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Manzoor Ahmed and the IMT - report of a visit to Pakistan

posted 4 Mar 2012, 12:27 by Admin uk   [ updated 4 Mar 2012, 14:56 ]

 Back in 2009 it had increasingly become clear to some IMT members internationally that the International Executive Committee had been presenting misleading information regarding internal developments in the Pakistani section. In an attempt to ascertain the truth, Jonathon Clyne, an ex member of the IEC visited in April/May 2010. As his report below shows, he found much of what the IMT membershp had been told was incorrect. Unfortunately the internal regime within the international denies full information to rank and file members in the interests of the leadership and against the rank and file. That is why we have opened KarlMarx.net to IMT comrades in Sindh who reported their recent expulsion from the Pakistani section and allegations of rape at a regional event which the say the IMT had refused to investigate.We have also subsequently published the IMT's rejection of all these claims. However, in the IMT's reply to the Sindh comrades they continue their campaign of political and character assassination against Manzoor Ahmed. For that reason we republish below Jonathon Clyne's report of his 2010 visit.

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In August 2008 Manzoor Ahmed, founder-member of the IMT section in Pakistan and former member of  the Pakistani National Assembly, was expelled from the IMT. He was accused of opportunism in relation to his election campaign, the strike at Pakistan Telecommunications (PTCL), privatisation, and a coalition government of the PPP and Nawrah Sharifs righwing party. The formal grounds for his expulsion were that he had received high positions from Pakistan's President Zardari and that he had refused to resign from them after having been instructed to do so by the IEC of the IMT. Subsequent to his expulsion he was also accused  of receiving money not only from Zardari, but also from the Pakistani secret service.

As a member of the IEC at the time I did not question the evidence that was presented about Manzoor's opportunism. I trusted the IS and Lal Khan. I opposed the posing of an immediate ultimatum to Manzoor, because I felt the issue had to be dealt with in Pakistan by comrades on the ground. However, when this line was defeated at the IEC meeting in July 2008, I supported the ultimatum. This was out of a misplaced desire to show that the IEC was united.

Manzoor was not present at this IEC meeting. The IS ruled later that he was not allowed to defend himself at the following IEC, because he had not obeyed the instructions to resign from his positions. Thus he was never given  chance of defending himself in front of the IEC. Pakistani comrades sent protests to the IS, but these were not passed onto the IEC.

Shortly after this, the Spanish conflict exploded.  Whereas all communication about Pakistan basically went through one comrade – Lal Khan – the Spanish conflict burst out into the open, at least for the IEC. Both sides made strenuous attempts to keep the spread of information limited, but despite that I could follow this conflict closely. The way the IS, with the support of Lal Khan, and the Spanish leadership handled this dispute undermined their authority in my mind. Instead of an open discussion about the problems in Spain, the IS resorted to all kinds of subterfuges, intrigues, diplomacy and ultimatums. The way they handled the Swedish sections critique of a number of things and the China question helped to make clear the real character of the IS.

After having left the IMT, and after hearing accounts from Atif, Mel and Heiko that appeared to completely contradict the view I had heard previously, I went to Pakistan to hear the other point of view directly from Manzoor and the comrades in the Left Opposition (this is what the group that was expelled/left at the same time as Manzoor calls itself). I wrote to Lal Khan and offered to meet him in Pakistan for a discussion, but I never received a reply.

Mayday

 

My first stop in Pakistan was a meeting organised by the Commemoration Committee for the Chicago Martyrs, a committee connected to the trade unions affiliated to the PPP.  About 600-700, mainly trade unionists, were packed into a hot auditorium. Manzoor was on the platform, but due to delays there was no possibility for him to speak.

 

The first speaker was a trade unionist from the railway workers union who was also in charge of the Commemoration Committee. He began by welcoming the Minister for Labour and thanking him for taking time to come to the meeting despite all the hard work he had to do. But then he turned to the Minister and to cheers began to talk about what he thought should be implemented by the government. First he took up that everybody in the public sector should get proper employment contracts, instead of temporary employment. This means 100 000's of people. Then he went on to demand that all anti-labour legislation be repealed, that the minimum wage be raised from 6 000 rupees to 15 000, and that wages be raised for everybody in the public sector. And several other very solid demands. What is more he demanded that the minister declare his support for these demands immediately and that the government begins to implement them within 48 hours. To me, it was a model way of starting the meeting.

 

After that the Minister spoke and a real battle between him and the audience ensued. First he tried to push the responsibility away from him, saying that the other parties in parliament would not support it and that it was up to everybody there to put pressure on the other parties. This was a somewhat dangerous line of argument for him (after all, it was unlikely that he wanted to encourage mass demonstrations outside parliament). But then, as if to defuse this line, he started to promise that the government would do all kinds of things. Workers children should all be able to go to universities – in the future. He agreed that raising the minimum wage from 6000 to 8000 was insufficient, but did not propose an alternative figure (the following day the government announced a raise to 7000). The audience cheered when he made a good proposal and grumbled when he made a bad one and sporadically everybody shouted slogans in favour of the PPP.

 

The Minister said the government would raise dowries to 70 000. Then somebody from the audience shouted that the workers in the end would never get that if the government decided upon it. The Minister blamed bureaucrats for taking their share.

 

He was again interrupted when he said that the government would review wages in the public sector. A trade unionist exclaimed that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had promised that 36 years ago and still it had not happened. This was no lone heckler. Everybody listened in silence and gave the heckler their undivided attention. He had the audience with him.

 

In the evening there was a rally of about 800-1000 people and 200 motorcycles followed by an outdoor meeting in Kasur, Manzoors hometown, of a similar character, although there it was the provincial Minister of Labour who was put under pressure. In a certain sense I was reminded of scenes from films where people in the past used to go to petition the emperor. At the meetings I went to some formulated their demands in a servile manner, although far from all. However, the big difference was that it was not the petitioner that stood alone in front of the emperor with his entourage, but the Minister who almost alone had to defend himself against petitioners with mass support. Manzoor spoke in favour of socialist revolution.

 

It is incomprehensible why Marxists should not wholeheartedly throw themselves into organising and participating in these kinds of meetings. The present tactics of the IMT in Pakistan are instead to do “independent work”, that is organising meetings in the name of the Marxist organisation or a front organisation (PTUDC, YFIS, BNT).

 

The character of the PPP

 

The federal Minister, in an attempt to placate his audience, talked about the workers and the PPP as belonging together like body and soul. It is clear that he assigned the role of body to the workers, but that is not the important point. The fact of the matter is that there is a very close relationship between the PPP and the workers.

 

A workers party is not defined by having a socialist name or banner, many workers as members, and a democratic structure with a large apparatus. The PPP has none of that. A workers party is not even defined by having a socialist program, which the PPP does happen to have (but the Labour Party in Britain no longer has). A workers party is defined by a broad layer of workers seeing it as a vehicle through which they can express themselves politically. And, if like in the PPP, there are not even branch meetings to express this through, they will find other means of doing so, like these public meetings that occur 10-15 a year throughout the country.

 

Of course the PPP is a bit more complex than that, because not only do the workers, a small minority in society see it as their organisation, a section of the bourgeoisie and feudal landlords also see it as the means to gain political power. One could object and say that the Democratic Party in the USA is in a similar situation, but that would be a mistake. The PPP was born out a revolutionary struggle of the working class in 1969 and the connection has been renewed through struggle several times since then. As such, it has a very different place in workers consciousness than the Democratic Party.

 

Strategy to build a mass revolutionary party

 

A central question for Marxists is how to build a mass revolutionary workers party. Can this be done simply by keeping some sort of nominal orientation to the PPP and focusing on recruiting to a Marxist organisation? Planning for someday when that organisation is big enough and worker's disenchantment with the PPP is sufficiently large so that the two processes merge, and a Marxist organisation rapidly grows into a mass workers party. I believe this to be fundamentally incorrect. It takes no account of the real development of workers consciousness and all the tough processes that have to be gone through to create a mass workers party out of, what is initially, mainly disconnected individuals. The working class cannot leap from being a class in itself to being a class for itself. The organisations that tie workers together into a class aware of its historic mission, have to be built over a long period of time, experiencing both rapid growth and decline, many struggles, and many different phases.

 

Today, from the point of view of developing the working class into a class for itself, the most important task is to create an organised link between the party and the trade unions. As the trade unions are the organisations that are most closely connected with the working class, this would strengthen the working class side of the PPP's character at the expense of its feudal/bourgeois side. Through the Peoples Labour Bureau, which is headed by Manzoor, it has been possible to initiate a campaign to affiliate trade unions to the PPP for the first time. In May there will be at least five regional conferences leading up to a national conference of trade unionists. Out of this the Peoples Labour Federation (PLF), a federation of unions affiliated to the PPP, will be born. Zardari, leader of the PPP, understanding that only Manzoor would be accepted as head of the PLF, appointed him as such. In a typically bureaucratic manner, this was simply done by presenting Manzoor as the head when the people on the platform at the Mayday rally in Islamabad were introduced. Manzoor had not even been informed of his appointment in advance.

 

The creation of the PLF can be followed by two steps that strengthen the working class further and thereby prepare the way for a mass revolutionary party. Firstly, the PLF will call for a TUC to unite all Trade Union Federations, of which there are many of all sizes and colours. Secondly, by proceeding to democratize the unions that are affiliated to the PPP, for example by organising model congresses with democratically elected delegates and electing a leadership, the PLF can become a model organisation. The PLF can then be used to call for a PPP congress with democratically elected delegates, something which the PPP has never had. This would decisively transform the PPP.

 

By playing an important role in this process a strong Marxist organisation can be built. Building a strong Marxist organisation is also a precondition for this process taking place successfully. Once the PLF has been formed at least ten young trade unionists from every trade union affiliated will be invited to attend special trade union schools. Political discussions will also be on the agenda. This will provide an excellent recruiting ground for Marxists.

 

Perspectives

 

When Benazir Bhutto returned millions turned out to greet her. It was the biggest manifestation in the history of Pakistan. It showed the deep-rooted support that the PPP had, but it also meant that the leadership was under enormous pressure. Benazir responded by sounding more and more left. And then she was assassinated. This unleashed an enormous wave of frustration and anger, that for three days completely paralysed the state apparatus. The police, military, secret police and judiciary disappeared from sight and power was effectively in the hands of the masses. It is completely true that if there had been a mass workers party during those days it could have lead to a socialist revolution. Therefore the IMT perspective was that after the three days had subsided there would be further revolutionary upheavals soon; that it was important to lay greater emphasis on independent work to reach all those that had been on the streets; and that then the Marxist organisation would grow rapidly.

 

However, there was no mass workers party and therefore the IMT perspective of a new revolutionary upsurge soon was false. Instead a PPP government was elected and the open struggle receded.

 

The PPP government is physically threatened by the fundamentalists. The war in the Swat valley is a mere 160 km from the capital, Bomb blasts and heavy fighting even occurs in the middle of the capital. In Islamabad, just like in most Pakistani cities, heavily armed guards, police, and military have always been very prominent every time I have been there, but now Islamabad felt like a beleaguered city.

 

The situation is extremely unstable and the government is very fragile. For many years, all Pakistani institutions (parliament, state apparatus, parties, etc) have been very weak and torn by conflicts. They are not a reliable power basis.

 

As a result of the mass struggle after Benazir's assassination and because of the desperate need to get some kind of base, Zardari has made all the leading lefts ministers (including two MP's that Alan Woods had recruited to the IMT). Manzoor was offered a ministerial post but turned it down. As a whole the party has had to re-emphasize its connection to the working class. That is also why the Minister of Labour had to expose himself at the Mayday meeting in Lahore.

 

The government has implemented a whole series of reforms that have strengthened workers rights and has even taken steps to improve their material conditions to a certain extent. This has given the unions a good opportunity to grow and orientate to the PPP. This is counter-balanced by the economic crisis. Unemployment, inflation, and power cuts drastically worsen most workers and peasants conditions. But this does not mean a rapid disillusionment with the PPP government and the outbreak of a revolutionary movement, as the IMT expects.

 

It all depends upon how the government is perceived – is it doing what it can to help workers or is it attacking workers? Even in Sweden we saw for a period of time an increase in support for a right-wing government after the financial crisis hit and unemployment began to rise. The government blamed the greed of the American bankers for the crisis, and when the social-democratic leaders instead of attacking capitalism and calling for nationalisation moaned that “the government was doing too little”, the social-democratic leadership just lost credibility. Naturally, if there had been a mass revolutionary party in Pakistan or Sweden that would have meant that the perception of the respective governments would have been entirely different and socialist revolution would have been on the agenda. But again, there is no mass revolutionary party. It cannot be created overnight. But I do believe that the Left Opposition now is taking the necessary practical steps to make that possible.

Eventually, the government will disappoint large sections of the population. It simply cannot solve the problems facing society.

 

Without an understanding of the role of the PPP and without correct perspectives, any Marxist organisation is lost. The IMT has failed on both counts, and the Left Opposition has been right. However, that does not exhaust the question. Even with these basic pre-conditions in place, it is possible to make opportunist mistakes. Therefore I examined every accusation against Manzoor carefully.

 

The election campaign

 

There has been much discussion about Manzoor's election campaign and why his posters had neither the Struggle logo nor the same slogan that he had during the last election - “An irreconcilable struggle for socialist revolution”. He has been accused of having a less class based campaign this time and that this was the reason why he lost the election.

 

He explained that his last election victory was due to many factors. That some people had supported him due to his class-based campaign, others due to his family connections and friends (not insignificant in a semi-feudal country like Pakistan), and still others due to his connection to the PPP. This I can vouch for, as I was there during the election campaign. All these different forces produced their own posters and other means of supporting him. He had no control over what others than the Tendency produced.

 

This time it was the same thing, except that he got next to no support from the centre. The bulk of the Tendency's resources were put into the election campaign in Karachi. And in addition they even sent a full-timer (Ilyas Ameen) to support a sympathiser's (Ghulam Abbas) campaign rather than putting resources into Kasur. This meant that the posters produced at the centre did not dominate the campaign. Nonetheless, due to his reputation, his vote increased by 27 000 to 44 000 in total. In the previous election he had received most votes in the rural areas. This time his votes in the city had doubled compared to last time. He lost, because the votes against him were less split than last time and most likely there was vote-rigging too.

 

It is not excluded that Manzoor or other leading public figures at a certain point could tone down their public profile when under pressure. Karl Liebknecht, together with Rosa Luxembourg, is one of the iconic anti-militarists of the twentieth century. Few people know that he bowed to the party whip and voted in favour of war credits in the very first vote. It was only when he was criticised by industrial workers in the Stuttgart area of the Social Democratic Party that he changed his mind and became the only German MP to vote against war credits. He was sent to the Eastern front, where he served burying the dead, and was later sentenced to jail for four years and one month.

 

Manzoor said he was prepared to accept any comrade criticising him publicly if they thought he was on the wrong track. This openness is the best guarantee against opportunism.

 

The PTCL strike

 

One of the main criticisms of Manzoor has been his role in the PTCL strike. It is a very complex issue. Despite having looked several times at all Mel's interviews on Youtube, I still couldn't make head or tale out of it. But after several hours discussion with Manzoor and Kabeer, who both played important roles in the conflict, I finally began to understand.

 

PTCL is a telecommunications company that was privatised in 2005 by the Musharraf government. There are 18 different unions in the PTCL. Elections are held regularly to see what union has the most support among the workers. This union is then proclaimed the Collective Bargaining Agent, CBA. The CBA is the only union that is allowed to bargain and reach agreements with the management. The CBA at the PTCL had last been elected in 2004 when it got 31% of the vote. The CBA had supported privatisation and was on excellent terms with the management.

 

At the PTCL in Islamabad a conflict began in May 2008. Workers at the PTCL are employed with three different types of contracts, for the sake of simplicity I call them short, medium and permanent employment contracts. The workers in Islamabad, supported by two non-CBA unions, set up camp outside the entrance and demanded that the short and medium term workers should get permanent contracts and that wages should be raised for permanent workers. These workers endured enormous hardship as the protest dragged on for week after week. Over 200 workers were suspended from their jobs. Manzoor and other comrades went there and helped collect food and prevent harassment by the police.

 

After 53 days of struggle, the workers decided that their only chance of winning was to increase the pressure on the management by locking the entrances and thereby preventing anybody from entering the workplace. This was the spark that lit the prairie fire. Thousands of PTCL workers throughout the country came out on strike inspired by this bold action. This movement was not primarily in support of the Islamabad workers. A couple of days earlier the CBA union had reached an agreement with management to downgrade permanent workers via the so called Unified Pay Scales (UPS) scheme. This is what had fuelled the strike. The bold step of the Islamabad workers of locking the doors, had inspired them into going on strike.

 

The government formed a ministerial committee, consisting of four ministers, to try and settle the dispute which was threatening to disrupt the whole economy. This committee met with management, unions and Manzoor, who had been asked by the workers to put their point of view to the committee. This is a far cry from being a member of a government arbitration board, which Manzoor was a accused of belonging to (a claim since retracted).

 

After three days of strike an agreement was hammered out and signed. This had four points:

  1. All suspended workers should be reinstated.
  2. No downgrading of permanent workers.
  3. Short and medium-term workers to be given permanent contracts.
  4. Revision of pay scales so that wages would rise.

Points 3 and 4 were referred to a committee that within seven days would work out the technical details about how this would be implemented, but agreement had been reached in principle. In the meanwhile, as a condition for the agreement being signed the strike was to be called off. This was a decisive victory for the workers.

 

However, the management had a trick up their sleeve. Manzoor was given the task of announcing the agreement to the media. However, when the PTCL spokesman was asked about the agreement he claimed that he knew of no such agreement! This caused complete confusion. While the militant unions that had led the struggle from the beginning were calling off the strike, in accordance with the agreement, the CPA union and other unions were calling for the strike to continue, as there was no agreement according to them. Then, the following day, the management signed an agreement with the CPA union instead. This agreement was worse than the one which had been reached earlier, although still a significant victory. This way the management friendly CPA union regained authority, the management had to pay out less than they would have done otherwise, and Manzoor and the militant unions were discredited for claiming to have an agreement when there was none. In the recently held elections for the CBA, the old CBA union (Pakistan Telecom Employees Union) got the biggest vote, 8000. However, the two militant unions that initiated the struggle received 12000 votes together. Unfortunately, comrades attempts to unify the two unions had failed, and therefore the old CBA union could continue to be the CBA.

 

Manzoor and the comrades involved in the struggle (nobody from the centre came to the struggle during all that time) did not err on the side of opportunism. I think Manzoor is correct when he said that they made ultra-left mistakes at two crucial turning points. Firstly, they did not attempt to get agreement from the other unions for locking the entrance. And secondly, they did not try to get the other unions to sign the agreement they had struck with management. They could have used the force of the movement to tie the CPA union to each step which was taken, thus making it impossible for the union to reach a separate agreement with the management.

 

The Benazir Stock Option Scheme (BESOS)

 

The PPP government decided that it would give workers, free of charge, 12% of the shares in the state owned enterprises in which they workers. This will also apply to those companies that had been privatised by the previous government. Giving away shares in a state owned company to individuals is an obvious case of privatisation, of at least part of the company. But the construction of this scheme is not like a normal privatisation, as the workers cannot sell the shares on the stock market. Instead, if they retire or leave the company, the shares are sold back to the company at a price worked out according to a formula.

 

In many Eastern European countries shares were given to workers after the fall of Stalinism. But because the economy was in free fall, the workers got no dividends and the market value of the shares was extremely low. They were glad when rich people offered to buy the shares, at least they could buy some food then. Thus almost all the shares ended up in the hands of a few oligarchs. However, given the present structure of the Pakistani scheme this cannot happen. Instead the workers get a bit of income from dividends, a small pot of money when they retire, and some influence on the companies board. No wonder they are very enthusiastic about it.

 

It could be argued that the present structure of the scheme can easily be changed in future and that it prepares the ground for an Eastern European privatisation. That might happen, but whether or not it will, will be decided by a struggle of living forces. And we must ask ourselves: what is a better preparation for such a struggle? The IMT says that we must warn the workers now and try to get them to refuse this gift from the government. Then they will come to us when they realise that the government has fooled them. In practice, it means telling the workers that they are stupid for enthusiastically accepting free shares, and then hoping that they will be grateful some time in the future for having been told that.

 

The alternative is to welcome the benefits that workers receive from this scheme, but make it clear that this is not privatisation and should not be used as a means to achieve privatisation in future. Instead, workers should struggle for even more control over the companies they work for. Surely, this approach, the Left Oppositions approach, is more likely going to mobilise workers in a struggle against privatisation in future?

 

The biggest difficulty with this way of handling the question is how to take up concretely how workers should get a greater control over the companies, how to raise transitional demands in the context of the popularity of BESOS.

 

It is unclear, as far as I know, exactly how the workers stocks will translate into influence on the boards. The Left Opposition raised the demand for workers control but it is not clear exactly how this can be formulated concretely. The demand that the workers should have 100% of the shares was raised. It points in the right direction, but it is problematic at the same time. Because if the workers in a particular company had 100% of the shares it would be a private co-operative.

 

The old three thirds model springs to mind. This was raised in the past as a means by which workers would manage nationalised industries – one third of the board would be elected by workers in the their company, one third by the TUC, one third by the state. Perhaps it it is time to resurrect it in a different context – one third of the (unsellable) shares should be owned by the workers in a company, one third by workers in the rest of the public sector, one third by the state.

 

A transitional approach is not an easy thing in a real struggle. It is far easier, in a distant office. It is no use being very general when workers are enthusiastic about ownership. We should also be enthusiastic about workers wanting to improve their conditions and gaining more control over their work place. We have to make clear suggestions as to how to take that spirit forward. Just screaming opportunism in this situation leads nowhere.

Call for a coalition government

At the time of Manzoor's expulsion, newspaper cuttings were presented that cited Manzoor as supporting a coalition government between the PPP and the right wing party of Nawrah Sharif. Many comrades I spoke to, without the presence of Manzoor, said that Manzoor had never supported a coalition government and had often spoken against it. They said that the newspapers were reporting from a meeting in which the theme of most of the many speakers was in favour of a coalition government. They said that the papers had simply mistakenly identified Manzoor as also speaking in favour of a coalition.

 

State financing

 

It has been claimed that the Left Opposition is being financed by the state. Considering that the group has no office, only one part-timer, had to borrow the money to hold a congress, and Manzoor does not even get a wage for all the positions he has, this claim has no credibility in my opinion.

 

Positions

 

The question of Manzoors positions must be put in the general political context, as explained above. In the present situation it was correct for Manzoor to hang onto his appointed positions in the PPP. He has no positions in the state, only in the party. If he would have taken the ministerial post which he was offered (and which Alan Woods previously had encouraged him to do), that would have been completely wrong. His key position is as head of the Peoples Labour Bureau and the PLF. This work is strengthened by him being in the party leadership and in charge of the Central Secretariat of the PPP.

 

I visited the shabby and poorly equipped offices of the Central Secretariat. With less than a dozen people working there, it felt far removed from the offices of most governing parties in the world. Ordinary party members come there in droves everyday. It was clear that these were poor people who came to ask the party to support them with their various, mainly personal, problems. Manzoor's main task seemed to be to talk to them one after one and then write a letter recommending their cases to various charities, ministries, and other authorities. A sort of social information bureau for PPP members, rather than a den of iniquity. I questioned why Manzoor was doing this unpaid job not because of the possibility of corruption, but because it is a lot of donkey work for the party, which takes time away from doing more political work. Manzoor replied that it was worth doing because it gave him authority among ordinary party members and because it was an opportunity to be in contact with them. In a similar manner, comrades with a position in for example a Swedish trade union sometimes find themselves having to help individual members with their work and personal problems.

 

As long as the Left Opposition can use Manzoor's positions to connect to the unions and the struggle outside the party, it will be more than worthwhile to hang onto them. And by gaining more support among struggling workers and bringing them towards the PPP, other comrades should also accept more positions in the party, which in turn can be used to bring more workers into the party, and so on.

 

Manzoor's positions means that he spends time even with the highest ranking bureaucrats. It would be a mistake not to. We must know and understand bureaucrats, capitalists, feudal landlords, and other people at all levels in society. Otherwise we will never be able to have a successful revolution. The class struggle would be a drawing room exercise. What trade unionist does not have to rub shoulders with bureaucrats in their union and the boss at their work place? If they are corrupted by simple doing that, they will never withstand the pressures which will be upon them in the future. We should always be civil, but completely firm with our demands, when we mix with them. Trade union or party activists who scream and shout and hurl abuse always end up isolating themselves – from most of the workers they are supposedly representing.

 

Public profile

 

Whenever he got the occasion, Manzoor linked the current struggle to the need for socialist revolution. The paper was also distributed by comrades at all the events. The titles of the articles in the paper were translated to me and their content sketched. From almost every page the words socialism or permanent revolution or Trotsky or Ted Grant sprung at one. I thought there was too much of that for the paper to be a real workers paper, but comrades explained that they printed 2000 copies. Half went to the approximately 1000 members which they say they had and then they were expected to sell one paper each. Thus the paper has more the character of a theoretical magazine.

 

The degeneration of the old organisation

 

The basic cause for the degeneration of any section of the IMT has been the same. Bourgeois and Stalinist organisational methods (“the basic rules of democratic centralism”) lead to a bureaucratic clique developing at the top of the organisation. This began at the very top, the IS, and was then replicated lower down. Because a clique needs to maintain its prestige at all costs, political mistakes are not corrected, but made worse by zig-zags. The confusion that this creates strengthens the bureaucratic tendencies. This leads inevitable to splits.

 

However, each country has its peculiarities. In Pakistan, there have been some adventurist excursions throughout the years. I knew about the attempt to transplant YFIS into Pakistan (the same mistake was made in Britain). Another adventure came as a complete surprise to me. In the late eighties, Shahida Jabeen, a well-known veteran from the struggle against the Zia dictatorship, was launched as a parliamentary candidate against the PPP. She got 157 votes out of a total constituency electorate of seven million. But unlike in Liverpool, this was not hailed as 157 votes for socialism and a great victory. Instead the whole thing was quietly buried.

 

I was also told that there have been a whole series of expulsion. I remember that some leading comrades I knew such as Shahida Jabeen, Khaled Bhutti (who went on to found a section for the CWI), and Dr. Zia had left the organisation, I was told that they had been expelled one after the other. Apparently this also happened to others. According to Manzoor these were comrades who were considered a threat to Lal Khan's position. With them small groups of other comrades left or were pushed out in one way or another. However, the general orientation of the tendency was mainly correct.

 

After Manzoor's election in 2002 a whole new layer were attracted to the Tendency and it grew rapidly, but by 2005 it began to stagnate around the 2500 mark. Manzoor said that this was due to the two sides of the organisation parting ways. The organisational structure of the tendency could not keep up with the growth of the mass work and all the possibilities that brought with it.

Mass work can only be 'controlled' through a public battle for the organisations key political ideas. Full-timers can play an important political role. They can orientate the organisation towards participating in the movement, recruit from the movement, and integrate new comrades. But they cannot organise the movement from the outside. That the movement must do itself. Full-timers who want to 'control' everything are bound to fail. Instead they end up removing themselves from the mass work and focus on that which they can control, the organisation internally.

 

As the gap widened between the two wings, stagnation continued. And as the internal apparatus could not accept that it made any mistakes, they concluded that it must be the other wing which was to blame. They were not doing enough. Their profile was too low. Unrealistic perspectives were invented which justified accusing Manzoor of not being sharp enough in his criticism of the PPP leadership. The political lines of the two wings began to diverge more and more, until there was a split when Manzoor was expelled.

 

Summary

 

Before going to Pakistan, I had made careful notes of all the things I considered doubtful about the Left Opposition. This came from IMT material and things I had heard. I was persistent. I double-checked things with different comrades. I took up any discrepancies I found in what comrades said. And yet, at the end of the day, I must say that the expulsion of Manzoor and his group from the IMT was completely unjustified.

 

Jonathan Clyne

20 May, 2010


(There are further reports and video interviews with Manzoor and other Pakistani comrades on this section of the site.)

 

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