January-February 2008

Table of Contents

1) Benazir: Casualty of US-sponsored ‘Democracy’ in Pakistan

2) Lessons from Gujarat Results

3) Clarion Call of the CPI (ML)’s Kolkata Congress: People’s Resistance, Left Resurgence

4) 8th Congress Concludes with Massive Rally

5) Unite for a Left Resurgence in West Bengal and India!

6) National Festival of People’s Culture at Kolkata

7) Tapasi We Have Not Forgotten You, We Never Will

8) Amar Gram, Tomar Gram, Nandigram!

9) Interview: Workers Party of Bangladesh

10) Interview: Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP), Australia

11) CPI (ML) Congress: Solidarity Messages

12) Tribute to Poet Trilochan Shastri

South Asia

Benazir: Casualty of US-sponsored ‘Democracy’ in Pakistan

– ML Update, 1-7 January, 2008.

Benazir Bhutto’s shocking and unconscionable assassination has plunged Pakistan into crisis. The streets continue to simmer with rage, the Musharraf regime desperately tries to claim that Benazir’s death was an accident not an assassination and Pakistan’s elections are mired in uncertainty. Bush was quick to declare that the assassination was the work of ‘extremists’, a further justification for the ‘war on terror’. The Musharraf regime echoed this with the claim of evidence of an al-Qaeda plot to kill Benazir. Much of the media, in India as well as internationally, has anointed Benazir as a ‘martyr for democracy’. But, for people of the subcontinent, whether in Pakistan or in India, this explanation is too superficial to be satisfactory.

Benazir’s killing is cowardly and condemnable, and even those who had been her sharpest critics are united in abhorring her death. However, to portray Benazir Bhutto’s death as a heroic sacrifice for the cause of democracy is far from the truth. It was an open secret that Benazir returned as part of a US-brokered deal. In return for a reprieve from corruption charges, Benazir was to bail out the embattled Musharraf regime facing a raging pro-democracy movement, by providing a democratic Prime Ministerial façade. The simplistic story peddled by Bush and Musharraf that ‘evil Islamic terrorists’ targeted Benazir because she represented modernity, democracy and the values of the enlightened West has proved difficult to swallow within and beyond Pakistan. Instead it is now widely recognised that it was Benazir’s part in the US design which put her in the line of fire. In fact, many in Pakistan believe that the military-intelligence establishment of Pakistan headed by Musharraf engineered the assassination which took place in the garrison town of Rawalpindi. Al-Qaeda’s outright denial of any responsibility for the killing, as well as the flimsy attempts by the military dictatorship to cover up the killing and pass it off as an accident only strengthen this suspicion.

Benazir was no icon of ‘democracy’, she was in fact a symbol of, and also a tragic casualty of the Iraq-Afghanistan-style US-sponsored ‘democracy’, a democracy that was meant to legitimise rather than challenge a US-approved dictatorship. The weak content of the democracy represented by Benazir and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is also underscored by the feudal and dynastic features shared with Indian political parties. The leadership of the PPP has now been bestowed upon her young son, (on the premise that the party was Benazir’s property to be disposed of in keeping with her will), while her husband will act as regent.

For the US ruling establishment, it’s a ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ situation. The assassination of Benazir may be a blow to its design – but not for long, it is already looking to capitalise on the new situation and use the current chaos as a pretext for intensified US military and political in Pakistan. The US strategic design in the region is no secret – for long, the US has been claiming that the Pashtun tribes’ territories bordering Afghanistan are a ‘safe haven’ for the al-Qaeda, and has been declaring its intention to send in troops there with or without Musharraf’s consent. If Musharraf becomes more of a liability than an asset for the US, it always has the option of dumping him in favour of some other more presentable candidate from within Pakistan’s ruling class. The US will also expect India to be its partner in any new chapter of the ‘war on terror’ in Pakistan.

Within the US establishment, there are sections that, in view of Musharraf’s increasing loss of credibility, would like the US to keep its options open in Pakistan rather than tying itself down to Musharraf. US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton represents such an opinion. She made it clear that she was not asking Musharraf to step down – but she has suggested a possibility of the Pakistani military’s role in the killing and recommended an international investigation into Benazir’s death with the participation of the UN, Afghanistan and India. Just as in the case of Iraq, there is no fundamental difference among the Democrats and the ruling Republicans over the US use of Pakistan as a base for its ‘war on terror’, just minor differences over the shape of US intervention and the choice of allies. Hillary Clinton’s remarks also display the characteristic imperialist arrogance and condescension for the people of developing countries. Referring to the lawyers’ movement for democracy, she said, “When you have people demonstrating in the streets who are wearing coats and ties, you know, those are the people we should be standing with.” No doubt, if the people demonstrating on the streets of Pakistan, India, Iraq or Latin America do not have the right kind of clothes on their back, their demand for democracy cannot be said to merit US support!

For India, Benazir’s assassination is yet another reminder of the dangers of being the darling of US imperialism, and of the farce of US-sponsored ‘democracy’ and ‘war on terror’. Musharraf’s dictatorship received US approval and backing because it was said to be a frontline partner in the ‘war on terror’, yet, the result is that terror and the tragedies have become a daily reality in Pakistan. Now, in Pakistan’s hour of crisis, we must vigilantly and vehemently resist any attempts by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government to be part of any form of US intervention in Pakistan. The democracy that the people of Pakistan are striving for is something deeper and more enduring – and that democracy can be achieved only if the US leaves Pakistan well alone and its stooge Musharraf steps down. These would be the first painful steps towards a potential restoration of some measure of democracy to Pakistan.

Indian Elections

Lessons from Gujarat Results

– Kavita Krishnan

The widespread factionalism in the Gujarat Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ranks and the fact that on the eve of the polls Modi stood firmly indicted for his regime’s role in the Gujarat genocide and custodial killings of Sohrabuddin and others created a uniquely favourable situation for its main contender, the Congress. If in spite of this, Modi scripted a win, there is no escaping the fact that it is the craven capitulation by the United Progressive (UPA) Government at the Centre as well as the Congress in Gujarat on the issue of state sponsored communal violence, accompanied by the failure to offer any meaningful alternative to Modi’s brand of neoliberal ‘development’ which is dispossessing Adivasis, Muslims and rural and urban poor, that are to blame. The last minute rhetorical flourishes by Sonia Gandhi failed woefully to compensate for the bankruptcy of the Congress on the question of offering a credible and consistent challenge to the communal fascism of the Sangh Parivar and BJP. Its reliance on BJP rebels as candidates and its official embrace of the ‘soft Hindutva’ slogan further announced the Congress’ surrender on this issue.

Modi has entered his third term strutting with impunity, declaring that he has always been and will always remain the Chief Minister (CM). The BJP camp, riding the Gujarat euphoria, is already claiming that Gujarat marks ‘BJP rising’, and hopes that the ‘Modi mask’ that symbolises the Gujarat win can give BJP a facelift nationally. The corporate houses are celebrating the victory of the ‘CEO CM’. Meanwhile the Congress is hoping that the debacle may have the silver lining of pressurising the secular parties to close ranks and unite with the Congress in the name of countering communalism.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) – CPI (ML) contested seven seats in Gujarat. We polled third with 7289 votes in the Kherbrahma seat in Sabarkantha district where the CPI (ML) is leading struggles of the tribal poor against eviction from land and dispossession from water sources, and for rights over forest land. Kherbrahma and Meghraj (where the CPI (ML) candidate polled 3031 votes), are both seats in the Sabarkantha district, an Adivasi area that was one of the hotpots of the communal pogrom of 2002. CPI (ML) started work in this area in 2003-04, reaching out to marginalized Adivasis (this section had been mobilised in Modi’s mobs in 2002 but who were worst hit by Modi’s ‘development’ and had in many cases been cheated of their land by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal). In the process we attracted many democratic forces towards us. Encouraged by our initiative, local CPI (M) ranks including a member of the CPI (M) district committee too joined us. Our main slogan in this constituency was ‘Jhanda par teen tara hai; jal jangal zamin hamara hai’ [Three stars on a flag (the CPI (ML) election symbol); water, forests and land are ours’].

CPI (ML) candidates polled 3031 votes in Meghraj; 2209 votes in Bulsar; 1123 in Umbergaon; 899 in Bhavnagar North; and 265 in Bhiloda. CPI (ML) had also fielded a candidate in Maninagar against Modi, advocate and youth leader Amit Patanwariya, who polled 1045 votes. On polling day (December 16), our candidate and supporters braved a violent mob attack by Modi supporters led by the notoriously criminalised local BJP corporator Jayas Patel who is a close aide of Modi. Our supporters fought back, and our candidate, his father Lakshman Patanwariya who is our Town Committee Secretary and three brothers were all arrested by the partisan police force on serious charges of attempt to murder and Arms Act. Our supporters rallied around at the thana lock up, mounting a spirited pressure, even as Modi visited the thana gate with his convoy to buoy up his supporters. Eventually our perseverance paid off, the police booked our candidate and his family on less serious charges of rioting and was also forced to book Modi’s supporters on the same charges.

In the wake of the Gujarat results, the CPI (M) has advised the Congress that the BJP cannot be defeated in a mere electoral battle, communal fascism needs to be tackled ideologically. For the Left movement in the country, Gujarat indeed poses tough questions. Can the Left afford to wash its hands off responsibility for the state of Gujarat merely by advising the Congress to correct its course and abandon soft Hindutva? Isn’t it true that the absence of a powerful Left movement inside Gujarat has also left the state vulnerable to the unchallenged domination of the communal fascists? In Gujarat, the CPI contested two seats, polling 1236 votes in one and 4236 in the other, while the CPI (M) contested only one seat in a seat-sharing arrangement with the Congress and NCP. The UPA Government betrayed its single raison d’etre by abandoning the fight against communalism. But equally, the CPI (M) led Left camp too, in spite of its 60-plus tally of MPs in Parliament, did precious little to utilise its impressive parliamentary profile as a foundation for any serious Left presence in Gujarat. For all its pontificatory advice to the Congress now, the fact is that the CPI (M) too chose to toe the Congress’ bankrupt line rather than take up the arduous task of developing a Left movement in the Sangh stronghold of Gujarat.

With the Congress’ dismal failure to combat communal fascism underlined, it is all the more clear that what Gujarat urgently needs is a powerful Left movement and a credible third force that is willing to challenge the communal forces head on and mobilise the poor and marginalised on issues of livelihood and survival. The CPI (ML) has made a small but encouraging beginning in this direction. The encouraging response to CPI (ML)’s campaign in a sharply polarised election and against a BJP tide, despite its fledgling presence in the state, is a sign that there is a real space in Gujarat for progressive, democratic, Left politics. The CPI (ML) is committed to consolidating this response and expanding this space in the days to come.

CPI (ML) Congress

Clarion Call of the CPI (ML)’s Kolkata Congress: People’s Resistance, Left Resurgence

The Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [CPI (ML)] has been held successfully in Kolkata. Held in the 150th anniversary of the First Indian War of Independence and the birth centenary of Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh, the 8th Congress boldly underlined the glorious anti-imperialist legacy of the Indian people. On the morning of December 10, a delegation of Congress delegates and guests from abroad went to Barrackpore to pay homage to the memorial of Mangal Pandey, the first martyr of 1857 and then returned to Kolkata to garland the statue of Bhagat Singh, whom the Congress recognised not only as rashtra nayak (national hero), the ever-inspiring national hero of the Indian people but also as a great communist pioneer. And then on the eve of the Congress, delegates and guests all assembled in a mass convention that denounced imperialism as a “War on Freedom, Democracy and Development” and resolved to resist imperialism in every sphere of life.

Attended by more than 1200 delegates, observers and guests, the 8th Congress was much bigger in scale than all the previous Congresses of the Party, four of which had to be held in extremely challenging underground conditions. Apart from discussing and adopting the Political-Organisational Report placed by the outgoing Central Committee, the Congress also adopted three specific resolutions dealing with the current international situation, developing national situation and the raging agrarian crisis. The Congress also updated the Party’s General Programme as well as the Agrarian Programme after fifteen and twenty-five years respectively and thus enriched the Party’s strategic understanding regarding the Indian society and the ongoing pattern of narrow and predatory capitalist development overshadowed by both stubborn feudal remnants and imperialist dictates and interests.

Several key themes have emerged from the Congress deliberations. In order that the CPI (ML) can intervene more powerfully in the deepening agrarian crisis it was resolved that the Party must now pay more attention to the peasant front alongside the core revolutionary agenda of mobilising the rural poor in militant struggles. If neo-liberalism is wreaking havoc in the countryside, impoverishing and expropriating sizeable sections of the peasantry and pushing people to suicides and starvation deaths, revolutionary communists must organise and lead a powerful counter-offensive by these victims of neo-liberalism. Signs of a massive rural unrest are already visible in almost every corner of the country and the 8th Congress of the CPI (ML) has called upon the entire Party to prepare in every way for the impending storm of people’s resistance.

The Congress also discussed other major aspects of the current situation – large-scale destruction of jobs and livelihood in urban India, the growing shadow of US imperialism on India’s foreign policy and the systematic assault on democracy by every organ of the Indian state. The closure of old labour-intensive industries, the growing corporate takeover of the entire service sector, and commercialisation and privatisation of key sectors like education and health have pushed large sections of the urban population into a life of growing hardship and insecurity. And as real life becomes more miserable and insecure for more and more people across the country, the ruling elite keeps selling the ‘dream’ of turning India into a US-sponsored regional power riding high on nuclear energy and a soaring Sensex! The more the people are deprived of their basic democratic rights and divorced from resources that belonged and must belong to them, the louder gets the rhetoric of democracy and empowerment!

Such a situation definitely calls for a powerful Left and democratic movement in defence of land and livelihood, liberty and dignity – individual as well as national. But the growing derailment and degeneration of the CPI (M)-led government in West Bengal, especially the arrogance and audacity with which the CPI (M) leadership have sought to justify their policies and conduct regarding Singur and Nandigram have tarnished the image of the Left and may push the democratic forces away unless there is a resurgence of the real Left. The successful conclusion of the Kolkata Congress and the massive turnout at the December 18 rally has sent out that message of Left resurgence at a most appropriate juncture. The Congress did not merely symbolise ideological, political and organisational consolidation of the CPI (ML), it held out the promise of a resurgent Left forging closer ties with broader democratic forces to save India from becoming a neoliberal laboratory and a strategic pawn of Washington.

CPI (ML) Congress

8th Congress Concludes with Massive Rally

The 8th Party Congress culminated in a massive all-India rally for ‘People’s Resistance, Left Resurgence’ at Shahid Minar in Kolkata on December 18, on the death anniversary of the former Party General Secretary Comrade Vinod Mishra. The Rally had the main slogan of ‘Land, Livelihood, Democracy and Dignity’. The Rally was addressed by the CPI (ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, West Bengal State Secretary Kartick Pal, Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) General Secretary Madhav Nepal, General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Bangladesh Saiful Huq, Assistant National Secretary of the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP), Australia, Sue Bolton, Subba Singh, leader of the Punjab Kisan Union, Kanwalpreet Pannu, leader of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Punjab, as well as Medha Thatte from the Lal Nishan Party (Leninist).

The Rally called to mind the historic significance of Shahid Minar, the site of the birth of the CPI (ML), and many veterans of the Naxalbari movement of the 70s – both from W Bengal as well as from other states made it a point to attend the Rally, full of a sense of the long and arduous journey that CPI (ML) had made since 1969. The massive turnout from all over the country at the Rally was all the more remarkable because 1144 party leaders right down to district committee leaders had been delegates at Kolkata, and so the mobilisation reflected the spontaneous enthusiasm of the masses as well as the determination of grassroots activists to meet the challenge. The Shahid Minar grounds were overflowing and in fact the red wave spilled over onto nearby grounds and streets. The mood as the final slogans were raised was one of great determination, great resolve to meet the challenge of making CPI (ML) grow ever larger, ever stronger, so that it can emerge capable of giving revolutionary direction and leadership to the Left movement in India.

CPI (ML) Congress

Unite for a Left Resurgence in West Bengal and India!

– Dipankar Bhattacharya.

[Excerpts from the speech delivered by Dipankar Bhattacharya at the 10 December Anti-Imperialist Convention.]

We are gathered here at an anti-imperialist Convention preceding our 8th Party Congress. This is a theme that binds a range of struggles together; representatives of important centres of anti-war, anti-imperialist struggles have assembled here: representatives from Australia, Great Britain; from neighbouring Bangladesh, Nepal. Those friends from beyond the party who are concerned about the degeneration of the Left and who are speaking out are also amongst us. Today’s Convention is a much-awaited gathering of genuine Leftists and democratic forces. For international observers, today’s Kolkata can appear to be a capital of the distorted and degenerated Left. However, Bibhas Chakravarty and Nabarun Bhattacharya who spoke before me observed quite rightly that today’s Kolkata is holding high the genuine red flag. A battle is on in West Bengal today: a battle whose issues are intimately tied up with the theme of today’s Convention: Imperialism’s War on Democracy, Independence, and Development.

This is the third time we are holding our Party Congress at Kolkata. In 1970 when we held our First Party Congress here, those were different times: turbulent times, difficult times. If the decade of the 70s was one of revolutionary struggle, it also marked a decade of intense repression nation-wide. The ruling class thought they had finished off the CPI (ML). The indomitable spirit of the people, of the rural poor, their irrepressible courage and strength, revived our party. After this, the next time the Party held its Congress at Kolkata was in 1992, when the Party came over ground.

Forty years ago, Naxalbari took place in a different context. Then, communists thought circumstances existed for a direct, bold, confident revolutionary bid to capture state power. But that bid failed. Today, we can see many similarities between Nandigram and Naxalbari. Here once again, peasants are in revolt, forcing the government to retreat. The special economic zone (SEZ) Act was passed in Parliament unanimously, with not a single vote against the SEZ Act from the partners of either National Democratic Alliance (NDA) or United Progressive Alliance (UPA), or even the entire brigade of more than 60 Left MPs. The West Bengal Government imagined that this Act could be the foundation for the state’s industrialisation policy. But in a development that no one expected, the peasants of Nandigram challenged the power of the entire Parliament, and the State Government which enjoys a massive majority in the State Assembly. This was the power of the people that all the power of the state failed to defeat. Without this power of the people there can be no left politics. It is this power of the people that we are gathered here to uphold, defend and consolidate.

There is a government in this state, a ruling party and Left leadership, that constantly hobnobs with industrialists, but is extremely hostile to intellectuals and the people. This spineless, tailist Leftists think that they can continue in state power in Bengal only by selling out the interests of the Left forces nationally. They imagine that they can stop the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) by allying with Lalu, Mulayam and Congress. If anyone imagines that the CPI (M)-led Left’s degeneration will repeat the circumstances of Eastern Europe after the Soviet Collapse, then we are determined to prove them wrong. If we can see the degeneration and decay of the Left here, then the regeneration of the Left is also an objective truth.

The 8th Congress is the biggest Congress we have held till now. The delegates here will discuss the documents on the agrarian crisis – a crisis that causes a farmer to commit suicide every half hour; a crisis that is destroying livelihoods on a huge scale. They will also deliberate on the Nuke Deal, which is no isolated deal. It is part of a larger gameplan to turn India into a strategic pawn of the US. We can’t allow the country of 1857, of Bhagat Singh, to become a pawn of the US: we must foil this ploy.

Right now we find the CPI(M) branding its critics as ‘enemies of the people’; rather than taking the criticisms to heart, they are instead presuming to tell historians how to write history, writers how to write poetry; artists how theatre should be played…

In our history, we have made many mistakes, and we never hesitated to correct them: and we are willing to reflect deeply on all the criticisms, all the suggestions that are made to us. We are a small force but in the past years, and even in the past months we have seen a significant expansion – and I don’t just mean the expansion of ranks of our party. Singur and Nandigram and struggles against SEZs have in fact rekindled a Left urge very widely. In 1967 India had felt the need for revolution. In 2007 again India seems to be looking with hope and eagerness for a revolutionary Left alternative. It is this Left urge, this resurgence of the Left that we are committed to. I appeal to all genuine and principled sections of the Left; all those concerned about the Left’s future, all democratic forces and civil society – we are committed to walking shoulder to shoulder with them every step of the way in this struggle for a resurgence of the Left. In this struggle, I appeal to all, especially the people of Kolkata: give us the strength to rise up to the occasion, to fulfil our resolve. We are committed to march together with all the genuine Left, democratic forces for a bright future, a better tomorrow, both in West Bengal and in India.

CPI (ML) Congress

National Festival of People’s Culture at Kolkata

– Manas Ghosh, Liberation, January, 2008.

Paschimbanga Ganasanskriti Parisad, Jan Sanskriti Manch and Sodou Assam Janasanskriti Parisad organized an all-India cultural festival on 16 and 17 December at the historic Esplanade in Kolkata. The festival sketched out the panoramic scape of diverse cultural outfits from all over the country that embody the striving for a revolutionary people’s culture. Comrade Ramji Rai announced the inauguration of the conference from the open-air stage named the Hemango Biswas Manch on the afternoon of 16 December. Cultural workers from different provinces participated and exchanged their views. Their performances upheld the spirit of the festival’s main slogan: “culture of creation, culture of resistance, culture of people”.

From the roots of folk culture to the modern aesthetic, from art to activism, the festival was full of the spirit of cultural resistance against the policy of special economic zones (SEZs), imperialist globalization and the bankruptcy of the politics of the ruling class. The cultural performance began with a rousing mass-song presented by the cultural team of West Bengal. Noted musician and folk singer Loknath Goswami presented Assamese folk-songs which really charmed the audience. The colour and vigour of Rangbhoomi of Begusarai, the tribal tune presented by Prerna from Jharkhand, the nimbleness and gracefully athletic leaps of the Chau dance performance by Sengel from Jharkhand, the agrarian mourning song rendered by Chandrakanta Terang of Karbi Anglong – all upheld the cultural identity of peasant life and struggle and added a dimension to the conference. Young men and women artists from Assam presented a traditional Bihu dance. The elegance and authenticity of their performance were loved by the audience. The dramatic performance staged by the central team of Andhra Pradesh (Jan Sansritik Manch) mesmerized people with its dynamic form and rebellious content. The dance, theatric action, music, and sense of rhythm – every aspect of performance contributed to narrativise the story of the rise of the people against oppression and exploitation. Yuvaniti from Bhojpur, which had spent several weeks before the 8th Congress campaigning in the villages of Bhojpur, also participated in the festival. Revolutionary songs of a variety of moods by Hirawal (Patna) and Dasta (Varanasi) were greatly appreciated by the audience.

Noted young theatre personalities of Bengal Kausik Sen, Manish Mitra and Arpita Ghosh who took the lead role in recent civil society movement against Nandigram massacre and Left front government’s anti-peasant land grab policy in the state came to express their solidarity. Addressing the people Sen said, “We, the cultural workers of West Bengal are fighting the SEZ and capitalist development policies of the state government. And all over the country people are fighting the same issues. Let us try to tie up all these struggles in a single thread. A broader level of coordination among culture-politics-academia is required to consolidate ourselves.” He concluded, “We must learn a lot from the people’s cultural movements.” Mitra and Ghosh paid their tribute to the revolutionary masses of the country who are protesting against the ruthless anti-people policies. Ghosh also recited a Bengali poem there.

A film ‘Development at Gunpoint’ made by Promod Gupta of Media Solidarity Group was shown. The film depicted the resistance the people of Nandigram against the brutal aggression of the police and CPI (M) cadres in January and February 2007. Supriyo, Barun and Sumita introduced the Media Solidarity Group as an organization of young filmmakers which aims to make films on people’s resistance all over the South Asian region and they expressed their solidarity with the revolutionary mass gathered there.

On the second and final day of the conference, collected works of eminent Marxist poet late Kamalesh Sen published by Nabanno and Paschimbanga Ganasanskriti Parisad was released by noted poet Nabarun Bhattacharya. Poet Sabyasachi Dev and veteran theatre personality Bibhas Chakraborty were also present there. Paying his tribute Bhattacharya says that the life and work of a poet like Kamalesh Sen is always an inspiration to the young writers who leave the beaten track of institutional culture and choose the path of people’s culture. The book release event was followed by mass-songs sung by Choler Pathe group of Budge Budge and Bally, West Bengal (WB) and mime-ballet presented by the troop from Thakurnagar, WB.

‘Mokaam’, a group which composes and sings new Bengali modern and folk songs sang two Bengali songs and Abhijit Basu, promising folk singer sang three songs. The final attractions of the cultural conference were a dance performed by the troupe from Karbi Anglong, Assam and a satire ‘Duniya Roz Badalti Hai’ (World Changes Everyday) staged by Hirawal which in a most popular way exposes the pro-imperialist and anti-people character of NDA and UPA governments. The cultural festival ended with high spirits, announcing the hope of new revolutionary interventions in people’s culture in the near future.

CPI (ML) Congress

Tapasi We Have Not Forgotten You

We Never Will

– Liberation, January, 2008.

They came from all corners of the country, they came with a warm message of solidarity. At a time when Mamta Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress is engaged in cheap and stale theatrics in the name of continuation of the Singur movement, nearly hundred women delegates attending the Eighth Congress of CPI (ML) in Kolkata marched to Singur on 17 December to pay homage to Tapasi Malik on the eve of the first anniversary (18 December) of her martyrdom. Led by Party and All India Progressive Women’s Organization (AIPWA) leaders Kumudini Pati, Srilata Swaminathan, Mina Tiwari, Saroj Chaube, Krishna Adhikari and others, a militant procession reached Bajemelia village winding its way through ricefields and village lanes and raising slogans. The procession was attractively decorated with banners, placards etc. A memorial meeting was organised near the Ujjal Sangh club. Two minutes silence was observed and floral wreaths placed at Tapasi’s photograph. Speaking on the occasion, AIPWA general secretary Kumudini Pati and West Bengal state secretary Chaitali Sen pledged to continue the movement till the killers were brought to book and the policy of eviction of peasants in the name of industrialisation was revoked. The meeting was also addressed by Tapasi’s father Manoranjan Malik while her mother took part in conducting the meeting.

After the meeting the procession moved again and went up to the walled construction site of Tata factory. Policemen guarding the wall were persuaded to allow entry and the processionists accompanied by mediapersons went inside to reach the spot where the hapless teenager had been raped and burnt to death. Flowers were offered and slogans raised demanding punishment to the killers, resignation of the Chief Minister of West Bengal, and repeal of the SEZ Act. Local people including the secretary of the Ujjal Sangh club participated in the programme with great enthusiasm. Describing her impressions of her visit, Medha Thatte, leader of the Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) from Maharashtra said that the villagers accounts of how the CPI (M) tried to slander Tapasi and her whole family after her rape and killing brought the Khairlanji killings to mind. She said that in Tapasi’s mother’s eyes, the pain of the past year since the loss of her daughter could be seen.

CPI (ML) Congress

Amar Gram, Tomar Gram, Nandigram!

– Liberation, January, 2008.

A team comprising leaders of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML), Comrade Abdus Salam, Politburo member of the Workers’ Party of Bangladesh, Comrades Suba Singh and Kanwalpreet Pannu from Punjab, as well as Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) Convenor Comrade Bhimrao Bansod among others visited Nandigram on December 17. What they found there was a far cry from the claims of ‘normalcy’ and ‘peace’. Comrade Bansod said the people continued to live in terror of further retaliation by the CPI (M). He said that villagers who spoke to them said there was no Maoist presence in the area. He said that just as Congress backstabbing of the workers’ movement paved the way for the Shiv Sena in Maharashrta, the CPI (M)’s policies were weakening the Left and making room for the right wing forces – and in this context only bold initiatives by the genuine left forces like CPI (ML) could save the Left movement in West Bengal. He described the visit to the home of Biswajit Maity, one of those killed by the CPI (M) cadre in January last year. He said Biswajit’s family had been closely associated with the communist movement since the Tebhaga movement days.

Interview

Saiful Huq

Workers Party of Bangladesh

– Liberation, January, 2008.

[Comrade Saiful Huq, General Secretary of the Workers Party of Bangladesh, attended the entire Congress along with a delegation comprising Nasiruddin Ahmed Nasu (Politburo [PB] Member), Abdus Salam (PB Member), Bahnishikha Jamali (Central Committee Member), and Nazrul Islam, a journalist and Party member. Members of this delegation also joined teams that visited Singur and Nandigram on 17 December. Below Comrade Saiful discusses his Party’s work and the concerns of the Left movement in Bangladesh. Interview was conducted by Kavita Krishnan (KK).]

KK: Can you tell our readers something about your party and its orientations?

SH: The Workers’ Party spilt following serious debates in June 2004. We formed a different party because the other faction of the Workers’ Party was bent on an electoral alliance with the Awami League and had degenerated. For the last two years our slogan has been ‘Rebuild the Party, Rebuild the Communist Movement’ – ideologically, politically, and organisationally. We are heading for our 8th Congress quite soon in 2008. Since 12 September 2007 we have been part of a Left-democratic alliance, an 11-party front of which the Workers’ Party and the Socialist Party of Bangladesh are major constituents. Some of our mass fronts are Bangladesh Agricultural Labour Union (BALU), our peasants’ organisation Viplavi Krishak Sanhati, and our women’s front Shramjibi Nari Moitreyi, also student and cultural fronts. We are yet to have a national Trade Union body, though we do have trade union work amongst garment workers and in the informal sector. Our party organ is the People’s Democracy.

KK: How do you visualise the Left’s role in the democratic movement in Bangladesh?

SH: There is immense potential for the Left in Bangladesh, as is shown by the kind of recent movements among working people there. In 2004-05, there was a peasants’ struggle reminiscent of the Tebhaga days at Kaushal, demanding electricity supply. 22 people were martyred in this movement. The Phulbani movement against a coal mining MNC Asia Energy too was a militant movement launched by thousands of peasants and adivasis. Eventually the Government had to compromise and the MNC was forced to withdraw its plans of open cast mining in that region. There have constantly been small revolts among garment workers, as also among peasants – so there are many sparks in Bangladesh that have the potential to turn into a revolutionary conflagration.

KK: What is the situation of the pro-democracy movement in Bangladesh now?

SH: Now there is an interim government with direct army control. During Emergency, politics is banned, and is only partly permitted in Dhaka. The degenerated Left is part of a 14-party alliance with the Awami League. Both Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia are in jail. The ‘National Security Council’ of the Army is pushing a ‘reform’ agenda, attempting to secure legitimacy by targeting the corrupt and inefficient governments and setting up an ‘anti-corruption commission’. The state in Bangladesh is faced with a crisis of legitimacy, and the Army is in a bid to secure a sustainable system for the ruling class. However, the Army’s attempts to set up a new political party with breakaways from the BNP and Awami League have not found many takers. The Army is pushing a neo-liberal economic agenda of the IMF-WB, liberalising the insurance sector and introducing private management in Chittagong port. Massive price hikes have resulted and now it appears that the military regime is seeking a safe exit route and is exploring an arrangement with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Awami League. With the BNP and Awami League thoroughly exposed, and with the students’ protests expressing the democratic aspirations of people, there is clearly space for a revolutionary Left movement united with democratic forces on a broad anti-imperialist and pro-democracy plank.

KK: How do you view the threat of imperialism in the sub-continent?

SH: US imperialism is intervening directly in Bangladesh. There have been agreements between Bangla Government and the USA which are not transparent. We are also extremely concerned about the closeness of India with USA, and the US plan to make India play the big brotherly hegemonistic role of watchman over Bangladesh. This naturally causes a strong anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh.

Interview

Sue Bolton

Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP), Australia

– Liberation, January, 2008.

[The Assistant National Secretary of the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP), Australia, Sue Bolton, attended the Party Congress right from 10-18 December. Comrade Sue did not just remain confined to the seats of the Congress Hall; she sought out comrades of the working class and peasant fronts and interviewed them; with the DTC workers of Delhi she shared her own experiences of being a bus driver and organizing transport workers; tirelessly interacting with a range of delegates she seemed quite at home and it was difficult to remember that she was a guest! In the following conversation, Sue Bolton discusses the challenges facing the Left movement in Australia. Interview was conducted by Kavita Krishnan (KK).]

KK: Did working class issues play any role in the Howard Government’s defeat? In working class struggles, what has been the role of the Labour Party that is now in power?

SB: The Labour Party was most unwilling to launch protests against anti-worker laws introduced by the Howard Government in 2005, saying that if they did so, Labour would be alienated. DSP as well as the Socialist Alliance along with some Labour members built pressure for mass protests and strikes, and got mass protests off the ground in two states (Victoria and Western Australia) in mid-June 2005, including one historic strike. For the first time in a long time, Labour was no longer in control of all the speaking platforms, and our line was ‘Don’t just wait for elections, we need militant actions.’ We were also able to some extent break the Labour Party’s monopoly on information. Even where Labour did control speaking platforms, we succeeded in getting strikes and protests off the ground. Howard wouldn’t have been kicked out without those strikes; the anti-workers laws were a main issue in the elections. Labour Governments in the past have had a history of pacifying working class militancy; in the days to come, workers’ issues will remain a key issue which the Labour Government cannot duck.

KK: How do young people in Australia today respond to radical student groups like Resistance?

SB: Times are more challenging for the student movement now than in the 90s. The class composition of campuses and of the student movement has changed. Working class students and poorer students always had to work part-time, but now they are forced to work 20-30 hours a week, and so they have less time for ideas and political activism. The impact of post-modernist identity politics has also helped to destroy political movements on campus. Partly as a consequence, left student groups now often tend not to have a mass character and tend to become somewhat cliquish Left clubs instead.

KK: I heard about ‘voluntary student-unionism’ being introduced in Australian universities – what kind of impact does that have on the student movement?

SB: I was speaking to the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Union President and he described how all students on admission pay a fee that makes them all automatically members of the Student Union (SU). That was the case in Australia till a while ago. But the Howard Government had introduced ‘voluntary student-unionism’, which means that the payment of the SU membership fee is made voluntary. The aim was clearly to depoliticise students and make it more difficult for student groups to organise. Also, the SU fees not only funded the unions but also student services. Now the incumbent Labour Government is saying that the fees can go to the Student Unions as long as they are not spent on political activity. This means that Unions will soon run out of money. It may be that this move will discourage student bureaucrats who entered Unions mainly to control the funds, but there is no doubt that the move will weaken the student movement. But Resistance comrades are still active; in particular Resistance organised some successful walkouts in many cities in protest against Bush’s visit to Australia.

KK: What has been your experience of attending our Kolkata Congress?

SB: What has struck me strongly is the wide range of struggles that your party is leading. For me, this reemphasises that ideology alone cannot do, we’ve got to be intimately connected to class struggles. It’s been a reminder that international solidarity is no doubt important but being rooted in one’s own class struggle is even more crucial.

CPI (ML) Congress

Solidarity Messages

– Liberation, January, 2008.

[Excerpts of selected solidarity messages sent on the occasion of the 8th Congress of the CPI (ML)]

From 1857 Committee, UK

2007 has been a momentous year for the peoples of the sub-continent. It marked 150 years of our struggles against imperialism. In marking the 150th anniversary of the events of 1857, at meetings and conferences here in Britain attended by members of your party, we recognised the similarities of the battles that the peoples of the sub-continent faced in 1857 to the ones we face today. The sub-continent then faced the East India Company, appropriately described as the first multinational corporation. Today the peoples of India and indeed others in the sub-continent face similar threats from multinationals. In India we salute the struggles of the people in Nandigram and other areas of India affected by the Special Economic Zones and the role played by your party in supporting and strengthening this resistance. Here in Britain we have been actively involved in the campaign to publicise and build support for these struggles, and have set up the anti-SEZs group in Birmingham.

Globalisation and indeed the “War on Terror” are also having a devastating impact on the peoples of the sub-continent. In India itself it has obvious repercussions as erosion of civil liberties from their already limited position. In other countries in the sub-continent, especially in Pakistan, it has led to a situation where the army is acting as a front-line force in the war, causing daily casualties in some regions of the country.

The circumstances expressed above in the sub-continent and unbridled imperialism in the form of globalisation will be of major significance to the peoples of the sub-continent in the coming years and we are sure that the 8th Congress would address the growing dangers to the peoples of the sub-continent and continue to develop strategies for resisting them.

With fraternal greetings,

Naeem Malik

On behalf of the 1857 Committee in Britain

From Indian Workers’ Association of Great Britain (IWAGB)

We applaud the CPI (ML)-led struggles, agitations both parliamentary and extra parliamentary, to defend and advance the interest of workers, peasants and other poor sections of Indian population.

IWAGB fraternally support Communist and other movements for a people’s democratic India, against imperialism and market economy system in India. CPI (ML) Liberation is a Party leading such movements. We send our warm, revolutionary fraternal greetings to the Party Congress.

IWAGB has a clear position against the 123 Nuclear agreement, and against Special Economic Zones whereby land is acquired compulsorily under the auspices of States or Central Government.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government will stage a Pravasi Bharti Diwas in January 2008 in Delhi. It is an attempt to induce non-resident Indians (NRIs) to invest in India. Overwhelming majority of NRIs and persons of Indian origin (PIOs) are struggling to obtain Indian Visa, Indian Passports and other Consular Services abroad. During winter months hundreds of PIO form long queues outside Indian High Commission in London and Birmingham. NRIs holding Indian passports are not allowed to travel on Chartered Flights to India. We urge CPIML to consider taking up the problems faced by NRIs and PIOs abroad with Government of India.

Long Live Revolution!

Long live Marxism-Leninism!

Victory to Peoples Democratic Revolution in India!

Hardev Dhillon

President

IWAGB

From the Workers’ World Party (WWP), USA

We want to express our solidarity with you and all those struggling in India against feudalism, capitalism, imperialist domination and for the socialist victory of the workers and peasants to end class exploitation

We support your struggles against the Special Economic Zones, against the destruction of tribal lands, against communalism, caste discrimination and oppression, against the oppression of women, against landlessness and all the evils of capitalist and landlord domination, which are the foundation of the terrible super-exploitation of the vast majority of the Indian workers and peasants.

And we salute your struggle against the anti-worker, anti-peasant, pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist policies of the Indian bourgeois government of the Congress Party and its so-called “left” collaborators. These policies are symbolized by the Nandigram massacre, the setting up of the SEZs to clear the way for imperialist capital, and Washington’s nuclear schemes to make India into an accomplice of U.S. imperialist aggression.

The wages and the living standards of workers in the imperialist countries are being driven down across the board. But the treacherous, chauvinist politics of the ruling classes seeks to blame the problems on the workers in the low-wage countries — India, China, Mexico, Indonesia, Thailand, etc. Similarly in the U.S. and in all the imperialist countries, the political mouthpieces of the bosses are waging a racist campaign against immigrant workers, whom they super-exploit and then seek to scapegoat and persecute in order to divert the class struggle.

The only true answer to world wide competition among workers is international working class solidarity. The workers in the U.S. must know what the U.S. and British corporations have done to keep the Indian masses in a state of colonial and imperialist slavery for centuries. The workers in the U.S. must know what all of Latin America as well as the rest of the world has suffered at the hands of the Yankee imperialism.

It is the duty of all internationalists to call upon the workers in the imperialist countries to stretch out the hand of solidarity to workers in the oppressed countries and to join them in a common struggle against the common enemy – world finance capitalism.

Down with U.S. imperialism – Long live the solidarity of the U.S. working class with the struggling Indian masses.

The Secretariat of Workers World Party,

U.S.A.

Italian Marxist-Leninist Party (PMLI)

Dear Comrades,

Despite our inability to attend the Congress we extend to you warm brotherly and militant greeting and the proletarian internationalist wishes of success from the Italian Marxist-Leninist Party.

Although geographically in two different and distant continents, we feel you near to us because the ideology, the nature of class and the cause of our two Parties are common. Both in fact are inspired by the Marxism-Leninism-Mao Thought and they pursue the objective of the socialism, also keeping in mind of the different situation in India and in Italy.

Our two Parties have the same experience as it regards the attitude of the social democratic parties toward the central bourgeois government. In Italy such parties are directly inside the government of the bourgeois dominant class, while in India they support it from the outside. But the substance doesn’t change. In the one and in the other case the false communist parties act as coverage on the left of the bourgeois dominant class, and in such way they rob the revolutionary energy of the masses of its potential and they sabotage the struggle for the socialism.

Currently imperialism, especially US imperialism, exports its armies and it massacres the populations of the occupied countries. But the peoples of Iraq, of Afghanistan, of Palestine and of other countries are giving it some hard lessons. The future is not therefore of the imperialism and of the bourgeoisie, but of the revolution, of the proletariat and of socialism.

Long live the militant unity between the PMLI and the CPI (ML)!

The Political Bureau of the PMLI

Hands Off Venezuela campaign

Dear brothers and sisters,

We would like to send our warmest revolutionary internationalist greetings to your congress, which we are convinced will be a successful one.

Venezuela is a country that has been under the grip of imperialism and the local oligarchy for the last 200 years. But the Venezuelan people have said enough and have started to move on the road of Revolution. The election of President Hugo Chávez in 1998 was an important turning point in that process.

Many things have been already achieved in the Bolivarian revolution. Illiteracy has been completely eradicated, 3 million new students have been incorporated into the education system which is now free for all, basic primary health care has been provided for free in working class, poor and peasant areas around the country, a programme of land reform has started, and the nationalised character of oil resources has been reassured.

All these progressive reforms have awoken the rage of the Venezuelan oligarchy and imperialism who have on several occasions tried to put an end to the revolution and overthrow president Chávez (during the coup in April 2002, the bosses lock out and sabotage of the economy in December 2002, during the fascist riots in the run up to the recall referendum in 2004, etc). Every single time the masses of ordinary working people have come out on the streets and defeated the counter-revolutionary attempts.

The task in Venezuela has been set clearly, in the words of President Chávez, the alternative is “Socialism or Barbarism”. A successful socialist revolution in Venezuela would serve as an inspiration to the whole of Latin America and for the working class and the oppressed around the world. A defeat would mean a vicious military dictatorship and would throw the whole movement back. This is why we need your support, the support of workers, peasants and poor around the world.

One of the best ways to build solidarity is in fact to prepare the conditions for revolution in your own countries.

Forward to socialism in Venezuela and internationally!

Long live the Bolivarian Revolution!

Down with capitalism!

Down with imperialism!

Jorge Martín

International Secretary

Hands Off Venezuela campaign

Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

We take this opportunity to express our very best wishes for the success of your 8th National Congress and to extend our fraternal solidarity to your Party in your struggle against imperialism and for a people’s democratic revolution in India. We are confident that you will emerge from this Congress with greater clarity and understanding of the national and international situation and rejuvenated to carry your work forward.

Our Chairman, Comrade Harpal Brar, has asked me to convey his greetings to Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, the General Secretary of your Party.

With revolutionary greetings,

Ella Rule

International Secretary

Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

Communist League of Finland

On behalf of the Communist League of Finland I would like to extend our best greetings to the CPI (ML) on the occasion of its 8th National Congress. We firmly believe your Party Congress will show the revolutionary unity of the working class of India.

Mr. Antti Siika-aho

Vice-Chairman, The Worker’s Party of Finland

Member of the Central Committee’s International department, The Communist League of Finland

Danish Communist Party

Dear Comrades,

Thank you for the invitation to your Congress. The DKP-ML was dissolved last year as part of a unification process where it joined forces with communists founding the Danish Communist Party. Unfortunately, we will not be able to attend your Congress but wishes you success in its proceeding and in your future work.

Revolutionary greetings,

Sven Tarp

International Department, Danish Communist Party

International League of Peoples’ Struggle

Warm greetings of international solidarity and congratulations on the occasion of your Eighth Congress taking place in Kolkata, India! As a member of the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) from the USA and coordinator of a local US anti-war organization, Chelsea Uniting Against the War (CUAW) in Massachusetts, I send you best wishes for a revolutionary anti-imperialist outcome of your Congress.

We understand that the anti-imperialist struggle of the masses of people of India, and of the Indian workers and peasants in particular, is an important part of the world-wide anti-imperialist struggle today. We were particularly encouraged by the opposition of the Indian masses to the efforts of the Indian state to collaborate with US imperialism in its effort to secure Indian troops as cannon fodder for US imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The focus of ILPS work in the United States in this period has been opposition to the US imperialist-led war “at home and abroad.” One important aspect of our opposition to US imperialist war here “at home” has been work with high school students and parents in our community to oppose the sustained and devious efforts of US military recruiters to recruit our working class youth into the US military. Another important aspect of this work on the home front has been to organize against the growing US government terrorist attacks on immigrant workers and families. Internationally, the focus of our work has been in opposition to the bestial US imperialist attacks on the Iraqi people. We understand that our efforts are still extremely limited here and that we face many challenges ahead because while the majority of the US population is against the US war in Iraq, most, even US workers, are still pro-US imperialist.

We believe there is a need to strengthen our solidarity with the Iraqi, Afghani and other peoples who are in the frontlines of the fight for liberation against US imperialism. We need to strengthen our struggles and better coordinate our anti-imperialist efforts around the world. The ILPS is an international anti-imperialist united front organization and as such is one vehicle for doing this. The ILPS has more than 140 participating organizations around the world, including in the Philippines, India, Turkey, Europe and the USA. Our chairman is the outstanding Filipino revolutionary leader and internationalist, Jose Maria Sison, currently in exile in the Netherlands.

Once again, I wish you a successful revolutionary anti-imperialist Congress. I look forward to working together in the future to strengthen and coordinate our anti-US imperialist efforts.

In solidarity,

Lyn Meza

International Coordinating Committee member

ILPS (USA)

Syrian Communist Party

Dear Comrades:

We are very sorry, because we can not participate in your 8th congress.

Meantime, we appreciate your solidarity with our country Syria and other liberation movements in Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon.

We also respect and support the struggle of your party for the better conditions of the Indian people.

We wish the complete success to your Congress in finding the solutions for the problems of India based on the scientific socialist principles.

With best regards

Hunein Nemer

The first secretary

Syrian Communist Party

Culture

Tribute to Poet Trilochan Shastri

– Liberation, January, 2008.

On the very eve of our 8th Congress, on 9 December 2007, people’s poet and former National President of Jan Sanskriti Manch (JSM) Trilochan Shastri passed away at the age of 91. He was an immensely influential figure in Hindi literature and he was deeply sympathetic to the revolutionary communist movement all his life.

He had been associated with a variety of people’s movements, starting with his involvement in the freedom struggle against British colonialism up to his support for the battle of the oppressed masses of rural India for land and justice. He had been National President of JSM for almost a decade. Apart from being famous for introducing the sonnet form of poetry to Hindi, Trilochan also worked on the compilation of various dictionaries and is renowned as a major expert on various Indian languages.

He had met with the CPI (ML) General Secretary not long before his demise and expressed his good wishes for the Party Congress. His passing is an immeasurable loss for Hindi literature and the progressive democratic movement.

Hindi kavita unki hai

jinki sanson ko araam nahin

Main us janpath ka kavi hun

jo bhukha-dukha hai

Hindi poetry belongs

To those who don’t breathe easy

I’m a poet of the land

Of hunger and sorrow

– Trilochan

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