• 2016: Global Economic Crisis Deepens

  • The bosses want us to bear the burden

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The year 2016 is one pregnant with great possibilities. The long depression which started globally after the great economic recession of 2007-2009 is taking a turn for the worse. From the United States to China, Britain to Brasil, South Africa to Australia, the forecasts are the same: there is a rough economic year ahead. But, likewise, in all these countries, there is the promise of robust working class-people’s fightback.

The centrality of the global economy to national economies can be seen in the impact of constricting production on oil prices, for example. The collapse of oil prices is not primarily because there have been alternatives like shale oil. It is because of reduced demand for petroleum products as a result of declining global production, which is now even worse. That is why oil prices are likely to further drop below $30 per barrel.

This will be a far cry from the $38 benchmark price set by the federal government in the 2016 budget proposal. A consequence of this is that the current deficit of N2.22 trillion which has been justifiably criticised as enslaving future generations with debts will then be just child’s play.

The APC government intends to make poor working class-people to bear the burden of economic crisis. As 2016 begins, the working masses will face a 45% hike in electricity tariff. Fuel subsidy has also been removed with a false pretence of 50kobo reduction through the IMF policy-masquerade called “price modulation”.

These terrible anti-poor people policies are just the tip of the iceberg. During the first presidential media chat of President Muhammadu Buhari in 7months, he made it clear that the federal government supports the governors who are calling for a reduction in the paltry minimum wage of N18,000. This is at a time when the 5-year old National Minimum Wage Act is due for review, procedurally. Real wages have collapsed by over one third in value and cost of living is worsening.

 President Buhari’s argument, if one could so call it, is that several states are presently finding it difficult to pay salaries as and when due, because of the wage bill. It is also instructive that there is no provision for possible wage increments (which an upward review of the national minimum wage would amount to) in the 2016 budget proposal. Thus, we should expect wage freeze in the federal civil service and (attempts at) wage cuts in states (with the federal government’s tacit support).

The private sector bosses will also be raising their hatchets high to slash jobs and wages. Last year witnessed the worst rates of retrenchments in some sectors such as food and beverages, in the past fifteen years. With exchange rates effectively at not less than N250 and continued weakening demand, more private firms and corporations are expected to make losses. Sacks and wage cuts are ways the bosses use to push such losses onto the sagging shoulders of poor working class-people.

Meanwhile, each governor continues to collect an unconstitutional “security vote” of N500m monthly. Despite its claims to “change”, APC governors have had fleeced the country’s purse with such ludicrous appropriations, no less than PDP governors. Despite declining profits, multinational corporations and domestic businessmen and women make so much money. But, the bosses in and out of government are not ready to cut down on their luxurious living. They want workers to suffer the pains of a contracting economy.

The way forward for the working masses, now, more than ever, is determined struggle. We must resist the machinations of the bosses and fight to win a new better Nigeria, a new better world. The trade unions have a central role to play in this regard. NLC and TUC must brace up to fight to the logical conclusion.

There are sparks of the coming period in strikes in some of the states which are yet to pay salaries. There is the need for synergy in this direction. It should not be left to the discretion of state councils of NLC to determine whether they will go on strike or make excuses for “their” governors while some other state councils go on strike, when wages are being owed.

Our resistance must be comprehensive. We have to challenge any and every anti-poor policy, in the workplaces and our communities. The hike in electricity tariffs has to be confronted by a national movement with demonstrations, rallies, etc., which could tap into the spontaneous waves of protests against crazy bills and epileptic power supply last year.

It is however not enough to resist one section of the bosses or the other. To resist the bosses’ class as a whole, we must have alternatives beyond capitalism which they represent. We must build a mass-based alternative party of working class-people. Beyond as well as, during elections, such a mass-based socialist working people’s party must continually organise, sensitise and enlighten poor working people in the urban and rural areas and thus building workers’ power.

In the current efforts at returning NLC to the founding principles of the trade union movement, the leadership of Congress had sincerely committed itself to a process of building workers’ power. The time is now, to summon a people’s assembly that would bring together the myriad of working people’s organisations and their allies to deliberate on how together, we can build the force we have to now, to turn the tide against the bosses with our resistance.

The capitalist system of the bosses is an international system for the exploitation and domination of working class-people across national boundaries. The working class is the international force capable of defeating capitalism worldwide. Victory for the working masses in just one country, particularly in a neo-colonial entity like Nigeria, will be overturned sooner than later. We thus have to forge ever closer international solidarity-in-action with the oppressed masses fighting against the bosses in other countries.

An injury to one, is an injury to all! When we dare to struggle, we dare to win!! Working class-people united and determined can never be defeated!!!

We have a world to win! Let’s win it in 2016!!