Lal Khan is the editor of the Marxist fortnightly paper Jeddo Judh (Class Struggle), in Pakistan. In this interview he gives an overview of the situation in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and the difficulties and advances of the work of Marxists in the region. First published by New Youth in June 1999
NY: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
LK: My name is Lal Khan, and I'm a political activist, I work in the PPP in Pakistan. I was a student activist, I studied medicine at university in Pakistan, and I was the general secretary of the medical college. Then the dictatorship came, there was a lot of repression by the dictatorship, and we led a students' movement against the dictatorship for the rights of the students and the people in general, which were being repressed by the military regime and general Zia. Then I was sentenced to one year in prison, fifteen lashes, and a 20,000 rupees fine. I was in prison for one year, and then I was released, then sent to a college, a university in the north in the capital of Islamabad. I was there for four months, and then, due to my political activities and the struggle for the overthrow of the dictatorship, I was sentenced to death, to be shot on sight, so I had to leave and came to exile in 1980. I graduated from the University of Amsterdam, and then after that I was in exile in Amsterdam for eight years, and then I went back, and I quit my profession as a doctor, and have been working full time ever since in revolutionary politics. We're working for social change in Pakistan, against fundamentalism, against capitalism, against the exploitation by the ruling elite, and for the emancipation of the people.
NW: What are the conditions like in Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan?
LK: Well, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan were one country for about 5,000 years. And then the partition took place in 1947 [Partition of India and Pakistan]. And 50 years after that partition which was named "independence"; the local ruling class replaced the British imperialists who were ruling before that. The experience of the last 50 years has shown that there has been a total failure of the ruling class to develop society. The living standards and health standards in the subcontinent [India, Pakistan] are lower today, according to the UNO statistics, than they were in 1857. This shows that all the progress that has been made on a world scale has not reflected in raising the standard of living of the more than 1.3 billion people of the subcontinent.
And that incapacity of capitalism and the ruling elite to solve the questions, to develop the society forward has resulted in extreme turmoil, poverty, disease, and misery. This has resulted in wars and ethnic clashes, and a deterioration of living standards and life itself. Now we are faced with a situation where the whole of the sub-continent stands at the crossroads of barbarism. Afghanistan is a living example of barbarism. Where even women wearing white socks are lashed and all human dignity is totally destroyed. Actually the civilization has broken down in Afghanistan. We see overtones of that in Pakistan and India, in the shape of fundamentalism, some as Hindu fundamentalism, some as Muslim fundamentalism. And that fundamentalism initially was sponsored by the U.S. imperialism and the West. Now that fundamentalism has boomeranged on them, and now they are taking advantage of that fundamentalism to carry out their own policies, and to dictate the so-called "democratic" regime.
But there's no real democracy for the people, as there are no economic rights for the people. Hence, this democracy is a farce, it is a false dawn, it is a deception. And the struggle goes on. If the present state of affairs continues, then these societies, comprising more than a billion people on this planet, will be thrown into barbarism. Which will actually disturb the whole world situation. So it's imperative that this situation is stopped and not allowed to continue. But on the present bourgeois basis, on the basis of the existing capitalist system it can't continue. It can only lead to more destruction, more devastation of societies. In these conditions, the only possibility is that society is transformed, and the working classes, the people take power, take democratic control over society, plan the economy, and use all the wealth, all the manpower, and all the resources for the benefit of mankind. Which is only possible by transforming capitalism into a socialist revolution.
NW: What can you tell us about Kabul, Afghanistan?
LK: Afghanistan has a very rugged terrain. It has a long history of a lot of wars, a lot of different warriors and conquerors going through Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been a center of warring factions for centuries. But then there were certain changes in Afghanistan, and they were in influenced by the Russian Revolution. Some of the rulers like King Amanullah in the 1920s carried through some reforms, which led to some development in Afghanistan. That situation continued off and on, and the development was fast and uneven. Kabul was a relatively more developed city : it was known as the Paris of the Orient, it was known as a jewel of the East. It was very liberal. Today in Kabul women can't even wear white socks. Kabul was the only city in South Asia where women used to wear mini-skirts. That is a big change seen from that Kabul to the Kabul of today.
The main reason was that when the PDP, the left government of Taraqai took over in 1978 from the reactionary regime of D'aud, they tried to carry through the reforms. But those reforms could not be totally implemented firstly because of the counter-revolution triggered by the Pakistani regime and U.S. imperialism, because they could not afford a left-wing regime in Afghanistan which would have been a threat to Pakistan. Secondly because of the mistakes of the regime itself. It did not totally mobilize the population, and did not give out the call for internationalist support for the revolution that took place. It did not have an internationalist policy, and on the basis of nationalism, there is no way forward for Afghanistan. Hence, ultimately the regime collapsed in 1989/90.
That collapse didn't take place by the fight of the Jihad, of the so-called "holy war" of the fundamentalists sponsored by the CIA [the Mujahedeen : the present day Taleban], which was the largest ever covert operation of the CIA. Peshawar, Afghanistan was the biggest headquarters of the CIA after Langley, Virginia [their main center] for several years. But still they could not defeat the left-wing government. The Najibeullah regime fell because of its own internal dissent, and after that, Afghanistan has further descended into the drug trade, into warfare, into barbarism which you see : and that is the real face of the Mujahedeen who were trained, developed, sponsored, supported, and financially helped by the CIA and the rest of imperialism.
So what we see for Afghanistan is that there is no separate or independent way for Afghanistan. There is a war going on which is basically a proxy war, of different factions supported by different powers of the region and internationally. So the future of the revolution in Afghanistan is linked more to what happens in Pakistan, India, Iran and the whole region. There's more sort of a regional perspective through which all these countries will have to pass and have to accept.
NY: What can you tell us about your press?
LK: We are producing a fortnightly paper in Urdu, which is the main language spoken in Pakistan, and then we're producing a Sindhi paper, which is produced in the south in the Sindhi language which is the language of the desert province known as Sindh. That's a monthly paper. Then we publish a bi-lingual paper in Persian and in Pushtoon, the languages spoken in Afghanistan and Iran, and some parts of Pakistan. That is a quarterly journal.
NY: What sorts of campaigns have you been involved in lately?
LK: The main campaign is the trade union defense campaign which is to defend the rights of the workers against physical attacks being carried out against the trade-union activists, and to help the workers in the struggle against privatization, against child labor, against women's exploitation, against oppression of minorities, and against the attacks of the regime on the working class and attempts to take away their rights. That is the main campaign we are launching at the moment.
NY: What can you tell us about the financial situation of the organization?
LK: Well, financially the situation is very bad because we don't believe in getting aid from any government or any non-governmental organizations, or any Western state or semi-state sponsored institutions because they use all that aid to corrupt people, and not really bring about social change in society. There's a whole number of non-governmental organizations which are used to pay off left-wing activists and use them for petty things, and divert them from the main goal of carrying through a social transformation. So our main source of money is workers and youth, and those who support us, and not from the ruling classes, but the oppressed classes. So we are in a very bad financial situation, so it is more through the determination of the comrades, the self-determination, the will power of the comrades that we are carrying out the work.
NY: Why is Marxism the only answer for this part of the world, and the world as a whole?
LK: Firstly because capitalism has outlived its capacity to develop society in any part of the world. And if it cannot develop the advanced countries where capitalism really carried through the industrial revolution, how can it develop where it itself has not been able to carry out its own revolution? Secondly, the main incentive is profit, and with the contracting economy, and expanding poverty, capitalism can't get its rate of profit. It's because of its own existence and its own processes that it has created this situation. So it is trying to further destroy people, destroy industry, etc. in the pursuit of profit. I think the only way to fulfill the needs of the people is to use all the means of production for a different cause.
We want to transform it to where the main reason, main cause, main incentive for production is not profit but the fulfillment of human needs. And that is only possible when the system of profit is eradicated and it can only be eradicated the when ownership of the means of production is not individual, or for a certain section of the ruling elite, but is owned and democratically controlled by the people themselves, run by the people themselves, and administered by the people themselves. And only on that basis, the means of production will make a great leap and so much production is possible with modern technology and other developments through human labor of the past centuries, that it will be possible to fulfill human needs in a very short period of time, and want and need can be eliminated.
This will lead to a total transformation of man, a total transformation of psychology, a total transformation of human thought, human attitudes, everything. Then humankind will finally enter the realm freedom, instead of this situation of deprivation, of want, of misery and disease. So that's why socialism is the answer. The science, which helps us understand the basic scientific ideology of socialism; the methods, tactics, the perspectives of transforming this situation, is Marxism.
NY: Do you have anything else to say, in particular to the youth and workers of the United States?
LK: I think I'll quote Trotsky on that : the United States is the foundry in which the fate of man is to be forged. And we think that the American people are as oppressed as people anywhere else, and we have no enmity with American people, and the American people have shown time and again that they have no enmity with the oppressed peoples of the world. This is proved in several instances in history, especially in the campaign against the Vietnam War in the United States. I think the American people can play a leading role for the rest of the people of the planet. But the only way to do that is to get out of the oppression, the psychology which has been imposed on them by the ruling class : its television, its media, its newspapers : all of the methods it uses to deceive the people of the United States.
But I don't think that those tactics can last very long, and at a certain time, those tactics will fail, and the people will realize who is their real enemy : it's not Stalinism, it's not fundamentalism : they are themselves creations of U.S. imperialism. Then they will get up and rise against their own rulers, and they will get support from the rest of the world in their rising against American imperialism : it will be the decisive blow to U.S. imperialism which is a monster destroying peoples all around the world. I think the decisive force to destroy this monster is the American workers and youth themselves. Their own emancipation will lead to the emancipation of the oppressed peoples of the rest of the world.
NY: Thank you very much.
Interview conducted January, 1999
First published June 8, 1999 by New Youth (http://www.newyouth.com/)