The slogan of “revolution” has been misused so blatantly that it has lost its meaning in the context of the Pakistani politics. Every capitalist, feudal and religious politician in the country wants to bring revolution or a change of system; even the most ardent supporters and allies of the establishment in the country are using the word “revolution” to completely discredit it. They all wanted to protect their class interests and the present system and status-quo.
Marxists are not against reforms, but oppose reformism as an ideology, in opposition to the revolutionary ideas and traditions of the working class. The working class can win concessions during the course of struggle, but only for a certain period before the ruling class tries to take these reforms and concessions back. In a class society, the struggle between workers and the capitalist ruling class is of a permanent nature. The intensity of this class conflict and struggle can vary and there can be lulls at times. Both classes have different interests and clash with each other to protect and further their interests. The capitalist ruling class wants to exploit the working class to the maximum. On the other hand, the working class has no other option but to fight back for their survival. Socialists fight shoulder to shoulder with workers to win reforms and concessions. They fight for decent wages, better working conditions, democratic rights and decent living conditions along side the working class as the best class fighters, but they never stop linking these struggles with the decisive struggle to bring social change through the workers’ revolution.
Socialists support any reform to the electoral system that will help the cause of the working class and the poor. The present rotten and corrupt election system needs to be changed radically. But the main question is who will do that? The present system helps the ruling elite to protect its class interests and political domination. So the ruling elite is not interested in making changes to the electoral system. The present election system allows the working class people and the poor to choose between different capitalists and feudal lords to represent them. Participation in the election process has been made so expensive that only the very rich can contest. Now the question is, can the introduction of some new laws and regulations be enough to radically reform the election system as suggested by the leaders of the “Long March”?
Socialists believe that even relative democratic and fair elections on a capitalist basis are not possible without the abolition of feudalism and tribalism. People living in rural areas dominated by the feudal lords and tribal leaders can not freely cast their votes according to their own free will. The big feudal and tribal chiefs force them to vote for them. The capitalist class has failed to abolish and destroy the rotten feudalism and tribalism in the country. Instead, the capitalist class has collaborated with them to consolidate their position. The only class that can abolish this rotten nexus between capitalism and feudalism is the working class. A representative government of the working class and poor can ensure free, independent, fully democratic and transparent elections in the country. Elections to a revolutionary constituent assembly, under the control of democratic committees of the workers and peasants is the need of the hour, to bring the desired change.
There is no doubt that working masses are sick and tired of this corrupt, rotten and crony capitalist and feudal system. The working class and the poor of this country want change. There is widespread discontent and anger in society against this capitalist system. The ruling elite, both military and civilian, have failed to solve the basic problems faced by the working class and the poor. This anger has not yet taken the shape of political action and a generalised movement against the system. The working class has not yet arrived on the political scene and has been absent from the recent events. But this will not go on forever and will change sooner rather than later. The working class as a real agent of change, the “vanguard” of the revolution, will arrive on the scene to bring social change according to the aspirations of the millions of working class people and the poor.
The recent “long march” and sit-in organised by the right wing religious scholar, Tahir-ul-Qadri, has once again provoked discussion on the question of revolution and change of the system. The so-called long march from Lahore to Islamabad and than sit-in in the centre of the capital Islamabad has raised important questions about democracy, electoral reforms and the existing system in the country. Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri failed to mobilise the promised 4 million people in his million march and also failed to bring down the government. He managed to mobilize around 40,000 supporters, including a large number of women.
Tahir-ul-Qadri represents the forces of the status quo and is considered close to the establishment. This fire brand anti-Taliban religious scholar is a controversial figure and migrated to Canada about 6 years ago. He returned from Canada on 23 December and announced the launch of a movement to reform the electoral system in the country. The opposition led by PML-N accused him of playing into the hands of establishment and wanting to derail the democratic system in the country, preparing for a military intervention. The government also alleges that he wanted to destabilise the government and is preparing the ground to postpone the upcoming elections. Many political commentators and liberal intellectuals share the same sentiments and views about the recent events. The leader of the march and sit-in might have his own hidden agenda, linked closely with the wishes of the establishment, but ordinary people who participated in these events clearly came to demand change. They spent four chilly and freezing nights in the open air, in the hope of bringing change, without fully understanding the meanings of change and how to bring it about. The majority of the people in the march and in the sit-in are ordinary people belonging to the lower strata of the society. The unemployed youth, retrenched workers, daily wage labourers and women came to show and express their anger and discontent against the corrupt and rotten elite and system. The absence of a real workers’ alternative and a mass party of the working class and the poor enables people like Tahir-ul-Qadri to exploit the situation and try to fill the political vacuum that exists at the moment.
In fact, the present civilian government led by the PPP has failed to govern the country and to deliver. The present government has converted the country into a living hell for millions of working class people and poor. The gap between the rich and the poor has reached unprecedented levels. The economy is in a worse state now than when the government was elected in 2008, Taliban attacks are on the rise, Shia Muslims are suffering record levels of violence, as is Karachi, the economic and financial hub of the country. The appalling energy crisis is getting worse as electricity and gas cuts make life even more miserable and unbearable.
The rise of Imran Khan and the present mobilisation of thousands of people clearly indicate the growing frustration with the present corrupt and rotten elite. The already existing political vacuum in the country has further widened to new levels. Different forces on the right are vying to fill this vacuum and gain popularity through right wing populist slogans and demands. In the absence of a strong left and workers movement the right wing forces have been able to make some gains among sections of the frustrated middle classes and the poor. The left and the trade union movement has, so far, failed to play any important role. The workers’ movement is lacking political and ideological clarity, organisational strength, revolutionary leadership and a mass workers party with a clear socialist program and strategy to challenge the rotten and corrupt elite and system, and put forward a class alternative for the millions of the workers, youth, women, peasants and the poor who are looking for an alternative.
The big problem at the moment is the low level of consciousness and workers struggles. Consciousness is contradictory. On the one hand, the working masses want to get rid of the present system and there is widespread anger and discontent in society but on the other hand, the working masses have no clear alternate to fight for. The working masses know what they do not want but they do not know what they want. They also lack a clear class consciousness at present. It is true that the divide between rich and poor has increased to unprecedented levels and there are strong anti rich sentiments among the masses, but this has not yet turned into a clear class consciousness. But undoubtedly, the urge and thirst for the change has started to grip the minds of the working masses.
The present situation clearly manifests the need for the formation of the mass party of the working class and the poor. The working class needs a political alternate with a clear radical socialist program and a revolutionary leadership to further the struggle to overthrow the capitalist system and to establish a genuine workers’ democracy. The trade union movement and the left in the country have a responsibility in this regard. The time is running out very quickly to take such an initiative. This is the most important task on the shoulders of the left forces and especially the revolutionary left. Socialist Movement Pakistan (CWI) is striving very hard to fulfil this task. SMP urgently invites left groups and the activists of the trade union movement including the genuine trade union leaders to take a joint initiative in this regard.
The conscious intervention of the subjective factor in the present situation can change the objective situation quite quickly. The emergence of the working class movement can transform the whole situation.