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Jack Weber

British “Labor” Party Refuses Aid to India

(June 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 26, 28 June 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The consequences of the British Labor Party’s collaboration with Churchill are revealed in the recent attitude of that party towards India. The Labor Party leaders have withdrawn support from the Hindu socialist, Krishna Menon, who was for sixteen years a member of parliament for Dundee, always elected on the Labor Party ticket. The Labor Party now withdraws support of his candidacy on the Labor Party ticket because of Menon’s stand on India. He is secretary of the India League of London, an organization that advocates independence for India.

It is always a good thing to have the attitude of the heads of the Labor Party expressed in writing. A letter signed by G.R. Shepherd, on behalf of the National Executive of the British Labor Party, explains the refusal to reindorse Menon as follows: “It is impossible both to support the struggle of the Indian people and be a loyal supporter of the policy of the British Labor Party leadership.” The same letter dares to affirm after this brazen statement: “the Labor Party does not whittle down in any way its own desire for the welfare of India.”

Menon replies to this letter: “My allegiance is to those principles of freedom and social justice basic to, the international socialist movement”. He adds: “The Labor Party policy is now declared by its supreme executive to be opposed to the basic conceptions of self-determination and national independence of subject peoples and at best to be for some form of benevolent and patronizing imperialism.”

Let us state right here that we agree thoroughly with the statement made in the letter of the Labor Party that it is impossible to support both the struggle of the Indian people and the leadership of the Labor Party at one and the same time. To support the struggle of the Indian people, directed against British imperialism, one must oppose the Labor Party Leaders who bolster up that imperialism. Of that there can be not the slightest doubt. The misleaders of British labor are compelled by the logic of their support of and collaboration with the Tory government, to carry on the war of the Tories against the colonial peoples. These peoples are quite properly ready to make use of the plight of their imperialist masters to strike a blow for their own freedom.

This Was Macdonald’s Policy Too

But let us not suppose that this attitude on the part of the Labor Party leaders is just a war attitude. Not at all. It is in line with the traditions of Labor Party government in peacetime too. When the Hindus, in their joy that labor had gained a victory and taken over the government under Ramsay Macdonald, felt that they could then act in their own behalf, Macdonald identified himself and his party completely with British imperialism. He used the army against the Indian people and said: “No party in Great Britain will be cowed by threats of force, or by policies designed to bring government to a standstill.”

Not only do we agree that it is impossible to support both the Indian people and the Labor Party leaders. We go further. It is impossible to defend democracy and to support these leaders in the coalition government. Their actions pave the way for fascism in England just as surely as the actions of the social democratic leaders of Germany paved the way for Hitler. If democracy is to survive in England, then the workers alone will be responsible for its survival. They can defend democracy only by repudiating the labor betrayers who sit together with the arch-reactionary Churchill in the Cabinet. They can defend democracy only by setting up their own government.

British and India Workers Must Unite

It is absolutely clear that the interests of the working class of England and the interests of the colonial peoples are tied together. Anything which weakens the struggle of the one, weakens the struggle of the other. Both fight a common enemy, the master class, the imperialist ruling class. Therefore if anybody acts for the ruling class against the colonial people, by the same token he acts to strengthen that same class against the exploited workers in the home country. The Labor Party leaders who not only will not aid the Hindus but on the contrary sanction the use of force against them, are by this act aiming a blow at the workers at home whom they supposedly represent. The workers are kept in subjection to their exploiters through the acts of collaboration of their “leaders.”

The British workers believe in democracy at home and abroad. They always supported the demand for self-determination of the colonial peoples, particularly the Hindus. But it is not enough to sympathize with the fight of the colonial peoples for independence. The workers must render active aid to the Hindus. How can this be done? How can British Labor really fight for democracy, first of all in their own bailiwick and in their own “empire”? They can do this only by fighting the force which prevents and suppresses democracy, the capitalist class. The British workers can further the cause of independence at home and abroad by a militant struggle against this reactionary ruling class which no more fights for democracy than any of the dictators do.

But before it is possible for the workers to fight reactionary capitalism, they face the preliminary task of clearing out of their path the rubbish that accumulated from a preceding epoch. This impeding rubbish exists in the form of an opportunist and reactionary labor leadership which helps maintain the yoke of slavery on the necks of the workers. The step to repudiate these misleaders would be the first great step in the struggle for emancipation.

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