The Growth of Anarcho-Syndicalism in Bangladesh

The Growth of Anarcho-Syndicalism in Bangladesh

We re-read Marxism over and over, its fundamentals. But none of this helped us to better understand the failure of "socialism". We did, however, take an interest in the revolutionaries who criticized Marxism-Leninism. This led us to read the works of many anarchists, such as Mikhail Bakunin, William Godwin, PJ Proudhon, Peter Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, Errico Malatesta, Alexander Berkman, Max Stirner, Élisée Reclus, and Noam Chomsky.

The Growth of Anarcho-Syndicalism in Bangladesh

The Bangladesh anarchist workers' movement is less than five years old, born out of the ashes of failed Marxism-Leninism. The author of this article recalls the antecedent period in Bangladesh history where Marxism-Leninism held hegemony. This was a time of deep faith and affection for the thought of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tsetung, and Trotsky. As far as the author understands, none in the movement knew of anarchism as a political ideology and would not know of it until decades later. We revered the hanging portraits of Marxist leaders, we studied their books, and we integrated discussion of their ideas into our daily lives. Our life's pursuit was to become socialist revolutionaries.

We were so fervent in our beliefs of a better world that we sacrificed clothing for books, food for paper. The socialist movement was already active in Bangladesh when my generation moved from studying socialism to helping develop a mass socialist movement. In Dhaka, the capital, we helped in the dissemination of pro-Soviet papers, we joined student organizations, and we participated in interviews. We explained socialism to the people, to workers, from the factories to the fields. Our path was guided by science and freedom of expression, and we spread our ideas without imposing on others. But we faced public rejection and death in our efforts.

When speaking in Muslim-dominated areas, many condemned us as atheists and unrighteous. And where we were not simply denounced, many of us were murdered. Our struggle has been the history of bloodshed. We have lost many of our companions. And although the oppressive apparatuses tortured and killed us, we proceeded ahead with the dream of revolution and continued to take those steps to make the revolution. Our work increased the number of socialist organizations and supporters across cities and villages. These bodies were intent to fight against the tyranny of oppression, against the national military dictatorship and against imperialism.

As early as 1980 we were able to hear about the Soviet Union and China's authoritarian nature and contradictions. We did not believe this was the truth, that "scientific" socialism could be false. Rather, we believed this was imperialist and CIA propaganda. The subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union and the breaking of Lenin's statue greatly shocked us all. Together with the eastern bloc, the socialist countries of the world changed. They moved away from having even a veneer of socialism and openly embraced a capitalist restructuralization.

This produced a tremendous shock in the thought of our movement. We re-read Marxism over and over, its fundamentals. But none of this helped us to better understand the failure of "socialism". We did, however, take an interest in the revolutionaries who criticized Marxism-Leninism. This led us to read the works of many anarchists, such as Mikhail Bakunin, William Godwin, PJ Proudhon, Peter Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, Errico Malatesta, Alexander Berkman, Max Stirner, Élisée Reclus, and Noam Chomsky. Their works are not in print form, nor are they in Bengali. So our medium of learning has been through reading anarchist texts through the internet in foreign languages.

By 2012, many of us former Marxists acquired a clear idea of anarcho-syndicalism from our continuous internet studies. Because I have been involved in tea workers' struggles since 2000, it was among tea workers and close, political friends that we first introduced anarcho-syndicalist practices through the development of The Tea Workers' Council. This council did not bear the name of any specific doctrine or party. Because old, authoritarian ways persisted, a clear articulation of anarchism and a regrouping along anarchist principles was necessary. As a result, on 1 May 2014, many militants formed a twenty three-member committee of those committed to the principles of anarcho-syndicalism. This committee has fostered the development of anarcho-syndicalist organizations in across fifty-two places in Bangladesh today.

Presently, we are receiving help from the Anarcho-syndicalist Federation of Australia to improve our organization. With their help, we are also trying to become members of the IWA-AIT.

We seek solidarity from sister and brother comrades all over the world. We want to work together with everyone.

AKM Shihab
basfsylhet@gmail.com
Sylhet,Bangladesh
June 2018.

NOTE: please see in detail of Bangladesh Anarcho- Syndicalist Federation - (BASF) ‘s Aims, Principles and Statutes : http://libcom.org/library/bangladesh-anarcho-syndicalist-federation-basf-s-aims-principles-statutes

Posted By

akmshihab
May 29 2018 16:37

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  • We seek solidarity from sister and brother comrades all over the world. We want to work together with everyone.

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Comments

Lugius
May 30 2018 00:05

Keep up the good work, comrade! The struggle will be hard but together with our comrades in Asia and across the world we can realise a truly international organisation of workers based on the principles of anarcho-syndicalism; solidarity, direct action, federation and internationalism. Federation is the method of organisation that dissipates power away from individuals to the assemblies of workers where delegated positions are accountable to and recallable by the workers assembly and rejects capitalist notions of representative democracy based on the individual over and above the collective.

The hostility of religious fundamentalists is an experience that out comrades in Indonesia have struggled with also. Front Pembela Islam is struggling against PPAS for influence among the motorcycle riders working Uber, GoJek and other similar companies ruthlessly exploiting their workers. They have accused the PPAS of being 'kommunis' and 'ateis' and 'enemies of Islam'. Last May Day in Jakarta, members of Konfederasi Serikat Pekerja Seluruh Indonesia (the only union legal under the Soeharto regime) demanded that PPAS members the march saying they did not belong there. The PPAS members at May Day, no more than 50, bravely stood their ground and reminded the KSPSI members of the origins of May Day. Despite being surrounded, attacked and beaten, they fought back as best they could and inspiring us with their courage to press on regardless.

Elsewhere in Asia, our comrades have had to find ways to organise in highly repressive political circumstances in Malaysia, the Philippines and elsewhere. In Singapore, two members of the ASF Initiative were arrested and detained for six hours for merely attending a demonstration against capital punishment.

The relationship of the ASF to the other IWA applicants from Asia is based on solidarity and mutual respect where each section from each country are equals and not on a Eurocentric paternalism of the past. Since 2013, when the current IWA Secretariat was chosen to discharge these important responsibilities, the IWA Secretary has demonstrated the initiative required to address the imbalance in the workers struggle against global capitalism that has been hitherto centered around the North Atlantic.

Comrades, there is much work to be done and though our movement in small in comparison to dominance of Maoism in the labour movement we must continue our work in Asia to grow strong enough to be in a position to offer real solidaritry to those workers in Africa who demonstrating an increased interest in anarcho-syndicalism.

All strength to BASF! Long Live IWA!

Ed
May 30 2018 10:10

Yeah, best of luck to BASF and well done to ASF for seeking out and finding comrades in some of the new industrial centres of Asia. As Lugius says, though the numbers are probably small in (particularly in comparison to local Marxist-Leninist groups), it's definitely a huge boost for anarchism as a global movement.. and hopefully the working-class movement as well!

doug
May 30 2018 14:48

I'd also like to say well done, comrades, and I'd love to hear more from Bangladesh.

Since there's a lack of anarchist/libertarian communist texts in Bengali, it sounds like it could be useful if there was a project to crowdfund some translations (if there isn't already?). I'm sure you'd get plenty of donations. Likewise, texts in Bengali on what's happening could be translated to English.

Steven.
May 30 2018 16:42

This is great, best of luck to you in your efforts.

Just to say that so that people can find your texts, I have renamed your "BASF" tag to be "Bangladesh Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation"

So when posting future texts about BASF, please input Bangladesh Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation into the Authors, People and Groups field so that all the articles be grouped together here: http://libcom.org/tags/basf

Thanks very much