J.R. Johnson

What India Means to the American Working Class

A Socialist India Is the Only Genuine Solution

(11 January 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 2, 11 January 1943, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

(Continued from last week)

Let us now sum up our conclusions so far:

  1. British imperialism and American imperialism are carrying on an inside struggle over who is to reap the profits of exploitation in India.
  2. The Indian Congress, representing the landlords and capitalists, like all the native ruling groups in the Far East, runs from one imperialist group to another. At the present moment the Congress is seeking frantically to negotiate with Britain, hoping to use Roosevelt and American pressure to force concessions from Britain.
  3. The central fact of the Indian struggle is the backwardness of the economy, whose agricultural production has been destroyed without the substitute of modernized industry. This gives drive to the nationalist movement but it is on the very backwardness of the country that Indian landlords, money lenders and capitalists thrive. They are therefore incapable of unleashing the only force which can throw the British out, because to do so would destroy their own position.
  4. The most important political development of the war so far is the awakening: of the Oriental peoples. India is today the center. What the Indian workers and peasants do next may well be the final push which will unloose a revolutionary struggle in the Far East embracing nearly a billion people. All the ruling groups, in the Far East and out of it,. are acutely aware of this and all statements, silences, etc., must be closely watched and analyzed in relation to the particular interests of the parties involved.

The present leaders of the Congress hope to use the Japanese threat and the revolutionary ferment to force concessions out of Britain. Roosevelt and Willkie hope to pacify the Far Eastern masses and save face in Europe by backing sections of the Indian Congress as rulers of India. Churchill knows that this will throw the Congress right into the hands of the United States and gives notice, “We mean to hold our own.”

What India Needs

Isn’t it clear that the only way out of this mess for the poverty-stricken Indian peasants and workers is to realize that the emancipation Of the workers must be the work of the workers themselves? Whom can they trust? Every imperialist power, Axis or anti-Axis, every native ruling group, have but one purpose – to exploit India or use the Indian struggle for their own ends.

India needs the wiping out of the princes, landlords and money-lending parasites who suck the peasantry dry; it needs the development of industry to raise the productive capacity of the country, and to reorganize agricultural production on a higher technical level.

We must bear this constantly in mind, for if we do not we lose sight of the fact that merely driving out the British will not solve the Indian problem. True, the British are the main problem today; they loot and plunder India mercilessly. But if it were possible (and it is by no means absolutely impossible), that some Indian government was cooked up and placed in power, it would mean only that another imperialism would loot and plunder, and the country as a whole would continue on its road to ruin.

The proper reorganization of the Indian economy can be accomplished only by the destruction of ALL the exploiters, i.e., by a socialist India. This may seem remote. It is not so at all. When an Indian peasant or worker says: “The British must go. But I cannot trust Gandhi or Nehru any longer. What we have to do, we workers and peasants must do ourselves,” then he is a revolutionary socialist, whether he knows it or not. He will learn this, not from books, but in the experiences which history is crowding upon him and all. of as so rapidly today. It will mean years of civil war, complicated by the war and imperialist rivalries.

But none of those who are shouting so loudly in the newspapers and in council halls and congresses have anything to offer the starving millions and sooner or later these millions will find that out. The same holds good for the masses in China, the Dutch East Indies and the Malay States.

The American workers have to realize that they cannot stand aside and be merely interested spectators of the Indian struggle or “well wishers” of India. They must know, first, that it is the very poverty, backwardness and defenselessness of India and China that helped cause the imperialist war. As long as British (or Japanese) capitalists can make 20 per cent profit in India or China where they can make only two per cent at home, these wars will go on.

We have chosen to stress here the rivalry between British and American imperialism over India. For this shows us as clearly as anything else that the war will change nothing for India. Furthermore, this rivalry may have grave consequences for the length and conduct of the war. A successful revolution in India will light up the Far East, drive Japan out of China and Burma, loosen every joint in the unstable, economy of Japan, put an end to imperialism in the Far East and shake the whole of Western civilization.

Clearly and simply the word should go from American workers’ organizations to Indian workers and peasants; complete independence of India; all power to the organizations of workers and peasants in the struggle for their demands; for the international solidarity of labor. If some powerful union in the United States were to say that, the effect in India would be electrifying, and Roosevelt and Willkie would soon find the whole Indian question even hotter to handle than it is for them at present.

But there is still a deeper reason why the American working class cannot stand aside and let Roosevelt and Willkie speak on India in the name of America. It may have struck some of us as strange that organized labor in Britain – much closer to India than the American workers – has had nothing to say about India. Instead they have voted with Churchill and supported his plain statements; “We mean to hold our own.”

(Concluded next week)

Last updated on 30 September 2014