Badrul Alam, a member of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (Marxist-Leninist), visited Britain recently. During his visit he told Sacha Ismail and Martin Thomas from Solidarity about the history of his group, and how it evolved from Maoism towards Trotskyism.
Before 1971, my party was called East Pakistan Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) (EPCP-ML). During the Liberation War [of Bangladesh, from rule by West Pakistan] one part of the party fought against the Pakistani Army and another party fought against both Pakistani Army and the Indian Army which came to Bangladesh to support the freedom fighters.
China supported Pakistan. Mao was totally wrong. Bangladesh was 1200 miles from Pakistan. It was a completely different nation with a different language and different culture. Pakistan acted like an imperial power.
The Chinese had a Chinese nationalist position. They were nationalist. Even though there is a Communist Party in power it doesn’t mean anything. They supported Myanmar/Burma, even though there was a military ruler. They were not socialists.
After some years the EPCP-ML leaders came up with the conclusion that after 1971, it was not correct to say that Bangladesh was not independent, and reformed the party as Communist Party of Bangladesh (Marxist-Leninist) (CPB-ML).
It was an underground party, but it decided to do open work by forming a peasant organisation called the Krishok Federation, of which I am now president. This organisation has been very active since 1976, especially on the land occupation movement and on issues such as climate change, food sovereignty and genetically-modified foods.
In 1993, we discussed entering politics openly. After a year, we formed an open section of the CPB-ML. Those who were interested in open politics could join. Those who were not could still be active in the front organisation, like the peasants’ organisation. Some of the comrades preferred being underground. Mostly they were living in the rural areas and didn’t want to come out.
After 1993, also, we decided to break with Stalinism. We were not attracted to Trotskyism at that time but we studied Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks and we discovered the idea of hegemony and counter-hegemony.
We do not think it is necessary to be underground. We can organise openly and mobilise the people. If we want to change society we have to fight and take risks, organise people democratically and publish our opinions in newspapers.
In 2009, I attended a caravan on the threat to the climate at the same time as the international climate summit in Copenhagen. We then went to Copenhagen, and met people closely related to the Fourth International.
A comrade went to one of the Fourth International’s schools in Manila. He came back to Dhaka and explained everything.
In 2011, the Fourth International attended our Caravan and invited us to a meeting in Amsterdam in 2012. I came to know the position of the Fourth International and how it was founded by Trotsky. At the same time, I learned that other groups could join who were not Trotskyists. We believe in the idea of permanent revolution. Even Lenin believed in permanent revolution.
In 2012, we took permanent observer status, and this year they gave us the status of the section in Bangladesh.
Now the CPBML has 500 open members across the country. Many members are active in popular organisations and who have local involvement with them.
We also lead the Floating Labor Union and Floating Women Labor Union in the informal sector, including the garment sector. We have Bangladesh Rural Intellectual Fronts inspired by Gramsci’s concept of organic intellectuals. We have an indigenous people’s association and the Revolutionary Youth Association. We also have the Bangladesh Students’ Association, but it’s not functioning very well. Revolutionary Youth is very active.
We have a Bangladesh peasant womens’ association and, recently, one organisation in the garment sector which is called Independent Bangla Garment Workers and Employee Federation. It’s new. In the last two years it has engaged with us and worked with us during the Rana Plaza collapse.
After 2007 we were part of the Democratic Left Alliance. In June 2011 we left it. Since 1993 we had accepted the ideas of Gramsci on hegemony and counter-hegemony in society and culture.
We tried to push these ideas in the Democratic Left Alliance and we were strongly criticised. They accused of following Eurocommunism.
In 2011 we held a caravan on climate change and full sovereignty. We took up climate change as a serious political issue. The Democratic Left Alliance considered it to be an NGO issue. They are not engaged on the gender issue and the condition of women either.
They decided to expel us from the Democratic Left Alliance so we left before they could expel us, and are trying to build a new network on the basis of our understanding.
Almost all the groups in the Democratic Left Alliance are Stalinist, and some are Maoist. The Maoists are still underground and are facing problems from the government. Lots of Maoist leaders were killed extra-judicially. We oppose them ideologically but think they should not be killed.