Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

GENERAL STRIKE: Workers and Poor Masses Must Resist Neo-liberal Attacks and Fight for Social Transfo

DSM Bulletin 01

GENERAL STRIKE: Workers and Poor Masses Must Resist Neo-liberal Attacks and Fight for Social Transformation

Arise, workers and poor masses of Nigeria and join the nationwide strike and protest called by Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO). We have nothing to lose but shackles of anti-poor neo-liberal attack inflicted on us by Obasanjo/Yar’Adua government. LASCO has called on us to protest the recent fuel price increase from N65 to N75 per litre and hike in Value Added Tax (VAT) from 5% to 10% (100% increment). We are also urged to fight for 15% pay rise for workers and against unwholesome sales of Kaduna and Port Harcourt refineries.

It would be recalled that two days to the expiration of its tenure, the immediate past Obasanjo government, as parting neo-liberal attacks on poor working masses, increased the pump price of fuel and the VAT. This latest increase was the eleventh time the anti-poor, Obasanjo government had increased the fuel price before leaving the office. It met the price of petrol, for instance, at N20 in 1999 and increased it to N75 in 2007 – 275% price increase – which has made life miserable for the vast majority of the poor working people.

More than two weeks into its administration, Yar’Adua government has turned deaf ear to all the hue and cry of workers and poor masses against the latest imposed anti-poor policy of its forebear on them. It has thus pretended as if nothing had happened until few hours to the expiration of a 2-week ultimatum given to it by Labour to reverse the hike. Yar’Adua government, the so-called “victor” of a stolen election, has only proved that it is an old wine in a new bottle.

This latest reprehensible and inhuman action has led to the increase in the price of articles and transportation fares. For workers and poor masses, the cost of living has become much more unbearable.

Moreover, Yar’Adua government, just like its predecessor, has refused to implement 15% pay rise for workers despite the increased fortune of the country, excruciating inflation rate and government policies that have rendered worthless the current income of workers. But applying different strokes for different folks, the political office holders at all levels (from President to Councilor) have been awarded bumper pay rise back-dated to last February, citing as reasons, “changes in the basic fundamentals of the Nigerian economy”, “external reserves”, “GDP growth rate” “rate of inflation” “getting the best out of the political class”, “the need for living wages”.

Though no official reason has been given for the latest increase, it is not unconnected to the resolve of the government to satisfy profit interest of the new buyers of the nation’s refineries, equally sold few days to May 29, to Obasanjo’s Transcorp and the likes. It is commendable that the LASCO has also included the reversal of the sales of Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries as part of its demands.

Suffering in the Midst of Abundance

At the same period Obasanjo inflicted excruciating suffering on the poor masses, the fortune of the country rose, as a result of the high price of crude oil in the world market. With only possible exception of the oil boom era of the mid 1970s, no government amassed so huge wealth from the sales of crude oil as Obasanjo’s. Nigeria realizes $200 million per day from the sales of crude oil alone. Yet, there is nothing to show for this fabulous wealth. Selling crude oil at much higher price than the budget benchmark of $40 per barrel has meant a huge excess revenue and phenomenal foreign reserve at disposal of the government.

But these huge resources of the country are not committed to basic needs of the poor working masses. Obasanjo left the state of electricity worse than he met it in 1999. People rely on generators run on expensive fuel to generate power for business and living. As a result, the cost of doing business is so high that many have closed shops. For artisans, with feeble financial base, but who need electricity for their occupation, the life has been a hell.

Socialist Transformation is Imperative

We of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) demand that Yar’Adua government should immediately reverse the increase in fuel price and VAT and also implement 15% pay rise for all workers in both public and private sectors, with regular increases to match rate of inflation, without any form of retrenchment. The huge wealth generated from the sales of crude oil and other means should be used to guarantee provision of basic needs like quality education, health care, good roads, electricity, housing, etc., for workers and poor masses.

However this can only be achieved if labour fights for total transformation of the prevailing unjust capitalist system where masses wallow in irredeemable misery in the midst of super abundance. In this respect, labour should fight for a socialist society where the commanding heights of the economy, including finance, will be commonly owned and democratically managed and controlled by the working masses. This will ensure that the fabulous wealth being presently looted and wasted by a few will be used to provide permanent decent living for all.

Ensuring Successful Action

Working class, community, youth and student activists should immediately begin to build action committees or coordinating centres at local, state and national levels as a basis of mobilizing mass support for the national strike and protests. Such committees should form the democratic basis for a movement uniting Nigeria’s working masses, youth and poor. Where and when possible, there should be rallies, symposia, lectures, demonstrations during the strike.

We must not have a repeat of a few labour leaders suddenly calling off strikes and protests without any gains being made. The widest possible numbers must be involved in organizing the strike and discussing tactics. Even if the government offers concessions, labour has to realize that the ruling elite will later try to take back what little they have given. This is why the struggle against fuel price hike should be linked with a struggle against the overall anti-poor, neo-liberal economic reforms of the PDP/Yar’Adua government.

It is clear to everyone, even the official “observers” from the imperialist countries, that this year’s elections were massively rigged and the results stolen. Unfortunately, all the main parties were really rival gangs or looters or would-be looters, the working masses were not represented. This is why it is imperative that the labour and pro-masses organizations should build a mass working class political alternative that is opposed to anti-poor, neo-liberal policies to challenge for power and create a workers’ and poor peoples’ government that will protect and improve the economic, social, democratic and political interest of the workers and poor masses.