PAKISTAN CONFERENCE OF ‘REVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLE’ THE LEFT-WING MOVEMENT IN THE PAKISTAN PEOPLES PARTY (PPP) Held: March 25 & 26 2011 in Rawalpindi
Our Congress took place in the biggest hall in Rawalpindi, the Liaquat auditorium. This is located exactly at the place where Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s ex-prime minister and chairperson of the Peoples Party, was assassinated. 700 Comrades registered for both days.
The comrades came from all over the country, from Karachi to Kashmir, Pakhtoonkhwa to Baluchistan and from the Gilgit and Baltistan. The workers who participated in the conference came from all walks of life including the Steel Mills, Port Qasim, Pakistan International Airlines, Paramedical, Railways, Civil Aviation Authority, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, Capital Development Authority, Banking and various other private sector areas. Also represented at the Conference were youth, students and lawyers organizations: Peoples Students’ Federation, the Pakhtoonkhwa Students’ Federation, JKNSF, JKPSF, the Peoples Lawyers’ Forum and the Peoples Youth Organization.
The Conference began with the singing of a revolutionary song followed by poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Habib Jalib. Then Irshad from the Electricity Union started the political section. Manzoor Ahmad ex-member of the National Assembly and leader of the PPP’s Labour Bureau commenced the discussion. He thanked all comrades who came from far flung areas to attend congress.
He reminded the Conference that while the ‘Revolutionary Struggle’ tendency had started out as an international tendency in concept, it had no links internationally. However, it is already making such links through TANIT (Towards A New International Tendency) as the Conference can see from the banner above the stage. In particular, he welcomed two representatives from TANIT to the Congress, Heiko Khoo and Pat Byrne.
Kabir from the Telecommunications Union read out the messages of revolutionary greetings to the Congress that had been received. These were from Melanie MacDonald from Canada, Wojtek Figel from Poland, Alex from Germany, Nadim from Tunisia (living in Britain), and Jonathan from Sweden.
World Economic and political perspective and character of the present Epoch
After the Opening Ceremonies Manzoor introduced the main speaker for this session, Pat Byrne. Pat is of Irish background born and brought up in Britain, but now living in Turkey. He came from a Labour family and had joined the Militant in 1972. He had been mainly active in the Labour Party and his union. And had participated in the IMT after the split in the CWI. He was an active member of TANIT’s international coordinating committee. After that the first session on World Economic and political perspective and character of the present Epoch started formally.
He gave a historical background of the role of the US after the Second World War which had given capitalism such stability. He explained the rise of neo-liberalism and detailed the rise of globalisation and how it was undermining the strength of the advanced countries. He outlined some of the causes of the Great Recession of 2008.
He returned to the question of the Arab Revolution, explaining that it was a political revolution not a social revolution. That the democratic aspirations of the people could not be delivered by capitalist ‘representative democracy’ which he proceeded to critique in detail. He contrasted this with what a real democracy would look like under the genuine control of the majority. That the Arab masses would soon be disappointed with the results of their revolution. A vacuum that we should seek to fill.
He finished by talking about the role of modern communication technologies in the Arab uprisings and their potential for future struggles. That just as the invention of printing helping the bourgeois come to power, the invention of the internet could do the same for the socialist movement, bringing the old slogan ‘Workers of the World Unite’ to reality.
In response to a question about Libya, Heiko spoke and gave some background to the Gaddafi regime. How it had nationalised the oil and gas in Libya and abolished capitalism. This had led to a rise in living standards and welfare services. But the regime was ruling through a bureaucracy and police repression. How the Gaddafi family had looted the resources of the country for themselves. Therefore, we could not support the regime. Nor could we support the Coalition powers in their military intervention. The Western powers hypocritically supported democracy purely for their own gain. We had to base our position on what was in the interests of working people in Libya.
Subjects he covered included:
What about the Banks? Law unto them – bonuses continue etc.
What has happened in Ireland? Elections, Labour Party, ULA 200 billion Euros debt in a country with only 5 million people.
Why is Left not organising the Arab uprisings?
Will imperialism succeed in Arab countries?
Control of Internet? How to overcome hurdles on internet by dictators?
What will be the benefit of social revolution/socialism?
What are differences between GB Shaw and Marx – with regards to democracy?
The role of leadership? – We are not anarchists
What is the definition of the working class?
What are the roots of terrorism?
What will be the future of capitalists after the revolution? Nowhere to hide – offshore banking.
We do not advocate violence nor are we pacifists. We will defend ourselves and the people against attack.
Muslim versus socialist versions of revolution? Role of religion in politics. Islam was not the motor force of the Arab revolutions. It was a secular movement. In Bahrain it has clearly become mixed up with the movement.
Why do we need a new international rather than the old one?
What about Democratic centralism?
Which conference should we follow – IMT or this one? We should not ‘follow’ either – we want cadres not followers. Study the differences yourself and make up your own minds.
Pakistan Economic and Political Perspective
After an hour’s break, the Conference’s second session on the subject of Pakistan Perspectives was opened by comrade Manzoor.He said that we are not going to abuse anybody. We are going to make a solid analysis so that people can understand what is happening in Pakistan. We don’t want this analysis to be restricted to just the leadership but involve all of you. The state and the system in Pakistan cannot solve its problems. The failure of the Communist Party to make the revolution in the old Hindustan state laid the basis for the problems we have today. Great Britain blamed the failure of the Hindustan state on the problems between the Hindus and the Muslims.
Contributions in the discussion:
By a trade union comrade
We should exchange our ideas with people not here. Only socialist revolution can solve the people’s problem. The PPP must return to its original constitution and slogan: ‘Socialism is our Motto’
By a student
Students are all now talking about revolution. But they don’t know which kind of revolution. The only revolution that can work is a socialist revolution and we are the wing that stands for this.
From a comrade from Karachi
we need more attention towards cadre-building to prepare for revolution. There have been too many movements in the past but they have not been following the correct aim. The workers of the world must be united.
From Sindh comrade and CC member
The PPP have been leaving their traditions and leaving a space where youth are joining other organisations some of them using terrorist methods. This is very dangerous.
President of People’s Student Federation in Punjab
The state is divided and has no direction. Only conflicts are arising and the youth and the ordinary people are victims of this. This system is moving towards destruction by its own hand. Either it will end in anarchy or revolution. There are only two alternatives. The PPP is divided into two main factions – the capitalist wing and the working class wing. The capitalist wing is constantly on the offensive against the working class wing.
Female Media Worker
The media is owned by a few rich people. The people’s views are not represented. Why cannot our views be expressed through the state media?
Railway worker – Chairman of one of the large Railway unions
between 1967-69 the revolution was not completed but diverted into reforms. Everyone is now talking about revolution but what do they mean by this? The media have achieved independence but are following the tune of the multinationals to create a mindset to help oppress the workers further. This media is actually helping the fundamentalists. We the revolutionaries should have our own media, our own stations. We need our own television and radio stations, our newspapers and websites. Our more educated comrades who have more time should spend time on this. I am a working man with no time to read websites and books. This dark night must go away. We are waiting for the red dawn. We are doing our work among the workers. We need the youth to help us. Speeches are fine at conferences but we need revolutionary action.
Student comrade from Kashmir
The Pakistan state is cutting back so much on education. Many institutions are being privatised. Soon it will only be rich children who can afford a good education. The solution is not to take up the gun but books and pens in our hand. Some people say that the PPP cannot make a revolution. That we should break away and form another Party. But the majority of workers look towards the PPP. Of course we can form a pure party with just a few comrades in it. We see so many other small left groups do this. We prefer to remain where the workers are. The working class will make the revolution.
We are not intellectuals. We are active in the broad popular organisations. We can use Marxism to guide us in the struggle.
Manzoor’s summing up
I have received so many questions. There is no time to answer them all but it shows that the comrades are taking great interest in this congress. The collisions between the different factions of the state can provide chances for us – the collision between liberalism and fundamentalism. Neither offer a way out. The murder of the politicians fighting the Blasphemy Law was answered by lighting candles. But this achieved nothing. We needed a mass reaction. If fundamentalism comes into force it will not discriminate between liberals, socialists or moderate Muslims. It will crush all trends and move forward over their bones. Only revolution and the working class can defeat fundamentalism. The ruling class cannot understand how to get rid of these crises.
Talibanisation is taking place in Punjab. Factions of the army support the Taliban. They regard it as a strategic asset. The army and police are more scared than the public. The PPP cannot rule because every day they are under blackmail from other parties or sections of the state machine. They have no space to solve the economic crisis or create jobs. We support the national aspirations of the Kashmiri people as we do of all the nationalities in Pakistan. But the conflict between Pakistan and India over Kashmir is fundamentally about access to water.
Only stressing lines of national independence will not solve the people’s problems. We need jobs, health, and education for the working class. Only if the workers of the different nationalities unite can we go forward. Unless we get rid of this ruling class we cannot achieve any real independence for the nationalities. We must unite as working class irrespective of race, religion, nationality and so on because we all suffer common problems. We must not become divided along these lines in our own movement. Privatisation is not the main threat in such an unstable situation. If somebody tries to privatise any institution we will become a wall against them. Privatisation has failed everywhere in the world. If we lose our offices inside the PPP in the fight against privatisation we will. The media is changing. You can’t block the spread of information any more. Information is spreading in seconds.
This session began with various performances of music, dance and poetry
The Chinese Economic Miracle– Triumph for Capitalism or the Planned Economy?
The Third Session on CHINA was led off by Heiko.Heiko outlined the birth of the Chinese Communist Party and took us through its struggle in the 1920s up until the revolution of 1949. He then detailed the experience of the Soviet Union after the revolution and the various economic debates that took the country through War Communism, the New Economic Policy, the Left Opposition’s alternative and Stalin’s policy on collectivisation. He then talked about the mistakes of Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the significance of the Cultural Revolution. He then explained that the reasons for the current economic miracle were the combination of planning, public ownership of the largest enterprises and the control of banking and credit. How central planning and investment meant that China did not significantly suffer from the slump in the capitalist world in 2008-9.
He gave examples about the strength of the Communist Party, the rapid growth of the trade union movement now at 240 million, the struggles of the workers and the response of the state. China was a state in transition, neither socialist nor capitalist. There were tremendous contradictions. A state based on dictatorship of the proletariat with a constitution and laws that declare full workers’ rights but where bureaucrats and private bosses trying to deny these rights.
He argued that the best way to proceed in China is to seek to help those communists and trade unionists who are seeking to turn the fine words of the constitution into practice.
A comrade from Karachi
We see a great disappointment after Soviet Union’s disintegration and observed a massive decline in the labour movement especially in left politics. But after hearing Heiko’s speech about China there is a ray of hope which can play a positive role to stimulate our youth and working class. Of course, at present China is seen as an economic success story which includes a tendency towards Marxist ideas. We need to spread these ideas worldwide among working class.
Pat intervened with an explanation of some of Jonathan’s analysis as expressed in his document which had been translated into Urdu and circulated to al the comrades. How the ideas expressed in the Soviet Union in the 1920s concerning the need to make the state companies more effective than their capitalist competitors were being implemented in China. How the Command Economy of the Soviet Union could never work, with a central bureaucracy trying to ignore the realities of the market and decide on prices for every commodity and centrally plan everything. The fall of the Soviet Union had led to a disastrous fall in production and terrible hardship for the population.
The Chinese Communist Party leadership saw this and decided to take a different road combining state control and planning with market disciplines. Step by step they embraced the market and are beating the capitalists at their own game. Pat added some examples of his own. How the Chinese state companies are wining because they have virtually unlimited credit behind them, long-term planning and a willingness to take risks and massively invest in technologies etc. In one sector after another they are succeeding in building up their industries.
Irshad from the Electrical Workers Union launched a Financial Appeal by explaining that we have been operating for three years without any full-timers. However we urgently need a full-timer to develop our website.
Then followed a stream of comrades with individual financial contributions and pledges from their areas.
The Fourth Session of the Conference was on organization. It was led off by Comrade Kabir from the Telecomm Union. He pointed out that the uprisings around the world lacked revolutionary leadership. If a socialist revolution was to take place in any one country, the modern methods of communications could allow it to quickly spread across the world. The tragedy is that all the left groups and parties across the world are unable the gain leadership of the masses. The reasons there are so many splits within the left movement is that whenever differences arise they are incapable of discussing them in a mature way – they dismiss any opposition. This is their main problem.
Internally they suffer from leaderships with an Ego problem who are determined to hold onto their positions against any criticism or challenge. The left groups are producing followers not cadres.
In our group, Revolutionary Struggle, we do not want to create a central command structure – we need a system where every comrade can participate. Not implementation of orders but democratic decision-making.
Modern methods of communication are bringing together all humans. The old left Leaderships were trying to keep information centralised in order to keep power in their hands rather than share it with the membership. But modern technology makes this impossible.
Our organisation is only 3 years old. We were thrown out of the IMT. They used abusive language and accused us of working for our own private interests and selling out to the PPP leadership. Now people can see that we are none of this.
The IMT group in Pakistan gives the impression of being a large organisation but in fact it is run by full-timers with very little beneath it. Their branch structure is extremely weak. We must not repeat these mistakes. We must have strong democratic branches.
We have weaknesses. In some regions our work depends too much on key individuals. We need to change this and build a collective organisation in those areas. We don’t need gurus. We need to democratise our paper. All comrades must develop the skills of writing to contribute to it.
Finance – what we have achieved so far has been made in very difficult circumstances because we did not have enough finances. In all regions we need to build a necessary infrastructure to promote our ideas.
Capitalism has lost its progressive role. It now needs to intensify exploitation to overcome its current crisis.
The uprising in the Middle East can be spread to other regions. If it comes to Pakistan we have to ask ourselves: are we ready to lead and direct it in a true direction?
Central Committee Election
A new more democratic system was introduced for the election of the CC. Instead of it being nominated from the leadership as it was in the past, nominations were made from each region. Comrade Manzoor read out these nominations and said a few words about each nominee.
Introduction to TANIT
The Conference’s Fifth Session was an Introduction to TANIT . Pat explained that TANIT came out of a split in the International Marxist Tendency. However, he did not wish to dwell on the IMT which would be the typical behaviour of other groups who tended to focus on such internecine struggles.
TANIT began on the 1st of April last year with the launch of a simple email list. Since then we have held conferences in Belgium, Germany and Greece. The idea of such frequent local conferences was to allow the rank and file comrades in those countries to participate. This was a break from the past practice of international conferences being held only once a year or every two years and being only open to the leading comrades in each section. Next month we shall be meeting in Sweden.
We have decided to begin by focusing on four main topics: Nature of the Epoch, Transition to Socialism, Attitude towards the broad organisations of working people, and Organisational culture.
We have launched an online Discussion Forum which gives a chance for every comrade to participate in debate, put forward proposals, or amendments to others etc. We will hold a Conference in August in Poland to agree positions on these documents. After the August Conference we will create a website to promote these ideas including audio-visual presentations to better explain our positions.
In these very early days we have participants in about 20 countries. In the main these comrades are in small groups or are individuals. We also have contacts in many other countries. But we have not been recruiting. First we must work out our ideas. Once this has been done sufficiently we will be reaching out to new people and groups.
TANIT is not trying to create some proto-international. A real International can only consist of mass organisations made up of tens of millions of members. Also we are not sectarian against other mass left formations. Thus we will help activists in broad parties to the left of social democracy like the Left Party in Germany, the United Left in Spain, the Scottish Socialist Party and so on. Wherever, the workers are we should be there assisting them achieve a programme of democratic socialism and helping their organisations to unite with other workers mass organisations.
We don’t want to create an international group controlled from one centre. It is ridiculous to think that comrades in an office in London as with the IMT and CWI, can direct the work in countries like Pakistan. Rather we are building an international network – a genuine partnership of socialist left-wing organisations who can share ideas, inspire each other and organise solidarity across the world. We also want to leave behind the old model of narrow organisation where everyone has to agree on every dot and comma handed down to them from a few top leaders. And when you disagree are forced to leave or are expelled.
Pat finished with some personal observations about Revolutionary Struggle:
“This is the first time that I have ever seen a political group like yours dominated not by full-time political ‘experts’ but by the comrade’s active in the mass movement. This is how it should always have been in our movement. Last night I attended the Trade Union Commission. When I heard the demands from the comrades in all the areas for the setting up of the People’s Labour Federation and the great potential this federation has to unite the divided trade union movement and extend it across Pakistan, I saw most clearly how correct it has been for the comrades to continue the struggle in the PPP.
Then I listened to Manzoor’s great contribution. How can such a dedicated comrade who is giving all his time and energy to the struggle be accused of opportunism and careerism. Then I listened to Kabir’s brilliant summary of the various issues involved in organisation and the internal life of your movement. Comrades we have nothing to teach you and everything to learn from you.”
Organisational Session Summing Up (by Kabir)
We now have 1067 members. The Fighting Fund collection resulted in 167,000 Rupees.There was voting on three issues open to all members at the Conference:The political position on Pakistan as put forward by Manzoor .Pat’s report on behalf of TANIT.The CC slate as nominated and read out. All three votes were overwhelmingly in favour with 1-2 votes against on each item.
Comrade Mansoor summed up the Conference
The Conference concluded with the singing of the International, followed by the chanting of slogans: ‘Revolution, Revolution, Socialist Revolution’ and ‘Dark night go away, the red dawn will come’.