(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 20 , 2008
CAMPAIGN BEGINS IN BENGAL
AGAINST NUCLEAR DEAL AND PRICE RISE
THE rains have set in earnestly all over Bengal. The adversity of nature could not deter millions of people all over the state taking part on the opening day of the intense campaign-movement that Bengal shall see for a month and more on two principal issues: the anti-national India-US nuclear deal; and the runaway price rise of essential commodities in particular.
On July 16, 2008 the campaign was held with resounding success from the early afternoon hours to the very late evening hours, right from the Darjeeling district in the north to the Sagar islands in south 24 Parganas district, as reports come in. The spontaneity of the participation is reminiscent of the 'August campaign' held earlier last year.
The essential outstanding feature of the present campaign is the impulsive way people have come forward based on the instinct to survive in the face of the price hike. The old Bengali saying baazaarey aagun legechhey, that roughly translates into and implies in a way 'the markets have caught fire' is the provocative issue of the day urging the people forward to participate in the CPI(M) and Bengal Left Front-led campaign.
Several central rallies were held in the district capitals. The one we attended was in a heavily rain-soaked one in South Kolkata near the Hazra crossing where people stood around in some places in knee- and ankle-deep brackish water to listen to the speakers for a solid two hours. Benoy Konar, veteran leader of the CPI(M) spoke feelingly about patriotism and of pro-people outlook when he said that the generations to come would never forgive the communists if 'we do not stand firm against the nuclear deal and the irrational increase of the prices across the board in the market places.'
'There are men and women standing around us who might well not be supportive of the CPI(M) but they are certainly against the surrender of our national sovereignty before US imperialism by the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government. Not withdrawing our support from outside to this kind of anti-people, anti-national government would have been a crime beyond all reparations,' said Konar, amidst an approving response from the rallyists.
Benoy Konar explained the implications of the Hyde Act in some detail and said that the act contained provisions that were specifically aimed against India. He also spoke of the international humiliation the nation would have to undergo in the future, once the ink is dry on the dotted line, of having surrendered its independent foreign policy while being blackmailed into buying high cost nuclear reactors.
'Would we then be asked to merge our military might into that of imperialism in the forays they well make in the days to come against what George Bush called the 'axis of evil,' comprising among other nations, Iran and North Korea? Shall we be forced to dance in jubilation when US troops kill innocent civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Israeli armed forces run riot in Palestine?'
Yet, the four-and-a-half years of the recent past have seen the CPI(M) and the Left in action for the people's rights, fighting every inch of the way to force the UPA government to reluctantly apply at least a modicum of the pro-people arrangements made in the Common Minimum Programme.
The CPI(M) and the Left could prevent the entry of FDI in the banking, insurance, and pension sectors. The price of the cooking gas could be held steady until the every last moment, much to the anguish of the ruling classes who have their corporate avatars and they possess their political outfits to sway to the tune they play.
Benoy Konar called upon the people to realise the implication of the proposed nuclear deal and urged on the CPI(M) workers to be ready to answer the people's queries while distributing the pamphlets and leaflets the Bengal CPI(M) has prepared against both the nuclear deal and the price hike.
Before the start of the announced campaign-movement, Bengal has witnessed a series of marches, demonstrations, street-corner / group meetings, and conventions where the anti-people and anti-national policies of the Congress-led UPA government came under heavy opposition. Especially drawn over burning coals were the two aspects of the central government's policy: the proposed India-US nuclear deal, and the utter failure to curb the price hike, especially the rising prices of commodities of common consumption.
The very evening of the day the CPI(M) announced its withdrawal of support to the UPA government, Kolkata saw an extraordinarily long procession organised from the Esplanade area to the CIT-Moulali crossing in central-east Kolkata. At least 20,000 people or more from all occupations participated in the march that was held under the aegis of the Kolkata units of the CPI(M) and the Left Front. Placards were carried in their hundreds in Hindi, Urdu, English, and Bengali.
The waves of Red flags that left awash the roads and streets the protestors marched across were the entire Esplanade-based network of roadways leading out to different parts of the metropolis, and then through Lenin Sarani to Wellington Square crossing, past the Moulali-CIT Road crossing at the Ramlila Maidan, where the leadership briefly addressed a vast rally.
The full array of marchers took over two hours to walk across the route - - such was the numerical strength of participants and their fervour. Notably, the march was an epitome of discipline - with vehicular traffic stalled not for a moment. This is a welcome tradition that has become an integral part of the CPI(M) marches over the last few years, and increasingly a cause of woe of the corporate media who only note the traffic snarls in any march organised by the Left, run stories, photo-essays, and editorialise on its. They also talk of the 'common man' not talking any part of the in the marches - 'out of disgust.'
We espied a large number of people of the exploited class in the majority of the brigades that marched, ranging from a raggedly attired Gopal Mitra of Beniapukur, rendered jobless now that his rickety cycle rickshaw has just given up the ghost and fallen apart, to Mohd Aslam who sells wash cloths along with cheap varieties of chewing gums and lozenges on the side, at the Moulali crossing and earns but little.
The tenor of the march was set by a placard that carries Che Guevara's words that it was much better to embrace the death of a patriot and a martyr than to live to kowtow before an oppressor. The middle aged bearded man who with a touch of pardonable pride carried this placard on his back with a bit of a swagger was accompanied by a large number of shoemakers and leather craftsmen and women, from an area that is famously known in Kolkata as the haat of leather footwear and other leather goods (chamra haat) situated at the Pudmapukur crossing, and they were accompanied by, shoulder-to-thin shoulder, a vast number of motor mechanics, corrugated tin sheet workers, masons, and woodcraftsmen from the quaintly-named Lordpara, ostagars and ready-made garment sellers from Sheriff lane, shopkeepers from Janbazar, meatshop owners as well as fruit sellers en famille from the Beckbagan market- - and there were present in the procession, large masses of women marchers, from salwar-kurta clad girls and sari-wearing women to burqua-e-naqab adorned housewives.
The march was really a sight to make the blood flow faster in the veins of any man or woman who regard themselves as part of the secular-democratic-patriotic mass. The huge banner that led the march adorning it as an inspiring, moving frontage carried a warning to the powers-that-be up in Delhi: 'Do not ruin the nation's sovereign status by signing the India-US nuclear deal, try instead to curb the price hike.' This slogan shall set the tone for the plethora of campaign-movements that will spread across the countryside of Bengal in July and August.
Biman Basu said that the issues of Cuba, Democratic Korea, Iran, and Vietnam - all targets of US imperialism - are extremely relevant to the campaign-movement being conducted against US-sponsored nuclear deal and the rampant price-rise. Asked why, he said that the “issues are all connected intimately with the anti-imperialist thrust of the present movement called for by the central committee. The people of Bengal in particular have always linked up with the anti-imperialist plank, and have successfully mobilised people on the anti-imperialist issue at a larger and wider, international level to organise the stout fight back.”
MARCH OF THE
Earlier July 11 saw marches by the students-youth across large areas of the state. The marches principally but not solely centred on the educational institution campuses. The principal theme of the marches was 'betrayal of the people's trust by the Congress-led UPA government.' The south 24 Parganas unit of the SFI organised processions around the various district college campuses and that included the Jadavpur University. Similar processions took place in all the districts of Bengal, the constant rain in north Bengal not providing a damper on the fervour of the students and the youth. Markedly long processions were taken out in the districts of Hooghly, Midnapore east and west, Coochbehar, Jalpaiguri, the two Dinajpores, north, and south, the two 24 Parganas, north, and south, and at Howrah.
Addressing a big rally at Krishnagar in Nadia, in the afternoon of July 12, central committee member of the CPI(M) Shyamal Chakraborty said that the Congress-led UPA government has already lost the people's trust even before the no-confidence motion would be moved on the floor of the parliament. The UPA government has moved far, far away from the Common Minimum Programme based on which the Left had extended its support from outside to what was in practice a minority formation.
On the other hand, the Congress has indulged itself in pursuing with great devotion a path of anti-people and anti-poor policies. They are about to put the signature on the dotted line of the India-US nuclear deal and look longingly at the US Congress to pass the 'deal.' They are at the same time doing nothing to even try to curb the runaway inflation which is now well into double digit figures.
At a time when the outgoing Bush administration and its 'lame duck' president are facing the ire of the citizens of USA themselves, here we have the Indian ruling classes proving shameless eager-beavers in the task op subserving the imperialist interests and plans of the US and its lackeys. The nuclear deal will mean all profit to the US and all loss to India - - but would the ruling classes listen to the voice being raised in protest by the people of country against such wheeling-dealing? Elsewhere, the noxious exercise of horse-trading has already started to ensure that the Congress-led UPA government is not shown the door.
The Left has correctly chosen to withdraw support to the UPA government, and the time has come to mobilise the people of the country against the anti-people, anti-worker, and anti-poor policies of the central government. The process has already begun. Among others, who spoke on the occasion were CPI(M) leaders Biswanath Mitra, Subodh Ganguly, Alakesh das, MP, and S M Sadi.