Progressive politics: ‘Left can reclaim lost political space’

Speakers say youngsters should engage in politics, public interactions.

Express August 16, 2011


Progressive political parties need to unite on one platform to reclaim space from right-wing and conservative parties, said speakers at a seminar on “history of left-wing parties in Pakistan: past and present” on Tuesday.

The seminar was organised by Workers Party Pakistan to commemorate the death anniversary of CLR Aslam.

The speakers said that the working class, professionals, unemployed people and students had been alienated by most mainstream political parties whose interests were tied to landlords, industrialists and civil-military bureaucracy.

Professor Aasim Sajjad Akhtar said in order to play a role in the country’s future the left-wing parties needed to go back to the people and raise their voice for their problems. He said most people who called themselves progressives had become distanced from the ‘common man’.

Prof Akhtar said policies favoured by the mainstream political parties represented the interests of land owners, industrialists and clerics. He added that the majority of the country’s population, however, consisted of working class professionals and students.

Prof Akhtar said a new left-wing could emerge only if young people were persuaded to join and change the politics of the country. These youngsters formed the majority of the country’s population and yet they shied away from politics, he said.

He added that these youngsters were well read and formed the majority of visitors on online newspaper, magazines and social media websites but viewed politics as corrupt and morally bankrupt. He said left-wing parties could engage with these youngsters at the social media websites.

Abid Hasan Minto, the Workers Party Pakistan president, said the decline of left-wing parties should be seen in light of the imbalance of power between the country’s democratic and undemocratic institutions. He said the latter had dominated the politics and prevented political parties from seeking legitimacy.

Minto said the Pakistan Peoples Party also shared the blame for political irrelevance of the left-wing. “It has been using populist slogans to get into power but has not shown willingness to set into motion structural changes in the economy and society to promote the welfare of people,” he said.

Minto pointed out the differences among left-wing politicians and said if there were no differences then why was there a need to form separate parties.

Earlier, Professor Qais Aslam, late CLR Aslam’s son, emphasised the importance of community. He said rising prices of daily-use items and unemployment would make survival difficult for working-class people in the coming days unless they developed a sense of community and cared for one another’s needs.

Other speakers at the seminar pointed out the division of left-wing parties in pro-Soviet and pro-China camps as one of the major hurdles in the formation of a single left-wing political party in the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2011.