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Jack Weber

Progress in India Hindered
by British Exploiters

(August 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 33, 16 August 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Churchill orates time and again concerning the complete mobilization of the resources of the entire British Empire for the purpose of defeating Hitler. But not for one moment does he forget the need of British imperialism to maintain the colonies in their slave status as sources of raw materials and markets for commodities.

The population of India today is not definitely known, but it gets closer and closer to the 400 million mark. Of this vast population, only one and three quarter millions work in factories. This is an index of the industrialization that the Hindus have been permitted to carry out under the “guidance” of Britain. Even if we included the small handicraftsmen carrying on their ancient trades, there would be only 21 million, including the factory workers. That is, only one-half of one percent are actually factory workers; only five percent are handicraftsmen or factory workers.

Since India has vast mineral resources, including iron ore, and plenty of laborers, one might suppose that England would try to build up Indian economy as fast as possible to meet all emergencies. But that would place the Empire in a serious dilemma. The colonial status of India would then tend to disappear at the expense of industrial capitalist England. War or no war, India’s position in the empire must not be disturbed.

The compradore capitalists of India thought that they might be able to profit greatly by the desperate situation of England in the war. These native bourgeois elements did their best to come to terms with Britain for the sole purpose of expanding their industries and their profits. The virtual refusal of the British Raj to come to terms with the Hindu capitalists is proof that England will never voluntarily permit industrial expansion.

Some Interesting Figures on India

We are now offered statistical proof of this fact. The Indian firm of Premchand, Roychand and Sons, a firm of Bombay bankers, issues each year an Annual Market Review which gives a picture of the state of Hindu economy. India is the largest unit in the British Empire. Despite the vast resources of minerals and manpower, India remains mostly a supplier of unprocessed raw materials. The British manipulate finances and taxes so as to maintain this condition and to discourage industrialization. A so-called excess-profits tax of 50 per cent was recently boosted to 66 2/3 per cent to place a heavy burden on industry. In addition a 25 per cent surcharge tax was added to all income taxes. Just as in the last war, India is being made to carry an enormous share of the war expenses. After April 1, 1941, the surcharge tax was raised to 33 1/3 per cent. But as though this state of affairs were not bad enough, England has limited, the possible export markets to which India can ship her products. The exports have naturally increased by some 16 per cent in volume – but most of this has gone to England or the Empire – and the prices have been set so that the Indian farmers actually receive less than before. Agricultural products form an important part of the country’s price structure. With farm products selling for less or for no more than before, imported manufactures and locally manufactured non-agricultural products have risen in price. Thus for the largest part of the Indian population the cost of living has gone up while prices received for the farm produce have gone down.

Hitler Cannot Teach Churchill

Hitler has nothing to contribute to Churchill in the ruthless treatment of a conquered people. There is nothing that Hitler has done in Europe in the way of looting the conquered nations that cannot be duplicated by the treatment accorded the Indian peoples by England. All that can be said is that Hitler is trying to reduce nations that had advanced far beyond India in the scale of civilization, to the status of India. Churchill carries on the policy of keeping the colonies in their backwardness for the purposes of imperialist exploitation. Hitler carries imperialist policy one step further by attempting to destroy the industrialization already achieved after centuries of effort by the European nations in order to reduce all Europe to the slave status for exploitation by German imperialism. Just as the further advance of European civilization depends on the defeat of Hitler and the ending of capitalism all over Europe, so the further advance of India and all the colonies depends on the defeat of Churchill and the ending of world capitalism.

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Last updated: 27 May 2016