Interview with Saiful Huq
[Comrade Saiful Huq, General Secretary of the Workers Party of Bangladesh, attended the entire Congress along with a delegation comprising Nasiruddin Ahmed Nasu (PB Member), Abdus Salam, (PB Member), Bahnishikha Jamali (CC Member), and Nazrul Islam, a journalist and Party member. Members of this delegation also joined teams that visited Singur and Nandigram on 17 December. Below Comrade Saiful discusses his Party’s work and the concerns of the Left movement in Bangladesh.]
KK: Can you tell our readers something about your party and its orientations?
SH: The Workers’ Party spilt following serious debates in June 2004. We formed a different party because the other faction of the Workers’ Party was bent on an electoral alliance with the Awami League and had degenerated. For the last two years our slogan has been ‘Rebuild the Party, Rebuild the Communist Movement’ – ideologically, politically, and organisationally. We are heading for our 8th Congress quite soon in 2008. Since 12 September 2007 we have been part of a Left-democratic alliance, a 11-party front of which the Workers’ Party and the Socialist Party of Bangladesh are major constituents. Some of our mass fronts are Bangladesh Agricultural Labour Union (BALU), our peasants’ organisation Viplavi Krishak Sanhati, and our women’s front Shramjibi Nari Moitreyi, also student and cultural fronts. We are yet to have a national Trade Union body, though we do have trade union work amongst garment workers and in the informal sector. Our party organ is the People’s Democracy.
KK: How do you visualise the Left’s role in the democratic movement in Bangladesh?
SH: There is immense potential for the Left in Bangladesh, as is shown by the kind of recent movements among working people there. In 2004-05, there was a peasants’ struggle reminiscent of the tebhaga days at Kaushal, demanding electricity supply. 22 people were martyred in this movement. The Phulbani movement against a coal mining MNC Asia Energy too was a militant movement launched by thousands of peasants and adivasis. Eventually the Government had to compromise and the MNC was forced to withdraw its plans of open cast mining in that region.
There have constantly been small revolts among garment workers, as also among peasants – so there are many sparks in Bangladesh that have the potential to turn into a revolutionary conflagration.
KK: What is the situation of the pro-democracy movement in Bangladesh now?
SH: Now there is an interim government with direct army control. During Emergency, politics is banned, and is only partly permitted in Dhaka. The degenerated Left is part of a 14-party alliance with the Awami League. Both sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia are in jail. The ‘National Security Council’ of the Army is pushing a ‘reform’ agenda, attempting to secure legitimacy by targeting the corrupt and inefficient governments and setting up an ‘anti-corruption commission’. The state in Bangladesh is faced with a crisis of legitimacy, and the Army is in a bid to secure a sustainable system for the ruling class. However, the Army’s attempts to set up a new political party with breakaways from the BNP and Awami League have not found many takers. The Army is pushing a neo-liberal economic agenda of the IMF-WB, liberalising the insurance sector and introducing private management in Chittagong port. Massive price hikes have resulted and now it appears that the military regime is seeking a safe exit route and is exploring an arrangement with the BNP and the Awami League.
With the BNP and Awami League thoroughly exposed, and with the students’ protests expressing the democratic aspirations of people, there is clearly space for a revolutionary Left movement united with democratic forces on a broad anti-imperialist and pro-democracy plank.
KK: How do you view the threat of imperialism in the sub-continent?
SH: US imperialism is intervening directly in Bangladesh. There have been agreements between Bangla Government and the USA which are not transparent. We are also extremely concerned about the closeness of India with the USA, and the US plan to make India play the big brotherly hegemonistic role of watchman over Bangladesh. This naturally causes a strong anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh.