Pakistan and Sri Lanka Alan Woods' speaking tour, a great success

On Monday the 20th March at PMA house in the centre of Karachi, Socialist Appeal editor Alan Woods addressed a packed meeting of workers and youth in Karachi. The subject was the crisis of world capitalism. In spite of the problems caused by the Eid holidays (many workers were out of town) 150 people attended the meeting, mostly leading trade union activists. These included the leaders of the Pakistan Steel Mill (65,000 workers) the Karachi Municipal Corporation, the Karachi Port Workers, the Karachi Electrical Supply Corporation, the Telecommunication workers, leaders of the Postal workers in Karachi, the PIA workers, leaders of the unions of several multinationals based in Karachi and the president of the PPP workers' wing known as the People's Labour Bureau. The mood of the meeting was enthusiastic from start to finish.

Later Alan spoke at other meetings in Lahore and Multan, with a total attendance of almost 1,000 people. The highlight was the public meeting in Lahore where he shared the platform with the general secretary of the Pakistan People's Party, Jahangir Badar, who gave a very left wing speech, calling for socialism and the expropriation of banks, land and monopolies. The speech was repeatedly interrupted with chants of "Socialist Revolution!" and "Food, Clothing and Shelter!" (the old slogans of the PPP during the revolution of 1968-69).

The following day the meeting was prominently featured on the front pages of all the daily papers. One columnist wrote a lengthy article with the heading "Alan Woods, Ted Grant and Jahangir Badar". The main emphasis of the press coverage was that the only road for Pakistan is socialism. This reflects a growing mood of radicalisation in the working class and the PPP.

Alan also spoke at the annual conference of the Pakistani Marxist tendency, The Struggle, which was attended by 271 people from all over Pakistan. This was a major event which shows the rapid growth of Marxism in Pakistan, despite the difficult conditions. The Struggle is the only left wing tendency with a mass implantation in Pakistan and is now poised to make a real breakthrough. The comrades of The Struggle have done marvellous work in the factories, railways, colleges and villages.

The Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign

Particularly noteworthy is the sterling work of the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign which has been in the forefront of the struggle for workers' rights. After the army take over on 12th October, the PTUDC has actively participated in the struggle of the railway workers, whose leaders were imprisoned and headquarters shut by the army.

In Lahore on 24th January 2000, under the noses of the military the PTUDC held a Workers' Conference attended by 18 public sector national unions and 13 private sector unions participated. In Rawalpindi, on 6th February, 2000 they held another rally in which all the major trade union's representatives were present. About 125 trade unionists attended that meeting. In Rahim Yar Khan on 20th February 2000. All the public and private sector unions of the area attended in that meeting.

This has led to a rapid growth of influence of both the PTUDC and The Struggle. Recently the Pakistani Marxists won a big victory in the elections to the State Bank union. This the biggest union in Pakistan. One of the comrades of The Struggle was elected as national president.

The final meeting of this leg of the tour was held in Multan, the main city of South Punjab. This was attended by 230 people, mainly PPP activists, who also gave an enthusiastic response to the message of Socialist Appeal.

Sri Lanka

Last, but not least, Alan visited Sri Lanka, where a new group has been formed to defend the ideas and traditions of Marxism. Although this is a new formation, its founders are veteran members of the Sri Lankan labour movement. Among them are the leaders of two important trade unions: the government printing union and the health workers. In addition there are student and youth activists and women. The comrades have already translated The New World Disorder into Sinhala, and are preparing a translation in Tamil. They plan to produce the first edition of their paper for the First of May. This marks an extremely important step forward.

In addition, Alan addressed a public meeting in Colombo organised by the prominent leader of the Sri Lankan Left, comrade Vasudeva Nanayakkara M.P. who also invited Alan to visit his constituency and attend meetings of Party activists and the Plantation Workers' Union. The visit to Sri Lanka was extremely productive on all counts and opens the way to the regroupment of the forces of genuine Marxism on this important island, with its marvellous tradition of revolutionary struggle and Trotskyism.

To further the work in Asia, it is planned to commence the publication of a new theoretical magazine in English, The Asian Marxist Review. This will be published in Lahore, but with a long list of collaborators in other Asian countries: India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea. The first issue will come out this Summer. Donations are welcome and should be sent to the Socialist Appeal Post Box.

April 2000