History History & Theory Pakistan

Consequential Events of November

By Lal Khan

The gruesome incident in which a Christian couple was beaten to death and their bodies burnt in the brick kiln where they worked for allegedly desecrating a Quran in the town of Kot Radha Kishan, symptomises the malaise that is ripping apart the decayed social fabric. The victims were only identified by their first names, Shama and Shahzad. The sickness plaguing society, the black reaction choking social and cultural life is being pulverised by these lumpen religious vigilantes. It is not just the religious minorities but also the working classes and the poor of this tragic land who have been suffering the brutalities of this capitalist coercion ever since Pakistan’s inception.

The misfortune is that with the unravelling of the capitalist crisis, the travails, miseries and naked oppression of the masses have worsened. The toilers and youth of this land have yearned for a change for generations. Sections of the deceptive and callous political elite have even promised them ‘revolutions’ but these demagogies by false prophets have turned out to be one treachery after another. However, it is also a historical fact that this land has witnessed genuine revolutionary movements that challenged this barbaric system and power was within the grasp of the workers and youth. It merely required a Bolshevik party and leadership to achieve a socialist victory.

The first 10 days of November mark the anniversaries of colossal events that changed the course of history for the world and Pakistan. Forty-six years ago, on November 6, 1968, Pakistan was swept by a revolutionary upheaval that could have transformed the system. In a conspiracy of silence, this brilliant revolt of the oppressed masses has been distorted and pushed into oblivion by the dominant right-wing intelligentsia and even so-called left-liberal historians. Some have described it as merely an anti-Ayub agitation, some as simple strikes for workers’ and students’ demands and others as a struggle for democracy against dictatorship.

It was none of the above. It was a mass uprising of the young and virgin Pakistani working class that created a revolutionary situation. Its character was socialist, challenging the existing order – a dictatorship – and the political superstructure but, above all, existing property relations. The fresh and raw proletariat very rapidly acquired a steely determination and a collective consciousness for workers’ ownership and democratic control of industry, the economy and society. For 139 days, the ruling classes and their state were suspended in mid-air and actual power was in the hands of the workers, students and poor peasants in the streets. The might and surge of this revolution overthrew Field Martial Ayub Khan, the strongest ruler ever in the history of Pakistan, on March 25, 1969.

In his parting speech, he declared, “This is the last time I am addressing you as president of Pakistan. The administrative institutions are being paralysed. The mobs are resorting to gheraos (sieges) at will and to get their demands accepted under duress.” He went on to say, “It is my desire that political power should continue to be transferred in a constitutional manner. In the conditions prevailing in the country, it is not possible to convene the National Assembly. Some members may not even dare to attend the Assembly session. It hurts me deeply to say that the situation now is no longer under the control of the government. All state institutions have become victims of coercion, fear and intimidation. Every problem of the country is being decided on the streets.”

Pakistan today is portrayed as a bastion of fundamentalism, terrorism and extremism. The theocratic creation of the country, the direct and indirect despotism by the military, violence, repression, lawlessness, crime, fraud, corruption, intolerance, persecution of minorities and instability are some of the factors that paint Pakistan and Pakistanis as odious throughout the world. A large section of the new generations within Pakistan have a similar appraisal of the situation. The Islamic fundamentalists’ ‘solution’ is to go back to the dark, pre-medieval ages. The imperialists and their stooges in Pakistan claim that liberal democracy and ‘good governance’ are the solution. However, the masses in Pakistan have had agonising experiences of both of these solutions. Time and again the oppressed masses have risen in revolt with fierce volcanic eruptions of workers, peasants and the youth to get rid of capitalist exploitation, feudal drudgery, obscurantist terror and imperialist repression. The 1968-1969 movement stands out above all these uprisings, as it came close to winning a socialist victory. The new generation of the youth and workers in Pakistan have a mission to accomplish, a historic pledge to redeem.

The 97th anniversary of the victory of the Russian Revolution of 1917, which forever changed the course of human history, was on November 7. In a gigantic and unprecedented experiment it proved that it was possible to run society without capitalists, feudal landlords and moneylenders. Despite the aggression of 21 imperialist armies, tremendous objective difficulties and obstacles, the abolition of market mechanisms and the introduction of the planned economy revolutionised the productive forces and laid the basis for a modern economy. The US journalist John Reed, who witnessed the events of the revolution first hand, wrote in his epic book Ten Days that Shook the World: “No matter what one thinks of Bolshevism, it is an undeniable fact that the Russian revolution is one of the greatest events in human history, and the rule of the Bolsheviki is a phenomenon of worldwide importance.”

This revolution appropriated power from a minority set of oppressive classes and transferred it to the overwhelming majority of the labouring classes in society. The process of the overthrow of the bourgeois state and capture of power by the leading party of the proletariat involved the massive conscious involvement and participation of the vast majority of toilers. It is the only successful revolution that took place on classical Marxist lines. Lenin explained what real change this revolution ought to bring. He wrote in December 1917: “One of the most important tasks, is to develop [the] independent initiative of all the working and the exploited people generally, develop it as widely as possible in creative organisational work. At all costs we must break the old, absurd, savage, despicable and distinguishing prejudice that only the so-called upper classes, only the rich, and those who have gone through the school of the rich, are capable of administering the state and directing the organisational development of society.”

What this revolution really meant for the oppressed classes was described in an inspiring anecdote by John Reed on the eve of the revolution: “Across the horizon spread the glittering lights of the capital, immeasurably more splendid by the night than by the day, like a dike of jewels heaped on a barren plain. The old workman who drove the wheelbarrow held in one hand, while with the other he swept the pavement, looked at the far gleaming capital and exclaimed in an exulted gesture, ‘Mine!’ he cried, his face all alight. ‘All mine now! My Petrograd!’”

November 9th is the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and later on the collapse of the Soviet Union. In China, the Deng faction of the Communist Party had already ushered in the process of the capitalist counterrevolution in 1978. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the regimes of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe provoked a wave of euphoria in the west. The demise of the rule of communists was heralded as the “end of socialism”. The final victory of the free market was trumpeted from the pages of learned journals from Tokyo to New York. The strategists of capital were exultant. Francis Fukuyama even went so far as to proclaim the “end of history”. Henceforth, the class war would be no more. Everything would be for the best in the best of all capitalist worlds. These epic events in Eastern Europe and later collapse of the Soviet Union in fact ushered in a period of lull and disorientation in the class struggle. This was amplified by betrayals and renunciation of socialism by the former left capitulating to capitalism.

Ironically, the leaders of the Russian revolution had predicted the degeneration and collapse of the Soviet Union themselves, long before its collapse. In 1921 Lenin said, “Berlin is the heart of Germany and Germany is the heart of Europe. If there is no revolution in Germany the Russian revolution is doomed.” In his epic work, Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky wrote in 1936, “The fall of the present bureaucratic dictatorship, if it were not replaced by a new socialist power, would thus mean a return to capitalism with a catastrophic decline of industry and culture.”

Alan Woods, defying the noxious propaganda, vicious attacks of the imperialists and cynical attributions against socialism by these ex-left renegades, wrote in 1997, “What failed in Russia was not socialism, but a false model, a caricature of socialism. The demagogic attacks on socialism, Marxism, communism have an increasingly hollow ring, because they are made against a background of deepening crisis of capitalism. Only a few years later all these dreams of the bourgeoisie and the reformists lie in ashes. On the threshold of the twenty-first century, the very existence of the human race is threatened by the ravishing of the planet in the name of profit; mass unemployment, which was confidently asserted to be a thing of the past, not to speak of the nightmare of poverty, ignorance, wars and epidemics which constantly afflict two thirds of humanity in the so-called ‘Third World’. There is war after war and terrorism is spreading like a dark stain all over the planet. On all sides there is pessimism and a deep sense of foreboding about the future, mingled with irrational and mystical tendencies.”

The financial crash of 2007-2008 has laid bare the terminal decay and the historical and economic redundancy of capitalism. Inequality has reached unprecedented proportions. The number of billionaires in the world has more than doubled to 1,646 since 2009, with inequality reaching new extremes, according to a new Oxfam report. The combined wealth of today’s billionaires has grown by 124 percent in the last four years to $ 5.4 trillion. The 85 richest people saw their fortunes increase by around $ 240 billion over the past year, and own as much as the poorest half of the world’s population – the equivalent of $ 668 million per day or almost half a million dollars per minute. Just $ 70 billion a year is enough to fill the annual gap of funding needed for basic medical care and education in poor countries.

While the number of super rich is skyrocketing, one million women have died in childbirth due to lack of basic healthcare and 57 million children did not receive any form of education in 2013. The report states: “In a world where hundreds of millions of people are living without access to clean drinking water and without enough food to feed their families, a small elite has more money than they could spend in several lifetimes. The consequences of extreme inequality are harmful to everyone – it robs millions of people of better life chances and fuels crime, corruption and even violent conflict.” The report concluded, “Put simply, it is holding back efforts to end poverty. There is rising evidence that extreme inequality harms, durably and significantly, social stability and growth in the economy. It retards development of the human, social and physical capital necessary for raising living standards and improving conditions of life.”

The sickness of the 21st century is not without historical precedent. We can observe the same symptoms in every period of decline, when a given socio-economic system has exhausted its potential and becomes a brake on human development. Capitalism is no longer capable of developing the means of production it once did. In fact, it is no longer able to tolerate the continuation of the reforms of the past that provided at least some of the elements of a semi-civilised existence in developed capitalist countries. But now, all the gains so painfully won by the working class in the past, mainly in advanced countries, are coming under attack. However, the workers and youth will not surrender their gains without a fight. The stage is set for an unprecedented explosion of the class struggle. And in the underdeveloped countries of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, the impasse of capitalism, in the words of Lenin, means horror without end.

The representatives of capitalism are terrified by the prospect of another revolution in today’s burgeoning crisis on Bolshevik lines. This fear of the international bourgeoisie was revealed in a recent lead article on Ukraine in The Economist. The article says, “Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers still at the front are unable to vote. With the fighting nearly over, they will soon come home to find a government they played no part in electing. If they see no change in the way their country is run, they will take to the streets, not with wooden shields and sticks as they did a year ago, but with real weapons. The next Maidan will look less like a carnival and more like the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917. If nothing else, this should concentrate the minds in the Ukrainian government.”

In the present, severe crisis of capitalism and the agony of the masses that flows from this devastating mayhem, nothing less than a workers’ revolution can emancipate the oppressed billions. The revolution that can ensure an end to this pain, misery and deprivation can be victorious and successful only if it is based on the ideas, methods and strategy of Bolshevism. With the present state of technology and the advancement of the consciousness of the workers and youth, its victory in one major country will enable it to sweep across the planet swiftly and irreversibly. With this shall dawn the epoch of communism, and the journey for the conquest of the universe by humankind shall then commence.