Desher Dak – ‘The Call of the Homeland’
in Class, ethnicity and religion in the Bengali East End
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Chapter 2 looks at links with the homeland and Bengali politics. It begins with the movements for independence from Britain and for the formation of Pakistan; and it goes on to the growing movement for East Bengali autonomy and then independence, as the Bengalis came to believe they had exchanged colonialism under Britain for colonialism under West Pakistan. It also looks at Bengali responses to problems relating to immigration, which sometimes – as in the issuing of passports –overlapped with Pakistani politics. It charts the development of movements for democracy and independence in East Bengal and supportive activism in London. And it examines the role played by Bengali students and professionals in co-ordinating political mobilisation and in welfare activities – where, despite their radical left politics, they relied more on patriarchal bonds than on class analysis. The chapter explores the impact of Communist Party ideology on progressive politics, and especially revolutionary stages theory and popular-front organisation, which encouraged the activists to set aside long-term aims for socialism, and concentrate on immediate demands for national independence and on resolving community problems. It argues that, instead of leading to socialism, this marginalised the socialist aims that most activists claimed to support.

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