Pakistan: May Day in a deceptive election scenario

The political elite and superstructure that dominates this society in the current period have shown utter disdain towards the working classe.

This year the May Day falls during the electoral campaign in Pakistan when the main contesting parties have nothing to offer the toiling masses of this country. All parties have a similar economic programme of neo-liberal market capitalism under the overarching political hegemony of the ruling elite. The main economic mantra is the notorious Direct Foreign Investment (DFI) to kick start the growth rate and to shore up the crumbling economy. There is nothing in their programme or in their rhetoric for the working masses apart from a vague allusion of creating an Islamic welfare state under various charity programmes to support the poorest sections of the society.

The reality is that this policy of wooing foreign and local investment means an appeasement that will be catastrophic for the interests of the workers. Mainstream politicians actually represent the interests of the ruling classes and are advocating policies that will create favourable conditions for the investors to maximise their profits. This in other words means the imposition of more deregulation, liberalisation, restructuring, privatisation and downsizing. For workers this translates in to an end to job security, systemic elimination of pensions and bonuses, replacement of permanent employment with contract labour, end to health, education and other benefits including large scale redundancies.

Investment in the manufacturing sector has nosedived on a world scale during the post-global capitalist crash of 2008, but whatever investment is taking place is capital intensive as oppose to labour intensive. This is the utilisation of more and more technology and robots in modern manufacturing investment that cuts labour costs and boosts up the rate of profits. That is why the corporate capitalists have tremendously become rich and accumulated obscene amounts of wealth even during recessionary periods. Workers internationally including in the advanced capitalist countries have not only lost jobs, benefits but have had their wages reduced and have to do multiple jobs to make ends meet.

In Pakistan the industrial production and heavy manufacturing has been suffocating long before the world slump, the rest of the anaemic formal economy has also been going through a debilitating crisis but the 2008 crash further aggravated the economic catastrophe. The country has accumulated record debt, budget, fiscal, trade, and current account deficits. In the last fiscal year Pakistan had its lowest ever foreign and domestic investment. Forex reserves have depleted to a new low. What is keeping the country afloat is the informal sector or the black economy. This is more than two thirds of the country’s total economy. Its growth rate is nine percent as compared to the growth rate of about two percent of the formal economy. This informal sector provides 72.8 percent of employment and the black capital actually expedites and runs Pakistan’s economic cycle and the banking system.

The astronomical price rises particularly in food and energy has had a devastating impact on society with poverty and misery stalking the land, as never before. The defeat of the movement in autumn and winter of 2007 followed by a democratic counter-revolution brought further agony and despair for the oppressed classes in society. This was accentuated by the severe economic attacks on the masses. The number of workers organised in the unions has declined to about two percent and even this is mainly in the public sector as the subsequent regimes prevented the formation of the unions in the private sector through brutal state repression and the attacks of the goons of the capitalist bosses. The official minimum wage hardly applied anywhere in private enterprises. Conditions of work have been despicable and long working hours were savagely applied to squeeze the workers to the full. Even in the state sector the workers were forced to retreat and concede hard won rights and conditions mainly due to betrayals by the reformist and compromising leaders of many trade unions.

The PPP-led coalition government imposed the Thatcherite policy of public-private partnership and golden handshakes, causing disarray in the workers’ unity and a wedge in the class struggle. In spite of these setbacks there were several struggles of the proletariat. The most notable successes were the victories in the PIA and the KESC. But the main reason of the setbacks was a difficult objective situation and the absence of a revolutionary leadership. But this situation is not going to last for long. It is true the old left and intellectuals had written of the working class as a lost force and perceive the class struggle as an obsolete phenomena, the reality is that there is a seething revolt simmering in the working classes who have been subjected to such callous indifference and oppression by the ruling classes and treachery and betrayals by their compromised leaders.

The May Day is commemorated every year in the memory of the Chicago workers who fought and laid their lives for the workers’ rights and the class struggle on the 1st of May, 1886. The founding conference of the second Marxist international decided to commemorate this day every year in the memory of the Chicago martyrs and to reiterate the necessity and victory of the class struggle through a socialist revolution for the emancipation of the human race. The May Day is the only commemoration that is celebrated across the world cutting across national frontiers, ethnic, racial, creed, caste, colour divisions and religious prejudices to uphold the unity of the class struggle. The Pakistani proletariat has glorious traditions of revolutionary class struggle. The relative inertia in this movement at the present period is a lull before the storm.

The political elite and superstructure that dominates this society in the current period have shown utter disdain towards the working classes and are waging a political war against the toiling classes. They have an illusion that the working classes will not rise in revolt and is perhaps permanently tamed. Hence with a cynical indifference they treat the poor and the oppressed with contempt and denunciation. Sooner rather than later they would be in for a shock of their lives. Their social, economic and political edifice is plagued by the disastrous crisis that is raging in this historically redundant capitalist system. History is not on their side. They represent the past, the youth and workers are the music of the future. By shedding the prejudices of the past, once they reject the individualism imposed by the ethics and the hypocritical morality of this system they can unite and rise in a collective class struggle that will not only transform society but change the course of history.