Building the cwi in 2003 in Nigeria and Poland
cwi international conference.
This report is taken from written contributions from cwi sections that were presented to the 21-26 November meeting of the International Executive Committee (IEC) of the cwi, held in Belgium. socialistworld.net cwi online.
Anti-war and anti-capitalism
For the past 12 months, the work of the Nigerian section has been dominated by interventions in the National Conscience Party (NCP), the campaigns for the 2003 general elections in the country as well as the strikes and protests against incessant increases in fuel prices.
The NCP was given official recognition early December 2002. This was just four months to the general elections and it presented a lot of challenges to the party in terms of putting down structures and organising the election campaigns. It also presented a huge challenge to the DSM, especially in ensuring that our members have a correct approach to the work inside the party and the elections in particular.
As a first step, a special discussion was held in the organization to further educate the members on the importance of NCP work. A special National Committee was held in November 2002 to discuss the NCP work, and a pamphlet – " Building the NCP: The Role of Socialists" – was published for the education of members. Also, we held three national organisation meetings where targets for the election campaigns.
The experience we have gathered and the gains we have made in our work in the NCP have confirmed the correctness of our strategy to work in the party. In the elections, eight comrades stood as party candidates: three for the National Assembly, three for the Lagos State house of assembly and two for the Oyo State house of assembly. We produced at least 11,000 posters and circulated 59,000 copies of the manifestos of the candidate-comrades. The results of our comrades were among the best among the party’s candidates. For example, Lanre Arogundade, the comrade who stood in Lagos West senatorial district received 77,330 votes (9.64%) while the comrade in Ifako-Ijaye federal constituency, Niyi Adewumi, got 14% of the votes.
As it has been widely reported, the general elections were characterised by massive riggings and malpractices committed by the ruling parties at the federal level and in the states. The NCP did not win any National Assembly seat. The only seat won by the party was in the Ekiti State House of Assembly (Nigeria comprises 36 states). In the presidential election, the party’s candidate, the human rights activist-lawyer Gani Fawehinmi, scored 161,333 votes which represent 0.41% of the total votes. It is necessary to mention that it was not the riggings alone that were responsible for NCP’s results.
The campaign had a positive impact on all aspects of our organization. The campaign and new recruitment have helped to revive branches like Agege and Alagbado while there are prospect of establishing new branches in places like Ejigbo and Igando. The membership of the Ajegunle branch doubled. Above all, the campaigns laid a basis for developing the activities of the organisation in the communities.
Post- election period
Since the end of the election there has been a lull in the NCP. Attendance at meetings has considerably declined while many local chapters and wards where the party was active at least during the election have ceased to be active. But in Lagos State where comrades are in control of the leadership, we have struggled to maintain some level of activity. The monthly membership meeting of the state has been taking place since the end of the election though attendance has considerably reduced.
The downturn in party activity reflects the demoralization among the activists at the apparently poor results obtained by the party in the election and the re-election of the anti-poor money-bag parties, the PDP, AD and ANPP. But as we have explained in our review of the election, the performance of the NCP was not a disaster that it seemed from afar when the factors of late registration, short time for campaign, and shortage of materials and finance are considered, coupled with the massive riggings. In fact, given the enormous odds against the party, its achievements in certain areas, for instance Lagos State, deserves commendation. In most constituencies in Lagos State, the party came third after the PDP (the ruling party at the federal level) and AD (the governing party in the state).
Despite the present lull, however, the NCP will continue to be a pole of attraction for change-seeking elements in the absence of any other mass working people’s alternative.
The struggle against fuel prices increase
In the past one year, the Obasanjo regime has increased fuel price twice, in June and October 2003, provoking mass anger and ferment. In June, the leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) were forced to call a general strike, which lasted for 8 days and brought the Nigerian economy and governmental activities to a standstill. It showed the enormous potential power of the working class and its ability to overcome ethnic and religious divisions. The only thing lacking is the absence of a conscious revolutionary labour leadership. The leadership of the labour movement has the false belief that capitalism can be reformed to serve the interests of the working masses. Thus during the strike, the NLC did not deem it necessary to demand for an end to the Obasanjo regime, let alone to pose the need for overthrow of capitalism and for an alternative working class economic and political alternative.
The general strike which the NLC planned against the hike in price in October was called off by the labour leaders a few hours to the take-off on the basis of an agreement reached with the oil marketing companies to revert back to the old prices. The latter reneged on the agreement and the NLC leaders have not been able to put forward a strategy to fight against the increment and the government’s deregulation policy.
Our organization has been actively involved in the struggles against fuel price hike. The DSM general secretary, Segun, was one of the four secretaries and spokespersons elected by the Labour-Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) which was formed at the beginning of the June strike. Two of our comrades were also appointed coordinators for two of the four zones into which Lagos was divided for the purpose organising and coordinating the aborted October strike.
We participated in a few other local struggles like the battle waged by the workers of Kabelmetal factory in Lagos against the illegal deductions from their salary and the victimisation of our comrade and DSM NEC member, Rufus Olusesan. This eventually led to the reinstatement of the comrade and his election as the chairman of his local branch of his union, the raising of the profile of our organization in the union and recruitment of a few members.
From all indications, the neo-liberal economic policies of the Obasanjo government will not only continue during its second term, they are likely to be accelerated. The recent appointment of a new finance minister who was a vice president of the IMF is highly symbolic. The deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry will definitely lead to further increases in the prices of the products and also further hardship for the masses. The downsizing of the civil service is also on the agenda and that means thousands of workers will be further rendered jobless. If the regime has its way, the privatisation of all the major corporations like NITEL, NEPA, railways, etc, will probably be concluded this second term. Lately, the regime has decided to present a bill to the National Assembly meant to weaken the NLC and make it more difficult to organise industrial actions. For instance, two-thirds majority support by workers would be required before they could embark on any strike action. It has become necessary for our organisation to position itself to intervene on these issues and in the struggles that will break out as a result of the implementation of these anti-poor policies. We have resolved to organise a campaign on privatisation under the platform of our campaign body, the Campaign for Independent Unionism (CIU). We also have a plan to establish factory-based groups to assist in the integration of worker comrades who find it difficult to be active in the community-based branches.
Recruitment and leadership
Over the past eighteen months, we have recruited groups of comrades in UNAD (Ado-Ekiti), Universal College (Ile-Ife), LASU (Lagos), Akungba, and Federal Poly (Ede).
We have a 12 page paper with a target of bimonthly publication; we also produced four special 2 page editions for 2002 and 2003 May Day, and also to review the 2003 election and also the June general strike. We also printed numerous leaflet editions with which we intervened in the struggle for the registration of the NCP and in its electoral bid. The sale of the paper has substantially improved in the past one year and we have been able to maintain circulation of 2,000 copies per edition. But for the election campaigns and during the June strike we printed a total of extra 3,000 copies. More comrades are also writing for the paper.
Political activity and education
More regular political discussions are taking place at the branches. After the elections and the June strikes, four major branches organised public meetings aimed at drawing the lessons and explaining the way forward both for our members and the activists. We aim for at least 2 socialist schools in the next one year so.
Between the 2002 CWI congress and now, we have launched a website for the organisation: www.socialistnigeria.org. All our public materials produced this year as well as some published a few years back have been put on the website.
For six months, the universities were shut due to the strike of the academic staff union (ASUU). This reduced our direct work among students, as students, including our comrades were dispersed. But since the end of the strike in June, there has been gradual revival of activities in the campus branches.
In early October, we lost by a narrow margin the leadership of the Zone D (south-west zone) of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) which we have been holding for about four consecutive years.
The current emphasis in our student work is raising the quality of the work, deepening the understanding of student comrades and building genuine Marxist cadres from the rank of our student comrades.
Our group, Grupa na rzecz Partii Robotniczej (Group for a Workers’ Party),
was formed as a result of a split in Ofensywa Antykapitalistyczna (Anti-capitalist Offensive), an organization in which a CWI member living in Poland was active. This split took place in February 2003, during OA’s congress, as a result of serious differences on tactics and strategy. Those in OA who defended the ideas of Marxism came together after the congress to form a new group, with the intention of joining the CWI.
Work of the group
The first activity of this new group was the intervention on the May Day demo in Warsaw. The group produced an issue of the paper Jednosc Robotnicza (Workers Unity), which had previously been the title of OA’s paper. We managed to sell 180 papers.
After the May Day demo there followed a period of discussion and education of the membership. Regular branch meetings took place every week in Warsaw, as well as a Marxist education meeting every week for both members and contacts.
In the summer the group sent two people to the CWI summer school in Ghent, Marta who at that time was a contact for the group, and the existing CWI member in Poland.
In August the group organised its own summer camp. Six members attended. Issues discussed included Stalinism, the Transitional Programme, the class struggle in Europe (report from CWI summer school), the Marxist theory of class, as well as a discussion on Polish perspectives and future plans for the group.
At this time a strike wave developed in Poland and the group visited workers at the occupation of the wagon factory at Ostrowiec.
The group also intervened on the demo to save the Daewoo-FSO car plant in Warsaw.
Our most successful participation intervention was in the occupation of the offices of the former Ozarow Cable factory. The factory was closed down a year ago after the workers camped outside the gates for 306 days to prevent the owner from removing the plant and equipment. Once the owner had succeeded in stripping the company’s assets, the workers then hoped that a special economic zone would be established on the site of the former factory. This was promised by the owner after a number of negotiations with the government. A number of companies were interested in investing in the site of the former factory; however, the owner is now blocking this. The current protest is in order to force the owner to sell the site and allow the formation of such a zone. The group’s position is to support the workers in their struggle but to explain that the solution is to nationalise the plant under workers’ control and management rather than bribe investors with the promise of low taxes to invest in Ozarow.
Visits and discussions with occupation leaders have been made. We have spent a few nights sleeping in the occupation with the protesters. The have a very friendly attitude towards us. We have also intervened in a meeting of the All-Poland Protest Committee (OKP) which last year put forward the slogan of re-nationalisation of enterprises facing bankruptcy. We were invited to this meeting by the Ozarow workers. We now have the possibility of cooperation on the production of a paper for the Ozarow protesters which will be distributed throughout the OKP on a country-wide basis. We have also taken the initiative of producing a poster in support of the Ozarow workers.
We produced a paper for the May Day demo. We sold 180 copies. Now we are working on a website and material for the next paper which we hope to bring out this year.
The branch in Warsaw meets every week.