Building the Labour Party Pakistan
By Farooq Tariq
January 21, 2010 -- The political perspectives of the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) have been put to the test several times in a rapidly changing political situation. From day one we opposed General Musharraf's military dictatorship. We oppose both US imperialism and religious fanaticism, while some feel they must support one side or the other.
Almost all of the present LPP leadership, including women leaders, were jailed under the Musharraf regime for demanding democratic rights or taking part in the struggle for workers’ and peasants’ rights. The LLP has worked to maintain its political space and refused to be driven underground.
Unlike the traditional left parties, who set up organisations controlled by the party, since its inception the LPP has put special emphasis on helping to develop independent social, labour and peasant organisations and other social movements. For example, there is no trade union wing of LPP. Instead we support the development of the National Trade Union Federation, formed in 1998, and also aided the Pakistan Workers Confederation from its beginning in 1994.
Likewise the LPP has no peasant wing. It helped a peasant movement, Anjaman Mozareen Punjab at Military Farms, and in 2003 facilitated bringing together more than 22 peasant organisations. This Pakistan Peasant Coordination Committee united under a common platform.
In 2000, the LPP helped to develop the Women Workers' Help Line. As an independent women’s organisation, the WWHL has become the first organisation that many working-class women join.
The LPP also helped develop a youth organisation, the Progressive Youth Front, in 2003. It is making steady inroads among the youth. The LPP devoted energy to help the National Student Federation form in 2000. We continue to help this traditional left-wing group develop into a major student organisation.
The LPP strategy of working with the social movements has been one of its distinctive characteristics. During a discussion in 1992 among the Struggle Group, a predecessor of the LPP, the decision was made to help social movements develop, even to the point of starting and nurturing social organisations. We opened schools for working children and with the help of the Sweden's teachers' union, we expanded this network. Other Swedish trade unions and progressive organisations helped us start several projects. These ranged from organising new trade unions to establishing a trade union resource centre, making a video documentary on trade unions, as well as campaigns for peace and democracy. This work was coordinated by the Education Foundation, which today has become the Labour Education Foundation. Since 2000 the LEF has established itself as an independent organisation and has played a vital role in developinging the trade union movement in Pakistan.
Back in 1992 the Struggle Group joined Joint Action Committee For Peoples Rights Lahore (JAC) at its founding and that relationship continued when the LPP was formed. Although the LLP was criticised by many on the left in the mid-1990s as an “NGO party”, the LPP chose not to respond directly, with the expectation that our work in practice would be the best answer.
The LLP strategy of building networks and alliances includes left unity in Pakistan. We were part of the Awami Itehad in 1997 and, later, the Awami Jahoori Tehreek (2006). Today we are part of a coordination committee for progressive parties.
LPP supporters have worked to develop several other networks with other left groups and social movements. These have included the Anti-War Committee Pakistan (1991) and the Anti-Privatisation Alliance (2005). Since 1996 we have held the Faiz Ahmad Faiz Amn Mela annually. Faiz Ahmad Faiz, the revolutionary poet, had inspired millions in the Indian subcontinent and worldwide, and was one of the most respected poets of the Urdu language. He devoted his life to strengthening the left and the peace movement.
We believe it is important to learn to work together in a country where there are many who actively oppose a socialist perspective and some who refuse to even listen. It is important to be, at the same time, very firm in one’s ideology and very flexible tactically. This means we express our opinions, even when disagreeing with others, but work to maintain cordial relationships.
Magnifying our voice
Within 24 hours of launching the Labour Party Pakistan on Facebook, we received responses from more than 300 friends. Launched on January 19, 2010, our LPP Facebook page has more friends joining every day. The LPP has also build a Yahoo email group called Socialist Pakistan News, known as SPN. With more than 5400 members, it is the largest of any Pakistan political email group. Launched in 2004, it has become a source of information, views and debates among the progressive forces not only in Pakistan but internationally.
While in 2002 the LPP's website (www.laborpakistan.org) was the most-read political website in Pakistan, it could not maintain the momentum. However it still has a solid readership and is a good source of information about trade unions, the peasant movement and progressive views.
Since 1997 LPP supporters have regularly printed a weekly magazine, Mazdoor Jeddojuhd, (www.jeddojuhd.com). For the previous 17 years it appeared as a monthly. The weekly has a small subscription-based print edition within Pakistan and is widely read in an on-line edition within Pakistan and across the globe.
International solidarity essential
The LPP is very keen to participate in international and regional movements and alliances. It has been part of the anti-globalisation movement and has helped to organise some of the largest anti-imperialist demonstrations and rallies from a progressive point of view in Pakistan. Our supporters have participated in all the World Social Forums since 2004, when WSF Mumbai was held. This work included the Pakistan Social Forum, and led the way, in 2006, for the World Social Forum Karachi.
During its initial year of existence, the LPP was part of an international called the Committee for Workers International (CWI), but left within the year. Since then it has established close links with several international trends, groups and movements including the Democratic Socialist Perspective [now Socialist Alliance] in Australia, the Scottish Socialist Party, the Fourth International (FI), as well as both the LIT and UIT in Latin America. With others who have left the CWI, the LLP formed a Socialist Discussion group.
We have also established close links with Swedish trade unions and lately with the Social Democratic Party, Sweden, Goteburg and Kalmar districts. The LPP became a permanent observer of the Fourth International in 2004.
Preparations for LPP fifth congress
The LPP has a proud record of democratic internal life. We have held all our congresses in a timely manner. The fifth congress will take place January 27-29, 2010. For the first time the LPP will conclude the congress with a mass rally. Two labour and peasant movements have joined together to organise this event; we anticipate an attendance of 30,000. If that happens, it will be the largest gathering of left forces in Punjab within recent times.
On January 29, an international workers peasant’s conference is planned at the famous Dhobi Ghat Ground, Faisalabad. These events are taking place at a time when the parties of the rich have abandoned the working people of Pakistan. They have been left at the mercy of the sheer exploitation of the so-called free market and imperialist aggression. Prices are going up and there are no wage increases.
The religious and right-wing parties are giving full political support to all violent actions of the religious fanatics in the name of fighting “imperialism”. The daily drone attacks by the US are giving some political justification to the fanatics to carry on. The space for progressive politics has been saturated by the conflict of right-wing parties of the rich and religious fundamentalism.
The LPP congress and the convening of the mass conference of workers and peasants is an effort to snatch back the lost space.
The conference on January 27 is being organised jointly by the Labour Qaumi Movement and Anjaman Mozareen Punjab, the two most militant and mass organisations of the workers and peasants. There is no parallel to the struggle of these two movements in different districts of Punjab.
The main leaders of different left and social organisations and movements are speaking at the conference. One of the main highlights of the conference will be mass participation of working-class women. Workers and peasants are bringing their families to the event.
The main aim of the three-day event is to build a progressive space in Pakistan politics. It is a new beginning. This is our answer to the rise of religious fundamentalism. Mass mobilisations of the working class will strengthen their voice and empower them to challenge for their rights.
We all are making financial contribution to these events. Day and night is being spent by many to build the event. However, we are in desperate need of raising at least 500,000 rupees (US$6000) during the next week.
We have no rich backers. We need your support now. We could have raised this amount earlier. However, the children and the families of four comrades who died on December 13, 2009, in a road accident became a priority of ours. We have raised nearly 1 million rupees and an appeal to raise 3 million is still on its way. This is an emergency call to all our friends and supporters to help us. We hope to raise this amount within the week.
If you live in Pakistan, please send your donation to:
- Labour Party Pakistan, Account number 2679-3, MCB Bank, Beadon Road Branch 0949, Lahore
If you are from outside Pakistan, donate to:
- Account Title: Labour Education Foundation; Account Number: 01801876; Swift: ALFHPKKALDA; Bank: BANK ALFALAH LTD., LDA PLAZA Branch, KASHMIR ROAD, LAHORE, PAKISTAN