40 Years since the liberation struggle in Bangladesh

Come to discuss what happened in 1971 and what the lessons are for today

Bangladeshi socialist, Masud Rana, will be speaking about the events of 1971 and the workers’ struggle today in the country.


{pic – A child leads a street procession during the mass revolt of 1969. The boy was killed shortly after the photograph was taken. © Rashid Talukder /Autograph ABP/Drik/Majority World }

BANGLADESH BECAME an independent country in 1971 after a nine-month war of liberation in which millions died. The brutal British imperialism divided the Indian subcontinent into two separate countries, India and Pakistan, in 1947. Partition built a communal border in the name of religion. According to that theory East Bengal had no choice but to be added to Pakistan and became East Pakistan (separated by 1200 miles from West Pakistan), though there was no similarity in language or culture.

Bengali people saw though their country is very resource rich, people were starving like the British period. When the Pakistan authorities wanted to impose their language and culture, Bengali people felt the necessity of their own political involvement in state affairs. These issues provoked language movement from 1952, many peasant revolts (Nankar, Nachole, Tevaga etc), 1962 education movement and many workers’ strikes. These prepared the way for a greater political movement which forced Pakistan’s rulers to announce a general election in 1969. A gigantic general strike and mass
demonstrations paralysed the state apparatus for more than a month, in the East and West, creating an opportunity for the working class and poor masses to take power. The ideas of socialism spread like wildfire. But although these movements were dominated by various Left organisations like Chatra Union, NAP (Moulana Vasani), CPB etc, the left parties and workers leaders failed to assist the masses in this historic task, allowing parties like the Awami League to come to the fore. Though the Awami league won the 1969 election, the ruling elite in West Pakistan refused to allow them to form a government. The wave of strikes, demonstrations and public protest continuously hit the state machine. In 25 March 1971 the Pakistani regime killed thousands of people in Dhaka, mostly students who were the most active part of the struggle. After that night of massacre the Bengali people had no alternative but to fight a war for full independence. This heroic liberation war resulted in independence for the new country of Bangladesh. But the new rulers of Bangladesh protected capitalism and brutally suppressed the masses aspiration for an end to their exploitation.
Today, the workers, peasants, students, youth and poor are suffering under capitalism because of the mistakes made by the left. Forty years after independence, a militant working class is struggling for its rights (see below), but a socialist alternative based clearly on the interests of the workers, poor and all those exploited by capitalism is still needed to solve the problems faced by society.

Recent struggles in Bangladesh-Striking garment workers victimized
On 18 December 2011 a rally held at Dhaka university protested at the arrest and remand in custody of Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garment Workers Unity Forum (GWUF). They demanded her release and that of all those arrested – for the crime of demanding a living wage and workers’ rights. They are also demanding safe working conditions, an issue highlighted by the terrible fire which recently swept through a garment factory near the capital, Dhaka, killing over 30 workers. This factory was producing clothes for the likes of Gap and Wrangler, major western-based multinationals profiteering from workers on some of the lowest wages in the world. Other companies exploiting Bangladeshi labour include Wal-Mart, Marks & Spencer and Carrefour, to name but a few.
Garment workers in Bangladesh have shown the most incredible bravery and determination in the face of this brutal repression. They have been taking strike action throughout the year and deserve the solidarity of all workers internationally. All charges must be lifted immediately from Moshrefa Mishu and the hundreds of other garment workers arrested. All must be freed unconditionally. The minimum wage must be paid to all workers without delay – although it needs to be increased substantially to provide a living wage. Safety conditions in the garment industry must be improved as a matter of urgency.

The meeting is hosted by the Tower Hamlets Socialist Party towerhamlets.sp@gmail.com 07552936800 www.socialistparty.org.uk