Socialist Democracy Special Bulletin -TIME FOR SYSTEM CHANGE
29 October 2003
Paper of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
Special Bulletin October – November 2003
Fuel Crisis, Deregulation, Mass Poverty,
TIME FOR SYSTEM CHANGE
An Independent Pan-Nigerian Working Masses Political Party Must Be Built
After almost five years of civil rule, the living conditions of most layers of the working masses have grown from bad to worse.
While the costs of living, education, health care, housing, transportation, telecommunications, electricity, etc have grown up geometrically, the purchasing power of the masses has in the same proportion continued to decline.
Nothing shows the hopelessness and helplessness of the policies of the capitalist politicians across the country than their frequent and now permanent resort to hike of fuel prices.
Each time hike in fuel prices has been effected, government spokespersons and oil marketers had always promised availability of these products and buoyant economic growth expected to come as a result of additional revenues to be realised through the hike.
However, the reality has always been the exact opposite of this rosy picture. On each occasion that this pro-rich anti-poor policy has been implemented the masses has always come off worse in form of drastic reduction in their living standard owing to the inflationary nature of this policy.
The consequent reduction of the collective purchasing power of the masses and society as a whole arising from this policy is at the root of the perennial collapse and massive retrenchment that have reigned supreme in the productive sectors over the past years.
LIBERALISATION AND DEREGULATION
According to the neo-liberalists and pro-capitalist apologists, the all pervading social economic agonies being experienced by the working masses across the country are unavoidable if the economy and the masses are to enjoy appreciable and sustainable growth.
However, the historical experience internationally show that these policies being implemented by the ruling capitalist governments across the country are such that can only lead the economy and the masses into more prostrate conditions in the immediate, medium and long term.
Here we would give a few examples to illustrate the above conclusions.
PRIVATISATION OF THE COMMANDING HEIGHTS OF THE ECONOMY
This is one of the major central planks of the economic policy of the current set of civilian rulers.
Through this process, publicly owned assets, enterprises, resources, etc are being converted into private assets of a few capitalist individuals and corporations nationally and internationally. As to be expected in this kind of milieu, profit as supposed to the needs of the masses and their interests hold sway in social-economic decision-making.
Suffice to note, this particular policy has led to astronomical rise in cost of goods and services beyond the average incomes of the vast majority of the working people. Massive retrenchment of workers is always an automatic by-product of private companies whose primary goal always is to make maximum profit from as little input as possible.
COMMERCIALISATION OF SOCIAL SERVICES
Commercialisation of health care, education and other related social services are severally and collectively pillars of the neo-liberal economic strategy.
The assumption is that making individuals and parents financially responsible for these services is the best way to safeguard their continuity and quality. However, to the extent that this meant additional financial burden without commensurate increment in incomes for most layers of the working people the attendant result of this pro-rich policy has been the several and collective decline in the quantity and quality of these vital social services.
Today, most layers of the working masses spend greater proportions of their incomes on these social necessaries but in return get poorer and poorer result. The schools both in terms of physical infrastructures and educational knowledge being imparted are in worse conditions today than at any other time in Nigeria’s history.
The health sector is equally in the same deplorable and prostrate condition notwithstanding the increasing proliferation of so-called private hospitals.
Despite the almost two decades of an aggressive neo-liberal policies, most layers of the masses live in decadent and stagnant houses and environment while the state of infrastructures has assumed pre-historic dimension.
DEREGULATION OF THE PETROLEUM SECTOR
This is one neo-liberal measure that will surely place the masses in a state of permanent poverty.
Far from fostering an atmosphere of economic revival and prosperity, this policy will only hasten the prevailing economic depression and in consequence deepen the mass poverty that pervades the country.
The concomitant increment which usually goes with increment in fuel prices are unavoidable expenses in the cost of production. Naturally, producers and company owners will make effort to pass this on to the consumers. But the problem is that these same consumers have been further pauperised by the increment in their own cost of living and thus are not in position to profitably absorb the increment in the cost of goods and services.
Under this kind of situation, there is bound to be a contraction/and or collapse of the overall economy while the masses’ living condition will become worse.
ALTERNATIVE TO NEO-LIBERALISM AND DEREGULATION
According to pro-capitalist elements, the current wave of privatisation, deregulation, etc are necessitated by the corruption and bureaucratic strangulations and bunglings which characterised the publicly owned companies and enterprises in the past period.
While it is true that public enterprises have been and are still havens of corruption and mismanagement, the self-centred, profit-driven philosophy of liberalisation as experience have shown have only worsened a bad situation.
What ought to be done and which capitalist rulers across the country and internationally are incapable of doing is to allow these public enterprises to be run and controlled by elected democratic committees of the working masses.
If this were to be the case, it will not be possible for individual managers of these enterprises to run them in corrupt manners. And even where some managers of such public enterprises choose to be corrupt, it will be possible to bring such elements to book and at the same time checkmate their nefarious activities.
Using the excuse of corruption and mismanagement of public enterprises to sell public enterprises to a few individuals and capitalist corporations is the mother of all corruptions and at the same time a monumental betrayal and negation of the masses’ interests.
While the masses will always need good food, decent housing, functional and affordable education and health care services, etc., the profit motive behind privatisation and liberalisation will always leave the satisfaction of these needs unfulfilled for the vast majority of the working masses.
Only the running of the commanding heights of the economy and resources of society as a collective trust for the provision and satisfaction of the needs of the entire people of the society regardless of their financial status can lay a basis for a permanent and sustainable growth of the economy and the living standard of the working people.
As we in the DSM have always argued, this kind of desirable situation can only be brought about through the revolutionary transformation of the existing unjust capitalist order.
In place of privatisation, labour and working masses organisations must fight for public ownership under working people’s democratic control and management of the commanding heights of the economy and societal resources.
It is only this kind of arrangement that can make it possible for production and services to be planned for the use of all and not just for the rich few. On the basis of an economic arrangement where the needs and aspiration of all constitutes the primary basis of economic planning and governance, there will be more than enough jobs and decent living for everybody.
Suffice to stress, this kind of perspective will be viciously dismissed by capitalist elements as utopia. This is however should be seen as a natural reaction of a set of self-serving elements who see the idea and practice of public ownership of the main economic and natural resources of society especially one run through the democratic control and management of the working masses as meaning doom for their own unjust profit and privileged lifestyles.
Therefore, to safeguard the economic and political interests of the working masses, labour leaders, socialists, rank and file workers and trade unionists need to commence immediately the building of an independent pan-Nigerian working masses political party which is committed to the struggle to capture political power and put in place a workers and poor peasants’ government on the basis of a democratic socialist programme only which can permanently stop anti-poor, pro-rich policies.
The NLC leadership should as a matter of urgency convoke a conference of trade unions, human rights groups, professional bodies, community associations, socialist groups and pro-labour organisations like the National Conscience Party (NCP), Party for Social Democracy (PSD), etc, to discuss and work out the strategy and tactics for the formation and building of an independent mass working people’s political platform that would lead a mass movement for the necessary social transformation outlined above.
MASSES’ INTERESTS AND CAPITALIST GREED CANNOT BE RECONCILED
Equally, we in the DSM call on the NLC leadership to abandon its mistaken policy of thinking that a mutually beneficial accord between the working masses and the capitalist class can be forged. Yes, as labour leaders, they will inevitably have to be involved in one form of dialogue or the other with private employers and government officials over conditions of service, pay, etc.
However, it will be illusory on the part of the labour leaders to think that the conflict between the working masses and the capitalist class over policy of privatisation, deregulation, etc, could be resolved through dialogue.
Historically, capitalism at this point in history has reached a crisis point wherein its self-centred interest can no longer be substantially reconciled with the interest of the vast majority of the working people. This is the historic dilemma facing the current generation of labour leaders and all change-seeking elements.
To guarantee the basic needs and aspirations of the working masses, there is the need for system change not a system reconciliation or reform as apparent in the recent call to the government for dialogue by the NLC leadership over the deregulation policy.
Rather than this fruitless strategy of dialogue with the deaf, labour should be encouraging the setting of up grassroot struggle or action committees in communities, streets, workplaces and schools to prepare the masses for the inevitable struggles both to defend their living and working conditions as well for the take over of political power by the working masses.