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[John G. Wright]

Indian Masses Must Call
for Constituent Assembly

Independence Can Be Gained and Safeguarded Through Action
of Workers, Peasants, City Poor Organized into Councils

(14 March 1942)

From The Militant, Vol. 6 No. 11, 14 March 1942, p. 3. (unsigned)
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The eyes of war-stricken mankind are turning more and more toward India. For the time being, diplomats and negotiators occupy the spotlight and appear to play a decisive role. But this is only an illusion. The fate of India is now in the hands of the Indian masses.

The scurrying of nervous gentlemen at the top is to be observed invariably on the eve of titanic social convulsions. Politicians, editors and soothsayers are pondering, elaborating and debating magic formulas in Washington, London, Berlin, Tokio, Moscow, Chunking. The aim of all this frantic activity is to mobilize the millions of Indian workers, peasants and pariahs in one of the rival war camps. Everything is being taken into account in the world’s chancelleries. Everything, except the needs and desires of the Indian masses themselves.

Beginning to Awaken

Meanwhile the unfolding events are impelling precisely these masses to awaken and to begin leading a political life for the first time in history. Once set in motion these millions cannot be removed from the arena by means of abstract slogans and promises of freedom.

The Indian peasants groaning under feudal and semi-feudal tyranny will not listen long to chatter about India’s independence which is not accompanied by action giving them land and freeing them from foreign and native oppressors. Who will give land to the landless? Who will shatter the imperialist and agrarian bondage? Only the peasants themselves in an alliance with the Indian workers and the city poor.

Naturally, no amount of discussion or theory will convince the Indian peasants of this. Through propaganda one can convince and win over thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands. But the many-millioned masses can arrive at the correct conclusions only through their own experience. They must test in action the various parties and programs. The task of the Indian vanguard is to assist and guide the Indian peasants and workers through this experience.

The Constituent Assembly

In a country confronted with the solution of revolutionary democratic tasks the freest, clearest and swiftest test of the contending class forces and political parties is afforded either on the arena of the Constituent Assembly, or in the struggle for the convocation of the latter.

Under the conditions of mass upsurge, the Constituent Assembly is directly subject to pressure from below. Its convocation makes it impossible to postpone the solution of the agrarian problem and other burning democratic tasks; each party is compelled to reveal its genuine program; the camouflage of radical phrases is stripped from reactionaries and their allies in the full view of the masses.

This is why the Russian bourgeoisie and its accomplices – the Russian Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionists – kept putting off the Constituent Assembly in 1917, while the Bolsheviks, on the contrary, kept agitating for it. In 1925–1927 the Chinese bourgeoisie under Chiang Kai-shek defeated the revolution because among other things they succeeded with the help of the Stalinists in stifling the movement for the Constituent Assembly. This made it all the easier for Chiang to massacre the Chinese proletariat. It is indeed welcome news that the Indian Trotskyists have correctly raised the slogan for the convocation, of the Constituent Assembly as one of their central slogans.

For Workers’ and Peasants’ Councils

The slogan of the Constituent Assembly immediately raises the problem: Who will convoke it and with what program? It is by no means excluded that the Indian bourgeoisie itself, or a section of it may also raise this slogan. In the hands of reaction it can become a terrible trap for the masses.

The sole guarantee against this is the quickest possible organization of the population into genuinely representative bodies embracing all the oppressed including the pariahs in the villages and in the cities. They will constitute in essence. Workers’ and Peasants’ Councils. They must convince the Constituent Assembly. Agitation for the immediate formation of these Councils is an integral part of a revolutionary campaign for the Constituent Assembly.

These lessons, drawn from the experience of the revolution in China – a semi-colonial country with feudal vestiges – apply with all the greater force to India, a colonial country whose feudal structure has been reinforced by British imperialism.


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