Date: March 8, 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.
Non-Cooperation as a political movement received its funeral ceremony at Gaya. From all reports, the Congress has met precisely the same fate that we have been predicting during the last twelve months. Marxism is a wonderful philosophy, is it not? It has made of history such an exact science. I wonder how long it will take before this modern revolutionary method of thinking is introduced into our movement. The forces of national revolution are today scattered in confusion. We propose to rally them in a new party. It is not that we have to manufacture a following. We need simply hoist a flag which will appeal to the imagination of those objectively revolutionary forces, that were never understood by our religious Non-cooperators, nor by the rational Extremists of the Pro-Change Party. So objectively speaking, we hold that our party has a following. As Marxians, we declare: “Had there not existed the social element to form such a party, there could be no idea of forming it”. You need not feel discouraged because you do not represent such a motley crew as the Non-Cooperation Congress. You and those who think like you, are the real representatives of the Indian people, and alone have the right to speak in their behalf.
We are agreed on the necessity of. forming a new party. What is the first step to be taken in this direction The adoption of a Programme of this Party. We have already published the outline of a Programme, with certain important clauses of which you do not agree. You take exception to the “abolition of Landlordism”, and to “agitation” against the bourgeoisie. Your reasons are just those that forced Gandhi to call for the shameful retreat at Bardoli. He was faced with the problem of choosing between the financial aid of the landlords and capitalists on one hand, and the revolutionary energy of the masses on the other. The Bombay merchants and mill-owners would not pay their promised contributions to the Tilak-Swaraj Fund if the Congress supported the strikes and demonstrations of the workers. The reactionary lower middle-class was so closely tied to the apron-strings of the feudal lords of Oudh, that it would rather see the great Non-Cooperation Movement degenerate into a prayer association and spinning guild than to brook the revolutionary agrarian upheaval threatening the security of landlordism. Hence, the shameful betrayal by the Congress of the great mass-movement that culminated in the semi-insurrectionary outbreaks in Bombay and the United Provinces. This revolutionary action of the masses was denounced as “Hooliganism”, and banned in the name of “Non-Violence”. But what was the social reason behind this theory of Non-Violence? Was it not the anxiety for the vested interests of the native upper class and the apprehension of losing the problematical support of the rich? By stoutly denouncing the revolt of the exploited peasantry, and re-affirming the sacred rights of the feudal lords, the Congress killed a great mass movement; — but can you say that by these reprehensible tactics, the landlords of Oudh have been made any more patriotic, or better said, less loyal and reactionary The recent controversy over the U. P. District Board Bill should have taught us a lesson.
As for the financial support of the capitalists. The way in which attempts were made to manipulate the entire Swaraj Fund for profiteering in Khaddar proves the real character of the patriotism of the merchants and manufacturers. No, my dear comrade, it is a mistake to give the interests of the upper classes the first place in the struggle for national liberation. If we sacrifice the dynamic forces of mass-action in favour of the financial support of the landlords and capitalists, we shall have to record innumerable Bardolis. It speaks very badly for our revolutionary outlook if we have not yet learned to recognise which social element is the backbone of our movement.
I do not say that we should fail to enlist the services of all possible revolutionary elements in the struggle. We must not lose our sense of proportion. The social character of the nationalist movement is bourgeois, — therefore the middle classes will play an important part in it. But owing to the abnormal development of our history (the fact of the British Conquest), the Indian bourgeoisie does not today possess the same revolutionary significance as did its prototype in Europe in the middle of the last century. Therefore, the Indian. Revolution will not be successful purely as a Bourgeois Revolution. Our bourgeoisie is too under-developed, too weak, too timid, to lead a revolutionary struggle. They must be aided by some other social factor, more revolutionary. Therefore, the programme of our movement cannot be confined within the limits of bourgeois interests and aspirations.
Then look at the question from a historical point of view. What will the National Independence of India mean? The victory of the Indian bourgeoisie! As Marxians, we cannot but laugh at the Revivalist theory that India is a special creation of God. The triumph of the bourgeoisie means the disruption of Feudalism, because the latter is detrimental to the capitalist mode of production. Therefore, objectively speaking, the programme of National Independence sounds the death-knell to Landlordism. Why should we not have the courage to explain this programme in such simple language as will be within the understanding of the poor peasantry, and make the national struggle a vital issue to them? Are we less revolutionary than the heroes of the Liberal League Even they are clarifying their socio-economic outlook and only look at the tussle going on within the Council of the U. P. If the Ministerial Liberal will not break away from their feudal leading-strings, they will ere long forfeit their title to lead the big bourgeoisie. The rise of the Independent Nationalist Party in Bengal is a sign of the times. Have you noticed that the programme of this new political party of the liberal bourgeoisie includes the “abolition of landlordism”, and many of those “welfare” clauses which seem to have terrified you in our Programme? It is not a Communist Programme that we have drafted. It is a simple, democratic document, adapted to our “special circumstances”. We must dismiss the. hope of securing the help of the landed aristocracy. The bourgeoisie must be with the national movement. They cannot leave it, nor can they fight alone. They must have our support. So we must enter the struggle consciously, and not as a mere appendage of the bourgeoisie. More on this question later.
March 8, 1923