With the last few comrades registering on Sunday morning (March 10th) the total number taking part in the congress went over 2800. The main discussions of the day were on the coming election campaign, an organisational discussion and a report on the work of the IMT internationally.
The second day opened like the first with several comrades reciting revolutionary poetry. In a country of such immense contradictions, where a small elite minority lives in opulence and the overwhelming majority live in abject poverty, the suffering of the toilers is expressed in song and poetry, and is a very important part of the congress proceedings.
Jawad song on death of workers in Karachi fire factory
Comrade Qamar Uz chaired the first session. His first task was to present to the comrades a video of one of the new songs of the well-known singer, Jawad. As referred to in yesterday’s report, one of his songs is about the death of close to 300 workers in a fire in a factory in Karachi last year.
The video opens up with pictures of the bodies of workers killed in the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, in a factory in Bangladesh and in Karachi. The video is a recording of a concert Jawad held especially for the families of those who died in Karachi. As Jawad sings his song, the camera moves around the audience. You can see the sons and daughters, the brothers and sisters, the parents and grandparents of the victims as they hold up photos of their dear ones lost in the fire. You see the silent faces as the tears pour out in grief as they listen to the words of the song.
The song is about the pain of the workers, but it also says that we the workers produce everything, and that we will not tolerate this again, and it ends with the words “Workers of the world unite!” on the screen. The whole song is very emotional and very moving. Towards the end the people in the crowd start to sing together with Jawad in defiance. As the video finished the whole congress began chanting again “Inqalab, Inqalab, Socialist Inqalab” (Inqalab meaning Revolution). This set the tone for the next important session on the agenda.
This was then followed by comrade Rauf Lund reciting another revolutionary poem.
Comrade Qamar then introduced Lal Khan who spoke on the coming election campaign. Parliament is being dissolved on March 16th and elections will be held some time in April or May. Lal Khan outlined the strategy and tactics in these elections, as the comrades are preparing to contest for National Assembly seats in parliament and gave reports of their constituencies to the congress.
The elections come at a moment of acute crisis in Pakistani society. The already serious poverty levels are getting even worse, as the IMF and World Bank intensify the pressure on the country. But who genuinely represents the interests of the workers, the peasants, the unemployed and the poor in general? The Pakistan People’s Party was founded in the late 1960s on a radical socialist programme. But today’s PPP leaders have been in government for the past five years, carrying out the dictates of imperialism, continuing with the programme of privatisations and cuts in subsidies to the poor. The result of all this is widespread alienation towards all politicians. They are all seen as lining their own pockets once in office, rather than doing anything serious for the masses.
In this context the PPP could get as low as 17% after riding high in the previous 2008 elections, and because of this Nawaz Sharif could make a comeback. Most people will most likely abstain or, as Lal Khan pointed out, sell their vote as that would be the only use they will see in it. At least it might feed them and their families for one more day!
Lal Khan outlined the Marxist view on elections, explaining that they will intervene and take the message of socialist revolution wherever the masses gather. He explained the role of parliament in bourgeois democracy, and of “bourgeois” democracy in general, as being not a system but a method of running the system. He quoted Marx who explained that elections in the capitalist means that the masses are allowed to choose every five years who oppresses them.
In some areas the Marxists may be successful in being nominated as candidates, in which case the comrades will mobilise to get the voice of genuine Marxism into parliament. This, however, would not be an end in itself. The purpose of having Marxists elected to parliament is like that of the Bolshevik deputies in the Tsar’s Duma, to expose it from within and spread the ideas of revolutionary socialism to a wider audience.
Lal Khan pointed out that the crisis of the system is reflected in a decay at all levels, with corruption rife everywhere. But it is also reflected in a decay of culture, of humanity itself. All this is reflected in the state of politics. He stressed that this was also the case in Europe, but that in Pakistan this is magnified many times over.
Events in Lahore the day before, on Saturday, highlighted this. The homes and shops of 160 Christian families had been torched and burnt down with the people having to flee. The excuse used by the mob was that one of the Christians was guilty of blasphemy. In reality these methods are used by ruthless gangsters to grab property, take it over and develop it. And the state simply stands by and does nothing!,
Lal Khan pointed to the many “jokers” in Pakistani politics, from the Zardaris of this world, to the Sharifs, and pointed out that Imran Khan, the mullah arrived from Canada, Qadri, and the leaders of the chauvinist MQM. None of them have any solutions to offer the masses.
However, Marxists do not abstain in the elections, but use them to campaign for their ideas, to point out the genuine alternative of socialism.
Several comrades from around the country intervened in the debate, such as Ghufran Ahad from Malakand. He exposed the sham of bourgeois democracy. He pointed out that rather than “government by the people” what we have is “government BUY the people”, and instead of “government for the people” we have “government FAR the people”. He explained that a Marxist candidate should not go into parliament to be corrupted but to expose the system.
This was followed by comrade Asaf from Rawalpindi who pointed out the role of the youth in the campaign. Riaz Lund, who stood as a Marxist candidate in 2008 also spoke. Everyone knows that in reality he won back in 2008, but the results were withheld for three days as the figures were cooked to show he had lost. He explained that the workers in Karachi are fully aware of this and they support the comrades. He pointed out that the leader of the MQM, that chauvinist, reactionary outfit responsible for the killing of many activists in the labour movement, had stated recently that their main enemy is “Marxism”.
Comrade Kadir from Peshawar, using the words of Lenin, said that this parliament is a “thieves’ kitchen” a kitchen “where there is no food for the poor”. He said that Marxists must take part in parliamentary elections, but the day would come when instead of voting with their hands they would vote with their feet, as they would mobilise and rise up against the system.
This was followed by comrade Adil from Faisalabad and comrade Ilyas Khan who gave a very fiery speech denouncing what the PPP leaders had done and what the Marxists should do to offer the workers an alternative. Comrade Rauf Lund pointed out that while all the others play the game of dividing the people, the Marxists work to unite the workers of the different ethnic and religious groups. Then spoke a female comrade, Jalila from Quetta. She spoke of the many women killed in Pakistan and the general violence that they suffer. She described how she had picked up body parts of women killed in bomb blasts, an everyday occurrence in Baluchistan. Because of her activities a Fatwa has been issued against her, but she remains determined to continue the struggle. She ended her intervention with a poem dedicated to those women she referred to in her speech. Another comrade then recited a poem that basically said “Don’t trust these robbers”.
Lal Khan then summed up the discussion, answering questions and bringing together the threads of the discussion.
The next session was an organisational report delivered by comrade Paras Jan from Karachi. The session was chaired by comrade Yasir Irshad. Comrade Paras spent a large part of his speech on what is required of the comrades in this period of acute crisis in the system. He explained the need to make sure every aspect of the work is organised meticulously. He gave a lot of importance to the life of the branches, and their regular daily and weekly activity. As there have been many new young recruits in the recent period it is necessary to educate them in the traditions of the Marxist method of organisation.
The report showed that the changing objective conditions have spurred growth of membership in recent months and the opportunities in the coming year were also discussed.
Trade union work
This was followed by reports on the commissions held the evening before. Nazer Mengal gave the report on the Trade Union Commission. He explained that the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign (PTUDC) would produce a special pamphlet for the elections on workers’ issues to be used by the comrades.
He also outlined the number of unions and workplaces the Marxist Tendency has a presence in. An idea of the growing influence of the Tendency can be seen by the number of comrades in different trade unions present at the congress:
Pakistan Steel Mills (Karachi), Pakistan Railways, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Water & Power Development Authority (WAPDA), Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC), Karachi Port Trust (KPT), Post Office, Ordnance Factory Wah Cant, Unilever, Coca Cola, Nestle Kabirwala, Pakistan Tobacco Company, All Pakistan Clerk Association (APCA), Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTCL), Merk Pharmaceuticals, Power Looms, Professor & Lecturer Association (Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, Kashmir ,Young Doctors Association (Lahore General Hospital, Jinnah Hospital Lahore, Children Hospital Lahore, Services Hospital Lahore, Punjab Institute of Cardiology Lahore, Mayo Hospital Lahore, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital Lahore, Nishtar Hospital Multan, Victoria Hospital Bahawalpur, Allied Hospital Faisalabad and District Headquarter Hospitals all over Punjab) , Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences Islamabad, Paramedical Alliance Punjab, EMCO Tiles Lahore, Treet Blade, Rustam Towels Lahore, Jamshoro Power house, Kot Addu Power Company, Pak Arab Oil Refinery, Sui Gas (SNGPL, SSGC), Water and Sewerage Authority, Journalists Union, Oil and Gas Development Corporation (OGDCL), State Bank of Pakistan, Habib Bank, Allied Bank, National Bank, Employees of Municipal Authorities all over Pakistan, Peasants Associations from different areas.
Comrade Amjad reported on the youth commission and recalled some of the year’s activities, including two Marxist Schools, one in the Summer and another last Winter. A new national coordinating committee has been set up to run the youth work, with bodies at regional and local level. Over the past year new areas of work have been opened up on the youth front, and the following list of youth organisations and educational institutions where the comrades have a base gives an idea of the scope of this important field of activity:
Youth Organisations: Jammu Kashmir National Student Federation (JKNSF), Jammu Kashmir Student Liberation Front (JKSLF) Peoples Student Federation (PSF), Baloch Student Organization (BSO), Pashtun Student Organization (PSO), Pashtun Student Federation, Inqilabi Council, Unemployed Youth Movement (BNT), Jammu Kashmir Peoples Student Federation (JKPSF), Peoples Student Federation Gilgit Baltistan.
Universities & Colleges: Punjab University, Government College University Lahore, University of Engineering & Technology Lahore, FAST University Lahore, LUMS Lahore, MAO College Lahore, National College of Arts Lahore(NCA), University of Central Punjab Lahore (UCP), Services Institute of Medical Sciences Lahore, International Islamic University Islamabad, Government College University Faisalabad, Sarghoda University, Agriculture University Faisalabad, Allama Iqbal Open University, Gorden College Rawalpindi, University of Engineering & Technology Taxila (UET), Peshawar University, Balochistan University Quetta, Khuzdar University, Sarhad University Peshawar, Malakand University, Gomal University D.I. Khan, Gomal Medical College D.I. Khan, Azad Jammu Kashmir Universiry Muzaffarabad (AJK University), MUST University Mirpur, Bahauddin Zikriya University Multan (BZU), Islamia University Bahawlpur, Sindh University Jamshoro, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai University Khairpur, Liaqat Medical University Jamshoro, Karachi University, Federal Urdu University, Sheikh Zayed Medical College Rahim Yar Khan, Khawaja Fareed College Rahim Yar Khan, Murray College Sialkot.
Women’s Day was also celebrated at the Congress in which working women and students from all over Pakistan took part with revolutionary fervour. Work among women is not easy in Pakistan. In spite of this, comrade Anam reporting on the commission explained that the organisation now has 132 female comrades, still low as a percentage of the organisation, but an increase over the recent period. Of these more than half were at the congress. The comrades agree that more must be done to recruit women and have given themselves the target of bringing the total in the coming period to 193.
Fred Weston closed the congress with a report on the international work of the IMT. He gave an outline of which countries the IMT is working in, from North to South America, Africa, Asia and Europe. The comrades listened keenly as Fred gave details of each section. The reports on Venezuela and Brazil were particularly appreciated, as were those on the USA, Canada and Mexico. The comrades were also keen to hear about the work in Europe, in Greece, Italy, France, Britain and all the other countries. They applauded the fact that shortly the biography of Ted Grant by Alan Woods is to come out.
This was an important session, as only a handful of Pakistani comrades have managed to get visas to travel to international conferences of the IMT and meet with comrades from other countries. This session is the closest most of them will ever get to meeting someone from the International. Fred explained to them that comrades all over the world follow keenly the work of the Pakistani comrades, which is an inspiration to them all, just as the Pakistani comrades are inspired by the work of the whole International.
Fred concluded by emphasising the key task of educating all the comrades and preparing them for the coming battles, and ended by dedicating once again the congress to the work of Ted Grant. He explained how the most difficult period for Ted must have been the 1950s, when capitalism was in full boom, Stalinism appeared enormously strengthened and the idea of revolution seemed very distant in the advanced capitalist world. But Ted had tremendous optimism in the future and understood that capitalism was destined to enter into crisis at some point and this would bring renewed class struggle. It is thanks to his work in those difficult times that the IMT exists today.
The congress ended with everyone singing the Internationale led once again by comrade Jawad. The enthusiasm that was expressed at this moment is difficult to describe in words. One had to be there to experience it. With such enthusiasm and determination we have every confidence in the future success of the Marxists in Pakistan.