On Saturday 14th March, the 34th annual congress of The Struggle, the Pakistan section of the International Marxist tendency commenced its proceedings in Lahore. This was yet another milestone in the growth and development of the forces of Marxism in Pakistan.
On Saturday 14th March, the 34th annual congress of The Struggle, the Pakistan section of the International Marxist tendency commenced its proceedings in Lahore. This was yet another milestone in the growth and development of the forces of Marxism in Pakistan. The congress opened with a tremendous display of enthusiasm as comrades from all over Pakistan crowded into the large hall of the Aiwan-e-Iqbal building in the centre of Lahore.
Over 2,800 attended the Congress this year. To have gotten such a big attendance was a huge achievement, given the rapidly deteriorating situation in this country. In past few months Pakistan has seen a surge in terrorist attacks in which more and more people are killed. A case in point was the massacre of more than 140 school children in Peshawar on 16th December in Army Public School, which sent a shock wave throughout whole country. Using this as a pretext, the state has increased security measures that make the lives of ordinary citizens even more intolerable than before. Innocent people are ruthlessly searched, their identities cards and other documents checked at various points in cities and towns, while the terrorists and their sympathisers roam about freely.
These difficult circumstances, combined with price rises, growing unemployment, power failures and many other problems, meant that the organisation of this year’s congress was an extremely daunting task. Many delegates faced arrest under the pretext of searches and the heightened security measures, which also meant that boarding and lodging arrangements were rendered extremely difficult. Yet despite all the difficulties comrades from all parts of country, from every corner of Pakistan managed to make their way to this vital congress.
Fortunately the threatened torrential rain that had been predicted failed to materialise as the 34th Congress had got underway. The pre-congress period has been a hive of preparation and organisation. Discussion documents for each session were written, printed and distributed. These included World Economic Perspectives, Pakistani Perspectives, and a book on China by comrade Lal Khan. In fact all three were produced in a book format. As everyone waited in anticipation for the start, the hall spontaneously erupted into cries of “Inqilab! Inquilab! Socialist Inqilab!” (“Revolution! Revolution! Socialist Revolution!”).
The air was punctuated with revolutionary slogans as the Congress was opened by Comrade Anam Patafi, who is leading the revolutionary women work in Pakistan. A number of activities were held on 8th March, international women’s day, one week before the Congress in many cities across Pakistan by PTUDC and Progressive Youth Alliance. Many women who participated these public meeting also attended the Congress as observers. Comrade Anam welcomed the delegates from across the country and announced the agenda for the congress.
The first thing she did was to call upon comrade Lal Khan to introduce the international visitors one at a time to thunderous applause. He introduced comrade Paul from Belgium, comrades Olivia and Florian from Swizerland, Adees from South Africa, and Yusuf Tarigami, a Communist MP from India.
As Alan Woods was able to attend this year’s congress, he sent a special video greeting to the congress which were meet with enthusiastic applause. A recorded message was also received from John Peterson the secretary of the American Workers International League. The first to open the session on World Perspectives was Rob Sewell from the International Secretariat of the IMT and editor of the Socialist Appeal in Britain. Given the vast scope of the subject and the time, he was forced to concentrate his remarks on a few important aspects, mainly dealing with world economy and the crisis in Europe.
“We have entered the most disturbed period in history. Above all, the capitalist system has reached its limits and is in terminal decline”, explained Rob Sewell.
He explained that the crisis of 2008 introduced a qualitative change in the situation. “We witnessed the biggest crisis of capitalism since the 1930s and possibly in its history”, he stated. This had come to a shock to the bourgeoisie who had ruled out any such possibility. It was, he said, not a “financial crisis”, as the strategists of capital maintain, but an economic crisis of overproduction, as Marx had explained. Today, the crisis reflected a complete impasse of capitalism, namely an organic crisis.
Rob went on to explain that to save the system, the bourgeoisie were forced to pump in trillions of dollars, like a terminally ill patient on morphine, to prop up the banks and capitalism generally. This resulted in colossal state debts. It forced the capitalists to embark on austerity everywhere to force the working class to pay for the crisis. The capitalist system could no longer afford reforms as in the past. Counter-reforms were on the order of the day.
Rob explained that capitalism had entered a road of permanent crisis and continuous attacks on the working class. He quoted Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury Secretary to Clinton, who warned that capitalism faced “secular stagnation”, and a possible new depression. Some already believed we were in a depression. This so-called recovery is the weakest on record. The United States is spluttering along at between 1 and 2 percent growth. This year its projected growth has been downgraded to 1.5% growth, a snail’s pace, after falls in retail sales.
In the 1930’s the USA grew after the slump by 9%, far faster than today. The US figures for unemployment had fallen, but the workforce had also fallen. People had given up looking for work. If the US had the same size workforce as before 2008, the unemployment rate would be 10% now. The huge amounts of Quantitative Easing has done nothing to solve matters.
Rob also pointed to the collapse of growth in the so-called BRICS economies. These were to be an engine of growth but have turned into slow growth areas, starting with China, which has slowed to a 24-year low. Massive overproduction and dangers of a property crash have added to its woes. Growth could shrink to nearly 6% in the next year. Japan is once again in recession.
The epicentre of the capitalist crisis is Europe, he said. “European capitalism has been in and out of recession for the last 5 years, with no signs of recovery”, he said. Spain, Portugal, Italy and France are in the doldrums. Germany is slowing down, especially after the sanctions imposed on Russia. Greece, however, was the centre of the European crisis, Rob explained. The economy’s GDP had fallen by almost 25% in five years and was already had two bailouts and needed a third. Greek capitalism was bankrupt. This draconian austerity imposed on the Greek working class had plunged large sections into misery. Suicides were a record levels. But these conditions were having a profound impact on consciousness.
There was a widespread questioning of capitalism. There was a hatred of the bankers and bourgeois politicians. There was a yearning for fundamental change. But the working class was being held back by its organisations. The PASOK had betrayed the workers and had paid the price by its destruction on the electoral front. The masses looked for an alternative and found it in SYRIZA, based on a programme of anti-austerity and reforms. From 4% support it climbed to 16 and then 20 and 35 percent, until it was swept to power in the recent elections.
The Greek people were disgusted by austerity imposed by the Troika of IMF, EU and ECB. Pressure was on SYRIZA to break with the past. But the German and European capitalists wanted Greece to pay. With economic conditions deteriorating, SYRIZA accepted a deal to continue with the memorandum under a new name. This has resulted in big opposition in the party. If SYRIZA remained true to the programme it was elected on it should proceed to implement the reforms demanded by the Greek people. But to do this it needs to defy the Troika and take over the banks and basic industries and take economic power out of the hands of the capitalists and place in the hands of working people. A class appeal should be made to the workers to follow suit and unite together in a Europe for workers, a socialist Europe, where the economy can be planned in the interests of the majority.
Rob said that Greece was not unique. The old parties were becoming increasingly discredited and new parties were emerging to their left. This was graphically illustrated by Spain and the rise of PODEMOS. The old Socialist Party had been increasingly discredited and the United Left was not radical enough. This has resulted in the growth of PODEMOS to 300,000 members. A new situation is opening in Spain as a consequence. Other countries will follow this development in the future.
Events will not take a straight line, however. The Spanish Revolution of 1931-37 took place over several years. This pattern will be repeated again, where the mass organisations will transformed and retransformed.
Comrades intervened in the discussion which followed. Of particular interest was the intervention of comrade Yusuf Tarigami, who had recently been re-elected as a Communist MP in Indian Kashmir against massive opposition. During his election campaign he was issued with a fatwa by the local mullahs. He explained the polarised situation that had developed, but was confident of the future. He ended by saying that whatever steps The Struggle comrades took in Pakistan, he and the Indian Marxists would give their support. Such remarks were met with tremendous applause.
Comrade Olivia from Switzerland gave a report of the work in her section which was enthusiastically received by delegates. After the discussions with a number of questions, comrade Sewell answered the questions and summed up. He once again stressed the key point that there was no way out on the road of capitalism. The objective situation was transforming the consciousness of the working class everywhere. The opportunities for Marxism had never been more favourable. One victory in any country, including Pakistan, would transform the world situation. “Our time has come”, he said to massive applause and cheering. “Forward to the victory of the world socialist revolution!” This was met by a spontaneous outpouring of emotion on the part of a multitude of comrades who expressed their enthusiasm for the ideas and perspectives of the IMT.
Perspectives for Pakistan
Over an excellent lunch of a spinach and chicken curry, with salad and tea, the delegates commented favourably on the morning’s discussion. Following these informal discussions, the Congress proper resumed its deliberations in the afternoon with a session on Pakistan Perspectives, which was introduced by comrade Adam Pal. Adam made a fervent speech about the appalling situation facing the working class in Pakistan.
He went on to explain that the Pakistani state was brought into being after a bloody separation and has become a failed state. Look at every area of the state and it is in crisis. Petrol shortages had reached a new peak few months ago, resulting in chaos. No measures can solve the problems or create a revival of the economy, as prices are continually rising, together with the basics such as gas and electricity.
Adam explained that the state stands on the shoulders of the black economy, a cancerous tumour that is bigger than the ordinary economy. The ruling class is rotten through and through. While future generations are mortgaged to imperialism and capitalism, the bourgeoisie have billions in offshore banks and want a high value rupee to increase their wealth.
“There is a crisis of the state, which is based on corruption. There are open splits and conflicts within the state. They are fighting over contracts, kickbacks, and money, while blood is being spilled on the streets. They say they are fighting Taliban, but they are financing them. The terrorists can’t exist without state support”, he said.
Adam stated that in the present moment there was no other force working for socialism in Pakistan except ourselves. Before we intervened in anti-privatisation struggles, but now we have to organise them. The IMT is the only serious tendency in the working class in Pakistan, Adam declared.
There followed a lively discussion with comrades coming in to outline the experiences in their areas. A young female comrade from Multan spoke about the movement of women workers in Pakistan. She attacked the bourgeois feminists and explained that only socialism can solve our problems and provide the material basis for the emancipation of women. Women can never be free as long as the dictatorship of private property continues to exist.
Other comrades spoke about the situation in Kashmir and in Baluchistan. Comrade Nihal Khan from Baluchistan spoke on the national question. He explained that the ruling class was not able to create a viable nation state and had presided over huge national problems. The Baluchistan people have always resisted the efforts to subject them. Many have been killed in this armed struggle. But they have drawn lessons that the way forward was not guerrilla struggle that has separated them from the masses. At the same time they rejected the parliamentary way of the bourgeois nationalists. Only Marxism offers a real alternative, he said. The national question can only be solved by linking it with the class question and the socialist revolution.
The session was summed up by comrade Lal Khan, who explained that the congress was not a national congress but an international one. The economy had fallen further into crisis as the black economy had grown from 60% to 78%. Corruption had become the norm, as the wealthy build prestige buildings while the poor go hungry. People give alms to the poor, but those who give such miserable handouts are millionaires who do not pay tax. They are the real criminals. They justify the black economy and use religion in the same way. He exposed the links between the state and the Taliban terrorists.
Lal Khan quoted a survey by the Pew institute which recently looked at 33 countries and the percentage of people participating in politics. This revealed that only 12% are interested in politics in Pakistan, and these were mainly from the middle class. There was a complete alienation amongst working people. The PPP is almost dead as a political party. Our task is not to revive it, but work to build up the forces of Marxism. Only the IMT can build a mass party of the working class offering a revolutionary programme. At his conclusion, the congress erupted into applause and revolutionary songs.
Workers and youth
This was then followed by three commissions, one on trade unions, another on women and a third in youth work. Trade union leaders and workers from various industrial sectors participated in this Congress in impressive numbers. A large delegation of 72 workers from the railways was an outstanding feature of this event. These workers came from different cities and work in different departments of the rail system. They belonged to different left-wing unions on the railways. Many of them are members of IMT and some were sympathisers. The railway workers have a long tradition of struggle in the sub-continent, so the participation of railway workers in this year congress is a big achievement and will send a message of struggle to all railway workers across the country,
Workers from Pakistan International Airlines, Pakistan Steel, WAPDA were also present from different cities. These departments are now under threat of privatisation. A large number of young doctors, nurses, hospital workers also participated in the congress this year. An important feature of the Congress this year was the publication of first issue of the PTUDC bulletin “Mazdoor Nama” (Workers News). This will contain news of workers struggles and in various industrial sectors and the activities of trade unions. Comrades of the PTUDC announced that they will publish it on a monthly basis and the first issue was widely appreciated by the participants of the Congress.
Another important feature is the publication of “Azam”, the organ of JKNSF (the Kashmiri students’ organization) before the Congress. A large delegation from Pakistani-occupied Kashmir is participating in the Congress. Comrade Yousaf Tarigami from Indian-held Kashmir also came, despite threats and difficulties in regard to his visa. The Kashmir dispute between nuclear-armed neighbours has been the cause of many wars in the region.
Both India and Pakistan encourage religious hatred and national oppression on both sides of Kashmir. A coalition government of the right wing BJP and the nationalist PDP in Indian held Kashmir has recently been formed. With this in mind, the participation in the Congress of comrade Tarigami, who has recently won the state elections against these forces, along with a numerous delegation of young Kashmiri students from the JKNSF, is big step forward in uniting the struggles of Marxism on both sides of the Line of Control. In addition, student activists from the Baloch Students Organization, Pashtun Students, Gilgit Baltistan students and other progressive student organisations also participated in the Congress. Students of many leading universities, medical, law, agriculture and engineering colleges were also present.
Analysing the “Chinese model”
There was a brilliant mood on the second day of the congress. Despite two big bomb blasts in Lahore on the same day, the comrades attending the congress of The Struggle refused to be intimidated. They continued in the usual defiant tradition of revolutionary songs and poetry, with comrades clapping in rhythm and breaking into stormy applause and cries of “Revolution! Revolution! Socialist Revolution!”
Everything was professionally organised down to every last detail, including security, which allowed the congress to run smoothly. The delegates and visitors from all over Pakistan, from the mountains of Baluchistan and the deserts of Sindhi, workers, students and peasants waited in anticipation for the first session on China. Comrade Gufran, who chaired the session, introduced comrade Lal Khan, who was given a very warm and prolonged welcome by everyone present.
Comrade Lal Khan outlined the enormous significance of the Chinese Revolution of1944-1949, as the second greatest event in history, after only that of the Russian Revolution of 1917. Since that time, China has accomplished much, but under Deng it began to evolve towards capitalism. He said we need to study developments in China, as it is being discussed in all quarters, in order for us to understand.
There is much talk about the “Chinese model”, which has been used against socialism. It has been used to promote counter-revolution in Cuba and Venezuela. This “model” must be answered, stated comrade Lal a Khan.
There are more billionaires in the Chinese parliament than in the Republican Party of the United States. In this parliament, the Chinese premier recently announced that the years of growth are over. Slow growth is now the new normal. It was a warning to bosses and bureaucrats not to obstruct “reforms”.
Comrade Lal Khan briefly outlined the main events in 20th century China, beginning with the birth of the Chinese Communist Party. The revolution and counterrevolution of the following years set the scene. Out of the defeat was prepared the Long March of Mao, a peasant war of social liberation. Its victory in 1949 led to the overthrow of capitalism and landlordism, despite the initial perspectives of Mao of 100 years of capitalism. But the revolution was not led by a Bolshevik Party and was deformed from the beginning. There was no workers’ democracy, but the rule of the bureaucracy. Marxists welcomed this revolution, but understood it would require a second political revolution to guarantee the genuine rule of the working class.
The difficulties that affected China in the 1970s, especially after the death of Mao, led to a shift towards counterrevolution under Deng. Gradually, capitalist methods were introduced to simulate the economy. The country was opened up to foreign capital which was given special economic zones to operate in. They poured in investments to reap massive profits.
The bureaucracy guided the pmovement towards capitalism, controlling the process in their interests. The bureaucratic caste was introducing capitalism, something Trotsky also foresaw as a possibility for the Soviet Union.
With the growth of the economy has come also the growth of the working class, which suffers terrible exploitation. When this class, this sleeping giant moves, the whole world will shake. Strikes have been on the rise for some time, an indication that revolution is being prepared.
A lively and wide-ranging discussion followed about the nature of current events, the comparison between China and the USA, the strikes in China and other issues. The contributions from the floor reflected the high political level of our comrades and the enormous interest in this subject.
Comrade Adam Pal then delivered an excellent reply to the discussion. Not unsurprisingly, he was briefly interrupted by a power cut, several of which affected the proceedings; but this was productively used, as on all occasions, by the young comrades to shout revolutionary slogans in the dark, until power was restored and Adam was able to complete his reply.
Organisating the revolutionary struggle
This was followed by comrade Yassar, the new chairman, who introduced comrade Paras to deliver an impressive organisational report. He first paid tribute to the quality of the comrades in our tendency. Our enemies are numerous: the state forces, the fundamentalists, the fascists, but we were not afraid. “We face very difficult conditions in society. It is an uphill struggle for us to build the revolutionary party. Consciousness always lags behind the objective situation. But the revolution is inevitable, which we will seek to lead.”
The organisation has great strengths, but we also have weaknesses, he said. We need to break the psychological barriers to the building of the organisation. We have branches, area committees and regional committees which we need to build up. We must raise our sights, he said, and intervene more effectively. He stressed the importance of the branch, where every comrade must be involved, where we are educated and where our work is planned.
“We need a greater apparatus and more offices in every area. Our trade union work has centred on the PTUDC, which now has a regular publication. We have intervened in every dispute in the country. We work in different nationalist student organisations. Our work amongst women has developed, but we cannot be satisfied. We must push ahead with this which must be extended among the female students, nurses, cooks and many other workers. Revolutionary women will attract other women.”
It was highlighted that our comrades were recently expelled from the nationalist student organisation in Baluchistan, but they are fighting back and are making gains. We stand for the building of a revolutionary Communist party. “Come forward and fight!” We cannot hesitate, we must go forward. “They say there are two paths: socialism or barbarism”, said comrade Paras. “I say there is only one path: socialist revolution! Forward!” This provoked stormy applause with delegates rising to their feet.
Comrade Anwar Panhwal intervened from Sindh who reported on their work in organising agricultural workers and peasants. He told the congress that sometimes we get tired but we get renewed strength from being members of the International.
After the dinner break, the organisation session was followed by the presentation of the new Central Committee list of 49 comrades. Then followed reports given to the Congress arising from the commissions on women, trade union, and youth work. It was reported by comrade Anam that we need to improve the women’s work by writing for the paper on women’s issues, which is not only the job of women but of all comrades. Working women are doubly oppressed and need to be approached with special measures. There was a need to conduct a struggle culturally on this question within society and also to educate our own comrades.
Comrade Nazar reported on the trade unions. He dealt with the progress of the PTUDC and its activities. The launching of a trade union paper was also a big step forward, with plans to develop it from a monthly to a weekly and then eventually a daily. We have held rallies and meetings in protest against the government’s privatisation programme. The minimum wage is being avoided on a big scale, and we will expose this scandal. Comrade Imran then reported on the youth and the strategy needed to develop this work. There was a plan for a national youth rally and extensive public work.
A singer comrade then sung an anthem written for one of our dead comrades, a great tribute from all the comrades present.
This was followed by voting on amendments and the documents. The CC slate was then voted on and the list unanimously agreed and the membership was reported to be more than two and a half thousand.
Comrade Florian from the Swiss section of the IMT gave the International report, beginning with the progress being made in Canada and North America and moving down to the IMT sections in Central and Latin America. He turned to the progress elsewhere, especially in the European sections. The crisis had opened a new opportunity for the building of the IMT everywhere. The report was met with regular applause and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, very few Pakistani comrades will ever have the opportunity to visit other sections, therefore the report was of special interest.
Comrade Rob Sewell provided the closing remarks of the congress. “I have never seen such enthusiasm and commitment”, he said. “This congress represents a milestone in our development. One can even say a new beginning.”
He said that this year was the 75th anniversary of the death of our great teacher and martyr, Leon Trotsky. While you can kill an individual, you can never kill an idea whose time has come, he said. “Our time has come!”, said Rob Sewell. “Our victory will come!”
The congress ended with cheers, the waving of red flags, cries of “Revolution!”, clenched fists and the singing of the Internationale. It was a fitting end to a marvellous congress, a new stage in the development of Marxism in the South Asian subcontinent. The comrades then poured out of the hall to participate in a demonstration and continue the struggle.