Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM


Without trade unions, workers may not be so different from slaves. Trade unions are the reasons there exist the limited rights enjoyed by workers in the workplace and the many victories won through collective bargaining and strikes. But since the past few years, the potency of the trade union movement in Nigeria has reduced. Now when workers sneeze, oppressors no more catch cold.

(Text of a leaflet issued by the Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) for circulation at May Day rallies)

An example is the current situation in the country where workers are suffering as the fuel price, electricity tariff, cost of food items and goods and services are all going through the roof yet the labour movement is quiet. Since the two week ultimatum issued by the NLC on February 27 expired on March 13, nothing more has been heard either from the NLC or TUC leadership.

This reprehensible silence of both leaderships of the NLC and TUC can only be seen as a product of their capitulation to the neo-liberal capitalist programme. This explains why there has been no serious fight or objection against the petrol subsidy removal under the current labour leadership. Likewise, both leaders of the NLC and TUC have seen no evil in the wave of criminal hikes in school fees across higher institutions nationwide despite their devastatingly adverse effects on the income and living standards of ordinary workers, as well as other categories of working-class people, the poor and sections of the middle class.


Indeed our movement is faced with an ideological crisis and it is the principal reason we are not making any real headway in our struggles. A majority of labour leaders have capitulated to capitalism – the inequitable and exploitative social system that is responsible for workers’ misery. For instance, instead of rejecting fuel price hike, the current leadership of the NLC, as well as the TUC’s, only calls for palliatives, indicating it is not offering a serious alternative programme to capitalist attacks.

Apparently, the leadership of both the NLC and TUC are under the erroneous impression that demanding improved pay for workers can help cope with the severity of the neo-liberal policies which they are not prepared to oppose or fight. Unfortunately nothing is more far from the truth than this illusion. While we support the struggle for a new minimum wage, the reality is that unless the neoliberal policies of deregulation and subsidy removal are defeated, any new minimum wage won will be rapidly eroded by inflation.

A slave who wishes to be free must first renounce the ideology of its master. Trade unions cannot hope to succeed in defending workers’ interests unless they renounce the illusion in capitalism. Workers and radical trade union activists must agitate at workplaces and within the organs of trade unions for objection and resistance to the neo-liberal agenda which includes deregulation, privatization, casualization, devaluation of the naira and underfunding of public education and health care as they, in the final analysis, adversely affect jobs and wellbeing of workers. This also means an agitation for labour to fight for the reversal of the hikes in petrol price, school fees and electricity tariff.

Indeed, a serious debate within the labour movement in general on what is the best socio-economic and political philosophy and programme required to advance the interest of workers and other oppressed, to build a better society and guarantee basic needs and a decent quality of life for the vast majority is now urgent more than ever. For us in the Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR), we think that Socialism is the only scientific ideology that corresponds to the real interest of workers and which any serious trade union movement that wants to defend the interests of its members should embrace.


Our trade union movement also suffer from lack of internal democracy. This is partly why labour leaders brazenly ignore issues that affect workers or address them whimsically or nonchalantly. The majority of trade unions are run by labour leaders who do not involve the rank-and-file workers in decision-making process. Workplace mass meetings to take a democratic decision are hardly held; everything starts and ends with the bureaucratic and aristocratic labour leaders.


Comrades, we cannot afford to continue to fold our arms. The more we allow these problems to persist, the more our movement continue to rot and lose its potency. Now is the time to act. All genuine workers actvists in the labour movement must be prepared to take action to rebuild our union. Our movement was built on the sweat and blood of workers. We must not allow the sacrifice to be in vain.

We call on workers, trade union activists, socialists and pro-labour organisations to initiate a campaign for a trade union movement that is democratic and constantly defends the interests of workers at workplaces and resists capitalist anti-poor policies. Such a campaign which should bring together workers and activists from different union affiliates can become a network which meets regularly and acts as a  fighting platform within the labour movement.

By and large, we call on workers and trade union activists to organize and agitate for the following:

  1. All trade union officials must be regularly elected and placed on the average salary of workers.
  2. A trade union movement built on mass participation of rank-and-file workers in the activities of trade unions through regular meetings, symposia, and democratically convoked congresses at all levels. In other words, actions of trade union leaders must be based on the aggregation of democratic discussion and decisions taken from the local level or factory floor.
  3. A trade union movement that regularly intervenes in workplace struggles aimed at resisting all anti-labour practices including casualization, contract staffing, poor pay, slave-like conditions, unjust sacking, etc.
  4. Removal of trade union leaders who act against the interest of the workers.
  5. A trade union movement prepared to fight tenaciously at all times, involving the wider layers of poor and oppressed, against all anti-poor capitalist anti-poor policies including privatization, deregulation, commercialization, Public Private Partnership (PPP) etc.
  6. No to ‘paddy paddy’ deals between Labour leaders and bosses such that union leaders get check-off dues or other gains in return for collaboration with bosses at the expense of workers. For the trade unions to reach out to casual workers and the unemployed to fight for their interests and build a united movement of workers and the poor.
  7. A trade union movement that orientates towards the building of a mass political movement to defeat capitalism and enthrone a Socialist Nigeria.


Date: Saturday May 18, 2024

Venue: PERESSA National Secretariat, 4 Charity Road, Beside UBA, New Oko-Oba, Abule-Egba, Lagos

Time: 10am

From outside Lagos, you can join via Zoom.

Meeting ID: 872 5184 2438

Passcode: 877579

Contacts 07033775517, 08053045953

Email: [email protected]