Proffering Socialist Alternative to Capitalist Crisis
DSM National Committee (NC):
Proffering Socialist Alternative to Capitalist Crisis
“The crucial question now is not if or what, but how to begin immediately to build a Working class political alternative”
By H.T Soweto
DSM NC March 2013 – Segun Sango, DSM General Secretary, leading discussion on Nigeria Situation and Building SPN – photo DSM
On a bright, warm and sunny morning of Saturday March 9, 2013 members and supporters of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) – CWI Nigeria turned up early for the two-day National Committee (NC) meeting.
The enthusiastic early arrival of the comrades, cutting across the founding and younger generations of the DSM; male and female branch representatives; workers, students and professionals as well as new contacts presented a mood of readiness to address the key fundamental question of the meeting – the launching and building of a genuine socialist alternative political platform of the working masses of Nigeria.
This enthusiasm, more than anything else, sustained the comrades during an unexpected two-hour delay in the commencement of the political discussions on Nigerian and world economic and political perspectives slated for the first day.
The International Press Centre (IPC), venue of the meeting is located at a middle/upper class estate in the Ogba suburb of Lagos. Like many other estates of its status in Lagos, residents regularly contribute money for acquisition and maintenance of transformers that ordinarily should be the responsibility of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria – still referred to by many Nigerians by the old name of NEPA.
On this day, there was no power supply to the estate because the transformer had broken down yet again; one of the mayhems, apart from frequent power cuts, that still reigns supreme in the power sector, despite privatization. On the other hand, the frequency of power failures mean that generators used in most offices and homes as alternatives, also suffer the same fate of frequent break-down. IPC was no exception. The 27kva generator packed up and an alternative smaller generator had to be sourced as it would have been difficult to have the meeting without cooling systems in the scorching heat. All this took the better of two hours.
DSM NC March 2013 – cross section – photo DSM
In introducing his lead-off on the Nigerian Perspectives, DSM’s General Secretary, Segun Sango, highlighted how the perennial crisis in the power and energy sectors, serve as crucial evidence of the failure of neo-liberal policies the major effects of which have been the collapse of public infrastructure. Public education has collapsed, electricity is non-existent, tens of thousands of graduates are roaming the streets without jobs or the prospect of one. In this same Nigeria, people are dying like flies of preventable and curable diseases while according to reports, there are over 50, 000 Nigeria-trained doctors working in New York alone. The late afrobeat maestro Fela Anikulapo sang “water underground, water overground but ordinary cup for man to drink for town nko? E no dey” – that summarizes the Nigerian situation today.
“Despite enormous human and material potentials, Nigeria’s crisis of poverty in the midst of plenty continues apace. Vicious attacks on living conditions, wages and social services have reduced the mass majority to a state of perpetual misery. According to statistics, about 70% of Nigeria’s estimated 170 million-population exist on less than one dollar per day. The capitalist ruling elites continue to loot the collective wealth without remorse. Latest corruption scandal like the Pension Fund scam underlines the rapacious corrupt character of the ruling elite and the imperative of revolutionary change”, Comrade Segun Sango said.
The primary reason for poverty is the capitalist system that governs the ruling of society. Now if all the objective factors needed for human greatness are bountifully present in Nigeria and yet there are no roads, no schools, no hospitals, no water, and added to this, we are perhaps the only country that grows yam and import poundo yam, we have crude oil but cannot produce enough petroleum to run our economy, then it means something is definitely wrong with Nigeria and what is wrong which we have identified is the capitalist way Nigeria is being run. That is why people are suffering in the midst of abundance. It is in order to abrogate mass suffering we are proffering socialist alternative.
Why does nothing work in Nigeria while they seem to “work” elsewhere? It is because capitalism by nature developed late in Nigeria like in many neo-colonial countries, and also because those who colonised us have only left officially, they are still the one controlling Nigeria’s economy today. Take the oil sector for instance, about 95% of all exploration and production activities is monopolised by a handful of foreign multinational oil firms. Nigeria can work only if the working class and poor take over the running of society in order to commonly utilize all these resources and democratically plan them in such a way that the basic needs of everyone can be met.
But as the separate discussion on World Relations showed the rest of the capitalist world, despite sometimes being more developed, is itself in crisis or threatened with crisis. In Nigeria the decline in living standards would worsen, he warned, as long as the capitalist elite continue to control power while the imperialist domination and control of the economy continues. The only alternative however, that is capable of halting the decline into barbarism is a socialist system that places public and working class ownership and management of the commanding heights of the economy above private and primitive accumulation of the wealth and resources belonging to the majority. “the bourgeois have turned abundance into adversity, they have turned prosperity into squalor, and if we are to move forward, we require a socialist transformation”, comrade Sango said.
People are angry but they have no organisation of their own through which they can struggle to rescue Nigeria from the capitalist looters. The Labour Party as presently constituted, save for its name, does not represent the most basic aspirations of workers and poor masses. As a result, elections since 1999 have merely been a rotation of power between one set of corrupt capitalist looters to another. Now a combination of the same anti-poor political parties have grouped together to from the All Progressives Congress (APC) with the aim of dislodging the ruling PDP from power at the Federal level in 2015. But how would an APC victory in 2015 benefit the working and poor masses when the APC is made up of the same parties administering neo-liberal attacks in several states across the country?
The task of effecting this revolutionary change makes it an urgent necessity to build a political platform of the working class, the youth, the women and the rural and urban poor masses hence the decision of the DSM to initiate and launch the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN). The effort to build an alternative party has to come from socialists especially given the refusal of the labour leaders to build the Labour Party and their choice to abandon it to capitalist politicians. As Leon Trotsky said “where tradition is lacking, a striking example becomes imperative”. Although registering the SPN would pose tough challenges, especially as INEC has begun the undemocratic deregistration of political parties, Comrade Sango explained that it would be a negation of years of hard work and the wasting of valuable experience gathered working in the Labour Party and the National Conscience Party, if the challenge is not confronted. Equally, challenging would be the ability of the SPN to fulfill INEC’s conditions for registration as they were designed for the millionaire-looters’ political parties.
Many contributions were made in response to the lead off with most comrades agreeing that the SPN’s time has come and making additional suggestions on the responsibilities of the branches and the individual comrades.
With Determination, We Can Build The SPN!
From the examination of Nigeria’s and the world relation, one crucial conclusion becomes apparent – which is that the most important task today for socialists is how to proffer a revolutionary alternative to the rotten status quo. As comrade Sango pointed out “after all is said and done, the pertinent question is how do we now begin to proffer a socialist alternative that can be embraced by the working masses?” It is however how we answer this question that differentiates us from others in the Nigerian left. He described how our invitation to some left groups towards joint work to build the SPN was turned down and the continued support of some on the “left” to the Labour Party (LP) despite the complete anti-working people and pro-capitalist character of this party.
Comrades were enthusiastic about the SPN initiative. Comrade Oladele Omokunle reported the good response SPN received at workers rallies in Osogbo, Osun State. This is in spite of the widespread disillusionment in “politics” given disappointment with bourgeois political parties. But “with commitment we can build the SPN!” This is very possible given the experience we have accumulated in political work over the years. Comrade Sango gave account of our successful work in the NCP and how we were edged out by the rightwing elements who came later in the period after late Chief Gani Fawehinmi stepped down from the party’s leadership. If we put the same commitment and energy into building the SPN, there is no predicting how far we can go.
South Africa Example
There were discussions around the name of the party and whether or not we could not come up with a name that can be easily understood by both literate and illiterate public. This is a point we have to debate further. The example of the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) recently formed by our sister organisation is South Africa is an example of a party name that can immediately be understood. Comrade Pelad reported to an enthusiastic audience the struggles of the miners in South Africa, the leading involvement of comrades of the DSM (CWI South Africa) in the struggle and how this has transformed into building the WASP. However comrades agreed that as important as the issue of name may be, we have to start building the party at grassroots now while the discussion about name-change goes on.
The Challenges are Surmountable
DSM NC March 2013 – Seun Ogunniyi, member presiding committee – photo DSM
Yet there is the challenge of registration with INEC. The monstrous INEC conditionalities for registration of political parties are almost impossible for working class organisations like DSM to meet. However it is an obstacle we must surmount if the working masses and oppressed youth of Nigeria would have a political representation.
As comrade Raheem puts it “we must build a campaign against party deregistration linked with building the SPN”. The end of the year was agreed as the target for registration. Between now and then, branches and all members are to begin building the party. Programs and activities to build were discussed including how to connect with the masses in such a way as to make them to easily understand the kind of alternative we mean. As comrade Seun Ogunniyi said, we have to simplify our language in the best possible ways in all our propaganda materials in order to reach all layers of the masses with our ideas.
Despite the disenchantment among many especially youths about politics as well as the initial illusion the APC may provoke in the 2015 elections, there is a bright prospect for the SPN to grow. As Comrade Abbey Trotsky pointed out, except for a few people, the APC is viewed with suspicion by many people and this creates a room for a political party like the SPN that proffers a clear socialist alternative to grow.
SPN Appeal Fund
The first major test of the preparedness of the comrades to pursue the SPN initiative with the expected political vision and fervour came by the way of the launching of the ‘SPN take-off fund’ after the discussion on the Nigerian perspectives with a target of N1million. A sum of N1, 251, 000, in pledges, was raised at the meeting to build the party and meet requirements for registration. This surpassed the N1 million target! All the pledges are to be redeemed by June while we continue to contact comrades and supporters who have not pledged or donated to do so. In addition to the SPN appeal fund, a fighting fund of N22, 000 was collected between two days of the meeting.
DSM NC March 2013 – Lanre Arogundade leading discussion on world relations – photo DSM
Just like Nigeria, the world situation today shows how capitalism is beset on all sides by crisis, economic recession and a growing mood for change. According to comrade Lanre Arogundade who led discussion on world relations, revolution is on the world agenda but so also is the threat of counterrevolution. The revolutionary uprisings in North Africa and Middle East have to resume and must now go forward onto overthrowing capitalism before real economic and political freedom can be won by the working masses of this region. This would mean creating independent and democratic trade unions and political parties of the working class and poor to take political power.
While the mass uprisings two years ago were able to oust the brutal dictatorial regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, they left capitalism largely unaffected and the ruling elites still in firm control of society. The commanding heights of the economy were not put under public control and democratic management. This has meant power still resides in the capitalist ruling elite with members of the ancient regime still wielding enormous influence within the newly-formed governments. Indeed in Egypt, Mubarak replacement, Morsi has since proved to be capable of the same brutality and attack on democratic rights. We see the same situation in Tunisia where peoples’ rights including trade union centre (UGTT) have come under vicious attacks since the fall of the old regime. Alongside with this is the growth of rightwing political Islamic fundamentalism in the region.
Africa offers a picture of a continent perpetually in crisis of political, ethnic, religious and now terroristic nature. This crisis has a basis in the colonial looting of the continent and the capitalist system enthroned after independence which have only aggravated the conflicts. Africa is rich in mineral and other wealth but a rapaciously greedy ruling class ensures none of it benefits the working and toiling masses. This can only result in cataclysmic crisis as we have in Mali and a number of countries today.
In Mali, we have a military imperialist intervention in a sovereign country under the guise of stopping the advance of the armed Islamic fundamentalist militants from the North of the country. But this is just an intervention to protect imperialist interests in Mali which includes important investment in the exploitation of the natural resources of Mali including its gold mining sector. It is also to further loot the country.
As it has been pointed, Mali will pay for the cost of this intervention. What this would mean is not only that genuine peace would continue to elude the country but also that the already bad conditions of Malian working class will further worsen. On the whole, “it is a period of chaos and instability that has opened up in Mali unless the working class comes to power”.
Fictitious Growth in Africa
Everywhere in Africa, so-called impressive economic growth rates have not materialised in peoples’ lives. This is not just true about Nigeria but also about Ghana despite its newly-found oil wealth. Greater crisis and instability are on the agenda for Ghana in the coming period. In South Africa we have seen important battles developing. Last year we saw how the miner’s strike developed and the crucial intervention of our comrades. With correct intervention, it was possible to link the struggle against the miner owners and the brutal ANC class-apartheid states backing them with the need for a working class alternative. As CWI comrades who visited South Africa recently reported, socialist consciousness is very high in South Africa perhaps than anywhere. Our comrades are in the leadership of this development. The formation of the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) and good response it is getting is a motivation for us here in Nigeria
Europe “as our comrades in the CWI put it, has become the current epicentre of the crisis of global capitalism”. It is equally the current epicentre of the growing resistance and fight back. We have seen in the last few years, mass strikes and struggle against austerity in capitalist Europe. Anger is exploding against attempts to drive down peoples’ living conditions in order to save capitalism. Massive unemployment, layoffs, attacks on wages, people’s homes (as in Britain and Ireland), cut in funding of education and vital services would see anger and the determination to fight deepen among the hardest hit – working class people and the youth.
General and partial strikes are now back on the agenda in Europe. As the crisis deepens, workers threatened with sudden impoverishment are rediscovering the best tradition of the labour movement. Television pictures of millions on the streets of European capitals demonstrating against austerity are an enormous inspiration to the working masses and youth in Africa. However the about 18 general strikes in Greece while they show the potential power of the working class equally demonstrates while a perspective to take power is crucial now. The need for united strikes of all of Europe and the building of working class political parties to take power and break with capitalism is the only forward. “Unless the movement against austerity in Europe leads to the working class taking power, the alternative is barbarism”.
Everywhere, we raise the same perspective of the need to build independent working class movement as the only way to move forward. This is because nowhere is capitalism able to solve the crisis it has created. For instance in Israel and Palestine, there can be no solution on the national question on the basis of capitalism. If a Palestine state is to be built, it has to be built; it has to be on the program of the working class coming to power.
The significance of Hugo Chavez’s death and the Venezuelan revolution was discussed. As comrade Arogundade puts it, “the working masses, in the post-Chavez period, have to go the whole hog by breaking with capitalism and carrying out socialist tasks. Otherwise the rightwing could be strengthened”. No doubt, Hugo Chavez death had impact beyond Latin America. Here in Nigeria, a lot of discussions took place on social internet sites among youths. The meeting agreed that branches should organise public programs to raise discussion about the significance of the radical reforms carried out by Chavez and the prospect for Venezuela in the post-Chavez period.
DSM Student Wing Meeting March 8, 2013 – photo DSM
On the whole, our organisation has a good prospect to grow. This is already reflected in the increase in our branches and improvement in the different areas of our work. Our efforts to rebuild student branches are yielding results. A student meeting held on the eve (Friday March 8) of the NC, which had over 20 members from student branches present. The meeting discussed state of education and our role and agreed to continue the campaign of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) against education commercialisation which would include public activities starting from March and mass actions on June 16. A 100 new members’ target has been set as the recruitment target for the campaign over the next three months. Also our student branches have to play active roles in the building of the SPN.
Comrade Chinedu reported the activities and intervention carried out by the National Secretariat between last NC and now both in the labour movement and our intervention in struggles breaking out in work places. Active intervention in these struggles has won us a number of workers as members and sympathisers. This includes intervention in okada riders’ struggle in Lagos, Lagos doctors’ strike, LAGBUS workers’ struggle, the NIPOST Pensioners struggle and continued intervention in JAF. Three workers from Kabel Metal attended the NC on Sunday. So also were two Lagbus workers and unionists one of whom has been sacked by management for speaking out against management’s anti-worker policies and upholding the union’s position. Building the Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) is very crucial as it will allow us to reach out to the workers searching for both a fighting and political alternative.
The NC ended with renewed commitment by all comrades to begin the building of the SPN in order to proffer a coherent political alternative for the working masses and change-seeking youths of Nigeria.
Comrade Lanre Arogundade’s reading of the solidarity letters from CWI sections in Europe to the meeting further elevated the mood of comrades and the realisation of the international dimension of our struggle for socialism. Another highlight of the meeting is dominant presence of working class elements who constituted over two-thirds of about 100 comrades who attended the meeting over the two days. This reflects in the success of both appeal fund for takeoff of SPN activities and fighting for other activities of DSM.
Over the next period, the DSM will be actively engaged at all branches to deepen our work and intervention in workers, students, youths and poor struggles, and to build the SPN as a political party that can rid Nigeria of the horrors of capitalism.
Motions passed at DSM NC
THE HISTORICAL IMPERATIVE AND TASK OF BUILDING THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF NIGERIA
A PEOPLE’S ANGER BOILS OVER AGAIN
NIGERIAN PERSPECTIVES RESOLUTION ADOPTED AT DSM NC MEETING, MARCH 9-10, 2013
About a year after the mass of Nigerian poor and oppressed working peoples, including layers of middle class elements, trooped out in millions to emphatically reject the increase in fuel prices via street protests and other forms of demonstrations as ordered and led by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) in January 2012, a mood of anger continues to grow among the poor working masses in virtually all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria.
This anger has particularly been fuelled by the continued wanton disregard of the ruling elites across the ruling political parties for the feelings, yearnings and aspirations of the ordinary peoples such that while, they, the ruling elites continue to amass fabulous wealth for themselves, albeit through, stolen public resources, the majority of the people continue to live in abject poverty while joblessness continue to rise. Although, the official unemployment rate has been put at 23.9 percent, it could be much higher given the thousands of job seeking graduates roaming the streets apart from millions who have lost their jobs to factory closures.
So contemptuous of the toiling masses have the capitalist elites become, that their self-indulgencies now include using state resources to acquire private jets for mundane private use, while failing woefully to provide functional mass transportation in the form of modern and fast rail network, dual carriage ways and ferry systems. When late last year, there were major floods in the country especially the northern and eastern parts due to heavy torrential rains, thousands of travellers were stranded across the country as most of the poorly constructed roads were simply swept away. This is aside from many, whose shelters, properties, farmlands etc were washed away by the floods. Yet, during the eight-year Presidency of General Olusegun Obasanjo a whopping sum of N300billion road contracts were awarded for the fixing of federal roads.
Similar huge sums were voted under the under the Umaru Yar ‘Adua presidency while the trend has continued in the Jonathan Presidency such that cumulatively between 1999 and 2012, a huge sum of N1.414 trillion is said to have been expended on road infrastructure. Yet, the more you look at the roads, the less you see the evidence of a functional infrastructure. The National Mirror of January 3 this year, in an extensive feature on the deplorable condition of the roads captured the personal experiences of some Nigerians this way: “Nigeria is a failed state,” a traveller, Mr. Ayo Otegbade, had echoed narrating his ordeal to National Mirror while travelling on the Abuja-Lokoja road to Lagos recently, saying the man-hour lost on the road due to its dilapidation, is a true picture of the Nigerian state. He said the movement from Abuja to Lagos in a hired executive cab was a nightmare to him as he spent 12 hours on a trip that should have taken him maximum of nine hours if the roads were in good shape. He also complained about the narrowness of the Lokoja- Edo boundary road, saying it could hardly take two cars. The road is supposed to be a dual carriageway, but it is still a single lane without road signs and markings. From Ibadan to Ile Ife, the road was bad and there were checkpoints that took us another one hour,” Otegbade said. Groaning over the state of the roads, a commuter who identified himself simply as Ezim did not mince words, saying there was need to declare state of emergency on Nigerian roads. He stated that despite public outcries and many official visits by ministers and top government officials to see the deplorable condition of the Shaganu-Ore-Benin road, a major highway linking states in the South-East and South- South to the South-West, and the promises of rehabilitation made, the situation remains the same.. Narrating his experience on the road while travelling to his home town in Imo State, Ezim said he and other motorists had to follow a bush path and wasted three hours before connecting the main road due to long queue of trucks’ breakdown occasioned by potholes and gullies on the road. I was lucky on this day because sometimes, you could spent a night on the road,” he said, adding that the Sapele- Warri-Port Harcourt road has already become a death trap to motorists because of its poor condition“.
Very recently, it took the angry protest of hundreds of youths in Eket local government area of Akwa Ibom State for the state government to pledge to dualise the Eket-Ibeno road. The youths were actually protesting the death of some school pupils on the road from accidents caused by its dilapidated condition. Also, only last Saturday, March 2, 2013 the Punch newspapers reported the deteriorating condition of the Sagamu-Ikorodu Federal road despite the fact that in the 2011 and 2012 budgets, the sums of N150m and N600m respectively were voted for the rehabilitation of the road. According to the report, another huge sum of N1.5b has just been voted for the same road in the 2013 budget. One does not need to be a soothsayer to say that what is happening to the Sagamu-Ikorodu road is happening to many other federal and state roads in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, it should also not be forgotten that repeated increases in fuel prices by successive governments since the return of civil rule in 1999 had always been hinged on the mantra of ‘we-will-use-the money-saved’ to develop infrastructure, build roads, build railways lines, build schools, hospitals but with nothing fundamental to show for it. Be it budgetary allocation or subsidy money therefore, one needs not guess that the resources that should have gone into massive public works in road and rural infrastructure have as usual gone into the deep pockets that corruption has created at all levels of government in Nigeria. And that is the major reason why across the country thousands of lives daily perish from preventable motor accidents arising from the worsening condition of the Local, State and Federal roads.
Against this background, it is understandable why the people’s anger should boil over recently over what has now become famously known as the ‘Pension Scam Scandal’. The immediate trigger was the pat-on-the-back verdict handed down by Justice Abubakar Talba of an Abuja High Court in Abuja against one John Yakubu Yusufu, an Assistant Director in the Police Pension’s office who as part of the Pension Reforms Task Force confessed to embezzling as much as N23 billion out of about N40billion stolen from the police pension fund. Yet, when Justice Ibrahim Talba announced his judgement, it was merely to the effect that Yusuf should be sentenced to two years jail term with an option of fine of N250, ooo for each of the three charges. The terms were to run concurrently. In effect out of the whopping sum of N32billion, Yusuf was to return a very paltry N250, 000.
For many Nigerians who are all too familiar with the ignominious manner with which successive ruling elites at the state and federal levels have always treated aged pensioners from different sectors of the economy, many of whom have collapsed and died on the queue while either waiting for never ending verification exercises or the collection of the meagre pensions, the judgment by Justice Talba, was not just another judicial sanctioning of corruption, but one madness too many. Angry reactions of ordinary citizens, including students, women, workers, etc were aired live on Radio and Television channels. Some of the callers were not just calling for the heads of both Yusufu and Talba or lampooning the Goodluck Jonathan regime for condoning corruption; they were also recommending death penalty for looters of public treasury. The more the anger grew, the more the Jonathan presidency found it hard to continue to play the ostrich.
Indeed it was apparently out of fear about the political explosion into which the issue can detonate, especially if the working class organizations like the NLC, TUC, JAF, DSM etc. should make a bold and categorical call for mass protest against the blatant act of treasury looting, that the Jonathan led PDP government through its agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had to re-arrest and re-arraign Yakubu Yusufu, the current chief beneficiary of the reigning “Plea Bargain”, to give the impression that the government itself is so scandalized and has taken steps to right this wrong. For example, the NLC in a January 29 statement signed by its Acting President, Kiri Mohammed, had amongst other things stated: “We are startled at the judgment by an Abuja High Court yesterday which convicted a man who already admitted stealing N23billion out of over N40billion found to have been stolen from the coffers of the Nigeria Police Pension Fund between January 2008 and June 2011 to just two years in prison with an option of fine in the sum of N750,000 â€¦ This judgment is not in the public interest and cannot be acceptable to Nigerians who are continuously worried about their future in retirement should the judiciary continue to encourage those caught with public funds with convictions that are clearly not punitive enough for the convict to be remorseful, the judiciary will be encouraging the Nigerian people to opt for jungle justice and treat these high profile criminals the same way pick pockets are treatedâ€¦.We urge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to immediately appeal against this judgment or call for a retrial, while we call on the National Judicial Council to investigate both the judge and the entire case.
Arising from the mass disenchantment over its handling of the ‘Pension Scam Scandal’, a Jonathan regime that initially claimed it had no powers to sack the leader of the Yusufu gang, that is, the Chairman of the Police Pension Reforms Task Force, one Maina has now been compelled to order his (Miana’s) dismissal. Meanwhile, in line with the tradition of the ingenious plea-bargaining system, Yusufu is merely towing the path of former Governors like Lucky Igbinedion of Edo State; Diepreye Alamayasia of Bayelsa State, to mention but a few. On the other hand, unless there is as revolutionary change in the society, the judiciary will continue to serve as agents of the corrupt ruling class. After all, it was the same judiciary that issued a permanent injunction against the investigation of Peter Odili, a former Governor of Rivers State for corruption.
CORRUPTION CONTINUES TO WORSEN WORKING PEOPLES’ MISERY
Much as the ‘Pension Scam Scandal’ has caused uproar across the country, the amount stolen, quite unfortunately, represents only a token when compared with the monumental corruption that has been taken place in the country, prior to and since the return of civil rule. But apart from the direct pilfering of the public treasury, the flip side of this corruption is the sale of public corporations and utilities to private hands in the name of privatization as well as the doling out of public resources to the cronies of the ruling regime in the name of intervention funds as is the case with the aviation industry. But what cannot be disputed is the fact that the high profile corruption at all levels of government in the country has compounded the problems of the working peoples who while earning poverty wages or are rendered jobless or under-employed have to contend with ever rising costs of living.
Being the proverbial ‘golden goose that lays the golden egg’, the petroleum sector has witnessed very significant proportions of this endemic corruption. Each time fuel prices had been jacked up in the name of subsidy removal, either in the days of military dictatorship or under the so-called current civil rule dispensation, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), had always maintained that the so-called subsidy regime was a fraud and that the pervasive corruption in the oil sector can only be halted through a programme of public ownership and control of the sector. This would require the nationalization of the oil industry (as well as other commanding sectors of the Nigerian economy), under the democratic management and control of the workers, the trade unions, the professionals and the oil producing communities. Through that, the pillage can be halted and the resources liberated for the development of the society through massive public programs in infrastructure, housing, health care, affordable education etc.
The correctness of the above stated position has been borne out by events during and after the January 2012 anti fuel-subsidy-removal protests especially through the series of desperate ‘probes’ launched by different arms of the government ostensibly to placate the angry masses who were already demanding for regime change. If we might recall here, the 9-day general strikes and mass actions ordered by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), against the hike of a liter of petrol from N65.00 to N140.00 under reference was a huge success with active participation by several layers of the working class, trade unionists, socialists, students, urban and rural youth, middle-class professionals, market women and even young school children. The masses stood by the demand that the petroleum price must be reverted to N65N per liter or even lower. This demand could easily have been achieved but for the capitulation of the labour leadership, who lacking a programme and perspective for regime and system change, was as much afraid of the mass action developing into a popular revolt, as the Jonathan regime itself and therefore quickly agreed to the rotten compromise of reduction from N150N per litre to N97N per litre. While this was a significant set-back for the working masses, they had however shown that they are prepared to fight for change in the society.
When the series of probes and investigations were launched, it became all too clear to working class elements and ordinary Nigerian masses, that if at all successive regimes had been subsidizing anything, it was the corruption of their fronts and lackeys in the oil sector, as part of the capitalist exploitation of Nigeria.
Thus, in an earlier publication by our organization, the General Secretary, Segun Sango, aptly captured the dramatic revelations of fraud as a ‘peep into the Capitalists’ Chambers of Fraud’. He wrote:
“The House of Representatives recently made rare peep into certain aspects of the oil sector’s activities. Essentially, the House probed the so-called oil subsidy regime that was in existence between 2009 and 2011. In its findings, the House came up with detailed reports of reckless looting of public resources in the name of “oil subsidy” payment. Amongst several breath-taking instances of sheer looting, the House committee reports that 35 firms collected allocations are not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission. It recommends that certain marketers be made to refund a huge sum of N1.1trillion for money collected for petroleum products never supplied and asks 3 audit firms to be blacklisted. The House also reveals that the NNPC collected N295.098billion above the recommendation of PPPRA, the official body that has power to manage the so called oil subsidy. It also states that the NNPC unilaterally removed a sum of N108.645billion. To highlight the kind of reckless bonanza that has been going on in the name of “oil subsidy” management, a waste disposal firm was said to have been paid a whopping sum of N1.9billion for products it never supplied! The House probe also found the payments of a sum of N999million recorded 128 times within 24 hours of 12th and 13th January, 2009 by the office of the Accountant General of the federation!”
Here we re-call the fact that the probe of the oil subsidy finances, in the first instance was inspired by January’s 9-day nationwide general strike and mass protests led by the NLC and the TUC against the hike of a liter of petrol from N65.00 to N140.00 and their contention that there exists too much corruption on this issue that gave rise to the probe. However the findings by the House probe are, to say the least, dumbfounding. In its first official response to the release of the probe reports, the NLC held that the report is “a mere tip of the iceberg”. In essence, the entire mind boggling revelations of corruption and misdeeds on the oil subsidy management constitute a minute fraction of the gangster looting that is going on in the entire oil sector and the national economy as a whole. Merely based on the House reports, it should be very clear beyond debate that there was nothing the government was subsidizing in oil price and that the so-called “oil subsidy” payment has been nothing but a gargantuan fraud being perpetrated against Nigerians under the false pretense of making petrol price affordable to consumers. Expectedly, the release of this probe result has generated a widespread reactions and anger among the various sectors in the society.
Confronted with the House probe ugly and nauseating findings of corruption and sheer theft, government in its first official reaction described the findings of the House probe as mere general information. This means that it does not intend to take any serious action on the report. However, faced with the avalanche of criticism from the opposition parties and the general public, government has now said that it will urge some special government agencies like the EFCC, police, etc, to further investigate the findings of the House with a view to prosecute indicted elements. However, before any concrete step could be taken in this respect, a new development revealed that the Chairman of the Committee of the House that probed the oil subsidy regime, Hon. Farouk Lawan himself was recorded on tape to have collected, between himself and secretary of the probe panel, a sum of $620,000 from an oil business man, Mr. Femi Otedola, as bribe with a view to strike off the names of his firms from the list of the companies implicated in the oil subsidy looting.
Once again, it is necessary for working class elements to understand that much as the corruption in the oil or petroleum sector is mind bungling, it is just a mere reflection of what goes on under the capitalist system In Nigeria as many more examples, not to forget the already cited ‘Pension Scam Scandal’ would show.
The Leadership newspaper of February 14, this year reported the findings of a report that says that ‘$129 billion illicit money from crime, corruption and tax evasion’ has been siphoned out of the country in the last 10 years. The rating makes Nigeria the seventh among 20 developing countries whose currencies are moved abroad with. According to the newspaper, the Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington-based research and advocacy organisation that made the disclosure said about “$19.66 billion illicit money was exported from Nigeria in 2010 alone while an average of $12.9 billion is moved yearly by corrupt politicians, businessmen, drug barons and criminals in a country where citizens grapple with poor transportation networks, unreliable electricity, inadequate healthcare facilities and other lacking social amenities despite being rich in natural resources”.
In the face of this monumental corruption through which over $400billion is said to have been stolen between 1966 and 1999; and especially as political office has become the easiest route to the stealing of public funds, politics in Nigeria as far as the capitalist politicians cannot but be do-or-die. But even at this, the ruling elites are caught in their own contradiction. By failing to provide jobs millions of able bodied young people; by failing to provide affordable health care and education for the masses; by failing to decent and affordable housing system for the poor working masses while at the same time living under stupendous wealth, they are daily pestered with demands for one form of financial succour or the other by supporters and non-supporters alike who see this as the only avenue by which they can have a little of state resources.
In the above context, the revelation by Femi Ojudu a journalist and serving ACN Senator from Ekiti State, in a recent interview with the The News magazine cannot but be instructive. Among others he said: “I met a colleague who told me that he didn’t have N10, 000 as he was speaking with me. I asked why. He said he bought two trailers of rice for Christmas, cows, rams, turkeys and cartons of wine that he distributed to members of his constituency in 10 local governments. And on Christmas day, people still rushed to his house to eat and drink and take transport fares when leaving. He said he is in Abuja now without enough for him to even eat. I understood what he was saying. You are invited to events every day, every weekend, this village day, that town day, you have to donate money. Not only donate. As you are leaving the event, people are shouting your name and you have to give everybody money”.
In the same interview, Femi Ojudu disclosed how the ruling political class is incapable of changing Nigeria for the better. “Our country is really in the grip of evil elements at all the levels of government and something has to give. You are out there, you see the problems, you perceive it and you think other people should also perceive the problems the way you have perceived it and that all our energy, resources and time should be devoted to trying to solve the problem. But what you see is that people don’t see the problems, they are very lackadaisical about it. They think that Nigeria will continue to roll on and nothing is going to unsettle it, therefore, there is no need for any emergency or the need to sit down in a very serious manner, think out solutions to these problems and save this country from perdition.”
With startling disclosures like the above by a major representative of the ruling parties â€“ the ACN – it is not surprising that the Nigerian economy remains in a state of comatose despite official celebration of growth figures that are nothing but illusory.
AN ECONOMY IN FREE SLIDE
In 2011, The PUNCH newspaper of February 3, had reported how the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Lamido Sanusi was celebrating the fact that the Nigerian economy grew by 8.29 percent in the last quarter of 2010, claiming the growth was largely due to improved power supply across the country and enhanced performance of the non-oil sector, particularly agriculture. But Sanusi’s authority was actually the IMF, which together with the World Bank are the dictators-in-chief of Nigeria’s neo-liberal economic policies. Thus, it did not come as a surprise what the Information and Communications Minister, Mr. Labaran Maku, said while elaborating CBN governor’s statement after a FEC meeting: “In October 2010, the IMF had said that with a 7.4 percent growth rate, Nigeria was the third fastest growing economy in the world, after China and India. The CBN also projected a growth rate of 8.29% in the first quarter of 2011. Capacity utilisation has grown from 25% to 29.6%. Foreign exchange rate stabilised at N153 to a dollar” but the CBN is striving to keep the figure at N150 to a dollar.
But while reacting to this “spectacular” growth rate, the MD/Chief Executive Officer, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, told the Punch: “We are amazed at the 8.29% growth rate. We would want to feel it. We want to see the impact on the quality of lives of the people”. Also according to an Economic Consultant, Professor Kayode Familoni, “we have had growth without economic development. We must ensure that the growth results in full employment, price stability and equitable distribution of income and wealth, otherwise, it will be meaningless”. Thus, this is a complete and gross misrepresentation of Nigeria’s economic reality. It is for this reason that the above bourgeois economic analysts themselves are incredulous about the veracity of the government claims. Way back in July 2010, Mr. Sanusi had equally told the Federal Executive Council that “there is no cause for alarm” as far as the overhaul economic prospect are concerned. In the Socialist Democracy issue of October 2010, we have debunked the false sense of optimism being painted by Sanusi and the Jonathan presidency.
One other economic boast of the ruling elite is that the Nigerian economy would be among the twenty biggest economies by the year 2020. Along this line, the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Okonjo-Iweala, last month (February 2013) echoed Sanusi’s claim of 2011, by claiming that the Nigerian economy was doing well, apparently in reaction to renewed concerns about economic decline. The Punch newspaper of February 28 quoted Okonjo-Iweala’s boast as saying: “First, the Nigerian economy is strong. Our economic performance is robust when viewed against a whole range of objective factors. “Inflation is now down to single-digit at nine per cent in January 2013 compared with 12.6 per cent in January 2012. “The exchange rate has been relatively stable and the fiscal deficit, at just under two per cent of Gross Domestic Product, is on a downward trajectory and below our threshold of three per cent of GDP.”Our national debt is at a sustainable level at about 19.4 per cent of GDP. Overall, GDP growth for 2012 was 6.5 per cent and projected at 6.75 per cent for 2013, compared with the projected global growth of 3.5 per cent.”The minister also said, “The above facts have been independently noted and validated by international ratings agencies such as Fitch, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, which have upgraded the country’s economic outlook, even as other countries are being downgraded.”In addition, Nigeria’s bonds have recently been included in the Barclays and JP Morgan Emerging Market indices. But despite this image of Eldorado Okonjo-Iweala could not but admit that “We need to create more jobs for our youths to curb unemployment. Poverty needs to decrease at a faster pace, as we do not want excessive inequality to be a feature of our economic growth.
Year 2020, by the way, is just seven years away, and with the wobbling of the Nigerian economy coupled with the crisis of global capitalism upon which it depends, nothing can be farther from the truth that Nigeria would soon graduate into one of the twenty strongest economies in the world. In the circumstance, our reaction in 2011 to the false claim of economic growth is still as true today as it was then. Basically that: “while back-slapping themselves for the alleged wonderful achievements being presently recorded by combinations of their macroeconomic policies and at the same time making false promises of sustained growth and improved living standard, every key sector of the economy and the living conditions of the overwhelming majority of the people have continued to grow from bad to worse.”
“Between 1985 and 2004, inequality in Nigeria’ according to the UNDP Human Development Reports for the years 2008 and 2009, ‘worsened from 0.43% to 0.49%, placing the country among those with the highest inequality levels in the world. Many studies have shown that despite its vast resources, Nigeria ranks among the most unequal countries in the world. The poverty problem in the country is partly a feature of high inequality which manifests in highly unequal income distribution and differentia access to basic infrastructure, education, training and job opportunities’. Despite its abundant human and natural resources, Nigeria is ranked 158th in the world Human Development index out of 182 countries surveyed. Although Nigeria constitutes roughly 2% of the world population, the country tragically accounts for 11% of maternal death and 12% of the world’s under-5 mortality rates respectively. According to another UN survey, 92% of Nigerians live on less than $2 per day. Not surprisingly, the lifespan of most Nigerians have sharply declined with 49 years and 59 years estimated for men and women respectively.
“Stable and affordable electricity, seen by all and sundry as an unavoidable element in modern economic growth and social development, remains largely non-existent for an overwhelming majority of Nigerians; while services for the minority, individuals and companies that have access remain ever epileptic. South Africa, which roughly has only about 33% of Nigeria’s population generates 45,000 mega watts of electricity per annum. Most lamentably however, Nigeria currently generates less than 3,000 mega watts of electricity per annum. In fact, by the time former President Obasanjo left power in May 2007, Nigeria was only generating about 2,500 mega watts which actually declined to about 2,000 mega watts by 2009. Here, it is appropriate to add that these pathetic situation remains, notwithstanding the fact that the country was said to have invested about $16 billion under Obasanjo’s presidency to shore up electricity production!
“Education that is seen by all and sundry as an essential requisite for the overall development of society and individuals remains in the most debilitating condition. For instance, The Nation of March 17, 2010 reports that “Only 4,223 of the 236,613 candidates who sat for last year’s November/December external Senior Secondary School Examination (SSCE) of the National Examination Council (NECO) had credits in five subjects including English and Mathematics”. In its edition of April 15, 2010, the Nation also reported that only 25.99% and 10% respectively scored 5 credits and above, including English and Mathematics, across the country in the May/June 2009 WAEC and NECO July 2009 Examinations. “Way back in 2005, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in its Human Development index reports had already painted a very gory picture of the education sector in Nigeria. The report in part states: “Due to poor funding for education, education at all levels suffers from low academic standards; lacks the requisite teachers, both in sufficient quantity and quality. Even the few qualified teachers available are not sufficiently motivated in terms of remuneration or operating environment conducive to maximize their output into the educational system. Schools are over-populated and classrooms are over-crowded, facilities are inadequate and over-stressed, library shelves are empty and covered with cobwebs, while laboratories lack up-to-date equipment”. Against this background, the above quoted responses against mass failure in secondary schools examinations by government officials is nothing but sheer hypocrisy.
The findings in the UNDP report has just been corroborated by the report of a committee that was set up by the Federal Government to assess the state of Federal and State Universities across the country. In the very detailed report, the committee assessed the state of facilities and infrastructure including classrooms and laboratories as well as staff-student ratio, in each of the Universities and returned a demining verdict of lack of essential facilities leading to deteriorating studying and living conditions in almost all of the Universities. These are the same vexatious issues over which the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), their Polytechnics and Colleges of education counterparts as well as Nigerian students have repeatedly protested over. Now the chicken has come home to roost.
Again, as we have stated before, the economic model on which the Jonathan administration is predicating its economic growth is one that will lead Nigeria no-where but second colonialism. “According to President Jonathan and his leading economic advisers, they hope to trigger economic and industrial revolution through a private sector driven economy. To this end, they hope to handover the oil sector, the mainstay of the economy to so called foreign and local private investors. Under a complete deregulation regime, government hopes to increase Nigeria’s oil production to something like 3 million barrel per day (BPD) in two years time. Electricity, which is indispensable to any socio-economic development, is to be completely handed over to capitalist profiteers who are expected to generate about 16,000 mega watts by 2013. Key necessary infrastructure such as roads and rail development and social services such as healthcare and education are increasingly being abandoned in favour of a dubious strategy called Public Private Partnership (PPP), a sort of public con which uses public wealth for the primary benefit of the profit interest of a few capitalist elements.
Theoretically, if the oil industry grows to a stage where it produces 3 million barrel per day and the electricity sector is able to generate 16,000 mega watts of electricity by 2013, then, there would be a better potential for socio-economic fulfilment of Nigerians. However, even if this becomes the reality in the next few years, the ordinary working class people, who constitute the vast majority of Nigeria’s population should not expect to automatically and significantly benefit from such a would-be better economic prospect. This is because the imperialist and capitalist corporations that are expected to spearhead such growths are never known for acts of charity nor as elements and organizations that would carry out development primarily for the development of society and its people.
Sadly, this is not a peculiarly Nigerian factor. It is the trademark of the unjust profit motivated system called capitalism all over the world. This is something that Ghana is about to discover as its oil production gets under way. “Ghana is the fastest growing economy in the world this year, expanding at a forecast 13.6 percent thanks largely to the onset of oil production. It is also the only mainland country in West Africa to have achieved lower middle income status on statistics revised last year to take into account a decade of rapid expansion in services. Yet, there is little sense of a boom. Three years into an International Monetary Fund-backed stabilization programme, businesses are impatient, while the crowded streets of poor neighbourhoods speak of frustration and hardship” (Financial Times (London), December 15, 2011).
Ghana has indeed started discovering that her IMF and World bank inspired neo-liberal so-called economic ‘miracle’ fundamentally means nothing for the poor masses. For example, the Daily Graphic of Saturday February 16, 2013 reported on its front page that Ghana earned $107.9million from oil in the last quarter of 2012 according to data from the country’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. The money came from about a million barrels of crude lifted by what is called the Ghana group â€“ the Government of Ghana and the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation. But the report quickly noted that only about $65million dollars actually constituted net profit to the government “after the necessary deductions â€“ royalties, equity financing costs, carried and participation interest, among other deductions, had been done”. Additionally, the report indicated that Ghana was yet to earn anything in the form of corporate tax from oil exploration and production companies; that is 25 per cent of their profit, because of an agreement that the companies did not have to pay the tax if it reported no-profit. Meanwhile, there is also another agreement that allows the companies to make what is called cost-recovery of %20 per annum over a five-year period. Thus whatever profits the companies have made since exploration began in 2007 would be returned to them as cost under the subsisting agreement. Yet, according to Daily Graphic, “that notwithstanding, the government budgeted for GHc660million as corporate tax from the petroleum sector in the 2012 budget, a target it will not realise”.
More importantly, the same Daily Graphic edition on page 4 had a full page story titled “No jobs in Ghana â€“ growth without development” which painted a dismal situation of lack of employment in Ghana despite the country having joined the league of oil-producing Nations. Among others, the report stated that “the Graduate Business Support Scheme (GBSS) â€“ a collaborative initiative of the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare (MESW), other government ministries, agencies and private organisations â€“ estimates that out of the total number of youth entering the Labour market yearly, more than 30 percent or 70,000 are graduates ……with only 5000 managing to find work in the formal sector”.
The long experience of Nigeria and Ghana’s recent one with neo-liberal economic agenda based on the false theory that only by the handing over of the key economic sectors of Nigeria and Africa to the profit-driven capitalist/imperialist corporations can make Africa to flourish for the benefit of its people, should ordinarily serve as a warning to the labour movement and shape the leadership’s programs and perspectives for fighting on behalf of the working class. Unfortunately, that this has not been the case could be seen in recent developments.
LABOUR’S FAILURE TO PUT FORWARD A WORKING CLASS ALTERNATIVE
It is not just through their active participation in the anti-fuel subsidy removal strike and mass actions of January 2013, that the Nigerian working masses have demonstrated their rejection of a system that robs the poor to pay the rich, they have equally done so in countless of strike actions at the industry or factory levels and at state and federal levels. In this wise, workers in the civil service; the local government administration; the oil and gas sector; the aviation industry; the energy and power sector; the educational sector; the medical sector; the railways sector; etc have gone on strike at different times over a range of issues bothering on non- payment of minimum wage, non-payment of gratuities, commercialization and privatization deals leading to pay cut and job losses etc.
In an earlier appraisal of the fighting mood of rank and file workers, we had written about how “despite lack of general and a coherent leadership by the top labour leaders, there is a new tradition of struggle and resistance developing among sections of the working class.” and that what was lacking is a unified struggle and campaign involving workers in both private and public sectors, at both federal and state levels and a coherent national leadership within the trade unions and in form of a truly working class political party that can give this uncoordinated working class resistance the appropriate vision and strength.
The present leadership of the NLC and TUC, have unfortunately failed to live up to this historical responsibility although occasionally mouthing rhetoric about struggle or even leading or supporting some of the strike actions. Indeed, the labour leadership has so far failed to heed our call that “rather than making futile calls on Jonathan and other capitalist politicians to implement pro-poor policies, the NLC and TUC must begin process of creating a truly working peoples’ political party or energetically work to build the Labour Party as a genuine one that could take power from the self-serving capitalist elements and harness Nigeria’s human and natural resources for the benefit of all”.
The reasons for the Labour leadership’s failure to propose and lead the fight for the desired working class alternative are not far-fetched. It derives basically from their embrace of reforms of the capitalist system both politically and economically, as against working for a socialist alternative. With this ideological vacuum, the Omar leadership, like that of Adams Oshiomole before it continues to fail to draw the most central political and economic lessons, from the huge groundswell of disaffection and opposition to the capitalist elite’s misrule and corruption, especially as seen in the series of general strikes which Nigeria has experienced since year 2000, that as long as Nigeria’s imperialist dominated economy is run on the capitalist basis, it will never be possible for the ruling elite to guarantee any reforms on a permanent basis while elections would always be a do-or-die affair among the political elite desperate to lay their hands on the tap of corruption that the control of power assures, even if the much touted Uwais recommendation for electoral reforms are implemented hundred times over. On the other hand, Labour’s lack of central political role in addressing the myriad of problems confronting the working masses across the country would continue to lead to such phenomenon as Boko Haram, which thousands of peace summit, like the one organized by the NLC with the government cannot stop.
One of the tasks that confront a working class organization like ours in this and coming period, in the above regard, is to work with other genuine trade unionists and activists towards re-building the Labour movement This obviously would necessitate the stepping up our participation in rank and file shop-floor trade union activities including but not limited to a program of political education; standing of genuine left candidates in elections; interventions in strikes and other mass actions; improving the circulation of the SD among workers. A step in this direction would be to work with unions where occupy positions and where we have some influence with the leadership to organize political activities in the form of symposium, lectures, rallies, around the forthcoming May Day. Ultimately our role is to bring about a labour movement that is not tied to the ideological apron-string of capitalism and neo-liberal economic policies.
BOKO HARAM AND THE NATIONAL QUESTION
With its murderous activities including arson and killing of many innocent Christians and Muslims; rank and file soldiers and policemen; young school children; aged women and men etc the Boko Haram phenomenon has truly been confounding, since it reared its head few years ago. Amidst occasional talks of truce or peace talks between the group and the government, it has been a cycle of violence that has also seen the Nigerian Army summarily executing young men in some northern states, all in the name of ridding the country of the menace of Boko Haram. The activities of Boko Haram have caused such outrage that some believe the Nigerian state should spare no force in crushing the rebelling group. As stated above, the Nigerian army has actually resorted to indiscriminate arrests, torture and killings as it battles to uproot the Boko Haram group. There is no end to the cycle of violence yet, and even if it temporarily ebbs, it can easily resurface particularly as there is a renewed struggle for power ahead the 2015 elections.
Although Boko Haram carries out its murderous conduct with the flavour of fighting a religious war, it is not the first time that Nigeria would witness such a phenomenon especially in the aftermath of massively rigged elections. That this continues to happen should serve as another lesson that Labour must direct the various powerful movements of the masses especially as seen in January last year â€“ a period when notably there were no sectarian killings by Boko Haram or any other group â€“ towards the question of political power by the working peoples through a program of united action to against poverty, violation of human rights, denial of political rights and various anti-poor policies of the ruling classes.
For example, the struggle to actualise the June 12, 1993 mandate late Bashorun MKO Abiola, a business mogul and capitalist to the core, but who was susceptible to populist ideas, especially as the struggle for his mandate was led by notable human rights groups and individuals, led to the advent of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) that was then seeking the secession of the Yorubas from the rest of Nigeria. OPC’s militancy only started waning after General Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba, became the president in 1999. At the same time, the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) started gathering momentum about the time Alex Ekwueme, an Ibo and a former Vice-President of Nigeria, lost the PDP’s presidential ticket to Obasanjo. There have also been many other forms of militancy in the East and South including the various Niger Delta militias fighting for the control of petroleum resources. Again, if the Niger Delta militancy is somewhat curtailed now, it can only be because, Goodluck Jonathan, an Ijaw from the south-south, is currently the President of Nigeria.
Although poverty in Northern Nigeria is considered legendary, especially against the backdrop of thousands of youths roaming the street in the absence of schooling and parental care, while indeed Boko Haram has said it abhors western education, the underlying fundamental factors in the Boko Haram attacks remain not just the unresolved nationality question, but also socio-economic hardships and inequalities of the majority of the people despite abundance of human and natural resources. Because capitalism makes these abundant resources, including land, so scarce by appropriating them to the ruling millionaire elites, the tendency is for the ordinary masses to fight for the remaining crumbs as has had been seen in Ife-Modakeke; Umuleri-Aguleri; Junkum-Kuteb; Tiv-Idoma; Hausa-Fulani-Berom etc battles. In this wise it will be totally politically false and non-Marxian to view the Boko Haram only in the light of Muslim versus Christian or northerners versus southerners.
But there is no doubting the fact that the Nationality question has to be addressed, particularly for the purpose of ensuring that the working masses are not detracted from the task of building common solidarity and political platform to fight for their political and economic rights. After all, as we recalled before just “six years after independence, the Nigerians state was engulfed by an almost 30-month civil war which threatened to end the history of Nigeria as a country. The military officers, who were then in power, backed by the ruling elites of the northern and western regions respectively, cleverly and arbitrarily, divided Nigeria into 12 states (a development which to a considerable extent, met the agitation and demands of nationalist groups across Nigeria), a strategy which largely helped to isolate and defeat the country called Biafra which itself was created by the military officers and ruling elites of the Igbos nationality. Thus, it can be stated without any fear of contradiction that the idea of Nigeria’s creation and its retention as a corporate entity had always been faced with serious agitations by interest groups before and since after independence. For a considerable period of years after the civil war ended in 1970 and largely based on stupendous incomes from petrodollars, these agitations considerably receded to the background in many cases. But after several years of the rapacious pillaging and looting of Nigeria’s natural resources and finances by the combination of imperialists, capitalists, corporations and their representatives and ruling elites across Nigeria, the country has once again been pushed to the edge of political disintegration”.
Against this background, it is not surprising that the Boko Haram killings have once again brought about arguments for and against a sovereign national conference. While it is true that Nigeria came into existence 100 years ago, through the whims and caprice of the British colonial Masters supported by other imperial powers, after having carved empires for themselves in Africa, Asia, Latin America etc, and without any consultation whatsoever with the peoples and while it is true that series of constitutional reviews have failed to address the question of how the various constituents relate with one another, what is worth emphasizing is that the working class cannot put its faith in the hand of self-serving and power seeking capitalist elite. Whether some rival sections of the elite insist that the unity of Nigeria is sacrosanct and cannot be negotiated; whether other sections advocate SNC, confederacy, creation of more states etc, all they seek are avenues for power to enrich themselves at the expense of the majority poor.
As Socialists, we should continue to propose and defend the idea of the convocation of a genuine and democratically elected Sovereign National Conference only to the extent that it would bring about the united movement of Nigerians to achieve a workers and poor government that acts in the interests of the vast majority and not the competing groups of exploiters.
Socialists should also maintain that the working masses must combine the struggle to achieve their national democratic aspirations and decent living standard as one struggle. That is why the working masses of all nationalities across Nigeria would need to engage in collective political struggle to remove the current profit-driven and narrow minded capitalist elements from political power in order to achieve genuine, peaceful and voluntary co-existence among the various nationalities and groups that make up Nigeria. As we always argue, the building of a powerful pan-Nigerian socialist political platform led by the working class, poor farmers and the youths who in contrast to the prevailing unjust order strive to build a society wherein the stupendous natural and human resources of Nigeria are maximally harnessed to meet the basic economic and political needs of every Nigerian constitutes the only realistic way to ensure that the prevailing capitalist ruling elites from all the nationalities are defeated. The outlined political ideas shall form the basis upon which members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) will continue to conduct their political relationship especially within the working class and left movement and against all capitalist parties and trends in Nigeria.
THE 2015 ELECTIONS 2015: NEITHER PDP NOR APC
For anyone still under any illusion that fundamental progress and a radical transformation of the society is possible under the present ruling classes, the interview granted by ACN’s Ojudu, part of which we quoted earlier should serve as eye opener. When asked if there could be progress despite all he had said, he simply replied: “It’s near-impossible. If we want to move forward through the formal and normal process, it is going to take us another century. But if there is a rupture from below, that may just bring a quicker resolution to what is happening in Nigeria”
There is nothing however that is new in what Ojudu said, that we have not explained in our various statements and perspectives documents, which is basically that the PDP and ACN and now the newly formed APC are sides of the same coin as they subscribe to the same neo-liberal anti-working class economic policies. Before now we had summed up the situation by reiterating that: “both the ruling PDP and all the opposition ruling parties severally and collectively subscribe to and defend anti-poor policies in all their economic programmes and policies. Instead of fashioning out programmes and policies which can make the stupendous human and natural resources which Nigeria possess with a view to guarantee decent living conditions for everybody, all the ruling parties at federal and state levels are in the forefront of the advocacy and implementation of anti-poor policies that would only worsen the living conditions of the ordinary Nigerians across the country.
This is why the PDP, ANPP, ACN, APGA and even the only Labour Party-controlled government of Ondo state are championing neo-liberal, pro-rich capitalist policies of privatisation, deregulation, commercialisation etc although some of them, especially in the so-called progressives’ camp are seen by sections of the working masses as at least doing something worth commending. This is the case with Adams Oshiomole, former leader of the NLC in Edo State, who won re-election on the platform of ACN last year and Segun Mimiko of the Labour Party who won re-election this year after vicious campaigns. The same sentiment was expressed in favour of Governor Babatunde Fashola of ACN in the election of 2011. The major factors in their re-election include the fact that, unlike most governments across the country, they have at least been seen to be building roads, constructing drainages, hospitals, markets etc. Truly amidst the collapse of governance in the country the likes of Oshiomole and Mimiko would seem as offering shining examples, but in reality, the so-called reforms cannot be on a permanent basis. First, the working masses would ultimately be made to pay for them by way of higher taxes, increase in the cost of education, health care, etc as the underlying philosophy is that of public-private-partnership beside the fact that huge amounts of money are being borrowed by way of bonds to fund the projects. The second is what would become of the so-called reforms after they leave office especially as they are not standing on the platform of the political organization of the working class. Beyond attending various grandiose events organized by the Mimiko government, for example the leadership of the NLC and TUC as well as the Labour Party have done fundamentally nothing to build the Labour Party as a mass movement of the millions of working peoples across Nigeria. In this wise, an end to the Mimiko regime in Ondo State could signal the death knell of the Labour Party especially if he decamps to the PDP as widely speculated.
Overwhelmingly, across the country, however and irrespective of the political party in power, the state or the conditions of key infrastructures such as roads, electricity, and water including indispensable social services such as health care, housing and education are in worst possible shapes. Despite these deplorable conditions, all the ruling parties are still committed to the implementation of policies that will only put more money in the pockets of capitalist elements and corporations.
“This is why all these ruling parties are religiously advocating the so-called “Private and Public Partnership” concept as the best way to develop Nigeria’s prostrate economy and industries. Under this dubious concept, the embarrassing deficit in good motorable roads is to be balanced when private profiteers are allowed to build and collect tolls to recover their investments on roads built. Apart from the fact that based on practical experience, this approach has shown that it can only be applied to a few potentially profitable routes, the actual cost and time to society is unquantifiable. Under the prevailing pro-rich, pro-capitalist ideology favoured by all the ruling parties, every essential aspect of living such as decent housing, health care, education, job opportunities, good roads, air and water ways are things that should only be enjoyed by those who have enough money. This is the central reason why all the ruling parties across the country are agreed that education, health care, electricity, water etc. must be totally privatised for the benefit of profit merchants”
As before and no matter the rhetoric, 2015 will not be about fixing the myriad of problems confronting the majority of Nigerians, but about which sections of the political class grabs and control the power at the centre and be in a position to dole out largesse and patronages. That is why acrimonious battles have quickly broken out in the ruling PDP over the presidential ticket while the ACN is desperate for mergers with just anybody while subtly campaigning for a two-party system. With this sordid situation, there can be no greater imperative for a socialist party at this historical juncture.
THE CHALLENGE OF BUILDING THE SPN
Against the background of the above outlined political and economic situation that condemns the mass of Nigerian working peoples to a life of perpetual misery amidst the best of human and natural resources that nature could offer anywhere on earth, the historical necessity of offering an ideological alternative and platform to the prevailing neo-liberal dispensation can hardly be disputed.
It also becomes particularly urgent and imperative as the leadership of the labour movement (The NLC, TUC) have abdicated the desired historical responsibility to build the Labour Party on the basis of socialist programmes that seek the public, peoples and working class control, ownership and management of the commanding sectors of the Nigerian economy in opposition to the second slavery which the regime of privatization and liberalization and the attendant collapse of industries and job losses has brought about.
Any cursory look at President Goodluck Jonathan’s economic management team, comprising private sector billionaires, would reveal that the there is no way the regime’s economic and outlook could be designed to end the so-called public-private-partnership policy through which public resources continue to get pocketed by the few rich. A policy which over the years has left 70 percent of the Nigerian population poor, with majority of the 70 percent being young people from the age of thirty and below. And this is also a policy which makes it possible for just two percent of the Nigerian population to control 80 percent of the resources. Yet, the labour leadership continues to indulge in the delusion that the system can be reformed from above without a revolution push from below through the mobilization of the majority 98 percent of the population whose resources are being plundered by the minority two percent.
In relation to political power, we had noted that the attitude of the labour leadership tantamount to striving “to make the labour movement an umpire seeking to achieve free and fair electoral contest between the different layers of capitalist gangsters! Instead of striving to build an independent working class political party that will form a workers and poor people’s government which would through public ownership of the commanding heights of the country’s economy and their democratic control and management by the elected committee of workers, poor peasants and youths, as a basis of guaranteeing economic and political needs of everybody and not just the few capitalist and middle class elements as under the prevailing unjust order, most of the current labour leaders hold the fallacious perspective that the real interest of the labouring masses can be attained without overturning this unjust system”.
It is to the task of building this type of independent working class political party that represents the interests of the workers in the public and private sectors; the urban and rural youths; students at all levels of education; women; market men and women; peasant farmers; artisans and professionals, that the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) hereby commits itself by spearheading the formation of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) – a party that will also seek the solidarity of the working class, socialists and their political organizations in West Africa, Africa, Europe, the Americas and Asia.
We are by no means under any illusion that this task would be an easy one. Indeed this political odyssey is being embarked upon at a time of right wing onslaught on the right of the ordinary peoples to form and operate political parties of their own, and according to their ideals and capacity. The political gain made prior to the 2003 elections when the Chief Gani Fawehinmi led National Conscience Party (NCP) of which the DSM played a very active and leading role, successfully fought (both in the streets and in the courts) for the right of Nigerians to form political parties of their choice as long as it is in compliance with the provisions of the Constitution, is being brutally attacked by the Professor Jega led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which only this week found a willing ally in a Federal High Court in Lagos that ruled that the NCP can be de-registered.
While we totally reject this anti-working class political judgement as well as the on-going de-registration of Political Parties by INEC, we call on all genuine change seeking elements, working class activists and socialists in the NCP, JAF, etc to join forces with us in building the SPN.
For the DSM and others willing to be part of this historical responsibility the tasks and challenges that we put before ourselves today are:
World Relations Resolution: DSM National Committee Meeting March 9 – 10, 2013
Introducing the document adopted by the December 2012 meeting of the International Executive Committee (IEC) of the CWI, the international socialist organization to which DSM is affiliated, has aptly captured the world situation. It says, “We are living through one of the most dramatic periods in history. The Greek workers, followed by the Portuguese and Spanish, are in the vanguard of the movement against capitalist barbarity, endless austerity. No one can now argue that the working class is passive in the face of the onslaught of rotten and diseased capitalism. In a series of great general strikes, they have resisted. They have yet to create a mass party and leadership worthy of them in the battle between labour and capital that will dominate the early 21st century. It is the task of the CWI through the theoretical clarity of our ideas, matched to a programme of action to help create this new leadership, which can ensure victory to the working class.”
No doubt Europe is the current epicenter of the crisis of global capitalism. The IEC document has said this of Europe: “The economic crisis in Europe is the most serious facing world capitalism. The depth of the crisis is partly a product of the introduction of the euro. It is manifested through the level of mass unemployment with 18.49 million people without jobs in the 17 countries sharing the euro, with an extra 146,000 joining the ranks of the unemployed in October alone. Across the whole 27-nation European Union, almost 26 million men and woman were without jobs in October â€“ an increase of 169,000 in two months, while the overall unemployment rate stayed at 10.6%.”
Worse still, this monumental crisis has not shown sign of abating. Even the hope of recovery invented by the European Commission has disappeared into thin air. The commission has to back-track on its previous forecasts, blaming a lack of bank lending to households and businesses, and record unemployment for the delayed economic recovery. (Guardian (London) February 22, 2013).
It is not accidental that the worst hit countries are those groaning under deadweight of vicious austerity program. The highest unemployment rates were recorded in Greece (27.0%), Spain (26.2%) and Portugal (17.6%). The jobless rate in Italy shot up to 11.7 percent in January, marking the country’s worst unemployment level since 1992. All this has meant that what has been invented as medicine for crisis of capitalism has continued to worsen the situation.
But continued crisis of capitalism in Europe is not limited to eurozone, the entire European Union has been naturally sucked in. Britain for instance faces harsh consequence because the eurozone is the economy’s largest trading partner and is the fulcrum of hopes for an export-led recovery in Britain’s finances, according to the Guardian (London). Already, manufacturing survey released on March 1 shows new export orders declining in February, for the 14th month in a row. In the whole of the EU, there were 26.2 million jobless workers, 222,000 more than in December. According to the Global Research the real situation is even worse than these staggering figures indicate, since they do not take into account millions of people who have dropped out of the labor market.
But if the overall unemployment figure which is the worst since the introduction of euro is shocking, for the young people it is much more frightening. As Global Research aptly puts it, youth unemployment in Europe is at Depression levels. Across the euro zone it stood at 24.2 percent in January, up from 21.9 percent in January of 2012. In the EU as a whole the unemployment rate for people under 25 rose to 23.6 percent from 22.4 percent. The jobless rate for Greek youth was an astounding 59.4 percent. In Spain it was 55.5 percent and in Italy, 38.7 percent.
The situation is so that egregious that even the European Commission, whose austerity policies have worsened the crisis, could not but paint a very gloomy picture. The commission President Jose Manuel Barroso lamented, “Too many young Europeans are asking if they will ever find a job or have the same quality of life as their parents”
Indeed, the austerity measures have become Frankenstein monster. It does not only affect the working class people who have begun to fight back both on the streets and in the polling booths, it has also led to ouster of incumbent after incumbent while at the same creating chasm among the European capitalists and their institutions.
Already some economists have said the grim situation could prompt the commission â€“ which is part of the troika of lenders to crisis-hit countries â€“ to ease its demands of austerity from eurozone governments, while the European Central Bank may be moved to adopt measures to boost the economy. The European ruling classes are veering between hanging together to avoid disaster and, on the other hand, asserting their own national interests. In particular the domination of German imperialism is a polarizing factor. The continuation of repeated clashes of national interests is something that could force individual countries out of the euro zone or possibly the collapse of the common currency.
The crisis in Europe jumps from country to country. The most recent of jitters in the spine of European capitalists is the February 24 and 25 election in Italy. This was aptly captured by the title of a February 26 2013 editorial in the Guardian (London), “Italian elections: austerity challenged”. The editorial reads in part, “the result has scared Brussels and Berlin, scared the markets and scared the Italian themselves”.
The editorial further opines, “it was a verdict on the German-led austerity policy which is Europe’s current remedy for its common currency and other economic ills. Mario Monti, austerity’s main man in Italy, went down with a bang, and Mr Grillo’s pledge of a referendum on the euro certainly played a part in the success of his movement.”
The editorial concludes, “In retrospect, 25 February 2013 may go down as the day when Europe’s austerity policies, at least as originally conceived, finally hit the buffers.”
As the article on the Italy elections on the CWI website reveals, the “worst result possible” was how the Wall St Journal described the election outcome. The repercussions will reverberate far beyond Italy. The day after the election, falls on the Milan stock exchange were so great that trading was temporarily suspended. At the same time the spread (difference between interest rates on Italian and German bonds) began to increase, raising once again the prospect of market turmoil in Europe. The fate of the Euro could eventually be decided not in Greece but in Italy.
Beppe Grillo is a comedian whose movement (he does not like calling it a party) shocked Italian polity nay Europe. Though coming third in the election with over 25 percent of the votes, his 5 Star Movement, which did not exist at the last election, is the biggest single party in the lower house. The Grillo’s movement which had campaigned with slogan “tutti a casa” (send them all packing) indeed defeated Mario Morti the unelected prime minister imposed on Italy by the Troika. The election results were an overwhelming rejection of Monti’s austerity policies of public spending cuts, tax increases and attacks on workers’ rights.
Another highlight of the Italy election is the revival of political career of scandal-ridden Silvio Berlusconi whose coalition PDL tapped into deep and widespread anti-austerity and anti-German feelings. It is fitting that comedian Grillo and Berlusconi, who is described by a BBC columnist as the “clown prince” of the European politics, are the major political beneficiaries of the monumental tragedy wrought by austerity on working class people in Italy, though did not win enough to form a government. Indeed nobody did. But between them they won more than half of the vote. This development appears like a comic relief but it seriously underlines the deep-seated rejection of austerity poison by the Italians.
How did a comedian and political upstart win the heart of considerable section of Italians? Chris Thomas, Controcorrente (CWI in Italy) explains, “Grillo shouted populist slogans and sound-bites about curbing the power and privileges of the political ‘cast’, about a ‘citizen’s income’, a referendum on the Euro, a shorter working week, nationalising the banks, and about improving the environment, all of which struck a chord with those who have had enough of cuts and corruption.”
“There are enormous illusions in the ability of the Grillinis to shake the system up. In reality, the Movement has no worked-out programme capable of solving the day-to-day problems of unemployment, low wages, and declining public services which most ordinary Italians are concerned with. It has no real roots in the workplaces or communities, organising principally via the Internet and social media. Grillo himself decides policies and tactics in an ad hoc, off-the-cuff way with no explanation or understanding of how those policies could actually be implemented in practice. His ‘rants’ are confused and inconsistent.”
According to the Economist, “the most generous is to see the huge vote for the M5S as encouraging: a sign that many Italians, and particularly younger ones, have had enough of the sleaze, cronyism and sheer immobility of Italy’s aged political class. The people who belong to Mr Grillo’s movement are idealists. The M5S refuses to accept public money. Its elected representatives agree to take only part of the salaries to which they are entitled and stand down after two terms. The movement espouses many good things, along with others that are impractical and some that are troubling (such as its opposition to the easing of citizenship requirements for the Italian-born children of immigrants)” The Economist February 25.
Despite the withering popular verdict on cuts and taxes, European Union and Germany insisted the austerity programme had to be continued in Italy. Borrowing from an analogy by a columnist in the Guardian (London), the European Union and Germany capitalist politicians are like Aztec priests at an altar. If the blood sacrifice fails to deliver rain, there must be more blood.
France and others seized on the outcome for their own purposes, arguing for a relaxation of spending cuts and greater emphasis on policies to boost growth and job creation. Already there is growing fissure between the governments of Germany and France, respectively the biggest economy and second biggest economies in eurozone, over the amount of dose of austerity poison to be administered on the working class people. A senior ally of German chancellor Angela Merkel accused France of being a “problem child” in the eurozone. Michael Fuchs told German radio the French needed to save, implement economic reforms and work longer hours (Guardian (London) February 22). FranÃ§ois Hollande’s victory against Sarkozy owed something to his pledge to mitigate austerity. But the extent of rejection of austerity in the Italy election is so that if Hollande had participated he might not have won as the vote there this time went less to candidates promising to soften or contest austerity, , than to those saying, or hinting, that they would reject it( Guardian Feb 26)
The turmoil generated by the Italian election after the scare of Greek default of its debt also following election last year has lent credence to the argument of the CWI that the capitalists of Europe are not at all certain that the present uneasy situation will not lead to even greater upheavals in Europe in the next period if they do not take some kind of emergency action.
The capitalist crisis in the United States has continued to churn out new jargon after jargon into the financial lexicons. For the better part of last year, the tussle on national budget was dominated by “fiscal cliff”, a combination of tax increases and budget cuts. Today the budget faceoff between Republicans and Democrats is called sequester – a series of automatic spending cuts, which would take $85bn from the US federal budget this year. According economists sequester is expected to reduce US GDP by 0.3%. Though this doesn’t sound much it would affect countries that export to America. Both the fiscal cliff and sequester which are unprecedented are to varying extent the response of the capitalist politicians to the $11.7 trillion debt of the United States. Economists and lawmakers alike agree that the cuts, the potential shutdown and the country’s series of fiscal crises overall are hurting the country’s shaky comeback from the Great Recession, and the effects will be felt around the world.
President Barack Obama, speaking to a group of business executives, said the cuts would be a “tumble downward” for the economy, though he acknowledged it could take weeks before many Americans feel the full impact of the budget shrinking (AP, February 28).
But this will worsen the situation as government austerity has continued to bite harder on the working class people. For instance a recent US Commerce Department report released showed that personal income fell by 3.6 percent in January, the largest monthly drop since January of 1993. Taking taxes into account, personal income plunged by a record 4.0 percent. The report said that outlays for payrolls for manufacturing, goods producing industries, services producing industries and government agencies all declined in January from the previous month. Another report, issued by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed that layoffs by US manufacturers increased in January.
Already, the seeming intractable crisis of capitalism in the United States has made a growing section of the working class people to begin to search for not only alternative to the two big business parties but also alternative ideas. This is perhaps better exemplified by the marvelous result of CWI candidate in Seattle Washington with a splendid 28% of the votes. This is more significant given the fact that the US comrades contested the election under the banner of Socialist Alternative with clear socialist ideas and program unlike before they had to support one left candidate or the order campaigning on anti-capitalist or anti-corporate program.
This victory, as the IEC document states, “shows the potential which dialectically exists in the US for the ideas and programme of socialism. The heritage of social-democratic and Stalinist betrayals does not exist in the US. This makes it more favourable terrain for the genuine ideas of socialism than most places in Europe and elsewhere at this stage. So also is the victory of Obama from our point of view. His second term could prepare the way for a third party, but this time a popular, radical and even socialist party of the working class. Although, it may not initially be committed to socialism in its first period, the emergence of a new radical left party as a step along the way would represent a big step forward in the USA. Of course, all perspectives are contingent on how the economy develops in the US and throughout the world.”
The economic weakness in US and especially Europe which are the primary customers of China has continued to affect the recovery of the world second biggest economy. The Europe Union which has become the poster boy of global economic recession is the biggest market for Chinese exports. According to Reuters the Growth in Chinese factories cooled in February to a five-month low after domestic and foreign demand slackened, an official government survey showed, missing market forecasts and underscoring China’s patchy economic recovery (Reuters February 28) and a marked slowdown in the rate of growth.
As an article by Vincent Kolo of China Worker (CWI China) argued, it should be stressed that weaker demand in export markets is not the only problem, as China’s domestic market also shows signs of a sharp slowdown. “Most of the recent weakness has been in domestic rather than foreign demand,” noted London-based Capital Economics. An important factor is the scaling back of investment in infrastructure and other fixed assets by debt-laden local governments and state-owned companies. The combined debt of local governments soared to 10.7 trillion yuan last year from almost nothing prior to the 2008 global crisis (these figures probably understate the real situation). With property prices falling, housing construction has also slowed sharply. (China Worker July 3, 2012).
The IEC Document 2012 noted that “the spectacular growth rate of 12% is a thing of the past. It is now like a like a car stuck in snow: the wheels churn but the vehicle does not advance. Growth has probably contracted to between 5% and 7%. The regime claims that there has been a certain ‘recovery’ but it is not expected to return to double-digit growth. This will automatically affect perspectives for the world economy. A growth rate above 10% was only possible through a massive injection of resources, at one-time amounting to a colossal and unprecedented 50% of GDP invested into industry.”
The economic situation has accentuated the crisis among the ruling elite in China. The IEC Document stresses development in China.
“The Chinese regime is in crisis. It is quite obviously divided as to the next steps â€“ particularly in relation to the economy â€“ which should be undertaken. One princeling commenting to the Financial Times put it brutally: “The best time for China is over and the entire system needs to be overhauled.” Bourgeois commentators in journals like the Economist, the Financial Times, the New York Times, etc., have recently resorted to the terminology which we have used in describing China as ‘state capitalist’. They do not add the proviso that we use: “state capitalist, but with unique features”. This is necessary in order to differentiate us from the crude analysis of the SWP and others, who incorrectly described the planned, nationalised economies in the past in this fashion. There is complete agreement within our ranks on the direction of travel of China. The capitalist sector has grown at the expense of the state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the past.
But the state still plays a key role in the Chinese economy and recently, particularly since the stimulus package of 2008, there has been a certain recentralisation with economic power tending to be concentrated more in the state sector, so much so that SOEs now have assets worth 75% of total GDP. On the other hand, the Economist described China in the following fashion: “Experts disagree on whether the state now makes up half or a third of economic output, but agree the share is lower than it was two decades ago. For years from the late 1990s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) appeared to be in retreat. Their numbers declined (to around 114,000 in 2010, some 100 of them centrally controlled national champions), and their share of employment dropped. But now, even while the number of private companies has grown, the retreat of the state has slowed and, in some industries, reversed.” However this does mean that there is the possibility of the current regime turning towards “socialism” in China.
It is clear that a ferocious discussion is taking place behind closed doors amongst the elite. ‘Reformers’ favour a more determined programme of dismantling the state sector and moving more and more towards the ‘market’. They are proposing to lift remaining barriers to the entry and operation of foreign capital. The new ‘leader’ Xi Jinping, despite his ritualistic incantation of “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, is rumoured to support the reformers. On the other hand, those who have proposed an opening up, both in the economy, but also with limited ‘democratic’ reforms, seem to be sidelined. Studies have been made of how former dictatorships like South Korea allegedly managed the ‘cold transition’ towards ‘democracy’. These took place when the boom had not exhausted itself and even then was against the background of mass movements. China’s proposed ‘transition’ is taking place in the midst of a massive economic crisis. China’s rulers are rumoured to be avidly studying Gorbachev’s role in Russia. He began intending to ‘reform’ the system and ended up presiding over its dismantlement. Serious reforms from the top will provoke revolution from below in today’s China. It cannot be excluded that a period of very weak ‘democracy’ â€“ but with power still in the hands of the old forces, like in Egypt today with the army and the Muslim Brotherhood in power â€“ could develop after a revolutionary upheaval in China. But this would be merely a prelude to the opening of the gates to one of the biggest mass movements in history. Our organisation has achieved miracles and we must build on this in preparation for the great events to come.
Arguably, the most important issue currently in Latin America is the demise of Hugo Chavez, the radical President of Venezuela and its implication on the polity and revolutionary process in the region and beyond. The article by Tony Saunois, Secretary of CWI highlights the uniqueness and importance of Chavez to the working class people globally.
It reads in part, “In an era when the gap between establishment politicians, who defend big business and the super-rich, and the masses seems to widen inexorably Chavez stood out. In fact in the age of austerity the measures he took to alleviate poverty stood out like a beacon. The workers and youth in Venezuela will be joined by many around the globe who have been inspired to support Hugo Chavez’s regime as offering an alternative to imperialism, neoliberalism and capitalism. Meanwhile the most pernicious right-wing capitalist commentators have wasted neither time nor ink in their outpourings of hatred of his regime. The mourning of his passing and anger at these attacks must be channelled into a new stage of working class struggle for socialism in Venezuela and internationally.”
Raising briefly the perspective of post Chavez era, “in the short term it is most likely to mean a victory for Nicolas Maduro, the vice-president, named by Chavez as his successor, in the elections. A rallying of Chavez’s supporters and the mass of the poor to defeat the right is already developing. Capriles and the right are, like Maduro, appealing for calm, peace and unity. The right feel their weakness and are being careful not to provoke a backlash from the masses”
“Maduro and the leadership will not have the same authority as Chavez and a new era will open following the elections. Divisions between the different currents within Chavismo may open following the elections. Sections of the ruling class are looking for this as a means of ultimately defeating the Chavista movement. Such prospects underline the urgent necessity of the working class and the poor to rally to defeat the right but then to take the revolutionary process into its own hands with its own independent organisation and programme to transform the “socialist aspirations” raised by Chavez into a reality. The death of Chavez marks not the end of the struggle. A new chapter will now begin”
For some time now saw some capitalist commentators have spoken positively of Africa’s future. Basing themselves on figures showing high growth rates they forecast change for the better. In mid-2011 the African Development Bank (AfDB) claimed that one third of Africans were “middle class”, meaning they had daily incomes of between 2 and 20 US dollars a day and a mobile phone. But fundamentally this is an illusion. However Financial Times pointed out that this included many spending $2 to $4 dollars a day, less than Nigeria’s new minimum wage, and that “when stripped of this ‘floating class’, who are vulnerable to falling back into poverty, the proportion of middle class Africans last year was still only 13.4%, below what it was in 1980” . Based on its definition the AfDB claimed that in Kenya 44.9% were “middle class”, but only reported that 1.6% of Kenyans spend between 10 and 20 US dollars a day.
Much of these higher growth figures reflected a pick-up in raw material exports and increases in their prices. In 2009 69% of Sub-Saharan exports were raw materials. Generally these statistics did not reflect any rounded out, solidly based generalised growth in the economy or living standards. In fact the increase in food and fuel prices means a new assault on living standards. Indeed, drawing lessons from North Africa’s revolutions, Donald Kaberuka, the AfDB president explained in June 2011 “Our challenge in Africa is one of inequalities. Growth seems to benefit a few people … North Africa’s economies were growing, but they were not inclusive enough and therefore not sustainable … The big dangers to the African recovery now are the international economy, number two, food prices and number three, socio-political revolts. The economy provides the raw material and the politics the trigger.”
The continent is undergoing tremendous changes. Africa’s population has grown from over 230 million in 1950 to over a billion today and is forecast to reach at least 2 billion by the middle of this century. It is rapidly urbanising, by 2025 a majority of Africans will live in urban areas and a quarter of the world’s under 24 year olds will be living in Africa. Already the average age of Africans is 25, compared to 45 in Europe. The pressures this is creating are huge. At independence in 1964 Zambia had 3 million people, today it has nearly 13 million, but formal employment has only risen from 300,000 to 500,000, with around 80% of the workforce in “informal” sectors like agriculture.
It is against this background that Africa’s fundamental crisis continues. Often capitalist commentaries openly or implicitly imply that fundamentally there is something uniquely African in the continent’s failure to develop or the repeated cycles of wars and ethnic conflicts. Obviously every single national situation has its own individual history and characteristics, but Africa’s situation is not completely unprecedented. For centuries Europe’s history was one of repeated bloody wars, ranging from tribal conflicts, religious wars to extensive conflicts that laid waste to whole countries.
But what is completely different about Africa today, when compared to earlier periods the development of capitalism in Europe, is that it is dominated by imperialism. This is a key factor in holding back its development. Sub-Saharan exports account for only around 1.3 to 1.6% of world’s total. While some African countries, like South Africa and, to a lesser extent, Nigeria, Kenya and Rwanda, play a sub-imperialist role in their region, the continent as a whole is dominated and exploited by the major world powers. Despite recent growth, Africa is still the poorest continent. With 12% of the world’s population Africa has 57% of the deaths of mothers in child birth, 49% of its infant mortality and 67% of its HIV infections.
But in the face of this situation the continent’s workers, youth and poor are not passive. Africa has a rich history of repeated mass struggles, both against colonialism, apartheid and, more recently, against corrupt, rotten regimes and for a better life. Already in 2010, before the revolutions began in North Africa, there were signs of a revival of struggles in Sub-Saharan Africa, with especially new class battles in South Africa. The overthrow of Ben Ali followed by the removal of Mubarak had an impact in many countries, with encouragement being given to opposition forces. In Nigeria Last January saw the biggest general strike and mass protest in the history of the countries against the increase in fuel price. Before then, especially since the advent of civil rule, there had been a number of general strikes and mass protests also against fuel price which were though of relative smaller scale.
Since August miners in South Africa in their struggle for a better pay and condition have almost brought to its knees the mining industry which accounts for the huge wealth of the country and also a symbol of colossal social inequality between workers and bosses. The struggle of miners in which DSM (CWI South Africa) is playing a crucial role has helped put in the front burner the demand for a working people alternative to ANC and the nationalisation of the mining industry.
As the IEC Document observes, the struggles of miners and other sections of working class in South Africa have been “characterised by a high degree of consciousness, of socialist consciousness by the working class â€“ a legacy which was not completely wiped out following the abortive revolution of the 1980s, which preceded the ending of apartheid. This is expressed in the demand for new fighting unions for the miners in place of the utterly corrupt mineworkers’ union, the NUM. Confronted with an equally corrupt ANC, the miners â€“ with our assistance â€“ have launched the call for a new mass workers’ party.”
Indeed the party – Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) â€“ has been initiated by DSM (CWI South Africa) and miners’ strike committees and has begun to enjoy enthusiastic support of the miners and other sections of the working people as well as youths and students. The efforts have begun to fulfill the requirement for the official recognition of the party while the formal launch of the party has been fixed for March 21 to coincide with the anniversary of Sharpeville massacre.
The development in South Africa, as IEC Documents states, “will strengthen a similar demand for independent working-class representation in all of those countries â€“ the majority â€“ where the mass of the workers have no party, even one which only partly represents them.”
This is particularly true of Nigeria where DSM (CWI Nigeria) has begun the initiative of forming and building Socialist Party of Nigeria as a working class people political alternative. The success of WASP will serve as the model of the possibility of forming a working people party without the official stamp of trade union leadership.
As the IEC Document states, “Mali, for a long time portrayed as a model of democracy in West Africa, is facing an unprecedented and multi-dimensional crisis, for which the masses are paying a heavy price. To date, an estimated 450,000 have fled the north of the country, which is effectively under the control of armed reactionary faction. The mineral wealth of Mali as well as its geo-strategic position are good reasons why it has stirred-up the greedy appetite of the imperialist powers, with France at the forefront. Another factor is the fear of the neighbouring states that should Mali break up then this will set a precedent for their own countries. The possibility of an imperialist backed intervention in the north, via neighbouring states, runs the risk of further destabilisation of the entire region.”
The France has since led a military action to chase away the Islamist insurgents in the northern part of the country. As our article on Mali in the current issue of the Socialist Democracy concludes, “The reality is that despite the intervention of French imperialism and the ECOWAS forces, it won’t be the last, due to the increasing fragility of so-called African democracies. It is this fragility that made the Malian ruling class â€“ both military and civilian â€“ to embrace foreign intervention. The US trained junior army officers, who initially staged a coup against the civilian government, had to back-track having realized how ill-equipped and indeed ill motivated their troops are. Neither can the defeat of the Islamist forces in Northern Mali, bail the vast majority of Malians out of poverty as long as the capitalist system of exploitation holds sway.”
The situation in the Middle East as captured in the IEC Document prepared in December has not fundamentally changed. Therefore it is apposite to extract from the document:
The ‘Arab Spring’, or awakening, in the Middle East and North Africa, had already threatened to turn into autumn if not the onset of winter. As the CWI predicted, imperialist intervention in Libya â€“ scandalously supported by some on the left, including some so-called ‘Trotskyists’ â€“ gave the opportunity for imperialism to intervene and try to establish a bridgehead against the revolution in the Middle East and North Africa. This colossal movement of the masses had toppled Ben Ali in Tunisia and the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt, with the Islamic jihadist forces largely impotent bystanders incapable of affecting the outcome of the revolution.
Initially it threatened to do the same in Libya through a mass movement from below, expressed in the beginning of independent workers committees in Benghazi in particular, which could have spread to the rest of Libya. This perspective, however, was cut across by imperialism and its local allies with catastrophic results for the people of Libya. The country is now divided into a patchwork of spheres of influence, with their own militias, including reactionary al Qaida-type Islamic fundamentalists. However having thrown off the dictatorial regime of Gadhafi the mass of the population were not prepared to tolerate the would-be mini-dictators and, consequently, have risen up in some areas to drive them and their militias out. This indicates the potential for an independent working-class programme for democracy and socialism. The fundamental process of the revolution is not dead but may be temporarily pushed into the background.
The situation in Tunisia, painted by bourgeois commentators as the rosy, successful story of the ‘Arab Spring’, remains profoundly unstable. Food prices and unemployment have risen sharply. The use of religious issues as an instrument of diversion by the ruling party Ennahdha, in the country with the strongest secular traditions in the Arab world, is essentially adding to the generalised anger. However a contest is unfolding as to who gives expression to this anger. The Salafist movement is taking a certain grip among the most alienated layers of the urban poor and the workers’ movement has the task of combatting this by showing a socialist way out of the crisis.
A looming power battle is taking place between elements of the old regime, federated under the wing of ex-provisional Prime Minister Caid Essebsi and his new party, ‘The Call of Tunisia’, which plays on secular credentials, and the ruling but crumbling coalition led by Ennahdha, which attempts to assert its grip over the state machine.
Meanwhile, workers’ strikes and social protests continue unabated, as illustrated by the almost complete paralysis of phosphate production for a month in the Gafsa region in November. As in Egypt, the impasse of capitalism pushes the new rulers towards resurrecting the rottenness of the past, repression becoming a central method of rule. This cannot fail to lead to a new, wider backlash with the working class and the youth. The building of an independent working-class political pole of attraction, based on the immense power of the UGTT, is more urgent than ever.
At the same time, a new regional war or wars is still possible. Syria is a powder keg with the Assad regime besieged and facing possible overthrow but with an opposition that is also divided along sectarian lines. We cannot support either Assad or the opposition, but stress the need for an independent workers’ alternative to oppression and sectarian division. . We have to steer a clear independent path towards those masses we can reach with a class programme and perspective’
Talking of Israel-Palestine situation, the document states, among other things:
“The increasingly provocative colonialist methods of Israel â€“ particularly sections of the Israeli settlers who continue to encroach on and occupy Palestinian land â€“ if they continue unabated, may push a part of the Palestinian population further towards a change in the outlook of an eventual settlement of the conflict. Up to now, support for a ‘two-state’ solution â€“ a Palestinian state, or homeland alongside Israel â€“ has been seen by a clear majority as a means of resolving the conflict.
In the short term, the attack on Gaza by Israel has probably increased support for the idea of a separate state for the Palestinians. However, we have pointed out that on a capitalist basis a Palestinian state would be an abortion. It will not satisfy the Palestinian masses’ demand for a secure homeland, given its limited character and the absence of a firm economic base. We therefore advocate a democratic socialist Palestine alongside a democratic socialist Israel in a socialist confederation of the region.”
It is important to conclude with perspective for the CWI as contained in the IEC document:
“Four to five years into a devastating world economic crisis, we can conclude that there are very favourable prospects for the growth of the CWI. With the necessary qualification that consciousness â€“ the broad outlook of the working class â€“ has yet to catch up with the objective situation, it can still be described as pre-revolutionary, especially when taken on a world scale. The productive forces no longer advance but stagnate and decline. This is accompanied by certain disintegration socially of sections of the working class and the poor. At the same time, new layers of the working class as well as sections of the middle class are being created â€“ proletarianised â€“ and compelled to adopt the traditional methods of the working class of strikes and trade union organisation. The potential power of the working class remains intact, although hampered and weakened by the right-wing trade union leadership as well as by social democracy and the communist parties.
“We have retained and in some cases strengthened our overall position in terms of membership and especially increased influence within the labour movement. But there are many workers who are sympathetic to and watching us, and on the basis of events and our work can join us. We are poised to make important breakthroughs â€“ including leaps in membership â€“ in a number of countries, as indicated by the foregoing analysis. We must face up to the situation by educating and preparing our cadres for the tumultuous next period in which great opportunities will be presented to strengthen the organisations and parties of the CWI and the International as a whole. “