Shaukat Usmani

An Echo of the General Election

Source: The Labour Monthly, Vol. 11, August 1929, No. 8, pp. 504-508, (1,839 words)
Transcriptionp: 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.

[Below we print the election message sent to Spen Valley from Meerut Jail by one of the Indian working-class leaders now being tried on a charge of “conspiracy to deprive the King of his sovereignty of India.” Owing to a hold-up by the authorities, it arrived too late for more than a few copies to be circulated in the constituency. Furthermore, as a statement of the position of the Indian Communist leaders in relation to the present trial, we believe it is worthy of the attention of a larger audience.—ED.]

I have been selected by the Communist Party in Spen Valley to stand as a candidate for Parliament and I wish, though separated from you by 6,000 miles and prison bars, to place before you an appeal. I appeal to you, not on my own behalf but of the 300 million toiling masses of India.

For never before in British political history has the question of the colonies been so clearly presented as in this election, and never before have the workers of Britain been given the chance to return the true working class answer. You have in your Liberal Candidate, Sir John Simon, the best possible representative of the Imperialist predatory force which rules the world to-day—Capitalist Imperialism. Sir John Simon is a brilliant scholar, air eminent lawyer, the foremost defender of his class against your General Strike of 1926. He has been selected for the highly responsible position of the Chairman of the Statutory Commission for the purpose of riveting still more firmly upon India the chains of slavery and exploitation. To India to-day, Simon more than any other individual personifies and represents British Imperialism.

On the other hand, as your Communist Candidate, I claim to be a humble representative of the vast mass forces of revolt which are now so quickly gaining strength in India and throughout the entire colonial world. I have been working for the masses of this country since 1920. Imprisoned without trial in 1923, I was tried and sentenced to four years’ rigorous imprisonment in 1924 for Conspiracy as a Communist. Since my release in 1927, I have been engaged in working-class organisation, as a result of which I have again been imprisoned in March of this year. My experience is not exceptional. All in India who take part in the struggle for emancipation or who assist the exploited masses must suffer more or less the same fate as I have done. I come before you as a rank-and-file worker in the cause of the freedom of the colonial masses. I am asking you to support me rather than Sir John Simon. I am asking you to disregard personal consideration, the claim of traditions and the ties of race and colour, and to prefer the weak to the strong, the poor to the rich, the absent to the present. I ask you to make this sacrifice not for my sake, but for the sake of the solidarity of the workers of the world.

India and the Simon Commission

We in India boycott Simon and the Statutory Commission because they represent to us the Imperialism which we rightly and justly hate. Under the rule of the British Imperialism, India is the poorest country in the world. Our vast masses of the peasants exist on an average income of 2d. a day. More than 90 per cent. of the population is illiterate. We are even denied a representative government. If we attempt to assert our own rights to determine our own destiny or merely to organise Trade Unions we are beaten back by armed forces of autocracy, our demonstrators are shot dead and our leaders imprisoned.

I claim your support on grounds of class solidarity also, since our movement is essentially one of the oppressed and the exploited masses—the workers and peasants. In recent years the organised workers have rallied to the fight against Imperialism. When Simon first came to India in 1928, he was greeted on landing by the strike of tens of thousands of workers who demonstrated under the lead of their union and burnt an effigy. The workers’ movement is becoming so menacing to Imperialism that special legislation is being enacted to suppress it: the Public Safety Ordinance to cut us off from the international movement, the Trades Disputes Act to break our solidarity; the Press Act to stifle even the voice of criticism. The renewed campaign of Imperialism against the national revolution begins with the imprisonment of thirty-one Labour leaders at Meerut (including two English comrades). The working class is taking its rightful place as the leader of the world movement. This is what gives its special significance and importance to your Election. It is a straight fight between the acknowledged leader of Imperialism and a Communist worker—a fighter in the front rank of the opposition to Imperialism. I ask you electors to realise your responsibility, to remember that the eyes of the millions of the toiling masses of India are upon you and to do your duty by them and by yourselves. For by striking a blow against Imperialism in India you are also striking a blow for your own class.

Your Exploiters are our Oppressors

The same clique of exploiters which so hideously oppresses the masses of India also rules and exploits you. Imperialism means colonial slavery, but it also means economic depression and collapse in the Imperialist countries. You cannot compete against Indian miners and textile workers, whose wages are less than 20 per cent. of yours. Imperialism which in India brings sweating, famine, illiteracy and autocracy, in Britain means unemployment, reduction of wage rates, worsening of conditions, smashing of Unions. The capitalists have regularly promised you a trade revival which has never come. It can never come while the colonial workers are forced to work below your rate. Nothing can deal with this situation but the control of all economic life by the workers in their own interests. While imperialism rules, neither you nor we can be free from these, its inevitable consequences. The only way in which unemployment can be abolished, the standard of life improved and peace and freedom established for all, both in the capitalist countries and the colonies, is by the overthrowing of capitalism and the establishment of Socialism. In this task the workers of Britain and the workers and peasants of India must co-operate and fight side by side. In standing by the workers of India you will be fighting for the best interests of your own class.

I ask you not to be misled by the bogy of Communalism which the defenders of Imperialism will use to justify their oppression. The conflicts of different communities so far as it exists is mainly due to the activities of Imperialism which must divide in order to rule. The working class is not concerned in the least with Communalism. The accused in the Meerut Conspiracy Case include members of all the principal communities of India, all fighting for one cause.

I must warn you also against the attempts which will be made to condemn the Indian Communists as assassins and bomb-throwers. The oppression of Imperialism has driven many to this course, but they are not Communists. As you know, Communists do not believe in individual terrorism and no Communist has ever practised it.

Against Liberal and Labour Imperialism

I am asking you to repudiate the open, unashamed representative of predatory imperialism. I am informed that the other capitalist candidates will withdraw as is fitting in view of the complete identity of interests and policy between the two capitalist parties. But I am also asking you to repudiate with equal determination the representative of the half-hearted, vacillating Labour Party. You know it from your experience how the compromising policy of the Labour Party has repeatedly placed it in direct opposition to the interests of the workers and how in all times of crises, such as the Labour Government of 1924 and the miners’ strike of 1926, it proves to be identical in action with the capitalist parties. It acts in the same way in regard to the colonies. It is identified equally with the capitalist parties with the Simon Commission. The Labour Government in 1924 was responsible for a policy in every way as reactionary and repressive as that of an openly capitalist government. It bombed villages in Iraq, rejected the demands of the Egyptian Nationalists, despatched warships to overawe the Chinese workers, and in India shot down workers on strike at Cawnpore and Bombay, promulgated the Bengal Ordinance whereby over 200 men were imprisoned for three to four years without trial. It launched the Cawnpore Conspiracy Case. I was myself a victim of the Cawnpore Case and in company with other Comrades, Nalini Gupta, Muzaffar Ahmed, and S. A. Dange, I was sentenced to four years rigorous imprisonment for being a Communist. Such a party claiming to stand for the working class deserves only contempt.

Workers of ALL Countries Unite!

In India, we are in a position to witness the feverish preparations of British imperialism for war which is to be fought from bases in India and Iraq against the Soviet Republic. We realise, as you do, that this war would be a catastrophe of the first magnitude for the working class throughout the world. We know that no efforts and sacrifices must be spared to fight against this war danger and to prepare for an effective action if it actually breaks out. I ask you to remember that a vote for imperialism is a vote for war, a vote for Communism is a vote against war.

As a Communist I stand by the Communist programme, pledged always to fight on behalf of the working class. I do not believe that the salvation of the workers or the establishment of Socialism will be effected through Parliament. Indeed, Parliamentary institutions are one of the greatest obstacles which the workers will have to overcome. You can best assist to free the minds of the workers from the illusions of Parliament by sending as your representative a Communist who will not attempt to use Parliament, but to expose it from within.

Dear Electors, as I am in prison I am unable to express fully all that I have to say to you, but I appeal to you to do your duty as the members of the working class. The workers of Britain first taught the world to form Trade Unions and to fight capitalism, and its lessons we in the working-class movement of colonial countries are still eagerly learning. The workers who have shown the way so long cannot fall behind in this test of consciousness and solidarity. I appeal to you, confident that you will rise superior to limitations of race and colour, and, in spite of all obstacles, stand by your class.

Long live the Revolutionary Solidarity of the Masses of the East and West!