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The New International, November 1943

Henry Young

General Wavell Comes to India


From The New International, Vol. IX No. 10, November 1943, pp. 310–311.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


One year has passed since the All India Congress party, yielding to the insistent demands of the people, helped precipitate a violent struggle for independence throughout the sub-continent. All of us are familiar with the terroristic counter-attack launched against the masses by the British, as well as with the fact that the movement has been temporarily defeated and even crushed. But it is still worth while to examine briefly the situation in India – in so far as the niggardly information available makes this possible. What transpires in the classic land of imperialist victimization is always significant in answering the questions: what the the plans and intentions of the imperialists; what are the basic trends within the colonial movement?

Several brute facts are immediately observable in the India of October 1943.

  1. Lord Linlithgow, that stilted, pompous and stuffy symbol ever meant by the term “heartless British imperialism,” has departed. Lord Wavell has taken his place. That, as the saying goes, “is the same difference.”
  2. The Indian masses of virtually every province (Bengal, Punjab, Bombay, Bihar, etc.) are in the midst of a calamitous agricultural and food crisis; heightened by such facts as the loss of Burmese rice and unparalleled hoarding and “black marketing” by robber merchants. Famine and starvation apparently are widespread, with epidemics of bubonic plague, typhus and cholera getting a firm grip, according to the meager reports. It can be said, without a trace of exaggeration, that the people of India are today suffering as never before in the long two hundred years of their foreign enslavement.
  3. The Congress Party, particularly its left and center wings, has been beheaded. The latest government report admitted that 20,000 Nationalists fill the jails, comprising every leading executive committee member, plus provincial, town and village leaders. Political life, in any formal, parliamentary or discussion sense of the word, has ceased to be. In the words of Herbert Matthews, there is a deep sense of frustration all over the land.
  4. Taking advantage of the Congress failure to provide leadership, the Moslem League, with its appeal to backwardness and a further disintegration of the as yet fully unachieved national unification, has apparently succeeded in making substantial gains among the Moslems. This has further added to the reactionary winds that blow over the land.
  5. Great efforts are being directed toward the military upbuilding of India as a base of operations for the coming Burma and China campaigns. These preparations include the island of Ceylon.

Routing of the Congress

To outward appearances, imperialism seems to have its great colony well in hand and resurgent nationalism has been shoved back to remote corners where it barely lives.

There can be no question, of course, that the conservative Congress Party of Gandhi and the Indian bourgeoisie was decisively defeated and ruthlessly routed. Forced to call a struggle that it did not want (it has always lived on the decayed fruits of compromise) and certainly was not prepared for, the party has met the inevitable fate of those incapable of leading in such times. Its entire leadership rots in jail; its structure and apparatus are smashed; its right wing (Rajagopalichariar) has openly deserted to the imperialist masters and its prestige and influence among the peasantry and workers has sunk to the vanishing point. It refused to fight imperialism in a revolutionary manner and lies strewn about as so much political rubble.

Even the great Mahatma himself has suffered the greatest and most humiliating defeat of his long career! His hunger strike of several months back proved a fiasco – the British told him to die, if he so wished; the people were more or less indifferent. Gandhi’s efforts to disown and disavow the violent struggles of the workers and students have been rudely ignored, along with similar efforts by various right wingers of the party. Imperialism, we must admit, won that battle, thanks to the leaderless opposition it faced. Now it can afford to spurn disdainfully those essentially responsible for this tragic situation.

The other existing political organizations have fared little better than the Congress during the past year. The Congress Socialist Party – a party of petty bourgeois radicals within the amorphous left wing of the Congress – has apparently disappeared completely from the scene. Its leaders are in jail, its activities are nil. The official Communist Party of India can point to a legal existence and public activity, but it is eternally disgraced for its open opposition to the independence movement. In the mind of those acquainted with it, it is associated with British imperialism and anti-nationalism. Particularly among its students and intellectual supporters has its former influence declined. Its strike-breaking rôle was apparent to every participant in the movement.

The only radical organization that emerged from the defeats without disgracing itself, or without loss of strength, was the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India. This is not to say that it, too, has not suffered in the general setback experienced by the workers and peasants of India. But this new and youthful revolutionary party definitely proved its tenacity and determination by actively participating in the struggles and even registering some gains. It participated in the demonstrations and struggles of the people; it published and distributed many leaflets explaining its stand; it succeeded in establishing itself as a force on Indian soil. Most of its gains came from revolutionary students who learned, in action, what Stalinism represented. The behavior of the Indian Fourth Internationalists is the one bright spot in the whole situation.

British Plans for India

The past year underscores a theme that has been repeatedly stated in this magazine since the war began. Namely, that the colonial bourgeoisie is incapable of any decisive success on the terrain of the struggle for national freedom. In this transitional period between the collapse of bourgeois nationalist leadership and the coming assumption of leadership by the rising Indian proletariat we must allow for the possibility of a temporary descent into the valley of political apathy and inertia. But the Indian Bolshevik-Leninists, concentrating their efforts among the industrial workers – particularly those hundreds of thousands of war-created workers in heavy industry-have indicated the source of this coming leadership.

Basing themselves upon their undoubted victory, the general stagnation that prevails and their customary contempt for the colonial people, British imperialism has several clear plans. First, it is preparing to mount an offensive against the Japanese, whose threat to India has vanished. Reconquest of Burma, Malaya, Hong Kong and other positions in Asia are the main objectives in British plans. The British aim to do all this with a modicum of American aid, since they are not anxious to see American imperialism penetrate into British spheres any more than necessary. Secondly, the British have to strengthen further their hold over the Indian Empire, since they appreciate fully the need to possess that market and source of materials in the post-war world. These frankly imperialist ambitions preclude in advance any efforts to resolve the crisis in India by a new “Cripps mission,” or any further approaches for the time being to the Indian native bourgeoisie. It is a game played without any pretense or sham. For Churchill to open the route to China and drive the Japanese out of South Asia under his own steam, so to speak, would be a profitable victory indeed for British imperialism.

Every problem of India’s future, from the elementary question of national existence to the complex question of its reconstruction, remains totally unsolved after four year of war. But the two prime elements for the revolutionary settling of these matters exist – the nucleus of a future mass revolutionary party, and a growing body of class-conscious workers who will find their way into the ranks of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party.

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Last updated on 11 July 2015