Till 2011, the Indian state of West Bengal had been under what the papers called "communist rule" for 34 years.

I never really understood what this meant. In a socialist country, how can a state have communist rule? Economic communism seems impossible when the monetary system is centralized.

Roughly which aspects of communism were active in West Bengal during the communist rule?

  • 7
    Communist rule means rule by communists, i.e. people who want to achieve Marx's ideal of a communist society. It doesn't mean they've actually achieved it. Jan 23, 2014 at 18:43
  • 2
    "Communist country" has a similar meaning. Cuba and the Soviet Union never created an actual communist society, but they're called communist countries because they believe in the ideology of communism, even if they haven't implemented it yet. Jan 23, 2014 at 18:46
  • It seems that West Bengal was not under "communist rule", but simply being an Indian state where a communist party won the elections and so governed for many years, they can't adopt radical measures which will be against the national constitution, at least in principle Sep 1, 2018 at 23:57

3 Answers 3


West Bengalese state had been governed since a few decades ago by the Left Front, which is lead by the Communist Party of India (Marxist). CPI Marxist is one of the many political parties in India that use the name of a communist party. Among them are CPI Marxist-Leninist, CPI Maoist and (of course!) CPI.

CPI Marxist's rule had been mostly conflicting with both illegal and legal activities of CPI Maoist, which had recently been declared a terrorist organisation by the Indian state (preventing CPI Maoist from participating in further legal activities) as well as other communist parties. In an occasion, CPI Marxist wanted to evict some poor peasants out of their lands by pursuing a pro-Chinese (CPI Marxist is perhaps the only pro-China communist party of India) policy, trying to industrialise West Bengal fast on the cost of leaving poor farmers homeless and landless, and joining a capitalist pro-globalisation economic program. (Today, West Bengal has numerous special economic zones, which they acquired at the cost of oppressing peasants.)

In a recent event (which was mentioned in David Harvey's work Right To The City) there was a conflict between the state forces (in West Bengal, the state which was controled by the CPI Marxist) and the peasants who wanted to resist eviction and mistreatment. There was bloodshed due to state officers firing at the peasants. To justify its actions, CPI Marxist claimed the peasants to be organised by the CPI Maoist - this would make sense to the majority of the India, because CPI Maoist was a genuine peasant revolt that later evolved into a class-conscious communist movement. However, it was false from what appears to be the official report on the event and CPI Maoist was not involved in the resistance. (It would appear it was a different group of parties including CPI Marxist-Leninist.)

Overall, CPI Marxist rule had been a largely capitalistic one, even more so today than it was before. Because of such anti-popular leanings, CPI Marxist is slowly but surely falling out of favor in West Bengal.

P.S.: Communism is an economic system that can happen only on a global, international scale. When you said "which aspects of communism," I believe you wanted a comparable answer to pre-Khrushchev Soviet Union, Enver Hoxha's Albania, Mao's China, etc., i.e. socialism, i.e. dictatorship of the proletariat. And perceivable from my overall answer, my response to your question is a very simple one: None.

P.P.S.: Socialism (or, as described by Karl Marx, dictatorship of the proletariat) can not co-exist with parliamantary democracy. (Described by Karl Marx as bourgeois democracy.) This makes CPI Marxist, along with Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, etc., a revisionist clique, i.e. they are not Marxists. As you can see, the name of CPI Marxist is fraudulent and it is vain to expect anything Marxist (that is, anything comparable to the dictatorship of the proletariat that existed in China, Albania, Soviet Union, etc., etc.) from them. (On the other hand, one could argue the socialistic management of Cuban, Venezuelan, Bolivian economies - socialistic but non-Marxist nature of Latin American countries, but I am yet to see anyone do so for the CPI Marxist.)

  • This is a good factual answer, but seems to not address the question precisely.
    – user4012
    Jan 23, 2014 at 0:01
  • 2
    I am sorry for not being clear with my answer. However, the overall implication of my answer to the question of "roughly which aspects of communism were active in West Bengal during the communist rule" is very simple: None. And in my answer, I have overlooked the fact that he said communism, when he actually meant socialism, i.e dictatorship of the proletariat. I am going to add a P.S. now to mention this, also. Jan 23, 2014 at 0:23

TLDR: there was no "communist rule" in West Bengal as Soviet Union and friends - it was simply a succession of elected administrations from a communist coalition (the Left Front) inside a non-communist (but somewhat socialistic) country, and while this coalition adopted some socialistic measures (as land reform), these were not so different than measures adopted by national Indian government, and later Left Front governments adopted some pro-market, non-socialistic reforms.

The "communist government" of West Bengal, led by the Left Front coalition, was not a communist/socialist rule like, for example, Soviet Union or Maoist China, since it was constrained by the national laws of India. The Constitution of India recognize the right to property and freedom of trade, although it could be said the safeguards of property rights in India were not exactly the greater in the world.

Besides that, it was democratically elected and so they could be removed from power through elections, and then the successor party could undo any radical socialist reform (in fact, the Left Front government was removed from power in 2011, after 34 years of sequential administration starting in 1977). The party composition of the Left Front also changed, with the addition of new parties.

Anyway, if a radical socialist program was adopted, we could expect it would deserve a mention in the wiki page for the History of West Bengal, right?

Inside these restrictions, the Left Front government tried some policies which could be considered "socialistic". Soon in its first administration, they passed a land reform act, where "share-croppers were given inheritable rights on lands they tilled". Another example is to grant "full trade union rights, including the right to call and observe strikes" in 1980 (for some commenters, there was huge labour militancy in West Bengala during the Left Front government, and this militancy could be a cause of reduction of industrial output and general economic problems). Communist propaganda was common in West Bengala too: lots of hammers and sickles, and many monuments or public homages to communist names as Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh . There was also a conflict between Indian government and another far left group, the maoist Naxalites, but fierce rivalries between different communist factions is not uncommon.

It should be taken into account that India was nominally socialist (although not a marxist-leninist state as Soviet Union), and that post-Independence Indian government adopted socialistic-like measures as land reform and nationalization of industries and economic liberalization only was seriously started in 1991.

And, between 2000 and 2011 the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, while a member of the Communist Party of India - Marxist, adopted some liberalization reforms (and faced an incident related to the eviction of peasants with the intuit of creating a special economic zone with a chemical hub by Indonesian Salim Group).


It is to be noted that West Bengal was under the rule of Left Front, (lead by CPI[M]), which had people with communist mind, and the party itself was democratic, as per the constitution of India.

Read This website to know more about exactly how the rule was, what were the major developments and ultimately the nature of government West Bengal had for 34 years.

  • I think this answer could be greatly improved if you put a summary of what you link said... But the first paragraph helps to differentiate between this government and the governments of communist countries - constitutional restrictions which would forbid certain radical measures as the ones did in Soviet Union, Maoist China and the such Sep 2, 2018 at 0:36

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .