India and the British Election by S.A. DANGE
Shripad Amrut Dange (10 October 1899 – 22 May 1991)
With the end of the war in Europe, finishing of the war in the East and peacetime reconstruction have become the center of attention of the British people.
And in both these problems the political and economic deadlock in India occupies a very important place.
Progressive opinion in England and the world over realise the serious consequences of the suppression of the national organisations of the Indian people and the absence of a National Government.
The comments in the progressive American press, the articles in War and the Working-class, and the statements of Molotov at San Francisco draw pointed attention to the situation in India.
The resolutions of the Labour, and other progressive parties in England show that the people in England are awakening to the situation.
The recent discussion in the columns and of The Times and such other papers concluded with The Times editorial on March 20 that “Britain’s present reliance upon the Cripps’ offer in a ‘take it or leave it’ spirit no longer suffices and is fraught with peril to Indo-British co-operation both during and after the war There is a general conviction that it is for this country to resume the political initiative.” These signs indicate that even sections of the Tory ruling class are convinced that the solution of the Indian problem has become an urgent necessity.
Even sections of the ruling bureaucracy in India, have been shaken to some extent from its die-hard position. It is of special significance that the Viceroy, Lord Wavell came to England to have conversations with Churchill and Amery on the Indian situation.
And yet the essential features of the situation do not yet seem to be properly appreciated and hence the solution of the Indian question is not yet in sight because an insufficient realisation of the seriousness of the situation has led to the absence of any strong pressure on the ruling die-hard circles.
The resolutions of the progressive Parties remain untranslated in practice, and the leadership is still able to bypass action. Recently when the Labour leadership came out very sharply in the open against the ruling Tories on the question of post-war home policy, its declarations were void of a sharp indictment of the colonial and Indian policy of reactionary Toryism.
The tremendous victory in Europe and the retreat of Japan, slow but inevitable hide the seriousness of the situation and help die-hard Toryism to lull people into complacency.
It is not yet fully realised here that the economic situation in India which had led to famine and collapse of production in 1943, remains, in essence, the same in 1945 and that the statements of the Government that they have been able to bring under control and stabilise the economic front are not justified by facts.
Food prices published in “revised” form by the Government experts show that they have been “stabilised” — but at what level? At the level of famine prices. The Food Price-Index, which was195 in December 1942. (1939=100) had risen to 243 in the famine year of December 1943, and has now been “stabilised” at 231 in December 1944. The working class cost of living index, which had jumped to 236 in November 1943 has been stabilised at 230 in November 1944, without equivalent rise in wages.
The inflation of currency continues to stand at the same height as before and Lord Wavell, in fact, expected a further inflation and consequent hardship for the poor, when the war against Japan would be more vigorously pursued.
The government has been unable to increase coal production because of its policy of satisfying the European profiteers at the cost of the workers of the country and industrial production has failed to catch up to its full capacity.
Bureaucratic schemes of increasing food production without enlisting the co-operation of the peasant organisations have failed, having brought hardly a 2 percent increase in total yield, after spending millions of pounds in red tape measures. While industrial production is either stagnant or declining, the average net profits index was over 327 in 1943 (926 to jute, 392 for tea, and so on).
Rivalry of Anglo-American investors and the hostility to the growth of India industries is starving the country of consumer and capital goods and even of that industrial equipment that is needed to meet the demands of the front. These are facts of the “stabilised” economic front.
It is not yet sufficiently realised here that whatever the differences regarding the future constitution of India amongst the different political parties, and especially between the Congress and the Moslem League, all are agreed on the incompetence of the present bureaucratic system. The picture of total disunity amongst the people given as the main excuse for continuation of the deadlock, is not justified by facts.
Though the Gandhi-Jinnah talk did not reach a settlement on the question of Pakistan and the future constitutional make-up of India, the two have come much closer to agreement thanks to the growing influence of the working class in India. In the Central Legislative Assembly representatives of both the organisations have adopted a common attitude to the bureaucracy as a result of which the Government suffered defeat six times on the budgetary and other measures brought forward by it this year. Government was censured for its policy of refusing to give adequate wages to the workers on the railways; it was censured for persecution of the poor peasantry for their inability to purchase Government loans for which they had neither money nor enthusiasm. When questioned in the Commons Mr. Amery had to admit the defeats and say that they do not affect the Government, as it is not responsible to the legislature!
Consumers, peasants, workers, students, are uniting to fight the hoarders and profiteers, while Government penalises the peoples’ organisations, refuses to recognise them and aids the worst exploiters. Such are the facts of the growing unity of the people.
It is not sufficiently realised that the main necessity of the hour is not the evolution of clever constitutions for the future, but the formation of an all-party National Government that will take the country out of the morass. Hence the absence of an “agreed constitution” is no justification for continuing the deadlock. No country in the world ruled by an alien bureaucracy and divided into classes ever produced the miracle of an “agreed constitution.”
The solutions of the constitutional question by Zafrulla, Coupland, The Times co-respondents and recently the Sapru Committee in India do not carry the country forward to democracy in the future, they leave the veto on progress in the hands of the British financial and Tory interests. Nor do they lead to a competent Government in the present, having the confidence of the people, as they have no backing of the major political parties. They just serve to befog the main issue and nothing more.
Finally, it is not sufficiently, realised here that contrary to official propaganda, the Congress has showed its willingness to shoulder the responsibilities of running the Government of the country in co-operation with other parties by forming Provincial Ministries in the North West Frontier and Assam, and Mr. Gandhi has several times repeated his declaration that:-
“The obstruction of war effort is a mere bogey. When the principal Congressmen are free, there will be a real national war effort in India if they are allowed to have an effective say”.
Insufficient realisation of all these factors has kept the democratic masses in this country from moving its leadership to effective action, from fully appreciating the significance of Wavell’s talks with Churchill and exerting their full pressure to demand the, release of the Congress prisoners and immediate steps to reach a settlement with India.
Further continuation of the deadlock is not only dangerous to the lives of four hundred million Indians, is fraught with peril not only to Indo-British, co-operation, but to the social and political security of all freedom-loving peoples of the world.
The election platforms of all progressive parties, now girding their loins for the battle against Reaction, must put India as one of the most vital planks in their campaigns.
Source: Labour Monthly June 1945, p.181-183