THE CREATION OF
CLASSES IN BANGLADESH SOCIETY
This paper focuses
on the formation of social differentiation and stratification with the
class structure of Bangladesh.
The effort here is
to trace the growth of Bengali Nationalism and its politics, our historical
background and to relate the development of stratified social forces to
our socio-cultural characteristics and the relations of production that
exist in our society.
The political and
economical system that is described in the ensuing pages is the logical
corollary of the social-contract worked out in the following analyses.
Serajul Alam Khan
The total population
of Bangladesh is about 114 million (according to 1990 population report)
of whom 62.5 millions are grown adults (over 18 years). Children and adolescents
constitute 30 percent of the population i.e. 34.2 million. There are 17.3
million teen-agers. 48 percent of the population are female which figures
at 53.75 million. The number of tribal people living in the Chittagong
Hill Tracts and elsewhere in the country are 1.3 million.
52 percent of the
national income comes from industry, trade & commerce and the service
sector. Agriculture contributes the rest of the 48 percent.
The industrial labour force employed in mills and factories, transport
industry, tea gardens, weaving and other industrial units alongwith
agricultural labour force numbers about 30 million. Agricultural labourers
form the largest chunk of this force i.e. about 20 million. These 30
million people constitute the workers in Bangladesh. The nature of their
work mainly involves physical labour.
The number of white-collared staff in the government, semi-government,
autonomous and non-government institutions, agencies & offices,
shops, trading houses, commercial organisations and factories stands
at 5.6 million. Their work is clerical and semi-clerical in nature.
These people are known in Bangladesh as employees.
The relatively well-off groups of cooperative farmers, other land-owning
farmers, agronomists, diploma agriculturists, engineers, diploma engineers,
physicians, rural doctors, teachers, lawyers, journalists, artists,
literatures, cultural activists, writers, social workers, shopkeepers,
small and medium businessmen, commercial executives, factory owners,
executives of government and non-government organisations, officers
and members of the village defence force, Ansars, Police, Border Defence
Force and Armed Forces make up the body of professionals in Bangladesh.
They are known as professionals for the kind of work they do and for
the kind of social status and technical know-how they possess. Their
number stands at about 9 million.
About 18 million adult
are unemployed. The age of this majority ranges from 18 to 25 years. These
people do get occasional and temporary jobs, but these do not bring them
enough money for their livelihood. That makes them by and large dependent
on the earnings of the other members of the family.
Division Of Social Forces
- The Workers:
The workers the labour force of Bangladesh, earn their livelihood, basically
by selling their physical labour. In the present capitalist form, they
are employed as labourers in the factories, transport industry, tea
gardens, garments & weaving units and other industrial units and
as agricultural labours in the land owned by co-operative farmers and
other land owning farmers. Although proletariat in the classical sense,
these people have a propensity to acquire small business and property.
The relationship between the factory-owners and labourers is generally
non-antagonistic. But sometimes it turns hostile. The transport workers
are apt in ensuring their daily income by striking a balance between
the owners and management. The employers-workers relationship in the
tea gardens, weaving units and other organizations also do not invite
labourers are, in fact, totally dependent on the land-owing farmers
for their year-round employment. This situation of co-existence of
the labourers with the employees and professionals is quite obvious.
Many employees and professionals are also closely or consanguinity
related to the workers. But the workers are in many ways better organised.
This is perhaps, one of the reasons why the workers are considered
as so vital a social force, on the basis of numbers, that no economic
activity can take place without their participation.
- Employees (White-Collared
Workers): The employees i.e. white collared workers in Bangladesh
are people of a low income bracket. They act as a necessary managemental
link between workers & professionals. Although they are employed
in different government and non-government offices, organisations, institutions,
trading and commercial houses etc. they often are engaged in petty business.
They don't sell their physical labour like workers. Many of them have
a small piece of land. The income difference between the workers and
the employees is not much. Yet the employees tend to consider themselves
a little better-off than the workers. Again on the question of protecting
group interests they, in most cases, forge a unity with the workers.
They have a proclivity towards attaining the status of professionals.
They nourish an ambition to become the owner of a property of business.
However, this desire is not fulfilled, not even in case of an insignificant
of Bangladesh constitute a well organised social force who have the
capability to bargain for the fulfilment of their demands.
The professionals of Bangladesh constitute that portion of the population
who are well established both social and economically. Most of them
come from the middle and lower middle class. They are the harbingers
of science, technology and knowledge, production and distribution, art
and literature, administration, defence etc. as well as the owners and
possessors of land, capital, talent and technological know-how. The
workers and employees cannot conduct systematic economic activity without
the participation of the professionals. This class can be characterised
by its egoism, intolerance and parasitism. Ambition is also a general
characteristic that pertains to these people. Despite the fact that
they have different ways of living and thinking from those of the workers
and the employees, the professionals cannot live in isolation from the
workers and employees. In Bangladesh, the professionals are a very well
organised social force.
In a nutshell it can
be said that these workers, employees and professionals are such a determinant
social force that no political, economic, social or cultural growth can
be achieved without their joint participation.
- The Bengali speaking
eastern part of India is distinct from the rest of the subcontinent. Village
oriented Asiatic 'kowm' (collective) ownership based rural society was
economically stagnant, though it was not that difficult to earn one's
living. Unpredictable weather used to bring in sorrow and sufferings in
the daily life of people. But the three basic amenities for life i.e.
food, clothing and shelter, were so easily available that people hardly
ever had an occasion to experience a long struggle against adverse conditions
of living. And as we know that the evolution & development of science,
knowledge and technology centres around the procurement of these three
basic amenities of life and since those were relatively easily available
the urge for development of science, knowledge and technology was never
felt among the people of this land. Development of the skill of artisans
was limited to the fulfilment of the requirements of the rural aristocrats.
This skill had no relationship with the necessities and the way of life
of the mass of the people. Whatever trade and business was there during
the forth, fifth, eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries came to
an end after the fall of Pals and Sens. The alien administrative system
introduced and conducted by the Arab, Afgan and Turks after the eleventh
century was mainly meant for the personal earthly pleasures of the rulers.
These rulers sometimes revolted against the central rule of Delhi only
to ensure their absolute personal enjoyment. The rural masses had no involvement
with the lavish life style of the rulers or with their revolts against
- Some administrative
changes in the region were noticed during the Moghal rule, in connection
to the collection of land tax. Moreover, the stagnancy in the rural life
of Bengal was yet to be shaken off.
- The history of
East India Company as well as of British rule covers a special chapter
of the history of our subjugation and economic exploitation by foreigners.
But it was this period that enabled us to enter the modern age in which
the modern postal system was introduced, communication system was developed
through roads and rail roads, small factories were established, river
ports were build, ship building docks were established, trade and commerce
both in national and international areas were developed, modern paper
note currency was introduced. This process officially imparted a social
mobility within the hitherto static rural life of Bengal.
- The extensive
expansion of English as a language during the British rule was a new addition,
which also resulted in the development of knowledge, science and culture
in the region. These social, economic and culture activities helped the
emergence of a middle class along with transmitting dynamism in the life
of the backward masses of Bengal.
- This eastern part
of India is riverine. Nature is to some extent erratic here. The main
occupation was agriculture and fishing. The form of livelihood and culture
in this region was dependent on rivers, nature and agricultural production.
- In the later ages
the admixture of Aryan, Hindu and Muslim culture gave birth to a mixed
culture and a new form of livelihood. This should not be identified with
that of mere Hindus or Muslims. This hybrid culture is what came to be
known as Bengali culture.
- The people of
this region have their distinctive ethnic entity. The biological mixture
of Aryans, Muslims and the Magh, Dutch and Portuguese pirates contributed
to the changes in the physical shape, appearance and behaviour of the
people of the region.
- The European
type of slavery of feudalism never existed here. The pattern of land ownership
was ecclesiastical-based on religious institutions like the mosques and
the temples. The European type of revenue collection was also absent in
the region. In the rural 'KOWM' ownership based society the amity of the
people of different religions was noteworthy. In the absence of a central
rule, the Bengali speaking region of India with its above mentioned political,
socio-economic and cultural identity grew as a totally different society
in respect of history, politics, tradition, ethnicity, culture and understanding
of life. The history of the last thousand years is the testimony of this
- The first expression
of the need for making a separate state comprising the region inhabited
by Bengali speaking people was manifested in the historic 'Lahore Resolution'
of 1940. The 'Lahore Resolution' had two basic points. First, to build
a modern state in the eastern parts of India where Bengali speaking people
form the majority and second, to run that state by applying a democratic
mechanism formed by people's representatives appropriate to a modern state.
The reference made to the Muslim majority in the 'Lahore Resolution' indicates
the necessity for demarcating the boundaries of the different states.
This was a point of reference, not the basic issue. But the so called
'two-nation theory' preponderated over the main theme because of the diplomacy
played and pressure exerted by the British rulers, the Muslim League and
the Congress. The creation of Pakistan and India was an abortive effort
to nullify the central theme of the 'Lahore Resolution'. Although Pakistan
was created on the basis of the 'two-nation theory', the people of East
Bengal started to oppose it right from its inception.
- The language movement
of 1948, 1949 and 1952 was the expression of the self realisation of the
Bengalees of East Bengal, opposed to the concept of Pakistan. The landslide
victory of the United Front in the 1954 general election was its political
eventuality. The demand for greater provincial autonomy under the 6-points
demand in 1966 and the mass upsurge of 1969 and 1970 under the 11-points
movement added a new chapter to the Bengali re-awakening. Bengalees provide
the existence of a separate entity of East Bengal through the results
of the 1970 national polls and the non-cooperation movement in the early
months of 1971. Finally, the birth of Bangladesh through the nine months
long armed struggle of the people proved that the 'two-nation theory'
was wrong. The essence of the 'Lahore Resolution' would never die.
This is the unique
role played by the Bengalees of East Bengal in creating an independent
state for themselves.
- The Bengalees
in the Indian state of West Bengal by successfully implementing left politics
in their society have amply proved that they are the fore-runners in building
up a socialist society. The Bangalees who once played the leading role
in the fields of ideas, culture, literature and economics in the whole
of India role in the fields of ideas, culture, literature and economics
in the whole of India have proved once again the they can create an independent
state for themselves in the Eastern half of the land and go ahead with
the efforts to build up socialism in the other (western) half. This role
of the Bengalees in the East and the West still remains a subject of research
for the politician and the social scientist of the future.
- After the fall
of the Palas and the Sens dynasties the alien Muslim rule put a discord
into the continuity of traditional rule in the region. Later, even the
Moghal and the British could not establish the continuity of political
administration. Apart from that, lack of continuity imparted some distinct
features to the politics of this region. To perpetuate their colonial
exploitation the socio-economic development and the modernisation in education
and culture brought by the British rule gave birth to a modern middle
class. This middle class started political activities which raised the
political consciousness of the people. Thus were born the Indian National
Congress, the Muslim League, the Krishak Paraja Party, the Communist Party
etc. The terrorist movement was also initiated and led by this middle
- The economic and
social conflict between the Hindu elite and the Muslim elite was the main
political factor in the 1940s. That is why the conflict between the oppressed
poor and the elites of the Hindus and the Muslims remained out of the
scene. This precipitated the distortion of the 'Lahore resolution' and
opened the scope for the creation of Pakistan and India.
- During the Pakistan
period the conflict of interest in the political, economic, social and
cultural field between the rising Bengali middle class and the West Pakistani
bourgeois took a clear shape within a very short time. The twenty-three
year long continuous political movement of the anti-Pakistani Bengalees
of East Bengal formed the basic structure of Bengali Nationalism. This
was led by middle class Bengalees of East Bengal.
- The middle class
who led the creation of Bangladesh on the basis of Bengali Nationalism
has begun to experience quantitative and qualitative changes in life,
ideas and points of view. A scope for playing a creative role befitting
an independent state has been ushered in. The middle class concentrated
on strengthening the capitalist socio-economic structure as much as they
can. Although dependent of foreign capital and technology, this capitalist
trend is playing special role in the development of the economy of Bangladesh.
With industrial growth under the capitalist economy the numbers of workers
and employees are also increasing.
- These workers and
employees possess 'labour-power'. Rural society is also no longer static.
Capitalist mode of production is spreading fast in agriculture. The circulation
of agricultural products is increasing both in the national and international
markets. The ownership of lands is getting concentrated in the hands of
the rich and middle class farmers. The agricultural labour force comprises
60 percent of the rural population. The decaying old middle class has
given birth to a new middle class. Physicians, engineers, agronomists,
journalists, teachers, businessmen, factory owners, civil and military
officers, scientists, technologists, artists, writers, lawyers together
comprise the new middle class. This middle class is the leader in production
and distribution, science, technology and art, literature, culture. They
own capital, organisation and talent. They have special training. They
are the professionals in Bangladesh society. These professionals possess
skill and technological know-how.
The Developed Form
Of Bangali Nationalism
- The establishment
of a nation state for the Bengalees, i.e. Bangladesh has added a new dimension
to the ideas, concepts, mentality and inspirations of the Bengali middle
class. The outlook of Bengali Nationalism has gained depth and expansion.
People are no longer confined within the nationalistic concepts and ideas
of 1940, 1952 or 1971. Isolatory identification as Hindu Bengali or Muslim
Bengali or Christian Bengali or Buddist Bengali or as Bangladeshi instead
of Bangali would open no scope for solving any national or social problems
- After the emergence
of Bangladesh the identity of Bengalees has not only become deep and wide,
the new identity of the Bengaliees of Bangladesh in their respective occupational
fields as workers, employees and professionals is providing them with
incentive to engage in different socio-economic activities. Along with
their general identity as a Bengali the special identity that they carry
are Bengali worker, Bengali peasant, Bengali employee, Bengali teacher,
Bengali physician, Bengali officer, Bengali agronomist, Bengali engineer,
Bengali artist, Bengali author, Bengali intellectual, Bengali scientist,
Bengali technologist, Bengali factory owner, Bengali banker, Bengali businessman,
Bengali journalist, Bengali policeman, Bengali soldier etc. The identity
of a Bengali decided in this way by relating him to his work or occupation
is a worker, an employee or a professional.
- There is a big
difference between the identify of a Bengali as Hindu Bengali, Muslim
Bengali, Bangla speaking Bengali or Bangladeshi Bengali with that of
a Bengali identified on the basis of what job he does. The reality of
political, economic, social and cultural view point of the people of
Bangladesh should be measured with this difference in consideration.
- The dominance of
the middle class on the social structure of Bangladesh is distinct. These
people compete with each other. They are intolerant, unstable and self-centered.
On the other hand, they cooperate with each other whenever their group
interest demands it. In addition to this middle class the rest of the
workers and employees of the society are also influenced with the middle
- All who belong
to these three broad categories want to own some wealth. Here every
one is engaged in an unreasonable competition. Everyone wants to compare
himself to the next higher level. Everyone wants to reach the peak in
his own field. It was because of these habits that Maculae described
the Bengalees as 'inferior' or 'lowly' people. But this description
was totally wrong. Terming the general socio-cultural properties that
are found in an entire nation as 'inferior' or 'lowly' is tantamount
to sully a society without perceiving its real nature. These socio-cultural
characteristics of the Bengalees are their national quality. The political,
economic, social and cultural future of the nation should be guided
by keeping these national characteristics of the Bengalees in mind.
Form Of Production
- The workers and
the employees are basically the owners of the 'labor-power'. The professionals
in turn control capital, technology, science, organization, arts and literature.
In one word, they control technological know-how or skill.
- An effective production-unit
depends on the organic coordination of the 'labor-power' of the workers-employees
and the 'expertise' of the professionals. But in the present day set
up of production relations in Bangladesh there exist a kind of fragmented
isolatory relationship between these two. To set up an effective production
process the representative of 'Labor-Power' and 'expertise' i.e. the
workers-employees and the professional people should be integrated through
ensuring their participation in the production, decision making and
the process of execution of those decisions.
Of Establishing A Social Contract Based On A Philosophical Logic
- In the light of
the politico-historical, socio-economic background, socio-cultural characteristic
and production relation, a new philosophical logic is also emerging in
support of the necessity to build up institutions through appropriate
- Every society
has to work out its corresponding philosophical logic and formulate its
- In the case of
Bangladesh, this philosophical logic must assure the satisfaction of basic
psychological and aesthetic needs of all the citizens, eliminate the flagrant
economic and social inequalities within the society and optimize the potential
freedom of each person and each social group to resist manipulation by
others. The Philosophical logic that is precipitated in the social milieu
of Bangladesh has earned fame as the concept of 'Participatory Democracy'
which requires representative participation of the workers-employees and
the professionals in the social policy making body or bodies on the basis
of equality. It needs formation and development of a new institutional
framework through an effective approach of social-contract to bring different
groups of people nearer to each other.
- The society that
falls either to find out the philosophical logic befitting its own specialties
or to devise and execute a social-contract or to enrich the philosophical
logic or to tune the social-contract with time is bound to fade away with
the cycle of time. This is one of the decisive factors for the rise and
fall of a society.
- The requirement
for today's Bangladesh is to give birth to an effective institutions based
on the appropriate philosophical logic and the social-contract.
- Effective institutions
aimed at bringing the workers-employees and the professionals nearer to
each other on the basis of social-contract should be built up. The social
unity that will emerge through the development of this institution will
turn into the guiding force in law making, administration, production
and distribution, knowledge and science, literature and culture of the
state and the people. This unity will be the national unity of the people
System Of Administration
And Economic Management On the Basis Of Participation
- In the back drop
of the social division, differences in the form and nature of social stratification,
the principal task will be to build up institutions at all levels of the
state and the society with a view to mobilizing the political, economic,
social activities of the people on the basis or participation. The applied
side of the philosophical logic of participation based on the participatory
mentality is the 'social-contract'. And the philosophical logic itself
in the context of Bangladesh is 'participatory democracy'.
- The aim of this
'participatory democracy' is the development of the entire people for
the proper development of the individual. Individual is not only a part
of the society he is the ruler and the social leader too.
- The administrative
system, law making body and its size, ways of voting, economic activities,
economic management and the system of production and distribution should
be built up on basis of 'participatory democracy'. These institutions
should be made into the people's centers for thought, consciousness, decision
making and implementation of those decisions by ensuring representation
of the workers-employees, and the professionals in those institutions.
On The Role Of
The Political Parties
- The political organizations
of Bangladesh center around individuals. These organizations generally
preach some ideology. That is why the structure, forms of character of
these organizations are uni-dimensional. But the point of view, behavior
and mentality of the workers-employees, and the professionals are multi-dimensional.
These people, therefore, cannot develop by becoming members of political
parties. On the other hand the trade unions, societies and associations
of the workers-employees, and the professionals to which they belong are
non-political and hence cannot play any basic role in statecraft and national
politics. These organizations are compelled to vote for political parties
and their roles become bound within the limits of economism. This is why
the workers-employees and the professionals need to be united into 'non-party'
bodies to ensure their role in the state politics, social and economic
fields. These 'non-party' bodies besides, will be committed to play political
roles. People from all strata of the society will get the opportunity
to practice politics and democracy only when 'non-party' political bodies
grow side by side with political parties.
- The workers-employees
and the professionals are the bridge or transmitting belt between the
government and the people. These three categories of people are the only
medium through which decisions taken at the highest level can be executed
at the lowest level. The lack of their democratic participation in the
decision making process makes them as if they are nothing but a machine
that only take orders and obeys.
- But the ideas and
thinking, hopes and aspirations of these people are not only different
from these of the political parties and groups, they also subtle and refined.
That is why ensuring the participation of the workers-employees and professions
in law making and its implementation is today's main political task. Any
political system that leaves the workers-employees and the professionals
without 'right' in practicing politics and democracy and render them 'powerless'
and without 'authorities' will keep politics and democracy far from the
life of the people.
- Importation of
new technology in the economic fields for enhancing the production system
is scientific. In the same manner the use of new political technology
is essential for making the political system compatible to modern times.
- The appropriate
use of political technology in the political area of Bangladesh entails
representation of the workers-employees and the professionals by building
up institutions appropriate for performing the effective social-contract
based on the philosophical logic.
Use Of Political
Technology in The Light Of International Experience
- New political technologies
are being used to bring about changes in political administration in the
Soviet Unit, China, Eastern Europe and the capitalist world. The political
role of the workers-employees and the professionals is being given constitutional
recognition in the countries of the world no matter which country belongs
to what political camp.
- These new political
technologies are being introduced because of the fact that the political
parties have failed to reflect ideas, hopes and aspirations of the workers-employees
are the professionals through their traditional party-based politics.
- In the case of
Bangladesh too, the constitutional recognition of the political role of
the workers-employees and the professionals is the most essential task
for the interest of social progress.
- Workers, Occupational
and Professional people units.