What's happening in Pakistan?

This is a guest post by our friend, A, from NYC:

On Saturday Musharraf in Pakistan carried out an internal coup. Perhaps over 4000
people have been rounded up, many disappeared. The majority of the victims have been the liberal opposition to the regime. This is the most serious blow to US imperialism since Lebanon.

The rhetoric of US imperialism is once again exposed for all to see. The coup had to be green lighted by Bush and that seems confirmed by the fact that there is no threat to military aid. The corrupt and hated Bhutto was flown in from her mansions in Dubai and London recently by the US it seems in order to broker an alliance with Musharraf and give a democratic coloring to the regime in order to save it from the rising opposition. What is unclear is what the alliance between Bhutto and Musharraf that the US was
forcing a few weeks ago meant if the dictator was just gonna suspend the constitution.

It could be that the internal political dynamics were getting out of control between Bhutto and Musharraf for the US to manage in this way and had to go with the straight coup. It could also be that Musharraf did act somewhat alone and that at some point the administration will support the ouster of Musharraf by the military and Bhutto will come to power. On the other hand, it seems that they might have to get Musharraf back on track and get him in the same room with Bhutto for a power sharing agreement. Bhutto is attempting to play "leader" of the opposition, writing an op-ed in the NY Times, essentially appealed to US imperialism to support her. To what extent she is on her own on this, who the hell knows. It could reflect indecision and discussion among foreign policy agents about how to move forward in filling up this crack in the regime of Pakistan. Bhutto or Musharraf or both?

What has to be clear is that the seeming showdown developing between Bhutto and Musharraf is nothing more than a struggle over who is gonna stand with the army in the control of the state and profit by it. The desperate struggles and issues facing Pakistani working people are completely ignored. If they were moving and getting beat and imprisoned by the thugs of the ruling class, you better believe there wouldn't be any outcry about it from the liberals in the US or Europe.

The middle class opposition is another matter and shouldn't be directly mixed up with Bhutto. What is striking is that the liberal opposition forced this confrontation and have
attempted to sustain it through calling mass protests. Political corruption and downwardly mobile economic pressures have pushed the progressive sectors of the middle class—lawyers, journalists, NGO staffers, academics and students to the brink.

What is equally striking and important is the lack of mass character of these protests. Ordinary Pakistanis are completely absent. It shows that these liberals have no mass base and the Islamists, although a small minority, have more of a base than them. It shouldn't be a surprise. The liberal opposition is incapable of speaking to the root grievances of Pakistani working people. The downward pressures on working people with the selling off of core industries, like steel, opening up others to more foreign investment and the resulting drop in wages and union power, is a mass looting opportunity for capitalists and the ruling class alike, and an ongoing disaster for working people. The fight for just basic social infrastructure goes on as the regime and whoever controls it just skims off the top for their pockets. History continues to show that capitalism is the enemy of democracy.

In the absence of leftwing alternatives to fill the vacuum we have definitely seen the revival of liberalism as an ideology of modernization and political opposition beginning in Eastern Europe and places like China and South Korea and moving around the world to places like Iran and elsewhere. The color "revolutions" in places like Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon and Burma or recent years show this trend. These a more complicated phenomena than simply being dusted up by US imperialism and Europe, although the case can be made in Lebanon where it was the ruling class, with French and American aid and direction, carried out the "protests". There were complicated class tensions in these movements where, in some cases, the liberal "leadership", didn't always have control of the situation.

Working people had their own interests that have not been resolved by these new elites coming to power. This liberal current is supported by an "international" of liberal money and institutions (the university establishment, NGOs, foundations and the US State Department) emanating from the West, through
Eastern Europe, Africa, Middle East, East Asia and beyond. This liberal trend reflects the interests of a new capitalist elite who are eager to get their hands on state and public assests and exploit more vigorously the national working class. But even where it operates as a genuine insurgent, but naïve ideology, for example among progressive sectors of students, teachers, lawyers and journalists, it fails to understand that any sector of US imperialism and Europe is not a friend.

But in practice, just as in the past in former colonial countries, it is crashing and burning. Could we be seeing the tail end of the liberal phase and the possibilities of something new. Liberalism needs imperialism as its support because it can't become the expression of the vast majority of people. It can't solve the problems of corruption and declining social life in Pakistan for the majority, because this is not in the interests of imperialism or capitalism itself and liberalism has never been anything but the ideology of imperialism and capitalism. This trend has already been played out in Latin America the last 8 years or so, with the collapse of neo-liberal ideology that dominated through the 1990s. Mass democratic movements have opened up possibilities in Latin America and maybe and hopefully soon in Mexico.

The other striking thing is the reaction in the US by official society. The Bush administration had to stay on script, but the Congress doesn't have to. Republicans just rip the whole "democracy" rhetoric off and say what they really feel--dictatorship is the best for the interests of the US ruling classes. Democrats have no answer at all because they secretly support the former position, but can't say so because of their historic base that doesn't even exist anymore, except among part of the middle class. Meanwhile, scan the opinion pages of the major bourgeois, elite papers and you find very little to nothing. Their own supposedly professed principles are being crushed right in front of them and they can't say anything. Despite all the rhetorical fighting among the US establishment over these matters the last 2 years, they in fact, more or less, all have the same policy.
And they couldn't otherwise.

It is always wakes you up when crises like this come up, reminding me once again how serious blows against US imperialism are tied to US domestic crises. The national struggle in Vietnam didn't only win because of superior organization, but also because the US at the time was going through major crises in its own domestic life. Today we
know that such upheavals are right under the surface, but haven't fully emerged and begun to take shape. This means that upheavals in places like Pakistan, a client state of the US, are unlikely to succeed in developing into something bigger and better, because US military might assures the stability of indigenous oligarchy.

It fits into a larger pattern of what I began to realize when I came of age with the Intifada and 9-11 and realized there was this whole other world out there and I wasn't alone and had a history. While things get worse, the establishment, whether it’s the politicians, the media, teachers, intellectuals or bosses, have no answers. Becoming a political person wasn't just about doing activism and reading about my history for the first time. It was about having the revelation that these people were totally bankrupt. In many ways that was a struggle out of the dead end of liberalism and that it had no answers for what's been going on.

Our peoples' crises abroad are mirrored by our own here in the US among the majority working people who have been taking the hits of a one-sided class and racist war for 30 years, and among the youth in the high schools, campuses and the workplaces. I was born into a world of being brainwashed at school, working more for less, and then learning now at college, dominated by liberalism, that these people are also brainwashing or tell us why we can't do anything about it. We got to get it together.

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