The second day of the 25th congress of The Struggle opened on Friday, March 24. Once again the huge Alhambra Hall was overflowing with enthusiastic delegates and visitors from every region of Pakistan.
Perspectives for Pakistan
The morning session opened with a speech on Pakistan perspectives by Lal Khan, the well-known leader of the Pakistan Marxists and editor of the Asian Marxist Review, whose books Partition – Can it be Undone? and Kashmir’s Ordeal are having a great impact not only in Pakistan but also in India.
Lal Khan began his speech with a blistering attack on the corrupt and reactionary ruling class of Pakistan. He explained the complete dependence of the bourgeoisie on the Pakistan state, which he characterised as “a criminal state” – in the most literal sense. “The production of opium has risen by 800%, and all these gangsters take a slice,” he said. This bourgeoisie is utterly rotten, parasitic and corrupt, and incapable of ever playing a progressive role. “The national-democratic revolution is impossible in Pakistan. Only the socialist revolution can show a way forward,” he concluded.
The speaker went on to expose the splits and divisions in the state itself. President Musharraf is in a perilous position, clashing with other elements in the state and army – the fundamentalists, the ISI etc. He is in a weak position, yet George Bush comes to Islamabad and humiliates him! Lenin explained that the first condition for revolution is a split in the ruling class. This is now the case in Pakistan.
Musharraf’s days are numbered. But the imperialists are plotting to replace the dictatorship with a coalition government of the PPP and the Muslim League. This will be a government of crisis, preparing the way for revolutionary developments like 1968-9. The difference is that this time there will be a powerful Marxist tendency ready to offer leadership.
When Bush met Musharraf, he called for “fair, free and honest elections”. But the Pakistan state can never guarantee fair and free elections. In 1970 there were fair and free elections because there was a revolution. Free elections were a by-product of revolution. Now the leaders of the PPP want to form a coalition with Nawaz Sharif and the reactionary Moslem League. This is a disastrous policy that will have disastrous results. What is needed is not class collaborationism but a policy based on revolutionary class struggle.
Lal Khan concluded with these words: “Comrades! We have come a long way in 25 years, when we were a tiny group of exiles in Amsterdam. It has been a very hard road, but today in this hall we can see the result. We are united and ready to face the battles that lie ahead.” The speech was greeted with a standing ovation.
A lively debate followed with some excellent interventions. Comrade Hameeda Ghangro, a woman comrade from Karachi gave a very moving speech in which she described her personal tragedy. Her husband Nazir Abbasi, one of the main leaders of the Communist Party of Pakistan in the seventies, was arrested by the police and murdered in prison. His body was already buried before she was informed of his death. With simple dignity, Hameeda, who works for Karachi Steel, pledged her adherence to The Struggle, which is playing a leading role in the battle against privatisation. She referred to the traditions of Bolshevism and the Russian Revolution and said: “I am not alone but a member of a revolutionary organisation. I have come to Lahore for the first time in 26 years. Now I have joined my life to The Struggle. I am with you.” (applause)
Shoaib Sham from Kashmir made a sharp attack on nationalism as a diversion and a splitting tactic of the bourgeoisie. He accused the bourgeois nationalists in Kashmir of diverting the workers from the class struggle: “Nationalism in Kashmir is not a political trend but a trade. They turn the youth into dead martyrs, and then fill their pockets with the loot,” he said. “Ever since the Partition in 1947, only the faces have changed but nothing else. The Kashmiri people are suffering, caught between the Indian and Pakistan armies. They have no clothes to cover their backs, but they are being constantly fought over by the ruling classes of both sides. But there is nothing to choose between them. Not wars, nor diplomatic maneuvers but only the revolutionary struggle of the people can solve the problem of Kashmir. The victory of the socialist revolution will end in the establishment of a Socialist Federation of the Subcontinent. That is the only solution.” (applause)
Ghulam Abbas, the well-known leader of the PPP Left delivered a ferocious attack on Musharaf and the dictatorship, denouncing the brutal military intervention in Balochistan and Wana, but he also sharply criticized the PPP leadership for abandoning socialist policies. “The socialist revolution is the only solution,” he concluded, to enthusiastic applause.
Among other comrades who spoke in this debate were Hameed Khan from Balochistan, Qamer Zaman from Southren Punjab, Zakir Hussain form Pakhtoonkhwaa, and Muhamad Khan Ahmedani from Sindh.
When it was the turn of Comrade Manzoor Ahmed to speak, the chairperson introduced him as a Member of the National Assembly. In his first remarks, Manzoor gently rebuked the chair: “I am just one more comrade in this hall, and it is a great honour for me to speak here,” he said, to applause. He continued:
“Comrades, I would just like to say a few words about perspectives. After one year we get a chance to meet under one roof and discuss what has happened and what is to be done. Pakistan is in crisis at all levels. This crisis expresses itself in different ways. There are conflicts at all levels. Bush and Musharraf held a joint press conference, in which they both attacked each other. Bush demanded “fair, free and honest elections” and Musharaf told him in so many words: I got this uniform by constitutional means and so anything I do will be constitutional! The meaning of this is quite clear: under Musharraf there will be no fair and free elections.”
He went on: “But the whole system is in crisis. Take the economy, which is still mainly based on agriculture. But cotton, wheat and sugar are now being imported and the annual trade deficit is around $3 billion dollars. Imports are increasing continually. They may try to solve this by devaluing the rupee, but that will lead to inflation and a further reduction in the living standards of the masses. Moreover, there is the threat of a world recession that will hit Pakistan hard. Under these circumstances, I do not see how Musharraf can survive. He could be removed at any time, whether by assassination or a coup. The question is: who will take his place?”
Manzoor pointed out that all the opposition parties are in crisis. The fundamentalist alliance (MMA) is split in reality. The ARD is an artificial alliance of the PPP and Muslim League to prevent the radicalisation of the PPP. The US is pressurising Musharraf to do the dirty work, waging war in Waziristan etc. But he cannot oblige them. He is coming up against stiff resistance in the army and state, and this is increasing the contradictions. The defence budget is enormous and devours a huge part of the national wealth. The people need food and are given rockets instead.
The conflict with India is not resolved despite the present truce. Indian arms expenditure has increased by 72 billion rupees. But in reality both sides are powerless. They cannot bring peace and nor can they wage war. But all the contradictions are increasing. The main thing is that out of the present crisis revolutionary developments can emerge. We must be prepared. The future will be decided by the forces inside this hall.” (enthusiastic applause)
The organisation report was given by Manzoor, who outlined the spectacular progress of the organisation in the last twelve months, despite a very difficult objective situation. On the trade union front, members of the Struggle and the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign (PTUDC) have played a leading role in a number of important strikes, such as the strike of the Pakistan Telecommunication workers, which was unfortunately sold out by the union leaders, and above all, the struggle of Pakistan Steel (Karachi) against privatisation. The next step is an all-Pakistan Labour Congress, which has been convened for 15-16 April. This can be a real turning point.
As in previous years there were an impressive number of trade union leaders present at the congress, all active in the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. Among those present were: Ali Mardan, president of Attock Oils Rawalpindi, Nazar Shah, president of Murree Brewery, Kabir Khan, Central Secretary information of PTCL, Islamabad, Irshad, divisional chairman of Wapda, Rawalpindi, Nusrat Ali Toor, President of All-Pakistan Clerical Association, Saeed Khan, central committee member of non-gazetted Association, Bagh, Riaz Lund from Pakistan Steel, Hameeda Ghangroo from Pakistan Steel, Zahoor Khokar from Pakistan Steel, Muntaz Khan, district member Azad Jammu and Kashmir Teachers’ Organisation, M.A Warsi from the Post Office workers, Haseeb Ahmed from Textile Mills, Hardil Kumar, President of the Shoe Makers’ Association, Nazar Mengal, president of NOPE and the People’s Labour Bureau, Ghulam Rasool, Assistant General Secretary of Merk Marker Balochistan, Sheraz, from the Teachers’ Association Balochistan, Saeed Kashmiri from the Education Department, Haleem Sajid from the Post Office workers, Kashmir, G. Sarwar Abbasi, Chairman of the Trade Union Ittehad District, Ghotki, Ali Akbar from PTCL, Qamer Zaman, Chairman Trade Union Ittehad, Rahimyarkhan, Nasreen Taj, Chairperson of Balochistan School Teachers Union (BSTU), Ali Mardan, Senior Vice President of BSTU, Ali Raza, from the Paramedical Association, Fazal, President of Security Guard Union, Dherki and Ch. M. Ashraf, President of Al- Sadaqat Union United Sugar Mills, Sadiqabad.
The growth of the organisation could be seen by the composition of the congress itself. There were comrades from every part of Punjab, from Multan and Lahore, Islamabad and Kassur; from Kashmir, Balochistan, Sindh, Karachi, Pakhtunkhwa (previously known as the North West Frontier), and even for the first time, Waziristan, the tribal area on the border of Afghanistan where for the last year a ferocious war has been raging.
The rapid growth of The Struggle in Pakhtunkhawa is an interesting phenomenon. Conditions here are particularly difficult and dangerous because the revolutionary Marxists face a deadly threat on the one hand from the forces of the state (80,000 soldiers of the Pakistan army, backed by the Americans, are engaged in a bloody conflict with the Taliban and their supporters), on the other hand from reactionary fanatics and the Taliban, who regularly issue death threats against working class militants and anyone who stands against their reactionary creed. One comrade from Waziristan had lost eight members of his family in the last twelve months.
Extremely difficult conditions also exist for the comrades in Balochistan. Here too a bloody war is being waged by government forces against the Baloch nationalists. The bloodshed has caused a sharp polarisation along national lines, aggravating the divisions between different national groups in Balochistan that existed before. In retaliation for the brutal bombing and shelling of their towns and villages, the Baloch nationalists resort to tactics such as planting bombs on buses and trains. For this reason the number of comrades attending the congress from Balochistan (where The Struggle retains a strong presence) was down on last year. Parents prevented their sons from traveling, fearing bomb attacks. Finance was also a major problem for comrades who are unemployed or working on starvation wages.
Unlike other political groups and NGOs who always pay the fares and expenses of those who go to their conferences, our delegates must pay all their own expenses and also pay a fee to attend the congress. The NGOs – liberally financed by the bourgeoisie and the European Social Democracy – exercise a corrupting influence on the labour movement in countries like Pakistan. Particularly after the fall of the USSR, they have successfully (with the aid of imperialism) bought off, demoralised and corrupted a large number of former “communists” who have gone over to the service of capitalism disguised as charity.
A new feature in the situation over the last twelve months is that a significant (and growing) number of old communists – those who have not sold their souls to the NGOs – have been joining The Struggle. This has been the case particularly in Pukhtunkhawa (NWFP), and largely explains the rapid growth there. Many communists were dispersed and isolated after the fall of the USSR. Though they still kept their communist faith, they lacked an organisation and a point of reference. Now they have found it in The Struggle.
A most important development in this respect was the work of comrade Jam Saqi, the former General Secretary of the Pakistan Communist Party. This well-known and respected veteran of the Pakistan Communist movement has publicly expressed his conviction that The Struggle is the only true representative of the communist revolutionary tradition in Pakistan today. Unfortunately he suffered a heart attack just as he was setting out on the long journey from his native Sindh to the Congress in Lahore.
The greatest successes have been scored in Kashmir. The terrible earthquake that would have shattered a weaker organisation served to strengthen The Struggle. The Kashmiri comrades reacted like genuine revolutionaries. They threw themselves into the work of rescue and relief, and received the wholehearted backing of comrades throughout Pakistan and internationally. The revolutionary caravans were a marvelous idea, combining practical relief work, sending lorry-loads of food, tents and medicine, and also comrades and sympathizers who are doctors, with revolutionary propaganda. Three relief camps were established by the PTUDC as a result and are continuing their revolutionary work.
As a result the organisation in Kashmir is growing rapidly and increasing its influence. At the present time the only tendencies doing this kind of mass work in Kashmir are ourselves and the fundamentalists (the latter are backed by the army). Comrade Manzoor Ahmed said: “Soon after the earthquake we went to Kashmir and called all the comrades together to give them encouragement and restore their morale. But in fact, it was they who gave encouragement and morale to us.”
The present membership is around 2,000, but this figure gives no true idea of the actual influence and number of supporters of The Struggle. The congress voted unanimously to set the target of doubling the membership by the next congress. This target was seen by everyone as extremely modest and even conservative. In Kashmir alone the comrades say they can get 1,000 members. In fact, they already have at least this number of sympathizers now. But the feeling of the leadership is that it is necessary to increase the number of cadres and strengthen the structures in order that growth will be solid and sustained and that there will be no dilution of the political level.
It was reported that the finances had improved in the last year with more subs coming in and a better bookkeeping and control from the centre. But sales of the Urdu paper were not as good as they could be, and this had to be attended to. The Sindhi paper must also come out regularly. The collection raised a very impressive 3500 pound sterling.
The following resolutions were passed unanimously by the Congress:
1. We, the 1500 workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals and youth, assembled in Lahore for the 25th Congress of the Struggle send fraternal greetings to the people of Cuba in grateful recognition of their selfless aid in sending Cuban doctors to help the victims of the earthquake in Kashmir.
We condemn the continued acts of aggression perpetrated by US imperialism against Cuba and Venezuela.
The continuing support of the US government and its agencies for the terrorist groups based in Miami and other parts of United States, which are plotting terrorist acts against Cuba and Venezuela, exposes the complete hypocrisy of the so-called War on Terror.
We demand the immediate release of the five Cuban citizens illegally detained and imprisoned for the “crime” of opposing such terrorist acts.
2. The 25th Congress of the Struggle wishes to express its profound gratitude to the workers of the world for their invaluable aid and assistance in the recent tragic events arising from the earthquake.
We particularly thank our class brothers and sisters in India who demonstrated their class solidarity, and extended a hand of friendship that cut across all barriers of nationality, language, race and religion.
These actions prove that proletarian internationalism is alive and fighting. This is the only hope for the future of the Subcontinent and all humankind.
Long live proletarian internationalism!
Forward to the socialist federation of the subcontinent and the world socialist federation!
Workers of the world, unite!
In the last session of the Congress, comrade Alan Woods, the leading figure of the International Marxist Tendency, said that the task of Marxists was to create a genuine proletarian revolutionary International. He said: “It is said that faith can move mountains. This marvelous congress must give us faith in the ideas of Marxism, faith in the working class, faith in the International and faith in ourselves. We will overcome all the obstacles and build a mass revolutionary organisation.”
These words were met with a standing ovation that went on and on. The people did not want the congress to end. Some were weeping with emotion as the Internationale was sung. At the end, the congress erupted into a spontaneous outburst of enthusiasm. Delegates came onto the stage chanting slogans like “Inqilab! Inqilab! Socialist Inqilab!” (“Revolution! Revolution! Socialist Revolution!”), clapping and dancing in traditional style. The feeling of euphoria swept through the hall and lasted late into the night before the delegates set out on their long journeys (30 hours on a train in some cases), impatient to restart the revolutionary work.
The Congress and the achievements of the Pakistan comrades made a deep impression on the International visitors present, especially the Palestinian and Indian comrades. Comrade A.R.Shaheen, member of the Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha) from Baramula (Kashmir) said: “I have not seen such politically prepared youth in India as I have seen here in Pakistan.” Comrade Pushpendra said: “I never thought that anything like this could happen in Pakistan. It is something unimaginable in India. In 17 years I have been present in many conferences and congresses, but the last two days have been something special. The level of commitment and degree of political understanding are remarkable.”
See also a new picture gallery.
- The 25th Congress of The Struggle opens in Lahore (March 24, 2006)
- Pakistan - the 24th Congress of The Struggle - Comments from some of the delegates (March 31, 2005)
- The 24th Congress of The Struggle - Pakistan Marxists on the eve of a breakthrough (March 25, 2005)
- Historic congress of Pakistan Marxists (March 23, 2004)