Yechury in Dhaka seminar
IMPERIALISM is keen to use the growth of fundamentalist forces in our region to intervene and destabilise our countries and gain a permanent foothold. The struggle against fundamentalism should be a united struggle of all irrespective of their religious affiliations. It is only under such conditions that the people can mount an offensive against the ruling class policies, observed Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist) at an international seminar held in Bangladesh capital, Dhaka on May 29, commemorating the birth centenary of legendary communist leader and founder president of Workers Party of Bangladesh, Comrade Amal Sen. In the seminer titled ‘Combating Fundamentalism and Imperialism’, Yechury also said unless the Left intervenes to channelise the discontent into struggles leading to complete emancipation, the objective of safeguarding the gains made so far by the people and advancing them cannot be achieved. Yechury called upon all Left and other progressive forces in the region to launch united struggle against fundamentalism and imperialism by mobilising the masses. Narrating the nature of deep economic crisis, Yechury said imperialist order will not collapse on its own; only through united struggle of the class forces they shall be defeated.
Paying rich tributes to Comrade Amal Sen at the outset, Sitaram Yechury said, Comrade Amal Sen took part in the anti-British colonial struggle right from his student days, when he was a ninth-grade student. He led a movement against the landlords of Khulna when he was a student of BL College. Later, he was attracted to the ideals of Marxism-Leninism; he became a member of the undivided Communist Party in 1933. He was a leader of the Tebhaga struggle, a pioneer of the communist movement in Bangladesh and one of the organisers of the War of Independence. He spent 19 years in jail. Comrade Amal Sen spent his entire life combating fundamentalism and imperialism, which continue to pose an impediment not only to the peace and stability of our region, but also threaten the unity of all the toiling sections in our countries. Experience teaches us that the fight against these twin dangers to our society is interlinked and cannot be fought in isolation. It is for this reason that it becomes imperative for us to concentrate our fight against both imperialism and fundamentalism, simultaneously.
Elaborating on this aspect, Yechury said after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the balance of correlation of class forces had shifted in favour of imperialism, which gave rise to a unipolar world order. Imperialism sought to impose its hegemony on the entire world by using all the means at its disposal – economic, military and political. The war in Afghanistan and Iraq and military interventions in Libya, Syria and now Yemen all show its efforts to control the resources-rich regions and impose pliant regimes in these lands. The economic power of the world's foremost imperialist country, the US, received a jolt due to the ongoing economic crisis, which is not an isolated phenomenon. It is a systemic crisis that is deeply rooted in the intrinsic laws of the capitalist system, Yechury added.
He said the present phase of this crisis, with the governments drastically cutting expenditure by imposing 'austerity measures', is a naked attack on the hard won rights of the working people. This attack on their economic rights is accompanied by an attack on their social and political rights. This sows the seeds of a future crisis, where consequent decline in the people's purchasing power will intensify this ongoing crisis. The situation in South Asia is marked by the deterioration of the living standards of the working people because of the neo-liberal policies being perused by the governments in various countries.
Yechury said there has been a growth in virulent forms of fundamentalism, xenophobia and sectarian chauvinism around the world. The recent period has seen the rise of the ISIS and other extremist forces in West Asia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Islamic fundamentalists in Afganistan, Pakistan, Somalia and North Africa, Buddhist chauvinist groups in Sri Lanka and Myanmar and extreme rightwing neo-Nazi parties in Europe. These are both product of imperialist intervention and a result of the retreat from universal progressive values which took place after the setbacks to socialism. Yechury opined that the struggles against imperialist aggression, the manifold struggles against the neo-liberal order being imposed by imperialist globalisation and the movement against fundamentalism should be welded together to form a powerful anti-imperialist movement. All this becomes all the more important because, as we had seen, the rise of fundamentalism is the product of the coming together of the specific political and economic development of the times, he said. Imperialism deliberately promotes fundamentalism to weaken the Left forces and secular nationalism, which it realises as a genuine threat to its hegemony, he added. Yechury also said the path of economic development chosen by the respective countries, after liberating themselves from the clutches of colonial powers, also give rise to contradictions that cannot be resolved under the present capitalist system. The ruling classes do not want the Left to mobilise people to transcend the capitalist system and hence to ward-off this threat encourage fundamentalist forces, by funding various 'religious' groups to attract the people and divert their attention. Together with these, the failure of the Left and progressive forces to occupy the political vacuum created by the bankruptcy of the so-called 'mainstream' bourgeoisie ruling parties is utilised by the fundamentalist forces to strengthen themselves.
Sitram Yechury narrated the imperialist game in fostering fundamentalist terror groups in the sub-continent and in Arab countries and also gave example of how Hindu communalism and Muslim fundamentalism during the British period and also now, work in cohesion. He said in India, with the right- wing communal BJP in power, we are witnessing a growth of Hindu religious fundamentalist forces. One year in government, we are witnessing a new three-fold attack that is being mounted on both the country and the people. One, the aggressive pursuit of the neo-liberal policies of economic reforms; two, the relentless onslaughts on the secular democratic foundations of the Indian republic by the sharpening of communal polarisation and three, the movement towards an authoritarian rule through the erosion of democratic institutions and methods considered sacrosanct in a democracy.
Dr Abul Barkat, a noted economist and professor, Department of Economics in his key note address gave details of how Islamic fundamentalism gained ground on the Bangladeshi soil. He said liberal-humanist Islam has turned into "Political Islam" mainly due to three major regressive transformations associated with the emergence of the "religious doctrine-based Pakistan State" (1947), failure to punish the war criminals (in the 1971 War of Independence), and legitimisation of communalism by replacing 'secularism' with Islam as the State religion in the constitution (eighth Amendment 1988). The failure of the State in satisfying the basic needs of the people, growing criminalisation of both economy and politics, growing inequality in society, increasing youth unemployment, communalisation of culture and education, external environment and forces, imperialism's quest for global dominance – all contributed to the growth of Islamist extremism in Bangladesh. US imperialism's imperial ambition towards establishing unhindered global hegemony is a key pointer to the growth of fundamentalism and related militancy. Religious fundamentalist forces in the process, have gained momentum to shape organised 'Political Islam', which intends to capture State power by force. Over the year they have built a huge economic empire, he said and gave details in this regard. Islamic enterprises dominated by Jamat-e-Islam from its nationwide trading enterprises earned net profit amounting to 320 million US dollars in 2014, he said. They deputed more than five lakh whole timers.
Rashed Khan Menon, president of Workers Party of Bangladesh, in his opening speech said we have common experience of facing imperialism and fundamentalism. In other countries, the imperialists have made an entente with the fundamentalists. In Bangladesh, with the backing of imperialist power, fundamentalist forces have made a come back. In the disguise of a moderate Muslim label that was given to them by the western powers, they have spread their tentacles in all spheres of life – administrative, business, education, health etc. Under that umbrella grew the religious terrorist forces that threaten to destroy the very basis of Bangladesh society, its history and culture and the State itself. It is time that we should make people aware of this danger and fight it. For that we need regional co-operation too as this is not limited to one border, but has crossed to other countries of this region. He made an appeal for regional co-operation to combat it and said our shared experience would help us to draw up stategy for our own country as well as fight for the common cause.
Paying tribute to founder leader of the party, Comrade Amal Sen, Menon said he was a legendary communist leader of this subcontinent who dedicated his whole life for building worker and peasant movements, through which a party could be built, basing on true Marxist-Leninist lessons, on the experiences of many other great revolutionaries of the different parts of the world and our own concrete experiences.
S Sudhakar Reddy, general secretary of CPI opined that the threats of fundamentalism should not be seen in isolation from the new aggressive military strategy by the US. All the terrorist groups are the creation of the US authorities. When threats from all kinds of religious fundamentalism are rising throughout the world, particularly in our region, I hope the deliberations of the seminar, while reviewing the present situation, will also take appropriate steps so that communists and other Left, democratic and secular forces can join together to fight back the menace of fundamentalism and terrorism, he said. Fazle Hossain Badsha, general secretary of Workers Party of Bangldesh expressed hope in unifying the people of the region more vocally in the struggle against the communal and fundamentalist forces. Imdad Qazi, secretary general of Communist Party of Pakistan, Forward Block leader Shyamal Roy and Nalinda Jaytissa of JVP, Sri Lanka also spoke in the seminar. The seminar was organised in the Diploma Engineers Institute, Dhaka on May 29. The auditorium was full to its capacity. Extra chairs had to be provided. Apart from Workers Party leaders and cadres, many leaders of CPB and other Left groups and many Left and progressive intellectuals of Bangladesh attended the seminar. Bangladesh press, both print and electronic media covered the seminar prominently.