Felix Morrow

British Renew Fraudulent Offer
Rejected by India Three Years Ago

(30 June 1945)

Source: The Militant, Vol. IX No. 26, 30 June 1945, p. 5.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2018 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Copyleft: Felix Morrow Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2018. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

The new British White Paper on India, issued June 14, has nothing new in it. It simply repeats the fraudulent offer of the Cripps Mission of March 1942, which all India rejected.

What is new in the situation is that this time the Indian bourgeoisie seems ready to accept it, and this is the reason for repeating it in a new paper. The day after its issuance, Gandhi announced he would recommend that the Congress party accept it. Likewise Moslem newspapers were reported favorable to it.

The Cripps Fraud

Continuation of the Viceroy’s dictatorial powers was the issue over which the Cripps negotiations broke down in April, 1942. During the early part of the negotiations, according to the Congress party leaders, Cripps had promised there would he a basic change in the function of the Viceroy, who in a new government would have no more power over the cabinet than a constitutional monarch. Later, however, Cripps made clear that the Viceroy would continue to have the totalitarian powers given him under the British parliamentary Act of 1935 which is the so-called constitution of India. At this point the Congress party leaders broke off negotiations, correctly charging that Cripps had perpetrated a fraud; he had managed to open negotiations, giving the world a picture of British desire to come to agreement, only by concealing that his “offer” did not touch the Viceroy’s powers.

It must be said that the new White Paper makes no bones about the fact that it promises nothing more than a “change in the composition of the Viceroy’s Executive Council,” leaving the Viceroy’s powers untouched. With Japan in retreat from the gates of India, Churchill can afford to be more plain-spoken than in 1942, when public opinion in England and America had to be deceived about the reasons for his failure to give the Indian people substantial concessions.

The puppet character of an Indian executive council while the Viceroy’s powers continue, will be realized if one briefly enumerates his powers under the Act of 1935:

Viceroy’s Powers

  1. He can, against the vote of the entire executive council, decree laws in the name of the Government of India, and set aside any decision of the council or government departments. He chooses and dismisses all members of his executive council.
  2. He and the British government have exclusive control over the “Indian” army; the executive council is specifically excluded from participating in any decisions connected with it.
  3. Whenever, in his opinion, the civil authorities are unable to cope with “disorders,” he can send troops into any province.
  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.” This means that neither the Home Member of the executive council (who formally controls the central police department) nor the provincial legislatures can dismiss policemen or other civil service functionaries without the Viceroy’s consent. So he really controls police and civil service.
  5. He can impose whatever taxation he deems necessary to provide 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, railway 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 payments guaranteed by the Viceroy.

Slavers’ Paradise

With these powers the Viceroy makes 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, curtailment 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.

Reason for Break

It should be obvious to anyone that a Viceroy with such powers would never be accepted by representatives of the Indian masses. Those who are now ready to accept service under him speak only for the native capitalists and landlords. That is the real role of Gandhi and the Congress party as well as of the Moslem League.

In 1942, when Japanese invasion seemed imminent, the Indian bourgeoisie, junior partners of British imperialism, tried to get a bigger share in the partnership. The masses were aroused as British prestige declined with the military defeats. Moreover British plans for a “scorched earth” policy in case of Japanese invasion were intolerable to Indian owners of large property. Hence the political break between the British overlords and the Congress party which had collaborated in the provincial governments from 1937 until the war. In the economic field, however, the Indian bourgeoisie has been collaborating throughout, reaping huge profits during the war while British mobilization of Indian economy has led to famine and hunger for the peasants and for doubt ... if they refuse this gift of freedom they will lose ... the offer of American comradeship that is now theirs for the asking.” The liberal N.Y. Post of the same day proclaimed: “Britain is giving up ‘the brightest jewel in the crown of Empire’ to beat Hitler.” Time magazine hailed “India’s Magna Charta.”

U.S. Attitude

Today, however, with Germany beaten and Japan’s defeat only a matter of time, American imperialism is looking to the task of pushing into India’s markets. So the June 15 N.Y. Times editorial on the new White Paper no longer lies that it is a “gift of freedom.” It recalls Churchill’s assertion that he did not take office to liquidate the British empire and concludes that he understands “that the tide of change is moving so fast that the way not to liquidate the British Empire is to transform all of it as quickly as possible” along the proposed lines.

The June 15 N.Y. Herald-Tribune editorial, speaking of the powers reserved to the British viceroy and commander-in-chief says: “The extensive powers which these two British officials possess will undoubtedly be a great handicap to the acceptance of the program by Indian nationalists.” All this is still polite, for the war is still on. But it is a far cry from American press comment in 1942 and is a transition to the time when U.S. imperialism will take up the cudgels for Indian “independence.”


Last updated on: 7 November 2018