From Fourth International, Vol.6 No.7, July 1945, p.218.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The recent renewal by the British colonial despots of their 1942 Cripps Mission offer is a patent fraud, just as the original offer was. Less known in this country is the role played by the Indian bourgeoisie in paving the way for this deception of the Indian masses. Elsewhere in this issue we publish the slashing article Ministry-Makers and ‘Leftist’ Fakers by an Indian Trotskyist. Below is the text of editorials on the same subject from the January-March issue of Permanent Revolution, theoretical organ of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India (BLPI), Indian section of the Fourth International.
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A revolutionary party which uses correctly the weapon of Marxist analysis is able not only to see the general trend of future developments but often also to foretell them with remarkable accuracy. We wish to draw attention to two specific prognoses of the BLPI the correctness of which events are confirming in a remarkable manner.
In our Notes to the April-December 1944 issue of Permanent Revolution we maintained that the Viceroy’s December speech in Calcutta represented a change in the attitude of the British government to the question of settlement with Congress. Whereas earlier, “the British government was not prepared to enter into any kind of negotiation with Congress” (cf. Viceroy’s reply to Gandhi’s Gelder interview), in December the Viceroy laid down the basic terms on which he was prepared to settle with Congress. Wavell’s visit to London and the impending release of the Congress leaders demonstrate that our reading was correct. But this is not all. We proceeded to ask the question, “Why has Whitehall thus ‘relented’ at this particular juncture?” And we answered:
“Unless some sop is thrown to British public opinion the labor leadership’s control of the leftward moving masses on behalf of the reactionary Churchill government may well be threatened. And unless some dramatic step is taken to rehabilitate Britain’s position internationally, his prestige may well sink so low as to affect adversely his maneuvers in the diplomatic field.”
Today in almost verbatim confirmation of this, Reuter’s report of April 4th in connection with the Wavell-Amery talks declares that:
“It is acknowledged, however, that Whitehall entertains acute anxiety on two points: First as to the possible effect on the Tory Party’s electoral future, and secondly, as to the ultimate effect upon the British position in the East in the eyes of the Americans if the failure to deal adequately with the Indian political demands results in a failure to mobilize Indian resources for war against Japan.”
And today, we repeat again as we have done in the past, that the settlement that is coming will be a surrender-settlement. Why? For two reasons. On the one hand, an imperialist Britain (which will have to more than double her prewar exports if she is to return after the war to her prewar economic level), simply cannot afford to grant any real concessions to India, her largest single field of colonial exploitation. And secondly, the Congress bourgeoisie, having failed in August 1942 in their bid for a greater share of power, are today seeking not even for real concessions, but only for a face-saving formula.
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On this question the political resolution passed at the September 1944 conference of the BLPI declared that since the coming settlement would involve Congress support of the war and participation in suppression of the masses,
“It is impossible for the Congress Socialist Party if it is to remain true to its August tradition to support such a policy; and it is extremely doubtful that the Congress High Command will in such event, tolerate its functioning as an organized opposition within the Congress fold. The CSP will thereby be forced to a choice – and choice can only lead to the political demise of the CSP as a distinctive organization, for it will have either to surrender to the reactionary Congress Right Wing or to leave Congress altogether.”
Today, even before the arrival of the settlement, we see signs of this development. For a number of prominent CSP leaders including Meterally, Masani, and Kamaladevi have reached the decision that the CSP should be disbanded and its program abandoned in favor of that of the Congress. The decision certainly is logical. For, these leaders have completely succumbed to the Right Wing, which has today assumed full control of whatever Congress activities are proceeding in the country. In fact, there is nothing today to distinguish the CSP leadership from the Right Wing. They are enthusiastic over the constructive program, unreservedly support the Gandhian leadership which is moving to an ignominious settlement, and are prepared to support the imperialist war when the settlement comes.
But what of the CSP rank and file? The situation is becoming increasingly difficult for the more honest of them. We have already mentioned the case of the Hindustan Mazdoor Sevak Saugh, into which they are being dragooned. [Hindustan Mazdoor Sevak Saugh – Society for the Service of Indian Labor – is an organization in process of formation with the blessing of Gandhi and under the patronage and control of Right Wing Congress leaders. Its ostensible purpose is to ameliorate the condition of the workers through the formation of trade unions. Its real purpose is to bring the working class under the influence of the nationalist bourgeoisie.] Congress labor policy is increasingly revealing itself not as one of helping the workers or organize themselves in their own independent class organizations but as one of starting what are in effect company unions to bring the workers under the influence of the bourgeoisie. Gandhi’s opposition to independent Kisan Sabhas [peasant organizations] (as revealed in his discussion with Ranga) and the decision to build Kisan organizations only as a part of the Congress, is an effort to stem the struggle of the peasants by tying them to the bourgeois and pro-Zamindar [pro-landlord] Congress. The time is fast approaching when it will become impossible for honest left elements in the Congress to do labor or Kisan work under the discipline of Congress. Thus in the very field of day to day practical activity there will be demonstrated to them what an application of Marxist theory would have brought them long ago – that Congress is the party of the bourgeoisie. How many of them will be bold enough to draw the further conclusion that the need is to build independently the revolutionary party of the proletariat?
Our co-thinkers in Ireland write:
The class struggle continues in the form of sporadic strikes but there is still a disheartened, apathetic attitude towards politics among the majority of the workers. The mass exodus of young Eire workers – 300,000 – to Britain, where they have found work in the war industries or have enlisted in the British services, is the root cause of the stagnation. If emigration had been dammed up, the desperate plight of the workers would have produced a tremendous pressure upon the existing organizations. As things have been, the various tendencies have each stewed in their own juice. The Stalinists are split into two rival factions; each one numerically insignificant.
This is not to say that they are finished for good. Needless to say, the limits within which the Eire CP may move to the left to meet the postwar situation will be determined by the Kremlin diplomacy; it is reasonable to suppose that there will be a new turn of policy before long. And it is realistic to expect that for a time the Stalinists will make some headway again. This is not to say that any large number of Eire war workers are under Stalinist influence. Most of them, in fact, are undoubtedly strongly hostile to British imperialism and, therefore, far from sympathetic to the antics of the Stalinists.
The decline in the living standards of the Irish worker will be even more precipitous than in Britain. Of course, in the long run the majority of British workers have equally bleak prospects, but no section will experience such a sharp and steep decline in living standards as the “redundant” Eire workers. These workers will fight. They will not accept pauperization as an unalterable fate. The British war effort has enabled them to escape the unbroken unemployment which has demoralized the 70,000 unemployed remaining in Eire. Least of all among the workers have they held the illusion of possessing a stake in the Empire’s war effort; so quite naturally Eire workers have been noticeably to the forefront in the British industrial struggle. The grip of the priesthood – always strongest where family relationships are stable – will undoubtedly have been loosened among many of these workers, most of whom are young.
Even if, for the reasons we have indicated, in the first stages the Stalinists recruit a certain percentage of these returning workers, it is none the less evident that Stalinism in Eire will labor under a grave disadvantage compared to, let us say, French Stalinism, or even to British Stalinism. Probably in no country, apart from the totalitarian states, has Stalinism collapsed so completely as an organized force as in Eire during the war years. The Stalinists cannot hope to emerge from their present state unscathed. The returning workers will approach politics with a seriousness corresponding to the situation. At the same time, most of them will be entering politics for the first time. The Stalinist movement, even allowing for the transference of some British party members back to Ireland, will have only a handful of the type of rank and file workers who have put much effort and sacrifice into the party and who have become indoctrinated with the ideology of Stalinism over a lengthy period.
No matter how stringently the bourgeois government attempts to deal with the returning workers, inevitably the lightning growth of the unemployed will contribute to an increase in the rate of taxation; and consequently further lower the vitality of the already depressed industries of Eire. It is not improbable that Eire unemployment will rise to the fantastic figure of half a million. A discussion on the transitional demands of the Fourth International in relation to the special problems of Eire unemployed is not the sole concern of the party in Eire. It transcends the 26 County boundaries to the same extent as the Eire workers have themselves done so.
In Northern Ireland a scandalous regulation exists which excludes Eire workers from receiving unemployment benefit unless they have worked in the North for 5 years; although the Eire war workers are compelled to contribute the same sum into the Unemployment Insurance scheme as Ulster or British workers. At the same time the iniquitous residence permit system excludes almost all Eire workers from qualifying to receive payment. Agitation on behalf of returning Southern Irish workers who have contributed to the British insurance scheme will be carried out by our British comrades.
The majority of the Eire war workers are dilutees. Moreover, the arrangement between the Eire and British governments allows them only a specified stay in Britain. They are therefore in a singularly weak position to resist sackings; and they will be in a particularly desperate plight once they have become unemployed. Many – perhaps the majority – will have worked in Britain in types of industry of which there exists no equivalent in Eire. Moreover, it is even doubtful if there exists sufficient [illegible] to absorb the majority in any capacity. Our key demand in Eire must therefore be for the inauguration of public works projects, financed by taxing the rich, on a scale capable of absorbing all unemployed and of a nature which will produce genuine use-values for the workers. This is not to say that the transitional demand for a sliding scale of hours in inapplicable. At every stage it must be agitated for both in relation to the situation within the factories already operating and to the public works projects under workers’ control. For example, the bourgeoisie will cite the shortage of raw materials in order to demonstrate the impossibility of introducing useful public works on a scale sufficient to absorb the unemployed. Our reply must be: “Then shorten the hours of work while preserving the normal weekly wage.”
The bourgeois political leaders must have wracked their brains more than once over the question of the returning workers. In general, their problem reduces itself to two main tasks: (1) to find adequate funds to cope with the situation during the most critical stage – that is, before the decentralization of a sufficient number has been achieved; (2) to decentralize the unemployed as quickly as possible by establishing some form of slave camp system. The bourgeoisie will be assisted in their plan to drive the unemployed – the unmarried youth in particular – out of the capital city by the unevenness of the scaling down of the British war effort. The workers won’t come home together in one huge mass but, to begin with, in dribs and drabs. However, even the British bourgeoisie cannot control the transition from war economy to peace economy exactly to suit their own political purposes. Naturally, they will try to organize the pay-offs in the most expedient way. Nevertheless, a huge and uncontrollable slump in employment is bound to take place shortly after the end of the war in Europe. And then Dublin will be crowded with returned emigrants.
From Ulster also a large emigration of workers to cross-Channel jobs has taken place during the war, although not on the same huge scale as from Eire. The majority of Ulster workers have been absorbed by the war industries of the Province. Before the war nearly every Ulster worker who thought politically considered himself either a Unionist or a Nationalist.
The Labour Party had only negligible influence at this period and the Stalinists were quite insignificant. The working class is at a much higher level of political consciousness today. Sectarian bitterness has died down. The majority of workers have swung to the left. A series of bitter strike struggles, made possible by full employment, has severely shaken the power of the Unionists; and, of course, the whole international situation has awakened the. workers to socialist ideas. However, the hardships of war have pressed lightly on the shoulders of the Ulster workers. The British conscription laws do not cover the Province. The working class as a whole has therefore gained materially out of the war. There is work for all. No one has been forced to don uniform. This situation, we think, reflects itself among a number of militants who accept our policy in the following attitude: “Tomorrow I will be back on the scrap heap, but meanwhile I am not too uncomfortably placed. If I join the Trot-skyists I may be immediately victimized. So, although I support them, I will hold my job while it lasts.” When considering the problems of Northern Ireland it must never be forgotten that a police regime exists. The workers themselves never forget this. Irrespective of the actual powers which the police can use at a given moment the traditional fear of them persists. This exercises a most depressing effect.
The dominant force in the working-class movement during the war years has been the Shop Stewards’ Movement, led by a mixed bunch of left Labourites and workers deeply imbued with syndicalist illusions. However, wartime illusions are already in process of being shattered. Male unemployment has trebled in the past three months. The heavy industries have little or no postwar future, and most of the workers realize this.
The Stormont Government is little more than a glorified Town Council. Almost 40% of the Six County population belong to Belfast. The great majority are workers, unlike in the South; there is only an insignificant urban petty-bourgeoisie, politically inconsequential, while at least 40% of the rural population is hostile to Stormont on nationalist grounds. Already the Unionists have lost their ideological grip on the Protestant workers, who were the main prop of their power in prewar years.
The majority of workers are employed in two or three large industrial plants. When any one of these close down – and unemployment is already developing in aircraft – a governmental crisis is threatened. Large industrial struggles in Belfast affect the Stormont regime in much the same way as the General Strike threatened the British capitalist state. We believe, therefore, that the onslaught of depression may produce a revolutionary crisis in Northern Ireland sooner than in England.
Upon the publication of reports relating to the European Conference of the Fourth International, held in February 1944, and especially in connection with the participation in it of a German Trotskyist group, the “Committee Abroad of the IKD” saw fit to issue a letter, dated Nov. 19, 1944, disclaiming all knowledge of such a group, implying that it was not a genuine German Trotskyist group, insisting that it is “most likely a few AUSTRIAN comrades who are involved, who belonged neither to the IKD nor to the Fourth (International).” And so forth and so on. This letter was carried by the Shachtmanite sheet, Labor Action. Below we print a letter of protest addressed to Labor Action by a group of European Trotskyists.
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March 17, 1945
To the Editorial Board Of Labor Action New York, NY
We have just received a copy of your issue of December 11, 1944, in which appears, under the title: A Letter From German Socialists, a statement made in the name of the “Committee Abroad of the IKD.”
The very fact that this Committee has sent you this letter which you introduce as coming from “our” comrades, is a disgraceful action on the part of a leadership claiming to “represent” a section of the Fourth International. But that is a matter which will be settled within the ranks of the Fourth International itself.
The Committee of the IKD, by its letter, and you, by endorsing it, endeavor to throw suspicion upon the information published concerning the activity of the Fourth International on the European continent under the yoke of the Gestapo. You present these informations as unreliable and unverifiable. But in spite of the still difficult communications, you were not – at the time of your publication – altogether ignorant of parts of this activity, of the clandestine meetings, the illegal publications, the many victims. You affect to ignore this and are very eager to show your political hostility by publishing a scandalous letter: German militants have forgotten or have been unable to register with the so-called IKD leadership before being murdered by the Gestapo. Therefore, they are not Fourth Internationalists! The Stalinist slanders against us are more dangerous, but certainly no more odious than the alleged objectivity to which you pretend.
In fact, the comrades here are now in direct contact with the European parties, and the information to which the “Committee Abroad of the IKD” objected was information given directly by the provisional European Secretariat of the Fourth International.
In the above-mentioned statement, the so-called leadership of the IKD and yourself ignore and refuse to recognize the members of the Fourth International, militants who have propagated the program of the Fourth International under the Gestapo terror. It is obvious that this so-called leadership of the IKD and yourself, having both abandoned fundamental points of the Bolshevik-Leninist program, are only recognizing each other in order to fight against the program of the Fourth International and the organizations struggling for it.
To conclude, may we add that, at present, the groups in Europe which had fought each other bitterly for many years, are either unified or attempting to unite on the basic program of the Fourth International. Conditions in Europe are sweeping away those who have used revolutionary words to cover their skepticism and they are leaving room only for those who really take the revolutionary struggle to heart. The distance which is separating you from the comrades in Europe should incite you to some caution in dealing with them.
P.S. Copies of this letter have been sent to The Socialist Appeal, London and The Militant, New York.
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Last updated on 10.9.2008