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FIGHT, November 1937

B.C. Agarwal

The Colonial Question: Congress And The Indian Masses


From FIGHT, November, 1937, Vol. 1, No. 11, pages12-13.
Transcribed, edited & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2009 for ETOL.


To the great satisfaction of the British rulers of India, the Nationalist Congress has accepted office in the seven provinces out of eleven where it secured a majority of seats in file new elections. Though the constitution framed by the conservative India Office has limited the powers of these ministries to the discretion of the British Governors appointed by Whitehall, the bourgeois section of the Indian National Congress has thought it wiser to stop agitation and make some money while the present boom lasts. Gandhi, who till now was a hater of all the circumscribed parliaments designed by the Imperial masters for the “gradual education in the arts of democracy of the backward and inferior Indian people” has discovered charms enough in the Provincial governments to cast his great influence on the side of those right-wing politicians of the Congress, who were eager ever since the days of the election to kiss the hands of His Imperial Majesty’s representatives in India. The sweeping victory of the Congress Party which not only surprised the British officials but the congress leaders, has been accompanied by several other things which are not to the liking of the new honourables dressed in the homespun uniform of the nationalist cult. A peasant movement of a force and character unparalleled in the history of British India has raised its head in all the provinces. The ministers are talking about prohibition while the leaders of the hungry peasants are demanding immediate cancellation of all debts and substantial reduction in the rent paid by them to landlords and the Government.

The Premier of Behar, Shri Krishna Narayan Singha, who happens to be a big landlord himself, has pontifically declared against all class war, and added that he would not be dominated by the interests of any class in particular. As the speech was occasioned by widespread peasant demands, one can easily deduce what interests are those which are not going to dominate the policy of the Behar Cabinet. Obviously those of the poor peasants and landless labourers who had looked with hope to the day when the Congress would come into power.

The so-called socialists inside the Congress are ready to co-operate with such purely conservative minds as seem to be not the exception but the rule in the different cabinets all over India. Their great leader, Nehru, is such a stickler for constitutional practice, that he does what the right-wing majority in the working committee of the Congress asks him to do. And the bourgeois leaders of the Congress are glad that they are fortunate in having a president with a socialist halo. Nehru has tried his level best to win workers who have joined the Congress to the nationalist outlook. When a local congress committee allowed the workers to join the Congress procession with their own red flags and anti-imperialist and labour slogans, Nehru came down on the secretary of the local congress committee in the name of party discipline. One can quite well understand that even Mr. Birla, the Indian president of the Employer’s Federation has nothing but praise for Nehru. In the recent strike of the Cawnpore cotton mill operatives, in his own province, Nehru has done nothing to prevent the minister concerned from taking an ambiguous attitude, very suitable to the owners who subscribed so profusely to the congress campaign. In spite of all the theoretical criticism of the Gandhi programme of social reform, Nehru manages to walk the tight rope with the Mahatma. He gives an impression of disagreement, but, he unlike even the Liberals like Herbert Samuel, never contemplates giving a go-by to the reactionary crew that hides behind the orange, white and green of the National flag. Minor though very significant is the fact that it was the socialist Nehru who was responsible for exchanging the orange for the red which used to be part of the Indian flag. The slogan of a Constituent Assembly which Nehru has raised in India is formulated in the mechanical form of adult suffrage. No doubt adult suffrage might be a great advance on the present state of affairs, but have not the social democratic parties in Europe been defeated one after another in spite of a democratic franchise. And with a vast peasantry like the one in India, it is quite conceivable that a reactionary agrarian party mouthing radical slogans

November, 1937. (Continued from page 11) might easily upset all the radical conclusions of Nehru, Jayprakash and Masani. The main part of the Congress Socialist group is composed of those intellectuals like the three above mentioned who are dissatisfied with the Chestertonian programme of Gandhi. They have very little experience of the class struggle and great love for big all-India organisations. The peasant movement which has taken the country like a whirlwind seems to have produced a better type of leader, men from among themselves, who speak the people’s language and express their aims and objects with a concreteness which is absent from the writings and speeches of the little Nehrus who address the district or provincial conferences with an air and assurance which their work does not entitle them to. The trade unionists are still amazed by the ease with which these European educated fellows mouth Marxist phrases and then drive away in their cars to the house of the rich employer with whom they studied at Oxford or Cambridge. DaItons, Pritts, Attlees are not a pure British phenomena they have their counterparts in India as well. Unfortunately for them and to the good luck of India, they cannot play a social democratic role very long. They can only become the little Chiang Kai-sheks of India, and it is quite likely that most of these socialists, as time passes on, will become the deadliest enemies of the working-class in India. We have seen one International revolutionary, to wit, M.N. Roy, come out of prison a pure nationalist, propagating political freedom and postponing economic issues to the day of deliverance. He does not even think that any other organisations, except the national congress, are necessary. Independent workers’ and peasants’ organisations appear superfluous to him. But the people of India, those ninety per cent. hungry workers and peasants, are demanding something here and now, and no congressman, socialist or otherwise, has yet paid any great attention to them. What is needed is a worker’s revolutionary party which will give direction to the peasant movement and free all the exploited from the illusions of Congress. The nationalist bubble is about to burst, and the path lies clear for a Marxist-Leninist party. The question is, will India rise to the occasion?

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Last updated on 9 March 2009