Yesterday, August 24, a meeting was held in Walthamstow, North London, by the Pakistan Trade Union Defence
Campaign to discuss the recent arrests in the area and the renewed attacks on
both democracy and Muslim workers. Some twenty people turned up to hear Zakir
lead off on the subject.
Zakir, a Pakistani comrade living in Manchester, had come down to explain about
the roots of terrorism and fanaticism. He explained that there was no such
thing as a "clash of civilisations". When the United
States invaded Iraq, millions of people all over
the world took to the streets, showing that the world was united against the
planned occupation. Zakir criticised the imperialists of the world, who are the
real terrorists, but didn't refrain from criticising the fundamentalists
either. He concluded that all the talk about "democracy" is a hollow shell.
"The imperialists used to say there was no democracy in the Soviet
Union. But let me ask you: where is the democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do people have any say
After this introduction the debate was opened to the floor
by Aatif Khan, Secretary of the British PTUDC, who chaired the meeting.
Dave Sullivan, a Socialist Appeal supporter living in
Walthamstow, and one of the organisers of the meeting, explained a bit more
about the reason why the meeting had been called. "After the recent arrests in
the area we decided to call a meeting in the name of the PTUDC in order to
involve Asian workers in Britain.
We had a very positive reaction at last weekend's Walthamstow Festival and
discussed the attacks on the democratic rights of workers in Britain with
local people." Dave explained about the threat to civil liberties in the form
of the "90 days detention policy" and pointed out the fatal shooting of the
innocent Brazilian electrician Jean Charles De Menezes last year, and the
shooting in Forest Gate, illustrating that the police were totally incompetent
when it came to dealing with the terrorist threat. He stressed that, despite
what Blair is saying, there is a very clear link between Britain's
foreign policy and the threat of terrorism.
Tom Rollings spoke briefly about immigration, saying that
from the point of view of socialists, immigration is a good thing. Pakistani comrades
in London, for
example, were able to campaign and raise money for the PTUDC Earthquake Appeal.
Polish workers, who usually work in Britain for only a couple of years,
can gain trade union experience which they can take back to their country,
where it is harder to organise.
|Preparing for the meeting in Walthamstow|
Amir Hussain talked about the resistance all over the world
and that it would be very wrong to describe all of this as the work of
fundamentalists. He said it would be wrong to isolate ourselves and to condemn
all forms of fundamentalism in an abstract way. "Imperialism is a bigger enemy
Rob Sewell, a member of the Steering Committee of the Hands
Off Venezuela campaign, described the imperialists as very cynical people
because they were the ones who backed the fundamentalists in the past. Besides,
the biggest threat is Bush and other Christian fundamentalists whose policy it
is to try to dominate the world. "They create turmoil wherever they go but now
they are in trouble because imperialism is overstretched". He concluded by
pointing out the revolutionary developments in Latin America, where US imperialism
finds it hard to intervene directly because they are so bogged down in other
parts of the world. "People are starting to see through all the propaganda and
they don't believe the lies of the government any more"
Hasan reiterated the point that the so-called war on terror
is in fact a war against the workers. He advocated support neither for the
imperialists nor the fundamentalists.
Pam Woods, a Unison shop steward, explained how imperialism
is playing people off against each other. Now in Britain the ruling class is openly
playing the race card. Usually they prefer not to do this. They don't want
riots – these damage property and cost money – so it is a sign of their
desperation that they are openly using the divide and rule tactic. "The
imperialists of the world are waging war against the workers. Previous welfare
reforms are all being taken away because capitalism simply cannot afford them
any longer. Such is the decay of capitalism these days."
Harry Whittaker, a retired building worker and former UCATT
activist, raised the question of who creates fundamentalism. He said we have to
go back to Palestine and Israel. After
the Second World War the United States
wanted a point of support in the Middle East, which they found in the new state
The Palestinians were utterly humiliated in this process – everything was taken
from them and their houses were bulldozed. Now, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, imperialism
needs another bogey man. The only answer to all this madness is for working
people to unite and to fight for socialism.
Aatif Khan, British PTUDC Secretary, then said a few words
about the origins of the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. The Campaign
was set up in 1996 after the murder of Arif Shah, a famous working class leader
assassinated by the state. Ten years on, the PTUDC is still fighting for trade
union rights in Pakistan
but also organising journalists and peasants. It tries to bring the working
class together, no matter what trade union they are in. A big success for the
PTUDC was the civil service strike in Quetta
and the fight against the privatisation of the steel mills. Last year a labour
conference was organised with more than 300 trade union representatives from
all over Pakistan
participating. The President of the PTUDC is Manzoor Ahmed, who has protested
against several reactionary labour laws like IRO 2002 and against
privatisation. Aatif made the link with Britain
and said that the PTUDC was also formally launched in Britain a few
years ago with the support of several large trade unions and left-wing MPs like
John McDonnell. "This meeting is just a start and we are determined to build
the PTUDC in Britain
Finally, a collection was held and £73 raised, to be used to
organise future events. Aatif Khan also moved a resolution in solidarity with
the Sindh teachers who have become the subject of repression by the Pakistani
state (see Repression of
teachers in Sindh – International action needed!). The resolution, which we
reproduce below, was unanimously accepted:
Dear Mr. President Musharraf,
This meeting notes with disgust the reports of the ban on the Sindh Teachers Union by your government
under the draconian law of IRO 2002. This was condemned all over your country
on 14th August, the Independence Day of Pakistan. The Pakistan Trade
Union Defence Campaign mobilised to protest against this measure.
As should be
their democratic right the teachers of Sindh decided to protest against this
repression and struggle for their rights. All the teachers' unions of Sindh
decided to hold a sit-in in front of the Chief Minister's house on 22nd
outraged to hear that there were mass arrests of teachers the night before in
order to curtail the protest and that they were held without charge until noon
the next day.
managed to arrive at the Karachi Press Club decided to march to the Chief
Minister's House but were subjected to a baton-charge and tear gas by the
repressive actions are not consistent with democratic principles and reflect
very badly on your government and police-force. Indeed, members of your own National
Assembly have walked out in protest.
You must halt
these repressive measures. Teachers and students should be able to organise
freely in trade unions and without fear of violence, intimidation and
interference in their internal affairs. You must repeal the ban of the Sindh
Teacher's Union now in order that teachers can
protect and improve their conditions of employment.