No trust for Populist Politicians like Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri! Turn the Mass Protests into a Revolution Led by the Working Class in Alliance with the Urban and Rural Poor!
Joint Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) and the Revolutionary Workers Organization (RCIT-Section in Pakistan), 10.9.2014, www.thecommunists.net
1. The government of Nawaz Sharif and his bourgeois, reactionary, pro-imperialist party PML-N are facing a deep crisis. In the eyes of the popular masses, they are thoroughly discredited for their unswerving support of US imperialism’s “war on terror,” their endemic corruption, and their inability to improve the living conditions of ordinary people. The PPP – the former ruling party of the late Benazir Bhutto, currently led by “Mister 10 percent” Asif Ali Zardari – is equally despised. On this backdrop, since 15 August hundreds of thousands of people have been protesting in the capital city, Islamabad,against government corruption and the rigged elections of 2013, and are demanding that the government resign. These protest marches and sit-ins are the initiative of two opposition parties – the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led by Imran Khan, and the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT), led by the cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri.
2. While coordinated, these protests are nevertheless organizationally divided into two separate camps. Imran Khan’s PTI heads the so-called Azaadi March (Independence March) while al-Qadri’s PAT leads the so-called Inqlabi March (Revolutionary March). Imran Khan follows a bourgeois-liberal agenda representing the upper layer of the urban middle class (a relatively small percent of Pakistan’s population – about 10 million out of a nationwide total of 196 million people). In the last few years, his party has succeeded in increasing its popular support at the expense of the two main capitalist parties, the PML-N and the PPP, thanks to its rhetorical campaign against corruption and the US imperialist “war on terror.” Tahir al-Qadri’s PAT party represents the lower strata of the middle class, but also has substantial support among the workers and the urban and rural poor. Al-Qadri owes his support by the masses to his bourgeois populist agenda which includes numerous democratic demands. He has also won popular support by calling for a new “revolution.”
3. Pakistan’s military command is attempting to exploit the present governmental crisis in order to gain influence. Consequently, on 28 August it offered – on the request of the government – to act as the “facilitator” between the government and the protestors. While there are currently no indications of an imminent military coup, one must not forget that, since the country gained independence in 1947, the military has ruled Pakistan by means of an open dictatorship for more than three decades (1958-1971, 1977-1988, and 1999-2008). Naturally, in the event of a new military coup d’état, all progressive forces must mobilize against the army command, the main enemy in such a situation.
4. All socialists and consistent democrats should support the mass protests against the reactionary government of Nawaz Sharif. Despite all their limitations and the illusions they spawn among the masses, the current wave of protests reflect a progressive, justified hatred of the government by the lower middle class, the workers, and the poor; a government which unashamedly serves the rich, is thoroughly corrupt, and plays the stooge for Western imperialism and its war of aggression in western Pakistan and Afghanistan. At the same time, the RWO and the RCIT warn against having any illusions about the respective leaderships of the PTI and PAT. For these politicians, the current protests are merely a device to achieve an advantageous deal when bargaining with the political establishment. All these leaders are fundamentally supporters of the capitalist system.
5. In the present situation, the central task of authentic socialists is to get the organized workers’ movement to join the protests, something resisted by the reformist and Stalinist bureaucratic leadership. The RWO and the RCIT call for popular assemblies to be held in Islamabad’s protest camps, allowing the masses to democratically make decisions, instead of receiving orders handed down by the protests’ leaders. We call for the formation of action committees around the country to spread the protests and build a nationwide mass movement led by the working class. It is of prime importance that socialists challenge the leadership of the PTI and PAT. Hence it is vital that a revolutionary workers’ party be built as part of a new Fifth International. Such a party would fight for a program of socialist revolution: for the nationalization of the banks and corporations under workers’ control; for the expropriation of the big land owners and redistribution of land to small and landless peasants; for the right of national self-determination of the oppressed national minorities in Pakistan (e.g., like the Baloch people or the Kashmiri people); and for the formation of a workers’ and poor peasants’ government defended by popular militias. In addition, such a government would immediately expel the US, Chinese, and other imperialist monopolies and military forces.
6. The RWO and the RCIT unequivocally condemn the shameful betrayal of the protesting masses by the reformist and centrist forces that either totally ignore or, even worse, denounce the mass protests taking place in Islamabad. The reformist Awami Workers Party (AWP) condemns the democratic and anti-corruption protests as being organized by “right-wing populists” who act as stooges of the military command. These condemnations are not only wrong but are also particularly grotesque in their irony, given the fact that just three months ago the AWP leadership itself openly praised the army’s brutal military offensive against the Taliban – in collaboration with the US imperialists – in North Waziristan: “After all the government and its armed forces have seen the light of the day, and have abandoned the futile negotiations, which went on for several months between itself and Taliban. Awami Workers Party from the very outset opposed negotiations with terrorists and demanded a different course of action against Taliban and other reactionary terrorists outfits. (…) There are people and groups who in name of religion directly or indirectly support the terrorist activities of the Taliban and its likes. The government Pakistan must come out with a plan to isolate and annihilate all such elements.” (AWP Joint statement on military operation in Wazirestan, 17 June 2014, https://www.facebook.com/farooq.tari/posts/10152444386972856) Similarly, during the present crisis, the reformist AWP has joined the side of counterrevolution and openly defends the reactionary government of Nawaz Sharif against the mass protests by stressing its legitimacy: “… despite the civilian government’s major economic and political failings, it retains a mandate to fulfill its term in office” (AWP Statement, 31 August 2014, https://www.facebook.com/AwamiWorkersParty) Again, all this decisively reconfirms the characterization of the AWP by the RWO and the RCIT as a reformist party which does not serve the working class. Instead, since its beginnings, the AWP has proven time and again that not only does it not advance the working class struggle, but rather acts as a brake or, even worse, as an instrument of the counterrevolution. We call upon all socialists inside the AWP to break with this obstacle and to join us in building an authentic revolutionary workers’ party.
7. No less so, Lal Khan’s “The Struggle” group (IMT section in Pakistan) once more has proven itself to be a right-centrist outfit. It too refuses to lend any support to the mass protests. Lal Kahn compares Tahir al-Qadri’s PAT with Islamist fundamentalists like Jamaat-e-Islami or even terrorist groups. He denounces PAT as “sectarian” which “is not less reactionary than that of the other sects”. (Lal Khan: Political Islam in Pakistan, 2 September 2014, http://www.marxist.com/political-islam-in-pakistan.htm) This is just pseudo-socialist rhetoric to cover the IMT group’s adaption to the bourgeois establishment.
8. We in the RWO and the RCIT stand for all of the following:
* Spreading the mass protests against the government of Nawaz Sharif throughout the entire country! For the founding of mass assemblies and action committees to organize the struggle in a democratic manner! Harbor no illusions about the leaderships of PTI and PAT! Force the leadership of the organized workers’ movement to join the protests!
* Making all state functionaries accountable to the popular masses and recallable at any time! They must not earn more than an average worker’s income!
* Nationalization of the key industries and banks under workers’ control!
* Expropriation of the big land owners and the redistribution of land to the small and landless peasants!
* Defense of the right to national self-determination for all oppressed national minorities in Pakistan (e.g., like the Baloch people or the Kashmiri people)!
* Defeat for the US “War on Terror”! Expel the US, Chinese and other imperialist monopolies and military forces!
* A workers’ and poor peasants’ government defended by popular militia!
* A socialist federation for all of South Asia!
* Onward to the building of a revolutionary workers’ party as part of a Fifth International!