The 24th Congress of The Struggle - Pakistan Marxists on the eve of a breakthrough

The 24th congress of The Struggle – the Pakistan Marxist Tendency – opened on Wednesday 23rd March in the impressive Alhamra Hall number one in central Lahore. This is the biggest meeting hall in the city with a capacity of one thousand, but more than 1,100 comrades crowded the hall, at times sitting in the aisles or standing at the back.

The 24th congress of The Struggle – the Pakistan Marxist Tendency – opened on Wednesday 23rd March in the impressive Alhamra Hall number one in central Lahore. This is the biggest meeting hall in the city with a capacity of one thousand, but more than 1,100 comrades crowded the hall, at times sitting in the aisles or standing at the back.

They came from every province, region and area of the country: Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Pashtoonkhawa, and Kashmir. Every major city was represented: Karachi, Multan, Quetta, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Hyderabad, Dadu, Peshawar, Malakund, Banno, Dera Ismail Khan, Sadiqabad, Rahimyarkhan, Bhawalpur, Faisalabad, Kasur, Jampur, Rawlakot, Muzaffarabad, and many other cities, towns and villages.

The podium was impressively decorated with huge portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, and slogans in Urdu. On the main banner were written the celebrated words of The Communist Manifesto in English: “We have nothing to lose but our chains, and a world to win.”

There were international visitors from Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Sri Lanka. Messages of solidarity were received from Marxists in Britain, Italy, USA, Canada, Cuba, Argentina, Nigeria, France, Macedonia, Belgium, Denmark, Austria, and Russia. Tragically, an important delegation of 27 comrades from India was denied permission to enter the country by the Pakistan authorities. This shows the complete hypocrisy of the so-called policy of conciliation allegedly being pursued by the ruling classes of India and Pakistan. As a sign of solidarity with their Indian comrades, the entire Congress came to its feet at the opening session and gave a standing ovation to the absent Indian delegation.

The organisation of the Congress was outstanding, down to the smallest detail. Every delegate received credentials. Four different types of credential had been printed by the organising committee, each with a hammer and sickle and a different design: delegate, visitor, member and security. However, credentials were only issued to those who had paid the Congress fees, which, by Pakistani standards, were quite substantial. It is important to emphasise this point, because other NGO and “Left” conferences are usually free, with travelling and lodging thrown in as a perk. By contrast, the delegates and visitors at this Congress spent colossal amounts of money paying for their own transportation, travelling across vast distances. They not only paid their transportation and Congress fees, but also donated generously to the collection. This is a genuinely Bolshevik organisation, which is establishing new and revolutionary traditions.

Particularly impressive was the arrangement for food. To arrange meals for over a thousand people for two days in a country like Pakistan requires a very high degree of organisation. A special team of cooks was hired, together with all the necessaries utensils, cooking pots, tents and transport. Everything went off without the slightest complication, and the food was delicious!

The delegates and visitors were a mixture of young and old, but mainly young. Particularly impressive was the delegation from the troubled province of Kashmir. Nearly 200 came from this one region alone. The comrades of The Struggle now enjoy a commanding position in the youth and student organisations of Kashmir, where they have defeated the nationalist and fundamentalist tendencies.

There were 120 from Sindh; 150 from Rawalpindi-Wah; 150 from Multan-Janpur; 150 from Central Punjab, 80 from the Pashtoonkhawa, 80 from Southern Punjab, 65 from Balochistan. The remainder came from Lahore.

There were workers and students, trade union leaders, peasant activists, writers and artists, PPP militants and two members of the National Assembly, Zulfiqar Ali Gondal and Manzoor Ahmed. Javed Shaheen, the well-known poet and writer composed a poem especially for the occasion, which he read from the rostrum. Also present was the celebrated columnist and writer, Munoo Bhai, whose articles in the Jang are read daily by millions of people, as well as the veteran PPP left activist and governor of Central Punjab, Nazar Mohammad Gondal. The district governor from Malakand in Pashtoonkhawa, Ghufran Ahad Malik also attended.

Among the trade unionists were the leaders of the Peoples Labour Bureau from Karachi Steel, the biggest steel plant in Pakistan, leaders of the railway workers, Pakistan International Airways (PIA), Postal workers, Clerical Workers, the Water and Power Authority (WAPDA), gas workers, bank workers, transport workers, fertilizer factories, local government workers, oil workers, hospital workers and teachers.

In recent months The Struggle and the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign (PTUDC) have played an important role in launching a nationwide campaign against the reactionary labour laws of the Musharaff government. Many of those present have been active in this agitation. In the trade union commission held during the congress there were no fewer than 200 trade union leaders.

From Sindh alone there was Sheikh Majeed, the general secretary of the PIA and of the Karachi Peoples Labour Bureau; Naveed Aftab, vice general secretary of Pakistan Steel; Pershoutam, president of Sindh hospital workers; Manzoor Razi, president of the railway workers union; Sarwar Abbasi, general secretary of the fertilizer workers union, and many others. Ali Mardan president of the oil and gas workers union and Shaukat Satti of the telecommunications workers union.

There were also important trade union leaders from Punjab, Pashtoonkhawa and Balochistan, including Nusrat Ali Toor, general secretary of APCA, the very militant All-Pakistan Clerics Association.

Among youth organisations represented were activists and leaders from the JKNSF (Jammu Kashmir National Students Federation); JKPSF (Jammu Kashmir Peoples Student Federation); JKSLF (Jammu Kashmir Students Liberation Front), PSF (Peoples Student Federation), DSF (Democratic Students Federation); PSF (Pushtoon Students Federation) BSO (Baloch Student Organization), PYO (Peoples Youth Organization), and The Youth Campaign Against Unemployment (BNT) and YFIS (Youth for International Socialism).

The packed agenda was made up of the following subjects: World Perspectives, led off by Alan Woods; Pakistan Perspectives, led by Manzoor Ahmed; commissions on youth work, trade union work and women’s work. The following day opened with a session on Venezuela and permanent revolution, led off by Ana Munoz; organisation report led off by Lal Khan; regional reports, departmental reports. A resolution in solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution was passed unanimously. The international report and closing remarks were made by Alan Woods. The congress ended by singing the Internationale in Urdu and English.

The mood of the congress throughout was electrifying. The young delegates were particularly enthusiastic. One Pushtoon comrade commented: “This congress has given me a new lease of life.” A large number of visitors joined The Struggle during the congress. The very high level of morale and enthusiasm was strikingly revealed by the collection, which raised an astonishing figure of more than half a million rupees – 5,000 pounds (around $9,000). For a country in which the monthly wage is 3,000 rupees – 30 pounds ($50), this was an outstanding achievement.

This congress marks a real turning point in the development of the Pakistan Marxist organisation. The Struggle has now firmly established itself as the largest and most important organisation on the left in Pakistan. No Communist Party in the whole history of Pakistan has ever achieved a comparable position. The Struggle has no real competitors on the left, and it is now poised to become a real mass force. It already has thousands of supporters at all levels of Pakistan society: workers, youth, women, and the best of the progressive intelligentsia. It has a powerful national trade union base, and a significant voice in Parliament. It is now a focal point for militant workers and youth throughout the country.

The congress of The Struggle is an extraordinary achievement, particularly when one considers the difficulties of conducting revolutionary work under conditions of extreme reaction. Although the Musharaff dictatorship is extremely weak and unstable, it still imposes severe restrictions on the trade unions, students organisations and all progressive activity. In addition, Pakistani society is still plagued by the evils of fundamentalism, obscurantism and backwardness. It is also under the yoke of American imperialism, which is perpetuating the criminal occupation of Afghanistan. Under these tremendous difficulties, the comrades of The Struggle have achieved astonishing victories in the last period. However, the days of the Musharaff dictatorship are numbered, the discontent of the masses is growing by the day and explosive events lie ahead. The Pakistani Marxists are poised on the eve of a tremendous breakthrough.