Pakistan: The consciousness of necessity

In all the excruciating din about “changing the system”, none of the politicos of the present political setup – each representing different sections of finance capital – even mentions the name of the socioeconomic system that dominates and is ravaging this tragic land – capitalism!

During the present ongoing pathetic political mayhem that has been prolonged for almost three weeks, the masses are sickened and bewildered by the ranting of the politicians and the media houses, all representatives of capital, both white and black. One of the shrewdest prime ministers of Britain in the last century, Harold Wilson, once said, “A week is a very long time in politics.” In Pakistan’s rapidly unravelling social and economic crisis, it is an even longer period of time, particularly during this political conflagration, which has been a farce from beginning to end.

The first question that arises is the following: what are the real reasons for all this political wrangling? All this berating is about nothing more than the lust for perks and power in this political superstructure that is engineered to run this rotten socio-economic system, which has failed to deliver on even a fraction of its promises. As there is no reference to the name of the system that is at the root of all this mayhem and the catastrophic conditions that have besieged this society, neither can the disease be diagnosed, nor can there be any prognosis developed and solution applied. Some rotten compromise may eventually be reached but nothing will change for the masses.

The right-wing bourgeois regime of Sharif is talking about “saving democracy”, when in fact they are the by-products of the most vicious Zia dictatorship, which devastated Pakistani society more than any other regime in its history. When the conspiracy theories of his deposition by the army proved to be a hoax, the other religious and liberal secular parties switched their support to this reactionary regime in the garb of defending parliament, the constitution and, of course, “sacred democracy”, in their blatant opportunism for a greater stake in the plunder.

The MQM has yet again thrown its spanner into the works, by threatening to withdraw its members from parliament at a crucial juncture to enhance its power and protect its extortionate, amassed wealth and arms built up through corruption. The fissures within the military high command, the support of certain sections for Imran’s PTI and Qadri’s PAT and their vague hesitancy were too obvious and exposed to conceal.

The motives of Imran Khan and Tahir Qadri are not much different from those on the other side of this farcical divide within the political elite. Imran’s main demands started with recounts in four constituencies, and then when a fickle and a weak regime retreated and exposed its vulnerabilities, he started to raise the ante, going as far as demanding the resignation of the prime minister. His support base is mainly from the upper middle classes and of course loads of cash has been pumped in to hire the crowds.

Qadri proclaims his intention to revamp the whole system, but despite his flaunting as a super genius, author of more than a thousand books, he hardly understands the basis of the socio-economic system, and has failed to even vaguely explain what he wants to replace it with. His rhetoric over the problems sickens the people who are actually suffering these miseries. His marchers are mainly employees of his Madrassa networks being paid hefty bonuses above their salaries for bringing their families along. Other massive expenditure in organising and building the apparatus for these marches and sit-ins has been exorbitant. The financial backers of these two “revolutionaries” are no longer hidden from the sights of the ordinary people.

Imran Khan’s demand for a mid-term election and a total revamping of the election commission would make no fundamental change in the results as it would be finance capital, the interests of the establishment and strategic preferences of the imperialist bosses that would actually decide the outcome. In an economy that is more than two thirds informal, or black, the winners are obvious: crony capitalists, land grabbers, extortionists, drug smugglers, thugs, crooks and terrorists whose entrepreneurial ventures have expanded into resolving property disputes and kidnapping ransoms that dominate most parties, including the PTI.

Imran has now raised his stakes to such heights that his retreat without Sharif’s resignation would be a shattering blow for the PTI, smashing it to smithereens. This bubble will burst even sooner than expected. The first major split has already transpired. Qadri’s role as a Saint of a religious Barelvi sect will also lose a lot of disciples.

However, this does not mean that the Sharif regime will have an easy ride thereafter. He has been cut to size by the military and this has been a big blow to his mandate with his so called popular support laid bare. With a crumbling economy, civil wars and insurgencies plaguing the country, the severe social unrest will continue. His arrogance and a more repressive stance would only end up as a provocation for the masses at large, which are seething with revolt underneath the gimmickry of these conflicts and the impotent rage of the politicians and institutions of a state trying to perpetuate a system that is historically obsolete and economically redundant. The papering over of these cracks in the state and system with the fake glue of this democratic facade won’t last very long. The PML (N) regime is unlikely to last out its full term in power. More crises and conflicts that can tear apart the whole set-up impend as stormy events loom on the horizon.

The PPP’s losing candidates, especially in the Punjab, were eager for a mid-term election, come what may. They were exited at the prospect of these marches overthrowing the incumbent regime. But the serious sections of the ruling elite and the state were aware of the fragile nature of affairs. Hence they have till now resisted the urge to change the political set-up. The top PPP leaders, however, prevailed upon their selected leaders and candidates to surrender before the status quo and disgracefully supported Sharif in the garb of protecting democracy. Their reprehensible opportunism was to preserve their provincial government in Sindh, from which they draw lucrative perks, power and opportunities for massive corruption. However, how will that PPP survive politically when it is abolishing the fundamental contradiction, the semi-religious Pakistani bourgeois traditional party, the PML (N), especially in Punjab, on which they based their usual hypocritical rhetoric to remain politically relevant? The perspective of the collapse of the PPP as the traditional party of the masses cannot be ruled out any longer in the turbulent times ahead.

It has been far too long since the masses rose in the form of a mass movement from below. The last time this happened on a sub-threshold level was on 18th October 2007, when Benazir Bhutto landed in Karachi from self-imposed exile. That was easily diverted and dispersed with the assassination of Benazir and the subsequent betrayal of the dynastic leadership. However, this rowdy stagnation and the political indifference of the “uncivil society” – the toiling masses – cannot last for long. In their subconscious they are accumulating the experience of being subjected to this calculated democratic deception and the leaders they were forced to rely upon now stand utterly exposed. This subconscious awareness of the masses, when it becomes transformed into a collective consciousness, will burst forward and the psychological and social obstacles will be smashed. A socioeconomic transformation is not a privilege of the oppressed working classes; it is their burning necessity.

Karl Marx once wrote. “Necessity is blind until it becomes conscious. Freedom is the consciousness of necessity”. The working classes have endured the brutalities of military rule and for the last so many years they have been coarsened by this moneyed democracy and this odious parliamentary circus that has only subjected them to an economic onslaught to fill the coffers of the bourgeois bosses and imperialist corporations. There is no party or leadership at the helm of society that has any programme or intention of salvaging the plight of the deprived toilers and the poor. There cannot be one. Revolutionary parties only emerge on the political horizon and attain a mass social basis in revolutionary or pre-revolutionary situations. In these times of mild reaction and social stagnation, the revolutionaries must, in Lenin’s words, “patiently explain”, and build the organizational infrastructure to prepare for the upheavals that can erupt sooner rather than later. If that job is done with energy and élan, then the next mass revolt, when it explodes, can be guaranteed a revolutionary victory. That is the verdict of history.