By The Struggle | Photography by Ali Raza Mangol
Amid the country paralyzed by state sponsored fanatics, Pakistan Marxists move forward with historic Congress 2018. On Saturday, November 3rd, the 37th annual Congress of The Struggle opened in Lahore in perhaps the most uncertain of the times. Whole country had literally been jammed during the previous three days by the goons of a state-sponsored fundamentalist group, TLP, which had been “protesting” against the acquittal of a poor Christian working woman from blasphemy charges by the Supreme Court. Cellular network was suspended in most parts of the country. Trains and buses which comrades had hired or reserved for travelling were cancelled. Religious fanatics, not more than a few thousand, were practically given free hand by authorities to loot and burn the properties and vehicles whenever and wherever they liked. Hundreds of comrades from far off areas, who had left for the Congress in spite of all this mayhem and anarchy escalating, had been stranded on different railway stations, bus terminals and many of them even on highways for days, totally isolated from other groups of comrades and completely cut off from the organizing comrades in Lahore. A large number of these brave comrades, including women, who had risked their lives to attend the Congress, had to return as there was no possibility in sight to travel further from where they had been stuck. At one time it seemed quite probable that country was on the verge of a civil war, had one part of the state resorted to repression and violence against the proxies of another one to establish law and order. It was only in the late hours of 2nd November that an “agreement” was signed between the government and the fascist TLP (in which the government surrendered to all of their reactionary demands) and cellular networks started to restore, transport started moving, connections were reestablished and some certainty finally seeped in. Caravans of comrades, many of whom had been travelling for the last three days, started reaching Lahore in the early hours of 3rd November and kept on coming for the next two days. In spite of this terrible immediate situation and difficult socio-economic objective conditions, with economic crisis deepening and inflation hitting a four year high, more than 1500 comrades, including about a hundred women, attended the Congress defeating all odds and making possible the impossible. Three draft documents on World Perspectives, Pakistan Perspective and ‘Building the Revolutionary Party’ were written, published and then circulated throughout the organization down to the branch level. After a thorough pre-Congress discussion within the organization, each of these documents was discussed in detail in a separate session at the Congress. Other than the international delegates and visitors, comrades from almost every part of the country took part in the discussions and shed light on different aspects of prevailing national and international situation, global economy, perspectives, strategy and party building. Special editions of Asian Marxist Review (AMR) and The Struggle’s Urdu magazine ‘Tabqati Jeddojehad’ were published to commemorate the revolutionary movements in the late 1960s which had engulfed many parts of the world including Pakistan.
Congress 2018 formally opened with loud applauses, revolutionary slogans, anthems, poetry and music at 11 AM on 3rd November in Aiwan-e-Iqbal, the biggest hall in the city. Opening remarks were given by Rehana Akhtar and silence was observed in the memory of Comrade Javed Iqbal, one of the founding members of The Struggle who had died few weeks ago while battling abdominal cancer, and Comrade Malik Paari from Jampur, who had expired only the few hours after reaching Lahore of old age complications aggravated by the tiresome journey he had to endure to attend the Congress and ensuring its success. Comrade Lal Khan then welcomed and introduced international delegates and visitors who had come to attend the meeting from England, Netherland, Belgium and France.
This historic meeting of The Struggle was dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the 1968-69 Revolution which like many other countries had been ignited by the students. The movement, which very soon spread to the toiling masses, had jolted the Pakistani society from the very foundations and challenged the relations of production with workers occupations of factories in cities and peasants expropriating the lands in rural areas. This Congress was an important milestone in the building of forces of revolutionary Marxism in Pakistan and beyond. Comrades from many countries of Asia, Europe, USA and Latin America had sent solidarity messages and greetings to the Congress. The atmosphere was full of enthusiasm, determination and revolutionary spirit. Participation was composed of workers and active trade unionists (including more than a hundred from Railways) from almost every sector of production and services. A large number of students from major educational institutions of the country were also present. Many more could have participated but exams in many institutions had been postponed to Monday 5th November because of the situation explained above.
Two sessions on ‘World Perspectives’ and ‘Pakistan Perspective’ were respectively held on the first day. The first session on World Perspectives was chaired by Rashid Sheikh and led off by Roger Silverman from Workers International Network (WIN). It was summed up by Rahul. The second session on ‘Pakistan Perspective’ was chaired by Majid Memon. It was led off by Imran Kamyana and summed up by Hameed Khan. A large number of comrades including international visitors and delegates intervened in the discussions that followed the lead-offs. Sessions were followed by commissions on trade union, women and youth work which continued till night.
After two rich sessions, full of enthusiasm and revolutionary spirit, of the first day, there was a brilliant mood on the second day on November 4th at Aiwan-e-Iqbal Lahore. The day opened with revolutionary anthems, poems and slogans.
Day One in pictures
The first session of the day was on ‘50 years of 1968-69 Revolution’ chaired by Ghufran Ahad. The session was opened by Pierre Rosette from Fourth International (FI), who as a student leader was an active participant of the revolutionary movement of 1968 in France. He was welcomed to the stage with a loud applause. He explained the historic background, the events and aftermath of the movement in detail with the help of a PowerPoint presentation containing stunning pictures of protests, clashes with police, barricades, strikes, graffiti and placards which have become a hallmark of 1968 France since then. It was followed by a rich discussion on 1968-69 Revolution of Pakistan. Its socio-political and economic background, events, the rise of Peoples Party and left populism of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, repercussions and lessons were analyzed in detail by more than half a dozen comrades. The session was summed up by Zafar Ullah while answering the numerous questions asked by the audience.
After the lunch break the last session of the Congress ‘Building the Revolutionary Party’ was held. It was chaired by Hanif Misrani and led off by Awais Qarni, in which the current situation of the organization and tasks ahead were highlighted. After the lead-off Awais Qarni announced the CC slate after which brief reports of the commissions held on the previous day were presented by Nazar Mengal, Rehana Akhtar and Saif Ullah. Rang Elahi, the editor of fortnightly ‘Tabqati Jehhojehad’ (The Struggle), presented the report of paper and the finances associated with it. This was followed by the voting on the sessions held and the draft documents. The CC slate was then voted on and approved unanimously. Comrade Roger Silverman and Pierre Rosette, who had come from England and France respectively, briefly explained to the audience the marvellous experience they had during the meeting and congratulated the comrades. Imran Kamyana, speaking on behalf of Executive Committee, declared the Congress a huge success which had proven that comrades can organize and build in most extraordinary and difficult situations. Comrade Rauf Lund then summed up the Congress in his fiery closing remarks after which the meeting ended with raised fists and singing of Internationale.
Day Two in pictures
We would like to quote comrade Roger Silver, who has summed up what he saw during these few unforgettable days in these words:
There were times in the last two days when I felt as if I’d walked into the pages of Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution, or slipped through a hole in space-time and found myself attending a congress of the Bolshevik party.
I’ve never participated in a more amazing conference. The organisation: the hire of the biggest and most expensive hall in Lahore; the superb efficiency: the chairmanship, the security, the stewarding, the catering, the posters, banners and badges; the discipline, the enthusiasm, the songs and poems; the determination of 1500 people to brave the communal mobs and the roadblocks to get here; the overwhelmingly proletarian composition; the fact that nearly all the comrades who spoke were obviously playing leadership roles where they’d come from; the number of women, young people and even children present; the number of comrades who contributed, and above all the high political level of debate, the passionate oratory, the revolutionary spirit.
Congratulations. That’s the guarantee of the revolutionary role you will play in history. Our comrades in Britain, Europe, South Africa, America, we’re all proud to be associated with you.