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Of course, the process of this political evolution has been complicated; and, as the Bengali case history demonstrates, these realignments are a product of developments in progressive left politics as well as of the apparent triumph of neoliberal capitalism. Comparisons are often made between the Bengali East End and the Jewish East End of an earlier generation. That Jewish East End nurtured a tradition of active secular left politics, including strong support for the Communist Party. The Communist Party was a dominant influence on the political mobilisation of the early Bengali immigrants too, as it was in anti-colonial and post-colonial movements more generally. But, as in other similar movements, the popular-front politics promoted by the Communist international allowed socialist aims to be postponed into an indefinite future while activists focused on the ‘first stage’ of national liberation. For the people from East Bengal, their struggle for independence from the British Empire, which took place when the immigrant community numbered only one or two hundred, had been riven by religious sectarianism; but the bloody battle for an independent Bangladesh in 1971 was fought in the name of a secular socialist republic. The more radical left put aside their differences with the nationalists in the joint fight for independence, but when that independence was won, the left found themselves side-lined. This was true among the East-End Bengalis too. The left had been so busy campaigning for independence and organising day to day community work that their socialism had been left on the back burner.
|Edward Juler speaking at the event|
***Author Professor Robert Savage is available for interviews in advance***