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MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts – Part 15

 

MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts – Part 15

Continued from Part 14

Western Women in leftist and national movements (1)

Before we continue with Roy’s saga in India we need to talk of the highly interesting phenomenon of the Western women participating in Indian independence struggle and in the leftist revolution as also getting involved with Asian men. It is one the fascinating aspects of the early decades of the twentieth century.

Such involvement of Western Women with men from their colonies; and, in matters that they considered detrimental to their mother-countries became a source of irritation and embarrassment to the European powers, especially to Great Britain.

Kumari Jayawardena in her Book The White Woman’s Other Burden: Western Women and South Asia during British Rule  has written wonderfully well on this very engaging subject. Much of what is said here is based on her Book. I thank her. 

The British did not mind so long as the British women confined their activities to social issues such as education, health, charity, social reform and such other harmless activities. They could tolerate it as facet of women’s motherly nature. And, their caring for the weak, oppressed, downtrodden and a general concern for the deprived were viewed as giving expressions to virtues of Christian charity. The British authorities , either in Britain or in India , were not unduly worried about such pious preoccupations of their women as long as there was no breach of law and accepted norms of conduct.

White women as Theosophists were more daring in their questioning of the accepted ethnic and gender roles; and , the British did not relish the sight of their women of superior race and class wandering behind their Indian Gurus and singing their virtues and greatness. Though such women, surely, were annoying, they were not considered dangerous.

But, a more serious worry, anxiety and threat were the Western women socialists and communists. They were an anathema to the British rulers. Such impertinent women were viewed as the ultimate shame and embarrassment. On a more serious level, they were regarded as serious threat to the colonial rule and to the security of the State.

In some cases, severe threats, punishments and deportation were imposed on such erring women to prevent them from further engaging in activities that could harm British rule and British image. A close watch and scrutiny was kept on western women engaged in anti-colonial activities and entangled with Asian men. And, they would be arrested if there was a perceived breach of law.

But, when the British and other western women were legally married to Indian men, their deportation would become a difficult and a ticklish issue. Because, in most cases, the western women who got involved with Indian freedom movement or the leftist groups and with the Indian rebels, were , quite often, women coming from respectable middle class families.  They usually were well educated having attended Universities and research institutions. They did not fall into the category of the   run-of-the-mill ‘undesirable low class’ who could be put behind the bars routinely.

Further, such women who got involved with Asian men and leftist/anti-imperial activities were not only an embarrassment to the white-race, but also were a greater threat to the white race and the State.  Such white – educated women were looked down as treacherous traitors who brought shame and betrayed ‘white womanhood’.

They were a more serious threat to the Empire than wayward men. Instead of helping the white men and their colonial rule these misguided women were undermining the very system that supported their life, their homes and their existence. Their unspeakable socialist views and their scandalous marriage, their illicit liaison with Asian men were despised as most reprehensible. They not only had gone astray but would also bring up half-breeds treading their dangerous path.

The British Intelligence, therefore, kept track of the Indian revolutionaries and their western women. And, in fact there were quite a number of such most horrid pairs.

The Western  women – theosophists who claimed their rights as women to travel and follow their ‘faith’; and, the  socialist women who came out to fight imperialism; formed the  ‘feminist breakthrough’ by their rejection of the orthodox church and appropriation of alternative cultures and political ideologies.

Such ‘reprehensible’ alliances also caused discomfort to the Officers of the Empire placed in the colonies. The British dignity in the colonies also depended on their women’s allegiance to the Crown, to colonialism ; and on their modest behavior as polite ladies of refinement and  culture. The worst  sort of  women, for the colonialists, were those white women  who ‘traitorously’ rejected the moral duty of imperialism and embraced Asian men and Asian nationalism ; for, they were seen not only to reject  Empire but also the British men  . The British masculine pride in such cases would surely be hurt.

Another irritating dimension of the British women marrying Indian men was the bringing up of their children according to Indian traditions and culture. That truly annoyed both the Colonial officers and the Church.

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The situation in Berlin, Germany, was slightly different. Here, relationship or living-together of white woman with Indian male did not suffer from the ‘betraying-the Crown–syndrome’; although there were other issues related to political ideology and criminality. Berlin in the 1920s and 1930s was the hub of Indian students and Indian intellectuals , as also of those  diverse  revolutionary groups ,  each  fighting the British rule in India , in its  own manner,

Indian students, in Berlin, openly engaged in anti-colonial gatherings; creating anti-British alliances; and even forging ties with Communists. The line between academic studies and radical politics was often blurred. Most of the Indian students got involved in radical anti-colonial politics.

A significant number of them on return to India grew into nationalist leaders. For instance; Dr. B R Ambedkar the doyen of Indian politics and the Social reform movement, for some time, studied Economics in the Bonn University during 1922-23.  He was quite fluent in German (having taken it as a minor at Columbia University) and wrote his C V dated 21 February 1921 submitted to the University, in German. Please click here to view his hand-written CV, in German language.   The other more well known of such caliber were: Dr. Zakir Hussain, who later rose to become the President of India; Dr . Ram Manohhar Lohia the stormy Socialist leader. And, Gangadhar Adhikari on return to India became the most influential theoretician in the Indian Communist Party from 1930s to 1940s. And, Dr. Meghnad Saha a noted physicist after returning to India played a major role as the nationalist organizer of science in India during 1930 to 1950.

Apart from radical politics, many Indian students got involved with German women. The instances of Indian students marrying German woman are too many to be recounted here. Just to cite a few cases: the brothers Anadi Nath Bahaduri and Prashath Bahaduri who studied in Germany during the 1920s returned to Calcutta with their German wives Margrit and Gerta.   Apart from that, Abdul sattar Kheiri, Babar Mirza, Benoy Kumar Sarkar, and M N Roy all had German or Austrian wives. It appears that during 1930s at least six professors at the Aligarh University who had earlier studied in Germany had German wives.

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Emilie Schenkl, Mrs Subhas Chandra BoseEimilie with daughter Anita

Much later, in the 1940s, one of the most notable cases was that of Subash Chandra Bose while attempting to destabilize British rule in India with German help had made Vienna, Austria as his base in Europe.  Here at Vienna, Bose fell in love with Austrian woman Emilie Schenkl (26 December 1910 – March 1996) and married her secretly, according to Hindu rites. His marriage with Emilie Schenkl was kept a secret, even later.  They had a daughter: Anita Bose (Pfaff). Since Bose was unable to bring his family to India in the midst of wartime Europe, he left Schenkl, with a note addressed to his elder brother in India, Sarat Bose, confirming the identity of his wife and their baby daughter; and asking for them to be accepted into the family, should he die in the war. Bose then moved from Germany to Southeast Asia in February 1943, and subsequently, he is believed to have died at the end of the war. And, after the war, Sarat Bose, his wife Bivabati and their three children, Sisir, Roma and Chitra, travelled to Vienna in the autumn of 1948 to meet Emilie and Anita. An emotional family meeting took place in Vienna when Sarat and Bivabati embraced Emilie and Anita into the Bose family. Sarat wanted Emilie and Anita to come to Calcutta to stay but since Emilie was the sole care for her aging mother, she could not leave Vienna

Please also see Emilie’s letter  26.7.1948 to Sarat Bose ]

subash bose ina2

But all such inter cultural marriages, as it usually happens, were not blissful or milk and honey.  The relations within the marriage were tormented by inter-cultural differences, conflict of ideas and affiliations. The 1920s and 1930s were marked by ‘militant phase of feminism’. The western women that Virendranath Chattopadyaya and M N Roy came into contact had strong views on women’s liberation, both in the West and in India. They were quite eloquent in expressing their views. There were also differences on the political line taken by Indian men. The western women took their own theoretical positions on certain public issues, like birth control etc. Therefore, there were always passionate arguments. Even Roy had problems with Smedley. Her views on women’s rights particularly on the issue of abortion were more radical than that of any other Indian nationalist or reformers of 1920s.

Many Indian communists living in the West tended to project their relation with western women or political-comrades as a sign of ‘progress’ and modernity.  The Indian men as socialists took a ‘progressive stand on the question of women’s equality’; but, their practice in day-to-day life differed from their stated principle. Roy also spoke and wrote that the modernization of Indian women was a ’historic necessity’ to transform the traditional outdated institutions which deprived women of their elementary human rights. In theory and in public stand he was much ahead of the contemporary scene. But, in his personal life and in his relations with the women in his group he did not seem to differ much from the contemporary male culture.

Kris Manjapra in his the impossible intimacies of M N Roy writes:

M N Roy’s life bore the stress marks of intimacies that were strange for his time. His intense private and professional relationship with Ellen Gottschalk, a German Jewish communist radical, was just one expression of the globe-straddling intimacies that disrupted the normative discourse of race, nation and colonial difference

**

The lot of western women who married fugitive Indian men – perpetually on ‘run’, very poor, nervous and highly insecure – was truly pathetic. And they did suffer a lot –physically, mentally and emotionally.  They also had to endure the pain, and humility of escapades and displacements.  To put it very mildly, for a Western woman, such marriage was a highly unrewarding experience, to say the least. 

Evelyn Trent Roy (wife of M N Roy) wrote that she was weary of ‘being hunted from place to place, country to country, of having to hide and always to be rewarded by a thick fog of suspicion and fear’. Similarly, Agnes Smedley, originally from Missouri, a partner of Virendranath Chattopadyaya in Berlin, recalled the extreme difficulties and ‘neurosis associated with anti-colonial inter-cultural lifestyle’.   She wrote:

‘We were desperately poor, because Viren had no possessions. I sold everything I owned in order to get money… We skirted the problem by frequently moving, changing names. But, our debts and difficulties seemed to increase by geometric proportions. More than death, I feared insanity”.

She suddenly left Viren in 1928.

As for men, the strain of living as fugitives in a foreign land, without a sense of home, in a hostile environment was indeed very severe. Many Indian revolutionaries in West became nervous wrecks (e.g. Lala Hardayal in Berlin).

Virendranath ‘Chatto_ Chattopadhyaya -stockholm

M N Roy and Virendranath Chattopadyaya fell seriously ill. Roy was affected with infection of the inner ear and severe stomach illness. Virendranath also suffered from varieties of stomach illnesses. In addition, he suffered from paranoia. It appears he never took the meal outside for fear of being poisoned. Virendranath‘s final wife, Russian, Lidilia Kazunovskala remembered him as ‘always in a state of fleeing, full of disease, sorrow, tension, always on alert’. Viren eventually left Berlin in 1928. After another year of wandering he settled down in Moscow for some years. But soon after Stalin’s program of purging started he became nervous again, because he came to know that he was being watched for his ‘deviations from ‘orthodox Marxism-Leninism’ in his talks. He was called an Indian nationalist and not a true Soviet. His worst fears were ,  sadly , proved right. He was taken in Stalin’s purge of 1938-1940 and murdered.

***

During the early part of the twentieth century the marriages between Indian men and Western women seemed to be quite common. Apart from Viren and Roy there were quite a number who married Western women.  Just to mention a few such, during 1920s and 1930s:

(a) Abani Mukherjee who was in M N Roy’s communist group was married to Rosa Fitingof, of Russian and Jewish origin. They had a son named Goga. Rosa Fitingof had joined the Communist Party in 1918; and was an assistant to Lydia Fotieva, Lenin’s Private Secretary when Abhani Mukherjee met her 1920. Fitingof and Abani Mukherjee were among the founding members of the Indian Communist Group formed at Tashkent. Later, she was also Roy’s interpreter.

During the 1930s, Abani Mukherjee worked at Moscow as an Indologist at the Oriental Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. Abhani Mukherjee fell a victim to the Great Purge in the late 1930s.  He was arrested on June 2, 1937. He was assigned for the first category of repression (execution by firearms) in the list “Moscow-Center” and executed on October 28, 1937

 (b) Dr, Anadi Bahaduri was member of Roy’s group in Berlin and was studying there for a Doctorate in Chemistry. His wife Margrit (born in 1907) of German Jewish origin continued to live in Calcutta after Bahaduri‘s death, teaching German.

(c) Also in Berlin was Saiyad Abdul Wahid Abai, an Indian Communist who married a German Jewish woman Kaethe Hulda Wolf.

(d) Another was Pandurang Sadashiv Khankhoje (1884-1966) from the rival group of Chattopadyaya. He was in the Ghadar Party in California; was named in the the Hindu-German Conspiracy; and, fled to Mexico in the early twenties (1920). He worked in the ministry of Agriculture in Mexico. He led the Mexican corn breeding program and was appointed Director of the Mexican Government’s Department of Agriculture. And, in 1936 he married a Belgian – Jeanne Alexandrine Sindic (born 1913).Both returned to India after independence. He settled down in Nagpur; and later went into politics. Pandurang Khankhoje died on January 22, 1967.

***

(e) And yet another was the Punjabi leader Baba Pyare Lal Bedi (B P Bedi) ,  an author and philosopher,  and his English wife Freda Houlston Bedi   from Derbyshire (  daughter of Francis Edwin Houlston and Nellie Diana Harrison ).

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Freda (5 February 1911 – 26 March 1977), by any account, had an unusual life. She was born in Austria; raised and educated in England ( Masters from St. Hugh’s in Oxford ) and in Sorbonne , Paris  ; married a Sikh at Oxford in 1933 ;  in  1934  went to live in India where she spent the rest of her life; and, later became an ordained Buddhist Nun.

Before they moved to India , Andrew Whitehead writes,  Baba Pyare Lal and Freda Bedi  spent several months , during  1933-4 , in Berlin where Baba Bedi had secured a reserch post. Their first child was born in Berlin . And in the autumn of 1934, the Bedis and their four month old baby reached India . After they settled down in Lahore – India, both got busily  involved in  the national independence movement during the 1930s and  1940s.  The Bedis also became invoved in left-wing politics and in  journalism. They published several books and edited India-Analyzed (1934).   And later,  while paricipating in the national freedom movement, Freda was arrested and detained  in  Lahore jail with her children and with Gandhi. She was in prison  for about six months during 1941-42 .

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Her husband, Baba Bedi , it is said,  spent long  years (?) in prison for his activities in the struggle for independence.  Baba Pyare Lal Bedi (1909–1993) later took to life of mysticism and spiritual healing.

Freda_Bedi_and_Baba_Pyare_Lal_Bedi,_at_Nishat_Bagh,_Srinagar 2,_1948Freda Bedi (1911-1977)

After relase from prison, they moved to Kashmir. Freda became the Professor of English at Srinagar in Kashmir. Both Freda and Baba Bedi were active in Kashmir during the 1940s; and were said to be  close to Sheikh Abdullah and the National Conference. Baba Bedi is said to have drafted the party’s distinctly radical ‘New Kashmir’ manifesto.

Andrew Whitehead (Freda Bedi’s biographer) mentions that following the great famine of Bengal in 1943, Freda toured , during January 1944,   the districts  most afflicted by famine. By then the famine had brought in its wake epidemic and disease. She took great risk  of touring in the infected areas and moving among sick people dying out of sheer hunger and neglect . Freda wrote of her experiences in the famine stricken Bengal  in her Book Bengal Lamenting. (Published in 1944)

Bengal Lamenting by Freda Bedi

In the words of  Andrew Whitehead :

The book is more than a cry of pain, a call to pity, a picture of another tidal wave of tears that has wrenched itself up from the ocean of human misery. It is a demand for reconsideration on a national scale of a problem that cannot be localized, a plea for unity in the face of chaos, one more thrust of the pen for the right of every Bengali and every Indian to see his destiny guided by patriots in a National Government of the People.

After Independence, she edited Social Welfare, a magazine of the Ministry of Welfare ; and was  also appointed  as the social worker of the United Nations Social Services, assigned  to Burma. And much later , she was  nominated as the advisor on Tibetan Refugees to the Ministry of External Affairs , Government of India.

In 1952, while working  for the United Nations, Freda went to Rangoon ; and , there she was drawn to Buddism , learnt Vipassana meditation with Mahasi Sayadaw and Sayadaw U Titthila . Freda  was one of the first Westerners to be initiated into Vipasana.

Nehru with the Dalai Lama

Then in 1959, when the Dalai Lama arrived in India along with thousands of Tibetans, Nehru asked Freda Bedi to help settle them ; and , he then  put her in charge of the Social Welfare Board

Freda was very drawn to Tibetan Buddhism and spent the rest of her life as a leader who looked after the welfare of  Tibetans in India . And  simultaneously, she took to practicing Tibetan Buddhism of the Kagyu School under the direct guidance of the Karmapa. She also became the Principal of a school established by the Dalai Lama in Delhi for young Tibetans. In 1963, Freda helped in setting up Karma Drabgyu Thargay Ling ,  a  nunnery for Tibetan women in northern India.  Besides , she set up a number of other organizations , such as : Friends of Buddhism,  New Delhi ; Tibetan Friendship Group ; Young Lama’s Home School, Dalhousie; and Mahayana Monastic House.

Freda Bedi

In 1966, Freda was ordained as a Buddhist monk by the Karmapa; and , was given the name Gelongma Karma Kechog Palmo or Sister Palmo. She was the first Western woman to  be ordained in Tibetan Buddhism.  

She was in contact with the Tibetans right from the moment they arrived in India; guiding and  helping them in several ways. She arranged for education of number of youbg Tibetans in UK . Sister Palmo was a ‘Mother-figure’ ; and, was affectionately adddressed by Tibetans as ‘Mummy’. It is said; Sister Palmo was uniquely influential, in a quiet way.  She became an adept  in Western Tibetan Buddhism; became a Dharma teacher; and guided many disciples.

As an ordained monk, Sister Palmo  undertook several tours to West covering Britain, Europe, U.S.A. Canada and South Africa lecturing, giving Dharma instructions and initiations. She also supervised the activities of the Tibetan Buddhist centers set up in Scotland, USA and other places. In her efforts to spread the message of the Dharma, during her tours, she met and discussed with several leading thinkers. During her tour of 1974-5, she visited the Vatican and met the Pope.

She also turned into a Tibetan-English translator; translating number of Tibetan woks and hymns into English (the language ‘my birth-land’ – as she said). Her translations of  A Garland of Morning Prayers – in the tradition of Mahayana Buddhism; and  other prayers are quite well regarded.

Please also check : http://www.luxlapis.co.za/tibet.html for more.

In the later part of her life, she moved to a retreat in Sikkim, took to meditation Intensely ;  wrote,  and  initiated and guided a spiritual movement that later  became the ‘New Age’ movement.

Freda Houlston Bedi – Gelongma Karma Kechog Palmo was  indeed  an extraordinary person who lived an active and a purposeful life in the service of her fellow beings. She excelled in all the aspects of her life. And, in that she found her fulfilment .

She died peacefully  in New Delhi on 26 March 1977, at the age of 66.

The Venerable Gelongma Karma Kechog Palmo (Freda Bedi) is revered as almost a Saint in Tibetan Buddhism. 

According to Ms. Swati Jain, a Stupa is erected in Memory of Freda Bedi (Sister Palmo) at the Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat in Bhattu, Kangra District,  Himachal Pradesh.

Stupa for Freda

:https://buoyantfeet.com/2015/12/28/a-buddhist-stupa-dedicated-to-veteran-actor-kabir-bedis-mom-in-himachal-pradesh/)

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Freda Bedi  was the mother of two sons, Ranga and Kabir Bedi ( a film actor) and a daughter, Gulhima 

(please check : http://www.luxlapis.co.za/lady.html )

(Please Check here for more on Freda Bedi – Andrew Whitehed’s page )

***

Alys Fiaz Ahmed

(f) Another couple in the left politics was the famous Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz of Lahore and his wife Alys George (September 22, 1914 – March 12, 2003) the daughter of a London bookseller. She and her sister Cristobel were active in leftist circles during  the 1930s; and, both had worked with Krishna Menon in the India League at London. Her sister married Mohammad Din Tasser of Lahore (also in left movement). On a visit to India, Alys met and married Faiz and worked in politics and journalism . She was the founding member of the Democratic Women’s Association. He died in 1984. She continued to live in Pakistan as human rights activist.

[ For more on Alys George and Faiz Ahmed Faiz please check their daughter Salima Hashmi‘s page at

http://old.himalmag.com/component/content/article/5153-perhaps-some-day-i-might-end-up-as-a-poet-after-all.html

Salima Hashmi is a Lahore-based artist, cultural writer, painter, and anti-nuclear activist.]

***

(g) But the most sensational of  all  such relations was that of  an early associate of M N Roy and the one who financed Roy’s health care in Switzerland as also his trip to India. He was Raja Brajesh Singh a wealthy prince hailing from the royal family of Kalakankar near Allahabad; and an Indian Communist.  His affair with Josef Stalin’s daughter Svetlana became sensational. 

Svetlana had an unlikely romance with Indian Communist Brajesh Singh Svetlana Alliluyeva3 bw

Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva (later known as Lana Peters), was the youngest child and only daughter of Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin’s second wife. 

Svetlana, when she was 17, married (in 1943) Grigory Morozov, a fellow student from Moscow University, though Stalin hadn’t likeed it. They had a son Josef (Iosif) in 1945.  And, their divorce took place in 1947. Svetlana married, for the second time (in 1949), Yuri Zhdanov, the son of Stalin’s close associate. A daughter, Katherine, was born to them in 1950. And, soon thereafter they were divorced. Josef Stalin died in 1953.

In 1963, while Brajesh Sing was recuperating from bronchitis in Sochi, Russia, by the side of the Black Sea, he met Svetlana. The two began to talk about a book by Rabindranath Tagore that Svetlana had found in the hospital’s library. Singh was the most peaceful man Svetlana had ever met. He protested when the hospital wanted to kill the leeches they had used in his treatment, and he opened windows to let flies escape. When she told him who her father was, he exclaimed “Oh!” and never mentioned it again.

By then, Brajesh Sing had already married twice – to Lakshmi Devi and to Leea, an Austrian woman. When they met in 1963, Svetlana was about 37 years; and Brajesh Singh (said to be old enough to be her father) was about sixty, about twenty-three years elder to Svetlana.  It is not clear whether they were married formally. It appears that the Soviet Primer Alexi Kosygin had strongly disapproved of Svetlana getting married to Brajesh Singh. (She however persisted in calling herself as Brajesh Singh’s wife.) They lived together for four years as man and wife at Sochi until Brajesh Singh died on 31 October 1966.

Svetlana ensured that Brajesh Singh was cremated according to Hindu rites. Thereafter; she decided to take his ashes to India for immersion in the Ganges. That took time because the Soviet leaders tried hard to dissuade her from making that journey. Finally, the arrangements for her travel to India were made at the highest level. And, that was not difficult since Brajesh Singh’s nephew Dinesh Singh was a confidant of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and was also  a member of her council of ministers.

Svetlana arrived in India on 20 December 1966 with ashes of Brajesh Sigh. She stayed with Brajesh’s family at their ancestral royal home at Kalakankar near Allahabad (UP). After a couple of days, on 25 December 1966, Brajesh’s ashes were immersed in the Holy Ganges, with Svetlana watching the ritual, from the shore,  dressed in widow’s white sari.

She lived happily with Brajesh’s extended family; and got on very well with all its members. She wanted to stay back in India; and, Brajesh’s family was also willing and happy to let her stay with them. Svetlana asked Dinesh Singh (Brajesh’s nephew) to use his influence with Indira Gandhi to let her stay in India. But the Soviet Government insisted that she should be back in Moscow before the end of March 1967. Indira Gandhi , not daring to antagonize the Soviets, advised Svetlana, through Dinesh, to return to Russia. Exasperated, Svetlana approached socialist Rammanohar Lohia in Allahabad  for help so that she could stay in India and  build a memorial for Brajesh. He promised  to help; but could do very little.

Svetlana then reached New Delhi for  making  arrangements  for her travel  to Moscow; and stayed there at the Soviet Embassy where Ambassador Nikolai Benediktov was advising her to return home . Next day , on the evening of 6 March 1967, Svetlana went out to finalise her travel arrangements ; but,  she asked the  taxi to drive  straight to the American embassy. The embassy had shut for the day. She told the duty officer who she was and what she wanted. In panic, the duty officer rang up  Ambassador Chester Bowles and told him that he must come to his office immediately to deal with a matter that could not be discussed on the phone. Mr Bowles arrived, talked to Svetlana and gave her a lined pad to write down why she wanted to go the US; and,  not to her own country.

[Ambassador Chester Bowls, later recalled: In about two hours she put together a very eloquent sixteen to eighteen page statement in excellent English; a dramatic story of her life , who her father was, who her mother was, and why she wanted to leave Russia and come to America. Please see; India & the United States: Politics of the Sixties  by Kalyani Shankar. P.387 to 393]

While Svetlana was writing her piece, Ambassador Bowles sent an “Eyes Only” telegram to the Secretary of State Dean Rusk explaining the situation and asking for instructions. He took care to conclude his cable with the words: “If I do not hear from the State Department by midnight (Indian time), I would, on my responsibility, give her the visa.”

According to the Ambassador’s subsequent account of the incident, as he had expected, there was not a word from Washington by the deadline. So he arranged to send Svetlana to the airport in the company of a CIA officer to catch a flight to Rome.

Only after she had reached Rome safely did the sensational news of her dramatic. great escape  was leaked to the Press.

There was, of course, a huge uproar in Moscow and in New Delhi ; the US government  blandly explained  that  it   merely  helped  Svetlana on humanitarian grounds.

After a brief stay in Switzerland, she flew to the US. Upon her arrival in New York City in 1967, the then 41-year-old said, “I have come here to seek the self- expression that has been denied to me for so long in Russia.”

smiles for photographers at her press conference April 26.

Three days after she landed in America, Svetlana sent her children in Moscow (Iosif and Yekaterina, twenty-one and sixteen) a long letter. Soviet Communism , she said, had failed as an economic system and as a moral idea. She couldn’t live under it. “With our one hand we try to catch the moon itself, but with another one we are obliged to dig out potatoes the same way it was done a hundred years ago,” she wrote. She urged Iosif to study medicine and Yekaterina to continue to pursue science. “Please, keep peace in your hearts. I am only doing what my conscience orders me to do.”

(http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/03/31/my-friend-stalins-daughter)

The note that Svetlana wrote while in the US Embassy at New Delhi along with her “Twenty Letters to a Friend” was published within months of her arrival in the US; and it became a best-seller. The book in the form of a series of letters to her friend, the physicist Fyodor Volkenstein, described her family’s tragic history . The message of the book, it seemed, was that being one of Stalin’s relatives was nearly as terrible as being one of his subjects.

According to Brajesh Singh’s family in India, Svetlana did not forget her commitment for the memorial for Brajesh: “She kept sending money for many years for a hospital in Kalakankar village in Brajesh’s name, until it was taken over by the government”.

Svetlana settled down in Princeton New Jersey, where she lectured and wrote. From 1970–73, she was married to American architect William Wesley Peters with whom she had a daughter, Olga. Svetlana died in Richland Center, Wisconsin, U.S, from complications arising from colon cancer, on 22 November 2011, at the age of eighty-five (28 February 1926 to22 November 2011).

Svetlana married American Wesley Peters, with whom she had a daughter

For more please do read a detailed article :

My Friend, Stalin’s Daughter by Nicholas Thompson which appeared in the March 31, 2014 Issue of The New Yorker.

***

Let’s talk about the intertwining lives of what was called as the Left Quartet – M N Roy, Evelyn Trent, Virendranath Chattopadyaya and Agnes Smedley, in the subsequent parts.

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Continued

In

 Next Part

Sources and References

The White Woman’s Other Burden: Western Women and South Asia During British Rule by Kumari Jayawardena

Age of Entanglement by Kris Manjapra

Many pages of the Wikipedia

Socialism of Jawaharlal Nehru by Rabindra Chandra Dutt

India & the United States: Politics of the Sixties by Kalyani Shankar

How Stalin’s daughter defected in India

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-15936172

The Lives of Agnes Smedley by Ruth Price

http://www.sacu.org/smedley.html

Trials that Changed History: From Socrates to Saddam Hussein by M.S. Gill (Chapter 19- Agnes Smedley)

Freda Bedi  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freda_Bedi )

All Pictures are from Internet

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2016 in M N Roy

 

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MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 14

 

MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 14

Continued from Part 013

 

Back to Berlin and Back to India

 

After attending a few sessions of the Ninth Plenum of the ECCI, Roy left (escaped) from Moscow on the grounds of illness in March 1928. His quiet exit from Moscow was made possible by the help from Bukharin and Borodin, both of whom were later arrested and executed by Stalin

Roy stayed in Berlin under his assumed name Roberto Alleny Villa Gracia ; and was holding the Mexican diplomatic passport that was provided to him by the Mexican President Carranza during November 1919,  to enable Roy and Evelyn to travel safely to Berlin and then on to Moscow.

Soon after he reached Berlin, Roy found a place to stay with help from Wilhelm “Willi” Münzenberg, a communist political activist.

[By 1928, Roy and Evelyn Trent had been separated over some serious differences that developed between them. Roy was living alone during his early days in Berlin.  During those lonely days, Roy developed relations with a few women communists. It is said, Roy had been close to Clara Zetkin, the German Communist. Thereafter, it is said, Roy had live-in relation with a German woman Louise Geissler (1899-1973), whom he knew from his earlier Comintern days. Roy had in the mean time developed friendship with another German communist woman Ellen Gottschalk (1903-1960). With Ellen, Roy truly grew very intimate. We shall talk about Ellen Gottschalk, separately, in the coming parts of this series. ]

In Berlin, Roy gradually aligned himself with August Thalheimer a journalist and theoretician, and with Heinrich Brandler a Communist trade-union politician.

August Thalheimer (1884 to 1948), was initially a member of the Social Democratic Party before the First World War. And later he formed the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). However, during 1928, he and Brandler were expelled from the KPD. Thereafter, Brandler, along with Thalheimer, set up a faction within German Communist Party named the Communist Party of Germany Opposition (KPO).

The KPO initially conceived of itself as a factional influence group, attempting to change the political line of the Communist Party of Germany rather than as a new party in competition with it.

The KPO, in its new Communist Opposition journal, Gegen den Storm (Against the Storm) edited by August Thalheimer started publishing articles criticizing the foreign policy of the Soviet Union; which meant criticism of Stalin. The Comitern was properly annoyed with Brandler and his organization – the KPO.

During 1928 and till September 1929, Roy was still a member of the ECCI of the Comintern. Although he had fallen from grace, Roy had not yet been formally expelled from Comintern. He continued to write articles for the Comintern journals. Roy did not dare criticize Stalin’s new Ultra-Left policy. For about one year after his return to Berlin, Roy did not ‘openly utter a single word against the line of the Comintern’.

The German Communist Party (KPD) which was then the best organized Communist Party in Europe was facing a crisis. It was losing ground to the emerging Social Democratic Party; and internally it had to contend with the opposition faction, KPO.

On the occasion of the May Day of 1929, the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) gave a call to its members to get more aggressive and militant to assert their Party’s position. That resulted in an armed insurrection, which proved to be abortive.

Following KPD’s failed attempt to up rise, Roy wrote an article in the German Communist Opposition (KPO) journal Gegen den Storm, entitled ‘The crisis in the Communist International’ criticizing the German Communist Party’s (KPD) for its ultra-Left violent actions on the May Day. The article, inter alia, criticized the policy of the Comintern too.

Comintern was already angry with the Opposition splinter group (KPO) within the German Communist Party (KPD); and was totally displeased with Brandler and his faction. Roy, especially after the Ninth Plenum, had been steadily losing ground in the ECCI mainly because of his failure in China and his suspect theory of ‘decolonization’ (though he kept insisting it was really not his own theory). Roy was openly accused of being a ‘lackey of imperialism’ and ‘father of the decolonization theory’.

Another problem that the Comintern had to deal with during 1928-9 was the question of fascism that was raising its hood in Germany. The German Opposition Communists August Thalheimer and Heinrich Brandler advocated joining hands with the German Social Democrats to defeat fascism. Roy also expressed his support to such joint action to bring down fascism. And wrote articles in that regard. But, the Sixth Congress was strongly against any collaboration with the Social Democrats, even for defeating the worst form of fascism – the Nazis. Roy who supported the proposal of the German Opposition was branded and clubbed with the ‘Brandlerite Opposition’ .This together with the controversy over ‘decolonization’ contributed to making Roy’s position in Comintern highly insecure.

But, it was Roy’s article in Brandler’s KPO‘s journal Gegen den Storm following the May Day incident in Germany that really angered the Comintern. It indeed was a red-rag. The Comintern was annoyed that Roy while being a member of its ECCI should align himself with Brandler’s splinter group within the official Communist Party (KPD); and,  worse still contribute articles criticizing the Comintern and the KPD. The ECCI clearly pointed out; ‘’In accordance with the resolution of the Plenum of the ECCI and the decision of the Presidium of the ECCI of 19 December 1928, adherents of the Brandler organization cannot be members of the Communist International.’ The Tenth Plenum which met in June 1929, therefore, condemned Roy as a ‘renegade’. Comintern could no longer tolerate Roy’s betrayal; and, decided to expel him from the Party. Roy’s expulsion from the Communist International followed thereafter in September 1929.

But, for some reason, the announcement of the action taken against Roy was delayed for while. The delay was, perhaps, meant to give Roy time and opportunity to recant, apologize and to return to the Party’s official line. Since no helpful reaction appeared from Roy, the fact of Roy’s expulsion from Comintern was published in Inprecor of 13 December 1929, almost simultaneously with Bukharin’s fall from grace

The notice published in Inprecor of 13 December 1929 mentioned the cause of Roy’s expulsion as:  “contributing to the Brandler press and supporting the Brandler organizations.”…”The Presidium declares that Roy, by contributing to the Brandler press and by supporting Brandler Organization, has placed himself outside the ranks of the Communist International, and is to be considered as expelled from the Communist International.”

Immediately after his expulsion from the Comintern, Roy addressed an open letter titled ‘My Crime’ to the members of the Comintern. In that open-letter, Roy defended his position against the charges made by Kuusinen in the Sixth Congress. He rejected the allegation of deviation attributed to him as contradictory.

Roy, in fact, during the Sixth Congress had taken the stand that the Indian Communists must ‘take the initiative in organizing the broadest possible United Front of all social elements under the hegemony of the proletariat to fight simultaneously against imperialism and native bourgeoisie’.

The Sixth Congress had not rejected the principle of United Front; but had asked the Indian communists not to enter into multi-class party alliances.

There was thus no glaring contradiction, as such. But, there was a mis-match when it came to personalities. The Sixth Congress had characterized the Indian National Congress as a party of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie; and had asked the Indian communist to denounce the Congress leaders. Roy, on the contrary, regarded Nehru and Bose as leaning towards the Left and needed to be cultivated. He had also argued that INC was ‘a coalition of the classes’ which meant that it was bound to be dominated by one class or the other.

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Roy engaged himself writing the Book Revolution and Counter revolution in China ( in German) which was published  in Germany soon after his departure from Germany in 1930.The Book had a good response with over 100,000 copies being sold within an year of its publication.

Berlin in those days was littered with Communists who had been expelled or were followers of either Bukharin or Trotsky, in hiding. In 1928-9, there were series of expulsions from the Comintern. The more noticeable of those were the expulsions of  the Brandler group in Germany ( before 1929); Jay Lovestone and his group in America ( in June 1929); Tom Bell and Andrew Rothstein of Britain (November 1929) ; and M N Roy ( in September 1929). Berlin was thus a sort of un-official gathering of Opposition Communist groups. Similar groups also existed in other major European cities, especially in France, Switzerland and Sweden.

 

The first gathering of the Opposition Communists was held in Berlin March 17–19, 1930. It was attended by the Opposition groups of Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Sweden and by M. N. Roy. The meeting decided to set up an information centre in Berlin to co-ordinate international activities and publish a bulletin, INKOPP (International Information of the Communist Opposition), with Roy and Thalheimer as editors. It was to function as the organ for the new centre. Roy continued to write for the journals of the opposition till about 1937 in spite of being behind bars in India during 1931-37. (However, the opposition group withered away after Bukharin’s arrest and fall in 1937)

Roy during the latter period of his stay in Berlin was very active within the German Communist Opposition (KPO) fraction. Yet, he insisted that the Opposition should not convert itself into a rival International Organization. He did not want to emulate Trotsky who after his expulsion formed the Fourth International. (Roy is said to have remarked – only the monumental egoism of Trotsky could conceive of such a thing today.) He even argued, if the situation warrants, it would not be a bad idea to liquidate the Brandlerite Opposition, the KPO.

 

Roy kept repeating that message even in his letters from prison in India during 1931-1936.

It seems that though he had been expelled from the Comintern, Roy nurtured a hope that someday the Communist party would return to its Leninist –tactical line; and, he would be asked back.  He wanted the Communist ideology to be kept alive by extending it to the rank and file of the Party, eventually aiming to changing the policy of the Party.  He abhorred the idea of creating a parallel Communist Party either at the International level or at the national level.

[Despite Roy’s protestations that the KPO did not constitute an independent political party, it was not long before it had entered the political arena with its own candidates for office. It ran its own candidates in the December 7, 1929 provincial election in Thuringia, one of the organization’s strongholds, although these garnered only 12,000 votes. In other elections, it supported the slate of candidates of the official Communist Party of Germany (KPD) , including the candidacy of Ernst Thiemann for President in the election of March 1932.]

thalheimer Hbrandler

Roy had close association with August Thalheimer and Heinrich Brandler. In the letters he sent from prison to Ellen Gottschalk, he very often fondly enquired about his two friends and associates. He wrote: I am eagerly looking out for the day when we shall celebrate a grand reunion, which let’s pray will be all inclusive (24 February 1934)..” I eagerly wait to hear about them. I am keenly concerned about their affairs (24 April 1935).

By about 1933, Hitler had come to power and Roys friends in the KPO had to quit Germany and seek shelter elsewhere; and, most flocked to Paris. Roy kept enquiring about his old friend ‘on the run’ – ‘How are the wandering Jews of the twentieth century?’

Thereafter, it was virtually the end of Camelot’

After 1935, the things went from bad to worse. The series of trials and executions in Russia created acute panic among the Communists. The Comintern too lost much of its importance. All powers now vested in Stalin, the dictator. The Communist Opposition leaders in other European countries also came under severe threat. They sought asylum wherever they could. Most went to France first; and when it got hot there, they moved on to Cuba. Following that immigration route, both August Thalheimer and Heinrich Brandler sought shelter in Cuba in December 1941. Thalheimer died in Cuba in 1948. After Thalheimer’s death, Brandler returned to Europe at the end of the War; and then moved on to England. Brandler  came back to West Germany during 1949  and became involved in a new radical opposition organization called the Labor Politics Group and served as its president and editor of its journal, Gruppe Arbeiterpolitik (Labor Policy Group), until 1956 . He eventually died in Germany, in 1967, at the ripe old age of eighty-six.

***

Roy, after much debate within himself and with Ellen Gottschalk, finally decided to return to India, because he thought that direct involvement with the Indian Congress and the Indian Communists was the only way of hastening mass revolution. At the same time, he was also aware of the enormous risk he was taking by entering British India.

He had also consulted with associates who approved his move. He sent four of his associates -Tayab Ali Shaik; Sundar Kabadi, Brojesh Singh and Dr. Anandi Bhaduri – to be in India prior to his own arrival there.

Dr. Bhaduri was the first to land in India in November 1930 along with his German wife. Sundar Kabadi reached Bombay by March 1930.  Tayab Shaik and Brojesh Singh followed thereafter in about a week’s time. Tayab stayed in Bombay, while Brojesh went to Lucknow.

Travelling via Istanbul, Roy arrived in Karachi on December 11, 1930 with a forged passport in the name of Banerjee. He reached Bombay on 17 December 1930 and assumed the name of Dr. Mahmood.

Roy had timed his arrival in India to be able to attend the Annual Session of the Indian National Congress scheduled to commence at Karachi in March 1931. It appears, Roy did that at Nehru’s suggestion. Care was taken to ensure that his visit to Karachi was not made known and kept a secret, because a special cell of the police set up to catch Roy was on his look out.

When Roy arrived in India towards the end of 1930, the communist movement in the country was at its lowest ebb. It had lost momentum; and was virtually collapsing on itself, particularly after Comintern’s disastrous ultra-left directive of 1929.  Most of the active communist leaders in India including SA Dange along with thirty-two others   had been rounded up and arrested on or by about 20 March 1929.  All the accused were not communists; but the majority of those arrested belonged to Roy’s group. The accused were charged and tried under what came to be known as the Meerut Conspiracy Case. The Case dragged on for about four and a half years, from 1929 to 1933. Out of the accused, twenty-seven were convicted with various durations of ‘transportation’.

 The Indian National Congress too was passing through a depression. Its attempt to compromise with the British through the Gandhi-Irvin pact spread distress and disappointment among the youth of the Congress.

**

During the first month of his stay in Bombay, Roy (Dr. Mahmood) met number of prominent leaders including Sardar Patel, Bhulabhai Desai, Dr. B R Ambedkar and N M Joshi.

While Dr. Mahmood (Roy) was in Bombay, his followers set up an organization called Independence of India League, and secured support of some Congressmen. But, it could not make much impression in the provincial Congress Committees.

These meetings and activities of a stranger attracted attention of the police.  By about this time, the police in India leant about Roy’s disappearance from Germany. It did not take much time before the police figured out that Dr. Mahmood might very well be the Roy that was on their watch-list..

**

Roy quickly shifted to Lucknow UP, where Brojesh Singh provided him shelter. Brojesh also arranged for Roy’s meeting with Jawaharlal Nehru at Allahabad. During this period, Roy met Nehru before and after the Karachi session and toured the towns and villages in UP. He was happy to see political activities taking place in the backdrop of ‘severe agricultural crisis’ and driving the farmers to the point of revolt.

Roy sent Kabadi to Meerut to meet Dange and other prisoners of the Meerut Conspiracy Case to ascertain the political stance of the communists in India.

Roy (now under his assumed name Banerjee) toured UP, fairly extensively for about two months and tried to activate peasant movement. While in UP, Roy managed to circulate copies of his former publication The Masses of India. He also wrote fresh articles but ‘couched in moderate terms and phrase, so as not to frighten moderate trade union and peasant leaders.

**

Between his arrival in India by the end of December 1930 and his arrest on 21 July 1931, Roy devoted those seven months in touring Bombay and United Provinces regions to build groups of his followers. He was also trying to organize groups to work within the Indian National Congress as a replacement for those rounded up under the Meerut case. He seems to have avoided entering Bengal because of the greater risk it involved.

8448944789_5ebfdac5f1_m (1)

In the initial stages until the character of the group changed totally, the participants in the group were not aware that Dr. Mahmood was in fact M N Roy.  The discussions in the groups centered around political issues , principles and practices of Marxism, class relations in Indian society, nature of the revolution to be brought about and the role of the Congress in the context of struggle against imperialism.

The groups responded enthusiastically to revolutionary ideas, because by then discontent had spread among the youth. The reasons for their distress included: Gandhi-Irvin pact of March 1931; execution of patriots Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru on 23 March 1931; and laxity of Gandhi to fight for saving those martyrs; and disappointment with Gandhian methods and tactics.

By the end of 1932, Roy Groups had been set up in Bombay, UP and Bengal; and they were functioning effectively. The groups came to be known as Roy Group, because they had accepted Roy’s program and were influenced by his person and achievements. The young and enthusiastic youth in the Group came from Congress, the trade unions and other youth –movements.  The Roy Groups got active and started distributing leaflets and pamphlets in English, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati;  and wrote  articles in newspapers aiming to arouse  the public into action . A Marathi weekly Kamgarancha Lal Batva (Red call to the workers) was launched at Bombay by Kabadi. And, another journal called The People (1931-32) came into being later, printing articles written by Roy, smuggled out of the jail.

 The spread of socialist/communist-like ideas in UP was very visible.

The UP Governor Hailey was alarmed at the infiltration of communist ideology among the rural folks.  He charged Nehru and his followers for trying to create ‘soviet-like’ situation by abolishing the landlords. Haley, in a way was proved right. Owing to the fall in prices of agricultural commodities, the farmers were in a distress. They found it very difficult to pay rent to the landlords.  The UP Congress Committee took initiative to launch the ‘no-rent’ campaign in Rae Bareilly under inspiration from Nehru. The landlords were urged to stop revenue payments to the Government; and,  the tenants were asked to withhold payments of enhanced rents. The farmers in Barabanki, Rae Bareli and parts of Lucknow, thereafter, refused to pay rent/taxes to the landlords.

Initially, the no-rent agitation was a political movement, which was started in October 1930 as part of the Civil Disobedience Movement. But in the meantime, the economic situation of the peasantry worsened drastically. Now, the two movements merged, strengthening each other. The movement engulfed the entire ‘doab’ districts from Meerut to Allahabad; and spread to the poorer and backward districts in Southern and Eastern Oudh. The agitation soon acquired the character of a mass-movement.

At that juncture, the local UP Congress party stepped in to function as parallel government in Mathura and Barabanki.  Congress leaders in UP asked the farmers to withhold rent and revenue until a significant reduction was made in it by the government. Congress workers in the Central Peasants League asked the farmers not to pay rent more than the rate approved by the Local Congress Party. Their efforts succeeded considerably.

 Gandhi disapproved the no-rent campaign and opposed formation of parallel governments and to act as intermediary between farmers and the established government. Gandhi advised all the parties to the dispute to negotiate peacefully and resolve the conflict.

But what really angered the Up Congress, the Roy Groups and the farmers was Gandhi’s ‘Manifesto to the Farmers of UP’ which came to be viewed as pro-Zamindari. In that manifesto, Gandhi advised the peasants not to withhold rents from landlords; and to stop their agitation. At the same time, Gandhi assured the landlords that ‘Congressmen will on their part see to it that ‘the farmers scrupulously fulfill their obligations to the Zamindars… And, that ‘we do not seek to injure the Zamindars. We aim not at destruction of property. We aim only at its lawful use’.

And, in the meanwhile, the government joined hands with the landlords and crushed the congress workers. In police firing at Allahabad many farmers and congress workers were killed. And, in retaliation sporadic attacks were made on landlords and their hirelings.

The UP Congress Committee, on its own, set up an Enquiry Committee which brought out a well documented Report “Agrarian Distress in the United Provinces.” This report highlighted distress of the peasantry and the atrocities that were being perpetrated by the police and the Zamindars’ goondas on the peasantry in general and in particular on such peasants who had participated in the ‘no-rent-no-tax’ campaign in 1930.

Roy who at that time was touring UP placed himself at the disposal of Nehru and the Provincial Congress. He along the Nehru and Congress worker visited many villages and talked to the badly affected groups of farmers.

neharu22

During this period, the approach of Nehru, and the tone and tenor of his speeches had also changed quite noticeably. Nehru, in contrast to Gandhi, encouraged militant attitude of the congress in UP. He called on the farmers to unite and ‘present a fight that would be last fight’. Some of his speeches were quite radical. He thundered ‘if Swaraj means that the Britishers should leave India, if landlords, capitalists and Rajas come in their place, the lot of the peasant class will never improve. You should take up the campaign for true Swaraj in your hands’.

Gandhi though sympathized with the farmers’ plight advised them again to pay rent ‘within their individual capacity’; but in any case not less than fifty percent of the rates fixed for statutory and non-occupancy tenants and not less than seventy-five percent for occupancy tenants. Sardar Patel then stepped in and re-interpreted the rates suggested by Gandhi as Maximum and was not to be taken as minimum.

In the meanwhile, the government decided to allow remission of rent and taxes as agreed upon in the Gandhi- Irvin Pact of March 1931. The Civil Disobedience Movement was discontinued and the ‘no-rent’ campaign in UP was also suspended.

However, the no-rent movement did not abate, entirely. Since, the Government failed to give adequate relief to the distress-hit peasants of UP; and also since the government continued with massive repression of peasants, the UP Congress Committee decided to resume the agitation. 

And this time, the mass agitation was carried out on a new basis.  Earlier, the agitation was a part of the political protest against foreign rule; now, it was to be based on the issue of the fall in agricultural prices.  The Congress argued that the signing of the Delhi Pact was for suspension of Civil Disobedience as a part of the ongoing political process;  but , that did not mean that the farmers were debarred from  seeking remission in rent and taxes in accordance with the Land Revenue rules , in the event of economic distress caused by fall in prices of agricultural commodities.

The Congress workers controlled by Roy Group started distributing pamphlets, asking farmers not to pay rent or taxes. It asked tenants to send application to the Congress office; and the Congress workers would talk to the zamindars, talukdars and Deputy Commissioners and try to get the rent suspended, remitted or reduced.

Thus, even after the Delhi Pact, the Congress in Up had not changed its no-rent stand. What had changed was its tactics.

The government realized that the Congress was not sincere about the Gandhi–Irvin Agreement, which specifically provided for the effective discontinuance of the civil disobedience movement as a condition for remission of land revenue and rent. And, the Congress, it realized,  was looking for pretexts to continue the Civil Disobedience movement.

The Government Agency which investigated into the farmers’ agitation reported that it was M N Roy who had instigated Nehru to take an agitational path.  It also found that the Central Peasants League was controlled by the Groups set up by Roy. The government took the pamphlets of Congress asking the farmers to withhold rent and taxes as a breach of the Pact. It then refused to negotiate further with the Congress.

The government finally promulgated an Emergency Powers Ordinance, and arrested peasant leaders including some from Roy’s groups by the end of December 1931. Jawaharlal Nehru was arrested on 26 December when he was on his way to Bombay to receive Gandhi. His arrest was made very quietly by stopping his train at a wayside suburban railway station.

**

Just as Roy–Groups had entered into Congress and into farmers’ village level organizations, they entered the trade union movement through Congress Labor Committee.  While the communists talked only in terms of revolution and revolt, the Roy groups started working on the day-to-day problems and demands of the workers. Several labor unions therefore came into the fold of the Roy-groups.

Thus, during the seven months he was at large in India, Roy had stirred much activity. His groups had made considerable advance in Bombay and UP regions; and, later that spread to Bengal. He made serious attempts and succeeded in putting through his Socialist ideas into the resolutions of the Karachi Session of the INC through Nehru. He also disagreed with disastrous ultra-left policy of the Comintern, much to the relief of the Congress and the Indian trade unions.

The Comintern was however irked by the attempts of the ‘renegade Roy’ to build a parallel organization. It was in no mood let him succeed. During his seven months in India during 1930-31, the Communist Party of India (CPI) was hostile to him and to his work. It vilified Roy’ fake communist’ ,’pretender’ and  ‘ Congress Agent’ , ‘camp follower’ etc; and , denigrated Roy Groups as ‘ the most dangerous outposts of the bourgeois ‘, ‘ counter-revolutionary puppets’ etc.

[Some believe, it was the CPI that virtually ‘handed over ‘Roy to police at Bombay in July 1931.]

However, after the Seventh Congress revised its policy, the CPI and the Roy groups came closer, in theory. But, they continued to differ in their approach. For instance; the Roy Groups were for a multi-class body with proletariat leadership, but the CPI insisted on a pure-working class , anti-imperialist body; next, Roy Groups preferred to place a democratic program before the masses, but the CPI said only the pure-working-class program should be followed; and, Roy Groups looked upon Indian National Congress as the organization of masses in the national revolutionary struggle, but , CPI strongly refuted that and said that INC is relevant so long as it is in league with Trade Union s, Kisan Sabhas, Communist Youth leagues etc. The two – Roy Groups and the CPI- kept quarreling and trading abuses till the coming of Independence.

 

Karachi_Congress

Some the events that we talked about happened after the Karachi session. Let’s now go back to the Karachi session.

The forty-fifth Session of the Indian National Congress was held at Karachi on 29 and 30 March 1931, with Sardar Vallabhai Patel as its President. The Karachi Congress meet was preceded by rather strained circumstances. The Congress was disappointed with the Gandhi-Irvin pact of 5 March 1931; the nation was under shock at the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru; there was also an impression that Gandhi had not fought hard enough to defend them (when Gandhi was on the way to attend the Karachi session, on the route, he was greeted with the Black flags); and, there was the overhanging confusion all around. The Great Depression that began soon after the stock market crash in October 1929, had in some measure impacted the Indian economy with falling prices driving the farmers to desperation..

The period 1930-31 was also stressful for Nehru. In October 1930 he had just been released after six months in prison. But, after a brief interlude of two weeks he was back again in the goal with a sentence of two years and four months. That was his fifth prison sentence. It was during this period that Nehru started writing letters to his daughter on history. The collection of those letters was later published as The Glimpses of World History, which earned great acclaim.

Nehru did not, however, have to serve his fifth sentence in full. In an attempt to secure co-operation of the Congress for the Round Table Conference, the Government decided to release all the members of the Congress Working Committee on 26 January 1931. Nehru was released a few hours before the scheduled time because of his father’s serious health condition. After about ten days, on 6 February 1931, Motilal Nehru passed away. Jawaharlal had a strong emotional bond with his father, though he had some policy differences; and was deeply distressed.

While Jawaharlal was still mourning and recovering from his anguish, Gandhi started negotiations with the Viceroy Lord Irvin on 17 February (within ten days of Motilal passing away).  And on the morning of 5 March 1931, Gandhi entered into an agreement with the Viceroy. It was an anti climax to the whole series of events that had preceded.  In that pact with Gandhi, Viceroy had not conceded to any of the points raised by Congress. The few concession he had made included release of political prisoners, other than those involved in violence; remission of certain fines imposed on recalcitrant farmers and return of their lands.  Gandhi in return had agreed to discontinue the Civil Disobedience movement. He had also assured to maintain the Federal character of India. Nehru who was fighting for complete Independence was aghast and totally disliked the agreement. He knew that Gandhi’s move would demoralize the entire national movement. Yet; Nehru somehow could not resist Gandhi, as it would have meant a vertical split of the Congress Party. Congress that met at Karachi on 29 and 30 March 1931 endorsed the Delhi pact. (It was mentioned, aside, that the Truce was meant to be a breather; not a final settlement.)

gandhi-nehru

**

After spending a couple of months in organizing his groups,  travelling extensively in UP, Bombay and other areas, Roy reached Karachi , from Lucknow , to attend the Annual session of the Indian National Congress, evading British police,. Here he met subhas Bose (perhaps for the first time) and had extensive discussions with him. Roy also discussed with Nehru before, during and after the Karachi session.

Roy arrived at  the Congress session, clad in white pajama, Kurta, dark jacket and a white Gandhi-cap. He was lost in the crowd of thousands of similarly dressed congress delegates who thronged the session. The police knew very well that Roy would appear in the Congress Session; but, could not spot him amidst ‘the sea of penguins’, as they said.  He merged into the vast crowd; and for all purposes was lost, even as he sat on the dais amidst the row of congress men, all similarly dressed.

The Karachi session at the end of March 1931 was significant not because it endorsed the Delhi Pact, but because it for the first time ‘took a step, a very short step’ in the socialist direction, as Nehru said. Karachi Congress Session assumed historical importance in the national movement because of the Socialist direction it lent to the movement; and also because it tried to define ’Swaraj’ in economic terms, instead of merely echoing the slogan of ‘Independence’.  Its ‘Fundamental Rights and Economic Program’ listed important rights of the workers and peasants.

At Karachi session, Roy was able to influence the left-oriented congress leaders, particularly Nehru, to propose ‘Fundamental Rights and Economic Program’ resolution. Members of the Roy group led by Shaikh and Kabadi distributed leaflets at the Karachi session of the Congress, outlining the new program of Roy.

It is believed that even before the commencement of the Karachi session, Roy had discussed with Nehru, while in UP, the draft-resolution he had prepared on ‘Fundamental Rights and Economic Program’.  During the course of the Session, it is said, Nehru visited Roy’s hut where’ discussions went on for over two hours’. Roy had similar discussions with Subash Bose.

Nehru’s original draft-resolution (partly based on Roy’s draft),  was considered by some Congress leaders as being  too radical. Gandhi, in turn, came up with his ten-point program for attaining national freedom. Nehru wanted a more radical oriented program advocating nationalization of services and key industries and a more dynamic socialist economic program. It is quite likely he discussed Gandhi’s program with Roy.

 Nehru Gandhi going over the list

It is believed that Nehru and Gandhi worked out their own programs based on the Roy’s program circulated at the Karachi session. But, each – Gandhi and Nehru- developed his list, thereafter, according to his own priorities.

Of the thirty-point Fundamental Rights and Economic and Social Program in the revised draft prepared by Nehru, fifteen were from Roy’s nineteen- point manifesto circulated at the session. The four points which were dropped were those calling for a single chamber federal republic; abolition of Native States and landlords; confiscation of their lands and without compensation; and nationalization of agricultural banks to loans at a cheaper rate.  Gandhi would never have approved the first three of those points.

Jawaharlal-Nehru-Subhash-Chandra-Bose

Karachi Session also brought together Jawaharlal Nehru and Subash Bose .They together defended the Socialist content of the resolution against the conservative section led by Gandhi and Patel. The resolution with some amendments was eventually approved. Some commentators point out that Gandhi agreed to the resolution plausibly to placate the Left-wing over their dissatisfaction with the Gandhi-Irvin pact. In any case, the Socialist tinged resolution would have effect, if any, only after India gains political freedom. At the time of Karachi Session 1931 it would cost nothing to Gandhi or to the conservative group.

Karachi resolution was the first instance when Nehru’s economic program was accepted, though partly. As the movement developed, Nehru’s influence in Party grew He could not have done any of that had he broken away from  Gandhi over the irksome question of Delhi Pact; and, had he also had  decided to  form a separate party or a group of his own. With the endorsement by Karachi Congress , the Delhi pact was treated as fully approved. But Nehru was not fully happy because the major demand for full freedom had not been addressed unconditionally.

Karachi session

The resolution on the ‘Fundamental Rights and Economic Program’, in its preamble, stated ‘political freedom must include real economic freedom of the starving masses’. Thereafter it listed Fundamental rights and other rights which may be provided in the future Constitution of India.

 Some important aspects of these resolutions were: Free speech and press; Freedom to form associations, assemblies; guaranteed equal legal rights to all, adult franchise, compulsory primary education; and, Protection of women and protection of  cultural heritage of minorities.

The resolution on National Economic Program included:

Relief from agrarian indebtedness, reduction in rent and revenue; abolition of all intermediaries between cultivators and the State; Better conditions for work, living wages, limited hours work; Right to form trade unions (peasants and workers); and, Nationalization  of key industries and services  , such as  mines, transport etc .

The ‘Fundamental Rights and Economic Program’ resolution as endorsed by the Karachi session was, thus, a product of compromise.  Roy, needless to say, was not happy with the outcome. He later described the resolution as ‘a confused petty bourgeois reformation; and there is not much Socialism in it’. He later again called the Karachi resolution as ‘an illusion of socialism sprinkled among the Left-wing elements to dissuade them for taking the revolutionary path’.

Yet; historically, the Karachi resolution was a significant step. The Congress which till then had no significant economic program, now became armed with a very impressive social and economic agenda  It could be said that resolution marked a positive departure from the traditional way of dealing with social and economic issues. The resolution did try to address some of the demands of the workers and peasants. The ideas of ‘Fundamental Rights and Economic Program’, as put forth in the Karachi-resolution, formed the basis of the political program of the Indian national Congress for the next many years to come.

The Karachi-resolution also provided a political frame work for the framers of the Indian Constitution in 1950, for the reconstruction of Indian society, to enshrine Fundamental Rights and Objectives; and to guide the social and economic policy of the Indian Republic.

[It is said; in the later years ,  while the Indian Constituent Assembly was busy   drafting the Indian Constitution, Roy sent suggestions in favor of decentralization, a federal basis to state power, and the recognition of the rights of the minority communities and the regions etc.. Roy had , by that time, moved beyond Marxism; and,  called himself a radical humanist and sketched out a social activist position from the political center.]

And even before that, the Government of India Act, 1935 did try to include some points of the Karachi resolution, such as : lifting ban of farmers and workers unions; agrarian reforms like legislations on land reforms, fee, arrears of rent , land tenures .debt etc , despite resistance from by zamindars and lack of adequate powers.

In the post-independent period, the Union Government headed by Nehru took important measures of agrarian reforms by abolition of Zamindary system, tenancy reforms, reducing tax on peasants etc. The First Five Year Plan (FFYP) also laid stress on rural and agricultural development.

***

After his return to Bombay from Karachi in April 1931, Roy stayed at different places. For some days he was the guest of Jamnadas Mehta, a trade union leader . He was scheduled to leave for Poona and then on to South India to meet political and trade union leaders in the Madras region.

But that did not happen, because he was arrested in Bombay a chawl on 21 July 1931, on an arrest warrant issued in 1924 under the Cawnpore Conspiracy Case where he was tried in absentia.

karnik

VB Karnik and Maniben kara with Roy

Before we move on to life events and thoughts of Roy while in prison and thereafter, it is time , I reckon , we talk of the Western Women who were ardently involved in Indian national movement and in the Leftist movement.

stock-vector-ornamental-seamless-borders-vector-set-with-abstract-floral-elements-in-indian-style

 

 

Continued

In

Next Part

 

 

Sources and References

Chapter – III farmer’s movement in Uttar Pradesh

http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in:8080/jspui/bitstream/10603/25366/10/10_chapter%203.pdf

 http://hdl.handle.net/10689/1267

Socialism of Jawaharlal Nehru by Rabindra Chandra Dutt

Leftism in India; M N Roy and Indian Politics 1920-1948 by S. M. Ganguly

http://hdl.handle.net/10689/12677

Indian Political Thought: Themes and Thinkers – Edited by Mahendra Prasad Singh, Himanshu Roy

Socialism of Jawaharlal Nehru by Rabindra Chandra Dutt

Leftism in India; M N Roy and Indian Politics 1920-1948 by S. M. Ganguly

http://hdl.handle.net/10689/12677

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and the Peasant Movement by Ravindra Kumar

 

Pictures are from Internet

 

 
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MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 13

MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 13

Continued from Part 12

Comintern years – rise and fall of Roy

Before we end this section, let me mention in a summary form Roy’s career in Comintern:

After the Second World Congress, M.N. Roy had a meteoric rise in the International Communist movement.  Roy grew rapidly in the Comintern hierarchy. In 1922, he was elected a candidate member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) , and , a full voting member in 1924.  He was appointed a member of the Presidium in 1924. By 1926, Roy was enjoying a very influential position   in the Comintern. In Feb 1926, he was appointed to the Editorial staff of the Communist International; and, in the following December he was re-elected to the Presidium and joined the Political Secretariat of the ECCI. At the time of the Seventh Plenum of the ECCI (Nov 12-Dec 16, 1926), Roy became the Secretary of the Chinese Commission. By the end of 1926, Roy was an elected member of all the four official policy making bodies of the Comintern – the Presidium, the Political Secretariat, the Executive Committee and the World Congress.  The Plenum that was convened for the purpose of considering the Chinese problem adopted a thesis on the question and Roy was sent to China in 1927 as a representative of the Comintern to carry it out.

At the same time he authored many Marxist books, such as:  India in Transition (1922), The Future of Indian Politics (1926) and Revolution and Counter-revolution in China (1930). He also founded the organ of the émigré Communist Party of India, The Vanguard (and later The Masses) and edited it for seven years (1922-28).

In the meantime, Roy along with Joseph Stalin established Communist University of the Toilers of the East. Many of the future Presidents and Prime Ministers of colonial countries underwent training in this Institute where Roy and Evelyn taught.  Ho Chi Minh, later the supreme leader of Vietnam, studied in this school. Roy and Evelyn wrote large number of articles, pamphlets and Books; and edited journals and newspapers. Their mature writings written understanding and clear analysis influenced the course of events in Communism, in Indian national movements and on the Indian National Congress.

For some reason, Roy and Evelyn separated sometime during 1925.

Following the events in China in 1927, Roy’s influence declined significantly, though he was not formally expelled until 1929.

 

divider1

 

As Roy’s influence on Communist movement in India began to wane, his work area was shifted to China. And, the Comintern sent Roy on a mission to China.  The circumstances surrounding Roy’s China mission were briefly as under.

Sometime in the fall of 1926, Roy reached Moscow, from Berlin, to attend the Seventh Plenum of The ECCI (Executive Committee of the Communist International) scheduled from 22 November to 16 December 1926. During the Plenum, China was the principal subject of discussion. The debate, again, was about the role of the bourgeoisie in the liberation movement. The bourgeoisie now   in question was Kuomintang. And, the question had a long history.

Following the success of the October Revolution in Russia, there arose in China a national revolutionary movement of the working class and peasants against feudalism and foreign capital. With that, an old party dating back the last decade of the eighteenth century named Kuomintang (Kuo Min Tang = the Peoples Party of China) was revived.  Sun Yat-Sen took over the leadership of Kuomintang (KMT).

Sun Yat Sen 1920

The Second World Congress of the Communist International held in 1920 had resolved to support the national bourgeois revolutionary movements in the colonies and the semi-colonies. Accordingly, in 1923, the communists decided to support the nationalist movement of Sun Yat-Sen in China. And, that decision was formalized through an agreement signed on 26 January 1923 by Sun Yat-Sen and Adolph Joffe, the Soviet representative stationed in Shanghai. This agreement came to be known as the Sun-Joffe Manifesto, a declaration of cooperation among Comintern, Kuomintang (KMT) and the Communist Party of China (CPC). . The manifesto also asserted that the Soviet system was not suitable for China; announced in general terms the willingness of Soviet to cooperate with the KMT in its struggle to unify China. The manifesto, thus, became the foundation of cooperation between the Kuomintang and Soviet Union.

Following that agreement, the Comintern agent Mikhail Borodin arrived in China in 1923 to aid in the reorganization and consolidation of the KMT along the lines of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Kuomintang (KMT) thus formed the First United Front.

In July 1923 Sun Yat-sen sent Chiang Kai-shek, one of his lieutenants for military and political training at Moscow. By 1924, Chiang rose to prominence and succeeded Sun Yat-Sen   as the head of Kuomintang forces.  Comintern allowed the members of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) to join the Kuomintang (KMT) on an individual basis. The CPC was still small at the time, having a membership of only 1,500 as compared to about 50,000 of Kuomintang. The Communists within the Kuomintang came to be known as the Left-Wing of Kuomintang.  

Chiang Kai-shek2

After the death of Sun Yat-sen in March 1925, the hostility of the Chinese bourgeoisie to the working class became clearly evident in the political rise of Chiang Kai-shek. The son of a wealthy merchant, Chiang had close ties with Shanghai’s bankers and compradors. Unlike Sun, Chiang Kai-shek was no intellectual. He had spent his early years among Shanghai’s gangsters, murderers and smugglers, who would later become his shock troops against the city’s working class.

The radicalization of the working class forced the CPC leadership to reconsider its relations with the KMT. In October 1925, Chen Duxiu again suggested that the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) quit the KMT and cooperate only externally.  But, the Comintern rejected the proposal. The Stalin favored trying to use the death of Sun to install “Left-Wing” or pro-Moscow leaders.

Stalin’s transformation of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) into an appendage of the KMT left the party wide open to great dangers. On March 20, 1926, Chiang suddenly carried out a coup to tighten his stranglehold over the KMT. He not only toppled the so-called “left-wing” KMT leadership, but also detained 50 prominent communists and placed all Soviet advisers under house arrest.

Thereafter, the CPC and the Left-Wing of the KMT decided to move from Guangzhou (also known as Canton, and less commonly as Kwangchow) – the port city in southern China northwest of Hong Kong on the Pearl River –  to  Wuhan (in Central China, comprising three  major cities of Wuchang, Hankou, and Hanyang ) where communist influence was strong.

Wuhan_location

At the same time, the CPC had also gathered considerable mass support in the countryside of Wuhan area, mainly from the peasants. The peasantry supporting the CPC and some members of the Left Wing KMT who essentially were Communists,  started demanding abolition of feudal landlords, confiscation of their lands and handing over of those lands to the tillers. Some picked up  fight with the  bourgeois landowners.

But, the problem was that the leadership of the Left-Wing of the KMT was dominated by landholding-class.  And, most of the officers of the KMT army also came from feudal families.

There was therefore a conflict of interests within the Left-Wing of the KMT.

The Communist support   for the demands of the peasants to confiscate lands from the feudal and to hand it over to the peasantry would effectively mean their certain expulsion from the KMT.

***

The conflict, in the perspective of Comintern was, in essence, the old conflict re-born; whether to support ‘the revolution from above’ or the ‘revolution from below’.

In the ECCI at the seventh Plenum (22 November to 16 December 1926), the Communist delegates from China were in favour of the status quo; and were not prepared to risk their relations with the KMT.  But, Roy who then was a member of the Presidium strongly objected to the stand of Chinese Communist delegation. He stuck to his well known faith in the ‘revolution from below. Roy argued in favour of the agrarian revolution and the revolt of the peasants.

Trotsky insisted that the most urgent task was to establish the political independence of the Communist Party and de-link it from the “Left” KMT. “Precisely its lack of independence is the source of all evils and all the mistakes”. He also warned: politicians of the Left-KMT such as of   Wang Ching-wei type, under difficult conditions, will unite ten times with Chiang Kai-shek against the workers and peasants. And, therefore, it is imperative to support the Communist Party of China in its revolution.

However, the Chairman of the Chinese Commission in the Seventh Plenum Tan Ping-shan   did not agree with Roy and Trotsky.  He rejected the proposal that Communists should either revolt or leave the Kuomintang. On the other hand, the Chairman of the Chinese Commission said, ‘we are of the opinion that the relations between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Kuomintang (KMT)  must be consolidated even more than before’.

It was decided that taking into account the whole character of the development of the Chinese revolution and its perspectives, the Communists must stay within the Kuomintang (KMT) and must intensify their work in it. It was said , the KMT , despite its bourgeois–democratic character , contained the embryo of revolutionary bloc of proletariat peasantry ; and therefore the CPC  must  stay in KMT and penetrate into it  through  the Left-Wing of KMT;   and must eventually take control of the KMT , in entire.

Basically, it meant that the Chinese Commission in the Seventh Plenum had renounced ‘revolution from below’ in favour of ‘revolution from above’. And, that the uprising by the peasants must be contained and withdrawn, at least for the present.

This was totally against Roy’s stand on the issue.  He argued vehemently against such decision. Yet, the Comintern ordered Roy to proceed to China in order to ensure the right implementation of the decision taken by the Seventh Plenum.

**

It is not clear why Roy, of all the persons, was asked to monitor and supervise the implementation of an order that he had passionately opposed. Further, M. M.  Borodin who had been serving as the Communist Advisor to the Kuomintang and to the Chinese Communist Party for the past four years since 1923 was already in position. Borodin was well familiar with all details of the problem and its implications. Further, he had also established contacts with the leaders and elements on either side of the question. He could very well have been asked to ensure implementation of the order issued by the ECCI at the Seventh Plenum. There was no need whatsoever to depute Roy to China, just to check on Borodin. And the irony was that it was Borodin who had indoctrinated Roy and converted him into Communism. He was thus Roy’s teacher and guide; and they had grown into good friends. Now, Roy was being sent to check on his teacher and friend.

When Roy pleaded his case and requested to be sent to India instead of to China, Stalin just asked Roy to go; and he would look into his request for India on his return from the mission assigned to him.

Perhaps , the Comintern deliberately intended to keep Roy out of India and Europe , just at the time when CPGB  was making efforts to  take control of  Communist movement in India and a lend it a new direction.

***

Another indicator to support the above premise (of shunt Roy away from Europe ) is that just as Roy was entering into Canton on 12 February 1927, a conference called as the Congress of the Oppressed Nationalities was being held in Brussels from 10 February to 15 February 1927. About 175 delegates from about 37 countries representing various trade unions and other communist–inspired   organizations attended the Congress.  The more prominent among the participants was Virendranath Chattopadyaya, Roy’s old rival in Berlin. One of the decisions taken at the Congress was to set up the League Against Imperialism with which another rival of Roy MPBT Acharya got associated. 

The Congress was significant for one more reason. It was attended by Jawaharlal Nehru, as an official delegate of the Indian National Congress.  Nehru had left India in March 1926 to accompany his ailing wife Kamala Devi to Switzerland for medical treatment. While he was in Berlin, Nehru heard of the Congress of the Oppressed Nationalities to be held in Brussels; and, asked the Indian National Congress to sponsor him as its delegate to the meet. After attending The Congress at Brussels, Nehru, also agreed to serve on the Executive Committee of the newly formed League Against Imperialism (LAI ) ; and continued in that position until end of January 1930*.

 [*Regarding the relationship between Nehru and LAI which ended in January 1930: 

When Nehru signed the Delhi Manifesto in November 1929, the Gandhi inspired attempt to seek dominion status for India in exchange for end of the Civil Disobedience. The Manifesto also called for reciprocal amnesty and freedom for political prisoners. Then LAI sent letters to Nehru calling his signing as a ‘betrayal of the Indian masses’. Nehru in January 1930 in his letter to LAI secretariat shot back:  I am afraid you have not the least notion of conditions in India; and yet you do not hesitate to lay down the law for us. The Indian National Congress has welcomed you and has agreed to cooperate with you, but it cannot tolerate of the outside interference of the kind you have been carrying on”

With that, Nehru ended his association with LAI, although nothing came of the Manifesto. The events that followed proved Nehru right. Had he not signed the Agreement, the Congress would have split on the eve of the Civil Disobedience movement.]

In any event, it appears that the Comintern had already made up its mind to keep Roy away from the centre of action. Zinoviev had hinted about that in the Fifth Plenum of ECCI following Roy’s hostility with the CPGB.

***

Roy was assigned the task of trouble-shooting the alliance between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party which was suffering increasingly disruptive stress. But, by the time Roy arrived in China in early 1927, the events were moving rapidly and were going beyond control.  And, a totally new and an alarming situation confronted the Chinese Communists, Borodin and Roy.

On April 7 1927, Chiang Kei-shek and several other Right-wing KMT leaders held a meeting, during which they came to the conclusion that Communist activities were socially and economically disruptive and must be undone for their national revolution to proceed. And, by about the next week, 12 April 1927, the KMT decided to expel the members of the Left-wing of the KMT along with other members of the CPC from its fold.

northen-expedition-eng

After completing his northern expedition, Chiang Kai-shek broke his ties with the Left Wing of the KMT; and, began an onslaught on the Communists, on the streets of Shanghai.  This was followed by arrest and execution of hundreds of CPC members at Shanghai. This came to be known as Shanghai massacre.

After the bloodbath in Shanghai, landowners in Wuhan region anxiously looked to Chiang Kai-shek’s regime for support.  For, they were scared of retaliation by the communist-peasants in the Wuhan for what happened in Shanghai. They resisted workers’ strikes by closing down factories and shops. They deliberately organized runs on banks and shipped their sliver to Shanghai. In rural areas, merchants and usurers refused to lend money to the peasantry, making them unable to buy seeds for the spring months. Feudal powers joined, by shutting down their firms, while speculators drove up prices to unbearable levels. The economic collapses and rising mass movement terrified Wang Ching-wei, the leader of the Left-Wing KMT.

Following that massacre and onslaught, the gulf between the Left Wing KMT / Communists and Right-Wing KMT further widened. And, Chiang Kai-shek with his base in Canton (in South China) and Wang Ching-wei, the leader of the Left -Wing of KMT in Wuhan province (in Central China) became bitter enemies. Wang Ching-wei, in anger, therefore wanted to march against the Right -Wing forces of   Chiang kei -shek.

 Wang Ching-wei

But, in the meanwhile, Wang Ching-wei was confronted with another serious problem, at his home province, Wuhan. There suddenly was a violent uprising of the peasants in the Wuhan area, much to the annoyance of Wang Ching-wei. Some members of Left Wing KMT belonging to the peasant class were joined by members of the CPC who adopting the Communist Party line started a fight against the bourgeois landowners.  They demanded abolition of feudal landlord-system of Wuhan province, confiscation of their lands and handing over of those lands to the tillers. In many rural areas, peasant associations had, in fact, driven out the landlords and were functioning as the local authority.

But the problem was that Wang Ching-wei and most of other leaders of the Left-Wing of KMT and Army officers in Wuhan, despite their left leaning, belonged to the landowning class. Now, they had become the target of the agitation raised by their own members and followers.

The CPC was caught on the horns of the dilemma. They were unable to decide whether they should take control of the Wuhan area, support the peasants, and lead them on to a full scale agrarian revolution against the landlords in the   Wuhan branch of the Kuomintang (KMT).  Or, whether they should (for the present) suspend support to local peasants; and, now join hands with the Wuhan Kuomintang (KMT) and march  on with it to fight against the Right-Wing Chiang kei-shek.

The conflict had now opened up on many fronts; and, was indeed very complicated.

**

Roy, who had just then appeared on the scene, it appears, urged the Communists to support the revolutionary uprising of the peasants; and fight against the leaders of the Wuhan Kuomintang. He seemed to think that immediate campaign against the Chiang Kei-shek in the North was fraught with great danger. His argument was based on the information he had obtained that Chiang Kei-shek was threatening the right flank of the Wuhan forces, while its left flank was also vulnerable to attack. The basic position of Roy was that the Chinese Communists had two options: either to support the peasants’ demand on the land or to retard the agrarian revolution. But, supporting peasants demand right then would lead to confrontation with Wuhan Kuomintang.

But, Borodin, Roy’s friend and teacher from his Mexico days, who was stationed in China, for the last four years, as a representative of the Comintern, advised otherwise.  He was asking the Communists to support Wuhan Kuomintang in their march against Chiang Kei-shek. The true intention behind his argument seemed to be that Communists cannot possible establish a firm base in China unless the proletariat take control of the situation ; and for that to happen , it was necessary to relay on Wuhan Kuomintang. The implication of Borodin’s argument was that the agrarian revolution should be deferred for the present, otherwise it would antagonise the military officers and the Wuhan Kuomintang; and thus destroy ‘revolutionary bloc’ before the Peking regime could be over thrown.

[For more, please see the very well documented M.N. Roy’s Mission to China: The Communist-Kuomintang Split of 1927 by Robert C North and Xenia J Eudin]

 

 Since no decision could be made on the ground, the issue was referred to Moscow seeking instructions.

On 1 June 1927, Roy received a telegram from Stalin containing his instructions. And, that worsened the confusion.

Stalin instructed that both the courses should be followed at once – that is to support the agrarian revolution and also to support Wuhan Kuomintang. Stalin had made it clear that the support to the Wuhan group was to be only a temporary expedient. He had said “The leadership of the Left Wing Kuomintang must be freshened and reinforced by new leaders who have come to the fore in the agrarian revolution. It is necessary to liquidate the unreliable Generals immediately…Organize a revolutionary tribunal headed by prominent non-Communist Kuomintang. Punish officers who maintain contact with Chiang Kai-shek… The scoundrels must be punished. If the Left-Wing Kuomintang do not learn to be revolutionary Jacobins, they will be lost both to the people and to the revolution.”.

The flaw in the instructions conveyed by the Comintern’s telegram was that the support for the Kuomintang and the support for the agrarian revolution were conflicting, mutually exclusive policies.  The Chinese Communists, left to themselves, might have chosen one course or the other. But the attempt to do both was a sure recipe for disaster. It also showed how little did the Comintern understand what was actually taking place on the ground. It also did not foresee the difficulties inherent in bringing together ‘the revolution from above’ and the revolution from below’.   It also showed how the Communist leaders in Moscow and in China were working at cross-purposes.

In any case, soon after the receipt of the telegram, Borodin who had greater influence with the Chinese Communists, because of his long association with them, asked them to withdraw their agitation and support Kuomintang (KMT) of Wang Ching-wei. And, they had agreed to abide by Borodin’s advice.

mikhail-borodin-wang-jingwei-and-zhang-tailei-in-1925

But, the events that followed overtook Borodin and even the left wing of Wuhan branch of the Kuomintang.

 Roy read out the substance of Stalin’s telegram to the Chinese Communists (CPI). It is said; they were totally bemused and did not know whether to laugh or to cry at the fairy tale from the overseas. They all agreed that what the Russians had asked to do did not make sense; and cannot be carried out.

Roy then thought that Wang Ching-wei the leader of the Left Wing KMT, which is Wuhan branch of the Kuomintang, would perhaps be able to convince the Communist Party of China.  Roy was also hoping that Wang Ching-wei could be persuaded to follow the mass revolutionary way if he was assured that Moscow will back him up fully.

When Roy discussed the issue, Wang Ching-wei wanted to see the telegram from Moscow. Roy then committed an act of utter indiscretion for which he was later blamed and virtually hounded out of the Communist Party. Roy showed Stalin’s telegram to Wang, who in turn showed it to his followers (who were already in touch with the Right- Wing leader Chiang Kei-shek). Therefore, within about an hour, what was till then a secret instruction from Moscow became common knowledge and spread among all sections of the Chinese conflict – right, left and centre.

Wang Ching-wei consulted his colleagues and followers to decide upon the future course of their action. Wang understood that he was one among the ‘unreliable generals’ referred to in the telegram. And, he debated within himself that   even if Moscow were to support him for the present, he surely was marked for ‘liquidation’ eventually. He realized that his position in the Soviet camp was temporary, vulnerable and highly insecure.  The Wuhan Kuomintang leaders (most of whom were landlords and army officers) also, by then, realized that they had more in common with Chiang Kei-shek than with Russian backed Communists. Wang Ching-wei then decided that it would be wiser and safer for him to make peace with Chiang Kei-shek at Nanking; to dismiss the Russian advisors; and, to expel the Communists from KMT.

The two wings of the Kuomintang then became one; and together fought against Chinese Communists.  The Communists, of course, lost all sectors of the battle; its troops were disbanded; thousands of its fighters were arrested; and many were executed.  Trade unions and peasants unions affiliated to Communist Party were destroyed. The Chinese Communist Party was outlawed. And Martial Law was declared against Communists and all communist affiliated units.

As John Chan writes :   “on July 15, Wang Ching-wei formally issued an order demanding all communists leave the KMT or face severe punishment. Like Chiang, it was Wang who squeezed the CPC “like a lemon” and then cast it aside, unleashing another, even more brutal, wave of repression against the communists and the insurgent masses….

The Kuomintang’s “white terror” lasted for years. From April to December 1927, an estimated 38,000 people were executed and more than 32,000 jailed as political prisoners. From January to August 1928, more than 27,000 people were sentenced to death. By 1930, the CCP estimated approximately 140,000 people had been murdered or had died in prisons. In 1931, over 38,000 people were executed as political enemies. The Chinese Left Opposition was not only hunted down by the KMT’s police, it was also betrayed to the authorities by the Stalinist CCP leadership.”

Thus, victory of the counter-revolution, very swiftly, was almost complete; at for the time being.

The duo of Borodin and Roy having nothing more to do were, mercifully, allowed to escape. After being in hiding for some time, Borodin with help from Wang Ching-wei boarded a special train from Hankow on 27 July 1927. Roy also thereafter, on 8 August 1927, left Hankow.  After crossing the Gobi desert by car, he caught the Trans-Siberians railway to reach Moscow.  In the end, both Borodin and Roy banished from Wuhan and had to return to Moscow crestfallen.

***

Roy’s mission to China was a disaster. He was blamed for his colossal blunder of sharing Stalin’s telegram with Wang Ching-wei.  Some went even to the extent of calling him a betrayer to the cause. Thereafter, his stock in the Comintern plummeted, leading ultimately to his expulsion. 

There were also a few who defended Roy’s position. Yes, the Chinese mission was indeed a failure they too agreed. But, they pointed out it was not the failure of the individual; it was in fact the failure of the system. The fault, they argued, basically was, in the Comintern policy and in its decision of preserving Kuomintang alliance at the cost of the just emerging Chinese Communist Party.  The Comintern had in fact sacrificed the Chinese Communist Party for its own reasons. And, it would not be right to blame Roy for the inevitable failure of Comintern’s faulted policy.

It was also said that the leadership of the Wuhan Kuomintang (inclusive of Wang Ching-wei) had already decided, as advised by the Christian General Feng Yu-hstang, to dismiss the Russian advisers and suppress the communist party in the interest of the unity of all nationalist forces. Thus, Wuhan Kuomintang, in any case, would have done whatever it did, regardless of the telegram or Roy. There is therefore no need to blame Roy.

**

[Given the blunders that Comintern committed in 1927, it is indeed a wonder that Communism could even have a presence in China. Ironically, in a way of speaking, it was the quick and hurried exit of the Russian communists and advisors that helped Communism to take root and to succeed in China.

Mao Zedong in 1927

The failure of the Kuomintang uprising had marked the end of the revolution in the urban centers. Those CPC leaders, who did not join the Left Opposition such as Mao Tse-tung   , fled to the countryside. Mao, whose political outlook had more in common with peasant populism than with Marxism, emerged quite naturally as the new leader.

Before joining the Communist Party, Mao had been deeply influenced by a Japanese utopian socialist school, ‘New Village’. The New Village advocated collective cultivation, communal consumption and mutual aid in autonomous villages as the road to “socialism”. This “rural socialism” reflected not the interests of the revolutionary proletariat, but the hostility of the decaying peasantry towards the destruction of small-scale farming under capitalism. Even after joining the Communist Party, Mao never abandoned this orientation towards the peasantry.

The withdrawal  of the Russians from the scene  made room for Mao Tse-tung   and  offered him  complete  freedom to form his own army , his own police force, and  to build his own  political institutions ; as also to work out his own special  mixture of varied indigenous and revolutionary  tactics and  elements ‘ from below’ as also those from ‘above’ . The Chinese Communism is thus a result of its indigenous effort.  The Communist movement in China has therefore stood independently on its own and has flourished regardless of the vicissitudes in the fortunes of Communism in Russia.

Mao Zedong meets with Snow again in Yan'an in 1939.

About nine years after the Russian-Kuomintang  fiasco , it appears that Mao Tse-tung in a conversation with Edgar Snow,  the American journalist noted for his books and articles on Communism in China  called Borodin a ‘ blunderer’  who in 1926 favored radical distribution of land among peasants ; but , in 1927 he completely reversed his position  opposing his own earlier stand of 1926. Borodin was just an official obeying orders and eager to please his bourgeois masters.

As regards Roy, Mao Tse-tung called him ‘a fool’ who just stood and could only talk; and he talked too much, without offering any method of realization.

As per Mao’s analysis, it was Chen Tu-hsin the leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) who was most responsible for the failure and defeat of the peasants’ revolution; Borodin who completely reversed his stand between 1926 and 1927 was next; and, Roy who just stood and talked was the last.

But, although Mao called Roy a ‘fool  … who just stood and talked and talked’, his method of creating a mass proletariat movement and rising agrarian revolution was much similar to the one that Roy had been advocating all along. ]

 

***

Roy left Hankow for Moscow on 8 August 1927. On his arrival in Moscow Roy had more troubles waiting for him.

 While he was in China, a delegation of Indian Communists in Moscow submitted a complaint to Comintern charging Roy with exaggerating the size of the Communist apparatus in India and with misappropriation of Comintern funds.

 

But, the major trouble was that while Roy was away in China, Stalin had despatched his trusted confidant fellow Georgian Vissarion Vissarionovich Lominadze to check on the situation there. Lominadze was appointed Secretary of the Communist Youth International in the spring of 1927; and later was made a full member of CPSU Central Committee.  He had a voice in Comintern affairs; it was also well known that he enjoyed the confidence of Stalin; and therefore Lominadze was very powerful person indeed in Comintern.

Stalin had sent Lominadze to China because he did not trust Roy or Borodin. Lemonade’s mission in China, initially, was to find some remnants of the Kuomintang left-wing leadership still willing and able to allow a communist fraction to operate within the Kuomintang.  During about the same time, Stalin had also dispatched a young German named Heinz Neumann to South China to look for some stray communist elements who could stage an urban uprising .

Both, Lominadze and Neumann reported back to Stalin saying that leaders of the Kuomintang ,  the Chinese Communist Party  and Roy had messed up things in China; and communists were lying low unable to create to any trouble  for the bourgeois .

Lominadze complained that many mistakes had been committed in the recent past by the personnel of the Comintern and the Central Committee (CC) of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) particularly with regard to Chinese revolution. Lominadze charged that the CC of the CCP had committed ‘serious errors of rightist opportunism and had violated the directives of the Comintern’. He demanded that an Emergency Party Conference be convened as soon as possible to reorganize the party leadership.

Lominadze convened an Emergency Conference, starting from 7 August 1927 (that is a couple of days before Roy’s return to Moscow from China) with the object of correcting mistakes and re-organizing party leadership.

Trotsky (Lev Davidovitch Bronstein)

What was really happening in Moscow was an on-going power struggle within the Comintern. Stalin was intent on eliminating all trouble-makers and potential rivals. Roy returned to Moscow where factions supporting Trotsky and Lenin’s former ADC Grigory Zinoviev were busy fighting with Stalin.

 [Earlier during 1926, Grigory Zinovyev, Lev Kamenev and few others had come close to Trotsky’s supporters in forming what was known as The United Opposition. Stalin who was annoyed with splinter opposition groups had sent threats to Trotsky. And, Trotsky, then, had made tactical retreat, mostly to preserve his alliance with Zinoviev and Kamenev. Though the United Opposition was formally ‘out’, it did still exist; and, Stalin was intent on wiping it out clean. In 1927, Stalin started using the GPU (Soviet secret police) to infiltrate, harass and discredit the opposition. Some were expelled from the Party and some were arrested.

Trotsky kept on criticizing Stalin’s economic policy which opposed rapid industrialization and collectivization in agriculture. Stalin had then used Bukharin to rebut and undermine his chief rivals—Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinovyev, and Lev Kamenev.

But, with failure of his attempts in Germany, Trotsky came under attack. Bukharin and Roy had stood by Stalin against Trotsky. They were promoted in the Party hierarchy.

And, earlier at the ECCI, on the question of alliance with Kuomintang, Trotsky and Roy had opposed the proposal. But Bukharin had argued for the proposal; and Stalin agreed with Bukharin.

 Thus, there were many un-settled issues that had to be straightened out.]

 The Emergency Conference was held at time when Stalin was seeking to consolidate his power. He needed to sideline and subdue Trotsky who was still airing his opinions about Stalin’s economic policies. Now, Trotsky using the failed policy of the ECCI on Chinese Revolution was attempting to pin the blame on Stalin.

The Emergency Conference would not have been convened by Lominadze unless it had Stalin’s sanction. In fact, Stalin, on 8 July 1927 had warned the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to correct the fundamental errors of the Party as per the directions of the ECCI.

At the Emergency Conference, Trotsky committed the indiscretion of blaming Stalin for approving the Kuomintang-policy that was bound to fail.

Roy sprang to the defense of Stalin, shielding him against the charges made by Trotsky. Roy placed the entire blame for the failure of the ‘China-Mission’ with Kuomintang and on the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CPP). Roy supported Stalin, justifying his decision. (The plain truth was that Roy along with Trotsky had earlier opposed Stalin’s proposal).

[In October 1927, Leon Trotsky and Grigory Zinoviev were expelled from the CPSU.

Trotsky, after being expelled from the International Communist Party in November 1927 was exiled to Alma Ata in Kazakhstan on 31 January 1928. He was then expelled from the Soviet Union to Turkey in February 1929. Trotsky continued in exile to oppose the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. On Stalin’s orders, he was assassinated in August 1940 while he was exiled in Mexico.

 As regards Grigory Zinoviev who was at one time the head of the Communist International for a fairly long period, was forced out of the Politburo and the Comintern, in 1927. Zinoviev remained politically inactive until October 1932, when he was expelled from the Communist Party. In 1935 he was arrested, secretly tried for “moral complicity” in the assassination of the party leader Sergey Mironovich Kirov (December 1934), and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. The following year, however, he was re-tried at the first Great Purge trial, found guilty on the fabricated charge of forming a terrorist organization to assassinate Kirov and other Soviet leaders, and was executed. ]

***

Roy was aware that Trotsky was right in his view. But, to say that openly would have meant facing the same fate as Trotsky and Zinoviev. Roy therefore chose to support Stalin and his policy; and wrote articles and books vindicating Stalin’s Kuomintang policy. Roy, in his writings, continued to place the entire blame for the 1927 debacle on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP); and totally absolving the Comintern and Stalin of any responsibility.

Roy, lucky to scrape through the Emergency Conference did not stay much longer in Moscow. And, on 3 October 1927 he left for Berlin.

***

Despite his tactical alliance with Stalin, Roy was vulnerable because of his association with Trotsky, Borodin and Bukharin.

Some say that fall of Roy was easy to accomplish, for he had many powerful rivals and his theories were also suspect. And above everything, for all practical purposes, Roy was an outsider.

As regards his theories that were found suspect were: (a) his skewed theory exaggerating the strength of the proletariat and deprecating the Indian National Congress, thus misleading’ the ECCI of the Comintern; (b) his thesis on the national and colonial question presented at the Second World Congress (1920) though was a Supplementary thesis, officially, yet considerable attention paid to it by the Comintern policy makers. But, the failure of the attempts to carry the revolution to industrialized countries, brought attention back to Roy’s thesis. And, in the Seventh Plenum, Roy was asked to explain; and (c) the theory that caused much discomfort to Roy was the one that came to be known as the ‘decolonisation’ thesis.

In regard to the last mentioned ‘decolonisation’ thesis:

On his return from China where the right wing forces had dealt a huge blow against the Communists, Roy was asked to review the India situation and submit a thesis. Roy stated that during the post-war period the British were forced to revise their old policy of obstructing industrial growth in India. He pointed out that a significant change was taking place in the Indian industrial scene. In his draft-thesis, Roy said “The Indian bourgeoisie, instead of being kept down as a potential rival, will be granted partnership in the economic development of the country under the hegemony of imperialism.”

The new policy, according to Roy, will encourage industrial development in India and will also expand the market for British goods and services in India. He also said, encouraged by the British move, other countries will also try to find openings in India. He also predicted that India would eventually be granted Dominion Status; and, the Indian bourgeoisies will be granted partnership by the imperialist bourgeoisies for the joint exploitation of India.

Thus he said:” A gradual advance of the Indian bourgeoisie from the state of absolute colonial oppression to self government within the British Empire is taking place. Therefore, it is not necessary for them to travel the risky path of revolution.

In other words, the progressive ‘decolonization’ of their economic and political status would make Indian bourgeoisie averse to revolution, and in the near future it would turn out to be counter-revolutionary. The transfer of some political power to colonial bourgeoisie would not weaken, because the native bourgeoisie  would come to  wield this power, not to further develop the struggle against imperialism, but to suppress the revolutionary movement… ‘Decolonization’ of the Indian bourgeoisie thus is not an illusion. It is a fact which is the key to the situation”

 This theory of Roy produced a storm. The ECCI members of the Comintern were horrified with the thesis which suggested that  industrial grown and Commerce will flourish under the benevolence of imperialism; and that there is no need for a revolution in India. At the Sixth Congress of the Communist International (1928) Knusinen accused Roy of ‘fathering a theory of decolonization’ which would gradually lead the Indian people to freedom.

Roy kept denying such interpretation; that he never meant it that way; and never did he try to show imperialism in better light. He also said, the term ‘decolonization’ was originally used by Bukharin; and it was not truly his own. And, that made it worse for Roy. He was accused of being a lackey of Bukharin who already was a suspect and was sidelined.

Another problem that the Comintern had to deal with during 1928-9 was the question of fascism that was raising its hood in Germany. The German Opposition Communists August Thalheimer and Heinrich Brandler advocated joining hands with the German Social Democrats to defeat fascism. Roy also expressed his support to such joint action to bring down fascism. But, the Sixth Congress was strongly against any collaboration with the Social Democrats, even for defeating the worst form of fascism – the Nazis. Roy who supported the proposal of the German Opposition was branded and clubbed with the ‘Brandlerite Opposition’ .This together with the controversy over ‘decolonization’ contributed to Roy’s expulsion from Comintern.

When the Ninth Plenum of ECCI (9 – 25 February 1928) opened in February 1928 and when he still was a member in the good standing of the ECCI, Roy continued to be under the belief that that both Stalin and Bukharin were his personal friends. Roy tried to meet Stalin and to explain to him the true intent of his thesis. Stalin refused to meet Roy and give him a hearing at the plenum in February 1928.

It was the ‘decolonisation’ thesis that was to get Roy booted out of the Comintern. Further, Roy had the ill fortune of being championed by Bukharin, who was then chairing the Congress. Stalin, desperate to be rid of the Old Guard, allowed his apparatchiki free rein in distorting Roy’s argument, and his theses were construed to mean that the British were, for some reason,   literally de-colonising India.

[ To make matters worse for Roy, while he was still under attack ,the British Statuary Commission began considering proposals for granting  further autonomy to Indian bourgeoisie ahead of the schedule; and to offer Dominion Status as the natural ‘issue’ of India’s constitutional progress.]

 **

When you look back and take a historical perspective, you will realize that the campaign against ‘decolonization’ and against Roy was not of much significance. But, what was more damaging to the communist cause was the directive issued by the Ninth Plenum of the ECCI to adopt an Ultra-Left policy of isolation and adventurism. That policy was amplified in the Tenth Plenum of the ECCI.

The Indian Communists were asked to break off relations with ‘counter revolutionary’ organizations like the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Leftist bodies like the Independence League (IL). They were instructed to organize mass rallies against INC and IL shouting them down as imperial lackeys and betrayers of the revolution of the proletariat.  The worse was, the Indian Communists were asked to liquidate Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) established earlier ; and to build new anti-imperial united front against Congress. The new PWPs were asked to be organised along the lines of resistance movements- centralised, illegal, and furtive. Similarly, the Trade Unions built earlier were to be dismantled and build new Red Trade Unions preparing them for a countrywide strike.

These directives, proved to be most unrealistic, disruptive and disastrous.

 It was a calamitous injunction – globally, and in India. In India, the Communists were driven into wilderness and broken into small sects.  The CPI was wiped out from effectual political process, right at the critical juncture when they were consolidating their power in the main national stream. Similarly, the new directives had equally disastrous effects in Europe, particularly in Germany. And, some historians opine that the new injunctions contributed, in some measure, to the raise of fascism and the Nazis. The Communists in Germany, under their new prescriptions, came to be looked down as worse enemies of Communism and its principles than the fascists. Because, as the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) under fresh instructions from Moscow began to split and ruin the established trade unions; and that  broke the spirit of the workers and weakened their will and strength to resist  to Nazi menace.

That policy arrived at the Ninth Plenum and amplified in the Tenth Plenum of the ECCI, was totally against the line that was developed, and followed , till then, under the guidance of M N Roy. He had devised a strategy of working along with INC, infiltrating it, influencing its policies and eventually taking control of its leadership. Philip Spratt too had followed much the same line. Although the Communist Party of India had not entirely succeeded in its scheme, its groups (covert or otherwise) had managed to infiltrate the INC, influence some of its policies and draw some Congressmen into its fold.

Roy’s aim in all this was to capture the bourgeois Indian National Congress and make it a ‘people’s’ or ‘revolutionary nationalist’ party based on a democratic programme of national independence. Historian John Patrick Haithcox writes: “Roy hoped that Indian communists would be able to duplicate the apparent success of their Chinese counterparts in working within the Kuomintang.”

 (Haithcox, Communism and Nationalism in India: M.N. Roy and Comintern Policy, 1920-1939 [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971])

Yet; Roy had not learnt his lesson – even after the debacle in China and rebuke for his ‘decolonization theory. When Stalin launched the Comintern on its “third period” the Ultra-left turn, Bukharin and Roy opposed Stalin from the right. But, Bukharin soon capitulated to Stalin.

 [As the Nazis came to power in Germany, the views of the Comintern changed once again. The Seventh Comintern Congress , held between July 25 and August 20 of 1935 , decided to replace the tactics of ‘ class against class ‘ by the struggle of ‘ nation against nation’, in which all classes including democratic nationalist bourgeois were expected to unite in a common front against fascist powers. Those tactics were extended to the colonial countries, because of the ‘necessity to re-adjust the program of world revolution with the bourgeois democratic movement’.

In effect, the Seventh Congress went back to Lenin’s call (in the Second Congress -1920) to build alliances of communists with the national movement. The Comintern now abandoned its earlier stand of ‘ultra-left’ taken in the Sixth Congress (1928) about seven years ago . It now made a total reversal and directed that: ‘while maintaining their political and organizational independence , the communists in India must carry on active work inside the Indian National Congress to facilitate progress of crystallization of a national revolutionary wing among them.’

Roy, in a way, was vindicated. He might have been hoping that he would be re-admitted to Comintern. But, that did not happen.

As regards the Communist Party of India, the reversals, the twists and turns in Comintern’s policy did not help in reviving its fortunes, because by then, as they say, much water had flown under the bridge. Add to that, most of the active Indian communists had been rounded up and put behind bars in Meerut Conspiracy case which dragged on from 1929 to 1933; and thereafter the accused were sentenced to various periods of imprisonment. The Communist movement in India during those periods was in its lowest ebb.]

 

***

Even while the Ninth Plenum of the ECCI was in progress at Moscow during February 1928 Roy fell ill. But, he was denied a decent treatment for an infected ear (attack of mastoiditis). That truly scared Roy. However, with help from Bukharin and Borodin, Roy managed to escape from Moscow in March 1928 by boarding Berlin-bound plane of the Russo-German Airline Deruluft, under a fictitious name. But for that flight, Roy might have been shunted out to a Siberin prison. The cruel irony of it was that his friends -Bukharin and Borodin- who rescued Roy at a grave risk to themselves, were, later, condemned, arrested and executed by the order of Stalin.

Soon after the Ninth Plenum, there began a campaign for ‘enforcing discipline’ within the Party. As a part of those ‘disciplinary measures’, it was decided to throw out of the Party and Comintern all those who did not accept the new policy of shift to the extreme Left. Under this prescription, large numbers of communist leaders were expelled, arrested and executed. Even senior leaders like Bukharin and Borodin were not spared. Roy’s rivals, taking advantage of Stalin’s need for a shift of policy to the extreme Left, pressed elimination of Roy from the Communist International.

Some surmise that action against Roy was delayed, perhaps, because the Comintern gave him some room and expected him to recant, to apologize and to send a note of regret. On the contrary, soon after his escape from Moscow, Roy joined hands with the Opposition Communist Party (KPO) in Berlin and started writing articles criticizing Stalin and his policies in the journals published by Heinrich Brandler and August Thalheimar.

[The real reason for Roy’s expulsion could be the power struggle that was taking place within the Comintern, specially after the Fifth Congress  when Stalin was trying to consolidate his position by ruthlessly eliminating the old gourds of the Bolshevik revolution. With the support of the Left-wing Bukharin he successfully sidelined and banished the Right-wing Trotsky; and ultimately eliminated Bukharin too. 

Roy from his early days in Comintern had aligned himself with the Left-wing Bukharin regarded as ‘the theoretical authority, next only to Lenin.’  With the rapidly changing developments in International Communism, following the Chinese debacle, Roy and Bukharin came together to form a central position.  Meanwhile, Stalin had shifted his stance to extreme Left. Roy and Bukharin had to be expelled, by necessity, as they might oppose Stalin’s ultra-left policy adopted in the Sixth Congress in July/August 1928. Roy writing articles in the journals of the Opposition Communist Party of Germany , only made it easier for ECCI.]

But, for some reason, action against Roy was delayed for while, even though he was accused of being a ‘lackey of imperialism’ and ‘father of the decolonization theory’. The Tenth Plenum which met in June 1929 also condemned Roy as a ‘renegade’. But, Roy’s expulsion from the Communist International was affected in September 1929. The announcement of his expulsion appeared in Inprecor of 13 December 1929, almost simultaneously with Bukharin’s disgrace.

[Bukharin lost his Comintern post in April 1929 and was expelled from the Politburo in November 1929.]

The notice published in Inprecor of 13 December 1929 mentioned the cause of Roy’s expulsion as:  “contributing to the Brandler press and supporting the Brandler organizations.” It clearly said; ‘’In accordance with the resolution of the Plenum of the ECCI and the decision of the Presidium of the ECCI of 19 December 1928, adherents of the Brandler organization cannot be members of the Communist International. The Presidium declares that Roy, by contributing to the Brandler press and by supporting Brandler Organization, has placed himself outside the ranks of the Communist International, and is to be considered as expelled from the Communist International.”

[Heinrich Brandler (1881–1967) was a German Communist trade-union politician. After being expelled by the Communist Party in December 1928, Brandler, along with Thalheimer, set up in Germany a rival Communist Party named the Communist Party of Germany Opposition (KPO).

August Thalheimer (1884 to 1948), a journalist and theoretician,   was initially a member of the Social Democratic Party before the First World War and later formed the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) . However a during 1928, he and Brandler were expelled from the KPD; and the two together went on to form the Communist Party Opposition (KPO) , a faction within German  Communist Party.

The KPO, in its new communist opposition journal, Gegen den Storm (Against the Storm) edited by August Thalheimer started publishing articles criticizing the foreign policy of the Soviet Union; which meant criticism of Stalin.

The Comitern was properly annoyed with Brandler and his organization – the KPO. Roy contribution to Brandler – organization journal Gegen den Storm, criticizing Soviet policies was the last straw. And with that the ECCI decided to expel Roy from Communist International.]

Roy felt that he was expelled from the Comintern mainly because of his “claim to the right of independent thinking.” Roy asserted:  ‘the crimes attributed to me, I have not committed. My offence is that I lay claim to the right of independent thinking. and this is not permissible in the present  critical period through which the Communist International is passing through.’ In a way of speaking, Roy had burnt his boats; and there was no way he could return to the official communist fold.

But Roy’s career in Comintern all along was dotted with controversies, stating with his Supplementary thesis on the colonial and national question in 1920 , just as he was entering the  portals of Comintern. He had opposed Commenter’s supporting bourgeoisie nationalist organizations.  He fought against putting the Indian Communist party under the control of the Communist Party of Great Britain. He had opposed ECCI’s decision asking the Chinese Communist Party to withdraw the agrarian revolt.  He almost always had a running-battle with Trotsky. But , his  argument  against Stalin’s extreme Left Industrial policy, just when Stalin was eradicating all rivals and establishing his sole authority in Comintern , proved to be his final undoing in the Communist Party.  Given the highly dangerous environment prevailing in the background of power struggle, it is a wonder that Roy could survive and even thrive for about eight years in the dog-eat-the-dog world of Comintern.

The break with the Comintern was, of course, a serious blow to Roy. He lost the power, prestige that he had as a member of the ECCI. He also lost the capacity to influence the India question. Yet, he went on writing articles in the Communist journals.

He then had to consider other means of being connected with India- its communism and its national independence.

More of that  In   the next part

divider

 

 

Continued

In

Next Part

Sources and References

Communism and Nationalism in India: M.N. Roy and Comintern Policy, 1920-1939  by John Patrick Haithcox

Communism in India by Marshall Windmiller

Communist and Socialist Movement in India: A Critical Account  by Chandrika Singh

In Search of Revolution: International Communist Parties in the “Third Period”  edited by Matthew Worley

 M N Roy – apolitical Biography by  Samaren Roy

M N Roy by V B Kulkarni

Political Philosophy of Rammanohar Lohia: Alternative Development Perceptions by K. Gopinath Pillai

Communism and Nationalism in India: A Study in Inter-relationship, 1919-1947  By  Shashi Bairathi

M.N. Roy’s Mission to China: The Communist-Kuomintang Split of 1927 by Robert C North and Xenia J Eudin

Mao: The Real Story by Alexander V. Pantsov, Steven I. Levine

Mao Tse-tung in Opposition, 1927-1935 by John E. Rue, Hoover Institution on War

Political Philosophy of M.N. Roy by Prakash Chandra

Modern Indian Political Thought: Text and Context by   Bidyut Chakrabarty, Rajendra Kumar Pandey

The tragedy of the 1925-1927 Chinese Revolution – Part 3 by John Chan 

All pictures are from Internet

 

 

 
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MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 12

MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 12

Continued from Part 11

Communism – India – Nationalism – (Continued)

Roy had much more trouble with the Fifth Congress ( held during June/July 1924)  than he ever had at the previous Congresses

The Chairman of the Colonial Commission, Manuilsky took Roy to task for exaggerating at the Second Congress the strength of ‘social movements ‘in India against the national movement. He said that Roy had failed at ‘winning over the revolutionary movements for emancipation’ in India. Manuilsky‘s ire at Roy perhaps had its root in a note recorded by Stalin in 1923.

By about 1923, Stalin was getting impatient with Roy for there was hardly any progress on the Indian front. The secret Memo 647/5 of the Political Bureau of the Russian Communist Party, issued under the signatures of Stalin and the Bureau’s Deputy Secretary Ter-Avanesoff said: “the mistakes have committed by the Communist International in its first efforts to promote a revolution in India.  It has been longer, more uncertain and more expensive business than had been · anticipated. It has been realized that Communism is completely unacceptable to Hindus in their present state of development, and independence is a condition which must precede it. Our propaganda agents did not realise this and did not report it, and continued to work on completely the wrong line”

The Fifth Congress thereafter appointed a now Colonial Commission (which included, among others, Roy, Manuilsky, Stalin and Katayama) to review the colonial question and prepare a detailed report. Roy, thus, was no longer the sole authority on Colonial question. In the three years that followed, Roy was progressively kept away from the India question.

**

After the not-so-happy Fifth Congress, Roy returned to France by August 1924 which was after about six months of stay in Switzerland. He was hoping that under the Government of Édouard Marie Herriot which had came to power  in June 1924 he would find a safe refuge on the soil of France. Herriot was known to be sympathetic to socialists and local unions.  But, the rest of the year continued to be distressful. With the Cawnpore Case being brought to trial his contacts with India almost dried up.

And, in the following January (on 30 January 1925) Roy and Evelyn were arrested in Paris, due to to British pressure brought to bear upon the French Government. Evelyn was released and allowed to stay in France. Roy, however, was deported to Luxembourg. But he managed to escape from there; and reach Moscow by 21 March 1925 to attend the Fifth Plenum of the ECCI.

[A plenum, meaning a “full assembly,” is a meeting where the Party’s Central Committee deliberates and announces policy initiatives and key personnel appointments. It is usually held at least once a year.]

***

The Fifth Plenum (March-April 1925), in regard to India, persisted with two uncomfortable questions. One, what should be the attitude of the Comintern towards the Indian National Congress?; and, the second, what type of ‘direct contact’ should be maintained by the  ECCI with Indian National Congress?

The Plenum was well aware of Roy’s position on both the questions. But, it was not convinced either with his stand or with the ‘progress’   he had made on the India front. After some discussion, the Fifth Plenum laid down its India-Policy;

“It is now necessary for the Communists to continue to work in the Indian National Congress and in the Left Wing of the Swarajya Party. All nationalist organizations should be formed into mass revolutionary party, an All-India anti-imperialist bloc. The slogan  of the Peoples Party , having for the main points in its program : separation from the Empire; a democratic republic; universal suffrage; and , abolition of feudalism – slogans put forward and popularized by the Indian Communists – is correct.

The Indian Communists should direct their efforts towards securing leadership over the masses of the peasantry, to encourage organization and amalgamation of trade unions, and to take over the leadership of their struggles.”

 

The resolution of the Fifth Plenum continued to regard the bourgeois Indian National Congress as revolutionary; and, still wanted to work with Indian National Congress.  That meant that Roy’s strategical formulations and his view of Indian National congress were rejected. The Plenum did, however, endorse formation of ‘mass revolutionary party’. But, it said, should be made up of ‘all nationalist’ organizations’.  This rider imposed by the Plenum on the membership and coverage of labour organization ran counter to Roy’s proposal for the WPP.  Roy had conceived WPP primarily as leftist trade union organizations of the Communists in India; and, it was to be a legal front for the illegal apparatus.

Another setback for Roy was that the Fifth Plenum stipulated that there should be very close contact between the sections of the Comintern in the Imperialist countries with the colonies of those countries’. That, effectively, meant that the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) will have a say and participate fully in the affairs of the Indian Communist Party. The CPGB would in effect be a sort of natural-guardian of the CPI providing advice, guidance and support.

That would go to undermine Roy’s authority and influence in India.

Following the clearance from the Fifth Plenum , Percy E Glading , a reprehensive of the  CPGB toured India during January – April 1925 , and reported back saying ‘ no Indian Communist groups existed at all’.

This really put Roy on the mat.

**

Evelyn, stationed in Paris and aided by a small group of Indians (GAK Gulani, Md. Sipassi and few others) ,  was engaged in publishing The Vanguard ( which changed its name to Masses of  India on 1 January 1925) . Her efforts to secure from French Government reversal of Roy’s expulsion did not succeed.

After the Fifth Plenum, Roy, unable to return to France, slipped into Berlin, by the spring of 1925.

**

Now, too many overseas leftist groups were trying to direct the Indian communist movement – Roy from Berlin; the   Colonial Committee of the CPGB from Britain; and Chattopadyaya and his associates from Europe. There was also group of twelve Indian leftist students mostly in London calling themselves the India Bureau; and , they got busy with the Indian affairs. Shapurji Saklatvala who had been elected to the British Parliament  in 1922  was  working with CPGB and the Indian Bureau  In addition, there was in France Comite’ Pro-Hindou a group headed by  Henri Barbusse  which  did propaganda work in favour of Indian Independence. Evelyn Trent who was in France was guiding the Comite’ Pro-Hindou.

There were competitions within India and in Europe over gaining control of the India-cantered Communist movement in particular, as also the national movement.

With so many disjointed groups working at cross-purposes, confusion and conflict was bound to be there.

In order to clear the confusion resulting from multiplicity of Communist agencies , all of which interested in the Indian movement , the CPGB invited  about twenty-five leading  party workers active in Europe ( including Roy, Evelyn,  Percy  Glading , Clemens Dutta and others) for a meeting ( named as Oriental Conference )  organised at Amsterdam on 11 and 12 July 1925. As expected, it turned out to be an ugly affair.  Roy, who had previously complained about neglect of CPGB, now accused it of excessive and needless interference with Indian affairs of the Communist Party.  Robinson of CPGB shot back saying that the Fifth Plenum had authorized CPGB to take control of the work conducted in India, a British colony; and participate fully in the Indian affairs. Roy challenged Robinson’s assertion and screamed it was ‘imperialism at its worst’

Roy also challenged Glading’s report to the CPGB which had said that ‘no Indian Communist groups existed at all’.  Roy rejected Glading’s findings; and asserted that he had documentary evidence to prove the existence and working of the Indian Communist groups. If Glading could not spot them, while he was in India, it was because the Indian Communist groups were too well camouflaged; and also because groups were not sure whether they could trust Glading and reveal themselves to him.

A couple of months after the Oriental Conference, the conflict between Roy and CPGB was somewhat eased.  Comintern’s Colonial Bureau issued a letter on 25 September 1925 outlining Roy’s role in the Indian movement. The Comintern’s letter did not lay down a clear line of authority.  It said that CPGB should not work independently of Roy. But, at the same time, it directed that  various  Indian Communist groups operating from Europe  should organize themselves as the Foreign  Bureau of the Communist Party of India (CPI)  , thus becoming a wing of the Indian organization, which again would be under CPGB.

The entire set of correspondence that took place between Comintern, the CPGP and Roy; as also the deliberations of the Oriental Conference were leaked to the British Intelligence.  The copies of all such documents were presented by the prosecution before the Sessions Judge presiding over the Cawnpore Case. The judge while evaluating Roy’s role, observed:

‘Roy definitely wanted to keep the control or guidance of the communist activities in India in his own hands and was inclined to criticize the efforts of CPGB  as based on  insufficient understanding of the problems. This view seems to have been partially accepted by the Communist International. This conclusion is supported by available evidence’.

What was interesting was the stand taken by the defendants Cawnpore Bolshevik Conspiracy Case. They agreed: Yes, we are Communists and work for the establishment of a universal order. But, they strongly rejected prosecutions charge that they were working against India’s interests or against national freedom. They said, in the present stage in India, the movement for national freedom is a progressive force.  We are ready, they declared, to work with anybody if it helps in pursuing genuine national revolutionary policy and national independence.

[The Cawnpore Bolshevik Conspiracy Case of 1924 was against the newly recruited communists (apart from Roy), abhorred by the British Government. Some newly turned communists such as Muzaffar Ahamed, S A Dange, Shaukat Usmani, Nalini Gupta, Singaravelu Chettiar, Ghulam Hussain were charged with the crimes and conspiracy “to deprive the King Emperor of his sovereignty of British India, by complete separation of India from imperialistic Britain by a violent revolution.” But this case brought the communists in the lime light. The newspapers covered the matter exhaustively; and thus, for the first time the people of India could learn of the communist doctrine in fair details. The case was a sort of introduction of Communism to the Indian Public.

However, when the Case began in April 1924, only four defendants were in India (Gupta, Dange, Usman and Ahmad). And, Singaravelu Chettiar was certified to have been too ill to travel from Madras to Cawnpore; and was therefore excused. Hussain turned a British informer and was pardoned. In this case, M N Roy was charged in absentia. Rest all people were arrested and sent to jail for 4 years.

The Case –trial which commenced in April lasted till 20 May 1924. It again came up for appeal before the High Court. In a lengthy judgment handed down on 24 November 1924, the Presiding Judge described the theory of conspiracy as ‘absurd and unbelievable’ and that the schema had never been a threat to the security of the State. However, since the defendants had acted in ‘the most serious spirit, the appeal was denied and their conviction was upheld.]

***

By about the middle of 1925 an idea began to germinate among the Indian Communists that after all it was not illegal in India to advocate Communism; and, a Communist party could exist and function in India without engaging in activities which the Government would regard as treasonable. 

Roy seemed interested in the idea of forming a Communist Party on Indian soil. As the idea gained strength, it was decided that the Communist Party of India should be launched from the venue of the Annual Session of the Indian National Congress scheduled to commence at Cawnpore from 25 December 1925. Most of the members involved in this effort belonged to the Roy group.

The organisers of the Cawnpore session of the INC however refused permission to conduct the Communist meeting within the pendal erected for holding the Congress Session.  Therefore   in a tent erected close to the venue of the Congress session, the Communist Party of India was launched on 25 December 1925, with Singaravelu Chettiar as the Chairman. It was also resolved that headquarters of the newly formed Party would be at Bombay.

What was very interesting of the launch was the speech made by Maulana Hazrat Mohani, the convener of the meet.  He emphasized that the newly formed Party would not have anything to do with the Communist International. He clarified: ‘Ours is a purely Indian organization. Our relations with similar parties of other countries will be only that of sympathy and mental affinity to  all these  in general and to the Third International in particular’.

singaravelu chattiar

Singaravelu Chettiar in his presidential speech did, in fact, went beyond Mohani’s assertion. He said, clearly:  Indian Communism is not Bolshevism; for Bolshevism is a kind of Communism which the Russians have adopted in their country. We are not Russians; and we are not Bolsheviks. Bolshevism may not be needed in India… We are one with the world community; but not with Bolshevism.

[Even later in 1927, SA Dange after his release from prison issued statements saying that he was an ‘Indian Communist ‘and ‘not a ’Bolshevik’.]

Roy, when he read the speeches of Mohani and Chettiar, surely, was not amused. He called them ‘childish’. He wrote in the Masses of India :  Nothing can be more  non-communistic that to say that the Indian working class will play its historic role in the struggle for national freedom and work out its own salvation independently of the International proletarian movement . Those who maintain and propagate this point of view are far from being Communists: they are veritable enemies of the Indian working class.

**

It was around this time in 1925 or early 1926 that Roy and Evelyn decided to end their relationship. They were separated for ever. The exact dates and reasons  for separation are not clear. Their separation was so complete that never after met ot corresponded. And, there is not a single word or reference to Evelyn in Roy’s Memoirs.

The British Intelligence was under the impression that after her separation from Roy, Evelyn moved back to USA. Neither her name nor her pseudonym (Santi Devi) appears in any of the documents, pamphlets or literature relating to communism after 1925.

The separation was very painful to both. Roy’s party work in Europe suffered a great deal, because till then Evelyn had been managing and editing Vanguard/ Indian Masses; writing articles in Inprecor.  She was his secretary assistant and co-worker.

[We shall talk about Evelyn separately later in the series.]

**

During 1925-6 Roy’s influence over the Indian question sharply declined and the CPGB began taking control of the direction of Indian Communist affairs.

In regard to influencing the Indian national Congress, Roy’s plan had been to form a legal party within the Congress party comprising Communist groups. At the same time influence the liberal Congress members through his writings in the journal; and also sending messages to the INC.

Accordingly, the CPI sent a manifesto to the Gauhati session of the INC in December 1926. Its objective was to influence the left wing in the Congress and induce the Congress leadership to adopt more radical programs. The manifesto included demands of peasants and workers, such as agrarian reforms to abolish landlord –system, abolish indebtedness, reduce exorbitant rents etc. It also urged to enact labour laws to end exploitation of labour and to ensure a minimum mages and eight-hour day work, the right to strike and to form unions. The Manifesto concluded  by cautioning the Indian National Congress that it could save itself  and find the road to  national freedom only by forming a ‘people’s Party’.

 CPI knew very well that the Congress would not be able to take decision on these issues.

**

Nehru

Nehru the Socialist-thinking leader came to prominence by 1927. During 1926-27, he travelled widely in Europe. At Brussels he  had attended the Congress of Oppressed Nationalities and had actively participated in the ‘League against Imperialism’ (LAI). Nehru also agreed to serve on the Executive Committee of the newly formed League Against Imperialism; and continued in that position until end of January 1930.

In November 1927 Nehru with his father visited Moscow to attend the Tenth Anniversary Celebration of the Bolshevik movement. He was properly impressed the progress made by Russia under the Soviets.

During this period, the younger elements within Congress began to veer around new ideas and the socialist ideas of Nehru which induced a new tone in the Congress way of expressing or terming its programs.

The Congress left wing made its first collective move in Madras session of INC in 1927. Nehru proposed radical resolutions. And, surprisingly they were accepted and passed by the Congress session.

 

The left wing within Congress differed from Gandhi on the question of Swaraj –complete freedom. They demanded the leadership to define their conception of Swaraj.  Swaraj they insisted should be complete freedom and not mere dominion status.

It was in this context that the Independence for India League (ILL) was formed by the radical Nationalists led by Nehru, Bose and others. The basic objective if the IIL was to step up the demand for full-independence. It also asked for several social and labour reforms. It also said : the League aims at a socialistic , democratic  state in which every person has the fullest opportunities of development and the  state controls the means of production and distribution.’

By about 1928, a wave of socialist/ leftist ideas was circling around the youth in Congress. It provided a platform for young radicals, youth leagues and student organizations to express their ideas of socialism.

In the Congress session of 1928, an amendment was moved by the Congress-left in favour of complete independence, while Gandhi presented a resolution seeking Dominion Status. The amendment was introduced by Bose and supported by Nehru. The amendment secured 973 votes as against 1350 votes in favour of Gandhi‘s resolution.

Encouraged by the numbers it could muster in the 1928 session, the left wing tried to present the issue again next year in the session at Lahore. Gandhi avoided confrontation by nominating Nehru as the Congress president and accepting the demand for complete independence. At the same time, a resolution moved by Subash Bose on behalf of the left calling for setting up a parallel government was rejected.

After the Lahore session, Nehru did not effectively come back to the fold of the Congress-left- wing.

***

By 1927, the Communist Party of India had almost come under the control of the CPGB; and its activities were directed by Philip Spratt (1902-1971), a young communist who joined the Party in Britain during his student days at Downing Collage, Cambridge. He had worked for some time in Labour Research Department. His credentials and background were unknown to the Police in India.  He came to India under the guise of a Bookseller.

One his major aims was to place communists in positions of leadership within the Congress organization. He listed the principal tasks of the new Party as:  (1) obtaining representation in the National Congress Committees; (2) getting program accepted and our delegates elected by the TUC ; ( 3) and, support for textile paper. Spratt also aimed to build a united front comprising the National Congress Committee, the Swaraj Party, Trade Unions and WPP.

The increased activity among the Indian Communists during 1927 was largely due to the efforts of Philip Spratt. He brought new energy to trade union and Party work. He was able to secure funds from Europe for Party work in India.  In September 1927, Spratt was joined by another member of the CPGB, Benjamin F Bradley an engineer by training.  He posed himself in India as a technical consultant to Textile companies.  Now, Spratt and Bradley became the de-facto leaders of the Indian Communist Party. Under their leadership the Communist movement gathered momentum.

Their tactics of the left elements grouping within Congress and the Swaraj Party in 1926, which was ‘to carry on a battle of clarification within the existing movement and organizations’ was working well. The Communists had infiltrated into INC, WPPs and the Trade unions affiliated to Congress. It is said; of the WPP within Congress as many as sixteen were communists. And, Nehru*, had moved closer to the Communist position, successfully encouraging the Indian National Congress to affiliate to the LAI (League Against Imperialism) . Bradley became the vice president of the Railway workers Union, the Great Indian Peninsular (GIP) which took sympathetic actions during the textile.

[*Nehru’s view of socialist views was , perhaps, based on individualism.  Nehru did not criticize Communism.  But, he often made it clear that he accepted the Communist ideology of the society but not its methods or its political philosophy. Nehru also sharply disagreed with Communists’ evaluation of Gandhi and the Indian National Congress. He regarded the Congress as a truly democratic-revolutionary force. He was keen on influencing the Congress with his socialistic ideas; and, he did not think of cutting himself off from Congress. The Communists labelled Nehru as a ’timid reformer’.

But, when you take a historical perspective of Communist development, you find that over the years it has changed vastly. The dogmas of violent armed revolutions and dictatorship are no longer valid. The Socialist content of Nehru’s views had also not made room for such dogmas.]

***

Philip_Spratt

With Spratt and Bradley taking over CPI, it meant Roy was effectively removed from the Indian scene.  And, by about this time, his work area was shifted to China. His absence from Europe gave the CPGB a free hand in the Indian affairs.

The question of affiliation of the CPI with Comintern came up at a meeting held in Bombay on 31 May 1927; and, it was resolved: ‘The CPI looks up to the CPs of the world as well as the International for lead and guidance in the work undertaken by the party in this country’. Even at this stage there was no clear resolve to seek affiliation with Comintern. The reason for that was more likely that the communists in Bombay were anxious to avoid persecution by the police. And , Dange , around this time , on release from jail said he was an ‘Indian communist’ and not a ‘Bolshevik’.

Roy, of course, in his   The Masses of India (July 1927) called the whole thing as absurd; and rebuked the Indian communists.

**

After the Communist Party was formed in 1925, the left wing groups which had been formed in Madras, Bengal and Bombay soon got converted into Workers and Peasants Party (WPP).

The formation of the WPP in 1928 was made possible by the co-operation of the left wing Congressmen in the Indian National Congress.  The conversion of the Labour Swaraj Party of the INC in Bengal into WPP in 1928 reflected the co-operation between the emerging left wing and the Communists. This was followed by changeover of the Congress Labour Party in Bombay into WPP in 1928 and formation of WPP in UP (Meerut) , Punjab  and other centres. By 1928, all these groups were brought together as an All Indian party; and , new out posts were set up in other parts of India.  They began to function as left-wing within the Indian National Congress, especially in Bombay, with encouragement from Nehru. Bombay group by the end of 1928 grew into prominence as the centre of the Communist Trade Union movement.

By about April 1928, penetration of the communists in the Congress controlled trade unions had almost been complete. They as WPP had not only secured a voice in airing the views of the movement but had also gained full hold of the workers in Bombay and Bengal.

During the Madras session of the Indian National Congress in 1928, the Communists within the Congress held a separate meeting to consolidate the WPPs and take control over their working. But Roy who since the Gaya Congress -1927- had been, talking about formation of WPPs, rued the WPP was now been ‘too openly’ being identified with Communists. ‘It is publicly known’ he remarked ‘ that practically all the members of the CC of CPI are leaders of WPP’. He said ‘the cat has been needlessly left out of the bag by publishing the list of CC members.’

At the AITUC session held at Jharia in 1928, the WPPs attempting to capture AITUC set up a communist candidate D B Kulkarni ( a Railway worker from Bombay) against Jawaharlal Nehru, the Congress Secretary. Nehru was elected with a narrow margin. But at the same time, at Jharia, the AITUC got affiliated to the League Against Imperialism (LAI) with which Nehru was also associated.

The Congress session at Calcutta in December 1928 marked an almost split among the leaders who wanted dominion and leaders who wanted complete Independence. Gandhi had proposed a resolution that called for the British to grant dominion status to India within two years. Bose and Nehru objected to the time given to the British. Gandhi brokered a further compromise by reducing the time given from two years to one. Jawaharlal Nehru voted for the new resolution, while Bose told his supporters that he would not oppose the resolution, and abstained from voting himself. The WPP members violently rejected even the ‘one year ultimatum’; stormed into the session; and occupied almost the whole of Congress pavilion. They demanded immediate independence.

Ultimately the Congress Session of 1928 at Calcutta adopted Nehru (Motilal) Report which demanded:  India must be given Dominion status within a year; the Governor-General would be only the constitutional head; no separate electorate; and, citizenship and fundamental rights to be clearly enunciated.

***

[However, all such efforts and exercises were undone after the Communists in India were asked by Comintern, during the Third Period, to severe all connections with INC, just when they were proving useful to the Communist Party.

In What came to be known as the Third Period  the Communist Party  during 1927-28 , asked  the Communist parties in various countries to move away from the bourgeoisie nationalistic organizations , disrupt the  covert bodies and unions  already formed; and, to start new Communist organizations.

In regard to India, all alliances with bourgeois including the Left-wing of Indian National Congress were shunned. It was pointed out that Left-wing of the Congress was more dangerous than the Right. The ECCI observed: for some time the workers and peasants of Indian have been showing an increased class-awareness interests. And, henceforth, conditions are such that the toiling masses can become an independent political force, under the leadership of the proletariat.

That meant the end of united front with revolutionary nationalists.

 The policy of nurturing Indian National Congress-Left was dropped at the very moment when its leaders were expressing publicly their commitment to socialism and even Marxism. That directive, instead of advancing the communist cause threw the movement into despair, drove the movement underground, marginalized within their respective labour movements or shattered by internal disputes workers broken spirit. ]

**

The WPP met in Calcutta (21-24 December 1928) to adopt the ultra-left-policy directed by the Sixth Congress of the Comintern. It met again on 27-19 December 1928 as it was hesitant to adopt the Comintern directive in toto; and did not dissolve the WPP forthwith. At its next meeting in Bombay (17-19 March 1929) the CPI resolved to re-organize the party; but, decided to keep the question of dissolving WPP in abeyance. But, soon after the conclusion of the meeting, about 31 communist leaders and number of trade union leaders were rounded up and arrested. They were charged on 30 March 1929, with conspiracy to wage war against the King Emperor.  The Congress, the Socialists and the Communists all joined in huge protest marches. Bipin Chandra Pal called upon the youth to ‘enlist themselves as active members of the labour movement; to close ranks and to present a united front’.

By then Roy’s influence on Communist movement in India had sharply declined. And, by about this time, his work area was shifted to China. His absence from Europe gave the CPGB a free hand in the Indian affairs.

**

AS Shashi Bairathi summarizes in his Communism and Nationalism in India: A Study in Inter-relationship, 1919-1947:

Historically speaking, the Communist movement in India grew out of the national environment. It was the result of the efforts of the Indian revolutionaries and nationalists who were groping their way towards a new ideology and form of struggle following disappointment over the withdrawal of the non-cooperation movement of Gandhi in 1922… The Comintern only brought together such disillusioned youth to form an All-India Centre…

To speak, therefore, of the Communist movement in India as a foreign conspiracy is to distort the historical facts. It would also be incorrect to harp on so-called antagonism between Communism and Nationalism. And yet, in India, the Communist movement could not forge a fusion or a co-operative relationship with the nationalist movement.

 **

[While on the question of Communist movement in India, let me be a little more candid.

The Left-wing in India had a strange and chequered career. The pioneers and early members of the Communist Party in India all started as extreme right-wing militants and nationalists. In fact, the RSS, the right wing Hindu organization and those who took to Communist ideology both originated from revolutionary nationalist outfits   like Anushilan Samiti and Jugantar of Bengal preaching and practicing violence. The RSS chose its own way during 1925.

But the Communist ideology took root in India much earlier by the end of the First World War and with the exhilaration of the success of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. The disappointment with Gandhi, his ways and his sudden withdrawal of mass agitation because of a stray incident of violence, all deeply disappointed the Youth. Strangely, most of those who took to Communism after disgust with Gandhian methods had their indoctrination while they were held in British prisons.

The early Communists in India came from varied walks of life. They were a combination of diverse strands of approach, traditions and practices. While many came through the path of rebellion, terrorism and conspiracy, there were also intellectuals and theoreticians who could think and write with clarity.

The Russian Revolution made a deep impact on the youth of India during the early 1920s. The left-wing and Socialism became the idiom of the thinking of the youth. Obviously, the class-struggle, the problems of the workers and peasants became the centre of their program. The general attitude and mode of thinking was veered towards anti-imperialism, socialism and revolution.

The first birth of Communist Party of India took place outside of India in Tashkent, in what is now Uzbekistan, Central Asia, in October 1920. It had its re-birth on Indian soil in December 1925 at Cawnpore.  It’s very unlikeliest founding President was Singaravelu Chettiar from deep South in the conservative Madras Presidency. Singaravelu Chettiar in his first Presidential address clearly said: “Indian Communism is not Bolshevism; for Bolshevism is a kind of Communism which the Russians have adopted in their country. We are not Russians; and we are not Bolsheviks. Bolshevism may not be needed in India… We are one with the world community; but not with Bolshevism”.

And yet, one of the major problems in the growth of the Communist party in India was too much external interference by Comintern (unlike in China)  ,by  the CP of Great Britain , by the Roy  Groups  and such others. Add to that was the question of   alignment of communist groups  in India to one or the other outside Agency ( to Russia or to China); and , birth of splinter groups  or sects each  trying to outsmart the other.

The other factor which seemed to have hurt a healthy growth of Communist Party in India was the lack of clear stand on the question of colonialism and nationalism. That question has continued to bother the Communist Party at the International level and at the national level since the Second World Congress held in 1920.

The inconsistency in the Comintern policies; its lack of clear stand on the question of colonialism and nationalism; it’s a mixed approach to Indian National Congress and the Indian National movement; its sudden shift to ultra-left in 1927-28; reversal of that policy in 1934-35; and, shifting signals during the second world war, all these created much confusion within the Communist party in India.  That disarray was exploited by the British, who played one against the other, and ultimately crushed all the groups along with their allied unions and organizations, ruthlessly.

A similar confused thinking was repeated when the question of nationalism again raised its hood in the wake of Chinese incursion into India during 1962. The Communists as a body politic showed itself in a poor light and split the in two (CPI and CPM). And later, a breakaway group within CPM calling itself as CPM- L (otherwise called Naxals) took to extreme violence.  Each splinter group professing its own doctrine vied with the other, claiming it was the true heir to the Communist doctrine in its purest essence.

Thus, the Left wing parties could not unite.  Apart from the Communists, the Left-oriented groups in India also failed to unite. The Congress Socialists and Jawaharlal Nehru generally abided by Gandhi’s leadership; Subash Bose who tried to make a synthesis of Socialism, Fascism and Nationalism was deserted by both the Socialists and Communists.  And, similarly M N Roy who pioneered communist movement in India and who was intimately involved in building communist groups and guiding their policies and methods, was sidelined by communists, the socialists and the congress alike. Roy, in his isolation lost interest in traditional politics; and with the dawn of Independence, he turned into a political philosopher. The Left–wing was in total disarray during the Second World War, and hopelessly failed to influence the Indian politics.

Somehow, the Communists Parties in India could not comfortably handle the National Question. And, turn after turn it went the wrong way. The position of Communist Party in India was worsened by the incorrect turn taken by Kuusinen, Manuilsky, and Dmitrov. They overturned a correct understanding just when the United Front approach seemed to be doing fairly well.

CPM’s website also talks of the alien influences, distortions and deviations and  also serious mistakes committed during the Communist History in India,

Perhaps the major tragedy of Communism in India was flittering away the great opportunity it had gained in West Bengal of bringing to practice the left-wing ideas. During the long tenure of its rule over the state, uninterruptedly stretched over twenty-five years, the Party working was marred by internal strife; and, sadly the Left Government failed to make any significant impact on the development of the State. During its rule,   neither the industrial workers nor the peasants were benefitted; and sadly the Communist Party and the State of West Bengal steadily went down the drain.

The Communist Party in India however could build and control trade unions and Kisan Sabhas. But, now the Communist Party seems to be losing or has lost its influence on such bodies.]

stamp

Continued

In

Next Part

 

 

 

Sources and References

Communism in India by Marshall Windmiller

Political Philosophy of Rammanohar Lohia: Alternative Development Perceptions by K. Gopinath Pillai

Communist and Socialist Movement in India: A Critical Account  by Chandrika Singh

Communism and Nationalism in India: A Study in Inter-relationship, 1919-1947  by Shashi Bairathi

The Indian revolutionaries and the Bolsheviks – their early contacts, 1918-1922 by Arun Coomer Bose Top of Form

In Search of Revolution: International Communist Parties in the “Third Period”  Edited by Matthew Worley

Political Philosophy Of M.N. Roy

In Search of Revolution: International Communist Parties in the Third Period  by Matthew Worley

Peasants in India’s Non-Violent Revolution: Practice and Theory by Mridula Mukherjee Top of Form

 

 
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MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 11

MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 11

Continued from Part 10

 Communism – India – Nationalism

 

After his return from Tashkent, Roy was shifted to Berlin as it was thought that it would be easier for him to maintain contacts with India.

Berlin in those days was a sort of headquarters for many Indians living in Europe.  It was also the hub of Indian revolutionaries. There were diverse types of revolutionary groups operating from Berlin. The more active among those included the one led by Virendranath Chattopadyaya; and, the other was the one led by Barakatullah, the former foreign minister of Raja Mahendra Pratap’s provisional government that was set up in Kabul during 1915.  The two groups were opposed to Roy for various reasons. When Roy shifted to Berlin they made a common cause to attack Roy and to challenge Roy’s leadership of the Indian movement. But, by about early 1922, Chattopadyaya and Bharkatullah fell apart.

However, Roy still had to contend with the competition from Chattopadyaya, who perhaps was also receiving encouragement and financial support from Russia. Abani Mukherjee who was earlier with Roy moved over to Chattopadyaya along with S N Kar (who had recently arrived from USA). Bhupendranath Dutta however distanced himself from both Roy and Chattopadyaya.

**

Roy, while he was in Berlin, devoted much of his time to writing, editing, publishing books and journals. Here he was able to re-edit, complete and publish (in 1922) his India in Transition the work on which he had begun about two years ago.  In 1922, he also started publishing a bi-monthly paper titled The Vanguard of Indian Independence, organ of the émigré Communist Party of India, the stated   objective of which was to spread socialism in India. The paper was brought out regularly until 1928. During this period, the title of the paper was changed several times.  Roy and Ellen (under her pen name Santi Devi) wrote articles calling upon Indian masses and nationalist leaders to adopt more effective lines of struggle and to align with workers and peasants.  

With the assistance of seamen, Roy began to send the Comintern’s International Correspondence (Inprecor) and Vanguard to India. Vanguard was a success and influenced many in India and Moscow. And, that did not go un-noticed by the British agencies. It is said; some   Indian newspapers, in one way or the other, conveyed the substances of the articles appearing in Vanguard. Such Newspapers included: Ananda Bazar Patrika and Atma Sakti of Calcutta; the Independent of Allahabad; and, Nava Yuga of Guntur (then in Madras Presidency). And, in Punjab, Gulam Hussein, Shamshuddin Hassan and M A Khan brought out a journal in Urdu titled Inquilab (revolution) , which mostly reproduced Roy’s articles.

Roy, by 1922, had also setup contacts with the correspondents of pro-soviet newspapers such as The Socialist (Bombay) and Langal (Calcutta).

**

 

Roy was also trying to establish contacts with socialists and communists in India. Among the earliest of them was an erstwhile follower of Gandhi now turned Socialist named Sripad Amrit Dange who in 1921 published a pamphlet called Gandhi Vs Lenin. And, from August 1922, Dange also started publishing a fortnightly English magazine called The Socialist, perhaps influenced by Roy’s Vanguard. These two publications attracted the attention of Roy as also of the Comintern. In the later years, SA Dange grew into a prominent Communist leader in India.

The other members that Roy was able to contact and influence were: Muzzaffar Ahmad in Calcutta; Gulam Hussein in Lahore; and, Singaravelu Chettiar in the Madras region. Shaukat Ali who had graduated from the University of Toilers of the East at Moscow was already engaged in Party activities under instructions from Comintern.

By the autumn of 1922, Roy had been able to put in place groups in five major cities, which gave a foothold to communism in India. But, the groups were scattered; and their understanding of Marxism and world communist strategy was elementary; and were also not trained in Party work. Though the movement was amorphous, it showed signs of potential to grow.

Of the five groups the one in Bombay led by SA Dange was more active, because of Dange’s organizing ability and financial support from his patrons (including RB Lorvala, an industrialist of Bombay). Under the patronage of Dange and Lotvala, library and hostels were set up in Bombay for students of Marx and to those who ‘dedicated themselves to labour work’. In August 1922, Dange , with financial help from Lotvala,  started an English weekly The Socialist.

The British agencies in India were watching the activities of the groups.

**

Through his journals, Roy was also trying to appeal to groups and individuals, within the Indian National Congress, aligned to Socialism and its ideologies. And, he was also trying to influence the liberal Congress members. At the time of the 37th Annual session of the Congress held at Gaya during December 1922, The Vanguard acknowledged that the Congress was ‘the leader of the movement for national liberation’; and, appealed to the Congress to adopt a liberal economic program designed to raising the living standards of the poor workers and peasants.  The Vanguard pointed out that a political party cannot be relevant without a sound economic program. It is only by working for economic betterment of the masses, it said; the Congress could hope gain their support in the struggle for independence. It is only then, it emphasized, that Congress movement would become a truly nationwide mass movement.

 Roy kept harping on this theme in his subsequent writings also.

m-n-roy_6795214e

The Congress in the 1920’s was a collection of heterogeneous assorted splinter groups, though the central aim of the organization was to attain national independence. The general plan of Roy during 1922 was based on two elements (as outlined in The Advance Guard, a new name for the Vanguard): First, to form opposition groups or blocs, within the INC, of members who subscribed to Communist way of thinking. And this group should try to capture the party leadership. The other was to influence the congress members having liberal socialist views and draw them towards his ideas, and if possible into the Communist fold.

In his letter to SA Dange (2 November 1922), Roy outlined the strategy. It cautioned that the opposition blocs to be formed within the INC should be composed of respectable, law–abiding persons; and, such blocs should have a ‘non-offensive’ name without in any manner suggesting a link to Communists.  But, such a bloc should be controlled only by members dedicated to Communism and Socialism.

Roy also emphasised the need to have , in addition, an underground apparatus that would carry out ’illegal activities’ that would covertly support the ‘legal blocs’ within the INC.

**

CR Das 2

Among the eminent individuals in the Congress Party, Roy identified C R Das- Deshbandhu Chitta Ranjan Das (5 November 1870 – 16 June 1925) – as ‘most promising’. C R Das, a much respected leader from Bengal was in 1921 the President-elect of the Indian National Congress Party. He was known for his liberal, humanitarian views, sympathetic to the poor Indian masses.  He argued for economics upliftment of the masses and their greater participation in the national movement. And, shortly before the Ahmadabad Congress Session of 1921, the British Indian police arrested and imprisoned C R Das for his nationalistic activities (but, truly on suspicions of his links with leftists). The British Intelligence in Calcutta had tracked ‘Roy’s agents’ in Bengal supplying Roy’s newspaper articles to C R Das. And, some of C R Das’s speeches sounded similar to the line taken by The Vanguard and The Advanced Guard. He was released in July 1922.

The other Congressman Roy had in view was: Sampurnanand an influential Congress leader from United Provinces (UP) who had included in his ‘Memorandum on the Congress Program’ some ideas taken from Roy’s articles. But, Sampurnanand   was not a socialist and much less a communist. And, therefore, that channel did not eventually work out.

The other was Singaravelu Chettiar, a prominent Congress member from Madras. He considered himself a Communist; and was in contact with Roy. He did work to spread Roy’s ideas among other Congress members.

***

The 37th Annual Session of the Indian National Congress at Gaya which commenced on 26 December 1922 was considered a crucial session. Prior to the session there were widespread debates between the followers of Gandhi and the admirers of CR Das on the form that non-cooperation movement should take.  The debates had actually started in February 1921 and had gathered pace after Gandhi suddenly called off the non-cooperation campaign following the violent turn it took in Chauri Chaura.  The debate at Gaya Congress eventually focused on whether the Congress should participate in the ensuing elections to the Legislative Councils. Gandhi insisted that Congress should boycott elections, while CR Das urged Congress to participate in the elections.

Few weeks earlier to the Gaya session, CR Das had declared: “I do not want that sort of Swaraj which will be for the middle-classes alone. I want Swaraj for the masses, not for the classes. I don’t care for the bourgeoisie. How few are they? Swaraj must be for the masses, and must be won by the masses.” (Speech at the Dehra Dun, November 1st, 1922)

Please click here for the full text of the Presidential Address of Desabhandhu  C. R. Das at the thirty-seventh session of the Indian National Congress held at Gaya on 26th December 1922[

CR Das believed in non – violent and constitutional methods for the realisation of national independence. In the economic field, Das stressed the need of constructive work in villages. A champion of national education and vernacular medium, he felt that the masses should be properly educated to participate in the nationalist movement.

Prior to the Session, in the autumn of 1922, Roy in his Advance Guard had outlined his economic program for the Indian masses.  It included some of the following  ideas: 1) Abolition of landlordism 2) Reduction of land rent 3) State aid for modernization of agriculture 4) Abolition of indirect taxes 5) Nationalization of public utilities 6) Development of modern industries 7) Eight hour day, fixation of minimum wages by legislation 8) Free and compulsory education 9) Separation of State and religion .

Roy was keenly looking forward and waiting to see how his ideas planted in the blocs and in C R Das would emerge in the session. He viewed the Gaya Congress as a test of the acceptance or otherwise of his ideas by the Congress. He was almost sure that his program would be rejected. And, that would prove Congress was not really Red.

At the Gaya Congress, CR Das, just released after six months of imprisonment, was elected the President of the Indian National Congress. CR Das tried to give a new orientation to Indian politics. He supported elections to the Legislative Councils; but, suggested through his Council – Entry programme, i.e. ‘non-cooperation from within the Councils’; with the object of “ending or mending them. He however met with vehement opposition from the Mahatma and the no – changers. His motion on Council-entry was rejected by a two-thirds majority; and CR Das resigned from the presidency.

[Among the Communists who attended the Gaya Congress were SA Dange, Singaravelu Chettiar and Mani Lal Shah.]

Before that showdown with Gandhi and his followers, CR Das had warned Congress on the dangers of not accepting resolutions of Labour reforms. C R Das thundered: if the Congress fails to do its duty, you may expect to find organizations set up in the country by Labourers and Peasants, detached from you, disassociated with the cause of Swaraj, will eventually bring within the arena of peaceful revolution class struggles and the war of special interests.

If the object of the Congress be to avoid that disgraceful issue , let us take Labour and the Peasantry in hand, and let us organize them both from the point of view of their own interest and also from the point of the higher ideal and  special interests devoted to the  cause of Swaraj.’

[CR Das, clearly, was warning of the impending Communist insurgence and dangers of violence it would bring along.  His perception of Communism discouraged or even frightened him; and, prevented him from supporting Communist Party.]

The Gaya Congress approved the organization of Indian labor “with a view to improve and promote their well-being and secure them their just rights, and also to prevent the exploitation of Indian labor and Indian resources.” This resolution was passed unanimously; and, a Committee on Labor Organization was appointed “to assist the Executive Council of the All-India Trade Union Congress for the organization of Indian labor, both agricultural and industrial.”  A similar resolution had earlier been passed by the Congress two years ago at Nagpur, but nothing came of it.

CR  Das’s  repeated  insistence on the importance of attaining “Swaraj for the masses and not for the classes,” which raised such a clamor in the British and Indian Press, led to his being stigmatized as “Bolshevik.”

Later in 1923,  Roy in his “Open Letter to Mr. C.R. Das and His Followers” wrote :— “There are but two ways ahead: reversion to the Constitutional Democracy of the Liberals, or adoption of more revolutionary methods.—Either Mr. Das will soon have to abandon his original position in favour of the Responsive Co-operation of the Mahratta Rationalists, or he will have to part company with them in order to organise the third party inside the National Congress—the party of workers and peasants, which will infuse vigour into the national struggle by means of revolutionary mass action.” (Open Letter to Chittaranjan Das and His Followers, by M.N. Roy, Zurich, February 3rd, 1923)

[For more, please see the article written by Evelyn Roy at:

https://www.marxists.org/archive/roy-evelyn/articles/1923/gaya.htm]

Thereafter, on 9 January 1923, C R Das organised the Swarajya Party within the Congress in collaboration with Motilal Nehru and others. The Swarajya party gained tremendous success in Bengal and the central provinces and won majority seats in the legislative councils (1924). Through the efforts of the Swarajyists,   Maulana Azad was elected President of the Congress Special Session at Delhi, where the programme of Council – Entry was approved. The programme was later confirmed at the Cocanada (now Kakinada) Session in 1923.

 With the death of Chittaranjan Das in 1925, and with Motilal Nehru’s return to the Congress in the following year, the Swarajya party was greatly weakened. From 1935 onward, the Swarajya Party ceased to exist.

On the death of Deshabandhu on June 16th, 1925, Subhash Chandra Bose in ”The Indian Struggle” , while paying homage to the departed leader draws comparison of him with Gandhi ; and , mourns the loss a courageous leader :

Deshabandhu was nothing if not fearless. He was conscious of his exact role, namely that of a practical politician, and he was therefore never afraid of courting unpopularity. He was conscious of his exact role, namely that of a practical politician, and he was therefore never afraid of courting unpopularity.

In contrast with the Deshabandhu, the role of the Mahatma has not been a clear one. In many ways he is altogether an idealist and a visionary. In other respects, he is an astute politician. At times he is as obstinate as a fanatic; on other occasions he is liable to surrender like a child. The instinct, or the judgment, so necessary for political bargaining is lacking in him. When there is a real opportunity for a bargain, as in 1921, he is liable to stick out for small things and thereby upset all chances of a settlement Whenever he does go in for a bargain, as we shall see in 1931, he gives more than he takes. On the whole, he is no match in diplomacy for an astute British politician.

Today, as we look back on the year 1925, we cannot help feeling that if Providence had spared the Deshabandhu for a few years more, the history of India would probably have taken a different turn. In the affairs of nations, it often happens that the appearance or disappearance of a single personality often means a new chapter in history. Thus has been the influence of Lenin in Russia, of Mussolini in Italy and of Hitler in Germany in recent world-history.

And alas, in that stroke of bad luck we were deprived of Deshbondhu and given instead the much less lucid and strategic Gandhi…

**

The Gaya Congress was a clear failure for Roy.  His glorifying violence as the means for attaining independence and mass revolution had frightened the Congress leaders most of whom were respectable, well educated middle class gentlemen.  In March 1923, Roy wrote in The Inprecor:’ we sought to strengthen the hands of the Left Wing but only succeeded in frightening it’.

[Roy was also referring to the role of the WPP – Communist members placed within the Indian National Congress. Yes; the WPPs were able to carry out ideological propaganda which spread even to the members of the INC.   But, the problem was that WPP members placed within the INC overdid the role assigned to them by Roy. They began talking rather loudly criticising Gandhi and his non-violence policy.  Further, their talk about class struggle, armed violence etc was against the Gandhi and the Congress way of thinking. It also frightened many congressmen. Their priority was national independence, achieved through the Gandhian way. Though they did manage to arouse the thinking of some members of the INC, the WPP members were alienated from the majority.

That indiscretion of openly taking an anti-Gandhi stand undid the whole effort of placing the WPP- Communist members within the INC. It defeated the very purpose of gaining the goodwill of prominent socialist minded Congressmen like Nehru and Subash Bose. ]

Apart from the WPP, Roy did try to reach out to his former friends and co-revolutionaries of the Jugantar; and exhorted them to adopt social revolution as·· their goal, and to the Indian for an intensive Class struggle. The Jugantar group, after long discussions in a meeting presided over by Jadugopal ·Mukherjee decided that their prime aim was the liberation of the Mother Land; and would  seek aid and co-operation of all  classes in their fight against British imperialism ; and , not exclusively from the Communists. They also did not seem to be interested in ‘class-struggle’, as that would mean fragmentation among their support-forces. The decision was communicated to Roy, and that virtually marked the end of Roy’s association with his· erstwhile comrades

Thus, though Roy could popularize the ‘communist ideology in India, and could form communist groups, it cannot be said that his efforts really succeeded in utilizing the Indian situation and spreading it further.

***

Roy thought now was the time to change tactics and tracks. He reasoned that an open assault was better than covert manoeuvres. On February 15, 1923, the Advanced Gaurd again became The Vanguard, carrying the sub-title ‘Central Organ Communist Party of India’. The main aim of his plan now was not so much as to infiltrate the Congress, but to build a vibrant Communist Party – working within the Congress and without it – which would eventually capture the leadership of the entire national revolutionary movement.

Roy had earlier been talking about creating a mass party and blocs with ‘non-offensive’ names, to be operated and controlled covertly by the Communist party.  He now was intent on creating the Communist Party on Indian soil as a mass based political organization. But at the same time, he did emphasize the need to have the backup   of underground working apparatus.

According to a revised plan outlined in Roy’s Memorandum of 5 June 1923, a mass party which would be the public face; and, it would be called Workers and Peasants Party (WPP), while the illegal underground apparatus would be the clandestine Communist Party (CP). And, all members of the CP would automatically be the members of WPP.

But, a formal affiliation of the WPP to the Communist International would not be possible because, technically, the WPP would not be a true Communist Party. But, the Communist Party would however maintain fraternal relations with WPP. And, the new WPP would be allowed to send delegates to the Communist International forums.

The WPP, according to Roy’s scheme, should seek working relations (alliance) with bourgeois parties like Indian National Congress, using ‘every available opportunity for striking an agreement’ to pressurise those parties to adopt policies of ‘revolutionary significance’.

Learning from his Gaya experience, Roy cautioned that the WPP (Communists) should ‘leave out controversy of violence vs. non-violence’; because that would be the best tactical move that can be made without giving lie to the real Communist program.  But, at the same time he reiterated that ’emancipation of the exploited cannot be done by peaceful and non-violent means’.

[The above strategy which was said to have been conveyed by Roy to the Indian communists in his letter dated 30 December 1927* created a stir in India. The letter or the forgery of it leaked to the Indian Government was produced before the Central Legislative Assembly on 6 September 1928; and, it came to be called by the name ‘Assembly letter’. The letter, among other things,  also mentioned about the British Communists who had been covertly operating in India. In order to throw out such British, the Government introduced the Public Safety Bill of 1928. The Bill was opposed by the Congress and other sections of the Assembly, though none among them was a communist.  The Bill was not passed by the Assembly. But, the Viceroy in the special powers vested in him promulgated an ordinance of the Public Safety Act.

*The letter of 27 December 1927 clearly seemed to have  been a forgery, because by then , Roy had virtually been taken out of the India-region ; and the Communist Party in India had come under control of Communist Party of Great Britain  (CPGB).] 

***

But, in most of 1923 and 1924 the communist movement was crippled by series of arrests of all suspected of leftist illegal activities.

This period was distressful to Roy in many ways. Lenin, his mentor and protector, took seriously ill following an attempt on his life. In December 1922, Lenin suffered a second stroke that paralysed his right side. He then had to withdraw from all political activities. In March 1923, he suffered a third stroke; and, it ended his career. Lenin was mute and bed-ridden until his death but officially remained the leader of the Communist Party. Lenin died on 21 January 1924, aged 53, at his estate at Gorki settlement (later renamed Gorki Leninskiye).  Lenin’s exit from Comintern was a huge  setback to Roy.

And, that was also the difficult time for Roy in Germany. He learnt that   Germans were about to round up and expell all Communist party workers.  He also got the clue that he was abbot to be arrested. The German Government, had in fact, been acting under British pressure; and, it issued an order for Roy’s arrest.  But, Roy managed to flee from Germany before the arrest order could be executed; and escaped to Switzerland.  In September 1923, from thereon Roy went on a long tour of Europe visiting Marseilles, Paris, Genoa and Amsterdam searching for a safe location to set up headquarters and publish The Vanguard

After escaping from Germany and after his long tour, Roy chose Zurich, Switzerland to take shelter. In January 1924, Roy started publishing the Vanguard from Zurich. But, that lasted only for two months; and the last issue of Vanguard published from Zurich was that of 1 March 1924.

From Zurich , Roy addressed a letter (dated 20 February 1924)  to Ramsay Macdonald , the British Prime Minister , enquiring  if he could be granted amnesty  for his early terrorist activities committed in India;  and,  if he could be granted permission to return to India. Tle long letter ended with requet :

 “To give me the permission to return to India without becoming the object of persecution for alleged offences committed in the past. I should draw your attention to the fact that my political views have undergone a radical change since I left India in 1915.

What I solicit is an amnesty from the alleged charges made against me in the past. I suppose the declaration made by his Majesty the King-Emperor in 1919 concerning Indian political offenders can be applicable to me. When I return to India I will of course, be prepared to take the consequences of my action the future.

I will appreciate it very much if I am given the passport to come over to England, there to discuss with the India Office the question of my return to India.”

 

This was before the Cawnpore Case came up for trial in India on 27 February 1924. After he came to know of the Cawnpore Case in which he was one of the accused, Roy realized that all his chances of safe return to India had burnt out.

Roy then, after March 1924, promptly shifted the headquarters of Vanguard from Zurich to Annecy in France, from where Evelyn managed the paper.   The Vanguard was again shifted to Paris. Roy himself went back to Moscow. And, between March and June 1924 Roy went into exile in Europe. But, he appeared in Moscow to attend the Fifth Comintern Congress commencing from 17 June 1924.

At the Fifth Congress, Roy was elected as the full member of ECCI (Executive Committee of the Communist International) and a Candidate member of its Presidium.  By the end of 1926, Roy was elected as a member of all the four official policy making bodies of the Comintern – the presidium, the political secretariat, the executive committee and the world congress.  It was the highest position that Roy held in the Comintern.

The ECCI directed that the national liberation movement in India must be reorganized on a revolutionary basis; forming a national peoples’ party comprising the urban-petty-bourgeois, the poor intellectuals, the small clerks, the rebellious peasantry and the advanced workers. It should be an establishment of proletarian class party. The ECCI did not however specify whether the ‘national peoples’ party’ should be formed within the Indian National Congress or separate from it.

The ECCI directed that Indian Communist Party must bring trade union movement under its influence. It must reorganize it on a class basis and must purge it of all alien elements.

20161107143908

Continued

In

Next Part

 

 Sources and References

 Communism in India by Marshall Windmiller

Political Philosophy of Rammanohar Lohia: Alternative Development Perceptions  by K. Gopinath Pillai

Communist and Socialist Movement in India: A Critical Account by Chandrika Singh

Communism and Nationalism in India: A Study in Inter-relationship, 1919-1947

by Shashi Bairathi

The Indian revolutionaries and the Bolsheviks – their early contacts, 1918-1922 by Arun Coomer Bose Top of Form

In Search of Revolution: International Communist Parties in the “Third Period”

 Edited by Matthew Worley

Political Philosophy of M.N. Roy

In Search of Revolution: International Communist Parties in the Third Period

 by Matthew Worley

Peasants in India’s Non-Violent Revolution: Practice and Theory by Mridula Mukherjee Top of Form

 
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MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 10

MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 10

Continued from Part 09

 

Tashkent mishap

 After the Second World Congress of the Communist International, the revolution was to advance eastward; and, yet its heart was in Europe. Chicherian, the Soviet Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, told Roy that ‘the revolution must spread eastwards; a second front of the world revolution must be opened in Asia’. He assured Roy that the Soviets are prepared to promote and support his struggle, in every way, against the colonial oppressors. He also informed him that great deal of preparatory work had already been done by the Soviet embassy at Kabul.

Soviet Turkistan and Afghanistan in 1922

Afghanistan, strategically situated along many trade and migration routes, and sitting at the the southern edge of the Russian empire and poised adjoining the North West Frontiers of India, has been , throughout the history ,  regarded as the gateway to India from the West. Over the centuries, all imperial powers have tried to take control of this Central Asian region to gain access to India. 

By the time of 1920 , at which time Roy was in Russia, two Afghan wars had already been fought during the 19th Century ( 1839-42; and 1878-80) in which the British in India had fought to extend their control over Afghanistan to oppose Russian influence there.

Afghanistan had, thus, been the main prize in the Great game played between the British Empire and the Tsarist Russia, since Afghanistan bridged the Central Asia with British India. Afghanistan and the North West Frontiers of India had been the customary battle ground between the two Imperial powers.

In 1907, confronted with the common enemy, the Germany, the imperial powers of Russia and Britain suspended their squabbling and entered into an Anglo-Russian Entente, settling their rivalry in Central Asia and in Persia. And, Afghan region was placed within the British sphere of influence.

But, after the war and with the success of   the October revolution, the equations between the British and the new Communist Government in Russia were disturbed. And, the terms of relation between British Empire and the Bolshevik were altered.

And, in the meanwhile, the new Emir Amanullah Khan (1919-29) of Afghanistan who took power in Feb-Mar 1919 began to favor the reformist minded young Afghan movement. Within about two months of his becoming the Emir, Amanullah Khan , adopting a turbulent attitude,  denounced the existing  treaties with the British ; opened negotiations with  Soviet Russia; and , called upon the Muslim in India to wage ‘holy war’ (Jihad) against the British rule.

Following a three week conflict, called Anglo-Afghan war, Amanullah Khan pleaded for peace with British. He entered into a peace agreement (Treaty of Rawalpindi – August 1919) with British acknowledging the British authority over the tribal belt of NWF Province. British let Amanullah Khan rule Afghanistan; but cut all types of subsidies. The treaty was later amended in 1921.

Before signing the final document with the British, the Afghans had concluded a treaty of friendship with the new Bolshevik regime in the Soviet Union. Afghanistan thereby became one of the first states to recognize the Soviet government and a “special relationship” evolved between the two governments. 

(That lasted until December 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan; and that proved to be the death knell of USSR. And, that also gave birth to the dreaded terrorist organization, the Taliban.)

***

Although the British had won the Afghan War of 1919, its British Indian army was exhausted from the heavy demands of World War I; and, British relations with the local tribal troops had also collapsed. Six to seven hundred of the erstwhile Khyber Rifles chose to move away from British and turn into soldiers of fortune.

With so many foot-loose discharged solders wandering around the troubled areas, the Soviets saw a window of opportunity to recruit such restless elements with a view to gaining control over the tribal regions of Central Asia.

Further, according to their calculations, an independent Afghanistan and an independent Persia had diminished the British influence in the area; and this crack in the wall was indeed an opening for a possible anti-British nationalist movement. That alluring prospect attracted Bolsheviks to Kabul, again.

After the conclusion of the Second World Congress of the Communist International, at the suggestion of Borodin, it appears, there was a move to appoint Roy as the Ambassador of USSR in Afghanistan. That was intended to give Roy a credible tactical lever and immunity from British police to carry out his revolutionary ventures against the British rule in India, from across the borders of India.

The  grandiose plan of the ECCI ( Executive Committee of the Communist International) ; and its Central Asiatic Bureau (CAB)  was to support Amanullah  and to raise an army of Indian liberation soldiers  in Afghanistan.  It was hoped, the discharged Khyber Rifle troops and the recruits from the Muslims in India   and the anti-British Pathan tribes would join the fight against the British in India. Roy estimated that the British Indian Army exhausted after the long and strenuous War would have no zeal or strength to withstand the attack by his rebel Liberation Army. And, it was fondly hoped that the rebel army would occupy territories of Northern India and set up a government there. The newly formed government would support Indian liberation movement. As the ECCI saw it, M N Roy would be the central figure of that grandiose scheme.

Roy again began seeing visions of carrying arms into India to fight the British rule; but, this time thorough the North West instead of the North East corner of India.

However, the proposal to send Roy as the Ambassador of USSR in Afghanistan did not materialize because of the sudden change in the political situation in Afghanistan.  Emir Amanullah of Afghanistan who was till then entertaining anti-British notions suddenly turned pro-British. As a result, the splinter groups of Indian revolutionaries who had sought refuge in Afghanistan were asked to stop their ant-British activities and leave the country.

Though the Afghanistan plan fell through, the Soviet Foreign office had not dropped the idea of using Roy for rising rebellion in the East. Roy was co-opted into a small bureau of five members called Mali Bureau set up by the ECCI ( Executive Committee of the Communist International) ; and , Roy was asked to get involved with the activities of its Central Asiatic Bureau (CAB) charged with the responsibility of for forming policies for the liberation of the oppressed people of the East. Roy was informed that two prominent Russian members of (CAB) – Sokolnikov and Safarov – were already stationed in Turkestan; and that Roy should take over as the Chief of the military operations to be launched from Tashkent.

According to the geophysics of the Soviet Foreign office, a blow struck at British in India would inflict a serious setback to British power in Asia; and inspire anti-imperialist revolts from Syria to China in the East. And, that would set the East ablaze.

***

In the mean time, the Khilafat movement, a Pan–Islamic political protest campaign launched by the Muslims in British India broke out. The attacks on Turkey by Italian (1911) and Balkan (1912-13) forces as also the defeat of Turkey in World War I had caused severe unrest in Turkey. That was worsened by the Treaty of Sevres which not only detached all non-Turkish regions from the empire but also gave parts of the Turkish homeland to Greece and other non-Muslim powers. This was viewed by the Muslims as an attack on Caliph the Sultan of Turkey who was also the religious head of worldwide Muslim community; and as an attack on Islam itself.

In a meeting held in Switzerland, the Pan-Islamic Khilafat leaders declared that England was the only serious common enemy of Islam and Bolsheviks. And, therefore the union between the two was inevitable.

In India, a campaign in defense of the Caliph was launched, led by the brothers Shaukat and Muhammad Alī and by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. The leaders joined forces with Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement for Indian freedom, in return for his support of the Khilafat movement.

 [The movement ended in disaster. Gandhi unilaterally suspended the CD movement after the Chauri Chaura incident; and, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the new leader of Turkey, abolished the Khilafat as he thought it to be outdated and superstitious. Indian Muslims were doubly disappointed and the history of Hindu-Muslim partnership in fighting for India’s independence was never the same again. The Muslim disillusionment with Congress also sowed the seeds of partition and creation of Pakistan.

Alistair Phillip, who worked at British Army (2005-2010) writes:

“Many believe the Khilafat Movement (1919), a protest by Indian Muslims against Turkey’s abolition of the Caliph, religious leader of the Arab world, to be the first step towards India’s Partition. Gandhi spearheaded this movement but failed to realize that the Pan-Islamic idea cut at the very root of Indian nationality. What did the movement achieve?

“First, Muslim fanaticism secured a position of prestige in Indian politics; thereafter their religious loyalty took precedence over national loyalty.

Two, the Muslim population hitherto divided among various groups and political pulls now became a solid force.

Three, a new fanatic leadership riding on the crest of the Khilafat wave came to wield the reigns of the Muslim leadership.“‘

All those who wish to know the underlying thoughts behind Partition should read Dr B R Ambedkar’s book Thoughts on Pakistan back to back. .The blame lies with all sides ]

Many young Indian Muslims under the influence of Pan–Islamic had come to believe that it was their religious duty to refuse to live under the rule of an infidel who did not protect their religious rights ; and,  they should go on Hijrat (emigrate) and launch a Jihad ( holy war ) against the infidel rulers. These Mujahirs (emigrants) had also participated in the ‘Provisional Government of India ‘set up in Kabul during 1915 by the revolutionary adventurer Raja Mahindra Pratap, Muhammad Ali, Rahamat Ali Zakaria .

**

A faint echo of the Khilafat movement reached Moscow to encourage the view that Pan–Islamic movement was a revolutionary force and as such should be welcomed and supported as an alley of the proletarian world revolution.

For Roy, the Tashkent Bureau of Comintern offered an opportunity to realize his fond dream of raising a liberation army to march against the British.

Roy in his Mexico days wrote how he had ‘learned to attach greater importance to intelligent understanding of the idea of revolution’ the propagation of which was’ more important than the arms’. But, now, he again went back to the assertion that: ‘India will never be able to free herself from English rule by the goodwill of those same rulers. The only method id bloody revolution, however desperate this appears in the present circumstances.

 In the Central Asiatic Bureau (CAB)  at  Moscow Roy  advocated a plan for organizing a liberation army on Soviet Turkistan and march with it against the British in India to free the country , using at the same time the support of the militant tribes of the North West Indian frontier .

Roy expected to raise a nucleus of Indian Liberation Army at Tashkent by imparting military training to Muslim Muhajirs who left India because of the British stand against the Caliphate of Turkey. This force was to be further strengthened by drawing recruits from the tribes of North West frontier regions of India. The army was then to march into India to occupy some Indian territory and set up Soviet Republic.  The new Soviet Republic was to give a call to launch a revolution and also a socio-economic program to attract the Indian masses. Roy had estimated that the British power in India, after the War, would have grown weak and it would not be able to withstand attack from North West.

Lenin, surprisingly, allowed Roy to pursue his plan of leading a military expedition through Afghanistan to liberate India from the colonial British rule. Perhaps, Lenin meant to combine Roy’s plan to strengthen Pan-Islamic rebellion against British with his own strategies. Lenin, however, advised Roy to wait for Stalin’s opinion. But, Roy could meet Stalin only by about the summer of 1921, by which time it had all come to an end.

[ When Roy first met Stalin, the latter was a sick person , about to undergo a major surgery. As Roy walked into the presence of Stalin , he was accosted by a sharp question, almost rebuking him. Roy writes :

“So, you do not see the revolutionary significance of Pan-Islamism?” I was staggered by the directness of the question. On my protesting that I had not come to discuss politics with a dangerously sick man who was to undergo a major surgical operation the next day, he laughed and reverted to the point. I inquired how he knew of my opinion about Pan-Islamism. “From Ilyitch” (amongst his close associates, Lenin was so referred to). 

 In the first meeting with Stalin, I avoided joining issues. My object was to get a first hand measure of the man.

After fifteen or twenty minutes, the general exchange of views was interrupted by a secretary who entered the room to deliver a message from the Chief Surgeon of the Kremlin Hospital. 

Borodin made a sign: we must go, Comrade Stalin required rest. The latter sat up to shake hands and with the peculiar Stalin grin said: “We must meet again as soon as this operation business is over.”]

***

In the late 1920, Roy was despatched to Tashkent to organize the Indian Revolutionary Army. With him, he took two trains each with twenty-seven wagons loaded with weapons, ammunition and military supplies; ten wagons of dismantled airplanes; and, a supply of gold coins, British Pound and Indian Rupees. He also brought with him the staff for a military training School.

With such elaborate plan and preparations, Roy reached Tashkent in Turkistan, in Oct 1920; and immediately plunged into work.

***

But, in Tashkent, Roy had to contend with numerous practical difficulties in organizing a Communist movement in the East. It was not as easy as he had been talking very eloquently all along of establishing proletarian supremacy over national struggles.

He failed to recruit sizable number of Khilafat emigrants in Tashkent for receiving military training and ideological indoctrination. He had also to contend with competition from Abdur Rab who was also recruiting Indians for his own revolutionary group located in Soviet Turkistan. Later M P B T Acharya also reached Tashkent and joined Abdur Rab.

The young Muslims that Roy could recruit included a group of 15 college students from Lahore. They were zealots, mujahedeen, members of the Pan-Islamic Khilafat movement in India who regarded the preservation of the Ottoman Empire and the temporal authority and spiritual leadership of the sultan to be essential to the unity and welfare of all Muslims. In the summer of 1920, 18,000 of them had left India for Afghanistan, some of whom intended to travel to Turkey to join the army of Mustafa Kemal Pasha, organizer of the Turkish Nationalist Party. On their way some fifty of them were captured by Turkmen tribesmen in Afghanistan and then liberated by the Red Army. They were then taken to Tashkent. Many among them amused at being designated “representatives of the Indian revolution,” resisted political education; and drifted away.  Only a small number of  Muhajirs who were attracted by the staunch anti-Imperialism of the Bolshevik government as also by the idea of ending exploitation of the masses, became enthusiastic Communists and played an active role in the Communist activities , especially in maintaining links with Punjab Communists. Of these, the most important was Shaukat Usmani, who was to become a leading figure in the Indian Communist Party.

Another group of young Muslims that Roy could recruit were Muhajirs inspired by the Khilafat movement who left India to join the Hijrat Movement. They left India with the object of going to Turkey through Soviet Russia; but were ill-treated by Muslim Turkmen counter revolutionaries. Some of the Indian Mujahirs (emigrants) then joined Communists and fought the counter revolutionary Turkmen. They reached Tashkent in late 1920; and joined M N Roy’s Military school at Tashkent and later went with him to Moscow.

 Roy was not successful in smuggling arms and ammunitions to the Indian rebel groups and Mujahedeen in India , because the new regime in Afghanistan was no longer co-operating with Moscow ; and also because the North West Frontier regions were heavily patrolled by the Indian Army.

Roy also did not succeed in recruiting the religious minded Indian Mujahedeen.  This had a sobering effect on Roy; and, it led him to reconsider his ideas about the dichotomy of the national and class movement.

**

Although Roy was not successful in his mission of raising a Liberation Army to attack British rule in India by crossing over the North-West frontier, he was able to influence some Indian Muhajirs to become communists.

As instructed by the Comintern and the Turkestan Bureau of Comintern, Roy then went about the task of establishing the Communist Party of India. Eventually, on 17 October 1920, at Tashkent in a meeting convened by M N Roy and presided over by MPBT Acharya, the communist Party of India (CPI) was launched.

Besides M. N. Roy who was the Convening Secretary, six others who  took part in the foundation of the CPI and signed the document were:  were : Mrs. Evelyn Trent (Roy’s wife); Abani Mukherji;  Rosa Fitingov (Abani’s Russian wife), Mohammed Ali (Ahamad Hasan), Mohammed Shafiq Siddiqui and M.P.B.T Acharya . Abdur Rab did not join the Party.

The minutes of the meeting read:

 “It adopted a resolution establishing the condition of three months’ probation period (as candidate member) for those persons who wished to join the party. Comrade Shafiq is elected as secretary. The Indian Communist Party adopts principles proclaimed by the Third International and undertakes to work out a program suited to the conditions in India.”

It was signed by MPBT Acharya as Chairman and M N Roy as Secretary.

On 15 December 1920, three candidate members who had completed a probation period of three months were accorded full membership of the party. The same meeting also elected a three-member Executive Committee with Roy, Shafiq and Acharya. The party was registered in Turkestan and recognized by the Comintern as a group with a consultative vote during the Third Congress of the International in 1921.

The letter dated December 20, 1920 addressed to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Turkestan, said: “It is hereby testified that the Communist Party of India has been organized here in accordance with the participles of the Third International. The Indian Communist Party is working under the political guidance of the Turkestan Bureau of Comintern.”

Though the CPI was launched successfully, it was not a smooth sailing. Virendranath Chattopadyaya objected to Roy setting up CPI in Tashkent and demanded its dissolution of ‘Roy’s ‘party’. In the meanwhile, the smouldering mutual hatred between Roy and Acharya flared up. Acharya denounced Roy’s leadership and demanded his expulsion for the Party.

According to the minutes of this meeting of the Turkestan Bureau, Central Committee, Russian Communist Party and Bureau, Communist Party of India, dated December 31, 1920:

“The conflict took place between members of the Indian Revolutionary Committee, Comrades Roy and Acharya, on grounds of disagreement of question of methods of work among the Indian émigrés in Tashkent. Comrade Roy proposes to leave with the Revolutionary Committee the charge of the work outside the country (USSR) and entrust the work among émigrés inside the country to the Turk Bureau of the Comintern. In this way, Comrade Acharya, remaining in the revolutionary committee (Indian), has to conduct wide underground work and the question dividing the members of Revolutionary Committee, therefore, ceases to exist at the moment. Comrade Roy is ready to abide by the decisions which would be taken in the present meeting, and suggests that Comrade Acharya continue to stay in the Revolutionary Committee.

Comrade Acharya considers it necessary to remove Comrade Roy from the work in the Bureau of the Comintern and the Indian Revolutionary Committee as he has lost popularity among the Indians”.

Following their dispute, Roy and Acharya were asked by the Turk-Bureau of the Central Committee and the Communist Party of Turkistan, on 31 Dec 1920, to go to Moscow and resolve their disputes there.

Because of the internecine squabbling between rival groups, the CPI at Tashkent could not function effectively. And, it was considered more prudent to form a Communist Party on the Indian soil.

***

The formation of the CPI was followed by the establishment of an Indian Military Training School in Tashkent.

The Indian Military Training School at Tashkent in October 1920 lasted only a few months before it was disbanded in May 1921 along with the Central Asian Bureau of the Comintern.  Following Roy’s departure from Tashkent and the winding up of the military school, its Indian trainees were sent to Moscow to study at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East.  The task of directing revolutionary activities in Central Asia was transferred to the newly formed Eastern Commission of the ECCI in Moscow.

The Communist University of the Toilers of the East, known in Russian as Kommunisti Cheskii Universitet Trudiashchikhsia Vostoka (KUTV) was established on 21 April 1921 following a decree of the All Russian Central Executive Committee. The decree stipulated that the KUTV was to be located In Moscow and was to be under the jurisdiction of the Peoples Commissariat of Nationalities which was instructed with the organization and direction of the project. Speaking on the fourth anniversary of the Communist University, Stalin explained the purpose of the University as:

“There are two lines of activity at the University: one, the purpose of which is to train cadres competent to attend to the needs of the Soviet Republics of the East , and the other, the purpose of which to train cadres competent to attend to the revolutionary needs of the toiling masses of the colonies and dependent countries; hence , the two kinds of tasks that confront the University of Toilers of the East’.

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It played an important role in the ideological and political education for the Indian émigrés transferred from the Military School in Tashkent.  Many of them maintained contacts with Communist groups in India, helping them with money and materials. Of the about least twenty-one young Muhajir students at KUTV, ten tried to return to India with the object of forming a communist movement. On their way to India, they were arrested and tried in the Peshawar Conspiracy Case and convicted to various terms of rigorous imprisonment.

Some Muslim Indian revolutionaries trained in the Military School at Tashkent and in   KUTV in Moscow did manage to slip into India by late 1922. The Government of India tightened censorship and increased surveillance over such émigré. Shaukat Usmani who was acting as a courier between Roy in Europe and communists in India; and, secretly circulating in India Roy’s newspapers and other writings was arrested. The British Government at Delhi instructed the Provincial Governments that “prompt and definite steps must be taken to counter M. N. Roy’s organization and propaganda and to terminate the activities of his principal followers.” Nine of Roy’s followers were tried in the Peshawar conspiracy case in 1923. The next year, in the Cawnpore Bolshevik conspiracy case, additional members of the Indian Communist Party, including Usmani, were convicted of conspiracy to organize a revolution to overthrow British rule in India. A court of appeal found the notion of a conspiracy ‘absurd and unbelievable’; and, ’ in effect the scheme had never been a serious threat to the  security of the state’ . Since the defendants had, however, acted, ‘in the most serious spirit ‘ their appeal was denied and  the convictions were upheld.

With the trial and conviction of the cadres of the Indian Communist Party, the British effectively suppressed the little that had remained of the small, irresolute, and disorganized followers of Roy. The leadership of the Communist Party of India was effectively compromised, at least temporarily, and potential followers were discouraged and threatened. Within about two years from the formation of CPI at Tashkent, the Indian Communist Party was reduced to twenty members; and,  the Bolshevik revolutionary initiative to rope in  the Muslims of southwest Asia and India  had  evaporated and ended for all practical purposes.

 

Manabendra Nath Ray

By about April 1921, Roy was instructed by Kremlin to close down the military school in Tashkent; to wind up his revolutionary activities; and, to return to Moscow. And, NKVD the secret Agency as also the law enforcement agency that executed the orders of Soviet Supreme, directed diplomatic personnel in Afghanistan to have nothing to do with revolutionary elements, and ordered embassy officers in Persia to cease temporarily all political activities and their work with secret agents.

The Tashkent mis-adventure was wound up pretty quickly and tamely. Roy’s dreams of raising a revolutionary army and to march into India confronting the British in battles and liberating India had all come to naught. Even his military training school was shut down. The only thing that entered into record books was the founding of the Communist Party of India in Tashkent. And, that riddled with controversies and acrimony was not a happy experience, either. After the founding of Communist Party in India, the bureau at Tashkent became a mere a foreign-outpost. It never had any significance.

The failure of the Tashkent venture had a chastening effect on Roy. It sobered his exuberance. It also moderated his views about the national and revolutionary movement in India.

***

In May 1921, Roy was summoned to appear before a Commission formed under the Chairmanship of Sebald Justinus Rutgers, the Dutch Marxist theoretician and journalist. Among the members of the Commission were Borodin and August Thalheimer, who were close friends of Roy. And, Roy also had known Rutgers when both attended the congress arranged by the Comintern Bureau at Amsterdam during February 1920. The Commission was formed to look into the allegations made against the behavior of Roy, while in Tashkent, by his Party colleges.

The complainants included Virendranath Chattopadyaya, Bhupendranath Dutta, Birendranath Dasgupta, P S Khankoje, GAK Luhani and Nalini Gupta. Abdur Rahman, Agnes Smedly and MPBT Acharya also joined them.

The Commission advised both the parties to resolve their differences amicably. But, the meet turned ugly, with shouting, swearing and hurling abuses at each other.  There is no clear report on the discussions that went on before the Commission.  There are in fact three versions of the meet: one by Roy as narrated in his Memoirs; the second by Dutta in his book, Aparakashit Rajanitik Ithihas (un-published political history) ; and the third , in the speech delivered by Virendranath  Chattopadyaya  during 1934.

 

The argument of Dutta and his group was that the various classes engaged in the struggle should work together for bringing about political revolution against foreign rule. Dutta was not averse to Communists. He in fact said that Communist must be a part of the national struggle; Communist party should be organized from the base level to establish socialism; and should cause revolution. When Borodin questioned Dutta: in what way you differ from Roy, Dutta replied ‘’ Roy does not want to co-operate with nationalists for building revolutionary movements in India. From where else will you get people except from nationalists?’

The dispute was between two groups of Indians; the Communist Party set up at Tashkent was also not working; and, the cause of the dispute appeared to be mainly mutual dislike. The issue was allowed to lapse; and was buried.

I think, the dispute between the two groups could have been easily resolved, but for the subjective issues. Had not Roy dogmatically stuck to his stand of rejecting nationalism, the Communists in India , at least during the first phase of the mass struggle for national liberation in the post-war period , perhaps, had a better chance of working along with the national , revolutionary liberation movements. That was unfortunate because following the success of the October revolution there was tremendous goodwill and sympathy for Indian liberation struggle.  And, there was also an objective basis for cooperation of the nationalists and communists. Had the two groups come together, the International Communist movement could, perhaps, have established working relationship with the Indian nationalists in the freedom struggle.

 

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What was more interesting than the seven month long sordid episode which eventually failed  and through out which Roy fumed, puffed and sweated in Tashkent, was the tactical drama that was being played between the premier diplomats in Kremlin and London.  Roy, at that time, was unaware of any of those schemes and maneuvers.

The Bolsheviks inherited both the assets and liabilities of the Tsarist Empire. As geophysical assets, it received vast territories embracing the heart land of the Euro-Asian continent. But, it also took over a rapidly growing polyglot population, their poverty and an underdeveloped economy with almost no technology. But the Bolshevik Government did not inherit the relations and influences that its predecessors had built over the years with major European powers like France and Germany. The Bolshevik country was essentially a poor, underdeveloped agrarian economy and alone in the modern diplomatic world of the affluent West, none of which was particularly sympathetic to the international communist movement. It badly needed to get out that rut, develop into an industrial power, to secure recognition from foreign powers, and to wield a clout in international diplomacy. The Bolsheviks realized that the key to enter into that hallowed world of the rich and powerful was Britain which then was the most advanced industrial power having a global reach.

The other major concern of the Soviet leadership was to expand and build an international Communist movement and aligning it with mass-based working class organizations in Europe and nationalist movements in Asia. There was also the question of the survival of the socialist republics inherited from the former Russian Empire and insulate them from foreign influences and interventions.

The problem of its own survival within the capital encirclement also became one of the main concerns of the Communists.

To these ends, the Soviet leadership sought to obtain the technology of the advanced industrial countries, to construct protective zones on the frontiers of the USSR made up of stable states independent of the great powers; and, to find a secure position for Soviet Russia within the capitalist world order.

During 1920-21, the Communists changed the orientation of the Soviet foreign policy. In the preceding years the communist leaders were excessively harping on world revolution. But by 1920 that exuberance gave way to realistic appraisal of the ground-realities, as it dawned on them that revolution would take much more work and a longer time than they anticipated.

In order to overcome famine and internal strife and confusions, as also to build its defenses it needed some breathing space and aid from capitalist countries. It became necessary for Bolsheviks to build bridges across the gulf that separated them from the West. The most effective way of linking up with the West was trade, which would be mutually beneficial.

he Because of the need for foreign trade, a revised diplomatic approach was required. Gone was the drive to instigate world revolution ; its own survival and viability now became the priority. Lenin eagerly  looked forward to the  possibilities  for  forging peaceful coexistence and good relations with foreign powers, coupled with an expansion in trade.

Communists badly needed to a period of peaceful co-existence to build their strengths.

Lenin in his speech on 23 November 1920 said : our task is to maintain the existence of our isolated socialist republic, which is so much weaker than the capitalist enemies who surround it; to remove the opportunity for enemies to create an alliance among themselves for a struggle against us.

In the same speech Lenin also said that it was essential to re-establish trade relations though a temporary one, to re-build and to gain a breathing space (peredyshka). The breathing space, as he explained, was a sort of strategic retreat.

The aims of Soviet diplomacy in the 1920s were , thus, to secure recognition from foreign powers, in order to emerge on the diplomatic scene as a fully accepted and functioning state equal to the world’s great powers, and to allow the Soviet Union the opportunity to develop economically by opening and maintaining channels for international trade. The extent to which Soviet diplomacy had to change and compromise its revolutionary aspects was central to the realignment of Soviet diplomacy during the 1920s.

***

It appears that the entire Tashkent expedition was played out to provoke, arm-twist and manipulate Britain to come to the negotiating table ; and to bargain to secure its aid for developing Russia’s infrastructure and industrial base; and also to rehabilitate its sagging economy, to work out a pattern of close political co-operation. And that would secure for the Government born out of the October Revolution much needed stability, security, and technology; as also the  conventional commercial and diplomatic relations with the governments of the capitalist states of Europe and with the authoritarian modern nations of Asia.

The British agencies were closely following the developments at the Second International Congress held in Moscow during July-August 1920.  Its listening post in Copenhagen reported about the particular attention  given to  causing revolutions in Asia ; and said  that ‘ a general revolt in the East next autumn was being planned in order to hurry up the World Revolution, for which the chiefs of Soviet  Russia   have great hopes’.

With heightening of the Soviet activities in Afghanistan and with its intense efforts to recruit Muslim rebels to build a revolutionary army to launch an assault on India, the British were very highly annoyed. Lord Curzon who then was the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1919–1924)  was outraged and sent a strong protest to Moscow, vehemently objecting to the present aim and policy of Russia in Asia to encourage and build up hostility and anti-British propaganda in Afghanistan and elsewhere. It objected to Russian attempts to build centers of propaganda, a school at Tashkent and a powerful Muslim movement. All of which, Curzon pointed out, was clearly directed against British interests; and was intent on destroying the colonial base in the region, particularly in India. The Note concluded warning the Soviet Government of the serious consequences it will have to face because of its  policy in Asia, to form a “powerful united Muslim movement to deal  blow against the colonial base on which the Empire rests.

The Soviet Government offered to discuss the charges made against it, provided Britain was open to negotiate a trade deal with USSR. Lord Curzon who was earlier the Viceroy of India was fuming at Russian attempts to threaten British Empire in Asia. He was therefore reluctant to talk trade with the Bolsheviks. But David Lloyd the British Prime Minister and Winston Churchill persuaded him to take a positive look at the trade proposal and negotiate a deal with Russia , after prescribing stringent conditions safeguarding British interests in Asia.

Lloyd and Churchill advised Curzon that Britain which had just scrapped through the War was facing an unprecedented economic crisis: its industrial production was at its lowest; unemployment rates were soaring; its pre-war trade partners were in a similar rut; and, trade and economy  was  going down. They pointed out that the only industrial units working fulltime were the textile mills in Yorkshire; and, these were fulfilling Russian orders. And, if the proposal of trade negations does not go through it is very likely that the Russians might cancel their contract orders. Further, since trade agreement with Britain was vital to Russia, it surely would abide by conditions to be imposed in the trade agreement. Lloyd George, in short, advised that the way to alleviate postwar unemployment in England was through the restoration of prewar world trade patterns. Since Russia’s trade with Britain would be mutually beneficial, Lord Curzon was advised to carry on the negations and finalize the agreement.

At the same time, Curzon was preoccupied with the Russian threat to the British Empire in Asia, and he and Churchill would agree to a trade treaty only as a way of ending revolutionary activity there.  The two, therefore, would agree to a trade agreement only in case it  ensured  a counterrevolutionary strategy combining both’ détente and intransigence’ and promoting both foreign trade and imperial security.

After a series of long and protracted negotiations, the Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement was finally signed in London on 16 March 1921. It was signed by Sir Robert Horne, Chancellor of Exchequer and Leonard Krasin, Peoples Commissar of Foreign Trade.

The significant paragraph from the preamble to the Trade agreement read:

‘That each party refrains from hostile action or undertakings against the other and from conducting outside of its own borders any official propaganda direct or indirect against the institutions of the British Empire or the Russian Soviet Republic respectively, and more particularly that the Russian Soviet Government refrains from any attempt by military or diplomatic or any other form of action or propaganda to encourage any of the peoples of Asia in any form of hostile action against British interests or the British Empire, especially in India and in the Independent State of Afghanistan. The British Government gives a similar particular undertaking to the Russian Soviet Government in respect of the countries which formed part of the former Russian Empire and which have now become independent.

 [Trade Agreement between His Britannic Majesty’s Government and the Government of the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic, Parliamentary Paper, 1921, cmd. 1207, pp.2-3]

David Lloyd the British Prime minister justified trade relations with Communist Russia calling it as ‘fighting the anarchy with abundance’. He said: Russia is necessary for recovery of Europe. Russia cannot be restored to sanity by force, as events have proved. Commerce has sobering effect as well as beneficial effects. The way to help Russia and Europe and Britain is by trade – that is to fight anarchy, wherever it appears, with abundance.

 The Soviets  in their turn justified the Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement  by describing it as : “ not an ordinary trade treaty with the mere object of regulating commercial operations between two countries; it was an agreement of politico-commercial character: it gave the RSFSR de-facto  recognition by the most powerful capitalist power in Europe.”

The Soviets on their part  promptly asked M N Roy to stop forthwith all rebellious activities harmful to British;  disband  all  efforts to recruit Muslim mercenaries; shut down his military School in Tashkent; and, return to Moscow immediately. And, the NKVD directed diplomatic personnel in Afghanistan to have nothing to do with revolutionary elements, and ordered embassy officers in Persia to cease temporarily all political activities and work with secret agents.

After the conclusion of the Anglo-Afghan Treaty on 22 November 1921, the Russian consulates at Kandahar, Ghazni and Jalalabad were also closed down.

Most amazingly, in a note dated 27 September 1921 addressed to the British Government, the Soviet Government completely disassociated itself with the Tashkent mis-adventure. It said that a mischievous body posing itself Third International , made attempts to finance the propaganda school for training; and for equipping of sixty-two oriental students ; and,  then for dispatching them to India  to fight the British.

[Soviet Russia and the West, 1920-1927: A Documentary Survey by Xenia Joukoff Eudin, Harold Henry Fisher; Page 186]

Thus, despite the deliberations of the Second Comintern Congress, the rhetoric of Baku, and the plans made in the Small Bureau of the ECCI, the Bolshevik Government willingly bargained away support for revolutionary insurrection in Persia and India once it  realized that  support for revolutionary activity in Central and southwest Asia was a strategic liability rather than an asset. It had also realized by then the prospects for proletarian revolution in Europe faded and anti-Communist regimes were consolidated there. It had also by then come to realize the folly and futility of supporting Muslim national and rebellious groups.  In order to avoid such pitfalls and to establish and maintain normal relations with the leading nation of the capitalist world, the Soviets strategically  gave up, at least temporarily, supporting revolutionary groups. 

A  fallout of the Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement was that other European countries anxious not to miss out,  not to be excluded from any trade agreements, lest they be left behind by other European powers, hurriedly entered into trade agreements with Soviet Russia. Western transportation experts came to Russia to help increase the efficiency of the old and overburdened railway system. And, the Western diplomats, expressing the new feeling of solidarity between their governments and Soviet Russia, co-operated with Russian efforts.

 But, the western diplomats , however, did not spot the link between trade and diplomacy in quite the same way as the Soviets did.

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In the months between Roy’s withdrawal from Tashkent and the Cawnpore Bolshevik conspiracy trial, Soviet foreign relations developed in other directions. In October 1921 the NKVD undertook a major initiative aimed at concluding a comprehensive postwar settlement of outstanding problems affecting Soviet relations with the victors of the World War – England and USA.

In April 1922 the Rapallo Agreement was signed, sealing the Soviet-German “special relationship” that would be the lodestar of Soviet diplomacy in the years to follow. It re-established normal relations between the Soviet Union and Germany. The two agreed to cancel all financial claims against each other, and the treaty strengthened their economic and military ties. This was the first agreement concluded by Germany as an independent agent since World War I; and, that angered its Western Allies.

As Jacobson said: Lenin brought Soviet Russia  into world politics in 1921 with a foreign policy conception composed largely of those of his pre-1917 ideas about the development of the early twentieth-century global political economy.

[For a more detailed analysis please see the lucid and interesting exposition by   Jon Jacobson in his When the Soviet Union Entered World PoliticsYou may click  the  Introduction ; and then  go down , to read the  paragraph  commencing with the lines : I argue that foreign relations were central to the political imagination of the Bolsheviks and to their actual political behavior from the day they came to power.

Please also read the Chapter : Conclusion , for more]

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 Continued

In

Next Part

 

Sources and References

When the Soviet Union Entered World Politics

When the Soviet Union Entered World Politics  by Jon Jacobson

 Soviet Russia and the West, 1920-1927: A Documentary Survey  by Xenia Joukoff Eudin, Harold Henry Fisher

Communism and Nationalism in India: A Study in Inter-relationship, 1919-1947  by Shashi Bairat

Peasants in India’s Non-Violent Revolution: Practice and Theory by Mridula Mukherjee

In Search of Revolution: International Communist Parties in the “Third Periodedited by Matthew Worley

The Indian revolutionaries and the Bolsheviks – their early contacts, 1918-1922 by Arun Coomer Bose Top of Form

 
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MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 09

MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 09

Continued from Part 08

 The National and Colonial question

1280px-SegundoCongresoDelCominternLeninKárajanBujarinZinoviev19200719 (1)

As mentioned earlier, the First World Congress of the newly found Communist International held in Moscow during March 1919 had deliberated on the National and Colonial issue. On the question of Imperial oppression in the colonies and their emancipation from slavery, the First Congress had given the guidelines, which, it said, should be discussed and followed up in the Second Congress.

The guidelines clearly stated:

“The Comintern considers its obligatory task to establish a permanent and a close bond between the struggle of the proletariat in the imperial countries and the national liberation movement of the oppressed peoples in the colonies and semi-colonies ; and,  to support the struggle of the oppressed peoples to facilitate the final break-down of the imperialist world systems”.

The subject was again slated for discussion at the Second World Congress of the Communist International (Comintern) scheduled to be held during July-August 1920, because of the importance that Lenin attached to it, for advancing the revolution Eastward.

The Communist International intent on world communism assigned considerable importance to the National and Colonial question. M N Roy, coming from Asia and India, was nominated as the Chairman of the Commission on The National and Colonial Question, under the guidance of Lenin.

Lenin had circulated his own draft-thesis on the National and Colonial Question; and had also marked a copy of his draft-thesis given to Roy with the remark Com Roy . For criticism and suggestions – V I Lenin’.

On reading Lenin’s draft-thesis, Roy began to work on his own thesis on the national and colonial questions. In the sessions of the Commission on The National and Colonial Question the draft thesis submitted by Roy as also the draft thesis circulated by Lenin were thoroughly discussed.

In the process, Roy had several meetings with Lenin separately; and also had discussions with Lenin during the deliberations of the Commission on the subject of the communist line of approach in regard to India and other countries of the East.

Lenin also went through the draft thesis prepared by Roy; and made several corrections to it in his hand.

Lenin asked the Commission to accept Roy’s revised thesis as a supplement to his own thesis; and, to present both the thesis before the Second World Congress for its consideration and approval.

***

Each of the two – Lenin and Roy – approached the National question and the Colonial question through his own experiences, beliefs and perspective. The two came from totally different backgrounds. And, obviously, differences were bound to be there in the views of the two. But , what was more significant , indeed extraordinary , was that V I Lenin the Supreme leader of the USSR , the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union , who was at the zenith of his political career , was prepared to listen to and appreciate  the views of  a young novice from Asia who was just gingerly stepping into the Communist Party . Lenin was far more superior to Roy in experience, political and Party stature; and was an internationally acknowledged leader of a Great nation. Had Lenin, at his preliminary meetings with Roy, chosen to brush aside the views of a rookie who hitherto was unknown , the political career of M N Roy would have ended then and there.

It was Lenin’s open-minded attitude; his patience to keenly listen to a presentation; tolerance towards an opposing view; and, the intellectual honesty to objectively assess a given position and accept it even though it differed from his own, that secured Roy a position in the Communist Party.

Roy, in his Memoirs, remarked that his discussions with Lenin were the most significant and most valuable moments of his life. He had the honour and privilege of being treated as an equal by the greatest person of his time.  ‘Had Lenin not listened to me ‘Roy said ‘I would never have been able to present my views before the International Congress’.

 

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Lenin’s views on nationalism, colonialism etc were rooted in his beliefs and in the understanding he gained from the study of the works of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Georgi Plekhanov and other theoreticians , as also from his own experiences during the Bolshevik Revolution.

(a)  Even before the Revolution, Lenin had insisted that Socialists must support the movement for autonomy for the national minorities oppressed by the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Lenin had included the ‘principle of self determination ‘in the program of the Bolshevik Party.

But, some Socialist and Communist members, belonging to those national minorities, had opposed Lenin with the argument that the separatist movement in their country was led by the nationalist bourgeois; and therefore it would not have the sympathy and support of the working class. That led to controversies within the Bolshevik Party. Leading members from Poland and Baltic regions continued to disagree with Lenin even after the Revolution. They argued that his principle of ‘self determination’ had deprived the Communists and the working class in those countries the benefit of the Revolution. That was because; the bourgeois had managed to seize the political and economic power.

Although the misgivings of those states proved right, Lenin insisted on following the doctrine of Marx and Engels which supported nationalist rebellion in Hungary and Poland. It would have been difficult even otherwise (from the ground realities) not to recognize their right of separation.

An after-effect of treating nationalism as revolutionary force was the acceptance of the principle of self determination for the subject nations. Soon after the success of the revolution; and after capturing power, Lenin put that principle into practice by recognizing the right of the minorities suppressed by Tsarist Imperialism to secede from the Soviet Republic. Following that, the Bolshevik Government recognized the right of Poland and Baltic states to secede from Russia after the revolution.

In his work The Right of Nations to Self-Determination Lenin wrote:

“The bourgeois nationalism of any oppressed nation has a general democratic content that is directed against oppression, and it is this content we unconditionally support. At the same time we strictly distinguish it from the tendency towards national exclusiveness; we fight against the tendency of the Polish bourgeois to oppress Jews, etc, etc.”

A corollary of the policy in Europe was applied to his thesis on   the question of extending support to the liberation of the peoples subjugated by the colonial powers in Asia, Africa and the New World.

Lenin’s thesis on the National and Colonial Question, among other things, was meant to justify the old doctrinal ground.

(b) Lenin drew upon his experience of Russian revolution. Lenin pointed out that the Bolsheviks had supported the liberal liberation movements against Tsarist rule. The bourgeois nationalism of any oppressed nation, he said, has a general content that is directed against oppression; and, it is this content that we support. The ‘nationalist bourgeoisie ‘opposed to Imperialism, could, therefore, initially, be regarded as ‘revolutionary’. Therefore, the Communists will now have to base themselves on the bourgeois nationalism which is awakening; and must be awakened . At this stage we are interested in building an anti-imperialist united front. The question when and what stage such ‘nationalist bourgeoisie ‘should be discarded would be decided, in each case, at a later time depending upon the situation.

(c) Lenin had developed a broader perceptive of revolutionary processes having lived and worked through its various stages.  The broader picture that he envisioned was the social revolution in the West as also in the East.  Lenin, in general, was in favour of a creative search for effective ways, forms and means of struggle for socialism taking along with it the national conditions. He thought that the principles of socialism , in particular situations, “ could be correctly modified, correctly adopted and applied to national and national-state distinctions”. In that wider process, he was not averse to utilizing nationalism in creating a broad based anti-imperialistic movement; and, later to take over the movement.

(d) Lenin advanced the idea of supporting the really revolutionary bourgeois – democratic (the term was later altered to: national-revolutionary) liberation forces in colonies, provided the organizational and ideological independence of Communist elements was safeguarded.

Lenin considered the rousing of the activity and initiative of the masses and the toilers , and leading them in their struggle to  realize their most urgent demands as the vital task of the Communist elements in the colonial countries.

Lenin wanted the Communists of the oppressed countries to be in the vanguard of the struggle for national liberation.

He told them:

‘you will have to base yourselves on the bourgeois nationalism which is awakening and must awaken, among those peoples in and which has historical justification “.

Lenin thus formulated, for the first time, the idea of a united front of anti-imperialism.

(e) Lenin observed that the emphasis on the basic unity of struggle of the working class in different countries, however, does not mean disregarding their nation-specific characteristics. Lenin wrote :

‘All nations will arrive at socialism – this is inevitable; but, will do so in not exactly the same way , each will contribute something of its own to some form of democracy , to some variety of dictatorship of the proletariat , to the varying rate of social transformations in the different aspects of social life’.

(f) As regards the Indian situation in 1920, Lenin took into account its nation-specific characteristics.  Lenin pointed out that the Indian National struggle was yet in its initial stage. He  contented that non-communist nationalist organizations like the Indian National Congress could , at this the early stages of the movement , for the present, be considered as progressive revolutionary force, since no viable Communist party existed in India.

Lenin believed that development of real class-consciousness depends upon party organization, discipline and indoctrination. At the time of the Second Congress (1920) there was no Communist Party in India. Lenin, therefore, pointed out that it would take some time before Indian workers and peasants could be mobilized and organized effectively. Until then, the organizations such as Congress, Lenin said, deserved support. He said, the Indian Communists were duty bound to support such’ bourgeois liberation movements’ without any intent of merging with them. As he said, there could be ‘temporary relations’ or ‘unions’ with such ‘bourgeois –liberation movements’ without any intent of merging with them.

[“According to Alfred Rosmer who attended the Second Congress: ‘patiently Lenin replied to him (Roy) explaining that for a longer or shorter period the Indian Communist Party would be a small party with but few members. Initially, it would have limited resources and would not be capable of reaching out to a substantial number of peasants and workers. But, in the course of its development, it would become possible for it to mobilize large masses. The Indian Communist Party would then be able to forge and develop its organisation to the point where it would be in a position to attack the Indian bourgeoisie.”  Communism in India by Overstreet and Windmiller.  p. 32]

 

Lenin did not share Marx’s faith in the ‘spontaneous’ development of class-consciousness. He saw an essential difference between the proletariat and the socialist, meaning a class-conscious proletariat. (Spontaneity for Lenin, perhaps, meant merely a non-rational opposition to society, which might temporarily coincide with the interests of a class, but would, in the long run, oppose it.)

Lenin considered that the development of genuine class –consciousness depends upon the party organization, discipline and indoctrination. At the time of the Second World Congress (1920) there was no Communist Party in India; but there only a few scattered revolutionary groups. He opined that it would take some time before the Indian proletariat and peasantry could be mobilized.

(e)  As regards Gandhi, Lenin believed that Gandhi as the inspirer and leader of a mass movement, could be regarded a revolutionary. It is said, Lenin, at one stage, remarked: a good nationalist is better than a bad communist.

MN Roy Moscow

Roy’s approach to the National and Colonial Question was based upon his understanding of the Marx’s point of view; and his own perspective of the Indian situation mainly centered on his impressions of the Indian National Congress.

But the problem was that Roy, at the age of 28, had left India in 1915, just at the time when Gandhi returned to India after twenty-one years in South Africa. During his early years, Roy was busily engaged in insurgency; and, for most of his active years in India, he was a fugitive. He was not in any manner associated or involved with political process. His views on Indian National Congress, in 1921-22, were tinted with the impressions he had gained, while in India, as a rebellious youth.  It was also clouded by the indoctrination he received from Borodin during 1919. Borodin during his brief stay in Mexico had worked hard to liberate Roy from notions of Nationalism.

(a) In order to overthrow foreign capitalism, according to Roy, it might perhaps be profitable to make use of the co-operations of the bourgeois national revolutionary elements – but that should only be in the initial stages and with circumspection. The foremost task, according to Roy, was to form Communist Parties which would organize peasants and workers and lead them to the revolution ‘from below’ and to establish Soviets.

 [Lenin allowed ‘temporary relations’ and even unions with nationalist movements. Roy spoke of only co-operation with such movements.]

(b) In regard to supporting the colonial national liberation movement, Roy said, ‘Communist Parties should be organized, on a priority basis, with the purpose of revolutionizing the social character of the national anti-colonial movement and bring it under the control of organized workers and peasants’.

Roy also pointed out to the danger of the bourgeois compromising with the Imperialists. He feared that the bourgeois democratic might sway towards Imperialist master for reasons of safety, money or other benefits or political concessions.  He insisted that the working class should be prepared to take over the leadership at such crisis, guiding and determining the struggle for national liberation and transforming it into a revolutionary mass movement.

 (c) Roy therefore argued, the Communists should avoid any alliance with the nationalist leaders who were bound to desert the party  to join the imperialist camps in a revolutionary situation. He pleaded that Comintern should instead support only the ‘the institutions and development of the Communist movement’ and the ‘organization of the broad based popular masses for the class interest of the latter’.

 (d)  Roy was less trustful of the national bourgeois than Lenin was. He laid more stress on developing Communist Parties in less-developed areas than on supporting the existing nationalist movements

(e)  Roy extended his theory, conviction and fears to the Indian national movement. As regards the Indian situation, in his analysis of the class forces in India, Roy greatly exaggerated both numerical and ideological strength of the Indian proletariat. Estimating that India possessed five million workers and an additional thirty-five million land-less labourers and peasants , he reported to the Comintern ( although  the  Indian nationalist movement rested mainly on the middle class) the drown trodden Indian masses would shortly blaze their own revolutionary trail.

Roy claimed that ‘the real strength of the liberation movement is no longer confined to the narrow circle of bourgeois –democratic nationalists.

Obviously , at that stage , Roy  had neither  grasped nor understood the necessity of the ‘proletariat’ to unite with the ‘national bourgeoisie’ in their common  revolutionary struggle  against Imperialism for  achieving the Indian Independence.   And, while millions were marching along Gandhi in a national upsurge, Roy wrote ‘the nationalist movement in India has failed to appeal to the masses’. He again misread the situation asserting that ‘the masses are pushed on to the revolutionary ranks not so much by national enthusiasm, as by the  … struggle for economic emancipation’.

Those misinformed statements were compounded with Roy’s exuberant estimate of the Indian proletariat’s revolutionary capacity to fight, singly, for Indian independence.

 [The Nationalism, in the West, had a different connotation, than that in India.

After fighting two World Wars, Europe became weary of the sentiments and notions of nationalism.  The intellectuals as also the common people came to view nationalism as the scourge of international relations; and, took up cudgels against the real and imagined excesses of nationalism. And, therefore, the very concept of nationalism came in for much criticism. Lenin’s view of Nationalism has to be viewed in the European context.

And, yet, Lenin supported nationalist rebellion in Hungary and Poland. Similarly, he did recognize India’s nationalism as a form of revolutionary force that deserved support. That was the genius of Lenin.

*

The Indian nationalism, as compared to the European, was motivated by the anxiety to retain the identity of its homeland; and, to unite its people into one entity. That spirit of Nationalism was indeed essential to fight against the oppressive Imperialism, which would not allow India, willingly, its right for self-determination; and, nor be allowed to follow an independent path of development.

Thus, in the Indian context, it was the imperialism; and, its desire to dominate foreign creeds, nations or communities, and to occupy territories well beyond the “ancestral homeland”, that was the foremost threat, not only to the oppressed nations, but also to the world, at large. Because of that menace of Imperialism, in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth century’s, most nations were subsumed into a few empires.

In the colonial India, nationalism was an expression aspiring for national unity; and, the motivating force in India’s struggle for freedom. Thus, the naïve criticism of Indian nationalism is misplaced.

But, at that stage of his career, MN Roy was entirely consumed by Marxist theories , rather mechanically;  and, by his anxiety to build communist party in India.  He deprecated the Indian national movement. It is surprising that Roy, who in his youth believed that there was nothing inherently violent about the desire of the people of the oppressed nations to fight for freedom and self-determination, did not quite  grasp and appreciate the notion of Indian nationalism.]

*

[By about this time, Gandhi’s first large civil disobedience campaign had been attracting masses in India, erupting in violence. That led Gandhi to call off the massive protests. It was  just at the point when the mass movement could have grown into a full scale revolution.

Interestingly, that led to discussions and controversies , at Moscow and in India, over the merits of non-violence over revolutionary uprising. It was also a period when Marxism was discussed in India along with the tactics of Gandhi and Lenin.

When the Roy, Evelyn  and other Indians such as Veerendranath Chattopadyaya met in Moscow in 1921, their main political differences began to sprout from their conflicting assessments of the Indian political scene .Chattopadyaya was in favor of a united front of all anti-imperial forces, whether Communist or not, to overthrow the British Rule. Roy vehemently insisted on discarding the nationalist forces.]

(f) Roy argued that the Nationalist bourgeois in India were not economically and culturally different from the feudal social order. And therefore the nationalists were ideologically reactionary; and their victory would not necessarily mean a bourgeois democratic revolution.

Roy argued that in countries such as India , which are characterized as  the ‘rebel  ‘ nationalist movements,  the Comintern rather than supporting such movements should ‘ assist exclusively the institution and the development  of the Communist movement’ and the indigenous Communist parties or groups , avoiding entanglement with  such potentially reactionary  boogies-nationalist leaders. He also counseled that Comintern should devote themselves exclusively   to the organization of the broad popular masses into Communist Party , which should take over the class struggle.

Roy was making a distinction between two different types of boogies-democratic nationalist movements, with only one of which were alliance for the Communist practical.

Roy was not talking merely about the contradictions between nationalist and bourgeois –democratic movements but between different types of boogies-democratic movements.

Roy harped on the dichotomy of national and class movements, while Lenin took an integrated approach.

(g) Roy maintained that Gandhi was a cultural and religious revivalist; and he was bound to be a reactionary, however revolutionary he might appear politically.

In Roy’s view, the religious ideology preached by Gandhi appealed to the medieval mentality of masses. But, the same ideology discouraged the revolutionary urge of the masses. The quintessence of the situation, as he analyzed and understood it, was a potentially revolutionary movement restrained by reactionary ideology”.

He quoted back to Lenin, his own dictum: without revolutionary ideology there could be no revolution.

(h) Roy, during 1921-22, believed that organizations like Indian National Congress would eventually betray the revolution; and, Gandhism would collapse. Instead, he argued, the Indian peasantry and working class must be mobilized and brought under Communism.   And, the liberation of India would be realized through the political movement of workers and peasants, ‘consciously organized on grounds of class-struggle’. He predicted that liberation from Imperialism would only come under Communist leadership. [This was despite the fact that the International Communist movement, by then, had not forged any credible link either with the Indian nationalists or with the Indian masses.]

[Thereafter, between 1920 and 1927, Roy wavered from time to time in his assessments of bourgeois-national’s relationships with the British and with the Indian masses.

As regards the Congress his views too were later revised. After his arrival in India in 1930-31, Roy had the opportunity to witness things directly; and that led him to a new understanding. He saw that all the big trade unions were under the leadership of Left-oriented reformist Congressmen. The political consciousness of the peasantry was nothing but adoration of Gandhi, the Mahatma; and, no mass movement could be organized in opposition to Congress. At the same time, the Congress provided a platform for the oppressed and exploited classes , as also to the radically inclined  petty bourgeois . But, the absence of an organized Left-wing provided an opportunity of the Right-ring take over the leadership, although all classes and sub-classes were represented in the Congress. That again proved Lenin’s dictum right: ‘the revolutionary Party is where the masses are’. The Congress in 1930s was the rallying ground for the masses in India.  The Indian National Congress , according to him  in 1930s,  was ‘ a coalition of the classes’ which meant that it was bound to be dominated by one class or the other]

(i) As regards the impact of the Asian and Indian revolutionary movements, Roy went back to his revolutionary mode; and, declared that the mass revolt movement in Asia, India in particular, was  very crucial to the success of the revolutionary forces in the West.

He said:

“What I learned during several months of stay in Germany about the conditions in Europe and their immediate perspective fostered in me the feeling that the proletariat in the metropolitan countries would not succeed in their heroic endeavour to capture power unless imperialism was weakened by the revolt of their colonial peoples, particularly India”.

Roy asserted that the revolutionary movement in Europe depended on the course of revolution in Asia. He explained, the super-profit that the Imperialists earned from the colonies was the main stay of their capitalistic regime.Here , Roy was  applying the lessons he learnt from Rosa Luxemburg’s book Accumulation of Capital,  which said ‘the imperialist capitalist system survived and thrived on external markets of colonial countries’. Accordingly , Roy argued : “Without control of vast markets and vast areas for exploitation in the colonies” .. “ the capitalist powers of Europe could not maintain their existence even for a short time”.

[In a way Roy also differed from Marx. The traditional Marxist thought held that the proletarian revolution would first in the industrialized metropolis of industrialized countries and then spread to the agrarian masses in the colonies. Roy’s program was that Communist organization should be built by mobilizing masses in the rural areas of the colonies from which the industrialized capitalism drew its strength.]

 

***

When we glance through the views of Roy and Lenin as outlined above, some distinctions stand out.

Roy was close to Marx’s position before 1848 when Marx had looked forward with a great zeal towards the European Revolution which erupted in 1848. But, he had overestimated the strength of the working class and their class consciousness to rise up spontaneously.  Later, such exaggerated view was termed as the Maximum program.

Subsequently, Marx moderated his earlier position into what was called the Minimum program. It was meant to remove obstacles, in the way to eradicate capitalism, as a pre-requisite before launching full scale class warfare.  It sought to bring it into open the social grievances and solidify class divisions; undermine religious and patriotic sentiments, beliefs in reforms and such other ideological blinkers; and create social unrest and total chaos.

The Maximum program was to follow on its heels. In these programs the bourgeois is initially strengthened and then overthrown.

John Patrick Haithcox in his very well written book Communism and Nationalism in India: M.N. Roy and Comintern Policy, 1920-1939, explains :

“In a sense, the conflict between Roy and Lenin over the question of supporting colonial nationalism can be viewed as the disagreement over the relative weight to be given to a maximum and minimum program in formation of colonial policy. At the time of the Second World Conference, Roy was young and impatient. Like Marx of 1848, he tended to underestimate the task of effectively mobilizing class unrest. Roy wanted to force the pace set by Lenin in order to liberate the masses at once and for all from the oppressive relationships , both foreign and domestic’’.

I think where Roy erred was in mechanically applying the Marxist idea of ‘ the hegemony of  the proletariat in the bourgeois-democratic revolution’  to the Indian situation without entering into the heart of it. Lenin, I think , had a better understanding of the democratic ( national) and social stages in the unfolding of the revolution.

**

It would not be correct to say that Lenin compromised his approach to the question of nationalism. Lenin’s thesis on the National and Colonial Question reiterated the principle of self determination.

The only change that Lenin agreed to make in his thesis was to substitute the words ‘national revolutionary’ in place of ‘bourgeois democratic ‘movement.

Lenin in his draft thesis (point 11) said: The Communist International, must enter into a temporary alliance ( soulz) with the bourgeois  democratic liberation  of the colonial and the backward countries. It must not , however , amalgamate with it . It must retain its independent character of proletarian movement even though it might be in the embryonic stage.

In the final draft, the first sentence of this point was altered to read:’ The Communist International must be ready to establish relationships (soglasheniia) and even alliance (soluzy) with the ‘national-revolutionary liberation’ movements of the colonies and backward countries.

The substitution of the term “national-revolutionary” for the term “bourgeois-democratic”, was done to emphasis the Marxist support only for genuinely revolutionary liberation movements. Lenin went on:

“In all the colonies and backward countries, not only should we build independent contingents of fighters, party organizations, not only should we launch immediate propaganda for the organization of peasants’ soviets and strive to adapt them to pre-capitalist conditions, but the Communist International should advance and theoretically substantiate the proposition that with the aid of the proletariat of the advanced countries, the backward countries can pass over to the Soviet system and, through definite stages of development, to communism, without going through the capitalist stage.” (The Report of the Commission on The National and Colonial Questions, 26th July 1920)

Lenin did not agree with several of Roy’s views, such as:

Lenin did not agree with Roy’s overestimated numbers and strength of the peasants and working class of India during 1920’s.

Lenin also differed from Roy’s views on the Indian National Congress and the role of Gandhi in the National movement. Lenin asserted that since there was no Communist party in existence in India, at that early stages of the national liberation movement, for the present, the Indian National Congress be considered as progressive revolutionary force and supported.

He also felt that Roy had gone too far in linking the destiny of the revolutionary west to mass movements in Asia.

 

Lenin went through the draft thesis submitted by Roy; made numerous changes, with his hand, before approving it (not mere verbal alterations as claimed by Roy).

Lenin asked the Commission to accept Roy’s thesis (as revised by him) as a supplement to his own thesis.

***

The Commission on the National and Colonial Question, under the guidance of Lenin, also went into analysis of the class structure in the colonies.

The discussions in the Commission brought out the class structure in colonies  , broadly , as :  (a) Imperialists , feudal rich, militarists; (b)  national bourgeoisie;  (c)   petty bourgeoisie ; (d)  rich peasants; (e) middle peasants ; and (f) poor peasants , proletariat. 

The hopelessly ‘reactionary ‘within this classification were at (a) and their natural allies along with their followers such as the rich peasants and middle peasants. The national bourgeoisie as at (b) were perceived as opposed to imperialism, and therefore revolutionary at first – though for a short period. As regards the petty bourgeoisie as at (c) they remained essentially ‘wavering’. But in colonies like China the vast revolutionary masses would largely consist of poor peasantry; and , they could be  counted to support the revolution ; the leadership of the movement would ,however, be with the proletariat.

Against this class analysis, the fundamental question was to what extent and for how long should Communist Party, as the vanguard of the proletariat, alley itself ‘from above’- with the anti imperialist and non- communist national and petty bourgeois; and how much of its energies and resources should be devoted to enhancing the power of the proletariat and peasantry from ‘below’.

While collaborating with the middle- class nationalists in the colonies, Communist leaders were expected to make every effort to arouse and organize the working masses and peasantry and move towards taking control of the existing revolutionary movements. Thus, Revolution, in short, must embody a judicious balance of tactics ‘from above’ and ‘from below’.

The problem again was to strike a balance between  ‘ the revolution from above’ and ‘the revolution from below’.

On the question of at what point should the ‘revolution from above’ change to ‘revolution from below’ no specific guidelines were given.  But, it was said, the change would depend on the situation and it would generally take into account three factors: (1) the class structure; (2) the stage of development of the nationalist movement; and, (3) the relative strengths of the bourgeois and proletariat forces within the country in question.

According to the first two conditions : The support for the  bourgeois -nationalist  movement would be inadvisable in case the bourgeois sub groups , deemed reactionary, capture the leadership or should the national bourgeois sensing victory over the imperialists begin to panic at the prospect of unleash of  class struggle.

In either case the national movement would cease to be revolutionary and lapse into reformation.

As regards the third, it would be folly to be subordinate to the bourgeois should they take control of the movement and take leadership.

***

The report presented by the Commission on the National and Colonial question was discussed in detail in the Fourth session of the Second Congress of the Communist  International, on 25 July 1920.  And the discussion was carried forward to the Fifth session held on 28 July 1920.

Lenin made lengthy speeches in defence of his thesis as also that of Roy with certain amendments.

There were rather lively debates on this question  (National and Colonial question ) in the commission, not only in connection with the theses signed by me, but still more in connection with Comrade Roy’s theses, which he will defend here, and to which certain amendments were adopted unanimously.

The question was posed as follows:

Are we to accept as correct the assertion that the capitalist stage of development of the national economy is inevitable for those backward nations which are now winning liberation and in which a movement along the road of progress is to be observed since the war? We replied in the negative. If the victorious revolutionary proletariat conducts systematic propaganda among them, and the Soviet governments come to their assistance with all the means at their disposal – in that event, it would be wrong to assume that the capitalist stage of development is inevitable for the backward peoples. In all the colonies and backward countries, not only should we build independent contingents of fighters, party organizations, not only should we launch immediate propaganda for the organization of peasants’ Soviets and strive to adapt them to pre-capitalist conditions, but the Communist International should advance and theoretically substantiate the proposition that with the aid of the proletariat of the advanced countries, the backward countries can pass over to the Soviet system and, through definite stages of development, to communism, without going through the capitalist stage.

What means are necessary for this cannot be indicated beforehand. Practical experience will suggest this. But it has been definitely established that the idea of Soviets is close to the hearts of the mass of working people even of the most remote nations, that these organizations, the Soviets, should be adapted to the conditions of the pre-capitalist social system, and that the communist parties should immediately begin work in this direction in all parts of the world.”

**

Referring to the distinction between different types of bourgeois–democratic movements and after commenting on that all nationalistic movements can only be bourgeois – democratic in nature, Lenin observed:

 “  It was argued that if we speak about bourgeois–democratic movement all distinctions between reformist and revolutionary movements will be obliterated; whereas in the recent times, this distinction has been fully and clearly revealed in backward colonial countries’’

Lenin explained it further , by elaborating :

“Very often , even in the majority of cases perhaps, where the bourgeoisie of the oppressed countries does support the national movement, it simultaneously works in harmony with the imperialist bourgeoisie ; i.e, it joins the latter in fighting against all revolutionary movements and all revolutionary classes’.

In the National Colonial Commission this was proved irrefutably. And we came to the conclusion that the only correct thing was to take this distinction into consideration and nearly everywhere to substitute the term ‘national-revolutionary’ for the term ‘ bourgeois –democratic’ .

The meaning of this change is that we Communists should , and will, support bourgeois liberation movements in the colonial countries only when these movements are really revolutionary , when the representatives of these movements do not hinder us in training and organizing the peasants and the broad masses of the exploited in a revolutionary spirit”

Lenin reported the discussion in the Commission to a plenary Session of the Congress and recommended adoption of both the thesis. Regarding Roy’s thesis, Lenin said, it was   ‘framed chiefly from the standpoint of the situation in India and other big Asian countries oppressed by British imperialism. Herein lies its great importance for us.’

After considerable debate, the Second Congress sought to resolve the argument by approving both the thesis – the main thesis by Lenin and the supplementary thesis by Roy.

 

red-flag

This was Lenin’s first systematic guideline for promoting communist revolution in Asia. And, Roy played an important role in formulating Comintern policy on the national and colonial question in 1920.

Roy’s views on the revolutionary potential of the Indian masses and proletariat was moderated in the later years,. Yet; the Roy –Lenin debate has some significance. It marked the first significant attempt within the Comintern to formulate a policy which would successfully merge the revolutionary aspirations of the nationalist-anti-colonialism and communist anti-capitalism.

But, the question just did not go away. It kept coming back again and again starting from the Chinese question in 1927. And thereafter too, it repeatedly appeared during the cold war era. 

Disagreements over the degree of support to be given to nationalistic leaders as opposed to indigenous communist parties continued to plague the Communist International.

The 1927 dispute between Stalin and Trotsky ; and between Roy and Borodin over the China policy brought out the harsh fact that the  opposing views aired at the Second World Congress of 1920  had not been fully reconciled,

Stalin’s campaign against Trotsky and the Left opposition was followed by a struggle against Bukharin and Right Opposition.

There was bitter power struggle within the Communist International. The dispute between Stalin and Bukharin factions within the Party on domestic issues reflected on the International level over the attitudes to be adopted towards western countries and nationalists in dependent countries.

***. 

[The Comintern was rather selective in applying its principle of supporting self-determination and of the revolutionary movements in the oppressed countries in the East. For instance; the Soviet government during 1921 found it advantageous to withdraw assistance for revolution among the Muslims of Asia in order to achieve a trade agreement with England. Because,  the Anglo-Soviet political conference and peace agreement— an agreement that would resettle the international relations of southwest Asia so as to account for Soviet interests there—would  win for the new Soviet state a place of legitimacy among the great powers of Europe; and it would also help industrial development in Russia.

Further, the Russians among the party leadership felt that to use Soviet Muslims to promote national self-determination in Islamic Asia, (even if it seriously dislocated the British Empire), would only encourage a Muslim desire for national self-determination within the re-conquered Russian Empire.

The Party leadership was also very hesitant about employing the considerable Muslim forces that had joined with the Red Army against the counterrevolution in Muslim countries.

Hostility toward all religion, including Islam, and a fear and distrust of independent and uncontrollable local revolutionary movements, were  said to be the major reasons for USSR’s  unwillingness to support revolution in Muslim countries.

Trotsky, a consistent ‘Westerner’, rejected the idea of military support for Asian revolution and urged the NKID to “continue in every way to emphasize through all available channels our readiness to come to an understanding with England with regard to the East.”

The Party theorists, mainly Trotsky, analyzed that, support for revolutionary activity in Central and southwest Asia would become a strategic liability rather than an asset once the prospects for proletarian revolution in Europe faded and anti-Communist regimes were consolidated there.

For more, please check When the Soviet Union Entered World Politics by Jon Jacobson]

***

During the cold war period, the decisions reached by a Soviet or Chinese Communist leader depended, mainly, upon the relative strengths, potential strengths and popular support for nationalist movement in comparison with the local communist party. It also took into account at what point the nationalist leader will balk at Communist policies and pressures and move away to the other side.

Even in the case  of the Governments of  the revolutionary leaders like Nasser, Nkrumah and Sukarno , the problem that Soviets and the Chinese faced was not so much as  to decide whether  or whether not to support national revolutionary movements ; but , to agree upon priorities of initiatives and relative allocation of men , money, arms and other resources  between the local communist parties and between the Governments in question.

By then, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of China were drifting apart, after the death of Stalin in 1953.The USSR was slowly shifting towards the policy of class collaboration instead of the policy of class war. The Chinese did not appreciate the shift.

The attitude of the Soviet and Chinese Communist parties towards the Indian Communist Party on the one hand and the Congress Government of India on the other was also within those parameters. . The divide between the Soviet and the Chinese position reflected in the fractions of the CPI.

***

The controversy over the question of the ‘role of the national bourgeois and national democratic revolution with in India, vis-à-vis the international communist movement’, cast its shadow over the Communist Party of India. The controversy had its roots in the debates that took place in the Second Comintern Congress (1920). It split the Communist party in India into two major groups; the right CPI (the so called ‘pro-Moscow’ party) and the left CPI (the so called ‘pro-Peking’ party).

The division came into fore during the 1960’s when J L Nehru was India’s prime mister and particularly during the Sino-Indian war.

One fraction of the CPI party believed that as Congress under Nehru was trying to make partnership with Soviet, they might give temporary support to the Congress government.

india-russia

But another  fraction of the CPI  didn’t believe that Congress was  trying to follow Communism ; and  it  also believed that members of the Congress  party were class-enemies, hence, it was of no use to support them.

India-Vs-China

The division between the two fractions of CPI widened during the Sino–Indian war. China also did not like Moscow’s attitude towards the conflict. A fraction of the CPI viewed the Sino-Indian war as a conflict between a capitalist state (India) and a communist state (China). And, ideologically, it had to support the Communist state keeping aside sentiments of nationalism. This section which supported Chinese got separated from the CPI and formed a new party called Communist Party of India  (CPIM).

The other section of the CPI continued to believe in a strategic tie with the Government of India.

But such controversies in the present day are irrelevant.  And, moreover the Left has rapidly lost ground; and with hardly any prospects of coming to power in any state, independently. Both the communist parties talk of coalition of the Left and democratic process.  But they do not seem to have a credible concrete program. Further, both the factions are bogged down with lack of new leadership and plenty of internal squabbling.

After disillusionment with CPI–M, the search for ideologies to bring about changes shifted to other areas. In 1975 it was Jayaprakash Narayan; in 1989 it was VP Singh; and in 2012 it was around Anna Hazare.  And now, it is BJP; and, it too, somehow, appears a distant prospect.

Facing-the-Future

images

Continued

In

Next Part

Sources and References

  1. Communism and Nationalism in India: M.N. Roy and Comintern Policy, 1920-1939

 By John Patrick Haithcox

2 .Minutes of the Second Congress of the Communist International

Fourth Session – July 25

https://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/2nd-congress/ch04.htm

Fifth Session -July 28

https://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/2nd-congress/ch05.htm

3.Minutes of the Congress

https://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/2nd-congress/

https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/jul/x03.htm

  1. Communism and Nationalism in India: A Study in Inter-relationship, 1919-1947

By Shashi Bairathi

 5. Communism in India by Overstreet and Windmiller

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2016 in M N Roy

 

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