2011 Election: Working People Must Have Genuine Political Voice

The coming 2011 elections is being heralded by bourgeoisie politicians with public statements canvassing that it is a period in which the
history of the country will be rewritten .As matters stand,the mass voters’ registration by January is being canvassed as opportunity for working masses to put their electoral rights into use.

 However, the question arises whether the elections pose any sharp difference from the standpoint of genuine electoral representation for the mass of working people.

As matters stand ,the elections would be parading the same looting parties that have held the nation by the jugular.PDP,CAN,ANPP,etc
would be fielding candidates which ascribe to the same agenda of privatization and commercialization.Equally,the labour party has been
taken over by capitalist elements who have lost out of the power games of the main bourgeois parties.Presently,the obnoxious candidature fees has blocked out genuine working class candidates from standing on the platform of the party. This is with no-choice situation they pose to the mass of working people.

However, there is a groundswell of anger among the mass of working people. This is reflected in the litany of workplace struggles and
strikes against the neo-liberal attacks on public services-education, health and power .With this huge pressure from below, labour leaders were forced to call out a three-day warning strike. With largely an unwillingness to link the struggles of the working class with
well-connected demands, the strike took more of a sit-at –home character. This is also with a great attempt to hold back mass
political radicalization in order to save the day for the incumbent anti-poor Jonathan regime. This is reflected in the ridiculous basis
upon which the labour leaders suspended the strike on the first day.

The three-week suspension is laced with deep illusions in bourgeoisie parliamentary process ,which cannot in anyway guarantee the class interests of the working people.Currently,the NLC and TUC has restated willingness to call more strikes and protests for the demand of minimum wage to be met. To win living and minimum wage, labour must prioritize mass mobilization and protests, which is the force through which the concession can be won. Yet  ,winning the demand of N18,000.00 would take organized labour to draw the correct conclusion that the current capitalist ruling regime cannot concede to  the demands of workers ,based on the overall agenda of the local ruling elite and initiate struggle to win the living wage and remove it from power in order to replace it with a workers and peasants government.

What is sorely needed is a mass working people’s political alternative which will put in power a workers and peasants government at all
levels. By placing the economy under the democratic working class control, such a government would be able to guarantee a decent living wage. This would take organized labour the immediate urgent task of chiseling out a genuine working people’s political alternative which would provide a political voice to the struggles of workers in the 2011 elections.

Presently, the Nigerian Labour Congress has put up a Political Commission which is welcome and the TUC has also maintained the need
for labour to be adequately represented in the 2011 election. As a step forward , the NLC and TUC can set up a Joint Labour
Representation Committee, which can be democratically expanded to include workers’ representatives, civil society, socialists, genuine
students’ bodies ,youth representatives, etc to  look into the tasks of genuine working class representation in the general elections.
Such a Committee must prioritize political education of workers and provide a political voice for labour on a minimum programme of decent wage, public works programme, mass employment, etc. By standing candidates on the platform of Labour party and other progressive pro-worker platforms. In providing political education to workers, it must regularly organize and convene referenda across the states to draw from the mass of working people their democratic decisions on burning political issues.

Equally, Political Committees need to be democratically put in place by rank-and-file of workers themselves at the trade union and state
levels of organized labour. In this wise, trade unions in struggle, ASUU, COEASU, SSANU , NASU, NUEE, NUJ, RATTAWU must prioritize the Political Committees as being advocated.  Such political committees, apart from carrying out regular political sensitization of
rank-and-file of workers would also initiate discussions and debates on how to intervene in general elections such as the coming 2011
elections ,particularly at the state level, the programme for candidates and the platforms-labour party, etc.

However, such Political Committees must not be used as a mere response to situations where workers have drawn political conclusions  from their industrial  struggles but as a means of concrete intervention on the political plane. Workers must be ready to exercise their political and electoral rights either legally or illegally. Trade unions and mass working class organizations  must be ready  to orientate their members on the reality that the anti-political laws  in the statue books should not hold them back from  exercising and defending their political and electoral rights.

These Political Committees at state and trade union affiliate would also need to come together at the national level through a National
Political Summit in which concrete discussions would be made on how labour would intervene in the 2011 general elections and other
elections ahead. Such a Political Summit must prioritize standing working class candidates on a cut-out programme of:
-Campaign for a decent minimum wage for all workers, without mass retrenchment and to be increased periodically at the rate of inflation in order to guarantee better living conditions for workers.
-Campaign for massive public works programme as against privatization and liberalization to generate jobs for every unemployed person and put in place needed critical infrastructure.
-Campaign for qualitative, well –funded and publicly-run education at all levels through increased budgetary allocation up to 26 percent
(UNESCO recommendation) and the democratization of decision–making organs of tertiary, post-primary and primary educational institutions under the elected representatives of working people.
-Campaign for qualitative, well-funded and publicly –run health sector with decent and living wage for all health workers and mass provision of decent facilities in all health institutions.
-Campaign against commercialization, privatization and deregulation in whatever form and approach-the commanding heights of the economy under the democratic control of elected representative of working people.
-Campaign for open and democratic trial of corrupt political office holders by an Anti-corruption tribunal made up of
democratically-elected representatives of working class communities, the judiciary, etc, subject to recall.
-Campaign for open and democratic prosecution of election riggers through an Election Crimes Tribunal made up of democratically-elected representatives of workers, communities, youth, the judiciary, etc-subject to recall.

The Labour Representation Committee, as being advocated by extending its intervention into the labour party would also see into the
possibility of reinventing the party as well as seeking other progressive platforms through which the genuine interests of the
working people can be ventilated. Happily, the terms of reference of the newly-inaugurated NLC Political Commission captures that.
To fast track the process, it must centrally coordinate the mobilization of the trade unions into the party. A democratically-elected party leadership need to be put
in place by rank-and-file of workers, peasants and youth of the party. The party must also take up a coherent working class programme of public ownership and democratic working class control of the commanding heights of the economy as opposed to the neo-liberal agenda of privatization, deregulation, etc. It is in this manner that the party can be transformed from the trashcan it is for anti-poor politicians into a genuine fighting working political platforms which take up the day-to-day struggles of working people and linking it with the need to put in power a workers and peasants’ government at all levels.

In the event that this cannot be achieved, the Labour Representation Committee must also be prepared to take up the task of a new working people’s political alternative that would genuinely defend the genuine aspirations of working people both in programme and outlook. It must prioritize campaigning on the day-to-day struggle of working people in order to emerge as the fighting political organ in the struggle for power In all these circumstances, socialists would play leading roles by not only campaigning for them in all mass working class organizations but by equally providing platform where genuine ideas of Marxism can accelerate the political consciousness of the working class.Coming into the labour movement with mass mobilization stratagems, an independent and genuine socialist alternative ,both on the industrial and parliamentary plane would galvanize the mass anger of working people through a socialist programme of democratic working class control of the commanding heights of the economy. This will gain echo in the coming period as more and more of the mass of working people would be drawn to the socialist banner.
 
Struggles that lie ahead-on unresolved new wage, against privatization of power, against collapse of health sector, against
commercialization of education, against deregulation, etc-would be fought on class and political basis. Wider mobilization and integrated
actions from local to national level with the help of a clear-cut working people’s political alternative would put in power a workers
and peasants’ government at all levels. This would have reverberations across the African continent, the mighty struggles in Europe and the entire world.

Ayo Ademiluyi
International Centre for Industrial Studies(ICIS),
Ibadan

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