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MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts – Part 21

 

Continued from Part 20

Out of  Congress

 Nehru Faizpur session of Congress Dec 1936

The Fiftieth (50th) Session of the Indian National Congress was held on 27 and 28 December 1936 at Faizpur, a village on the outskirts of Yawal Taluka of Jalgaon District of Bombay Presidency (Maharashtra). It was, here, for the first time that Congress held its Annual Session in a backward rural setting. A large number of peasants participated in the session. The Faizpur Session was important for the Congress which had been raising demands for the welfare of the peasants and struggled for them.  The Faizpur Session was also important because it was presided over by Jawaharlal Nehru who was at his peak of influence in the Congress.

December 1936  Nehru, president of the Indian National Congres

Jawaharlal Nehru’s Presidential address delivered on December 26th, 1936 began with greetings to the Comrades in prison:To our comrades in prison or in detention we send greetings. Their travail continues and it grows, and only recently we have heard with horror of the suicide of three detenues who found life intolerable for them in the fair province of Bengal whose young men and women in such large numbers live in internment without end. We have an analogy elsewhere, in Nazi Germany, where concentration camps flourish and suicides are not uncommon.”

Then welcoming M N Roy into the Congress Party, greeted him as ‘Comrade Roy ‘as one of the bravest and ablest sons of the present generation’: … one who, though young, is an old and well-tried soldier in India’s fight for freedom. Comrade M.N. Roy has just come to us after a long and most distressing period in prison, but though shaken up in body, he comes with a fresh mind and heart, eager to take part in that old struggle that knows no end till it ends in success.

Roy in response called upon all sections and segments of the political  forces including Communists , trade unions, Kisan Sabhas and youth organizations to join Congress and build it up into a strong United Front against imperialism and for attaining India’s independence.  He also spoke about his idea of a Constituent Assembly of India with a view to ultimately capture of power.

***

A new period in Roy’s political life began with his joining the Indian National Congress in 1936. It was during this period that he directly tried to radicalise the Congress. He set aside his earlier idea of infiltration through proxy groups. He also was against the separatist tendencies of the CSP, the Kisan Sabhas, labour unions and Student Organizations. He wanted all those to come under the banner of Congress, sharing a common platform and presenting an United Front.

But, Roy wanted to the Congress not to be completely swayed away by the influence of Gandhi and of the bourgeois .The Congress, according to him, was a mass nationalist movement. It was not the party of any particular class.

He resisted attempts of the Left-forces to create an organization of the working class and revolutionary elements independent of the Congress. It would have weakened the Congress and gone against the ideology of an United Front.

Roy also opposed the formation of the Socialist Party within the Congress, because that would prevent the Socialist Party from accepting alternatives and would have to necessarily toe Gandhi’s rightist national policies. By remaining within the Congress he argued the Socialist would lose their independence; and also would cease to be effective. And, in case they attempt to oppose Gandhi rather too strongly, they would be thrown out of Congress. That would bring about a divide between the Congress and supporters Socialism, and eventually weaken Congress.

But, Roy’s attempts to unify and to radicalise the Congress did not succeed much because of the disunity among the radical elements. In addition, Gandhi wielded a very strong influence over the majority in congress; and Nehru despite his socialist leaning would always, eventually, abide by Gandhi. Roy could never achieve a break through. The right-wing followers of Gandhi did not relish Roy’s remarks about Gandhi’s leadership; and continued to distrust and looked at him with suspicion.

**

Nehru  Lu cknow session Congress April 1936

During the period of four years in Congress, Roy looked forward to Nehru for stepping up the process of radicalization in the Congress. Roy had to initiate and carry out his programs through Nehru. Roy and Nehru were perhaps two prominent political leaders who imbibed western values. And, Roy therefore was more comfortable in communicating with Nehru.

Nehru had certain advantages which Roy did not have. Nehru had charismatic personality and had a charming way of dealing with people. He was the top and up-coming leader of the Party. And, it was common knowledge that he was very close to Gandhi and enjoyed his confidence. And, Nehru was gifted with political sense, acumen and pragmatism.

Gandhi, Nehru and Jayaprakash Narayan and other leaders because of their popularity among the masses were able to capture the imagination of the people.

**

Unlike Nehru, Roy was not a thoroughbred politician. Roy usually went by logic and stated his conclusions to which the arguments led him, without mincing words. Philip Spratt said: Roy undoubtedly was a very astute political thinker; even his opponents recognized that merit of his. However, Spratt felt that Roy wrote for a limited circle which understood his style of thought and his background of ideas, and did not seem concerned about communicating more widely.

For instance; Roy looked at India and more particularly the Indian economy in the context of the world situation. The Right-wing Congress believed that Indian is unique and that foreign and western ideas do not apply to India. Roy had been saying even as early as in 1924, after the effects of the First War became evident, when the British exports to India had fallen to zero level, that in due course a peaceful transfer of political power to Indian hands would take place—not through the magic of ‘soul force’, nor out of the democratic convictions of the British ruling class, but by virtue of a shift of economic power.

He saw a similar situation emerging before and during the Second World War when Churchill became Prime Minister. Roy therefore advised that it would be in India’s interest to adopt a ‘responsible attitude towards War’. Roy felt that the Congress opposition to the war was not principled opposition but was assort of ‘hedging’, trying to be safe in the event of Nazi victory. Roy argued that fascism was most dangerous; and it would be in India’s interest to support British war-efforts.

Roy exhorted his colleagues to prepare for the economic and political reconstruction of independent India. He brought out two documents: ‘People’s plan for reconstruction of independent India’, and ‘A draft Constitution for free India’. Then he predicted that in spite of the pact between Hitler and Soviet Russia, the latter would be drawn into the war. And, it will have its consequences in India.

These and such other ideas of Roy were not palatable to majority in Congress, who looked at him with mistrust.

Dislike of Roy in Congress was also rooted in factors other than ideas.

There was a general belief that there was no future for him in the Congress since he disagreed with Gandhi on certain fundamental issues. And, the rumour that Gandhi had asked the right-wing members to ignore Roy politically was going round as a part of the Party gossip. The majority in Congress loved to believe that Gandhi could never make a mistake; and that Roy could never be correct in his criticism of Gandhi and Gandhism. Perhaps, the truth was  somewhere in between.

Further, Roy was alienated not only by the Congress leaders but also by the Left wing Socialist group of CSP and by the followers of Bose. As regards the communists, they were openly hostile to Roy. And, therefore, Roy in Congress was rather lonely.

During his later years, Roy’s isolation in Congress became more acute. Roy somehow always seemed to be championing unpopular and rather ‘heretic’ causes. He came to be branded as a dissenter from established ‘Congress principles’. Roy because of his views that ran counter to the current popular opinions had to face endless humiliation. Identified with British War efforts, Roy’s anti-Fascism was seen as a treachery by the national leaders and also by the middle –class educated who had strong anti-British feelings. Subhas Bose became a Hero when he led the Indian National Army (INA). But, Roy had to eventually leave Congress, in disillusionment.

Subash Bose INA

Even otherwise, Roy did not have much support from the Congress Organization as such. For Instance:

Anxious to resume political activities and to re-organize his followers, Roy decided to bring out a weekly journal called The Independent India , which was to be an organ of the ‘radical democratic national thought’. In his eagerness to promote the cause of national freedom, Roy felt the urgency of ‘democratising the Congress’ in order to broaden and deepen the social basis of the Congress as a national organization. The key note of his ideal was national freedom which could be attained ‘only through a democratic revolution’

This, of course, could not be a popular idea with the majority right-wing members of Congress.

To make it worse for right-wing, Roy added the idea that Cultural Revolution should precede a political revolution. Thus, his political program included an element which was designed to teach the people that essence of freedom was transformation of the Indian society which would quicken the ‘play of economic and cultural forces and thereby mark the renaissance of India’.

Roy wrote to several Congress leaders seeking financial help for his weekly journal. Gandhi, who obviously was against the ideal of Roy’s proposed journal, refused help. Instead, advised Roy not to take up such an activity for the present. He asked Roy to go around the country and to study it for some time; the reason being that Roy had still much to learn. Roy didn’t quite like the suggestion. But, Nehru too lent a similar advice asking Roy not to dig himself into any particular region, but to remain as an All-India figure. But Roy had decided to concentrate on United Provinces as his field of intensive work.

In April 1937, his weekly Independent India finally appeared and was welcomed by progressive leaders like Bose and Nehru. But, Gandhi, of course, didn’t like it at all.  And, the Indian Communists accused Roy of deviation.

**

Bose With Mr. & Mrs. M.N. Roy, 1938

Around this time, Ellen Gottschalk the devoted friend and lover of Roy joined Roy in India; and, soon thereafter they were married.  Roy and Ellen settled down in their house at No 13, Mohini Road, Dehra Dun. Ellen lived in that house even after the passing away of Roy (1954) till her last days in 1960. She also became a member of the Indian National Congress.

Roy and Ellen in Congress Party0004

With her arrival and with her support, Roy renewed his efforts to establish direct contact with the trade unions; and, to motivate the student groups to develop  a rational scientific outlook. Roy was one among the few, in those days, to stress upon the need for philosophical revolution. During this period, he published number of books , including his Fascism; Historical Role of Islam; Our Problems ; and, Letters to CSP.

***

Despite his disadvantaged position, Roy did try to put through his ideas, mainly through Nehru.

: – Nehru, under the influence of Roy, opposed collective affiliation of the workers and peasants organizations as proposed by the socialists. This was in line with Roy’s argument that there was no need for class organizations inside the Congress and the leftists should enter the Congress party only as individual members.

: – At the Faizpur Session of the Congress (1936) Roy suggested through Nehru a large number of resolutions for the welfare of peasants. These included demands for: fifty-percent reduction in land revenue; deferment of recovery of agricultural loans; fixing of adequate minimum wages for agricultural labor; and no new taxes in agriculture.

:- Roy tried to introduce a new method of turning Congress into a Constituent Assembly, following the pattern of French Revolution , and ultimately developing the Congress as a state within a state in order to capture power. After the Faizapur Congress (1936) where Roy had elaborated the idea, it gradually percolated to the ranks of the Congress to a limited extent. The Congress launched the Election campaign and in its manifesto the top thing was “A demand for the Constituent Assembly“. It is believed that the idea gained ground during the August Movement when the Congress leaders were in Jail. But it lost all reality when the communal riots broke out.

Eventually, the demand for Constituent Assembly was accepted by the British in August 1940. On 8 August 1940, a statement was made by Viceroy Lord Linlithgow about the expansion of the Governor-General’s Executive Council and the establishment of a War Advisory Council. This offer, known as the August Offer, included provisions for giving full weight to minority opinions and for allowing Indians to draft their own constitution. 

[ In due course, the Constituent Assembly came into being in 1946. Its members,  who were elected by the provincial assemblies, took up the task of drafting India’ new Constitution. By then Roy was out of active politics. Yet; he sent to the Indian Constituent Assembly his views favoring decentralization, a federal basis to state power, direct election of the state Governors and the recognition of the rights of the minority communities and the regions.]

******

The parting of ways came when the Second World War broke out.  The Working Committee of the Congress, in September 1939, stated its policy on the Second World War. The Congress declared a policy of opposing imperialism, Nazism and Fascism. It also declared that India would not take part in the war from the side of England. It emphasized that England had denied freedom to her Indian possession in contradiction to her claim that it was fighting for the freedom of the democratic nations. Therefore, the Congress announced that it would not fight for England

With the clouds of War hanging around heavily, Roy understood the great danger of fascism and warned India against it. He even warned the Comintern. However, the Communists in Russia failed to recognize this danger and made a temporary pact with Hitler in August 1939. Roy opposed it. Then he predicted that despite its pact with Hitler, the Soviet Russia would eventually be sucked into the war.

The dreaded War eventually broke out, with Great Britain declaring war against Germany on 03 September 1939. Initially, it was a war among the imperialist powers – Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy on one side, and the imperialist England and France on the other. The complexion of the War changed altogether with Germany attacking Russia in June 1941. With that, the Communists in India who till then crying hoarse for mounting pressure on England now started rooting in support of England.

***

With the declaration of War – close to Sri Aurobindo’s position** – Roy, in his statement of 06 September 1939, condemned the rising totalitarian Germany and Italy; he supported England and France in their fight against fascism. At that time, Roy’s view was that the war against the Axis powers temporarily took priority over the independence struggle. According to Roy, a victory for Germany and the Axis powers would result in the end of democracy worldwide and India would never be independent. He predicted that after the war the Britishers would leave the country. In his view India could win her freedom only in a free world.

At that time, the general feeling in the Congress that the war was neither its making nor did it concern India. But, the initial reaction of Gandhi and Nehru was to lend support to England in her war against Nazi Germany. Later, after a series of discussions and much circumspection, the Congress revised its initial move. It resisted Viceroy’s action of involving India in the War without consulting the Central Legislative Assembly. Ignoring Roy’s plea, the Congress began withdrawing from the Provinces, allowing walk-over to Muslim League, which at that time was an insignificant force.  By the middle of November 1939, all the Congress ministers had resigned. The Muslim League lost no time to fill in the vacuum, just as the Government, pressed by the exigencies of the War, was looking for popular support.

[  ** Both Gandhi and Sri Aurobindo regarded the Bhagavad-Gita as a fundamental text; and, studied it diligently . But, on the question of lending support to the British in the war against the Nazis, their interpretations of the Gita differed vastly and led them to opposite positions.  Gandhi opposed the invitation from the British Government to the leaders of the Indian National movement to fight for the Allies in exchange for Indian Independence after the War.  Among other things, he cited his principle of non-violence as the reason for not agreeing to go for a War. Further, in a highly controversial letter addressed to Martin Buber during the gruesome period of the holocaust of the Jews, he advised that it would be better in the long term if the Jews practiced non-violence in response to their exterminators.

In contrast, Sri Aurobindo viewed Nazis as agents of ’negative spiritual forces’ in the world working against the evolution of humanity towards freedom and dignity. He called upon Indian people to support the war efforts of the British in their just fight against the Nazis.

I am not sure which of these two positions – of Gandhi or of Sri Aurobindo- is nearer to the true teaching of the Bhagavad-Gita..! ]

Roy advised the Congress to rise above national prejudices and to work for the success of the forces ranged against Fascism. But his cry was in vain. When the Congress decided not to continue the ministerial offices  in protest against the British War policy , it was Roy who alone insisted on retaining the office on the plea of wielding the strategic position within the State machinery.

Roy’s line was clearly different from that of the mainstream of the national liberation movement; and, he became highly unpopular with the nationalists. In order to convince his critics, including his own associates, Roy prepared a thesis explaining how it was not a war among imperialists; but was a war to defeat Fascism – the most dangerous and destructive.

During May 1940, Roy organized a study–camp for  his group- League for Radical Congressmen-  at his residence in Dehra Dun , clarifying his views on the war  from various perspectives ; and outlining the approach to be taken by the League at the Congress sessions and meetings.

*

In the mean time, during March 1940, Roy contested for the post of the President of the Indian National Congress. He was aware his chances of winning the election were next to nothing. Yet, he did so in order to assert the right of the dissidents to contest for the highest post in the Party; and, to press for the change in the leadership. The campaign, he thought, would also provide him a platform to publicize his views on war and such other issues. The majority of the left-groups too didn’t support Roy. He managed to pool about ten-percent of the votes cast. But, by then he had drifted away from the main stream of Congress.

*

As the war entered into its second year, Roy was deeply distressed by the prospect of Europe descending into barbarism with the Nazi invasion. Roy during this period wrote poignant articles bemoaning the fate that had befallen Europe and France in particular. Those articles were later put together in his book whither Europe?

Deeply distressed by attack on France, Roy suggested to Congress to observe 14 July, the French Revolution Day, to demonstrate India’s sympathy and solidarity with France under attack from the Nazis.  The suggestion was rejected as inappropriate. Thereafter, when AICC met in Poona, Roy submitted a resolution calling for active participation in the struggle against Fascism. And, that resolution was also turned down.

It was at this AICC session on 27-28 July 1940   in Poona presided over by Maulana Azad that Congress made what came to be known as ‘Poona Offer’  , offering conditional support for the British war efforts, provided the British Government promised to give freedom to India after the War. The object of Congress was to put pressure on British and devise ways of negotiations with its Governments in India and in England. The principle of no-violence and its ethics did not figure much at Poona session.

The ‘Poona Offer’ of the Congress was countered by the ‘August Offer’ 8 August 1940 of the Viceroy Lord Linlithgow, which stated two conditions: the British obligations must be fulfilled; and the minority opinions must not be overrun. The Congress was unable to decide.

**

The League of Radical Congressmen – (which Roy had started in 1939 following expulsion of Bose from Congress) – decided to organize anti-fascist demonstration on 1 September 1940 as the anniversary of the declaration of war. The Congress prohibited the demonstration; and, ordered Roy and his followers to stop any further move in that direction.  Despite the UP Congress directive, the League of Radical Congressmen went ahead with its demonstration, as programmed. The UP Congress charged all demonstrators on grounds of   indiscipline   for violating party –order. Then, disciplinary action was instituted against the demonstrators by suspending them. The UP Congress Committee expelled their leader Roy. The expulsion was later withdrawn; and Roy was allowed to resign from the Congress.  Roy resigned from Congress in October 1940. That brought to an end the association of Roy and the Radical group with the Indian National Congress.

After coming  out of the Indian National Congress , Roy  converted   his group – the League of Radical Congressmen  into  his own new  party,  the Radical Democratic Party (RDP) , in December 1940.

**

By the end of 1941, the World War had extended to the East.  Japanese had reached up to the Eastern borders of India after conquering Singapore. Burma fell to Japanese on 7 March 1942. India’s position became alarmingly vulnerable.

Roy argued that the defense of the country was the duty and responsibility of its citizens. The foreign government might or might not fight the aggressor or it might abandon and just go away. But, the citizen and their leaders cannot be so callous. We have to fight invader; and fight alongside with the British-Indian forces.

At this juncture, the President of USA, Franklin D. Roosevelt asked England to enlist the support of Indians in it’s the war efforts. With the threat of the Japanese looming large and with Roosevelt’s pressure, England tried to solicit the support of the Indians in her war efforts.  Thereafter, the British Wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, at the War Cabinet, on 11 March 1942, agreed to send Sir Stafford Cripps to India with a ‘reasonable and practical’ plan.

Sir Stafford Cripps (a senior left-wing politician and government minister in the War Cabinet of Prime Minister  Churchill)  arrived in India in late March 1942 with a promise to give dominion status after the war,  as well as elections to be held after the war, in exchange for Indian cooperation and support for British efforts in World War. He discussed his proposal with the majority Nationalist leaders as also with the minority Muslims led by M A Jinnah. Cripps’s proposal, it is said, was too radical for the British Government; and too conservative for the Indians. No middle was found. Both the parties in India rejected Cripps proposal. Gandhi had called Cripps’s proposal as “post dated cheque on a crumbling bank”.

After the failure of the Cripps’s mission, Congress launched the Quit India movement on 09 August 1942, refusing to cooperate in the war effort and demanding an end to British Rule of India. There was an anticipation that the failure of the Cripps mission coming coupled with  the Japanese intrusion would render the British vulnerable to pressure  of the Quit India  movement , and they might succumb to it.

The British responded by imprisoning practically the entire Congress leadership for the duration of the war. Jinnah was pleased to see that the right to opt out of a future Union was included in the negotiations. He exploited it later.  The British had the support of the Viceroy’s Council (which had a majority of Indians), of the All India Muslim League, the Communist Party, the princely states, the Indian Imperial Police, the British Indian Army and the Indian Civil Service. Many Indian businessmen profiting from heavy wartime spending did not support Quit India.

The only outside support came from the Americans, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt pressured Prime Minister Winston Churchill to give in to some of the Indian demands. The Quit India campaign was effectively crushed. The British refused to grant immediate independence, saying it could happen only after the war against the Axis powers had ended.

**

Roy, of course, approved neither the Congress stand nor the call for Quit India movement.

Early in December 1942, Roy made a forecast the ‘end of the war is in sight’. As per his analysis, as a consequence of the war the imperialism as a system exploiting the backward countries would cease; and , political power would be transferred to Indians soon after the war was over.

Sensing India’s freedom to be a post-War reality following the defeat of the Axis powers and the weakening of British Imperialism, Roy wrote a series of articles in Independent India on the economic and political structures of new India. He drafted a concrete Ten-Year Plan, a People’s Plan of Economic Development (1943) in which primacy was given to employment generation through improvement in agriculture and developments of small-scale industry. He also presented a Draft Constitution of Free India (1944), a road-map for decentralized and participatory democracy.

**

India had always prominently figured in Roy’s programs, right from his early revolutionary years, and while he was in Comintern and even after he was out of it.  While he was in Comintern, Roy built, and monitored from distance the Communist Party of India ; set up and guided groups of Workers and Peasants. And, as regards the Congress, he was regularly sending his economic programs to the Annual Sessions of the Indian National Congress. Soon after was expelled from Comintern, Roy took the risk of coming to India, fully aware of the dangers it involved. His direct influence on Congress policies was visible in the Karachi session of 1931 which carried out the resolution on Fundamental Rights and Economic Policy, though his original draft-resolution was somewhat compromised

His efforts to organize Peoples Party in India failed; and he finally abandoned the plan when he saw several positive radical changes taking place within the Congress leadership from 1929 onward. Thereafter, he sought to strengthen the hands of the radical elements in order to indirectly capture the leadership of the Congress. To him, the Congress, at that time, appeared to be platform of all classes, but dominated by upper middle class bourgeois. Hence, he tried to build an ‘alternative leadership’, by himself entering the Congress in 1936.

As a member of the Congress, Roy  did work very hard , despite the odds and hostilities he had to face, to radicalize Congress  programs and to develop the Congress into an United Front for all parties, segments and groups to come together to fight for Indian independence and to ensure economic freedom for its masses. Roy, sadly, did not succeed in any of those ventures. When he was eventually turned out of Congress, Roy was disillusioned with the whole political process. 

The period leading up to the end of war was one of disintegration, in Indian politics.

Within the Congress party there were several groups such as the right-wing Gandhi followers; the left oriented admirers of Jawaharlal Nehru; the followers of Subash Bose who tried to make a synthesis of Socialism, Fascism and Nationalism; the bemused Congress Socialist Party led by Jayaprakash Narayan; the Communists of various shades; the trade unions some owing allegiance to Congress and some to Communist party; and there was Roy’s own group called League of Radical Congressmen. By the end of the War, the majority right-wing followers of Gandhi systematically expelled all other groups professing various shades of other ideologies. Eventually, Congress turned into a right-wing bourgeois organization under the hegemony an all-powerful high command.

It was everything that Roy dreaded.

Outside of the Congress also, the Left wing parties could not unite. The Left–wing was in total disarray during the Second World War, and hopelessly failed to influence the Indian politics.  The Communists, the Left-wing parties and Socialists all further broke into splinter groups. The Socialists Parties created their own wilderness. And, the Communist Party suffered from excessive external controls and conflicting policy directions from Comintern. The question of nationalism was never really resolved. The Communist in India broke into sects each hating the other.

And, Roy who pioneered communist movement in India and who was intimately involved in building communist groups and guiding their policies and methods, was sidelined by communists, the socialists and the congress alike. Roy 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.

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.

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.

Let’s talk of Roy’s thoughts on political philosophy and other subjects such as Radical Humanism, in the next part.

M N Roy Bengal Provential congress 1938

Continued

In

Next Part

 

 

Sources and References

M N Roy by V B Karnik

M.N. Roy: A Political Biography by Samaren Roy

Leftism in India Ch.9-11 by S M Ganguli

http://dspace.wbpublibnet.gov.in:8080/jspui/bitstream/10689/12677/10/Chapter9-11_209-288p.pdf

http://dspace.wbpublibnet.gov.in:8080/jspui/bitstream/10689/12677/10/Chapter9-11_209-288p.pdf

Socialism of Jawaharlal Nehru by Rabindra Chandra Dutt

Elites in south Asia Indian Political Thought: Themes and Thinkers  Edited by Mahendra Prasad Singh, Himanshu Roy

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

The Mahatma and the Ism  by E. M. S. Namboodiripad

Elections after Government of India Act 1935

http://www.gktoday.in/elections-after-government-of-india-act-1935/

https://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/sections/britain/periodicals/labour_monthly/1937/02/x01.htm

M.N. Roy – Marxism and Colonial Cosmopolitanism: by Kris Manjapra

 Pictures are from Internet

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2016 in M N Roy

 

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

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

Continued from Part 12

Comintern years – rise and fall of Roy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Sun Yat Sen 1920

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

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

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

Chiang Kai-shek2

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

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

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

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

Wuhan_location

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

northen-expedition-eng

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

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

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

 Wang Ching-wei

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

**

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

Mao Zedong in 1927

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

***

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Trotsky (Lev Davidovitch Bronstein)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

In regard to the last mentioned ‘decolonisation’ thesis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 **

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More of that  In   the next part

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Continued

In

Next Part

Sources and References

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

Communism in India by Marshall Windmiller

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

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

 M N Roy – apolitical Biography by  Samaren Roy

M N Roy by V B Kulkarni

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

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

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

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

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

Political Philosophy of M.N. Roy by Prakash Chandra

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

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

All pictures are from Internet

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2016 in M N Roy

 

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