New Wave is a revolutionary socialist organization building a Bolshevik-Leninist Party in India and the 4th International www.newwavemaha.wordpress.com www.new-wave-nw.blogspot.com February 2011
The Naval Mutiny and the Struggle for a Revolutionary India
Britain’s Reactionary Role in India: A Thesis of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India (Fourth International) Adopted in 1941
India, the largest, the longest dominated and exploited of British conquests, Britain’s richest field of investment, its source of incalculable plunder and profit, its base of Asiatic expansion, the inexhaustible reservoir of material and human resources for British wars, the focus of all British strategic aims, the pivot of the Empire, and the bulwark of British world domination, after 200 years of subjection offers the most complete demonstration of the workings and results of the colonial system of modern imperialism. Every European colonising power directed its first efforts towards India, and the bitterest struggles for the glittering prize were fought on the battlefields of Europe and India alike. The success of Britain in defeating both her continental rivals and the native rulers of India paved the way
for her subsequent world supermacy. The plunder of India was a main source of the primitive accumulation of capital which made possible the English industrial revolution. The exploitation of the Indian market and of Indian raw materials provided the basis of British industrial expansion in the 19th Century. Today India provides a field of investment for a quarter of British overseas capital holding, and sends to Britain roughly Â£150 millions annually, as tribute in various forms. After 200 years of imperialist rule, India presents a picture of poverty and misery of the masses which is without equal in the world – the more striking because up to the 18th Century the economic condition of India was relatively advanced, and Indian methods of production and of industrial and commercial organiza-
tion could compare with those of any part of the world; and because of the vast natural wealth and resources of the country, which cannot be utilized and developed under the imperialist system. European capitalist penetration of India began with the Portuguese establishment of their factory in Calicut. The British (1600), Dutch (1602) and the French (1664) formed their trading companies in the course of the 17th Century. Capitalist Destruction of Indian Economy The British conquest of India, carried out piecemeal and in the most ruthless, vindictive, and deceitful manner, differed from every previous conquest of India in that, while earlier foreign conquerors left untouched the traditional economy, British
imperialism broke down the whole framework of Indian society. The first steps of this destruction were carried out by (a) the East India Company’s colossal direct plunder, (b) the British neglect of irrigation and public works, (c) the wrecking of the Indian land system and its replacement by a system of landlordism and individual landholding, (d) direct prohibition and heavy duties on the export of Indian manufactures to Europe and to England. But it was the operations of the 19th Century British industrial capitalism, and the governmental policies initiated by it in India, that decisively broke up the Indian economic structure. The industrial capitalists of Britain had a clearcut aim in India – to reduce it to an agricultural colony of British capitalism, supplying raw materials and absorbing its manufactured goods. Britain captured and developed the Indian market for her industrial goods on the basis of the technical superiority of English machine industry (for which the Indian plunder had provided the accumulated capital), while deliberately utilizing the state power to block the export of Indian goods to Europe and permit the free entry of British goods to India. The destruction and collapse of Indian manufacturers in this unequal struggle was the inevitable result. The ruin of millions of artisans and craftsmen was not accompanied by any growth of newer forms of industry, and the old urban centres of Indian manufactures (Dacca, Murchibad, Surat) were depopulated and laid waste. The work of destruction was not confined to the towns. The handloom and the spinning wheel were the pivots of the structure of Indian society which was based on the domestic union of agricultural and manufacturing pursuits. British steam and science uprooted the union between agriculture and manufacturing industry. The British intruder thus broke up the Indian handloom and destroyed the spinning wheel, struck at the roots of the Indian society, and destroyed the balance of
the village economy. To consolidate the conquest of India and to develop the Indian resources for exploitation by the British capitalist class as a whole, the East India Company was replaced in 1858 by direct governmental administration. After a century of neglect of the most elementary functions of government, the British inaugurated a process of the active development of the country by (a) building a network of railroads, (b) the development of roads, (c) the introduction of the electric telegraph and of a uniform postal system, (d) giving the benefits of Western education to a limited class of Indians, and (e) the introduction of the European banking system into India. While opening up India for commercial penetration and supplying a market for British iron, steel and engineering industries, this process of development – especially the construction of railways – laid the foundations of a new stage – the development of British capital investments in India. The last decades of the 19th Century and the first of the 20th were marked by the imperialist export of finance capital from the countries of Western Europe and North America to every corner of the globe, and by conquest and exploitation of all the backward countries through the colonial system. Between 1880 and 1914 the major European powers and the United States had carved up the whole world into colonies and spheres of exploitation. The Rule of Finance-Capital This period of modern imperialist expansion was marked in India by an intensification of British exploitation, and a corresponding change in its character, wherein the finance-capitalist exploitation of India came to dominate all other methods. Nevertheless, the new basis of exploitation did not replace the already established forms of plunder and industrial and trading exploitation, but was auxiliary and parallel to these processes. British capitalist investment in India developed at a rapid pace in the
second half of the 19th Century, with the expansion of railway construction, and also with the establishment of tea, coffee and rubber plantations, and other minor enterprises. The holdings of British capital in India developed not on the basis of the export of British capital, but rather through the plunder of the Indian people, which was reinvested in India, as a rich source of interest. The sterling debt of the Indian government, which included more than one-third of the total holdings of British capital, has been manipulated to include the cost of every British imperialist undertaking (including wars for the subjection of India, and other colonial wars) which could conceivably be charged to India. The colossal amount of this debt bears no relation to the costs of the public works schemes carried out. At the same time, the almost continuous excess of the value of Indian exports to Britain over that of imports, has left no room for a real export of capital to India. Nevertheless, the volume of British holdings in India today exceeds £1,000 millions. With the post-war weakening of Britain’s share of the Indian market (Britain’s share of Indian imports dropped from 63 per cent to 29 per cent between 1913 and 1937), in the face of foreign competition and the rise of Indian – especially cotton – industry, British imperialism has consolidated its financial stranglehold on the Indian economy as its chief source of profit in India. The proportion of Britain’s total overseas investment which has been placed in India has risen from 11 per cent in 1911 to 25 per cent in 1937. Despite this, there has been since 1927 (with the collapse of the post-war boom and the general crisis), a sharp drop in the actual volume of British capital newly invested in India, which reflects the general stagnation of the economic development in India. The capital investments of Britain in India have never led to the industrialization of India on a scale proportionate to their volume. The colossal waste involved in the railway construction in the last century, and
the unproductive expenditure which swelled India’s public debt, created a glaring disproportion between the size of British investments and the slow economic development of the country. Up to 1914, 97 per cent of British capital invested in India was devoted to purposes of government (i.e. wars, the heavy costs of bureaucratic administration, levies for costly durbars, etc.), to transport, plantations, and finance. These investments served as auxiliaries to the commercial penetration of India and its exploitation as a source of raw materials and a market for British goods, and did not lead to the development of modern industry in India on any commensurable scale. The industrial development of India which has taken place in recent times bears no relation to Indian needs. The vast resources of India have never been tapped. The rate of industrial advance, far lower than that of other large non-European countries, has not, even in modern times, kept pace with the decline of Indian handicrafts – with the result that from 1911 to 1931 there has been a reduction in the proportion of the population dependent on industry (including domestic industry). The growth of Indian industry has been greatly impeded by British imperialism, for fear of competition with home industries, by administrative neglect, by a hostile tariff policy, and by unfavorable currency manipulations. Until 1914 this policy of opposition to industrial development in India was openly followed, particularly by the removal of import duties on competing British goods. The brief and half-hearted reversal of policy after 1914 and during the period when British capital flowed in to share in the profits of the postwar boom, was nullified by the later raising of the exchange rates, which disastrously hit Indian exports. British Fetters on Production Under these conditions, the development of modern industry in India has taken place at a very slow rate, and in lopsided fashion, chiefly in light industry. The basis necessary for
real industrial development – heavy industry – has never been laid. Until 1914, large organized production in India was represented chiefly by the cotton, jute and coal-mining industries, and by the tea, rubber and coffee plantations. The post-war period, when foreign competition was reduced, was marked by a short and feverish boom which led to the development of other industries, including steel and iron, cement, manganese, and other minor types. This period was utilized by British capital, which during the years 1921 to 1923 flowed in at an average annual rate of over Â£23 millions. But the brief post-war boom was followed by a period of stagnation and decline, prolonged by the currency policy of the government, and finally intensified by the world crisis of 1929-1931 which signified the entry of world capitalism into a period of decline. Indian industry shows even today no indication of recovery. The scope of the industrialization undertaken for war purposes during the present imperialist war, is not meant to include an all-sided development of Indian industry, but will be restricted to the strategic needs of British imperialism. Such an all-sided development of industry is excluded by the hostility of the government to Indian industrial development, by the determination of Britain to maintain its share of the Indian market, and above all by the insoluble problems of the home market caused by the extreme impoverishment of the agricultural population under imperialism. The industrialization of India, on which her future depends, cannot be carried out without the overthrow of imperialism and a sweeping transformation of agrarian relations. Despite the hostility of imperialism to the industrialization of India, it is British and not Indian capital that has always held the dominant place in Indian industry, not only through the decisively greater volume of its investments in industry, but also through its financial stranglehold on the whole Indian economy. The Indian capitalist class, whose growth was mainly connected with the
development of the cotton industry, has never been able to shake off the controlling power of British finance capital. Despite the advance of Indian capital, British capital remains in effectively monopolist domination in banking, commerce, exchange and insurance, in shipping, in the tea, coffee, and rubber plantations, and in the jute industry. In iron and steel, Indian capital has been forced to come to terms with British capital, and even in the cotton industry, the home of Indian capital, the control of British capital, through the managing agency system, is very great. Already in 1928, (before the economic crisis), English managing agents controlled the actual majority of the capital of cotton companies (50.3 per cent). The economic depression which affected Indian industry after 1924 (and especially after 1929), and the bankruptcy, liquidations and difficulties of many Indian firms which had arisen in the post-war period, were utilized by British capital to strengthen its hold on Indian industry. Most decisive for the controlling power of British finance capital is the role of the foreign banking system, working in conjunction with the government’s financial and exchange policies. Financial power remains monopolized in British hands, through the Reserve Bank of India, the Imperial Bank, and the big Exchange Banks. The Indian joint-stock banks hold less than one-third of bank deposits in India, and are themselves being invaded by British capital. The Indian capitalist class, therefore, despite its growth in recent times, remains essentially dependent upon, and an agentry of British finance capital, performing a subsidiary role in the exploitation of India. Despite its dreams of industrialization, and of a broadened base of exploitation for itself, the Indian bourgeoisie shackled as it is to imperialism cannot play the historic role of the earlier West European bourgeoisie in liberating and developing the productive forces. The industrial advance of India demands absolutely the overthrow of imperialism, with which Indian
bourgeois interests are indissolubly bound, and the overthrow of which they will be bound to resist. Nevertheless, the rising productive forces in India are straining against the fetters of imperialism and of the obsolete economic structure which it maintains and protects. This conflict finds its expression not only in the industrial stagnation, but in a much sharper way in the agrarian crisis, which is the index of the bankruptcy of imperialist economy, and the main driving force towards revolution. The Permanent Agrarian Crisis Britain relegated to India the role of an agricultural appendage to imperialism. The ravages of Indian industries carried out in the 19th Century drove the population of the ruined industrial centers back to the land and at the same time ruined the livelihood of millions of artisans in the villages. The overcrowding of agriculture which has reached a stage today where three-fourths of the entire Indian population are solely dependent on the land, and where the proportion of land available for cultivation has fallen to less than 1¼ acre per head of the agrarian population. The effect of this exaggerated disequilibrium in the economy is further aggravated by the stagnation and deterioration of agriculture itself, for which the British are also directly responsible through their disruption of the village economy, their iniquitous exactions of land revenue, their expropriation of the peasantry, their creation of parasitic landlordism, and their notorious neglect of public works on the land, which have been from time immemorial the function of the government and without which in India the cultivation of the soil cannot be carried on. The criminal indifference of the government and the suffocating parasitism of the landlords are responsible for the incredibly low productivity and exhaustion of the soil (of which 35 per cent is left waste in India and Burma), and the recent actual shrinkage in the area under cultivation while the population is on the
increase. These conditions, which have depressed the vast majority of the rural population to a level of unspeakable poverty and chronic semi-starvation, and have led to a state of permanent agricultural crisis, are inevitably paving the way for a sweeping revolution as their only outcome and solution. The characteristic process of imperialism, the expropriation of the colonial population from ownership of the land, was carried out by the British under cover of legal forms, which in effect transformed the “eternal” land system of the Indian village commune into an inextricable amalgam of feudal and semi-feudal rights and tenures. The British introduced into India private property in land. In Bengal they created a caricature of English landed property on a large scale; in South Eastern India a caricature of small allotment property; in the North West they did their utmost to transform the Indian commune with common ownership of the land into a caricature of itself. The aims which guided the British transformation of the Indian land system were twofold – firstly to guarantee the effective collection of their extortionate land revenues, which rose steeply from the time of the Conquest (from £4 millions in 1800 to £15 millions in 1857 to £23 millions in 1936-1937); and in the second place to create Indian landed
interests deeply interested in the continuance of British domination. It is above all the still unbroken alliance between British imperialism and Indian landlordism that links up the overthrow of imperialism with the agrarian revolution in India. Landlordism was created and fostered by the British not only in the provinces of temporary and permanent zamindari (landlords) – Bengal, United Province, Bihar, Punjab, but also in the Ryotwari areas in which the processes of mortgaging and subletting have been carried to fantastic lengths, so that the cultivator of the soil is despoiled by an increasing army of functionless intermediaries in addition to the big parasites and the government itself. A great proportion of the real cultivators of the soil are without rights of any kind and remain unaffected even by the temporary legislation by which the government has sought to stave off the impending crisis. Even in the Ryotwari areas, where settlement was originally made with the cultivators themselves, they have been dispossessed to a great extent by moneylenders and others. From the beginning, landlordism under British rule has been parasitic in character, since landlords neither supply agricultural capital nor control farming operations. Today landlordism, taken in conjunction with its superstructure of sub-infeudation
and sub-letting, is the most effective barrier to the development of modern large scale agriculture. The penetration of finance-capital in the agrarian field, which characterizes the recent period, far from freeing the productive forces from the incubus of feudalism or introducing modern productive technique, has taken place for the most part within the framework of feudal and semi-feudal relations and has become enmeshed with feudal forms of exploitation. The net result has been to add to the burdens of the peasantry by decisively accelerating their expropriation from the land and by crushing them under a load of debt, which amounted in 1937 to £1,350 millions. The moneylender’s exactions and confiscations, together with the payments demanded by the government and the landlord’s extortions, forms for the peasantry a triple scourge which has reduced the greater proportion of cultivators in India to the status of unprotected tenants, sharecroppers and landless wage-laborers. Capitalist inroads have sharply accelerated the diffe-
rentiation of classes within rural society, increasing the numbers of parasitic rent-receivers on one hand and of propertyless elements on the other. The particularly rapid growth of parasitic landlordism in recent times, as well as the sharp rise in rural debt (from Â£400 millions in 1921 to Â£1,350 in 1937) is really the reflection of the invasion of moneyed interests, big and small, in the agrarian field, having failed to find effective outlets for investment in productive industry. Thus the direct plunder of the peasantry of the early British period has given place to a network of forms of exploitation by modern finance-capital, with its host of subsidiary parasites in the Indian economy. The Indian capitalist class, no less than the British Government and the semi-feudal landlords, are tied to the existing order of rural society and are interested in its perpetuation. The abolition of landlordism in all its forms, in defiance of all these vested interests, the abolition of rural debt, and the unencumbered transfer of
Amsritsar 1919. Another British massacre in India
the land to the cultivators themselves, is the basic social task of the Indian revolution and the absolute prerequisite of agricultural advance in India. British imperialism in the epoch of declining world capitalism has become the most powerful reactionary force in India, in turn buttressing all other forms of reaction. Its failure to develop the industrial forces in India through industrialization, and the chronic stagnation and decay of agriculture under its rule, make its continued existence incompatiible with the advancement of India and render its overthrow an historical inevitability. To maintain its rule in India, in the face of the rising tide of mass revolt, British imperialism uses all the weapons of bureaucratic and military repression with increasing viciousness. Nevertheless, the day of reckoning cannot be long postponed. The solution of the terrible problems of the toiling millions of India demand the overthrow and elimination of British imperialism, which is the foremost task of the coming Indian revolution.
India: 1947 and Its Place in History By Rajesh Tyagi
Patel and Nehru were instrumental in derailing the mutiny Year 1947 is marked in India’s history by the fact that it was the dead end of our National Struggle, i.e. our common goal as a nation- the goal of emancipation from domination of Colonialism. Indian Bourgeois, which under Gandhian leadership hitherto had been putting up a meek resistance against the colonial rule, took the reigns of power in its own hands, not through resistance, but with consent of Colonial masters. It came to power, not as a result of any hostility towards imperialism, but as its agent, willfully surrendering all posts to the enemy, adapting itself to the neo-colonial regime, marked by large scale export of capital instead of goods, and economic domination of imperialism instead of direct political rule. Becoming just another link in the chain of world capitalism, the renegade Indian bourgeois ceceded from national struggle, separated itself from the masses of people- the workers and peasants, who were now to reel under double yoke of capitalism, domestic as well as global. Indian bourgeois, not only adapted itself to the global domination of Imperialism, but sheltered under its wings the forces of local reaction,
under domination of landlords in countryside. The 60 years history of Indian bourgeois is the history of its more and more adaptation to world capitalism, collaboration with local reactionaries and consequently its perpetually hostile position towards working people of India. The mission of complete emancipation from the yoke of imperialism, now renounced by the bourgeois, ceased to be a national goal, i.e. the common goal of all social classes and became a class goal, a goal for the working classes. Our common struggle as a ‘Nation’ against Imperialism, thus came to an end, paving way for ‘class struggle’ waged by working classes, not only against imperialism- global capitalism, but also against its local lackeys- Indian Bourgeois and landlords, who had stabbed the national struggle in the back by joining the bandwagon of Imperialism. 1940’s was a decade of unrest, witnessing a big upsurge in the tamper of masses and was full of radical activity of people. The tide of mass struggles was rising to unprecedented proportions, acquiring ever new heights and varied forms of struggle. Old individual terroristic immature
methods had already cleared the way for actions by broad masses of workers and peasants, and the unarmed protests were spontaneously growing over to armed struggle, here and there. Despite the ‘pious’ wishes of bourgeois leadership of Gandhi-Nehru, mass resistance to imperialism was acquiring more and more militant forms. From 322 in 1940, total number of workers’ strikes in 1942 had become 694, with number of participants rising from 4,50,000 in 1940 to 7,72,000 in 1942. Peasant revolts in countryside had become very frequent and had a reciprocal effect on the struggle in urban centres. The ‘August Rebellion’ was offshoot of this tide, where people on their own had taken to armed struggle, pushing aside the Gandhian farce. 2,000 perished and 60,000 were taken prisoners, to be put in special camps for shortage of jails. Such tremendous energy was generated by the wave of mass struggle. The then leadership of the CPI, treading the path shown by the Comintern under Stalin, instead of calling upon the masses for forcible overthrow of British rule and seizure of power, by riding the wave of 1942, held back the proletariat, openly opposed the ‘August Revolution’ and called for support to war efforts of British Colonialists against axis powers. This was done when British Imperial power was already perplexed by the takeover of Burma by Japan and arrest of Anglo-Indian armies stationed there. Congress was banned, while ban on CPI was lifted. The working people, prime actor on the stage of history at that moment were thus pushed back, leaving the field open for free-play of bourgeois leadership under Gandhi, demeaning the role of working class and its party. The bourgeois, thus got the hegemony over the liberation movement. After comparatively peaceful years of 1943-44, marked on the one hand by famine in which 50 lakh perished,
and on the other by division and disintegration among the radical forces on the question of attitude towards the war efforts of Colonial rule, there came another mighty wave of radical upsurge in 1945-46. In August 1945 armed clashes between workers and the police first took place in Benaras and were then repeated in Bombay and spread to other regions in the form of riots. Mass protests then started to mark the opposition of people of India to the support being sent by British rulers to France and Holland to suppress their colonies. Porters refused to load the ships destined to Indonesia. Nationawide protests then took place against award of sentences to officers of Indian National Army. Mass demonstrations soon developed in general strike, where broad sections of people took part. Barricades were erected first in Calcutta and then in Bombay. In 1946, once again Calcutta was barricaded by the protestors, and the unrest spread to other parts of the country-to towns and villages. At some places people took to armed struggle against British regime and their lackeys-landlords. Army was called to suppress the movement and could suppress it with great violence. During this period both strikes of workers and peasant rebellions were touching new heights in their magnitude and form of struggle. Unrest was spreading to armed forces also. A strike of sailors and porters on warship ‘Talwar’ started with partial demands which were soon reinforced with political demands. Twenty other warships present in the area then joined the strike, with Coast guards following the course. Pilots in Royal Air-force at Bombay Air force Station were already on strike and were joined first by Calcutta Airmen and then strike spread to other Air Force Stations. Battleships were sent to suppress the rebellion in Navy, but failed to quell the rebellion, even after a full fledged gun-battle. The victorious sailors marched on the roads of Bombay with arms in hands and were joined by workers and students. General strike broke out in support of stri-
kers on 22nd February. Congress and Muslim League, both, instead of supporting the rebellion, called for surrender and sent Sardar Vallabhai Patel as common emissary to persuade the strikers to surrender. Army was called to crush the rebellion by force. 300 killed, 1700 wounded. Rebellion could be crushed with brute force, but it showed that the old days have gone forever. 1946 saw more than 2000 strikes in which 20 lakh workers participated and 13 million work-days were destroyed. Peasant rebellions were also spreading. 11 districts in Tibhaga peasant Struggle in Bengal, In Layalpur Punjab, Bombay, Hyderabad, Telangana, Kashmir, Basti, Balia in UP were centres of peasant revolt. Kerala and Tamilnadu were also witnessing peasant revolts. Similarly, Bombay, Kanpur, Calcutta, Nagpur, Mysore, Madras were all scenes of workers’ movement. The active resistance of the working people to the Imperialist rule in India, growing beyond false preaching of Gandhi and defying the false leadership of Congress, frightened the British Imperialists, but more than them the Indian Bourgeois and Landlords. The upsurge of working masses, especially in the fourth decade of 20th century, forced them to fall into the arms of each other. Possibility of an imminent forcible overthrow of colonial rule and taking over of the power by the revolutionary people, was looked upon as a real threat, not only by the Imperialists but by the Indian bourgeois also, which was hardly interested in any emancipatory cause of the national liberation movement, but was eager to take the reigns of power in its hands and integrate itself into the system of world capitalism. During the fourth decade, when working people were engaged in life and death struggle against British Imperialism, the bourgeois-landlord leadership of Congress and Muslim League, was engaged in hobnobbing with Imperial rulers for concessions and whatever share in power structures could be grabbed. The bourgeois as a class was busy to grow itself on the plunder and devastation
of people- first famine and then war. Enriched through extreme exploitation of peasants, artisans, workers and small producers, during the famine of 1943-44, the bankers and traders had amassed great wealth and had grown into- capitalist class. After famine, now World War-II came to their service. The Indian Bourgeois strove to gobble big contracts for war supplies from colonial regime, during the World War-II. Further enriching itself through these war contracts, the Indian Bourgeois was not only becoming shareholder in British joint stock companies but were opening their own companies. World War-II, led to weakening of British Imperialism and thus the end of British Imperial monopoly, with United States emerging as the big gainer out of the war. British Imperial power was under double pressure. US was demanding re-division of the booty collected from colonial exploitation, while Indian bourgeois, taking for a ride, the wave of mass struggle against colonial domination, was contending for more and more concessions for itself and landlords. The Imperialists, frightened by the high tide of mass struggle, sent Cripps Mission, proposing concessions, prime among them the Constituent Assembly, based upon communal proportion and an Interim Government headed by the British Viceroy. Bourgeois parties happily conceded. Thereafter, came the infamous Mountbatten plan- for division of India on communal lines- as an integral part of the design for transfer of power to it. The renegade bourgeois leadership eager to assume power in exclusion of working people- capitulated, and thus born the celebrated ‘freedom’. The local bourgeois, joined hands with international capitalism to avert the possibility of a successful social revolution in India. Capitulating to the British colonialists, the Indian bourgeois with support of landlords, shamefully accepted the blueprint for peaceful transfer of power, with partition of India on religious lines, as its core scheme, wherein 27 lakh people perished in violence. The In-
dian capitalist class having its origin in cities, joined the bandwagon of global capitalism, strengthening themselves with support from landlords in countryside, presenting itself to be contender for political power as against the growing strength of working people. It assumed power not as an independent contender for it, but as lackey of world capitalism. It then co-opted itself and behind it the landlords, to the economic and political structures of world capitalism, mainly imposed by British imperialism. This is how ‘1947’ presents itself to the prognosis of history, as a turning point on Indian Political scenario –i.e. the virtual end of our national goal, the goal of attaining freedom from the yoke of Imperialism. The slogan of ‘freedom’ became immediately redundant and obsolete, as a national goal, after the bourgeois and landlords turned their back to the aims of the national movement and entered into open collaboration with Imperialists. 1947, is marked by advent of bourgeois democracy, i.e. the dictatorship of the bourgeois and the landlords, totally dependent upon global capitalism. The dictatorship coming through an agreement between the local and international bourgeois at the back of and against the struggling people. The national struggle is stabbed in the back. However, at the threshold of 20th century, the world capitalism has already exhausted its revolutionary energies, growing into completely parasitic form-the modern imperialism, and was reeling under a state of permanent decay. Losing its revolutionary vigour, the Bourgeois had become incompetent to carry out even the bourgeois democratic tasks, any further. Resultantly, in all parts of the world, where democratic revolutions were impending and democratic tasks were yet to be accomplished, the same could not be done, except through a Proletarian revolution, supported by peasantry, resulting in dictatorship of the Proletariat. Where political power was captured by Proletariat, the democratic tasks
were rapidly carried out, but where the power fell to the hands of the bourgeois, the revolutions were stifled and retarded immediately after initial sparks. This happened for two reasons. Firstly, in all countries, the bourgeois joined hands with local reactionary elements-the landlords and foreign reactionaries-the imperialists, as against its own proletariat, adapting itself to double reaction and thus becoming totally counter revolutionary. And secondly because the bourgeois in these countries was even weaker to take to development of productive forces on its own. In fact, there was no room left for independent growth of capitalism in separate countries, after the era of global parasitic capitalism has set in. Thus, wherever proletariat failed to capture power for itself, or did not strive for it and it consequently fell to the hands of bourgeois, the countries took to the capitalist path of development, resulting in arrest of productive forces by local reaction at home, and total dependence outside, thus becoming a link in the world capitalist chain. India matured for a bourgeois democratic revolution, while confined in the clutches of British colonialism, very late in time, when British bourgeois had already lost its initial revolutionary vigour and had entered in the state of decay. In its own land, it was facing hostility from its proletariat, while in colonies it was face to face with colonial people, pursuing the barbaric policy of colonialism. In colonies, under its domination, it bound the masses hand and foot, depriving them of all benefits delivered by world capitalism, blocking all avenues of its awakening to the new light generated by the capitalism in its youthful past, while simultaneously making the colonial people to bear the worst burdens of it, especially in the days of its overall decay. Colonial rule in India was based upon adaptation of production relations of medieval ages, prevalent in India, by the decaying capitalism of Europe. Theoretically speaking, there could have been two possibilities around 1947. Either the Working class in
conjunction with peasantry could have seized the power for itself in a revolutionary manner- by forcible overthrow of colonial regime and in exclusion of the bourgeois-landlords at home; Or the Bourgeois could have received the power for itself in conjunction with the landlords, not as a consequence of struggle against colonial rule, but through intrigue upon the people, bargaining separately with colonial regime. The prospects of first possibility- the revolutionary seizure of power by proletariat with the aid of peasantry, were artificially dimmed by 1947, because of the bogus policy of Comintern in 1940’s to hold back the working people from forcible overthrow of British power in India, rather directing them to collaborate with it. The flames of Russian revolution, which had sparked great zeal in National Liberation Struggle around the second decade, were extinguished by the infamous ‘popular front’ policy of Comintern, forging an alliance with capitalist parties, nationally and internationally, mainly British Imperialists, on false pretexts. Given this policy, no independent and determined offensive could be taken by the Proletariat to seize power for itself. Taking benefit of the passivity of proletariat, Bourgeois in collusion with landlords, first established its political hegemony over the National liberation movement and its main platform-Congress, in opposition to the working classes, and later after taking state power in its hands in agreement with Imperialists, grew this hegemony into its full fledged dictatorship. The second possibility thus turned into a tragic reality- leading to establishment of the bourgeois dictatorship. The bourgeois power, thus, came to be established in collusion with Imperialists and in partnership with landlords. Bureaucracy and standing army continued to be the mainstay of this reactionary bourgeois power, as before. Such peaceful transfer of political power, having its ideological roots in the false preaching of Gandhian path, virtually averted the prospects of a forcible overthrow of colonial
rule in a revolutionary way by the revolutionary masses rising in armed revolt and further concentrated the power in the hands of bourgeois class, in exclusion of the Proletariat and peasantry. The bourgeois in conjunction with landlords happily grabbed this opportunity to seize the state power for itself in exclusion of revolutionary masses- the Proletariat and peasantry. Peaceful transfer of Political power was thus advantageous for both the colonialists and local bourgeois, with implied motive to avert the prospects of a revolt of masses under the leadership of the proletariat. What was transferred in 47 was the political power, while the economic network for neo-colonial exploitation was kept intact in the hands of Imperialism. Even after transfer of power to its hands, the Indian bourgeois remained connected to Imperialism with thousand strings and instead of making attempt to resist Imperialist exploitation and domination, became its permanent ally. Capitulation, and not resistance to imperialism, has remained its underlying policy. Even the political Independence which the bourgeois celebrated with so fanfare was not absolute, but was restricted and deformed and which has continued to vanish into thin air with passage of time. Post 47’ scenario is marked on the one hand by increasing mutual adaptation between the Indian bourgeois and landowning class at home, and with the World Capitalism on International scale, to exploit and dominate the Indian people, and on the other by unceasing struggles of the Proletariat and peasantry against this bloc of reactionaries. 1947, goes in the history of India as culminating point of the anti-colonial national struggle, fought by different social classes together, against the British rule. With the cessation of capitalists and landlords from struggle against Imperialism and establishment of bourgeois democracy under their domination, the common national goal has come to an end, leaving nothing to be shared
in common between the bourgeois and proletariat. There are trends in revolutionary movement of today, which do not recognise the advent of bourgeois democracy in 1947, preaching that no transfer of political power had taken place at all and the Country continues to be a semi-colony. These trend, roughly appearing under the banner of ‘Maoism’ prescribing the ‘Chinese path’ as a way out, are desperately searching for revolutionary sections in bourgeois, with ‘nationalbourgeois’ character, deeming them to be an ally in their so-called ‘Newdemocratic’ revolution. This misconception emerges out in the first instance from the incorrect evaluation of character and growth of modern imperialism in general and secondly by miscalculating the 1947 and its aftermath 1947, did witness the transfer of political power from direct domination of British colonialists, to the hands of Indian bourgeois, as an agent of world capitalism, a spoke in the neo-colonial machine. The Indian bourgeois, having assumed the political power for itself, had continued to collaborate with all reactionary elements –the landlords inside, the Imperialists outside, and gradually this collaboration has perfected itself, as against the proletariat and Peasantry. Indian Bourgeois class is linked to these reactionary elements through hundred thousand threads. This collaboration of bourgeois with reactionary forces of feudal society at home and Imperialism abroad, is in the first instance voluntary, stemming out of the utter political and social weakness of the Indian Bourgeois, has determined the nature and development of Indian Capitalism, in Asiatic manner- weak, deformed, capitulationist, growing only in slow evolutionary process and resulting in an overall degeneration of economic, political, social and cultural life of the country. The bourgeois class becoming the master of political power, could not advance the bourgeois revolution at any notable pace, for two reasons. Firstly, it came to power at a time
when the world had already ushered into an era of proletarian revolution and general decay of bourgeois class had set in. Secondly, the Indian Bourgeois finding itself unable to cope with the advent of radical mass upsurge on its own, colluded from the very beginning with landlords inside and Imperialists outside. Barring initial few gimmickries by a section of Congress leadership under Nehru, neither it remained interested in the progress of bourgeois revolution nor it could have advanced it for its alignment with the reactionary forces. As illegitimate heir of the colonial regime, bourgeois has assumed power in India, as agent of world capitalism, revealing its totally comprador character. The democratic tasks, which were accomplished in Europe, to a great extent, by the bourgeois revolutions, (when bourgeois was youthful and revolutionary) thus could not be accomplished by this degenerated comprador bourgeois class in India, even after 60 years of transfer of power to its hands in 1947. The bourgeois revolution was thus consciously hamstrung by none but the coward and capitulationist bourgeois, who utterly failed to accomplish its historic mission. It is this special character of 1947 which highlights the contrast between the advent of bourgeois democracy through powerful bourgeois-democratic revolutions in Europe, to the meek, capitulationist and retarded emergence of bourgeois democracy in India, hand in hand with forces of inertia against any revolutionary advance. This failure of Indian bourgeois in forwarding the revolution has resulted in overall decay of the social and political life of the country, leaving the power in the hands of worst elements of bourgeois and landlords. The rising crime and rampant corruption, are glaring expressions of the fact that the bourgeois rule in India has grown in total misrule led by the worst elements of bourgeois world-the power brokers, smugglers, corrupt and criminals.
Ballots, Barricades, and Bloodshed: The Mass Upsurge of 1945-46 in Colonial India Excerpt from Charles Wesley Ervin, Tomorrow is Ours: The Trotskyist Movement in India and Ceylon, 1935-48 (Colombo: Social Scientists’ Association, 2006), chapter 7. C.W. Ervin may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mutineers march through Bombay The Naval Mutiny Less than a week later the British government faced a new threat in Bombay. Indian ratings (enlisted men) in the Royal Indian Navy mutinied. Trouble had been brewing in the RIN for some time. The ratings resented the bad food, low pay, and racist abuse from their commanding officers. The INA trials had an effect, too. As one rating recalled, “For the first time, many of us started feeling: What have we been fighting for—the preservation of empire? Shouldn’t our own country be free?” The ratings decided to mutiny to get the attention of Congress. “If all of us refuse to eat breakfast, that will be mutiny; and once the mutiny happens, we’ll take over the navy. Once we take over the navy, those national leaders who have gone underground to fight the British will come and lead us.” Some approached the CPI in Bombay. However, the CPI leaders refused to support their plan and told the ratings “to stay with the
rest.” The ratings got a better reception from Aruna Asaf Ali, the Congress Socialist Party leader. The fact is the ratings were on their own from the start. The revolt started on Monday, February 18, 1946 at the RIN shore signal school, HMIS Talwar. After confronting their officers the ringleaders seized the communications room and broadcast their revolt to every ship and shore base. A little after midnight ratings at HMIS Hemla joined the mutiny. The revolt spread quickly to 22 ships in Bombay harbour and the Castle Barracks and Fort Barracks shore bases. Many petty officers, and a few ranking officers, joined the rebels. The next morning mutineers seized military vehicles in the dockyards and drove around Bombay shouting slogans in support of the INA prisoners. The Central Strike Committee issued a leaflet which ended with the call, “Long live the solidarity of workers, soldiers, students and peasants. Long live the Revolution!” The
ratings were in a celebratory mood. The government held back while the ratings held a peaceful mass rally and led an orderly march in Bombay. BLPI – First to Strike The BLPI was the first party in Bombay to call for a general strike in support of the mutiny. “As news of the Naval Mutiny spread through Bombay,” remembers Indra Sen, “the BLPI got its followers together and decided to call a general strike. Our night workers in the textile mills— More and Lakshman Jadhav—led the third-shift workers out of the mills. By early morning we had issued a leaflet. We painted the word, ‘Hartal!’, on the sidewalks.” Douglas Garbutt, a British Trotskyist in uniform who was working with the BLPI in Bombay at that point, corroborated that account. He wrote to his comrades in London, “I can tell you that our friends played a leading role in Bombay—the general strike can be directly traced to them, as the
first workers to come out were ours and were carrying a flag with our device on it!” The “device” refers to the emblem of the Fourth International—the hammer and sickle with the numeral four. While the Trotskyists might have been the first to hit the streets, the general strike in Bombay was essentially spontaneous. The ratings had appealed to the people of Bombay for support. The textile workers responded, shutting down 70 of Bombay’s 74 cotton mills. On the morning of the hartal the CPI leadership took out a procession of 30,000 trade-unionists. The Stalinists chanted, “Congress, League, and Communists, unite!” The CPI emphasized that the hartal should give “peaceful expression to the protest against military atrocities.” The BLPI sent members down to the dock area to make contact with the mutineers. But the British had massed troops around the shore stations, cutting the rebels off from the city. Ramesh Karkal, the BLPI organizer in Bombay, recalled, “we were beset on all sides by trigger-happy British tomies.” At Castle Barracks the ratings broke into the armoury, seized three machine guns and 150 rifles, and blazed away at British troops for eight hours. Indian gunners on two ships joined the battle. The revolt spread to 30,000 sailors on 20 shore bases and 78 ships. Vice-Admiral Godfrey threatened to sink every rebellious ship, if the ratings didn’t surrender quickly. The British were worried that the rebellion would spread. Military intelligence warned that not a single naval or air force unit was trustworthy. Indian soldiers refused to fire on the mutineers. Men in the Royal Indian Air Force camps and Royal Indian Army Service Corps solidarized with the ratings. Ground crews mutinied in Madras, Karachi, Poona, Allahabad, and Delhi. Nearly 2,000 men in the Royal Indian Army Signal Corps mutinied near Jabalpur. There were mini-revolts by Indian gunners
in Madras, signallers at Allahabad, and clerical staff at army headquarters in Delhi. The government had the full support of the Congress and the Muslim League. On Friday, February 22 the head of the Bombay Muslim League and the secretary of the Bombay Provincial Congress Committee called the governor to express “their anxiety to allay the disturbances, and offering the help of volunteers to assist the police.” Gandhi declared that “a combination between Hindus and Muslims and others for the purpose of violent action was unholy.” As the gunfire boomed over Bombay, throngs vented their anger at symbols of British authority, like banks, post offices, and shops. The Chief Secretary reported that it was the Congress Socialists, not the Communists, who were whipping up the “large unruly element.” Workers dug up the streets and built barricades. The mill districts looked like a battle zone. “At a number of places,” reported the Bombay governor, John Colville, “the mob offered determined resistance, erecting road blocks and covering
The trials against INA soldiers led to huge protests in Calcutta These protests combine with the Naval Mutiny were critical for the British decision to quit India
them from nearby buildings; any one who tried to clear the road block was stoned.” Jawaharlal Nehru’s sister could never forget the sights and sounds of the battle. “For three days and three nights the shooting and rioting went on as the city rose in sympathy with the sailors.” In Karachi the mutineers who seized the HMIS Hindustan fired on British troops with its four-inch gun and Oerliken canon. A crowd of over 4,000 civilians defied a ban on demonstrations and clashed with the police. The CPI got cold feet; “many Communist leaders, heeding the alarm raised by the authorities, had backed out of the situation.” The next day the Hindustan dueled with shore batteries for two hours, leaving six sailors dead and 25 wounded. A huge crowd gathered at the Id Gah maidan to support the mutineers. Faced with this situation “many Communist leaders decided against holding the meeting at Id Gah but the crowd refused dispersal and instead attacked the police.” The CPI leaders flinched and then retreated.
Vinayak Purohit: Veteran Indian Socialist and Prolific Intellectual By Charles Wesley Ervin
October 10, 2010
I have received belated news that Dr. Vinayak Purohit, the veteran Indian socialist intellectual, died last December in Pune at the age of 82. Vinayak had been involved in the left movement since 1942, when at age 15 he joined an underground Trotskyist group fighting the British. In 1948 he went into the Socialist Party of India along with his Trotskyist comrades in what turned out to be a fruitless effort to steer that party to the left. In 1956 Vinayak joined the new, militant Socialist Party that Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia launched to revitalize the movement. In 1962 Vinayak played a key role in bringing a historic motion of no confidence in the Nehru government to the vote in Parliament. After Lohia died in 1967, his Socialist Party disintegrated, leaving Vinayak adrift. He became an independent political journalist, well known for his biting attacks on just about every politician and party. But Vinayak Purohit was not a man who lived by politics alone. He steeped himself in the rich culture of India. He became a music, drama, art, architecture, and film critic. In midlife he earned a PhD in art history. He also wrote plays, made a film, and designed an immense architectural monument, the Gitai Mandir in Wardha. He wrote fluently in English, Gujarati, Hindi, and Marathi. I interviewed Vinayak once, in 1974, when I was starting to research the history of the Trotskyist movement in India. I renewed contact with him in 2004, as I was finishing my book, Tomorrow is Ours: The Trotskyist Movement in India and Ceylon, 1935-48. His politics had changed dramatically
(and in my opinion, for the worse). Having “moved through Marxism and Trotskyism,” as he put it, he evolved his own very nationalistic brand of what he called “revolutionary democratic-socialism.” In 2005 Vinayak published, in pamphlet format, the first chapter of what he envisioned to be an openended autobiography, which he aptly titled “A Life of Surfeit and Overflow.” He published two more chapters in 2006 and 2008. He died while preparing the fourth. Unless otherwise indicated, the quotes in this article are taken from these pamphlets. Family Background Vinayak Purohit was born in Calcutta in 1927. His father, Kailashnath Jagannath Purohit, was a wealthy, London-educated Gujarati businessman who ran a successful auditing firm. He was a deeply cultured man whose interests ranged across history, literature, classical Indian music, art, and politics. He was also a nationalist who surreptitiously contributed money to the clandestine Bengali revolutionary groups who terrorized the British officialdom in those days. A child of affluence, Vinayak grew up with servants in a bungalow on Ray Street in Bhowanipore, which then was a posh residential area of South Calcutta. A stone’s throw away was the ancestral home of the nationalist leader, Subhas Chandra Bose. Vinayak was privately schooled at Bhowanipore Gujarati Shala, which his parents had founded, and then at St. Xavier’s Collegiate School, a prestigious Jesuit institution. Driven by curiosity even as a boy, he read books from his father’s vast library, including studies of the Irish, Turkish,
Persian, and Chinese nationalist movements and Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution. In 1938, after his father died prematurely, the family moved to Bombay. Vinayak attended a progressive Montessori school in Vile Parle from 1939 to 1942 and then entered Elphinstone College, which was like the Harvard of India. In August 1942, as Japanese forces pushed through Burma, Gandhi called upon the Indian people to commence a non-violent mass struggle to force the British to “quit India.” The panic-stricken British government arrested Gandhi and the topechelon Congress leaders. Vinayak, who was then 15 years old, went to a protest demonstration in Shivaji Park. A policeman clubbed him and left him on the ground with a fractured skull. As he joked later, “the hole in the skull allowed my brain scope for expansion.” Vinayak threw himself into the tumult of the Quit India revolt. In December 1942 he was arrested for “attempting to burn a policeman alive” while leading a torchlight procession. Recruitment to the Revolution As the protests subsided, Vinayak joined an underground cell of militants who were trying to keep the movement going. One of them recognized that this young hothead had real potential. He arranged for Vinayak to meet two Trotskyists, introduced as “Comrade Rup Singh” and “Comrade Dias.” Only later did he learn that they were actually Philip Gunawardena and Colvin R. de Silva, the two main leaders of the Trotskyist party in Ceylon (Lanka Sama Samaja Party) who had come up to India to help
build a Trotskyist party, the Bolshevik Leninist Party of India (BLPI). Vinayak recalls being “bowled over” by the articulate speech of the duo. They put their brainy 15-year-old recruit through a crash course in Marxism. “The most memorable lesson that I learnt from Philip [Gunawardena] was his description of the comprador bourgeoisie as a ‘squad of Tuppiahs.’ This is the Sinhala term meaning the trained monkeys used by coconut growers to climb the tall trees and harvest the monthly crop of coconuts.” This contempt for the Indian elites who aped Western culture or enriched themselves as agents of the imperialists became one of his core values for the rest of his life. Into the Underground The clandestine BLPI group in Bombay became his new family. He lived in one of the party’s communal flats in Bombay with a half dozen or more other young comrades. That made him prey for the police, who were combing Bombay, looking for the Trotskyists. Before dawn on July 15, 1943 the police raided their hideout and he was jailed in the Worli detention camp. After his release seven months later, on the basis of his youth, he went back into the underground to continue the struggle. He found shelter in the slums with members of the Forward Bloc (followers of Subhas Chandra Bose), who were very sympathetic to the Trotskyists. He continued to study. “I remember that I had begun to read the Encyclopedia Britannica in the Mumbai University Library from 1944 as though they were a set of novels, from cover to cover.” Detour into the Socialist Party In 1948 Vinayak joined the Socialist Party along with the rest of his Trotskyist comrades. The BLPI had made that decision only after a prolonged internal debate. Vinayak had been part of the faction in the BLPI that wanted to merge with the Congress Socialist Party. His rationale
was that the BLPI, as a tiny party, new to the scene, would have better prospects as a Trotskyist ginger group within the Socialist Party, which had recently withdrawn from its mother organization, the Indian National Congress, now the ruling party of independent India. The Socialist Party assigned Vinayak, who was then 21-years-old, to serve as secretary of one of their unions, the Bombay Press Employees’ Union. Though a novice to this kind of work, he learned quickly. As he recounted in his memoirs, he earned a reputation as “a fighting firebrand.” However, the entry into the Socialist Party didn’t work out as he had expected. The Socialist leaders were too savvy to allow the Trotskyists to recruit to their own ginger group. No factional activity was allowed. As a result, the Trotskyists started to sink into the quicksand of the Socialist Party. Dead End In 1952, after their humiliating rout in the General Elections to the first Lok Sabha, the leadership of the Socialist Party decided, on their own, without calling a party conference, to merge with a breakaway group from the ruling Congress Party. Vinayak and his comrades opposed the merger, called a conference of dissidents, and tried to keep the rump Socialist Party going. While the rump party had pockets of strength in Madras and a few other areas, Vinayak was isolated. In 1952 he “retired hurt from politics” and moved back to Calcutta. One of his father’s associates hired him as a clerk at the National Insurance Company. His health deteriorated. He described this period as “my darkest days of political isolation and abject destitution.” The Break with Marxist-Trotskyist Politics In 1956 Vinayak, eager to end his isolation, joined a new Socialist Party that had just been formed by Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, the veteran freedom fighter and old Socialist warhorse. In joining Lohia’s party,
Vinayak made a definitive break with the Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist politics of his youth. Lohia was a radical nationalist who rejected Marxism as a White European ideology that was at best irrelevant to India. But he was a powerful orator, a charismatic personality, and a creative thinker. He gathered around him a team of talented, ambitious socialists, including Vinayak. Vinayak became a regular contributor to Mankind, the journal that Lohia launched in 1956, and through his new trade-union connections, resumed his support work in the powerful Socialist trade unions in Bombay. By the ‘sixties the Lohia Socialists (as they were then called) had become the main left opposition to what Vinayak regarded as the “comprador” Nehru government. In 1962 the Socialists tried to topple the Congress government through a no-confidence motion in Parliament. Vinayak played an important, albeit behind-the-scenes role in mustering the support the Socialists needed in Parliament to get the motion on the floor for the vote. All that came to an abrupt end when Lohia died prematurely in 1967. His Socialist Party quickly disintegrated. Once again, Vinayak was left isolated. “I would occasionally feel and suffer acutely from this sense of separation and isolation, but on the other hand, I was so absorbed and was in such a headlong rush to develop all sorts of other capabilities and occupations that I hardly had the time to dwell on this loneliness.” A Headlong Rush into the Arts Like his father, Vinayak was a connoisseur of the arts, especially Indian music. As in politics, so too in music, he was fanatical and a fast learner. In 1956 he became the North Indian Classical Music critic for the premier English-language newspaper in India, the Times of India. In 1971 Vinayak entered the PhD program at Bombay University, supporting himself by running a small advertising agency. Four years later he submitted his dissertation, The Arts of
Transitional India: Twentieth Century, a 1,600-page tour de force covering history, aesthetics, and philosophy. In 1971 he wrote his first play in Gujarati, Steel Frame, which was an indictment of the corrupt bureaucracy of independent India. (The title is a reference to the well-known phrase that was used to describe the Civil Service in British India.) He followed that with Tribheto, which took up the theme of the criminal bourgeois; Amina ane Teno Zamano, which deals with the criminalized politician; and Byalis, an extended parable of the Quit India movement. He wrote Sociology of Art and Politics (198992) and Sociology of Indian Film (1990). The Revisionist Historian Meanwhile, Vinayak was reading deeply in Indian history. He presented a series of papers at the annual sessions of the Indian History Congress from 1979 to 1982. These were provocative broadsides aimed at just about every school of thought – from the old British Imperial historians to the so-called Marxists (the Stalinists). He started by attacking Marx and his thesis of the “Asiatic Mode of Production.” Marx had recognized (in my opinion, correctly) that pre-colonial Indian society seemed to have little in common with the chaotic feudalism of Europe. In order to explain the relative stability of “Asiatic society,” he posited that these societies must have been based on self-sufficient villages where private property in land (and hence class differentiation and struggle) hadn’t developed. Citing a huge body of historical evidence to the contrary, Vinayak argued that this hypothesis isn’t tenable. But that raises the following question: If pre-British India wasn’t like feudal Europe, and if it wasn’t an “Oriental Despotism” based on an Asiatic Mode of Production, then what was it? Vinayak answered that question by reversing the terms of the analogy. In his view, the benchmarks for measuring historical progress were the great civilizations that flourished on the Asian landmass
for several millennia, not the poor, backward societies of the peripheral western peninsula of Asia, now called Europe that arose much later. In other words, we shouldn’t be asking if Asia had been feudal like Europe. We should be asking if Europe had been feudal like Asia. Vinayak developed this seminal insight in the next three papers he presented to the Indian History Congress. In brief, he argued that India had evolved from a huntingfishing-food-gathering society to a pastoral society in the period 7000BC to 4500BC; that the pastoral (or Vedic) society developed into a feudal society by 700BC; and that this feudal society went through four distinct stages prior to the arrival of the European colonialists. “We had a feudal period which extended over 2,500 years. Indian feudalism was the most prosperous, the richest in export surpluses, and the most powerful that the world had ever known. It was precisely because it was so overwhelmingly strong that capitalism could not win against such an adversary. Capitalism triumphed in Europe from the 11th century onwards precisely because European feudalism was petty, divided, weak and poverty-stricken. The International Feudal Chain broke at its weakest link in Europe!” (Mankind, May 1999).
On the basis of this line of thinking, Vinayak rejected Marxism as hopelessly Eurocentric. I think he threw the baby out with the bath water. His theory is intriguing and deserves further study. And if it turns out to have merit, then I see no reason why this interpretation couldn’t replace the antiquated theory of the “Asiatic Mode” and thereby strengthen, rather than invalidate, Marxism in its totality. His Credo In an article in Mankind (October 1997) he wrote the following lines, which seem to me to be a fitting tribute to the man: “I am an atheist. I do not believe in any god who is going to guide us. I am a humanist. I know that we must be guided by what is essentially human, that is within all of us. We are masters of our destiny. We can do that which is good for all of us. There are thousands of arguments – economic, political, sociological, biological, cultural – in favor of socialism. But the most overwhelming are the arguments based on ethics, morality, decency, fairness, justice, aesthetics and truth! This side of the question can never be lost sight of. The case for socialism is really very simple. It is a moral choice.” Vinayak made his choice at age 15 and he lived it to the end.
1946 naval mutineers statue
Editorial This is the second special publication of new wave, a revolutionary socialist organization committed to building a Bolshevik Leninist party in India and work towards rebuilding the 4th International. This special edition is a tribute to glorious Naval Mutiny of 1946. We take this opportunity to honor the legacy of the Mutiny which was the decisive factor paving the way for Indian independence. The mutiny which saw the masses of Indian workers and peasants come out in support of a great militant uprising in India was veering towards a revolutionary change of Indian society.
failure of opposition to the Quit India movement. The only political party to actively support the naval mutiny was that of the BLPI. At the time of the mutiny they rallied their forces howsoever limited they may have been at the time, to securing workers solidarity with the naval uprising. The BLPI was successful in conducting a hartal in Bombay in support of the Mutiny.
The mutiny itself had a rather modest start which saw the naval ratings of the HMS Talwar (at the time posted in Bombay) protest the condition of rations available to them and discriminatory treatment at the hands of superior officers. A strike organized by the naval ratings soon made a violent turn and culminated in a mutiny of the sailors.
Unfortunately, soon after independence, the heroic deeds of the Bolshevik Leninist party as well as those of the mutineers would be swept under the carpet and glossed over by half truths and lies spewed by the Congress party among others who’d claim the entire credit of the independence struggle for themselves. It is our earnest effort through this newsletter to revive the legacy of the BLPI and to honor the sacrifices of the naval mutineers. We believe the lessons of the mutiny are not simply a mere chapter in a history book but one which is of great relevance to the present.
However, it ultimately fell prey to the treachery of the Indian bourgeois and their political formations namely, the Congress and the Muslim League. At the time the CPI was the only left party capable enough to lead the upsurge created by the mutiny towards its ultimate goal of the Indian revolution. However, the CPI too cowed down in passivity unable to recover from the inglorious
As part this effort we have selected one major article of the Britain’s reactionary role in India. In addition to that we have also selected an article focusing chiefly on the Naval mutiny written by Comrade Rajesh Tyagi from Delhi ( currently heading the Delhi section of the new wave ) which brings out the dynamics of the upsurge in full, exposing the treacherous role played by the bour-
geois parties at the time. We are also placing an article written by our Swedish correspondent Choppa Morph on Marx and India. We are reprinting the obituary to Comrade Vinayak Purohit who had passed away in December of 2009 written by Charles Wesley Ervin, a noted historian on the Trotskyist movement in India. The life and contributions of Vinayak Purohit would serve as an inspiration to our generation of revolutionary fighters and activists striving to build the movement in India and the world. In Finality, we are reposting a section from Wes Ervin’s book on the history of Indian Trotskyism dealing with the period of the mutiny and the role of the BLPI. Every advanced worker should carefully study these documents. Though the BLPI documents were written prior to India’s independence, they will tell us far more about the real dynamics behind the policies of the present day bourgeois parties of the Indian National Congress and that of the CPI that had long retreated from revolutionary principles. The best way to honor Trotsky’s and the BLPI’s legacy, more than just publishing their works, is drawing the lessons and inspiration from these in order to build a Bolshevik party in India together with the rebuilding the 4th International. That is the only realizable road to the socialist revolution. That is our main task now!