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John G. Wright

Masses Alone Will Win
Independence for India

Ghandi [sic!], Nehru Are Incapable of Leading
Successful Struggle Against Imperialism

(25 April 1942)

From The Militant, Vol. 6 No. 17, 25 April 1942, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Can the Indian bourgeoisie, led by Gandhi, Nehru and other spokesmen of the All-India Congress Party, be entrusted with the leadership of the struggle against British imperialism? The outcome of India’s struggle in the next period hinges upon the way in which Indian peasants and workers answer this question.

There are fundamental reasons why the Indian bourgeoisie Is incapable of conducting a genuine struggle for emancipation. The political unreliability of the present leadership flows from the economic relationships within the country.

British capitalism is the dominant power in India today not only politically but economically. The bulk of India’s national debt is held by British investors. Similarly, in British hands is more than half of the capital in industrial, mining and transport enter prises and almost two-thirds of the capital in banks, insurance companies, plantations and commerce. India’s foreign trade if almost completely controlled by Britain. Only 13 percent of ships engaged in coastal traffic and 2 per cent of those in oceanic trade are now owned by Indian companies. This means that India can gain real freedom only by breaking the British stranglehold on her economy.

But the Indian capitalists will never dare to accomplish this in the one way it can really be accomplished, namely, by leading a movement to expropriate British holdings. Such a movement would immediately confront them with the threat of their own expropriation by the Indian workers and peasants. Small capitalists must always submit to big ones. So long as British capitalists remain dominant in India, the native capitalists would have to obey – as they have in the past – the dictates and desires of their superiors.

Therefore, even if India were to gain her political independence through negotiations under the leadership of the native capitalists, her freedom would be merely a formal one. India would still remain in British bondage because of the overwhelming predominance of British capital in the most vital spheres of the country’s economic life.

This economic subservience of the Indian bourgeoisie has resulted in still another crucial development. For lack of fields of investment, a large part of native capital has gone into land, or more correctly, into the purchase of feudal rights to land. Because of this, the native capitalists find themselves tied directly with the mortal enemies of the peasantry, i.e., the feudal princes whose rule, in turn, depends upon British bayonets. It is Impossible, however, to conduct a determined struggle for independence without rousing the peasants who constitute the bulk of the population.

Yet the program of the All-India Congress Party for the peasantry is Gandhi’s program: to democratize the existing feudal autocracies by “representative governments in the native states under the aegis of the ruling princes.” Such a “democracy” is democracy in words only. It would leave the peasants in exactly the same intolerable conditions as under the British rule, with this difference, that the native bourgeoisie would replace the existing British bureaucracy. Such a program can serve to strangle a struggle but never to unfold it. But once again the native capitalists dare not offer another for fear of losing an important part of their investments.

Because of these basic reasons the Indian workers and peasants can place no confidence whatever in the leadership of the Indian bourgeoisie. That is why we warn the Indian masses that the cause of then country’s independence is gravely endangered so long as it remains in the hands of the present leadership. India’s salvation can be gained only by the self-action of the peasants and workers themselves on the basis of a program which will guarantee land to the peasantry, safeguard the rights of workers, and free the country politically and economically from British domination.


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