Socialist Workers League joins workers in Nigeria and across the world in commemorating the 2017 May Day. We seize this opportunity once again to highlight the attacks on poor working-class people,. The global economic crisis has refused to abate. And though the Nigerian economy is technically struggling out of recession, growth remains sluggish, reinforced by the worsening poverty of the working poor, as the bosses do everything in their power to make us bear the costs for recovery.
This state of affairs cannot be allowed to persist. We must fight for what is ours by right, including the prompt payment of salaries and social protection. And our struggle cannot be limited to ensuring that these basics are provided as enshrined in the laws formulated by the bosses.
We must fight to change the system. Capitalism is by its very nature based on the continued exploitation of the working class within and across countries. This is why Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels, the founding fathers of modern socialism called for “workers of all lands (to) unite”. As they further added: “we have nothing to lose but our chains, and a world to win.”
This was the spirit behind the setting aside of May 1 as International Day of Workers Solidarity. This decision was reached on July 14, 1889 at the Founding Congress of the Socialist International in Paris. Earlier in 1886, over 350,000 workers in the United States of America commenced a General Strike on May 1. Their demand was for the reduction of the working day to 8 hours.
The bosses did not respect this legitimate demand. Instead, they militarized the police for confrontation with the strikers. This set the context for a contrived bombing at Haymarket Square on May 4 where a workers’ rally was being held. Eight leaders of the workers were unjustly held responsible for this dastardly act, despite all evidence absolving them. They were condemned to death.
The declaration by the Socialist International was thus in solidarity with the Haymarket Square martyrs as they would later come to be known, reflecting the linkages between the struggles in our different countries and globally as one and the same struggle of the international working class against capitalism which is an international system and can be defeated finally only with worldwide revolution.
May Day is not about parades with representatives of governments. It is about workers’ power and workers’ struggle for a better world. For decades in Nigeria, workers as members of trade unions and trade union centres with socialist orientation organised seminars, symposiums and mass meetings to mark May Day.
May 1 was set aside as International Day of Workers Solidarity. This was until 1980 when the socialist-inclined Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) governments in Kano and Kaduna states declared May 1 as public holiday and joined workers to mark the day.
The following year, the National Party of Nigeria’s federal government declared it a national public holiday. The whole essence of this was to get the day institutionalised, like taming a tiger of a day to simply purr like a domestic cat.
We must return to the founding principles of our movement. May Day must once again become a day to inspire us to rise and fight. And there is so much to fight for.
The federal government has shown its bad faith regarding negotiations for a new minimum wage. When it raised the pump price of petrol last year, it gave the impression that it was ready to raise the minimum wage to N40,000 (which would still have been inadequate). As soon as the pressures of resistance to that fuel price hike had wittered, it kept quiet.
To make a terrible situation even worse, owing workers backlogs of salaries has become the new normal in many states of the federation. This is so bad that the Kogi state government could say that it owes just 12 months salaries and not 15 months as reported in the press.
As workers mark the 2017 May Day, SWL joins rank and file workers in demanding:
- Payment of all outstanding salaries to workers, immediately, failing which a 2-day warning General Strike should be declared as a prelude to indefinite nationwide strike action;
- N56,000 minimum wage and the reduction of public officers “earnings”
By now it should have become quite clear to the leaders of the trade union movement that none of the parties of the bosses will ever mean well for the workers. We have tarried in having a party of labour that working-class people can correctly see as our own.
This is the time to wake up to the challenge of bringing workers and our allies together under a political platform with a socialist programme. Now more than ever, the challenge ahead requires the building of such a working people’s party to fight for a better world. We have nothing to lose but our chains, and a better world to win.
SOCIALIST WORKERS’ LEAGUE Solidarity Message on the 2017 MAY DAY
It is no gainsaying the fact that 1st of May every year is globally set aside to commemorate the victory of workers for the eight (8) hours a day that is currently the near-fair global practice in every decent and responsible work places. Protest and workers solidarity are known to play no lean roles in the events that commemorate the historic day.
As we are all aware, May Day is perhaps the main international event that presents to the working class a genuinely socialist perspective in response to the spreading wave of imperialist violence that threatens the very existence of humanity.
It is in this realm that Socialist Workers’ League solidarizes with Nigerian workers and the mass of the toiling working class globally. We sincerely empathize with all on the collective deplorable state of existence bestowed on workers by the prevailing inglorious socioeconomic cum political relation. It had never been this bad, especially for Nigerian workers.
However, it is apt to say that it is not enough for us to continue lamenting and agonizing. It is important that we realize the vast gulf between the level of our political consciousness and the dangers that confront us as the working class.
We must resolve to desist from being pawns in the political chess game of these bourgeois politicians whenever they come calling. The bosses will never resolve to loosen the chains of servitude they deliberately entangle our hands and necks with. Our destinies sure lie in our hands. To break the chain, our struggle has to be properly situated within the present class dichotomy of the “rich” (exemplified by the oppressors) and “poor” (exemplified by the toiling workers).
The status quo, as represented by the ruling class as presently constituted, has adequately demonstrated that interest of the working class are only tertiary in their order of priority. This is why Nigerian states see no wrong in the non-payment of the meagre National Minimum Wage which has made a lot of workers raging rovers.
The only tangible benefits the bosses accord Nigerian workers are: retrenchments/perpetual fear of job insecurity; intimidation; harassment, to mention a few. The time cannot be riper than now for us to agree that this bourgeois politico-economic set up cannot liberate us from these crises. We have to unite and fight!
A socialist revolution develops out of the interaction between the objective movement of the working class and the intervention of the revolutionary party. Mere agitation for a pronouncement of a new National Minimum Wage is not a panacea to our detestable condition of existence considering the fact that most of the states in Nigeria have refused to pay the present
Eighteen Thousand Naira (N18,000). The arrogant ones among them do not even hide their penchant for extermination of the poor from the surface of the earth, by either taxing the poor to the marrow or criminally bulldozing their places of abode viz: Otodo Gbame settlement in Lagos State, in preparation of the lands for sharing among the rich.
Inspite of these seemingly gloomy pictures of conditions of living of Nigerian workers, there is surely going to be light at the end of the tunnel. Class struggle is emerging as a dominant factor in the political situation in many countries now. Nigeria will, certainly, not be an exception as we just witnessed a number of revolts against some politicians in their constituencies of recent.
What is required of these pockets of resistance to achieve the required result is proper organisation. Spontaneity of actions is grossly insufficient to engender a sustainable revolution. Let us organize for proper coordination.
Workers and Youth, Unite and Fight!
Frances Jole Kunle Wizeman Ajayi
National Chairperson National Secretary
UAD Organises May Day Procession
The United Action for Democracy (UAD) will be organising a procession to commemorate the May Day. This will bring activists together, marching to the Agege stadium where the May Day parade will be hosted by the NLC and TUC Lagos State Councils.
This is a commendable step forward in bringing back the pulse of struggle into the marking of the International Day of Workers Solidarity. SWL which is affiliated to the UAD fully supports this action and calls on its members to join the demonstration.
In its pre-May Day press conference where it declared this action, the coalition also drew attention to issues of concern for working-class people. The non-payment of salaries to workers in a dozen states was one of these, and a very serious action that requires immediate action by the trade unions.
UAD called on workers to reject the neoliberal attacks of the bosses and fight for system change. It showed that claims of lack of resources to pay workers living wages and promptly too are mere lies. The bosses continue to feed fat while workers continue to languish in penury.
We can see from the stories of billions of naira such as the N13bn found in the Osborne Towers that there is more than enough “free money” for the bosses to appropriate through both “legal” and more illegitimate means.
SWL further supports the UAD’s call for concerted campaigns by the trade unions for a new minimum wage of not less than N56,000. While we agree that a united trade union movement is desirable, this however cannot be mechanical or be seen, in our view, as a unity of the bureaucracy of the movement.
We call for the unity of rank and file workers in workplaces across the country, irrespective of the labour centre their unions are affiliated to in demanding better working conditions, living wages paid monthly and the formation of a working-class people’s party.
Unity of the trade union movement forged in struggle and from below would be a qualitative step forward in the working class’ struggle for a better world.