TOWARDS A GENUINE WORKING PEOPLE’S POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE
By Ayo Ademiluyi
While the times are really hard for working people, the capitalist ruling elite in Nigeria enjoys humongous salaries and allowances amidst this mass misery. Unemployment increased recently to 33.3%. Amidst this unparalleled poverty and misery, we have seen the rise of banditry, kidnapping and insurgency.
However, the entire situation is not gloomy. The wave of strikes from the strike action of Resident Doctors for better pay, protests of ShopRite workers against anti-labour practices, the indefinite strike action of Judiciary workers for financial autonomy of the Judiciary and the indefinite strike action of Polytechnic workers, and indeed that of ASUU and universities workers for improved working conditions point to the historical position the working class occupies in neo-colonial economies like Nigeria.
When the working class moves, the production of goods and services grind to a halt. But the masses of rank-and-file workers are unaware of their power. The working-class power utilized in a STRIKE ACTION to shutting the courtrooms, stores, hospitals and schools can also be utilized to remove the socio-economic imbalances in society both politically and economically and reorganize society to put the wellbeing and interest of the working masses first and foremost.
The entire anti-poor capitalist ruling elites are just one political party with different names, PDP, APC, etc. The working people need a party of their own, a political party of the millions of the oppressed and not of the billionaires. The vacuum of the absence of such a mass working people’s political alternative is yawning and palpable.
CAN THE LABOUR PARTY BE RECLAIMED?
This reality is not also lost on the central labour leadership. They have initiated efforts along this direction but they have been half-hearted, to say the least, and are ridiculous efforts to tail the ruling class parties. The Labour Party was initiated by the Nigerian Labour Congress (at that time encompassing the Trade Union Congress), even in the words of the labour leaders, “for and on behalf of the Nigerian workers”. At its inception in 2002, it was known as Party for Social Democracy (PSD). However, at its inaugural convention in 2004, it became known as the Labour Party. This development was in reaction to the outcry of rank-and-file workers and working-class activists for the central labour leaders to take the series of workers’ industrial energy demonstrated in series of general strikes starting from the early 2000s into the political plane.
To exemplify the insincerity of the central labour leaders to the task of building the Labour Party as a genuine mass workers’ party, Adams Oshiomole, the then President of the Nigeria Labour Congress preferred to run under the banner of the bourgeois platform of the Action Congress, one of the parties that formed the current ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). From the 2007 elections onwards, the Labour Party has been locked in a box and only released from time to time to the highest bidder as a refugee camp for disgruntled bourgeois politicians like Andy Uba, Ayo Fayose and Segun Mimiko, who lost out in the internal power wrangling in the main anti-poor and pro-rich parties, the People’s Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress. By the time of the 2010 National Convention of the party, it transformed into a bourgeois party with the candidates’ fees changed from the affordable amounts any worker could pay to unbearable amounts, to make it attractive only to mainstream pro-rich politicians.
Recently, there are developments in the party that should be of interest to rank-and-file workers and working-class activists that are searching for a mass working people’s political alternative. The Nigeria Labour Congress, one of the main labour centres in the country, wrote a letter to the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), signed by its President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, dated 12th April, 2021 and entitled “Illegal NEC: Further Subversive Acts/Violations of Subsisting Court Orders”, claiming that the supposed emergence of Julius Abure as National Chairman of the Labour Party was illegal because the “purported (NEC) Meeting and election(of new National Officers of the party) were in clear violation of the Labour Party’s constitution, which recognizes the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress as the “platforms” of the party.” And since they were not invited and excluded from the NEC, as well as “the Chairperson of the NLC Women Commission”, it follows therefore that the National Executive Council of the Labour Party, which held in Benin was illegal, and its outcome null and void.
Should this action elicit any form of joy or celebration for the working masses that the Labour Party will be reclaimed? Can the Wabba-led leadership of the NLC consistently follow through the logical sequence of its letter to now openly organize and mobilize rank and file workers to launch a fight against Julius Abure and his cohorts both in and outside the labour party to reclaim the party as a party for the working masses? Are the conducts of the Wabba-led NLC in the struggle of the working masses against anti-people policies of deregulation and his collaborationist role with the ruling elites, as demonstrated with the aborted 28th September 2020 General Strike, not enough to show that Wabba cannot be trusted to act against the Buhari regime? Also, Wabba may be seeking to bring the LP under his full control, to be deployed like other Labour leaders of the past for personal gains, or to bring about its complete paralysis in order to claim credit from the ruling elites for clearing off the threat a working-class political organisation constitutes for the elites.
The MSA knows that history does not run on a straight line. We welcome the current attitude of the labour leaders but will say this is not enough if the Labour Party must be reclaimed and built into a mass workers’ party. There is the immediate need to genuinely make it accessible to all rank-and-file workers, with the decision-making organs democratically run by them. The MSA will welcome a mass protest to INEC Offices by the NLC for the Labour Party to be controlled by its platforms, the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress. We also welcome plans for an expansive and inclusive National Convention of the party.
For such a National Convention to be “expansive and inclusive”, it has to be opened to rank-and-file workers with the right to vote on each issue. The proposed National Convention would have to also revert the candidates’ nomination forms fee that was increased in the 2010 Convention. The Convention must also address the question of the political and economic programmes of the Party, which must embrace a socialist alternative to the neo-liberal policies of the ruling elite.
OTHER EFFORTS OF THE NCP, SPN, ACC & MOP
We have seen in the recent period the attempt to fill the huge vacuum of a mass working people’s political alternative created by the failure of the labour leadership to build the Labour Party as a fighting workers’ party. There are such activities in the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), African Action Congress (AAC), and with the formation of the Movement of the People (MOP) by Seun Kuti, son of the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, and with the latest attempt in the broad left to organise the People’s Alternative Political Movement.
But the government recognises the radical potentials of any party that is truly building among the common people. This was why the agents of the Buhari’s regime acted fast to ‘neutralise’ these parties in ways they could. The AAC, for example, was infiltrated by the agents of the government, who in turn ‘factionalised’ the party. The SPN, on the other hand, falls prey to an overnight amendment to the nation’s constitution that made ‘votes cast’ the condition for deregistration of the party. Currently, INEC claims it has deregistered the SPN, despite a valid and subsisting Court of Appeal judgment ordering the re-registration of the SPN and other non-mainstream parties. Even the discovery that the appeal records filed by INEC at the Supreme Court are fake is yet to force the electoral body to rescind its deregistration of parties.
In essence, since vote-buying and manipulation fraught Nigeria’s electoral space, money was made the condition for qualifying political parties in the country for elections. The regime knows it was killing the country’s democracy with its overnight amendments to the Constitution, but it did it anyway because of an awareness of the desire of the common people to do away with the big parties among whom the looting of Nigeria’s resources have been rotating.
Currently, the Movement for A Socialist Alternative (MSA) is working in the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN). A struggle to force the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to comply with the valid and subsisting judgment of the Court of Appeal has emerged and the Movement for A Socialist Alternative (MSA) will argue at all levels of the Socialist Party of Nigeria for mass actions to be undertaken to pressurize INEC to obey the Court of Appeal judgment.
To win the battle against deregistration, the SPN will need to build joint actions with other left and radical parties such as the National Conscience Party, the newly-formed Movement of the People and the African Action Congress (which is facing internal leadership crisis created by the Electoral Act) in building resistance against narrowing access to the electoral space.
The Joint Action Front, the civil society partner of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress in the Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) recently resolved that its affiliates should involve in the activities of the SPN. The MSA welcomes and applauds this step to have these new forces and genuine change seekers in the SPN, which will boost the electoral fortunes of the SPN. But this in itself is not enough; there is the need to challenge JAF to take this initiative into the trade unions. Painfully LASCO, which is the Labour and Civil Society Coalition has become completely nonfunctional, and this must not however prevent us from understanding that a party like the SPN can only truly grow if it becomes the party and political organ of the working masses, with the trade unions fully supporting and mobilizing its resources to build it into a fighting organization of the working masses. For this to be achieved, members and supporters of the SPN need to orientate and direct their attention to rank-and-file trade unionists and go beyond the top bureaucrats of the labour movement for support, while at the same time not ignoring the need for a united and concerted effort of resistance by the trade unions, NLC, TUC, JAF, SPN, NCP, MOP, and AAC and all other forces of the working masses against all attacks on the democratic right of the working masses to organise themselves into a party of their own.
THE PEOPLE’S ALTERNATIVE POLITICAL MOVEMENT
Towards accomplishing the task of building a mass working people’s political alternative, a major left alliance emerged from the meeting held between 25th and 28th March 2021 called the People’s Alternative Political Movement (PAPM). The Movement for A Socialist Alternative (MSA) is part of the People’s Alternative Political Movement and we argued during The People’s Alternative Political Summit (T-PAPS) for a socialist programme to be at the core of the new political movement.
The People’s Alternative Political Movement agrees on a socialist programme. As laudable as this position sounds, PAPM must develop into a fighting pro-working people’s political formation. The People’s Alternative Political Movement has an initial timeline of three months, which will lapse in June 2021. Since its inauguration, it is yet to begin to play its aspired role of becoming a political voice by issuing regular statements or mobilizing the rank-and-file of the working people. The Movement for A Socialist Alternative will argue within the People’s Alternative Political Movement for a fighting programme of action on the day-to-day struggles of the working class. This is the only way it can develop into a serious political formation in the search for a mass working people’s party.
Ultimately, only a clear-headed core of solid revolutionary Marxist cadres can be the spine of a genuine mass workers’ party anchored on a socialist programme. The ideological crisis facing the workers, students and youth movement today require the building of a revolutionary socialist organization that can re-orientate newly-radicalised forces to genuine socialist ideas. This is the reason why the Movement for A Socialist Alternative (MSA) call on ordinary workers and youth to join the MSA and root it in the workers’ movement, students’ movement, youth movement, women’s rights movement and community movement. We are of the view that this is the only way that a genuine foundation can be laid for a genuine mass working people’s party on a clear-cut socialist programme.
The entire process of the crystallization of a genuine mass working people’s political alternative will not be straightforward. However, armed with the best ideas of Marxism, revolutionary forces in the MSA will play serious roles in this developing process and in the all-rounded struggle of the working people of Nigeria, Africa and the entire world in throwing off the deadweight of capitalism. By socialism, the MSA differentiates same from the false experiment under the former Soviet Republics, which lacked genuine workers’ democracy. Genuine socialism represents democratic control and running of the commanding heights of the economy by the working people and the poor. This cannot be confined to one country, as Stalin and its successors falsely espoused, but on a worldwide basis.