Date: November 10, 1922
Published: Political Letters The Vanguard Bookshop, Zurich, 1924
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Mike B.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2006). 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.
My dear Comrade...
How presumptuous it is of those who have been directly or indirectly responsible for the exploitation of the masses, to think that they will be the judge of the latter’s future activities. “The masses must be disciplined and trained before they are allowed to march forward”. Who is going to do this, pray? The intellectual elite, I suppose, who are so anxious to have the “controlling power in their hand before the flaring up of the spark”. In other words, you want to reserve the right to denounce the hungry, exploited workers as “Criminal hooligans”, “rowdies” etc. whenever, impelled by revolutionary fury, they go farther than you want them to go. Y on want to determine w hat is good and what is had for the masses on the pretext of preserving the safety of the community by avoiding the class-struggle, which you call “internecine war”. But class-struggle is not the curse of India alone; it is the essential character of civilized society, and all Indian nationalists, with the exception of the reactionary orthodox Non-Cooperators, want to introduce all the blessings of civilization in our society, excepting only this one. But in setting their feet on this path, they must accept the unavoidable consequences that must inevitably follow. Our labourers and peasants are not special beings; by “waking up the man in them”, they will behave exactly like their class in every other land, under the stimulation of capitalist exploitation. What do you want to wake them up for? In order to travel further and faster on the road of progress. But how can they progress unless their grave social and economic disabilities are removed? And how is it possible to remove the economic disabilities without injuring the vested interests that profit thereby? In other words, if you sincerely desire the progress of the toiling masses, you cannot avoid a struggle with those who live by exploiting the labour of these toilers. This is the crux of the whole problem we have to solve. There is no way out of the triangular fight which is going on now, all the time. By shutting our eyes, we cannot make it non-existent.
You complain of the apathy of the masses, but how can you expect to dissipate this apathy unless you work on their primary instincts of food, shelter and clothing Big talk about a “National Independence”, “Democracy”, “Majority Rule”, “Constitutional Government” etc. are beyond the understanding of the common people, who will however, respond to the call of those who lead them towards the redress of their economic grievances. If you refuse to do that on the plea of wishing to preserve unity of action, you will simply defeat your own ends by such tactics. How are you going to lead the “unwilling and unintelligent” mass to a “direct fight against their bondage”, without doing the very thing that alone can do away with their deplorable unwillingness and unintelligence? It is necessary to formulate the programme of our fight in such terms as will appeal to the ignorant and illiterate, but suffering and blindly rebellious workers and peasants of India. Before seeking to illuminate the man in the field and the factory on such intellectual abstractions as the spiritual character of Swaraj, you should try to make him understand the necessity of organizing for militant action against government and employers, to secure higher wages, shorter working-hours, lower rents, better living conditions, etc. You can lead them to struggle for the latter much more easily than for the former. The “Time Spirit”, which you are anxious to utilize, can best be utilized in this connection.
Look around you and see what the masses of the Indian people want today, and let me tell you, they are not so unwilling and apathetic as you seem to think. It is only among them that any fighting spirit is to be found. Who has occupied the center of our movement for the past three years? You may think it to be a handful of idealistic students, temporarily swayed by enthusiasm, but the fact is quite otherwise. The real battles for the liberation of our country are being fought in the villages, and in the workingmen’s quarters of the great industrial centers. The peasantry of the United Provinces, the Punjab, Bengal and Madras, and the workers in all our great industries are the real power behind the movement. Those who, overestimating their own importance as intellectuals, overlook those revolutionary forces, miss the whole significance of what is taking place in India today. Our National Independence will be won by the efforts of the Indian workers and peasants. The days are gone when the middle-classes possessed any revolutionary significance. To rally the masses in battle-array is our fundamental task. I know better than anyone else, that this must be done by those inside the country. All we pretend to do is to be of some help to those who are bearing the actual brunt of the fight. As soon as we see such help is superfluous, all outside interference will cease.
November 10, 1922.