From Workers’ International News, Vol.3 No.1, January 1940, pp.6-9.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
September 5th 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany, witnessed also the passing of the Defence of India Act. Under this Act the Viceroy of India was given power to pass any ordinance which he considered necessary for the security of India and for the proper prosecution of the war. Thus, by a stroke of the pen, the few political rights which the Indian people had won after decades of struggle, were filched away.
It is easy to see that sections prejudicial to “the security of India” or to “the proper prosecution of the war” might mean any form of, action or speech which is likely to inconvenience the Government.
The Rules and Orders in Council passed under the Emergency Powers Act in Britain are equally directed against the people. But here they are at present being kept in abeyance merely as a threat, whereas in India the ordinances under the Defence of India Act are in daily operation. Let us take two examples.
The Associated Press of India reported on October 5th 1939:
“The police searched this afternoon the offices of the Comrade the English weekly, the Bengal Provincial Peasant Committee, the Bengal Trade Union Congress and the Bengal Jute Mill Workers’ union, under the Defence of India Ordinance. In search of a red leaflet, the special branch of the Calcutta police raided today about half a dozen places including a printing press.”
On October 30th 1939, the same News Agency reported the arrest and imprisonment under the Defence of India Act, of three individuals from such widely separated places as Calcutta, Karachi and Multan for having made speeches condemning the war. The two instances mentioned above were selected out of hundred of similar ones to illustrate the character of the repression in India today.
In the first place, the police drive is mainly directed against the socialist and radical anti-imperialist elements. This is sound imperialist policy based upon a correct understanding of the fact that in the not too distant future it will be the organised workers in the industrial areas of India who will play the leading role in the struggle against British imperialism and its war. In the second place the repression is not confined to one particular locality but extends throughout the 1ength and breadth of India. In the Native States the great feudal landlords have equipped themselves with home-made Public Security Acts to deal similarly with their own subjects.
The impact of the war on the Indian masses has already been felt. As war contracts are pouring into the pockets of the mill-owners, the factory laws relating to limitation of the hours of work are being abandoned one after the other.
On November 10th 1939 the Associated Press Reports
“All Jute Mills in the province of Bihar have been exempted from the provision of the Factories Act dealing with the limitations of work for the period during which the Public Emergency arising out of the continues.”
On November 28th 1939 reports the same Agency:
“The latest orders placed by the British Government with the Indian Jute Mill Association for 500,000,000 sandbags necessitated a further increase of working hours to sixty per week.”
Prices are increasing by leaps and bounds. A non-official resolution discussed on December 6th in the Bengal Legislature draws attention to the “abnormal rise in the prices of commodities of daily necessity and the possibility of a breach of the peace at any moment as a result of this.”
The war means tremendous, profits for the capitalists, both white and brown, but for masses of the toilers of India, it can bring nothing but further impoverishment in their miserable conditions of living. But the imperialists have no illusions about the real attitude of the Indian masses toward the war. The repressive measures now in full swing in India give the lie to all the propaganda about Indian loyalty to the war.
Patriotic Britishers who desired to come home to volunteer for service were not permitted to leave India. We thus witness the paradoxical spectacle of Indian troops being sent to Singapore, Egypt and the Western Front, while the Britisher is forced to remain in India. The explanation, however is to be found in a recent Government communique which says,
“Such action (of young Britishers who desired to go home to volunteer for national service – Ed.) though inspired by the most patriotic of motives is not in the interests of India. Persons desirous of leaving India are requested to apply instead for temporary commission in the Army in India or for regular British units serving in India.”
The sons of the British bourgeoisie in India can always be relied upon to be the staunchest supporters of imperialist rule. The Garwali Rifles by their refusal to fire upon Indian workers in 1931, demonstrated that Indian troops are not immune to revolutionary atmosphere.
Consider again the agreement between the Government of India and the King of Nepal under which 8,000 Nepali troops will be employed by the former for service in various parts in India. In using these barbarian troops Britain is only following the example of the Russian Czar who preferred to rely upon his Cossacks to deal with the Petrograd workers. It is good imperialist policy but it destroys the illusion that Indian loyalty is unbounded.
The Imperial Government apprehends a mass upheaval in India as a result of the additional sufferings which war will impose upon the Indian masses. It is precisely because of this that imperialism cannot grant any concession to the Indian capitalists. The leaders of the National Congress, Gandhi and Nehru, do not seriously intend to oppose the war because as the political representatives of the Indian capitalists and landlords, they cannot dissociate their fate from that of their masters, the capitalists and financiers of London. These leaders are for the war.
“Strange as it may seem, my sympathies are wholly with the Allies. Willy-nilly this war is resolving itself into one between such democracy as the West has evolved and totalitarianism as is typified by Herr Hitler ... Unless the Allies suffer demoralisation of which there is not the slightest indication, this war may be used to end all wars.”
Thus wrote Mr. Gandhi on September 30th (Hindu, Sept. 3lst 1939). The Congress leaders would like to come out in open support of the war and as recruiting agents for Chamberlain. The only thing that holds them back is the tremendous hostility among the masses of India and among the rank and file members of the Congress towards war. The latest resolution of the Congress demonstrates this. On the one hand the Congress “dissociates itself from British policy and war efforts” while on the other hand it expresses its determination to “continue to explore the means of arriving at an honourable settlement, even though the British Government has banged the door in the face of the Congress.” This resolution, says Dr. Bose, an ex-president of the Congress and one of the leaders of the left-wing, means that “we shall continue to lick the feet of the British Government even though we have been kicked by them,” Mr. Bose who is a Gandhist who has accidentally quarrelled with gandhism and who is opposed to the revolutionary instincts of the Indian masses just as much as Mr.Gandhi is but even he has to express his disgust with the belly-crawling and treacherous policy of the Gandhi is and the Nehrus whom the Stalinists and the ILP opportunists in this country have depicted before the British workers as leaders of the Indian revolution. “For the Rightists” says Mr. Bose, “British Imperialism is a lesser enemy than Indian Leftism.”
Referring to the possibility of the Congress initiating another Civil Disobedience Movement, Mr. Gandhi declared on November 20th, “I have neither the strength nor the desire for such activities.” This obvious lack appetite for even a moderate struggle is probably due to the “disquieting” information which is believed to have reached Mr. Gandhi about the absence of an atmosphere of perfect non-violence in certain places in the United Provinces. There is a section which is growing restive and discontented and sees that “the resignation of the Congress Ministries is after all a negative step, and must be followed by positive action.” (Hindu, November 20th 1939.)
That is the reason why this hypocritical agent of the British ruling class, warned the Congress workers that he “would not allow the rank and file to set the pace for the movement as a whole and if they were anxious to retain his leadership it must be on his terms and not on theirs. (Hindu, November 1939.)
Neither the ordinances of British imperialism nor the treachery of the capitalist politicians of India will be able to prevent the inevitable rising of the Indian masses against imperialist oppression accentuated by the war. It is impossible to conceive that the workers in advanced Europe will continue indefinitely to be blinded by the lying speeches of Labour and Trade Union officials. In India similarly the disillusionment of the masses with the treacherous leaders will grow at a rapid pace.
The Indian Stalinists, obediently carrying out the behests of the reactionary Stalinist bureaucracy do their best to deliver over the Indian masses to the Indian reactionaries. They sabotaged every attempt on the part of the masses to play an independent role in the struggle against imperialism. Just as this country they held up the Churchills and the Duchesses before the working class as the staunchest of fighters against fascism, so also in India they painted the reactionary Gandhi-Nehru line-up as the leaders of the anti-imperialist struggle. Even now that the Popular Front has been abandoned as a direct consequence of the Stalin-Hitler pact, the Indian Stalinists are still forced to pursue the old line. Dimitrov, in the course of laying down the new line for the party hacks, points out that although popular fronts are no longer suitable for white workers, “they are fully applicable even now in China and also in colonial and dependent countries.” (Daily Worker, Nov 4th 1939.) The history of the Comintern in India is one of repeated betrayals. The Indian workers can have nothing but contempt for such scoundrels.
The Indian revolution can succeed only under the leadership of the Indian working class, the most consistently anti-imperialist section of the Indian people. Small though it is it alone is capable of rallying the hundreds of millions of the impoverished peasantry under the banner of the revolution. To the building of a party, our Indian comrades must direct all their efforts. The revolutionary society of the Indian proletariat must necessarily be the Indian section of the Fourth International, the vanguard of the international working class.
Last updated on 26.10.2005