DSM Holds National Committee Meeting to Prepare for Mass Struggle against Anti-Poor Capitalist Attacks of Tinubu Government
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) held its National Committee (NC) meeting over the weekend of November 25 and 26. The NC which had in attendance members and supporters from various branches offered an opportunity to discuss the anti-poor policies of Bola Tinubu, the labour movement and its response, the state of class struggle and what should be done. The meeting also agreed on the perspectives and tasks that can help prepare Socialists, activists and working class people politically and organizationally for class struggle, explosive situation, and mass movements that may still erupt in the life of the Tinubu government. This is despite the current lull occasioned primarily by the despicable class collaborationist character of the labour leadership and also as a result of the current organizational weakness of the left.
The tasks of working class people, trade unions, socialist and left organisations and youth for the building of a mass working people party with a socialist programme to consistently resist economic hardship and anti-poor policies, and be prepared ahead of 2027 elections were also discussed.
Also discussed was the global crisis of capitalism which has manifested in economic crisis, inter-imperialist rivalries, wars and conflicts, military coups, climate crisis, etc.
Between the two days, 45 members attended the meeting both in-person and via a zoom link.
To aid the work of the organisation, a sum of N482, 000 was collected, both in cash and pledges, as Fighting Fund.
Below is the Resolution on Nigeria adopted by the meeting. More reports of the meeting will be published later.
TINUBU PRESIDENCY: AN ABSOLUTE DISASTER FOR WORKERS AND THE POOR
NEED TO BUILD MASS RESISTANCE AND WORKING PEOPLE POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE
As we predicted, President Tinubu’s government has turned into an absolute disaster for the mass of working people and poor masses in Nigeria. If a poll is conducted in Nigeria today asking average Nigerians how they have fared since May 29, the prevailing answer is likely going to be a tale of suffering, hardship and misery. Such is the scale, rapidity and magnitude of the attacks the new administration has unleashed on poor Nigerians, the working class and layers of the middle classes through its so-called economic reforms.
The main culprit of course is the removal of fuel subsidies. On May 29, as President Tinubu was being sworn in at Eagle Square Abuja, he declared “Petrol subsidy is gone”! Immediately, the fuel prices rocketed from N195 per litre to at least N500 per litre. This anti-poor policy, which has been in the works for nearly three decades, was followed by a raft of others including naira devaluation and a plan to introduce tuition fee under the guise of student loans. Meanwhile, already school fees have been astronomically increased in many universities and other higher institutions. All of these have had the combined effect of unleashing an unprecedented cost of living crisis that has sent inflation soaring and living conditions crashing. According to a recent statement of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), “inflation moved from 19% to 29%; exchange rate from N400 to N1, 300; and pump price of PMS from N187 to N700, in the first five months of this government!” (NLC statement November 14, 2023).
IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS
Rejecting Buhari’s failed mix of neo-liberalism and state intervention, the Tinubu regime has opted for an all-out neo-liberalist offensive. It presents the case as if the only course of action that is required to correct the preexisting mess is to impose policies that will push people further into poverty. But this is not true! By removing the fuel subsidy and devaluing the naira, the regime claims to have blocked fuel smugglers and currency speculators who have been making billions at the expense of the country. However, this only deepens the exploitation and stealing wherein oil thieves who were stealing subsidy funds are now directly exploiting and stealing from the working masses such that price of petrol is now more than 3 times the pre-subsidy removal era. This time around, Nigerians are now at the mercy of petrol marketers who have taken to price gouging in order to better profit from the deregulation of the fuel market. By the time Dangote refinery becomes operational, a country of 220 million people would be at the mercy of one man for their energy needs!
The same goes for unification of the exchange rate which has led to soaring inflation and further distortion in the economy. The reality is that any solution to the crisis plaguing Nigeria can only succeed if it goes beyond the precinct of capitalism. So far it remains within the precinct of capitalism; it will only solve one problem while creating 20 new ones. As Nigeria’s experience has shown, policies like fuel subsidy removal do not address the root cause of the mess. That is why instead of ending the crisis, they produce new one while increasing the suffering of the workers and poor.
We Socialists demand instead that the rich who are responsible for the mess should pay for the crisis. This is why we call first and foremost for a reversal of the fuel price, arrest and trial of all subsidy thieves and seizure of their assets, a crash programme to repair old refineries and build new ones and nationalisation of the oil and gas sector under working people’s control and management. By nationalising the oil sector, we want all private profit interests (including local and multinationals) eliminated to permit the full utilisation of Nigeria’s oil and gas resources for the benefit of its population. By linking this key measure with nationalisation of all other key sectors of the economy like the banks, big industry and mines all under workers democratic control and management, it is possible to implement a Socialist plan to take the country’s wealth off the one percent and use it instead for the interest of the vast majority. This entails investing it massively on public education and healthcare, to banish poverty and unemployment by expanding industry and creating decent jobs on a mass scale, modernize public infrastructure, rebuild the agricultural sector and expand food production to end hunger. A socialist plan also makes it possible to use the wealth to protect the environment, invest in renewable energy sources and build decent homes for all while paying a living wage that can ensure not only improved living standards through reduction of working day and better work conditions but also a happier and more fulfilled life for the mass majority something which only the rich enjoy today.
The only reason why President Tinubu cannot take the above-outlined steps is because they go against the interest of capitalism which he, like all members of the ruling class, fully supports and defends. But these are the only measures that can ensure that the workers and poor who have always suffered do not suffer the more and that Nigeria is truly rescued.
At the moment, the masses are boiling with anger. Just any spark can provoke an outburst. Unfortunately despite the burning anger, there is no leadership as the labour leadership has failed to offer a clear lead. The extent of the readiness for a fight was shown in the two day mass protest called by the NLC and TUC in August. Although the protest were small in many states across the country, the support of the masses was obvious from motorist tooting their horns and commuters raising their fist or asking for leaflet as the procession passed. At the same time, there is a lot of distrust in the labour leadership because of its class collaborationism and legacy of compromise. There is anger but no clear lead and even if labour decides to now offer leadership, many will approach them with caution now due to fear that any action called can, as before, be suspended on the eve or without achieving the objectives.
In this sense, a mood similar to what existed prior to the eruption of the #EndSARS youth revolt two years ago exist today. And just like then, a #EndSARS eruption is equally posed in the current situation just as riots and violent eruptions. Obviously, if any of these happens, we have to discuss how to respond. Going by our experience with #EndSARS, such movements will start off confused, perhaps even hostile to the left or labour movement and without a clear political agenda or programme. We would have to find creative means to intervene while posing what demands and political programme should be fought for.
Given the suffering and the anger, any initiative for struggle can quickly develop and gain rapid support that can grow into national movement to force the regime to backtrack on its neoliberal assault. The truth is that the regime remains fundamentally weak. It was “elected” by just 8.7 million voters -10 percent of the total number of registered voters and 37.7 percent of votes cast in the election. This figure is not only the lowest total but also the lowest percentage of cast votes won by any elected President since 1979! If a mass uprising develops today, the regime can quickly fracture or collapse raising the question of what replaces it. This is why simultaneously as we prepare to fight back, it is also essential for a mass workers’ political alternative, a democratic, campaigning political party, to be built that can act as a lever for the working class and oppressed masses of Nigeria to take power and begin to run society along Socialist lines. Otherwise, there is a risk of a regime collapse leading to the coming to power of the military or in the worst case scenario, a descent into sectarian conflict something which can take Nigeria further along the direction of barbarism.
A key highlight of Buhari’s eight-year regime was the worsening of the National Question with religious and ethnic relations among Nigeria’s major and minor ethnic nationalities at their worst level ever in the last 24 years. Sadly, there is no prospect that a Tinubu presidency would be able to do any better. This is because the Tinubu presidency is coming to power with the taint of religious and ethnic intolerance. First, Tinubu ran a presidential campaign with a Muslim-Muslim ticket. Nigeria’s population is nearly evenly distributed between Christians and Muslims, and there is a long history of religious intolerance and crisis. Therefore, there was always the ever-present concern that such a ticket can raise the fear of religious marginalization and this was the case during the February 25 presidential elections won by Tinubu.
Secondly, the competing factions of the ruling capitalist elite, including Tinubu, mobilized ethnic sentiments during the elections to safeguard their political interests. This ensured that ethnic tension was heightened during the election and on voting days, there were ethnically-motivated attacks in some parts of the country including Lagos State. The Igbo people became a target for instance in Lagos state because of the candidacy of Peter Obi of the Labour Party who hails from the South East. Although Obi won Lagos state, Tinubu’s stronghold, during the presidential election in a major political upset, the seed of ethnic baiting and suspicion that was later sown mainly by the ruling APC in their panic to turn the tide at the gubernatorial elections two weeks after, something which is likely to grow into a menacing plant of ethnic crisis and violence over the course of the Tinubu presidency.
Unfortunately this ethnic chaos and conflict may not be restricted to Lagos state given the fact of the existence of Igbo’s clamour for an independent Biafra Republic in the South East which has escalated into an armed conflict. How a Tinubu presidency deals with this including the continued incarceration of the leader of the IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, will determine what happens. Most likely, the Tinubu presidency may release Kanu and carry out other populist measures to try and buy support, but this would most likely not fully win the support of majority of Igbo people who may continue to regard the federal government with suspicion.
Thirdly, Tinubu has come to power to meet unresolved insecurity crisis like the ongoing war with Boko Haram, Islamic State of West Africa (ISWAP) and other offshoots in the North East of Nigeria. In the North Central and North West, the crisis between herdsmen and farmers, bandits and kidnapping gangs continue to fester. Unless the Tinubu presidency takes a different route other than the approach of simply deploying the army without addressing the root causes of conflict, then there can be no hope that these multifaceted crises would ever abate in the next four years.
However, even if the Tinubu government charts a new path, such as negotiated settlement with the various tendentious forces, this will not be sustainable on a long term basis, as shown in the Niger Delta crisis where various settlements (NDDC, ministry of Niger Delta, Amnesty Programme, etc.) have not stopped militancy, criminal gangs and armed oil bunkering. Only a revolutionary programme that aim to liberate mass of people economically, socially and politically, and which is committed to fast-tracked infrastructural and industrial revolution can begin to resolve the national question.
ONLY MASS STRUGGLE CAN WIN THE MASSES ANY REPRIEVE
The most fundamental conclusion from the foregoing is that despite his promises, a Tinubu presidency is nothing but a continuation of the same rotten past with the result that the working people and toiling masses may end up not experiencing any fundamental improvement in their condition over the next four years.
Although Tinubu’s 80-page manifesto document, tagged “Renewed Hope 2023 – Action Plan for a Better Nigeria”, promised to “foster a new society based on shared prosperity, tolerance, compassion, and the unwavering commitment to treating each citizen with equal respect and due regard”, it has to be pointed out that there is no guarantee that this objective will be achieved, primarily because the pro-capitalist ideological and philosophical paradigm embraced by Tinubu and the ruling APC, will never allow this to be realised.
Linked to this is the fact that the fundamental problem with Nigeria is capitalism – a system of production and exchange which places priority on profit of a few over the needs and welfare of the mass majority. The international weakness of Nigerian capitalism has resulted in the kleptomaniac character of Nigeria’s bourgeois political class, which sees no point in trying to compete in the world markets but instead exploits public resources as free automatic teller machine. This is why despite Nigeria’s humongous wealth in natural, human and natural resources, the state of public infrastructure and the wellbeing of Nigerian working and toiling people have always been in doldrums. Meanwhile, a tiny percentage of the population continues to see their wealth balloon to the extent that the richest person in Africa, Aliko Dangote, comes from Nigeria.
Therefore, the only way workers, the radical youth and the toiling masses can hope to see any improvements in their condition over the course of the next four years is through mass struggle involving strikes and protests on industrial/workplace issues as well as broad socialist economic and social policies which can break the cycle of decline that affects the wellbeing of the working people.
NEW TASKS AND CHALLENGES
Unfortunately, the labour movement is in one of its most serious crisis ever at the moment. On the one hand, the Joe Ajaero leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), which started with radical speeches and sloganeering has ended up as a big disappointment by its hesitation and inability to lead a bold fight back. On the other hand, the labour movement is deeply divided and fractured. As we earlier warned, the regime has succeeded in using the trade union leaders’ support for the Labour Party and its capitalist policies, like subsidy removal, to blackmail labour’s struggle against the effects of subsidy removal. This is partly what played out in Imo state where the NLC president was brutally assaulted by state sponsored thugs and policemen while leading Imo state workers in a strike against the state government’s anti-worker policies. But then it has to be pointed out that the ruling elite succeeded at this owing to series of mistakes.
The most obvious of these mistakes was the suspension of the June 6 general strike called by the NLC against subsidy removal. Although within days of the inauguration of the new regime, a burning anger reminiscent of the one that greeted Jonathan’s new presidency in January 2012 existed in the country and many were looking towards the strike to show their fury at a regime which had started off on a wrong footing. As subsequent revelations showed, neither the party nor the new government was agreed on the timing of the subsidy removal. It was not even in the text of Tinubu’s inaugural speech but he blurted it out anyway because he believes he can always have his way and the rest, as they say, is now history. But if the June 6 action had gone ahead, even if it was prosecuted by NLC alone, it could have easily defeated the regime and cause a crisis of confidence Tinubu would struggle to recover from. But labour missed a golden opportunity when it suspended the strike and also in the subsequent months. This allowed the regime to regroup. But even more opportunities were created afterwards, as the widely supported August 2nd one day national protest showed, but the truth is that the NLC and TUC leadership were not really prepared to struggle against the policy of subsidy removal and deregulation because they have illusion that these policies can work. This is why they were content instead to demand palliatives in the form of wage award, CNG conversation etc.
The much was admitted in a recent statement of the NLC dated 14 November 2023 in response to president Tinubu’s aide, Bayo Onanuga. Here is what the NLC leadership said: “If Onanuga were not suffering from selective amnesia, he ought to have known that this government should remain grateful to the organised labour for its uncommon patience with a government that clearly was not prepared for the consequences of its fundamentalist market policies of massive currency devaluation and ‘subsidy’ removal which imposed on Nigerians social violence, upheaval, dislocation, displacement or punishment they never before experienced. Onanuga, similarly ought to have known that organised labour, by not opting for a strike as a first option, acted as a bulwark against the rage of Nigerians thereby saving this government from itself. Organised labour is not unaware of the misdirected anger of Nigerians for not going for the jugular of this government for justifiable reasons: inflation moved from 19% to 29%; exchange rate from N400 to N1,300; and pump price of PMS from N187 to N700, in the first five months of this government! In light of this, who is punishing “a whole country of over 200 million people”, NLC/TUC or Government of Bola Tinubu?”
In the above-highlighted quote, we see a whole leadership of the labour movement admitting it played a role of a “bulwark against the rage of Nigerians” in order to save a capitalist government from the consequences of its policies. This confirms our perspective that the current labour leadership acts as a fetter on the development of class struggle and that there is an urgent need for the rebuilding of the labour movement with a fighting leadership. This is why we have been campaigning for a national conference of trade unions, socialists and activists to democratically discuss how to build a mass resistance against Tinubu’s anti-poor policies alongside the question of a political alternative. This is also why when we place tasks on the labour leadership to call a general strike or protest, we also encourage workers and activists to organise democratic action committees from below. This is because we have no faith in the pro-capitalist leadership of labour. We place tasks on them only to expose their impotence in the eyes of their members. However when they chose to fight, we argue for a programme that can ensure that the struggle wins not only the immediate demands but also open the way for rescuing society from the clutches of capitalism.
Part of the crisis in the labour movement is the role of the Labour Party. What is true now is that not only did workers not join the LP en masse during the 2023 general elections, but also big sections of the labour bureaucracy continue to resist the Labour Party because of their affiliation with other bourgeois political parties like the APC and PDP. In this sense, many chairpersons of NLC and TUC state councils as well as affiliate unions, who are usually card-carrying members of the ruling party in the state, do not want to associate with the LP. Even those who are not members of any political party do not want to associate with the LP because of the role it plays as an opposition to the ruling APC in order not to lose state patronage. Unfortunately due to the fact that the LP itself is not in any way ideologically different from the APC and PDP (for instance Peter Obi campaigned on a programme of subsidy removal), the national leadership of the NLC and TUC that is driving support for the LP are not in possession of any ideological or moral authority to argue against the union officials at the state and local levels who are openly hobnobbing with the ruling parties. Because in the real sense, there is absolutely no difference in being a member of either APC, PDP or LP!
This has equally allowed the ruling elite blackmail that the NLC and TUC leadership are just playing politics by their opposition to anti-poor policies to have an impact even on trade union members. For us in the DSM, we defend the right of the trade unions to form and build a political party and for workers to join these parties and also to contest in elections. However, we do not accept the current form of the LP which is nothing more than a pro-capitalist political formation as a party worth fighting for. This is the attitude of millions of trade union members today. If the NLC and TUC leadership really want workers to join the LP, then first and foremost, they have to be openly critical of the pro-capitalist policies and programmes of the party as well as its selling of nominations to the highest bidder. For instance, there are LP lawmakers in the National Assembly who have collected 160 million worth of SUVs without a whimper. Furthermore, none of LP’s elected political office holders have done anything to publicly distinguish themselves from the general run of the mill political careerists. Secondly, the labour leadership have to launch a campaign to rescue the LP and rebuild it as a democratically run genuine workers’ party.
By and large, the future of the Labour Party is open. However if it proves impossible to transform the LP in the way outlined above then trade unions, pro-working people organisations, workers, youths and socialists must begin building a mass working people’s party with a socialist programme to consistently resist economic hardship and be prepared ahead of 2027 election.
November 25 – 26 2023