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Nigeria: General strike wins big concessions
ABSOLUTELY SOLID. That has been the impact of the general strike against the Nigerian government's 50% rise in oil prices which began on 8 June. Across the country workers and students have taken the lead in opposing the price rise.
Such is the depth of opposition that some State governors have supported the strike and President Obasanjo's own People's Democratic Party officially declared on 11 June that "it is obvious that the procedure, timing and margins of increase were wrong".
This magnificent action has shown that, despite a background of increasing religious and national divisions within Nigeria, decisive working-class action can create a unified national movement.
At the time of writing the government has already offered to cut the price rise from 50% to 25%, but this offer of compromise has, so far, been rejected by the union leaders.
The strike is rapidly reaching a crucial stage. In Nigeria most people live from day to day; especially in the towns large numbers have only casual work.
In addition the combination of heat, lack of electricity and poverty means that the vast majority of people have to buy their food daily from street markets. This means that pressures for a return to work can quickly develop in the towns and cities as food and money start to run out.
In this situation the labour movement has to seize the initiative. While the walkout has been solid, the labour leaders' policy of a "Seat at Home" strike can isolate workers at home, does not mobilise the strikers in activity or allow for a collective discussion of the issues involved.
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM - the Committee for a Workers' International section in Nigeria) has called for a policy of mass mobilisation in action.
In Lagos State the Council of Industrial Unions (COIU), chaired by DSM member Ayodele Akele, has linked the strike against the fuel price rise with its own demand for parity with the new 7,500 Naira monthly minimum wage being given to Federal government workers.
While this time the government may retreat, the PDP statement shows that the capitalist politicians do not rule out further attempts to raise prices. The result is that there is a widening questioning of the new civilian regime and a search for an alternative.
In these circumstances, the DSM is getting a positive response to its call to "working people and youth that, while fighting against this fuel price hike, we must also begin the process of building an independent political party of the working people with distinct programmes and policies different from those of the capitalist ruling class.... (a party that will realise its goals) by putting into power a workers' and poor peasants' government that will implement a socialist programme."
In The Socialist 16 June 2000: