Can the programme of the PSD solve the problems of the Nigerian workers?

The Nigerian Labour Congress (the main trade union federation in Nigeria) has been under pressure to launch its own party. The leaders of the NLC have unfortunately always run after the coat-tails of Obasanjo's PDP. Earlier this year some elements within the NLC did indeed launch a party, the PSD (Party for Social Democracy). But they did so without really doing anything to seriously publicise the party and take it to the workers. The NLC was not seen to be officially backing it. This led to its disastrous electoral results earlier this year. Here we publish an article from the Workers' Alternative on the party's programme.

Some leading figures within the NLC were involved in launching the PSD, the Party for Social Democracy. Does this party have the potential to become the much-desired workers' party, or Labour Party, that many trade union activists are seeking? The results of this party in the 2003 elections were, to say the least, abysmal. The main reason for this was that although the party was formally set up, the NLC as a body did not give it its official backing. Oshiomole and the whole of the NLC leadership continued to support Obasanjo! The NLC openly declared its support for the PDP and even gave Obasanjo a platform at their May Day rally. Also, those who set up the party did not really campaign seriously. This may be due to the fact that the party's Interim Chairman is none other than Sylvester O. Z. Ejofoh, MNI, one of the main opponents within the NLC leadership to the idea of a genuine Labour Party.

But apart from these shortcomings, the party's programme is totally inadequate. In it we find many generalizations, such as the call for full employment, social security for the aged, unemployed and deprived, for equitable income redistribution and general well being. It calls for the creation of a robust economy, for a modern industrial economy. These are general demands that many people would agree with.

The problems come when we look at other demands and also when we seek what is missing. The party's programmatic document states that the public and private sectors are to play "complementary and competitive roles as engines of development and growth". Here we have the essence of the programme. It is the classical programme of the mixed economy that so many Social Democratic parties have defended in the past. In essence it means leaving the bulk of the economy in private hands.

This concept is further underlined when it makes its "Clarion Call". This is the list of the people to which the party is appealing, which includes trade unionists, workers, pensioners, students, farmers, etc. But right at the end of the list we have the following: "Entrepreneurs with patriotic and social conscience, who believe in a Socially Responsible And Responsive Market Economy." It adds strength to this point when it lists what it will be fighting against. The last point on this list is the "politics and governance, which engage in economic and social policies that are inherently inimical to the interests of the masses and the indigenous entrepreneurial class."

Thus the PSD propose to serve the interests of the Nigerian workers and bosses at the same time. Herein lies the essential weakness of the PSD's programme! You cannot serve both the exploited and the exploiter. The bosses want to reduce productions costs. This means essentially keeping down wages. The workers are demanding higher wages. How can these mutually exclusive demands be reconciled within the same party programme? That is a question that needs to be posed to the leaders of the PSD.

It is a utopian programme that does not correspond to the real world. Full employment, social justice, equitable income distribution, etc., cannot be achieved within capitalism, or the "market economy" as is so fashionable these days. These demands can only be achieved by transferring wealth from the rich to the poor. That means taking it out of the hands of the capitalists and their imperialist backers. That means nationalisation under workers' control. We would urge all those workers, trade union activists and youth, who have turned to the PSD to take up this programme and campaign inside the party for it to be adopted. With this programme the party would have much more convincing message to take to the workers. Of course, this has to go hand in hand with the struggle inside the NLC for it to shift its support away from Obasanjo and back the building of a genuine workers' party.