can only be successfully fought by posing clear alternative policies. Otherwise Labour’s resistance to privatization, deregulation and other neo-liberal policies will continue to be weak and ineffectual in the long run.
There is the need for Labour to begin to demand the opening and publishing to the public the financial record of state enterprises that have allegedly failed. This is one way to clearly expose the lies and hypocrisy of the capitalist ruling elite. Secondly Labour must insist that why state enterprises like the electricity company â€“ the PHCN â€“ and others are not working is because they are run bureaucratically by corrupt Managing Directors and other top staff who were not accountable neither to their workers nor the public. Labour must demand that the only way public enterprises can work is for them to be put under the democratic control and management of elected workers’ committees.
These arguments and demands must be the fighting slogans of the trade unions in strikes and mass demonstrations against government neo-liberal agenda to sell the nation’s collective patrimony to a handful of bankers and rich investors. A general strike involving nationwide mass demonstration is urgently required to force government to halt the privatization going on in the energy sector for instance and other sectors as well which if allowed will lead to mass retrenchment workers.
This kind of mass struggle uniting workers, students, unemployed youth and poor around a program to defeat neo-liberal policies of privatization will also begin to clearly pose, in the mass consciousness, the necessity of the working class taking political power and running society primarily in the interest of the poor majority as the only possible and ultimate solution to the crisis of poverty amidst plenty in Nigeria.
The ultimate way out of Nigeria’s economic and political woes is for the working class to take political power and form a worker and poor masses government that can begin to use Nigeria’s resources for the interest of the majority through the nationalization of key sectors of the economy under public democratic control. Despite the unwillingness of pro-capitalist trade union leaders to struggle, only the working class can lead the rest of the poor in society to usher in a revolutionary change. This will require the building of an independent, mass-based and democratic workers party to fight for political power.
This is why intervention of socialists in the economic struggle of the working class and linking immediate demands with the political tasks of conquest of political power is very important in developing the class consciousness of the working masses and winning the rank and file to the cause of socialism.
World: Capitalist crisis and international working class resistance
Dagga Tolar introducing world perspectives – photo DSM
The NC’s discussion on World Perspectives was led by comrade Dagga Tolar and summed up by comrade Lanre Arogundade. According to Dagga Tolar, between our last Congress and now, the world has experienced dramatic changes. The world capitalist crisis which began in late 2007 shows no sign of abating despite massive bailouts of banks, companies and financial firms and brutal austerity measures of governments in Europe and America. As the head of the IMF said early in the week, world economy is entering another dangerous zone due to weak growth in the United States and the possibility of Greece defaulting on its debt.
The economic crisis is the most severe crisis of capitalism in 70 years. The stimulus packages of different capitalist governments have only stabilized the situation, it has not resolved the underlying problems. The world economic system has entered a period of stagnation, all measures introduced to resolve the crisis only unleash new ones. Capitalism is in a blind alley. However there are no final crises of capitalism, it will always find a way out but on the bones of the working class.
Since last year we have witnessed dramatic mass movements breaking out across the world. From Tunisia where the first revolutionary wave broke out leading to the fall of Ben Ali’s dictatorship, the mass movement has quickly spread to Egypt, the rest of North Africa and the Middle East. The idea of the internationalism of the socialist revolution which the CWI has always defended against Stalinist reformism is being demonstrated right before our very eyes. These movements were not struggle for democratic rights alone; they also expressed deep dissatisfaction with the neo-liberal policies of the capitalist dictatorships of North Africa and the Middle East. For instance in Tunisia and Egypt, the slogan for job and democratic rights was the mainspring of mass mobilizations and occupation of squares.
Particularly in Tunisia where Ben Ali was ousted after weeks of mass protests, the revolutionary process has entered an impasse owing to the absence of a clear way forward. However there is still an atmosphere of mass politicization. Not a day passes without a demonstration and any suspicious move from elements from the old elite faces immediate spontaneous reaction from the streets. People are beginning to feel that despite that the dictator Ben Ali has been ousted, not much has been achieved in terms of solving the deep economic conditions that caused the movement: unemployment, poverty etc. There is increasing call from the people for a second revolution to sweep out all the remnants of the old regime and install a government committed to running society in the interests of the poor, working class and youth.
On the heels of the movement in North Africa and the Middle East, Europe too has been gripped by a growing and intense mass movement and square occupations. As Dictators after Dictators in the Middle East and North Africa found themselves beset on all sides by the working masses and youths, the workers and youths in Spain and Greece gained inspiration in the role played by the occupation of the Tahrir square in deposing Mubarak by organizing similar occupations of public squares themselves in their countries. In the United States, the mass protest in Wisconsin express the deep dissatisfaction of workers against the attack on labour rights triggered by the deep economic crisis of the biggest capitalist economy. Everywhere, the contagion of all these movements is having great impact on the consciousness of the working masses especially as the economic crises of capitalism bites harder.
In Greece, we have seen the movement of the “enraged”, a movement of mainly youth and working class people badly affected by the economic crisis of capitalism and wanting a way out. This movement is against the attempt by the Greek government to make the Greek people pay the price, through austerity measures, for an economic crisis caused by the bankers and free market policies of the government. There have been eleven general strikes since the beginning of last year. There have also been occupations of city squares in Athens and throughout Greece by youths and workers since May of this year.
In Spain, the movement of the “indignados” also called the 15-M movement was inspired by the Tahrir Square occupation in Egypt. This is in response to austerity policies of government and the miserable situation of mass unemployment (46% unemployment among young people) and declining living standards. Socialismo Revolucionario, (our sister organisation and CWI section in Spain) can play a crucial role in this movement. Some important elements of a pre-revolutionary situation exist in Greece (where Xekinima â€“ CWI Greece â€“ has made significant intervention), except for the most decisive one â€“ the existence of a working class party and leadership prepared to lead a revolutionary struggle for a break with capitalism and begin building of a socialist society.
No country is immune to the fever of the growing mass movement and discontent. A crucial feature of the period we are passing through is the instability of governments all over the world, not just the brutal capitalist dictatorships in North Africa and the Middle East but also the ‘democratic’ capitalist governments in the United States and Europe. In Germany, US, Italy, Spain and even France, ruling regimes are facing significant low poll rating and loss of vote or even defeat in future elections.
This period offer very huge opportunity for the development and growth of the work of the CWI and all its sections. The success in the different sections of the CWI is a vindication of the perspective of the CWI on the inevitable crisis of world capitalism. This we had asserted even before the economic crisis started in late 2007 and 2008. We have also pointed out that despite the pro-capitalist character of trade union leaders in many capitalist countries, the anger of youth and working people against capitalism would develop and find a way out in protests and demonstrations.
The importance of our work in terms of paper sales, intervention in the struggles of workers and youth, recruitment and public activities is being demonstrated by the movements happening in a number of countries where we had relatively small force but where CWI forces are beginning to grow rapidly as workers and youths in struggle see the correctness of our slogans.
In England and Wales, we have seen how the campaign of the Socialist Party within the trade unions as well as our work in the National Shop Steward Network (NSSN) â€“ which is a platform of fighting trade unionists â€“ can have great effect on the development of the class struggle. Due to the serious campaign of the Socialist Party and the NSSN lobby of the TUC conference, the TUC was pressured to call a public sector strike for November 30. This strike, the first TUC called united action since the 1926 general strike, if it takes off will involve about 3 million workers and have great impact on mass consciousness and radicalization, not only in Britain but internationally as well.
In Ireland, we have seen how from being a relatively small force, we can have great impact on the working class and change seeking youth. This always requires huge commitment of comrades to building the organisation as well as creative tactics that meets with the situation. The Socialist Party in Ireland, standing as part of the United Left Alliance (ULA), won two seats in the Irish parliament in the last elections as well as an MEP in the European parliament.
These positions offer us tremendous opportunities of using the parliament of the bourgeois governments as a revolutionary tribune to articulate the interests of the working masses in Ireland and in Europe. For instance, Paul Murphy (the Socialist Party â€“ CWI Ireland – MEP in the European parliament) is using his position to campaign for an all-Europe 24 hour general strike and mass demonstrations of the working class against pro-rich and anti-poor policies targeted at making the working masses pay for the crisis of European capitalism.
In his sum up, comrade Lanre Arogundade explained that the movements that have broken out across the world again, and rather unfortunately, confirm Leon Trotsky’s comment made decades ago. Paraphrasing Leon Trotsky, he said “the greatest problem of the working people all over the world can be reduced to one: the crisis of the leadership of the working class”. In many countries, mass movements have broken out only when the masses bypassed the official trade union leaders or dragged them, kicking and screaming, to lead. Despite the courageous movement of the world working masses and youth against dictatorship and capitalism, the absence of a mass organisation armed with socialist alternative to capitalism has meant that many of these struggles in North Africa, Middle East and Europe could not lead to a genuine changing society in the interest of the poor, youth and workers.
This is why again; the most crucial duty of socialists and revolutionaries is to build the organisation of the socialist revolution which armed with the perspective, slogan and method or Marxism so as to guarantee a successful change of society. Otherwise capitalism will survive this crisis on the bones of the working class, youth and the poor.
Therefore the essential task facing us in the CWI in all countries is to build a mass working class political party with socialist policies and programs. In achieving this, comrades need to build the CWI through increased activities and recruitment, intervention in working class and youth protests where we must in our leaflets, paper, propaganda and agitations constantly link the struggle against neo-liberal attacks with the need for revolutionary transformation of society along socialist lines.
Building the DSM
DSM National Committee Meet to Discuss and Organize For a Socialist Alternative – photo DSM
This is the same task confronting us in Nigeria. The current period we are passing through is one of the most advantageous for the building of the DSM, spreading of socialist ideas and recruitment of change seeking workers, youth and poor into our organisation. Between our last congress and now, we have seen indications of a rising wave of class struggle. Side by side with the ongoing strike for minimum wage by public sector workers, there are a number significant trade disputes in private sector eliciting strikes and protest actions.
According to comrade Chinedu Bosah in his lead off, one crucial reason why the Bolshevik party could lead a successful revolution in Russia in 1917 was its recognition by mass of workers, soldiers, youth and poor masses as the most consistent and most uncompromising defender of their class interest. The DSM can only achieve its aims of socialist revolution if built like this.
Once again struggle is again on the agenda and if we intervene actively and correctly, we can double or triple our membership. This must be the central challenge to all members at this National Committee meeting. The key activities around which we can build viable DSM branches are (1) intervention in struggles of workers, youth, students and poor masses (2) Paper sales (3) ideological education (4) financial contribution. These four key activities are incidentally what determine who is a member of the DSM and who is not. That is you can only be a member of the DSM when you engage in all of the above activities. Members of the DSM must take advantage of the growing radicalization and strikes to build the forces of socialism. We must intervene in every struggle breaking out striving to reach wide layers of the working masses and recruiting change seeking workers and youth into our organisation.
In this, our comrades in Oyo and Osun states have performed tremendously. Other branches need to emulate their example in building the DSM in their own areas. As a result of their consistent and skillful interventions in the public sector strike for N18, 000 minimum wage as well as interventions by Oyo state comrades in Zartech (a private company), we have been able to improve our positions, recruit, spread socialist ideas and build the DSM in both states.
We need a strict and disciplined program to build our student branches. OAU comrades have shown in practice the crucial importance of building the DSM. Despite difficulties like the attacks on the branch by Management-sponsored union officials and the ban of the union early this year, OAU comrades were able to hold two symposia last semester aside issuing several leaflets, statements and posters. Using the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), the comrades organized a symposium to mark the 18-year anniversary of June 12 masses’ struggle against military rule in Nigeria. Despite a public statement issued by the Dean of Affairs of the University some days before the programme warning students against attending the symposium, over 200 students attended and participated in the symposium.
Our branches need to have an organized approach to our work. For instance community branches need to draw up at the beginning of the year for instance, programmes and activities as well as recruitment target for the whole year or a quarter. Student branches must equally draw up same programmes and recruitment target either every semester of session. This allows for methodical work of following up on agreed programmes and meeting set targets. The success of otherwise of meeting up with the agreed programmes and set targets will also help the branch in evaluating itself and identifying lapses and areas needing improvement.
In the community branches there is the urgent necessity for more active work in tabling and paper sale. With the scale of attacks on the living standards of the vast majority of masses and youth, there is actually no limit to the number of issues we can write on or intervene in. Ajegunle comrades have shown in practice how community action platforms like the Ajegunle Peoples Movement (APM) can help us in reaching out to wider layers of people with our ideas. It is good that the Agege DSM branch is already adapting this method. Comrades in Osun and Oyo state need to consider building a community action platform which could prove valuable in our work especially in a period of lull in workers struggle.
There is the need to further improve the work of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC). The ERC was formed by the DSM to campaign against attacks on education and to act as a means to reach wider layers of students with ideas of struggle and change. There is the need for the ERC work to improve on campuses by taking up campaigns of education attacks, fee hike, welfare conditions and attacks on democratic rights. Through the work of the ERC, we can be able to build the DSM by recruiting change seeking students into our ranks. The Ajegunle ERC branch has shown how possible it is to use ERC work in communities to build the DSM through the free holiday.
Our student branches must as an immediate and urgent necessity begin to intervene in workers’ struggle on their campuses and outside the communities. This is the best way to develop genuine socialists and not just student activists whose participation in struggle ends at the gate of the University. The Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) must be formed in each branch of the DSM. We must strive to publicize the work of the CDWR on campuses by ensuring that we use it to intervene in education workers struggle as well as organizing of public programs like symposium.
Also comrades must place emphasis on ideological education. All branches must have functional libraries with a librarian. Comrades must also be interested in their own personal ideological development. This is why all members musts see it as a duty to visit our website (www.socialistnigeria.org) and those of the CWI (www.socialistworld.net) and www.marxist.net where we can find both classic and contemporary Marxist literatures, articles and report of struggles breaking all over the world, activities of our sister organizations as well as analysis of political and economic development. Together with our paper “Socialist Democracy”, the website plays crucial role in the building of the DSM. We urge all members to write regularly for our paper and website.
Equally the DSM is now on Facebook where comrades can also connect with other comrades and get report on new developments in the organisation. Equally the ERC is also on Facebook (edu rights). The Facebook and other social media have become avenues for discussion and debate. We can make them avenues of agitation and socialist propaganda.