Labour Monthly

India — A Call to the British People

By Harry Pollitt

Source : Labour Monthly  June, 1941, No.6.
Publisher : The Labour Publishing Company Ltd., London.
Transcription/HTML : Salil Sen
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2010). 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.

No aspect of its policy does the Churchill Government reveal such downright incompetence and stupidity, even from the point of view of its own imperialist interests, as in its handling of the Indian question. The recent speech of Mr. Amery has quite rightly set Indian public opinion aflame with indignation that such crude Brummagem Brass methods should be thought good enough to try out once again on the Indian people. For centuries the historic policy in foreign affairs, particularly of British Imperialism, has been that of "Divide and Rule." The diehard Tories especially thought they had brought this policy to such a fine art that no one would ever be able to see through their supposed cleverness. But this time Amery has overdone it; and sections of opinion of the most moderate character in India have been shocked out of their illusions by the blatant pursuit of this policy at the present time.

It is clear to every one that British Imperialism is in a desperate situation in the conduct of the war against its trade rival, Nazi Germany. One might have thought that this would have prompted a more discreet and delicate handling of the Indian situation. But the Tories learn nothing and forget nothing when it comes to dealing with what they still look upon as a subject people. Incidentally they bring the same men¬tality to bear on their outlook on the Soviet Union, with all the conse¬quences that this too has brought in its train. So we get the spectacle of the most notorious Imperialist in the Tory Party being placed in charge of India on behalf of the Churchill Government. Naturally such an appointment did not tend to create in India any impression that this war was in any way different from previous imperialist struggles.

The Indian people know only too well that the claim to fight for freedom and democracy is all very well as a means or deceiving peoples as to the real motives of war. But it cannot deceive them; because, strange as it may appear, the Indians believe that the test of this is how far you are prepared to apply it in those countries where you have the power to do so immediately. The Indian people have not been blind to the propaganda which declares "that when Britain has won the war, then freedom will be restored to Belgium, Holland, Poland, Austria, Czecho¬-Slovakia, etc"; nor are they blind to the fact that the Churchill Government which sponsors this type of propaganda and uses the B.B.C. and the R.A.F.. for the purpose of appeals to the people of those countries to revolt against Nazism, itself suppresses with an iron hand any attempt on the part of Indians to try and realise their aims of independence and their right to govern their own country in the way they conceive best in the interests of the Indian people. Such hypocrisy stinks to the heavens. It exposes the shameless character of British imperialist propaganda.

The Indian people have not forgotten the promises made to them in the last war, nor how shamefully these same promises were betrayed when the war was over. They do not intend to be deceived again. They are fighting now for their right of independence. Because of this the flower of the Congress Nationalist leaders and of the working class and peasant leaders are ruthlessly placed in concentration camps. We are proud to note that all these methods of intimidation completely fail to damp down the struggle of the Indian people. Indeed, we would be happy to see in Britain as great a struggle on the part of the British people in defence of their own democratic rights as the Indian people are making for theirs.

I write these few lines on the evening of May 11th. This morning I walked from Old Street Tube station to a Poplar shipyard after the great blitz. Everywhere great fires, destroyed buildings, homeless people, for miles walked on glass. I could not help thinking of how the Amerys are always declaring the people of India are not yet fit to be trusted with the government of their own country -- when this is the state of affairs in London and Berlin after centuries of so-called government by the cultured Christian capitalist ruling classes.

I say to those who read this. As the days pass, more and more the British people will find out how heavy is the price they are going to pay for our betrayal of the heroic struggle of the Spanish people from 1936 to 1939. Be on guard now, lest we are called upon to pay an even bitterer price for our betrayal of the struggle of the Indian people in their just fight for their independence.

More and more as this war extends will we find how isolated Britain becomes as the result of this policy of betrayal of democracy and freedom, and the policy of imperialist domination. We can, however, fight against this if we will. Every day brings new evidence of the bankruptcy of the Churchill Government just as the chaos and sabotage of production by the big monopoly interests in Britain itself cry aloud for redress, so do the fiascos of Eden and Amery in the realm of foreign policy. Now as never before the British people must be told the truth of how desperate is the situation that the Tory-Labour Coalition Government has placed them in. They must fight against it. And in so doing they must see that the demand for the right of the Indian people to their independence forms as much an integral part of their struggles as for example their own demands in regard to wages and food.

For it is it common struggle we are all engaged in, against a common enemy; and we should be proud to find ourselves fighting alongside such gallant and courageous fighters as the Indian people. The demand that Amery be sacked should find expression throughout Britain. This Tory die-hard, this Brummagem imperialist, this old crusted representative of everything that is decadent and. repressive in British politics is a positive menace, not only to the people of Britain„ but to the people of India as well. Do not let it be said that it was only a storm in India that led to his removal: let the British people also help fan the storm waves that will send him into the same sort of retirement as Baldwin and his like.

We salute the Indian people, we hope the mighty wave of revolt that is now sweeping that great country will succeed in finding the road to the complete victory over British imperialism, and that the Indian people will not be fobbed off by any in their own ranks who may grow afraid as the struggle reaches a higher stage. For the winning of freedom for India means the winning of freedom too for the people of Britain.