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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 is said, should be discussed and followed up in the Second Congress.

The guidelines clearly stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

 

lenin2

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.]

*

[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 that 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 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 to the Right-ring to take over the leadership; although all classes and sub-classes were represented in the Congress. That again proved Lenin’s dictum right: ‘the revolutionary Party is where the masses are’. The Congress in 1930s was the rallying ground for the masses in India.  The Indian National Congress , according to him  in 1930s,  was ‘ a coalition of the classes’ which meant that it was bound to be dominated by one class or the other]

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

He said:

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

Roy asserted that the revolutionary movement in Europe depended on the course of revolution in Asia. He explained, the super-profit that the Imperialists earned from the colonies was the main stay of their capitalistic regime. Here , Roy was  applying the lessons he learnt from Rosa Luxemburg’s book Accumulation of Capital, which said ‘the imperialist capitalist system survived and thrived on external markets of colonial countries’.

Accordingly , Roy argued : “Without control of vast markets and vast areas for exploitation in the colonies” .. “ the capitalist powers of Europe could not maintain their existence even for a short time”.

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

 

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

The question was posed as follows:

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

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

**

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

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

Lenin explained it further , by elaborating :

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

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

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

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

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

 

red-flag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***. 

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

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

The Party leadership was also very hesitant about employing the considerable Muslim forces that had joined with the Red Army against the counter – revolution 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

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 15, 2016 in M N Roy

 

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MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 08

MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 08

Continued From Part 07

At the Second Congress of the Communist International

By the time the Roys’ arrived in Moscow, in April 1920, the Soviets were in full control of the Union.  Lenin was busy translating Marx into practice; and, bringing about radical changes in the Government and the Party policies and administrative practices. Now, the Soviet leaders began to think about expanding Communism beyond the borders of the Soviet Union. They set their minds on ‘World Revolution’.

As a part of ‘World Revolution’ agenda, the Soviet Government declared its firm resolve to support the idea of self-determination’ of every nation. It announced that Russia would stand by the aspirations of the oppressed people of the colonies who were fighting against imperial domination. This resolve became one of the central themes of the Soviet Government in 1920. India fighting against British rule was on top of its list. And, the policy for supporting the struggle of the oppressed people including those of India was to be set out   clearly in the Second World Congress.

Even earlier to that; the First World Congress of the newly found Communist International held in Moscow during March 1919 had deliberated on the 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.

Delegates from all the countries of Europe, from some Latin American, Asian and African countries were invited to the Second Congress. There were in all about 220 voting and non-voting (consultative) representatives of the Communist and revolutionary social political parties from around the world. It was the first and the biggest gathering of Communist, socialist and revolutionary groups operating in various countries.  It had been regarded as “the first authentic international meeting of the new organization’s members and supporters”. The gathering was also significant for other reasons as well. V.I. Lenin , the Supreme Soviet leader,  very actively participated in the celebrations of the Congress; clearing many documents detailing policy decisions chartering ways for  reformations across the various states , countries and subjects.

The Second World Congress was also significant, because for the first time serious attention was brought upon the questions of to the national liberation movements of the colonies of Asia, Africa, and the Latin America.

Roy and Evelyn along with Charles Philips (Frank Seaman) were invited as official delegates of the Communist Party of Mexico. Abani Mukherjee (whom Roy called in his Memoir as –the embarrassing associate) and M.P.B.T. Acharya* (with consultative vote) were delegates from India. They were to be especially involved with the discussions pertaining to the question of extending support to non-communist revolutionary groups in the colonies fighting against imperialism.

[

MPBT Acharya

M.P.B.T Acharya – Mandayam Prathivadi Bhayankara Tirumala Acharya (1887–1951) – was the son of M.P.B. Narasimha Aiyangar an orthodox Aiyangar from Mysore employed in the Madras Public Works Department, Madras. In his early years Tirumala was involved in the national moment having been inspired by  his close relative M.C. Alasinga Perumal, an ardent follower of Swami Vivekananda.

After he got into trouble with British police, Acharya drifted through several countries and eventually found shelter in the India House in London, a ‘den’ for troublesome revolutionaries. Here he came close to V.D. Savarkar.

Further, Acharya, along with Lala Har Dayal, tried to mobilize a voluntary Corps of Indian prisoners of war held in Mesopotamia and in Europe. He then was charged under the Hindu-German Conspiracy case during World War I. 

After his release from the jail, Acharya moved into Russia at the end of the War and became a Communist. He participated as one of India’s representatives during the Second World Congress, 1920. He was also one of the founding members of the Communist Party of India launched from Tashkent later in 1920. He presided over the function at which CPI was set up; while Roy was the Secretary.   However, Acharya differed from MN Roy on several issues; and was also not comfortable with Roy’s attitude towards him. He also got disappointed with Communism; and left it, in 1920.

Later in 1922, he returned to Berlin to join the League against Imperialism; and thereafter he got involved with International Anarchist movement. He remained in Berlin till the early days of Hitler’s rise to power, and leaders of the Indian movement who visited Europe at various times, Including Nehru and Subhas Bose, are believed to have met with him. After the rise of Hitler and during the war years, Acharya was in exile, drifting through many countries.

He is said to have returned to India after the War; spent the last few years of his life in utter poverty in Bombay; and, died in 1951.]

***

Roy along with Evelyn reached Moscow by the end of April 1920. They were received by Borodin, their friend of Mexico days. Roy was thrilled and exited to be in Russia and in Moscow, in particular. In his Memoirs, employing religious terms, he calls his journey towards Moscow as ‘The Pilgrimage’; Moscow as ‘The Holy Land’; Angelica Balabanova as ‘The Matriarch of Bolshevism’; Lenin as ‘The High Priest of the New Faith’; and, himself as ‘awestruck worshipper’

A few days after his arrival in Moscow, Roy, as instructed, met Angelica Balabanova who was, at that time, the First General Secretary of the Communist International. She was a Russian-Jewish-Italian communist and Social Democratic activist; and, belonged to the old Guard of the Bolshevik movement.  She had been closely associated with Lenin for many years; and, served as his trusted Secretary during 1919-20. Later ; she served as Commissar of Foreign Affairs for Ukraine (1919–20); left Russia (December 1921) and expelled from Russian Communist Party (1924) following her open criticism of Bolshevism as it was practiced after Lenin’s death ; involved in various anti-communist and anti-fascist movements in Vienna (1922–26), Paris (1926–36), and New York (1936–46); returned to Italy (1946); participated in formation of the Italian Social Democratic Party (1947), and was a member of its Executive Committee. She died in 1965 at Rome at the age of 87.

balabanova

In April 1920, Angelica Balabanova asked Roy to call on V I Lenin.  He, then, met her in her office on the appointed day. Angelica Balabanova gave Roy a copy of the English translation of the draft-thesis written by Lenin on the national and colonial questions to be discussed at the Second Congress. She asked him to withdraw to a distant corner and read the document before meeting Ilyitch Lenin. Roy was asked to meet Lenin on the same day. Roy was thrilled and flattered to see a short note made by Lenin, in his hand, in the left hand top corner of the document, reading ‘Com Roy .For criticism and suggestions. V I Lenin’

Roy at last walked into Lenin’s office after passing through labyrinth of security and secretarial staff.  Roy wrote: I was in the presence of Lenin. Nearly a head shorter, he tilted his red goatee almost to a horizontal position to look at my face quizzically. I was embarrassed, did not know what to say. He helped me out with banter: “You are so young! I expected a grey-bearded wise man from the East.” The ice of initial nervousness broken, I found words to protest against the disparagement of my seven and twenty years. (But, in 1920, Roy, born in 1887, was, in fact, thirty-three years old)

Lenin then asked Roy to read the paper that Balabanova had given him; and come prepared, a few days later, with his views and comments.  Then, Roy reports, Lenin remarked that the document just given to him was destined to be a landmark in the history of revolutionary movement.

[ In his Memoirs, Roy writes , in great detail, nostalgically about his first meeting with Lenin :

The entrance to the office of the President of the Council of People’s Commissars was guarded by an army of secretaries headed by an oldish woman. Unassuming in behavior, plain in looks and rather shabbily attired, she was evidently efficient with her unobtrusive authority. Pin-drop silence reigned in the large room occupied by Lenin’s personal Secretariat, which was composed of about a dozen people. The grey-haired chief moved silently from one desk to another whenever she wanted to speak to any of her subordinate colleagues. They all spoke in the lowest possible whisper. None but the chief was privileged to enter Lenin’s office. No ordinary person could occupy the position of great trust. The quiet and rather colorless Saint Peter of the Bolshevik heaven was a senior member of the party, a well known figure in Moscow, and respected by all.

The way to Lenin’s Secretariat lay through a well appointed ante-room which was always empty. No expectant visitor was ever kept waiting there. Lenin did not share the proverbial Russian disregard for time, which is a national characteristic the Bolsheviks had inherited. 

*

Passing through the empty ante-room, I was escorted into the Secretariat. Engrossed in their respective preoccupation, the inmates took no notice of me. But St. Peter of the Bolshevik, heaven was always on the alert. She stood up, looked at the big clock on the wall, and silently came forward to take over the charge from the subordinate colleague who had escorted from the entrance of the palace. She conducted me towards a tall silver and gold door, pushed it open gently, just enough for one to pass, and with a motion of the head bade me enter. I stepped in, and the door silently closed behind me. 

It was a vast rectangular room, with a row of tall windows giving on a spacious courtyard surrounded by other wings of the palace, The ceiling was so high as almost to touch the sky. The room was practically bare; only the floor was covered with a thick carpet. My attention was immediately attracted by the bald dome of a head stooping very low on the top of a big desk placed right in the middle of the room. I was nervous and walked towards the desk, not knowing what else to do. By silencing my footsteps, the thick carpet sympathized with my anxiety not to cause the least disturbance. It was quite a distance, from the door to the desk. Before I had covered hardly half of it, the owner of the remarkable head was on his feet and briskly came forward with the right hand extended. I was in the presence of Lenin.

Nearly a head shorter, he tilted his red goatee almost to a horizontal position to look at my face quizzically. I was embarrassed, did not know what to say. He helped me out with a banter: “You are so young! I expected a grey-bearded wise man from the East.” The ice of initial nervousness broken, I found words to protest against the disparagement of my seven and twenty years

Lenin laughed, obviously to put an awe-struck worshiper at ease. Though much too overwhelmed by the experience of a great event to observe details, I was struck by the impish look which often relieved the severity of the expression of a fanatic. It belied the widely held view that in Lenin’s personality the heart was choked in the iron grip of a hard head; that the great revolutionary was a willful machine without the least touch of humanness. The impish smile did not betray cynicism.

Lenin was the most unmitigated optimist. Not only was he convinced unshakably that Marxism was the final truth, but he believed equally firmly in its inevitable triumph. He combined the fervor of the prophet with the devotion of the evangelist. Otherwise, he could not advocate capture of power, single handed, as against the stubborn opposition of all his followers, when there appeared to be very little chance for the Bolsheviks to hold it longer than a few days or weeks. At that juncture, Lenin was guided more by faith than by reason; and it was faith not in the secular Providence of historical determinism, but in man’s unlimited capacity to make history. In the most crucial moment of his life and also of contemporary history, Lenin acted as a romanticist; and that one act of extraordinary audacity raised him to the pinnacle of greatness, and won for him a place amongst the immortals of human history.

*

Having helped me out of the initial embarrassment and nervousness, Lenin returned to his seat at the desk and asked me to take a chair across it. As he turned back to walk to his seat, I had good glance at the man. I had by then recovered my wits and poise. The height of the room accentuated the shortness of the man, so much so that he looked almost like a dwarf. His big head was quite appropriate to the deceptive picture. The picture was deceptive because Lenin was not a dwarf, being well above five feet. He was 5 ft. 4 inches, I believe. Another habit made him look shorter than he really was. He walked with a stoop, without turning the head either in the left or to the right; nor did he raise his eyes to see that was ahead. The posture suggested that he was engrossed in thought even when walking; and the quickness of his steps seemed to synchronize with the swift rhythm of his mind. He seemed to be always in a great hurry as if keenly conscious of the magnitude of his mission and the inadequacy of time at his disposal. One may wonder if he had a premonition of early death. He was so very impatient to get things done quickly that he restricted the freedom of the tongues of the members of the all-powerful Politbureau. In his time, it had only seven members. In its weekly meetings, none was allowed to speak more than twice, fifteen minutes for the first time and five for the second. Though he thought quickly, his speech was deliberate and sometimes even slow. Except when addressing the masses, he spoke like a teacher lecturing in the class room or an advocate arguing a case in the law court.

Having resumed his seat, Lenin leaned forward on the desk and fixed his almond-shaped twinkling eyes on my face. The impish smile lit up his face, I felt completely at ease, as if I was accustomed to sitting by the desk, not in the presence of a great man, a powerful dictator, but in the pleasant company of an old friend. Indeed it might be that of a benevolent father smiling benignly on a son who has made good and promises to do better. The remembrance of Balabanova’s congratulation made me somewhat dizzy, but her motherly admonition was also fresh in my memory.

The little electric bulb gave the signal — Lenin sat back and remarked that the interview must end on Maria’s order.

The impish smile returned in his eyes. I got up to say good-bye, and found Lenin by my side. Taking me by the arm, he conducted me towards the door which opened to let in a man with a shock of black hair, a sensitive face and a little paunch. He was dressed in baggy trousers and a soft white shirt, its collar held together with a black silk string instead of a necktie. He was carrying a bulging leather portfolio under one arm. Lenin introduced me to the newcomer. It was Comrade Zinoviev, who took my hand in a limp grip. His was small and soft like a woman’s. He spoke a few words in a high pitched voice and desired me to see him soon.]

orchids

The Second World Congress of the Communist International was scheduled to commence about three months hence, in July 1920. In the meanwhile, several Commissions (that is, formal Committees or groups) were set up to examine the subjects that were to come up before the Sessions of World Congress. The subjects coming up before the World Congress were to be discussed in about fifteen Sessions. Each Committee was assigned a subject; and, it had to present its paper at the World Congress at the Session allotted to it.  In preparation of its paper, each Committee had therefore   to meet  several times in order to discuss and finalize its thesis on the subject assigned to it   for presentation at its allotted Session before  the World Congress.  Roy was nominated as the Chairman of the Commission on The national question and the colonial question, under the guidance of Lenin; and, its thesis was to be presented at the Wold Congress by V I Lenin. Roy, therefore, had additional responsibility.

**

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; 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.

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.’

 

[The discussion on the two thesis and the views held by Lenin and Roy on various issues is quite involved and lengthy. Therefore, it is posted separately in the subsequent part of this series. Please do read interesting part.]

***

The Second Congress of the Communist International was described as one of the great milestones in the history of the international working class. “It marked the crowning moment in the history of the Comintern as an international force. A significant aspect of the Second Congress was the participation of several Asian countries. That came about mainly at the initiative of Lenin. He was keen on bringing together of the workers and peasants of all countries; uniting the national liberation struggles in colonial and semi colonial countries; and expanding revolution worldwide.

In its discussions, the main principles of Communism; its economic and political analysis and its philosophical method, dialectical materialism, were all were discussed in detail.

The most important result of the Second Congress was that, despite all its problems and weaknesses, it set up a functioning centralised organisation.  The relationship of the national organizations Communist parties to Communist international was clearly defined. Further, the revolutionary parties across the world were tacitly treated as sections of the World Party.

***

Kustodiev_-_Congress_of_Comintern

The Second World Congress of the Comintern was held in Petrograd and Moscow from 19 July 1920 to 7 August 1920, spread over fifteen sessions.

The Second Congress of the Communist International was inaugurated on 19 July 1920 at Petrograd*, the cradle of Bolshevik revolution and the cultural capital of Russia. It was also the city with which Lenin was intimately associated during the October Revolution.

[* Before the First War, its name was Saint Petersburg. However , after the outbreak of the War its name was changed (On September 1, 1914)   to Russian sounding Petrograd ( Peter’s city)  , to remove  the German words ‘Saint’ and ‘Burg’ , since by then Germany was Russia’s enemy. Its name was again changed On January 26, 1924; this time as Leningrad in honors of V I Lenin who just then had passed away. And in 1991, the city again became Saint Petersburg.]

The Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union (Premier of the Soviet Union) Grigory Yevseevich Zinoviev* presided over and inaugurated the Second Congress of the Communist International. Zinoviev (1883-1936) was a prominent member of the Bolshevik revolution; and was one of the seven members of the First Politburo founded in 1917 (Lenin, Zinoviev,  Kamenev,  Trotsky,  Stalin,  Sokolnikov and Bubnov).

grigory zinoviev

[*During the Stalin regime, Zinoviev incurred the wrath of Stalin and was charged for conspiring with the western powers to assassinate Stalin and other Soviet leaders. He was tried in a public trial in what came to be known as Trial of the Sixteen, and executed a day after his conviction, in August 1936.]

After the opening festivities and cultural pageant in Petrograd on 19 July 1919, the business sessions of the Second Congress commenced at Moscow on 23 July 1920 and lasted till the Fifteenth Session, on 7 August 1920.

***

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.

After considerable debate, the Second Congress approved both the thesis – the main thesis by Lenin and the supplementary thesis by Roy.

The final resolution of the Congress directed communists in colonial countries to support the “national-revolutionary” movement in each, without regard to the fact that non-communist and non-working class elements such as the bourgeoisie and the peasantry might be dominant.  Particular attention was paid to formulating an alliance with the rural poor as a means of winning and holding power in a revolution.

Leon Trotsky, in the Fifteenth and the final Session, on 7 August 1920, in his address to the Congress, referring to the national and colonial question, said:

The national and colonial question was also discussed and it seems to me that the resolution passed unanimously on this question similarly signifies a great moral victory for us. You know that the Second International approached the question of so-called national policies, that in general a policy of patience was suggested and that in 1907 the majority spoke out in favor of socialists supporting the policy of so-called cultural nationalism. Towards ‘the peoples of the black and yellow races‘ the Second International adopted an attitude calculated to arouse the deepest mistrust in these peoples. The Communist International had to return to the traditions of the First International. It was its duty to say, and it did say, that it did not only want to be an International of the toilers of the white race but also an International of the toilers of the black and yellow races, an International of the toilers of the whole world. 

I am convinced that the fraternal alliance that we have concluded in the Congress with the representatives of India, Korea, Turkey and a whole number of other countries will strike to the heart of international capital. This is the greatest conquest of the working class.

roy with lenin and gorky

The Second Congress had thus opened a channel for advancing the revolution Eastward.

 [In the Next Part: Please do read about the discussions on the thesis of Lenin and of Roy on the national and colonial question,  and on various  related  issues .]

***

Please check the following link for the Minutes of the
Second Congress of the Communist International Petrograd, July 19 – August 7 1920

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

For the report on the Fourth session on 25 July 1920 on National and Colonial Question; and its continued discussion in in the Fifth Session on 28 July 1920 , please check the following links:

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

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

2nd World Congress of the Comintern

 

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

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

5.The Roy-Lenin Debate on Colonial Policy: a New Interpretation by John P. Haithcox; The Journal of Asian Studies; Vol. 23, No. 1 (Nov., 1963), pp. 93-101

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

7.Peasants in India’s Non-Violent Revolution: Practice and Theory By Mridula Mukherjee

All images are from Internet

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2016 in M N Roy

 

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

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

Continued from Part 06

In Berlin on the way to Moscow

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

item-fighting-germany-spies-001

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

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

**

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

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

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

thalheimer

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

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

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

*

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

Rosa luxemburgh

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kapp-Putsch, Marinebrigade Erhardt in Berlin

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

**

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

Abani Mukherji

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

***

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

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

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

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

On the question of the Indian National Congress and Gandhi, Lenin formed his views drawing upon his experience of Russian revolution. Lenin pointed out that the Bolsheviks had supported the liberal liberation movements against Tsarist rule. The bourgeois nationalism of any oppressed nation has a general content that is directed against oppression. And, it is this content that we support. The ‘nationalist bourgeoisie ‘opposed to Imperialism, could, therefore, initially, be regarded as ‘revolutionary’. You will now have to base yourselves on the bourgeois nationalism which is awakening, and must awake. At this stage we are interested in building an anti-imperialist united front. The question when and what stage such ‘nationalist bourgeoisie ‘should be discarded would be decided at a later time depending upon the situation.

Lenin 1920

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

[Lenin did not share Marx’s faith in the ‘spontaneous’ development of class-consciousness. He saw an essential difference between the proletariat and the socialist, meaning a class-conscious proletariat. Lenin considered that the development of genuine class–consciousness depends upon the party organization, discipline and indoctrination. At the time of the Second World Congress (1920) there was no Communist Party in India; but there only a few scattered revolutionary groups. He opined that it would take some time before the Indian proletariat and peasantry could be mobilized.]

Lenin contented that non-communist nationalist organizations like the Indian National Congress could , for the present,  be considered as revolutionary, since no viable Communist party existed in India. And, it would take some time before the Indian workers and peasants could be mobilized and organized effectively. Until then, the organizations such as Congress, Lenin said, deserved support. He said, the Indian Communists were duty bound to support such’ bourgeois liberation movements’ without any intent of merging with them. As he said, there could be ‘ temporary relations’ or ‘unions’ with such movements. As regards Gandhi, Lenin believed that Gandhi as the inspirer and leader of a mass movement, could be regarded a revolutionary. It is said, Lenin, at one stage, remarked: a good nationalist is better than a bad communist.

M N Roy (1)

Roy, at the age of 28,   left India in 1915, just at the time when Gandhi returned to India after twenty-one years in South Africa. During his early years, Roy was busily engaged in insurgency; and, for most of his active years in India, he was a fugitive. He was not in manner associated or involved with political process. His views on Indian National Congress, in 1921-22, were tinted with the impressions he gained, while in India, as a rebellious youth.  It was also clouded by the indoctrination he received from Borodin during 1919. Borodin during his brief stay in Mexico (1919) had worked hard to liberate Roy from notions of Nationalism. And, those lessons fructified in the An Indian Communist Manifesto which Roy drafted in Berlin, during 1920, en route from Mexico to Moscow for the Second Congress of the Comintern. Roy presented the same set of views at the Second Congress later in Moscow. In his Draft Manifesto, it was said: We want the world to know that nationalism is confined to the bourgeois, but the masses are awakening to the call of the social revolution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

 

**

In his newspaper Advance Guard ‘  he sent a programme to the Indian National Congress on the eve of the Gaya Congress held in the last week of December, 1922, which included some of the following  : ideas: 1) Abolition of landlord-ism 2) Reduction of land rent 3) State aid for modernization of agriculture 4) Abolition of indirect taxes 5) Nationalization of public utilities 6) Development of modern industries 7) Eight hour day, fixation of minimum wages by legislation 8) Free and compulsory education 9) Separation of State and religion

**

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

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

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

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

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

Then, Roy went back to his revolutionary mode; and, declared that the mass revolt movement in Asia, India in particular, was  very crucial to the success of the revolutionary forces in the West.

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

***

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

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

**

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

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

  Justice Chakraborty wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

divider1

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

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

pestel-ex-velikij_knyaz_aleksej

Continued

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Sources and References

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

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

M N Roy by V B Karnik

M N Roy -A Political Biography by Samaren Roy

All pictures are from Internet

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2016 in M N Roy

 

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