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Socialist Democracy July 2004  Index

Socialist Democracy


Paper of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)

This Edition Is Dedicated To Comrade Rotimi Ewebiyi (1962 - 2004)
A member of National Executive Committee, NEC, DSM

GENERAL STRIKES: How To Fight And Defeat Obasanjo's Anti-poor, Capitalist Government

The working masses have established, beyond any reasonable doubt, their readiness and determination to fight, till the end, Obasanjo's anti-poor, capitalist government. If, we leave aside the abortive general strikes and protests of October 2003 and February, 2004, this readiness and determination were robustly demonstrated through the general strikes and protests against the frequent, neo-liberal hike of fuel prices in June 2000, January 2002, June/July 2003 and June 2004. The Adams Oshiomhole led NLC has led more general strikes than any other generation of Nigerian labour leaders.

Suffice to stress also that the general strikes/protests of the past four years have one remarkable feature: the active support and participation of the vast majority of non-unionised workers, petty-traders, self-employed artisans, the urban and rural poor in general. Precisely because of this factor, the repressive response of the capitalist state has been brutally brought to bear on all layers of the working masses. All these strikes without exception led to the arrest and detention of labour leaders and rank and file activists across the country. Aside from the arrest and detention of labour leaders, in Abuja, Lagos, Port-Harcourt and other cities, the June/July 2003 general strikes and protests claimed over 20 lives, as a result of police shooting of live ammunitions on strike pickets and protesters.

Unfortunately however, the results so far, achieved have not matched the above highlighted heroic efforts and sacrifices. The fact speaks for itself: at the end of June 2000 general strikes/protests, a litre of petrol, diesel and kerosene respectively was officially sold for N22 and N18. Now in June 2004, after three other general strikes/protests and two aborted general strikes/protests, against the same Obasanjo government, over the same neo-liberal policy of frequent fuel price hike, a litre of petrol, diesel and kerosene respectively now officially sells for 42.90k, N50 and N48! Diesel, widely used by industries because of unstable electricity supply and kerosene used by the poorest layers of the working masses have been surreptitiously dropped from the negotiation table by the government, thus leaving consumers to the untrammelled rule of neo-liberal deregulation.

There are two main conclusions that can be drawn from this experience. One, if the aforementioned general strikes/protests had not taken place, the over burdened working masses would certainly have been paying higher prices than what presently occurs. In other words, without working masses struggles, things would have been worse! Two, it is now self evident than ever that the working masses need a new orientation and strategy if it ever hopes to secure a permanent respite from the endless anti-poor, capitalist policies of the Obasanjo's government.

 

HOW TO FIGHT AND WIN

 

Right wing ideologues of all persuasions have been attacking the NLC leaders for ever calling general strikes against an unpopular, anti-poor policy of the government. From their pro-capitalist point of view, the general strikes that have taken place were not only uncalled for but equally futile. This is a most outlandish conclusion that can be drawn from the tumultuous working class struggles of the past four years. Without these general strikes and protests, the capitalist class would have succeeded in driving the masses deeper into the abyss of misery and repression. But with over 70% of the population living below poverty line, with an average life span of 47 years and 49 years respectively for men and women, with the current rate of unemployment and under unemployment, with rapid rise in mass poverty and attendant phenomenal rise in crimes, prostitution, fraud, etc, the present situation is far from being desirable. Worse still, on the basis of the current neo-colonial, especially greedy and corrupt capitalist set-up, things can only progressively get worse for the vast majority of the working masses.

To reverse this vicious trend, the NLC leaders and other layers of labour leaders need to abandon their present collaborationist approach towards the capitalist class. They have to squarely face the fact that the present unjust capitalist system cannot be reformed in a beneficial way for the vast majority of the working people. Presently, most labour leaders harbour the illusion that if properly managed, capitalism can mutually serve the best interest of both capitalists and its victims, the working masses. This explains why a lot of illusion is being fostered by labour leaders in giving the impression that once the public refineries are fully repaired and functional, "fair", "just", acceptable fuel prices can be guaranteed. This, as we in the DSM often stated, is an illusion under capitalism. The fact that there exists some public refineries (which are only public in name but are run in quasi capitalist manners) in an economic and political environment whose ethos are predominantly profit driven will only constitute a small fraction ultimately in determining prices and availability of fuel products.

Anyone who may think that the above is just an abstract theory should ponder on the statement of Professor Jubril Aminu, former Minister of Petroleum and a leading politician of the ruling PDP: "Our refineries are older than they are on the book because of irregularity of maintenance. I think what we need to do is allow people to come in and build new refineries in Nigeria. Not everybody would agree to come and do that when they know that if they do, they would not be allowed to sell their products according to market forces. They can only agree to build new refineries if they would be allowed to sell according to the market price and that means the sector has to be deregulated. "There is a lot of deception in the building of refineries. There is this belief that if refineries are built, the price of fuel would be cheaper. That is not true. Refurbishing of refineries or building new ones would not bring down the price of fuel. That is the simple truth because if I build refineries, I expect to earn enough to buy my crude, to buy my consumables, to pay my staff, to repay the loan and earn dividend for the shareholders" (Vanguard, June 12, 2004).

Therefore if labour leaders are genuinely interested in solving the problem of fuel availability and affordability, if the labour leaders are genuinely interested in securing permanent respite in the living conditions of the working masses, then labour has to adopt an orientation and strategy which ultimately aims to totally replace the prevailing capitalist policies together with the governments and industries operating these policies. This is the time labour has to necessarily and boldly campaign for system change both in economy and polity.

 

PUBLIC OWNERSHIP AS AGAINST PRIVATISATION

 

Economically, the commanding heights of the economy has to be commonly owned as opposed to the prevailing capitalist system which is run to provide profits to the ruling elite and strives daily to convert the collective natural heritage of humanity into the property of a few individuals and corporations, in the name of deregulation! Nigeria has huge human, mineral and agricultural resources and under an economic arrangement where the commanding heights of the economy are commonly owned, planning and production of goods and services, could be used to provide and guarantee all the necessaries of life, including decent housing, food, health care, education, etc. to everybody in society. But as we often stated this end can only be actualised and sustained under an entirely new, working class polity. In other words, the rule of profit has to be replaced by a commonly owned economy which of necessity has to be based on complete working class democratic control and management. If this is not the case, such commonly owned economy would merely become haven of corruption and mismanagement by their unaccountable managers. It should be stressed that it was this lack of workers democratic control and management that led to the collapse of the economies of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and other places and was also a factor in the collapse of public enterprises in contemporary Nigeria.

However, to achieve fundamental success in this regard, labour needs to totally jettison its pro-capitalist strategy of mobilisation. Right now, labour invests too much in propaganda and strategy to win the support of pro-capitalist forces and institutions such as the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigerian Bar Association, the Senate, the House of Reps, traditional rulers, clerics, etc all in the name of building bigger forces that can fight and defeat the regime's policies. This approach is laden with double tragedies. One, it is mis-educating the working masses by giving the false impression that these elements can be relied on as allies in the struggle to consistently fight capitalist policies, including its neo-liberal variant. Two, it is tragic because labour leaders often substitute this kind of elitist propaganda and trade union bureaucratic manoeuvre for the actual mobilisation of workers and the rest of the working masses in factories, communities, schools, etc.

Yet, without general strikes built, defended and democratically run by strike committees of rank and file workers and the entire strikers, labour leaders will always be left in a position where they are compelled to accept rotten compromises, either due to their ignorance of the potential power which the working people collectively possess if properly and democratically mobilised or as a direct result of the opportunistic policy which refuses to develop actual grass root mobilisation which is struggling to change capitalism.

We therefore consequently reiterate our position that labour leaders, leaders of pro-labour parties, socialists, etc should at local, state and national levels, as soon as practicable summon conferences to fashion out a coherent economic and political alternatives to the prevailing unjust capitalist order. If scientifically done, conclusions drawn from the general strikes and protests of the past four years, we believe, will largely impact more positively on the working masses struggles to defeat the Obasanjo's anti-poor, capitalist government.

Presently, we propose that labour leaders and all pro-labour elements should commence preparation for a DAY OF MASS ACTION, involving a general strike, demonstrations and protests, rallies, symposia, etc. This should be built around demands against fuel price hikes, for a living wage; against education charges linked together with the need to break with capitalism and imperialism. Before and during such exercise, lessons of the past struggles must be frankly analysed while revolutionary economic and political changes needed for the emancipation of the working masses from capitalist bondage must be fully enumerated. Depending on the mood and consciousness at the end of A DAY OF MASS ACTION, further, far reaching mass actions should be democratically agreed upon while of course constantly making it clear to the working masses that the ultimate goal of these strikes, protests, etc is the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by a workers and peasant government only which can potentially carry out and guarantee pro-masses policies.

 

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ROTIMI EWEBIYI: A Rare Socialist Class Fighter Passes On

By Pelad

 

RE is dead! It is shocking and heart-rending. This is a bitter but a must pill to swallow. It is an unfortunate reality. Rotimi Ewebiyi popularly called RE by comrades died at a Lagoon hospital, Apapa, Lagos on June 6, 2004 at the age of 42 after a protracted struggle with the cancer of pancreas. He was buried on June 8, 2004. Tragically, his wife and the youngest child had died few weeks few weeks before RE's death. He was survived by three children, aged mother, brothers and sisters.

RE was a full time worker as the national organiser and de facto editor of Socialist Democracy, paper of DSM for almost 14 years. He was a member of the National Executive Committee of the organisation and also a member of the International Executive Committee of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), an international socialist organisation, which has DSM as its Nigerian section.

RE was one of the earliest members of the organisation as he joined and became a socialist activist in the 1980s as a student at the University of Lagos, where he obtained a first degree in Physics. Since then and until his death, he contributed and participated immensely in all the struggles of the working people in Nigeria for democratic, social and economic rights. He was a major contributor to all the publications of DSM since 1990s particularly the bi-monthly publication of DSM, Socialist Democracy, which has as its forerunners Labour Militant and Militant. Socialist Democracy is today the only regular and most widely circulated socialist paper and propaganda in Nigeria.

He wrote mostly anonymously or at times with the name "Friday Foluso" or other pennames. This attribute was not born out of fear of repression. He actually served prison terms in Kano state in 1990 after himself and Comrade Biodun Olamosu were arrested for pasting posters demanding an immediate end of military rule. As far as RE was concerned, his semi-anonymous role was something vital to ensure balance with other comrades compelled to play a more open role. RE’s uniqueness however lies in that he played this role so excellently without any ill feelings or petty-bourgeois vanity of being regarded as humble or altruistic. He was sociable, a courageous and excellent public speechmaker with an elucidating and convincing ability whenever occasions demanded. He was a source of inspiration and a counsellor to many comrades. He was admired by all for his good nature, calmness, humility, dignified comportment, honesty, intelligence and hard work.

With his untimely death, the Democratic Socialist Movement, DSM, and the working class internationally have lost a pearl, rare revolutionary class fighter and a committed scientific socialist. But he did not die in vain as he was able, within his short but well spent life, to leave his bold imprint on the promotion of those living ideas, the genuine ideas of scientific socialism. He engraved his name on the marble of history in gold as he dedicated his life to the cause of humanity through the teaching and practice of Marxism, building of revolutionary socialist organisation and organisation of the working people to overthrow capitalism. The DSM and CWI call on members to redouble efforts to replace the decadent capitalism with democratic socialist society along with the working people as the greatest honour to his memory.

Meanwhile, DSM has instituted an endowment fund for the upkeep and education of his children. The official launch of this is slated for Friday, July 16 2004 at the Pa Imoudu Hall, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Secretariat, Yaba, Lagos at 11.00am with a special lecture organised in his honour. The organisation calls on readers, members, collaborators, sympathisers and the well-wishers to grace this occasion and be prepared to contribute their widow mite to the Fund.

 

 

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EXTRACT FROM RE’S CONDOLENCE REGISTER

 

"A really rare revolutionary

class fighter and socialist. A life, though short but well spent - totally devoted to the emancipation of the working class. We will miss you and also remember you by redoubling our energy towards the ideas you stood for - the emancipation of the working class from oppressive capitalism. Adieu". - Wale Eleto

 

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HOW TO COMBAT HIV/AIDS

By Dare Akinsola

 

Of the forty million infected with HIV and AIDS globally, at least, fifty percent are in Sub-Saharan Africa, with at least three million children infected in the sub-region with no fewer than 3 million are infected in Nigeria, with a prevalence rate of five percent.

Despite the initiative launched by the federal government in 2002, only ten thousand adults have access to anti-retroviral drugs at heavily subsidized prices, compared to the three million victims who have been condemned to death.

Lagos based Swiss pharmaceutical company, Swipha, has reduced the prices of its imported anti-retroviral drugs (ARV) by 66%. Another Indian firm producing the generic paediatric ARV in Nigeria, Ranbaxy, recently announced the price of its ARV cocktails at N9,500 monthly. Despite the huge price slash, majority of the victims cannot afford the drugs.

The pharmaceutical companies have been exploiting this disease to make huge profit from the victims in a country where about 80% of the population are living on less than a dollar per day, where only 10% of the population has access to essential drugs and where poverty is the order of the day.

It should be noted that poverty is the root cause of the high rate prevalence of HIV/AIDS in our society. A situation where people would want to have sex and cannot buy condoms, where ladies are being forced to commercialise their bodies for money to keep body and soul together.

Money that should have been spent on combating these diseases is being spent on official jamborees, subsidizing outrageous lifestyles of the ruling classes and their cohorts. The working class is the most susceptible to the disease. As such, a clear-cut strategy must be mapped out to combat this disease. This can however be attained only if the pharmaceutical companies are nationalised under the democratic management and control of the workers. With this, the victims of HIV/AIDS could have access to drugs at affordable rate.

Ultimately, the lasting panacea to free the oppressed strata, who are overwhelmingly the victims of the scourge - HIV/AIDS - is a total overhauling of the capitalist system where human needs are profit driven and be replaced with a socialist system where the needs of humanity would be put before profit. Until then, the scourge of poverty, unemployment, hunger and diseases will continue to live with the poor working masses.

 

 

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"Working class living condition in Europe is far less glamorous than many Nigerian youths may actually think" - Segun Sango.

 

Segun Sango, General Secretary of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Nigerian section of Committee for a Workers' International, CWI, recently went on a speaking tour to some European countries. On his arrival early in June, he spoke to Socialist Democracy (SD) on issues like living conditions of European working class, the question of racism in Europe, among other issues. Excerpts:

 

Socialist Democracy (SD): Many Nigerians have a view of a "golden west" where everything works, with the basic essentials of life guaranteed to majority of the population. With your brief sojourn in Europe can you tell us what is the real situation?

 

Segun Sango (SS): First and foremost, it should be made clear from the outset that there exists a huge disparity when we are talking about level of socio-economic development between the countries of Europe (especially Western Europe) and those of Africa. Unlike the situation of extreme backwardness which dominates most of African countries, the situation in all European countries I visited, namely: U.K, Ireland (North and South), Greece, Sweden, France, Netherlands, Austria and Germany, can be conveniently described as exceedingly developed.

The inter and intra city roads in all these countries were either tarred or paved. Electricity, telephone and water services were always constant. Compared with hovels, which pass for accommodation for most working class people in Africa, many layers of working class elements can be conveniently said to be living in earthy paradise. The education and healthcare delivery system are far better off than what obtains in virtually all African countries. Virtually all the countries of Western Europe do operate one form of unemployment benefit scheme or the other, something that working class struggle won during the twentieth century. Outwardly therefore as compared with Africa, countries of Europe can be called "golden west".

However, a critical appraisal of the actual conditions of the working class in this society shows how inaccurate this kind of description could be. Of course as compared with African workers, the living conditions of European workers is far better off, but when the overall cost of maintaining this living standard is placed side by side with the wealth and profit generated for the capitalist class, the anti-working class character of capitalism, even in the west comes out sharply. While the level of technological and industrial development of these societies are developed to such an extent where decent living standard could be guaranteed for every body in society a substantial proportion of working class element are forced to maintain their living standard through needless agonies and exploitation. But all the gains west European workers won in the past are now under continuous attack. Right now there is growing unemployment and overall rate of private family debt. All the relative concessions on housing, healthcare, education, pensions benefits, which the working class elements had won in the past, have for sometime now been placed under systematic assault by employers and capitalist government in the name of liberalisation and privatisation.

Against this background, the economic and political rights of Nigerian immigrants and others have become considerably worsened in the past period. Right now many Nigerian immigrants and others face the danger of deportation aside from growing racist attacks, which sometime results in killings of immigrants.

When looked from this perspective, then the situation in Europe from the working class point of view and especially from the experience of African immigrants is far less glamorous than many Nigerian youths may actually think.

 

SD: The issue of racism and migrant discrimination especially against black immigrants is notorious in Europe, despite western jingoism about globalisation and liberalism. What is your assessment of this phenomenon?

 

SS: Imperialist propagates liberalisation but in real life engage in systematic policy of restriction and ostracisation against immigrants from working class background in Nigeria and other so-called third world countries. Right from the domicile country of an immigrant, impossible conditions are often put forward for anyone seeking to obtain visa, and for the lucky few that are ever able to get the visa or somehow get to these imperialist countries atrocious working conditions and degrading immigrant laws, most often, are their lots. As a result of the increasing inability of capitalism to guarantee decent living standard for the citizens of its own metropolis, increment in immigrant population in these societies are often wrongfully used by rightwing and neo-fascist elements as the central reason why the living condition of the European workers has continued to decline. This has created an atmosphere of growth in racist attacks in many European countries. For instance, a young racist about two years ago shot at a group of black immigrants in Athens, Greece. In this one singular incidence, five immigrants were killed while a few sustained permanent serious injuries.

From this perspective the much-touted capitalist liberalisation, for most working class elements and especially immigrants, is an absolute nightmare. The very imperialist countries that make life a hell for many African working class persons that want to emigrate to Europe and/or those already living in Europe is always however eager to collaborate with the African elite to loot and stash away, in different European banks the limited resources from Africa and Nigeria etc despite the existence of many bogus laws prohibiting money laundering.

 

SD: The DSM, is Nigerian affiliate of an international socialist organisation Committee for a Workers International (CWI) with your brief sojourn in Europe, can you talk of any special peculiarities and/or similarities in terms of organising a revolutionary movement in Europe and in this part of the world? Any particular lesson?

 

SS: From my own point of view there are many similarities. Even though the countries of Europe are far more developed than those of Africa, I also discovered that when it comes to mindless daily attacks on working people living standard the capitalist are one and the same everywhere. I also discovered that the mainstream political parties and top labour leaders are in the main only ready to preserve the unjust capitalist system at all cost. On the basis of this experience, the universality of Marxist ideas and methodology stand out clearly. In most cases the issues, which the working class people have to confront here, are in most cases the very same issues, which confront the European working masses.

In contemporary Nigeria, the working people daily fight against education commercialisation for affordable healthcare, housing etc these same issues form the core of struggles of the European working class today. However, it is good to make some distinctions. The level of mass poverty and social decadence, which presently dominate the feature of existence of African countries like Nigeria means that the situation in Africa is far more objectively radicalised today. For instance, Nigeria alone in the past for years has undergone four general strikes plus two that were cancelled by labour leaders at the last minute.

Of course the Nigeria situation has equally revealed that a brutal, bloody ethno-religious conflict and wars can equally capture the centre stage of politics if the working class radicalisation expressed through mass struggles, including general strikes, does not permanently overthrow capitalism in the medium and long-term basis. In this regard, the situation in many European countries is at a lower tempo relatively speaking. Still talking about peculiarity, I found very exciting and inspiring the enthusiasm and tenacity with which the CWI sections and comrades struggle to build a socialist world in an atmosphere where presently the overwhelming majority of the elements in society do not yet regard the overthrow of capitalism as the precondition to guarantee decent living standard for working class elements.

However, when the similarities and peculiarities are put together, one thing stands out clearly and that is that there is an urgent need to intensify the building of a worldwide genuine, democratic and revolutionary socialist political platform to fight and defeat capitalism worldwide as the only way to guarantee decent living for the working class people internationally.

 

 

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AS CLASS DIVIDE SHARPENS:

Ruling Class Must Prepare For Class War

By Toyin Adebajo

 

Since the inception of the Obasanjo led government, it has not hidden its disdain for the Nigerian working class which is clearly shown through its neo-liberal policies and its penchant for attacking workers rights, working condition, standard of living, etc, vis-à-vis mass retrenchment in the public sector, non-payment of pensions, gratuities and other entitlement to retired workers, the monetisation policy, selling of buildings which are occupied by the workers, paying peanuts as salaries, continuous increase in school fees and fuel prices, etc amongst others. The regime has also failed to protect the workers against the profiteering vultures parading as investors.

These policies being pursued with vigour backed with the well crafted agenda of the World Bank and IMF which are aimed at undermining the working and living conditions of the working class are part of the policy to make Nigeria and Nigerians perpetual wage slaves, living on the handouts of the capitalist while tied to the machines and their children condemned to the vicious circle of poverty.

The Obasanjo's government decision to have the workers suffer miserably for its failed economic policies has brought untold hardship on the working class, with continuous downward spiral on the living conditions of the working class. In fact, the gap between the rich and poor is ever getting wider. For instance, while over 80% of Nigerians live on one dollar per day, less than 5% controls billions of dollars. This explains the reason why the poor are dying of preventable diseases such as malaria, cholera, typhoid, hypertension while the ruling elites can boast of dying through constipation and Viagra induced cardiac arrest.

The working class has from time to time fought for some concessions from the ruling elites which have yielded some fruits but only to be taken back within a short time.

This shows that with organised struggles, working masses can force concessions from the ruling class. The working class should not suffer the illusion that under this system there can be a just and equitable distribution of wealth among the classes because the capitalist system is a world of its own opposite where you will have the haves and the haves not.

However, the working class must make attempt to do away with this unjust system by attacking it at its weakest link, setting themselves free from wage labour and its contradictions. The government persistent attacks on the workers' living standard should be resisted by the mass of the workers which will inevitably lead to class conflict, pitching the workers against the employers and the state apparatus and ultimately against the capitalist system.

The war against poverty, oppression and injustice can be won but not easily. The correct Marxist ideas and tactics must be read, and digested by the rank and file of the working class which must be transformed into programmes and actions to serve as weapons and guide through the struggles.

Some of the tactics and programmes include the building of virile unionism in work places, factories, on the streets, etc and the establishment of a democratic mass based workers' party which is to organise the workers for an eventual takeover of power to transform the society on a socialist basis where the commanding heights of the economy will be nationalized for the overall benefit of our society under the democratic management and control of the workers.

 

 

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SEIZURE OF FUNDS OVER NEW LOCAL GOVERNMENTS:

What Council Workers Should Do

By Demola Yaya

 

Background

 

Since April 7, 2004 when President Olusegun Obasanjo instructed Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance, to withhold council allocation to states where new local governments were created, there have been a lot of ripples and controversies.

Obasanjo, who hardly abides with the constitution claims that the action was taken in defence of 1999 constitution, which he swore to protect. He said on radio programme on May 1st, 2004: "we are ruled by constitution and by law and my oath of office is to defend the constitution and the law. The constitution as it stands today is that we have 774 local governments and area council, 6 area councils in Abuja and the rest local governments are constitutional. When the local governments of those states become constitutional or revert to the path of constitutionality, they would get their money…it is for us to be guided by law and constitution, if we take law into our hands, we would have anarchy in the nation" (Vanguard newspaper, May 2, 2004). Obasanjo was reacting to the call by workers at the 2004 May Day rally in Lagos for release of council allocation to Lagos state.

Obasanjo's argument for withholding the allocation is hinged on the fact that by the creation of new local governments in the affected states i.e. Lagos, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Niger and Katsina, the old local government areas have been tampered with in respect of their names and boundaries as they were divided into smaller units and therefore, not recognised by the 1999 constitution. The constitution only recognises 774 local governments. In Lagos state for instance, the constitution recognises 20 local governments. With creation of 37 new local governments, the hitherto existing names have changed, boundaries adjusted and divided into smaller units. For instance, Alimosho L.G. which is duly recognised by the constitution has been divided into 5 local governments while the 'old' name Alimosho - is no longer existing. Same applies to the 19 other local governments in the state, recognised by the constitution. As such, council allocations to the affected states have to be withheld.

On the other hand, the state governments, especially Lagos state, claim that they have fulfilled all constitutional requirements for creation of new local governments and that what remains is an Act by the National Assembly, making consequential provisions with regard to the new local governments. They accuse federal government of unduly punishing local government workers as withholding of allocation implies withholding of their salaries. The affected workers include teachers in primary schools, local health officials, workers at the local government secretariats, amongst others. States are also alleging that the withheld funds has not allowed local governments to develop and provide amenities in their respective councils.

In the past, the arguments by state governments for creating new local governments used to hinge on bringing government nearer to the people in the grassroots; bringing development to the people via provision of social amenities; generation of employment opportunities, etc. However, these reasons are no longer tenable.

In the first instance, experience has shown that creation of new local governments does not necessarily bring development to the poor people at the grass roots. It instead brings pains and agonies to the residents and petty traders who are constantly harassed for taxes and levies like tenement levy at prohibitive rates. Money generated from the poor and allocations from federation account are not used for developmental projects or purposes but to pay the fat salaries and allowances of the chairmen and councillors and their assistants, execute inflated contracts and elephant projects awarded to the politicians and godfathers while local government workers' salaries are owed in arrears. To say the least, newly created local governments bring nightmare to the people.

In the other instance, referendums, which are one of the procedures to follow for the creation of the local governments, were conducted with mega fraud and manipulation. In Lagos state for instance, 6.4 million yes votes for creation of new councils were manufactured within three hours of the so-called referendum. The INEC voters' register used for the conduct of the exercise had 4.5 million names. Where did the excess number come from, assuming all registered voters voted i.e. nobody died, nobody travelled out of Lagos? Granted that all the constitutional procedures for creating the local governments were followed duly, the last stage, which is the National Assembly consequential provision, is yet to be made. To that effect, the newly created local governments are not recognised by the constitution, as processes for their recognition are not yet complete.

 

HYPOCRISY GALORE

 

But nobody should be carried away that Obasanjo is "technically correct" to have withheld the local governments' statutory allocation to the affected states based on the aforesaid factors. Obasanjo is only playing politics with the matter. He has never been a defender of the constitution. Where it favours him, he claims to defend constitution but ignores it when it runs contrary to his government anti-poor policies and politics.

For instance, despite hues and cries and court judgments against the unconstitutionality of the 774 local governments being run by caretaker committees, Obasanjo turned against the constitution and funded them for 22 months!

The AD in Lagos State on the other hand ignored both legal actions and protests by opposition parties in the state against the viability of the newly created local governments and illegal conditionalities attached to conduct of elections to the local governments in the state by Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC). AD manipulated its way and shut out opposition parties from contesting against it in the March 27 farce called elections.

 

WHAT L.G. WORKERS SHOULD DO

 

Based on the aforementioned, neither the federal government nor the affected states should be supported in their claims and counter claims on the legality or illegality of the local government creation palaver, and consequently on the legality and illegality of withholding local authority statutory allocation by the federal government. Primary school teachers, local government workers and their households have been the ones at the receiving end as withholding of statutory allocation implies stoppage of their salaries. Even when state governments collected allocations, workers' salaries were not being paid regularly while leave bonuses and allowances were being denied.

The reason for this however, is that most National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) leaderships at local and state levels are appendages of local and state government politicians, hence, they could not maintain a principled stance on the status of the so called newly created local governments. This gives technical loophole for the Obasanjo led federal government to withhold allocation to the affected states.

Therefore, the issue of workers control and accountability at local government, state and federal levels will always remain crucial to the workers’ living standard in general and regular payment of wages in particular. To get out of this current logjam, NULGE, especially in the states where unconstitutional local governments are being operated, must lead a campaign urging the affected state governments to put the implementation of their newly created local governments on hold until their constitutionality or otherwise is established by the relevant bodies especially since the matter is already in court.

With this approach, NULGE will have all rights to demand the immediate release by the federal government of the local government allocations to the affected states. Of course, NULGE and labour movement in general must henceforth put forward workers control and accountability of all resources accruing to all strata of the government. If this is not done, we are surely going back to an era where states will collect local governments allocation without workers getting paid at the end of the day.

More importantly, workers, both locally and nationally need to organise a struggle to kick out all political vampires at federal, states and local government levels. Workers need their own government that will implement policies that will bring about permanent decent lives as opposed to PDP, AD, ANPP governments of corruption, privatisation, deregulation, etc which bring misery and poverty to Nigerian poor masses at all levels.

 

 

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GENERAL STRIKE AND THE CURRENT POLITICAL SITUATION

* Excerpts from Segun Sango’s Review of the recent general strike

 

The recent countrywide, general strike and protest called by Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) has revealed, with special clarity, many crucial aspects of Nigeria's socio-economic and political situation. Many activists will ask questions about what lessons can be learnt from the four general strikes in four years and what should be the next steps.

One, if there was still any doubt about the readiness and determination of the working masses to fight the anti-poor, neo-liberal, capitalist policies of the Obasanjo regime, the 3-DAY solid, general strike under review completely wiped out such an unfounded doubt. A further indication of the militant mood on ground was that this strike took place less than a year since the July 2003 eight-day general strike.

In most cities, the general strike was total with total paralysis of public institutions and key private sectors of the economy. "In Lagos, Abuja and various other state capitals, gates to major markets were under lock and key… And in a few instances where some markets opened, there were scanty or no buyers. Banks and other financial institutions did not also open for business. Ditto for factories. Aviation and maritime operations were equally affected. Airlines operated skeletally in Lagos. By noon Wednesday (the first day of the strike ed) only four airlines could fly. The situation did not improve on Thursday either… Heavily-armed security men kept vigil at the Tin can port and Apapa Wharf but neither the dockers nor staff of the Nigeria Ports Authority reported for duty". (Vanguard June 12, 2004).

Here, two remarkable features of the strike should be briefly highlighted. The general strike under review was unique because it was one strike in the recent years that took place without youths and pro-labour activists having to make bonfires on the roads to prevent movement. Notwithstanding, the strike was not only total amongst the workers in both public and private sectors, but equally solid amongst the students, self employed, artisans, petty traders, the urban and rural poor in general. There was no forceful coercion.

In this respect, the strike once again shows that the rest exploited and oppressed layers of the working masses in the urban and rural areas are prepared to fight anti-poor capitalist policies, if given decisive leadership by the working class.

So compelling was the strike waves that even significant layers of the capitalist elements and institutions were prepared to make verbal attacks against the fuel price hike which was the immediate reason for the strike. If the working masses had had a leadership with the correct and complete working class socio-economic alternatives, if the leaders of the general strike had had the determination to capture political power with a view to institute a workers and peasant government, the steadfast determination of the working masses across the country made this entirely possible.

 

CRISIS OF LEADERSHIP

 

Just before the last strike Oshiomhole gave an interview to the Vanguard (June 3) in which he accurately described what had happened during the anti-fuel price struggles. The newspaper reported:

"Congress, he said, would not make the mistakes of the past in the execution of next week's strike in view of the past deceitful manner in which the present government had dealt with the NLC each time it called similar strikes.

"We also want to re-assure Nigerian people, Nigerian workers and our allies that we have learnt sufficient lessons from the manipulations of this government, which has led to some confusion in the past. We now know that signing agreement with this government need not translate to reality because they have not respected previous agreements.

"We now know that they may wait till the last minute before they will call us to a discussion where they might make undertaking that they may not implement, we want to assure the Nigerian people that errors of the past will not be repeated." 'We are better informed about the characters and the attitude of the government that we are dealing with and those lessons, those experiences will guide our prosecution of this final phase of our struggle' he said."

But what conclusions were drawn from this? Looking at the events of the past few days, we have to say that the NLC leadership has learnt nothing from previous experience contrary to its claim.

What all these clearly demonstrate is that the Oshiomhole's led NLC harbours the illusion or practices the deception that capitalism, even in its naked, neo-liberal fashion can be made to "substantially" benefit the working masses, if only the capitalist class will not be "heartless" enough to want to deregulate the "down stream sector" of the petroleum industry.

But this precisely is the crux of the matter. The capitalist ruling class has repeatedly shown its determination to deregulate and privatise all key sectors of the economy, including the petroleum sector, up and down streams. All the general strikes, including attempted ones, called by the Oshiomhole leadership in the past five years were all severally and collectively provoked by the regime's "heartless" policy of deregulation and privatisation of the "down stream sector" of the oil industry. Therefore, any "hope" based on the Obasanjo's capitalist government expectation to stop its anti-poor, pro-capitalist policies, will produce no permanent improvement as it ignores the fact that these policies flow from the character of the capitalist system itself.

Regrettably, the labour leaders do not want to break with capitalism. The more corrupt are quite happy with it and many others see no alternative to it. But the history of post-independence Nigeria shows that on a capitalist basis, the country will not develop. So, instead of a continuation of this obviously bankrupt, and sometimes, opportunistic perspective, labour needs a clear cut revolutionary break with the inherently unjust and self-serving capitalist economic strategy being defended by the ruling class and imperialism. In the midst of inexhaustible human and natural resources, despite the huge billions of dollars being raked from exportation of crude oil alone, the overwhelming majority of the working masses, including wide sections of the middle class elements continue to go down the ladder of an irredeemable misery, while a few individuals and capitalist corporations wallow in needless, stupendous opulence. This situation is like putting reality upside down.

To set this situation right, the stupendous, inexhaustible resources of the society must be commonly owned, democratically run and controlled by the working class people, before the basic needs of the masses for food, housing, health care, education, water, electricity, functional and affordable transportation and communication networks, etc can be objectively guaranteed. Put simply, this will mean the public ownership and working class democratic control and management of the key sectors of the economy such as industries, including petroleum sector, banks and financial institutions, agriculture, social services, etc. Under this arrangement, economic development, strategy and provision of goods and services will be primarily based on the principle of giving decent living conditions for all sections of the working masses as opposed to the prevailing unjust capitalist dispensation which puts profit first, above every human consideration.

But as we in the DSM often explain, this desirable, achievable and necessary end can only be actualised by a labour movement imbibed with a new revolutionary socialist ideas, strategy and methodology. First and foremost, this will require a new layer of labour leaders who consciously pose the issue of revolutionary, socialist transformation of the prevailing capitalist system, as opposed to the hopeless perspective of looking for "pragmatic" ways to make capitalism work. Secondly, there is the need for new layers of labour leaders who would base their strategy on the industrial and political mobilisation of the various sections of the working masses as the central and most effective way to protect the interest of the working masses, as opposed to the self defeatist strategy of the current labour leaders who chose to keep quiet over act of electoral robbery by capitalist parties, all in the name of protecting democracy. Just imagine. "Our loyalty to the survival of the democratic project was demonstrated when despite the fact that the last general elections were characterized by a lot of anomalies, we remained clam and did not go on street to protest it". (Oshiomhole, Punch June 4, 2004).

We need new labour leaders who would consciously base their strategy on the construction of a pan-Nigerian working masses political platform completely independent of other capitalist parties in policies and organisation, whose central objective is the struggle to remove the capitalists from power with their replacement by a workers and peasants' socialist government.

Thirdly, we need new layers of labour leaders that concentrate on direct mobilisation of all layers of the working masses before, during and after strikes as opposed to the prevailing shambolism of a mobilisation strategy which focuses on diversionary and wasteful visits to capitalist leaders in the senate, house of representatives, governors, clerics, Manufacturers Associations, Nigerian Bar Association, traditional rulers, etc. As we said before, all these layers of capitalist institutions and elements, may for one selfish reason or the other, today pretend to be fighting the anti-poor policy of the Obasanjo government. But to the extent that they all support capitalism and its neo-liberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, etc their interests remain, always antagonistic to the interest of the working masses.

Tragically, during the last strike against hike of fuel prices, labour leaders virtually concentrated all their propaganda and energy on these hopeless elements to the utter detriment of mass mobilisation of the working masses who actually effected the strike action and protests. There were no rallies and lectures organised amongst trade unions and in the communities. The few leaflets that were produced and circulated in a few cities like Lagos only came a day before the commencement of the strike. As in other general strikes led by the current labour leaders, no effort was made to create strike committees in the communities for the prosecution and control of the strike action with the resultant effect that most layers of the working masses were often totally left with only fragmented news from the bourgeois media to fathom what was going on.

Some organisations in the Labour and Civil Society Coalition criticized the trade union leaders for suspending the strike when many oil marketers had not yet complied with the court "ordered" sale price and when evidently significant sections of the masses were still proposing that the strike should go on. This in our view was a justifiable criticism. Unfortunately however, many of these organisations and individuals themselves failed or refused to see that unless a general strike is run and controlled by strikers and communal committees, an indefinite or prolonged strike becomes impossible to sustain either due to the conduct of labour leaders or as a result of the inherent limitations of a struggle mainly built on blind anger and spontaneity of the masses.

 

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

 

Far from being a "substantial" victory for the working masses, the last general strike against hike in fuel prices represents another missed opportunity by the working masses to put in place an economic and political arrangement under which its basic needs can be guaranteed. The main responsibility for this negative situation squarely falls on labour leaders who regard general strike as an instrument to get limited concession(s) from the ruling class rather than being seeing as a political process through which the working masses can realise its political and Organisational potentials in its historically conditioned struggle to overthrow capitalism.

While every key policy of the government across parties and across the country represents a vicious attack on the living standard of the working masses, the Oshiomhole leadership has continued to give the impression that the regime's policy on oil is different from its policy on jobs, wages, health care, education, etc. Consequently, no general strike has ever been called or contemplated to fight the equally anti-poor, pro-rich government and employers policies on wages, job security, employment, housing, transportation, education and health care, etc.

In suspending the strike, labour threatens to resume the general strike if government and oil marketers failed to go back to February 2004 price of a litre of petrol. Unfortunately however, this threat was not backed by any concrete mobilisation of workers and members of the community for such an eventuality. Apparently aware of the weakness inherent in this kind of verbal threats, many oil marketers have continued to sell above the expected price.

There is therefore the need to begin practical acts of mobilisation such as rallies, symposia, lectures, leafleting, etc with a view to raise general level of awareness and organisational preparedness amongst the working people. To have prospect of maximum support and enthusiasm, the issue of fuel prices must be raised side by side with other key economic and political issues relevant to the emancipation of the working masses. In this respect, the issue of living minimum wage, functional and affordable housing, health care, education, unfettered right of workers to form and belong to trade unions and political parties of their choice, for free and fair elections, etc must be placed on the front banners of issues upon which new LASCO mobilisation and agitations should be based. This would prepare the ground for the next step we propose in reviving morale and confidence, a DAY OF ACTION including a general strike, rallies, protests, etc. with a view to highlight these and other necessary demands. This would strengthen the morale and organisational preparedness of the working peoples' organisations with a view to taking more far reaching and longer actions to both win immediate reforms and replacing capitalism with a democratic, socialist workers and peasants' government.

As we often explained, creation of an independent Pan-Nigerian working people's, socialist party is central to the task of revolutionary overthrow of the prevailing unjust capitalist order. In this respect, LASCO activists at local, state and national levels should without further delay put in motion a process to begin the creation of such a party outlined above. This can be started by calling for democratic conferences of the Labour Party, the National Conscience Party (NCP), Democratic Alternative (DA), Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), trade unions, student unions, market women and all those that claim to support the emancipation of the working masses to be organised at local, state and national levels. Such meetings should discuss and decide upon what programme is needed and what next steps should be taken. If based on the day-to-day needs, aspirations and struggles of the different layers of the working masses, if consciously built as a platform to transform society, then sooner than imagined, such initiatives could begin to lay the foundations of a vibrant mass working class political party in Nigeria.

 

POLITICAL SITUATION

 

From the above explanations, the working masses both in the medium and long-term basis, will still be presented with the opportunity of transforming capitalist society along working class basis. This however, is not the only perspective, if the working class fails to take adequate advantages of its opportunity to transform society, the country and the entire working masses may find themselves engulfed by ethno-religious conflicts and even military dictatorship.

Already, the ethno-religious conflict is daily assuming an horrendous character. Between the months of May and June 2004 alone, over 1,500 Nigerians have been killed with tens of thousands permanently displaced from their homes and means of livelihood as a result of one ethno-religious conflict or others. Significantly, the last general strike against hike in fuel prices took place side by side with an ethno-religious genocide in Adamawa State. So serious is the danger of ethno-religious mayhem at the present time such that the Obasanjo capitalist government has been able to use that excuse to sack the elected governor and members of house of assembly with the imposition of a state of emergency in the entire Plateau State.

But as we in DSM often explain, these strong hand tactics will woefully fail both now and in the long run to address this age long crisis. Sadly, the labour leaders do not also have a working class policy and initiatives different from those being put forward by the Obasanjo capitalist government. Beneath the incessant, ethno-religious conflicts are age long unresolved nationality question arising from the arbitrary and undemocratic manner with which the country called Nigeria was created by British imperialism. It is equally important to note that this nationality question has always created passionate agitation including armed conflict both before and since after independent.

Of course, there can be no doubt that the frequency and mendacity of these conflicts have in the recent period, acquired an horrendous proportion as the living standard of most section of the working masses across the country become worse in the face of an unrelenting socio-economic crisis. Therefore, without willingness and capacity to tackle these crises historically and socially, the current strong hand tactics of shooting at sight as a central strategy is doomed to fail.

In this respect, it should be noted that all previous capitalist governments from colonial period up till present Obasanjo regime had always resorted to the use of one form of act of suppression or the other. Since colonial time up till now, the elite of the major nationalities had always ganged up to suppress the right of self-determination of the minority nationalities. There is therefore nothing new in the current futile venture called state of emergency.

Even in the event that sections of the capitalist class succeed in bringing back full military dictatorship, the ethno-religious conflict will only, on the long run, become more ferociously morbid, with special calamitous consequences for the socio-economic and democratic rights of the working masses.

So, instead of labour leaders giving support to capitalist declaration of state of emergency as a central strategy to suppress agitations for self determination, independent working class policy which fully accepts the right to self determination of all minority, nationalities and religious groups should be counter-posed. Similarly, independent working class initiatives which practically encourages formation of joint committees of the different embattled nationalities and religious groups should be encouraged as a more effective means of checking mindless and needless killings of working class elements of all warring factions.

Some on the left have always argued that with a good government which is prepared to guarantee improved living standard for all across the country, ethno-religious conflict will largely cease to be or become a thing of the past. There is an element of truth in this point of view. However, the issues involved are much more complex than this over simplified proposition.

In contemporary Nigeria, any left political party wishing to bring about a society where decent living standard is guarantee for all cannot get properly started to secure the support of the vast majority of the working class people of the different nationalities without a clear-cut democratic and sensitive policy on nationality question and self-determination. Such a party has to come up with bold economic plans and policies which overtly seek to place the masses of the different nationalities across the country at the centre of economic planning and strategy, unlike the prevailing capitalist system which puts profit interest of a few above everything else in life.

This is not all, such a party has to make it theoretically and practically clear that it is not interested in the ethno-religious supremacy of one nationality or religious group over one another. Such a party has to be seen to be expressly committed to give full democratic, nationality and cultural rights (including cessation if democratically decided by any given nationality) to all nationality within Nigeria no matter how small numerically such nationality may be.

Thus, from every angle it is examined, socially, economically, politically, the national question puts Nigeria on a brink of disaster. Fortunately however, there exists a prospect of a working class, socialist way out of this deepening disaster. Regrettably however, if the working class solution does not develop in the medium and long term basis, Nigeria and its working people will find themselves engulfed by socio-economic political disaster of unimaginable proportion that will make the tragedy in Rwanda, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo, etc appear like mere child's play.

 

Join the DSM in its struggle to:

 

Defend and improve living standards

 

Build militant democratic fighting trade unions

 

For a mass working people's movement/party and for a workers' and peasants' government.

 

 

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VENEZUELA: Revolution And Counter-revolution In Struggle For Supremacy

 

In a surprise announcement, the radical left-populist Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez, has accepted the decision of the National electoral Commission, (CNE) and will face a recall referendum.

Tony Saunois, Secretary of the Committee for Workers International (CWI), analyses the correct political quagmire in Venezuela.

The right-wing opposition has being conducting an on going campaign to gain the 2.45 million signatures necessary to trigger the referendum. This follows two attempts to overthrow Chávez, in a failed military coup in April 2002, and a bosses 'lock out' between December 2002 and January 2003. Both these attempts at reaction were defeated by the mass mobilisations of working class and masses from below despite the vacillation and hesitation of the leadership of the movement.

The announcement of the CNE comes only a matter of weeks after a plot involving the entry into Venezuela of more than 100 Colombia right-wing paramilitaries was exposed. It seems these forces were colluding with rightwing reactionaries in Caracas to launch a bombing campaign aimed at provoking instability and a possible assassination attempt on Chávez.

 

'Creeping Coup’

 

These attempts to overthrow Chávez indicate that a 'creeping coup' is under way. They clearly show that the ruling classes throughout Latin America and US imperialism are now determined to remove his regime and replace it with a more pro-capitalist government which US imperialism can rely on. Fox in Mexico, Lagos in Chile and even Lula in Brazil have all, either distanced themselves from Chávez or expressed outright opposition to his regime. They are terrified of the implications of the revolution in Venezuela and the repercussions it potentially could have throughout the region. The leaders of Latin American capitalism are all keen to show their reliability and subservience to the interests of US imperialism.

Unfortunately, reaction has now been given the opportunity to regroup and try to strike again. This has been possible because following each defeat suffered by reaction because of the mass movement - the revolution unfortunately has not taken decisive steps forward, purged the state and powerful state-owned oil company, PVDSA, of reactionary forces and overthrow capitalism.

A workers' government has not been established that would introduce a socialist plan of production based upon the nationalisation of the major sectors of industry and the banks and democratically run and managed by the working class. Rather than take such decisive steps, Chávez and the leadership of the movement, have so far tried to placate the forces of reaction, and thereby give them the opportunity to prepare to strike again.

Chávez's decision to accept the results of the CNE have surprised and shocked many workers and those most oppressed by capitalism who overwhelmingly support his left-populist government. Chávez, in the run up to CNE's announcement, confidently declared that the opposition would fail to collect the number of signatures needed for the referendum. They would only be able to get the numbers needed on the basis of fraud.

A plebiscite or referendum is often the instrument used by a capitalist 'bonapartist' regime or government to subvert the public or democratic will and is often used to as cover for its rule or policies. It is not usually the instrument used by the working class.

However, on occasions it has been used to stop the ruling class carrying through its wishes against the demands of the population e.g. during referendums relating to the euro/EU and in some cases to express opposition to attempts to go to war.

In the case of Venezuela it is being used to try and carry through a counter revolution and overthrow the Chávez regime. It is ironic that this facility was introduced in the constitution by Chávez and his Bolivarian movement.

 

Fraud

 

All of the evidence still clearly point to a fraud. The figures announced by the CNE are only 15,738 more than the 2,436,083 signatures needed. 1.2 million signatures needed to be subject to the 'repair process' or checked. Of these only 614,968 could be "confirmed" by the opposition. 74,112 people did not acknowledge their signatures meaning they had been used without their consent. There is also the issue of 50,000 people who should not have been on the electoral register because they are dead! Raids on the headquarters of opposition parties such as Accion Democratica have also found 600 forged ID cards and bundles of forms supporting the recall already filled in. One man was arrested in Caracas for carrying 420 false ID cards!

In addition to this are widespread reports of intimidation against workers in the factories if they refused to sign. The Coca-Cola plant in Antimano threatened 50 workers with the sack and closure of the plant if they refused to sign. Unions at Coca-Cola plants in Carabobo, Lara, Bolivar and Monagas all reported similar incidents. The Venezuelan subsidiary of Coca-Cola just happens to be owner of Venezuela's largest TV net work and a leading supporter of the opposition - Gustavo Cisneros.

This campaign was backed up by the direct intervention of US imperialism and Latin American capitalism. The removal of the Chávez regime in Venezuela (the fifth largest producer of oil) is now becoming a more urgent priority for US imperialism because of the crisis in the Middle East and Iraq.

In the closing days of the verification process, the Carter Centre and the Organisation of American States started issuing statements supporting the claims of the opposition and putting pressure on the government.

It is hypocritical for US imperialism to denounce Chávez for heading an undemocratic regime. He was after all elected by a far bigger majority than Bush who rigged his own election in Florida. The ‘democracy’ in the US election system is making it very difficult for the radical populist Ralph Nader to even get on the ballot in a number states for the US Presidential elections in November.

So why has Chávez accepted the results of the CNE? He and the Ayacucho Commando (which grouped together the pro-government parties and was dissolved by Chávez after the result was announced) argued that the results should be accepted in order to strengthen the regime's democratic credentials. They argue that they are certain to win the referendum and defeat the attempts to recall Chávez. They also argue that had Chávez refused to accept the result, it would have given the pretext for the opposition and US imperialism to launch another attempt to overthrow him, possibly through another coup attempt backed by covert forces from the right-wing Colombian paramilitaries and government.

The acceptance of the CNE results by Chávez has given the opposition the opportunity to go onto the offensive again. By accepting the result, Chávez is attempting to placate imperialism and reaction. He is repeating the same policy that he made after the attempted coup in April 2002 when he appealed for "national unity" and failed to carry through a full and systematic purge of all of the pro-coup officers and directors and managers of the PVDSA.

 

‘Twin track’ policy

 

US imperialism and the ruling class in Venezuela will not be placated by Chavez's acceptance of the CNE's results. They have adopted a twin track policy of attempting a military coup and bosses lock out and at the same time using 'constitutional' means of defeating the government. The right wing will now energetically try to mobilise its forces to firstly win the referendum. If that fails, they will not accept the result and will launch a further campaign accusing the government of fraud and initiate a further attempt to overthrow his government.

Throughout the revolutionary crisis in Venezuela, the media, which is overwhelmingly in the hands of the reactionary right wing, have conducted a vicious campaign against the government and supporters of Chávez. All three privately owned TV network gave free advertising to the 'bosses lock-out' or 'general strike' as they called it. The 'dictatorship' in the media by pro-opposition supporters must be ended through the nationalisation of the press and media. Facilities should then be allocated on a proportional basis determined by support won by each party in elections.

Big layers of workers and Chávez supporters understand that the referendum is now being called on the basis of a fraud and a further attempt to overthrow the regime. The Bolivarian trade union federation, UNT, the Bolivarian Workers' Front and the National Coordination of the Bolivarian Circles have all rejected acceptance of the referendum.

The referendum decision has been rejected at meetings of government supporters up and down the country. Bold and decisive measures are now needed to take the revolution forward which is the only way to defend the democratic rights of the working class, the urban poor and others exploited by capitalism. It is the forces of reaction which threaten the democratic right of the masses.

The working class needs to strengthen its own organisations to confront this threat and take the revolution forward. The Bolivarian Circles must now urgently be expanded to include elected delegates from all work places and local communities. All elected delegates must be subject to immediate recall by the assemblies of workers who elected them. Rank and file soldiers committees need to set up which will begin to purge all officers who support reaction and institute s system of the election of officers. These committees need to be linked up on a district, city wide, regional and national basis. These should form the basis of a new workers' and peasants' government.

Through these bodies, an armed workers militia needs to be set up to defend the revolution from the threat of reaction. Chávez has spoken of his support for the "concept of an armed people". However, this must not be left only as words. The working class and rank and file soldiers must now take the necessary steps to turn this into a reality.

It is clear that even the one chamber National Constituent Assembly which was created by Chávez when he came to power, with one of the most democratic constitutions on paper which exists in Latin America, cannot be relied on. 20 MPs elected on the Bolivarian list have now gone over to the opposition! The creation of workers councils or the expansion of the Bolivarian Circles, with the election of delegates subject to immediate recall, would a more democratic and reliable basis for the working class to take the revolution forward.

Despite accepting the referendum it is still possible that Chávez could win it especially if the working class is fully mobilised and the Bolivarian Circles are expanded and turned into fighting organisations. If this was done and linked with the revolution taking decisive blows against capitalism and the ruling class, then the referendum could become an irrelevance and be brushed aside.

This happened during the Russian revolution when the Constituent Assembly (after October 1917) became the vehicle of an attempt to defeat the working class. The Bolsheviks were able to thwart this move because of the existence of the workers’ and peasants’ councils, the Soviets, which were more representative and democratic, provided an alternative basis from which a workers' and peasants' government was formed.

All capitalist parliaments provide only an imperfect reflection of the support for the various parties and ideas supported by the masses. They do no accurately reflect rapid and radical changes in opinion and political awareness which take place especially during periods of revolution and social upheaval.

Alternatively, the Soviets, or workers’ councils, which existed at the time of the Russian revolution more accurately reflected the attitude of the masses at each stage and which parties they supported. The Constituent Assembly represented 'yesterday' while the Soviets better reflected the attitude and outlook of the working class 'today'. It is for that reason that the Bolsheviks dissolved the Constituent Assembly at the time.

It will not be easy for the reactionary forces in Venezuela to secure a victory. They need not only to win a majority in the referendum but to win more than the 3.8 million votes that Chávez won in 2000.

 

Overwhelming support

 

Chávez still has the support of the overwhelming majority of the working class and poor. Although the opinion polls are unreliable, the government polls now give him 51% approval ratings. This compares with the 35% figure used by the private polling companies and quoted in the international media. All of the private polling companies are active in the right wing opposition. The government has introduced important reforms for those most oppressed by capitalism.

Over 1 million have been lifted from illiteracy. Millions more have been given access to doctors and medical care for the first time. But society is polarised along class lines between the left and the right. The reforms that have been introduced are threatened by the continuation of capitalism.

However, Chávez who was elected with over 60% of the vote has lost some significant support especially amongst the middle class. This is mainly due to the deep economic crisis which has rocked the country. This is partly due to the effects of the bosses lock out and partly to the economic sabotage and flight of capital which has taken place.

Yet, with two thirds of the populations living below the poverty line, mass unemployment and rising inflation, the middle class has also seen its savings eroded and living standards decline. The failure of Chávez to break from capitalism and introduce a socialist planned economy based upon a genuine workers' democracy has prevented his regime from being able to offer the middle class a solution to their problems and use their talents and skills to rebuild the economy. This erosion of support has given the ‘creeping counter revolution’ social forces on which to rest. Whether this is strong enough to defeat Chávez in this referendum remains to be seen. However, it will continue as a threat that will eventually succeed unless capitalism is overthrown.

At this stage Chávez has been given some room to manoeuvre economically because of the high price of oil and the breaking of the lock out which slashed oil production. The introduction of currency controls has also halted the flight of capital which the ruling class was organising. These factors will allow him the opportunity to implement some further reforms in the run up to the referendum which may increase his support. However, while capitalism remains the erosion of his support will continue. Even by the government's own estimates inflation this year is set to rise to 26% and unemployment officially stands at 25%. Over a period these pressures can erode Chávez’s support amongst the working class as well as the middle classes.

This threat of reaction, especially in the form of US imperialism can only averted through the establishment of a workers and peasants government in Venezuela and an appeal to the working class of the whole of Latin America and the USA for solidarity and support with the perspective of spreading the revolution to establish a Democratic Socialist Federation of Latin America and the Americas.

The working class of the whole continent need to be alerted to the threat which now exists and the struggle which lies ahead. Chávez has recently verbally moved in a more left direction and has denounced capitalism and called for the arming of the people. However, the revolution and the movement of the masses cannot be turned on and off like a tap when reaction threats to strike. To sustain a movement and decisively defeat reaction the revolution must take decisive steps to break with capitalism and advance the perspective of building a democratic socialist society throughout the continent. In this lies the key to arouse the enthusiastic support of the masses of Latin America and the USA to defeat imperialism and capitalism.

 

For further analysis, see CWI website (socialistworld.net) featuring ‘Venezuela Revolution and counter revolution’.

 

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EUROPE: CWI Sections Gain Electoral Support

By Pelad

 

It was a wave of victories for some sections of the Committee for a Workers' International in Europe in the last local and Euro elections that took place in the second week of June this year. CWI is an international socialist organisation organised in 40 countries across the world with DSM as its Nigerian section.

Where they did not win seats, the affiliates of CWI were able to record impressive performance and etch themselves on the consciousness of the electorate as emerging forces in their areas. These electoral successes are a product of correct application of Marxist ideas and tactics, building and strengthening of social base of support among the people, initiation and participation in the daily struggles of the oppressed and uncompromising commitment to the cause of humanity, by the CWI. They also reflect the increasing acceptance and popularity of the genuine socialist alternative as represented by the CWI in Europe.

It is instructive to note that the various CWI sections in Europe are small groups in terms of numbers and spread compared to the established bourgeois political parties and some quasi-socialist organisations but they make their impact felt and possess enormous potential of growing into large and formidable forces.

In England the Socialist Party retained two of the three seats contested in St. Michael Ward, Coventry. Dave Nellist, a former member of the parliament with the old labour party before the expulsion of Militant, the forebears of Socialist Party, retained his seat as a councillor, having the highest poll with 1586. Another member, Karen Mackey, came second with 1449. Both of them were re-elected with increased votes. Unfortunately, the third socialist party candidate, Rob Windsor lost by just 16 votes despite earning higher votes than when he earlier won. The loss was partly due to the boundary changes, high resident turnover and the fact that Rob's name was in the bottom place of the ballot. However, the three socialist candidates polled significantly more than New labour, gaining 4,236 votes compared to Labour's 3,536.

More interestingly, in Ireland, all the four SP candidates that emerged victorious did not only win but also topped the poll in their respective areas. More so, with four councillors, Socialist Party has doubled its representation. Getting four councillors elected was a significant achievement and indeed an endorsement of the Socialist Party compared to the performance of other forces on the left. Socialist Party was a leading force in the anti-Bin Tax struggle last year. They have made excellent gains of that struggle among others with this electoral success. Clare Daly, imprisoned for a month for fighting the Bin Tax, was re-elected to Fingal County council representing Sword ward with votes more than twice of what she obtained at the last election. Ruth Coppimger also re-won her seat in Fingal County Council to represent Mulhuddrat ward. Mick Murphy jailed for three weeks for opposing Bin Tax was elected to represent Tallaght ward on South Dublin Council. This is the first time the party has had a councillor in this area. The party has also, for the first time, had a councillor outside Dublin with the election of Mick Barry to the Cork City Council.

Moreover, in the Euro elections, the Socialist Party candidate Joe Higgins, already a member of Irish parliament, and who was equally jailed for leading anti Bin Tax campaign, earned 23,218 (5.5%). This vote was more than double of what he got in 1999 and in fact, a credible result for a small party with very slender financial resources.

In a similar vein, Socialist Alternative (SAV) the CWI’s German section, won its first councillor in the person of Christine Lehnert. She is the first directly elected Trotskyist councillor in Germany for decades. She won in Rostock, an east German city, and the SAV only narrowly missed a second council seat there. The general performance of SAV is an achievement and deserves celebration in view of the fact that Social Democratic Party and ex-Stalinist Party of Democratic Socialism lost many votes in that city.

In Belgium, though the CWI affiliate, Left Socialist Party/Movement for a Socialist Alternative (LSP/MAS), did not win any seats, it polled a significant 20,000 votes. The result was modest but represented important step forward for a growing socialist force, which has only just contested nationally in both the Dutch and French speaking parts of that country for the first time. It evinces inherent potential of the organisation to grow to a formidable party in the country.

The electoral feats of the CWI's affiliates can be better appreciated if juxtaposed with the resounding defeat of the established bourgeois political parties, particularly the ruling ones across Europe.

In the local elections, Blair's New Labour became the first government in the British history to be relegated to third place, receiving just 26% of the vote. Their European election results represented their worst share of national election since 1918. Although the Tories (Conservatives) came first in the local elections, the result did not imply their endorsement by the people. The 38% of the votes they got was below the 40% they would need to be on course to win a general election. Indeed, 27% of the vote they had in Euro elections was their lowest since 1832. In France, Chirac's ruling Union for a Popular Movement suffered its second electoral defeat in less than three months scoring just under 17%. In Italy Berlusconi's Forza Italia was thoroughly battered while Gerhard Schröder' s Social Democrats in Germany got their lowest vote since 1932. Fianna Fail the senior partner in the coalition government of Ireland recorded their worst performance since 1927. This trend of humiliation of the ruling parties was universal in Europe, a response by the electorates to their various anti-people policies.

Remarkably, the foregoing has exposed the bankruptcy of the post Soviet Union ideological triumphalism of the bourgeoisie with decline in bourgeois influence and the gaining of currency by the socialist ideas. Really, if the population of Europe is considered, the electoral success of the CWI affiliates appears peanut. But it only shows that with more forces, fighting on the basis of the genuine socialist ideas and method, as the CWI, then the sky will not even be the limit of the acceptability of socialism by the working class elements.

 

 

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IRAQ: US IMPERIALISM FORCED OUT

By Dagga Tolar

 

Two days before their proposed exist date of June 30, Bush and Blair were forced to abandon direct administration and occupation of Iraq. Consequently, Iraq would be governed by an handpicked and unelected gang of returnee Iraqis, to be known as the Iraq Interim Government, who would according to the former US appointed Administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer, "assume and exercise full sovereign authority on behalf of the Iraqi people"!

This government headed by an Iraqi, Prime minister Iyah Allawi, is not in any way sovereign. It was conceived to protect the interest of imperialism. If it had its way, imperialism would not have ever contemplated a retreat from Iraq, but for the waves of protests against the occupation not only by the Iraqis but in other parts of the world especially in Europe and America coupled with continuous terrorist attacks on US soldiers, U.S. imperialism was forced to wake up to the reality of the situation in Iraq. With 120 billion dollars already spent, 700 US soldiers killed, 500 of them after actual battle had stopped and a defeat handed to US forces in Falluja, and the spreading uprising in Nasiriya, Najaf, Basra and Baghdad, it would only have been a question of time before the imperialist forces were disgraced completely out of Iraq. It was therefore a no choice situation for the US led occupation force.

However, the imperialist arrangement put forward by Bush and Blair would however not move Iraq closer to peace or democracy. It will take very little time for the Iraq people themselves to see that practically nothing has changed contrary to the illusion that Bush and Blair are trying to foster so as to boost their already damaged ego - an attempt at salvaging their fast drowning political careers in the face of approaching elections. They still want people to believe that they were acting altruistically, when indeed the basis for the war, (possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction) was untrue.

US imperialism was simply driven from the outset by the greedy quest to gain control of the rich oil fields of Iraq. This it has achieved by denying Iraqis people the right to decide the future of their country, to elect democratically, those to run the affairs of their country. This implies that from outset, the Allawi government would face a crisis of legitimacy.

In Iraq today, electricity at its worst ever with less than 6 hours a day; unemployment is above 50% of the population and an acute shortage of basic necessities. Rebuilding and reconstruction of Iraq may take a low pace if we take a clue from Afghanistan. This means that resistance would again be on the agenda. That Bush administration has left behind an occupational force numbering 136,000 to provide the necessary security for the new government. This fact alone will continue to provoke the anger the Iraq people to go all out against the imposed Allawi regime.

Al-Sadr and his Shia based Mahdi army would reap a lot from this mass discontentment, as his profile is bound to grow given the role he played in resisting the occupation.

However, the kind of alliance he enjoyed with the Sunni Muslims which resulted into defeat for the occupying force in Falluja is not guaranteed as all interest groups begin to scheme for the spoils of power and office. Again, Al -Sadr, given his right wing political brand of Islam and his goal of transforming Iraq into a theocratic Islamic state does not in any way represent a progressive way forward for the Iraqi people, neither is the more moderate Shite leader, Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani, who the US wanted to prop up but failed as a national figure as opposed to Al Sadr, who could not be trusted..

The Kurdish question remains unresolved, given the betrayal by US imperialism whom they had courted and supported, believing that the invasion of Iraq would in one way or the other advance the quest for a form of self-determination. Unfortunately, events turned the other way round. All these are possible indices that could lead to a civil war situation. The only way forward is for the mass of the Iraqi working people and the poor to unite across the religious and ethnic divide on a programme of struggle, solidarity and socialism. If they ultimately win political power, they should nationalize the commanding heights of the economy under a democratic control and management of the Iraqis to guarantee the resources and means to transform Iraq as a gateway for a democratic and socialist Middle East.

 

 

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EDUCATION RIGHTS CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED

By Wale Eleto, Coordinator, ERC

 

A new campaign platform to raise issues concerning the state of education system in Nigeria and the educational right of a vast majority of youths has been launched. The youths are currently being denied access to educational opportunities, due to government's neo-liberal policy of commercialisation and cut in social spending on education, health amongst others. The platform is called Educational Rights Campaign (ERC).

ERC was launched on Monday, 17th May 2004 at the International Press Centre (IPC), Ogba, Lagos. Up to 50 people including student activists from various campuses, working class activists and members of the press. Also present was comrade Lanre Arogundade, a former president of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) whose leadership led the heroic students struggle against the education commercialisation policy of the Buhari/Idiagbon dictatorship in 1984. The vice-president (National Affairs) of the NANS Yemi Success was in attendance and gave a solidarity speech. The following day, 18th may, the ERC coordinator and the NANS VP were on Kakaaki, an AIT television programme. Some newspapers have featured ERC statements. For instance 19th and 20th May edition of Daily Independent, evening edition, published the picture of the public launching and the summary of the press text respectively.

The ERC is a brainchild of members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), the Nigerian section of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) and is being coordinated by the secretary of the DSM students' section Wale Eleto. But it is open to every other person(s) and group(s) who genuinely share the view of the need to struggle to salvage the Nigeria education system from its present comatose state. ERC campaigns for a united effort of all interest groups in the education sector. The students and teachers and the unions and organisations, the wider labour movement, civil society organisations, parents and also genuinely progressive political parties to mobilise the people around a well-articulated programme to defeat the anti-poor education commercialisation policy of the Obasanjo government.

Ultimately, ERC's goal is a democratically managed, free and high quality public education system. Transitionally, we are campaigning for:

 

(1) An end to the anti-poor policy of education commercialisation and imposition of fees.

 

(2) Massive government expenditure in public schools to expand existing facilities schools, laboratories/equipments, 1T sections, sporting and recreational facilities, books/libraries, student hostels and staff quarters, etc and create new ones in order to increase access to educational opportunities and improve on existing standards.

 

(3) Prompt and adequate remuneration of salaries and allowances of both teaching and non-teaching staff

 

(4) Democratic management of affairs of educational institutions with democratic representation of all interest groups, including students, in all policy making organs, particularly in higher institutions.

 

(5) Respect for democratic rights to organise and unionise independent of the authorities, an end to victimisation of unions, their leaders and organisations.

 

 

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ONDO STATE: Futarians Appraise The Socialist Alternative In Building A New Nigeria

 

The Federal University of Technology (FUTA), Akure branch of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) organised a symposium on Thursday 27th May, 2004 at the "Aluta ground" of Akindeko Hall, a male student hostel in the university. The theme of the symposium was: "The effect of commercialisation on Nigeria education sector present and future perspectives". Speakers at the symposium were comrade AJ Daggar Tolar, Editor of Socialist Democracy (paper of DSM), Wale Eleto, Coordinator of Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and Secretary of DSM students' wing, and Stephen Alayande, former Coordinator of NANS Zone D.

Daggar Tolar condemned capitalist rule nationally and internationally. For instance, he revealed that the strategic economic interest of US imperialism was the driving force of Iraqi occupation. Education commercialisation in Nigeria is a direct effect of capitalist principles of neo-liberalism. Comrade Wale Eleto also linked the crises in the education system to the crisis of the Nigerian state. While introducing the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), he called on students to always be prepared to struggle against anti-poor policies of the ruling capitalist class at all levels. Stephen Alayande corroborated what the earlier speakers said. He also called on students to join and participate actively in ERC activities.

About 180 students attended the programme and 30 students signified their interests as intending members of the DSM.

 

 

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OYO STATE: Ladoja, Stop Privatisation of Public Schools

By Ojo Olajire

 

The decision of Nigeria Union of Teachers, Oyo State Chapter, to condemn the return of public schools to missionary and private merchants, and equally demand an end to this anti-poor policy of the government is commendable and should be supported.

It is this anti-poor policy that the masses are being confronted with in various states, especially Lagos and Edo State. In year 2001 the Lagos State government launched one of its series of attacks on education with 48 public schools handed over to profit merchants masquerading as missionaries and private proprietors. 38 public schools in Edo State are already pencilled for sale, which will deny tens of thousands of children of the poor working people access to education.

It should be stressed that these schools have been, for years, expanded and maintained with public funds and the sweat of the working people whose children are now dropping out of school because of the high charges of private owners. This is because the major interest of the missionary and private merchants is profit, which could only be achieved by charging various outrageous fees on education beyond the reach of the poor parents.

This policy will in the long run lead to more drop outs, retrenchment of teaching and non-teaching staff, unemployment, underemployment, etc. The army of the hungry unemployed would in turn be breeding grounds for robbery and prostitution.

The right of workers, teaching and non-teaching staff is also at stake. The right to belong to trade unions to collectively fight for the interests of workers, improve in welfare and living condition of the working people is also threatened.

Lack of funds to maintain the existing facilities, pay wages of teaching and non-teaching staff, etc has been the argument of government, both at Federal and State levels, against free and qualitative education. The same governments do embark on organizing needless activities, awarding over-bloated contracts worth millions of naira to their cronies, get huge salaries, much more higher than wages of average working people, and estacodes, serving IMF/World Bank fictitious debt, etc. but shirk there responsibilities of providing free, affordable and good standard education, healthcare, electricity, food, housing to the poor masses.

It is true that facilities are decayed and teaching and non-teaching staffs are not well paid, but the return of public schools to private merchants is not the solution. As we have said "this deplorable phenomenon is the by-product of the years of neglect, underfunding and mismanagement of the education sector by successive civilian and military capitalist governments. If schools are in state of decay, it is not because the public lacks sufficient means to keep them in good, functioning order. Rather, it is because of the selfish interests and misplaced priorities of the capitalist misrules. The solution to these dreadful conditions lie in looking for necessary resources to revamp the education sector, combined with democratic control and management of the system by teachers, parents, students and the community." (SD September and October 2001 edition).

The teachers and their unions should therefore see this battle not only as theirs alone but a collective battle of all poor working people and oppressed to save education from the hands of missionary and private merchants. This could only be achieved by mobilizing other trade unions, NLC, students, parents, progressive political parties and organisation like NCP, Labour Party, DSM etc to have programmes of action against the ruling cabal which could also be used to build a process of wrestling power from the ruling capitalist government and put in place democratic independent working peoples government.

 

Our demands:

 

· No to transfer of public schools to missions and private merchant

· Adequate remuneration of teaching and non-teaching staff

· No to privatisation and commercialisation of education

· Massive funding of the education sector with the employment of more teachers and provision of more classrooms, laboratories, libraries, books, workshops and hostels

· Free and qualitative education at all levels

· No to retrenchment of teaching and non-teaching staff

· The right of teachers in both public and private schools to unionise

· Democratic management of schools with decision-making organs comprising elected representatives of teaching and non-teaching staff, students, parents, and the community.

 

 

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OSUN STATE: OAU - No To Hike In Fee

By Hon. Ayeni Jasper, Clerk of the Students’ Union and member, DSM, OAU

 

The management of Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife has once again embarked on a new round of anti-masses policy of commercialisation of education. Of course, it is an undisputable fact that the Obasanjo government lacks the correct disposition towards education and the provision of other basic social amenities for the masses. The five-year reign of Obasanjo has not only been marked by economic privation but has also left the masses in a state of hopelessness. This assertion is even corroborated by the recent hike in petroleum products prices.

Despite the high level of poverty in the nation, the management of OAU still has the effrontery to come out with obnoxious, ridiculous and pocket-tearing fees increase. Its arguments for these illegal and unjustifiable fees are under funding and the need for good quality education. But we ask: whose responsibility is it to fund education and provide qualitative education? Is it the duty of our parents, 70% of whom are living in penury (living on $1 a day) to provide N300 billion needed to put the education sector in its 1970's state, or to pay for N140,000 the government claimed it is spending on each university student? It is the responsibility of the government to provide such, since education is known to be an important instrument for national development. Rather, the government takes delight in white elephant projects, looting and manipulation. For instance, the government spent over N100 billion within two months on mere jamboree hosting of Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and All African Games (COJA) while education, health and other social services are in shamble.

In addition to the irresponsibility of the government, the problem on our campus cannot be divorced from the high level of mismanagement of resources and misplacement of priorities on the part of the school authorities. Just last session, the management increased the fees by 800% (from N590 to N4590) as if skyrocketing of fees will solve the endemic problems facing the university. Fees such as N1,000 sport levy was collected from all the students. Disables were not speared despite the fact that there is no provision for special sport. Again, N2,500 hostel maintenance charge was equally collected. All these have made living and academic conditions unbearable for majority of students. But what was the money used for? Over N19million was claimed to have been spent on mere painting of two hostels and about N10million was also claimed to have been expended on tarring of a less than 100meter Health Centre road!

Also last session, the university authorities introduced a pre-degree programme which, according to them, is one of the ways to solve the problem of underfunding facing the school. Over N150 million has so far been generated from this venture, yet, the university finds it difficult to pay salaries of workers. The truth however is that pre-degree programme is education commercialisation in disguise

These developments underscore the point made by the Ife DSM branch during the struggle against fee increment in 2002/2003 session that the policy of fee increment or any other related shortcut measure cannot resolve the perennial problem of funding faced by the university system. Only massive investment of public funds in public education by government can fundamentally solve the problem. This would be accompanied by the democratisation of the school system such that the management of the affairs of the institution, including finance, will be the collective responsibility of all interest groups within the system, including students represented by their democratically elected representatives in all decision making organs of the university including the senate and governing council.

The Students' Union must be prepared to lead the students in a coordinated campaign against this latest attempt to commercialise education out of the reach of children of the poor working class background, who actually constitute the majority of OAU students population. It must also be prepared to work with other trade unions in the education sector like SSANU, NASU, ASUU, etc whose members are also being negatively affected by the policy of education commercialisation.

 

We call on all Nigerian students to join us as we demand:

 

1. No to fee hike, for a total reversal of the hike to its 2001 level.

 

2. 26% budgetary allocation to education by the government as recommended by UNESCO.

 

3. Probe panel, which must include representatives of all unions in the university, to look into the mismanagement of fund by the school authorities.

 

4. Reinstatement of all politically expelled and rusticated students' union officers and activists.

 

5. Prompt payment of salaries and other emoluments of staff, teaching and non-teaching, in order to resolve the current impasse where lecturers have refused to process results of final year students due for service in September.

 

 

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HANDS OFF NLC: CWDR Petitions National Assembly

 

The Campaign for Workers and Democratic Right (CWDR) has on 21st June, 2004 petitioned National Assembly on the bill recently sent to it by President Obasanjo to dismember Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). Here is the excerpt of the petition signed by CWDR Chairman and Secretary, Rufus Olusesan and Victor Osakwe respectively.:

 

The Campaign for Workers and Democratic Rights (CWDR) condemns, without reservation, the Bill recently sent to the National Assembly by President Olusegun Obasanjo to amend the Trade Union Act. This Bill centrally seeks to further put the trade unions under the control of employers and capitalist state institutions.

We note with grave concern that the proposed amendment is a ploy by the Obasanjo regime to weaken/dismember and balkanise the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) under the guise of liberalising and democratising the labour movement.

While we concede that there is nothing sacrosanct in maintaining a single central organisation for the labour movement in Nigeria, just as was the case before 1976 when the Obasanjo military dictatorship unilaterally decreed the NLC into existence and proscribed the then existing various labour centres, we equally want to point out that the task of democratising the NLC or forming other labour centres or central unions is the sole democratic right and decision of the Nigerian worker. Like the experience with the senior staff dominated Trade Union Congress (TUC) from which the Congress of Free Trade Union (CFTU) emerged, the decision to form and organise alternative or other labour centres cannot be taken through the legislature dismemberment of the NLC.

The present move coming on the heels of the denial of such intentions earlier in February 2004, no doubt reflects the growing discomfort of the Obasanjo administration with the role of the NLC in leading the Nigerian masses in opposition to the anti-poor people policies of the regime especially the intermittent increases in the prices of petroleum products.

Contrary to the claims of President Obasanjo that the intention to amend the Trade Union act is in "order to promote the democratisation of labour, further strengthen it, enhance choice for all Nigerian workers in the true spirit of the constitution, comply with ILO requirements concerning democratisation in the organisation of labour unions and centres and consolidate the values of accountability and participation", the real intention just as the experiences with the students movement as shown is to weaken/dismember the NLC and outlawing the democratic rights of workers to strike, as and when necessary.

Allowing President Obasanjo to have his way with regards to amending the Trade Union Act is a tinderbox with far reaching consequences many of which we may not be able to enumerate immediately just as the case of the students movement has shown.

The right to decide which union to belong and which to associate with is a fundamental and inalienable right of the Nigerian worker, which the proposed amendment seeks to abridge by transferring such decisions to the minister in charge of each ministry.

What President Obasanjo intends to do is to get the National Assembly to give legality to the abridgement of the right of the Nigerian worker. We call on labour activists and general working masses to put serious pressure on the National Assembly to ensure that the proposed amendments of President Obasanjo is ultimately defeated.

In view of the foregoing, the only democratic option left for the National Assembly is to throw out this obnoxious and undemocratic bill immediately, failing which we will have no option but to come to the conclusion that the National Assembly is an accomplice in the plot to entrench the civilian dictatorship of the present regime and we will be left with no option than to campaign against the bill, its authors and accomplices in the work places, among youth organisations, students, artisans, market women, human rights and civil society organisations.

 

 

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EKITI: GENERAL STRIKE IN PERSPECTIVE

By Tony Adewumi, UNAD DSM branch

 

On 9th June, 2004, the Ekiti State chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress, with 20 affiliated unions, joined the strike called by the Adams Oshiomhole led Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to resist the 10% increment in fuel prices.

Despite the fact that lecturers and workers of tertiary institutions like UNAD, College of Education, Ikere, Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti, Radio corporations, civil service commissions, secondary schools, Agricultural institute, etc, joined the strike, the Ado-Ekiti metropolis was bustling and hustling with market women, public drivers, okada riders and the town inhabitants.

The main reason was because the Philip Omolafe Aderiye led NURTW, which is an affiliated union of the Nigeria Labour Congress, disobeyed the strike order. The NURTW union leaders complained that NLC bus or affiliated union vehicle should be placed under the NURTW instead of the Road Transport Employees which is not an affiliate union. During the strike, the NURTW members like market women and okada riders suffered most because of the character of their source of income. The NURTW leadership also complained bitterly on how policemen shot indiscriminately at drivers especially along Akure and Ijero Road, while the Aribisala led NLC keeps its fingers crossed.

The Ekiti state NLC leadership has to seek a way out in fraternizing its affiliated unions, market women, youths, students, okada riders with its cause and struggles, through consistent solidarity actions, symposia, lectures and rallies. The Nigeria Labour Congress leaders both at national and state levels must realise that capitalism is a profit driven system by the ruling class at the expense of the poor working class. The interest of these two classes i.e the ruling and working class cannot be reconciled under this system. The labour leaders must break themselves away from the illusions that government wishes workers well.

The accord between the NLC, other unions and the Fayose led government should be thrown into the trash bin of history, if a fundamental way forward is to be taken. Before and during strikes, there is need for rallies, protest and leafleting. The NLC leadership must entrench traditions and democratic values in unions where they are absent, e.g. NURTW. This task cannot be accomplished by the state labour leaders alone but in collaboration with the national leaders.

The labour leadership and all pro-labour activists, including socialists must also strive to form the state chapter of Labour/Civil Society Coalition (LASCO), that will be part of planning and executing the struggle. During strikes, the labour leadership must mobilise at work places, schools, etc for protest because the masses must see themselves waging their struggles, which would inevitably strengthen the labour unions and threatening the foundation of the system liable for the woes of the working class.

 

 

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LAGOS: IN SUPPORT OF LUTH WORKERS

 

The Campaign for Workers and Democratic Rights (CWDR) uses this medium to express its total support for and solidarity with the on-going industrial action of Nigerian workers at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) which as of Friday, 25th June 2004 entered its 14th day.

The workers, organized under six unions and Associations operating in the health sector, i.e National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists, Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria, and Physiotherapy Association of Nigeria, embarked on strike over the non-payment of their 25% increase and balance in HATTIS IV, which runs into 19 months. This 19 months arrears is from excess or balance of salaries based on the federal government increase in salary, but which the management of LUTH deliberately held onto, despite the fact that other federal Teaching Hospitals have paid their workers. The workers are also protesting the gradual decadence in LUTH and irregularities in promotions amongst other things.

There is no doubt in the fact that LUTH today is a very faint shadow of its old self. It is on record that in the past, LUTH was a thing of pride in Africa. However today, due to bad government policies and mismanagement, it is in a terrible state of neglect. It is rather very disheartening to know that today, LUTH has no suction machine, has only one functional x-ray machine in the entire complex, and does not posses any functional scanning machine. Just recently the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) accreditation given to LUTH, (one of the few institutions accredited in West Africa) had been withdrawn due to ineffectiveness.

LUTH makes not less than N25m monthly from patients who are made to pay through their nose; yet, there is basically nothing to show for it. All the money only seems to disappear into air, while the edifice degenerates daily. We know that those who profit from the sickness of LUTH and by extension that of such public institutions are the numerous one-man businesses around LUTH (e.g. laboratories, x-ray centres, pharmacies etc), which are usually owned by top management members and their families. Things have really degenerated that even the Chief Medical Director (CMD), Prof Onatolu Odukoya, had to travel to South Africa for medical check-up!

LUTH today is now being used by the consultants as a transit to private hospitals in order to extort the patients and their relations especially on ailments that will require surgery, hiding under the fact that LUTH facilities, like theatres, are dilapidated and consequently, lure patients' relations to expensive private hospitals of their choice consultants- with special fee for them and huge bills from the private hospitals.

We in the CWDR enjoin the LUTH workers to be steadfast in the struggle we support their position of no money, no work, because a sick person cannot take care of the sick.

It is instructive to note that the same management that cannot provide the necessary funds for services and infrastructure, spends N320,000.00 per month and another N300,000.00 per month on maintenance of security dogs. Since the beginning of the industrial action, the management has been financing the cost of retaining two truck load of policemen with which it has been harassing and intimidating the workers' leaders.

The CWDR hereby calls for the following:

 

- Immediate payment of the 19-month arrears to the LUTH workers based on the already approved and released funds on HATTIS IV.

 

- Repair or replacement of equipment at the modular theatre and installation of x-ray and scanning machines at strategic units in LUTH.

 

- A halt to government privatisation policies, which render public utilities prostrate in order for them to be sold as scrap.

 

- A better standard of living for LUTH workers through payment of real wages commiserate to the rate of inflation. Ditto for all Nigerian workers.

 

- Democratic ownership and management of public utilities and institutions, such that the decision making process could be democratised.