Over sixty people attended the very successful founding meeting of the Socialist Movement on Saturday 17 April, 2004. The aim of this meeting was to set up a new independent, socialist and revolutionary organisation to fight against capitalism, the military, mass poverty and national oppression in Pakistan.
The decision to form the Socialist Movement follows discussions between two organisations (the United Socialist Party [sympathising organisation of the Committee for a Workers’ International] and the Marxist Workers’ Tendency]) in Pakistan to join forces in a single united movement. While the main attendance was from Lahore, workers and youth also attended from cities such as Hyderabad (in Sindh), and Islamabad. Seven cwi members from Kashmir were also in attendance as fraternal observers.
The meeting opened with a discussion on the world situation, particularly the effects of US imperialism’s war of occupation in Iraq but also dealing with the recent wave of workers’ struggles in Europe and the move to a neo-liberal, pro-privatisation position of Social Democracy in Europe. Many of those attending the meeting expressed shock at speed and extent of attacks on German working class undertaken by the Schroeder, SPD administration. A representative of the cwi gave the opening speech in this part of the meeting.
The social, political and economic situation in Pakistan was discussed in the second part of the meeting. Leading trade union activists such as Faisal Wahid, the national Secretary General of the Railway workers Union (workshops), gave graphic examples of the vicious attacks undertaken by the Musharraf regime on the most combative sections of the working class in Pakistan through the implementation of the Industrial Relations Ordinance of 2002. This has led to the militarization of the railways and the attempt to crush the unions there. While there is enormous anger with the government, the isolation of the railway workers’ struggles has led to a certain demoralisation in this sector.
Other policies implemented by the regime mean that even the relatively limited protection workers in the private sector used to have has been completely removed. Factory inspectors have had the right to enter factories to inspect labour records completely withdrawn. However, in the discussion Azad Qadri, National Deputy Secretary General of the Pakistan Telecommunications Lions Unity Union explained that there are sectors of the workforce which are confident and willing to conduct a battle. This was shown in the telecommunications sector where united action had defeated two previous attempts by the government to privatise the industry.
The meeting concluded with a decision to name the new organisation the ‘Socialist Movement’; its paper, the Socialist; and to elect a national Editorial Board and National Organising Committee until the founding congress is held early next year.