War and Capitalism are permanently linked, opposition to both is considered “perversion” . This explains the acts of legal violence against anti imperialists and conscientious objectors. Below is a touching narrative by one brave and conscientious man whose only crime is that he refuses to participate in organized and institutionalized violence. Asian Human Rights Commission has issued an urgent appeal on his behalf. we appeal to all progressive people to take up the cause!

SA

 

 

 

SOUTH KOREA: A man is awaiting imprisonment for his beliefs

——————————————————

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from ‘World Without War’, a non-governmental organization that Mr. MOON Myungjin, who refused to do compulsory military service based on his beliefs and conscience, is about to receive rigorous imprisonment through legal procedure. We wish to draw your attention to the fact that his imprisonment is another example in the country where approximately a thousand young men have been imprisoned annually, which has been going on for more than 50 years. They have been criminally prosecuted and imprisoned due to the failure of the government to provide an alternative service for those who refuse to take up arms either based on their beliefs or religion.

CASE NARRATIVE: (the statement below is written by Mr. MOON Myungjin)

The reasons for my objection to taking up arms

1.
Going to jail instead of enlisting in the army has been one of the most crucial issues in my life. There is no one specific moment when I have chosen to refuse military service, nor is it easy to explain the reasons for my objection in simple terms. One thing is clear. It has become harder and harder to convince myself that I should take up arms as a soldier. So, this declaration will be a note that briefly describes my thought processes in arriving at the decision to become a conscientious objector.

I first pondered upon the state, the armed forces and war when the US-led war against Iraq broke out in 2003. I came to question what ‘national interest’ is, after having been to a protest against the Korean government’s decision to dispatch troops to Iraq. I asked myself who the national interest was meant for. I began to experience a discrepancy within my own thoughts and beliefs. I had been identifying myself with the state. I did not question the Korean saying ‘The physical strength of the individual is the strength of the nation’ learned through the national education system. I began to realize that the real world was far from what I had learned and believed it to be. This came about after experiencing the violence of the police against protestors. I had always considered the police to be ‘advocates of justice’.

I came to have firmer and clearer thoughts about my conscientious objection while engaged in the protest against the expansion of a US military base in Pyeongtaek in 2006.The villagers just wanted to spend their lives working the land on which they had grown up. Instead, the government mobilized the armed forces and riot police to evict them. In the early morning of May 4, I saw ruthless violence by the army and the police with my own eyes when their operation to crack down on the villagers as well as the protestors started. People either responded just as violently, or helplessly froze in the face of the overwhelming state violence. At that moment, on the one hand I was prepared to react in a nonviolent way in an effort not to become a devil while fighting back against the devil; on the other, I just felt a primal fear to see the armed forces, known to exist for national security, attack its own people as if they were the enemy.

For me the military is where the ability not to see a human being as human is internalized. While going through the experiences of seeing the violence of the riot police and armed forces in Pyeongtack, the candlelight vigil triggered by the import of US beef with mad cow disease and another forced eviction which took the lives of six people in Yongsan, I wondered how violence could be exerted by one human being against another. I tried to make myself understand how one person can fire a missile to where there exist people like him/her while I was watching the war in Iraq and Afghanistan on television. My conclusion was that you can point a gun only when you see others as not having the same feelings and needs as yourself. Now the meaning of being involved in the armed forces has come to me to act like a robot, there to be mobilized and to obey in favor of the state interests.

2.
Awaiting the day I will (perhaps) be put in prison, I think of the children I met during my teaching practice this spring. It was indeed a pleasant experience to realize that I did matter to them; to see the kids wanting to grab my hands while walking together to the canteen and also wanting to have meals sitting beside me. I felt truly alive to see the kids coming to play rock-paper-scissors with me to have fun, writing me a letter expressing thanks for me passing back the pencil case which had fallen on the floor, and the kids telling me they wanted to become a student teacher like me. I wanted to willingly empathize with the happiness and the pain of each child.

Pedagogy that I studied in my university years raised questions of the nature of education and how growth and development in human beings happens. The question of what education is for led me to think about how I live my life and what I value most at the moment. Although it was only a month’s experience of teaching practice, I was able to conclude that the aim of education is to learn how to love each other. I believe that although we keep facing conflicts, we could develop ourselves through knowing the extent and limits of the self from the conflicts, and connecting with each other.

I understand ‘security’ as a stage where people can live feeling safe. It does not contribute to ‘security’ at all to learn to regard other human beings as less than human, and to train killing skills. I do not want to imagine myself going into the military, which is supposed to exist for national security, and adopting the feelings of fear and hostility against what is called ‘the enemy’. I have not wanted to join the mechanism whereby militarism, like the hierarchical and male-dominated culture, to which I am subjected, neglects individual conscience, prevails and reproduces by virtue of it being the military.

3.
I remember visiting Laos PDR last month to participate in the first meetings of states parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. In Laos, one person a day on average loses his/her life due to unexploded ordnance of cluster bombs. This means that millions of cluster munitions the US dropped during the Indochina War still remain, affecting the people’s lives. With regards to cluster munitions, which have been already stigmatized as non-humanitarian weapons within the international community, the South Korean government still argues the need for cluster bombs, allegedly referring to the importance of national security, while South Korean companies such as Hanwha and Poongsan profit by producing and exporting cluster munitions.

The government is asserting that it should take a tougher stance against North Korea in view of the recent incident in Yeonpyeong Island. At the same time, the MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System), of which the Korean armed forces are proud, was described positively in the Korean media. However, it is not the North Korean artillery, but somebody’s life and our humanity that is devastated by the South Korean artillery. Not only should North Korea be criticized, but also South Korea should accept responsibility for the current state of heightened tension. Just as there have been several deaths in the South, there must also have been some people injured or killed in the North during the recent military conflict. The more we develop fear and hostility against each other continuously, the more tears will be shed by those affected by the violence.

No one being deserves to be killed. Both South Korea and the surrounding countries should stop playing the game of spending more and more on war expenditure. It is only a few in the ruling class and the munitions industry who take advantage of constantly waging hostility and increasing armament expenditure. Violence leads to a vicious circle of another retaliation and more violence. My conscientious objection is both the least and the best stance that I can take against this vicious circle of violence.

4.
Thanks to my objection to military service, I have been able to reflect upon my own way of life. As already mentioned in somebody else’s declaration, I would have been able to deepen my thoughts on feminism and pacifism while pondering upon my conscientious objection, rather than the fact I was already pacifist before I decided to be a conscientious objector. I became a vegetarian and started riding a bicycle, having been inspired by the people I met through the peace movement group ‘World Without War’. I came to think a way of life in which I earn less, consume less and do as little harm as I could to the world. Looking back, it could be presumed that what constitutes the person I am now has come about since I started thinking of being a conscientious objector and while engaged in the peace movement.

On the contrary, it has been stressful sometimes for me to imagine the prison term which may come. At one stage, it was painful to envision myself in prison whenever I plan for the future. It was never easy to face my mother who tried to persuade me to reconsider my decision, saying I might have regrets after I finish the prison term. I was both saddened and angry to fall out with my parents who would argue it does not have to be me going to jail instead of military service, whereas I still feel some kind of guilt about going against what my parents have expected of me.

Last but not least, I would like to acknowledge the influence and the inspiration that I have received from my comrades, which have helped shape my thoughts. I believe that although it is me who has chosen to refuse military service, it is not a decision derived entirely from my own original thinking. I suppose the reason that I have been able to confirm my decision to become a conscientious objector was not because I have firm and flawless beliefs, but because I have been fully inspired by others around me who practice a nonviolent way of life. For me, it would be more accurate to say that I have come naturally to take this choice of being a conscientious objector in the context of how I live, than as a special and exceptional choice.

I hope my conscientious objection would resonate among people, and so reassess the reasons for the existence of the armed forces. I would have liked to question the militarism in Korean society, which goes beyond the matter of relativism, such as one’s freedom of conscience competing against another’s freedom of conscience. I wish my conscientious objection to enable me to still be able to empathize with other human beings, as well as remain sensitive to their pain in the future.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

Conscientious Objection to Military service in South Korea

For the past several decades, conscientious objectors against military service have been going to prison. Yet it was only after 2000 that the issue became known to the public. That the cumulative number of conscientious objectors who served prison sentences exceeded ten thousand at the time profoundly shocked Korean society. Long considered an issue for Jehovah’s Witnesses only, conscientious objection became a social ‘movement’ with the public declaration of the first non-Jehovah’s Witness conscientious objector, the pacifist and Buddhist Oh Tae-yang in December 2001. In early 2002, “Korea Solidarity for Conscientious Objection” (KSCO) was formed by 36 civil and social organizations. They began to raise public awareness about conscientious objection through various activities such as discussion forums, lectures, public hearings, campaigns, and written articles.

The criticism and scolding against the conscientious objection movement were tremendous at first. The idea of national security was so absolute in the anti-communist Republic of Korea that more armament was considered socially ‘good’, while any kind of counter-argument was severely repressed. In South Korea, society went through a series of militarist regimes where a 100% enlistment rate was set as a social objective and the conscription-based military system was sanctified. It was not possible to bring up discussions on probable changes in the military system. Under these circumstances, it was difficult to expect not only reflections on the military as state-monopolized violence but also different points of view based on democracy and tolerance. A movement for change, however, was slowly created by the tremendous amount of time in jail and the pain that conscientious objectors endured. This was coupled with the efforts made by both recent conscientious objectors who publicly announced their objection and their supporters.

Afterwards, the duration of the usual prison term sentence for conscientious objectors was cut down from three years to one and a half years. In 2002, a case of conscientious objection was appealed to the Constitutional Court for review for the first time, and in 2004, a conscientious objector received a verdict of not guilty for the first time. In late 2004, assemblymen Mr. Im Joing-In and Roh Hoe-Chan each submitted a Military Service Act Amendment Bill to the South Korean National Assembly. In late 2005, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea announced a recommendation to introduce alternative service. This was a first time for a Korean national institute to do such a thing. In addition, the international community, upon recognizing the situation for Korean conscientious objectors, began to apply pressure on the Korean government. For example, the UN Human Rights Committee repeatedly ruled that the Korean government should consider alternate service for Korean conscientious objectors.

Thanks to these social changes, it appeared that the imprisonment of conscientious objectors which had continued for more than 50 years after liberation might end in the very near future. On September 18, 2007, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced plans to allow conscientious objectors to perform alternative civilian service, which was supposed to start in January 2009. In addition, at the Universal Periodic Review held in Geneva on May 7, 2008, the Chief of Human Rights Division of MND confirmed the position of Korea to introduce alternative service for conscientious objectors. But once the conservative Lee Myung-Bak government took office, MND suddenly changed its position. Having made little effort to prepare for alternative service with an excuse of ‘national consensus,’ MND publicly announced it would ‘nullify’ the introduction of alternative service for conscientious objectors in December 24, 2008. Their supposed basis for the decision was an opinion survey which was a very small part of the research commissioned by Military Manpower Administration in which there were more responses against alternative service. While the more-than-500-page-long research paper concludes that alternative service must be introduced, MND arbitrarily chose to use only part of the survey data for their own interests. The hard-fought changes by the civilian society were so easily overturned by the regime change. Up until now, more than 15,000 have been imprisoned for their objection to military service since Korea’s liberation from Japan in 1945. And in particular, more than 5,000 have gone through imprisonment since 2000, the year when the issue of conscientious objection began to be discussed in public.

Yet it was not only the CO movement participants who thought that the situation was unjust, but the militaristic and nationalistic Korean society had been changing slowly over the course of time and as the CO movement has continued. In the summer of 2008, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea officially expressed concern and sent a statement to MND, urging it to quickly introduce alternative service for conscientious objectors. This issue has been continuously raised in the judicial branch as well. There have been a series of requests with the Constitutional Court for a determination of constitutionality of the Homeland Army Reserve Act. In the current situation where legislative solutions are very unlikely, the Constitutional Court’s possible decision for conscientious objectors remains one of the possibilities. In 2010, UN Human Rights Committee pressed the Korean government once again by having its second ruling on individual CO communications. WRI, an anti-war organization which undertakes CO activities internationally, spread the news about Korea’s situation throughout the world.

In South Korea, about a thousand conscientious objectors are presently in prison.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please send a letter to the authorities listed below and express your deep concerns about this case as well as the inaction of making alternative service possible.

Please be informed that we have also sent a separate letter to the UN Special Rapportuer on freedom of religion or belief.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

SOUTH KOREA: A man should not be punished for his beliefs

Name of accused: Mr. MOON Myungjin, conscientious objector
Case & Charges: Case no. 2011GODAHN55; First trial held on March 16, 2011 at Single Criminal Court #3, Seoul Western District Court; article 88(section 1) of the Military Service Act

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the case of Mr. Moon Myungjin, who would not perform military service on the grounds of his beliefs and is going to be criminally prosecuted and imprisoned as a result.

According to the information obtained, Mr. Moon Myungjin who refused to be drafted within the prescribed period of time, whereupon he was accused under article 88(section 1) of the Military Service Act, was prosecuted and the first trial is scheduled to be held at Seoul Western District Court on March 18, 2011. Following previous cases, Mr. Moon would be put under court custody as soon as the court declares the sentences against him. I am also informed that it is most unlikely that Mr. Moon will be free from criminal imprisonment by the courts as there are hundreds of accused who had received one and a half years imprisonment before him. The hard fact is that there little room left for the lower courts to convert such decisions already made.

I am aware that the Constitutional Court delivered a decision on August 26, 2004, in a case unrelated to the current case of Mr. Moon. It rejected, by a majority vote, a constitutional challenge to article 88 of the Military Service Act on the grounds of incompatibility with the protection of freedom of conscience protected under the Korean Constitution. I would like to draw your attention in this judgment, to the fact that the Constitutional Court expressed that the legislature of South Korea has the responsibility to ease the conflict between freedom of conscience and the duty of a citizen as prescribed by the law. They should therefore consider taking appropriate action.

Sadly, as more time has passed, neither legislatures nor the concerned authorities, including the Ministry of National Defense, have made efforts to amend or make a law introducing alternative military service for the conscious objectors. All the more, the youth have become criminals. Having criminal records, they have been socially discriminated against and restricted in living.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to point out that the question has arisen that persons are going to be punished for a long time due to the inaction of the government. If a person is punished for such reasons, there will be also be a time coming in which the courts have to review earlier cases. The government might then have to undertake unbearable compensation for those who have been imprisoned due to such inaction. Furthermore, the court will not be free from criticism for taking no initiatives as the Seoul Nambu District Court made a judgment of acquittal to one conscientious objector in 2004.

I urge that a person who refuses to do compulsory military service on the grounds of his beliefs or religion should no longer be punished and imprisoned. The concerned authorities, in particular the President as well as the Ministry of National Defense, should introduce alternative service in order not to wrongly imprison the youth of the nation any more.

I take this opportunity to remind the government of South Korea of the need to establish a mechanism to provide the authors of the individual communications to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which South Korea is a state party, with effective remedies such as decriminalization of conscientious objectors, including compensation. In this regard, the Korean government has so far failed to establish or even discuss such mechanisms to implement the jurisprudence by the international human rights instruments including the UN Human Rights Committee. It will be nothing but a voice in the wind for the government to implement changes without having such a system in place in its domestic laws.

Yours sincerely,

—————-

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Lee Myung-Bak
President
1 Sejong-no, Jongno-gu
Seoul, 110-820
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Fax: +82 2 770 4751
E-mail: foreign@president.go.kr or president@cwd.go.kr or president@president.go.kr

2. Mr. Lee Gui-Nam
Minister of Justice
88 Gwanmon-ro, Gwachon-si
Gyonggi Province 427-760
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Tel: +82 2 503 7023
Fax: +82 2 2110 3079 / 503 7046
E-mail: webmaster@moj.go.kr

3. Mr. Kim Joon-Gyu
Prosecutor General
Supreme Prosecutor’s Office
1730-1, Seocho3-dong
Seocho-gu, Seoul
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Fax: +82 2 3480 2555
Tel: +82 2 3480 2000
E-mail: koreapros@spo.go.kr

4. Mr. Kim Kwan-Jin
Minister
Ministry of National Defense
No. 1, Yongsan-dong 3-ga
Yongsan-gu, Seoul
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Tel: +82 2 748 1111
Fax: +82 2 748 6895
E-mail: cyber@mnd.go.kr

5. Judge
c/o Single Criminal Court #3 (ref. 2011GODAHN 55)
Seoul Western District Court
99 Mapo-ro
Mapo-gu, Seoul
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Tel: +82 2 3271 1114

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission

Shaheryar Ali

Today Federal Minister for minorities Mr Shahbaz Bhatti was murdered in Federal capital of the Islamic Republic. He was murdered in cold blood by the band of fascist thugs known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan who were swift to claim responsibility. Mr Bhatti was a life long activist for minority rights and a vocal opponent of the infamous “Qanoon-e-Toheen-e-Risalat” (Blasphemy Law). A progressive who along with Salman Taseer and Sherry Rehman was on forefront of introducing secular pro-minority agenda on national level and within PPP.

The murder is linked with that of Governor Taseer and now Sherry Rehman is the person most under threat. These murders are result of the organic crisis of Islamic Republic. A governor was murdered by his own security guards and now a federal minister is shot dead when he was leaving to attend cabinet meeting.   Federal minister was “without security”. In these kind of situations when factions of state and their proxies are in a state of chaotic warfare many murders are destined to occur and destined to remain un-resolved. Since the “Black Revolution” right wing was able to re-assert itself in the power struggle within Pakistani state. Musharraf’s purges had led to weakening of hardcore Islamist cadre in Pakistan Army; the traditional bastion of power of Pakistani Right. This had significantly weakened their power within state. This loss was compensated by Lawyers Movement who gave Pakistani right a new power center through which they can dictate their agenda. The restoration of hardcore right wing judges meant that every initiative by Zardari regime to curb Islamofascism be made ineffective. This was visible soon after their restoration when we saw statements from honorable judges who pledged their support to Blasphemy laws, Islamic statutes of constitution, the objective resolution.

Every single terrorist caught has been set free by our free judiciary. United Nation sanctions against Punjabi Taliban were made ineffective by Khawja Sharif’s court. The court has never taken notice of Taliban atrocities throughout Pakistan. When in Karachi the allies of Lawyers movement pledged to “kill anyone who mourns Salman Taseer’s murder” no action was taken. When it was said that every such person should “write his will” and “buy his kafan” no suomoto action was taken. Bars are conducting functions in support of assassin of Governor Taseer and those organizing it are those who use to chant “chief tere jaa’n nisar—–“. It simply means that it’s a “license to kill”.  Secular clowns who didn’t listened to anyone when they were marching with General Hameed Gul and Qazi Hussain Ahmad that what will be the result of radicalization of the poorly educated lawyers.  From Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan to Murderer Qadri this is what Bar has to offer to Jinnah’s Pakistan. When judges pledge support for such laws, Lawyers turn a assassin into a hero and government exist merely as ghost who doesn’t even controls Islamabad this happens what is happening.

With Rehman Malik and Babar Awan controlling Law and home ministries we can be sure that no secular man or woman will either get security or the public prosecution will ever build a case to send these thugs to gallows. With assassination of Governor Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti it has been confirmed. Sherry Rehman should be under no illusion her life is in serious danger, I strongly appeal to her that she should immediately leave the country. Don’t believe any assurances either of government or Americans. Dangers are that every progressive voice will be silenced. You have a responsibility to your life as well as to next generations to protect the progressive legacy of PPP. You can be more effective in advocacy for minorities abroad.  I am sure you will listen to voices of reason and leave.

 

Written by John Pickard Wednesday, 23 December 2009

with thanks: International Marxist website

Many of us know that the origins of Christianity have nothing to do with silent nights or wise men. So what are its true origins? John Pickard looks at the reality of how this religion came about – from the standpoint of class forces and the material developments of society, rather than by the pious fictions fed from church pulpits.

Foundations of ChristianityMy late father had a very wry sense of humour. At Christmas, whenever there was a reference to church services on the television, he would tut and shake his head. “Look at that”, he would say, “They try to bring religion into everything!”

I imagine much the same complaint may have been made by ancient celts, annoyed that the Christian priests were taking over their traditional Yule festival, celebrating the winter solstice. Or perhaps by Roman citizens, peeved at the Christians taking over their annual ‘Saturnalia’ festival in the last weeks of December.

Those complaining would have been right, because in the absence of an identifying date anywhere in the canonical gospels, Christians grafted their celebration of the birth of Jesus onto the existing pagan festivals. In one stroke they absorbed the pagan rites into the Christian tradition and softened opposition to the new creed.

Many practising Christians today are completely unaware of the pagan and sometimes arbitrary origins of important elements of their religious beliefs and practices. Many seriously believe the origin of Christianity lies in a ‘silent night’ in a barn visited by quiet shepherds and several awe-struck ‘wise’ men. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Materialism

For Marxists, who base themselves on the real, material world, there was a completely different reality. Last year marked the centenary of the publication of ‘The Foundations of Christianity’ by the German Marxist theoritician, Karl Kautsky. This was the first attempt to describe the rise of that major western religion from the standpoint of class forces and the material developments of society, rather than by the pious fictions fed from church pulpits.

Karl Kautsky’s book was deficient in many respects, but the main lines of his argument still stand the test today. What was especially significant about Kautsky’s book was that it was the first comprehensive attempt to describe the foundation and rise of Christianity using the method of historical materialism.

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels used the method of historical materialism and applied it to social and historical developments. In his book ‘Anti-Duhring’, Engels summarised what this meant:

“The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or estates is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in man’s better insight into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought, not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch.”

Karl Kautsky, therefore, rejected the metaphysical myths behind Christianity – the miracles, supernatural events, and so on – and attempted to describe its origins and rise through the social conditions that existed in the Roman Empire.

The classical description of the origins of Christianity is as outlined in the New Testament. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are taken as historical accounts of real events in the first thirty five years of the first millennium: how Jesus was born miraculously, how he performed miracles and preached alongside his twelve disciples, how he was crucified for his preaching and how he arose from the dead. The gospels are taken to be eye-witness accounts by four of the disciples.

Karl KautskyKarl KautskyDespite harassment, persecution and innumerable martyrs, the superior ideas of the Christians – and particularly the offer of life after death and the redemption of human sins by the crucifixion of Jesus – led to an increase of support for Christianity until it became an unstoppable force eventually recognised by the Roman Emperor Constantine. The rest, as they say, is history.

This is the ‘official’ history of the Church…and most of it is a fairy-tale. For Marxists the question has to be asked, what were the conditions in Palestine in the first century? Karl Kautsky alludes to the fact that the Roman Empire was a slave-based system in which the vast majority of the population were impoverished and lived from hand to mouth for most of their lives.

And it is true that Palestine was a society riven with bitter class conflicts and contradictions. The characteristics of the entire period were turmoil, upheaval and revolt. Overlying the class struggle was the additional factor of the national oppression of the majority Semitic population by the Romans. Within Jewish society, the priestly caste and the nobility were propped up by the Roman regime for the greater exploitation of the mass of the population.

“The fundamental conflict was between Roman, Herodian, and high priestly rulers, on the one hand, and the Judean and Galilean villagers, whose produce supplied tribute for Caesar, taxes for King Herod, and tithes and offerings for the priests and temple apparatus on the other.” (Horsley, ‘Bandits, Prophets and Messiahs’ )

The Temple priests who were paid tithes (church taxes) by the local peasantry were not a small group – some scholars number them in the thousands. The Jewish King Herod ‘the Great’, who died in 4 BCE [Before the Common Era], left a country economically exhausted from the earlier Roman conquest and subsequent taxation.

“The Jewish agricultural producers were now subject to a double taxation, probably amounting to well over 40 per cent of their production. There were other Roman taxes as well, which further added to the burden of the people, but the tribute was the major drain.

“Coming, as it did, immediately after a period of ostensible national independence under the Hasmonians (Jewish kings), Roman domination was regarded as wholly illegitimate. The tribute was seen as robbery. Indeed it was called outright slavery by militant teachers such as Judas of Galilee, who organised active resistance to the census (record of people for tax purposes) when the Romans took over direct administration of Judea in 6 CE.” [in the Common Era] (‘Bandits, Prophets and Messiahs’)

Revolts

The only contemporary account there is of this history is that of Josephus, a Jewish general who fought against the Romans during the revolt of 66 CE and who subsequently changed sides. It is clear from his histories that this whole period was one of great upheaval. There were many occasions when revolts of peasants were led by popular anointed kings (or ‘messiahs’), all of which were viciously repressed. It was not uncommon for whole towns to be razed and their inhabitants sold into slavery.

These revolts reflected the material conditions and class conflicts of the time, but they were invariably dressed up in terms of messianic revivalism and religious aspirations. Given the tradition and scripture of the Jews, these movements inevitably adopted the mantles of scriptural leaders, including, notably, Joshua. There were, in fact, many ‘Joshua’ sects at the time. (‘Jesus’ is a Romanised name which wouldn’t have been recognised in Palestine at the time). Many of these cults had a ‘communist’ outlook with property shared in common within the community.

The writings of Josephus are the only genuine surviving works written by a participant of the events. He describes what he sees as the evil influence of seers and prophets on more than one occasion, such as: “…Imposters and demagogues, under the disguise of divine inspiration, provoked revolutionary actions and impelled the masses to act like madmen. They led them out into the wilderness…” Josephus (‘Jewish Wars’) mentions by name several of the seers, ‘prophets’ and revolutionaries who stirred up the Jews, but the Joshua described in the New Testament does not appear at any point in the voluminous work of his supposed contemporary, Josephus.

The revolutionary-minded force in this period was the peasantry, which strove time and again to throw off the national and class oppression under which they laboured.

A small selection of commentaries from Josephus illustrates the turmoil of the period:

“Many [Jewish peasants] turned to banditry out of recklessness, and throughout the whole country there were raids, and among the more daring, revolts…”

“…the whole of Judea was infested with brigands…” (‘Jewish Wars’)

“Felix [Roman governor, 52-58 CE] captured [revolutionary leader] Eleazar, who for twenty years had plundered the country, as well as many of his associates, and sent them to Rome for trial. The number of brigands that he crucified…was enormous.” (Josephus , ‘Antiquities’)

Nothing could be further removed from ‘silent night’! The revolutionary upheaval spilled over into a generalised uprising in 66 CE, against the Romans and their collaborators, the Jewish ruling class the high priests of the Temple. “…hostility and violent factionalism flared between the high priests on the one side and the priests and leaders of the Jerusalem masses on the other.” (‘Antiquities’)

Siege of Jerusalem

The siege of Jerusalem, 70 CEFor the next four years there was a bloody and protracted guerrilla war followed by a prolonged siege of Jerusalem, during which the masses, fearing betrayal by the Jewish aristocracy and high priests effectively took power into their own hands in Jerusalem. One of their first acts in the revolt was the storming of the Temple and the burning of the deeds and documents relating to the debts and taxes of the peasantry. It was not surprising that the aristocracy and the high priests fled the city to the safety of the Roman lines – including Josephus himself.

Even before this revolution, Palestine had been a whirlpool of different cults and religious sects, most based loosely on traditional Jewish scripture, but often coloured by the widespread discontent with the collaboration of the priesthood and the parasitism of the Temple culture. Among these would have been the ‘Joshua’ and other messianic sects organised by a variety of charismatic leaders.

Following the bloody suppression of the revolution and the capture of Jerusalem (during which the Temple was destroyed) in 70 CE, tens of thousands of Jews fled the region and many thousands more were enslaved. Such an enormous disaster could not fail to affect the huge Jewish Diaspora, who fled from their homeland, spread round every major city in the whole Roman Empire, including the larger cities like Rome, Alexandria and the big cities in the East.

Long before the revolutionary events, all manner of sects had taken root in the Jewish Diaspora communities in parallel to those in Palestine itself. Within this lively sectarian milieu was a Joshua cult developed by Paul, with a policy of converting non-Jews as well as Jews. This sect, in effect, became the mainspring of modern Christianity by, among other things, simplifying Jewish ‘Law’ to remove the need for circumcision and strict dietary taboos.

All of the early Christian works, which were circulating from the middle towards the end of the first century – including the letters of Paul – were significantly missing any historical narrative connecting Joshua to a real-life biography. It was only later that the gospel of Mark (on which Matthew and Luke were based) was written as an allegorical description of a life, composed to match the Joshua doctrine that was becoming established. It was an expression of the growing confidence and numerical strength of this particular sect. But it was also an expression of the growing class division within the Christian community itself as it accommodated to Roman society. Of the original communistic ideas of the Joshua cults, there remain only a few hints and suggestions in the New Testament today.

It was largely in polemics with their former co-religionists, the Jews, and against the plethora of rival proto-Christian sects that the early Church elaborated its doctrine in the first decades of the second century. In parallel with the elaboration of doctrine, the Church established an apparatus to maintain itself. The evidence of the existence of a huge variety of early Christian sects has only come to light recently precisely because this apparatus, once having established itself, did its best to eliminate all others as ‘heresies,’ in the process removing most of the evidence that other strands of the Joshua cult even existed.

The question has to be asked as to why Christianity grew over the next two centuries. It was not an anti-slavery movement: slavery was ubiquitous throughout the Roman Empire and Christians possessed slaves like anyone else. There is evidence that even bishops just like well-to-do Romans owned slaves throughout this whole period.

Theological considerations were secondary. The rigid and self-perpetuating bureaucracy which had grown within the Church reflected the class divisions in society and had become an important bulwark of the class system.

“In time the discourse and sermons of the Christian leaders came to incorporate not only the formal aspects of aristocratic status concerns but also the values and ideology of the late Roman upper class.” (Salzman, ‘The Making of a Christian Aristocracy’)

Conversion

This comment refers to the period following the so-called conversion of the Emperor Constantine in the early fourth century, but long before this the Church was playing a key social and economic role on behalf of the ruling class. Many officials of state were Christian bishops or leaders. More importantly, they play a key role in the management and organisation of local government.

In so far as it meant anything in a Roman Empire facing terminal decline, they were the local government. Bishops and Church officials collected tax, distributed alms (church-based charity) and supervised local legal and land disputes. They were an unofficial ‘civil service’ on behalf of the Roman bureaucracy long before Emperor Constantine gave them imperial sanction. The Church fulfilled a social and economic function, in managing and containing an increasing proportion of the poor and dispossessed and for that reason, not because of a ‘spiritual awakening’ within the ruling class, it was allowed to grow and develop.

The Church was able to fulfil this role because it offered a safety valve for the aspirations of the masses. It gave the peasantry their only opportunity to sit in the same building with landlords and bishops (if not the same pews) and even if there was limited hope in this world, they were at least offered the promise of equality with the rich in the next. The Christians offered a messiah and ‘life after death’, in contrast to the aloof and indifferent gods of Greece and Rome.

The Church bureaucracy consciously developed policy (and theology) in its own interests, increasingly identified with the interests of the ruling class. But in its structure and outlook, it also anticipated the development of feudal society better than the decaying slave-owning state. The Church didn’t campaign for emancipation, but offered a new arrangement for exploitation.

As for the peasantry and city poor: as long as they knew and accepted ‘their place’ in the rigid class structure, for the poorest it offered a structure of alms, and support which provided respite to the worst of their poverty and insecurity. Even if watered down, it offered a sense of community. Almost uniquely in the Roman Empire, it had a limited welfare structure, moreover one that offered belonging to a national and even international church. For these reasons it had disproportionate appeal to the poor and the oppressed; indeed it was ridiculed for being a movement “of slaves and women.”

Persecution

Once it was backed by the power of the state the Church destroyed its opponents. Roman persecution of the Church in the first three centuries is greatly exaggerated, but it pales against the terrible persecution that the Church visited on all the unorthodox sects once it was backed by imperial power. Books and heretics were burnt. Theological history was re-written. Myths were piled upon myths, century after century. So much so that today even so-called ‘scholars’ treat the New Testament like a true historical narrative and not as they should as a story, no more true than ‘The Iliad’ or ‘Beowulf’.

Within a few hundred years any evidence of the existence of other Christian sects, including their pre-history in Palestine, was all but eliminated. The Church became – and remains to this day – a powerful conservative force, politically, financially and diplomatically (and at one time, militarily).

In his introduction to ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’, Marx referred to religion as “the sigh of the oppressed”. He explained that it is not spirituality, or the lack of it, which breeds support for religion. It is the alienation of the mass of the population from the class society in which they find themselves.

The crisis of capitalism is at root the crisis of a rotten economic system, but it manifests itself also as a crisis of ideas. For millions of people their hopes and aspirations are so stunted by the limits of the capitalist world that they project their hopes on to a life after death. And just as in the first decades of the first millennium, so also in the age of capitalism, new religious and messianic movements reflect the intellectual and moral impasse of a failed and failing society. Marx continued:

“…To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”

Thus he made it clear that it is not a question of religion being “abolished”. The idea is absurd. To combat superstition and ignorance, the task for socialists is to struggle against the material conditions upon which these things grow – and that means above all, a struggle against capitalism.

Written by Lal Khan in Lahore Tuesday, 22 December 2009

With thanks: International Marxist Website

After years of military dictatorships followed by sham democracy, the situation in Pakistan has reached such a point that the masses are yearning for radical change. Their suffering is immense as the people at the top continue to enrich themselves at the expensive of the workers and peasants, collaborating with imperialism as it rides rough-shod over the people of Pakistan. Everything is moving to an inevitable revolutionary explosion.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court in its verdict of 16 December, 2009 declared the notorious NRO null and void ab initio. The National Reconciliation Ordinance of October 2007 was promulgated by the then President of Pakistan General Parvaiz Musharraf. It was the outcome of a deal he had struck with Benazir Bhutto, life Chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party in a covert meeting in Abu Dhabi. The deal was brokered by the United States and Britain. The aim was to create a new setup that could facilitate the imperialist war and other interests in this turbulent region.

According to this ordinance all cases of politicians including corruption, murder, extortion, kidnappings and other heinous crimes would be withdrawn. Some of the major beneficiaries are now in power including Benazir’s widower Zardari, now the President of Pakistan and some of his most sinister ministers. The other main beneficiary is the Muteheda Qaumi Movement, MQM, whose leader, an absconder resident in London for several years, and its other leading figures were facing charges of murder and other crimes. The MQM is a mafia-type organisation with neo-fascist tendencies and its main ideological baggage is based on ethnic conflict.

The present democratic dispensation is the product of such a nefarious design. After Benazir’s assassination in December 2007 Musharraf’s fate was sealed. The plan B came into action and Zardari having a long standing relationship with US officials was catapulted into the presidency with his firm assurance that he would be more subservient to the Americans than Musharraf or Benazir could ever have been. The Electoral College for this election are comprised of members of the National and provincial assemblies who were elected in the February 2008 elections, the results of which were tailor-made in Washington to serve the imperialist strategies.

Ironically this unanimity, or “reconciliation”, between all the parties in Parliament was prompted by a collective fear on the part of these representatives of the ruling class in the wake of the beginnings of a mass movement that they witnessed on the arrival of Benazir from exile in Karachi on October 18, 2007 and later after the explosion of the wrath of the workers, peasants and youth at the news of her assassination on December 27, 2007. After a long period of suffering, the oppressed in Pakistan had risen up in the hope that the leader of their traditional party, the PPP under Benazir Bhutto, would be a beacon of change and free them from the unrelenting misery and distress.

The Americans had already done their homework with the PPP leaders, who mainly come from the moneyed classes, to divert this outburst into a democratic election and façade of “democracy”. These leaders drowned the mass anger and revolt in sorrow and despair. They refused to call for a general strike for the elections to be held on the scheduled date of January 8, 2008 and blocked the movement. This gave an opportunity to the Pakistani state and its imperialist masters to regroup their forces and stave off the threat of a revolutionary upheaval.

The Military in Pakistan has ruled directly for more than half of the country’s 62 years of chequered history. All the military regimes were supported and propped up by US imperialism. During the “democratic” intermissions the plight of the masses continued to deteriorate. After the first decade (1947-58) of democratic regimes, such was the crisis that when Martial Law was imposed by Field Martial Ayub Khan there was even a sense of relief amongst several sections of society.

Ayub Khan had the impertinence to say in one of his initial statements “we must understand that democracy cannot work in a hot climate. To have democracy we must have a cold climate like Britain.” General Ayub told the first meeting of his cabinet, “As far as you are concerned there is only one embassy that matters in this country: the American Embassy.”

The Ayub dictatorship embarked upon an ambitious economic, agrarian and industrial programme in the 1960s, mainly sponsored by “US Aid” and the World Bank. Although Pakistan achieved its highest growth rates under Ayub, Keynesian economic policies failed to improve the lot of the masses. The aggravated social contradictions exploded into the revolution of 1968-69 that was fundamentally of a socialist character. [See Pakistan’s Other Story-The 1968-69 Revolution].

The failure of the existing left leadership to give a clear revolutionary programme and perspective to the movement resulted in the rise of the Populism of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Due to the absence of a Bolshevik-Leninist revolutionary party the revolution was lost. But it did shake the whole of South Asia. The ruling classes initially tried to impose Martial Law again. However, its failure to curb the tide resulted in the first elections based on the adult franchise in 1970 where the PPP became the largest party in West Pakistan.

Having failed to curtail the revolutionary wave that pierced through the ballot, ultimately the ruling classes resorted to a war with India, which led to the break-up of Pakistan and then Bhutto was given power who, forced by the pressure of the masses, initiated radical reforms from above, but only to exhaust the revolution brewing below.

Bhutto’s elected left reformist government was subsequently overthrown by a military coup led by General Zia ul Haq in July 1977, who later hanged Bhutto at the behest of US imperialism. The eleven-year brutal dictatorship of Zia was perhaps the most traumatic period for the working masses in Pakistan. In connivance with the Americans, Zia propped up and unleashed the beast of Islamic fundamentalism to crush the left. The continuance of that grotesque monstrosity is what produced the present day fundamentalist terror that is ripping apart the social fabric of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Zia Dictatorship began to crumble after another upheaval on the return from exile of Bhutto’s daughter Benazir in April 1986. The contradictions in the already weakened dictatorship were thus sharpened. General Zia’s plane was conveniently blown up in mid air in August 1988 – some have speculated that this may have been done at the request of the Americans, whom the megalomaniac and insane general had begun to “disobey” seeking his own personal agenda.

From 1988 to 1999 there was another democratic interlude, where Benazir and Nawaz Sharif alternated in short stints of rulerships. This period was marred by an orgy of corruption, incompetence, spiralling economic decline and chaos. General Musharraf took power in a bloodless coup by overthrowing Sharif. Musharraf then introduced a “quasi-democracy” in 2002 but the 9/11 episode in the USA once again made another dictator another main American collaborator. This time the façade was not against communists but we had the so-called “war against terror”.

Musharraf’s demise and the regime that ensued once again brought unprecedented agony and pain for the people of Pakistan. History has turned full circle. This vicious cycle of Pakistan’s political superstructure – dictatorship to democracy and back to dictatorship ‑ has brought no respite to society. Only the suffering has intensified. In reality this is a reflection of the ongoing social and economic crisis built into the foundations of this tragic country.

The Pakistani ruling class after its independence from direct British rule came onto the scene of history too late and with this came an inability to develop the economy. It was a weak class even at its inception. It could not produce enough surpluses for its profits and capital needed to tap the resources of the country and carry out its historical role of the national revolution that its pioneers had envisaged. It adjusted itself accordingly, and its survival depended on the one hand by being subservient to imperialism and on the other allying itself and compromising with the landed aristocracy created under the Raj. The founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, as early as November 1947, less than three months after the formation of Pakistan, had sent his emissary to Washington asking for a $2bn loan. The response he got was a mere $10million of loose change.

The failure of Pakistan’s ruling elite is evident 62 years later. None of the national democratic tasks have been completed. Several agrarian reforms have failed to abolish feudalism. Pakistan came into existence not as a nation but as a state comprising different nationalities. National oppression continues and the national question has become a festering wound on the body politic of this country. The task of the formation of a modern nation state is far from being achieved and will in fact further deteriorate with the impending crisis. This state of incompleteness of the tasks has wrought havoc on the social and economic life of Pakistani society.

The social and political infrastructure is in a state of collapse. “National sovereignty” is a farce and hardly anybody believes in the state’s independence. Imperialist intervention and domination is on a greater scale today than it was in 1947, the year of Pakistan’s creation. Except for a few years under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, all the finance ministers have been employees of the World Bank or other imperialist financial institutions.

Now the US is even trying to control sections of Pakistan’s armed forces and intruding its military corporate contractors to take over “security” in several vital parts of the country. These include former Blackwater now XE securities, DynCorp and others. An embittered general described the strategic relationship as Americans using Pakistan as a “condom”. The conflicts within the army are also the result of this aggressive hegemony being thrust into the Military’s domain. This is already giving rise to bloody conflicts among different agencies and sections of the armed forces representing black money and other sections of finance capital. This conflict is being waged covertly at the present time. But if a desperate imperialism faces an impending defeat in Afghanistan and tries a partial US occupation of NWFP (Pushtoonkhwa), it could even trigger a severe crisis in the army already under strain from carrying out the CENTCOM instructions on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The fallout could have catastrophic consequences.

Similarly the severe crisis of Pakistani capitalism has failed to develop a parliamentary democracy. The Pakistani ruling class, in the wake of its economic failures turned to plunder of the state at an early stage. They pay less than 10% of total taxation revenues. The real burden falls on the working class who are forced to pay more than 80% of the revenues through indirect taxation. The capitalist class steals electricity and gas, while billions of dollars of bank loans have been written off. According to the figures presented before the Supreme Court of Pakistan, a small section of these leeches’ annual corruption exceeds Rs. 500 billion (US$6.2bn). Most of this money is stashed away in western banking havens.

As this process started to become more and more evident, the army, the most powerful instrument of the state, started to become part of this evil nexus of plunderers and usurpers. The drug-funded and US/Saudi sponsored Afghan Jihad brought even greater loot to the coffers of the generals. Other institutions of the state and society including the judiciary, the bureaucracy and the media joined in this orgy of corruption. Hence, whenever there was a political crisis (conflict of the civilian plunderers) the military moved in to quell the rot. The dictatorships bred more corruption and as they began to lose their grip democracy was introduced ‑ the main reason being the growing danger of a mass revolt that is provoked by these repressive regimes.

Although even a bourgeois democracy is a progressive step forward as compared to military dictatorships, the exploitative system that the military rulers intervene to salvage remains intact. In Pakistan this crisis-ridden system again creates a political instability that reflects the burning economic turmoil. The army and state are not a class, but in the last analysis the economic and social conditions determine the nature of the regime that is needed by the ruling class to preserve the system of exploitation of labour. Comrade Ted Grant elaborated on this in 1949 “The state by its very nature is composed of a bureaucracy, officers, generals, heads of police etc. But those do not constitute a class; they are the instrument of a class even if they may be in antagonism to that class. They cannot themselves be a class.” (The unbroken thread, pp.235).

In Pakistan the irony is that time and again the masses have risen up against the dictatorship, fundamentally to overthrow the yoke of exploitation and misery inflicted upon them by this vicious system of class rule. When they were allowed even to make half a choice through the ballot-box they propelled the PPP to power. Yet their hopes have been dashed time and again by the PPP in government in the short span of less than 40 years. The toiling masses have been loyal to their tradition for generations. The ruling class only allowed the PPP into the corridors of power to dissipate the mass upsurge. Above all the ruling class, the state and the imperialists have used the capitulating leaders of the PPP to carry through cuts, privatisations and other drastic anti-working class measures. They could not have achieved so much with the right-wing governments of Sharif, etc., but even under the dictatorships they combined caution with repression.

However, at least in the 1970s the PPP government did carry through some reforms for the betterment of the impoverished masses. In the later PPP governments since 1988 such was the crisis of Pakistani capitalism that there was no room for even minimal reforms. The PPP governments carried through right-wing policies and actions. Paradoxically, privatization and other policies of counter-reforms were introduced at the behest of imperialism by the PPP government in 1989.

The present theory of “reconciliation” initiated by imperialism is the most blatant and insidious form of class collaboration. Policies like the Public Private Partnership (PPP) are a deceptive and poisonous methodology to blunt the class struggle, deceive and corrupt the workers. Such privatization devastates the workers who fall into this treachery of “ownership” of factories from which they are themselves fired to sustain profits. The shares of “ownership” are turned into trash by the speculators on the stock markets and the impoverished workers become bankrupt and are forced into starvation and drudgery.

As the crisis worsens, the ruling class and the establishment come to the conclusion that the potential of a PPP government to carry out the policies to preserve capitalism have become exhausted, and they use the state to kick out PPP governments. If the Army is not in a position to carry out this act, then the other vital organ of the state, the Judiciary comes into play. After all, both are the sacrosanct pillars of the state.

As the PPP is a populist party it lacks democratic structures, with no democratically elected bodies and no revocability of the leadership. Hence an atmosphere of pusillanimity and conformity prevails inside the party where compromises and deals are the prerogative of the leader alone. The working masses have no alternative yet. Hence the right wing regime and dictatorships only prevail until the masses are in a state of disillusionment and despair due to the shattered hopes from the previous PPP government. At the same time the PPP leadership in its quest for power again, using the force of tradition tries to mobilise the masses. The slogans and programmes of every campaign are carefully calculated by the experts and advisors of the PPP leadership.

However, it is very difficult to control the masses once they are mobilized and are on the move. This forces the leaders to radicalise their slogans as the pressure from below mounts. Dialectically this further emboldens the masses and forces the traditional leaders to further move to the left and begin to defy the state. Sections of the state become terrified by this surge and in desperation resort to the most atrocious measures.

This was the dynamic and the intensification of the movement in the autumn of 2007 that led to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The experts who were promoting the interests of the status quo failed to handle this situation that was rapidly spiralling out of control. In ordinary times they try to use ideas and tactics, from left reformism to democracy, to the slogan of “food, shelter and clothing”. But they ensure that the party’s founding programme that calls for revolutionary socialism remains hidden from the rank and file and the workers and youth who are the main basis of support for the Party. It has in fact been buried by the leadership for more than two decades. Actually it is very awkward and embarrassing even to mention the word “socialism” in the meetings of the various tiers of the leaders.

Most if these present-day leaders have never read the founding documents of the PPP. This documents clearly states, “The ultimate objective of the party’s policy is the attainment of a classless society which is only possible through Socialism in our times”. The irony is that the initial revision of this programme was given the vulgar expression of a “multi-class party”. The latest version of this form of class collaborationism is “Reconciliation”. Often such discourses have led to the tragic assassinations of the most charismatic leaders of the PPP.

Chairman Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in his last book, “If I am assassinated”, had clearly warned about the catastrophic consequences of these class collaborationist digressions and even stressed upon the role of this ideological deviation in the imposition of Zia’s brutal Martial Law and as a cause of his own ordeal and assassination. Yet the next generation of the PPP leaders have not learnt anything from his last testament. And as the old saying goes, “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. How tragically the subsequent events have proved this to be so pertinent. But for how long will the masses continue to adhere to this tradition?

The present PPP-led coalition government based on the theory of “reconciliation” has meant havoc for the masses. In just two years of its existence, price hikes, increases in unemployment, lack of healthcare and education, deprivation, shortage of electricity, water, flour, sugar, petroleum products, gas, etc., have been astronomical. The level of poverty has risen sharply. Wars are raging in large areas of the country. Terrorism, fear, uncertainty and insecurity stalk the land. Suicide bombings and terrorist carnage has turned society into a living hell. The Americans are using the Pakistan Army and the state to fight their wars for strategies and interests that have been given false names and objectives. The PPP is in government but they are not the ones calling the shots. In this caged rulership they are being used to execute policies to further the vested interests of the imperialists and the ruling elites.

The crisis of the state and society has reached such proportions that even the serious bourgeois analysts are terrified of the consequences. They confess today what they could not even imagine in the past. An article in The Dawn says the following:

“Pakistan’s biggest tragedy… has been the axis of trouble between America, Pakistan army and the religious parties… until and unless the axis is broken… the so-called democratisation of Pakistan will not bring peace or prosperity to the latter’s 170 million people, nearly eighty percent of whom live below the poverty line of $2 a day. The army has no incentive to break the axis of trouble (a legacy of the great game) because it thrives on the perpetuations of conflicts in the region and the largesse it receives from the United States. Pakistan had been cursed by the civilian and military leaders who are too eager to follow the US agenda…

“…Politics has been demonised to degrees that save for the incompetent and allegedly corrupt individuals like Mr. Zardari or Mr. Nawaz Sharif or creations of the establishment like Altaf Hussain (MQM) or Maulana Fazalur Rehman, few wish to navigate the treacherous and murderous waters of Pakistani Politics.”

In this crisis-ridden condition the masses have been persistently imbued with the illusion that the judiciary would be the source of their salvation. This notion has been instilled not just by the right-wing politicians, the Islamic fundamentalists, the corrupt and reactionary bourgeois media but also by the left parties and groups. The restoration of the so-called “free” judiciary has not only failed to give any respite to the impoverished millions but has miserably failed to solve even petty issues like sugar shortages, petroleum prices, etc., and has been exposed to be impotent and ineffective. Its ‘suo motto’ actions have proved to be deceptive and farcical. The masses in their experiences of life know that not only justice is ridiculously expensive but it is corrupt to the core. The article in The Dawn further elaborates and exposes the role and character of Pakistan’s Judiciary.

“An independent Judiciary is an oxymoron in current objective conditions. The so called revolt by some in the judiciary against Musharraf was the manifestation of the power struggle inside the establishment. The judiciary is as much part of the collapsing Pakistani state structure as some of the big media personalities. The ugly reality is that the business of that state and policies has become a mafia enterprise with usual mix of big money (read business, drugs, land) interests and crime. This criminal enterprise has the active support of the Americans who find it convenient to use a corrupt instrument that a puppet state is, be it military or quasi military…

“…Until and unless a movement emerges that appeals to popular sentiment and represents the people’s real aspirations to create a genuinely democratic state, Pakistan’s chance of survival in its current state are grim.” (The Dawn, 5 December 2009)

We have quoted this article at some length because it graphically exposes the gravity of the situation. And that exposure is in the most important and traditional paper of Pakistan’s ruling class. The present ruling class are crying hoarse about democracy. They equate every solution of every problem to “democracy”. The din has now escalated to a deafening crescendo. Yelling about democracy at the top their voices round the clock, on the television, in the newspapers, every political party with ideologies ranging from Islamic fundamentalism to the nationalists, to the liberal and so-called ‘secular democrats’, has been issuing an agonising, monotonous and annoying message for the masses. The PPP leaders are the most tedious and raucous. The masses being thrust in the abyss of misery, poverty and disease have become sick and tired of this democratic demagogy, constitutional and legalistic wrangles and all this hypocritical nonsense of “national” interests’ with its decayed and treacherous patriotism.

Democracy is not a social system. It is a methodology used in different varieties in different social systems in history. From that of the Roman republic to the Athenian model and from the Asiatic despotic democracy to the shura of Islam this method of rule has gone through various forms and shapes. The masses in Pakistan have only experienced the worsening of their misery and pain under this “democracy” of finance capital and free market economics. The genuine democracy of the workers and the toiling masses can only be accomplished by the overthrow of this yoke of dictatorship of the financial oligarchy. The conditions on the ground and what the masses think represent a death knell for the upholders of this system. In a recent British Council report of s survey on Pakistan called “Next generation”, the following inferences have been drawn.

The young respondents who participated in this survey are deeply disillusioned with only 15 percent believing that Pakistan is moving in the right direction; 72 percent feel they are worse off than they were a year ago. Given this level of despair it is hardly surprising that only two percent are members of any political party. Just half of them are bothered to get themselves enrolled in the voters list and only 30% voted in the last election. Only half of young Pakistanis enter primary schools and a quarter go on to receive a secondary education. Less than five percent get a higher education of any kind. The conditions in hospitals and other basic facilities are even worse. Seventy eight percent of the population is forced into semi or non scientific medication. They simply can’t afford proper treatment. But this despair and apathy is not going to last forever.

The masses are fed up with most political and ideological tendencies and ideologies on the horizon. All present “solutions” that are within the confines of this rotting capitalist system. The masses are fed up with the Islamic parties and religious fundamentalism. The surge in terrorism has eroded their support drastically, which was not much anyway. They pose no alternative. The pro American stance of the nationalists and their love for a free market enterprise seals their fate of getting a mass social base. Liberal democracy with its rampant corruption, its betrayals and lumbering of the economic crusade upon the shoulders of the population has repelled the masses. There is a widespread revulsion towards these political trends and parties. Meanwhile, the army is going through internal conflicts that have fractured its cohesion and discipline. The escalation of war will further ignite dissent within the armed forces. The judiciary is being rapidly exposed. It sacrosanct image imposed by the media will further erode as deprivation and want intensify. It won’t and can’t solve any problems of the masses.

The PPP government is being targeted by the media. The Muslim League’s and Sharif’s party is facing a downward economic spiral. The only outcome of the policies of the present PPP government is that they are repaving the way for the right wing. If the Sharifs fail the right will bring in another alternative. But even the removal of the PPP government will not quell the rot. The crisis will further aggravate. Even if the ruling class and the Americans try to install a new military dictatorship it will be a very dangerous move for the system itself. It’s not the same military and it’s not the same times. Even Musharraf’s dictatorship seemed to be a picnic compared to the strong dictatorship of Ayub Khan or the brutal and ferocious military rule of Zia Ul Haq.

A new dictatorship may be very repressive to begin with but would be very fragile and would not last long in the present conditions. Bourgeois democracy has failed to deliver. The system is rotten to the core. It cannot take society forward. The extreme crisis of the system reflects the elements of barbarism raising its ugly head in several parts of Pakistan. Without a socio-economic transformation the country is doomed. Its breakup is not the most likely perspective but if at all it should happen, the bloodshed and devastation would be unprecedented. Its existence in the present form will be a continual aggravation of crisis and instability. The only way forward is the overthrow of this system through a socialist revolution.

There are innumerable left groups and parties. But they are miniscule and confused. They unite to break up into more sects that merge and then reunite again, without considering the ideological and theoretical basis or clear perspective and aims. They unite for ‘revolution’ without agreeing upon even the basic character of the revolution.

The PPP’s present leadership has been discredited to the extent that their regaining of social base in the coming period is unlikely. According to the Forbes magazine, Zardari is amongst the ten richest heads of state. He has even more wealth than the Queen of England. But that is not the end of the PPP. In spite, and despite, of its leadership the masses will not let go of their tradition without a fight. This time there is a far greater possibility that the leadership will be challenged as the party yet once again fills up in the wake of a fresh movement of the masses. But this time the challenge will come on an ideological basis. The Socialist foundations will come to haunt the present corrupt leaders and their cronies. There will be a huge ferment in the ranks.

The perspective of the movement is not just the only hope for the survival of this society but it is a reality unforeseen in the doom and gloom of those whose ideas were defeated by historical events. New generations have grown up since the fall of Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. They are yearning for change. Once they enter the arena of struggle a revolutionary wave will spread across society. Its reverberations will be felt among the trade unions, students, youth and the poor peasants. It will have an impact in the PPP as we saw the impact of the masses in the psychology of the leadership in the autumn of 2007.

If an organized Marxist tendency is quantitatively and qualitatively developed in time then another accidental leadership or demagogic individual being prepared by the state will not be able to hijack the PPP and divert and betray the movement again. A massive upheaval that would erupt out of such atrocious conditions and smash seemingly formidable obstacles will be even more forceful and militant than what we saw in 1968-69. The Marxists, if they are present as a substantial force armed with firm ideological understanding and profound methodology of revolutionary socialism, at the onset of such an upsurge will be able to illuminate for the workers, peasants and youth a clear path and a destiny they have yearned for generations. The victory of revolutionary socialism in Pakistan would not just destroy barbarism, but would have revolutionary repercussions far beyond these artificial borders.

’عدلیہ دائرہ کار سے تجاوز کر گئی ہے‘

علی سلمان

بی بی سی اردو ڈاٹ کام، لاہور

عاصمہ جہانگیرعدلیہ کا کام ارکانِ پارلیمان کی اخلاقیات کی جانچ پڑتال نہیں

پاکستان انسانی حقوق کمشن کی چیئرپرسن عاصمہ جہانگیر نے این آر او کے بارے میں سپریم کورٹ کے فیصلے پر تبصرہ کرتے ہوئے کہا ہے ’عدلیہ اپنے دائرہ کار سے تجاوز کرگئی ہے اوریہ بہت ہی خطرناک بات ہوگی کہ سپریم کورٹ اراکین پارلیمان کی اخلاقیات پر فیصلے دے۔‘

عاصمہ جہانگیر نے بی بی سی اردو ڈاٹ کام سے گفتگو کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ جس طریقے سے فیصلہ آیا اور مانیٹرنگ سیل بنائے گئے اور سارے اراکین پارلیمان کو ایک طرح سے وارننگ دی گئی کہ ان کے کردار کی چھان بین ہوسکے گی ’وہ سمجھتی ہیں کہ عدلیہ اپنے دائرے سے باہر نکلی ہے۔‘

انہوں نے کہا وہ اس بات کی توقع نہیں رکھتی تھیں کہ عدلیہ اب اس بات کی جانچ پڑتال شروع کردے گی کہ ممبران کے اخلاقیات کیا ہیں۔

عاصمہ جہانگیر نے کہا کہ اراکین اسمبلی تو الیکشن لڑ کر آتے ہیں لیکن جج تو اپنی ساکھ کی وجہ سے آتے ہیں اگر ممبران پارلیمان کے لیے معیار اتنا بلند کردیا جائے کہ کوئی اس پر پورا نہ اتر سکے تو پھر عدلیہ کا معیار تو اس سے بھی بہت بلند ہونا چاہیے۔

انسانی حقوق کمشن پاکستان کی سربراہ نے کہا کہ ’یہ جوڈیشل ایکٹوازم نہیں ہے بلکہ عدلیہ اپنی اتھارٹی کو بہت زیادہ آگے لے گئی ہے۔اب اس نے مانیٹرنگ سیل قائم کرنے کی بات کر دی ہے۔یہ بھی دیکھا جائے گا کہ کس میکنزم کے مطابق کام ہوگا۔‘

’عدلیہ کی سپرویژن تو ہوتی ہے لیکن مانیٹرنگ سیل ہم نے آج تک نہیں دیکھا کہ اس طریقے بنائے گئے ہوں۔‘

انہوں نے کہا کہ وہ سمجھتی ہیں کہ تقسیم اختیارات کا نظریہ متاثر ہوا ہے۔’عدلیہ کو اپنے رویے پر غور کرنا چاہیے اس کا اپنا ایک مقام ہے اور اسے اپنے اس مقام پر واپس چلے جانا چاہیے۔وہ کسی خاص معاملے یا کیس میں اپنی دلچسپی نہ دکھائے۔‘

’وہ انصاف ضرور کریں لیکن یہ مخصوص نہ ہو بلکہ مساویانہ انداز سے ہونا چاہیے کیونکہ یہ نہ صرف ملک کے لیےبلکہ خود ان کے لیے بھی اچھا نہیں ہوگا۔‘

ایک سوال کے جواب میں انہوں نے کہا کہ وہ اس فیصلے کے خلاف اسی صورت میں اپیل کرسکتی تھیں جب اس عدالت سے بڑی بھی کوئی عدالت ہوتی۔انہوں نے کہا کہ سپریم کورٹ کے سترہ رکنی بنچ نے ایسا فیصلہ سنا دیا ہے جس کی کہیں اپیل بھی نہیں ہوسکتی۔

’انسان آخر انسان ہوتا ہے اس سے غلطی ہوسکتی ہے اسی لیے اپیل کا حق رکھا جاتا ہے۔ یہ بھی سوچنے کی بات ہے کہ اتنے بڑے فیصلے کردیئے جائیں اور اس کی کہیں اپیل بھی نہ ہوسکے۔‘

انہوں کہا کہ وہ یہ نہیں کہتیں کہ عدلیہ فیصلے نہ دے لیکن جو بھی کرے بہت سوچ سمجھ کر کرے۔

عاصمہ جہانگیر نے کہا کہ اس سے کوئی انکار نہیں کرسکتا کہ جن لوگوں نے لوٹ مار کی ہے ان کے مقدمات عدالتوں میں چلنے چاہیے اور یوں اجتماعی معافی نہیں ہونی چاہیے لیکن عدلیہ نے جس انداز میں فیصلے کیے ہیں اس پر انہیں تحفظات ہیں۔

دریں اثناء انسانی حقوق کمشن آف پاکستان نے ایک بیان جاری کیا ہے جس میں بعض افراد کے بیرون ملک نقل وحرکت پر پابندی کو بنیادی حق کی خلاف ورزی قرار دیا ہے اور کہا ہے کہ کمشن کو اس بات پر پریشانی ہے کہ حکام نے ایگزٹ کنٹرول لسٹ آرڈیننس کا اطلاق کردیا ہے جسے کبھی بھی منصفانہ نہیں سمجھا گیا۔کمشن کی سربراہ عاصمہ جہانگیر نے کہاکہ پیشگی نوٹس اور مناسب وجوہات بیان کیے بغیر پابندی عائد کرنا اس بنیادی حق کی خلاف ورزی ہے جس کی ضمانت ملک کا آئین دیتا ہے۔انہوں نے کہا کہ جن لوگوں کے خلاف عدلیہ میں مقدمات چل رہے ہوں ان کے بیرون ملک سفر پر پابندی عائد کرنا ضروری نہیں ہے ان کے فرار کو روکنے کے لیے عدالت میں قانونی سطح پر یقین دہانی حاصل کی جاسکتی ہے۔انہوں نے کہا کہ ایگزٹ کنٹرول لسٹ کو ماضی میں سیاسی طور پر حراساں کرنے کے لیےاستعمال کیا جاتا رہا ہے اور اب ایگزٹ کنٹرول لسٹ کا عدالتی فیصلے کی آڑ میں من مانے طریقے سے استعمال کسی آفت سے کم نہیں سمجھا جائے گا۔انہوں نے کہا کہ قومی دولت لوٹنے والوں کے خلاف جو قانونی کارروائی کی جارہی ہے وہ کافی ہے، حکام کو بے جا غصے اور جوش میں آکر ایسے ناجائزاقدام نہیں کرنے چاہیے جنہیں وہ انصاف سمجھتے ہوں۔

Source: BBC Urdu

Asma Jahingir is the chairperson of Human Rights commission of Pakistan.

His honourable eminence Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri passed away in the city of Qom in Iran. H.E Montazeri was one of the “grand Maraja” of Shia Islam. He was one the leaders of Iranian Revolution and was appointed as the successor to supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini. He developed serious differences with Khomeini on the situation of human rights and liberties in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Angered by his dissent Khomeini dismissed him and a junior cleric Syed Ali Khamenei  who  was only a mid-ranking clerik or Hojjatoleislam was elevated to the rank of Iran’s supreme leader after Khomeini’s death.

Though Hossein-Ali Montazeri was one of the principle architect of theocracy in Iran and he was the only senior Shia cleric who supported Khomeini’s controversial doctrine of Viliyat-e-Fiqqihe or the “rule of cleric”, he soon realized the follies of this doctrine and the evil of Islamic republic. He openly protested against political executions, lack of civil liberties and restricting  rights of women in the Islamic Republic.

He was perhaps the only cleric in Iran to criticize Khomeinie’s infamous fatwa against the great British novelist Salman Rushdie.

He was the strongest and most vocal critic of the Islamic republic within the clerical establishment of Qom. He was also a persistent and brave critic of evil regime of Ahmedinijad and Khamenei. He protested the massive election rigging and use of violence to suppress the people of Iran by the evil regime. He gave a call for public mourning for 3 days on murder of student protester , the nightingale of peace, Neda Aga Soltan.

Aga Montazeri will also be remembered for his brave stance on human rights of the Bahai community in Iran.

He will be remembered as one of the principle architect of clerical rule in Iran but also as one of its finest critics and defender of human rights.


فوج حق کو کچل نہیں سکتی
فوج چاہے کسی یزید کی ہو
لاش اٹھتی ہے پھر عَلم بن کر
لاش چاہے کسی شہید کی ہو