The Labour Monthly

Notes of the Month


Source: The Labour Monthly, Vol. 2, April-May, 1922 No. 4, pp. 296
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

In India, again, an entirely different set of conditions has revealed the same underlying issue. The Gandhist campaign was a tremendous concentration of the masses of the population into a single movement, which went from strength to strength until it reached the final issue, and then shrank back from the consequences of its own policy. The high-water mark of the Indian movement was reached at the December National Congress, when the policy of “mass civil disobedience” was unanimously adopted and Gandhi was entrusted with dictatorial powers to carry it out. At that moment the tension of popular enthusiasm was extreme, the panic of official opinion was unconcealed: no attempt was made to arrest Gandhi. But the opportunity of that moment was never taken. Gandhi delivered ultimatum after ultimatum to the Government, each with more rigorous terms than the last. But each ultimatum was in reality a postponement, giving the Government another fortnight’s or another week’s “grace.” Finally came the Bardoli decision of February 11, postponing the whole movement indefinitely and without conditions. Like the Triple Alliance strike in this country, the great gun of the Indian movement of “mass civil disobedience,” after being repeatedly threatened and repeatedly postponed, never went off. Why was this? The fundamental reason was the same in each country. In either case the leaders suddenly realised in the moment of crisis the inevitably revolutionary consequences of the policy they had proclaimed, and drew back in alarm, to the surprise and consternation of their followers. From that moment the movement declined: in this country the employers renewed their offensive; in India the Government was able with impunity to sentence Gandhi to six years’ imprisonment. The first period of the revolutionary prelude is completed: the second waits to begin. The failure of Gandhi is the old story of the failure of the man who calls the masses into movement, but shrinks from the revolutionary consequences of a movement of the masses.