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Henry Judd

India Factions in Showdown
as Britain Announces Plan

(2 June 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 22, 2 June 1947, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

With the nation swept by a growing wave of communal and fratricidal rioting (the deaths within the past six months are approaching, according to official figures, the 50,000 mark), India is rapidly approaching one of the crucial showdowns in its long history. On June 2, the Viceroy of India, Viscount Mountbatten, is to announce the latest British proposal for the transfer of political power to an Indian government (or governments), followed by the withdrawal of the British one year hence. But the general situation is clearly passing beyond the scope and control of such formalities as concern the British.

As the critical moment approaches when the British will publicly announce their proposals, a mounting tension grips the various political parties and extends into the ranks of the nation's many communal, national and religious groups. Each feels that its future course and development is at stake. Clashes are reported all over the country, from Calcutta to Bombay, from southern India to the remote North West Frontier province. Armed gangsters of the Moslem League parade through the city streets; Hindu mobs charge into Moslem city quarters; hungry peasants and unemployed In the industrial cities riot for wheat and bread.

“Day-to-day administration in the country has deteriorated to the extent that authorities have expressed concern. The virus of fear and suspicion has insinuated itself into everyday life until the common practice of sleeping out-of-doors in hot weather has been curtailed because of dread of the assassin’s dagger.” (New York Times, May 24.) In many parts of the country, the situation has become so acute that thousands of families belonging to minority communities are reported fleeing for safety.

Britain’s Plan

Where do India’s political movements stand in this situation? But first, since it is important to understand their aims in relation to what the British will probably propose, let us summarize what has been reported to be the British plan.

The British, more than any other of the forces involved in India, are now anxious to arrive at a settlement. Within the framework of their disintegrating world empire, it is most essential to settle the Indian question, to prevent a falling-apart if possible. The British must execute a partial withdrawal and a partial transfer of power with respect to India, but they also must have some stable force to whom they can turn over power. A breaking apart of India into a group of mutually warring communal divisions would be disastrous for them.

The British will therefore make one more attempt to bring the Congress Party – the essentially Hindu political movement – together with the Moslem League. But it is taken for granted that this effort will fail, and a unified India, ruled by joint Moslem-Hindu agreement is out of the question.

It must therefore be taken for granted that the British will propose some sort of a division of India, accepting the principle of, Pakistan (a separate Moslem-dominated state). Regardless of what happens, it seems pertain that India will be divided. In this situation, the British will unquestionably attempt to play a demagogic role as arbitrator between the warring communal factions. They may well propose a democratic plebiscite among the Moslems over the issue of self-determination (thus cleverly putting to shame the Congress Party and Moslem Leagues, both of which refused to raise this elementary demand for an expression of opinion by vote), together with a plebiscite in the provinces containing communal minorities (Punjab, Bengal, Assam, etc.). Because of the absolutely reactionary politics conducted by both Hindu and Moslem organizations, not to mention other minority parties, the British are now in a position where they can appear, in demagogic fashion it is true, as the saviors in the situation, the democrats interested in minority rights and the principle of self-determination.

Divided India

The Moslem League of Jinnah is extremely active in the situation, making it clear that its threats to precipitate violence and internal turmoil were no empty words. Jinnah remains absolutely unshakeable, at the moment, in his Pakistan demand. He opposes any plebiscite in those provinces of his Pakistan (such as Punjab and Bengal), where almost half the population are Hindus. In other words, his conception of a Moslem state (almost 45 per cent of which would be non-Moslem peoples!) is every bit as reactionary and oppressive as the contrary conception of the Congress Party.

In essence, Jinnah wants to carve out of India a state that will have the economic and industrial capacity to extend its sway, within a reasonable time, over the balance of India. His Pakistan is reactionary and imperialistic to the core. On top of this, he has proposed a corridor extending through northern India to link together the two separate parts of his Pakistan! This thousand-mile corridor would pass through Hindu territory, and is probably the most fantastic conception ever dreamed up.

The Congress leadership is seriously divided over the issues. Gandhi, still the principle leader of the Party, continues to hold out against any division. He demands a united, Congress-ruled India, with the Moslem masses depending upon Congress “good-will” for the safe-guarding of their rights. This, obviously, is but another way of guaranteeing a continuation of the fratricidal war, since the Moslem people will never accept this. Others among the Congress leaders are preparing to accept a division as inevitable, but will fight to the end against the sort of division, including a corridor, that Jinnah proposes. In the end, the problem of how and where to make such a division will prove to be the most controversial point. There is little likelihood that the British can make a proposal satisfactory to both political organizations.

A Democratic Solution

The actual British announcement next week will bring all conflicting views to a head and open up a new and perhaps decisive period in India’s history. Will a settlement be made? Will it be workable in practice? Or will the two large communities tend to fall further and further apart, increasing the division within the land?

Such questions cannot be answered at the moment. In this tense situation, it is increasingly clear that only the Indian working class, under revolutionary leadership, both Hindu and Moslem workers, can save the situation and organize an India that will be unified, but unified by popular will and agreement. This means guaranteeing the right of self-determination, including the right of separation from a Federal India. This means a democratic solution to the many and complex minority problems, through a free expression of opinion.

The various provinces and regional groupings within India (that is, the various nationalities such as the people of the Punjab; Bengal, etc.) must have the right of self-determination within a Federated India, and together with this, the various religious and communal groups (such as the Moslems, Sikhs, etc.) must also have the same rights offered to them and guaranteed in practice to them. None of the three main political forces at work – British imperialism, Congress Hindu-capitalism, and Moslem League landlord feudalism can offer this democratic revolutionary solution.

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