On 11 and 12 March, the Pakistani section of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), Lal Salaam, held its 6th Congress at the Aiwan-E-Iqbal Center in Lahore. Despite the multitude of logistical issues that arose from organising a national meeting amidst crumbling infrastructure and rampant, arbitrary corruption, this landmark Congress was a resounding success.
For months, the national leadership of Lal Salaam made painstaking preparations for the event, while comrades from all corners of the country made enormous sacrifices to attend as delegates. Pakistan is currently suffering through a perfect storm of crises: a roiling economic crisis, flooding and other extreme weather events driven by climate change, and the serious symptoms of social and political degeneration. Combined, they make simply living day to day, to say nothing of planning a national event, unimaginably difficult for many.
In many cases, comrades made a gruelling 20-40 hour trek, just to come one way. Despite these obstacles, comrades were prepared to attend by whatever means necessary, inspired to participate in these discussions that are pivotal for the development of Lal Salaam’s work.
In one case, a comrade had to save three months’ wages just to pay his way to the Congress. This is, in large part, due to the fact that the dollar has risen by 150 percent against the Pakistani rupee in the last few years due to the collapse of Pakistan’s economy and the fallout from IMF-guided policies. Enormous financial strain was a fundamental issue in planning the event from the beginning. Not only did this not stop the Congress from going ahead, but comrades were able to completely cover the costs of the event through financial appeals.
To the corrupt politicians, NGOs, and disoriented groups on the so-called ‘Left’, this level of commitment is utterly perplexing. They cannot understand or imagine how we are able to fund our activities entirely through the support of our own membership, inspired only by Marxist ideas and a firm faith in the historical destiny of the working masses.
A total of 270 comrades attended from across Pakistan, including 25 women – a big achievement in a country where women face severe restrictions. Among the many workers, 25 hydroelectric workers, members of Pakistan’s largest union, WAPDA, were in attendance. There were attendees from every major centre including, among others, Lahore, Karachi, Baluchistan, Sindh interior, Kashmir, Peshawar, Multan, and Gilgit to the far Northeast near the Pakistan-China border. The Congress also warmly received comrades from Waziristan, home region of the Taliban, where the people have lived under the threat of insurgency and terrorism for 20 years. An international delegation of comrades from the United States, Canada, Britain and Switzerland were present. All of these courageous class fighters from across Pakistan and beyond came together for the sake of a single unified goal: the world socialist revolution.
Starting our first day with great enthusiasm, the Congress received revolutionary greetings from the International centre, delivered by comrade Alan Woods via video link. Though not physically at the Congress, Alan imparted the immense pride of every member of the International for the work of Lal Salaam, and the great interest in its activities, which are a source of revolutionary inspiration around the world.
The first session was kicked off with a discussion on World Perspectives, led off by Hamid Alizadeh of the International leadership of the IMT. Hamid explained how Marxists, standing upon a mountain of analysis, evidence, and sober perspectives, are the only ones who can adequately explain the impasse of the world capitalist system, which faces an extremely serious economic and social crisis of historic proportions.
The massive injection of public money in virtually every country in the world was a knee-jerk, but practically inevitable response to the 2020 crisis. Now, facing soaring inflation, governments are scrambling to contain the runaway threat of rising prices. In and of itself, inflation is like a tax upon the working class for the privilege of existing in a world dominated by the chaos of capitalist markets. Blaming everything but the system itself, capitalists are turning to a tightening of fiscal policy, a new wave of protectionism, and austerity to make the working class pay doubly for the crisis the ruling class has created.
On top of this, inflamed geopolitical tensions and armed conflict are adding further instability to a world capitalist system that is already tobogganing to disaster. The situation is pregnant with possibilities for the rapid development of revolutionary and pre-revolutionary situations. Discussion followed with excellent questions being taken up from the crowd. Hamid summed up, noting that history teaches that for a revolution to be successful, a revolutionary leadership must be prepared beforehand. This is precisely the goal of the IMT in the next period.
The second session of the day discussed Pakistan Perspectives, and was led off by comrade Adam Pal. Pakistani society is in a general state of decay. The fabric of society is breaking down as the economic crisis turns daily life into a desperate struggle across the country. Throughout this process, the working class has been largely relegated to the position of observer, battening down the hatches under a continuous onslaught of hardships with no immediate alternative present. The flooding of the country by monsoons in 2022 led to the deaths of thousands, the displacement of millions, and a cost running into the trillions in damages.
In the face of this crisis, the ruling class and its various wings are utterly useless and are divided against each other, fighting like wild dogs in the street, using blackmail, assassinations, mutual slanders and endless manoeuvres. Meanwhile, inflation is now certainly above the official figures of 31 percent, and is likely to be well above 40 percent. In these conditions, the working class can only rely on itself. Everywhere, there is a mood of disgust and resignation. As this gives way to radicalisation and, eventually, renewed movements of the poor and oppressed, the comrades of Lal Salaam are building their forces with urgency to meet the coming explosive revolutionary developments.
The session ended with a great discussion and more questions taken from those in attendance. Summing up, Adam noted that, according to all of the presumably ‘Left’ commentators and ‘theorists’, the only possibilities for Pakistani society are all variations on the same bleak prospect: the utter collapse of society and descent into some form of barbarism. They never talk about revolution by the masses! Only the IMT speaks about this. The task facing us is to lay the basis for an organisation with the size that would allow us to be heard by the masses once they begin to move.
Day two of the Congress began with a discussion on the launch of a new edition of a modern classic, Bolshevism: The Road to Revolution, newly translated into Urdu. The discussion was led off by the comrade who handled the translation, Yasir Irshad, who explained that the Russian Revolution is, from a Marxist point of view, the most important event in human history. It stands as the only historical example of the working class taking power from the exploiters, keeping it, and beginning the work of constructing a socialist society. The production of this book in the common language of Pakistan – a country struggling against capitalist and pre-capitalist forms of exploitation, national oppression, and autocratic elements in power – holds enormous significance for the training of a new generation of Marxists.
The next session, the organisational report, was led by comrade Aftab Ashraf from Lahore. In his rundown of the organisation’s achievements, Aftab described the unparalleled level of activity and theoretical output of Lal Salaam. The discussion highlighted the critical importance of strong local branches across the country capable of drawing in the flood of contacts that continuously come towards us. Workers and youth have a burning interest in revolutionary ideas, and the comrades of Lal Salaam have plans for ongoing campaigns to fuse revolutionary demands with the day-to-day struggles of the masses and the privations they suffer.
Our final session was a report on the work and development of the International as a whole. Michael Wepf for Switzerland, Jake Thorp for the United States and Ana Azam for Canada inspired comrades with reports on their respective countries.
The final report was given by Hamid Alizadeh, detailing the growing influence and size of the IMT around the world. He explained that everywhere, among the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeois parties, there is nothing but the blackest pessimism. Across broad layers of the Left, demoralisation reigns. The IMT, in Pakistan and beyond, is the only force on Earth possessing consistently revolutionary theory, and that is boldly moving forward with determination and a smile on our faces. This is because we are imbued with revolutionary optimism, and are attracting a layer of workers and youth who recognise in Marxism the only hope for a humane, rational future for society.
Rosa Luxembourg summarised the options standing before humanity as follows: socialism, or barbarism. Due to the belated nature of the socialist revolution, elements of barbarism are already present in many places on Earth. The gathering of Marxists from around the world and across Pakistan shows the solidarity and political unanimity of IMT comrades against a group of the most degenerate and backwards capitalist rulers on the planet. The socialist revolution will topple the forces of reaction across all of Pakistan, South Asia, and the world. On the ashes of their system, a better world will be built!