Communists’ Contribution to India’s Independence: A few words

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

In the history of India’s freedom movement, the 1942 ‘Quit India’ call of Gandhiji is to stay forever a turning point that ended the role of Gandhian non-violence in the struggle for independence.

Even if not deliberate, it was an act of failure on the part of Gandhiji and his blind yes-men in the Congress Party to read the motive behind ‘Operation Orient’ that had metamorphosed into the machination of fascist design aimed at engulfing India before it become a free nation.

“What was the grand fascist plan in 1942 which they called Operation Orient?” Pursuing this question, Dilip Bose in his well documented disquisition captioned ‘1942 August Struggle and The Communist Party of India’ has informed.

“Japan had occupied Rangoon by 8 March 1942 and was waiting for the other prong of the fascist wing to advance through Stalingrad to India via Persia and Afghanistan. Today we know in detail that this “Operation Orient” failed because the heroic Red Army fought almost a superhuman battle to block the German Nazi Army at Stalingrad. The fiercest battle took place at Stalingrad between November 1942 to the 1st week of February 1943 when Field Marshal Von Paulus of Germany surrendered to the Red Army. Therefore, August 1942 was taking place exactly when Stalingrad battle was taking place in full fury.”

Thus, it was essential for the people of India to rise up as a nation against fascism and it was essential for the Congress to lead the nation in this regard, as “the progressive forces of the world are now aligned with the groups represented by Russia, Britain, America and China” to quote the resolution of the Congress Working Committee held in December 1941 at Bardoli.

But the rash call of Gandhiji to the British to quit India, with the most unscientific support of Congress top brass to the said call not only deserted the collective wisdom expressed in Bardoli, but also denied the Indians to be one with the forces fighting “the grand fascist plan”.

While supporting the preamble of the Quit India resolution that aimed to “defend India and resist aggression with all the armed as well as the non-violent forces at its command, together with Allied Powers”, the Communists opposed the operative part of the resolution concerning the “struggle” aspect, because, the envisaged ‘struggle’ in the prevailing context could mean a struggle against the allies against fascism.

Britain being one of the allies, the Quit India call at that juncture was to provoke the British to repress the Indian leadership for staying unperturbedly addressed to the war. In Communist perception, that was to render the necessary leadership unavailable to Indians in the peoples’ war against fascism.

In fact, in an open letter dated 26 July 1942 addressed to the Congress leadership, it had raised the question: Is it not plain enough that to start your ‘struggle’ is just to play the game of the imperialists and the bureaucrats? What will happen if and when you start the struggle?

“They will quietly put you and thousands of active Congress workers inside jails and sanctimoniously declare that it is their unfortunate duty to be able to save India from the fascist invaders.

“They would have divorced you from contact with the people who need you and every patriot in their own midst more than ever before. It is your historic responsibility to organize our people for national resistance. And here you will leave them leaderless and at the mercy of the mad bureaucrats”, the letter had warned.

This exactly had happened.

There was “wholesale arrests of the Congress leaders” by the end of the night of August 9, 1942, which Gandhiji had to indicate in his letter to Viceroy Linlithgow, dated 23 September 1942.

In this situation of sudden absence of leadership, with passion for freedom having already been ignited, the people of India suffered the worst of repression and torture in the hands of the British imperialists and bureaucrats.

Within four months from August 9, according to statement of the Home Member in the Central Assembly, 60,229 persons were arrested, 18,000 detained under Defence of India Regulation, 1630 were injured in firing by the police and military that had also killed 940 Indians in encounters.

In admitting the loss occurred by not heeding to the Communists’ advice, though advancing a face-saving statement, the Congress in its 1945 bulletin captioned ‘The Struggle and After’, had to say, “The earnest appeal made by the AICC at its last meeting held on August 8, 1942 for creating conditions necessary for full cooperation with the United Nations in the cause of world freedom was ignored and the suggested attempts to solve the Indian problem by negotiations were answered by the government by an all-out attack on the Indian people and by subjecting an unarmed India to many of the horrors which accompany an invasion.”

However, the history stands witness to how in absence of Congress leadership it is the Communists that had led the post August 9 ‘revolution’ for freedom that overwhelmed the brutal repressions unleashed by the British with the supreme sacrifices, a tiny sample of which has been quoted supra from the statement of the Home Member in the Central Assembly, forcing the imperialists to seriously think of leaving India.

What was at best a ‘struggle’ in the plan of the Congress, was transformed into an indomitable ‘revolution’ by the Communists and, in fact, August 9 is not known as ‘August Struggle’, but is known as ‘August Revolution’.

And, this most heroic phase of India’s revolution for freedom was not based on Gandhian non-violence.

Be it Baishnav Pattanayak’s armed attack on citadel of Shankar Pratap – the tyrant royal ally of the British – at Parjang in Dhenkanal or RIN revolt at Bombey, every instance that really expedited independence after the expected incarceration of the Mahatma and all his men in the Congress following the August resolution, was radically violent, sharpened by the concept and support generated and given by the Communists.

If erudition inspires one for progress, it may be gainful to peruse the pages of history of India’s freedom movement post August 9, 1942 to know how sharp and specific was the Communists’ strategy to expeditiously expel the British from our soil.

In fact, the last phase of Indian freedom movement that had expedited our independence, was led by the Communists, not by the non-Communists.

Reflecting this reality, after the British had to quit India, the Manchester Guardian had noted in an editorial on 11 October 1947, “It may be hard to disentangle whether the British action was based on high principle or on a less glorious desire to retreat to shelter before the storm broke”.

British Labor Minister A. V. Alexander had written on July 18, 1946: “I am certain, we should have faced a position of uprising and of bloodshed and disturbances in India and with a future military commitment that no one could at present overcast”.

This was official admission of the British that the aggressive phase of Indian freedom movement that had forced the British to quit was not the non-violent movement led by Gandhiji, but the brave war of patriotism the Communists had ignited and guided and waged against imperialism.

When Viceroy Lord Linlithgo had written on August 16, 1942 that the Communist Party of India was “practically lining up with the Congress”, the Government’s report on the 1st Party Congress of CPI, (Bombay 1943) had noted that the Communist Party was “solely interested in the speedy and violent overthrow of British rule in India”, as it’s paramount aim was “liberation from imperialist enslavement”.

12 comments » Write a comment

  1. Communists are more interested to put the communist role in the forefront of the history. Retrospective analysis has shown that the British Empire was almost exhausted to continue the fight on international front particularly in indian front too. What communists failed anticipate and made an appropriate strategy to defeat the design of divide and rule policy of the British in Indian context particularly against the freedom movement. So the tired British empire had very successfully implemented it so that blood shed due to a fight against the British for freedom was diverted against Indians themselves through partition and the indian shaded blood in a fight within themselves in communal riots and also took full advantage to take brutal revenge against communist who helped the British Empire against Nazi. Politically communist were totally outwitted by the British and till today they are to get the bottom of the truth.

    • Dear Anil babu,
      Analysis and wrong analysis are not the same. The Communist approach to the situation, which the war had created vis-à-vis the role India had to play, is available in “Forward to Freedom” (February 1942) that carries the relevant views of the Communist Party of India. I quote this authority for ready reference –

      “There has been a shift within the vicious circle of stalemate itself, from the policy of Gandhian negation to a policy of political inaction. The compromising tendency of the national bourgeois leadership expresses itself in waiting for imperialism to make a move. Their reformist tendency expresses itself in not even thinking of a mobilization of the people. The national leadership leaves the nation without a lead, without a direction, without a course of action that will enable the nation to realize its destiny through its strength, through its own action”

      This speaking piece of Communists’ collective wisdom, expressed through the pen of the legendary P. C. Joshi, and published by the underground headquarters of Communist Party of India, unequivocally says,

      “We Communists opposed the slogan of National Government during the imperialist war. We advocate now as the only way out for the nation during the people’s war. This is so because of the different aims of the war in two periods, because of the changed objective reality.

      “Formation of a National Government will mean the exact opposite to what it meant during the imperialist war. Then it would have been a Government of National Surrender, today it will be a Government of National Advance. A National Government during the peoples’ war enables the Indian people to tell the peoples of the world: We have brought India into your war, because it is our war too.”

      Had the Congress leadership heeded to these words of political wisdom evolved in the underground headquarters of the Communist Party of India in 1942, the people of India, as a whole, could have joined that war against fascism. And, had it been so, and had a National Government in India been possible during the period of that war, the country would never have fallen in the trap of the “Malaviya-Lala gang” that Birla was funding, as Motilal Nehru had informed his son in 1926 (Jawaharlal Nehru, A Bunch of Old Letters, 1958, p.47) as well as the British bureaucrats; and partition of India could not have occurred.

      Reaching the crux and locating the soft threads of patriotism and responsibility for the peoples in the fabric of politics is not always easy. So, sometimes, sophomoric words against the Communists also may come out.

      Anyway, dear friend, thanks for kind perusal of the article and the welcome gesture of advancing a comment. Thanks.

  2. please write an article on the rise and role of Communist movement in Orissa, about birth, the founding fathers,other eminent members, their role in trade unions, peasant organizations, relation with congress,CSP, attitudes towards colonialism, ideological conflicts etc. it will be highly interesting
    p.k.pradhan

  3. Dear sir,
    Let me know about you. Also i want to know weather you have any information about worker’s and peasant’s
    movement in odisha especially under the communist leadership. If you can, plz. contact with me in the given email. Thanks.

    • Dear Tusarkanti,
      Thanks for the interest.
      But, responding to your mail the way you have wanted is not possible on my part. Sometimes I write about it and am keeping in mind your request to write about it. When I find time to write, that would be published in these pages only.
      Regards,
      Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

  4. Dear Subash Babu
    I am son of Late Baidyanath rath, one of the founders of CPI in Odisha. Whether you are aware of it or not he was the trade union leader at Brajarajnagar paper plant. MLA during 1946 to 51 From labour constituency & Rajya Sabha member in the first parliament of independent India. I will try to provide you some informations.
    Regards
    Jitendra nath Rath

    • Dear Sri Rath,
      Most happy to have the bright input. Please send me details. You are most welcome.
      Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

  5. Very good article followed by feedbacks.
    More analysis on role & types of odisha-communists with reference to present development of poor class is a challenge.

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