Source: The Communist International, 1923, No. 24, pp. 69-81 (6,703 words)
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
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The Thirty-Seventh Annual Session of the Indian National Congress met in the last week of December, 1922, in the picturesque pilgrimage-place, of Gaya, in the Province of Behar. No more appropriate place could have been selected, for Gaya is the traditionally sacred spot in which to offer up Pinda (sacrifices) to the lingering ghosts of the departed dead, and so release them from the last earthly bond, that they may journey towards Nirvana or seek re-birth: The fifteen thousand or more political pilgrims that wended their way on foot, in bullock-cart or steam-car to the holy spot to attend the Congress session were perhaps unconscious of the fact that their eager pilgrimage to Gaya was to offer involuntary Pinda to the dear departed but lingering ghost of Gandhism famous to the world as Non-Violent Non-Co-operation based upon Soul-Force—but such was nevertheless the fact. The much exploited cult of Sayagraha, which aimed to translate politics into religion and the rising flood-tide of revolution into a pacific love-feast, inaugurated by Mr. Gandhi in1920, confirmed at Ahmedabad in 1921, and consecrated at Bardoli a few months later, gradually wasted itself away in the sharp struggle between Government and people during the last year and was peacefully buried about the time that the Civil Disobedience Committee, after touring the country for nine months, published its report. According to Hindu custom, after a definite period of mourning for the dear departed is over, the Sradh ceremony is performed, consisting of a feast given to all the friends and relatives of the deceased. The Sradh at Gaya marks the close of a definite period in the Indian Nationalist Movement—the preparatory period inevitably characterised by confusion of ideas and mistakes in tactics, but valuable for the political lessons to be deduced therefrom. The new period that lies ahead was inaugurated from the funeral ashes of the old.
Viewed in this light, the Sradh at Gaya becomes no longer what it is heralded by the orthodox Gandhists to be—an unqualified victory and triumphant vindication of the principles of “pure Gandhism”—but a half-melancholy, half-pleasing ceremony of respect and relinquishment of the ties that bound the venerated dead to earthly affairs. As such, we profess our love and loyalty to their sacred memory, but we feel that they belong to us no longer, that they have passed beyond our ken forever. Such was the meaning of the six thousand Congress delegates assembled in the Vast Khaddar-pandal (homespun tent); such was the sentiment of the thousands of spectators who journeyed to Gaya for the sacred week; such was the nature of the resolutions passed by the sovereign assembly of the Indian people. Respect and veneration for the dead departed; the final separation of the ghostly wraith of Non-Violent Non-Co-operation based upon Love-Force from the pulsating life of the vital body politic—this was the actual significance of the funeral ceremony celebrated by the Thirty-Seventh National Congress at Gaya in December of the year 1922.
The social and economic background of the Thirty-Seventh National Congress was wide as the poles asunder from that which marked its predecessor at Ahmedabad the year before. Then, revolution was at its flood-tide; repression had only just begun to lift its ugly head in the arrest, a few weeks previously, of the popular Ali brothers and the President-elect of the National Assembly, Mr. C.R. Das. The adored Mahatma Gandhi was still free to lead his trusting followers whithersoever he willed, and the great masses of the Indian people stood ready, at his lightest command, to declare a National Strike, to refuse payment of taxes and to launch the entire country upon a campaign of Civil Disobedience which might have ended anywhere, even in the attainment of the mythical Swaraj which the Mahatma promised within one year.
This year, how different the situation and general spirit of the people! A full year had rolled away without the slightest approach of the promised Swaraj. Mahatma Gandhi and twenty-five thousand faithful followers fill the Government “hotels” as a reward for having followed the injunctions of Non-Violent Non-Co-operation based on Soul-Force. The middle-classes, once the vanguard of the National Movement, are divided among themselves and weak in their counsels as to the future course to follow. Boycott of schools and law-courts, depending on them for fulfilment, has been an acknowledged failure; boycott of foreign cloth and liquor-shops, and the propagation of Khaddar and Charka (homespun and weaving), which depended on the masses for fulfilment, has equally failed, not for lack of goodwill or loyalty to the imprisoned Mahatma, but from sheer economic disability of the starving workers and peasants to pay higher prices and work longer hours in the sacred but abstract name of Patriotism. The chief clauses of the “Constructive Programme,” adopted at Bardoli in February, 1922 just after the riot of Chauri Chaura, and which urged the prosecution of the triple Boycott while suspending indefinitely the declaration of Civil Disobedience and Non-payment of Taxes as well as the use of all aggressive tactics, have had the ultimate effect of dampening the enthusiasm of the masses for the national cause and of withdrawing from it the backbone of mass-energy, while at the same time giving free play to the forces of Government repression, let loose in all their vigour since the departure of the Prince of Wales from Indian soil. The Report of the Civil Disobedience Committee, published ten months after its appointment by the Congress, confirms the indefinite suspension of the declaration of Mass Civil Disobedience, but lets loose a new issue upon the country—that of entry into the Government Reform Councils. Public opinion, misled by this red herring drawn across the trail, rages in controversy upon the vexed question; the Report of the Civil Disobedience Committee discloses its six members to be equally divided for and against; the speeches of Mr. C.R. Das, at Dehra Dun and Amraoti, a few weeks before the annual session of the Congress, declare that he and his followers will make the question of contesting the next elections to the Reform Councils an issue in the coming Convention.
Meanwhile, what of the masses, of whom everyone in India, politically minded or otherwise, has learned to speak? From the Government and the landlords to the Congress politicians and the social reformers, an abnormal interest is displayed in the question of the “masses”—a vague term meant to include within its scope without being too explicit, the rebellious city-proletariat and landless peasantry, as well as those innocuous millions of “lumpen” proletariat, the Untouchables and Pariahs whom Mr. Gandhi and the Salvation Army alike reach out to reclaim from the cruel ostracism of Hindu orthodoxy. “Back to the masses,” “Back to the Villages,” has become the slogan of every shade of political opinion, and one hesitates to think whether this sudden enthusiasm for the “masses” should entirely be attributed to selfless patriotism, or whether that new and potent force in Indian National life, the hitherto dumb and inarticulate workers and peasants, has become a pawn in the political game, waged heretofore between the Government and the middle-classes. How otherwise to explain this eagerness to reach the “masses”; the sudden zeal for organisation and propaganda on the part of Congress-wallahs; the equally sudden desire to rush remedial legislation through unwilling legislatures, on the part of [he Government, to somewhat better the condition of rack-rented peasantry and sweated factory hands? With what tender solicitude the Government of India notices, whether it be in the speeches of Viceroy or Provincial Governors, or in the official Annual Reports, the effect of improving economic conditions, of better harvests and a favourable rainfall, upon the uncertain temper of the rural population and the belligerent spirit of the striking city-workers. The Thirty-Seventh Annual Session of the Indian National Congress met this year upon a background of comparative industrial calm, broken by sporadic strikes of a purely isolated and economic nature, in no way comparable with the country-wide fever of industrial unrest which displayed itself in political strikes and national hartals during the corresponding period of last year. But it met, at the same time, in a period of intense organising activity on the part of the working-masses, of the slow but persistent growth of trade-unionism and co-operative effort, of industrial and economic conferences and efforts at federating the loosely-scattered labour-organisations whose number and influence have immensely multiplied within the preceding twelvemonth.
It met, at the same time, in the aftermath of several sharp agrarian revolts; in the south the Mophahs of Malabar, crushed after seven mouths’ guerrilla warfare, with unnumbered casualties and seven thousand victims condemned to penal servitude. In the North the Akalis, struggling in the name of religion for possession of rich temple-lands, had vindicated the dynamic possibilities inherent in organised mass-action by taking possession of the disputed lands by the use of direct action, and when impeded by the armed forces of the State, by offering themselves up in unlimited numbers for arrest. In the tug of war between Government and Akalis, the former found itself worsted, with public opinion steadily growing more alienated and strained. What began as a local quarrel developed into a national issue, and the Government withdrew, discomfited, but the price paid for this unrecognised victory of direct action was six thousand Akalis lying in jail, beaten, abused and maltreated, some to the point of death. Again, in Bengal, Behar and the Central Provinces, acute agrarian unrest was repeatedly put down in the course of the year; in Bombay the passive resistance campaign of the Mulshi Pethas to resist eviction from their land was compromised by the Government by the payment of compensation. The serious agrarian upheavals of 1920-21 in the United Provinces were stilled by the passage of a Land Act and by the “exemplary” punishment of the openly rebellious such as the recent wholesale condemnation of 172 villagers implicated in the riot of Chauri Chaura to death by hanging! In such an atmosphere, then, of subdued aspirations and fallen hopes, of disillusionment and sense of failure, did the Thirty-Seventh National Congress meet in the holy city of Gaya in the province of Behar, the stronghold of reactionary landlordism and remote from the industrial unrest of modern India. And the Congress met, not to give a new lead to the waiting people, nor to draw ripe lessons from the mistakes and failures of the past year, but to pay honour to the departed ghost of Gandhism; to hold a Sradh ceremony and offer Pinda to the defunct doctrine of Non-Violent Non-Co-operation based upon Soul-Force, as embodied in the corpse of the Constructive Programme.
Three events bade fair to disturb the harmony of the prospective solemnities and a fourth actually obtruded itself upon the Congress meditations, forcing same recognition from the Mourners there assembled of present-day actualities in the land of the living. We refer first to the publication, in November, of the Report of the Civil Disobedience Committee, which declared the country to be unfit for the inauguration of Mass Civil Disobedience including Non-payment of Taxes, but recommended, by an evenly split vote, the reconsideration of the Boycott of the Reform Councils, with the object of contesting the elections to be held in the spring of 1923. The second discordant note was struck by no less a person than the President-elect of the Congress, Mr. C.R. Das, newly released from six months’ confinement in jail, who after the report of the Civil Disobedience Committee saw fit to deliver himself of two speeches which set the whole country by the ears. In addition to echoing the heresy of the Council-entry, qualified with the object of “ending or mending them,” the Deshbandhu (Friend of the Country) startled his compatriots and the Bureaucracy alike by enunciating such heresies as the following:—
“I do not want that sort of Swaraj which will be for the middle-classes alone. I want Swaraj for the masses, not for the classes. I don’t care for the bourgeoisie. How few are they? Swaraj must be for the masses, and must be won by the masses.” (Speech at the Dehra Dun, November 1st, 1922.)
A few weeks later, he published a “Mass” programme, in his daily vernacular organ the Bangalar Katha, which declared for the Constructive Programme an election to the Reform Councils, and stressed the necessity for organising labour and peasant-societies as a means to declare a National Strike and enforce Non-payment of Taxes for the final winning of Swaraj, which vague term he recommended should be defined by a National Committee.
Excitement and speculation were still bubbling over the Desbandhu’s heresies to orthodox Gandhism, when a third event on the very eve of the Congress plunged the entire nation into a fever of fright and bewilderment. This was the cabling out to India by Reuter, evidently under Government orders, of the complete Programme of Social Democracy drawn up for the consideration of the National Congress by the exiled “Vanguard” Party in Europe. The printed copies sent with the December 1st number of the “Vanguard” (now the official organ of the Communist Party of India), reached that country on December 19th and was promptly proscribed by the Bengal Government on December 20th. The cabled document was published in the entire Indian Press, Official, Moderate and Nationalist, on December 21, 22nd and 23rd, the comments thereon extending over the entire week that preceded the opening of the National Congress at Gaya. The object of the Government in the spectacular move, was to alienate the Moderates by the sceptre of Bolshevism, and to frighten the Congress, and especially Mr. Das’ party, out of any discussion that might remotely resemble the “Vanguard” programme. Both of these designs were successful. The landlords and Moderates rallied most satisfactorily to the side of “law and order,” and the Nationalists busily tried to whitewash themselves of any suspicion that they might faintly approve of such rash republican ideas. Needless to say, the “Vanguard” programme, though it might have been in the hearts of some, found no one to sponsor it in the national conclave, but thanks to the crude advertisement by the Government, its text was known to the entire country. That its classes of social and economic reform, such as the eight-hour day, the confiscation of large estates for re-distribution among the landless peasantry, and the nationalisation of public utilities, remained undiscussed, proves the crime of the Congress to be one of deliberate commission rather than omission. But when even Mr. Das’ mild programme proved too much for the Congress patriots to swallow, what hope was there for a programme branded as Bolshevik, which concerned itself chiefly with tin amelioration of the lot of the Indian workers and peasants The Sradh Ceremony at Gaya was not to be disturbed by such discordant notes, the High Priests’ oft-repeated protestations of love for the “masses” notwithstanding.
But a gleam from the outer world did find its way into the Congress pandal towards the close of its deliberations. This was the reported news of the breakdown of the Lausanne Conference and the threatened possibility of war between England and Turkey This fact, of immense importance to the Indian Mussulmans assembled simultaneously in the annual session of the All-India Khilafat Conference at Gaya, agitated the overwhelmingly Hindu Congress to a ludicrously disproportionate extent. A clue to this otherwise inexplicable concern of the representatives of 250,000,000 Hindu for the success at arms of the Moslem Turks and the preservation of the Holy Places of Islam under Turkish control, is to be found it the fanatic zeal of the 70,000,000 Indian Moslems, determined to assist their brothers in the Faith, and in the vague assumption that the peoples of Asia are united in a solid bond of brotherhood to resist the encroachments of European “civilisation.” Hindu-Moslem unity is among the first essentials to a successful national struggle, and so far, this unity has been made to hang upon the perilous thread of a purely religious and artificial issue,—the championing by the Hindus of the cause of the Khilafat, in return for the support of the Indian Mussulmans to the national cause.
Certain outstanding figures in the Congress may be taken a symbolic of the tendencies that direct the current of national life in India to-day. The voice of Mr. C.R. Das, expressing the ideal and aspirations of the liberal Indian intelligentzia struggling to free itself from the social and economic interests of the bourgeoisie and opposed to him, the colourless figure of Mr. C. Rajagopalacharya the “deputy-Mahatma, “expounding the principles and dogmas of pure Gandhism,” and personifying the reactionary spirit of the lower-middle-class Extremism, sounding the death-knell to progress and scurrying to cover at the slightest hint of revolution. The voice of bourgeois radicalism, speaking in the person of N.C. Kelker, the leader of the Maharashtra school of political rationalism, as opposed to the metaphysical reactionaries of orthodox Nationalist and temporarily allied with the liberal intellectuals of the Left Wing in their common fight against the stand-patters of the Center, who still commanded an overwhelming majority. These were the voices of definite organised groups, representing the needs and more or less conscious aspirations of an entire class. There were other voices, less distinct and not so clearly heard, but nevertheless symbolic of rising social forces destined to dominate the sittings of future Congresses—the voice of Mr. P.K. Mazundar, echoing that of Hazrat Mohani at Ahmedabad, demanding the Swaraj be defined as “complete independence without foreign connection by the people of India by all legitimate and proper means.” Here spoke the new school of radical Republicanism, new as yet to India, but corresponding to the unexpressed desires and needs of a vast section of the people. Fainter still, and heard for the first time within the Indian National Congress, spoke the voice of the workers and landless peasants, through the lips of the venerable Mr. Singaravolu Chottiar, of Madras, who introduced himself, amid the cheers and laughter of the assembled delegates, as an “Indian Communist,” and who urged upon the Congress the necessity of making common cause with Labour to bring about a National Strike, so as to get rid of the domination both of the Government and of the bourgeoisie. Communists throughout the world, he assured his brother delegates, were with India in her battle for freedom. In a Manifesto issued just before the Congress, Mr. Singaravolu stressed the necessity of adopting an economic programme which would include the immediate grievances of the Indian workers and peasants within its scope.
The great struggle between the two contending parties within the Congress, the Right and Left Wing combined against the Centre, apparently hung upon the burning issue of Council-entry—whether or not the Congress Party should change its tactics and contest the coming elections to the Government Reform Councils. But the real issue lay deeper, and was tersely expressed in the popular names given to the respective factions, viz., the parties of “Pro-Change” and of “No-Change.” Whether or not the Congress should exercise the right of private judgment upon the mistakes and failures of the past year, and reverse the programme and tactics sanctified by the benediction of Mahatma Gandhi, proven wrong by time and trial—or whether it should follow blindly the dictates of the Mahatmaji throughout the time of his incarceration, regardless of opinions to the contrary—this was the real issue of the struggle at Gaya. Every resolution brought before the house was presented in this spirit by loyal followers of orthodox Gandhism, and was voted upon in this form. “Change or No-Change,” “Love and Loyalty to the martyred Mahatma or Treason to his sacred memory”—thus was every question formulated and thus was it decided, in the Sradh ceremony at Gaya, where every vote cast was a Pinda offered to the beloved memory of the revered Mahatmaji. Orthodox Gandhism scored a complete and overwhelming majority in the Thirty-Seventh Session of the Indian National Congress, but for all that, orthodox Gandhism is dead, and what transpired at Gaya was merely the respectful offering of friends and relatives to the lingering ghost of the deceased, to release it finally and forever of the last earthly tie that still bound it to the life of the body politic.
A study of the resolutions accepted and rejected during the five days’ Congress deliberations reveals the nature of the struggle that has raged within the ranks of the Non-Co-operators throughout the past eight months. It is the struggle between the past and the present, between the dead and the living, between reaction and progress, which resulted in the temporary and. illusive triumph of the former over the latter. The orthodox No-Changers, in their zeal to paralyse the movement by laying upon it the skinny death hand of inaction and futility, rejected all the recommendations which their own Civil Disobedience Committee had recommended—the withdrawal of the boycott of law-courts and schools—and re-affirmed their faith in these confessedly moribund tactics. The recommendation of the same Committee to boycott British, as opposed to merely “foreign” cloth, brought forward as a resolution before the Congress, was likewise rejected on the grounds that the specific boycott of British goods implied a hatred foreign to the doctrine of Non-Violence and Love. The main bone of contention—that of Councilentry—was debated exclusively from the point of view, on the part of the orthodox No-Changers as to whether Mahatma Gandhi would sanction such a departure from the policy laid down by him at Ahmedabad and confirmed at Calcutta. In the words of Mr. Rajagopalacharya, known to the Congress as the “Deputy Mahatma”:—
“The Congress should remember that no great change from the present programme could be recommended by any but the wisest and greatest of leaders. It is not possible for small men to ask the Congress to take a line different from what this house, sitting at Calcutta, decided, after a careful consideration.”
All the speeches of Mr. Rajagopalacharya, in upholding or opposing the various resolutions put forward, were tuned to the same key, and made use of the same arguments, ad nauseam. There were eight counter-resolutions on the subject of Council-entry, representing every shade of compromise, leading to the extreme of Council-boycott on one hand, and Council-entry on the other, but to them all Mr. Rajagopalacharya opposed the same argument, which was less of an argument than a credo: “We must not change the policy of the Mahatma; we must complete the Constructive Programme” And confronted with this uncompromising issue of “loyalty” to the imprisoned Mahatma, the pilgrims of the Sradh at Gaya rendered their tribute to the dead, and the resolution on Council-entry was lost by a two-thirds majority.
There were other resolutions lost, of equal if not more importance to that of Council-entry, which was stressed far beyond its due. The resolution presented last year by Hazrat Mohani, now in jail, demanding a change in the Congress programme by declaring the, goal of the Indian people to be the attainment of independence outside the British Empire, “by all possible and proper means,” was presented again this year at Gaya by the spokesmen of his party, which appears to have grown considerably in the past twelve months. Needless to say, the resolution was lost by an overwhelming majority, but the number of votes cast for it was larger than last year, and the speeches made in favour were more outspoken. The annual appearance of such a resolution denotes the growth of that hitherto rara avis in the constitutional Congress movement—a party of radical republicanism.
Manifestly in order to show that the No-Change Party still asserted its right to give a lead to the people, and as a counter-irritant to the contagious cry of Council-entry, the Congress majority adopted two last-minute resolutions which would be laughable, were they not so pathetic in their inadequacy. One was on Civil Disobedience—ambiguously worded and vague in portent, but launched as a possible objective so soon as the faithful followers should complete the preliminary requirements, viz., the collection of twenty-five lakhs of rupees (£170,000) for the Tilak Swaraj fund, and the enrolment of 50,000 volunteers, pledged to Non-Violent Non-Co-operation and the fulfilment of the Constructive Programme. The resolution on Civil Disobedience, passed against the unanimous recommendation of the Civil Disobedience Committee appointed by the Congress, is one of those anomalies which can only be explained by a study of the psychology of the No-Changers. The very men who had most loudly cried down the use of this weapon as “dangerous,” now proposed its adoption and carried the resolution successfully through the hypnotised Congress. It was meant less as a threat to the Government than a bribe to the sensation seeker. But the Congress has cried “Wolf! Wolf!” too often for either the Government or people to pay heed. The resolutions affirmed the boycott of schools and law-courts, and providing for a conditional declaration of Civil Disobedience (which is to be individual and not mass), were best described by the Pro-Change Press as “whipping a dead horse.”
The other last-minute resolution thrown as a sop to the sensation-monger bordered less on the Bolshevik, as described by the Anglo-Indian Press, than on the lunatic, taking into consideration the nature of the element which proposed it. It declared:—
“The Congress hereby repudiates the authority of the legislatures—in future to raise any loan or incur any liabilities on behalf of the nation, and notifies to the world that, on the attainment of Swarajya, the people of India, though holding themselves liable for all debts and liabilities rightly or wrongly incurred hitherto by the Government, will not hold themselves bound to repay any loans or discharge any liabilities incurred on and after this date on the authority of the so-called legislatures brought into existence in spite of the national boycott.”
This heroic gesture of defiance before the Government, the Councils and the world was presented on the last day of the Congress, without having been fully discussed in the Subjects Committee, where it was proposed for the first time late on the previous night, and in the absence of some of the leaders. Mr. Rajagopalacharya himself, who proposed the resolution, seemed a little amazed at his own temerity in departing so far from the footsteps of the Mahatmaji, and made little effort to support his point in the face of opposing speeches, which stigmatised the resolution as “non-moral, to say the least.” But his faithful followers, trained to obedience, voted blindly in favour, and to the great surprise of everybody present, the resolution was overwhelmingly adopted. By this dictum, the petty-bourgeoisie, represented by the Congress-patriots, have driven another nail into their own coffin, since who among the financiers, whether foreign or native, now investing their capital in India, will be interested in having come to power a class which has beforehand repudiated the principal and interest on those investments?
The only other noteworthy resolution adopted by the Congress was that approving the organisation of Indian labour “with a view to improve and promote their well-being and secure them their just rights, and also to prevent the exploitation of Indian labour and Indian resources.” This resolution was passed unanimously, it being the fashion in Congress as well as other circles to talk about the “masses,” and a Committee on Labour Organisation was appointed “to assist the Executive Council of the All-India Trade Union Congress for the organisation of Indian labour, both agricultural and industrial.” A similar resolution was passed by the Congress two years ago at Nagpur, but nothing came of it. It remains to be seen whether the present resolution will be taken more literally.
A curious feature of all Indian National Congress Sessions, and in fact, of the whole nationalist movement, is its relationship to the politico-religious agitation over the Islamic Khilafat, to which the 70,000,000 Indian Mussulmans are pledged. The Near Eastern question, involving the struggle of Turkish nationalism against Franco-British Imperialism, is thus a not unimportant factor in Indian politics as well, for a common faith and fierce religious fanaticism sways the martial followers of the Prophet in India to sentimental and to a certain extent practical sympathy for their Mussulman brothers in Turkey. The extent of this sympathy is largely regulated by the priestly hierarchy known as the Jamiat-ul-Ulema, which pulls the strings behind the All-India Khilafat Committee, with its country-wide organisation. The older and sister organisation, the All-India Muslim League, which constituted the Mussulman counterpart to the largely Hindu National Congress, and whose aims were more political and more Indian than the religious ones of the Khilafat, has gradually waned in influence and to such an extent that this year’s annual session of the All-India Muslim League did not take place at all. Its former constituents have been fairly well merged within the ranks of the National Congress organisation (with which it was united in 1916 while maintaining a separate existence), and of the Khilafat Committee. Between these two more vigorous bodies, its own significance has become nil.
It was formerly held to be a stroke of Mr. Gandhi’s inspired statesmanship that united the Hindus and Mussulmans of India in a common struggle with the slogan of “Swaraj and the righting of the Khilafat wrongs.” What was at best a mere superficial unity, brought about by the mingling of the waters of two streams, each having a separate source and contrary destination, has been rendered nugatory by the external events of the past year, reacting upon Indian political life. The military triumph of Mustapha Kemal Pasha, and the dethronement of the traitor Sultan, who was at the same time the Caliph of the world of Islam, was bound to have a repercussion upon Mohammedan sentiment outside of Turkey, to which the religious aspect of this bold step meant more than the political. The real meaning of the appointment of a new Caliph divested of temporal power has been well and aptly characterised as the separation of the Church from the State, of religion from politics by the new Turkish Government. Great Britain tried to make capital out of this courageous and necessary step by offering shelter to the ex-Sultan and seeking to foist him upon the Mussulman world as their spiritual head. But the Indian Mussulmans, steeped in fanaticism, saw through this move and supported the action of Mustapha Kemal. The Jamiat-ul-Ulema has not, however, given its sanction unconditionally. Certain sinister forces are at work within that ecclesiastical body, inspired more by dubious political than spiritual considerations. The same forces were at play during the recent simultaneous sessions of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema, the All-India Khilafat Conference and the National Congress at Gaya. There, the same questions of policy and tactics, discussed in the Congress, were decided by these bodies, and the curious fact is, that their decisions were not influenced by those of the Congress, but vice versa. The whole question of Council-entry was postponed by the National Congress until after the deliberations of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema and Khilafat Conference were announced, and even Mr. Das, leader of the liberal intellectuals, declared in his presidential address:—
“It is needless to point out that should the Khilafat Conference come to the conclusion that under the present circumstances it would be an offence against their religion to enter the Councils, the Congress would unhesitatingly accept their decision, because no work in this country towards the attainment of Swaraj is possible without the hearty co-operation of both Hindus and Mussulmans.”
The debate on the Council-entry resolution was postponed till the fourth day’s session of the Congress, in order to await the decision of the Ulema and Khilafat Conference. When given, it was unfavourable, the Ulemas declaring roundly that “even an attempt to stand for election to the Councils, though without the intention of entering them or of taking the oath of allegiance, is forbidden by religion.”
The Khilafat Conference was so busy passing resolutions supporting Mustapha Kemal Pasha and upholding his claims at Lausanne, that the Council-entry resolution was postponed and finally dropped altogether. The Lausanne deadlock reacted in a notable way upon the deliberations of Indian nationalism, and the news of its possible breakdown which came in the midst of them, caused the Khilafat Conference to pass a resolution calling upon all Indian Moslems “to unite to oppose the hostile farces arrayed against the Turks, because Civil Disobedience is the best weapon in their hands to attain Khilafat demands and to force the hands of the Government.”
A similar resolution, urged upon the National Congress in the very midst of the debate on Council-entry, was postponed, and passed at the close of the Congress session in a very diluted form, whereby:—
“This Congress resolves that the Working Committee do take steps in consultation with the Khilafat Working Committee to secure united action by Hindus and Mussulmans and others to prevent the exploitation of India for any such unjust cause, and to deal with the situation.”
Thus, the Khilafat stands committed to declare Civil Disobedience in the event of a new Turkish war, while the Congress has refrained from fully committing itself on this point. The Khilafat Conference also declared for the boycott of British goods, as well as of schools and law-courts; approved in rather lukewarm fashion of the organisation of labour “to prepare among them religious and political affairs,” and declared for the collection of ten lakhs of rupees (about £70,000) and the enrolment of 50,000 volunteers within three months time.
Both Congress and Khilafat voted to form a Committee to inquire into the causes of the Hindu-Muslem friction, and to devise ways and. means of drawing the two great religious communities closer in the national struggle. But the deepening of religious issues is indicated by the very significant resolution of the All-India Hindu Mahasabha (an orthodox body of Hindu Conservatives which also held its annual conference at Gaya), “to organise in all villages and towns Hindu Sabhas (societies) and bands of Hindu volunteers with the object of protecting the Hindu community from the attacks regarded to be aggressive and unjust.” This means the formation of a Hindu religious organisation on aggressive and orthodox lines similar in spirit to the purely religious Mussulman organisation of the Khilafat, and destined perhaps, to clash with it on the political field, as all such religious bodies inevitably must when permitted to meddle in and influence political issues. The growth of political consciousness and of political parties in India has not yet broken up the old religious divisions where the reactionary and orthodox members of each community are re-assembling their forces for future conflicts. This tendency will be aided, unseen, by the Imperialist ruler.
The Congress ended, as was to be expected, in a split between the forces of the living from those which clung to the dead past. Mr. C.R. Das and his followers, on the termination of the Congress session, issued a Manifesto, announcing the formation, within the Congress ranks, of the “Congress Khilafat Swaraj Party,” based upon “the attainment of Swaraj by all the peaceful and legitimate means, working on the principle of Non-Violent Non-Co-operation. Mr. Das resigned his presidency of the Congress, on the ground that his views did not coincide with those of the majority, but declared his party would continue to work within the Congress until the majority were converted to their viewpoint, meanwhile reserving the right to follow those tactics which seemed best to them. The Executive of the new party numbers among it such men as Mr. C.R. Das, President, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Motilal Nehru, V.J. Patel, N.C. Kelker, M.R. Jayakar, C.S. Ranga Iyer, V. Abhayankar etc., etc.—names which speak volumes to those even slightly acquainted with the Indian nationalist movement. It means that the Left represented by C.R. Das and the liberal intellectuals, has temporally joined forces with the Right—that school of rationalist politicians who have long since headed a revolt away from Congress leading strings back into the ranks of the co-operating Moderates, and whose philosophy of nationalism is summed up in the phrase “Responsible Co-operation.” The new party, which met at the end of January to draw up a programme and line of action, has not yet published the result of its deliberations, which covered such questions as the formation of a Pan-Asiatic Federation (to supplant Pan-Islamist boycott of British goods, and participation in elections to the Reform Councils. A Committee is at work drawing up a tentative scheme of Swaraj, which the new party has set itself the task of defining and will place before the country for discussion and approval through the Press and platform. The scheme includes the main points set forth in Das’ presidential address before the Thirty-Seventh National Congress, viz.: (1) The formation of local autonomous centres on the lines of ancient Indian village system, integrated into a loosely federated national unit. (2) The residuary power of control will remain in the hands of the Central Government, so exercised as to interfere least with the local autonomy of the integrated village units.
In view of Mr. Das’ reiterated insistence on the importance of attaining “Swaraj for the masses and not for the classes,” which raised such a clamour in the British and Indian Press, and led to his being stigmatised as “Bolshevik,” the specific declaration of the first convention of the new party on the rights of private property have a double interest and significance. The members declare that “private and individual property will be recognised and maintained and the growth of individual wealth, both movable and immovable will be permitted.” This frank declaration of class-affiliation and class-consciousness betokens more than the mere winning over of Mr. Das and the school of liberal intellectuals to the protection of bourgeois property-rights. It shows the rapid crystallisation of ideology in the Indian national struggle, and the presence of a predominating bourgeois element, determined to protect its class interests from the very outset against the rising flood-tide of mass-energy that may some day find an outlet in revolution.
The Sradh at Gaya is over, and the door on the past two years of Non-Violent Non-Co-operation based upon Soul-Force is closed and sealed for ever. The ghost of Gandhism is released from its earthly moorings, and Indian politics is freed from its spiritual bondage to pursue its temporal course, for better or for worse, towards some kind of Swaraj within or without the British Empire. New forces have been released in the struggle, temporarily confused and merged, but destined each day to grow more distinct, more conscious of the mission each is to fulfil. The sentimental liberalism of Mr. Das and his disciples has been drowned beneath the advancing wave of bourgeois rationalism; intent upon winning for itself a place in the sun. But the revolutionary energy of the masses is yet to be reckoned with. In the words of the “Open Letter to Mr. C.R. Das and His Followers”:—
“There are but two ways ahead: reversion to the Constitutional Democracy of the Liberals, or adoption of more revolutionary methods.—Either Mr. Das will soon have to abandon his original position in favour of the Responsive Co-operation of the Mahratta Rationalists, or he will have to part company with them in order to organise the third party inside the National Congress—the party of workers and peasants, which will infuse vigour into the national struggle by means of revolutionary mass action.” (Open Letter to Chittaranjan Das and His Followers, by M.N. Roy, Zurich, February 3rd, 1923.)
Only the organisation of such a mass party can save the Congress from sinking into permanent imbecility and decay, rendered useless on the one hand by the growing importance of the co-operating Moderates, representing the interests of the powerful Indian bourgeoisie, and on the other, by the organisation of the Indian workers, and peasants to struggle for the improvement of their economic position, abandoning the political arena for a decade to the Home Rulers and adherents of the Liberal League.