Following a century of colonialism, contemporary neoliberal imperialism is the cause of many of the crises ravaging Africa, writes Ayo Ademiluyi, with particularly harsh consequences for Nigeria’s working class. With oil accounting for over 90 per cent of government revenue, local industry has collapsed, leading to widespread unemployment and increasing poverty. As child and maternal mortality rates continue to increase and life expectancy decreases despite the wealth oil exports have brought the government, Ademiluyi calls for the workers’ movement to galvanise itself to transform society.
With over a century-long period of criminal colonialism, present-day vicious neoliberal imperialism is the factor behind the fratricidal crises ravaging Africa, and the vampire drawing blood from the working class in Nigeria in particular. The quest of the imperialist US, working through the local capitalist elite in Nigeria, is to draw barrels of oil in commercial quantity with a total abandonment of critical infrastructure. This is with the terrible consequences on the fate of working masses in a neocolonial backward country like Nigeria.
Currently, Nigeria earns 83 per cent of its foreign earnings from oil exports, of which the imperialist states (US, UK, China etc) are the major beneficiaries. Over 90 per cent of government revenue is from oil. By contrast, manufacturing's share of export revenues is estimated at 1 per cent. With high oil prices at US$147 per barrel, the Naira could be kept relatively stable and high economic growth could be maintained. Also as a result of this, in 2007 Nigeria posted a US$23 billion trade surplus, importing about US$39 billion of goods and exporting about US$62 billion of goods, thereby saving US$60 billion in external reserves. On this basis, Nigeria settled almost all its external debt of US$37.5 billion to the Bretton-Woods institutions (the IMF and World Bank).
Yet, the widespread majority of the working people continue to suffer as child and maternal mortality increases and life expectancy continues to shrink. UN investigators recently published a document which disclosed that as a result of corruption, over 80 per cent of the oil wealth went into the private purses of less than one per cent of the population. While over 800 industries have collapsed, widespread unemployment, unbearable living conditions, worse levels of education and healthcare continue to spring ethno-religious conflicts across the board. This is with the lack of a broad mass revolutionary alternative that will galvanise the anger of working people and capture power to begin the transformation of society.
IMPERIALISM IN CRISIS
Capitalism and its advanced form – imperialism – is beset with crises everywhere. US imperialism has been enmeshed in the unwinnable war in Afghanistan now for 10 years, longer than its intervention in Vietnam. In Iraq, there is an uneasy ’peace’ and sectarian civil war could reignite, leading to the division of the country.
Similarly, the inevitable despoliation of planet will occur if capitalism is left in control. The BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is the latest demonstration of complete irresponsibility and lust for profit. We have already had the ‘war for oil’; now water disputes are numerous, including in Central Asia and Latin America. The United Nations says one in three people will live in countries affected by water shortages. There are already 450 million people, in 29 countries, where tensions over water rights are likely to grow. The Copenhagen Summit on climate change was an absolute failure.
Only a matter of months ago the capitalists internationally defended their fiscal stimulus plans. But in a dizzying switch at the Toronto G20 summit, a majority of the capitalist leaders swung over to ‘austerity’! Obama was isolated, which is a sign of weakness in that he could not impose US capitalism’s will, despite the country still having the biggest economy in the world.
Keynesianism cannot solve the problems of capitalism in the long term, because eventually either the working class pays through increased taxes and inflation, or the capitalists go on an investment ’strike’, if they are made to pay. One writer in the Guardian newspaper (London) claimed that Keynesianism was ‘dead’ following the G20 summit. But further stimulus packages may be necessary to rescue the system, particularly if there is a tsunami of mass protests.
Neither will the private sector solve the problem. In Britain, 750,000 public sector jobs are to go and as a consequence 600,000 private sector jobs will also disappear, yet the private sector is supposedly to create two million ’new’ jobs! The weakness of Britain’s industrial base will shatter the illusion that it can export its way out of the crisis. Germany has had some increase in exports but the rest of the de-industrialised world, particularly the rest of Europe, will not be as lucky.
And China is now facing a slowdown due to overheating and a property collapse. There has been over-investment and massive surplus capacity. China’s decision to revalue its currency, the renminbi, has seen a miserly rise (0.77 per cent) so far and is not having the desired effect of cutting China’s trade surplus with the US. Even if there is some economic revival in Germany, it will not be noticed by the masses because of the increase in unemployment, accumulated losses in income and the fall in living standards. Millions of workers in Europe now are on worse conditions than existed before crisis, with the general enforcement of neo-liberal policies. The capitalists will push more workers into the less formal and insecure sector, so they are easier to sack.
INTERESTS OF IMPERIALISM
The effect of the wide scale imperialists’ crises on the neocolonial world is terrible. US imperialism has an arms expenditure of over US$800 billion – which could cater for billions of malnourished children, provide sound maternal care, build millions of schools and feed the famine-ridden parts of the world – is equal almost to the total spending of the world put together.
A recently released report states that child mortality increased in six sub-Saharan countries despite the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. Even though several countries have reported increased wealth, the number of those living in extreme poverty has risen in some of the countries such as Nigeria, which has a life expectancy of only 48, and Zimbabwe, which has been specifically targeted by the imperialist sanctions.
According to the report, the only part of the world registering an increase in mortality rates among children under the age of five is sub-Saharan Africa. This rate has increased in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Kenya and Zambia. Most of the 36 countries with child mortality rates above 100 per 1,000 births are in sub-Saharan Africa. Only Afghanistan, which is occupied by imperialists, and Myanmar are not in sub-Saharan Africa. By contrast, in the United States, child mortality has gone down from 30 per 1,000 in 1960 to 7.8 per 1,000 in 2008. The child mortality rate in sub-Saharan Africa is higher than that of the United States 50 years ago. This is just one of the ways, invisible to many in the First World, that imperialism kills millions upon millions every year in the Third World. The deaths from the structural violence of imperialism far outnumber those killed by American drones in Pakistan and Zionist bullets in Gaza, and so on. There is no reason that such high mortality rates have to exist in the world today. Many tens of millions die each year from preventable poverty-related causes, lack of health care, from preventable illness, etc.
The most glaring fact about our global society is the tremendous gap between the wealthy countries and the poor countries.
All of the countries with high child mortality rates, with great poverty, have a history of colonialism, most especially countries on the continent of Africa. This is no accident. Capitalism-imperialism is a world system where a minority of countries gains tremendous wealth and social peace at the expense of the vast majority. Imperialism contributes to child mortality, poverty, and lowered quality of life for the vast majority in the Third World. The First World exists at the expense of the Third World. If imperialism is inequality between countries and peoples, socialism is equality. Under socialism, the First World, including its so-called working class, will no longer be allowed to live high on the backs of Third World peoples. Under socialism, such gaps in quality of life will not be tolerated. Socialism will turn the tables.
In further defence of their imperial interests, US and UK (with China-the new competing imperialist force) continue to watch the development of socio-political crises in Nigeria, given its position in the sub-continent. They continue to monitor the socio-economic explosions brewing up, before the coming 2011 polls and the explosion during or after. What imperialism really understands is that it would really have a huge refugee crisis to resolve if the staggering domino falls. With over 350 tribes lumped in a disparate manner and the national question left undemocratically unresolved, the present preoccupation of imperialism is the protection of its material interests and a suitable ‘candidate’ that can match its fundamental interests.
* Goodluck Jonathan’s pro-rich regime cannot guarantee the needs of working people: Imperialism working hand in hand with its tested neocolonial agents like Obasanjo has found such suitable candidate in a Goodluck Jonathan. Backed with the force of local military supremacists and building on lesser evils, imperialism believes that a Jonathan candidacy may pause the militant activities going on in the Niger Delta and restore the flow of oil as prior to the last period. Running on the support of the major bourgeoisie party, it would sail into power on an election that will record the worst turnout. While a tiny number can be bought with the momentary populist appeal, a large number will abstain in the absence of an alternative.
* Jega’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) without fighting working people’s political alternative will not stop rigging: A largely discredited ruling class will not expect its mandate to flow from the electorate it has defrauded and disenfranchised, therefore no level or ‘electoral reforms’ will halt rigging or the radical personality of an Attahiru Jega. If labour is ready to defend the interests of working people in the electoral context, it must throw its energy into building the already registered Labour Party as a fighting mass-based working people’s political alternative, standing genuine working class candidates with vigilant backers in the party to secure votes. Without this, all talk of ‘free and fair elections’ is all ruse.
* January election time-table: Labour’s opposition must be backed with a fighting mass based Labour Party: The ruling class will want to bury its ghost quickly-and it has decided in an undemocratic manner to fix elections for January. This has correctly been opposed by labour. However, labour can place mass representation on the agenda by demanding for a REFERENDUM to decide this question-in that way the future of the country. This demand will place decision in the hands of the working class. Labour must go beyond sanitising a warped electoral system or continue to appeal to a totally bankrupt ‘political class’ without getting political.
INDEPENDENT WORKING PEOPLE’S POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE: LABOUR’S BEST RESPONSE TO THE 2011 ELECTIONS
In the whole game of the imperialists and local ruling class, in order to secure a soft landing, a pseudo-opposition is also orchestrated in order to deceive the working masses momentarily. Any bold means of working class representation is being castrated as reflected in the organised erosion of the political attraction of the Labour Party.
To defeat the local ruling elite and their imperialist’s backers, labour must build a fighting mass-based working class Labour Party as a genuine and independent working people’s political alternative that will not only stand genuine working class candidates in electoral contests but also be the political organ in the struggle for power. By participating in all working class struggles-against VAT hike, exorbitant electricity tariffs and denial of living wage-and combining revolutionary tactics, it will lead the working class in the historical task of coming to power to begin the socialist transformation of Nigeria.
However, as the objective conditions continue to deepen, the subjective factor-crystallisation of a broad socialist layer – is yet to be achieved, with an undeveloped mass consciousness, unaided by the lack of a revolutionary mass political platform and a far-sighted labour leadership. This is drawn on the present capture of the state of the working class in relation to its historical tasks.
INORGANIC CLASS STRUGGLE: The last period has witnessed a litany of workplace strikes, community protests, peasants’ action and students’ struggles. However, these struggles diffuse because of the absence of the organic working class political platform drawing these streams of resistance into a “single gigantic torrent” that will galvanize the anger into a force that will bring a workers’ and peasants government to power.
BUREAUCRATIC WORKERS MOVEMENT: In spite of the willingness of workers to fight, bureaucratic trade union structures deny workers the defence of their interests in the workplaces. Fighting, democratic trade union leadership, subject to recall is necessary to build the struggles of workers and sustain it to win genuine concessions. A fortified workers’ movement will be the springboard for any genuine working people’s political alternative that will emerge to vie for power.
REFORMIST LABOUR LEADERSHIP: At the top layer of the labour movement is a leadership that is at best reformist and at worst docile. It continues to open up the anger of working people, at a time or the other, with mass protests and no genuine willingness to take the struggle of the working class forward-in taking power. It continues to limit its political intervention to reformist attempts at making a bankrupt ‘political class’ play according to the rules created by itself. Despite perpetual appeals, it has not yet thrown its weight into building a fighting mass based Labour party as a genuine working people’s political alternative.
ERODING LABOUR PARTY: Worse still, the hawkish and reactionary leadership of the labour-created Labour party continue to fashion out grand strategies to make merchandise of the party platform through the exorbitant candidature fees presently put in place. While they want ordinary working class elements to be members, they make the candidature a ‘privilege’ the moneybag politicians can afford. This continues to erode the party of the political attraction and appeal it should have for working people. However, it still affords immediate opportunity for debate, agitation and propaganda.
BROAD SOCIALIST LAYER: Within this milieu, it is necessary to maintain a nucleus of the consistent and combative left trade unionist and socialist cadres, within and outside the labour party that will strive to achieve the political tasks of the workers’ movement with a combination of revolutionary tactics. In achieving this, it would strive to put in place socialist structures in galvanising the revolutionary socialist movement that will draw the support of the rank-and-file of the police and soldiers to bring a workers and peasants government into power.
Such a working class government will ensure:
- Nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy under the democratic socialist control of workers, peasants and youth
- Repudiation of the fictitious foreign debt and maximisation for total infrastructural development
- Public ownership of all public enterprises and companies under the direct democratic control of workers, peasants and youth
- Free education at all levels up to tertiary level
- Massive public works programme to build every necessary school, hospital and homes and generate jobs for everyone
- Democratic planning of production with centrally controlled economy to safeguard available means for everyone
- Convocation of a Sovereign National Conference made up democratically elected representatives of the constituents of workers, peasants, artisans, ethnic nationalities and the rank-and-file of the army and the police to determine corporate existence of Nigeria with right to self-determination.
A voluntary socialist federation of Nigeria will be a beacon to masses in war-torn West Africa, the entire continent, fighting workers in advanced countries of Europe and the entire world.
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