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Fourth International, October 1944


Trotskyism in India


From Fourth International, vol.5 No.10, October 1944, pp.299-300.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford, David Walters & Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India, Burma and Ceylon, the all-Indian Trotskyist party whose documents we are proud to publish in this issue, was officially launched in May 1942 at a conference in which the assembled delegates represented the Revolutionary Socialist League of Bengal, the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of the United Provinces and Behar, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party of Ceylon, and other Trotskyist groups. Documents relating to this fusion and the 1942 Founding Conference will be found in the March, April and October 1942 issues of the Fourth International.

All the activities of our Indian co-thinkers are conducted under conditions of bestial repression and illegality comparable to those existing under the regime of Nazism. British colonial despots not only trample on such elementary rights as those of freedom of speech, press and assembly, but, like the Gestapo, do not hesitate to pick up any individuals on the street who are singled out by their stool-pigeons. Once arrested the individuals are incarcerated and held without trial. If and when a trial is held and a sentence is passed, the victim has no assurance whatever of being released upon the termination of the sentence. The common practice is immediately to rearrest and reincarcerate the revolutionists either upon some other charges or without any charges whatsoever. Those who do not succeed in escaping must await the action of the masses to effect their liberation.

The experience of the leaders of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party of Ceylon is a case in point. This was a legal party, with a legal press, and with representatives in the Ceylon State Council. When the second imperialist war broke out in Europe in 1939, the Ceylonese authorities moved at once. They confiscated the party’s printing plants, arrested the members of the State Council, in violation of their parliamentary immunity, and seized other members of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, throwing them into concentration camps without trial or hearing of any kind. The party was thus driven “unofficially” into illegality. The work nevertheless continued. In April 1942 the Ceylonese leaders succeeded in escaping from the clutches of their imperialist jailers and participated in the work of the merged Trotskyist movement.

The Indian Trotskyists through their underground press were able to publish a theoretical organ, The Bolshevik-Leninist, and another magazine, intended for broader circulation, The Permanent Revolution. Both of these were published in English which is the language of the educated section of the population, including the advanced workers. In addition the Indian Trotskyists have issued leaflets in English and in Tamil.

The main field of the party’s activities is the labor movement, especially the trade unions. The party, while not yet a mass organization, has its roots already in the Indian proletariat. By its participation in the August 1942 struggle, the Indian Trotskyists were able not only to demonstrate their vitality, but to emerge as the recognized extreme left-wing of the Indian labor movement.

This led the authorities to redouble their repressive activities. In July 1943 they succeeded in dealing the Trotskyists the heaviest blow they had yet suffered. Through the instrumentality of a Stalinist stool-pigeon, who had managed to worm his way into the Trotskyist ranks the police was enabled to stage a series of raids.

Reporting these raids, the July-September 1943 issue of Permanent Revolution states:

“In July 1943, the police in Bombay and Madras raided the residences of a number of Bolshevik-Leninists. While their plan was to round up the entire membership and smash the whole organization, yet the vigilance of our comrades averted a major catastrophe to the Bolshevik-Leninist Party.

“In Madras the comrades arrested were: B.S.V. Senanayake and L. Cooray who were ‘wanted’ by the Ceylon Government under the Defense Regulations since April 1942. (In March 1942 after years of ‘unoffical’ hounding of the Trotskyists, the British Governor of Ceylon, Sir Andrew Caldecott, finally officially proclaimed the outlawry of the Trotskyist movement. – Ed.) In Bombay the police raided the residences of practically all comrades including those of Ashokumarl, K. Tilak and C.R. Govindan. But these raids, except one, proved abortive. The only arrests made in Bombay were: Comrades Kusuma, D.P.R. Gunawardene and N.M. Perera, leading members of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, Ceylon Unit of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party. The last two comrades detained since June 1940, escaped from prison with Comrades Colvin B. de Silva and E. Samarakkody and their warder in April 1942.

“In addition to these comrades a number of other political workers associated with the BLPI were arrested in the latter half of July”

The statement issued by Comrades Perera and Gunawardene in the magistrate’s court at Kandy, Ceylon, on February 8 of this year, has arrived in this country and was published in The Militant, October 14. This statement is in the best tradition of the Marxist fighters for Socialism.

After these police raids, the BLPI was compelled temporarily to merge its theoretical organ, The Bolshevik-Leninist, with the popular magazine, Permanent Revolution. But the party was able to go through with its publications program which in addition to several pamphlets, among them the speech delivered by Leon Trotsky before the Czarist Court in 1906, includes the issuance of a 175 page book: From the First to the Fourth International, by K. Tilak, one of the prominent party leaders.

The most eloquent proof of the indomitable spirit and viability of the BLPI is the fact that it has just held its National Convention which adopted a rounded political resolution along with an elaborate program of action designed primarily to build up strong party sections in the main industrial centers of India. Our Indian co-thinkers are firm in their knowledge that only a proletarian party will lead the Indian struggle of liberation and they are taking the necessary steps to guarantee this character to the BLPI.

The documents which appear in this issue center around the political resolution of the BLPI, which takes as its starting point the imperialist war and its impact on India, especially the August 1942 struggle and the famine.

The 1941 political resolution and the other documents of our Indian co-thinkers hardly require commendation to the readers of the Fourth International who are already acquainted with the high standards set in the previous resolutions, articles and analyses by the trained and brilliant Marxists who are in the leadership of the Indian section of the Fourth International.

We take this opportunity to express our solidarity with our Indian co-thinkers and to salute the intransigent revolutionary fighters who have once again fallen into the clutches of the British imperialists.

Cover of 'Permanent Revolution' - Click on image for a larger version

Reproduction of the front page of Permanent Revolution, theoretical organ of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India, which appears under British illegality. The editors of Permanent Revolution state: “As we enter the second year of our existence we can look back with legitimate pride at the progress made in 1943. In spite of the many difficulties the Permanent Revolution has established itself as the leading Marxist theoretical journal in India and Ceylon. It occupies the foremost place in the underground press of India.”

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