Date: February 15, 1923
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.
It was a treat to read, in your letter of Jan. 12, such a lively description of what happened at Gaya. It is true that nothing much happened, but this is no surprise to us. Without meaning to be egoists, we can say we have been predicting it for months. It is but part of the historic process, — the ups and downs of a great movement. We welcome it because we know how to meet it. What more can be expected from a crowd of narrow-visioned, timid, semi-intellectual petty-bourgeois! In their hands, the Congress could not meet a better fate. To you or those like you, “Non-violent Non-cooperation” may be a case of political wisdom or expediency, but to the stalwarts of pure Gandhism it is a fetich, and positively counter-revolutionary at that. You have only to remember the choice remarks of St. Rajagopal in opposing the “Independence Resolution” to understand the real character of this crowd. When we read that the defeat of this resolution was hailed with shouts of “Gandhi Maharaj ki jai!” we can only congratulate ourselves upon having found a philosophy which enables us to untangle so easily every complicated social and historical phenomenon. Yes, once more the Empire is saved, once more the blessed Indian society is rescued from the threat of a Revolution Victory to the name of the Mahatma and to his cult of Non-Violence! Alleluja, Amen! Dear Comrade, you can read your own interpretation into the social philosophy of Gandhism, but to a Marxist it is nothing more nor less than counter-revolutionary cant, perhaps unconscious of its reprehensible significance. Tolstoy did much harm to the progress of the revolution in Russia and his Indian disciple will not play any other role in the Indian revolution.
The publicity given to our programme by the kindness of Reuter has precipitated a situation which the leaders of Non-cooperation have always been extremely anxious to prevent. ’The true colour of the Nationalism of the Right as well as of the Left, to say nothing of the pure Gandhite Centre, has, been thoroughly exposed. I wonder if you had the opportunity of reading all the press-comments. If the Government ever succeeded in clever intrigue, this is the most successful of all. Our Nationalist leaders allowed themselves to be terrified into inactivity, and have at last been driven, however reluctantly, to define Swaraj. The. Congress has forfeited all claim to any distinction from the Moderates by proving conclusively that none of its leaders, whether Orthodox Non-Cooperators or the Das-Nehru-Kelkar combination, will go any further than the Liberals. Thus the utter hypocrisy of calling the latter all sorts of names is exposed. The Congress won’t have anything to do with our harmless reformist programme of advanced democratic ideas, because, forsooth, it threatens the absolute and monopoly rights of the landlords and big capitalists. And who are these grandees? Are they not that salt of the Indian earth, to protect and further whose sacred interests is the main object of the Liberal League? Our doughty leaders of Non-Cooperation are no less concerned about the rights of the upper classes, rank reactionary landlordism included, than the heroes of the Liberal League. The latter stand for “law and order”, and the followers of the cult of Non-Violence stand for nothing less — Deshbandhu Das’ masterly exposition of Constitutional Law notwithstanding. Only our Non-Cooperating heroes go one step further on the road to reaction and counter-revolution,.— they stick to Landlordism, which ha.s become too reactionary a commodity, even for the Liberal League. Poor Mother India, and still poorer Indian “masses”, to look for salvation from such patriots and parsons!
It has been proved at Gaya, if proof were still needed, that the National. struggle can be led, neither by the reactionary petty-bourgeoisie acting through the orthodox “No-Changers” under the divine guidance of St. Rajagopal, nor by the radical intellectuals desirous of harking back to the folds of Constitutionalism, under the guise of loyalty to the memory of Tilak. Between these two centripetal forces, Bengal’s “Sentimental Tommy” croaked. Before he could wreck the Councils, the Councils wrecked him.
What is to be done? A new party must be organized. There are good revolutionary elements in both the factions, led astray by personalities and fooled by empty phrases. They should be gathered under the banner of a new party whose social basis, however, must be the workers and peasants. Therefore, its programme has to follow the lines of that published by us. We need not worry about the orthodox No-Changers. They are dead. The real danger is from the Right, — from the “Responsive Cooperators”. The Congress, in the hands of this element, will become more political, but will be steered even farther from revolution. The new party is indeed a very queer combination. It is a coalition of the rebels of the Right as well as the Left against the imbecility and quietism of the Centre. Owing to lack of courageous leadership, the Left Wing, that is, the objectively revolutionary elements, could not stand out clearly at Gaya. Their position was merely negative, so that no one could distinguish them from the “Pro-Changers” of the Right, — the Kelkar-Azmal-Malavya crowd. This was the fatal mistake made at Gaya, and to repair this mistake is our task.
How can this be done? Propaganda must be made, to crystallize the ideology of the Left. And the best propaganda is through action. Mere talk about “going back to the masses” will not take us very far. Everybody swears by the “masses”, — even St. Rajagopal. Then unfortunately, our de-classed, sentimental revolutionaries do not understand the difference between militant working-class organization and the reactionary cult of “back to the villages!” If we start a theoretical discussion now about Panchayat and Soviet, bourgeois democracy and the Indian “village republics”, we will not get anywhere. And many will end by doing what some of our Indian Solomons have already done, — to invent the stupid and meaningless term “Communalism", as a substitute for Communism, — obnoxious to the apostles of the Panchayat (the “purest” form of democracy). No, we will have to adopt a more exhilarating, more inspiring way, the way of action. We must find a means to drive the declassed, sentimental revolutionaries out of the rut of metaphysical politics, into the “devil-dance" of mass-action. They must be brought face to face with those “masses” whom they talk about so glibly, till they cease to become an abstract term. Those who survive this acid test will become the standard-bearers of the Left-Wing Party which is a historic necessity, and which alone can save the national movement from its threatening reversion to Constitutionalism.
If we have a bold and clear-visioned leadership, it will be easy to begin this new campaign. We must be ready to catch at every opportunity to stir the people to action. In many cases we will fail, but ultimate success will be assured if we keep resolutely on. Instances for inaugurating such mass-action are not lacking. Here in this atrocious legal massacre of Chauri Chaura we have an unparalleled opportunity, but who is there in India to seize it? The Congress is criminally indifferent. It has nothing more to say or do than to express its virtuous aversion to such an act of brutality. In their heart of hearts, our Nationalist leaders are votaries of the system of “law and order”, which perpetrates such legal crimes in the name of justice. And was it not the Congress which, under the leadership of the Mahatma, denounced these dangerous “rowdies” at the very outset? Therefore, objectively speaking, the blood of these 172 condemned men is no less on the heads of our leaders than on that of British imperialism. Those who in every critical moment reveal themselves to be at one with the forces of an autocratic state in putting down the spontaneous upheavals of a suffering people, cannot be the leaders of a struggle for liberation. It is idle, therefore, to expect the Congress to take any action about the Chauri. Chaura trial. But we should come forward, push these dummy leaders off their pedestals, and call upon the nation to rise in defence of these victims of Landlordism and the State. You are in a position to act. Call an emergency meeting of the Trade Union Commission and move a resolution that an appeal be issued to the labour organizations of India to demand the release of the Chauri Chaura victims. This demand should be backed by the threat of a General Strike. Call upon the Trade Union Congress on one hand, and the National Congress on the other, to endorse this appeal and to back it up. If they accept this suggestion, by one stroke of the pen.(a perfectly non-violent method), you push these sluggish bodies on the road towards revolution. If they refuse, they do so at the risk of forfeiting all claim to leadership in the eyes of the masses. Agitation in favour of such a resolution should be carried on within the ranks of every labour-union in India. The self-appointed leaders, — the Baptistas, ChamanIs, the Andrews, Sens and Morenos, — will oppose, at least sabotage this move. But there again, we will find these sly political careerists in our grip, and can hold them up before the workers in their true colours as defenders of upper-class interests. The step needed to start this great mass-action, is altogether within the limits of the law and of non-violence, — merely a resolution of protest, backed up by an appeal to the country, against such a horrible crime as the killing of 172 men.
In the course of the agitation, many political lessons can be brought home. Enthusiasm among the workers should be awakened by explaining the genesis of the Chauri Chaura riot, and what constitutes the real “crime” of these condemned men. The identity of working-class interests, the need for working-class organization, the necessity for union between the workers and peasants etc., will all be brought into relief. The action thus started is imbued with immense possibilities. It could develop into a fight for the freedom of speech and of assembly, as well as of the right to resort to direct action to enforce these and other demands for elementary rights. Only by the revolutionary means of mass-action can our movement be rescued from its present inanition and despondency. The new party which would be born of this action, would grow strong and powerful in the same healthy atmosphere. Once a mass action was started in India upon such an issue, we could count upon the support of the revolutionary world proletariat.
Our programme, condemned alike by the Nationalist and the imperialist, makes provision for such revolutionary mass-action. Only within the limits of such a programme can Non-Cooperation ever become a live political force. But first of all, belief in the sacredness or Property, and then sheer cowardice prevents the National Congress from countenancing such a programme. Just imagine how reactionary a movement is, in which very few are ready to subscribe to the programme of an Indian Republic based upon the principle of universal suffrage! Even universal suffrage is too much for our holy nationalists. On the one hand, Baptista Chacha discovers the hand of British Die-Hards behind us, and at the other extreme, the “Independent” dismisses our programme because there is no room for “Love” in it! Deshbandhu Das will have no bourgeois democracy, but lacks the courage to push his thoughts to their logical conclusions. He is an apostle of the “masses”, but the idea of class-conflict stressed in our programme, pains and horrifies him. He wants “freedom for the whole nation” that damnable lie which constitutes the basis of modern Democracy. He gets entangled in such hopeless confusion and contradictions only because he is a sentimentalist and not a revolutionary. We need revolutionary leaders, who can only appear with a new party. And this new party can and will be born only in action, which is the crying need of the moment. On the one hand, the “Pro-Changers” are busy discovering some saving grace in the Reforms, while on the other, the “No-Changers” will end by retiring to the Himalayas. The political field will thus be swept clear for the appearance of revolutionary leaders.
February 15, 1923.