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              Volume 11 |Issue 07| February 17, 2012 |


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Photo: Amirul Rajiv

Left Out

Akram Hosen Mamun

The Bangladeshi left is divided into many strands of large and small political parties. In the country's history, many of the progressive movements were started by the student activists of the leftist organisations. For example, the mass uprisings that toppled the autocratic regime of Ershad in the early 90s were initially organised by the leftists. However, they have always failed to be in the leading position of any of the popular movements.

In order to channel people's discontent and frustration in an organised political front, most of the leftist political parties agree that it is crucial for them to create a common platform. But due to their differences in priorities and agendas, the left have always failed to reach a general consensus and form an alliance that lasted for a considerable length of time.

Commenting on the importance of forming an alliance of the leftist political parties, Manjurul Ahsan Khan, the president of Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), says, “We need to form a leftist democratic alliance that will become an alternative political force.” He adds that the left needs to create a political force that will be “an alternative to the BNP-Jamaat or the Awami League's alliance. Even if these two camps fail, the global capitalist-imperialist forces will try to maintain the status quo of bourgeois ie politics in the country. The communists will have to prevent that as well.”

On the other hand, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), another major leftist political party is in the grand alliance of the AL led government. Hasanul Haque Inu, the president of JSD says that at present, it is of prime importance to eradicate the religious fundamentalism from politics. He also calls out to other leftist political parties to work together in the next parliamentary elections against the fundamentalist BNP-Jamaat alliance for greater common good.

Many progressive movements in the country's history were started by the left. Photo: Amirul Rajiv

About the parties that are not partners of the AL led alliance, he says, “The leftists, who are not united to confront the BNP-Jamaat, are taking a suicidal path.” He also adds that staying away from the parliament has only disempowered the left in the past. “The leftists should be united to reclaim the political space occupied by the fundamentalist BNP-Jamaat alliance,” he says. In his observation, if the CPB a few other leftists had joined the AL-led grand alliance in the last parliamentary election, the left would have more representatives in the parliament.

Khan's opinion about the mainstream politics is that the capitalist political parties that represent “the petit bourgeoisie have failed to solve any of the basic problems of our country in the last 40 years. There is no reason to believe that they will be able to make any fundamental changes in the future.”

In a similar vein, Khalequzzaman, general secretary of Bangladesh Socialist Party says, “The deplorable condition of bourgeoisie nationalist and religious fundamentalist politics in Bangladesh shows that left politics is the only alternative”.

However, the JSD leader has different hopes about the future of left politics, “if the BNP-Jamaat is defeated in the next election, the leftists of the country will have good prospects to become an alternative political force.”

He thinks presently the AL led grand alliance is trying to save politics and the constitution from religious fundamentalists and military intervention. If they succeed, the leftists will be able to become an alternative political force.”

The difference in setting the agenda for future politics is clearly perceptible among the leftist parties. The CPB, according to Khan, looks forward to a large alliance of the leftist parties that will become an alternative to the dominant political parties.

According to him, “The alliance of democratic leftists will have to go to power first. Then it will be able to take steps to solve the major economic, social and political crises that prevail upon the nation.” However, he acknowledges that the prospects for a larger leftist alliance at present are not very good, because all of the leftist parties have not reached a consensus yet.

On national issues, the leftist political parties have rarely, if ever, succeeded in forming a lasting alliance. Asked for his comments, Khan says that many of the leftists are terribly narrow-minded and have a very simplified understanding of the political situation and an equally simplified understanding of correlation or balance of force.

However, Inu has different opinions about the left camp's failure to be an alternative political force. “The repeated military interventions have harmed the left and secular forces the most,” he says, “The political space occupied by the religious fundamentalists have further marginalised the leftists in the political sphere.”

Workers' Party of Bangladesh President Rashed Khan Menon, on the other hand, says, “The leftist movement was considerably weakened after the political polarisation in the 90s.” He adds that indiscriminate privatisation of the industries and implementation of free-market economic policies made many farmers landless and many industrial workers unemployed. These devastating blows on the lives of the working class didn't fail to affect communist movement in the country.

The many strands of the left have never succeeded in forming a sustained collective movement.
Photo: Star File

On a different note, Inu says, “Before the military coup of August 15, 1975, the leftists were the only alternative to Awami League. But after the coup, the military bureaucracy and the religious fundamentalists became a major force in the country's politics, wiping the existence of the left from the political sphere.

Talking about the future of the left in Bangladesh, Khalequzzaman says that the recent events of world history are an opportunity for them. “Not only in Bangladesh, a new horizon of potentials has been opened for left politics around the world. It is clearly manifested in the recent movements of Occupy Wall Street and 99% versus 1% in USA.”

Menon also sees the ongoing popular struggles and movements as opportunities for the left. “The farmers' and workers' movements, especially the agitation of readymade garments workers have significant potentials for the left.” The closure of Adamjee Jute Mills made thousands of workers lose their jobs. But jute mill workers still organise demonstrations, forcing the government to yield to their demands.

In recent years, the people of Bangladesh saw popular uprising against corruption and mismanagement in Shanir Akhra, Phulbari and Kansat. Garment workers frequently agitate for minimum wage and other rights. These movements have taken place through the spontaneous participation of common people. People of different political persuasions participated in these movements. The left's role in these movements is significant but no sustainable political progress has been achieved through these events.

Khan holds that in order to be politically relevant in the future, the leftists should work on the current issues. “If all the leftist parties get united and organise a mass movement on the present issues, the people of the country will trust us and in turn, we will become more viable and visible in the political scenario of the country,” he says.

According to him, The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power, and Ports is an example of a successful alliance of the left.

“The leftist parties made a number of mistakes that reduced their political influence among people. However, in the communities of labourers, journalists and different socio-political organisations, the leftists still have remarkable influence,” says Inu.

Similarly, Menon observes that the younger generations of the country are becoming increasingly incredulous towards the two major political camps. Many of them are leaning towards left. He concludes that in the next 10 years, the leftists will become a major political power in Bangladesh.

About the question of building partnerships with the mainstream political parties, Khalequzzaman says, “The degree of left parties' relationship with the mainstream parties depends on the political line they take.” He thinks the strategy of the parties who decide to build the left camp as an alternative and those parties deciding to be partners of the bourgeoisie mainstream will vary on this point. However, about their participation in the election, he says: “We will try to organise a left alternative current in next election.”

It is obvious that the people of Bangladesh, the general public need a political mechanism that allows them to have a say in the government decisions that affect the lives of millions. The parliamentary elections and the right to vote are not enough to politically empower the masses. If the leftists want to be an alternative pro-people political force, they will have to contain the demands of the masses. Making a united political front is imperative to that.


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