Wednesday June 29, 2022

Rhetoric and reality

August 31, 2017

The political situation in Pakistan has been tense since the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif. During his GT Road rally, Sharif asked the people: “The two hundred million people of this country are the real owners of this country. A few cannot over rule them. Did you not send Nawaz to Islamabad after making him prime minister?” he asked. “But he was thrown out by someone else. Is this decision acceptable to you?”. To the crowd’s “NO!”, he asked,  “Shouldn’t there be a revolution?” “Will you stand by Nawaz Sharif in the revolution?”, he asked, inviting cheers of “Yes!”

In the last four years that Nawaz Sharif has been in office, his policies failed to serve the wider interests of the working class, peasants and the poor in Pakistan. In fact, most economic policies have instead led to a deterioration of the living conditions of the Pakistani masses. This is why wider sections of the Pakistani masses do not have any trust in any of the establishment parties or the political elite.

Nawaz Sharif however still enjoys support among his party members and some workers who remember well the difficult life under military dictatorships and want to defend civilian rule. Sharif has also been reminding the public of this. But then again, Nawaz Sharif also came to prominence as part of the General Ziaul Haq-led dictatorship in the 1980s. Later he also led the right-wing Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (Islamic Democratic Alliance) to topple Benazir Bhutto’s government.

Yes, we need a revolution. But what type of revolution is Nawaz Sharif calling for? This is not the first time that the ruling elite has used terms like ‘revolution’. Before Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri and PPP leaders have also used such demagogic rhetoric. But, of course, all of them failed to explain what kind of revolution they are aiming to achieve. All of them benefit from the exploitive economic system and are not revolutionaries by any stretch of the imagination. They invoke the idea of revolution to cling on to power by raising the hopes of the masses.

Revolution is not just a word; it is meant to change the entire prevailing system. Social revolution means changing the economic relations of society. The ruling class’ politics is only about protecting their economic interests. They introduce legislation to protect private property and to make exploitation legal. Lenin, in ‘The State and Revolution’, pointed out that “the exploiting classes need political rule to maintain exploitation, ie in the selfish interests of an insignificant minority against the vast majority of all people. The exploited classes need political rule in order to completely abolish all exploitation, i., in the interests of the vast majority of the people, and against the insignificant minority consisting of the modern slave-owners – the landowners and capitalists.”

The rhetoric of ‘revolution’ that ruling class parties and their leaderships use is for specific purposes. Mostly they use such rhetoric in periods of economic uncertainty to channel the anger of the oppressed classes that are bearing the burden of the economic crisis due to policies of the ruling class. The ruling class’ talk of revolution is limited to political infrastructure and they want change only to maintain their grip on power.

Nawaz Sharif has also talked about ‘civilian supremacy’ in his public rallies, saying that no prime minister of Pakistan has completed their term in office. It is true that, in the 70 years since independence, Pakistan has been under military rule for almost half the time. On the other hand, the Pakistani people have an inspiring record of resisting martial rule, as in the 1968-69 uprising against Ayub Khan’s military regime, the 1983 MRD struggle against the dictatorship of Gen Ziaul Haq, and the 2007 struggle against Gen Pervez Musharraf’s regime.

During these periods, a section of the political elite either collaborated with the regimes or remained silent. Those from the elite who were expelled or were in opposition paid mere lip service to change and did not directly challenge the military. They waited for their opportunity to return to office to take the crown for themselves.

The unfortunate fact is that ‘civilians’ do not have a real say in economic or political decisions. Just the right to vote is not a solution for the people. They are inherently having to choose between ‘the devil and the deep blue sea’, as the old saying goes. The elite, which control politics on behalf of the capitalist system, make economic decisions on their own behalf. In the ultimately analysis, politics is ‘concentrated economics’. So the question of ‘civilian supremacy’ is linked to the economy of the country, and which forces control and own the economy.


The writer is a freelance contributor.