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From The Socialist newspaper, 5 March 2014

Book review

Nigeria's battle for a mass workers' party

Over the weekend of 1-2 March, 74 people were killed in a terror bombing by Boko Haram insurgents in Africa's most populous country, Nigeria.

Naomi Byron here reviews a new book that sheds light on Nigeria's history of struggle and on what is needed to bring an end to terror and poverty there.

The Socialist Party's sister organisation in Nigeria, the Democratic Socialist Movement, has published a brilliant book on the struggle for a mass workers' party.

It is an object lesson in how to fight for workers' representation and a socialist alternative.

The book 'DSM and the Struggle for a Working People's Political Alternative' republishes articles, manifestoes and leaflets written over 26 years.

Opening with an impassioned call for a party of labour in 1987, it shows how this demand was applied through all the twists and turns of dictatorship, through repeated fake "transitions to democracy", annulled elections, civilian rule, mass pauperisation, nine general strikes and trade union leaders who cannot be trusted.

It covers the many false starts toward a workers' party in Nigeria:

Highlights include the Nigerian comrades' approach to the National Conscience Party (NCP) in the 2003 and 2007 elections.

The NCP was never a socialist party, but its pro-masses and pro-struggle credentials were established from the beginning by its founder, radical human rights lawyer Gani Fawehinmi.

The NCP, with the DSM's active participation, particularly in Lagos state, led the campaign to force the regime to allow registration of political parties.

The mass support won by its record of struggle and its slogan "abolition of poverty" was reflected in the 2003 general election.

Despite only winning registration in December 2002, four months before the election, the NCP came fifth nationally and third in Lagos state.

Lanre Arogundade, DSM member and NCP candidate won 77,000 votes (9.4%) in the senatorial election in Lagos West, coming third out of 20 parties.

These were the official results - the real vote before ballot rigging, intimidation and violence, would have been far more (for Lanre's manifesto, see pp149-153).

Yet in the 2007 elections the DSM called for a boycott. DSM member Lanre Arogundade, who was democratically selected as NCP candidate for governor in Lagos, was subsequently replaced by an unknown candidate from the USA who wasn't even a member of the NCP, by the national leadership who had been taken over by careerist pro-capitalist elements.

This imposed candidate was accepted by the Nigerian state, desperate to halt the success of working class and socialist forces in the NCP - hence the boycott, which was widely supported.

Another highlight is the section (pp375-404) taking up what Adams Oshiomhole should do as governor of Edo state.

For example, to deal with the House of Assembly blocking his education reforms the DSM proposed that Oshiomhole should 'set up a working people assembly which could through mass action compel the pro-capitalist, anti-poor assembly to approve pro-masses programme... [the assembly should] decide the next steps on how to implement the proposed reforms and recall any member of the State House of Assembly who goes against programmes aimed at improving the lives of poor working people in the state.'

Reading the book brings enormous respect for the capacity for struggle of the Nigerian masses who have fought time and time again to change Nigeria for the better.

Support for socialist ideas was so strong in the mid-1980s that a "Political Bureau" established by the Babangida dictatorship to consult the population on the way forward for the country, in its 1987 report actually recommended (among other things) that "Nigeria should adopt a socialist socio-economic system"!

For easy reference the text is divided into five chapters: the Labour Party; the National Conscience Party; Anti Military and Civil Rules Struggle; Adams Oshiomhole; and the Socialist Party of Nigeria.

For those not yet familiar with the twists and turns of the Nigerian struggle, the introduction and forward explain these well.

This book shows that only mass action and a socialist programme, led by Nigeria's powerful working class, can fundamentally abolish poverty and want.

It aims to help theoretically arm a new generation for the battle to build a new mass workers' party in Nigeria.

The Socialist Party Nigeria was launched in 2012 and faces a battle to be registered by June 2014, for the 2015 elections.

You can follow the progress of the Socialist Party Nigeria, and the Democratic Socialist Movement, online:

DSM and the Struggle for a Working Peoples' Political Alternative

Ediited by Segun Sango

DSM and the struggle for a working people's political alternative. A Democratic Socialist Movement (Nigeria) book. Special offer for readers of the Socialist.: 10 per copy or 3 for 25.

Available from Socialist Books

PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD

020 8988 8789

Please make cheques payable to Socialist Books

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The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 5 March 2014:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Pay us a living wage now!

Need for new mass workers' party is undeniable

Government condemns millions to housing misery

NHS in crisis: Stop Hunt's hospital closure plans

Fight the government's vicious sanctions regime

Them & Us

International socialist news and analysis

Ukraine crisis: Ruling elites foster division and conflict

Northern Ireland rocked by 'on the runs' crisis

International Women's Day

The miners' strike changed women's lives

Socialist Party workplace news

Determined Doncaster care workers in 7-day strike

Wales: Unison branch challenges Labour with no-cuts budget

Support strike action against legal aid cuts

Leeds council workers discuss cuts fightback

Train drivers vote for action at Northern Rail

Cleaners strike at London college

Readers' comments and reviews

Nigeria's battle for a mass workers' party

Letter of protest to the BBC

Union question time - Labour has no answers

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Action against vicious council cuts

Police spying ends lives - end it!

Fighting youth low pay (and security bullies)

Calderdale and Huddersfield: People ready to defend A&Es

Barton Moss protesters say no to fracking

Oppose the EDL in Worcester


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