Wednesday, June 25, 2008


“In spite of constitutional limitations, what we could, why other state governments couldn’t?”


“With the installation of the LF front government in West Bengal on 21st June, 1977, a new era had started in Indian politics and in the life of the Indian people. We knew that under such social structure and constitutional limitations we cannot change every thing, we promised to give minimum relief for common man, after 30 years, I think what we have done for people is more than minimum relief, in defence of the interest of people, we implemented the alternative approach of development” Veteran Communist leader and CPI (M) Polit Bureau member Jyoti Basu has stated.

On the eve of 30th anniversary of Left Front government in West Bengal, 93 year old veteran communist leader JYOTI BASU in an exclusive interview with Prajashakti representative expressed his views and experiences, enlightened on the struggle behind the installation of LF government and its tremendous achievement during last three decades. At the same time Basu also has asserted that “within such constitutional limitation if we (Left Front in Bengal, Tripura, and Kerala) could implement various pro-people policies, why other states failed to implement such policies?”

Comrade Jyoti Basu will turn 94 on July 8, as longest serving Chief Minister and veteran communist leader Jyoti Basu stated, “I am extremely happy that LF completed 30 years in office, the people of a state gave a massive mandate in favour of a coalition led by the Marxists to run a government. The mandate was renewed again and again”.

Q. Left Front government led by CPI (M) has completed its 30 years journey in a bourgeois-democratic stratum - which is unparalleled and historic - how could this be achieved?

Actually there was a time when we thought that no LF government would survive; it is equally true that we never imagined we will continue for 30 years although the real power in parliamentary democracy rests with the Centre and with the bourgeois-landlord parties. In 1957, the First United Democratic Front Government was formed in Kerala under Comrade E M S Namboodiripad was Chief Minister. We highlight this experience in our state. In 1960s and 1970s, massive struggles were waged under the leadership of CPI(M). The movement for food, the student movement the refugee movement, the workers’ movement and the teacher’s movement followed one after another which created massive political mobilisation which was instrumental in installing United Front Government in the year 1967, though the government survived for nine months. And the second U.F Government lasted for thirteen months which came into power in 1969. Even at that time people of Bengal observed the role of our party, in spite being the largest party in the alliance, we left the CMs post for Bangla Congress. As we all know what happened in 1971, in the name of election, the Congress resorted to malpractice, it was a complete mockery of parliamentary democracy. Congress won that election by rigging, we decided to boycott assembly session as mark of protest. After that that struggle for democratic rights and freedom of civilians took an unforgettable height at in West Bengal. Freedom of expression of common citizens was snatched after the imposition of emergency on June 26, 1975. In fact, such situation prevailed continuously since the fall of the second United Front government. The older generation has seen us in the opposition; they have also seen the amount of repression we had to suffer. Our party was declared illegal after independence in 1948. Most of our leaders were jailed. After high court gave us legal status we participated in the first poll in 1952. People have witnessed the brutality with which the bourgeois party’s unleashed terror on our party members and workers but even under such repression we never surrendered before our class enemy, never compromised with the ruling class. This is our legacy. And it is this continuous struggle for people in the face of all adversity have earned us the respect and immense faith. Even after 30-years people still vote for us in every election. Slanderous campaigns were launched against us to dislodge us from power through unconstitutional means and even Election Commission joined in by holding elections in five phases but people of the State gave a fitting reply by sending back LF to power with three-fourth majority.

Q. After the installation of LF government so many pro-people programs have been implemented during this period, what were the main priority sectors and major achievements?

Basu: Only after we came to office, we gave serious concentration to implement our commitments which were mentioned in our 36-point charter of programs. After we won election in 1977, I told the people, gathered to greet us at Writers’ Building that we would not rule from Writers Building alone but also with the workers, employees, and officers and along with all section of people. We gave emphasise over Land reform programs, as I know more than 13 lakh acre land were distributed among poor and land less people. In our state about 83 percent of the agricultural land is in the possession of the poor and marginalized farmers. This program is still continuing, even this Seventh LF government distributed land to poor people, though some problem relating to court cases still remain. We also gave emphasis to agricultural development, decentralization of power through the three tier panchayat system, municipalities, ensuring women reservation in panchayat system. Voting right for all above 18 years, in municipality and panchayat. Agricultural production has increased. We also give much priority on micro and small-scale industry. Interests of poor people, agricultural labour, share-croppers are very much protected. Through series of mass movement and struggles, Left Front came to office. The Left Front is not any electoral front - people saw our role. In parliamentary democracy we have created history. I heartedly believe that whatever we committed at the time of installation of LF government we have almost fulfilled about 90 percent program. Though still now there is no denying that there are some draw backs. We have committed electrification for every village but it was not completed, though I informed that within 2012 it will be done, 7th Left Front Government has decided it. Actually we never hide anything before people, even our negative points. We ask our party comrades to listen to the criticism against us and if there is anything positive that can be done, then it has to be done, if not then the people should be told so directly - it is our tasks. Though in many cases Central government is responsible, they have created barriers over our developmental program and hampered our image.

Q. You have mentioned Bengal have faced discrimination, Please elaborate this issue?

Basu: You see from the beginning we have faced various conspiracies and discrimination. I still remember two or three incidents very well. There was an electronic project in Salt Lake area that Indira Gandhi has promised to help us with, after keeping me waiting for one year she said that her officers who had set up a committee to look in to this matter, unanimously suggested her not to go with this project - no investment should be made in West Bengal, because it is a border state, ridiculous! I asked them what is the problem, if it is a security related problem then it will be more serious in North-Eastern states, but she told, ‘I cannot do anything, our Officers are not ready to give you permission! But later without any help of Central government we build up this electronic complex on 300 acres land, now about 25-30 thousands youth work there. The other case is of Haldia Petrochemicals Complex, a project worth over Rs.5, 000 crores, but I had to wait for 11 years to get permission from the Central government, though now more than 70,000 people are employed in the downstream industries.

Q. how do you see the opposition’s role in the developmental program of Bengal?

Basu: Several times I told that in parliamentary democracy role of opposition is very important whether big or small. But it should be a responsible opposition. Oppositions parties have the right to oppose Government program but in a responsible manner, when we take pro-people program there is no reason why they will not extend a co-operative hand.

Bengal is now largest producer of rice and second largest producer of potato in country. Through land reform program we distributed lands to poor people. This program is still continuing. Now for the interest of unemployed youth, Government is emphasizing on industrialisation. It is the necessity for our state. There was a time when WB held a prestigious position among other states in country. But due to politically motivated licensing system and policy of freight equalization by the successive Congress governments, the state had to suffer a lot and acute industrial stagnation was developed. But after removal of these regulations, discrimination, I delivered one speech over our industrial policy in assembly, though congress legislator also marked their opposition against this policy. Some confusion was created after placing this report, actually here I mentioned that for the industrial growth we also needed foriegn investment, but it should be based on mutual interest protecting the legitimate interest of our workers. However, the opposition created chaos over LF government’s every developmental programme. Even when I was the Chief Minister, we appealed to the opposition to be a part of the all-party delegation to meet Prime Minster Rajiv Gandhi, they never did, Mamata Banerjee and Ajit Panja refused to be a part of the delegation. Mamata told ‘we can’t go with you before Rajib Gandhi”.

When our Government was bringing developmental projects for our state they created problem. Even, few months ago TMC legislator ransacked assembly house, destroyed many costly furniture, government assets. Is this a responsible attitude, I was informed that Assembly Speaker decided to stop their salary, though now, they have been resumed. What I am trying to say is that earlier opposition party played responsible, constructive role, people of Bengal have seen our role as a responsible opposition. We never created problem over developmental program for our state or the interest of people- even when Congress CM Bidhan Roy took initiative for Durgapore steel plant, Kalyani township we support those projects.

Q. So, on coming 21st June LF government will complete its 30 year long journey - as Veteran leader of country’s communist movement what are your feelings?

I am extremely happy, our government now reached in its 31 year. It is a historic moment before parliamentary democracy. Actually during these long periods what we implemented in West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala, has to be campaigned countrywide. People across the country have to know what type of alternative programs we implemented in these state. Within such constitutional limitations and social structure what we have done, why other state couldn’t do this? This question has to be raised.

Though we are very strong in three states along with some of the other state but our party is not strong in many states. Not only the party organisation, but we have to strengthen our mass organization as well. Without strengthening mass organisation’s, we cannot build up a strong party all over the country.

I believe that under such bourgeois structure, we should take whatever little advantage from that system. Our aim is to build a class-less, non-exploiting society, for which we have to continue our fight.
Though I don’t know how long it will take time.

The Role Of The Left-led Governments And Our Understanding

By Prakash Karat

The CPI(M) and the Communist movement in India have the rich experience of working in state governments within a parliamentary democracy. It was in 1957 that the Communist Party was able to win a majority in the assembly elections in Kerala soon after the state was formed. The first communist ministry lasted twenty-nine months, before it was dismissed by the central government invoking Article 356 of the Constitution. After the formation of the CPI(M), as a result of the 1967 general elections, United Front governments were formed in Kerala and West Bengal. In Kerala, the CPI(M) headed the government and it lasted till 1969. In West Bengal, the first United Front government was formed with Ajoy Mukherjee of the Bangla Congress as the Chief Minister. This government fell and after the mid-term elections in 1969, the second United Front Government was formed which was toppled in 1970.

After this, the next phase of CPI(M) and Left-led governments were initiated in the post-Emergency period. Since 1977 when the first Left Front government was formed in West Bengal, the Left Front government has ruled for twenty-nine years, winning seven successive elections. In Tripura, the first Left Front government was formed after the elections in 1978 and the second Left Front government was formed in 1983. After ten years of Left Front rule, the assembly elections of 1988 were violently rigged with the help of the Central government. After five years of terror, the Left Front government was reelected in 1993 and for the last thirteen years Tripura has been run by a Left Front government. In Kerala, there have been repeated and alternative stints in office for the Left and Democratic Front which was formed in 1980. These were in 1980-1982, 1987-1991, 1996-2001 and the LDF was elected again to office in the 2006 assembly elections.

How does the Party view the participation and role in state governments? How does it fit in with the strategy for People’s Democratic Revolution set out in the Party Programme and the tactical line of building a Left and Democratic alternative.

Party Programme Direction

The Party programme sets out the goal of People’s Democracy to replace the existing bourgeois-landlord system. To proceed towards this aim it is necessary to build a People’s Democratic Front of the working class, the peasantry and other allies at the all India level through the development of a powerful movement. As an interim step towards developing the People’s Democratic Front, the Party has put forward the slogan of a Left and Democratic alternative. In the process of this struggle to build the Left and Democratic Front at the all India level, it is possible that the Party and the Left and democratic forces will become strong in some states to acquire legislative majority.

In such a situation, the Party programme sanctions the participation of the Party in such governments while keeping in mind that the states have very limited powers and it is the Centre which controls State power and all its instruments. The understanding of the Party on our participation in governments was contained in Para 112 of the Party Programme which was adopted in 1964. A communist Party programme deals with the character of the State, stage and class alliance for the revolution. Normally it does not deal with tactical questions. The necessity to incorporate a tactical issue that is of our participation in the state governments came up because such a possibility could arise. For instance, when the 7th Congress met to adopt the Party Programme, it was known that a mid-term assembly election was coming up in Kerala. There was a possibility that the CPI(M) would emerge as a big force in the elections. Therefore, it was necessary to clarify our approach to the formation and participation in state governments. The issue was not the question of CPI(M)’s participation in parliamentary elections and legislative forums. There was no confusion on the matter because the Party accepted the Leninist understanding of participation in parliamentary forums.

What did para 112 say? The formulation in this para was as follows:
“The Party will obviously have to work out various interim slogans in order to meet the requirements of a rapidly changing political situation. Even while keeping before the people the task of dislodging the present ruling classes and establishing a new democratic state and government based on the firm alliance of the working class and peasantry, the Party will utilise all the opportunities that present themselves of bringing into existence governments pledged to carry out a modest programme of giving immediate relief to the people. The formation of such governments will give great fillip to the revolutionary movement of the working people and thus help the process of building the democratic front. It, however, would not solve the economic and political problems of the nation in any fundamental manner. The party, therefore, will continue to educate the mass of the people on the need for replacing the present bourgeois-landlord state and government headed by the big bourgeoisie even while utilising all opportunities for forming such governments of a transitional character which give immediate relief to the people and thus strengthen the mass movement.”

While setting out the strategic goal of dislodging the present ruling classes and establishing a new People’s Democratic State and government, interim slogans and tactics have to be worked. This may require “bringing into existence governments pledged to carry out a modest programme of giving immediate relief to the people.” The formation of governments can provide a fillip to the revolutionary movement of the working people if they give relief to the people and strengthen the mass movements. At the same time there should be no illusion that they can solve the basic economic and political problems of the country in a fundamental manner. The formation of governments with CPI(M) participation should therefore help to develop the Left and democratic movement.

The provision in the Programme makes it clear that a state government run by the Party cannot fulfil the strategic goals. What the state governments can do is to advance the political-tactical line of the Party and in the context of our programmatic understanding work to strengthen the Left and democratic forces, so that a Left and democratic alternative emerges in the country.

Experience of First Communist Ministry

This implied that the state governments working within the existing bourgeois-landlord system can adopt limited policy measures. There should be no confusion that a Left-led state government can do away with the big bourgeoisie, or abolish landlordism or check foreign finance capital in a state. In 1957 itself, when the first EMS ministry was formed, this became clear.
The first EMS government could take the initiative to implement land reforms, democratise the educational system and adopt a pro-people police policy. These historic steps which had a far-reaching impact was possible because these were subjects which fell in the State’s sphere. But all these measures were not aimed at basic social transformation. In fact, the land reforms legislation only implemented what the Congress government had promised. Even these progressive measures incurred the wrath of the ruling classes and after 28 months, Article 356 of the Constitution was used by the Nehru government to dismiss the first Communist ministry.
A lot of questions were raised when the Kerala government signed an agreement with the Birla-owned Gwalior Rayons for setting up a wagon plant in the state. How can the Party which is opposed to the big bourgeoisie like Birlas and Tatas invite the Birlas to set-up a factory? Is this not a betrayal of its basic aim?

It is in this context that for the first time the distinction was drawn between strategy and tactics. EMS Namboodiripad had cited the Communist Manifesto to show how the Communists fight for “immediate aims” but in the movement for the present “they also represent and take care of the future of that movement”. Writing about the industrial policy of the first Communist ministry later, EMS stated:
“Given this reality, whether we should go in for new industries in Kerala as part of the Congress Central government’s industrialisation policy or should we try in isolation in Kerala to check the growth of monopoly capitalists – this was the question confronted by the Party.
“The possibility to start big industries in the public sector was almost nil in Kerala. Among the big industries in the public sector proposed during the Second Plan period, not a single one was going to be set-up in Kerala. There were numerous impediments to start new industries even in the private sector. Our opponents were already engaged in discouraging those private industrialists desirous to come here by projecting the labour relations here as being very bad. A climate of industrialisation could be created here only through a conscious effort to remove these barriers.
“Faced with this reality, the government made conscious efforts to attract industrialists from outside, who were ready to invest and to start industries here, as well as to encourage the like minded within the state…..”
The experience of running the first Communist government helped the CPI(M) to provide for the tactical direction in Para 112.

New Situation & Tasks:
Concretises Role of State Governments

It is in 1967 that the Party was called upon to give concrete shape to this tactical direction given in the Party programme. In the 1967 general elections, for the first time, the Congress lost its monopoly of power in the states when it was defeated in nine states. This came in the background of mounting economic difficulties leading to popular discontent and widespread mass struggles. Non-Congress governments were formed in nine states. The CPI(M) alongwith the CPI and other allies formed United Front governments in Kerala and West Bengal.
The Central Committee adopted a resolution “New Situation and Tasks” in April 1967 which elaborated the understanding of the Party regarding the United Front governments in which we were participating.

First, the resolution spelt out the character of the state governments and their limitations. Real State power is exercised by the central government.
“Above all, governmental power in the states has got to be understood in clear class terms and with all its limitations. The essence of state power, we know, lies in the army, police, bureaucracy, judiciary and jails, and all this machinery belongs to the bourgeois-landlord state. In class outlook, composition and in several other respects it is not an instrument that is suitable even for the implementation of a consistently democratic administration, let along any class policies decisively directed against the vested interests. A good and essential part of state power resides in the Union Centre and the Congress Central Government and whatever small share of power the state governments possess, under the provisions of the country’s Constitution, will have to be exercised within the confines of this overall central power. Naturally, under these circumstances, to speak of real political power for the state governments, that too, of non-Congress governments comprising of different opposition parties, is unreal and devoid of substance”.

The resolution explained the way the ministries should function keeping in mind the direction given in Para 112.
“Finally, there is one point to be constantly borne in mind by our comrades working in the UF Cabinet. We cannot forecast the actual lifespan of these Governments and all the possible vicissitudes they will have to undergo during the tenure of their ministries. We cannot also definitely say how much relief can be given to the people and what actual possibilities are opened up for these Governments to do so. Our ministries, without either entertaining undue illusions about giving relief in a big way, or courting despair that nothing can be done under the present set-up, should always bear in mind that they as the Party’s representatives, should strive to tender our bona fides to the people. Any failure on this score compromises the Party’s political line in the eyes of the people; adversely affects the independent mobilisation of the people; and their activities, and all this in turn, will not help us to resist and overcome the vacillations, wobblings and sometimes even possible backsliding of some democratic parties in the UFs and their respective Governments. In a word, the UF governments that we have now are to be treated and understood as instruments of struggle in the hands of our people, more than as Governments that actually possess adequate power, that can materially and substantially give relief to the people. In clear class terms, our Party’s participation in such Governments is one specific form of struggle to win more and more people, and more and more allies for the cause of People’s Democracy and at a later stage for Socialism.”

The 1967 resolution also characterized the various non-Congress state governments, which were formed into four categories. The first category comprised the United Front governments of Kerala and West Bengal where the Left Democratic forces were in a dominant position. In the second category came the DMK government of Tamilnadu which was a single party government. It represented a radical bourgeois platform and a consistent platform of states autonomy. The third category were the states where some Left and democratic forces were in coalition with rightist parties and the Jan Sangh (Bihar and Punjab). In the fourth category were state governments in Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana where right and reactionary parties like Jan Sangh and Swatantra were predominant. The CPI(M) decided not to join in the state governments of the third and fourth category. It nailed down the CPI’s opportunism in joining such state governments as in the Bihar, UP and Punjab. It is based on this resolution that the Party formulated the stand that the Party will join only those governments where we and the other Left and democratic forces can have a decisive say in policy making and its implementation.

Experience of the U.F. Governments

The 1967-70 U.F. governments were marked by intra-front strife. There were clashes and conflicts between the constituent parties. In West Bengal, between the Bangla Congress and the Party and later between the Party and the CPI, Forward Bloc and others. In Kerala, the main conflict was with the CPI who rallied other parties like the Muslim League and RSP with it. One of the major reasons for the downfall of these governments were these conflicts and in particular the CPI’s political line which veered to allying with the Congress after the split in the Congress Party in 1969. There were also differences on the approach to government, the pace of change etc. For instance in Kerala, the Party’s slogan of “administration and struggle” was opposed by the CPI which maintained that the two cannot go together. The Congress utilized all these differences and conflicts in both the states to topple the governments. In Kerala, a mini-front government with CPI leader Achutha Menon was formed. In West Bengal, CPI and other left parties deserted and fought the CPI(M) in the 1971 and 72 elections in the background of the rising terror directed against the Party.

The Party’s firm stance against the Central government’s policies, seeing the formation of the Left-led governments as part of the class struggle and the steady expansion of its mass base alarmed the anti-Marxist forces and the revisionists. But it was the correct united front tactics of the Party and its creative approach to the state governments that helped the Party to overcome the odds. Though the Party paid a heavy price for it. For nearly a decade, hundreds of our cadres were killed in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura in a situation where Left unity was disrupted and the state machinery utilized to repress the Party. Finally in 1977 the Left forces (the CPI in 1980) came together which was acceptance of the correctness of our political line and united front approach.

The 1967-70 period of UF governments threw up a rich and varied experience for the Party on united front tactics and also how to participate and run governments. It made a big contribution to expanding the Party’s base in these states and to vanquish the erroneous political line of the CPI. This helped established the leadership role of the Party among the Left and democratic forces in these two states. After the interregnum of struggles and repression, the Left Front that emerged in West Bengal and Tripura were different as it comprised only the Left parties, there was greater cohesion and though different views are there, there is none of the conflicts and bitter clashes witnessed in the earlier period. This has been mainly due to the dominant position of the CPI M) within the Left Front. In Kerala, the situation was different. The Left Democratic Front contained bourgeois and democratic parties. Unlike in 1967, when C.C. resolutions noted that the CPI (M) was a stronger component in Kerala in the United Front than in West Bengal, the reverse happened. Over a period of time, the CPI (M) was reduced to fighting only fifty per cent of the seats that was not commensurate to our strength. In the LDF from 1980 onwards, we could not increase the number of seats fought or strengthen the Party’s role in the government. It is only in the 2006 assembly elections, that the Party has been able to contest over 60 percent of the seats and win 65 seats (out of 140), the highest number so far. This is essential if the left and democratic platform is to be advanced and the LDF government is take up issues and policies based on such a platform.

Gains Due to Participation in Governments

Based on the tactical direction given in the Party programme we have to assess the role of the Left-led state governments on the following basis:
1. Have they been able to expand the mass base of our Party in the concerned states utilising the governments to mobilise more and more people around the Left and Democratic platform?
2. Have we been able to render help (immediate relief) to the people.
3. Are we successful in making the people aware of the limitations of the state governments that they do not possess real power and the necessity to struggle for a change in the correlation of forces at the all India level?
4. Have we adhered to the line laid down by the Party programme and the Central Committee in the working of such state governments, or, have we reconciled ourselves to being a part and parcel of the bourgeois-landlord State?

On the first point, there is no doubt that the Party has steadily expanded its mass base in the three states where we have been running state governments. This would be clear if we examine what was the Party’s mass base, strength of the mass organisations and electoral base when we first formed the government in 1967 in West Bengal and Kerala and Tripura in 1977and the position now in the three states. As for the second point of helping the people and providing immediate relief, the Left-led governments of the three states stand apart for their implementation of land reform legislations. It is only these three states which have seriously undertaken land reforms within the existing laws. This is an important factor in expanding the mass base of the Party. From the outset, the Left-led state governments refused to let the police be used against the struggles of the working class, peasantry and other democratic sections. The Left-led governments have been marked by their firm stand against the communal forces, prevention of communal riots or effectively tackling them. As for the third point, the CPI(M) in these three states have consistently campaigned and mobilised the people in movements to explain the class character and attitude of the central government and make the people conscious of the limitations of the state government in the present set up. Fourthly, the state governments headed by us have striven to implement the tactical line and formulate policies which can help mobilise the people as distinct from the policies of the other bourgeois-run state governments. Even though the odds and difficulties have increased, there is a consistent effort to ensure that the differences between a Left-led government and other state governments are brought before the people.

One of the consistent themes of the Left-led governments has been to fight against the Congress Central government’s discriminatory attitude to the Left-run state governments. Connected to this is the struggle for more state rights and to restructure centre-state relations.

The CPI(M)’s line of thinking as propounded in para 112 of its Party programme, has borne fruit, leaving a strong imprint on India politics. It has increased the Party’s mass following in whichever state it has had the opportunity of playing a leading role in government along with the other left forces, the role played by our Party in these left-led governments, despite the numerous limitations imposed by the Centre run by ruling class parties and its constitutional prerogatives, has helped the CPI(M) to emerge as the leading Left party in the country.

New Situation & Challenges

The role of the CPI(M)-led state governments cannot be seen in isolation from the overall political situation and the tactical line adopted by the Party. Till the end of the eighties, the Party’s struggle to end the Congress monopoly in power, fight authoritarian trends, rally the democratic forces and fight back the anti-people policies were the backdrop in which the state governments functioned. The situation changed by the end of the 1980s. One party dominance of the Congress ended. Our Party’s tactical line and intervention played an important role in this, both in the struggle against authoritarianism and in rallying other secular bourgeois parties. The first change came about in the post-1977 period. After the successful struggle against one party authoritarianism, the ruling classes were no more united to fight the Marxists. The division in the ruling classes helped in our sustaining the Left Front government in West Bengal for a longer period. In the earlier phase, the governments formed from 1957 till 1967-70 lasted only on an average of not more than two years. The first communist ministry in Kerala lasted 29 months. Both the UF governments in West Bengal together had tenures of less than three years. The Kerala UF government lasted a little over two years. It was the success of our tactical line and the division of the ruling classes which enabled the governments of the post 1977 period to last for longer terms. Except for the 1988 episode of rigging in Tripura, the ruling classes have not been able to launch a counter offensive to dislodge the Left-led governments undemocratically. This is a reflection also of how the mass base of the Party has grown in the three states.
After the Left Front stabilizing and the durability of the government being ensured, the agenda of development with a pro-people orientation assumed importance. This has to accompanied by developing movements and struggles which can win new sections, expand the mass base of the Party and be part of the all-India movement to build a third alternative which can go forward to the left and democratic front. In the earlier phase, we talked in terms of using the state governments as “instruments of struggle” (New Situation and Tasks). Could that be the concept for running a government in the post 1977 phase?

After the adoption of the Party programme in 1964, the understanding that prevailed flowing from the international and national situation was as follows: 1. Internationally, socialism was considered the decisive force in shaping the correlation of forces 2. The national liberation movements were emerging victorious against imperialism 3. In the national situation, the economic crisis was seen to be developing into a political crisis 4. the formation of the UF governments were seen to be part of the rising tide of democratic forces 5. Call was given for a national democratic alternative to Congress rule.

In such a situation, the CC characterized the governments as instruments of struggle. After the end of the emergency and the 1977 elections, a new situation emerged. This was assessed in the Tenth Congress and a tactical line evolved.

It was no more relevant to view the Left led governments solely as instruments of struggle. It had to incorporate the aspect of running the government to meet the aspirations of the people, their developmental needs and mobilising them for alternative policies. This becomes all the more important in the context of the all India movement and the Left not being able to develop substantially in other parts of the country. The people of the three Left bastions cannot be told to wait indefinitely for their problems to be addressed till a change takes place at the all-India level. Given the fact that the emergence of a left and democratic alternative is a protracted affair, the governance, administration and development issues which affect the lives of people cannot be a secondary factor.

How to fulfill the commitments to the people and provide a government which is distinct from that of the bourgeois parties came to the fore.
In West Bengal, even before liberalisation, the issue of how to go about industrialisation came up. The issue of Haldia petro-chemical project being set-up in the joint sector came up in 1984-85. the state government decided to go in for a joint venture with the private sector. Questions were raised whether this was permissible. In the 12th Congress of the Party in December 1985, the matter was discussed. Comrade B. T. Ranadive summed up the discussions by stating that West Bengal under Left Front rule has been facing an “economic blockade” from the Centre. West Bengal was discriminated against on a class basis because it is run by a Left-led government. It is in the class interests of the working class to break this blockade. Industrialisation is necessary for West Bengal to generate employment. So the petro-chemical project with private sector participation is a tactical necessity. The Haldia project was the first major industrial venture initiated by the state government after it came into office in 1977.

After Liberalisation

The political situation by the end of the eighties changed. Throughout the 1990s there was a shift to the right with the rise of the BJP first as the major opposition party and later with its six years in office. The rise of the Hindutva communal forces had an adverse impact on the advance of the Left and democratic forces. The defence of secularism and isolating the communal forces also became a priority for the Left-led state governments. The second important change was the liberalisation and privatisation process which was initiated in 1991. The prominent features of these new liberalized policies were:

1. The deregulation of the economy and delicencing of industries by the Centre;
2. The curtailing of the public sector, its outright dismantling in certain areas and privatisation;
3. The opening up of India’s economy to foreign capital with special facilities for them;
4. The opening of the financial sector to foreign capital; and
5. The reduction in state intervention in the development of industries and the economy including the sphere of infrastructure and social sector expenditure.

The political resolutions of the Party Congresses from 1992 onwards have pointed out that these economic policies are not just the policies of the Congress(I) but of the Indian ruling classes. In fact, the BJP is also a vigorous advocate of neo-liberal policies.

The Central Committee resolution of 1994 On the Role of the West Bengal Left Front Government In The Context Of the New Economic Policies was the first document adopted by the Party to reappraise how the Left Front government can chalk out a path of development and formulate policies in a new situation where due to deregulation and delicencing it was no longer an issue of central discrimination but the state government having to solicit investments for industrial and infrastructural development. There was a change also in the Centre-State relations. The encroachment and limitations on the states came in new form through the Finance Commission’s terms of reference and for Central grants and loans for sectoral development conditionalities were attached whereby states had to undertake privatisation, downsizing etc.
It is in this context that it should be noted that the West Bengal government was the first government to come out with an alternative package when the Narasimha Rao government came to power in 1991. It should also be noted that subsequently in all the major strike struggles and movements launched by the Left parties and mass organisations it was the strength provided by the Left bastion of West Bengal and the strong contingents in Kerala and Tripura which enabled the CPI (M) to play a leading role in widening the resistance to the new economic policies and offering alternative policies. As the Central Committee resolution points out:
“It is the strength of the organised working class and the other sections of the toiling people in West Bengal, the total membership of the mass organisations led by the Party alone in West Bengal is over two crores, that has helped in the struggle against the economic policies. The existence of the Left Front government continuously from 1977 onwards has contributed in building up this organised strength and spearhead of the Left movement.
“However, to expect from the Left Front government that it alone can implement basic alternative policies in the face of this all India liberalisation and privatisation is to do violence to our own basic Party understanding and the programme. The Left Front government can only play a limited role in alternate policy implementation while it can play a big role in mobilizing the people against the centre’s policies. It is the Left Front government’s big achievement that it has been able to achieve a breakthrough in the areas where it has a greater degree of power – implementation of land reforms and stimulating agricultural production, decentralizing power to the panchayats and involving them in development work and to expand the democratic rights of the rural poor using the state machinery to neutralize the police and repressive measures against the working people’s struggles and to use the limited resources to stimulate small scale industrial development.”

Further, with the cutbacks in public investment and the social sector by the Centre, the state governments were squeezed of resources and unable to fulfill their commitments.
Taking stock of the new situation, the resolution stated: “Unlike in 1985, when the struggle was against the discrimination of the Centre, with its power of licensing and regulation of industry against West Bengal today with deregulation and delicencing it is upto the Left Front Government to initiate steps to attract capital investment in West Bengal. This can be done only by allowing greater investment of private capital in various sectors. This is the basis on which the Left Front government has to adjust its policies in West Bengal to meet the new situation brought about by the Centre’s policy of liberalisation. While doing so, the CPI(M) led government has to be conscious of not adopting any such terms or implementation which are only due to the unjustified pressure of foreign capital or big business. It should not go against available indigenous technology or lead to diversion of limited capital resources to inessential sectors……While orienting the policies and regulations in the state to facilitate greater private investment, the people should constantly be told that such industrialization and expansion of the private sector cannot solve the basic problems and class exploitation will continue and increase with the overall liberalisation policy of the Centre.”

Updated Programme Formulation

When the updating of the Party programme took place, the experience of running the state governments both in the earlier phase and in the post-1991 phase was taken into account. After the existence of the Left Front government in West Bengal for more than two decades and the long stints of such governments in Tripura and Kerala it was not sufficient to talk in terms of only providing “immediate” relief to the people. While the Left-led governments were successful in mobilizing more and more people around the platform of the Left and Democratic forces, the people expect these governments to also provide development. Creating employment, public education and health facilities, provision of basic services etc had to be on the agenda of the state governments. While the pressure of the central government and the ruling classes was for uncritical acceptance of the policies of liberalisation and privatisation, the Left-led governments had to take into account the existing realities and limitations of the state governments and work out policies and measures for economic and social development which would at the same time show that the Left-led governments have a pro-people approach and alternative policies which are part of our Left and Democratic platform. Para 112 of the earlier programme after revision in the updated programme as para 7.17 reads as follows:
“The Party will obviously have to work out various interim slogans in order to meet the requirements of a rapidly changing political situation. Even while keeping before the people the task of dislodging the present ruling classes and establishing a new democratic State and government based on the firm alliance of the working class and the peasantry, the Party will utilise the opportunities that present themselves of bringing into existence governments pledged to carry out a programme of providing relief to the people and strive to project and implement alternative policies within the existing limitations. The formation of such governments will strengthen the revolutionary movement of the working people and thus help the process of building the people's democratic front. It, however, would not solve the economic and political problems of the nation in any fundamental manner. The Party, therefore, will continue to educate the mass of the people on the need for replacing the present bourgeois-landlord State and government headed by the big bourgeoisie even while utilising opportunities for forming such governments in the states or the Centre, depending on the concrete situation, and thus strengthen the mass movement.” (Para 7.17)
Instead of the governments aiming to carry out a “modest programme of giving immediate relief to the people”, the updated programme provides for “governments pledged to carry out a programme of providing relief to the people and strive to project and implement alternative policies within the existing limitations.“ The governments cannot confine themselves to only providing immediate relief but something more substantial. It also should strive to implement within the existing limitations certain alternative policies. In fact even the implementation of land reforms is not just providing “immediate relief” but is part of the alternative platform of the Left and democratic forces.

The earlier formulation had described these governments as “governments of a transitional character”. The word “transitional” has been dropped since it may create confusion that these governments have a very limited period. But the word transitional has a more basic meaning that the governments formed are part of the attempt to bring about a transition to the Left and democratic alternative and the People’s Democratic Front. The third point in the updated para clarifies that this tactical approach to participation in government applies to both the states and the Central governments. Participation in the Central government will also be based on the framework set out in Para 7.17 and the factors influencing such a decision will depend on the concrete situation prevailing and whether such a step will help strengthen the revolutionary movement and help the process of building a People’s Democratic Front.

On Certain Policy Issues

It is flowing from this understanding that the Central Committee has been addressing issues and policy matters arising out of our running the three state governments. In the 18th Party Congress we adopted a document on Certain Policy Issues as part of the Political Organisational Report. In this section some of the policy questions before the state governments led by our Party were addressed and a direction given. These pertain to: 1. Taking loans and grants from foreign and multilateral agencies; 2. stand on public sector; 3. foreign direct investment.
There are certain other policy directives which have relevance to the Left-led state governments such as the demands/steps to be taken in the sphere of education and health system that are increasingly getting privatized and commercialized. The document spells out our stand on NGOs and Self Help Groups (SHGs) which also needs to find reflection in government policy.

On Loans & Grants

The document spells out the approach to be taken by our governments towards loans and grants from foreign countries/agencies. Under the neo-liberal policies state governments are faced with a fiscal crunch. Central transfers have come down, there are high interest rates on loans given to the Centre and the thrust is to compel states to promote privatisation in the social sector to meet the withdrawal of the state from its commitments. In such a situation, it will not be possible for the Left-led state governments to avoid taking loans and assistance from foreign and multilateral agencies, if they are to implement their developmental programmes and maintain their social sector commitments. As the document points out:

“These governments, therefore, may accept aid for developmental projects but the important criteria that needs to be adhered is that there should be no conditionalities which are against our basic interests and policies. In no case should we go in for loans which involve structural adjustment programmes. Such programmes entail conditionalities like privatisation of certain sectors, downsizing staff, cutting subsidies and fiscal conditionalities.

“The CPI(M)-led state governments have to function under constraints, including those imposed by imperialist-dictated policies at the Centre, which the Party fights to overcome. The Party’s fight against such policies, therefore, is simultaneously a defence of the interests of our state governments. Whenever our governments hard-pressed for funds but duty-bound to provide relief to the people are offered loans by imperialist agencies and western governments, the Party should consent to such loans only if it does not weaken its fight against the imperialist-dictated policies. In all cases, where the Party agrees to such loans from international agencies like World Bank, ADB, DFID, JBIC etc, it must take the people into confidence and explain to them the justification for taking such loans.

“Increasingly, in this phase of imperialist globalisation, a large number of western governments and agencies patronized by them fund developmental activities in third world countries. The question of accepting such funds will, once again, have to be based on a similar approach by evaluating the conditionalities that are attached. The thumb rule that must guide our governments as well as other institutions in deciding the acceptance of such funds must be based on an evaluation that this will provide some relief to the people and lead to economic improvement without compromising the state government’s autonomy in economic decision making. Our attitude towards accepting such funding must strictly be based on such an understanding.”


On FDI, the document sets out broadly the criteria for acceptance of foreign capital investment which is applicable to our state governments too:

“Under such circumstances, the flow of foreign capital into our country, in the present conditions, must be regulated by stipulating the following conditions: a) such capital should augment the existing productive capacities in our economy; b) such foreign capital must upgrade the Indian economy technologically; and c) such capital must lead to employment generation.

“While foreign capital will seek to exploit our natural resources and labour to garner superprofits, the struggle for imposition of these conditions will, apart from making the resistance to the task of eroding national sovereignty more effective, render some benefit to the Indian economy and the people.

“Apart from these conditions, the entry of foreign capital into specific areas (like, for instance, with respect to agricultural sector, for example, land use regulations, trade tariffs, seeds, fertilizers etc) which can have negative consequences for our economic and political sovereignty must be opposed.”

Tasks Before the Party

The entire Party must imbibe the understanding of the role of the CPI(M)-led governments. Failure to do so leads to exaggerated expectations. At the present , when the three states are our advanced outposts in a national situation where the Party and the left have been unable to expand the base and advance towards building a left and democratic front, it is unrealistic to expect the Left-led state governments to initiate any basic changes. Especially since the advent of liberalization and neo-liberal policies, our governments have been defensively reacting to protect whatever gains that were made and to bring about some development and provide relief to the people. As the 18th Congress political resolution stated:

“Faced with the neo-liberal policies of the Centre, the Left-led governments have to struggle hard to pursue policies which ensure pro-people and balanced development. While promoting private investment, the Left Front governments defend the public sector in key areas, protect and, if possible, expand public expenditure in the social sector and project alternative policies to protect the poorer sections who are the worst affected by the policies pursued by the Central government. “

While running the government, the policies and steps we take must be seen in the light of the all India tactical line and policies that we are advocating. While working within the serious constraints, the Party and the leadership of the state governments must be conscious that any policy or measure taken will have its impact nationally and all over the country. We have to constantly discuss and formulate policy measures which will balance the needs of the government with that of projecting the alternative policies that we are advocating.

As Party programme directive said, the work of the state governments should give a fillip to the movement in the rest of India. The policies and steps taken by the Left-led governments had an impact nationally. It enhanced the image of the party and its capacity for intervention. The land reform implementation, the panchayat system, the safeguarding of democratic rights of the working people, social welfare measures, the defence of secularism and checking communal forces – all these have helped the Party in the other states to propagate the achievements of the Party led state governments. While making policies and implementing measures, the Party and leadership of the state governments must bear in mind that what they do have an impact on the Party and movement in the rest of the country. It is the responsibility of the State party and government leadership to bear in mind that apart from fulfilling the commitments made to the people, we also have to run the governments in a manner that will strengthen the left and democratic forces in the country. It is the responsibility of the Party all over the country to understand the situation in which these governments are functioning and to highlight the pro-people measures and alternative approaches that we are adopting in these states.

***From a booklet published by CPI(M) Central Committee

Energizes the Leftists and Communists all over the World

By V. S. Achuthanandan

Chief Minister, Kerala

Published in GANASHAKTI, 21st June, 2008

The left democratic Government in West Bengal is completing 31 years by 21st June. This is an event that energizes the Leftists and Communists all over the world. It was in Kerala that for the first time in history, a Communist party was brought into power through a general election. This was of course an event that generated a new zest among the progressive movements sending a shock to the colonial forces at the same time. Within two years after the Government was sworn in, the furore that accompanied the tabling of the Land reforms Bill and the Education Bill, led to the so-called “liberation struggle” that eventually resulted in the infamous decision of the Central government to dismiss the Communist government. The Central government behaved as if the communists will never emerge in anywhere in India in near future. The single party rule of Congress was at its peak then. While the Communists lost the election that followed, they managed interestingly to increase the percentage of votes they polled. Again in 1967, Governments emerged in Kerala and West Bengal under the leadership of Communist Parties.

In 1977, after the dark era of emergency, a Left Front Government was again brought into power in West Bengal under the leadership of Com. Jyothi Basu. The Congress Government led by Sidharth Sankar Ray that had been in power since 1972 had unleashed a semi fascist regime in Bengal. Starvation and starvation death and similar hardships were the facets of Sidhartha Sankar Ray Government. It was in fact an announcement that the CPI(M) and the left parties will never be allowed to rise again. Also, regime in Bengal during the first half of the seventies was a dress rehearsal of the emergency period.

Then the very first instance after the emergency was properly used by the people of West Bengal to teach Congress a lesson by giving them a hard blow ensuring minimum probability for congress to resume power. The CPI(M) gained a clear parliamentary majority in 1977. The 1980 elections for the Lok Sabha and those at the state level in 1982 have further confirmed CPI(M)’s secure electoral base in West Bengal. The West Bengal Government have improved its status further and is going on. Apart from Kerala and West Bengal, the CPI(M) Government in Tripura has been in power for nearly three decades. It is the alternate policies that these Governments follow in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura that makes them different from the Congress and BJP lead Governments that follow anti-people policies.

It can be observed that the political situation prevailing in Kerala is that there has not been an instance of the Left Government coming into power in successive elections as can be seen in Bengal and Tripura. Here the Left and Right Front Governments come into power alternately. This is the major hurdle that prevents the continuation of the pro people endeavours and comprehensive developmental activities based on alternate policies. In the developmental front, the Left Democratic Government has accomplished in being exemplary to the whole nation. Still it has not been possible to ensure a sustainable fifty percent vote for the Left. We in Kerala are moving ahead with a clear intention to achieve a sustainable Left regime as has been achieved by the West Bengal and Tripura Governments long back.

The existing Government in Kerala has crossed 25 months in power. From the beginning itself the LDF Government has made it clear that the State cannot go ahead without increasing the production in agricultural and industrial sectors. The most essential elements for the sustainable development of the State are the revitalisation of sick industries, starting new industries, solving agricultural crisis and increasing production. It is a matter of pride that we could start at basically in the aforesaid matters.

The Government are giving utmost emphasis on resolving food crisis. Here, it is right mentioning that the Government of West Bengal has helped Kerala by providing rice at a reduced price. Encouraging paddy cultivation by conserving at least the remaining paddy fields is our aim. Approval of the bill preventing reclamation of paddy fields and wetlands is as part of it. A comprehensive programme is in the pipeline to enhance production of food grains and other food materials.

When the Left Democratic Government came into power, the procurement of paddy was nominal. And the rate was only Rs.7 per kg. The LDF government enhanced the rate up to Rs.10 by this year and thus the procurement has been vitalised. As a result, a 30 per cent increase in production at Kuttanad and Palakkad could be achieved.

It is worth mentioning that the various steps taken by the government from its very inception could almost wipe out the suicide tendency of farmers. Three districts of Kerala out of the 36 in the country included in Central Government’s list where severe farmer suicides were reported, have now been exempted from the list. The remaining 33 districts still witness farmer suicide that illustrates the deference between government of Kerala and the rest in India.
Now the Government is striving to hold on the price hike by strengthening public distribution system through Supplyco and Consumerfed. Rice shops have been started with moderate rate. The State Government grants subsidy without any reservation in order to intervene the market.
The Central Government is persecuting the State by cutting down 87 per cent of the APL rice share of Kerala. The State Government are staging strong pressure against this and are taking all measures possible to avoid scarcity of rice.
Phenomenal task has been going on to recover government land from encroachers. In Munnar alone, it recovered twelve thousand acres of land and demolished about hundred unauthorised huge buildings and resorts. In the State as a whole, more than 15,000 acres of land has been recovered.

The legendary event of evacuation of encroachments is an unprecedented one in the history of Kerala. The recovered and other surplus land will be distributed to the landless. Each family should have land, home, electricity and drinking water- is the policy of the Government. EMS Total Housing Scheme has been started for all homeless in the State. Within the next three years, Kerala will become a total housing State. One-acre land for each 1717 adivasi families has been distributed in Aralam farm. Medical Treatment for tribals becomes free of cost.

The Right Front ridiculed the Left Front as anti-developmental during the election time. There existed a circumstance to call us as anti-developmental. The hot protest and agitations against unscrupulous exploitation of land, water and nature ware viewed as anti-developmental. Allegations raised against the Smart City project were important among them. The opposition demanded that the Government might go ahead only without handing over the Infopark, ensuring fair price for the land and rejecting the condition that there should not be any other IT park in Ernakulam. Those statements holding the vast interest of the State, were portrayed as anti-developmental. Then the Smart City became the central slogan of the assembly election.
Now, the Smart City is going to be a reality. Relentless attempt to materialise the project protecting the noble intentions of the State has been undertaken. Thus great modifications in favour of the State could be made in the stands of TECOM. A quantum jump in the field of IT sector could be achieved within the past one and a half year. For establishing Techno City, 507 acres of land is acquiring in Thiruvananthapuram. Technopark sees a development where another 100 acres of land is being acquired. Steps have been taken to establish IT parks at various districts. Many IT companies have already started new ventures in Technopark and Infopark. The target is the creation of two lakh job opportunities in the IT sector. However, the present position reveals that the employment opportunities will be many fold. 40,000 more job opportunities will be generated within next three years at Infopark, the very institution that was decided to handover free of cost by the previous government. Projects are being implemented to make the State totally computer literate. The plan, Akshaya Kendras in every village is advancing.

All welfare pensions have been hiked upto Rs.200 at a stretch and the arrears are disbursed. Hundreds of thousands of labourers have been brought under Welfare Funds including about two lakh small scale plantation workers.

The Shops and Establishments Labourer Welfare Fund Law gives solace to one million families in the unorganised sector. This law ensures job security, pension, family pension, leave, delivery leave et. al. Likewise a law which fixes pension and welfare fund for tens of thousands of dairy farmers has also been implemented.

Preliminary works have already started for metro rail in Kochi. Primary steps for suburban train services in Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam and Kozhikode have been taken. The waterway development project between the tail ends of Kerala has been triggered off. Kollam – Kottappuram waterway, a part of the National Waterway – 3 has been commissioned and the work for Kottappuram-Neeleswaram waterway is going on. Works for Kollam- Kovalam water way project has also launched. The LNG terminal at Kochi, which was in seesaw, has been got out from all obstacles owing to the relentless effort of the state government.

The State Government could reciprocate strongly against the negligence of the Centre and could fetch a large number of projects, which were entitled to us. Progress could be achieved in bringing issues of Kerala to the notice of the Centre better than earlier. Strong protest has been registered against the formation of Salem Railway Division by dividing Palakkad Division. Thus the Railway Ministry was forced to enlarge the boundary of the Palakkad division from their earlier decision.

This protest opens up a way for getting a coach factory. Since the railway reached Kerala one and half century ago, no important employment generating institution has been launched here. A coach factory assigned for Kerala a quarter century back had been shifted to Kapurthala in Punjab in the eleventh hour. Now, when we extended great pressure in the case of Salem Division issue, Central Government have agreed to set up a coach factory in Kerala to pacify us. It has already been decided that a modern railway coach factory to be set up with an investment of around four thousand crore rupees at Kanchikkode in Palakkad. For the past fifty years, no such huge Central investment has come in Kerala in the public sector. State Government have initiated primary steps for acquiring land needed for the coach factory.

Rejuvenation and enthusiasm regained in Industries sector. The government could reopen almost all the closed industries. Lock out was common in the past when an industry exhausted with loss. Now the number of profiteering public sector industry is raised to twenty seven from the mere twelve. Many new industries have been started.

New projects came in tourism sector. Kerala becomes one of the most important tourism destinations of the world. Endeavour for generating additional 500 mega watt power within three years started. Special attention has been given to utilise non-traditional energy sources and wind energy project commissioned at Idukki.

The corruption free and prosperous Kerala that is rushing towards a comprehensive development -the LDF governance of 24 months could make a giant leap in the journey towards this. The background is set for a comprehensive development. The Government could dispel disappointment from all walks of life and could rejuvenate it. Now onwards it is the time of progress.

Recent Growth in West Bengal

C.P. Chandrasekhar and Jayati Ghosh
(Article posted at MACROSCAN)

For the greater part of the past three decades, West Bengal has been among the middle ranking states of India, both in terms of per capita income and human development indicators. This has been despite the special feature of the state, that it has been ruled continuously by a Left Front government that has provided political stability and also, particularly in the first two decades, a clear orientation towards improving the conditions of workers and peasants.This has made West Bengal the most active state in respect of land reform in the past two decades, leading the rest of the country not only in recording and legal recognition of the rights of sharecroppers but also in enforcing land ceilings and distributing surplus and vested land. (It should be remembered that even now West Bengal distributes more land to landless peasants than it acquires, and certainly distributes more than any other state.) It also made the state a pioneer in the decentralisation of powers to the panchayats, well before the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution encouraged greater devolution in other states as well.While these measures certainly contributed to the breaking of the “agrarian impasse” in Bengal and allowed for more rapid and diversified agricultural performance in the state, in other respects the economic performance of the state has been below expectation. This reflects the inherent difficulty of an autonomous development trajectory within a single state, even with a federal system of government, and the role of broader macroeconomic processes in determining outcomes even within the state.To this must be added several other constraints on growth, which are essentially the effects of history and geography.

At Independence, West Bengal was among the more industrialised states of the country. Subsequently, however, a combination of factors meant that organised manufacturing industry generally stagnated, especially compared to other regions. These included the absence of a local bourgeoisie with an inherent interest in investing within the state; reduction in public investment in railways that had previously encouraged the local engineering industries; and national policies such as the freight equalisation policy that eliminated the state’s regional cost advantages from proximity to coal and steel resources.In addition, West Bengal has been situated in what has been a relatively poor and economically stagnant region of India, such that there have been very few economic growth stimuli coming from the surrounding region. Indeed, for the better part of the past two decades the economy of West Bengal has been the only dynamic one in the region.

Despite these constraints, it is not generally known that over the 1990s West Bengal was one of the fastest growing states in India, and actually showed the second highest rate of aggregate SDP growth among major states, after Karnataka. This tendency was even more marked in per capita terms, because West Bengal has been successful in controlling fertility to a greater extent than many other states.While agricultural output growth was the dominant reason for this, industrial output also grew rapidly, not so much in the organised sector but in the non-registered and unorganised manufacturing industries that proliferated as a consequence of greater rural prosperity.

For the past decade, West Bengal has had the largest number of and the most rapid growth in small-scale and cottage industries among all the states of India.However, much like small manufacturing elsewhere in the country, such small units in West Bengal have recently been adversely affected by neo-liberal economic policies implemented by the central government, which have led to rising costs and greater competition from both organised manufacturing and liberalised imports. The negative fallout of these processes on small manufacturers and traders has been particularly evident since the start of the current decade.These tendencies in turn form the backdrop to the new industrialisation strategy of the Government of West Bengal especially since 2004, which has sought to engage, attract and provide incentives for large corporate capital in order to increase the rate of industrial investment. This article considers the available evidence on growth trends in the state since 1999-2000.

Chart 1 indicates that after 1999-2000, West Bengal was growing slightly faster than India as a whole in per capita terms until 2004-05, after which its expansion has been slightly less rapid but still creditable. The per capita income of West Bengal is now slightly lower than the national average.Charts 2a and 2b show that growth up to 2004-05 was accompanied by even more rapid changes in the sectoral composition of output than have occurred in the rest of India. As for India as a whole, the share of the secondary sector has remained almost constant, increasing only very slightly. But the share of the primary sector (which in West Bengal is dominantly agriculture) has shrunk by as much as 7 percentage points in just five years, with the gap being taken up by services expansion.

Within services, only a few sub-sectors account for this growing share. The transport and communications sectors, trade, hotels and restauranats and public administration and community services have actually fallen in terms of share of State Domestic Product in these five years. However, banking and other financial services and real estate and business services have increased their respective shares sharply.The critical issue from the point of view of well-being of the people, of course, is how far the changes in sectoral composition of output have involved changes in employment patterns as well. Therefore, Table 1 presents some calculations of the relative shares in output and employment by major sectors in 1999-2000 and 2004-05, using NSS estimates based on the two recent large-sample Employment and Unemployment Surveys.

Table 1: Recent structural changes in output and employment in West Bengal

NSSO Employment and Unemployment 55th and 61st Rounds for work force data, referring to Usual Status Workers (Principal plus Subsidiary).
The evidence presented in Table 1 is disconcerting. While the share of the primary sector in outout has fallen sharply, as noted above, its share in employment has barely changed at all, and it continues to account for around 46-47 per cent of the work force. This is also true of India as a whole, of course, although the absolute share of the primary sector in employment is lower in West Bengal (at less than half of all workers), and the decline in share has also been smaller than in the average for India.But the manufacturing sector has also declined in relative importance, to some extent in terms of the share of output and even more in terms of the proportion of workers engaged in such activity. Meanwhile, the services sectors that have accounted for the biggest increases in share of output have increased their share of employment to a much lesser extent. In particular, financial, real estate and business services accounted for 23 per cent of the State Domestic Product in 2004-05, but only 2 per cent of the work force! So both in the manufacturing sector and in the more dynamic services sectors, growth of output has involved very little expansion in employment.This is of course in a nutshell the central problem of development today, not only in West Bengal but in all of India. Clearly it cannot be solved by a concentration only on corporate-driven growth in industry or services, as such investment is typically more capital-intensive and generates less employment per unit of output than investment by smaller producers. So the state government obviously has to develop a multi-pronged strategy for employment generation that encompasses several different approaches.There is a further issue on the nature of recent growth in West Bengal, which is in terms of its regional spread – or rather, the lack of it. Post-1999 income growth has been overwhelmingly concentrated in the metropolitan area of Kolkata and the surrounding hinterland, thereby widening income gaps between Kolkata and the rest of the state that were already very large.Chart 3 show the disparity between per capita income in Kolkata and in all other districts in 2004-05. No other district had a per capita income that was even half of that of Kolkata, not even those that are contiguous or nearby the capital. More than half the districts had per capita incomes of around one-third that of Kolkata, or even less. While it does not appear on the chart, it should also be noted that for almost every district, the per capita income gap with respect to Kolkata has actually widened since 1999-2000, indicating that the recent pattern of economic growth has accentuated spatial inequalities within the state.

Finally, of course, it is well known that growth in aggregate income need not always translate into improvements in material consumption of the people in general. This is evident from a comparison of the per capita income of the districts with estimates of mean per capita consumption obtained from the NSS 61st Round consumer expenditure survey. Table 2 presents this information.The district-level data on per capita consumption is derived by using Small Area Estimation techniques to arrive at estimates with the least variation for each district. They do have a number of limitations, since the sample sizes are generally not large enough to permit generalisation. Nevertheless, the data presented in the table reveal several interesting facts. Firstly, and expectedly, there is substantial variation between the per capita income and mean consumption in general and across districts. Second, in several cases the variation is so large as to change the rank of the district quite significantly, as for example for North 24 Parganas (where the rank improves hugely for per capita consumption) and Jalpaiguri (where the rank falls sharply for per capita consumption).

Table 2: Per capita income and estimated per capita consumption in the districts of West Bengal, 2004-05

While the disparities between Kolkata and the rest of the state in terms of per capita consumption were also large, they were slightly less than has been observed for per capita income. Overall, this table suggests the need for caution in interpreting per capita District Domestic Product as an accurate indicator of either consumption or overall well-being of the local people. It is evident that the estimated per capita consumption in the different districts was somewhere around one half and one-third of the per capita output. Assuming that workers and small peasants consume all or most of their income (and may even dissave through debt) this suggests a very large share of surplus in the form of profits, rents, etc. This knowledge allows for a further refinement of the basic development question mentioned earlier: how can existing surpluses be tapped and mobilised to ensure both expansion of productive capacity in a way that creates gainful employment opportunities and better material and human development conditions for the people? It is this very difficult question that must be answered if the development strategy of West Bengal government is to be successful in creating unambiguous and widely welcomed gains for the citiziens of the state.

(For table and chart, see


Bengal Panchayet is model before country. Conspiracies being hatched against us, but I confident people never voted for any opportunist combine, we will again win: JYOTI BASU

Kolkata: ‘The three tier panchayet system in Bengal became a model for all states’. Just five days ago of panchayet poll in an exclusive talk with Sudipta Basu, Kolkata Correspondent of Prajashakti, Veteran Communist leader Jyoti Basu in such way has expressed his view. Basu also has pointed out the importance of this upcoming panchayet election told that “now all extremist right and extremist left forces merged together against us. They have no any programs, political ethics, and morality. I have confidence upon people of Bengal that they will never vote to this opportunist combine. For another time Left Front will win in this election. It is so needed before country’s left democratic and progressive movement.

Mentionable that on 11th, 14th and 18th may, the 7th three tier panchayet election will be staged in rural Bengal in 17 districts. Already poll campaign is in full swing. The attacks on CPI (M) activists are also getting momentum. On this situation Left Patriarch Jyoti Basu has shared his experiences and views with Prajashakti reporter today morning at his residence Indira Bhaban, saltlake.

Here Basu has clearly stated it is fact that, before 1978, during congress regime now programs or projects were implemented by panchayet. It was paralyzed system in that time. Even panchayet election was rare. But after installation of Left front Government in 1997, we held first panchayet election in 78. Till now, panchayet elections staged by five year regular interval. This is also a history. Panchayet system is now turned as local government. Soon after coming to office, The Left Front Government reorganized the institutions of local government into a three-tier system of democratically elected bodies. This comprised Gram panchayets at the local level, panchayet samities at the block level, and Zilla parishads at the district level. Even 5o percent of budget allotted through panchayet and municipal bodies. That’s why I always told that our panchayet system is model before rest states in country.

Jyoti Basu asserted that, even former Prime Minister Rajib Gandhi also admitted it. When he was Prime Minister came here in West Bengal to participate in one eastern region conference. Then He openly stated that ‘The best panchayet model working in Bengal. I also told him that why you didn’t start this program in other states. Hoever The late Prime Minister Rajib Gandhi had advised the whole country to follow the west Bengal panchayet-system as role model. But unfortunately due to lack of political will this system had not been taken up in all states properly, including some congress rullled state till now. Even few days ago I also heard that his wife Sonia Gandhi passed some statement against us, but she didn’t know about West Bengal’s condition loudly.

People have witnessed the brutality with which the bourgeois party’s unleashed terror on our party members and workers during 0-70’s but even under such repression we never surrendered before our class enemy, never compromised with the ruling class. Basu continued. ‘This is our legacy. And it is this continuous struggle for people in the face of all adversity have earned us the respect and immense faith. Even after 30-years people still vote for us in every election. Slanderous campaigns were launched against us to dislodge us from power through unconstitutional means. After series of struggle when we came in office in 77, I told that ‘we would not rule from Writers Building alone but also with the workers, employees, and officers and along with all section of people. Though Panchayet act was prevailed during congress regime, but it never implemented in reality. We have taken initiative to adopt when 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments.

Basu has also asserted that, for the first time we introduce seat reservation in panchayet for Sechedule cast, Schedule tribe and for women to ensuring the participation of weaker section of society. Voting rights for 18 years also then enacted. Though unfortunately then congress went court against this decision. Congress leader Ajit panja, now he in TMC, then also filed suit against us in court. Though it was rejected. So, now this generation should have to know what the role of Congress was, I don’t understand why still they seeking votes before people of west Bengal. And now Congress also divided, TMC formed and they also are very indisplcnied.they have no any political program, outlooks, honesty. Still now no one knows their principle. And these extreme rightist parties now merged with extreme lefts, even self claimed left party SUCI also shared their hands with them. It is total an opportunist combine. People of Bengal have huge experience. I believe that they never voted in favour of such opportunist combine in this panchayet election.

Jyoti Basu also expressed his happiness, told that ‘at first we have doubt that though we introduce seat reservation for women, is it possible to find women every where for contesting? But now I saw not women members are really doing very good job in panchayet, many women are became panchayet pradhan, Jilla Sabhdipati. And their performance is very good. I just heard that now total 7 lakh 50 thousand SHGs are working across the state where more than 70 lkah women are involved. Most of them are working in rural Bengal, in panchayet area. This is very good development. Empowerment of women is required for our long program.

Basu also has told, panchayet election is in door. We have distributed lands to poor people. We gave emphasize over Land reform programs, as I know more than 13 lakh acre land were distributed among poor and land less people. In our state about 83 percent of the agricultural land is in the possession of the poor and marginalized farmers. Though in that time Congress opposed this move. This program is still continuing, even this Seventh LF government distributed land to poor people, though some problem relating to court cases still remain. We have marked huge achievement in agriculture. Production of all types of food grains has been increased in many folds. West Bengal is in the 1st position of the list of rate of increase of production of agricultural produce. However now our Government is moving towards industrialization on basis of this success. Thousands of unemployed will be benefited by this. We are in first in agriculture, now e want to be first also in industry.

Other hand Basu has strongly criticized oppositions role saying that, Several times I told that in parliamentary democracy role of opposition is very important whether big or small. But it should be a responsible opposition. Oppositions parties have the right to oppose Government program but in a responsible manner, when we take pro-people program there is no reason why they will not extend a co-operative hand. Now I heard that all of them are merged. Even some armed criminals (Maoists) also merged with them and killed every day our party cadres. It is not fair. Deep conspiracies hatched against us to weak us. Even I just heard from our party leaders, that again they all together created chaos in Nandigram. Just one day ago they also killed our one party comrade in purulia. But I told our leadership that, in Nandigram now we have to maintain our patience, we have to keep more alert. Out first task is to ensure proper atmosphere to inspire people for peaceful and fair election. Though I have information that opposition are very much active to disturb gain in Nandigram.

On that other hand Basu also expressed concern, saying that ‘it is unfortunate that still some problems remain in Left front. In some places other LF constituents fight against our candidate. Though in last time panchayet election RSP, AIFB also contested against us in some seats. But this time this trend is less. In this political situation I again appeal to all of LF constituents to fight unitedly against our enemy’s. Because it is need to strengthen Left movement in country now.

After concluding this discussion, Basu also has made appeal, “this panchayet election is very much important, we must keep alter, conspiracies born every day against us. But I believe that People through their long experiences will take proper stand. They never supported any opportunist force. Left Front will make good result again in this panchayet election. Let see what happen. But I always believe that it is man and man alone who creates history. Despite many crest and thrust people will finally emerge victorious and go in freedom in a classless society free from exploitation of any form.

Achievements of Left Front in India

The Guardian,
30 April, 2008

John Bailey, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia, attended the Congresses of the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) held in March/April. Here are his observations of the situation in India.

The present national government in India is promoting economic policies geared towards providing more concessions to big business and foreign finance capital. Many of the measures taken are the result of US imperialism’s influence on the government. Over the past three years this influence over domestic, economic, political and foreign policy has grown.The growth in the GDP in at eight percent, however, this is due mainly to booms in real estate, the stock market and credit-driven consumption by the urban elite. This economic growth, far from improving the living conditions of the working people, is increasing inequalities at an alarming rate.While big business and urban elites are enjoying the benefits of faster income growth and rising purchasing power, the working class in the urban areas and almost all the agrarian classes in the rural areas are experiencing dwindling opportunities of income and employment.So bad is the situation that while India has produced 48 billionaires in recent times 77% of the working population earn less than 20 rupees a day (35 rupees is worth 1$A) or 600 rupees a month. The per capita income in India is 1,937 rupees a month but this per capita income is more than three times what is earned by more than 77% of the population.

This is happening at a time of steep price rises in essential commodities and when workers in India are facing increasing levels of exploitation due to the casualisation of labour, outsourcing and widespread use of contract workers.The prices of basic food items such as cereals, edible oils, sugar, fruit and vegetable have risen sharply. The successive rises in fuel prices have added to inflationary pressures. A National Commission of Rural Labour has found that approximately 50% of male workers and 87% of female workers in urban areas and 47% of male workers and 87% of female workers in rural areas get wages below the national minimum wage.

Unemployment in rural areas has risen from 9.5% in 1993-4 to 15.3%Impoverishment and unemployment in the rural areas is leading to large scale immigration to cities where they are subjected to high levels of exploitation.The corporatisation of the health system and the lifting of price controls on drugs have made medical treatment and medicines prohibitively expensive. A National Family Health Survey shows that 40% of children under three in India are underweight, 23% are wasted (stunted) and 70% anaemic. The survey also found that one-third of women are underweight and 55% of women are anaemic, all this points towards the level of malnutrition in the country.The privatisation of basic services like water and electricity supply has also added to the burden of the people.It is obvious that the plight of the common people in India has worsened due to imperialist globalisation and the neo-liberal policies being pursued by the central government.Prosperity for the upper classes on the one hand and deprivation for the majority of the working people on the other has become the hallmark of the neo-liberal regime in India.However, the central government has not had it all its own way.

The Left parties, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India, have championed the interests of the people and have put forth alternative policies on many issues. Whether it be protecting the interests of workers, women, the poor, the oppressed caste, tribal people or minorities, the Left has checked or halted some of the more harmful measures proposed by the Congress led National Government.These measures include handing over vital control of the financial sector to foreign capital; opening up the retail trade to foreign interests; privatisation of pension funds; and taking away the rights of workers in the name of labour reform.Under pressure and mobilisation of the masses by the Left forces, the Rural Employment Guarantee Act was passed with improvements to the bill.The Tribal Forest Rights Act was also adopted and the struggle for its implementation is under way. Other measures fought for by the Left forces such as the Right to Information Act and the Domestic Violence Act have been adopted and child labour is now prohibited by law.Due to pressure from the left forces there has been some increase in the allocation of funds for education and the midday meal scheme has been expanded throughout the country.The passage of these measures through parliament has been accompanied by national campaigns and movements to ensure that the necessary laws are passed and implemented.

The Left has also registered impressive victories in three states; West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. In all three states the Left-led forces increased their percentage of votes and the number of seats they hold in the state assemblies. These governments are playing an important role in strengthening the Communist and Left movement in India.expenditure for the public sector and welfare.The problems of Central-State relations have entered The Left Front Government of West Bengal has been re-elected in every election for the last 30 years while a similar government in the state of Tripura has now won six elections.Faced with the neo-liberal policies of the national government the Left governments in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India, have had to struggle hard to pursue policies which ensure pro-people and balanced development.The central government’s policies have led to a further erosion of the state’s autonomy and capacity to boost resources. The unequal share of resources between the central government and the states and the limitations imposed on public investment and allocation of resources have had an adverse impact on the ability of state governments to provide a new era under liberalisation and deregulation.

On the one hand, there is a withdrawal from economic and investment activities and, on the other hand, the Central government seeks to push through neo-liberal reforms by setting conditions on the transfer of funds to the states. Every grant or devolution of resources is attached with conditions.In spite of the limitations imposed on them by the central government, Left-led state governments in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura have taken measures to reduce poverty, create new welfare measures and improve living conditions. The success of these policies can be measured by their achievements in three key areas.In all India in 2006 the infant mortality rate was 57 per 1,000 live births. In West Bengal it was 48; in Tripura 31 and in Kerala 15 which is the best record in the country.In all India life expectancy is 61 for males and 62.5 for females. In West Bengal it is 64.5 for males and 67.2 for females. In Kerala it is 70.7 for males and 75 for females. In Tripura it is 71 for males and 74 for females.The all India literacy rate is 63.4%. In West Bengal it is 69.2%; Kerala 90.09% and Tripura 80.14%.

In order to reverse the economic, social and foreign policy trends being adopted by both the major parties in India, the BJP (a right-wing Hindu Nationalist Party) and Congress, the Left forces are proposing the formation of a third alternative based on a platform of policies for which the Left, democratic and secular forces can work together.Such a platform would address the problems faced by the people and advocate pro-people economic measures. It would make provision for social welfare and strengthen the public distribution of resources; defence of national sovereignty and an independent foreign policy.Given the present policies of the Congress and BJP parties and their allies there is a need for a Left and Democratic Front based on a platform which can meet the aspirations and defend the interests of the working class, peasantry, artisans, small shopkeepers, middle class and intelligentsia.It is envisaged that the third alternative would emerge through joint campaigns by the Left, democratic and secular forces based on a common program and would be more than a mere electoral alliance to meet current exigencies.

Such a program would be based on:

· defence of secularism and national unity
· a democratic transformation of agrarian relations and land reform
· an economic system which would develop the productive forces in a way to maximise employment and reduce economic and social disparities
· a democratic and federal political system
· defence of the rights of working people to a higher standard of living
· access to health and education services and social security
· social justice and protection of the rights of women, dalits (untouchables), minorities and tribal people
· an independent foreign policy

At both the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of India held in Hyderabad and the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) held in Coimbatore, concrete plans for such a front have been made as an initiative of the left forces for creating and presenting a third alternative before the people. In this way the left forces can find a way immediately to combat the ruling class drive towards a highly iniquitous and socially unjust society.Both parties are determined to build on the achievements of the past and maintain a united approach to achieve their goals.The combined membership of the CPI and the CPI (M) is now just over 1.5 million. The Left Front led by the CPI (M) and the CPI has 44 members in the Lok Sabha (central parliament) of India.The CPI (M) publishes five daily newspapers, seven weeklies, five fortnightlies, six monthlies and four ideological publications reflecting the numerous ethnic groups and languages across India.Trade Union membership increased from about 2.78 million in the early 1980s to the current figure of 3.98 million today. The population of West Bengal is 80 million, Kerala 32 million and Tripura just over three million. These three states are led by Left Front governments. The all India population was 1,129 million in July 2007.