Archive for Politics

Few thoughts on debate over relgious extremism

Posted in Communist Movement, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2009 by Umer

Over the past many months, the Left in Pakistan has discussed the issue of Taliban over and over particularly in the context of the extremist escalation in Frontier province and following military operation. The difference between members of the Left, with two sides, who are contending over the aforesaid issues is very apparent: one side is pushing a consistent military operation against the religious extremist operations while the other is demanding an immediate halt to the military operations and its roll back from affected areas in the Frontier. The polarity of opinions is known well to any observer and the Left in particular for they have read and heard the detailed arguments from both sides on more than a dozen occasions. Therefore, I don’t intend to present my approach to the question again. My stance, proposing a demand of military operation against Taliban and an opposition to surrender or cease-fire, is known well and shall be clear from the offset.

I want to talk about something different in this email. My intention shall not be construed to create further divide in the already small and dispersed Left of our country, but only a humble call for clarification. It shall be my greatest pleasure to be corrected. As a humble student of Marxism-Leninism, I am always willing to welcome criticism with firmness and my motivation behind the instant article is the desire for a higher unity built through consensus rather than further divisions.

The recent turn in the debate over the Taliban suggests that the difference between the leftists in Pakistan exist at a more fundamental level than we understand the case to be. There is a disagreement, though I am not sure about its sharpness, at the most basic level of the debate. There is usually little utility, in terms of strengthening unity through dialogue, in clashing over the conclusions where there is a difference over premises of the discussion. We have a disagreement over the premises and let’s recognize that to be the case. Unless we form a consensus over the premises, stand assured that an agreement over the conclusions will not result.

I shall be clearer. I sense that there is a difference between the leftists in Pakistan over the form of the political activism that we as a movement want to adopt. In the context of the debate over religious extremism, there is a difference over whether we want our struggle to take up an anti-fundamentalist political posture or not. This is where the disagreement lies. Should we openly adopt an anti-fundamentalist stance or not? I hold that we must. Others in essence are saying, I will follow by how they say this, is that we should not take an overtly anti-fundamentalist stand.

We all agree that the broad policy of the Left is governed by four broad guiding principles: anti-military, anti-imperialism, opposition to pre-capitalist remnants, and anti-fundamentalism. These principles are not mere words for our satisfaction but the foundations of our political activism. We follow these principles not only in our rhetoric but also in practice.

However, some comrades think that we should not be very openly taking a stand against religious extremism and fundamentalism, that we should not criticize Taliban in the workers’ quarters, that there is no use in finding allies and be building a campaign which targets Taliban or in combining an explicitly anti-Taliban agenda with other issues or, may be, that such an effort will result in unnecessary loss of our energy and resources. In essence, this boils down to the assertion that we should be anti-fundamentalist in words but not in practice. We should tackle them covertly and not overtly. Some even go the extent that an alliance between overtly religious parties is also possible or necessary for the Left. If that is the case, my dear comrades, than let me first request you to please give an end to your hypocrisy and say very honestly that you are no longer anti-fundamentalist. Be steadfast in saying that you don’t consider the issue of anti-fundamentalism to be at par with other three guiding principles of our struggle. Please, for the basic moral requirement of sincerity, give an end to this two-faced talk.

Various grounds are often given regarding why we must not criticize fundamentalism openly. Let me get to them briefly. The first contention against bringing the anti-fundamentalism to the forefront with other main principles and issues is that working class people, the constituency for socialism, will find no relevance in the debate over extremism. This is only based on an assumption that working class does not find any relevance in the political issues of the country. That is not the case. Even if that is the point, then we must struggle to engage the working class in the political struggle. How are we to do this while ignoring this flood of right-wing political and social propaganda and without emphasizing the issue and need of secularism? Any political activism in Pakistan that ignores the right-wing fundamentalism and extremism is not worthy of being termed as progressive. If we agree that political struggle needs to be taken to the working class, than criticism of fundamentalism has to be a vital part of our message that shall identify us from the right-wing. And when we criticize the religious right-wing, we must start with the Taliban for they are the most extreme manifestation of the religious right.

The second argument is that the anti-fundamentalist activism will be highly unpopular. There is a level of truth to this argument and this should be entertained to reach the correct strategy and tactics to tackle the menace of extremism. There is general orientation towards fundamentalism in Pakistan particularly in the province of Punjab. However, this should not deter us. The Left does not test its argument on the touchstone of popularity alone, lest they are like other double-faced politicians. Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels stood alone but did not compromise into appeasement. The Bolshevik Party took an immensely difficult position of demanding peace in 1914 at risk of complete isolation from all political trends. The Left in Pakistan has stood bravely at many occasions for peace in the region and has been humiliated for doing so. There are countless examples and one can go on and on. Instead of following popularity, our positions must emanate from an analysis of objective situation and shall seek the promotion of the interest of the working class.

Another point that greatly troubles our friends is that we might find allies in the liberal ‘civil society’ if we explicitly push the agenda of anti-fundamentalism. I am greatly perturbed to say that our friends think that these “low-character-elitist-women”, as they are known by the ordinary people for these ‘civil society’ women refuse to cover their heads, can make us even more unpopular. This is highly disturbing. Firstly, the popular morality is not a lamppost for us to take our activism forward. We want to change this popular morality, which is under the hegemony of religious patriarchs, and for this we have to take issue with them rather than stay silent about them. Secondly, this argument completely ignores the rightwing NGOS that have continuously received funding from orthodox Muslim countries. They are not targeted as elitist? So, are they fine? Secondly, as leftists, our contention with the NGOs, etc., is not based on their lifestyle decisions but because they receive donations from imperialism and attempt to diminish the responsibility of State in providing crucial services by substitution. Our comrades are more perturbed by the lifestyle of civil society rather than their connection with imperialism, which is clearly not different from the right-wing criticism of the NGOs (I hate to say this). And then they say they are not giving in; that our words should not be taken as a compensation to the rightwing!

The point very simply boils down to this question of principle: do we want to explicitly target extremism or not? Please, if you may, don’t cosmetically agree on this only as a matter of ritual but only if there is a will to do something about this. We will spend countless days and nights in going over our strategy and tactics, rest assured, but only if there is an agreement over the principle in the first place, only if we settle that we have to tackle this extremist menace immediately.

One last point: a few days ago a comrade proposed that we should either build schools or demand that schools be rebuilt and education be provided. Some comrades think that blowing up of schools in Swat is not a very big issue that demands our attention. However, since we worry greatly about popularity, according to one 1998 survey, education is the second greatest demand of people in Pakistan after clear drinking water. Very generally, any parent can tell you about their greatest dream: to have their children educated. And yet we think it’s a non-issue!

Comrades and friends, extremism in Pakistan is now raising its head like never before. Schools, colleges, CD shops, and cultural stations at every corner of the country are receiving threats on daily basis from those who want to reverse the social order. Victory of Taliban in Frontier is a great boost for extremists everywhere. These extremists are flexing their muscles at every major center. Can we afford to remain silent? The time to do something actively against the extremist menace is now.

So many deeds cry out to be done, And always urgently;
The world rolls on, Time presses.
Ten thousand years are too long, Seize the day, seize the hour!

What Can We Expect from Obama’s Presidency?

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs with tags , , , , , , on January 27, 2009 by Umer

George Gruenthal

(posted from Revolutionary Democracy)

In one sense, there is no doubt that the election of Barack Hussein Obama as President of the United States is historic. As the first Black president, it is clear that no longer can Afro-Americans be told to only aim for what is ‘realistic’ for them. Decades ago, Malcolm X wrote in his autobiography that, when he told his teacher that he wanted to be a lawyer, the teacher told him that he should aim to be something like a carpenter, as becoming a lawyer was not a ‘realistic’ goal for a Black person.

Further, Obama’s presidency will mark a change from Bush’s style of unbridled unilateral wars of aggression. Bush has made the U.S. government one of the most detested ones for people all over the world, not only in the Middle East and other oppressed and dependent countries, but also among people in its ‘allies’ in Western Europe. Bush has also become one of the most despised presidents among a large section of people in the U.S. In New York City, Obama won by almost 80% of the vote over McCain, who was correctly seen as a continuer of Bush’s policies, and in the Bronx, with its overwhelmingly Black and Latino population, Obama won with almost 90% of the vote.

But Obama did not win just because he had broad popular support. He won largely because he was the clear favourite of the main sectors of the monopoly capitalist ruling class. His campaign outspent McCain’s by about $640 million to $240 million. And this was not just because millions of Afro-Americans and other working people sent in their small contributions (which they did do), but because the big monopolists, the oil companies, auto, real estate and other sectors, gave millions to his campaign.

Also, the majority of the bourgeois media gave their support to Obama. In New York City, not only the New York Times, which represents the liberal sector of finance capital and is aimed primarily at the white petty and middle bourgeoisie, supported Obama. So did the Daily News, whose main function is to direct bourgeois demagogy at the working class. Of the large bourgeois newspapers, only the New York Post, the mouthpiece of the most reactionary sectors of the ruling class, supported McCain. (Of course, the bourgeois papers totally ignored the campaign of Cynthia McKinney, the progressive Afro-American woman who ran an independent campaign on the Green Party line.) To see the importance of the bourgeois media in elections, one must only recall the universal ridicule that they directed at Howard Dean, knocking him out of the race when he was the leading candidate in the Democratic Primary in 2004, because he took a stance against the war on Iraq.

The elections themselves showed the clear rejection of Bush’s policies, not only on the war but also on his giveaways to the rich. Millions of new voters were registered (some 300,000 in New York City alone), the great majority of whom supported Obama. About 95% of Afro-American voters supported Obama, as did almost 70% of Latino voters. White voters in the majority (55%) went for McCain, though white voters in overwhelmingly white states (such as Iowa or New Hampshire) were in the majority for Obama. It was whites in the Afro-American nation in the Black Belt South who voted primarily for McCain.

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Left with Hope

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


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.

Communists of South Asia stand united

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , on December 1, 2008 by Umer

While chauvinistic vitriolic campaigns have been launched from both sides of the Pakistan-India border in the aftermath of horrific Mumbai terrorist attacks, communists of India and Pakistan stand proudly committed to the peace between India and Pakistan and reject all forms of jingoist tirades initiated from both sides of the border.

In an act of international proletarian unity, the Communist Party of India – Marxists (CPI-M) has released the statement of their Polit Bureau on the Mumbai Attacks with the statement of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP) of Pakistan on the same subject.

Due to the efforts of CPI-M, the statement of CMKP has received wide coverage in the Indian media.

CPI-M condemns Mumbai terror attacks, calls for security revamp

November 30th, 2008 – 8:24 pm ICT by IANS –

New Delhi, Nov 30 (IANS) The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Sunday condemned the terrorist attack in Mumbai and demanded the government take measures to revamp the intelligence and security network to prevent recurrence of such incidents. “The continuous and widespread terrorist attacks, which have occurred in the country, have shown up the weakness in our intelligence and security systems. The country expects the government to immediately take effective steps to revamp and strengthen the intelligence and security set up,” the party said in a statement released after its politburo meeting.

Also calling for “identifying and taking steps against the forces with external links who have perpetrated this crime”, the party urged all the Indian people and political parties to “rise above any sectarian interests and ensure that the unity and integrity of the country is safeguarded by curbing all forms of terrorism whatever their source”.

The CPI-M said the government should investigate the terror attacks and afterwards “when the evidence of the links in Pakistan of the persons who committed this terrorist outrage is established, the government should take up the matter with the United Nations Security Council.”

The party also released statement of its sister organisation in Pakistan — Communist Workers and Peasant’s Party (CMKP) condemning the attacks.

“CMKP strongly condemns the barbaric and heinous acts of planned murder and destruction carried out by terrorists in Mumbai, India. We express our sincerest condolence with all the people who fell victim to this savage crime,” the statement read.

It also hailed the role of the entire Indian Left, which it said was “doing its utmost to reign in reprisals by Hindu fundamentalist forces against the Muslims of India.”

Expressing concerns that the attack might hamper the ongoing peace process between the two countries, it called on the Left and the people of both countries not to let Mumbai terrorist attack undermine the Pakistani-India peace process.

“Such a development will provide the Pakistan Army with an excuse to continue a heavy deployment on the Pakistan-India border and play in the hands of religious extremists to carry on with their deadly vendetta against the people of both countries in the name of religion, race and caste,” the statement said.

The CMKP also stressed it was the role of the Left in Pakistan to “expose and organise against right-wing forces, both inside and outside the Pakistan military that harbour an agenda against harmonious relation between Pakistan and India”.

Defend Comrade Mengistu!

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Marxism with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2008 by Umer

On the struggle of our Ethiopian brothers


Ahmed Khan

Comrade Mengistu Haile Mariam, a prominent opponent of colonialism, whose regime provided invaluable assistance to the liberation of Zimbabwe from the colonialist white supremacist regime of Ian Smith, now faces an uncertain future within the very country he helped liberate. Since 1991, when the Derg regime was overthrown and replaced by the neo-colonialist regime of Meles Zinawi, Comrade Mengistu has been in refuge in Zimbabwe. Seldom has a historical figure been maligned on the scale that comrade Mengistu has been. On December 2006, the Federal High Court in Ethiopia tried Mengistu and 24 other members of the Derg regime (1974-1991) in absentia. This kangaroo court brought forward charges ranging from genocide, homicide and illegal imprisonment to illegal property seizure. Mengistu and 11 other members of the Derg, including Legesse Afsaw, former Ethiopian vice-president Fisseha Desta and former Prime Minister Fikresellassie Wogderes, were sentenced to death. However, the ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe, appreciative of the historical role of this great man and the progressive regime he headed, has refused to extradite him to Ethiopia, where he faces certain torture and death at the hands of a vindictive regime representing the interests of the very classes he waged a titanic struggle against. However, with Zimbabwe itself the victim of an insidious policy of regime-change, the future for the revolutionary looks increasingly uncertain. True to its nature, the pro-imperialist opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has included as part of its future policy the extradition of Mengistu back to Ethiopia. One can only remark that this is a shameless example of utter ingratitude.

To understand why Comrade Mengistu remains such a threatening figure for Zinawi’s compradorial regime, we must go beyond the historical re-writing of Ethiopian history that the Imperialists and Zinawi’s regime have attempted and reclaim the progressive, indeed revolutionary, legacy of the Derg regime.

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On the Burkinabe Revolution

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Marxism with tags , , , , , , on November 7, 2008 by Umer

by Ahmed Khan

“It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future.” –

-Thomas Sankara, 1985

In august 2008 when ex-Liberian warlord Prince Johnson (now a `respectable’ senator in Liberia’s U.S-modeled congress) testified in front of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation commission investigating the horrors of its 14-year long civil war, that former ally Charles Taylor, under trial at The Hague for crimes against humanity was complicit in the overthrow of the Sankara regime in Burkina Faso, it scarcely caught the attention of anybody outside the African continent. This led me to read up on the brief period (1983-87) that was the Burkinabe Revolution, what confronted me was a glorious period in the history of a truly great people, tragically cut short thanks to imperialist intrigue and the complicity of neo-colonial regimes, in a fashion all too familiar on the African continent.

As a representative of a party that follows Marxism-Leninism, that is heir to all the revolutionary struggles of mankind, I believe this episode carries poignant lessons for our society, and I daresay, coming revolution as well.

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Marx’s letter to Abraham Lincoln

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Marxism with tags , , , , , , on November 5, 2008 by Umer

undersigned by Karl Marx

The relevance of the posted letter by International Working Men’s Association to Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, needs no mention at this very significant moment in the history of USA.


We congratulate the American people upon your re-election by a large majority. If resistance to the Slave Power was the reserved watchword of your first election, the triumphant war cry of your re-election is Death to Slavery.

From the commencement of the titanic American strife the workingmen of Europe felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class. The contest for the territories which opened the dire epopee, was it not to decide whether the virgin soil of immense tracts should be wedded to the labor of the emigrant or prostituted by the tramp of the slave driver?

When an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholders dared to inscribe, for the first time in the annals of the world, “slavery” on the banner of Armed Revolt, when on the very spots where hardly a century ago the idea of one great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century; when on those very spots counterrevolution, with systematic thoroughness, gloried in rescinding “the ideas entertained at the time of the formation of the old constitution”, and maintained slavery to be “a beneficent institution”, indeed, the old solution of the great problem of “the relation of capital to labor”, and cynically proclaimed property in man “the cornerstone of the new edifice” — then the working classes of Europe understood at once, even before the fanatic partisanship of the upper classes for the Confederate gentry had given its dismal warning, that the slaveholders’ rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy crusade of property against labor, and that for the men of labor, with their hopes for the future, even their past conquests were at stake in that tremendous conflict on the other side of the Atlantic. Everywhere they bore therefore patiently the hardships imposed upon them by the cotton crisis, opposed enthusiastically the proslavery intervention of their betters — and, from most parts of Europe, contributed their quota of blood to the good cause.

While the workingmen, the true political powers of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic, while before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned laborer to sell himself and choose his own master, they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor, or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation; but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of civil war.

The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world. [B]

Signed on behalf of the International Workingmen’s Association, the Central Council:

Longmaid, Worley, Whitlock, Fox, Blackmore, Hartwell, Pidgeon, Lucraft, Weston, Dell, Nieass, Shaw, Lake, Buckley, Osbourne, Howell, Carter, Wheeler, Stainsby, Morgan, Grossmith, Dick, Denoual, Jourdain, Morrissot, Leroux, Bordage, Bocquet, Talandier, Dupont, L.Wolff, Aldovrandi, Lama, Solustri, Nusperli, Eccarius, Wolff, Lessner, Pfander, Lochner, Kaub, Bolleter, Rybczinski, Hansen, Schantzenbach, Smales, Cornelius, Petersen, Otto, Bagnagatti, Setacci;

George Odger, President of the Council; P.V. Lubez, Corresponding Secretary for France; Karl Marx, Corresponding Secretary for Germany; G.P. Fontana, Corresponding Secretary for Italy; J.E. Holtorp, Corresponding Secretary for Poland; H.F. Jung, Corresponding Secretary for Switzerland; William R. Cremer, Honorary General Secretary.

18 Greek Street, Soho.

Socialism and Constitutionalism in Pakistan

Posted in Communist Movement, Law, Marxism, Pakistan with tags , , , , on September 9, 2008 by Umer


Muhammad Ali Jan

The past one and a half year has seen an enormous regeneration of political life in Pakistan. What began as a protest by lawyers against the unconstitutional sacking of the Chief Justice of Pakistan
by the then President/COAS General Musharraf, quickly became (as these things usually become, being reflections of the myriad contradictions of class society) a democratic struggle for the ouster
of the Military dictator. The fervour of the streets shall forever remain engrained in our collective memory; the marching men and women in black and white, the slogans, the bleeding heads, the determined faces; the end of the dictator is surely the crowning achievement of these brave men and women.

However, the battle on the streets was always accompanied by the battle on the ideological front, with the meanings of various terms being hotly contested by all sides of the political spectrum. Today,
almost all parties are unanimous in their call for the ‘Restoration of the 1973 Constitution’ whether in government or in the opposition.However, what is missing from the ‘restoration’ discourse is the idea
of Socialism, already engrained in the constitution, but seldom invoked by its defenders. Perhaps this had to do with the nature of the historic blocs (to use Gramsci’s term) dominant within the
movement, whose class interests are tied to the existence of private property, but it would be a mistake for all those interested in the broad democratization of society (including many lawyers themselves) not to evoke this term; it would be a genuine test of revealing how
far the defenders of the Constitution will go before the various class interests within this seemingly homogeneous group are throughly revealed; in short, it would unravel not just the committment of
those in government to the 1973 Constitution, but also those who vow to struggle against it.

Background to Article 3: The PPP and Socialism

As many of you know that the PPP rode to power in the wake of the anti-Ayub movement of 1968-69. This was the height of the Vietnam War (the Tet Offensive had taken place in 1968), the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the Anti-Imperialist movement in the heartland of Imperialism, i.e. the USA. In Pakistan, the movement was lead by the radical sections of the petty-bourgeoise strata with its allies in the working class and the peasantry. Seeing which way the movement was turning, the PPP put the popular slogan ‘Maang Raha Hai Har Insaan – Roti, Kapra aur Makaan’ (Every human being is demanding Bread, Clothing and Shelter!) as well as the slogan of ‘Socialism avay hee avay’ (Socialism is bound to come!). The inclusion of what became the socialism clause are to read against this background and it is immaterial how much the PPP remained true to its word, the point is that the term occupies a central place within the constitution and it is important for its defenders to entreat it.

Article 3 and Karl Marx

The ‘Socialism clause’ is Article 3 of the Constitution (above clause 6 for High treason that no one tires of mentioned!) entitled ‘Elimination of exploitation’ and reads:

The State shall ensure the elimination of all forms of exploitation and the gradual fulfilment of the fundamental principle, from each according to his ability, to each according to his work.

The above quote is taken from Marx’s classic work ‘The Critique of the Gotha Program’ where he explicates how the principle of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” can
only be realized in the Classless, Stateless Communist society where material production abounds and for socialist society, arising fresh out of the birth pangs of Capitalism, a better measure would be ‘from
each according to his ability, to each according to the labour performed’. Consequently, the above phrase was included as the cornerstone of the Constitution of the USSR, the first Socialist Country on earth. Despite not actually materializing, Socialism is definitely a part of our constitution.

Conclusion: ‘Restoration’ and Socialism

It is therefore abundantly clear that the question of the restoration of the 1973 Constitution is invariably tied to the question of Socialism in Pakistan. The fact that it has not been mentioned within
the numerous debates of the past one year may tell us something about the class composition of the Lawyers movement; it may also explain why the broad masses of the workers and peasants of Pakistan, although definitely inspired by the heroic struggle of the lawyers and their allies, have not actively participated in the Defence of the Constitution. The Radicals in the Democratic movement need to bring Article 3 to the fore in order to connect the Constitutional question with the popular classes, as well as to see whether the class loyalties of the ‘Constitutionalists’ take precedence over
their Defence of the Constitution. Any Takers?