Conversion of Parliamentarism to

Social Fascism:

An Indian Experience


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Call for anti-privatization struggle is a underhand deal for privatization!

The 1994 industrial policy adopted by the then Jyoti Basu government clearly endorsed foreign capital and technology on a mutual benefit basis; welcomed private investment in the generation of electricity, etc. It is notable that the 1994 industrial policy is at once an extension of the 1977 policy and it is conspicuously pro-privatisation and foreign capital investment oriented. However, it must be admitted that even one tenth of the MOUs signed by the W.B government and the prospective foreign investors could not see the light of day. The CPM M.P Mr. Somnath Chatterjee, only since 1996, flew to the West as many as 7 times and got signed 53 MOUs, of which 3 could only materialize.

On 13 December 2002, the ‘Left’ Front Chief Minister really won the hearts of capitalist masters, when in the presence of as many as 80 top industries of India, he categorically said that the state government shall resort to lathis if workers’ movement cross the limits. The industrialists present applauded the "Marxist" Chief Minister clapping hands. The I.T.C Chairman Yogesh Chandra Debeswar even commented at that meeting that the productivity and workers’ discipline in his factories can be compared with that of the best in the world.114(Emphases ours)

In its way to privatization the ‘Left’ Front moves gradually, with tact and cunningness. In many organizations like municipalities, colleges, hospitals, other government institutions privatization has been on course for more than a decade. While the Vajpayee Government at the Centre is all set to table the Contract Labour Bill soon, the West Bengal Government has already introduced contract service not only for college teachers but also for other toiling sections. Vajpayee’s effort was part of structural reforms in the laws governing the market and in the vast range of services. The CPM’s laws "also enables export industries, including enterprises set up in the export promotion zones, to hire extra workers to meet seasonal demands for exports legally."115 At the Centre a similar Bill is expected to receive the stamp of approval from Parliament, but already there is one in the CPM ruled states on the pretext of saving such ‘great government’, and it is, as they preach, due to ‘unevenness’ of development in working class consciousness, as referred to above.

A few instances of privatization under the fostering care of the CPM government in West Bengal may be seen at random.

The West Bengal scooter (Digjivay Brand), an ororganisation under the West Bengal government was handed over to an industrialist in the early 1980s. Its new name was Arbind and it is under closure now for years. The 15 units of Webel, which were earning profits, were first turned into joint ventures with private owners like Webel Carbon & Metals Film Resistors; Webel Sen Capacitors, Webel Nicco Electronics, Webel Communication, etc. And then some of such profits – making units were sold out to individual capitalists as Webel Telematics. Way back in 1992 it was a joint sector profitable concern and in 1994 it was sold off to the MNC Siemens. The Webel VDO concern has been handed over to Philips. Instances are many. Ritz Continental Hotel was given over to Peerless after buying it. The profit earning Great Eastern Hotel, which has suffered a loss only in 1994, is going to be sold to some foreign investor. The recent (31 March, 2003) demonstration of 110 contract workers at the P.G. Hospital and the consequent police atrocity on them, at the only referral hospital in Kolkata, for continuation of their contract, ripped apart the mask of the ‘Left’ Front government. With the termination of service on a contract basis the health department decided on 8 April, 2003 that the "excess of group-D staff from different hospitals" be sent to SSKM hospital.116

The very question of "excess" group-D staff raised a storm in the hospitals in Kolkata since lack of adequate number of staff without fresh recruitment has been already causing problems elsewhere. Actually speaking, in the name of welfare, smooth administration, etc. as the World Bank/IMF prescribes the basic rights of the workers are trampled under feet by the state government. In the year 2001 the West Bengal Health and Family planning Department in an audacious display of autocratic power issued a circular 117 which blatantly stated that "the post of health Assistants (male) and heath Assistants (Female) be designated as Health Assistant (Male/Female) and Ex-officio Gram Panchayat Health Assistant (Male/Female)".

In a great role reversal, many of the panchayats are busy giving no objection certificates to land transfers, circumventing legal provisions. The SUCI pradhan of Ichhapur gram panchayat Prabhabati Goswami confirmed this. She told The Times of India "Bargadars are striking deals with land owner to sell his plot. In exchange, he takes part of he sale proceeds". A sub-divisional revenue official in that area popped the question "What can we do if an elected representative gives a certificate that the plot is not tilled by a bargadar ? Legal loopholes are explored to justify a transfer, like a plot kept fallow for 3 consecutive years or put to use other than cultivation. The increasing cost of cultivation a poor bargadar can not afford. And this forces him to sell his title to land. The new buzzword being industrialization, bargadars are compelled to quit at many places for industrial units.

(The Times of India, April 26, 2003)

It further stated that on the basis certificates "issued by the Pradhan of the Gram Panchayat concerned or any other official of the Gram Panchayat", the salary/honorium/wages of the official concerned will be drawn."118 What a regime, which can with a few strokes of the pen, transform health assistants into assistants under the panchayat. The same thing happened during the Emergency. The rights of government staff are dismissed and deliberately pressed to serve under semi-government organizations. If the working people oppose such moves the lathi and gun wielding police are there to break their heads. The CPM government in West Bengal, while now faces challenges everywhere, uses police to crush them. Even the government employees called for mass leave and sit in demonstration at Writers Building, on 24th April, 2003 for 14% D.A. arrears, bonus, etc. were not spared. Here too the police resorted to a lathi charge.

The blanket ban on the sale of land along the six National Highways is being lifted for private investors ready to splurge on the through fares in the name of industrialization and development. Hoteliers and oil majors are being preferred as potential investors. The ‘Left’ Front’s topsy-turvy came in the wake of the proposals from Indian Oil Limited, Indian Oxygen Company and the Reliance Group.119 Foreign investment too comes in the form of building roads, bridge projects, for some of which the Japan Bank for International Corporation (JBIC) has financed. Earlier, the ‘Left’ Front Government had borrowed money from JBIC for the Bakreswar Power plant.120 This is the way foreign direct investment or IMF / World Bank or JBIC penetrate easily into West Bengal, while the so-called Left-Front cries hoarse that Bakreswar or such projects were built as symbols of advance. Under the CPM misrule, there is a clear nexus between promoters and administration and CPM leaders, with land sharks in every city and its outskirts roaming about with a hunger for lands.

One honest and brave doctor of Ranaghat hospital in Nadia district Dr. Chandan Sen lost his life in mysterious circumstances when he had protested against the CPM-led Co-ordination Committee leader Mr. Sunil Gangopadhaya for embezzlement of lakhs of World Bank money meant for "hospital development" in early 2003.

(Ananda Bazar Partrika, 10 May 2003)

The worst nexus was seen when at the Chandmoni tea garden near Siliguri was forcibly handed over to a promoter – businessman like Harsh Newatia, an agent of Bengal Ambuja, operating under the patronage of the ‘Left’ Front Government’s Urban Development Minister. On 26 June 2002 when workers put up stiff resistance two of them were gunned down and many were critically injured. The "Marxist" government was determined to set up hotels and tourist spots on that land at the cost of workers’ lives. Similar incidents of nexus between the extortionist CITU leaders and police was witnessed in the Changmari tea gardens when 9 workers refused to part with a sum of Rs 20 as ‘donation’ (originally a coupon of Rs 10 denomination was given in each case) every week. The CITU leaders took to their heels and took shelter in the CPM office at the Luksan Bazar. Then the "Marxist" gangsters backed by huge posse of policemen appeared on the scene. The police firing snatched the lives of 3 workers and injured many. This is only a tip of the iceberg about the extent to which the CPM can reach.

As a part of this privatization and unabashed surrender to the foreign and Indian big bourgeoisie, the CPM-led government in West Bengal was geared up to destroy the shanties/ jhupries of the very poor families. In Kolkata the police swung into action to clean the long stretch along the Beliaghata canal recently uprooting the poor dwellers, and even burning their hutments. Even during the emergency period those people did not face such large numbers of police to destroy their life, already in dire poverty. Instead of giving them money granted by the A.D.B. for removing those shanties, in order to attract the rich investors and receive praise from by the World Bank, IMF, etc.,they reaily burnt and destroyed the hutments.

The trade union movement under ‘Left’ Front rule has been a big sufferer. The call for ‘production increase’, ‘disciplined’ activities and all such fatwas from the CPM bosses expose the dirty game of parliamentarism which has been strengthening the state machinery more and more. Yet those reactionaries cannot rest peacefully. Now leaders of the CITU have started occupying the chairs of various concerns. Rajdeo Goala, an M.L.A and president of the CITU – affiliated Calcutta Tramways Employees’ and Workers’ Union, has been made chairman of the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC). He refused to quit arguing "As far as I am concerned, my trade union role is the real thing."121 So also Mr. B.K. Chakraborty, veteran trade unionist from Durgapur is simultaneously the chairman of the West Bengal Small Industries Corporation. Mr. Dilip Mazumdar, another CITU leader and former M.L.A. is Chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Infrastructure development Corporation. But what is novel in Mr. Goala’s case is that while TU leaders occupy top posts of their employers company, the CTC has defaulted on its provident fund obiligations.122 This is clearly the naked role and direct mingling of the CPM with the ruling classes, hoodwinking the people in the name of ‘Left’ Front as an instrument of people’s power.

All over West Bengal, the workers in office and factories, etc. have been witnessing the process of privatization, going on at their cost, under ‘Left’ Front rule.

In West Bengal the "Left" Front Government has appointed teachers, doctors, librarians and fourth-class staff in various government departments on a contract basis. Such contract-based appointment is clearly a violation of existing labour Laws. (Ananda Bazar Patrika, 10 May 2003) It is clear from various government and other sources that the number of workers being driven out of service in West Bengal each year far surpasses the number of workers appointed in industrial units. The Table(1) is self-explanatory.

Table 1

Year  New Factories  Workers of New Factories (Thousand)  New Factory wise workers  Closed factories (for lock out or strikes)  Workers of closed factories (thousand)  Workers: closed factory-wise
1985  220  10.9  50  205  149.4  732
1990  252  7.3  29  195  123.0  631
1995  194  9.5  49  169  308.5  1825
1996  342  10.4  31  161  128.2  796
1997  225  6.1  27  190  97.6  514
1999  297  8.2  28  298  473.0  1587
2000  249  9.63  39  313  371.86  1188
2001  412  16.29  40  325  148.32  456

  (Source : Labour In West Bengal and West Bengal, Anya Chokhe In Prasanga Shramik, Nagarik Manch, 2003, p.28)

Buddhadev Bhattacharya, the CPM Polit Bureau member and Chief Minister of West Bengal, has outranked the earlier Congress or CPM chief minister in his uncanny capacity to woo the industrial barons, native and foreign, for investment in West Bengal yet the industrial scenario rather looks dismal. And even as investments pour in, it does not enhance the recruitment of new workers, let alone the very pertinent question of squeezing out greater profits by industrialists with the "Marxists" voulntarily lending them a free hand in various ways in this task of labour exploitation. The glaring picture is further evident in the nature of increased investment, that reduces the work force in West Bengal. The data as presented Table(2) tell this telling fact.

Table 2

Year  Investment in Industries (Lakh Rs)  Employment in Industries (number)  Employment potential per each lakh Rs
  1980-81  4,17,741  9,50,026  2.28
1985-86  6,37,831  8,06,434  1.26
1990-91  12,51,767  7,40,980  0.59
1995-96  30,87,549  8,25,154  0.27
1998-99  17,21,524  6,85,108  0.16

It is abundantly clear that with the passage of time, against each lakh rupee of investment in industries, the rate of workers’ appointment has been sliding downward. The CPM ideologue and CC member Mr. Nirupam Sen stated in 2002 ".... one of the main aims of liberalisation is jobless growth."(Nirupam Sen,Prastaber Pariprekshit, In Unnatatar Bamfront Aamader Bahbna, More Improved Left Front And Our Thinking, National Book Agency Pvt. Ltd, 2002, p.34) Does not the trend as shown above bear out the fact that the liberalisation policy in West Bengal, as part of the World Bank programme is eroding and withering the employment prospect as a whole ? However, this does not bother the CPM-led Government who is in a desperate mood to servilely invite the industrialists without caring a hang for the common people who suffer all the travails of the class society, and whose soil and natural resources are left open for loot by the MNCs and native captains of industries, for wining their favour and substantially proving an industry-friendly image of the "Left" Front.


114. Ananda Bazar Patrika, December 14, 2002.

115. Hindustan Times, April 26, 2003.

116. The Statesman, April, 2003.

117. Dated 28 August 2001, No HP&B 413/ 2B – 51/2001

118. Source Andoloner Disha, 19 December, 2001- 2 January 2002.

119. Hindustan Times, Kolkata, February 3, 2003.

120. The Statesman, 8 April, 2003.

121. Hindustan Times, April 10, 2003.

122. Hindustan Times, April 30, 2003.


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