The theme adopted for this year’s May Day by the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress is Labour Movement in National Development: Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win. Its message is very relevant, particularly the call for working-class audacity.
Labour creates wealth. But we the labourers live in penury while the bosses who are just a handful feed fat on our sweat. Meanwhile, they do everything possible to weaken us by dividing our ranks with reactionary ideas like “tribalism” and religious prejudice.
The bosses’ class owns the governments which they describe as “our” governments. They mobilise us into their parties such as the APC and PDP, encouraging us to vote for one set of oppressors or the other, as if there is any difference between them. As the 2019 elections draw near, we will see more of these self-serving politicians claiming to love the people.
The new national minimum wage being expected will indeed be presented by the APC government as a demonstration of its commitment to workers’ welfare even though it is coming almost three years behind schedule, and the likelihood of the amount being grossly inadequate for meaningful livelihood. Statements from the governors and other bosses show that this is their intent. But we must not accept that.
Nigerian workers have a long history of daring to struggle and several victories won, as well as defeats to learn from. It is important to note that the resistance of poor working-class people in Nigeria and across the British colonial empire was the main factor that convinced London to commence de-colonization from India to Zimbabwe, after the second world war.
Our struggle is simultaneously national and international. The bosses’ class and its capitalist system cannot be isolated as something “national”. The notion of the labour movement as a “social partner” in “national development” is thus one of the horse as an equal partner with its rider. And a rider ready to ride the horse to death if necessary.
Our primary concern is our self-emancipation. This requires and will be won with international social revolution. This calls for workers of all lands to unite, just as workers in their different workplaces, communities and sectors of work unite to fight against the bosses in each of these spaces. We must realise the interconnectedness of our battles. The different enemies are actually one: the 1% of exploiters who subjugate us so that they will continue to milk us dry.
Our struggle requires organisation. While we could dare to struggle spontaneously and might even win temporary victories, to defeat the bosses and wield political power, we must be organised. And our organisation must be conscious of our class interests as working people.
Trade unions are important organisations of workers. They are actually the primary form of workers’ defensive action – for economic benefits. But, we cannot keep asking for just the crumbs from the master’s tables. And economic struggle for better livelihood cannot be simply separated from the broader political struggle.
Thoroughgoing political struggle that not only challenges the existing bankrupt power of the elite, but which aspires with workers’ power to change society requires that we are politically organised. A mass workers’ party is the best avenue for generalising such necessary organisation.
Leaders of organised labour threw away the possibilities of this with the Labour Party. There are today a few registered parties which have, or at least claim to have, the interests of the working-class at heart. But these lack meaningful roots in the working-class.
The unfolding moment we are witnessing is however one in which there are likely to be sharp turns and twists ahead. The bosses’ class have shown that they have absolutely no clue on how to move society forward. The problem is not about individuals or the different parties of the elite. It is a systemic problem.
As we fightback to defeat the bosses, we must see the issues at stake beyond one of elections. We have to build democratic structures of workers’ power from below. Workers from different trade unions and the trade union centres need to come together and form popular councils of working-class people and youth in our different communities and workplaces.
This will serve as the grassroots basis for system change in the coming period which beckons. We do not want a better bosses’ Nigeria, we want a new society based on workers’ power. As we dare to struggle for this and not just some cosmetic economic improvements, we dare to win our self-emancipation.
In line with this struggle, as the Socialist Workers and Youth League stated in its May Day message to the working-class, we demand:
- The immediate enactment of a new national minimum wage of N66,500;
- All elected and appointed public officials must earn no more than the average worker;
- The constitution of workers and youth committees in our communities as popular organs of working-class people’s power and democracy from below;
- Free and qualitative healthcare and education for all;
- All politicians that have corruptly enriched themselves at our expense be brought to book by popular tribunals of the working masses;
- Abolition of all laws and customs that undermine women’s rights;
- Unity and struggle of the Nigerian working-class with working people all over the world, against the capitalist order and for a better world
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win!
Workers United Cannot be Defeated!!
Workers and Youth, Unite and Fight!!!