Left unity in Pakistan: The historical divisions are breaking down.
In Pakistan, six left parties have united to form Awami Jamhoori Tehreek AJT (Peoples Democratic Movement). The joining parties are National Workers Party (NWP), Labour Party Pakistan (LPP), Awami Tehreek (AT), Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party (PMKP), Pakistan Mazdoor Mehaz (PMM) and Meraj Mohammed Khan group (MMKG). The AJT is launched as a joint forum for practical cooperation. This will give room for the member groups to work together on issues and explore the future possibilities. It will also allow more left groups to be brought into the process. All parties will work independently and also as AJT. It has the potential of becoming the fifth largest political group in Pakistan. The Socialist Unity Network interviewed, Farooq Tariq, General Secretary of the Labour Party Pakistan, about the prospects for the new alliance. See also: www.laborpakistan.org www.jeddojuhd.com
Socialist Unity Network: Many British readers will not be aware of the history of the Labour Party of Pakistan. How would you describe the LPP
Farooq Tariq: The Labour Party Pakistan is socialist party working for the overthrow of feudalism and capitalism. Formed in 1997, LPP has become one of the largest left party in Pakistan. LPP has basis in all four provinces of Pakistan. It supporters print a regular Weekly paper called Mazdoor Jeddojuhd (Workers Struggle). LPP has taken a very clear stand against the militarization of Pakistan society and at present is fighting against the military dictatorship of general Musharaf.
Socialist Unity Network: The picture we get of Pakistan’s politics from the western media is dominated by the tension between Musharraf’s pro-American stance, and an Islamist opposition. What influence do class based politics have in Pakistan?
Farooq Tariq: The class based organizations have little influence in Pakistani politics. The left forces are also weak but it is growing now. The Worl Social Foroum (WSF) process has helped to develop the progressive and class based organization in Pakistan. But there have been significant class based fight against the military government of General Mushraf. Notably are Peasants struggle at Okara military farms and recently the Bhatta (Brick Kiln) Workers struggle against the bonded labour.
The peasants in Okara have fought all along without any influence of the religious forces, but mainly with the support of LPP. So is the case of Bhatta workers who are at present in a state of war with the bosses. Strikes in different parts of the country are going on and Bosses have been put on defenses by big demonstrations.
Socialist Unity Network: The AJT includes six parties from quite different backgrounds. For example, I understand that the largest party, Awami Tehrik (Peoples Movement) is a radical nationalist party rather than a socialist party; and the Meraj Mohammed Khan Group has previously cooperated with Imran Khan. Given these different perspectives, what common platform of activity has the AJT agreed upon?
Farooq Tariq: The common programme of AJT is anti imperialist and anti feudal system. We are all against the present military regime and against the American imperialist occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Then we are all against the neo liberal agenda of general Musharaf. On the questions of rights for workers, women, minorities and peasants, we have common programme and also against the national oppression and for just distribution of the national resources among all the five nationalities.
Socialist Unity Network: Some of the parties in the AJT, for example the National Workers Party (NWP), Mazdoor Kissan Party (Workers Peasant party), and the Mazdoor Mehaz ( Workers Front) come from more orthodox Communist or even Maoist traditions, whereas the LPP has a background in Trotskyism. Do you think that given the fall of the Soviet Union, and the international degeneration of social democratic parties, that some of the historical divisions are no longer relevant?
Farooq Tariq: The historical divisions are breaking down. The reason is that some of the left forces of the past linked with Soviet Union or China have not much to defend. Some of theories promoted by Moscow or Peking have died down, for example the theory of national bourgeoisie revolution and stage theory in particular. LPP has elements from all different shades of the Left. But we have agreed to discuss all the main issues among ourselves and not in public. All six groups have decided no to criticize each other in public but inside there is a lot of room to have critical views and for discussions.
Socialist Unity Network: Are the AJT intending to contest the elections in 2007? What are your prospects?
Farooq Tariq: AJT has decided to discuss the possibilities to participate in the next general elections. We are taking a final decision on 21st April meeting. But in principal, all parties agree to take part in the elections. We can become the fifth largest political group in Pakistan. If we take part, we can win some seats and some reasonable percentage of votes as well.
Socialist Unity Network: The left in Europe have mostly characterized the Danish cartoon crisis as being primarily a question of racism, and a reaction to racism. However it is also clear that governments, such as the Saud family, and President Ahmadinejad in Iran played a role in escalating the tension. What was your view of this?
Farooq Tariq: Here is LPP views in cartoons:
Pakistan views on Danish cartoons
Writings or cartoons by members of dominant communities vilifying the religion of minority groups that are targets of racism are just the manifestation of oppression and incitation to racial hatred. They should be denounced as such and fought by political and legal means where appropriate.
Freedom of_expression is primarily involved in cases when writers or artists defy the prohibitions of their own governments or religion, prohibitions which often take the form of blasphemy laws. Several writers or artists of Muslim origin face governmental coercion and or oppressed and/or threats from fundamentalists forces. Their freedom of expression should be firmly defended.
The anti Muslim Danish newspaper's cartoons as every manifestation of Islamic phobia and imperialist and racist contempt, have been exploited as a pre text by the Muslim counterparts of the Western right and far right in order to enhance the position of Muslim fundamentalist groups or as a device to disorientate mass discontent against a minor member of imperialist system.
The fight against racism, anti immigration policies and imperialist wars should not be counter posed to the fight for democratic rights and freedom. They should be combined: we oppose racism and imperialism but do not condone anti democratic currents within general struggle; we defend freedom of expression but fight against expression of racism and oppressive ideologies.
Socialist Unity Network: In Britain, the campaign against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan led to successful cooperation between the far left and various Moslem organisations. Clearly over that single issue campaign there was an identity of interest. In many parts of the world anti-imperialist struggles are being led by Islamists, for example Hamas in Palestine or Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Gilbert Achcar has recently said: “although they are fighting the main oppressor of the peoples in that part of the world, they are at the same time, especially with regards to their social programme and views, a very reactionary kind of current.” How do you think the left needs to relate to these two faces of political Islam?
Farooq Tariq: No way, the Left should not have any alliance with the religious fundamentalist forces. But we are not against religious groups but against religious fundamentalists groups. We have a very clear policy that no alliance with the religious fundamentalists. They are not as anti imperialist as they pose. Their economic policies are defence of private property. In Pakistan, they were promoted by the American imperialism and now when the imperialist have abandoned them to some extent, they are making huge cries.
Socialist Unity Network: In Britain there is some speculation over the prospect of a US attack on Iran. Do you think this is likely, and what would be the reaction in Pakistan?
Farooq Tariq: We think it is likely that American imperialism will attack on Iran and there will be a strong reaction in Pakistan if that happens. Not only the Shia community but also the Sunnies will also protest in strongest terms. Although Tariq Ali was here and was saying that it is less likely that America attacks Iran but we think otherwise. Anyhow, we are campaigning this possible threat in all our literature
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