Tag Archives: contradictions

The relentless crisis — Lal Khan

Occupy Islamabad LahoreThe huge bubbles of speculative investment in housing, InfoTech, petroleum products and others sectors have now burst

After the 2008 crash of the world economy, there was an unprecedented turbulence in the world markets and economies. In the advanced capitalist economies most regimes, social-democratic or conservative, carried through severe austerity and cuts that started the process of dismantling the welfare state, mainly in Europe. All those gains achieved through intense struggle by the working classes of these countries were being reversed. Still the US and European economies could not come out of the recession after five years of brutal recipes to put the burden of the crisis of capitalism onto the shoulders of the working masses. There is a seething revulsion against the ruling classes. A popular catchphrase doing the rounds in Europe say it all: “Bankers are slightly less popular than paedophiles and serial killers.”

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries, the so-called emerging economies that were expected to give a new lease of life to capitalism with high growth rates, have failed to do so. Their growth rates shrank and the nature of the socioeconomic development in these countries, where the tasks of the bourgeois revolution have not been accomplished, have resulted in severe social contradictions that have now begun to explode on the political plane. Instability, uncertainty and disillusionment are now stalking these lands. The eruption of mass revolts from Turkey to Brazil are thus not accidental. They reflect a growing discontent and a sense of revulsion amongst the masses who are being inflicted by the severe trauma of this crisis that is crushing their livelihood.

It seems as if happiness has become elusive for the ordinary people in the advanced capitalist countries, not to speak of the oppressed working classes of the underdeveloped world.

After the Second World War, even if the revolutions were defeated in several European countries mainly due to the betrayals of the leaders of the Social Democratic and Communist parties, yet the upswing enabled these traditional leaders of the mass organisations to carry out reforms. Reforms are always introduced from above to stop revolution from below, but at least at that stage capitalism in the developed countries had the capacity to create a social welfare state. In Britain, education became free and the Labour Party introduced a health system where even foreign visitors could get treatment at a minimal cost.

People had hope for a better future and that created a blissful atmosphere and relatively prosperous societies. Now that optimism in life in Europe seems to have evaporated. People have lost hope in a future that promises only a grim life. A social malaise has set in. It is astonishing that this situation has developed in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR, Eastern European Socialism and the capitalist restoration in China. After these events the bourgeoisie gained access to a huge market of more than two billion. At that time in the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, there was euphoria amongst the strategists of capital. The bourgeoisie on a world scale were dizzy with success. Yet it has turned out to be a hoax.

Dialectally it turned into its opposite and today we see capitalism mired in its most severe crisis, unprecedented in its 200-years history. This exposes the historical redundancy and the organic sickness of capitalism. Even with such a massive expansion of the market, it has failed to develop society and improve the living standards of the working class even in the advanced countries. The growth we saw in the last 20 to 30 years was through a greater labour intensive mechanism where all or most members of the household were working, many workers working overtime and of course, a gigantic expansion of credit.

The huge bubbles of speculative investment in housing, InfoTech, petroleum products and others sectors have now burst. But what triggered the crash of 2008 was the overextension of credit that accumulated in the corporate sector and through personal loans in the previous three decades. The banking default in 2007 led to the sovereign default in 2010. Ever since the economies of most European countries and the US have been reeling from a chronic crisis with no end in sight.

According to the Financial Times, it could take at least 20 years to solve the European crisis! It goes on to say, “Europe raises the spectre of an ungovernable world.” The usually boastful The Economist had to concede, “The way to recovery is long and dark.” If these most staunch strategists and spokespersons of capitalism are in such gloom, the reality of this system’s recovery must be much starker.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 crash, there was a sense of shock amongst the workers of the advanced capitalist countries. However, as various regimes embarked upon severe austerity programmes, retaliation began to emerge from the workers and the youth. The revolution in Tunisia that ignited the Arab revolution in the spring of 2011 took its inspiration from the mass demonstrations and protests in France in the autumn of 2010. The lightning strikes of the students in Britain in December of that year also had a huge impact on the youth, especially in Egypt. After the Arab Spring we saw the European summer with mass protests not seen in two decades in most countries of Europe. Then we saw the American Autumn with the sudden rise of the Occupy Wall Street Movement in the US with huge implications worldwide.

These movements also had important repercussions on the political plane. After 19 general strikes we saw the collapse of the traditional political party of the workers in Greece, PASOK. The meteoric rise of SYRIZA in Greece also shows that the working classes at a certain point can overcome the burden of their traditions and move ahead to a more radical solution.

Read more » Daily Times
http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20137\21\story_21-7-2013_pg3_5

Pakistan Elections 2013: The view from afar

by Omar Ali

If all goes well, Pakistanis will go to the polls on May 11th to elect a new national assembly and all 4 provincial assemblies.  The Pakistan People’s Party was the largest party in the outgoing parliament and under the guidance of President Asif Ali Zardari, successfully held together a disparate coalition regime in the face of multiple challenges to complete its 5 year term of office. Unfortunately, that huge achievement is almost their only major achievement in office. While things were not as absolutely abysmal as portrayed by Pakistan’s anti-PPP middle class (rural areas, for example, are better off economically than they have ever been), they are pretty awful.  Chronic electricity shortages (inherited from Musharraf’s Potemkin regime, but still not fixed), galloping inflation, widespread corruption and endless terrorism have tried the patience of even the most devoted PPP supporters and make it difficult for the PPP to run on their record. There are a few bright spots (including a relatively well run welfare scheme called the Benazir income support program) and with Zardari deploying his coalition building magic, it is not a good idea to completely rule them out.  Still, they are clearly not the favorites in the coming elections. The middle class excitement (especially in Punjab and KP) is all about Imran Khan, while more serious pundits seem to be betting on Nawaz Sharif and his PMLN. Being out of the country, I have little direct knowledge of what retail politics looks like on the ground; but there is such a thing as a long-distance view and I am going to take that view and try and make some predictions. We will know in 3 weeks how out of touch I really am.

If you do want to look up what is happening on the ground in detail there are several excellent sources available, for example:  Saba Imtiaz’s election watch, the Dawn newspaper’s election page (including an interesting motor cycle diary from Tahir Mehdi as he motors across Pakistan), an election page from journalist and public intellectual Raza Rumiand last but not the least, the wonderful young team at fiverupees.com, who don’t have a lot of coverage yet, but do have writers who prefer carefully checked facts and data to mere opinion.

Saving Pakistan via India

Saving Pakistan… and India?

by Omar Ali

Pakistan is in the throes of an existential crisis. Pakistan has always been in the throes of an existential crisis. Pakistan’s interminable existential crisis is, in fact, getting to be a bore.  But while faraway peoples can indeed get away from this topic and on to something more interesting, Pakistanis have little choice in this matter; and it may be that neither do Indians.

The partition of British India was different things to different people, but we can all agree on some things: it was a confused mess, it was accompanied by remarkable violence and viciousness,  and it has led to endless trouble. The Paknationalist narrative built on that foundation has Jihadized the Pakistani state, and defanging that myth is now the most critical historic task of the Pakistani bourgeoisie.

Well, OK. We don’t actually all admit any of those things, but all those are things I have written in the past. Today I hope to shed my inhibitions and go further.

First, the crisis. Some friends think I am being unnecessarily alarmist and the only crisis is the presence of American infidels/imperialists in the region. Let America leave and all will be well. Others believe that if the army had a “free hand”, they would have things under control within days.  Let us dispense with both theories. The crisis is not primarily American generated (though they have a long and glorious history of feeding dollars to the crisis) and no one is in complete control.  The existing corruption-ridden state is a British colonial creation struggling to get by alongside an unstable mix of Islamist ideology and a very shallow and self-contradictory foundational myth. Even though the karma of the Raj is potent stuff, it will not last forever against these forces. When it goes, the next step will not be the dawn of Chomskyan enlightened anarchy or democratic socialism; it will either be Salafist Islam or the dissolution of the state. Dissolution being physically and diplomatically difficult (who will handle the scramble over borders that would follow?), Salafist Islam administered by the army (perhaps with a charismatic cricketer as its public face) is the likely option.

Unfortunately, it is not likely to work very well. In fact, it is incapable of sustaining even the bare minimum of modern statehood. Unlike Iranian Islam (which is literate, modern and sophisticated compared to Salafist fantasies) there is no there there.  A militarized salafist Pakistan may hold together a few years in the name of war against the infidels, but after the war (and who wants a war that could go nuclear?) we are left with little more than the vague notion of a rightly guided caliph, the whipping of uppity women and the accelerated cleansing of undesirable smaller sects. After all, if you have a religious state, then you cannot have ten different interpretations of religion (not to speak of ten different religions). Which vision is in charge has to be clear. The state must enforce religious uniformity or become secular. There is no third option.  One can see this principle in operation in Pakistan ever since General Zia started Islamizing in earnest.  Ahmedis were already beyond the pale, but Shias, a sect that provided the founder of Pakistan and were an integral part of Pakistan, now face the prospect of second class citizenship or worse. If you happen to believe in the Salafist project you may find this a desirable endpoint, but everyone else will want to stop this process and reverse it if possible.

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Pakistan’s Supreme Court placed the concept of national security above that of fundamental rights.

Memogate contradictions

By Kaiser Bengali

The political crisis rages on, with the Supreme Court leading the charge. The battle lines were sharpened when Asma Jahangir withdrew from the memogate case, citing lack of confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary. She was of the view that the Supreme Court placed the concept of national security above that of fundamental rights. These grave developments and Ms Jahangir’s assertions need to be addressed with all the seriousness they deserve.

The so-called memo is a spurious and worthless piece of paper, whose authorship no one is claiming, and which has been tossed in the trash can by the person for whom it was intended, ….

Read more » The Express Tribune

The myth of the ‘urban-rural’ divide

By Haider Nizamani

Shahid Javed Burki, in an article titled “The urban-rural divide”, published in the June 20 issue of this paper, has made an alarming assertion that Pakistan’s existence as a unified state will be defined by the way the urban-rural divide finally gets resolved. This shocking prognosis could have been taken seriously only if it was backed up by convincing empirical and historical evidence. What we have instead are sweeping generalisations, usage of concepts without adequately defining them, and, above all, a portrayal of the country’s past and present rid with contradictions. ….

Read more: → The Express Tribune

The Double Game

The unintended consequences of American funding in Pakistan.

by Lawrence Wright

It’s the end of the Second World War, and the United States is deciding what to do about two immense, poor, densely populated countries in Asia. America chooses one of the countries, becoming its benefactor. Over the decades, it pours billions of dollars into that country’s economy, training and equipping its military and its intelligence services. The stated goal is to create a reliable ally with strong institutions and a modern, vigorous democracy. The other country, meanwhile, is spurned because it forges alliances with America’s enemies.

The country not chosen was India, which “tilted” toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Pakistan became America’s protégé, firmly supporting its fight to contain Communism. The benefits that Pakistan accrued from this relationship were quickly apparent: in the nineteen-sixties, its economy was an exemplar. India, by contrast, was a byword for basket case. Fifty years then went by. What was the result of this social experiment?

India has become the state that we tried to create in Pakistan. It is a rising economic star, militarily powerful and democratic, and it shares American interests. Pakistan, however, is one of the most anti-American countries in the world, and a covert sponsor of terrorism. Politically and economically, it verges on being a failed state. And, despite Pakistani avowals to the contrary, America’s worst enemy, Osama bin Laden, had been hiding there for years—in strikingly comfortable circumstances—before U.S. commandos finally tracked him down and killed him, on May 2nd.

American aid is hardly the only factor that led these two countries to such disparate outcomes. But, at this pivotal moment, it would be a mistake not to examine the degree to which U.S. dollars have undermined our strategic relationship with Pakistan—and created monstrous contradictions within Pakistan itself.

American money began flowing into Pakistan in 1954, when a mutual defense agreement was signed. During the next decade, nearly two and a half billion dollars in economic assistance, and seven hundred million in military aid, went to Pakistan ….

Read more : The New Yorker

Af-Pak: a peace to end all peace —Dr Mohammad Taqi

Excerpt:

The continued aggressive posturing by the Pakistani establishment, albeit this time with a full civilian façade and on the pretext of seeking peace in Afghanistan, indicates that the already dysfunctional relationship between the US and Pakistan is literally on the rocks

“After the ‘war to end war’, they seem to have been pretty successful in Paris at making a ‘peace to end peace’” –Field Marshal Sir Archibald Wavell.

Lord Wavell, a commander of the British forces in the Middle East and later a Viceroy of India, had been commenting on the treaties bringing World War I to an end and the future shape of the post-Ottoman Middle East, but the mad dash towards ‘peace and reconciliation’ in the Pak-Afghan region over the last two weeks suggests that after a decade-long war, we too may be in for more turbulence, not tranquillity.

The very connotations of the terms truth, peace and reconciliation make it nearly impossible to say anything critical of — let alone contradicting — the process. But when the inimitable host of VOA’s Pashto service, Rahman Bunairee asked me last week to comment on President Asif Ali Zardari’s remarks in Turkey about opening up of a Taliban diplomatic office there, I found it difficult not to be cynical about the whole drama. “Since when does the president have such clout to determine Pakistan’s foreign policy, especially vis-à-vis Afghanistan,” I responded. Thinking of Wavell’s words, I added that what appears now to be a solution to a problem will likely be the mother of many larger problems to follow. President Zardari was speaking for the Pakistan Army and the so-called peace proposal — the diplomatic street address for the Taliban included — had been drafted in Rawalpindi. The civilians may have been acting it out, but the script is unmistakably Khaki. ….

…. In the Afghan memory, Pakistan, for three decades, has been part of the problem, not the solution. Each time that Pakistan has ‘sponsored peace’ there, rockets have rained on Kabul. Pakistan has miscalculated the Afghan and the US readiness to accept it as a partner in peace and the Gilani-Kayani-Pasha delegation to Kabul is being seen as a too-clever-by-half move to shoulder out the legitimate stakeholders. Unless Pakistan comes clean on the jihadist terrorists it harbours, any peace it sponsors will mean an end of all peace.

To read full article : Daily Times

CP of Pakistan’s 8th congress report

The 8th historical congress of the Communist Party of Pakistan was successfully convened and concluded from 11-13th April,2011, at Hyderabad city Sindh. The decision for holding the party’s most awaited congress,

Continue reading CP of Pakistan’s 8th congress report