Balochistan Situation: A reply to the comrades of Mehrab Sangat
Dear Comrades of the Mehrab Sangat!
Through this letter I want to express my appreciation for the efforts you make to read our works. As a Marxist I welcome your critique. However, I would say your critique is confined to only one of my many articles on Baluchistan. We will attempt to answer the criticisms in the order they were raised in your letter. I would also suggest that if you had carefully gone through the hundreds of articles I have written on Baluchistan in the last 35 years, your opinion perhaps would have been different. I am writing this reply in English, as it is easier for me to express myself in it. In any case Urdu, Punjabi and English are not my mother languages if that is of any real relevance. More importantly, I believe that translation from English into Baluchi, Pashto, Brohi, Dari, or other languages spoken in Baluchistan would be relatively less burdensome. I will be rather brief in my reply to avoid complexity and ambiguity.
- Pakistan was created in the aftermath of the tragic defeat of the 1946 revolution the south Asian subcontinent that had begun with the sailors’ revolt in Karachi, Bombay and Madras. The bloody partition of this British colony leads to the slaughter of more than two million innocent souls in a religious frenzy along with the largest transmigration of peoples in modern history. Pakistan was created on the base of religion comprising different nationalities. However after almost 68 years the ruling class has failed to create a united, modern nation state and a genuine Pakistani nation. Along with the class exploitation there exist national oppression and there is an increasing national deprivation amongst the masses of the oppressed nationalities. The Pakistani ruling classes have failed to carry out the tasks of the national democratic revolution the state has intensified the repression of the working classes and national subjugation of the oppressed nationalities. Probably the worst national oppression is being inflicted by the state in Baluchistan. There is an on-going orgy of killings, kidnappings and brutalities against the political activists in particular. Historically obsolete, economically redundant and reactionary elite through its state apparatus has morphed Pakistan into a prison house of the oppressed nationalities.
- On the question of the killing of Sindhi and Punjabi workers toiling for the FWO, our position was utterly different from that of the Pakistani ruling elite and its intelligentsia, including the Baluch ministers in the puppet regime of the Pakistani state in Quetta. As you have expressed your sorrow on this tragic killing of the workers so did we. However, it would be horrendous to appease, endorse or praise an act of assassination of these poor proletarians. We also explained that this could be an act of sabotage and defamation, an instrument in the hands of the oppressive state to vilify the struggle for national liberation in Baluchistan. We never equate state terrorism with the acts of individual terrorism in an armed struggle. We entirely subscribe to Marx’s analysis of the 1857 War of Independence in India and the brutalities of the British imperialists. However, we must note that in the same article in the New York Daily Tribune Marx also wrote, “The English bourgeoisie will neither emancipate nor materially mend the social condition of the mass of the people, depending not only on the development of the productive powers, but on their appropriation by the people. But what they will not fail to do is to lay down the material premises for both. Has the bourgeoisie ever done more? Has it ever affected a progress without dragging individuals and people through blood and dirt, through misery and degradation? The Indians will not reap the fruits of the new elements of society scattered among them by the British bourgeoisie, till in Great Britain itself the now ruling classes shall have been supplanted by the industrial proletariat, or till the Hindoos themselves shall have grown strong enough to throw off the English yoke altogether…The devastating effects of English industry, when contemplated with regard to India, a country as vast as Europe, and containing 150 millions of acres, are palpable and confounding. But we must not forget that they are only the organic results of the whole system of production, as it is now constituted. That production rests on the supreme rule of capital. The centralization of capital is essential to the existence of capital as an independent power. The destructive influences of that centralization upon the markets of the world does but reveal, in the most gigantic dimensions, the inherent organic laws of political economy now at work in every civilized town. The bourgeois period of history has to create the material basis of the new world — on the one hand universal intercourse founded upon the mutual dependency of mankind, and the means of that intercourse; on the other hand the development of the productive powers of man and the transformation of material production into a scientific domination of natural agencies. Bourgeois industry and commerce create these material conditions of a new world in the same way as geological revolutions have created the surface of the earth. When a great social revolution shall have mastered the results of the bourgeois epoch, the market of the world and the modern powers of production, and subjected them to the common control of the most advanced peoples, then only will human progress cease to resemble that hideous, pagan idol, who would not drink the nectar but from the skulls of the slain”. (MECW Volume 12, p. 217; First published: in the New-York Daily Tribune, August 8, 1853)
- However, Marx and Engels vividly declared their position on the national question in The Communist Manifesto, the fundamental document of Marxism that these great teachers cherished till the end of their lives. They wrote in the Manifesto, “The Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality. The workingmen have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got. Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is, so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word. National differences and antagonisms between peoples are daily more and more vanishing, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world-market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto”. (Pp102). Marx rejected sentimentalism in the scientific socioeconomic analysis of a situation and in developing the perspective of a social revolution inferred from this analysis. In this series of articles on India he wrote on 22 June 1853, “England, it is true, in causing a social revolution in Hindostan, was actuated only by the vilest interests, and was stupid in her manner of enforcing them. But that is not the question. The question is, can mankind fulfil its destiny without a fundamental revolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crimes of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution. Then, whatever bitterness the spectacle of the crumbling of an ancient world may have for our personal feelings, we have the right, in point of history, to exclaim with Goethe:
“Sollte these Qual uns quälen
Da sie unsre Lust vermehrt,
Hat nicht myriaden Seelen
Timur’s Herrschaft aufgezehrt?”
[“Should this torture then torment us?
Since it brings us greater pleasure?
Were not through the rule of Timur
Souls devoured without measure?”]
[From Goethe’s “An Suleika”, Westöstlicher Diwan]
The New-York Daily Tribune, June 25, 1853
- At the same time we believe that the method of armed struggle is not the correct, effective and successful path to achieve national or class emancipation. Armed struggle has played an auxiliary role in the struggle for self-determination at certain times but ultimately the successful revolutionary conclusion can only come about by linking this struggle with mass struggle of workers, peasants and youth in the industrial and urban centres. The great teachers of Marxism, Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky never ever advocated armed struggle and guerrilla warfare as the methods for carrying out a socialist revolution. Unfortunately, you have chosen to ignore the innumerable demonstrations and protest campaigns we have organised and participated in against the repression of the Baluch people by the rotten bourgeois state of Pakistan. The involvement of the imperialist states and their proxies in this repression in any way is equally condemnable. In your critique, however, there is a convenient silence and you don’t even mention those Baluch politicians who have connived and are complicit in the coercion, tyranny and exploitation of Baluchistan by the Pakistani ruling class, ever since 1948. The present Baluch-led regime in Quetta is in an unholy alliance with the most reactionary section of the Punjabi bourgeois, the PML (N). Their subservience, impotence and slavish attitude represent the character of the privileged classes and their toady petit bourgeois intelligentsia in Baluchistan. Marx also wrote that the British conquered India with Indian armies. If we look at the present political leadership in Baluchistan the class contradiction is glaringly evident. Lenin explained the role of the socialists of the oppressed nationalities as follows: “The Socialists of the oppressed nations, on the other hand, must particularly fight for and maintain complete, absolute unity (also organizational) between the workers of the oppressed nation and the workers of the oppressing nation. Without such unity it will be impossible to maintain an independent proletarian policy and class solidarity with the proletariat of other nations in the face of all the subterfuge, treachery and trickery of the bourgeoisie; for the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nations always converts the slogan of national liberation into a means for deceiving the workers; in internal politics it utilizes these slogans as a means for conducing reactionary agreements with the bourgeoisie of the ruling nation; in the realm of foreign politics it strives to enter into pacts with one of the rival imperialist powers for the purpose of achieving its own predatory aims. The fact that the struggle for national liberation against one imperialist power may, under certain circumstances, is utilized by another ‘Great’ Power in its equally imperialist interests”. (Lenin, collected works Vol.22 Pp. 143)
- The mega projects in Baluchistan are being carried out, not to develop Baluchistan, or to provide employment to the already destitute Baluchi people, but to satisfy the mega greed for bigger profits and control over natural mineral resources and imperial influence in the region. It will enrich the imperialist investors and further impoverish the masses. The Pakistani rulers and the state institutions including the FWO will act as middlemen and commission agents for imperial investors. Capital investments in an epoch of decay of capitalism will not develop the area, nor will it generate many jobs. Even if these projects are completed they will distort the development in Baluchistan and create an even greater unevenness and inequality. A situation with poverty and deprivation for the masses in the midst of plenty. An oasis of advanced technology and infrastructure in the desert of primitiveness. It is primarily tailored for the extortion of resources, wealth and strategic positions for their hegemonic designs. In the recent period even the character of capital investment has been transformed from being labour intensive to capital intensive, with human labour being replaced aggressively with technological robots of various categories. The Chinese not only use less labour and more technology but they will also bring Chinese staff to run their projects, as can be seen from their previous experience in Pakistan, Latin America and Africa. Only the most menial and low-paid jobs will end up going to the local workers.
- On the question of the military aggression under Bhutto in 1974 in Baluchistan. This operation was given special attention in my book, Pakistan’s Other Story and was totally condemned without any qualifications or reservations. The role of US imperialism, with its proxies like the Shah of Iran and others inside Baluchistan, has been condemned innumerable times in no uncertain terms. In no way have we been apologists of Bhutto’s blunders and the crimes of the subsequent PPP leaderships. We firmly believe in the Leninist position on the state, and any compromise, justification or concession to the tyranny and repression of the bourgeois state is a crime in our opinion.
- As far as the resolution of the right-wing reactionary Republican Senators in the US Congress is concerned, I don’t think it has been a source of much publicity for the Baluch cause. US imperialism is extremely nervous with Chinese investment in Pakistan particularly with the deep-sea port of Gwadar, which is only 300 miles from the Strait of Hormuz where more than 50% of the world’s crude oil passes through. On top of this, the Chinese are heavily investing in infrastructure, control of mineral resources and the supply of heavy arms and ammunition to the army. This resolution was more for US imperialism’s narrow geopolitical and strategic interest in Baluchistan and the region as a whole, rather than for the benefit of Baluch national emancipation. The first question we must ask is the following: to whom are we looking for support for the cause of national liberation? Is it the bourgeoisie, its ‘world community’, in the shape of the UN, a totally impotent body that cannot function without US imperialism’s funding, and hence behaves like a concubine to its master’s whims? All these institutions can do is continuing with their hypocrisy, exploitation and oppression. From Kashmir to Palestine, where have they delivered national liberation? Their resolutions and statements are impotent and none can be implemented without the permission of imperialism. Do we truly have illusions that the US imperialists will take up a fight against the Pakistani state on behalf of the Baloch cause? If so, then we are sadly mistaken. Seymour M. Hersh, an investigative American journalist, in a recent article in the London Review of Books, made some startling revelations about the complicity of the CIA, the Saudis and the Pakistani state and agencies in the capture of Osama Bin Laden, his protective housing in Abbotabad and then the sell-out to the Americans leading to his assassination by the Navy Seals. On the “strained relations between the Pakistani state and US imperialism” he revealed that, “Despite their constant public feuding, American and Pakistani military and intelligence services have worked together closely for decades on counterterrorism in South Asia. Both services often find it useful to engage in public feuds ‘to cover their Asses’, as the retired official put it, but they continually share intelligence used for drone attacks, and cooperate on covert operations. It’s understood in Washington that US security depends on the maintenance of strong military and intelligence ties to Pakistan. The belief is mirrored in Pakistan”.
- Or are we trying to mobilise the support of the workers and youth of America, Europe and the whole world? What is truth and reality is that the American workers and youth would not support or have any sympathy for any resolution put up by the right-wing Republicans, whom they despise due to their class and racial oppression against the masses in the USA. Only on the basis of an appeal for class solidarity can the support and solidarity of the workers of the world can be won. I agree with comrade Khair Baksh Marri’s statement (with whom I had intense but friendly discussions) that Baluch liberation must not be for American imperialist interests, as you have quoted in your critique. You should have another; deeper look at this remark and it reveals the true designs, policies, vested interests and strategies of US imperialism on the Baluchistan issue.
- As far as the PPP is concerned, its leadership not only disowns us but hates more than anyone else and tries to attack us however and whenever possible. This is true for the hated Zardari and was also true for Benazir Bhutto. It is therefore richly ironic that you accuse me of being their representative! PPP in its founding documents wrote what no other mass party had ever said in its programme: “The Ultimate objective of the party is the attainment of a classless society that is only possible through socialism in our times”. That’s what made it the traditional and largest party of the oppressed masses in this country. It was a party with a mass base during the revolutionary period of 1968–69 but it very quickly started attacking workers after coming into state power in the 1970s and became alienated from the workers. It was the draconian rule of General Zia and the hanging of Bhutto in 1979 that gave the PPP a new lease of life. However, Benazir Bhutto completely squandered this opportunity by aligning herself with US and British imperialism. Benazir ended up acting as a brake on the developing revolutionary movement in in the mid-1980s. PPP today is not a party as such but an illusion of the large section of masses. However even these illusions are disintegrating and waning rapidly. Its present leaders are a lumpen bourgeoisie comprising of charlatans, embezzlers, crooks, gangsters and criminals. If you read my countless articles both on our Urdu website and in the bourgeois media, you will find our position is totally unambiguous on this issue. In any case now there are several PPP(s) and more will splinter with the ultimate demise of this ‘tradition’.
- You have quoted Comrade Sher Mohammad Marri (whom I met in my youth in 1978 and he was a source of inspiration for me) and Comrade Khair Baksh regarding the destination of the struggle being Socialism. Things should be resolved here slickly. They had read enough Marxism and revolution to know that a socialist revolution is the only way for real national and economic emancipation and this can only be achieved only through a class struggle and not via the national struggle. However, they were trying to get the class support from the whole region for the national liberation of Baluchistan to link it to the class struggle for a socialist victory. To achieve this, the brutal Pakistani state apparatus, which imposes national oppression and class repression and exploitation, has to be smashed. The most decisive, crucial and accomplishing force to carry out this historical task is the youth and the proletariat of the advanced metropolitan centres like Karachi, Lyallpur, Quetta, Lahore, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Peshawar, Gujranwala, Mardan, Nowshera, Gujrat, Zhob, Hub, Taxila/Wah, Rawalpindi, etc. Those who turn the wheels of industry and the economy, who toil in the agrarian or services sector, actually run this society. It is they who can bring the economy to a grinding halt and with that, bring the repressive state to its knees and lead to its overthrow through a Socialist Revolution.
- One of Lenin’s greatest contributions to Marxism was the dialectical development of the National Question. It is truly one of the greatest theoretical treasures for revolutionaries to link the national question to a socialist conclusion. Lenin unfortunately is often quoted opportunistically and mechanically. His three major works on National Question are: a debate with Rosa Luxembourg in his book, ‘The Rights of Nations to Self-Determination’, his work of 1913 ‘Critical Remarks on the National Question’, and the draft programme of the Communist International at the second congress of Third International in 1920. This draft was finalised after amalgamating Manabendra Nath Roy’s amended draft on the colonial and national questions. If one is to genuinely understand Lenin’s position on the national question, his works on this subject have to be dialectically linked and studied in unison. However, a quote which in my opinion reflects the complete essence of Lenin’s position on the National Question is the following:
- “Social-Democrats demand the promulgation of a law, operative throughout the state, protecting the rights of every national minority in no matter what part of the state. This law should declare inoperative any measure by means of which the national majority might attempt to establish privileges for itself or restrict the rights of a national minority (in the sphere of education, in the use of any specific language, in budget affairs, etc.), and forbid the implementation of any such measure by making it a punishable offence. The Social-Democratic attitude to the slogan of ‘cultural-national’ (or simply ‘national’) ‘autonomy’ or to plans for its implementation is a negative one, since this slogan (1) undoubtedly contradicts the internationalism of the class struggle of the proletariat, (2) makes it easier for the proletariat and the masses of working people to be drawn into the sphere of influence of bourgeois nationalism, and (3) is capable of distracting attention from the task of the consistent democratic transformation of the state as a whole, which transformation alone can ensure (to the extent that this can, in general, be ensured under capitalism) peace between nationalities. In view of the special acuteness of the question of cultural-national autonomy among Social Democrats, we give some explanation of the situation. a) It is impermissible, from the standpoint of Social Democracy, to issue the slogan of national culture either directly or indirectly. The slogan is incorrect because already under capitalism, all economic, political and spiritual life is becoming more and more international. Socialism will make it completely international. International culture, which is now already being systematically created by the proletariat of all countries, does not absorb ‘national culture’ (no matter of what national group) as a whole, but accepts from each national culture exclusively those of its elements that are consistently democratic and socialist. (Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 243-251.) [Note: Lenin here uses the term ‘Social Democrats’ to refer to the Marxists, as at this stage in 1913, the Bolsheviks were in the process of leaving the RSDLP]
- I think Lenin says it all. As far we are concerned we are Internationalists. Marxism is nothing if it is not internationalism. We don’t think that National Liberation of oppressed nations and class emancipation are possible within the present state structures, its artificial boundaries and the capitalist system. We support the right of self-determination for the Baluch oppressed masses, including the right of secession. This position also applies to the Pashtoons, Hazaras and other oppressed workers, toilers and youth of different nationalities living in Baluchistan, other parts of South Asia and elsewhere.
- Comrades of the Mehrab Sangat, we are soldiers of the proletarian army of the world revolution. We support your struggle against national oppression to link it to the class struggle of the oppressed toilers of all nationalities. We invite you to join this internationalist struggle for the overthrow of this oppressive capitalist system and their states in every nook and corner of this planet. Socialism eliminates the psychology of private ownership and national oppression, which in the last analysis is the question of ownership of resources, wealth and property. The resources of Baluchistan can only belong to its peoples if the system of private property and ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange is eliminated, and collective ownership is profoundly established. This is only possible on the basis of a socialist planned economy under the democratic control and management of the workers and the toiling masses.
With Bolshevik Greetings, Lal Khan