Saturday, June 19, 2010

33 Years of Left Front Government: Defend the Gains of the Working People

By Prakash Karat

The completion of 33 years of the Left Front government in West Bengal is a historic landmark. No other state government led by other political parties have such a record both in terms of longevity and in the implementation of policies which have benefited the people. This unique record is sought to be overshadowed by the electoral reverses suffered by the CPI(M) and the Left Front in the past one year – from the Lok Sabha elections up to the 81 municipal corporation polls.

This situation is being utilized to negate all the achievements and work done by the Left Front government in the past three decades. A vitriolic propaganda is on to depict West Bengal as a state which has “suffocated” under “Red rule”; that West Bengal has been converted into a desert devoid of any worthwhile development. That such propaganda is being made by the ruling classes and the corporate media should not surprise one because the entire record of the Left Front government has been to push through policies which have been not in the interests of the bourgeois-landlord classes of our country.

No other state has implemented land reforms to the extent that West Bengal has. One-fifth of the total land distributed as surplus land in the country has been in West Bengal alone. No other state has ensured that agricultural development benefits the peasantry and not a narrow strata of landlords and rich peasants. The institutionalization of the panchayat system opened up the way for the rural toiling masses to have a say in their local affairs. The prolonged rule of the Left Front has created a stable secular atmosphere. The exercise of democratic rights by various sections of the working people is an inherent feature of the political system. There is no doubt that the three decades of Left Front government have transformed West Bengal for the better.

This does not mean that the Left Front government has had a smooth path of advance. Especially after the change in the phase of capitalist development at the all-India level marked by the introduction of neo-liberal policies in the 1990s, the difficulties in pursuing pro-people policies became evident. The limitations of the powers and resources of the state government posed obstacles to pursuing alternative policies. The CPI(M) and the Left Front, which have been the only consistent force against the neo-liberal policies and the growing collaboration with imperialism, were bound to come under attack.

For the ruling classes and imperialism, the continued existence of a Left Front government was disagreeable. The role of the CPI(M) and the Left after the 2004 Lok Sabha elections in national politics highlighted this aspect. Weakening of the CPI(M) and the Left required the isolation of the Left Front government.

Within West Bengal, the class struggle had not ever abated during the long tenure of the Left Front government. Under the impact of the new phase of capitalist development, there have been changes in class relations in the countryside and urban areas. New contradictions and problems emerged within the ambit of the impact of the policies pursued by the Left Front government. It is necessary to make a deeper analysis and understand the forces at play which have had its impact on the political situation in the state.

The nature of the opposition to the CPI(M) and the Left Front reveals certain political facts. The rightwing opposition forces are often adopting Left postures to cover-up their virulent anti-Communism. This arises from the people’s consciousness who will not mobilise around a rightwing/reactionary platform. We saw such a phenomenon in Kerala too decades earlier when the Congress-led anti-Communist alliance had to mouth radical slogans and rhetoric. Utilising some of the cracks which developed in the popular support for the CPI(M), the rightwing opposition has mounted an all out offensive by mobilizing all the anti-Communist and divisive forces.

The post-Lok Sabha election period has seen attacks on the CPI(M) cadres with more than 245 killed in the past one year. Thousands of people have been rendered homeless. There have been evictions of peasants and bargadars and forcible occupation of Party and mass organization offices and arson attacks on houses. Such attacks revealed the true nature of the political forces ranged against the Left Front. It portends a class attack which will take place against not only the CPI(M) and the Left but against the common people and the gains that they have achieved. The aim of the Trinamul-Congress combine of displacing the Left Front government to end the so-called “Red misrule” is actually meant to bring about a counter transformation. A `pariborthon’ which would lead to establishing the rule of the dominant classes and vested interests in the rural areas and under the cover of petty bourgeois radical demagogy, a free run for neo-liberal policies.

The crucial questions will be :

· Can such forces be allowed to rollback the relations in land which favour the poor peasants and the rural poor? Can the edifice built on land reforms be eroded?

· Can the opportunist bourgeois politics of instigating communal divisions and politicking based on that be allowed to come back in West Bengal? Already we saw how the Trinamul Congress leader had sought to stoke fears about communal violence erupting after the municipal polls. The lasting achievement of communal peace in West Bengal cannot be sacrificed for the narrow interest of anti-Communism.

What the anti-Communist combine seeks to usher in is a narrow form of identity politics which seeks to fan ethnic, religious and caste identities. Such politics is resorted to, to erode the solidarity of the working people and will have its regressive effects on society.

The CPI(M) is conscious that the long years of continuous Left Front government have, despite its enormous achievements, also engendered some negative features. It is a part of the basic understanding of the Party that running the state government is not the exercise of State power. The bureaucracy, the police and other institutions of the State have not been touched by any basic changes. Working in such a system, in government, has its effects on the Party and its organization. Though efforts were made continuously to limit the corrosive effects of this association.

The recent electoral results show that some sections of the people have been alienated. This cannot be attributed to the functioning of the Left Front government alone. The causes of such alienation lie in the political sphere and also in the organizational shortcomings and weaknesses of the Party. The steps that are being taken to overcome the shortcomings and reforge the links with the people are, therefore, to be taken up in the three spheres -governmental, political and organizational which are interlinked.

In the last year of its present tenure, the Left Front government will do everything possible to implement the pro-people measures spelt out in the state budget and continue to provide relief to the people who are suffering from price rise, the effects of the agrarian crisis and the policies of the Central government in various spheres.

Contrary to what is being depicted, the mass base of the CPI(M) and the Left is substantial and widespread. The forces which are ranged against the Left Front are not going to be united permanently. With the adoption of correct tactics and the single-minded resolve to go to the people, the situation can be turned around.

The entire Party and the Left and democratic forces in the country stand with the CPI(M) and the Left Front in West Bengal in their difficult but necessary struggle to fend off the offensive of the reactionary forces and to reforge the links with the people. Defending the Left Front government means defending the gains and rights of the working people. We cannot ever forget that the Left Front government is a product of the prolonged struggles of the working people of West Bengal.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

West Bengal: Collapse of the Left Front government and the way ahead for India's left

By *Dipankar Bhattacharya*, general secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation

[This article is the editorial in the forthcoming June 2011 issue of the CPI (ML) Liberation's journal /Liberation/. It is posted at /Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal/ with permission.]

May 24, 2011 -- The inevitable has finally happened. The Left Front government of West Bengal, the longest-serving government in India’s parliamentary history [34 years], has been trounced quite miserably in the recent assembly elections. The defeat certainly has not come all of a sudden – all recent elections, including the 2008 panchayat elections, 2009 Lok Sabha [national parliament] elections, 2010 municipal elections and several by-elections had clearly revealed that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) led dispensation had been losing ground quite alarmingly. The April 18-May 10, 2011, state assembly elections marked the culmination of this process of decline of the CPI (M) in West Bengal.

Large sections of the mainstream media, in West Bengal as well as elsewhere, have tended to treat the defeat of the CPI (M) and its allies in West Bengal as a turning point signifying an end of sorts for the left in India. They also understandably rush to attribute it to the left’s dogmatic opposition to neoliberal policies and Indo-US strategic partnership. The advice naturally follows that if the left has to stay relevant it will have to shed its dogma and reduce left politics to just providing better governance without challenging the policy environment and the politico-economic direction chosen by the ruling elite.

Full article at