From FIGHT, May 1937, Vol.1 No. 6, pages11-12. Published by the Marxists Group, UK
Transcribed, edited & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2009 for ETOL.
While Europe has been enjoying the pronouncements of Hitler and Mussolini on one side and the nincompoops of the Non-Intervention Committee on the other, India, that country of 550 million people, has passed through a historic phase without giving rise to a single headline in the “Nationalist” press.
The Indian National Congress, unlike the Communists and Socialists of Europe, has affirmed with a loud and powerful voice that it will not participate in the coming Imperialist war, on whatever side the masters of India might decide to fight. Not only that: Nehru has been touring India asking the people not to have anything to do with the war of the masters.
Close on the heels of the first assembly of the National Congress in a village, where a hundred thousand people collected from all over the country and showed the might and strength of the anti-Imperialist organisation in India, have come the elections to the provincial Assemblies under the New Constitution. Though the franchise is still very restricted and there are only 30 to 35 million voters, a bare 10% of the population, and the Constituencies have been devised to the disadvantage of the mass forces, yet the Congress Party, which stands for anti-Imperialism in the eyes of the masses, has won such a victory that even the Baldwin landslide of 1931 pales into insignificance beside it. In 1931 the Labour Party still secured one third of the votes. In the Indian elections the combined groups of the reactionaries have secured only 13% of the votes. In many constituencies the henchmen of the British Government, with titles and medals to decorate them, forfeited their deposits in spite of police protection. In one constituency an ex-Minister did not poll a single vote—a record in the history of all elections.
These results are surprising not only to the Government, but to many a political prophet. The illiterate Indian voter, trudging for miles to reach the polling booth, had found the right coloured box and put the Congress Party in a majority in six Provinces, and made them the largest single Party in three others. In only two Provinces have the Congress Party not had very great success. In these Provinces the franchise is very mall and does not reach to the masses but only to the small and newly educated Mohammedan classes in the towns. Even in one of these Provinces, the Punjab, a Marxist, and for a long time a guest in one of His Majesty’s Prisons in India, has defeated a prominent Government supporter, and that in a community which is supposed to be loyalist and supplies a large number of recruits to the Indian Army. That betokens woe to Imperialism in the next war.
Now, how are these victories going to affect the struggle of the masses? The issue of whether to accept office has come to the fore. The right wing Nationalist elements are determined to form a government wherever the Congress Party has a majority, while the rising Socialists are trying to dissuade the mass organisation from taking this fatal step. Anyway, whether the Congress Party accepts office or not, they are not going to become the instruments of British repression. Many of the new Legislators have had their political education in the prisons, and are going to resist to the utmost the efforts of the Governors, with their special powers, to bow them down and make them Little Ramsays, respectable and courtly, Already the Coronation Durbar has been cancelled because of the Congress boycott, in spite of all assertions from the India Office to the contrary, and on the first of April, the Congress Party observed a day’s General Strike. The repressive machinery of the Government is going to flout the popular feeling of India and perhaps enact measures for which they are condemning the Italians in Abyssinia. Whether it is going to be better or worse than Congo, nobody knows, but India is entering a phase of struggle where beatings and shootings are going to be more commonplace and on a much larger scale. The war preparations of the Government might make them a bit cautious and conciliatory at first, but ultimately there can be no question of compromise where two opposites meet. The Socialists are going to gain a prestige and influence in India which will test their leadership to the uttermost. For a Marxist, Nehru has still to earn his spurs in real political class action.
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Last updated on 9 March 2009