Nature of Class Struggle in Bangladesh Author(s): B. K. Jahangir Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 12, No. 50 (Dec. 10, 1977), pp.

2063-2066 Published by: Economic and Political Weekly Stable URL: Accessed: 13/10/2010 07:58
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Rather. The State is the major owner of the means of production through the nationalisation of banks. land reform and agricultural policies did not lead to the destruction of rural privileged groups and to the creation of a new social and political order (Abdullab. credits. all rural development programmes and agrarian reform initiated by the government are likely to generate social conflict.have repercussions not so much in the countryside as in the towns". where private ownership of means of production is constipoorer tuitionally guaranteed. polarisation shaped the secondly. and even the rich peasants invest some parts of their profits outside agriculture (Jahangir. there has been a constanit struggle to transform the existing relationis of production to the advantage of this or that contending group. 1976. Sobhan and Ahmad. purchases. 1976) produced muitually interlinked and contradictory structures in the rural areas. land reform and agricultural strategies. both in the colonial and the post-colonial periods (Alamgir. for it is an integral part of the natio- nal economy. 1976). While capitalism develops the forces of production on a national scale in the post-colonial situation of Bangladesh. The differentiation process that developed led to the stabilisation of a rich peasant layer on the one hand. The pressure of the of the market. has had a differential repercussion on agriculture: much of this capital has accumulated in the hands of the rural rich and the urban businessmen. Economic policies initiated by the post-colonial State affected productive forces directly and influenced the other elements indirectly. insurance companies. transportation and large industries (Sobban and Ahmad. In such a process. In a peasant society like Bangladesh. trade and economic policies are intended to increase the existing productive means. Seen in this light. and consequently. it continues to be dominant in the rural areas. 1976). At present. it has generated class differentiations within the peasantry and has process. in Bangladesh. Jahan. 1976). They also control the sources of economic and political power. is affected by the government's agricultural and economic policies (Jahangir. and thus. From this perspective.and quite often its basic effects . THE process of capital accumulation class has generated in Bangladesh differentiations within the economy of small peasant producers (Sobban. and fails to stimulate enthusiasm for work or increase peasant's co-operation and solidarity. This article examines the nature and significance of these changing production relations in Bangladesh. tools and draught animals. and a depressed layer of impoverished middle and poor peasants on the other. et al 1976. The latter are the main decision makers in the rural areas (Rashiduzzaman. but also become consumers of foodstuffs purchased at local shop. they buy in the market goods which previously did not go through the market system. However. generated by the national economy. it has determined the placing of the different peasant classes within the wider social structure and has defined the role of agriculture within the national economy. but that control is reinforced by control over the means of production nationally.Nature of Class Struggle B K jahangir in Bangladesh While the forces of production in post-colonial Bangladesh have continued to remain relatively stagnant. 1968. Thus. Firstly. 1976). 1968. the nation state guarantees the 2063 . and even though this class lost political power at the national level followving the political changes in the later part of 1975. All this has resulted in a social polarisation in the rural agriculture sector of the national economy. and along with other peasants. Alamgir. In both the colonial and post-colonial periods. Peasants are now mainly exploited through a private property system which curbs the effective use of labour power. Thus. the landless peasant and the poor peasant not only become labourers. 1975) in Bangladesh is uneven and has produced two interlinked but contradictory effects in the rural areas. As a social class it is the r-ich peasants who control the means of production. commercial and economic policies pursued by the State. complement industrial development. those social groups that control political powei also control an important sector of the means of production by formulating economic policies and taking decisions concerning investments. The changes in the land-property system and in the forms of labour-power transformed land and labour into commodities. Abdullab. These means in the rural areas are controlled by the rich peasants. sapital accumulation in rural areas cannot be analysed as an isolated phenomenon. their position becomes more entrenched in the socio-economic and political structures. various agricultural and government economic policies of the and the nature of the State have all affected the forms of landed property and the labour system (Abdullah. etc. agricultural. 1976). Ownership of land is one form of control over the means of production in the rural areas. instead of destroying the power-base of the rural elite. the government is the principal agency of development in Bangladesh. The agricultural. The latter is controlled by the rural rich and by the urban investors and. political power is crucial in the analysis of socials inequality and social conflict. Capitalistic development in the post-colonial period (Alavi. Abdullah. Capital accumulation. All these structures are interlinked through the process of change in the system of ownership and control of the means of production and through the concentration of capital accumnulation. rural situation we find that class differentiation is shaped both by access to the means of production and by access to political power. Their main source of livelihood consists of wages. Galeski (1975) pinpoints the problem: "Many of the social effects of the process of capital accumulation occurring in the village . which itself rests upon political Hence in the Bangladesh power. 1976). 1972). the rural rich contended successfully for political power. duties and taxes. During the regime of Sheikh Mujib. 1975. the peasants have little access to the means of production. they helped to strengthen an expanding rich peasant category and were primarily designed to induce the growth of agricultural output needed to. land. enlarged their social base and linked them with the national power structure.

In such a situation the poor peasants and the landless labourers must also have their own organisation to confront the rich peasant (Wood. It has kept the class struggle fragmented and has debarred the possibility of an alliance of the poorer peasantry across regions. introduced land reforms limiting o}wnershipto . which culminated in liberation. Thus a class struggle emerges involving cleavages within the village. It also set an upper ceiling on land-holding at 33 acres. (b) the mediating role of the political parties and the political elite. factional conflict among the rich peasant category turns into class alliance. Thus. In the case of the rich peasants. the factionat struggles of the rich peasants and the rural entrepreneurs develop into a class alliance which extend into the towns and administration. 1957. in turn. . issues relating to rural development or radical agrarian reform were never focused sharply. The national group of the British colonial elite period was composed of surplus peasants and an urban professional class (Abdull-ah 1976. This situation produces and intensifies uneven development and combines already established patterns of exploitation and modern forms of economic activity. It is necessary now to discuss the mediating role of the political parties and political elite in relation to the political economy of pre. Competition among the rich peasants is another name for entering into new alliances. but is rather loose regionally or nationally. These pressures of colonial and class exploitation during the second colonial period brought about the extreme polarisation between the two wings of Pakistan regionally as well as between rural classes nationally. In this way. For these reasons. This gained momentum because of the flow of surplus extracted from rural Bangladesh and the steady expansion of a capitalist mode of production within the onestate structure of Pakistan. From this double polarisation sprang up a unique alliance between the politics of Bengali nationalism and the different classes. 1974). class solidarity at the village level is rathei loose. 1971. Thus competition within the rich peasant class and allocative decisions by the State reinforce the factional mode of operation. Different classes in the rural area will evaluate the programmes of development from their own perspectives. The political parties in power or in opposition in Bangladesh during the second colonial imposition seldom came face to face with the people in the rural areas or confronted the issues of social and economic development.This Act effectively eliminated Hindu domination. the dominant political parties and the larger urban financiers. Mukerjee. However. But how far has this alliance of the dominant classes hindered the emergence of class solidarity among the poor peasants and the landless labourers? The formation of capital in the postcolonial situation has eroded loyalties previously structured by kinship and has. vertical interdependence gives way to class solidarity. for example.These are necessary to provide a secure environment for productive investments.and postcolonial Bangladesh. the institutions of the State generate factionalism in their allocative decisions. for example. In the second colonial setting. The rapid rise in the prices of agricultural commodities and' the expansion of the cultivated area and improved crop yields have increased the seasonal demand for labour at harvest time. 1942). but at the same time impose their domination over the rest of the peasant population. and in the other. 1972). assessing whether the programme will strengthen their power. the character of political movements was marked by the struggle to establish the legitimate position of the Bengalis in the politicoadministrative decision-making process and to put an end to the exploitation of Bangladesh by the West Pakistan capitalists (Alavi. These conflicting outlooks affect class solidarity and the nature of the class struggle. clpsely aligned with the bureaucracy. and (c) the characteristics of the specific local situation. The slow growth of capitalism has affected the social formation and deforned the emergence of a national economy with an elaborate division of labour on a national scale. 1976). . the poor peasants and the landless labourers demanded an increase in the wage rate ? The rich peasant could do two things. The competition that occurs within the rich peasant class is an instance of this. The historical and cumulative polarisation process intensified rural stratification. The ruling party. In the one case. What then would be the outcome if. This highlights the objective interests of respective 'classes. This alliance is composed of rich peasants. the Awami League. no significant challenge to the leadership came from the peasants. class solidarity is forged locally and is reinforced by their links with the leftwving political parties.33 acres (which had been upgraded to 125 acres during. the Act of 1950 was promulgated which abolished the Permanent Settlement systemn. Jahan.December 10. The existing conflicts between the privileged and underprivileged peasants influence attitudes developtowards programmes of ment. and from Hindu domination on the other. They gained greatly from the policies of nationalism but at the same ti'me were afraid of its leftward gravitation. Either he could use his conlabour-displacing obtain tacts to machines (tractors. rural entrepreneurs and urban investors These. undermined certain vertical relationships of interdependence (Jahangir. and enlarge their social base. or alternatively whether it will weaken the ruling group and introduce new forces into the political terrain. after the establishment of Bangladesh. After the partition of India in 1947. 1977 existing relations of production. and their factional fights do not directly threaten their overall class interests. the clash between the two types of politics became more pronounced. The attitude of the Bengali bourgeoisie towards the policies of Bengali nationalism was one of guarded support. The more immediate objective of political movements during this period was to achieve national liberation from colonial domination on the one hand. etc) or he could activate his network to get political backing in order to confront the poor 2064 ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY labourers peasants and the landless forcefully. Bell. This is reflected in the growing ' importance of wage labour. In the case of the underprivileged peasants. the pace of class solidarity and class struggle has depended on three factors: (a) the state of the national economy. are in agriculture. At the same time. The State in the post-colonial situation is linked to factional competition because resources are distributed unequally among the peasantry as part of the process of 'intervention' or 'penetration' by the State. They compete among themselves for control over the existing resources. We may further explore the problems of class solidarity and class conflict in relation to development programmes. This link between the rich peasant class and the State institutions contributes to the strength and solidarity of the dominant classes both in rural and urban areas. As the State is associated with one pattern of distribution and not another.

in 1975. development of capitalist agriculture. which mostly affect the poor and a section of the middle peasants. November 3.3. The military was reacting increasingly and madle a decisive entry into politics by staging a series of coups (August 15. In this way. These measures.and to encourage exports.ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY December 10. As a result. subsidies at did it control inflation. reserves were emerged wvhich helped the growth of depleted and inflation ran riot. 1975). the alienatrating the opposition parties as a tion of many from the land and the precaution against the advent of nonenrichment of others (Alamgir 1976: Awami League ministries. and even to the regime. January 10).all opted for agrarian structure and upon the the present land ceiling and gave guarded support for land distribution. But these of taxes. and in certain cases. Sheikh Mujib's government was re. it ever. including some close to the government. 1971. wage inflation. Instead. capacity.their name. continued to do well. On the other hand. Towards that end they have withdrawn subsidies from agricultural inputs and have introduced miieasures to extract surpluses from agriculture. All these together produced Kulak interests (Ali. As rural bias b. and with these. the government failed to reduce was this class that benefited from economic and social polarisation. thus changed the agrarian structure because oL the composition of the and tilted it in favour of the rich ruling party. tration had its impact on the policy It is necessary. This was a someewhat cumstances did not outweigh the paradoxical situation. The go.the ascendancy of the Kulaks. a ened the rich peasants by abolishing secure. 1975.luthv foreign money and aid. Thus. BAKSAL (Bangladesh Krisak Sramik AwaamiLeague) revitalised the political base. internal security became a problem of both economic and political imnportance. 1976). They. given the governmenit's clear inability to control the numerous pro-government paramilitary forces (Mujibbahini. laid be caught up in a vortex of instant a plan for all-out industrialisation. both the ruling agricultural inputs. a few people. governthe expense of other social groups. created deeper divisions between mission: 1973) which gave emphasis to rapid classes and regions. Lalbahani. Land legislation. The n-ew rulers are basically supporters of urban interests and are deterto mriined release reserves from agriculture for industrialisation. to formulation of the pro-Moscow Comexamine Bangladesh land legislation munist party (Khan. and tion prices. largely ment agricultural and trade policies measures were unsuccessful. But the Awami time pressed for terms of trade even Leagtue refrained from introducing more favourable to agriculture. A new era of patronage upon an alliance between urban and started.opposition could come only from the cultural bloc in Parliament. liberation period cereal prices were six and the opposition parties sanctioned to eight times higher from pre-libera. November 7.preserved. 1972) and of the policies and the actual effect of the National Socialist Party (Gonokontho. and at the same time rejected any compromise with the military.Politically. are manoeuvres aimed at siphoning off capital fi om agricultural production for investment in urban industrial growth and at more effectively controlling the powerful class of rich peasants andlimiting their political power (jahan. Thus. because the attraction of personal affluence to most government. 1975.3 acres. It was neither. the trade union and the peasant and paved the Nway for the bureauicracy (Sobhan and Ahmad. followed. March 13. Though power. 1977 Avub's regime) and eliminated tax on in imiarketedsurplus and at the same landc upto 8. This peneYunus. 1976). on the one hand. The country becamnea case study in economic stagnation. Eventually. 1976). the middle class found its prosperity crumbling and its goals receding. marketed surplus. Howoperated in favour of rich peasant. He hoped that this would be either an opportunity for political accommodation. rural power hase is indispensagricultural taxation and by subsidising able if constitutional politics is to be In the post. Price inflation accelerated.liberal mniddleclass element alarmed vernment at this juncture prepared itA by the kind of State being created in first plan document (Planning Com. there was no open challenge luctant to tax agriculture. But this was achieved withdrew certain measures which by an authoritarian rule so severe that faced stiff opposition from the agri. These latter cirindustrialisation. in this context. despite controls. we find in post-colonial Bangladesh the power elites striving to increase production by shifting the emphasis within the existing produlc2065 . there was devaluation. agriculture's taxable capacity was Duiring Sheikh Mujib's regime. with agricultural output and a steady rise the cost of living index rising by somei 3(}0 per cent. etc) and the left-wing guerilla groups. period. The economic policies The First Five-Year Plan. In this battle between rural The country's consumer boom was and urban bias. country was livirng on a knife edge. Alavi. supported middle class citizens. though. 1975. social tensions and political violence. In Bangladesh. an inflationary pressure which tended since the Kulak sought to legitimise the floods and famine of 1974 with the and secure their own interests by penedleaths of many peasants. Sheikh Mujib's regime failed to incorporate the largely populist masses into a representative democracy.tute a majority of the population. or at least serve as a manoeuvre to defuse the situation. the increased and the marketed surpluis exhibited a definite upward tendency. financed not hy domestic production rural interest gained. they within the system the Kulaks and the were even higher than the prices of bourgeoisie continued their battle for some manufactured goods. the government policies were enough to create military and middle class consternation (YuLnus. thus constumption tintouched by efforts to failing to exploit agricultures' taxable tuirn prosperity to national advantage. 1971). 1976). ment began by experimenting with and exemption from an associated set draconian measures to restrict wages govern. to the rural sector. land legislation programme upon the 197. It was this dilemma that influenced Sheikh Mujib's decision to form one 'national' party. The climax w. fundlamental structural changes in the The Awami League was founded rural areas. An important polarisation process in to reinforce the featture of this alliance was that the the rural areas during the post-colonial reached in l)ourgeois forces were less dominant. where peasants constiSheikh Mujib's government strength. and on the other. during Mujib's period. nor favourable terms of trade. who seemed . It could not satisfy the rural rich without losing urban middle class support and risking a military reaction. The Budgets of 1974 and 1975 With it a powerful pressure group became unbalanced.

R (1972): "Pakistan: Failure Bangladesh: Past and Present. The BanglaideshDevelopment Studies. unpublished PhD Primodial Loyalties'. H (1973): 'Peasant Classes and Rural Bangladesh". Yunus. Jahan. Thesis. M. m. Three Junior Research Fellowships. Muzaffer 1939-40 the District of Dinaipur. T (1975): 'Pakistan and Bangla. S (1976): and Military Elites in Bangladesh'. V.Rashiduzzaman. Works Programme and Rural Deve0 (1942): Final Report on the Bell. Alipore. Minimum Qualification: A Second Class Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Economics. "Bangladesh: A Alamgir. hut subordinate to position has lecome l)Ioc. John Saville. Jahan. Alamgir. Volume I. (ed) Ralph Milibanvi and Jahangir. European One Senior Research Fellowship (Post-doctoral) for Studies in Economics of East European Countries at Rs. in Suirveql and Settlemient Operation Sobhb. R and Abmad. Bangladesh and Cevlon". that certain new forms of consciousness are revealed by peasant action. 600 p. R (1957): "The Dynamics John Saville. the ideological the left and the within differences localised nature of political confrontaaccount for the factors tion. D. 'The Bureaucratic Gon. m. fiagmentation of the class struggle rather than primnordial loyalties (Alavi. M (1968): and Administration in the Local Results and Prospects'. G. 197:3). B (1975): "Basic Concept of search Note" (mimeo). The SociaBang-ladesh".D. Alavi. M (1975): "Diagnosis of Agriculture Sector and Evaluation of Politics: A Case Study of Bangladesh" (mimeo). and piecemeal. ment in Bangladesh". A (1976): 'Land Reform and Agrarian Change in Bangladesh'. list Register. University of Peasant Studies. Although agrarian struiggles are spearheaded bx the different left-wing parties.n. of the State the rural rich are structurally aligned with the bureaucracy and the dominant political parties. Polarisation and Confrontation in Alavi. R (1976): 'Agrarian Structure and IRDP-Preliminary Considerathe tions'. 5) References Abduliah. But though the urban power their position is subordinate now nationally. I. The Socialist Studies Quarterly. (1976): "Public Enterprise in an Government of Bengal. in Finance . in rural struggles nature of class it is true Nevertheless. 1) Lecturers and Research Associates 2) Research Assistants 3) College/University teachers without a Ph. Alavi. Number Durham. that. Dacca. In this way. Abdullah. The Bangladesh Development Review. is becoming more clearly defined. in the Centre for Studies in Economics of East European Countries 6) MasMinimum Qualification: At l1ast a Second Class Bachelor's and ter's Degree in Economics. G (1974): "The Political ProForum. (1973 January 10). (ed) Robin Blackburn. mainly in the local areas. plosion in Subcontinent: District Coumcils in East Pakistan". the poor peasants. (ed) Ralph Miliband and Mukerjee. makes the peasants sometimes passive and indifresults fragmentation Since ferent. Volin National Integration". H (1971): 'Bangladesh and the 2066 Master's Minimum Qualification: At least a Second Class Bachelor's and with knowledge of East European language preDegree together ferable. Soblhan. Number 2. R (1976): "Members of ParliaCrises of Register. the ideological differences among them are to link their sbarp and attempts separate mnovement into one have so This suggests far been unsuccessful. which.okontho. H (1975): 'India and the Colo. Rural Sociology". Legislative Pakistan'. They are most marked in the relations between peasant and the local agents Whereas bureaucracy. 600 p. Bangladesh. 1977 ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY During Sheikh Mujib's relations. slow combination of the f'rom the growth of the economy. shape to the forms and intensity of po)litical confrontation at both village and national levels. "Politics Ali. Application form duly completed should reach the undersigned before 16th January 1978. Volume IV. B K (1976): "Differentiation. The latteiL the existing to challenge attempts national power structure from a class position. A Mosharaff. in the rural areas they continue to be dominant. Number 2. obtainPrescribed application forms and further particulars may be ed from the Registrar. Three U. these defensive temporary. Against this domination is fragmented resistance. because of increasing economic differentiation and polarisation. "Exdesh: Councils: A Study of Union and India. A R (1972): "The Economy of nial Mode of Production'. GOKHALE INSTITUTE OF POLITICS & ECONOMICS PUNE 411004 Applications are invited for the following: Minimum Qualification: A Second Class Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Economics together with Ph.Khan. operate organised by the left-wing.December tioIi 10. Wood.'s Senior Research Fellowships (Post-doctoral) at Rs. but with some published research are also eligible for Senior Fellowships. G. H and Nations. (1971 March 13). A Recess in Rural BangladeshCaleski. M (1976): Case of Below Poverty Level Equilibrium Trap" (miimeo). in Economics. in this context. Itine I. power bloc period the agricultural l)ecame a contender for national powei their in the changed context. the process of differentiexpands the potential area of ation and gives tension and dissatisfaction. Dacca. Pakistan. Intermediate Regime". F lopment in East Pakistan".R (1968): "Basic Democracies. Bengal Government Press. Number 1. Volume IV.D. Dandekar Director One Junior Research Fellowship of the Reserve Bank of India for Ph. 4) East Knowledge of East European language and research work on the Economy is preferable. of Rural Society". The Journal of Durham.

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