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Henry Judd

India’s Fight for Freedom

(March 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 9, 2 March 1942, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“Sir T.B. Sapru, liberal leader, received today a reply at New Delhi to his message to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, urging major governmental changes in India.

“Mr. Churchill replied that Britain had already complied with one of Sir Taj’s requests by offering India representation in the Imperial War Cabinet, The pressure of public business, he added, prevented him from providing Sir Taj with a more complete reply at this time.” (New York Times, February 21)

* * *

The British Empire, tottering from continuous defeats, was forced last week by the exigencies of the military situation to consider some sort of “concession” to India.

Britain has met defeat after defeat. It has been driven out of Europe and its Middle East position is threatened. In the Far East Japan has dealt some mighty blows. Hong Kong, Singapore, Burma, the East Indies ... British prestige among the subjugated colonial peoples would sell for a nickel a ton right now!

Naturally, plenty remains of the empire. Built up after 300 year of toil by the “blood, sweat and tears” of its 500,000,000 oppressed people, the British Empire cannot vanish overnight.

What remains still untouched by actual battle is India, described by Churchill as “the brightest jewel in the crown of the empire.” If this were to fall it would mean the virtual finish of the empire. For Britain’s world might was built on the wealth, resources and labor concentrated in India.

But even India – this “brightest jewel” – is dangerously threatened. A vast two-pronged Axis pincers threatens to meet in India. Already one prong, the Japanese drive in Burma, is drawing closer every day. India has become one of the focal points of the war.

Even the dim-witted, decadent, old school tie Tories have begun dimly to grasp the fact that if India is to be held its people must be won over to active support of the British fight. They begin to understand that the lowly natives whom they have so long oppressed, so long enslaved, have now become a key factor in their imperialist war.

(A sad thought for the British imperialist, is it not, that his war should depend so much on the attitude and actions of a nation ... of “beggars”!)

So the British Tories have dug into their hearts – and offered India two seats on the Imperial War Cabinet and the Pacific War Council.

The Indian people cry out for bread, for land, for national independence. Instead they are offered ... an opportunity to have some Indian politicians sit on the council deciding the conduct of the very imperialist war of which they are a victim!

But this offer got absolutely no rise out of the Indian people or the leaders of the nationalist movement. Even Chiang Kai-shek, agent of the Allied powers, who is trying to sell the imperialist war to India, publicly proclaimed that it was not enough. In a radio address he proposed that the British make “a substantial and generous offer” to the people of India. What that offer should be he forgot to mention.

And then there came the statement of Churchill – which is quoted at the beginning of this article:

“The pressure of public business prevents me from providing Sir Taj with a more complete reply.”

Don’t bother me, says Churchill. “The pressure of business.” I’m in conference, says Churchill. I can’t be annoyed by the complaints of 385 million people. I got other things to think about.

We think the Emperor Nero must have been around with his fiddle when Churchill made this reply. We’ll bet he was tuning up to play the Swan Song.

And who was this Sir Taj that Churchill gave the brush-off to? A radical, red-hot nationalist?

No. He is the leader of the most conservative section of India – the civil servants, the British appointees, the timid Milquetoast “liberals” of India. He is an opponent of the National Congress, of Gandhi and of Nehru.

Was he demanding India’s freedom and liberation? No, for Sir Taj ardently supports both the War and British rule in India. He merely wants the war to be run more effectively and British rule to be “liberalized” (a few more higher jobs for his fellow civil servants).

If HE got such a brush-off, you can imagine what Churchill would say to the demands of India’s people. Their demand is not for a couple of seats on this committee or that council. Their demand is for nothing less than complete freedom from British rule – political and economic – and the turning over of the entire country to the people themselves, to be administered in their own name and by themselves.

Yes, the British government may be forced to make some sort of “concession” to India in order to try to gain support for its war. We don’t know, as this article is written, what form that concession will take; one thing we do know: whatever the glib talk of the British imperialists, they will never voluntarily surrender their “jewel,” they will never voluntarily give India its complete and unconditional freedom. And the people of India will be satisfied with nothing less. That is why any “concession” made solves nothing.

“Pressure of public business” may keep Churchill’s mouth shut tight when it comes to India’s liberation, but the boom of cannon and the approach of airplanes must arouse the masses of India to action – action to expel from their country those imperialists who rule it today, the British, and those who want to rule it tomorrow, the Japanese.

The Indian masses must defend themselves from attack! The Indian masses must drive out the imperialists – all of them! That is the road to independence and freedom!

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