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Notes of the Month

Inquilah Zindabad!

(September 1942)

From The New International, Vol. VIII No. 8, September 1942, pp. 229–230.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan.

The United Nations are in a muddle. The muddle is India. From the moment that India rejected Churchill’s messenger, Sir Stafford Cripps, and his “post-dated check” for Indian freedom, the British government proceeded with its characteristic policy to beat that country into submission. The dull-witted British ministers sit on a social powder-keg and blissfully announce that everything is fine and dandy in India, and the situation is completely under control. But Time magazine, hurling the lie at the British, wrote in its issue of August 24th:

Having clapped all Congress leaders into jail, the British were prepared to deal with rioting. The Raj even hoped that prompt action would break the back of the Congress Party once and for all. Optimistically, government officials announced that resistance was virtually under control. Immediately new riots broke out in Madras, where four men were killed trying to attack a railway station. Ahmadabad mill closed. A Karaikkudi mob tried to free an Indian being jailed. Calcutta brooded restlessly, heard threats of work stoppages at vital war plants. Poona, Nagpur, Cawnpore, Wardha reported fresh riots An airplane dropped tear gas on a crowd of Bombay mill workers. The New Delhi town hall was burned.

In general, the American press plays the British game. The tenor of its articles and editorials is to defend, somewhat critically, it is true, the position of the Churchill government because Great Britain is an ally of the United States. They, too, paint a quiet India, an India resigned to continued British rule. But the truth lies elsewhere.

Louis Fischer, writing in The Nation of September 5, reports a strike of 50,000 Tata munition workers who demanded Gandhi’s release. “The strike wave in India is spreading,” writes Fischer, illustrating the mass participation of the Indian proletariat in the struggle for freedom. Behar, Madras, the United Provinces, the Central Province and the Bombay Presidency are scenes of the struggle for independence; the movement is spreading.

In reply to the Indian masses, the British authorities have reintroduced the whipping post – democratic masters with cat-o-nine-tails! The machine gun, the carbine and the sword are in readiness and in use to convince the Indians that the British really mean business, this business of fighting for democracy.

Winston Churchill Speaks Out

Somewhat overdue, on September 10, came the statement of His Majesty’s Prime Minister, the Honorable Winston Churchill. I use the word overdue, because the Prime Minister has never failed to express himself bluntly on colonial affairs in general and on India in particular. The imperialist Churchill remained true to himself and his class. His statement on the Indian situation was compounded of distortions and plain falsehoods. It even lacked his customary rhetoric, which seems to paralyze and hypnotize the world liberals and misleaders of labor. This is what the Prime Minister said: “The course of events in India has been improving and is, on the whole, reassuring.” He then proceeded to prove that the Congress Party represents a small minority of the Hindu people and by implication “proved” that more than 235,000,000 of the population support the British, or at least reject the current struggle induced by the Congress rejection of Cripps. Without a blush of shame, Churchill, the magnificent representative of British finance capital, describes the Congress Party as a “machine sustained by certain manufacturing and financial interests” (native bourgeoisie). To prove what? That Britain is justified in its imperialist rule over the country!

In support of his declaration that the situation in India is “improving and is, on the whole, reassuring,” the Prime Minister declared: “Less than 500 persons have been killed over this mighty area of territory and population, and it has only been necessary to move a few brigades of British troops here and there in support of civil power.” (Emphasis mine – A.G.)

With the customary obtuseness of the imperialist, Churchill concluded: “I therefore feel entitled to report to the House that the situation in India at this moment gives no occasion for undue despondency or alarm.”

The Old Churchill Is the New

This is the real Churchill speaking and it is in keeping with his past. As early as the Simon Commission and afterward, it was he who protested most vigorously any negotiations with the Congress leaders as “beneath the dignity of an imperial Britain.” In 1930, he declared: “Sooner or later you will have to crush Gandhi and the Indian Congress and all they stand for.” In December 1931, he stated: “I did not contemplate India having the same constitutional rights and system as Canada in any period which we could foresee.”

In retrospect of World War I, during which India participated in the British war effort against the Kaiser, Churchill said (January 1931): “No one has supposed that, except in a purely ceremonial sense in the way in which representatives of India attended conferences during the war, that that principle and policy for India would be carried into effect at any time which it is reasonable or useful for us to foresee.” (Emphasis mine – A.G.) Great Britain is in a new war fighting for its life. This time, it is Churchill, as head of the government, who has offered India participation in the war effort on the same basis as in World War I – and with the same promises, never meant to be honoredl Only the situation in India is different. Nobody there believes Churchill or the British government. The Indian masses want freedom now! It is the pressure of these masses which forced the Congress leaders, who had hoped for a “decent” compromise, to reject the imperial proposals. Why should they believe Churchill now? There is no reason whatever.

The Indians remember only too vividly the attitude of the British to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and what it meant for them. At that, time, the Honorable Leopold Amery, Secretary for India, opined:

I confess that I see no reason whatever why, either in act or in word or in sympathy, we should go individually, or internationally, against Japan in this matter.

Who is there among us to cast the first stone and to say that Japan ought not to have acted with the object of creating peace and order in Manchuria and defending herself against the continual aggression of vigorous Chinese nationalization.

Our whole policy in India, our whole policy in Egypt, stands condemned if we condemn Japan. (Emphasis mine – A.G.)

There in a nutshell is the British position, under new conditions. It is fundamentally imperialist. And that is why, in the words of Churchill, the Four Freedoms of the Atlantic Charter have “no application to India.”

But, despite Churchill, a great deal of “despondency” and “alarm” are reflected in his speech. The hope that he might “appease” the Indians was shattered by imperialist determination to retain the colony as the basis of the British Empire. The disappointed liberals in England and America, seconded by the constantly protesting Chinese, in loud chorus now turn to Roosevelt. Only Roosevelt can save the situation! They are convinced that there is nothing to be hoped for from Churchill. They know, too, notwithstanding the lies about conflicts between the Hindus and Moslems and others, India has never been so united as now in the struggle for freedom. And this despite the fear of the Indian bourgeois nationalist leaders that the struggle for freedom may take the revolutionary road of a workers’ and peasants’ government.

This demand for intervention by Roosevelt is widespread in the ranks of the United Nations. The Chinese government asks for it. The liberals in America ask for it. Lord Strabolgi, Labor peer, has also asked for it, stating “we should swallow our pride and invite the President of the United States to arbitrate on India.” What a commentary on the United Nations, fighting a “democratic war” for the right of the national independence of all oppressed peoples! What a commentary on the bankrupt position of the British Empire in this bloc!

A Complex Situation

The apologists for British imperialism are having a hard time of it reconciling the word and the deed. Thus, the notorious Bertrand Russell, justifying the British position to all Americans, offers this imposing opinion in his letter of August 27 to The Nation: “The question of India is much more complex than it appears to many American liberals.” This is the stock answer of British imperialism: the Indian situation is complex; the problems are many; independence for India cannot be achieved quickly. The only thing that is complex about the Indian situation is that independence for that enormous country would destroy the investments and profits of the parasitic British ruling class, which enjoys its good life on the toil, sweat and tears of the many millions of Indian workers and peasants. That is why the British have remained in ‘India for more than 200 years, suppressing every struggle for independence.

The will to freedom of these oppressed peoples is strong. It will take more than the whipping-post, Churchillian rhetoric, the imperial troops and the Indian misleaders of the native bourgeoisie to halt this inevitable march to liberty for almost 400,000,000 workers and peasants of an oppressed colony of the second great power in the “democratic” camp. Support to that struggle is the duty of every worker, for its victory will hasten the freedom of all oppressed people from economic, political and social servitude.

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