By: Saleha Rauf / Source: The Dawn News / November 12, 2017
Pakistanis must adopt the political imagination and determination of the Russian revolutionaries that paved the way for the creation of the Soviet Union, if they seek real change in the country. That was the main message of the speakers of a two-day conference to mark the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution and the 150th anniversary of Karl Marx’s magnus opus Das Kapital, being held at the National Press Club. The conference, titled ‘100 Years of the Russian Revolution: Lessons for Building 21 st Century Socialism in Pakistan’ was organised by the Awami Workers Party (AWP).
Welcoming the participants, AWP federal secretary Akhtar Hussain said that it was essential to remember and learn from workers’ struggles of the past in order to plan for the future, and the AWP as a party was a result of such reflective learning to bring together the best traditions of the Left in Pakistan. AWP’s former President Abid Hassan Minto said that the party must forge discipline in its ranks and its leadership must set an example of selfless dedication for young people to follow in order to establish a socialism for the 21st century in Pakistan.
The keynote speech was followed by a panel discussion with AWP President Fanoos Gujjar and AWP spokesperson Farooq Tariq. The first day’s proceedings concluded with a concert by progressive musicians.
On Sunday morning the conference commenced with panel discussion titled ‘Ecology and Socialism’ featuring Tooba Syed, Ammar Rashid and Farman Ali. The panel stressed the need for the Left in Pakistan to take into consideration the effects of global warming and environmental degradation on the working class while formulating a strategy for economic development. They highlighted that while individual efforts to change one’s lifestyle may be commendable, however only collective political action to change the economic system is the only way to bring about a sustained change.
Women’s secretary of the Awami Workers Party Punjab, Saleha Rauf said: “We can’t expect the states to take action against the climate change. They are the main clients of weapons that have the worst effects on environment and the states facilitate the capitalists. She said climate change has only one solution that is about changing the system. Ecology is based on the principle of interdependency which is a socialist value essentially. This is a political issue and cannot be fixed with technical and administrative solutions.”
Rauf also presented the proposed amendments in the manifesto that were approved in the federal congress of the Awami Workers Party in 2016.
A parallel session on gender, caste, nation and religion featured speakers Alia Amirali, Marvi Latifi, Professor Salahuddin and Jalila Haider. They pointed out the need for an intersectional approach to addressing the questions related to gender, caste and religion with the question of class. On the one hand the Pakistani Left should accept that it is not enough to seek a classless society without addressing the oppression that takes place against women and marginalised communities. On the other hand, the approach taken by liberal activists of seeking to address these issues without recognising the role of capitalism in promoting patriarchy and racism is also a toothless strategy.
The final panel, titled ‘What Das Kapital Can Teach Us About Building a 21 st Century Socialism’, featured speakers Yousuf Musti Khan, Bakhshal Thalho and Shahab Khattak. In his speech, Yousuf Musti Khan pointed out that despite the successes claimed by capitalist countries, the realities of world contradicted the claim. “Poverty, poor health, and illiteracy prevails everywhere. Capitalism is taking society towards decay.”
Conference participants also passed a resolution from AWP’s platform condemning enforced disappearances of political workers in Sindh and Balochistan and stood outside the press club in protest to demand authorities present all missing persons in court.
The conference concluded on Sunday evening with a speech by AWP president Fanoos Gujjar who called for young Leftists in Pakistan to not just talk about socialism but also take the socialist banner into active practical politics.