The political left in Bangladesh, represented by a number of socialist and communist parties, has remained numerically small and divided by internal dissension. Yet the left has always been a potent force. The economic difficulties facing workers and peasants and the persistent alienation of the intellectual community have provided fertile ground for the growth of radical politics, and such problems always hold out the potential of massive civil unrest. The socialist policies of the Awami League during the early 1970s brought the small Bangladesh Communist Party, with its pro-Soviet tendencies, very close to attaining political power. More radical groups advocating total revolution based on the Maoist model were major elements behind the growing chaos that brought Mujib down. Under martial law regimes, revolutionary organizational activities became very difficult, and the decline of Maoist ideology in China left Bangladeshi revolutionaries without major ideological support from abroad. During the 1980s, leftist parties were forced into supporting roles within alliances with the major opposition parties, although some created their own coalitions centered primarily on urban bases.
The Bangladesh Communist Party continued a generally pro-Soviet policy in the late 1980s, and it was part of the eight-party alliance headed by the Awami League. The Bangladesh Communist Party operated a student wing called the Chhatro Union (Students Union) and a workers' front called the Trade Union Centre.
A more significant socialist party in the late 1980s was the Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (National Socialist Party). This party began operating in 1972 after the defection of radical elements from the Awami League. It organized an armed opposition to Mujib's regime in the mid-1970s and became very influential among the military during the late 1970s. The party also had some success in parliamentary elections and became important in labor unions through its action wing, the Jatiyo Sramik Jote (National Workers Alliance). By the 1980s, however, it had split into a number of factions with different strategies. The policies of one wing, headed by A.S.M. Abdur Rab, were almost indistinguishable from those of the Jatiyo Party. It cooperated with Ershad's government, praised his martial law rule, supported the move to include the armed forces in district councils and the denationalization bill of June 1987, and participated in the parliaments elected in 1986 and 1988. Another faction, led by Shajahar Siraj, was the Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (Siraj), which participated in the 1986 Parliament but consistently voted against the government, calling for "unity of left democratic forces." Still another faction, the Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (Inu), headed by Hasan Huq Inu, refused to cooperate with the government and became part of a highly visible five-party alliance along with the Sramik Krishak Samajbadi Dal, (Workers and Peasants Socialist Party); the Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal (Bangladesh Socialist Party), which comprised two factions; and the Workers Party. The Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (Inu) operated a radical student front called the Jatiyo Chhatro Samaj (National Students Society). In short, this inability of the various leftist factions and parties to form a consensus ensured that they would be kept out of power.
|Country Studies main page | Bangladesh Country Studies main page|