Shapurji Saklatvala

Book Review

India as in Fact It Is

Source: The Labour Monthly, Vol. 17, January 1935, No. 1, pp. 58-59, (955 words)
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
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British Imperialism in India
Joan Beauchamp.
(Martin Lawrence Ltd., 33 Great Street, London.)
222 pp. 5s.

There always has been a long-felt want of a book on India dealing with the modern aspect of life, involving problems of Capitalism and Imperialism.

At last a book has appeared, and it is indeed the right type of book written by Joan Beauchamp for the Labour Research Department and published by Martin Lawrence. It is a book which ought to have a place in every public free library of this country as well as of America, and searchers after truth on Economics should take steps to see that the libraries in their district have one. Members of Trade Union branches, especially in the Textile, Mining, Steel, Engineering and Seafaring trades should insist on their branches buying a copy for circularising among their members.

If any of the numerous highly-paid Trade Union officials in Great Britain had due sense of responsibility to their working-class patrons, and had even half the understanding of modern Imperialism as is possessed by Joan Beauchamp, they would have long ago produced for British and Indian readers a series of books and pamphlets along the lines of the present book which we review here. Had they done so, one gets out of breath to take stock of what anti-labour terrorist measures in India, and in Britain, would have never taken place. The wholesale massacres of Moplahs in Southern India, of Punjabis in Jalianwala Bag (Amritsar), of the Tharawaddi Burmans and of factory and transport workers in Bombay, Calcutta, Chittagong, Peshawar, Sholapur, Ahmedabad and numerous places in India would never have occurred. The disgraceful Meerut Trial would never have been concocted, and would have saved a Labour Government from its shame. The Trade Union Movement in India with a healthy support of British workers would have grown to power, and five million preventible deaths which occur in India every year would have been checked and reduced to a minimum.

The reflex of this safeguard for Indian workers and peasants would have saved British workers from some of the catastrophic attacks upon their rights and standards. The General Strike of 1926 would not have failed to gain success. The anti-Miners’ Act and the Trades Disputes Act would not have seen the light of day. The various cuts in the wages of British miners, jute-workers Lancashire cotton workers, iron and steel workers would not have become possible. Unemployment would not have attained 50 per cent. of its present dimensions, and cuts in the benefits of the Unemployed would not have beer successful. The Baldwin Government of 1924-1929 and the present National Government could not have existed, and Britain, even if not a Soviet State immediately, would have remained a bulwark of working-class rights.

In the very opening paragraph the author makes us feel that she has the correct understanding of modern Imperialism and its economic motif. The description of the origin and failure of the 1857 “Mutiny” in India affords much food for thought for the Indian politicians of to-day. Had the early leaders of the Indian National Congress, and those who came as periodical deputations from India to England on political missions studied the writings of Karl Marx in general and those on India in particular such as are to be found in his letters to the American Press from 1853, they would not have wasted their gigantic energies and resources on committing Himalayan errors after errors in dealing with British Imperialism.

The tactics of British capitalists and the easy allurements offered to the Indian bourgeoisie after the 1857 “Mutiny” are well brought out in the first chapter. Every Indian Congress politician has got to learn from this book how unnatural and even wicked is his desire to defend and preserve the Indian Zemindar during the nationalist struggle to overthrow Britain’s yoke, when as the author explains, these Zemindars are the creation of British capitalists for the express purpose of exploiting India’s agricultural wealth and crushing the liberties of the people.

The appalling pictures of human life under Imperialism are well brought out. Be it landless peasants with 2d. per day living standard, or the oppressed industrial worker with 10d. a day on which to live in expensive cities—both have to starve, succumb to death-rates of 250 to 320 per thousand, see their infants die at the heavy rates of over 500 per thousand in certain areas, both have to submit to 5 million preventible deaths of poverty year by year, and have life shortened to an average span of 23 years. Such is the true picture of British Imperialism in India instead of the British boon of civilisation and progress which even now some British Labour members acclaim in Parliament to show off their class impartiality. Hundreds of millions of Indians have to live on “dietry on which rats could not live for 5 weeks,” in order that British exploiters of India may be able to bring home wealth from which they can bribe in some measure their own short-sighted Labour at home. British Imperialism is shown in this book to be what it can really be, and what in fact it is.

In the last chapters the present-day political and economic struggles of India are well described and correctly analysed. There is a lesson for him who may read without false pride or undue prejudice.

Neither the Labour leader of Britain nor the Congress leader of India is fit to break the shackles of Imperialist Capitalism or Capitalist Imperialism. Men and women by the millions exist in both countries who can perform the task if only they can follow the present authoress in her suggestions.