Glotzer Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Albert Glotzer

Gandhi Makes His Peace with Imperialism

(March 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 6, 15 March 1931, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The splendid revolutionary struggle of the Indian masses against the rule of British imperialism has suffered another betrayal by their leader, Gandhi. It is not the first time that the “little man” played this ignominious rôle. In 1922, when the struggle for independence reached proportions threatening to the Empire, Gandhi was again at the helm of the movement – and then, as now, he was there to call off the fight at the moment when the ferment in the masses reached a point too dangerous to the tottering rule of Great Britain.

While the bourgeois press speculates as to who will profit more through the pact signed by Lord Irwin and Gandhi on March 4, 1931, the betrayal is unmistakable fact. In clause Five of the pact, it states:

”Civil disobedience will be effectively discontinued and reciprocal action will be taken by the Government. By effective discontinuance of the civil disobedience movement is meant the effective discontinuance of all activities in furtherance thereof by whatever methods pursued and in particular the following:
(a) Organized defiance of the provisions of any law;
(b) Movement for non-payment of land revenue and other legal dues;
(c) Publication of news sheets in support of the civil disobedience movement;
(d) Attempt to influence civil or military servants or village officials against the government or to persuade them to resign their posts.” (Emphasis mine – A.G.)

Gandhi adds, as if to make this more effective, “I shall strain every nerve to make the provisional peace a PERMANENT one.” (Emphasis mine – A.G.)

In the name of the Nationalist Party, the Mahatma calls off the civil disobedience movement, the defiance of the salt laws, non-payment of taxes, illegal assemblies, and mass picketing of factories and shops selling British goods. In return the Nationalist Party will be allowed to participate in the round-table conference to discuss Indian independence, and will have the right to continue the primitive manufacture of salt, which will however, continue to remain under the monopoly of the Empire.

The meaning of this truce is quite clear. It seeks to liquidate the revolutionary struggle and force into submission the rebellious masses. It leaves the proletariat and peasantry defenseless against the bitter exploitation of the British as well as their own bourgeoisie. In a word, it fulfills the wishes of the British imperialists and proves again that Gandhi is their loyal servant. He writes, on March 2, 1931, to Lord Irwin, “... I feel no hatred for the British, nor the least wish to harm their legitimate rights in this”. Legitimate rights! This can only mean the right of British imperialism to loot and exploit India at its will.

Britain’s fierce struggle against Indian independence is easily understood when it is realized that without India, there is no British Empire. This is the key to the question. What is necessary for the revolutionary proletariat of the world as well as for India, is to determine the rôle of Gandhi and the Nationalist Party. They represent the interests of the native bourgeois and petty-bourgeois classes and in the present struggle, as in all others, they reflect the deep fermentation in the masses. When the movement of the revolutionary workers and peasants becomes too threatening, they enact the rôle of traitors.

Gandhi’s policy of “non-violence” is a rejection of the revolutionary methods of struggle. It signifies capitulation to Great Britain and in essence expresses a deep fear of the proletariat. It is this small but highly developed Indian proletariat that can give leadership to the impoverished peasant masses in the revolution, and it is the proletariat alone that can successfully carry through its tasks. This is precisely what the native bourgeoisie, in the person of Gandhi, fears most. Gandhi expresses this clearly when he says: “It is dangerous to make use of the factory proletariat.”

The significance of the revolution lies in its mass character, and the will to power by the masses. The objective conditions are ripe for the seizure of power. There remains however, the burning question of leadership in this struggle. It is upon the solution of this problem that the success of the Indian revolution depends. At present it constitutes the greatest weakness of the revolution.

The native bourgeoisie and the petty-bourgeoisie have conclusively demonstrated that they cannot lead the revolution to a victorious conclusion. They fear the revolution, and more than that they fear the proletariat. Only the Communists organized into a revolutionary party, with a correct program, can achieve the victory of the revolution. They can achieve it only as a dictatorship of the proletariat and in no other way. There are the lessons of all revolutionary struggles under imperialist capitalism.

What is needed today in India, is a strong Communist party to give leadership to the Indian masses. It is necessary to put forth the strategic aim of the dictatorship of the proletariat immediately. Without it one of the main barriers in the road of the emancipation of India’s workers and peasants – that is, the barrier artificially erected by Roy and the Right wing on one hand, and its Stalinist caricature on the other – will remain in the way.

Albert Glotzer Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 4.12.2012