Working Class Revolts in sub-Saharan Africa

Recent working class revolts
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  Sub-Saharan Africa – a rebellious working class , Andy Wynne and Introduction  There used to be some debate over whether there was really a working class in Africa, but since the millennium, across much of sub-Saharan Africa, the working class has been involved in regular strikes and other mass actions. Not only this, but those workers who have taken collective strike action have often been winning their demands or, at least, achieving higher pay increases and partly rolling back the Neoliberal attacks which have been inicted by the local ruling class with the support and encouragement of the international !nancial institutions. Lower productivity and higher reserve army of labour owever, the working class of sub-Saharan Africa still su#ers signi!cantly worse conditions and lower salaries than their counterparts in the industrialcountries. The global working class is segmented by immigration controls, travel costs and other issues. So the value of labour is not uniform across the globe. Within many countries, there is internal migration towards the better employment opportunities and salaries in the capital cities. This process is replicated regionally and globally, so for e$ample, %agos and  &ohannesburg act as region magnets across West and southern Africa respectively. Similarly at the global level workers risk their lives to improve their standards of living by attempting to enter the 'uropean (nion or North America. Although the claims of the theorists of une)ual e$change do not appear to be supported by the trends of recent decades. *ver the last forty years, there has been a levelling up in per capita wealth and incomes between states, but a dramatic increase in income and wealth ine)uality within almost every country in the world + . The lower value of labour indicated by poorer salaries in sub-SaharanAfrica is due !rst to the lower productivity of labour in Africa a smaller pieand secondly the higher level of unemployment and the reserve pool of labour tending to reduce the share of the pie taken by labour. t isestimated that in /001 the productivity of labour 234 in /005 4446 perperson employed was +7 times as high in the 8advanced countries9 as insub-Saharan Africa  / . (nemployment is also generally higher across theregion, with, for e$ample, o:cial estimates of unemployment rates of around /5 percent in South Africa and Nigeria ; . n addition, urban 1  Harvey , David (2014) Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism , Profile Books, London, page 171 2   International Lao!r rgani#ation (2010) Global Wage Report – Africa Brief (200! , IL $ %eneva ;   &fri'an Developent Bank (201)  African Economic #$tloo% 20&  * po'ket edition, &fDB +ttp$---.afri'ane'onoi'o!fileadin!ploadsaeoPD/Po'ket20dition20& 2013.-e.pdf   unemployment is boosted by migration from rural areas. Link between ‘protest cycles’ and economic developments 3espite the diversity of national economic e$periences, the economic history of sub-Saharan Africa can be broadly divided into four sub-periods 7 < ã +1=0>+1?0, when the growth of many African economies e)ualled that in many other areas of the world, ã +1?0>/000, when economic growth collapsed as a result of the e$ternal shocks of oil price increases, declining terms of trade and increased real rates of interest, made worse by structural ad@ustment, ã /000>/00, reasonable economic growth largely from the signi!cant increase in the prices received for primary products, and  ã /00? to present when economic uncertainty returned with some decline in demand for raw materials with the slow down in the 'uropean and American markets and reduced growth in the Bhinese economy. *ver the same period, there were three ma@or cycles of protest, when socialmovements played a vital role in challenging in@ustice and e$ploitation and raised the possibility of radical social change. Croadly these were the< 1.str!ggles for politi'al independen'e fro t+e end of t+e se'ond -orld -ar to aro!nd 15062.protests against str!'t!ral ad!stent and t+e introd!'tion of ot+er eleents of neolieralis fro t+e late 170s into t+e 10s. 8+e strong left '!rrents in any 'o!ntries -ere severely -eakened y a 'oination of t+e fail!re to provide an alternativeto t+e a!sterity and t+e signifi'ant falls in living standards and t+e ideologi'al 'ollapse t+at-as asso'iated -it+ t+e fall of t+e Berlin 9all, and.t+ird -ave of oveents for deo'ra'y in t+e 10s. 8+is res!lted in t+e introd!'tion of !ltiparty deo'ra'y * !t t+ese are : choiceless democracies9 5  where the only option provided is Neoliberalism. The long struggle to introduce Neoliberal reforms and so increase the rate of e$ploitation of the working class continues across sub-Saharan Africa. Asin the industrial countries, this is a continual process. So, for e$ample, there is a continual battle between the governments and the trade unions to reduce the level of fuel subsidies in Nigeria. There have been eight general strikes since +111 and yet fuel subsidies still remain signi!cant. Similarly there has been a struggle over the last couple of years, in particular, to increase the tuition fees for universities, with the students of 7   (N 'conomic Bommission for Africa Darch /0++ Economic Report on Africa 2011 - Governing development in Africa - the role of the state in economic transformation , Addis Ababa< (N'BA and African (nion 5   D-yer, Peter and ;eilig, Leo (2012)  African Str$ggles 'oda , <+i'ago$ Hayarket  %agos State (niversity winning a signi!cant battle in their struggle against fee increases in August /0+7.n other African countries, privatisation, out-sourcing and contract labour are being introduced by national governments and indigenous companies with the support and encouragement of the international !nancial institutions DE and World Cank and the e$amples provided by the industrial counties. owever, such Neoliberal reforms are clearly in the interests of the local ruling classes who have seen their income and wealth increase dramatically especially when the reforms were associated with signi!cant economic growth as in recent years. owever, this reform movement is being slowed down, undermined and in some cases reversed by the combativityely of the working class- led social movements. n recent years, there have been almost insurrectional generalstrikes in, for e$ample, Curkina Easo /0++ and Nigeria /0+/ which have bene!ted from signi!cant support from the wider layers of informal workersand urban and rural poor see below. n many countries there have also been long and bitter strikes by, for e$ample, teachers whose e#ects have been felt and often supported in every town and village. Ideological weakness of the working class 2enerally, there has also been a fairly high level of struggle and working class strikes, at least since the beginning of the current millennium, but themain problem is the weakness of the socialist left. Whilst the current protests in many African countries are being spearheaded by the organised working class, the trade unions have been weakened by the absence of a signi!cant radical or Dar$ist current. As a result, for e$ample, the trade union leaders have more signi!cant power and have more freedom to be able to sell out or contain strikes and other protests. The absence of signi!cant Dar$ist currents across sub-Saharan Africa means that it is nationalist policies rather than working class consciousnessthat have gained the ideological ascendancy. As a result, the idea of the national interest and trade unions making compromises in the interests of national development are dominant. This can signi!cantly weaken trade unions and lead to their leaders calling o# signi!cant disputes 8in the national interest9. Similarly, the hegemony of the ideas of the importance of negotiation and collective bargaining can greatly strengthen the power of the trade union leadership against the interests of a militant and class-conscious rank and !le trade union membership. The end of 8communism9 or 8socialism9 in Fussia, across 'ast 'urope and induction of free market reforms in Bhina weakened the left internationally. As in the industrial countries, the communist and other socialist parties across Africa either collapsed or were signi!cantly weakened.So called communist or socialist governments in Africa were either otherover-thrown, as in the case of 'thiopia and Curkina Easo, or made  their peace with capitalism and supported the introduction of Neoliberalism as with TanGania or Angola. n other countries governments continued to support the West and free-market capitalism as in Henya and Nigeria. n all cases, an alternative model of state- led development was undermined, ine)uality has signi!cantly increased and any serious attempt to reduce poverty has been abandoned. As a result, there are no national left reformist parties vying for power. 'lections are between alternative interest groups seeking to grab state power in order to loot the treasury and pay o# their clients.All this has meant that the ideological space available for an authentic socialist or Dar$ist voice is reduced. n most countries, e$isting communist or socialist parties either collapsed or were very signi!cantly weakened.  This tendency was increased with the !nancial gains that could be made with reaching an accommodating accommodation, to a greater or lesser e$tent, with capitalism and accepting the !nancial bene!ts available in terms of support from the state or N2*s. This has meant that trade union activism is increasingly seen as a career move with former national trade union leaders taking power in Iambia and Cenin State Nigeria or becoming opposition leaders as in Iimbabwe. n addition, the left lost the support of the so cold communist states in terms of scholarships and cheapeditions of Dar$ist classics whose sale locally could be a signi!cant source of !nancial support for socialist organisations.As a result, in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the left has had to be re-built from scratch, for e$ample, with the nternational Socialist *rganisation in Iimbabwe, the Social 3emocratic 4arty in Henya and the Socialist Workers %eague in Nigeria. n some cases organisations with hundreds if not thousands of members have been built with signi!cant support, at least in some universities and individual socialists have been able to lead signi!cant working class protests.n the absence of an inuential socialist alternative, especially when the mass of people face great poverty, ine)uality and the absence of hope for the future the mass of Africans are economically no betterworse o# than atindependence, then they turn to almost anything in their desperation > religion and ethnicity being the two obvious enclaves which are highly promoted by the global and local elites. Across sub-Saharan Africa 8born again9 churches are ma@or businesses, slamic fundamentalism has a signi!cant following and tribalism ethnicity has raised its ugly head in manycountries. ase studies from !igeria #imbabwe $enya and %urkina &aso  This chapter provides four case studies on the strikes and other protests of the organised working class in Nigeria, Iimbabwe, Henya and Curkina Easo.  They demonstrate a rising wave of trade union strikes and other collective action over the last few years. We also e$plores the prospects for the inuence and the building of socialist alternatives in these countries. These
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