The Labour Monthly
Source: The Labour Monthly, Vol. 12, January 1930, No. 1, pp. 24-29 (2,352 words)
Transcriptionp: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
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[The opening speech of the Government prosecutor, Mr. Langford James, in the case against the thirty-three Indian and British working-class leaders at Meerut is of particular interest for the light that it throws on the character of this important political trial, because it is a speech primarily directed, not against the accused, but against the Russian Revolution, the Soviet Government, the Communist International, and the theory of Marxism and Leninism itself, reflecting with remarkable frankness the mixture of sneering, hatred and bewilderment which these subjects arouse in the bourgeoisie. Accordingly, we propose to reproduce the main portions from the verbatim report.]
June 12, 1929
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR HONOUR,—The accused in this case stand charged with a conspiracy to deprive His Majesty of the sovereignty of India, and the case for the prosecution is that they have sought to do that by means of a revolution. Now the slogan, which most satisfactorily, to my mind, sums up their intentions, is “Long Live Revolution.” A revolution is ordinarily an incident in time. It happens. It is done away with, and it gives place to that brighter and better state of things which, any way in the minds of its authors, it is destined to usher in. But the revolution which these accused have conspired for, and which they have visualised, is indeed a revolution that lives long. It goes on. It is a continuing and almost perpetual revolution. Now that is a point which I shall have to deal with much later on. At the moment I should like to remove one possible misunderstanding. This revolution that these accused have visualised is not a national revolution. It is an anti-national revolution.
They appear to me to entertain feelings of hatred towards a very large number of people, but it is reserved for those gentlemen, who are usually accredited with working for the attainment of Swaraj in India; it is reserved for these gentlemen to excite the particular odium of these accused. The Indian National Congress is stigmatised as a misguided bourgeois body, which has to be captured and converted to the peculiar views of these accused or else destroyed. Pandit Motilal Nehru is regarded by them as a dangerous patriot. His son, Jawaharlal Nehru, is dubbed a tepid reformist. Mr. Subash Chunder Bose is a bourgeois and a somewhat ludicrous careerist. Gandhi they regard and dislike as a grotesque reactionary. In his lifetime Lala Lajpat Rai was stigmatised as being personally a scoundrel and politically dangerous, while the late C.R. Das is written down as a poltroon.
Now the quarrel which these accused have with all these gentlemen, who are generally looked upon as the Leaders of Nationalist thought in India, the quarrel they have with them—and I am here using a word dear to the heart of the Bolsheviks—is that their ideology is all wrong. They are striving, or at present are accredited with striving, for independence in India. That is a hopelessly wrong ideology, according to the views of these accused. Mr. Gandhi’s crime is enhanced by two other considerations. He has the bad taste to have religious scruples, and there is no God at all in the Mecca to which these gentlemen look. Then secondly, he had the bad taste, after having, according to them, fomented revolution to a point at which it was possible, to have turned back in the day of victory, because of the horrors at Chauri Chaura.
Now I have stressed this point somewhat, because it seemed to me on reading the newspapers that there was some tendency to dub these accused persons as national patriots. They may be innocent or they may be guilty, but I think that they will agree with me entirely that there is no question of their being nationalists, and I feel that it must be particularly galling to them that this idea should have got abroad.
Now the object in fact which these accused had is, I repeat, anti-nationalist. They would, I think, say it was international, but the two words are really the same. Their object was, shortly put, to replace the Government of His Majesty King George in India, and in its place to put the Government of the Third Communist International. It might also fairly be stated that that was in effect to substitute for the Government of His Majesty the Government of Mr. Stalin as he is now called. In fact, it is the case for the prosecution that these accused are Bolsheviks, that is to say that they aim at the Bolshevik ideal, and that they have designed and worked to install in India the same rule as exists in Russia.
Now, giving the matter as much attention as I have been able to do, it appears to me that to be a Bolshevik of unimpeachable character you require certain definite qualifications to which the ordinary man does not aspire. You do not love your country, you are anti-country, you are anti-God, and you are anti-family. In fact I think it fair to say that a Bolshevik of unimpeachable character is anti-everything which the normal man considers decent. You have ruthlessly to hate those who differ from your views, and when the proper time arrives you have as ruthlessly to kill them. And last, but by no means least, I think it is quite essential that you should have no sense of humour.
Now I have indicated, and I shall have to indicate more later on, this anti-country or anti-national motive. With regard to the point of being anti-God I was much struck by a letter published in the Pioneer from seven of these accused persons. The reason for the letter is of little importance, but to make them intelligible, let me tell you in a word what happened. Motilal Nehru wrote a letter to the Pioneer in which he stated certain things against the accused, or appeared to do so. He subsequently made it clear that he did that by inadvertence. I particularly allude to the matter in that way, because I do not wish to enter into the subject of dispute between them and Pandit Nehru. In answer to Mr. Nehru’s letter they wished to make the point that the Red letters which, as I read in the papers, are flying round India (I have not been honoured with one myself)—that the Red letters did not emanate from any Bolshevik conspiracy, and the argument—and an excellent argument it is—which they used is this. The phrase “God and the Soviet” which occurs in one of them should be enough to make it clear that whatever their origin it is not communist.
I entirely agree. There can be no God according to the Soviet creed, and a large part of their propaganda is directed to destroying belief in God, whether he be the God of the Christian, the Jew, the Muhammadan or the Buddhist. The belief in Him is to be destroyed, and if and when the time comes that this reign of destruction comes to India, I am sure belief in the God of Hinduism will also have to be destroyed. All the religions of the world have to be destroyed, according to these gentlemen, and they have gone the length not only of murdering priests and desecrating churches but of setting up classes for the young men and young children to preach to them the gospel of anti-God.
Now, obviously, any man with such a mental outfit as I have indicated is not a pleasant fellow-citizen, but I agree that nobody could be indicted for a crime for holding these views. Any man is entitled to hold whatever views he likes, however unpleasant they may be, but Bolshevism is not merely an abstract philosophy. It is a rule of life. At any rate its disciples have gathered from it a working rule of life, incidentally one much to be reckoned with by those on whom it operates. There is a definite objective, and there are definite methods by which that objective is to be gained. Now in as much as we who appear for the prosecution propose to argue that the agreement, the mere agreement to put in practice the creed of the Communist International and to carry out its programme, ipso facto constitutes an offence under section 121A, whether, as we shall prove in this case, the programme has actually been carried out or not . . .
Counsel for One of the Accused—
Before letting my learned friend proceed, I would like to point out that he is giving his opinion in his address which must be confined to the statement of his case. He has in his own address a few minutes back stated that it is no offence to be against God, or to show any irreligious tendency. Has this question then any bearing upon the case? I submit that Your Honour will not allow my learned friend to make use of his own opinion in his address for the purpose of propaganda against the accused.
Mr. Langford James—
I think it would be asking as much of Counsel for the Defence as it is of asking a policeman to recognise a barrister to know what the case was about on the first day of the hearing and before it has been opened by the prosecution. But I must beg that I am not interrupted in the course of this address. I have considered most carefully what it is necessary for us to prove in this case, and I do not propose to introduce any irrelevant matter. If the statement of the case is propaganda against the accused, I am sorry, but I am afraid that the statement of this case is propaganda against the accused, but that cannot be helped. If the accused have broken the law of the land and have broken it in a manner which the public may think is a grotesque manner, it is not my fault.
Now, your Honour, a large number of people, when you mention Russia, connect it with bloodshed and a ruthless reign of terror and with the Cheka (now, I understand, known as the O.G.P.U.). That is a diagnosis of the situation, which although it is somewhat superficial, at any rate contains the germs of truth. I hope to satisfy you that according to the programme of this body in Moscow, violence, bloodshed and civil war is inevitable, and I should say that a reign of terror is unavoidable. But as I said before, it will be necessary for us to go a little more deeply into the matter and I propose to discuss as shortly as possible the origin, the objective, the organisation, and the methods and tactics of this Third International.
The origin need not detain us very long. Your Honour will remember, as a matter of history, that in the early part of the year 1917, a revolution took place in Russia. At that time the Bolshevik Party—which means the Party of the Majority—it sounds a ridiculous misnomer, because, as I shall show, they are a tiny minority, but the name comes from a certain conference held in London, at which what might be called the Left Wing of this Party was in favour of a larger programme than the other Wing who were called the Mensheviks (Minority Party). Now coming back to Russia in the early part of 1917, in fact in February, a revolution was accomplished. At that time the Bolsheviks attempted to overthrow the Government of the Tsar and seize the State, and they issued a very interesting manifesto, but in fact the revolution was accomplished by people whom they now call the Social Democrats, and who are associated in the minds of most people with Kerensky, and the Government of Russia came into the hands of the Kerensky group. The Tsar was deposed.
Later in the year, in fact in October, according to one calendar, and in November, according to another, the Bolsheviks organised and carried through a revolution against the Kerensky Government and they overthrew the Kerensky Government and seized the power themselves. In passing, it may be noted that this Bolshevik body, which later came to be known as the Communist Party in Russia, claims to have had in its ranks at the time of this successful revolution rather less than 24,000 men.
I have spoken of the Communist International. It is not the same thing as the Government of Russia ostensibly and outwardly. In effect it has exactly the same objective and exactly the same plan of action, and it is dominated by exactly the same people. Now it came into existence in this way. In the year 1864 there was established in London a First International, that is to say an International of Labour. This International died. In 1889 then was established a Second International at Paris. This Second International was in existence at the beginning of the Great War and it still exists. It has continued to exist and it is of some little importance in this case because it is known as the Yellow or Amsterdam International and from it has been coined the phrase to be Amsterdamed.
To be Amsterdamed means that you hold rational feelings with regard to the labour question, and rationalisation is one of the hated things in the Communist International. I want to put it a fairly as possible, I suppose it may be said that this Amsterdam International aims at the establishment of Socialism according to its views by peaceful and constitutional methods, whereas the Third International holds most strongly that no such method is possibility. In any case I will ask Your Honour to note that there is war to the knife between this International in Moscow, the Red International, and the other International in Amsterdam, the Yellow International, and to be a Yellow man is a dreadful crime in Moscow.