Tinderbox of Purba
Amir Ali (a leading cadre of the Purba Banglar Sharbohara Party
(PBSP -- Proletarian Party of Purba Bangla) and Taheruddin Ahmed
(a revolutionary activist who upholds the Declaration of the
Revolutionary Internationalist Movement).
general in Purba Bangla [the historical name of the land is Purba
Bangla -- in 1971 the Indian puppet government of Sheikh Mujib named
it Bangladesh, a name that carries an unacceptable political content]
who captures state power through a military coup d'état projects
himself as a great advocate and saviour of democracy right from
the beginning. These enemies of democracy shed oceans of tears for
the democracy that they themselves kill. How should this phenomenon
be explained? Should it be attributed to a freak of history -- or
to the high political consciousness of the people of Purba Bangla?
Whenever the ruling classes of Purba Bangla and their foreign masters
find their interests threatened they resort to open fascism -- civil
or military -- as was seen during the rule of Sheikh Mujib or General
Ziaur Rahman, or as is seen today under General Ershad, the current
ruler of Purba Bangla. No sooner had Ershad overthrown the previous
US puppet than he began to chant full-throated slogans about restoring
democracy -- more so even than any democrat.
is a phenomenon typical of Purba Bangla and most Third World countries:
the ruling classes try to create and maintain a democratic image
of themselves, but the necessity of their class interests invariably
compels them to shatter that fake democratic cloak and resort to
barefaced tyranny -- and then these chameleons, faced with the peoples'
movements, turn right around and once again try to put a halo of
democracy over their heads. But whatever form their rule takes,
it is always as autocratic as it is dictatorial.
people of Purba Bangla are historically dead against all sorts of
autocratic rule, and especially military dictatorship. The history
of the people of our country proves this, from the period when Purba
Bangla was a province of Pakistan, and the people rose against the
dictatorships of Generals Ayub Khan and Yaha Khan, up to the present.
This is why the shrewd fox General Ershad portrayed himself as a
democrat. But as the saying goes, you can't fool all the people
all the time, and from the very day Ershad seized power in 1982
he has faced staunch mass resistance from workers, students, intellectuals
and other political forces. The three subsequent years have been
filled with such struggles.
OF THE ANTI-MARTIAL LAW STRUGGLES
is a continuous process where the past has its own past. Even before
the current military junta took power, there were definite signs
that martial law was at the doorstep.
this, the last military dictator, General Ziaur Rahman, who had
turned-in his khaki khurta (army dress) for civilian clothes,
was assassinated in a military coup d'état. His vice-president,
Abdus Sattar, then arranged his own election to the presidency.
But even during Sattar's rule, General Ershad -- in violation of
their Constitution -- busily lectured the army on the role of the
army in nation-building'. The Sattar government, heavily dependent
on the army, did not or could not take any action against this.
was thus evident that military rule was in the offing -- and the
Purba Banglar Sharbohara Party (the Proletarian Party of Purba Bangla
-- PBSP) alerted the people to the danger. Soon afterwards, Ershad
toppled Sattar, and the new junta immediately suspended the Constitution
and banned all political activities, making the slightest criticism
of their rule a punishable offence.
another burden of military fascism came down on the backs of the
people of Purba Bangla.
should be mentioned here that US hegemony over Purba Bangla was
re-established through an earlier military coup in 1975, and has
been maintained since then. The Ershad government is a puppet of
US imperialism; Purba Bangla is a neo-colony of the US imperialists,
and they are, together with their puppet Ershad, the principal enemy
of the people of Purba Bangla at this time.
immediately declared his devotion to democracy in his first radio
speech -- and just as quickly he was met with protests. Though these
were confined to the university campuses at Dhaka, the capital,
and at Rajshahi University, they carry immense political importance,
for they were the first courageous incidents of openly trampling
on martial law, and they served as the spark for later resistance.
These incidents created the atmosphere for the formation of the
Student Action Committee (SAC).
while the students bravely protested, the big political organisations
sat idle. The pro-American and pro-Indo-Soviet political forces
-- though they have hundreds of contradictions with each other --
form part of the same ruling class as Ershad. Thus, the capture
of power by Ershad, while it threatened their group interests, did
not menace their class interests. And so they sat with folded hands.
It was as if Ershad and these forces were performing the same function
from different sides: Ershad banned political activity, while these
oppositionists implemented his ban. It is aptly noted that birds
of a feather flock together.
a few days after Ershad's seizure of power, the PBSP put anti-martial
law posters up at Dhaka University and circulated a leaflet exposing
him and putting forward three points as a minimum basis for a unified
anti-martial law movement: 1) immediate withdrawal of martial law,
2) immediate and unconditional release of all political activists
behind bars, and 3) abrogation of all black (repressive) laws. Beforehand,
when the initial signs of an imminent coup had just surfaced, PBSP
had suggested what should be done in the probable new situation.
This laid the basis for the protests immediately after the military
student movement continued to develop. A coalition of 14 student
groups prepared to observe the twentieth anniversary of the day
in September 1962 when a number of valiant sons of the soil sacrificed
their lives in the fight against the Pakistani government. The day
before the anniversary, three radical student leaders, including
Shiblee Kayum, were arrested for pasting up anti-martial law posters.
After a twenty-minute hearing they were sentenced to seven years
of rigorous imprisonment. The government followed this shortly afterwards
with the announcement of a new, highly reactionary educational policy,
which was rejected by the conscious students and intellectuals.
So-called opposition leaders maintained almost complete silence.
Only PBSP countered with an outline of a national democratic educational
students at Dhaka University launched another procession; the government
countered with a police attack, including on professors. When the
students called a strike, the government closed the campus for three
days. All this activated the students even more. Working people
and industrial labourers began to join them. On 11 January 1983,
the students called for a procession and sitting strike in front
of the Ministry of Education. It was the first time the students
left the campus and took to the city streets.
by this, Ershad proposed a dialogue with the students. The students
responded with three demands: annulment of the proposed educational
policy, a democratic atmosphere in the educational institutions,
and the release of the three imprisoned student leaders.
PBSP wholeheartedly supported the students' programme of openly
violating martial law. Meanwhile the reactionary political groupings
peeped out of their dark lairs and preached to the students to not
violate martial law; under the pretext of awaiting the completion
of preparations for country-wide actions. The opportunist section
of the student leadership bowed in imbecile obedience to their respective
mother organisations. They modified their programmes so as not
to violate martial law -- but no one could say they had abandoned
the movement! In fury, militant students chased out these leaders
and dismantled their office.
thing to be noted here is that so long as the student movement followed
their own course the anti-martial law movement was gaining strength.
But as soon as the reactionary mother organisations gained control,
they lost their militancy. This was also confirmed by later developments.
11 January, the date of the sitting strike at the Ministry of Education,
was another day -- a day of rightful revolt against the opportunist
leaders. It was particularly marked by the growing participation
of non-student outsiders in the activity, proving that the common
people were moving to fight against military fascism. The student
leadership, worried by its own isolation from the masses during
these activities, tried to regain the initiative by calling for
another action in mid-February if the government didn't heed their
demands. Which the government did not -- what it did instead was
call out riot cars and tear gas on the February procession, and
finally police opened fire on the processionists, killing a great
number of people on the spot and wounding many more. Curfew was
clamped down, the University closed, and the students ordered to
the January demonstration, thousands of common people participated
in this procession too, including in fighting the police. Worried
about the militancy of the students and common people, 15 pro-Indo-Soviet
political parties, which up until that point had played no active
part in the anti-martial law movement, came forward to contain the
rising movement. The next day the government again beat up hundreds
of students, and arrested thousands and thousands. Many people were
to this point the student movement had played a positive role, with
the events in February being the high point. But the students alone
could carry the movement no further. Henceforth the reins of the
movement were increasingly in the hands of the I5-party alliance
that had been formed, led especially by the pro-Indo-Soviet Awami
League (AL) and by the Communist Party of Bangladesh, the direct
agent of the Soviet Union. This was reflected in the programme the
Student Action Committee (SAC) adopted. While containing some legitimate
democratic demands, it also called for restoring the 1972 reactionary
1972 constitution, while serving all Five Enemies of the people
of Purba Bangla -- US imperialism, Soviet social-imperialism, Indian
expansionism, bureaucratic comprador capitalism and feudalism --
principally screened the Soviets and Indian expansionists. Its programme
differed from military fascism only in form, not in content. The
10-Point Charter that the SAC adopted also targeted only US imperialism
while seeking to protect Soviet social-imperialism and Indian expansionism.
Under these conditions, revolutionary democratic and patriotic students
could not remain in SAC. They initiated their own organisations,
such as the Revolutionary Students Movement and Militant Student
student movement faced real limitations: it lacked proletarian leadership;
it was not integrated with the armed struggle and the other struggles
of the people, especially the workers and peasants; and it was not
directed towards truly national democratic ends. Despite this, the
student movement forced Ershad to propose a dialogue with the
opposition political parties. But what this dialogue amounted to
was a process of seeking a way to share power by the various contending
groups in the ruling class, while naturally keeping the key to power
in the hands of the current ruling group. This kind of parlour politics
may be suitable for the palace plotters, but the politics of the
workers and peasants is something different.
this dialogue, the government also sought to supplement its use
of force in preventing the rise of the anti-martial law movement.
And by channelling all political activity towards this parlour politics
and merely setting down a few preconditions for dialogue, the I5-party
alliance lent the government a hand. The SAC lost initiative and
became inactive. Thus, a very militant flow of stormy anti-martial
law struggle gradually subsided.
that the students and masses had paved the way with their blood,
the various political forces began to come out of the woodwork.
the one hand, this process saw a series of splits and factional
divisions, which reflected the clash of various groups and their
foreign masters now that there were prospects of taking a bite of
the cake of power. Alongside this, different alliances and combines
of political parties formed. Besides the aforementioned I5-party
alliance, there arose the 10-party combine, an anti-Indo-Soviet,
diehard pro-American grouping led by the Democratic League (DL)
of Mostaque Ahmed, a former president. This was followed shortly
by a 7-party combine, led by the pro-US BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist
though PBSP tried its best, no alliance of the true revolutionary
and patriotic forces could be formed. It is a matter of great disappointment
that in the interest of their jockeying with the military junta
the pro-Indo-Soviet and the pro-American political forces had the
judiciousness to minimize their differences and come to terms, while
the revolutionary and patriotic forces for a long time failed to
feel the urgency of uniting with other progressive forces.
of the alliances came together to call for a series of actions,
including a general strike in November 1983. On that day, workers,
students and other sections of the petit bourgeoisie responded with
great enthusiasm, coming out in far greater numbers than expected.
All the streets of Dhaka were full of slogan-chanting processions.
The people demonstrated their determination to fight the military
government to the last. Neither bullets nor death could scare them.
To suppress their fury, the bloodthirsty junta used rifles and bayonets,
killing and injuring very many and arresting innumerable people.
The government imposed a new ban on all political activities, while
also declaring a schedule of elections for the parliament, the presidency
and at the local level.
masses of people were trying to carry forward and intensify the
movement, whereas the leadership was trying to hold them back. In
their group interests those sections of the ruling classes of Purba
Bangla that are now in the opposition had to resort to movements
against the military rulers -- and they had no choice but to allow
these movements to develop somewhat in their logical direction.
But from the standpoint of their class position, they could not
allow these movements to develop to the point where they overthrow
not only the present government but the whole system, including
15-party alliance and the 7-party combine agreed upon a common charter,
which calls for an end to martial law and the restrictions on political
activity, the restoration of political rights and elections. They
are not in favour of the forcible overthrow of martial law.
They want a share of power through elections, even if held under
martial law conditions. As one Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB)
stalwart put it, referring to this common charter, The five point
movement never rejects elections, rather elections is the ultimate
end of this five point programme. (Forum, Bulletin 29 January
1985.) These alliances could not allow the anti-martial law movement
to march forward towards true democracy for the masses of people.
They were seeking to regain and re-establish their so-called
democracy, the democracy of the ruling classes the Awami League
and the BNP had enjoyed during their tenure, which is nothing more
than the dictatorial rule of the agents of imperialism and different
foreign exploiters over the masses of people. They used the movements
of the people as pressure levers in their bargaining with the junta.
Movement, compromise, again movements, compromise and retreat --
such is their logic. Whereas the logic of the people's movement
is development from lower to higher, and then to even higher stages.
this point, in November, General Ershad formed his own party, Janadal,
from a crew of fortune hunters and mercenary politicians. He had
been Chief Martial Law Administrator and now took over the office
of President of Bangladesh, thus openly taking into his own hands
all the powers that he already possessed.
year was filled with movements, killings, compromise, dialogue,
repeated strikes, the shifting of elections, and so forth.
in the year, Ershad reissued a call for dialogue. Fifty-nine parties
responded -- which only shows that in Purba Bangla too the old expression
that scoundrels choose politics as their last refuge holds true.
(There are about a hundred political parties in Purba Bangla.) After
much vacillation, the more important groups, the 15-party alliance,
the 7-party combine, and the Islamic fundamentalist group Jamat
-- 23 parties in all -- declined, pointing to continued restrictions
on political activity. Their real reason was that they had little
that time Ershad still retained the offensive position, and it was
from this position of relative advantage that he proposed dialogue,
for his own ends. These included getting tacit recognition of his
legitimacy from the opposition and generally securing his own position
by passing out a few crumbs and undermining any possibility of a
growth of the opposition. Also, in the heat of the previous movement
the opposition groups had promised publicly that they would not
participate in a dialogue under this illegal military government
-- and the masses were very much in a mood for the complete overthrow
of military rule and not at all for capitulation.
for the opposition, taking part in dialogue under these conditions
ran the risk of isolation from the masses, with little prospects
of real gain. And without the bigger groups like the Awami League
and the BNP, Ershad gained little from his initial dialogue proposal.
Thus, the reactionaries in and out of power failed to reach any
with the offer of sub-district elections Ershad hoped to entice
the opposition into a position of tacitly recognising his government.
For this very reason, the opposition parties refused to participate
in these local elections. This set the stage for the bloody course
taken by the strike on 1 March. Two days beforehand, the police
forces drove a heavy truck into a procession and killed two students
from Dhaka University. Then they let loose a reign of terror by
their hired gundas (hooligans), arresting, injuring and killing
the repression, this latest round of strikes and movements pushed
the government back to a strategically defensive position, and it
was forced to give in to some minor demands of the opposition, while
protecting the essential pillars of its power. Thus, it postponed
the local elections and, to facilitate the opposition participating
in the dialogue this time, it also released imprisoned members of
the opposition parties (and only members of these parties) and declared
an easing of restrictions on trade union and political activity.
23 parties did in fact participate in this new round of dialogue.
But now the unity between the opposition forces began to crevice,
centring on the question of which of two major constitutional arrangements
of electoral power would best benefit their own interests. The 15-party
alliance sought a return to the parliamentary system of government
of the 1972 Constitution, while the 7-party combine sought to bring
back the presidential system provided for in the subsequently suspended
constitution. Both are opposed to the people's democracy, which
must be the goal of the mass struggle. When the 7-party combine
announced that it would no longer go along with the new programme
of elections, the compromise again fell apart. That the government
and the opposition could not come to a truce was rather good for
government rescheduled elections for December. Ershad appointed
members of the Janadal party, which he had initiated, to his cabinet.
The opposition complained that such a government could not hold
neutral elections and that Ershad was drawing the Army into politics.
It announced that it would not take part in the new elections either.
The gap between the government and the opposition was as large as
of the two opposition groups prepared its own separate mass mobilisation
for mid-October, with the aim of showing their respective organisational
strength. Ershad countered by calling his own gathering first, at
which he declared that his government was non-political since his
source of power was martial law. He then showed his venomous teeth,
as he sought to instigate communal (religious) conflict.
of the mass meetings held by the opposition was immense, showing
the anti-martial law spirit of the people. The government responded
with offers of compromise. These were not the fruit of the good
wishes of Ershad, nor of the fight of the opposition. They were
the result of the immense sacrifice of the people of Purba Bangla.
They resolutely fought the military junta, even when the big parties
were inactive; and when the latter finally began to move, this was
only a green light for the masses to plunge into the movement with
boundless spirit and the force of a storm. It was this that forced
the Awami League and the BNP to join the movement, and it was this
that forced Ershad to issue his compromises.
of these forces intended to let the anti-martial law struggle develop
too far -- and the weakness of the proletariat's leadership impeded
industrial workers started movements over economic issues, but gradually
took up the anti-martial law political struggle. Their role was
vital, and even when the opposition parties sat idle at the end
of 1984, they continued to struggle, for instance, calling a 48-hour
strike, with which the opposition failed to cooperate.
so, the working class movement is still predominantly confined to
the narrow bounds of economic demands. The 23 parties continually
sought to limit their participation and, together with the government,
to silence them with the mere promise of material benefit. It should
be noted that most of the big labour organisations are fronts for
the opposition parties. In sum, the conscious proletarian movement
in Purba Bangla is just starting, and that is why it is still very
for the peasants, neither of the big oppositional groupings has
any strength and influence among them. Thus the peasants played
little role in this movement. Only PBSP tried to mobilise the peasants
in the anti-martial law movement.
the urban areas generally PBSP actively integrated and co-ordinated
the anti-martial law movement with the armed struggle in the countryside
and other movements of the peasants. It mobilised peasants and other
rural people in the anti-election movement. Owing to these activities
of the PBSP, rural people in some areas rejected the election politics
and did not go to the polling centres. In some places, they dismantled
the polling booths and burnt them to ashes. By late 1983 and early
1984 in some of the mass base areas of the party armed struggles
and other peasant movements had gained real momentum, and large
numbers of people gathered under the party's banner. A process of
disintegration of the reactionary local power and the establishment
of people's power began. The further development of these activities
by PBSP frightened the reactionaries, and to nip PBSP in the bud
they sent heavily armed repressive expeditions against the rural
masses. The 23 parties never protested this mass repression. Rather,
they supported the government, at least indirectly. For all these
reasons, PBSP fell into a disadvantageous position after mid-1984.
now, however, the party has once more begun to overcome the difficulties.
PBSP has played a vital role in the anti-martial law movement, exerting
influence on it; reactionaries cannot but count PBSP as a growing
than the PBSP a few other organisations like Bangladesher Sharbohara
Party (BSP) and Purba Banglar Communist Party/Marxist-Leninist (PBCP/ML)
are more or less conducting armed struggle in rural areas. Though
they have wrong attitudes towards the anti-martial law mass movement,
their struggles no doubt are hitting the present social and state
system. (More on these groups later.)
this point, in late 1984, the 23 parties fell idle, except for preparation
for the spring parliamentary elections. After all, they had little
else they could do. The anti-martial law mass movement had gone
about as far as they could safely take it; they could hope for nothing
more from it. Their only other two alternatives were people's war
or a military coup d'etat. They cannot but oppose people's war,
from the point of view of their class interests, and they do not
have enough influence in the army for a coup. Thus, they sat idle
and readied themselves for the elections. This is how a year full
of movements and agitation came to a close.
this tranquil atmosphere without movement the year 1985 stepped
the opposition parties had indicated willingness to participate
in elections under martial law, the government began to meet some
of their election preconditions. In return, the opposition did nothing
to mobilise any movement against martial law, nothing at all. This
situation held until February 1985.
a process of unity among the revolutionary and genuinely patriotic
forces began. Though the festival was almost over, in light of future
developments such unity has much importance. This process led to
the formation of united fronts like the Revolutionary Committee
for the Observance of Ekushey (a day of martyrs), the Revolutionary
Democratic Front, and finally, Militant Students Unity, which,
despite the later retightening of martial law, continues its activity
the 23 parties were in favour of elections under martial law, they
did not dare make this decision openly. This was because of the
deep hatred of the military rulers among the masses and even among
the members of these parties. Thus, a deadlock existed, blocking
motion between the government and the opposition.
deadlock was opened up somewhat by a cold-blooded manoeuvre of the
government. On 13 February 1985, pro-government ruffians opened
fire on a peaceful student procession and killed a young student
leader from Dhaka University. Such killings at the height of huge
movements that certainly threatened the government is one thing
-- but what could explain such a killing in the tranquil atmosphere
existing then? In fact, the murder fuelled the fire among the students
and others: they burst into protest with fury unrestricted by the
admonitions of the leaders. The atmosphere was militant. The heads
of the 23 parties were once again compelled to promise they would
not take part in the elections.
seized the chance. He re-imposed the martial law regulations he
had previously eased somewhat. Once again all political activity
was declared illegal. However, this was not so upsetting to the
chiefs of the opposition. As for the heads of the AL and the BNP,
on the day Ershad reimposed martial law one of them spent the day
at a cultural show and the other at a marriage -- while no programme
came out of either group. Ershad went on to make himself President
again through a referendum, appointed more of his men from Janadal
to the government, held the long-delayed local elections and then
in mid-August 1985 floated a pro-government political front. Thus,
Ershad consolidated his positions as best he could, while the big
opposition leaders yawned lazily from their divans.
FORCES AND THEIR RESPECTIVE ROLE IN THE MOVEMENT
15-Party and 7-Party Alliances
15-party alliance is a group of pro-Indo-Soviet and pro-Chinese
revisionist political forces, with the former in the majority. It
is led by the Awami League (AL) and the Communist Party of Bangladesh
(CPB). The AL of Sheikh Hasina is a puppet of Indian expansionism
backed by Soviet social-imperialism; and the CPB is a paid agent
of the Soviets. Other prominent pro-Soviet organisations include
Jatio Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) and Bangladesh Krishak Shramik Awami
League (BAKSAL), while the rest are generally petit bourgeois social
democrats of the pro-Soviet bloc or else pro-Chinese revisionists.
AL is an organisation of the pro-Indo-Soviet comprador bourgeoisie
and feudals. From the time of its origin, the AL undertook some
sort of nationalist movement against Pakistani exploitation of the
people of Purba Bangla. In the absence of any strong proletarian
leadership, AL captured the leadership of the anti-Pakistani mass
struggle. Originally, AL was a pro-American political organisation,
but in the specific circumstances of 1971, when US imperialism backed
Pakistani reaction, and on the other hand Indian expansionism and
during the last leg of that year Soviet social-imperialism backed
AL in its fight against Pakistan, this party changed its foreign
master. They sold out Purba Bangla to India.
7-party combine under the leadership of BNP consists of pro-American
and pro-Chinese political forces. BNP itself is a motley gathering
of political fortune hunters and splinter groups piled up under
government sponsorship by the late G. Ziaur Rahman. BNP, which,
like AL, is an organisation of comprador bureaucrats and feudals,
is itself a puppet in the hands of US imperialism.
upon their attitudes to the anti-martial law movement, these political
parties can be grouped in three categories:
While not including any group in its entirety, elements and factions
of a number of these parties were at all times opposed to anti-martial
law struggles. The Shah Aziz group of the BNP can be cited as an
Groups, principally AL, BNP and CPB, who fought the military junta
under the compulsion of their own interest but all the time took
a conciliatory stand, with their eyes fastened continually on simply
a share of power -- even if under martial law. Their influence was
a major factor in impeding the anti-martial law struggles from being
carried forward. They were compelled to fight in no small part because
of the consciousness and militancy of the masses, including in their
own lower ranks. This militancy was a product of earlier struggles,
chiefly the periods of 1969-71 and 1973-74. The first saw the people
of Purba Bangla launch mass movements and armed struggle against
Pakistan, a heroic struggle, which was betrayed by AL and CPB. During
1973-74, PBSP and other patriotic and democratic forces developed
country-wide armed struggle against the puppet regime of Sheikh
Those petit bourgeois groups and social democrats who, despite their
somewhat militant character, were unable to sustain and lead the
anti-martial law movement because of their class character and tailism.
among all these categories were those who dreamed of a military
coup at some opportune moment.
their various differences, the groups in all three categories shared
one feature: they did not go into action against martial law till
long after its promulgation, and in fact opposed such action in
l0-party bloc was led by the Democratic League (DL) of K. Mostaque
Ahmed, the die-hard agent of US imperialism. The DL is a reactionary
communal organisation. This bloc had little influence over the movement
and disintegrated due to palace plots of the DL and divergences
among the groups.
communal Islamic fundamentalist organisation serves the interests
of US imperialism and the Saudi petrodollar. They are hated by the
people of Purba Bangla. During the liberation struggle of 1971,
Jamat stood with the Pakistani occupation forces and killed thousands
of people. They have taken part in the anti-martial law movement
in co-ordination with the 15-party and 7-party alliances.
the differences that arise based on their international connections,
the AL, BNP, DL and Jamat all have the same class base: they are
organisations of the comprador bureaucrats and feudals. And they
all support the same Five Point programme. It is worth going into
a bit more depth on the respective attitudes of these parties towards
From among the forces active in the anti-martial law movement, AL,
BNP, DL and Jamat are the most reactionary. They are dead against
any change in the existing state and social system. AL, BNP and
DL have all been in state power at one time or another since 1971,
and have proved their unpatriotic, autocratic and utterly reactionary
character. They killed thousands of revolutionaries and patriots,
including hundreds of unarmed prisoners. They suppressed the economic
movements of even professional groups, and have terminated low salary
employees en masse. In the anti-martial law movement, they have
always proved combat ready to divert all movement into the channels
of parliamentary politics. Their pledge that they are against the
military rule, but never against the army, is not so much sycophancy
designed to win generals over to their own ends as a solemn promise
to keep the present system intact.
class basis of this outlook, and particularly its effort to suppress
the revolutionary programme, which is today directed at the Five
Enemies, is that they are the organisation of, by and for the comprador
bureaucrats and feudals.
This second category of parties supporting the Five Point Programme
includes a) paid agents of Moscow (CPB) and die-hard Soviet agents
like NAP(M), NAP(H), Ekota Party, BAKSAL; b) pro-Soviet social-democrats
like JSD, BSD, Workers Party; and c) pro-Chinese revisionists, RCL,
UPP, Democratic Party, BSD(T), BSD(AD), etc.
forces of sub-categories (b) and (c) are all petit bourgeois reformists,
who stand with the system; the social democrats among them tailed
AL, BNP and CPB in the anti-martial law struggles. From their reformist
position, they are in favour of economic movements of various professional
groups. They use this to argue that they are not tailing the bourgeoisie
but uniting with them on a tactical basis, even citing Lenin to
justify this. This cannot obscure that they have accepted in full
the programme of the comprador bourgeoisie and have aided them in
their efforts to keep the present system intact. Even so, they are
still able to mislead large numbers of honest, sincere patriots
and revolutionaries. Without exposing and unmasking them, it will
not be possible to carry forward the communist movement or even
the movement for genuine people's democracy to the desired goals.
AND PATRIOTIC FORCES OPPOSED TO THE FIVE ENEMIES
the number of genuine revolutionary and patriotic forces opposed
to the Five Enemies, is great, they are scattered about in small
groups and organisations. Thus, separately they do not have great
influence over the masses, but their combined strength is not insignificant.
From among these groups the only participants in the Revolutionary
Internationalist Movement are PBSP and BSD (M-L) (Bangladesher Samyabadi
Dal [Marxist-Leninist], one of several parties whose Bengali name
translates into English as Communist Party of Bangladesh [Marxist-
on their ideological and political lines and their attitude towards
martial law, these groups can be grouped as follows:
Bangladesher Sharbohara Party (BSP) and Purba Banglar Communist
Party (Marxist-Leninist) (PBCP-ML). Though they have differences
on many issues, their line on the anti-martial law movement unites
them. Both groups conduct armed struggle, but BSP has rejected Mao
Tsetung Thought, has become Hoxhaite and revisionist and opposes
the RIM, whereas PBCP(ML) professes to uphold Mao's Thought and
at the same time blindly follows the lines and methods of Comrade
Charu Mazumdar (Comrade Mazumdar was the founder-leader of the Communist
Party of India [Marxist-Leninist] and was killed by the reactionary
Indian government in 1972). The attitude of the PBCP(ML) towards
the RIM is negative. Neither group forms mass organisations nor
do they conduct mass movements; furthermore, they have no concrete
line and method regarding this problem.
stand on the question of military rule is also the same: they do
not understand that military rule has given rise to a particular
situation and hence has set new duties and obligations before the
revolutionaries. They confine themselves to the anti-imperialism,
anti-feudalism strategic slogan and in practice oppose the anti-martial
law democratic movement. In practice, then, they are unable to grasp
the fact that the anti-martial law movement is the specific application
of this strategy to the specific situation of military rule, so
that carrying out this strategic line obliges the performance of
specific duties. For this reason they do not understand and more
than that do not even try to understand the problem of the anti-martial
law movement and the different types and degrees of unity required
with other anti-martial law forces. In fact, they have no role in
the anti-martial law mass movement. Objectively, then, their inactivity
favours the perpetuation of military rule. Finally, they even oppose
the unity of different forces fighting the Five Enemies on the basis
that some of them are revisionist or counter-revolutionary.
Thus, they practically oppose people's unity on the basis of the
programme of the new-democratic revolution.
The other section of the left forces conduct, or at least want to
conduct, anti-martial law movements. However, they fail to understand
that unity is possible, not only with other left forces, but even,
tactically, with forces who do not oppose the Five Enemies, and
that if revolutionary strategy is strictly adhered to, the revolutionary
forces will benefit from such unity. Their fear is that the revolutionaries
will instead be utilised by supporters of the Five Enemies. Thus,
they oppose PBSP's line of tactical unity with any force that wants
to conduct anti-martial law movements. The groups in this category
include: the Revolutionary Communist Party of Bangladesh Marxist-Leninist
(BRCP-ML) and the Communist Party of Bangladesh ML (CPB-ML).
connection with these groups, the question of the so-called lefts
united with the 15- and 7-party alliances arises. These lefts
claim to have made tactical unity with these supporters of the
Five Point Programme -- but in fact this amounts to unity UNDER the
Five Point Programme. Theirs is a reformist stand and they are in
fact being utilised by supporters of the Five Point Programme.
Thus, their conception of unity is rightist, while that of BRCP-ML
and CPB-ML is left deviationist. The former tail the reactionaries
under the cover of tactical unity, while the latter, who fear being
used, oppose the unity that is necessary and possible to achieve.
the question of Mao Tsetung Thought, the stand of these two parties
is centrist. BRCP(ML) has not yet labelled Mao Tsetung Thought as
revisionist, but on the other hand they do not uphold it as a contemporary
development of Marxism-Leninism. In the past they practiced the
armed struggle, but in the last few years this has been abandoned.
Presently they have taken up a mass organisationist stand (this
is a line in Purba Bangla which rejects armed struggle on the grounds
that mass organisations and mass movements are the only means to
revolution). On the one hand, they rejected the call for the unity
of the revolutionary and patriotic forces; on the other, when a
separate process of unity of those forces opposing the Five Enemies
began in early 1985, the mass organisations of BRCP(ML) came forward
to take part. This reveals the lack of specific lines and a clear
stand on the question of unity on the part of BRCP(ML).
for CPB(ML), they have maintained silence on the question of Mao
Tsetung Thought. In place of rural-based protracted people's war,
they advocate city-centred mass uprisings. Their practice is basically
limited to theoretical discussions and cultural activities. Under
pressure from its activists and as a reflection of its own half-hearted
line, this group has come forward a bit for unity of the forces
against the Five Enemies in the recent past. Nevertheless, like
the BRCP(ML), their position is still essentially centrist on this
The third grouping sees the present anti-martial law movement as
merely a quarrel between two groups of dogs, as merely a tug of
war amongst the agents of US imperialism, Soviet social-imperialism
and Indian expansionism. Consequently, they see no necessity to
play an active role here.
is true that tussle among enemies is one aspect of this situation,
but it is not the whole picture. An objective contradiction between
the people of Purba Bangla and the military regime does exist, and
forms the basis for this movement.
outlook sees only the contradictions among the enemy and not the
contradiction between the enemy and the people. Thus, it turns these
groups into helpless spectators. These groups maintained the same
attitude towards the communal contradiction in the period of British
colonialism (before 1947) and also towards the liberation war of
1971, which they saw as only a conspiracy of the USSR and India.
They do not understand that a contradiction between Pakistani rule
and the people of Purba Bangla existed, that people started armed
struggle to do away with Pakistani exploitation and that it was
due to this that the Awami League (the party in the lead of the
anti-Pakistan struggle), the US, USSR and India could hatch their
... conspiracy. The dogs cannot mobilise the vast masses of people
in a their quarrels without any objective basis. These groups
lack in this materialist outlook, and so they are not able to play
a role, or at least any conscious role, in these movements.
Throughout this period of the anti-martial law struggles, the PBSP
has played a significant role. It was the first force to identify
the contradiction between the people of Purba Bangla and the military
regime, for all its crimes, and it was the first force to call for
a unified movement aimed at overthrowing the junta. It issued a
call for tactical unity among anti-martial law forces based on the
three minimum points, and, alongside this, it also called for unity
on the programme of the new-democratic revolution of those forces
opposed to the Five Enemies. Despite its previous left errors and
the consequent lack of experience in mass movements, the PBSP has
worked to develop, influence and lead the anti-martial law movement
in the cities. The Party has developed lines and methods for this
work, and has gained much experience, and some success.
is still a small organisation. Moreover, its enemies have continually
exerted tremendous pressure against it, and that is why, in the
absence of a larger unity of the revolutionary and patriotic forces,
the Party, despite its sincere endeavours, could not achieve the
desired success in channelling the mass movement in the proper direction.
the mass movement, PBSP conducted armed struggle in the rural areas
as its main task. It firmly held high the line that without armed
struggle it is impossible to overthrow the military dictatorship.
the Ershad regime tried to impose its reactionary communal educational
policy, and when the conscious section of the students and intellectuals,
while rejecting it, did not propose any alternative policy, it was
PBSP who formulated and widely circulated such a policy.
all this PBSP has succeeded in re-establishing its image and its
influence over various left forces and a section of the masses,
and has mobilised some of them under its banner. It has also worked
to begin the process of unity among revolutionary and patriotic
forces, and this has been an important gain from the anti-martial
PEASANTRY AND THE MOVEMENT
has been mentioned above that in general the anti-martial law movement,
which to a great extent has involved the students as well as increasingly
other sections of the petit bourgeoisie and workers too, has been
city-centred, and that this was in no small part due to the strength
and line of many of the groups involved in the anti-martial law
movement. Even when these groups have carried out work in the rural
areas, this generally means the rural petit bourgeoisie who live
in the subdistrict headquarters and the small towns. The bulk of
the rural population are peasants, especially poor, landless and
middle peasants, and other strata of rural labourers. So rural organisation
should mean organisation among these people -- but due to their class
line, the bourgeois and petit bourgeois organisations are incapable
of this, as were the students.
neither country-wide nor very strong, only the PBSP truly had organisational
bases in the rural areas. And it was only PBSP that really undertook
co-ordinating and integrating the urban mass movement with the armed
struggles and other movements of the peasant masses. Those other
forces who centred their work in rural areas (BSP, PBCP-ML) and
even carry out armed struggle, failed to mobilise the peasant masses
in the movement because of erroneous views on both the anti-martial
law movement and the peasants. PBSP did manage to foil the election
farce of Ershad in its organisational strongholds, but as it was
a small party alone in this work it was impossible to widely spread
the anti-martial law movement among the rural population. PBSP even
proposed joint actions to foil the election drama to some supporters
of the Five Point programme, but while some lower ranking activists
came forward the leaders chose to ignore this.
sum, the anti-martial law movement could neither mobilise nor broadly
influence the peasants. This is one of the spectacular reasons why
this movement, though aimed at overthrowing martial law, achieved
nothing. For without armed struggle and the peasant masses, overthrowing
the military junta of Ershad is not possible.
is another problem involved in the question of analysing why and
to what extent work among the peasant masses was undertaken: armed
struggle. In Purba Bangla today, it is not possible to establish
a sound base among the rural masses without carrying out armed struggle
under the leadership of the proletariat. It is through armed struggle
that the PBSP is carrying on organisational work and establishing
its base among the peasants, creating mass-based areas in a few
districts. Once armed struggle is abandoned, all achievements are
lost. The present situation of the pro-Chinese RCL and the half-Hoxhaite
BRCP-ML prove this. Despite their differing lines, both conducted
armed struggle and at a certain point had some organisational strength
in rural areas. But since they have rejected armed struggle, their
organisational strength among the peasants is being liquidated and
they are growing isolated from the rural masses.
PBSP is carrying out armed struggle, it was unable to mobilise the
peasants in the way it wanted. This was due in part to the constant
pressure brought to bear by the state armed forces against the PBSP's
base areas, which was added to by the aid to the government of the
reactionary political parties. Following four years of their attacks,
the PBSP was forced to retreat from some of these areas and so could
not mobilise the peasants to take part in this movement as it might
have otherwise. There is also the problem of establishing the Party's
leadership all over the country.
AND RESULTS OF THE MOVEMENT
the course of the last few years, the anti-people, reactionary and
fascist character of the military regime of the US imperialist lackey
Ershad has become as clear as daylight. To protect their power these
murderers do not hesitate at crushing students and rickshaw pullers
under the wheels of trucks, at creating a reign of terror by their
hired ruffians in the educational institutions, or at firing on
processions, and other forms of savagery. Before Ershad, the Zia
government managed to gain a bit of popular support, but because
of the mass movement Ershad has failed in this. This fact will be
of great help to future developments.
with this, the reactionary political parties have been unmasked
and their treacherous, compromising character exposed. Today the
anti-martial law movement is proceeding through two different ways:
one is led by the supporters of the Five Enemies with the aim of
sharing power through elections, without even overthrowing martial
law; and the other is led by revolutionary and genuinely patriotic
forces with the aim of overthrowing the Five Enemies and the military
rule and gaining true independence and democracy for the people.
is no alternative but armed struggle for overthrowing the military
dictators. The peaceful transfer of power from one class to another
is unimaginable: the junta is even reluctant to share power with
members of their own class. And at every point where the movement
has developed to a new stage, Ershad has resorted to bloody repression,
while the reactionary opposition parties would simply withdraw the
urgency of launching armed struggle and developing rural strongholds
is once again being felt by left forces. In the past, a great majority
of the left forces practiced armed struggle, but ran into problems.
The problem of sustaining the armed struggle is the problem of developing
it both quantitatively and qualitatively. The left forces failed
to solve the problem of developing a certain stage of the armed
struggle to its next higher stage -- and they summed up a line directly
opposed to continuing the armed struggle, and subsequently fell
into mass organisationism.
in the process of the current movement it has become clearer that
mere mass movements cannot do away with the reactionaries or change
the social and state systems, and sometimes they cannot even achieve
reformist ends. But their importance can in no way be negated. The
movements during these years facilitated the development of armed
struggle and other revolutionary activities. The relation between
armed struggle and mass movement is dialectical -- the development
of one helps the other. It is, ultimately, impossible to qualitatively
change a reactionary state and social system without armed struggle
and without mass movements developed in the process of and integrated
with the armed struggle -- this is one of the most important lessons
of the past few years.
movement has also shown that, contrary to the belief current in
some quarters, the role of the students as a force opposed to military
and other autocratic rule is not exhausted. Following the establishment
of Bangladesh, the student community for various reasons almost
completely lost the militant image that they had developed in the
course of the fight against Pakistani oppression. Their role in
the past few years has restored that image to some extent. At the
same time, unless the student movement is integrated with the workers'
and peasants' movement at a certain stage they will again lose momentum.
This is one of their class limitations.
is also the already mentioned unity that is developing, really for
the first time, among the forces opposed to the Five Enemies, which
though still very weak, indicates a bright future. Also developing
different mass organisations that follow Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung
Thought -- and in fact the level of unity among the left forces has
generally developed in proportion to the strength of these mass
organisations. Also, other revolutionary and patriotic forces have
become active as the armed struggle and mass movements under the
leadership of the PBSP have gained strength. The unity of the revolutionaries
and patriots of Purba Bangla depends on the development of the armed
struggle and the mass movements under the leadership of the proletariat
-- this is a universal truth proved by the last few years.
The image of PBSP, which was won from its leading of armed struggle
in 1971 and in 1972-74, was mainly ruined due to subsequent setbacks.
Due to correct lines on and active role in the mass movement, that
lost image could be restored to some extent. Also, it was mentioned
that PBSP had virtually no prior experience in mass movements in
urban areas. In the last few years, lines and methods for this work
have been developed, enabling PBSP and other Marxist-Leninist forces,
who are also developing these lines and methods, to intensify their
through repeated cycles of attack and retreat, the military junta
of General Ershad has at this point pushed the opposition onto the
defensive and seized the offensive. He is beaming, triumphant and
defensive position into which they have been forced has aggravated
the crises of the bourgeois opposition, especially the 15-party
and 7-party alliances. Extremely frustrated, sections of these forces
who yesterday brandished swords have today gulped down the bait
of ministerial positions and joined the government's political front
(including such as the pro-Chinese Gonotantrik Party, the UPP of
Kazi Zafar Ahmed and BNP stalwarts like Moudud Ahmed). Other organisations,
in the leisure moments of their complete lack of activity, are carrying
on self-appraisal. The CPB, the private agent of Soviet social-imperialism,
has concluded that they committed a grave error by not taking part
in elections, even under martial law. Others have not yet dared
to reach such conclusions openly. Overall, then, the 23 parties
are not carrying on anti-martial law movements, under the cover
of the ban on political activities, etc. All this has given rise
to an on-going process of splits, re-organisation and reorientation,
the outcome of which will greatly influence the future development
of the anti-martial law movement.
is the junta free from crises. Despite the government's ability
to create its political front, the current balance within these
forces, including with Janadal, could quickly give rise to imbalance.
Ershad, despite his arrogance, is not able to measure all the live
frogs in a single scale-pan.
fundamentally, the hatred of the masses for martial law is deep
and unabated. However many political prostitutes Ershad gathers
he cannot do away with this. Thus, he will continue to face grave
crisis. It is not Ershad's fortune to rule the kingdom peacefully.
this situation, the apparent stasis between the government and the
opposition cannot last long. Momentum will gather, and things will
head in one direction or the other.
to future events is Ershad's need to shed his khaki kurta and don
a civilian cloak, in no small part in order to meet the exigencies
of foreign diplomacy. Elections are his only way out. But the problem
is this: the bourgeois opposition will not yield to Ershad's conditions,
and if he yields to theirs his power base will be shaky, perhaps
ruined. So reaching a compromise might not be so easy. Behind this
difficulty is the situation the opposition faces with the masses:
the masses are the lever to which they must resort, while at the
same time the opposition fears and must restrain them.
numerous possible variations: perhaps again Ershad will re-initiate
his parlour politics, perhaps again the opposition will take to
the streets. And so it seems that history repeats itself. But it
does not: this apparent repetition is no mechanical replay of historical
events. We have seen how during the last three years PBSP and others
upholding the red banner of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought
have grown stronger and closed their ranks. True revolutionaries
gather strength in periods of crisis for the reactionaries. So deep
down, history was not and is not standing still at the crossroads.
Rather, beneath the apparent repetition history is preparing a leap
into the future --newer, and brighter.
in the last week of August 1985.)