Chitta Basu, All India Forward Block

West Bengal is a State with unique characteristics marked with well-pronounced distinctiveness. These are all rooted historically in cultural, geo-political and economic particularities. The people of the Province (undivided) always articulated non-conformist stances even during freedom struggle against British Imperialism under the banner of the Indian National Congress. There was sharp and conflicting perception on the methodology and direction of post-independence reconstruction as well as the strategies to be followed in conducting the anti-imperialist struggle.

The violence-nonviolence con­troversies was a long drawn one. Protagonists of armed struggle to achieve freedom were no less prominent and respected than those who accepted Gandhite creed of non­violence. The Bose-Gandhi ideological conflicts during thirties and forties, contributed significantly to the crystalisation of non-conformism psyche among the Bengalees. Militancy and non-conformism were writ large on all spheres of movement, political, social and cultural. Protest, non-conformism, militancy were the hallmarks of dominat­ing ethos at the time, coupled with resurgent social reforms. It is essential to understand this backdrop because this went a long way to the formation of mental make-up of leftist leaders of Bengal, Jyoti Basu being no exception.

India attained freedom with truncated Bengal. East Pakistan a separate statial entity was created out of a single social, cultural and economic mainstream based on progressive nationalism with no justifiable rationale other than competitive communal intolerance among the upper strata of society of both communities - Hindus and Muslims.

The partition of Bengal brought in its wake myriad maladies including economic and social distortions and deformities in the entire Eastern and North-Eastern region. This led to overpopulation, economic imbalances, disparities, stagnation and finally de-industrialisation in West Bengal, with grave consequences in the East and North-East region of India. The Congress Govt. in the State and of the Centre, did not attend to the multiplying problems of partitioned State of West Bengal.

The people of West Bengal began to feel alienated and discriminated against by the Centre. This stirred the people emotionally.

The Congress Govt. did not fight against the feudalism and protected the feudal and the vested interests in the country resulting in massive impoverishment and im­miseration of a vast rural masses. Militant Trade Union movement grew fast in the fifties and sixties, against the exploitation of the Industrial Houses which controlled the traditional industries, the main arteries of economic activities of the State.

The middle class intellectuals were highly aggrieved because the Congress Govt. did not take adequate measures to bring about radical changes in the educational system. Cultural advancement was a thing of the past. They felt deprieved and let down because the cultural resurgence brought about by freedom struggle could not be sustained and adequately followed up, in the post-independence era. Parliamentary democracy was not allowed to fully bloom because of the partisan attitude of the Con­gress, the ruling Party.

With every passing day, the wider and wider segments of the people could realise from their own experiences that the ruling congress party represented the vested interests - namely the big industrial houses in the city and landlords and rich farmers in the rural areas, to the serious detriment of the vital interests of the poor peasants, agricultural workers as well as industrial workers in the cities and towns and the urban and rural middle classes. In these dark days, days of despaire and frustration, Comrade Jyoti Basu as the leader of opposition in the Legislative Assembly made enormous efforts to combine the left voices against .the repressive and reactionary Congress Government. Not only on the floor of the Assembly but as a leader of the masses in fields and factories he organised people to oppose excesses perpetrated by the establishment and administration.
Left Parties like Communist Party (United), Forward Bloc, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Democratic Vanguard Bolshevik Party and others and other democratic parties and organisations like KMPP, PSP, Socialist Party, sometimes singly and sometimes unitedly built up popular movements against the Congress Govt. of the State and Centre in the fifties and sixties. United popular movements such as movement for the rehabilita­tion of the displaced persons from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), movement for resistance to the Tram fares in Calcutta, movement demanding cheap food for the people, etc. which took place in the early fifties brought about awakening of the masses on a very large scale.

All these created the pre-conditions for the united left movement in the State. All sections of the people were by and large acquainted with broad features of the left movement and its ideology. Growing popular movement has thrown up new cadres for the left parties and contributed to the sustained growth of the left parties.

The popular agitations generally preceeded the electoral battles which commenced in 1952, after the adoption of the Constitution. Electoral verdict of the people was influenced to a large extent by the results achieved by the preceeding mass movements. The left parties consolidated their electoral support base by the mass movements un­leashed by them unitedly or separately by respective parties. Thus mass movement and electoral battles was intertwined, inter-woven and inter-dependent.

The united left movement in the State advanced through series of victories and defeats adding constantly to the experiences of the people and thus to the political consciousness of them.

The Left front in West Bengal is the product of mass struggles. It is not merely an electoral platform to win an electoral majority, divorced from broad mass struggles. It is rather an instrument of mass struggle. It was never an election-eve manouvere bereft of any political perspective. It attained electoral majority and has been at the helm of the administration of the State with a well-defined programatic unity, rooted in ideological perceptions of the constituent parties. Left Front, is therefore, not a machine to garner votes, not a new renovative administrative device. It is a weapon of mass struggle.

The Left Front in West Bengal right from its inception has been qualitatively different from SVDs (Sangjukta Vidhayak Dal) of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other states of the sixties. Those were of course anti-Congress united front of opposition parties - a device to win electoral victory. They had no long-term political perspective.

The Left Front is again entirely different from the SP-BSP Coalition State Govern­ment in u.P. under Sri Mulayam Singh, and also from BSP-BJP Coalition Government in U.P. led by Ms. Mayawati and BJP-Shiv Sena Coalition Government of Maharashtra. These Coalitions are opportunist combination of parties of conflicting ideologies. These Governments have no ideological vision. They have been unstable, and would be unstable in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

This perception has enabled the Left Front to weather all the storms it faced through out its chequered career. It has stood the test of time, it would stand the test of the history also.
This perception should not be confined to West Bengal alone. It applies to other States also.

This perception is the cementing force. Constituent Parties are independent parties with their separate long-term and short-term action programmes. They are free to pursue them. They are separate, yet one, conceptually. For us, the Left Front is not a party; it is a united front of left parties. It is again not merely a front' it is more than a platform as generally understood. In fact, it is more than an ordinary front but less than a monolithic party.

The Left Front, is however, not weakness-free. That is not just possible. To assume it, would be unhistoric and apolitical. There are weaknesses and shortcomings. New weaknesses have crept in also. They are to be rectified - and rectified through dialogues, bilateral and multilateral.

In the context of disquieting portents of emerging Indian polity, nobody should underestimate the historic role of the Left Front in West Bengal. We reaffirm that, there is no substitute for the Left Front. What is needed is the expanded and rectified, more vigorous, and dynamic Left Front. This is needed not only for West Bengal alone but also for India as a whole. It has blazed the path for West Bengal; it will blaze the trail of India's democratic advance.

In all these above mentioned stages of the formation of the Left Front in West Bengal Comrade Jyoti Basu remained a constant source of inspiration. His political experience and wisdom as well as his prudent and pragmatic approach helped to bring gyrating left forces together and harmonise them to offer orchestrated action. This was a great acheivement. To-day Left Front Government in West Bengal under the most astute and dynamic leadership of Comrade Basu is the only stable and consolidated State Govt. in India. Untouchability, retrogressive activities, tyranny, turmoil, and ter­rorism are raging almost the whole of India.

Dark clouds of disintegration are looming in the horizon. But West Bengal under Comrade Jyoti Basu's most able leadership leaping forward from success to success in economic social and political fields. He has truly assumed a Himalyan stature in national politics to-day because he knows that Left Front has no substitute.