People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 08, 2006
40 YEARS OF GANASHAKTI
CPI(M) Polit Bureau members Biman Basu, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Anil Biswas seen on the dais
FORTY years ago, the leadership of the CPI (M) took an important decision at the climax of a sweep of mass movements across Bengal, movements that could successfully bring down the then Congress government’s mis-rule, and put in place a United Front (UF) government where the CPI(M) was the largest political formation. The leadership decided that the time was ripe for the bringing out of a Party publication.
Thus was born Ganashakti, first as an eveninger and then as a morninger, the harbinger of Communist publications in Bengal, of a kind that had not been seen earlier. A troika of the late CPI(M) leaders, Muzaffar Ahmad, Promode Dasgupta, and Saroj Mukherjee were amongst the prime movers behind the idea of bringing out a Party daily.
From its inception, Ganashakti would militate against wage slavery, and it fought courageously a million battles through its columns against capitalist exploitation, against social discrimination, against religious fundamentalism, and above all, against imperialism, and later against imperialist globalisation. Ganashakti edits and post-edits have acquired quite a following not only among the Left but also among the reading populace as such.
The best of the communist minds took up the task of producing a newspaper at a time when the ruling classes were baying for the blood of the communists in Bengal, as elsewhere. Innumerable cases were slapped on the publication, and its reporters and managerial staff as well as the comrades who sold the newspapers. They were hounded everywhere by lumpens in the pay of the ruling elite, in villages as in townships.
Of the thousands of Party workers killed, between 1971 and 1977, there were hundreds of those who had to face martyrdom because they were working for the Party publication. Those persecuted consist of a great many of the workers presently attached to Ganashakti, and their ranks also includes the state secretary of Bengal CPI(M), Anil Biswas who was associated with Ganashakti as its reporter and editor for 28 years.
Among the readership of Bengali newspapers, Ganashakti has successfully carved out a niche for itself. Its boldness of a pro-people, especially pro-poor approach, a strict adherence to truth while reporting incidents, and its searing commentary against the unequal social system have had a large readership, marking out the CPI(M) daily as the baseline for news and views. ‘What does Ganashakti have to say about this’, is a common refrain, whenever and wherever an important event, political, ideological, social, unfolds, locally, or globally.
Circulation of the Ganashakti has gone steadily up. The newspaper is now published from three centres: Kolkata, Siliguri, and Durgapur. However, it is not the number of copies sold that is of paramount importance for a communist publication. It is the factor of its credibility amongst the people, as the Bengal CPI(M) leadership have repeatedly posited, that is of greater importance.
The fortieth year of Ganashakti was commemorated on January 3 at a crowded function held at the Kolkata university centenary hall. The programme had Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M), Biman Basu as the president. The principal speakers were two other Polit Bureau members, Anil Biswas and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Ganashakti editor, Narayana Dutta, gave the welcome address.
The meting observed a minute’s silence as a mark of respect for comrades Rabindranath and Anandamayee Kar of Bandowan, Purulia who were brutally done to death by the Maoist terrorists recently.
Anil Biswas began his address by delineating the manner in which the newspaper emoted the correct role expected of a communist publication… ‘It is the mouthpiece of the CPI(M).’
Drawing examples from Europe and Asia, Anil Biswas pointed out how the publication of the Communist Party of Italy, l’Unita, from 1993-4 started to become ‘market friendly,’ in order to compete with bourgeois newspapers in terns of content and circulation. The end result was that the attempt to dilute communism in the pages of the l’Unita saw the newspaper fold up and undergo a quite unsung demise.
Similarly, recalled Anil Biswas, by the end of the 1980’s, the newspaper of the Japanese communist party, Akahata, was the leading communist newspaper of the world selling close to 3 million copies. Then there was a make over organised. The newspaper purchased new buildings, bought airplanes and helcopters, and changed its content to cater to popular tastes. The result, the current subscription base of Akahata has fallen to hover at around just over a million.
Communist newspapers must advance and consolidate the cause of socialism. In the corporate media, by contrast, said the former editor of Ganashakti, news about the communists and the Left is suitably blacked out.
The strike actions sweeping the developed as well as the developing countries would not find a mention in their columns. The advance of the Left in Latin America would be given a quite go by.
The impending visit of president Bush and the grave implication that the visit entailed would not be taken cognisance of by the corporate media.
It is newspapers like Ganashakti that highlight these events and add commentary in the shape of editorials to make the reading pubic aware of the important changes taking place nationally and internationally, some for the good, a few for the worse.
Turning to history, Anil Biswas said how as the years had gone on beyond the second world war, the process of dismemberment of large countries into smaller ones – 75 countries in 1945 to 193 at present – was part of the process of the anti-colonial struggles, the content of which included the socialist and the democratic components.
Situating the process of rapid industrialisation taking place in Bengal, Anil Biswas said that the progress etched was based on the strong and wide structure of agriculture that Bengal possessed. Emphasising the importance of democratic movements and of democracy at the present moment as supplementing the movement towards socialism and communism, Anil Biswas said that democracy and democratic movements were the result and consequence of the movements and struggles waged by the working class, and were not a gift from the ruling classes.
Ganashakti, Anil Biswas said had a tradition of struggle and it remained firmly committed to the cause of socialism, it effectively countered all the while the Goebbelesian campaign of lies and half-truths contained in the bourgeois media. Biswas lambasted the lie being spread around that the killing of the Kars in Bandowan was a ‘revenge for Chhoto Angaria’ where 12 people were blown apart when the bomb-making materials they were sifting and sorting blew up in their faces.
What the bourgeois media would not let out was the fact that those killed in Chhoto Angaria represented a conglomerate of criminals from both the Naxalite PWG and the Trinamul Congress. They killed themselves indulging in misadventure of the worst kind. Thus the question of revenge is a rhetoric to cover an act of barbarity aimed at cowering the CPI(M). In the game of theirs, said Anil Biswas, they would not succeed and that Ganashakti would come forward and expose the noxious, anti-communist ploy of the opposition and their sponsored campaign in the corporate media.
In his address, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said that all over the world, the United States wanted to impose the so-called Washington-consensus but the communists were bold in their proclamation that the alternative was socialism. In advancing the cause of socialism, communist newspapers like the Ganashakti emoted a significant role. Buddhadeb also narrated about the tentacles the imperialist forces led by the US had started to spread across the globe, and the resistance such a move had resulted in.
In particular, he referred to Latin America, and Europe where at different levels the resistance to imperialist globalisation was gathering momentum. Buddhadeb spoke about the US conspiracies against China as well as Russia, and talked about the plunder of oil resources of the Middle East through a policy of occupation and pillage.
The UPA government, declared Buddhadeb, must come out of the policy of ‘strategic partnership’ with the United States. India, said the CPI(M) leader must join hands with countries like Russia, China and Brazil (the latter had lent a hand to India at the recent WTO conference of late) and struggle against imperialism and globalisation sponsored by imperialism. The pursuit of an independent foreign policy was of paramount importance to India.
Turing to the state, Buddhadeb talked briefly about the positive changes taking place here in terms of political stability, flourishing democracy, and economic development. The chief minister pointed out that the developmental process had firmly in its priorities, the interests of the poor in cities as in villages. From 38,000 villages that were categorised as poor, the Left Front governance could bring the number down to 4,500-odd, reminded Buddhadeb for the benefit of those worthies who spoke about the state LF government having shifted priorities.
Buddhadeb also narrated figures to show the progress made in the state in the sectors of health (with the state institutions serving 70% of the patients), literacy (75% achieved), and primary education (68,ooo primary schools all offering mid-day meals). In the matter of urbanisation, Buddhadeb said that the CPI (M) firmly believed in the striking of a balance in the urban-rural nexus.
He riled the talk of Mahajot between the Pradesh Congress, the Trinamul Congress, and the BJP as a Gandhi-Godse alliance and said that the left front was not an election platform alone but was the product of struggle, and of blood, seat, and tears, over decades. The so-called Mahajot could never be substitute for the Left Front declared the speaker.
Buddhadeb concluded by lauding the role emoted by Ganashakti in defending and advancing the cause of Socialism and firming up all the while its ideological base.
The occasion saw awards in the shape of mementos given to the district committees with the highest circulation figures from Siliguri, Durgapur, and Kolkata. Such mementos were also given to individual agents as well. People’s Little Theatre (PLT), the group founded by the late Communist stalwart of stagecraft, Utpal Dutt, rounded off the function with the staging of the anti-colonial play, Bibighar.