Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Diferent Take on how to Resolve Political Problems of Pakistan by Tariq Ali

Learn from Latin America: Tariq Ali
By Urooj Zia: Daily Times, September 5, 2007

KARACHI: Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif are not democratic forces – rather, they try to take advantages of the forces of the democratic movement and use them for their own means, and the country is in the hands of thieves, Tariq Ali said during a lecture Tuesday. “How on earth can people who are not able to implement a democratic process in their own parties expect to bring about democracy in the country,” he asked.

The session titled, “the effect of globalisation on the proletariat” was organised at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) auditorium by the Pearl Continental Hotel Karachi Workers Solidarity Committee, in conjunction with PILER and Qulm-o-Funn Baraey Amn.

Ali spoke about the origins of the phenomenon of (and the term) “globalisation,” its impact on workers and hence workers’ movements around the world, especially in Latin America.

“Globalisation began in the 1990s when the USSR broke up and China took to the capitalist route. It is a term used to mask reality,” Ali said. During that time, new forces were coming into play – a new form of capitalism which transcended borders. The term globalisation was coined to mask this phenomenon, “because good things were not associated with ‘capitalism’”. Conferences were held in Washington, and it was decided that the new phenomenon would be promoted, and resistance would be crushed gradually.

The trade union movement in Pakistan has been very different from similar movements elsewhere in the world. The movements here were suppressed most of the time – first during General Ayub Khan’s reign. “They flourished for a bit during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s time in office, but were crushed again during General Zia’s dictatorship,” Ali said. Trade union movements elsewhere in the world have been given a relatively more free rein. “Now, however, laws are being implemented in the US and the UK to curb them. One of the laws that were passed recently in the UK stated that if one trade union was going on strike, secondary strikes to support it could not be organised by unions from other industries. This beats the very purpose of solidarity and democracy in the trade union movement,” Ali said.

Initially, free education, free healthcare and cheap housing was provided to the proletariat in these countries out of a necessity – the governments wanted to prove to this class that they were being provided with the same things that socialists spoke about “in a better way”. Now, however, these amenities are in danger, the speaker said. “All of them were put into place in order to avoid a revolution there in the 19th century.”

The Latin American revolutions were not brought about by trade unions, however. The first among the Latin American countries to rise up against US imperialism was Cuba, followed by Venezuela, then Bolivia and now Ecuador.

The first mass movement arose in Venezuela in 1979. The government called in the army, and a large number of protesters were killed. This brought about dissent within the lower officers of the army – they believed that their purpose was to protect the country from outside attack, not quell dissent within the country. Hugo Chavez, who was then a Major in the army, contacted trade unions and said that there should be a mass movement (by the labour unions and the armed forces) so that the government does not use the armed forces for similar purposes again. A date was decided upon. At the appointed time, however, the trade unions backed out, and Chavez and his men were left out in the cold. They were arrested. Chavez agreed to apologise to the nation on national television, and surprisingly the government of the time took him up on his offer.

In the televised “apology,” Chavez explained to the people the purpose of the movement that they had planned, and apologised to them. Within a few weeks of this, his popularity among the masses rose immensely. “It is therefore movements that make leaders, and not vice versa,” Ali said.

“What needs to be done is that the proletarians (mazdoor tabqa) should be trained and educated, so that they are not dependent on the leadership but can decide their own future,” the speaker said.

Some supporters of globalisation proclaim how the phenomenon leads to development and modernisation. “I ask you, what class in society does it modernise? Only the strata that doesn’t think and runs after money blindly,” Ali said.

“The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are very happy with Shaukat Aziz,” he said. “Well, first of all, they’re happy because he’s their own man. Secondly they say that he has brought about ‘development.’ What is being developed? Is healthcare being developed here, or is education being developed? Or are you referring to the ruining of cities as development?”

Ali further spoke about the political situation in Pakistan. These deals that Benazir and Nawaz Sharif seem to be making will not help the awam, he said. “The Nikkah has been performed in Washington. The Rukhsati is awaited,” he quipped. “They go to the US and tell the leadership there that they will get rid of the Taliban. My question is, if the army couldn’t do it, how can you?”

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was another leader who was made by the people. He claimed to implement land reforms. “In the end, however, it turned out that it was all talk. Had the land reforms been implemented then, the political scenario of Pakistan would have been very different now,” Ali said. “The army can never implement it. The generals have also become waderas (land-owners/feudals) now.”

“Although I have never been affiliated with the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), I always believed that they were men of their words. If they said something, they’d do it. This time around, however, I saw that even their members in the parliament were being bought. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, also known as Maulana Diesel, is very willing to become the prime minister,” Ali said. “He said that if BB is not willing to be the PM, he’ll take up the post.”

The jihadis had no social vision. “They speak about getting the US out. I asked them, fine, you’re right, but what next,” Ali said. “And they said, Allah will take care of the rest...?” Their reply was that they’ll steal the oil wells from the Saudi Arabian rulers. “I was happy – good plan. What next? Next they said, they’ll break up the wells into units and sell them off,” Ali said. “Well, they’re planning to do exactly what imperialist forces are trying to do. I told them to not waste their efforts. In a couple of years, the US might end up doing just that (selling off the Saudi Arabian oil wells).”

Our trade unions have to learn a lesson from South America, Ali said. “They have to involve people who are not members of these unions, otherwise they will find themselves to be very isolated.”

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