Mayday celebrations in Nigeria (2011)

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Nigerian workers joined their brothers and sisters throughout the world to celebrate Workers’ Day on May 1st. In Lagos State, the celebration was held at Onikan Stadium. Workers trooped into the stadium en masse to mark the day. However, they had a surprise coming, with the newly elected State Governor giving them a lecture about how increases in workers’ wages cause inflation!

The leadership of the trade unions, NLC/TUC, in Lagos state instead of using the occasion to soberly reflect on the conditions and plight of the workers in the state and plan on how to consolidate their position for the struggle ahead, rather used a substantial amount of time praising and congratulating the Governor of the State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, who is also the new Governor elect of the state on his recent re-election. The leadership in an attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable, appealed to workers to join hands with the Governor in moving the State forward, claiming that the governor is the man of the people and that the workers should give him a chance by working amicably with him.

The arrival of the governor was greeted with a loud ovation and praise singing. The governor started his speech by thanking the workers on his re-election. Then the long awaited response to the workers’ demand on the 18,000 minimum wage was his starting point. He started by going through the history of the Udoji Commission of 1972 that reviewed the salaries of Federal Civil servants, and how that action “led to inflation”. He further said that it was clear that some state governors may not be able to pay the new 18,000 minimum wage because of the low Federal Government allocations to the State. He then concluded by saying that if the workers in Lagos State still want him to continue with the developmental project going on in the state, the Lagos State government will not be able to pay the new 18,000 naira minimum wage. The workers, obviously not happy with these comments, started grumbling but unfortunately had nobody to speak for them. After the speech the governor left the stadium.

We have repeatedly heard this argument put forward by the apologists of the capitalist system and bourgeois commentators about how increases in workers’ salaries, of those same workers who actually produce the wealth of society, automatically lead to inflation. However, when the salaries of Senators, House of Representative Members, House of Assembly Members, Personal Assistants, all people that produce nothing in society, are increased this does not lead to inflation.

In actual fact, an increment in salaries does not lead to inflation because the profits of the capitalist class are nothing but the unpaid labour of the working class, and an increase of wages for the workers, would only mean a minute cut in the exorbitant profits of the capitalist. What is really causing inflation is the unimaginable amount of money presently being pumped into the unproductive sectors of the economy, including the huge amount of money being paid to many personal assistants to political office holders, people that practically produce nothing and contribute nothing to society, and the massive increase in credit. This money is not based on the productive activities of society as a whole, hence the undermining of the currency, and high inflation rate. Workers are not demanding the printing of more money in circulation; all they are asking for is the redistribution of the money presently in circulation. A situation whereby the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer must stop.

If one is to go by the argument that increases in wages automatically lead to inflation, one would have thought that the inflation rate ought to have remained the same since 2000 because the last minimum wage of 7,500 was ratified last in the year 2000. But the inflation rate according to IMF statistics since 2000 till date reveals the contrary. In the year 2000, the inflation rate was 6.937%. It increased in 2001 to 18.869%, then started falling again, and it reduced sharply in 2007 to 5.392% and then started to increase again reaching 11.583% by 2008 and 11.906% in 2010 while wages remained the same. So how can they argue that inflation is caused by wage increases?

To further emphasize this point, it is being predicted that the inflation rate will soon skyrocket because of the huge amount of money put into circulation during the just concluded 2011 general election. The governor of the Central Bank in a bid to reduce the effect quickly announced that by June 1st 2011, the maximum amount an individual can withdraw from the bank per day will be 150,000 Naira. This also shows that it is the extravagant and non-productive spending by the parasitic and corrupt capitalist class in society that leads to inflation and not the increments in the salaries of the workers that produce the wealth of society. Therefore the burden should not be put on the workers.

That is why the workers should not be cajoled with this false argument and why they should be ready to fight this injustice to the end. In actual fact the 18,000 Naira minimum wage falls far short of what an average workers need to survive in Nigeria. We should also not forget that the struggle for real living wages and not nominal wages can only be achieved when the Nigerian workers themselves decide to chase out the charlatans that have mismanaged the resources of the country for the past fifty years by wresting power away from this useless Nigerian ruling class and forming their own government with a view to using the wealth of the society in the interest not of the privileged few but of the vast majority of the people. This can only be achieved by first and foremost having our own political party that will effectively challenge all the present bourgeois parties. This was what was missing in the just concluded 2011 general election that left people with no viable alternative. All effort should be directed towards this so as to be better positioned in 2015.

The Nigerian Marxists of the Workers’ Alternative were out on the day selling the paper, which as usual was well received by the workers present. A total of 239 copies were sold and also several workers indicated they wished to participate in the activities around the paper.