The Bengal Experiment – Model or Farce?

September 22, 2010

September 22, 2010

by Bitan Bhowmik

[This article, written in the aftermath of the Tata withdrawal from the Singur project, discusses the recent upheavals in Bengal from a historical perspective. Most commentaries over land acquisition have been written from the point of view of the resistance put up by the agrarian masses. This article looks at it from the angle of the industrial proletariat. Although a couple of years have passed since it was written, the questions raised here remain salient. – Ed]

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Introduction

Mr. Ratan Tata has left Singur. According to some quarters, including Mr. Tata he has been
“triggered” to leave Singur. As a parting shot before announcing his decision he bemoaned the anti-
development, anti-industrialization legacy of Bengal personified in “bad M”. Not relenting to that he
recently issued an open letter as a clarion call to the youth of Bengal – “which side are you on boys”-
“good B” or “bad M”?

Perhaps he feels he has the right chemistry to issue such statements. Not only he has to push his dream
of providing cheap automobile to aspiring millions, and thereby enacting Henry Ford in this country,
he has also the right orchestra of support to wield the stick of a bandmaster. With the glorified Nobel
Laureate batting for him, the barons and captains of industry falling in line with statements of grave
consequences, newspapers and media periodically screaming at opposition and eulogizing Mr. Tata,
and above all the Chief Minister of the state and his cabinet lying prostrate for keeping him in Singur
what more an industrialist may wish for? There are only two caveats in his actions: one day he was a
reluctant, saddened visionary in Bengal being fired of by “bad M”, the next day he was a gleaming
enthusiast in the charming company of “good M”. Proudly he announced that in spite of overtures
from Chief Ministers from several states, the concessions and terms in Gujarat are better than those
from Bengal, and the gestures of the Chief Minister of Gujarat are gratifying to him. Second, he has
secured a stay order from the High Court of Kolkata that the terms of agreement between Tata Motors
and Govt. of West Bengal remain inaccessible to general public. After all, a businessman understands
the hard logic of doing business and accumulation of wealth – it is superfluous to mention that Mr.
Tata, the king of Jaguar understands that very well.

The more voluble reactions in Bengal are pathetic, to say in sober terms. The industry minister in his
first reaction was wishing to leave Bengal- he cannot bear the shock, probably a reason he is now
hospitalized. Screaming newspapers headlines are predicting the doomsday, it is all finished for hope
of regeneration of Bengal, the pristine beauty. To be safe in option, “bad M” is now staying off
Kolkata to graze the new pasture of minority wooing. Till December 2007, the fasting lady in
Esplanade was the feast of eyes among journos, now she is the object of vile ridicule. Her advisors are
predictably untraceable and unavailable for TV soundbites, none of them are seen nearby Singur now.
One gets the taste of banter she is now heaped upon in the recent discussion forums of newspapers as
in the Statesman of Kolkata. The intellectuals who were braving frowning eyes of the State have
suddenly found it safe and prudent to remain silent. Their beloved pet issues vanished in the blue, and
who knows they themselves may now be object of scorn of urbane youth. It is amusing to find

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everybody of consequence is pondering who will feed Bengal if Mr. Ratan Tata and likes are not
there? Who will provide homes and clothes to children? Where does one muster pocket money to
enjoy small funs?

Aside from this rhetoric the issues in Singur and Nandigram are far more complex and educative to
anyone wishing to look deeper into the social and political trauma that West Bengal is passing
through. They reflect far more poignant truth than what surfaces about the cost of experiment that
West Bengal has to bear with for more than last three decades of procrastination, and mediocrity in
public policies. They represent a watershed, a distinctive cleavage in the collective consciousness of
the toilers in Bengal. The valor, the freshness, the originality in the collective protest of people in
Nandigram cutting across communities of different faiths signal new, bold message for the
impoverished in India- to state in simple terms they can thwart the design of the State if they hold the
ground. The Singur saga is a lesson that the proletariat, the industrial working class is yet to consume,
yet to comprehend. At a very summary level, the developments in Singur point to the question of
industrialization and as a necessary consequence the proletariazation of rural society that is being
confronted by the interest of petty agriculturist,- which way it should move? Whose side it is to choose
for its own interest? All these are happening in the prevailing backdrop of despondency, after
witnessing the history of losing jobs and livelihoods over three decades of silent butchery of the
industrial working class, of decadent approval of counterfeiting the interests of industrial working
class by the majority of the society in Bengal.

It is time and again proved, repeated in history that the prevailing opinion of a society is the dominant
opinion of its ruling class. Bengal is no exception, and therefore the present mood of not finding the
mooring is the pathetic, abject expressions of failure of the ruling elite in Bengal in trying to solve the
insolvable. Consciously we do not use the term class in pointing to the ruling dispensation in Bengal,
as they represent no dominant class in classical production relations’ paradigms. They represent an
oligarchy, a hierarchy deeply entrenched in Bengal’s society trying desperately to maintain a social
contract that is breached, trampled thousands of times primarily and predominantly in the factories of
Bengal over the last three decades. By these frantic efforts to use leverage of power they are a joke at
every turn of the day, but are smart enough to smolder the air of panic among the industrial working
class. This writing is an effort to analyze and portray the general level of class-consciousness of the
proletariat, the industrial working class [1] in Bengal over a period of development of modern
consciousness so as to search the course that the working class in Bengal can chart out for its own
interest, on its own terms and efforts.

[1] By industrial working class we mean the section of the urban population whose livelihood primarily depends
on wage labor, be it in industries, or in services thereof or in associated industrial relations.

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The Bengal Experiment -Its Uniqueness

In many ways the Bengal experiment is unique in social, political developments. It has left not only
deep impressions in the common psyche of the population there, but also carries bitter lessons for the
working class in general in this country, and abroad.

First, rarely in the history of parliamentary democracy, the same dispensation is in order for so long a
time with consent, approval of the majority of people who cast their vote under the gazing eyes of the
central State with its scornful disapproval of the results. Although the parliamentary opposition, many
of who in different intervals of time are ruling the central State repeatedly cried foul about rigging,
manipulated, machinated public opinion, it does not hold ground in fundamental terms. It is by no
means negated that people who run the affairs of West Bengal are masters in the art of fudging public
opinion, but the truth lies in the fact that the parliamentary opposition are simply outsmarted in their
own art. The art of fudging public opinion, leading toilers’ aspirations to a make believe world is the
central theme, the hallmark in any parliamentary form of political organ of the State. In fact, in recent
times many of them willy-nilly accepted the fact that they have to carry on alliance with same people
who are at throats at the level of national politics. In the last Assembly elections, polls were held under
full supervision of central paramilitary forces in five phases; the present oligarchy outperformed with
larger percentage of share of votes with larger number of seats in their kitty. This picture remained
monotonous with several levels of popular elections that go on in the state till the mass upheaval in
Nandigram put the brake, marked a halt. The results of recent rural panchayat elections sent shivers
down the spine of the oligarchy, they started looking inwards and started to be shaky in rabble-
rousing. Nevertheless, the question remains how can this happen, particularly in the context that “anti-
incumbency” is a popular catch-word in usual political commentary in India, that we see practically in
every other state elections where impoverished people remorselessly turn over to opposition of
different colors to overthrow the ruling regimes in periodic intervals. This question needs to be
squarely confronted.

Second, in this prevailing uninterrupted rule West Bengal is relatively free from major casteist,
communal, regional flare up. Barring the agitation of people of Nepali origin for self-identity confined
in Dajeeling district, West Bengal did not witness major violence among and within the toilers that we
regularly witness in every nook and corner of this country. Even during the emotive atmosphere of
anti-sikh riots in the decades of ‘80s, even in the communal cauldron that the country was engulfed in
the decades of ‘90s before and after the demolition of Babri Masjid, West Bengal remained largely
unscathed. Till Tasleema Nasreen was forced to be deported under the cover of darkness. Hooligans

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roamed the city, held public opinion in ransom, and to the disbelief of people military paraded the
streets of the same city that raised the banner of communal conjugation against the murderous
conspiracy behind the death of Rizanur Rehaman. These two incidents portray one startling facet of
the dichotomy, the dithering, and the ambivalence that West Bengal faces. Nowhere in this country,
there is a city where public opinion burst out in the streets to expose murder of a person whose
religious faith is a symbol of suspicion in the eyes of the majority, who was committed till death to a
girl of majority faith belonging to an industrial house that is in conspiracy with leading members of
the State to finish off the person. Again, the same public opinion recoils in comfortable hearths when
the voice of an outspoken critic of clerical, medieval obscurantism is throttled under the patronage,
connivance of the State. The city dumps in shameless stupor. How can this happen?

Third, in few other states of this country agricultural property relations have undergone reform to the
extent that has been carried out in West Bengal systematically under the aegis of the present ruling
establishment. Although it is now more than three decades past, but to people who are in a position to
recall, operation barga seriously confronted the prevailing property relations, ownership rights to
land, and rights to the agricultural produce in its first phase of implementation. We do not call it
change of production relations, because essentially only the bargadars’ right to till and to own a part of
the produce was secured by the enactments provisions of which were existing earlier; still there was
actually a mass peasant movement that provided the vehicle for securing these legal rights of bargadar
registration. In spite of huge amount of litigations and uproar from the landed gentry about the
breakdown of fundamental rights of property ownership, the rural poor, particularly the actual tiller of
the land could sense some degree of right to the land and its produce. In due course these reforms
resulted efficiency and growth of agricultural productions, the realm of agricultural market expanded,
the bargadar and agricultural worker had a sense of actual political freedom to decide own course of
development. Much before Panchayati Raj was enacted in Parliament of this country, panchayat
elections were held, and rural Bengal saw sweeping shift of the centroid of power. Like every reform
that does not change the production relations in fundamental terms, the steam of operation barga
tapered off after the second homecoming of the present dispensation, official registration of barga
rights coming to standstill. What resulted in rural Bengal from the continued existence of the present
establishment for last three decades is maintenance and perpetuation of the hegemony of the oligarchy
through manipulation and control of the funds that come from the central State. Corruption, siphoning
of funds are rather small business, essentially these institutions of Panchayati Raj serve promotion and
growth of the petty proprietors, agricultural business dealers, and so forth who have now developed
die-hard stake in perpetuating these institutions.

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It is only natural that in the agricultural scenario of West Bengal, capitalism made serious inroads
through the hands of panchayat institutions, the very institutions rural poor expected to be their own
political instrument. Unlike adjoining Bihar, Orissa, or even Assam, leave alone other states with
heavy agrarian dependence, it will probably be difficult now to find families in West Bengal owning
more than 100 Bighas of land. But it is plenty, in fact there are millions of bargadar families owning
rights of tilling small plots of land, and otherwise dependent on diverse forms of labour, either
seasonal, or migration to vocations directly dependent on the rural market. This scenario has given
ascendancy of a new class of property owners, a new gentry that form the bulwark of the oligarchy
whose hegemony was near total in rural Bengal till the mood among the rural poor started changing
after the events of Nandigram and Singur, and in the results of recent panchayat election in the
aftermath. It will not be far fetched to graphically describe a family of this gentry who collectively
among family shareholders may own around 40-60 Bighas of land, a couple of members of the family
in different tiers of panchayat dictating expenditure of the developmental funds under numerous
central sponsored schemes, the same rotating among two influential political combination with steady
income from other professions such as school teaching, or other government funded agencies. A
couple of youngsters of such families have seen college education, moved off to towns in Bengal or
elsewhere with savings deposited to family endeavors, say a transport business, or a medical shop. The
developments in Nandigram or Singur have brought forth the dilemma of this class of petty proprietors
and petty agriculturists as essentially they are the beneficiaries of the fruits of last three decades of
agricultural reform, the pie was nurtured and shared among them. The rural poor, particularly the
agricultural labor formed a major chunk in the agitation in Nandigram as the loss of livelihood and
eviction from land of hereditary use was the palpable reality before them. Dispossession of land and
land-related rights is a process that is going on silently in rural Bengal, particularly in the last two
decades. [2] In the face of large-scale eviction under the direct supervision of State the vocal sections of
the petty proprietors found the readymade ally and the foot soldiers of agitation among these rural
poor, the agricultural labor. It is worth mentioning here that in the din about agitation of people in
Nandigram, and largely of political parties in Singur, one major development was looked over in rural
Bengal. That is near chasing of kerosene dealers, the kerosene riots that spread over many districts,
spontaneously, without external propaganda, or big mouthing. These dealers who generally benefit
from their clout over the hegemony became the target of ire of rural poor with exasperated wait and
vengeance.

One has to realize that rural Bengal is no current day Nepal, where a republican political entity has
swept through the monarchy, essentially on the strength of armed militia movement of rural poor. Nor

[2] West Bengal Human Development Report, 2004, Govt. of West Bengal, May 2004.

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it is rural Punjab or Haryana where big landowners were encouraged, guided by the Central state to
pursue large-scale modern, capitalist farming by wholesale subsidizing irrigation, electricity, fertilizer,
seeds, etc., very low interest rate bank loans, and above all continually hiking up the support price of
the end product through an efficient network of state purchase. Rather the dominant economic interest
in rural Bengal is of the new generation of petty proprietors who have tested the fruits of capitalist
production relations through a procrastinated, unique process of capital investment, not of their own,
but depending largely on the largesse of the State aided schemes that encourage petty proprietorship.
The previous generation who went through the false notion of expropriation of power of judders,
usurers and absentee landlords through peasant organizations and establishing panchayati institutions
served the purpose of heralding democracy, establishing a sense of right of rural poor in settling their
economic affairs- be it deciding the wage, or whose land is to be tilled and share to agricultural
produce. That sense of self–right now recoiled upon the oligarchy, on the omnipresent hierarchy called
Party in Nandigram where cutting across communal belief people decided to announce and assert – we
are not going to give land. The State had to relent, the State had to be in back foot. Undoubtedly, it
does not require television and newspaper commentary, nor Internet mailing for the vast agricultural
poor of this country, solely starving on land to understand the bold signal message- they have to stand
up before the State just for subsistence. It happened in Kalinganagar earlier, but the very resilience of
Nandigram to stubbornly stand against the Party, the hierarchy, and the State of course heralded new
optimism for the rural poor in this country struggling simply for existence.

That is not the case with the industrial proletariat of Bengal, in fact it is the reverse tragedy – the
agenda of this article. Traditionally, major industrial enterprises in Bengal are engineering, heavy
machinery, tea, jute, with tannery and chemicals adding a substantial minor portion. All of them saw
decline, and disinvestment continuously in the last three decades. Practically all industries dependent
on heavy engineering, either State run or private enterprises became sick, particularly in the decades of
‘80s and ‘90s- it is the same story of lock out, closure, retrenchment, or approaching State for
declaring themselves sick. All along these three decades the common refrain of the industrialists and
their lackeys in press was the absence of work culture, the belligerence of the working class as the root
cause for industrial decline. The stark reality states otherwise- it is the abject failure, mismanagement,
or simply lack of interest in bringing in capital, modernizing the production process, or initiating new
enterprises. The industries depending on jute products practically became obsolete in terms of their
products, and peasants lost interest in cultivation of jute because of low market prices and State
support. The wretched saga of jute industry is a saga of overnight loafers looking for very, very short-
term gains, often running the factories in shifts only for the period beneficial to them, and quickly
changing hands or declaring lock-outs. Tea industry became uncompetitive in international market for

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a long time, aside from a very few tea gardens, and dependent on practically prehistoric production
process. In the turbulent days of ‘60s decade that continue to haunt the industrialists including Mr.
Tata even after forty years, West Bengal’s industrial revenue contribution was among the top states. In
the three decades of peace of graveyard that followed, industrial revenue from the same state licks the
bottom line, and actually shows deceleration in manufactured goods production [2]. Industrial decline
is not unique in Bengal to point alleged militant trade unionism as the reason behind. Identical is the
story of traditional industry in Maharastra, another major state that used to produce high industrial
revenue with no history of governance alluding allegiance overt or covert to protection of trade union
rights. The yearlong strike by the Girni Kamgar Union in Bombay in late ‘80s may be recalled here
with its leader Dr. Datta Samant, later murdered with motive and henchmen still remaining mystery.
Mills after mills of old textile industries were shut down there, and later sold away at lucrative prices
to real-estate promoters with no alibi of militant trade-unionism. It is not that capital is unavailable,
nor is that avenues of industrial growth are choked – the example of the states of Gujarat, Haryana, and
Tamilnadu stand in stark contrast to both of the states of West Bengal and Maharastra, in terms of
steady flow of heavy investment of capital, and industrial revenue generation. To cap these brutal
facts, there has not been a single major industrial investment in Bengal from the central State, either in
the form of infrastructure, or in heavy industries, or in power generation. It is a measure of shameless
apathy and indifference that in this long period of three decades where huge State investment flowed
in Punjab, Andhrapradesh, Karnataka, and few other states, West Bengal central State-run enterprises
were perpetually made sick with no major initiative following. Be it steel, coal, heavy engineering,
and the assets those were inherited – it is a monotonous picture of gloom and despair.

Then why does a Mr. Tata talk of anti-industrialization legacy of Bengal? What makes him so
audacious to address the youth of Bengal as annadata, the mai-baap? The loud writing on the wall is
the decimated, despondent reality of the proletariat stripped of any dignity, with a huge reserve of
unemployed youth waiting restively, impatiently at the gates to crash in for livelihood. The cruel irony
for the working class is that the Chief Minister of the State announcing emphatically in the gathering
of industrialists that for him trade union is a direct no no, going over towns exhorting the youth as an
agent of Mr. Tata. It is for such Chief Ministers that the proletariat of Bengal voted unswervingly, and
looked for salvation, protection of jobs, and livelihood for the last three decades. The situation in
which the proletariat in Bengal finds itself is a tragic caricature of the immortal parable Animal Farm
written some six decades ago over the so imagined fabled paradise of the working class, Soviet Russia.
It is a case that animals behind the glasses with wide gazing eyes find in disbelief the pigs turning into
men, men turning into pigs. It is tragic because this process of decimation of working class in Bengal
was carried out silently, never became a case for major social concern in last three decades, and the

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whole spectrum of political establishment colluded to it thereby providing the seal of consent of the
majority in the society of Bengal. The caricature is unlike the pigs in the Animal Farm thrown up as
providers of salvation by the revolutionary animals, such Chief Ministers and their oligarchy continue
to ascend to power by much sheepish and usual means of extracting consent- by the vote of workers in
the parliamentary political process. It is an incredible insult to the working class that such hegemony
of the oligarchy is tomtomed all over the world as protection of the rights of the working class!
The working class in Bengal finds itself in a tragic bind. It finds itself in the grip of a vice where both
its development as a major, substantial component of social production process is choked, and its
belief, trust and realizations are proved to be devoid of substance, of purpose. Throughout the last
three decades (considering the period to be duration of growth of two generations, it is a huge cost) the
tale of trauma of working class in Bengal is that of panic, scare, diffidence of an individual worker
losing job, losing dignity, losing dear ones, joining the urban scum of living by the footpath. In such
circumstances, it is only natural that the workers who still have the opportunity to report to duty
consider that to be a privilege, and try to cling to that privilege at any cost – even at the cost of their
class brethren, at the cost of tears of fellow-families. It is this desperate reality of attending to the
survival instinct that prompts workers to contribute to the ridiculous exercise of raising funds for the
Bakreshwar thermal power plant. The contribution was not even a morsel for the project cost, but had
enough propaganda value to tie up the scared working class to the cause, interests of the industrialists.
Mr. Ratan Tata addresses this exhausted, distraught, disenchanted working class when he warns of the
turbulent days of ‘60s, the industrialists want them to surrender down to the last foot. This comes in
complete consonance with the pledges, and actions of the Chief Minister the custodian of the ruling
elite to assure the industrialists.

Is such a situation result of conspiracy of the ruling oligarchy? Is this essentially a question of betrayal
of working class by their leaders? Is it logical to assume that the working class would be in a better,
advantageous position to assert in present Bengal society had there been large investment of capital
and growth in employment? In fundamental terms, the answer to the first question is a resounding no.
Historically no social reality that has a general impact over a considerable duration of time can be a
result of conspiracy, a result of betrayal by a few leaders, even by some political establishment. The
hegemony being desperate to cling to power will continue to resort to such conspiratorial tactics and
methods, but that is secondary, and of minor importance. The question of conspiracy and betrayal is
relevant to the parliamentary opposition only, they will obviously try to present the dismal picture as a
result of conspiracy knowing fully well the trap in which the present rulers find themselves. The truth
lies essentially in the development and quality of general class-consciousness of the proletariat in
Bengal. The answer to the second question is naturally interlined to that. The new generation of the

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working class has grown up in this environment of silent butchery, and therefore far more diffident
and far more reclusive to think of asserting own class position. It may not be out of place to raise one
important pointer to the class-consciousness of the relatively urbane and aware sections of the new
generation of the proletariat in Bengal in this regard. In very recent times there was a conscious effort
on the part of the ruling elite to make inroads in the information technology (IT) sector via floating an
innocuous trade union organization. The charter did not include the employees who properly can be
categorized to that sector, but rather the much more lowly paid, and unorganized sections- the drivers,
the security guards, and some BPO employees. In its declaration, it was even not a trade union, rather
an association whose charter included baby care also! It created furor among the employers in the
sector, to the extent that it became national news. Their eyes are dried in wool, they could sense a
beginning of smoke- who knows it may turn in true fire! On the other hand, the employees in general
conspicuously shunned such platform. This was primarily not because of their distrust of the
organizers, many of them joined in signature campaigning to hold Mr. Tata in Singur, but because
simply they do not consider themselves as part of the new generation of proletariat. They consider
themselves as IT professionals and not workers, who will be executives in due course of time – an
euphemism in which the media cajole them, eulogize them. They consider themselves as individuals
basking in the glory of newfound world of highly inflated wages, and ‘good life’. Probably bitter
realization will now dawn upon them by the recent catastrophe in which world financial system finds
itself. After all, one conspicuous character of capitalism is that market is the ubiquitous equalizer, an
even leveler. It pays to learn bitterly, dearly.

In the next section, we emphasize the reality of development of modern consciousness in Bengal that
resulted in ascendancy of the present oligarchy as the fallacious protector of working class interests.
We are in search of the roots of the tragedy that working class faces in Bengal.

The Bengal Experiment – The Tradition It Follows

The year of 1857 was the year of Sepoy Mutiny. It symbolically started in Bengal, in Barrackpore
cantonment with Sepoy Mangal Pandey throwing the gauntlet, opening fire at the mighty British
establishment. The British establishment hanged him there. The fire of rebellion engulfed much of
north India with the mutineers launching heroic battle to bring back Bahadur Shah Jaffer in the citadel
of power, Bengal refused to join the mutiny. The leaders of the mutiny came from small princely
states with the major ones such as the Scindias of Gwalior, the Ranas of Mewar, the Holkars of Indore,
the rulers of Punjab assiduously supporting the British. The zamindars of Bengal being already
beneficiaries of permanent settlement from Lord Cornwalis went with them. By this very act the then

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elite of Bengal joined the mainstream of British rule unequivocally. So much so when Bahadur Shah
Jaffer was sent to Rangoon via Kolkata, Wazid Ali Shah was deported from Lucknow to Metiaburz
there was not even muted solidarity to them from the landed gentry of Bengal. The British paid off by
setting up the seat of empire in Calcutta in 1902.

Historically the rebellion was to restore and resurrect the old order, the order in which the peasantry
that joined the ranks of the mutineers were used to, the order of paying rent and obeisance to the old
masters to which they were traditionally imbibed. Bengal joined the new order, the rule that was
brought from outside, and welcomed the ideas and economy of the West. It is not only the advantage
of ports that encouraged the British to set up their economic bases in Bombay Peninsula, Madras Fort
and Calcutta, it is the active encouragement of social reformers of these places that proved highly
beneficial to the British establishment to mould public opinion in their favor. First railway lines were
started from the cities of Calcutta and Bombay, first Universities were opened in Calcutta, Madras and
Bombay, first engineering school was initiated in Calcutta, the pass outs from there moved all over
India for preparing survey maps, took up engagements with the new rulers as commissars. First
medical school was opened in Calcutta, where pass outs from Hindu College dared to dissect the
human corpse. First independent public enterprise in the pursuit of modern science was initiated in the
formation of Indian Association of the Cultivation of Science in Calcutta. The reformer Raja went to
Britain in spite of being ostracized by his community to fight the privy purse case of Mughal
princeling. The reformist brahmin principal of Sanskrit College wrote the paeans in honor of queen
Victoria’s golden jubilee to the throne of British Empire. The young, energetic Hindu monk went to
America to propagate the gospel of Vedanta. In all, nineteenth century Calcutta and Bombay became
the nerve centers of welcoming occidental ideas, journey to acceptance of western norms, a natural
consequence of offering voluntary subjugation to British rule. They turned into cities as the British
wished them so.

The fallacy started thereon. What is pronounced as Bengal Renaissance is actually a reflected beacon
from the rulers. It was not an independent initiative; it was progress at the behest of, on the
endowment of, by the patronage of British establishment. The independent initiative was weak, the
resistance was feeble. Only during Lord Curzon’s plan to partition Bengal, some form of nationalism
came into expression, but that too got confined in annual ritual of organizing Swadeshi Mela.
Independent initiative to industrial enterprise was never the major social current from Bengal as the
landed gentry were pretty satisfied and contented in the arrangements of permanent settlement, of
absentee landlordism. Other than notable exceptions as Dwarkanath Thakur earlier, and R N
Mookherjee later on, who endeavored to develop industrial interest in mining, steel, and railways none
of the major industrial enterprises were the outcome of investment from people of Bengali origin.

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western educated gentry got satisfied in being “bhadroloak”, their offspring were modeled as “bhalo
chhele”- good, studious, and obedient in terms of order. Achieving employment at British merchant
houses, or being engaged in professorial services, or being close to policy making in British
administration, or excelling in British courts as barristers were the high points of life of gentry from
Bengal. Seldom industry was their cup of tea. Compared to the bourgeoisie in contemporary France
and Europe who ran amuck in creating and accumulating industrial wealth capitalism as an ideological
weapon never got ingrained in the social consciousness of the upcoming urban gentry of Bengal. The
gentry got involved in the capitalist production process not as the originator, but at best as managers
and account keepers. Republican ideologies and practices never emanated from Bengal, only feeble,
incapacitated reforms to medieval, obscurant Hindu religious practices were brought forward. Be it
Brahmo Samaj movement, or banning of Sati, or widow remarriage, or abrogating casteism – none of
them really got penetrated deep as the usual, regular social practices of nineteenth century Hindu
society of Bengal. The best exponents of Vedanta from Bengal were active worshippers of idol in
Kali! The other major social component, the Muslims were in a far more pitiable condition so far as
republican practices are concerned. The community leaders largely shunned the awakening to
modernity, embracing capitalism as the new social order. The so-called renaissance in the realm of
ideas remained confined in nurturing clerks, pen pushers out of the Hindu urban stock.

Here one must draw a line to distinguish Rabindranath Thakur from these Hindu gentry of nineteenth
century Bengal. He turned out to be a cult figure in modern bourgeoisie consciousness of Bengal, and
to a very limited extent in India, but whose contribution in shaping this consciousness goes far beyond
his time, and way ahead of the boundaries that the bourgeoisie have drawn for themselves. Down to
the last breath of his long life he was a ceaseless champion of universal humanism, of modernism
tampered with deep spiritual philosophy of Upanishada that originated from India, a thorough and
staunch critique of all kinds of sectarianism. In fact, the concept of modern India is well reasoned in
his works, in his arguments those are in sharp contrast to prevailing acceptance of Western
philosophies without criticisms, and in subservience. In that sense, his works represent much more
independent, modern approach to national consciousness than the works of his contemporaries. The
idea of basudheibo kutumbakkam – the message of universal brotherhood from Upanishada was
ingrained in his works and practices. Being a scion of one of the richest Bengali family he rescinded
zamindari. In spite of having the privilege of receiving liberal western education in London in his
prime youth, he resisted in accepting them as his own. Considered a “failure” in his family he went
over to impart education based on teachings of Upanishada with bare contributions of ornaments from
his wife, and never took endowment from the establishment in spite of several overtures including
visits of Governor Generals to his school. Being brought upon by Brahmo Samaj of his father, he

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became a through critique of its practices in Gora, a novel worshipping universal humanism. Being
groomed in the school of swadeshi and nationalist upbringing, he conceptualized Vishva Bharati as the
confluence of international ideas of all corners in Indian soil. It is by any measure a statement of
courage in the then Bengal that being a brahmo he initiated first professorship of Islam at the aegis of
Nizam of Hyderabad in Visva Bharati, that too by a professor from Hungary. He was not a radical, let
alone be a revolutionary in political practices of the term. His contemptuous disproval of revolutionary
ideas and practices are well documented in Char Adhyaya, and Ghare Baire. Moreover, his concepts
of social production were virulently anti-industry, a romantic wish for peasant-centric cooperatives
were his model for social growth, a look out for Lev Tolstoy that actually influenced the modern
Bengali psyche to continue the tradition of mediocrity, to espouse romantic overtures to the peasant
stock. Still, among the pedantic and profane pen pushers of Bengal he stands taller and unique, he
marks a distinct milestone for the journey of the proletariat in the realm of ideas.

If the urbane elite was incapacitated to bring forth republican ideas, the protestors to the British
establishment were no different. Bengal saw the birth of urbane terrorism in twentieth century India –
the first urban young man who went to gallows after Sepoy Mutiny was Khudiram Bose at the bare
age of nineteen. Terrorism in Bengal drew motivation from Gita, in the age old philosophy of
karmyojog; the nation was incarnated as Holy Mother, Anandamath of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
was the inspiration of the restive urban Hindu petty-bourgeoisie in their effort to terrorize the British
establishment. In no way they had any effort or interest to the affairs of the peasantry, or the
impoverished and uprooted ones from the soil of villages- the first generation of proletariat who got
engaged in newly started jute mills so objectively mirrored in Mahesh of Sarat Chandra
Chattopadhaya. The first generation of proletariat was these dispossessed rural toilers mainly
originating from the Dalits, the tribals and the Muslim peasant stock. Terrorists from upper caste
Hindu stocks with the name of Holy Mother in their lips had no time or energy for them. With the
arrival of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in India mobilization of the peasantry, and assertion of the
bourgeoisie by civil disobedience, Satyagraha, etc. started as crystallization of mass anger. It was M K
Gandhi under whose leadership the idea of India was galvanized as the modern political entity, whose
leadership brought the mute millions of peasantry into active political process. The terrorists were
nowhere in this picture. Except for the brief period of Quit India movement in 1942-1944, the
peasantry in Bengal remained largely outside the orbit of M K Gandhi’s leadership. During the Quit
India movement a section of peasantry of Bengal joined the mainstream agitation; Tamralipta Sarkar
was formed in Midnapur that openly defied the British political rule, the heritage that recent incidents
in Nandigram carried through.

Page 13

Aside from the terrorist stream, republican ideas were welcomed by a section of Bengal petty
bourgeoisie by their endorsement towards Karl Marx and the developments in post-Bolshevik
revolution Russia. If the bourgeoisie were mesmerized by the liberal philosophies and practices from
the West, these sections who shunned the terrorist path, and were desirous of embracing the interest of
working class found the developments in post–revolution Russia too enchanting to ignore. Dr.
Bhupendranth Dutta introduced the communistic ideas of Karl Marx in Bengal after returning from
Berlin, the Meerut conspiracy trial and the propaganda around it evoked keen interest among the more
class-conscious sections of the workers, primarily in the textile mills in Bombay province, and among
the urban petty bourgeoisie in Bengal. Communist fractions taking cue from the Comintern and
socialists holding brief of the second international came into picture of organizing working class and
peasant masses. Communists and socialists joined the mass awakening programs of Gandhi with the
intention to push the Congress party and the bourgeoisie towards working class programs and issues as
far as possible. To an extent their endeavor were successful in the radical posturing of Congress
leaders such as Subhas Chandra Bose, Jwaharlal Nehru, Jayprakash Naryan, Achyut Patwradhwan,
etc. in the later periods of Quit India Movement. Gandhi’s non-violent program of non-cooperation
often went beyond the desire and limits set by the bourgeoisie – to the extent the workers and
particularly the peasant masses took up independent initiative, the struggle went far beyond the lash
that Congress intended to hold. The spontaneous rebellions around the length and breadth of the
country during Quit India movement is the hall mark of mass mobilization of Indian peasantry, the
like of which was never seen after sepoy mutiny after nearly a century of suppression under the British
rule. The British establishment was really unnerved, coupled with the developments at the north-
eastern border by valiant efforts of Azad Hind Fouj, and the rebellion of Royal Navy and Air Force
retinue. The international scenario of dividing the loot around the globe among the major States as
planned by the Teheran Conference near the end of Second World War provided the cue for
bourgeoisie in India. The bourgeoisie in India sensed the time has come for them, the Bombay plan of
their India was drawn among themselves. Power was transferred primarily to the bourgeoisie in India
by dividing the nation, an entity that grew up with this century old struggle of the peasantry, the
workers and the urban petty bourgeoisie of varied political hues.

If the British initiated the fallacy of national awakening by gathering the tea-club around the Congress
Party, the independence of the proleteriat for asserting as a class was held in the hands of the
enlightened petty bourgeoisie sections with their obedient and unswerving allegiance towards the
masters at Comintern. Notwithstanding all valid criticisms towards Mao-Tse-Tung in turning the
philosophy of Karl Marx a caricature in the concrete practices in pre-revolutionary China (this is
completely a different topic, we are making here the statement only for the purpose of comparison of

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events with historical relevance), one must declare that he and his comrades possessed the courage and
realistic assessment to carve out an independent charter towards national liberation. They achieved a
republic primarily of the peasantry by racing ahead of the bourgeoisie, consolidated the national
awakening by defeating imperialism, and should one say thwarted the designs of Soviet Russia.
Compared to the developments in China, contribution of the communists and socialists in the anti-
colonial struggle in India were those of pygmies. This was essentially for two reasons: i) Congress was
in a position to offer a national awakening and reconstruction program, whereas the communists and
socialists simply did not have any independent national program other than what was stipulated by
Comintern, ii) they did not have any independent program for the working class apart from tailoring
the interests of the working class to those of the Indian bourgeoisie. The working class in India was
never a part of solidarity of the awakening that went throughout Europe towards the end of Second
World War. The working class in India was never part of international working class struggle for
emancipation – at its best of times it was an integral part of the design of Soviet Russia to wield
increasing sphere of international influence.

In the development of modern consciousness of toilers in India, we must distinguish the heroic
struggles of the toilers from the programs of the political parties those led these struggles. It is in the
programs and leaders’ role that the level and quality of consciousness crystallize. Primarily they
determine the goal of the struggle, the objective where they want to lead. The breadth of participation,
the spontaneity in activity and decision making process, the height and scale of the movement
objectify the aspirations of the masses involved in the struggle, determine the social and economic
content of the struggle. Towards the end of 1940’s India saw the communists really, truly in the
leadership of mass uprisings of the peasantry. The heroic participation of the ryots, the bhagchashi, the
bataidaars, the retinues in Tebhaga movement of Bengal, in Bihar, in Hazong uprising of North-East
Assam, in the peasant uprising in Malwa of Punjab, in Telengana uprising of Andhra, in Malabar
uprising of Kerala made India a panorama of peasant uprisings, a rainbow of aspiration for abolition of
centuries old tyranny of zamindari. None of these valiant, heroic struggles of peasantry helped the
proletariat in pushing its struggle towards emancipation from capital in any significant way, none of
these pushes from peasantry advanced the proletariat for assertion as an independent social entity. It
only proved that the communist parties are republicans to the extent they took up the role of vanguards
and protectors of the rural poor, and actually helped only in reorganization of the linguistic states of
administrative rule and control. Right after the transfer of power and consolidation of the Indian
bourgeoisie, the communists and republican socialists oscillated between supporting the central State
led by the Congress party at the instance of Russian diktat, and the agrarian reform program modeled
around Chinese experience. The role of the proletariat was fixed at pushing the influence of the

Page 15

communists and socialists in the matter of State policies, in State enterprises those came into being in
large scales after the second five year plan. The role of proletariat in society continues to be perceived
as consolidation of their proclaimed protectors at the parliamentary forums – it is at best of purposes a
vote bank for them. The pathetic caricature of the communist parties in India of the major hues after
four decades of so-called “sharp and intense” ideological struggle in the international arena did not fall
out of the blue. Independence of proletariat as a distinct social entity, assertion of the proletariat in
defining social agendas, pushing the cause of emancipation of the proletariat from the yokes of capital
were never fundamental to the spectrum of political parties espousing so called working class
interests. It comes as no surprise that religious Hindu fascists organization and communist parties in
India came into existence nearly in the same year, specifically 1925. Hindu fascists grew in influence
and seldom had major break or rupture in their organization. The communists splintered and
splintered, and lost all major region of influence except being allowed by the majority of voters in
Bengal to continue uninterrupted charade. The communists never knew where they belong, to whom
they owe. The fascists knew and assiduously, relentlessly pursue their agenda.

Present Bengal – a Farce a la Soviet Russia

The statue of Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin) was installed in Calcutta in 1967, the year in which the United
Front took oath of office in Bengal for the first time with participation of communists, socialists of all
colors, and programs. They had a mandate from the toilers, primarily the peasants, factory workers,
and the urban petty bourgeoisie still mesmerized in the ideals and valor of individual sacrifices of
terrorists, of Subhas Bose, the icon of radical urban youth. That year also saw removal of statues of the
old rulers, Governor Generals of British Raj, banished permanently in the grass sheds of Barrackpore,
the place where a century ago Mangal Pandey fired his volley of gunfire. A comical parody of Russian
revolution was enacted in Bengal reminding the historically relevant first paragraph of State and
Revolution authored by the dead man in the statue of Lenin. “During the lifetime of great
revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most
savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After
their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, so to say, and to
hallow their names to a certain extent for the “consolation” of the oppressed classes and with the
object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance,
blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarizing it” (the italics are in the work). In the last four decades
after installation of the statue, the working class in Bengal is robbed off even the “consolation” under
the hegemony that swears in the name of the statue.

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Our preceding analysis shows it is only natural, communists in India never had any independent
working class program, other than following History of Bolshevik Party manufactured by Stalin. In
Russia, the revolution of the proletariat had a searching call “All power to Soviets”. The newborn
soviet power born in November 1917 withstood the onslaught of fourteen nation States determined to
kill the baby in the bathtub for two continuous years. It augured such a swelling momentum in the
working class of Europe that revolutionary workers were soon facing the army of the bourgeoisie in
Germany, Hungary. Their leaders were shot, hanged, or had to accept self-banishment. Three decades
of rule of the so-called custodians of working class in Bengal failed to inspire toilers of even a
municipality outside the borders of Bengal! On the other hand, the working class is robbed of self-
esteem to such an extent that an industrialist dares to caution them of livelihood, of measly ration that
will be withdrawn by his class.

It is true that the present rulers in Bengal did not come to power by revolution, but by vote, by
parliamentary process of consent. It is also true they did not promise any revolution. In fact, from the
first day in uninterrupted power from 1977 they were extremely cautious in restraining the working
class from any action that may challenge the State in any form. In fact, over the historical periods of
their developments the working class in India seldom has moments of self-belief, it always knew that
it has to look up to a salvation army for its own class interests. This suited the convenient purpose of
the bhadroloak at the helm of affairs of the working class movement – whose republican ideas were
always limited to the extent of challenging the prevailing socio-economic environment so as to make
them acceptable, responsible representatives of the working class, as a class of negotiators, as a class
of managers of working class affairs for the bourgeoisie. Herein lies the farce that was underplay six
decades ago in Soviet Russia. In all microcosms, in all their symptoms the working class in Bengal
faces the same fate, the trauma that the proletariat in Russia had to undergo with the slow demise of
the revolution, with the penchant of Lenin and the Bolsheviks growing unequivocally for power in the
hands of Party, of State, of replacing the decision making process from the workers, from the soviets.
As good as 1925’s the workers’ State in Russia ceased to be a vehicle of emancipation of international
proletariat (this again is a separate question, but dealt quite adequately by several authors from the
working class in last decades), it slowly brought forward a hegemonistic State, rule of a new
bourgeoisie so poignantly described in Animal Farm. In that sense, an individual worker is fortunate
to be in Calcutta in twenty-first century than to be in Petrograd for the most part of twentieth century.
A worker being fired arbitrarily in Bengal can at least approach a Court, can approach fellow workers
to demonstrate for his or their retrenchment, can approach the press to air their plight. For the most
part of twentieth century in Soviet Russia such actions were unthinkable, could only bring torture in
Gulag or death in Lubyanka- because the worker is a counter-revolutionary in the eyes of a workers’

Page 17

State! Irony is that this figment of privilege is not the endowments of the custodians of hegemony in
Bengal; in all respects it is the continuation and reforms of labor laws of old British rulers by the
bourgeoisie in India after the transfer of power.

It is this consciousness, this legacy of Lenin of Party being the vanguard, Party being the sole
arbitrator, Party being the institution of biblical faith that largely and broadly dominated the
communist movement, and the working class movement of Asia and Africa for the best part of the
twentieth century. Primarily such consciousness followed from the complete unanimity in the
Bolshevik party about the basic characters of the Russian revolution: a) it is socialist since the
measures in political-economic terms suits the interests of the working class; b) class struggle
essentially is a question of transforming the vast mass of peasantry engaged in medieval modes of
production into agricultural proletariat that is possible only with large-scale collective farming and
improving large scale means of production; c) future of socialism lies in building a strong State and
state- sponsored society that was to be led by a resolute and politically smart leadership- namely the
communist party. History of nearing a century after the Russian revolution has proved that none of
these tenets are the sole property of a proletarian society; they can be easily the stamps of success of
most horrific bourgeoisie rule and exploitation – for example, present day North Korea, China and the
mass murders in Cambodia under Pol Pot, the rules of likes of Patrice Lulumba, and particularly in the
context of the present article the overtures of the communists in India with Nehruvian prescriptions of
socialism. In some sweeping sense, Lenin’s remarks that “socialism is dictatorship of proletariat plus
electricity” summarized the basic realization about socialism among the finest representatives of the
then working class – unfortunately this also paved the ground for pigs becoming men in the Animal
farm!

The advocacy of Lenin and the policy of the third international, and its later avatar Comintern of
looking beyond the West, and moving towards East after the failure of Berlin revolution in Germany
inscribed the name of international proletariat in the peasant revolutions in Asia and Africa. In China,
a nationalist revolution and a basically a republican, agrarian program of a resolute, single-minded
guerrilla army took the name of championing the cause of international working class. History of
numerous post–colonial countries and nations after the Second World War, including the peasant
rebellions in India on the eve of transfer of power have shown that a revolutionary agrarian program
in itself does not advance the cause of the proletariat. In fact, they often move the focus outside, and
antagonistic to the class interests of the proletariat, leaves the proletariat and its struggle against capital
at the mercy of benevolent benefactors called the Party. Proletariat as a class did not set the course of
developments, at best it is an also run in the course of development of the managers of its affairs.
Such levels of consciousness actually caused incalculable harm, tragedy to the proletariat of

Page 18

peasantry-dominated countries in Asia and Africa, they bounded the interest of the sections of the
proletariat to the national interests of the bourgeoisie of these countries. The case of working class in
Bengal is no exception to these annals of tragedy, it is bluntly and bitterly being portrayed in the
mirror of the present oligarchy in Bengal and threats from Mr. Tata.

The ascendancy of the present ruling establishment in Bengal is a direct result of partition of Bengal
after transfer of power, and continuous huge influx of Hindu Bengali population. If the earlier
contingent of proletariat in Bengal mainly came from the agrarian masses of adjoining states and the
impoverished Muslims, the Hindu petty bourgeoisie being dispossessed of every form of property
swelled the ranks of proletariat in large number from the decades of 1950s. Large number of them
joined the factories, industries that came into force after second five-year plan. Nothing exemplifies
better this influx of urban, impoverished petty bourgeoisie in large–scale industry than the
development of industrial township in Durgapur. Most of them had access to modern education, most
of them had highly disenchanted realization of being impoverished of not at own fault or cause – most
of them had reasons to rebel for betterment of life and living conditions. Apart from this the general
food crisis, the devaluation of rupee, the war at borders in 1965 pushed the social turmoil with the
more radical sections joining the communist fraction claiming themselves more revolutionary than the
parent party. The stamp of the proletariat, its independence, its assertion as a distinct social entity was
briefly an agenda in urban Bengal. It is pertinent to recall that the brief whiff of self assertion of the
industrial working class in Bengal started within a factory only – the victorious strike of Jaya
engineering workers of sixty four days that brought resilience of the working class as a new
phenomenon, a measure of new confidence. The brief but rebellious barricade fight in Durgapur of the
State owned steel mill workers is still a haunting memory to the bourgeoisie. The workers demanded a
taste of power through the installation of United Front in the Government, they were asserting in the
negotiation tables in factories after factories.

The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi blowed the air of militancy out of the working class. Banks,
mines, industries such as textiles, heavy engineering, etc were nationalized – they became State
enterprises. Privy purses were abolished, Bagaram Tulpule, a trade union leader became the General
Manager of Durgapur Steel Plant, wages were increased across the board in State enterprises, wage
boards of industries were constituted, monopoly restrictions and trade practices act was introduced.
India suddenly became “socialist” in the eyes of the socialists, communists! They became votaries,
staunchest protectors of State enterprises, their vocabulary were couched in terms of national interests!
In fact, the Constitution of the State was soon amended to include the words “socialist, secular” in the
preamble. The more radical factions joined far more extremist agrarian program in the wake of peasant
rebellion in Naxalbari, in Darjeeling district. Blessings from China were round the corner, India was to

Page 19

emulate China, Srikakulum, and Debra were to be modern Hunan in India! The rebellion caught up
imagination of the petty-bourgeoisie as hordes of “bhalo chele” joined the ranks of so-called urbane
guerillas. If not revolution can come let the traffic policeman pay the price of working for the
bourgeoisie state! The movement soon degenerated in splinters. What followed is unprecedented State
repression never seen even in the British period with police, army having free hand to kill the urbane
youth posing as guerillas. In hindsight though the scale of repression is nothing compared to what is
happening in present day Kashmir valley or in the name of combing guerillas in the jungles of
Chhattisgarh. The working class was forced to declare a truce, they went into factory lines without
putting resistance any further, except for a brief period in 1974 during the nationwide railwaymen’s
strike. That truce resulted in the voluntary consent to the present rulers who now want to complete the
cycle by total surrender of the struggle for independence of the working class.

None of these fractions, splinters had anything to question, evaluate, analyze the Russian experience,
or the East-European experiences of the working class. Workers in Hungary, Prague, Poland were
facing the Russian tanks, they were running their own administration, they were battling the
hegemony that usurped power from the working class in the name of working class. Factory workers
and students in France, Mexico were holding the State in siege. None of these events in any measure
ushered new thoughts, new realization in the brief momentous years in Bengal in the late sixties. All
were busy in accusing and retaliating each other in the name of Lenin and proclaiming to be “true”
carriers of his legacy. All had to prove themselves more “Leninists”, more revolutionary in whose
name that was not the concern. All had to swear by Leninist Party. The proletariat is only to be an
instrument serving the interest of such Party.

In India, the Bengal experiment became a classic case of putting into action such consciousness, much
after they failed miserably to advance the cause of a social class aspiring most among all sections of
capitalist society to transcend the boundaries set to protect the class interests of the bourgeoisie.
Therefore, the experience is far more mediocre, far more banal, and far more farcical, particularly in
the sense they have nothing to challenge the bourgeoisie. Be it ideology, political economy, culture,
history, modern science and technology – everywhere and in every way the prevailing quality and level
of consciousness set by the protagonists of Lenin about the concepts of proletarian struggle and
proletarian society resulted only mimicking the bourgeoisie, only in competing the bourgeoisie in a
game rules of which are set by the bourgeoisie. The caricature in Bengal in the last three decades have
strengthened the bourgeoisie, not only in political economy, but far more important and far more
tragic is the defeat of the proletariat in the sphere of ideology, in the vanquished, deserted
consciousness of the proletariat as a class. They have resigned themselves to the defeat. The class has
turned into individuals. That is predominantly the somber reality of the proletariat in Bengal.

Page 20

In Lieu of Conclusion

Mr. Ratan Tata in his open letter to the youth in Bengal has challenged the national consciousness of
Bengal, however feeble and fractured that may be. The Nobel laureate has raised pathetic arguments in
favor of Mr. Tata’s in his counsel to repeat the conditions of predatory capitalism three centuries ago
in England to twenty-first century Bengal. The liberal bourgeoisie in him is absolutely bankrupt in his
silence that the land acquisition was done in Singur and was intended to be done in Nandigram by the
savage colonial instrument of Land Acquisition Act of 1894. It is a huge, abject admission of a good-
intentioned liberal economist that in reality he has actually no argument to confront the class question
– generation of employment, conditions of employment in the social production process of capitalism
are solely dictated by the conditions of wealth accumulation for the capitalists, the industrialists. Mr.
Ratan Tata understood that these conditions of wealth accumulation for his company are not
conducive in Bengal, he moved to Gujarat. It should have been over by that, but he took upon the
cudgel for the whole capitalist class so that in future the working class in Bengal is dictated solely,
unequivocally by the interest of capitalist class. Our intention of putting up this article is to emphasize
the importance of this warning for the proletariat in Bengal.

In all senses, the oligarchy in Bengal in its procrastination of last three decades have prepared the
ground for such warnings coming from the likes of Mr. Tata. It is not the intention nor any interest of
the author to conjecture whether the present rulers of Bengal will continue to look after the interests of
the oligarchy in Bengal in the parliamentary process – what is reasoned in the article is that finally the
oligarchy has decided to move into mainstream capitalist investment policies of the central State of
India. They wanted to prove they were different, in the process the oligarchy silently butchered the
working class, and their representatives turned into the joke of the nation. What was unique in their
experimentation is now recoiling on them, in the process they realize that they have missed the bus. In
every sphere of public life they imitate only those things they proclaimed to repudiate. Now they have
thrown away all their gowns, the King is parading naked on the streets. The developments in
Nandigram and in Singur are audible in these reminders to the proletariat in Bengal.
Which way the proletariat in Bengal will go? The author has no qualms in admitting that no
readymade prescription is on the table. It is far easy to comment on the past, and to offer conjectures
on the future than to draw the roadmap for the present. One thing is certain that the proletariat has
definitely to chart the uncharted if it has to raise its head against the surrender order from men like Mr.
Tata. In such times of tragedy history looms large, the past gets overbearing. Therefore, it is necessary
to learn and summarize the experiences, and this article is an effort in that direction.

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It follows that the Bengal experiment is a callous, mediocre attempt of petty bourgeoisie
republicanism. It is also the end of the road of such republicanism as the oligarchy understood that no
better course can be offered by them than to follow studiously the dictates from the bourgeoisie,
national or foreign whatever be the color, capital and capitalists who matter most. History has
repeatedly proved in nineteenth century France, in twentieth century Russia, China, and for nations
those woke up from colonial exploitation of the past that the republicans turn into the bitterest enemies
of the proletariat as they know the end of the road for themselves. Exactly such a situation is presently
confronting the proletariat in Bengal – the difference is that the class in itself has actually conceded
defeat for the present. It is not that in the last three decades there are no independent imitative from the
working class in Bengal to register its existence, there are numerous instances of such independent
initiatives, and in fact restiveness is palpable at factories level unrest. If at all these initiatives have any
role to raise the proletariat as the class for themselves, it is fundamental to shed off the relics of the
past believes and consciousness. The proletariat in Bengal is not as much exasperated by want of
democracy to assert itself as happened in Russia and East European countries, and as happening in
modern China, but is exasperated of the pied pipers of Hamlin who promised the roadmap to Eldora
do. Therefore, if the proletariat raises its head, at the first instance it will throw away such thakedars,
the custodians, and with them their preaching and shoddy dealings will be put in dustbins of history. It
is hoped that this article will be debated in this context of understanding the roots of such believes and
consciousness.

“What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory
of the proletariat are equally inevitable” – thus proclaimed two wise men of Europe in 1848 in
Communist Manifesto. After one and half century of passing, the air of certainty in the second
sentence is nowhere near in international struggle of the proletariat to transcend and throw away the
yoke of capital. On the other hand, at no time in living memory the bourgeoisie is scared of itself as it
is now from the present crisis of its political economy. Its banks have collapsed as pack of cards, its
share-markets are going to dogs, trillions of dollars vanished into the blue. The bourgeoisie as a class
has nobody to point fingers than at its own eyes and chest, it has tanked itself with no crew to curse
but itself. Chiefs of nation states who were at their throats exhorting millions of proletariat to kill class
brethren among nations six decades ago are hiding together in confabulation to save the sacred thread
– money. What is not mentioned in the first sentence of the proclamation is that standing in the stinks
of the trench the bourgeoisie clutches onto the hands of the graved-diggers desperately, draws them
inside the trench, puts soil covering the millions of proletariat and their families inside the trench, and
again starts its macabre dance in praise of money to lure the new batch of grave-diggers. That
precisely is the stark reality of the millions of jobless that follow such collapse of capitalist political

Page 22

economy, that precisely is the trauma that the proletariat in Bengal is undergoing for the last three
decades. The question poised before the proletariat of Bengal is whether they can secede the clutches
decisively, prepare themselves to throw the bourgeoisie in their destined place unambiguously, raises
the shovel of trench-cutters high in pride before the international, universal brotherhood of the
proletariat. This is because it has gone though the bitter disillusionment of breach of trust, of being
guided into the trench by its own believes, by its salvation armies. The events in Singur and
Nandigram point to the distinct cleavage of this breach of trust. This is because nobody else but the
proletariat itself will speak for himself or herself. There will be numerous radicals, plain-speaking
intellectuals, activists, lawyers, commentators for the cause of the evicted, uprooted peasantry, the
tribal, the Dalits, for the cause of national, minority jehadis, for human rights against State repression,
for causes ad nauseam. Only when it comes the cause of the direct producers, the working class on
whose fate rest upon all these causes as the root cause of malaise of capitalist political economy, every
one else but the class of grave-diggers fall silent, be dumb. Therefore, we do not conclude this article –
after all, emancipation of the working class is the task of itself. We therefore do not mark full stop
here. We hope for the proletariat of Bengal to assert for its independence, we look for it.

1 Comment »

One Response to “The Bengal Experiment – Model or Farce?”

  1. GurgaonWorkersNews Says:
    September 24th, 2010 at 04:58

    dear friends,

    an important article in the general sense of ‘proletarian position’ vs. statist ideology. i wonder whether the position held in the article finds a collective and practical expression: an effort to understand the changes of working class structure and experience in bengal and to support independent forms of proletarian organisation. looking forward to hearing more…

    best wishes
    M.
    GWN

    http://www.gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com

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