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A. Roland

The Dilemma of the Capitalist Class of India

(18 April 1942)

From The Militant, Vol. 6 No. 16, 18 April 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A Blow to British Cabinet

The British have suffered a heavy blow in the refusal of the Indian Congress Party to accept the British War Cabinet plan. The extent of the blow may be judged by the fact that not even the “left socialist” lawyer Cripps, that professional “friend of India,” could sell the Churchill gold brick. Even the Hindu bourgeoisie was compelled to reject an obvious fraud.

The Indian Congress Party is careful not to burn all its bridges, however. That party represents the capitalist class of India, who know very well that they dare not set the Hindu masses in motion against British imperialism. The oppressed masses would act in their own interests and would attempt to throw off their backs not only the foreign but the native exploiters as well. The Nehrus and Azads would like to see the end of the rule of the totalitarian Indian princes who are kept in the saddle in their many small states by the British Raj. But the Indian Congress leaders depend on the English rulers only to a lesser degree than the princes. For these leaders are the direct spokesmen for the native factory owners and the native shareholders of British finance.

The Fear of Being Discredited

The British miscalculated the requirements of so critical a moment as the present one. They offered the Indian bourgeoisie entirely too little for so much. They were asking the Hindu leaders to sell the war to the Indian masses. That is no mean task, as anyone knows who has the faintest idea of the conditions imposed on those many-millioned lowly sons and daughters of India. Actually what the English desired was some gesture on the part of the Hindu and Moslem upper class that would tend to render the masses at least passive for the duration, and not actively hostile. Certainly the Nehrus, who have themselves seen the inside of the English jails, do have some idea of Indian conditions and of the smoldering hatred of the English deeply embedded in the hearts of their downtrodden countrymen.

That is why the Congress Party rejected the proposals. It was not that they looked the gift horse in the mouth and saw its ugly teeth. It was due rather to the knowledge that acceptance would have discredited them completely among the masses. The fraud was so palpable and obvious that the masses might well have constituted a new and independent movement directed against both the English and their native allies. The risk they might thus take, and the imminent danger to the English rule over India, warranted a much higher price. The English, of course, fear the higher price – native rule – as much as they fear the Japanese invasion.

We mentioned that the Indian Congress did not burn all its bridges. It was most friendly and polite to the English overlord. It tried to be as helpful as possible, short of giving in completely. It offered to cooperate with the English in the defense of India. Its resolution speaks of its desire to line up with the progressive forces of the world, but as a free India. By a free India the Congress meant a capitalist India. The stress of further events may yet force the English to make a much better offer.

Jinnah, leader of the Moslem party, got pretty much what he wanted in the Churchill plan. He was to be allowed to constitute a separate state, if the Moslems so desired. But this open tool of British imperialism was forced to wait for his cue from the Congress Party. How could he accept a plan, in reality his own plan, which was yet rejected by the others? That would have labelled him too obviously as the tool that he is. Had Congress accepted the plan, Jinnah would also have accepted, particularly since his master would have demanded it in that case.

Protection of Minorities

The English brazenly make the claim that they, the masters, are anxious to preserve the rights of the Moslem minority, to protect this minority from oppression by the majority. The Indian Congress properly rejects this claim as an attempt to create disunity and to set up Irish Ulsters in India. But why couldn’t Congress make these guarantees directly in its own name to the Moslems in such a way that its sincerity would be unquestioned? Lenin always stood for the self-determination of national minorities even to the point of complete recession. He was thus able to build the powerful Federation of Soviet States,

But that would mean the activizing of the masses themselves. It would mean the widest extension of democracy and universal suffrage. The Indian Congress feels rightly that it would tread here on ground much too dangerous for its own safety. Class rule can never tolerate complete democracy, particularly not in this epoch.

Meantime the problem of the war remains. The Japanese must also take into account the political situation in India. The Mikado would undoubtedly like to march into India. But what; will that invasion bring? If it brings the Hindu masses to their feet and tends to set the teeming millions in motion, the Japanese armies may again experience the same thing they did in China. The Japanese navy might seize some part of the coast, but what about the interior? The Hindus would hardly welcome them as liberators. The Japanese would face the danger of being swallowed up by the outbursts of an agrarian revolution. The war is approaching a stage where the colonial peoples may have something to say for themselves against both imperialist camps.

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