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

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

Continued from Part 10

 Communism – India – Nationalism

 

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

**

 

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

m-n-roy_6795214e

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

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

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

**

CR Das 2

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Continued

In

Next Part

 

 Sources and References

 Communism in India by Marshall Windmiller

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

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

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

by Shashi Bairathi

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

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

 Edited by Matthew Worley

Political Philosophy of M.N. Roy

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

 by Matthew Worley

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

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

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

Continued from Part 09

 

Tashkent mishap

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

Soviet Turkistan and Afghanistan in 1922

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

The minutes of the meeting read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

communist university of the east

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

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

tan-malaka-and-bolshevik

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

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

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

 

Manabendra Nath Ray

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please also read the Chapter : Conclusion , for more]

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 Continued

In

Next Part

 

Sources and References

When the Soviet Union Entered World Politics

When the Soviet Union Entered World Politics  by Jon Jacobson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued from Part 08

 The National and Colonial question

1280px-SegundoCongresoDelCominternLeninKárajanBujarinZinoviev19200719 (1)

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

The guidelines clearly stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He told them:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

MN Roy Moscow

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

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

Borodin 1920

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He said:

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

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

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

 

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The question was posed as follows:

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

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

**

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

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

Lenin explained it further , by elaborating :

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

india-russia

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

India-Vs-China

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

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

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

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

Facing-the-Future

images

Continued

In

Next Part

Sources and References

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

 By John Patrick Haithcox

2 .Minutes of the Second Congress of the Communist International

Fourth Session – July 25

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

Fifth Session -July 28

https://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/2nd-congress/ch05.htm

3.Minutes of the Congress

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

https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/jul/x03.htm

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

By Shashi Bairathi

 5. Communism in India by Overstreet and Windmiller

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

[For Dr.DMR Sekhar]

MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts

Part One

Introduction and Overview

M N Roy, Communist leader with signatures, in New Delhi on September 30, 1967

 

Several years back, I posted an article about   Mahapandita Rahula Sankrityayana (1893–1963) one of the stormy petrels of India’s recent past; the restless drifter who from the Vedic Arya Samaj moved into Buddhism, then leaped on to communism and back again to Buddhism. I had written, in fair detail, about his travels in Tibet collecting copies of ancient texts; his association with the Communism and setting up the Communist Party of Bihar ; his Party work in Russia; his expulsion from the Communist Party and the USSR following his differences with Josef Stalin; and on his eventual disillusionment with Communism. On his return to India, he resumed his Buddhist work. He again took to travel ; and, visited Sri Lanka (where he taught Sanskrit), Japan, Korea, China, and Manchuria. He saw a fire temple in Baku and discovered an inscription in Devanagari script. From there he went to Tehran, Shiraz and Baluchistan and finally returned to India. During his life-time Sankrityayana wrote about one-hundred-and-fifty books and dissertations covering a variety of subjects. Apart from travelogues, he wrote extensively on a range  of subjects such as sociology, history, philosophy, Buddhism, Tibetology, lexicography, grammar, textual editing, folklore, science, drama, and politics. He also produced two huge dictionaries, one Tibetan – Sanskrit; and the other Russian – Sanskrit. He prepared a glossary of Hindi terms for administrative use. He also collected and wrote about the ecstatic songs (Doha) in Apabramsha dialect spoken by the eccentric Siddha saints of Bihar and Bengal.

In that context, I had mentioned, in passing, his similarities with MN Roy, another stormy petrel of India, the son of a village teacher who meteoroed into an intellectual at the international level ; who traveled across the globe ; participated in , as also  influenced the growth and spread of communism in various parts of the world; and, who wrote a large number of books on politics, political philosophy, sociology, history etc.

rahul_sankrityayanmn-roy-after-release-from-jail-19360002

In many ways; the life-events of Sankrityayana and Roy were similar. Both were brilliant intellectuals, great travelers, versatile linguists and voracious writers. Both coming from orthodox middle class families, started as ardent Nationalists with a burning zeal to secure India’s freedom; both came into contact with Marxist principles rather incidentally; both grew into ardent communists working actively along with eminent leaders of the party in USSR; later, both were disillusioned with Communist regimes in USSR;  both incurred the displeasure of Stalin; and predictably, both  were promptly expelled from the party. Both, in their later years, grew into philosophers and thinkers.  Both married western women, settled down in India; and, died while in India.

[Although Sankrityayana and Roy both incurred the wrath of Joseph Stalin they could, yet, said to be fortunate. While Sankrityayana was exiled, Roy lingered on the outer fringe of the Central Party for sometime, before he was expelled. He eventually returned to India.

But, the other Indian Left intellectuals –Virendranath Chattopadhyaya (brother of the well known freedom fighter and poetess Sarojani Naidu) and Abaninath Mukherjee one of the co-founders (along with Roy and Evelyn Trent) of the Indian Communist Party launched from Tashkent in 1921 — were not so lucky. Their disagreement with Joseph Stalin made them victims of the Great Purge. Virendranath Chattopadhyaya was arrested on in July 1937; and , was executed on 2 September 1937. And, Abaninath Mukherjee was arrested in June 1937 ; and, was executed by the firing squad on 28 October 1937.]

I share with DR. DMR Sekhar, a special fascination for the life and thoughts of MN Roy. He, undoubtedly, is without a peer in the present era. There is hardly anyone comparable to Roy. His approach to politics, philosophy and life was much different. He led an adventurous and eventful life; and, his experience was vast. Roy’s intellectual odyssey took him from militant Hindu nationalist to communist and then on to radical democrat and humanist. MN Roy could be described as a global Indian and an international communist positioned between  the German Opposition communist fringe and Soviet orthodoxy; and, between the Indian National Congress and Radical Socialism; and , a sustained critique of Gandhian  notions of Brahmacharya, ascetic ideals  and food-culture. His thoughts were quite original. He adopted unorthodox means of separating religion from philosophy for realizing his ideals.

And yet he was not a mass-leader. Towards the end of his life, he was a lonely person.  He was a sort of romantic who envisioned, with hope, that ‘Man has created something great and is destined to create something greater’. He had the courage of conviction and honesty of ideas to stand alone amidst hostile criticism.

I wondered; it is strange that such fiery figures- like Roy and Sankrityayana – have almost disappeared from scenes of the present-day-world. No longer do you come across, either in India or anywhere else, such colorful, rebellious, brilliant and larger-than life intellectual personalities, passionate about their beliefs, living and spreading their influence in various parts of the globe at an enormous risk to their person and to their acceptance in organized groups.

The rarity of such intellectual odysseys  bordering on adventurism  in the present times  may perhaps have a lot to do with the ephemeral nature of things and the depleted sense of values of the world we live in, dominated by faceless corporations chasing after virtual curves on electronic screens, week after week . Even the leaders of the so-called revolutionary parties, bereft of commitment to their original principles, have gone soft, corrupt and rotting from within.

Dr. DMR Sekhar, the Scholar Scientist, had then inquired whether I had written about MN Roy. I had by then written, briefly, some pages about MN Roy’s views on political structures, economic theories as also about his views on  religion, philosophy, science and their inter relations. But, I had not written much either about his life-events or about his intellectual life; especially,  about the later part of his life. However, the thoughts about MN Roy had been floating around in my mind whenever questions on history, religion, democracy etc; and, particularly those about Humanism came up in one context or the other.

*

I was drawn to MN Roy as he was a multifaceted personality: a revolutionary, political activist and theoretician and a philosopher-thinker whose sphere of influence spread beyond India into far distant lands. I was fascinated by his thoughts on the relationships, as he saw, between philosophy and religion; philosophy and science.

The task of philosophy , according to him is not merely “to know things as they are and to find the common origin of the diverse phenomena of nature and, nature itself; to understand Man and his Universe…To explain existence as a whole”; “but, more importantly, it is its power or the force to change  and  reform  the world we live in, for a much better place where  all  can live with  freedom and dignity”.

This was in contrast to the Indian perception of philosophy as a means to attain  liberation  from the earthly coils which hold back Man from his true destiny .

As regards Religion, Roy thought that “Faith in the super-natural does not permit true understanding of the nature of the Universe. Therefore, rejection of orthodox religious ideas and theological dogmas is an essential precondition for philosophy”. He was highly appreciative of democratic and egalitarian character of Islam and Islamic teachings. However, when he lauded the role of Islam, I wonder, had been alive today whether he would have continued to hold such views.

Roy grasped the intimate relationship between science and philosophy. With the ascendancy of science, he said, philosophy can now exist only as ‘the science of sciences — a systematic coordination, a synthesis of all positive knowledge’.

I realize I do not have much time left ahead of me. Before it is too late, let me dwell briefly on one of our forgotten heroes who I wish had lived a little longer and been little more active in his later life. Perhaps his active and involved presence could have brought sanity, in some measure, into the course of events that overtook India and Bengal in particular. On Roy’s death (Jan 25, 1954), the Socialist Leader Jayaprakash Narayan (11 October 1902 – 8 October 1979) wrote: Roy was perhaps never more needed than just when he died.

I propose to write a series of articles touching , in main, upon his early life adventurous events, his  busy career in Mexico , USSR and China as a Marxist  intellect and theoretician ; his contacts with the other leftist intellectuals while wandering adrift in the west;  his association with the western women engaged in  Leftist movement and the freedom movement of India; his involvement in developing and guiding the communist , trade union and peasant movements in India;  his attempts to indirectly influence the Freedom movement in India  and the economic programs of  the Indian National Congress; and,  his prison years followed by  his political  career in Indian National Congress.  I would also try to discuss his ideas on politics, philosophy, religion, history and science, as reflected in the vast body of his works.

[ I have tried to use the life-story of MN Roy as a sort of thread to talk about the series of changes or developments that overtook India, ranging over diverse phases of extreme nationalism; socialism; colonial rule; and parliamentary democracy. Roy’s life-events also help to chronicle the national movement for freedom of India, sphere-headed by the Indian National Congress but involving number of other parties and groups operating from within and outside India; as also   the birth, development and decay of communism in India . Roy’s concern for the Post-Independence India away from the steamrolling Communist dictatorship and away from the corrupt parliamentary system of party politics ; and, his Plans  for  Economic  Development  of  India and the Draft  Constitution  of  Free  India ; his vision for a party-less , country-wide network of Peoples’ Committees having wide powers such as initiating legislation, expressing opinions on pending Bills, recalling representatives and referendum on important national issues etc are truly interesting and very relevant to the times we live-in. They indeed could serve as pointers to our future world-view. ]

I trust this will find at least a handful of avid readers.

Blackmoon

Compared to Sankrityayana, Roy led a more varied and a more adventurous life. He started as a starry-eyed nationalist revolutionary believing in violence (in the present-day terms, ‘a terrorist’) wandering across the Far East in search of German arms and fund to fight the British in India. That search for German arms led Roy on to the West coast of the United States of America where he came in contact with Socialists and also the theories of Karl Marx.

But, it was in Mexico that Roy underwent a thorough transformation from a conservative nationalist to cosmopolitan Communist believing staunchly in the Marxist doctrine. Roy soon emerged as an acknowledged authority on Marxian doctrine. And, he worked closely with the esteemed international leaders of the Bolshevik movement and Communist Party at its highest level , such as Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky , Bukharin , Borodin and  others , who later became legendary figures. While in the company of the elite of the International communist movement, Roy was closely associated in drafting its policies and its working.

Roy became the founder member of the Communist Party of India in 1920 at Tashkent; and, was also the Chief Adviser of the Communist Party of China. He, earlier to that, had come in contact with Dr. Sun Yat Sen , Chiang Kai Shek  and Ho Chin min (who was , at one time, a student of Roy at Moscow)  and later with  Mao Tse-tung.

After the exit of his mentor, Lenin, Roy was sidelined in the Communist party following his disagreements with Joseph Stalin, the dictator of the USSR. Roy was further distraught and dismayed as Stalin went on to systematically liquidate the old-guards of the Bolshevik movement and his comrades in the Party, one after the other. He was particularly saddened by the expulsion and execution of Bukharin,  considered as the brain behind Lenin. Roy wrote articles in the German Communist–Opposition-leader Thalheimer‘s journal criticizing Russia’s foreign policy, which angered the Stalin group. And, Roy was promptly expelled from the Party.

Roy returned to India in 1930 (after about fifteen years) knowing full well of the grave risks it involved. He was arrested and thrown into prison for six years on the charges that were framed against him in 1924, while he was away from India.  After release from Jail, Roy became a member of the Indian National Congress; and worked closely with Nehru, Subash Bose, JP Narayan and other leaders. And, he also had differences with Gandhi and the right-wing of Congress. 

During those four years in Congress, Roy tried to radicalize the Congress; and, turn it into a United Front or a common platform for all shades and sections of the Indian politics, coming together in the struggle for attaining political and economic Independence of India. He, of course, failed thoroughly. And, finally, he was asked to resign from Congress. Disillusioned with traditional politics, Roy turned into a political philosopher.

The later years of his life brought about his transition from one who believed in Marxism to the one who advocated ‘integral scientific humanism’ ; and , then he went on to formulate Radical Democracy, which he put forth as the guiding philosophy of decentralized ‘radical democracy’ that could serve as an alternative to parliamentary democracy, after rejecting both communism and capitalism .

The Radical Democracy as conceived by Roy is a highly decentralized system of democracy based on net-work of groups of people through which citizens wield an effective democratic control over the State.

And then came his New Humanism or Radical Humanism; it is radical because it rejected many of the traditional political and philosophical assumptions, and its ‘humanism’ is because of its focus entirely on the needs and situation of human beings. The Radical Humanism which is neither materialism, nor idealism, but a scientific philosophy, insisting upon the freedom of the individual brought in a new dimension to political philosophy.

As Kanta Katatia explains in  M N Roy’s  conception of New Humanism :

Humanism is derived from the Latin word Humanus, meaning a system of thought concerned with human affairs in general . Humanism is an attitude which attaches primary importance to Man and his faculties, affairs and aspirations . Humanism had to pass through a process of development and change , but its main idea was that Man must remain the supreme being. Humanism means respect for man as Man and not only because of his individual achievements. The essence of Humanism is the importance placed on human being , the individual as the center of all aspirations of  human activities. And, there should no dogmatic authority over life and thought.

Humanism must be an ethical philosophy. It must insist that Man alone is responsible for what he is. Human values in the last analysis must be human; and must keep pace with the growth of Man , his knowledge about nature and  himself .

The critics of Humanism maintain that it is a kind of Utopia. But, Roy insists it is not an abstract philosophy or theory;  but,  is a set of principles which are relevant to all aspects of human life  including the social existence. It is not a closed system; but it grows and evolves with development of human knowledge and with Man’s experiences in life.

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Roy’s ideas , just as the traditions of India, are a series of changes with continuity. India had always prominently figured in every phase of Roy’s revolutionary, political and intellectual life, no matter whether he was in India or outside of it or even in prison. In order to understand Roy’s mature phase of thought concerning humanism etc., it might be necessary to learn of the nature and evolution of his earlier ideas.

At least four phases of Roy’s life and thoughts may be seen distinctly.

The first of these began at the turn of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century, with Roy as a young terrorist inspired by patriotic zeal under the guidance of his hero Jatin Mukherjee. That phase ended with his conversion to Marxism in 1919 under the tutelage of Mikhail Markovich Borodin when the two came together in Mexico.

The second phase of his life and thinking covers his eminent career in the Communist Party (1919-1929) . That phase began in Mexico and ended with his expulsion from the Communist Party in December 1929.

The third phase began with his return to India in 1930 and his imprisonment for six years commencing from 1931; his brief flirtation with Indian National Congress for four years ( 1936-1940) ; and his subsequent formation of the Radical Democratic Party (RDP) as an alternative to Congress and the Communist Parties.

The final phase of his life, till his death in 1954, was that of a philosopher expounding principles of Humanism and launching the Humanist Movement.

Ellen Roy (MN Roy’s wife) explained:

It should not be thought that the phases mentioned above were sharply separated from one another or that there were any violent mutations in life.  Rather, they led logically and naturally from one to another; and were but stages in a process of organic growth and development. Roy never disowned his past; and to the end he acknowledged Jatin Mukherjee and Karl Marx as his guides and mentors – next in importance only to the greatest mentor of all, life itself

Ever testing his thoughts in the light of his experiences and chastening his experiences in the crucible of reason ,  he moved from terrorism to virulent Nationalism to Marxism and Communism , then on to Radical Humanism ; he moved from formal democracy to humanist democracy in action; from internationalism to cosmopolitanism . He blazed a new trial for those yet to tread the long path.

Freedom for Roy was a huge concept. He did not equate freedom either with national Independence or with cession of oppression. It was a progressive disappearance of all that binds an individual and restricts his innate immense potential as a human being”.

In the wealth of experiences that went into shaping his thoughts and outlook later in his life, he was truly unique; and, in one lifetime he lived the lives of many, spread across three continents and a dozen countries. Although these stages are distinctly marked, they run along a continuum like a thread, in the organic growth of his thought process.

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Throughout his life Roy had pursued the quest for human freedom. He wrote:

“when as a schoolboy of about fourteen I began my political life, which may end in nothing. I always wanted to be free. In those days we had not read of Marx; we did not know the meaning of proletariat; we were not aware of class struggle; nor were we intent on realizing an ism. And still, there was a vague desire or hunger for freedom; and an urge to revolt against the intolerable conditions of life. We did not know exactly how the conditions could be changed. I began my life with that dream and spirit; and I still draw my inspiration from that spirit, in search of that elusive freedom many spent years in jail and went to gallows,  than from the three volumes Capital or the three hundred volumes of the Marxists”( New Orientation, 1946 , p.183)

Roy took to Marxism because it appeared to be the right philosophy that could change the world for better.  To Roy, Marxism appealed as a more convincing explanation for his innate desire for freedom. The driving force of his Marxism was his Humanism. Freedom for him was not an abstract ideal but something that has to be lived and experienced by each individual.

While in the Comintern, Roy learnt and witnessed that Marxism in theory was quite different from Marxism in practice. Roy could not agree with a system that survives and thrives on oppression, under a dictatorship in the grab of democracy – as was the case in Russia under Stalin. He could not compromise with the new developments in the Stalin era, which degenerated into an instrument of enslavement of Man. And, that marked his breakaway from Communism as it was then practiced in Russia.

Roy returned to India, to participate , directly , in the Indian National movement. Soon after he landed in India, Roy was imprisoned for almost six years. The prison experience had a most profound impact upon his thoughts. Just as Aurobindo, Nehru and Philip Spratt;  during his isolation in the prison , Roy also had ’ all his sensitivity in a continuous state of tension’ ; and, experienced the effect of a ‘psychological hothouse’,  where one tends to overwhelmingly brood , leading to ‘  concentration of emotion upon itself’. Roy’s deep introspection led him to different modes and forms of thoughts.

Roy did not experience a ‘mystical revelation’’ as did Sri Aurobindo; yet, he was a different person after release from prison. There was a marked change in Roy’s thought, personality and general approach to life.

After his release, he began to discover the limitations of Marxism; and, the needs to ‘revise certain fundamental conceptions of classical Materialism’. He began to ponder over application of Marxism with special reference to India: ‘the modern Marxist cannot literally follow the line predicted by Marx. We cannot say that developments in India must necessarily follow the same line as Marx predicted for European developments’.

Roy came to believe that India needs a philosophical revolution; and, that without a philosophical revolution, no social revolution is possible. That was a clear departure from Marxism. He recognized the present predicament of modern society as a moral crisis that desperately needs a complete reorientation of social philosophy and political theories. He was convinced what India needed for its full and healthy development was a Party-less system with abiding values of humanity; and, moved by the ideal of human freedom.  Freedom , according to him, was the ultimate reality in human life; it defines and qualifies every other human experience.  “Call this an idealistic deviation, if you please” he said “I would plead guilty to the charge”.

In the subsequent elaboration of his idea of freedom, he projected it as a sort of spiritual freedom — the ultimate value of radical humanism and the key motivating force of human actions.

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When he was in the Indian National Congress, he was disappointed to discover that it  hardly was a democratic body. The right-wing of the Congress led by Gandhi throttled every other shade of view and opinion. Roy disagreed with Gandhi on several fundamental issues. Gandhi advised his followers to completely ignore Roy as if he did not exist politically; for, Roy appeared to him too dangerous a man even to be criticized. And, when Roy tried to push through his radical ideas, Gandhi bitingly advised him to stay out of Indian politics, and just “render mute service to the cause of Indian freedom.” Roy’s views were turned down every time; and, eventually he was asked to resign from the Party.

Roy’s main critique of Gandhi , as a leader of Congress  , was that he and his inner circle imposed their tactics from above on the rank and file; and, that they had turned Congress Working Committee  into  an “authoritarian dictatorial” ‘High-Command’ of Gandhi’s handpicked followers . Roy found it akin to the inner working coterie of the Comintern. Roy kept asking: Why is it that Gandhi did not like to consult people outside his circle, even when intellectuals including his friends advised him to do so?  Why did Gandhi summarily reject such advice?

Roy also could not appreciate Gandhi’s views on celibacy (Brahmacharya), shunning alcohol, and advocating total non-violence.  Gandhi’s stand on un-touchability, according to Roy, was also suspect (this was also the view of Dr. Ambedkar). Roy remarked that sermons might have some propaganda value; but beyond that they hardy were of any use. Roy pointed out that Gandhi’s programs of similar nature were, basically, verbal, couched in sentiments rather than effective programs involving masses and appealing to their immediate interests.

As regards untouchability, what was required, he said, was ‘constant campaign coupled with modes and changes in personal relationships by challenging unhealthy prejudices’.

He was also against Gandhi’s insistence of compulsory Charka (home-spun) movement. Roy pointed out that ‘sentiments can keep a movement going for a certain limited length of time, but it cannot last longer unless fed with more substantial factors’. Gandhi’s Charka movement, Roy observed, was based on hollow economic logic; it was not economically viable; and , therefore Charka’s fate was sealed.  

Roy also did not agree with Gandhi’s theory of ‘Trusteeship’; he said, it was neither realistic nor practical. Capitalism, he said, will not collapse because of the sentiments; but, will fall because of its own contradictions.

He attached greater importance to individual and his liberty. He envisaged a system of governance in which the individual citizen would exercise effective control over the people‘s representatives controlling the machinery of the state.

Roy rejected both Communism and capitalism; and, put forth a philosophy of decentralized Radical Democracy as an alternative to Parliamentary Democracy. He also rejected both the state ownership as well as unbridled capitalism, as being destructive to democracy. He believed that economic democracy would be suffocated if there is no political democracy. The truly democratic economic order can only be built around the principle of co-operation where there is also the participation of workers as co-owners

He said: “the defects of a parliamentary democracy result from uncontrolled delegation of power. To make the democracy effective and functional , the real power must always vest in the people ; and there must be ways and means for the people to wield their power not once in a five years or periodically but on a day to basis” (New Humanism p.55)

Roy’s most important prediction was that the Parliamentary form of Democracy in India would breed corruption. His lecture to the University Institute in Calcutta on February 5, 1950 warned of this.

“The future of Indian democracy is not very bright, and that is not due to the evil intentions on the part of politicians, but rather the system of party politics. Perhaps in another Ten years, demagogy will vitiate political practice. The scramble for power will continue, breeding corruption, caste-ism and inefficiency. People engaged in politics cannot take a long view. Laying foundations is a long process for them; they want a short-cut. The short-cut to power is always to make greater promises than others, to promise things without the competence or even the intention to implement them.”

In another lecture on January 30, 1947, also at Calcutta, Roy had said:

“When political power is concentrated in the hands of a small community, you may have a facade of parliamentary democracy, but for all political purposes it will be a dictatorship, even if it may be paternal and benevolent.”

“To make democracy effective power must always remain invested in the people – not periodically, but from day to day. Atomized individuals are powerless for all practical purposes”

At the same time , he was cautious and conceded that  it was too early for the Indian common men to understand the meaning and value of participatory democracy propagated by him  because they were  ’ seeped in the feudal tradition of monarchic hierarchy as well as in the customs of a religious patriarchal society’.

Roy advanced the idea of a new social order based on direct participation of the people through People’s Committees and Gram Sabhas. Its culture would be based in minimum control and maximum scope for scientific and creative activities. The new society of India that Roy envisioned was a democratic, political, economic, as well as cultural, entity with the freedom of the individual as its core.

Roy, thus, envisaged formation of people’s local cooperative organizations as the nuclei of a new system of economy. He was convinced of the innate goodness and dignity of man.

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MN Roy was perhaps among the earliest few to realize the dangers of Marxism on one side and the inadequacies of Parliamentary Democracy on the other. He recognized the need for a new kind of socio-economic philosophy, a practical-theory of life (not speculation) that is guided by humanism which would re-organize social life. By humanism he meant respect for man as Man; and, essentially, where the individual is at the center of all spheres of human activities (unlike in Marxism). 

Marx had said that a good society is necessary to have good individuals. Roy, on the other hand, asserted ’it is important to have good individuals to have a good society’.  His main concern, as he said, was freedom for himself and for all others. His dream was’ to make every Indian realize her/his human dignity and make her/his own destiny’.   And for that, he said, they will have to give up many of the traditional beliefs that tie them down; but, to develop a ‘liberating philosophy of life’.

MN Roy maintained that a philosophical revolution must precede a social revolution. Although his critics pointed out that his New Humanism was ethereal and Utopian, he asserted that it was a flexible philosophical structure that has relevance to all branches of human life and existence.

In 1944, Roy and his associates had drafted, with great dedication and hard work , two basic documents, namely, People’ s  Plan  for  Economic  Development  of  India and the Draft  Constitution  of  Free  India. These documents contained Roy’s original contributions to the solution of the country’s economic and political problems.

In the Draft Constitution that Roy proposed, the Indian State was to be organized on the basis of country-wide network of Peoples’ Committees having wide powers such as initiating legislations, expressing opinions on pending Bills, recalling representatives and referendum on important national issues.

He strongly believed that the greatest good of the greatest number can be attained only when members of the government are accountable in the first place to their respective conscience . He , therefore, urged for direct elections for the post of State Governors. He advocated election to be held on non-party basis to form Constituent Assembly, which would frame the constitution of Independent India on a federal basis.  He had also built in safety measures , like fixing accountability on the elected representatives; and the power to re-call the erring such elected members. But, his Draft Constitution for Free India was conveniently assigned to the dustbin.

He paid a heavy price, without regret or rancor, for his uncompromising stand on various social,   national and international problems. He remained something of an enigma even in the Leftist political history. Although he had fought for India’s independence, in his own manner, his contribution was never recognized. He was sidelined even by his former colleagues and mates.  He came to be viewed more as a critic than as a constructive partner. It was pointed out that he analyzed various elements of thought in great detail; but, at the end, failed to come up with an integrated system or plan that would work.

The sort of Independence that India gained and the truncated look of ‘free-India’ , sliced into pieces based on religion, sorely disappointed Roy. He was hurt disillusioned and isolated. His political activity came to an end as India crawled towards freedom in the dead of a dark night.

Roy is said to have remarked: I am not quite satisfied any longer with political activities. I can now do other work according to my inclinations…I feel my leaving the party will be good for me and to the party.

His later years were spent in writing series of Books on various political and social issues as also on the events in Marxist history.  These writings show that Roy was not satisfied with a primarily economic explanation of historical processes. He studied and tried to assess the role of cultural and ideological factors in traditional and contemporary India. Roy tried to reformulate materialism in the light of latest developments in the physical and biological sciences. He was convinced that without the growth and development of a materialist and rationalist outlook in India, neither a renaissance nor a democratic revolution would be possible. He attempted his Memoir; but , could not complete it. He became engaged in educating the young and in spreading the message of New Humanism across the world.

And, towards the end of his life, Roy  grew rather indifferent to either fame or success. The long years of self-exile stretching over fifteen years followed by incarceration for six years had distanced him from the ground realities of the volatile India, which  through its varied conflicting ways was struggling to assert itself. He was isolated in more than one sense.

The reasons for his isolation could be many. He was away from India for about fifteen years; and, thereafter , was behind bars for six years. During these long years, Roy had lost direct contact with the ordinary people of India. He communicated with his followers through his writings.  And, in the political circumstances of his period, his ideas went beyond a certain class of people and did not percolate to the masses. The language of his ideas and theories was such that it would not appeal to common man.

Another reason could be that, in India, he did not enjoy the benefit of support from any major political party or group. Though he was in the Indian National Congress for a period of four years, he could not get on well with its leaders (Gandhi in particular); and, could not agree with  its approach to major problems and issues ( such as the support or otherwise to the British during the second War). As regards the Communist Party with which he was associated closely for a considerable period, he no longer had any association with it after he was expelled from the Party in 1929. And, the Indian communist party under the aegis of Joseph Stalin was markedly hostile to him. As regards the other socialist groups they were scattered and ill organized; and, had no effective leadership.

In the later years, MN Roy did not remain a man of action. He was  engaged in writing and developing streams of thoughts on politics, history, social development,  modern crisis in human affairs, science, economics , schemes for world peace and organization and such other subjects.

He also did not get an opportunity to put his ideas into practice. Since his later theories of humanism and individual freedom seemed to be tinged with idealism, many including the political activists took it as rather utopian or simply daydreaming.

Ho Chi Minh , who was at one time Roy’s student in Moscow, successfully put into practice Roy’s theory of turning the national struggle into a social revolution, with the Communist Party in the lead. And, that was exactly the kind of movement in India , and the kind relationship between the Indian National movement and the Indian National Congress that Roy had been advocating all along. Ho Chi Minh got the opportunity and Roy did not. And , that made all the difference ]

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M N Roy the person who always looked ahead did not fail to foresee his own bleak future. He had admitted long before, that he was practically doomed to fail, because he was ‘politically isolated’ in India. He had, however, the conviction that his isolation was indeed the isolation of pioneers, which might not be pleasant but ‘historically necessary’. Roy exhorted his followers to have ‘the courage of pioneering’. Like Sri Aurobindo who was an extremist in politics and later chose to be a philosopher; Roy too seemed to have lost interest in traditional politics; and , with the dawn of Independence he emerged wholly as a political philosopher.

While Roy and his wife Ellen were resting in the hill station of Mussoorie, Roy met with a serious accident on June 11 1952. He fell fifty feet down while walking along a hill track. He was moved to Dehra Dun for treatment. On the 25th of August, he had an attack of cerebral thrombosis resulting in a partial paralysis of the right side. The accident prevented the Roys’ from attending the inaugural congress of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) , which was held in August 1952 at Amsterdam. The congress, however, elected M.N. Roy, in absentia, as one of its Vice-Presidents and made the Indian Radical Humanist Movement one of the founder members of the IHEU.

On August 15 1953, Roy had the second attack of cerebral thrombosis, which paralyzed the left side of his body. Roy’s last article dictated to Ellen Roy for the periodical Radical Humanist was about the nature and organization of the Radical Humanist Movement. This article was published in the Radical Humanist on 24 January 1954. On January 25 1954, ten minutes before midnight, M.N. Roy died of a heart attack. He was nearly 67 at that time.

The Amrita Bazaar Patrika in its obituary described him as the ‘lonely lion who roamed about the wilderness called the world’.

Roy was not a successful person in the ordinary sense of the term, as Samaren Roy writes, by the time he died in January 1954, he was a forgotten man , sitting alone at the edge ; and , looking into the unknown.

Brink

About twenty years after the demise of M N Roy, that is in 1974, the Socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan tried to revive ideas outlined in Roy’s Draft Constitution of Free India . Narayan  in his program of ‘Total Revolution’   talked of forming ‘People’s Committees’ at the grass-root level, giving them power to legislate, opine and vote on issues of personal and national importance as well as to recall the erring members of legislatures, thus, tempering political parties. Though he could arouse the curiosity of the youth and generate some debate, Narayan could not win the Election. The power politics of Congress took charge again.

Roy and Narayan had somewhat similar political background. Both had at one time affinity with Communism; and both had later rejected Communism and Nationalism. For them, Marxism remained an ideal; but, one that was not practiced in its purity anywhere in the world.  Both tried to overcome in their revised programs the noteworthy defects of Marxism in theory and in practice. Following that, both had a short association with the Indian National Congress. And, both were sorely  disappointed with its lack of internal democracy and a broad vision for the future ;  and, when they tried to put forward their views , they were virtually driven out of the party. 

Both Roy and Narayan placed the individual and his freedom at the core of their programs. But, the emphasis of each differed.

While Narayan’s concept of Radical Democracy revolved around popular movements of the Communities at the grass-roots level, Roy’s concept rested on individuals at grass-roots politics.

The experts point out that each of those programs, by itself, is incomplete. And, both their programs do not give adequate credit to the crucial and un-avoidable role of the State. And both placed undue or excessive faith in the persuasive force of moral and intellectual elite; and, therefore, have an amorphous or nebulous unrealistic air about them.  Both seemed to have taken for granted the liberal notions of equality and liberty.

Though the Radical Humanism and Total Revolution were well meant, rising idealistic visions of the importance of the individual , they could not stand up to the challenges of the powerful Party  politics of the Present-day India. Total Revolution and Radical Humanism were very quickly cast aside. That is very sad.

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[Jayaprakash Narayan (1902-1979) returned to India from the US, in late 1929 as a Marxist. And soon after that, he joined the Indian National Congress at the invitation of Jawaharlal Nehru. Mahatma Gandhi became his mentor in the Congress. During the Indian independence movement he was arrested and jailed several times, particularly during the Quit India movement of 1942. Upon release, he took a leading part in the formation of the Congress Socialist Party, a left-wing group within the Congress Party. In 1946, he tried to persuade the Congress leaders to adopt a more militant policy against British rule.

After independence, Pundit Nehru offered Jayaprakash Narayan the post of a minister in the Union Cabinet; but, he refused the offer preferring to walk along the socialist path of nation-building.

In 1948, Jayaprakash Narayan, together with most of the Congress Socialists, left the Congress Party; and, in 1952 formed the Praja Socialist Party (PSP). But again, he became dissatisfied with party politics; and, announced in 1954 that he would thenceforth devote his life exclusively to the Bhoodan Yajna Movement, founded by Acharya Vinoba Bhave, which aimed to distribute land gifted by the rich among the landless.

In 1959, Jayaprakash Narayan, following the idealism of M N Roy, in an attempt to find an alternative to the modem state, argued for a ‘reconstruction of Indian polity’ as a ‘party-less democracy,’ with decentralization of power, village autonomy and a more representative legislature, by means of a four-tier hierarchy of village, district, state, and union councils. He advocated a program of social transformation which he termed Sampoorna kraanti,’ total revolution’.

In the mid1970s, he led a student -movement   against government corruption in Bihar. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi promptly branded Narayan a reactionary fascist. And, after the Allahabad High Court found Indira Gandhi guilty of violating electoral laws, Narayan called upon her to resign. Instead, Gandhi, immediately, proclaimed a National Emergency on the midnight of 25 June 1975. Narayan, the 600 other opposition leaders, and dissenting members of her own party (the ‘Young Turks’) were arrested that day.

Narayan was detained at Chandigarh Jail even after he asked for one month parole to mobilise relief in flooded parts of Bihar. After five months in prison, his health broke down; and, suddenly deteriorated on 24 October 1975, and he was released on 12 November 1975.  The diagnosis at Jaslok Hospital, Bombay, revealed kidney failure; he would be on dialysis for the rest of his life. He never regained his health.

In 1977, Narayan led united opposition forces; and, Indira Gandhi was defeated in that very crucial election. Then, Narayan advised the victorious Janata party in its choice of leaders to head the new administration.

Jayaprakash Narayan popularly referred to as JP or Lok Nayak succumbed to the ill effects of diabetes and of heart ailments; and, died   in Patna, Bihar, on 8 October 1979, three days before his 78th birthday.]

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Beginning with the Next Part, let’s look into the life-events of M N Roy; and at the end let’s get to learn about his philosophical thoughts.

Let’s start with his Early Years, in Part Two.

17th MySt MN Roy (1)

 

Continued

In

Part Two

Sources and References

  1. M N Roy by V B Karnik
  2. M N Roy – A Political Biography by Samaren Roy
  3. The Political Thoughts of M N Roy by KS Bharathi
  4. Marxism and Beyond in Indian political thought: J. P. Narayan and m. N. Roy’s concepts of radical democracy by Eva-Maria Nag

http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/1709/1/U183143.pdf

  1. M N Roy’s New Humanism and Materialism by Ramendra Nath
  2. M N Roy’s conception of New Humanism by Kanta Katatia
  3. Many pages of Wikipedia

Illustrations are taken from Internet

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2016 in M N Roy

 

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