Class, power and Social Change- Research Agenda for democratic discourse
By Fayyaz Baqir
There is a need to share observations on issues which need to be further investigated to set direction for democratic social change in Pakistan. The readers may add more questions and/ or volunteer to write on some of the questions raised in this piece.
Class, power and Social Change
Power of capital under contemporary Global Capitalism has concentrated in the hands of a few hundred multi- national corporations. Industrial production has made transition from factory floor to family enterprises through outsourcing. Share of service sector has increased and agriculture sector declined. Informal sector has expanded and urban population constitutes critical mass of population struggling against the power of corporate capital and corporate state. Capital has wiped out subsistence production, feudal power and parochial ideologies and penetrated in every sphere of life in Pakistan including state politics, media, showbiz, religion, consumer taste, language, culture, living habits and civil society. Capitalist content retains older guises in many walks of Pakistani life. At the same time the contradiction between labour and capital has assumed the form of contradiction between State/ Supra State blocks and Civil Society.
Clients of global capital operate under the name of traditional values of Biraderi, faith and patriotism. Pakistan has also become a turf of war between various factions of capital threatening its own integrity and stability. The void created by the collapse of traditional classes and power structure has been filled by Mafias and proxy militants. These mafias created, nurtured and supported by sections of global capital have hijacked the political discourse. Left is unable to play any significant role in transforming Pakistani society and re appropriating the space from Mafia due to its inherent weaknesses. Pakistani left had strong presence in trade unions, localized peasant organizations, journalism, poetry, art, literature, nationality’s politics and politics of mass agitation and resistance. Left did not have sound political analysis, expertise in mass politics and knowledge to deal with constituency based electoral process and “bourgeois” democratic outlook. Times have changed. What were barriers in the past have to be looked at as opportunities now. Due to collapse of socialist block, entire world has come under one tent. This gives us the opportunity to be the mosquito in the tent and re appropriate the space from financial, social and militaristic mafias.
We have developed an inclination to misjudge and deny opportunities. It is partly based on our misperception and unfair assessment of Pakistani reality especially Islam.
To deal with the inequalities and injustice generated by existing socio-economic system we need to understand the size of National Income, contribution and share of various classes? size, sources and function of unearned income (Leasing, license, permit, loans, SROs); and untaxed income? the size and distribution of income? nature and size of resources available for productive employment? and factors that determines their inflow and outflow?
Due to the end of cold war democratic system of government has expanded to most of former third world countries and reformist politics has emerged as the major form of political struggle. Feudal power has collapsed. It has been replaced by rent collectors patronized by global capital for providing right of passage to raw materials, goods and capital markets.
Environmental degradation has been exported to the developing economies on large scale.
Regulation of economy and Social Accountability constitute the key points of agenda for social change. Transparency, freedom of information, consultation, complaint redressing, enforcement of global and national guarantees, progressive taxation, aid effectiveness, welfare would be some of the points on Agenda for social change.
The State and politics
State has played important economic role in late comer capitalist economies. In Pakistan due to unfinished agenda of partition Pakistan was compelled to become a national security state. Cold war allowed Pakistani state to develop beyond its means and become regional player. State also strengthened its power by outsourcing military services. What is the structure of power? Army, Political Parties, Interest Groups, Mafias, Media, Diaspora; Status of women, religious and ethnic minorities, nationalities? Political parties, interest groups, violence and militant groups? Electoral politics and patronage. Parliamentary democracy; split mandate, floor crossing and corruption? Proportional representation, direct presidential elections, ticket allocation by primaries, fund raising for elections, accountability by complaint redressing system (consumer courts and legal aid), public hearings on mega projects and loans, participatory budget making, law making by parliament and development budget to local government, direct elections for nazims in local government, social mobilization, number of provinces, Foreign Policy, etc..
Ideology: religion and secularism
Religion defines the contours of political ideology but religious parties do not have any significant claim on political power. Religious parties have an extremely limited vote bank, shrinking capacity to influence public opinion, narrow economic and power base; a lean, committed, Spartan and disciplined force of activists. People opposed secularism because of hegemonic policies of secular Congress, secular India and secular West. But majority of people vote for secular parties in Pakistan.
State of Economy
Social base of resistance and forms of struggle
Interest groups, documentation of tacit knowledge and national economy, media and social media, mass politics
New challenges, spaces and forms of resistance
Critical appraisal of experience Social Development, Right Based alternative to constituency politics, Interest Groups, Media and Social Media, knowledge economy.