How would you characterize the situation in Pakistan today?
The most striking thing about the present regime is the extraordinary degree of its isolation. It is a regime which, from one end of the country to another, does not seem to have any popular support. It lacks even the support of vested interests. It is difficult to find people in any social class or among any nationalities, literally anyone, who is willing to defend or justify the existence of the military regime in Pakistan.
It is not as heavily repressive as you would expect, for two reasons. One, this regime does not even have the full cooperation of the national and provincial bureaucracy, including the security forces. Second, the regime is quite aware of its isolation, and fears that repressive measures could ignite a very severe popular revolt. Its repression is much more selective than the Bhutto regime. It aims, though, at brutalizing the political culture of the country — hence the series of public floggings for petty crimes and for political crimes, which in a few cases were even televised, with microphones near the mouths of the people being flogged. Over the last six months or so public floggings have stopped.
This regime is encountering a non-cooperative attitude from the bureaucracy, which still constitutes the primary thread of political administration. For the first time in Pakistan’s history of military rule the officer corps appears to be seriously divided within. The possibility of coups and counter-coups within the army are very high for the first time. Another thing that is very striking about Pakistan today is the deteriorating economic situation. Two things holding the country together economically are receipts from the migrant workers, particularly in the Persian Gulf, and good crops over the last two years. So Pakistan needs to import only about 20 percent of its food needs from abroad, and the foreign exchange is provided by receipts from the migrant workers. Otherwise, the economic structure of the country is terribly weak and likely to be in an extremely critical state in another two years. One gauge of the critical situation is the piling up of the debts, about $9 billion now, and one of the biggest problems is the postponement of debt repayments.
What sort of popular mood did you find there?
One thing that would normally strike you when you enter Pakistan is the intensity, the obvious dynamism of Pakistani street life — the frequency with which people break out into laughter or dancing, the nervous energy with which you will find people working. It is a strikingly dynamic population, extremely healthy, very hard-working, outspoken, prone to spontaneity, concentrated work, and so on. Now a sense of extreme sadness pervades Pakistan today. You feel that the level of energy of these people is lowered. Nobody in Pakistan is talking politics as they used to. Today in Lahore a man who previously would have jumped at the opportunity to give you his views is likely to curse under his breath and drop the subject.
They are not afraid. It is not political indifference. They have a sense of guilt, a sense of self-incrimination, a sense of responsibility for what has happened. People had overwhelmingly voted in 1970 for Bhutto, who had contested the elections on socialist and populist slogans after 25 years of slogans of the Islamic state, and economic development. “Bread, clothing and shelter” was Bhutto’s slogan. My own reading is that if the elections would have been free in 1977, Bhutto would have won by a narrow margin, and that would have pleased the voters. The voters were not so much trying to throw him out but to give him a warning, to teach him a lesson by saying “you have not fulfilled the promises you had come to power with, but we are grateful to you for at least having promised the right things, which nobody in the past had done.” A lot of people voted against Bhutto. The elections were rigged, and the opposition Pakistan National Alliance launched a campaign of disobedience and demonstrations to force him into holding new elections. A lot of people, particularly in the cities, mostly workers, joined the demonstrations for new elections, Bhutto responded to this pressure by proclaiming martial law. Then people came out in the streets for three long nights, until the moment when Bhutto was probably about to give in and agree to hold new elections. That is when the coup came.
When Bhutto was arrested, people generally perceived that he was not being punished by the armed forces for failing to fulfill his socialist or populist promises; he was being punished for having made the promises, for having changed the political climate of the country, for having given the workers and the peasants a sense of dignity, for having raised the issue of their rights. The man was being punished not for his faults but for his strengths. Sympathy for Bhutto was massive, but there was no leadership. They became silent spectators. They also know that Bhutto expected the people to revolt, and the revolt did not come.
What does the silence mean?
The silence should not be misunderstood as depoliticization or indifference. It should be understood as a conscious suppression of one’s deepest feelings and it is precisely the kind of feeling which leads to a mass explosion.
What are the inherited factors that account for the crisis of the Pakistani state?
In the subcontinent of India and Pakistan the Muslim people and the Hindu people had lived for a thousand years. The Pakistan movement did not invoke the support of the Muslim masses of India until after World War II; as late as 1936 and 1937, when the first general elections were held in India after the passage of the Government of India Act of 1935, the party that led the Pakistan movement polled only 2.6 percent of the votes of total Muslim votes in India. This changed after the first National Congress governments. The Muslim people by and large felt that a party dominated by a Hindu elite was not giving them a fair shake in economy or in power. What underlay support of the Pakistan movement — between 1939 and 1944 the Pakistan movement had become the movement of the majority of Indian Muslims — was not so much the slogan of a separate Islamic state abstractly conceived. The Muslims were demanding a political state separate from the rest of India in which economic and social justice would become possible. So at the heart of the Pakistan movement lay economic and social democracy. At the heart of the Pakistan movement lay the fear of the Muslim community that Hindu businessmen, British corporations, and colonial institutions would continue to dominate them unless they had a separate state of their own.
The Pakistani movement, for example, first emerged in what is now Bangladesh, where landlords were Hindu, peasants were Muslims, where businessmen were Hindu, and the clients and the workers were Muslims. That’s where it first began. After the creation of Pakistan, the Pakistani ruling class could not acquire legitimacy because it would not define the ideology, the values, the program, and the structure of the state in a way that could fulfill the aspiration on which that state was founded. 1947 to 1956 was the period of trying to legitimize the state in the name of Islam, the period of Islamic ideology. When the first major elections were held in Bengal, which accounted for more than half of the total population of Pakistan, the Pakistani ruling class was completely shocked to find that the people had overwhelmingly voted the Muslim League out of power.
The election of 1956 was a warning, lt was very clear that this was not what the Islam people wanted when Ayub Khan’s coup took place. The coup actually took place in the first year of increasing mass pressures for social democracy, economic reform, and a rejection of Islamic ideology. Ayub Khan stressed development more than nationalism. It was straight out of the rhetoric of the American liberal development ideologues, the modernization theorists. He hired the Harvard Advisory Group. The state was to acquire legitimacy by stressing economic development, by creating and enlarging the middle class. In 1968, Ayub was actually celebrating the development decade and that year six grueling months of mass uprisings brought him down. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in West Pakistan and the Awami League in East Pakistan were both quick to sense that the Islamic cow and the development cow had been milked, and that people wanted now a regime based on the fulfillment of mass needs: “bread, clothing, shelter.” Bhutto was himself a product of Ayub’s regime. Ayub handpicked him to become minister of commerce, then minister of foreign affairs. He broke with Ayub just a year before Ayub’s actual fall. He began milking the socialist cow. From 1972 to 1977 the state tried to legitimize itself on the basis of reforms and socialism. Now you have the fourth period, the military regime, lt has no legitimizing principle.
So it is also a crisis of state power?
Yes. The stability of the state in Pakistan was defined by the balance between the armed forces and the bureaucracy. Even when you had an unstable government, the bureaucracy continued to run the administration, the armed forces continued to parade, and so on. This balance and harmony between the army and the bureaucracy blunted in many ways the military dictatorship. That particular balance has now almost completely broken down, not because the army is stronger but because the bureaucracy is much weaker. The responsibility for this lies with Bhutto. When Bhutto came to power he inherited an extremely discredited army. 90,000 soldiers and officers were prisoners in India. He inherited an army which had fought an inconclusive war in 1965 and lost a war in 1971, an armed forces which had terrorized Bangladesh. He inherited an army against which people had rebelled in 1968.
In 1972 Bhutto had the same choices as the Iranian revolution has today. The difference is that no authoritative person in Iran is in power today. Bhutto had the choice of restructuring the state. Instead, he rehabilitated the armed forces and he terrorized the bureaucracy. Two thousand officials were fired, and the strict conditions which defined entry and training of the higher bureaucracy were changed. A large number of political appointees were introduced. The national security wing of the bureaucracy was expanded, in power and in size, at the expense of the civil sector of the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy lost its morale under Bhutto’s regime. It became more an instrument of personal power than an instrument of civilian government. It lost its social and class harmony with the armed forces. This was not Bhutto’s responsibility. A change occurred in the class structure of Pakistan’s officers corps. The upper class, British-trained, Sandhurst-graduated generals, brigadiers and colonels had reached retirement age or were kicked out. Quick promotions were given to younger officers. The officers who constituted the command ranks in 1970s were very different. These were people of petty bourgeois backgrounds, often middle peasant families, who grew up in the heyday of nationalism and nationalist agitation, before the creation of Pakistan and the independence of India. They had gone into the armed forces at the time the British were recruiting in large numbers in the last years of World War ll. These were also officers who in many cases had their advanced training in American institutions. Gen. Zia ul Haq, a good example, comes from Fort Bragg.
The third crisis, the crisis of integration, refers in Pakistan to the question of nationalities. Of the four nationalities that live in Pakistan — Punjabi, Pashtun, Sindhi and Baluch — the last two are for all practical purposes completely excluded from the structure of the state. Sindhi’s and Baluchis constitute hardly 1 percent of the armed forces of Pakistan, negligible numbers in the bureaucracy and are hardly noticeable in the commerce and capital of Pakistan.
How does this relate to Pakistan’s ethnic composition?
The propertied class by and large is Punjabi, which constitutes about 60 percent of Pakistan’s total population. The Punjab, bordering on India, make up 80 percent of the armed forces, 80 to 85 percent of the higher bureaucracy, about 80 percent of the business class and capitalist class — these are the owners of wealth. Then there are the Pashtun people along the Afghan-Soviet frontier, about 7.25 million. The Punjabis would be about 50 million. The Sindhis, the’second largest nationality, are perhaps 18 million. The Pashtun movement is supported by Afghanistan.
The Russian “threat” has always been translated, in the rhetoric of the Pakistani middle class, as the Soviets helping the Pashtun movement and thus destroying the integrity of Pakistan. The facts indicate that the least problem for Pakistan in terms of its integration is from Pashtun province — the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Of the three large minority nationalities in Pakistan, the Pashtun people are by far the most integrated in Pakistan within the army and the political life. Pashtuns constitute roughly 15 percent of the officers corps. They are represented almost in equal numbers in the higher bureaucracy; in the power structure of Pakistan the upper bourgeoisie of northwestern frontier is very well represented. Second, the province is much more integrated economically with the rest of Pakistan. Something like 60 to 70 percent of the volume of trade of the NWFP is with the Punjab and other provinces of Pakistan. So very complementary economic patterns have developed, integrated economic patterns have developed. Thirdly, a good half of the Pashtun working population works outside its own province, spread throughout Pakistan. There are practically half a million Pashtun workers in Karachi alone — which means that a very significant section of Pashtunistan’s population depends on the economy outside NWFP.
The situation is quite different for the Sindhis.
The Sindhis constitute roughly 25 percent or so of the population of Pakistan. They do not have a representation of more than 3 percent of the higher bureaucracy, if that. They have practically no representation in the armed forces, either men or officers. Commercially, they are not present in the country and, much worse, in their own province they have a feeling of being taken over by the Punjabis and the Muhajirs from the interior provinces. So the population of Sindh is about half non-Sindhi. The sense of oppression of the Sindh is very heavy. A lot of newly irrigated land has been reclaimed in Sindh; 80 percent has gone to Punjabi settlers.
This is an exceptionally poor province. Changes in the land system are not profiting the poor Sindhis. They have witnessed a continual flow of Arab sheikhs from the Persian Gulf, and the rest of the Arab world resulting from the Lebanese civil war, setting up places there. More contrasts are emerging between the rich and poor there. Lastly, it is a province that feels that its suffering has been symbolized in the execution of Bhutto. Bhutto was the first Sindhi prime minister. A lot of Sindh feel he was murdered primarily because he was Sindhi, murdered by a Punjabi officer corps. Sindh borders on India and its coast is on the Persian Gulf; it borders on and has had a long historical relationship with Baluchistan. The Baluch are the second most oppressed nationality within Pakistan, in a state of rebellion for the last 20 years.
How serious is the economic crisis?
In the past every time Pakistan faced economic breakdown it overcame it, in a limited way, very fast. After the end of the Korean war the boom in cotton and jute burst, and the economy entered a period of extreme crisis, lt overcame that crisis very fast under Ayub. After the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, everybody predicted that, because West Pakistan derived so much of its profit and production from East Pakistan, the country would fall apart, lt didn’t. In fact, it recovered rather fast.
Three factors were responsible. One was a favorable turn for Pakistan’s products in the international market, particularly in textiles. Today there is no upward swing in the international economy, so Pakistan will have to go down with the rest. The second factor which always helped Pakistan is an extremely skilled, very hard-working, diligent, intelligent people. These people are all over the Persian Gulf and many are in Europe. 1970-78 were years of exodus from Pakistan of the the most enterprising and skilled among our working class — thanks partly to Bhutto’s failure to create an economy of employment, and partly to the augmented wealth of the oil-producing countries. Their remittances, amounting to more than $2 billion in 1979, constitute the main source of Pakistan’s foreign exchange earnings. But of course this increase in foreign exchange has been obtained at a cost incalculable to the future growth of the country.
The third thing that helped them was the small but very aggressive young entrepreneurial class in Pakistan — greedy as hell, ready to take risks, use the labor, use the most modern techniques of management to go at it fast. Bhutto destroyed that entrepreneurial class without replacing it. His nationalizations were typical of the radical nationalist economic planning. You destroy the existing and nascent capitalist forces in society. You do not destroy the bourgeoisie, because it simply turns to import/export. So people do not cease to be exploited. They simply cease to be productive. The productive industries were taken over by the government, which meant that the government had more power of patronage. And you introduced into private industry the inefficiency and corruption of the bureaucracy, and maintained the capitalist exploitation.
Two things are keeping the economy going at the moment: a succession of good crops, and the receipts from the migrant workers.
What is happening in the region?
What we are witnessing is a potentially important realignment of powers over the next five to ten years — a new triangle of power in the region. The triangle would probably consist of India, China and the United States.
Why do you say India?
First, Iran is down, the last pillar of the Nixon-Kissinger “Southern Strategy.” Remember, no government in the United States has proposed an alternative.
A strategy without a component?
Yes. It had already fallen apart when Carter came to power. Portugal, Greece, Israel — which had fought and practically lost the October war. And, finally, October 1973 demonstrated the weakness of this new constellation of power because the Arab states were not integrated in it. They are looking for new components on which to rebuild their strategy. Where are they coming from? They have obviously decided to keep Israel. They have decided they must find a new set of allies among the Arabs — this is being built around Egypt. And if Camp David could succeed, then Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and others would come along.
Take a look at India. Strategic calculations depend rather heavily on one’s reading of long-range trends, and not on short-range irritations. The dispute between India and China is of a secondary nature. The interests of India and China do not compete in any fundamental sense. China has been basically a Pacific power and a southeast Asian power. India has been a Southwest Asian power and a Gulf power — a Middle East power. China does not really have direct interest in Saudi Arabia, in Kuwait, or in Nepal, or in Pakistan, even in Bangladesh. India does. China does not compete with India for markets in the Middle East. The Soviet Union does. Historically, invasions have not come from China, they have come from the northwest — Afghanistan, Central Asia, Soviet Union. Indian ambitions are in the Persian Gulf and southeast Asia, not in the Pacific and the Far East. The conflict between India and the Soviet Union is capable of sharpening especially if the boundaries of India collide with the boundaries of the Soviet Union. You remove that buffer in Pakistan and you will be removing a very major objective factor which unites Soviet interests with Indian interests.
India is the only Third World country today which has a very broad, deeply rooted and fast-growing capitalist class. India has the only genuinely capitalist class in the Third World today. Secondly, it is a capitalism backed up by a fairly sizable national bourgeoisie, relatively independent of the state. It is a bourgeoisie with a rural base — with an urban base too, but mostly a rural base. It is a capitalist society whose bourgeois class has come to control the state more or less in the classical sense. It is not the state which is the creator of the bourgeoisie.
Thirdly, it is a capitalism and a state system which has now committed itself fairly seriously to the construction of a very large military-industrial complex. It needs a technology which is only available in the West. The Indian arms industry is the largest-growing military-industrial economy in the world outside Western Europe and the United States, and very advanced — deep penetration aircraft, a whole range of new missile systems, computer industry, electronics. There is no country in the Third World….
And nuclear power….
And nuclear power. There is no Third World country that has the technological base and the capitalist base that it has, and the commitment to development of massive military power. You have a country where the political elite, opposition as well as the governments in power, have consensus on one thing- India’s destiny to be a great power. The possibility of the US pushing for a China-India-US triangle to encircle the Soviet Union and make up a co-prosperity-sphere in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East is very high. That becomes increasingly more attractive as the options that the Americans are choosing in the Middle East do not work. The Rand Corporation has recently been assigned to do a special study on the strategic role of Egypt in the 1980s. Analysts of this Rand Corporation must be giggling to each other about what the hell are they going to report on.
What is the Pakistani regime’s role vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, particularly in Afghanistan, and what is the extent of US meddling in Pakistani political affairs? What is the role that Pakistan is delegated regionally?
Our information on Pakistan’s role in Afghan affairs is incomplete because most of the Pakistani, Chinese and American activities in the border regions of Afghanistan have been covert activities. The international press has cooperated rather bluntly with the cover-up that was established concerning Pakistani, American and Chinese activities over Afghanistan from about June 1978. Between June 1978 and December 1979 Pakistan received the majority of the 650,000 refugees from Afghanistan. You would expect that during this period refugees would have been the subject of media attention. These were very attractive refugees, from an avowedly communist or socialist state, from a communist country dominated by and allied with the Soviet Union. This was an “exotic” people. Surprisingly, no coverage. You will hardly find a story in that year and a half. Nobody wanted television cameras around. Nobody wanted international relief agencies around. Nobody wanted newspaper reporters poking around.
But we know that the military government of Pakistan was very heavily involved in providing sanctuaries, armaments, some money. The Pakistani junta had a very special interest in doing this. It was their way of assuring that their role in American and Saudi eyes would be enhanced. They want massive amounts of military aid; they want to rebuild the armed forces, they want to be reinstated as a major member of an American system of alliances, as they were in the 1950s. Their position was very much devalued as Iran was built up. In order to sell Pakistan as a member of that alliance, they played a more active role in the destabilization of the government in Afghanistan. But Pakistan today is a very inefficient and corrupt government; even with their zealousness it would be a mistake to assume that they have been very effective. The troubles of trie Afghanistan regime are more due to their own weaknesses and less to the Pakistani role in it.
This Pakistani regime is incapable of moving into a vacuum when an opportunity is presented. For example, this regime could have played an important role right now in consolidating the central government’s authority in the troubled territories of Pakistan as a result of the Afghanistan situation. It has not been able to take advantage of this situation. It is a junta trying to sell Pakistan on a steel platter to the Western powers. The Pakistani government acted almost hurt by the $400 million package in armaments and aid. With relatively little material support, they had worked hard and taken risks in order to create a problem for the Russians, and how do the Americans respond to it? With an offer of what Gen. Zia ul Haq called “peanuts,” and a totally different kind of offer to India, which immediately separated out Pakistan as a third-rate power.
Of course, you don’t act so hurt unless you feel that the buyer is likely to come back with a second offer. And that is what the Pakistani government expects. My impression is that the Pakistani government is looking forward to a consortium of Saudia Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and the United States. The Americans question whether the Pakistani government is stable enough to qualify for a much larger commitment. $400 million over a 3-year period to an unstable government is relatively small, lt is peanuts. You can sustain the loss economically and strategically. If you are making a commitment with a consortium, which becomes practially an alliance umbrella over Pakistan, then it is both politically, strategically and economically a much larger commitment. The Saudis and the others would like to have more certainty on who rules in Pakistan and for how long.
What would they consider stability?
The armed forces were very heavily divided on the question of restoration of parliamentary rule, a division heavily promoted by the US government. The American consul in Lahore was publicly going around in parties, and when he would meet somebody close to the opposition or a prominent personality he would say things like, “Why don’t you folks just get together and produce a coalition opposition against Gen. Zia ul Haq and get the parliamentary government restored in the country.” In Washington one group of people argue that the Bhuttos are decent people, basically pro-Western, moderate, bourgeois. They are not revolutionaries. What the hell do we have to fear from the Bhutto family? The United States could live with Mr. and Mrs. Bhutto and the People’s Party that they could produce. In this sense the Americans are deeply involved now in the internal politics of Pakistan.
Would the US prefer to avoid a coup?
I think so. I think they would rather have Zia ul Haq’s government ease itself out by holding elections. However, Gen. ul Haq is unlikely to want an election in which the People’s Party comes to power, and if an election is held in Pakistan which is fair and free, the People’s Party is bound to come to power, lt won’t be a socialist party, lt won’t even be much of a populist party, lt will be pro-western, perfectly amenable to what the Americans and the Saudis want, much as Bhutto’s regime itself was. But it couldn’t be in power and not punish the four or five generals who overthrew Bhutto’s constitutional regime and who executed him. lt will have to institute at least a court of inquiry, a special tribunal, to try the four generals, and perhaps one or two judges of the supreme court for miscarriage of justice. Therefore, the generals have their lives at stake. American influence or no American influence, Gen. Zia ul Haq’s life is at stake if the People’s Party comes back. Therefore, it may become necessary to have a coup which would exile such people like Zia ul Haq, two or three of his cohorts in the armed forces, plus the two judges who most fear trial.
Given what happened in Iran, and the Soviet role in Afghanistan, would the US consider a greater role for Pakistan militarily, strategically in that region as a whole?
It depends very much on what happens with Egypt, and with American diplomacy in the Middle East. To put too much stress on Pakistan would create an uneven strategic equation, unnecessary at a time when the Americans are looking forward to a long-term elevation of India in their strategic design.
That is not to say that Pakistan’s role will remain as unimportant as it had become after the Indian-Pakistani war of 1965, and the emergence of Iran in that region in 1968-1969. Pakistan’s importance in American strategy has already increased and will be elevated now because of the larger deployment of American forces in that region. The Shah has gone; the Pakistanis are begging to serve. American ships can stop in Karachi; new ports are planned in Gwadar and Pasni — both on the Baluchistan coast. You have greater need than before of servicing American military and naval ships and personnel, lt is a good place also to monitor Soviet activities.
Until now the Soviet Union has acted toward Pakistan with an unexpected amount of patience and responsibility. The Soviet Union understands that by its very existence Pakistan helps diffuse geopolitically the emergence of a new kind of configuration of power and conflict in the area. They find this an important buffer between themselves and India. Over the last 25 years, and even in the last one and a half years, the Soviet Union has not actively engaged in supplying or encouraging or training the Pashtun dissidents who have called for a separate Pashtunistan. They have shied away from aiding in any form the Baluch liberation front forces in Pakistan. If Pakistan becomes more active than it is now in these anti-Soviet alliances, the Soviet Union will have less incentive in protecting Pakistan’s integrity. When troubles begin in Sindh, which is very likely for internal reasons, it won’t have anything to do with the Soviet Union or India. Then the Baluch are likely to tie in with the Sindhis; then India could move in. The situation that will develop will be like that of Bangladesh. The Soviet Union may either support India, or stay neutral. If Pakistan is dismembered, Indian hegemony will become much more widespread in Asia.
What are the alternatives for progressive forces in the area?
The first objective of progressive forces is to see the neutralization of Pakistan as the first major step toward diffusing great-power politics, preventing the outbreak of regional wars and redefining nonalignment. Neutralization of Pakistan will include demilitarization, lt will include a mode of settlement of its disputes with India, lt will include a settlement of its boundaries with Afghanistan, and it will take into account Pakistan’s nature as a country which stands on the crossroads between Asia and the Middle East. It hyphenates those two regions. Its neutralization has to allow for movements of populations back and forth across the frontiers — definitely between Iran and Afghanistan. That is the only way we can solve this issue of Baluch minorities, the situation of our Pushtun people and their deep ties with the Afghan Pashtun people. Such a scheme of neutralization is also necessary to solve the Afghanistan crisis. We cannot reasonably expect the Soviet Union to withdraw from Afghanistan while Pakistan, right on its borders, plans to be used even more actively in the future as a base for anti-Soviet activities. You assure Afghanistan’s neutrality, and the departure of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, only by starting a process of neutralization, of demilitarization, in Pakistan.
The initiative will not come from India. One source is Iran and the other is Pakistan itself, because the present government in Pakistan is neither stable nor will it last. It is conceivable that you will have in Pakistan in another year or two a government not very keen on militarizing the country. In Iran I can say that if the government was consolidated under the leadership of Bani-Sadr, I would expect him to be interested in this scheme. We have all suffered from imperialism, but the Iranians have been more conscious of that suffering than any other country in that region, any other people, with the exception perhaps of the Palestinians. There is a mass consciousness in Iran that imperialism has been for a whole quarter-century their primary problem. Iran, at the popular level, is an exceptionally anti-imperialist country. Even a non-Marxist like Bani-Sadr will be committed to a certain type of neutralization and nonalignment of a meaningful nature. The problem is that I am not sure Bani-Sadr can consolidate his power. And those who are fighting him within the Islamic movement are, their own rhetoric notwithstanding, absolutely reactionary, right-wing, pro-imperialist elements.
In terms of alternatives, I am suggesting that we need for the entire Third World a new, and forceful, movement of non-alignment, a movement which will work for the demilitarization and neutralization of the Gulf, the Red Sea, and parts of the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean regions. Unless we can force in the 1980s an elimination of imperialist military presence in this part of the world, we shall be increasingly subjected to imperialist interventions and invasions. The focus of the world struggle for power shifted in the late 1960s from the Pacific and Atlantic to the areas bounded by the western Indian and eastern Mediterranean Oceans. Unless we stop the trend begun in 1967-1968, we shall soon become the prime battlefields of international wars.