National Sections of the L5I:

Pakistan: workers movement winning important victories

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By the Editorial Board of Resistance Magazine

The Pakistan economy is facing severe crisis. With a low growth rate of only 2 percent this year and trade deficit inching towards $20 billion dollars, the government is trying to privatise even more of the economy. All of these things are making workers unhappy and they are showing it in strikes and demonstrations. The total budget debt is growing monthly, and it is clear that the Pakistani capitalist class is cutting the development funds and subsidies for poorer people. An increasing part of the budget goes towards servicing the debt. Inflation is also on rise, with many food items have risen by 200 to 300 percent in the last two years.

The Pakistani ruling class like, like their fellow capitalists across the world wants the working class and the poor in the town and countryside to pay the price of this capitalist crisis. They see the crisis as an opportunity for mass sackings of public sector workers and moves towards privatisation. They are planning to downsize the workforces in all state owned institutions and eventually to privatize them completely.

The workers have responded to this attack with mass protests and strikes. In these very difficult conditions the workers of the Pakistan Telecommunications Company, the Water and Power Development Authority, the Post Office, the Steel mills and other sectors, have organised important struggles against the sell offs and sackings. Then a workers movement emerged fighting for pay rises and against lay-offs. In the Karachi Electric Supply Company, 10,000 workers occupied its headquarters, against the firing of 4500 workers. After four days of occupation and struggle, the administration gave in to the workers demands and reinstated them. This is the first major victory for militant action since the government’s defeat over the proposed privatization of the Qadirpur gas field in 2008.

But it is only the beginning. The railway workers organized a demonstration in Lahore against the proposed downsizing of 20000 jobs. The rally marched from railway headquarters to Alhambra hall on the Mall Road. The Workers mood is militant they want to fight for their jobs and there were many slogans condemning the government. Rizwan, one worker told Resistance magazine that the government wanted to cut the jobs in the name of the deficit, but “we are not the ones responsible for the current deficit in the railway. It is the government and the corrupt administration who are responsible”.

This militant demo forced the government to announce that they would not downsize the railways staff, but the question of privatisation is still on the table. The government is also planning to privatise Pakistan Post. A big movement has erupted that is defying the government for the whole of the last month. The numbers of workers involved in the movement is growing. One worker, Shahid, told Resistance that more than 37,000 jobs are in danger. “We have no other option but to fight,” he said. The movement in Pakistan International Airlines shows the determination and power of the workers who are defying the thugs of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and won the battle against the government.

These and many other struggles which are just beginning; there is much unrest amongst private sector workers too. In the coming months Pakistan will become a major battleground for the class struggle as workers fight to resist the attacks from the government and the bosses.

Now we need to co-ordinate these strikes, build stronger unions and overcome the divisions between them in action by building joint strike committees - with delegates elected by the strikers at mass meetings. That way we can stop the rivalries between the unions and their leaderships sabotaging the struggle and ensure the rank and file of the workers can choose the most militant and effective fighters to lead the fight and represent them in negotiations. Such a development within the struggles will encourage and enable millions more workers across Pakistan to join the unions.

During a time of magnificent upsurge in workers militancy and at the same time the exposure of the pro-capitalist character of the Pakistan People’s Party in government the urgent necessity for a revolutionary working class party is becoming ever clearer and that is what we in the Revolutionary Socialist Movement RSM are fighting for.