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Pakistan: Awami Workers’ Party founded

By Shahzad Arshad

On 11 November, the Awami Workers’ Party was founded in Lahore. Initially, this party will organise some 15,000 working class activists, youth and students. This is still far from a mass party in a country of 172 million, but this includes many of the most politically advanced working class fighters, who can reach out to further tens of thousands.

This event could prove historic because it addresses a key problem that faces the Pakistan working class, that there is no independent workers’ party in the country.

This has repeatedly led to the political subordination of the working class to one or another group of landlords and capitalists. For decades, the Pakistan People’s Party of corrupt, pro-imperialist president Asif Ali Zadari has dominated the trade unions – whilst being a run by a tiny clique of landlords and businessmen. When it discredited itself in government, other populist and Islamist parties arose – most recently the Justice Party of Imran Khan. Worse, some people were attracted to reactionary movements like the militant Islamists, with their fake “anti-imperialism”, who are a constant threat to women, workers, and national and religious minorities.

Pakistan’s crisis
There is no way out of this vicious circle as long as the working class has no party of its own. Without such a party, it will always be other class forces – whether liberal and pro-imperialist or reactionary and “anti-Western” – who will determine the future of a country in which the global crisis assumes an acute form.

Despite mass mobilisations of workers against poverty, inflation, inadequate infrastructure and energy supplies, there is a real danger the ruling class will resort to mass reactionary forces and a bonapartist, semi-dictatorial solution.

To overcome such dangers the working class’ own leaders, in every factory and town, must be won to a political strategy that combines mass mobilisation and organisation with the goal of overthrowing the entire economic and political system. In other words, we need a revolutionary working class party built on the basis of a transitional programme.

There is no guarantee that the Awami Workers’ Party will become such a party. The potential for failure is already there because the founding organisations have drafted a programme that is far from revolutionary. It is a programme of minimum demands with a vague reference to the ultimate goal of socialism. What is completely missing is any strategy that could link the struggles against imperialist domination, capitalist exploitation, semi-feudalism in the countryside, and for the liberation of women and the oppressed nationalities, to the struggle for socialism.

Indeed, there is not much at all about this ultimate aim and how to achieve it: no mention of the need to smash the repressive apparatus of the Pakistan state or to fight for a workers’ and peasants’ government based on workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ councils and militias; no mention of the need to expropriate both foreign imperialist and “national” big capital and landlordism.

Nor is there mention of a democratic plan to re-organise the economy in the interest of the working class and the rural and urban poor. There is no mention of the need to make the Pakistani revolution permanent, to spread it and link it to the Indian revolution and the struggle for a Socialist Federation of South Asia.

Moreover, the draft statutes do not allow for the formation of factions or tendencies inside the party. This runs the danger not only of stifling life in the organisation and allowing bureaucratic expulsions but also of creating what it claims to prevent – secret and unprincipled factionalism behind the backs of the members.

These weaknesses, however, should not blind working class militants to the enormous possibilities; this is a party whose future character is not yet decided. That will depend on the further development of its actions, its programme and its ability to rally thousands of militants in the struggles ahead.

The new party should use the approaching parliamentary elections – and any seats it can win – as a tribune to expose the crimes of the government and our rulers, as a means of exposing anti-working class, anti-democratic and all other reactionary legislation, as a means to rally the people to struggle. Any elected representatives should take only a skilled worker’s wage and contribute the rest of their salary to the party. They should hold themselves accountable and recallable by the party and their electors.

Within this new party, the comrades of the League for the Fifth International will fight for it to become a consistent party of struggle. It needs to combine mass mobilisations for better conditions and wages, against the scrapping of democratic rights, against war, imperialism and the military, against capitalist exploitation and the big landlords with the struggle for the revolutionary overthrow of the entire system. It needs to replace the rule of the imperialists and the capitalists with a workers’ and peasants’ government based on workers’ and peasants’ councils and the armed people.

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