Why Labour Must Reclaim the Labour Party

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To say that the situation in Nigeria is getting more rotten by the day is an understatement. The country has become notorious as far as the world’s negatives are concerned. Many are barely managing to survive on a dollar a day, unemployment is massive, wages are very low, scores are rendered homeless daily, flood is ravaging everywhere, artificial fuel scarcity and arbitrary price increments are the order of the day. Healthcare has collapsed the same as power supply, which remains highly unstable.

The government seems to have ‘Midas touch’: anything they touch turns to shit! Daily, the airwaves are dominated by reports of insane IMF/World Bank inspired government policies, which only results in more pains for the masses.

The Nigerian ruling elites who sit in the driver’s seat continue to expose their decadency by the day. Nigeria currently ranks top as the world’s most corrupt nation. This confirms the degeneration of Nigeria’s neo-colonial capitalism and confirms the fact that it cannot move the society forward.
In spite of tens of billions of dollars coming into the country over the past ten years from the ongoing oil boom, the country has absolutely nothing concrete to show for it except more poverty.
The question on the minds of many today is, if there exists an oil boom today and the condition in the country is this degenerate, what happens when the oil boom ends?

All singing same song

Thirteen years of ‘civilian rule’ have gone a long way to show that all the political parties of the ruling elites are the same in both form and content. They all offer no real alternative; they all regurgitate the same IMF/World Bank inspired programs, they are all corrupt to the bones, they are all the same ‘fingers of leprosy’: PDP, ACN, ANPP, CPC and even most unfortunately, Nigeria Labour Party, NLP, which is supposed to be the party of labour.

At the various levels of government, local, state and national, they are implementing the same programs of attacks on the masses. They are all plundering the state treasuries, cutting down workers’ wages, hiking fees, selling public properties to themselves and their fronts, among many other atrocities.

However, the masses are desperate for real change. The consciousness of the Nigerian working masses has gradually been on the increase as they learn from the hard realities of the day.
The current civilian rule is the longest in the 52-year history of the country. The argument put forward by the so-called civilians that the long years of military dictatorship was responsible for the plight of the majority is no longer tenable. The fact that the country has made much more money from oil from 2003 until date than in the whole pre-2003 period, and has nothing to show for it, tells a lot.

Labour’s Political Response

Since 2003, after the Gani Fawehinmi Led National Conscience Party (NCP) legal action for multiparty democracy succeeded, the NLC had set up the Nigerian Labour Party (NLP). It was then known as the Party of Social Democracy (PSD) later to be changed to the Nigeria Labour Party. Its programs and constitution have also been reviewed several times since 2003. The NLC and TUC have formally adopted it as their party. It was set up to be a party of the Nigerian working class and to provide a political alternative, but that is yet to be the case. The leadership of the party was unfortunately handed over to elements that have a different political agenda.

Although the secretariats of the NLC nationally and in the states house the party, workers are yet to be mobilized into the party. Rather, the party has been converted into a form of political business centre. All sorts of elements were undemocratically imposed as the party’s leaders and the party’s tickets have been sold to all manner of bourgeois politicians who had failed to get nominations in their own party. Those who are elected on the banner of the party because of this arrangement have shown that they are not any different from the other bourgeois politicians in power.

Sadly enough, Labour leaders have not shown any major interest in truly building the party. Even the former NLC president, Adams Oshiomhole, who practically set up the party, did not contest under the banner of the party as governor of Edo State. He rather chose to contest under the corrupt and anti-worker party, the ACN. This was quite a set back as his electoral victories were due to his working class identity rather than that of the ACN.

The NLC and TUC leadership actively campaigned for Adams Oshiomhole during the campaigns in July but he is not campaigning for the Labour Party in Ondo state. Rather, he is actively campaigning for the gubernatorial candidate of his anti-workers party, ACN. The only governor on the banner of the Labour party is Mimiko of Ondo State and it is an open secret that he still has the heart of his former party, PDP.

The leadership of the NLP is not very different from the leadership of the trade unions. They have both made series of decisions that are not in the interests of the working class and have created more confusion.

Labour Party’s Potential

In spite of the numerous shortcomings of the Labour Party due to the leadership, it still possesses enormous potential, as it is still the official party of labour. It is inevitable that the Nigerian workers will get much more political as many will draw the conclusion that they need a party to stand up for them. Millions have seen that the various bourgeois parties offer no hope and are rotten. However, the workers first port of call will be their traditional trade union organizations, NLC and TUC, and the immediate reply of the trade union leadership to those requesting a political party will remain that the Nigerian Labour Party is the party of Labour.Labour Party

Building a political party of their own is one of the key historical tasks Nigerian workers will have to carry out. Multitudes will still come to realize this necessity as time goes on and as the struggle against the numerous economic attacks intensifies. This process has already started.

From Lagos to Sokoto to Calabar, the masses will realize the need for a political alternative and organization – from the PHCN workers fighting against the crimes of privatization to the civil servants fighting for living wage to the scores of people rendered homeless due to demolition, to the students and youth battling against fee hikes, etc.

The masses primarily learn from their daily experience in struggle and secondly they have an umbilical link with their traditional trade unions, NLC and TUC, which they always turn to in the times of struggle. If the Nigerian trade union leaderships today decided to launch a national campaign for membership into the Nigerian Labour Party and build the party, it would be met with a massive positive response from the masses nationally.

What happened in Edo State in the July elections, where Adams Oshiomhole won a massive landslide victory and the appeal of the Labour Party to some layers of people in Ondo State would appear as child’s play when compared to what would happen if Labour decided to mobilize into its party today.
It is important to restate that in spite of the distortion in Edo State where Adams Oshiomhole chose to contest under the banner of the anti-workers party ACN and where the NLC-TUC leadership actively campaigned for him, most people voted for him primarily because of his labour past and links and not because he was standing on an ACN ticket.

Adams did not even bother reciprocate NLC-TUC’s leadership action in Ondo state where the Labour Party is contesting. While the NLC-TUC leaderships were campaigning for Mimiko, he was busy campaigning for his desperate ACN. Adams campaigning for ACN

The ACN has been pretending to be pro-people over the years but today the mass majority has learnt from brutal experience that it is highly corrupt, anti-people and deceptively ethnically chauvinist party. Anger against the ACN and its godfather Tinubu is growing within its base, which remains southwest Nigeria and the party leadership knows this. This is why they are desperate to reclaim by any means possible Ondo State, as they know that to suffer defeat at the hands of the Labour Party could be the beginning of their end. From all indications, Nigerian workers are more than capable to humiliate these political mafias, if and only if Nigerian workers get organized within a unified party of Labour.

The masses are completely tired of and hate the various parties of the Nigerian elites. If Labour seizes the initiative of building its party today, the Nigerian working class will be in power within the shortest possible time.

Danger of further Bourgeois Hijack

The fact that many bourgeois politicians abandon their own parties for the Labour Party shows that the elites are aware of the potential of the party even more than many trade union leaders. Today, several bourgeois politicians are in power around the country on the banner of the party.
However, with the inevitable degeneration of most of the current bourgeois parties today, which is manifesting in the intensification of internal conflicts within them and a growing disapproval among the masses, more bourgeois politicians are bound to ‘decamp’ into the Labour Party. This will pose more threats to the interests of the working class. This threat is concrete; already, there are several elected LP officials who are clearly anti-workers.

Without the working class active participation within their party all sorts of opportunistic bourgeois elements, who only want to use the party to get to power, will further hijack the party and make the party repel genuine workers the more. The consequences of this would be grave as these elements are bound to continue with IMF/World Bank programs when they take power.

Should Radical Socialists Set Up Parties for Labour?

The question of the building of a working people’s political alternative is topical today, to the extent that several radical socialist organizations have taken steps towards forming parties for the working class.

Unfortunately, many do not understand the dynamics of the class struggle and think that the solutions to the crisis in Nigeria are quite simple. They think that by just declaring a party and calling it socialist or communist would automatically trigger workers to join. This is a major mistake and clearly shows that they have learnt nothing from the past and theory. There have been numerous socialist, workers’ and farmers’ parties in the past, which died a natural death. Most of these parties never made it past a handful of activists. The current proliferation of socialist and radical parties would most likely end up the same way.

Karl Marx always emphasized that the communists are not separate from the overall working class movement. The major tasks of communists is to work and fight along with workers towards raising their level of consciousness and building a much more formidable organization that can lead them to taking political power. The working class learns through their daily experiences and not directly through books. If that were not so, society would have been transformed a long time ago.

The level of consciousness of the Nigerian working masses is on the rise in spite of the holdbacks by labour leadership. In spite of the treachery of the labour leadership, workers will still turn to their unions first and make attempt to transform their unions and organizations before looking elsewhere. They are not going to jump automatically behind petty bourgeois radicals who on most occasions see themselves as messiahs but unfortunately, they lack understanding and solutions.

The tasks before genuine socialists is to work along with the Nigerian working class in building and transforming their organizations which in this case remains NLC – TUC and by extension Labour party, combined with defending the workers unity, which is always under threat from agents of the ruling elites. The current state of the Labour party obviously reflects the current state of the worker’ unions and sadly enough, the state of the student unions; a transformed trade union leadership will inevitably have a tremendous impact in the political apparatus of the working class. Transforming the leadership of the working class is not as cheap and straightforward as the sects are presently imagining, just as Trotsky said:

“The very same dialectic approach is necessary in dealing with the question of the leadership of a class. Imitating the liberals our sages tacitly accept the axiom that every class gets the leadership it deserves. In reality leadership is not at all a mere “reflection” of a class or the product of its own free creativeness. A leadership is shaped in the process of clashes between the different classes or the friction between the different layers within a given class. Having once arisen, the leadership invariably arises above its class and thereby becomes predisposed to the pressure and influence of other classes. The proletariat may “tolerate” for a long time a leadership that has already suffered a complete inner degeneration but has not as yet had the opportunity to express this degeneration amid great events. A great historic shock is necessary to reveal sharply the contradiction between the leadership and the class. The mightiest historical shocks are wars and revolutions. Precisely for this reason the working class is often caught unawares by war and revolution. But even in cases where the old leadership has revealed its internal corruption, the class cannot improvise immediately a new leadership, especially if it has not inherited from the previous period strong revolutionary cadres capable of utilizing the collapse of the old leading party”.
(Leon Trotsky The Class, the Party and the Leadership)

What is to be done?

The major task before Nigerian workers today is to seek political power and use it to change society. This is the only concrete way of ending poverty and the crisis of Nigeria’s neo-colonial capitalism. This task can only be actualized by building a mass workers’ party with a clear socialist program for change.
The advanced layers of the Nigerian working class are already concluding that they need to build a party. Unfortunately, the leadership of labour held back the process and created several obstacles by setting up the Labour Party and then handing over its leadership to highly unprincipled elements and refusing to build the party.

However, this is merely a temporary setback as millions of people are bound to get more political and conscious as time goes on. The major task before the Nigerian working class and revolutionary activists today is to unite in strength and resources towards reclaiming our property, which is our party.
The Labour Party was setup with workers resources and energy. We must hold the compromising leadership responsible for the unfortunate and sorry state of the party. However, it is obvious that the simplest of the problems confronting the working masses cannot be solved unless they take over power from the rotten ruling elites. It would be difficult for Nigerian workers to take political power without building a party. Therefore, reclaiming and transforming the Labour Party is a task Nigerian workers must implement.