March 19 Study Circles in all Branches: A Unique Experience

Sridip Bhattacharya

ALONG with our continuous struggle for restoration of democracy and against fascistic attacks by the TMC and its government, West Bengal state committee has placed special emphasis on Party education among the comrades. State level permanent party school (Promode Dasgupta Education Centre) is functioning regularly. State level schools are held regularly. At the district level, party schools are being held quite regularly.  Some of the district committees have set up their own permanent schools. Kolkata Plenum on Organisation in 2015 had given a call for special attention towards Party education for improving the quality of the Party comrades. Since then, in West Bengal, further stress on Party education has been given.

 One weakness was observed by the state committee that in spite of all serious efforts for Party education in the state, all the branches and Party members, auxiliary group members, could not be included in this process of Party education.

 So, it was decided to popularise study circles in the state in order to involve entire Party in the educational exercise. March 19 was identified as the day on which all the branches in West Bengal would have study circles on ‘Party Programme’ where Party members along with auxiliary group members would participate. This decision had some flexibility. Where study circles were not possible to be held on 19th, any day within March 26 could be fixed.

PLANNING FOR THE STUDY CIRCLE

It took nearly two and half months of effort to make this study circle successful. The first task identified was to sensitise the entire Party along with the leadership about the study circle. So, one note was prepared by the state committee explaining the method of conducting study circles. With the help of this note, workshops were planned in all the districts where Party district leadership and the Party teachers at the district level would participate.

 It was a study circle on ‘Party Programme’ but not a study class. Some type of initiation of the topic was necessary to have a lively study circle, it was felt. Proper initiation of the topic would be able to create a favourable atmosphere for free and frank discussion. No doubt, the main aim of this study circle was to create more hunger among the comrades about the Party Programme.

In West Bengal where more than 20 thousand branches are there with 2 lakh plus Party members, the aim to have study circles in all branches might seem to be an over-ambitions one. The state committee took this hard task as a challenge. Thousands and thousands of initiators had to be developed from among the Party members. Two things were necessary for that: a one short note on how to place the salient points of Party Programme in short time so that study circles become vibrant. Second, with the help of this note, to have a number of workshops to develop able initiators. The state committee also declared that on March 19, holding the study circle would be the central task for the entire Party.

 

PROCESS OF IMPLEMENTATION

Entire state is in the midst of struggles. Districts are all the time busy in making way for the class and mass struggles against tremendous odds. Inspite of this situation, all the district committees rose as one man to make this programme successful. All the district committees had special discussion on how to make this study circle programme successful. Workshops for preparing initiators at branch level were held in all districts. Considering the necessity of a large number of initiators, workshops were held at subdivision level, zonal level and even at local committee level. It was decided that study circles would continue upto three hours. So, the time for initiation of the subject (Party Programme) should not exceed 30-35 minutes. To help the initiators so that they can present the subject within this stipulated time, a note was prepared by the state committee which was presented within 30 minutes in all the workshops, district to local level. Party members and auxiliary group members were directed to read the Party Programme before the study circle. It can be said that a good number of Party members tried to read the Party Programme before the study circle. There is tremendous increase in the sale of Party Programme in Bengali, Hindi and Urdu from National Book Agency, Kolkata and district Party literature selling outlets. In this period 39,500 copies of Party Programme in Bengali, 1,700 Hindi copies and 800 Urdu copies have been sold.

It is undeniable fact that tremendous enthusiasm was witnessed among the Party cadres throughout the state about this study circle programme. Regular monitoring from not only state centre, but from district, zonal, local centres played a significant role in making this programme successful.

 

UNPRECEDENTED EXPERIENCE

 On March 19, right from the morning there was a festive mood among the Party cadres throughout the state. Considering the situation in the districts, areas, district committees in many cases combined two to three branches for holding the study circles. For that reason, district committees decided about centres for study circles where one or more than one branches held their study circles. Study circles were held in terror affected areas also. For some of the terror affected areas, study circles were held in other places to make it convenient for the Party comrades to attend the study circles. On that day in 31, Alimuddin Street, state Party headquarter 21 branches had held their study circles. This single information is enough to understand the reach, intensity and enthusiasm created by this programme.

On March 31, state committee held a detailed review of this programme. A questionnaire comprising seven questions was sent to district committees well ahead of the review meeting. In-charges of Party education in all districts attended this review meeting. From review reports it was evident that very positive effects were created within the Party by this programme. Attendance in branch or combined branch study circles varied from district to district. Average attendance in the state was nearly 72 percent, minimum was 52 percent to 80 percent. Reports from districts have mentioned that efforts are still on to have study circles with the absentee comrades. So, finally the percentage of participation is surely going to increase.

Due to space constraints, here I am mentioning the reports of three districts – North 24 Parganas, West Midnapur and Darjeeling which are situated in different parts of the state. In North 24 Parganas, the average attendance in the study circle was 75 percent. In Habra, one of the zonal committees of the district, the attendance was slightly more than 92 percent. In six out of 32 zonal committees of that district, the attendance was 80 percent or above. In West Midnapur, average attendance was nearly 56 percent. Out of 33 zonal committees of the district, in eight zonal committees the attendance was 70 percent or more. Take the case of Darjeeling district. There was 70 percent average attendance on March 19. But, attendance in rural areas and hills was comparatively less.   

The participative character of the study circles was very much evident in most of the cases. Along with the questions which are related to Party Programme, some unrelated questions also came up. It can be said that this study circle programme has helped the Party at various levels to assess the consciousness of the Party comrades. In this context it is to be mentioned that Kolkata district committee has taken permission from the state committee to have the study circles in all branches on April 22 - birthday of Comrade Lenin.  

During review it was observed that the initiators numbering few thousands, who have been developed in this process, can be considered very valuable assets for the Party in future. It is revealed from the reports of the leadership from districts that there was tremendous pressure from the branch level of the Party after the success of this programme to have study circles in near future to sustain the momentum created. West Bengal state committee is also thinking in the same line. It has been decided that August 5, birthday of one of the founders of the Communist movement in our country, Comrade Muzaffar Ahmad (Kakababu) will be observed as the day for study circle in all branches throughout the state. The subject would be “Party Constitution”.

Reviewing this unique experience of holding study circle in the entire state on one day, it can be concluded that this programme has created an atmosphere of confidence among a good section of comrades within the Party. No doubt this study circle programme has helped the Party to understand how movements, struggles can be integrated with Party education process in a very simple way. 

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