Date: July 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.
The work undertaken by us is of historic significance, since the appearance of a working-class party in the political field is an objective necessity. There is no gainsaying the fact that the workers and peasants of India can no longer remain an appendage of bourgeois nationalism, which is decidedly antagonistic to any movement calculated to affect in the least the present state of social relationships. The object of bourgeois nationalism is the transference of political power from British Imperialism to the native upper classes. Our nationalists of all shades of opinion are hostile to the very idea of classes and class-struggle. This hypocritical attitude is due to their desire of preventing the growth of class-consciousness among the workers and peasants. Bourgeois nationalism wants to exploit the ignorant but rebellious working-masses in the name of Freedom, which when realized, will mean the freedom of the native bourgeoisie. In order to keep this class-character of bourgeois nationalism confused, the nationalist leaders decry any movement which gives predominance to class-interest over national interest. But the experience of the last two years has proved unquestionably how those very nationalists who preach the doctrine that India is immune from the disease of class-war, have not hesitated to sacrifice national interests for the interests of the native propertied classes. They have done this in every crisis that has overtaken the Non-Cooperation movement. Instances of such sacrifice of the national interests, of such betrayals are numerous and need not be cited here, since they are too well-known. These repeated betrayals have ruined the nationalist struggle, but have demonstrated at the same time, the class-character of bourgeois nationalism.
When it becomes evident that the programme of bourgeois nationalism cannot include the interests of the toiling masses, the latter must enter upon the period of an independent political existence, in order to fight simultaneously for their own economic and social, as well as political emancipation. The Indian working-class cannot be led to the anti-Imperialist struggle with the programme of bourgeois nationalism, but on the other hand, the anti Imperialist struggle cannot be successful without the active participation of the working-class. Therefore, not only to achieve its own economic emancipation, but also to attain the immediate object of national freedom, the organization of an independent working-class party has become essential. The “national independence” sought for by our bourgeoisie will make scarcely any provision for the economic betterment of the toiling masses, but this does not alter the fact that the burden of imperialist exploitation falls most heavily upon the shoulders of our workers and peasants, and consequently, that the latter must first of all light for national liberation. As a matter of fact, the Indian workers and peasants are much more interested in the struggle for national freedom than the middle-classes themselves, because for them, there remains no half-way house of Compromise with Imperialist rule, which bourgeois nationalism seeks. Thus, looked at from every angle of vision, the necessity for the working-class to play an independent political role becomes evident. The party that must be organized, the party of workers and peasants, will be the conscious vanguard of the Indian working-class in its struggle, first for national, then for complete economic and social liberation.
Now permit me to make some general observations on the subject of a Programme for such a party. The task of elaborating a theoretical programme must be reserved for some future occasion. Not only the theoretical programme of Social Revolution, but even that, of National Revolution remains still to be elaborated. For the present, we must content ourselves with adopting a Programme of Action, — a programme which will rally, the working-class in the present struggle against foreign domination and prepare it, at the same time, for the future struggle. But a Programme of Action presupposes that the object to be realized by such action, has already been defined. In other words, while speaking of the immediate interests of the workers and peasants, the larger issues should not be excluded from our programme. Such a tendency nevertheless, is to be noticed in many of our comrades who are eager to organize the working-class into an independent political party. The first and foremost problem that every political party in India must face and solve, is the problem of national liberation. The fate of every party depends ultimately upon its ability to find a solution of this problem. The bankruptcy of the Non-Cooperation movement is due to its utter failure to find this solution. We must be careful that the same fate in somewhat different form, does not overtake our party of the working-class, once it is organized. “To secure economic relief to the producing classes”, which appears to be the aim of many of our sincerest comrades, cannot be the programme of a political party which fails to declare that “economic relief cannot be secured within the framework of Imperialist domination.” The mere formulation of such an aim obliges us to challenge the political domination of the Indian people by a foreign power.
It will not make any fundamental difference in the economic situation of the masses, if foreign domination is eventually readjusted to the demands of the native upper-classes, in order to secure their services in the joint exploitation of the Indian workers and peasants. Our party, which must stand for the liberation of the producing classes from all forms of exploitation, cannot leave the question of national liberation outside its programme, because national liberation, which means the release of all the forces of social production now held in check by Imperialism, is the first step towards our ultimate goal, which is the end of all class-domination.
Some comrades may argue, — in fact this argument has already been advanced — that we should leave aside the question of national freedom, since it hardly concerns the working-class in its present state of consciousness, but will unnecessarily bring the wrath of the Government upon the head of our party. This is a very vulgar way of looking at the situation. Firstly, if it is true that the working-class fails to show any conscious interest in the question of national liberation, then all the more necessary does it become for our party to take up the question in right earnest, in order to show the working-class how vitally it is concerned in the question. To a certain extent it is true that pure bourgeois nationalism cannot create any active and lasting enthusiasm among the masses; it is because of this failure of bourgeois nationalism to draw the masses into the struggle for national freedom, that the organization of a working-class party has become a historic necessity, as already pointed out. The working-class will become actively interested in, the national struggle, so soon as this struggle is carried on not exclusively from the bourgeois point of view, but as the first stage of the fight for socio-economic emancipation. To show that the national struggle is really such, is the immediate task of our party.
Secondly, it is idle to think that our party can escape the wrath of the government, if it is really the party we mean it to be. We cannot fight for the economic interests or the producing masses without at once threatening the power and position of those classes that thrive on unearned income, and so soon as the slightest indication of this threat is noticed, the entire forces of the State will begin to move with the object of crushing those from whom this threat comes. There is but one way of avoiding the hostility of the government; that is the way of Reformism. If the object of our party be to alleviate the sufferings of the toiling masses with the aid and sanction of the bourgeoisie, then we may expect to be left unmolested. But is it worth while to organize a new party with this object? There are already enough of such humanitarian and philanthropic organizations in existence. As Marxists, we know that any efforts made with such an object will be only gilding the chains of slavery. The economic freedom of the producing classes can be conquered only through a revolutionary struggle from beginning to end! This fact should be clearly and unequivocally expressed in our programme. A few ambiguous generalities will not take us very much farther than the reformist and utopian slogans of the nationalists.
The next point I wish to touch upon is the slogan of “Labour Swaraj”. Whatever this phrase may mean, it cannot be the programme of our party. Such a slogan will inevitably lead us to elaborating schemes of Swaraj. What is meant by Labour Swaraj? How is it to be attained? How can we speak of Labour Swaraj, which means, if anything serious is meant by it, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, when the very question of Swaraj, — that is, of National Independence, remains unsolved To speak of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat presupposes the existence of a proletarian class consciously working for that dictatorship. But before the Indian working-class can take up the slogan of Dictatorship, it has to go through a period of political education which can only be gained in the struggle against Imperialism, — a struggle carried on, not for the benefit and under the leadership of the bourgeoisie, but with a class-programme, based consciously on the interests of the workers and peasants, and led by a revolutionary vanguard, — the Political Party of the Working-Class. Therefore, our slogan should not be the vague one of “Labour Swaraj”, which cannot be realised for a long time yet, but for a National Democratic Government, based upon universal suffrage, with as much protection as possible for the producing classes. This first victory gained, the working-class will be in a position to carry the revolutionary struggle farther towards the attainment of Labour Swaraj, which will then have become a realizable goal.
Upon our ability to formulate these cardinal points in our Programme, on its political side, will depend the possibility of establishing a working-alliance between our Party of the Workers and Peasants, and the parties of bourgeois nationalism. This alliance should be sought during the anti-imperialist struggle. What revolutionary significance the nationalist bourgeoisie possess, can be brought to bear fully upon the situation only under the pressure of a revolutionary mass-party. This pressure will be effectively felt when the Party of Workers and Peasants makes use of every available opportunity for striking an agreement with the Indian bourgeoisie in the common struggle against Imperialism.
Our party must not only lead the working-classes in their everyday struggle for existence, but should also formulate the demands which correspond to the permanent interests of the toiling masses. Such demands will open up a new vision before the working-class, which will thus develop the will to fight.
Yours for the speedy organization of the Workers and Peasants Party of India, — the Vanguard of the struggle for social, economic and political emancipation.
July 15, 1923.