Shapurji Saklatvala

The Second Indian Round Table Conference

Source: The Labour Monthly, Vol. 13, October 1931, No. 10, pp. 636-642, (3,216 words)
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Three and a half years ago, in the 1928 March number of The Communist, I had contributed an article on “The Simon Commission.”

In this article, speaking of the Indian Nationalist leaders who had combined together in the boycott of the Simon Commission, I asked:

But what will be their next step? Can they merely say that because they will not betray their people into the snares of a Simon Commission, or Lansbury’s Home (!) Rule recommendation, therefore they will, lead their people out of bondage into freedom and out of misery into plenty?

Just a little before putting this question I had written another sentence:

It may equally be that the politicians will win the day and join hands over the stomachs of a starving people, and arrive at another momentary understanding only to fall out over the spoils later Of course, if our Indian politicians imperialise themselves, their outlook and their interests, as Labour Imperialists have done in Britain, they will also begin to talk glibly about Home Rule, Dominion Status, British Commonwealth, &c., which, to the masses in India and workers in Britain, can bring poor consolation and can produce nothing but misery and degradation . . .

This (Simon) or any other similar Commission, whether composed of whites or browns or yellows, will never explore the chances of India’s independence, but can only invent new forms of deception by which independent-looking political councils may continue to be under the final domination of the imperialists …

If the first choice (Imperialism instead of Bolshevism), Indian leaders must unite with Irwin, Baldwin, MacDonald, Simon, Birkenhead (since dead) and Lansbury, and, after a lot of noisy investigations, arguments and democratic flourishes, settle down to the daily routine of exploiting, drudging, impoverishing and governing their own people till their workers and peasants make a clean sweep of them along with the entire gang of international financiers and imperialist bosses.

The reader can now easily grasp that this is what is exactly happening now when the second session of the Round Table Conference has commenced its further talks at St. James’s Palace. I have not given the above abstracts for a display of any prophetic vision about a passing political incident, but to show how our differences of political opinions and judgment of men and events are fundamental and based on unerring realisation of the characteristics of nationalist bourgeois leaders in colonial and semi-colonial countries.

In Indian politics there are not scores but thousands of advanced Indian youths who seem to believe and regret that Gandhi, Jahwarlal Nehru and the Indian Congress gang are suddenly changing now and have landed themselves into the lap of imperialist diplomacy and have got themselves out of prison cells into St. James’s Palace. This is a grave and unfortunate error. This Gandhi, Nehru, Bose and Patel of to-day are the real persons, and they are doing to-day what they were desiring and destined to do. The Gandhi, Nehru and Congress company of the previous two years were only false artful showmen.

The revolutionary atmosphere in India was of the making of world events which arose out of a combination of post-war capitalist struggles, almost desperate at times, and the progressive attractiveness to the masses everywhere of the steady growth of communist economics and sociology in Soviet Russia. The realisation by the colonial masses of their present misery and of the possibilities of liberation by revolution against landlords, industrial bosses and militarist foreign rulers has been phenomenal. In China, India, Indo-China, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Persia, Arabia and all over the Negro countries of Africa, this mass awakening and spirit of self-assertion has startled not only the foreign conqueror, but the local privileged class of landlords, capitalist employers, commercial middlemen, professional and political place hunters and all exploiters generally.

The revolutionary activities in India never have been of the making of the Congress or of Gandhi personally, but they have been watched by the cunning Congress leaders wherever they have appeared, and then curbed and turned to their own petty advantage in settling their own bargains with their white commercial rivals.

The rebellious defiance to General Dyer’s orders not to hold a mass meeting at Jallianwalla Bag (Amritsar), the fight of the Moplas against landlords, of Akali Sikhs against corrupt temple priests, of the villagers against the police terrorists of Chouri-Choura and the strikes in Bengal and Bombay during the first chapter of Gandhi’s “revolutionary” leadership were not of his making. These events in fact were breaking his heart as well as lowering his prestige in the eyes of his Imperialist masters. A series of such manifestations of the revolutionary spirit of the masses unnerved him to such an extent as to make him useless to bourgeois friends in conducting their struggle for commercial gains with the white interlopers. C. R. Das and the Swaraj Party drove him into the wilderness. They began to revive their “parliamentary” reformist campaigns for tariff walls, rupee ratios, lower income tax, a minimum quota of Indian capitalists in banking, shipping and other exploiting institutions, &c.

The workers and peasants were left in an awful plight, and they had to start all over again to renew their economic struggles against such Congress leaders and supporters as were their employers, landlords or moneylenders. Strikes on railways, in mines, jute mills and cotton mills assumed alarming proportions as well as frequency, and the resistance of workers to wage cuts and of peasants to economic oppression went beyond the calculations as well as the powers of the master-class and governmental bureaucracy to suppress. The industrial and capitalist section of the Congress began to look to the professional and political section of the Congress to play the last powerful card of once again coming forward to go backward and to dope and to deceive the masses. Secret and open funds from merchants and landlords began to pour into their coffers. The political leaders in India had in front of them the tempting example of the treacherous British Labour leaders who had so successfully let down the 1926 General Strike into which millions of fairly well organised workers so hopefully launched themselves.

The workers and peasants in India had already begun to discount the value of Gandhi or Swaraj leaders, and new inspiring centres were being gradually discovered in the new movements of Youth, Workers and Peasants Party and the Communist Party of India. The popularity of the militant proletarian leaders, irrespective of even any racial prejudice against English comrades like Bradley and Spratt, among the illiterate masses startled the capitalists as well as the politicians of the Congress.

Lord Irwin was watching the situation with no little trepidation. His grim determination to use bullets, bombs and prison cells on a scale worthy of a monstrous tyrant was there, but he realised something far more destructive than these crude weapons was needed to harness and restrict and crib the widespread, revolutionary resolve of the masses both in villages and in towns. He kept in close secret touch with all Swarajist leaders and accommodated them with a few capitalist concessions to establish their merit in patriotic leadership. He paid his mock respect to bogus or novice trade union leaders and gave them places on councils or a free holiday to Geneva. But knowing from personal experience the great value of the church and pulpit for suppressing and robbing the masses, he was tempted to revive Gandhism. He established first indirect and secret, and then direct and open, contact with Gandhi.

The Congress leaders and their capitalist conspirators used the Simon Commission as a great Red Herring. They tried to impress upon the masses that their economic misery, social degradation and political serfdom were due 100 per cent. to foreign rule and not a fraction of a per cent. to capitalism and landlordism. They hoped completely to divert the mass mind to relegate all power to a political junta and to rely upon them for achieving national independence one fine day without molesting the millowners or landowners or Indian princes. The new militant leaders of industrial workers still remained a thorn in their side. Besides the Imperialist Government wanted some false evidence produced in a dramatic style against the U.S.S.R. to have an excuse for a regular war of annihilation on the workers’ republic.

Here was common ground for secret plotting between the bourgeois Congress leaders and their “enemy” Viceroy. The arrest and scandalous trial of the Meerut prisoners is the result. The responsibility and guilt of the Nehrus, Patels and Gandhi for this Meerut conspiracy against the growing power of the Indian masses is no less than that of Irwin, MacDonald, Benn or Peel. This indeed was the first Gandhi-Irwin or Viceroy-Congress pact.

The old Congress leaders, in spite of Lord Irwin’s continuous exhortation to get a “religious thug” up to the forefront, were doubtful and they saw the need of a modern “Left Wing” faker with the glib tongue of an “International Socialist” to counteract the leadership of genuine communists or revolutionary youth.

They carefully prepared Jahwarlal Nehru as an alternative “Socialist Thug” in case the religious humbug made no appeal during an economic tornado which seemed inevitable. Jahwarlal even induced his father not to accept the invitation for a 2 to 3 weeks’ sojourn in Moscow during the 1927 celebrations of the Tenth Anniversary of the Communist Revolution, as he felt that this might compromise them in the eyes of their landlord and merchant following. So to acquire merely a bogus reputation as an international revolutionary he cut down this trip to a stay of two days in Moscow. Even to-day this helps him to be described in the Indian and British Press as a terrible communist who has “lived” and “learned” in Moscow! He grandiloquently appeared and spoke on the platform of the League Against Imperialism purely to acquire a false value for himself. He never intended to and has never carried out any work on behalf of the League in India.

Gandhi’s jibes at the Madras resolution for India’s independence and the spectacular “Nehru Constitution” failed to give Lord Irwin his Empire in a new disguise. The young blood and the hot-heads wanted to see the “Indian Lenin” come out and functioning, and they took independence to mean nothing else. On the other hand the masses were also thinking of their “independence,” and they were looking at the world from the inside of their stomachs and not from inside a council chamber in Delhi, when they were demanding “rights” and “freedom.”

Another bold attempt was made the Labour Government and Lord Irwin between themselves staged a “Dominion Status” declaration. No sooner had His Excellency’s words vanished in thin air than Gandhi, Jahwarlal Nehru and other treacherous Congress leaders, who in secret pact with Irwin, had kept themselves ready to act at a moment’s notice, came out with the ignominious and despicable Delhi Manifesto of 1929. This childish trick did not work, and it remained in the history of secret diplomacy and arranged sham fights as one more of the many still-born plots. The Lahore Congress had to be, the Independence Resolution must be flourished, a break between Congress leaders and their guide and master, the Viceroy, had to be arranged.

Lord Irwin and the Congress leaders finally saw that the maharajas and the idle rich could not be saved from the fury of the hungered and wronged crowds except by free use of guns, bayonets, air-bombs and batons, and who but Gandhi could help such organised “constitutional” bloodshed, and at the same time completely protect the perpetrators from retaliation by the masses. The glory of the “Non-Violence” saint was therefore at once proclaimed and North, West, East, South rang with praise of him who had never failed British militarism in the hour of its need. American, German, French and British admirers sprang up.

At Lord Irwin’s command, the Congress leaders agreed to bring Gandhi to the forefront. Here was Congress leadership, like a universal provider. If the masses wanted a little Lenin there was a Jahwar, if they wanted a world-famous anti-Lenin they had the divine Gandhi. Thus hastily a dual leadership was arranged, Jahwarlal Nehru was elected as the Skeleton President, and Gandhi became the Spirit Dictator.

So the struggle for Independence began, but unfortunately under the hypocritical and impossible leadership of the Congress. The revolutionary spirit of the masses became again manifest. Civil disobedience, breach of Salt Act, refusal to pay taxes, refusal to pay any rents, uncontrollable strikes against the cruelly low wages in Indian factories and mines would have all gone apace and the final triumph of the people would have achieved complete and genuine independence. Gandhi and his Congress cut down and limited civil disobedience within manageable compass, they rendered the position of landlords and millowners quite safe, and the landlords and millowners of course would then keep imperialism safe.

Once again at Sholapur, Chittagong, Bombay, Mymensing, Peshawar, Tharawaddi, events took place which were never of Gandhi’s making or Congress plans, but true to their allotted tasks, the Congress leaders soon neutralised the effects and tried to liquidate the revolution. They exhorted the people for a while and only in a few villages, to suspend paying the land tax, and as intended from the first, they have since then got busy exhorting the ruined peasants to pay up all the taxes. They threatened to undermine British credit in order to prevent genuine revolutionaries from organising a nation-wide repudiation of all public debts. Now through their mouth-piece, Gandhi, they pledge themselves to pay every farthing of India’s public debts with the blood of the people, as Gandhi exactly put it at the Round Table Conference, and also to stand side by side and fight side by side with British Bankers and capitalists in balancing the British Budget and Credit with the blood of course of the British unemployed and employed workers.

Thus it has come to pass that Gandhi and the Indian Congress have brought to the feet of His Majesty the King, Emperor of Great Britain and Empire abroad, the homage, “the indissoluble partnership,” the credit and blood of the peasants and workers of India after a two years show and pretence of taking the leadership of a great revolutionary movement for the specific purpose of overthrowing a foreign King’s Sovereignty in India and for freeing the world’s poorest peasantry and proletariat from inhuman exploitation. Almost ten thousand of the common people have been shot and killed, eighty thousand have been batoned and incarcerated, the brave Gharwalli troops and heroic Trade Union leaders are in gaol, young brave lads have been executed or imprisoned. But do all these matter to Gandhi, Jahwarlal and the Indian Congress leaders in any other way except as a necessary penalty which the common people must pay in order to create new “Empire Builders” and Parliamentary statesmen amongst the political hypocrites?

However, this surrender and betrayal is by no means a personal treachery. It is inherent in the Indian Congress in its very structural being. The Congress has not been for fifty years sold and betrayed by weak leaders. The Congress with its opportunities and its origin and fundamental purpose, is attracting to itself political hypocrites and double-faced demagogues as the best medium of their advancement to power and glory.

Speaking at the Round Table Conference, Gandhi himself said that the Congress was created in an English brain, namely, that of Allan Octavius Hume. Gandhi purposely spoke the half-truth. He knows the whole truth, but does not desire the young, rising present day Indian generation to know it. Lord Dufferin, the Conqueror of Burmah, was the father and creator of the Indian National Congress. His purpose was deliberately to create and use such an institution for hypnotising and quieting the masses of India through their own leaders in the ever-recurring crises of imperialism. Lord Dufferin sent for Allan Hume, and tutored him how to impose upon the unwary Indian leaders of his day this new instrument of capitalist corruption and imperialist fire extinguisher. Gandhi proudly told the Indian princes at the Round Table Conference that the Congress had invariably and uniformly served, loved, helped and honoured all these princes and had never helped the peasants of the Indian States to fight these princes, who are amongst the world’s worst oppressors. The Indian princes one and all told the Round Table Conference, that they have invariably and uniformly, assisted British Imperialism in the past and will invariably and uniformly assist their British Overlord in India for all times to come.

The Congress, from its very start also, has assisted a particular type of British man or woman to hold India down. These white men and women pass as India’s friends and pretend to be almost Indianised, and then they manage to advise and influence Indian leaders themselves to keep India within the bonds of British Empire “in the interests of humanity.” Allen Hume began it, Cotton, Wedderburn and Bradlaugh. played the same roll. Then at a critical stage after the war, Annie Beasant dextrously betrayed India’s Independence. Then comes Rev. Charles Andrews, the holy missionary, whose divine work on this earth has been to keep the Negroes of South Africa and Indians of India a few years longer inside the British Empire than otherwise would have been. There is the insignificant figure of Miss Madeline Slade. Her father, Admiral Slade, was an honestly stupid imperialist, so he helped his country to hold India in bondage openly as an Admiral sitting in a battleship in the East Indian waters. More shrewd and wise, Madeline keeps India in thraldom at a much more critical period of British imperialism and world capitalism by the simple art of buying cabbages or oranges for Gandhi or by stroking his toes and making the vain-glorious metaphysicist to believe that he is specially born to make peace between„ India and Britain and to hold the wretched 350 millions of a foreign nationality inside the British Empire.

The real revolutionaries will need to look at the Congress in its true light and to deal with it accordingly. In India it is not merely a problem of bringing a people from political bondage into parliamentary freedom. Here is an exploited and impoverished country looted every day. By oppression and exploitation its total productive capacity is reduced to about £6 per head in all. Education, sanitation, economic regeneration of the masses can scarcely be achieved satisfactorily even with the whole of this £6 per head being spent on the entire nation. Mere economic conditions demand that there can be no private possession or control in a poor country like India. Her entire resources must be commandeered, possessed and controlled by the nation anal spent entirely on nation building and repairing the wrongs of the last 150 years. For Colonial and semi-colonial countries communism is not a secondary development, but a primary condition for the freedom and independence of the masses. Therefore, the people’s programme, instruments, organisations, must all be communist in their origin, outlook, determination and methods, Viceroy-created Congresses like capitalist-created Parliaments, can only help the powerful and betray the masses. Communist organisation and, mass action are the only practical salvation of India’s slavery and poverty.