Archive for APDM

Left with Hope

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2009 by Umer

by

Umer A. Chaudhry

More than 125 years after his death and 150 years after he wrote his most famous piece of work, Karl Marx seems to have managed his return from Highgate Cemetery of London. His specter is no longer haunting merely Europe, rather it has expanded its reach to every corner of the world. All this when only a few years back it was declared and uncritically accepted that there can be no alternative to new-liberal capitalism, history was stated to have ended, and even the human capacity to observe and understand the world was questioned based on, amongst other things, the limitations of language. On the other hand, the world also saw, with the alleged ‘death of Communism,’ a sharp revival of the politics and militancy in the name of religion. Set against this backdrop, even the modest re-emergence of Karl Marx in the political and social discourse is highly remarkable. After all, the modern capitalist class structure, upon whose criticism Marxism proudly stands, did not collapse along with the Berlin Wall.

The return of Marxist discourse is not unaccompanied by a noticeable global upsurge in the political presence of the Left. The victory of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) in the Himalayas early in 2008 gave a major boost to the Leftist political activists around the world. The history and strategy of the Nepali Maoists were critically discussed and appreciated with reference to all accessible records and statements of the Party via various Internet forums and meetings around the globe. The out-pouring of Chinese students in opposition to Free-Tibet protests in many parts of the world just before the Beijing Olympics compelled many to have their first look at the history of China and the Chinese revolution. The mounting strength of Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales added by their increasing confrontations with U.S. Imperialism in Latin America became another source of inspiration for the world’s Left. The communist parties in India entered into a major struggle with the Congress Party, conducting mass demonstrations against the Indo-U.S. nuclear deals. Even in Russia, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation has maintained itself as the country’s second largest party and its largest opposition party. All in all, the global recovery of the Left, though not at a very grand scale, is apparent to every perceptive eye.

In Pakistan, the Left has also made a modest yet a noteworthy reappearance. It was mostly due to the movement against the unconstitutional and illegal imposition of emergency that the Left has been able to gain visibility at a larger scale. Many journalists expressed their surprise at activists robustly raising the traditional slogans of the Left during major rallies of the lawyers’ movement. Many lawyers, who had any past association with the Left, were instantly attracted towards the sight of the red flag and the octagonal Mao caps. Young students, out of curiosity, inquired about the new crimson element on the streets and got to know about the strong tradition of resistance and struggle that Left carries forward. They were even more astonished to know that Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Habib Jalib, whose poetry also returned and was received with great appreciation, were also leading figures of the Left in their times.

Many people, however, are still not clear regarding why the Left engaged with the lawyers’ movement in the first place. It was not a knee-jerk reaction and obviously not an ignorance of the fact that the lawyers’ movement hosts a whole lot of forces, including the staunch right-wing elements of mainstream political parties- traditional foes of the Left. On the other hand, the Left participated in the lawyers’ movement to connect it with other anti-dictatorship movements that occurred in the past eight years, in order to help in building a larger movement for democracy, secularism, social justice, and rule of law – something running contrary to the goals of the religious right-wing. The Left made attempts within its capacity to build a movement that could address the basic question of the Pakistani State and society, and efforts were made to invite groups like Anjumen-e-Mazareen Punjab (AMP), Railway Workers’ Union (RWU), and the striking PTCL workers to the lawyers’ processions. However, it can be a criticism of the Left at the lawyers’ movement that it did not build any bridges with mass working class organizations, as was done during the anti-Ayub movement of the 60’s, though heavy focus was laid on traders’ organizations. The Left may not have succeeded in giving a more progressive and inclusive shape to the lawyers’ movement, despite all out efforts to do so. Notwithstanding, the Left stood staunch as to its goal and, at the very least, floated the right idea.

Nevertheless, a degree of confusion did exist during the course of the lawyers’ movement when many parties of the Left -including Labor Party of Pakistan (LPP) and National Workers’ Party (NWP)- decided to join the All Pakistan Democratic Movement (APDM) and boycotted the elections early in 2008. One of the parties of the Left that did not join the APDM, a noteworthy exception, was the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP), which held that the Left must unite itself as a secular-democratic force in efforts to distinguish itself as a progressive force in the democratic movement, refraining from partaking in an alliance that has known reactionary right-wingers as its leading faces. The APDM-Left, conversely, either argued that the APDM was not dominated by the right wing, or that the alliance helped them in expanding the scope of their political activity. Be that as it may, the Left managed to make unified calls for the struggle against the Army dictatorship and its political cronies during the vital days of the February elections; only to have been responded by threats by elements of the State as a witness to their efficacy.

Another debate that was waged with passion in the circles of the Left, which are accessible to intellectuals and students through Internet forums, was the position regarding the conflict in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The Left that mingled with APDM called for an immediate stoppage of the military operation for the reasons that it targeted civilians, lacked efficiency due to double-dealings of the ISI and was conducted under the directions of the U.S. Imperialism. The CMKP, finding itself alone here as well, took a different stance. Vehemently opposing the civilian casualties, the double-dealings of the ISI, and the U.S. drone attacks, the CMKP argued that history and circumstances have led Pakistan to such a stage where extremism cannot be rooted out through peaceful dialogues and negotiations. Such means, it is believed, have a negative outcome as they allow the militants to get back on the offensive. Hence, it is essential to use force to deal with the threat of religious fanaticism. There are many other arguments, with varying degrees of sophistication, made for or against the afore-mentioned positions; what was most awe-inspiring was the level of thoroughness of some of the debates.

The aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attacks has appeared as a great challenge for Pakistan’s Leftists. To understand the predicament faced by them, it must be understood that the Left has always directed its efforts against the Military-Mullah alliance: the elements of quintessential mainstream politics in Pakistan. These two institutions have always stood in the path of even the smallest transition of our country towards democracy- both feed on jingoism and excessively anti-Indian hate-mongering, in order to conceal their retrogressive and narrow political stance.

The distressing tragedy of Mumbai was followed by astute chauvinist nationalism, employing the electronic and print media to further its cause. The image of retrogressive forces is being resurrected, in a planned manner, and zealous calls of “unity” are being given. This is responded to with indifference and total underestimation of the unjust and negative politics of the Army and religious fundamentalists. Television channels are opened for people like Hameed Gul to beat their jingoistic drums in the name of religion and false patriotism. The Left, in these circumstances, is left with no option but to end its year by placing a struggle on the cards against the politics of hate-mongering and jingoism. In this, so far with some formal engagement, the Left appears to stand united.

All in all, the politics of the Left has generated great interest fresh circles. The youth and the oppressed, thoroughly disgusted with military dictatorship, religious extremism and the mainstream parties of Pakistan, are eagerly seeking a new alternative on the political scenario. The Left appears as a major hope. The Left must maintain clarity with regards to its political position while becoming as accessible as possible towards those who are willing to struggle for the solution that guarantees democracy, progress, and social justice. The Left must stand steadfastly with its commitment towards peoples’ democracy, secularism, land-reforms, independence from Imperialism, equal rights and opportunities for women, minorities, oppressed nations, and most notably, the emancipation of the workers and peasants.

This article was published in The Friday Times on 26th December, 2008.

Left Opposition to the PPP

Posted in Communist Movement, Marxism, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2008 by Umer

The Policy Document issued by the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (Communist Workers and Peasants Party) of Pakistan:

In the period of military rule (till February 2008), our Party supported all democratic forces fighting against Musharraf’s dictatorship. At the same time, we remained opposed to the extreme right-wing fundamentalists that had lodged themselves within the democratic movement (such as the JI, JUI, and other fundamentalist parties).

Whether it was in the lawyers movement or in the workers movement in general, our party can hold its head up high and say with absolute sincerity that we fought with courage and to the best of our abilities.

Our party won thousands of sympathizers from the heady days of street battles when we were in the front-lines of the clash with the police. We rekindled the appreciation of progressive poetry by reviving the memory of Faiz and Habib Jalib, singing them in the streets of Pakistan and attracting people to the red banner of revolution. We also brought to the democratic movement a theoretical rigor that was wholly absent in capitalist-democratic forces. And most importantly, we mobilized the working class and brought them into political action to defend workers rights and to struggle against military rule.

With the dastardly attack that killed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, we stood alongside the PPP in complete solidarity. We ideologically defended them from right-wing forces especially the intellectual hacks of the military and the mullahs). On the streets we supported them in their electoral campaigns, in protests and demonstrations demanding a UN probe into the murder, for the holding of elections, and ideologically defended their democratic right to form a government and for power to be transferred to the elected representatives of the people.

Between February 18th and August 18th, the elected government and Musharraf loyalists existed in an uneasy and tenuous situation. While the right-wing forces of the APDM conveniently forgot about the forces of military rule and concentrated their fire against the elected government. We felt that it was a mistake to align or join with the right-wing All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) against the elected government (as the LPP, NWP, and AT had done). We felt that it was necessary for progressives to support the elected government against the dictatorship of Musharraf.

Since August 18th, the victory over the previous regime (but not the neo-colonial state structure) was complete. However, one of the vital movements that played a key role in the ouster of Musharraf, that is the lawyers movement, was bitterly disappointed that the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was not restored. At the same time, the activities of religious extremists increased, leading to the Bajour operation in the very same month of August. Again, while being critical of the military operation itself (that resulted in displaced people and numerous civilian casualties), we were supportive of the elected government against religious extremists.

Our main and arguably only motivation for supporting the forces of capitalist-democracy against military dictatorship was to win more democratic space in order to organize the most revolutionary class of Pakistani society: the working class. Encouraged by the victory over military dictatorship, the workers movement forged forward. This may not have been obvious to those that were focusing on the mainstream media. But our party connected strongly with the working class movement could see the enormous difference. In this regard, our specifically working class campaigns began to bear greater results. Both our campaign on the food crisis and now our campaign for the enforcement of minimum wages where we bravely faced beatings and arrests began to bear fruit. We developed mass support among the textile workers of Lahore and in the advanced the banner of Marxism-Leninism in the face of hostility of reactionary forces.

Thus, our line of march has been to ally with the forces of capitalist-democracy against military dictatorship and right-wing forces in order to win more democratic space for the workers movement, while at the same time maintaining an independent Marxist-Leninist class position in opposition to capitalist ideology and influence and building the class organizations (unions) and revolutionary organization (communist party) of the working class. Aside from individual errors, we believe that the general line of the CMKP was correct and we have won many victories as a result.

In order to advance the interests of the working class, we are now faced with a new situation. There is a world economic meltdown the burden of which will be placed disproportionately on the working class. This is because ruling class parties are unwilling to step outside the framework created by imperialism to meet this challenge. Since their own class interests are tied to the preservation of the neo-colonial capitalist and imperialist system, they are following the diktats of the international financial institutions and will destroy the lives of millions of workers in order to prop their political government. They are utterly unwilling to challenge the very system that has given rise to this world economic crisis.

While the current economic crisis in Pakistan is no doubt partially related to the world economic crisis, and is partially explained by the neo-liberal policies of Musharraf’s government, this explanation alone does not suffice to explain the disastrous management of economic affairs by the PPP led government. Further, we are yet to see any radical transformation in the broad economic principles upon which the economic policy of the current government is based. Specifically, the neo-liberal agenda is still seen as the panacea for the people’s economic problems:

“The Government’s policy of liberalisation and privatisation is aimed at promoting market-based, private sector-led growth. Long-term growth is at the heart of poverty reduction. Distorted prices, lack of competition, and poor government management of businesses have hindered economic development, introduced inefficiencies, generated unproductive and unsustainable employment, slowed down investment, reduced access to services by the poor, resulted in sub-standard goods and services, and contributed to fiscal bleeding. Privatisation can help change this.” (Privatization Commission of Pakistan).

The Privatization Commission under the current elected government has drawn up a list of 20 key industries for “upcoming transactions” (i.e. privatization). This includes key natural monopolies such as the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL), Sui Southern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL), Pakistan State Oil (PSO), and the Pakistan Steel Mills Corporation. Let us also remember, that while the world’s greatest market pundits (including the reactionary economic school at Chicago) are suggesting that the Washington Consensus and the unholy trinity of privatization, liberalization and free trade has failed miserably our economic policy makers are still living in a bygone decade promising a neo-liberal paradise.

Nearly 70% of all textile units have been forced to shut down in the past 8 months, both as a result of unhindered competition from Indian and Chinese textile manufacturers, and inadequate power supplies. As a result, nearly 15% of the industrial working class has been left unemployed. The government has done absolutely nothing to provide at the very least a social security net to those who have lost their jobs in the crisis. Small wonder then, when a recent survey by the Centre for Research and Security says that “70 per cent of the population is living just over, just on or just below the poverty line as defined at an income of $2 per day, and that 49 per cent of the population lives in absolute poverty.”

The PPP’s commitment to international finance capital and imperialist financial institutions such as the IMF can be seen from the recent meetings in Dubai between a contingent of the Pakistan Government and the IMF. IMF rules dictate that a country may receive up to 300% of its debt quota; the Pakistan Government has requested an amount that is 4 to 6 times of the quota—between 6 to 9 billion dollars. The conditions imposed by the IMF are as usual a stricter application of the neo-liberal agenda. The IMF “policy recommendations” (read directives) include an increase in the real interest rate. This will too obviously, lead to a decrease in real output, and will further accentuate the crisis of unemployment in the country. It is estimated that nearly 80 million people will starve during the current economic year because of rising food and commodity prices and unemployment.

This imposition of tighter market discipline, coupled with privatization of state assets will have suicidal repercussions on the economic environment in Pakistan. During the month of October alone, the inflation rate was above 25%; the inflation in food prices is just under 32%. The Government has failed to smash the power of hoarders, or the monopoly of wheat merchants over food prices. The miserable treatment afforded to oppressed nationalities is strikingly apparent when we fully appreciate the motives behind controlling inter-provincial movement of wheat.

Together, the joint issues of unemployment and inflation (stagflation) cannot be solved—and have never been solved through the free market—for they require supply side measures, such as an increase in the productive base and capacity of the macro-economy.

In conclusion, the elected capitalist government is and will continue to promote economic policies that will destroy the lives of millions of working people. They do not have the political will to call for the actual reforms that can take this country out of an economic crisis. The PPP of the 1970s proposed land reforms, nationalization of large scale industry, non-aligned foreign policy, control over flow of capital, large government investment in health care and education and so on. The truth is that the capitalist economic crisis cannot be bandaged by a few reforms. It is the structure of the system that must be destroyed to emancipate the people. Nonetheless, the present elected government is terrified even of such capitalist-democratic reforms that were once part of the program of their own party. The PPP has veered so far from its origins in the 1970s that if it looked at the mirror of its past, it would be terrified by its past open avowal of socialism.

Hence, we assert, and we would like every sane minded progressive whether within or outside the PPP to think about this extremely seriously, that the current PPP government does not represent the historical interests of the working people of Pakistan. Take the simple example of the appointment of ministers who have openly supported vani and other reactionary social practices. It demonstrates that the inability of the PPP to consistently stand even for capitalist-democratic principles. It is no doubt the largest party in Pakistan and it has spoken for the common man in the past. But any honest person, even within the PPP, can no longer turn away from the fact that the PPP is a party where the hegemonic and dominant ideas and social practice does not represent the same interests as the movement for the emancipation of the working class.
Right-wing forces stand for capitalism, discriminatory laws, and collude with imperialism. Right-wing struggles against anything that enables mankind to progress. They want to reverse the wheel of history. Though hiding themselves in progressive slogans, the right-wing has no problem with a dictatorship if it carries forward their regressive agendas. The right-wing has always been the foremost enemy of the rights of women, oppressed nations, and progress of the country. In Pakistan, the right-wing has historically aligned themselves dictatorship and Imperialism against the rights of the working classes.

The left-wing are all the forces that stand against this agenda. Left-wing struggles for the rights of the oppressed masses against the oppressors. Their major demand are peoples’ democracy, secularism, land-reforms and independence from Imperialism, equal rights and opportunities for women, minorities, oppressed nations, and most importantly the emancipation of the workers and peasants. We stand for progress of humanity for a system where the exploitation of humans by humans can be done away with. In Pakistan, the left-wing has always stood with and sacrificed for the cause of the working masses for their rights.

Therefore, the principles of a left-opposition are entirely different from those of a right opposition to the PPP. Most importantly, we continue to support the PPP in its struggle against religious extremism and military rule because these two objectives intersect with our party’s own analysis. And by doing so, we distinguish ourselves from the right-wing opposition to the PPP that acts in defense of fundamentalists and military dictators. Thus, we will neither join nor align with the right-wing forces as other leftists have done. In fact, we consider such an alliance a complete betrayal of socialism since it results in the complete silence by those organizations in relation to right-wing forces. Right-wing forces that are not only supportive of neo-liberalism (as is the current elected government) but also of reactionary and discriminatory laws against women, minorities and working people.

Since, it is abundantly clear that the PPP’s economic policies, like those of nearly every other previous government, have not fundamentally changed in the lives of the poor – factory workers, landless tenants or small farmers, we communists do not hesitate to hold them to account on their promises to the poor. In sum, left-opposition to the elected government will support the capitalist democrats only insofar as they are in opposition to the mullah’s and the military and struggle against them tooth and nail to defend the humanity of the working class. For this the CMKP has launched a left opposition movement against the PPP by channeling the revolutionary anger of the masses not only against the neo-liberal policies but also against capitalism as a social system. We have already begun work against the privatization of the OGDC and have joined workers in dharnas, hunger strikes and protest marches. Furthermore, we have begun the publication of a new working class newspaper called Sadai Mazdoor. We hope to make it the basis of widespread working class resistance to capitalism. In this regard, we would call on our comrades and fraternal parties and most importantly our brothers and sisters in trade unions to strengthen an anti-privatization alliance. The democratic revolution can only truly be completed through a people’s movement of the workers and peasants of Pakistan.

The working people of Pakistan already know that with the world financial financial crisis, a new phase of struggle is ahead of us. They are looking straight down the barrel of hunger, poverty, and destitution. And while some may clutch at straws for hope (such as the current democratic government) they all know the real truth: mainstream political parties are all in one way or another tied to various ruling class interests.

It is for this reason that we call upon the working people to organize a workers party. A party that represents the historical interests of the working class. A party that proudly inscribes socialism on its banner. A party that will do what is necessary to emancipate people from the grip of brutal jagirdars, rapacious capitalists, murderous imperialists, and ignorant and reactionary mullahs. That is create a iron dictatorship against the small murderous clique of exploiting classes and a democratic government for the exploited majority. Without such a party that stands without apology to smash the class rule of the exploiters and establish the class rule of workers and peasants, the emancipation of the working people is a utopian illusion. This essential feature is what separates a party that represents the historical interests of the working class from a party that merely pays lip service to the poor. Such a party, a party that represents the historical interests of the working class, is the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party that stands on the theoretical foundations of Marxism-Leninism.

To defend the lives of workers and peasants in the context of the world economic crisis that is destroying the lives of millions of people, the CMKP calls upon all progressives to join us in forming a iron chain against neo-liberal reforms dictated by the IMF. To stand against privatization, to stand against the destruction of health, education. To fight, and fight to the death this capitalist/imperialist system that drinks blood from the skulls of its victims, whether through wars of conquest or through economic genocide.

In the words of Habib Jalib

Haal ab tak wohi hain ghareebon kay
Din phiray hain faqat waziron kay
Har Bilawal des ka hai maqrooz
Paaon nangay hain sub benaziron kay

For the “golden prospect”

Posted in Communist Movement, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , on February 19, 2008 by Umer

Following is my short reply to the message of Farooq Tariq of Labor Party of Pakistan (LPP) ‘A golden prospect to oust Musharaf’:

The elections have changed everything. Many political unions, forged into existence by doubtful personalities who wanted the revival of the religious Right in Pakistan, fell flat on its face on February, 18th. Unfortunately, some Leftist and Nationalist parties also took part in the “holy alliance” that came to be known as the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM). These Leftist parties too had to face the “glory” coming to them through their mistaken stance when people went to vote.

However, one mistake by a section of the Left does not merit strong denunciation from other Leftists, particularly the young ones like me. All of us commit errors – no one is an angel here, so we are told. However, one who does not realize his mistakes in time, trying to hide it from the public eye with inept justifications, merits criticism in the strongest possible terms. The only way to redeem an error and to stand tall is to self-criticize as soon as possible. This spirit of self-criticism is required not only to reach correct conclusions in the future, but also for the unity of the broad Left in Pakistan.

The Awami Jamhori Tahreek (AJT), a united front of many Leftist Parties in Pakistan, primarily LPP and National Workers’ Party (NWP), made a serious error when they joined with the APDM. The composition of APDM raises serious concerns to begin with. It is led by Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Hamid Gul, and, last but not the least, the semi-Mullah Imran Khan. APDM, in short, was a united front of the religious Right that demanded the boycott of elections. Any benefits that the Left could have been gained from joining such a front must be compared with the serious compromises that would accompany such a decision, not only in the long-term, but also in the anti-dictatorship struggle of today. The stance of AJT was subjected to serious criticism by other parties of the Left, chiefly Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP), but their advice was not heeded.

Now, with the results of elections before us, we can see that APDM has failed miserably in its boycott campaign. Everyone can see that joining the APDM was a mistake for the Left Parties. What did the Left gain from APDM? Nothing. And yet, while we were expecting some self-criticism, Farooq Tariq of LPP has emerged with an attempt to justify the decision of Left to join APDM with twisted logic.

According to Farooq Tariq, the APDM “helped anti Musharaf vote to express in a united manner” and “the boycott campaign was particularly successful in Balochistan and North West Frontier Province (NWFP)”. Was boycott a success in Balochistan? Let’s look at the polls. The King’s Party, PML-Q, has won around 17 seats in the province of Balochistan, a clear majority. Had the nationalist parties contested the elections, the results would have been very different. The “success” of APDM appears to translate into the victory of PML-Q in Balochistan.

As for NWFP, Farooq Tariq says that the Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) benefited from the split in the Right-wing MMA. This is the truth, but only half the truth. With hindsight, one can see that had MMA been standing united, it would have helped them only marginally. MMA was discredited among the people and there were few chances of them emerging successful in the recent elections. Anyhow, how did the Leftists in the APDM contribute to the appearance of cracks in the MMA? Clearly, they had nothing to do with these cracks. MMA had undergone a de facto split long before the Left decided to join the APDM. The Leftists within the APDM cannot take claim credit for causing the split in MMA.

APDM only succeed in weakening the anti-Musharraf campaign. What else was to be expected from an alliance which included General Hamid Gul and Qazi Hussain Ahmed? APDM is responsible for the low turn-out of voters and victory of PML-Q in Balochistan. Thankfully, the APDM project remained unsuccessful nationally and only marginally affected the anti-Musharraf campaign, which may now be waged from both inside and outside the parliament. In the meanwhile, the Left in APDM needs to self-criticize and break themselves from the decadent elements of the religious-Right to fortify the struggle against dictatorship and religious extremism. Only then we can utilize from the golden prospect.