The very successful congress of the Pakistani Marxists that we have reported on has had a wide echo across the South Asian subcontinent and beyond. Here we provide a taste of that and also reports of two very successful meetings Alan Woods spoke at after the congress at the National College of Arts in Lahore and the National Museum in Karachi.
The 31st congress of the Pakistani Marxists has had a considerable impact both in Pakistan and abroad. Messages of congratulations have been coming from India, Afghanistan, Iran, Bangladesh and further afield. The following from Bangladesh is typical:
Lal Salam and revolutionary salutations to you for your nicely written e-mail, I feel grateful to you all that you have decided to read out my messages to the delegates at the congress on behalf of the Marxist youth and workers of Bangladesh. I would like to convey my warmest revolutionary greetings to the Congress of the Marxist Party of Pakistan, to all its delegates on this great occasion where the guidelines for the future of building a Socialist Pakistan will be decided which will greatly influence the course of development of Pakistan and the global struggle for Peace, Progress and Socialism.
I am confident that the heroic people of Pakistan under the leadership of the Party and comrade Lal khan, comrade Adam Pal are the outstanding revolutionary of our era and their close comrades will foil all conspiracies, inhuman activities and state terrorism of US imperialists and its allies and advance along the path of socio-economic development, people’s well being, democracy and socialism.
We do hope that the Party despite serious difficulties will take appropriate and timely measures to overcome the obstacles created by international reaction. The enemies of Pakistan are also the enemies of Bangladesh, and other such countries of the world and humanity at large. We must unite and fight globally against our common enemies.
The commitments of the Pakistani comrades are the pride of all communists and revolutionaries of the world. Each and every achievement of your Party and people adds to our pride in you. We wish every success for the Party Congress and further achievements in your struggle.
We highly appreciated your plan to visit and meet the revolutionary Marxists of Bangladesh and chalk out a strategy in fighting against our common enemies and struggle for the emancipation of the millions of people of the sub-continent through a socialist federation.
We fully agree with you to carry forward the revolutionary tradition of Bengali youth and workers, not only explaining the reasons why movements in the past couldn't succeed in a socialist revolution, but also putting forward the correct perspective and strategy for the future struggle. Being a part of the International Marxist Tendency will itself answer many questions as we are following the path of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky who built Internationals to unite the workers of the world, to build one party of the working people of the whole world, whom the capitalists have divided in many countries.
With fraternal greetings,
As we have already reported, a delegation of Afghan comrades was halted at the frontier. But the work of the Afghan Marxists is continuing and will be crowned on 28th March by a public meeting in Kabul to celebrate the Afghan Saur Revolution of 1978. The comrades are already producing a paper in the Pashto language.
In India also preparations are in full swing for a major step forward in the establishment of what promises to be a strong and significant section of the IMT.
The enthusiasm of the delegates and visitors to the Congress was so great that despite very long journeys home (up to 49 hours in one case), the comrades did not rest on their laurels but immediately plunged back into the work.
The Central Committee
Even as the delegates were still on the homeward bound trains, the new Central Committee was meeting in Lahore to assess the congress and discuss the next steps.
The CC now has over 40 members, drawn from every region of Pakistan. After a brief opening by comrade Alan Woods, every CC member spoke in turn. All agreed that the congress had been an outstanding success, and all thought that the targets for the next 12 months could be met.
The only comrade who disagreed with the target for growth was from Sindh, who thought it was too conservative. He said: “Comrade Alan says that every comrade should recruit one new member. I don’t agree. I think that every comrade should be asked to set up a new branch!”
In the course of the discussion, it emerged that there had been a serious attempt to sabotage the congress. This began with an organized campaign of slander, which, although it had no effect inside Pakistan, was intended to sow confusion internationally through the Internet, Facebook etc. But this had been dealt with firmly and the perpetrators exposed as provocateurs.
On the Friday before the congress opened, the three leading comrades on the Organizing Committee found that their mobile phones had been blocked. When they contacted the Telephone Company they were informed that an unknown person had contacted the Company claiming that these three numbers belonged to phones that were stolen and the Company should block them.
Other example of dirty tricks included the hacking of our web page and attempts to sabotage the publication of the Asian Marxist Review. But none of these dirty methods could prevent the celebration of our most successful congress to date. Comrade Rangi said:
“Our enemies are like mosquitoes. They wake up once a year when our congress takes place. They buzz around for a while making a lot of noise, then they go back to sleep as soon as the congress is over.” [laughter]
At the end of the meeting, comrade Ana Munoz summed up the congress. While congratulating the comrades on the development of the women’s work, she hoped that more attention would be paid to this vital area of the work: “Without the active participation of the women, the Pakistan Revolution will be impossible,” she said.
The work of the CC members has already begun to yield results. More than fifty recruits were made last week alone. We now have two new branches in Rawalpindi, another in Karachi and another two branches in Lahore. In the coming days there will be big public meetings of the youth in different areas. Maybe the comrade from Sindh was right after all!
Marxism, Art and Society – Lecture by Alan Woods at the National College of Arts, Lahore
Report by Ateeq Khan
On 15th March a lecture of Alan Woods was held in the historic National College of Arts Lahore. The NCA was founded in 1875 as the Mayo School of Arts and has produced famous painters and other artists ever since then. Today it is the most prestigious institute of Art in Pakistan.
Posters of this lecture were prepared by students of the NCA and pasted in all the departments, cafeterias and hostels. Over 150 students crowded into the hall, many having to stand or sit on the floor to attend this lecture on Marxism, Art and Society.
Comrade Adam Pal invited Alan Woods on to the stage for the lecture to big applause. Alan gave a detailed lecture of more than one hour in which he eloquently described the history of Art from a Marxist perspective. From the cave art of the early days of human beings, he traced the development of art through the slave society up to modern trends, showing the relation between art and social development.
Alan covered the complex and turbulent history of humankind and the parallel evolution of art in a marvellous way. He stressed that social revolutions in different periods gave a big impetus to art and society and paved the way for great works of art. He pointed out the class basis of various trends in art and criticized the flight of fancy of artists who try to separate themselves from the rest of society. He said that it made no more sense to speak of “art for art’s sake” than to speak of “carpentry for carpentry’s sake”.
He emphasized that great artists like Van Gogh and Vermeer had to live their lives in poverty and misery and their families struggled to have a piece of bread but today their paintings are sold for millions of dollars. He praised the works of artists like Goya, Picasso, composers such as Beethoven, Shostakovich and many others who were inspired by revolutions in their times.
He criticized the role of modern day galleries and art “lovers” who buy these paintings for huge sums of money and then lock them up in banks and use them as a source of speculation rather than art. The common people are unable to see these paintings and admire them.
He condemned the modern architecture in advanced countries and the ugly looking sky scrapers and modern day cities around the world. He said: “There are no straight lines in nature, and this is an inhuman and unnatural way to make people live.”
He said that to think that workers and peasants can’t understand art, which should be reserved only for the rich, is an insult to art itself. He said that artists play an important role in transforming societies and today the whole world is engulfed in wars, famine, brutality and oppression of capitalism. In this situation the artists should play an important role to highlight these crimes of capitalism and struggle to overthrow this bloodthirsty system.
After that a number of questions were asked regarding his lecture. Alan Woods answered these questions impressively. Asked what he thought was the relationship between propaganda and art, he replied that propaganda could never be great art because in it art was subordinated to something external to itself. But he said that there could be exceptions, such as the revolutionary posters produced by Mayakovsky after the Bolshevik Revolution.
He invited artists should join the International Marxist Tendency to overthrow capitalism through a socialist revolution. The lecture was enthusiastically applauded at the end.
Alan Woods speaks at Karachi’s National Museum
On Sunday 18 March, Alan Woods spoke at a public meeting in Karachi. The purpose was to launch the new (second, revised) Urdu edition of the book Reason in Revolt - Marxist Philosophy and Modern Science by Alan Woods and Ted Grant.
The meeting, which was held in the Auditorium of Karachi’s famous National Museum, was attended by between 250 and 300 people. The ceremony was attended by a large number of workers, students and political activists. The majority were workers from Karachi Steel, Ports and other industries.
Many were leading trade unionists. Among those present were Comrade Warsi from Pakistan Post, Liaqat Sahi, Secretary General State Bank of Pakistan CBA Union, Karamat Hussain leader of the Karachi Electric Supply Co., Sheikh Majeed from the PIA etc. Also present were students from Karachi University, Urdu University and PAF KIETS.
The attendance would have been much bigger but that day there were mass rallies of the PPP, the MQM and a Sindhi nationalist party. More importantly, it was the day when Pakistan was playing cricket against India. Since cricket is like a religion in Pakistan, this was very serious competition!
The inauguration ceremony was arranged by the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign (PTUDC). It was chaired by central president PTUDC Riaz Hussain Lund. Comrade Alan Woods participated as the chief guest.
The book written by Alan Woods and Ted Grant in 1995 has been translated into 12 languages and is referred to as a reference book in many universities around the world. The book explains the applications of the dialectical method to science and proves the validity of Marxist Philosophy. The publication of its first Urdu edition made a considerable impact in left and intellectual circles in Pakistan. We are sure that the new, revised translation will have an even greater impact.
Comrade Paras Jan, the Information Secretary of the PTUDC supervised the proceedings, introducing Alan Woods and explaining the content of the book. Before the guest speaker spoke, the meeting was addressed by a number of prominent leftists, including:
Nazeer Leghari, the famous journalist and editor of the Daily Awam (The Daily People)
Sehar Ansari Chairman Literary Committee, Arts Council Karachi
Karamat Ali, the director of PILER (Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research),
Riaz Lund Baloch Chairman PTUDC
Zubair-ur-Rehman, the well-known column writer of the Daily Express
Comrade Lal Khan, editor of the Asian Marxist Review
After these introductory speeches, comrade Alan finally went to the podium. He began his speech by thanking the people for coming. He said: “In ancient Rome the ruling class tried to keep the people quiet with the idea of Bread and Circuses. Now the ruling class in Pakistan have invented a variant: Bread and Cricket. Only there is no bread!” [laughter]
Comrade Woods then spoke for three quarters of an hour, explaining how the ideas of Marxism fully retained their validity and relevance. He pointed out that all the illusions of the bourgeoisie twenty years ago had been reduced to dust.
He poured scorn on those intellectuals who had abandoned Marxism and embraced the market, comparing them to dead fish. He said that the same bourgeois economists who for the last 30 years had been singing the praises of the Market Economy are now writing articles saying “Marx was right.”
Turning to Pakistan, he said that this country ought not to be poor. There were plenty of human and natural resources, which were not being utilised because it is not profitable to do so. He advocated a socialist nationalised planned economy and predicted that there would be a repetition of the Revolution of 1968-9.
Alan Woods pointed out that revolutions will transform the political and economic scenario of America and Europe in coming times. The so called scholars in Pakistan who keep on saying that this kind of revolution cannot take place here are in fact living in a fool’s paradise. The Pakistani working class is heir to the glorious traditions of 1968-69 and we will see another mass movement of the same kind at a much higher level.
“Let nobody tell me that the workers and peasants of Pakistan do not have revolutionary traditions. In 1968-9, the working people of Pakistan gave an example to the whole world. What more can we ask of the working class? What more could they have done, more than they did? If they did not succeed in the end, it was not their fault but because they lacked something that they needed to succeed: a revolutionary party and leadership.
“There are many people in this hall who participated in that great Revolution,” he commented. “I say to you: 1968 will come again. But this time will be different. We must ensure that this time we are prepared to provide the necessary leadership to guarantee victory!”
The meeting was concluded by singing the Internationale, after which many people came to the platform to congratulate comrade Alan, who signed many books and autographs.
The meeting was widely covered in the press the next day, with reports in the Daily Express, the Daily Anjam, The People’s Voice (Awami Awaz) etc. The headline of the Express was: "Revolution like the Arab Spring will happen in Pakistan: Alan Woods"; “Capitalism and all its ideas have failed, Revolutions will come across the world: Speakers."
The headline of Anjam says: "Peoples Revolution like Tunis and Egypt inevitable in Pakistan: Marxist Intellectual". The report continues: “‘Those intellectuals who say that there is no chance of a workers’ revolution in Pakistan are living in a fool’s paradise’ says Alan Woods. ‘Alan Woods’ book Reason in Revolt - Marxist Philosophy and Modern Science is a slap in the face for those foolish people who are conducting propaganda against Communism and Socialism’ say speakers addressing inauguration ceremony.”
Alan was also interviewed by the most popular TV channel in Pakistan, Geo TV.