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.