The 3 January 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Bengali daily ‘Ganashakti’. The Golden Jubilee for an institution, especially for a newspaper committed to social causes with a revolutionary class outlook, is a commendable achievement. It is possible for a newspaper which has been consistent with its principle and capable of creating a credible niche of its own among the reading public.
The first edition of the daily Ganashakti was launched on Tuesday, 3 January 1967 by the CPI (M) West Bengal State Committee, at a very turning point.
The mid-1960s had witnessed the unfurling of a new political chapter in West Bengal and at the national plane as well. On the one hand, the Communist movement in India had to overcome the danger of ‘Right’ revisionism followed by the ‘Left’ sectarian deviation; and on the other, a series of popular upsurges -- like, the Food Movement, militant trade union mobilization, teachers’ movement, students-youth struggle, consolidation of women’s movement, land movement, movement of middleclass employees -- involving almost all sections of the society, converged into a strong and broad-based democratic movement under the leadership of the Left and democratic forces. A radical shift in the state politics was felt imminent. In the general elections in March 1967, the first non-Congress ‘United Front’ government was formed.
The Ganashakti was born and has been growing with the people’s movement.
Ganashakti started its journey as a four-page tabloid-size evening daily. Comrade Saroj Mukherjee (1911-1990), its founder editor was a much-respected freedom-fighter and one of the pioneers in the Communist journalism in the country.
In fact, the title, ‘Ganashakti’ has a long legacy in the history of Communist journalism in Bengal, and historically Comrade Mukherjee had been connected to ‘Ganashakti’ since the mid-1930s. It was in 1933, the Communists in the undivided Bengal founded a publishing concern named as ‘Ganashakti Publishing House’ in Kolkata. In August-September, 1934, just a month after the CPI had been banned in Bengal, the ‘Ganashakti Publishing House’ launched a newspaper titled ‘Ganashakti’, with young Comrade Saroj Mukherjee as editor.
Then, the monthly Ganashakti was brought out by the same ‘Ganashakti Publishing House’ in August 1938. It continued till April 1939. Comrade Muzaffar Ahmad was associated with this magazine.
After the Independence, ‘Ganashakti Printers Pvt. Ltd.’ was established in 1952 by the CPI West Bengal Provincial Committee, a year after the lifting of the ban on the party. The initiative was taken by Comrade Muzaffar Ahmad, Comrade Promode Dasgupta and others. The Swadhinata, daily Bengali organ of the CPI, had been printed from that press for a long time.
Ganashakti came back again in 1964 in the backdrop of an intense ideological struggle within the CPI against the ‘Right’ revisionist tendency. On 21 March 1964, the CPI State Committee (led by those who later founded the CPI-M) started a new weekly organ, ‘Ganashakti’, under the editorship of Comrade Saroj Mukherjee.
The weekly could last for nearly a year and its publication had to stop when almost the entire leadership of the Party was put behind the bar by the then Congress rulers.
Just before the 4th General elections, a sheer need of the publication of a daily was essentially felt with the intensification of the mass and class struggle steered by the CPI(M) and the Left. The publication of the Bengali evening daily ‘Ganashakti’ was initiated at that time to meet the demand of the new political upheavals. Comrade Saroj Mukherjee had been its editor till 1983. Later he assumed the charge of Chief Editor and held that responsibility till his death.
On 1 May 1986, from an eveninger, Ganashakti was converted into a full-fledged morning daily. The second Left Front government at that time was about to finish its second term in the office. The Congress government at the Centre on the one hand started implementing the Fund-Bank dictated economic policies, and on the other, its anti-democratic tendencies started to surface fast. The corruption in the high offices of the government also shocked the nation.
Where as in West Bengal, the advanced outpost of the Left in the country, all the reactionary forces was trying to remobilize themselves desperately.
Consequently, it became necessary to make Ganashakti more active and stronger to face the new political challenges. As a morning daily,Ganashakti has been playing its role in a befitting manner in keeping with the expectation of progressive and democratic forces. Late Comrade Anil Biswas (1946-2006) had been the Editor of Ganashakti from 1983 to 1996. His contribution in steering the paper during those trying days will always be remembered.
With the increase in activity, the need for a more spacious office for Ganashakti was felt. A new building was constructed by raising funds through mass collection across the state. Comrade Jyoti Basu inaugurated the new office on 2 January 1997 in presence of Comrade Harkishan Singh Surjeet.
The Ganashakti has spread itself with the changing time. Now, apart from the Kolkata edition, two separate editions are published, one from Siliguri (started on 5 February 2001) and another in Durgapur ( started on 3 January 2004). Both these editions have earned popularity.
Ganashakti has always embraced the state-of-the art technologies for professional up gradation, ranging from gathering news items to quality production.
Ganashakti installed rotary machine on 30 April 1970. Offset printing started on 12 September 1980. For a long period of time Ganashakti was a four-page paper. Subsequently, two more pages were added on and from 1 December 1984. The printing of multi-colour edition of Ganashakti started on 000000.
The online English language edition of the Ganashakti has been launched on 16 November 1998. The Internet edition of daily Ganashakti was launched on 1 September 2004.
Keeping its basic character as an alert political organ of the Left and other progressive forces intact,the Ganashakti has changed a lot in form and content down the years. It is now bringing out regularly a number of weekly special pages on wide-ranging issues, such as, industry and business, agriculture, trade union activities, international politics, national politics, sports, tourism, gender issue, literature, art & culture, science and technology, etc. A vibrant ‘Letters to the Editor’ section attracts people across the state.
The pages of Ganashakti are open to contributors from all walks of life. Apart from leading figures of the CPI (M) and the Left movement and the Left mass organizations, noted personalities from the world of letters, art and culture, academia contribute regularly in our paper. We encourage healthy and constructive debate on issues that affect people’s lives. Undeniably, the Ganashakti holds a special position in the households of West Bengal.
However, the five decade long journey of Ganashakti was never a cake-walk, it has always been on a thorny path. In every step it had to overcome, albeit with unflinching backing of the toiling masses, the hurdles inflicted by the ruling class.
During the dark days of semi-fascist terror in the 1970s Ganashakti had to struggle hard in the face of vindictive attack of the Congress government. But, we remained unfazed. During the days of internal emergency in 1975-77, attempts to persecute the paper continued unabatedly. The Congress governments both at the Centre and in the State showed scant respect for the law of the land and stopped issuing government advertisements. Many of our comrades were evicted from their homes. Yet, we went on publishing our paper.
Now, again following the political change in 2011, the Ganashakti has come under fascist-like attack. The situation has even surpassed the scale and scope of the violence and terror of the 1970s. Already, several thousand stands of Ganashakti spread over all parts of the state have been dismantled by the hoodlums of the present ruling party, so that we cannot reach our readers. In some parts of the state, even reading Ganashakti in public is fraught with the danger of physical assault. Ganashakti is also denied of its due share in State government advertisements despite a clear verdict from the Calcutta High Court. Even, private organizations are threatened to refrain from giving commercial advertisements as per the norms followed by the Indian Newspaper Society, of which Ganashakti is a bona fide member. However, Ganashakti never bowed down or won’t ever before any despotic ruler.
Ganashakti withstood the test of time in the face of each and every emerging political challenges. The debacle of socialism in East Europe and the consequent fall of Soviet Union in early 1990s tilted the worldwide balance of forces in favour of imperialism.
The neo-liberal globalization has not only shaken the international economy and trade, but also has impacted badly on our socio-political and ideological domains. Politics and the political system have borne the direct impact of neo-liberalism. Despite the accentuation of economic and social inequalities due to the neo-liberal policies, the State is increasingly acting as the protector of finance capital. The neo-liberal impact has also led to an increasing nexus between business and ruling class politics.
The media space too is not free from such neoliberal offensive. Increasing corporate control over all means of public expression is posing a serious threat to the very notion of pluralistic democracy. The corporate-run media has been reduced to the role of a mind-less manufacturer of ‘consent’ for the State-sponsored neo-liberal policies.
The offensive of the communal and fundamentalist forces with retrogressive and obscurantist ideas of all shades have been escalated many-fold.
The reinstatement of the BJP-led government at the Centre reveals the corporate- communal nexus and their desperate attempt to implement neo-liberal agenda more aggressively. The fight against all forms of communalism is now integrated with the fight against the neo-liberalism.
The Ganashakti does not believe in deceptive ‘neutrality’, we stand by the side of the working people and defend their just demands. Ganashakti stands for democracy and secular values. Ganashakti fights against imperialist machinations, communalism, religious fundamentalism, caste-division, sectarian identity politics, against superstition and social backwardness and against the social and political order that seeks to retain exploitation of man by man.
We do not and will never compromise with the truth-telling role of the press. The experience of last five decades will pave the way for future struggle. Since its inception, “Ganashakti” has been conducting an incessant fight against all obstacles in its effort to uphold the cause of the struggling masses. It has played a gallant role in spreading the message of the fighting masses. It has never yielded before the power of the corporate capital.The role of Ganashakti truly conforms the glorious pro-people tradition of the Indian press.
As a People’s Paper, the Ganashakti will remain committed to its foundational principle in the days to come.