THE QUEST FOR SOCIALIST TRANSFORMATION OF NIGERIA GAINS MASS ECHO AMIDST ENORMOUS CAPITALIST CRISES
THE QUEST FOR SOCIALIST TRANSFORMATION OF NIGERIA GAINS MASS ECHO AMIDST ENORMOUS CAPITALIST CRISES
AS DSM HOLDS NATIONAL COMMITTEE MEETING
By Michael Ogundele
For about six months, between the last National Committee (NC) meeting of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) held in April and the national meeting over the weekend of October 11-12 the need for the socialist transformation of Nigeria has continued to manifest in the country in all socio-economic and political spheres. The absence of a genuine alternative has triggered a growing apathy among the working people as revealed by the relative low turn-out at the recent elections in Ekiti and Osun states. The Labour Party formed by Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has long become the trashcan of anti-poor capitalist politicians. The recent purported interest of the trade union leadership in the party following the return of the Governor Olusegun Mimiko to the PDP is half-hearted and mere blowing of hot air.
It is against this background the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) was initiated by the DSM as a striking example of working people political alternative while continuing the campaign for a mass workers party on socialist program. This NC came after the INEC had rejected the application of the party for registration. This did not however dampen the morale of comrades as there was upbeat in the mood at the meeting with the commitment to employ the party as the platform for the intervention at 2015 whether victorious or not at the court. The party has challenged the decision of the INEC at the Federal High Court. Between the two days of the NC meeting, at least 80 comrades and supporters were in attendance.
Abbey Trotsky led the introduction of the Nigeria’s political and economic situation. In spite of all its stupendous human and natural resources, Trotsky emphasized that it is so disheartening that Nigerian workers, youths, students and the entire poor strata are subjected to unmitigated misery. This is as a result of profit-first, neo-liberal capitalist agenda of the ruling elites locally and internationally. The reality of the Nigerian economy makes serious mockery of the impressive figures government and capitalist agencies usually roll out. The so-called economic growth does not translate to any improvement in the conditions of the working masses. For ordinary people there is nothing to show for the new status of Nigeria as the biggest economy in Africa. The standard of living is so bad, as Abbey put it, that it appears better to be a cow in Europe than to be a human being in Nigeria due to the fact that an average Nigeria survive on less than $1.5 per day while a cow in Europe is fed with $2 per day.
The N18,000 minimum wage has not been fully paid in the more than three years since it has been passed into law. Unemployment has been on the increase while casualisation is becoming a dominant character of jobs in both public and private sectors. The Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) claimed that a total of 2.48 million jobs new jobs were created in the Nigerian economy between third quarters, 2012 and second quarter 2014. The breakdown however reveals that 1.41 million, about 80 percent of these so-called jobs, are precarious ones which can be found in the informal sector. 903, 804 in the private formal sector are largely casual and indecent jobs while a sizeable proportion of 160,591 jobs in the public institutions are low-pay, insecure jobs like O-YES in Osun, Yes-O in Oyo, SURE-P jobs by the Federal Government and many other job schemes across the country.
The sorry state of the power sector has shown the failure of the privatization. It is now a year the electricity has been privatized. While the private owners have not increased the generation or improved the service they have increased the tariff. As a matter of fact, a huge sum of N213billion was recently approved by the government to bail out the new electricity generation and distribution companies who had originally bought the companies at give-away prices. This has further shown that electricity privatization like others is nothing but a policy designed by the capitalist class to rob the poor to pay the rich. However the abysmal performance of the power sector was as a result of bureaucratic management of public utilities. It was run as a means of using the public resources to gratify the self-serving interest and greed of a few. This is why socialists have always called for public ownership of utilities under a democratic control of the working people.
Social services like education, health and security of life and property cannot in anyway be separated from the crises rocking the rank and file working class resulting from the current capitalist dispensation. Take for instance, the state of education sector sharply reveals the insoluble capitalist crisis that grips Nigeria. The sector suffers from inadequate funding and gross education commercialization, inadequate facilities for proper learning, teaching and research like books, laboratory equipment etc., dilapidated and insufficient hostel facilities, inadequate qualified manpower and lack of statistical projection to admit the increasing number of prospective students and pupils at primary and secondary level.
The recent Ebola outbreak in the country and in some parts of West Africa clearly reveals the rottenness in the health sector in Nigeria where we have only four laboratories that carry out tests for the virus. For instance the blood sample of a student suspected of having Ebola virus in Zaria Kaduna state, Northwest Nigeria had to be flown to Lagos. Besides, in the first half of the year 208 Nigerians died of cholera, a water-borne disease, which reflects the failure of the government to provide safe water and sanitization system.
There are increasing attacks on education sector with high school fees, inadequate facilities and appalling working conditions. About 40% of school age children are completely out of schools or have no access to proper education. Yet, the quest for formal education is higher today than in the previous years of the country’s existence. Over 2.1 million Nigerian students participated in the last Unified Tertiary matriculation Examination (UTME) to secure admissions to tertiary education at universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. But very disappointingly, the entire facilities in all the public and private educational institutions within Nigeria have no capacity to give admission to more than 500,000 of the hapless youths that will be seeking higher education. The last one year has witnessed strike actions by workers in all tiers and sub-sectors of the education sector. The staff unions in the polytechnic and colleges of education are posing to resume the strike action they suspended in June. The victory in fees struggle of Lagos State University (LASU) in which the ERC played a crucial role underscores the imperative of joint actions of education workers and students.
From the last NC there has been increase in threat to lives and properties of the Nigeria working class due to ethno- religious conflicts, bombings and insurgent attacks of the Boko Haram insurgent group currently happening across mostly in the northern parts of the country.
The failure of the military approach, which has revealed more cases of corruption and mutiny than victories at the warfront, further reaffirms the imperative of working class solution to the Boko Haram crisis. This means building of a mass movement not only against Boko Haram but also against all neo-liberal capitalist policies which engender mass unemployment, mass poverty and gross underfunding of the social services which create fertile ground for mass recruitment of youths by Boko Haram terrorists.
In the absence of a mass working peoples’ party the working masses will have to either choose between anti-poor political parties especially the PDP and APC at the next 2015 general elections or elect to boycott the elections. What is however certain is that there will be continuation of neo-liberal attacks after the general elections. This may draw more and more working people onto the arena of struggle as they stage fight-back and raise the consciousness for a socialist alternative among the layers of workers and youths. This is one of the reasons the SPN, being currently built by DSM and collaborators, is positioned to intervene in the elections in one form or another and prepared for struggles that may break out after the elections.
Segun Sango, General Secretary, DSM, photo by DSM
Segun Sango, the General Secretary of DSM, intervened in the discussion with an update on the struggle for registration of SPN. He stressed the imperative of initiating a series of political activities by the branches and from the national secretariat to back up the legal action that has been commenced against the rejection of the party registration application. However, while the struggle of the registration is on, the party must continue to intervene in the daily struggle of the working people and pose working class alternative to all policies and action of the government at all levels.
With this he informed the NC that the SPN has taken the initiative to embark on a legal battle and as such already file a case at the federal high court to challenge the position of the INEC. He further charges all branches to package programs round building the party at various local communities round our branches while the struggle to register the party continues.
In reacting to the comments and contributions raised during the interactive section Trotsky encouraged comrades across board to continue to deepen the political consciousness of the workers geared towards creating a conscious attempt in building the SPN amidst the workers saying that the fact that SPN went to challenge INEC in court does not mean that we should not continue our campaign programs of SPN. This was further linked to what attitude the DSM should show towards the Labour Party. While not ignoring the fact that the political destiny of the country cannot be re-configured by just an election, the participation of SPN in elections could serve as a point of attraction to elements who are looking for change as well that does not mean that we must come victorious in the election. He further emphasised the possibility of mass movements in the country in the coming period. An index to the possibility of this attack is the current fall in the international price of crude oil from $100 to $88 and the drastic reduction in crude oil production.
Despite the fact that the labour leaders have said that they are forming a new party, unfortunately there is no guarantee that they will do so. This is why efforts towards the actualisation of the formation of SPN should not be suspended and the labour leaders’ so far only occasional, and purely verbal, statements about developing a “true working peoples party” should not deter comrades in the struggle to get SPN registered.
World Relations and Economy:
The discussion on world relations and economy was led by Sophie Simcox, a leader of the Socialist Party, England and Wales and member of the International Secretariat of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) â€“ the international socialist organisation to which the DSM is affiliated, led the discussion on world relations. She started with the magnificent mass movement in Hong Kong which is ultimately a bold step taken by the working people and youths to firmly challenge the Chinese dictators. The mass movement which practically witnessed mass population of 100,000 and up to 180,000 was spearheaded by youths. However, the wave after wave of counter-revolutionary forces seems to impede the mass movement in the coming periods, and such there is strong need for international solidarity of the working class for a democratic Hong Kong. She however stressed the importance of linking the Hong Kong Umbrella revolution to the illegal workers’ struggles in China’s sweatshops and the fight against state repression at the mainland. The CWI section of Hong Kong is playing the active role in the struggle.
Among the recent mass expression of dissatisfaction over the rule of capitalism is the “Yes” revolt that sprang out a mass echo amidst the working class people in Scotland. The referendum for independence recorded over 1.6million people voting YES for independence of Scotland from Britain. Through the referendum, mass mobilization of working class serves as channel in the campaign against austerity and rotten establishment politics in Scotland. This was however massively confronted with antagonistic and scare-mongering campaigns by imperialism and capitalist institutions including the US and big banks. The situation in Scotland has however heightened the prospect of building a new mass workers party. Some socialists like Tommy Sheridan who played active roles in the mass mobilisation for Yes votes have drawn a wrong lesson by asking working class people to vote for the Scotland National Party (SNP) which is as pro-austerity as the Westminster parties.
The possibility of the socialist alternative to gain mass echo and eventually a movement in the coming period in the United States was clearly drawn in the lead off. The victory of Kshama Sawant at Seattle, $15 minimum wage, a series of campaigns and mass movement especially that of the Climate March in September have helped increase consciousness for socialism. All this has witnessed in the increasing membership figure of the Socialist Alternative (CWI US) from 100 to 500 and increasing number of collaborators around more than 100 major cities in America.
Sophie also recalled the Marikana massacre and miners’ strikes which further underscore the imperative of a mass working class party as an alternative to the pro-big business, anti-poor ANC in South Africa. This formed the basis for the creation of Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) by DSM (CWI South Africa) and miners committees. WASP attracted support among different layers of working people and was able to contest for the 2014 general elections. Though the result was not that impressive in term of figures, WASP through the campaign and intervention in election was able to raise clear socialist alternative against neo-liberal agenda and mantra of the ANC. The WASP has however continued the campaign for formation of a new mass workers party while strengthening its root among working class and communities.
In the Middle East, the ISIS is a monster created by the US imperialism through criminal acts carried out in the war against the revolutions in the region. The beheadings by the ISIS in the have shocked the world but it is a part of the vicious cycle in the Middle East. The undemocratic government of Saudi Arabia, an ally of the West, which has joined air strikes against ISIS, carries out much more beheadings than ISIS. Socialists condemned the brutal acts of ISIS but there is no solution in the final analysis in the imperialist intervention which may defeat ISIS to create another set of monstrous groups. The lock-jam between the Israeli and Palestine cannot be separated from the contradictions of the imperialist world which has continually commercialized the illegal killing and violence waged against the Palestine.
In reactions to contributions made from comrades, Sophie stressed that the situation is so bad that the British capitalist economic experts have had to accept that their system is failing. In Europe, mass unemployment, unparallel inequality and zero hour job (where workers have to wait daily for sms alert to know whether they have job for the day) remain the order of the day. The crisis of capitalism globally requires the preparedness of the working class people to mobilise, organise and seize the opportunity to take power.
On Day 2, reports were taken from national secretariat and branches from communities and campuses. There was also report on the DSM’s finances since the last NC held in April by Pelad. HT Soweto gave the report of ERC/ student wing meeting held on prior Friday October 10 where the tasks and campaign activities of the ERC/student wing were discussed and agreed upon. These include political campaigns for the reinstatement of the 4 suspended OAU comrades in addition to the legal processes that have been commenced.
Chinedu Bosah in giving the secretariat report thoroughly gave the analysis of program of activities and interventions. These include interventions at the Linda Company and Durapack in Lagos as well as CRIN in Ibadan and pensioners’ struggle in Osun. These interventions provide opportunity for recruitment of workers to the DSM. Indeed three of the workers from CRIN who have become DSM members were at the meeting. Also in attendance were supporters from Durapack and Linda Company. The meeting agreed on a number of resolutions on building of the branches, strengthening of our platforms like CDWR and ERC, recruitment and consolidation, organization paper and finance.
Reports from across our functioning branches can in any manner be use as a yardstick to measure the progressiveness in our political work and activities embarked upon in the last six months in building the DSM.
A struggle fund in continuation of the N400, 000 appeal fund for ROTIMI EWEBIYI FOUNDATION, REEF was raised at the meeting where N47,000 in pledges and N1,000 cash were generated. This is in addition to a donation of N150,000 that had already been earlier collected. The meeting resolved to get more comrades and collaborators to donate to the appeal fund which is meant to be the last for REEF as we plan to close down the foundation which has been run for 10 years and fulfilled its objective of education and upkeep of children of late Rotimi Ewebiyi, the former DSM national organizer, who died in 1994. N400, 000 is meant to help set up business, including a two-year rent, for the last son of Rotimi who chose to learn a trade. Also raised was a general struggle fund to assist the work of the organisation. This generated N20, 000 in pledges and N15, 650 cash. All together the struggle fund of N81, 650 was raised at the meeting.