Last Friday in Islamabad, three left-wing parties announced their merger at a press conference. Workers Party Pakistan, Awami Party Pakistan and Labour Party Pakistan will launch the newly-formed Awami Workers Party at a founding conference in Lahore on November 11. The much-fragmented and much-criticised parties of the left have made similar efforts in the past but without much success, both in terms of bringing the large number of small like-minded factions of the left on a single political platform and in winning over people that it speaks for. Will this initiative produce better results?

As far as the established parties go, the distinction between who is on the left of the centre and who on the right has become non-existent. Whether it is parties like the PPP and ANP that were traditionally slotted on the left side, or the various factions of the PML that were considered to be right of the centre, there is hardly any difference on how they approach the economy. The entire spectrum of parties in Parliament is quite content with going along with the prevalent framework of global free market capitalism. Even PTI, that promises to bring about the change that we’ve been waiting for and free us from the clutches of imperialism, has failed to come up with an economic policy that could challenge this exploitative framework of the empire. The religious parties, despite their anti-empire rhetoric, have no alternatives to offer either. Given its socialistic moorings, will the newly-formed Awami Workers Party fill this gap?

Clearly, the established economic framework of the empire, built around the currency of dollar that has no real value and propped up by the debilitating tools of debt and interest, is designed to work for an ever-shrinking minority of the rich. As more and more people are pushed into poverty and the gap between the rich and the poor widens all over the world, this framework is coming under harsh criticism and being given apt names like predatory capitalism and monetary fascism. There is a growing awareness that the system is based on wealth-extraction, transferring resources from the poor to the rich, and from the rich to the richer. The critics point out that the contemporary state within this framework has assumed the function of facilitating this daylight robbery by those at the top of the heap, instead of protecting the weak and vulnerable sections of the population and providing for their welfare; giving trillion dollar bailouts to rogue financial institutions while preaching austerity to the poor.

It is no longer only the colonised people, who are at the receiving end of this greed-driven system of exploitation disguised as free-market capitalism. More and more people in developed countries are feeling the pinch as their governments begin to speak without shame the language of the powerful moneyed interests that they serve; cutting spending on public welfare, privatising public services, waging wars and fashioning their policies for the benefit of big business and big banks. This global onslaught of big money, and the resultant impoverishment of everyone else, has once again brought relevance to politics of the left that were considered buried with the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, while there might be a broad agreement on the nature of the problem, the left is yet to come up with an alternative to the existing system of monetary fascism, and a political strategy to transition to a more humane system of governance.

Still, the political environment all over the world is ripe for such a transition. But just like other groups and parties of the left who are trying to reinvent themselves, for the Awami Workers Party as well, this, perhaps, is the most crucial task. It is also the most challenging. Responding to a question at the press conference in Islamabad regarding how this recent initiative from the left was different from similar efforts in the past, Workers Party’s Abid Hassan Minto mentioned a few aspects that could make a difference. The left in Pakistan has traditionally relied on borrowed models that they tried to implement in the local context. The Awami Workers Party would like to change that and come up with a homegrown model of social change, basing its politics on the reality on the ground while benefitting from the vigorous debate underway in left circles internationally. Instead of imposing a dogmatic model from the top, the party hopes to thrash out its perspective, analysis and strategy through discussion.

This is a positive sign. The resolve to cut through dogma to address contemporary challenges and fashion a homegrown strategy for transition to a system that works for the common good is a positive first step though. The party will have to come up with a concrete economic plan that charts out a blueprint of disengaging from the global capitalist framework and creating an alternative model of running the economy. In a world where the ruling elites seem to have accepted the empire’s economic framework as divine revelation, this is not an easy task. But the politics of the new party, and of the left in general, will start making sense only when they create that much-needed alternative. To win people over, the new party will also have to discard the jargon and speak in a language that is understood by people whose rights it wishes to safeguard. As it is, the mass of people being crushed under the prevalent system would like to hear a different tune. The question is: will the new left find the right notes?

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: hazirjalees@hotmail.com