What is the Left Front?

Print edition : June 09, 2001

THE Left Front that assumed office for the first time in 1977 comprised six parties. They were: the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Forward Bloc, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, the Marxist Forward Bloc, the Revolutionary Communist Party of India and the Biplabi Bangla Congress. The Communist Party of India (CPI) was out of this combine owing to its support to the Emergency. However, in the Lok Sabha elections of 1980 the CPI had informal seat adjustments with the Left Front; it joined the Front during the Assembly elections of 1982. The Socialist Party, which joined the Left Front soon after the elections in 1977, split in 1982 and its two factions - the West Bengal Socialist Party (WBSP) and the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) - are part of the present-day Left Front.

Biman Basu, acting chairman of the Left Front and a Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M).-PARTH SANYAL

Left Front leaders emphasise that the Front is not synonymous with government. "The Left Front was not formed just to fight elections and run a government. We share a political understanding and a past which go beyond that," said Asoke Ghosh, a veteran leader of the Forward Bloc. The constituents of the Front share a history of struggle against political authoritarianism and were together in the class and mass movements of the past 40 years. Parties on the Left came together to fight the Emergency imposed by the Congress government at the Centre in 1975. "The Left Front in West Bengal is not just a combination of different Left parties," said Biman Basu, a Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M). "It has got a long history of struggle against the anti-people policies of the Congress government, the movement for justice, for the rights of agricultural workers, the poor peasantry, workers, teachers, student and youth."

According to Anil Biswas , Secretary of the CPI(M)'s State Committee, the Left Front is one, though not the only, form of collaboration among parties that share a minimum ideological commitment to serve the interests of the working class and the peasantry. He said: "In the 1970s, the democratic and mass movement used forms of protest such as hartal, gherao and industrial actions. Now it is the government that is taking forward the interests of the working class and the peasantry. The Left Front's activity is a combination of work in the administration and work in the mass movement."

The Left Front constituents formally interact through committees at the State and district levels. The most important forum of interaction is the Left Front Committee, which has two representatives from each party. Owing to the ill-health of Sailen Dasgupta, its Chairperson, Biman Basu functions as its Acting Chairperson. All policy decisions are taken by the Committee, which meets once a month.

Asoke Ghosh said: "This is the time for even greater unity among the Left parties. It is not enough that we interact in the Left Front Committee. We must work together at the village, panchayat, block and zilla level panchayats as well."

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