Drafted as one of their founding documents by Indian Trotskyists at the height of the independence movement, this work is both a communist analysis of that struggle, which was then in a pre-revolutionary phase, and an exemplary statement of the program of permanent revolution.
Published internationally under the foregoing title, it was included in the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India (BLPI) party program of 1942, where it makes up the second and third sections. The text below has been carefully checked against the transcription of this program printed as an appendix to Tomorrow Is Ours: The Trotskyist Movement in India and Ceylon, 1935-48 by Charles Wesley Erwin (Social Scientists' Association, Colombo: 2006). Several brief passages from an earlier version of the document have been included within brackets. The two footnotes are Erwin's.
By way of introduction, here is an excerpt from Erwin's chapter on the BLPI program as a whole:
In its final form the party program was a lengthy document, consisting of three sections: a summary of the British conquest of India, a Marxist analysis of the various classes and political groupings in India, and the action program, based largely on the “transitional” demands listed in the Transitional Program adopted by the Fourth International in 1938. [...]
Trotsky had generalized his theory of Permanent Revolution in 1928-29, based on the conclusions he drew from events in China, plus the lessons of the Russian Revolutions in 1917. In other words, on the basis of historical analogies he postulated that his theory was applicable to India as well. But he also stressed that the theory would have to be adapted to the specifics of each country. Trotsky himself was not an expert on the colonial question and during the entire 1930s he wrote only a few short articles on India. So the Ceylonese and Indian Trotskyists were breaking new theoretical ground with their program.
In 1905 Trotsky derived the hypothesis of Permanent Revolution from a historic analysis of the “peculiarities” of Russian society. The BLPI program tries to do the same for India. The first section is an insightful analysis of how Britain transformed the social foundation of India. It should be noted that the program goes back to the seminal writings of Marx from the 1850s. Marx did not regard pre-colonial India as feudal; the thesis of “Indian feudalism” was in fact concocted by the Stalinists in order to rationalize their line in China during 1925-27. The BLPI program shows how the “remnants of feudalism” in India were for the most part created and sustained by British colonialism: the parvenu zamindars, the Native Princes with short pedigrees, and so forth. The nascent Indian bourgeoisie was not a class apart from these “feudal” landlords; it was organically connected to the whole system that impoverished the vast majority of peasants.
The program maintained that the peasantry would be the driving force propelling India to revolution. But their struggle would not, and could not, be limited just to “anti-feudal” goals, like land redistribution, an end to forced labor, and so forth. Indeed, the virtual class war that flared in the countryside during the Non-Cooperation movement (1920-22), the Civil Disobedience Movement (1930-32), and the period of Congress Ministries (1937-39) brought the poor peasants into direct confrontation with capitalist interests. In all cases the bourgeois nationalists recognized the threat to their interests. If the masses of peasants were to achieve even their immediate demands, they would need to seek allies elsewhere. And for the BLPI that ally could only be the urban working class.
In order to satisfy the land hunger of the peasants, the revolutionary regime would have to encroach upon the property rights of the zamindars and taluqdars, who would surely retaliate and find their own capitalist allies. Sooner rather than later the regime would have to expropriate the landlords, and that would certainly ignite outright class war in the countryside. Likewise, in order to relieve the peasants of their debt burdens, the regime would have to attack the bunyas and usurers, who were merely the front men for the capitalists. The BLPI program concluded that there would be no basis for a stable intermediary regime, what the Stalinists called a “revolutionary democratic dictatorship.” And that leads directly to the central thesis of Permanent Revolution: the belated “democratic revolution” in India could only be carried to completion through a socialist government of the working class, supported by the poor peasants and urban middle classes.
The BLPI did not factor caste into its analysis. That was a real shortcoming. Murray Gow Purdy had hit on a very important aspect of Indian reality when he formulated his thesis of the “Harijan Revolution.” More deft dialecticians could have developed this insight properly. Another shortcoming in the program was the communal question. By 1941-42, when this program was drafted and discussed, the communal issue loomed large in India. The relationship between the Congress and Muslim League had been strained during the period of the Congress Ministries. The Muslim League started taking the Pakistan slogan seriously in 1940. The BLPI program pretty much ignored this burning issue. So did the rest of the left, for that matter.
The program characterized Congress as “the class party of the Indian bourgeoisie.” That set the BLPI apart from virtually the entire left. Both the Communist Party and the Socialists called Congress a multi-class platform; Murray Gow Purdy took that position too. The BLPI program pointed out that the bourgeoisie paid the piper and called the tune.
THE INDIAN SOCIAL CLASSES AND THEIR POLITICAL ROLES
The Native Princes
The revolt of 1857 represented the last attempt of the old feudal ruling class of India to throw off the British yoke. This revolt, which despite its reactionary leadership laid bare the depth of mass discontent and unrest, created an alarm in the British rulers, and led to a radical change of their policy in India. Seeking for bases of social and political support within India, the British abandoned the policy of annexing the Indian States within British India, and embarked on a policy of guaranteeing the remnants of the feudal rulers their privileged and parasitic positions in innumerable petty principalities, buttressing their power and protecting them against the masses, and receiving in return the unqualified support of these elements for the British rule. The princes of the Native States, maintained at the cost of a chaotic multiplication of administrative units, are today only the corrupt and dependent tools of British Imperialism; and the feudatory states, “checkerboarding all India as they do, are no more than a vast network of fortresses” [footnote 1] erected by the British in their own defence. The variety of the states and jurisdiction of the feudal princes defies a generalised description, but they bolster alike the reactionary policies of Imperialism in India. The despotism and mis-government practiced by the great majority of these rulers in their territories have created and perpetuated conditions of backwardness extreme even in India, including the most primitive forms of feudal oppression and the institution of slavery itself. Their collective interests are represented by the Chamber of Princes, instituted in 1921, which is the most reactionary political body in India.
The most solid supporters of British rule in India, after the princes, are the landlords. In fact the majority of the princes are themselves no more than glorified landlords, playing the same parasitic role as the landlords of British India. [The landlords of India have a record of medieval oppression, of rack-renting and usury, and of unbridled gangsterism over a disarmed peasantry, which has made them the most hated exploiters in India.] The rapid extension of landlordism in modern times through the development of intermediary and new parasitic classes on the peasantry, has not only increased the numbers of those who receive land-rents, but firmly linked their interests with those of the Indian capitalist class, through ties of investment and mortgage. The political role of the landlords has always been one of complete subservience to British Imperialism, which alone guarantees their parasitic position. Landlordism is today the most formidable buttress of British Imperialism within Indian society, as well as the greatest obstacle in the way of agricultural development which demands a thorough-going democratic revolution in the agrarian field and the liquidation of landlordism in all its forms.
The Indian Bourgeoisie
The second half of the 19th century saw the rise of an Indian capitalist class in Bombay and other industrial and commercial centers. The Indian bourgeoisie of the early period, being of a predominantly commercial character, and conscious of their own weakness and completely dependent position in economy, offered no challenge whatever to British rule. This weakness found its reflection in the early policies of the Indian National Congress, which, since its inception in 1855, loyally co-operated with British Imperialism and offered only the mildest criticism of governmental policies. But the growing strength of the industrial bourgeoisie in the last two decades of the 19th century and the deep economic conflict between their own interests and those of their British competitors, drove them, from the first decade of the 20th century, to utilise the national political movement as a means to strengthen their bargaining power against British Imperialism and extend their own field of exploitation. The growing strength of the industrial bourgeoisie was reflected in the change of policies of the Indian National Congress since the early years of the present century.
The bourgeoisie, in the absence of any competing class and especially of an independent proletarian movement, assumed complete leadership of the national political movement from the beginning through its party, the Indian National Congress. The bourgeois leadership of the movement was clearly demonstrated in 1905 by the choice of the economic boycott of foreign goods as the method of struggle against the partition of Bengal. The aims of the bourgeoisie during this period were defined as the “attainment of colonial self-government within the empire” as junior partners of the imperialists. They abandoned the struggle [and adopted] a policy of co-operation with the government after the granting of the Morley-Minto reforms, their own immediate purposes being satisfied.
The last years of the First World War, and the years which immediately followed it, were marked by the development, for the first time since 1857, of a mass struggle on a national scale against Imperialism, based on the discontent and unrest of the peasantry and the working class. This discontent was especially marked in Bombay, where the wave [of working-class strikes was on a scale hitherto unknown in India, and] reached its highest point in 1920, for which year the number of strikers reached the gigantic total of 1½ millions. The Montagu-Chelmsford reforms were designed to meet this rising threat by buying off the bourgeois leadership, and they succeeded to an extent, that section of the bourgeoisie who wanted whole-hearted co-operation with the government seceding from the Congress to form the Liberal Federation (1918). But taking advantage of the growing mass movement, the Congress bourgeoisie launched under its own banner the pasive resistance movement, and the later mass civil disobedience movement of 1921-22, but betrayed the movement from the inside the moment it showed signs of developing into revolutionary channels. The movement, which despite its timid and unwilling leadership, had attained the undeniable character of a mass revolt against the British Raj, was abruptly called off when at its height by the bourgeois leader Gandhi, and a period of demoralization for the masses followed. The reactionary and treacherous character of the bourgeois leadership was shown clearly in the Bardoli resolution of 1922, which condemned the no-tax campaign of the peasantry and insisted on the continuation of rent-payments to the landlords, assuring the Zemindars that the Congress had “no intention of attacking their legal rights.” [footnote 2] The bourgeoisie thus demonstrated their reactionary attitude towards the land question, in which lies the main driving force towards revolution in India. compelled the Congress bourgeoisie either to enter the struggle or be isolated from the masses. The reactionary and treacherous character of the bourgeois leadership was also displayed in the doctrine of Ahimsa by the foisting of which on the movement in 1921-22 and ever since, the bourgeoisie have attempted to ensure their control of the national movement by restricting the form and scope of the struggle and insuring against its moving into revolutionary channels.
The working-class upsurge of 1928-29, with the tremendous growth in the organized strength of the working class and the adoption by the workers for the first time of a proletarian (communist) ideology, marked the beginning of a new phase in the oppositional role to imperialism of the bourgeoisie, which from now on underwent a progressive weakening. With the worsening conditions of the late twenties, the mass struggle developed again at a rising tempo, and was again led to defeat by the Congress (1930-34). The aims of the new struggle were limited by Gandhi beforehand to the celebrated eleven points which represented exclusively the most urgent demands of the Indian bourgeoisie. Nevertheless, the movement developed in 1930 far beyond the limits laid down for it by the Congress, with rising strikes, powerful mass demonstrations, the Chittagong Armoury raid, and the risings at Peshawar and Sholapur. Gandhi declared openly to the Viceroy that he was fighting as much against the rising forms of revolt as against British Imperialism. The bourgeois aim was hence-forward to secure concessions from Imperialism at the price of betraying the mass struggle in which they saw a real and growing threat to themselves. The Gandhi-Irwin settlement was a settlement against the mass movement, and paved the way for the terrific repression which fell on the movement during its ebb in the years 1932-34.
Since 1934, Gandhi and the leaders of the National Congress have had as their chief aim that of preventing the renewal of the mass struggle against Imperialism, while using their leadership of the national movement as a lever to secure the concessions they hoped to obtain from Imperialism. They see in the rising forces of revolt, and especially in the emergence of the working class as a political force, a threat to their own bases of exploitation, and are consequently following an increasingly reactionary policy. Re-organizing the party administration so as to secure to the big bourgeoisie the unassailable position of leadership (1934), they transferred the center of activities to the parliamentary field and to working the new constitution in such a way as to secure the maximum benefits to the bourgeoisie; until the intransigence of the British Government in the war situation and the withdrawal of many of the political concessions of Provincial Autonomy again forced the Congress into opposition (1939). At present the Congress bourgeoisie is engaged in a restricted campaign of individual (non-violent) civil disobedience, with narrowly defined bourgeois aims, and under the dictatorial control of Gandhi himself. By this move they hope to prevent the development of a serious mass struggle against Imperialism, the leadership of which will be bound to pass into other hands.
The main instrument whereby the Indian bourgeoisie seek to maintain control over the national movement is the Indian National Congress, the classic party of the Indian capitalist class, seeking as it does the support of the petty bourgeoisie and if possible of the workers, for their own aims. Despite the fact that revolutionary and semi-revolutionary elements still remain within the fold of the Congress, despite its mass membership (5 millions in 1939), and despite the demagogic programmatic pronouncements (Constituent Assembly, Agrarian Reform) which the Congress has repeatedly made, the direction of its policy remains exclusively in the hands of the bourgeoisie, as also the control of the party organization, as was dramatically proved at Tripuri and after. The Indian National Congress in its social composition, its organization, and above all in its political leadership can be compared to the Kuomintang, which led the Chinese revolution of 1925-27 to its betrayal and defeat.
The characterization of the Indian National Congress as a multi-class party, as the “National United Front” or as “a platform rather than a party” is a flagrant deception, and is calculated only to hand over to the bourgeoisie in advance the leadership of the coming struggle, and so make its betrayal and defeat a foregone conclusion.
The more openly reactionary interests of the Indian bourgeoisie find expression in many organizations which exist side by side with the Congress. Thus, the Liberal Federation (1918) represents those bourgeois elements who co-operate openly with the Imperialists. The sectional interests of the propertied classes are represented by various communal organizations, notably the Muslim League (1905) and the Hindu Mahasabha (1925), which are dominated by large landlord interests and pursue a reactionary policy on all social and economic issues, deriving a measure of mass support by an appeal to the religious and communal sentiments of the backward masses.
The Petty Bourgeoisie
Because of their position of dependence on the capitalist class, and in the absence of a real challenge to its leadership from the proletariat, the various elements of the urban petty bourgeoisie and of the petty bourgeois intelligentsia have always played a satellite role to the bourgeoisie. The radicalization of the petty bourgeoisie under Imperialism found its first and strongest expression in the prolonged terrorist movement in Bengal and elsewhere, despite the heroism of its protagonists the failure of which demonstrates finally the utter inability of the petty bourgeois intelligentsia to find an independent solution of its own problems.
Today the urban petty bourgeoisie finds its political reflection mainly in the various organizations within the folds of, or under the influence of, the Indian National Congress, such as the Forward Bloc, the Congress Socialist Party, (till recently) the Radical Democratic Party of M.N. Roy, etc. Within the Congress, the petty bourgeois leaders have repeatedly lent themselves to be used by the bourgeoisie as a defensive coloration before the masses, bridging with their radical phrases and irresponsible demagogy the gap between the reactionary Congress leadership and the hopes and aspirations of the masses. Thus the demagogy of Bose and Nehru, as well as the socialist phrases of M.N. Roy and the Congress Socialist Party, to say nothing of the “Marxism” of the National Fronters of the Communist Party of India, have in turn served the Gandhian leaders as a smoke screen for their own reactionary maneuvers.
The humiliating capitulation of the Congress Socialist Party to the Congress leadership, the conversion of Roy and his Radical Democrats to imperialist war-mongering and their transformation into open agents of the pro-imperialist section of the Indian bourgeoisie, [and the departure of Subhas Chandra Bose from the Indian scene,] are symptoms of the diminishing political role of the petty bourgeois intelligentsia, which, however theatrically it may pose before the masses in normal times, exposes in times of growing crisis its political bankruptcy, and exists only to be utilized by the bourgeoisie in their deception of the masses.
The Peasantry comprises the vast majority of the Indian population (70 per cent). The stagnation and deterioration of agriculture, the increasing land hunger, the exactions of the government, the extension of parasitic landlordism, the increasing load of rural debt and the consequent expropriation of the cultivators, are together driving the peasantry on to the revolutionary road. Peasant unrest, leading frequently to actual risings—Santhal Rebellion of 1855, Deccan Riots of 1875, Indigo War—has been a recurring motif in recent Indian history. In the last decades, and especially since the world economic crisis (1929), the peasant movement has been on the rise, and has taken on a more and more radical character.
It is precisely the depth and scope of the agrarian crisis that places the revolution against Imperialism on the order of the day, contributing to it the driving force and the sweep which are necessary to accomplish the overthrow of the ruling power. Nevertheless, the agrarian crisis alone cannot produce a revolution, and the peasantry requires the leadership of another class to raise the struggle to the level of a national revolution. The isolation and the scattered character of the peasant economy, the historical and political backwardness of the rural masses, the lack of inner cohesion within the peasantry, and the conflicting aims of its various strata, all combine to make it impossible for the peasantry to play a leading or even an independent role in the coming revolution.
The invasion of moneyed interests has sharply accelerated the disintegrating tendencies within the peasantry. The creation of a vast army of landless peasants, share-croppers and wage-laborers on the land has immensely complicated the agrarian problem, and rendered necessary revolutionary measures of the most far-reaching character. The basic antagonism between landlord and peasant has not been reduced by the entry of finance-capital into agriculture, since this did not bring with it any change for the better in farming methods or in the system of land-tenure. On the contrary, the landlord-peasant antagonism has been given a sharper emphasis by the extension of parasitic claims on the land, and the overthrow of landlordism by the transference of the land to the cultivators remains the primary task of the agrarian revolution. Nevertheless, this basic antagonism has been supplemented by a new one, which is reflected in the growth of an agricultural proletariat in the strict sense of the word. Besides this, the invasion of finance-capital has made the problems of mortgage and rural debt more pressing in some parts of India than in others, and these facts taken together will probably give to the agrarian revolution, at least in some areas, an anti-capitalist character at a very early stage.
It is clear that the rural laborers are still too closely connected with the peasantry and share too closely the misfortunes of the peasantry generally, for the movement of the rural workers as such to assume national significance. But at the same time, these new problems of agriculture cannot be solved by the overthrow of landlordism alone, which cannot by itself put an end to land hunger, or reduce the heavy and disproportionate pressure of the population on the land. The introduction of socialist measures of large-scale collective farming, etc. will become necessary at some stage, depending on the correlation of political forces and the prospects of industrializing agriculture.
Leadership of the Revolution
The leadership of the revolution, which the peasantry cannot provide for itself, can come only from an urban class. But the Indian bourgeoisie cannot possibly provide this leadership, since in the first place, it is reactionary through and through on the land question itself, sharing as it does so largely in the parasitic exploitation of the peasantry. Above all, the bourgeoisie, on account of its inherent weakness and dependence on imperialism, is destined to play a counter-revolutionary role in the coming struggle for power.
The leadership of the peasantry in the coming petty bourgeois democratic agrarian revolution that is immediately posed can therefore come only from the industrial proletariat, and an alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry is a fundamental pre-requisite of the Indian revolution. This alliance cannot be conceived in the form of a “Workers’ and Peasants’ Party” or of a “democratic dictatorship of workers and peasants” in the revolution. It is impossible so to fuse within a single party or a dictatorship the policies of two classes whose interests only partially coincide and are bound to come into conflict sooner or later. The revolutionary alliance between the proletariat and peasantry can mean only proletarian leadership of the peasant struggle and, in case of revolutionary victory, the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship with the support of the peasantry.
The Peasant Movement
The growth of the peasant movement in recent times has led to the formation of various mass organizations among the peasantry, among which the most important are the Kisan Sanghas (Peasant Committees) which are loosely linked up on a district, provincial, and finally on an all-Indian scale in the All-India Kisan Sabha, whose membership in 1939 was 800,000. These associations, whose precise character varies from district to district, are in general today under the control and influence of petty bourgeois intelligentsia elements who, as pointed out before, cannot follow a class policy independent of the bourgeoisie, although the growing mass pressure upon them is reflected in the more sharply radical demands they are forced to put forward. There is no means of deciding in advance the exact role of the Kisan Sanghas in the coming revolution. This will be determined by the correlation of forces within them, which in turn will depend largely on the consciousness and militancy of the lower layers of the peasantry and the measure of control they exercise in the Kisan Sanghas. But it can be stated beforehand, on the basis of the experience of the Russian and Chinese revolutions, that the existence of Kisan Sanghas, on however wide a scale, does not offer a substitute for the separate organizations of poor peasants and agricultural laborers in Rural Soviets, under the leadership of the urban working class. Only the soviets can assure that the agrarian revolution will be carried out in a thorough-going manner.
The Working Class
The industrial proletariat is the product of modern capitalism in India. Its rapid growth in the period since 1914 can be illustrated by a comparison of the Factory Acts statistics for 1914 and 1936.
1914: 2,936 factories, 950,973 workers employed
1936: 9,323 factories, 1,652,147 workers employed
The numerical strength of the industrial proletariat can be estimated at 5 millions, distributed mainly as follows (1935 figures):—
(a) Workers in power-driven factories (including those of the Native States): 1,855,000
(b) Miners: 371,000
(c) Railwaymen: 636,000
(d) Transport workers: 361,000
(e) Plantation workers: 1,000,000
The Indian working class is chiefly employed in light industries (cotton, jute etc.), but also to some extent in the iron and steel, cement, and coal-mining industries. The degree of concentration in industrial establishments is relatively high, owing to the recency of industrial development and the typically modern character of many of the new enterprises. Despite its numerical weakness in relation to the total population, the proletariat holds a position in Indian society which is quite out of proportion to its actual size, on account of the vital place it occupies in the economy of the country. The proletariat has grown with the investment of British capital from the beginning of capitalist production in India to this day. Although the native bourgeoisie has come belatedly on the scene to take part in the capitalist exploitation of the working class, the main and effective means of production are in the hands of British capital. Consequently, the working class has developed out of all proportion to the relative growth of the Indian bourgeoisie.
The wage rates of the Indian proletariat are among the lowest, the living conditions the most miserable, the hours of work the longest, the factory conditions the worst, the death-rate the highest, in the civilized world. When these facts are taken together with the fabulous profits made by the capitalist (British and Indian alike) out of Indian industry, it becomes clear that the working class is the most ruthlessly and directly exploited class in India. The fight to remedy these intolerable conditions and to protect themselves from the steadily worsening conditions of exploitation bring the workers directly to the revolutionary struggle against imperialism and the capitalist system, the destruction of which is necessary to their emancipation.
The record of proletarian struggle in India can be traced back to the last century; but the movement took on an organized character only in the post-war period. The first great wave of strikes (1918-21) signaled the emergence of the Indian working class as a separate force, and gave to the national political movement during this period a truly revolutionary significance for the first time in its history. In 1920, on the crest of this strike wave, the Indian Trade Union Congress was formed. The second great strike wave of the late twenties, especially in Bombay, showed an immense advance in the working-class movement, marked by its increasing awakening to communist ideas.
In 1929 the T.U.C. was split in two by the agents of the Imperialists in the working class movement, who insisted on co-operation with the Whitley Comission and the International Labor Office. Thus arose the reactionary Trade Union Federation (1929). The main body of the T.U.C. came under the control of the Communists and the nationalist bourgeoisie. But with the arrest of the Communist leaders on a trumped-up charge (the Meerut Conspiracy case) and the disastrous “Red Trade Union” policy followed by the Communists in accordance with the instructions of the Comintern bureaucracy—leading to a further splitting of the T.U.C. in 1931 into trade unions under Communist control and trade unions under the influence of the nationalist bourgeoisie—the wave of working-class struggle subsided once more. It was in this period (1930-31) that the Communist Party of India, which commanded the confidence of the awakening workers, made the grievous political mistake of standing aside from the mass movement which was again developing into a mass revolt against the British Raj.
The tendency towards economic recovery commencing in 1936 combined with the mass activities in connection with the election campaign of the Congress led to a revival in the mass movement which entered once again on a period of rise. The Congress Ministries saw a resurgence of working-class strike movement with the Bengal Jute Strike (1937) and the Cawnpore Textile Strike (1938), which was arrested only by measures of increased repression introduced by the Government since the outbreak of war; but not before the Indian working class had clearly demonstrated its attitude towards the Imperialist war, particularly by the mass political anti-war strike in Bombay of 86,000 workers.
In the political arena the working class has repeatedly demonstrated its heroism and its readiness for unremitting struggle. Its failure, nevertheless, to wrest the leadership of the national movement from bourgeois hands must be explained by its own weakness in consciousness and organization, added to by the defects of its leadership in the critical years in particular.
The Communist Party of India which alone in the last two decades could have afforded the Marxist leadership that, above all things, the working class needed, made instead a series of irresponsible mistakes, which find their expression in bureaucratically conceived policies of the Comintern. In conformity with its false central programmatic aim, the “democratic dictatorship of the workers and the peasants,” the C.P.I. fostered the growth of Workers’ and Peasants’ Parties from 1926-1928, at the expense of an independent working-class party. This policy was shelved in 1929 to make way for an ultra-left sectarian policy (in the celebrated “Third Period” days of the Coinintern), the signal expression of which lay in the splitting of the trade union movement by the formation of “Red Trade Unions.” This sectarian policy of the C.P.I. led to its isolation from the mass struggle of 1930-31, and made the bourgeois betrayal of the struggle so much the easier. In the period of ebb which followed, the C.P.I. was illegalized (1934) and has remained so since. From 1935 onwards the C.P.I. (again at the behest of the Comintern, now openly and flagrantly the tool of the Soviet bureaucracy), reversed its policy once more, and held out the hand of collaboration to the bourgeoisie through the policy of the National Front which credited the bourgeoisie with a revolutionary role. The C.P.I. was transformed into a loyal opposition within the Congress, having no policy independent of that organization, a state of things which continues even in the period of imperialist war.
The mechanical echoers of every new slogan advanced by the Comintern to suit the changing policies of the Soviet bureaucrats, the C.P.I. has shown its reactionary character by its vacillating attitude towards the imperialist war. Today this attitude is the most shameful and callous of all, since in servile obedience to the counter-revolutionary Kremlin clique, they are openly advocating unconditional and active support of the Imperialist war. With its false theory of National Front, the C.P.I. is making ready to repeat the betrayal of the Chinese Revolution by handing over the leadership of the revolutionary struggle to the treacherous bourgeoisie. The Communist Party of India, because of the prestige it seeks to obtain from the Russian Revolution and the Soviet Union, is today the most dangerous influence within the working class of India.
[Openly preaching collaboration with the bourgeoisie, and today with the British imperialists at war, is the party of M.N. Roy. With a narrowing base within the working class, Roy has turned for a following to the labor bureaucrats supporting the war, and to the bourgeoisie itself.]
The Congress Socialist Party (1934) has from the beginning followed a policy of utter subservience to the Congress bourgeoisie, and remains today completely without a base within the working class. Surrendering its claim to an independent existence, the C.S.P. has been split wide open by the Communists who worked inside it, and is today an empty shell, devoid of political substance.
To the left of the Communist Party, disgusted with its bureaucratic leaders and its reactionary policies, there exist a number of small parties and groups, occupying centrist positions. Such are the Bengal Labor Party (Bolshevik Party), the Red Flag Communists [led by S.N. Tagore], etc. Without a clear-cut revolutionary policy and without making a decisive break organizationally and politically with the Comintern, these parties and groups are unable to offer the working class the independent leadership it requires. Nevertheless, these groups and parties contain many tried fighters who would be invaluable in a revolutionary working-class party. This party can be only the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India, the party of the Fourth International in India, which alone, with its revolutionary strategy based on the accumulated experience of history and the theory of Permanent Revolution in particular, can lead the working class of India to revolutionary victory.
Despite its subjective weakness in organization and consciousness, inevitable in a backward country and in the conditions of repression surrounding it, the working class is entirely capable of leading the Indian revolution. It is the only class objectively fitted for this role, not only in relation to the Indian situation, but in view of the decline of capitalism on a world scale, which opens the road to the international proletarian revolution. The proletariat needs above all to develop its own independent political party, free from the influence of the bourgeoisie, and armed with the weapons of revolutionary Marxism, to lead it not only in the day to day struggles but above all in the coming revolution. Without such a party the proletariat must fail in its historic task of leading the masses of India to revolutionary victory.
THE PERMANENT REVOLUTION
India faces a historically belated bourgeois-democratic revolution, the main tasks of which are the overthrow of British Imperialism, the liquidation of a semi-feudal land system, and the clearing away of feudal remnants in the form of the Indian Native States. But although the bourgeois-democratic revolution occurring in the advanced capitalist countries in previous centuries found leadership in the then rising bourgeoisie, the Indian bourgeoisie, appearing on the scene only after the progressive role of the bourgeoisie in the world as a whole has been exhausted, is incapable of providing leadership to the revolution that is unfolding in India.
In the first place, as a historically belated class, they do not possess the strength and independence of the early bourgeoisie of former times. Connected with and dependent on British capital from their birth, they have progressively been brought into a position of subservience to British finance-capital, and today display the characteristics of a predominantly comprador bourgeoisie enjoying at the best the position of a very junior partner in the firm British Imperialism & Co. Hence, while they have been prepared to place themselves, through the Indian National Congress, at the head of the anti-imperialist mass movement for the purpose of utilizing it as a bargaining weapon to secure concessions from the imperialists, they have restricted its scope and prevented its development into a revolutionary assault on imperialism. Incapable from the very nature of their position of embarking on a revolutionary struggle to secure their independence, and fearful of such a struggle, they have maintained their control over the mass movement only to betray it at every critical juncture.
Secondly, unlike the once revolutionary bourgeoisie of former times, which arose in opposition to the feudal landowning class and in constant struggle against it, the Indian bourgeoisie [has developed largely from the landowning class itself, and is in addition] closely connected with the landlords through mortgages. They are therefore incapable of leading the peasants in the agrarian revolt against landlordism. On the contrary, as is clearly demonstrated by the declared policy and actions of the Indian National Congress, both during the Civil Disobedience Movements and in the period of the Congress Ministries, they are staunch supporters of Zemindari interests.
Finally, unlike the bourgeois-democratic revolutions of former times, the revolution in India is unfolding at a time when large concentrations of workers already exist in the country. The industrial proletariat numbering 5 millions occupies a position of strategic importance in the economy of the country which cannot be measured by its mere numerical strength. It is important to remember, moreover, that a hitherto uncalculated but undoubtedly very high proportion of these workers are employed in large concerns employing several hundreds of thousands of workers. The high degree of concentration of the Indian proletariat immeasurably advances its class consciousness and organizational strength. It was only in the post-war years that the Indian working class emerged as an organized force on a national scale. But the militant and widespread strike-waves of 1918-21 and of 1928-29, which were the precursors of the mass civil disobedience movements of 1920-21 and of 1930-34 respectively, testify to the rapidity of the awakening. These workers are in daily conflict not only with the Imperialist owners of capital, but also with the native bourgeoisie. These workers, moreover, being a class exploited not only by indigenous capital, but also in fact predominantly by foreign capital, have as a class grown to an extent out of all proportion to the size and strength of the Indian bourgeoisie. Faced by the threat of this new and growing class, which is rapidly awakening to consciousness and making a bid to play an independent role in the national political arena, the Indian bourgeoisie has grown more conservative and suspicious. With every advance in organization and consciousness of the workers, they have drawn nearer to the Imperialists and further away from the masses. Even the oppositional role they were wont to play against Imperialism has become a caricature of its former self. Fearful already of any kind of mass movement against Imperialism, the aim of their control over the national movement through the Indian National Congress is today not so much the securing of concessions from Imperialism as preventing the outbreak of an anti-imperialist movement on a mass scale. It is clear that not a single one of the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution can be solved under the leadership of the Indian bourgeoisie. Far from leading the bourgeois-democratic revolution, the Indian bourgeoisie will go over to the camp of the Imperialists and landlords on the outbreak of the revolution and will play an actively counter-revolutionary role.
The urban petty bourgeoisie, daily becoming declassed and pauperized under imperialism, and declining into economic insignificance, cannot even conceive of playing an independent role in the coming revolution. Since, however, there is no prospect whatever of improving their condition under imperialism, but on the contrary they are faced with actual pauperization and ruin, they are forced on to the revolutionary road.
The peasantry, the largest numerically and the most atomized, backward and oppressed class, is capable of local uprisings and partisan warfare, but requires the leadership of a more advanced [and centralized] class for this struggle to be elevated to an all-national level. Without such leadership the peasantry alone cannot make a revolution. The task of such leadership falls in the nature of things on the Indian proletariat, which is the only class capable of leading the toiling masses in the onslaught against Imperialism, landlordism and the Native Princes. The concentration and discipline induced by its very place in capitalist economy, its numerical strength, the sharpness of the class antagonism which daily brings it into conflict with the Imperialists who are the main owners of capital in India, its organization and experience of struggle, and the vital position it occupies in the economy of the country, as also its steadily worsening condition under Imperialism, all combine to fit the Indian proletariat for this task. It is only under the leadership of the Indian proletariat (as distinct from the “hegemony of the proletariat,” which is an equivocal and deceptive phrase coined in preparation for handing over the leadership to the bourgeoisie) that the revolution in India can be carried to a victorious conclusion.
But the leadership of the working class in the bourgeois-democratic revolution poses before the working class the prospect of seizing the power and, in addition to accomplishing the long overdue bourgeois-democratic tasks, proceeding with its own socialist tasks. And thus the bourgeois-democratic revolution develops uninterruptedly into the proletarian revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the only state-form capable of supplanting the dictatorship of the imperialist bourgeoisie in India. The realization of the combined character of the Indian revolution is essential for the planning of the revolutionary strategy of the working class. Should the working class fail in its historic task of seizing the power and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat, the revolution will inevitably recede, the bourgeois tasks themselves remain unperformed, and the power swing back in the end to the imperialists without whom the Indian bourgeoisie cannot maintain itself against the hostile masses. A backward country like India can accomplish its bourgeois-democratic revolution only through the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The correctness of this axiom of the theory of permanent revolution is demonstrated by the victorious Russian revolution of October 1917, and it is confirmed on the negative side by the tragic fate of the Chinese revolution of 1925-27. The seizure of power and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat is the supreme task of the Indian working class. The illusory slogan of “democratic dictatorship of workers and peasants” (postulating a non-existent intermediate stage prior to the proletarian dictatorship in which the bourgeois-democratic tasks are performed), which the Bolshevik Party, under the leadership of Lenin, abandoned in time to save the Russian revolution, can result only in confusing and misleading the workers. In China, the “democratic dictatorship of workers and peasants” was demonstrated in practice to be nothing more than the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
In India, moreover, where the Imperialists are the main owners of capital, the revolutionary assault of the workers against Imperialism will bring them into direct and open conflict with the property forms of the Imperialists from the moment the struggle enters the openly revolutionary stage. The exigencies of the struggle itself will, in the course of the openly revolutionary assault against Imperialism, demonstrate to the workers the necessity of destroying not only Imperialism but the foundations of capitalism itself. The workers will learn that it is a desperate struggle not only against Imperialism, but also against its economic and political agencies in India, against the native bourgeoisie, and all their flunkeys. Thus, though the Indian revolution will be bourgeois in its immediate aims, the tasks of the proletarian revolution will be posed from the outset. The expropriation of the capitalists will be on the order of the day on the very morrow of the seizure of power by the workers.
But the revolution cannot be stabilized even at this stage. The dictatorship of the proletariat in India alone cannot maintain itself indefinitely against the hostile forces of World Imperialism without the support of the international proletariat. It will find a powerful ally, no doubt, in the Soviet Union, the first workers' state. But the ultimate fate of the revolution in India, as in Russia, will be determined in the arena of the international revolution. Nor will India by its own forces be able to accomplish the task of making the transition to Socialism. Not only the backwardness of the country, but also the international division of labor and the interdependence—produced by capitalism itself—of the different parts of world economy, demand that this task of the establishment of Socialism can be accomplished only on a world scale. The Indian proletariat will, of course, proceed with the socialist transformation of society to the extent that this is possible in the concrete circumstances, but the establishment of the socialist society will depend on the course of international revolution. The victorious revolution in India, however, dealing a mortal blow to the oldest and most widespread Imperialism in the world, will, on the one hand, produce the most profound crisis in the entire capitalist world and shake World Capitalism to its foundations. On the other hand, it will inspire and galvanize into action millions of proletarians and colonial slaves the world over and blaze the trail of World Revolution.
1. This quote seems to be a paraphrase. In Modern India (1940) R. Palme Dutt quotes L.F. Rushbrook-Williams, a former government official, as follows on page 395: “The situation of these feudatory States, checkerboarding all India as they do, are a great safeguard. It is like establishing a vast network of friendly fortresses in a debatable territory.”
2. On February 12, 1922 the Congress Working Committee, summoned to ratify Gandhi's decision to halt the Non-Cooperation struggle, passed the famous Bardoli Resolution which included the following clause: “The Working Committee assures the zemindars that the Congress movement is in no way intended to attack their legal rights.”