'Karat came to meet Basu at his Salt Lake residence today (Saturday) afternoon to enquire about his ailing health. He talked to Basu for less than 10 minutes,' Basu's personal assistant Joykrishna Ghosh said.
He said the CPI(M) general secretary did not continue the talks for long as the communist veteran was not well. 'It was just a courtesy meeting,' Ghosh said.
Later Prakash Karat slammed Trinamool Congress' demand to impose president's rule in West Bengal, saying it was against 'basic democratic principles'. 'Anybody who makes such demand should know that the demand of Article 356 (to impose president's rule) goes against the basic democratic principles. The Supreme Court has already said that the use of Article 356 against an elected government is unconstitutional,' Karat told reporters here before entering a party meeting at CPI(M) state headquarters.
About the central team which is scheduled to visit trouble-hit areas of Hooghly district, he said: 'Let the central team come and review the situation 'objectively and impartially'.
KOLKATA,1st November, 2009 : The Trinamool Congress has taken to the path of violence and terror and is in league with Maoists, veteran CPI(M) leader Jyoti Basu said here on Sunday even as he appealed to supporters of the Congress — an electoral partner of the Trinamool Congress — to back Left Front candidates in the November 7 bye-elections for ten Assembly seats. “The main Opposition party (Trinamool) is pursuing the path of killings and of terror…..The Trinamool and the Maoists are together (in carrying out such acts),” he said in a statement.
The State was going through dangerous times, he said and appealed to Congress supporters to back the Left candidates for the sake of “peace, order and development.”
“I am telling those who support the Congress that we (the Left parties), in the interests of the country, had supported the Congress against communalism,” Mr. Basu said, referring to the Left backing from outside for the previous United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre.
His remarks come a day after Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee came down on the Trinamool for its alleged links with left-wing extremists and said the party chief Mamata Banerjee — who is calling for the withdrawal of the joint security operation against the Maoists in the State — should approach the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister (who feel the need for such an operation) with her demand.
“Our (the Left parties) workers are being killed every day. Those being murdered include doctors, nurses, police personnel and ordinary people. Party offices are being set ablaze. The Trinamool and the Maoists are together. They are taking the law into their own hands,” Mr. Basu said.
Pointing out that sections of traditional Left supporters voted against the Left Front in the last Lok Sabha elections “when the results for us were bad,” Mr. Basu admitted that “the fault was not with them” for not backing the Left.“We could not take our message properly to the people. Besides, in certain areas we had made mistakes,” Mr. Basu said.
“Due to the policies pursued by the centre, poor people are being adversely hit. Peasants are committing suicide. Food crisis is also escalating in the country,” said Basu, who was chief minister of West Bengal for 23 years from 1977. He stepped down in 2000 for health reasons. He said prices of essentials, hoarding and black marketing are on the rise, and asserted that the Left parties had built up agitations against the maladies.
“We will never agree to the strategies aimed at dividing the poor,” he said in the missive, read out by Left Front chairman Biman Bose. Attacking the state’s opposition parties and Maoists for stalling development by perpetrating violence and triggering lawlessness, Basu appealed to the Left workers to mobilise the people against such atrocities.
“Work for the people. We should not lose faith in the people, even those who have turned against us. Many have voted against us in the last general election. We have to correct our mistakes. We have to bring these people back to our fold,” the leader said. “I have confidence that the people of our state will never pitch their lot with opportunistic alliances and parties devoid of policies and morals,” said Basu.
“Many had gone against us in the last [Lok Sabha] elections. We will have to bring them back to us again … . Side-by-side, we will have to correct our own mistakes,” Mr. Basu said in a statement that was read out at a massive rally organised by the Left Front to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the “Food Movement” in which 80 persons were killed in a baton charge on demonstrators demanding food.
“The struggling masses are the Left’s hope in difficult times. I say this from the experience of the great ‘Food Movement’,” Mr. Basu said, criticising the attempts being made by the Trinamool Congress in league with the Maoists and, in certain places the Congress, to stall development and create anarchy in the State.
Leaders and workers of the Left parties were being murdered, party offices were being attacked and set ablaze. “We will have to resist such attacks by mobilising the masses. For this we will have to keep reaching out to the people, work to further the interests of the poor and common man and win over their affection,” Mr Basu said.
The poor are coming forward to renew their struggle against the Centre's policies, which were forcing farmers to commit suicide. The increase in prices of essential commodities, arise in black marketing, and a deepening food crisis had hit them badly, he pointed out.
In his written speech read out by Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) state secretary Biman Bose, Basu said: “Trimaool, Congress and Maoists are trying to stop development in West Bengal through anarchy and terror. We have to counter their efforts by mobilizing common people…they know who are their friends and who their foe.”
Basu asked his partymen to win back the support of people through ‘understanding their needs’.“In the last Lok Sabha election many voted against us. We have to correct our mistakes. We have to bring them back to our fold. We have also to regain their confidence. The people are our hope in difficult times.
“We should not lose confidence on the people,” the veteran politician said.Basu also accused Trinamool, Congress and Maoists for killing CPI-M activists and setting their houses on fire in the districts.
Basu’s speech was read out at the condolence meeting of former transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, which was held at Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday.
Basu described Chakraborty as a hard-working individual and an able administrator. “He was a crowd puller. I have heard many people are coming to his condolence meeting. I express my gratitude to them,” said Basu. The speech was read out by CPI(M) leader Amitava Nandy. “You (party workers) will have to work for people’s interests. That is what Subhas used to do,” he added.
Shocked by Chakraborty’s sudden demise, Basu said: “At this age, I should have gone. This was not his time to pass away. He could have worked more for a long time.” Recounting the days when Chakraborty was part of the youth movement, Basu said: “In those days, he used to work hard for the part. He even had to go to jail.”
From Ataur Rahman
Ex State Minister for Culture Mr. Obaidul Quader MP when contacted said he has visited Barodi , the ancestral home of Mr. Basu which is about 20 Km from here on the instruction of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina . Before flying to Egypt to attend NAM summit which began today Hasina had asked Quader to visit Jyoti Basu's house as her government plans to preserve it ( house ) having memories of the veteran leader.
Mr. Quader said he has asked the concerned people to prepare a proper plan - making a monumental site of the place which will incorporate a museum , a library and other necessary spots so that people from far and near can visit . When asked how long it will take to start the task , Quader said we hope the work will begin very soon once the plan which will be sent to the PM gets her approval.
PM Hasina had asked Quader to survey the house of the veteran leader to see whether it could be turned into a library, The Daily Star said in a report published today. The paper also reported that Mitali, an Indo- Bangladesh cultural society on Monday called on the government to presertve the house of Basu. The organization also demanded that the road from Bishwa Road to his Barodi hose be named after him ( Jyoti Basu ).
Jyoti Basu knew and had good relations with Bangladesh's founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman ( Hasina's father ) and Hasina has great respects for Mr. Jyoti Basu . Whenever she visited Kolkata, she had called on the veteran leader. Basu as chief minister of West Bengal played a role ( in convincing BJP central govt in New Delhi) in reaching an agreement on sharing waters of river Ganges in 1996 after Hasina came to power.
Quader said the road to Mr. Basu's house at Barodi is now in bad shape .The road will be repaired as part of the preservation plan. He also informed they also talked with the secretary of ailing Basu today and sought their consent which he( Basu) gracefully gave.
Besides DC[ Deputy Commissioner] of Narayanganj district under whose jurisdiction Barodi falls, other officials and a large number of people were present when Mr. Quader visited the spot.
Mr. Basu during his last visit to Bangladesh in 1999 had visited his ancestral house and is known to regularly enquire about the present condition of the house.
If built finally ,it would a good example of honoring history.
"The panel of doctors will continue to monitor his progress at his residence from time to time," he said.Basu would now be kept under watch by specialised doctors round the clock at his residence, sources said.The 96-year-old veteran Marxist leader was admitted to the hospital last Sunday after he fell unconscious at his Salt Lake residence.
Jyoti Basu’s bedroom will be converted into a virtual intensive care unit with life-saving equipment to ensure the 95-year-old CPI(M) leader does not face a crisis like last Sunday’s when he twice fell unconscious.
“The medical board has suggested that before shifting Basu to his Salt Lake residence, we should arrange a medical set-up there,” a senior AMRI official told mediapersons.
The unit at Indira Bhavan will have a cardiac monitor, pulse oximeter, defibrillator, Ambu bag, oxygen cylinders and a suction machine as well as emergency drugs. Doctors and trained nurses will man the unit round the clock.
Madhabi Biswas will be part of the new unit following a request from Basu.
CPI(M) state secretary Biman Basu has conveyed to AMRI that the party would pay for the equipment.
“Bimanbabu wanted AMRI to facilitate the procurement of these equipment,” a hospital official said.
Sources said it would cost around Rs 5 lakh to set up the unit. According to them, standby equipment would be provided by tomorrow and these would be replaced once the new equipment are procured.
The condition of Basu, who turned 96 on July 8, is now stable, doctors attending on him said.
Basu fell unconscious this morning at his Salt Lake residence 'Indira Bhavan' following acute breathing trouble, his personal assistant Joykrishna Ghosh said.
Doctors were called in immediately and the former chief minister was rushed to AMRI Hospital, where he is in the ICCU, he told mediapersons.
Basu is under observation of a medical board which treated him when he fell ill about three months ago.
Doctors said his condition was stable and his echocardiography was conducted.
Basu's son Chandan, former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee and state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty went to the hospital to inquire about his health.
By Special Correspondent
The Hindu, Friday, Jul 10, 2009
KOLKATA: The body might have become frail. But the spirit has not. The doyen of Left politics, Jyoti Basu was almost patriarchal in his assurance to a group of admirers who called on him at his residence on his 96th birthday on Wednesday that he is with those who want development in West Bengal.
Bouquets and good wishes continued to reach him a day later, on Thursday.
His birthday remark carried with it the unmistakable message of hope — coming from one who has been stoic in the face of reversals suffered by the Left Front in the State in the April-May Lok Sabha elections, a front that he was largely instrumental in creating and which only last month entered its 33rd year in power.
It was because of its policies aimed at “development and progress” in the State that the people had stood by the Left Front over the past decades, the veteran Marxist had said in a statement read out at a rally organised by the front to kick-start its Lok Sabha election campaign earlier this year in the city.
Mr. Basu’s absence on the podium was certainly felt that Sunday afternoon in February.
Ups and downs are but natural for one whose political career spans seven decades; the Left Front’s debacle in the Lok Sabha elections and in the elections to certain civic bodies last month are the more recent downs.
But Mr. Basu has never been one to despair, confides one of his closest aides who spends hours with him every day.
Mr. Basu’s advice to his associates in the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has been simple: take corrective measures to win back the confidence of the people. It finds an echo in the statements by the party’s various bodies — from the Polit Bureau to the West Bengal State Committee — as the CPI(M) leadership introspects on the causes of the setbacks it suffered in the recent elections.
“We were not able to get the people to understand the stand we took in the elections,” he conceded in an interview to Ganashakti, the CPI(M)’s Bengali mouthpiece, on the occasion of the Left Front stepping into yet another year in power last month.
Mr. Basu might not — for health reasons — be seen at party meetings and Left Front rallies. But his words of advice have had key players in the country’s political landscape visiting him at his Salt Lake residence time and again.
Among them, in recent times, was Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, after her party’s resounding success in the Lok Sabha polls. While congratulating her, Mr. Basu expressed his hope that she would ensure “development in West Bengal.”
To both ally and adversary, he remains the sagacious counsellor; to the people he is a living legend.
Jyoti Basu pitches for the future
Ananya Dutta & Indrani Dutta
The Hindu, July 9, 2009
Addresses gathering at sombre yet spirited birthday event at his home
KOLKATA: “To those well-wishers of West Bengal who want development and prosperity for the State, I’m with you,” veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu, 95, said here on the occasion of his birthday on Wednesday, clearly pitching for the future of the State of which he was Chief Minister from 1977 to 2000. He was born on July 8, 1914.
Addressing a gathering at his Salt Lake residence, the frail-looking but cheerful nonagenarian said it was his wish that the State develop and its people prosper.
He did not mount a podium that was erected outside and chose to address the gathering from the foyer.
“We usually don’t observe birthdays, but since it’s the will of so many people, I usually come here for a few minutes. This year I’m unwell and bedridden, but I’m very pleased to see you all. I welcome all of you,” he said in a voice that was just about audible but retained the steely spirit of a political patriarch.
‘Pather Panchali,’ the non-governmental organisation that has organised his birthday events year after year, announced this time that it would distribute for the Cyclone Aila-affected children textbooks for Class 9 to 12, and notebooks imprinted with Mr. Basu’s picture.
Mr. Basu’s frail health made the occasion an essentially sombre one. Both Transport Minister Subhash Chakraborty and the former Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Somnath Chatterjee, spoke on the occasion in a quivering voice. “We want him to be with us for many more years,” said Mr. Chatterjee. “I’ve travelled within the country and elsewhere, but seldom have I come across a leader who is so well-loved by the people.”
“He’s the one person who can uphold the Communist movement,” said Mr. Chakraborty. Expressing the hope that the slippages witnessed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the recent elections in the State would not mean that West Bengal had strayed from Communist ideals, he said: “The trust of the people shall never be betrayed.”
A number of Left Front leaders including Fire and Emergency Services Minister Pratim Chatterjee, senior Forward Bloc leader Ashok Ghosh and Kolkata Mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya were present.
Children from a number of city schools joined in. Some of them dressed as traditional ‘chhau’ dancers stepped daintily to drumbeats. Others formed a float showing a Chinese dragon, while more of them lined up with balloons — a balloon for every year Mr. Basu’s eventful life.
On behalf of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, the Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly, Partha Chatterjee, visited Mr. Basu later in the day. “Mamata Banerjee is in New Delhi for the railway budget, but she has conveyed her wishes for his long life,” Mr. Chatterjee said.
Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee called up on the phone to wish him long life. Mr. Basu personally thanked Mr. Mukherjee for having found the time to call him.
Left Front Committee chairman Biman Bose spent about 30 minutes with Mr. Basu. Other visitors included yesteryear actors including Madhabi Mukherjee. Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi had come on Tuesday to convey his best wishes.
Through the day on Wednesday, scores of visitors came in to wish the veteran.
Several Kolkata newspapers brought out supplements to mark the day, and television channels ran repeats of his interview recordings and clippings of a documentary made on Mr. Basu by award-winning director Gautam Ghosh.
Mr. Basu, who perhaps for the first time did not cast his vote this time due to poor health, had expressed his regret at not being able to campaign for the party. In April 2008, he was unable to attend the Coimbatore Party Congress due to failing health.
Hundreds of schoolchildren greeted the Marxist patriarch. Admirers from all various walks of life, including his Communist Party of India-CPI(M) comrades and their rivals, assembled outside Indira Bhavan, the Salt Lake residence of Basu.
"I am not well. I've become bedridden nowadays. But I welcome all of you who have come here to greet me on my birthday," Basu said in a frail and halting voice.
"I think all of you, who have come over here, are well wishers of the state. You want the state to prosper. I am with you," Basu said.
The day was celebrated with songs, dances and speeches by eminent people. Boys and girls came with balloons and flowers, and a red bouquet with '96' written on it was handed over to Basu, who watched the function from his balcony.
Senior CPI(M) leader and state Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty, former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee and state Fisheries Minister Kiranmoy Nanda were also present.
"The Communist movement was developed brick by brick in our state under his (Basu) able leadership. Give us strength so that we can present your ideology to our young generation," Chakraborty said in an emotion-choked voice.
"The people of West Bengal will never betray you and they'll not reject the path you have shown to them."
Chatterjee said: "I am fortunate enough to have worked under him. I have walked by his side... Learnt from him. I have worked as per his directives. This huge gathering proves the respect he commands from the masses."
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, chief of CPI(M)'s biter rival Trinamool Congress, sent West Bengal assembly opposition leader Partha Chattopadhyay to Basu's residence.
"He is a very senior leader. I went to his residence on his birthday last year. But this year I could not be present there as parliament session is on. Basu himself wants that I visit him on this precious day," she told reporters in New Delhi.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee also called up Basu to wish him.
Several newspapers came out with special supplements while many television channels beamed special programmes on his birthday.
The last of the nine founding politburo members of CPI(M), Basu almost became India's prime minister in 1996 at the head of a centre-Left United Front government. But the CPI(M) vetoed the proposal, forcing him to dub the party's decision a "historical blunder".
I came to know that CPI (M) Kerala State Committee and EMS Academy are observing this year the birth centenary of Comrade EMS Namboodiripad. This observation in honour of one of the outstanding exponents of Marxism of our times is a fitting tribute to his memory.
My relation with Comrade EMS spans for over 60 years and the bond that we shared during all these years was very cordial. We worked together for many years, taking many decisions to build up political–ideological and organizational movements achieving our goal to build an exploitation-free society. There were debates, exchanges of opinions and most importantly consensuses, in our joint effort to build a communist party based on a correct ideological path as a part of the collective leadership of the party. He was both a visionary and a communist with a strong practical bent of mind. He had a strong political acumen and at the same time he was a versatile and knowledgeable politician with commendable hold on a vast range of issues.
He was brought up in a wealthy and respectable Brahmin family, but he gave up his studies to join the movement for India’s independence from the colonial rulers. It was in the 1930s that he established contact with the communist revolutionaries of Bengal and Punjab. The country and generally the world, then was witnessing a turbulent phase that was marked by intense anti imperialist and anti fascist struggles. Comrade EMS too was influenced by the intensity of this struggles and he was slowly drifted into the socialist fold and then in the subsequent years started working to build the communist party.
His campaign against ill belief and superstitions and prevalent casteist feelings had started even earlier when he undertook the tedious task of reforms among his own family members. He took an exemplary role in building up the communist movement in the state of Kerala.
It was in 1939 itself that he became a part of the parliamentary politics in Kerala. In the early years of the 40’s he had to go underground and he went to work with the poor peasants and became a part of them by adopting their lifestyle in a befitting manner. The love and sensitivity that he showed towards the poor peasants remained an intrinsic part of his characteristics for the rest of his life.
He was elected to the leadership of the Party from the time since its very first congress in 1943. He made invaluable contribution as a leader of the Party.
In the fifties, when the party was in the midst of an inner- party ideological struggle he played a significant role by guiding the party and insisting on the fact that a communist party should retain its revolutionary characteristics. He was elected Party General Secretary in 1962 when the ideological struggle in the party became intensive. Comrade EMS boldly expressed his opinion in the party, and many a time we had debated on his opinions. I too, had some opinions in the party on ideological issues and later it was decided to incorporate both the opinions into the party fold for elaborate discussions. All of us at that time decided to work together to strengthen the party. After the division of our party in 1964 Comrade EMS took a vital role in building up party organization and also penning down our party’s programme. During his tenure as the general secretary from 1977 to 1992 he contributed commendably to shape up party’s political–organizational line.
From the fifties onwards he played an important role at the party centre and gave his vital inputs as part of the collective leadership of various movements. In the subsequent elections in 1957 when Kerala became a full fledged state under the Indian Union, the first communist government under his leadership emerged. It was under his chief ministership the first non - congress government was established in any state of independent India.
While we were not successful in West Bengal at 1957 assembly election, Kerala was building a new history under the leadership of Comrade EMS Namboodiripad. For the first time, the people elected a Communist government in the country and reposed on us a new responsibility for the days ahead. I still remember it was the third week of March 1957. As soon as we learnt of the news Kakababu, Comrade Muzaffar Ahmad, immediately sent a telegram to Trivandrum saying, "We have just heard of the success of the Communist Party in Kerala. We congratulate you on behalf of members of the party in West Bengal and all democratic forces in the state." The Communists alone got sixty seats. Independents backed by the Communists got five, PSP nine and the Congress won forty three seats. The total number of seats was 126. Comrade E M S Namboodiripad was elected the legislative Party leader with Achutya Menon as his deputy. E M S became the first Communist chief minister of the country. The other ministers included K. P. Gopalan, T. A. Majid, P. K. Sathan, Joseph Mundaseri, V. R. Krishna Iyer, K. R. Gouri Amma, Dr A. R. Menon and K. C. George.
I remember, on April 7, we called a meeting at the Kolkata Maidan to celebrate the formation of a Communist government in the country and the gaining of strength of the CPI in Bengal. The rally, which was presided over by Muzaffar Ahmad, began with a famous song which had been written in the memory of the martyrs of Kerala’s Malabar district. I proposed a resolution which said, "We have gone one step ahead with the victory of the Communist Party in Kerala. Our congratulations go out to the people of Kerala and we resolve to forge stronger ties among the democratic and peaceful forces in this state in the fight against imperialism."
After taking over as chief minister, E M S introduced a 16-point programme including major land reforms, farmers’ rights on their land and growth of the agricultural industry. He also appealed to the industrialists to take an active role in progress of the state's economy. The new government started work in earnest. In a matter of few days, the historic Ordinance which gave agricultural rights to 10 lakh labourers and five lakh sharecroppers came into being while one lakh acre of agricultural land was distributed to landless farmers. All political detenus were released. The Kerala government also announced that the police would not be used to break any democratic agitation.
All these were noble efforts, particularly compared with the experience of long Congress regimes earlier. This was a major responsibility; on the one hand the government had to function within the bourgeoisie-zamindar political structure while, on the other hand, the onus was on the government to lend a revolutionary role to the people’s struggle.
In 1952, the Communist Party had won 27 of the 60 Lok Sabha constituencies that it had contested while out of the 122 it had contested this time, 29 had been elected. But the number of votes polled for the party had doubled.
The party had formed the government in the state during second general elections by becoming the single largest party. Jawarharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister then, while his daughter, Indira Gandhi, was the president of the AICC. We all know how tirelessly Prime Minister Nehru and his daughter tried to prevent the Communists from coming to power in Kerala. However, they did not succeed.
E. M. S took over as chief minister amid a wave of people’s support and encouragement in Kerala. But on July 31, 1959, the President used Article 356 to dismiss the state Assembly.
There were many tactics which were adopted to prevent the Communist ministry from working to a programme. The AICC with Mrs Gandhi at its helm entered into an unholy alliance with reactionary and opportunistic forces and parties. A disinformation campaign was launched which said that the masses wanted the Kerala government to go. It isn’t exactly a top secret that Prime Minister Nehru had called E.M.S. and asked him the resign, dissolve Assembly and call fresh elections. But E.M.S. ignored this pressure tactics and thus the unrelenting efforts to dismiss the Kerala government continued.
The progressive attitude and some of the virtuous Bills on land reforms and the education system had set the cat among the pigeons in Kerala. These steps had come rudely shocked the vested interests in the state. The so-called popular "mass movement" against the Kerala government had not touched the majority of the people of the state because by the time, an agitation to protect the state government had spread throughout the nation. The people’s demand was to get the Congress out of Kerala.
When the disinformation campaign failed and the much expected mass movement against the Kerala government did not come by, the Centre resorted to Article 356 and imposed President’s rule in Kerala.
On June 6, E.M.S. had come to Calcutta and two lakh people were there to receive him at the Maidan. Women blew conch shells to welcome the first Communist Chief Minister of the country. I was in Delhi when the decision to impose President’s rule in Kerala was announced. Bhupesh Gupta and Dinesh Roy were there along with me. We had gone to present a memorandum of grievances against the West Bengal government.
On August 7, a huge rally was taken out which culminated in the Maidan protesting against the action in Kerala. On July 14, a resolution was adopted at the National Council of the CPI which rejected the proposal for re-election in Kerala.
On July 15, 1959 Triguna Sen, journalist Vivekananda Mukherjee, Dr Paresh Chandra Sen, Satyajit Ray, Susobhan Sarkar, Hemanta Mukherjee, Gopal Chandra Halder, Sambhu Mitra. Mihir Sen, Binoy Ghosh, Asitbaran, Suchitra Mitra, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak and other intellectuals like Nandagopal Sengupta appealed to the President and the Prime Minister in which they said, "Those who are unified to oust the Kerala government by unholy means are working to strike at the roots of Indian democracy. We request that such efforts be stopped immediately. "A separate appeal entitled Intervention shall not be allowed in Kerala" was sent to the President by playwright Bijan Bhattarcharya, actor Bhanu Banerjee and scientist B D Nagchowdhury. On July 15, 1959, a letter signed by 17,336 residents of Calcutta was sent to the President carrying the same message.
On July 3, the party’s West Bengal state committee held a rally at the Monument which was attended by more than one lakh people. Indrajit Gupta and I spoke on the occasion. I said that the need of the hour was not to get disillusioned but defend the forces of democracy against Congress dictatorship with fortitude and discipline. A strong movement was necessary for this. Amar Bose of the Forward Bloc (Marxist) presided over this rally. On the same day, when the demand to place the Kerala Governor’s report in the Lok Sabha was rejected, the majority of the Opposition members staged a walkout. At that time, Dangey was the leader of the Communist Parliamentary Party. On that very day, I was addressing a press conference in Delhi where I placed the views of the West Bengal State Council of the party. It was during this press conference that we got news that the Kerala government had been dismissed.
Shortly before going to Delhi, I had met Dr Roy. He had told me that he was against the tactics of the Congress in Kerala and that he did not like the way an elected government was being harassed. He had indicated this to the Congress Working Committee. I remember Dr Roy telling me that it needed a strong hand to run a government. I asked him what he would have done if he had been in E.M.S.’s shoes. The Chief Minister replied, “I would have arrested all the agitators and taken strict administrative steps." Needless to say, we had ourselves been subject to the "strong administrative steps" as suggested by the Chief Minister. Bhupesh Gupta and I went to meet Feroze Gandhi after the press conference. He did not stay in the residence of the Prime Minister at that time and had shifted to one of the flats allotted to parliamentarians on North Avenue. While asking us to sit, Feroze Gandhi said "A murder has been committed today. Democracy has been killed in Kerala." That day, he told us many other stories. That does not require mention here.
However, during this brief tenure the state government embarked on radical land reforms and had taken concrete steps on democratization of education system and strengthening health facilities and took steps to uphold the rights of workers and farmers. The stand taken by EMS government acted as a torchbearer for future struggle in the history of Indian democracy. He was successfully able to consolidate the struggle both inside and outside of the Parliament. His legendary skills helped in shaping our party’s political strategy in the later stages of struggle.
In 1967 assembly elections, non-Congress governments came up in eight states of India, including West Bengal. In Kerala again a non-Congress government was formed under the stewardship of Comrade EMS. But unfortunately CPI, a partner of the left withdraw themselves from this government and joined hands with the Congress. Again the non-Congress government in Kerala though destined to fall was able to have an impact by introducing pro-people policies distinct from its predecessors. This invaluable experience helped us immensely while we managed the successful Left coalition in the State of West Bengal in 1967 and 1969 as part of the United Front government.
Comrade EMS was a glaring example of a communist leader, who showed all the qualities that one communist should have, and he rightfully had earned accolades, nationally and internationally.
Though he was extremely busy to keep his political and organizational commitments, still he managed to find out time to write the history of India from the Marxist point of view. He contributed immensely to Marxist literature. His writings on the history of India’s Freedom struggle, trade union movement, and cultural movement are considered to be masterpieces. His fame as an eminent author and as an acclaimed intellectual was spread even beyond the Party circles. His opinions, writings also served as guidelines to our party at some of the important junctures of national politics. Comrade EMS was not only a national leader but also a leader of the international communist movement.
Apart from Party Polit Bureau and central committee meetings we met and exchanged each other’s views many a time. His simplicity, exemplary honest behavior, his life as a communist earned respect of those who came in touch with him. In his death the country has lost a prodigal and idealistic personality.
Comrade EMS’s contribution in all these seven long decades will be a milestone not only for our party but to the entire nation. After 1992 due to illness his movement was restricted to his home state of Kerala though he regularly wrote his opinions about different subjects to various party forums on different issues and was a regular contributor to the party’s literary circuit. His ability to study sequentially different issues was another rare attributes of his memorable life.
Following is the statement made by Jyoti Basu before the Liberhan Commission of Inquiry:
I am happy that I have been given the opportunity to appear before the Commission. I wish to make a few points on the demolition of the Babri Masjid and reply to any queries.
· There were reports that the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya may be attacked by the Kar Sevaks. The then prime minister Sri Narsimha Rao, convened the meeting of the National Integration Council on November 23, 1992. On behalf of the CPI(M), Harkishan Singh Surjeet, the general secretary, and I attended the meeting. No member of the BJP attended it. Unanimously, powers were given to Sri Narsimha Rao to take necessary measures to protect the Masjid. On our party’s behalf we proposed that even Article 356 of the Constitution may be used if there is no other way to protect it, though we have been opposing its use.
· Two days before the demolition, i.e., on December 4, 1992, I rang up the prime minister to inform him that there was apprehension that the Masjid may be attacked and hence something has to be done to protect it. The prime minister said the Working Committee of the Congress was to meet on the issue. But your lordship knows what happened.
· After the UP government was dismissed, Sri Kalyan Singh addressed a meeting in Calcutta on February 2, 1993, as recorded by the police. The Hindi speech, along with its English translation, is also with me. I shall leave these with you. I particularly draw your attention to that part of the speech in which he speaks about the demolition of the mosque: “I express before you, I did not have any repentance, nor any pangs or agony for the case, and I had a pleasure to declare it as a historic day. I can tell you, my dear friends, without the inspiration of God such a colossal job of demolition could not have been pulled off within five hours without using any explosive device. Even if we engaged a labour contractor for the same, the contractor might have taken at least one and half months time for the said purpose, including removal of huge amount of debris. You know, the birth of new Indian era will take place with some glorious future after December 6, 1992. The demolition of the structure (though some sections of people took it for a shame for the Nation) has become an affair of pride to the Nation.”
· In the third week of December, 1993, Surjeet and I met the prime minister and asked him why nothing was done. He said, “How could I disbelieve a chief minister when he assured me that no harm will be done to the Masjid.” I then presented the cassette to him and told him what I told you now. I do not know whether he heard the cassette.
· The present prime minister, Sri Vajpayee, met me on March 20, 1999, in Calcutta and asked me why I called the BJP barbaric and uncivilised. I said I do not normally name anybody, but I do call the demolition a barbaric act, and I asked him how did it happen and what language should I use. He said “It was an accident and not organised”. I told him about Kalyan Singh’s speech. He kept quiet. Now he is saying something else - “expression of national sentiment”
We shall await the findings of the Commission.
Published in PEOPLE’S DEMOCRACY,December 08, 2002
This was the background in which once again, when the BJP was in power in UP, with its government being headed by Kalyan Singh, the kar sevaks declared a march to Ayodhya to protest against the attack on them earlier. When asked by the Supreme Court on a petition made before it, why the kar sevaks were going there, the counsel for the UP government stated that their intention was to pray and sing religious songs.
Our Party demanded a meeting of the National Integration Council and the then Congress prime minister, P V Narasimha Rao did call a meeting on November 23, 1992 in Delhi which Harkishen Singh Surjeet, our Party's general secretary and I attended. I think no representative of the BJP spoke in the meeting. But all others called upon the prime minister to take adequate steps for the protection of the Masjid. Surjeet, on behalf of our Party, urged upon the PM to use Article 356 to remove the government if there was no other alternative for protecting the Masjid, despite the fact that we have been opposing Article 356, which for most of the time has been used wrongly by the central government. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao gave the assurance in the meeting that his government would maintain the rule of law by any means. He also reported in the meeting that the three-months of discussion between the centre and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, had fallen through. It was alleged by different parties, including V P Singh, that the BJP and its sangh parivar was subverting the Constitution, parliamentary democracy and the Court.
Two days before the demolition, I rang up the PM to tell him that alarming news was coming in about the preparations being made by the kar sevaks, to attack the Masjid. He told me that the Congress Working Committee would be meeting to discuss the situation. But no action was taken by the central government, and as planned, the Masjid was razed to the ground, with the police looking on. It was reported that a few top leaders of the BJP, including some who are now ministers of the BJP-led government, were present during this dastardly act, and cases are pending against them.
When Surjeet and I later met the PM we asked him why no attempt was made to save the Masjid; his only reply was that he could not distrust the chief minister of the state who assured him that nothing untoward would happen.
Communalism of the majority does lead, in some areas of our country, to minority communalism, helped by Pakistan and some other countries. The Congress(I), the biggest non-communal party in the Opposition at the centre, and now ruling in 14 states, is as yet not self-critical, and does not feel the necessity of any ideological campaign against the communal and fascistic forces.
EVIDENCE ON RECORD
I was asked by the Justice Liberhan Commission, set up a long time back to probe the demolition of the Masjid, to give evidence before it. I met the Commission for two days on January 29 and March 15, in the year 2001, and placed all these facts before it. I also presented the Commission with a cassette containing the speech of the ex-chief minister, Kalyan Singh in Kolkata after his government was dismissed. In the course of this speech, he gleefully, and with great pride, among other things, stated that the demolition was a great achievement, and a new era had begun in India.
I think it is worthwhile to add that because of my statements on communalism and calling such acts "uncivilised and barbaric", the prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, at a subsequent meeting in Kolkata said that he would ask me why I used such language. In the discussions with me which followed the meeting, I told him that I had not mentioned individuals, but I was of the view that vicious attacks against other religions, and demolition of their houses of prayer, are in my view, barbarous and uncivilised. They are also against our concept of unity in diversity, and do violence to our Constitution. I reminded him that he had at least expressed regret after the demolition, but his other colleagues had justified the demolition and there were criminal cases pending against them. I also told him that he listens to the RSS, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, because he knows otherwise what fate awaits him.
Now on the Gujarat barbarism the PM on the one hand says he cannot show his face outside India, but, at the same time continues to support chief minister Narendra Modi.
PEOPLE’S DEMOCRACY, December 08,2002
Following is the text of the inaugural address delivered by veteran CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and former chief minister of West Bengal, Jyoti Basu on December 15, 2005 at the 47th Annual Conference of the Indian Society of Labour Economics held in New Delhi.
The Vice-Chancellor of JNU Professor Bhattacharya,
The President of ISLE Professor Papola,
The Conference President Professor Patnaik,
Delegates, Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have great pleasure in inaugurating the 47th Annual Conference of the Indian Society of Labour Economics, an academic body founded by the late V V Giri, who later became the President of India. I knew Shri Giri well. He was a reputed trade unionist who was deeply committed to the cause of the labouring men and women of this country. I am glad that the Society he founded has been consistently trying to use its academic resources to work for an improvement in the conditions of the labouring population.
As a trade unionist myself I can vouch for the fact that the working class needs the academic support of bodies such as this. They do not have to be overtly partisan in any sense. All they have to do is honest academic work, and objective scientific research free of prejudices. Scientific honesty is an ally of the working class, while false theories, advanced either owing to erroneous conceptions, or owing to ignorance or prejudice or with the deliberate intent of promoting the interests of the employers, have been great practical hindrances to the amelioration of the suffering of the workers. History is replete with examples of such theories. I shall cite only three examples to clarify my point.
The Industrial Revolution in England brought great suffering in the early years to the working people, a large proportion of which consisted of women and children. They had to toil for long hours in inhuman conditions in mines and factories to earn just a pittance. The Factory Inspectors’ reports to which Marx made copious references in Das Kapital, his magnum opus, as well as F Engels’ study, The Condition of the Working Class in England, are full of heart-rending accounts of the abysmal conditions under which the working people were exploited. It is in this context that several reformers, drawn mainly from the landed aristocracy, sought to improve these working conditions through appropriate legislation in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Reducing the hours of work was one important object of the reformers’ efforts, and what came to be known as ‘The 10 Hours Bill’ was a significant step in this direction – the maximum legal limit was 11 hours up to then.
Precisely at this time however, Nassau Senior, the first Professor of political economy at the University of Oxford, advanced the theory that all profits were made by the capitalists only during the last hour of work in a full working day, and that the remaining hours of work devoted to value addition merely recouped what was spent on the workers’ subsistence. This proposition was clearly meant to thwart any reduction in the number of working hours, since it followed that any such reduction, even by an hour, would result in the complete elimination of profits. This would make the enterprises where the workers were employed unviable, and hence bring even greater misery to the working class through unemployment. This proposition was strongly attacked by Marx and the phrase he used, ‘Senior’s last hour’ has become synonymous with wrong theory serving a ruling class interest.
This was a classic case of a false theory standing in the way of an amelioration of the workers’ condition, arguing that it is better from workers’ own point of view to do nothing about their miserable working conditions. The theory is false because the "one hour" mentioned by Nassau Senior is a figment of his own imagination, an arbitrary figure pulled out of the hat to prevent legislation for reducing hours of work. If eleven hours of work represented the value added per worker, which is rather a conservative figure for those times (since the actual hours were longer), then to say that profits were made only in the last hour amounts to postulating a rate of surplus value of 1/10, or a share of profits in value added of only 9 percent which is far lower than what any actual capitalist country has ever witnessed. Thankfully, Senior’s theory was not taken seriously enough to stand in the way of the proposed reduction in hours of work.
My second example relates to John Stuart Mill’s theory that trade union action can never succeed in raising the share of wages. Now, Mill of course was an outstanding intellectual figure of the nineteenth century, and his views cannot be attributed to any ulterior motive or dishonest purpose. And yet his "wage fund" theory which stated that at any point of time in an economy there was a wage fund which was divided among the entire body of workers, and that any gain on the part of one group of workers through trade union activity must therefore come at the expense of some other group, was clearly an erroneous one, which could only discourage trade unionism among the workers. To be sure, in any real situation the capitalists may so arrange matters that they recoup what they yield to one group of workers, through the imposition of additional burdens on some other group, which is a very common occurrence. But this is very different from Mill’s theoretical conclusion that workers as a whole can never gain at the expense of the capitalists through organised trade union action.
This conclusion which was put forward by a follower of J S Mill, Citizen Weston, at a meeting of working men in London, was attacked by Marx in a well-known pamphlet Wages, Prices and Profit, where he showed that trade union action can raise wages of all workers by lowering the rate of profit. If indeed J S Mill had been correct and trade union action was incapable of making any difference to the rate of profit, then the question "Why do capitalists so strenuously oppose trade union action?", whose pertinence is obvious, would have become unanswerable. But if Mill’s theory had been taken seriously, which it might have been had it gone unchallenged, especially given Mill’s intellectual standing, then the trade union movement would have suffered a serious setback.
My third example relates to the proposition put forward by David Ricardo that the introduction of machinery does not give rise to any displacement of labour. Ricardo himself of course changed his views on the subject, but this change went only to the extent of recognising that the introduction of machinery was harmful for employment in the short run; in the long run it gave rise to higher growth in the economy, and hence also higher growth of employment, which would absorb many more than those who were initially displaced. Ricardo again, as Marx pointed out repeatedly, was a scrupulous economist, but this theory was nonetheless an erroneous one and was sharply criticised by Marx. The error consisted in the fact that he was looking only at a one-shot introduction of machinery, and that too in a situation where labour displacement had no effect on the level of overall demand in the economy.
The correctness of Marx’s critique is not only evident, but is, implicitly, widely accepted today in so far as the concept of "jobless growth" enjoys such wide currency. The fact that high growth, if accompanied by rapid technological progress, i.e. a steady stream of introduction of labour displacing machinery, can create no new additions to labour demand, is today taken for granted, but is incompatible with Ricardo’s theory. Here again we have an example of a theory that went directly against the activities of the workers’ movement of the time, and that could potentially stand in the way of workers ever organising themselves against labour displacement through the use of machinery.
My purpose in giving these examples is to underline the importance of correct theory for the workers’ movement. And since correct theory can emerge only through intense scientific discussion, the importance of forums like the Indian Society of Labour Economics, that provide opportunities for such discussion, for the workers’ movement cannot be exaggerated.
The need for such discussion in India at the moment is particularly great, since the working class is facing a severe onslaught, supported by a set of what I consider entirely wrong, unscientific and erroneous propositions. The government for instance is keen on introducing what is called "labour market flexibility", which includes the complete freedom on the part of employers to "hire and fire" their workers. The overall effect of "labour market flexibility", it would be readily recognised, is to raise the rate of surplus value in the economy, to shift income distribution in short from wages to profits. Now, if a higher rate of profit ipso facto meant a higher rate of growth of the economy, and if this in turn translated itself into a higher rate of growth in labour demand than would have prevailed otherwise, then there could be a case, similar to the one Ricardo had made for the introduction of machinery, for introducing such flexibility. But neither of these assumptions is valid.
We have already seen, from our experience of "jobless growth", that a higher rate of output growth does not translate itself into a higher rate of growth in labour demand. In addition, a shift from wages to profits, far from giving rise to higher output growth, has the opposite effect of reducing demand in the economy and therefore lowering the growth rate. Of course the proponents of "labour market flexibility" claim that such a shift from wages to profits, by making it possible for capitalists to compete more effectively in the international market (through an increase in their capacity to lower prices), will boost exports. But the determinants of exports are more complex, and the wage rate, compared to efficiency of the workers, is by no means a decisive factor. Indeed had it been such a decisive factor, or even a major factor, determining export performance, then countries like India would have out-competed the advanced capitalist world long ago.
Moreover even assuming that exports get a boost from labour market flexibility, there is no reason to believe that this would happen to a degree sufficient to overcome the demand reduction on account of the income redistribution, mentioned earlier. In short, an attack on the living and working conditions of the workers is being sought to be launched on the basis of a theory that does not stand scrutiny.
Of course, it may be argued that since other countries are introducing "labour market flexibility" we have no option but to follow suit, for if we do not then we will lose markets to them. But if all countries adopted such a policy then the claimed benefit from it has even less reason to materialise for any of them. In short, the argument becomes absolutely invalid when applied to all countries. Workers everywhere in such a case end up being absolutely worse off in terms of both wages and employment.
Instead of playing this capitalist game of frantically competing against each other to bring about a pointless (from their perspective) push of the wages to the bottom, it becomes necessary for workers in each country to fight against such policies. Ideally of course such fights should be co-ordinated, but even if such co-ordination does not happen, it is better from the point of view of the workers in each country to fight for protection against competition from other countries where labour market flexibility has driven down wages than to accept such flexibility in a defensive manner as a fait accompli and pursue other workers in a race to the bottom. For a proper understanding of the i ssues involved however it is necessary that the falsity of the theories which promote such policies is first exposed through deliberations at forums such as this one. It is with great pleasure therefore I inaugurate this conference. I am confident that the deliberations of this conference will be of great benefit to our country and its working people.
Thank you very much for your patience.
Published in PEOPLE’S DEMOCRACY, December 18, 2005