NO TO AUSTERITY MEASURES!
WORKING PEOPLE MUST RESIST THE BOSSES’ ATTEMPT TO MAKE US PAY FOR THEIR CRISIS!!
The terrible living conditions of workers are about to be worsened, if we do not vehemently resist, as the Federal Government is set to implement austerity measures. According to Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, the sharp drop in oil prices in the world market is hitting the Nigerian economy badly and so, we have to tighten our belts.
But there are questions that have to be asked. When the price of oil skyrocketed, what was the benefit for the working class, urban poor, and poor farmers? Why is the economy suffering a crisis? Who are those that will bear the brunt of the austerity measures being introduced?
The main beneficiaries of the wealth of Nigeria have been the bosses in government and as business men and women. With rising oil prices they have made billions of dollars and trillions of naira. But for the common people, suffering has been our lot. The minimum wage was fixed at a paltry N18,000. The poverty rate increased to 69% from 54%. The number and proportion of the unemployed also increased, particularly amongst youth with 54% seeking scarce jobs.
Okonjo-Iweala, a former high-ranking official of the World Bank attempts to answer the question of why the economy is getting distressed. In her view, this is because of over reliance on oil for government revenue. This answer which is inadequate is itself is a condemnation of the federal government in particular and the ruling class in general. Who are those who own, control and direct the means and processes of production? Is it not them? They relied more on oil sales (and theft, including through “subsidy” scams) because it was (and is) a much easier and surer means of making money than producing commodities.
But the answer is actually deeper than that. Crises are inherent in the capitalist economy, both globally and nationally. These two levels of crises are also interconnected, because capitalism is an international system for the global exploitation of the working class, and natural resources. There is abundant social wealth for the needs of everybody on earth to be met. But the bosses are not concerned about providing for each according to his or her need. Their concern is for ever increasing profit.
It is however impossible for profits to keep increasing. On the contrary, there is a tendency for the rate of profit to fall. This is because; the bosses increase productivity by improving the technical means of production, while keeping wages of labour as low as they possibly can, in their quest for making more profit.
But the generalisation of enhanced productivity while increasing the volume of profit reduces its rate! And once profit rates fall drastically, they cut down on investment for further production. Thus, enhanced production which could be used to make life better for all becomes a millstone around the neck of society. This general reality of how capitalism works is at the heart of the global economic crisis, which is yet to abate. And this worldwide crisis is largely at the heart of the collapse of oil prices. Large economies like China, India and Brazil have slowed down. Their requirement of energy for production purposes have thus reduced.
Another major reason is the turn to Shale oil, particularly in the United States, reducing its current need for imported petroleum. Shale oil is a substitute for crude oil, extracted from kerogen-rich rocks at temperatures over 300 degrees Celsius. Considering its severe environmental impact and costs, it is arguable if it is sustainable as an alternative to crude oil, in the long run. But for now, its use by advanced capitalist countries spells disaster for oil-producing countries like Nigeria.
The bosses in Nigeria want the working people to bear this disaster’s costs. Cuts in public expenditure will result in less funds being made available for social services like education and healthcare delivery. Government officials and employers in the private sector will continually wield the spectre of “austerity” against demands for improved wages. This will also be the case when bargaining for a new national minimum wage commences next year, and there are indications of yet another fuel pump price hike.
We must start to act NOW. The trade unions and civil society organisations need to commence mobilisation against the attempts of the bosses to make us to bear the costs of the bosses’ crisis. They must be made to bear their own burden. Our goal is to do away with their system of exploitation and oppression and build the world anew on the basis of solidarity and cooperation, “from each according to his or her ability and to all according to his or her need”.
Strike Shuts Down Hospitals
Federal Health Institutions across the country where shut down last week as workers on the platforms of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and the Assembly of Health Professional Associations commenced an indefinite strike. Their colleagues in the general hospitals and primary health care centres are set to join the strike by next week if the demands of the unions are not met by the Federal Government.
The primary demand of the unions and professional associations is for the full implementation of the Collective Agreement reached with the Federal Government on May 10, 2012, which include: promotion of health professionals with requisite qualification to CONHESS 15 (as against the current practice of their terminating on CONHESS 14); skipping of CONHESS 10; upward review of the retirement age, in line with the practice in tertiary educational institutions, and; equitable representation of health professionals on the boards of hospitals.
Several times over the last two and half years, JOHESU and the Assembly had threatened to go on strike to enforce the implementation of the agreement. But the Federal Government kept arresting the situation with empty promises. In February last year, the Minister of Labour convinced the unions (and the Federal Ministry of Health) to concede that the National Industrial Court should determine if the agreement could subsist.
Five months later, the Court ruled in favour of the unions. But the ministry of health still chose to hold the agreement in contempt. Last month, after yet another threat by the unions to proceed on strike, the Secretary of the Government (SGF) of the Federation stepped into the matter, supposedly to ensure fair play and “industrial harmony”.
He assured the unions that their demands would be met by the beginning of November. But on November 6, when the unions met again with the government side, it was nothing but another round of empty promises. Haven had enough, the unions decided to take their destiny into their hands. A 1-week strike ultimatum was issued and on Thursday November 13, the strike commenced.
Socialist Workers League fully supports the strike and its members in several states across the country have joined the workers on the picket line. The actions of the Federal Government betray a simple fact; the bosses and their governments will never give in without a fight! Insincerity and utter disrespect for their own rules are part of their tactics. But when we dare to struggle, we dare to win!
Tambuwal’s Defection: No Difference between PDP & APC
Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, the Speaker of the House of Representatives eventually “cross carpeted” from the Peoples
Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress, on October 28. This did not come as a shock to many most Nigerians. Fundamentally, this reflects the fact that there is no essential difference between PDP and APC.
The All Progressives Congress was formed last year with the merger of a number of opposition parties and politicians. The party has described itself as being different and indeed as an alternative to the PDP. Several members of the PDP had defected to APC over the last year. They immediately become heralded as overnight “progressives” by the supposedly “progressive” APC and its acolytes. Tambuwal’s defection has even been described as “historic”, by APC lawmakers. This is despite the cowardly manner Mr. Tambuwal announced his defection, after the motion for adjournment of the House’s sitting had been passed.
But as working class activists, we need to ask ourselves” “why has Tambuwal chosen to defect at this point in time?” Is it because of any genuine concern to bring about a better Nigeria or simply for his own self-serving purposes?
The bosses as individuals and as a class think only about themselves. When they show concern for us, the poor working people, it is the kind of concern that owners of poultry show for their chickens and turkeys: to get them fattened to be eaten. Within their self-centred approach to politics, the bosses consider the context of their environment in arriving at the strategy they pursue.
Governor Wammako of Sokoto state where Tambuwal hails from was one of the dissident PDP governors crossed over to the APC. In Nigeria, the bosses play politics of patronage, where those who hold the purse strings hold the party and electoral “structures”, well greased with our money which they sit on.
It would have thus been an uphill task for Tambuwal to fulfil his ambition of succeeding Wamako if he had not joined “his” governor in the ruling party of his state. The speaker was indirectly saying this when tongue-in-cheek he justified his defection by saying that there is a crisis within PDP in his state.
In all these, the working people are nothing but pawns to the bosses, in their chess game of power. The challenge is for the working class to organise the Labour Party as a genuine fighting party of the working class, to challenge and win power from the PDP, APC & co, on the basis of a socialist programme of self-emancipation.
NLC Constitutes LP Caretaker Committee
The Political Commission of the Nigeria Labour Congress constituted a National Caretaker Committee of the Labour Party on November 13. The Caretaker Committee which held its maiden media briefing the following day is saddled with organising a National Convention for rebuilding LP as a working class party.
The Chairperson of the Committee is Salisu Mohammed, with Lawson Osagie as Secretary. Other members include: Issa Aremu (Director of Party Ideology); Ikpe Etukudo (Director of Publicity); Lucy Offiong (Women Leader), and; Baba Aye (Director of Strategy and Mobilisation).
The challenge before the Caretaker Committee, working with the trade unions, is to ensure the mass mobilisation of working people into the party and the defence of a programme for the working class’ self-emancipation. The ideology of social democracy which the LP still upholds, is a hindrance to this and should be done away with, for a more thorough-going socialist programme of struggle.