Pakistan: Socialist Movement (CWI) takes another step forward

Public meeting discusses how to combat capitalist crisis

Socialist Movement (CWI) takes another step forward

Islamabad’s national press club was the venue of a very successful regional meeting organised by the Socialist Movement (CWI Pakistan) for its members and sympathisers, on Monday 3 April.

Over 120 attended. The audience was made up of young unemployed and public sector workers, and also important national figures from the trade unions, and who are known for their fighting tradition in struggles against the Musharraf regime. The subject of the meeting was, ‘The capitalist crisis and its effect on the working class.’

On the day of the meeting, most of the Urdu-language press in Islamabad was filled with editorials slamming the Musharraf government for going ahead with the privatisation of the main national steel mills at a bargain basement price. One of the English-language papers carried a front page article on the question of water-borne diseases in neighbouring Rawalpindi, where three million people live. The article said that over one million people, out of the three million population of the city, are expected to fall ill from water-borne diseases over the next year. This is because of corrosion of the fresh water pipes and the mixing of the water supply with fresh sewage before it reaches peoples’ houses. This is due to fresh water pipes running next to the sewage channels. A senior doctor from the main hospital in the city was quoted in the newspapers as saying the hospital water supply was poisoned. Patients who drank this water would in all likelihood die, the doctor said. This is just one example of the horrors of daily life in capitalist Pakistan.

The anger that exists, barely hidden, beneath the surface of Pakistan society, was on show during the Socialist Movement public meeting. Azad Kadri, a prominent trade unionist in the Pakistan Telecommunications Company Ltd (PTCL) struggle against privatisation, last year, chaired the meeting. Geert Cool, from the Left Socialist Party (CWI Belgium), opened the meeting by outlining what neo-liberalism worldwide means for working people. Geert also spoke about the magnificent fight-back taking place across Latin America and, more recently, in France. He explained the huge difficulties facing US imperialism in Iraq, and the weakened position of the Bush administration.

CR Shamsi, Vice-President of the Federal Union of Journalists of Pakistan, said he was very proud to speak at a meeting organised by the Socialist Movement. He gave details of the privatisation of steel mills fiasco, and added that only a ‘no-holds barred’ struggle against the Musharraf regime could save the working class from more attacks. CR Shamsi also paid tribute to the courageous struggle of the PTCL workers.

During the discussion, questions were asked about why ‘socialism’ failed in Russia, how a socialist society would work, and the policy of the CWI on the struggle for national liberation in Kashmir.

Kevin Simpson, from the CWI, replied to these questions at the end of the meeting. He also emphasised the unique nature of the PTCL workers’ struggle against privatisation, coming as it did during a period of relative retreat by the working class. Kevin said this showed that given a bold lead – which in this case was provided by the Socialist Movement – workers would be prepared to struggle even in the most difficult conditions.

What was striking about the meeting was the enormous respect the Socialist Movement has amongst the organised working class in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. What else is striking, and also not usual in Pakistan, is the authority that young trade union leaders, who are members of the Socialist Movement, have in unions. Given the fighting traditions laid down by the Socialist Movement, and a correct orientation and political perspectives, there is no doubt that the Pakistan affiliate of the CWI will continue to build on its support.

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