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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 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 during 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 a 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 of 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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Posted by on January 17, 2016 in M N Roy

 

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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 1910

Sun Yat Sen 1910

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.  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 20th March 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 , North-west 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 favor 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 favor 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.

Borodin in Nanking 1926

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 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 possibly establish a firm base in China unless the proletariat take control of the situation ; and for that to happen , it was necessary to rely 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;  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 for 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 dispatched 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.

***

[Here, I may mention about one of the tactics that Stalin employed to discredit those who he  was either afraid of;  or those he despised. He took to the then unusual propaganda weapon of wiping out the traces of his enemies from the history books; or falsifying their images in the public domain.

In his book The Commissar Vanishes, a visual history of the falsification of images as a means of propaganda in the Soviet Union, David King explores how Stalin manipulated photography to erase all memory of his victims or to vilify them. At the heart of authoritarian propaganda, he says, is the manipulating  of reality.

David King wrote that during the Great Purges, in the 1930s, ‘a new form of falsification emerged. The physical eradication of Stalin’s political opponents at the hands of the secret police was swiftly followed by their obliteration from all forms of pictorial existence’.

His book highlights classic cases of ‘now you see me, now you don’t’. It includes series of images featuring the same backdrops but with rotating casts, depending on who was or wasn’t in favor at the time.

Such propaganda, as Jemimah Steinfeld writes, did not work just on what was shown; it worked also on what was omitted. Stalin was a master of this. Long before the advent of Photoshop, technicians in Russia manipulated photos so much that they became outright lies.

**

For example, a photograph of 1917 shows Lenin addressing a huge crowd with Trotsky and Kamenev, at his side. But, in the doctored version, Trotsky and Kamenev are erased out.

Lenin with Leon Trotsky and Lev Kamenev 1920.Lenin WITHOUT Trotsky and Kamenev

Another picture showed Stalin, with Nikolai Yezhov the then chief of NKVD (Secret police), strolling  along the Moscow-Volga Canal, where Volga becomes a stretch of water. But, in the edited version circulated after Nikolai Yezhov was arrested and executed in 1939; his image was wiped out.

Stalin with Nikolai Yezhov Stalin without Nikolai Yezhov

In all such cases,’ un-persons’ were either simply blanked out; or were merged into other objects;  or were shifted around to fill such gaps.

*

It is said; a similar practice was followed in Mao’s China, though less creatively

***

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 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 Siberian 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 shifting 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 07

MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 07

Continued from Part 06

In Berlin on the way to Moscow

In November 1919, after a stay of about two and a half years in Mexico, Roy and Evelyn departed from the port of Veracruz, Mexico’s oldest and largest port on the Gulf of Mexico, on their way to Russia. They travelled under the Mexican diplomatic passports, in which their names were given as Senor and Senora Roberto Alleny Villa Garcia.

It had been decided that, for reasons of their safety, the Roys’ would not travel directly to Moscow; but would reach Moscow via Cuba, Spain, and Germany. These precautions were necessary to escape the attention of the British Secret Service.It was also decided that they  would spend more time in Berlin to gain good  experience of the Communist movement in Germany. According to the plan, Borodin along with Charles Phillips had left for Europe prior to Roys’ departure from Mexico.

After brief halt in Cuba and in Spain, Roy and Evelyn reached Berlin, via Milan and Zurich, by the end of December 1919.  The Mexico’s representatives in Europe had been instructed to render any type of assistance that Roy and Evelyn might need.

[Roy, in fact, had initially started for Berlin from Japan about four years ago, in search of funds and arms to fight the British rule. But, by the time of his actual visit to Berlin in 1919 many changes had taken place in his life, in his views and in his objectives. This time, he no longer was seeking money or arms; he was also not intent on raising a rebellion in India. He now was gripped by a new faith that believed in mass movement and social revolution. And yet, the urgent need to overthrow Imperial regimes in the colonies remained the driving force.]

On their way to Moscow, Roys’ stopped at Berlin for about four months (from end of November 1919 to April 1920; eventually reaching Moscow in end of April or early May 1920). Their wait at Berlin was perhaps necessary because of the disturbed conditions that then prevailed in post-war Europe. Further, the travel to Russia, in particular, across various borders was beset with difficulties, uncertainties and risks.

Another reason for Roy’s prolonged stay at Berlin was to meet the Indian revolutionary groups operating from Germany; and, more importantly, to meet the leaders of the German Communist movement.

**

As regards the Indian revolutionaries operating from Germany, they had been actively involved in liaisoning with the Kaiser’s Government , even as early as in 1913, for gaining German support – in terms of funds and arms- for carrying out armed rebellion in India against the British rule. Their aim was to throw out the British from the Indian soil by waging relentless series of guerilla wars. During 1913-14, when the War had broken out, the Indians, mainly the students, resident in Germany, formed themselves into an organization called The Berlin Committee with the objective of promoting the cause of Indian Independence. The Committee included famous persons such as Virendranath Chattopadhyaya (alias Chatto, brother of Sarojini Naidu), Chempakaraman Pillai and Abinash Bhattacharya. Lala Har Dayal, who by then had fled to Germany after orders for his arrest in the United States, also lent his support to the Committee.

The Berlin Committee persuaded the Kaiser Government to help them in the common cause of defeating the British. They had even succeeded in obtaining assurance from the Kaiser’s Government to fund and to supply arms to carry out the revolutionary movement in India against the British Rule.  In 1914, German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg approved and sanctioned German support to Indian revolutionary groups.  Max von Oppenheim was appointed the head of the German effort. He was an archaeologist as well as the head of the newly formed Intelligence Bureau for the east. 

The Berlin Committee, on its part, established contacts with Indian revolutionaries headed by Bagha Jatin ; the Ghadar movement in USA; as also with several armament and explosives factories in German-friendly countries. Later, this Berlin-Indian Committee played an active part in the Hindu-German Conspiracy in USA.

During the course of the War, in 1915, The Berlin Committee was re-named as the Indian Independence Committee (Das Indische Unabhängigkeitskomitee).

The Committee itself was the brainchild of the  Nachrichtenstelle für den Orient  and its director, the Orientalist Max Freiherr von Oppenheim, who tended to refer to the IIC as ‘Meine Inder’ (‘my Indians’).  The Indians on the Committee were expected to assist with propaganda material to induce desertions and surrenders among British Indian troops in Europe; among the Indian prisoners of war in German prison camps to volunteer for a military expedition to free India from foreign rule.

 The ‘plot’ was highlighted and sensationalized in the press during the famous San Francisco Conspiracy Case of 1917-18, when the United States joined the war and proceeded to take action against Indians and their sympathizers operating from within the USA

*

The Germans did try to support the Indian rebels in USA , but were unsuccessful , mainly because their correspondence with the Military Attaché of the German Consulate in USA (Wilhelm Von Brincken ) were intercepted . Please see a Press Report concerning the letter of 04 November 1916 by Von Brincken, which was produced as prosecution  evidence in the Hindu German Conspiracy.

item-fighting-germany-spies-001

Towards the end of the war, a group had moved with Viren Chattopadhyay to Sweden, where a strategic branch office of Indian nationalists had been set up, and from where Chatto and his colleagues had begun communicating with the Bolsheviks in the run-up to the October Revolution. Many of them moved back to Germany in the early years of the Weimar Republic

After the war and the defeat of Germany, the Berlin Committee members were reduced to a bunch of disillusioned, disappointed broken men constantly quarreling among themselves out of sheer desperation. They could not see a way out their predicament. Their plans for future had nowhere to go. The Committee was formally disbanded in November 1918, with each member pursuing his own way. And, some were getting attracted towards the nascent Bolshevik movement of Russia and to the ideology of Communism.

**

By the time Roy reached Berlin (say, end of December 1919), the Committee, formally, was no longer in existence. However, there were some Indians in Berlin who were looking for a forum and opportunities to work together. But, these persons were, generally, independent and not subscribing to a common view or an agenda. And, nothing much came of their restlessness.

Some of such prominent Indians in Berlin during those times included: Tarachand Roy; Benoy Kumar Sarkar; Abdur Rahman; Chamapakraman Pillai; Dr. J. C. Dasgupta; Satish Chandra Roy; Hardayal; Debendra Bose; K. K. Naik; V. Joshi; B. N. Dasgupta; J. N. Lahiri; Heramaba Lal Gupta; Dhirendranath Sarkar; A. S. Siddiqui; Abdus Sattar Khairi; Bhupendranth Datta (brother of Narendranath Datta – Swami Vivekananda); and, Soumyendranath Tagore, the poet Rabindranath’s nephew, an unorthodox socialist who traveled in and out of Berlin until 1933

.

During his stay in Berlin, Roy did meet some the members of the disbanded Berlin Committee; but was disappointed.

At the same time, Roy was trying to develop personal contacts with eminent socialist and communists leaders of Germany. They were figures like Eduard Bernstein, Karl Kautsky, Rudolf Hilferding, Wilhelm Pieck and August Thalheimer. He also befriended H.J. Sneevliet in Holland.

[In 1918, as the War was drawing to a close, the common people of Germany were exhausted by the deaths and devastation brought upon them. Apart from destroyed houses, they had to contend with the problem of acute shortage of food, fuel and also unreasonably high price of daily commodities.  When the defeat of Germany was in sight, the social and political convulsions began to churn. In October 1918, workers, sailors and soldiers of the Baltic ports began to set up the Bolshevik-style councils; and, soon red flags fluttered atop the ports and factories. It also spread to major German cities. To stimulate the unrest that was gathering pace, the Soviet embassy in Berlin provided weapons to the insurgents. In November, Emperor Wilhelm II abdicated after he lost the support of his troops. The German parliament declared creation of the Social Democratic Party.

In December 1918, the radical elements within the German Socialists and the workers’ union founded the Communist Party of Germany- Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (KPD) under the leadership of   Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. After the assassination of these two leaders, August Thalheimer and others came to the forefront.]

 Roy came close to August Thalheimer*, the German Marxist activist and theoretician. He started attending the secret meetings of the German Communists discussing current problems of the revolution. Roy, later wrote: I was immensely benefitted by the discussions; and, before long, I could participate in the discussions. They all treated me with kindness, affection and respect.

[*August Thalheimer (March 18, 1884 to September 19, 1948) was a German Marxist, activist and theoretician.

thalheimer

Thalheimer was a member of the German Social Democratic Party prior to the First World War. He edited Volksfreund, one of the party newspapers, and from 1916 worked on Spartakusbriefe, the official paper of the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD). Thalheimer became a founder member of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), where he was recognized as the party’s main theorist. (Thalheimer, it is said, was a learned Sanskrit scholar, an authority on Panini’s Grammar)

During the Stalinist years, the Communist Party of Germany – KPD criticised the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. He was expelled from the KPD. Then, in 1928, he along with Brandler formed the Communist Party Opposition (KPO). However, facing threat from Stalinist forces, Thalheimer went into exile in Paris from 1932. At the start of 1935 Thalheimer began writing a regular column on international news for Workers Age, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the USA (Opposition). Thalheimer went to Barcelona, Spain in 1936; and became involved in the local politics of the Marxist Workers’ Party of Spain.  In July 1937, six members of the KPO in Barcelona were arrested by the Stalinists. He soon returned to France again to work with the KPO in exile. He started writing articles criticizing the German Fascists and the Russian Communist Dictators, alike; A very hazardous occupation, indeed.

In 1940, after the outbreak of the War and as the German forces swiftly occupied France, Thalheimer fled to Cuba. He died in Havana on 19 September 1948.]

*

As regards Rosa Luxemburg, the Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist and revolutionary socialist, by the time Roy reached Berlin (say, end of December 1919), Rosa Luxemburg was no longer alive; she and Liebknecht had been murdered on January 15, 1919, by members of the Free Corps (Freikorps), a loose band of conservative paramilitary groups. But her writings influenced Roy greatly.

Rosa luxemburgh

Roy found in the life and writings Rosa Luxemburg, the convergence of two streams of ideologies:  Freedom and Democracy on one side; and Revolutionary Order on the other. Throughout his active life, Roy was intensely committed to dismissal of British rule in India and ushering in new political, social, economic and moral order in Indian society. As regards the moral aspect, Roy came to believe that moral motive, independent of other motives for a social revolution (freedom, fraternity and order) was essential to build a strong and durable order as it ensures honesty and transparency in working of the system. On that point , Roy was closer to Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg than to Marx or Engels ( who had said: We reject every attempt to impose on us any moral dogma).

Rosa Luxemburg, in her book Accumulation of Capital, had written that the imperialist capitalist system survived and thrived on external markets of colonial countries. Roy maintained that argument in Second Congress as also in his later theses.

Benjamin Zachariah, a noted research scholar, in his paper Rosa Luxemburg on the National Question writes: It is an irony of history that Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919), who thought of nationalism as narrow-minded and backward-looking, should today be remembered so often as a Polish-Jewish woman, thus reducing her to a set of identitarian particularisms. 

**

Berlin of the 1920s  was the hub of international subversive activities, where Egyptian and Indian organisations could coordinate their activities, assist each other in their anti-imperialist activities, and collectively appeal to the principles of German sovereignty and international political asylum rights.  Berlin was also the center where the rebel communist party of Germany began to form with networks across rest of Europe.

Roy, in particular, mentions about the secret meeting of the German Communist party, held in March 1920, which he attended.  The meeting which lasted almost throughout the night discussed the strategy for the general political strike which was to be declared the next day. This was the famous right wing revolt  Kapp Putsch also known as the Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch  wherein the German Army staged a Coup d’état

[It was March 1920. It had only been eighteen months since Germany’s defeat in the Great War and the subsequent signing of the humiliating Treaty of Versailles in which the politicians of Weimar Germany had agreed to pay massive reparations and accept Germany’s guilt for the conflict that had engulfed Europe. It was within this chaos that the ill-fated Kapp Putsch took place.

Friedrich Ebert (1871 -1925) , a German politician of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and the first President of Germany from 1919 , was also unwilling to abide by the humiliating conditions of the Versailles treaty. But, he hardly had any other option.

Wolfgang Kapp, a right-wing journalist, appalled by the humiliation brought upon the German nation, persuaded General Luttwitz to stage rebellion against the Government of Elbert; throw him out;  and establish a right-wing autocratic government in its place. Kapp had also the support of Germany’s foremost military officer – General Erich Luderndorff. On 13 March 1920, Lüttwitz and Kapp marched into Berlin, at the head of a 6,000-strong group of Freikorps (demobilized or free soldiers), sporting swastika emblems on their helmets, determined to overthrow the government.

The Weimar president, Friedrich Ebert, called on his army to crush the Kapp Putsch, as it came to be known, but was told “troops don’t fire on troops”.  Without military support, Ebert and his government fled to Dresden in south Germany.

On the same day, Luttwitz seized Berlin and proclaimed that a new right of centre nationalist government was being established with Kapp as chancellor.

From Dresden, Friedrich Ebert gave a call to the German people to go on a general strike to paralyse the rebellion as also immobilize those supporting  Kapp and Luttwitz.  Responding to his call, the common people, along with the workers led by the Communist Party, joined the general strike. The civil service too sided with Ebert and refused to take orders from Kapp. Within about four days of general strike the whole of Germany was paralyzed. The immobile and helpless Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch was doomed and failed badly. Kapp and Luttwitz fled Berlin on March 17th. (But, those who fought for Kapp and Luttwitz later became supporters of the fledgling Nazi Party.)

With the failure of the rebellion, the Government of the Weimar president, Friedrich Ebert was saved. And, Friedrich Ebert returned to power and his regime was restored.]

Kapp-Putsch, Marinebrigade Erhardt in Berlin

Roy who was watching these developments was fascinated by the coming together of common people, the civil service and the workers; and , their triumph over the Army. There were some lessons to be learnt from the five days of the Kapp Putsch. It demonstrated the power of mass movement; and, of the general strike. It also showed that the Government’s means of dealing with uprisings of such nature are indeed very limited. In such stringent situations,  a Government cannot effectively enforce its authority, even in its own capital, unless  it has  the support of its people. At the same time, the support of the army could not be taken for granted.

**

The German Marxists led by August Thalheimer had a slightly different interpretation of Karl Marx’s doctrine and the also differed from the Russian Bolsheviks. Though they believed in the ultimate social revolution and liberation of the working classes, they preferred a gradual progress towards socialism that did not resort to violence or armed insurgency. Their method was to build a mass movement and steer the country towards socialism. Roy, as he said, was struck by the ‘humanness ‘of the German Socialists. However, Roy a new convert to Communism, could not, at that stage, see anything other than what he had learnt from Borodin in Mexico.  But  later in his life , Roy came to greatly appreciate the principle of ‘humanness’ and made it a corner stone of his philosophy.

**

Roy had long discussions with German Communist leaders to widen his knowledge about the theory and practice of Communism. It helped him to visualize and dream about the form and content of the future Communist movement in India.

Thereafter, Roy before leaving Berlin for Moscow wrote what he called as the Indian Communist Manifesto. The opening lines of the Manifesto were addressed to the Indian revolutionaries who were told that the time had come for them to  ‘  make a statement of their principles in order to interest the European and American proletariat in the struggle of Indian masses , which is rapidly becoming a fight for economic and social emancipation and abolishion of class rule’. It also blamed the bourgeois (largely the Indian middle class) striving for democracy and the failure of the nationalist movement.

“The nationalist movement in India has failed to appeal to the masses, because it strives for a bourgeois democracy and cannot say how the masses will be benefited by independent national existence. The emancipation of the working class lies in the social revolution and the foundation of a communist state. Therefore, the growing spirit of rebellion in the masses must be organised on the basis of class struggle in close cooperation with the world proletarian movements.”

Roy then suggested to the Indian nationals in Germany, most of whom were former members of the Berlin Committee, to join the proletarian forces with Russia in the forefront. However, the idea did not appeal to many, because it was not nationalistic and was not India-centered. Some of them (including Bhupendranath Dutta whom Roy knew from his Calcutta days) even suspected that Roy could be acting as an agent of the Bolsheviks planning to take control of the Indian revolutionary movement.

The draft Manifesto; its language and its strange terms were also out of their ken; and its stated objectives did not find favor with most  of the Ex-Committee members who were basically nationalists and who came from educated class in India.

Abani Mukherji

Eventually there were only three signatories to that document : Roy himself; Evelyn Trent Roy who affixed her signature as Santi Devi , her newly acquired pseudonym; and, Abani Mukherji (Abaninath Mukherji) , an Ex-member of the Anushilan Samithi , who had just arrived from India through the Dutch –East –Indies (Indonesia) and Holland .

***

While in Berlin, Roy started on his book India in Transition , with Abani Mukherji providing the statistical input. The Book was eventually published  from Berlin , in 1922 after he had spent about two years in Moscow. During the intervening period, Roy kept revising his Draft-Book.  As it progressed, the ideas gained from discussions with Lenin and other Communist leaders at the Second Congress of the Communist International in Russia during 1920 were brought into Book.

The Book argued that the rebellion of 1857 had failed to rid of feudalism in India. The India in Transition  gives a critical analysis of Indian society and a clear vision of the process of attuning Indian Independence. It remained a reference book for the communists on colonial and semi colonial questions. That was until the official change took place in the Sixth World Congress of the Communist International in 1929, by which time Roy had been expelled by the Comintern.

But, the more interesting part of the book is about the issues that figured in Roy’s discussions with Lenin on the role of Gandhi and the Indian National Congress in the Indian independence movement.  Each looked at Congress and Gandhi form his own perspective, guided by own his experience in the revolution. And, that was also the crucial point of difference between Lenin and Roy.

Gandhi retuned to India in 1915. And, by about 1920-21, the Indian independence movement and the Indian National Congress had come under the influence of Gandhi.

On the question of the Indian National Congress and Gandhi, Lenin formed his views drawing 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 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’. You will now have to base yourselves on the bourgeois nationalism which is awakening, and must awake. 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 at a later time depending upon the situation.

Lenin 1920

 Lenin had developed a broader perceptive of revolutionary processes having lived and worked through its various stages.  The broader picture that he envisioned was 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 utilising nationalism in creating a broad based anti-imperialistic movement; and, later to take over the movement.

[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. 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.]

Lenin contented that non-communist nationalist organizations like the Indian National Congress could , for the present,  be considered as revolutionary, since no viable Communist party existed in India. And, it would take some time before the 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 movements. 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.

M N Roy (1)

Roy, at the age of 28,   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 manner associated or involved with political process. His views on Indian National Congress, in 1921-22, were tinted with the impressions he 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 (1919) had worked hard to liberate Roy from notions of Nationalism. And, those lessons fructified in the An Indian Communist Manifesto which Roy drafted in Berlin, during 1920, en route from Mexico to Moscow for the Second Congress of the Comintern. Roy presented the same set of views at the Second Congress later in Moscow. In his Draft Manifesto, it was said: We want the world to know that nationalism is confined to the bourgeois, but the masses are awakening to the call of the social revolution.

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.

In his discussions with Lenin and in his book India in Transition , Roy took a very highly critical view of Indian National Congress and of Gandhi, in particular.

Roy criticized the Indian national movement under the Congress Party – the way it was preceding and its leadership. He was particularly unhappy with the lack of any theoretical foundation, socio-economic philosophy for the Indian national movement.

He said:  “There must be a socio-political philosophy behind any great movement. The much-needed ideological background of our struggle is not to be invented from the imagination of great men; it will be evolved out of the material forces making the birth, growth and success of such a struggle possible.

The Indian people are engaged in a social struggle of historic proportion and to a certain extent of unprecedented character. A modern political movement on such a huge scale involving a sweeping mass-action cannot go on forever with antiquated religious ideology.

It is highly essential to study the social conditions, actual as well as of the past, and to watch the evolution of the economic forces in order to ensure that  the people of India are progressing along a course common  to the entire human race.

The present situation in India is not unique in history. It is a stage of social development marked by a sudden and rapid introduction of modern means of production, resulting in a dislocation of the status quo, economic as well as territorial, of the population.

And yet; we have our peculiar problems to solve; there are peculiar obstacles to be overcome on our way. But the fact remains that we are involved in a great struggle which calls for profound understanding of the socio- economic forces making for the progress of the Indian people”.

He remarked: the Indian National Congress has landed in a political bankruptcy. Today it stands at the cross-roads. It must either adjust its socio-political convictions in accordance with the forces behind the great mass upheaval, or put itself straight on the tracks of constitutional democracy.  The latter will take it back under moderate leadership, which is convinced that the British connection is beneficial to the economic interests of that class of the people whose political representative they are. Caught in morass of such hopeless contradictions, the Congress cannot provide the ideological base for Indian national movement.

Therefore, one has to be cautious. The struggle of the Indian bourgeoisie is not against a government controlled by rich landed aristocracy with strong feudal traditions; it is against the highest form of capitalism in an extremely critical moment of its existence. Consequently, there is a great possibility of compromise in this struggle.

He cited the instance of the British policy of supporting Indian industry during the war-years, in its own interests. Unable, during the war, to sell its manufactured goods in the Indian markets, Britain reversed its traditional policy of keeping India industrially backward. It took the Indian bourgeois into confidence and let them a free field to develop. It went on to appoint an Indian Industrial Commission (1916) for promoting industries in India. By the end of the war, the Indian capitalist class had gathered enough clout to make demands on British Government. The needs of the industry gave a lever to manipulate the Indian capitalists and to split the revolutionary movement. There was thus an active connivance between the British imperialism and the Indian bourgeois.

 Roy then went on to assert that the over throw of the British rule will be achieved only by the joint action of the bourgeois and the masses.  But in the long run, he said, the separation of masses from bourgeois leadership was inevitable. That is because; the bourgeois nationalism would end in compromise with Imperial powers.

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.]

**

Roy who was then a Marxist contended that political independence does not equal total freedom, since full freedom involved economic rights and opportunities for the masses. Such full freedom, Roy argued, was far beyond mere political freedom which Gandhi was fighting for. He said ‘the political independence is not the end, but is the means for radical transformation of Indian society, demanding changes in the social structure and extinction of class domination by transfer of ownership of land to cultivator . And, it should be followed by a rapid growth of modern mechanized industry ‘. Roy conceived freedom and social change in terms of sweeping economic changes’.

Gandhi did recognize the importance of economic reforms, but, emphasized on the ‘moral aspects’ of freedom. He was talking of Swaraj which meant both ‘self-rule’ and ‘self-control’. Gandhi’s view of Swaraj rooted in Indian nationalist tradition prevailed in Congress. Gandhi was , in fact , following the dictum of Swami Vivekananda : ’ one may gain political and social independence , but if one is a slave to ones passions and desires , one cannot feel the pure joy of real freedom’( Complete Works , Vol.  5, p. 419).

[Interestingly, many years later in 1940 while launching his Radical Democratic Party (RDP) , Roy declared that  that the RPD must be  a party not of the ‘economic man ‘ but rather a party of ‘ moral men , moved by the ideal of human freedom. He went on to say: Any connection between RPD and any particular class is repudiated. The party’s alliance can only to the abiding values of humanity, since ethical values are greater than economic interests. Call this an idealistic deviation, if you please. I would plead guilty to the charge’. ]

 

**

In his newspaper Advance Guard ‘  he sent a programme to the Indian National Congress on the eve of the Gaya Congress held in the last week of December, 1922, which included some of the following  : ideas: 1) Abolition of landlord-ism 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

**

As regards Roy’s views on Gandhi (as it did during 1921-22); for a short while, Roy was impressed by Gandhi and saw his non-violent path as the only path available to the Indian revolutionaries under conditions of colonialism. But Roy was disillusioned when Gandhi withdrew the mass movement.

But, at the same time  , he said : Gandhi’s criticism of modern civilization , that is capitalist society, is correct. But, the remedy he prescribes is not only wrong but impossible.

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 maintained that as a religious and cultural revivalist, Gandhi was bound to be a reactionary, socially, however different.

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

[Evelyn Trent Roy writing under pen name Santi Devi, in her article titled The Debacle of Gandhism (November 1922) also said  :  Mr. Gandhi had become an unconscious agent of reaction in the face of a growing revolutionary situation. The few leaders of the Congress Party, who realized this and sought a way out, were rendered desperate, almost despairing at the dilemma. Mr. Gandhi had become a problem to his own movement…]

Then, 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” .

***

Many years later, in 1936, when Roy attended the Faizpur session of the Congress, he criticized Gandhi and his inner circle for imposing their tactics from above on the rank and file. He pointed out that their organizational legacy is mostly “authoritarian dictatorial” high-command that resembles the inner coterie of the Comintern. He gave a call to halt the brahmin-baniya domination over Congress; and to usher in an agrarian social revolution.

Gandhi, of course, was not amused; and, advised Roy to stay out of Indian politics, and just “render mute service to cause of Indian freedom”.

**

There is an interesting footnote to Roy’s dream of Indian revolution and Indian independence.

Chief Justice P.B. Chakraborty of Calcutta High Court, who had also served as the acting Governor of West Bengal in India, during 1956, wrote a letter to Prof. Dr. R C Majumdar the author of A History of Bengal. It relates to a conversation that Justice Chakraborty had with Lord Clement Attlee when the latter visited Calcutta during 1956. Lord Attlee was then staying as a guest in the official residence of the Governor of West Bengal (Justice P.B. Chakraborty).

  Justice Chakraborty wrote:

“When I was the acting Governor, Lord Atlee, who had given us independence by withdrawing the British rule from India, spent two days in the Governor’s palace at Calcutta during his tour of India. At that time I had a prolonged discussion with him regarding the real factors that had led the British to quit India. My direct question to him was that since Gandhi’s “Quit India” movement had tapered off quite some time ago and in 1947 no such new compelling situation had arisen that would necessitate a hasty British departure, why did they have to leave? In his reply Atlee cited several reasons, the principal among them being the erosion of loyalty to the British Crown among the Indian army and navy personnel as a result of the military activities of Netaji. Toward the end of our discussion I asked Atlee what was the extent of Gandhi’s influence upon the British decision to quit India. Hearing this question, Atlee’s lips became twisted in a sarcastic smile as he slowly chewed out the word, “m-i-n-i-m-a-l!”

Please see 5. Attlee’s Personal View at : http://www.visionnetaji.org/?p=205]

It might be true that the Indian National Congress under the leadership of Gandhi played a leading role in the freedom struggle. But at the same time, it would be fair to acknowledge the contributions, struggles and sacrifices made by countless non-congress organizations, groups and individuals in their fight to secure National freedom.

Among such varied and diverse groups that fought for national independence, the more prominent were the right-wing Nationalist groups and the Left –wing Communists. Their activities intensified after the sudden suspension of non-cooperation movement by Gandhi in the wake of a stray incident at Chauri Chura in 1922. It caused deep resentment, disappointment, disillusionment and disgust among the Indian youth.  Some took to the Nationalist revolutionaries and lot others chose the Communist way.

Their revolutionary movements spread across the world – mainly in Europe, Far East and America.

In the following pages you would be amazed to see the intense and dedicated involvement of the International Communist Party and its organizations in Europe and Asia in their participation of India’s struggle for freedom. Apart from Indian-nationals, it is remarkable that a significant number of intelligent, bright and well meaning western men and women dedicated their lives to the cause of India’s freedom. They also made huge sacrifices; underwent persecution, withstood harsh treatment and endured long years of imprisonment just for a cause which they cherished as just and noble. They had no ambitions   whatsoever of personal gain. We all should remember them with deep sense of gratitude, reverence and love.

divider1

By about April 1920, the Berlin Embassy of the USSR received a message from Angelica Balabanova, the First Secretary to the Communist International with instructions to arrange for Roy’s travel to Moscow, immediately.  

Accordingly, Roy along with Evelyn boarded a middle class passenger ship named The Soviet departing from the port Stettin (regarded as the port of Berlin was the capital of the Prussian province of Pomerania, now in Poland, on the Oder). After reaching Reval (now known as Tallinn) , in Estonian Republic, they travelled by train to reach Leningrad. From there they took another train to Moscow, the political capital of USSR. It was sometime at the end of April 1920.

pestel-ex-velikij_knyaz_aleksej

Continued

In

Next Part

 

 

Sources and References

Sources of Indian Tradition: Modern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh by Rachel Fell McDermott

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

M N Roy by V B Karnik

M N Roy -A Political Biography by Samaren Roy

All pictures are from Internet

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2016 in M N Roy

 

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