NLC and TUC Conferences ahead of 2023 General Elections
No to capitalist politicians
We Need Revolutionary Class Politics
The two labour centres in Nigeria organised political conferences ahead of the 2023 General Elections. Revolutionary Socialist Movement (RSM) welcomed the two political conferences and also participated in the events.
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) was first to organise its own at the NAF Centre on March 2, 2022. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) event took place at the Musa Yardua event centre, on March 10, 2020.
The theme for the NLC was: “Commitments to National Emancipation and Development Through Effective Political Engagement by Nigerian Workers”.
The TUC theme was: “The Role of Organised Labour in Promoting Participatory Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria”.
The events had a large number of rank-and-file participants with speakers from different backgrounds. Once again, these events, like other similar events in the past, revealed that there is a chasm between the workers, the ordinary people who are suffering and the ruling class.
These events also took place at a period when Nigerians are battling with fuel scarcity and queues around the whole country. Also, electricity bills have been increased. The poorer layers in society are in a desperate situation.
The two conferences gave some hope for the possibility of organised labour to take action in the coming period. This is positive – but we also need to discuss in which direction and with what aims actions should take place.
This is not the first time that organised labour is discussing action against anti-poor and anti-working-class policies. With this in mind, it is important to look back into history and draw lessons from it. Particularly into how the Nigerian mass movement has taken steps in the past, aiming at the creation of a formidable political formation, that can stand against the ruling class parties as an alternative for the workers and ordinary people. The discussion about this, helps activists from different backgrounds to bring onboard the necessary lessons to work towards the building of a mass working people’s political alternative.
While the RSM welcomes the steps that the trade union centres have taken, we need to indicate that they come late as regards the political and legal situation ahead of the 2023 general elections. In any case, we need to see things in relation not only to the coming elections but also in preparation for developments beyond the 2023 general elections.
RSM stresses that the only way to build a political alternative that will be capable of wrestling power from the corrupt and greedy ruling class is on the basis of clear-cut socialist ideals. The socioeconomic crisis ravaging Nigeria today has its roots in the crisis of Nigerian and global capitalism and this is what we need to answer.
We need Class Politics
Two decades ago, late human rights lawyer and activist Gani Fawehinmi said, A system that worsened the plight of workers must not be embraced by the workers. For once, the workers should take a new direction socio-economically opposed to the present direction which has led them to the abyss of discomfort."
It’s time the working-class fight for political power to end the system that has worsened their plights. What we need is a class warfare in this country, it’s time the working class won that war.
G. Fawehinmi’s slogans and positions are important: workers are at war with the super-rich, with the billionaires. The billionaires in Nigeria run their businesses with anti-poor policies and it’s true and fair to say to say that “billionaires should not exist.” Because they’re the ones responsible for keeping the people out of power, because they sponsor anti poor, pro rich policies.
For instance, the richest man in Nigeria Mr Dangote employs casual workers in different factories that are not allowed to unionise. Other billionaires aren’t different. And to make the matters worse all the policies of the government are and will always be in their favour, because they are cohorts.
“We need a working people political alternative against the present rogue ruling class.”
The recent Supreme Court judgment against the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and 22 other parties is absolutely scandalous. The ridiculous reason given by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was that they did not win a certain number of votes and seats at the 2019 general elections.
The reality is, the 2019 general election was full of gerrymandering, vote buying, rigging, irregularities etc, so much so that both local and international observers couldn’t keep silent.
It was massively reported in the media how state sponsored violence was carried out by different supporters of the two major parties. The electoral law also gives the INEC power to sanction parties and individuals that are involved in vote buying and rigging but since most of the reported cases are related to the two major parties the INEC won’t take any action against them. SPN refuses to pay anyone for their vote buying and also will not make any attempt to rig elections.
We call on socialist and labour unions and on the civil society groups to join the campaign against section 225(A) from the 1999 constitution as amended. If this section is not removed Nigeria, will move to a two-party system in the coming years.
We need to campaign against the Supreme Court decision that affects the SPN and other parties. We need this in order to build a movement that will be really speaking to working class people.
Throughout 2019 and up until now, a period when working-class people were discovering the essential role of our class in running society, the Left was and still is unfortunately too weak to provide a political alternative; and, also, the leadership of the labour movement had very little to say to change the course of events. Rather than organizing effective strikes to demand a new minimum wage and an end to increases in fuel and electricity prices, it was essentially paralysed. As a result, we were confronted with more anti poor policies.
The danger ahead of us (if we don’t fight harder and mount pressure on the trade union leaders to fight back) is that Nigerians will continue to vote their class enemies because they will see the Left (and popular human right campaigners) as merely commentators.
Our campaign is not only aiming to provide an alternative for the next election, but also in order that the Nigerian people will know that there’s an alternative with a radical political programme. Working-class people will come to our conclusions through their everyday experiences sooner or later. A mass working class party that is accountable to the members is what we need. The elected representatives of a working-class party should, in our opinion in RSM, to keep only the salary of the average skilled worker and donate the rest to building the socialist and working-class movement.
The labour leadership need to drop their reliance on right wing populists like former Governor of Ondo State Olusegun Mimiko who contested under the Labour Party and ruled for eight years with anti-poor policies. Similarly, we have the Former President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) Adam Oshiomhole, who served for eight years under the present ruling parties and workers were denied their salaries; even the Edo state under his leadership was no different from other states.
Struggle to transform society is more than just sloganeering and passive partnerships with the bosses and corporate politicians. That is why the Revolutionary Socialist Movement (RSM) calls on labour movement organisations and radical human right activists to adopt a militant, class-struggle approach. Only such an approach can win the confidence and support of the multi-ethnic working class of Nigeria.
What Do we mean by Class Politics?
What we mean by class politics is that the Left, the social movements, radical activists and the labour movement should aim to unify the working-class people in struggle, on the basis of their demands, irrespective of religious, language and other differences. Nigerian society is divided into various tribal and ethnic groups, with the recent Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) fighting for Biafra, Oduduwa people from South West fighting for Yoruba Nation, etc.
Despite all the factors that make people seem different, the suffering of people from south to north is common, unemployment and insecurity is common.
Our working-class politics means being crystal clear on whose side we are. For the working-class masses it means understanding who is on our side and who is not.
We need to completely separate our politics from people like Mimiko and Adams who despite their past, will stand in the way of any reform that will meaningfully benefit working people.
We have to urgently abandon the practice of writing blank cheque to politicians who cosplay and pretend to be working-class advocates or that use the working-class platform only to relentlessly sabotage our interests the minute they take office.
We need to put an end to any idea that ruling class politicians can be friends of the working class.
If workers are on strike, or workers are fighting for a union, they will meet nothing but brutality from the ruling class and their partners. If we’re serious about mobilising, organising building and winning, we have to be clear on these points.
The people that will join our party and help build the movements that are required, are to be found within the broad working class; and it is important that our politics must ferociously fight against the differences that have been consciously maintained by the ruling class in order to divide us and continue its rule over us.
A working-class political program should include fighting for:
- Living wages to match the rate of inflation
- Against the jumbo pay of public office holders, for transparency and democratic control over high-ranking government officials
- Free and functional healthcare at all levels
- Improved funding of education (as recommend even by UNESCO)
- Rent control and permanently affordable high-quality housing.
- End police brutality, stop sacking of workers, end casual works and all anti people policies
- Nationalisation of the key sectors of the economy under the democratic control and management of the working class and the mass movements
- Recognition of the right of self-determination for national minorities, in order to put an end to the ethno-religious crisis.
Winning the confidence of the entire working-class people for a pan-Nigerian movement, means fighting for unifying a political program alongside the above demands.
The Nigerian working people and masses are suffering and battling with low wages, rising prices, job losses and insecurity. They will offer their full support to any political force that advances their interests.
For us, in RSM, the labour leadership and the civil society movements have not fought hard enough for the things working people need. They have followed abstract rules about how to fight, but when they were called to fight, in most cases they limited their activities to what will not hurt those ruling the country. This has given more room to the ruling class to continue their anti-poor, pro rich policies.
To build, organize and fight back against the ruling class, the labor movement and civil society must break away from the political establishment of the billionaires.
We need to build a political movement outside the two major establishment parties and their lapdogs, where working-class people can democratically determine what we most need and how we can leverage our collective power to win it.
It is only on this basis, that a new left force and a labour movement can be built on the basis of working-class struggle. Only thus can we confront the growth of right-wing forces and win a life worth living. We need a radical socialist programme for our movement – that is the only way to build this movement and make it powerful enough to win in the long battle that we have ahead of us.