Comrade Selim is general secretary of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) and he is currently in Britain, meeting people in our Bengali communities and other political representatives, writes CP general secretary Robert Griffiths as they shared a number of platforms at meetings.

His party is the biggest force on the left in Bangladesh, but is tirelessly engaged in building wider alliances to break through the two-party system that serves the big land and business interests.

When Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) won its independence in arms from Pakistan in 1971, it was "a setback to US strategy in the region," Selim explains.

The outlawed communists had played a key role in every aspect of that struggle, including through their military "Special Guerilla Force," winning huge respect across Bangladeshi society.

But the assassination of president Sheikh Mujib in August 1975 put an end to a brief period of progressive, democratic government.

"The army elements involved were backed by various Middle East and imperialist powers," Selim says. "It marked the beginning of a reactionary, pro-imperialist and pro-Pakistan tack that continues to the present day."

Once again the communists came to the fore, playing a leading role in the 15-year fight against a military dictatorship that sometimes hid behind a civilian facade.

"It was the people's uprising against military autocracy that finally established real civilian, constitutional rule," Selim points out.

Since 1990, government has alternated between the Awami League, which led the original liberation struggle against Pakistan, and the Bangladesh National Party (BNP).

"There have been four changes of regime, but the bourgeois, neoliberal, pro-imperialist tack remains the same," Selim says.

He outlines the growth in social inequality among the country's 159 million people. More than two-thirds of the population live in the countryside, infectious diseases are rife and the majority of women are illiterate.

He blames the small class of "plundering capitalists" who control 80 per cent of official GDP and much of the "shadow economy" which is almost as big.

"These are the criminals, who accumulate but don't reinvest," Selim charges. But he does not believe that a more productive, non-corrupt model of capitalism is possible in Bangladesh.

"The two-party system is sustained by the mass media and other extra-constitutional powers, giving the illusion that change can take place while the plundering capitalists remain in power," Selim says.

But the plunderers are also fighting each other over the spoils of exploitation, lining up behind either the Awami League or the BNP.

This rivalry between the two parties and their respective paymasters creates permanent political instability in the country.

Currently, the two parties and the courts are locked in battle over the constitutional requirement that general elections - the next is due late next year - should be preceded by a short period of non-party rule to prevent electoral fraud, which in any case remains widespread.

"All of this is superficial, because both bourgeois parties appoint their own 'neutral' supporters to these caretaker governments and the plundering capitalists ultimately decide who wins the election," Selim maintains.

Non-aligned President Yunus asked the CPB for proposals to break the deadlock, but its suggestion that all parties nominate representatives who are not elections candidates was rejected.

Today's Awami League government, not surprisingly, wants to abolish the provision altogether, citing an ambiguous judgement by the Supreme Court.

With league and BNP supporters engaging in violent clashes, two other factors deepen the country's political crisis.

The first is the growth of the Islamist movement, capitalising on the despair of people who seek refuge in religious identity and values. The fundamentalist Jamat-i-Islam party is backed by Saudi Arabia as an alternative to al-Qaida and currently aligns itself with the Muslim-based BNP.

Although the Islamists campaign to overturn the country's secular constitution and institute sharia law, Jamat-i-Islam has less of a problem with neoliberal economic and pro-imperialist political policies.

"This is controlled communalism, manipulated by unseen hands in the US state department to justify increased US political and military involvement in our nation's affairs," according to Selim, coming to the second factor.

He points to the secretive Human Assistance Necessity and Statute of Process Agreements, which allow for the deployment of US forces in Bangladesh without notice and with immunity from domestic law.

The presence of the US navy's Seventh Fleet in the Bay of Bengal has sparked mass protests led by communists and the left.

"Along with pre-emptive strikes and regime change, this is all part of the US doctrine of 'limited sovereignty' which it has been trying to impose on the world since the fall of the Soviet Union," Selim says.

He is only too aware that US foreign policy strategists now regard Asia as their main centre of interest in the 21st century.

In particular, he fears that US assets in the Awami League and BNP might begin to argue for a military-backed "crisis government" to deal with large-scale civil disorder.

This makes it all the more important, in his view, that an alliance is built to break the two-party consensus.

But the unity process has been hampered by differences within the communist movement itself. After unification with the CPB in 2010, a section of the Workers Party has defected to support the Awami League, attracted by its secularism and recent orientation towards China.

Nonetheless, the Communist Party of Bangladesh helps lead an 11-party alliance of left and liberal parties.

Together with the smaller Socialist Party of Bangladesh, it has drafted a programme for government that defends secularism and democracy, challenges poverty and proposes a genuinely independent foreign policy.

In this context, Selim also emphasises the need for much closer co-ordination of the world's communist parties.

"We are lagging behind the drive by US imperialism and transnational corporations for global governance," he concludes, "which is why we should be organising our actions on the international level as well as nationally."