National Sections of the L5I:

Pakistan: Azadi March: “Civilian supremacy” and the contradictions of the ruling class

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The Azadi march of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman that began from Karachi on October 27 is an expression of the inner contradictions of the bourgeoisie. The current Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s anti-people policies are making life miserable for the larger population, because of which sentiments of frustration and anger can be found in the masses against the government. In this situation, the entire bourgeois opposition is currently fighting a battle to defend its own interests. It wants to benefit from the existing difficult situation by not only winning specific concessions for itself but also by presenting itself as an alternative.

The primary cause of the PTI-led government’s failure and ineptitude is rooted in Pakistan’s position in the imperialist world order as a semi-colony and the existing form that imperialism has taken. The PTI-led government was high on hope in the beginning and was not willing to engage in any kind of negotiations with Maulana Fazlur Rehman. However, negotiations have also happened now and the different sections of the ruling class are busy trying to work out a common solution. The rapidly increasing crisis of the capitalist system means that the different sections of the bourgeoisie might be able to reach a compromise with each other. In case that happens, the coming days will see an increase in the attacks on the working class, urban and rural poor and students.

Economic strike
The economic crisis in Pakistan is unfolding at an accelerated pace. The real meaning of the deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is that the price of this crisis should be paid by the working and lower middle classes as well as the urban and rural poor. But the crisis is now also affecting the traders and shop-owners as well as the middle and, in some sectors, big capitalists. This is despite the fact that the government has done its best to give maximum exemptions to big companies and exporters in the budget. But the economic crisis has deepened so much that its effects can be felt everywhere. Traders had gone on strike earlier as well and are still doing so. This situation is indeed lucrative for the protest politics of Maulana Fazlur Rehman and various other bourgeois opposition parties. At the same time, it is a big danger looming in the fact of the current government.

Privatisation, cuts and ending jobs
Thousands of people have already lost their jobs while numerous others have fallen below the poverty line due to the economic crisis and the government’s anti-people policies. In the current economic climate, there is no chance of improvement. Instead, things are only likely to worsen. The government is working on an agenda of privatisation. It is because of this agenda that the PTI-led government has enforced the Medical Teaching Institute (MTI) Reforms Act in hospitals. The purpose of this act is to make hospitals run on a business model in the name of reforms. On the one hand, this will result in the end to access of free and affordable healthcare for the working class and poor masses. On the other hand, workers employed in the health sector will lose their permanent jobs. All of this is happening under the conditionalities imposed by the IMF, whose purpose is to benefit the big capitalists. In reality, this is a plan for mass privatisation. Other sectors are also facing the attacks of privatisation. Similarly, the budget for the higher education of youth, who are the future of any given society, has witnessed severe cuts. Nevertheless, workers and students are rejecting these cuts and are putting up a resistance.

Attacks on democratic freedoms
The state is unwilling to tolerate expression of dissent, and particularly so about the character of the military, CPEC and the deal with IMF. The mainstream media is obsessed with corruption and economic downfall alone. But no one speaks about the attacks on democratic freedoms in Pakistan. The few dissenting voices that we had have been silenced. The establishment of a media regulatory authority and the crackdown on social media reveal the fact that the ruling class is unwilling to tolerate any kind of dissent and will do its best to end it. The state is becoming increasingly authoritarian.

Finding solutions – in bourgeois democracy
The military has a dominant position in Pakistan due to factors such as the country’s semi-colonial status, the instability of the capitalist system and the ineptitude of the ruling class. Because of this, liberal and various Left organisations claim that the primary contradiction in Pakistan is the one between civilian supremacy and military dictatorship or control. Such organisations and individuals consider the economic crisis of capitalism, imperialism, and the role of the ruling class as practically unimportant issues. In reality, these issues are the reason for the social crisis as well as the absence of basic democratic rights in Pakistan. These liberal and Left organisations and individuals present the character of the military as independent in this bourgeois state, thereby limiting the inner contradictions of the bourgeoisie to simply a contradiction between civilian supremacy and military domination. According to them, Nawaz Sharif and the capitalist section of Punjab that backs him as well as the PPP as his ally are the only forces capable of bringing about bourgeois democracy by defeating and reining in the military. We are in favour of struggles against attacks on democratic freedoms as well as struggles for democratic reforms. However, we favour doing so with political and organisational independence.

Nevertheless, almost the entire Left upholds this illusion that if Parliament is supreme and if institutions are working within their confines, the existing crisis can be tackled. This is why that even though as opposed to liberals, the larger Left is not in favour of participation in Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s rally, it still perceives the current crisis as a battle between democratic and undemocratic forces. This explains why a. they are happy to put their signatures on a declaration that presents bourgeois parliament as the solution and that has signatures of all bourgeois parties’ leaderships such as PML-N, PPP, etc., and b. they do not condemn presenting this declaration before Maulana Fazlur Rehman. It also reveals how they have illusions of a solution in this existing capitalist system. They go on to support bourgeois politicians and fail to consider the fact that the current crisis is a reflection of the ruling class’ inner contradictions. The solution does not lie in lending support to the likes of Nawaz Sharif or Asif Ali Zardari but in politics against capitalism itself. A bourgeois democratic movement is not the solution. Instead, we need to build a socialist movement. Most leftists are ideologically in favour of building a socialist movement but their practical politics is often subservient to the bourgeois democratic movement.

Limitations of democratic movements and a programme for workers’ power:
The real problem lies in the limited nature of bourgeois democratic movements, which is why civilian supremacy cannot be a guarantee of our democratic freedoms. We have to go beyond this. The ruling class is currently embroiled in its own contradictions. In the current situation, there is the likelihood that struggles against privatisation, students’ protests, and the struggles of oppressed nations can be subordinated to bourgeois movements as the majority of the Left presents the supremacy of Parliament and reining in institutions such as the military as the solution. For them, the movements of the workers and students are single-issue struggles. Despite their holiday sloganeering, socialism and the overthrow of capitalism do not become questions of today and they see bourgeois opposition as the political and governmental alternative.

At the moment, a fierce struggle has been put up in the health sector, workers of WAPDA are organised against privatisation, and likelihood of clashes in Post Office and other institutions are increasing. Solidarity across struggles is also on the rise. The Left is joining hands with these movements but it is important that it intervenes to transform this economic struggle into a political one. For this, the Left would need to go beyond seeing bourgeois parliament as the solution to the social crisis within this system. It has to present a programme for the overthrow of the PTI-led government and replacing it with a government of workers. This programme will present before the working class the question of state power and government. While we do need a revolutionary party of the working class, we also need a strategy that is based on the overthrow of the capitalist system and doing a socialist revolution.