Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

DSM National Meeting Discusses the World Situation

DSM National Meeting Discusses the World Situation

By Wole Olubanji Engels

At the DSM’s October 24/5 national meeting Robert Bechert, a member of the International Secretariat of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), led a discussion on the world situation. The world may be a large entity, but there is a similar pattern of capitalist crises across the entire globe. Robert painted a graphic picture of the character of the crises all over the world, and the potentials it has for organizing and mobilizing for socialist transformation of society.

“We are living in a very tumultuous period” of capitalist crisis, he acclaimed. The strategists of international finance capital “are not sure about the future of capitalism, and are at a loss on what to do”. In the light of the refugee crisis in Europe (caused by protracted war in Syria and the economic and political crisis in Africa) and economic recession in parts of the world, among other factors, this assertion is absolutely correct. Robert explained that the rapid development of technology, and increasing human’s control over nature, has had insignificant impact on the conditions of vast majority of world population, who live in abject misery amid abundance.

Expectedly, the masses are reacting against the contradictions of capitalism, which consistently fail to improve the material conditions of human beings, despite technological development. But for these reactions to take a positive, pro-working people form calls for organized intervention of pro-working class platform that is armed with clear programmes for conquest of political power by the working people. The rise in terrorist activities, and the teeming number of youths joining these groups on the basis of their religious, “anti-west” or ethnic propagandas confirm on the one hand, the presence of a large layer of the world population seeking change to the crisis caused by capitalism but also on the other hand, it shows the dangers if struggle does not lead to a clear socialist way out of capitalist crisis. With most current leaders of the workers’ movement mistakenly attempting to solve the aggravating social crises within capitalism, there is need for the CWI, everywhere we are organized, to give genuine change-seeking elements socialist perspectives to myriads of crisis facing the world. This will ensure that people are armed with an understanding of the crisis and are able to draw appropriate conclusion on how genuine change can be won.

Robert made specific mention of the situation in Syria, which has degenerated to one of the worst refugee crises in Europe in modern history. International news media have focused the attention of the world on the migration of Syrian and other refugees to Europe. But the issue in Syria goes beyond the migration to Europe, because many Syrian refugees who are not from privileged or middle-class background are stuck in the Middle East, residing in poverty in neighboring countries surrounding Syria.

Aside the legacy of war and devastation, capitalist policies and character of production have also ruined economies, and increasingly the environment, around the world. Today, there is no indication that the economic crisis and recession which many countries around the globe are facing will end any time soon. Many countries have implemented, and others are preparing to implement, austerity measures to cut the living standard of working masses, who had no part in creating the crises in the first instance. He identified Greece as a country which exemplifies “the depth of the capitalist crises”.

Greece – the limits of trying to reform capitalism

In Greece, many younger residents are leaving the country to seek greener pasture elsewhere around Europe, while city dwellers are going back to rural settlements to start subsistence agriculture to help sustain their family. This misery notwithstanding, Greek governments, spurred on by other imperialist states in the European Union especially, recommended cuts to amounts spent on items that directly benefit the people. These dangerous measures have not gone down well with the Greeks, as public support shifted to political organizations that said they opposed further austerity measures and neo-liberal concessions. In January the relatively new Syriza party, an alliance of Left-leaning organizations, was voted into power on this basis. But as Robert observed, the Syriza leadership rapidly capitulated to the capitalist establishment because of “its refusal to break completely with capitalism”. But in a special referendum held in July the Greeks were clearly unequivocal on their opposition to austerity measure, but the Syriza leadership immediately went ahead to implement agreements with the ‘troika’ that emphasizes further cuts in the name of austerity. The lessons from Greece clearly show how programmes in favour of lifting up the material conditions of the masses would receive popular support and roots among the people, but to be successful there has to be a break with capitalism.

Robert further illustrated the growing radicalization of the masses across the world with the Irish campaign against commercialization of water. The CWI section in Ireland, which has before now recorded electoral successes in the Irish parliament, is intervening in this popular campaign against outrageous water charges. He explained how our Irish comrades had built from the layer of the masses refusing to pay the charges, a broader, more organized base which was challenging austerity as a whole and could elect a group into the Irish parliament in the elections due early next year. More so, the Irish campaign clearly shows the methods of the CWI in building mass-based campaign against austerity, and especially in terms of avoiding the mistakes of the Syriza party in Greece.

South African student victory

In South Africa, around the time of our meeting, massive protests of students against fee hike and commercialization of education broke out. The protest started initially at University of Witwatersrand as a reaction against the decision of the university authorities to increase fees for the year 2016 session of the university. This protest was not given due attention by the authorities, except when it has fully snowballed into a national movement against fee hike tagged #feesmustfall movement. Robert pointed out that the history of struggle, especially since the Marikana massacre, the growing economic problems and inequality in South Africa were in part responsible for the popular support received by the #feesmustfall movement. Around 70% of the South African population feels the South African government is corrupt, while a significant population believes that the ruling ANC has failed in distributing wealth of the South African state in accordance to the apartheid era ANC manifestoes.

One key lesson from South Africa is also the role that socialist and pro-working class organizations can play in giving direction to the struggle of youths and workers, especially in terms of programmes, slogans and general direction of the movement. It is not impossible that the xenophobic attacks in South Africa were an extreme reaction of youths and masses who are altogether dissatisfied with the economic situation and general direction of government policies. The CWI comrades in South Africa are building a political party, the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) for intervention in the working class struggle. Also the youth wing of WASP in South Africa, the Socialist Youth Movement (SYM), played crucial roles in giving organization and clarity to the ideas and protests of the #feesmustfall movement. Despite the victory of the students’ struggle, Robert identifies that there is a need for South African youths to defend the victory against the possibility of the ANC leadership rescinding its stance. “Under capitalism, the people are faced with the tasks of defending every single victory”, he stressed. “In South Africa, President Zuma said there would not be fee increment in 2016, and this would mean that students must ensure that the victory remains beyond 2016,” he added.

Growing support for socialism in the US

At the epicenter of imperialism, that is, the United States, Robert pointed out that “we have seen a tremendous radicalization of the people in United States recently”. There is a growing interest among the people to know what socialism is, and there is equally the potential to build a large, strong socialist and pro-workers organization in the United States. It is important to note that some decades ago, the word “socialism” was an anathema in the United States due to the negative effects and image created by Stalinism. The correct analysis of the CWI of Stalinism and USSR’s turn into a degenerated workers’ state after the death of Vladmir Lenin and the rise of an elite bureaucratic caste is key factor in being able to help organize the growing interest of American working class and youth in socialist ideas.

Our comrades in the United States organized in the Socialist Alternative are making impactful intervention in the struggle for socialist transformation of America. The electoral success of Kshama Sawant in Seattle confirms the acceptability of socialist programmes in America. In this way too, we have been able to show by example what a socialist polity would look like, especially with the successes of our campaign for $15 minimum wage and practice of placing socialists elected into public offices on average wage of workers. Robert explained that the Socialist Alternative, the CWI in America, could be the biggest group supporting the CWI in the nearest future. However, at the time of our meeting there was still the question of getting Kshama re-elected into the Seattle city council – something which was later achieved.

Aside Seattle, on a national level, the preparation for the 2016 US general elections has revealed a population of people thirsting for the ideas and programmes of socialism. Senator Bernie Sanders, trying to become the Democratic party’s Presidential candidate, has publicly identified himself as a socialist on several occasions and has seized rhetoric such as calling for a “revolution” to eliminate the influence of “big corporations” in the American economy in his addresses to campaign rallies and assembly. The impact of Bernie Sanders’s radical gospel on the American populace was confirmed recently in an article published by the Washington Post, which attempted to explain the meaning of democratic socialism. The article correctly elucidates on the opposition of socialism to the exploitative practices of big businesses and corporation, but fails to grasp the attitude of socialism to the capitalist state. The article for instance portrayed Sanders as a candidate who is only opposed to the big business, and not to the “democratic” institutions of America. Whether the writer got Sanders’ position correct or not, his description of democratic socialism is faulty – because socialists always emphasize on the need to break away from the institutions of capitalism, and put real democratic management of society in the hand of the working class at various sectors of the economy. This is a feat that is impossible to achieve under the current “democratic” institutions of the US, which in reality make a workers’ control of the economy and society impossible.

But Sanders on his part allows this misnomer to fester. Robert contended that Sanders should have contested as an independent candidate; meanwhile Sanders has pledged his allegiance to the Democrats, who are complete capitalists, to support whoever emerges at the Democratic Party Convention. The danger of this is that genuine forces who might have been attracted to the Sander’s campaign may be dissolved into the whole Democratic-capitalist party polity. In this sense Sanders is going down the same road as Adams Oshiomhole did when initially he said he would stand for Labour in Edo state before switching to the then AC, now APC, and thereby threw away a chance to help build an independent working class political movement. As an independent socialist candidate, Sanders and other socialist organizations supporting his candidature could tap into the pool of popular support that Sanders is getting in the US to build larger socialist organizations and win various sections of the population to our ideas. However, in spite of the limitations of Sanders, his electoral attempt has shown the growing radicalization of the American society, and their readiness to grasp radical ideas of genuine change such as the opposition to neo-liberalism and exploitative character of capitalism.

Civil war developing in British Labour Party

The situation in United Kingdom is not completely different in pattern and character to those of other countries around the globe, where conspicuous opposition to austerity measure and growing radicalization of the masses are recorded among the people. Robert made it clear that there is “an anti-austerity mood in the United Kingdom”, the right wing Conservatives won May’s election with under 37% of the vote. This mood is especially underscored by the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the Labour Party in UK, which Robert said was “a surprise to everyone”. The contest of Corbyn witnessed an influx of new layers of the people into and around the Labour party to support and vote for Corbyn on the basis of his anti-austerity stance. This is indeed a huge blow dealt on the right-wing tendency of the Labour Party. But the emergence of Corbyn is the beginning of a painstaking task of preventing schemes by the right-wing Blairites in the Labour Party to use their parliamentary positions and control of the Party apparatus to reclaim their position of dominance in Labour’s party polity. Robert painted a picture of a war between the defeated right wing element and a left-inclined Corbyn.

Faced with a Labour Party led by Corbyn, Robert informed the meeting that our comrades in the Socialist Party, the affiliate of the CWI in Britain, are being asked what is their approach to this new situation. It is too early to know how the situation in post-Corbyn Labour will unfold. The ruling class and the Labour right wing are trying to neutralize Corbyn in preparation for later removing him. But this is easier said than done given the growing support that Corbyn has and the obvious inability of the Labour right wing to recruit supporters. Our comrades in the Socialist Party argue that as Corbyn has been elected on an anti-austerity ticket, efforts must immediately start to build campaigns against austerity and a fight against Blairites seeking to keep Labour a capitalist party. Our comrades in Britain are preparing for independent campaigns with Corbyn supporters, trade unionists and communities against austerity. Such campaigns will especially be built in the local governments that are being used by the British government to implement the odious policy of austerity.

From Robert’s lead-off, it is graphic that capitalism has eaten more than it could possibly swallow, especially given the myriads of economic crisis it has created without any solution in sight. There is also the need for organizations like the CWI to continue to be inspired to take up the struggles of working people, and give an organized character to this struggle where they are breaking out. The comments and contributions that followed the lead-off by Robert indicated the general interest of comrades in the struggles of the working class and masses globally, with them drawing necessary lessons and conclusions from these struggles.

Revolution and counter-revolution in the Middle East

Kola Ibrahim, while making his contribution to discussion on the world relations, called the attention of the meeting to the situation in the Middle East and North Africa. For him, there is a tendency among the people to condemn the social revolt of masses in these areas as orchestrations of imperialism. But this condemnation is faulty. “Imperialism or capitalism has little to do in determining when people revolt.” The absence of socialist of pro-working people organizations in these countries made it possible for imperialism to take advantage of the revolution for dangerous imperialist agenda. Kola identifies that it is important that our members are armed with the correct perspective as there is a tendency among the people to condemn popular revolutions on account of the gory, undemocratic and repressive situations in post-revolt states of Egypt, Syria etc. If such mindset continues, it could have a depressing and frustrating effect on the social consciousness of oppressed people around the world.

Comrade Ayo Ademiluyi noted that the consciousness of the current generation which is not tainted by memories of Stalinism, alongside the growing awareness that capitalism does not work, is a crucial factor responsible for the growing interest of Americans in socialism. Lateef Adams also noted that policies of successive capitalist governments in the United States have failed continuously, and indeed confirms that capitalism is incompetent of providing solutions to the problems it creates on daily basis.

The LPs in Nigeria and Britain

Pelad took the podium to draw a contrast between the Labour Party in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, and went ahead to show that our position to build the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) is vindicated. The Labour Party in Britain originally had built a mass working class base though with a pro-capitalist leadership; hence it was called bourgeois workers party. It was therefore a pool for socialists to fish for advanced cadres of the working class that could be won to a programme of struggle and to revolutionary ideas. But this situation is not the same in Nigeria; “there is no pool of working class in Nigeria’s Labour Party, one will have to create an artificial pool to fish for working class elements by taking up campaign to attract workers to that platform”. Unfortunately, other socialist groups apart from DSM were not ready for such task even when they silently held leadership position in the party while the door of the party was shut against members of DSM. While the DSM campaigns for a mass working people party, it has continued to build SPN as a working people alternative to demonstrate with a clear example. The Socialist Party, the sister organization of DSM in Britain, made tremendous gains in the trade unions and communities while working independently when the Labour Party became anathema to working class and working inside by socialists became extremely difficult, DSM could make similar gains through the SPN in absence of a mass workers party.

After these interesting contributions and questions, Robert took the platform again to give a sum-up. He specifically clarified on a question regarding what the attitude of the UK’s Socialist Party would be to the Corbyn’s phenomenon in Labour. In Robert’s explanation, the attitude of our party in Britain, the Socialist Party is to continue intervention against austerity while proposing the concrete steps that need to be undertaken to build upon Corbyn’s victory. Although the way events will develop are still not clear now, the Socialist Party has maintained a flexible approach to joining in this new battle for socialist ideas in the Labour Party. It is arguing that the Labour Party should return to its original form of a federation of working class organisations, trade unions, socialist parties and co-operatives where the Socialist Party can join as an independent affiliate. Robert further adopted the positions of comrades on the situation in the Middle East, as well as informing the meeting on the efforts of the CWI to build bases in these parts of the world.

There is no doubt that the discussion on the World Relations at this October’s National Committee meeting would have tremendous impact on the resolve of comrades to continue to build the DSM and Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) as a viable alternative for working masses and change-seeking youth in Nigeria for conquest of political power. It has also shown that the CWI Nigeria is not alone in the struggle to transform society.