SAN AT BOSE*
Labour Journalism in Bengal in the Early 1920fs:
A Case Study of Two Bengali Labour Journals
LABOUR journalism as a new trend in Bengali journalism may be said to have emerged with the publication of the (monthly) Bengali labour journal Karmi from Calcutta in August 1921 (Bhadra 1328 B S). Until this time, other journals did publish labour news from time to time, but there was no journal that dealt exclusively with the world of labour in Bengal. Moreover, the publication of this journal was not merely an accidental or isolated event, designed and initiated by the imaginative brains of a few well-wishers of labour; this is shown by the fact that within a short span of three years (1921-1924), at least two other Bengali labour journals were also published from Calcutta. This growing trend of a shift in journalistic interest, coupled with the fact that those closely associated with these newly published journals were also connected with contemporary labour movements and trade unions, shows how labour as a subject matter was becoming increasingly significant both for the reading public and the society in general.
The purpose of the present article is to trace the background in which these journals were born, the views expressed therein and the trend of thinking among these early labour journalists-cum-leaders. For this purpose, we shall take up two labour journals, viz., Karmi (1921) and Samhati (April 1923).
At the close of the First World War and immediately thereafter an unprecedented wave of 'labour unrest' engulfed all the industrial belts in the eastern region, centering around various demands of the industrial working class. It led to widespread labour movements, mainly in the form of strikes, both violent and peaceful. These were often preceded or succeeded by lock-outs as well, and at times these two events (strikes and lock-outs) came in such rapid succession that the borderline of cause and effect became highly blurred.
The nature of labour unrest, its frequency, intensity, militancy and coverage (industry- or region-wise) as well as its impact on the contemporary political thinking and actions have not yet received due
*Jndian Institute of Management, Calcutta.