Pakistan's Other Story: 10. Redeeming the 1968-69 uprising - Perspectives of Revolutionary Socialism

Forty years after the 1968-69 revolution, the social fabric of Pakistan is in tatters. In this concluding chapter, Lal Khahn makes the case for a socialist revolution, based on the ideas of Marxism.

“Man's own social organization, which has hitherto confronted him as a process dictated by nature and history, now becomes a process resulting from his own voluntary action. The objective extraneous forces, which have hitherto dominated history, are now under the control of man himself. It is only from this point that man will himself makes his own history fully consciously, it is only from this point that the social causes he sets in motion will preponderantly and ever increasingly have the effects he wills. It is humanity's leap from the realm of necessity into the realm of freedom.”

Frederick Engels (1820-1895) 1

“The problem of how to cultivate and adjust, how to improve and 'finish' the physical and spiritual nature of man, is a colossal one, serious work which is conceivable only under conditions of Socialism.”

Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) 2

Forty years after the 1968-69 revolution, the social fabric of the country is in tatters. The movement that had erupted on 18th October, against all assumptions and odds was thrust back into temporary lull and despair for a period. The state, due to its internal contradictions and decay, couldn't have crushed the upsurge. The state is not just the army, judiciary, legislative bodies, executive and institutions. The Pakistani state and its agencies today have deep involvement in the hierarchies of political parties, the clergy, and its institutions such as the media and other influential groups in society. It has wrapped its tentacles so tightly that it seems impossible to rebel against it. The state may be monarchical, dictatorial or democratic, these are the basic tasks assigned to it by the ruling classes.

But the state and society that exists in Pakistan is the product of a certain type of socio-economic development, not only after the partition but long before that. Hence it is vital to understand the patterns of this development, and the processes through which the state and society have evolved to reach this situation of crisis and turmoil. From the point of view of political economy Pakistan can be described as a semi-capitalist, semi-feudal society under the domination of capitalist means of production and exchange. On one hand the Pakistani bourgeoisie is forced to rely on imperialism due to its weak economic foundations, while at the same time its historical belatedness forces it to retain, co-opt and align with the remnants of feudalism. And overall this is the stranglehold of capitalist imperialism, both political and economic, with its crushing domination of the world market. This domination is sustained and super imposed in an institutional form by the IMF (International Monetary Fund), the World Bank, the WTO and other institutions and agreements. It would be beyond the scope of this work to discuss the Asiatic mode of production, but it would be suffice to say that classical feudalism never existed in this region as was the case in European history.

Feudalism, the remnants of which are very much there, was introduced or rather imposed upon the subcontinent by the British. It was the 'Permanent Settlements Act' introduced in the Bengal Assembly by Lord Palmerston in 1793 that laid the basis of 'modern' feudalism in South Asia. The designs of the Raj were to create a class of local loyalists who would act as stooges of British imperialism and betray the masses of the subcontinent. The whole history of the existence of feudalism in Pakistan is closely intertwined with the colonial rule.

But in present day Pakistan there is a nexus between the capitalists, landlords, generals, top bureaucrats, judges and top politicians. It is hardly possible to separate them into specific categories of the different backgrounds of the ruling elite. Sometimes members of the same family are part of various designations of the elite of different departments. They are interrelated through marriage, business and other partnerships in agriculture and financial enterprises.

Combined and Uneven Development

This admixture of the Pakistani ruling class is in itself proof of their reactionary character and historical ineptness to carry through the basic tasks of the national democratic revolution. Due to this failure of Pakistan's nascent bourgeoisie to complete the tasks of converting Pakistan into a modern capitalist democracy, its social and economic evolution has been of a very complex and convoluted character. This complexity is basically due to the uneven and combined nature of development. To develop political perspectives and, above all, to create a Marxist analysis of Pakistan, it is vital to investigate the political, cultural, social and moral implications of this evolution upon Pakistani society.

The so called national bourgeoisie of Pakistan failed to build the infrastructure upon which a modern industrial nation would have been built. These reactionary ruling classes, incapable of gaining sufficient profit to develop society, indulged in all sorts of exploitation. The national question in Pakistan has not been solved, and was in fact aggravated by the exploitation of the oppressed nationalities. Hence it failed to create a unified nation state.

As we have explained earlier, instead of abolishing feudalism through agrarian revolution, the intrinsic economic weakness forced it to patch up and include the landed aristocracy into its ranks. Similarly the bourgeoisie, being historically an atheist class, in Pakistan had to use religion to lay the foundations of a separate state from which to carve out its independent market. But to stave off the crisis, and to divert movements from below, it used religion to gain the support of the backward layers of society and break the unity of the class struggle. Hence secularism remains a mere verbosity for the elite.

The bourgeoisie played a relatively enlightened role in the advanced countries of Europe during the revolutions of seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but the parliamentary democracy in Pakistan (the most efficient form of rule by the bourgeoisie in advanced capitalist countries) always remained debilitated, farcical and fragile. It never took roots, and the country's relative and incomplete industrial and economic development, in an epoch of imperialist domination, made Pakistan even more vulnerable to exploitation by imperialism; monopoly finance capital intervened aggressively. Capitalist investment in Pakistan required the use of the most advanced industrial technologies, in order to extract maximum profit for the multi-nationals. This intrusion of modern and advanced technology in a primitive country created islands of development which were contradictory in many ways. This seems to be the peculiar pattern of socio-economic evolution that was taking place in Pakistan and other 'developing' countries.

The law of combined and uneven development worked out by Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky explains this complex and contradictory pattern of socio-economic development.

The law of uneven development governs the entire history of mankind. Capitalism finds various sections of mankind at different stages of development, each with its profound internal contradictions. The extreme diversity in the levels attained, and the extraordinary unevenness in the rate of development of different sections of mankind during various epochs, serves as the starting points of capitalism. Capitalism gains mastery only gradually over this inherited unevenness, breaking and altering it with its own means and methods.

In contrast to the economic system that preceded it, capitalism consistently aims to expand economically by expanding into new territories, surmounting economic differences and converting self-sufficient provincial and national economies into a system of financially independent relations, as Marx wrote in The Communist Manifesto,

“The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle every where, establish connections everywhere.

“The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature”.

By drawing the countries economically closer to one another and levelling out their stages of development, capitalism operates by methods of its own, that is to say, by anarchistic methods which constantly undermine its own work, set one country against another, and one branch of industry against another, developing some parts of the world economy while hampering and throwing back the development of others. Only the correlation of these two fundamental tendencies both of which arise from the nature of capitalism- explains to us the living texture of the historical process.

Imperialism, thanks to its universal penetrability and mobility, and the break-neck speed of the formation of finance capital as its driving force, lends vigour to both these tendencies. Imperialism links up incomparably more rapidly and more deeply the individual national and continental units into a single entity, bringing them into the closest and most vital dependence upon each other and rendering their economic methods, social forms, and levels of development more identical. At the same time, it attains this 'goal' by inflicting such antagonistic, aggressive methods against backward countries that the unification and levelling of world economy which it has achieved is upset by it even more violently and convulsively than in the preceding epochs.

In his epic work The History of the Russian Revolution, Trotsky explains:

“The European colonists in America did not begin history all over again from the beginning. The fact that Germany and the United States have now economically outstripped England was made possible by the very backwardness of their capitalist development. On the other hand, the conservative anarchy in the British coal industry as also in the heads of McDonald and his friends is a paying-up for the past when England played too long the role of capitalist pathfinder. The development of historically backward nations leads necessarily to a peculiar combination of different stages in the historic process. Their development as a whole acquires an unplanned, complex, combined character.

“(…) The laws of history have nothing in common with a pedantic schematism. Unevenness, the most general law of the historic process, reveals itself most sharply and complexly in the destiny of the backward countries. Under the whip of external necessity their backward culture is compelled to make leaps. From the universal law of unevenness thus derives another law which, for the lack of a better name, we may call the law of combined development by which we mean a drawing together of the different stages of the journey, a combining of the separate steps, an amalgam of archaic with more contemporary forms. Without this law, to be taken of course, in its whole material content, it is impossible to understand the history”.3

If we examine the social relations in Pakistan, this law has deep and evident impacts on the daily lives of the masses. As the new generations develop they go through a stage of utilizing the instruments their ancestors and even people of their own generation used in the social and economic routine of daily life.

“The Marxist theory of combined and uneven development found its most perfect expression in the extremely complex social relations in Russia at the turn of the century. Side by side with feudal, semi-feudal and even pre-feudal modes of existence there sprang up the most modern, up-to-date factories, built with French and British capital. This is precisely the phenomenon we now see in the whole of the so-called Third World, and was most strikingly revealed by the development of South-East Asia in the first half of the 1990s. This provides a most remarkable parallel with the development of Russia exactly a hundred years earlier. And it is entirely possible that the political outcome could be similar. The development of industry in such a context acts as a spur to revolution. Russia shows just how quickly that can occur. Out of the stormy development of Russian capitalism in the 'eighties' and 'nineties' came the equally stormy awakening of the proletariat. The wave of strikes in the 1890s was the preparatory school for the revolution of 1905”.4

In Pakistan there are hundreds of thousands of people today who use mobile phones but have never used a 'normal' land line phone. They had skipped a stage of technological evolution without even realising it. The other aspect of the Law of Uneven and Combined Development is that a child can stand in a dirty street and think that his country has an atom bomb but he has no shoes. Most people who use modern mobile phones often don't have proper electricity supply, piped water and taps, metalled roads, sewerage and sanitation facilities, the basic needs in their homes and neighbourhoods.

There are some of the best hospitals and 'State of Art' cosmetic and health fitness clinics. Yet the vast majority of the population is denied treatment for simple curable diseases such as malaria. They take their children and the sick to 'pirs' (Sufi masters) who mumble a few words and then blow their breath onto the patients as a cure; in their state of helplessness and poverty they do not have much choice. There are hospitals with modern equipment but the patients are too many to be treated and very few can pay the bills. In most public hospitals there are two or more serious patients sharing one bed. Pakistan is perhaps one of the few countries that have more doctors than nurses.

Modern locomotives and carriages are manufactured and imported. But the railway track is more than a hundred years old, so the trains cannot run at the stipulated speed; they are always late and there are frequent railway accidents.

There are the most advanced and expensive cars travelling on pot-holed roads alongside the traffic of bullock-carts, donkey-carts, and other means of transport representing the pre-medieval periods. There is a contradiction between the vehicles and the roads. There are too many vehicles and too little room for driving and parking.

In some of the most remote villages where water supply and sanitation are almost non-existent, there are cables of TV networks that show programmes from London, New York, Beijing, Moscow and Tokyo. In the most modern neighbourhoods with posh mansions and skyscrapers there are people living in straw huts with no basic facilities available. These dirty spots in these posh neighbourhoods are explicit of the patterns of combined and uneven development that the elite have ruled over for generations in this society's evolution under crony-capitalism.

In most cities and industrial towns there are multinational factories with advanced computerised technology. Close by are the brick kilns still based on the technology of the period of the Indus valley civilisation of 7,000 years ago. Similarly, the motorway that plies between Lahore and Islamabad is one of the most advanced highways in Asia. Some metres away from this exhibition of advanced technology are hamlets consisting of mud-built houses depicting another era of history.

But even in the countryside the aggressive and blatant intrusion of modern capitalism has had a devastating impact on the life-style of the villagers. Although they were isolated and primitive, social and economic relations still prevailed. But the intrusion of capitalism, with its truncated forms of brutal exploitation, has not transformed those pre- medieval forms of life. Rather it has distorted them with its unevenness, imprinting the ugly face of capitalism upon the relatively calm life and landscape, with plastic bags choking the village drains, polluting the clean forests and fields.

The incomplete brick and concrete lining of the streets, dangerously dangling electrical wires and the never ending construction works on 'development projects' have become a permanent feature of rural life. Instead of bringing prosperity it has created such misery that village life has become worse for the rural masses in the 21st century than it ever was a hundred years ago.

The Changing role of the Mullahs

These socio-economic semi-capitalist relations have also worsened the so called feudal set ups and relations within the communities. The British had tried to impose feudalism but that process was far from complete and many areas in Pakistan kept on living in some form of Asiatic despotism even till the 1960s. There is a long list of impacts this distorted capitalist development has inflicted upon society. But one of the important changes that it has brought to the rural and suburban life is the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Through the influx of monetary capital the Mullahs, who were one of the several departments in the village socio-economic life, like farmers, cobblers, iron smiths, barbers etc., became rich, and their rates changed. In the past, under this division of labour, the role of Mullahs was to perform rituals at marriages, death and other similar functions. Some were peasants themselves and had a humble existence and attitude.

This was the situation more or less till the 1970s. Since the 1980s, with Zia's Islamisation, the Mullahs got a boost: the landed aristocracy, rapidly investing in industrial enterprises by mortgaging their land estates to the banks, started to use the preachers more viciously for the subjugation of the masses by spreading obscurantism. At the same time the black money generated in the Afghan jihad was used to build up a reactionary religious network as a bulwark against the revolutionary movements. The spread of the1968-69 revolution into the remote villages, with their own perceptions about Bhutto being a symbol of change, had threatened vested interests even in the country side.

The whole character of the village preacher and the mosque changed with the intrusion of these paralytic capitalist relations. Loud speakers blaring from village mosque pierce the calm of village life without a trickle of prosperity coming to social life: medium-sized villages have several mosques and no proper hospital or school; where there is some sort of hospital there is seldom a doctor and the necessary paramedical staff; thousands of ghost schools are without teachers. With the failure of the state to provide these basic amenities, 'private' schools and clinics have mushroomed in most urban and rural localities. They are influenced by the Islamists in a society where the traditional leadership of the toiling masses betrays the movements again and again. The black economy's role has also increased in these sectors. The 'Madressahs' are flourishing and they are a sort of relief for the poor peasants who, unable to afford to feed and educate their children, thrust them in these fanatic faculties, knowing how badly they would be treated by the mullahs. Some of the children would become suicide bombers, blowing themselves and innocent people to shreds.

There are also tragic cases of parents who are forced by poverty to sell their children, or commit collective family suicides. The ebbing of the movements, the lull in the society, the lack of a revolutionary alternative on the political horizon, adds to the frustration of the suburban and urban petty bourgeoisie.

These vacillating and convoluted psychologies are the product of the contradictions of the modernism and primitiveness of society, a salient feature of the combined and uneven development in Pakistan; hence they try to find solace in religion by growing beards and putting on 'Zia' caps. The only thing they find here is the justification of being absolved of their crooked dealings and all sorts of sins of petty deceit, counterfeiting, and other business crimes. The social and cultural impact of these patterns of growth is nauseating. In the urban and even rural areas more girls and women wear a veil or 'purdah' in the twenty-first century than in the last century. Hypocrisy has become the norm in social relations. Underlying vulgarity, lumpenism, prostitution and gang rape has been the result of this social and cultural suffocation, along with a rapidly rising rate of poverty.

The present situation, with its patterns of social distortion, demonstrates the capacity and extent to which crony-capitalism in Pakistan can develop society.

The Role of Parliament

The evolution in Pakistan cannot go through the same stages by which the bourgeoisie evolved in the past three centuries in the advanced capitalist countries. Today the role of capital is grossly retrogressive, and actually pushes society backwards. This is more than evident in the rise of fundamentalism, ethnicity, parochialism, narrow nationalism, gender and religious discrimination and other prejudices of the past. The conflicts arising from these prejudices result in the breaking-up of the class unity of the oppressed, and bleed the social life of the country. But this whole situation doesn't mean that society is dominated and overwhelmed by dark reaction. This reaction is but a temporary, fragile and superficial manifestation of the current despair that presently prevails.

However, the empiricist analysts and ideologues of the ruling classes are in a state of doom and gloom, and to combat the exaggerated role and power of 'reaction' they offer 'liberal democracy', a 'sovereign' parliament, a liberal, enlightened and progressive bourgeoisie.' Their strategy is to create a political system aping British and Western parliamentarianism.

Alan Woods analyzes the role of the parliament in countries like Pakistan.

“The laws governing parliamentary activity can be observed in the parliamentary fractions of reformist workers' parties at all times. The pressure of the ruling class, its ideology and institutions, is nowhere so intense as in the parliamentary hothouse. The bourgeoisie has perfected over a long period the necessary mechanisms for bribing, pressurizing and corrupting the parliamentary representatives of the proletariat. Unless the latter are thoroughly imbued with class consciousness and the necessary theoretical understanding to enable them to see through the tricks and manoeuvres of the enemy, they will inevitably tend to succumb to pressure and get sucked into the parliamentary morass of committees, procedure, points of order and worse. It is not necessarily a question of direct personal corruption, careerism, bribes, etc., although all these weapons are actively employed to buy off the workers' leaders. In the case of right-wing reformists, many are themselves middle class lawyers, doctors and economists standing far closer in their lifestyle and psychology to the bourgeoisie than to the workers they profess to represent. Even the most honest left reformists, even devoted workers from the factory floor steeled in years of struggle, can rapidly fall under the spell of the rarefied atmosphere of this artificial world, far removed from the reality of the class struggle.

“For a reformist party, which in any case subordinates everything to the question of electing members of parliament, the independence of the parliamentary faction from the party, the sacred right of each individual deputy to 'follow his or her conscience' is accepted as normal. This is just another way of expressing the independence of the reformist leaders from the working class, and their absolute and total dependence on the bourgeoisie. But for a revolutionary party, for which the parliamentary struggle is only one element in the general struggle of the working class to change society, this is unthinkable. The party, as the organized expression of the most conscious elements of the proletariat can and must exercise control over its elected representatives at all levels, above all its members of parliament”.5

These bourgeois reformists also want the Pakistan's social and economic evolution to grow and develop on the lines by which it evolved in the advanced capitalist countries. They want a 'free' and 'impartial' judiciary, although the law can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby. They use clichés, quotes and philosophies from the period of the dawn of capitalism. This only breeds greater inequality and vulgarity of the social and cultural level in Pakistan. Here the most significant aspect of the Law of Combined and Uneven Development comes into play. The other side of this equation means that backwardness at a certain stage of the development of economy on a world scale becomes a sort of privilege. These societies cannot go through the phases of development the advanced countries went through. Hence they have to leap over those so called historically 'necessary' stages. This means that where capitalist modernity fails to overcome the primitiveness of a society, a leap in the process of evolution, i.e. a revolution, becomes a historical and socio-economic necessity.

In spite of the exploitation of modern investment, one positive feature is that it creates an advanced proletariat; it is the advent of the proletariat that creates the force and the vanguard that would lead the peasantry and other oppressed classes to make that historical leap to revolution. This was proved most glaringly by the 1968-69 revolution itself. The advent of the fresh, virgin proletariat, developed mainly during the industrialisation process of late fifties and sixties onto the arena of history, created a revolutionary situation and uprising of a clearly socialist character. We have explained this phenomenon earlier on in this work.

But forty years on, the democratic intelligentsia have learnt nothing from the revolutionary storm that lashed through Pakistan in that period. This revolution was itself a reaffirmation of the Law of Combined and Uneven development. It was a socialist revolution in a so-called theocratic state. The democratic intelligentsia of all shades is doomed to repeat their ideological follies because they have failed to comprehend the character and nature of those historical events.

The sort of social and economic ramifications that come from the capitalist policies of the liberal democracy only strengthen reaction rather than combating it. Hence the rise of fundamentalism and other reactionary tendencies gives them justification for not only propping up the corrupt Pakistani bourgeoisie, but also an excuse to cosy up with the West.

The imperialists need this instability and 'ideological' conflict in a relatively controlled form for its own strategic and policy interests. This support of the ex-left for these liberal democrats is in reality a justification for their defeat in their cause and commitment to the socialist transformation of society. Under capitalism the liberal democracy had no option but to become a lap-dog of Imperialism.

A bourgeois democracy is really the disguised dictatorship of the banks and monopolies. In the modern epoch, where the concentration of capital has assumed unheard of proportions, the power of the big monopolies has never been so absolute. Normally, the capitalist class prefers a democratic regime, which is the most economical form of government. They can permit the illusion of democracy, while, in practice, all the levers and controls remain firmly in their hands. They control the parliamentary representatives by a thousand invisible threads. They own the banks and monopolies and therefore can exert colossal pressure on any government. They own the mass media and can mould public opinion. Finally, they can rule by resting on the leaders of the labour movement who have no intention of going beyond the limits of the system.

Bourgeois democracy is a very fragile plant, which usually only exists when the ruling class does not feel directly threatened by revolution. Under conditions of economic upswing, the bourgeois can afford to give certain reforms and concessions in order to blunt class antagonisms. When the class struggle passes these limits the bourgeoisie casts away the smiling mask of democracy and begins to organize coups and dictatorships. As we saw once again in April 2002 in Venezuela, the bourgeois can shift from democracy to dictatorship with the ease of a man passing from a smoking to a non-smoking compartment of a train.

Aims of Socialism

If forty years ago the character of the Pakistani revolution was socialist, it is more so today. The unaccomplished tasks of the democratic revolution are festering wounds on the body of Pakistan. They cannot be completed, as has been proved for more than six decades, by the decadent bourgeoisie. These tasks need enormous resources to be fulfilled. That is why without a socialist revolution even the democratic revolution cannot be completed.

Trotsky wrote in the 'Draft Programme of the Communist International',

“From the uneven sporadic development of capitalism flows the non-simultaneous, uneven, and sporadic character of the socialist revolution.

“(…) From Marx on, we have been constantly repeating that capitalism cannot cope with the spirit of new technology to which it has given rise and which tears asunder not only the integument of bourgeois private property rights, but also the national hoops of the bourgeois state. Socialism, however, must not only take over from capitalism the most highly developed productive forces but must immediately carry them onward, raise them to a higher level and give them a state of development such as has been unknown under capitalism”.6


In its advance of the economic and social levels to new heights above the level of capitalism, a socialist revolution also takes measures in completing the national democratic tasks. These socialist measures of expropriating the imperialist's assets, finance capital; refusing to pay back the already paid loans with interest; taking over the commanding heights of the economy and landed estates, will put an end to the horrendous drain of national resources by imperialist and capitalist exploitation. These expropriations rapidly develop society and the means of production to sustain a socialist economy in a limited period of time.

The agrarian revolution, the solution of the national question, the building up of the social and physical infrastructure and other tasks can be completed at a rapid pace with the transformation of the market economy to a planned socialist economy. Here the fundamental reason for production would be transformed from the incentive of profit to the incentive of the fulfilment of the human need. The national question can only be solved through the acceptance of the rights of self-determination of the toiling masses of the oppressed nationalities. With the advent of a socialist system, the rapid rise in the prosperity, and unprecedented social and economic progress, it is more likely that the working classes of the oppressed nationalities would opt for a voluntary unity with the socialist federation that will begin to emerge and expand, transcending the geographic demarcations of bourgeois states. Lenin was very pertinent on the national question and its relation with the socialist revolution.

Lenin wrote in 1922:

“The aim of socialism is not only to end the division of mankind into tiny states and the isolation of nations in any form, it is not only to bring the nations closer together but to integrate them”.7


In the uninterrupted process of completing the tasks of the democratic revolution, in continuity with the building of socialism, the revolution in Pakistan will attain the character of permanent revolution. It is also true that the revolutionary overthrow and replacement of the bourgeois state with a proletarian state will pose a daunting task. The propagandists of the ruling classes have been viciously hurling accusations for more than a hundred years that socialism or communism is a dictatorship. First they compared the democratic centralism of Bolshevism with military dictatorships in capitalist countries. Then they got the alibi of Stalinism in Russia, which they exploited to the extreme. Stalinism was not Marxism, but a totalitarian caricature of socialism which was the result of the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet Union. It was not the product of the revolution but the political counter-revolution of the bureaucracy led by Stalin. This occurred mainly due to the defeat of the revolutions in advanced countries- Germany (1918-19), Britain (1926), France 1924, Austro Hungarian Empire (1920), China (1924-25) and several other countries.

The isolated backwardness and the extermination of the Bolshevik cadres in the imperialist drive to crush the revolution were some of the factors that led to the rise of Stalinism. Above all it was predicted by Lenin in July 1921 that if the revolution doesn't expand into the advanced countries then the 'Russian Revolution was doomed.' Leon Trotsky, Ted Grant and other revolutionary teachers had predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union due to this Stalinist totalitarianism, decades in advance.

The main purpose of this barrage of propaganda was that, 'Socialism has failed', 'Marxism is finished'. 'End of history', 'clash of civilisation', 'Communistic dictatorship', 'command economy' etc. is a colossal deception devised to divert the attention of the masses from the stark reality of the dictatorship of finance capital, which exercises its economic and social repression through military dictatorships and bourgeois democracy with equal ferocity. This whole propaganda campaign of the bourgeois intellectuals and the Imperialist media is to conceal the crisis and doom of their own system. Alan Woods sums up the present state of mind of the bourgeois ideologues and their gloom behind the ruthless attacks on Marxist philosophy and ideology, in his brilliant work Reformism or Revolution. Alan writes:

“The crisis of the capitalist system is reflected in a crisis of bourgeois values, morality, religion, politics and philosophy. The mood of pessimism that afflicts the bourgeoisie and its ideologues in this period is manifested in the poverty of its thought, the triviality of its art and the emptiness of its spiritual values. It is expressed in the wretched philosophy of post-modernism, which imagines itself to be superior to all previous philosophy, when in reality it is vastly inferior.

“In its youth the bourgeoisie was capable of producing great thinkers: Locke, Hobbes, Kant, Hegel, Adam Smith and Ricardo. In the period of its decline, it is only capable of producing intellectual pygmies. They talk of the end of ideology and the end of history in the same breath. They do not believe in progress because the bourgeoisie has long since ceased to be progressive. When they talk of the end of history it is because they have ended in an historical dead-end and can see no way out. When they talk of the end of ideology, it is because they are no longer capable of producing one”.8


It is true that democracy under revolutionary socialism is parliamentary democracy nor is it the same as the Athenian democracy or other 'democratic' methods of various types of parliamentary systems in history. Never has a revolution been won through a parliamentary struggle, nor can it ever be achieved through this institution of the bourgeois state. Lenin wrote a Marxist classic, The State and Revolution during the gigantic events of the 1917 revolution. This showed the importance of theory and political education that the great teachers of Marxism always attached to the struggle for a victorious revolution. Lenin wrote in 1917,

“The exploiting classes need political rule to maintain exploitation, i.e., in the selfish interests of an insignificant minority against the vast majority of all people. The exploited classes need political rule in order to completely abolish all exploitation, i.e., in the interests of the vast majority of the people, and against the insignificant minority consisting of the modern slave-owners the landowners and capitalists.

“(…) We cannot imagine democracy, even proletarian democracy, without representative institutions, but we can and must imagine democracy without parliamentarianism, if criticism of bourgeois society is not mere words for us, if the desire to overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie is our earnest and sincere desire, and not a mere “election” cry for catching workers' votes.

“(…) But it is clear that the old executive apparatus, the bureaucracy, which is connected with the bourgeoisie, would simply be unfit to carry out the orders of the proletarian state.

“(…) Democracy is a form of the state; it represents, on the one hand, the organized, systematic use of force against persons; but, on the other hand, it signifies the formal recognition of equality of citizens, the equal right of all to determine the structure of, and to administer, the state”.9

In the same work Lenin also describes and elaborates democracy under socialism. The class nature of its content and the highest form of democracy mankind had ever experienced in its history.

Lenin continues:

“In a socialist society, the 'sort of parliament', consisting of workers deputies will, of course, establish the working regulations and supervise the management of the 'apparatus', but this apparatus will not be bureaucratic. The workers, after winning political power, will smash the old bureaucratic apparatus, shatter it to its very foundations, and raze it to the ground; they will replace it by a new one, consisting of the very same workers and other employees, against whose transformation into bureaucrats the measures will at once be taken which were specified in detail by Marx and Engels: (1) not only election, but also recall at any time; (2) pay not to exceed that of a workman; (3) immediate introduction of control and supervision by all, so that all may become 'bureaucrats' for a time and that, therefore, nobody may be able to become a bureaucrat.

“(…) The proletariat is oppressed, the working people are enslaved by capitalism. Under capitalism, democracy is restricted, cramped, curtailed, mutilated by all the conditions of wage slavery, and the poverty and misery of the people. This and this alone is the reason why the functionaries of our political organizations and trade unions are corrupted or rather tend to be corrupted by the conditions of capitalism and betray a tendency to become bureaucrats, i.e., privileged persons divorced from the people and standing above the people.

“(…) That is the essence of bureaucracy; and until the capitalists have been expropriated and the bourgeoisie overthrown, even proletarian functionaries will inevitably be 'bureaucratized' to a certain extent.

“(…) For the first time in the history of civilized society the mass of population will rise to taking an independent part, not only in voting and elections, but also in the everyday administration of the state. Under socialism all will govern in turn and will soon become accustomed to no one governing”.10

The State

Similar is the question of the state and its institutions. The present state is structured, indoctrinated and trained to protect the bourgeoisie and its system. A totally different and transformed social and economic system cannot be run by the same state. In reality the present state structure in its present character shall and always has, tried to crush the revolutionary movement of the workers and the toiling masses. A revolution should have no misunderstanding about this. It has to smash the present state structure to put upon new form and structure of the state. In his epic work The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State, the great Marxist teacher Fredrick Engels summed up the historical analysis of the state:

“The state is, therefore, by no means a power forced on society from without; just as little is it 'the reality of the ethical idea', 'the image and reality of reason', as Hegel maintains. Rather, it is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has split into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel. But in order that these antagonisms, these classes with conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have a power, seemingly standing above society, that would alleviate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of 'order'; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state."11

This expresses with perfect clarity the basic idea of Marxism with regard to the historical role and the meaning of the state. The state is a product and a manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms. The state arises where, when and insofar as class antagonism objectively cannot be reconciled. And, conversely, the existence of the state proves that the class antagonisms are irreconcilable.

In his early writing Marx gave a profound analysis of the state.

“These actual relations [the economic structure of society] are in no way created by the State power, on the contrary they are the power creating it. The individuals who rule in these conditions, besides having to constitute their power in the form of the State, have to give their will, which is determined by these definite conditions, a universal expression as the will of the State, as law - an expression whose content is always determined by the relations of this class, as civil and criminal law demonstrate in the clearest possible way...”12

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall it became fashionable amongst the urban petty bourgeois (as was 'socialism' fashionable in 1960s) to call the overthrow of the bourgeois state and revolution a utopian dream. The formation of a Bolshevik-Leninist party, a democratic proletarian state and the possibility of the alternative of a socialist revolution as a way out, are dismissed with contemptuous scorn by the 'ex-communists' and 'left' leaders of the PPP. This is not the first time it has happened in history. Every revolutionary party had to go through such insults and scorn in its period of struggle for revolutionary socialism. Lenin sharply retorted to these 'reformist' intellectuals:

“But there are none so deaf as those who will not hear. And the very thing the opportunists of present-day Social-Democracy do not want to hear about is the destruction of state power, the amputation of this parasitic excrescence.”

“(…) The course of events compels the revolution 'to concentrate all its forces of destruction' against the state power, and to set itself the aim, not of improving the state machine, but of smashing and destroying it.

“(…) We are not Utopians, we do not 'dream' of dispensing at once with all administration, with all subordination. These anarchist dreams, based upon incomprehension of the tasks of the proletarian dictatorship, are totally alien to Marxism, and, as a matter of fact, serve only to postpone the socialist revolution until people are different. No, we want the socialist revolution with people as they are now, with people who cannot dispense with subordination, control, and 'foremen and accountants'.

“(…) The subordination, however, must be to the armed vanguard of all the exploited and working people, i.e., to the proletariat. A beginning can and must be made at once, overnight, to replace the specific 'bossing' of state officials by the simple functions of 'foremen and accountants', functions which are already fully within the ability of the average town dweller and can well be performed for 'workmen's wages.

“We, the workers, shall organize large-scale production on the basis of what capitalism has already created, relying on our own experience as workers, establishing strict, iron discipline backed up by the state power of the armed workers. We shall reduce the role of state officials to that of simply carrying out our instructions as responsible, revocable, modestly paid 'foremen and accountants' (of course, with the aid of technicians of all sorts, types and degrees). This is our proletarian task, this is what we can and must start with in accomplishing the proletarian revolution. Such a beginning, on the basis of large-scale production, will of itself lead to the gradual 'withering away' of all bureaucracy, to the gradual creation of an order an order without inverted commas, an order bearing no similarity to wage slavery an order under which the functions of control and accounting, becoming more and more simple, will be performed by each in turn, will then become a habit and will finally die out as the special functions of a special section of the population”.13

At the peak of the 1968-69 revolution we saw at least the beginnings of this process. As the revolution fought the state, those areas where the state forces were routed were in fact liberated and an alternative order was needed. We saw the factory, neighbourhood and even village committees created. There was a collective and fraternal control by the workers and the property-less masses. This restored an order which was voluntarily accepted and supported by the oppressed masses. The 'common people' participated in their functioning for the period when situations of dual power remained.

The vote of the army in the 1970 elections clearly indicated the revolutionary impacts the soldiers and lower ranks had during the period of 1968-69. The whole situation was crying out for a revolutionary party, that is, in some ways a state within a state. Had there been a cadre organisation in Pakistan like the Bolsheviks in 1917 in Russia, the alternate revolutionary state could have rapidly emerged to replace the state apparatus that had been cracked by the revolutionary assault of the mass movement.

Foreign Aggression

The other important aspect in such a revolutionary situation in Pakistan would be a factor of foreign aggression. There is no doubt that imperialism would not tolerate such a change. But these days there are many things that are intolerable for imperialism, from Venezuela to Iran, from Iraq to Afghanistan and of course regions of Pakistan. How far can it go? With the economic crunch and a virtual meltdown of the financial systems of imperialism, it only displays its impotent rage. The first point is what capacity does imperialism retain, and even in its madness how much longer can it go on ravaging countries and devastating civilisations?

Trotsky once termed US Imperialism as a monster with feet of clay. This seems quite apt if we look at the present day wrangling of imperialism. It is through their military and civilian stooges, who have stacked their plunder in imperialist banks that the imperialist used to control Pakistan. The revolution shall overthrow these stooges, along with their state apparatus, and forcibly retrieve the billions they have plundered by the blood, sweat and tears of the Pakistani working class.

Secondly, from the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, the Chinese revolution of 1949, to the Cuban revolution of 1959 and the various revolutions in several countries, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin Amercia, they have been able to crush very few. Why are the imperialists so nervous and hesitant in the case of the Venezuelan revolution? They've blown hot and cold, but they haven't done much to Chavez's challenges to their hegemony and authority. They might assassinate Chavez but even that cannot stop the rising tide of revolution in Latin America, where one president after another, when elected, at least presents himself as 'left'.

The experience of 1968-69 shows that the ruling classes of the subcontinent went to war to stop the spread of the revolution. The Indian ruling classes intervened with all their military might not only to defeat the Pakistan Army but more so to crush the revolutionary soviets that had developed in the liberated areas of East Bengal. A mass revolutionary party in India could have turned the whole scenario into its opposite with relative case. The communist parties in India had a certain mass base but their leadership was Stalinist and not Leninist. Labels are not the test of a product.

The most important precedent in defiance of imperialist military aggression is the revolutionary war launched by the Bolsheviks in the period 1918-1921. When twenty-one imperialist armies attacked the nascent Soviet Union, apart from the rapid rearmament and preparation of the red army by the military genius of Trotsky, the Bolsheviks issued an appeal to the soldiers of the attacking armies that the revolution was that of a class and not a nation. It was their class that was in power. Hence it was their duty to defend the revolution rather than attacking it. There were rebellions in the imperialist armies which was a major factor in salvaging the socialist revolution in Russia.


But socialism cannot be built and a planned socialist economy cannot be sustained for a very long time in a single country, whatever the size and indigenous resources of that country might be. If a country as huge as USSR, with one fifth of the world's surface, could not be sustained on a national basis, how can any other country do it?

The question arises: how can socialism drive the productive forces, which have tried to violently break through under socialism, back into the boundaries of a national state? Hence, for the building of socialism itself, arises the inevitable necessity of expanding the revolution beyond the borders of the nation state where it has been successfully carried out.

Lenin made it very clear before the revolution in Russia. In 1915 he said:

“The Marxian doctrine, which postulates that the socialist revolution can only begin on a national basis… that is, the building of socialism in one country is impossible… has been rendered doubly accurate today. In the modern epoch, imperialism has developed, deepened and sharpened both of these antagonistic tendencies.

“(…) uneven economic and political development is an unconditional law of capitalism. Hence it follows that the triumph of socialism is, to begin with, possible in a few, or even in a single, capitalist country. The victorious proletariat of that country, having expropriated the capitalists and having organised socialist production at home, would be up in arms against the rest of the capitalist world, attracting oppressed classes of other countries to its side, causing insurrections in those countries against the capitalists, and acting, in case of need, even with military power against the exploiting classes and their governments”.14

Trotsky explains the process further:

“Imperialism… aggravates to an exceptional degree the contradiction between the growth of the national productive forces of world economy and national state barriers. The productive forces are incompatible with national boundaries. Hence the flow of foreign trade, the export of men and capital, the seizure of territories, the colonial policy, and the last imperialist war, but also the economic possibility of a self-sufficient socialist society. The productive forces of capitalist countries have long since broken through the national boundaries. Socialist society, however, can be built only on the most advance productive forces, on the application of electricity and chemistry to the processes of production including agriculture; on combining, generalising, and bringing to maximum development the highest elements of modern technology”.15

Marxism is internationalism or it is nothing. From the task of defending the revolution against imperialist aggression to the building of socialism, the expansion of revolution is a prerequisite. The revolution of 1968-69 had already stirred up the masses in South Asia. A socialist victory in Pakistan could have resulted in revolutionary upheavals from Afghanistan to the Far eastern borders of India and even beyond. Hence the creation of a revolutionary subjective factor is linked to the building of the Marxist International in all the countries of the region; it is vital for the success of revolution in Pakistan.

At the same time a revolutionary international is duty bound to build up active support and campaigns to defend the revolution in Pakistan or in any other country. This support on a world scale, especially amongst the workers and youth of the advanced capitalist countries, would play a decisive role in the defence of revolution.

In any case there are long cultural, economic and social relations with Iran and Afghanistan , stretching back thousands of years. India and Pakistan were an entity as a civilisation as old as seven thousand years, till just 61 years ago. Even the relatively small political upheaval reciprocates in the two countries. Masses in India are suffering from capitalist exploitation as never before. It is the same situation in Afghanistan, Iran, Bangladesh and other countries of the region.

The masses are seething with revolt everywhere, looking and yearning for a way out. In this closely interconnected world, with internet, satellite television and other modes of communications, a revolution in Pakistan would be such an inspiration and courage that it would trigger mass revolutionary uprisings, especially in the countries of South Asia. Such a transformation would spread the revolution with a swiftness unimaginable in the present milieu. This will be the beginning of the task of moving towards a socialist voluntary federation of the peoples of South Asia. In other words it would be another USSR in the making. And this time over, it will fulfil Lenin's intention of the creation of the USSR. It will spread far beyond the frontiers of South Asia. That would be a decisive defeat of imperialism and capitalist exploitation on a world scale.

Pakistan has been nowhere near any really stable situation throughout its tumultuous history, but the present instability is unprecedented even by Pakistani standards. The imperialists made strenuous efforts to carry through this transition from Musharraf to Zardari. Even the bourgeoisie admits the loosening and the process of the disintegration of the cohesion of the state. Dawn described the condition of the Pakistani state in a recent article:

“The violent extremists in our midst are not aberrations. They are the products of a generation of softening-up the state and Islamising society. They are the most virulent and aggressive strain of obscurantism, and benefit daily from the role that their ostensibly non-militant counterparts, such as Al Huda, the Tableeghi Jamaat and the thousands of unregulated and illegal mosques and madressahs, have played in propagating a neo-conservative Bedouin worldview in Pakistan.

“(…) For decades such elements enjoyed state patronage and were used by the state as 'strategic' instruments which greatly augmented their strength and appeal. Now those instruments have spun out of control and the state itself has become their target.

“The terrorists are widely believed to have the support of renegade elements within the security apparatus.

“Finally, the terrorists seem to have an accurate measure of the administrative capabilities of the Pakistani state. The professional competence and integrity of Pakistan's security apparatus is so low, and its internal indiscipline so high, that the state is incapable of anything more than a few weeks of extra vigilance after each major attack.”16

The Situation Today

The Americans want the new 'democratic' dispensation to perform and will try to prolong its rule. However, the imperialists have big problems with money themselves; they can't be very generous to Zardari or prop up a crumbling Pakistani economy. But still they have embroiled themselves in a messy situation where a lot is at stake for them, resting on the fate of the Pakistani State.

If we analyze the above quoted article in the Dawn, it seems to be a near impossible task. With the exacerbation of this 'war against terror' the internal indiscipline and the dissensions within the state would further increase. The strain on the Army high command will be tremendous. It is already facing a lot of criticism and bickering among the middle ranking officers about the 'abuse' of the army by the US and its toady politicians. Events are exploding at a rapid pace in Pakistan, with some really major shocks whose frequency has increased in the last period.

Any major event can force the army to intervene again. The obscurantist elements in the security forces and state have not weakened and the PPP government is still trying to appease them. The Islamists don't have many votes in the parliament; the pressure probably came from within the state apparatus and Zardari succumbed to it. Apart from terrorist acts and major accidental events, the further aggravation of the economic crisis, price hikes and the social anger against them could lead the Army to move in to stave off a bigger mass outburst.

These social convulsions can also effect the psychology of the Pakistan army which has a tradition of making such interventions. A military coup or martial law would be much more brutal than the rule of tin-pot dictators like Musharraf. At the same time it would be quite short-lived, as the army would not be able to resolve any of the problems faced by society.

The Americans are exerting their pressure on the military high command (which was very much of their own choice) to refrain from making such a move. The Generals probably don't want to move in yet. The strategists of the ruling classes might try to go for an in between strategy. 'Elections' could be held and Nawaz Sharif or some other right-wing politician might be brought in to make a change for a temporary respite. But a right-wing alliance would be in crisis even sooner and an even greater turmoil would again be confronted by the dithering state. Nawaz Sharif is waiting in the wings for such an opportunity, and has the support of the right-wing. But how far can he solve the greater convulsions that impend?

If there is a coup from the middle ranks of the army then it will be a bloody affair. The imposition of Islamic fundamentalism is not ruled out, but it is not very likely. Even if some of the right-wing obscurantist generals take the power structure of the state and economy is such that they will not be able to alter anything radically. The Islamists cannot win this insurgency mainly because there are various groups fighting different insurgencies in different areas.

There is no cohesion or co-ordination between them in different areas. They belong to diverse religious sects that are often at odds with each other and settle their scores through bloody gun battles. If there is any co-ordination it can probably be through some rogue state agency. But the possibility of such a co-ordinated effort by the fundamentalists is remote. Their social base is mainly urban and suburban petty bourgeois in the tribal waste lands, and amongst primitive sections of the society. Amongst the workers and the masses in general their support is very limited. If the Islamist fanatics cannot win this war that also means that the Americans and the regular army can't defeat them either.

The reality is that sections of the Pakistan army are actually involved on both sides. The imperialists know this and say it, but cannot do much about it. If we analyze the insurgency and war for example in Swat, the collusion and collision between the warring sides is quite evident. With the army being involved with the fundamentalists for decades, it is hardly surprising that the material and financial interest of sections of the army are linked with the Taliban financing system.

But in the face of defeat the imperialists could easily change the goal posts: if you can't fight them, join them. The Americans had supported and done deals with the Taliban when they were in power in Afghanistan, they can do another grand deal with the Islamic fundamentalists again. After all, modern Islamic fundamentalism was the brain child of John Foster Dulles, the secretary of state to Eisenhower, the US president in the 1950s. In 1956 after the defeat of Zionist, French and British imperialism by Egypt under Jamal Abdul Nasser the CIA decided on a plan with heavy funding to create Islamic fundamentalist reactionary forces to kill and attack the left forces and progressive elements in the 'Islamic world'. The Afghan Jihad against the left-wing government in Kabul in the 1980s was after all sponsored and supported by the CIA through the auspices of Pakistani and Saudi Arabian intelligence agencies.

Eric S Margolis, former high ranking official in the US establishment and now a veteran American journalist, in an article in the Khaleej Times, wrote the following:

“Taliban was founded as an Islamic movement dedicated to fighting Communism and the drug trade. It received US funding until May, 2001. In fact, the CIA maintained close contacts with the Taliban, many of whose members were Mujahideen from the anti-Soviet war of the 1980's, for possible future use against the Communist regimes of Central Asia and against China.

“The 9/11 attacks made the CIA immediately cut its links with Taliban and burn its associated files.

“(…) The Karzai government cannot extend its authority beyond Kabul because that would mean overthrowing the very same drug-dealing warlords that are its allies. There is no real Afghan national army, just a bunch of unenthusiastic mercenaries who pretend to fight while playing footsy with Taliban.

“Contrary to Western propaganda, Taliban are not `terrorists.' The movement had nothing to do with 9/11 though it did shelter Osama bin Laden, a national hero of the war against the Soviets. The 9/11 attacks were plotted in Germany and Spain, not Afghanistan. Only a handful of Al Qaeda members are left in Afghanistan. The current war is not really about Al Qaeda and `terrorism,' but about opening a secure corridor through Pashtoon tribal territory to export the oil and gas riches of the Caspian Basin of Central Asia to the West.

“The US and NATO forces in Afghanistan are essentially pipeline protection troops. As that great American founding father Benjamin Franklin said, 'there is no good war, and no bad peace.' It's time for the West to face reality in Afghanistan”.17

It will be a bloody and protracted crisis in which the oppressed will be the biggest sufferers.

As we have explained earlier, with the continuation of capitalism prosperity under the incumbent or any other regime is ruled out. The conditions of the masses can only worsen. The national question could come to the fore again, but the possibility of the nationalists gaining a mass base in the oppressed nationalities and opting for secession is very limited. Nevertheless, the insurgency in Baluchistan can still flare up to a higher intensity. The break-up of Pakistan, though not ruled out in extraordinary situations, is not the most likely perspective. At the same time, the national contradictions will keep on exploding into conflicts and will be a source of violent clashes, intensifying the instability already prevalent in the country.

This can give rise to chaos and anarchy. Yet there is another perspective that is the victim of a conspiracy of silence by the mainstream journalists and analysts: it is the perspective of a class struggle and the eruption of another mass movement. The movement after 18th October 2007 was not of the calibre of the1968-69 upsurge. Hence, it was diffused with relative ease by the PPP leadership. It seems that the immediate eruption of a mass revolt is not the most likely possibility. The present turbulent situation has two sides to it. This period is punctuated with frequent strikes and sporadic uprisings of the workers, some of which are quite fierce. A slight pause in the economic decline that is going on in Pakistan at the moment can give rise to a potentially revolutionary situation with at least the beginnings of a mass movement. Events and accidents can occur that could convert it into a more militant mass movement. Such a perspective is possible in the next period. The events taking place in Latin America and elsewhere can accentuate such a movement. Another main obstacle for the mass movement is the political tradition of the toilers in Pakistan. Alan Woods explains the role of such traditions:

“In order for the heavy, multi-millioned masses to draw all the necessary conclusions, a further experience was necessary. It is natural for people to take the line of least resistance, even in a revolution. For this very reason the masses always cling obstinately to their traditional mass organisations. The thinking of the masses is very economical: why discard an old tool before trying to make it work?”18

In the wake of a revolutionary movement the monolith of the PPP leadership will begin to crack. There will be a number of splits in the party. There will be a number of 'left- wing' leaders emerging when presently there is none in the PPP. If the movement sustains itself for sometime it will gain more strength day by day. This at a certain stage shall lead to a call for a general strike, which can come from the trade union or political leadership that emerges from this movement, as happened in the movement of 1968-69. The role of the Marxist tendency will become crucial at this stage.

Riaz Lund

There have been several recent events that graphically illustrate that the revolutionary potential of the workers and youth can be aroused and support for revolutionary socialism can be galvanised by the bold intervention of the Marxist organisation. The most significant exhibition of this prospect came to the fore during the elections of February 2008. Comrade Riaz Lund, a steel worker, was sacked due to his militant role in the struggles of the steel mills. Comrade Riaz was contesting against the neo-fascist MQM on a PPP ticket. Being a long-standing revolutionary Marxist, Riaz Lund's campaign was launched on a socialist programme; the main slogan of his campaign was, “irreconcilable struggle till the victory of socialist revolution”.

The election posters, the red banners, flags, slogans and speeches in his campaign were full of revolutionary fervour. Marxists from all over the country had come down to Karachi's industrial district of Malir, the constituency from where he was contesting this election. The MQM goons tried to attack and intimidate the comrade, as was their usual practice of using neo-fascist tactics to win elections. But this time, as some of their leaders confessed, there was a different sort of resistance and campaign. The Marxists struck back and repulsed the attacks of the MQM. As the trains used to enter Karachi, Malir, being one of the first stations of the metropolis, had all the walls covered with posters and banners calling for a socialist revolution. Millions of passengers coming and going out of Pakistan's Petrograd, Karachi got a revolutionary message. Socialist ideas and slogans were echoing on the streets of Karachi after about four decades. On the Election Day it looked more of a revolutionary carnival than an electoral activity. The state was worried, as comrade Erik de Bruyn from Belgium had come as an election observer. The MQM failed to rig the votes at the polling stations as their terror tactics were repulsed by the Marxists. Results started to come from some of the most remote areas of Pakistan, but the state refused to declare the result of NA-257, a constituency in the industrial heartland of Pakistan. In the late hours of the night, as rallies of supporters of Comrade Riaz Lund gathered outside the main election offices, the MQM thugs and the police were hijacking the ballot boxes and polling officers from the basement backdoors and took them in police vans to the Governor's house, where a MQM activist was the Governor of Sindh.

The wrath of the workers was rising as the night was passing by. The authorities could not dare to declare the fabricated result throughout the night. Only the next day in the afternoon they released the result on television. In the 'official' rigged result Riaz got 46,800 votes, which was one of the highest ever against MQM in that constituency in Karachi. In the evening Riaz spoke at the rally in which he said,

“The whole of Karachi knows, the whole of Pakistan knows, and the world will know that we won the elections. Our victory is the message of revolutionary socialism as the only way out of this horror of capitalism, which reached millions of workers and youth through this campaign. Till a victorious socialist revolution, our struggle shall never waver or stop. Go forward! Victory shall be the destiny of the proletariat”.19

The Struggle for a Socialist Future

The whole art of building the revolutionary party and cementing it with the masses consists precisely on knowing how to connect the finished scientific programme of Marxism with the unfinished, confused and contradictory consciousness of the masses.

If a revolutionary organisation with a substantial quantitative and qualitative force is there, then it can start radicalising the objective situation in a decisive way. A new 1968-69 on a much higher historical plane can emerge.

The spectre of another 1968-69 will haunt the ruling classes and the imperialists. The working class in Pakistan has gone through traumatic experiences and despairing betrayals by leaders for almost three generations. The new generation of the proletariat, working on technologically more advanced instruments and modes of production, has emerged. There may be other superficial changes in society and the classes, but historically, socially, and economically their character and role has not altered fundamentally. The proletariat and youth of today's Pakistan might have to make a greater effort to come to the fore and play their historical role than their predecessors did in 1968-69. There have been many events, many betrayals and many mixings of banners. Yet it is a role that they have to play. With the intensity of crisis today, and capitalism dooming this society to death and destruction, it is a question of survival of the working classes and the toiling masses. That is what this struggle is all about.

Through a general strike the proletariat can make the country come to a stand still. The electric supply would be in the hands of the workers. Not a phone will ring, not a plane would fly, not a train will run, not a factory will function and not a wheel shall turn. That is the real meaning of a general strike. The labour which runs society can stop it functioning and take it into its own hands. We saw that happen in the wheel jam strike of 17 and 18 February 1969. It can happen again. A successful general strike will shake the already crumbling confidence of the ruling classes and the state. It will send tremors through the echelons of power. But at the same time it will give the workers realisation of their enormous strength as a class. Hence the confidence and courage to move the class struggle forward. The urban poor, the peasants, and other oppressed sections of society will develop a new confidence in the proletariat. They will follow the proletarian leadership. The youth would be in the forefront of the struggle inspiring the proletariat right from the start. In such conditions the non-issues will be wiped out from the political horizon of society; the religious fundamentalists, the ethnic neo-fascists and other reactionary forces that come to the fore in conditions of lull shall vanish into oblivion. A new dawn will be in the offing.

Such a pre-revolutionary or a revolutionary situation will have a deep impact on the soldiers who, after all, are workers in uniforms. It will also strongly influence young officers and other ranks in the armed forces to side with the proletariat. This will be a decisive stage for the revolution.

But even more decisive will be the presence of a revolutionary party armed with ideological clarity and a correct theoretical perspective.

Only a superficial mind seeks to interpret major political events in terms of personalities. This is a trivial approach to history and politics. It is on the level of sentimental novels and gossip journalism.

Theory occupies a place in revolutions that military strategy occupies in war. A mistaken strategy in war will lead inevitably to mistakes in tactics and practical operations. It will undermine the morale of the troops and lead to all kinds of blunders, defeats and unnecessary loss of life. It is the same in a revolution. Mistakes in theory will sooner or later be reflected in mistakes in practice. A mistake in everyday life can often be rectified. Everyday mistakes are not usually matters of life and death. But revolutions are life and death struggles and mistakes can be paid for very dearly. Consequently, serious revolutionaries must pay serious attention to theory.

If it is politically, organisationally and morally prepared, then it can become a mass force in a very short span of time. Such a force will now be able to direct and organise a revolution.

No ruling class in history has ever given up its power and privileges without inflicting violence, mayhem and bloodshed to preserve its system of exploitation. Hence revolution is not a peaceful affair. This doesn't mean that revolutions come through the barrel of the gun. The decisive force behind a revolutionary victory in the class war is the unity of the class, will, determination, and valour of the working classes. The proletariat doesn't wish or want to use violent means to achieve its revolutionary goal. But the Marxists and the revolutionary proletariat are not pacifists. The answer to the violence is not non-violence. The violent attacks perpetuated by the bourgeoisie have to be answered back with a ruthless fight against the ruling classes, along with their state forces and gangs of thugs.

After all, this is a class war. But the armed struggle of the proletariat is not about using terrorism, nor is the guerrilla war a classical method of revolutionary Marxism. The defence of the revolution begins with the armed defence committee of the workers on strike at the factory gates, and goes to the extent of the fight of the soldiers and lower ranks of the armed forces against the violent and terrorist forces of the ruling elite. But the organic force behind the revolution is the General Strike, which brings all of society to a halt and gives the masses confidence in the success of the revolution.

The Pakistani ruling classes and their state, being weak and immersed in crisis, are extremely nervous. This makes them more viciously cruel, short-tempered, and merciless. Hence they have a tendency to resort to violent means abruptly and viciously. They lack confidence in themselves. This means that a revolution in Pakistan would have to go through turbulent and even bloody episodes. The better the preparation of the revolution by the Marxists, the more the proletariat are steeled and tempered, the more short-lived and futile will be the attacks and violence inflicted upon the revolution by the bourgeois state. An awakened and risen people cannot be defeated by the mightiest armies in the world.

Hence nine-tenths of the task of the revolution is the winning of the masses to its side. As Marx said, that when an idea is taken up by the masses it becomes an invincible force. That is the real power of the revolutionary insurrection and its victory. After the overthrow of capitalism and its state the creation of a socialist republic will open up a new era for the oppressed. When their chains are broken after centuries of slavery, the feeling of elation will give such courage and strength that it will electrify the masses and work wonders. In Pakistan a victorious socialist revolution will open up opportunities and bring changes to the social life of the country that could not have been imaginable for past generations. Some of them could be implemented with immediate effect.

In Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky explains:

“The transitional epoch between capitalism and socialism taken as a whole does not mean a cutting down of trade but, on the contrary, its extraordinary extension. All branches of industry transform themselves and grow. New ones continually arise, and all are compelled to define their relations to one another both quantitatively and qualitatively. The liquidation of the consummatory peasant economy, and at the same time of the shut-in family life, means a transfer to the sphere of social interchange, and ipso facto money circulation, of all the labour energy which was formerly expended within the limits of the peasant's yard, or within the walls of his private dwelling. All products and services begin for the first time in history to be exchanged for one another.”20

The nationalization of the means of production and the introduction of a planned economy marks a big step forward as opposed to the anarchy of the market and private ownership. The state can now regulate and plan the economy, but only within the confines of the law of value. In the transitional period the law of value is not abolished, but is modified. Trotsky points out:

“The nationalisation of the means of production and credit, the co-operativising or state-ising of internal trade, the monopoly of foreign trade, the collectivisation of agriculture, the law of inheritance - set strict limits upon the personal accumulation of money and hinder its conversion into private capital (usurious, commercial and industrial). These functions of money, however, bound up as they are with exploitation, are not liquidated at the beginning of a proletarian revolution, but in a modified form are transferred to the state, the universal merchant, creditor and industrialist. At the same time the more elementary functions of money as measure of value, means of exchange and medium of payment, are not only preserved, but acquire a broader field of action than they had under capitalism.”21

With the further development of the productive forces, the reduction of the working day and the raising of productivity to undreamed-of heights, the raising of living standards and the cultural level of the whole population, the conditions will be prepared for a further development of the socialist element and the progressive elimination of the remnants left over from the past. The speed and the ease with which this transition is made depend above all upon the material conditions of society.

A nationalized planned economy, of course, gives us a huge advantage over capitalism. The workers' state can consciously regulate and plan production (though within limits determined by the general level of economic and social development). It can determine the rate of investment, the proportions between means of production and means of consumption, the price of articles of consumption, etc.

Alan Woods in his epic work Reformism or Revolution elucidates the real future under socialism. He writes,

“A planned economy would enable humanity to exploit natural resources in a rational and scientific way, balancing the needs of human consumption with the need to preserve and cherish our beautiful world and pass on our natural heritage intact to future generations. Socialism in our time will not signify a regime of austerity. On the contrary, a genuine socialist society will begin at the highest point achieved by capitalism. It will signify, not a reduction in living standards, but an all-round increase in the standard of living, together with a general reduction of working hours. This is the prior condition for a real participative democracy - that is, a workers' democracy. Without it, all talk of socialism will be mere empty demagogy.

“Socialism, as understood by Marx and Lenin, presupposes that the development of the productive forces has reached a sufficient level that it would eliminate all material inequality. The abolition of classes cannot be established by decree. It must arise from a superabundance of things that would universally raise the quality of life to unheard-of levels.

“All the basic human needs would be satisfied, and therefore the humiliating struggle for existence would cease. A general reduction in working hours would provide the conditions for an unparalleled development of culture. It would enable men and women to participate in the administration of industry, the state and society. From the very beginning the workers' state would be characterised by a level of democratic participation far superior to the most democratic bourgeois republic. As a consequence, classes would dissolve into society, together with the last vestiges of class society - money and the state”.22

A socialist revolution doesn't change only the economics and the state. It casts aside the rotten cultural, moral, ethical and social values imposed upon society by the ruling class. It instils a new enthusiasm in the human spirit, elevates social and moral values and pulls the oppressed masses out of the abyss of despair and depression in which the capitalist system has kept them for generations.

The new enriched and enlightened spirit and feeling of the revolution gives the masses the courage and the will to live life with a new vigour and optimism, and break the shackles of their physical and psychological bondage.

Capitalism has scarred the face of Pakistan, which has been spattered with dirt and garbage. The streets, shanty towns and villages where the bulk of the population lives have been turned literally into reeking, stinking garbage dumps.

There are heaps of 'solid waste', hospital residue, and rubbish lying in hospital premises close to the patients wards, spreading more disease than the hospitals are able to cure. Streets are polluted with water from the blocked sewage pipes and bubbling gutters.

The exploited toilers, in despair at the hopelessness of the situation, become accustomed and adapted to this filth and stink. They lose the energy to clean up the heaps of rubbish in front of their poor dwellings. But the energy unleashed by the revolution will galvanise the masses to move into taking action to cleanse their society of all the dirt, along with the exploiting classes and their institutions that have turned Pakistan into a huge dumping ground for all kinds of garbage.

In December 1917 Lenin wrote:

“One of the most important tasks of today, if not the most important, is to develop [the] independent initiative of the workers, and of all the working and exploited people generally, develop it as widely as possible in creative organizational work. At all costs we must break the old, absurd, savage, despicable and disgusting 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 organizational development of socialist society.”23

But such shall be the mass inspiration of the revolution that the youth and the working classes will be endowed with a confidence and courage such as they have never felt or experienced all their lives. With this consciousness of their social and economic force in society they will rise and advance to fulfil the historical tasks posed by the revolution:

  • Health and education would be declared totally free of cost at all levels and for every kind of treatment. Private profit on health care and education would be considered a crime under a socialist system.
  • Unemployment can be quickly abolished. The main revolutionary act would be to cut the working week to 20 hours and this alone could throw up jobs for millions of the unemployed.

Vocational training schools, polytechnics and other similar institutions would be set up. The adult and youth would be given crash training programmes in different fields, with benefits for living to rapidly create a workforce to boost the production and growth for the fulfilment of human needs.

  • Most managerial skills and degrees like MBA etc. in a capitalist society are actually to train individuals to exploit, control and get the maximum out of labour in the minimum time. With the workers themselves controlling the industry and the economy through a socialist plan of production huge sums of money spent on managers and astronomical amounts given to 'expert's and CEOs would be rolled back into the economy and invested in the advancement of technology.
  • All the landed estates would be expropriated; there will be distribution of land amongst those landed peasants who wish to own small holdings to do their farming. The main emphasis of the socialist state would be to transform agriculture into industry, mechanise agriculture with the most advanced techniques and develop larger agriculture units with all the facilities that would be owned by society and democratically run by the agricultural workers of those collective farms.
  • Part of the surplus produced would be used for reinvestment in more advanced technology, but the major amount would be dedicated to the economy of collective ownership and a rapid five year plan for the rapid uplift of the masses. The living standards created by these measures would rise at a tremendous speed.
  • With the wealth expropriated from the multinationals, big banks, national capitalists, landlords and other swindlers from the ruling classes, audacious plans for housing, high quality underground electric, water, gas supply and proper electrification, advanced irrigation systems, sanitation and water supply projects, advanced railway system, roads and other basic needs of the common people would be launched. The production and supply of needs and basic utilities of the people as a whole would be given top preference.

All the surplus profit from the production and supply of petroleum products, gas supplies, electricity and water would be gathered by the State and used to cut the costs of international trade and imported products, and the masses, through their soviets or councils of democratic control, would themselves decide their basic needs and their collective distribution.

  • A political system where all parties will abandon capitalism and will not have political structures based on funds from renegade capitalists or imperialist channels. They would be allowed to function in the political structures of councils of workers, soldiers, peasants and students etc. These new revolutionary organs of the toilers would actually run society. The method and mechanism of their functioning would be on the basis of democratic centralism. A party that has no support of the masses has no right to be in power. We have already quoted Lenin in this work where he gives the details of how the highest form of democracy in history would be practiced in the socialist system of society.
  • The elections in a system of planned economy would be independent of the vicious role of finance capital, monetary and social inequality. Those contesting candidates would not have any advantage because of their financial and social status in society. The free will of choice would be exercised for the first time in Pakistan.
  • The revolution will abolish the difference between the minimum and maximum programme of the revolutionary party. On foreign policy a socialist government will actively support the class struggle everywhere in the world, with a special emphasis on the struggle developing in neighbourhood countries. It will carry out an outright anti-imperialist policy and would support every struggle of the oppressed nationalities, minorities, races and others on a class basis, against imperialism and capitalist exploitation. The support of class struggle in the external policy would be the best safeguard for the socialist revolution itself.
  • The class basis of the psychology of the needs and the necessities would be abolished. A revolution above all will abolish the alienation of society of which almost every individual is a victim in one form or another. This alienation creates fear from people themselves which is mostly unreal. This creates isolationism whose needs are dictated by this social fear. The revolution would create an atmosphere of brotherhood and fraternity. This will enhance the socialization of people and for the first time as equal human beings in real life. This will have a sea change effect on the needs in housing, transport and other fields. The whole pattern of such needs would be transformed with the systematically abolished alienation in society. With the resources expropriated from the filthy rich capitalists and imperialist monopolies, advanced and modern collective road and rail transport would be introduced. In such an atmosphere people will prefer to travel by buses and trains rather in the isolation of cars and private vehicles.
  • Gender discrimination would be abolished. This sham representation of women in parliament, comprising of rich women from bourgeois aristocratic families who humiliate the very house maids who are raising their children and doing domestic labour for them, is an insult to the millions of women working hard in the fields and factories. They are being doubly and triply exploited. These are the women who need to, and shall, be liberated by the revolution. Special kindergartens would be set up at village, neighbourhood and factory levels that would generate for women greater security, comfort in work, and relaxation time at home. The exploitation of the domestic labour, mainly done by women, would be abolished. Those who can work in their factories and fields and want to do that job would be freed from these shackles of domestic and family subservience. Women workers in every department would be granted benefit and subsistence allowances during the period of childbirth and other periods of obstetric inactivity.

Every individual shall have the right to believe in whatever faith he or she wishes to believe, and practice it in his or her private life. There shall be no intrusion of any kind by the state into the private lives of individuals. Spreading hatred and using religion for exploitation, violence and intimidation cannot be allowed in a socialist society. The state will be truly secular in character and religion would be the private affair of the individual. Nobody has any rights to question or enforce or remove any belief of the individual.

  • The toiling masses of the oppressed nationalities will have the right of self- determination, including secession if the majority wishes that. The socialist state would offer them a union of socialist republics. The revolution will not only change the geography but abolish all the materialist, ethnic, lingual, racial, religious, sectarian and other reactionary prejudices of the past. This will end a lot of the nationalist and religious animosities created by the ruling classes to subvert the class struggle of different countries, nationalities etc. The socialist revolution would unite the toilers against oppression of all sorts and forms.

  • Art, literature, culture, film, sports, theatre, music and other creative activities of society shall be liberated from the clutches of finance capital. For the first time this society as a whole shall have full access to the world of art. And art will flourish with so many people playing a role in its creativity on a massive scale. Music composition rhythms and symphonies of a liberated people will give the whole society a bliss and a joy yet unforeseen.

Other similar revolutionary measures would be immediately introduced by the Revolutionary Proletarian state based on the genuine democracy of the working class, in every field and department of society. The production of needs and quality of life will achieve unprecedented prosperity, never seen in history before. That will bring mankind to its ultimate destiny of a communist society where want and need shall be abolished and contradiction between man and man shall be abolished. The culture and civilisation shall gain such heights that human beings will be free from all exploitation, prejudices and superstitions for the first time ever. The process of the conquest of nature and the universe by mankind shall begin. This will be the only real redemption of 1968-69 revolution.

« 9. Dictatoship and Democracy Contents Appendices »


1 Frederick Engels, Anti-Duhring, (Progressive Publishers, Moscow, 1956), p. 142

2 Leon Trotsky, Problems of Everyday life, (Pathfinder), p. 67

3 Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, p. 27, 28

4 Alan Woods, Bolshevism, the Road to Revolution, p. 63

5 ibid, p.383-384

6 Leon Trotsky, The Third International after Lenin, p. 40, 41

7 V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 22

8 Alan Woods, Reformism and Revolution, p. 37

9 V. I. Lenin, The State and Revolution, p. 27, 48, 57, 95

10 Ibid p. 103,104, 109, 110

11 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 3, (Moscow, 1973), pp. 326-27

12 Marx, German Ideology, p.184

13 V.I. Lenin, The State and Revolution p. 53, 32, 49

14 V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Progressive Publishers Moscow, volume 13, p. 133

15 Leon Trotsky, The Third International after Lenin, p. 206

16 Dawn, 04 October, 2008

17 Eric S Margolis, Khaleej Times, 06 October 2008

18 Alan Woods, Bolshevism, the Road to Revolution, p. 516

19 Riaz Lund narrated to the author on phone after his speech, 19 February 2008)

20 Trotsky, Revolution Betrayed, 1972, p.67

21 ibid, p.66

22 Alan Woods, Reformism or Revolution, (Wellred), p. 266-67

23 Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 26, p.409