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International Socialism, Winter 1962


Notes of the Quarter

Himalayan Frost


From International Socialism, No.11, Winter 1962.
Transcribed by Mike Pearn.
Marked up by by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


We don’t know why the Himalayan War started, nor why it stopped, why the wasteland is now richer by thousands of corpses. China’s rulers, driven to extremes by three disastrous harvests in three years could only have welcomed a conflict designed to wreck the Indo-Russian entente, and to force Russia’s bureaucrats irrevocably into their beleaguered camp (See Note 2 below). In the event the Russians refused to budge. India would get her MIGs; she would probably have got more. Faced with a grand Russo-American alliance behind Nehru, the Chinese had to retreat.

One thing we might know more or better; perhaps we won’t. But we can say one thing with unwavering certainty: whatever the reason, they had nothing to do with the interests of China’s worker or peasants. No conceivable good could have come to them from the few thousand square miles of arctic rock occupied and abandoned in their name. On the contrary, the strains of war could only have added to their misery.

This is not to say that the defence of those wastes could have alleviated in any way the already appalling conditions of India’s masses. Here too ‘territorial integrity,’ ‘historic borders’ were merely the currency; what it bought was ferocious exploitation. Nehru’s government hardly waited to invoke the Defence of India regulations inherited from the wartime British Raj, which provide, inter alia, for outlawing of strikes (para 81a), imprisonment for ‘sabotage’ (defined so widely as to cover any sort of protest [para 35], banning of organizations considered ‘prejudicial’ to the conduct of the war [para 27a], arrest without warrant [paras 12a, 129]). They were quick to strip Indian citizens of Chinese descent of their constitutional rights. They have suspended certain State rights and guarantees so as to strengthen the Centre. They have fomented public violence against dissent of any sort and pounced on even ‘moderate’, ‘Russian’ communists.

With this further tilt in the class balance and the sudden growth in ruling class cohesion, many of the old inhibitions have been swept aside. In the name of national defence, the veto on military aid from the West has been dropped, and since ‘Mr Menon’s retention ... was something of a boulder in the path of aid’ (Times, 1 November) Mr Menon has gone too. In the name of unity, regional claims such as those of the DMK in the South have been stilled. In the name of production, the borders between state and private industry, the limits of the Plan itself, have been blurred in a profitable combined operation. Foreign capital, sitting astride the technological-complex industries, will not be forgotten in the handout.

Hysterical chauvinism is good business. But it is a tragedy for Indian socialists. To be swept up into supporting a regime which claims, as first victims, civil rights and workers’ standards, is to switch our class allegiance from the exploited to their exploiters; it is to abdicate as socialists. Many have done so – not least among them, the vast majority of the Indian Communist party; many others will follow. For those who remained, the only policy possible, unpopular though it be and dangerous for whoever espoused it, was revolutionary defeatism – fight the boss and his wars.

Such a policy must not be construed as support for China’s bosses, critical or otherwise. Socialists the world over could have no allegiance to either side in their cold-blooded, power-political Himalayan joust. On both sides of the border, the masses could have had and can have only one common concern – to oust the rulers whose interests it serves, to break both Peking and Delhi and build international socialism.

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Last updated on 19 March 2010