M.N. Roy: Open Letter (6 February 1923)


M.N. Roy

Open Letter

(6 February 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 13, 6 February 1923, p. 101.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2021). 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.

To the Executive Committee of
The British Labour Party,


Out of the 228 men sent up for trial in connection with the riots in the village of Chauri Chaura in the United Provinces, 172 have been sentenced to death by imperialist justice. The history of the case may not be unknown to you. In the winter of 1920–21 the discontent among the poor peasantry of the United Provinces, where Feudalism reigns supreme under the protection of the British government, was very acute. In many a place this discontent broke out into open revolt against the oppression of landlordism. The British government, which always poses as the protector of the tenant and has given some legal shape to this pretension in order to secure the “loyalty” of the peasant masses, however, did not hesitate a moment to send armed forces as soon as the “life and property” of the loyal landowners were menaced by poor cultivators driven to revolt by hunger.

Thus the traditional illusion of the Indian peasantry about the “benevolence” of the sirkar was shaken and they found themselves face to face with the forces of State coercion allied with tyrannical landlordism. This combination of forces led up to the incident at Chauri Chaura, which was brought about by Police provocation.

The men, arrested after the Chauri Chaury riots and after the outbreaks that subsequently spread in the surrounding districts had been suppressed by unrestrained use of bayonets and other forms of terrorism, were charged with the “murder” of a number policemen at Chauri Chaura. 22 policemen were killed in the affray; but the dispensers of imperialist justice, conveniently overlooked the facts that the affray was begun by the policemen firing on peaceful demonstrators, and that the number of men killed and wounded in consequence of firing volleys on a crowd of several thousand must have exceeded the casualities on the government side.

One hundred and sevently-two men, many of whom were hungry peasants and who were so hungry because they had been forced to contribute too heavily to the fund for helping the “war for democracy”, stand sentenced to be “hanged by the neck until dead”. This legal murder is being perpetrated in the name of “law and order” and “good government.” The real crime committed by these was to rebel against unbearable economic exploitation and to demonstrate the desire to fight for their rights. In doing so, they had to challenge the feudal absolutism which flourishes in India under the benign protection of British Democracy. These men will legally murdered for having spontaneously expressed the noble principles that inspired the glorious Peasant Revolts of Great Britain and other European countries. In order to defend the rights of landlordism, which constitutes its most loyal support, British Imperialism is committing a barbarous deed which will even surpass its own none too admirable records in India. This prostitution of justice will be unparalleled in its majestic vindictiveness and brutality.

On behalf of the toiling millions of India, and in the name of “justice and fair play”, in which you believe so implicitly, we call upon you to lead the British working class to intervene and demand the reprieve of the condemned champions of the Indian peasantry. We call upon the British Labour Party to exert pressure upon the government by means of Parliamentary action, as well as by strikes and demonstrations in case parliamentary action fails to bring about the desired effect. You must take these steps if you want to prove that you are not a party to the imperialism of the British bourgeoisie. If you fail to act in this tragic moment, you will go down in history with the blood of the Indian peasantry on your head, and you will stand charged with the betrayal of those principles of “freedom and democracy” that you claim to advocate. At the same time we appeal directly to the British proletariat to repudiate your leadership in case you fail to act and thus condone this legal murder by infuriated Imperialism.

Zurich, February 2, 1923.


M.N. Roy
for the Communist Party of India

Last updated on 9 July 2021