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MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts – Part 20

 

 Continued from Part 19

Into the Congress

M N Roy joined Congress after release

On the evening of 20 November 1936 (the day of his release from prison) Roy formally joined the Indian National Congress at Dehra Dun. While speaking to the local Press on that occasion, Roy urged Indian Communists to join Indian National Congress to radicalize it; and, said: ‘the Anglo-Indian Press might project my joining the Indian National Congress as evidence of the Congress going Red. No, the Congress is not going Red; the Communists as determined fighters for the freedom of India, on the other hand, are joining the ranks of Congress. I personally have also been persistently defending Congress, though I could not always agree with some details of its policy and found it necessary to express my disagreement in critical terms…..

I am determined to show to the people of India that Communists are not alien elements within the body-politics of India, but are the sons of soil fighting at the vanguard of the army of national freedom under the banner of Indian National Congress, which is our common platform….

My message to the fellow-victims of imperialism is to rally in millions under the flag of the Indian National Congress as a determined army fighting for democratic freedom….. And so on”

**

Roy left for Lucknow the next day and thereafter reached Allahabad for rest and recuperation at Nehru’s home.  He stayed with Nehru for about a week. From there, Roy went to Bombay where a reception was accorded to him by his followers and the socialists. At that reception, Roy mentioned that he proposed to place before the Congress at its Faizpur session   to be held a month later  (27 and 28 December 1936) a new scheme to consolidate the leftist forces and radicalize the congress organization. Here, he also dwelt on his concept of Constituent Assembly, of which he had been talking about since 1927.

According to Roy, the Congress should transform itself into a Constituent Assembly, following the pattern of French Revolution; and should function as a state within the state. And thereby, it should strive to replace the alien Government by forming the Indian peoples’ Government; and , ultimately capture power.

KK Sinha in his Ideology and politics in India (1973 writes that Roy, while at Bombay, was closeted – for more than about two hours – by three  senior right wing leaders of the Congress Party : Sardar Patel , Babu Rajendra Prasad  and Bhulabhai Desai  They placed before Roy a bizarre offer. They promised Roy that his financial needs for his weekly would be taken care of ;  he would be accorded the position of pre-eminent Leftist leader in the Congress; and , he would also be made a member of the  Congress Working Committee (CWC)  provided he accepted Gandhi as his sole leader and that he would act in opposing or as a counterweight to Nehru who was going ‘far too left’ to the discomfiture of the majority in the Party . If things go well, they even promised to make Roy the President of INC in place of Nehru, if Gandhi approved.

Roy of course refused to accept the bait and declined the offer. He thereafter conveyed (through a special messenger  )  to Nehru  who  was the President-Elect of the Faizpur Session, the substance of the conversation he had and the offer made to him by the senior right wing leaders. Roy also assured Nehru that he had no intention of opposing him; and that he had come to India and into the Congress, mainly, to work with him.

And, true to his word, during his period of about four years in Congress (October 1936-November 1940), Roy worked along with Nehru and looked forward to Nehru for stepping up the process of radicalization in the Congress. Roy and Nehru were perhaps the only two prominent political leaders in Congress who imbibed western values.

**

On the eve of the Faizpur session, Roy had his first meeting with Gandhi. They had a lengthy conversation for over ninety minutes. During their prolonged discussion each tried to convince and persuade the other to   appreciate his point of view. Gandhi explained his plan to rejuvenate the dying village industries to rouse mass consciousness and to invoke the zeal for freedom. Roy, on the other hand, tried to convince Gandhi of his ideas about how to bring the Congress into a closer contact with the masses through political education. He said, raising such issues would side track the main object, the creation of an united anti-imperialist front for the achievement of Independence. Towards the end of their discussion, Roy promised Gandhi to reduce to writing his thoughts on the ways to strength the Congress, so that Gandhi might persuade the CWC to adopt a resolution based upon his script.

Gandhi clearly pointed out that while the achievement of Independence was the objective of both, they differed on methods. At the end of their talks the two agreed to disagree on certain fundamental questions.

At the conclusion of their talk, Gandhi invited Roy to his evening-prayer meeting; and explained to him the need for the prayer , the power and virtues of prayer and what it meant to him .Roy politely declined to join the prayer meet.

KK Sinha in his Ideology and politics in India (1973; page 253) writes “After Faizapur Congress, when pressed by his disciples of the Sabarmati Ashram to tell his reaction to the conversation he had with Roy, Gandhi advised them to completely ignore Roy as if he did not exist politically; for Roy appeared to him too dangerous a man even to be criticized.  “He strikes at my very roots” concluded Gandhi.

***

[Before we move further, we may briefly talk about the relations that existed between Gandhi and Roy during the years that Roy was in Congress.

Roy had enormous respect to Gandhi – as person. But , differed with Gandhi on many issues.

While Roy was in Congress, he could not get on well with Gandhi.  The dislike was mutual.

Gandhi advised his followers to completely ignore Roy as if he did not exist politically; for Roy appeared to him too dangerous a man even to be criticized. And, when Roy tried to push through his radical ideas, Gandhi bitingly advised him, through his letter dated 27 July 1937,  to stay out of Indian politics, and just “render mute service “

Dear Friend, I entirely agree with you that every Congressman should fearlessly express the opinion he holds after due deliberation. You ask me how you can best serve the Congress. Since you are new to the organization, I should say you would serve it best by mute service. Segaon, Wardha. The 27th July 1937.

On another occasion, when Roy wrote to several leaders seeking financial help for his weekly journal, Gandhi advised Roy not to take up such an activity for the present. He instead advised Roy to go around the country and to study it for some time. Roy didn’t quite like the suggestion. During the whole time that Roy was in Congress, Gandhi never once consulted Roy on any issue.

As regards Roy, even as early 1920-21, he had maintained that Gandhi was religious revivalist; and he was bound to be a reactionary, however revolutionary he might appear politically. In contrast, Lenin believed that Gandhi, as inspirer and leader of the mass movement and a revolutionary. The role and place of Gandhi in anti-imperialism was crucial to the difference between Roy and Lenin.

Roy also could not appreciate Gandhi’s views on celibacy (Brahmacharya), shunning alcohol, and advocating total non-violence.  Gandhi’s stand on un-touchability, according to Roy, was also suspect (this was also the view of Dr. Ambedkar). Roy remarked that sermons might have some propaganda value; but beyond that they hardy were of any use. Roy pointed out that Gandhi’s programs of similar nature were, basically, verbal, couched in sentiments rather than effective programs involving masses and appealing to their immediate interests. As regards untouchability, what was required, he said, was ‘constant campaign coupled with modes and changes in personal relationships by challenging unhealthy prejudices’.

He was also against Gandhi’s insistence of compulsory Charka (home-spun) movement. Roy pointed out that ‘sentiments can keep a movement going for a certain limited length of time, but it cannot last longer unless fed with more substantial factors’. Gandhi’s Charka movement, Roy observed, was based on hollow economic logic; it was not economically viable; and therefore Charka’s fate was sealed. Roy reminded how during the Ahmadabad Session of the Congress (December 1921), Pandit Motilal Nehru and Deshbandhu C. R. Das had also rejected Gandhi’s resolution for compulsory spinning; and how Motilal Nehru had thundered:’ We decline to make a fetish of the spinning wheel or to subscribe to the doctrine that only through that wheel can we obtain ‘swaraj…Discipline is desirable, but it is not discipline for the majority to expel the minority. We are unable to forget our manhood and our self-respect and to say that we are willing to submit to Gandhi’s orders. The Congress is as much ours as of our opponents.’

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

Gandhi with Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

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

 Later, when Roy said: “When political power is concentrated in the hands of a small community, you may have a façade of parliamentary democracy, but for all political purposes it will be a dictatorship, even if it may be paternal and benevolent”, he perhaps also had Gandhi in his mind.

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

[But, at the same time, both Roy and Nehru recognized that Gandhi was central to the unity and the very existence of Congress; and, without Gandhi the Congress would lose its mass appeal. Nehru, despite his differences with Gandhi, stayed on with Gandhi in the larger interests of the Party and the National movement. Roy, however, a restless new comer to the Party moved along his own convictions.]

***

 gandhi-bose2

Roy was particularly irked by the shabby treatment he meted out to Subhash Chandra Bose.

Subhash Bose was unanimously elected as the President of the Congress at Haripura session in 1938.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had selected Haripura, near Kadod town, around 13 kilometres north east of Bardoli, in the Surat district of Gujarat, for the 51st convention of the Indian National Congress to be held at Vitthal Nagar, between February 19 to 22, 1938. And, 51 Bullocks’ chariot were decorated for this occasion.  Gandhi placed the noted painter, Nandalal Bose as in-charge for creating a unique environment infused with rural art and craft, for the annual session at Haripura. As a significant component of this huge public art campaign, Nandalal created set of seven posters, which were later to become famous as ‘Haripura posters’, celebrating the Indian rural life and culture, in vibrant earthy colors and bold, energetic lines. These depicted rural subjects like Hunters, Musicians, Bull Handlers, Carpenter, Smiths, Spinner, Husking women and modest scenes of rural life including animal rearing, child-nursing and cooking.

Bull Handler - Haripura PosterHunter

dhaki (1) cooking

It is said; the film director, JBH Wadia, of Wadia Movietone Studio, made a full feature length documentary of the Haripura Congress.

By 1938, Jawahar Lal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose had emerged as candid spokespersons of the Congress. By the same time, Congress had divided among two groups based upon the conservative and radical ideologies. Subash Chandra Bose was quite critical of  the  conservative ideology of compromise advocated by  Gandhi.

Bose was keen on developing the power of resistance among the people of India, in order to force the British Government to abandon imposing the federal scheme on Indians.

During the 1938 Haripura session differences arose between Gandhi and Bose on the question of attitude to be adopted towards the Great Britain. Subhash Chandra Bose was against the plan of the British to drag India into the Second World War. He was aware of the political instability of Britain and wanted to take advantage of it, rather than wait for the British to grant independence. Which is evident from his statement: Britain’s Peril is India’s Opportunity.

In the Haripura session, at the instance of Subash Bose, a resolution was passed, whereunder, an ultimatum of six months was given to the British to quit, failing which there would be a revolt.

This meant that Subhash did not endorse the nonviolence and Satyagraha tactics of Gandhi to throw the British away. And, this was something Gandhi could not digest.

Subhash Chandra Bose Haripura congress

Subhash Chandra Bose, in his presidential address outlined his policy ; and, stressed the revolutionary potential of the Congress Ministries formed in seven Provinces.:

 “My term of office as the Congress President will be devoted to resist the unwanted federal scheme; will all the peaceful and legitimate powers, including non-violence and non-cooperation if necessary and to strengthen the country’s determination to resist this scheme”.

The resolution caused a great divide between Gandhi and Bose. And, Nehru naturally followed Gandhi; and, distanced himself from Bose. The differences grew further when Subhash Chandra Bose organized a National Planning Committee. The idea was to draw a comprehensive plan for economic development of India on the basis of Industrialization. It was against the Charkha policy of Gandhi.

[ For more on Haripura congress session, please check the following links :

https://ia800607.us.archive.org/14/items/HaripuraCongressBose1938/BoseTalk.pdf

https://archive.org/stream/HaripuraCongressBose1938/BoseTalk#page/n7/mode/1up ]

 Bose NehruBose president in 1938

In 1939, Subhash Chandra Bose decided to contest again – this time as the spokesperson of militant politics and radical groups representing the ‘new ideas, ideologies, problems and programs’.

The election for the post of the President of the Indian National Congress was announced in January 1939. Subhash Bose contested the election against Gandhi’s chosen nominee. The result of the election was announced on 29 January 1939. And, Subhash Bose had won the election by polling 1580 votes as against his opponent’s 1377 votes. Gandhi was very annoyed and took his nominee’s defeat as his personal defeat. Gandhi and his disciples brought a charge of indiscipline against Bose. Roy wondered: what act of indiscipline Bose had committed, except that he contested the poll against Gandhi’s candidate?!

The re-election of Bose as the President irked both the Right and Left wings of the Congress. While the Right Wing viewed with alarm the election of Bose and the consolidation of Left forces around him as being a challenge to their leadership; the Left wing which was obsessed with ‘seizure of power’ found Bose not entirely to their liking.  Had the Left wing succeeded in its attempt it would have meant ‘a minority leadership’; and that would have split the Congress

The constitution of Congress did not provide for the removal of the President and the delegates vote was something which could not be reversed. The Congress Working committee was still controlled by the followers of Gandhi. Thus, Subhash might reign but could not rule. Gandhi, it is said, planned his moves against Subhash with utmost care.

Gandhi saw to it that Bose did not function effectively as the Congress President.  Soon after the election, most of the members of the Congress Working Committee resigned, en mass, creating an artificial crisis in the Congress working. Twelve of the fifteen members of the Working Committee resigned, in order, as they explained, to leave a free field for Bose; and also on the grounds that they felt that in his election campaign he had cast aspersions on their bona fides. Jawaharlal Nehru also resigned from the Working Committee, though with a separate statement explaining his special viewpoint (which he  said will fully explain in a booklet titled “Where Are We?”)

The Annual Session of the  Congress for 1939 which opened on 10 March 1939 in Tripuri, a small village in the Jabalpur District of Central Province (now Madhya Pradesh), was presided over by Subhash Chandra Bose. He was at that time seriously ill, running a temperature of 104* F . Yet, he insisted on attending the session, saying ‘I would rather die here in Narmada that be shifted to a hospital in Jabalpur’. He was brought to the Session by ambulance with his niece Ila Bose as nurse, and attended by Dr. and Mrs. Sunil Bose and his mother, from his Elgin Road house to Howrah station.

Gandhi’s followers insisted that Subash Bose should be certified as being truly ill and made sure that ‘he was not hiding onions under his arm pits’. Only after Dr .Gilder, the Health Minister in Bombay Cabinet confirmed and certified that Bose was running a high fever, they were silenced.

Bose Addressing the A.I.C.C. session, 1939

Subhash Chandra Bose presided over the Subject Committee Session reclining on a mattress spread over the dais. At the session, the followers of Gandhi were a formidable group, while Bose’s supporters were soft and not well organized. Gandhi did not attend the Session at Tripuri ,citing the  activities in the princely state of Rajkot as being important than the Congress session. But his followers were determined not to allow Bose to function effectively as the Congress President

Govind Ballab Pant, a veteran Congressman moved a resolution (believed to have been drafted by Gandhi himself) asserting complete faith in Gandhi’s leadership and vesting in him the powers not only to nominate but also to overrule the decisions of the Congress Working Committee. The Pant resolution said: “ In view of the critical situation that may develop ….Gandhi alone can lead the Congress and the country in victory during such a crisis , the Congress regards  it as imperative that the Congress executive should command his implicit confidence and requests the president to nominate the Working Committee in accordance with the wishes of Gandhiji”. 

When the proposal was presented to the Session, the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) led by Jayaprakash Narayan (who usually supported Bose) chose to remain silent and neutral , though the CPI group within the CSP wanted to vote against the resolution. The CS deserted Bose right when he most needed their support. The Pant resolution was passed; and Bose’s fate in Congress was sealed.

R.M. Pal in his Gandhi, Democracy, and Days of Struggle: Political Scientists Views on M N Roy discusses: “Why did Bose allow Pant resolution to be raised knowing that it was unconstitutional and undemocratic? Bose later explained to Gandhi in a letter written on 25 March 1939 that he could have vetoed this proposal but did not do so because his democratic outlook had the priority over the issue of constitutional validity. He also wrote, “I felt it would be unmanly to take shelter behind the constitution at a time when I felt that there was the possibility of an adverse vote”.

Lying on the sick-bed in the Camp, Subash Bose wrote his Presidential address, the briefest in Congress history. He warned that an imperialist war would break out in Europe within six months. He demanded that the Congress should deliver a six – month ultimatum to Britain; and, in the event of its rejection a country-wide struggle for ‘Poorna Swaraj’ should be launched.

Bose announcing his resignation

His warning and advice went unheeded, and what was worse, his powers as President were sought to be curtailed. He therefore resigned from his President’s post in April 1939; and in May 1939 announced the formation of the Forward Bloc within the Congress.

In August1939, Bose was removed from the Presidency of the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee, and further debarred from holding any elective office in the Congress for a period of three years (some believe that Gandhi himself drafted this resolution) . In September 1939 war broke out in Europe, and Bose’s prophecy at Tripuri came true almost to the very day.

Gandhi, however, claimed that he loved Subhash as a son, but his love which was as soft as a rose could also be harder than flint. But for the act of Gandhi and his followers in throwing out Bose from the Congress, things might have been different, in that Gandhi might not have remained the absolute leader for a long time.

 With the expulsion of Subhash Bose the ingredients, the complexion and nature of Congress also changed. The party till then was an umbrella organization, sheltering radical socialists, traditionalists, and Hindu and Muslim conservatives.  But ,between 1939-42  , along with Subhas Chandra Bose , the socialist groups  including the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) , Krishak Praja Party, and Swarajya Party, were all expelled from Congress . It is believed this was done at the instance of Gandhi. It was now almost entirely a right-wing organization. 

 

This was totally opposite to Roy’s vision of Congress as the vanguard of the army of national freedom, a common platform and the United Front for those striving for India’s freedom and social restructuring.

With the sidelining of Subhash Bose the Right-wing Gandhian asserted its complete control over the Congress. That prompted Roy to get together his followers within the Congress; and, to bunch them into a group called League For Radical Congressmen, on May Day 1939, at Calcutta.  Its inaugural session was held in Poona in June 1939. Though its program was basically that of Congress, it demanded more energetic action for realizing its aims; and, in the process advocated change in the leadership at the top. That truly angered the majority in Congress.

*

Roy was also unhappy with Gandhi’s opposition to the Allied War effort. And, at the same time Roy broke definitively with the Bengal politicians with his opposition to Subhas Bose’s involvement with Hitler’s Nazis. Roy warned “that the evil of fascism knows no boundaries”. Roy was thus isolated from the right-wing Gandhi followers, the supporters of Subhas Bose and even from the CSP of JP Narayan.

Philip Spratt, a renowned Communist in his days and a journalist, noted that Roy’s approach to Gandhism “seems that of an outsider, an unsympathetic foreigner”. He had failed to make his criticism intelligible to the Indian reader. “He has never tried to get under the skin of the Mahatma or his admirers, to see where that extraordinary power comes from,” Spratt said.

In 1937, while in Congress, Roy was perhaps closer to Marx than to Gandhi. He contended that political independence alone does not amount to freedom, since it lacks the economic rights and opportunities for the masses. In the first issue of his weekly The Independent India, Roy wrote under the heading National Freedom that ‘political freedom is not the end, it is the means to an end, which is the radical transformation of the Indian society… The required changes in the social structure of our country will be brought about primarily through transfer of ownership of the land to the cultivator’. ‘And once this is attained ‘ he said’ the transformation will be complete by the rapid growth of modern mechanized industry , guarantee  to the cultivator of the entire product of his labor; abolition of all privileges; and wide distribution of the newly created wealth’. Roy thus conceived freedom in terms of sweeping economic reforms.

Gandhi claimed to recognize the importance of economic reform; but the emphasized the ‘moral’ aspect of freedom. Gandhi thus preferred to use the term ‘Swaraj’ which for him combined in itself not only Self-rule but also Self-control. This view of freedom dominated Indian national tradition. Earlier,  Sri Aurobindo had also distinguished the internal (moral) and external (political and economic) freedom. Swami Vivekananda had summed it by saying: one may gain political free and social independence, but if one is a slave to his passions and desires, one cannot feel the pure joy of real freedom’.

Interestingly, Roy in his later years revised his view of Freedom. He now believed that the motives of freedom, fraternity and order along with moral motive characterized true social revolution and Freedom. The moral motive, he said, was essential to build a strong and durable order as it ensures honesty and transparency in working of the system. In his “New Humanism” or the new philosophy of revolution, Roy went on to elaborate the idea. According to Roy, freedom does not necessarily follow from the capture of political power in the name of the oppressed and the exploited classes and abolition of private property in the means of production. For creating a new world of freedom, says Roy, revolution must go beyond an economic reorganization of society. A political system and an economic experiment which subordinate the man of flesh and blood to an imaginary collective ego, be it the nation or class, cannot possibly be, in Roy’s view, the suitable means for the attainment of the goal of freedom .

Years later, Roy was highly impressed by Gandhi moving away from power-zone immediately after India attained Independence. He appreciated Gandhi’s one-man peace mission to Bengal to douse the flames of communal riots, while celebrations were going on Delhi. Roy respected Gandhi’s moral power. The news of Gandhi’s assassination reached Roy while he was delivering a talk at Calcutta. He was deeply shocked, thoroughly disturbed and could not continue with his talk; and ended the meeting with tributes to Gandhi. In his article published in Independent India, Roy paid glowing tributes to Gandhi, stressing on Gandhi’s message that the end does not justify means.

The scholar Shri RM Pal , in his article written as apart of his ‘Research project on Gandhi and MN  Roy‘ published in The Mainstream Weekly of 10 July 2010 wrote :

On the face of it Gandhi and Roy would seem to represent two entirely opposite trends and points of view in modern history, especially in modern Indian politics…….. However, a closer view of these two very outstanding Indians suggests that contrariness notwithstanding, they may also have significant affinities which may provide clues not only to their respective personalities and careers but also to the historical context in which they lived and worked. They were both unambiguously committed to their respective ideals and brought into politics a moral dimension, which is hard to find in India today. Towards the end of his life Roy recognised in Gandhi the presence of certain rare qualities of spirit which characterised his own personality and which rarely survived the stresses and strains of a political career. Certain affinities between Gandhi and Roy in his last phase have been noted by political analysts ]

 

Bose stamp

Continued

In

Next Part

Sources and References

M N Roy by V B Karnik

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

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

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

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

Socialism of Jawaharlal Nehru by Rabindra Chandra Dutt

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

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

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

Elections after Government of India Act 1935

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

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

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

Pictures are from Internet

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

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

Continued from Part 11

Communism – India – Nationalism – (Continued)

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

This really put Roy on the mat.

**

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

singaravelu chattiar

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

**

Nehru

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Philip_Spratt

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

That meant the end of united front with revolutionary nationalists.

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

**

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

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

**

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

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

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

 **

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

stamp

Continued

In

Next Part

 

 

 

Sources and References

Communism in India by Marshall Windmiller

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

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

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

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

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

Political Philosophy Of M.N. Roy

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

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

 

 
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