Felix Morrow

The Truth About the Cripps Mission

(September 1942)


Source: Fourth International, New York, Vol.4 No.9, September 1942, pp.268-273.
Transcription/XHTML Markup: Ted Crawford and David Walters
Copyleft: Felix Morrow Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2004. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License


The policy of the British government toward India is the policy of Prime Minister Churchill. “I should not be able to serve in any Administration about whose Indian policy I was not reassured,” Churchill declared in a speech on February 23, 1931, “I would far rather be a loyal private member of the Conservative Party than bear official responsibility for actions and events which might involve a mortal injury to the greatness and cohesion of our empire.” In the same speech he said: “India is one of those supreme issues which come upon us from time to time. When they arise the men and women who faithfully guard the life of Britain and her Empire feel the same vibration. They felt it August 4, 1914. They felt it in the General Strike. They feel it now.” The policy which must prevail in any government he would participate in Churchill expressed succinctly in January 1930: “Sooner or later you will have to crush Gandhi and the Indian Congress and all they stand for.”

When Churchill became Prime Minister, the news was greeted with dismay throughout India where, of course, his views were well known. Whatever slight restraint there might have been previously placed on the totalitarian powers of the Viceroy was now removed. By July 1, 1941, by British official figures there were 12,129 political prisoners, including 28 former provincial ministers and 290 members of provincial legislatures. The reign of terror was concealed from the outside world by censorship of press dispatches, private telegrams and letters. As in 1924 and 1930-32 (during the two Labour governments), the British Labour Party’s participation in the government in no way lightened the oppression, but did serve to conceal it: only when the Labour Party is in opposition do its press and members of Parliament reveal a little of what is happening in India. That Churchill’s policy was prevailing was obscured for many by the coalition form of the government; short memories did not recall that it was a Labour government that brutally suppressed the civil disobedience campaign of 1930-32, and that Ramsay MacDonald’s “India is not a party question” has always been the guiding line of the labor lieutenants of British imperialism.

On September 9, 1941, Churchill told the House of Commons that the provisions of the Atlantic Charter do not apply to “India, Burma or other parts of the British Empire.” Japan’s victories in the Far East could not and did not change this fundamental attitude of the British ruling class and its labor agents. If Japan successfully invaded India, Britain might eventually drive out the invader and reestablish the status quo ante ; whereas a free India would be lost forever to British exploitation. But the fact that the native populations of Malaya, Singapore, the East Indies and Burma either aided the Japanese or did not lift a finger to aid the British, had a powerful effect on Britain’s laboring masses. They did not want to see the same thing repeated in India. In the United States, too, mass public opinion favored freedom for India. Without changing its fundamental policy, the British ruling class had to take notice of this widespread demand. After Pearl Harbor, Nehru and other Congress leaders were let out of prison to negotiate.

The comedy required a new leading man. Churchill could scarcely play it; nor Lord Halifax who, as Lord Irwin, had been the Viceroy who crushed the Indian Congress in 1930-32; nor Amery, the hated Secretary of State for India; nor Labourite leader Clement Attlee who had been a member of the notorious Simon Commission which had been boycotted by all India and whose recommendations had been too reactionary even for Baldwin’s Conservative government; nor even such a “left” Labourite as Harold Laski, who had justified the Indian repressions of the two Labour governments. Cripps was the ideal actor for the part having been expelled from the Labour Party for Popular Front agitation in 1938, he is still formally a non-party figure, hence not identified with the India policies of the Conservative and Labour Parties.

Since March, the spotlight has been on Cripps. Churchill and Viceroy Linlithgow and the rest have retired to the wings, while Cripps speaks the lines. With the help of the British and American press and radio Cripps is presented as though he inaugurated a new epoch in British relations with India, which Gandhi and Nehru insanely rejected. As if the puppet has displaced this master Churchill! It is a preposterous masquerade. But night and day every agency of propaganda pounds it into our ears, presses it into our eyes, beats it into, our brains. The most elementary facts about the Cripps Mission are unknown in Britain and America. A Himalayan range of lies has been erected to conceal the truism that British imperialism will not relinquish its totalitarian grip on the 400 million people of India.
 

The Dictatorship of the Viceroy

The first thing to understand about India and the Cripps Mission is the enormous scope of the powers wielded by the Viceroy on behalf of the British government. Under the Government of India Act of 1935, the following powers are “reserved” to the Viceroy.

  1. He can, against the vote of the entire Executive Council as well as the Central Legislature, decree laws in the name of the Government of India, and set aside any decision of the Legislature, Council or government departments (which are headed by the members of the Council). He chooses and dismisses all members of his Executive Council and presides over it as Prime Minister.
  2. He and the British government have exclusive control over the “Indian” Army; the Executive Council and the Central Legislature are specifically excluded from participating in any decisions connected with it.
  3. Whenever, in his opinion, the civil authorities are unable to cope with “disorder,” he can send troops into any province to put an end to it.
  4. One of his “special responsibilities” under the 1935 Act is the “safeguarding” of the rights of the personnel of the Indian Civil Service and the Indian Police, both at the center and in the provinces. This means that neither the Home Member of the Executive Council (who formally runs the central police department) nor the Central or provincial legislatures can dismiss policemen or other civil service functionaries without the consent of the Viceroy. In short, the Viceroy is the real controller of the police and civil service.
  5. The supreme power of taxation belongs to the Viceroy. He can impose whatever taxation he deems necessary to provide the funds for financing his “reserved” powers. Thus he alone can dictate what is to be spent and how it is to be raised. Under this power the Viceroy guarantees payment of dividends on government loans and bonds, rail-way debentures and numerous other British investments. What this means is indicated by the fact that in 1937 about 80 per cent of the Central Budget was earmarked for various payments guaranteed by the Viceroy. The burden was borne chiefly by the “independent” peasantry who, despite the catastrophic fall of agricultural prices after 1929, were compelled by the Viceroy to pay the same (45-50 per cent of their annual product) or higher taxes.
  6. The Viceroy has and exercises the powers which make India a paradise for capitalists and landlords, both the British and their native satellites. His troops crush strikes and terrorize peasants into paying fantastic rents and taxes. Peasants and workers’ leaders are detenues—held indefinitely without charges or trial. Every proposal of the International Labor Office for international agreement to raise wages, cut hours, curtail employment of women in mines, limit child labor, has been rejected by the Viceroy. Health and unemployment insurance are non-existent; the budget for education of natives is among the lowest per capita in the world, and illiteracy is among the highest—about 90 per cent. British profits from Indian enterprises are the classical example of colonial bloodsucking: the plantations, for example, have paid dividends up to 225 per cent in recent years; coal mines have paid between 10-50 per cent; manganese mines 100 per cent; jute mills 20-40 per cent, etc.

Not to mention still others, these are among the powers of the Viceroy under the Government of India Act of 1935. They keep India “the brightest jewel in the British crown.” One person out of five in England, Churchill and others have computed, lives off the rich booty from India. The lion’s share of course goes to the British capitalist class; but the jackal’s share has been sufficient to bribe the British Labour Party and trade union bureaucracy not to make India “a party question.”

Once it is clearly understood what the political and economic powers of the Viceroy are, one has the decisive criterion by which to judge any British “offer” to India: does it surrender these powers into the hands of the Indian people? By this criterion—and there can be no other—must be judged the British War Cabinet “offer” which Cripps took to India.

That “offer” refused to surrender a single one of these powers of the Viceroy. That is why it was rejected by the Congress leaders. Were this simple fact widely known and understood, the great masses of America and Britain would stand with the Indian people against Churchill-Cripps. But the entire British and American press and radio and movies have been mobilized to cover up this simple fact.

The Cripps Negotiations Cripps’ discussions with the Congress leaders went on intermittently from March 23 until April 10. So far as the so-called “independence” proposal for after the war, the discussion was over very quickly; by April 2, Cripps received the Congress resolution rejecting it. That they were completely justified in doing so will be established later. The important point to note is that, had Cripps proposed nothing else, the negotiations would have been over the first day. The principal content of the discussions throughout was Cripps’ proposal for an “interim government” to be established immediately. “So far as the proposals relate to the future,” declared the Congress leaders, they must be put aside; but we are “anxious to assume responsibility for India’s Government and defense in this hour of danger.” On this basis most of the discussions took place.

On the question of “interim government,” the Draft Declaration of the British Cabinet was extremely vague. It merely stated:

“His Majesty’s Government desire and invite the immediate and effective participation of the leaders of the principal sections of the Indian people in the counsels of their country, of the Commonwealth, and of the United Nations. Thus they will be enabled to give their active and constructive help in the discharge of a task which is vital and essential for the future freedom of India.” (White Paper, Cmd. 6350.)

What, precisely, did this mean? It appeared to be clarified publicly by Cripps’ radio broadcast in New Delhi on March 30, when he stated: “It contains one essential reservation”: Commander-in-Chief Wavell would remain in control of the armed forces. Even this reservation, however, was presumably modified by what Cripps went on to say:

“This reservation does not mean that the Governor-General and the Executive Council will, or indeed could be, excluded from taking an effective share in the council for the defense of India. In this wide-flung war defense cannot be localized in a single country and its preparation must permeate the activities of every department of government and must demand from every department the fullest cooperation.” (White Paper)

The clear implication was that, apart from this one partial “reservation”—the usual British legal term referring to powers reserved to the Viceroy and the British government—all other powers would be vested in the interim government as a whole. That is, they would no longer be in the hands of the Viceroy.

This is what Cripps told the Congress leaders when the negotiations began, they say. Their claim is substantiated by the fact that Cripps, in his letter of April 7 to Maulana Azad, the Moslem scholar and president of the Congress, expresses the hope that it will be possible “to embark forthwith upon the task of forming the new National Government in consultation with the leaders of Indian opinion.” (White Paper)

As Maulana Azad wrote to Cripps:

“You had referred both privately and in the course of public statements to a National Government and a Cabinet consisting of Ministers. These words have a certain significance and we had imagined that the new government would function with full powers as a Cabinet with the Viceroy acting as a constitutional head...” (Letter of April 10, White Paper)
 

A Gigantic Fraud

It was not until April 10—after two and a half weeks of negotiations—that Cripps, in an answering letter, stated:

“You suggest ‘a truly National Government’ be formed which must be ‘Cabinet Government with full power.’ Without constitutional changes of a most complicated character and on a very large scale this would not be possible.” (White Paper)

Whereupon, in a final letter breaking off negotiations, Maulana Azad wrote:

“I have just received your letter of April 10 and I must confess that my colleagues and I were considerably surprised to read it...

“It seems that there has been a progressive deterioration in the British government’s attitude as our negotiations proceeded. What we were told in our very first talk with you is now denied or explained away. You told me then that there would be a National Government which would function as a Cabinet and that the position of the Viceroy would he analogous to that of the King in England vis-à-vis his Cabinet... The whole of this picture which you sketched before us has now been completely shattered by what you told us during our last interview.” (Letter of April 11, White Paper)

On this decisive question we also have the testimony of Nehru, who told a press conference on April 11:

“Before the last interview with Sir Stafford Cripps on the night of April 10 there was a seventy-five per cent chance of settlement. Sir Stafford had talked about a National Government. He had said that the Viceroy would act like a constitutional monarch. His language had led us to conclude that the new government would function as a cabinet and that the Viceroy would not intervene.”

If Azad and Nehru are correct, that Cripps first offered a National Government on the British Cabinet model, and then withdrew the offer, then the whole Cripps Mission was nothing but a gigantic fraud, designed to mollify and confuse British and American public opinion rather than actually reach a settlement with India. Azad and Nehru are men whose word has never been challenged by a British spokesman; and they could scarcely have made a graver charge. Yet Cripps has never denied it. Nor has anyone else. Professor R. Coupland, a member of the Cripps Mission, has written a semi-official account, The Cripps Mission (Oxford 1942). Since this charge looms so large in the Congress documents, he is compelled to write:

“As to the character of the National Government, Maulana Azad directly charged Sir Stafford with shifting his ground. ‘What we were told in our very first talk with you is now denied or explained away.’ The Maulana had understood ‘that there would be a National Government which would function as a Cabinet and that the position of the Viceroy would be analogous to that of the King of England vis-à-vis his Cabinet.’...

“To this attack Sir Stafford made no rejoinder. The breach was obviously past mending, and he reserved what he had still to say for a wider audience than the Congress Working Committee. On the morning of April 11, after explaining the course and upshot, of the discussions tit( the Executive Council, he held his last Press Conference.” (The Cripps Mission, pp.74-75.)

Professor Coupland leaves the implication that at the press conference Cripps did answer the charge made by Maulana Azad. But Cripps made no answer, neither in that conference, nor in his broadcast immediately following, nor in his April 28 speech to the House of Commons, nor anywhere else!

The charge stands without denial. It brands the Cripps Mission as one of the biggest frauds in history, a fraud without which there would never have been any negotiations with the Congress—negotiations which the British now point to as proof of their willingness to make a reasonable settlement and hence a justification for their present massacres of the Indian workers and peasants.

Had the final Cripps offer been accepted, the Congress leaders and the other Indian parties would have found themselves in an Executive Council in which their decisions would have been overruled by the Viceroy, and his individual decisions promulgated in the name of the government as a whole. As Professor Coupland is constrained to explain:

“Whereas a Provincial Governor is bound as a rule to accept his Ministers’ advice, the Viceroy, apart from certain special matters on which he is required to act entirely on his own responsibility, is specifically entitled by the Act to dissent from the majority opinion of his Council as to any measure ‘whereby the safety, tranquillity, or interest of British India or any part thereof are or may be’ in his judgment ‘essentially affected.’ (Act of 1935) Thus, if a Governor of a province cannot legally concede full power to his Council, still less can the Viceroy. In either case, an undertaking not to use the over-riding power would be a breach of the law. The conversion of a quasi-Cabinet into a real Cabinet would necessitate a new Act of Parliament. It would presumably have to be a long and complicated Act, and it would certainly effect a ‘major constitutional change.’ The most, therefore, that the Viceroy could do was to say that he would make it a custom to deal with his Council, as far as possible as if it were a Cabinet.” (The Cripps Mission, p.79.)

“As far as possible,” Professor Coupland makes clear, would not have gone very far. Among the powers which the Viceroy and Wavell would have to continue reserving, he lists: (1) The use of troops to quell rioting, “unhappily a frequent incident of Indian administration. More than one case occurred in the two or three months preceding the arrival of the Mission.” (2) Safeguarding the rights of the Indian Civil Service and the Indian Police, “for it had been their duty under the old regime from time to time to take part in the repression of Congress agitation. That they bore the strain was mainly due to the knowledge that the Governors were charged with their protection” against Congress Ministries. (3) “One of the Viceroy’s responsibilities is to protect the Princes from violent subversive agitation on the part of British Indian politicians.” The Viceroy could not do this “unless in the last resort he could have his way in a Cabinet in which Congressmen were sitting.”

“The crux of the matter was the organization of national defense on a popular mass basis, but this is possible only under a free national government,” declared Nehru. Had the Congress leaders entered the Executive Council, they would have been powerless to do anything except serve as a fig-leaf for a continuation of the imperialist methods of the “Indian” Army: recruiting Indians only from the few parts of provinces which are considered to produce “loyal” soldiers; keeping all the strategic arms—tank, artillery and planes—in the hands of Britishers so that any possible revolt would be limited to infantry and menials; limiting Indian officers to a relative handful in the less important services; using the troops to crush the workers and peasants, etc.

In short, the only terms on which the British government wanted a settlement was a complete capitulation by the Congress to continued British domination. The Viceroy would have remained dictator. The Congress and other Indian members in the Executive Council would have been his puppets. Fortunately, whatever temptations may have been felt by any of the Indian politicians, they were under irresistible pressure from the Indian masses not to accept anything but an actual surrender of the Viceroy’s powers to an All-India government.
 

Cripps’ Communal Smokescreen

Since the breakdown of the negotiations, Cripps has made press statements, speeches and broadcasts—especially for American consumption—reiterating and reiterating that the breakdown came because of the “communal question” of Hindu-Moslem conflict. The latest of Cripps’ statements is a special article for the New York Times of August 23, in which he says:

“A temporary compromise was necessary... When I speak of compromise I do not refer only or mainly to the agreement between the British government and the various Indian parties, but to accommodation among the Indians themselves.”

The Times obligingly underlines this alibi with a headline: “Cripps explains the complexity of India’s problem in terms of the diversity of the Indian people.” As we have seen, this alibi is a deliberate falsehood. The negotiations never got to the stage of the actual composition of the government—how many Ministers for each group—because the British would not agree to curbing the Viceroy’s powers. If the government was conceded real power and composed of Indians, the Congress leaders were ready if necessary to accept a minority of the seats in it.

The falsehood that Hindu-Moslem friction made formation of a government impossible is refuted by Cripps’ own companion, Professor Coupland, who writes:

“The decisive factor, as has been seen, was the clash between Congress and British views as to the character of the proposed National Government. If agreement had been achieved on that point, not only Congress, but most, if not all, the other parties—with protests and reservations, no doubt, as to the future—would have come in.” (The Cripps Mission, p.77. Our emphasis.)

We have, in addition, the admissions of Cripps himself in his speech and answers to questions in the House of Commons on April 28, reporting on his mission. Cripps can lie without fear of exposure in his articles and broadcasts to America; but in the House he ran the risk of being confronted by one or two dissident Labourites (there were exactly two). So he had to say:

“Let me now come to the difficulties that arose. These were mostly concentrated into my discussions and correspondence with Congress leaders. The Moslem League did not deliver to me their objections, until after they knew the results of my negotiations with Congress.”

“The question as to the formation of a new Government, how the members of the Viceroy’s Executive should be treated and how the business should be conducted, were, of course, essential matters for the Viceroy, who had to carry on the Government of India and not for me as a member of the War Cabinet on a visit to India. I therefore told the Congress leaders that the exact nature of the Government’s operation could only be decided as a result of discussions with the Viceroy... I was not prepared to bind the Viceroy to accept any particular arrangement for the conduct of his Executive. It was on this issue that the final break followed.” (House of Commons Debates, April 28, 1942. Our emphasis.)

These words of Cripps give the lie to everything he has said since. One dissident Member, Mr. Cove, said when Cripps concluded in the House:

“I must say that it does not appear to me that the Lord Privy Seal had anything concrete to take out with him. There is no democratic substance or meaning in the Cabinet’s proposal.”

And Cripps made no attempt to refute him. The other dissident, Mr. Sorensen, angered at the stream of Conservative Party speeches which repeated the usual Moslem-Hindu friction alibi, got up and read a cablegram from Nehru, which stated:

“At no stage during the talks did any communal or minority difficulty occur...

“Since that time Cripps has been emphasizing the communal issue in the old Amery manner and has been endeavoring to divert attention from the real issue.”

Sorensen demanded an answer from Cripps, and Cripps had to give it:

“It is quite true that I did not discuss the minority (Moslem) question with Congress.” (House of Commons Debates, April 28.)

The truth is as Maulana Azad stated in a letter to Cripps during the negotiations:

“The National Government must be a Cabinet Government with full power, and must not merely be a continuation of the Viceroy’s Executive Council...

“We would point out to you that the suggestions we have put forward are not ours only but may be considered to be the unanimous demand of the Indian people. On these matters there is no difference of opinion among various groups and parties and the difference is as between the Indian people as a whole and the British Government. Such differences as exist in India relate to constitutional changes in the future. It would be a tragedy that even when there is this unanimity of opinion in India the British Government should prevent a free National Government from functioning...” (Letter of April 10, White Paper)

The fact is that in India the issue concerning the powers of the interim government was so clear, and the Congress position so popular, that even the reactionary so-called Moslem League, in its reply to the Cripps proposal after the negotiations broke down, did not dare to dissociate itself from the Congress on this question.

But suppose it had? What is this Moslem League? Cripps now warmly refers to it as the leader of the Moslems, although it is repudiated by the Moslem Premiers of two of the principal Moslem areas, Sind and Punjab provinces, and by numerous Moslem organizations, including the great Momin community. However, Cripps cannot wipe out what he said about the Moslem League in June 1940 two years ago!—when he returned from a visit to India; his admiring biographer quotes Cripps’ statement at that time:

“The controllers of the Moslem League are drawn almost entirely from the professional, landlord or industrialist class of well-to-do Moslems, whose interests are quite different from that of the Moslem masses. By aggravating religious passions these leaders can bring in behind them a large bulk of the 80 millions of Moslems who inhabit India. The Moslem League would like to see the return of the Moslem domination of India, to which they look back with pride and longing, but as this is impossible they have regarded the continuation of British rule as on the whole the lesser of two evil alternatives. The other is the government of India by the peasants and workers through adult suffrage and a democratic Indian constitution. The Moslem League fear this alternative even more than they dislike British rule. It is for this reason that they have refused to support the demands of Congress.

“We must ask ourselves whether the 250 million Hindus are to be denied self-government in a United India because 89 million Moslems either are afraid of it or put forward an impractical suggestion for the division of India in order to prevent the Indian peasants and workers from obtaining the control of their own country.

“In truth, if the 80 million Moslems were left to make their own political decision without any injection of communal animosity, the great majority of them would support the Congress Party’s program. In fact, many of them do today. Actually the President of the Congress is himself a Moslem and there are many Moslem organizations which oppose the Moslem League and support Congress in its demands.

“The attitude that is being adopted today by the British Government is that they can and will do nothing further until the Hindus and the Moslems settle their differences. This gives the reactionary leaders of the Moslem League the power to prevent the people of India getting self-government almost indefinitely.

“It is this attitude that the British Government is in fact encouraging, whether consciously or unconsciously.” (Stafford Cripps: Prophetic Rebel, 1941, by Erick Estorick.)

Nothing has changed since Cripps thus accurately analyzed the real situation in India—except that Cripps has entered the British Cabinet and is carrying out its policy “to prevent the people of India getting self-government almost indefinitely.”

That is why Cripps was so warmly praised in the House of Commons (as Mr. Sorensen then tauntingly pointed out to him) by the most ultra-reactionary Conservatives who utilized the occasion to boast that India would remain indefinitely in the British Empire. That is why the organ of British financial interests in India in the following terms praised the deliberate confusion he had spread:

“To speak of the Cripps Mission to India as a failure would he a sorry blunder... In the broader sense Sir Stafford Cripps has had success. He has fixed the eyes of the world upon the realities of the Indian problem. He has enlightened the American people, who in the past have been woefully misled as to British policy, actions and intentions in India. He has compelled the leader writers of a Left group of English newspapers to accept the truth that the obstacles to India’s political advance are wholly centered in India itself... These are great achievements.” (Great Britain and the East, April 18, 1942.)
 

Pie in the Sky By and By

India’s only road to independence was for Congress to accept the Cripps offer, say American spokesmen. In his speech of July 23, Secretary of State Hull scoldingly told India that only peoples who are “willing to accept the responsibilities of liberty are entitled to its enjoyment.” Earlier, the New York Times warned India (March 31): “British rule in India, if only India herself so wills it, has come to an end... If the Indians refuse this gift of freedom they will lose the offer of American comradeship that is now theirs for the asking.” India is thus being told by erstwhile “friends” to labor seven years in bondage in order to become free. Such “advice” is refuted by the fact that no nation in history ever won its freedom that way. Where is the nation that was granted its freedom by its oppressor?

Nobody in India believes the post-war promises of Britain. India remembers the similar promises made during the First World War, in return for which the “pacifist” Gandhi helped the British recruit soldiers and raise war loans in India. A member of the Canadian Administration accurately describes this British formula:

“Twenty-five years ago, Mr. Edward Montagu, the Secretary of State for India in Mr. Lloyd George’s Government, devised the formula for dealing with agitation for Indian independence. This formula consisted of two tactical parts: a generous promise of future action, and a resolute retention in the immediate present of all essential controls in the hands of the Viceroy. The Cripps’ declaration did not represent a departure from this formula... Promises are suspect in India. Regardless of whether or not the British have been sincere in their past promises, the fact is that even the best promises have never had any meaning satisfactory to the authentically Indian politician. Promises made at the present time are particularly open to suspicion because the future is something which Britain alone has not the power to shape... The Indian leaders know this, and they rightly suspect any declaration of which such promises are essential substance.” (India Since Cripps, August 1942, Free World, by Henry Stanley [(pseudonym])

Just as after the First World War, so after this, British imperialism would find any number of pretexts, not to relax its totalitarian grip on India.

To make absolutely certain of this, the Cripps offer itself included sufficient safeguards to keep India shackled. Let us list them:

1. Britain’s rule, including control over the armed forces in India, would not end with the conclusion of the war, but would continue until such time as a constitution is drawn up and goes into operation. Thus, on the pretext of preserving order during the elections and constitutional deliberations, the British could attempt to crush the Congress and, even more important, the growing workers’ organizations. It is an axiom of politics that the class which controls a country can largely determine the outcome of an election. The British and the civil service and police openly interfered against the Congress in the provincial elections of 1937, when the stake was merely the extremely limited provincial governments. One can imagine what the British will do when the stake is the constitution of India!

2. The election of delegates from the eleven provinces of British India to the constitution-making body would be conducted under the anti-democratic provisions for provincial elections of the Government of India Act of 1935. These, by property and educational limits to the franchise, permit only about 13 per cent of the population to vote. Of the 300 mil-lions of British India, only 36 millions were eligible to vote in the 1937 elections. It is estimated that over half the population is over 20 years of age, so that adult suffrage (to which the Congress is committed) would create an electorate of about 150 millions. But the British would permit less than one out of four adults to vote for the provincial legislatures which in turn would elect the constitutional delegates. The disfranchised 76 per cent of the adult population are of course peasants and workers. In the small minority permitted to vote, the landlords, rent-collectors and capitalists—Britain’s native allies and agents—carry great weight. Cripps’ electoral proposal, as the Labourite H.N. Brailsford said of the 1935 Act, “ignores the village and emancipates its owner.”

3. No elections at all would be held for constitutional delegates for the 93 million people of the Indian States, who would be appointed by the Princes. Thus about 25 per cent of the constitution-making body would go automatically to what Indians aptly call Britain’s Fifth Column. In his House of Commons report, Cripps coolly justified this as follows:

“Unfortunately, in my view, representative institutions have not yet developed in the great majority of Indian States, which must he dealt with as they are to be brought into the Constitution-making authority.”

British troops, as Cripps knows very well, have been the main force backing the Princes in preventing the development of “representative institutions.”

4. After wielding that bloc of 25 per cent of the votes on behalf of Britain in the constitutional body, the Princes can then reject the constitution and remain outside the Indian Union, continuing their present relation to Britain, i.e., British troops quartered there will, as the Congress told Cripps, be “a perpetual menace to the freedom of the people of the States as well as of the rest of India.” The role of British-controlled Ulster against Ireland will be duplicated on a hundred-times vaster scale.

5. Any province of British India may reject the constitution and remain outside the Indian Union by the following procedure: (a) Unless the majority favoring the constitution in a provincial legislature is 60 per cent, the question of ratification must then be submitted to the electorate. (b) When thus submitted a bare majority for rejection will keep the province out of the Indian Union. By this “solution” to the communal question, the British hope, with the aid of the Moslem League, to whip up enough religious frenzy to keep strategic Bengal and Punjab provinces out of the Indian Union.

6. The constitution and Indian Union that survive all this, the British government will “accept and implement” “subject only to the signing of a Treaty which shall be negotiated between His Majesty’s Government and the constitution-making body. This Treaty will cover all necessary matters arising out of the complete transfer of responsibility from British to Indian hands; it will make provision, in accordance with the undertakings given by His Majesty’s Government, for the protection of racial and religious minorities.” Put more plainly, whatever safeguards for British holdings in India have not yet been written into the constitution by the Princes, landlords and capitalists, will be exacted in a Treaty. All the methods by which the Viceroy guarantees Britain’s rich booty will have to be undertaken by the Indian Union government before the British will let it begin to function.

This is the post-war “independence” promised by Britain, for the sake of which American “liberals” have urged the Indian people to yield to British bondage for the duration of the war.

To their eternal honor, the masses of India have preferred to fight for their freedom rather than fight for their continued bondage.

 


Last updated on: 8.1.2006