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15 November 2012
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), the Nigerian affiliate of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), has over two decades history of struggle. Formed by labour and student socialist activists, we had our founding conference in 1986. Because of the era of military dictatorship in which it was born, our organization was semi-open between 1986 until July 1998 when the DSM was launched as an open organization. During the period of semi-illegality, our organization was identified mainly by the name of its newspapers, Labour Militant (1987-1994) and Militant (1994-1998).
We are committed to the socialist transformation of society in Nigeria and the whole world at large. We stand completely opposed to capitalist policies of privatization and deregulation and the pillaging of the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America by the imperialist powers. We argue that capitalism cannot develop Nigeria and that to be able to permanently meet the needs and aspirations of all, economic and material resources of the society must be commonly owned and democratically run and managed by the elected representatives of the workers, poor farmers and the youth in society. Democratic control, accountability and a conscious struggle against corruption are essential to build the socialist movement and is the basis upon which a socialist society can be built.
The struggle against military dictatorship and for democratic rights was one of the central campaigns of the DSM in the first thirteen years of its existence. As a result, many DSM members suffered arrests and prolonged detention without trial under both the Babangida and Abacha regimes. A landmark in our involvement in this struggle took place on 5 July, 1993 when DSM (then Labour Militant) activists sold over 10,000 copies of the Labour Militant paper on the streets of Lagos during a mass uprising against the annulment of the June 12 presidential election results by the then General Babangida junta.
The DSM has played an important role in the general strikes and mass struggles against fuel price rises, privatization and deregulation and for a living wage that have repeatedly taken place since 2000. DSM members have played prominent roles in the Labour And Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) and Joint Action Forum (JAF) - now Joint Action Front (JAF) - as well as protest, rallies and demonstrations called by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), consistently arguing for determined action to stop fuel price rises, fight for a living wage and put a halt to privatization and deregulation plus a wider mobilization to remove the rotten and unjust capitalist government and replace it with a workers' and poor peasants' government committed to carrying out the socialist transformation of Nigeria.
With the lack of determination on the part of most trade union leaders to defend workers' interests, the DSM formed the Campaign for Democratic and Workers' Rights (CDWR) to campaign against casualization, poor working conditions, and to demand a living pension and wage and defend the rights of workers victimized while protecting their rights. The DSM stands for democratic trade unions, with no privileged leaderships, that fight for their members' interests. We also work in community organizations, like the Ajegunle Peoples Movement, in Lagos.
Amongst students the DSM has a long record of struggle. Members of the DSM led the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in the early 1980s and NANS' south-western zone (Zone D) at different times up to 2004. We work among students and education workers on different campuses to struggle against fees, for respect of democratic rights, improvement in working conditions and against other neo-liberal attacks on education.
As a result of the ideological decay of the NANS, the DSM founded the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) in 2004 as a platform to campaign for the provision of a free, functional, public-funded and democratically managed education sector. The ERC also solidarizes with education workers in defense of their democratic rights and for improved working and living conditions. With the ERC, we have organized many interventions, campaigns, protests and demonstrations against government vicious anti-poor education policies and victimization of worker and student activists.
The DSM also stands for the rebuilding of a campaigning and fighting national students' movement. The ERC, while campaigning for the rebuilding of the NANS as a fighting and truly democratic organ of Nigerian students, has been trying to fill the void created by the right-wing, moribund elements that have continuously led this student body in recent times.
Since our inception, the DSM has argued for the creation of a mass working peoples' party with socialist programme as a platform to give oppressed workers, youths and poor masses a political voice as well as a vehicle to mobilize for a change of society from unjust capitalism to one in which the stupendous resources of the country can be democratically planned and judiciously used to cater for the welfare of the majority. In the 1980s we called on the NLC to actualize its call for a workers' party and DSM members were active in the short-lived Nigerian Labour Party (NLP) in 1989.
DSM members were also active in building the National Conscience Party (NCP) right from its formation by Gani Fawehinmi in October 1994. The failure of the NLC leaders to build a workers' party meant that many change seeking elements looked towards the NCP. From 1994, the DSM worked to build the NCP while arguing that socialist policies are necessary if the NCP was going to be able to achieve its aim of "abolishing poverty". In the heavily rigged 2003 elections, DSM members standing as NCP candidates scored the party's highest votes, officially winning over 77,000 votes (9%) in the Lagos West senatorial district and 11,000 votes (14%) in the Ifako-Ijaiye federal constituency in Lagos. However, we were forced out of the party in 2007 after the take-over of the party leadership by rightwing, pro-capitalist elements following the resignation of the party's founding chairman, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi.
Currently we are critical of the Labour Party (LP) originally formed by the NLC but which has no working class base, ideology or programme. Though it has the potential to become a mass working peoples' political alternative, the LP as it is presently constituted and oriented cannot serve the interest of the working masses. It is being built as the second-eleven of capitalist parties. This is why we continue to campaign for Labour and radical forces to either reclaim LP or form a fighting mass working peoples' party armed with socialist programme.
While campaigning for labour to form and build a new mass working people's party, the DSM has decided to take the initiative to form and register a political party called the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN). The SPN is a political party for workers, youths and the poor. We believe this is the best direction to take in this period given the failure of the leadership of the trade unions to build the Labour Party as a fighting working peoples' party and the absence of any other registered genuine pro-workers' party. We call on workers, youths and the poor to join the party and help build it as a party for the millions and not a few millionaire looters.
With the rising wave of ethnic and religious tension and violence in the country, the DSM also campaigns for the unity of the working people and youth of different ethnic and religious backgrounds while defending the right of all ethnic groups to full self-determination. Standing opposed to sectarian strife, the organization advocates joint struggles by the working people for better living and working conditions and against capitalist attacks on jobs, wages, education, health and other social services.
As part of an international movement, the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), the DSM stands in full solidarity with the struggles of workers and the oppressed around the world. The DSM strives to build strong links between and, where possible, joint struggles by workers and the oppressed not just in Africa but internationally.
One of the major activities of DSM is the education of a new generation of working class and youth activists in the genuine ideas of Marxism as propagated and developed by Lenin and Trotsky in the period before, during and after the October socialist revolution in Russia. The DSM endeavors to explain that these ideas have nothing in common with those of Stalinism which undermined the Russian revolution and which prepared the way for the restoration of capitalism there and in other countries like China. We organize seminars, symposia and schools and publish political education materials. An important way to help spread DSM ideas and further build a socialist alternative is by making regular donations and helping sell our publications.
The DSM works alongside all activists seeking to defend and improve the position of working people and the poor, but we always stress the necessity of building a mass socialist movement to change society. This is a key plank of our activity in mass movements, including the trade unions, and why we urge all those who agree with our ideas to join with us in the DSM in fighting to break the grip of capitalism over Nigeria and for a socialist future.