The Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) organized a three-day Marxist School on 5, 6, and 7 August, 2016, in Rawalakot, Kashmir. 104 youth and workers from all over Pakistan came to participate, reaching Rawalakot on 4 August.
The school had a total of six sessions. Comrades from Balochistan and Karachi had to travel for two days to reach this far-off place in the Himalayan Mountains. Comrades from South Punjab, Pushtoonkhwa, and from other places also had to travel long distances. All this travelling included journeys in dilapidated and worn-out trains and buses with high fares.
The school started on the morning of 5 August. Participants were welcomed by Yasir Irshad from the host region, Kashmir. A one minute silence was observed in the honor of the deceased Comrade Rais Kajjal who, after a life long struggle for socialist revolution, departed on the 24 July, 2016, due to liver disease.
The first session of the school was chaired by Yasir Irshad, in which Rashid Khalid presented a report of the recent World Congress of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) held in Italy. Delegates from around the world had participated in the Congress along with five delegates from Pakistan. World Perspectives, Brexit and its effects on the world capitalism, the National Question, and the ongoing revolutions and struggles around the world were discussed. Also, a separate session on Pakistan was held in which the recent split in the section and its lessons were thoroughly discussed. Afterwards the delegates unanimously voted to recognize Lal Salaam as the official section of the IMT in Pakistan. A commission was held on the conditions of women in Pakistan in which comrades from all the sections participated enthusiastically. Anam Patafi in the commission discussed the exploitation and suffering faced by the women on a daily basis in Pakistan and the continued struggle for their emancipation. Rashid said the best thing about the Congress was that the large numbers of participants were young, who made up around 80% of the total participation. Afterwards, Anam Patafi contributed in the session on World Congress.
After a short break, the second session, titled “World and Pakistan Perspectives,” was started, which was chaired by Amina Farooq from Kashmir. Rawal Asad from Multan opened up the discussion on political, economic, and social conditions around the world. Rawal explained that today we are living in a new era, examples of which cannot be found in history. Explosive events are changing the world on a rapid scale. The year 2008 has proved to be a watershed moment in the capitalist economic crisis and the resulting class struggles on a world scale. Revolutions, counter-revolutions, and civil wars have become the new characteristics of this era. The traditional politics and power structures are breaking down, and we are seeing the sharpening of political polarization. There is a new awakening of working class struggles, and class politics is on the forefront everywhere. The masses are seething with rage due to the economic crisis, and whole societies are being organized into sharp right and left politics. After Brexit, the fate of the European Union is sealed. Britain itself is in severe political, economic, and ideological crisis in which politicians and policy makers of the right and left have no idea how to deal with the ensuing crisis. In parallel, we also see the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, who has amassed tremendous popular support, and we see a sharp rise in the membership of the Labour Party after the referendum, largely comprised of youth.
If we look at the US, we see a new turning point in the politics of American society. In the US, which is the heart of world capitalism and where socialism had become a taboo, the word “socialism” has become most favored in recent times. This is clearly seen in the American presidential candidates’ campaign where the workers and youth, sick and tired of inflation, unemployment, and expensive healthcare and education have become active around the campaign of Bernie Sanders. Rawal expounded on the fact that Bernie’s capitulation will not break the resolve of the masses, and under the increasing pressure of the economic crisis, we will see huge struggles of the workers and the youth in future. The present economic crisis, which started in 2008, is becoming more and more severe with each passing day. Since the beginning of 2016, all the bourgeois political and economic analysts have been predicting the start of a new economic crisis.
Bourgeois economists have thrown everything, including the kitchen sink, at the economic crisis but have failed to make a dent in the downward spiral of capitalism. In fact, all the solutions tried have now started to come back and haunt the economic captains. All hopes in Chinese capitalism have now been shattered because of continuous decline. The fall in oil prices has disturbed the economic balance in the Middle East, and now those economies are also in crisis. The price of the economic crisis is being paid by the working class everywhere, and all the gains and rights won by the workers in the last century are being wrenched back by the ruling class in the name of privatizations and austerity, against which movements are forming everywhere across the world. The struggle of workers in France against the draconian Labor Law has had an effect on workers all over the world. The so-called “Socialist” Party government has been exposed thoroughly in the eyes of the masses. The civil war in the Middle East has spawned the likes of ISIS, a black force against humanity, shows no signs of stopping, and is a clear sign of the impotence of American imperialism. The same is the situation in Pakistan where terrorism, inflation, poverty, power cuts, and limited access to power and health care have made life extremely difficult for the masses. All the political parties are in power in some shape or form, but are too busy in corruption to give an ear to the pleas of common people. On top of this, the rights of workers are being crushed in the form of privatizations.
After Rawal’s leadoff, questions were put forward and contributions to the debate were made by Kareem Parhar from Quetta, Mujahid Pasha from Faisalabad, Salma from Gujrawala, Usman from Khyber PashtunKhwa (KPK), Qamar Farooq from Kashmir, Khayyam from Islamabad, Zareef Rind from Karachi, Anam Patafi from Multan, Paras Jan from Karachi, and Adam Pal. Different socio-economic and political aspects of different countries and Pakistan were discussed, including the crisis in the Middle East; the contradictions intensifying around Pak-China economic corridor; the collapse of the traditional parties and the rise of new parties and political organizations; the ongoing struggle against privatization in Pakistan, and especially the eight-day complete strike of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA); the anti-labor steps taken by the Narendra Modi government in India; the capitalist capitulation of SYRIZA in Greece; crisis in Venezuela; and the new qualitative stage in world economic crisis.
Rawal summed up the discussion, explaining that the rapid events on a world scale demand a thorough discussion on perspectives. The world working class can be seen preparing for forceful entry onto the arena of history. The crisis of capitalism has closed the chapter of reformism. Capitalism is now unable to develop the productive forces, and instead is hell-bent on destroying the same scientific and technological achievements which have been the crowning jewel of capitalism. Youth and workers all over the world are struggling against this barbarism, but the absence of a revolutionary party has proved to be a major stumbling block towards success. Important lessons are being drawn from the struggles by workers everywhere. Capitalism has to be uprooted consciously and forcefully, without which humanity cannot get rid of this horror. The organization of a revolutionary party based on the correct ideas of Marxism is the clarion call of today. Otherwise, the crisis of capitalism will destroy human civilization. Only a world socialist revolution can guarantee a happy, healthy, and fruitful society.
After a lunch break, the third session, titled “Commodity,” the first chapter from the magnum opus of Karl Marx, Das Kapital, was discussed. The session was chaired by Siddiq from KPK, while the discussion was opened by Sibghat Wyne from Gujranwala. The first chapter of Das Kapital is considered to be the most difficult one, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Marx wrote this chapter in the Grundrisse in the end, but started Das Kapital with it. A lot has been written about this chapter, but the essence of the chapter is the method that Marx uses, which can be understood if one studies it diligently. No commentary can replace the original text.
Before discussing the chapter, Sibghat explained the different terms used frequently in the chapter, with examples, e.g., Hegelian method, dialectical method, identical objects, quantity, quality, forms, content, essence, realization, etc. In the chapter Marx says that there are mountains of commodities around us. A commodity has the quality of satisfying the physical and intellectual needs of humans. Humans use commodities directly, or apply the means of production on material available in society to satisfy their needs. The utility of a commodity is contained in it and cannot exist separately from it. All commodities have use value. A commodity can only be called such when it has use value. The commodity which has use value will also have exchange value, and only such a commodity can be exchanged with another commodity. A use value can be exchanged with another use value, but the exchange will depend on the time, needs, and the place of exchange. But what is the basis of the exchange of one commodity with the other and what is that thing which makes two commodities equal? The use value is the basis on which two commodities can be exchanged. Any commodity can be equal to another commodity, but the quantity will be different. If we want to find the use value in a commodity, then we have to determine the quality; and if we want to exchange commodities then we must look at the quantity.
But where does value come from in a commodity? Marx explains that when human labour is applied to nature, only then is a commodity with value produced. Human labour only changes the form of nature: e.g., thread from cotton, and then cloth from the thread produced. In the same way, the factory owner provides everything from the raw material to the tools. The worker changes the form of raw materials through application of labour and makes it into a commodity. It is only human labour which can produce value.
But how much value is there in a commodity, and how can we measure it? Marx takes labour time as the measure of value in a commodity. The average time needed to make a commodity is known as socially necessary labour time. For example, if one commodity takes ten hours to make, and another takes two hours, then five pieces of the second commodity will be equal to the first commodity. Machines can only increase the productivity of labour, but the value remains the same.
In the same way, Marx talks about the dual nature (two-fold character) of the human labour, defined as abstract human labour and concrete human labour. The abstract labour of a wood worker and a metal worker is the same, but their concrete labour is different, as a wood worker produces furniture while a metal worker produces metal commodities.
Afterwards questions regarding the topic were put forward. The difficult nature of the topic did not deter the participants, and they enthusiastically participated in the discussion with Tasawar Qaisrani from Karachi, Fazeel from Bahawalpur, Adeel from Lahore, Akhtar Munir from Faisalabad, Mishal Wyne from Gujrawala and Umair Naeem from Multan contributed and enriched the discussion more. In conclusion, Sibghat discussed a very important aspect of commodities, commodity fetishism. He explained that when the commodities arrive in the market, the workers who make or produce them disappear or become irrelevant, and the only relationship that remains is that between commodities, which becomes social. The workers who bring these commodities into the market start having a material relationship. Commodities are produced by humans and their labour, but the phenomenon of exchange in the market makes the commodity superior to humans. The workers who make the commodities cannot buy them, and as a result, humans become alienated from each other. Sibghat wrapped up the discussion with answering of questions put forward by the participants.
A women’s commission was chaired by Anam Patafi on the first evening in which participants from all areas of Pakistan participated. Anam informed the participants about the commission held in the World Congress. Reports from all the regions were presented and discussions held. Different problems faced by members concerning female recruitment and various strategies to increase female membership were discussed.
The fourth session, “Role of Individual in History,” opened on the second day of school, which was chaired by Ahmer Ali from Islamabad. The discussion on the topic, based on the seminal work of Georgi Plekhanov, was opened by Paras Jan. The topic has been under discussion through much of historiography, but its importance is magnified much more today than ever, and we as Marxists must have a deep understanding of it.
Two extremes are observed, which has also been discussed by Plekhanov. On one hand, there are those who assert that the events of history are preordained and that nothing can be done about it. Plekhanov declares such views as fatalism, in which humans are mere observers or pawns in front of some divine power which is independent and unanswerable to anyone or anything. This view is most profoundly found in religious people. On the other extreme are those who see only glorious figures in history, people blessed with extraordinary superpowers who can forcefully act on events and change the course of history at will. These figures are kings, queens, generals, philosophers, religious leaders, etc. Marxists do not agree with either point of view.
Marxists do not belittle the role of individuals in history, as history is indeed made by humans, but they do so under the given material conditions in which they are living. Only the dialectical method helps in understanding the relationship and the forces between individuals and history. Paras gave many examples from history. Afterwards questions were put forward and contributions were made by Mahbaloos from Multan, Valeed Khan and Farhan Gohar from Lahore, Faras from Karachi, Kareem Parhar from Quetta, Mujahid from Faisalabad, Salma and Sibghat Wyne from Gujranwala, and Adam Pal from the Center. Many aspects of the topic were discussed and elaborated upon, key points being potentiality and actuality, historical necessity, freedom of individual, examples of Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, the role of Trotsky and Lenin in the October Revolution, Stalin and the Stalinist bureaucracy. Examples of Mughal Kings in India and bourgeois leaders like Jinnah and Gandhi at the time of Partition of India were also discussed. The role of Z.A. Bhutto as the founder and leader of PPP—and later Benazir—was also discussed in detail.
Paras summed up the discussion and said that the forces of Marxism who are fighting against the atrocities of capitalism must have a critical understanding of the role of individual in history. Today the conditions are ripe for the eradication of capitalism, but the absence of Marxist leadership is pushing humanity towards barbarism. Today, there is one demand of the present era, and it is this: to organize and build up such Marxist forces which will organize and lead the struggles of the youth and the workers to a socialist victory. Today, individuals must define their roles according to this historical necessity and use all of their resources to complete this historic task.
After the lunch break the fifth session, titled “The Saur Revolution and Today’s Afghanistan,” was chaired by Mujahid from Faisalabad. Wali Khan from Quetta opened up the discussion, saying that today all we see in Afghanistan is destruction and barbarism, but we must look towards history to understand the current situation of the country.
The chaos of Afghanistan is the result of counter-revolution against the revolution of April 1978, when the Khalq Party (PDPA), as a result of armed insurrection, formed a revolutionary socialist government. The new government elected Nur Muhammad Taraki as the President, while Hafizullah Amin was elected Prime Minister. The new government immediately embarked on a program of modernization of Afghanistan by implementing many revolutionary reforms, which included the write-off of usurers’ debt, distribution of large landholdings to peasants, and the establishment of new centers of education for all. Regarding women, historic revolutionary steps were taken. The buying and selling of women in the name of dowry was strictly banned. Women were given equal opportunities for schooling and higher education.
But the US could not tolerate such a revolutionary government in the region and, with help from its cronies in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, proceeded to launch the largest operation in the CIA’s history, “Operation Cyclone.” Billions of dollars were poured into the so-called jihad, aptly derided as the “dollar jihad,” and forces of religious extremism were cultivated in support of this war of terror. But along with that, we must not forget the criminal role played by the Stalinist bureaucracy in the destruction of the revolution.
Afterwards questions concerning the topic were put forward and the discussion was further enriched by contributions of Sohaib from North Punjab, Siddiq from Malakand, Sajjad from Quetta, Mujahid from Faisalabad, Zain-ul-Abideen from Lahore, Sana Baloch from Hub, Zareef Rind from Karachi, and Adam Pal from the Center, discussing the socio-economic conditions of Afghanistan before the revolution, the internal contradictions of the Khalq Party, the role of the Parcham Party, the role of Pushtoon Nationalists, the support of jihad by the Chinese bureaucracy, the condition of the proletariat, the role of the armed forces in the revolution, the history of colonial revolutions, and the theory of permanent revolution. Wali Khan summed up the session by explaining that only a socialist revolution can pull Afghanistan out of the current barbarism and chaos, but the Afghan revolution is intricately related to revolutions in Pakistan and Iran. Only a revolution based on internationalism can guarantee peace and prosperity in the region.
On the third day, 7 August, the last session of the school, titled “Youth and Revolution,” was chaired by Anam Patafi. Zain-ul-Abideen opened up the discussion, saying that capitalism is now in its historical decline and unable to further develop the productive forces and take humanity forward. All over the world we are seeing youth and workers struggling for their rights, but the traditional parties have betrayed the workers. Today, the historical task is to build and organize a revolutionary alternative, and history is replete with lessons of youth playing a critical role in the task. Youth is the tip of the spear of revolution. Revolutionary youth can take the ideas of revolutionary Marxism to the factories, the fields, and the streets. After the capitulation and historical betrayal of working class, the traditional parties stand discredited, and the youth are hungry for a revolutionary alternative. It is our historic duty to arm the youth with the ideas of revolutionary Marxism. Tactics and strategies have to be formed and defined to perform this historic task, so that maximum numbers of youth can be organized, who will play the critical role in the socialist revolution and the building of a new society. Afterwards, regional youth reports were presented and different tactics discussed.
In his closing remarks, Comrade Adam Pal congratulated all the participants on the success of the school. The aim of all the discussions held in the school was not mere armchair intellectualism, but the inculcation of revolutionary ideas in the youth, so that they will take these to the working class and forge an unbreakable bond between the future revolutionary organization, youth, and the workers. Today we see many large and small struggles against privatization, increase in education fees, inflation, power cuts, and terrorism in Pakistan. Sooner rather than later these struggles will express themselves on a bigger scale. We have to prepare for the coming struggles beforehand so that when the workers and youth enter the arena of history, the forces of socialist revolution can effectively intervene in these movements and lead them towards a socialist revolution. For this task, we need to rapidly increase the number of our forces. Today the youth are thirsty for Marxist ideas. Along with recruiting youth, we have to link this youth with the daily struggles of the working class. Workers in Pakistan are living under the most horrible conditions, but still they never accept defeat, and continue to struggle against these difficulties on daily basis. They have to face immense economic difficulties, all kinds of diseases attack them, social crises affect them in the worst possible way, but they still keep on fighting and refuse to surrender. If revolutionaries can understand the pain and sufferings of these workers, only then can they forge an organization that can fight the attacks of its enemies.
Comrade Adam Pal quoted verses of legendary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz in which he says that, all in my life’s struggle, what I learnt is just the real meaning of pain and grief. He emphasized the need to bring students and workers on this revolutionary platform of IMT so that we can build up those forces which will play the key role in emancipation of the masses from disease, hunger, death, poverty, and terrorism, and do away with historically dead capitalism and build up a socialist society.
The school ended with enthusiastic singing of The Internationale.
Full report in Urdu (and more pictures)