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Henry Judd

Will India Really Get Its Freedom?

(3 June 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 22, 3 June 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

After two months of negotiations with Indian political leaders, and its failure to bring about an agreement between the Congress Party and the Moslem League, the British Labor Government has announced its own plan for solving the Indian deadlock. Gandhi, leader of the Congress Party, has already indicated his acceptance of these proposals; Jinnah, leader of the Moslem League, has been silent but, at best, will only give his tacit consent to the plan, since his Moslem League is given the short end of the stick by the British. It appears, however, that this plan will be adopted and put into effect by British imperialism. What is it? Will it really lead to independence for India? The answer is NO; but first we must see what the plan is.

It is, above all else, an attempt on the part of Britain to make a satisfactory working arrangement with the Congress Party – that is, with the Indian capitalist class, whose spokesmen are Gandhi, Nehru and other Congress leaders. Britain, in its present difficult world situation, needs a stable, dependable government in India. To obtain this, it must make definite concessions to the Indian capitalists and that is exactly what this plan does. It is an effort on the part of Britain to share power over India’s 400 million workers and peasants with these native capitalists and landlords. It is an effort to strengthen India’s strategic position against Russian imperialism, and to stave off revolution within India itself. The Attlee Labor Government is frank about it – it is making concessions to SAVE India for imperialism. The capitalist Congress Party is the most dependable and conservative force in nationalist India; therefore, the “deal” must be made with it.

In effect, the plan accepts every major proposal put forward by the Congress leadership in recent years. It categorically rejects the demand of Jinnah and his Moslem League for the formation of “Pakistan” – a separate Moslem state within India. The Congress leaders were also bitterly opposed to a separatist Moslem state. No provision is made for any Moslem vote, or expression of opinion, on this issue. The Congress leadership also agrees with this denial of the right to vote on Pakistan by the Moslems. A complicated, vague scheme is suggested by which the Moslem provinces are offered certain “protections” against Hindu discrimination, but there is nothing beyond that.

A Congress Party Cabinet

Furthermore, the plan accepts the Congress demand – made for many years now – for a provisional, representative government at the Center. That is, the actual formation of a government, with a Congress majority, which is to be the instrument by which the Congress Party shares political power with the British administration. The Viceroy is meanwhile to have veto powers over this provisional government, but it represents a stage higher in the effort of the Indian capitalists to gain ascendancy in the administration of the country.

It is not clear yet whether the Moslem League will participate in such a coalition government, but it is clear that the increasingly conservative Congress Party is willing and anxious to taste the fruits of political power. The formation of such a government will undoubtedly be the next step in India, with Nehru – the new Congress president – probably occupying the post of Prime Minister. Will it mean Indian freedom? Of course not. It will mean simply that the Congress has agreed to aid the British in preserving their grip on India.

And, finally, the British proposal provides a scheme for drafting a new Constitution, to govern India after the provisional period has ended. This section of the scheme is a reactionary and anti-democratic proposal, and reveals the true content of the whole plan. To draft a new Constitution, requires a Constituent Assembly. How is it proposed to elect such an Assembly? To begin with, the proposed Constituent Assembly is not even to be elected – it is to be appointed.

The report says: “The most satisfactory method obviously (!) would be by an election based on adult franchise but any attempt to introduce such a step now would lead to wholly unacceptable delay in the formation of the new Constitution.” Could a more miserable excuse be made for depriving the Indian people of the basic right to draft their own, independent Constitution? By this token alone the whole British proposal is condemned as a farce and an effort to perpetuate, in new form, 250 years of British tyranny. To this proposal, the Indian Trotskyists counterpose their demand for a Constituent Assembly of the people, elected by every single man and woman in India, with the British having completely withdrawn.

The plan further proposes that delegates to the Constituent Assembly be appointed by the recently elected provincial legislative assemblies. In these elections, less than five per cent of the people participated, because of educational and property qualifications. It was an election of the privileged, based on communal lines, since Moslems could vote only for Moslems, Hindus for Hindus, etc. Furthermore, the feudal Indian princes are to have the right to appoint (no elections here at all) 93 delegates, out of a total of 383 (almost 25 per cent) to the Constituent Assembly.

In a word, this Assembly can only be branded in advance of its convening, as an unrepresentative, undemocratic body that in no sense whatsoever would represent the broad masses of the population. All it would do would be to accept the British “deal” proposals; draft a treaty with England that would continue British rule, in disguised form; and turn over national administrative and political power to the Congress Party and the native Indian capitalist class.

On the basic issues of (1) British troops in India and the demand for their withdrawal; (2) British property holdings in India and the demand for their expropriation and return to the Indian nation; (3) a clear-cut declaration of India’s independence – on these issues the report is entirely silent. India has not gained its freedom by a long shot. It now remains to be seen what will be the reaction of the people in general, and of the Congress Party following in particular, to this plan of imperialism and to Gandhi’s proposal to accept.

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