Revolutionary spirit marks end of The Struggle Congress

The Iqbal Hall in Lahore was again packed to capacity for the second day of the 26th Congress of The Struggle. The day was marked by lively discussions and fiery speeches about the current situation in Pakistan and internationally. The congress ended in a mood of excitement and determination as comrades sang The Internationale and chanted revolutionary slogans.

Delegates on the second day of the Congress

On March 31, the second day of the 26th Congress of The Struggle opened its doors in Lahore. As the day before, the beautiful Iqbal Hall was almost packed with a total of 2,193 enthusiastic activists from all over Pakistan. They came in great numbers from Punjab (North, South and Central), Baluchistan, Sindh, Karachi, Kashmir and Pukhtoonkwa (formerly known as the North Western Frontier) and even Waziristan, the tribal area on the border with Afghanistan, where a bloody war is raging. The mood was even more exuberant than the day before, with people dancing and shouting revolutionary slogans in between the various sessions.

Many comrades had to make enormous sacrifices to get to the congress such as selling their personal belongings. Some were visitors from some small left-wing parties and all of them were very inspired by this congress and its efficient organisation. Every comrade who came into the hall was a different comrade when he/she came out again.

Jam Saqi, former general secretary of the CP of Pakistan
Jam Saqi, former general secretary of the CP of Pakistan

Receiving over 1700 people from outside Lahore is not an easy task but everybody was put up in various hotels in the city. And as if preparing the various sessions and providing everybody with accommodation were not enough, imagine what organisation was required to get food and water for everybody! There was a dedicated team of 15 cooks - comrades and sympathisers - who were in charge of preparing three meals a day for all congress attendants - a remarkable achievement in itself since the quality of the food was excellent!

Jam Saqi, the famous former General Secretary of the Communist Party of Pakistan, who has joined The Struggle, remarked that "at our congresses there were always splits and disagreements. That is not the case here at all. Here everybody is very disciplined and there is homogeneity of the ideas. Before the congress I felt like an old man with various health problems. Now I feel young again and healthier than before."

Tribute to Phil Mitchinson

Lal Khan pays tribute to Phil Mitchinson

Before beginning the official congress proceedings, comrade Lal Khan delivered a moving speech about comrade Phil Mitchinson, an outstanding Marxist and leader of the IMT, who died tragically young last November. The congress then stood in silent tribute for one minute.

The first session was on Perspectives for Pakistan and was introduced by Lal Khan, who said the following:

"Trotsky said that perspectives are a science. This science is called Marxism. Clearly before us conditions and situations exist that we predicted would emerge 10 or 15 years before. Events have developed in a very negative manner and have confirmed what we always knew would happen. The state is now collapsing. It is outdated and part of a rotten system. All perspectives outside this congress are deceptive."
"The creation of Pakistan was a crime and is still a crime. The state is theocratic, but a bourgeois state should be secular. Therefore they ignore their first duty. There are three key problems of the state. Firstly, the landlords. They are interlinked with the capitalists. The bourgeois depend on landlords who out of weakness have been forced to forge an alliance with them. Secondly, the ruling class entered too late into history as capitalist globalisation advanced too far to bring about a bourgeois democratic revolution. Thirdly, they are totally dependant on imperialism. To increase their rate of profits it is necessary to do this via corruption. Therefore they have had to ensure they dominate the army and police."
"As for the Islamic fundamentalists, where is their ideology? They are funded by drug money! The most criminal element within Pakistan is this section. In Islamabad they want to organise a religious coup. They have women patrolling the streets (from the Al-Haffsa Brigade) armed with batons and openly ‘arrest' women whom they accuse of immorality (prostitution).
"They are abducting these women, but the police won't touch them. Why? Because they are all the wives and daughters of military officers and therefore the police can't take action. The military can attack the Taliban in Afghanistan/Waziristan, but it can't enforce the laws of the state in Islamabad!"

Lal Khan finished his fiery speech with these words:

"We now have a revolutionary leadership. We have a national profile. Our comrades are identified throughout Pakistan. A left alliance must be forged, but on the basis of Marxism! The PPP will inevitably come to power in the next period and the ideas and programme of the leaders will be put to a severe test. We will stand firmly for a programme in the interests of the workers and peasants and demand that the PPP leaders break the coalition with the bourgeoisie. On this basis the Marxist wing will grow even more rapidly.
"We only have one life. This life must have a purpose. We have to fight against this society and with this organisation we will enter history!"

Lively discussion

Hina Zain

Shujat Kazmi from Kashmir was the first speaker to contribute to the discussion:

"Since partition, Kashmiris have been the most repressed. For 60 years there have been talks, wars, more talks and so on. Only the masses and the revolutionary youth can take revenge on this system and destroy it forever."

Comrade Harish from Sindh focused his intervention on the national struggle and emphasised that we cannot give in to nationalism. "A clear position on the national question is critical. Capitalism is dead and Socialism is the only solution."

Comrade Hamid Khan, a well-known trade union leader from Balochistan, talked about the Taliban and explained the contradictions inside the fundamentalists and the ISI.

"The forces of the Taliban and the army are basically fundamentalist forces. There is an artificial line which divides the people - we don't accept this line. There is a strong cultural tradition between the peoples of Pakistan and Afghanistan. What happens in one country effects inevitably what happens in the other. The people are opposed to US imperialism, but are also opposed to the fundamentalist reactionaries. In Afghanistan the people are resisting the Taliban, and even in Waziristan there have been local uprisings of the population against them."
Zuhaib speaking on youth work
Zuhaib speaking on youth work

Other speakers like Anwar Zeb from Pukhtoonkwa (formerly known as the North Western Frontier) also explained the situation on the border with Afghanistan and linked this with the war in Iraq. He reported that 25 comrades from Waziristan (the tribal area on the Pakistani frontier with Afghanistan) were present at the congress, a significant development that shows that even in remote areas like these it is possible to build a revolutionary organisation that will take on the fundamentalists.

Comrade Tarik Watan from Karachi talked about US imperialism's interference in the region, and Raja Ejos from Kashmir gave some interesting figures on the poverty rate in Pakistan.

"In 1999, the official poverty rate was 5.8%. Today it is officially 7.4%. There are 5 million child labourers who have never gone to school. 250,000 children die every year due to unclean water. People are forced to sell their kidneys."

Lal Khan summed up the session as follows:

"The whole world is a market for our labour. We support every democratic demand for rights, etc., but what do the nationalists ask for? They ask for a separate state, but we want to demolish borders. There are many Pashtoons in Bombay. We have no fight with religions, sects, nationalities. Our fight is with hunger, disease, poverty!
"We do go to democratic movements, but with our own programmes. Even if we are on the gallows we will say we are Marxists. A democratic fight is to support the system, like the NGO's. They encourage the psychology of charity. Those who get used to it can never hold a sword in their hands and fight."
"We are at a dangerous crossroads in the history of Pakistan. Things are moving towards barbarism. Who is spreading that? Here it is in the form of fundamentalism! We will battle them and anyone who uses religion to stop socialism.
"National wars are over. The 3rd World War will be the class war! Our perspective is one of movement, not barbarism. The leadership of the trade unions and Labour Parties are corrupt, but we can't let that stop us. A delay in the movement only increases its intensity when it erupts. Without a Marxist leadership, the movement will be defeated."
"After the revolution there will be no Prime Ministers. We will replace them with our own state and the productive forces will be nationalised. The solution is there. The movement is about to erupt. We don't trust any leaders. Even in this rotten system, if Marx himself was Prime Minister he would not be able to solve anything! This system is the past occupying the present.
"‘We will end the corruption!' is always the mantra of the emerging political layers, but they always are more corrupt than the ones before them. You can't be honest in this system. When the movement erupts we need a programme and a leadership. We now have a national identity and we have to integrate this with the masses. Marxism is not only political, but also cultural. It's a culture of its own. The biggest enemy is time. We have to see the responsibility we have and continue forward and not stop until the socialist revolution."

Comrade Lal Khan's speech was repeatedly interrupted by applause and greeted at the end with a standing ovation.

The session on Pakistani perspectives was followed by a report back from the commissions of the day before. The Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign commission report was delivered by Khabir Khan and he gave a detailed strategy of action for building the PTUDC and strengthening its leading position in the masses in the next 12 months. He urged all comrades of The Struggle to get involved in the PTUDC and help to build it.

Sadaf, in charge of the women's work
Sadaf, in charge of women's work

Sadaf, a female comrade organising the women's work, reported on the women's commission. "On the March 8 we celebrated International Working Women's Labour Day and distributed a leaflet throughout Pakistan."

Some suggestions were made to engage more women in the organisation. "The conditions of women in Pakistan are extremely bad but once women get properly organised, they can be one of the most militant sections of the working class," she said.

The Youth commission report was delivered by comrade Zuhaib, who told the audience about the plan to hold a 10,000 strong mass rally of the unemployed youth in September. The comrades have set up the BNT, the Unemployed Youth Movement, which is developing very quickly on a national level.

The final session

Maarten Vanheuverswyn - International report
Maarten Vanheuverswyn - International report

An international report was then given by Maarten Vanheuverswyn about the progress of the various sections of the Marxist International Tendency. It is clear that the Pakistani section is the jewel in the crown of the International, but other sections are having a similar impact.

The Latin American work was highlighted, where we have various established groups such as in Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, and others, but also many contacts and sympathising groups in the whole of the continent such as in Brazil, Honduras, El Salvador, Bolivia, Panama, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Guatemala, and our ideas have had a wide impact in Cuba. We also have growing sections in North America (United Stated and Canada). In Europe we have made important gains in Spain, Italy and Austria, and all the sections are registering significant advances. After dealing with Europe and Africa, the point was made that Pakistan is more and more the centre from which important contacts are made such as in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

The international report clearly had a big impact on the comrades present as they can see they belong to a strong international organisation that is using the same methods in different countries all over the globe. It is the power of Marxist ideas that has allowed the International Marxist Tendency to grow in all areas.

Alan Woods' closing remarks
Alan Woods' closing remarks

In the closing session of the congress, comrade Alan Woods delivered his verdict on the discussions of the last two days. Alan stressed the qualitative leap forward that The Struggle has made over the last twelve months.

"This congress was a decisive turning point for the Pakistani Marxists. The development of the organisation has taken years of patient and hard work, with many sacrifices, but now finally this work is starting to pay off."

"Every organisation, as every individual human being, passes through stages: that of an embryo, childhood, adolescence and finally when maturity is reached. The Struggle is a very healthy and mature organisation now. Despite its serious growth in the previous years, the organisation was still fragile in some respects, but now The Struggle has really sunk deep roots in the whole of Pakistan. The prehistory of the tendency is finished, and now the comrades are starting to create a mass organisation that can take its historical responsibilities. The growth over the last year has been very good but the Marxist tendency is still very small for the great tasks that are posed. To reach five thousand comrades is now a modest target for the next year."

"This congress is entirely different to any other conference or gathering in Pakistan. In the conferences of the bourgeois parties and the NGO's, delegates are paid to attend. In our congress workers, peasants and young people make enormous financial sacrifices and pay to come to the congress. (applause) In other congresses, there is no discussion of ideas, but all the important discussions are taken in the corridors and consist purely of a scramble for positions. Here, on the contrary, we are discussing ideas, and the political level of this congress has no equal anywhere else."

Singing of The Internationale
Singing of The Internationale

Alan pointed to the large number of young delegates but also an increasing number of veteran activists, trade unionists and communists who are joining The Struggle. "We are now retying the knot of history."

He particularly singled out the presence of Jam Saqi, the renowned workers' leader and former General Secretary of the Pakistan Communist Party. In an emotional moment, Alan Woods and Jam Saqi embraced to cheers and applause of the delegates.

After this, the comrades sang The Internationale, and then the hall erupted into a storm of applause and cheering. Many delegates came down to the front and began singing and dancing and chanting the slogan "Inqlab, Inqlab Socialist Inqlab" (Revolution, Revolution, Socialist Revolution).

Dancing and shouting slogans after the congress
Dancing and shouting slogans after the congress

The coming period will be a stormy period for Pakistani society. There is the possibility that elections will be held. However, that is by no means certain, as the Pakistani ruling class does not care one bit about democracy.

If the regime decides to postpone the elections once again, then the stage is likely to be set for a big protest movement in Pakistan, in which The Struggle will play a leading role.

Video of comrades singing and chanting revolutionary slogans at the end of Congress

[Update March 2017: Video missing since Google videos has shut down.]

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