Ben Bradley, R. Palme Dutt and Harry Pollitt

On the Eve of the Indian National Congress

Source: The Labour Monthly, Vol. 20, March 1938, No. 3, pp. 184-187, (1,486 words)
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2010). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

[The Indian National Congress met at Haripura from February 19 to 22, under the presidency of Subhas Bose. Below we print messages of greetings sent from this country. Next month we shall be printing a special article on the results of the Congress.]

We take this opportunity to send our heartiest greetings to the Indian National Congress meeting in session at Haripura, and in doing so we wish to convey through the Congress our support and solidarity with the great mass of Indian people throughout the length and breadth of India in their struggle for freedom.

To the Indian people the National Congress represents the National Front uniting all forces in India who are struggling against foreign domination and for national liberation. During the past twelve months we have witnessed the most amazing expressions of solidarity and support of the Indian people for the Congress. The results of the elections in February last with the sweeping majorities won by Congress candidates showed the loyalty of the Indian masses to the Congress. A further indication of this support is shown by the increase in membership of the Congress from 6 lacs (600,000) to 31 lacs (3,100,000).

With such support from the people of India, the Congress can face with confidence the important issues which will be dealt with at the forthcoming session at Haripura. The Haripura Session will mark the entry upon a new phase of India’s struggle for freedom.

The acceptance of office by the Congress in seven out of the eleven Provincial Legislative Assemblies raised many important and difficult problems. For over six months now the Congress Ministries have functioned in these seven provinces. It must be recorded with appreciation that, unlike the non-Congress Ministries in the other provinces, these Congress Ministries have taken steps to extend the extremely restricted civil liberties; removing the ban on numerous organisations, individuals and publications—and certain limited measures have been adopted to relieve the burdens from the peasantry.

The Congress Ministries, when taking these initial and limited steps, however, were immediately brought face to face with problems—problems which must be the concern of the Congress as a whole. An indication of the character of these problems appeared at the All-India Congress Committee meeting at Calcutta in October last.

These initial steps of the Congress Ministers to implement their election pledges were not taken without opposition. Pressure was undoubtedly brought to bear, although not ostensibly, by the Governors, who, of course, have their special powers under the Constitution to limit as far as possible whatever reforms the Congress Ministers sought to initiate. A very recent example of this is the refusal of Sir Maurice Hallett, Governor of Behar, to release political prisoners who are on hunger strike in Hazaribang jail despite the unanimous recommendation of the Congress Ministers.

The problems thus facing the Congress Ministries are those of carrying out the election programme in relation to the economic questions affecting the workers and peasants; vigorously refusing to operate repressive measures (Sections 144 and 124a, Criminal Law Amendments Act), refusing to sanction prosecutions against working class and peasant leaders, and cases of alleged sedition; and taking steps to remove from the Statute Book all repressive legislation. Thus the Congress Ministries carry an extremely heavy responsibility to the great mass of Indian people.

On behalf of the National Liberation Movement the Congress Ministries have taken upon themselves an extremely difficult task and a heavy responsibility, in which they have to be supported and strengthened—while on the other hand the Congress Ministries can play an important part in assisting and building the United National Front, which is the main task before the people of India.

The mobilisation of the masses behind the economic programme of the Congress would greatly strengthen the hands of the Congress Ministries, and enable them more effectively to carry through the economic side of their election programme. This mass movement can be built up on a clear programme of immediate demands for workers, peasants and middle class. Such a programme would be concretely formulated and of a practical character, containing demands such as the bringing of relief to the peasantry by reduction of taxation and a debt moratorium, establishing a minimum wage and reducing hours of labour for the workers, the removal of restrictions on the organisations of the workers, improvement of educational facilities, health, housing, sanitation and the removing from the Statute Book of all repressive laws—which have a possibility of being achieved through the present Legislative Assembly.

The phenomenal growth of the peasant movement, accompanied by huge peasant demonstrations and the big strike movements of workers in the industrial towns, has been an important feature of the past twelve months. Behar can boast of 500,000 organised peasants; demonstrations can be organised of 50,000 peasants marching from surrounding villages; this is a feature of what is developing throughout India.

This great strike movement and mass peasant marches demanding redress for their economic grievances, demonstrates the growing consciousness and organisation of the masses. We welcome the achievement of Trade Union unity and the extraordinary growth of the Kisan Sabhas. Here we have the limitless potential force which will provide the greatest strength for the Congress. It will also be easily appreciated that the building and strengthening of the working class and peasant movements is not hostile to the Congress or Congress Ministries. The workers and peasants are not merely concerned with some immediate economic relief, but desire to strengthen the whole movement for national liberation and have an extremely important and growing rôle to play within it.

From this it would be clear that Congress organisation and Congress Ministries will see the Haripura Session of the Congress as the point from which to drive to assist the workers and peasants to win their economic demands; to see the growing strike movement and peasant demonstrations as the growing movement for national liberation, and therefore to assist in strengthening and building the Trade Union and Peasant movements, recognising them as the most important sections of the national movement.

If the Faizpur decision to establish mass contact committees is carried forward at Haripura to a full recognition of the need for collective affiliation of the Trade Union and Peasant organisations, we feel sure that this would greatly strengthen the whole movement.

The Haripura Session of the Congress will consider the question of the efforts of the Government to impose the Federal side of the Constitution. Lord Lothian has been touring India, visiting prominent persons in an endeavour to estimate the opinion of Indian people on this question. He has returned to London and it is suggested that he has brought with him a formula on which the Federal Government will be introduced.

The question of the attitude of the vast mass of the Indian people towards the Federal Government will be decided, not by a formula satisfactory to certain elements in India and to the British Government, but by the Indian National Congress representing the vast masses of Indian people.

The question of how this new stage of the fight will be conducted will depend largely on the strength of the Congress and the development of the mass movement. Very careful consideration will undoubtedly be given by the Haripura Session to the attitude of the Congress to the introduction of the Federal Government. The question is raised in this connection of the need to support the struggle of the people in the Indian States for democratic rights and civil liberties.

We warmly welcome the stand of the Indian National Congress on important international questions, particularly the struggle of the Spanish people against fascist aggression. The practical steps taken to effectively boycott Japanese goods strengthen the bonds of solidarity between the people of a country subjected to foreign imperialism and a people struggling to prevent themselves being brought under foreign domination.

In sending this message of greetings to the Indian National Congress and in raising certain points, we do so in all sincerity, the message representing as it does the feelings of a very large number of the people of Great Britain who desire to see India free. We at the same time fully appreciate our own tremendous responsibility in relation to the struggle for the liberation of the Indian people.

We are confident that the Haripura Session of the Congress will, as a result of its deliberations, achieve the final unification of all the forces standing for national liberation under the leadership of the Indian National Congress, and that the hands of the Congress Ministries in the various provinces will be strengthened by its decisions.

This session of the National Congress held at Haripura in the Bardoli District, which has already achieved fame in connection with the liberation struggle, must give a lead to the Indian National Congress and take a decisive step towards the final liberation of the great Indian people.