Growth of Socialist and Communist Movements in British India
Socialists in congress
For first few years after the formation of Indian National Congress the Liberals who dominated over country’s political scene and led freedom struggle were Rightists. They had no contacts with the masses. They, believed in British sense of justice and were convinced that it was in India’s own interest to remain in British empire.
There was, therefore, not much of Leftist ideology in the Congress party which was in the fore front of country’s freedom struggle. There were however, several causes responsible for the rise and growth of leftist ideology and coming together of the socialists, which resulted in the formation of Congress Socialist Party.
In 1931, Bihar Socialist Party was formed at Patna and Kamla Devi Chatopadhyay, Patwardhan and Masani founded Bombay Socialist Party. At Lahore was founded the Punjab Social Party. Ram Manoher Lohia, Sampurna Nand, Acharya Narendra Deva and Kamlapati Tripathi founded U.P. Socialist Party at Benaras. In C.P. All India Working Class Party was founded at Jabal Pur.
The Congress party, however, did not appreciate the developments which were taking place in the party. But even then first Congress of All India Congress Socialist Party was held at Bombay on October 21-22, 1934. It was presided over by Dr. Sampurna Nand. It was at this Congress that party constitution, was adopted.
There were many socialists leaders in congress party like jawahar lal Nehru and subhash Chandra bose.
At the 1931 Karachi session of the Indian National Congress, socialist pattern of development was set as the goal for India. Through the 1955 Avadi Resolution of the Indian National Congress, a socialistic pattern of development was presented as the goal of the party. A year later, the Indian parliament adopted ‘socialistic pattern of development’ as official policy, a policy that came to include land reforms and regulations of industries.
Congress socialist party
Congress socialist party was founded in 1934. Although being inspired by Soviet Revolution leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose spoke of socialism and of organising the peasants and 1 labourers for ultimate transference of power to them, nothing concrete was done in that direction. Because Jawaharlal Nehru was more a leader than an organiser. This beside, at this stage he did not have the courage to do things that might be disapproved by Gandhi. Subhas Chandra Bose had the courage and capacity, but as he did not have the backing of at least a microscopic group of radicals, he perhaps did not think it wise to go against the shrewd and seasoned politicians of northern India. The Communist Party of India was organised as early as 1924, but their left-sectarian working as per directions of the Comintern cut them off from the main stream of Indian politics. Consequently, the political movement remained confined among the upper and middle class intelligentsia swinging like a pendulum within the Congress sometimes to petty constitutionalism and sometimes to passive resistance.
The year 1934 marked the realisation by the Congress socialists’ that ‘’Independence is not an abstract concept for a few misguided intellectuals. It is a concrete thing for all’the various sections of the people. The masses do not conceive it in terms of assemblies and constitutions. Nevertheless, to them it does mean certain very concrete things. If to the peasant, ground down by landlordism, independence means freedom from that system, it’cannot be said that abolition of landlordism is to him an issue remote from independence.” But realisation cannot be fruitful unless it is put to action.
The communist party of india
The Communist Party of India was inspired by the Russian Revolution. It had its roots in the erstwhile Soviet Union. The party was bom in Tashkent in 1920 as the brainchild of M.N. Roy.
Some British Communists and M.N.Roy inspired a group of young Indians, who were great admirers of Marxism and the Russian revolution to set up in India an organization to spread the Marxist ideology. This organization came formally into existence on 26 December 1925, and was named as the Communist Party ofIndia. Shortly after, the CPI was recognized on Roy’s advice, as a branch ofthe Communist International.
The Communist International not only determined the programme of the CPI, it also trained many Indian Communists in the art of fomenting discontent and rebellion among the people, of preparing them for armed insurrection, of organizing worker’s strikes and the freedom struggle and of infiltrating into government and institutions so as to wreck from within. A few ofthe communists who were trained in Moscow were M.N.Roy, S.A. Dange, G.M.Adhikari, C.P.Dutt, Dr. Hafiz, Nalini Gupta, Ayodhya Prasad and Shaukat Usmani.
During the 1920’s and beginning of 1930’s the party was badly organized and in practice there were several communist groups working with limited national coordination. The British colonial authorities had banned all communist activity, which made the task of building a united party very difficult. Only in 1935 was the party ready to be accepted as the Indian section ofthe Communist Third International. However, only Usmani became a CPI party member.
Between 1921 and 1924 there were four conspiracy trials against the communist movement: First Peshawar Conspiracy Case, Second Peshawar Conspiracy Case, Moscow Conspiracy Case and the Cawnpore Bolshevik Conspiracy Case.
In the first three cases, Russian trained Muhajir Communists were put on trail. However, the Cawnpore trial had more political impact. On March 17th, 1924, M.N.Roy, S.A.Dange, Nalini Gupta, Shaukat Usmani, Ghulan Gussain, and R.C.Sharma were charged, in Cawnpore Bolshevik Conspiracy case. The Specific charge was that they, as communists, were seeking “to Deprive the king Emperor of his sovereignty of British India, by complete separation of India from Imperialistic Britain by a violent revolution.
On 25th December 1925, a Communist Conference was organized in Kanpur. Colonial authorities estimated that 500 persons took part in the conference. The conference was convened by a man called Satyabhakta. At the Conference Satyabhakta argued for a “national communism”, and against subordination under Committee.
Being outvoted by the other delegates, Satyabhakta left both the Conference Vince in protest. The Conference adopted the name “Communist Party of India”. Groups such as LKPH dissolved into the minified CPI. The emigre CPI, which probably had little character anyway, was effectively substituted by the organization now operating inside India.
Soon after the 1926 Conference of the workers and peasants party of Bengal, the underground CPI directed its members to join the provincial workers and peasant’s parties. All open Communist activities were carried out through workers and peasant’s parties.
The Sixth Congress ofthe Communist International met in 1928. In 1927 the Kuomintang had turned on the Chinese communists, which led a review ofthe policy on forming alliances with the national bourgeoisie in the colonial countries. The colonial theses of the 6th comiintem congress called upon the Indian Communists to combat the “National – Reformist leaders” and to unmask the national reformism ofdie Indian National Congress and oppose all phrases ofthe Swarajists, Gandhists, etc, about passive resistance. The Congress did however some differentiation between the character of the Chinese Kuomintang and the Indian Swarajist Party, considering the latter as neither a reliable ally nor a direct enemy. The Congress called on the Indian communists to utilize the contradictions between the national bourgeoisie and the British imperialists.
On March 20th 1929, arrests against WPP, CPI and other labour leaders were made in several parts of India in what became known as “the Meerut Conspiracy Case.” The Communist leadership was now put behind bars. The trial proceedings were to last for four years.
As of 1934, the main centre of activity ofCPI were Bombay, Calcutta and Punjab. The Party had also begun extending its activities to Madras. A Group of Andhra and Tamil students, amongst them P.Sundarayya, were recruited to the CPI by Amir Hyder Khan.
The Party was reorganized in 1933, after the Communist leaders from the Meerut trials were released. A Central Committee of the party was set up. In 1934 the party was accepted as the Indian section of the Communists International.
In July 1937, the first Kerala unit of CPI was founded at a clandestine meeting in Calicut. Five persons were present at the meeting, E.M.S. Namboodripad, Krishna Pillai, N.C.Shekhar, K.Damodaran and S.V.Ghate. The first four were members of the CSP in Kerala. The latter, Ghate, was a CPI Central Committee member, who had arrived from Madras. Contacts between the CSP in Kerala and the CPI had begun in 1935, when P.Sundarayya met with E.M.S and Krishna Pillai. Sundarayya and Ghate visited Kerala at several times and met with the CSP leaders there. The contacts were facilitated through the national meetings ofthe Congress, CSP and all India Kisan Sabha.
Revolutionary Socialist Party
The Revolutionary Socialist Party was formed in March 1940, largely as a political manifestation of the Anushilan Samiti or the Liberation Movement in Bengal. It also draws its roots from the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army. The youth who were members of the Anushilan Samiti took active part in reading Marx-Lenin manuscripts, and were jailed a number of times for being radical freedom fighters. Though many young members of the Samiti broke away from the Anushilan movement to join the CPI, which was the oldest existing political party to begin the communist movement, most stayed attached to the movement itself, indulging in copious readings of Marxism-Leninism.
All India Forward Bloc
When Netaji resigned from the post of the President of Indian National Congress in April 1939, he pledged to form a new political party, which would uphold its strong fight against colonial imperialism and domination, at all costs. A rally was held in Calcutta and young girls and boys came together to sign a pledge, under the brilliant leadership of Netaji. The formation of the party was formally announced on 3rd May, 1939. On the 22nd of June, of the same year, the All India Forward Bloc held its first conference in Bombay, where the Constitution and program of the Forward Bloc was drafted. The Central Committee of the All India Forward Bloc was officially announced about a month later, in July. Subhas Chndra Bose became the President, Lal Shankarlal its General Secretary and S.S. Cavesheer from Punjab was elected the Vice-President of AIFB. The Nagpur Conference of the Forward Bloc, held from 18-22 June 1940, remains a historic episode in the history of the life of AIFB. Bose, as the President of the political party, resolved to win Purna Swaraj or complete independence for India by initiating some concrete plans. Steps were taken to form a national unity among all sections of the Indian society. Immediacy was felt to organize the formation of Panchayats, as organs of struggle and organs of administration, right from the village level to the centre.
The formation of Panchayats was made essential if Purna Swaraj was to be attained. However, after the ‘Great Escape’ of Bose in January 1941, the members and workers of the All India Forward Bloc were severely tortured and brutally injured by the police and other state organs of the colonial administration. The party was declared illegal and therefore was banned by the British. However, the AIFB still played a significant role in the Quit India Movement in 1942 and all anti-imperialist struggles which followed it.
The AIFB held frequent meetings and rallies to consolidate its position and reaffirm its strong political presence in the country. The Arrah Conference of the All India Forward Bloc held in January 1947 was a turning point in the history of the party. The Arrah Thesis, as it is popularly called in the political circle, called for the consolidation of the Left forces in India, for achieving the post-war revolution, leading to “All Power to Indian People” as firmly envisaged by Netaji. The party further consolidated its position after Indian independence, by reorganizing a number of its workers committees and organizations.
Revolutionary socialist movement
Socialism also had a revolutionary side. One such important organization was Hindustan socialist republican army (HSRA).
Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) was a revolutionary organisation, also known as Hindustan Socialist Republican Army established in 1928 at Feroz Shah Kotla New Delhi by Chandrasekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and others. Previously it was known as Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) whose written constitution and published manifesto titled The Revolutionary was produced as a witness in the Kakori conspiracy case of 1925. Likewise the Hindustan Republican Association, HSRA. was also a revolutionary organisation which worked more dangerously from 1928 to 1931 in the Indian subcontinent to uproot the British Raj from the country through armed struggle.