Pakistan: Interview with Imran Kamyana on the 40th Congress of The Struggle

On March 12 and 13, the national congress of The Struggle, the ISL section of Pakistan, was held in Lahore. Alejandro Bodart and Volkan Arslan of the coordination of the ISL and the leaderships of Argentina and Turkey respectively, together with Cele Fierro of the national leadership of the MST-FITU from Argentina participated in the Congress. To socialize this important event, we interviewd Imran Kamyana, of the national leadership of The Struggle, who tells us about the congress, the recently published Selected Works of The Struggle’s historical leader Lal Khan, some important historical debates of the subcontinent, the political situation in Pakistan and the perspective that opens for The Struggle and the ISL in the region.

What is your assessment of the congress that you have just finalized?

The congresses of The Struggle have been very important events not only for our organization, but for all of the left in Pakistan. Particularly since 2000, 2001, they have become a reference point and are observed not only in Pakistan, but also all over the world. Revolutionaries, Marxists from many countries send us solidarity messages and these congresses also provide energy, showing the potential of building a revolutionary party in a country like Pakistan, which is often depicted in the media as a religious and fundamentalist society where there can be no building of revolutionary party and there can be no revolution and no talk of socialism. So our congresses present another aspect of the working class and society of Pakistan. They show that even under these conditions there can be class struggle and there can be revolutionary movements and it is possible to prepare for those movements and build the revolutionary party to intervene in them and make a revolution not only in Pakistan but in the whole continent.

Recently it has become very difficult for us to hold our congresses, particularly since this semi-dictatorial government, controlled by the military, came to power. It has become very difficult for us to obtain permission to hold our congresses, because you cannot hold such a big event without a “no objection” certificate from the government authorities. This year, as in the previous congress, it took us three months to get that permit, and until a week and a half before the congress we were not sure if we were going to get that permission.

That is one aspect of the difficulties we are facing in holding our congresses. The other thing is that Pakistan is in an IMF program and there is severe stagflation in the country, with double-digit inflation and a growth of practically zero. The prices of all basic necessities have at least doubled in the last three years, unemployment rates are really high and it has been difficult for even our members to gather the money to come to the congress. Because Pakistan is a vast country, some comrades have to travel for two or three days by train or bus to get here and it requires a lot of money.

So it was very difficult for many comrades who are workers or belong to the financially poor layers od society to get to Congress. Some of them had to take loans or sell valuables, and still many were unable to come to the congress because of the financial constraints, which affected the participation to some extent. On the other hand, the costs of arrangements, food, hall rental, everything, has become more expensive. We had to run a very enthusiastic finance campaign all over the world to raise the funds.

In any case, it was a very successful congress, with some 1,500 comrades participating over the two days. One thing to highlight is that the participation of women comrades in this congress increased considerably. They deserve great recognition because in countries like Pakistan, the conditions of double oppression and double exploitation of women are really miserable and it is a great achievement for us that more women are joining the organization.

Politically, it was really charged, everyone was very enthusiastic, the discussions were of a very high level. ISL comrades opened the debate on the world perspective, then we discussed the Pakistan perspective, then there was an inauguration ceremony of comrade Lal Khan´s selected works, which we have just published, and then the session on organization. It was two days full of anthems, slogans and applauses that gave a new lease of life to our organization, like every congress.

International perspectives lead off

We published two documents for the congress. One was the world and Pakistan perspectives, which was written in collaboration with ISL comrades, and the other was the document on organization building. In summary, this congress was a necessity, because last year we could not hold it due to the pandemic, and it had become critical for us to hold this congress. This will give a lot of enthusiasm, energy and courage to comrades not only in Pakistan but all over the world. And it will prove to be a milestone on the journey of building the revolutionary party in Pakistan and South Asia.

You have jest published the Selected Works of Lal Khan. One of his important contributions was his analysis of the Partition of India. Can you tell us about this?

The Selected Works of Lal Khan which we have just published consists of three large volumes, it is about 2,500 pages. It contains Lal Khan’s articles that he wrote mainly for the bourgeois media from 2011 to 2020, and others that he wrote in our party magazine. The average size of each is about 1,300 letters, because that was the limitation of the newspaper for which he used to write. Also many of them are translated from English, because he also used to write in a very famous English daily of Pakistan’s.

The recently published Selected Works of Lal Khan

This is a very important publication because it is the mature Lal Khan, from the last years of his life. Unfortunately he left us very early. It contains the mature ideological positions which he took on almost every matter which a revolutionary may have to encounter in his lifetime, about society, culture, economy, imperialism, fundamentalism, the peculiar nature of societies like Pakistan’s given their uneven and combined development. Also about the international issues that took place during those years, the wars, the diplomacy, and also the psychological aspects of society. Some of these articles are very poetic, written in a very artistic form, just as Trotsky used to write some of his writings about culture, human psychology, and social issues.

The work will prove to be a kind of text book, not only for our organization, but also to other currents and tendencies who are trying to build a revolutionary party in countries like Pakistan. We will try to translate the introduction for comrades internationally.

One of the very important historical issues that this book and Lal Khan’s writings deal with again and again is the incident of the Partition of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan, and then Bangladesh, which later separated from Pakistan.

Lal Khan always gave a lot of importance to this incident that changed the course of the history of this whole region. It basically dissected this 7,000 year old civilization along religious lines, into two countries. And these societies have not been able to recover from that trauma, from that injury which British imperialism inflicted on the people of this part of the world. Hindu and Islamic fundamentalism rise in their modern form from the Partition. 2.7 million people perished in the riots that took place between Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims during Partition. To this day, this trauma present in the psychology of the peoples of this part of the world.

Lal Khan’s book Crisis on the Subcontinent: Partition, Can It Be Undone? explains the whole independence movement in India, the 1956 revolution that forced the British out of this part of the world, and also forced them to divide India and create a theocratic buffer state against the threat of the Soviet Union at that time. They also did this to divide the class struggle on a religious basis and prevent the possibility of a continent wide revolution which could erupt not only against imperialism, but also against the whole capitalist system. Lal Khan explains this historical crime of British imperialism in detail and also the profound implications it has for understanding the current social, political and economic conditions of the subcontinent. We have given a copy of the book to the ISL comrades and it would be very good to be able to translate it into other languages ​​so that all the international comrades can read and study it.

Our tendency was the first to develop a Marxist analysis of partition and presented a socialist solution to the division which the British imperialists inflicted on this region. We raise the slogan of a voluntary socialist federation of all the peoples of the subcontinent, which could include Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Myanmar, even Iran.

This is a solution towards a reunification of this region on a higher, socialist basis. Only with this solution can the burning national questions of the region be resolved, including the Kashmir conflict, the Baluchistan conflict and so many others. There are dozens of separatist movements in the region, which explains that the crisis ridden capitalism was unable to create a unified nation-state out of the various nationalities which are present in this part of the world.

The call for the socialist federation of the subcontinent also calls to eliminate these artificial borders which were drawn on the map by the imperialists. Pakistan’s three borders were imposed by imperialist treaties: the 1843 Durand Line from Afghanistan, the 1914 McMahon Line from China, and the 1957 Radcliffe Line from India.

Lal Khan also explains why the only hope for peace, progress and stability in this region, and the only hope for getting rid of wars and war hysteria between these states, is a socialist revolution in this whole region. And on the basis of that socialist revolution, the right to self-determination of all nationalities can be exercised. And on the basis of class solidarity of all the nations of this subcontinent, we can unify this region into a socialist federation where national oppression can be gotten rid of and the abundant resources of this region can be used, not for the profits of a few, but for the wellfare and the needs of the 1.5 billion people who live in poverty in South Asia.

What is the political perspective of Pakistan?

There is no perspective of long term social, political and economic stability in Pakistan. The country has turned to the IMF several times in the few decades and is now it is once again in an IMF program. Harsh policies of austerity, indirect taxation and devaluation are being implemented and the living conditions of the vast majority of the people are getting worse. There are also conflicts within the state. One section of the state wants to get rid of this puppet regime headed by Imran Khan, while another section of the state wants to continue with it.

In the days to come, the opposition is going to present a no confidence motion in the National Assembly against the prime minister. The government is saying that it will hold a huge rally in front of the National Assembly on the day of the no confidence motion and the opposition threatens to hold a counter-rally. There may be clashes and riots in the days to come.

Imran Khan’s entire government has been a disaster. It tells the tale of the failure of reformism in Pakistan. He come with a right-wing populist agenda, of anti-corruption, accountability and so called national sovereignty. But he did the opposite of what he promised and his government has become very unpopular. On the other hand, the opposition was unable to present any alternative to capitalism or even any alternative to the IMF. So most of the people are indifferent to the politics of the ruling classes, because no faction of the ruling class presents any solution to their burning social and economic problems.

In this regard, there is a relative lull in the labor movement in Pakistan. There have been some protests, particularly by the public sector workers, who have formed a series of united fronts of unions and federations to fight for wage increases and to stop privatization. For example, the railway workers managed to postpone privatizations and a 25% wage increase. But there is no country wide movement of class struggle at the moment.

However, most of the people are finding it more difficult to make both ends meet and there is a possibility of a social explosions in the days to come, particularly as the crisis in the Pakistani capitalist economy deepens.

The crux of the matter is that the ruling classes of Pakistan are unable to develop capitalism on a healthy basis. It is evident from the experience of the last six or seven decades that they were unable to fulfill any task of the bourgeois democratic revolution in Pakistan, including a healthy parliamentary democracy, a secular state, land reforms, industrialization. It is still the state and the military that call the ultimate shots in politics, in diplomacy and in almost every aspect of society.

On the other hand, the economic crisis is only deepening, and the measures implemented by the IMF have not resolved the fundamental economic contradictions of Pakistani capitalism. So the perspective of the days to come is of instability, chaos, division within the ruling class and the possibility of social explosions and working class movements that may surprise both revolutionaries and social analysts because no one knows when all the frustration and anger will turn into rebellion and revolution. One thing is clear, that Pakistani society is pregnant with the revolution in which Marxists in Pakistan will have to play a fundamental role direct it towards the destination of socialist revolution.

Can you tell us about the campaign you are carrying out against the IMF?

We are running a country wide campaign against the IMF through our trade union front, the PTUDC (Pakistan Trade Union Defense Campaign). We have raised the slogans against the IMF in the struggles for the immediate issues of the working classes.

We also explain to the workers that the IMF is part and parcel of this whole capitalist package, that so long as there is capitalism in Pakistan there will be an IMF, and as long as there is IMF there will be price hikes, inflation, unemployment, cuts, austerity, downsizing, privatizations. In every activity of the youth, students or workers, we raise the slogans against the IMF, because it is a burning issue in Pakistan and there is a lot of discontent and hate toward the policies of the IMF among the common people.

But none of the dominant parties offers any alternate program to the policies of the IMF. None of them even says that if they come to power, they would break ties with the IMF or cancell the agreement with the IMF, not even the Popular Party, the so called progressive or left party.

So it is our duty, with other left and progressive organizations, to put forward an anti IMF program and demand an immediate end to any connection or agreement with the IMF and then explain to the masses how we can run the country and develop the economy and society and make progress without going to the IMF or the World Bank. In this regard, we will also explain our entire transition program of nationalization and economic planning. And that is how we turn the fight against the IMF into a fight against the whole capitalist system.

What are the origins of The Struggle?

The Struggle is named after the newspaper actually called “The Class Struggle” that was founded in 1980 by the comrades in exile, because they had to flee Pakistan during the reactionary and brutal dictatorship of Zia-ul-Haq, or else they could have been killed. They founded this organization, then as a socialist tendency within the Pakistan Peoples’ Party, which was very left wing at that time compared to what it is today. They were socialist/Marxist supporters of the Peoples Party and wanted to build a Marxist tendency within the party for a revolutionary overthrow of not only the Zia regime but the whole capitalist system.

Later they came into contact with the comrades of the CWI, Committee for a Workers’ International, headed by Ted Grant, and became part of the CWI, which then had a huge organization in England known as The Militant. We were a part of that international for a long time, and improved and polished this policy of intervention within the PPP in order to build the revolutionary party in Pakistan. We carried out this entryism in the PPP for many decades, and it is a whole debate what entryism is and how we carried it out. But in the meanwhile we used this entryism to build and develop our own revolutionary organization which is basically The Struggle.

There were some splits, some crisis during all those years, but we kept on growing, particularly after 2000. And it was a very difficult period, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but still with the hard work of comrades like Lal Khan and many others we carried on with the building of the revolutionary party.

We introduced Trotsyism in Pakistan for the first time on a relatively large basis and built a Trotskyist party. Earlier Trotskyism was mostly confined to the intelligentsia or some very limited elitist circles. We explained the problems of Stalisnism after the crisis of the Soviet Union and presented a real revolutionary program based on the theory of permanent revolution. And we analyzed Pakistani society very deeply from the perspective of ‘uneven and combined development.’ So we used these tools developed by Trotsky to analyze Pakistani society and build the tool for the transformation of society.

Recently we have changed our tactics according to the developing conditions and now we are orientating more towards building our own mass fronts.

A few years ago we split with the IMT * because of its total degeneration and sectarianism and the bureaucratic behavior of the leadership, particularly after the death of Ted Grant in 2008. There was a continuous ideological and political decline of the IMT, with a split almost every year. We split away in that process, but we were in a majority. Hence we sustained our organization, consolidated our forces and continued moving forward.

A few years ago we came into contact with the comrades of the ISL and after a process of discussion, exchange of ideas and meetings, we decided to join the ISL. We believe that in this international organization we can learn from the mistakes and reasons of the crisis of the Trotskyist internationals and develop a healthy culture of difference of opinions, exchange of ideas, solidarity and comradeship. With this determination and courage we will build a revolutionary party not only in Pakistan, but also in India, Afghanistan, Iran, China, and all over world.

How do you evaluate the development and perspective of the ISL?

It was a great honor for us that the comrades from the ISL came from thousands of miles away to our congress. This was a source of so much happiness and excitement for all of the comrades present at the congress and also for those who could not attend. Their participation was very important, because they have a very important role in the class struggle in Argentina, Turkey and other parts of the world. The first session of the congress on the world perspective was opened by comrade Alejandro. It was amazing how people in the hall were paying so much attention to that whole lead off, although it was very lengthy because there had to be a double translation into English and then into Urdu. But still, no one went out of the hall, there was no chatter or disturbance in the hall, people were sitting and paying a lot of attention to the lead of and after that to the contributions of comrade Cele and comrade Volkan.

Volkan Arslan, Cele Fierro and Alejandro Bodart

In our world perspective document for the congress, we basically translated the world perspective document written by the ISL into Urdu. It was very much appreciated by the leadership, the Central Committee comrades, and by the rank and file comrades. It’s a very well written document, very comprehensive and very sharp. So we really liked it and it helped us a lot to develop the international perspective. In this regard, the ISL congress contributed a lot to our national congress. Although we have some nuances, they can be discussed and are not substantial.

In the days to come, we believe that the ISL has a really important and big role to play in the movements that will be erupting all over the world. And it has to play the vital role in building an international revolutionary party based on the real traditions of Bolshevism and Leninism.

In this regard, we believe that there is a lot of space for discussion in the ISL, there is a lot of capacity to learn and to teach each other. And there is a lot of potential for solidarity campaigns and unified and coherent action on a global scale, on the collective march towards the building of the revolutionary party on an international scale.

We are very happy and satisfied to be part of the ISL and we will do our best to develop and build it further. Our message to all ISL comrades is that we should march together to bring an end to this system all over the world once and for all.

* In 1992 the CIT split, and the tendency´s historical leader Ted Grant and Allan Woods founded the International Marxist Tendency (IMT).