Hashtnagar – a land, forgotten

Ammar Aziz, is a Lahore based film-maker, writer and a left-Wing activist. His article raises extremely important issues in this narrative. We wih to revive the debates on peasantry struggles and Ammar’s exclusive post for PTH is more than welcome. We hope that there will be a robust discussion on the issues raised here. Raza Rumi

My film thesis research has recently made me visit a piece of land that, despite its significant historical importance , has been brutally ignored in the pages of history. Surrounded by Afghan border, conservative feudal culture and tribal areas that have been in media attention in the recent past due to Taliban, that area is none other then Hashtnagar which stands as its own example in the history of class struggle in Pakistan . Consisting of a cluster of eight villages, Hashtnagar is  one of the two divisions of Charsadah district in Pakhtoon Khawah (NWFP) and is one of the province’s most fertile lands known for its sugar cane production. The element of militant armed Socialist struggle differentiates Hashtnagar from the rest of the leftist movements in Pakistan.

Weaving red flags at the roof tops, Socialist symbols painted on the walls, portraits of revolutionary figures, left wing cultural activism and, above all, the daily life of the  peasants and workers reflect the liberation that can be felt in the whole ambiance of the area. This liberation is the outcome of the socialist struggle of many decades that has played an important role in shaping the lives and minds of the native people.

To understand this revolutionary change, it is important to have a brief overview of the history of peasant’s struggle in NWFP.

The peasantry movement was already active in the province even before the Indo-Pak partition. In the wake of illegal evictions of peasants and unjustified distribution of profits made on the land, the Kissan Jirga in NWFP was created under the leadership of Khan Abdul Jabbar Khan (the younger brother of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan). The major goals of the Kissan Jirga  included protection of the peasants from eviction and oppression by the feudal lords.
The peasants resisted against illegal policies of the government and protested all over the province for their rights. This mass agitation gained popularity in many districts of the NWFP.
After partition, the movement halted for a shorter period of time because of the migration of most of the Hindu peasants to the other side. However, in 1948, the Khans (feudal lords) began mass evictions of peasants from their land, so the peasants from all over the province re-organized their struggle and protested against illegal eviction. In order to protect the rights of the peasants, and to struggle for the convulsion and redistribution of the lands, a new movement with the slogans of ‘land to the tiller‘ and ‘total abolition of landlordism” called Hashtnagar Movement came into being in 1948. During 1948, this struggle was suppressed by Qayum Khan government.
After two decades, in the late 60s, the movement entered into a new historical era of agitation against the landlords and ruling elite right after the military dictator Ayub Khan’s land reforms. This was the time when Mazdoor Kissan Party was formed with Afzal Bangash as its leader and gained a massive support throughout the province and especially in Hashtnagar. The MKP gave peasants a clear line of scientific socialism. Afzal Bangash clarified this:

“The movement which has sprung up and is continuing in Hashtnagar is not a new thing. Throughout the world,
the peasants have started such movements for their liberation. Such movements have succeeded whenever they have been led by the working class and its philosophy.”
(Afzal Bangash speaks: Class Struggle Not a Tribal War)

The movement in Hashtnagar gained widespread support from the Left all over the Pakistan. Some of the major objectives of the movement were to organize rural peasants and create rural bases of peasant power, to eliminate social, political and economic slavery and exploitation of peasants, to set up people’s courts, to increase wages of rural proletariat, distribution of self cultivated lands among the rural laborers and to bring the violence and harassment of feudal lords to an end.

Most importantly, the struggle resulted in various positive developments. Kissan organizations had formed under MKP and political consciousness of people were raised. Peasants started accepting Marxist ideology. People’s courts were set up and bye laws were enacted. Forced labor, Ejectment and other feudal obligations had stopped. The rural laborers were given houses and wages were increased and moreover the armed resistance of the peasants forced many landowners to flee the area permanently, leaving their lands, which were being distributed among the landless peasantry and are still owned by them.

These achievements, however, were not possible over nights. During the struggle, the revolutionaries had faced strong political opposition, having a backdrop of imperialist interests behind military dictators and conservative politicians.
The MKP, however, kept spreading as a prominent party of the workers and peasants.

ِAfzal Bangash explained the role of the Mazdoor Kissan Party:

“The party’s main focus was on the peasantry, inspired by the struggles of Chinese,
Vietnamese and African people. It achieved immediate success in the NWFP of Pakistan, where spontaneous struggles between peasants and landlords were already taking place due to Ayub Khan’s land reforms and imposition of farm machinery. The MKP provided the organization and leadership needed by the peasant rebellion and in turn the movement gained tremendous following in the late 1960-s and early 1970s . The movement was not only facing the private armies of the landlords but also attempts by the state to stop it by force”
(Afzal Bangash: Class Struggle Not a Tribal War )

It is due to such strong alliance of the right wing, religious fanatics and military that more then 300 comrades lost their lives during the struggle and hundreds were being tortured and jailed. The graves of martyrs are covered with red flags inside the graveyard where people gather in an annual celebration ‘Kaleeza’ in October, paying tribute to their soldiers and also to the great October Revolution that had formed the USSR. There emotional affiliation with the former Soviet Union is quite prominent. Infact, Soviet delegations and progressive people like Dr.Najibullah, who was being inhumanly killed by Taliban,  also used to visit the are quite often.

Such massive socialist movements don’t merely bring a change in the objective life but also revolutionize the subjective space of an individual. Apart from the Guerrilla fighters, the Hashtnagar movement has also produced many progressive poets, musicians and artists. People are not alienated from social life, unlike the peasants of the neighborhood areas under conservative feudal and pro-Taliban leadership, and are liberated enough to express their emotions into different mediums. Their attitude towards life is optimistic and they relate their struggle to the International perspective of Socialism. “I believe that Marxism-Leninism is the only solution to the humanity’s problems’, said, Dost Mohammad Bahar, a  local worker, poet, singer and activist of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party. “My poetry and music is dedicated to the cause of revolution!” Bahar  recited his poem ‘Jenny- The Mother of Humanity’ that is dedicated to Karl Marx’s wife Jenny VonWestphalen!
Sparlay, a young student activist and painter, said: “My father was also a communist and he named me Sparlay which means ‘Spring’. I shall follow his path through my drawings.’

According to another research, In Charsadah district, a minor percentage of people send their daughters to the schools and among those the majority is of those who are attached with the movement or the party. This proves that in spite of the dominant Pakhtun culture, patriarchal values don’t exist among the revolutionary cadres of the area. Today, two parties are mainly active there, the MKP and the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party which was formed as a merger between the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) and MKP in the 90s.

Hashtnagar, being a society that has achieved social and cultural liberation through class struggle, gives a new ray of hope to the Lost Left in Pakistan, the left that has started disowning the ideological roots of Marxism-Leninism after the obliteration of the Socialist Bloc in the world.  I have no doubt in saying that there would be a time when the echo of its  revolutionary songs, words of people’s poetry and color of weaving red flags would overcome the screams of violence, oppression and class system in Pakistan.

48 Comments

Filed under Left, Marxism, movements, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, Politics, poverty, Society

48 responses to “Hashtnagar – a land, forgotten

  1. YLH

    My experience with the left tells me that dogma and ideological nitpicking often leaves them incapable of any progressive action.

    I don’t know how suited a discussion on the issue is… given that it will only lead ideological hogwash flowing from maoists, marxists, leninist marxists, marxist leninists, trotskyites, trotskyite-graamcisques, bolsheviks-mensheviks, mensheviks-leninists, leninist-maoists, stalinists, etc etc etc etc … it is absurd.

    The whole idea of communism is flawed and an excuse for lazy people in an economy not to work

    For hardcore bourgeoisie capitalists like you and I … whose main objective is to create a humanistic egalitarian society which is progressing for greater human good instead of nitpicking … this kind of discussion… and glorification of “peasant rebellions” is merely a distraction…. it makes you and I feel good about a country which otherwise has abandoned all good sense and logic and decency in its contract with the citizens of the country.

    I mean … if you give these left-types some leeway … they’ll probably come up with some genius explanation of how the Ahmadi massacre in Lahore was the result of class struggle and rise of the working class.

  2. Ahmad

    YLH

    Your comments truly reflects the classic relationship of the right wing nationalists with bourgeois capitalists who work for Imperialist interests in this land in the name of so-called humanism that can never co-exist in the presence of capitalism which is based on nothing but exploitation of people in every manner.

    Your “humanistic capitalist” system has failed to provide even the basic rights to the people of the world. Do you even know that 1 person dies every second as a result of hunger, 4000 every hour,
    100,000 each day – 36 million each year – which makes 58 % of all the human deaths and remember this is what the research done by UN says. The real facts could be more worst.

    As far as your childish example on the Ahmadi attacks is concerned, this is what the result of the chaos that we are facing due to religious fanatics who were being produced by none other than your country’s agencies with the support of millions of American dollars.

    Historically, it all started when the very first slave Liaquat Ali Khan decided to have “good terms” with the US instead of the Soviet Union.

  3. Mobeen Chughtai

    What a bunch of ill-conceived prattle. What the hell do you know about all the ideologies you mention?
    What is your ideology except the mindless accumulation of personal wealth? Humanistic Egalitarian society – my arse. Which model?
    The USA? You only have one to follow; what a poor one at that.
    The fact of the matter is that you will ridicule each and every single ideology that threatens to take away your selfish gains.
    You are a contemptible, pitiable whelp with little more than false notions of grandeur.
    Good luck living with your ignorance – I’m glad I don’t have to.

  4. Ahmad

    I agree with comrade Mobeen.
    These people like YLH praise the American version of ”humanistic democracy” after the imperialistic declaration of ”end of history”!
    No wonder the partition gave these elitists all the legal rights to exploit the masses so their affiliation with bourgeois values and nationalism is quite prominent.

  5. Rabia

    Ahmad and Mobeen,

    can you describe one example of socialist redistristributionist system which has successfully brought a country out of poverty?

    Just one.

  6. Rabia

    anyway, I don’t mean to sound too harsh or anything, since leftist critique of Pakistani elite behaviour tends to make a number of very valid points.

    But it does seem to me that to identify capitalism as the the root of the Pakistani elite’s dysfunction is a strawman.

  7. Mustafa Shaban

    @Rabia: Though I do not completely agree wit ahmad and mobeen there are socialist systems who have taken people out of poverty or are in the process of doing so by reducing poverty significantly:

    Cuba
    Venezuela
    Bolivia
    Ecuador

    They are practising socialism and its working, its not perfect but it does quite a bit of good.

  8. Rabia. I don’t want to enter into an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ debate. Black and white are not favourite colours! But let me cite the case of China where absolute poverty has been eliminated. Relative poverty and urban-rural divides are present there but compare it to many other developing countries especially those cursed with billions of aid, IMF stabilisation packages, Harvard groups and free market economics. The role of state is paramount in the East Asian miracles. I am not a great fan of totalitarian solutions but please do check out the social services in Cuba – the health system in particular. In fact Vietnam has halved its poverty levels in a very short time. Admittedly these examples are not purely socialist but there are inbuilt redistributive mechanisms in the way state operates. We must not lose sight of the fact that most of the stuff we know about the Communist and/or socialist countries has been distilled through the knowledge systems of the capitalist West where the evolution of democracy and markets took place on an extractive base carved out from the toils of the colonised peoples of Asia and Africa.

  9. Rabia

    thanks Mustafa and Raza for the examples. I guess since economies are not controlled lab experiments, it’s not possible for us to say for sure what factors were responsible for poverty reduction, but in my opinion economic liberalization did for China, Vietnam and India what years of central planning could not achieve. Anyway, that’s obviously a subjective opinion. I just wish “capitalism” wasn’t tossed around in such harsh terms when clearly it *has* had demonstrably good results in the developing world.

    Maybe it would be helpful to distinguish between capitalism and ‘western economic imperialism’ or something like that?

  10. PMA

    “hardcore bourgeoisie capitalists…….humanistic egalitarian society……progressing for greater human good”

    What a nonsense. Walk through the bazaars of any large city in Pakistan. A bearded man goes from shop to shop collecting ‘chanda’ for building mosques and more mosques. The shopkeeper, the hardcore bourgeoisie capitalists, in the interest of building a humanistic egalitarian society for greater human good reaches into his ‘galla’ and hands over cash to the bearded man. The bearded man in return publicly declares the shopkeeper a good Muslim, interested only in building a humanistic egalitarian society. Good business sense. The man is called ‘mullah’; the same man who is directly or indirectly responsible for the Ahmadiyya massacre in Lahore. A fiction?

  11. Ahmad

    Rabia,

    The best example, without any doubt, was USSR that, for 70 years, remained a classless society that was truly a state of the proletariat with a dominant glorification of labor.

    One needs to look into history without the prism of American version that what sort of life were people living over there. What were there goals and how rapidly a backward society became a sate that has left its unavoidable marks in the history.

    The next question that always arises is why did it break up?! The reasons are not that simple. All the religious, capitalist, rightist forces were united (under the supervision of US) against a state that was based on the ideology of working-class. One needs to observe, what actually the world has achieved after the fall of Berlin Wall?
    More hatred, more oppression, more poverty, more wars, more exploitation and so on….

    Secondly,
    I totally disagree with you that capitalism has done any good to mankind by any chance. A system whose very nature is to exploit the majority, can never be useful to anyone EXCEPT for the exploiters.
    You know the rights that have been provided in the west and mostly in the welfare states, like Canada, are also due to the existence of Socialist countries in a way that represented a model that they followed by providing a few basic rights TO stop the masses from a rebellion leading towards a revolution.

    Forgetting all the past for a second, we still need an economic system that abolishes classes which cause all the miseries. For that to happen, we DO need a scientific ideology- that for sure is Socialism!

  12. Mustafa Shaban

    @Raza: Western media has blatantly lied over and over again regarding latin american socialist countries especially cuba and venezuela. They call Chavez and Castro despots and cruel dictators and say the people are suffering. Nothing can be further from the truth, the people are very happy and Castro and Chavez are only working for the people.

    @Rabia: Economic systems are experiments and we have seen the results. There are many economic reformers today who can solve al our economic problems. The only people standing in our way is the governments and elites and corporations of the world. Otherwise Earth is a heavenly place.

  13. Ahmad

    plus you can’t distinguish between capitalism and Imperialism, except that Imperialism is its higher stage..
    but Hashtnagar sounds great! An example that a scientific ideology can perform realistic miracles in a conservative society like NWFP!
    Any photographs Raza?

  14. Mustafa Shaban

    @Ahmed: USSR broke up because it embraced a diffferent form of communism in the 50’s that took it away from the core of communism. The USSR achieved great things, but they were also very authoritarian.

    I always found the Islamic economic model and socialism attractive.

    But there are other systems like democratic reformed capitalism or welfare capitalism which is different and much better than what you have in US Canada and Europe. There are many systems in theory that have not been tried.

  15. @YLH: interesting how the moral tinge in your argument would suggest that leftist discourse is inhumane as opposed to capitalism which is humanistic in nature. Marxian economics goes a great way in trying to explain how capitalism as a system will always lead to internal contradictions. Egalitarianism cannot be achieved in a society where the primary difference is between who controls the means of production and who sells labor.

    That said however, leftist discourse in our country has often been confined to drawing rooms and occasional movements that are normally reformist as opposed to progressive. I am very happy to hear about Hashtnagar simply because they seem to be arriving at a progressive solution to the problems that are posed by a transitioning society such as ours.

    Why is leftist discourse so important in a fractured polity such as ours? To every humanistic liberal who reads my comment, i ask you one simple question. Take your liberal discourse to the masses. Educate them about the humanity of capitalism and the miracle of secularism. Tell them that if they work hard, the system will help them rise up the food chain. After all that is what the Protestant ethic preaches, doesn’t it. Work hard, save up and reinvest. It’s a shame that the ‘dogma’ of capitalism has failed in most of the global south simply because rationality and logic of action remains fundamentally different. On the other hand, a socio-economic movement premised on the socio-economic position of each societal member has the ability to stem the spread of ultra-right wing discourse. The real problems that our country faces (and which concern the 60 percent who live under 2 dollars a day) are material in nature. Jobs, education, subsistence. People harp about the development of capitalism in western europe but it must be known that these societies organize themselves around class lines. Does unbridled capitalism allow for such a thing in pakistan, where peasant unions are attacked and trade unions removed?

    The importance of leftist discourse is not to establish a communist society in Pakistan. It is to provide a viable alternative discourse to the vast majority of the population. Welfare states are created out of compromises that function along class lines. That is what we should strive for.

  16. Anwar

    Just finished reading Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine” Anyone interested in knowing the other face of Milton Friedman’s economic model need to read this book…

  17. Rabia

    “plus you can’t distinguish between capitalism and Imperialism, except that Imperialism is its higher stage..”

    Ahmad, the thing i never get about people who make this argument is that let’s assume Lenin is right and this is true. The question is, what relevance does this have to the internal economic policies of developing countries? I mean, even if capitalism does result in imperialistic policies in the long run, surely it’s not a bad thing for a country like Pakistan to pursue a policy that will lead it to a similar level of prosperity as imperial Britain.

    I guess you could say that Lenin’s theory is an argument against become a tool in the hands of foreign imperialists by embracing their neo-colonial economic policies, but my point is surely there should be a way to distinguish between that and between economic liberalisation as a more efficient way of achieving internal economic growth than via central planning.

  18. Ziyad Faisal

    Dear Rabia,

    You will have to forgive me for making this sound slightly boring, but it is 6:25 AM and I am too tired and dehydrated to make political economy and economic history sound interesting.

    Here goes…

    You say:

    Ahmad, the thing i never get about people who make this argument is that let’s assume Lenin is right and this is true. The question is, what relevance does this have to the internal economic policies of developing countries?

    You see, we cannot understand capitalism without understanding its historical roots and how capitalist relations of production expanded over geographic regions, eventually subsuming much of the world economy.

    Capitalism did not develop just because some humane, liberal, enlightened people in Europe decided to “try out” the free market, and voila, everyone started getting very efficient, productive, Protestant and rich. No, it was not like that. YLH, I’m also talking to you here, you hardcore humane bourgeois liberal capitalist, you.😛

    Anyhow, Rabia, the story of how capitalist relations of production triumphed is a long and rather unsavoury tale. The rise of capitalism can be divided into several global stages in the accumulation of capital, each stage involved a new phase of colonization in areas like South America, Africa and Asia.

    The rise of capitalism involved factors such as the Black Death plague in Europe killing off huge sections of the rural peasant population, allowing people to consolidate larger land holdings and generate an agricultural surplus. It involved, moreover, the colonization of many lands, initially to generate bullion for mercantile capitalism (i.e. the Spaniards, Portugese and others wiping out entire civilizations and peoples in South America). It involved the colonization of India, China, Africa and other regions to provide cheap labour, raw materials and markets. It involved also the consolidation of state power by a rising European bourgeoisie, which enabled them to more effective at colonizing the rest of the world and suppressing those unruly, savage natives who were (*ahem*) too stupid to realize that genocide and dis-possession by the white man would actually help them.

    To cut a long story short, the rise of capitalism was inherently tied in to racism, colonialism and dis-possession.

    What does that mean for the “internal economic policies” of developing countries today? Good question.

    It means firstly that developing countries cannot have “internal economic policies”, because they were colonized for centuries and forced to develop in a certain way by the capitalist centres of Europe and North America. Our economy developed not in isolation, but as the result of colonial social engineering, whose sole purpose was to enable better exploitation of our raw materials, labour and other resources.

    What it means is that since we developed along a path of dependency on the capitalist centres of Europe and North America, and continue to be subservient to those economic and political power-centres even today, we cannot choose our own lab-developed, humane, liberal free-market version of capitalism.

    Capitalism is a historic reality, and it means that developing countries like us are forced to act as sweat-shops and dumping grounds for the economies of the capitalist core in Europe and North America.

    Capitalism is as capitalism is. Capitalism does what it does. It is a historical reality, not some new and awesome idea for everyone to get rich.

    You ask, Rabia:

    I mean, even if capitalism does result in imperialistic policies in the long run, surely it’s not a bad thing for a country like Pakistan to pursue a policy that will lead it to a similar level of prosperity as imperial Britain.

    That might be possible in a video game, but actual history and the current situation rule it out. We cannot do what imperial Britain did to us, to get rich. You see, we’re at the receiving end of capitalism. We can’t decide to screw half the world like imperial Britain did, because we’re the ones being screwed ourselves.

    In any case, lets say we ignore actual world history for a moment. Suppose I humour you and say, yeah, lets become colonizers and get rich through genocide, racism and brutal thuggery, as imperial Britain and other capitalist centres did. Do you not see any ethical problems with that?

    At the very least, it would involve cultivating the Zaid Hamid types in our society.😀

    According to you, Rabia:

    I guess you could say that Lenin’s theory is an argument against become a tool in the hands of foreign imperialists by embracing their neo-colonial economic policies, but my point is surely there should be a way to distinguish between that and between economic liberalisation as a more efficient way of achieving internal economic growth than via central planning.

    That, you see, is the point. Economic liberalisation and neo-colonialism cannot be distinguished in the real world. They go hand in hand. In fact, they’re pretty much the same thing.

    When we take all the free-market bullshit rhetoric aside, economic liberalisation basically means giving yet more control to First-world corporations over our economy and society. That is neo-colonialism.

    Two sides of the same coin, you see.🙂

  19. Dodo

    YLH’s comment has worked as an anti-thesis here!
    This discussion is great, but Hashtnagar’s been ignored once again, nahin? 🙂

  20. Ahmad

    @ Mustafa

    “@Ahmed: USSR broke up because it embraced a diffferent form of communism in the 50′s that took it away from the core of communism. The USSR achieved great things, but they were also very authoritarian.”

    Communism, my friend, can never established in any one country. Communism means a whole classless, state-less world, and Socialism is the way towards that final stage. So basically, Socialism is the accurate word for states like USSR.

    It was NOT an authoritarian society. It was a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ that might have taken a few strict steps against those who wanted to counter the revolution.

    The lies that have been propagated in the world against Soviet Union and Stalin are the outcome of the investment of people like pro-Nazi founder of Yellow Journalism in US William Hearst,
    the secret agent Robert Conquest and the fascist soviet writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn who was awarded a Noble prize in literature for his ‘services’ to the Imperialism. These people have been widely quoted here and there against Soviet Union and are the mere source of “proves” for “millions of death”.
    I can talk about their roles in details if you are interested.

  21. Moosa

    “Communism means a whole classless, state-less world”

    And Fairyism means a whole world where everybody has his own Guardian Fairy Angel who will fulfil his every whim. How about that for a new social proposal?
    😉

  22. Dodo

    @ Moosa

    I don’t know where are you coming from but you and people like you need to study even the basics of the ideology that you oppose. You seem to be totally ignorant.
    Idealists like you have no right to call any thing a utopia who live in illusions themselves.

    If your religion has not been successful to provide you any social or psychological peace then that ‘fairyism’ is good for you!

  23. Mustafa Shaban

    @Anwar: Naomi Kleins book is awesome, there are so many similar awesome books like that. Some of them are a lot better and fascinating.

    @Ziyad: You make an amazing argument, it was not boring (wonder what the interesting version is like). However I wouldnt called the oppressed black africans and other races stupid. They were attacked and oppressed.

    Also Zaid Hamid has mentioned these facts and gone deeper than this in his series called Economic Terrorism. All scholars know about these realities.

    @Ahmed: Regarding the USSR and Moaist China I agree with you. There is tons of propoganda against and in favor of these processes, so much so that it causes confusi0n and we cant get the right picture. You can find a 100 books praising socialism and 100 books condemning it. However many communist/socialist scholars saw the USSR as socialist but with an imperialist mindset. These things need further study still.

  24. V

    No matter how much one dislike socialism as a complete failure and what-not, the case for capitalism is excessively week:

    Most of the countries in the world are capitalism. Capitalism is the dominant system, with its dynamism, for more than past 300 years. YET, most of the people living under capitalism are suffering from poverty, hunger, deprivation along with other ills.

    Has capitalism worked?

    It took more than 300 years for Capitalism to gain dominance (from 1500s to 1800s). Is it correct to pronounce the death of socialism in its 150 years of experience, granted that it confronts a more dynamic social and economic system than the 15th century feudalism.

    One the side, I think the article is quite well written. Aside from the discussion, the article on Hashtnagar captures a very important episode of the history of Pakistan about which an overwhelming majority is completely unaware. Probably these were the few moments when poor peasantry took up arms against the landlord’s oppression. It certainly makes me feel very proud.

  25. Rabia

    that’s a fascinating argument, Zayid. From your comments it seems you are of the opinion that internal economic policies are insignificant in developing countries because they are doomed to be dumping grounds for the developed world. What would you say to China, Vietnam and India’s economic progress in recent years? Do you think it’s just an illusion? Or are you against their economic policies on ethical grounds?

  26. Mustafa Shaban

    @Rabia: China, Vietnam and India gained true independance. The kind that the African nations and Middle East could not get. What you have in these regions are Anglo American puppet dictators ruling those countries and the people have not been able to mount a successfull movement for independence to overthrow these dictators and gain independence. Signing a declaration of independence does not make you independent. The Europeans moved thier military off the region but left proxies in place to maintain thier control which is now strengthened by MNC’s. Whereas China, India , and Vietnam managed to completely become independant and hence thier economic rise and progress. But still india and china have lots of problems with poverty and exploitation and certain issues which are holding them down.

    Zayid knows what he is talking about and all u have to do is study the situation and read alternative views on these things and u will understand.

  27. AZW

    Ahmad:

    I totally disagree with you that capitalism has done any good to mankind by any chance. A system whose very nature is to exploit the majority, can never be useful to anyone EXCEPT for the exploiters.

    You know the rights that have been provided in the west and mostly in the welfare states, like Canada, are also due to the existence of Socialist countries in a way that represented a model that they followed by providing a few basic rights TO stop the masses from a rebellion leading towards a revolution.

    Forgetting all the past for a second, we still need an economic system that abolishes classes which cause all the miseries. For that to happen, we DO need a scientific ideology- that for sure is socialism

    1) Take a deep breath. And let us know how an average person in a capitalist economy governed by the rule of law and basic safety nets (employment insurance, healthcare coverage, and free eduction) is living worse than someone living in a peasant medieval (pre modern capitalistic age) about 350 years ago?

    Feel free to include North America, Northern Europe, Far East, Australia as main examples of the countries I am talking about. For imperfect capitalistic economies, you are most welcome to include India, China, Brazil and Southern Europe to the mix of the countries.

    2) Welfare states like Canada, that you mention have been taking a rather stark turn towards the right. The centrist parties here like the Liberal parties are more right than left. Free markets, less personal and corporate taxes are the rage here. Canada is a far more entrepreneurial country now than it was some two decades back. And for some reason, the economic performance in Canada, the human living indicators have been accelerating as Canada has been turning right. Even leftist Scandinavian countries have aggressively slashed corporate taxes over the last two decades. What’s your point here? What masses revolution, and why?

    3) The economic system that abolishes classes? Then left with what? A subpar poor uniform class where no one has any incentive to innovate or take risks. What if the majority doesn’t want that uniformity? And where is the last instance when this system worked or was not overtaken by capitalism at the end?

  28. Mustafa Shaban

    @AZW: Good points. Thing is that alternative economists have made analysis of the different forms of capitalism and socialism/communismm in the world today. New ideologies like Democratic Social capitalism, new verisons of communism and socialism have come up. These exist only in theory and have not been put into practise but theoritically are much better than what exists today, so we should experiement. The reasons why these theories are not put forth on the mainstream media is because these theories if applied take power away from the elite class. Otherwise we can have experiments on small towns and cities and see how it works. There are always better alternatives. Islamic economic model has been suggested and if people want to revive it than its good as well. Lets not get trapped into just making 3 choices, communism ,capitalism, and socialism. We can always tailor systems to our needs. But they wont tell you that in uni or in mainstream media.

  29. Ahmad

    @ AZW

    You seem to misunderstand the whole point.
    In order to understand this eveolution of the economic systems and its impacts on mankind,
    You would have to look into history from a materialistic point of view.

    You said: ” how an average person in a capitalist economy governed by the rule of law and basic safety nets (employment insurance, healthcare coverage, and free eduction) is living worse than someone living in a peasant medieval (pre modern capitalistic age) about 350 years ago? ”

    Capitalism is not an outcome of a quick decison made by a few people for the “benefits” of masses, not even in the humourous way.
    It has reached to its modern state after the transition of various stages.
    Lets have an overlook of those stages, precisely, from the prsim of dialectical materialism:

    Primitive Communism:

    That was the first ever stage, when there was no private ownership of property. Tribes used to share everything for their daily survival.
    This came to an end soon after the distribution of property that included Slaves and Cattle as privately owned things.

    Slave Society:

    With the begining of a class society, after the distribution of property, this new period started developing. The concept of class evolved for the first time, when there was a slave owning class and slaves themselves.
    Agriculture, Authoritarianism, started deveoloping and this society had collapsed when the aristrocracy was born.

    Feudalism:

    The third stage, my friend, was feudalism. (Our society is still stuck there in the third period somewhat🙂 )

    It had appeared after the downfall of slave society. For example, after the European Dark Ages, the society went from slavery to feualsim.
    This is when titles like Kings and Lords, came into being. The states were being ruled by monarchs and continued in inheritence. Their trade with other ‘nation-states’ gave birth to a new emerging class of merchants and out of their riches, a capitalist class had emerged.

    Capitalism:

    Here comes the time, when the capitalists had overthrown the feudal system, after the bourgeoise revolution, and made basis for Capitalism.
    This new ‘revolutionary’ era of capitalism is based on private property, free-market economy, parliamentry “democracy”, and Warfare.

    It was for sure a development, if we compare that to previous eras,but, according to Marx, capitalism, like slave society and feudalism, also has critical failings – inner contradictions which will lead to its downfall.
    The working class, to which the capitalist class gave birth in order to produce commodities and profits, is the grave digger of capitalism. The worker is not paid the full value of what he or she produces. The rest is surplus value – the capitalist’s profit, which Marx calls the “unpaid labour of the working class.” The capitalists are forced by competition to attempt to drive down the wages of the working class to increase their profits, and this creates conflict between the classes, and gives rise to the development of class consciousness in the working class. The working class, through trade union and other struggles, becomes conscious of itself as an exploited class.

    The struggles of the working class against the attacks of the capitalist class lead the working class to establish its own collective control over production – the basis of socialist society. Marx believed that capitalism always leads to monopolies and leads the people to poverty; yet the fewer the restrictions on the free market, (e.g. from the state and trade unions) the sooner it finds itself in crisis.

    Socialism:

    It would be the fifth stage, when the working class after getting the class conciuness would overthrow the capitalist class and means of production would be owned socially. This was being achieved in a few states. Their analysis require antother, more profound, session.

    But when it would be acheived everywhere, a new historical progress would begin, no matter how utopian it might sound to idealists.
    This is what we call Communism, that would be the sixth and fianl stage of this evolution. Marx describes that in the menifesto:

    “When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organize itself as a class; if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class. In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

    You said: ” Welfare states like Canada, that you mention have been taking a rather stark turn towards the right….”

    yes I agree with you and I never siad that these states are the leftist states. These capitalist states have taken these positive elements from the socialist model itslef. That is my point…and they have done that to stop workers from gaining that class-conciousness to prevent the socialist revolution.

    In response to your third point, the mojority has not been able to get that conciusness because they have been alineated.
    An economic system that abolishes classes, and left with what?
    Thats funny.
    I hope the periodization would help you to understand that. That classlessness would lead humanity to its actual goals.

  30. @AZW

    Whatever happened to the multi-part series on Marxism that somebody started? It stopped at a tantalising point. Any chance of getting the author to return to the topic?

    @Ahmed

    There was in fact a fine beginning made on this subject some months ago, but it unfortunately did not conclude.

    It is not proper to critique your presentation here, since it is so clearly meant to define concepts and allow for a dialogue where both sides know what is being said. Perhaps at a more advanced stage?

    I am interested to see what AZW says in response, since Anglo-Saxon capitalism is almost totally discredited. He may not agree, so let us wait for his response.

  31. Ahmad

    @ Vajra

    Lets also get back to Hashtnagar at some point, which was supposed to be the main theme of the discussion here!

  32. I am really thankful to those who’ve appreciated the article and really glad to see this robust discussion which is covering various important issues!

    I am actually making a documentary on Hashtnagar, which would be released by the end of this year. I intend to portray their cultural and artistic liberation that I’ve talked about in the article.
    Thanks comrade Raza Rumi for making me a part of PTH.

    Solidarity,
    Ammar Aziz

  33. AZW

    Vajra:

    I gotta get that Marxist guy to write again. His attention deficit disorder is showing up again.

    Ahmad:

    This requires a detailed reply. Unfortunately I am out of town for the weekend and my smart phone typing capabilities are not up to par for the task. Will write it up on Sunday.

  34. @Ahmad

    One hundred percent with you.

    Like other communes, it is likely that Hashtnagar will get swallowed up in other, more ‘viable’ entities, or be worn down and swallowed up by a hostile environment over time. But it is pioneering efforts like these and the examples of the men and women engaged in these that gives comfort and courage to socialists of all ages and places.

    In addition, AZW wrote encouraging words about tracking down our decamped friend. That is good to hear.

  35. yasserlatifhamdani

    Yawn…. Ahmed …. I don’t have time for hogwash, hot air and circle farting…. when my country burns.

  36. Ahmad

    @ Yasir Latif Hamdani

    Your country burns due to your own deeds. By ‘your’ I mean, the decisions that were being made by the ruling elite and the rightist leaders right after the bloody partition and it continued its anti-people policies in every regime.

    The hell that we are facing now is the direct outcome of your Islamist dictator Zia’s policies against the “atheists” in Afghanistan.
    Every sensible person on earth knows that this Taliban culture was produced by US against Soviet Union and our decadent military was getting millions of dollars for that.

    Now they owe to burn in the hell, they made for themselves.

  37. yasserlatifhamdani

    How is Zia “my Islamist dictator”? Agar tum left wallay apnay circle jerks naa kar rahe hotay … may you would have resisted the bastard.

    I am part of the resistance to Islamo-fascism. Sadly the left is still busy masturbating.

  38. yasserlatifhamdani

    erratum “maybe”

  39. yasserlatifhamdani

    “The importance of leftist discourse is not to establish a communist society in Pakistan. It is to provide a viable alternative discourse to the vast majority of the population. Welfare states are created out of compromises that function along class lines. That is what we should strive for.”

    Umair… agreed. And I hope the communist left starts taking this responsibility seriously instead of fighting about Trotsky and Stalin.

  40. Ahmad

    @ Yasir Latif Hamdani

    I assume that you are YLH, right?
    If so, Zia was being supported by all the ‘hardcore bourgeois capitalists’ (like you) and right wing agents’ who wanted to create a “humanistic egalitarian society” like you want, no matter, now the same people pretend to oppose that era. The major reason is the change in World politics and imperialist policies. Its like NOW they oppose the Religious fanatics who were there heroes in the Afghan-Soviet war.

  41. Ahmad

    ” And I hope the communist left starts taking this responsibility seriously instead of fighting about Trotsky and Stalin.”

    You need to look into the history of the communist movement in Pakistan. It was being suppressed right after partition.
    Infact, the whole partition was a
    counter-revolutionary act, pre-planned by the British Imperialists. You see, even in the 1930s, there were people like Bhagat Singh and his companions, who wanted India to be a Socialist society. That movement was interlinked with the struggle for freedom against Britishers. They, firstly had suppressed that by openly killing many revolutionary freedom fighters, and later staged the whole bloody partition thing to divide the society further.
    I regret that why CPI had supported the partition.
    Anyway, after 1947, we had agents like Liaquat Ali Khan and new faces in every regime with the same anti-people agendas, who did whatever they could do to prevent the class-conciousness. They had banned the party in 1954 which had worked for many decades underground and many comrades were being murdered violently including Hassan Nasir, Nazir Abbasi,etc.

    The existence of the Left today here, no matter how small and unorganized it is, is like a miracle. It continues its struggle without any resources and even the moral support.

    As far as the Stalin Trotsky conflict is concerned, it is not something funny like Jinnah and Gandhi. This chapter is directly related to philosophy, economy and events that changes the shape of world politics. You need to be educated enough about all that to start any discussion on that issue.

  42. Ahmad: I didn’t mean to interrupt this ideological discourse. However, slight amendment. The Communists decided to support the creation of Pakistan. Therefore, if they thought that 1947 was a counter-revolutionary act then ought to have opposed it! I guess history has no postulates so my question is slightly rhetorical!
    However, this landmark decision of the Communist Party of India needs to be discussed more.
    Can anyone do a post on this?

    Sent from my BlackBerry® Smartphone. Typos are regretted

  43. Moosa

    Quote: “communism is an ideal which can never transform into a functional reality”. Pls discuss.

  44. YLH

    Ahmad,

    I have been nothing but civil with you and I am not particularly known to be civil. Apnay app ko control karo… nahin to phir mein start ho jaoon ga and you won’t like it one bit.

    I don’t hold the brief for the assholes who supported Zia ul Haq anymore than I hold the brief for the United States’ support of Afghan Jehad.

    “partition was a counter-revolutionary act”

    Yes. A counter-revolutionary act wholly supported by the Communist Party of India. Read my article “Communists and Making of Pakistan”.

    My comments are for the here and now… aimed at people like you… and 30 odd communist parties with half a member each that are found at your leftist conventions. Talk about elitism….

    Atleast in the 40s and the 70s… rightly and wrongly …. the communists were ready to take a stand…. in 70s those young men went and fought for what they believed in (whether we agree them or not)… they didn’t sit around speaking about trotsky and stalin…

    Where is the left’s call for revocation of the second amendment? Oh wait you are scared Mullahs are going to crash your little red party….

    Or maybe those “bourgeoisie capitalist” Ahmadis deserved it eh? Maybe second amendment to the constitution was a revolutionary act by Chairman Bhutto.

    (And a correction…. Liaqat Ali Khan was assassinated in 1951. He could not have banned the Communist Party three years later… )

  45. YLH

    And btw… before you jump up and down again… I am a PPP voter … as has my “right wing reactionary bourgeoisie capitalist” family since 1970.

  46. Hayyer

    Raza Rumi:

    “However, this landmark decision of the Communist Party of India needs to be discussed more.”

    Jawed Naqwi wrote a detailed piece last year in Dawn where he documented how the CPI was seeking directions from Moscow till the last on the nationalities question in India. It made for some pretty fatuous reasoning.
    The last original communist thinker of the sub continent was MN Roy and he abandoned communism. Afraid to think for themselves Indian communists hop between Marx and Stalin never failed to lasso and tie themselves down. Naqwi’s shameless recital of events is an eyeopener.
    This is not to denigrate the Hashtnagar experiment.

  47. Ahmad and Yasser
    Let us stay on the subject. Ahmad your comments on YLH were uncalled for. His remarks on the Left are a result of his understanding of Pakistan’s history.
    If you disagree then let us argue with reason, logic and evidence. And not get personal.
    YLH: I think you can make a far better contribution on the CPI and Pakistan as many here have a lot to learn from hard facts. Therefore, please done get into personal argument here as you did in your comment above.
    Ahmed: I don’t know who was taking dictation from whom but facts are clear.
    Much as I respect Jawed Naqvi as a journalist, I am not sure if he is a historian. But please tell us more. I think we need to refer to YLH’s post and also find other versions of this important convergence of the Left and the Partition. Quite significant I think and the Left has still to revisit the consequences of this moment.
    Sent from my BlackBerry® Smartphone. Typos are regretted

  48. AZW

    Ahmad, Vajra:

    First of all, my apologies for being totally MIA in this discussion. Life takes over and PTH very occasionally is missed, especially the discussions like these that require a bit more time.

    Ahmad:

    Your six stages from primitive communism to final communism is extreme simplification based on your dogmatic perception of the world from the lens of.. what else..communism. What you conveniently ignore is that even in the early tribal societies, a sort of capitalistic behaviour existed; i.e. hunter gatherers forefathers competed against each other to accrue more capital (hunt). Of course that society was quite primitive in its ways, and therefore laws and rules were not existent as we know them today.

    For all of my following points, I would like to emphasize that capitalism cannot exist without a rule of law. Similar can be said for democracy, but that’s another discussion. What it does tell is that democracy and governed capitalism do work very well.

    The early man was eager to explore, and tame the world around him. Why was man looking to do that; first of all, it wanted to survive, and status quo was not an option. Man was at the mercy of the elements of nature and it needed to understand them better to work with them, not to be overwhelmed by them.

    The key here is that it was not a society making en masse decisions to immigrate to newer lands out of Central Africa. It was a band of intrepid and entrepreneurial humans who wanted to explore, and take chances. There is a key ingredient to this behaviour by the humans that capitalism recognizes: self interest propels humans to take chances, and they cannot benefit just for themselves; they benefit the whole society when they explore and learn. Self interest is the most powerful human trait out there that governs each and every individual (well there may be extreme exceptions, but world neither work on extreme exceptions, and nor on charity).

    And if the society is able to establish the code of living, whereby this behaviour is subject to laws and governance, one of the most interesting observations about this behaviour emerges; that individuals taking chances to accrue more capital actually increase capital for the whole society. This is done by adding value by innovating, or by making processes more efficient.

    You are correct that capitalism is not an outcome of a quick decison made by a few people for the “benefits” of masses, not even in the humourous way. It has reached to its modern state after the transition of various stages.
    Capitalism as we see today is a result of the society evolution over the past few millennia. The massive technological advancement of the past 400 years has no collective societal reason behind it. A society did not decide to innovate en-masse; nor did the rulers ever inclined themselves to be consistently indulgent towards technological innovation. The inventors and mercantile traders were looking for their financial gains, and overcoming personal challenges that they had set for themselves by exploring the world around them.

    Yes, capitalism has its dark side, a very dark side indeed throughout the history. But human evolution meant that humans understanding of aligning the concept of self interest inside a codified law (where accrue does not equate to exploit) was not properly understood until a few hundred years back. We are still evolving, learning and working to harness the human ingenuity. We are in the process of combining a society where basic safety nets (rule of law, guarantee of education, health and finite amount of jobless insurance) is in place for all members of the society. And then the society leaves it up to the individual to explore and live his life the way he chooses.

    The world is run on a capitalistic model that’s been evolving since the renaissance began some 600 years back. The world economic output has been staggeringly impressive since that time period. Technological advancement during that same period has coincided with codified capitalism where the rampant unchecked greed is tamed inside the framework of the rule of law. Sure, mercantile and military aggressiveness in the name of 17th and 18th century capitalism was an unsavoury chapter, but who said that evolution is linear and seamless.

    In your idealistic zeal, you want to do away with all that humans have worked for, and evolved to something that has shown to fail again and again, all in the name of slapping society wide equality for all. No two humans are the same, and no two humans output is equal. Give them no incentive and that all important incremental entrepreneurial drive that exists across humans will disappear. This incremental drive is what moves us forward. This is what creates wealth, not just for those entrepreneurs, but for the whole society. Why not work with strengthening the laws that ensure that all society participants have equal playing field, rather than imposing artificial equality with no reward for any of them.

    In many ways, your simplistic “communist” solution is very similar to the Islamists solution where they are horrified at the humans’ ability to think and evolve with their society values. They want to impose a rigid system based on an analysis that has failed the tests of time repeatedly. They want to do away with the “imperfect” society and its values and move to a dogmatic perfect world that will be in their minds, the pinnacle of evolution.

    Well guess what, world is an imperfect place. And this imperfection will most probably not go to zero. And humans ability to explore and innovate is the only way it will become a less imperfect place. History however has been punishing the autocrats or any dogmatic ideologies that in their own minds are the pinnacles, refuse to question themselves, and refuse to evolve.