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Prologue: From Climate of Change to Years of Climate Change

Fayyaz Baqir

December 29th, 2016

 

 

 

It is almost 50 years ago that a student movement against colonial occupations, racial discrimination, class prejudices and sexual segregation swept the globe. This movement was known as hippie movement, sexual revolution and anti Vietnam War movement in the Western world; Movement against totalitarianism in the Eastern Block and anti imperialist struggle in the Third World. Starting from Berkeley, it spread to London, Bonn, Prague, Paris, Lahore, Dhaka, Soul and Hochi Minh City. These were days of Che Guevara’s cry for a global change, proclaiming that “a spectator is a coward or a traitor” or Regis Debray’s “Revolution in the Revolution” calling young revolution idealists to take up critique of arms rather than arm of the critique for making social change. There was general disillusionment with non-violent, democratic path against various forms of social, economic and political injustice. These movements started as expression of resentment against local conditions but echoed a common concern against global prevalence of injustice, exploitation and oppression.

In Pakistan, the student movement was part of mass upsurge against dictatorial rule of General Ayub Khan. Students, industrial workers, lawyers, journalists, political workers and people from rural areas started an unrelenting series of protests and mass demonstrations which culminated in the downfall of Ayub Khan’s government. Left wing student organizations played an important role in this struggle. Starting in 1968 this movement went through a period of unprecedented rise but subsequently witnessed decline and phased out in 1988, the year when Cold War came to an end. While the struggle for socialism has almost been wiped out in Pakistan, the struggle against all forms of injustice under a global economic order still continues. That is why looking back at the ideology and political practice of the left becomes relevant under current circumstances. I was part of this movement. Starting today I want to share my recollection of these years of turmoil, turbulence and treacherous challenges. I plan to write one page a day. If the nature of content requires more or less space than a page, I would generally not write more than five pages a week.

At the outset I want to state the limitations of this narrative; One, prominent left wing student organizations worked with clandestine communist groups. These groups started working as secret group after Communist Party of Pakistan was banned in 1954 on charges of hatching a conspiracy to overthrow the civilian government with the help of military officers. Due to secret nature of work, the communist groups working behind the front organizations avoided keeping written records of internal decisions, discussions and deliberations. The account presented here can therefore be compared with press coverage, publications of these groups and other public documents to verify their accuracy. This narrative would be my personal account based on my memory of participating in specific events; observations of activities;   description of second hand account of events; and my personal interpretations of the things taking place. I have no record at hand to verify certain names, dates and locations. It would be the job of an analyst to verify and analyze the material presented here. Two, I am talking of things that happened 30-50 years ago. So there is possibility of forgetting or mixing up certain facts. Among the readers whosoever was witness to these events and activities is welcome to correct me, preferably by presenting an evidence to support the difference of views. The purpose of this narration is to present as accurately as possible the activities and event that took place during these years; to save a substantive body of oral knowledge before it becomes extinct; and draw lessons for the current phase of struggle in a much more complex and rapidly changing global arena. Three, it is narration of events in hindsight; as I see things now. Things might have seemed different to all of us differently at that time. So, it is not the only word or final word on these years. We need more and different narrations, because as Hegel said, “The truth is whole”.

Finally, we need to have fresh look at the hot days of our activism as the global agenda has changed in many ways from the climate of change in post colonial days to the issue of climate change in the times fractured global economic order.            

 

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