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Henry Judd

India’s Year of Decision

(11 February 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 6, 11 February 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

What with frontal attacks by Stalin’s Russia, open revolts in Palestine, Indo-China and the East Indies, and mass strikes in Singapore, Colombo and African colonial cities, the British Empire is facing difficult days. His Majesty’s Labor Government, dashing about from place to place in desperate efforts to stem the breaks, is developing a case of the one-armed paper hanger with the hives.

And perhaps Britain is about to confront the most difficult problem of all, in a new, heightened form – that is, the eternal problem of India and the demand of its 400,000,000 people for full national independence. For several weeks now, in the great cities of Calcutta and Bombay, things have been stirring – strikes, riots, armed clashes with the British police and soldiers.

These events are familiar stories in India’s history, always heralding a revival of a movement that can never be crushed. During the war, the British held power by open military force. At one period it had no less than 25,000 leaders and members of the India National Congress in jail (or better, concentration camps). Since the war ended, however, a large portion of these nationalists – although by no means, all of them – have been set free. The revival of colonial nationalism has, of course, had its effects upon India and now things are stirring.

No Compromise Possible

In recent elections for the Central Legislative Assembly (a small parliamentary body without any independent powers), fewer than 500,000 out of India’s 400 million people were permitted to vote. That is, ½ of 1% have the right to vote! Yet even in these “rich man elections” as they are known, the Congress party won a clear majority. In local, provincial elections to be held this month and March, it is certain that the party standing for independence will win even greater victories, since more people will vote in these elections.

The British, as is well known, are not particularly popular among the workers, peasants and middle-class people of India. Their universal unpopularity holds despite any communal or religious differences among the Indian people themselves. An AP correspondent, writing from Bombay, reports the widespread belief that “by March there will be bloody uprisings and that the full force of the British Army still in uniform in India will be required to suppress it, if suppression is possible.”

Since the war’s end, the British government through Prime Minister Attlee and Viscount Lord Wavell – have made various efforts to compromise the problem of freedom through some sort of constitutional measures. These offers have been uniformly unsuccessful. Even the most conservative Congress party leaders, men like Gandhi, Patel and Nehru, have rejected the various approaches made to them for participation in a joint, coalition government with the British. The atmosphere and feeling of the people, now facing difficult economic times, is such that even these leaders have been forced to reiterate the “Quit India Now” slogan, and stick to the Congress demand for full freedom, without strings.

Now a new offer is being prepared. “It seems fairly safe to say that, barring a sudden change of plans, India will have a clear indication of the British Government’s intentions by the middle of February.” (N.Y. Times, January 30.) Of course, the Indian people know only too well these intentions – they haven’t changed for 200 years! To hold onto India, no matter what the cost: to continue to exploit, rob and plunder the labor and resources of this, the world’s greatest colony.

Famine Threatens

Behind all the fancy maneuvering of the conservative Congress leadership and the imperialist labor Government of Attlee, there stand far graver and more menacing problems. On top of unemployment and rising living costs caused by the abrupt end of the war, there is the permanent spectre of mass famine that has haunted this country for so long. In the great Bengal famine of 1943, in which the government admits that a minimum of 1½ millions died of outright starvation, a situation developed that threatens now to repeat itself.

Crop shortages, due to inadequate imports of food, and crop failures in the Punjab and South India, are about to threaten 100 million people. The only solution is a tremendous import in food from America and other sources. It is estimated that 2 million tons of food are needed to prevent Immediate famine, but plans exist today to import less than half of this amount. The areas most in danger are farming, peasant areas – Burma, Madras province and south- central India – the home of at least 100 million people. The whole question is now being debated in the Central Assembly, where the government spokesmen, while recognizing and describing the situation, fail to propose any solution or measures.

The war has ended for the Western world, but the great masses of colonial people in Asia still continue under the same bondage as before. For them, the war has meant nothing. Its conclusion has simply meant that their white masters from England, France, Holland and America can now devote their full, undivided attention to keeping them enslaved. The colonial people of Indo-China, Indonesia, Palestine and the Near East have already begun their reply to all this. Now the time for the people of India is approaching once again.

Labor Action will report their struggles to its readers as it has done for the struggles of all peoples, everywhere. Meanwhile, Labor Action sends its greetings to its comrades in India, the valiant members of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India, who organized their party and kept it alive during the war and who now participate with the people in the fight for national independence of their country.

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