Anatomy of the Communist Party of Bangladesh

Wednesday, 01 August 2001
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An analysis of the historical development of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, sent to us by the Bangladeshi Trotskyist organisation, Democratic Workers Party (Gonotantrik Mazdur Party).

The rewriting of history has begun. On 30 June, 2000, the CPB (Communist Party of Bangladesh) arranged a meeting in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Moni Singh's birth. During the past year a number of other events have been staged, culminating with, a meeting to mark the 101st anniversary of his birth on 27 July, 2001. Luminaries of the Dhaka political and academic world were invited, as usual, and attended in greater number than ever before. Last year the then prime minister Sheik Hasina sent a congratulatory message and this time Latifur Rahman, chief advisor of the caretaker government, sent greetings.

Moni Singh was involved with the progressive movement since its inception in the days of British colonialism, overcoming much personal suffering and state oppression to further the causes he believed in. There is much that can be said in praise of a unique personality on the left in Bangladesh. The tendency to romanticise and embellish the lives of influential men after their death is understandable in bourgeois circles, but highly dangerous for the revolutionary movement.

The meetings in honour of Moni Singh raise a serious question of political honesty. The present leadership is making great efforts to hide or whitewash his political adventures. As CPB leader, Moni Singh approved the CPB's repeated betrayals of the working class movement. Nowadays his disciples are trying to create a new history, one in which Moni Sing did not agree with the tactics carried out by his party.(1) There is no evidence, not a single historical or party document, to prove this, only the claims of his surviving comrades, whose present activities differ little from the good old days.

From 1972 to 1975 the CPB, in line with Soviet foreign policy toward the newly emerged nation, were close allies of the Awami League government under Sheik Muzib. Those years saw a vicious state-sponsored campaign of extermination against the left, especially of the pro-Chinese communist parties.

In 1973 the CPB's student wing organised a massive rally against the Vietnam War. Muzib, worried about offending the US, ordered tough measures against the protesters and two students were shot dead. People reacted to the deaths by going on the rampage in the streets of Dhaka. Some left groups called for a students' strike. Yet the very next day top CPB leaders met with Muzib and offered apologies for the turmoil and destruction of the previous day, thus pulling the plug on the strike.

If the CPB had their eyes closed while the "father of the nation" oversaw the "clean up" operation, Muzib himself was not one to shy away from taking credit for his righteous acts. When the CPB joined the government in 1975, they found themselves in the ironic position of applauding Muzib's characteristically showman-like speech virtually boasting that assassinated Purbo Bangla Shorbohara (Proletarian Party of East Bengal) leader, Siraj Sikder had been taken care of. Sikder died at the age of 30 under a hail of police bullets after allegedly escaping from custody(2). In 1971 Siraj Sikder led his party and personally fought in the resistance, while other pro-Chinese parties were largely paralysed due to the official position, which supported the Pakistani army. The Awami League and CPB leaders sat out the liberation war in India.

The CPB under Moni Singh embarked on a new "path toward socialism" in joining Muzib's BAKSAL(3) government. BAKSAL - an unholy alliance of the Awami League(4), National Awami Party(5) and CPB, with all other parties outlawed and thousands of activists imprisoned - was a reckless experiment, advocated by the Kremlin and carried out just as unsuccessfully here as in Chile and elsewhere. Hailed as an attempt at creating socialism through parliament, the short-lived BAKSAL system was in reality a dictatorship of the petit bourgeois, which confirmed the bankruptcy of the idea. It took only a few months for the army to move against the "third way-ists".

The CPB subsequently also lined up behind the dictatorship of General Ziaur Rahman(6), supporting his bid to win public approval by referendum and his early "action programs" such as canal digging. In a CPB audience with the dictator, Moni Singh expressed the idea that the army in third world could play a progressive role(7). This kind of flattery, however, did not stop the army general from eventually putting leading CPB members, including Moni Singh, behind bars, perhaps as evidence of his progressive ideas in commanding a capitalist state. Apart from having no qualms about hobnobbing with the most reactionary wing of the bourgeoisie, the CPB ventured so far from its Marxist roots as to imagine that the army, one of the repressive pillars of the bourgeois state, has the potential to work on the side of the masses. The CPB were apparently not aware of what had recently happened in Chile, and somewhat earlier in Indonesia.

The present leadership has suddenly, but subtly, begun putting a new angle on the story. Moni Singh, they say, never agreed with these mistaken ideas. They claim he steered the CPB into Muzib's ruling alliance - to the point of dissolving the party - and co-operated with Ziaur Rahman to maintain party discipline. The aim is clearly to make the CPB's betrayals eventually disappear, first by absolving the esteemed former leader from responsibility or intent. The new truth is allowed to spread through newspaper tributes and the like.

What kind of revolutionary subordinates principles to discipline? What kind of leader does not stand up for the revolutionary position, even if it puts him in the minority? When almost without exception every member of their party took the side of their own bourgeoisie and voted in the German parliament for war credits, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht took the internationlist stance and voted against. The result was a split in the party, but a principled split, which went on to become the dominant force after the victory of the Bolsheviks.

In 1917 Lenin returned to Russia with his April Theses to find himself in a minority on the central committee. The new ideas he expressed - abandoning the long-held conception of two distinct stages of revolution, which meant not supporting the bourgeois government and calling for the working class to seize state power - were unacceptable to his fellow leaders. Saying they would all end up as antiques in the Bolshevik museum, Lenin strategically turned to the masses for support of his line. In the 1918 Brest-Litovsk peace negotiations with Germany, Lenin again was outnumbered on the central committee. In the first instance Lenin's determined defence of his ideas brought about the revolution, and in the second it saved the Soviet Union.

Revolutionaries should make use of party democracy to defend the class position. If party democracy exists then the handful of members on the central committee can't decide to dissolve the party. The CPB is not the only left party in the world to have shown an eagerness to collaborate with the bosses in the name of "National Democratic Revolution" or "Peoples Democratic Revolution" though this tactic has always spelt doom for the masses. From Indonesia to Bangladesh, wherever the left made alliances with the bosses, the second stage was never reached. In countries with a belated bourgeois development, especially the semi-colonial countries, the bourgeoisie no longer has a progressive role to play. Achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the working class coming to power not through an alliance with the bosses' class. In the early 1920s a debate on two-stage revolution emerged in the Soviet party. The "Old Bolsheviks" defended the "two stage revolution" theory, which Lenin had abandoned before the October revolution. In the 1920s, in China the Comintern advocated such way of revolution. The bosses slaughtered thousands of communist workers. In Indonesia, something similar happened. Moni Singh's family lived on the banks of the Shushong river, which flows from the Garo Hills. Though born with a silver spoon in his mouth, in a zamindar family, he became politically conscious at a young age, rebelling against the social injustice he saw in the Hindu caste system. Later he joined the Communist Party of India. His spirit of determination to break the chains binding society - be it those of the colonial era or the new chains created by globalisation - will always be an inspiring example to us. After the creation of Pakistan and India, a huge number of communists were forced to leave East Pakistan (East Bengal), which created a huge vacuum in the left movement. However Moni Singh and a few others remained bravely to carry the red flag in East Bengal. Perhaps it is the greatest thing for which Moni Singh can be given credit.

The period Moni Singh was active in the CPI was one of revolution and counter-revolution. In those years debates were raging within the Soviet party on the questions of workers' democracy, the influence of the bureaucracy on the party and the state, world revolution and the programme of the Communist International. On one side were the Bolshevik-Leninists, including Trotsky, who wanted to uphold the red flag of revolution and on the other Stalin and his bureaucratic disciples. The debates going on in the Soviet party and the international communist movement did not take root in the CPI. The limited debates that did enter the party were coloured by the Stalinist leadership before reaching the members. M.N.Roy(8) played a crucial part in the distortion of Bolshevik-Leninism in favour of Stalinism. Moni Singh agreed with the latter. In this way a man who embodied the promise of a great revolutionary was stopped in his tracks.

Moni Singh's adherence to the Stalinist camp - that is, the politics of class collaboration - influenced him throughout his political career. He never succeeded in breaking from these ideas. Moni Singh and his co-thinkers in the CPI tailed British imperialism during the Second World War, as the Stalinist parties world-wide lined up with their own ruling classes following the policy of working with "democratic" imperialism. This was contrary to the ideas of Lenin, Luxemburg, Liebknecht, Trotsky and others, expressed on the eve of the First World war in the slogans "The main enemy is at home", "Turn your guns on your own ruling class" and "Not a single penny, not a person for the imperialist war". The CPI supported the creation of a division of British India on the basis of religion. Later, under Moni Singh, the CPB was seduced by Sheik Mujib's socialist rhetoric and the progressive ideas of Ziaur Rahman.

Moni Singh sowed the seeds of revolt against national oppression among the Garo and Hazon(9) minorities. He initiated the organised resistance of these groups, who had suffered for centuries at the hands of the zamindar class. Moni Singh is an example of strength and determination to carry on the struggle despite his family's fury and state persecution. In contrast, the left today plays a shameful role in avoiding the fight for minority rights. The Left Democratic Front(10), including the CPB, today advocates the progressive role of Bengali nationalism(11). In Bangladesh the national minorities are on the verge of destruction. Since independence, the non-Bengali peoples of Chitagong Hill track have been living under army siege. The LDF's voice is not strong as it should be. When a party or a front promotes a specific nationalism that means the door is closed to the other nations. It is ironic that the LDF's teachings are quite the opposite of Lenin's. For a revolutionary party, in any really serious and profound political issue, sides are taken according to class not nationality. Marxism cannot be reconciled with even the "most just" or the "purest" and most refined and civilised brand of nationalism. In the place of all forms of nationalism Marxism advances internationalism.

After the independence of Bangladesh, the CPB under Moni Singh made a deviation to the right. The party became apologists for the Awami League's policies and actions, including the killing and imprisonment of thousands of left-wing activists. In 1975 the CPB dissolved itself to become part of BAKSAL and then worked in parallel with Ziaur Rahman. In the 1980s a new CPB leadership produced a thesis to justify the party's participation in elections under martial law. The CPB abandoned its traditional hammer symbol and instead used the AL's symbol on campaign posters and ballot papers. In a graphic example of the Marxist teaching that communists who deny their identity lose their place in the class struggle, all successful CPB candidates promptly defected to the bourgeois camp.

Evaluating Moni Singh's role in politics, these incidents in the party's history must be kept in mind. To cast him in the role of great left-wing hero solely on the basis of his acknowledged personal sacrifices, and by ignoring his actions on the political stage, is wrong. Moni Singh's personal example is a worthy one to follow, but it is dangerous to emulate the class collaborationist tactics he practised. His political mistakes caused much harm to working class politics in this country. The damage to the movement is yet to be repaired. A true evaluation of Moni Singh's politics can only benefit the left.

In the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a handful of CPB followers joined the AL. Others left to form a new party with Dr Kamal, who was the chief architect of the AL's murderous backlash against the left during 1972-5 as minister responsible for the Special Powers Act. In recent times Dr Kamal has transformed himself into a democrat, becoming a fixture on the left through his party's involvement in the popular front(11) Party Alliance. Those remaining in the CPB continue to use revolutionary propaganda, but the party's actions betray a readiness to accommodate to the ruling party. The major left parties, including the CPB, have met Sheikh Hasina's government (1996-2001) many times in the last five years. The CPB has also joined the AL's chorus to demand the death penalty for the army officers who killed Sheikh Mujib, the first prime minister of the nation. The CPB is demanding the execution of Mujib's killer. What is the CPB's intention in calling for the execution of Sheikh Mujib's killers? Is the party trying to influence the existing bourgeois courts? Revolutionary Marxists demand not only the trial of Sheikh Mujib's killers, but also those of Shiraz Shikdar, Moniruzzaman Tara(12), Abu Thaher(13) and other left leaders, as well as the full disclosure of the documents relating to their imprisonment and deaths. Revolutionary Marxists do not believe in the justice of the bourgeois legal system. The police, army, bureaucracy and judiciary are the main pillars of the oppressive bourgeois state: the bourgeoisie will not allow the pillars of their state to be brought to trial. Justice will only be possible when the working class seizes the power and opens up all the secret documents of the bourgeois state. The CPB's slogan of bringing the killers of Sheikh Mujib to justice serves to strengthen ties with the ruling party. It was in this vein that Sheikh Hasina was invited to the 100th anniversary celebrations of Moni Singh's birth, and why one of her ministers, Motia Chodhuri, was the main speaker at another event in Moni Singh's memory.

The CPB and other Stalinist parties have often declared their determination to carry the red flag. For the Stalinist party it is impossible continue the revolutionary tradition: in words and deeds they are revisionists, placing faith in the bourgeoisie. The Prime Minister's blessing for Moni Singh's birth anniversary meeting is not an isolated incident. It represents the historical bankruptcy of Stalinism. After the death of Lenin, Stalin made a virtue of collaborating with the international bourgeoisie. Stalin's ally Chiang Kai Shek was made an honorary member of the Comintern with only Trotsky opposing. The honorary member went on to order the massacre of the Shanghai Commune in 1927. The French CP missed the chance for revolution in 1936 when it formed a popular front government according to Comintern policy. And in Germany the CP acted shamefully in refusing to join the united front with the Social Democrats against Hitler. During the Second World War Stalin became the friend of "democratic imperialism" resulting in Stalinist parties around the world collaborating with their own ruling class. In the case of India, the CP was rewarded for supporting their colonial masters, the British. The class-conscious rank and file of the Stalinist parties should revolt against the class collaborationist leadership! Rise up in defence of the revolutionary heritage of Lenin and Trotsky! Forge a Leninist party!

11 August 2001
Democratic Workers Party, (Gonotantrik Mazdur Party).
(Gonotantrik Mazdur Party).
GPO BOX-2473,
DHAKA-1000,
Bangladesh

Footnotes
(1) Daily Janakontho, 28th July, 2001. An article written by Shontosh Guptha'a former CPB member, who was one of the delegates of the CPB who met army dictator Ziaur Rahman along with Moni Shing.
(2) Purbo Bangla Shorbohara (Proletarian Party of East Bengal) was formed in 1969 and played a heroic role in the Liberation war in 1971. After Siraj Sikder's assassination in 1975 the party split into two fractions. Later on both fractions split many times. Still the party is mainly active in the underground. One fraction adopted the Enver Hoxa line; others are loyal to various versions of Mao's protected guerrilla war. One fraction is associated with the Maoist Revolutionary International Movement-RIM based in London. The PBS has a vicious history of killing of their won comrades in inner party struggle.
(3) BAKSAL - Bangladesh Krishok Sromik Awami League (Bangladesh Peasants and Workers Awami League), a ruling alliance formed in 1975 comprising Awami League, National Awami party and CPB. The BAKSAL government banned all other political parties, claiming their policies, the so-called BAKSAL system, was the way to build socialism. All newspapers except for four state run papers were banned.
(4) Bangladesh Awami League (AL) is one of the big bourgeois parties which led the liberation war with the help of Indian bosses. AL was in power in 1972-75 and 1996-2000. In 1975 the AL leader along with his family and relatives were killed during an army coup.
(5) National Awami Party - NAP - was formed in 1957 after a left wing split from the Awami League over the question of supporting Americas foreign polices. The NAP split in 1965 over the Moscow-Peking conflict. NAP(Bhashani) was a shelter organisation for pro-Chinese communist parties and NAP(Mozaffor) was for the CPB, pro-Moscow party.
(6) General Ziaur Rahman. An army dictator; ruled Bangladesh 1975-1981; assassinated by a failed Army coup. Founder of Bangladesh Nationalist Party-BNP, a bosses' party, was in power in 1976-1982 and 1991-1996. Presently led by Khaleda Zia, widow of General Zia.
(7) Daily Janakontho, 28th July, 2001. An article written by Shontosh Guptha,
(8) M.N. Roy - The founder member of the Indian CP; sided with Stalin; later on became a humanist.
(9) Garo and Hazon - Minority groups originally living at the feet of the Garo hills in Assam, India. Later they moved into various parts of Mimenshing district of Bangladesh. Together with other 15 non-Bengali minority national groups they have no state recognition.
(10) Left Democratic Front - The LDF is a popular front comprising ten different Stalinist parties.
(11) Left Democratic Front declaration in Bengali, Page 1, published 1994.
(12) Moniruzzaman Tara, was the secretary of Purbo Bangla Communist Party(M-L)[Communist Party of East BengalM-L] which was formed after the Naxalite movements started in West Bengal and elsewhere in India. Moniruzzaman Tara was arrested in Dhaka in early 1975. He was taken from jail and his dead body was found in a graveyard in Sirajgonj District on 22 May 1975.
(13) Abu Thehar a retired Army officer, who played a heroic role in the 1971 war. Came up with ideas to form a people's army. Mozib government and army bosses rejected his ideas. He joined Jatio Samajtantrik Dal-JSD, a left-wing split from the Awami League, recruited solders for a socialist revolution under JSD. They led a "soldier-people" uprising (coup) on 7th November 1975 and handed over the power to General Ziaur Rahman. Later General Zia hanged him for the violation of army discipline in 1976.