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Henry Judd

Hands Off India

Disobedience Campaign of 400 Million Indians
Met by British Violence and Terror

(August 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 33, 17 August 1942, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The campaign of the Indian people for immediate independence from England, launched by the All-India National Congress, has been met by a wave of terror, shootings, arrests and beatings on the part of the British authorities.

To date (August 11), eighteen people are reported to have been killed, with many hundreds wounded by British police and soldiers, who have fired point-blank into crowds of Indian workers merchants and students demonstrating for their freedom. In Bombay alone, the present center of the struggle, the police have fired ten times in the space of two days.

In every major city of India, stretching from Bombay to Calcutta, there has been at least one criminal assault by the British upon unarmed and defenseless demonstrators.

The British-appointed Viceroy of India is ruling by decree and military authority. Martial law and curfew prevail from one end of the country to the other. British soldiers (supposedly sent to India to fight the Japanese!) are patrolling all the key centers with bayonets and machine guns.

Already hundreds of arrests and imprisonments have taken place. Beginning with Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and Azad, the most prominent leaders of the Congress Party, and extending to innumerable local leaders and trade union officials, the British dictators are mercilessly hounding them into their concentration camps and jails.

Gandhi has threatened to embark upon an immediate hunger strike. According to the meager British-censored reports that are available, it is clear that the workers of India stand in the front of the movement for immediate independence.

They are shutting down factory after factory, including plants producing munitions. In Bombay alone – a great industrial center – -eighteen large textile mills are closed. The Bombay textile workers played the leading role in the struggles that raged in that city. They were the first victims of the British terror.

This strike action by the workers has extended to the industrial cities of Allahabad, Ahmedabad (textile centers); Lahore (student center); Nagpur and Poona (railroad and steel centers). Side by side, workers and students are participating in violent clashes with the police and soldier authorities.

Use Fascist Violence

Recognizing this great challenge on the part of the people, the British imperialists who have dominated this great country for over 200 years are resorting to any and all methods to prevent its spread. They are taking every leaf out of the hated book of Hitler and his Gestapo: murder, assassination, jail and the concentration camp. They have lost forever the right to preach about their “war for democracy” and for “freedom of oppressed peoples.” Their effort to retain power over 400,000,000 people who don’t want them can only be condemned as the method of fascist gangsters who seek to remain in power no matter how! The present mass movement in India is a direct result of the failure of the Cripps mission a few months ago. Since that period the conservative nationalist leaders (headed by Gandhi) have sought continuously to arrive at an agreement with the British, in exchange for which they would support the war.

But the Indian people refused to permit any “deal” or sell-out of their interests. They want freedom and their own government – here and now. Even at the last moment Gandhi sought a compromise, writing letters to the Viceroy, pleading with President Roosevelt for intervention, etc. Even at this late stage it is by no means impossible that Gandhi will seek to check and halt the movement he has set into motion and “make a deal.”

The fact that the Congress leadership spent its last hours in futile appeals to the imperialist authorities – instead of planning and preparing the masses for this great struggle – is of great importance. As a result of this sabotage, the movement at present is without organized leadership and direction. The great peasant masses (70 per cent of the entire population) are yet to be called into action. The Congress leadership has virtually abdicated its leadership and has told everyone to do what he pleases. The workers are taking this seriously and are attempting to establish their leadership over the movement.

Independent India Will Fight Japan

The press of America has launched a vicious campaign of slander against the people of India. In the name of “democracy,” the boss press with its collection of “liberal” columnists has the gall to tell 400,000,000 people that they should not fight for democracy and liberty! “Now is not the time,” they shriek.

Every American worker knows that the present, NOW, is the time to fight for freedom. If not NOW, then when? If England, hard pressed as she is, will not grant India her independence now, what reason will there be to believe she will grant independence later. None at all!

And even with respect to warding off the Japanese imperialists, should India – after seeing the miserable British failure to defend Malaya, Burma and the East Indies – intrust its safety and future to these same exploiters and bunglers? Or, as it is trying to do, should not India take its future in its own hands and establish its own government to defend itself from Japanese attack?

Under its own government, there will be 400,000,000 people ready to fight Japanese imperialism, and not a small handful of foreign or Indian mercenary troops. The people of India, once having gained their freedom, will never surrender it to Japan or any other foreign power.

A Step Toward Freedom

The struggle now going on in India between the people and imperialism is the first major progressive struggle for democracy and liberty in this war. Instead of the mutual slaughter of one another by workers who have been bamboozled by their own capitalist ruling classes, we have in India, the first step of a great people embarking on the long road that leads to their freedom. It is top early to tell yet whether the British, by sheer brutality and force of arms, will be able to crush the movement before it can make major headway; or whether greater and greater masses of workers and peasants will be drawn into the struggle. If the latter should happen (as we hope), then the struggle in India will become a revolutionary struggle for independence and political power, headed by the revolutionary workers.

But even if the movement should be halted by fascist violence, this can only be temporary and short-lived. For 400,000,000 people, once determined to win their liberation from any and all forms of foreign rule, cannot be halted!

They will come back, fighting harder and more determined than ever. The revolutionary socialists of India – organized today into the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India – are participating actively in the struggle, urging the people to fight to the end and to take over power through their mass organizations.

They stand with the people and we shall watch and support their activity in every possible way.

American workers – bred in the tradition of fighting for one’s rights – should recognize that the people of India are more than worthy of their support. Under hails of British bullets, they are dying to keep the name of people’s independence and liberty alive!

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