Friday, April 25, 2008


The All India Forward Bloc is a leftwing nationalist political party in India. It emerged as a faction within the Indian National Congress in 1939, led by Subhas Chandra Bose. The party re-established as an independent political party after the independence of India. It has its main stronghold in West Bengal.

History
The Forward Bloc of the Indian National Congress was formed on 3 May 1939 by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, who had resigned from the presidency of the Indian National Congress on April 29 after being outmanœuvred by Gandhi. The formation of the Forward Bloc was announced to the public at a rally in Calcutta. Initially the aim of the Forward Bloc was to rally all the leftwing sections within the Congress and develop an alternative leadership inside the Congress. Bose became the president of the Forward Bloc and S.S. Cavesheer its vice-president. A Forward Bloc Conference was held in Bombay in the end of June. At that conference the constitution and programme of the Forward Bloc were approved.

Formation of the Forward Bloc
The following year, on June 2022 1940, the Forward Bloc held its first All India Conference in Nagpur. The conference declared the Forward Bloc to be a socialist political party, and the date of June 22 is considered as the founding date of the party by the Forward Bloc itself. The conference passed a resolution titled 'All Power to the Indian People', urging militant action for struggle against British colonial rule. Subhas Chandra Bose was elected as the president of the party and H.V. Kamath the general secretary.

Nagpur conference
Soon thereafter, on July 2, Bose was arrested and detained in Presidency Jail, Calcutta. In January 1941 he escaped from house arrest, and clandestinely went into exile. He travelled to the Soviet Union via Afghanistan, seeking Soviet support to the Indian independence struggle. Stalin declined Bose's request, and he then travelled to Germany. In Berlin he set up the Free India Centre, and rallied the Indian Legion.

Arrest and exile of Bose
At the end of the war, the Forward Bloc was reorganized. In February 1946 R.S. Ruiker organised a All India Active Workers Conference at Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. The conference declared the formation of the 'FB Workers Assembly', in practice the legal cover of the still illegal Forward Bloc. Notably some leading communists from Bombay, like K.N. Joglekar and Soli Batliwalli, joined the 'FB Workers Assembly'. The Workers Assembly conference declared that the "Forward Bloc is a a Socialist Party, accepting the theory of class struggle in its fullest implications and a programme of revolutionary mass action for the attainment of Socialism leading to a Classless Society."
However, the Bloc was clearly divided along ideological lines. One section was influenced by Marxism whereas the other upheld 'Subhasism', a syncretic ideology consisting of socialism, nationalism and Indian spiritualism.

Post-war reorganization
The Bloc held its 2nd All India Conference in Arrah, Bihar on January 1214 1947. S.S. Cavesheer (a leading member of the Subhasist sector) was elected president and Sheel Bhadra Yagee (a leading member of the Marxist sector) was elected general secretary. Subsequently, a national council was held in Bauria, West Bengal, which reaffirmed the demand of boycotting the Constituent Assembly as well as issuing a decree that Bloc members of state legislatures would resign.

Arrah conference
Following Independence and Partition, the party national council met in Varanasi February 1948. The national council meeting was also preceded by a decision of the Indian National Congress in the beginning of the year to expel all dissenting tendencies within the Congress, including the Forward Bloc. Thus the party decided to renounce any links with the Congress once and for all, and reconstruct itself as an independent opposition party.
The same year Yagee's party decided to join the United Socialist Organisation of India, a front led by Subhas Chandra Bose's elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose. Joglekar revolted against this decision. His followers, which were found in West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, rallied to form the Forward Communist Party.
The Yagee-led party did however survive Joglekar's departure. Yagee was able to push through a merger between the Forward Bloc and the Desh Sevak Party, led by INA officers General Mohan Singh and Colonel Guridal Singh Dhillon, in October 1949. Both had worked closely with Subhas Chandra Bose. They had both been amongst the accused in the Red Fort trials. Now, Mohan Singh was appointed chairman of the Forward Bloc and Dhillon was appointed as its general secretary. This merger gave a considerable moral boost to the party. In June 1951 the majority of the Ruiker-led Forward Bloc reunified with the party. A joint central committee meeting was held on June 23, which confirmed the merger of the two parties. Mohan Singh and Dhillon were re-elected as the party chairman and general secretary.

Split between Yagee and Ruikar
In the 1952 general election the party contested as 'Forward Bloc (Marxist)', a denomination that differentiated it from the rump 'Forward Bloc (Ruiker)'.
In Tripura a united front was formed by the Communist Party of India, Tripura Ganatantrik Sangha, Ganamukti Parishad, Ganatantrik Nari Samiti and independents for to contest the election to the Tripura electoral college (whose function was to appoint a Rajya Sabha delegate from Tripura) jointly. The Forward Bloc participated in mass rallies on October 2 and December 2, 1951. However, just before the election the Forward Bloc withdrew from the front and decided to contest three of the 30 seats on their own. None of the Forward Bloc candidates were elected.
In 1953 a group of party leaders from West Bengal, like Amar Bose, Satyapriya Banerjee and Suhurit Chaudhury, were expelled for breaking party discipline. The expellees formed the Marxist Forward Bloc.

1952 elections
In 1955 the Indian National Congress adopted socialism as its policy. Thus leaders like Yagee and Singh then proposed that as the Congress had become a socialist party, the Forward Bloc ought to merge with it. Singh and Yagee, without consulting the Central Committee nor the party membership, declared the unification of the Forward Bloc into the Congress. Many sections of the party disagreed with this move, and a Central Committee meeting was held in Nagpur May 11-15. The Central Committee decided to expel Singh and Yagee. Hemanta Kumar Bose was elected as the new chairman and R.K. Haldulkar as general secretary. This team would continue in their posts until Bose's murder in 1971. U. Muthuramalingam Thevar from Tamil Nadu was elected as deputy chairman of the party.
Following the 1955 split the party would enjoy a relatively long period without any major splits.

Expulsion of Yagee and Singh
In 1964 a unity process was initiated by the Praja Socialist Party, which eventually resulted in the formation of the Samyukta Socialist Party. The Forward Bloc was invited to join the new party, and the Delhi unit of the party did take part in a joint socialist anti-Nehru campaign conference in April 1964. However, the party did not merge into the SSP.

Socialist unity
The party stalwart in Tamil Nadu, U. Muthuramalingam Thevar, died on October 30, 1963. Following his death a power-struggle began between two of his disciples, Sasivarna Thevar and P.K. Mookiah Thevar. Mookiah Thevar emerged victorious and Sasivarna Thevar left to form his own party, the Subhasist Forward Bloc.
A bye-election for the Aruppukottai Lok Sabha constituency seat vacated by U. Muthuramalingam Thevar's death was held in 1964, in which the Forward Bloc was defeated for the first time.

Death of U.M. Thevar
In 1965 the party joined a 'Progressive Front' in Tripura. The front consisted of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, the Forward Bloc and a break-away faction of the Socialist Party. The front demanded nationwide land reforms, strengthening of the national defence, withdrawal from the Commonwealth, nationalisation of foreign capital, a rational food policy, release of all political prisoners and scrapping of the Indo-American agreement of food supply. Existence of the new front was declared at a meeting in Agartala on November 17. Mass rallies of the front were held in Belonia on November 28 and then in Birchandra Bazar (near Belonia) on December 1.

Progressive Front in Tripura
In 1968 two influential party leaders in Tamil Nadu Velayudham Nayar (then a central committee member of the party) and S. Andi Thevar broke away from AIFB and founded the Revolutionary Forward Bloc. Nayar and Thevar accused the Forward Bloc of having deviated from its socialist principles through its cooperation with the rightwing Swatantra Party.

1968 split in Tamil Nadu
In July 1969, violent clashes erupted in West Dinajpur, West Bengal, between peasants aligned with the of Communist Party of India (Marxist) and East Pakistani refugee cultivators, who supported the Forward Bloc. CPI(M) leader Hare Krishna Konar characterized the events as a degeneration of the agrarian struggles in rural West Bengal.

West Dinajpur clashes
In 1969 a major split in the Indian National Congress. Indira Gandhi had entered into open conflict with the traditional Congress leadership. Effectively two separate Congress parties appeared, the Congress(R) led by Indira and the Congress(O) led by Kamaraj. The split was in many ways a left-right one, with Indira whipping up populism against the established party elites. The Forward Bloc did in some ways welcome the new developments. It appreciated Indira's stands and reformulated its anti-Congress line to focus mainly opposition to the traditional Congress elite (i.e. the Congress(O)). In the 1969 presidential elections, AIFB supported Indira's candidate V.V. Giri. This caused an abrupt break-up of the Swatantra-AIFB alliance in Tamil Nadu, as the Swatantra Party sought to align itself with the Congress(O).

1971–72 elections
After having contested the 1972 elections on its own, the Forward Bloc decided to join a 'United Front' led by the communist parties in Tripura.

Realignment in Tripura
1977 was a crucial year in Indian political history. For the first time in independent India, the Congress Party was routed in a national election. The Forward Bloc had contested four seats in the Lok Sabha election. In West Bengal it had three candidates which were supported by the Left Front, out of whom all three were elected.

1977 elections
Ahead of the 2000 Bihar legislative election AIFB took part in building a front together with the Bharatiya Jan Congress, the Bihar Vikas Party, the Janata Dal (Secular), the Samajwadi Janata Party and the Nationalist Congress Party. The front vowed to maintain equidistance towards the two major blocs in Bihari politics, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the National Democratic Alliance, condeming them as 'casteist and communal'.
Ahead of the 2006 West Bengal legislative election, a section of the party led by Jayanta Roy, former AIFB Rajya Sabha member, and Chhaya Ghosh, former West Bengal Minister of Agriculture, broke away and formed the Indian People's Forward Bloc. This party aligned itself with the Indian National Congress.

Recent history
In the 2007 assembly election in Uttar Pradesh AIFB launched three candidate, Ram Lakhan in Bisalpur (732 votes, 0.51% of the votes in the constituency), Samar Singh in Fatehpur (870 votes, 0.69%) and Jabar Singh in Hastinapur (503 votes, 0.42%).

2007 UP election
AIFB struggles for socialism in India but they consider that their ideology differs from that of Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Communist Party of India, as they build their socialism on foreign ideologues as Marx and Lenin, whereas the socialism of AIFB is the Indian socialism of Subhas Chandra Bose.
AIFB has branches throughout the country, but the main strength of the party is concentrated in West Bengal. It is part of the Left Front government in there, and Forward Bloc has various ministers in the state government. Notably though AIFB is cooperating with CPI(M) in West Bengal, Tripura and on the national level, AIFB is not part of the Left Democratic Front in Kerala.
AIFB, together with the Revolutionary Socialist Party, is significantly more hesitant towards supporting the Congress-led governments than the CPI and CPI(M).
In the Lok Sabha elections 2004 the party received 0,4% of votes and three seats (All from West Bengal).
The current general secretary of AIFB is Debabrata Biswas.

Forward Bloc today
In Andhra Pradesh the party had significant presence during the 1950s, but then declined sharply. In 2005 the party took an initiative to revive its Andhra Pradesh State Committee. A.K. Biswas became the secretary of the Andhra Pradesh State Committee. Other State Committee members includes G. Appa Rao, Malla Reddy, K. Narender, Konda Dayanand and D. Venkatesam. The party is opposed to the Congress-led state government.

Andhra Pradesh
AIFB has a small state unit in Haryana. The secretary of the Haryana State Committee is T.N. Gupta.

Haryana
The Forward Bloc established its presence in Tripura in 1948.

Tripura
It has also formed an India - China Friendship Association.
All India Youth League
All India Students Bloc
Trade Union Coordination Committee
All India Agragami Kisan Sabha (peasants' organization)
All India Agragami Mahila Samiti (women's organization) Mass Organizations

All India Forward Bloc State Election Results

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