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The New International, March 1942

[Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India]

The Social Classes in India


From New International, Vol. VIII No. 3, April 1942, pp. 71–76.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The revolt of 1857 represented the last attempt of the old feudal ruling class of India to throw off the British yoke. This revolt, which, despite its reactionary leadership, laid bare the depth of mass discontent and unrest, created an alarm in the British rulers and led to a radical change of their policy in India. Seeking for bases of social and political support within India, the British abandoned the policy of annexing the Indian states within British India, guaranteeing the remnants of the feudal rulers their privileged and parasitic positions in innumerable petty principalities, buttressing their power and protecting them against the masses, and receiving in return the unqualified support of these elements for the British rule.

The princes of the Indian states, maintained at the cost of a chaotic multiplication of administrative units, are today only the corrupt and dependent tools of British imperialism, and the feudatory states, “checker-boarding all India as they do, are no more than a vast network of fortresses” erected by the British in their own defense. The variety of the states and jurisdiction of the feudal princes defies a generalized description, but they bolster alike the reactionary policies of imperialism in India. The despotism and misgovernment practiced by the great majority of these rulers, in their territories, have created and perpetuated conditions of backwardness extreme even in India, including the most primitive forms of feudal oppression and of slavery itself. Their collective interests are represented by the Chamber of Princes, instituted in 1921, which is the most reactionary political body in India.

Landlords and the Indian Bourgeoisie

The most solid supporters of British rule in India, after the princes, are the landlords. In fact, the majority of the princes themselves are no more than glorified landlords, playing the same parasitic role as the landlords of British India. The landlords of India have a record of medieval oppression, of rack-renting and usury, and of unbridled gangsterism over a disarmed peasantry, which has made them the most hated exploiters in India. The rapid extension of landlordism in modern time through the development of intermediary and new parasitic classes on the peasantry, has not only increased the numbers of those who receive land-rents, but firmly linked their interests with those of the Indian capitalist class, by the ties of investment and mortgage. The political rôle of the landlords has always been one of complete subservience to British imperialism, which alone guarantees their parasitic position. Landlordism is today the most formidable buttress of British imperialism within Indian society, as well as the greatest obstacle in the way of agricultural development which demands a thorough-going democratic revolution in the agrarian field and the liquidation of landlordism in all its forms.

The second half of the nineteenth century saw the rise of an Indian capitalist class in Bombay and other industrial centers. The Indian bourgeoisie of the early period, conscious of its own weakness and dependent position in economy, offered no challenge whatever to British rule. But the deep economic conflict between their own interests and those of their British competitors drove them, from the first decade of the twentieth century, to utilize the national political movement as a means to strengthen their bargaining power against British imperialism and to extend their own field of exploitation.

The bourgeoisie, in the absence of any competing class and especially of an independent proletarian movement, assumed complete leadership of the national political movement from the beginning, through its party, the Indian National Congress. The bourgeois leadership of the movement was clearly demonstrated in 1905, by the choice of the economic boycott of foreign goods as the method of struggle against the partition of Bengal. The aims of the bourgeoisie were defined during this period as the attainment of “colonial self-government within the Empire” as junior partners of the imperialists. They abandoned the struggle for a policy of co-operation with the government after the grant of the Morley-Minto reforms, their own aims being satisfied for the moment.

The last years of the First World War, and the years which immediately followed it, were marked by the development, for the first time since 1857, of a mass struggle on a national scale against imperialism, based on the discontent and unrest of the peasantry and the working class. This discontent was especially marked in Bombay, where the wave of working class strikes was on a scale hitherto unknown in India, and reached its highest point in 1920, for which year the number of strikers reached the gigantic total of one and one-half millions. The Montague-Chelmsford reforms were designed to meet this rising threat by buying off the bourgeois leadership, and they succeeded to an extent, that section of the bourgeoisie which wanted whole-hearted co-operation with the government seceding from Congress to form the Liberal Federation (1918). But the growth of the mass movement compelled the Congress bourgeoisie either to enter the struggle or to be isolated from the masses. Launching under its own banner the passive resistance movement and the later mass civil disobedience movement of 1921–22, they entered the struggle, but only to betray it from the inside.

The movement, which, despite its timid and unwilling leadership, had “attained the undeniable character of a mass revolt against the British Raj,” was abruptly called off when at its height by the bourgeois leader, Gandhi, and a period of demoralization for the masses followed. The reactionary and treacherous character of the bourgeois leadership was shown clearly in the Bardoli resolution of 1922, which condemned the no-tax campaign of the peasantry and insisted on the continuation of rent payments to the landlords, assuring the zamindars that the Congress “had no intention of attacking their legal rights.” The bourgeoisie thus demonstrated their reactionary attitude toward the land question, in which lies the main driving force toward revolution in India.

The Influence of Gandhi

With the worsening conditions of the late twenties, the mass struggle developed again at a rising tempo, and was again led to defeat by the Congress (1930–34). The aims of the new struggle were limited by Gandhi beforehand to the celebrated eleven points which represented exclusively the most urgent demands of the Indian bourgeoisie. Nevertheless the movement developed in 1930 far beyond the limits laid down for it by the Congress, with rising strikes, powerful mass demonstrations, the Chittagong Armory raid, and the risings at Peshawar and Sholapur. Gandhi declared openly to the Viceroy that he was fighting as much against the rising forms of revolt as against British imperialism. The bourgeois aim was henceforward to secure concessions from imperialism at the price of betraying the mass struggle in which they saw a real and growing threat to themselves. The Gandhi-Irwin settlement was a settlement against the mass movement and paved the way for the terrific repression which fell on the movement during its ebb in the years 1932–34.

Since 1934 Gandhi and the leaders of the National Congress have had as their chief aim that of preventing the renewal of a mass struggle against imperialism, while using their leadership of the national movement as a lever to secure the concessions they hope to obtain from imperialism. They see in the rising forces of revolt, and especially in the emergence of the working class as a political force, a threat to their own bases of exploitation, and are consequently following an increasingly reactionary policy. Reorganizing the party administration so as to secure to the big bourgeoisie the unassailable position of leadership (1934), they transferred the center of activities to the parliamentary field and to working the new constitution in such a way as to secure the maximum benefits to the bourgeoisie; until the intransigence of the British Parliament and the Indian government in the war situation and the withdrawal of many of the political concessions of provincial autonomy again forced the Congress into opposition (1939). At present the Congress bourgeoisie is engaged in a restricted campaign of individual “non-violent” civil disobedience, with narrowly defined bourgeois aims, and under the dictatorial control of Gandhi himself. By this move they hope to prevent the development of a serious mass struggle against imperialism, the leadership of which will be bound to pass into other hands.

The main instrument whereby the Indian bourgeoisie seeks to maintain control over the national movement is the Indian National Congress, the classic party of the Indian capitalist class, seeking as it does the support of the petty bourgeoisie and if possible of the workers, for their own aims. Despite the fact that under these conditions revolutionary and semi-revolutionary elements still remain within the fold of the Congress, despite its mass membership (five millions in 1939) and despite the demagogic programmatic pronouncements (Constituent Assembly: Agrarian Reform) which the Congress has repeatedly made, the direction of its policy remains exclusively in the hands of the bourgeoisie, as also the control of the party organization, as was dramatically proved at Tripuri and after. The Indian National Congress in its social composition, its organization and above all in its political leadership, can be compared to the Kuomintang, which led the Chinese revolution of 1925–27 to its betrayal and defeat.

The characterization of the Indian National Congress as a multi-class party as the “National United Front” or as “a platform rather than a party” is a flagrant deception calculated only to hand over to the bourgeoisie in advance the leadership of the coming struggle, and so make its betrayal and defeat a foregone conclusion.

The more open reactionary interests of the Indian bourgeoisie find expression in many organizations which exist side by side with the Congress. Thus the Liberal Federation (1918) represents those bourgeois elements which co-operate openly with the imperialists. The sectional interests of the propertied classes are represented by various communal organization, notably the Moslem League (1905) and the Hindu Maha Sabaha (1925), which are dominated by large landlord and bourgeois interests and pursue a reactionary policy on all social and economic issues, deriving a measure of mass support by an appeal to the religious and communal sentiments of the backward masses.

The Petty Bourgeois Intelligentsia

Because of their position of dependence on the capitalist class, and in the absence of a real challenge to its leadership from the proletariat, the various elements of the urban petty bourgeoisie and of the petty bourgeois intelligentsia, have always played a satellite rôle to the bourgeoisie. The radicalization of the petty bourgeoisie under imperialism found its first and strongest expression in the prolonged terrorist movement in Bengal and elsewhere, despite the heroism of its protagonists the failure of which demonstrated finally the utter inability of the petty bourgeois intelligentsia to find an independent solution of its own problems.

Today the urban petty bourgeoisie finds its political reflection mainly in the various organizations within the fold of or under the influence of the Indian National Congress, such as the Forward Bloc, the Congress Socialist Party, the Radical Democratic Party of M.N. Roy, etc.

Within the Congress the petty bourgeois leaders have repeatedly lent themselves to be used by the bourgeoisie as a defensive coloration before the masses, bridging with their radical phrases and irresponsible demagogy the gap between the reactionary Congress leadership and the hopes and aspirations of the masses. Thus the demagogy of Bose and Nehru, as well as the socialist phrases of M.N. Roy and the Congress Socialist Party, to say nothing of the “Marxism” of the National United Fronters of the Communist Party of India, have in turn served the Gandhian leaders as a smoke screen for their own reactionary maneuvers.

The humiliating capitulation of the CSP to the Congress leadership, the conversion of M.N. Roy and his Radical Democrats to imperialist warmongering and the departure of S.C. Bose from the Indian scene are symptoms of the diminishing political role of the petty bourgeoisie intelligentsia, which, however theatrically it may posture before the masses in normal times, exposes in times of growing crisis its political bankruptcy and exists only to be utilized by the bourgeoisie in its deception of the masses.

The Rôle of the Peasantry

The peasantry comprises the vast majority of the Indian population (about 70 per cent). The stagnation and deterioration of agriculture, the increasing land hunger, the exactions of the government, the extension of parasitic landlordism, the increasing load of rural debt and the consequent expropriation of the cultivators are together inevitably driving the peasantry on to the revolutionary road. Peasant unrest, leading frequently to actual risings (Santhal Rebellion of 1855, Deccan riots of 1875), has been a recurring motive in recent Indian history. In the last two decades and especially since the world economic crisis of 1929 the peasant movement has been on the rise and has taken on a more and more radical character.

It is precisely the depth and scope of the agrarian crisis that places the revolution against imperialism on the order of the day, contributing to it the driving force and the sweep which are necessary to accomplish the overthrow of the ruling power. Nevertheless the agrarian crisis alone cannot produce a revolution, and the peasantry requires the leadership of another class to raise the struggle to the level of a national revolution. The isolation and the scattered character of the peasant economy, the historical and political backwardness of the rural masses, the lack of inner cohesion within the peasantry and the conflicting aims of its various strata, all combined to make it impossible for the peasantry to play a leading or even an independent rôle in the coming revolution.

The invasion of moneyed interests has sharply accelerated the disintegrating tendencies within the peasantry. The creation of a vast army of landless peasants, sharecroppers and wage laborers on the land has immensely complicated the agrarian problem and rendered necessary revolutionary measures of the most far-reaching character. The basic antagonism between landlord and peasant has not been reduced by the entry of finance-capital into agriculture, since this did not bring with it any change for the better in farming methods or in the system of land tenure. On the contrary, the landlord peasant antagonism has been given a sharper emphasis by the extension of parasitic claims on the land, and the overthrow of landlordism by the transference of the land to the cultivator remains the primary task of the agrarian revolution. Nevertheless, this basic antagonism has been supplemented by a new one, which is reflected in the growth of an agricultural proletariat in the strict sense of the word. Besides this, the invasion of finance-capital has made the problems of mortgage and of rural debt more pressing in some parts of India than in others, and these facts taken together will probably give to the agrarian revolution, at least in some areas, an anti-capitalist character at a very early stage.

It is clear that the rural laborers are still too closely connected with the peasantry and share too closely the misfortunes of the peasantry generally for the movement of the rural workers as such to assume national significance. But at the same time, these new problems of agriculture cannot be solved by the overthrow of landlordism alone, which cannot by itself put an end to land hunger or reduce the heavy and disproportionate pressure of the population on the land. The introduction of socialist measures, of large-scale collective farming, etc., will become necessary at some stage, depending on the correlation of political forces and the prospects of industrializing agriculture.

The leadership of the revolution, which the peasantry cannot provide for itself, can come only from an urban class. But the Indian bourgeoisie cannot possibly provide this leadership, since in the first place it is reactionary through and through on the land question itself, sharing as it does so largely in the parasitic exploitation of the peasantry. Above all, the bourgeoisie, on account of its inherent weakness and its dependence on imperialism itself, is destined to play a counter-revolutionary role in the coming struggle for power.

Leadership of the Peasantry

The leadership of the peasantry in the petty bourgeois-democratic agrarian revolution that is immediately posed can therefore come only from the industrial proletariat, and an alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry is a fundamental prerequisite of the Indian revolution. This alliance cannot be conceived in the form of a “Workers and Peasants Party” or of a “Democratic Dictatorship” in the revolution. It is impossible so to fuse within a single party or a dictatorship the policies of two classes whose interests only partially coincide and are bound to come into conflict sooner or later. The revolutionary alliance between the proletariat and peasantry can mean only proletarian leadership of the peasant struggle and, in case of revolutionary victory, the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship with the support of the peasantry.

The growth of the peasant movement in recent times has led to the formation of various mass organizations among the peasantry, among which the most important are the Kisan Sanghs (Peasant Committees) which are loosely linked up on a district, provincial, and finally on an all-India scale in the All-India Kisan Sabha, whose membership in 1939 was 800,000. These associations, whose precise character varies from district to district, are in general today under the control and influence of petty bourgeois intelligentsia elements, which, as pointed out before, cannot follow a class policy independent of the bourgeoisie, although the growing mass pressure upon them is reflected in the more sharply radical demands they are forced to put forward.

There is no means of deciding in advance the exact rôle of the Kisan Sanghs in the coming revolution. This will be determined by the correlation of forces within them, which in turn will depend largely on the consciousness and militancy of the lower layers of the peasantry and the measure of control they exercise in the Kisan Sanghs. But it can be stated beforehand, on the basis of the experience of the Russian and Chinese revolutions, that the existence of Kisan Sanghs, on however wide a scale, does not offer a substitute for the separate organizations of poor peasants and agricultural laborers in the rural Soviets, under the leadership of the urban working class. Only the Soviets can assure that the agrarian revolution will be carried out in a thoroughgoing manner.

The Position of the Proletariat

The industrial proletariat is the product of modern capitalism in India. Its rapid growth in the period since 1914 can be illustrated by a comparison of the Factory Act statistics for 1914 and 1936.



No. of


No. of







The numerical strength of the industrial proletariat can be estimated at five millions, distributed mainly as follows (1935 figures):

Workers in Power Driven Factories
(including those of the native states)







Water Transport Workers


Plantation Workers


The Indian working class is chiefly employed in light industry (cotton, jute, etc.), but also to some extent in the iron, steel, cement and coal mining industries. The degree of concentration in industrial establishments is relatively high, owing to the recency of industrial development and the typically modern character of many of the new enterprises. Despite its numerical weakness in relation to the total population, the proletariat holds a position in Indian society which is quite out of proportion to its actual size, on account of the vital place it occupies in the economy of the country. The proletariat has grown with the investment of British capital from the beginning of capitalist production in India to this day. Although the native bourgeoisie has come belatedly on the scene to take part in the capitalist exploitation of the working class, the main effective means of production are in the hands of British capital. Consequently the working class has developed out of all proportion to the relative growth of the Indian bourgeoisie.

The wage rates of the Indian proletariat are among the lowest, the living conditions the most miserable, the hours of work the longest, the factory conditions the worst and the death rate the highest in the civilized world. When these facts are taken together with the fabulous profits made by the capitalists (British and Indian alike) out of Indian industry, it becomes clear that the working class is the most ruthlessly and directly exploited class in India. The fight to remedy these intolerable conditions and to protect themselves against the steadily worsening conditions of exploitation bring the workers directly to the revolutionary struggle against imperialism and the capitalist system, the abolition of which is necessary for their emancipation.

Working Class Struggles

The record of proletarian struggle in India can be traced back to the last century; but the movement took on an organized character only in the post-war period. The first great wave of strikes (1918–21) signaled the emergence of the Indian working class as a separate force and gave to the national political movement during this period a truly revolutionary significance for the first time in its history. In 1920, on the crest of this strike wave, the Indian Trade Union Congress was formed. The second great strike wave of the late twenties, especially in Bombay, showed an immense advance in the working class movement, marked by its increased awakening to Communist ideas. The increasing millions of the workers and the growing influence of the Communists caused the trade union movement to be split in two by those leaders who sought the path of collaboration with the bourgeoisie. Thus the reactionary Trade Union Federation was formed in 1929. This policy of the reactionary labor leaders was facilitated by the disastrous “Red Trade Union” policy followed by the Communist Party of India on orders from the Comintern bureaucracy. With the arrest of the Communist leaders on a trumped-up charge (the Meerut conspiracy case) and the further splitting of the Trade Union Congress in 1931, the wave of working class struggle subsided once more. It was in this period (1930–31) that the Communist Party of India, which commanded the confidence of the awakening working class, made the grievous political mistake of standing aside from the mass movement which was again assuming revolutionary proportions.

The tendency toward economic recovery commencing in 1936 combined with the mass activities in connection with the election campaign of the Congress led to a revival in the mass movement which entered once again on a period of rise. The Congress ministries saw a resurgence of the working class strike movement with the Bengal jute strike (1937) and the Cawnpore textile strike (1938), which was arrested only by measures of increased repression introduced by the government since the outbreak of war; but not before the Indian working class had clearly demonstrated its attitude toward the imperialist war, particularly by the mass political anti-war strike in Bombay of 80,000 workers.

In the political arena the working class has repeatedly demonstrated its heroism and its readiness for unremitting struggle. Its failure nevertheless to wrest the leadership of the national movement from bourgeois hands must be explained by its own weakness in consciousness and organization, added to by the defects of its leadership in the critical years in particular.

The Political Parties

The Communist Party of India which alone in the last two decades could have afforded the Marxist leadership that above all things it needed, made instead a series of irresponsible mistakes which find their expression in the bureaucratically conceived policies of the Comintern. In conformity with its false central programmatic aim, the “democratic dictatorship” of the proletariat and the peasantry, the CPI fostered the growth of workers’ and peasants’ parties from 1926–28, at the expense of an independent working class party. This policy was shelved in 1929 to make way for an ultra-left sectarian policy (in the celebrated third period days of the Comintern), the signal expression of which lay in the splitting of the trade union movement by the formation of “Red Trade Unions.” This sectarian policy of the CPI led to its isolation from the mass struggle of 1930–31 and made the bourgeois betrayal of the struggle so much the easier. In the period of ebb which followed (1934) the CPI was illegalized and has remained so since. From 1935 onward the CPI (again at the behest of the Comintern, now openly and flagrantly the tool of the Soviet bureaucracy) reversed its policy once more and held out the hand of collaboration to the bourgeoisie through its policy of national united front, which credited the bourgeoisie with a revolutionary rôle. The CPI was transformed into a loyal opposition within the Congress, having no policy independent of that organization, a state of things which continues even today.

The mechanical echoes of every new slogan advanced by the Comintern to suit the changing policies of the Soviet bureaucrats, the CPI has shown its reactionary character by its vacillating attitude toward the imperialist war. With its false theory of national united front, the CPI is making ready to repeat its betrayal of the Chinese Revolution by handing over the leadership of the revolutionary struggle to the treacherous bourgeoisie. The Communist Party of India, because of the prestige it seeks to obtain from the Russian Revolution and the Soviet Union, is today the most dangerous influence within the working class of India.

To the right of the Communist Party, openly preaching class collaboration with the bourgeoisie, and today with the British imperialists at war, is the party of M.N. Roy. With a narrowing base within the working class, Roy has turned to the labor bureaucrats supporting the war and to the bourgeoisie itself for a following.

The Congress Socialist Party (1934) has from the beginning followed a policy of utter subservience to the Congress bourgeoisie and remains today completely without a base within the working class. Surrendering its claim to an independent existence, the CSP has been split wide open by the Communists, who worked inside it, and is today an empty shell, devoid of political substance.

To the left of the Communist Party, disgusted with its bureaucratic leaders and its reactionary policies, there exist a number of small parties and groups, occupying more or less centrist positions. Such are the Bengal Labor Party (Bolshevik Party of India), the Red Flag Communist Party led by S.N. Tagore, etc. Without a clear cut revolutionary policy and without making a decisive break organizationally and politically with the Comintern, these parties and groups are unable to offer the working class the independent leadership it requires. Nevertheless these groups and parties contain many tried fighters and able Marxist theoreticians who would be invaluable in a revolutionary working class party. This party can only be the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India, the party of the Fourth International in India, which alone with its revolutionary strategy based on the accumulated experience of history and the theory of permanent revolution in particular, can lead the working class of India to revolutionary victory. This party has still to be built on an all-India scale, though many groups exist already whose fusion in the formation committee of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India has provided the nucleus for its formation.

The Permanent Revolution

Despite its subjective weakness in organization and consciousness, inevitable in a backward country and in the conditions of repression which surround it, the working class is entirely capable of leading the Indian revolution. It is the only class objectively fitted for this role, not only in relation to the Indian situation, but in view of the decline of capitalism on a world scale, which opens the road to the international proletarian revolution.

The proletariat needs above all to develop its own independent political party, free from the influence of the bourgeoisie and armed with the weapons of revolutionary Marxism, to lead it not only in the day-to-day struggles but above all in the coming revolution. Without such a party the proletariat must fail in its historic task of leading the masses of India to revolutionary victory.

India faces a historically belated bourgeois-democratic revolution, the main tasks of which are the overthrow of British imperialism, the liquidation of a semi-feudal land system, and the clearing away of feudal remnants in the form of the Indian Native States. But although the bourgeois-democratic revolutions occurring in the advanced capitalist countries in previous centuries found leadership in the then rising bourgeoisie, the Indian bourgeoisie, appearing on the scene only after the progressive rôle of the bourgeoisie in the world as a whole has been exhausted, is incapable of providing leadership to the revolution that is unfolding in India.

In the first place, as a historically belated class, they do not possess the strength and independence of the early bourgeoisie of former times. Connected with and dependent on British capital from their birth, they have progressively been brought into a position of subservience to British finance capital and today display the characteristics of a predominantly compradore bourgeoisie enjoying at the best the position of a very junior partner in the firm British Imperialism & Co. Hence, while they have been prepared to place themselves through the Indian National Congress at the head of the anti-imperialist mass movement for the purpose of utilizing it as a bargaining weapon to secure concessions from the imperialists, they have restricted its scope and prevented its development into a revolutionary assault on imperialism. Incapable from the very nature of their position of embarking on a revolutionary struggle to secure their independence, and fearful of such a struggle, they have maintained their control over the mass movement only to betray it at every critical juncture.

Secondly, unlike the once revolutionary bourgeoisie of former times, which arose in opposition to the feudal landowning class and in constant struggle against it, the Indian bourgeoisie has developed largely from the landowning class itself, and is in addition closely connected with the landlords through mortgages. They are therefore incapable of leading the peasants in the agrarian revolt against landlordism. On the contrary, as is clearly demonstrated by the declared policy and actions of the Indian National Congress both during the civil disobedience movements and in the period of the Congress ministries, they are staunch supporters of zamindari interests.

The Native Bourgeois Is Reactionary

Finally, unlike the bourgeois-democratic revolutions of former times, the revolution in India is unfolding at a time when large concentrations of workers already exist in the country. The industrial proletariat numbering five millions occupies a position of strategic importance in the economy of the country which cannot be measured by its mere numerical strength. It is important to remember, moreover, that a hitherto uncalculated but indubitably very high proportion of these workers are employed in large concerns employing several hundreds and thousands of workers. The high degree of concentration of the Indian proletariat immeasurably advances its class-consciousness and organizational strength. It was only in the post-war years that the Indian working class emerged as an organized force on a national scale. But the militant and widespread strike waves of 1918–21 and of 1928–29, which were the precursors of the mass civil disobedience movements of 1920–21 and of 1930–33 respectively, testify to the rapidity of the awakening. These workers are in daily conflict not only with the imperialist owners of capital, but also with the native bourgeoisie. The workers, moreover, being a class exploited not only by indigenous capital, but also – in fact, predominantly – by foreign capital, have as a class grown to an extent out of all proportion to the size and strength of the Indian bourgeoisie. Faced by the threat of this new and growing class, which is rapidly awakening to consciousness and making a bid to play an independent role in the national political arena, the Indian bourgeoisie has grown more conservative and suspicious. With every advance in organization and consciousness of the workers, they have drawn nearer to the imperialists and further away from the masses. Even the oppositional rôle they were wont to play against imperialism has become a caricature of its former self. Fearful already of any kind of mass movement against imperialism, the aim of their control over the national movement through the Indian National Congress is today not so much the securing of concessions from imperialism as preventing the outbreak of an anti-imperialist movement on a mass scale. It is clear that not a single one of the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution can be solved under the leadership of the Indian bourgeoisie.

The urban petty bourgeoisie, daily becoming declassed and pauperized under imperialism, and, declining into economic insignificance, cannot even conceive of playing an independent role in the coming revolution. Since, however, there is no prospect whatever of improving their condition under imperialism, but on the contrary they are faced with actual pauperization and ruin, they are forced on to the revolutionary road. The peasantry, the largest numerically and the most atomized, backward and oppressed class, is capable of local uprisings and partisan warfare, but requires the leadership of a more advanced and centralized class for this struggle to be elevated to an all-national level. Without such leadership the peasantry alone cannot make a revolution. The task of such leadership falls in the nature of things on the Indian proletariat, which is the only class capable of leading the toiling masses in the onslaught against imperialism, landlordism and the native princes. The concentration and discipline induced by its very place in capitalist economy, its numerical strength, the sharpness of the class antagonism which daily brings it into conflict with the imperialists who are the main owners of capital in India, its organization and experience of struggle and the vital position it occupies in the economy of the country, as also its steadily worsening condition under imperialism, all combine to fit the Indian proletariat for this task. It is only under the leadership of the proletariat (as distinct from the “hegemony of the proletariat,” which is an equivocal and deceptive phrase coined in preparation for handing over the leadership to the bourgeoisie) that the revolution in India can be carried to a victorious conclusion.

Hope Lies in the Proletariat

But the leadership of the working class in the bourgeois-democratic revolution poses before the working class the prospect of seizing the power and – in addition to accomplishing the long overdue bourgeois-democratic tasks – of proceeding with its own socialist tasks. And thus the bourgeois-democratic revolution develops uninterruptedly into the proletarian revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the only state form capable of supplanting the dictatorship of the imperialist bourgeoisie in India. The realization of the combined character of the Indian revolution is essential for the planning of the revolutionary strategy of the working class. Should the working class fail in its historic task of seizing the power and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat, the revolution will inevitably recede, the bourgeois tasks themselves remain unperformed, and the power swings back in the end to the imperialists, without whom the Indian bourgeoisie cannot maintain itself against the hostile masses. A backward country like India can accomplish its bourgeois-democratic revolution only through the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The correctness of this axiom of the theory of permanent revolution is demonstrated by the victorious Russian Revolution of October 1917, as it is confirmed on the negative side by the tragic fate of the Chinese revolution of 1925–27. The seizure of power and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat is the supreme task of the Indian proletariat. The illusory slogan of “democratic dictatorship of workers and peasants” (postulating a non-existent intermediate stage prior to the proletarian dictatorship in which the bourgeois-democratic tasks are performed), which Lenin abandoned in time to save the Russian Revolution, can result only in confusing and misleading the workers. In China, the “democratic dictatorship of workers and peasants” was demonstrated in practice to be nothing more than the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

In India, moreover, where the imperialists are the main owners of capital, the revolutionary assault of the workers against imperialism will bring them into direct and open conflict with the property forms of the imperialists from the moment the struggle enters the openly revolutionary stage. The exigencies of the struggle itself will, in the course of the openly revolutionary assault against imperialism, demonstrate to the workers the necessity of destroying not only imperialism but the foundations of capitalism itself. Thus, though the Indian revolution will be bourgeois in its immediate aims, the tasks of the proletarian revolution will be posed from the outset. The expropriation of the capitalists will be on the order of the day on the very morrow of the seizure of power by the workers.

But the revolution cannot be stabilized even at this stage. The dictatorship of the proletariat in India alone cannot maintain itself indefinitely against the hostile forces of world imperialism without the support of the international proletariat. It will find a powerful ally, no doubt, in the Soviet Union, the first workers’ state. But the ultimate fate of the revolution in India as in Russia will be determined in the arena of the international revolution. Nor will India by its own forces be able to accomplish the task of making the transition to socialism. Not only the backwardness of the country, but also the international division of labor and the interdependence – produced by capitalism itself – of the different parts of world economy, demand that this task of the establishment of socialism can be accomplished only on a world scale. The Indian proletariat will, of course, proceed with the socialist transformation of society to the extent that this is possible in the concrete circumstances, but the establishment of the socialist society will depend on the course of the international revolution. The victorious revolution in India, however, dealing a mortal blow to the oldest and most widespread imperialism in the world, will on the one hand produce the most profound crisis in the entire capitalist world and shake world capitalism to its foundations. On the other hand, it will inspire and galvanize into action millions of proletarians and colonial slaves the world over and blaze the trial of world revolution (inaugurate a new era of world revolution).

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