Left fortunes

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif raised a very important question while addressing the International Literary and Cultural Conference in Lahore the other day. He pointed out that inequitable and unjust distribution of resources has brought Pakistan to the present pass. Questioning the silence of the intellectuals who had vowed to bring a revolution in the 1970s, he asked the audience, “Where have those left-wing revolutionaries gone?” This is a very valid question and one that we must reflect over.

The world today is in the clutches of strong imperialist forces, the US being the ringleader. When the entire world was hit hard by the recent global recession, everyone started to question the viability of capitalism. It has exposed its limitations as well as its cruel nature, which had been predicted by revolutionary thinkers centuries ago. In the words of Karl Marx, “Apr├Ęs moi le deluge (After me, the deluge) is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation.” Experts are now looking for an alternative system. It is obvious that socialism is the system they are looking for but due to the anti-communist sentiment almost all over the world and with Moscow and Beijing themselves turning towards the capitalist path, this answer is not as obvious as it should have been. There is no denying the fact that in this day and age it is not easy to adopt a socialist economy, but it should be something the world should think about. Socialism has its own weaknesses, which is why it is imperative that the leftists revisit their legacy and re-examine where they failed and how. Only after some critical introspection would they be able to present an alternative to the globalised capitalist world. Capitalism has its inherent tendencies towards creating crises, raised afresh by every generation. We do not need to plague our future generations with a system that sucks the blood out of the working class and only caters to a select few. It would only lead to further chaos and more Great Depressions cannot be ruled out.

In the case of Pakistan, the situation is even more worrisome. Today we are being haunted by the ghosts of our past, namely the Afghan jihad in the 1980s. Religious extremism is chipping away at our social fabric. Soon after partition, the feudals and the ruling elite tried to strangulate the leftists. Despite many hurdles, the progressive and leftist forces remained steadfast and greatly contributed to our culture and literature. Unfortunately, because of the demonisation of communists, the Left movement in Pakistan died a slow but painful death. The new generation has no idea about socialism and the contribution of the Left. The fault partly lies with the old leftists who failed to leave any accounts of why their movement actually failed. Ironically, the Left in Pakistan collapsed 10 years before the worldwide collapse of socialism. To revive this movement entails a lot of soul-searching for the Old Left in Pakistan. We are not living in the 1960s or the 70s anymore when the Cold War era divided the globe. Pakistan’s tragedy is that we have a preponderance of centrist political parties or right-wing parties. To balance the political system, there is a strong need now for the revival of the Left. It is the only way to confront the religious bigots, bring a semblance of normalcy in our society, and revisit the political, economic and social paradigm of the Left for solutions different from a perennially crisis-ridden capitalist system.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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