DSM HOLDS NATIONAL COMMITTEE MEETING
DSM HOLDS NATIONAL COMMITTEE MEETING
By Wole Olubanji Engels
Ayo Ademiluyi introducing the discussion on Nigeria – photo DSM
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) held a National Committee (NC) meeting between April 18 and 19. The meeting is all the more crucial to the next stage of DSM intervention in the struggle of Nigerian working people for real change in society and their material conditions. It came at a period when the economy is comatose due to the plunge in the price of crude oil, something that has been aggravated by the reckless looting of the excess crude account, a rainy day saving, by the capitalist ruling elites cutting across both the PDP and APC. The recent political shake-up witnessed in the country, following the historic defeat of incumbent President Jonathan, made the discussion and resolutions of this National Committee meeting more significant.
The situation in Nigeria
Olumide Fusika making contribution – photo DSM
The first day of the National Committee meeting had on agenda discussion of resolutions on the “Nigeria Situation” and “World Relations” respectively. Ayo Ademiluyi led the meeting in discussion on the “Nigeria Situation”.
The just concluded General Election in the country will have a lasting impact on the consciousness of the people. For the working people and youths, the People Democratic Party (PDP), the party of incumbent President Jonathan, has ruled Nigeria for over sixteen years, with records of wanton corruption, merciless implementation of neo-liberal policies and attacks on workers and the poor in general. Against a background of Nigerians being told to expect austerity after having gained little during the last oil boom, it was likely that the Nigerian people would vote out the ruling party. Comrade Ayo informed the meeting that “March 28 (Day of Presidential Election) was a watershed in the history of the countryâ€¦ It signifies historically that an incumbent regime was voted out of office.”
“The mood prevailing before March 28 was the mood to change the status quo. Even with this mood, just 42.76% of the total number of registered voters participated in this election. This could only mean that a sizeable section of the working people and youths were not swayed by the change mantra promoted by Muhammadu Buhari and APC, despite prevailing anger against the ruling regime. The working people are aware of the sameness of the two main political parties, the PDP and APC. Despite its constant critique of the ruling PDP, the APC also went ahead in the states it controlled to implement policies that resulted to increase in fees in schools and saw workers’ wages unpaid, the same thing the PDP does. The absence of a mass working people’s party contributed to making it possible for the APC to attract a layer of the working people and youths craving for change. However, the results also reflect the unresolved national question as there were also considerable ethnic and religious factors in the election. For instance, Buhari completely won in all the states in the Northeast and Northwest Nigeria while Jonathan totally carried the southeast and south-south regions.
General Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the APC, won the Election with about 3 million votes, amassing total votes of 15,422,921. Ayo emphasized that Buhari’s anti-corruption posture was a factor that aided his emergence as President. “Buhari is widely seen as an honest and modest man, and these are scarce qualities among bourgeois capitalists” he continued. But against this prevailing illusion, Ayo posited that “given the fact that Buhari’s administration will operate under the framework of capitalism, Buhari cannot fundamentally resolve the crisis of corruption”.
In reality, Buhari cannot live up to the “Change” mantra of his campaign, because of his complete allegiance to the capitalist economic system. The ailing condition of the nation’s economy is preparing the way already for cut in the living condition of the Nigerian people, in the form of austerity measures. This has been confirmed already in the figures of the 2015 budget which slashed spending on projects and sectors of the economy that can benefit the people. The conditions are presented obviously for reaction of Nigerians against the imminent attacks and worsened misery. With a gloomy future in view, “the bureaucratic leadership of the organized labour lacks the will and vision to provide direction and leadership for the looming struggle”, Ayo stated.
The last convention of the Nigeria Labour Congress ended in a split of the body because of the desperate bid of individual labour leaders to take control of the platform. In Ayo Ademiluyi’s assessment, “the last NLC convention did not come with positions on the conditions of the working people, but it ended in a split of the body, signaling the blind struggle for power only”. It appears the leadership of the organized labour will seek to play a collaborationist role in the coming government, instead of defending the democratic rights and interest of Nigerian working people. They may however be forced by the struggles that will independently break out as the attacks become more and more difficult to bear for workers, masses and youths. It is also possible that such struggles may be strong enough to win at least temporary concessions for working people.
“In coming periods, we have to position ourselves to initiate or intervene in activities that will prepare the masses for struggles that may break out later against austerity attacks. We have to continuously mount political pressure on the labour leadership to prepare to force the Buhari government to implement all its electoral promises especially on jobs creation, infrastructure and social benefits. However, those jobs must be decent and not slave, precarious ones like OYES implemented by the APC government in Osun state where workers are paid paltry N10,000 and without right of becoming members of trade unions. The labour leadership must not also be dissuaded by the excuse of dwindling revenue from placing demands for upward review of the minimum wage and pensions before the new government. Also important is concrete steps, including mass protests and warning strikes, to ensure that all the outstanding salaries being owed to workers by many states are paid.
“Perhaps, more than ever before it is imperative to intensify the call on the leadership of the labour movement to begin the process of forming a mass working people party on socialist program. This is important in order to have a party that will identify with struggles of workers, youths and masses. Such struggles will be crucial to enable workers and masses to get the appropriate political character of the Buhari government. However, as we continue the agitation for a mass working people’s party, it is imperative that we sustain the ongoing campaign and legal action to finally win the SPN’s struggle for the political right of registration. In the absence of any other serious steps, the DSM’s initiative to launch the SPN was a concrete step to deepen the effort towards a genuine working people alternative. This is because in the absence of a mass working people’s party, the SPN can serve as a striking example of a working people alternative where it is strong enough to participate in daily struggle of working masses and electoral contests.
“At present, the recent events in the country have shown that the masses are confounded on the question of genuine political alternative that could meet their yearnings and aspiration. Any party offering clear-cut programmes for the interest and liberation of the working people is capable of gaining their support. The SPN was initiated by the DSM following the total degeneration of Labour Party and failure of the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to build a genuine working class political alternative. Since its inception in 1986 the agitation and campaign for the formation of a mass working people’s party has been a central political programme of the DSM. We were active in the building of the Nigerian Labour Party in 1989 which was short-lived as a result of its disqualification by the military government and rotten politics of registration played by the labour leadership. We also made effort to contribute to the repositioning of the current moribund Labour Party as a fighting party of workers and youths but generally were not allowed into the party by ex-Stalinists on its leadership who apparently benefitted from merchandising its electoral tickets to anti-poor moneybag bourgeois politicians. Nevertheless, we have continued the campaign calling on the leadership of both the NLC and the TUC to immediately commence steps to convoke a special conference of all working class activists, youths and socialists within and outside the organised trade unions with a view to agree on programmes and organisational and political methods of building a working people’s political party.”
From general comments and contributions, there was a general agreement on the fact that the Buhari-APC emergence cannot fundamentally mean a change in the material conditions of the masses because of its commitment to capitalist framework and neo-liberal policies. The need for a mass workers’ party and the task of wining the struggle for the registration of SPN and building it to provide workers and masses with clear alternative to capitalism were also emphasized severally by comrades.
In summing-up the discussion Segun Sango, General Secretary of DSM, asserted that “the lives of people will continue to be perpetually poor, not because there are no resources, but because of the continuous existence of capitalist, anti-poor neo-liberal policies.” While emphasizing on the need to build the SPN, he continued, “the labour movement must remain the base of our activities for a genuine working class political alternative.” Sango also stressed that the promises of Buhari that he will end the Boko Haram crisis is mere empty soap box pronouncement. “As long as there is gargantuan disequilibrium in society, where majority of society wallow in misery and poverty, there is no way the Boko Haram issue, and similar terrorist crisis can be finally brought to an end. Segun Sango concluded his sum-up on an inspiring note, by challenging comrades to continue to stand on true struggle for democratic socialism which principally means fighting to achieve common ownership and democratic control and management of the main political and economic structure of the society.
A cross section of comrades at the DSM NC April 2015 – photo DSM
The second session of the first day of the National Committee meeting focused on discussion on the World Relations which was introduced by Kola Ibrahim. He linked the similarity of the situation in Nigeria with what obtains globally, and categorised all the mess and rots as necessary products of capitalism. From static economy growth across Europe, Asia and terrorist activities in the Middle East and Africa, for Kola Ibrahim, “the world is going through a turbulent period in history, economically and politically, and it is caused by the anarchistic character of capitalism”.
In the US, the exploration of shale oil has boosted the economy of the United States on the surface. But this relative improvement is not sustainable. The exploration of shale oil, which adversely affects the economy of crude oil producing countries, has also triggered loss of jobs in oil industry as a result of decreasing profit and concomitant reduction in the investment. The oil price is getting close to the cost of producing shale oil per barrel, hence contraction in profit margin. The US dollar is also getting stronger against other currencies. This will make the US goods less attractive in coming period. On the other hand too, the impotency of the capitalist system to resolve critical social questions is observable in the US. “Obama emerged as President of the US on the basis of many promises, including providing solution to the minority questionâ€¦ US today witnesses frequent race problems. All this reflects that all across the world, capitalism creates more problem than it can solve.”
The crisis of capitalism and the inequality rife with it has confounded the masses to the extent of exploring far-right wing and terrorist methods of protestation. The xenophobia attacks in South Africa and the carnage of al Shabab are examples of these terrible developments. Kola Ibrahim observed that “the alienation of South Africans and the drive of capitalist business bosses to seek cheap labour from immigrants is the underlying cause of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.” More so the failure of the organized labour to build and mobilise for a working people political alternative prevents mass of people from directing their anger against the capitalist economic and political system.
Just as it was observed during discussion on the Nigerian situation, the current economic crisis globally will have effect on the consciousness of the international working people and provide fertile ground for our ideas among the people.
The comments and contributions of comrades after the lead-off reflect the growing interest among comrades in the struggles of workers and for socialist transformation of society around the world. The similarity of capitalism, irrespective of colour and geography, was emphasized severally during comments from comrades. Comrades drew inspiration from the works of CWI comrades in the US and Ireland. The forthcoming general election in the United Kingdom especially the political development in Scotland and participation of Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) where the CWI sections are working also attracted special attention.
Lanre Arogundade, while giving the sum up on the World Relations, clarified some of the issues raised and responded to some questions including the ongoing US-Cuba relationship. With collapse of the USSR and now the weakening of Venezuela, Cuba could not continue to sustain its planned economy in an island surrounded by very hostile neighbours. This situation, along with the increasing penetration of capitalism into the Cuban economy means that, unless there is a movement by workers and youth to safeguard and develop democratically the planned economy, it is likely that the island will plunge into a market economy. This confirms the Trotskyite position that socialism cannot be ultimately guaranteed in a single country, it must be internationalized. Lanre Arogundade stated that “world relations today remain largely as posited by Leon Trotsky is deeply gripped by barbarism and that the current and future generations still have to struggle before society today is to seize available resources and harness technology and science to develop society. And this cannot be done under capitalism.”
Day 2: Building the DSM and SPN
Segun Sango, DSM General Secretary – photo DSM
The second day of the meeting, April 19, also received similar enthusiasm among comrades as the first day. The focus of the second day was to discuss reports from the National Secretariat, including reports of the DSM branches. Comrades were informed of the current state in the struggle for SPN registration, including the ongoing litigation to ensure that INEC register the Socialist Party of Nigeria. The SPN has been denied registration by INEC after having met all the legal, bureaucratic and expensive conditionalities prescribed in the 1999 Constitution and Electoral Act. Protest actions have also complemented this legal action. The next court sitting is May 21, 2015 when the court will hear the outcome of efforts to seek amicable settlement of the case.
The Secretariat also informed comrades of the active intervention of the DSM in various workers’ struggles in different parts of the country. The reports from the DSM branches were also inspiring and instructive. Despite heightening attacks on our student comrades by school authorities, the activities of the DSM continue to grow on campuses with significant increase in number of new members joining us. At present, 4 comrades at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and one at the Polytechnic Ibadan are under suspension. However, the point that students’ branches must not limit the intervention and activities of the DSM to campus activism was also struck. The imperative of the students’ branches interacting more with workers in communities and spreading the socialist ideas by practically organizing programmes and activities to establish influence and also build the SPN in communities. This is in addition to working relationship established with education workers unions on the campus as well as solidarity actions in support of their struggles. There were also resolutions on recruitment and consolidation of comrades at all branches, coordination of our work and finances.
A struggle fund of N250,000 was launched at the meeting to cover the SPN work and some renovation work of at DSM National Secretariat. It is remarkable that we were able to meet the target at the meeting, though virtually in the shape of pledges. This reflects the enthusiasm of comrades for struggle for SPN registration and the general work of DSM. We are confident that comrades will redeem the pledges by the date they personally set, the farthest being July ending. The Secretariat will regularly remind comrades of their pledges. The Struggle Fund will also be extended to comrades who did not attend the NC meeting. There was also a pledge by comrade Olumide to donate 100 plastic chairs that could be used for mass meetings at the DSM National Secretariat and Osun Chapter secretariat.
Two days earlier, on 17th April, the DSM Students’ Wing held a meeting attended by 27 student delegates and other members. The meeting discussed the looming crisis which would arise from the current economic crisis in the country and potential disillusionment in the Buhari regime. The immediate effect of this on the education sector is obvious. Austerity policies that may be implemented will see fees increased, and other attacks on education. The Students’ Wing meeting formulated plans and programmes on building of branches, recruitment and development of comrades as well as intervention in education crisis and struggle for reinstatement and defense of democratic rights. The need to build support for the SPN among the education workers and students was also discussed.
Between the two days of the NC meeting about 70 comrades were present. Fourteen (14) branches comprising 4 community branches and 10 student branches were represented. There is no doubt that the just concluded National Committee meeting served as a testament of the growth of the DSM despite immense challenges including finances, political lull in the labour movement and attacks on democratic rights especially of student comrades. It is also a peep into what to come, a vibrant generation of socialists committed to the socialist transformation of society. It is indubitable too that the meeting will have a lasting impact on the consciousness of delegates as it has incited more commitment to building the organization and have strengthened the will of comrades to fight on. We can only expect growth in the works of the DSM and SPN in coming period, and consequent strides in the struggle for genuine transformation of society.
Read the resolutions on the Nigerian Situation and on World Relations adopted at the meeting: