“Ripples of Freedom”
Dublin, 13 May 2006

Socialism and national liberation

Avtar Sadiq

Communist Party of India (Marxist)



Comrades,
      On behalf the Communist Party of India (Marxist) I would like to make a humble contribution on the topic “socialism and national liberation” by stating that the communist movement in India is as old as in many former colonial or semi-colonial countries. The movement developed under the impact of the October Revolution, an event that has left an inerasable imprint on the contours of human civilisation’s advance in the twentieth century. However, its historical significance ushered in a new era of transition from capitalism to socialism.
      Lenin’s declaration of firm support to the national liberation struggles drew the attention of the people fighting for national liberation all over the world. The formation of the Communist International in 1919 and the adoption of the Colonial Thesis of Lenin at its Second Congress, exposing the miserable and inhumane conditions of the colonial countries under imperialist rule, and the call to fight for complete independence by uniting all patriotic forces, with the working class and peasants playing an important role, gave a new tempo and strength to the national liberation movement.
      Analysing imperialism, Lenin had concluded that it is not necessary that the socialist revolution can only succeed in advanced capitalist countries but it could also take place in backward countries, where the imperialist chain is the weakest. As a matter of fact, subsequent events have vindicated Lenin’s understanding. Guided by the ideas of scientific socialism, wherever the working class was able to assume the leadership of the national liberation struggle it was not only able to complete the tasks of bourgeois-democratic revolution but further succeeded in taking it forward to socialist revolution. China, Viet Nam, Korea and subsequently Cuba substantiated this claim. The Great October Revolution played a significant role in the success of a variety of national liberation struggles in the world.
      In the wake of the October Revolution, this period witnessed a number of peasant uprisings in Europe, notably in Italy, Hungary, and Germany. It was the victory over fascism which changed the face of the world. The defeat of fascism led to the establishment of the socialist system in some east European countries, and the struggles of the colonial people rose to heights, putting an end to the direct rule of imperialism all over the world in the twentieth century. Hence, a third of humanity was freed from the capitalist system.
      Quite apart from the historical significance of socialism, in establishing the rule of the hitherto exploited classes, in defeating fascism, enabling the oppressed nations to liberate themselves from imperialism, and forcing capitalism, however transiently, to adopt welfare-state measures, this aspect of socialism, of representing the first grand effort of mankind to transform a vision into reality, must never be lost sight of.
      Nonetheless we must face the question as to why socialism collapsed in the Soviet Union and in the countries of Eastern Europe. The usual answer to this question focuses on the defects of the system that was erected, notably the extreme centralisation of power in the socialist societies, which was characterised by a dictatorship of the party and which ultimately ended up depoliticising the working class to a significant extent. The CPI(M) had, in its 14th Congress, identified four areas, viz. the character of the socialist state, the construction of the socialist economy, and inadequate development of ideological consciousness amongst the people, where distortion and deviations took place undermining the socialist state. But this answer has to be located within a historical context, and that context was provided by imperialism.
      The programme of the Comintern was based on the notion of a “general crisis of capitalism,” from which the only way out could be provided by a transition to socialism. All of us recollect the meetings of 1957 and 1960. In 1960 eighty-one communist parties in a declaration asserted that the international correlation of forces had shifted decisively in socialism’s favour, that socialism was irreversible in the existing socialist countries, etc. In retrospect, it is clear that there was both an underestimation of capitalism and an overestimation of socialism. So, an incorrect estimation had grave consequences for the advance of the socialist cause.
      Capitalism restructured itself in the aftermath of the Second World War, through Keynesian demand management ushering in an unprecedented boom, through political decolonisation removing the moral stigma of being an oppressor of other nations; from it and through the diffusion of a degree of development to certain pockets in the Third World, such as east Asia, which appeared to belie the Sixth Congress thesis that the development of the Third World could occur only through socialism. These changes, together with the experience of the very horrors of the Second World War, contributed to the passing of the revolutionary conjuncture of the period 1913–1950. After this period the inter-imperialist contradiction, which created two world wars, disappeared temporarily, and the unity of the advanced capitalist countries came into existence to demonstrate their power. The combined output of all the socialist countries never reached even a quarter of that of the core capitalist countries, which then reinforced the technological superiority of the advanced capitalist countries. The military power of countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was such that even modest attempts to match it broke the back of the Soviet economy. The United States felt free to invade or otherwise intervene in dozens of Third World countries.
      While we have a renascent imperialism today, and the moral stigma associated with oppression and stagnation is once again beginning to adhere to capitalism and indicating the beginning of yet another possible revolutionary conjuncture, the fact remains that this would not be a return to the earlier conjuncture.
      Lenin always teaches us that concrete analysis of concrete conditions is the living essence of dialectics. Just as he created Leninism as Marxism in the era of imperialism, it falls on our collective shoulders to define the contours of the socialist revolution in the present conjuncture. Given the fact of uneven development under imperialism, it is clear that the transition to socialism would be a protracted affair. Likewise, given the reassertion of the hegemony of imperialism in the epoch of the emergence of a new form of international finance capital, it is clear that the socialist movement must be engaged above all in an anti-imperialist struggle. Indeed the chief hallmark of the socialist movement today is that it constitutes the most consistent fighter against imperialism, and it is a necessary condition for the transcendence of imperialism. Karl Marx has irrefutably proved that capitalism can never survive without its raison d’être, i.e. the exploitation of man by man and nation by nation.
      After the setback to socialism in the Soviet Union and in the east European countries a massive offensive was launched by imperialism and its intellectuals that “socialism is dead,” proclaiming that capitalism is the ultimate stage in the evolution of human civilisation. And to those who spread the illusion of reforming capitalism and those who proclaim that there is no alternative to globalisation, the communist answer can only be, Socialism is the alternative. We can therefore carry the struggle for socialism forward today only through the adoption of an uncompromising stand against imperialism.
      In this context, a question is being asked often by the well-wishers of the Indian liberation movement as to why the Communist Party of India, formed in 1920, could not become able to achieve the objectives of the socialist revolution, whereas in some important ex-colonies or semi-colonies the communists have succeeded. In order find an answer to this question one has to analyse the failure on the part of Indian communists to apply the science of Marxism-Leninism to concrete conditions prevailing in our countries, which alone can enable us to emancipate mankind from the exploitation of man by man and thus liberate productive forces. In dealing with this question, a brief overview of the historical background of class struggles challenging British imperialism in India ought to be taken into account.
      Writing in 1853 on British rule in India, Karl Marx explained:
All the civil wars, invasions, revolutions, conquests, famines, strangely complex, rapid and destructive as the successive action in Hindustan may appear, did not go deeper than its surface. England has broken down the entire framework of Indian society, without any symptoms of reconstitution yet appearing. The loss of his old world, with no gain of a new one, imparts a particular kind of melancholy to present misery of the Hindu, and it separates Hindustan, ruled by Britain, from all ancient traditions, and from the whole of its past history.
Hence, based on the self-contained village, with common ownership of land, agriculture was the ancient Indian economy, and it was broken by the British Empire. Its sole purpose remained ruthless exploitation of the Indian masses and looting of the vast resources of the enslaved India.
      India’s struggle against colonial subjugation and exploitation is as long as the rule itself. There were innumerable uprisings of peasants, tribal and depressed classes and workers that appeared on the national scene. The heroic struggles of the people culminated in the First War of Independence of 1857, and Karl Marx explained the significance of this rebellion.
Before this, there had been mutinies in the Indian Army, but the present revolt is distinguished by characteristic and fatal features. It is the first time that Sepoy regiments have murdered their European officers; that Mussalmans and Hindus, renouncing their mutual antipathies, have combined against their common masters; that the disturbances beginning with Hindus, have actually ended in placing on the throne of Delhi a Mohammedan Emperor; that this has not been confined to a few localities; and lastly that the revolt in the Anglo-Indian army has coincided with a general disaffection exhibited against English supremacy on the part of the great Asian nations, the revolt of the Bengal army wing, beyond doubt intimately connected with the Persian and Chinese wars.
      This popular uprising of 1857–59 was defeated because of a variety of reasons. The most important among them was that, although the fighting forces had consisted of peasants and artisans, the rebellions were led by the feudal nobility, who were proved to be incapable of leading the national liberation struggle, because they took concessions from the British government. The British eventually succeeded in suppressing the uprising, but they were forced to change their strategy for colonial domination. The British government directly took over the government of India from the East India Company and gave a wide range of concessions to the feudal lords to win over their support.
      But the feudal lords did not take any measures to alleviate the miserable conditions of the peasantry, which led to creating discontentment among the peasantry. The partition of Bengal became an immediate issue of long-drawn struggle (1905–1911), which fired national sentiment against foreign rule. The call for the boycott of foreign goods on 7 August 1905 proved to be the high point in the movement against colonial exploitation. In Punjab a powerful movement developed against the Colonisation Act in 1907, and a mighty trade union struggle erupted in Bombay, Calcutta, and other industrial centres. To suppress this uprising the British rulers resorted to repressive measures, such as the banning of meetings, detention without trial, imposition of long sentences, deportation, and so on. Under the pressure of this movement the British rulers had to announce the review of the partition of Bengal and the withdrawal of the Punjab Colonisation Act, thus conceding a significant victory for the people’s fight against colonial policies. However, these movements were led by a new class, the Indian bourgeoisie, which had emerged on the national scene.
      The Indian National Congress, the first political party, was born in Bombay in the vortex of these struggles. This was a party representing the national bourgeoisie and the landlords, formed by Allan Octavian Hume to subdue the growing anti-British feelings, with the approval of the colonial authority. The militant opponents of the British regime were subjected to inhuman repression by the laws passed between 1904 and 1914.
      By1911 less than 1 per cent of Indians worked in what came to be called “organised industry,” 40 per cent of which comprised those employed as indentured labour on tea plantations. The literacy figures were 1 per cent for English and 6 per cent for the vernacular languages. The weapon of boycotting all foreign goods was the first to be used in the Indian’s fight against the British imperialists, and swaraj (self-rule, which was never understood as complete independence) for only national education. This was the programme of the national bourgeoisie. The Indian capitalist class stood to gain from the boycott of foreign goods.
      The activities of Indian revolutionaries who had emigrated to Europe had also helped to spread revolutionary ideas. In 1905–07 a circle of Indian revolutionaries in exile was set up in London and in Paris. These émigrés established close contacts with Russian Social-Democrats, who imparted to the Indian revolutionaries their revolutionary feelings. An Indian patriot, Madam Cama, unfurled the first tricolour national flag at the International Socialist Conference in Stuttgart in 1907. On the flag was written Salvation to Mother India. The Indian delegates delivered passionate speeches opposing colonialism, and at this conference they also came in touch with Irish revolutionaries, who were also resisting the British colonialists. After the conference Madam Cama went to America, and there she exposed the tyranny and despotism of the British rulers.
      Madan Lal Dhingra came from Punjab to study mechanical engineering in London, and he came under the influence of an Indian freedom fighter, Krishna Verma, who was a staunch advocate of home rule. At the Indian National Association meeting on 1 July 1909 he killed Sir Curzon Wyllie, a British MP. He was hanged on 17 August 1909, but before the court he said, “I am proud to have the honour of laying down my life for my country.” His martyrdom evoked sympathy from the Irish freedom fighters, and the Irish press hailed Madan Lal Dhingra as a hero, while the British press did not give any publicity.
      Annie Besant, an Irish lady, became a leader of the Theosophical Society in 1902, while in London she criticised the British rulers for appalling conditions prevalent in India. In 1914 she joined the Indian National Congress (INC) and gave a direction to the idea of a Home Rule League, which was first discussed by her. She was the first woman president of the INC.
      India’s fourth president, popularly known as V. V. Giri, supported the freedom movement in Ireland when he was in Dublin in 1913 to study law. He sought inspiration from the Irish revolutionary Éamon de Valera and others. He joined Sinn Féin and supported their cause against the British regime.
      The outbreak of the war in 1914 had raised the hope of Indian nationalists of snatching independence. The most modern phase of India’s freedom struggle began with the formation of the Ghadar Party (Party of Revolt) in San Francisco in 1913 by the Indian residents, most of whom were Punjabi, and they took the initiative to organise rebellion in the Indian army. A paper named Ghadar was published by the party, which began inspiring Indians for an armed struggle against the British rulers. They also raised the slogan of complete independence and sent about eight thousand revolutionaries to India to organise armed rebellion against British rule. 21 February 1915 was decided on as the date for simultaneous uprisings all over India. They were both internationalist and secular in their outlook. Many of them were caught and hanged, and a large number of them had to undergo life imprisonment or face torture and deprivation. Many of them were tried in the San Francisco Conspiracy Case and were given life imprisonment. In America the Ghadar Party had close relations with the Irish independence fighters residing over there. Although they did not succeed in their mission, their dedication and courage left an indelible mark to carry forward the struggle for independence.
      In America and Europe, Irish patriots were always ready to co-operate with and help the Indian patriots’ fight for their freedom. All their papers in America and their leaders supported India’s cause, which was also their cause, to emancipate from the British yoke. They praised the efforts of Madam Cama and Krishna Verma to free India. It was the Irish who defended and supported the Ghadarites in California during the San Francisco Conspiracy trial in 1917–18. Éamon de Valera, president of the Irish Republic, was given a hearty welcome on his arrival in San Francisco on 21 July 1919, and Edward Gammons, secretary of the Pacific Coast Branch of the Friends of Freedom for India, in his address on behalf of the Ghadar Party, said: “We have common cause and a common enemy. Both our nations have indisputable claims to nationhood.” With these words a silver sword and a large silk flag of the Irish Republic were presented to Éamon de Valera by the Ghadar Party at the reception meeting. The president, Éamon de Valera, thanked them and said: “I take it that the sword represents the sacred idea of the struggle of both our countries for their freedom, and the sword is really a sacred weapon for such a righteous cause.”
      The militant opponents of the British regime were subjected to inhuman repression by the laws passed between 1904 and 1914. Even at the close of the war in 1918, in its Delhi Session the Congress party passed a resolution of loyalty to the King, conveying congratulations to him on the successful conclusion of the war. The British imperialists, realising the bankruptcy of the Congress leaders, introduced the Rowlatt Act in March 1919, which allowed the bureaucrats to arrest and detain anybody without trial. The Congress leaders expected that the British imperialists would give some rights to take part in the administration after the war, which was fought between the imperialists to divide the world. The working class began struggle against imperialism and capitalist exploitation in the form of strikes in industrial areas. It also demonstrated political consciousness by opposing the Rowlatt Act.
      Although the British crushed the first armed struggle of the Ghadarites with the help of the Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, Sir Francis Michael O’Dwyer, who was known as a “tyrant” by the Indian people, yet the movement continued its violent activities.
      The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar on 13 April 1919, on the day of Baisakhi, was carried out as a reprisal for the “offence” of opposition to the Rowlatt Act. General R. E. H. Dyer ordered his men to open fire on a peaceful meeting, in which more than 379 persons were killed and over a thousand persons were wounded. The Lieutenant-Governor, O’Dwyer, defended General Dyer’s ruthless action. This massacre not only sparked off a revolt in the whole of Punjab but a wave of protests erupted at national level. In order to check the rebellion, martial law was imposed on 14 April, but the imperial repression could not stop the movement of the Indian masses. The leaders of the bourgeoisie and landlords were compelled by circumstances to take the path of non-violence and non-cooperation. Nevertheless, the peasantry appeared on the scene against British rule and the landlords, and the workers stepped up strikes against the capitalists. The students and youth began taking part in the non-cooperation movement.
      The Jallianwala Bagh massacre of innocents shocked the world. The British media in America informed that “Bolsheviks had caused the bloodshed in India.” An Irish poet, Joseph O’Halloran, wrote a poem on Dyer, the butcher of Jallianwala Bagh:
I did my job like a British dirty dog,
Like a dirty British mixture of the leopard and the hog;
For as kingdoms fade and flourish, and Commonwealth may crack,
There is nothing earthly sacred but the good old Union Jack.
      The revolutionaries were attracted towards the Russian Revolution, and they began to play a role in the Indian national liberation movement. The Communist Party of India came into formation in 1920 in Tashkent, and the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) was formed as a result of working-class struggles in the same year. It was the communists who were the first to raise the demand for complete independence as well as the establishment of the socialist republic by uprooting imperialist rule. Marxist groups also appeared in large industrial centres in 1922, and their influence and strength began increasing. The resistance against the British imperialists started taking a national shape, because the workers and peasants and other exploited classes were getting to know the exploiters and oppressors. Gandhi and the bourgeois leaders of the Congress did not like the awakening of these classes after the success of the first socialist revolution. However, they wanted only home rule under the tutelage of the British rulers and were not in favour of the mighty waves of the national movement; therefore, frustration gripped the whole country. The British government had become panicked over the growing activities of the communists when the groups were finally united into a Communist Party in 1925. The imperialists tried to suppress the communists and instituted three conspiracy cases. The first was the Peshawar Conspiracy Case, followed by the Kanpur Conspiracy Case and then the Meerut Conspiracy Case, in which thirty-three persons were implicated for the “crime” of conspiring to overthrow the British government. The entire nation was horrified by this barbaric act of the British rulers.
      The Meerut Conspiracy Case received international support, and the solidarity of the Communist Party of Great Britain played an important role by raising funds for the defence of the prisoners and campaigning for communist ideas. This case provided an ideological platform as well as a foundation for the organised communist movement. In the background of the growing attacks on the communist movement and the role of compromise which the Indian National Congress was playing, the Fifth Congress of the Communist International decided that a political party of workers and peasants must be set up in 1928. It also decided that workers and peasants could no longer remain entangled with bourgeois nationalism. As a result, the entire leadership of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Party was implicated in the Meerut Conspiracy Case. It was a time when the influence of the communists began to develop upon the masses.
      The Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha helped the British imperialists as instruments in organising the riots in 1923 in various parts of the country to divide the national movement. The British rulers also took several steps to wipe out communists’ influence by introducing legislative measures.
      The influence of communists on youth became evident when the name of the Hindustan Republican Army was changed to Hindustan Socialist Republican Army, which was the armed wing of the Hindustan Republican Socialist Association (HRSA). Bhagat Singh was associated with it. The association declared its ultimate goal to be the achievement of independence and establishing a socialist state. Even this influence was felt inside the INC for the demand of complete independence. The HRSA had an organisational base in Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal, and Bihar. Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Butt threw a bomb inside the Legislative Assembly on 8 April 1929, when the Public Safety Bill was being passed. They threw red leaflets with the slogans Long live revolution and Long live the dictatorship of the proletariat. Bhagat Sing, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged in relation to the Lahore Conspiracy Case on 23 March 1931. B. T. Randive, who was a member of the Politbureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), summarised the Bhagat Singh phase:
No other revolutionary struck such deep rapport with the awakening people, no other became so endeared to the common people and youth as Bhagat Singh did. He symbolised his struggle in the slogan he raised after he threw a bomb in the Legislative Assembly of Delhi—Long Live Revolution, a slogan totally unfamiliar at that time to the Indian people. No doubt the Communist leadership had started raising it a little earlier, but it had not reached the people. He embodied the indomitable courage, the death-defying spirit, the capacity to sacrifice everything and unflinching courage in the face of torture, without which all talk of revolution just remains empty talk.
      No revolution can, no revolutionary ideology can succeed without individual heroism and suffering; without outstanding individuals rousing the people by their courage and sacrifices, by their readiness to face the gallows and the executioner’s axe. No revolutionary ideology can succeed without intense hatred for the enemy to be overthrown, without an all-sided war on the enemy, his institutions and instruments. Bhagat Singh combined hatred for the British Rule with intense personal heroism, and became the symbol of the struggling nation, the embodiment of its hatred for the foreign rule.
      When Bhagat Singh and comrades were in the jail they raised their voice against the maltreatment by the Prison Authority of prisoners, and Jatin Das went on hunger strike and died. The Irish freedom fighters condemned the action of the British rulers and expressed solidarity with the movement.
      Udham Singh was inspired by the sacrifices of Bhagat Singh and his compatriots and had a burning desire to see India free from the yoke of British imperialism. He had witnessed the brutality of British imperialists, and especially the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh left a deep mark on his mind. On 13 March 1940, in Caxton Hall, London, he murdered Sir Michael O’Dwyer, the former Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, the butcher of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar, and he was hanged on 31 July 1940. Udham Singh embraced death for the liberation of his country.
      This was the period when, except for the Soviet Union, the world was engulfed in economic crisis (1929–1933). The working class was resorting to strike actions and agitating for its economic demands. The INC was forced to launch the Civil Disobedience Movement because Gandhi realised that the national movement was passing out of the hands of the INC. They adopted the Resolution for Complete Independence, but the British rulers were not even ready to give dominion status after the Round-Table Conference. Many radical Congressmen joined the Congress Socialist Party, which came into being in 1934 to project the idea of complete independence and agrarian revolution.
      The clandestine conference of the Communist Party of India was held in Calcutta in 1933, which elected a Central Committee. The CPI undertook the task to organise workers, peasants, students and other sections of the masses in their respective organisations, and it also decided to form a united front against imperialism, landlords, moneylenders, and capitalists. This programme arose from the understanding imparted by the Colonial Thesis adopted at the Sixth Congress of the Communist International, because it negated the role of the bourgeoisie in the struggle for freedom. This understanding led to a sectarian attitude in the early thirties, which did great damage to the party’s image amongst the people. This mistake was corrected after the Seventh Congress of the Communist International in 1935. This congress made corrections in the earlier policies on the question of social democracy and national reformists. Comrade Dimitrov in his report to the Congress stated:
In India the Communists have to support, extend and participate in anti-imperialist mass activities, not excluding those which are under national reformist leadership. While maintaining their political and organisational independence, they must carry on active work inside the organisations which take part in the Indian National Congress, facilitating the process of organisation of a national revolutionary wing amongst them, for the purpose of further developing the national liberation movement of the Indian people against British imperialism.
Subsequently the CPI, under the impact of the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, made a thorough analysis of the rise of fascism and realised the necessity of forming a broad front against imperialism and fascism.
      The British government enacted the Government of India Act in 1935 by enforcing separate electorates and limited franchise on the legislatures, giving encouragement to the communal forces to divide people. The aim of this was to weaken the national movement. However, the real power remained in the hands of the Governor, appointed by the British Government. Ultimately the INC formed ministries in many provinces, and the underground CPI decided to participate in the elections and was able to secure success in various states where the working-class and peasant movements were strong. During this period the All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) was founded in 1936, and three other mass organisations were founded in this year: the All-India Student Federation (AISF), All-India States People’s Conference (AISPC), and All-India Progressive Writers’ Association. Despite the CPI being illegal and constituting a small number, the tremendous efforts made by communists to build up a united anti-imperialist front was notable. The mass organisations of workers, peasants and agricultural workers gained strength by 1938 all over India.
      The right-wing bourgeois leaders were turning the INC into an instrument for destroying the mass movement. The Rashtrya Swayam Sangh (RSS) was founded in 1925. It advocated its fascist Hindu Rashtra (Hindu state), and the Muslim League advocated a separate Islamic state. In his presidential address to the Hindu Mahasabha on 30 December 1937, V. D. Savakar said: “There are two nations in the main: the Hindus and the Moslems in India.” Mohamad Ali Jinnah propounded his two-nations theory in 1939, and in that very year the RSS chief Golwaker chillingly articulated the fascist character of the Hindu Rashtra. With the blessings of the British rulers, the organisation of the Rajas and Nawabs, the Chamber of Princes was reorganised, along with the All-India Federation of Landlords, to weaken the Indian people’s struggle for independence and not allow the united national front to be forged. They also incited communal passion to foment communal riots. During this period many INC committees came into the hands of the communists, contributing to the radicalisation of the whole movement, because the communists had made a departure from their earlier sectarian approach.
      The British imperialists declared war against Germany, and on 3 September 1939 the Viceroy, without consulting any Indian representatives, declared India to be a “belligerent” country. This arbitrary action of the British rulers swept the whole country in a wave of anger. The bourgeois Congress leaders were prepared to support the British imperialists in imperialist war only on the condition of the formation of a government at the centre composed of Indians and responsible to the Central Assembly and on the promise of independence after the war. The CPI immediately came out with the declaration of opposition to the war. The working class of Bombay demonstrated its stand against the war through 90,000 anti-war protesters, and a wave of workers’ strikes emerged on the national scene. In this period the students registered their anti-imperialist role by organising a powerful student movement. In 1940, under the Defence of India Rule, communists and other radical elements were detained and the Communist Party organ was banned. Out of 700 detainees, 480 were communists. The Muslim League in March 1940 passed the Lahore Resolution on Pakistan, advocating for the first time the partition of India. When there was no response from the British rulers to accommodate the INC (Congress) for co-operation in the war, the Congress leadership decided on a symbolic satyagraha [non-violent resistance] in October 1940.
      Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941, which gave a new turn to the war. An anti-fascist coalition came into formation at the world level against the fascist forces. The Communist International gave a slogan of “people’s war.” Unfortunately, the leadership of the CPI was not able to take note of this new changed situation immediately. On the nature of the war two documents were produced, first under the leadership of Comrade B. T. Ranadive and the second by the CPGB [Communist Party of Great Britain] to meet the new situation. It was in February 1942 that the Politbureau of the CPI stated in its resolution, “Make the Indian people play the people’s role in the people’s war.” In July 1942 the ban on the CPI was lifted, and it came forward with the slogan of National Government. The CPI committed another mistake in 1942 in defining the nationality question by introducing religion as a factor in the national make-up, and later on it led to accepting Sikhs also as a separate nationality, and Western Punjabis (predominantly Muslim). A theory of “oppressed muslim nationality” was evolved. Out of this perspective a slogan was raised, “The destiny of the nation depends on national unity: Congress-League unity,” which led to tailing behind the Muslim League. During this period the CPI failed to adopt more flexible tactics when a favourable turn came with the victory in the Stalingrad battle. The party could have organised a more active opposition struggle against the British imperialists.
      The British rulers were not yet prepared to establish a national government. The Congress Party adopted a resolution which demanded that a national government be formed and that it should be allowed to take part in the armed battle against fascism as an independent ally. It was also stated that the Congress would launch a huge non-cooperation struggle if the demand would remain unmet. The British rulers arrested top leaders of the Congress Party. As a result the Indian people burst out against this repressive approach of the British rulers. In many places they tried to give shape to Gandhi’s slogan of “Quit India.” However, the British rulers took recourse to severe repression by arresting, injuring and killing Indian people. Resulting from this political stalemate a frustration arose in the national movement. In this situation the reactionary forces and the Muslim League gained strength. The Great Bengal Famine (1943) occurred at this juncture, and over 3 million people lost their lives.
      In order to end this prevailing frustration in the political arena the CPI raised struggle for the release of national leaders and organised a People’s Food Committee with the help of mass organisations of the workers, peasants, students, and women, which led to creating a new class-conscious force for the national struggle.
      Immediately after the Second World War a big upsurge developed against imperialism. For the release of the Indian National Army prisoners, powerful demonstrations emerged at the national level in 1945. (The INA had waged an armed struggle against the British imperialists and proclaimed the provisional government of free India on October 1943.) A theory about the “Muslim nationalities” was corrected in 1946. In the memorandum to the Cabinet Mission it was clearly stated by the CPI that “the best interests of the Indian masses will be served by their remaining together in one common Union.” It opposed the establishment of Pakistan by reassessing its understanding and correcting necessary mistakes; therefore the party started coming on the forefront.
      The two years between the end of the Second World War and Indian independence (i.e. 1947) were marked by waves of armed peasants’ struggles in Assam, Punjab, Maharashtra, and Tripura. The most glorious of all these struggles, however, was the epic struggle of the peasants of Tlangana against the Nizam of Hyderabad for the ending of feudal and aristocratic rule. This struggle began in 1946 and came to an end in 1951. According to the government figures, in the second half of 1945 over 855 strikes took place, in which 747,000 workers participated. In 1946 an important event in the history of the national movement was the revolt of the Royal Indian Navy, which alarmed the imperialists and the Indian bourgeoisie. When the unity and independence of the country demanded that the Congress and the Muslim League should have stood together against the British imperialists with the communists, the leaders of the two parties opposed the communists’ stand. Arrests of communist leaders began in January 1947. Vallabhbhai Patel, Home Minister in the Interim Government, informed the Central Assembly on 21 February 1947 that 1,950 communists had been arrested.
      Both the British imperialists and the Indian bourgeoisie were afraid of the revolutionary upsurge of the working class, and they arrived at a compromise to divide the county into two. The Muslim League was entrusted with the governance of Pakistan on 14 August 1947, and the governance of India was handed to the Congress leaders on 15 August 1947. Thus the golden opportunity for revolution was thwarted by the betrayal of the pro-capitalist, pro-feudal leaders of the Congress and the Muslim League, who were in the leadership of the national movement. India was declared an independent secular and democratic republic on 26 January 1950, and a new constitution, framed by the Constituent Assembly, came into operation, which included federalism, social justice and economic self-reliance as highlights. The left argued and still fights for the conversion of the political independence of the country into the truly economic independence of the Indian people, i.e. the establishment of socialism, while the RSS-BJP combine strived to replace Hindu Rashtra in place of the secular and democratic republic of India.
      In the 2004 elections in India the reactionary regime of the BJP was defeated to form a secular government as an alternative, which is now dependent on the support of the CPI(M) and the left for its survival. The CPI(M) and the left played a crucial role in putting this secular government in place. The CPI(M) has increased its strength to 33 seats this time in the People’s House of the Indian parliament. It is the highest ever won by the party. In a house of 545 the combined left has a strength of 61. The CPI(M) is the third-largest party in the Indian parliament. The CPI(M) has no illusions about the character of this government. The main task before the party would be to keep communal and reactionary forces in check, and it spares no effort in both defending and advancing the interests of the working class and the common people through popular struggle against communalism, the neo-liberal economic policies, US imperialist aggression globally, and imperialist penetration in India. These struggles are marching forward for a secular, united and sovereign India, free from class and social oppression.
      We have witnessed during the past decade how the United States has embarked on the quest of hegemony and total domination in the economic, political and military fields, exploiting the situation arising out of the dismantling of the Soviet Union. In the post-September 11 scenario the US has resorted to aggressive measures resulting in blatant onslaughts on the sovereignty of independent countries. It has promoted authoritarian and right-wing attacks on progressive movements, and the rights of the citizens nor the United Nations Charter nor international laws have any sanctity for it. After the aggression and occupation of Iraq the US is now turning attention on Iran. Using the Iran issue, it is coercing countries like India to support its line of action, and the hateful campaigns against Cuba and the progressive regime of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela have reached new proportions.
      Imperialism poses the greatest threat to humanity. Predatory finance capital and neo-liberal reforms have intensified the exploitation and poverty of billions of people. Imperialist oppression and violence spawn terrorism promoted by fundamentalist and sectarian ideologies. With the dismantling of socialism in some countries and the entry of imperialist finance capital, ethnic and sectarian conflicts are the results. Terrorism motivated by religious fundamentalists, causing havoc on innocent people, has to be firmly combated. But the elimination of all forms of terrorism requires the end to imperialist aggression and violence, state terrorism, and the rapacious exploitation and abject poverty perpetuated by an unjust and hegemonic world order.
      The CPI(M) supports all the currents of resistance against imperialism: the struggles for national liberation, the fight against neo-liberal economic policies and for the defence of national sovereignty, opposition to imperialist aggression, and for the defence of the interests of the developing countries against imperialist capital.
      Each one of us has a historic responsibility to discharge in our respective countries in advancing the anti-imperialist struggle in the present conjuncture. Under these conditions we will have to work for the integration of worldwide anti-globalisation protests with the global anti-war upsurge into a mighty anti-imperialist movement. The future of humanity is socialism. We can therefore carry the struggle for socialism forward today only through the adoption of an uncompromising stand against imperialism, notwithstanding all the high phrases about “freedom” and “democracy” which have become apparent to everyone in the aftermath of the war on Iraq. Socialism is the only alternative available to humanity. Let us together rise to the occasion.

Bibliography

Sohan Singh Josh, Hindustan Gadar Party: A Short Story, Delhi, 1978.

E. M. S. Namboodiripad, A History of Indian Freedom Struggle, Trivandrum, 1993.

Shiv Verma, Selected Writings of Bhagat Singh, Kanpur, 1996.

Harkishan Singh Surjeet, March of the Communist Movement in India, Calcutta, 1998.

Sitaram Yechury, “Socialism in the Era of Globalisation,” The Marxist: Theoretical Quarterly of the CPI (M), 2004.

Communist Party of India (Marxist), 18th Congress, Political Resolution, Delhi, 2005.


Ripples of Freedom  >  Avtar Sadiq