The Left has traditionally dominated industrial belts in West Bengal since the British left the country. The sustained movement that the Marxists had led to protect the rights of industrial workers through the 1950s till the 1970s had a lot to do with this phenomenon.
However, this supremacy suffered its first major jolt in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. There were many reasons, many of our own making. The first major mistake was to take people for granted. Maybe this attitude was restricted to some in the party but, over the years, all Left strongholds in these belts started feeling the heat. At the same time, we had to pay heavily for ignoring the task of pacifying the masses.
Organising movements to protect the interests of workers is the first duty of any Left-affiliated trade union. But this movement should have been steered more cautiously so that production did not get hampered and nobody could hold the unions responsible. Such adventurous moves initially received accolades but in the long run they paved the way for disaster.
If the CPI(M) is defeated this time, it will surely be reborn. There is no doubt we have made several mistakes for which people have moved away from us. But now, we have to ask them whether those enjoying popular support have any vision or mission better than what we have.
One of our major lapses was our inability to introduce new and young people in the leadership. However, this process has already begun.
Roy is general secretary of the Citu-affiliated Dunlop Workers’ Union.