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Sherman Stanley

Proposed Deal Fails –
British Spurn Gandhi

Viceroy Refuses Even to Promise New Status for India
After the War; Gandhi Finds “Solution Impossible”

(10 February 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 6, 10 February 1940, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

After a two and a half hour discussion with the British Viceroy, Mahatma Gandhi was reluctantly forced to admit in a statement on Feb. 6 that, “A peaceful solution to the problem of India’s freedom is apparently impossible.”

The British authorities, rejecting completely even the conservative demand of Gandhi for a promise of Dominion Status for India after the war, have slammed the door in the face of the Congress Party once more. Gandhi has admitted that resumption of the long-drawn out negotiations is useless. Meanwhile, the left-wing forces within the Nationalist Congress have openly stated that they will split the Congress from top to bottom if Gandhi should sign any agreement with the British, or attempt any sell-out of India’s demand for freedom.

“England’s difficulty is India’s opportunity” – this was the clamor of the 400,000,000 workers, peasants, students and middle class people of India, when the war began. The cry for drastic mass action was heard on all sides.

But the Gandhi crowd who hold the reins of the Congress movement tightly in their hands trembled before the prospects of revolution. Representing the native landowning class, merchants, money lenders and mill owners who fear for their property at least as much as do the British rulers, the Gandhi-Nehru reactionaries deliberately set about quelling and dampening the spirit of the masses.

Beheading the Movement

For a time they were swept along and issued “radical” slogans and demands for demagogic purposes (immediate independence, a Constituent Assembly, etc.). But not for long. A period of aimless, endless and demoralizing negotiations with the Viceroy began. No lead was given the country, except continuous exhortations to refrain from action and violence.

At the last meeting of the Executive Working Committee of the Congress (December 1939), Gandhi was appointed Supreme Dictator, with authority to make decisions, set aside previous decisions and decide policy by himself. He was authorized to make an agreement with the British. His weekly paper, Harijan, has become the weekly instruction bulletin for Congress organizers and workers. Any effort to institute a “Civil Disobedience” campaign was frowned upon and opposed. Gandhi stated, “We cannot be unfair to the British.”

Left Wing Purged

At the same time a fierce drive launched against the Congress radical wing made up of left-wing nationalists (Bose), socialists and Stalinists. They, who were demanding action, were considered the real enemy by the Gandhi traitors. Subhas Bose, leading left-wing Nationalist, neatly summed up the whole struggle when, after denouncing Gandhi as a traitor to India, he wrote, “The essence of Gandhism is to lick the foot which has kicked it in the face!”

But the country has not been silent during this period. It is still absolutely correct to say that India is solidly against support of the war and is proving this in action. The organized opposition is led by the Congress left-wing: the unions of workers and peasants, the Socialists, the Stalinists, and the supporters of Subhas Bose.

Stirrings of Revolt

To cite but a few instances: On October 2 there was a one-day political strike against the war by 90,000 textile workers of Bombay. In Madras, Bose addressed an anti-war demonstration of 100,000 people. At Nagpur on October 9 an anti-imperialist conference under the presidency of Bose was attended by 30,000 delegates. Strikes of jute workers in Calcutta are still going on, and rapid growth of the peasant unions in Madras, Punjab and Bengal provinces is reported!

The British, in the meanwhile, have been conducting feverish negotiations with Gandhi and Nehru. They brought Sir Stafford Cripps to India for discussions with Gandhi, Nehru and Moslem leaders. But Sir Stafford accomplished next to nothing and has already left the country via China and is on his way to America.

Many Arrests

The authorities have begun a campaign of arrests against numerous trade union and peasant leaders, with hundreds being sentenced. The British well understand who their real enemy is. They realize that Gandhi’s influence is on the wane and that little can be expected even if they should sign an agreement with him. In the long run they must depend upon military and police force to remain in India.

Distrust of Stalinists

To summarize: the past three months has seen the deliberate and wilful sabotage by Gandhi of the anti-war sentiment of the masses. The fighting spirit of India’s workers and peasant has been momentarily set back. The Indian people are justifiably hesitant about falling for the pseudoradical and demagogic slogans flung at them by the Indian Communist Party. The Indian C.P. – as all sections of the Communist International – works solely in the interests of the Moscow bureaucracy and in the interests of its alliance with German imperialism. The “radical” slogans of the Indian Stalinists are aimed at furthering the successes of the Russo-German military war alliance and not at really freeing India from imperialism.

Naturally, Indian revolutionists will support each and every action directed against British imperialism – no matter if it is led by the Stalinists, while at the same time pitilessly exposing the motives of the Stalinists, which are clear to all.

Country Stripped for War

As the war progresses British exploitation in India heightens. The country is being drained of its food products, its silver and gold, its mineral ores, its jute and cotton – all for Britain’s war needs. The determination of the workers and peasants to resist this super-colonial exploitation will redouble. The growth of the Congress left-wing is assured. Today India’s struggle centers within the Congress – the struggle against Gandhist sell out.

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