Nigeria: General strike is called off at same point as previous: “When it is a question of Power”

Once again, just as the general strike was starting to have an effect, the leaders of the Nigerian trade unions called it off. The regime was on its knees, but it has survived thanks to the unwillingness of the trade union leaders to go all the way. It highlights the need for a genuine fighting leadership. The Marxists can play an important role in building this.

In Where is Nigeria going we wrote the following:

"Contrary to what some pseudo-Marxists are saying, that this (the protests against election rigging) is a very great opportunity for us to mobilize the working class to chase out Obsanjo and its incoming hanger-on, this is like any other great opportunity that had come in the past. The Nigerian workers have organised 8 general strikes in the last 8 years. Can we ask for a more favourable situation? There has been only one factor missing every time the workers have moved: the working class party under a revolutionary leadership."

The most recent general strike further confirmed this assertion. Whenever the struggle reaches a stage where the question of power is posed, the leadership of the Nigerian working class always surrenders. There can be no doubt that if the general strike had lasted until Monday (25 June 2007), it could have assumed an insurrectionary character - and this is what the labour bureaucracy feared most. Only very few general strikes in the past had ever enjoyed the massive support this last general strike enjoyed. One public opinion poll put support at 88%. Despite the fact that the leadership of the labour movement refused to carry out any serious mobilizations, the objective conditions were strong enough to drum up this level of support. The concessions won were despite the leadership.

The army, police and even many professionals fully supported the strike and the labour bureaucracy feared nothing more than this. The regime of Yaradua was already lying prostrate, waiting patiently for its carcass to be packed away. The mere threat of strike action had already won over 80% of the demands of labour by Tuesday, one day before the strike. Trotsky was very right when he said the problem facing the working class all over the world is the problem of leadership.

Has the ruling class emerged from the strike stronger?

The objective conditions that brought about the general strike still remain, clear for all to see. Unemployment, extreme poverty, decaying social infrastructure, insecurity and the widening gap between rich and poor, still continue unabated. The present regime does not have any policies other than those which bring pain and misery to the Nigerian people.

Nigerians have reached a critical point, a point of no return, a turning point, a point where they have said enough is enough. This last general strike has strongly confirmed this. The working class is not defeated, and they emerged from the strike with confidence in their own strength. Every worker knows that the labour leadership called off the strike to save the regime, and not because they could not win. This strengthened our hope that a more determined and qualitative battle is still fast approaching.

This regime is more and more hated, it is becoming increasingly weak and rests more and more on the shoulders of the labour leadership. How far the rank and file will allow their leaders to go in this collaboration remains to be seen.

Does this mark the end of struggle?

This is more a response to those pseudo-Marxists who are already expressing frustration and despair - as they are fond of doing. They claimed that the treacherous way in which the labour leadership called off the strike would make future mobilizations difficult. One even said that it would be absolutely impossible to get people's support for struggle within the next two years, because people are disappointed with the leadership and therefore with the working class in general.

This is a mere expression of their lack of a basic understanding of the class struggle, which is at the heart of the events developing in Nigeria. In the first instance, did the labour leadership mobilise anybody for the struggle? Did the labour leadership desire to put up any fight at all, much less talk of wining it?

What mobilised people in the last general strike will still mobilise them in a few weeks or months. A left-wing current is already developing within the ranks of the labour leadership and this left-wing current is now in a more favourable position to grow and check the influence of the compromiser-wing. Rather than being dejected and pessimistic, anybody armed with the tool of Marxism should be encouraged by and hopeful about future developments, and would objectively appraise what is going on internationally; in South Africa, Venezuela and other Latin America countries.

Any revolutionary worthy of the name would understand that the Nigerian working class is not immune to all these developments. Since there is no traditional organisation of the masses in Nigeria other than the NLC/TUC, people will continue to move against the inhuman policies of this regime through the very same NLC/TUC.

How will events likely develop in the coming period?

In Where is Nigeria going we described the conditions under which the regime could be stabilized: "This is where the leadership of the Nigerian Labour and Trade Union Congress will most likely come in. Efforts will be made in the coming period by the Nigerian ruling class to make use of the leadership of the working class to stabilise their regime."

A concerted effort will be made by this regime to incorporate the leadership of the working class in order to legitimise its policies. This will further put the present labour leadership under enormous pressure from the rank and file.

The forces of Marxism would be able to grow by leaps and bounds during this period we have entered. Ordinary common sense will no longer be enough to explain these complex events and Marxism will become an authority in dissecting all the complex situations which are developing.

We experienced a little of this during various meetings we held during the general strike. Anything we said was readily listened to and understood, we were awaited upon to analyse any knotty issue and we quickly became a force to be reckoned with. The coming period will make the present situation look like child's play. More people will give us a hearing and the building of a genuine Marxist organisation in Nigeria is definitely now on the agenda.

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