By Khalique Junejo
Ideologically as well as strategically, the socialist movement and the struggles for national independence are considered to be natural allies against imperialism
Daily Times of March 3, 2013 carried an article “Bangladesh: past haunts the future” written by Lal Khan. The writer while discussing the current situation of Bangladesh arising out of the court verdicts against Jamaat-e-Islami leaders for war crimes of 1971, brings to the fore the old (though not obsolete) debate over the class question and nationalist movements, particularly in Pakistan. He links the roots of the current agitation with the bourgeois character and capitalist connections of the nationalist movement of Bengalis, particularly its leader Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and concludes that “the real motive of these trials at this stage is to subvert the rising wave of a renewed class struggle.”
The article needs serious discussion. First we analyse the subject matter from a historical perspective and then apply it to the political progress of Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The terms capitalism, secularism, nationalism and class struggle referred to in the article are the product of (Western) Europe. So let us have a look at the matter from that angle.
One thousand years (fifth to 15th century) of Europe’s history are described as the ‘Dark Ages’. During this period European society was dominated by three factors: feudalism, religion (Church) and the kingdoms established through military power. During the Renaissance these factors were challenged, and later on replaced, by three other facts, i.e. capitalism, secularism and nationalism (nation states). These factors put Europe on the path of progress that made it the leader of the world. This shows that capitalism accompanied by secularism and nationalism is a progressive phenomenon in comparison to the feudalism-dominated society and an unavoidable stage in the progress of human society.
In this background we examine the issues, events and characters discussed by Mr Khan. He writes: “Experience of Bangladesh proves that any independence on a bourgeois basis cannot resolve the burning problems afflicting society due to capitalist exploitation and imperialist plunder.” If that is the absolute truth then what would the writer say about countries like Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, etc, which became independent on a bourgeois basis? If independence on a bourgeois basis is considered useless and fruitless, what about the more than 100 countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America who became independent after World Wars I and II? Only a few of them like Vietnam and Angola fought their war of independence combined with class struggle. A large majority gained their independence on a bourgeois or even feudal/tribal basis. All of them are facing problems of very serious nature and high magnitude.
Bangladesh is suffering from same problems as other Third World countries. However, if compared with Pakistan, they are better in many fields like the economy (their currency Takka is stronger than Pakistani Rupee), health and education. Also they are free from the curse of religious fundamentalism and the scourge of terrorism. All this despite the fact that the Pakistani establishment had left them literally in ashes and they had to start their journey from zero.
As far as ‘capitalist exploitation and imperialist plunder’ is concerned, no need to mention that Pakistan, since day one, has been the closest ally of the world’s biggest imperial power while internally it has itself behaved as an imperial power and exploiter for Sindhis, Baloch and Bengalis. On the other hand Bangladesh’s independence was the direct result of the struggle against ‘capitalist exploitation’ and ‘imperial plunder’ of the (west) Pakistani establishment and since its inception has remained a non-aligned country. Despite all this Mr Khan does not feel the need to question the creation of Pakistan but does not lose an opportunity to criticise the independence of Bangladesh.
Ideologically as well as strategically, the socialist movement and the struggles for national independence are considered to be natural allies against imperialism. This viewpoint was particularly strong during the Soviet era. This was the consensus at a long and detailed debate held in Cairo in the 1970s between the representatives of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the intellectuals of the Arab world, which was later published in the form of a booklet and translated in Urdu by Professor Mohammad Sarwar, titled Qoumi Azadi ki Tahreeken aur Socialist Mumalik.
But, unfortunately, the situation in Pakistan has been different. Here many of our leftist friends consider nationalist movements as their biggest enemies and to counter them they even go to the extent of allying themselves with feudal and military dictators. Lal Khan condemns Sheikh Mujibur Rehman as “a bourgeois demagogue” and “a staunch aficionado of capitalism” but he himself is allied with the PPP, the biggest party of feudal lords in Pakistan. It was the PPP and its leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who inducted religion into state affairs and laid the foundations of religious discrimination and prejudice between citizens that has brought Pakistan to the verge of civil war. Also it was Mr Bhutto who initiated the policy of strategic depth vis-a-vis Afghanistan and opened the training camps for ‘Mujahedin’ like Gulbadin Hekmatyar. It was during his successor (and daughter) Benazir Bhutto’s government that a government-in-exile of the Mujahedin was formed in Islamabad. Every Pakistani remembers Benazir Bhutto’s Interior Minister General (Retd) Naseerullah Babar saying: “The Taliban are our children”, and no one forgets Mohtarma’s words, “We had allowed the Taliban only up to Kandahar and not Kabul.”
It is an undeniable fact that the Pakistani state has been ruled and Pakistani society dominated by the mullah-military-feudal troika (the factors that plunged Europe into the Dark Ages) since the very beginning. It was for the first (and probably the last) time in 1970-71 that they were seriously challenged by a party that had nationalism, secularism, democracy and socialism (the factors that made Europe what it is) as the basis of its manifesto. All the anti-people, anti-democracy and anti-progress forces conjoined against the Awami League to deprive the Bengali people of their democratic right. Bhutto was the leading figure of this unholy alliance. When that infamous military operation started by invading the Dhaka University, he said those ‘golden’ words: “Thank God, Pakistan has been saved.” As if this was not sufficient, Mr Bhutto joined the military government of General Yahya Khan as deputy prime minister and foreign minister after it had turned the rivers of Bengal red with the blood of millions of Bengalis and played havoc with the honour of their mothers, sisters and daughters. When the Al-Shams and Al-Badr thugs of Jamaat-e-Islami were murdering Bengali people, Mr Khan’s leader was fighting their case at the UN.
The brutal dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq and its legacy was the natural consequence of military operations in Bengal, and later in Balochistan, of which Mr Bhutto was the architect. Still, to Mr Khan, Bhutto is a revolutionary and Mujibur Rehman only a bourgeois demagogue.
Mr Khan’s bias against nationalists makes him deny/belittle the role of Mujibur Rehman and the Awami League in the movement against the dictatorship of General Ayub Khan. He writes, “In East Pakistan, the main leader that emerged in this movement was Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashni, a Maoist who was the leader of the National Awami Party. As the movement gained momentum, it began to threaten the state apparatus and the system. General Ayub Khan leaned on the Chinese and Bhashani was instructed by Mao himself to back out. This abdication of Bhashani who was claiming a socialist revolution was a severe setback for the class struggle.” Now if the ‘socialist’ Bhashani abdicates class struggle in order to rescue a military dictator, who was a stooge of world imperialism, then is a ‘bourgeois’ Mujibur Rehman responsible for that?
Again when another military dictator General Yahya Khan, in connivance with the feudal lords of the PPP and the mullahs of the Jamaat-e-Islami, was carrying out the massacre and ethnic cleansing of Bengali people, Bhashani’s party remained a silent spectator thanks to the same Islamabad-Peking axis. No need to remind that Bhutto proudly used to take credit for establishing/cementing this axis. We all know that it was during this period (1970-71) that the slogan of ‘Bhutto, Bhashani, bhai bhai’ became popular.
This proves the point that many proponents of class struggle (in Pakistan) from Bhashani to Mr Khan feel more comfortable in the company of feudal lords, mullahs and military dictators than the middle class ‘bourgeois’ secular nationalists.
An important conclusion drawn from the analysis of the latest scenario of Bangladesh is that, “In spite of a secular constitution and demeanour of its mainstream leaders, the independence of Bangladesh has failed to relieve the masses from the deprivation, misery and poverty under a capitalist regime.” That is probably why the writer has been supporting the religious, feudalistic and militaristic regime of Bhutto in the hope of relieving the masses of their deprivation, misery and poverty.
Now we come to the crux of the article that the real motive of the trials against the leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami is to subvert the class struggle. It is a new formulation of class struggle that on the face of it seems strange as we have not seen such theory formulated /followed by the known revolutionaries from Levin to Chavez. However, political workers like me would be looking forward to learn from the writer how a trial against religious fanatics, who in conjunction with the military, committed crimes against humanity, is to ‘subvert the class struggle’ and how supporting feudal lords and religious forces is helpful and beneficial for the class struggle?