|A view of a section of the delegates|
|Overview of the congress hall|
|Women delegates of the congress|
|Indian delegation greeted by the congress|
|One minute silence in honour of comrade Ted Grant|
|Alan Woods addresses the congress|
Today the first day of the 26th national congress of The Struggle, the Marxist Tendency in Pakistan, was held in the magnificent Iqbal Hall in central Lahore. From 9 o'clock in the morning large numbers of comrades from all over Pakistan began to trickle into the huge auditorium, with its Islamic architecture and designs. This is the biggest hall in Lahore, with a total capacity of 2,000 seats. By the end of the day, there was hardly an empty seat to be seen.
Despite the fact that most students have their examinations at this time and that local elections are being held in South Punjab, an impressive 1,900 workers, trade unionists, students and peasants turned up from all over Pakistan to attend the congress, which has become an annual event eagerly looked forward to by activists from every region. The day before about a thousand comrades had taken the "red train" coming from the north. Half of those were from Kashmir and the others came from Peshawar and other parts of Pukhtoonkhwa (formally known as the North West Frontier), Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
The total number of attendants was another record and shows that the Pakistani Marxists are becoming a very serious force in the subcontinent. International delegates were present from Britain, Belgium, Australia, India and Afghanistan. As one speaker remarked: "We are members of an International in the first place and only then are we members of a Pakistani organisation." The presence of sixteen comrades from India was a great step forward, as in previous years the Indian delegates had frequently been prevented from attending by visa restrictions. They were greeted by a standing ovation by the delegates at the beginning of the conference.
Before opening the proceedings, comrade Lal Khan announced the sad news of the departure of comrade Ted Grant and paid a moving tribute to the man whose ideas had done so much to inspire the Pakistan Marxists. The congress delegates then rose to their feet for a minute silence in memory of the Grand Old Man of world Trotskyism.
Messages were sent from 44 countries and several were read out. A special welcome was given for the Israeli Marxists who have sent an open letter to the congress.
The first session was devoted to world perspectives, which was led off by comrade Alan Woods, who said: "This is a historical event for the whole subcontinent. The Struggle started from very small beginnings, and here we are in the biggest hall in Lahore. I think next year we will have to hold it in the National Assembly!" (laughter)
Alan proceeded to outline the general world situation, concentrating on the situation in Iraq and the Middle East and the threat of aggression against Iran. He pointed out that the imperialists now found themselves in an impossible position in Afghanistan, and that this was posing a serious threat to the stability of Pakistan. The Americans are putting extreme pressure on the government of Islamabad to participate in the war in Waziristan, where the Pakistan army has already suffered 800 dead. The losses of the civilian population are incalculable, which merely serves to increase anti-American feeling and insurgency.
Comrade Woods' lead-off was received by a standing ovation by the delegates. There followed a session of questions and answers. The first speaker was a comrade from India who reported on the class struggle in his country. He was followed by an Australian comrade who gave a detailed report of the situation in Australia and also the interventions of Australian imperialism in the pacific area (Fiji, Tonga, etc.). Comrade Maarten Vanheuverswyn from Belgium gave an interesting report on the situation in France and linked last year's movement with the more recent struggles in Europe in general.
In his reply, Alan dealt mainly with the question of Afghanistan and Iran. He warned that the developing chaos in Afghanistan could serve to destabilise Pakistan and create the conditions for barbarism and war, with catastrophic consequences for the whole subcontinent. "The choice before humanity is socialism or barbarism," Alan concluded. "We choose socialism, and on the basis of a united workers' movement, we will win!" (applause).
Work in the masses
|Document on organisation "Pakistan perspectives"|
|Congress cards for delegates, members and visitors|
|"Reaching the masses" "21st Century Socialism"|
Several documents were produced prior to the congress. The first one was on organisation, the second one was on "Reaching the masses", the third one on Pakistan perspectives ("Socialist Revolution and Pakistan - Perspectives 2007") and the final one on international perspectives, which was produced as a book called 21st Century Socialism.
Comrade Manzoor Ahmed spoke on the session on work in the mass organisations, during which he outlined the tactics and strategy of the Pakistani Marxists in the mass movement, in particular the trade unions and the PPP. It was made very clear that the ideas of Marxism could only succeed if they were firmly linked to the real movement of workers and peasants.
In the course of a very lively debate a number of very important activists spoke, including comrade Adil Khan, chairman of the JKNSF (Marxist), who made a very militant speech on the conditions of youth in Kashmir. Ghulam Abbas, one of the most important mass leaders in Pakistan was the next speaker. This veteran militant of the PPP made a very militant speech in which he emphasised the need to overthrow the bourgeois state as the prior condition for socialist revolution in Pakistan.
Ghullam Abbas was followed by comrade Ilyas Khan, former General Secretary of the youth of the PPP, who is now playing a leading role in the movement of the lawyers in Multan. Another speaker was comrade Nazer Gondal, a former governor of Central Punjab and PPP activist, who praised the work of The Struggle. Shaikh Majeed, the General Secretary of the People's Labour Bureau in Karachi, spoke about the workers' struggles and in particular the victory of the workers of Pakistan steel, achieved mainly by the work of the PTUDC and comrade Manzoor Ahmed.
The conference ended on a very enthusiastic note, as all the delegates reassembled for commissions on trade union work, youth work, and women's work. The congress continues its work tomorrow.