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Golden Egale

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PostSubject: freedom movement   Sun Jun 15, 2014 9:21 pm

INDIA’S
STRUGGLE FOR
INDEPENDENCE
1857-1947
BIPAN CHANDRA
MRIDULA MUKHERJEE ADITYA MUKHERJEE
K N PANIKKAR SUCHETA MAHAJAN
Penguin Books


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PostSubject: Re: freedom movement   Sun Jun 15, 2014 9:22 pm

CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION
1. THE FIRST MAJOR CHALLENGE: THE REVOLT OF 1857
2. CIVIL REBELLIONS AND TRIBAL UPRISINGS
3. PEASANT MOVEMENTS AND UPRISINGS AFTER 1857
4. FOUNDATION OF THE CONGRESS: THE MYTH
5. FOUNDATION OF THE INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS: THE
REALITY
6. SOCIO-RELIGIOUS REFORMS AND THE NATIONAL AWAKENING
7. AN ECONOMIC CRITIQUE OF COLONIALISM
8. THE FIGHT TO SECURE PRESS FREEDOM
9. PROPAGANDA IN THE LEGISLATURES
10. THE SWADESHI MOVEMENT— 1903-08
11. THE SPLIT IN THE CONGRESS AND THE RISE OF
REVOLUTIONARY TERRORISM
12. WORLD WAR I AND INDIAN NATIONALISM: THE GHADAR
13. THE HOME RULE MOVEMENT AND ITS FALLOUT
14. GANDHIJI‘S EARLY CAREER AND ACTIVISM
15. THE NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT— 1920-22
16. PEASANT MOVEMENTS AND NATIONALISM IN THE 1920’S
17. THE INDIAN WORKING CLASS AND THE NATIONAL MOVEMENT
18. THE STRUGGLES FOR GURDWARA REFORM AND TEMPLE ENTRY
19. THE YEARS OF STAGNATION — SWARAJISTS, NO-CHANGERS
AND GANDHIJI
20. BHAGAT SINGH, SURYA SEN AND THE REVOLUTIONARY
TERRORISTS
21. THE GATHERING STORM — 1927-29
22. CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE— 1930-31
23. FROM KARACHI TO WARDHA: THE YEARS FROM 1932-34
24. THE RISE OF THE LEFT-WING
25. THE STRATEGIC DEBATE 1935-37
26. TWENTY-EIGHT MONTHS OF CONGRESS RULE
27. PEASANT MOVEMENTS IN THE 1930s AND ‘40s
28. THE FREEDOM STRUGGLE IN PRINCELY INDIA
29. INDIAN CAPITALISTS AND THE NATIONAL MOVEMENT
30. THE DEVELOPMENT OF A NATIONALIST FOREIGN POLICY
31. THE RISE AND GROWTH OF COMMUNALISM
32. COMMUNALISM-THE LIBERAL PHASE
33. JINNAH, GOLWALKAR AND EXTREME COMMUNALISM
34. THE CRISIS AT TRIPURI TO THE CRIPPS MISSION
35. THE QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT AND THE INA
36. POST-WAR NATIONAL UPSURGE
37. FREEDOM AND PARTITION
38. THE LONG-TERM STRATEGY OF THE NATIONAL MOVEMENT
39. THE INDIAN NATIONAL MOVEMENT: THE IDEOLOGICAL
DIMENSION
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PostSubject: Re: freedom movement   Sun Jun 15, 2014 9:26 pm




1 |Introduction
INTRODUCTION

The Indian national movement was undoubtedly one of the
biggest mass movements modern Society has ever seen, It was a
movement which galvanized millions of People of all classes and
ideologies into political action and brought to its knees a mighty
colonial empire. Consequently, along with the British, French,
Russian, Chine, Cuban and Vietnam revolutions, it is of great
relevance to those wishing to alter the existing political and social
structure.
Various aspects of the Indian national movement, especially
Gandhian political strategy, are particularly relevant to these
movements in societies that broadly function within the confines
of the rule of law, and are characterized by a democratic and
basically civil libertarian polity. But it is also relevant to other
societies. We know for a fact that even Lech Walesa consciously
tried to incorporate elements of Gandhian strategy in the
Solidarity Movement in Poland.
The Indian national movement, in fact, provides the only
actual historical example of a semi-democratic or democratic type
of political structure being successfully replaced or transformed.
It is the only movement where the broadly Gramscian theoretical
perspective of position was successfully practiced a war in a
single historical moment of revolution, but through prolonged
popular struggle on a moral, political and ideological level; where
reserves of counter hegemony were built up over the years
through progressive stages; where the phases of struggle
alternated with ‘passive’ phases.
The Indian national movement is also an example of how
the constitutional space offered by the existing structure could be
used without getting co-opted by it. It did not completely reject
this space; as such rejection in democratic societies entails heavy
costs in terms of hegemonic influence and often leads to isolation
but entered it and used it effectively in combination with nonconstitutional
struggle to overthrow the existing structure.
The Indian national movement is perhaps one of the best
examples of the creation of an extremely wide movement with a
common aim in which diverse political and ideological currents
could exist and work and simultaneously continue to contend for
overall ideological political hegemony over it. While intense
debate on all basic Issues was allowed, the diversity and tension
did not weaken the cohesion and striking power of the movement;
on the contrary, this diversity and atmosphere of freedom and
debate became a major source of its strength.
Today, over forty years after independence, we are still close
enough to the freedom struggle to feel its warmth and yet far
enough to be able to analyze it coolly, and with the advantage of
hindsight. Analyze it we must, for our past, present and future
are inextricably linked to it. Men and women in every age and
society make their own history, but they do not make it in a
historical vacuum, de novo. Their efforts, however innovative, at
finding solutions to their problems in the present and charting
out their future, are guided and circumscribed, moulded and
conditioned, by their respective histories, their inherited
economic, political and ideological structures. To make myself
clearer, the path that India has followed since 1947 has deep
roots in the struggle for independence. The political and
ideological features, which have had a decisive impact on postindependence
development, are largely a legacy of the freedom
struggle. It is a legacy that belongs to all the Indian people,
regardless of which party or group they belong to now, for the
‘party’ which led this struggle from 1885 to 1947 was not then a
party but a movement all political trends from the Right to the
Left were incorporated in it.
*
What are the outstanding features of the freedom struggle?
A major aspect is the values and modern ideals on which the
movement itself was based and the broad socio-economic and
political vision of its leadership (this vision was that of a
democratic, civil libertarian and secular India, based on a selfreliant,
egalitarian social order and an independent foreign
3 |Introduction
policy).The movement popularized democratic ideas and
institutions in India.
The nationalists fought for the introduction of a
representative government on the basis of popular elections and
demanded that elections be based on adult franchise. The Indian
National Congress was organized on a democratic basis and in
the form of a parliament. It not only permitted but encouraged
free expression of opinion within the party and the movement;
some of the most important decisions in its history were taken
after heated debates and on the basis of open voting.
From the beginning the nationalists fought against attacks
by the State on the freedoms of the Press, expression and
association, and made the struggle for these freedoms an integral
part of the national movement. During their brief spell in power,
from 1937-39, the Congress ministries greatly extended the scope
of civil liberties. The defence of civil liberties was not narrowly
conceived in terms of one political group, but was extended to
include the defence of other groups whose views were politically
and ideologically different. The Moderates defended Tilak, the
Extremist, and non-violent Congressmen passionately defended
revolutionary terrorists and communists alike during their trials.
In 1928, the Public Safety Bill and Trade Disputes’ Bill were
opposed not only by Motilal Nehru but also by conservatives like
Madan Mohan Malaviya and M.R. Jayakar. It was this strong civil
libertarian and democratic tradition of the national movement
which was reflected in the Constitution of independent India.
The freedom struggle was also a struggle for economic
development. In time an economic ideology developed which was
to dominate the views of independent India. The national
movement accepted, with near unanimity, the need to develop
India on the basis of industrialization which in turn was to be
independent of foreign capital and was to rely on the indigenous
capital goods sector. A crucial role was assigned to the public
sector and, in the 1930’s, there was a commitment to economic
planning.
From the initial stages, the movement adopted a pro-poor
orientation which was strengthened with the advent of Gandhi
and the rise of the leftists who struggled to make the movement
adopt a socialist outlook. The movement also increasingly moved
4 | India’s Struggle for Independence
towards a programme of radical agrarian reform. However,
socialism did not, at any stage, become the official goal of the
Indian National Congress though there was a great deal of debate
around it within the national movement and the Indian National
Congress during the 1930s and 1940s. For various reasons,
despite the existence of a powerful leftist trend within the
nationalist mainstream, the dominant vision within the Congress
did not transcend the parameters of a capitalist conception of
society.
The national movement was, from its early days, fully
committed to secularism. Its leadership fought hard to inculcate
secular values among the people and opposed the growth of
communalism. And, despite the partition of India and the
accompanying communal holocaust, it did succeed in enshrining
secularism in the Constitution of free India.
It was never inward looking. Since the days of Raja
Rammohan Roy, Indian leaders had developed a broad
international outlook. Over the years, they evolved a policy of
opposition to imperialism on a world-wide scale and solidarity
with anti-colonial movements in other parts of the world. They
established the principle that Indians should hate British
imperialism but not the British people. Consequently, they were
supported by a large number of English men, women and
political groups. They maintained close links with the
progressive, anti-colonial and anti-capitalist forces of the world. A
non-racist, anti-imperialist outlook, which continues to
characterize Indian foreign policy, was thus part of the legacy of
the anti-imperialist struggle.
*
This volume has been written within a broad framework
that the authors, their colleagues and students have evolved and
are in the process of evolving through ongoing research on and
study of the Indian national movement. We have in the
preparation of this volume extensively used existing published
and unpublished monographs, archival material, private papers,
and newspapers. Our understanding also owes a great deal to
our recorded interviews with over 1,500 men and women who
participated in the movement from 1918 onwards. However,
5 |Introduction
references to these sources have, for the ease of the reader and
due to constraints of space, been kept to the minimum and, in
fact, have been confined mostly to citations of quoted statements
and to works readily available in a good library.
For the same reason, though the Indian national movement
has so far been viewed from a wide variety of historiographic
perspectives ranging from the hard-core imperialist to the
Marxist, and though various stereotypes and shibboleths about it
exist, we have generally avoided entering into a debate with those
whose positions and analyses differ from our own — except
occasionally, as in the case of Chapter 4, on the origin of the
Indian National Congress, which counters the hoary perennial
theory of the Congress being founded as a safety valve. In all
fairness to the reader, we have only briefly delineated the basic
contours of major historiographical trends, indicated our
differences with them, and outlined the alternative framework
within which this volume has been written.
*
We differ widely from the imperialist approach which first
emerged in the official pronouncements of the Viceroys, Lords
Dufferin, Curzon and Minto, and the Secretary of State, George
Hamilton. It was first cogently put forward by V. Chirol, the
Rowlatt (Sedition) Committee Report, Verney Lovett, and the
Montaguee-Chelmsford Report. It was theorized, for the first time,
by Bruce T. McCully, an American scholar, in 1940. Its liberal
version was adopted by’ Reginald Coupland ‘and, after 1947, by
Percival Spear, while its conservative veision was refurbished and
developed at length by Anil Seal and J.A. Gallagher and their
students and followers after 1968. Since the liberal version is no
longer fashionable in academic circles, we will ignore it here due
to shortage of space.
The conservative colonial administrators and the imperialist
school of historians, popularly known as the Cambridge School,
deny the existence of colonialism as an economic, political, social
and cultural structure in India. Colonialism is seen by them
primarily as foreign rule. They either do not see or vehemently
deny that the economic, social, cultural and political development
of India required the overthrow of colonialism. Thus, their
6 | India’s Struggle for Independence
analysis of the national movement is based on the denial of the
basic contradiction between the interests of the Indian people
and of British colonialism and causative role this contradiction
played in the rise of the national movement. Consequently, they
implicitly or explicitly deny that the Indian national movement
represented the Indian side of this contradiction or that it was
anti-imperialist that is, it opposed British imperialism in India.
They see the Indian struggle against imperialism as a mock battle
(‘mimic warfare’), ‘a Dassehra duel between two hollow statues
locked in motiveless and simulated combat.” The denial of the
central contradiction vitiates the entire approach of these
scholars though their meticulous research does help others to
use it within a different framework.
The imperialist writers deny that India was in the process of
becoming a nation and believe that what is called India in fact
consisted of religions, castes, communities and interests. Thus,
the grouping of Indian politics around the concept of an Indian
nation or an Indian people or social classes is not recognized by
them. There were instead, they said, pre-existing Hindu-Muslim,
Brahmin, Non-Brahmin, Aryan, Bhadralok (cultured people) and
other similar identities. They say that these prescriptive groups
based on caste and religion are the real basis of political
organization and, as such, caste and religion-based politics are
primary and nationalism a mere cover. As Seal puts it: ‘What
from a distance appear as their political strivings were often, on
close examination, their efforts to conserve or improve the
position of their own prescriptive groups.’(This also makes Indian
nationalism, says Seal, different from the nationalism of China,
Japan, the Muslim countries and Africa).
If the Indian national movement did not express the
interests of the Indian people vis-a-vis imperialism, then whose
interests did it represent? Once again the main lines of the
answer and argument were worked out by late 19th century and
early 20th century officials and imperialist spokesmen. The
national movement, assert the writers of the imperialist school,
was not a people’s movement but a product of the needs and
interests of the elite groups who used it to serve either their own
narrow interests or the interests of their prescriptive groups.
Thus, the elite groups, and their needs and interests, provide the
origin as well as the driving force of the idea, ideology and
7 |Introduction
movement of nationalism. These groups were sometimes formed
around religious or caste identities and sometimes through
political connections built around patronage. But, in each case,
these groups had a narrow, selfish interest in opposing British
rule or each other. Nationalism, then, is seen primarily as a mere
ideology which these elite groups used to legitimize their narrow
ambitions and to mobilize public support. The national
movement was merely an instrument used by the elite groups to
mobilize the masses and to satisfy their own interests.
Gallagher, Seal and their students have added to this
viewpoint. While Dufferin, Curzon, Chirol, Lovett, McCully, and
B.B. Misra talked of the frustrated educated middle classes using
nationalism to fight the ‘benevolent Raj’, Seal develops a parallel
view, as found in Chirol and the Rowlait Committee Report, that
the national movement represented the struggle of one Indian
elite group against another for British favours. As he puts it: ‘It is
misleading to view these native mobilizations as directed chiefly
against foreign overlordship. Much attention has been paid to the
apparent conflicts between imperialism and nationalism; it would
be at least equally profitable to study their real partnership’. The
main British contribution to the rise and growth of the national
movement, then, was that British rule sharpened mutual
jealousies and struggles among Indians and created new fields
and institutions for their mutual rivalry.
Seal, Gallagher and their students also extended the basis
on which the elite groups were formed. They followed and added
to the viewpoint of the British historian Lewis Namier and
contended that these groups were formed on the basis of patronclient
relationships. They theorize that, as the British extended
administrative, economic and political power to the localities and
provinces, local potentates started organizing politics by
acquiring clients and patrons whose interests they served, and
who in turn served their interests. Indian politics began to be
formed through the links of this patron-client chain. Gradually,
bigger leaders emerged who undertook to act as brokers to link
together the politics of the local potentates, and eventually,
because British rule encompassed the whole of India, all-India
brokers emerged. To operate successfully, these all-India brokers
needed province level brokers at the lower levels, and needed to
involve clients in the national movement. The second level leaders
8 | India’s Struggle for Independence
are also described as sub-contractors. Seal says the chief political
brokers were Gandhi, Nehru, and Patel. And according to these
historians, the people themselves, those whose fortunes were
affected by all this power brokering, came in only in 1918. After
that, we are told, their existential grievances such as war,
inflation, disease, drought or depression — which had nothing to
do with colonialism — were cleverly used to bamboozle them into
participating in this factional struggle of the potentates.
Thus, this school of historians treats the Indian national
movement as a cloak for the struggle for power between various
sections of the Indian elite, and between them and the foreign
elite, thus effectively denying its existence and legitimacy as a
movement of the Indian people fr the overthrow of imperialism
and for the establishment of an indep1ident nation state.
Categories of nation, class, mobilization, ideology, etc., which are
generally used by historians to analyse national movements and
revolutionary processes in Europe, Asia and Africa are usually
missing from their treatment of the Indian national movement.
This view not only denies the existence of colonial exploitation
and underdevelopment, and
The central contradiction, but also any idealism on the part
of those who sacrificed their lives for the anti-imperialist cause.
As S. Gopal has put it: ‘Namier was accused of taking the mind
out of politics; this School has gone further and taken not only
the mind but decency, character integrity and selfless
commitment out of the Indian national movement’. Moreover, it
denies any intelligent or active role to the mass of workers,
peasant lower middle class and women in the anti-imperialist
Struggle. They are treated as a child-people or dumb creatures
who had no perception of their needs and interests. One wonders
why the colonial rulers did not succeed in mobilizing them
behind their own politics!
*
A few historians have of late initiated a new trend, described
by its proponents as subaltern, which dismisses all previous
historical Writing, including that based on a Marxist perspective,
as elite historiography, and claims to replace this old, ‘bunkered’
9 |Introduction
historiography with what it claims is a new people’s or subaltern
approach.
For them, the basic contradiction in Indian society in the
colonial epoch was between the elite, both Indian and foreign, on
the one hand, and the subaltern groups, on the other, and not
between Colonialism and the Indian people. They believe that the
Indian people were never united in a common anti-imperialist
struggle, that there was no such entity as the Indian national
movement. Instead, they assert that there were two distinct
movements or streams, the real anti-imperialist stream of the
subalterns and the bogus national movement of the elite. The
elite stream, led by the ‘official’ leadership of the Indian National
Congress, was little more than a cloak for the struggle for power
among the elite. The subaltern school’s characterization of the
national movement bears a disturbing resemblance to the
imperialist and neo-imperialist characterization of the national
movement, the only difference being that, while neo-imperialist
historiography does not split the movement but characterizes the
entire national movement in this fashion, ‘subaltern’
historiography first divides the movement into two and then
accepts the neo-imperialist characterization for the elite’ Stream.
This approach is also characterized by a generally ahistorical
glorification of oil forms of popular militancy and consciousness
and an equally ahistorical contempt for all forms of initiative and
activity the intelligentsia, organized Party leaderships and other
‘elites’.
Consequently, it too denies the legitimacy of the actual,
historical anti- colonial struggle that the Indian people waged.
The new school, which promised to write a history based on the
people’s own consciousness, is yet to tap new sources that may
be more reflective of popular perceptions; its ‘new’ writing
continues to be based on the same old ‘elite’ sources.
*
The other major approach is nationalist historiography. In
the colonial period, this school was represented by political
activists such as Lajpat Rai, A.C. Mazumdar, R.G. Pradhan,
Pattabhj Sitaramayya, Surendranath Banerjea, C.F. Andrews,
and Girija Mukerji. More recently, B.R.Nanda, Bisheshwar Prasad
10 | India’s Struggle for Independence
and Amles Tripathi have made distinguished contributions within
the framework of this approach. The nationalist historians,
especially the more recent ones, show an awareness of the
exploitative character of colonialism, but on the whole they feel
that the national movement was the result of the spread and
realization of the idea or spirit of nationalism or liberty. They also
take full cognizance of the process of India becoming a nation,
and see the national movement as a movement of the people.
Their major weakness, however, is that they tend to ignore
or, at least, underplay the inner contradictions of Indian society
both in terms of class and caste. They tend to ignore the fact that
while the national movement represented the interests of the
people or nation as a whole (that is, of all classes vis-a-vis
colonialism) it only did so from a particular class perspective, and
that, consequently, there was a constant struggle between
different social, ideological perspectives for hegemony over the
movement. They also usually take up the position adopted by the
right wing of the national movement and equate it with the
movement as a whole. Their treatment of the strategic and
ideological dimensions of the movement is also inadequate.
*
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PostSubject: Re: freedom movement   Sun Jun 15, 2014 9:49 pm

The Marxist school emerged on the scene later. Its
foundations, so far as the study of the national movement is
concerned, were laid by R.Palme Dutt and A.R. Desai; but several
others have developed it over the years. Unlike the imperialist
school, the Marxist historians clearly see the primary
contradiction as well as the process of the nation-in-the making
and unlike the nationalists they also take full note of the inner
contradictions of Indian society.
However, many of them and Palme Dutt in particular are
not able to fully integrate their treatment of the Primary antiimperialist
contradiction and the secondary’ inner contradictions,
and tend to counter pose the anti-imperialist struggle to the class
or social struggle. They also tend to see the movement as a
structured bourgeois movement, if not the bourgeoisie’s
movement, and miss its open-ended and all class character. They
see the bourgeoisie as playing the dominant role in the movement
— they tend to equate or conflate the national leadership, with
11 |Introduction
the bourgeoisie or capitalist class. They also Interpret the class
character of the movement in terms of its forms of Struggle (i.e.,
in its nonviolent character) and in the fact that it made strategic
retreats and compromises. A few take an even narrower view.
They suggest that access to financial resources determined the
ability to influence the Course and direction of nationalist
politics. Many of the Marxist writers also do not do an actual
detailed historical investigation of the strategy, programme,
ideology extent and forms of mass mobilization, and strategic and
tactical maneuvers of the national movement.
*
Our own approach, while remaining, we believe, within the
broad Marxist tradition, tries to locate the issues — of the nature
of the contradictions in colonial India; the relationship between
the primary and the secondary contradictions, the class
character of the movement; the relationship between the
bourgeois and other social classes and the Indian National
Congress and its leadership i.e., the relationship between class
and party; the relationship between forms of struggle (including
non-violence) and class character ideology, strategy and mass
character of the movement and so on in a framework which
differs in many respects from the existing approaches including
the classical Marxist approach of Palme Dutt and A.R.Desai. The
broad contours of that framework are outlined below.
*
In our view, India’s Freedom Struggle was basically the
result of a fundamental contradiction between the interests of the
Indian people and that of British colonialism From the beginning
itself, India’s national leaders grasped this contradiction They
were able to see that India was regressing economically and
undergoing a process of underdevelopment. In time they were
able to evolve a scientific analysis of colonialism. In fact, they
were the first in the 19th century to develop an economic critique
of colonialism and lay bare its complex structure. They were also
able to see the distinction between colonial policy and the
12 | India’s Struggle for Independence
imperatives of the colonial structure. Taking the social experience
of the Indian people as colonized subjects and recognizing the
common interests of the Indian people vis-a-vis colonialism, the
national leaders gradually evolved a clear-cut anti-colonial
ideology on which they based the national movement. This anticolonial
ideology and critique of colonialism were disseminated
during the mass phase of the movement.
The national movement also played a pivotal role in the
historical process through which the Indian people got formed
into a nation or a people. National leaders from Dadabhai
Naoroji, Surendranath Banerjee and Tilak to Gandhiji and Nehru
accepted that India was not yet a fully structured nation but a
nation-in-the-making and that one of the major objectives and
functions of the movement was to promote the growing unity of
the Indian people through a common struggle against
colonialism. In other words, the national movement was seen
both as a product of the process of the nation-in-the-making and
as an active agent of the process. This process of the nation-inthe-
making was never counter-posed to the diverse regional,
linguistic and ethnic identities in India. On the contrary, the
emergence of a national identity and the flowering of other
narrower identities were seen as processes deriving strength from
each other.
The pre-nationalist resistance to colonial rule failed to
understand the twin phenomena of colonialism and the nationin-
the-making. In fact, these phenomena were not visible, or
available to be grasped, on the surface. They had to be grasped
through hard analysis. This analysis and political consciousness
based on it were then taken to the people by intellectuals who
played a significant role in arousing the inherent, instinctive,
nascent, anti-colonial consciousness of the masses.
*
As explained in Chapter 38, the Indian national movement
had certain specific though untheorized, strategy of struggle
within which various phases and forms of struggle were
integrated, especially after 1918. This strategy was formed by the
waging of hegemonic struggle for the mi and hearts of the Indian
people. The purpose was to destroy the two basic constituents of
13 |Introduction
colonial hegemony# or the belief system through which the
British secured the acquiescence of the Indian people in their
rule: that British rule was benevolent or for the good of the
Indians and that it was invincible or incapable of being
overthrown. Replying to the latter aspect, Jawaharlal Nehru
wrote in The Discovery of India: ‘The essence of his (Gandhi’s)
teaching was fearlessness ... not merely bodily courage but the
absence of fear from the mind. . . But the dominant impulse In
India under British rule was that of fear, pervasive, oppressing,
strangling fear; fear of the army, the police, the widespread secret
service; fear of the official class; fear of laws meant to suppress
and of prison; fear of the landlord’s agents: fear of the moneylender;
fear of unemployment and starvation, which were always
on the threshold. It was against this all pervading fear that
Gandhiji’s quiet and determined voice was raised: Be not afraid.’
#Relying basically on Gramsci we have used the concept of
hegemony in an amended form since exercise of hegemony in a
colonial society both by the colonial rulers and the opposing antiimperialist
forces occurs in a context different from an Independent
Capitalist Society. The concept of hegemony, as used by us, means
exercise of leadership as opposed to pure domination. More
specifically it relates to the capacity as also the strategy, through
which the rulers or dominant classes or leadership of popular
movements organize consent among the ruled or the followers and
exercise moral and ideological, leadership over them. According to
Gramsci, in the case of class hegemony, the hegemonic class is
able to make compromises with a number of allied classes by
taking up their causes and interests and thus emerges as the
representative of the current Interests of the entire society, It
unifies these allies under its own leadership through ‘a web of
institutions, social relations and ideas’ The Gramscian concept of
hegemony is of course opposed to an economist notion of
movements and ideologies which constitute primarily on immediate
class interests in politics and ideology and tend to make a direct
correlation between the two and sometimes even to derive the
latter from the former.
*
14 | India’s Struggle for Independence
And how was nationalist hegemony to be evolved? In the
case of a popular anti-imperialist movement, we believe, the
leadership, acting within a particular ideological framework,
exercises hegemony by taking up the anti-colonial interests of the
entire colonized people and by unifying them by adjusting the
class interests of the different classes, strata and groups
constituting the colonized people. The struggle for ideological
hegemony within a national movement pertains to changing the
relative balance of advantages flowing from such adjustment and
not to the question of adjustment itself. In the colonial situation
the anti-imperialist struggle was primary and the social — class
and caste — struggles were secondary, and, therefore, struggles
within Indian society were to be initiated and then compromised
rather than carried to an extreme, with all mutually hostile
classes and castes making concessions.
Further, the nationalist strategy alternated between
phases of massive mass struggle which broke existing laws and
phases of intense political-agitational work within the legal
framework. The strategy accepted that mass movements by their
very nature had ups and downs, troughs and peaks, for it was
not possible for the vast mass of people to engage continuously in
a Long-drawn-out extra legal struggle that involved considerable
sacrifice. This strategy also assumed freedom struggle advancing
through stages, though the country was not to advance to
freedom till the threshold of the last stage was crossed.
Constructive work — organized around the promotion of
khadi, national education, Hindu-Muslim unity, the boycott of
foreign cloth and liquor, the social upliftment of the Harijans (low
caste ‘untouchables’) and tribal people and the struggle against
untouchability — formed an important part of nationalist strategy
especially during its constitutional phases. This strategy also
involved participation in the colonial constitutional structure
without falling prey to it or without getting co-opted by it.
And what was the role of non-violence? It was not, we
believe, a mere dogma of Gandhiji nor was it dictated by the
interests of the propertied classes. It was an essential part of a
movement whose strategy involved the waging of a hegemonic
struggle based on a mass movement which mobilized the people
to the widest possible extent.
15 |Introduction
The nationalist strategy of a war of position, of hegemonic
struggle, was also linked to the semi-hegemonic or legal
authoritarian character of the colonial state which functioned
through the rule of law, a rule-bound bureaucracy and a
relatively independent judiciary while simultaneously enacting
and enforcing extremely repressive laws and which extended a
certain amount of civil liberties in normal times and curtailed
them in periods of mass struggle. It also constantly offered
constitutional and economic concessions though it always
retained the basics of state power in its own hands.
Seen from this point of view, the peaceful and negotiated
nature of the transfer of power in 1947 was no accident, nor was
it the result of a compromise by a tired leadership, but was the
result of the character and strategy of the Indian national
movement, the culmination of a war of position where the British
recognized that the Indian people were no longer willing to be
ruled by them and the Indian part of the colonial apparatus could
no longer be trusted to enforce a rule which the people did not
want. The British recognized that they had lost the battle of
hegemony or war of position and decided to retreat rather than
make a futile attempt to rule such a vast country by threat of a
sword that was already breaking in their hands.
Seen in this strategic perspective, the various negotiations
and agreements between the rulers and the nationalist
leadership, the retreat of the movement in 1922 and 1934, the
compromise involved in the Gandhi- Irwin Pact and the working
of constitutional reforms after 1922 and in 1937 also have to be
evaluated differently from that done by writers such as R. Palme
Dutt. This we have done in the chapters dealing with these
issues.
*
The Indian national movement was a popular, multi-class
movement. It was not a movement led or controlled by the
bourgeoisie, nor did the bourgeoisie exercise exclusive influence
over it. Moreover, its multi-class, popular, and open-ended
character meant that it was open to the alternative hegemony of
socialist ideas.
16 | India’s Struggle for Independence
The national movement did, in fact, undergo constant
ideological transformation. In the late 1920s and l930s,
Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Bose, the Communists, the Congress
Socialists, and other Left-minded socialist groups and individuals
made an intense effort to give the movement arid the National
Congress a socialistic direction. One aspect of this was the effort
to organize the peasants in kisan sabhas, the workers in trade
unions and the youth in youth leagues and student unions. The
other was the effort to give the entire national movement a
socialist ideological orientation, to make it adopt a socialist vision
of free India. This effort did achieve a certain success and
socialist ideas spread widely and rapidly. Almost all young
intellectuals of the 1930s and 1940s belonged to some shade of
pink or red. Kisan sabhas and trade unions also tended to shift
to the Left. Also important in this respect was the constant
development of Gandhiji’s ideas in a radical direction. But, when
freedom came, the Left had not yet succeeded, for various
reasons, in establishing the hegemony of socialist ideas over the
national movement and the dominant vision within the
movement remained that of bourgeois development. Thus, we
suggest, the basic weakness of the movement was located in its
ideological structure.
*
The Indian National Congress, being a movement and not
just a party, included within its fold, individuals and groups
which subscribed to widely divergent political and ideological
perspectives. Communists, Socialists and Royists worked within
the Congress as did constitutionalists like Satyamurthy and
K.M.Munshi. At the same time, the national movement showed a
remarkable capacity to remain united despite diversity. A lesson
was learnt from the disastrous split of 1907 and the Moderates
and Extremists, constitutionalists and non-constitutionalists and
leftists and rightists did not split the Indian National Congress
thereafter, even in the gravest crises.
There were, of course, many other streams flowing into the
swelling river of India’s freedom struggle. The Indian National
Congress was the mainstream but not the only stream. We have
discussed many of these streams in this volume: the pre17
|Introduction
Congress peasant and tribal movements, the Revolutionary
Terrorists, the Ghadar and Home Rule Movements, the Akali and
Temple Reform movements of the 1920s, the struggle in the
legislatures and in the Press, the peasant and working class
struggles,, the rise .of the Left inside and outside the Congress,
the state people’s movements, the politics of the capitalist class,
the Indian National Army, the RIN Revolt, etc. We have, as a
matter of fact, devoted nearly half of this volume to political
movements which formally happened outside the Congress. But
we do not treat these ‘non-Congress’ movements as ‘parallel’
streams, as some have maintained, Though they were outside the
Congress, most of them were not really separate from it. They
cannot be artificially counterposed to the movement led by the
Congress, which, with all its positive and negative features, was
the actual anti-imperialist movement of the Indian people
incorporating their historical energies and genius, as in the case
with any genuine mass movement.
In fact, nearly all these movements established a complex
reIationsh1 with the Congress mainstream and at no stage
became alternatives to the Congress. They all became an integral
part of the Indian national movement. The only ones which may
be said to have formed part of an alternative stream of politics
were the communal and casteist movements which were not
nationalist or anti-imperialist but in fact betrayed loyalist procolonial
tendencies.
*
In time, the Indian National Movement developed into one of
the greatest mass movements in world history. It derived its
entire strength, especially after 1918, from the militancy and selfsacrificing
spirit of the masses. Satyagraha as a form of struggle
was based on the active participation of the people and on the
sympathy and support of the non-participating millions. Several
Satyagraha campaigns — apart from innumerable mass
agitational campaigns — were waged between 1919 and 1942.
Millions of men and women were mobilized in myriad ways; they
sustained the movement by their grit and determination. Starting
out as a movement of the nationalist intelligentsia, the national
movement succeeded in mobilizing the youth, women, the urban
18 | India’s Struggle for Independence
petty bourgeoisie, the urban and rural poor, urban and rural
artisans, peasants, workers, merchants, capitalists, and a large
number of small landlords.
The movement in its various forms and phases took modem
politics to the people. It did not, in the main, appeal to their premodem
consciousness based on religion, caste and locality or
loyalty to the traditional rulers or chieftains. It did not mobilize
people ideologically around religion, caste or region. It fought for
no benefits on that basis. People did not join it as Brahmins, or
Patidars, or Marathas; or Harijans. It made no appeal to religious
or caste identities, though in some cases caste structure was
used in villages to enforce discipline in a movement whose
motivation and demands had nothing to do with caste.
Even while relying on the popular consciousness,
experience, perception of oppression and the needed remedies, on
notions of good rule or utopia the movement did not merely
reflect the existing consciousness but also made every effort to
radically transform it in the course of the struggle. Consequently
it created space for as well as got integrated with other modern,
liberationist movements — movements of women, youth,
peasants, workers, Harijans and other lower castes. For example,
the social and religious reform movements which developed
during the 19th century as part of the defence against
colonialization of Indian culture merged with the national
movement. Most of them became a part of the broad spectrum of
the national movement in the 20th century. But, in the end, the
national movement had to -surrender in part before
communalism. We have tried to examine, at some length, the rise
and growth of communalism and the reasons for the partial
failure of the national movement to counter its challenge. The
national movement also failed to undertake a cultural revolution
despite some advances in the social position of women and lower
castes. Moreover, it was unable to take the ‘cultural defence’ of
the late 19th century’s social and religious reforms back to the
rationalist critical phase of the early 19th century. It also could
not fully integrate the cultural struggle with the political struggle
despite Gandhiji’s efforts in that direction.
The national movement was based on an immense faith in
the capacity of the Indian people to make sacrifices. At the same
19 |Introduction
time, it recognized the limits on this capacity and did not make
demands based on unrealistic and romantic notions. After all,
while a cadre-based movement can base itself on exceptional
individuals capable of making uncommon sacrifices, a mass
movement, even while having exceptional individuals as leaders,
has to rely on the masses with all their normal strengths and
weaknesses. It is these common people who hail to perform
uncommon tasks. ‘The nation has got energy of which you have
no conception but I have,’ Gandhiji told K.F. Nariman in 1934. At
the same time, he said, a leadership should not ‘put an undue
strain on the energy.’
As a mass movement, the Indian national movement was
able to tap the diverse energies, talents and capacities of a large
variety of people. It had a place for all — old and young, rich and
poor, women and men, the intellectuals and the masses. People
participated in it in varied ways: from jail-going Satyagraha and
picketing to participation in public meetings and demonstrations,
from going on hartals and strikes to cheering the jathas of
Congress volunteers from the sidelines, from voting for
nationalist candidates in municipal, district, provincial and
central elections to participating in constructive programmes,
from becoming 4-anna (25 paise) members of the Congress to
wearing khadi and a Gandhi cap, from contributing funds to the
Congress to feeding and giving shelter to Congress agitators from
distributing and reading the Young India and the Harijan or
illegal Patrikas (bulletins) to staging and attending nationalist
dramas and poetry festivals, and from writing and reading
nationalist novels, poems and stones to walking and singing in
the prabhat pheries (parties making rounds of a town or part of
it) .
The movement and the process of mass mobilization were
also an expression of the immense creativity of the Indian people.
They were able to give a full play to their innovativeness and
initiative.
The movement did not lack exceptional individuals, both
among leaders and followers. It produced thousands of martyrs.
But as heroic were those who worked for years, day after day, in
an unexciting humdrum fashion, forsaking their homes and
Careers, and losing their lands and very livelihood — whose
20 | India’s Struggle for Independence
families were often short of daily bread and whose children went
without adequate education or health care.
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