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 (UML) General Secretary Madhav Nepal, General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Bangladesh Saiful Huq, Assistant National Secretary of the 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 filled to 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. 

Interview with Sue Bolton

[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.]

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 W Australia) in mid-June 2005, including one historic strike. For the first time in along 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 to 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 JNU Union President and he described how all students on admission pay a fee that makes them all automatically members of the Student Union. 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. 

Interview with Saiful Huq

[Comrade Saiful Huq, General Secretary of the Workers Party of Bangladesh, attended the entire Congress along with a delegation comprising Nasiruddin Ahmed Nasu (PB Member), Abdus Salam, (PB Member), Bahnishikha Jamali (CC 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.]

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, a 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 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 the 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. Q

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