By Lal Khan
Under capitalism there is no room for any reforms or progress. For the salvation of the oppressed masses its overthrow is inevitable.
As the political and judicial conflicts between the different sections of the moneyed classes and the state are unravel dangerously out of control, the corporate media has tried to distract attention and engage the working masses in these frivolous. However, the stirrings of the workers struggles often erupt albeit sporadically tearing apart the iron wall of
concealment, sweeping away the non-issues in politics tantalising society.
One of the latest movements was the Railway drivers’ strike that brought the whole railroad network to a standstill for more than 48 hours. At the midnight of Saturday July 22, the Railway drivers struck in an industrial action with trains remaining stranded throughout night as a result of the strike. This courageous struggle paralysed the entire railroad system stopping the operations of Tezgam, Karakoram Express, Fareed Express, Khyber Mail, Allama Iqbal, Millat Express and Pakistan Express at Rohri, Mehrabpur, Khairpur and other stations. Shalimar Express, Karachi Express, night coach and other trains were stopped at the Lahore central station.
Hundreds of drivers of Pakistan Railways went on strike for the fulfillment of their demands including increase in pay scales, mileage allowance, and reinstatement of suspended colleagues. The Loco Running Staff Association (LRSA) resolved that the drivers would not withdraw from the struggle unless their demands were accepted.
The manipulative bosses and bureaucrats of the Pakistan Railways were furious. Six drivers from Rawalpindi and eight from Karachi had been arrested on the very first day. These driver were charged with the nefarious ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Act by the state authorities. The Railway administration even went to the extent of saying that halting the train operations was an act of ‘terrorism’. Initial negotiations between the strike leaders and the railway officials failed. The Railways ministry brought in retired and unskilled contractual drivers as strikebreakers. Strike leaders invited for negotiations were arrested instead.
Another militant struggle of the Railway workers was the 1928 South Indian railway strike. It was a general strike by the South Indian Railway Workers Union against plans of the South Indian Railway Company to lay off over 3,100 workers to reduce costs and boost profits of the company. The strike lasted from June 29 to August 2, 1928, and severely affected the transportation of people and goods across the region bringing South India to a standstill. More than 5000 striking workers in Mayavaram lay on the tracks blocking trains and halting railroad network.
After the creation of Pakistan, the most significant struggle of the railwaymen was the Railway strike of 1st February 1967. This ‘wheel jam’ strike paralysed Pakistan Western Railway. The transportation of all commodities except food grains, petroleum and oil and some essential supplies were suspended by the striking workers After the creation of Pakistan, the most significant struggle of the railwaymen was the Railway strike of 1st February 1967. This ‘wheel jam’ strike paralysed Pakistan Western Railway. The transportation of all commodities except food grains, petroleum and oil and some essential supplies were suspended by the striking workers; and long queues of passengers were seen at all railway stations getting refunded for tickets which could not be availed.
The railway workers included cabin men, point men, firemen, cleaners and from every department of the railways. The workers of the Mughalpura (Lahore) Workshop started the strike on Monday afternoon Jan 30 1967. Loco Shop workers joined next. The rest of the class four employees joined in the next day. Khyber Mail reached Lahore from Peshawar just before 9 a.m. but could not move onward to Karachi. Tezgam coming from Karachi stopped at Changa Manga; Tezgam from Rawalpindi was stranded at Lala Musa and an Express train from Sargodha was stopped at Badami Bagh, Lahore.
Awami Express could not reach Lahore Central station and was stopped at Lahore Cantonment. Thousands of workers had gathered at Lahore station, raising slogans. In Karachi, the only main passenger train that left was the Lahore bound Karachi Express. This 13-day strike of 1967 was prelude to the revolutionary upheaval one year later in November 1968. This was the most radical mass movement that brought the real possibility of a socialist revolution in Pakistan so close.
In the last few weeks there have been strikes by the oil tankers, doctors, teachers, nurses and the railway drivers. It is clear that just underneath the surface of society, the working class and the oppressed masses are seething with a revolt against this exploitative and brutal system. The Railways drivers strike was called-off due to its isolation. The reluctance of workers from other railway departments, public and private industrial and services sectors to join the strike, vicious repression of the state reflecting the character of the present period resulted in this retreat. But that’s not the end of the railway workers struggles. Rather it indicates the looming storms ahead.
The sporadic strikes at present can become a spark kindling a greater mass revolt shocking ‘talented’ analysts. The ruling classes are carrying out the most vicious anti workers policies of privatisations, downsizing, restructuring and contractual labour. The workers patience is at the brink of an explosion. There is hardly any voice of the workers in the media. But once the movement erupts, the objective situation will change drastically. Under capitalism there is no room for any reforms or progress. For the salvation of the oppressed masses its overthrow is inevitable.