DSM Calls for Mass Support for NLC and TUC General Strike
Reversal of Hikes in Petrol Prices and Fees in Public Universities and other Tertiary Institutions Should be Part of Strike’s Demands!
No rotten compromises!
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) welcomes the declaration of a general strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress and calls on workers, youth and the masses to support the action which is called against the deepening economic hardship caused by the anti-poor capitalist policies of Bola Tinubu government. We also commend the resolve of the two labour centres to unite and prosecute together the strike which is scheduled to start on October 3.
However, unlike the 2-day warning strike held on September 5 and 6 by the NLC which was just a stay-at-home action, we urge the labour centres to combine this general strike with a nationwide mass protest. This will provide an avenue for the working masses and youth to actively participate in the action and thereby increase the degree of pressure that will be mounted on the government. It is also important for the NLC and TUC to immediately begin adequate mobilization and preparation for the strike. We call on Labour to initiate meetings with pro-masses organizations to discuss the mobilization and preparation including formation of strike action committees in communities, workplaces and campuses.
We are also strongly of the opinion that this strike should be a definite action, not an indefinite one. We are not opposed to an indefinite general strike but believe that, right now, a three day stoppage would be a mighty warning to the government and a step towards further struggles. We do not want a repeat of past situations where ‘indefinite’ general strikes have been called but then end in a day or two. Besides, the struggle against the economic crises will be protracted. This is because even if the government is forced to grant some palliatives, it cannot significantly mitigate the economic hardship faced by the vast majority of the working masses as a result of the prevailing neo-liberal capitalist policies. Therefore, there will be a constant need for the working masses to return to the barricade to fight for better conditions and genuine system change.
Besides, if a general strike, especially one meant to last for an indefinite period of time, is not part of activities of a revolutionary mass movement to take over political power, it may over time be susceptible to sabotage from the government or declined support especially from those who live on daily earning. So, we call for a 72-hour strike as the next step after which there should be a democratic evaluation of the action and agreement involving mass of workers and pro-masses organizations on the next line of actions. Likewise any deal with the federal government cannot be agreed in the middle of the night by a few leaders, any proposed deal must be put out to democratic debate and decision taking before being formally signed.
We welcome the declaration of support for the strike by the Labour Party. As we have always canvassed, a genuine workers’ party cannot merely serve as an electoral vehicle. It must be involved in the day to day struggle of the working people to fight back against anti-poor policies. Unfortunately, should the Tinubu government be kicked out today, there is no guarantee that a Labour Party government will rule better. For instance, the LP presidential candidate in the last election, Peter Obi, campaigned on a ticket of petrol subsidy removal and devaluation of the naira just as the present government did. Therefore, we urge the NLC and TUC as well as left and pro-masses organisations to also begin to rebuild the LP as a genuine, democratically run, mass workers party with socialist programmes.
We also note that in their joint communiqué of September 26, the NLC and TUC are not clear and concrete about the demands upon which the strike is called. It is not enough to say that: “the federal government has therefore not met in any substantial way, the demands of Nigerian workers and peoples as previously canvassed in our mutually agreed roadmap to salvaging the economy and protecting workers and Nigerians from the monumental hardship”.
In any case, we strongly hold that any “mutually agreed roadmap” that does not include an end to the capitalist neo-liberal polices such as deregulation, devaluation, etc cannot salvage the economy nor protect “workers and Nigerians from the monumental hardship”. Unfortunately, the labour leadership have capitulated to the neo-liberal programme including deregulation and devaluation but then complain about the inevitable results of such policies. This explains why despite correctly stating in this communique that the hike in the price of petrol has caused “massive suffering, impoverishment and hunger in the country”, the NLC and TUC, like the Labour Party, do not call for its reversal. Rather, they nebulously state that it “demands an urgent need for remedial action”.
Since its inauguration on May 29 the Tinubu government has twice increased the price of petrol – first from N195 to N488 and later to N570, using the NNPC prices in Lagos and Southwest Nigeria; they are higher in other parts of the country. Yet, the NLC and TUC have refused to fight for the reversal of the obnoxious hikes.
It should be also recalled that the TUC President Festus Osifo was reported to have applauded devaluation of the naira under the guise of unification of exchange rates saying that it would help in rejuvenating the nations’ economy. (Vanguard June 16). In the same vein, it is not on record that the NLC has issued a statement to reject the policy. Sadly also, both the NLC and TUC have not condemned the current wave of criminal hikes in school fees at public universities and other tertiary institutions, let alone demanding their reversal.
All these suggest an acceptance of the neo-liberal capitalist agenda by the leadership of the NLC and TUC, probably because they do not believe there is an alternative to capitalism. We therefore call on workers and trade union activists to agitate within the trade union movement for the return to tradition of opposing neo-liberal capitalist agenda which naturally militate against the interest of workers and the poor masses.
Nonetheless, we call on the NLC and TUC to come out clearly in a statement or document and list the demands that constitute the “remedial action” so that workers and the masses would know what they are fighting for. However, from what could be gleaned from media reports the demands of the NLC and TUC include wage awards, tax exemption for some categories of workers and provision of Compressed Natural Gas buses and release of modalities for the payment of N70 billion to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). We welcome these demands but note that the vast majority of working people will not directly benefit from them even if implemented. This is why clear calls for the reversal of hikes in petrol prices and school fees in public universities as well as adequate funding of public education and healthcare must be also included in the demands of the strike.
By and large, we reiterate our calls on the NLC and TUC as well as activists and all pro-masses organisations to consider discussing the following programme within their ranks with a view to adopting them as cardinal demands in the fightback against the anti-poor Tinubu government including the strike expected to start on October 3:
- Reversal of pump price of petrol to N195 per litre.
- Arrest and speedy trial of all subsidy thieves and seizure of their ill-gotten wealth
- N200, 000 national minimum wage to be regularly increased in accordance to the rate of inflation
- Immediate crash programme to repair old refineries and build new ones
- Petrol from Dangote refinery, when it starts operating, to conform to a price cap of N195 per litre otherwise it should be nationalized under workers control and management.
- Reversal of all hiked school fees. No to student loan. For adequate funding of public education and healthcare
- No hike in electricity tariff
- Rejection of neo-liberal capitalist policies – deregulation, devaluation, privatization, commercialization of social services, etc
- Immediate meeting of the demands of academic staff, non-academic staff, doctors and all medical personnel.
- Release of all political prisoners including #ENDSARS protesters and end to attacks on democratic rights.
- Reduction in the salaries of political office holders and their placement on the minimum wage.
- Cancelation of security vote and reduction of the Presidential fleet
However, as the DSM has always argued, the experience of working masses themselves amply demonstrates that no real or long-lasting relief can be won for the working people under capitalism. This is why for struggle to win real victory, labour and workers need to adopt clear and bold pro-working people philosophy and programme that synchronise with the genuine aspirations of the working people and the objective basis of their existence and struggle. This in our view is no other than a scientific Socialist programme which links demands on the day to day issues facing the working people with a programme for the nationalization of the key sectors of the Nigerian economy such as oil and gas sector, banks, big industries and mines under workers democratic control and management in order to ensure that society’s wealth trapped in the hands of a few are made available to make life better for the mass majority.
This also underscores the need for the labour movement to initiate the building of a genuine mass working people’s party with a revolutionary programme and method to wrest power from the thieving, backward capitalist ruling and form a workers and poor people’s government with a socialist programme. Such a government will ensure the human and material resources of the country are used on the basis of socialist planning for the benefit of the vast majority and genuine development of the society.