The Spirit of ’71: how the Bangladeshi War of Independence has haunted Tower Hamlets.
In 1971 Bengalis in Britain rallied en masse in support of the independence struggle that created Bangladesh. This study explores the nature and impact of that movement, and its continuing legacy for Bengalis in Britain, especially in Tower Hamlets where so many of them live. It looks at the different backgrounds and politics of those who took part, how the war brought them together and politicised new layers, and how the dictates of ‘popular frontism’ and revolutionary ‘stages theory’ allowed the radical socialism of the intellectual leadership to become subsumed by nationalism. And it examines how the mobilisation in 1971 played its part in the formation of Bengali links with the Labour Party and the development of a pragmatic town hall politics; and how its shadow still falls on the community today. This history, which has largely been put together here from interviews with those who took part, has previously been little recorded outside a few personal memoirs in Bengali, and is a powerful story in its own right. It also provides a detailed example of the impact of international socialist developments on the evolution of politics among immigrants in a key period that saw decolonisation and nation-forming in their place of origin, and settlement and consolidation in Britain.