The Partition of the Sub-continent and the Bifurcation of Bengal: The Part Told Least [Part 4: Two opposing forces]


Two class forces were standing opposed to each other in the land: on the one hand, there was the force of the exploiting classes – the landed and capitalist classes, and at the head of them, the imperialist masters; and, in its opposition, was the force of exploited classes – the exploited peasantry and the industrial workers.

In terms of ideology and political program, one was backward looking, for status quo while the other was forward looking, for progress, standing for a society that ensures rights and dignity, for a fair share in prosperity, for a better life for all, for a society free from exploitation. The progressive force of the exploited masses were for breaking the chain of all forms of bondage, be it in land, in ownership of property, in ideology, and for real independence.

Thus, there was a contradiction that was irreconcilable, as the questions were: what type of land do we dream – shall it be in bondage of exploitation, or free from exploitation, shall it be dominated by the exploiters or by the exploited?

One revered leader, I am not naming here, was telling “Hospitals are institutions for propagating sin”; “medical science is the concentrated essence of black magic”; “The railways, telegraphs, hospitals, lawyers, doctors and such like have all to go”. In 1934, a delegation of zamindars met the leader at Cawnpur. They were disturbed and worried over the increasingly powerful slogan of socialism. To them, socialism was a threat to their existence, the slogan of socialism made them worried. The revered leader assured the landlords: “I shall be no party to dispossessing the propertied classes of their private property [….] You may be sure that I shall throw the whole weight of my influence in preventing a class war. […] Suppose there is an attempt unjustly to deprive you of your property you will find me fighting on your side. Our Socialism or Communism should be based […] on the harmonious cooperation of labor and capital, the landlord and tenant.”

Contrarily, there was another voice, the voice for liberation from exploitation, and for progress. That was the voice of the exploited. At the first Indian Communist Conference in Kanpur, held from December 26 to 28, 1925, it was declared: “The ultimate goal of the party will be establishment of a workers’ and peasants’ republic in India. And, the immediate objective of the party shall be the securing of a living wage for the workers and peasants by means of nationalization and municipalization of public services; namely land, mines, factories, houses, telegraphs, telephones, railways and such other public utilities which require public ownership. The party shall for the attainment of the above object form labour and peasants’ unions in urban and rural areas, enter district and taluk boards, municipalities and assemblies and by such other means and methods carry out the ideal and programme of the party with or without the cooperation of the existing political parties in the country.” [G Adhikari (ed.) Documents of the History of the Communist Party of India, vol. 2, People’s Publishing House, New Delhi, 1982]

At the same conference, the president of the conference appealed to the workers: “To the workers of India, we say organize your unions, strong numerically and financially, for only in your organization lies your strength. Do not dissipate your energy […] Conserve all your strength […].” To the peasants, the same appeal was made: “Oh, you the forlorn, the oppressed and the suppressed, let us march together in weal or in woe singing the song Internationale […]”

Thus we find, another force, it was political force and, not only political force, class force also, it was getting organized, raising its voice. It might happen that at that time, this force was weak, seemed insignificant to many. But that, the class force other than the interest that went to the revered leader seeking his assurance regarding their property, already began its presence on the political map of this subcontinent.

The reality, however, is to be admitted that this new political force was weak. One fact tells its condition. At the Kanpur conference, it was informed that “[t]he financial position of the party is not sound. During the past nine months we could publish only four small leaflets. We were unable to send necessary messages to the press and our rules and regulations are still unpublished.” [ibid.]

Today, it’s unimaginable that a political organization dreaming to throw away all shackles of exploitation, and declaring a class war, could publish only four small leaflets in nine months. But that was the reality. But the reality was based on class conflict, which demanded a forward-looking journey. And, that shows an aspect of history’s journey along the path of class conflict.

That forward-looking journey was admitted by Jawaharlal Nehru also, as he said in 1933 in “Whither India”: “India’s immediate goal can therefore only be considered in terms of the ending of exploitation of her people. Politically, it must mean independence and the severance of the British connection, which means imperialist domination; economically and socially it must mean the ending of all special class privileges and vested interests,”

Thus, we find, as has been told above, on the one side, along with the imperialism, there were the exploiting classes, and, on the opposite, there were the exploited masses. That was one of the fundamental contradictions in this subcontinent, which has not yet subsided. As the people were trying to handle this contradiction in their way and within their capacity, the political forces other than the people’s politics, and the colonial power were also trying to handle this contradiction in their way and capacity. The two were different approaches.

The political movements of the exploited people, of the industrial workers were developing, organizations were coming up, and people were gaining experiences in political struggles. The people were also gaining force as a political mass, which was impossible to be ignored by the imperialism and the class forces that considered imperialism as its class brother or class ally. Struggles of the peasantry and of the workers were increasingly rising and expanding. There were great struggles by the working people in this land, which now well documented. At times, those were like rising tide, wave after wave. A number of those struggles including the risings in Sholapur, in Bombay, today’s Mumbai, the sailors’ revolt, were significant.

It was menacing, threatening to the internal and external class forces of exploitation. This threatening reality to the exploiting interests is found in Sir Malcolm Hailey, as he said in the Legislative Assembly in 1924: “Anything like a real revolution would have most disastrous effects on that very class that is now represented in the Legislative Assembly and Provincial Councils; for among the ignorant masses of India a political revolution would become a socialist revolution in a very short space of time.” Similar observation has been cited at the beginning of this series of articles.

That concern or fear of revolution was not only in 1924. Much earlier, in 1917, the promise of representative government by Curzon and Austen Chamberlain was also out of that fear. The colonial power was trying to face the challenge of revolution in this subcontinent following the revolution in Russia in 1917. Their concern was ensuring their economic and financial interests in this land. The same concern was of their class allies in this subcontinent. The partition was their master stroke on the working people’s struggle for emancipation. It was not limited within a certain time-period, the time during partition, but has extended its flames of hatred to further years, in politics, in mass psyche. It has, on the one hand, strengthened the cruel hands of the exploiting classes, and on the other, weakened the working people’s struggle that didn’t follow any sectarian line. As an example, Bengal may be cited.

[To be continued.]

Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka, Bengladesh

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