Taimur Rahman Political Archive

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Archive for July 3rd, 2006

Mazdoor Action Committee

Posted by Taimur Rahman on July 3, 2006

Mazdoor Action Committee

The first press conference of the Mazdoor Action Committee went off extremely well. The conference was well attended and there was good covereage in all the papers. The first edition of the weekly newspaper of the Mazdoor Action Committee was published and distributed at this press conference.

The leaders of the Railway Workers Union Fazle-wahid (president APTUF) and Ashfaq president open lines RWU also participated in the conference. After the conference workers took the opportunity to listen to some revolutionary poetry and people were commenting that this was a simultaneous press conference and a jalsa.

The next big activity of the Mazdoor Action Committee will be a demonstration against the increase in working hours to 12 hours on July 7th this Friday starting from the Simla Pehari and going towards the assembly chambers.

This is expected to be a big demonstration and I would like to encourage everyone to support the workers in their struggle for the enforcement of the 8 hour work day.

Workers of the world, unite!

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Over 2,000 People Participate in Martyrs Day Rally by CMKP

Posted by Taimur Rahman on July 3, 2006

July 3rd is celebrated as Martyr’s day in Hashtnagar Charsada by the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party in commemoration of the brave peasants who laid down their lives in order to fight feudalism.

This year the Lahore party sent one wagon of workers to Hashtnagar to participate in the celebrations. They are still returning and will bring more detailed news of the rally upon their return; however, comrades have already informed me by telephone that over 2,000 people participated in the martyrs day rally held by CMKP in Hashtnagar this Sunday.

This is yet another step forward for our party and movement.

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Twelve Hour Working Day and its Implications

Posted by Taimur Rahman on July 3, 2006

Recently, amidst great fanfare and ever repeated triumphalist declarations by the media, the government unveiled its ‘pro-poor’ budget. For a while one was taken by the ‘facts and figures’ presented by the government and the small hope that remains at the back of everyone’s minds was rekindled briefly. In this regard, one thought that the decision of the government to raise the minimum wage of workers from Rs.3000 to Rs.4000 was a step in the right direction. With inflation rates in double digits it was imperative that steps were taken to address the decline in real wages of the people.

However, a less noticed but extremely important piece of legislation threatens to derail the entire “pro-poor” slant of the recently released budget. During the session of the budget, the government proposed and passed into law, an increase in working hours extending the working day up to 12 hours.

If we compare the increase in minimum wages to the increase in working hours, we begin to understand the underhandedness of the “pro-poor” budget of the government.

The increase in minimum wage from Rs.3000 to Rs.4000 represents a 33% increase in wages [(4000-3000)/3000 * 100) = 33%]. At the same time the increase in working hours represents an increase of 50% [(12-8)/8 * 100 = 50%].

Thus, we understand that whereas minimum wages have been raised by 33 %, working hours have increased by a larger percent (50%). The real picture becomes even clearer if one calculates the disproportionate increases on a per hour basis.

Under the old regime, labour worked 8 hours a day for six days a week. For the entire month, therefore, a labourer worked 192 hours. Given that the minimum wage for this 192 hours of work was Rs.3000, it follows that the hourly wage of the worker was 3000/192 = Rs.15.625 per hour.

Under the new regime labour will work 12 hours a day for six days a week. For the entire month, therefore, a labourer works 288 hours. Given that the minimum wage for this 288 hours of work is Rs.4000, it follows that the hourly wage of the worker is 4000/288 = Rs.13.88 per hour.

In conclusion, whereas under the old regime the hourly minimum wage was Rs.15.625, under the new regime, despite the increase in the minimum wage, the hourly minimum wage has in fact been drastically reduced to Rs.13.88 by the simultaneous larger increase in working hours.

The reader should also note that this entire calculation is based on nominal wages (not real wages). If one were to add to this the impact of inflation, which has been devastating in the last few years, the picture becomes even bleaker. The State Bank of Pakistan calculated that the inflation rate in the first few months of 2006 stood at approximately 11%. In the opinion of most independent economists this was an extraordinarily low estimate and one that should be upwardly revised especially in light of the sugar scandals. However, let us for the moment give the benefit of the doubt to the State Bank of Pakistan and work with this statistic to estimate the impact on real wages.

Combining the rate of inflation with the estimated drop in nominal hourly minimum wages we arrive at the conclusion that the overall drop in real minimum wages in and around the time of the presentation and approval of the budget was up to 22%. [{(15.625-13.88)/15.625 *100} + 11 = 22 %].

The government has argued that the 12 hour work day is “not compulsory”. The implication is that this law is somewhat benign because it requires the consent of the worker in order to be enforced. This rather abstruse expression basically implies that the maximum working day will not exceed 12 hours, but will be left to negotiations between labour and capital to determine the working day in each enterprise and in each contract. Now this entirely defeats the original purpose of the law on the eight hour working day. The original law, won after nearly a century of struggle, stated that the normal working day could not exceed eight hours; in contrast the new law states that the working day cannot exceed 12 hours. Clearly, the ‘non-compulsory’ character of the new extended working day makes no difference to the fact that the legal working day can now exceed eight hours.

It was Robert Owen who raised the famous slogan “Eight hours work, Eight hours recreation, and Eight hours rest.” The purpose of the original legislation was to provide legal protection to workers and to set certain minimum labour standards across industry. Clearly the extremely reactionary legislation of increasing the hours in a working day have destroyed the minimum labour standard attained after a century of working class struggles and has entirely defeated the purpose of the original legislation.

The extention of the working day beyond eight hours is clearly in direct contradiction with the conventions of the ILO to which the government of Pakistan is a signatory. However, given that amendments to the Industrial Relations Ordinance 2002 have already disallowed the factory inspectors of the labour department to inspect the premises of factories and rendered this department nearly toothless, it comes as no surprise then that the current government would legislate a law that would be considered in any relatively more democratic society a complete violation of the fundamental rights of working people.

The reaction to this particular piece of legislation on the part of the working class is already extremely strong. The very day of the passing of this legislation the All Pakistan Trade Union Federation held a fiery demonstration outside the premises of the Lahore Press Club. Soon after they formed the “Mazdoor Action Committee” composed of five working class organizations (All Pakistan Trade Union Federation, Working Women’s Organization, Anjuman Mazareen Punjab, Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party, Bhatta Mazdoor Ittehad) with the main aim of fighting for the eight hour day. Similar demonstrations and statements have been coming from the Pakistan Workers Confederation, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, and other trade union and left political parties. There will scarcely be a single left-wing or working class organization that would refuse to mobilize all its strength for this particular issue, but more significantly, the character of this issue is such that it will bring the trade unions in closer collaboration with the relatively small ideologically driven left-wing organizations, providing the latter over night with a mass constituency in the trade unions. It might be too early to say that the extension of the working day to 12 hours is already having the impact of uniting desperate forces in much the same manner as the workers of Chicago united for the enforcement of the eight hour working day in 1886, but if the government insists on the enforcement of this reactionary legislation the inevitable trajectory of working class organizations will certainly be in that very direction.

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Partition of India

Posted by Taimur Rahman on July 3, 2006

Sometime ago comrades asked about the CMKP’s position on the partition of India but I was too busy to respond at that time. Now that I have a little more time on my hands I’d like to address that concern.

The position of the CMKP on the partitition of India is no different from the general critique of the left in Pakistan on the events of 1947. Although there are many details that still need to be worked out, in broad terms we understand that there has been an enormous falsfication of history in order to justify the nationalist agenda of the ruling class of Pakistan. It is our task to come to a clearer understanding of the class forces involved in this process and to fight against reactionary nationalism.

One thing that has been left out in the context of the excellent comments made on our list on this subject is the role of Islamic traditionalists and fundamentalists in the creation of Pakistan. If Pakistan truly was a “religious state” or a state made in the name of “Islam” why is it that one finds the main religious parties of the time, Jamiat e Ulema e Ahle Hind (JUAH) and the Jamaat e Islami (JI) in complete opposition to the notion that Pakistan should be created? This is a bit of a paradox, is it not?

It is only after the creation of Pakistan, largely by secularists or Islamic modernists, that the traditionalists and fundamentalists became the greatest defenders of the state in their attempts to convert the country into a theocratic state. I would like to point our readers to an eye opening article written by Hamza Alavi called “Pakistan Islam Ethnicity and Ideology”
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/sangat/Pakislam.htm

Although, I think there is substantial errors in this article (both in depicting the position of the CPI as well as in the argument of the Salariat), it’s merit lies in the fact that it exposes the myth that Pakistan was created as a “religious” state.

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