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Maoism Without Maoism

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Message Thomas Riggins
"TALIBAN ENLIST AN ARMY OF PAKISTAN'S HAVE-NOTS''-- blazes a headline for a story by Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah in Friday's NEW YORK TIMES (4-17-2009). Reporting from Peshawar, the authors explain how the Taliban took over a major part of Pakistan and plan to take over the country itself in the not too distant future. Here is how it happened in their own words (slightly edited to reduce length and to provide emphasis).

"The Taliban have advanced deeper into Pakistan by engineering a CLASS REVOLT that exploits profound fissures between a small group of wealthy landlords and their landless tenants.... " [ They defeated the Pakistani Army, took over the Swat Valley, imposed Taliban law and order, and are heading for the Punjab and eventually the whole of Pakistan-- it only a matter of time! Why?]

"The Taliban's ability to EXPLOIT CLASS DIVISIONS ... is raising alarm about the risks to Pakistan, which remains largely FEUDAL." Pakistan is ruled by "a NARROW LANDED UPPER CLASS that kept its vast holdings while its WORKERS [i.e., peasants] REMAINED SUBSERVIENT...."

The feudal ruling class and its military controlled state has "failed to provide LAND REFORM and even the most basic forms of education and health care. Avenues to advancement for the vast majority of rural poor do not exist." The Punjab (no small potatoes here) "is ripe for the same social upheavals that have convulsed Swat and the tribal areas."

The Times also reports that there is a feeling in some segments of the upper class and its representatives that the Pakistani masses are ripe for revolution.

This is the blueprint that was behind the rise of Maoism and its triumphs in the last century (and more recently in Nepal). The big difference is that Maoism was ideologically based on Marxism and its program, though grounded in the peasantry, was influenced by the advanced ideological positions of a socialistically conscious working class.

This is not the case with the Taliban. The revolutionary potential of the Pakistani masses is being directed towards the establishment of a fundamentalist "Islamic" state which will keep the class relations of feudalism but spread the surplus created by peasant labor in a more equitable way.

The coming of Taliban power will end the control of the Pakistani state by the landlord class (which is rotten to the core and deserves no sympathy for either its fascistic military or its pseudo-democratic political facade) but will not really bring liberation to the Pakistani masses other than needed economic relief to the unending super exploitation they are now enduring.

The Taliban, and all it represents, is a nightmare for Western progressives. It presents us with beautiful example of a dialectical conundrum. The NEGATION of the present Pakistani state is nothing to cry over, but what forces are available for the NEGATION OF THE NEGATION as the Taliban is historically a dead end. The West, and particularly U.S. imperialism has managed to destroy all the really progressive regimes in the region--- I mean the pro-Soviet Afghan government and the former Central Asian Soviet Republics (and the Chinese are on an extended revolutionary holiday) and is engaged even now in both Iraq and Afghanistan in hopeless reactionary military adventures which only strengthen the Taliban and its allies.

Well, this is the dilemma. Are there any viable progressive forces in Pakistan? Does anyone know what their positions are and how they propose to deal with the Taliban?
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Thomas Riggins, PhD CUNY, is a retired university lecturer in philosophy and ancient history and the former book review editor for Political Affairs magazine.

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