The second day of the congress of The Struggle was filled with the same revolutionary energy as the previous day, with the participation of workers, women and youth from all over Pakistan. Thousands of comrades have made huge sacrifices just to be able to attend, often selling what little they have to put up the cash for the ticket and other expenses. Unlike the NGOs, financed by western countries and welfare institutions, and which talk about and do nothing, no external money or subsidies were used to organise this congress – the comrades and sympathizers of The Struggle have to pay for everything themselves.
Entering the congress hall in the morning, revolutionary music was already playing in the speakers and hundreds of comrades were taking their seats and chanting slogans. The mood for the rest of the day was set. To be sure, it is an impossible task in a short report like this to communicate the electric mood that filled both days of the congress. It cannot be written down, explained or seen in a picture. It can only be experienced first-hand.
When everyone had settled down, nearly filling the huge hall that seats 3,000 people, the day started off like the first, with revolutionary poetry. Everything was very professionally organized, down to every little detail. From making high-quality food for everyone, to having very tight security arrangements, it is a big feat just to make the logistics work for an event like this.
The night before there had been commissions on various aspects of the work of the section, running in parallel: work among women, trade unions, and youth work. As we reported yesterday, PTUDC is very active in the struggle against privatization, often in a leading role, and has launched a national campaign against the right-wing Sharif government’s plan to privatize 65 state-owned companies, with the slogan “War Against Privatisation”. The work of the PTUDC will be intensified in the coming period, and a campaign has been launched to increase the membership of the PTUDC to 100,000 people by May 1st this year.
The campaign was launched started immediately after the closing of the congress on Sunday, with a rally of 1,500 people marching to the Punjab Provincial Assembly under the red banners and flags of the PTUDC. Hundreds of comrades joined except for those who had to leave for trains and other transportation back to the far-flung areas of the country.
On the youth front, the comrades are organizing work among the unemployed and students. With the high unemployment among young people, organizing this layer is extremely important. In 14 areas the comrades are building sections of a broad organization for unemployed youth called Berozgar Nojawam Tahreek (BNT). There is a target to recruit in every one of the regions 1,000 members to this youth organization.
Also, in the universities, the comrades are beginning to build a base, and it was reported that in many areas of the country the students are actually more interested in politics than in getting a career! This leaves the youth field wide open to the ideas of revolutionary Marxism.
The comrades have also led successful struggles among the young doctors for a pay raise and better working conditions. These young doctor comrades fight for and won an important victory during the last year, which was an upgrade of their salary package, which had been promised but then betrayed. They are forced to work under impossible conditions, with around 70 % of the equipment, on average, being out of order! The comrades have recruited and trained many young new cadres from this area of work.
Work among women
The session on women also commemorated International Women`s Day. This work takes place in a country where poor women are forced to live under the most atrocious conditions. They suffer doubly, first by living in one of the most ruthless class societies imaginable, and secondly from their position as women. Not only is domestic violence a very common occurrence, it is also nearly impossible to seek justice for women who are raped and sometimes are even subject to “honour” killings.
Living their lives as second-class citizens, and considered and treated as such also according to the dominant cultural and social norms, it is very complicated to organize women. There is a cultural struggle within society as well as within the organization, to educate all comrades on this question. It is not a secondary question, but rather, an absolute necessity to overcome this barrier to working class unity, if we are to wage a successful struggle against capitalism.
As genuine Marxists, the comrades are approaching this question in the most serious manner. The commission started with a lead off by a young female full-time comrade, Anam Phatfi from Multan (South Punjab), who has recently been elected to organise and professionalise this work. She summarised the work done in the past year and pointed to the tasks still to be done. The many contributions during the discussion from female comrades, indicates the progress that has been made in the different regions.
All regions of The Struggle will discuss a plan to prioritize the political education of the many female comrades they are recruiting. In every issue of the paper there will at least one article on some aspect of the women`s struggle. The comrades are also launching women`s study groups in each and every region.
But even a small step like joining the organization is very hard. During the commission, one comrade from Kashmir said that: “For most women, it`s not allowed to go to a meeting where there are men. I`ve had many contacts for this organisation but they were all forbidden to get active by their parents. “
Also, the Sharif government “has the same attitude as the Taliban”, as one comrade said. They are undermining the situation of women, among other things, by cutting the budget for women`s education. They are responsible for creating a hostile environment towards both ethnic minorities and women.
Despite of these difficulties, 400 women attended the congress, which is a big step forward for the Marxists in Pakistan. Entire families were present, some with their children and many young couples, as well as nurses, doctors, paramedic staff, teachers, housewives, librarians, students, and factory workers. As one comrade put it: “For the congresses of the NGO they arrive in fancy cars, but at this congress we see the working-class women of this country.” Facing up to enormous objective difficulties, but also of cultural norms and habits, these initial achievements are a clear indication of the high political level of the section.
Marxism and the USA
This year the comrades published the first Urdu edition of Alan Woods book Marxism and the USA. It coincided with the visit of John Peterson, the national secretary of the Workers International League (US section of the IMT), who is the first member of the IMT from the US to visit the Pakistani Congress.
Comrade Peterson gave an introductory speech about the future socialist revolution in the USA and dispelled many myths and misconceptions about the US. He explained that the US has a rich revolutionary history and an enormous and powerful working class. The basic problems facing American workers and youth are fundamentally the same as those faced by the masses in Pakistan.
US imperialism has played a brutal and vicious role in Pakistan, the result of which has been not just enormous plight and suffering but also death and suffering. In the regions bordering Afghanistan, US drones are bombing and killing people almost every day. The excuse is the so-called “war on terror”, but they speak very quietly about their past links with the Taliban, which is now spreading fear and terror with constant attacks and suicide bombings which only affects ordinary Pakistanis.
The Taliban are a creation of the US. Like a Frankenstein`s Monster, it turned against its own master and is now causing them serious headaches in the region and beyond.
The basis of American imperialism’s power was its strong economy. But the post-war boom is now over, and with it, imperialism’s power is declining. The material basis for the “American Dream” is finished, and with it, interest in socialism is rising, especially among the youth.
Peterson also explained that given the many pressures of capitalism it may be more difficult for the workers to win power in the USA, but given the objective conditions in the US, they will be able to proceed to build socialism much more quickly once they do enter the path of revolution. The socialist revolution in the US will mean the liberation of humanity. What is needed is a revolutionary leadership, which the comrades in the USA are working to build.
The comrades were very excited to hear a Marxist from the USA speak on this topic, and interrupted the speech regularly with chants of “Socialist Revolution!” and applause. They were especially receptive to the comrade’s calls for internationalism and working class unity to fight and defeat capitalism, and had many questions related to the work of the US section and the political perspectives for the coming period. Comrade Tarigari from India also spoke movingly during this session about the situation in India and Kashmir, and how the problems of all workers worldwide are essentially the same and can only be solved with the socialist revolution.
Comrade Adam Pal introduced the organizational discussion and gave a fiery speech I which he outlined the miseries inflicted on the people of the Subcontinent by capitalism, and he outlined the many advances of the The Struggle. But he explained that the real work has only just begun and that no one should expect an easy road – but the path of struggle is the only road.
Report on the work of the IMT
Ylva Vinberg from the Swedish section of the IMT gave a fiery report on the work of the IMT around the world. She reported on the successes of the various sections, from Switzerland to Greece, from the USA, to Italy and Britain. Everywhere, it is clear that the mood is changing in a fundamental way. As Vinberg explained, this is a direct result of the capitalist crisis and the pressure that this puts on young people, especially through youth unemployment. The youth has not been this open to Marxist ideas in decades.
This session is one of the most anticipated ones, since only very few of the comrades in Pakistan will ever get the opportunity to visit any other section, let alone an international World Congress or School of the IMT. But being genuine internationalists, they understand very clearly the need for an international solution to the problems of the working class.
Everyone was especially interested to hear about the successes of the youth work, which is also an important priority for the Pakistani section. The Canadian and US section are making important inroads on the youth front, to name just two sections. On the trade union front, the Swiss comrades of Der Funke have been very successfully involved in struggles of the young apprentices. But the most striking progress is the student work of the British section of the IMT, Socialist Appeal, which only recently set up a national Marxist Student Federation consisting of more than 20 local branches of Marxist Student Societies.
Every gain reported, even very small ones, in the advanced capitalist countries, as well as the former colonial world, was greeted with applause and chants. This shows the comrades’ understanding of the importance of small initial successes and how they prepare the way for bigger successes in the future. And these comrades know this better than anyone. They themselves have been through this school of building the organisation from very humble beginnings.
The report included a look at the political impact of the ideas of the International Marxist Tendency. Our website In Defence of Marxism has a huge following, with more than 2 million page views each year, including almost 500,000 from the US. Our Facebook page also has 80,000 likes, which indicates the growing audience for our ideas.
Forward to socialist revolution!
One thing that more than one comrade commented on between the sessions, is the fact that there is never any good news in Pakistan. Not a day goes by without some horrifying reports about things like suicide bombings, murders, or US drone attacks. The situation is steadily deteriorating with an increased number of suicide bombings, people literally dying in the streets and outside of hospitals, several internal proxy wars being waged, and the most severe poverty imaginable. Millions are living in pre-capitalistic, feudal conditions, and over half the population is illiterate. Life in Pakistan has been described as a living hell.
With all the objective and subjective factors against them, the achievement of the comrades in The Struggle and the PTUDC set an example for revolutionaries everywhere. This is a face of Pakistan that you will not hear of in the news. As one Indian visitor commented, no one would believe him if he went back home to report what he had seen during the congress! In reality, it is not all painted in the dark colours that we see in the news headlines.
Pakistan has proud revolutionary traditions. The 1968-69 revolution was derailed and lost by the false policies of class-collaboration adopted by Ali Zulfiqar Bhutto and the PPP leadership. Afghanistan followed suit in 1978, but this revolution was also lost due to the lack of leadership. The masses will sooner or later get to a point where they have simply had enough, and will again decide to take the revolutionary road. Like the ongoing revolutions in the Arab world have proved, this can come very suddenly. It will seem to many like a lightning bolt from a clear blue sky, but in reality, we can already see all necessary conditions for an explosion of mass struggle.
Only on the basis of a successful socialist revolution can there be any talk of any genuine and lasting improvement for the masses. But a socialist revolution in Pakistan would immediately spread to Afghanistan, India, and Bangladesh – revolutions do not respect borders! If the working class found their way to a consistently Marxist program, in the form of a mass revolutionary party of the working class, they would be able to transform the entire subcontinent. The wound that the partition between India and Pakistan inflicted on the subcontinent would be healed, as religious, national and sectarian splits would be overcome in the struggle.
No attacks by our enemies, including violent attacks by the Taliban, petty sabotage can succeed in weakening the resolve of the comrades of The Struggle. On the contrary, the constant attacks are steeling the organisation. As the second day was coming to an end, it was clear that everyone was very confident and proud – proud of what has already been accomplished and confident of results that still lie down the road.
As comrade Alan Woods said in his rousing final remarks: “Where else in Pakistan will you find such optimistic people?” And he went on to say: “The politicians and rulers of this country are not the real Pakistan. The real Pakistan is here, in this hall! The real Pakistan is the workers and the peasants – all those who create the wealth of this society!”
The congress ended with waving red flags, fists in the air, hugs, handshakes, and overflowing enthusiasm as the comrades sang The Internationale, led by well-known pop star Jawed Ahmed. The comrades will return to their regions in the days ahead filled with renewed energy and enthusiasm for the difficult but indispensable tasks that lay before them.
Pakistan has a rich history and culture, with tremendous untapped resources and some of the most beautiful natural scenery one can find on the planet. The International Marxist Tendency, represented by The Struggle in Pakistan, is the only serious force on the left in Pakistan, and they will quickly find themselves in a position where they are the main aspirants to lead the working class in a socialist revolution. This means huge challenges, but also extraordinary and exciting possibilities.
Long live world revolution!
Long live the working class!
Long live socialism!