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7 May 2017
At the beginning of April 1 over 60 comrades and sympathizers gathered in Lagos for a National Committee meeting of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM). Amongst the political and organizational issues discussed were the seemingly intractable socio-economic crisis in Nigeria and world relations and economy. Dagga Tolar led the discussion on Nigeria situation while Comrade Sophie Simcox from the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) gave the introduction on international developments around the world.
According to Dagga, the crisis of Nigeria is crisis of capitalism, something that is worsened by the neo-liberal agenda including market fundamentalism. This explains for instance why the government has failed to commit public funds towards building functional national refineries. Instead of using the public funds to revive the collapsing economy, the government has committed the commanding heights of Nigerian economy to the hands of the few capitalists like Dangote.
On the basis of capitalism the 2017 budget, though tagged budget of recovery, cannot provide a solution to the current crisis. Besides, it contains numerous ridiculous sub-budgets and provisions to support the luxurious lifestyle of the political office holders, something which makes mockery of Buhari's excuse of the slump in oil revenue for the failure to meet the basic needs of the masses. The growing budget deficit also means that the mass of working people would be made to repay the debt which they did not benefit anything from.
While the jumbo salaries and allowances of political office holders are maintained in the budget, there was no provision for a new national minimum wage despite the serious erosion of the current one by inflation. As opposed to the statistics provided by the state, the rate of inflation in the market is far beyond the reported data.
Talking of the minimum wage, the labour leadership has not demonstrated any seriousness to fight for it despite the announcement of the demand for N56, 000 by NLC and TUC and N96, 000 by ULC. Worse still, the current division in the labour leadership caused and sustained by self-serving agenda of the labour leaders, may jeopardize the struggle. All this is why we have consistently called for harmonization of the demand and a serious united struggle by the three labour centres to fight for it starting with a 24-hour general strike and mass protest as the first step. The struggle must also be linked with the demand for payment of arrears of salaries and pensions owed by many states and federal government.
Government and electricity companies, for instance, have maintained the 45% hike in tariff despite the reversal order from the court. The money realized by the electricity companies together with the bail out from the government has served as profit for them rather than for improving electricity generation and supply. Indeed, the electricity supply has become much worse since privatization. In other words, electricity privatization is a monumental failure. Socialists have to re-energise the campaign for renationalization of electricity sector. But to avoid the debacle that obtained under NEPA and PHCN where public ownership was used to gratify private interest, the renationalized electricity sector must be put under democratic management and control of workers and consumers.
The recent treatment of President overseas is a metaphor of the failure of the government on the nation's health sector. The poor funding of health sector means that ruling elite fly abroad anytime for their medical checkups and treatment at the expense of public funds while the poor masses are hung out to dry with ill-equipped health facilities and ill-motivated personnel.
The recent communal clash in Ile-Ife, the continued Biafra agitation, Kaduna's bloody crisis, herdsmen and farmers clashes especially in the south and the Boko Haram crisis all underscore the inability to resolve national question on the basis of capitalism.
To begin to resolve the crisis of capitalism, Dagga Tolar argued for the need for a mass political alternative of the working people built on a socialist program to wrest political power from the thieving capitalist elite. The failure of the labour leadership to form such a party is one of the reasons we formed the Socialist Party of Nigeria as a striking example while continuing to campaign for a mass working peoples' party.
Following the introduction other comrades contributed to the discussion.
Comrade LA asserted that despite the current crisis, capitalism and its ruling elite are capable of re-inventing themselves. According to him the "January 2012 general strike and mass protest against fuel price hike jolted the ruling class to the reality that revolution was possible. So therefore the defeat and replacement of the PDP and Jonathan in 2015 general elections was a change that had to be allowed from above in order to prevent revolution from below". The problem is the lack of fighting labour leadership and genuine political alternative. Hence, he proposed that a political alternative is essential as well as programs that will draw a mass of working people to win political power.
Comrade Eleto attested to the fact that the formation and fight for the registration of SPN is one of the best initiatives so far. He also mentioned the under-developing nature of Nigeria because of the predatory character of the capitalist ruling elite. He said for instance what was spent on Jonathan's Sure-P program is enough to build a refinery. He concluded that that the government does not focus on investing but just providing enabling environment for private investors to make super profits at the expense of the poor masses.
Comrade Macaulay pointed out the depression in the nation and the rate at which people want to relocate out of the country due to hardship. He stressed that the registration of the SPN can mean a new dawn to change-seeking Nigerians.
Comrade Raheem opined that possible opposition in the 2019 general election may come from the APC itself due to the fact that the major opposition, the PDP, has lost the central treasury. The APC is both the ruling party and the opposition party. He also stated that defeating the imperialists starts by defeating their local forces. He noted the mass anger growing among the citizens, but it is not yet deepened which is the area comrades need to work more. "The anger is growing widely but the consciousness is shallow and this is where our tasks lie as Socialists".
Comrade Shewa Adekoya, a female comrade, gave examples of what she does in the drive to win people to socialism. She explained that she uses every available opportunity to let the working people know that while we have to consistently struggle for improvement and anti-poor policies, socialism is ultimately the solution to the crisis of capitalism. "Anywhere I am whether in a bus or in the market, anywhere I find myself in contact with the working and toiling people, I always tell them about socialism and the DSM". She also mentioned the rate at which school managements victimize student activists.
Comrade Abbey Trotsky identified that the current mass anger against the Buhari administration is more than that of Jonathan's administration. He also identified the propaganda of Osinbajo which was used to reduce the pressure on the government. He continued that the possibility of a new military coup should not be ruled out.
While summing up the discussion, Dagga Tolar, among other things, stressed that regardless of the person brought forward come 2019, he will not be able to give the real change which Nigerians deserve on the basis of capitalism. This underscores the imperativeness of a mass based political alternative on a socialist program. He argued the need for study of the 1917 Russian revolution, whose centenary is this year, in order to draw vital lessons that could help the revolutionary struggle for liberation of the working people.
Comrade Sophie Simcox, a leader of the both the CWI and its English and Welsh section, gave the lead-off on the world relations and economy. She pointed out the worldwide ripple effect that the emergence of Trump in US has on the global ruling class. According to her "there is a big politicization in the US but at the same time, there is also polarization". While Trump is posing as a representative of the poor, he is actually and actively working for Wall Street. His government is not just a government of millionaires but of billionaires.
She added that the world capitalist classes are not only divided over how to share the plunder that they exploited off the working masses, but that they are also divided over the best methods with which they can respond to the growing anger of the poor 99%.
She stressed the effect that the US-China economic rivalry could have on political stability globally. This was buttressed with the fact that capitalism is dragging human race into more crisis and calamity, while stating that the only hope left for the world is in the resistance of workers and youths all over the world. She also spoke about the consequence of automation which is reflected in the fact that with 15 percent of the workforce of 1970s, more cars are now produced in Britain than back then.
She took examples of Kshama Sawant, the US Seattle socialist councilor, Irish Parliamentarians like Paul Murphy and others, plus other examples to show how comrades of the CWI, an international socialist organization are active in movements and struggles and what could be gained from the DSM's efforts to get the SPN registered. She identified the fact that the Brexit vote and the loss of Hillary Clinton was as a result of growing anger at the ruling class establishment, and that a revolution can only succeed in achieving fundamental change in the way society is run when we build the strength of our organization within the working class, youth and oppressed masses.
She went ahead to applaud our efforts during the International Women's Day and stressed the need to have more women in our ranks. She identified the neocolonial situation of African countries and why we must, despite this, always try to commit our funds maximally to building the organization.
She gave the examples of the struggles over health care in Europe, the pro-immigration rally in Barcelona, the Spanish students' protests, the popular anti-corruption protests in Brazil, and the International Women's Day protests that were organized on the basis of calls for action combined with activity from below as a potential within the working class for a resistance. There is a rise in mass struggles in many countries. This is not just the traditional members of trade unions and organized workers but new layers are coming forward shaken by the economic turmoil. "People who did't use to go on strike, who are considered privileged are beginning to fight back. Also the unorganized masses and young people are fighting back in many countries as well". She identified the effective blocking of Trump's Muslim travel ban and the victory of the anti-water charges struggle in Ireland as a sign of growth of consciousness. Meanwhile, such consciousness could have been misdirected if not for courageous leadership and correct methods of the working class in these areas.
She concluded that there is an attempt to misdirect the growing anger into racism, xenophobia and other forms of bigotry, if we do not direct such consciousness with our ideas. While customary political parties are losing support all over the world, 'populist' movement are trying to use bigotry to tap into these anger, and this right populism can only be countered by efforts from the left, trade unions and working class organizations. "Capitalism in crisis is bound to bring revolutionary and counter-revolutionary trends and only socialists and the working class can undercut that". If we do direct it properly, the escalation of the global economic crisis and the new struggles that they cause will put socialism and socialist programs back on the agenda.
Rounding up, Sophie Simcox pointed out that in many countries; the CWI is becoming a factor in struggle. "Overall, we are not yet a decisive force but our existence has proved crucial in many countries for the class struggle".
Contributions were made by comrades mostly to buttress the points already raised and to explicate the importance of the growth of the Nigerian section to the International, especially with the effort to spread our ideas across Africa.