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Archive for 23. Mai 2010

Zur Geschichte und Gegenwart der pakistanischen Linken und der Labour Party Pakistan (LPP)

Posted by entdinglichung - 23. Mai 2010

Quelle: International Viewpoint

A look at the experience of the LPP and the Pakistani Left

Pierre Rousset

In the course of a two-week stay in Pakistan, I was able to take part, on January 27-28, 2010 in the Fifth Congress of the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP). This organization, founded in 1997, has developed remarkably over the last few years: in terms of numerical growth (today it has more than 7,000 members), geographical spread (it is now present in all the provinces of the country) and social roots (among peasants, workers, women…). This development is all the more significant as not so long ago, the principal historical core of the LPPP was still only a small political small group (“Struggle”) of Trotskyist origin, present above all in Punjab, which was joined, for the foundation of a new organization, by a handful of cadres of the Communist Party, especially in Sind.

The dynamism of the LPP contrasts with the inertia of the traditional Left in a country which has experienced a succession of military regimes, which is torn apart by the confrontation of Sunni and Shiite religious fundamentalisms, and which has been destabilized by the war conducted by NATO in Afghanistan and by the murderous actions of the Talibans. The experience of the LPP is particularly interesting.

A historically weak Pakistani Left

Two partitions In 1947, the workers’ movement was weak in the provinces of the British Indian Empire which make up present-day Pakistan. The partition of the country and the gigantic migrations which accompanied it (12 million displaced persons, under terrible conditions) cut the Left off from its bastions in the sub-continent (such as Bengal). Two decades later, the war of 1971 led to the rupture between West Pakistan and East Pakistan. This second partition also weakened Pakistani Communism. In fact, the Left then was at that point better established in what became Bangladesh, in particular because large Hindu populations had remained there instead of migrating to the Indian side of the border. In a more general way the traumatic partitions of 1947 and 1971 led to successive waves of intercommunal xenophobia and racism (including anti-Bengali racism in Punjab) which were very unfavourable to progressive movements.

In 1947, the Indian Communist Party accepted the principle of partition. Consequently, its members in the Muslim communities went to Pakistan, and vice versa, giving rise to two Communist parties: Indian (CPI) and Pakistani (PCP). They hoped then that the Muslim references of the new state would remain more cultural than religious. This hope was initially encouraged by the secular conceptions advocated by the “founding father” of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah; but it could not resist the progressive Islamization of the country.

Repression The Communist Party quickly became the object of repression. It was banned for the first time in 1951 and again in 1955. However, in 1951, it probably only had (in West Pakistan) some 200 members. To reconstitute itself, it merged into various regroupments and took part in the creation in 1957 of the National Awami Party (NAP, National People’s Party). The PCP had neither the solid programmatic framework nor the organisational coherence to survive such “entryist” experiences unscathed. The Communist activists found themselves in a subordinate position in relation to leaderships that were nationalist, reformist and often bourgeois.

The Sino-Soviet Conflict The Pakistani communist movement had to face further problems. The Sino-Soviet conflict caused deep splits in its ranks, as it did in many other places. But the political crisis of the Left in Pakistan led to a particularly serious situation of paralysis. In India, a first split in the (pro-Soviet) CPI gave rise to a party which wanted to be independent of both Moscow and Beijing – the CPI-Marxist (CPI-M). Then a second wave of splits saw the emergence of a Maoist far-Left, known as “Naxalites” (from the location of a peasant insurrection in 1967) and engaged in armed struggle. Although deeply divided, the Indian Left kept significant forces.

Things turned out very differently in Pakistan. Considering the prestige of the Chinese Revolution, the influence of Maoism became important. However, as from 1965, Beijing gave the military regime its support against India, itself allied with the USSR. Under these conditions, not only did Pakistani Maoism not have the radical character of its Indian counterpart, but it even supported for a time the dictatorship of General Ayub Khan, in the name of the “progressive” character of its foreign policy.

The Soviet bureaucracy was allied with the Indian state and the Chinese bureaucracy with the Pakistani state – that is, with two states which were at war with each other. The Pakistani Communists paid a very high price for this deadly game.

The missed occasion of 1968-1969 The Pakistani communist movement had also inherited the strategic vision of the CPI, of Stalinist origin, “stageist”: waiting for a bourgeois-democratic revolution before which it would be vain to propose a socialist perspective to popular struggles. Very weak on the organisational level, it was also politically and ideologically powerless when an immense wave of workers’, peasant and student struggles erupted in the country in 1968-1969, creating for several months a kind of situation of social dual power. The Pakistani Communists neither wanted to nor knew how to seize the occasion.

The occasion was, however, all the more important as 1968 was the year of the Tet offensive in Vietnam, of the student barricades and the general strike in May in France, of the Prague Spring and of many other struggles in the world. American imperialism would not have found it easy to intervene militarily in Pakistan if that had been necessary.

The PPP Under these conditions, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), formed in 1967, was able to capitalize on the wave of social radicalisation, winning the 1970 elections. It received the support and the adhesion of many progressive milieux and many trade union cadres, encouraged by the socialist rhetoric and the economic measures advocated by its leader, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Thus, when the PPP came to power in 1972, Communists were included in the government. Reforms, sometimes radical, were indeed implemented (nationalizations of key sectors), but that was nothing exceptional at the time. Since the Bhuttos themselves were representatives of a big feudal-capitalist family in Sind, it was vain to hope that they would attack the established order, and the left wing of the party proved incapable of breaking the control that this clan exercised over the PPP.

When workers took to the streets in May-September 1972, the government decided to drown this popular movement in blood: the resulting repression left dozens dead in the port and industrial metropolis of Karachi. Bhutto had already supported the war against the Bengalis in 1971, as well as repressing the Baluchi people. In 1973, he introduced into the Constitution, for the first time, an Islamist definition of the Pakistani state, a decision that was fraught with consequences. Although disillusioned, the Pakistani Left proved unable to present an alternative to the PPP.

The road was open for the growth of radical religious currents of the far-Right. In 1977, the coup d’état of General Zia Ul Haq installed a new military dictatorship and initiated the process of systematic Islamization of the country. After Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged in 1979, the PPP once again took on a progressive coloration in the eyes of the trade-union and progressive activists who were resisting the dictatorship. The Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) was born in 1981 with the participation of all the wings of the PPP, right, left and centre.

The 1980s: from the “Struggle” group to the LPP

“Struggle” was born in 1980; at that time its founding nucleus was living in exile in the Netherlands. It belonged to the Trotskyist current organised around the British “Militant”, whose principal leader was Ted Grant (Isaac Blank): the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI). In every country its sections employed entryist tactics, for example in the Labour Party in Britain. In Pakistan it was in the PPP, given the hopes that the working class placed in this party and taking into account that, faced with the military dictatorship, the fight for democracy was the most urgent task of the moment.

In 1986, after eight years of exile, the leading nucleus of “Struggle” returned to live in Pakistan, publishing the monthly magazine Mazdoor Jeddojuhd („Workers’ Struggle”). It was very quickly confronted with a situation of generalized crisis of the traditional Pakistani Left. The illusions in the PPP were again dissipated after the coming to power of Benazir Bhutto in 1988. The implosion of the USSR created a deep feeling of despair, of absence of perspectives, in quite broad layers. Twice orphaned (from the PPP and from the “socialist camp”), the parties of Stalinist origin lost most of their militant forces. The beginning of the 1990s was a period of ideological reaction, encouraging the development of fundamentalist movements.

Class independence In this context of generalized political and ideological confusion, the group which would found the LPP maintained its socialist programmatic course. In 1991 it ended its entryist policy, judging rightly that the working class was going to take its distance from the PPP. In order to build an alternative, the perspective of the creation of a workers’ party by the trade unions was launched in 1993. For this purpose, Jeddojud Inlabi Tehrik (JIT, Struggle Revolutionary Movement) was set up the following year. It addressed a fundamental question: the political independence of the working class. As we have already noted, through alliances with various bourgeois forces, the traditional communist organizations had abandoned this terrain, eroding their identity and finding themselves systematically in a subordinate position within the nationalist fronts, blocs and parties.

The project which gave birth in 1997 to the LPP can be firstly defined in this way: to take up again the fight for class independence, in its social, political and programmatic dimensions. By doing this, the militants who came from the “Struggle” group were able to win to this project trade-union cadres and members of the PCP who did not accept that their party no longer talked about socialism.

The break with the CWI The break between what became the LPP and its origins came in two stages. The CWI split in 1991, one of the key issues being whether or not to end entryism. Ted Grant and his supporters were in a minority, but had the support of the majority of “Struggle”. The minority in Pakistan founded Young Fighters in 1992 to lay the basis for an independent organization, and JIT the following year, whose success paved the way for the launching of the LPP.

The final break with the CWI came in 1997-98 because of the opposition of the international leadership to the launching of the LPP, and more broadly to the idea that national sections could determine their own tactics.

The influence of the “Militant” current seems to have been for a period very real in Pakistan, Ted Grant being a reference for intellectuals and journalists. One of the members of parliament of the PPP belonged to their organization. But it is quite difficult to measure the cohesion and the implantation of an entryist current: if it does not conquer the leadership of the party in which it operates (which happens only in exceptional cases), the moment of truth comes when it engages in building an independent organisation. Through putting off this moment and because of divisions (this international current experienced several successive splits), it seems that with the exception of the LPP, the groups coming from the “Militant” in Pakistan have lost their substance and the hey days for them seems to be over.

A precarious situation At the end of the 1990s, the LPP was still in a very precarious situation. Ideological confusion on the left was then at its peak. No longer being able to turn to Moscow or Beijing, forced to recognize that there is not, within the Pakistani ruling classes, a “national bourgeois” dynamic, progressive intellectuals came to hope that the “modernization” of the country would come thanks to capitalist globalization, under the direction of the World Trade Organization (WTO). While systematically seeking to encourage alliances around concrete political issues and terrains of struggle, the LPP thus had to undertake a rather solitary political combat.

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Posted in BäuerInnenbewegung, Feminismus & Frauenbewegung, Gewerkschaft, Klassenkampf, Kommunismus, Linke Geschichte, Pakistan, Patriarchat, Religion, Sozialismus, Trotzkismus | Leave a Comment »

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