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Fourth International, March 1943


Ajit Roy

Some British “Friends” of India


From Fourth International, vol.4 No.3, March 1943, p.95.
Transcribed, Edited & Formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for the ETOL.


The truth is that the so-called well-wishers of India in Britain have probably done more to prevent in this country a true appreciation of the Indian problem than even the propaganda of Churchill, Amery and the true-blue Tories. Each Indian crisis has produced its inevitable crop of sympathizers and well-wishers of the Indian people-pacifists and parsons, journalists and writers, professors and philosophers, ex-civil servants, Liberal and Labour MPs, leaders of the Independent Labour Party; a motley collection of individuals have grouped themselves together under the somewhat derisive title “Friends of India.” The current crisis has been no exception. At the present moment, these “Friends” are to be found gathered around the “Aid to India Committee” sponsored by the ILP and the pacifists, and the “India League” supported and dominated by the Stalinists.

The basic characteristic of all these “Committees” and “Leagues” is the extremely modest requirements for conditions of membership. They do not demand that one should be opposed to imperialism as such; but if one is so opposed then it it is not held against him as a crime! You can be Tory, Liberal, Labour, Stalinist or a member of the ILP; you can be pro-war or anti-war; these differences are of little consequence so long as you are prepared to “express” your sense of horror at what is taking place in India.

Here, sitting next to Brockway of the ILP, Mr. Edward Thompson, the Liberal journalist, gives sober advice to the Tories on the desirability of reopening negotiations with the Congress leaders in order to save British rule from the twin danger of foreign invasion and a Red Revolution. In a paper, Free India, published and issued by the “Indian Freedom Campaign Committee of the British Centre Against Imperialism;’ Thompson refers to the war as “our war,” talks about “our propaganda on India” and declares that “everything now depends on the new Viceroy and his instructions.” But neither his unconcealed imperialist outlook nor his malicious jibes at the socialist organizations in India prevent in any way the professed anti-imperialists represented by Reginald Reynolds, Brockway and other ILP leaders from solidarizing with him in the same organization. Lack of principle apparently is the basic feature of these types of organizations.

The necessity and importance of the widest dissemination of anti-imperialist propaganda cannot be too strongly emphasized. In the revolutionary workers’ press anti-imperialist news has always occupied, and will continue to occupy, an important place.And that is why the reformist and Stalinist press of today is so noticeably silent on Indian and colonial matters. But such propaganda can aid the Indian struggle for freedom only to the extent that it becomes an argument for independent working class action leading to the overthrow of imperialism. To the extent that the propaganda fails to raise, or blurs over, the fundamental class issues, and degenerates into a demand that Churchill should change his policy, it becomes an instrument of reaction. For it leads to the illusion that it is possible to aid the Indian struggle while congratulating Churchill on his victories, or that it is possible to fight for the national freedom of India within the framework of “national unity” in Britain.

The revolutionary workers within the ranks of the ILP must needs ask themselves: “Where does the leadership really stand on the issue of unity with the India peoples?” If solidarity with the Indian struggle is to be anything more than a gesture and a doubtful one at that, then the leadership must break with the pro-war “Friends of India.” The ILP condemns the Stalinist leadership for its betrayal of the Indian people; but in what does this betrayal consist? Surely not the reluctance to express sympathy with the Indian people or to condemn the reign of terror? The essence of the Stalinist betrayal consists in its political support for Churchill and the capitalist class. But in what way does the alliance of the ILP leadership with the open imperialism represented by Thompson or the more camouflaged type represented by Ballard, secretary of the so-called “British Centre Against imperialism,” differ in essence from the Pollitt-Churchill tie-up?

To Lenin and Trotsky, the unity between the socialist movement of the Western proletariat and the national movement of the colonial countries was of a two-fold character. In the first place, the struggle of the oppressed masses in the colonies for freedom constitutes powerful blows directed against the entire world structure of monopoly-capitalism and gives immense aid to the working classes in the imperialist countries fighting for socialism. In the second place, they regarded the independent political role of the colonial proletariat and its leadership of the national revolution as the pre-condition for its victory. That is why Lenin and Trotsky considered the development of the Communist International in India and the colonial countries as one of the urgent tasks of the Russian and the international proletariat.

The idea that the British workers must not interfere with the internal composition of the Indian national movement or its domestic disputes is completely alien to the spirit and traditions of international revolutionary socialism. Socialists in Britain have the duty and responsibility to intervene in the activities of the Indian proletariat; to advise, and be advised by the Indian socialists.

This is the essence of internationalism. Trotskyism has continued this tradition of Bolshevism, and the result is to be seen not only in the development by the Fourth International of fresh and virile organizations of the colonial proletariat in Ceylon, China and India, but also in a great strengthening in the ideological basis of the socialist vanguard in this country. When Reginald Reynolds, therefore, brazenly declares that it would be impudent for British socialists to argue over the domestic disputes in the 1ndian movement for national independence what he really means is that the proletariat in Britain must remain indifferent to the problems of their Indian brothers. This is a complete repudiation of international socialism and is characteristic of that petty-bourgeois literary socialism which Reynolds represents.

It is not an accident that the “sectarian” Fourth International alone of all organizations has succeeded in bringing significant sections of the colonial workers within the framework of one international organization. It is not the Trotskyist but the compromisers who are the real sectarians. For, under the pretext of achieving “the broadest possible form of unity” on the Indian question they have managed to tie themselves up with imperialism, however unwittingly, and built a wall between themselves and the Indian masses.

London, England

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