May Day 2023: Pakistan’s Workers Unite Amidst Unprecedented Economic Crisis

Pakistan faces an unprecedented economic, social, and political crisis in its 76-year history, teetering on the brink of default. Inflation has soared to 47%, the dollar has risen over 150% against the Pakistani rupee in the last five years, and widespread industry closures have left millions of workers jobless.

The state has shifted the burden of the economic crisis onto the workers, following IMF and World Bank instructions. Citizens now face a mountain of indirect taxation, reduced public subsidies, and decreased government expenditure on public utilities. A significant portion of the public sector has been privatized, leading to massive job losses due to business downsizing. Mainstream political parties, the military, and the judiciary have united behind these actions despite internal conflicts.

May Day 2023 was celebrated by workers in Pakistan amidst these conditions. Events such as protests, rallies, and seminars took place in 21 cities, including Karachi, Hyderabad, Quetta, Multan, Lahore, Faisalabad, Peshawar, and remote areas like Gilgit, Kashmir, and war-torn Waziristan. Public and private sector workers participated, with the largest turnout from Karachi’s Landhi Korangi industrial areas.

The events focused on demands for wage increases in line with inflation, a ban on privatization and downsizing, lifelong employment, and full freedom for trade union activities. The possibility of a national general strike was raised, along with discussions on the international labor movement and the economic, social, and political aspects of a socialist alternative.

Preparations for May Day included the distribution of 5,000 posters in public sector enterprises and industrial areas nationwide, study circles and meetings with workers, and a robust social media campaign featuring regular labor reports and short documentary films. In Lahore, a street theater performance criticising the current economic system creating inequalities, was particularly well-received by workers.