India: 1947 and Its Place in History

-Rajesh Tyagi

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 strikers 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 Indian 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 ‘national-bourgeois’ character, deeming them to be an ally in their so-called ‘New-democratic’ 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.

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