Spartacist English edition No. 65
Correction: On Bangladesh and the 1971 India-Pakistan War
The ICL’s Seventh International Conference approved the following motion.
The line of the article on Bangladesh printed in Workers Vanguard No. 4, January 1972 (“New Masters for Bangla Desh”) and repeated in a series of articles through 1975 was false. It called for revolutionary defeatism in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971, wrongly asserting that the struggle for Bangladeshi independence had been subordinated once the Indian army intervened in East Bengal. With this position we failed to support the just struggle of the East Bengali masses for national liberation and effectively ignored the genocidal slaughter of East Bengalis by the Pakistani military.
Integrally connected to this false line, these articles were saturated with contempt for struggles against national oppression. We sneered, “The reformist Socialist Workers Party, which considers everything from last year’s Quebec general strike to a meeting of black Democrats as examples of ‘revolutionary nationalism’…” (“Bangla Desh: The Fruits of Betrayal,” WV No. 16, February 1973). We could ridicule our opponents as tailing petty-bourgeois nationalism but did not champion the struggles of the oppressed nations. In the same article, we cited the poverty and repression of Bangladesh, a semicolonial country, to justify denying the fact that the achievement of independence represented a victory for the Bangladeshis. We wrote: “These are the realities of Bangla Desh ‘independence.’ This is the meaning of giving ‘critical’ support to the Indian army’s ‘liberation’ of East Bengal.”
We should have given military (but no political) support to the Indian army intervention. The Indian army in fact was the handmaiden to Bangladeshi independence. Even after it became abundantly clear that our projection that India would replace Pakistan as the political and military master of East Bengal was false, we arrogantly reiterated and defended our position. In some instances we justified this by claiming that India (and Pakistan) were imperialist. In addition, our position reflected ignorance of the realities of the Indian subcontinent, including particularly the religious divide drawn in blood by Partition. The notion that the Indian Hindu state would seek to absorb the large and overwhelmingly Muslim population of East Bengal was totally fallacious.