A two-day workshop marking the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution was held on the 3rd and 4th of November 2017. Organized by Anushay Malik and Ali Raza, the workshop brought together
scholars and activists with an aim
of initiating a critically-informed
conversation on communist, socialist, and revolutionary movements in South Asia, and, specifically, in Pakistan.
The workshop was inaugurated by the noted intellectual and women’s rights activist, Nighat Saeed Khan, who
gave a keynote address on the role of women in Marxist political thought and leftist movements. Her address was
followed by four sessions featuring a total of thirteen speakers. Together, the sessions covered the history of labor movements, political organizations, intellectual genealogies, and progressive literature in Pakistan and South Asia.
The speakers reflected on how the Soviet Revolution was important not only for the events of the revolution
itself, but also for the impact it had internationally. In that respect, Karamat Ali, Ammar Jan and Aasim Sajjad Akhtar discussed the global implications of
the Bolshevik Revolution’s legacy, while Anushay Malik, Ali Raza, Nadeem Khalid, Sarah Suhail and Muhammad Azeem discussed its impact on leftist and labour movements in Pakistan. An important perspective from East Pakistan was also provided by Dr. Layli Uddin who gave a talk on the politics of Maulana Bhashani and the National Awami Party. These perspectives were further enriched by the contributions of Ahmad Salim, Humaira Ishfaq, Jaffer Ahmad, and Kamran Asdar Ali on the politics, history and legacy of the Progressive Writers’ Movement in South Asia.
The conference was well-attended by academics, students professionals, and activists from Lahore and elsewhere. It was also attended by veteran activist Rauf Malik, the last surviving member of the pre-partition Communist Party of India. One notable aspect of the workshop was the personal reflections of the speakers, many of whom have devoted their lives to progressive politics and causes in Pakistan. Notable examples included: Nighat Saeed Khan, one of the founders of the Women’s Action Forum (WAF); Karamat Ali, Director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER); Aasim Sajjad Akhtar of the Awami Workers Party; and Ahmed Salim, whose valuable work in archiving the records of progressive movements in Pakistan continues to be a great resource for researchers across the world. As part of the conference programme, a concert by Arieb Azhar was also organized. The concert was enjoyed by faculty and students alike.
Anushay Malik and Ali Raza are Assistant Professors at the MGSHSS.
This article was first published in the MGSHSS newsletter, 'Guftugu'.