by Baba Aye and Drew Povey
The abduction of over 200 final year pupils from the Chibok Girls Secondary School, within 24 hours of a bomb blast in Nyanya, Abuja marks a highlight in the war between Boko Haram and the Nigerian state. This seemingly senseless war has consumed not less than twelve thousand lives since it commenced in 2009, according to the Federal Government. Within the first three months of this year alone, Amnesty International reports that over 1,500 people were killed in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. They have been under the state of emergency since April 2013 and Amnesty International says the army is killing more people than Boko Haram.
There is a general sense of anger with protest marches around the slogan “bring back our girls” in several parts of the country and across the world. It was only after this mass upsurge from below that President Goodluck Jonathan, on May 5, said that “the kidnap of these girls will be the beginning of the end of terror in the Nigeria”. He was actually echoing Barak Obama, President of the United States of America, who earlier said the kidnapping “may be the event that helps to mobilise the entire international community to finally do something against this horrendous organisation” (Boko Haram).
The problem is deeper than “security challenges”
But “doing something” now means giving more freedoms to the security services and the deployment of military personnel from the United States and Britain. Several people, out of frustration, have welcomed this dangerous development. And even some activists who have previously stood against the presence of soldiers from these imperialist countries have also succumbed to the popular view. We do not think that the primary question is one of “beefing up security” and closing the borders of Nigeria with Cameroun and Chad.
There is a crucial need for working class activists to have a deeper understanding of the situation and demand a clear way forward which includes resistance against the campaign of bombings, assassinations and kidnappings by Boko Haram by workers and other poor people who face the daily horrors of these attacks. Workers, particularly in Borno and Yobe states live in constant fear. Poor farmers have abandoned their farmlands, resulting in the skyrocketing of foodstuffs prices, further eroding the poor wages of workers.
Attacks against schools are condemnable
The Nigeria Union of Teachers Secretary General, Comrade Obong Ikpe Obong, said not less than 108 teachers have been killed in Borno state alone and three in Yobe, since the insurgency started. The group which condemns “Western education” has in its ranks hundreds if not thousands of university and polytechnic graduates. But it killed 29 students from the Government Secondary School Mamudo, Yobe state in June 2013. And in February 2014, 58 male students were killed at the Federal Government College Buni Yadi, also in Yobe state. And weeks before the Chibok kidnapping, 20 female pupils were abducted from the Government Girls College, Konduga, in Borno state.
But, the “safe schools” initiative recently instituted by the government in association with their imperialist masters is merely whitewashing. The children of politicians and other members of the elite class do not attend the schools that Boko Haram attacks. Their children either school abroad or in heavily protected schools with the best facilities. If the bosses are sincere about this scheme, they should put their children in government schools.
A bigger picture of terror
We must however not lose sight of the fact that the “horrendous” acts of terror by Boko Haram are part of a more terrible reality. The growth of Boko Haram, was fuelled by the prevalence of abject poverty, rampant unemployment, and utter disillusionment, for poor people, while the politicians and other rich bosses live in luxury, and wallow in corruption. The anti-establishment slogans of the group initially found ready audience in the north eastern parts of the country, which has the highest number of school aged students out of school, in the world. By 2008 Boko Haram had over 250,000 members according to a study by Mallam Danjibo of the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan.
The group was courted by several politicians in their bid to win gubernatorial and legislative offices because of its mass influence during both the 2003 and 2007 general elections. And even since it went underground in 2009, it is obvious that some sections of the elite still provide it with financial and other material resources.
A cycle of violence
Credible international experts continue to estimate that the Nigerian army and Boko Haram have killed approximately the same number of people in recent years. There was, for example, a massacre by the army in Baga in April 2013 when soldiers set fire to more than 2,000 houses and killed over 200 civilians according to international human rights bodies. Al Jazeera at the time described the army’s invasion as “the silent war in Nigeria”.
In late 2012, a Nigerian senator claimed that the “Security agencies are the number one killers in term of number… If one army officer is killed in an area, they will come and cordon off the whole place and kill people they can get hold of and then burn all property in that area.”
“The scale of atrocities carried out by Boko Haram is truly shocking, creating a climate of fear and insecurity,” said Amnesty International’s Netsanet Belay. “But this cannot be used to justify the brutality of the response that is clearly being meted out by the Nigerian security forces.”
A symptom of poverty and despair
Boko Haram is a symptom of serious economic and social problems and an indication of the level of despair that many poor people feel. Sending in the army has resulted in many more deaths and refugees. People within the local communities are voting with their feet and leaving the country to get away from the army. Earlier this year the UNHCR estimated that up to 600,000 people had fled their homes, with some seeking refuge in Niger, Cameroon and Chad.
While the few super-rich of the Nigerian elite live ostentatious lives, the mass of the people are embroiled in poverty, illiteracy and disillusionment. The fundamental terror we face is the terror of poverty – resulting in the deaths of at least 30,000 people across the world every single day.
The rate of youth unemployment in Nigeria is officially 54% and the National Bureau of Statistics notes that the unemployment situation in the north-eastern region where Boko Haram is most active is the worst. When so many secondary and university graduates are unemployed is it any wonder that Boko Haram supporters question the value of ‘western’ education?
The class basis of Boko Haram
Boko Haram has a contradictory nature. On one hand, it involves sections of the ruling elite for whom religion-as-politics is a tool for mobilisation of mass support for their aims. We saw examples with the political Shari’a wave that swept through twelve northern states of Nigeria in the early 2000s. Specifically, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff courted Boko Haram in his successful bid for the governorship of Borno State in 2003.
However, elements of the anti-establishment demands of Boko Haram find resonance in the hearts of many poor and dispossessed people who are fed up with the corruption and flamboyant lifestyle of the elites, in the face of their own poverty and hopelessness. Since it was established in 2002, Boko Haram has provided Koranic education, housing, healthcare and offsetting of debts, providing services that the state has failed to supply.
- WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
The war being waged against Boko Haram is not in the interest of the poor and working people. It is a convenient way for the bosses to reduce the social, economic and political crises to “insecurity” and the “war on terror”. This may win our sympathy while making us lose sight of the bigger picture.
Similarly, militant Islamists cannot generally be described as “reactionary”. There are diverse forms of religious sects, which take different forms over time, influenced by the broader context of the anti-poor people capitalist development and its discontents. And their supporters are a complex collection of different groups including some of the political elite, but also many poor and impoverished, driven desperate by their situation.
Even if Boko Haram is crushed today, other similar groups will spring up. They will feed on the discontent and anger of poor people against the corrupt, pro-rich system that confronts them in their daily lives, especially in the absence of strong secular alternatives for revolutionary change.
In principle, working class activists are against any form of “state of emergency” and the curtailment of democratic rights of the poor and working people. But we have to go beyond merely mouthing such ideas like the need for workers’ self-defence.
The January 2012 Uprising across Nigeria, against the threat to end fuel subsidies, showed us how superfluous ethno-religious conflicts become within a mass political struggle for a better society. Boko Haram had issued an order for non-northerners to leave the north, just before the working masses shock the country to its foundations with an eight-day general strike and mass protests across some 57 cities and towns.
In the heat of such a mass struggle, working people established self-defence militias in some places in the north. These guarded churches against Boko Haram. Christians also protected Muslims at prayer during the revolts in Abuja and other cities. In a contradictory manner, the Civilian JTF in Maiduguri also shows that self-defence and not reliance on the state is how we can repulse misguided attacks against poor working people.
The Civilian JTF was formed by youths in Maiduguri to repulse Boko Haram attacks against poor working people. It has successfully ensured a relatively more peaceful atmosphere in Maiduguri than anywhere else in the state. But, its members see themselves more as an outgrowth of and part of the military, than as part of a mass movement against the system. The Borno state government has latched onto this to try reconstituting them as the Borno State Youth Empowerment Scheme (BOYES).
One of the most urgent tasks is the establishment of a united front against the state of emergency. There are several social forces that are against the state of emergency for diverse reasons. Socialists and other activists in Nigeria need to take up the argument against the state of emergency in trade union branches and other working class bodies.
We need to argue that Boko Haram is basically a symptom of poverty and despair. We need a real fight against corruption and an increase in the level of taxation of the rich elite to fund decent education and health services for all. We need further training and job creation schemes to ensure all youths have the opportunity to use their talents. We need to turn the ‘war on terror’ into a fight against the real terror of inequality and poverty. Working class activists also have to strive to be actively involved in the emerging structures of self-defence in the wake of the civilian JTF and to provide these with leadership towards combating attacks against the working people, be these by Boko Haram, the Nigerian state or the forces of imperialism such as the United States that have come to make Nigeria another Afghanistan.
How to free the Chibok students
Economic development in the north east, with reduced unemployment and poverty, will reduce support for Boko Haram. Military action cannot stop insurgency as we learnt from the Niger delta militancy. Even if Boko Haram is crushed, without addressing the underlining problems, a dozen more groups like it will arise.
The Chibok students have demonstrated commendable courage. The over 50 of them that are now free took their fate into their hands. To ensure that all the students return home safely, the government has to negotiate with Boko Haram. Even the United States government, despite all its talk about not negotiating with terrorists, recently released five suspected Taliban members from Guantanamo Bay to secure the release of one American soldier.
- unemployment brings bombing – end unemployment now!
• the army is also killing – troops back to barracks!
• poverty is the real terror – no more corruption!
• end the state of emergency – US troops out of Nigeria!
- Strikes in the Health Sector
The bosses cannot be trusted!
by E. ‘Todun Jagun
The struggle of health workers for improved working conditions and the development of the sector continued unabated since the beginning of the year. But the federal and state governments still appear headstrong against the workers legitimate demands. The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) declared a two-week strike ultimatum on May Day for the implementation of the May 10, 2012 collective agreement with the Federal Ministry of Health.
According to Mr. Felix Faniran, who spoke at the time on behalf of the five unions that constitute JOHESU, an indefinite strike action would commence on May 15, if the unions’ demands were not heeded. But despite the fact that their demands were not met, the planned strike action was called off on the strength of promises by the government, once again, with the setting up of yet another committee to look into the matter.
The health workers had embarked on strike actions twice last year over these same demands. The issues at stake include: the inclusion of members of JOHESU in the management boards of federal health institutions; increase of the retirement age from 60 to 65 years in tertiary health institutions (as with tertiary educational institutions); promotion of qualified health workers from CONHESS 14 to CONHESS 15; and the implementation of the 2008 Job Evaluation Report.
The federal ministry of labour intervened after the first strike action, persuading the unions to allow the National Industrial Court to arbitrate. On July 31, 2013, the NIC ruled that the federal ministry of health should implement the 2012 collective agreement. But the ministry of health remained recalcitrant. The unions responded with further strike action in August. This was again called off after the ministry gave its word that it would abide by the court’s ruling.
The federal ministry of health is however yet to implement the collective agreement.
A major lesson is that the bosses will always do whatever they can to deprive the workers, and collective bargaining is not a substitute for mass strike action. Industrial relations is not a neutral “win-win” game as the bosses want us to believe. It is the collective power of the workers that makes employers heed the unions’ demands and not the ability of union negotiators. Health workers in the states have learnt this through struggle, as demonstrated in Kaduna state, the Federal Medical Centre, Asaba and at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH).
In Kaduna, the health workers’ union formed a “Strike Force Committee”. This led a total work stoppage for 21 days, in a struggle for 30% pay rise. They called off the strike only when concrete action was taken in April. In Asaba, the local JOHESU led workers on strike because of shortfalls in their wages for two months. Despite the management’s attempt to stop the strike action through the courts, they still won. Similarly, in Port Harcourt, UPTH workers went on strike for over a month to protest non-implementation of due promotions and irregularity of payment of salaries. They also won!
If we dare to struggle, we dare to win. The bosses can only be defeated through our collective struggle and strike action. The concern of health workers’ unions that strikes in the sector result in avoidable deaths is a legitimate one and shows how humane they are unlike the employers. But the responsibility for such deaths lies squarely on the shoulders of the government when it fails to respect collective agreements.
A concrete step by government on the issues in dispute is worth more than a thousand committees, and it is struggle through mass mobilisation and strike actions that will make it to take necessary steps as experience as shown. The bosses cannot be trusted, health sector unions have to rely more on the collective power of their members, more than the nonexistent goodwill of the government.
- Food Crisis Imminent
by Yusuf Lawal
Working people across the country might be in for even harder times as a possible crisis in food supply looms. This is partly because the rainy season this year will be very short according to the National Meteorological Agency, with dire consequences for the farming cycle. This is as a result of climate change, very much like the flooding witnessed two years ago, which displaced over two million persons, with about 200 people dead. Another major reason according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is the continued guerrilla war in the north east.
Climate change is the devastating result of capitalist development. Bug business does not care anymore about the environment than it cares for working people. Basically everything is worthy to the bosses only as commodity which could generate profit. Thus, driven by competition between capitalists, the unsustainable profit-based system they run has resulted in global warming and with it climate change which affects the poor much more than rich.
The Boko Haram insurgency on its own part has already resulted in increased prices of foodstuffs already, as poor farmers scamper for safety rather than plough the field. In Marte, Borno state close to Lake Chad, over 12,340 cultivated acres of rice and wheat were abandoned when some 19,000 farmers fled from the area to avoid being caught in crossfire between the military and Boko Haram fighters. This bad situation is likely to get worse.
The United Nations reports that over 300,000 persons have fled from Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states after the state of emergency was declared last year. According to NEMA, an additional 65,000 persons have fled from Borno and Yobe states alone, this year. Most of these are farmers who have painfully abandoned their farmlands to safeguard their lives. Indeed, in an earlier report, in 2012, NEMA stated that 60% of farmers in the region, which is a major bread basket, had left their fertile lands due to the state of insecurity.
The situation has been compounded by the fact that Nigeria is not food sufficient and the prices of imported grains have also been fluctuating. The poor working people, particularly in centres are the ones bearing the burden. The prices of several staples have risen by between 60% and 800%. Yet, the national minimum wage remains a paltry N18,000. Even this is not being paid by a number of states.
To reduce the sufferings of poor people, the trade unions need to demand price control mechanisms. The unions most, poor farmers cooperatives and consumer associations have to be democratically involved in the silos project for storage and disbursing of grains across towards ensuring that the needy poor are beneficiaries and not corrupt government officials and their collaborators.
But while this could serve as a stopgap measure, it is pertinent to understand that only the overthrow of the capitalist system and the establishment of socialism can bring an end to such avoidable situations as food crises, even when there really is enough food for everyone. Capitalism places profits first at despoiling the environment and elites seeking political power help to foster sectarian violence. Socialism, resting on our solidarity and cooperation will have the wellbeing and development of people as its cardinal point, and will be won only through our conscious struggles.
- Corruption and Elite Rule
by Tunde Liberty
Corruption continues to grow in Nigeria, it appears to be a central element for the elite to enrich themselves and also continue to rule us. Corruption in high places now seems to be so commonplace that the citizens’ sense of shock has become numbed.
This is a cause for concern. The political elite use corruption to extract wealth from public funds. This is then used to win future elections, build their business empires and live a life of luxury. In contrast, working people and mass of poor people are left to suffer in poverty.
One major form of institutionalised corruption is the fuel subsidy regime. It is the elite that cream the subsidy, but removing it will only further burden the poor without any guarantee that the money supposedly “saved” will be used to better our lot.
Budgetary allocations are also used as means for corrupt enrichment. For example, N1.3trillion was set aside for the Defence Ministry in 2013, this was the same amount government claimed it used for fuel subsidy in 2012. But the army remains poorly equipped because the bulk of this money probably ends up in private pockets.
The aviation ministry is another major site of corrupt practices. In 2013, several charges and levies were introduced as a reaction to several air accidents. But with the taxes and levies the Aviation Minister imposed on air operators and commuters, Ms. Stella Oduah bought the controversial armored cars worth N255million. It took mass outcry from the public before she was sacked. And after this, she got the reward of heading one of the organisations that have started working for President Jonathan to have a second term in office.
The alarm raised by the removed Governor of the Central Bank, Sanusi Lamido, over missing billions further exposed the secret of Mr. Goodluck’s diverting funds from the NNPC. Nothing is happening to bring anyone to book, probably because some people in high places like the presidency are primary beneficiaries of this mega-looting!
These are just a few examples of the rampant corruption within the political sphere. The level of impunity and the apparent helplessness of the mass of people to change the situation has allowed the drumbeat of corruption to continue. While the beneficiaries dance to the bank, most people dance to their financial grave and bankruptcy.
This situation has heightened the already precarious state of security, promoted do-or-die politics, increased religious tension, poverty and the lack of functional amenities for the teeming citizens. These are a few of the numerous challenges we face.
It is within this political and economic framework of a failed state, class conspiracy and manipulation that we call for system change. We need to replace the regime of primitive wealth accumulation with a proletarian regime. By our collective strength we will ensure that the interests of the generality of the people are protected.
- Oil money: ‘$20bn missing’
Mallam Sanusi Lamido, the former Governor of the Central Bank initially claimed, in a letter sent to President Jonathan in September last year, that almost US$50 billion was missing. After discussions with the NNPC and the Federal Ministry of Finance this was scaled down to US$20 billion. This is money outstanding, yet to be remitted to the Federation Account by the NNPC.
Lamido Sanusi told a senate committee that out of $67bn of oil sold between January 2012 and July 2013, $20bn was still missing. So nearly a third of the money due to the government from oil sales over a 15 month period may have gone missing. The oil fuel subsidy now costs around N1.2trillion ($7billion) a year. So the missing money would pay for the subsidy for three years!
As a result, Goodluck suspended the Central Bank governor in February accusing him of “financial recklessness.” TheCoordinating and Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, called for an audit of the NNPC in March which is to be undertaken by the international firm PWC. So we will await the results of this work with interest!
The revelations leading to Sanusi’s suspension brought more uncertainty to the banking system as Godwin Emefiele emerges as the new CBN boss and is likely to remain an important issue until the elections next year. The suspicion is that the missing money was to be used to fund the PDP’s election campaign. Sanusi was recently named as the Emir of Kano, making him one of the most influential leaders in the north and giving him a new platform to campaign against the government’s corruption.
- Crises in Ukraine, working class unity needed
Ukraine has become a major theatre of imperialist competition since November last year. The complex drama of fast paced revolts and reaction are of great significance not only for workers in Europe. The outcome of developments in this country which means “the borderlands” will have consequences for different sections of the capitalist class globally. There are lessons for working class activists to draw from this unfolding situation.
The dominant narrative in the mainstream media is that of struggle between Russia on one hand and the European Union and United States on the other hand. The absorption of the eastern Crimean region by Russia after a referendum has deepened this narrative (and then two Ukrainian provinces voted for independence in a referendum in early May. Donetsk and Luhansk are home to 6.5 million people and represent around a third of Ukraine’s industrial output).
This has resulted in heightened propaganda from the US and EU claimed attempts by Russia to “re-Sovietize” Ukraine and other countries that were part of the former Soviet Union.
Petro Poroshenko, owner of Ukraine’s biggest chocolate company, was elected Ukraine’s new president later in May. However, large swathes of people in eastern Ukraine boycotted the election or were stopped from going to polling stations by gangs of armed men.
Poroshenko promised to negotiate an end to a pro-Russia insurgency in the east of the country, saying he was willing to begin talks with Moscow. But the Kiev government then launched an air strike on rebels who occupied a major airport.
Propaganda has been matched with support for ideological, political and material support for the interim government in Kiev (the Ukrainian capital), which includes fascist forces such as the ultra-nationalist Right Sector group. This has led several socialists to stand by Russia as a lesser evil to Western imperialism.
The interim government emerged in March after mass demonstrations held at the Euromaidan Square. The immediate spark of these and the crisis in general was the proposed integration of Ukraine into the European Union. The EU had proposed that former Soviet Republics be constituted into an association that would expand their trade access to European markets, and loan facilities. But these were at the costs of: high interests on the loans; devaluation of their currencies; removal of subsidies particular of fuel, and; military cooperation that would have strengthened the influence of NATO in Eastern Europe.
Hundreds of thousands took to the streets in Kiev against the decision by the then government to reject deal with the EU. They were demanding the integration of Ukraine with the EU. They were supported by the radical Confederation of Free Trade Unions (KVPU) which led pockets of strikes in the country’s industrial belt.
This was a contradictory mass movement which had progressive elements when it started. The working masses were fed up with their falling standards of living, rising unemployment and the corrupt enrichment of politicians. There was also the illusion that integration with the EU would result in a better life. But this was mere fantasy, borne out of despair, as the experiences of workers in Greece (part of the EU) show.
The mass action was brutally repressed by the state, but remained resilient. It was also supported by the bosses from the western regions of Ukraine. They who stood to benefit from enhanced trade with EU countries and organised around the Fatherland and “Punch” parties, and ultra-nationalist groups like Right Sector as well as middle class professionals and working people.
As Sergei Chertkov, a public servant in the eastern town of Konstantinovka, told the Guardian “we are on the brink of an uprising of poor against rich, of chaos, of a terrifying rebellion,”, a regional administration official in. “America, Russia, Europe, the politicians in Kiev, everyone has tried to play their games here, and they have played so hard that now we are on the brink of catastrophe.”
As the bosses’ antics take Ukraine further to the precipice, our stand as international socialists must be: “Neither EU/US nor Russia”. Workers’ have to organise, takeover the workplaces and communities, build self-defence structures and be united across the western and eastern parts of the country against the bosses and fascists, as part of the revolts of working people against exploitation and oppression in different countries, as the worldwide crisis of capitalism deepens.
- Platinum mine-workers in South Africa on strike for five months
by Ashley Fatar
Around 80,000 South African platinum miners have been on strike for nearly five months in a titanic battle for a living wage. It is an intensely political struggle bringing together the battle against the bosses and the state. Ashley Fatar, a member of Keep Left, the International Socialist Tendency sister organisation of the Socialist Workers League, writes on this monumental phase of the class struggle in South Africa, on the heels of general elections which the ANC won, but with decline in its support, due to its anti-poor people policies and programmes
The miners are demanding a minimum wage of N200,000 a month for doing one of the hardest and most dangerous jobs in the world. Their sweat and blood has produced billions of pounds of profits for the giant multinationals Impala, Lonmin and Amplats.
In August 2012, miners at the Marikana Mine went on strike. The police attacked the strikers and killed 34 miners. Despite this intimidation, the strike continued for a total of four weeks winning a small increase. Lonmin also agreed to raise the wages to N200,000 a month at a later stage but subsequently reneged on the agreement.
State intimidation continues with the current strike. Police in armoured cars are on the streets of the mining areas seeking to smash the strike and force strike-breakers into the mines. But the miners and their communities are standing firm. So far they have repulsed the scabs.
However, the strike will survive only if there is deeper solidarity to sustain it. There is real hardship as already impoverished communities struggle with no income for 16 weeks.
Activists in South Africa are trying to increase the pressure on union leaders to step up solidarity, but they are also mobilising to send food and basic goods to the mine areas. So for example there was a brilliant solidarity meeting at the University of the Western Cape with the miners, lots of money raised and quite an atmosphere among the students.
Also, in Namibia, Africavenir has been showing Desai’s film “Miners Shot Down” on a few occasions and we are arranging for screenings to workers as well, always coupled with support contributions to the strikers.
Solidarity with the strike is because South Africa is the most unequal society in the world. In the mining industry, CEOs “earn” between 200 and 300 times what a mine-worker is paid. This is a reflection of the income differentials in South Africa and many workers see that a victory for the miners will help their struggles.
This is the legacy of the so-called “rainbow nation”. It is because of the neo-liberal policies of the ANC government that have seen labour laws “relaxed” resulting in a casualization of employment and an attack on workers’ wages.
A mine-worker puts it this way “We need to unite – all the organisations need to unite – to fight the union bosses and the state. You see, now the state is in the middle of the workers and is supporting the side of the capitalists. So when any support, even 10 cents is contributed towards the strike, it helps us because we can’t turn away from those who cannot manage to have their own reserves. They feel the hunger because that’s the only strategy the companies can use, to hit us on the hunger : – any support and solidarity among the workers in all the organisations that think that it’s a historic fight.”
He is right. Whatever the outcome of the mine-workers strike, one thing is certain. The South African working class will not be the same.
- Why Are Electricity Prices Going Up Again?
When the Federal Government privatised the power sector it promised a steady supply of electricity within six months. The private companies have taken over, but electricity generation has not improved. In fact the level of generation is only half that promised.
Despite this prices have been increased again! Poor people are the worst hit by this, as it is the standing charges that are increasing. This is after major price increases in 2012 of around fifty per cent in preparation for privatisation.
According to the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, any increase in electricity tariff should only be contemplated when there is stable power supply across the country. They are right!
Why should we have to pay even more to the private companies when they have hardly been able to increase the amount of power they provide above the meagre levels provided by NEPA?
It is not that Nigerians get cheap electricity. A study of prices in 2011 showed that in Nigeria, prices were more expensive than most other countries (and this was before the big increases in 2012).
Nigerian electricity was fifty per cent more expensive than most of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and almost three times the cost in China. So it is no wonder that public electricity supply in Nigeria is one of the lowest in the world. On average, electricity consumption is 7% of Brazil’s and 3% of South Africa’s. At the same time, at least 50% of Nigerian households have no connection whatsoever to the electricity grid.
The Edo State Civil Society Organisations coalition gave an inspiring example of the way forward in March, when it organised mass demonstrations for days, to protest the standing charges of N750, by the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC). Tens of thousands of people from all walks of life in Benin City joined the protests, showing the possibilities of mass support for such struggle.
The only reason why victory was not won is because the struggle was not generalised. As BEDC argued, standing charges are set by the National Electricity Regulation Commission. There is thus the need for the trade unions and civil society organisations like EDCSO in other states to generalise the struggle across the country to end this “continuous exploitation” which Marxist Kola, secretary general of the coalition, correctly described as “continuous extortion” during the protests.
Most of the public electricity in Nigeria is generated from gas. The same time that gas in the Niger Delta is being flared the poor suffer from having no or little electricity. In any sane society the gas from the Niger Delta would be used to provide free electricity. We need to campaign for free and plentiful electricity for all and an end to gas flaring.
- African bosses meet in Abuja
World Economic Forum on Africa furthers exploitation
by Nnamdi Ikeagu
Over 1,000 business leaders and big business owners from across the world gathered for three days in Abuja, in May for the World Economic Forum on Africa. The Federal Government claimed that this was of immense benefit as it would help showcase economic opportunities that could foster development in Africa and particularly Nigeria. Not even the twin bomb blasts in Nyanya two weeks before the summit could dampen its enthusiasm to host the leading lights of global capitalism. To assure them that all would be well, public holidays were declared in Abuja for the duration of the meeting.
But the wellbeing of poor people was definitely not why the bosses gathered. Their concern was how to make more money, by exploiting us. Dominic Barton who is the Global Managing Director of McKinsey made this clear when he said: “Africa represents our fastest-growing region in the world. If you want to be relevant, you need to be in this part of the world”.
Olabisi Onasanya, the Group CEO of First Bank buttressed this position, pointing out that: “Nowhere in the world do you get the kind of returns you get in Africa.” But all the bosses at the summit were silent on why this is so.
“Africa rising”, as the current economic growth of the continent is often called, rests on rapacious exploitation of natural resources, the environment and working people. This is why stupendous growth has not translated into improvement in the lives of the mass of poor people. On the contrary, while a few people such as Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola and Pascal Dozie have become exceedingly rich, over two thirds of the population in Nigeria and Africa as a whole live in abject poverty. This is much worse than in the 1960s when most African countries won independence.
The World Economic Forum is committed to deepening the community of interests and purpose of the bosses. Radical civil society organisations and trade unions formed the World Social Forum in opposition to it. The Forum aims to forge a community of activists and peoples against the profits and the goals of the World Economic Forum.
When Li Keqiang, the Chinese Premier stated at the Abuja meeting that “Africa’s people have taken their destiny into their own hands”, he meant that the rich bosses in Africa are now wealthy enough to play more decisive roles in the exploitation of the working people.
But the spate of strikes, demonstrations and revolts across the continent points towards the poor peoples’ Africa Rising, and our commitment to actually seize our fate in our hands. The forums, summits and machinations of the bosses may delay the triumph of working people’s power, but it cannot stop it!
- WHAT PROSPECTS FOR A SOVEREIGN NATIONAL CONFERENCE?
By Femi Aborisade
There is widespread concern that something is fundamentally wrong. There is political marginalisation, but also socio-economic exclusion and insecurity, with terror from both the state’s opponents and its own security forces. While there is widespread consensus about the need for a fundamental rebirth, there is a lack of consensus on its nature and the process of bringing about the required change. Convening a Sovereign National Conference has been advocated as one of the initial steps towards finding a solution.
In the context of a Committee to plan a National Conference, we consider the nature, prospects and limits of national conferences in galvanizing socio-political change.
National Conferences may be broadly classified as follows:
1. (Non-sovereign) National Conference, which tends to be accommodative of the status-quo.
2. Sovereign National Conference, which tends to threaten the status-quo, and
3. Constitutional Conference.
The first type operates with limited scope, in contrast, a Sovereign National Conference, is not subject to any higher authority. While the outcome of the first may strengthen the existing power structures, the second may supplant and sweep them away.
Nigeria has had a history of constitutional impositions by colonial powers or military juntas. Since 1914, we have experienced eleven constitutional experiments. However, in all these cases, the generality of the people were excluded. The constitutions were always imposed from above.
In reality, social crises require much more than marginal constitutional changes. The socio-political challenges reflect deep contradictions demanding a completely new social order.
Non-Sovereign National Conference
In 2005 President Obasanjo called a National Political Reform Conference. It comprised 400 handpicked delegates with an agenda being delimited by the regime. It was merely consultative in nature and an attempt to undermine the popular call by the opposition for a Sovereign National Conference.
The Pro-Sovereign National Conference Group organised an alternative conference, without ‘no-go’ areas and claiming to be sovereign. But it lacked the capacity to implement or enforce its decisions and recommendations. This shows that the concept of sovereign national conference is only relevant under certain contexts.
Sovereign National Conference
A Sovereign National Conference is not a tool to stabilise an existing system or regime, but a transitional phase in the process of mass struggles to carry out fundamental change. In a revolutionary situation, the challenge is to set up independent organs of political and economic control of society that are accepted by the working masses and all the mass of poor people.
The slogan of the Sovereign National Conference is useful in a semi-revolutionary situation in which the existing regime is incapable of solving economic and political problems and is too weak to assert its authority; but the democratic opposition forces are equally not strong enough to effect fundamental change. The relevance of the Sovereign National Conference depends not only on the state of the economic crises, but also on the balance of political forces.
The existing economic and political structures appear incapable of holding society together on a peaceful, orderly and just basis. Things appear to perpetually fall apart. Material poverty, stupendous corruption, opulence of a few in the midst of abject poverty, high unemployment, religious intolerance, Boko Haram, armed robbery, bomb explosions, pervasive insecurity including extra-judicial killings and widespread terror by the security forces, all indicate a breakdown in the social fabric of society.
There appears to be every justification for a platform such as the Sovereign National Conference that will bring together elected representatives of the working people and the poor masses to deliberate on the future of the country.
The Sovereign National Conference should be an elected assembly of representatives of organisations in which people are actively engaged. This will ensure their continued existence and social interaction. The demand for a Sovereign National Conference is a direct product of daily bitter class struggles including strikes, street protests and rallies.
Sovereign National Conference is not an automatic solution to our problems. It is only a transitional demand, to which ordinary people can relate, as a basis for attaining the broadest involvement of the majority in determining their political life. A Sovereign National Conference cannot be realised through mere press conferences. It can only be realised through intensified mass struggles.
Historically, Sovereign National Conference represents two contradictory strivings – the striving of the masses to wrest significant control from the ruling class and the striving of the ruling class to use it to rebalance its hegemony on new, but marginal rules. It may be an opportunity for radical transformation, depending on the programs of the leading organisations, the lessons drawn by the masses in struggle, the momentum of struggles and the unfolding developments on the international level.
- Campaign against the new anti-gay law
“Any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison.”
Given all the problems, the inequality, the poverty the lack of proper health facilities, the emergency and killings by the security services and Boko Haram – Goodluck finds time to sign a law that attacks one section of our community – gays.
The new law could result in two people of the same sex being sent to prison for 10 years just for holding hands, hugging or kissing in public. In a world so full of violence, hatred and discrimination the government outlaws signs of affection, love and kindness.
We need to campaign against the new law and join defense campaigns for people who suffer as a result. Any two men or women forced by economic hardship to live in the same room could be targeted as ‘homosexuals’. The law could easily be used to target minorities or those who are fighting against oppression.
This is already happening. Twelve alleged homosexuals were arrested by residents of Bauchi city. They have been sent to trial and could be sentenced to death by stoning if convicted. One was convicted of participating in a homosexual act seven years ago when he was only 13 years old and was immediately subject to 20 lashes.
Leading Nigerian authors including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jackie Kay have condemned the harsh new anti-gay law in the strongest possible terms, with Kay comparing the situation to Nazi Germany and Adichie calling for the “unjust” law to be repealed.
As socialists, we are against any oppression and discrimination which divides the working class. So we are against the oppression of women, we are against racism and ethnic conflicts. Similarly we should campaign against all discrimination and particularly legal action against homosexuals, lesbians and transsexuals. We need to remember that the workers united will never be defeated.
- Governors’ Outrageous “Pensions”
by Nnamdi Ikeagu
The scandalous law on “pensions” for the governor and deputy governor passed by the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly into law in May has brought the outright insensitivity and corruption of the ruling elite in Nigeria to the fore of public opinion once again. The governor and deputy governor are to receive their full salaries for the rest of their lives being N26, 684, 460,00 and N25, 346, 580 respectively, per annum. And that is not all.
A former governor is to have: a mansion each in Abuja and Akwa Ibom; 300% of basic salary every four years as furniture allowance; two brand new cars every year, with 300% of basic salary every year, for car maintenance; N5million for the maintenance of domestic staff, and so on and so forth.
But, this outrageous thievery is not limited to Akwa Ibom. It turns out that in a country where the minimum wage is N18,000.00 and even many states refuse to pay this, such contemptible “pensions” for former governors and their deputies is the norm across and not an exception. Indeed, the first such law was passed eleven years ago in Kwara state.
Today, states that have such laws include Gombe, Kebbi and such “progressive” APC-controlled states like Lagos and Rivers. The largesse for governors and their deputies in most of these other states makes that of Akwa Ibom appear modest!
Trade unions, particularly the Nigeria Union of Pensioners have condemned these pensions. Civil society activists have also cried out and headed for the courts to revert this serial legalisation of brigandage. This is welcome but not adequate.
We need to organise an all out campaign, especially as such “pensions” might soon be generalised. At the recent Nigerian Governors Forum, the view was expressed that national legislation should be passed on the matter.
We must also never lose sight of the fact that such thievery as these criminal “pensions” is just one of the many ways the elites exploit us, getting richer as we get poorer. The capitalist system which encourages and rests on such exploitation has to be overthrown by our independent collective action, with which we will emancipate ourselves and build society anew.
- Polytechnics and Colleges of Education under attack
by Baba Aye
The Federal Government has displayed an utter lack of concern in addressing the demands of striking polytechnic and colleges of education lecturers. After almost a year of strikes, this represents a blatant attack on the educational system in general and the tertiary institutions in particular. To rub insult upon injury, the brutal dispersal of the rally organized by the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), in Abuja on April 29, is a flagrant breach of the democratic right of assembly.
ASUP started an indefinite strike on April 29 2013, with a 13-point demand, after several failed attempts to get the issues raised addressed by the Federal Government. After two months, the National Assembly intervened and the union focused its demands on four priority areas: a needs assessment for polytechnics; release of the White Paper on the earlier Visitations to Polytechnics; constitution of the Governing Councils of Polytechnics; and the proper implementation of CONPACSS. On the strength of the Federal Government’s statement that these priority issues would be addressed, the union called off its strike, which had lasted 81 days, in July 2013. When it became obvious that the government was not serious about addressing the union’s demands, ASUP resumed their strike in October.
ASUP continues strike, defies ‘no work, no pay’ policy
COEASU had time and again clearly stated its concern with the poor funding of colleges of education. These are central to the educational system in terms of training teachers of pre-tertiary pupils. On the heels of the first phase of the ASUP strike, it also warned that it would equally embark on strike. COEASU noted that the non-issuance of the White Paper on the Visitations to Colleges of Education was because of the rot these unearthed. In September 2013, members of the union went on a one week warning strike. COEASU then commenced a full blown strike in December when the Federal Government failed to show any concern over its demands.
The COEASU president, Comrade Emmanuel Asagha, stated the obvious, the ruling elite are less concerned because few if any of their children attend polytechnics and colleges of education. In February, he further pointed out that “the more we (COEASU) met with government, the more the memorandum we signed got ignored and the more we got betrayed”. This underscores the fraudulence of the state.
Instead of a commitment to revamping the polytechnics and colleges of education, the Minister of Education, Chief Wike chose to describe their strikes as being politically motivated. This set the pace for the repression of the peaceful rally organised by the unions in Abuja at the end of April. Teargas and water cannons were used to disperse the peaceful gathering, with several people being injured.
Several organisations, including the Socialist Workers’ League and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, condemned this despicable act and called for the demands of the polytechnic and college of education lecturers to be met.
The attack on polytechnics and colleges of education is part of the broader systemic attacks by the bosses on poor working people. The capitalist system, which they represent, is about putting profits before people. Education is not only a right; it is a crucial element for building a new society. Knowledge is power. The knowledge we need includes understanding how capitalism works and how we can defeat it. We need education as a tool for building solidarity and ensuring a better life, through our collective self-emancipation.
The Socialist Workers’ League appeals to the entire labour movement to stand by ASUP and COEASU and calls for their demands to be heeded, for schools to be re-opened for the millions of students of polytechnics and colleges of education. Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress and civil society organisations should organise rallies demanding the Federal Government keeps its promises to the education workers.
- 15. Students Protest Fees Hikes
by Ayo “Ay Struggle” Ogundele
This year has witnessed renewed students activism with struggles against barbaric fees hikes in several universities across the country, particularly in the supposedly progressive APC-controlled south western states. While a genuinely progressive government would further public education for the masses and strive to give FREE, QUALITY and COMPULSORY EDUCATION to all its citizens, the so-called All Progressives Congress is pricing education out of the reach of children from poor and working class families. But with stiff resistance, the students have succeeded in winning concessions, and are fighting to win more!
Lagos State University is in the eye of the storm. The Lagos State government increased school fees from N25,000 to between N193,000 and N350,000, depending on the course and year of study. The LASU Students Union has waged a relentless struggle for the reversal of this increment. Lagos state with all its wealth is one of the many states that are yet to pay the minimum wage of N18,000 and many students from poor backgrounds dropped out even when tuition was only N25,000 a year.
There has been a long drawn protest including LASU students and other activists, including students from other campuses on the platform of NANS Zone D, and members of the Joint Action Front’s affiliated organisations. The students and their supporters have:
- demonstrated on the highways;
- occupied the governor’s office; and
- were arrested and tear gassed by the police.
The Lagos State Government in June announced a 34%-60% reduction in fees. But this has been resoundingly rejected by the students union insisting that any amount beyond N45,000 is not acceptable.
At the Obafemi Awolowo University, management which increased fees in 2011, has also made it clear that it intends to increase these again. This is despite the fact that a significant number of those admitted that year failed to enrol, largely because of the sharp hike in fees. Many students have also had to do menial jobs for them to be able to pay their fees. Management’s previous claims that indigent students would get scholarships while the university would be developed with its enhanced resources have all turned out to be a pack of lies.
At the Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), where the students union remains proscribed, students still organized a protest march to the governor’s office in Abeokuta. Their demands were for reduction in their fees which are presently over N100,000, reversal of late registration fees and the unbanning of the students union.
The Ogun state government has agreed to reverse the late registration fees and look into the unjust proscription of the students union. It however insists that the tuition fees would remain despite the government’s stated commitment to free education at all levels! The students have vowed to continue the struggle.
At the University of Lagos, through protests, the students also saw to the reversal of the increase in late registration from N20,000 back to N15,000.
Socialists must point out the thread of commonalities in all these struggles and emphasize these at the barricades. The unity of our struggles is essential for our lasting victory. We must not submit to “negotiations” that will trade our right to education as some ex-activists are urging us to do.
Education is our right, not a privilege. Mass poverty, hunger and discontent are spreading like wildfire across the country. Tuition fee hikes and underfunding of public education are further assaults against the poor working people and their children, and should be resisted.
Student activists in all the schools are now rising in defence of their rights and others must link up and lead a general mass action against the federal and state governments, for free education for all.
We must however understand that this capitalist system of “greed and power” will do everything possible to make sure that children of the poor are not freely and well educated. Only our relentless struggles will defeat their wicked ways. Socialism is the alternative, let’s fight on without looking back.
WE WILL WIN!
- Years after the Great Anti-SAP Revolt
by Baba Aye
In 1989, thousands rose in protest against the IMF and World Bank-inspired Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). This supported the lavish lifestyles of corrupt government officials while the masses were suffering. The protest movement, initiated by students, was crushed by the Federal Military Government, but it did win some concessions.
Baba Aye of the Socialist Workers League looks at these events which were part and parcel of the season of uprisings across the world. They brought down many governments in Eastern Europe and shocked the Chinese state to its foundations.
The anatomy of a mass revolt
The protest movement was ignited by mass anger against real and perceived corruption in high places. Handbills were circulated by student activists alleging large-scale theft of public funds and the stashing of these abroad by the Head of State, General Babangida (IBB) and his deputy Admiral Aikhomu. A column in the Ebony magazine was presented as the source of this information. But the dissemination of these handbills had their roots in the NANS Senate meeting. This was held a few weeks earlier, at the University of Ibadan, and had resolved on mass mobilisation against the Structural Adjustment Programme.
Immediately after the August 1986 coup d’etat, IBB organised a national debate over the IMF loans and consequent conditionalities. The answer was a resounding NO! He pretended to accept the voice of the people. But SAP was then introduced with the lie that it was a home grown alternative. But this was a shameless falsehood; it was the same IMF/World Bank policies of free market capitalism.
The poor working people were enjoined to tighten their belts and make sacrifices for a better future. But the bosses (military and civilian alike) got much fatter. Corruption was more or less institutionalised. The income of the top 1% soared to high heavens while workers in the public sector had a wage freeze and retrenchment became the order of the day for workers in the private sector. The first major fuel price hike also took place in 1988 as part of structural adjustment. The national structures of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had been proscribed by then and so it was student activists and ex-students in the emerging civil rights/prodemocracy movement (working closely in most states with trade union councils) who galvanised mass action.
The students of UNIBEN were the first to take to the streets on May 24. The fire spread across the country with campuses as its torch bearers. By May 29, the first embers of this raging fire sparked at Ibadan and Lagos. By 4.00am on May 30, students in campuses across Lagos State started trooping out for what would be two days of pitched battles, including at the barricades set up to block the strategic Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
A dozen in Lagos and at least two people in Ibadan were killed by the anti-riot police in the early days of June. But an important part of this struggle which is hardly mentioned in most narratives is that some mobile (anti-riot) police squads did actually cross over to the masses in the way they could without out rightly mutinying. The death toll would have been far higher if these had not pointed out where their more zombie-like colleagues were lurking.
The NLC stayed aloof from the revolt. Indeed, in the build up to those heady days in May, attempts by radical activists to organise a symposium on alternatives to SAP at the NLC headquarters, Yaba, was rebuffed by the union leaders. The symposium was eventually held at Chief Gani Fawehinmi’s chambers in Anthony Village.
The proscription of NLC a year earlier, primarily for its radical stance on SAP, had just been lifted. A great compromise personified in Pascal Bafyau elected as President was made by the union leaders. Essentially this was to bury the ideological divide between the progressives (radicals) and democrats (liberals), which the state had manipulated to justify the proscription. In practice, this meant a de-radicalisation.
Along with this was the presumed opening of political space for the formation of parties, and NLC was more interested in establishing the Nigeria Labour Party (the military government did not recognise any of the parties that had been formed and set up the two parastatals of Social Democratic Party and National Republican Convention). Even leading left activists such as Comrade Ola Oni who spoke at the Ibadan NANS Senate mentioned earlier also tried to convince the students’ movement to put more faith in building the short lived party than in taking to the streets.
The aftermath: repression and gains
Repression followed the state’s suppression of the “riots”. Acts of brigandage by lumpen proletariat elements within the protest, such as snatching wristwatches and extortion were seized upon to try to criminalise the mass movement.
Six universities considered to be at the heart of the movement were closed for a year (these were all however re-opened in less than a year). In a manner reminiscent of the sacking of radical lecturers after the 1978 “Ali Mongo” protest, teachers such as Yusuf Bala Usman at ABU, were relieved of their duties.
Concessions were however won which confirm the axiom; “dare to struggle, dare to win”. The junta immediately announced that it would ensure the employment of 62,000 persons through the National Directorate of Employment between June and December 1989. Eventually though, barely half of these were employed. The federal ministry of works and housing was also charged with providing jobs, while other ministries were meant to absorb professionals such as doctors, accountants and engineers.
This was also when “mass transit” became a part of our transport system’s features, with buses like those of SURE-P after the January 2012 uprising made available including through the NLC which set up the Labour Transport Company.
The students unions were not left out. Students’ unions across the country were provided with coaster buses. If this was an attempt to bribe the students’ movement, it failed. These buses became very useful for mobilising for subsequent battles, particularly those around the Academic Reforms (ACAREF) Campaign, launched two years later at the University of Ilorin.
But the greatest gain secured from the events of the Great Anti-SAP revolts was not from the state. In its wake the renewal/realignment of radical and revolutionary forces which had started in 1986/87 took on more vigour. It inspired the formation of the Alao Aka-Bashorun-led National Consultative Forum which attempted to organise a National Conference in September 1990 eventually leading to the establishment of the Campaign for Democracy which united left groups and some trade unions a year later. Campaign for Democracy was to be the major vehicle of resistance in the first phase of the six-year June 12 revolution.
A thread of continuity can be traced linking the Great anti-SAP Revolts to the January 2012 Uprising. Similarly, just as with 1989, our struggles today are part of a global wave of resistance.
The masses want a better life and this is why the immense majority rise up against the bosses. But, there is a limit to the extent this can be fulfilled within the logic of capitalism. Besides, the bosses always try to get back whatever concession they are forced to give, as soon as they can. Working people learn from struggle, becoming more radicalised through the schools of victories and defeats.
This is however not enough. Revolutionary activists need to propagate socialist ideas, showing how the different struggles for a better world are linked and that ultimately; this can be won only with the self-activity of the working class and other exploited strata. This necessity has become even more important now with the setback socialist ideas suffered in 1989 as the state capitalist monstrosities that called themselves “socialist states” collapsed.
We have to project the core essence of socialism which is helping an ever increasing number of workers and youth to understand through their struggles and study that in our hands is placed a power greater than the hoarded gold of the bosses. With this strength we can and we shall bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old!
- World Cupful of Protests
by Vitor Sao Jorge and Baba Aye
The World Cup is starting in Brazil within the whirlwind of mass strikes and protests of workers and youth. While the heartbeat of this massive wave of struggle is within Brazil, the international trade union movement is equally highlighting the gross inequality which mega-sports events promote. The mess of corruption in FIFA, and its dismissal of Brazilian national laws to further the interests of some sponsors, like Budweiser, also goes to show that for the bosses, their primary concern with sports is not entertainment but making more money.
When in 2007, Brazil won the hosting rights for the 2014 World Cup and later that for the Olympics in 2016, the global economic crisis was starting to rock the advanced capitalist countries. But it appeared that all was well with Brazil. Reformist social policies such as Bolsa Familia, a form of conditional cash transfer were pursued by the Workers’ Party government, under President Lula, using the resources generated from increasing sales of commodities. These measures took 25 million people out of the worst state of poverty.
But within a few years, Brazil was sucked into the global crisis as demand for its exports nosedived. Inequality which had always been high grew at an amazing rate, and the number of people living in relative poverty increased, while a few super-rich became mega-rich. Corruption in high places also increased. Young rank and file workers and unemployed became disillusioned with the system and as well with the CUT, the largest trade union federation, because of its support for the Workers’ Party which is seen as representing the bosses more than the masses.
In June last year, increases in transport fares lit a raging fire of mass anger on the streets of Sao Paulo. This spread across the country when police brutality against the demonstrating youths was beamed by television. The major trade unions did not join initially because they didn’t want to be part of a challenge to policies of the Workers’ Party. By the time they and other traditional groups tried to join, they were rejected by the youth who screamed: “neither left nor right; FORWARD!” The protesters won a partial victory, with the reversal or at least reduction of the increased fares in many cities.
The mood of struggle however deepened as the World Cup drew close. In the past few months, transport workers (subway and buses), metalworkers, university employees and civil servants have all gone on strike across several states, while teachers have organised nationwide strikes with the support of students who have joined the mass demonstrations organised by the striking workers. Even police officers and rank and file soldiers have joined the strike wave and the Homeless Workers’ Movement members’ have occupied large expanses of land in Sao Paulo. When May 15 was declared as a “national day of action” by the Comite Popular, mass demonstrations brought 50 cities to a standstill.
The working people are demanding better wages and improved funding of education, public healthcare and transportation, decrying the huge sums of money being spent on the World Cup in the midst of poverty and poor services delivery for the poor. And according to Conlutas, one of the more radical trade union centres: “polls show that 55% of the Brazilian population believes that the world cup will be more of a burden than a benefit for the work class people.” Thus, despite Brazilians love for football, the mass protests are likely to continue during the world cup.
The struggle is not only against the Brazilian government and ruling class. “FIFA’s World Cup contributes to the violation of human rights, the right to adequate housing, the right to free movement, the right to work and the right to protest”, across the world. This is because multinational corporations are the actual masters and primary beneficiaries of the main events in world sports.
The struggle of Brazilian workers and youth is part of the global struggle against the bosses who put profit before people. It is only when their capitalist system is overthrown and socialist society based on solidarity and cooperation is built on its ruins that world sports events can primarily become avenues for furthering the world brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity. We shall overcome. But we must persevere in our struggles for a better world. A luta continua! Vittoria ascerta!!