25.04.2018 Feature Article

Nationwide Workers Unification and Vibrant Workers Union’s Leadership: The First Step to Ending Workers’ Exploitation in Liberia

Nationwide Workers Unification and Vibrant Workers Union’s Leadership: The First Step to Ending Workers’ Exploitation in Liberia
25.04.2018 LISTEN

There have been reports of the escalation of bad labor practices at various concession companies in Liberia. Non – livable wages, lack of housing, health insurance and etc. are among many exploitation meted against the working class in Liberia. In Kanjor, Grand Cape Mount County, the workers are the play things of the Turkish Capitalists at the Liberty Gold Mining Company – a company in which Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the World Bank have substantial shares, according to reports. Earlier this year, some workers were shot by the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) of the Liberia National Police (LNP) for protesting for wage increment and better working conditions. The government did nothing but Zanzan Kawar (So called traditional leader) had the stomach to blame the workers for the stalemate.

At Sime Darby in Bomi County, workers are seen as objects that can be directed and controlled. Recently, Liberians were shocked by the torturing of John David by securities of Sime Darby Plantation. That was just one among many injustices orchestrated against workers who are the producers of wealth for the Malaysian capitalists but receiver of paltry sum in real wages that cannot meet their (workers) demand for goods and services. We are not impressed by the grandstanding from the National Legislature against the management of Sime Darby relative to the torturing of Brother John David. Those ones from Capitol Hill are lackeys of foreign monopoly capital and will do nothing to put the company in check. Similar exploitation of the blood and sweat of workers is ardent at Arcelor Mittal, Firestone, Cavalla Rubber Plantation, Golden Veroleum Liberia, Farmington Hotel and Royal Hotels, Civil Servants in the public sector including health workers, teachers and etc.

Each time segment of the working class’ exploitation hit by grinding maltreatment apart from the normal exploitation of the surplus value produced by their sweat and blood, workers depend on the state to prevail on the owners of capital to find a remedy to the situation. Little do they know that the state is a tool of the possessing class (bourgeoisie or owners of the means of production) that is used against the non- possessing class (workers and other strata of the exploited class in a neo-colonial capitalist society like Liberia). In the class struggle, the superstructure call the state, will always provide protection for capital whether through tax exception, forceful taking of land from the peasants or using the police or army to subjugate the working class. This is so because, in order for capital to maintain such exploitative system call capitalism, portion of the surplus value created by the workers, is given to the state to “Bolster its hegemonic and privileged position within the country.” (Dew Mayson).

On August 16, 2012, In South Africa, we saw the state unleashing the police on protesting workers who were demanding wage increment, benefits of mining in host communities in Marikana and etc. The lethal force used by the South African security forces on protesting workers led to the death of more than 30miners and the injury of more than seventy (70). According to the Premier Times, a local Nigerian newspaper, in July of 2016, Police in Nasarawa State shot four workers and killed one when members of the Nigerian Labor Union were waiting outside to hear the outcome of talks between the state government and the leadership of the Nigerian Labor Union over a protracted labor crisis that hit the state. In Africa and the world over, there is no shortage of examples of how the state has done everything in its reach to protect the interest of capital at the expense of the working class.

Besides the ERU’s brutal intervention in Kanjor ealier this year, there have been many cases wherein the state security has used lethal force on workers in Liberia. In 2016, Global Witness reported that the Liberian government deployed armed police to protect the Golden Veroleum Plantation after picking up information of a mass citizens’ reaction to the beating, threatening and arresting of workers and members of host communities who were being disposed of their land. In 2007, at Firestone Liberia (one of the largest Rubber Plantation in the world), it was reported that police flogged workers who were protesting against the companies decision not to recognize elected leaders of the Firestone Agriculture Workers’ Union of Liberia.

So, it is obvious that the ruling class which includes the state and owners of the means of production will not provide emancipation to the working class – those who have no relation to the means of production but sell their labor power to the owners of the means of production in order to survive. This is because the interest of the ruling class is not inclusive of the interest of the working. The survival of the ruling class (concentration of capital in the hands of few and the monopolization of the means of production) is at the expense of the ruling class. So these people who made up the ruling class will not voluntarily give up their privileges but will rather do everything to maintain such a system. It is the responsibility of the working class in Liberia, like every other exploited class in the history of man to fight for its liberation. It is only through the collective action which encompasses: political education, mobilization and agitation of working people that can consign the ruling class in Liberia to the trash pile of antiquity.

Someone may argue that the working class in Liberia is limited in size and scope due to the failure of the neo-capitalist system to further develop to an industrial level the productive forces of the Liberian economy. But I say to such person, the working class is both directly and indirectly connected to the other strata of exploited class in the Liberian class structure. And the exploitation of the working class by the ruling class has had an adverse effect on the other layers of the exploited class. So, the organization of the working class and its continue agitation against exploitation will win the support of the other layers of the exploited class in Liberia. To provide an abridged understanding of the other layers of the exploited class, we look up to Professor Dew Mayson’s article “Neo-colonialism in a West African State: The Case of Liberia”: He named the poor peasants who although have not been disposed of their land apart from areas where there are concessions, but they are being amputated by taxes imposed by the state and have been crushed by poverty due to their subsistent livelihood. He also named the handicraftsmen like the carpenters, mechanics, tailor and etc. who are threatened due to the penetration of the neo-colonial capitalist mode of production.

Professor Mayson also referred to the employees in the public sector who are poverty stricken because their income cannot earn them a living wage to cater to their demand for goods and services. Finally the learned professor named the lumpen-proletariat who consists of beggars, prostitute, zogos and the mass of the people who have migrated from the rural areas and are residing in the slums and suburbs of Monrovia with no stable economic activity. The unification or unionization of workers nationwide and the structuring of a vibrant workers’ union leadership with a left – wing clear cut program is a catalyst for taking the ruling class head on. It is also a motor force for building alliance with the other strata of the exploited class, the youth and student movement as well as progressive organizations like the Movement for Social Democratic Alternative (MOSODA). This can offspring a vanguard workers and revolutionary party to initiate a nationwide class struggle against the exploitative neo-colonial capitalist order and its indigenous lackeys in the state structure.

About the author
Moses Uneh Yahmia is a student of the University of Liberia. He is also a staunch member of the Movement for Social Democratic Alternative (MOSODA). He can be reached via [email protected]

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