Left parties merger: will it offer the third option?
By Babar Ayaz
Back in 2010, merger of the Workers Party and Communist Party Mazdoor Kissan (CPMK) was announced, which was welcomed by many left intellectuals. This month two other left parties—Labour Party and Awami Party–joined in. So in actuality now the new Awami Workers Party (AWP) has the strength of four parties, each having its own pockets of influence across the country. All the pro-working people have welcomed the merger of various fragments of the left.
The working paper for the merger however leaves many questions open which the left parties and intellectuals have shied to address. In the post Soviet Union collapse scenario a number of questions should have been debated and answered by the left to set the future course. It is also important to revisit all the old formulations which have not worked and are not attracting masses-at-large.
I had proposed in an article, many years back that a re-reading of the Communist Manifesto is perhaps in order when the left sits to discuss globalisation and the world capitalism today. Interestingly, Marx and Engels had forecast the inevitable rise of globalisation in 1948: “Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguished the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast, frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. …… The need of a constantly expanding market for its production chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, and establish connections everywhere.” (Read globalisation). “The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world-market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of the industry the national ground on which it stood.” “All old established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilized nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose productions are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants requiring for their satisfaction the products of different lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal interdependence of nations. And as in material so also in intellectual production, the intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.” Aren’t we at the stage of stage of development which Marx and Engels had ably forecast?
Political theorist Michael J. Sandal suggested that people should sift “which frictions and barriers are mere sources of waste and inefficiency, and which are a source of identity that we should protect.” Total rejection of globalisation is irrational. Let’s leave that to religious parties and the left should not stand with them. Perhaps the best approach for the left would be to sift globalisation and support the elements, which contribute to raising the standard-of-living of the people. And oppose where it goes against the people by suggesting alternate means that are workable today and not in the unforeseen future.
Thus the Left’s immediate agenda should be to bring into focus social and humanitarian issues in the market and profit driven world order. Given the Left’s present strength (who’s) and out-reach at best can be described as lobbyist for the people, who should be pressurizing and reminding the policy-makers and economic managers that they have to rise above their class interest.
The question is: Is it enough to tell the people who are poor and are suffering to reject all that is good and bad about capitalist system and its global manifestation? And to wait for their redemption till there is a socialist revolution? For decades we said the revolution is around the corner, so wait, and failed to deliver it. In societies where revolution was successful, they failed to sustain it largely because they degenerated into highly centralized inefficient bureaucratic states.
The world is moving fast, the old paradigms are falling, new division of labour is being created at cyber speed, it’s moving beyond the industrial society references. In this world where advancing technology is changing relations of production at a faster pace than when Marx and Engels took notice of it, left has to re-think its theory, strategy and tactics.
Technological advancement particularly in the last two decades has changed the face of the world. They have to be factored in all political, social and economic analysis and strategies. We may indulge in a simplistic explanation that the cheap labour of developing countries is being exploited by the developed world. But imagine a world for the poor of developing countries without the jobs created by outsourcing and off-shoring. Looking at things dogmatically and not dialectically will leave the left where it is.
Today we have passed that stage, old formulations are not applicable. We are in the information age where knowledge matters most. Thanks to optic fiber, global linkage, satellite and internet, knowledge is no more a secluded property of the few. Technology is providing more opportunities to the people in the developing world. All this is leading to spruce social mobility.
At this juncture of history in Pakistan AWP should identify the major issues faced by the society and then sequence their priority. So let’s attempt to address the most urgent issues faced by the country without going into the usual polemics and history of the country that we all know well. The issues are listed priority-wise:
- Create awareness against the threat to people of Pakistan from the existing National Security Policy which has created Islamist militant organisations and extremism in the country.
- Create awareness that the democratic institutions have to be strengthened and the security apparatus of the state should follow the policies of the elected leadership.
- Support all moves to surrender maximum provincial autonomy to the provinces.
- Work towards alleviating poverty by pushing the government to make such economic policies that brings equitable economic progress.
At present most of the political and economic problems have a direct link with the ever-growing terrorism in the country. This is linked with the National Security Policy of our military establishment depended on Islamist militant groupsin the last 65 years. AWP has rightly flagged this issue. But it has not been prioritised as number one issue.
The National Security Policy is directly linked with the second issue of strengthening the democratic structure is directly linked to the first issue. Major policy decisions are taken by the military establishment in Pakistan, this has to stop if we want peace in the region.
Another pending issue of Pakistan is giving greater provincial autonomy to the provinces. It is an urgent issue because already the patience of the people of Balochistan have exhausted because of the injustices of the last six decades. They are now demanding independence. The democratic forces should support devolution of power not only to the provinces but to the local governments also. We should be however clear that giving more power to people in democracy is an evolutionary process.
What is to be done to reduce poverty? In the first place a peaceful environment in the country and around it and a stable government is the pre-requisite for economic progress. If there is no economic development there would be no poverty alleviation rather poverty will increase. However, in the first phase we should strive for more equitable distribution of wealth and push the government to increase budgets for the social sector. This investment in social sector is directly related to improving the dismal human development index of the country. Revolution is not in sight, incremental gains are urgently needed. Dogmatic application of left ideology has made the left irrelevant. New paths of development would have to be carved keeping in view the basic reality that means of production and relations of production have changed beyond the old points of reference. We are in the globalised knowledge age, whether we like it or not. (firstname.lastname@example.org)