India: Peasants massacred in West Bengal

Killings are ultimately the responsibility of the ‘Communist’ led state government.

The Communist Party (Marxist) has had majority support in West Bengal and has run the state for 30 years. Much of its support has come from the landless peasantry who were granted what they thought were permanent land rights under a popular but very limited land reform. Now, with the leaders of this party choosing to side with big multinationals in a big drive to set up Special Economic Zones, has moved to take back the tenuous rights of these people. Huge battles have been waged and the ‘Communists’ have employed armed police to put down the angry uprisings of the local population. On March 14, eighteen demonstrators were killed in the Nandigram area and many more were badly injured.

Peasants massacred in West Bengal

The landless and the marginal peasants of Singur and Nandigram in West Bengal are waging a serious battle against the state administration led by a so-called communist party for 30 years. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has now used the state machinery in its full force against the peasants. It has adopted a ‘shoot to kill’ policy against the struggling peasants.

The death of 18 peasants by police shooting at Nandigram has brought terror to the entire region of West Bengal. The CPI(M)-led government has directed this despicable act in defence of profits, of global markets and of capitalism. It has exposed them in their true colours.

They came to power with the help and support of the West Bengal working people and peasants. But now they are using that power to crush class struggle. This is nothing but class betrayal.

This act of inhuman brutality against peasants who are in struggle has to be condemned by everybody. This is how the workers and poor farmers are treated who built their dreams under the red flag for decades.

The ‘communist’ leaders have demonstrated that the policies that brought them to power were not part of a genuine socialist or communist programme for transforming society. For that, total nationalisation of the land would have been necessary as well as of industry and an appeal to the workers and poor of all India to struggle to overthrow capitalism and what was left of feudalism. The violent incidents in Nandigram and Singur have exposed the false policies that are practised by the Left parties of this country.

Land Acquisition for capitalist class

In the year 2005, the West Bengal government led by the CPI(M) started the first ‘Land Acquisition’ programme in Bhangar, just 25 kilometres away from the capital city of Calcutta. It was done on behalf of the Salim Group of companies from Indonesia. This land grab was being made in order to build a hundred kilometre highway and a township. 80% of the population of this area belonged to the Muslim community.

There are more than a 100 villages in this area which is rich with fertile land. The leader of the main opposition party in West Bengal, the Trinamol Congress, exploited the angry feelings in the area and organised a protests against the project, attracting over 1,000 people. Bhangar, which was the stronghold of the Left parties for thirty years, elected an opposition candidate in the recent 2006, May elections. This resulted in a revengeful attitude of the CPI(M) leaders and the members of the other ‘communist’ parties.

Although the 2005 Bhangar protests were not significantly big, they were big enough to inspire future struggles against the West Bengal government’s economic policies. The Bhangar struggle waves reached Singur and Nandigram – 40 and 100 kilometres from Calcutta respectively.

From the very beginning, the peasants of Singur and Nandigram organised day and night vigils to guard their land. In spite of being aware of the emotions in the area, the CPI(M) – led Left Front government sent 5,000 police in without warning and resorted to firing. This act has resulted in an outcry against the so-called communists by their sympathisers all round the country. Many State capitals have seen protests and the shaming of the West Bengal government’s anti-people’s action.

There has not been a word of regret, apology or even remorse from the CPI(M) on this gruesome incident; instead the leadership has justified its actions saying that the whole problem is because of the presence of ‘outsiders’ – political activists from outside the state, especially the Maoist guerrillas who are called ‘Naxalites’. This is a shameful excuse to justify the police brutality and also speaks of the undemocratic nature of the Left Front regime.

The Land Acquisition policy has become an issue on which the ‘communist’ parties are trying to build their prestige and reputation amongst capitalists nationally and internationally. These kind of anti-working class policies have, however, resulted in peasants plunging into a serious struggle which is bound to have long term consequences for the Left parties in the country.

Struggle for land reform

In the 1970’s the Left parties conducted a long struggle for land reforms, which catapulted them to power and prevented hitherto the resurgence of a blatantly pro-capitalist regime. In fact, though claimed to be very radical, the land reforms carried out under the name ‘Operation bargha’ was a matter of adjustment within the capitalist-landlordist system in India. Nevertheless, these land reforms gave thousands of peasants tilling rights on the land on which they were at the time working without any rights. It must be noted that these much-acclaimed reforms did not alter the overall land-holding pattern as far as rural West Bengal is concerned.

The shallowness of these land reforms is shown up today when the land is taken by the government for the purpose of setting up Special (capitalist) Economic Zones. The compensation package does not go to the peasants who till the land, but to the absentee land-owners for whom this is a sudden boon dropping from a clear blue sky. Hardly any compensation is going to the agriculture worker or middle class farmers. This has proved how temporary is a reform within the confines of the capitalist system. The half-measure introduced by the Communist Party in the 1970s has turned out to be totally inadequate to defend the livelihoods of the poor peasants.

Special Economic Zones

The problem leading to to-day’s situation is that the landlords in West Bengal are prepared to sell the land for Special Economic Zones (SEZs). But the actual users of the land are refusing to part with it and are opposing the measure with all their might. The neo-liberal SEZ policy supported by the West Bengal government led by the CPI(M) has threatened the livelihoods of thousands of farmers and peasants in the state. If the SEZs are pushed through, these middle-aged landless peasants and poor, marginal peasants will be thrown into dire penury.

For twenty-eight long years these peasants have lived off this land. All these years they were under the illusion that the land belonged to them. But to-day, they are being suddenly thrown onto the street. This dire objective situation has resulted in the mass revolt by the peasants of Singur and Nandigram. It comes as no surprise as for them it means starvation, their lives are at risk.

The ‘communist’ parties have failed to retain the trust of the peasants, who had a lot of hopes in the Left Front which was seen as the champion of land reforms. The main reason for all this is the unholy compromises that the CPI(M) and its allies have made with capitalist forces and their anti-working class policies. One could argue that it is these compromises of the Communist Parties with the capitalist system that have allowed them to stay in power in West Bengal.

Poverty demands struggle for socialism

The utter failure of the Stalinist parties and their policies is very conspicuous today. The traditional Left parties have time and again failed to recognise the objective reality of poverty, landlessness, and unemployment as the basis to build a formidable struggle against capitalism and landlordism.

They wrongly identify and expect this task to be completed by a non-existent ‘progressive’ bourgeoisie within the Indian capitalist class. They do not recognise that these above-mentioned evils of the system itself are reasons for a struggle against the capitalist system and for socialism.

In the three decades of their existence in government they have failed to use the parliamentary avenues and power that they had to pursue and spread the class struggle with the aim of ending capitalism and landlordism in India, Asia and world-wide.

Many of the intelligentsia, social activists and workers’ leaders in India have criticised the Left Front in West Bengal for betraying the classes that it claims to represent with economic policies little different from the policies of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party, right-wing Hindu communalist party) and the Congress Party at present the main force in the government alliance nationally.

Socialism false and genuine

Prakash Karat, CPI(M) leader, answering critics in the party’s weekly paper, ‘People’s Democracy’ defended his party’s economic policies. “In the past decade and a half, the all-India policy of the CPI (M) has been to oppose the neo-liberal direction of policies popularly termed liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation. What is not recognised enough is that the State governments have to bear the brunt of such policies”.

The Communist Parties, who say they oppose central government’s economic policies, have to explain why they have agreed on SEZs which are essentially anti-worker.

Indian ‘communists’ like Prakash Karat appear to believe that the capitalist system is capable of building an exploitation-free society! ‘Lefts’ like these are more efficient in carrying out capitalist policies than capitalist parties themselves. They have become a brake on the working class, stopping them engaging in revolutionary struggle. This has resulted in the continuation of the capitalist system in India.

Just as the British used Indian people in the struggle to undermine the ‘liberation movement’, in the same way capitalists use ‘lefts’ to undermine the struggle against capitalism. The so-called Indian communists’ meek imitation of capitalist policies such as privatisation, globalisation and liberalisation proves this point.

It is true that genuine socialists and Marxists welcome industrialisation, but oppose the way it is forced through under capitalism. We will always oppose the use of the police and army to push through the policies of the ruling class. All big industry must be nationalised. Resources must be used for people’s welfare. Land, water and everything that increases productive value should be under the control and management of the working class.

‘New Socialist Alternative’ and in its periodical ‘Dudiyora Horaata’, in its propaganda material at election time and in all its campaigns, has been in the forefront of analysing and criticising the policies of the Left in this country. It has continuously cautioned the working class that the Left Front government’s policies in West Bengal are increasingly neo-liberal. Supporting the struggle against the capitalist and landlord classes, we have always raised the alarm over the wrong policies of the CPI(M).

The working class in general, and Communist Party sympathisers in particular, must see through the policies of those ‘communists’ who have sent armed police in against deprived peasants in West Bengal. We must strive to build a genuine and new socialist alternative mass formation for the working class and poor peasants in this country. This is the only way forward to put an end to the unjust and barbaric system of capitalism and landlordism in India and internationally.

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