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Mainsteam, Vol XLIX, No 12, March 12, 2011

Struggle for Peace and Struggle for Independence are Indivisible

Wednesday 16 March 2011, by Faiz Ahmed Faiz


The following is the acceptance speech of Faiz Ahmed Faiz on receiving the Lenin Peace Prize in 1962.

Creating words and shaping them in an orderly form is the vocation of poets and men of letters. But there are occasions in life when one is left speechless. This is one such occasion for me: I don‘t have the words with which to adequately thank the Lenin Peace Prize Committee, as well as other Soviet institutions and friends, for the honour they have conferred upon me. The Peace Prize is invaluable because it carries Lenin’s honoured and sacred name with it. Lenin is the revered standard-bearer of liberty and peace in our time, peace which is a prerequisite for human life and its beauty and exceilence. I do not find anything in my life and work which should have made me worthy of this single honour. However, I can think of one reason: the fervent yearning for peace and independence which has motivated me and my colleagues. There is such glory in the desire itself that even the humblest votaries of peace and independence are considered worthy of respect and recognition.

All except those who are affected by dementia or are given to crime are agreed that peace and independence are beautiful ideals. All can visualise that peace is reflected in the wheat fields, in popular trees, in the bride’s veil, in the laughing hands of children, in the poet’s pen, artist’s brush. All of us can visualise that independence guarantees all these and servitude kills all qualities which distinguish man from beast—qualities of intellect and intelligence, truth and justice, dignity and valour, piety and forbearance. Therefore, there should logically be no difference of opinion among reasonable people regarding the achievement and consolidation of peace and independence. Unfortunately, however, that common understanding is lacking because, from the beginning of time, contending forces have been at work. These forces are the forces of creation and destruction, of light and darkness, of justice and injustice. The interplay of these contrary forces continues to this day. At the same time, the problems with which we are faced today are different in character than the ones that used to tax us in the past. War today does not mean bloody tribal strife. Nor do we mean by peace today merely that bloodshed should come to an end. Today, war means the annihilation of the human race itself. Today, peace is the precondition for the survival of humanity as such. On these two words—annihilation or survival—depends the continu-ation or culmination of human history. On these two words depends the destruction or survival of the human habitat. Again, man did not have, until our own time, sufficient control over natural resources and the forces of production to take care of the needs of all groups and clans. Thus, there was some justification in the past for the grab-and-run loot which has been so much a part of human history. That is not the situation today.

Human inventiveness has taken science and technology to such high levels of efficiency that all mouths can be fed, all physical needs can be met, provided that the limitless bounties of nature, the infinite means of production at the disposal of mankind, are geared not to satisfy the avarice of monopolists or special interest groups but to ensure the welfare of all, and provided also that the scientific and industrial abilities of the human race are put to constructive rather than destructive purpose.

ALL this is possible only under a social structure raised upon the foundations of justice, equality, independence and the collective good, and not on avarice, exploitation and monopoly interests. This is something to work for and not merely to talk about. This requires practical effort and in this effort, the struggle for peace and the struggle for independence converge and become indivisible. This is so because the forces which work for peace are also the forces which work for independence and the forces working against independence are also the forces working for the destruction of peace. On the one hand there are the imperialist forces, whose interests and whose monopolies can survive only through force and thrive only through jealous competi-tions. Pitted against them are those who value human life more than banks and factories, those who love to work together rather than to order others about. In short, in politics and morality, in literature and art, in day-to-day life, this struggle between constructive and destructive forces is being waged on several fronts, in myriad shapes. For those who cherish independence and love peace, it is necessary to be vigilant on every front. For instance, even apart from this inevi-table conflict between imperialist and non-imperialist forces, there are violent differences among countries which attained independence recently. Such differences exist between Pakistan and neighbouring India, between one Arab state and another, and between one African state and another. It is obvious that only those Powers can benefit from these differences which are opposed to world peace and universal brotherhood. It is essential, therefore, that peace-loving peoples should think about these differences and help find just solutions.

A few days ago, when the whole world was excited by the latest Soviet achievements in space, the thought came to my mind that now that we could have a glimpse of our own planet from other stars, how foolish are these small meannesses this desire to cut up the world into small parcels of land, this desire to dominate small groups of people. Isn’t there even a small group of aware, honest and just human beings among us who can convince the others that now that the passageways to the entire universe are being opened up in front of our very eyes, and the riches of all creation are there for humanity to use, we should dismantle all the military bases and throw these bombs and rockets and guns into the sea, so that we may go forth together to conquer this wide universe where there is room enough for all mankind, where no one need fight anyone else, where there is limitless space and worlds without number? I am convinced that despite numerous difficulties on the way, we can succeed in convincing humankind of these simple truths.

I am convinced that the humankind which has never surrendered to its enemies will emerge victorious yet, and that, at long last, hatred, repression and war will give way to peace and universal brotherhood. I am convinced that we shall all live together in harmony as Hafiz, the Persian poet, had wanted us to live long ago:

Khalal pazir bawad har bina ki mi bini

Bajuz bina-i-mohabbat ki khali as khalal ast.

(Every foundation that we have seen has been flawed, but for the foundation of love, for love alone is flawless.)

[N.B.: Most of the poems of Faiz carried here were translated from the original Urdu by Victor Gordon Kiernan, the noted British historian who passed away
in February 2009.]

My tablet and my pen,

My two cherished treasures

Are snatched from me,

But does it matter?

For I have dipped my fingers

In the blood of my heart;
My tongue they sealed

But does it mater? For,

I have placed a tongue

In every link of chain

That fetters me.

This leprous daybreak, dawn night’s fangs have mangled,

—This is not that long-looked-for break of day,

Not that clear dawn in quest of which our comrades

Set out, believing that in heaven’s wide void

Somewhere must be the stars’ last halting-place,

Somewhere the verge of night’s slow-washing tide,

Somewhere the anchorage of the ship of sorrow.

When they set out, those friends, taking youth’s secret

Pathways, how many hands plucked at their sleeves!

From panting casements of the land of beauty

Soft arms invoked them, flesh cried out to them;

But dearer was the lure of dawn’s bright cheek,

More precious shone her robe of shimmering rays;
Light-winged their longing, feather-light their toil.

But now, word goes, the birth of day from darkness

Is finished, wandering feet stand at their goal;

Our leaders’ ways are altering, festive looks

Are all the fashion, discontent reproved.

Yet still no physic works on unslaked eye

Or heart fevered by absence, any cure:

Where did that fine breeze, that the wayside lamp

Has not once felt, blow from—where has it fled?

Night’s heaviness is unlessened still, the hour

Of mind and spirit’s ransom has not struck;

Let us go on, our goal is not reached yet.

Only a few days, dear one, a few days more

Under oppression’s shadows condemned to breathe,

Still for a time we must bear them, and tears, and endure

What our forefathers, not our own faults, bequeath:

Fettered limbs, each impulse held on a chain,

Minds in bondage, our words all watched and set down—

Courage still nerves us, or how should we still exist,

Now with existence only a beggar’s gown,

Tattered, and patched every hour with new rags of pain?

Yes, but to tyranny not many hours are left now;

Patience a little, few hours of lamenting remain.

In this parched air of an age that desert sands choke

We must stay now—not for ever and ever stay!

Under this load beyond words of a foreign yoke

We must submit for a while—not for ever submit!

Dust of affliction that clings to your beauty today,

Crosses unnumbered that mar our few mornings of youth,

Torment of silver nights, a pain with no cure,

Heartache unanswered, the body’s long cry of despair—

Only a few days, dear one, a few days more.

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