The Labour Monthly

The Speech of the Prosecutor in the Meerut Case

(Pt. 2)

Source: The Labour Monthly, Vol. 12, Febuary 1930, No. 2, pp. 97-105 (3,768 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.

[The following is a continuation of the opening speech of the Government Prosecutor, Mr. Langford James, delivered in June 1929, in the case against the Indian working-class leaders at Meerut. The first portion was given in the previous issue of the LABOUR MONTHLY, January, 1930.]

Now I have said that this International existed at the beginning of the war. It was also in existence at the end of the war. But by that time the Bolsheviks had captured the power in Russia and their views, as I have attempted to point out, did not coincide at all with the views of Amsterdam with whom at that time and later the name of our present Prime Minister was constantly coupled in Bolshevik literature. Therefore, an attempt was made to found another International in Russia and naturally, and as a matter of course, the persons who attempted to found it and did in fact found it were this Communist party in Russia, which had by that time increased to a larger figure than it had been before, but was still a very tiny minority. I think it is important to bear in mind the fact that this Communist International was founded by the Russian Bolshevik or Communist Party which ruled Russia at that time and that this Communist International embraced all the tenets of Bolshevism, and the views expressed by this Communist international are identically the same as the views expressed by this Communist Party of Russia.

When I come to deal with the organisation of the International, you will see, Sir, that in fact the Communist Party of Russia is a section of the International and the Communist Parties of all other countries are also sections of the International. In theory, the International can meet anywhere in Europe. In practice, it always meets in Russia; and it must follow as a matter of common sense that Russian influence is therefore the predominant factor in this International, and when we come to deal with this organisation you will find that not only is it the predominant influence but it is practically the regulating and controlling influence.

Now, so much for, very briefly, the story as to the origin of this body, I will now deal as shortly with the creed and objective. Now, it may be said, I think with some truth, that the creed of Bolshevism has an old testament and a new testament. The old testament is the gospel according to Karl Marx and is exemplified, I suppose, best in the well-known Communist Manifesto issued by Karl Marx and Engels, The new testament may be said to be the gospel according to Ulianov or Lenin which, I suppose, is typified, if you can find any one book better than another—I notice Mr. Spratt selected it for the education of the youth—in State and Revolution.

Now, I do not propose to discuss at all the materialistic philosophy of Marx and his theory of accumulation of surplus values. I do not know whether anybody entertains any feelings of love for this somewhat antiquated philosophy, but it is unnecessary to go into it because Marx exists for the Bolshevik not on account of his philosophy of accumulation of surplus values but because of his theory or rather his theories as to (1) the class war, (2) the state, and (3) the dictatorship of the proletariat. Now, first of all, as to his theory of the class war Marx divided the world into two classes which he named the proletariat class and the capitalist or bourgeois class.

Now, it would seem that you ought to be, able to get from this Communist manifesto a fairly clear definition of those two terms, seeing how important they are, but I regret to say that it is not so possible as one would have expected. The capitalists are described as the class of modern capitalist owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labour. That is fairly satisfactory. The proletariat is referred to in three places. First of all, may I say that the word comes from the Latin word “proletarii” as far, as I know, which may be loosely translated as wasters, and referred to the people who came in from the country districts, flocked into Rome and had practically no occupation and no property. I am, not throwing any stones at the proletariat at all as defined by Marx, but that is the origin of the word.

Now, to come back to Marx. He first of all says that the proletariat are the class of modern wage labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour power, in order to live. Well, of course, incidentally that covers me and anybody else who merely makes a living, shall we say, by his wits. But a little later we get this further definition. “Without property, his relations to his wife and his family have no longer anything in common with the bourgeois family relations; low morality and religion are to him so many bourgeois prejudices.” And later again, the proletariat is described as “the lowest stratum of society.”

Now, it probably would be a rough and ready description to say that the proletariat are the have-nots of this world and the other party are those who have got something. I do not pretend that this is at all a scientific description, but that is what in fact it practically comes to. The theory of Marx was that there was a bitter struggle between the proletariat and the capitalist or the bourgeoisie and certainly the Bolshevik claims that Marx said that it could not be ended except by bloody revolution.

Well, now, to come to his theory of the state. I suppose any ordinary person who thinks about the state regards it as an institution which for better or for worse, well or less well, is there to guard the liberties and rights of all the citizens in the state and see to the best of its ability that they all get fair play and equal treatment. I say that this is the sort of idea that the ordinary man would entertain with regard to the state. Now, that was not at all the theory of Marx. Marx said that the state was the organ of the ruling class and inasmuch as the bourgeoisie or capitalists or haves, or whatever you like to call them, were the ruling class, and the proletariat or have-nots never had been in power, it followed that the state was the organ of the bourgeoisie or the capitalists.

Now, the duty according to him of the proletariat in this class struggle which was going on perpetually and which would ultimately come to a head, the duty of the proletariat was to smash in pieces this state, this organ of the capitalist class. It had to be smashed in pieces. And the persons who were to take power were the proletariat. And their assumption of power was called by him the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is clear, it must be clear, to anybody that you cannot have a dictatorship of a mass in practice, however much you may have it in theory, and it is equally clear, I think, that a dictatorship primarily means government by one man and in any sense must mean government by a small compact little body of men, a bureau if you like. And, therefore, the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat meant that some one person or some small body of people on behalf of the proletariat should seize the government. Much stress is laid by Lenin later on the point that the proletariat had not got to capture the existing state and use it but had got to smash the existing organ into pieces and erector set up an entirely new state of their own.

Well, now, the theory goes on—and it may sound a little fantastic, at least it did to me the first time I read it, and in fact it has proved to be quite impossible in practice—but the theory goes on in this way. Having smashed the capitalist state into pieces, having set up the new rule of the dictatorship of the proletariat, you have then got to a transitional stage. This dictatorship of the proletariat is merely transitional. It is in fact, of course, the substitution of the autocratic rule of one lot of people, or what the Bolshevik considers the autocratic rule of one lot of people, by the autocratic rule of another lot of people. It is only transitional and the millennium is to be reached when there is no longer any class in the state at all. We are all exactly the same. We are all to become workers on the bench.

I am afraid that would not include your Honour, at least not in their sense. I mean we are all to become actual workers in a factory or actual workers in the field. Then we have got to the millennium of the classless community. And then what happens is this, that the state “withers away.” It withers away. And I suppose you have no state in the millennium and everybody owns everything or nobody owns anything, I am not quite sure which.

Now, that is the gospel according to Marx, put as fairly as I can put it, and the important point of it, I think, is this class struggle and the fact that this dictatorship of the proletariat is only transitional. The gospel according to Lenin was concerned principally with the capturing of power by the Communist Party, that is to say the setting up of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and with this question as to the transitional stage. Lenin was a considerable authority upon both these points naturally. It was he who led this Red Revolution in Russia and it was he who directed the course of the Government after the revolution was effected.

To Lenin, the substitution of the proletarian state for the existing state is absolutely impossible without a violent bloody revolution. He emphasised that point in that admirable book that I told you was prescribed by Mr. Spratt for the very young, The State and Revolution. He emphasised that point that you cannot capture power and set up the dictatorship of the proletariat without a bloody revolution. He says that it is the duty of Communists in all countries to work steadily to bring about an armed uprising of the proletariat to overthrow the existing system of Government and seize the state. Lenin preached this gospel both before and after the armed revolution in Russia and this is the doctrine which is commemorated and glorified on Lenin Day, which is January 21 in each year, and on the anniversary of the October Revolution in each year.

I say that is the doctrine which is commemorated and glorified on those occasions and those are some of the demonstrations which the accused boast they have introduced into India. Now, I suppose that most people are acquainted to some extent with what, in fact happened in Russia. These, to me, fantastic theories of Marx were pushed to their logical conclusions with a ruthless brutality which must make everybody in the world shudder, we have found in fact with the accused a book which in its proper place I will deal with, called Bolshevism, the Dream and the Fact. And it is interesting to note that they must have known what effect it had upon Russia, and there is no reason to suppose that they did not. But this book gives a very lurid account of the Red Terror. I will read you only two or three passages from it. (Reads.)

Mr. D.P. SINHA: What is the date and author of the book?

Mr. LANGFORD JAMES: The author of the book is Edmund Candler, and the date of publication is 1920. The passage occurs on page 37.

Mr. D. P. SINHA: Is that going as an exhibit in the case?

Mr. LANGFORD JAMES: That is entirely for me to decide.

Mr. D.P. SINHA: With great respect I would submit to your Honour that my learned friend in his opening address can only refer to a book of law or to a book which lie proposes to file as an exhibit in the case. And if he refers to any book which does not fit into either of these two categories than I submit we have every right to draw your Honour’s attention to this.

The JUDGE: You can draw my attention to it. But I must ask you not to interrupt more than necessary because we can never get on at this rate.

Mr. Langford James—

We are all sensitive this morning.

What one cannot imagine, the physical and mental torture that followed, the cold-blooded murder not only of the aristocrats and the class that used to be called the respectable bourgeois, but peasants, working men, priests and old men.

This book gives a gruelling account of the horrible terror which followed and which is defended by Trotsky in his Defence of Terrorism as being a necessity and at times a necessary part of the programme of this International. For us in this court, however, I think the more important point is that this Russian revolution was a revolution which had as its object the smashing to pieces of the existing state of Government; and indeed did in fact smash it to pieces.

If the example of Russia is to be followed in India it is essential that, as an integral part of the process, the Government of His Majesty as by law established should be smashed in pieces. Bolshevism may be, as I believe it to be, a festering sore on the face of Europe, a cruel and tyrannous autocracy masquerading under the mask of popular Government, or it may be a paradise on earth. The hard fact still remains that if Bolshevism and that system is to be introduced into India the Government of His Majesty must as a preliminary be smashed in pieces. There is no room for both of them.

Now, this Russian revolution, as I have already indicated, was carried through by a small and resolute body of men. It is not so generally understood that the present Government of Russia is carried on by a small and resolute body of men who, on their own figures, claim to be only about one and a-quarter million out of a total population of something like 180 millions. In the rural soviets, both village soviets and district soviets, the peasants have a very large footing; in fact they have a majority. But gradually the proportion of Communists increases in the higher soviet organs, in action and they are in absolute control of all positions of power. The All-Russian Soviet is entirely dominated by the Russian Communist Party.

It is not a fact that Russia is a happy land peopled by Communists. It is a fact that it is ruled by Communists with the help of the O.G.P.U. and the Red Army. The O.G.P.U., which used to be called the Cheka, is the police force of Russia and it is entirely of course under the control of this Communist Party, and by means of it and the Red Army the people of the country are terrorised into submission to the rule which is imposed upon them. This purposeful minority, which I have indicated governs Russia, has its counterparts in other countries, and they, as I think I have already pointed out, together make up the Comintern.

Now I have digressed somewhat, perhaps, because I remember I said that the gospel according to Lenin was concerned with two things, the capturing of the power and the transitional stage. I had dealt with the capturing of power, but I left the question of the transitional stage in abeyance. Before I deal with this question of the transitional stage according to Lenin’s ideas, I want to say a word about another matter which is of extreme importance in any consideration of Bolshevism, and that is the peasant question. Now this doctrine of Karl Marx and Engels was essentially applicable and intended to be applied to industrial countries, such as England and Germany.

I think you can search the writings of Marx through and find practically no—if any very little—reference to the peasants. The theory does not lend itself to dealing with peasants. The irony of the thing is that this experiment should have been tried in a country like Russia which is essentially a peasant country. I suppose that if you searched the world over for countries which were essentially agricultural or peasant countries, the two that would head the list would be Russia and India. Lenin was consequently at an early stage confronted with the difficulty of this peasant question.

Now the peasant is usually a man who is of a very conservative frame of mind. He loves his home, he loves his country and he loves his God. In fact, he is prone to possess all those fallacious ideas which the Bolshevik desires to root out. But not only that, the peasant usually has or attempts to have a little bit of land of his own. And as a matter of fact in 1905 in Russia the reforms of Stolypin had largely increased the possibility for the peasant to have this little plot of land as his own.

Now Lenin divides the peasants into five classes. The first is the agricultural proletariat. This group must be organised in independent organisations separated from the other groups of the rural population. Then he gets to the semi-proletariat or poor peasants. This group may be converted to the law of the proletariat if the work is properly conducted by the Communist Party. You have got the very lowest stratum, which you ought to be able to get hold of, and then you get the stratum which you might with proper attention get hold of. Then comes the small peasantry, these are small land owners, owing or renting small plots of land which satisfy the requirements of their families, and they do not therefore employ wage labour. In the transitional period of the dictatorship of the proletariat this group may waver in its policy. However, if the proletarian policy is firmly conducted, if the victorious proletariat deals sufficiently thoroughly with the large land owners and wealthy peasants, this group, in spite of its wavering, will, on the whole, be on the side of the proletarian revolution.

Then you get to the middle peasantry. In the economic sense these are small peasants owning or renting small plots of land which under capitalism as a general rule provide them not only with a modest income but even with the possibility of obtaining a certain superfluity, at least in good years, which they can convert into capital and large farms, frequently rising to the employment of wage labour. The wavering of this group during the period of revolution will be greater than that of the previously mentioned group. Therefore, at least in the immediate future and in the beginning of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the aim must be not so much to win this group over as to neutralise it. Then you come to the rich peasantry who are quite outside the pale. Those are the capitalist farmers operating as a general rule with a number of wage workers and bound to the peasantry only by their low cultural level and habits of life and the fact that they personally work on their farms. This group is a direct and determined enemy of the proletariat. And finally, you have the large land owner. In the A B C of Communism, which is a book I shall quote often, I find that there are only three classes of these peasants alluded to.

So that, generally speaking, the Communist has to deal with the question of the peasants by dividing them into three classes: firstly, the man who is frankly a capitalist, the man who has his own land; secondly, the middle-class man who may go this way or that; thirdly, that class of hopeless people who in Russia are known as “horseless” peasants because they have no horses. I notice that Mr. Spratt, as we shall see when I come to deal with that, calls that last class the landless peasant. Now, the question was, what on earth to do with these people. I may tell you that the rich land-owning peasant, the rich peasant, is in Russian called a Kulak. It really means a vulture, and the question arose in Russia at a very early stage as to what was to be done with those Kulaks. As I have said, the matter solved itself in a practical manner at a very early stage. The Marxian theory apparently is, as I have tried to point out, that once everybody in the land is on an equal basis, classes disappear and the State withers away. Now I take it for granted that unless and until the State withers away, the Moscow clique, or this little body of men which carries on the dictatorship of the proletariat, remains in power. The transitional stage continues. Now obviously the withering away cannot begin until everybody is equal, and until you have reached the classes stage. Any form of capitalism must make this millennium an impossibility, because as long as any form of capitalism exists the transitional stage continues and the classless stage cannot possibly be reached.

Now the ordinary Bolshevik method with the capitalist, whether his capital be in land or in money, is to kill him. In the case of the big land owners that was a simple and comparatively popular panacea. But, after extensive trial, its extension to the peasant proprietor or Kulak was found not to be feasible. Yet, as I have tried to point out, to the disciples of Marx the Kulak can find no place in the ideal State. Now in the end the Kulak had to be left. The State or the party had to content themselves with taxing the Kulak very heavily. But they had to leave him there. It was also discovered to be quite impossible to run the ordinary business side of life without the small capitalist.

(To be continued)