Nigerian workers on the march again: General Strike Commences

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By Ola Kazeem in Lagos - Campaign For Workers Alternative    
Wednesday, 20 June 2007

In less than a month since the massively fraudulent election that ushered in the present administration, the Nigerian working class is in a determined mood and on the offensive against it. This comes as somewhat of a surprise to some on the left and seems almost miraculous to those sectarians who had earlier condemned the Nigerian workers as reactionary, simply because the Labour leadership refused to mobilize the rank and file behind one wing of the ruling class in opposition to the fraudulent election.

Opportunists were demanding the subordination of the interests of the working class to the interests of one supposedly "democratic" wing of the ruling class. They rejected the independence of the working class and acted as a transmission belt of the ideas and influence of that wing of the ruling class into the arena of the working class.

We, the Marxists of the Workers' Alternative have been consistent in our demand for independence of the working class from any wing of the bourgeoisie. We have maintained that the only consistent opposition in Nigeria remains the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the two main trade union federations, and that any section of Nigerian ruling class - notwithstanding any of their superficial claims to being "democrats" - represents simply a bunch of reactionary elements out to defend their own greedy interests and they can never play any progressive role. We have always understood that the masses move through their traditional organisations. In Nigeria, the NLC/TUC remain the only traditional mass organisations, and to us it is no surprise at all that they are leading the Nigerian masses against the constant attacks of this regime.
What are the demands?

Just before the highly discredited regime of Obasanjo left office on May 29, it hurriedly carried out some offensive measures against the Nigerian working people among which were: 1) An increment of pump price of oil from 65 naira to 75 naira; 2) The sale of two remaining refineries in Port Harcourt and Kaduna together with the Egbin thermal station; 3) The cancellation of an earlier promised 15% pay rise for civil servants; 4) An increment of Value Added Tax from 5% to 10%.

Obasanjo hurriedly implemented all these programmes simply because he correctly gauged that the present regime he was fraudulently manoeuvring into office would be too weak to carry these through. This shows to what desperate lengths the ruling class in backward countries can go in order to satisfy their purses and their imperialist masters. But Obasanjo was completely mistaken if he thought he was strong enough to carry out these attacks without any fight-back on the part of the working class. If he were truly strong he would not have had any reason to massively rig the election for his party the way he did.

The demand of the working class is obvious: complete reversal of the status quo. Labour demands the cancellation of all the aforementioned attacks. A two-week ultimatum was announced to the regime on June 1, 2007 and this was to expire today, June 20th. Yesterday, June 19th, the government nervously made a public announcement granting some of the demands of Labour. It reduced the pump price of petrol from 75 naira to 70 naira instead of the 65 naira demanded, cancelled the increment on VAT and granted the 15% wage increment for civil servants.

All this accurately confirms our analysis of this regime. It is a regime resting on one chicken leg. It has granted this limited concession not because it is more humane than the previous regime, but because it is weaker and lacks legitimacy and credibility. It is a regime that rests on deceit and manoeuvrings. It will bend to win credibility and use deceit, but how far can this regime bend?
How much can be won from this regime?

Every government is a means to an end and not an end in itself. This regime is a means to further the attacks on the already pauperized Nigerian masses. There is no other alternative for the Nigerian ruling class but to do the bidding of the IMF/World Bank. This regime only came in because it was becoming increasingly difficult for the Obasanjo regime to carry on with the attacks. It was almost impossible for Obasanjo's regime to further manoeuvre and deceive the people; therefore another face and voice needed to carry on.

This regime can only bend as long as the interest of the ruling class and imperialists are guaranteed. Even if there are no further attacks now, it is neither because this regime is different from past regimes, nor because they can rule without attacking the people. It is a question of the balance of forces and they are simply waiting for an appropriate time to resume their devastating offensive. This is a necessary warning to those Labour bureaucrats who are already describing this regime as a "listening government". It listens now, so that it does not have to listen tomorrow. It concedes today so as not to concede tomorrow. This defends the same interests of the same class that the previous regime defended. It is nothing but a continuation of the same regime as the previous, but under different conditions. While it is granting concessions, it is on the look out for an appropriate time to resume the offensive.
Making this strikes a success

It is highly commendable that the two main Labour unions are coming together to fight for their common interests. This is a source of power and inspiration. It is absolutely impossible to fight and defeat the ruling class if the rank and file workers are not mobilized and led in a revolutionary manner. If the rank and files workers are fully involved in this strike, it is almost as sure as won, but if they are bureaucratically shut out of the process, the defeat is almost inevitable. To this end, the setting up of strike committees in all the factories and workplaces is a must. These strike committees should be made up of the workers and they should have the responsibility of coordinating the general strike in their respective workplaces.

For fear of losing everything, sometimes the ruling class can grant concessions, but only to take them back at the appropriate time. There are no other alternative policies available for the ruling class in a backward country like Nigeria, other than to defend the interests of the imperialists and their own narrow interests. Under capitalism, privatisation is inevitable, incessant increase in the pump prices of petrol is the norm; unemployment and mass poverty are the inevitable consequences of capitalism. For as long as capitalism survives in Nigeria, agony, destitution, crime, lack of democratic rights and brutalisation of the people will continue unabated. Only the Nigerian working class can rescue the Nigerian people from the handcuffs of this bloodsucking ruling class, which is holding us hostage.

The only way out is for the workers to build their own party and give the working people a voice of their own. The workers must topple this regime and go for power to lead Nigerians in breaking the present shackle and achieving a Socialist Nigeria as a necessary step towards a Socialist Africa and a Socialist World.