30 YEARS OF SUCCESSFUL
LEFT FRONT RULE
M K Pandhe
On June 20th 2007 the Left Front Government completed 30 years of continuous rule defending the interests of the toiling people in West Bengal. Within the framework of the capitalist system, no party in India could overcome the anti-incumbency factor for such a long time in any state since independence. There is no example of any left party remaining in power in a province of any capitalist country in the world for such a long time.
This unique experience in West Bengal needs to be studied properly. Despite discrimination by the ruling party or combination of parties at the centre, the Left Front Govt. continued to develop the economy of the state despite all limitations of the capitalist system and made a mark of its own in the national situation. Defeating all conspiracies to topple down or weaken, the Left Front Govt. in West Bengal could raise its head high with the determined support of the people of the state.
Left Front Govt came into being in the process of prolonged struggles by Left forces with the people and for the cause of common people's life, livelihood and democratic rights. With "Operation Barga" it introduced genuine land reforms in the state for the first time in the country. Lakhs of share coppers got their right to till the land which resulted in remarkable improvement in agricultural productivity as well as expansion of rural market. Since it came into being in the process of struggle by the toiling people, people remained with Left Front and It has been the massive support of the rural masses that sustained the Left Front Government in Bengal for three decades, mocking at the lousy noise of so called "scientific rigging". The successful introduction of Panchayati Raj empowered the rural poor to have a role in developmental activities in the State. It cannot be a fault of the Left Front Government that the opposition parties could not get even candidate to contest election against the left front candidates in some places! The Panchayati Raj in Bengal even attracted some foreign countries who sent representatives to study the operation of the system in the State.
The total number of beneficiaries of agricultural land distributed among the land less in Bengal is now 29.14 lakh. The total number of recorded share croppers have now reached 15.08 lakh.
In a memorandum to the 53rd meeting of the National Development Council on Food and Agriculture held on May 29, 2007 at New Delhi the Govt. of West Bengal noted, "In our state, the total production of rice, despite the adverse effects of floods, has been estimated to reach 144 lakh tones in 2006-07, which is higher than the requirement of the State (presently 139.6 lakh MT) and West Bengal occupies the first position in the States in production of rice. Moreover, the production of potato is also estimated to reach 77 lakh MT which is again much higher than the requirement of the State (43.4 lakh MT) and in this regard the States position is second among the states. In addition the total production of vegetables is estimated to increase to 125 lakh MT which is substantially higher than the states requirement (86.7 lakh MT) and in this case also, West Bengal occupies the highest position among the States".
The Left Front Government came in a wake of several struggles conducted by the working class and the toiling masses in defence of their rights. With intensification of class struggles in West Bengal the ruling Congress launched a severe repression on the trade union and democratic movement in early seventies. During the semi-fascist terror launched by the Congress party more than 1200 trade union activists had to lay down their lives braving the attacks by the gangsters and police. Several thousands of activists were evicted from their residential areas and had to take shelter in far away places.
The holding of regular elections in all elective organizations/institutions ensured the democratic process to empower the people and gave them a voice to elect representatives of their choice. The left front Government proved its growing popularity not only in Assembly and Parliamentary polls but in Municipalities and Gram Panchayats. Despite attempts to form Mahajot combining all anti-Left forces, the left front Government continue to win support of the people in the State. The bankruptcy of the Congress policies in the state has brought its strength down to a lowest possible level. The Congress party which ruled the state for several years has become a smaller force than even the Trinamul Congress.
The Trinamul Congress with the backing of lumpen elements and financed by dubious sources has repeatedly tried to destabilize the Govt but failed miserably. Instead of achieving the dream of entering writers building Ms. Mamata Banerjee lost her support among the people. Her ranks are deserting her seeing her maverick policies which only is making her more violent and resorting to gangster methods to prevent further erosion. Her unreliable political behaviour is making her allies skeptical about her policies. The BJP got some foothold in Bengal due to Mamata Banerjee's support to the communal outfit. Within erosion of her own influence in the state politics BJP is facing difficulties to mark its presence in the state politics.
When the Left Front came to power the opposition combine and the press in Bengal initiated a virulent campaign that due to the role of CITU in the state, the industries would not come to invest in West Bengal. They also were campaigning about sickness of large number of companies in the state which they ascribed to the militant trade union movement in Bengal. As a matter of fact most of the units became sick during the Congress regime and refusal of the Central Government to give orders to public sector units in the State and their discriminatory policy against the state.
Decades of Congress rule brought in widespread industrial stagnation in West Bengal. On the eve of independence West Bengal was second in industrial development which came down fifth due to this policy. After achieving land reforms it was now an urgent task before the Left Front Govt. to develop industrial base and generate employment for lakhs of new entrants in the employment market. Public sector investment came to a standstill due to the policy of neoliberal globalization adopted by the Central Governments. Naturally private sector investment came to the forefront. With the lack of resources with the state Govt. which is further aggravating owing to neoliberal policies, the Left Front Government had to rely on private sector investment. However when the Government adopted a policy of encouraging new investment in the state, the opposition parties made a common cause to oppose every proposal for starting new industrial activities in the state. Singur and Nandigram became symbol of opposition parties' resistance to industrial development. The unfortunate police firing on March 14 at Nandigram was regretted by all and the West Bengal Govt. gave up the proposal to establish a chemical hub in Nandigram; but still the violent agitation continued and law and order was thrown overboard. The proposal of the Left Front Govt. to hold talks to work out consensus on issues of development is being turned down only to continue a situation of lawlessness in the state.
The people will have to counteract such disruptive move of the opposition parties who have made a common cause to create difficulties in the process of industrial development. We are confident that the people of West Bengal will defeat the game of Congress Trinamul Congress, extremists and BJP to obstruct the process of industrial development without affecting the agricultural development.
SECRET BALLOT FOR UNION RECONGNITION
While making serious effort for employment generating investments in the state, the Left front Government never hesitated in upholding the rights of the toiling people including right to organize and right to strike. It was the first Govt. to pass a legislation in the Legislative Assembly providing secret ballot for recognition of a union in the industry. The central Government took more than several years to endorse the Bill and obtain presidential assent to it.
Even now the central Government has not provided through legislation the right of workers to determine their representative union through the mechanism of secret ballot. The desire to impose scab unions on the working class by the management is still preventing such a legislation at the national level. The Govt. of West Bengal did this three decades ago and honoured the commitment given to the working class.
The scheme to pay Rs.500 rupees per month for 6 months for workers who became jobless due to closure of their unit is a pioneering scheme initiated by the left front Government. Despite severe financial constraints, the Left Front Govt introduced provident fund schemes for agricultural workers and unorganized sector workers. The provision of payment of contribution by the state Govt. to the lakhs of unorganized workers in West Bengal is the testimony of its pro-people commitment. This is yet to be implemented by most of the UPA or NDA sponsored Governments in other States. The welfare Scheme for construction workers has also provided much needed relief to these unorganized sector of workers is also another significant step taken by the left front Govt.
While the majority of the working people all over the country are being subjected to repression and widespread violation of labour laws being indulged by the both the state and central administration, the Left Front Govt of West Bengal has always taken forthright stand in support of all the struggles of working class against such repression and violations and also passed a legislation to plug the loopholes of the labour laws for effective implementation. The West Bengal Assembly has already passed legislation containing provision for Recovery Officers to be appointed by the Labour Department for recovery of money due from an employer through attachment of properties, arrest of the employer and detention in prison etc. The legislation is still awaiting assent from the President. The Left Front rule did always remain with the toiling people in all the sphere of its governance which demarcates it from other non-left governments and such demarcation is the source of its strength - the continued support of the mass of the people.
A PASSING PHASE
B.T. Ranadive characterised the Left Front Government as revolutionary outposts of our movements. They fight for alternative policies to the Central Government and oppose the policies of globalization by the Central Government.
However, formation of Left Front Government is only a passing phase of our revolutionary movement. Within the capitalist framework the State Govt. has limited powers since all financial powers are within the Central Government yet the Left Front government is trying to give maximum relief to the working class and the toiling masses.
The ultimate objective of the working class movement is to strive to organize a peoples' democratic revolution in which working class will play a leading role. This will pave the way for building a socialist society, which will abolish exploitation of man by man.
The workers peasant alliance has to play a crucial role in such a revolutionary social transformation. The policies and programmes of the Left Front Government has to encourage the people to move in that direction.
Formation of Left front Government in one state or in a couple of states will not automatically lead to such a revolutionary transformation. The democratic movement must be strengthened in other weaker states so that revolutionary forces become stronger in these weaker states.
There is urgent need to pay attention to these aspects if the left movement has to acquire an all India character in real terms. The people oriented alternate polices pursued by the left front Govt should continue to demarcate it from others. Working class in other states should popularize the achievements of the left front Govts of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura so that people are mobilized in defence of alternative policies. This alone will make the democratic movement achieve a popular character and develop a nationwide democratic movement for a real democratic change in the present exploitative social system. The strong movement in Left Front led states will be a powerful force to help strengthening of the left and democratic movement in other states.
The socio political developments in the country during last couple of decades point to that tremendous potential of the Left movement and the frontline role of the Left forces in the struggle against communal and divisive forces on the one hand and in combating the onslaught of neoliberal economic policies. In the present correlation of political forces, following defeat of the NDA regime and dependence of the UPA Govt on the Left parties, the contribution of the Left movement has been immense and our Left Front and Left Democratic Front Governments played crucial role in making such contribution effective. The Left-led governments in the three states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura are pursuing developmental strategies towards horizontal expansion of the economy based on simultaneous growth of agriculture and manufacturing; they are upholding the democratic rights of the toiling people. They are pursuing such a line, despite all limitations imposed by the policy framework of the government at the centre. Thus, they bear the stamp of clear demarcation from other non-Left-ruled states. This demarcation is the source of their strength to resolutely fight the designs of imperialism and neoliberalism.
In such a background, it is but natural that the right reactionaries, the real votaries of neoliberalism and their cronies, will not miss any opportunity of maligning the Left. Their design is to isolate the Left and weaken their opposition to disastrous neoliberal policies. We must analyse the post Nandigram developments in this backdrop. We have to realise in depth the real import of and the ulterior design behind the recent countrywide vigorous anti-Left tirade by the reactionary forces and counter the same. We must, however, patiently explain to the common people, the importance of the role of Left forces in maintaining and strengthening the democratic secular fabric of society and the political system and in advancing the struggle for a pro-people economic regime and the cruciality of the Left Front Govt's role in the same.
Let the left and democratic movement surge forward so that the objective of ending the present exploitative system by the toiling masses can be achieved as soon as possible.
Defence of the Left Front Govt. has become an important task before the revolutionary movement in our country!