The actual question this harrowing incident poses is that can the capitalists sustain the rates of profits they are extracting from the workers by imparting livable wages, pensions, health benefits, proper safety conditions? The answer is a big no!
The gory factory fire at a Karachi garments and clothing enterprise where 289 of workers, men, women and children perished and hundreds were injured with severe burn wounds in an inferno in a caged factory with sealed gates This incident is not an exception but a norm for the proletariat in Pakistan. It lays bare the conditions in which they are forced to work. On the same day in another shoe factory in Lahore more than 25 workers were burnt to death and scores maimed. Such incidents are a daily routine across the country. The only reason that the media had to high light this tragedy was the enormity of the calamity and the relatively large numbers of the victims in just one incident. In Lahore alone there are eight thousand factories that are vulnerable to such catastrophes. There are thousands more in Karachi and other cities of Pakistan that are susceptible to such a fate. The plight of the workers was described by one of the survivors of the Lahore factory inferno, “Everyone has to die one day. People like me will die of starvation if they don’t work.”
There is a deafening din of hue and cry in the media by the political elite, the business tycoons, the bosses of the state and the apologists of capitalism in the intelligentsia. Torrents of crocodile tears flow from these representatives of the system who have amassed obscene wealth and live in hedonic luxury. If their lives are compared to the conditions of ordinary workers and the masses in Pakistan it seems that they are inhabitants of some other planet. The analysts of the corporate media are churning up diverse theories about the causes of this gruesome disaster and playing a blame game where everybody and every department is being blamed except for the real perpetrator of this devastation—the rotten Pakistani capitalism itself. All is done for a specific purpose to deviate the attention of the workers from the real perpetrator to secondary and auxiliary causes and criminals.
The actual question this harrowing incident poses is that can the capitalists sustain the rates of profits they are extracting from the workers by imparting liveable wages, pensions, health benefits, proper safety conditions such as fire proofing the shop floors, building a modern infrastructure for industrial production and decent conditions of work? The answer is a big no! The Pakistani ruling class belatedly came into arena of independence with a crushing domination of the world market and an economic and technological stranglehold of imperialism.
Their state never had a capacity to build a modern infrastructure or carry out the tasks of the industrial revolution. To attain their rates of profits they had to exploit labour to the level of drudgery. But even that was not enough, they had to steal the resources, evade taxes and plunder the state to fulfill their insatiable last for money. The state in return became a beneficiary of all this extortion and involved itself in business. It is not an accident that the subsidiary of the Pakistan army is the largest entrepreneur with an investment of $27 billion in the economy. And this is just the formal economy which is only about one third of Pakistan’s total economy. Even the lowest tiers of the state indulged in this orgy of bribery and corruption of this system. Hence to blame the inspectors of industrial safety, police and other departments of negligence in reality is a cynical farce to absolve the top criminal elite and a system based on corruption. These lower ranks of the state officials cannot survive if they try to be ‘honest’. The method of individualistic blame is to conceal the bigger picture. Concentrating on a single tree can hide the forest.
Inquiries, commissions of investigations, judicial probes and similar deceptive tactics have a long history in this country. It is a common perception among the masses that to delay, diffuse and divert a burning issue or a monumental event these are the most abused tools of almost every regime that has been in power in Pakistan. If a problem has not to be solved or jostled into oblivion, judicial commissions are setup whose results never come out. The murder of the workers in the Karachi and Lahore factories are being subjected to a similar fate. Then there will be business as usual. More workers and peasants will be killed in factory fires, industrial accidents, state terrorism and other brutalities. New commissions with woolly palavers will function at state expenses while the issue will lose its intensity and the exploitative capitalism will lurch on the blood and bones of the toiling masses for more profits inflicting even more atrocities.
The ruling classes and their petit bourgeois cronies of the civil society are calling for vigils, days of mourning and offering televised condolences. One of the blatantly corrupt lumpen bourgeois has offered compensations to the bereaved families. It is an insult upon injury. First it will create family feuds for the division of the paltry crumbs and secondly hardly anything will reach through the distribution by a corrupt bureaucratic apparatus. Most probably it is a media gesture which will not even materialise. Another theory put forward by the home minister is the involvement of a foreign hand or a terrorist attack. What a convenience. How low can these people stoop?
The media, business magnates and the elite politicians are going hoarse calling this calamity as a ‘national tragedy’. Those proletarian men and women that perished belonged to a class that has been enslaved by a ruling class in the name of nation. The exploitation of oppressed nations, the gender discrimination, the abhor able treatment meted out to the religious minorities, the bloodletting going on between the Shias and the Sunnis, the Wahabi and other fundamentalist sects craving to cut throats of rival Islamic sects hardly makes this a viable nation. But the decisive conflict is the class contradiction. This is a tragedy of a working class deprived subjugated and exploited in the name of the ‘nation’. These toiling masses have been relentlessly repressed and struck with such calamities of capitalism through the national chauvinism, religious bigotry and a false patriotism indoctrinated into mass psychology by the media and the state. The workers and youth have no option but to fight for their emancipation. They have to struggle with their traditional methods of general strikes and mass mobilisations. They broke these chains in 1968-69. Their struggle is not a notional one but a class war. The phoenix of the proletariat shall rise from the ashes and avenge such atrocities being inflicted for generations. Capitalism has only devastated and tormented their lives. There is no way that it’s any form and shape can ameliorate their fate. The over throw of this rotten and obsolete system is only possible through a socialist revolution.