National Sections of the L5I:

Pakistan: Tactics in the parliamentary election

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The parliamentary elections in Pakistan on July 25th will take place against a background of political turmoil throughout the country. Whoever wins, the outcome is unlikely to stabilise matters, even within the ruling class. On the contrary, the power struggle between its different wings and between the different institutions of the state apparatus will go on.

What can also be safely predicted is further massive social attacks on the masses in the forms of the "War on Terror", privatisations, indebtedness and attacks on democratic rights. We can also envisage further moves towards a more authoritarian form of rule.

Nonetheless, the elections will raise public interest in political issues and the working class movement needs to take advantage of this to prepare for the impending attacks. The fact that there is no working class party with real roots in the class is proof enough of the severe crisis of leadership and political orientation at all levels. We need to use the election period to address this around two crucial tasks.

The first and most immediate of these is the need to build a united struggle against the coming attacks. We call on all unions, movements of the oppressed and candidates of the working class and of mass struggle to unite their efforts, to bring about such a united front.

The second task is to take forward the work of building a mass working class party. Just to fight back against attacks it is necessary to be completely independent not only of the bourgeois parties but of the military and judiciary as well. In the elections themselves, this means giving no support to any candidates of such parties, even if they call themselves "democratic", "popular" or even "socialist".

Although there is no party with real roots in the working class that can stand candidates across the country, in some districts, left wing organisations are standing candidates who claim to be pro-working class or even socialist. Where these genuinely represent campaigns and struggles of the workers and oppressed, we can give them critical support, even where their programmes and policies are limited or inadequate.

Where candidates from AWP, the Barabri Party, the Workers' and Peasants' Party, MPK, or representatives of mass struggles of workers and the oppressed stand independently of the bourgeois parties, we give them critical support. A vote for such candidates can give expression to their struggles and raise morale among their supporters.

This applies, for example, to Ali Wazir, who is a leading figure in the Pashtun Protection Movement, PTM, and has mass support. He is not standing as a candidate of the PTM because its leadership refuses to stand official candidates in order to avoid a clash with the existing, bourgeois Pashtun parties. We disagree with this reluctance to openly break with bourgeois parties and see Ali Wazir's campaign as an opportunity to fight for class independence and a working class party.

We can see the same unprincipled electoral combinations with some candidates of the Awami Workers' Party, AWP, who have formed alliances with open bourgeois parties, the Pakistan People's Party, PPP, and the National Watan Party. No support should be given to such candidates whose whole campaigns are a rejection of the need for political independence. Neither should we give support to candidates standing on inadequate platforms, even if they are called socialist, where they represent nobody but themselves.

We give only critical support because none of these candidates is standing on a revolutionary programme, most limit themselves to demands for legal, social, economic and political reforms. While these are clearly supportable, they are completely inadequate as a strategy for resolving society's problems in the interests of the workers and oppressed. Many candidates even avoid mentioning the really central issues such as the struggle against military operations, imperialist plunder, national and social oppression or attacks on democratic rights.

Some, like Ali Wazir, do argue that a social revolution is needed even to meet immediate demands but, nonetheless, do not present a transitional programme that can link such demands to the conquest of power. So, we support these candidates not because of their programmes but despite them.

We link our criticism to constructive demands and proposals for the building of a real workers' party. Precisely because they have a degree of mass support, these candidates and their parties should take the initiative both in the fight over immediate issues and in the founding of such a party with real roots in the unions and workplaces, among the youth and in the struggles of the women and other oppressed strata.

We, the Revolutionary Socialist Movement, will support all steps towards a united front of struggle and for a working class party. We will argue that the party must be independent of all bourgeois forces from the outset and that it should base itself on a revolutionary action programme which links the struggles of the day with the socialist revolution in Pakistan.