From Workers’ International News, Vol.3 No.7, July 1940, pp.13-16.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The greater the military reverses, the louder our ruling class proclaims its democratic mission. To the long list of countries for whose freedom Britain is fighting, is now added France. All are to be freed except their own slaves. Each successive reverse which Britain has suffered in the military field has been followed by a new wave of political repression in India. The latest victim of British “democracy” in India is Mr. Bose, an ex-President of the Indian National Congress and the leader of its left wing. The arrest and incarceration of all anti-imperialists continues unabated under the pretext of fighting Hitlerism.
Totalitarian or democratic, imperialism fundamentally remains the same. Those who have raised once again the cry for a “People’s Government” which, they claim would turn the present war of reaction into a war for freedom, are careful not to divulge the fact that there has not been a single People’s Government yet which has freed its colonial slaves, or even attempted to. Not even on its deathbed did the People’s Government of Spain grant freedom to Spanish Morocco thereby generating troops for Franco. The Popular Front regime in France continued with the policy of exploitation of its colonial slaves administered by its predecessors and ruthlessly crushed the Neo Destour Party in Tunis striving for National liberation. The “People’s Government” for Britain now being projected by the Communist Party will be no different from its continental predecessors. Capitalist Britain cannot give freedom to India and the colonies. This war was not entered for nothing. It was this very Empire that was at stake.
Though Churchill has shed none of his imperialist aims, he sees however, the necessity for a change in policy in relation to the nationalist leaders in view of the extremely critical situation on the international field. Whitehall is acutely conscious of the need of arriving at a settlement with the leaders of the Indian National Congress.
It is significant that the news of the capitulation of the French bourgeoisie was followed immediately by the Viceroy inviting Mt. Gandhi to an interview. The interview however, ended without any settlement being reached. This was probably due to the fact that the native bourgeoisie has raised its price for capitulation. The great cotton magnates and financiers of Bombay cannot but look with concern at the policy of appeasement adopted by Churchill”s government towards Japan, their principal competitor for the Indian market. The capitulation at Tientsin and the evacuation of Hong Kong may well be followed by further retreats. Would Britain resist if Japan insisted on the removal of the protective tariffs which alone enable the Indian Mill owners to exploit the Indian market? Considerations such as these have raised in an acute form the problem of the Central Government which determines the financial policy of India. As the Central Government is constructed under the Constitution of 1935,the Congress leaders can never hope to secure a majority as against the representatives of the Princes, communal bodies and other direct agents of imperialism. In the interests of its own safety, Indian capitalism has been forced to increase its demands. That is the significance of the resolution of the Working Committee of the Congress of July 6, depending “complete independence” and the formation of a provisional National Government as a first step towards it.
The coming period is likely to be one of intense negotiations, numerous interviews and varied journalistic speculations. But the present deadlock must end. It is no longer possible for the Congress leaders to keep up the pose of supporting the war in private, while opposing it in public. The service they have rendered in the past has been invaluable to the imperialists. Holding in their hands the undisputed leadership of the masses, they have held in check the rising tide of revolt throughout the country. They denounced the war in phrases, but they refused to oppose it in action. They threatened Britain with a new Disobedience movement but they postponed it to some distant future. A series of wordy resolutions against the war hid the actual and daily support which they gave to its prosecution. But more is required of them now. The Congress leaders must now directly participate in the war preparations. They must act now as they did in the last war. The “Great Betrayal” is on the order of the day.
From this point of view last month”s resolution of the Working Committee of the Congress acquires great significance. In this resolution, which followed the news of the French disaster, the Congress leaders renounced once and for all, the sacred principle of non-violence as a method of preventing “external aggression” and “internal disorder”. By declaring its new faith in violence the Congress leaders have taken one more step on the road to direct participation in the imperialist conflict.
The objective situation therefore poses once more before the Indian masses the problem of revolutionary leadership. The dead weight of the reactionary leadership of the Congress capitalists prevents the release of the revolutionary forces rapidly accumulating in the factories and villages. A new wave of strikes threatens the industrial areas. Among the peasantry in spite of the incarceration of almost all the leaders, the struggle against exploitation grows in, intensity. The Hindu, highly respected organ of Indian bourgeois opinion, carried a report in an April issue, which gives a glimpse of the intensity class warfare and the growth of militancy among the peasantry:
“Two passenger trains were held up on the East Indian Railway by peasant agitators, who shouting slogans and with Red flags, posted themselves on the track before the oncoming trains, which were compelled to pull up. Some of peasants boarded the train and, when asked to get out, explained that the train and tracks belonged to them. About 20 peasants have been arrested on various charges.”
Incidents such as those, while testimony to the intensity of mass feeling against the imperialist system, point to the absolute necessity of a revolutionary alternative to the Congress leadership.
The Daily Worker has recently launched a campaign to advertise the so-called “Communist” Party of India as the revolutionary party of the Indian masses.
“The policy of the Party,” says the Daily Worker of June 28, “is attracting large masses of the people, who in the struggle for Indian freedom have become more and more disillusioned with the vacillating leadership of Gandhi-Nehru.”
What is this policy which they counterpose to the “vacillating policy” of the Congress leaders? “General strikes in the major industries together with country wide no-rent campaign and no-tax agitation” But the counter revolutionary role of Stalinism becomes apparent when we ask ourselves who is to lead this movement. According to the Daily Worker
“The main task is to create a situation in which the Congress as a whole will give the call for struggle and will as a whole move into action.”
Can anyone believe that the “Congress as a whole” will call for a general strike? In the Working Committee of the Congress there is not a single socialist. Patel, Desai, Rajagopalachari, Prasad – have never made any secret their alliance with the landlords and capitalists. To imagine that these people can lead a general strike in the major industries is to believe that they will cut their own throats. Even the followers of Mr. Bose, who by no stretch of imagination can be called socialist, have declared that it is necessary to drive the present leaders out of Congress before it can be used as an instrument of struggle. The workers of Bombay who faced the bullets of the Congress Government, the hundreds of peasants of Behar and United Provinces imprisoned by the pro-war Congress Governments will laugh at the Stalinist suggestion. Under the slogan of “Unity in the Congress” the Comintern has sacrificed the struggle of the toiling masses for freedom and social liberation and handed them to the mercies of the Indian national bourgeoisie.
Only the Indian working class is capable of advancing a bold revolutionary agrarian programme, of rousing the tens of millions of Indian peasants and uniting them in struggle against their British and native oppressors. If the Indian bourgeoisie advances one step along the road of struggle against the arbitrary rule of Great Britain the working class will support this step. But to do so the working class must have its hands free to struggle. It will support such a step only by its own methods mass meetings, bold slogans, demonstrations, strikes, and whore necessary more combative forms of activity, depending on the relation of forces.
The alliance of the workers and poor peasants is the only reliable alliance, which can secure the victory for independence and freedom and assure the success of the Indian revolution.
But to advance this programme to build alliance, a revolutionary party, basing itself on the vanguard of the working class must be built. Such a party does not at present exist in India. Declaring its complete independence from the policies of the native bourgeoisie; such a party could patiently explain the role of the Second and Third International parties, the parties of betrayal, corruption and defeat. This party must be and can only be the party of the Fourth International.
Last updated on 20.10.2005