24 Aug A History of the Left in Pakistan – 1
By Ahmed Kamran
Subtitle: What Went Wrong with Pakistan’s Communists?
[With this post we begin serializing a book under preparation by Ahmed Kamran on the history of the Left movement in Pakistan. This post includes the Table of Contents and the Prologue.]
Part – I
Chapter 1: Roots of Revolution
Chapter 2: Communist Party of India – Its Genesis (1920 – 1932)
Chapter 3: Rise and Fall of Indian Communism (1933 – 1951)
Chapter 4: Road to Pakistan
Part – II
Chapter 5: A Himalayan Blunder
Chapter 6: The Great Divide
Chapter 7: A Last Minute Freeze
Chapter 8: The Great Slide into Oblivion
Part – III
Chapter 9: Has Marxism any Future in Pakistan?
Chapter 10: Conclusions
How many of today’s youth in Pakistan know that there had been a communist party in the country? Sadly, very few. Only those who had been, or still are, in some way connected with a fast receding generation of radical political activists of 1960s through 1970s know a little about it. Even less seem to have a fair idea of what the Communist Party of Pakistan was, how it was founded, or what had been its history?
One may have some idea of the strikingly low level of awareness of this subject among younger generation of this country by having a look at the following transcription of a ‘chat’ recorded in March 2012 on a blog in Pakistan. It is only a sample of some discussions on the subject that occasionally take place among the youth today. The text of this web conversation is not edited by this writer and is reproduced exactly as it appeared on the chatting site. The participants in the discussion mostly used aliases, as is usual in such ‘chat room’ conversations.
The conversation started with a post with subject ‘communist party of Pakistan’ and the conversation went like this…
1st post: “I was skimming at the list of political parties of Pakistan in Wikipedia and interestingly found something called ‘Communist Party of Pakistan’. I would be obliged if anyone could post any information about them. All I know here is that this party is pretty old. It was formed in 1948 by Sajjad Zaheer and by Manabendra Nath Roy. I think they should be given the chance to speak.”
2nd post: “Communism is the most modern and virulent form of Western Imperialism and must not be promoted but opposed.”
3rd post: “The CPP seems to have been confined to one rental studio ever since Hassan Nasir was taken out by our own US clients early in the nation’s history.”
4th post: “Every country has a communist party. Even USA has a communist party of its own. If you go to Facebook, you will find that it is the India’s communist party which has the most likes, not China’s or Russia’s.”
5th post “I heard a lecture of one of the Communist party leader and i was not impressed at all. He was more like a Mummy Daddy guy rather than some die hard communist. This party is more like a party of rich kids who know nothing about life as a poor but joined CPP as a fashion. If u guys know that group called Laal well I think lead singer is the secretary general and other ppl in the band are I think other official of that party.”
6th post: “Hassan Nisar??? Was he in CPP earlier??? Sorry I didn’t get your message, could you pls elaborate further?”
7th post: “I think that Faiz Ahmed Faiz was also a supporter of this stuff.”
8th post: “Faiz and his gang was a different lot. They were socialist rather that hard core communists.”
9th post: “I used to be in the CPP…and served as Comrade J … Awesome time Period i spent there … Cool and Nice People J”
10th post: “O yeah! Well said J”
11th post: “Ever heard of the band Laal. They are communists as well. They have something to do with this Party as well.”
12th post: “Respect to all with a ‘Nazaria’[Ideology].”
13th post: “communist party is almost extinct”.
14th post: “Except the communist parties in US can’t run for election, in India the communist party is almost gone. I thought Communist parties were banned in Pakistan.”1
And thereafter the conversation seemed to lose its charm for the participants as nobody picked up the discussion thread any further. The syntax and the idiom of writing of the participants indicate that they belong to the middle class urban youth of today’s Pakistan. This highly instructive conversation tell us two things: one, how pitifully ignorant is a large section of our youthful generation about our political legacy and social history, and two, in spite of, or, perhaps, due to complete absence of relevant writings available on contemporary political and social discourse, there is still a keen desire and a healthy curiosity among youth to know about history.
The communist movement in Pakistan has a long history. Why is it that it left such a short-lived impact on the collective consciousness of our youth? What went wrong?