Blogging from India #2 Roommates

PWW Editor Teresa Albano is blogging from India, where she is attending the conventions of the Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist). The parties hold seats in the national Parliament and lead the governments in three of India’s states.

HYDERABAD, India — The Communist Party of India started its congress (convention) March 23. International guests are arriving now. Some 25 countries are expected to be represented. Besides the U.S., delegates from Brazil, Bangladesh, Spain, Vietnam, Nepal, Australia, Greece, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Sri Lanka have already arrived.

My roommate is from the Communist Party of Bangladesh. She told me to call her LIna.

Lina said she was worried about rooming with an American, since her English is not “good.” But Lina’s English is much better than my Bengali so I’m lucky.

Communists are always interested in talking politics. So we’ve been able to communicate. Lina is interested in what’s going on in the U.S. I try to explain what our struggle is like. The new possibilities for change, especially during this election year. But Lina is worried. She hears from her friends who live in the U.S. that nothing is happening. That the only quest in the U.S. is to make money. That the younger generation is very satisfied with their lives. Everything is easy, she hears. A push of a button and you get what you need.

I try to explain that so many young people oppose the Iraq war, are against Bush and are getting very active in the 2008 elections.

But she's not convinced. Lina is a leader of a peasant/farmer organization. She said her elder son is jobless but her other son is a teacher. 'Life is very hard in Bangladesh,' she said.

With 17 sugar mills in Bangladesh — some slated to be closed this coming year — Bangladesh has to import its sugar. The Adamjee Jute Mill, the biggest jute mill in Asia, has been closed under the order of the World Bank’s so-called reform program.

The World Bank is leading a whole deindustrialization program in Bangladesh. But that institution’s donations make up only 2 percent of Bangladesh’s economic development budget. So the Communists and others are demanding that the government stop listening to the World Bank’s advice.

This is why people are jobless, Lina says.

There are people in Bangladesh, she says, that have so much money they can get medicine to save their lives. But there are so many more that don't have money, so they can't save their lives if they are sick.

Bangladesh is one of the world’s poorest countries even with its rich supply of natural gas and other resources including human and cultural resources.

Lina said the partition of India still negatively affects Bangladesh to this day. Bangladesh, like Pakistan, was part of India before the British partition of the country. Before partition there were East Bengal and West Bengal. After partition West Bengal became an Indian state, East Bengal became East Pakistan and after its people fought for and won independence from Pakistan it became Bangladesh.

I asked how people call themselves: “Bengali” or “Bangladeshi?” She said the term Bangladeshi comes from imperialism, but added that she uses the term when she writes for the CPB’s newspaper.

Many sons and daughters of Bangladeshis go to the U.S. for educational and economic opportunities, as do youth from many countries. The contradictions between the world’s richest and the world’s poorest countries are spurring needed change on the U.S. political front.

Yet there aren't big contradictions in our room, even though I come from the biggest and richest imperialist power on the planet and Lina comes from one of its poorest and industrially-developing countries. That's the strength of working-class internationalism.