People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 25

June 29 , 2008



Forward To A Much Closer Relationship With Masses

Biman Basu

THE Bengal Left Front government has stepped step into its 32nd year of pro-people, especially pro-poor existence. The precise date is June 21 and this is an important landmark this year for a rather different reason. I shall explain the 'reasons why' I say this.  

Earlier in the year in May, the panchayat general elections were held in Bengal as per schedule.  The flow of political events and developments that fulminated around the rural polls, however, were certainly a bit different from what had happened on similar occasions in the past.

We admit that during each of the rural elections held earlier, the compromise / understanding amongst Left Front constituents in the matter of 'adjustments' of seats is never finalised fully and comprehensively.  This year was unique in a different way.  First, the actual number of seats mostly at the level of the Gram Panchayats (GP), and less so at the other two tiers of Panchayat Samity (PS) and Zillah Parishad (ZP), had gone down.

This set up a regime of ground-level difficulties to some extent in the formation of a deep understanding amongst the Left Front constituents.  Second, there did develop with persistence some political difference among the LF parties.  As a result, the work of election campaign based on the consensually-adopted electoral manifesto of the LF faced some amount of impediment.

On the other hand, a strange 'cocktail' (if I may use the term) was mixed up to serve as the 'Bengal opposition' comprising the whole range of forces - from the extreme right to those on the sectarian left and almost everything in between, including forces of religious fundamentalism. There was a conscious effort on the part of some of the opposition constituents to ensure that there was a one-against-one electoral fight for as many seats as possible, come the rural polls.

The strategy of 'one-against-one' did not quite succeed at the level of the ZP.  Nevertheless, some amount of success in this matter could be chalked up in two other layers of the Panchayati structure. The opposition may not have had enough of popular support. Nonetheless, they could utilise to the hilt, in a desperate move, the lack of understanding at the electoral level amongst the LF constituents enough to mark up successes.



We have been fully seized of the situational reality.  We have commenced right away the task of ameliorating the differences amongst the LF partners at the level of the districts as also to an extent at the state level. Meetings of the Left Front in the post-election situation have resolved that we must consolidate the agricultural achievements of Bengal, widen the arena of cropping, go in for more diversification - and continue with the policy of industrialisation.

Industries cannot very well be set up in the sky or produced in a vacuum. Thus, we must succeed in earning the trust and the confidence of the people of the area where such industries would be set up. In other words, we have to exert prudence and go forth without an undue rush in the task of identifying the industrial zones and implementing the policy of industrialisation.

Every constituent partner who goes to make up the Left Front must understand and realise the manner in which the principal opposition outfit and other opposition entities have based their anti-LF and anti-LF government campaign on fictitious tales, utter lies, and vile slandering.  What led a section of the people to misunderstand the situational reality is the nature of lie campaign of the opposition to bolster which they even produced a plethora of CDs and had these widely distributed and put on show.

We have in the past heard of large sums of money being spent by the bourgeois parties during elections. We witnessed such an occurrence in Bengal this year during the rural polls.

Thus, what we have to do, all the Left Front constituents including our Party, is to keep in mind the experience of setting up rural governance in Bengal, and become involved in a wide programme aimed at building up an even more intimate relationship with the rural masses than at present.  We must be also concerned in the endeavour to brighten our image by becoming a part-and-parcel of the daily lives and livelihoods, the sorrows and the happiness of the rural masses.

We must get over our faults and weaknesses and must never be self-satisfied at winning 13 of the 17 ZPs contested. Perhaps there is not a single district where the leadership has become self-satisfied. We have already commenced a serious analysis-and-review of the results of the panchayat elections. When the exercise is completed, we shall draw the correct lessons from it, and we shall bring about changes in our style of functioning as appropriate.



As the Left Front steps into its 32nd year we must not let slip from our consciousness even for a moment that the forces of reaction here and abroad do not want that the CPI(M)-led Left Front government in Bengal - the forward outpost of democratic movements of the country - implement its programme with success. Especially those who want to compromise India's national interests by acceding to the India-US nuclear agreement cannot digest or tolerate the fact that a large bulk of MPs representing the Left in the parliament are from Bengal.        

That is the reason why these unholy forces would not hesitate to resort to various opportunistic tactics to weaken the support base of the Left amongst the people of Bengal.  Former US ambassador to India, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has noted in his book, A Dangerous Place, that the US administration interfered twice in Indian political developments. Once by pouring in funds once to pull down the EMS Namboodiripad-led first Communist government on the country in Kerala in 1959, and again to curtail the strength of the communists in Bengal in 1971.  Who knows that someone else may not write in the future about how funds were put in place through a variety of tactical moves via an array of institutions of various forms and norms, to chip away at the vigour of the communists and the Left in Bengal.

In all probability, very many foreign agencies and forces have joined in the merriment of the forces of reaction in the country at the creating of a kind of rift within the Bengal Left Front. The agitation now organised by Gurung's outfit in Darjeeling is a repeat of the same by Ghising's GNLF in the 1980s. When Jyoti Basu the then Bengal chief minister had convened an all-party meeting for resolution of the Darjeeling issue in 1986-1986, he would not invite the GNLF because the latter was not a political party.  No questions were raised then.

Yet, some questions were in the offing when the present Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb convened an all-party meeting, and not invited the GJM precisely for the same reason. The principal opposition party absented itself from the meeting. Can anyone in his right mind think that these developments are spontaneous and are taking place without a conspiratorial background?  

We have to keep in mind all the while that the Left Front has been in office for over three decades - a very long time.  Those who had only seen the Left Front government in action while growing up did not have the opportunity to compare this pro-people government with the anti-people functioning of the governments that were in office earlier and which represented the forces of reaction.



The newer generation cannot know that during those dangerous years, there was an intense shortage of food, and strongly-organised food movements took place every year as the people's protest, and faced repression of the worst kind. It is very important to make the newer generation aware of the role of land reforms and agrarian development under the Left Front government that has led to the tangible success achieved in the field of agriculture.

How would the new generation, again, be aware of the fact that there had been in place earlier a policy that squeezed out rather than expand the scope and field of education. Whatever the drawback of the present health delivery system, can anyone deny the fact that the health services have had a wide expansion and that 70 per cent of the people receive treatment from government-run hospitals and health centres - something simply unimaginable earlier?

The media would make a huge brouhaha, conflate, and run as a principal theme any small mishap or unfortunate slip-up that might occur in the health delivery system.  How can they compare the thousands of deaths earlier for lack of health facilities, and the present attempt to establish sad exceptions as the main subject to be headlined, again, and again!  The present generation might well think that the newer precedence being set in the task of lessening of delivery death and the curing of sick children through proper scientific treatment under the LF governance had always been there. There is not enough publicity given to the programmes put in place for the nutritive growth of the mother and the child. The LF government has also succeeded in ensuring the supply of potable drinking water across Bengal.

In a word, not everyone is equally aware of the drive of the Left Front government towards improvement of the human development index.  It is very important to organise a wide publicity campaign of the precedence-making work of the Bengal Left Front government in the light of, for example, Gunnar Myrdal's classical work, the Asian Drama, especially the chapter headed as the 'Poverty Challenge in India,' and the commentary of Dr Amartya Sen made from time-to-time on the human development index in general in India.

I have highlighted a few indices of successes, tangible, proven successes.  Nevertheless, this must not be taken to construe the fact that we have not committed errors and mistakes during this long and struggling existence of over 30 years.  We need to identify the real mistakes that we have committed, and we must correct them and prove thereby our transparency to the mass of the people of Bengal.

Instead of striving to display how transparent we are, it would be a much better alternative, I believe, to prove through action how we do function with transparency.  This must be established in the hearts-and-minds of the people.  We recall all the time that the society we evolve in contains filth, lust, and hankering.  The main line of thinking appears to be that 'think only about yourself as an individual - there is really no need to spare even a moment for the country, for the people, and for the society.'

The people who observe the reality through a class perspective and who think and ponder about the exploited, the downtrodden, and the poor, are gradually straying on the fringe of minority.  We cannot ignore the set of men and women who have seats of comfort atop ivory towers, spill occasionally a few good words posing as the friends of the immiserised and impoverished people, and argue fiercely in favour of a society based on the immutable laws of merciless exploitation.

Thus, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Left Front must pledge, in the whole range from the leadership to the workers, to make themselves part of the process to be more and more acceptable to the people.  In order to achieve success in this line of tasks, we must not allow ourselves to be victims of the process of thinking that 'we understand everything, and it devolves on us to convince the people.'  Our duty is to learn from the people. An appropriate ambience must be built up for this to be a reality.

We must take a solemn pledge as the Left Front and the Left Front government enter the 32nd year, that we have associated ourselves in the political process not for our own sake but for the sake and interest of the people and the nation.  Thus, we need to shun all forms of egoistic thinking and behaviour, eschew self-importance, and win over the hearts-and-minds of the working class, the working people, and all sections of the poor through engaging them in conversational discourses in their daily struggles for existence, and proceed towards the greater tasks that lie ahead.