People's Democracy

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


No. 10

March  06, 2011


West Bengal: The Citadel of the Left in India


Prakash Karat


WEST Bengal is the citadel of the Left and democratic movement of the country. West Bengal has acquired this position through the relentless struggles of the working class and the peasantry and the movements conducted in defence of democratic rights, secularism and social justice.  The food movement and the struggles for land are two notable examples of these decade-long struggles. The United Front governments in 1967 and 1969 emerged as a result of the popular movements. Land struggles of the peasants were intensified during the period of these governments.


West Bengal was in the forefront of the fight against authoritarianism and the people rebuffed the semi-fascist terror unleashed by the Congress and the ruling classes between 1971 and 1977.


The formation of the Left Front government in 1977 marked a new chapter in the struggles of the working people and the fight for democracy. The Left Front government undertook a programme which was in the interests of all sections of the working people. First and foremost was the implementation of land reforms. Nearly 12 lakh acres of land was acquired and distributed among 30 lakh landless and poor peasant families. Under ‘Operation Barga’, 15 lakh sharecroppers were provided security of tenure. West Bengal has accounted for 22 per cent of the total ceiling surplus land distributed in the country. Contrary to the false propaganda that the Left Front government is forcibly taking land from the peasantry, a further 16,700 acres of land were distributed to landless families between 2007 and 2010.


No other state (apart from Kerala and Tripura) has implemented land reforms as has been done in West Bengal. No other state has ensured that agricultural development benefits the peasantry and not a narrow strata of landlords and rich farmers. Unlike the situation at the all-India level where agricultural production has been stagnating, West Bengal has registered agricultural growth averaging 4 per cent per year.  The institutionalisation 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 in a state which had witnessed major communal violence in the days running up to independence and partition. Under the Left Front rule, the democratic rights of various sections of the working people have been assured.


It is these achievements of the Left Front government which saw it winning seven consecutive Assembly elections getting a two-third majority each time.


The CPI(M) and the Left Front of West Bengal has not only been working to protect the interests of the people of the state but it has also been in the forefront of the struggle against neo-liberal policies of the central government – policies which have led to spiraling price rise, unemployment and growing inequalities.


The citadel of the Left has come under attack. What is the reason for such an attack? The Left parties have been consistently opposing the neo-liberal policies of the Congress-led government at the centre. These are policies which are enriching a few, allowing the loot of the resources of the country and leaving the mass of the people in poverty and deprivation. These neo-liberal policies have the full backing of imperialism. The Left parties have been resolutely opposed to the strategic alliance with the United States and the UPA government’s succumbing to imperialist pressures. The ruling classes and imperialism know that the Left will be a major obstacle to the fulfillment of their designs which became evident during the four year period when Left parties extended outside support to the UPA government. That is why they want to weaken the Left in India. To achieve this purpose, they are targeting the strongest base of the Left, which is West Bengal.


Since 2008, there has been a concerted effort to rally all the anti-Left forces ranging from the reactionary rightwing forces to the extreme Left. The Trinamul Congress-led combine and its collaboration with the Maoists exemplifies this gang-up. 380 activists and supporters of the CPI(M) and the Left Front have been killed since the Lok Sabha elections in 2009 up to February 21, 2011. Thousands of people have been rendered homeless. There have been evictions of peasants and bargadars and forcible occupation of the offices of parties and mass organisations. Such attacks reveal the true nature of the political forces ranged against the Left Front.


The Maoists are ultra-Left forces which indulge in anarchist violence. With their wrong ideology and politics, they have degenerated into squads indulging in mindless violence. Thus they are prone to joining hands with the very forces who, they claim, to be fighting against. The collaboration of the Maoists with the Trinamul Congress is a prime example of this degenerated politics.


The rightwing opposition forces adopt Left postures to cover-up their virulent anti-Communism. This is because of the people’s consciousness as they will not mobilise around an openly rightwing/reactionary platform. The ultra-Left slogans of the Maoists come in handy for the rightwing Trinamul Congress to launch its attack on the Left Front.


But this attack on the Left is, in actual terms, a class attack which is aimed not only against the CPI (M) and the Left Front 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 and to end the so-called “Red misrule” is actually meant to bring about a counter transformation. The so-called ‘pariborton’ 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 provide a free fun for neo-liberal policies. 


That dislodging of the Left Front government is meant to facilitate the rollback of the relations in land which has been in favour of the poor peasants and rural poor. West Bengal, which has successfully isolated the communal forces, will once again fall prey to communal politics. The opportunist bourgeois politics of the Trinamul Congress and others will revive communal politics and harm the peace and communal harmony established through decades-long Left rule.


Already we have seen how the Trinamul Congress is providing support and sustenance to ethnic, religious and caste identities – whether it is the Gorkhaland movement, or, the demand for Kamtapuri. Such politics is being resorted to erode the unity of the working people.


The Left Front government has been working within the bourgeois-landlord system. Given the nature of centre-state relations and the fact that real State power rests with the centre, there have been serious limitations faced by the Left Front government in terms of resources and powers. The nature of the bureaucracy and the institutions of the State have had a negative impact on the implementation of the state government’s policies. The Left Front has never created the illusion that all the problems of the people can be solved under the present set-up and the state government. The onslaught of the neo-liberal policies have created widespread problems for the people.


The Trinamul Congress-led combine utilised the electoral reverses suffered by the Left Front in the Lok Sabha elections to intensify its anti-democratic attacks against the Left Front. The Left Front has responded to such a situation by going to the people in a big way, overcoming its weaknesses and improving the functioning of the Left Front government. In the past several months, the continuous political campaign and the taking up of the issues of the people by the Left Front have got a positive response from the people. The people are seeing through the nefarious games of the Trinamul Congress and its unscrupulous alliance with the Maoists.


The struggle of the Left Front to counter the rightwing forces should not be seen only as an issue of West Bengal. Since the Left Front of West Bengal is the advanced contingent of the Left movement of the country, the entire Left and democratic forces must take up the cause of the Left Front. The working class outside West Bengal knows that the working class movement of West Bengal is the spearhead in the fight against liberalisation and privatisation; the peasant movement in the rest of India holds up the peasant struggles of West Bengal as the example to follow. The democratic movement of the youth, women and students in the country see the West Bengal movement as a source of support.


After the completion of seven successive terms by the Left Front government, elections to the state assembly are being held in a few weeks time.  The electoral battle is being waged between the Left and the forces who represent the interests of the ruling classes.  The CPI(M) and the Left Front are waging this struggle standing firmly behind the interests of the workers, peasants, agricultural workers, the middle classes and the common people.  It is the people who will ensure that the Left Front becomes successful once again.