A comment on the article
Internal Barriers to the Development of the left by Taimur Rehman
Dr.Rasheed Hasan Khan
Self criticism is a vital part of revolutionary culture and this article is an important attempt at an objective examination of his organization’s political practice and its mistakes. While reading the article I could not but remark on the sincerity and honesty of the author, but there are some observations I would like to make which may be helpful in clarifying some points raised in the article. I hope it is taken in the right spirit.
The organization of study circles and the organizational pattern which Taimur Rehman describes was the pattern in USSR, China and Viet-Nam but they succeeded in their revolution and did not become bogged down in ‘small circle mentality’. So it means that the problem lies not in the organizational form but somewhere else. Reading Lenin and Mao on organizational problems, one comes across the categorizations of similar political symptoms as a petite bourgeois phenomenon, related to the class origins of the activists. Their inability to transform themselves in practice into revolutionaries with a working class world view leads to many of the problems that have been pointed out.
Marx never spoke truer words than when he said that “Man’s social being determines his consciousness. “ Every individual’s thinking, behavior and habits bear the stamp of his class. But this is not something immutable. Individuals belonging to bourgeois or petty bourgeois class can transform themselves and their ideas to acquire a working class world view and standpoint; the reverse is also true i.e. someone from the working class may slide into adopting the world view of the exploiting classes. But this transformation is neither quick nor easy. It requires a continuous process of social practice and conscious assimilation of the results of such practice to alter the consciousness of an individual. Revolutionary work, not only in the petite bourgeois class but also in the workers and peasants of a third world country like Pakistan has to confront this challenge above all else. How this challenge is met determines whether the organization grows or withers. If the whole of the left in Pakistan faces such a ‘barrier’, it simply means that the whole of the left has to resolve this issue in practice. It is not the end of the world by any stretch of imagination. The Left organizations must be dynamic political organizations armed with revolutionary theory and deeply involved in social practice and not mere debating forums. There cannot be any other way to solve this problem. No magic formula, no short cuts. The Left has tried many experiments to achieve instant political success but the end result was always the same. It was bound to be, because without correct theoretical frame work, relentless struggle and roots in the masses, it matters very little if there is one organization engaged in the political process or ten.
We must obtain a correct grasp of the relationship between the party, the class and the masses. Only then can we correctly determine the priority and the sequence of our tasks. Lack of political education in the political activists is a very real and serious problem that needs to be addressed on a top priority basis. However, the question of paucity of political literature is more imaginary than real. Has anyone really tried to acquire political literature? I myself have found and purchased scores of books from used book shops and roadside thelas. Amazon.com has books by the ton, you can order and import wholesale if you want. In fact, I think that books that are purchased are more carefully preserved than the free books available in days gone by.
Taimur has pointed out another very pertinent issue, the aversion to ideological struggle. This is another symptom of the same problem, i.e. petite bourgeois liberalism and I mean it in the Marxist sense and not the one in common usage. It is an attitude pertaining to a class and it cannot be altered without active struggle on the political and ideological fronts.
I was rather surprised at the cursory way in which the objective situation of Pakistan and factors external to the movement were treated. It is no fable that Imperialism and the state apparatus of Pakistan have been infiltrating the left movement since the inception of Pakistan. Through their co-opted individuals they have created splits, wrong turns and general confusion at all defining moments in our political life, turning the left’s struggle into the labors of Sisyphus(an individual in Greek mythology, destined perpetually to roll a boulder uphill; when it would reach the summit, it would roll down and the task of Sisyphus would begin anew). Then there is the Frankenstein monster of fundamentalism, which is the reserve force of the exploitative system. Both the above mentioned factors affect on the ground political work.They must be taken into account as features of the political reality which need to be changed.
One can empathize with Taimur’s yearning to see a revolutionary change during his lifetime. But given the stupendous task this entails, we must gird our loins and engage in the struggle regardless of the time needed to achieve victory.
Lastly something to take notice of, a sudden epidemic of criticism of the Left has broken out in the present time frame, the past, present and future of the left are undergoing a dissection, ostensibly for reasons of scholarly research. But living in Pakistan, one is bound to feel a little curious, because in Pakistan nothing is in reality what it appears to be.