Peasants, Workers Conference - harbinger of rising labor power in Pakistan

25 January 2010 by Abdul Khaliq

Over 30,000 will gather in Faisalabad to uplift workers’ cause 

The workers of power looms and tenants of military farms, in a much-needed gesture of solidarity, are going to show their labor power in the city of Faisalabad (third largest city of Pakistan with 7 million population) on 29 January 2010. Labor Qaumi (national) Movement (LQM) and Punjab Tenets Committee (AMP) are jointly organizing Workers-Peasants international moot in a situation when Pakistani workers are facing worst economic conditions as they are severely hit by the rising poverty, unprecedented price-hike and growing joblessness. While the present PPP government and mainstream political parties are paying no heed at all to the increasing problems of the workers and peasants, pushing more and more workers below poverty line.

Labor Quami Movement (LQM)-a popular movement of power loom workers represents thousands of textile workers, with 20,000 paid membership in Faisalabad. It is fast spreading movement of workers in Pakistan. The movement is one of the few examples of organizing workers in so-called formal-cum-informal sector successfully. It organized several actions to protect workers rights.

Anjumn Mazareen Punjab represents over one million tenant families, tilling 67,000 acres of land for the last 100 years at various military farms in different cities of Punjab including, Sahiwal, Okara, khanewal and Dipalpur. These tenant families are fighting for their land ownership rights. LQM and AMP are optimist to mobilize over 30,000 workers, including at least 10,000 women for this historic event.

In view of its political importance, the conference will surely bear vital imperatives with respect to its future impact on the building and consolidation of social movements and struggles in Pakistan. Both LQM and AMP are most respected and militant class-based movements of this period. Equipped with militant cadre these movements have rendered matchless sacrifices in terms of laying lives, facing imprisonment and all sorts of state brutalities of Mushrarraf regime. If AMP activists used to stood bravely in front Rangers, the LQM workers proved their mettle in the face of the oppression, unleashed by the textiles bosses.

LQM started its struggle in 2004 while AMP movement emerged on national scene in year 2000. Now leadership and activists of both movements have become quite experienced after facing vagaries of one decade struggle, worst part of which expands over struggle against textile bosses and military farm owners during the Musharraf regime.

The mammoth gathering of 30,000 workers at Dhobi Gath will not only prove a milestone of workers struggle in Pakistan but also help negate the dominant view that working class consciousness has declined to large extent. Over the last three decades the Left in Pakistan has been regretting over the passivity of the working class. It has been discussing the dynamics of this chronic issue as why class consciousness has declined to such a degree that the overwhelming majority of working class people have no consciousness of themselves as part of a class that has its own interests other than those of the ruling class?

Another dominant view that the ‘massification’ of the working class is no more possible in this era of massive informalization of industrial sector under unbridled capitalism, may also need to be put for re-debate after observing the massive mobilization of workers for this event. Working class organization depends on struggle and the building up of organization and consciousness over time. The power loom workers of Faisalabad and tenants of military farms have earned this class consciousness over the period of a decade.

During the whole last decade Labor Party Pakistan (LPP) has been in the forefront to support the just cause of both of these movements. They are now a committed lot of activists and have their own tested leadership determined to fight for workers and tenants’ rights through thick and thin.

Thus the most vital aspect of this forthcoming conference hopefully would reflect the radical awakening of the working class consciousness of laborers in this part of Pakistan. It would not be wrong to call it a beginning of new area for the working class to place itself in the center of struggle to claim and reassert its lawful right to political power by challenging the mainstream bourgeoisie parties in Pakistan.

Besides Labor Party Pakistan, a number of left groups and parties are going to attend this moot and many others carefully observing from the side lines, the event may also serve an opportunity for them to rethink over the possibility of a broader, greater but sustainable alliance by rearranging their ranks and repositioning of their locales.

What distinguishes these two movements from others is the full understanding on the part of respective leadership of the fact that movements cannot grow in isolation and are susceptible to degeneration if limited only to activists attending meetings to pass worthy resolutions that have no implications for action. The working class struggle remains central to their long-term strategy and the tactics of alliance building that they pursue today.

In nutshell during their struggles spreading over one decade, they have done a huge job to rebuild working class combativity, militancy and organization. They are taking political campaigns into their movements, which have strengthened their structures and helped politicize and radicalize the movement as well. This has been an important strategy, used by both movements, as they knew that the kind of social and political weight is too imperative as it can only be eventually supplied by the organized working class.

Abdul Khaliq

CADTM Pakistan



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