In this brief note I want to argue that the organised left needs to incorporate and support the indigenous working class movement and leaders. Further that the leaders of the orgnaised left must, in large part, be drawn from the working class movements, rather than, from the bourgeois.
By the working class I mean those who sell their labour power and are not in management roles. By the bourgeois I mean those who and whose families own the means of production (factories, land, capital, NGO’s) or are in management roles where they control and supervise the extraction of labour power from others (bank managers, factory manager, NGO founders and directors).
The working class movement began the day capital and the bourgeois organised to systematically extract labour power from sections of the population. This movement is spontaneous and disparate and doesn’t always form into organisations (with leaders, offices, procedures). It takes shape every day and moves throughout history with failures and successes.
It succeeds each time the workers are able to gain a larger share of their labour power (all wealth is generated by labour power, capital is dead matter - as dead as paper). They do this by strikes, by stealing, by dubiously destroying the machines so that a few hours rest can be had and by innumerable other strategies of resistance. The working class movement also succeeds when systematic changes take place or when revolutions erupt and benefit them, such as the ones in Cuba and Venezuela. They are the first to defend such revolutions. Marx noted that the working class movement would naturally aim to universalize and communalize the ‘means of production’ – so that the class basis of exploitation could be done away with – this, indeed, would be a glorious victory of labour against capital, of the worker against tyranny.
However, the working class movement is also constantly failing. It fails each time a union leader is killed, each time more labour is extracted for less pay. It also fails, therefore, each time the ruling class find or invent (here is where entrepreneurs and NGOs help) new disciplinary techniques to displace and control the worker into selling his/her labour power for less.
The left party does not appear as soon as capital organises itself. It is less spontaneous. It is rather a conscious tool that comes about with and from mediation. It studies systematically the failings and successes of the working class movement and discerning its ultimate aim – of communalizing the means of production – enters into history with this end in mind. It has taken various forms – dictatorial, democratic, communal, vanguardist among others. It must, however, relate to the working class movement, for it is this movement that the Left aims to bring to a logical conclusion. It does so, however, with a universal organisation that transcends the particular resistances of the working class and tries to give it a national, if not, a global face.
Today, in Pakistan the Left, despite some heroic efforts, fails to have the focus or organisational structures required for championing the working class movement. There are many reasons for this that I will forgo – the reasons are external far more than they are internal. One suggestion, however, I will advance, below. Namely, that the working class needs to be better incorporated into the Left organisations and that this can only be done if the left bourgeois leadership changes its role in the left parties.
Our class positions teach us. If you are working class you have access to experiences of subjugation and resistance. The worker is first of all disciplined to despise herself. The ruling class create the myth of ‘education’ and of ‘capital’. The working class are systematically excluded from ‘education’ (education means different things in different places, in the UK it means going to Oxford or Cambridge in Pakistan it may mean being able to speak in English or even read and write in Urdu) and then told that they are uneducated and thus unable to creatively partake in the process of wealth production and thus their share of it is what it is – enough to buy a potato every other day. They can only be labour and labour, they are told, is inert! Capital and education produce wealth. Anything can be labour. It is the greatest lie ever told, and yet it is the lie without which the system cannot work. To prove the point they say,’ look at ‘Ahmad', he is educated and rich. He went to Oxford. If you had worked harder you would have gone to Oxford, got an education, set up factories – he started with one and has four now, took loans, took risks – but you, you were busy playing with marbles in the street and singing Bollywood songs! You are poor because you are uneducated, which you are because you didn’t work and you can’t get capital because you are uneducated, so keep quite now and work!’
Work! Work and let me get a bonus so that the boss’ son can get a sports car and his other son a degree from the US.
Subject to discipline, mythologies, violence, and constant management the worker becomes disciplined. She asks for less and produces ever more. But the worker also learns of the technologies of her subjugation and the worker, with store of decades and decades of resistance, resists. The working class movement passes on its pedagogy everyday – nay, every minute. Mothers tell their daughters of dangers and how to avoid them. Fathers train their sons to bow in front of the boss but to break the machine whenever need be. Older workers advice newly inducted slaves. Leaders emerge. Songs are sung that immortalize their deeds. Riddles with traces of pedagogical advice are laced around from lip to lip, generation to generation. The movement, constant and global, is a vast network of knowledges. The bourgeois know this and they try and penetrate it and corrupt it. NGO’s, gambling and drugs (Sufi shrines playing an apt role) are some of the current methods employed by the bourgeois to corrupt. But, it still remains a university and for the pedagogy of the working classes is far superior to Oxford.
The left organisation then ignores the Oxford of the working classes and its graduates at its peril. And in peril they are. If a left party is serious in its desire of advancing the working class movement and moving society to the communalization of the means of production then it must capture those leaders that the working class movement constantly throws up. They are graduates whose experience would only benefit the left organisation. Further, they hold the pedagogical tools – they speak as workers to workers – that would allow the left organisation to communicate with the working classes.
At present, the bourgeois elements in the left party think that only the universalized laws of left praxis hold any lessons. That the particular experiences of a working class leader in a small factory are ok but, ‘what does she know of Lenin? Of Marx?’.They must read this upon entering the party. And so the working class leader sits down in study circles – led by university professors with soft moisturized hands – and over two hours ‘learns’ about Chavez or Malcolm X. Yet, it never occurs to those present that they ought to learn from the one person in the room who daily lives and resists. The left party, setting itself up with a value system which prices ‘knowing’ Lenin and Chavez and the hours put in working for the left party as criteria of advancement in the party leaves the working class member with little scoop to her potential. She can’t write in English column press and she doesn’t have knowledge of what ‘sati’ laws the British enacted and she can’t really work around the clock for the left as she has children to feed and a job – still – to go to. Soon, she does what too many working class people do in left parties and starts making tea for its leaders. Soon, also, the working class leader then, of course, does what she knows well, to leave her oppressors alone. Hence, the dreads of working class people who are disillusioned with the Pakistani Left and have left it alone.
The left party, I want to suggest, should rather orient itself to picking its leaders from among the working classes - if not exclusively at least on the whole. To finding and training the spontaneous rebels – rebellion, however, is never spontaneous it comes from the Oxford of the working classes as mentioned. The bourgeois among the left should support their working class leaders to enable them to also perform – to sing, to write, to talk, to travel, to lead. They, if they are bourgeois, after all, have capital to do all this but seldom do they support the working class members in achieving the same. The bourgeois members should acknowledge that their 'activity' comes from their class position and is not a 'human scarify'.
The work of liberation is rewarding and by far the most humane work we can do (if we can afford it!). The working class leaders, and many will fail and many will betray the movement (but then don’t the bourgeois leaders do this anyone!), have not only knowledge of what it means to be ‘working class’ but also know how to communicate with the working class. The bourgeois members offer capital and universalized theory and knowledge’s (gathered because of their class privilege – and, therefore, the exploitation of workers, those same workers they want to liberate!?) - but by no means a blue-print for the revolution.
If the working class leaders feel comfortable in the Pakistani Left then and only then will the working class feel safe to enter with the left organised party and intermix its destiny with it.
The enabling of the working class as leaders is the crucial task of all of us who want to see the working class movement reach its logical conclusion in Pakistan.