Real Differences Between Shahram and Laal/CMKP

Taimur Rahman is an academic, political activist and the lead musician of Laal Band of Pakistan. He is based in Lahore. For details, visit the band’s site.

Taimur Rahman

People in the mainstream media and in society always want to hear some mirch masala. They want to hear that this or that public figure is horrible in some perverse and terrible way. Perhaps our attraction to such negative publicity about public figures arises from our own need to feel better about ourselves in some way. I’m sure Erich Fromm would have a thing or two to say about that in relation to capitalist society and the media.  

Very rarely is the public really ready to accept that two individuals may have diverted from each other out of reasons for their sincere intellectual committments. Intellectual committments to which both adhere very strongly and with equal conviction.  

Shahram Azhar and I have grown apart not because we do not share the same passion for music. Not because he or I are interested in publicity or money. But because we have grown apart in terms of our politics and our understanding of Marxism.  

We began to grow apart at the end of 2009. In December 2009, I had recorded and produced all the music of the new album with my scratch vocals. But for 8 months I chased him to come to Lahore to record the vocals. He kept promising but never came. He also began to miss performances and even the filming of music videos (Utho Meri Dunya was actually intended to be the video for Sadaa). All of this was deeply embarrassing for Laal and also caused us a financial loss. He would simply not answer our calls or text messages and cut himself from all his old friends and comrades. At the time I felt that this was because he was going through some personal issues and I felt that it was best to give him his space. I was confident that he would return with full gusto to Laal when ready. He left for the US for his Phd without so much as saying goodbye or planning anything with respect to the next album or the future of Laal. I wrote a hurtful email to him, recieved no answer, and was left with no other option except to just wait things out.  

At May Day Concert in JNU, New Delhi/photo: Prakash K Ray

Hence, we continued and produced 9 music videos with our own funds and with our own equipment and expertise. We released Doob Gaya, Aye Dharti, Meray Dil Meray Musafir, Jhoot ka uncha sar, Neend aati nahin, Dehshatgardi Murdabad, Surkh Ghata, Fareeda, and Utho Meri Duniya. All through this period, we had only hoped to hold the fort till Shahram returned and would hopefully take an interest in Laal. Whenever people asked why Shahram was not participating in Laal, I would explain that he was in the United States and would join us on his return.  

It was around the time of last year that I began to realize that Shahram’s absence from party activity, from Laal and even from discussions had developed into serious ideological difference. The first inkling of this was when he began to strongly advocate the position that our party (the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party) must support NATO’s no fly zone over Libya. We argued against this position. After many months of arguments, he submitted that he incorrectly understood the situation. 

However, as further discussions developed from that debate it became very clear that the main reasons for the absence of Shahram from the activity of the party and Laal were not personal or even musical. They were or had become political and ideological. Shahram, who was previously my student and a party stalwart, had now moved away from our understanding of Marxism and had been increasingly influenced by the views of his current Phd supervisors Richard Wolff and Steven Resnick. These views are a complete departure from communist politics. For instance, Wolff and Resnick uphold that the Soviet Union throughout its history was a state capitalist society, the Peoples Republic of China throughout its history was a state feudal society, they attack the property theory of class, they argued that communism and private property are compatible, they strongly support concepts of “anti-essentialism” in relation to contradictions in society, and and they argued for organizational eclecticism in the place of a Marxist organization. I wrote against these ideas of Wolff and Resnick in our party’s blog ( and this prompted a heated polemical exchange between the two of us.  

I would have been pleased if the debate had continued on these and other issues because these are real ideological debates that impact the theoretical development of our movement. But I was very disappointed to find articles on facebook and the mainstream press that did not even mention these ideological differences between Shahram and myself and instead focused on attacking (I would say slandering) Laal and my work as an activist. Such personal slander mongering is sad, unfortunate, and even hurtful. And more importantly, totally irrelevant in the larger framework of the theoretical development of the Marxist movement (though it is not irrelevant in the field of politics).  

At any rate, Laal is being accused of having diverted from its original goals (which everyone knows were nothing other than the promotion of Marxism-Leninism). Whereas the truth is that Laal is standing exactly where it always stood in terms of its theory and also in terms of its tactics of bringing Marxist ideas to the masses through the mainstream media. If there is any divergence to be discussed, it is these new theories of Resnick and Wolff over which our party has grave reservations.  

Taimur and Mahvash with IPTA members in JNU, New Delhi/Apr 30, 2012/photo: Prakash K Ray

I know this has little mirch masala for the mainstream media. For the liberals this is yet another irrelevant debate because they do not accept the premises of Marxism let alone divergences within what is ostensibly Marxism. And some would rather submit to the simplistic notion that this or that individual is morally corrupt and without principles. But that would be a simple mistruth.

Despite these divergences, I remain optimistic that Shahram Azhar and those comrades closely associated with him will in time realize that these are ideological divergences from the real struggle of the proletariat. And when time heals some wounds that inevitably arise when two close friends fall apart, I think we will find ourselves on the same side of the barricade so many times that circumstances themselves will cause us to rethink these debates and come to some agreement. In the meantime, we intend to continue our work to popularize Marxist ideas through every opportunity we find in or outside the mainstream media from the platform of Laal, not merely as a music group but as a cultural movement for Marxism.


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