Workers of the world, unite! (except in Pakistan - and indeed anywhere else)
Ted Crawford of the Revolutionary History editorial board highlights the shameful duplication of socialist effort in the race to aid earthquake victims
I have become very interested in the Pakistani earthquake and the response to it, since my eldest daughter is working as a volunteer with Oxfam in Kashmir dealing with the horrors. To my amazement I have found that there are no less than four quite distinct efforts to help the victims by different Trotskyist groups. There appear to be at least another two (see Weekly Worker website), but the situation at the moment as regards these four, representing the affiliates of one French and three British groups, is as follows. First, the Pakistani Struggle group, which is affiliated to the International Marxist Tendency (previously the Committee for a Marxist International) - the tiny Grant-Woods tendency around Socialist Appeal in the UK. This is the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign (PTUDC), whose details appear on www.marxist.com/pakistan-earthquake-appeal101005.htm and to which you can send money by PayPal. This seems the most important of the purely Trotskyist efforts. It appears to have sent about 15-plus lorries with relief supplies to the affected areas and also claims to have organised doctors in four medical teams plus supplies. Struggle has a number of good accounts and photographs on its website Second, the Committee for a Workers' International, whose main affiliate is the Socialist Party, or Taaffe tendency, which calls itself the Trade Union Rights Campaign Pakistan (TURCP). You can send money to the TURCP at PO Box 52135, London E9 5WR. It claims to have about seven to eight lorries with relief supplies to the affected areas, but the CWI has much less information about Pakistan on its website than the Socialist Appeal group. Thirdly, there is the Lambertist organisation, which is very small in Pakistan, but has a presence in the trade unions. It asks for money and goods to be sent to the Working Women's Organization (APTUF) at the following address: E5, 48/A, Rehmania Street, Zaman Colony, Cavalry Ground Extension, Lahore, Pakistan. Finally, the Socialist Workers Party is collecting money for Islamic Relief, which, judging by the information in the article in the Weekly Worker (October 20), is a charity best avoided by anyone with a tincture of leftism - or indeed anyone who wants their money to get to the wretched people for whom it is supposedly destined. The divisions among these groups owe more to differences in Europe decades ago rather than in Pakistan today (that they have tactical differences in Pakistan, I know, but these I judge to be the effect rather that the cause of the separation). Such divisions have very little to do with the appalling catastrophe affecting the people in the mountains. Indeed, in so far as different groups have a line on the effects of the earthquake, it appears to this untutored eye to be exactly the same for all of them. Let us return to first principles. How can we best help the class and the poor victims? First, there is clearly a need for unity and joint work. Because the PTUDC is obviously the biggest and appears to be the most effective, perhaps the others should have thrown themselves into that. However, I greatly doubt whether the PTUDC ever asked them to do so, even if they should not have needed to be asked. And I suspect that the Struggle group made no efforts to involve the other leftists as well as Trotskyists in joint activity - in fact I doubt it even crossed their mind. Alas, I would guess all these groups have been too much infected from Europe by the syphilis/Aids of sectarianism. Yes, members of the British SWP, you are the biggest group in the UK, but the Struggle tendency with the PTUDC is the biggest in Pakistan. (True, their Socialist Appeal affiliate here is a tiny group of old buffers - often as old as me.) Certain minimum demands should have been made - they are so obvious, they would hardly need to be agreed - such as open the borders, denounce corruption and government inaction, and thereafter people should have got down to it. Even from the crudest sectarian accounting point of view, there would be lots of contacts made with active, decent young people in the course of doing relief work - apart, that is, from actually helping the sufferers by digging latrines for them. And differences of approach between the groups could be argued about (if the volunteers had any energy left) in the evening. Such is often the best form of political education. It appears from the bourgeois press that all the efforts of the politicals and even the foreign NGOs are dwarfed by those of the various islamist charities. At least that is what they say (see 'Extremists fill aid chasm after quake group banned in Pakistan dispenses relief' Washington Post October 16). Often the tone of these reports is rather hostile, and one cannot be sure that they have not exaggerated the role of the islamists for their own journalistic/imperialist agendas. They also try to find something sinister in the fact that a few have been armed with revolvers to protect the goods they were bringing in. Now I cannot say I have investigated the efforts of all the left tendencies as fully as I would like, since it is difficult at this distance to know exactly what is going on. At any rate I have given my money to the PTUDC, which seems to be both the largest and to have a good political line as regards opening the frontier with India to relief efforts. It also appears to have some sort of united front with some Indian leftwing MPs, including the Communist Party of India (Marxist), on the issue of opening the borders. That seems excellent to me, as does the guarding of its lorries from the lumpen thieves by squads of Young Socialists shouting "No to national war! No to religious war! Yes to class war!" Most of the other leftwing groups have very little about their contribution on their websites that I could find - although this does not mean to say they are making no effort. However, the motives, intention and general attitudes of the small Communist Mazdoor Kisan Party (CMKP) appear excellent, although, of course, much of its politics is Stalinist garbage. The CMKP website contains a couple of very interesting accounts. The impression they left was of absolute confusion and of a great hatred of the generals. They mention that the foreign NGOs are closely controlled by the government. I have my criticisms of the PTUDC - in particular the fact that Alan Woods is being built up as a great guru with a somewhat pompous and overlong address to the people of Kashmir, which is at a prominent point on the www.marxist.com website. What is more, it is stated that this was read out to the comrades at all 20-odd encampments where the CMI are working and greeted with loud applause. Quite ridiculous. (I did pass this view of mine on to Alan and I have to admit I got a courteous note from him, thanking me for my money - even if he said nothing of my criticism.) Finally it will be said, who the hell is this Ted Crawford? What does he represent? I represent the Common-Sense Tendency, comrade. There are not many of us, it is true - and you can see how Musharref and the CIA are trembling in their shoes because of the activities of the Trotskyists. No wonder they do not bother about us.