Feature photo: Comrade Abiodun Olamosu

By Biodun Olamosu

THE poor and working people are passing through an extremely difficult time socially, politically and economically. The majority of them are suffering and living below the poverty line while the rich are wallowing in splendour, living an ostentatious life of waste. The lockdowns and other restrictions from Covid-19 are only making things worse for the poor majority.

The present period nationally and internationally is largely characterised by increasingly high levels of poverty, disease (HIV/AIDS, COVID-19, Lassa Fever, Ebola, Malaria, etc), illiteracy, insurgency (Boko Haram, bandits, kidnapping, etc.), wars, killings, suicide, poor working and living conditions, corruption in high places, infrastructural decay, dearth of social amenities – bad roads, epileptic supply of electricity etc. Access to social amenities like schools, medical facilities and electricity has become increasingly costly.

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The challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic that emanated in China in December 2019 and having spread to the entire world leaving hundreds of thousands dead is tragic. Its effect is not limited to the healthcare challenges only, but extended to have serious economic effects on the working people across the world with their economies having been locked down. The working people have been made to suffer as their means of livelihood are no more.

The system of capitalism takes the form of accumulation of wealth in society by a few people. The system knows no borders as it operates across the world to exploit workers in all countries and to oppress people to exploit their natural resources. Where this faces resistance, force is exerted to achieve their purpose.

The coronavirus pandemic has in no little way exposed the system of capitalism on a world scale as deficient and anti-poor. Competition between medical teams in different countries means that a vaccine is still many months away. Perhaps it may just be like HIV/AIDS, which took a long time before something close to a cure was found. In addition to HIV/AIDS and Covid-19, there are many other diseases in Nigeria which kill the poor every day – malaria, typhoid, dysentery etc. – all of which are easily preventable if the government spent more on public health services.

In contrast, the rich are scared of Covid-19 as there is no cure. As a result, they subject the poor masses to lockdowns and other measures whilst doing nothing to save the poor majority from the common diseases.

The cyclical crises of capitalism including the 2015 oil price collapse, 2008 world financial crisis, lost decade in Africa in 1980s due amongst other things to the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP), the economic recession of 1930s, etc., we now have another major global recession arising from the restrictions introduced to try and stem the spread of Covid-19. The working people have always been at the receiving end of such crises. They have suffered great difficulties in meeting their basic needs, inflation, rationalisations, casualisation and increased unemployment, poor working and living conditions, poor wages. Therefore, many of the workers are vulnerable and homeless. Social inequality in terms of the widening gap between the rich and the poor has resulted in constraints in the purchasing power of working people.

The system of capitalism takes the form of accumulation of wealth in society by a few people. The system knows no borders as it operates across the world to exploit workers in all countries and to oppress people to exploit their natural resources. Where this faces resistance, force is exerted to achieve their purpose.

Historically, this took the form of wars of conquest and in some other instances, colonisation of people in territories such as South America, Africa and Asia. Not a few of these remained in a perpetual state of dispossession especially in the late 19th and most of the 20th centuries. Some centuries before then, the local people, especially in what is now Nigeria, were enslaved and transported across the Atlantic. Their descendants still face racism and are part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

In the modern era, the system of exploitation and oppression remains despite differences in the form of its operation. Exploitation of workers by their bosses is now the dominant form across the urban areas of world where more than half of humanity live. This feeds the process of accumulation of surplus value that is sourced from the unpaid portion of workers’ wages. Capitalist exploitation includes what capitalists share in the form of profits, interest and rent.

There is no doubt that much advancement has been made by the local capitalists in sharing the greater portion of wealth in the independent political territories that now cover most of the world. This is the very reason known capitalists in Nigeria such as Aliko Dangote, Mike Adenuga, Arthur Eze, Femi Otedola, and others are as rich as other billionaires in other parts of the world.

Nevertheless, the dominance of imperialism still pervades. It cannot be discounted as it exists in the form of inter-territorial powers over others, as it played out against the ruling class in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya in the wars provoked by USA and her allies. It is one of the characteristics of imperialism to do so in order to stretch its muscle and prove to the rest of the world of how powerful it is and not to be taken for granted even by its closest competitors that at different times have agreed to share the wealth of the world among themselves. So the US uses its might to protect the interests of US capital across the world and ensure that it can buy essential raw materials what it sees as reasonable price.

In a similar way, the Nigerian army is used on “peace-keeping” missions in, for example, Liberia, Mali and Somalia. This is a way of telling other countries to respect Nigerian companies, like its banking interests, across the country and shops in Ghana at the moment.

The Nigerian economy is dominated by the export of oil while agriculture that was the main stay of the economy in the past has been neglected. However, this dominance has reduced over the last two decades. The oil sector as a per centage of the GDP reduced from between a third and a half around 2000 to well less than 10 per cent by 2015. However, unlike some other oil producing countries, Nigeria did not take advantage of the huge resources from oil to diversify its economy further.

Nevertheless, the large resources derived from the sector are being maximised by the ruling elites, much of it in form of corruption. The situation has been made worse since 1980s with the adoption of neoliberal policy that emphasised on deregulation, privatisation, liberalisation and commercialisation of the public sector. However, although the four oil refineries have been performing below expected capacity they are yet to be privatised. So most of the crude oil is exported and refined products are largely imported.

It has been argued that the prevailing appalling situation that the working people are subjected to in the recent period is a function of the neoliberal policies in place and embarked upon since 1970s/’80s by the capitalists across the world. The effects of the policies are defined by the socio-economic class relationship between owners of the means of production and their collaborators on the one hand; while on the other hand the working class and other poor people that have to depend on the former to eke a living.

The policy plank of neo-liberalism as an ideology is meant to favour the rich that are being strengthened as they are guaranteed maximum profits as a class. Along this way of mono dimensional approach, the working people were dispossessed in order to take care of the rich. It was against this background that the hitherto known public-oriented policies that favoured public utility corporations in providing housing and other welfare programmes were ended. Public education being made free and better health facilities (free for children) were dismantled and relegated to the dustbin of history. This has meant that companies and rich Nigerians benefit from having one of the lowest rates of taxation in the world. Whilst the majority suffer from extremely poor public health and education systems.

The ruling class, and the major political parties have shown often times that they lack what it takes to change the tide of the moment for the benefit of working people, despite promises made to that effect during electioneering campaigns, like that of Buhari, especially in 2015.

The indices of corruption by the ruling elite are alarming and overwhelming the various agencies set up to tackle the issue. The very reason politics has been monetised as politicians are desperate to climb to power in order to loot the treasury. It becomes glaring that the ruling class/parties as a whole remain united in their relationship with the poor and working people, as oppressors and exploiters.

The state remains substantially the same from the colonial period up to the present as a coercive force to carry out orders and directives to foster the interests of the national capitalist class.  This is despite different forms in which the state has taken over time – constitutional democracy, military rule, etc.

Nevertheless, we must not fail to understand differentiation in the status of public officials that constitute the state apparatus. Junior civil servants are clearly members of the working class. In contrast, the most senior civil servants, permanent secretaries, directors general, etc get the privileges associated with being junior members of the ruling class.

Comrade Olamosu is Secretary of Socialist Labour.

 

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Views expressed in published opinion articles are entirely the authors’ and do not represent the opinion or position of National Record.

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