“Defeat the Imperialist Conspiracy Against Bangladesh”
Article by Michael Banda, Socialist Labour League (UK)
December 6, 1971
[This statement was published in the News Line in the name of the International Committee, without consultation with any of the sections.]
Bengali resistance to the barbaric Yahya Khan regime and the heritage of imperialist partition in India has entered a decisive stage with the intervention of Indian armed forces.
It is now only a matter of time before the combined forces of the Mukti Bahini and the Indian army crush the Pakistan troops in Bangladesh and occupy Dacca.
The International Committee of the Fourth International was the only organization to support in a principled manner the right of Bangladesh to secede from Pakistan.
It now stands unreservedly for the defeat of the hated Pakistan army and the liberation of Bangladesh—as a prelude to the voluntary and revolutionary unification of India on socialist foundations.
The ICFI supports completely the right of the E. Bengali people to solicit the support of capitalist and workers’ states in their struggle to eliminate Pakistani oppression.
We critically support the decision of the Indian bourgeois government to give military and economic aid to Bangladesh. We condemn the attempt of US imperialism to stop the conflict through UN intervention and the threatened cessation of economic aid to India.
US imperialism is determined
Pakistan conflict to weaken the Indian economy, as its decision to cut off arms supplies shows.
It wants to facilitate the unlimited penetration of US finance capital into India and the installation of a more docile regime in New Delhi.
This is part of US imperialism’s global strategy to contain and push back the developing anti-imperialist struggles of the SE Asian workers and peasants.
At the same time the ICFI urge Indian and Bengali socialists to place no confidence whatever in the capacity of the Bengali and Hindu bourgeoisie to carry through any of the tasks of the Indian democratic revolution.
Behind Mrs. Gandhi stand the Hindu fanatics of Jan Sangh and big business interests who wish to annex E. Bengal, and take back the profitable jute and tea industries which they lost after partition.
Having coopted a large proportion of the right-wing Awami League leadership in Calcutta, the Indian bourgeoisie and landlords will—after victory over Pakistan—seek to impose their rule through Awami League collaborators.
At the same time they will try to ruthlessly repress any revolutionary tendencies around the Mukti Bahini as well as preventing any movement towards the revolutionary unification of E. and W. Bengal.
That is why up to now the Congress movement has refused to recognize the Republic of Bangladesh.
It also explains its maneuvers with the National Awami Party of Maulana Bashani, in order to isolate and destroy those groups who are not prepared to subordinate themselves to the economic and strategic aims of the Hindu ruling class.
The ferocious repression of the Naxalites in W. Bengal—with the intervention of the Indian government on the side of Mrs. Bandaranaike against the Ceylonese rural uprising in April—is convincing proof of the reactionary nature of the Indian bourgeoisie.
Another and even more fundamental reason for Indian intervention is the deadly fear of the mass uprising which the Pakistani occupation has provoked, and the threat that this uprising will spill over into W. Bengal.
The ICFI warn the Bengali workers’ and peasants’ revolutionaries.
They must organize themselves separately and maintain their political independence from the Awami League bourgeoisie and the Stalinists.
These tendencies seek to undermine their struggle and place them at the mercy of Delhi—in the same way as they previously accepted Rawalpindi rule.
Revolutionaries must combine the national struggle with the fight for an uncompromising redivision of the land in the interests of the poor peasants, the nationalization of industry and the setting up of a workers’ and peasants’ government.
The workers and peasants will be compelled to struggle against the plans of the Indian bourgeoisie and will need the support of the working class of India and the rest of the world.
Determined mobilization and action of the masses themselves in Bangladesh, the building of an alternative revolutionary leadership of the working class; these are the immediate needs of the workers of Bangladesh.
The ICFI condemns unequivocally the role of Peking and Moscow Stalinism, which have refused to recognize the Bangladesh Republic and have betrayed the national aspirations of the Bengali people.
Long live the Bangladesh revolution! No compromise with the Hindu capitalists!!
Revolutionary Communist League Statement
December 8, 1971
With the installation of the “Bangladesh” government in power in Dacca in the aftermath of the defeat of the Pakistan armed forces in E. Bengal, the postwar status quo set up in the Indian subcontinent by imperialism with the connivance of Stalinism and the Hindu and Muslim national bourgeoisies has been irrevocably ruptured. From now on nothing will ever be the same in this part of Asia. A new period has dawned.
The breakup of the political framework established by imperialism in the subcontinent is directly and intimately related to the ending of the long period of inflationary boom experienced by world capitalism during the past period, and the development of an economic and political crisis of unprecedented proportions opening up a period of revolutionary struggles on a global scale. The Bangladesh liberation struggle and the Indo-Pak war are the products of this new stage in the class struggle. They are the response of the antagonistic classes in society to the precipitation of this worldwide revolutionary crisis and can be understood only in class terms.
The Trotskyist movement, representing the revolutionary interests of the proletariat, defines its position in relation to all these movements, struggles and conflicts from the standpoint of the proletarian struggle for socialism. It declares emphatically and unequivocally that the task of the proletariat is not that of supporting any one of the warring factions of the bourgeoisie but that of utilizing each and every conflict in the camp of the class enemy for the seizure of power with the perspective of setting up a federated socialist republic which alone would be able to satisfy the social and national aspirations of the millions of toilers in the subcontinent. It calls upon the proletariat—in Pakistan, in India, in Ceylon and in E. Bengal—to prepare its forces for the inevitable revolutionary developments that would emerge in the course of the war and its aftermath.
The Trotskyists, therefore, take their position firmly in support of the struggle of the E. Bengali masses for their legitimate aspirations and for an end to military and national oppression. We unconditionally support the right of the Bengali masses—of the West as well as of the East—to unite as a nation, ending the imperialist carveup of 1947, and to secede from India and Pakistan if they so desire. The struggle to exercise this right by the Bengali masses becomes inevitably transformed into a revolutionary struggle, because it poses an end to the imperialist-designed status quo and to the rule of the parasitic Hindu and Muslim bourgeoisies. The Trotskyist movement calls upon the toiling Bengali masses to unite the struggle for national unification and liberation with the struggle for socialist revolution as the sole guarantee of victory.
Precisely because the Trotskyists stand unconditionally and unequivocally for the struggle for Bangladesh, they stand for the defeat of the Pakistan army at the hands of the Mukti Bahini forces. We declare that the task of the proletariat in Pakistan is to link its fate with that of the struggle for Bangladesh and to fight for the defeat of “their own” army. The Pakistani proletariat in the finest traditions of proletarian internationalism, should take the Leninist position of revolutionary defeatism, because the war waged by the Pakistani ruling class is a war for national oppression, in the interests of the imperialist status quo.
At the same time we demarcate ourselves clearly and sharply from all those who cover up the annexationist and counterrevolutionary aims of the war waged by the Indians—in the East as well as in the West, by their ostensible support for the Bangladesh movement. We call upon the Indian proletariat to reject the claim of the Indian bourgeoisie to be the liberators of E. Bengal. The Trotskyists declare that the Indian armed intervention in E. Bengal had one and only one object. It was to prevent the struggle for Bangladesh from developing into a struggle for the unification, on a revolutionary basis, of the whole of Bengal. The Indian armed intervention was designed to smash the revolutionary Bengali liberation struggle, to crush the upsurge of the masses in Bengal and to install a puppet regime which, fraudulently usurping the name of the government of Bangladesh, would confine and contain the mass movement in the interests of the bourgeoisie and imperialism. Thus we call upon the Indian proletariat too to take a position of revolutionary defeatism in relation to the counterrevolutionary war of the Indian bourgeoisie, while supporting by all and every means the struggle of the Mukti Bahini.
This is the only revolutionary program for the proletariat in the Indian subcontinent. It flows logically and inexorably from a Marxist analysis of the whole postwar history of the subcontinent.
What has been demonstrated during the last 25 years, ever since the fraudulent “independence” granted by British imperialism to its loyal servants, the native bourgeoisie of these countries, is that none of the basic economic, national or social problems can be solved by those bourgeoisies. Their absolute bankruptcy in the face of these historical tasks is proof of the central thesis of the theory of permanent revolution of Trotsky that only the proletariat drawing behind it the downtrodden rural masses can solve these problems as part of the tasks of the socialist revolution. The carveup of the Indian subcontinent, in conformity with the policy of divide-and-rule, supported by the Hindu and Muslim bourgeoisies as well as by international Stalinism was the framework within which the enormous social and national contradictions were suppressed and contained, ensuring the dominance of capitalism and starvation, famine and misery for the hundreds of millions of the oppressed masses. Those contradictions, developing as part and as a result of the development of the entire international imperialist system, can no longer be contained.
What has been put on the order of the day by the simultaneous precipitation of a revolutionary crisis in India-Pakistan and Ceylon is the ending of the imperialist carveup, together with the class rule of the bourgeoisie through the revolutionary unification of the entire subcontinent under the hegemony of the proletariat.
The desperate attempts of imperialism and Stalinism to reestablish “stability” in this sector of the globe is doomed from the start.
The development of mass revolutionary struggles in Pakistan in 1969, the armed struggles of the peasantry and the continuing struggles of a daily more restive working class in India, the mass strikes in Ceylon—it was with these danger signals that the 1970s dawned here. Unemployment, landlessness, national oppression and rising cost of living, in the context of stagnant economies, were provoking mass struggles everywhere. Even at the height of the capitalist boom the weak capitalist economies never really prospered and it was only thanks to the servile support given to the corrupt bourgeois regimes by the traditional leaderships of the working class, the Stalinists and the reformists, that the bourgeoisie managed to rule. But the aggravation of the economic crisis on an international scale effectively destroyed the basis for class collaboration. Despite the openly counterrevolutionary policies of the leaderships the masses began to move into battle, coming into conflict at each stage with their own leaderships. Truly the laws of history were proving themselves to be stronger than the bureaucratic apparatuses.
It was this movement of the masses, with the working class in the forefront, that now came into direct collision with the needs of imperialism and native capital, now being forced by the economic crisis, rapidly developing into a major recession, to decisively smash the working class and its organizations. The hostile class forces were being compelled by the objective laws of capitalism to change the status quo in their own favor. Society, irrevocably split into two hostile camps, now faced civil war.
The international phenomenon of civil war, predicted by British Tory P.M. Heath, to be the main danger in the 1970s, was expressing itself and emerging into the open in the Indian subcontinent as well. The uprising of the rural youth in Ceylon in April 1971, the mighty movement of the masses in Bangladesh who independently of their bourgeois leaders developed the struggle for complete national independence, the revolutionary struggles in W. Bengal, all these struggles signify the response of the masses to the crisis. The civil war had already erupted. The most fundamental lines of demarcation were being drawn.
The response of imperialism and Stalinism was swift and predictable. Sinking their own differences in their common fear and hatred of independent revolutionary struggles, they threw their full force against the mass movements.
Imperialism simultaneously armed Indian and Pakistani and Ceylonese bourgeoisies. The USSR supplied arms while their local political agents openly collaborated with the bourgeoisie against the mass uprisings while China denounced the struggles in Bangladesh and Ceylon, sent arms and money to the bourgeois regimes, stepped up its policy of seeking detente with Yankee imperialism, and entered the UN.
Despite the repression backed by imperialism and Stalinism, despite the treachery of their own leaderships, the strength of the mass movement was great enough to resist and to fight back. In the very fires of the struggle the will of the masses was hardening, the leaderships were being tested in battle and the masses were moving more and more to the left.
Thus in Bangladesh, the liberation struggle developed in spite of Mujibur Rahman leadership’s repeated attempts to reach a compromise with the military dictatorship. Though the absence of a proletarian revolutionary leadership allowed the Awami League bourgeoisie to take over the leadership of the movement, more radical left-wing forces were threatening to outflank them on the left. The militants in W. Bengal, so long under the grip of Maoism, began to join forces with the revolutionary fighters of the eastern region, in spite of the open opposition of Maoist Stalinists to the Bangladesh struggle. Bengal was being unified—in a revolutionary way!
The hundreds of thousands of refugees from E. Bengal and the consequent political and economic problems, the rapid development of an economic recession at home, acutely aggravated by the new policy of US imperialism after Nixon’s August 15 speech and the development of a revolutionary situation in Bengal was threatening to unleash massive revolutionary developments throughout India. Precisely at this moment when the bourgeoisie was being forced to provoke the masses into struggle by the economic crisis, when they were faced with the unenviable task of attempting to change fundamentally the class relationships in the country and to crush the inevitable mass upsurge—precisely at this moment the movement in Bangladesh was finding a revolutionary echo inside India.
The Indian bourgeoisie collaborated with the Awami League leadership to hound the left wing of the Bangladesh liberation movement, to imprison the leftist leaders and to prevent a linkup of the revolutionary forces in E. Bengal with those of the West. The Indian bourgeoisie cannot tolerate a revolutionary Bangladesh which would unite both East and West. The grip of the Awami League leadership was too weak to effectively guarantee a stable bourgeois regime in E. Bengal in the event of a Pakistani defeat.
On the other hand, the Pak military regime, hated and despised in E. Bengal, increasingly coming into conflict with a militant working class moving into struggles in the West, desperately attempting to continue the subjugation of national minorities to the Punjabi and Pathan bourgeoisie, was facing defeat in the East. The Mukti Bahini fighters enjoyed the support of the masses. They are based on the masses and they are fighting for a cause.
It was in this situation that Indira Gandhi decided on direct military intervention. The Indian bourgeoisie could not allow a really independent Bangladesh to come into being, posing revolutionary unification of East and West Bengal, liberating a powerful revolutionary wave which would sweep away every prop that now kept up bourgeois rule in India and Pakistan.
By its very essence, a Bangladesh confined to the eastern half of Bengal is no Bangladesh at all. A genuine Bangladesh demands the unification of East and West, and thus inevitably poses the question of ending the imperialist inspired carveup of India. Neither of the two imperialist created states, Pakistan and India, can tolerate an end to national oppression and the right of self-determination in the same way that they cannot tolerate the development of mass revolutionary movements in the subcontinent.
The political vacuum created by the debacle of the Pakistan military forces in East Bengal at the hands of the Mukti Bahini was being filled by the development of new organs of power based on the masses—the embryonic forms of Soviet power. The conditions were becoming favorable for the Bangladesh movement to be taken beyond the bourgeois-democratic framework through the establishment of a workers’ and peasants’ government. The revolutionary proletariat of East Bengal, at the head of the millions of struggling peasants, calling upon the workers and peasants of India and Pakistan to rise in their defense and immediately posing a revolutionary socialist republic in Bangladesh as part of a socialist India through its revolutionary unification, would have unleashed the revolutionary floodgates.
The treachery of the Awami League leadership which had so long played the role of containing the mass movement in East Bengal, striving only for a better bargain with the West Pakistan bourgeoisie, once again came into the forefront at this juncture, exposing the whole liberation struggle to mortal danger. Fearing the revolutionary upsurge of the masses above anything else, it betrayed the whole struggle of the masses into the hands of the Indian ruling class.
The Indian government’s intervention was a completely counterrevolutionary one. Under the fraudulent claim of supporting the Bangladesh struggle, it intervened to crush the development of a unified revolutionary Bengal and to set up a puppet regime in a castrated Bangladesh confined to the east. Its military intervention was designed to annex East Bengal, impose military rule with the connivance of the Awami League leadership and to effectively crush the popular rebellion.
The Awami League, under the pretext of getting the aid of the Indian government, opened the door to the imposition of Indian military rule in East Bengal. Their agreement to set up a joint military command under the leadership of the Indians, effectively destroyed all independence of the Mukti Bahini forces. The masses of E. Bengal, for two decades subjected to the brutal oppression of the Punjabi bourgeoisie, now face the same treatment at the hands of the rapacious Indian capitalists and landlords.
We do not confuse the revolutionary nature of the struggle for Bangladesh with the counterrevolutionary annexationist war of the Indian bourgeoisie carried out under the ostensible aim of helping to set up an independent Bangladesh.
Whatever be the political calculations of imperialism and whatever methods it may utilize, there can never be a return to the old status quo. The point of no-return has now been transcended. Intimidation and pressure on the Indian bourgeoisie to reestablish the old relationships on the subcontinent through political maneuvers in the UN and military maneuvers in the Indian Ocean express the very real fear that imperialism feels at the breakup of the old status quo. A deal between the Indian and Pakistani bourgeoisie with the collaboration of the Awami League leaders—this is the objective of imperialism which needs to preserve a united counterrevolutionary front in this region in order to effectively smash the revolutionary developments that are bound to occur in the coming period. It wants to preserve that collaboration between the national bourgeoisies, the Stalinists and the imperialists that was put into operation against the rural uprising in Ceylon in April 1971.
The struggle, however, is not over. On the contrary this is just the beginning. Each passing day makes more acute the economic crisis of world capitalism, accelerating the trend towards slump and trade war. It is linked to the enormous crisis which now grips the Stalinist- dominated workers’ states, exploding the myth of “building socialism in a single country.” These developments will aggravate enormously the pressures and burdens imposed on the bankrupt capitalist economies of India and Pakistan by a costly war. Inevitably the bourgeoisie will attempt to shift this crisis onto the backs of the masses already in conditions of abject poverty and near starvation. Those factors combined with the political breakup of the postwar status quo will create the conditions where a revolutionary crisis of unprecedented proportions, depth and scope would sweep through the whole subcontinent finding an answering echo in Ceylon as well.
The forces unleashed by the war cannot be contained except through bloody repression. The youthful fighters of the Mukti Bahini will not accept with folded hands the imposition of Delhi rule. The military defeat of the Pakistani regime in the East will immeasurably strengthen the revolutionary forces in the West. The masses of India will see through the demagogy of their rulers as the very real economic and political attacks multiply.
The Ceylonese Trotskyists call upon all militants in the subcontinent to learn the lessons of the first stage of the unfolding of the socialist revolution in the subcontinent in order to arm themselves for the struggles which will be forced on them from now on.
Stalinism, both the Moscow and Peking varieties, has compromised itself utterly. Both bureaucracies took positions of complete hostility to the liberation struggle in Bengal. Against the revolutionary masses, they lined up on the side of the bourgeoisie. Whatever illusions the militants may have had about Maoism have now been shattered forever and Trotsky’s analysis of Stalinism as the main prop of the bourgeois order in the world has been proved to the hilt.
The Bangladesh struggle has at the same time proved conclusively that the national bourgeoisie can play only a counterrevolutionary role in the mass struggles of today. The treachery of the Awami League leadership is already clear to many militants. It will become clearer tomorrow.
Only the program of the Fourth International of fighting for the setting up of a socialist republic which solves the national problems as well can show the masses the way forward. Only the Fourth International opposed the imperialist carveup of India in 1947. Only the Fourth International fought and continues to fight for the independence of the proletarian, for the alliance between the workers and peasants, for the right of nations to self-determination and for the voluntary and revolutionary federation of all the nations of the subcontinent.
The proletariat in the Indian subcontinent needs this program for victory. Thus it needs, as the most urgent task today, the building of the Fourth International in this region as part of the building of the FI on a world scale.
It is at this historic juncture that the criminal role of the revisionists who destroyed the Indian Section of the FI becomes crystal clear. The Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India (BLPI) section of the FI founded in 1942, despite its many weaknesses, fought heroically during those difficult days against imperialist and Stalinist repression and against the treachery of the Congress leadership. But its promising beginnings were cut short by the revisionist cancer which nearly destroyed the FI, Pabloite revisionism. The full responsibility for the destruction of the BLPI through its liquidation into the Congress Socialist Party in 1950 and other such formations, must be placed on the heads of the revisionists who today masquerade under the name of the “United Secretariat of the Fourth International” and their collaborators of the Ceylon LSSP.
The Ceylonese Trotskyists appeal to all honest and revolutionary militants to begin the struggle for the rebirth of Trotskyism in India through an uncompromis- ing confrontation with the history and the method of revisionist liquidationism which today leaves the Indian proletariat without a revolutionary party at the most critical moment of history.
The Ceylonese Trotskyists appeal to all proletarian fighters, to the students and the youth, and to the peasant militants to unite on the basis of the founding program, the Transitional Program of the Fourth International. The rebirth of Trotskyism, expressed in the development of the FI through the battle against revisionism waged by the International Committee commencing from 1953 has already commenced in Ceylon. This now needs imperatively and urgently to be extended to the mainland, to India and Pakistan.
Comrades, unite with us to carry through this historic task to a successful conclusion through the building of the FI as the leader of the toilers and the party of the proletariat.
Long live independent, socialist, united Bangladesh!
Down with imperialist-UN intervention!
Down with Pakistani repression and Indian invasion!
Victory to the Mukti Bahini!
Letter from the RCL to Cliff Slaughter
To the Secretary of the ICFI London
Having studied the ICFI statement published in the December 6, 1971 issue of the Workers Press, under the title “Defeat the imperialist conspiracy against Bangladesh” we have to state that we cannot agree with it at all. It would be a political error with grave consequences to give support, critical or otherwise, to the government of Indira Gandhi and its policies.
Our support for the Bengali people in their struggle to liberate themselves from their oppressors should not only go against Pakistan but also against the Indian ruling class.
As the East Bengali masses rebelled against the Pakistani oppressors, India intervened in Bangladesh not as a defender of Bengali people against Khan’s repression but as another “slave owner” with its own predatory war aims in order to defend its own interests.
As the IC statement itself states: “Another and even more fundamental reason for Indian intervention is the deadly fear of the masses uprising which the Pakistani occupation has provoked and the threat that this uprising will spill over into West Bengal.”
Thus India intervened to prevent the real liberation of Bengal, i.e., the unification of East and West Bengal. Not only that, as the IC statement further states: “Behind Mrs. Gandhi stand the Hindu fanatics of Jan Sang and big business interests who wish to annex East Bengal and take back the profitable jute and tea industries which they lost after partition.”
This is completely correct. As the mass struggle challenges both the Hindu and Muslim rulers as well as the imperialist partition of India which they supported and maintain, the ruling classes of both countries are resorting to war in order to perpetuate this same partition.
If Khan cannot contain East Bengal then it becomes Indira’s duty to intervene and impose her grip on East Bengal. Apart from this aim we cannot see any other meaning in India’s support for Bangladesh. At the same time the Hindu rulers want to submerge all the mass struggles in India which threaten the very foundation of their rule under an anti-Pak hysteria and thereby contain these struggles within the parasitic Hindu rule.
India’s war against Pakistan is not a liberation war. The aim of this intervention is to establish a dictatorship within India itself, well equipped to suppress the national and working class struggles. Indira Gandhi, while shouting about the repression carried out by Khan, has suppressed all the democratic rights of the Indian working class and the oppressed masses through emergency rule and attempts to annex Kashmir and E. Bengal to India.
It is not possible to support the national liberation struggle of the Bengali people and the voluntary unification of India on socialist foundations without opposing the Indo-Pakistan war. Without opposing the war from within India and Pakistan it is completely absurd to talk about a unified socialist India which alone can safeguard the right of self-determination of the many nations in the Indian subcontinent.
Without taking a principled position in relation to the war between Pakistan and India, the IC statement critically supports “certain decisions” of the Indian government. This position cannot be supported in India or anywhere else in the world. Should the Indian working class support this war or not? Without answering this question how can a section of the IC be built in India? The meaning of opposing the war waged by Indira Gandhi is that the Indian working class should be mobilized independently to overthrow and replace the Gandhi government with a workers’ and peasants’ government. Only by taking this revolutionary defeatist line can the revolutionaries fight for the freedom of Bengal and the socialist unification of India.
We have to expose the brutal plan covered up by Gandhi’s talk about liberating half a nation (East Bengal). But the IC statement does not do that. Instead it states, “It is now only a matter of time before the combined forces of Mukti Bahini and the Indian army crush the Pakistan troops in Bangladesh and occupy Dacca.”
Thus the illusion is created that Bengal can be liberated with the assistance of the Indian government and its armed forces.
Tactically the Mukti Bahini forces can fight the Pakistan army in collaboration with the Indian armies in East Bengal. But this is not a struggle to overthrow the yoke of one oppressor to go under the yoke of another. While fighting together with the Indian armies in East Bengal, the revolutionaries must appeal to both the Indian and Pakistan workers to rise up and overthrow the reactionary governments of India and Pakistan.
We cannot subordinate the above outlined principled stand to a tactical military collaboration by citing the fact that the Indian armies are fighting the Pakistani forces in East Bengal. To abandon that struggle today would be to sacrifice the struggle for socialism in favor of a worthless agreement with one of the oppressors.
Without adopting the standpoint of the all-Indian class struggle which is directed not only against Khan but also against Gandhi, the IC statement goes on: “It (ICFI) now stands unreservedly for the defeat of the hated Pakistani army and the liberation of Bangladesh as a prelude to the voluntary and revolutionary unification of India on socialist foundations.”
Now, this is really astonishing. How can one even talk about unifying India on a socialist foundation without the struggle to overthrow the ruling classes of India and Pakistan, who are the main obstacle for such a unification. Moreover, how can we talk about the liberation of Bangladesh without posing the fight to overthrow the Indian ruling class.
The entire statement reeks with such equivocations in relation to the Indian ruling class. For example: “We critically support the decision of the Indian bourgeois government to give military and economic aid to Bangladesh.”
The Indian government sent its troops to East Bengal but there is no reliable way to verify the claim that it gave aid to the Mukti Bahini. However, even if the Indian government had given aid to the Mukti Bahini can we support the decision of the government? We defend the right of the Mukti Bahini to obtain aid from anybody even the devil himself, but are we then obliged to support the devil for giving that aid?
During the Second World War, we defended the right of the Soviet Union to obtain economic and military aid even from the imperialist countries. But did we critically support these imperialist governments? It is criminal to say that we support the decision of the Indian government to give aid; it would end by soliciting support for the annexation of East Bengal by India.
Trotskyists should have taken a revolutionary defeatist stand not only in Pakistan but also in India as well. They should not give support, critical or otherwise, for this ruling class. The IC does not take this position and thereby objectively helps to disarm the revolutionaries in the Indian subcontinent.
The implications of these equivocations are made clear from the lead article of the Workers Press of December 7. This article written by Comrade Mike Banda was wrong from beginning to end and completely misleading. The article screamed “India recognizes Bangladesh”; this is complete capitulation to a fraudulent maneuver of the Indian capitalist class. India does not and cannot recognize Bangladesh. What is behind this “recognition” is the maneuver to impose its political domination on the Awami League leaders and to continue the oppression of West Bengal while selling out Bangladesh to the imperialists. This article gave the impression that India would stand for the independence of Bengal. Cde. Mike’s capitulation is so complete when he gives the emphatic statement that: “After months of hesitation and political intrigue she [Mrs. Gandhi] declared to the elated parliament ‘I am confident’... the MPs rose to their feet and cheered ‘jai Bangladesh’ in one voice.”
It is intolerable that the farce of Indian reaction was rhapsodized in this manner in the Workers Press. Does Cde. Mike think that it is about the liberation of Bangladesh that the landlord and capitalist bandits of the Indian parliament who have suppressed so many small nations and docilely served the interests of imperialism were elated? He goes on to say: “The recognition of Bangladesh by India is a limited victory of Bengali nationalism and it concludes an important stage in the struggle against Pakistani domination.”
The Monthly Fund column of the same issue of the Workers Press states the following: “The decision taken by India to recognize Bangladesh should be welcomed by all those who support the victory of the masses of Bangladesh.” The stand taken by the SLL leadership against Hansen and co. on Algeria is contrary to this. When Hansen said that the Evian agreement was a victory since it included the recognition of Algeria by French imperialism, the SLL exposed the fraudulent nature of this “recognition.” Today India recognizes Bangladesh in the same manner that the French imperialists recognized Algeria in order to impose their grip on the FLN leadership. This fraudulent recognition is not a victory but a trap to be exposed. Cde. Mike proceeds to warn the Bengali revolutionaries “about the continued occupation of Bangladesh by India” after having considered the “recognition” by India a victory. He has called for “vigilance” on their part.
We cannot support this position. We firmly state that the IC should change this position. If we stick to the IC position our intervention in India will be completely paralyzed.
In fact, we did prepare a statement before receiving the IC statement last week. We decided that it should be sent to the Workers Press. We will send it to you as soon as possible. We are unable to publish it in this country because of the position taken by the IC.
As soon as we read the IC statement, we decided to defend the IC position and stop publishing our draft here. We believe that our defending the IC statement would create immense confusion inside the working class. It need not be stated that it is difficult to defend the IC statement. Nevertheless clarity inside the international is more important than anything else for it is impossible for us to build a national section without fighting to build the international. We are looking forward for the IC to prepare a new resolution on the Indian subcontinent. We pledge to collaborate in every way in doing so. It is not possible for us to carry on our work here without clarity on this question.
The present situation in India demands a sharp intervention by the IC. In order to shoulder this task it is necessary to arm our section with political clarity. Therefore we request the IC to take the necessary steps taking this letter into consideration.
This question has arisen in a situation where the French OCI has attacked the IC, especially the SLL. They have sent us their reply to the IC. (We received a French text.) In this document we were able to discern a sophisticated attack on dialectical materialism and it is a fraudulent attempt to misrepresent the politics of the SLL in order to cover up their own petty bourgeois opportunism. We consider that the IC statement on Bangladesh is a gratuitous concession to the OCI and the revisionists. We think that the OCI statement should be answered. If you could provide us with an English translation, we are willing to undertake drafting a reply.
On behalf of the PC of the RCL
Letter from Keerthi Balasuriya to a Sri Lankan Comrade in London
Received your letter and the money enclosed. I have yet to receive the books you promised and Mike’s letter. Today I received the documents—International Perspectives and 1967 documents.
From your letter and the articles appearing in the Workers Press now it is even more clear to us the real significance of the warnings contained in our letter to the IC on December 16.
The logic of the false political position of the IC on Bangladesh would have and has led to the abandonment of all the past experiences of the Marxist movement regarding the struggles of the colonial masses. Now it is evident that these attempts are tending to move in the direction of revising all the capital gains made by the SLL leadership in their fight against the SWP during the 1961-63 period. Your December 27 letter was nothing more than an attempt to defend a political position which completely breaks with Marxism. By attempting to defend it you have distorted Marxism, drowned yourself in confusion and exposed your political bankruptcy.
Before replying to your letter, I urge you not to confuse our political position. In your letter you have attempted to define our position as an “abstentionist” one. This is completely erroneous. We gave our unconditional support for the E. Bengal people in their fight against Khan. We did do this despite our profound political differences with the bourgeois Awami League leadership. So this is not an “abstentionist” position as you claim.
On the other hand we never recognized the war waged by India against Pakistan as a liberation war or as a war waged on behalf of the Bengali people. In our analysis of the war aims, we stated: “If Khan cannot contain E. Bengal then it becomes Indira’s duty to intervene and impose her grip on E. Bengal. Apart from this aim we cannot see any other meaning in India’s support for Bangladesh. At the same time the Hindu rulers want to submerge all the mass struggles developing in India which threaten the very foundation of their rule under an anti-Pakistani hysteria and thereby contain those struggles within the parasitic Hindu rule.” (December 16 letter to the IC) We defended this position then and we do so now. Indira’s army went into the East to take the Bangladesh struggle under its control and to impose a fraud of a political settlement which will not go against the interests of the Hindu bourgeoisie and imperialism in connivance with the treacherous Awami League leadership on the struggling BD masses. Because of this, the real role which the Indian army had to play in the East is to crush any and every tendency which tends to move against such a political settlement.
Throughout the Indo-Pak war the essence of the dispute between Indira and Khan was how to contain E. Bengal, and never to defend the rights of the Bengali masses. As Indira herself stated in the Indian parliament on November 24: “The rulers of Pakistan must realize that the path of peaceful negotiation and reconciliation is more rewarding than that of war and suppression of liberty and democracy.”
What does this reveal once the diplomatic jargon is removed? As the December 8 issue of the Bulletin stated in unmistakable terms, “She (Indira) can seize control of the independence movement and use the Mukti Bahini fighters as pawns in a ‘political settlement,’ resulting in a capitalist East Pakistan subservient to the crisis- wracked Indian bourgeoisie.” Gandhi’s policy was this and only this when she declared and continued the war.
Neither the Indian nor the international working class can support this war. The real and most important assistance that the Indian working class can give to the BD struggle was to overthrow the Gandhi government and establish its own class rule. In a situation where the Indian working class is not prepared for an immediate struggle for power, our task consists of explaining patiently the war aims of the government to the advanced guard of the proletariat and thereby hastening the downfall of the Congress regime. While carrying out this agitation for a workers’ and peasants’ government, we call upon the Indian workers not to block any material and military aid to BD, but to do everything to facilitate such aid, and at no time will we support the decisions of the government to send troops anywhere. And if Indira sends her troops to the East, as she did, we should have asked the Indian workers to stop this through class action. It is only by beginning a fight at the moment when Indira sends her troops would it be possible for us to fight now against the Indian army repression in E. Bengal, particularly against the Mukti Bahini militants.
From this it will be clear to you that our position regarding the Indo-Pak war was one not of “abstention” but of defeatism.
The IC did not take up this defeatist position because it characterized the Indian army as a force of liberation for BD. Therefore the IC really supported the entry of the Indian troops into E. Bengal.
In our December 16 letter we stated clearly the deadly implications of this position. We stated then: “It is criminal to state that we ‘critically support’ the decisions of the Indian government to give military aid to Bangladesh. This ultimately amounts to supporting India’s occupation of E. Bengal.”
What is the present situation? Allow me to quote from Workers Press on the situation which existed when you wrote your December 27 letter. The December 22 issue of WP carried as its lead article under the title “India Manhunts Guerrillas”: “A new and treacherous phase of the embattled history of BD began yesterday when the occupying Indian army stiffened its law and order campaign.
“It has now been officially confirmed that A.Q. Siddiqui, the leader of the courageous Dacca unit of the MB, is being hunted by the Indian army....
“The occupying army wants to return BD to the old bourgeois order dominated by jute bosses, industrialists and the rich professional class.”
Even in this situation, neither the WP nor the Bulletin agitated for the withdrawal of Indian troops which were “manhunting the guerrillas.” Does not this amply vindicate the correctness of our warnings? Certainly it is not a surprise but quite logical that after recognizing the Indian troops as a liberating force, no agitation could be conducted for their withdrawal even when the stage is being set for a bloodbath.
In a situation where the aim of India’s invasion of E. Bengal is being made explicitly clear by the Indian army’s move against Siddiqui, Cde. Ian Yeats writes in the December 23 issue of WP (i.e., the issue which followed the story of the manhunt) about the “liberation of Dacca by Indian and Bengali forces.” How do you account for this? Abstractions of this sort, devoid of any class content, will not allow one to understand who liberated whom. Only the Bengali capitalists for whom the liberation of Bangladesh is a hollow idea, will applaud such a “liberation” and not the oppressed militants who are being manhunted by the Indian army. For Marxists the liberation of BD is not a hollow abstraction. Cde. Rob. Black spells this out clearly in his article on Sheik M.R. (WP, Aug. 10, 1971): “Let us spell it out loud and clear so that every Bengali can hear.
“There will be no freedom for BD until and unless the peasants are given the land.” (Emphasis in original)
The WP and Bulletin, by rhapsodizing about the present military victory of the Gandhi regime over Khan, liquidates this concrete class meaning which Marxists give to the liberation of BD into a hollow abstraction.
When Cde. Mike wrote, “Marxists all over the world applaud the defeat of the hated Pak regime in BD by the combined troops of MB and Indian army,” he clearly abandoned this Marxist position and applauded the victory of the Bengali and Hindu bourgeoisie.
What lies behind this rhapsodizing about the Indian army is a clear rejection of the revolutionary capacities of the Bengali, Indian and Pakistani proletariat. Fear of the military might of the Pak capitalists led to an underestimation of the revolutionary capacities of the E. Bengal and W. Pakistani proletariat to fight back against it and has given rise to the concept that without the Indian army Khan could not have been defeated. What lies behind the present IC position is this skeptical and pessimistic attitude towards the Indian and Pak working class. If you want proof, read the article by Cde. Melody Farrow in the January 3 issue of the Bulletin. She states, “How could Khan’s troops have been driven out, except through the armed intervention of India?”
Here you can see how the capacities of the working class have been thrown out of the window to shamelessly embrace the armed forces of India which are accepted by Cde. MF as the only force capable of driving Khan out of Bengal. Let Trotsky reply to Cde. MF:
“Revolutions have been victorious up to this time not at all thanks to high and mighty foreign patrons who supplied them with arms. As a rule, counterrevolution enjoyed foreign patronage. Must we recall the experience of the intervention of French, English, American, Japanese and other armies against the Soviets? The proletariat of Russia won over domestic reaction and foreign interventionists without military support from the outside.
“Revolutions succeed in the first place with the help of a bold social program which gives to the masses the possibility of seizing weapons that are on their territory, and disorganizing the army of the enemy. The Red Army seized French and American supplies and drove the foreign expeditionary corps into the sea. Has this already been forgotten?” (“Spain, the Last Warning”)
Has this already been forgotten?
By attempting to defend the IC position, you have put yourself in a position which is far more vulnerable than Cde. MF. In an attempt to find a theoretical cover for the capitulation of the WP and the Bulletin you have developed a completely revisionist position and stated: “It is a mechanical conclusion to decide that the native bourgeoisie has completely gone over to the counterrevolutionary camp.”
Let us have a look at your method of analysis. You state: “There has never been such a massive mass struggle against the grip of imperialism under a national bourgeois leadership. The national bourgeoisie can still be pushed to such type of struggle positions within the colonial and semicolonial countries. No doubt for their own class interests. To decide that the national bourgeoisie has completely gone over to the counterrevolutionary camp is a mechanical conclusion.”
This way of thinking has nothing whatsoever to do with dialectical materialism. Through the abstract impression of “the massiveness of the struggle” you have arbitrarily identified the leadership of the struggle with its real content. According to your impressionist mode of thinking, the E. Bengali struggle, including its leadership as an entity, was anti-imperialist. But because the content of the struggle is anti-imperialist no Marxist would embrace its leadership as revolutionary or anti-imperialist. This would amount to ignoring the contradiction between the character of the leadership and the content of the struggle and will be the first step towards the liquidation of the revolutionary party within the Awami League.
By making such a statement you have accepted that the Awami League in history conducted an anti-imperialist struggle. This is absurd, to say the least. The AL leadership did conduct a struggle against Pak oppression. Do Marxists characterize this struggle as anti-imperialist? Then how are we going to explain its inclination towards major imperialist powers? The truth about this is not so complex. Though it waged a war against Khan to safeguard its own class interests, the AL had to compromise with the imperialist powers consistently for the same class ends. Precisely because of this the mass struggle would go against this leadership and demands a new leadership which is based on the theory of permanent revolution.
Please read the chapter on the Chinese Revolution in The Third International After Lenin, not to go in search of this or that quotation but to come to grips with the method of Trotsky. When you come across Trotsky’s characterization of Chiang Kai-shek you yourself will understand that your formula is a carbon copy of the old Stalinist position. Against those who claimed that Chiang waged a struggle against imperialism, Trotsky replied:
“But says the ECCI, Chiang Kai-shek did wage war against imperialism. To present the situation in this manner is to put too crude a face upon reality. Chiang KS waged war against certain Chinese militarists, the agents of one of the imperialist powers. This is not at all the same as to wage a war against imperialism....
“The attitude of the Kuomintang against imperialism was from the very outset not revolutionary but entirely opportunist. It endeavored to smash and isolate the agents of certain imperialist powers so as to make a deal with the self-same or other imperialist powers on terms more favorable for the Chinese bourgeoisie. That is all.” (Emphasis added)
When we understand the attitude of the national bourgeoisie towards imperialism as entirely opportunist, then we will not confuse their leftward zigzags as revolutionary and anti-imperialist.
Trotsky wrote in the same chapter against the mechanical concept that the national bourgeoisie would never come into momentary conflicts with its imperialist masters, and against this erroneous conception embedded within the formula that “it has definitely gone over to the camp of the counterrevolution.” In answering this in their terms Trotsky stated that “if yesterday the Chinese bourgeoisie was enrolled in the united revolutionary front, then today it is proclaimed to have ‘definitely gone over to the counterrevolutionary camp,’ it is not difficult to expose how unfounded are these transfers and enrollments which have been effected in a purely administrative manner.” Trotsky never held the position that the national bourgeoisie would play even momentarily a revolutionary role in the way that you are trying to make out.
By identifying the struggling Bengali masses with the Awami League leadership you have concluded that it is anti-imperialistic or non-counterrevolutionary in character. To confirm this characterization you identify imperialism with Khan. For you, Pakistan is the “Israel” in India. By creating this schema in your head you completely overestimated the support given by American imperialism to Khan. Viewing this support in fixed and unchangeable categories you ignored the possibility of imperialism itself recognizing Bangladesh and Indira’s move to contain it. All your arguments about ‘imperialist lineup against India’ only convince us of the deadly dangerous role vulgar impressionism plays in politics.
After passing judgment on the AL struggle against Khan as anti-imperialist you then assess all the other forces which clashed in the Indian subcontinent from the point of view of this impression. The Indian government could easily be fitted into this as anti-Pakistani and therefore as anti-imperialist or noncounterrevolutionary. This is idealism in all its beauty and not dialectical materialism at all. Engels once showed the difference between this type of lifeless abstraction and abstraction as we Marxists understand it:
“Marx reduces the common content in things and relations to its most universal conceptual expression: his abstraction consequently reproduces in concept form the content already lodged in things themselves. Rodbertus, on the other, creates for himself a more or less imperfect mental expression and measures all things by his concept to which they must be equated.” (Quoted by Trotsky: On Engels and Kautsky, p. 12)
To tail end behind Indira Gandhi you abstract the “fact” that imperialism was supporting Khan 100%. First of all, we should remind you of Lenin’s famous dictum that the bourgeoisie does not decide our politics. When American imperialism cut its military and economic aid to Batista during the period when Castro utilized this situation to capture power, or, when the CIA backed Nasser against Farouk, we did not decide to be on “the other side” just because imperialism and the CIA were against Batista and Farouk.
No one denies the fact that imperialism tried to put pressure on Gandhi and backed Khan for very clear class reasons. Because imperialism fears an independent B. Desh within the Indian subcontinent which will undermine the parasitic Hindu and Muslim rule on which they rest, it gave aid to Khan to crush the struggle and was opposed to Indira’s “adventure,” because it felt the latter would not succeed. To define Indira’s war against Khan as a liberation war is erroneous because Indian strategy vis-a-vis Bangladesh represented the only other alternative for imperialism within the subcontinent.
Now after Khan’s defeat, imperialism will wholeheartedly embrace India’s plan and very well recognize Bangladesh.
After writing about the imperialist lineup against India, when you suddenly leap over to Spain to bring another analogy, this analogy only reveals the bankruptcy of your method, because the situation which existed in Spain during the civil war has nothing in common with the present situation in India.
Yes, Trotsky declared his attitude towards Negrin when the latter was at war against fascism, thus:
“This government must be smashed. So long as we are not strong enough to replace it, we are fighting under its command. But on every occasion we express openly our nonconfidence in it; it is the only one possibility to mobilize the masses politically against this government and to prepare its overthrow.”
Now, who is the Negrin in the present war? Is it Indira, Khan or Mujibar? If we leave a big margin, only Mujibar comes closer to Negrin and not Indira at all. Without giving any political support to Mujibar, we fight side by side with him against Khan. At the same time we declare our nonconfidence in his leadership. At every opportunity we get we try to overthrow him from the leadership of the struggle. The position of Indira is completely different. This is a third force which intervened into the battlefield for different purposes. This intervention was not directed against a fascist uprising within India or against an imperialist onslaught.
Through this type of justification we will not be able to train a cadre of Marxists.
Finally, let us come to your comments on the history document. This document is not a substitute for a perspectives document, but a precondition for it. We have adopted a perspectives document which we will send you as soon as the translation is completed. But to draft a perspectives document we must first understand our relationship to the past struggles of the working class and of the Marxist movement. Without defining and understanding this relationship it will not be possible to grasp the role we have to play in the coming class battles. This is the importance of history. You ask, why write such a lengthy history document; this is strange.
Do you think that a cadre can be unified only on the basis of a perspectives document? A revolutionary cadre is unified on its understanding of its own relationship to the class struggle in the past and on a perspective which will enable it to intervene in the present struggles to change the consciousness of the class.
Lora’s acceptance of the international perspectives of the IC in general did not prevent him from capitulating to the reactionary forces in Bolivia. Because he did not try to understand his role as it evolved and would evolve, he became unconscious about his own shortcomings and mistakes, which in a revolutionary situation played a directly counterrevolutionary role. That is why the SLL demanded of Lora a thorough discussion of his own history as a prelude to his admission to the IC.
Our acceptance of the IC perspectives during the 1966-67 period should be reassessed now because our actual practice during the past period will enable us to understand this perspective itself and to correct our own mistakes armed with that understanding. This correction of mistakes is not an academic exercise but consists of the actual participation in the class struggle.
On the other hand, the history document we had adopted at our last Conference had serious shortcomings and these expressed the real assessment of our understanding of the struggle against revisionism. This lack of understanding of the importance of the struggle against revisionism undermined the fight for Marxist theory within the League. Our capitulation to the SLFP during the election and our adaptation to petty bourgeois radicalism during the period of the Mahaveli Agreement, was the direct result of this abandonment of Marxism.
All these shortcomings and mistakes should be probed to their very roots and their lessons assimilated. The problems which the present document discusses were not discussed within the League in the past. You as one of the important participants, would only be in too good a position to appreciate this.
I shall send the perspectives document and the second part of the history document as soon as possible.
Write to me without delay.
P.S. I have written this letter directly in English so that you could show it to Cde. Mike. Please arrange to send us copies of Keep Left and Fourth International.
Letter from Mike Banda to Keerthi Balasuriya
My Dear Keerthi,
I am in fundamental disagreement with your line on the Indo-Pak war. I cannot understand why you cling so stubbornly to a position which is theoretically untenable and, practically, dangerous. In all seriousness I assure you that your present “defeatist” attitude to the Indian bourgeoisie is more dangerous, in some respects, than your past “defensist” attitude to the SLFP. I am afraid you have been bitten by the same metaphysical bug that has destroyed the OCI and infected the Spartacist League in the USA. It is called Shachtmanism.
Before I deal with them let me explain the origins of the disease in the Fourth International. You had better listen to what we say on this vexed question because we have been fighting and analyzing its class roots since the early 50s, and we arrived at our present position only through this struggle.
The Chinese Revolution, the Vietnamese uprising and the changes in the semicolonial countries like Burma, India and Ceylon—no less than the social and economic changes in E. Europe—disorientated a whole generation of Trotskyists in the period immediately following the war. Having failed to enrich the dialectical method in the course of the war and, instead, confining their activity to a prosaic propagandism, these leaders either rejected Marxism altogether—like Morrow and Goldman—or revised Trotskyism to suit their own subjective fantasies.
Pablo invented the theory of “centuries of degenerated workers’ states” and endowed Stalinism with a new revolutionary role while Cannon turned his back on Europe completely and worked out his simplistic utopia of the “Coming American Revolution.”
Unfortunately it did not end there. In order to maintain an untenable political thesis in relation to these countries the theory of the permanent revolution was revised from a number of angles. Pablo and Mandel utilized the nonsense of Fanon to give the peasantry a leading role and to separate the unity and continuity of the struggle in the backward and advanced countries. This was supplemented in the SWP where a tendency led by David Miller completely revised the theory by asserting that the crisis of imperialism had forced the native bourgeoisie and its Stalinist agencies to carry out the democratic revolution and institute forms of state capitalism in China, Burma, India, etc. This was followed by Novack (Warde) who argued glibly that in countries like Ghana the petty bourgeoisie were solving the problems of the bourgeois revolution.
The impressionistic viewpoint which, in the West, enabled Mandel and others to see nothing but a self-perpetuating boom—neo-capitalism—in the East, obscured the real contradictions between imperialism and the colonies by classifying them simply as “bourgeois states.”
In Ceylon this form of revisionism manifested itself clearly in the discussion on the nature of the SLFP coalition in the old LSSP. It was also shown in the vote in Parliament on the Independence Bill in 1947 and later when Colvin voted for the creation of the central bank in 1948. (The same man unctuously criticized N.M. and Phillip for voting for Independence.)
After a lapse of many years this concept was again raised by the French first in the International Assembly (ask Wakkumbura) and then in the six-day war. The OCI justified their abstentionism on the grounds that they were both “bourgeois states.” In relation to Vietnam this method was expressed in the syllogistic formula: the NLF are Stalinists, Stalinism is counterrevolutionary, therefore the NLF have betrayed the struggle of the Indo-Chinese masses and must be opposed with the facile slogan: Victory to the workers and peasants—not victory to the NLF!
Of course if we admit that there are only “bourgeois states” without differentiating between bourgeois states which are imperialist oppressors and bourgeois states with a belated historical development then there would be no argument and no necessity for a split. Not only that. (Let us accept the inexorable logic of this rationalization.) We must adopt the same tactical position, i. e., defeatism, in every bourgeois state in time of war.
But this is not so. We live in the epoch of imperialism and Lenin’s advice is as good today as it was in 1915 when he fought your theoretical predecessor, Karl Radek: “the central point in a program of Social Democrats must be that distinction between oppressing and oppressed nations, since the distinction is the essence of imperialism....”
Let us look at the Indo-Pak war from this standpoint. The partition of India was caused by the impotence of the Indian bourgeoisie and while it satisfied the imperialists it only compounded the crisis of the Indian capitalists and exacerbated the contradiction between Indian capitalism and imperialism. None of the problems of the Indian bourgeois revolution was solved, i.e., the unification of India, the agrarian problem and the national problem.
Precisely because it is a semicolonial and backward bourgeois state the crisis of world imperialism finds its most malignant expression in the most backward part of the subcontinent in E. Bengal. The national struggle in E. Bengal is inextricably connected with the agrarian question and through that with the whole social crisis in the country. That is the significance of the last 11 months struggle.
But the form of the crisis is paradoxical—it took the form of a war. What did the war represent? Firstly it represented the attempts of the Pakistan bourgeoisie with the complete support of US imperialism to suppress the Bangladesh people. But more important, through the creation of the refugee problem and the military occupation of E. Bengal, it developed into a definite threat against the already restricted home market of the Indian bourgeoisie on behalf of US imperialism. I don’t need to quote the Anderson papers to show that imperialism was using Bangladesh as a pretext and Pakistan as a cat’s paw to weaken the Indian “bourgeois state.”
Almost overnight there was a dramatic change in the situation. The contradiction between the Indian working class and the Indian capitalists did not cease. No, but it was superseded by the conflict between the Indian nation and imperialism represented by Pakistan.
But didn’t France and Britain give tacit support to India? Of course, but it does not alter our characterization of the war. In this sense there is no difference between the attitude of Trotsky and the Left Opposition to the Northern Expedition of Chiang Kai-shek and our attitude to the Indo-Pak war.
Wasn’t Chiang supported by the Anglo-French and US imperialists? Yes, but the main danger at that time was represented by the Northern warlords who, on behalf of Japanese imperialism wanted to occupy, subjugate and destroy any prospect of capitalist development in China. The Left Opposition supported the Northern Expedition unconditionally but they supported it with their own methods and policies. They were not defeatist in relation to the war—but “defensist.” Their defensism was of a very definite and revolutionary character though. Please read what Trotsky wrote about the conditions for a “bloc” with the KMT [Kuomintang]—the Left KMT—even after the smashing of the Shanghai proletariat! (“The Revolution and Stalin’s Theses”—Problems of the Chinese Revolution)
Such an attitude is determined not by the “revolutionary” or “counterrevolutionary” propensities of the native bourgeoisie but by the objective contradiction which exists between imperialism and the colonial capitalists at all times. The Chinese CP, for one, could not have come to power if they had not exploited this conflict and pursued a revolutionary defensist policy from 1937-1946 in the Sino-Japanese war. (The Transitional Program on the Chinese Communist Party will have to be amended in this respect! I mean the paragraph on page 39 which mistakenly talks about the Chinese CP being subordinated to the KMT during the Sino- Japanese war.)
The Shachtmanites, predictably, refused to support China and the KMT against Japan on the grounds that Chiang was a US agent. This thoroughly false and reactionary position has now been exhumed by Robertson in his paper Workers Vanguard.
Robertson, who holds the same position as you on the Indo-Pak war, carries your argument to its ultimate metaphysical end: “In a polemic with the SWP in 1942, it fell to Max Shachtman’s lot to place the general principle of support to self-determination struggles within a context of Leninist regard for concrete reality. The issue was China. Should socialists support China’s war against Japanese imperialism on the grounds of self-determination for China, or had such support become merely, as Schactman charged, back-handed assistance to US imperialism which not merely assisted, but controlled the Chinese forces? Shachtman’s Workers Party held that ‘with the spread of the World War to the East, the just struggle for the national independence of China has been decisively integrated into and subordinated to the reactionary inter-imperialist war and that it can therefore no longer be supported by the revolutionary Marxists’.” (“China in the World War,” The New International, June 1942)
After quoting Lenin on Poland and Serbia in the First World War and having generally muddied up the whole question this philistine concludes:
“The achievement of the democratic and socialist aspirations of the working masses of the Indian subcontinent can only come through proletarian revolution and, ideally, through a united socialist federation of the area, including present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Ceylon. As a step towards such a solution the demand for self-determination and opposition to all ‘great nation’ encroachments must be raised. The proletarian revolution in the existing nations of the subcontinent will be the easier to achieve as their workers free themselves from the necessity imposed by their ruling classes to oppress other nationalities and religious minorities. Pakistan’s defeat in East Bengal is in itself a step in this direction but the victory of the Indian bourgeoisie constitutes an equal step in the opposite direction.”
One step forward, two steps back! Even Robertson has to admit that there is something progressive in the defeat of Pakistan—even though he quickly smothers it with his middle-class nonsense. This is the method of a political charlatan and hustler—not a Marxist.
Listen to Robertson again:
“The East Bengali masses have been deceived and betrayed: their struggle has become a pawn in the war of one bourgeois power (sic) against another—so the SWP and the Workers League support the capitalist hangmen of tomorrow against the capitalist hangmen of yesterday... To describe the Indians as providing ‘military and economic aid to Bangladesh’ is about like terming the US Army in Vietnam as ‘advisors’ ... in no case can we support however ‘critically’ the very policy by which a large nation’s bourgeoisie takes control of the struggle though overwhelming military force and subordinates it to its drive for expanded hegemony.” (our emphasis, MB)
Having reduced the term “bourgeois state” to an abstraction, Robertson quietly equates the Indian bourgeois state with the imperialist bourgeois state of the USA and with this piece of metaphysical juggling squares the Bangladesh circle. Very clever. You have only spelled out the ABC of the process—he has given us the X, Y and Z.
The OCI position is not worth repeating if only because it is not one whit different from that of Robertson. They long ago dropped the Permanent Revolution and denied even the existence of an Arab nation and, therefore, of the necessity of an Arab revolution. These scoundrels today define every colonial nation as a “bourgeois state” in an abstract and mechanical manner whereas in 1956 they were claiming in Algeria there could be no bourgeois revolution, only a proletarian one, because, mind you, there was no Algerian bourgeoisie! What a travesty of Marxism! The journey from “people class” to “bourgeois state” of course entailed a slight diversion in Bolivia to complete support of the Torres regime as the “lesser evil” to Banzer. Today they find Banzer a “lesser evil” to Selich of the Falange!
What a profoundly colossal enrichment of the social sciences this is! Do you really want to find yourself in this odious company?
You write, for example, that “neither the Indian nor the international working class can support this war. The real and most important assistance that the Indian working class can give to the Bangladesh struggle was to overthrow the Gandhi government and establish its own class rule.”
At the same time, you write that the Indian Trotskyists should not block the dispatch of material and military aid but only the sending of troops. This is an invidious metaphysical distinction beyond the comprehension of a Bengali worker or peasant—and myself as well.
The more aid the Indian government gave to the Mukti Bahini—and they did give aid however reluctantly—the more provocative the Pakistani regime became, until finally they began to provoke a war situation in the West and bombard the logistics bases of the Mukti Bahini in Indian territory in the East.
What should the attitude of revolutionaries be in such a war? To oppose the war? How? By allowing the Pak army to depopulate the Bengali countryside with a genocidal repression and bombard Indian towns while calling on the Gandhi government to confine its activities to the sending of aid?
Was this the attitude of Marxists in the six-day war? Did we oppose Nasser’s intervention on the grounds that he was trying to annex Palestine and put it under Egyptian bourgeois rule? Did we limit ourselves to demanding aid for the Palestinians and not a military victory for the Arab armies?
Let me ask you a further question: Do we equate the efforts of the reactionary Indian bourgeoisie to unite India (even to annex East Pakistan) with the attempts of imperialism to dismember India through the instrumentality of a fissiparous movement like Pakistan?
No, comrade, your argument misses the central point of the war and ignores the very real national feelings of the Indian masses which enabled Mrs. Gandhi’s army to score a lightning victory over Yahya Khan.
Precisely because of this nationalist feeling both Mrs. Gandhi and Rahman have to tread very warily in Bangladesh and have to rely on consent rather than naked force to disarm the guerrillas and keep the new regime going.
The most important factor in Rahman’s favor today is of course the absence of a revolutionary opposition but it would be churlish, if not sectarian, for us to revenge ourselves for this omission by refusing to support the war of India against Pakistan.
Your attitude is too dogmatic and inflexible. It cannot therefore faithfully reflect the many-sidedness and contradictoriness of reality—and for that reason cannot find a way to the masses.
Please do not draw the conclusion from all this that we support the continued presence of Indian troops in Bangladesh or the disarming of the guerrillas by Rahman. We are and have been opposed to this.
We exposed the fraud of the Constituent Assembly and the bankruptcy of Awami League policy as well as the reactionary nature of the Rahman clique.
The Awami League and the Bengali bourgeoisie is not only an adjunct to imperialism but a plaything of the Indian capitalists as well. The creation of Bangladesh does not solve the problem, it rather poses it anew, i.e., the creation of a united Bengal within a united India.
Only the working class under revolutionary leadership can solve this problem. But no Marxist party can carry through the proletarian revolution if it ignores or belittles the national problem. As the Transitional Program says: “It is impossible merely to reject the democratic program: it is imperative that in the struggle the masses outgrow it.”
We are for the armed people, the agrarian reform and the construction of an independent party in Bangladesh, but we are not abstentionist in the Indo-Pak war. The defeat of Pakistan in the East—no matter what happened in Bangladesh afterwards—was a defeat for world imperialism.
Neither Bangladesh nor India will ever be the same after it. On the other hand a victory for Pakistan would have been an incalculable blow to the aspirations of Indian and Bengali alike. That is the lesson of December 1971.