Successful Weekend of Discussion at DSM National Committee
Successful Weekend of Discussion at DSM National Committee
By HT Soweto
Over the weekend of Saturday 16 to Sunday 17 October 2017, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) â€“ CWI Nigeria – had its National Committee (NC) meeting. The meeting held at the International Press Centre (IPC), Ogba, Lagos. Over 60 delegates and observers representing over 12 students and community branches attended the two day meeting.
The agenda for discussion for both days included: (1) Capitalist crisis, National Question: Programme for the Nigerian revolution (2) World relations (3) Building the DSM and the struggle for SPN registration (4) Labour struggles and the DSM (5) Students situation and the DSM (6) Women’s struggles and the DSM’s activity (7) Community struggles and (8) Raising finance for our activity.
Led by the Acting General Secretary of the DSM, Comrade Dagga Tolar, there was lively discussion on the first day about the political and economic situation in Nigeria and the tasks facing the working masses. Also in the afternoon session, comrade Abbey Trotsky opened discussion about the world situation and the tasks facing the working class in the struggle against capitalism.
The tenor of both discussions centered on the inability of capitalism to take society forward â€“ not only in the neo-colonial world but also in the advanced capitalist countries and the historical task facing the working class.
The World Situation
Globally, capitalism is yet to fully recover from the 2007/2008 crash which saw reverberations in economies around the world. China, reputed as the “workshop of the world”, has been unable to play the same role the United States played in the post-Second World War period. Consequently, growth has been sluggish with the threat of another imminent crash.
The world political situation today is marked by the growth of interest in “socialism” as the crisis of capitalism deepens and the working class and youth look towards alternative ideas. This was reflected in the rise of Corbyn movement in the UK and Bernie Sanders’ massive electoral support in the US. But countering this trend is the rising threat of the right as seen in the electoral successes of far-right parties in Germany and some other countries and, of course, revival of white nationalism in the US buoyed by the victory of Donald Trump as US president.
The struggle in Catalonia Spain has been the focus in the media during October. This struggle has witnessed immense mobilization and mass support. Socialists support the right to Catalonia to self-determination. However, we also call for an end to capitalism in the new state and the enthronement of a workers’ government armed with Socialist policies that would appeal to workers and youth in the rest of the Spanish state to help defend democratic rights and also struggle for Socialism.
Today, the world is again close to a nuclear weapons being used thanks to the belligerence of the US and North Korea. No one should be deceived. Both Trump and Kim Jung-un have interests other than that of the working people of their countries at heart in their mad race towards a catastrophe. While sections of the US ruling class fear what Trump is doing only a mass anti-war movement in both countries and the world can checkmate this war-mongering. This kind of movement can also open the way for the removal of both the brutal North Korean dictatorship and the US imperialist Trump government whose racist, anti-poor and neo-liberal policies are tearing apart all the social gains of the US working class in the last period.
However, what is interesting about the crisis is that it sharply marks a considerable weakening of the US militarily and politically. Recent military interventions of the US, UK and France had ended in fiasco for example in Iraq, Afghanistan and most notably in Libya. The rise of ISIS and other sectarian terrorist organisations were enormously aided by the actions of the US and other imperialist countries intervening and destabilizing countries under the guise of restoring democracy.
Only a victorious struggle of the working class that ends capitalism and enthrones a workers’ government can save the world from the catastrophe that capitalism portends for the world. In doing this, the working class have to learn from the examples of the 1917 October revolution. In the struggle of the working class for emancipation, there can be no half-way house between capitalism and socialism. The crisis in Venezuela today is not a product of socialism but a consequence of too little socialism i.e. failure of the Bolivarian revolution to fully expropriate capitalism by nationalizing the main levers of the economy under workers’ democratic and management.
Africa which was presented a number of years ago as a possible safe haven for international capitalism to invest in has proved otherwise. A number of flagship African economies like Nigeria, South Africa and Angola experienced economic crisis and currency devaluation as a result of fall in the price of their exports.
Politically, the continent remains riven by struggles, wars and conflicts while world powers, particularly China, the USA and France, intervene to extend and defend their own interests. South Sudan, the world’s newest sovereign state, is now today torn apart by armed conflict as different war lords fight for control. This is a lesson here is that any struggle for independence that does not take up the question of who runs society in the new state will inevitably run into a blind alley.
In Cameroon, the struggle of the English-speaking South Cameroonians for independence has been viciously repressed by the Paul Biya government. This conflict, a product of the legacy of colonialism, sharply defines the centrality of the national question in Africa. In Kenya, there is a developing political crisis arising out of the on-going presidential elections in the country. As usual on the continent, elections are seldom free or fair.
Recently in Togo, a mass movement challenging the Gnassingbe ruling dynasty has developed. This has equally been repressed. The DSM participated in a picket of the Togolese embassy in Nigeria few weeks ago demonstrate solidarity with our African brothers and sisters. More of this kind of solidarity is needed to push forward the struggle of the working class on the continent against brutal dictatorship and capitalism.
Despite the wave of democratization in the last period, for the most part Africa continues to suffer long-standing rulers and ruling dynasties. In Zimbabwe, Cameroon and other countries where long standing dictators continue to reign, the working masses and youth, pushed by deprivations and want, will endeavour to remove them through mass struggle. Last year in Gambia, it took a mass movement and the intervention of the African Union before the ruler Yahya Jammeh was forced to flee. But since the Adama Barrow government was installed, no fundamental improvement has come the way of the long-suffering Gambian masses. The bottom-line is that the working class must realize that true change can only come from its own efforts and not by the intervention of the African Union, ECOWAS or the UN.
Moreover these struggles can only succeed in fundamentally improving the lot of the long-suffering workers and poor masses when based on the understanding that removing both of the dictatorial regime and the capitalist system upon which it is based is the best way to clear the way for a genuine solution to the problem of poverty, joblessness and inequality.
Overall, the task that faces the African working class is to struggle to end dictatorship, capitalism and imperialism on the continent. A successful revolution in any countries on the continent can become the lightning rod for a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism everywhere and the building of a socialist confederation of Africa.
Without putting the working class in power and carrying out measures to end capitalism, no revolution can fully succeed in resolving the crisis facing the working masses. This is the lesson of the Arab spring i.e. 2011 revolution in Tunisia and Egypt whose gains are now under attacks by the succeeding capitalist regimes.
In Nigeria, the crash of crude oil price on the world market in 2014, arising from the global economic crisis, triggered an economic crisis which threw the economy into a tailspin. The condition of the working class and poor, which was already terrible at the height of the boom, took a plunge. To be clear, this economic crisis in particular demonstrates the link between Nigeria’s economy and the world market and the interconnectedness of the struggles of the working class. Notwithstanding the celebrated exit from recession, a new crisis of global capitalism can trigger another economic crisis in Nigeria.
The current conjuncture in Nigeria is marked by the unravelling of the illusions in the Buhari/Osinbajo All Progressive Congress (APC) and a growing radical shift in mass consciousness. On all counts, whether on politics, economic policies and anti-corruption, the regime’s rating has continued to fall. Not even the Social Investment Programme has had much impact. The only success story the regime points to is the “technical defeat” of the Boko Haram insurgency but even this has been short-lived, with the past few months witnessing a revival in the insurgency.
The anti-corruption war, the flagship of President Buhari’s campaign promises, has hit a dead end despite initial media frenzy around it. Yes a few rotten eggs have been arrested and tried, but this has not ended corruption in governance. There are claims of illicit funds recovery but all these are just words as there are no official records to confirm this. Indeed many of those arrested and prosecuted are almost predominantly members of the past People Democratic Party (PDP) administration.
The reality is that the regime’s anti-corruption war is no more than a Public Relation strategy to curry’s masses’ favour and support. It is nothing close to a serious effort to end graft. To cap it all, prominent members of the government and the presidency who are fingered in corruption allegations are always covered up. This recently prompted a Senator of the ruling party, Shehu Sani, to publicly criticize the regime’s anti-corruption war as akin to using insecticide on external thieves and deodorant on internal thieves. All of these happening confirm our argument that there can be no serious war against graft while maintaining the capitalist system â€“ a system which operates on the basis of profit-interest.
The growth of separatist agitations in the country is caused on the one hand by the national question and on the other, by the inadequacies of the bureaucratic leadership of the labour movement as enumerated above. If labour was fighting hard on socio-economic issues that unite the working people, the slogan of separatism will have little attraction. The present situation is marked by the recent rapid re-emergence of pro-Biafra agitations and strident call for restructuring.
Socialists believe that what is required to fully satisfy the needs of the working and poor masses across the country is a struggle to end capitalism and enthrone a workers and poor people’s government armed with socialist policies, preferably within a united Nigeria, while also appealing to workers and the poor in the rest of Africa to take to the same road of overthrowing the rule of capitalism. But the maintenance of a united Nigeria cannot be imposed by force like the Buhari/Osinbajo APC regime is trying to do. This is not at all surprising! Under capitalism, all the ruling elite can offer the working people of the oppressed nationalities is a life of deprivation, poverty and hunger. Only a workers and poor people’s government can convince the oppressed nationalities of the merit of staying together within a united Nigeria through socialist economic policies that truly ensures the working masses across the country control and manage the means of production and distribution.
Notwithstanding the above, we recognize the right to self-determination as an inalienable right of all oppressed nationalities that make up Nigeria while calling for capitalism to be defeated and the rights of minorities be respected in any new state. We also condemn the repression of pro-Biafra agitators. In equal measure we oppose the hate speeches of IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu whose utterances convey the impression that the poor of the North and South are the enemies of Igbo people whereas it is the ruling class from all the ethnic groups and the exploitative capitalist system that is the major reason majority of Nigerians continue to wallow in poverty despite an abundance of human and natural resources.
Class struggle developing
The regime’s honeymoon, arising out of its initial popularity at the time of elections, has officially ended. The outburst of mass protests in February this year marked the beginning of masses’ frustration and a mood of anger among a growing number of the working people. But way before then, a strike wave had already started in states that could not pay salaries and pensions. Some of these strikes were militant and massively supported – sometimes lasting several weeks and months.
Now many sections of the oppressed masses appear to be moving in the direction of a confrontation with the regime. On the campuses, high fees, under funding, poor welfare conditions and victimization of activists are fuelling struggles and resistance. The Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) is the flagship of the failure of the ruling APC. The institution was shut for more than a year because the APC state governments of Osun and Oyo States could not provide sufficient funds to pay staff salary and maintain the institution. Now the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY) has also been shut. All of these alongside with growing unemployment and complete lack of confidence in the future are creating a feeling of despair and disillusionment among young people, some of whom rooted for the ruling party in 2015.
In the communities, there has been a wave of protests against the regime’s policy of electricity privatization and the attendant exploitation of consumers by private electricity companies. In the regime’s cabinet, Babatunde Raji Fashola, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, will most likely win a competition for the most hated minister. This is because of the complete collapse of electricity supply despite the regime’s promises on the campaign trail. Now growing numbers are beginning to question privatization as a solution to the nation’s power problems.
On the basis of their own experience and the agitational work of Socialists, many will draw the conclusion that system change is required rather than regime change achieved in 2015. When this happens, the prospect of a social revolution will open up in Nigeria. But for revolution to succeed, a mass workers’ party armed with socialist programme is needed.
But as usual, the Nigerian working class suffers “a historical crisis of leadership”. The bureaucratic leadership of the labour movement is acting as a stumbling block rather than an enabler of the class struggle. For instance, betraying its illusion in capitalism, the leaderships of the labour centres have refused to challenge the regime with national strikes over the demand for N56, 000 national minimum wage. Even some of the workers’ strikes in the states over unpaid wages were merely supported with words by the NLC and TUC leaderships. Socialists are calling for the unity of workers and the labour movement in collective struggle to win a new minimum wage and defend workers interests. Specifically we call for a warning general strike and nationwide mass protest to begin to challenge the regime on the need to approve a new minimum wage of N56, 000 without retrenchment.
The colossal failure of the NLC/TUC May 2017 “general” strike against fuel price hike as well as the United Labour Congress (ULC) “general” strike last month has further demoralized the working masses. But this should not be interpreted to mean that the working class will continue to endure hardship forever. The law of the class struggle is stronger than the powers of the labour bureaucracy. Try as hard as they can, the bureaucratic leadership of the trade unions cannot prevent forever mass dissatisfaction breaking to the surface. Once the lid is opened, the labour bureaucracy would either be thrown aside by the working masses or they would be forced to try to lead the movement in order not to lose face. But if they do the latter, it would be with a view to betray the struggle at some point when they feel secured enough to do so just as it happened during the January 2012 general strike. The solution is a rebuilding of the labour movement and the replacement of the weak and pro-capitalist leaders with genuine socialists and working class fighters ready to lead the class struggle to a victorious end.
This must be linked with building a mass workers’ political party to spearhead the struggle to end capitalism and enthrone socialism. Without this, the “energy of the masses would dissipate like steam not enclosed in a piston box”. This is why the DSM formed the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) as a step towards such a mass party and has been fighting legally and politically over the last three years to get it registered by INEC.
The DSM NC ended with hope of a favourable judgment on the SPN’s registration at the court hearing scheduled for November 2, 2017. However, if the judgment goes contrary to expectation, this would not stop the struggle to build the SPN as an alternative political party. Rather it would strengthen us to redouble effort to build the SPN as a party of struggle around which all the forces disillusioned with the status quo can be rallied.
Below on this website are the resolutions on Nigeria and World situations presented to the meeting.