Friday, January 15, 2021

Pakistani Punch-Up (1972)

From the January 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

The violence which is an integral element of world capitalism has erupted yet again. In the Indian subcontinent the inevitable armed conflict between the two enemies has not been prevented by the United Nations, the international peace-keeping body.

Once again we see how capitalism cannot develop an effective means of preventing violence, whether on a local or international level. Only Utopians could expect the League of Nations, the United Nations, the Warsaw Pact or the Commonwealth to work wonders. Violence is a necessary part of capitalism.

To get down to cases: Just now we described the Indo-Pakistan armed conflict as “inevitable”. There are several reasons for this — some complex, some simple, some ancient and others more immediate.

Most people point to the partitioning of India at the time of Independence — nearly 25 years ago — as a significant point in history. The demand of the Muslims for their own state resulted in India losing five Muslim-majority areas to Pakistan. These areas were: North-West Frontier Province, Sind, Baluchistan and half of the Punjab in the west, and in the east the Eastern half of Bengal. The new state of Pakistan was thus a split personality: its capital, its business and military centres were developed in the West wing while the East wing, more populous and economically more promising, was treated as a colony.

During the sixties, under Ayub Khan’s corrupt dictatorship, Bengali demands for autonomy grew more emphatic, backed by civil and industrial unrest. Ayub’s successor, Yahya Khan, tried to placate these forces but finally, last March, resorted to military methods.

We may ask: why was he so determined to retain East Pakistan at such appalling cost? The reason is the usual sordid one of capitalist economics. East Pakistan had a profitable export trade, mainly in jute and tea, and the West wing needed foreign currency badly, both for maintenance of the Army and for development of new industries; and besides East Pakistan provided a captive market for West Pakistan’s growing industry.

That is what Pakistan stands to lose by this war. Against this loss, Yahya Khan would be fairly happy if he could grab Kashmir. This beautiful and fairly prosperous state, bordering West Pakistan, is a Muslim- majority area but was ceded to India by its Hindu ruler and has ever since been a bone of contention.

As for India, Mrs. Gandhi has her own reasons for war: if one counts the refugees, she has more than ten million reasons. Since Partition, India is naturally in a competitive position as against Pakistan. To take only two examples: their textile exports compete for foreign markets and so do their jute exports. At the time of Partition, West Bengal had more than 100 jute mills, which were separated at a stroke from the better jute producing areas of East Bengal. The mills had to be run down, as the small West Bengal crop of low-grade jute could not keep them going profitably.

For this reason — and others not connected with Partition — West Bengal is now in serious economic trouble. There is an extremely high rate of unemployment, and political and industrial unrest have led to indiscriminate murders and terrorism, with gangs of goondas roaming the city slums and terrorising the villages (If all this does not fit your stereotype of peaceable, poetic Bengali people, just remember that two Bengali words we all know are "thug” and “cosh”, and that in 1947 the bloodbath of Partition was worst in the Punjab and Bengal.)

Mrs. Gandhi has every reason to swim with the tide of Bengali nationalism and, posing as an altruistic benefactor, rescue Bangla Desh from the tyranny of the Pak Army. In doing so she will divert attention from her domestic difficulties and outflank the left wing parties. The majority party of West Bengal supports Moscow, so it will have to endorse her action. She may also have her eye on East Bengal’s potential as a cheap food-growing area, as a captive market for Indian manufactures and as a help in restoring West Bengali jute mills.

Finally we see a cynical line-up of angels backing this war — a war which is bringing starvation, disease and destitution to tens of millions of helpless men, women and children; which destroys the crops, the homes and the land they depend on; which has already pauperised 10 million refugees and is daily killing scores of others.

This war is hacked by so-called Communists in the Kremlin, supporting the same Mrs. Gandhi who refuses to allow their comrade Jyoti Basu to hold office in West Bengal. In backing India, the Russians are opposing, not only “imperialist” America, not only the corrupt, religion-based authoritarian regime of Pakistan, but also their own comrades in Peking. What an Unholy Alliance is this new Holy Trinity: Pakistan, America — and Peking! And what a piece of blatant humbug is Russia’s support for India and the “right of self-determination” for Bangla Desh!

None of these principalities and powers, these international Al Capones, has any concern for ordinary people. Famine, cholera, typhus and acres of refugee camps are a price they are only too happy to see others pay, as they fight it out, by proxy, in the plains of Bengal and the Punjab or the mountains of Kashmir.

This war, like other capitalist adventures, is one from which the working class can hope for no gain and which they should denounce from all angles. War, after all, is only the method by which the capitalist class redistributes its loot. When wealth is socially owned, this will be seen as the strangest and most self-destructive exercise possible.
Charmian Skelton

Background to the conflict (1972)

From the January 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

From the very beginning of recorded history, Bengal has passed through turmoil. It has hardly known any peace in its long history. With the advent of Aryan civilisation most of the Indian sub-continent became comparatively peaceful, except Bengal, which was still infected with various groups of outlaws. It was not until 1203 that Bengal came in contact with Islamic culture. Towards the end of the Sena rule in Gauda, the Khalji chief Muhammed bin Bakhtyar invaded Laksmana Sena’s kingdom and by 1206 Khalji’s armies had brought a vast part of it under their control. Successive Afghan, Pathan and Mogul rulers eventually brought most of Bengal under their control.

By the later part of the 17th century the Portuguese established themselves in India. They indulged in a reign of terror on the coastal cities and towns of the Bay of Bengal and Ganges delta. Their main occupation was piracy and slave trade. They ravaged innumerable coastal cities, towns and villages and captured young men and women for their slave trade. Some of the slave traders even experimented with cross-breeding with various groups to produce able-bodied slaves. The then Mogul Emperor made some feeble attempt to stop this outrage in Bengal, but it was all in vain. The slave trade flourished until the later part of the 18th century. From the beginning of the 18th century, Dutch, French and English traders arrived in Bengal in search of fortune. They all plundered the land without any compassion for the native populace. The merciless acts of British indigo cultivators towards the natives of Bengal are well known. They all came with Bible in one hand and a sword in the other.

The British left India, in August, 1947, divided on the basis of religion. The present conflict is a continuation of the one which began with that division. Any serious student of politics could have visualised then that a divided India would never live in peace. A united two-part Pakistan was doomed geographically from the very beginning. When the novelty of independence died down, the East Bengalis realised that they had dislodged British rulers, only to replace them with West Pakistan rulers. Soon they found that their civil service, commerce and landed properties had been taken over by the West Pakistanis who became their new oppressors. Although East Pakistan produced more than half the national revenue the people of East Pakistan starved and suffered from other discomforts like unemployment, bad housing, lack of transport. The intellectual elites of East Pakistan resented West Pakistani rule from the very beginning. Fazlul Haq and Maulana Vasani formed their separate political parties as far back in 1948/49. The present leader of the Awami League, Sheikh Majibur Rahman was then a right hand-man of Fazlul Haq. As the years went by these two parties gathered momentum and brought the great majority of East Bengalis into their fold. The West Pakistani rulers never paid any heed to their grievances.

When Sheikh Majibur Rahman organised several demonstrations in protest in East Pakistan in 1969, the then ruler Ayub Khan, put the Sheikh in prison for a long period without trial and eventually when he was tried he was found not guilty of any crime. Soon after this trial Ayub Khan was thrown out by Yahya Khan who formed a military government after giving the pledge that he would soon bring the country to democratic rule. Accordingly a general election was held in December, 1970 and Sheikh Majibur Rahman and his party captured most of the seats. The East Bengalis were jubilant with the result. They thought that they were going to be their own masters, but they failed to take account of the West Pakistani reaction towards the election result. How could anyone think that the West Pakistan rulers would submit to a Bengali governing party? The first barrage of shells were fired by Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto. He refused to have anything to do with the Sheikh and termed him as a traitor to Pakistan. Yahya Khan from the very beginning, on the advice of his army generals and other West Pakistani leaders, had no intention of handing over power to a Bengal political leader. If he had allowed a Bengali party to take over effective power, these West Pakistanis would never have taken it gracefully. They would have stirred up a violent reaction in West Pakistan. So he started stalling the whole issue. This action just about tried the limit of patience of the East Bengalis and by the end of January, 1971 East Pakistan burst into violent demonstrations of protest against West Pakistani rule, and the people of East Bengal with their leader Sheikh Majib demanded autonomy in East Pakistan. But in those days they never thought of seeking help from India.

As time went by East Pakistan was reduced to a state of anarchy. Eventually, Yahya then decided to talk with Sheikh Majib in Dacca on 22 March, 1971. Bhutto, on the request of Yahya, then followed. It now appears that the whole thing was sham and show. On the fateful night of 25 March, 1971, Yahya Khan ordered his army in the name of “peace and democracy” to suppress the revolt in East Bengal. The unsuspecting Bengalis were not prepared for this ruthless action. Their leader, Sheikh Majib, was arrested and thousands of East Bengalis were massacred. The reign of terror continued with the result that over 10 million East Bengalis crossed the border into India. The Indian government had no means to tackle this problem by itself. It appealed to the world powers, but the response was almost nil. This was the excuse for the Indian government to help the Bangla Desh Mukti Bahini and if necessary to enter into a war with Pakistan.

The world powers stood by and watched these two countries head towards war. Both India and Pakistan pursue the old policy of “we fight a war to establish peace and in peace we prepare for a war”. At the beginning of December the Pakistan Air Force bombed several Indian Air Force bases and Indian tanks rolled into the lush green plain of East Bengal with the object of expelling the West Pakistani army and handing over the power to a dependent Bangla Desh government.

If the Indian government achieves its objective, this will not be the end of confrontation. When the dust of the present conflict settles down, both countries will start replenishing their arsenals for the next war. This will drain much of their national resources, with the result that the big powers which sell them arms — namely America, Britain, China, France and Russia — will benefit. Of course, the world powers at the same time as they rearm both countries, will talk hypocritically in the United Nations about the folly of armed conflict. Soon the world will forget all about this conflict and the poor will go on suffering as before.
T. Ray

The futility of violence (1972)

From the January 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard 
From a member of the Socialist Party of Canada
At a Party meeting a while ago a member of the audience asked what the Socialist Party of Canada would do if the capitalists established a dictatorship and banned Socialist activity.

The questioner often thinks that the workers must be ready to pit their strength against the strength of the state; they must build a military as well as a political organisation.

The thought has had tragic results. When the Communists sent their followers to the Berlin barricades during the hungry thirties, the brutal destruction of the “revolt” featured no situation to the advantage of any but the authorities, some of the virility being skimmed from the ranks of the rebels in death and imprisonment. Again, when the rise of Hitler brought the joyous cry, "After Hitler, Thaelman!” the joy ended with the disappearance of the misguided into Hitler’s prisons and ovens. Castor oil was one of Mussolini’s contemptuous answers to his opponents. And these two dictators held fast to their powers until destroyed in a capitalist upheaval.

Class conflict has taken forms other than “military” ones, and just as disastrous, as the old time Wobblies in America found during the sabotage days, when mysterious stickers appeared in a fruit belt hostile to the IWW, “Don’t put copper tacks in fruit trees, it hurts them,” and when experiments occurred in the lubricant properties of sand in journal boxes, the effects of stink bombs in theatres and the serviceability of spanners in moving machinery.

The Communists, who presently give little service to the violent revolution theme, did most to pave the way for its acceptance among current radical groups. At one time violence was basic to Communist thought and anyone who did not talk violence could not talk revolution. Communists turned in all possible ways in search of the precise situation, the “psychological moment”, that would bring their rise to power.

Some experimenting was done even with the unemployed. When the factory doors closed behind huge armies of workers during the depression years, the cry went up, “The factory of the unemployed is on the streets!” and the workers without jobs were guided in large numbers into parades and demonstrations, ostensibly to bring their plight to the attention of the authorities, actually to bring the policeman’s club onto their heads. But the great hatred for oppression intended to be generated in this way became more often a hatred for those who had led them to the shambles.

This experimenting had its ludicrous moments, as when a widely-distributed mimeographed call for the unemployed to brave the clubs and horses of the cossacks and assert their ability to assemble in defiance of a police ban, concluded with the reminder that in the event of rain the gathering would be postponed until the following day.

But the lessons of violence and invitations to violence in the workers’ movements have been mostly harsh, bringing tragedy and apathy without compensation. Like the heroes of false causes, spread under acres of white crosses, who “died bravely”, the advocates of violence see themselves also martyred, but to a worthy cause, and they fail to see the world move undisturbed over their broken bodies.

The Socialist Party of Canada and its Companion Parties do not advocate violence as a means of gaining Socialism. It cannot be gained this way. “Revolutionary situations” and “psychological moments” may bring changes in governments but not a transformation in society. This can come only from a conscious effort by the majority of society’s members.

To the question, What will we do if the capitalists set up a dictatorship? the Socialists of earlier days said "We will know what to do when that time comes!” The answer is a good one today. If the capitalists bring dictatorship when they have majority support, they will be in the driver’s seat and the Socialist minority will have to use what means are available to restore their freedom to work for Socialism. If the dictatorship is attempted in the face of a Socialist majority, the capitalists will be engaging in dangerous lunacy, for it must be clear that if all their powers could not prevent the rise of Socialist Consciousness, they have lost their power to destroy it.

And while there will be violence between today and the day of the Socialist victory, we believe that the shedding of blood will not bring that day a moment closer and cannot be more than an unhappy product of class conflict.

Education and Sex (1972)

From the January 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard 

There is an old story about the teacher who, perhaps desperate for something to liven up a dull lesson, asked the kids to tell her exactly what they were thinking about as she showed them a picture of St. Paul’s. All went well until she got to one little boy who said he was thinking about sex. Now really desperate, the teacher asked him why he was thinking about that? Because, he said, he never thought about anything else.

Now every adult who was ever a child knows there is a lot of reality in that old joke — perhaps too much reality for the comfort of some parents who deceive themselves that, whatever the neighbours’ children might do, theirs would never defile themselves with anything as messy and abandoned as sexual activity. There are certainly elements of fantasy and self-deception about the current outcry over sex education and about what is called pornography — about magazines which admit that we have pubic hair, about films which agree that human beings take part in sexual intercourse and about shops which sell devices claimed to make the experience more excruciatingly enjoyable. All this, need it be said, at a price — sex is one of our growth industries and there is some shrewd money invested in it.

This money might be thought to be pretty safe; sex, as Marilyn Monroe is supposed to have said, is here to stay. The question is, how should we deal with it? It seems like a dirty trick of human development, that the urge is strongest when we are young, in our earlier teens. But any teenager who indulges the urge and becomes a parent as a result faces severe economic problems; a worker does not expect to reach his peak earning power until he is in his forties.

This does something to explain the theory popular with psychologists, educationalists, and indeed with almost everyone else, that youngsters are emotionally unprepared to have children and that until they reach the magic age of emotional readiness they must control — that is, suppress — their sexual drive. This opens up a gap, between desire and fulfilment, which of course most youngsters try to bridge. Usually this is by masturbation which, they are warned, might cause a vicious circle of loneliness, depression, consolatory masturbation, loneliness more acute, deeper depression . . . (This is a modern, more refined version of the old hell-fire and brimstone stuff about masturbation stunting your growth, or making hair grow from the palms of your hands. Who can dispute that the more knowledge on this matter the better? Who can wonder, that youngsters are restless, in revolt?)

One fact which has not been adequately faced by the Lord Longfords of the world is that the suppression of sexual drives can itself cause powerful emotions, which are often more difficult to control than is a mere sexual urge. Sometimes suppression may mean fairly minor problems like feelings of personal guilt which, however unpleasant they may be for the individual, do not usually extend far beyond himself. But there can be worse; the search for substitute virility symbols in aggressive behaviour — the big motor bike and the black studded jacket, uniforms in the fight with chains and knives. And at the extreme there is the chronic sex offender who can deal with his guilt and frustrations only by unloading them — by shocking or damaging or even destroying other people.

It is tempting — and it may not be entirely unfair — to guess that the vociferous denouncers of sex education are themselves pretty strong on guilt and probably confused by the fact that sex is so eminently marketable. Capitalism, they should realise, does not spurn the chance to make a profit. A lot of the porn which can be bought freely in most newsagents is rather clever, mixing fact with fantasy, titillation with discussion, all on a delicate implication that the reader is virile enough to satisfy every one of those gorgeous, naked girls and to outdo in performance all those kinky letter-writers. More probably the reader is desperately deprived, paying his furtive money in an unhappy attempt to idealise feelings which he cannot manage in any other way.

This is another reality too painful for many people to face. The tragedy is, that there is no reason to feel guilty about sex, any more than about eating or sleeping. Yet the guilt is often instilled in childhood, by parents who extend their property relationship with their children to the point of neurotic possessiveness and who fear sex as a private, exclusive act which separates their children from them. Sometimes the end result of this relationship is the sexual offender, going his lonely way in the public park.

One wonders what valid objection these parents can have to sex education which, after all, takes on a job they feel themselves unable to do, suppressed as they are in the stifling privacies of the family under capitalism. Perhaps they too, on the trim housing estates, sheltering behind the beloved car at the kerbside, fearful of their job and of their standing with the neighbours, need help. But private property society does not give priority to such needs; wage slaves can exist, and be profitably employed, without anyone probing their deeper emotional deprivations. In any case, among the innumerable indignities which capitalism imposes upon human existence, which should have priority for therapeutic attention? Martin Cole, maker of the famous, controversial sex education film Growing Up, obviously thinks that sexual neuroses should be pretty high on the list: “I think,” he said in an article in The Guardian (1/5/71) “teenagers should be promiscuous.” Any more, we might ask, than they should be well fed, secure, healthy, happily creative instead of uselessly employed?

It is worth dragging out the fact that sex is a necessary human function, which must have been performed with some degree of relief and enjoyment by the parents of Mrs. Whitehouse and Lord Longford. Sex can be a uniting factor but it can also be divisive, even destructive. Capitalism puts pressure on us to confine sexual activity to the marital situation (there is little reality in this, of course — even for the working class and less for their masters, who can afford any number of affairs and of children illegitimate or otherwise.) But monogamous marriage is an extremely complex relationship, formed upon many expectations which the partners have of each other — social, economic, sexual and the rest. In rare cases (and whatever the women’s magazines might say they are rare) all these expectations reach some level of consistent fulfilment and the marriage as a result is tolerably stable. In most cases the impossible is not achieved; if the couple are honest enough or rich enough they go to the divorce court.

In this situation it has been difficult for sex under capitalism to be treated as other than a matter of private, almost furtive, shame. This neurosis has been bolstered over time with propaganda of varying degrees of crudity, like the good old theory of original sin and the fallacy that the Roman Empire came to an end, not through any discernible historical reason but because its inhabitants were crazy libidinos and perverts. Then there is the boy-meets-girl theory in which sex and marriage is like a jig-saw puzzle, a matter of waiting until the right shaped piece comes along to fit in with us. (This was once very popular in those women’s magazines and they have always sold as well as any porn.) As the market for pornography develops and as sex education spreads, these attitudes should break down and a newer set of neuroses, probably going under the title of sexual freedom, may flourish and will be twisted and used to justify and bolster the inhumanities of capitalism.

And what will be the end of it? The idea that we stop feeling guilty about sex and simply enjoy it can be extended — should we not also set out to enjoy all types of intercourse and the satisfaction of all our appetites? For example, the vast majority of people spend nearly their entire life doing jobs which they detest and which degrade them to an inhuman level of boredom and servitude. An education which attacked that situation and the damage it causes would be a direct, explicit attack at the basis of capitalism. Yet if the sex educators are to be consistent, if they are to fulfil their professed aim of human happiness and harmony, they should settle for nothing less.

What holds them back? The simple answer, which also applies to so many other reformers whose ideas are superficially sound and attractive, is that they accept the basis of capitalism while they reject some of its effects. Sexual activity is bound up with some extremely powerful human emotions which might be usefully investigated, but only if this is in human terms. The psychiatrists can scrape around on the surface for as long as they are able but they are doomed to failure as long as they remain blind to the fact that only a free, humane society can respect human feelings.