From Workers’ International News, Vol.5 No.4, October-November 1943, pp.3-5.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
With the spreading of the war to the Pacific, the complete bankruptcy of British Imperialism became apparent to the masses of the East. Workers and peasants of Malaya and Burma, filled with hatred against the imperialist domination of Britain, which had reduced millions to a terrible plight of poverty and misery, refused to fight against Japan. The crushing and rapid defeat sustained by Britain brought home to the masses of India, that their day of liberation was not far off. They were conscious of the rotten and outworn structure of British imperialism; all the myths and symbols of power built up in two hundred years, vanished and the masses of India were ready to launch a struggle to overthrow imperialism.
The rising tide of mass pressure found final expression in the Congress resolution of August 8th. The Indian bourgeoisie, faced with the alternative of the struggle passing under the domination of a proletarian leadership, decided to head the struggle, leaving the doors wide open to negotiations with British Imperialism. The resolution dropped the original July demand for the withdrawal of foreign troops and declared support for the Anglo-American bloc. Simultaneously, they deceived the masses by asserting that the real power must be, in their hands. Basically the resolution contained all the contradictions in the position of the Indian bourgeoisie in relation to British imperialism. On the one hand, they were sounding the bugle for struggle, and on the other, they were imploring the imperialists to retain their armies in India.
This was followed by the arrest of Congress leaders and the remarkable events of August and November, from which the revolutionaries must draw the necessary lessons for the future.
That the struggle was spontaneous and took the character of opposition to British imperialism and native landlordism, could be seen from the characteristic features of the movement. Included in the programme were the demands of no-tax, no-rent, no-grain.
From the start, it was not confined to the petty bourgeois pacifist orbit, but grappled boldly with the problem of administrative and police forces, responding to the violence of British Imperialism with counter violence. The situation was at one period extremely serious for the rulers in the whole of Bihar (except its most Southern districts) and in the Eastern part of the United Provinces. In these areas the movement soon spread from the big towns to the outlying areas. Whole districts, with their small defending forces of Government officials and police, were isolated for days on end. A very large part of the East India, and practically the whole of the British and Mid West railway systems were put out of action. For a considerable period, Bengal was almost completely cut off from Northern India, while communications with Madras were also interrupted by the damage done to the railways in the Guntur district and around Bezwada.
In the second phase of the struggle the peasantry played a dominant role, easily shaking themselves from the leadership which followed the Stalinists. The final stages were marked by bold slogans and manifestoes, raising the class nature of the struggle.
The troops used to crush the movement consisted entirely of British troops. This is an indication of the profound mistrust of the Imperialists in the loyalty of the Indian troops.
The administrative machinery of British imperialism broke down in several parts of the country. Virtually the power was in the hands of the masses, though alternative instruments of power did not appear on the scene. This is attributable to two reasons: it indicates the political immaturity of the working class: the movement remained under the ideological leadership of the bourgeoisie.
In spite of the heroism of the masses and the initial success, particularly in the countryside where the police force is weakest, the movement was drowned in blood of the masses and temporarily driven underground. To draw the lessons of the struggle and the reasons for the defeats is the primary task of the Indian revolutionaries.
The present position in India is a period of lull. But beneath this superficial quietness a storm is brewing, and the second phase of the Indian Revolution will break out on a higher plane. The objective conditions in the country are preparing the way for such an outburst. The Indian bourgeoisie, in co-operation with the British imperialists, is gathering a rich harvest of profits. Speculation and racketeering are rampant. Daily new companies are floated and profits are soaring high, Correspondingly, the economic distress of the masses is deepening. Food shortage, resulting front export of foodstuffs, and hoarding, is gripping the country and millions of workers and peasants are dying of starvation. For the first time the masses are becoming conscious that there is no other road to solve their problems except by a violent seizure of power. Ghandism is on the decline.
Within the ranks of the Congress, a distinct rank amid file movement towards a revolutionary position is taking place. Under the impact of the mass struggle, a realisation is dawning upon the rank and file, that the days of passive resistance are over. More and more they are looking for a revolutionary leadership.
The working class of India is attaining a status where it is in a position to assume the leadership of the Indian Revolution. Their numbers are swelled by the accelerated pace of Indian industrialisation. By the very logic of this development, most modern methods of production are being introduced. Development of munition factories is bringing home to them a knowledge of modern weapons. Recent struggles in the line of fire they have been through, have created a hard core of fighters. The leading role they played in the first phase of the Revolution has increased their confidence. Steeled by the fire of struggle they are preparing to settle accounts with the exploiters.
The radical petty bourgeois elements are coming under the influence of socialist ideas. The debacle of the Congress, the failure of Pacifism,, the betrayal of Stalinism, are bringing them closer to a revolutionary position. With the deepening economic chaos, their misery has increased. Lacking the defensive organisations of the proletariat, they have failed to maintain their standard of living. This developing discontent is reflected in the increased strength of the Congress Socialist Party.
The Indian army is 3,000,000 strong and its numbers are increasing day by day. The distinction between martial and non-martial races is removed, and peasants from all parts of the country are being recruited. They are being trained in the use of the most modern weapons. British imperialism, faced with a challenge to its might from the German and Japanese imperialists is creating a mighty instrument that will be torn from its hands by the Indian revolution. With the war reaching further heights of savagery, the strain of battles and the disillusionment will drive then armed forces to the ranks of the Indian revolutionaries. This will be strengthened by the agrarian crisis and the seizure of the land by the peasantry. Armed soldiers, who are mainly peasants, will gravitate towards the peasantry.
Whilst the conditions in India are inexorably leading towards a second phase of the revolution, it is not completely divorced from international factors. The collapse of the German military machine and consequent revolutions on the Continent of Europe, may give an impulse to the next step in the Indian revolution. Another flare-up in the Pacific battle, with a nationalist uprising in the Japanese occupied territories, can set the whole Asia ablaze. As the world war reaches a new peak of savagery, with millions of lives destroyed, famine, pestilence and hunger stalking the world, an elemental revolt of the masses is inevitable. The imperialistic world war has indissoluble united the cause of the Indian Revolution with that of then growing revolutionary proletarian movement of the West.
In such a struggle, the Congress Socialist Party, because of the complete bankruptcy of Stalinism, with gain tremendous strength. But in composition, ideology, and programme, it is essentially a petty bourgeois party, Refusing to base itself on the independence of a proletarian party from bourgeois influence from the outset, it is leading the Indian masses through channels of Kuomintangism. Repeating the familiar Menshevik theory that the democratic tasks of the Indian revolution will be carried out under the bourgeois leadership, it is not organisationally separated from the Congress. Pitiless exposure of this false course will bring the revolutionary elements of the Congress Socialist Party under the banner of the revolutionary party.
This is the task of the Indian Bolshevik-Leninists. Tiny minority as they are today, they are heroically fighting to create a revolutionary party in India. It can be said with confidence that the ultimate success of the Indian revolution will depend upon their role in the revolution. Re-affirming the permanent character of the Indian revolution, they have inscribed upon their banner the independent character of proletarian party in order to free it from bourgeois influence and provide a working class leadership for the peasantry.
It will be their task to place the solution to the agrarian question as the main pivot of the struggle. To that end it is necessary to expose the class character of the Congress and the direct link between the landlords, and zamindars, and the bourgeoisie. Along with the agrarian programme, it is necessary to raise the democratic demands and the slogan of a Constituent Assembly with full powers, elected by universal suffrage. It should be explained however, to the masses that such an assembly may never be convened, and even if convened, it would not carry out the agrarian revolution as long as the bourgeoisie remained in power. In the struggle for the Constituent Assembly, an independent programme, including the land to the peasants and the demands of the workers and soldiers must be provided.
Side by side with the agitation for the Constituent Assembly the Indian Bolshevik Leninists will prepare systematically for the creation of Soviets among the workers and peasants, as organs of struggle in the next great upsurge. These Soviets will provide the basis for the. taking of power into the hands of the workers and peasants when the revolution develops towards its next stage with the inevitable betrayal and sell-out on the part of the bourgeois leadership.
Whilst the Indian masses are seeking to end British imperialism in the East, the British bourgeoisie is faced with a crisis in their international position. More and more they are leaning on American capitalism to pull them out of the impasse. With this dependence is involved the loss of their precious foreign investments to the American capitalists. With the gigantic productive powers of America, accelerated by the war, all the old and potential markets of Britain are monopolised by American industry. Corresponding to this weakness, the Indian bourgeoisie is increasing its share of control in India. The sterling debt of India is practically wiped out and a considerable proportion of the industry and plantations have passed into Indian hands. Conscious of this weakened economic position, the British bourgeoisie is using savage methods of repression to hold India as the main bastion of British Imperialism.
The British Labour Party, in the hour of crisis of British imperialism. has come to the aid of the capitalist masters. Attlee supports the policy of savage repression in India with as much vehemence as Churchill or Amery. Rotten through and through with opportunism, the leadership has given up even the pretence of socialist principles. But at the same time the rank and file of the Labour Party have expressed their solidarity with the Indian masses. Though they have been mainly influenced by the false course adopted by the British Communist Party, they exhibit a genuine concern of the British workers regarding the Indian revolution. As the war reaches a climax, this differentiation will become clearer and a, mighty workers' movement in Britain will develop, demanding immediate and unconditional independence for India. This will be one of the cardinal issues on which the struggle for Labour to Power will be fought.
The Communist Party of Great Britain, while professing sympathy for Indian freedom, is completely supporting Churchill. It condemns the mass struggles in India and is advancing its false conception that by negotiations Churchill can be compelled to grant a National Government of "All interests" in India. It is necessary to expose the false character of this and to emphasise the independent struggle of the British workers in support of the Indian masses.
The ILP, instead of explaining the class character of the Indian struggle to the British workers and soldiers, is raising the problem from is pacifist, humanitarian basis. From its platform the ILP champions the Indian National Congress and from its press it supports the Congress Socialist Party. This uncritical acceptance of the Congress Socialist Party and its programme which seeks to confine the Indian revolution under bourgeois leadership, is a betrayal of the Indian revolution.
But the mass of the British workers are beginning to stir. Thousands of them conscripted and sent to India are beginning to realise that the struggle of the Indian masses is to end exploitation, starvation, dirt and disease. This finds expression in the letters written home. With the increasing hardness of the blows struck by the Indian masses, they will realise that this struggle for freedom will facilitate their own fight for freedom in Britain. Ultimately, the class solidarity will break through the barriers of army discipline and the worker-soldiers will go over to the Indian masses; they will turn their arms against the exploiters.
The Indian Revolution is inextricably bound up with the emancipation of the British working class. By destroying the roots of the British bourgeoisie, the very basis of their economic strength in the world, the Indian workers will assist the British workers to win power in England. The recent industrial struggles, and the storm that is gathering in Britain are omens of the tremendous conflicts that will arise. British workers, conscious of the opportunism, will seek an alternative revolutionary leadership. This in its turn, will again ignite the Indian revolution. With the example of the British workers before them, the Indian masses will push aside the bourgeois leadership and their lackeys, and advance towards the seizure of power.
Last updated on 24.9.2005