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Socialist Democracy July - August 2003 | Index

Socialist Democracy


Paper of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)

OBASANJO’S SECOND TERM:

DANGERS AHEAD FOR THE WORKING MASSES

  • A Working People’s Independent Political Alternative Urgently Needed

At the end of voting on April 19th, 2003 in an election that was characterised and marked by large scale electoral fraud, President Olusegun Obasanjo was declared winner, ushering in another four years of Obasanjo presidency. His party, the PDP was also declared as having made substantial gains especially in the erstwhile AD stronghold of the Southwest.

But the results of the election bear no relationship with the reality of the performance of the Obasanjo regime in the last four years. Having come to power in 1999 against the backdrop of the struggle against military dictatorship and against the background of his incarceration by the Abacha junta, many had hoped for a better deal from his regime.

Four years after, however, the lot of the working people is no better, with mass unemployment, poverty, ethnic and religious crisis, decayed and collapsing infrastructure, the perennial fuel crisis, armed robbery, political violence, etc.

Before the elections itself, there had been fears of widespread violence and unrest especially against the backdrop of the widespread violence that characterised intra-party primaries and the politically-motivated killings in various parts of the country. While the level of political violence that attended the elections was somewhat lower than expected, the elections still recorded widespread violence especially in the South-South and South Eastern parts of the country.

But while the violence that attended the elections might have been lower than expected, the rigging and electoral fraud recorded during the elections were unprecedented and of unbelievable magnitude with ballot stuffing, falsification of results, hijacking of electoral materials, declarations of results where no voting took place, intimidation of voters and the connivance of police, military men and electoral commission (INEC) officials to manipulate the results of the election in favour of the ruling paties being the order of the day. The elections equally were undoubtedly the most monetised in the history of elections in Nigeria. The normally taciturn European Union election monitors, in reporting the elections described it as being marred by "…widespread election fraud" which "… undermined the integrity of the electoral process…"

While the spindoctors of the Obasanjo regime are quick to point to the introduction of the Global System for Mobile telecommunications (GSM), the availability of fuel at filling stations, the regular electricity supply, establishment of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the introduction of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme, increases in workers salaries, as major achievements of the Obasanjo government, a closer look however reveals that this so called achievements are nothing but a mirage which have all expired even before the end of Obasanjo's first term in office. The reality is that the so-called achievements pale into insignificance in the face of the grim reality facing the vast majority of Nigerians. For most Nigerians, hunger, poverty, disease, ignorance and squalor remain the order of the day. As statistics reveals, less than 10% of Nigerians have access to the minimum healthcare facilities recommended by WHO, 85.5 million Nigerians are too poor to afford the basic standard of living, good shelter, nutritious food and good education while 69% or 89 million Nigerians are living on less than one dollar a day. Life expectancy at birth is 47 years for males and 52 years for females.

In most parts of the country, paralysing fuel scarcity is the norm rather than the exception with most parts of the country having to rely on the black market for fuel and having to pay over a 100% above the official price. The nation's four refineries with a total installed capacity well over the daily requirement of the country have not been functional despite billions of naira allegedly expended on them over the past four years. Fuel importers with connection at the highest levels of government and fronting for top government officials have constituted themselves into a powerful mafia holding the nation hostage because of the huge profits being made from the importation of refined petroleum products.

In the areas of telecommunication, the three GSM networks could boast of only about an estimated 3 million subscribers out of an estimated population of 120 million Nigerians (160 million according to the Minister of Internal affairs, Dr. Mohammed Shata). For most of the estimated 3 millions subscribers, the price of the services remains very prohibitive, despite the difficulties encountered in even making calls on the networks. The situation in the telecommunication sector is such that a recent study quoted by Peter Foster, a journalist writing in the London Daily Telegraph of April 18, 2003, indicates that "it is easier to get connected in Somalia, a country without a government than in Nigeria"!

Electricity supply is equally not better. Power supply, despite all promises to the contrary and about N350 billion expended on NEPA, has remained erratic and epileptic as ever with about 70% of Nigerians without access to electricity supply at all.

In the education sector, it is the same story of woes. The universities are just reopening after over five months of a strike by the Academic Union (ASUU) for better funding to arrest the decay and rot in the sector. At the primary and post primary segment of the educational sector, things are even worst, with ill-motivated teaching and non-teaching staff being owed backlog of salaries and allowances. Low morale and motivation of the teachers over the years coupled with a complete lack of instructional materials and infrastructures have combined to render education at the primary and post-primary sector comatose.

Despite claims of catering for workers' welfare by increasing workers' salaries, the reality is that apart from the infinitesimal proportion of the working masses the increase covered, the overall effects of the increase have been wiped out by the pro-rich, anti-poor capitalist policies of the government such as increases in the pump price of petroleum products, retrenchment of thousands of workers, and late or non-payment of salaries and pensions.

All over, it is the same story of rot, decay, corruption, disillusionment, disappointment, poverty, hunger, ignorance, disease, squalor and impoverishment for the vast majority of the people. Despite increases in oil revenues which have been hovering at around 25 dollars a barrel for most parts of the last three years away from the 9 dollars a barrel as at May 29, 1999, there has been no fundamental improvement in the lives of the masses. The more money the country makes, the more the sufferings for the people.

With Obasanjo guaranteed another four years in power, will the lot of the masses improve? Will the election of PDP, ANPP and AD at the state level bring an end to economic, social and political crises? The answer to these questions is capital NO! Considering the commitment of the Obasanjo government and all these capitalist parties to further increase in the pump price of petroleum products, privatisation and commercialisation of public utilities and corporations, and the pursuit of IMF/World Bank inspired policies of minimal investment in social services such as roads, education, housing, healthcare etc, the working masses are set undoubtedly for another round of poverty, suffering and pains.

The prospect for every aspect of life looks gloomy, except the working people and vast majority of the masses brace up to defend the further erosion of their standard of living. Already, the regime has revealed its intention to implement anther fuel price increase and to completely deregulate petroleum marketing and pricing. The privatisation of Nigerian Airways, Nigerian Railway Corporation, refineries and NEPA is on top of the agenda of Obasanjo's second term. In the process, tens of thousands of workers will be retrenched and prices of services being rendered by these enterprises will be increased astronomically. Education and other social services like healthcare will be further commercialised as could be seen in the recent wave of sharp increases in school fees in nearly all the country's tertiary institutions of learning.

Therefore, the challenge confronting the working masses is that of building a mass based, grassroot political party armed with a pro-poor programme and with roots in most communities, streets and villages, that can champion the fight against these looming attacks and provide a platform for the defence of the rights and living standards of the working masses. Such a party must stand for the provision of free, quality education, healthcare, full employment with decent wages, affordable mass housing, social welfare benefits for the unemployed, the sick, the disabled and the elderly and other vital programmes that can drastically uplift the deplorable living standards and working conditions of the masses. Above all, it must be armed with the perspectives and programme of transforming society along socialist lines. To build such a political platform is the most urgent task for labour, trade union and youth activists. The NLC leaders must stop their disastrous romance and collaboration with the PDP and other ruling capitalist parties and take up this challenge of building an independent working class alternative. The National Conscience Party (NCP) must also be built as a grassroot, mass-based, democratic political party with a democratic socialist and anti-capitalist programme and strategy. These are the only ways to stop the rampaging attacks on the working people by the PDP and all the capitalist parties and bring lasting end to the unending economic, social and political crises facing the country.


EDITORIAL

 

FUEL PRICE INCREASE:

REJECT THE CALLOUS ATTACK ON POOR WORKING MASSES

 

We in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) strongly condemn the callous, provocative, entirely insensitive and anti-poor fuel price increase just announced by the Obasanjo regime.

Our opposition to this price hike is based on the following reasons:

 

(1) The increment, through which petrol price goes up from N26 per litre to N40 per litre, diesel from N26 to N38 per litre and kerosene from N24 to N38 per litre will further add to the burden of the suffering working class majority. As usual it will cause a sharp increase in transport cost and in the prices of goods and services. Tens of millions of already impoverished Nigerians will again sink into greater poverty and misery.

Coming 23 days into the second term of the Obasanjo administration, this fuel price hike gives a glimpse of the enormous hardship and suffering which await the poor working masses in the next four years.

 

(2) As before, the only people to benefit from the higher prices increase are the owners and directors of multinational oil companies (Mobil, National, Unipetrol, Total, Elf, etc), which dominate the petroleum marketing sector and members of the capitalist ruling class that will have more money available to loot. The latest fuel price increment is in continuation of the liberalisation programme of the Obasanjo regime and the capitalist ruling class according to which market forces should determine the prices of fuel, telephone, transport, education, healthcare and other essential goods and services. The Obasanjo government and other advocates of liberalisation of the oil marketing industry always argue that this policy is the only way to ensure regular fuel supply and attract foreign and domestic investments into the industry. Competition, according to them, will soon lead to lower fuel prices.

These arguments are a repeat of what has been regularly canvassed by supporters of fuel price increments and deregulation/liberalisation during the past 17 years, since 1986 when the Babangida junta increased fuel price as part of the IMF/World Bank Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). But not only has fuel price hikes and other neo-liberal capitalist policies not benefited the economy or improved living standards. In actual fact, the opposite has been the case as the people have been left poorer.

 

(3) This increment is the third since the Obasanjo regime assumed office in 1999. In June, 2000, the regime announced an increment from N20 to N30 per litre before it was reduced to N22 per litre after a nation-wide strike. On 1st January, 2002, the government raised the price again to N26. The spate of increase in fuel price shows that the argument that the liberalisation of the oil-marketing sector would lead to lower fuel prices is merely meant to deceive the masses.

By increasing fuel price and giving the oil companies the freedom to dictate fuel price, the Obasanjo capitalist government only wants to ensure even more super-profits for their local and foreign business friends to the detriment of the welfare of the working masses. Every year, the oil marketing companies (National, Agip, Total, Mobil, Unipetrol, etc) made billions of naira as profit.

 

SHORTAGE OF PETROLEUM PRODUCTS

 

The government and its supporters always attribute the perennial shortage of fuel in the country to a so-called low price due to alleged government subsidy and the relatively higher price in neighbouring countries, which is allegedly responsible for fuel smuggling. In reality, the cause of the fuel crisis is the collapse of the country's refineries due to criminal negligence by the ruling elite. Successive regimes, including the Obasanjo government, have failed to resuscitate these refineries despite billions of naira allocated for the purpose and the country have therefore relied on fuel importation. Importation of refined petroleum products has become a big business dominated by a mafia of government officials, capitalist businessmen and their friends.

 

FOR A 48-HOUR WARNING GENERAL STRIKE

 

We call on the NLC and the industrial unions affiliated to it to wage a consistent mass struggle for the reversal of this obnoxious measure. The NLC should insist that the Obasanjo government immediately rescind the decision to hike fuel prices. We in the DSM propose that the NLC should in the first instance organise a 48-hour nation-wide general strike to compel the regime to reverse this anti-poor measure. If at the end of this first strike the regime still refuses to yield to workers' demand, the unions and the NLC should organise more mass meetings and rallies, intensify the mass mobilisation with the objective of getting more workers and other layers of the working masses such as traders, commercial drivers, students, artisans, etc, to take part in further strike action and protests.

To ensure the success of the struggle, we call on the NLC and the industrial unions to commence immediately a mass mobilisation campaign, with leaflets, posters, rallies, mass meetings, in order to mobilise and organise workers, traders, students and other layers of the working people to resist this latest fuel price hike. Action Committees should be set up by the trade unions, and labour, youth and community activists at national, state and local levels and in every workplace, school and community to organise the rallies, strikes and protests and to coordinate the struggle in order to ensure its success.

Like all neo-liberal capitalist policies (e.g. privatisation, commercialisation, retrenchment of workers, etc.), liberalisation is meant to make the rich richer and the poor masses poorer. Therefore the labour movement should not just fight against fuel price hike but the entire policies of privatisation and commercialisation. The NLC leadership must end their support for the government's privatisation programme and the NLC president, Adams Oshiomhole, should quit the government's National Council on Privatisation.

 

FOR AN INDEPENDENT WORKING CLASS ALTERNATIVE

 

Experience over the years have shown that the solution to fuel scarcity and other problems facing the oil industry lies not in privatisation and liberalisation but in massive investments and democratic management and control of its affairs by the working people. However, there cannot be any efficient management in NNPC and other public corporations so long as capitalist managements whose stock-in-trade is looting and nepotism run these corporations. Finally, adequate and affordable fuel will remain a mirage so long as the capitalist system in which most of the wealth and resources of the country are owned and controlled by a few capitalist elements and Multi-national Corporation remains in place. So long as this oppressive and exploitative arrangement persists, it would be impossible for NNPC, NEPA, NITEL, water corporations, schools, hospitals and other social services to have sufficient resources to deliver quality service to the masses.

Therefore, not only must the working masses struggle against privatisation and liberalisation of oil industry and public utilities, this struggle must be linked to struggle to change society. The capitalist system needs to be replaced by a democratic socialist system in which the commanding sectors of the economy such as oil industry, banking, manufacturing, etc, are put into public ownership with democratic control and management of the economy and society by the working people. To achieve this historic goal, the working people must struggle to put in place a workers' and poor farmers' government on a socialist programme. The immediate challenge before labour and youth activists, the trade unions and the National Conscience Party (NCP) activists is to build an independent, mass-based and democratic political platform which alone can accomplish this vital task.

 


 

10TH ANNIVERSARY:

 

LESSONS OF JUNE 12

 

By Lanre Arogundade

 

Commemorative events have again been held to mark the anniversary of the June 12 1993 presidential election that was subsequently annulled by the then military dictatorship headed by General Ibrahim Babangida.

Unlike previous occasions, however, this year's 10th anniversary was largely a seminar affair, confined as it was to hotels and other cozy environments, where different shades of so-called activists, delivered speeches. Some of these speakers actually collaborated with the military to embrace the transition programme that was hurriedly put together after the cancellation of the election even while claiming to stand by the June 12 mandate. The Campaign for Democracy (CD), a human rights group that played a leading role in the June struggle in 1993 did call a rally, but rank and file workers, youths, students and the unemployed, poorly attended it.

The working class majority could as well have been protesting the fact that their role in the struggle to actualise the June 12 mandate is often downplayed while class collaborators and others who enjoyed life in exile are often recognised or deified as the heroes of democracy by the capitalist media.

Bourgeois historians of June 12 for example hardly mention the prolonged strike embarked upon by the petroleum workers with the major demand being the recognition of the June 12 election and the swearing in of Chief MKO Abiola as president. The then leaders of the petroleum workers, including Frank Kokori and Wariebe Agamene, were detained for several months while their families were terrorised. The rank and file was not spared the military regime's brutalisation. And several workers, students, youths and the unemployed were killed on the streets of Lagos and other places on the orders of the rampaging military regimes of first General Babangida and General Sani Abacha.

Yet, it was the militant strikes, street protests, rallies, stay-at-homes, etc, in which socialists organised around the DSM actively participated that invariably compelled the military to organise the transition program that led to the return of civil rule in 1999. A major lesson here is that without the working class majority playing a central and leading role in the struggles of the urban and rural poor as well as the youths and the unemployed, only very limited concessions could be won from the capitalists class.

As it happened in 1999, the military government fashioned transition program only led to the emergence of three capitalist parties PDP, APP (now ANPP), AD that have jointly, between 1999 and now, further compounded the problems of the working class and youth through the imposition of such capitalist anti-poor policies as privatisation/commercialisation of public utilities, education, increase in the price of fuel, retrenchment of workers, etc.

 

FREE AND FAIR?

 

Though it is often said that June 12 remains the freest and fairest elections in Nigeria's history, this fact must be put within proper perspective and historical context. First, the idea of an election being free and fair is not just a question of whether or not votes were manipulated. It is also a function of whether the process and rules are open and democratic enough to have allowed all segments of society especially the working class to participate through independent political organisations of their own. In that context, the Babangida transition was manipulated in such a way that the working masses had imposed on them two capitalist parties, SDP and NRC, that were in reality two sides of the same coin. The names, manifestoes, offices, funds and what have you of the parties all came from the military regime.

The major fear that gripped the ruling class in not allowing Bashorun MKO Abiola to become President was because of the popular movement that later built around the June 12 mandate and one that they feared could compel him to take populist measures like halting, delaying or reversing some of the neo-liberal policies like privatisation, commercialisation, etc. Beyond this, it was very unlikely that an Abiola capitalist government have fundamentally threatened capitalism or allowed the democratic control and management of the economy by the working class.

But given the mass movement that built around the June 12 struggle, it was difficult for Abiola to surrender the mandate. He held on to it and was killed while still being detained by the military government of General Abdulsalami Abubakar. His courage and heroism stood him out and for long would be revered as a symbol of democratic struggle in Nigeria.

 

2003 ELECTIONS

 

Ten years after, the Nigerian ruling classes have been unable to organise an election better than that of June 12. The massive rigging that characterised the 2003 elections was worse than that of 1999 and has caused questions to be asked as to whether a revolutionary change of society can come through elections.

For socialists, however, elections are but a means to an end and not an end in itself. Even where a working class political organisation or the one it supports like the National Conscience Party (NCP), comes into power, it must of necessity quickly take measures against the capitalists, primarily through nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy under workers democratic management and control in order to free the resources necessary to carry out fundamental reforms in the areas of job creation, payment of living wages to match the rate of inflation, education, healthcare, provision of infrastructure etc. This will go along with a class appeal to the working class allies, locally peasants and farmers, youths and the unemployed and the international working class, to defend the government against attacks and sabotage by local capitalists and their foreign imperialist backers who, though, are in the minority, appropriate or pocket the largest share of the wealth produced by the working class majority.

The process of such a political organisation coming into power would require the mobilisation and support of the organisations of the working masses and youths such as labour, the trade unions, the students unions etc. That is why socialists and working class and youth activists must link the struggle for reforms with the struggle to transform such groups as Nigeria Labour Congress, the industrial unions, the National Association of Nigerian Students etc into fighting revolutionary organisations that are armed with socialist programmes and perspectives.

 


 

DSM REVIEWS ELECTIONS

 

An impressive number of 56 people (including three journalists) turned up at a symposium (Public meeting) organised by the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) at the International Press Centre (IPC), Ogba, Lagos on Saturday, 17th May, 2003.

The symposium was the first in the series of public programmes which the organisation is planning to organise in various areas. They are targeted principally at labour and NCP activists and aimed at assisting activists and DSM members in drawing a proper political and organisational balance sheet of the recent elections held in the country.

The topic of the symposium was "2003 Elections: The Lessons and the Way Forward for the Working People" and three comrades namely Lanre Arogundade (an NCP senatorial candidate in the election, Niyi Adewumi (NCP candidate for Federal House of Representatives) and Segun Sango (DSM general secretary and Lagos state NCP chairman) spoke from the platform.

Among those who attended were two new student members from University of Lagos and Lagos State University who promised to work towards establishing DSM branches in their schools.

A sum of N700 cash and N450 in pledges were raised as struggle fund.

 

NCP AND THE ELECTION RESULTS

 

The seemingly poor performance of the NCP and the re-election of the big capitalist parties has understandably led to a mood of disappointment and despair among a certain layer of the masses and NCP activists in particular. Doubts are being raised by some NCP activists on whether it is possible to change society and whether the masses can ever capture political power through the ballot box due to the vote buying, rigging and manipulations often resorted to by the capitalist elite on the one hand and the pervasive poverty and ignorance among the downtrodden masses which make them susceptible to the elite's manipulations on the other.

While speakers at the symposium acknowledged that there were widespread rigging and violence by the major parties during the elections and many of the declared figures were sheer fabrications, they explained that this was not the only reason for the relatively small number of votes which the NCP received. The principal reason is that the NCP as a political party has not yet got sufficient influence and roots among the working masses and in most working class and rural communities that would have enabled it to win the elections. In several local governments and wards, especially outside Lagos State, the party is yet to establish viable structure.

The very short time (four months) between NCP registration by the electoral commission and the time of the elections, the shortage of necessary manpower and finance were also identified by speakers as factors which negatively affected NCP's performance.

Against this background and in view of the widespread use of money to bribe voters by the major parties, the votes which the NCP got in some areas were in fact quite significant politically. In the Lagos West senatorial district, Lanre won 77,330 or 9.64% of the votes while Niyi received 14% of the votes in Ifako-Ijaye federal constituency.

In the state house of assembly election, Akele, a DSM member and trade union leader who was victimised and sacked by the Lagos State government received 15% of the votes in Agege 02 constituency. In Lagos State and in nearly the entire south-western part of the country, the party came third while it succeeded in winning a seat in the Ekiti state house of assembly.

Participants at the symposia agreed that the challenge before the party membership is to build it as a fighting grassroot mass party with presence in every ward, street and home through systematic campaign on issues affecting the working masses. Only the building of such a formidable presence can ensure victory for the party and the masses and neutralise the effects of vote buying and check rigging by the main capitalist parties.

The main speakers also emphasised the need for the NCP to embrace a full socialist programme without which it would be incapable of implementing its 10-care programme and fulfil the yearnings of the working masses.

 

BUILDING DSM

 

Lastly, most of the participants spoke on the need to give priority to the building of DSM. This is important not just for the vital task of building the forces for socialist change but also in developing the NCP itself. The outstanding roles of our members have even on many occasions been acknowledged by non-DSM members in the party leadership.

In the same way for the coming period, there is no alternative to building the DSM. Therefore, at all levels of the organisation, we must develop the tradition of regular political discussion to politically prepare ourselves for the storming events that will unfold in the coming period in Nigeria and internationally.

As an immediate task, all branches should now organise meetings and public programmes to draw lessons of the election and to bring into the organisation the contacts we made during the election campaign and other conscious, change-seeking elements.

 


 

LIBERIA: A FRAGILE PEACE

 

By Friday Foluso

 

A ceasefire accord has just been signed in Ghana between the Liberian government and rebel groups aimed at ending the civil war which has engulfed the country. According to the agreement, in 30 days a transitional government is expected to be formed which will exclude President Charles Taylor. A West African-led peacekeeping force comprising at least 2,000 troops is expected to supervise the accord.

Liberia is Africa's oldest "republic" and was founded by freed American slaves. With a population of 3.3 million, it is mostly made up of indigenous Africans, with slaves' descendants comprising 5% of the population. Liberia was relatively calm until 1980 when Sergeant Samuel Doe overthrew President William Tolbert in a military coup after riots over food prices. Though Doe's coup marked the end of dominance by the minority Afro-American settlers, but it heralded a period of instability. In the past two decades, the country has been in a perpetual state of civil war.

The Doe regime itself was characterised by grave economic crisis and misrule. Taylor himself initially served in Samuel Doe's government. He was later charged with fraud and he fled to the US, where he was arrested. He escaped and in December, 1989 launched a revolt against the Doe government. The civil war led to thousands of deaths and over half a million refuges. Governments of West African countries formed a military intervention force called ECOMOG to stop Charles Taylor. Rebel groups were also formed by other refugees opposed to Taylor. At the end, ECOMOG was able to impose a "peace deal" but when the presidential election was conducted in 1997 it was won by Charles Taylor.

In 1999, fighters of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), including some of those who had opposed Taylor during civil war launched attacks on Liberian territories in the north and west from bases in Guinea. Recently another group, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), has emerged and gained control of strategic areas in the south and east of the country. By early June, 2003, LURD rebels reached the outskirts of Monrovia, the Liberian capital. There was total chaos as thousands of people, including foreigners, attempted to leave the country. There is a looming humanitarian disaster due to shortage of food and other essential items. About 5,000 refuges, mainly Nigerians but including other national of other West African countries, have been repatriated to Lagos.

But the current rebellion in Liberia is just part of a complex network of conflicts which has engulfed that part of the West African sub-region for over a decade. In Liberia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Guinea, civil wars have raged almost ceaselessly between government and rebel groups, with neighbouring countries trading accusations and counter-accusations of sponsoring rebellion against each another. In Ivory Coast, an uneasy peace has just been put in place and a national "unity"

government formed, after a military rebellion in September 2002 led to the country being split into two. When the peace meeting between Taylor and the rebel groups was about to start in Accra, the UN war crime tribunal in Sierra Leone indicted Taylor over his support for the RUF rebels during the bloody civil war in Sierra Leone and ordered his arrest. He had to hastily fly back to Monrovia. One of the fears of the West African leaders and imperialism is that the war in Liberia could re-ignite civil war in Sierra Leone and destabilise the region further.

Some capitalist commentators give the impression that the removal of Taylor from power is simply what is needed to end the conflicts in Liberia and the neighbouring countries. But this is sheer over-simplification. The root of the unending conflicts is chronic underdevelopment of the area, a product of decades of imperialist exploitation. The failure of capitalism to develop these countries is responsible for widespread poverty, illiteracy, hunger and diseases and huge unemployment particularly among the youth. In Liberia, life expectancy is 41 years for men and 42 years for women and the average income per head is $140 per annum (World Bank, 2001). According to UN Development Reports, Sierra Leone is the poorest country in the world. These are the basics causes of for ethnic distrusts, divisions and wars. Many of the rebel soldiers are teenagers and youth who had lost hope of any better future. The various factions of the capitalist ruling class engage in deadly struggles for control over the natural resources of these countries.

Though his government was a signatory to the peace agreement, Taylor later said in a broadcast that he would not step down as president. This will lead to immediate collapse of the accord. His position has been complicated by the arrest order by the war crime tribunal which means he could be arrested once he ceases to be Liberian head of state.

But even if he is compelled to quit, and some kind of peace deal is implemented, this cannot provide a lasting solution to the crisis in Liberia and the neighbouring countries. Only the overthrow of capitalism in the various countries in the region and the taking over of its resources by the working people and their the usage for the development of the area and provision for the real needs of the people through a democratic and voluntary socialist confederation of West African states can guarantee lasting peace and prosperity and bring an end the nightmare and misery which the working masses continuously experience.

 


 

AJEROMI-IFELODUN NCP:

 

SOCIALISTS ELECTED COUNCILLORSHIP CANDIDATES

 

Three socialist activists and members of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) on Saturday, 24th May, 2003, were elected as councillorship candidates at Ajeromi\Ifelodun Local Government congress of National Conscience Party (NCP). These comrades are Akingbade Smart (Ward A), Obi Onyeka (Ward B) and Matthew Opiah (Ward E).

This means that the three will represent NCP at their wards in the forthcoming local government elections in Ajeromi Ifelodun. There are eleven wards in the entire local government area. The other elected councillorship candidates are Segun Akinhanmi (Ward C), Willy Edet (Ward D), Daisi Omotehinwa (Ward F), Anthony Patrick (Ward G), David Obi (Ward H) and Opara Christian (Ward J). Election was not conducted in Ward I.

But another socialist activist and editor of Socialist Democracy, Dagga Tolar, lost in the election to select the party's chairmanship candidate. He lost narrowly to Deacon Kola Olupitan by 156 votes to 131. The congress had about 300 members in attendance and representatives from state and national secretariats who came to monitor the congress.

In his speech before the election, Dagga Tolar promised that if elected, he would democratically involve the working masses of the area in the management of the local government and the control of its resources. He said he would collect only the salary of an average civil servant and that the remaining of his salaries he would be used to support the struggles of labour unions, students' unions, civil rights associations and other oppressed groups.

This impressive result by the socialist activists is as a result of the enormous work they have been doing in the area for many years in fighting for the rights of the residents and building the NCP. During the last elections, the socialist activists were on the streets almost on a daily basis campaigning for NCP candidates. Over 1,000 copies of Socialist Democracy were sold in the area during the campaign while many new members joined the DSM.


 

 

STOP RETRENCHMENT IN RAILWAYS

 

By Stephen Ojetunde

 

Despite the mass retrenchment carried out by the Federal Government in the Nigeria Railway Corporation in which over 30,000 workers were sacked between 1988 and 2001, another plan is on the way for further reduction in the size of the workers by 50%. The major reason given for this dastardly and anti-workers action is that the government wants to restructure the parastatals and the only way out is to reduce the workforce of the corporation in preparation for its privatisation.

We in the DSM call on Obasanjo regime and its cohorts to stop the implementation of these anti-poor policies, IMF/WORLD BANK policy of privatisation and retrenchment of workers. All which brings nothing but poverty, hunger and diseases for the working masses. We equally call on the leadership of Nigeria Union of Railway-men (NUR) to mobilise workers to resist these policies

 

UNEMPLOYMENT

 

The retrenchment of over 8,000 railway workers means an increase in mass unemployment. Apart from this, tens of thousands of people who depend directly or indirectly on these workers for means of their livelihood would suffer. Poverty and crimes will increase.

 

UNION RESPONSE

 

It is true that the NRC is in a state of total collapse. But this is as a result of the age-long deliberate neglect of the corporation by the successive governments and its mismanagement and looting by government-appointed managers and politicians. But privatisation of the corporation and retrenchment of its workers are not and should not be the solution. The main problems being encountered by the NRC workers are non-availability of the necessary tools and materials (coaches, locomotive, etc).

Only massive investment of resources coupled with democratic management and control by the workers and the trade union can resolve these problems. This will include a modernisation programme to equip the rail system with the latest technology within the framework of an integrated system which includes rail, road and water-ways.

The NUR leadership in a letter to the Minister of Labour proposed conditions that must be followed by the government for the planned retrenchment. These are:

 

* the government must make available the total cost of such exercise;

* all affected employees must be paid their terminal benefits and other allowances alongside their letters of retrenchment;

* service records of staff who have served for 33years must be upgraded to 35years to enable them enjoy maximum benefit of service;

* redundancy benefit must be paid to all workers with less than five years services at the rate of 80% of total emolument;

* the exercise should be gradual;

* those to be affected should be made to become owners of quarters occupied by them before the exercise and;

* all those on acting appointment must be confirmed effectively from the date of acting on the higher grade.

 

The above-listed conditions are not the best way to tackle the planned retrenchment. It would be recalled that the last set of railway workers that were retrenched have not been paid their entitlements. Pensioners are owed backlog of pensions. Many have been ejected from their quarters. Many of them have died of hunger and diseases. The union should therefore resolutely oppose the retrenchment and privatisation plan. If the union bases its argument on these modalities, then the battle has been lost even before it begins.

 

SOLUTION

 

The planned retrenchment is another reason why the NLC leadership should drop its tacit support for the privatisation programme. Instead, labour and youth activists must organise the working class, professionals, farmers, artisans, market-women and students to fight for a democratic socialist society where the abundant resources will be collectively owned and equitably shared among the populace rather than leaving the resources in the hands of the few capitalists whose aim is to make profit at the expense of the poor masses.


 

 

DON’T SELL AIRWAYS

 

The Federal Government on 21st May, 2003, officially ordered the sales of national airlines, Nigeria Airways. The Airways used to be a pride to Nigerians. But mismanagement and looting by capitalist managers, administrators and politicians have led to the collapse of the airline. With the said privatisation many workers will lose their jobs.

It would be recalled that sometimes last year, over 1000 Airways workers were retrenched without being paid their gratuities and benefits. Equally over 5000 retired Airways workers are not being paid as and when due. Meanwhile political office holders are awarding to themselves huge wages and benefits backed by inflated contracts such as the recent increment in allowances of the executives and legislators.

 

GOVERNMENT PROPAGANDA

 

Meanwhile, the pretexts used by government on privatisation of airways and other public assets are inefficiency, poor performance and corruption that characterise these public assets. In a statement credited to former minister of information, Prof. Jerry Gana, he said " We have tried to rescue it (Nigeria Airways) but each attempt has failed. The more we tried to rescue it, the more it has failed".

But as usual, most of the money voted to make the Airways functional have been looted by top government officials in active collaboration with local and foreign contractors. It was reported that Airways top management officials allegedly embezzled up to the tune of 400 million US dollars few years back. At the end, it is those who colluded in ruining the Airways that will buy up the national airlines.

The labour leadership is using both sides of its mouth on the policy of privatisation. The NLC president, Adams Oshiomole, who is a member of National Council on Privatisation, sees nothing wrong in privatisation of commanding heights of economy including NEPA, NITEL etc, and only demands that government should accommodate labour and social interests in the privatisation exercise. The above condition was also canvassed for in the petition of NLC to Obasanjo on the sales of Nigeria Airways. In fact, the NLC should dissociate itself totally from all the anti-working people policies and organises and mobilises workers to resist sales of public assets, commercialisation of social services like health, education, water, telecommunication, liberalisation of economy, deregulation of oil industry, etc. The labour leadership should resign from all government committees and institutions like National Council on Privatisation, Petroleum Price Deregulation Committees, etc.


 

 

SEWUN HOLDS "UNITY" CONFERENCE

 

By Ojo Olajire

 

The long awaited delegates conference of Steel and Engineering Workers' Union, SEWUN, took place on June 5th, 2003 at the African Leadership Forum (ALF) Plaza, Otta, Ogun State. In attendance were 349 accredited delegates and representatives from the ministry of labour and productivity, labour unions, etc. The conference is significant in the history of the union because it was the first of its kind after the crisis that had rocked the union for some years. One of the main purposes of the conference was to elect national officers that will lead the union for the next four years.

It would be recalled that the four sectoral unions (iron and steel, metal products, automobile and electronics) were merged to form SEWUN during the Abacha dictatorship. But in September 1998, the metal products sector pulled out of the union alleging marginalisation, mismanagement and embezzlement of union funds.

Out of seven positions, four positions were contested while candidates for three positions were returned un-opposed. The newly elected officers are Monday Aguele (president), Vincent Akpata, Umaru Ogbuade and E.A. Adesanya (deputy presidents), A.B. Kirika, M.J. Salami, Jonah Gani and Taofeek Adegbaike (vice presidents), A.C. Mbachu (treasurer), Sabinus Onuoha and Samuel Isaiah (trustees), Sunday Enang and Monday Sule (auditors).

The holding of this "unity" delegates' conference, which reunited the various components is a step forward for the unions and its members. It enhances the capacity of the union to defend the working conditions and rights of workers. But this potential can only be realised if the newly-elected union leadership makes fighting for the interests of members, their primary and sole concern. The problems of casual labour and dangerous working conditions which are prevalent in industries under the union, especially the metal products sector, will have to be seriously tackled. The plan of the sacking of workers and union leaders at CMB factory in Ikeja are other issues that have to be addressed. Only by taking up these and other matters affecting workers in an uncompromising principled and working class approach manner will the reunification make any meaning to SEWUN rank-and-file members.

 


 

2003 ELECTIONS:

 

A REWARDING EXPERIENCE FOR NCP

 

Niyi Adewumi, a lawyer and member of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), was the NCP candidate in the Ifako-Ijaye constituency in Lagos State in the House of Representatives election held on 12th April, 2003. In this interview, he spoke to Ojo Olajire on the lessons of the elections:

 

Socialist Democracy (SD): The elections have come and gone, but the memory will remain. How would you describe your experience in the elections?

 

Niyi: Well for me it was quite rewarding, in the sense that it is like one went back to school, to a new kind of life that one has never actually been involved in. Generally, we have observed politicians from afar and one's involvement in the politics of this country has always been from the perspective of the left protest movement and human rights activities, that is, fighting for the right of our citizens either in the court or organising mass action. But this is the first time that you have candidates with serious left background actually mounting the soapbox and trying to sell the programmes of National Conscience Party, NCP, to the generality of the people, and actually asking for their mandate to be able to get into power and implement some of those pro-masses programme contained in the NCP manifesto.

 

SD: In Ifako Ijaiye where you contested for House of Representatives, the NCP got 14% of the total votes cast. Would you consider this as a setback for the party?

 

Niyi: I do not see the 14% as a setback for the party. I see it as a clear indication that our people are very much interested in changing our society. It is only that we have not been able to carry our messages to every nook and cranny of our society. There is no doubt that the PDP, ANPP and AD governments have failed in their policies, that a lot of people are frustrated by various capitalist policies of the present crop of politicians in power. But the problem we have as party was because of our late registration in December 2002, and of course lack of finance, lack of dedicated large membership. In terms of party's cadres, we were unable to carry our messages to every nook and cranny. But if you look at it this way. We started effective campaign in January and we had election in April and we were able to get 14% of the voters in Ifako Ijaiye without giving them material gifts for which all the other parties were noted for. People have to be induced to come to the polling centres either by money, clothes and all worth not. But it is only the people that voted for NCP that came out to vote consciously because they believe in the ideals and programmes of the party. And you will discover that it was only our party, NCP that really set the tune and agenda for politicians in this country especially in Lagos State. Until we got to the campaign, no politician was distributing leaflets as for programme, nobody was trying to either explain why promises were not kept or even make new promises. But when we started the approach of leafleteering and trying to explain to the people things we stand for, what we will do if we get to power, and so on, our opponents were forced to bring out something no matter how wishy-washy it was.

The 14% represents a tremendous achievement. That against all odds we were able to get about 11000 votes for the House of Representatives candidate in Ifako Ijaiye while the senatorial candidate had over 11000 votes. Now the candidate from AD that won in Ifako Ijaiye had 32000 votes. He was an incumbent and there was massive rigging in various polling units. You discover that if you are to remove the votes illegally procured and counted for the declared winner, i.e if we had an election in the real sense of it, they did not win that election. So I do not see the 14% as being not something encouraging. On the contrary, it is very encouraging and it shows that with a dedicated leadership, dedicated followership, committed members who are interested in changing our society for the better, we would get to where we are going and we would be able to make more impact in our society.

 

SD: By this, the party must have gained one or two experiences, what are those experiences do you think the party have gained?

 

Niyi: First, there is recognition for the party by virtue of the campaign we organised. So, the first time Nigerians felt that NCP is not just a party of human rights activists that is only interested in fighting government for the sake of it or going to court or Gani's party just for making noise, no. They saw for the first time that it is a party that has members like themselves, full-blooded people who are interested in changing society and that the party is actually on ground and people can relate with it. Second, the programmes of the party we were able to bring it forward and juxtapose it with plainlessness and the visionless approach of the politicians of the other parties. We have also gained more members for the party. If we harness all these gains, in the next four years, we would make a greater impact in the 2007 elections.

 

SD: Based on the outcome of the elections, what hope do you think exist for a party like NCP to come to power?

 

Niyi: Coming to power of a party like NCP is possible but it is going to be very difficult. The members of the ruling class are not asleep and they know the implication. It is not accidental that other characterless parties like APGA and so on were allowed to win few positions here and there. The reason why the ruling class is anti-NCP is because it is the only party that stands for real change and empowerment of the masses. So, while it is possible that we may win in a true, free and fair election after properly educating the masses on our programmes and what we stand for. It is also likely that using the machinery of the state, the capitalist ruling class will do everything possible to prevent a party like NCP from taking power. Those who are looking for change in our society must understand this. Therefore, while we may win through the ballot box, we must not lose sight of the fact that the most essential and important thing for us to do is to empower, educate and mobilise the working masses of this country to stand up for what is theirs, and to take power by a mass-based revolution if it is the option left for us to achieve our objectives.

 

SD: Aftermath of the elections, what do you think should be the important tasks of the party and its membership in order for it to successfully face the challenges ahead?

 

Niyi: Most important task for the party now is to build structures. We need structures in every ward, local government, neighbourhood, every part of a state and nationwide. We must build a dedicated core of party's cadres. If you look at what we were able to achieve within that three months, it was due to the dedication of the cadres we that had who were part of the electioneering process. And there is no alternative to dedicated core cadres who are genuinely doing what they believe in and not necessary because of pecuniary benefits. In other words, because of payment that has been made to them but because they believe in those things from within themselves and are willing to do everything to achieve those objectives inspite all odds. So the party must build those cadres; we need the core of dedicated cadres in every nook and cranny of the state. I tell you if we have structures on the ground, rigging becomes much more difficult for your opponents because there are people that will stand up and defend their rights or votes. The reality is that a lot of people will come out ordinarily and vote one way or the other and go back home. But you must have people who are willing to stand up and insist that the right things must be done. So, if we want to make impact, we must build that core of dedicated cadres. We must have vehicles; campaign vehicles are an essential part of the propagation of the programmes of a party. With only two vehicles in Lagos State we were able to create awareness. Now, if these local governments had a bus each of their own with public address systems, we can make twenty times the kind of impact that we had.

Finance is also very important, and it must be addressed in two perspectives. One is from the donation from the better-off members of the party who can put in some large amount of money to assist. The other aspect is that our members must be encouraged to donate, to contribute, pay subscription no matter how small. If we do that, we would make progress. We must also move into campuses. The youths remain the important bedrock of the society and the most active supporters of NCP. If we are able to convince our youths and move into the campuses now and have a programme of creating NCP youth wing in all the campuses. We must also get involved in day-to-day activities of local labour unions and other deprived people in their fight. If we get involved in their struggle, the masses will identify with the party. When people are bonded with a particular party because that party has stood for them, no matter the amount of cassettes or money that is being distributed, people would have cause to say "no, these ones were with us when it matters. We had this problem, they stood for us. We had this problem, they were the ones that we saw. We are not going to votes based on money".

 


 

BUILDING DSM IN IBADAN

 

By Eko John-Nicholas

 

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Ibadan Aggregate branch meeting is composed of the local branches of the Democratic Socialist Movement in University of Ibadan, The Polytechnic, Ibadan, Moor Plantation, etc. It was set up early this year and attendance at meeting is between 15-20. The meeting hold every Monday.

 

PROGRAMME

 

The aggregate branch successfully organised a symposium on 22nd May, 2003. The theme was: 2003 Elections: The Lessons and Way Forward for the Working Masses. The symposium was held at the Polytechnic Ibadan. The General Secretary of DSM, Segun Sango was the guest speaker and the programme was attended by 26 persons from different schools within Ibadan. Also, students from Olabisi Onabanjo University, University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Osun State College of Technology, Esa-Oke and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. 5 copies of the SD were sold and a struggle fund of N355 was realised. About 10 people signified intention to join the organisation.

 

INTERVENTIONS

 

The Ibadan Aggregate branch has also intervened in struggles in the School of Nursing, Eleyele, Ibadan; School of Forestry, Jericho, Ibadan and School of Hygiene, Eleyele, Ibadan.

The aggregate branch has agreed to start taking DSM paper, Socialist Democracy, to industrial areas, especially, Oluyole industrial estate to sell once the next edition is out, on a weekly basis. This will be done collectively by the entire comrades from all the branches. On finance, comrades are encouraged to pay their monthly subs. Also, a weekly due of N20 is also collected for computer work and necessary interventions required by other branches.

 


 

WHAT IS IMPERIALISM?

 

By Victor Osakwe

 

The recent war waged against and subsequent occupation of Iraq by two of the most powerful imperialist countries of the world i.e. USA and Great Britain is an example of the method by which imperialist nations dominate and exploit weaker nations. While these imperialist countries give impression that the reason for the war was that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction that can endanger countries around it and that Saddam Hussein was a ruthless dictator that should be overthrown, they allowed equally ruthless dictators to exist elsewhere. The real truth behind the war and occupation is that Iraq and its neighbours possess more than 70% of the proven oil reserves of the world and important raw material for the world capitalist economy. It is therefore necessary to remove the Iraqi dictator so as to have direct control over the oil resources of Iraq and the entire Middle East. This was the method used to impose colonial governments on the third world nations towards the end of the 19th century.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the more advanced capitalist countries of the world mostly the European states led by Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain, USA, etc had already divided the world according to their whims and caprices. The other less developed states of the world were directly under the control of these advanced capitalist countries both economically and politically.

As the industrial world needed markets and raw materials, there was the need to get these things from the weaker and less developed parts of the world. The industrial world which wanted to dominate these markets and sources of raw materials decided to turn the other nations into their protectorates i.e. areas which will be under their direct political and military control. These were the first attempts at direct colonialism. Eventually, after conquering all the markets available on earth, the imperialist states waged wars amongst themselves over the division and re-division of the conquered markets. This led to the first major world war (World War I) between Great Britain, France, USA and their allies on one hand and Germany, Japan, Italy, Austria and their allies on the other hand between 1914-1918. These imperialist rivalries also led to World War 2 between 1939-1945.

After the Second World War, many of the colonial states rose to break the yoke of direct colonialism. They openly revolted against their domination by these imperialist powers leading to their independence i.e. cutting of direct political control from the imperialist states. However, the cutting of political control from these imperialist states did not mean breaking the economic domination. This meant that those imperialist multinationals still control the economies of these new "independent" states that were created from the former colonial markets of the imperialist states.

 

WORLD BANK AND IMF

 

As a result of the domination by the imperialist states of the world economy by the economic domination of weaker or less advanced states by the stronger nations, the world has now been divided into the rich industrialised nations and the poor or less industrialised nations. These rich industrialised nations dominates world trade and economy and are responsible for the supply of industrial goods to the less advanced nations of the world while the poor nations are made to supply only raw materials to the more advanced countries.

These raw materials are turned into finished industrial goods in the advanced countries and then resold to third world nations at very high cost. The third world or former colonial countries are therefore forced to borrow huge sums of money to be able to buy these industrial goods from the same rich countries that are responsible for their impoverishment. These has led to the formation of the World Bank and the IMF which are institutions dominated by the major industrial countries and saddled with the task of giving out these loans and also retrieving them. The World Bank and IMF most of the time prescribe solution to the debt problem by making sure that the domination of the poorer nation are increased further and make sure that their economies opened up for further penetration.

 

GLOBALISATION

 

The term globalisation has been banded about in several quarters as the new direction, which is being followed by the world to a new economic eldorado that will soon engulf the earth. Those who fail to implement those policies of globalisation we are made to believe will sooner or later miss the economic boom that will follow. However, to third world countries like Nigeria and all other poor countries of the world, globalisation means increased exploitation of them by the advanced industrialised nations. Globalisation has tenets which include: (a) trade liberalisation (b) privatisation and commercialisation of public utilities (c) removal of subsidies on all products (d) open competition, etc. All these policies are meant to deliberately open up the markets of weaker economies to further domination by the more powerful industrial capitalist countries. It is meant to make sure that local industries, which cannot stand the effect of global competition should die out leaving such countries at the mercy of multinational corporations in the world market.

 

CONCLUSION

 

Imperialism is very strong and powerful in the world today. It will require concerted effort by the world's workings class both in the advanced capitalist nations and the third world nations to change the present domination and exploitation of the world by a few multinational companies backed by their imperialist countries. Socialism, the system which will guarantee equality both nationally and internationally of all peoples of the world, is the only system by which exploitation and domination will end in the world.

If the world is to enjoy a genuine democracy and real prosperity, it must do away with the capitalist system of government that is presently responsible for the existence of imperialism on the planet today. Wars, dictatorship, poverty, disease, etc, will end only after the triumph of socialism world-wide.

 


 

MAY DAY 2003:

 

A WORKERS' DAY OR TRADE FAIR?

 

By AJ. Dagga Tolar

 

This year's May Day celebration in Nigeria, confirms our long held view of the degeneration and continuous bankruptcy of the labour leaders bringing more than ever to the fore the need to build a new generation of labour leaders, who armed with the genuine ideas of Marxism would rouse the consciousness of the working masses to its all important historical task of freeing society from the greedy, tight grip of the rule of capitalism. Unfortunately, to today's labour leaders, the above task is a utopia.

May Day is a day set aside worldwide for workers to express and demonstrate not only their anger at the worsening working and living conditions, but as well as to solidarise with themselves, both nationally and internationally since they by and large share the same similar fate.

But in Lagos, the May Day rally was more akin to a mere march past of school children on Children's Day. Many workers were dressed in the same outfit, some which clearly had the name of their employers' company branded on them. This was the situation for a majority of the private sectors-based unions, who came to the ground without any placards. It was more of a trade fair, as they competed with one another to show who would best advertise the products or the brand name of their companies. The exception to this rule, was NUBIFIE, whose members came with printed posters, among which read: "

Stop union bursting tactics, otherwise mass picketing would engulf the financial industry".

The public sector-based unions were not too different. The NUT which presently heads the Lagos State NLC leadership and has the highest numbers of employee in the public service, came with two A-4 size papers for placards with the harmless caption: 'NO TEACHER, NO NATION', and 'WE TEACH you, DON'T CHEAT US'. It was clear this had hurriedly been done.

The National Union of Postal, Telecommunication Employee (NUPTE), which presently claims to be involved in the struggle against privatisation of NITEL never even saw this as a relevant issue of protest. Rather, its vast placards with the caption: 'STOP ELECTION VIOLENCE', weeks after the National Assembly, Governorship and Presidential elections! It made no sense whatsoever.

The National Union of Air Transport Employees also took up the matter of privatisation with various placards some of which read "National Council of Privatisation, Awake to Your Responsibility". What can that mean, an endorsement of the government privatisation?

"Liquidation Without Pension And Gratitude, Is This Our Reward For Re-Election", "Kema Is Now Minister Of Nigeria Global", "Obasanjo Be Bold To Name Looters And Recover The Loot Of Nigeria Airways Limited". These various captions only exposed the fact that even when the labour leaders so decide to agitate, it is largely on the very wrong premises.

When it was the turn of hotel and personal services workers to march, we were treated from the loudspeakers with statements like "Unionise Allen Avenue", "Are You Going To Give Us Accommodation This Night", "If You Want to Commit Sin, Contact Me At Hotel…" This was most unexpected. Though these comments were met by a row of laughter, it demonstrates that the labour leaders are mostly concerned with trivialities while serious matters affecting workers' living standard are ignored.

Key issues like casualisation, a new minimum wage which the labour leadership had paid lip service to in recent time, did not even come up for mention at the rally in Lagos.

The national rally at Abuja was not any different. The NLC president, Adams Oshiomole, even brought a cake to celebrate the victory of Obasanjo and the PDP in the general election. This is the same NLC leadership that is allegedly behind the Party of Social Democracy (PSD), a supposed "workers party".

However, for the May Day, the DSM produced a two-page special edition of our paper, Socialist Democracy (SD) and intervened in rallies in six towns: Lagos, Abuja, Oshogbo, Abeokuta, Ilorin and Ibadan. We sold a total of 957 copies of the special edition, 54 copies of the full edition of the paper and 12 perspectives documents. Three contacts were made in Lagos.

 


 

EUROPE:

 

WORKERS FIGHT BACK

 

By Peter Hadden

 

During the first months of this year, city centres across Europe reverberated to the chants of the millions who took part in what was the biggest anti war movement in history. More recently the streets and piazzas of many cities have again been filled by huge demonstrations; this time of working class people protesting against attacks on services, on welfare payments and on pensions.

On Sunday 25 May, one and a half million people marched through the streets of Paris opposing the assault on pensions launched by the right wing Raffarin government. The proposed changes mean that public sector workers will eventually have to work 42 years instead of 37.5 before they qualify for a full pension.

An explosive movement has developed opposing the pension plan and beyond this opposing the government's overall attack on public services and on living standards. 25 May, which was called by two of the main trade union federations, the CGT and Force Ouvrier, came after three other days of strikes and protests called in a space of less than two weeks.

On 13 May, around two million workers took strike action and 250,000 demonstrated in Paris. Other protests took place on the 19 and 22 May. This movement is on a bigger scale than the public sector strikes that defeated the Juppe government's pension "reform" in 1995.

This time the government has tried to divide the movement, excluding some workers from the pension proposals and arguing that the private sector is not affected. This strategy has failed and private sector workers, like those at Michelin, have taken strike action and joined the protests. One poll showed 72% of public sector workers and 46% of private sector workers ready to take to the streets.

The momentum of this movement has been from below. City wide Assemblees Generales have been set up in many areas and have taken charge of the day to day running of the strikes and protests. Some workers who have been called out on limited strike action have stayed out. With education workers, postal workers, air traffic controllers, rail workers either already involved or planning strikes, the pressure from below is towards a public sector general strike.

 

NEO-LIBERAL OFFENSIVE ACROSS EUROPE

 

The attacks on services and pensions in France are part of a common political landscape across Europe. Whether governments are made up of the openly right wing parties or are of the former "left" parties like the Tony Blair's New Labour, they speak with a single voice on economic and social issues.

Right wing leaders like Berlusconi in Italy or Aznar in Spain have launched a neo liberal offensive against services and living standards. Under the deceptive headings of "reform" and "modernisation", they are attacking state pensions, cutting and privatising services, while in the name of "labour flexibility" they are cracking down on trade union rights and workplace conditions.

Blair has implemented an identical policy; even going to the length of threatening to ban further strikes by firefighters and impose his "modernisation" agenda on the fire service. Just as Blair has, on some issues, gone further than even Thatcher would have dared, so his counterpart in Germany, Social Democratic leader Gerhard Schroeder, has launched an even more vicious assault on the welfare state than anything carried out by the previous right wing Kohl government.

Even Michael Sommer, chairman of the 7.7 million German Trade Union Federations, the DGB, has labeled Schroeder's "reform" programme, Agenda 2010, a step towards the "dismantling of the welfare state." Agenda 2010 proposes cuts in unemployment benefit and a shortening of the period of entitlement to earnings related benefit. The trade unions estimate that one third of unemployed people could lose their right to unemployment allowance, this at a time when 4.5 million are officially unemployed and when the real figure is more like 7 million. Sickness benefits are also to be cut with a provision that extra private medical insurance will be needed before they can be paid. The age of retirement is likely to be raised while pensions will be frozen. Hand in hand with the privatisations being carried out by city and regional governments, this represents the most severe attack on the welfare state since the war.

These attacks come on the back of a deepening economic crisis that is affecting nearly all economies in Europe. Within the general context of the world economic crisis there is a particular crisis of European capitalism. Germany, the economic powerhouse of Europe, accounting for one third of the Eurozone economy, has been especially blighted by this eurosclerosis. After growing by 3% in 2000, the economy has come to a standstill. Last year there was a paltry growth of 0.2%. Figures for the first quarter of this year show that it has fallen back into recession. By the end of this year, there will most likely have been three years of stagnation, the longest such period since the Second World War.

Other countries are in a similar situation. Italy recorded only 0.8% GDP growth last year, with the economy dipping into recession in the last quarter and contracting by 1% in the first quarter of this year. France, Denmark, Austria, and the Netherlands also had negative growth in the last quarter of last year. This situation is likely to be compounded by the economic course now being set by the Bush administration. The US economy is faced with industrial stagnation, layoffs and the threat of Japanese style deflation. Growth has been maintained only through consumer spending - and consumer debt - which, with the strong dollar, has meant the sucking in of relatively cheap imports from the rest of the world and the opening up of a huge trade deficit.

Now Bush is attempting to shift the burden of the economic crisis overseas. His administration is trying to weaken the dollar so that the source of cheap imports dries up and US consumers buy American goods. In the last three years, the Euro has risen by 29% against the dollar. In effect, Bush is attempting to unload the deflationary threat onto Europe and make the European economies shoulder the full weight of the economic crisis. This means an added injection of pain into economies like Germany and Italy that are heavily dependent on exports but will find it more difficult to sell their goods in the US marketplace.

In turn the ruling class across Europe is attempting to pass the burden of this crisis onto the working class.

Standing in their way is the angry opposition and growing resistance of millions of working class people that is now spreading across the continent. Until very recently, the main focus of this resistance was in southern Europe in countries like Italy, Spain and Greece where the working class has greater traditions of spontaneity and tends to move more quickly and more explosively into struggle.

 

GENERAL STRIKES ROCK SOUTHERN EUROPEAN GOVERNMENTS

 

An early harbinger of the bigger movements to come was the one-day general strike in Greece on 26 April 2001 against cuts in the Social Insurance Fund, out of which pensions are paid. General Strikes are not uncommon in Greece, even in periods of downturn in the class struggle, but not all are successful. This strike was historic in that it attracted huge support and brought the country to a standstill.

Similarly the Spanish general strike on 20 June last year, called in opposition to cuts in unemployment benefit, was solid throughout the country and was marked by massive, colourful and noisy demonstrations in most cities. A new chapter in the stormy history of the Italian working class was also opened with the 16 April 2002 general strike against Berlusconi's attempts to change the labour laws to make it easier to sack workers. This was the first time in 20 years that the three main union federations in Italy had come together to call a strike and the result was a mighty demonstration of the power of the Italian working class. A second general strike a few months later - on 18 October - got a similar response.

The resistance across southern Europe is ongoing. The huge mobilisations in Italy and Spain against the war were also demonstrations of opposition to the economic policies of the Berlusconi and Aznar governments as well as their support for Bush and Blair. Early in February, 60,000 Portuguese workers and youth took part in a trade union demonstration in Lisbon against the right wing PSD government's proposed "Labour code" and anti-union laws. A week later many of the same people were back on the streets as part of the February 15th world-wide mobilisation against the war. The Italian unions have called another general strike for June against pension cuts.

 

NORTHERN EUROPE AWAKENING

 

Now there are indications that this southern European "contagion" has crossed the Alps. For decades, Austria has been held up as a model of stability, with a tripartite partnership arrangement between the unions, employers and government seemingly guaranteeing social peace. The offensive by the right wing People's Party government coming on the back of economic stagnation has shattered the "consensus". A draconian plan to cut pensions by between 30% - 50% has unleashed a tidal wave of angry opposition. Pressured from below, the Austrian trade union federation, the OGB, has been compelled to organise two days of mass protest.

On 6 May 500,000 took part in meetings and rallies. Despite the fact that there was no clear call for strike action, many workers, including teachers, transport workers, printers and civil servants, downed tools for the day. A second day of action a week later brought an even more impressive show of strength. 200,000 marched through Vienna, braving two hailstorms and driving rain, in what was the biggest trade union demonstration held in the capital since 1945.

The German working class have also begun to move into action against Schroder's Agenda 2010. Demonstrations on Saturday 24 May called by the unions, especially the public service union, Verdi, and the powerful IG Metal, brought tens of thousands onto the streets. Anger at the Social Democrat government, which was helped get back into power because of its partial opposition to the war, is shown by its opinion poll rating of 26%, an all time low.

In other countries, important disputes which signal the dawn of a new epoch of struggle have taken place. The firefighters' strike in Britain is an example, even though hesitancy by the FBU leadership and the reluctance of other union leaders to organise solidarity action, meant that it was more of a skirmish than a full scale confrontation with Blair. Another example is the strike by council workers in Sweden that began on 12 May when more than 50,000 low paid, mainly female, workers stopped work.

Although there was a short strike by council workers in 1995 this is on a much bigger scale. It is the biggest and most important industrial battle in Sweden since 1980. It is the first time for years that picket lines have been organised anywhere in Sweden and, whatever the outcome, is likely to mark the beginning of the end of the downturn in struggles that took place in the 80s and 90s.

 

UNION LEADERS VACILLATE

 

All these movements would go further and have a much more decisive impact were it not for the vacillation and hesitancy of the right wing trade union leaders and, in many cases, the inability of those on the left of the unions to come up with any alternative strategy. The council workers' leaders in Sweden have a record of co-operation with privatisation. The strike involves selective action and they are holding back from escalating this towards all out action. In Germany the same Michael Sommer who described Agenda 2010 as the "dismantling of the welfare state" ,followed the day of protests by declaring that there had been "improvements" in the programme and announcing a "truce". It remains to be seen whether the leaders of individual unions like Verdi will organise further protests.

The attacks announced by the Austrian government amount to a declaration of war on living standards. Yet the trade union heads in the OGB are clearly more concerned with trying to keep control of the movement they have helped unleash than they are with halting the attack on pensions. Rather than outline a programme of action to force the government to retreat, they are appealing for round table talks with the government and employers to try to arrive at what would be a rotten compromise.

In a similar vein the momentum of the movement that took place in Italy last year was lost when the leaders of two of the three union federations broke ranks and did a deal with the government. In France, the leaders of the CFDT, the third major union federation, signed a compromise deal with the government and did not support the 25 May march. The deal was signed over the heads of CFDT members, thousands of whom showed their disgust by joining their CGT and FO colleagues on the streets.

France has shown that the movement can reach a point where it is very difficult for the leadership to hold it back or contain it. Even leaders whose only wish is to reach an early accommodation with the government can be forced by the huge pressure from below to sanction action, hoping to be able to rein the movement in at a later stage.

Again, as is now being seen in France, a new generation of activists who want a serious struggle to resist the neo-liberal offensive will be thrown up as these movements develop. Inevitably they will come up against a reluctant and vacillating leadership. Rank and file bodies like the Assemblees Generales can play a key role both in co-ordinating the movement and in organising to democratise the unions.

The struggle against the common political platform of both the right wing parties and of the former mass working class parties like New Labour, the German SDP, the Italian DS, and the French Socialists poses the need for a political alternative. These parties are now fully part of the political establishment and no longer a potential vehicle for the working class. Where right wing governments are in power, as in Spain and Italy, workers, seeing no alternative, may turn back to these parties in elections. It is also possible that here and there opposition voices can be raised within them, reflecting the pressures of the class struggle. However, the main political direction of the unfolding working class movement will not be back to these organisations but will be to the building of new mass working class parties. A new period is now opening in Europe, a period that has one crucial defining characteristic - the re-entry of the working class onto the stage of history. The strike and protest wave that has swept many European countries is likely to turn out to be only an overture, presaging even more decisive struggles to come.

 

* This article, written in early June, was first published in the summer edition of Socialist View, magazine of the Socialist Party, the CWI section in Ireland.

 


 

ISRAEL/PALESTINE:

 

A "ROAD MAP" TO LASTING PEACE

 

By Wale Eleto

 

The Western bourgeois press describes it as "

the most concerted effort to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the 1993 Oslo accords". It is a so-called road map to 'peace' in the long-drawn Israeli-Palestinian crisis, particularly the 31 months old bloody intifada. The cartographers are the 'quartet' of US, UN, EU and Russia, with the US Bush regime as the main arbiter. The roadmap, spread over two years, is a three phase blue print designed to end the Israeli-Palestinian crisis by 2005. "It calls first for a return to the situation before the intifada broke out in September 2000; second, for the setting up of a Palestinian state with provisional borders; third, for a final negotiated agreement". (The Economist, May 3rd, 2003).

In more elaborate terms, by the blueprint, the newly reformed Palestinian police force is to resume security cooperation with the Israeli army, and to act to "end all acts of violence against Israelis everywhere"

. In return, Israeli is to open up the territories by gradually withdrawing from the Palestinian Authority (PA) areas it reconquered during the Intifada. It is also instructed to freeze Israeli settlement building in Palestinian areas straight away. The end of the first stage envisages new Palestinian elections followed in the second stage by setting up of a Palestinian state "with attributes of sovereignty"

at first behind provisional borders covering yet undefined areas. This state will then hold permanent agreement talks with Israel, hoping to resolve the familiar thorny issues of Jerusalem, the settlements, borders and refugees, to reach a fully-fledged agreement by 2005". (The Economist, May 3rd , 2003).

As far as the Palestinian authorities are concerned, the road map is okay by them. In fact, the new Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbass (also known as Abu Mazen) has demanded that "It (the road map) must be implemented, and not negotiated"

. Meanwhile, the case is not the same for the Israeli leadership led by Ariel Sharon, who has been playing perfunctory lip service and in some cases have even contemptuously repudiated the blueprint. Sharon agrees that victory of the US led coalition forces in Iraq creates a new period of peacemaking in the Middle East which must not be allowed to slip by. So also he agrees to make some "painful concessions" e.g. letting go some settlements to make way for a Palestinian state. He said the implementation of the "road map" will depend on a number of conditions, one of which is that the Palestinians "make it clear right at the start"

that they forgo the right of return of the 1948 refugees. Not only that, as against the proposal of the cartographers, particularly US, for a simultaneous or parallel execution of the lines mapped out by the blueprint, Sharon wants a "

performance based" implementation of the plans.

By this, Palestine is expected to have righteously fulfilled all its own obligations to the new deal before Israel practicalises its own commitment. In other words, Sharon "

wants a complete ceasefire and the Palestinian militias disarmed, plus a lengthy period of quiet, before Israel has to pull back its troops from Palestinian towns. What about the question of withdrawing from occupied Palestinian territories and halting the bloody burgeoning acquisition of new settlements? Sharon says "it's a delicate issue that should come up in the final phase of the negotiations. We should not have to deal with it now". To this, the Palestinian leaders expectedly demur.

Sharon's contemptuous attitude is fuelled by the local conservative parties and even his own reactionary right wing Lhikud party, who have expressed their open opposition to any Israeli concessions. It is uncontestable that Sharon and his infrastructure of terror had never wanted peace and do not want a settlement with the Palestinians. The December 14, 2001 edition of Le Monde Magazine had quoted his internal security minister, Uzi Landans, proclaimed bluntly, 'We'll see about peace plans later…What's sure is we will never accept the existence of a Palestinian state. It would be a catastrophe".

However, it should be stated that whatever the map shows or demonstrates, in theory and practice, will definitely not translate into genuine self-determination for the oppressed Palestinian people. Neither will it result into a lasting peace in the Israel-Palestine in particular nor the Middle East region in general.

This is not the first time an attempt would be made by US imperialism and other capitalist world pioneers to "resolve" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, through accords, treaties, etc. After the 1990-92 Gulf war, the US placated the Arab world with the Oslo accord, which led to the setting up of the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a supposed step towards the establishment of a Palestinian state. However, because of capitalism's internal contradictions and the hypocrisy of US imperialism, nothing fundamental has been achieved from the Oslo process. The last one decade has witnessed more intense military repression of the Palestinians and continuous trampling down of Palestinian aspirations by the Israeli state, with overt and covert military and economic support from US imperialism, due to the latter's strategic interest in the Middle East region.

 

BACKGROUND

 

The current state of Israel was established in 1948 after a bloody military occupation that drove out and dispossessed up to a million Palestinians into refugee camps. To the Palestinians of West Bank and Gaza Strip, Bethlehem, Nablus, Jenin, the emergent Israeli state was a nightmare, having viciously squashed their national aspirations for self-determination and social and democratic rights. Following the horrific revelation of the World War II Nazi holocaust, when millions of Jews were massacred, there had developed a mammoth feeling of sympathy for the idea of an independent Jewish state Israel, among the western powers and even sections of the world population.

The Jewish state, it was so held, would fulfil the aspirations of the persecuted and disposed Jewish people for a national homeland, especially their claimed Biblical homeland. The problem however is that the current state of Israel was founded on other peoples land, the land of the Palestinians, majority of whom were driven out by a bloody and forceful military occupation. Therefore, right at the start, the idea and desire of an independent Jewish state of Israel was pursued on a wrongful and crisis laden perspective of fulfilling the national aspiration of a people by trampling on another people's right to self-determination. Hence, the genesis of the current crisis.

The conflict was compounded by the 1967 "Yom Kippur" war and the role of US imperialism. During the cold war period (1945-1990), US imperialism strengthened Israel as a bridgehead for imperialist intervention against the twin threat of Stalinism and the Arab revolution in the strategic oil rich Middle East. Israeli in turn occupied Palestinian territories of West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 war and expelled another one million Palestinians. Today, there are four million UN recognised Palestinians refugees and another one million "displaced Palestinians".

These have given birth to a strong and propelling feeling of national consciousness among the Palestinian people, with an unrelenting demand and life-and-death 'struggle' for self-determination, democratic national and social rights. This conflict is fuelled by the acute condition of poverty among majority of the Palestinian people, with over 53% of the population unemployed.

It is the view of genuine socialists that despite the way the Israeli state was established, given the fact that it has since grown into over five million population, it would be clearly incorrect now to attempt to deny the Israeli Jews their right to a national homeland. However, genuine self-determination for Israeli Jews, can only be achieved and sustained on a lasting basis with peace, security and based on social equality and democracy if the Jewish working class supports the national self-determination for the Palestinians. Nowhere in the world has military action succeeded in eradicating national aspirations.

 

CORRECT METHOD REQUIRED

 

At the same time, correct strategy and tactics are necessary in the struggle of the Palestinians to fulfil their national aspirations for genuine self-determination built on a solid and lasting foundation of peace and social justice. Obviously, US imperialism and its co-travellers cannot be relied upon to implement any plan that can lead to a viable Palestinian state or fundamentally resolve the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Israeli ruling class and US imperialism have fear that a truly independent Palestinian state could develop into a radical rallying point for the poor and oppressed people throughout the Middle East which would threaten their power, profits and prestige.

The struggles of the Palestinian masses have been pursued along the line of courageous martyrdom, suicide bombings and generally uncoordinated and isolated armed violent attacks on Israeli citizens and targets. The courage of the Palestinian masses and youth in the pursuit of their national aspirations pushes stone-throwing boys against heavily armed Israeli soldiers leading to death of thousands of Palestinians during such confrontations and also in "reprisal" attacks by well 'armed sophisticated Israeli troops in response to Palestinian executed suicide attacks.

The anger of the Palestinian masses is justified and understandable. But suicide bombings and martyrdom will not win the struggle for self-determination. If anything, the methods are counter-productive, because attacks on Israeli civilians drive Israel's workers and masses into the embrace of Sharon and the reactionary/Israeli ruling class. This attitude does not differentiate between the Israeli ruling class and the working class majority, most of whom are poor and impoverished. It must be noted that without breaking its social base among the Jewish working class which can only be achieved by adopting a strategy, which seeks to clearly differentiate the poor working people of Israel (the working class) from the violent ruling class, it will be impossible to defeat the heavily armed Israeli ruling class. The Palestinian movement needs to undermine support for Israeli capitalism and US imperialism amongst the Israeli Jews particularly among the working class. This would require the building of a mass movement of the Palestinians under democratic control of popularly elected committees of struggle. The mass movement will seek to unite and coordinate the anger of the Palestinian masses, workers, youth, women, artisans, etc on a popular mass struggle for self-determination, national, social and democratic rights. For this movement to be successful too, there will be a need to specially orientate towards the working class of Israel with calls for fraternal support from the poor working people of Israel especially the Israeli conscripts in the occupied territories.

 

A WORKING CLASS SOLUTION

 

The above analysis reveals the need for a working class solution to Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Workers, youth and masses of Israel and Palestine need to build a mass revolutionary workers' movements on both side of the national divide, committed to a socialist programme. There can be no lasting capitalist solutions to these problems. Only a socialist Palestine alongside a socialist Israel within the framework of a socialist federation of Middle East can resolve the Israeli-Palestine conflict and bring enduring peace and development to the region. The killings of over 60 people as a result of Israeli military attacks and Palestinian suicide bombings since the commencement of the implementation of the "road map" is an indication that there is no real solution to the conflict on capitalist basis.

 


 

OAU:

 

AUTHORITIES IMPOSE HIGHER FEES

 

By Ibrahim Kolawole, OAU DSM, Ile-Ife

 

n spite of mass opposition by students, the authorities of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife have imposed a regime of higher school fees.

Under the new regime, the total fees payable by a fresher was increased from N1,140 aid last year to N9,090 while fees payable by returning undergraduates was raised from N590 to N4,590. The increment includes a hike of accommodation fee from N90 per bed space to N2,590. A completely new fee of N1,000 for sports has been introduced.

The school had just resumed for a new session after a year of closure. Disagreement between the students and the authorities over the new fees had been on before the school vacated in June, 2002.

These new fees are very unpopular. At congresses, held on 3rd and 5th June, 2003, students resolved to resist the fees. On 26th and 27th May, 2003, there were mass protests by students on the campus to pressurise the authorities to drop the fees. In response, the vice-chancellor, Professor Makanjuola Rogers, ordered the suspension of four student leaders for one academic year.

But the one year closure and the loss of six months in the session before have really created weariness among many students. Though opposed to the new fees, many students are not prepared for any prolong struggle against it. Also, the decentralisation of the method of payment by the authorities which means that a student can pay the fees in any bank in Nigeria makes building mass resistance much more difficult. In other words, the authorities are implementing script of the federal government and the World Bank and IMF for the commercialisation of education which is meant to make education the exclusive preserve of the children of the already few rich and thus make life more miserable for the masses. Authorities slogan is: "If you have money you can go to school, if not you can go to hell!"

 

GOVERNMENT POLICIES

 

It is therefore not a surprise that the number of candidates entering into universities have reduced from 150,000 in 1999 to 90,000Êin 2002 while the number of students who sat for JAMB from 1999 to 2002 have increased from 800,000 to 1.1 million. The reason for the lower number of freshers is inadequate and deteriorating facilities in the universities which cannot cater for the increasing number of eligible students.

The low budget for education has made universitiesÊand other tertiary institutions to continue to charge more fees and use other arbitrary ways to get fund. The authorities of OAU have said that it is the underfunding of the university that made them to increase the fees.

This atrocious fee increase is not the first and it will not be the last, so long as the present system continues. The fees were increased in 1997 from N30 to N590 (more than 1500% increase). The fees would have been increased in 1999 if not for the massive resistance of the students and their leaders then. In the next one or two years, the authorities based on the neo-liberal policies of the government will want to increase the fees again. The worst thing is that such increment has never and would not translate into improvement in academic and welfare facilities on campus.

 

CAPITALISM IS THE CAUSE

 

The only way to solve the long lasting problem of inaccessibility to social services and the deteriorating state of living of the working and toiling masses is by fighting for a system which will put the commanding heights of the economy under collective ownership of workers' and the poor peasants' control and management, so that resources would be available for massive funding of the social services to provide free and good quality education, free health, affordable access to electricity, water, communication , transportation, etc.

In the meantime, the OAU students' union and the entire studentry will have to campaign for improvement in the academic and welfare facilities on the campus. In addition, a campaign has to be organised for the immediate reinstatement of the four suspended student leaders.

 


 

REINSTATE OAU 4 NOW !

 

The authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Nigeria, on Tuesday, 27th May, 2003, suspended four student activists of the university for one session for leading mass protests against increment in school fees.

The activists, who have been suspended for one academic session are Akinwumi Olawoyin (president of the students' union), Ekundayo Fadugba (public relations officer of the students' union), Hassan Abass (speaker of the students' union parliament), and Olugbenga Adewale, the chairman of Awo Hall. Ekundayo Fadugba is a key member of the OAU branch of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM).

Though a statement signed by the university's registrar, Mrs. Bola Iluyomade, claimed that "a group of students led by the president of the students union, Mr. Akinwumi Olawoyin attempted to violently disrupt the screening procedure for fresh students", the real reason for the suspension was because they were organising resistance to newly charged fees introduced by the university. On Monday, 26th May and Tuesday, 27th May, there were mass protests by students against the increment in school fees.

The suspension of the activists was a blatant act of gross injustice. No formal charges were preferred against them and they were not given any opportunity to defend themselves.

The authorities of OAU has an unenviable record of victimising student activists. In 1995, about 16 student activists, many of them DSM members, were rusticated by the authorities because of their roles in the struggles against military rule in Nigeria at the time. Many of them were not reinstated back to school until 2001. on 10th July, 1999, authorities-backed cult groups attacked student activists, killing four students including George Iwilade, who was the secretary-general of the students' union and Tunde Oke, a DSM member.

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) calls for international solidarity from student groups, trade unions, socialist organisations human rights groups and individuals in support of these victimised activists. Letters of protests should be forwarded to:

 

(i) The Vice Chancellor,

Obafemi Awolowo University,

Ile-Ife,

Nigeria.

Email: rogerm@oauife.edu.ng

 

(ii) The Minister of Education,

Federal Ministry of Education,

FCT,Abuja,

Nigeria.

 

Copies to: dsmcentre@hotmail.com

 

The letters should demand:

(i) immediate recall of the suspended student activists

(ii) an end to victimisation of student activists in the university

(iii) an end to hike in school fees and commercialisation of education

 


 

VICTORY IN SIGHT FOR THE VICTIMISED AKUNGBA 19

 

It would be recalled that the NANS Zone D leadership has been waging a battle at Adekunle Ajasin University (AAU), Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, for the reinstatement of the expelled and rusticated 19 students' union leaders including the president, Com. Ojuri Iranlowo, who were alleged of leading violent protest in April, 2002.

The students' union leaders were victimised for demanding for better infrastructures on their campus. The NANS Zone D intervention led to a lecture boycott and various mass protest of students against the vice-chancellor, Professor Akere and Chief Adefarati, the ex-governor of Ondo State. This culminated into a mobile police invasion and subsequent arrest of twelve NANS activists on December 6th - 7th, 2002.

The senate of the institution had met and eventually resolved that the 19 victimised student leaders be reabsorbed. But with a lot of stringent conditions including N5000 reparation fee each, bringing of their parents to sign and attest to their good behaviour, renouncing participation in students' union activities, etc.

The authorities' plan is to scrap the students' union and replace it with authority appointed caretaker committee who will be yesmen to them, so as to ensure non-resistance to their various anti-students policies.

The task before the students of AAU is to rally round Ojuri Iranlowo led leadership to legitimately demand for their students' union, without any embarrassing stringent conditionalities. Equally, pressure should be mounted on the Vice Chancellor, who is yet to officially reinstate the victimised students, as no letter has been given to back up the fact that the senate has reinstated them. This needs to be done as soon as possible for leaders, as tests are being conducted while there is a plan to start exams by early August 2003.

The NANS Zone D leadership should be prepared for a co-ordinated and timely intervention in this development especially if in the next few days nothing concrete seems forthcoming.

Lastly, we must appreciate and commend the resoluteness and doggedness of students of AAU and that of other Nigerian students who took active part in the interventions in Akungba Akoko. The lesson to be learnt is that our strength lies in our collective struggle. If we fight there is a possibility of winning but if we do not, we have lost already.

 


 

EDE POLY:

 

AUTHORITIES BACK "MAN O WAR"

 

By Femi Freedom, OAU

 

At the Federal Polytechnic, Ede, Osun State, 11 cultists including the assistant secretary general and a parliamentarian of the students unions were arrested by the Man O War, a voluntary, students' paramilitary group on the campus. The group which enjoys support from the school authority demanded for N5,000 from each of the 11 cultists before they could be released. The students' union leaders later woke up from their sleep and mobilised the students against the Man O War because of the money they collected from the cultists' parents. During the mobilisation, there was a gunshot from the Man o war office claiming that they wanted to defend themselves and their building from attacks by students.

In actual fact, the responsibility of the students union to defend students from cultists was taken over by Man O War because the students' union had failed to perform. But the Man O War has become a money making venture and an open cult group, shooting gun on campus without any comment from the school authority and the Nigerian Police have not questioned them on where they got the guns.

Man O War is equivalent to Nigerian police force because in the police station, where bail is free, they demand for money and helpless people pay, the same bail racket is now happening on our campus. While we are against cultism, the security of lives and property should lie in the hands of the students' union and not Man O War or police that will tell us there is accidental discharge.

Up till date, the school management could not come out with a position on the gun shot and the issue of bailing cultists with money. The question is: "is it the school management that gave the Man O war gun"? And if any negative thing should happen to the students, the school authorities should be held responsible. Meanwhile, the students' union leadership should rise up to its responsibilities.


 

 

DSM ALAGBADO RELAUNCHED

 

The maiden meeting of the new Alagbado branch of DSM took place on Wednesday, 26th March, 2003 at the secretariat of the Ifako-Ijaye local government chapter of the NCP. The branch is meant to organise DSM members who reside in the Alagbado area in Lagos, spreading across two local government areas Alimoso and Ifako-Ijaye.

The meeting was attended by 12 comrades, made up to 4 new members and 8 old members. Apology was given for one old comrade (Niyi) who did not attend because of the election campaign. All the new members were recruited through our NCP work.

The topic of the political discussion was "DSM What We Stand For" and it was meant to broadly introduce the ideas of the organisation to the new members. It was agreed that a special education programme should be organised for new members.

Understandably, the main work of the comrades at the present period was the election campaign of the NCP. At the time, a comrade, Niyi Adewumi, was NCP candidate for the Ifako-Ijaye federal constituency.

The comrades in Alimoso also reported on their campaign work in the Ward M2 Alimoso where they are in the leadership of the ward chapter of the NCP. Three new members, all school students, have been recruited by them into DSM during the campaign.

The meeting reiterated the importance of using the work in the party in general and the election campaign in particular to spreading the ideas of socialist change and build the organisation. The importance of paper sales, making contacts and recruiting were specially emphasised. A comrade suggested that the branch should set a target of recruiting at least 20 more members during campaign and selling at least 100 copies of SD. It was agreed that the paper should always be made available and sold at campaign rallies and other party activities by comrades.

The need for regular payment of membership monthly subs was also emphasised. The branch has been meeting regularly since then. A three member executive committee has been elected to direct the work of the branch.

 


 

DSM HOLDS NATIONAL CONGRESS

 

The 15th National Congress of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) has been scheduled for Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th August 2003 in Lagos.

The Congress will as usual be preceded by a meeting of the National Committee (NC) of the organisation that will hold on Friday, 15th August 2003.

The agenda of the meeting will include discussion on Nigerian perspectives, world perspectives and presentation and discussion of organisation reports. Lessons of the recent general elections in the country and the likely economic and political developments in the second term of the Obasanjo regime are some of the issues that will be discussed under Nigerian perspectives.

Under world perspectives, the crisis of the world capitalist economy, the imperialist occupation of Iraq, the so-called peace process in Isreali-Palestine and the various conflicts in Africa will come up for discussion.

The drafts of the various documents/resolutions to be discussed and voted on at the conference are already being worked upon. The drafts would be sent to branches before the middle of July, 2003.

 


 

FUEL PRICE HIKE:

 

NLC, NCP CALL MASS ACTION

 

  • For Total Reversal Of The Increment

  • For A 48-hour General Strike

  • Formation of A Strike/Struggle Committee In Every Community

 

There is widespread outrage and anger across the country over the recent anti-poor and callous over 50% increase in fuel prices by the Obasanjo administration. The National Conscience Party (NCP), the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and many human rights, pro-democracy and socialist groups, including the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), have called for mass action against it.

The Lagos State National Conscience Party (NCP), at its State Coordinating Council meeting held on June 21, 2003, at the Lagos NCP Secretariat after extensive deliberations on the state of the nation among other things resolved to reject and fight the recent increment in the pump price of petroleum products.

In a communiqué signed by Segun Sango, chairman, Lagos NCP, the party said it "rejects the same perennial, recycled and false reasons that have been adduced by the Obasanjo regime for the current increases in the prices of petroleum products. Contrary to the rosy pictures of expected gains being painted by government over this counter-productive and World Bank/IMF inspired policy, the increment as usual will lead to further economic depression with its attendant widespread poverty amongst the people. Whatever capitalist commentators and their neo-liberal strategists may say, the current increment will surely worsen the unemployment situation and this with the attendant escalation of crimes of all sorts. Already, price of transportation has gone up by as much as 100% in many places. In the next few days and months, prices of other goods and services will certainly go up. The logic behind the increase appears to be to inflict further pains on the Nigerian masses, make life more miserable for them and make more money available for looting and stealing by those in government and oil merchants."

" The Lagos State NCP therefore outrightly condemns the increases and calls on the working masses to resist the increases through peaceful mass actions, strikes, demonstrations and protest. The NCP accordingly resolves to work with such interest groups like workers, transporters, students, market women and human rights groups to mobilise Nigerians to fight the latest hike in prices of petroleum products".

On its part, the National Executive Committee of the NLC at its meeting held on 24th June, 2003, resolved that workers would embark on a nation-wide strike by Monday, 30th June if the unjust increases are not reversed by then.

DSM supports the call for mass action. (See editorial on page 2). We suggest that action/struggle committees be formed to mobilise the masses for effective action and also to ensure that the struggle is not subverted by hoodlums, anarchists, etc.

We in particular welcome the decision of the NLC to call a strike action over the issue. But instead of an indefinite stay-at-home strike which the NLC is planning to organise, we propose a 48-hour general strike to be called as a first step. Of course, as revolutionary socialists we want determined and bold struggles not only to defend the working people from attacks by the bosses, but to overthrow the rotten capitalist system, the basic cause of these attacks. But an indefinite strike always at a stage poses the question of which class, the capitalists or the working class, is in control of society. As such the method of indefinite strike is best used when the labour movement and its leadership is prepared to take state power. Otherwise, after some time, the strike will begin to weaken and disintegrate. It might end up as a defeat for the labour movement and create demoralisation among the working masses.

The NLC should avoid a situation such as that of January 2002 strike against fuel price increase when the NLC leaders called an indefinite strike which they called off after only two days when many sections of workers were still preparing to join the strike and no concession had been won. This has made many workers and other sections of the oppressed masses to doubt whether the NLC leaders are genuinely committed to the struggle.

But above all, the recent fuel price increase shows once again that poverty and misery will remain the lot of the masses under the prevailing capitalist system. Hence the urgent need for the NLC to break their support for the capitalist system, capitalist policies of privatisation and deregulation, and the Obasanjo regime. Instead, they should start today to build a mass, independent working people political alternative based on a socialist and anti-capitalist programme.

 


 

ASUU ENDS STRIKE, BUT EDUCATION CRISIS CONTINUES

 

By Adeola Soetan

 

On 16th June, 2003, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suspended its five-month old strike in deference to an order of the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) asking it and the Federal Government to return to the "status quo" before the strike.

Contrary to the mischievous propaganda of Obasanjo's government to misrepresent the strike as a mere "bread and butter" struggle for increment in salaries and personal emoluments, the universities teachers' demands actually deal with vital issues facing the nation's educational system.

The immediate reason for the current strike is the repudiation of the agreement government made with ASUU in June 2001. That agreement provided for adequate funding of the university system, separate salary structure for academics, university autonomy and non-victimisation of any ASUU members who participated in the earlier strike which led to the June 2001 agreement. In particular, ASUU was demanding the unconditional reinstatement of 42 of its members in the University of Ilorin who were sacked as a result of the strike.

Acting to its tradition of deceit, Obasanjo's administration had not only repudiated this agreement, it has gone a step further to violate the rights of Nigerian students to qualitative education in its policies and utterances since the crisis started.

On funding, ASUU is demanding for a minimum of 26% annual budget to be allocated to education and funding for rehabilitation of students' hostels, classrooms, laboratories, studios, engineering workshops, water and electricity supply, roads and teaching facilities, and to make up for shortfalls in budgetary allocation. The response of the government is to allocate an all-time low, meagre 1.83% of the 2003 budget to education.

In fact, since the regime came to power, there has been decreasing budgetary allocation to education: (1999: 11.12%, 2000: 8.36%, 2001: 7.0%, 2002: 5.9%, 2003: 1.83%). But the same government allocated 23% to service fictitious foreign debts in the 2003 budget. This attitude of the government is a reflection of its neo-liberal World Bank/IMF of severe cuts in government spending on social services like health and education, and the privatisation and commercialisation of these services.

The ASUU president, Dr. Fasina, also announced that the strike was being suspended in response to calls by parents, students and some other groups as well as individuals. Now that the strike has been suspended, he appealed to these groups and individuals to put pressure on the government to return to the negotiating table.

The courage and determination of ASUU members must be commended. However, the fact that ASUU have been compelled to undertake repeated struggles over virtually the same issue shows the incurable nature of capitalist crisis. It reveals the need to build a holistic working class alternative to effect system change.