Introduction to "Kashmir's Ordeal - A Revolutionary Way Out"

The comrades in Pakistan were just about to publish a new book on Kashmir when the devastating earthquake hit three weeks ago. The comrades have been hard at work on their solidarity and relief operations. Given the current crisis in Kashmir, they have decided to go ahead with the publication of the book. We publish today the introduction by Alan Woods and the first chapter of the book.

There is no better illustration of the terrible problems facing the exploited masses of the world today than the present situation in Kashmir. The Kashmiri people have been fought over and brutally exploited by the ruling classes of both India and Pakistan ever since the British colonialists were driven out of the Subcontinent over half a century ago.

Now this troubled region is once again the focus of attention for world imperialism. Having cynically ignored the plight of the Kashmiri people for decades, the governments of the USA and Europe are now applying pressure for a “peaceful solution” to the Kashmiri problem. They want peace in the Subcontinent, they do not want another war between India and Pakistan. But this touching concern for peace does not reflect a sudden transformation of the imperialist tiger to the principles of Ghandian vegetarianism. What they want is peace under imperialist control.

The imperialists want a peaceful and subdued Subcontinent, not for humanitarian considerations but for purely egotistical strategic reasons and economic interests. On the one hand, US imperialism wants to enjoy a secure base for its military operations in Afghanistan, and therefore requires the services of the regime in Islamabad. On the other hand, it wants to take advantages of the vast and highly lucrative markets that are beginning to open up in India.

The author of this timely book, my good friend and comrade Lal Khan, has rendered an important service by exposing the bloody fraud of partition, which he dealt with exhaustively in his previous book, Partition, Can it be Undone? He has shown the reactionary role of both the Indian and Pakistani bourgeois – their utter inability to carry society forward or to solve a single one of the historical tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution, including the national question.

The reason why capitalism has been unable to solve the national problem – or any other of the basic problems facing humanity ‑ is explained by the author in the following passage:

“At bottom, the global crisis of capitalism is a crisis of over production (expressed as over-capacity). The crisis is aggravated by debts and deficits. They are not the cause, but only symptoms of the underlying problem. Despite a decade or more of globalisation, none of the old contradictions have been removed. On the contrary, they have been multiplied a thousand-fold and reproduced on a far vaster scale than ever before. The conflicts are being played out before our eyes, passing from one country and continent to another ceaselessly and with incredible speed. The national question, instead of disappearing, has assumed an intense and particularly poisonous character everywhere. One war follows hard on the heels of another. This reflects the impasse of the world economy, shackled and suffocating in the straitjackets of the “free market economy”. This is the epoch of capitalism ‘red in tooth and claw’.”

More than half a century after the achievement of formal independence, what has been achieved? The sad fact is that both India and Pakistan are more dependent upon imperialism today than in 1947. They are completely enslaved by the world market, exploited and drained of their natural resources and wealth. The conditions of the masses are appalling in both countries, and worsen by the day. Yet the corrupt and degenerate ruling classes of India and Pakistan pretend to be fighting for the benefit of the people of Kashmir.

The truth of the matter is this: the Kashmiri people cannot expect anything progressive either from the Pakistani or the Indian ruling class. Nor can they expect any help from the so-called “democracies” of Europe and the USA. All these states have treated the Kashmiris as the small change of their intrigues and manoeuvres, dictated purely by selfish considerations. The only reliable allies the people of Kashmir can count on are the millions of workers and peasants of India and Pakistan. Their enemies are the same, and their interests are identical.

There can be no genuine emancipation for the people of Kashmir outside the perspective of a socialist revolution in India and Pakistan and the establishment of a Socialist Federation of the Subcontinent, including a united, democratic and fully autonomous Socialist Republic of Kashmir.

Does this mean that the people of Kashmir must wait with folded arms until the workers and peasants of India and Pakistan come to their aid? No, it means no such thing! The pressing problems faced by the people of Kashmir admit no delay. The people can only win freedom by their own efforts, through a bitter struggle. The people of Kashmir have demonstrated time and time again their willingness to fight and die for their freedom. This is a sacred struggle that must continue and be supported by the workers of the whole world.

However, all history demonstrates one thing: that in order to succeed in a war, including a war of national and social liberation, heroism alone is not enough. If courage were sufficient to win, then Kashmir would have been free long ago. But in order to succeed, something else is necessary. How many times in history has a numerous and brave army been defeated by a smaller force of professional soldiers led by good and experienced generals?

Leadership is the key to winning a war, and it is even more decisive in a revolutionary war. During the First World War, the German Kaiser is supposed to have remarked that the British army in France were “lions led by donkeys”. How much more accurate is this remark when we apply it to the world workers’ movement today! The greatest tragedy of Kashmir – and also of India and Pakistan – is the absence of a revolutionary leadership worthy of the name.

For decades the youth of Kashmir have fought like tigers in an unequal struggle against the army of a powerful occupying state. Many fine fighters have lost their lives in this struggle. Yet today the goal of emancipation is further away than ever. All that has been achieved are a few minor concessions, a door that can be closed at any time at the whim of one side or another, and a lot of fine speeches about “peace”, which do not amount to very much. Musharraf and his wife can visit New Delhi and dine with the Indian elite. Is this all that has been achieved at the cost of so much blood and suffering?

The bourgeois and petty bourgeois nationalists have nothing to offer. The fundamentalists have even less to offer. None of them have any serious strategy or plan to win freedom, only the same old stale demagogy that has always failed in the past.

What is required is a serious self-criticism and a complete change of course. As the author forcefully argues, what is required is a revolutionary Marxist leadership, a genuine Bolshevik leadership, like the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky that led the Russian workers and peasants to victory in October 1917 and freed the enslaved nationalities of the former tsarist empire at the same time as it brought about the social emancipation of the workers and peasants through the overthrow of landlordism and capitalism.

What conclusion should the revolutionary youth of Kashmir draw from their experiences? Only this: that the task of the national liberation of the Kashmiri people is inseparable from the tasks of the social emancipation of the workers and peasants of Kashmir and of India and Pakistan. As long as the old exploiters – the landlords, bankers and capitalists – remain in power in New Delhi and Islamabad, no lasting solution is possible.

As the author points out:

“Half a century after “independence”, the Subcontinent is worse off than it was at the time of partition. The rulers having solved nothing refuse to admit their shameful failure. Any possibility of improving the living standards of the masses and of developing society on a bourgeois basis is a utopian dream. All indicators point in the opposite direction. They can neither afford war nor maintain peace. All their games of war and peace are deception to conceal their failure and divert the attention of the masses from their burning problems.” (See “The Gathering Storm”)

Absolutely no reliance can be placed on the diplomatic manoeuvres of the Indian and Pakistani bourgeois. Today, under the pressure of imperialism, the ruling cliques of India and Pakistan have moved to strike a deal. But everybody knows that this deal is not worth the paper it is written on. Not one of the fundamental problems has been tackled. Above all, none of the fundamental problems of Kashmir has been addressed. Tomorrow the whole fragile edifice so painfully put together in Washington will break down in some new crisis and the same old infernal spiral of terrorism, war, insurgency and repression will begin all over again.

It is impossible to cure cancer with an aspirin. All the attempts of the Indian and Pakistani bourgeoisie to reach a gentlemen’s agreement over Kashmir will inevitably end in new wars, death and suffering with no end in sight. A terrible threat hangs over the heads of millions of men and women. The fact that both India and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons is a warning of a possible holocaust of unimaginable dimensions in the future if the Kashmir problem is not resolved.

At the moment the threat of war seems to have receded. But the unbearable social contradictions that are inexorably building up in both countries will at some stage lead inevitably to revolutionary explosions. If a genuine Marxist leadership existed, it would be possible to overthrow the bankrupt rulers of India and Pakistan without much effort. The basis would then be laid for the establishment of a Socialist Federation and the peaceful solution of the national problem.

However, if we do not succeed in building such a leadership in time, the movement can be defeated with catastrophic results. We have already seen the appalling consequences of communalist fanaticism in India in the last few years. Similar fanaticism exists among certain sectors of Pakistani society. It cannot be excluded that after a series of grave defeats of the working class, such elements could come to power.

An unstable and unbalanced fundamentalist dictatorship in either country could lead to all-out war under certain circumstances. Given the military disadvantages of Pakistan there would be a strong temptation on the part of the army to use tactical nuclear weapons. Once we enter into such a dynamic, the results would be incalculable. The question before us would be not merely socialism or barbarism (that question has already been placed before the Subcontinent a long time ago) but socialism or mass extermination.

The aforementioned considerations are sufficient to demonstrate the extreme urgency of the tasks posed by the author of this book. The conclusions we draw from it are by no means pessimistic. There is a ferment of discussion especially among the young generation, not only in Kashmir but also in India and Pakistan. In particular, the rapid rise of the Marxist tendency in Pakistan, represented by the Struggle, gives us serious grounds for hope. The election of the first Marxist Member of the National Assembly, comrade Monzoor Ahmed, was a concrete proof of the advance of Marxism under very difficult conditions.

Socialism is international or it is nothing. There is no solution for the national problem, whether in Kashmir or anywhere else, unless the working class takes power into its hands. Only the working class has no interest in the perpetuation of the old evils of national, racial or caste oppression. Once they have taken power, the workers of Pakistan will hold out their hand in friendship to the workers of India, and if the Indian workers take power first, they will do the same.

The class solidarity of the workers was clearly shown by the extraordinary display of friendship and fraternisation shown by ordinary Indians and Pakistanis as soon as they had the chance to meet each other when the recent very limited concessions were made, allowing some degree of freedom of travel. If this were the case on the basis of a handful of petty concessions, what would be the case if ordinary Indians and Pakistanis were in a position to determine their own future fully and freely? They would sweep aside the old artificial boundaries imposed by imperialism and maintained by the ruling classes of India and Pakistan since 1947, as easily as a man sweeping aside a mosquito.

Lenin pointed out long ago that at bottom the national question is a problem of bread. The Subcontinent possesses vast and untapped resources that could guarantee for every man, woman and child a standard of living at least on the same level of the United States and Europe. A socialist federation would unite all the colossal productive potential of the whole Subcontinent in one gigantic socialist plan of production. Within a couple of five year plans the wealth of society would double as a bare minimum, permitting the rapid elimination of hunger, poverty, disease and illiteracy.

The same point is made by the author:

“Unity can only take place if it were possible to achieve a rapid rise in the social conditions and living standards of these impoverished people. The religious, ethnic, racial and other differences can only be overcome on the basis of class unity. At the same time, massive investment would be needed to build up a suitable and sustainable infrastructure to link the isolated areas in such a rugged terrain and wilderness. In similar situation, India and Pakistan, with huge resources, failed to complete these tasks. How can this be achieved by capitalism in Kashmir?” (See Kashmiri Independence and Imperialist Hegemony)

In a society in which every man and woman would be guaranteed a well-paid job, a decent house, clean water, adequate food, a good school for their children, modern roads, clinics, hospitals and universities, the old national and caste jealousies would evaporate like a drop of water on a hot stove. People would learn to respect the religious and cultural differences that make the Subcontinent such a rich, vibrant and variegated region. The material basis for wars and pogroms would disappear along with the poisonous fumes of one-sided and narrow fanaticism, allowing people to develop as free human beings. It would light a beacon for the working class of the whole world.

This is the only perspective worth fighting for in the first decade of the 21st century. The workers and peasants of the Subcontinent have a marvellous revolutionary tradition. In the past they defeated the might of British imperialism. They are more than capable of defeating the corrupt and degenerate class of capitalists, landowners and moneylenders who have replaced the British sahibs. And in this great revolutionary struggle, the workers, peasants and youth of Kashmir will fight in the front line. Once they are armed with the ideas of revolutionary Marxism and proletarian internationalism.

London, July 4, 2005


1. Lal Khan, Partition- Can it be Undone?
2. Chapter one, A World in Turmoil, pp.32-33
3. Chapter eight, Socialist Revolution: The Only Solution, pp. 200-201
4. Chapter two, The Great Peace Hoax, p.54