Nigeria facing ongoing crises – Socialists analyse and make plans
DSM holds National Committee meeting
Preparing members for struggles on immediate issues and for socialism
By IBK and Michael Lenin
The National Committee (NC) of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) met over the weekend of Saturday and Sunday 7 and 8 August 2021. The NC is the second highest decision-making organ of the DSM and it meets at least twice a year to discuss important political developments in the class struggle nationally and internationally and agrees on policies and programmes of activity to further develop the struggle on both immediate issues and for socialism. A total of 49 comrades and contacts attended the first day while about 30 attended the second day. Between the two days 5 comrades also joined the meeting on zoom. The meeting also had a good number of visitors from the workplace, trade unions and students in attendance out of whom about 10 filled membership forms to join the DSM. Below are the reports of the 2-day event:
The NC meeting on Saturday started with the agenda of discussing the Nigerian situation and perspectives with the National Question as the main theme. This was premised on the existence of national agitations in different parts of the country, in the form of calls for a Sovereign state of Biafra and Oduduwa Nation. These situations formed the major feature of the Nigerian Perspectives which was the agenda for the first session of the day.
The meeting not only brought together comrades from different parts of the country, but also brought in Labour leaders and worker activists who were consciously invited especially for the Labour discussion which was the agenda for the second and last session of the day. Trade union activists from the rubber and chemical workers’ union, Nurses Union etc., were in attendance. Also present was the General Secretary of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Musa Lawal, who joined the discussion.
The leadoff on the first session was taken by Comrade Soweto who touched on the desperate economic situation facing many working class families as a result of rising food prices, as well as prices of other basic needs. Despite coming out of recession in the fourth quarter of 2020, Nigeria’s economy has fallen on even harder times. Inflation in June 2021 was at 17.75% with composite food index rising by 21.83%, the food index was 12.05% in April 2020. These economic realities of Nigeria’s capitalism led to unemployment which is now at 33.3% meaning at least 23.2 million people are out of work out of the 70 million who should be working in Nigeria. Youth unemployment is even higher thus creating a large army of young people desperate and fearful of the future.
This dire economic situation forms the background to the desperate security situation in the country. Though predating it, no doubt the security situation (with criminal herdsmen, bandits, ISWAP and Boko Haram as major security threats), has ballooned in recent years under the Buhari government and it is a major reason why there is some support for the calls and agitation for secession and dismemberment of Nigeria.
He stressed our support for the right of oppressed nations to self-determination as an organization. This for us is a democratic right enjoyable by any ethnic nationality of the country due to the history of colonialism which led to the yoking of Nigeria together but it does not mean we automatically support secession. As far as Socialists are concerned, dividing Nigeria will not be a solution to any of the crises bedeviling the working masses except and only until capitalism is dethroned. Therefore, while defending the rights of those who think secession is a way out to be able to canvass their views without state repression, socialists continue to campaign for the united struggle of the working masses to end capitalism and enthrone a socialist Nigeria. At the same time we argue that separation on the basis of capitalism is no solution as, for example, the experience of South Sudan shows. In the event of a majority drive for separation we would argue that this needs to be linked to breaking with capitalism and setting an example to workers and youth in other countries of how a socialist transformation can begin, something that would get a warm echo internationally.
Soweto made the point that insecurity in the country is not an ethnic problem and that it could only be solved by multi-ethnic non-sectarian efforts of the masses in the affected communities. He concluded that therefore there is the need for a collective effort of the Nigerian masses to liberate the country from the rotten capitalist class and enthronement of socialism. In view of this, it is crucial that the labour movement to make a call for and mobilize for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference dominated by elected representatives of the working and toiling people and youth to discuss the ideas and policies with which the country will be reconstructed. As socialists, he pointed it out that the idea for reconstruction has to be on the basis of socialism for such a reconstruction to be sustainable and in interest of the vast majority.
Contributions in this section stressed the problems of the health sector where doctors have been going off and on strike recently and medical facilities are inadequate and the need for joint struggle by the health workers. Aside from COVID 19 which has now entered a third wave with the prevalence of the more deadly Delta variant, contributors also mentioned other health risks and diseases that have broken out including the recent cholera outbreak. The return of diseases like cholera which had been substantially reduced in the past period goes to show how capitalism in crisis continues to take society backward.
The discussion also touched how the Nigerian ruling elite use nepotism and tribal sentiments to hold on to power, in addition to heavy monetization and use of violence during electioneering periods. The recent local government elections in Lagos and Ogun states were mentioned and the intense apathy demonstrated by the electorate who ignored the prospect of getting some money from the bourgeois politicians in exchange for their votes. The apathy underscores the general feeling among Nigerians that elections are a joke.
Contributors who spoke on the national question addressed the issue of possible marginalization of minority tribes within seceding nations and their fate. Socialists have to demand that the rights of ethnic minorities are respected including their right to democratically decide which side to join in the event of secession or break up of Nigeria. We also stand against any forced migration or expulsion of minority population in any state. It was agreed that the labour movement must lead the way on every front, in order to unite the working people to undercut sectarian forces and avoid any possible military takeover or civil war in the country.
Comrades contributing pointed out the need to build broad left united response to the many woes of the country, while building support for our programme and organisation with total commitment. The summing up of the discussion by Lanre Arogundade stressed the need for the building of our forces in the DSM as the basis upon which we can play any serious role in the tumultuous events that impends.
For a Fighting Labour Movement
The second session on the labour movement started with a lead off by Comrade Rufus Olusesan (Ero) who is the National Chairperson of the Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) – the platform through which the DSM carries out workplace interventions. He identified some reasons why labour leaders are failing their members in the country. One of these reasons is the collusion between the management of workplaces and union leaders. A collusion that started many years back when Labour leaders and the capitalist ruling elite entered an agreement to guarantee automatic check-off dues via employers rather than get paid directly by union members.
This strategic partnership also led to the automatic membership tied to unions on the basis of industry and with no option for workers to choose a union of their choice some union leaders became closer to the bosses who paid the dues than to the workers they claimed to represent. This financial interest has also affected the internal democracy of most unions leading to power grabs, violation of union constitution, and sit tight regime of right wing labour leaders.
He made the example of the travails of our own comrade, Abbey Trotsky, who is currently being victimized with up to six different court cases by the management of SUMAL Company in collusion with the food workers union leadership. He identified steps that can be taken to address these problems such as a takeover of the union from career bureaucrats by activists, organizing of constant union meetings at all levels, removal of union leaders that are not working for the interest of the workers, putting union leaders on average wage, publishing the expenses of the union, organizing workers political education program, etc. He also stressed the need for a workers’ political party that really represents the interest of workers.
The contributions started with the General Secretary of the TUC who read the solidarity message of the TUC president, who explained the efforts of the union in opposition to the efforts of the management of workplaces to destroy unionism. The TUC president also stated the need for collaboration between the trade union and pro-labour organizations. Other comrades and trade unionists from different unions pointed out issues like outsourcing and casualization of workers without right to a trade union and with poor pay and slave condition, corrupt leadership of labour unions who are disconnected from the workplace, and the destruction of the Labour Party, etc.
Comrade Israel, a DSM member and factory worker from Ibadan, appreciated the organization’s positive approach to youths and young workers while corroborating the earlier stated issues going on in trade unions. Kevin, an exiled Vice President of a trade union in Southern Cameroon, also stressed how the situation is the same beyond Nigeria and how union leaders close their eyes to the plights of their members. He stressed that trade unions are a powerful force to make political change in Africa, and emphasized the need to focus on left ideology within unions.
Proposals for future activity included building a network of solidarity between activists, radical union leaders and Socialists to spearhead a campaign for a fighting and democratic labour movement, encouraging radical and pro-worker union activists and leaders to formally join our organisation, organising workers education programme, and working towards building a genuine mass workers party.
The sum up by Comrade Chinedu pointed out the need to campaign for workers to be able to choose the union they want to belong to, as against being forced to be part of a union already bought over by their management. He also empathized the need to address the automatic check-off dues that union leaders get from management and the need to ensure this financial interest does not continue to lead to autocracy in the unions. He also underscored the dire need for a campaign with the labour movement involving socialists and trade union activists for the rebuilding of trade union movement as a truly democratic and fighting platform of workers.
The second day of the National Committee meeting of was attended by about 30 persons. The discussion kick-started with focus on developments around the world. Comrade Abbey Trotsky led the discussion. The lead-off noted the Covid-19 pandemic and its effect on world economy, trade war between America and China was elaborately stressed. The leadoff also touched on the Israel Palestine crisis and the crisis in the Middle East. An explanation of the crisis between the Tigray region and the Ethiopia was done. The crisis shows clearly that capitalist reforms cannot end the national question, it requires far-reaching socialist programs of emancipating the working class to resolve the national question. The oppression of the Southern-Cameroon people by the Cameroonian government was also discussed.
The leadoff was followed by contributions from comrades. Many pointed out the need to pay attention to developments globally. It was stressed that this can be done by regular reading of articles from the CWI website. Comrades in their contributions also stressed the general crisis of capitalism globally. Points were raised on the various struggles breaking out in different countries. Kelvin, a Southern Cameroonian activist and a sympathizer of our organization, explained the plights of Southern Cameroon people under the repression of the Cameroonian government. He stated that many have been jailed and killed while many are languishing in various IDP camps. There was an agreement that the need for a socialist transformation should be stressed while supporting the struggle of the people of Southern Cameroon against repression and for self-determination.
The sum-up to the discussion was done by Kola Ibrahim, who deeply explained the global crisis of capitalism. The crisis in Cuba was also emphasized. He reiterated our call for democratic control and management of the economy by the Cuban working people. The over 60 years embargo placed on Cuba by the US was a factor, but the lack of workers’ democracy was stressed as a major problem which has led to the degeneration of the Cuban revolution. The need to build the organization of the working class in different countries, especially in Africa was also stressed. Members agreed that there is a need to build the CWI in Africa and other continents.
The meeting proceeded to the second session meant for organization, branch and financial reports. The report of the organization was done by Comrade Chinedu and summed up by Comrade Pelad. About 10 branches (4 students’ branches and 6 community branches) gave reports while the methods needed to build a stronger DSM were discussed by comrades. The meeting was also attended by new comrades from two schools we have recently begun the process of establishing branches. Over N300,000 was raised in the fighting fund both in cash and pledges. The meeting ended with an agreement to intensify the continuation of our efforts towards the building of the DSM on clear ideas of Marxism.