Reimagining a Labour- Student Nexus in a Post-Colonial Reality

Reimagining a Labour- Student Nexus in a Post-Colonial Reality

Ali Bahram Khan Gadhi and Arshia Shoaib Khawaja

Working class and students are the most important subjects of left wing politics, but  in recent times we have also seen a growing number of right wing groups like TLP which are very much active and have social bases in working class communities. This significant fact has a great historical value. During the last thirty years,Left wing has lacked  capability to fulfil the gap between working class and social bases within the working class communities. Historically, the left has been underdeveloped in our country.

It lacked resources to establish and strengthen its social bases in the working class. The right wing has been supported by the state and by the regional satellite allies of global capitalist countries which has accumulated the required resources to deeply embed itself in the community. Similarly, it has a vast social base of welfare donations which has also played an important role in strengthening right wing institutions. One of the major facility it provides to the masses is free education through Madrassas which gives them the capacity to build up parallel institutions based on social services.

One of the things that the Left requires to do is to build up alternative parallel institutions for social solidarity according to the political model given by Antonio Gramsci, with the objective to counter the existing power hierarchy and status quo. This could only be possible by experimenting along novel lines of engagement with the working class. 

One important aspect of history is that it reconnects communities with their past. In Pakistan working class has a significant history of its resistance to the status quo, but this history has largely been erased from the consciousness of masses. It is necessary for the Left to reconnect working class with its history, since this historical connection paves way for the class consciousness which inevitably strengthens the social solidarity. Therefore, it becomes Lefts’ historical responsibility to engage with the workers and raise their class consciousness. Historically speaking, analyzing the student-labour movements of the late 1960’s, against the repressive policies of Ayub Khan is a landmark feature of  leftist movements in Pakistan.Thus, students are best equipped to enkindle class consciousness amongst the labour as they are better acquainted with novel ideas. However, post the dissolution of both student and labour unions  during the autocratic era of General Zia Ul Haq, a weakening of the student labour solidarity was seen. Moreover, now it is noteworthy that the New Left student movements are increasingly raising their voice for labour rights’ emancipation.

One of the dilemmas of post-colonial societies is that during colonial interaction, an alien language was imposed upon colonial subjects which can be understood by those who came into close interaction with colonial apparatus thorough modern educational institutions. While the poor mass which constitutes working classes and peasantry in the society can’t speak and understand this language, making them unable to express their grievances as the modern state can not comprehend their grievances.  While their bodies experience the oppression, the oppressed are not able communicate these grievances due to the lack of language, thus unable to speak for their rights. Invention of communicable language is necessary to build up solidarity among the masses . A conscious effort is needed to introduce them to their shared history of resistance through language which as a class they juxtapose against their oppressors. Post-colonial societies have other bases of social solidarity which are of mostly caste and tribal lineages.  Left has failed in addressing the question of caste and is unwilling to address it, on the contrary to the model of Left, we have Ambedkarite model where it has tried to address the caste divide. The reason why we need to address this issue is that in times of crisis, the oppressor uses these caste differences to isolate workers from each other, divided along religious, regional and ethnic lines.

Due to a number of limitations , no change, inarguably is imaginable within this system. Take the example of efforts to ensure labor rights through progressive legislation though it was mainly carried out through the platforms of NGOs and inspired by the Social Democrat model of Europeans. However, this too has failed because unlike European states, post-colonial states like Pakistan, the feudal and capitalist classes have a hegemonic control over state institutions which they use to protect their class interests in contrast to the interests of the majority proliterate class. Besides this, Pakistan’s placement in the global capitalist order in the shape of `peripheral underdeveloped capitalism has the inherent incapability to adhere to progressive ideals. 

Furthermore, The state’s inability to pool up resources for the betterment of the working class communities and the development of their areas has been often witnessed, especially after the introduction of neo liberal economic policies which has put Labor communities in a more vulnerable position and exposed them to the cruel managerial practices of the bourgeois. More recently in the time of the corona pandemic, we have seen that the systems’ logic has been a complete failure in addressing the labour issues.

Conclusively, one of the fundamental responsibilities of the student wing is to formulate a nexus with the working class, attempting to  transfer their knowledge and new ideas to the working class so that they undergo a process of progressive realization whereby they are able to recognize the oppression of the capitalist state bourgeois and consequently, fight for their liberation.


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