Pakistan: November anniversaries – from Russian revolution to fall of Berlin Wall

The gruesome pogrom in which a Christian couple was beaten to death and their bodies burnt in the brick kiln where they worked, for allegedly desecrating a Quran, in the town of Kot Radha Kishan, symptomizes the malaise that has set in and that is ripping apart the decayed social fabric of Pakistan.

The victims were only identified by their first names, Shama and Shehzad. The sickness plaguing society, the black reaction choking social and cultural life is being compounded by lumpen religious vigilantes. It’s not just the religious minorities, but also the working classes and the poor of this tragic land that have been suffering the brutalities of this capitalist coercion ever since Pakistan’s inception.

The misfortune is that, with the unravelling of capitalist crisis, the travails, miseries and naked oppression of the masses have worsened on a daily basis. The toilers and youth of this land have yearned for a change for generations. Sections of the deceptive and callous political elite have even promised them “revolutions” but within the confines of this system. This demagoguery by false prophets has turned out to be one treachery after another. However, it is also a historical fact that this land has witnessed genuine revolutionary movements in its short, chequered history, when this barbaric system was challenged and power was within the grasp of the workers and youth. It merely required a Bolshevik party and leadership to give this system just one final push during those stormy events.

November 1968: Pakistan Revolution

The first ten days of November mark the anniversaries of colossal events that changed the course of history for the world and Pakistan. Forty-six years ago, on 6th November 1968, Pakistan was swept by a revolutionary upheaval that could have transformed the system and society through a socialist victory. In a conspiracy of silence, this brilliant revolt of the oppressed masses has been pushed into oblivion in the official histories of the ruling classes and their state. The dominant right-wing intelligentsia and even the so-called left liberal historians and leaders have distorted and censored the mighty revolution of 1968-69. Some have described it as merely an anti-Ayub agitation, some as simple strikes for workers’ and students’ demands, and others as a struggle for democracy against dictatorship.

These stormy days were none of the above. They were a mass uprising of the young and virgin Pakistani working class, supported by the youth, and this in turn created a revolutionary situation, the character of which was socialist, challenging the existing order, the dictatorship, the political superstructure, but above all the existing property relations. The fresh and raw proletariat very rapidly acquired a steeled determination and a collective consciousness for workers’ ownership and democratic control of industry, the economy and society. For 139 days, power was on the streets. The ruling class and their state were suspended in mid-air and the actual power was in the hands of the workers, students and poor peasants. Such was the might and surge of this revolution that in order to derail it, the establishment had no choice but to sacrifice Field Martial Mohammad Ayub Khan, the strongest ruler ever in the history of Pakistan, forcing him to abdicate power on 25th of March 1969.

In his parting speech he declared, “This is the last time I am addressing you as President of Pakistan. The administrative institutions are being paralysed. The mobs are resorting to gheraos (sieges) at will and get their demands accepted under duress”. He went on to say: “It is my desire that the political power should continue to be transferred in a constitutional manner. In the conditions prevailing in the country, it is not possible to convene the National Assembly. Some members may not even dare to attend the Assembly session… It hurts me deeply to say that the situation now is no longer under the control of the Government. All Government institutions have become victims of coercion, fear and intimidation. Every problem of the country is being decided in the streets.”

Pakistan today is portrayed as a bastion of fundamentalism, terrorism and extremism. The theocratic creation of the country, the direct and indirect rule by the military, violence, repression, lawlessness, crime, fraud, corruption, intolerance, persecution of the minorities and instability are some of the factors that paint Pakistan and the Pakistanis as odious throughout the world. A large section of the new generations within Pakistan have a similar appraisal of the situation. The Islamic fundamentalists’ “solution” is to go back to the dark pre-medieval ages. The imperialists and their stooges in Pakistan claim that liberal democracy and “good governance” are the solution. However, the masses in Pakistan have had agonising experiences of both of these “solutions”. Time and again the oppressed masses have risen in revolt with fierce volcanic eruptions of workers, peasants and the youth to get rid of capitalist exploitation, feudal drudgery, obscurantist terror and imperialist repression. The 1968-69 movement stands out above all these uprisings, as it came close to winning a socialist victory. The new generation of the youth and workers in Pakistan have a mission to accomplish, a historic pledge to redeem.

Ninety-seven years since Russian Revolution

The 97th anniversary of the victory of the Russian Revolution of 1917, which forever changed the course of human history, was on November 7th. In a gigantic and unprecedented experiment it proved that it was possible to run society without capitalists, feudal landlords and moneylenders. Despite the aggression of twenty-one imperialist armies, tremendous objective difficulties and obstacles, the abolition of the market mechanisms and the introduction of the planned economy revolutionised the productive forces and laid the basis for a modern economy. The American journalist John Reed, who witnessed the events of the revolution first hand, wrote in his epic book, Ten Days that Shook the World: “No matter what one thinks of Bolshevism, it is an undeniable fact that the Russian revolution is one of the greatest events in human history, and the rule of the Bolshevik is a phenomenon of worldwide importance”.

This revolution appropriated power from a minority oppressive class and transferred it to the overwhelming majority of the labouring classes in society. The process of the overthrow of the bourgeois state and capture of power by the leading party of the proletariat involved the massive conscious involvement and participation of the vast majority of toilers. It is the only successful revolution that took place on classical Marxist lines.

Lenin explained what real change this revolution ought to bring. He wrote in December 1917: “One of the most important tasks, is to develop [the] independent initiative of all the working and the exploited people generally, develop it as widely as possible in creative organisational work. At all costs we must break the old, absurd, savage, despicable and distinguishing prejudice that only the so-called upper classes, only the rich, and those who have gone through the school of the rich, are capable of administering the state and directing the organisational development of society”.

What this revolution really meant for the oppressed classes was described in an inspiring anecdote by John Reed on the eve of the revolution: “Across the horizon spread the glittering lights of the Capital, immeasurably more splendid by the night than by the day, like a dike of jewels heaped on a barren plain. The old workman who drove the wheelbarrow held in one hand, while with the other he swept the pavement, looked at the far gleaming capital and exclaimed in an exulted gesture, ‘Mine!’ he cried, his face all alight. ‘All mine now! My Petrograd!”

Impact of collapse of Stalinism

The other side of this is that 9th of November is the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and later on the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. In China, the Deng section of the bureaucracy had already ushered in the process of the capitalist counter-revolution in 1978. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the bureaucratic Stalinist regimes of Russia and Eastern Europe provoked a wave of euphoria among the bourgeois in the West. The demise of Stalinism was heralded as the “end of socialism”. The final victory of the “free market” was trumpeted from the pages of learned journals from Tokyo to New York. The strategists of capital were exultant. Francis Fukuyama even went so far as to proclaim the “end of history”. Henceforth, the class war would be no more. Everything would be for the best in the best of all capitalist worlds. Nevertheless these epic events in Eastern Europe and later the collapse of the Soviet Union in fact ushered in a period of lull and disorientation in the class struggle. This was amplified by the betrayals and renunciation of socialism by the former lefts capitulating to capitalism.

Ironically, the leaders of the Russian revolution had predicted the degeneration and collapse of the Soviet Union themselves, long before its collapse. In 1921, Lenin said the following: “Berlin is the heart of Germany and Germany is the heart of Europe. If there is no revolution in Germany the Russian revolution is doomed”. In his epic work, Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky wrote in 1936: “The fall of the present bureaucratic dictatorship, if it were not replaced by a new socialist power, would thus mean a return to capitalism with a catastrophic decline of industry and culture”.

Alan Woods, defying the noxious propaganda and vicious offensive of the imperialists and cynical attributions against socialism by these ex-left renegades, wrote in 1997: “What failed in Russia was not socialism, but a false model, a caricature of socialism… The demagogic attacks on socialism, Marxism, communism has an increasingly hollow ring, because they are made against a background of deepening crisis of capitalism. Only a few years later all these dreams of the bourgeoisie and the reformists lie in ashes. On the threshold of the twenty-first century, the very existence of the human race is threatened by the ravishing of the planet in the name of profit; mass unemployment, which was confidently asserted to be a thing of the past, has reappeared in all the advanced countries of capitalism, not to speak of the nightmare of poverty, ignorance, wars and epidemics which constantly afflict two thirds of humanity in the so-called ‘Third World’. There is war after war and terrorism is spreading like a dark stain all over the planet. On all sides there is pessimism and a deep sense of foreboding about the future, mingled with irrational and mystical tendencies”.

Stage set for unprecedented class struggle

The financial crash of 2007-8 has laid bare the terminal decay and the historical and economic redundancy of capitalism. Inequality has reached unprecedented proportions. The number of billionaires in the world has more than doubled to 1,646 since 2009, with inequality reaching new extremes, according to a new Oxfam report. The combined wealth of today’s billionaires has grown by 124 percent in the last four years to $5.4 trillion. The 85 richest people saw their fortunes increase by around $240 billion over the past year, and own as much as the poorest half of the world’s population – the equivalent of $668 million per day or almost half a million dollars per minute. While just $70 billion a year is enough to fill the annual gap of funding needed for basic medical care and education in poor countries.

While the number of super-rich is skyrocketing, one million women died in childbirth due to lack of basic healthcare, and 57 million children did not receive any form of education in 2013. The report states: “In a world where hundreds of millions of people are living without access to clean drinking water and without enough food to feed their families, small elite has more money than they could spend in several lifetimes. The consequences of extreme inequality are harmful to everyone – it robs millions of people of better life chances and fuels crime, corruption and even violent conflict”. The report concluded, “Put simply, it is holding back efforts to end poverty. There is rising evidence that extreme inequality harms, durably and significantly, the stability of the financial system and growth in the economy. It retards development of the human, social and physical capital necessary for raising living standards and improving conditions of life”.

As Alan Woods pointed out, “The sickness of the 21st century is not without historical precedent. We can observe the same symptoms in every period of decline, when a given socio-economic system has exhausted its potential and becomes a brake on human development. Capitalism has long ago reached its limits. It is no longer capable of developing the means of production as it once did. It is no longer capable of offering meaningful reforms. In fact, it is no longer able to tolerate the continuation of the reforms of the past that provided at least some of the elements of a semi-civilised existence in the developed capitalist countries. But now all the gains so painfully won by the working class in the past, mainly in the advanced countries, are coming under attack. But the workers and youth will not surrender their gains without a fight. The stage is set for an unprecedented explosion of the class struggle. And in the underdeveloped countries of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, the impasse of capitalism, in the words of Lenin, means horror without end.”

In spite of the slanders against socialism, the serious representatives of Capitalism are terrified of the prospects of another revolution along Bolshevik lines in today’s worsening crisis. This fear of the international bourgeois was revealed in a recent lead article on Ukraine in The Economist. The article says, “Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers still at the front are unable to vote. With the fighting nearly over, they will soon come home to find a government they played no part in electing. If they see no change in the way their country is run, they will take to the streets, not with wooden shields and sticks as they did a year ago, but with real weapons. The next Maidan will look less like a carnival and more like the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917. If nothing else, this should concentrate the minds in the Ukrainian government."

In the present severe crisis of capitalism, and the agony of the masses that flows from this, nothing less than a workers’ revolution can emancipate the oppressed billions. The revolution that can ensure an end to this pain and misery and deprivation can be victorious and successful only if it is based on the ideas, methods and strategy of Bolshevism. With the present state of technology and the advancement of the consciousness of the workers and youth, its victory in one major country would enable it to sweep across the planet swiftly and irreversibly.