By Prabhat Patnaik

EACH generation has its own dominant image of Jyoti Basu. For an earlier generation than mine this dominant image is of an intrepid fighter in the cause of the working class, an effective and unyielding “tribune of the people”, in the manner of August Bebel, in the West Bengal legislature of the fifties and the sixties. For a more recent generation than mine this dominant image is of a highly respected elder statesman, an architect of a broad coalition of forces to save the country from communal-fascism and a voice warning the country about the dangers of the imperialist embrace that is euphemistically referred to these days as “globalisation”. For my generation the overwhelming image of Jyoti Basu is that of the builder of a new Bengal.

All these images of Jyoti Basu have their own validity. And they all share a common perception: that of a remarkably courageous and straightforward person, totally devoid of cant, and capable of seeing things without the blinkers that most people have a habit of choosing to put on. I prefer here, however, to dwell on the image of Jyoti Basu that my generation has, namely as the builder of a new Bengal, because in my view that is a role which none other than Jyoti Basu could have played.

Before the Left Front came to power, West Bengal presented the quintessential picture of a state in decline. Once the centre of British power east of Suez, it had witnessed, over the half century before independence, an absolute decline in agricultural production per capita, and an even steeper absolute decline in foodgrain production per capita. Though the post-independence years had witnessed some reversal of these dire trends, it was far from adequate: West Bengal was afflicted by a deep-rooted and long-standing agrarian crisis. Its traditional industries, tea and jute, originally owned by British managing agencies and subsequently taken over by mainly Marwari businessmen, faced inelastic world demand and overall bleak prospects. The engineering industry which had come up mainly during the war years received a jolt from the mid-sixties recession from which it never really recovered. The freight equalisation scheme had hurt the state badly. The social crisis created by pervasive unemployment among the youth, refracted inter alia through the Naxalite movement, was captured chillingly in artistic creations of the time, such as for instance Mrinal Sen’s film Chorus. While a social revolution remained a distant dream, the way forward short of it was not clear. It appeared to be a society incapable as yet of making a leap, but hopelessly lost without such a leap. And this turbulent stasis came increasingly to be sustained through the use of semi-fascist terror by the State.

The remarkable turnaround in this situation which the Left Front achieved within a few years of assuming office under Jyoti Basu’s leadership in 1977 would appear unbelievable to any one who had witnessed the earlier situation. Indeed the dynamics of that turnaround are still not very clear and require a substantial theoretical endeavour. There is only one thing however that one can say about it with certainty, namely at the core of it was the overcoming of the long-standing agrarian crisis.

Lord Cornwallis’ Permanent Settlement had left two important legacies in Bengal’s economy. First, since the revenue accruing to the colonial government was fixed, the rate of return to the government from any investment in irrigation was nil, or at any rate way below the minimum rate of return which the colonial government insisted on earning on all its investments. Hence, Bengal saw very little irrigation investment in the colonial period. There was an additional reason for this: following the report of the Royal Commission on Agriculture (1926) a view had gained currency that the problem of Bengal agriculture arose from too much water and not too little. This neglect of irrigation from the colonial period, though slightly reversed after independence, continued to haunt West Bengal’s agriculture.
Secondly, as is well known, the Permanent Settlement had spawned a large parasitic class of rent receivers living off a pauperised peasantry. At the very top were the zamindars, but between them and the cultivators there were several layers of parasites, up to twenty-seven in some places, which obviously discouraged any productive investment on land. Post independence land reforms had removed the top layer of zamindars but already by the time of independence, as the Bengal Provincial Kisan Sabha had pointed out in its memorandum to the Floud Commission (1940), a new and powerful class of intermediaries, the jotedars, had emerged, so that zamindari abolition, far from freeing the peasantry from the stranglehold of these parasites, had the paradoxical effect of strengthening the latter. The disincentives to productive investment on land therefore continued, as did the abysmal state of the cultivators, so much so that an influential academic work of the time, which covered both parts of Bengal and the period from 1949 to 1980, was titled The Agrarian Impasse in Bengal.

The Left Front confronted both these constraints head on. Land reform measures, initiated by the short-lived United Front governments earlier, were carried forward through the recording of sharecroppers under Operation Barga, through the conferring on them of rights to land, and through the distribution of ceiling-surplus land. This was followed by the setting up of an alternative institutional mechanism in the countryside, the panchayats, which not only entailed decentralisation of power and decision making but also provided an alternative to the traditional power-structure dominated by the jotedars. The balance of class forces was altered in the countryside in favour of the oppressed peasantry and against the jotedars, which, apart from strengthening democracy, also encouraged productive investment by the peasantry, and hence the development of the productive forces. At the same time there was a substantial step-up in public expenditure on rural development in general and on irrigation in particular.

As a result of these measures a sea change occurred in the cropping intensity and in the cropping pattern. Areas which for centuries had witnessed only a single crop now started growing three crops. Local level plans began to be drawn up with the help of the democratically-elected representatives of the people serving on the panchayats. And agricultural growth in West Bengal began to pick up.

To some extent, even before the Left Front came to power, the potentials of, and the scope for, multiple cropping had become evident in small pockets in districts like Bardhaman and Birbhum, where potato and boro rice had been cultivated as a third crop in addition to the traditional aman and aus. But what had remained confined to small pockets now became the common practice over large tracts of the state, so much so that in the decade of the 1980s West Bengal witnessed the highest rate of growth in agricultural production among all the states in the country. In the nineties, the growth rate came down everywhere, a result inter alia of the neo-liberal policies adopted by the centre which squeezed the peasantry even as they forced a curtailment of public investment in rural development. Even so, among the states, West Bengal continued to be a high performer.

Rapid agricultural growth, together with increased government expenditure in the countryside, enlarged the rural market in the state, both for foodgrains and for a variety of simple industrial goods. It is interesting that among all the states in India, West Bengal and Kerala were the only two that witnessed a steady increase in the per capita cereal consumption by the rural population in the decades of the eighties and the nineties. The increased demand for simple industrial goods in the countryside brought about a remarkable “industrialisation from below” in West Bengal, with substantial employment effects, whose reach and significance have been inadequately appreciated till now. And with rising incomes, the state government’s revenues also rose, making possible enhanced social sector expenditures, and a general improvement in the quality of life of the people.

Just one set of figures will suffice to establish the point. In 1977-78, the percentage of rural population in West Bengal consuming less than 1800 calories per person per day, which really defines acute poverty (since the official poverty line is 2400 calories), was as high as 40 per cent, compared to 25 per cent for India as a whole. By 1993-4 the figure had come down to 17 per cent, compared to 18.5 per cent for India as a whole. True, this figure went up in West Bengal, like in the rest of the country, towards the end of the nineties and early this century, because the pursuit of neo-liberal policies by the central government undermined food security in the country as a whole; but even in 1999-00 the figure for West Bengal was just 22 per cent (though there are statistical problems in comparing 99-00 with the earlier years). The overriding objective of any government, functioning in a country like ours, must be the amelioration of poverty; by this yardstick the Jyoti Basu government’s record remains unparalleled in modern India.

The fact that something remarkable was happening in West Bengal was appreciated, before anyone else in the world outside could discern it properly, by that most insightful observer of the scene, EMS Namboodiripad. It was obvious to any participant at the first International Congress on Kerala Studies, organised through his initiative in 1994 at Thiruvananthapuram, that the question which haunted him was the following: why is it that Kerala with its remarkable record of land reforms and remarkable achievements in the social sector (which had prompted many to talk of a “Kerala Model” of development) continued to witness stagnation in the commodity producing sectors, while the other progressive state, West Bengal, had such remarkable successes in promoting growth in the major commodity producing sectors. EMS was not looking for “bourgeois” solutions, but solutions in keeping with the progressive traditions of his state which is why he had turned to West Bengal as his criterion for comparison. The answer he came up with was the role of the panchayats and accordingly launched his momentous “Peoples’ Plan Campaign”. But what is of significance for us is his implicit tribute to the “West Bengal model” (if one may call it that).

The travails of the Left Front government from the end of the nineties have been much discussed. But what is often missed by both the critics and even the supporters of the Left Front is that underlying these travails is the pursuit of neo-liberal policies by the central government. The hurdles created by the neo-liberal environment against the Left’s approach were not immediately obvious. Indeed it appeared at first, and not without justification, that the scrapping of licensing which had been used as a tool of discrimination by the central government against recalcitrant states like West Bengal, would usher in a new era of growth of modern industry in the state. And the state government, starting from the period when Jyoti Basu was at the helm, worked tirelessly for it. But there were two basic ways in which neo-liberalism impinged adversely on the Left Front’s strategy.

First, as the tax-GDP ratio of the centre declined over the decade of the nineties (the states in fact did much better in this regard), the centre not only cut back on its own expenditure, especially rural development expenditure, but even passed on the burden of its fiscal crisis to the shoulders of the state governments through reduced transfers to states and exorbitant interest rates (even exceeding the rate of growth of the average Net State Domestic Product) on its loans to states. The states thus became the victims of a fiscal squeeze imposed from the centre, and West Bengal was no exception. The problem of state indebtedness can be traced directly to this squeeze.

Having first imposed this squeeze, the centre then used it to force the states to fall in line behind its pursuit of a neo-liberal agenda. The eleventh finance commission insisted on a set of neo-liberal reforms which the states had to carry out even to qualify for the resources that were their constitutional due. The twelfth finance commission addressed the issue of state indebtedness by insisting that state governments pass fiscal responsibility legislation to qualify for assistance, which was both constitutionally questionable and uncalled for by the tenets of economic theory, and which the West Bengal government rightly refused to do. The origins of West Bengal’s fiscal problems lay inter alia in these developments.

Secondly, as a fall-out of the withdrawal of State support from peasant agriculture under the influence of neo-liberalism, the current century has witnessed a virtual stagnation in absolute foodgrain output, at least until 2006-07 (after which procurement prices were raised, in a reversal of neo-liberalism, and appear to have had a favourable effect on output). And West Bengal has not been spared the consequences of this stagnation.

The situation arising from the pursuit of neo-liberal policies continues to pose severe challenges before the Left even today. The fact that the Left will not have the benefit of Jyoti Basu’s sagacity in charting out a new course in this complex scenario is a great tragedy. But the legacy he leaves behind, and his counsel to comrades to be “always with the masses” and to “keep faith with the masses”, will no doubt help the Left to overcome its current challenges. And it can draw genuine pride from the fact that during the two decades or more when Jyoti Basu was at the helm in West Bengal, it achieved something, which, though somewhat unsung, was nonetheless quite outstanding.

Comrade Jyoti Basu , Torch Bearer Of The Down Trodden

By M K Pandhe

THE shocking news of passing away of Jyoti Basu put the entire toiling people in India into an ocean of grief. After engaging himself in a relentless struggle against the cruel clamps of death his will to survive ultimately gave in after 17 days to the aggressive forces of nature. The eventful life came to an end at 11.47 on 17 January 2010.

For nearly seven decades, Jyoti Basu consistently fought for the rights of the down trodden. His upbringing in an upper strata family did not come in his way of devoting his entire life for the working people of India. The ideology of Marxism developed a scientific world outlook in him. His father sent him to UK with the idea of making him an ICS officer but ultimately he studied law. The fond hope of his father that he would become a well known advocate and lead comfortable life failed to materialise. Jyoti Basu’s study of Marxian Philosophy converted him into a rebel against the unjust society based on exploitation of the vast toiling masses by handful but powerful rich.

On reaching India, Jyoti Basu joined the CPI in 1940 and started working in the railway trade union movement. Soon he became a prominent activist in Bengal by leading several struggles during the forties and fifties of the 20th century.


When I joined the central office of the AITUC in 1958, I had several occasions to meet him during AITUC meetings. He was critical of Dange’s pro-Nehru policies and individual style of functioning . In Mumbai conference of the AITUC in 1966, he was elected as the general council member of AITUC and attended meetings regularly despite his other pressing commitments. He did not frequently speak in these meetings but whenever he spoke he was forthright in expressing views. Jyoti Basu could make an impact on the organisation since his views were greatly respected.

When it was found impossible to remain in the AITUC due to undemocratic style of Dange’s functioning, it was decided to hold a national convention in Goa in March 1970 to decide future course of action. Jyoti Basu played a crucial role in deciding to hold a national convention at Kolkata with a view to form a new trade union centre. Time was short but enthusiasm among the ranks was supreme which could make it possible to hold a successful convention in Kolkata in May 1970.

On the eve of the founding convention of the CITU at Kolkata, Jyoti Basu was elected as chairman of the reception committee and made an inspiring speech before over 4000 delegates. In the convention he was elected as vice-president of the CITU, a post he held till his death. He visited almost all the states in connection with CITU state conferences and general council meetings and popularised the policies of the CITU .

Even after he became chief minister of West Bengal, he could find time to visit different states to attend trade union meetings. Before making speeches, he used to collect the details about the local situation and refer them during his speeches. He could effectively speak in a language which could be understood by the ordinary workers.

In one of his public meetings in Delhi, he was requested by the workers to speak in Hindi. He made an attempt to speak in broken Hindi using some Bengali words. Workers enjoyed his speaking in Hindi and repeatedly clapped seeing his attempt to speak in Hindi.

During the semi-fascist terror in West Bengal, despite risks, he addressed meetings of workers and exhorted them to fight against attempts to destroy the CITU through creation of terror.

During the Emergency period, Jyoti was denied guest house accommodation by the Bhilai Steel Plant management. He willingly stayed in the quarters of an employee in the Steel Plant.

When Jyoti Basu became chief minister and visited Bhilai for a rally, Bhilai Steel Plant Management offered him guest house facilities. He however refused to accept the hospitality and stayed in the retiring room of the railway station. A large number of workers assembled at Durg railway station to see the chief minister staying in railway retiring room. The local press wrote against Bhilai Steel Plant management for their treatment to him in the past.

The chief executive of the plant came to meet Jyoti Basu and profusely apologised for the past behavior of the management. He told them that next time he would accept their hospitality but not that time. When CITU working committee meeting was held at Bhilai next time, Jyoti stayed in the BSP Guest House. The management learnt the lesson by his behavior on the issue.


During his speeches in the trade union meetings, Jyoti Basu laid special emphasis on the democratic functioning of trade unions. He used to sharply criticise the bossism in trade union movement and point out how such tendency stifled the growth of trade union movement itself.

He always encouraged workers taking higher and higher positions in the unions. “ If the workers cannot function their own union, then how can they lead the struggle for social revolution” he used to ask.

When he read the CITU document on Organisation passed at Bhubaneswar, Jyoti Basu heartily appreciated the efforts made by the CITU to self-critically examine the weaknesses of the organisation. Referring to the question of democratic functioning of trade unions, he noted that the bureaucrats in the organisation may not like it, but the CITU should go ahead in implementing it, which alone can lead to building of CITU as a revolutionary trade union in the country.

As chief minister of West Bengal, Jyoti Basu addressed the meetings of striking workers and supported the legitimate demands of the workers. In these meetings, he appealed to the employers to concede the demands of the workers and settle the disputes through negotiations. There is no instance of any Congress or the BJP chief minister openly coming out in favour of the workers in such a forthright manner.

On a number of issues when the central government were involved in disputes, Jyoti Basu wrote several letters to the central government in support of the demands of the workers and advocating settlement of the dispute.

As the chief minister, Jyoti Basu was invited by the chambers of commerce and employers’ organisations. He always advised the employers to implement the labour laws and take steps to improve the working and living conditions of the workers. He never criticised trade unions in the gatherings of employers.

Jyoti Basu’s categorical assurance that police would not interfere in industrial disputes had immensely helped the trade unions in achieving success in their struggles. However, he always emphasised the need to implement the agreed norms of production by the trade unions. In several meetings, he stressed the need to ensure discipline in industry in view of the Left Front government adopting a pro-worker policy.

There were some instances of unjust gheraos by the workers when Jyoti Basu as a chief minister intervened and called upon the workers to lift the gherao and he later intervened to arrive at an amicable settlement.


In India for the first time a bill was introduced in West Bengal providing recognition of trade unions based on secret ballot of all the workers. Due to the hostile attitude of the Congress government at the centre for about seven years, the president did not give assent to the bill. There was an all India movement demanding giving consent to the bill which prevailed upon the central government to approve the bill by the president of India.

It was in Jyoti Basu’s tenure that policemen were given the right to form a union. No where in India this right has been granted to policemen till now by any Congress or BJP led government in the country.

Consultation with trade unions was a hallmark of his labour policy. Even on some specific issues, he was consulting INTUC unions. Such process of consultations was conducive to improve the labour relations in the state.

When Jyoti Basu found that during some years the total number of man-days lost due to lock-outs were more than the man-days lost due to strike in West Bangal, he called upon the employers not to resort to lockouts arbitrarily in industrial undertakings. When he saw that some industrial houses were not depositing the provident fund contribution with the authorities, he called upon the employers’ organisations to ensure that all their members regularly deposit with the authorities the outstanding PF dues.

Jyoti Basu continued to be president of some unions in West Bengal even after becoming the chief minister. He was a founder of the union in Indian Oxygen and was its president even after he became the chief minister.


He was easily accessible to trade unions in the Writers Building. I remember some unions wanted his intervention in a dispute but they did not conduct any struggle. Jyoti Basu asked the unions to conduct struggle and then alone he would intervene. “Workers must earn their rights through struggles and not through outside efforts” he used to tell the unions. He never discouraged workers from conducting struggles but was emphasising on adequate preparations.

The new generation of trade union activists have much to learn from Jyoti Basu’s illustrious life. The message his life has given to the younger generation will continue to inspire lakhs of trade union activists in their forthcoming struggles.

On the eve of his last days, Jyoti Basu saw a remarkable unity of the trade union movement to fight class battles to protect their legitimate interests. As a strong advocate of working class unity, Jyoti Basu must have been happy to note these developments.

Let us learn from his valuable life's mission and carry forward the struggle till we achieve the objective of ending exploitation of man by man!

Long Live Jyoti Basu!!

REMINISCING COMRADE JYOTI BASU: Using Govt as an Instrument of Struggle

By Md Amin

FILLING the void created by the demise of Comrade Jyoti Basu would be very difficult and would take much time. The entire party has to make efforts and continue the struggle for achieving the aims and ideals for which Comrade Basu strove till his last. There is no other way.
I had had an opportunity to work closely with Comrade Jyoti Basu over the last 60 years and during this time I learnt from him a lot, which I will remember till my last breath. I first met Comrade Jyoti Basu in 1950 (it was actually March 29, 1950), at a public meeting in Alam Bazaar, Baranagar. He was the main speaker at the rally. This is how it happened.

At that time, with the support of the Congress party and also the police, reactionary forces were at that time unleashing communal riots in our area. Once they cut electricity at the dusk time and began to systematically burn the houses belonging to the Muslims in the area. The Muslims could not even flee to safety as the goons had already encircled the area from three sides, with the Hoogly river being on the fourth side. The police fired at the victims, in connivance with the rioters.

At that time, around 5000 Muslims took shelter in a jute mill in the area. The Army reached the spot at 3 in the morning and restored some order. The Muslims went without food for three days. The authorities forced the refugees from Pakistan into the empty houses. The district magistrate came and ordered the Muslims to go to Pakistan. Our party was then a banned party, and was also a small one. Our efforts to stop the riots failed. In fact, the then party leadership had to perforce ask the Muslims members to leave for East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and return after restoration of peace. I also left and could return only after six months.

When peace returned and the ban on the party was also lifted, there was organised a public meeting in Alam Bazaar, which was addressed by Comrade Jyoti Basu. He told in the meeting very clearly that we had to struggle for rehabilitation of those who had lost their homes during the riots. He explained how any move to remove the refugees forcibly settled in the Muslims’ homes would only create more tension and not solve the problem. It was then that I met Comrade Basu for the first time. We had only three MLAs at that time, with Comrade Basu as the assembly group’s leader. His speeches on rehabilitation were widely reported and keenly followed by everyone. The party kept up the pressure on the government on this issue. However, only in 1967, after the first United Front government came to power, was it possible to rehabilitate these uprooted people. It vindicated the correct understanding Comrade Jyoti Basu had had on this issue.

The following example illustrates Comrade Jyoti Basu's role in building the trade union movement in Bengal. The party had assigned us to work in Titanagar area. A strike was held in a jute mill in the area and the struggle continued for five years. Comrade Basu effectively raised the issue in the assembly and supported the workers in the field. It was after protracted struggles that the mill was reopened, and on that day he reached the place at 6 in the morning to take part in the happy occasion. That struggle was a very tough one as the area was a stronghold of the Congress party. But Comrade Jyoti Basu kept encouraging us and we felt confident with his strong support to the cause of the workers. Slowly we began spreading to other factories. In fact, 1967 was a memorable year for our trade union movement in Bengal. On the one hand, we were spreading in many factories and mills, and on the other, there was an upsurge in the rural areas due to land struggles. Comrade Jyoti Basu, as the home minister in the United Front, made it very clear that the police would not interfere in the disputes concerning land redistribution or in the industrial disputes.
When the second United Front government was formed in 1969, with Comrade Jyoti Basu as the deputy chief minister and home minister, I was also inducted into the ministry as the transport minister after being elected for the first time from Titanagar constituency. Since then, I had the occasion to see Comrade Jyoti Basu's administrative efficiency in government from close quarters. He made it a point to tell the ministers as well as the officers that the ministers would have the final say on any matter. But, at the same time, he told the officers too to convey their viewpoints on any issue without fear. He was clear that given the limitations of the bourgeois landlord set-up, all problems of the people could not be solved. So our striving would be to provide as much relief to people as possible. This has been vindicated by practice.

Another aspect of Comrade Jyoti Basu, which helped the movement a great deal, was that he made effective use of the United Front government as an instrument of struggle. While being the deputy chief minister and home minister in that government, he used to visit the strike places and openly announce his support for the struggle. This always bolstered the strength of the workers. As the rural people too clearly saw that land distribution was undone whenever the United Front’s government was dismissed, our support widely grew among the rural masses. It was thus that the Left Front came to power in 1977.

Another remarkable feature of Comrade Jyoti Basu was his absolute coolness in difficult situations. I remember an incident in the state assembly, which occurred in 1969. There took place a tussle between the armed police and political activists outside the assembly building. Provoked by a group of Congressmen, the police personnel stormed the assembly building and indulged in vandalism. Quite incensed, they entered Comrade Basu's room also. There were only two MLAs with him at that point, and I was one of them. Comrade Basu remained cool and said in a stern voice, “You think you can do anything as you have guns. Go out.” The policemen sheepishly went out without uttering a word. While dealing with his colleagues or staff also, even if he was angered, Comrade Basu would convey his displeasure in such a manner that they would not feel hurt. I never saw anger in his face.

Comrade Jyoti Basu's firmness in dealing with communal riots was remarkable. As the chief minister, he would directly visit the spots of trouble or mischief, announce publicly that his was not a Congress government and that orders had been issued to shoot the miscreants. I remember how his handling of the situation brought the riots in Jagatdal under control within 24 hours of occurrence. Similarly, it was his leadership that prevented any incident of attack on the Sikh community in 1984. at that time, Comrade Basu publicly announced that not just the Left Front government but the party too was in the forefront to protect the Sikhs. In fact, when I recently visited Hoshiarpur for a public meeting under the CITU’s auspices, some of the Sikhs recalled this exemplary record of the Left Front government.

In sum, Comrade Jyoti Basu proved himself not only as a theoretical leader but also as a field-level leader. I have truly learnt a lot from him and I cherish the experiences of working alongside him. I am confident that the party would take forward the aims and ideals for which Comrade Basu strove for all his life.

(As told to N S Arjun in Kolkata on January 18, 2010.)

Jyoti Basu: Partisan of Working People’s Cause

By S Ramachandran Pillai

COMRADE Jyoti Basu's commitment and partisanship to the cause of the working class and other toiling sections of people, his deep understanding of Marxism-Leninism, his mastery in respect of applying Marxism-Leninism in the Indian conditions, his genuine democratic approach, secular outlook, sharp common sense, openness, simple and loving nature --- all these qualities made him one of the tallest leaders of the communist movement in our country.

Comrade Jyoti Basu made great contributions to evolving the party's understanding about the need to form and join governments, the possibilities and limitations of such governments and the tasks of such governments and the party. He had no illusions that such governments formed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), together with its allies, could transform the economic and political set-up of the Indian state in any fundamental manner. He was, however, of the firm belief that the party should utilise all the opportunities for realising the government's pledge to carry out a programme of providing relief to the people and strive to project and implement the alternative policies within the existing limitations. Apart from providing solutions to certain problems facing the people, even though to a limited extent, the existence and functioning of such governments would boost the morale to the democratic masses all over the country and strengthen the democratic and revolutionary movement.

In West Bengal, the Left Front government took many path-breaking initiatives. It implemented certain land reform measures within the limitations of the Indian constitution and implemented the agricultural and rural development programmes. These measures benefited tens of lakhs of agricultural labourers, poor and middle peasants. The Left Front government also took a principled decision of not using the police force to suppress the agitations and struggles of the working class and other toiling sections of the people.
The devolution of powers to the elected panchayati raj institutions enabled the rural people to exercise their democratic rights in evolving as well as executing their own plans for development. The democratisation of the elected panchayats empowered the common people and their organisations to get involved in implementing the land reform measures, developmental activities, social security measures and administrative steps. All these things effected a change in the correlation of class forces in West Bengal, in favour of the poorer sections who constitute an overwhelming majority. Comrade Jyoti Basu always upheld the interests of the working class and poorer sections. While trying to implement alternative policies and programmes for providing relief to the people, he tried to educate the masses that such governments could not solve the economic and political problems of the country in any fundamental manner and thus there was the need to build a broad revolutionary movement for replacing the bourgeois-landlord state with the state of the people's democratic front.

Comrade Jyoti Basu was a great expert in applying the Marxist-Leninist united front tactics. The state unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in West Bengal made political interventions on all mass issues and in all political developments with the aim of strengthening the mass movements and struggles of the working people and all other toiling sections, and of developing their unity. The mass struggles, the effective political interventions, the patient efforts to find the points of agreements with the other democratic and Left parties so as to develop joint actions with them helped the CPI(M) to forge a united front. The party forged an alliance with the democratic and Left parties and individuals by adopting a patient attitude and flexible tactics but without compromising its principled positions. The flexible tactics adopted by the West Bengal unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) during the difficult periods of 1967-69, in the first half of the seventies and in 1977 helped the CPI(M) to emerge as the major Left force in West Bengal as well as in the country. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and its allies have won all the assembly elections since 1977 and the Left Front government has since then continued in office. Comrade Jyoti Basu's contribution in building and strengthening a united front of the democratic and Left parties in West Bengal and in the country played an important role in the political developments in India in the recent period.

Comrade Jyoti Basu actively intervened in all mass issues and organised agitations and struggles of the workers, peasants and other toiling sections of people. He played an active role in the Tebhaga movement and workers’ strikes, in giving relief and support to the people affected by communal riots, in campaigns for communal harmony and many others. He was in the forefront in the food movement organised in West Bengal. His excellent rapport with the masses enabled him to assess their mood, hopes, aspirations and anger, and give shape to their agitations and struggles. He had an excellent ability to raise appropriate slogans, both on mass and political issues, in order to meet the requirements of the rapidly changing situation. He combined the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary activities to build a powerful revolutionary movement.

Comrade Jyoti Basu was a great practitioner of the communist norms. He always encouraged comrades to stand up, express and assert their views. Anybody could boldly agree or disagree with him. He did not take anyone’s agreement or disagreement at the personal level. When in 1996 the Polit Bureau and Central Committee took the decision not to join the central government, he expressed his views in the party forums. In party committees and among the public, Comrade Jyoti Basu argued for and insisted on acceptance and implementation of the party's decision. For him, the party and its decisions were greater than anything. As a true communist, he had no hesitation or reluctance to implement the decision of the party. Comrade Jyoti Basu always upheld democratic centralism, communist morality and the highest level of party loyalty.

Comrade Jyoti Basu consistently fought against the communal forces and their effort to communalise the institutions of the state, the administration, the education system etc. The shocking memories of the communal riots and the sufferings of the common people at the time of the partition always reminded him of the dangers that emanate from the communal forces of all hues. He firmly believed that the unity of the multi-religious India could be maintained only on the basis of secularism and democracy. He adopted an uncompromising attitude towards the communal forces and upheld secularism.
Comrade Jyoti Basu's speeches in the party committees, party congresses and in public were always straightforward, simple and forcefully logical. I never saw him prevaricating. I watched his interventions with awe and adoration. He had an excellent knack to establish relations with the non-party masses and even with political opponents, and get their acceptance for his views through his measured and sharp articulations based on logic and common sense. His sharp common sense enabled him to identify the key elements in any complex and complicated situation. He had an extraordinary ability to suggest better solutions to difficult problems.
He was one of the greatest statesmen and communists India has ever produced. His contributions in building the communist movement is an integral part of India's history.

Jyoti Basu: A Warm Man Full of Life

Sitaram Yechury

COMRADE Jyoti Basu is no more amongst us. He left us in his 96th year. He was a fighter all his life and even so in his death. His seven decades long political life is synchronous with the evolution of the modern India. For this very reason, he was always a source of inspiration and a role model for the younger generation. His legacy will continue to be such a source. He, truly, was one of the legends of modern India, not only of the communist movement.

Having gone to England to return as a Bar-at-Law, he was attracted to the communist worldview, embraced the ideology and returned to India in 1940 --- not to don the black robes but to plunge directly into the freedom struggle by joining the Communist Party. Karl Marx had once said that when an idea grips the minds of the masses, it becomes a material force. The desire for independence from the British rule had gripped the Indian masses when Jyoti Basu joined the communist movement. He, however, was thinking ahead of what the character and content of independent India should be. The political independence that would be achieved needed to be converted into the true economic independence for every Indian. This meant the creation of a socialist society where exploitation of man by man would simply cease to exist. It was with this passion, which remained undiluted till the end, that he served the Indian people.
During the course of his long and illustrious life, he had to face many trials and tribulations but the commitment to the cause never wavered. He was a role model precisely for this reason: sheer power of his commitment to his convictions.

I first met Comrade Jyoti Basu in 1980 when we had in Calcutta the central executive committee meeting of the Students Federation of India --- the students organisation led by CPI(M). He was in his first term as the chief minister and I had to escort him to the party’s fraction meeting.

The first impression I had was that he had lots of questions to ask about what the younger generation was thinking and doing. It was not usual for him to look after the students’ front. MB (M Basavapunnaiah) was in charge of the SFI but could not go to Calcutta for the meeting. So Jyoti Basu substituted for him.

The 1980 general elections were about to take place and the party’s “July crisis” (inner-party differences on the central leadership’s decision to withdraw support to Morarji Desai and back Charan Singh instead) was still fresh. Therefore, there were lots of questions from the students on the party line.

Although dealing with students was not his normal beat, so to speak, nor was he a member of the central Polit Bureau team, Basu handled the questions very well. I realised then, and saw it many times over the years, that the hallmark of his style was always speaking to the point, businesslike and candidly — clearly stating that many a time we cannot determine the course of events but would have to make a choice between the available options.

During my association with Comrade Jyoti Basu in our party’s Central Committee for over two and a half decades, I saw in him (and other leaders) many admirable qualities that need to be emulated. One is his unassailable faith in the power of reasoning based on the Marxist outlook. No argument can ever be won on the basis of passion or emotions. The other facet of his personality was humaneness.

Another enduring quality of his was the self-imposed discipline with which he conducted his personal and political life. He displayed the rarest of soldier-like quality when his opinion in 1996 to accept the offer to become the prime minister in the United Front government was rejected by a majority of the Central Committee. Subsequently, the party congress at Kolkata in 1998 endorsed the Central Committee majority opinion. Notwithstanding his personal opinion, however, he till the end upheld the majority view and worked steadfastly, discharging his responsibilities. Such steadfast loyalty to the organisational principles of a Communist Party and its strict norms of discipline is a quality that the younger generation needs to emulate.
We (myself and several younger comrades) were invited to the Central Committee in 1984 and took part in many meetings and inner-party discussions. But my personal interaction with Jyoti Basu happened mostly when we were travelling together abroad or in India. I used to accompany him on election campaign tours in the Hindi-speaking states. Although he used to agonise about speaking in Hindi, I must say he made a very sincere effort, much better than most of the younger comrades coming from the non-Hindi states.

During all these years, I had on a few occasions travelled abroad with him, when he held the office of the chief minister for a record 23 years. Being the chief minister of West Bengal, he naturally was entitled to a preferential treatment. But he always preferred to travel with other comrades and, till his last day in office, travelled only in the economy class of Indian Airlines. During such visits, he would always be concerned about the welfare of the other comrades by taking interest in their comforts and needs. I have, for instance, never seen him losing his patience even once!

My first trip abroad with him was to Nepal in 1989. Since he was a state guest, his itinerary included a visit to the Pashupatinath temple. I asked him why he didn’t refuse to go. He then explained to me some basic facts about statecraft. He said that just like India took all visiting dignitaries to Rajghat irrespective of whether they agreed with Gandhi’s philosophy or not, we would have to visit this temple despite being atheists.

My major travels with him were in the late 1980s and early 1990s to the Soviet Union and China --- to understand the developments that eventually led to the disintegration of the USSR. These were invariably five-member delegations led by general secretary Comrade E M S Namboodiripad and including Comrades MB, Harkishan Singh Surjeet and Jyoti Basu, besides myself. My role was essentially to take down notes and ask a question only when permitted to do so.

Comrade Jyoti Basu had had a unique and subtle sense of humour. On one of our trips to Beijing, during dinner Jyotibabu told me, “Sitaram, you are a very dangerous person. With each of us you speak in a different language (in Bengali to Basu, in Telugu to MB, in Tamil to Balanandan and in Hindi to Surjeet). I do not know what tales you carry about us to each other!”

I remember another occasion when we travelled to Cuba. Suddenly, after Jyotibabu had retired for the day, there was a message that “El Commandante” wanted to meet us. Reluctantly, he dressed up and we went to meet Fidel Castro just before midnight. The meeting lasted more than an hour and a half. Fidel was asking a string of questions such as how much coal India produced, how much steel, how much cement, et cetera, et cetera. Jyotibabu muttered under his breath to me in Bengali, “Eki aamar interview nichchhe na ki (Is he taking my interview, or what)?” Then Fidel turned to me and said: “At his age, I don’t expect him to know all these figures. But as a young man, at least you should know them....”

As a measure of respect for Jyoti Basu, Fidel emerged unexpectedly at the airport to see us off. The entire staff was completely taken aback with Fidel’s sudden appearance. Jyotibabu once again turned to me and whispered in Bengali: “Revolution hoye koto bochhor holo (How many years since the revolution took place)?”

I replied: “Chauteesh (thirty-four).”

Pat came his reply: “Ekhono guerrilla tactics bholeni (He still hasn’t forgotten his guerrilla tactics).”

On our way back from Havana, we had to spend some time in Madrid. Jyoti Basu was to be a state guest, not me. Our ambassador asked him in advance whether he wanted to do anything special in Madrid. Jyotibabu in turn asked me and I suggested that we must see Picasso’s Guernica. He conveyed it to the ambassador.

When we reached Madrid, Jyotibabu wasn’t feeling well and did not feel up to driving to the gallery though it was specially kept open for his visit. But he wanted me to go. When I told him the gallery had made an exception only for him, he said: “How will they know who is Jyoti Basu? Just go and see it.”

In Cuba, whether it was at the beach of Varadero or visiting the pubs frequented by Ernest Hemingway or attending the cultural shows Cuba is famous for, the very humane Basu would thoroughly enjoy everything that life had to offer. For all his appearance of being aloof, he was an incredibly warm human being. Jyoti Basu proved through his long life of dedication that it is only a good human being who can be a good communist, and only if you love and live life fully can you contribute to the struggle for the emancipation of humanity.

As we know, till only a few months ago Comrade Basu had been participating with all his vigour and mental alertness in the CPI(M) state secretariat meetings as well as in the Polit Bureau meetings when these took place in Kolkata. Nay, his alertness on occasions made us of the younger generations feel ashamed. Now that he is now no more amongst us, the lack of his advice and his reassuring presence will always be missed by us.

Of course, a fuller evaluation of his role and contribution to the building of the communist movement in India will be made dispassionately. In the immediate aftermath of his physical absence amongst our midst, we feel a sense of great loss and void. He is the last of the original nine-member Polit Bureau to leave us --- the navaratnas who founded the CPI(M) and steered it through very troubling and exacting times. The only homage that we can pay to Comrade Jyoti Basu is by redoubling our resolve to carry forward the struggle for human emancipation and liberty to its logical conclusion.

Lal Salam Comrade Jyoti Basu!

Condolence Meeting in New Delhi : Lal Salaam to Comrade Jyoti Basu

By G Mamatha
THE condolence meeting organised by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist ) in New Delhi on January 27, 2010 to pay homage to Comrade Jyoti Basu witnessed a unanimous declaration of the people, and of all the leaders of the political parties who attended the meeting, that Comrade Jyoti Basu was not just a leader of the CPI(M) and the Left Front but a leader of the entire country. He was a great leader who was a guide to all the secular, democratic and progressive forces in the country.

The venue of the meeting, Mavlankar Hall, overflowed with people belonging to all walks of life – workers, employees, teachers, students and youth. The meeting began with paying floral tributes to Comrade Jyoti Basu. Sitaram Yechury, Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M) presided over the meeting. Prakash Karat, general secretary of the CPI(M), A B Bardhan (general secretary of CPI), Abani Roy (leader of RSP), Debabrata Biswas (general secretary of All India Forward Bloc) were present on the dais along with union ministers Pranab Mukherjee (Congress) and Farooq Abdullah (National Conference), Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi Party), D P Tripati (Nationalist Congress Party), Ramchandra Paswan (Lok Janashakti Party), T K S Elangovan (DMK), Sharad Yadav (Janata Dal -United), Nama Nageshwar Rao (Telugu Desam Party) N Chaluvaraya Swami (Janata Dal -Secular), Dr V Maithreyan (AIADMK), Charanjit Singh Atwal (Shiromani Akali Dal), Joseph Toppo (Asom Gana Parishad) and Mahendra Pandey (Polit Bureau member of the United Marxist Leninist Party of Nepal). CPI(M) Polit Bureau members M K Pandhe, S Ramachandran Pillai and Brinda Karat were also present on the dais.

Addressing the meeting Prakash Karat said Comrade Jyoti Basu was one of the tallest leaders of the communist movement in the country. The Left Front government under his leadership adopted major pro-people policies like land reforms, which led to 1.1 million acres of land being distributed to 25 lakh landless and marginal farmers and 15 lakh bargadars (sharecroppers) being registered and provided security of tenure. The democratisation of the three-tier panchayat system was carried on through decentralisation of powers under his leadership. Much before the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments, West Bengal showed the way in democratising the panchayat system. Jyoti Basu symbolised the firm adherence to secularism not only in West Bengal but in the entire country. The whole country praised the firm stand of Jyoti Basu which prevented any attack on the Sikh minority in West Bengal after the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi.

Jyoti Basu played an important role in the anti- imperialist struggles, especially against the US war in Vietnam, for Bangladesh liberation, against the blockade of Cuba and against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas.

Prakash Karat recalled that when he met Comrade Jyoti Basu in December last, he expressed concern over the lack of growth of the Party beyond the three strongholds of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura and said that the movement is facing a tough time and the troubles have to be faced with greater efforts. He appealed to the participants to work for fulfilling the aims for which Comrade Jyoti Basu dedicated his whole life.

Mulayam Singh Yadav said Comrade Jyoti Basu was a very popular leader, respected even by his worst enemies. He said Jyoti Basu never compromised with his ideology and added that had he become the prime minister of the country, the nation would have treaded a different path.
A B Bardhan, while paying homage, recalled that when there was one paisa hike in the fares of the Calcutta tramway, Comrade Jyoti Basu led a big struggle against it which continued for many days. One should follow such examples in forging struggles against the skyrocketing prices of the present day.

Pranab Mukherjee said Comrade Jyoti Basu was the rarest of the rare leaders who made a great contribution to the country as a whole as a national leader, although he was based in the state politics. He said he was a great son of India, one who moved like a veritable colossus in the arena of national politics. Comrade Jyoti Basu had a very pragmatic approach to issues. Pranab Mukherjee recalled how Comrade Jyoti Basu intervened when a controversy arose regarding the interpretation of the constitution vis-à-vis the role of the head of the coalition government in the late 1960s, which remains relevant even today.

Farooq Abdullah said that the country has lost a father in the passing away of Comrade Jyoti Basu.

Sharad Yadav said that the path chosen by Comrade Jyoti Basu was the path of justice and we miss his presence especially when injustice against the downtrodden is increasing by the day.

Charanjit Singh Atwal said that the entire Sikh community is grateful to Comrade Jyoti Basu for his deft handling of the situation, which saw that there was no loss of life or property of the Sikhs in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots after the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi.

Chaluvaraya Swamy expressed his gratitude to Comrade Jyoti Basu for making a Kannadiga the prime minister of the country.

Dr V Maithreyan said Comrade Jyoti Basu was a leader of the masses with a great vision, one who implemented the unprecedented land reforms in the country.

D P Tripati said Comrade Jyoti Basu rose above all the positions that he held and was a beacon of hope for the common people in the country.

T S Elangovan remarked Comrade Jyoti Basu was a champion of the peasants, agricultural workers and the working class. He was a true democrat.

Nama Nageshwar Rao said Comrade Jyoti Basu was a great statesman who initiated many pro-people reforms.

Abani Roy and Debabrata Biswas recalled the important contribution made by Comrade Jyoti Basu in the functioning of the Left Front in the country.

Concluding the condolence meeting, Sitaram Yechury said 61 years of Indian Republic and the 70 years of the political life of Comrade Jyoti Basu are closely connected. He was one of the builders of modern India. Comrade Jyoti Basu was a brave fighter who courageously faced the trials and tribulations in his political life. Quoting an Urdu couplet, “ Yeh na poocho zindagi mein kitne pal hain, yeh poocho har pal mein kitni zindagi hai,” Yechury said Comrade Jyoti Basu lived his life thoroughly.

The meeting concluded with the passing of a condolence resolution and observing silence for a minute in the memory of Comrade Jyoti Basu.

‘We Will Continue on Comrade Jyoti Basu’s Path’

Pledge taken in Kolkata Condolence Meeting

KOLKATA, 24th January, 2010: THE last journey of Comrade Jyoti Basu was marked by an unprecedented gathering of mourners, literally flooding the Kolkata streets. The respect and love for this stalwart of Left movement was once again proved when thousands of people assembled at the Shahid Minar on Sunday, 24 January 2010, just five days after the last journey, for the condolence meeting. In any account, more than one lakh people participated in the meeting, organised rather hurriedly by the Left Front.

Leaders from a wide spectrum of political parties, including the Left parties, Congress, RJD, BSP, SUCI and representatives from Nepal and Bangladesh paid their rich tributes to Comrade Jyoti Basu . The entire area of the meeting was decorated with posters, cut-outs and photos of Comrade Jyoti Basu. Some large photos of his were erected where the people paid their floral tributes in long queues. The backdrop of the stage was decorated with a famous quote of Basu: “It is the people who make history”. Biman Basu presided over the meeting and read out the condolence resolution.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat, in his speech said, of the many leaders who have contributed and made sacrifices for the Communist movement in India, Jyoti Basu was exemplary and one of the most distinguished. Karat said, “ Basu was the leader of the entire Left and democratic movement of the country. He was the voice of the toiling people and contributed immensely in establishing their rights.” Karat urged the people to continue in the path shown by Comrade Jyoti Basu to build stronger movements of the toiling masses.

West Bengal Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya said, “While it is said of Communists that they are opposed to democracy, Jyoti Basu, in his life, fulfilled the duty of establishing democracy not just in West Bengal, but also in the country…Although he was sent to prison, he never sent his political opponents to jail; even if a law was unjust he never took the law into his own hands and he never took action against a newspaper for criticising him,” Bhattacharya said. Jyoti Basu’s first act as chief minister was to free all political prisoners, irrespective of party affiliation. West Bengal was also the first state to have a human rights commission. Comrade Jyoti Basu continuously endeavoured to establish and strengthen the system of parliamentary democracy in the state and in the country, Bhattacharya said. Comrade Jyoti Basu was exemplary in firmly establishing secularism. He brought the toiling people in the centre stage of politics. That will continue to be our path, he added.

Biman Basu outlined the political life of Comrade Jyoti Basu and said, “He correctly coordinated the struggle outside the legislature with the struggle within it.” One of Comrade Jyoti Basu’s major contributions was to bring into focus the question of centre-state relations, Biman Basu added.

Describing Basu as “the Communist voice of South Asia,” Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) leader Jhala Nath Khanal said Communists in Nepal, representing 60 per cent of the population, needed to emulate the example set by him in bringing different parties together.

Remembering the support extended to the people of Bangladesh by Basu during the 1971 independence struggle, Rashed Khan Menon, from Bangladesh Workers’ Party, spoke on the significant role played by him in forging India-Bangladesh ties. Sajjad Zahir Chandan of the Bangladesh Communist Party and Moinuddin Khan Badal of the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal echoed his sentiments.

Ashok Ghosh (Forward Block), Manjukumar Majumdar (CPI), Khiti Goswami (RSP) , Pravash Ghosh (SUCI), Kartik Paul (CPI-ML), Brijesh Pathak (BSP) paid their tributes .

Subrata Mukherjee, working president of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee said, “I have no hesitation in saying that he was perhaps the most important of the mass leaders who have achieved this stature.”

CPI(M) Polit Bureau members Sitaram Yechury, Mohammed Amin, Nirupam Sen and other senior leaders were present.

Condolence meetings are now being held in the districts.



From the Communist Party of Cuba

WE express our most heartfelt condolences for the physical disappearance of Comrade Jyoti Basu, a committed communist, historical leader, a founder of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and a tireless fighter for the wellbeing of the Indian people, the just causes and peace.
Because of his fruitful life, his seventy years devoted to the Marxist cause, in which he suffered the hardship of prison and underground life, he became a symbol of the Left and progressive forces, and won respect and acknowledgement outside his own country.

He admired the Cuban Revolution and our leaders, and on the occasion of his several visits to our country, he offered his support and love to our people, something which we will never forget.
At this sad moment, we convey our solidarity to the cadres and leaders of the CPI(M) which become a vibrant force to continue the struggle for a better and possible world for all.

From the Communist Party of China

WE are deeply grieved to learn of the demise of a luminary of the Indian communist movement and former CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, Comrade Jyoti Basu.

As one of the vanguards of the communist movement in India, the founders and outstanding leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Comrade Jyoti Basu made great contribution to the national independence, construction, economic and social development of India. As an old friend to the Chinese people, Comrade Jyoti Basu devoted his whole life to intensifying the communication and cooperation between the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of China, strengthening the people-to-people friendship and state-to-state relationship between China and India.

The International Department of CPC Central Committee mourns the demise of Comrade Jyoti Basu and expresses sympathy for his bereaved family.

From the Communist Party of the Russian Federation

WITH profound grief we came to know that Comrade Jyoti Basu has passed away. He was one of the founders of the Communist Party. In your country he enjoyed the vast authority and love among the majority of popular masses and was one of the most prominent and influential Indian politicians. For many years he was the chief minister of West Bengal. We know Comrade Jyoti Basu as a truthful friend of the Soviet Union and the communists of our country.

We express our deep condolences to the family of Comrade Jyoti Basu, to all friends and comrades, to Indian communists.

From the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

IT is with great sadness that we have received the news of the demise of Comrade Jyoti Basu. His outstanding record of service in the Indian working-class movement is too long for us to cover in this brief message. We shall, however, be carrying an obituary in the next issue of our party’s journal Proletarian in which we hope to be able to do justice to his important contribution to the proletarian movement. His absence from the political scene, which he had so long dominated, will leave a void, which we hope the collective leadership of the CPM will be able to fill. His will be a hard act to follow. He set an example for the whole of India as to how the role of a chief minister should be performed.

Please accept our sincerest condolences for the loss of this outstanding comrade. Can we, through you, convey the same to the Central Committee of the CPI(M), its cadres and the family of Comrade Basu.

From the French Communist Party

THE French Communist Party would like to extend to you its sincere condolences after the great Indian Communist leader Joyti Basu passed away. His life as an activist, trade unionist, political leader, minister and head of the government in West Bengal mingles with the history of India and of your party. A great figure of the fight for human emancipation is gone. The leadership of the French Communist Party would like to take this painful occasion to reaffirm all its warm solidarity.

Dear Comrades,
Our solidarity is even deeper in light of the ignominious and criminal terrorist aggressions against numerous activists and leaders of your party, as well as from police agents. The French Communist Party condemns these shocking murders committed, even against women and children, by a Maoist organisation who wants to spread terror and death.

The French Communist Party stands firmly by your side and we give you all our support.

From the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB)

WE are very much in sorrow over the passing away of Comrade Jyoit Basu, veteran leader of the CPI(M), who played a very important role in the communist movement in region. His demise is an irreparable loss not only for the CPI(M), but also a great loss for the people of India.

On behalf of the leadership and the militants of the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), we express deep sorrow on the demise of Comrade Jyoti Basu, pay profound tribute to the deceased leader and also express condolences to his family, the Central Committee and all members of the CPI(M).

From the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP)

UPON learning that Comrade Jyoti Basu, a founder and historic leader of your party and, recognisably, one of the great figures of Indian politics and of the communist movement has passed away, we wish to convey the most heartfelt condolences of the Portuguese communists.
Comrade Jyoti Basu will be remembered by our party as one of the most remarkable Indian communist leaders, tireless fighter for the independence of your country, an intellectual profoundly committed to the interests and yearnings of Indian working class, to the worker and trade union movement and a historic leader of the people of West Bengal state that he led for many years as the chief minister.

As this time of his disappearance, we recall the accessibility, energy and joy with which Comrade Jyoti Basu received, in his house in Calcutta, the PCP delegation led by Comrade Jeronimo de Sousa in September 2006.

Paying tribute to one of the great figures of the Indian communist movement, we kindly ask you, dear comrades, to convey to Comrade Jyoti Basu’s family, to other comrades and friends our condolences and the solidarity of the Portuguese Communist Party.

From the Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain

THE Marxist-Leninists from the Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain convey their deepest condolences on the death of your historic leader, Comrade Jyoti Basu.

Veteran communist activists and leaders like Jyoti Basu should be for us an example of life devoted to the struggle for the emancipation of the working class and other people, and source of inspiration for new generations of communists in India and worldwide.

Comrade Jyoti Basu fought tirelessly for democracy and socialism in the legal framework and in the underground, and was therefore subject to persecution and imprisonment. Now, with the dangerous rise of fascism and the resurgence of the dictatorship of capital around the globe as the only possible reaction of senile and decaying capitalism to its own systemic crisis, many communist fighters and fighters are constantly being persecuted, and their symbols and organisations criminalised and outlawed in many countries.

The unity and cooperation of the Communist and Workers' Parties has grown tighter in order to provide a backbone to the anti-imperialist front that is able to cope with this brutal imperialist capitalist offensive against the workers and peoples.

The communist Jyoti Basu will be present in the heroic history of the Indian people and the international communist movement, surrounded by his comrades and the red flags of work and the revolution.

Victory is yours, Comrade Jyoti Basu!

From the Communist Party of Greece (KKE)

WE would like to express our profound grief over the death of Jyoti Basu, historic leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and prominent figure of the communist movement in India with broad reputation and recognition.

Jyoti Basu died on Sunday, January 17, at the age of 95. For 70 years he had been committed to the labour and communist movement. He had been a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India and one of the founding cadres of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). He was a member of the Polit Bureau from the time of the party's founding in 1964 until 2008 and remained a member of the Central Committee until his death.
He was assigned several areas of the party work under various conditions; he experienced prison and illegality. He served as the chief minister of the state of West Bengal from 1977 to 2000 and his name has been linked with the agrarian reform, a landmark for the Indians taken by the government of the state under communist guidance.
The working class and the communist movement in India have lost a great fighter, committed to the struggle for the abolition of exploitation and for socialism.

The Central Committee of KKE expresses its sincere condolences to the CPI(M), the members and friends of the party in West Bengal, to the family and the familiars of the deceased comrade.

From the Japanese Communist Party

WE were saddened to hear the news of the demise of Mr Jyoti Basu, one of the founding leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), who long served as the chief minister of the Left Front government of West Bengal. We express our deepest condolences.

We have fond memories of having fruitful discussions with him when we visited your country in 1988 and 2002. He told us about the struggle to establish the Left Front government overcoming semi-fascist terror in the state. As well, he told us about the implementation of various progressive policies, including distributing agricultural land to farmers and establishing grassroots democracy through the introduction of panchayat institutions, bringing about great improvement in people’s living conditions.

Please convey our heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family.

From the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist)

OUR party has been stunned on hearing the heart rendering news of the death of Jyoti Basu, senior leader of Communist Party of India (Marxist) at the age of 95. Comrade Jyoti Basu was not only in the forefront of the communist movement in India; he was also one of the renowned leaders of the world. He had extended significant support to the democratic movement of Nepal. He discharged his duty as a clean and capable chief minister for more than two decades amidst the corruption prevailed in South Asia. His demise is an irreparable loss not only to the Indian communist movement but also in the international communist movement.

We, on behalf of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) as well as Nepalese communists, extend our heartfelt tribute to Comrade Jyoti Basu and profound condolence to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and his aggrieved family.

From the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist)

THE Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist) has been stunned hearing the sad news of the demise of Comrade Jyoti Basu, a veteran and prominent leader of the communist and democratic movements in India. Paying homage to the highly valued personality of Comrade Basu with profound grief and sorrow, our party expresses its heartfelt condolence to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and through it to the bereaved family and friends of the late Comrade Basu.

The beloved Indian leader, Comrade Basu, was a dependable and reliable friend of the Nepalese people and of the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist Left and democratic movement in Nepal. Our party shall never forget his participation and the inspiring speech as chief gust of the programme organised by our party in 1990 after the restoration of multiparty democracy, on the eve of 12th memorial day of the late leader Comrade Puspalal, the founder general secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal.

Comrade Basu’s remark on the need to protect, promote and strengthen the nascent democracy of our country is still equally valid and significant in the present context of Nepalese politics.
Long Live Comrade Jyoti Basu!
Red Salute to Comrade Basu!

From the Communist Party of Bangladesh

ON behalf of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, we convey our heartfelt condolences on the demise of Comrade Jyoti Basu, an outstanding and legendary leader of the communist movement in India and the subcontinent.
Comrade Basu dedicated his entire life to the people’s struggle against colonialism, imperialism, capitalist exploitation and communalism, for democracy, freedom, peace and progress.

The Communist Party of Bangladesh remembers with his activities in the same party and in Bangladesh territory, particularly his contribution in building the trade union movement and Railway Workers Union during the British colonial rule. Comrade Jyoti Basu efficiently and successfully led the communist and Left movement in the state of West Bengal, in the challenging and complex task of running a government for decades in a bourgeois state system.
As a Marxist-Leninist and a true internationalist, Comrade Basu played a significant role in the process of water sharing agreement between Bangladesh and India. He took positive initiative for mutual friendship and cooperation between our two countries. The people of Bangladesh will always remember Comrade Jyoti Basu with great respect for the good feelings he had for our country and people.

We give our revolutionary red salute to Comrade Jyoti Basu who will continue to live amongst us in our struggle for peace, freedom and socialism.

We also extend our deep sympathy to his bereaved family, friends, comrades and his beloved party.

From the Workers Party of Bangladesh

WE express our deepest grief at the passing away of Comrade Jyoti Basu, one of the pioneers of Indian communist movement and a leader of the CPI(M). Comrade Jyoti Basu was an outstanding leader who dedicated his whole life to the cause of the working class and oppressed people, fighting valiantly against all kinds of exploitation and oppression incessantly. He led the elected Left Front government of West Bengal for more than two decades, setting an unprecedented example in the history of parliamentary democracy. He all through his life had been steadfast and loyal to the Communist Party of India (Marxist). His wisdom and vision in combating the reactionary and communal forces of India and the imperialist forces of the world will be remembered in the days to come. His role and contribution in the Liberation War of Bangladesh will be remembered by the people of Bangladesh. His demise is an irreparable loss to the CPI(M) and the communist movement of India as well as the world communist movement. We express our solidarity with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in this moment of grief and would also like to convey our deepest condolence and sympathy to the bereaved family of Comrade Jyoti Basu.

From the Workers Party of Bangladesh (Reorganised)

WE are deeply shocked at the news of the sad demise of Comrade Jyoti Bose, the leader of your party and a legendary figure of our time. Bangladesh has lost its great friend and the Indian people have lost their dear leader. We remember with great respect his long struggling life, his struggle for the emancipation of the working people and for socialism, and his struggle against imperialism. We remember with gratitude the role of Comrade Jyoti Bose during our liberation war in 1971, the support and the help he rendered to the people and the freedom fighters of Bangladesh.

He was chief minister of West Bengal for long 24 years. During this period he made immense contribution to the society such as land reform, barga operation, industrialisation and the empowerment of the poor people through panchayat system introduced for the purpose of decentralisation of power, all of which can be considered as exemplary acts to be followed not only by the other states of India but also countries like ours.

The death of such a great, revolutionary leader with profound knowledge of Marxism and great sense of practical wisdom is a great loss for the communist and democratic movement of our subcontinent. We express our sympathy with the members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the people of India.

From the Communist Party of Burma

WE are deeply saddened to hear about the news of the passing away of Comrade Jyoti Basu, one of the great stalwarts of the communist movement of the world as well as of India.

At the time when capitalists and their advocates were trying to give fatal blows to the international communist movement after the collapse of the Soviet Union, leaders and cadres the working class parties, including Comrade Jyoti Basu, stood firm and dealt blow after blow to the conceited bourgeoisie. Thus, the communist movement the world over remained intact and now we can see a resurgence of the movement dawning upon the whole world.

Demise of a leader like him is not only a loss to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the people of India; it is also a loss to the proletarians and the people of the world. His memory will be etched in the hearts of the proletarians and the oppressed people.

Comrade Jyoti Basu was one of the leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), who led struggles against imperialism, fascism and international capital. His contemporaries in our party have also passed away. But we believe that our generation can inherit and strengthen the long-tested relationship between our two parties.

Lastly, but not least, please allow us to convey our deepest sympathy to Comrade Jyoti Basu’s family members.

From the Lebanese Communist Party

ON behalf of our Political Bureau, we express to you and to all comrades of the CPI(M) our sympathy and sorrow.

We believe that Comrade Jyoti Basu has left a very militant party to you and you will continue to lead the Indian people for a new society.

From the Communist Party of Mauritius

WE regret to learn the demise of Comrade Jyoti Basu, a great leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

On my own behalf and that of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Mauritius, we hereby transmit our sincere condolences to the bereaved family and to all comrades of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

His body has left this material world but his soul will shine for ever in the midst of the Left movements in India.

May the relations between our two organisations blossom in the near future.

Jyoti Basu: A Pre-eminent Leader

By Prakash Karat

JYOTI Basu is no more. Though he was 95 and was becoming fragile by the day, his departure is traumatic for the entire Party and has saddened people all over the country. The people of West Bengal feel bereaved. This is because Jyoti Basu was woven into the very fabric of the Communist movement. When we recall the Tebhaga movement, the struggle against the communal carnage during partition, the great mass movements after independence such as the food movement of 1959, the land struggles of the sixties, the fight against semi-fascist terror, Jyoti Basu is inseparable from all these events.

When the CPI(M) was formed in 1964, West Bengal was not the strongest unit of the Party. It was built up by the correct strategy and tactics adopted, in which Jyoti Basu alongwith Promode Dasgupta, played a key role. If Promode Dasgupta worked to build the Party organisation, brick by brick, Jyoti Basu provided the leadership for the political campaigns, the mass movements and the leadership in the legislature.

Jyoti Basu was the last surviving member of the original nine-member Polit Bureau constituted in 1964. He saw his colleagues departing one by one. A K Gopalan, Promode Dasgupta, P Sundarayya, P Ramamurthi, M Basavapunniah, B T Ranadive, EMS Namboodiripad and finally Harkishan Singh Surjeet. They were all leaders who belonged to the generation which began their political life in the anti-imperialist struggle.

Jyoti Basu became acquainted with Marxism through the British Communist Party, while studying abroad. He came back and joined the Communist Party and straight away began work in the trade union movement of the railway workers. One of the distinctive contributions of Jyoti Basu was the way he integrated work in the legislature with the people's movements and workers struggles outside. Jyoti Basu was elected to the Bengal legislature in 1946 before independence. From then onwards, for more than five decades, he effectively utilised his presence in the legislature for developing and strengthening the Party's influence and movements outside. When the Tebhaga movement of the peasantry began in 1947, Jyoti Basu extensively toured the districts where the movement was taking place for a first hand report and raised the issue effectively in the assembly.
In 1953, he became the secretary of the Provincial Committee of the CPI and continued in this post till 1961. During these eight years, big movements took place such as the food movement of 1959 in which 80 people were killed in police firing and lathicharges. Jyoti Basu, as secretary of the Party, was in the forefront of this movement while relentlessly raising the demands of the people on food inside the assembly.

Earlier, when the school teachers' strike took place in February 1954, many leaders of the school teachers association and the Party were arrested. There was a warrant for the arrest of Jyoti Basu and the police kept a vigil outside the assembly on the opening day of the session to arrest him. Jyoti Basu managed to enter the assembly and stayed for around a week inside the premises where the police could not enter. He was able to raise the issue of the teachers’ strike inside the assembly and came out to attend the teachers rally and got arrested. Here was a striking example of how Jyoti Basu, as a legislator, utilised the assembly to champion the cause of the working people.

Jyoti Basu was a man of great personal courage. In July 1969, when he was the home minister, a mob of policeman invaded the assembly building, having been instigated to do so after a policeman was killed in the clash. They smashed up furniture inside the assembly and entered Jyoti Basu's room. Jyoti Basu calmly faced the rampaging policemen and firmly told them to stop such behaviour. Taken aback by his composure, the policemen quietly left his room.

One saw the same calmness and demeanour when there was an assassination attempt at the Patna railway station in 1970. When bullets were fired at him, a comrade who had come to receive him at the station and was standing next to him was killed.

After the pioneering role of the first Communist ministry headed by EMS Namboodiripad in Kerala in 1957-59, it was Jyoti Basu who showed how Communist participation in the state government should be utilised to strengthen the democratic movement. During the two stints of the United Front government between 1967-1970, as the home minister, he did not allow the police to intervene in the struggles of the workers and the peasants. During the land struggle which swept Bengal, Jyoti Basu declared that the government would not obstruct the peasants who were identifying the benami lands and taking them over. It is this experience which helped the CPI(M) to formulate its approach and tactics while working in the state governments.

The biggest contribution of Jyoti Basu came with the formation of the Left Front government in 1977, of which he became the chief minister. The remarkable record of the Left Front government for over three decades owes a lot to Jyoti Basu's leadership of the government for an unbroken 23 years. It was under his stewardship that the road map for land reforms was chalked out and implemented. These path-breaking reforms led to 1.1 million acres of land being distributed to 2.5 million landless and marginal farmers and 1.53 million bargadars (sharecroppers) being registered and provided security of tenure.
Side by side, with the land reforms instituted, the three-tier panchayat system was revitalised by decentralisation of powers. Much before 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments, West Bengal showed the way in democratising the panchayat system. An achievement which is taken for granted today is the establishment of a secular atmosphere in the state. Bengal, before independence, witnessed the rise of communal politics and partition saw large-scale communal violence. But the rise of the Left movement and the establishment of the Left Front government laid the basis for a major transformation. Jyoti Basu symbolised the firm adherence to secularism not only in West Bengal but the entire country. All minorities felt protected and lived free from communal attacks. The whole country praised the firm stand of Jyoti Basu which prevented any attack on the Sikh minority in West Bengal after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

By the 1980s, Jyoti Basu's stature as a national leader saw him playing a major role in implementing the CPI(M) political line. By the 1990s, no other leader among the non-Congress secular parties commanded as much respect as Jyoti Basu did.

Throughout, Jyoti Basu remained a dedicated Communist. He was an extremely disciplined person. It reflected in small details. Whenever he attended Polit Bureau or Central Committee meetings, if he had to leave the meeting early for some official work in Kolkata, he would always request permission to do so.

Jyoti Basu spoke out on issues he felt strongly about in the Party forums but would always abide by the collective decision. In 1996, after the Central Committee decided not to join the government, he repeatedly stated in Party meetings that the decision taken should be accepted as the minority has to abide by the majority decision. This, he said, was the principle of democratic centralism adhered to by our Party.
Jyoti Basu was clear that a person should not continue in positions for ever. He repeatedly asked the Party, from 1998, to relieve him from the chief ministership due to his advancing age and ill-health. It was only in 2000, six months before the assembly elections, that the Party agreed to his request. He also insisted that the Party relieve him from the Polit Bureau, a request that was not acceded to till the 19th Congress of the Party. Even then, the Central Committee decided he should continue as a special invitee to the Polit Bureau.

His absence will be felt most of all in the Polit Bureau of which he was a part for nearly 45 years. For those of us who came into the Party leadership three decades later and thereafter, there was much to learn from him. Even when he could not attend meetings in the recent years, we used to seek his advice.

During the past few years, Jyoti Basu would often pose the question why the Party is not developing outside the three states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. He would constantly stress the need to build the Party and the mass organisations in the states where we are weak. This should be taken as his last wish and desire. It is upto us to fulfill his direction.

Jyoti Basu has passed into history. But he will remain alive in the hearts of the people – the workers, peasants, agricultural workers and employees for whom he ceaselessly worked. Few leaders in independent India, can claim to have contributed to deepening democracy and strengthening the secular edifice as much as Jyoti Basu has done.
For the CPI(M), he will always remain a leader to be emulated and a Communist par excellence.