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Reva Craine

World Politics

(25 June 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 26, 25 June 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Indian Independence

The question of Indian independence is moving into the limelight again. The White Paper issued by the Secretary for India, Leopold S. Amery, in which the British government reoffering in slightly modified form the 1942 Cripps proposals as a substitute for national independence, is a sign of the times.

The current proposals are designed not so much to break a deadlock in negotiations between a few Indian leaders and the British government. If that were all that was involved, Churchill could slap Gandhi back into jail and forget the whole business.

What produces these proposals at this time are three factors, the most important of which is the fact that India’s millions have not given up their century-old desire for freedom and are ready to take up an active struggle for it again.

Added to this is the growing popularity of the United States, which for its own imperialist aims presses for the loosening of England’s grip on India.

And finally, there are the British elections, in which Churchill wants to appear as the friend of the Indian people. Britain is seeking, not to break a deadlock, but to prevent the outbreak of the Indian revolution.

The Cripps Proposals

The Amery document declares that the Cripps offer, rejected in violent struggle by the Indian people in 1942, remains open. The Indians threw this offer back into the faces of their British masters because it had in no way satisfied their demand for immediate and unconditional independence. It had proposed to retain the 1935 Constitution, which deprived about 365 million out of a population of 400 million of the right to vote, and which gave to the British Viceroy the following powers: to veto all decisions of the Provincial Councils, to control the police, army and use of troops, to order arrests, to levy taxes, to control the banks, foreign relations and finances. The matter of defense was to remain entirely in the hands of the British government. In the sweet bye and bye, some time after the war, nobody knows just when, Cripps proposed that a new Constitution, which would aim at not independence but “semi-dominion” status, be drawn up. In the meantime, the Indian masses were to throw all their energies behind the British war effort.

That was in 1942, when Japan’s armies were on the borders of India. In defense of their country the Indian people unceremoniously gave Sir Stafford the boot and opened up an active struggle against British imperialism.

Vacillation of the leadership and superiority of the British forces temporarily suppressed the struggle. Thousands were arrested, thrown into jail, and the Constitution was suspended. The British ruled India by executive decree.

The New Proposals

Now Mr. Amery is offering to reconstitute the Executive Council, to be composed of Indian political leaders who would be chosen by a conference of recognized party leaders. The Viceroy would, naturally, retain all his old powers. Represented on a parity basis at this conference, called for June 25 at Simla, would be the Moslems, who constitute less than one-fourth of the population, and the caste Hindus, or a very small proportion of the remaining 300 million. The great bulk of the Indian masses would not be represented at this conference.

Mohandas K. Gandhi, leader of the Congress Party, has stated that he is willing to study these proposals. However, he is very careful not to commit himself too definitely since he is not too sure that the Indian people are ready to accept. He therefore states that he is prepared to recommend to the Congress Party that it study these proposals. Later reports declared that Gandhi would oppose the British plan.

This is characteristic of Gandhi’s conduct. He is an Indian nationalist, that is, he wants national freedom for India. But he is at the same time a representative of the small Indian capitalist class, and therefore wants this freedom so that his class will be able to exploit the Indian workers and peasants. That is why he is opposed to active mass revolutionary struggle, for he knows that such a struggle can very well sweep away the Indian capitalist together with the British imperialist. This is at the root of his compromising attitude.

However, the Mahatma is far too shrewd to oppose the will of the masses directly. He seeks therefore to deflect their struggles into passive resistance, always leaving them unprepared to resist the armed intervention of British imperialism.

In 1942, we know that the Congress Party leaders were ready to accept the Cripps proposals, but it was the insurgent masses who prevented that. Gandhi, more sensitive to the moods of the people, got the Congress leaders to reject the Cripps offer. Today, Gandhi is ready to recommend to his party to accept the Amery offer, but leaves himself free to change his position should the Indian people once again force their will upon the Congress leadership.

We have every reason to believe that the Indian masses will not be fooled by the Amery proposals any more than they were by the Cripps proposals. The famine of the last three years, entirely the product of Britain’s misrule and mismanagement, is a stark reminder to the Indians that they have nothing, absolutely nothing to gain from across-the-table negotiations with their imperialist overlords, and that direct action is the only language the latter will understand.

British Labor Leaders Accept

Clement R. Attlee and Sir Stafford Cripps, leaders of the British Labor Party, have endorsed the Amery proposals. In this they were certainly not shaking for British labor. The working people of England have no interest in the continued retention of India as a colony.

At a Labor Party conference last December, the worker delegates showed where they stood on the question. Over the objections of the Party leaders, who threatened that the passage of the resolution introduced by the National Union of Railwaymen meant that the “British should quit India tomorrow,” the great majority of the conference called for the immediate release of all Indian political prisoners.

While Churchill shows that he understands how the British workers feel about freedom, for India, the leaders of the British Labor Party show that they are at one with Churchill, i.e., British imperialism, in regard to foreign and colonial policy.

A new stage in the struggle for Indian independence is opening up. A very important factor for the success of this struggle is the solidarity of the British workers with the Indian masses. Spearheading this solidarity are two organizations – the British Revolutionary Communist Party, which calls for immediate and unconditional freedom for India, and the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India, which calls for the attainment of national freedom through independent class action of the working classes.

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