25 Jan 2012

The question of the Bengali nation (3): West Bengal and Bangladesh

Submitted by Anonyme (non vérifié)

In 1947, India became independent, but of course it was not possible for the bourgeois elements in Eastern Bengal to struggle against India for open ties with West Bengal; anyway the West Bengal (Hindu) bourgeoisie thought – because of its own strength - that it would be more interesting to be a part of India.

Therefore, East Bengal ran into the hands of “Pakistan”, becoming “west” Pakistan. West and East Pakistan were 1,600 kilometers away, there was no real economical, psychological and cultural ties between West and East Pakistan.

But it was a practical option to, at least, having what seemed an independent Bengal. “East Pakistan” was a way to free Bengal from “Hinduist” India. Pakistan was seen as a return to the era of the Mughal.

Basically, it is easy to see that the choice of Pakistan was indeed not a religious definition, but a national one. A proof for this was the taking of the song Amar Shonar Bangla (“My Golden bengal”) written by Rabindranath Tagore as a national anthem.

We have here amazing elements: first of all, it meant that East Pakistan understood itself as the real Bengal.

In the same way, we have to see that India took also a song of Tagore as a national anthem – this can not be by chance and was clearly connected to the Western Bengal question, that India wanted to keep at any price.

And, finally, we have to see a strange fact: Amar Shonar Bangla was originally written against the 1905 partition, that the Eastern Bengal Muslim leaders accepted. It should have been not logic to choose this song – unless we understand that the goal was a unified Bengal, separated from India.

East Bengal becoming East Pakistan

When East Bengal joined Pakistan, the hope was that the country would be ruled in a manner that would permit the East Bengal bourgeoisie to develop. For the bourgeoisie that adopted Islam as an identity, this should have be a logical consequence.

But the Islam was not the one of Bengal historically; it was a construction of imperialism, theorized by Indian students in England, inventing a “Pakistan” like Zionists invented the “state of Israel”. It has nothing to do with an idealized “return to the Mughal” conception.

It was an illusion to think that the Pakistani state would be a development in terms of history. And the situation became soon terrible.

Pakistan had 69 millions of people, 44 millions being in East Pakistan. But West Pakistan had a total hegemony: it had the Federal Capital, the Military Command, the Supreme Court of justice....

Since the beginning, priority was given to West Pakistan that had the ¾ of the development founds. East Pakistan was producing most of the export (jute, tea...), but had only ¼ of the earning.

And the situation was not only unbearable for East Pakistan. Pakistan was born as a British semi-colony, and it became more and more a US semi-colony.

The masses, in the general world revolutionary atmosphere, began to protest through the students in 1968, followed afterwards by the peasants and the workers, in a common front against the military dictatorship.

A rural intellectual managed to unite the peasant democratic movement in Bengal: Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani. Deeply influenced by China, he even separated himself from the pro-bourgeois Awami League (Awami meaning people), to form the National Awami Party.

But Bhashani was a democrat, in a period where the democratic revolution could only be carried by the Communist Party. For this reason, he made several errors, particularly in 1970 in letting the Awami League be alone present in the elections.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, leader of the bourgeois (or better said petty bourgeois) Awami League, received a triumph, becoming for the masses the leader of the democratic struggle. 167 of the total 169 National Assembly seats in East Pakistan were so held by the Awami League.

The Awami League was certainly not ready for secession – but the masses awakened, notably by the National Awami Party, pushed to a liberation from the hegemony of West Pakistan.

Played also here an important role the cyclone of 1970, where 200 000 people died, and where the Pakistani state was not able to organize a serious relief. A this time, the Pakistani official army – where officers were mostly from West Pakistan – began to be considered by the broad masses as an occupation army.

Because of this, on March 25 in 1971, the Pakistani army made an intervention, that became a true genocide.

The goal of the Pakistani army was to crush all Bengali speaking intellectuals, to rape as much women as possible (around 200 000), to kill as many Hindus as possible. The Bengali language and the Hindus were considered as an obstacle to the Islamic unification, and therefore, as targets.

But this was not only a tactic from the Pakistani army. It was conform to the ideology of a part of the Bengal petty bourgeoisie.

Therefore, the party Jamaat-e-Islami helped in the massacres, as volunteers (the “Razakars”) and the build up of militias - Al-Badar and Al-Shams. This fraction of eastern Bengal transformed therefore itself in a bureaucratic bourgeoisie serving the Pakistani interests.

The results of this process was three millions of deaths.

The birth of Bangladesh

The mass uprising, the general strike, the generalized armed struggle permitted to defeat the Pakistani offensive.

But the total defeat of Pakistan would have also meant the defeat of India. India could not accept an independent Bangladesh, that would mean the loss of West Bengal at middle term.

This was especially clear as workers and peasants councils spread in all the country, a people's war being also initiated by different organizations, especially the Purba Bangla Sarbohara Party (Proletarian Party of East Bengal) led by Siraj Sikder.

Peter Hazlehurst of the Times commented then: “Red Bengal would alarm Delhi even more than Islamabad.” It is to note that the french philosopher Bernard Henri Lévy, publishing his first work about the Indian and Bangladesh question, did not understand this process and thought that the people's war initiated had not as an objective the Democratic Revolution in Bengal, promoting so pessimism and confusion.

Because of the situation, the Indian army began an offensive against Pakistan and organized since the beginning at large scale the “Mukti Bahini” i.e. the “liberation army” under control of the Awami League. The goal was the formation of a eastern Bengal, under control of India and its master, the Russian social-imperialism.

The situation was very complicated for the revolutionaries. They had to fight against Indian expansionism and Pakistani colonialism, but also against the feudal forces. And the US imperialism and the Russian social-imperialism were backing some fractions to transform them in a bureaucratic bourgeoisie.

The massive intervention of India brought a lot of tactical problems, as the main enemy changed in such a quick manner. That permitted the formation of Bangladesh, under Indian control. The leader of the Awami League, Sheikh Mujib, became the first minister and then the president.

Representing the pro-India and pro-social-imperialist USSR bureaucrat bourgeoisie, Sheikh Mujib began to give the same ideological orientation. He put forward, as fundamental principles, “nationalism, secularism, democracy and socialism."

He made that only one party was tolerated in the country, the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League-BAKSAL, and put himself as president for life.

This was of course unacceptable by the masses, and it was used by the imperialists. After the famine from 1974, that killed 1,5 millions of people, US imperialism pushed to a military coup d'Etat, on August 15 in 1975.

The leader became army officer Ziaur Rahman, who established a political party expressing the interests of US imperialism and the bureaucratic bourgeoisie submitted to it : the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Ziaur Rahman made a policy that was the opposite of the one before; the state made privatizations; Islam was given a national role; Golam Azad, exiled chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, was authorized to come back in July 1978 with a Pakistani Passport and could stay even after the expiry of the Visa, etc.

Ziaur Rahman suffered some different coup d'Etat, that all failed, even if he was killed in the one of 1981. His successor, Lieutenant General Hussain Muhammad Ershad, followed his policy but formed his own political party, the Jatiya Party.

Ruling in a autocratic way, Ershad paved the way for a “democratic” Bangladesh – a “democracy” under control of the two fractions of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie.

Awami League and BNP domination

Under Ershad's rule – that served like a Bonaparte in a situation of crisis – the Awami League and the BNP reorganized themselves.

Zia's widow Khaleda Zia became the leader of the BNP; it was (and is) a pro-American force, it formed the 7-party alliance.

On the other side, the Awami League was led by Mujib's daughter Sheikh Hasina; it was (and is) a pro-Indo-Soviet force, forming historically the 15-party alliance.

The BNP and the Awami League united against the martial law of Ershad. They allied also with the Jamaat-e-Islami, and a “Democratic League (DL)” that was also pro-US.

In 1987, the Awami League boycotted the elections, in 1988, it was joined in its boycott by the BNP. The general pressure against him – from the bureaucratic fractions but also from the masses, where the revolutionaries were playing an significant role – brought Ershad to resign, in 1990. His political party became then an ally of the Awami League.

Since 1990, the BNP and the Awami League are so the main institutional political parties, representing the two main bureaucratic bourgeois trends, along with the Jamaat-e-Islami.

In 1991, both parties were kind of equal; then, the BNP won in 1996, the Awami League in another election in 1996, the BNP winning again in 2001, the Awami League again in 2008.

From 1991 to 1996, Khaleda Zia was the prime minister, then Sheikh Hasina dominated from 1996 to 2001, Khaleda Zia coming back from 2001 to 2006, and after a transition government in an unstable situation with even a emergency law, Sheikh Hasina came back in 2009

Bangladesh: oppressed country

To understand the situation of today, let's take a look at what it is possible to read on a website against the war criminals from 1971:

“In 1971, two supreme power US and China were with them. But Allah was with unarmed Bangali. So we won the war. Though we lost our beloved ones but we got our desired Bangladesh.”

What is here written helps a lot to understand the illusion that prevails in a lot of sectors of the masses.

Because it was not “Allah” but the Indian army that gave weapons and fought against the Pakistani army on one side, the masses that armed themselves on the other, with a strong communist influence.

But because of the weakness of the communist avant-garde, Bangladesh, at its foundation, became a puppet of India and the social-imperialist USSR. This gave strength again to the “return to the Mughal” ideology, that was again used by the pro-US bureaucratic bourgeoisie. And it permitted to the ex-Razakars to “justify” themselves.

We have here an ideological key. Bangladesh was born as a country on a genocide of 3 millions of people which only fault was to be Bengali and this new nation was not able until yet to preserve their memory and punish the criminals.

How is it possible?

It is because the religious aspect is so strong that even just after the 1971 independence, the new state of Bangladesh was not able to repress the razakars, that helped the Pakistani army in its massacres. Even Mujib used Islam as an ideology weapon.

And more and more Bangladesh knows a greater influence of Islam. In June 1988, the constitution was even amended to establish Islam as the state religion, abandoning state secularism. The Awami League accepts this – because it is has absolutely no bourgeois aspect any more, it is merely bureaucratic.

This is logic: Bangladesh, rejecting a democratic path, is more and more using Islam in a abstract national-bureaucratic way, to maintain Bangladesh as it is. Even the pro-India forces need this Islam to maintain Bangladesh as it is, to be able to exist.


The option of the Maoists at the beginning of the 1970's was correct: organizing the agrarian revolution would spread like a fire in Bangladesh, in India, in Pakistan, it would unify the masses that have already a lot of cultural connections. And it would permit to oppose both pro-US and pro-USSR forces.

But Bangladesh has now more and more a bureaucratic capitalism organized from the top, with thousand of factories where even great rebellions are organized. It is not possible to negate this evolution.

The country turns or turned, like a lot of countries, in a semi-colonial semi-bureaucratic capitalist country, with massive semi-feudal elements on the cultural and ideological levels. There is even one unified ideological system to justify the state: an Islam influenced by a “return to the Mughal” romanticism.

Bangladesh: unfinished nation of Bengal

Nevertheless, this state ideology, more and more influenced by Islam, has a very weak basis. It is not conform to the national basis. The new democratic revolution raises this flag, to unify the masses against those who invents fake principles to maintain their domination.

But the main revolutionary question is: where is the main support of the new democratic revolution?

Yesterday, it would have been mainly the agrarian revolution. Today, as the nation has advanced but on a erroneous way, it is must be still the democratic aspect, but on a popular basis. The struggle against fascism and fascist forces have indeed been really strong since 1971.

And certainly, the question of the Bengali culture plays a central role. A democratic revolution carries an universal aspect, and as there is a neighbor really near on the cultural level – West Bengal – the question of the democratic revolution carries again the question of the Bengali nation.

It is not only that socialism unifies peoples; it is also that a federation of both Bengal has an ideological democratic value. Both West and East have lived experiences of submission to forms that did not permit their development. They need to find another way – their democratic meeting, in a way or another, is unavoidable.