Politics and Left Unity in India: The United Front in Left Colonial India [First ed.] 9781138055049, 9781315166230


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Table of contents :
Cover
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Contents
Acknowledgements
Introduction
1 Foundations of the united front
2 United front as mass activism
3 United front within the Congress
4 Congress as united front
5 Conflict about unity
6 “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”
7 Twilight of the united front
8 The “pioneers of unity”
Bibliography
Index
Recommend Papers

Politics and Left Unity in India: The United Front in Left Colonial India [First ed.]
 9781138055049, 9781315166230

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Politics and Left Unity in India

The historical assessments of Left unity in 1930s India misrepresent activities designed to achieve unity. The common treatment of the relationship between Indian socialists and communists emphasizes disunity and the inability to find common ground. Scholarly discussions about unity in fact highlight its impracticality and the inevitability of its failure. This book proposes that during this moment, for socialists and communists, unity was not just an ideal, but was in fact considered to be a possible and very realizable goal. Rather than focusing exclusively on ideological fissures as the literature does, the book explores the possibilities for unity. The author investigates the united front as a conceptual framework for collaboration and as a scheme for assessing the extent to which cooperation between socialists and communists was feasible and practicable during the mid-to-late 1930s in India. He employs the notion of the united front as an instrument for identifying and compensating for the prejudices, which permeate sources about the cooperation between the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) and the Communist Party of India (CPI). The author challenges the historicism found in extant scholarly assessments of Left unity by illustrating the ways in which the partners engaged in united front activities and approached the common goal of Left unity, despite their fragmented ideological perspectives. The book presents the united front, not as an unsuccessful phase of collaboration, but rather as a concerted attempt to achieve ideological convergence and Left homogeneity, which ultimately failed to radicalize Indian nationalism because, in reality, conditions for Left unity did not exist. The book will be of interest to academics studying South Asian history and politics, in particular, and socialism, communism, nationalism and imperialism, more generally. William F. Kuracina is Head of the History Department at Texas A&M University–­Commerce, US. He is the author of The State and Governance in India: The Congress Ideal, also published by Routledge (2010).

Routledge Studies in South Asian History For a full list of titles in this series, please visit www.routledge.com.

Environment and Pollution in Colonial India Sewerage Technologies along the Sacred Ganges Janine Wilhelm The Kashmir Conflict From Empire to the Cold War, 1945–1966 Rakesh Ankit Hindu Nationalism, History and Identity in India Narrating a Hindu past under the BJP Lars Tore Flåten The Formation of the Colonial State in India Scribes, Paper and Taxes, 1760–1860 Hayden J. Bellenoit Health and Medicine in the Indian Princely States 1850–1950 Waltraud Ernst, Biswamoy Pati and T.V. Sekher Class Conflict and Modernization in India The Raj and the Calcutta Waterfront (1860–1910) Aniruddha Bose Imperialism and Sikh Migration The Komogata Maru Incident Anjali Gera Roy Politics and Left Unity in India The United Front in Late Colonial India William F. Kuracina

Politics and Left Unity in India The United Front in Late Colonial India William F. Kuracina

First published 2018 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2018 William F. Kuracina The right of William F. Kuracina to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN: 978-1-138-05504-9 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-16623-0 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by codeMantra

For Kimmie

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Contents

Acknowledgements

ix

Introduction 1 1 Foundations of the united front 12 2 United front as mass activism 35 3 United front within the Congress 66 4 Congress as united front 100 5 Conflict about unity 134 6 “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance” 164 7 Twilight of the united front 195 8 The “pioneers of unity” Bibliography Index

225 241 249

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Acknowledgements

This research monograph was supported by the United States-India Educational Foundation, Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellent Fellowship (Research) and by the professional assistance provided by Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) personnel. I wish to express my gratitude to the archivists and staff at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, who facilitated my research and enabled me to accomplish considerable research within a tight timeframe. I am indebted to my colleague, Dr Jessica Brannon-Wranosky, who persuaded me to attend an apparently unrelated seminar about the New Deal in Texas, from which I became inspired to begin the process of sorting through the rhetoric about the united front.

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Introduction

Throughout their discussions of socialist activity and ideology in 1930s India, historians have lapsed into an inconvenient tendency to misinterpret the nature of Left unity. Typically, historical narratives describe Left disunity when they might more deliberately focus on the potential for collaboration among radical groups. The united front in India denoted a moment when unity was not only an ideal, but was considered a possible and very realistic goal. Nevertheless, histories tend to illustrate the fragmentary nature of the nationalist left wing. Granted, ideological incompatibilities contributed to the eventual disintegration of Left unity, but such assessments oversimplify the complexities of the potential for unity—because Left unity failed, scholars readily search for explanations for that failure. A more insightful approach might, in fact, be a deliberate consideration of a moment when the advocates of the united front insisted that Left consolidation was realizable. Typically, analyses of the ideal of Left unity founder in an error comprised of two parts. In the first portion of this misreading, writers incorrectly approach the concept of the united front. While it ought to be a conceptual foundation for Left unity as an ideal goal, historians depict it as a phase in the relationship between the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) and the Communist Party of India (CPI). In fact, the united front represented a viewpoint that made collaboration and Left consolidation possible. Tellingly, researchers overlook this interpretation, focusing instead on the disintegrative drama generated during the collaborative phase. Second and more important, scholars, by and large, uncritically accept the socialist assessment of the relationship between the CSP and the CPI. M.R. Masani alleged that communist efforts to forge a united front with the CSP were deliberately disingenuous because the communists were “Trojan Horses” who infiltrated the CSP seeking to convert it wholesale to communism.1 He asserted that communist participation in the united front violated the spirit of cooperation it intended to foster because communist activities “were calculated to isolate the national leadership from the rank and file and capture the larger organization for Communist party ends.”2 Masani related that the united front phase enabled the CPI to succeed where it might otherwise not have and permitted communists to infiltrate the national movement, to “occupy

2 Introduction important positions” and “influence to a certain extent” the Congress’s ideological orientation. According to Masani, the conspiracy was so successful that entire CSP committees defected to the CPI when the communists were formally expelled from the CSP in 1939.3 Masani’s account presents a drama in which altruistic socialists became the victims of nefarious communist machinations. Masani maintained that communist disruption failed with Congress and CSP rank and file because “they were too loyal and too sharp not to see the disruptionist game.” Institutionally, communists fared better, splitting the All-India Students’ Federation and the All-India Kisan Sabha and essentially capturing the All-India Trade Union Congress. Masani claimed that CSP leaders responded to communist subversion “in the nick of time,” with further delay likely to “have entirely broken the Socialist Party.” As proof, Masani related that when they were expelled from the CSP, “the communists carried with them almost intact three of the best organized State branches” of the party.4 These statements, however, sharply contrast with Masani’s observations that Jayaprakash Narayan did “not learn the lessons that communists so obligingly presented us” and obstinately clung to the ideal of the united front.5 Masani’s views were confirmed in hindsight by Narayan, who observed that communists “have tried to denounce Masani as a communist-baiter.” Narayan denied the relevance of this claim. He explained that Masani “was the first to see through their game of disruption and capture, played under the cover of unity.” Narayan suggested that Masani’s views about communism amounted to “a counter-measure to their anti-Congress Socialist Party and capture tactics.” “Experience,” Narayan wrote, “has completely vindicated Masani’s stand.”6 Allegations of a communist conspiracy overlook one critical factor: Jayaprakash Narayan. The conspiracy assumes that Narayan was blissfully ignorant of communist tactics—revolution from above or revolution from below in which the politically advanced party serves as the vanguard on behalf of the politically ignorant masses.7 In fact, Narayan and CSP leaders employed these very same tactics in their dealings with the Congress and in their attempts to transform Indian political opinion. Surely, socialists would notice increasing communist influence that employed socialist infiltration tactics? The conspiracy theory criticizes a disadvantageous outcome in which there could be no Left homogeneity, despite altruistic motives and best intentions. Historians too readily authenticate Masani’s assertions, and the two parts—periodization and conspiracy—become wholly integrated. Scholarly emphasis on disruption and disunity overlooks the intent and ideals of the united front and its relevance to Indian conditions. It also neglects strategic continuities that explain communist commitment to the united front. One account relates that during the united front phase, the CSP and CPI worked together to gain their own advantages, but cites August 1937 as the breaking

Introduction  3 point when, after the discovery of CPI takeover plans, CSP leaders “tried to ban any new communist enrolments.”8 This depiction sets up an explanation of CSP weaknesses, but does little to clarify unifying factors. Another study, which assesses Indian unity, perplexingly neglects to mention the united front.9 Bipan Chandra and his co-authors highlight divisive factors, perspicaciously noting that “the Marxism of the 1930s was incapable of accepting as legitimate such diversity of political currents on the Left.” According to this depiction, such ideological rigidity perpetuated “a confusion which plagued the CSP till the very end.” Unity, then, becomes “differences papered over for a long time” because of personal connections among prominent socialists and communists. Chandra then proceeds to adumbrate specific reasons for the general failure of the Left during the late colonial period: Left wing leaders reacted to issues instead of being proactive; they quarreled with Congress leaders about tactics, not ideology; they “failed to make a deep study of Indian reality” because they perceived Indian situations according to a doctrinaire perspective. Moreover, Chandra argues that the Left’s major debility was the inability “of the different Left parties, groups and individuals to work unitedly except for short periods.” Again, Chandra cites “doctrinal disputes and differences” as the cause of Left disunity.10 However, this study belabors radicals’ inability to overcome differences and, to an extent, celebrates the Left’s failure to assert its control over the national movement. Additionally, Chandra’s assessment overlooks the fundamental issue that the concept of the united front entailed the mediation of difference, but that doctrinaire outlooks also infected diverse impressions of the united front. In Chandra’s study, it becomes a degree of difference: socialist and communist ideologues could not agree despite their “herculean efforts to work together” and because of their foundational differences, they “soon drifted apart and became sworn enemies.”11 Sumit Sarkar provides an even more in-depth assessment of radical streams in Indian nationalism. However, Sarkar subverts his discussion of the socialist “ginger-group” by suggesting that the sudden emergence of the CSP resulted from “purely opportunistic motives,” an allegation he supports with the observation that “the C.S.P. founding fathers were to have extremely chequered and by no means consistently Leftist political careers in the future.”12 But Sarkar editorializes too much with this statement, permitting his otherwise engaging assessment of the left wing to be colored by the historian’s hindsight—in the moment, the actors chose to form the united front for principled reasons; the effort predated their later ambiguous political careers. Regardless, unlike many historians, Sarkar introduces the united front, noting that communists attempted to establish “contacts with Left-nationalist elements by work within the C.S.P. and the Congress.” Sarkar places the united front strategy in the context of world communism and the perceived threat of fascism, and then he proceeds to briefly examine the spread of Indian communism. When discussing the influence of British

4 Introduction communists, Sarkar avoids the typical communist conspiracy gaffe to illustrate connections between the British writers and Nehru’s radical statements at the Lucknow Congress. Sarkar, unlike other scholars, emphasizes a “new spirit of unity among Left-nationalists, Socialists and Communists.”13 However, once he emphasizes the urge to unify, Sarkar lapses into the welltrod terrain of the breakup of Left unity.14 K.S. Padhy and P.K. Panigrahy also examine, in a limited manner, the united front. They define the term, according to the Communist International’s viewpoint, as an attempt “to bring into one party all groups and individuals who believed in Marxism, to fight against fascism.”15 However, their initial definition warrants objections—Masani, of course, perceived the united front as a movement, not a party, while apparently the communist interpretation was more crystallized in terms of party organization.16 The scholarly duo next introduces British communists to clarify the definition— communists must not only oppose fascism, but also imperialism. Once this distinction was made, Indian communists might have been permitted to collaborate with nationalists, regardless of ideological orientation. Having expounded beyond their peers, Padhy and Panigrahy stumble into the usual snare, observing that communists “wanted to capture or destroy the C.S.P.” and offering Masani’s circular about the communist conspiracy as proof. Communist influence on the CSP, then, becomes factionalism, divisiveness, obstructionism and suspicion.17 One scholar plainly states that work external to the Congress and the emphasis on Left consolidation were both a “colossal blunder” for the CSP. Asha Gupta claims that the united front permitted other Marxist groups that were “more interested in expanding their respective parties at the cost of the CSP” to penetrate the CSP under cover of Left unity. This policy disrupted socialist activities and “wrecked” the CSP.18 Satyabrata Rai Chowdhuri, who promises, with his study’s title, to transcend pedestrian assessments of the CSP–CPI relationship, similarly settles into the comfortable Masani line, emphasizing advantages, infiltration and opportunities.19 P.L. Lakhanpal’s informative study blames Left disunity squarely on the CPI and then proceeds to bluntly criticize Indian communists: The Communist party was known, as is now known, for its opportunistic tactics. It is faithful to none—not even to the cause which it professes to serve—not even to the object to achieve which, they say, the party has been formed. No reliance could be put on them. According to this interpretation, communists “did not remain faithful” to the principles of the united front and “instead formed a conspiracy to establish their control” over the CSP.20 Lakhanpal posits that Left unity might have worked “with honest and sincere co-operation among leftist elements” and “given sufficient time.” But efforts at consolidation were insincere, and the attempts to create alternate leadership were suborned by the pace of events.21

Introduction  5 Even scholarly analyses of the CPI traverse this well-trod terrain. Masani wrote an account of the CPI in which he explicitly reiterated the assessment provided in his political memoir, although portions of this work are dedicated to examining communist motives for their attempted takeover of the CSP.22 In this instance, communist involvement is reduced to “the application of United Front tactics” which, once again, amounted to a “‘Trojan Horse’ strategy.”23 Gene Overstreet and Marshall Windmiller comprehensively examine the communist movement, attempting to situate the CPI within national and international contexts.24 Their research diligently illustrates international communist activity, and the second half of the work thematically analyzes aspects of communist policies in India.25 Nevertheless, its focus on the theoretical underpinnings of actual practices neglects the conceptual applications of united front tactics in India, and its thematic assessment almost exclusively focuses on post-independence Indian communism. As with other analyses, this duo’s work also depicts the united front as a phase in communist policies: one chapter titled “United Front” explains that this phase was a “logical step” in a broader strategy of cooperating with, penetrating and subverting allegedly “‘reformist’ political organizations” and relates how the CPI “capitalized on successful infiltration” of the CSP and the Congress.26 Much of the work also describes communist assessments of India as an object of communist theory by Indian communists rather than a more deliberate evaluation of Indian communism.27 Nevertheless, it provides tantalizing discrepancies between grand theory and the practical application of that theory; for example, Overstreet and Windmiller suggest that in the years prior to the united front, Indian communism was strongly influenced by extremism, which, if diluted, promised an “opportunity for a united front alliance with the CSP and other political forces in India.”28 By emphasizing a telescopic perspective of communist debates about the nature of anti-­i mperialism, this study affords valuable insights into specific continuities, revealing the united front as more than a mere tactical adjustment; in fact, this detailed overview illustrates that the notion of the united front permeated the Communist International’s pre- and post-1935 strategic adjustment.29 When divorced from the usual historical periodization, the united front for communism becomes a product of an illegal party attempting to exert its political influence, to radicalize anti-imperialism and to assume its historic role as vanguard of the communist revolution in India. The grand-scheme viewpoint of Indian communism merges neatly with socialist impressions of the CSP’s role in the national movement. Girja Shankar’s detailed study builds from Bipan Chandra’s assessment. Similar to Chandra, Shankar highlights socialists’ “idealistic and doctrinal approach to politics” as a fundamental flaw: their decisions were based on Marxist dogma rather than practical considerations; their pursuit of the united front was based solely on ideological suppositions that Marxists ought to be unified; they rejected all British reforms outright as imperialistic

6 Introduction machinations; they dubbed Congress leaders and programs as bourgeois, according to Marxist terminology. Shankar notes that the “doctrinaire approach” of socialist leaders adversely affected Left unity.30 In fact, Shankar charges CSP leaders with “ineptitude” for even pursuing the united front: in principle, communists screened by the CSP executive were admitted to the CSP, but in practice, communists “were admitted indiscriminately”; despite proof of the communist conspiracy, CSP leaders waited three years before expelling communists; overall, “procrastination,” hesitation and “wavering” debilitated the CSP and cost it “a sizeable defection” when the CPI departed. Shankar, however, concludes that much of the waffling was attributable to a leadership attempting to transcribe Marxist theory to correspond with Indian reality.31 Regarding Left unity, Shankar notes that the CSP was “divided” into three ideological strains. He claims that these factions remained ever unprepared “for compromise on doctrinal issues.” A patina of unity, a patchwork of collaboration and emotional connections, unified the party, but only delayed the balkanization of the CSP. Moreover, disunity meant “a confused ideology.” Nevertheless, Shankar claims that this heterogeneity fostered “an attitude of compromise,” which then evolved into attempts to unify Left forces. Shankar also offers the straightforward observation that the strains of working within the united front actually polarized ideological constituencies. Shankar suggests that despite this inherent ability to compromise, CSP leaders perceived their party as the only organization capable of uniting Indian Marxists. According to this assessment, the united front amounted to Jayaprakash Narayan’s viewpoint about Left unity—socialist unity entailed coordination of all socialist-inspired groups.32 This depiction also reiterates the Masani line in that Narayan ignored evidence about the communist conspiracy and ultimately sacrificed the CSP for the misguided attempt to achieve Left unity. Shankar emphasizes Narayan’s naïveté about Royist and CPI attempts to capture portions of the CSP, depicting the relationship as an altruistic socialist’s attempt to secure unity betrayed by the nefarious activities of Royists and communists.33 Shankar also introduces Narayan’s and Masani’s reminiscences of events as evidence that communists “launched an ideological conquest” of CSP membership while deliberately preventing socialists from acquiring influence in the trade union movement.34 None of these assessments truly grapple with the united front in any meaningful way. These selections and assorted others dwell at length on fracturing factors among radical forces, but downplay efforts to achieve the united front. Indeed, even the stalwart anti-communist Masani expressed his frustration with Narayan’s “enthusiasm” for Left unity.35 Despite historians’ reliance on the overtly biased documentation produced by those involved—and the statements made by CPI leaders were frequently as acute as Masani’s claims—the evidence indicates a much more complex situation. Consequently, the literature as a whole tends to minimize the relevance of the united front or misdiagnose its significance. Certainly, the CSP—CPI

Introduction  7 relationship, as expressed as the notion of the united front, was more complicated than historians have indicated. Sumit Sarkar alludes to these complexities by observing that “the C.S.P. throughout the mid and late1930s acted objectively as a kind of bridge across which radical nationalists passed on their road to the full-fledged Marxism of the Communist Party.”36 Here, Sarkar distinctly breaks with the Masani assumptions, introducing a much more nuanced relationship rather than one based on hostility, mutual suspicion and a deliberate conspiracy to take over the CSP. In his study, Sarkar begins to fragment general assumptions. Considerable difficulty arises from any attempt to distinguish communist from socialist viewpoints throughout a moment when both camps deliberately sought to achieve ideological homogeneity. The illegal nature of the CPI further complicated matters because the government ban obliged communists to enter the CSP as a legitimate and legal front for propagating Marxist–Leninist rhetoric. Although organized communist orientation was expressed by official party statements and publications—some of which are integrated within this study—the party itself operated underground as an illegal organization. Where feasible, official documents concisely inform communist attitudes. Otherwise, communist perspectives can only be offered by individuals who clearly self-identified as communist, an admission inherently limited by the government ban. Alternatively, Congressmen who migrated from socialism toward communism and, again, who identified themselves as having experienced such a transformation, offer precise insights and contribute to ideological heterogeneity. Nevertheless, communists could only openly declare themselves to be communist after the 1940s, after the party became legalized, after the rupture with the CSP was complete. By default, the dominant voices about the united front and Marxist unity were expressed by CSP ideologues, with communists only fully separating themselves and their rhetoric after the formal break with the CSP. Consequently, the underground nature of communist activity within the CSP and the Congress as a whole not only reinforces the Masani perspective, but also problematizes scholars’ ability to clearly differentiate communist voices from articulated socialist rhetoric. This study attempts to achieve some measure of separation where it can clearly distinguish communist viewpoints tracking against the grain of socialist rhetoric. Nevertheless, communist immersion in the socialist ideological pool complicates historians’ ability to fully tease out the nuances of a distinct communist perspective, especially during the heyday of CSP–CPI collaboration. Arguably, the difficulties encountered due to ideological orthodoxy were fairly insurmountable. But historical studies tend to overlook the fact that the actors in the moment tended to genuinely celebrate the cause of left wing unity; much of present-day scholarly work relies too heavily on reminiscences of leading personalities who imbued their recollections with clouded memories and bitter hindsight about failed Left unity.

8 Introduction The entire discussion about failed Left unity can be pinpointed to conflicting perceptions of the notion of a united front. Part of the issue, of course, lies in the ambiguous phrase of authentic or “real” anti-imperialist forces— the concept of authenticity remained dramatically open to interpretation and typically excluded bourgeois and reactionary elements of the nation, which, allegedly, sought to “form a united front of imperialism and forces of native reaction.”37 The second contributing factor was that the notion of the united front fundamentally contained different meanings according to disparate ideologies and purposes—“united front” became a catchphrase, encompassing national unity, left wing unity; indeed, more generally, it became synonymous with unity relative to whatever cause the speaker or writer supported. Those who used the term willingly or unwittingly permitted its widespread misuse and misinterpretation. Collectively, the notion remained too amorphous to actually coalesce into unity; there could be no united front because although the basis for ideological homogeneity was solid, homogeneity in practice entailed persuading others that their views were incorrect. Practically speaking, conditions for Left unity did not exist. The united front in India was primarily a moment in which ideologues of the nationalist left wing willingly or reluctantly participated in an ideological convergence that made Left homogeneity possible. Political conditions in the country facilitated such unity, so long as the partners refrained from dogma and orthodoxy. The united front expressed a willingness to collaborate on common ground, an opportunity to achieve some measure of consolidation among India’s major left wing and anti-imperialist forces. It was a movement to radicalize Indian nationalism. Conceptually, the united front was a dynamic and influential impulse; practically, it contributed to the disintegration of the unity it sought to achieve. *** The fact that considerable research illustrates the fragmentary nature of Indian nationalism merits a reassessment of attempts to achieve unity through a top–down approach. While acknowledging that the messages for mobilization affected assorted groups in disparate ways, this study reveals that the ideal of unity itself, while plausible, remained flawed and circumscribed by the viewpoints of those engaged in homogenizing efforts. Concurrently, it challenges the historicism inherent to extant assessments of Left unity, illustrating that the partners who engaged in united front activities approached the common goal in fragmented ways. As with recent research, this study indicates that the ideal of unity failed to cohesively overcome the practical considerations immediately concerning those involved in the united front. This monograph is not an in-depth examination of united front programs and policies. Indeed, mirroring the Congress itself, socialist and communist Congressmen permitted provincial, regional and local flexibility to influence

Introduction  9 overarching programs; the ideologues of the united front preferred to articulate All-India concepts and designate the day-to-day minutiae as the responsibility of subordinate organizational units.38 Instead, this study investigates the united front as a conceptual framework for collaboration to assess the extent to which cooperation between socialists and communists was feasible and practicable in the mid- and late-1930s. As such, it relies heavily on Jayaprakash Narayan’s attitude about the united front because he was its chief architect and remained devoted to the notion of Left unity well after the actual united front crumbled. Ideological common ground, of course, did not form the sole rationale behind the CSP’s founding. The founders were frustrated with the pace of liberation, with the methods employed by Congress leaders, with reformist tendencies among the Congress’s leadership clique, with the cancellation of direct action and mass civil disobedience.39 To a certain extent, youthful impatience informed Left decisions: impatience with the well-established generation of Congress leaders, impatience with the apparently lethargic pace of Gandhian activity. A mounting sense of disillusionment with the apparent rejection of direct action as a means for achieving national liberation converged with this impatience to stimulate a desire to offer an alternative path. Marxism expressed frustration, impatience and disillusionment in concrete terms; ideology reoriented young Congressmen by rationalizing their disorientation and discontentedness and by explaining the failures of 1933 and 1934. Such an intersection of emotion and reason appealed to an ideological cross section of nationalists—Left nationalists, such as Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose; Fabian socialists, such as M.R. Masani; devout Marxists, such as Narendra Deva and Jayaprakash Narayan; even former parliamentarians, such as K.F. Nariman—and socialism, to a certain extent, came to house oppositional or confrontational elements, which included intellectual, patrician or popular varieties.40 This study also employs the notion of the united front as a vehicle for identifying and compensating for the prejudices which permeate sources about CSP–CPI cooperation. Consequently, this research seeks to disrupt the overly predictable depiction of a communist conspiracy. By presenting the united front as a product of ideological evolution and as an essential byproduct of the circulation of radical ideas, this work contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of a narrow, albeit significant, component of India’s struggle for national liberation while concurrently assessing, in a more meaningful manner, a foundational ideological component of that struggle.

Notes 1 M.R. Masani, Bliss Was It in that Dawn: A Political Memoir, (New Delhi: Arnold Heinemann, 1977), 123–24. 2 Masani, Bliss Was It, 121. 3 Masani, Bliss Was It, 126–27.

10 Introduction 4 M.R. Masani, The Communist Party of India: A Short History, (New York: MacMillan, 1954), 78–79. 5 Masani, Bliss Was It, 132. 6 Jayaprakash Narayan, Socialist Unity and the Congress Socialist Party, (Bombay: Congress Socialist Party, 1941), 24. 7 Gene D. Overstreet and Marshall Windmiller, Communism in India, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959), 13–14. 8 B.R. Tomlinson, Indian National Congress and the Raj, 1929–1942: The Penultimate Phase, (Toronto: MacMillan India International, 1976), 114–15. 9 R.J. Moore, The Crisis of Indian Unity, 1917–1940, (London: Oxford University Press, 1974). Moore assesses the “Indian problem” as Britain’s “final resolution of the crisis of unity that was coincident with the devolutionary process” (viii). 10 Bipan Chandra, et al., India’s Struggle for Independence, 1857–1947, (New York: Penguin Books, 1989), 306–8. 11 Chandra et al., India’s Struggle for Independence, 309. 12 Sumit Sarkar, Modern India, 1885–1947, (Madras: Macmillan India, 1983), 332–33. 13 Sarkar, Modern India, 335–36, 339. 14 Sarkar, Modern India, 336–352, 361–375. Sarkar remarks that the Congress’s outward “surge to the Left” was “skillfully and effectively” countered by the Congress’s right wing (page 338). 15 K.S. Padhy and P.K. Panigrahy, Socialist Movement in India, (Delhi: Kanishka Publishing House, 1992), 79. 16 Masani, Bliss Was It, 130 17 Padhy and Panigrahy, Socialist Movement in India, 79–80. 18 Asha Gupta, Socialism in Theory and Practice: Narendra Deva’s Contribution, (New Delhi: Gitanjali Publishing House, 1987), 44. 19 S.R. Chowdhuri, Leftism in India, 1917–1947, (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2007), 106. 20 P.L. Lakhanpal, A History of the Congress Socialist Party, 1934–1947, (Delhi: Hope India Publications, 2012 edition), 78, 97. This work is a reprint of Lakhanpal’s book originally published in 1947. 21 Lakhanpal, Congress Socialist Party, 78. Emphasis is original. 22 Masani, Communist Party, 56–75. 23 Masani, Communist Party, 62–63. 24 Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 4. 25 Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 3. 26 Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 155–70; quotes appear on pages 156 and 163. 27 India becomes an object of debate by M.N. Roy and other prominent members of the Communist International. Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 82–121. 28 Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 157. 29 Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 59–121. 30 Girja Shankar, Socialist Trends in Indian National Movement: Being a Study of the Congress Socialist Party, (Meerut: Twenty-First Century Publishers, 1987), 84–85. 31 Shankar, Socialist Trends, 85–86. 32 Shankar, Socialist Trends, 81–82, 87, 92–93, 132. 33 Shankar, Socialist Trends, 133–53. Shankar claims that the CSP “from its inception favoured unity of all shades of Marxian socialists in the country” (page 138). 34 Shankar, Socialist Trends, 142–43. 35 Masani, Bliss Was It, 122.

Introduction  11 36 Sarkar, Modern India, 334. 37 Presidential address, Gujarat Socialist Party Conference, 23 June 1935, Narendra Deva, Articles and Speeches by Acharya Narendra Deva, (Delhi: Anupama Publications, 1988), 17. Hereafter cited as ASAND. 38 Masani explained that “the application of the United Front tactics in relation to the Congress was not to be uniform but to differ from province to province, according to concrete circumstances.” Masani, Communist Party, 63. 39 See: Masani, Bliss Was It, 47; “C.S.P.” Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47; presidential address, All India Socialist Conference, 17 May 1934, CSP, 45–50; welcome address, All India Socialist Conference, 21 October 1934, Indian Annual Register, 1934, Vol. 2, 293–94. Also see: “Our Stand,” [no date] and draft of a history of the Socialist Party [no date], Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47. 40 The notion of Left as opposition frequently appears. For example, see Shalini Sharma, ‘“Yeh azaadi jhooti hai!”: The shaping of the opposition in the first year of the Congress raj’, Modern Asian Studies, 48, 5 (2014): 1325–1388.

1 Foundations of the united front

In a straightforward statement dated October 1937, Jayaprakash Narayan outlined the purpose of the united front, highlighting the differences between the Congress and the Congress Socialist Party (CSP). The Congress, he claimed, “stands for all, for the masses as well as for classes,” but “Nationalism as sponsored by the Congress cannot bring Swaraj to the masses.” Socialism, he averred, would “bring real Swaraj to the people and for the people, evolving an order of society which will be run in the interest of the people at large and not in the interest of a blessed few.” The purpose of the united front, then, was to “bring real Swaraj to the country.”1 Narayan defined socialism in the Indian context as “the only solution” to the country’s problems of “hunger, poverty and unemployment,” for which limited political freedom offered no answer. The socialist conceptualization of swaraj meant “Swaraj on an economic foundation”—a “Swaraj of the people,” entailing public ownership of “productive resources and wealth of the country.”2 This ideal united front remained an unfulfilled goal. Even as late as 1947, one of the early proponents of the united front, Narendra Deva, discussed the imperative for forging newfound unity among leftist elements. Deva rejected the pending transfer of power, noting that a national government for India was meaningless “unless it is a socialist state working for the welfare of the masses.” He claimed that the final struggle for independence should not be concluded by politicians in drawing rooms or through non-­v iolent protest because such a socialist government “will not come into existence as a gift from the British government, for they simply fear it.” Instead, Indians will have to struggle for it: If the Congress failed to establish government for the people, then a “united front of the leftist parties may be set up for this purpose.”3 Similarly, by 1952, politicians were untroubled by use of the phrase. For example, the term had become so ingrained that Madhu Limaye used it to assess the possibilities of local mergers with communists in Travancore-Cochin, warning of the “dangers of united front” as merely an electoral arrangement.4 Indeed, by the early 1950s, the term “united front” had become so pedestrian that it lost its original revolutionary meaning and intent.

Foundations of the united front  13 Scholars depict the united front as a phase in the socialist–communist relationship or as a strategy employed by communists to infiltrate the CSP, the Congress and workers’ and peasants’ organizations.5 C.A. Menon complains that scholars have neglected to write an “authoritative history of the Communist Party,” a task left to “a sworn enemy of Communism,” such as M.R. Masani, or to American scholars who also criticized communist activities. Menon concludes that “certain truths and falsified versions” remain prevalent.6 Menon’s observations speak to a broader misunderstanding of interactions between socialists and communists in 1930s India. The united front was neither a collaborative phase nor a communist tactic, but rather constituted a common perspective about the Congress and about anti-imperialism. This shared outlook facilitated cooperative operations, designed to combat constitutionalism and to radicalize the national movement in its entirety. Socialist and communist ideologues agreed that the Congress’s bourgeois leadership tended to advocate a non-confrontational mode of anti-­ imperialism, one which strove to accomplish specific class-oriented goals and to find a bourgeois democratic system in India. They also concurred that the united front should accomplish the goal of galvanizing the masses, integrating workers’ and peasants’ immediate class interests into the liberation struggle, thereby revolutionizing the entire national movement and combating the collaborationist tendencies of the Indian bourgeoisie. Their rhetoric emphasized transforming the Congress and the national movement into what they perceived to be a “real” anti-imperialist people’s front. Essentially, according to united front advocates, mobilization of the masses intended to push the liberation movement toward securing a more meaningful social transformation based on economic equality, the abolition of feudalism and the curtailment of bourgeois hegemony. The united front was intended to be an intervention, an opportunity to decisively transform the national movement from a bourgeois–democratic revolution into a force struggling to secure comprehensive national liberation. The concept of a united front against imperialism in a socialist or communist context became commonplace after 1920. It was essentially a natural and logical application of Leninism to Indian conditions. Scholarly misperceptions depict collaboration in terms of political parties cooperating for common objectives.7 They replicate M.N. Roy’s misinterpretation of the Congress—he depicted it as a bourgeois political party with a corresponding coherent class-based ideology.8 However, such a sectarian perspective diminishes the relevance of the united front because it examines the movement or the Congress as an object, which might be internally and externally influenced by party activity. The continuity is revealed by examining socialist and communist discourse about mobilization of the masses—the form and ideology of individual organizations participating in the united front become irrelevant, and the act of mobilization and radicalization becomes central to Left unity. The national movement becomes

14  Foundations of the united front a movement, not a party which associated Marxist parties might influence. The movement might transcend bourgeois limitations by integrating mass interests as the centerpiece of the national struggle—liberation becomes an unlimited economic emancipation and lays the groundwork for comprehensive social transformation, thereby shattering the timidity inherent to India’s bourgeoisie. Logically, then, the united front denoted continuities rather than scholars’ typical depictions of the front as a new strategy and a moment in pursuit of Left unity. The concept of the united front evolved out of the earliest deliberations of the World Congresses of the Communist International, which considered ways in which communists might integrate the international struggle against capitalism into colonial anti-imperialist movements striving to secure political emancipation. It indicates an organic ideological evolution from Lenin’s original thesis about colonial conditions. In their deliberations about the nature of anti-imperialism, communists employed the concept of the united front to distinguish between a bourgeois–­democratic nationalist movement and a mass movement for national liberation and social revolution. For socialists, the united front meant a consolidation of politically advanced forces that would then inspire the latent anti-imperialism among the masses. In either sense, the term denoted a mass movement organized according to class interests that directly challenged reformism and exploitation, especially the nation’s victimization by British imperialism.

United front in a communist context In 1934, communism in India was strictly an underground movement. The Meerut Trial blunted the impact of communism by beheading its organization. The Indian government declared the party illegal in July 1934, and it banned communist-dominated associations and unions, forcing the few hundred members to infiltrate legal organizations where they continued to work for the international revolution, albeit in an exceedingly limited manner. According to accepted historical interpretation, “the new trend in international communism toward ‘softening’ the leftist line that had prevailed since the Sixth Comintern Congress of 1928” afforded new opportunities for cooperation with elements involved in India’s national movement.9 However, the foundations for a united front of anti-imperialist elements predated this supposedly abrupt strategic transition. In fact, prevailing communist theories about anti-colonialism remained conspicuously consistent, while their suggested solutions to changing situations, their immediate tactics, gave them the appearance of radically revised strategies. The foundations for the united front, “the field of labor and peasant agitation,” remained an untapped resource for Indian anti-imperialism. Although the Congress established connections with worker and peasant organizations, it neglected mobilization of these constituencies along class

Foundations of the united front  15 interests. Consequently, mass mobilization “was open to those who, because of political ambition or personal conviction, chose to promote the self-consciousness and organization of the proletariat or the peasantry.”10 From 1920, members of the Communist International debated the nature of anti-imperialism and its relevance to the communist world revolution. In their study of communist strategy, Overstreet and Windmiller explain that achieving the ultimate goal entailed alternating between cooperating with and opposing the nationalist bourgeoisie. Theoretically, this process, as a whole, amounted to “‘neutralizing’ the bourgeoisie, or ‘paralyzing’ its ‘instability.’” Regardless, the strategy was designed to enable communists to reduce bourgeois political influence. In this manner, communists could crush their class enemies, marginalize wavering elements of the petty bourgeoisie and gain ascendency over the politically revolutionary elements of society—a strategy of “liquidation, neutralization or hegemony” relative to any group’s proximity to immediate revolutionary aims. Additionally, Overstreet and Windmiller suggest that communist tactics could be categorized into “action ‘from above’ and action ‘from below,’” with the former entailing “a formal alliance with non-Communist organizations” and the latter denoting the application of pressure against non-communist groups by appealing directly to their constituents.11 Interestingly enough, communist tactics equaled socialist dealings with the Congress. In the context of international revolution, in 1920, Vladimir Lenin and M.N. Roy debated the nature of nationalist struggles, an exchange that strongly determined communist views about anti-imperialism. Lenin argued that communist parties in colonies were obliged to render assistance to “the bourgeois-democratic liberation movement,” thereby weakening the metropolitan capitalism that depended on colonial products and markets.12 Roy opposed collaboration with bourgeois nationalism, insisting that the bourgeoisie would betray the proletarian revolution in favor of establishing a bourgeois democratic state. Roy proposed extending support to “the revolutionary movements of liberation,” a nuanced qualification emphasizing that only class-conscious movements pursuing the broad class interests of the masses qualified for communist support.13 Roy theorized that nationalist movements contained two distinct streams: a “bourgeois-democratic nationalist movement, with a program of political independence under the bourgeois order” and “the mass action of the poor and ignorant peasants and workers for their liberation from all sorts of exploitation.” Roy explained that The real strength of the liberation movements in the colonies is no longer confined to the narrow circle of bourgeois democratic nationalists. In most of the colonies there already existed organized revolutionary parties which strive to be in close connections with the working masses…. The Communist parties of the different imperialistic countries must work in conjunction with these proletarian parties of the colonies….

16  Foundations of the united front He suggested that communists should work to minimize the domination of the masses by the bourgeoisie by forming communist parties to organize the masses according to class interests. Anti-imperialism, he maintained, should not equal an endorsement of bourgeois nationalist demands. Instead, “if from the outset the leadership is in the hands of a communist vanguard, the revolutionary masses will not be led astray.”14 Two years later, Roy outlined theories that eventually permeated united front ideology. In his assessment of the Congress, he highlighted the potential of united front tactics. He maintained that the Congress “must either be the party of the landlords or of the propertied upper and middle classes or of the exploited workers and peasants.”15 Because the Congress definitively failed to identify with any of these three classes, Roy proposed that the elements favoring mass action should form an “Opposition Bloc, which will eventually grow into the revolutionary party of the people destined to be the leader of the final struggle.” He suggested that this revolutionary faction should “put forth a program calculated to give fresh impetus to the waning enthusiasm of the masses and thus draw them into the political struggle.”16 Roy remarked that With all its desire to enlist the support of the masses, and with all its virtuous schemes of uplifting the downtrodden, the Congress as a body will remain a bourgeois political organ. It will never be able to lead the workers and peasants in the revolutionary struggle for national freedom.17 His assessment embodied the principal focus of the united front: Congress leaders were ill-equipped to guide the masses in their ultimate struggle against exploitation, and revolutionaries within the Congress must supplant the organization’s bourgeois leadership. His misdiagnosis, one with which united front advocates disagreed, was that the Congress was a political party; he suggested that because its leadership was bourgeois, the Congress represented exclusively bourgeois interests, assuming that a political party must represent a single class interest. Roy misunderstood the situation: The Congress was a national movement or, in the context of the united front, it was the foundation for the united front. The Communist International disagreed with Roy’s assessment, noting that India’s “struggle for national liberation is a revolutionary movement.” Communists could willingly cooperate with nationalism “in so far as they struggle against imperialism in some way or other.”18 Roy clung to his theory, explaining that his envisioned opposition bloc should be a “legal mass party embracing all truly revolutionary elements,” that it should not be affiliated with international communism, but instead should be directed by communists and socialists who genuinely represented mass interests.19 He recommended that this revolutionary wing within the Congress “endeavor to push the middle class nationalists forward in the struggle” with “fearless criticism, vigorous agitation and constant

Foundations of the united front  17 propaganda.” He further stated that this group should work to cooperate with “every social element that is objectively antagonistic to the imperialist domination.”20 Roy neatly sidestepped the ban against the Communist Party of India (CPI), providing an avenue for Indian communists to work with and within Indian nationalism while retaining their independent initiative and radicalizing the movement. From within, communists could influence the direction of the parent organization. Circumventing the Indian government’s ban on the CPI was the paramount consideration for any involvement in Indian anti-imperialism. The predicament was that for the CPI to be legalized, it had to deny that it worked to overthrow British rule in India. Roy maintained that the legal party of the masses should effectively serve as a front for the illegal CPI. In this manner, communists would serve as the vanguard of the revolution within legal workers’ and peasants’ parties.21 These political combinations might constitute “an important route through which communists are finding their way to the masses.”22 Roy’s ideas about the united front—although not deliberately expressed as such—began circulating within international communism. In 1928, a British communist publication observed that the “nationalist Left wing, with its slogans of independence, social equality and socialism, has evolved into an instrument, in the hands of the bourgeoisie, for the penetration and vicarious leadership of the broad working masses.” British communists, however, challenged Roy’s theory that the Workers and Peasants Party served as an appropriate front for communist activity, insisting that this organization “cannot develop into a party of mass national-revolutionary struggle unless it emancipates itself entirely from the influence of bourgeois politicians.” It needed to break from bourgeois nationalism, lest it be subsumed by it; its petty bourgeois leadership would be dominated by the national bourgeoisie and would merely become a tool of that stronger class. Moreover, it could never be a substitute for the CPI; supporting the petty bourgeoisie actually contravened the nature of communist revolutionary activity.23 Communists at this moment consistently sought to maintain their distance from the national movement and its bourgeois leadership. The Sixth Congress of the Communist International ruled against Roy’s theories, supposedly a setback for the notion of a united front. The report presented to the Communist International’s executive committee ruled that India’s bourgeoisie was reformist in its outlook, a viewpoint inherently hostile to the proletariat. As such, Indian nationalism could not be considered revolutionary and was simply a national movement, not a social revolution. The report also dismissed Roy’s proposals about forming workers’ and peasants’ parties, observing that such organizations would easily “transform themselves into petty-bourgeois parties,” thereby mitigating all contact with the masses they allegedly represented. It clearly announced that the Communist International supported a communist alliance with the peasantry, “but we will not have anything to do with fusion

18  Foundations of the united front of various classes.”24 Instead, communists were instructed to work among the peasantry and proletariat exclusively independent of the Congress; theoretically, in such a manner, the masses would be radicalized despite the reluctance and obstruction of bourgeois nationalist leaders. Although, practically speaking, the Comintern’s 1928 decision precluded the possibility of Left unity, in principle, it outlined the foundations for such collaboration. Unsuccessfully attempting to defend Roy’s line, Saumyendranath Tagore denied that the tactic implied homogeneity under petty bourgeois leadership: The petty bourgeois elements in the country who have been proletarianized are sometimes more proletarian than the proletariat themselves. The petty bourgeois intelligentsia, the urban petty bourgeoisie, have to play a role in the revolutionary movement in the colonies…. [The] Communist Party of India should utilize the revolutionary energies of the petty bourgeoisie. I think it is clear that this anti-imperialist front can only take the organizational form of a Workers’ and Peasants’ Party composed of the urban intelligentsia and the petty bourgeois elements, under the leadership of the proletariat.25 According to the thesis framed by the Sixth Congress, India’s bourgeoisie exhibited “a special vacillating compromising tendency which may be designated as national reformism.”26 India’s nationalist leaders were no longer revolutionary and consequently had to be correctly considered enemies of the country’s social revolution. Consequently, the Comintern instructed India’s communists to “demarcate themselves in the most clear-cut fashion, both politically and organizationally, from all the petty-bourgeois groups and parties,” relying only on temporary associations of an informal nature. Communists would criticize the “half-heartedness and vacillation of the petty-­bourgeois groups,” especially the Congress’s leftist elements.27 In practice, then, communist tactics were dramatically revised; they would operate independently, building up their own illegal organization. In reality, from 1920, communists consistently were instructed to operate independently and to avoid any fusion of classes. More importantly, although the Comintern deliberately isolated communists from the broader national movement, paradoxically, the decisions of the Sixth Congress set the tone for the concept of the united front. In so far as the needs of the revolutionary struggle demand it, a temporary co-operation is permissible, and in certain circumstances even a temporary union between the Communist Party and the national-­ revolutionary movement…. In every such co-operation, however, it is essential to take the most careful precautions in order that this co-­ operation does not degenerate into a fusion of the Communist movement with the bourgeois-revolutionary movement.28

Foundations of the united front  19 Once this task was accomplished, communists needed only one small step to undertake the consolidation of all Left elements under communist leadership—­essentially the communist raison d’être for the united front. Once committed to the concept of the united front, communists resolved to support the CSP as an anti-imperialist faction within the Congress. Within the CSP, communists intended to ensure that Indian socialism “develops on proper lines and does not meet with premature death or stagnation.” Concurrently, communists prepared to organize the country’s anti-­i mperialist elements external to the Congress and incorporate these organizations into the “left wing revolt within the Congress.” They suspected that specific advances toward a united front might be gained by emphasizing economic issues and specific political causes, such as government repression, the suppression of civil liberties and opposition to the Government of India Act. For communists, united front work entailed holding joint meetings, demonstrations, strikes “and all other forms of joint actions.” The purpose of such collaboration was to win the confidence of the masses.29 Indian communists maintained that the Communist International erred by suppressing democracy and freedom of discussion.30 This observation implied that orthodoxy suppressed left unity and Marxist homogeneity. Indian communists also deviated from the Communist International for its sectarian attempts to uniformly apply tactics, regardless of local context: National conditions and problems must be studied and policies and tactics suitable to those conditions must be recommended. Mechanical uniformity of policies is not possible and will obstruct the growth of the movement. Nevertheless, communists also maintained that forming a united front with the CSP would be useful to the anti-imperialist cause, but they adhered to the Communist International’s emphasis that “United front activity should not be allowed to usurp and obscure party activity.” CPI operations were to continue parallel to united front activities, and party work had to remain exclusively independent from nationalist control.31

United front in a socialist context Socialism in 1934 was not a novel ideology in India. Jawaharlal Nehru witnessed a “vague and confused socialism” that was “already part of the atmosphere of India” when he returned from Europe in December 1927. He noted that “even earlier than that there were many individual socialists.” In his opinion, most of these early socialists “thought along utopian lines,” but nevertheless, more and more nationalists were becoming influenced by Marxism.32 He observed that “a handful of Communists” operated in Indian cities, that the labor movement was influenced by socialism and that “communistic and socialistic ideas had spread among the intelligentsia.”33

20  Foundations of the united front Nehru opined that early communist assessments of India “turned out to be remarkably correct,” but he claimed that the weakness of communism was that “as soon as they leave their general principles and enter into details, they go hopelessly astray.”34 Nehru also celebrated the Soviet Union’s significant efforts to construct a world order based on “peace and co-operation and real freedom for the masses.” The Soviet example provided him with “a bright and heartening phenomenon in a dark and dismal world,” and he proclaimed the “soundness of the theory of communism” and praised the Soviets for their “compete break with the existing order.”35 Masani supported these observations, maintaining that communist ideas were more influential than the CSP and that “Moscow has from the very beginning attracted as well as repelled, both at the same time, the same set of people.” He suggested that many nationalists were inspired by the Soviet Union.36 Narayan framed the infatuation with the Soviet Union in idealistic terms: “Russia is boldly experimenting today with ideas and theories which seemed to those who had not accepted them to be made up more of phantasy than of practical propositions.”37 According to Nehru, this growing awareness of socialism and communism constituted an ideological evolution in India. He detected “a new spirit of enquiry, a questioning, and a challenge to existing institutions.” Although for Nehru, the “general direction of the mental wind was obvious,” nationalism dominated Indian political thought and “clear and definite ideology was lacking.” Nehru anticipated that bourgeois nationalism would sustain its preeminence until “some measure of political freedom was attained.”38 The united front sought to coordinate the country’s disparate Marxist ideologies. It expressed an ideal of Left unity. The political awakening of the masses during Gandhi’s Civil Disobedience campaigns drastically altered the political landscape and heralded the radicalization of the national movement. Socialists and communists agreed that Gandhian strategies of compromise with imperialism had run their course and that freedom could only be secured through direct action. Ultimately, direct action required mass mobilization on an unprecedented scale by a radical leadership offering an alternative to liberal, bourgeois or Gandhian ideals. The alternate plan sought to mobilize the masses according to their day-to-day struggles, directly linking immediate economic concerns of poverty and unemployment to the national struggle. The would-be alternative leadership could only be a product of the broadest possible anti-imperialist front, operating according to a coherent radical platform. The founding of the Congress Socialist Party helped define the socialist attitude toward the united front, even before the concept was formally expressed in a specifically Indian context. At Patna on 17 May 1934, the inaugural Congress Socialist conference resolved to establish an all-India socialist organization within the Congress. It intended to unify disconnected socialist groups and individuals throughout India into a single All-India Congress Socialist Party, accompanied by formal provincial branches.39 Additionally, during

Foundations of the united front  21 this founding session, Narendra Deva touched on some of the fundamental principles of what became the united front. In his presidential address, Deva insisted that the CSP must associate with the Congress because the latter “symbolizes” the “great national movement” and “can easily be the greatest revolutionary force in the country.” Deva claimed that achieving the ultimate goal of socialism required flexibility, especially in regard to a willingness to cooperate with the “bourgeois democratic revolution” represented by the Congress. According to Deva, a socialist will never refuse to join fight for independence carried on by the lower-­ middle class if he can thereby overthrow foreign domination. He will, no doubt, if the circumstances are favourable, try to establish a Socialist State but if the objective situation is not ripe for such an event, he will not for that reason frustrate the cause of freedom by refusing to fight the alien power in collaboration with other classes. Continuing, Deva maintained that “he will be a short-sighted and a very narrow socialist who will refuse to take part in a national struggle simply on the ground that the struggle is being principally conducted by the petty bourgeois elements of society.”40 Deva also foreshadowed a CSP motive for allying with the CPI: drawing the working class movement into the national struggle. He complained that “working-class struggles have no organic connection with our movement.” He predicted that “only when the two struggles have synchronized” would the national movement attain “its highest water-mark.”41 Even more significantly, Deva introduced terminology that imbued the entire process of a united front. Discussing socialism in India, Deva compartmentalized the socialist movement into a small group of Congress intelligentsia, workers and peasants outside the Congress. The latter groups, he stated, constituted “the real revolutionary elements of an anti-­imperialist struggle.” They were the latent revolutionaries who might be harnessed to score successes for socialism. They might be mobilized to achieve “a revolutionary transformation of the existing social order.”42 For Deva, the national struggle equaled social transformation. The task of the “revolutionary intelligentsia” was to organize the masses “for disciplined action.”43 From their party’s founding, Congress socialists were oriented toward the concept of the united front. Their party hypothetically unified all Congressmen of a Marxist bent and intended to draw in all those ideological allies remaining outside the Congress. More importantly, they intended to transform the Congress into a real anti-imperialist movement, alleging that the bourgeois–democratic phase was rapidly reaching its climax and predicting that socialism would supplant extant Congress viewpoints and programs. From the outset, most socialists were prepared to cooperate with communists; all that was necessary was for communists to renounce their secular, separatist and dogmatic critiques of Congress socialism.

22  Foundations of the united front Until this moment, communists operated independent of the Congress and groups associated with it. Historically, Indian communists focused their efforts on dominating trade unions for achieving political aims and in the early days, communists pursued a program expressed by the slogan, “First disturb the masses’ placid contentment and then inculcate the principles of Communism.”44 In practice, communist policies prevented the CPI from linking its activities to the country’s growing national consciousness: in the organized resistance movement against British imperialism, “the communists were nowhere to be found,” “held aloof from this anti-imperialist struggle,” and they “did everything they could to weaken and sabotage it.”45 When the CSP was founded, the communists dubbed it a “social fascist party” due to its continued affiliation with the bourgeois Congress.46 Communists equally adopted a hostile attitude toward the Congress’s leftist leaders. The communist party’s 1930 Platform of Action noted that so-called Left Congress leaders, especially Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose, constituted “the most harmful and dangerous obstacle to victory of the Indian revolution.” The CPI resolved to expose the efforts of leftist Congressmen to “bamboozle the mass of workers” and to wage a relentless “war” against “the ‘left’ national reformists,” thereby isolating them from the country’s workers and peasants. The Plan of Action predicted that with national leadership thus circumvented, the masses might be mobilized under the banner of communism, which could then lead the country to “the anti-imperialist agrarian revolution in India.”47 Despite their overt hostility, these statements amounted to a rhetorical exercise, designed to warn the masses to avoid the false claims of the proto-Marxist petty bourgeoisie. In response to lingering communist hostility, the CSP national executive ruled that no communist would be admitted to the CSP.48 Concurrently, however, CSP leaders, especially Narayan, weighed the benefits that might accrue from collaboration with the CPI while some speculated about the possibility of absorbing the heretofore isolated CPI into the CSP.49

CSP and Congress Regardless of the CPI’s hostile response to the new CSP, in its relations with the Congress, the CSP quickly framed policies that formed the basis for the united front. In their party’s foundational statements, CSP leaders articulated an outlook that strongly echoed concerns expressed previously by Roy and the Communist International. Congress socialists worried that the country’s national leaders might succumb to the bourgeois–democratic bribes offered by British imperialism. Collectively, these statements framed an ideology that neatly aligned with communist reservations: The national bourgeoisie must not be permitted to betray the eventual social revolution. At the first All-India Congress Socialist Party (AICSP) conference in October 1934, the party passed several resolutions, which outlined united front strategy. Socialist leaders were urged to propose the party’s demands

Foundations of the united front  23 from the floor of All-India Congress Committee (AICC) meetings and annual Congress sessions according to the notion that coercing the Congress to adopt socialist programs in fact facilitated the Congress’s transformation into an anti-imperialist united front. Most significantly, the CSP declared its intention to “commence work with the object of putting its program into effect” and invited “other Parties having similar aims, within or without the Indian National Congress” to cooperate with the CSP. The conference also resolved to appoint an executive sub-committee to assess “the possibilities of joint action on specific issues with the different labour and radical groups in the country.”50 Having declared its willingness to collaborate with other radical forces in unifying the country’s anti-imperialist elements, the CSP then framed precise policies with which its leaders sought to influence the Congress’s ideological orientation. It clarified that the term, “complete independence” should mean a transfer of power “to the producing masses” and that it should entail “refusal to compromise at any stage with British Imperialism.” The AICSP declared its opposition to India’s participation in any future war to protect British imperialism. It proclaimed that the Princely States must be abolished before complete independence could have any true meaning. It outlined socialist principles for a free India, which were designed to “end the exploitation of the masses” and secure “real economic freedom.” The conference explained the CSP version of a constituent assembly, declaring that this body could not be formed by a compromise with British imperialism.51 Overall, the AICSP conference emphasized unrelenting anti-­ imperialism and a build-up to direct action that would seize power from imperialism. It also sought to combat policies or tendencies that distracted or prevented the nation from achieving its goal. Since the Congress as a whole was preoccupied with political questions, as a constituency of the Congress, the AICSP conference at Bombay also considered the country’s immediate political issues. In October 1934, the cancellation of Civil Disobedience and the future direction of the Congress preoccupied public discussion. The pending Government of India Act and the Congress’s response to it remained a central debating point. The AICSP conference unabashedly condemned constitutionalism. It expressed its concern at “the concerted attempt of the right wing to take back the Congress to the discredited path of constitutional agitation,” thereby transforming it “into an instrument of the Indian upper classes in their bargains with British Imperialism.” Socialists resolved “to resist these attempts and to rescue the Congress from the hands of the right wing” and promised to expose “the reactionary aims, policies and programmes of the right wing.” The conference demanded that the AICC resolution authorizing the formation of the Congress Parliamentary Board and legitimizing constitutionalism should be rescinded and the Congress should instead resolve to boycott elections to legislative assemblies. Failing this course of action, the CSP insisted that “parliamentary activities conducted by the Congress shall be based on

24  Foundations of the united front the theory of revolutionary use of legislatures.” A revolutionary use of legislatures entailed entering legislatures as representatives of the masses, using elections as a means of establishing lasting linkages with the masses and passing laws that directly and immediately benefited the masses. Under no circumstances would Congressmen accept ministerial offices under a constitution imposed on India from London.52 Additionally, the conference enumerated specific demands that could facilitate the organization of peasants and workers. This common program included: ensuring basic civil liberties of free speech and press as well as the right to assemble; repealing “anti-national and anti-labour laws”; releasing all political prisoners and removing all restrictions on political activity; restoring lands seized as reprisals for participation in national liberation campaigns; providing free and compulsory education; drastically reducing military expenditures; introducing graduated income taxes and death duties; liquidating “debts owed by peasants and workers”; abolishing exploitative and abusive labor conditions; guaranteeing workers the right to form unions, strike and picket for their demands and compelling employers to recognize the status and legality of unions; promising minimum wages and hourly workweeks and guaranteeing healthy and safe working and living conditions; providing unemployment, sickness, accident and old-age insurance; guaranteeing vacation time and maternity leave; prohibiting employment of children in hazardous occupations; eliminating landlordism; abolishing “all feudal and semi-feudal levies on the peasantry”; encouraging cooperative farming techniques; fostering state-sponsored scientific agricultural methods; and drastically reducing rent and land revenue. This resolution provided a programmatic framework for the euphemistic phrase, mobilizing the peasants and workers on the basis of their daily struggles. Although still not overly specific, such scaffolding began to structure the ways in which radicals might work for “the creation of a powerful mass movement for the achievement of Independence.”53 In July 1935, Sampurnanand prepared and circulated a thesis, reminding socialists that their party “claims to be the vanguard of the Independence movement.” He warned his audience that they should avoid becoming “involved in little affairs” because the party’s resources were limited and must be utilized “as effectively as possible.” According to Sampurnanand, propaganda should target the Congress rank and file to better influence the direction of the national movement. Socialists should deliberately avoid activities “which may antagonize the genuinely nationalist elements and drive them to join hands with the compromise-seeking right wing.” Instead, socialists should recruit members from among the Congress’s most militant sections, thereby dividing the Congress between active and compromising elements rather than along strictly ideological lines. Sampurnanand concluded that socialism itself could be inaugurated through “patient propaganda and contact.”54

Foundations of the united front  25

Building a framework for unity According to the standard historical narrative, the transition toward a united front began in the summer of 1935. Socialists and British communists began to put pressure on Indian communists to alter the latter’s attitudes about Indian nationalism. Masani related that the nature of the original CSP facilitated communist subversion of the party’s membership. He rationalized that communist influence transcended the organizational scope of the CPI. He suggested that many Indian nationalists “claimed to be some sort of communists without belonging to the Communist Party” and equally that many “admired Soviet Russia without wanting to be bound to her for anything more than inspiration.” Masani explained that due to this amorphous inspiration, CSP leaders resolved to generate ideological homogeneity among the country’s leftist groups, but emphasized that “Indian socialism must work out its own salvation, face and overcome its own difficulties and must not take dictates from outside.” Masani claimed that Congress socialists “anticipated the Communist International’s decisions” about the united front and “forced the communists to negotiate co-operation for limited tasks.” For their part, Indian communists were compelled to assess the consequences of their own sectarian policies and deliberately move to terminate their isolation from the masses they claimed to represent.55 The “limited tasks” Masani described were cooperation in trade union activities. In 1934, the CSP and CPI agreed to pursue joint action by the CSP, the Congress-influenced All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), the non-communist National Trades Union Federation and the communist-­dominated Red Trade Union. Nehru related that the trade union movement at that juncture was divided into two camps: One faction, the non-­communists, remained suspicious of “the intrusion of politics in industrial matters” and focused on “the gradual betterment of workers’ conditions,” and the second group, influenced by socialism and communism, “was more militant, believed in political action, and openly proclaimed its revolutionary outlook.”56 The agreement emphasized that the two parties mutually tolerated “the right of genuine and honest criticism of the political principles and policies” of the other partner and deliberately stated that “there shall be no appeal for support to either party or to enroll members or to draw any exclusive advantage to either party.”57 More significantly, this trade union agreement outlined the foundations for the broader united front. The parties agreed to cooperate with respect to specific issues, especially the mounting international crisis, the threat of world war and constitutional reforms for India. They also consented to holding joint demonstrations, observing anniversaries, staging public meetings and issuing public statements. All work was expected to be conducted in a spirit of goodwill, without recrimination, denunciation, “abuse” or “imputations on the motives or honesty of either party.”58

26  Foundations of the united front The newfound spirit of cooperation began to consolidate the trade union movement. The partners successfully orchestrated strikes in Calcutta, Ahmedabad and Kanpur, and they led one involving workers of the Bengal–­ Nagpur Railway. In April 1935, the Red Trade Union Congress rejoined the AITUC, and AITUC leaders began to contemplate further collaborative efforts with the National Trade Union Federation.59 The parties agreed to discuss details about further joint action, including collaborative meetings and demonstrations.60 Reflecting on these tentative joint activities in June 1935, Narendra Deva discussed the necessity for broad Left unity. He insisted that radical elements should logically cooperate with the Congress for two reasons: because India’s peasants needed political education and because the Congress afforded the foundations for a meaningful united front. Deva maintained that India’s peasants must effectively be forged into an instrument of the anti-­i mperialist campaign by their class organizations. He also observed that the Congress was “the only broad platform of anti-imperialist struggle in India” and was equally “the broad arena of mass struggle where workers and peasants can receive political education.”61 Deva’s descriptions of the Congress and the national struggle defined it as a campaign for national liberation, not a bourgeois–democratic movement. Deva also examined the nationally disruptive activities of the CPI. He complained about the communists’ “policy of isolation” and their “suicidal policy,” which kept them aloof from the workers’ struggle and the national liberation movement. He suggested that the CPI’s anti-national policies “played a destructive role” through strict sectarianism, which divided unified workers into communist and non-communist camps. He claimed that the policy of isolation debilitated the world revolution, with communists becoming cut off from the masses and ideologically ossifying. As a solution, Deva recommended that both socialists and communists maintain and increase contact with the masses they claimed to represent: “A party that wants to establish its hegemony over the national movement must send its members to all the classes; and it is only in this way that its political influence can grow.” He maintained that socialists “must be in the forefront of every anti-­imperialist action and every battle that is waged in the interests of the masses.”62 CSP leaders were considering the possibilities of Left unity. The party began to rally radical elements of Indian nationalism. The Congress of the Communist International was scheduled to meet in August 1935 to reconsider the relevance of communism to anti-colonialism. Masani explained that anti-war sentiment, the growth in class consciousness, the leftward tilt of Indian nationalism and the growth of the Soviet Union as a world power “opened up the perspective of uniting all democratic and peace-­loving forces against the war instigators—the Fascists.”63 The situation was “decidedly conducive to the formation of a united front.”64 Although the international situation indeed may have spurred the Communist International to reevaluate communist strategy, the emergence

Foundations of the united front  27 of Congress socialism helped communists overcome reservations about bourgeois domination of the Congress. As a developing national liberation movement, the Congress might progress more deliberately toward an all-encompassing campaign that transcended class outlook by radicalizing its leadership. One month prior to the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, an article appeared, insisting that communists must win the masses away from national reformist leadership. To achieve this goal, the article recommended that communists join local branches of national movements, provided a common minimum program might be formulated.65 To discuss the feasibility of CSP cooperation with the CPI, M.R. Masani attended the Communist International session, where he broached the subject with R. Palme Dutt and Ben Bradley. The trio “discussed the possibilities of various forms of cooperation” between the Communist International and the CSP. According to Masani, the CSP insisted on minimum requirements for an accommodation with international communism. The essential CSP demand was that Moscow must withdraw “its support to the Communist Party of India which had shown itself to be anti-nationalist and miserably inept.” The two communists deemed this demand “unrealistic,” with Dutt maintaining that “we must have our own party in India.” Nevertheless, Masani recalled that the negotiators departed “with assurances of mutual regard and an agreement to cooperate to the maximum extent possible.”66 At the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, delegates discussed the possibility of a popular front, linking communists with social democrats in Europe and nationalist movements in colonies. The delegates resolved to pursue a new line through which communists in colonial countries were instructed to work toward creating an anti-imperialist united front. In principle, international communism would forge alliances with socialists, liberals—indeed, with all ideological outlooks antagonistic to fascism. It was only recently that the All-India Communist Party, which has already taken shape, began to rid itself of its sectarian errors and made the first step towards the creation of an anti-imperialist united front. Nevertheless, our young Indian comrades … showed a great lack of understanding of the united front tactics. This may be borne our even by the fact that our Indian comrades in attempting to establish a united anti-­i mperialist front with the National Congress in December of last year put before the latter such demands as ‘the establishment of an Indian Workers’ and Peasants’ Soviet Republic’, ‘confiscation of all lands that belong to the zamindars without compensation’, ‘a general strike as the only effective programme of action’, etc. These tactics only illustrated “how not to carry on the tactics of the anti-­i mperialist United Front.” The new line suggested that although communists might have attempted to fulfill the united front objective in

28  Foundations of the united front principle, they failed to accomplish it in practice because they articulated narrowly communist slogans, which aborted the possibility of cooperation with non-­communists. It recommended that Indian communists should deliberately foster closer collaboration with the Indian National Congress while maintaining a strict political and organizational independence from it. In this manner, communists might collaborate with their natural anti-­i mperialist allies and intensify the struggle for liberation to better consolidate all of the country’s anti-imperialist elements.67 Dutt and Bradley followed up these decisions by issuing a thesis to the CPI titled “The Anti-Imperialist People’s Front in India.” They suggested that now that Civil Disobedience was terminated, the entire national leadership might be radicalized by focusing on a broad anti-imperialist front: Every Indian patriot will recognize that the first need for the powerful advance of the Indian national struggle, the key need of the present situation is the unity of all the anti-imperialist forces in the common struggle…. It is evident that all elements, including from among the Liberals, who are prepared to break with the co-operation with imperialism and accept the programme of the national struggle, are welcome to the common front. Significantly, this united front deviated from abstract notions of national unity, which hypothetically included all classes and the entire population. Instead, only the revolutionary and progressive elements would be forged into the united front because these constituencies were, at their root, the irreconcilable class enemies of imperialism. The united front would challenge India’s ever-present reactionary elements and their ongoing collaboration with imperialism.68 In their thesis, Dutt and Bradley advised their Indian comrades to consolidate all Left elements in India to realize the united front. For obvious ideological reasons, Indian communists were told to concentrate their efforts on India’s leftist parties and organizations.69 Masani ascribed nefarious motives to this decision, noting that United Front tactics were not however in the spirit of cooperation in a joint anti-imperialist struggle but were calculated to isolate the national leadership from the rank and file and capture the larger organization for Communist Party ends. According to Masani, the “most important channel” for infiltration into the Congress was the CSP. Masani cited Dutt’s statement about consolidating leftist parties to prove his point, adding that “It is of the greatest importance that every effort should be made to clarify questions of programme and tactics in the Congress Socialist Party.”70 Masani apparently assumed that where Dutt and Bradley wrote “clarify,” they meant clarify according to narrow communist terminology and goals.

Foundations of the united front  29 Communists embraced the ideas expressed by Dutt and Bradley. Indian communists labeled the Congress a national movement dominated by bourgeois elements rather than a bourgeois political party. They observed that the Congress’s rank and file was “objectively revolutionary” and could be “won over to a revolutionary anti-imperialist programme of action.” They declared their intention to “transform it into an effective instrument of the Indian National revolution.” Now, communists were willing to support Congress Socialists as “an anti-imperialist block within the Congress” and as a petty bourgeois revolt against bourgeois domination of the national movement. Communists were obliged to ensure that such radicalization within the Congress proceeded “on proper lines.”71 Communist activities amounted to work within and external to the Congress. The party’s plan of action encouraged communists to avoid labeling all Congress leaders as counter-revolutionary, noting that a Congressman “who is nearer and progressive must be supported as against one who is more reactionary and therefore more distant.” Communists were also urged to organize petty bourgeois groups outside the Congress that might complement radicalism within the Congress and enhance the general revolt of the country’s anti-imperialist elements against bourgeois reformism. The Platform of Unity was to assume the “fundamental basis of trade union work.” Day-to-day work within unions would, of course, be continued. Communists would penetrate non-communist unions and would organize the unorganized workers. They would form peasant unions. More generally, communists were instructed to “have as many points of contact with the oppressed masses as possible,” thereby containing the spread of reformism.72 Nevertheless, the communist scheme retained an element of exclusivity and suspicion. Communists were reminded that work within the Congress and the building of the united front “must not lead to the abandonment of all independent political activities.” Indeed, communists were obliged to emphasize communist influence and “prominence on every conceivable occasion by word and deed.” Communists were encouraged to engage in constructive criticism of the CSP, “showing the inadequacy and limitations” of the socialist program and especially attacking the “vacillations and shortcomings” of the CSP, “even at the risk of incurring its displeasure.” More deliberately, communists were warned that united front activities “should not be allowed to usurp and obstruct” communist work.73 Part of the difficulty with Masani’s interpretation is that he drastically exaggerated the CPI’s reliance on Moscow. Masani suggested that the Communist International only pursued a united front strategy for Russian interests, an opportunistic motive stemming from the isolation and destruction of communists in Hitler’s Germany. The Soviets sought allies to protect against Nazi and Japanese aggression: “Soviet Russia decided to enter the League of Nations and Litvinov became the great champion of Collective Security.”74 His view, however, denied the possibility that Indian communists might recognize the value of aggravating class conflict in India to advance the cause of international socialism.

30  Foundations of the united front In fact, after 1935, Indian communists very deliberately distanced themselves from impressions that they were Comintern lackeys. The “Tasks of the Movement” policy statement declared that the Comintern “refuses to see that conditions differ in different countries” and insisted that a monolithic strategy only obstructed and crippled the possibilities of the global working class struggle. More immediately, Indian communists maintained that the Comintern’s insistence on non-cooperation with the Congress “is not correct” and “has led to the isolation of the communists and has retarded the growth and development of the national movement on revolutionary lines.” Communists were encouraged not “to follow blindly all the instructions received” from the Comintern, thereby avoiding the inevitable “disruption of the movement.”75 Regardless of their motives, communists recognized the feasibility of CSP efforts beyond the vague abstractions of the theoretical united front. More tangibly, Congress socialists deliberately sought to mobilize the masses according to immediate economic demands. Socialists recognized that organization of India’s peasants was the key to success. They concluded that the organization of Peasant Unions all over the country on the basis of class struggle in alliance with and under the ideological leadership of the class-conscious proletariat is a main task of the Congress Socialist Party. The CSP, then, intended to forge a “solid united front of the workers and peasants,” thereby toppling “the present reactionary leadership of the Congress” and securing “the emancipation of the toiling masses from Imperialism and indigenous economic exploitation.”76 The twofold objective of the united front—later expressly stated by the Meerut Thesis—was to mobilize the country’s anti-imperialist forces and to organize the masses into class-based organizations, thereby overthrowing both the Congress’s bourgeois leadership and British imperialism. *** The notion of the united front against imperialism spread lethargically. According to the prevalent version of events, despite instructions from Moscow and regardless of the intervention of Dutt and Bradley, Indian communists only reluctantly adopted the new strategy.77 Masani observed that the appeal by Dutt and Bradley “at last knocked some sense into the minds of the Indian Communist Party.”78 According to Masani, until January 1936, communists sustained “bitterest hostility,” despite “ceaseless attempts at cooperation and unity” by CSP leaders.79 Nevertheless, Narayan persistently and enthusiastically worked for socialist unity, which allegedly paved the way for communist infiltration and disintegration of the CSP.80 Contrary to such dominant interpretations, communists had already accepted the concept of a united front with socialists. The delay was largely attributable to mutual suspicion of the opposite party members’ motives.

Foundations of the united front  31 In January 1936, two communist delegates attended the CSP annual conference held at Meerut. The CSP delegates considered and authorized a party thesis that concisely considered India’s political situation and that discussed the imperative for the united front. The document claimed that the country’s socialists were entirely disconnected from the Congress and lacked any influence on the direction of Indian nationalism. This fragmentation at the moment of CSP formation meant that India’s socialists were not seamlessly absorbed into the party. “Given the adoption of correct and sensible tactics,” the thesis predicted, Left consolidation was fully feasible over time. Radical coalescence would occur if the CSP and indeed, all Marxist elements, collaboratively worked to “develop the national movement into a real anti-imperialist movement.”81 To achieve this goal, Narayan recommended admitting communists into the CSP.82 Left unity based on the principle of the united front was flawed because each radical faction defined the term differently and appropriated it for its own objectives. The newly forged CSP–CPI alliance was weakened by allegations that communists sought to disrupt the CSP and maneuvered to capture local CSP committees. Apparently, despite all pronouncements about Left unity, communists continued to pursue their sectarian ways and their fractional tactics. More importantly, as with practically all other points of collaboration, the notion of the united front was disintegrated by competing orthodox viewpoints. Without basic points of cooperation, Left unity was irrelevant.

Notes 1 Lecture on “Future of the National Movement in India,” 26 October 1937, in Bimal Prasad (ed.), Selected Works of Jayaprakash Narayan, vol. 2, (New Delhi: Manohar Publishers & Distributors, 2001), 175. Hereafter cited as JPSW. 2 Speech at Madras, 23 November 1937, JPSW, vol. 2, 178. 3 “Britain Won’t Quit,” National Herald, (15 & 17 January 1947), ASAND, 70. 4 Madhu Limaye and NC Mehrotra, The Age of Hope: Phases of the Socialist Movement, (Delhi: Atma Ram, 1986), 124–25. 5 Once again, scholars repeat Masani’s assessment of the situation. Masani claimed that communists reversed the “stiff, sectarian policy adopted in 1928” for “the comprehensive change” to “the ‘United Front’ strategy.” He also described “the change of tactics” and “new tactics and slogans” for the united front. Overstreet and Windmiller argue that CPI efforts to radicalize the Congress “meant an alliance (that is, a united front from above) with the Congress Socialist Party, and penetration (that is, united front from below) of the Indian National Congress as a whole.” Lakhanpal briefly mentions that communists were “ordered” by the Comintern “to align themselves with the Congress” and relates that socialist activities sought to construct “a powerful national front,” inspired by socialism. N.E. Balaram observes three policy shifts: collaboration, “the left sectarian misadventure” and the “new political line” of the united front. Chowdhuri discusses shifts in Soviet policy between “ultra-Left policy” and the united front and states that communists employed “the tactics of a united front.” Padhy and Panigrahy assert that the initial communist line meant “there was no direct contact between the Congress workers and the Congress,” but the Comintern revised this strategy in favor of “the United Front line.” Sarkar refers to a “sharp ‘Left’ turn” in 1928,

32  Foundations of the united front followed by communists as “warm advocates of a United Front strategy” after the Comintern’s 1935 decision. Masani, Bliss Was It, 120; Masani, Communist Party, 56–58; Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 161. Lakhanpal, Congress Socialist Party, 67; N.E. Balaram, A Short History of the Communist Party of India, (Trivandrum: Prabhath Book House, 1967), 27–30. Chowdhuri, Leftism in India, 92–94; Padhy and Panigrahy, Socialist Movement, 79; Sarkar, Modern India, 273–74, 339. 6 C. Achyutha Menon, “Introduction” to Balaram, Short History, i. 7 Padhy and Panigrahy observe that communists decided that “since the C.S.P. had accepted Marxism it would be possible to work with it.” Lakhanpal cites a resolution passed by the AICSP conference in October 1934 that stated that the CSP “desires to act in co-operation with other parties having similar aims, within or without the Congress.” Lakhanpal also refers to a moment when “the Communist High Command approached the C.S.P. High Command for mutual consultation and joint action.” Padhy and Panigrahy, Socialist Movement, 79. Lakhanpal, Congress Socialist Party, 62, 79. 8 Referring to what he perceived as the demise of the Congress as a national political force, Roy wrote, “A political party is of no importance without a program.” Continuing, Roy claimed that if the Congress “is to be a political party,” it had to openly identify itself with a specific social class. “Its program,” he noted, “will show which class it represents.” Advance Guard (1 November 1922). 9 Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 155–56. M.R. Masani, Girja Shankar and N.E. Balaram concur: they claim that the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International instructed the CPI to infiltrate the CSP and the Congress. Masani, Communist Party, 56–59; Shankar, Socialist Trends, 139–141; Balaram, Short History, 34–35. 10 Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 17. 11 Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 10–11, 13. 12 The Second Congress of the Communist International, Proceedings, (Moscow: Communist International, 1920), 478. Hereafter cited as SCCI. 13 SCCI, 574. 14 SCCI, 578. 15 Advance Guard, (1 November 1922). Emphasis is original. 16 Advance Guard, (1 December 1922). 17 “Ourselves,” Vanguard of Indian Independence, (15 February 1923). 18 Cawnpore Case Evidence, Exhibit No. 15, p. 32 in Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 65. 19 Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 46. 20 “Ourselves,” Vanguard of Indian Independence, (15 February 1923). 21 Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 104–5. 22 Inprecor, (30 October 1928). 23 The Communist International Between the Fifth and the Sixth World Congresses, (London: Communist Party of Great Britain, 1928), 468–69, 476. 24 O.V. Kuusinen, “The Revolutionary Movement in the Colonies,” www.revolutionary democracy.org/archive/kuusinen1.htm (accessed 24 January 2015). 25 Inprecor, (30 October 1928). 26 Thesis on the Revolutionary Movement in the Colonies and Semi-Colonies, (Bombay: People’s Publishing House, 1928), 25. 27 Thesis on the Revolutionary Movement in the Colonies and Semi-Colonies, 37. 28 Thesis on the Revolutionary Movement in the Colonies and Semi-Colonies, 37. 29 “Tasks of the Movement,” AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 30 “Tasks of the Movement,” AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 31 “Tasks of the Movement,” AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 32 Jawaharlal Nehru, An Autobiography, (London: The Bodley Head, 1936), 183.

Foundations of the united front  33 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51

52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67

Nehru, Autobiography, 364. Nehru, Autobiography, 366. Nehru, Autobiography, 361–62. Masani, Communist Party, 53–54. “New Incentives,” Congress Socialist (30 December 1934). Nehru, Autobiography, 365. Proceedings and resolutions of All-India Socialist Conference, 17 May 1934 in O.P. Ralhan (ed.), Congress Socialist Party, (New Delhi: Anmol Publications, 1998), 39. Hereafter cited as CSP. Presidential address, All-India Socialist Conference, 17 May 1934, Indian Annual Register, 1934, Vol. 1, 341. Presidential address, All-India Socialist Conference, 17 May 1934, CSP, 51. Presidential address, All-India Socialist Conference, 17 May 1934, CSP, 63–64. Presidential address, All-India Socialist Conference, 17 May 1934, CSP, 48. Masani, Communist Party, 35–36. Masani, Communist Party, 42. Masani, Bliss Was It, 122. Masani related that the alienated CPI founded a “League Against Gandhi” that “did not succeed” (page 121). India and Communism in Masani, Communist Party, 43. Jayaprakash Narayan, Towards Struggle: Selected Manifestos, Speeches and Writings, edited by Yusuf Meherally, (Bombay: Padma Publications, 1946), 169. Narayan, Towards Struggle, 170. See also Shankar, Socialist Trends, 139. AICSP resolution, “United Front Against Imperialism,” 22 October 1934, Brahmanand Papers 9/1940. AICSP resolutions, “Meaning of Complete Independence,” “India and the Next War,” Congress and the Indian Princes,” “Fundamental Principles of the Future Indian State” and “The Constituent Assembly,” 22 October 1934, Brahmanand Papers 9/1940. AICSP resolution, “Reactionary Policy of C.P.B.,” 22 October 1934, Brahmanand Papers 9/1940. AICSP resolution, “Organization of Workers and Peasants,” 22 October 1934, Brahmanand Papers 9/1940. Sampurnanand’s Thesis, AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. Masani, Communist Party, 53–54. Nehru, Autobiography, 186. See also Nehru’s description of the schism in the trade union movement in Nehru, Autobiography, 199–200. United Front agreement (CSP and RTUC) [no date], Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 122/1932–39. United Front agreement (CSP and AITUC), December 1934, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 122/1932–39. Sarkar, Modern India, 339. United Front agreement (CSP and AITUC), December 1934, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 122/1932–39. Presidential address, Gujarat Socialist Conference, 22 June 1935, CSP, 102–3. Presidential address, Gujarat Socialist Conference, 22 June 1935, CSP, 104. Masani, Communist Party, 58. Chowdhuri, Leftism in India, 96. Shankar, Socialist Trends, 139–40. Masani, Bliss Was It, 82. Girja Shankar alludes to a more unreasonable CSP demand—“the CPI should dissolve itself and create a united socialist party in India having no affiliation with the C.I.” Shankar, Socialist Trends, 140. Wang Ming, The Revolutionary Movement in the Colonial Countries, (New York: Workers Library Publishers, 1935), 140 (emphasis is original). See also: Chowdhuri, Leftism in India, 93–94; Masani, Communist Party, 56–57.

34  Foundations of the united front 68 R. Palme Dutt and Benjamin Bradley, “Anti-Imperialist People’s Front in India,” Labour Monthly (1936), http://marxists.org/archive/dutt/1936/03/x01.htm (accessed 21 May 2014). 69 Shankar, Socialist Trends, 140. Masani, Bliss Was It, 121. 70 Masani, Bliss Was It, 121–22. 71 “Tasks of the Movement,” AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 72 “Tasks of the Movement,” AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 73 “Tasks of the Movement,” AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 74 Masani, Bliss Was It, 120. 75 “Tasks of Movement,” AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 76 Resolution of the Bengal Congress Socialist Conference, 21 September 1935, CSP, 125. 77 Shankar, Socialist Trends, 141; Chowdhuri, Leftism in India, 101–2. Shankar observes “wide-spread antipathy to the new line among the Communists.” Chowdhuri asserts that communists “shuddered at the idea of collaborating with” reformers in the Congress and “were inclined to ignore the advice” given by Dutt and Bradley. 78 Masani, Bliss It Was, 121. 79 Masani, Bliss It Was, 123. 80 Masani, Bliss It Was, 122. 81 Meerut Thesis, 20 January 1936, Brahamanand Papers 3/1936–47. 82 Narayan, Socialist Unity, 34.

2 United front as mass activism

In their assessment of Indian communism, Overstreet and Windmiller “decode” the “major policy alternatives” contained in communist ideology, hereby presenting a framework for understanding the united front. The duo identifies the united front as an approach whereby communist parties sought to direct the “four main classes of the community (the proletariat, peasantry, petty bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie) against foreign imperialism.” Tactically, the united front approaches enabled communism to “crush its class enemies, to paralyze wavering classes, and to gain ascendency over its class allies.”1 The united front in India amounted to a creative application of Leninist tactics. Lenin suggested that the Indian bourgeoisie might be marginalized through cooperation “in its ‘revolutionary’ mood and opposing it in its ‘reactionary’ mood.” Lenin anticipated that the bourgeoisie “would ultimately move over to an altogether counterrevolutionary position,” but, through such opportunistic arrangements, communists might neutralize the bourgeoisie or at the very least contain its vacillation. These maneuvers constituted united front tactics from above and from below. In the former, the communist party might orchestrate formal alliances with non-communists, seeking to ideologically influence these partners through the working of this agreement. In the latter, communists would appeal directly to the rank and file of non-­ communist organizations with revolutionary slogans and programs, which would attempt to undermine the authority of bourgeois leaders.2 Socialists and communists in India attempted to apply Lenin’s ideas to Indian conditions. They adapted the types of united front tactics articulated by Lenin to their notions about Left unity. India’s united front was intended to homogenize and unify the nation’s leftist elements, neutralize bourgeois nationalism and overthrow feudalism and imperialism. The united front attempted to mobilize the Indian people to secure their own political and economic emancipation, thereby severing the domination of the bourgeoisie and inaugurating a comprehensive social revolution.

Finding common ground Discussing the formation of the Congress Socialist Party (CSP), M.R. Masani considered certain differences of opinion among the party’s founders,

36  United front as mass activism specifically the incompatibility of his and Jayaprakash Narayan’s views. Masani related that he supported the formation of a radical component within the Congress, which he regarded as “a kind of anti-imperialist front for the elimination of British rule.” Contrarily, Masani depicted Narayan as a communist “for all practical purposes.” Consequently, Masani and Narayan remained “out of tune” about specific issues and admittedly “had not considered whether these two conflicting attitudes could be reconciled.” When we stumbled across the discovery of this basic disagreement, we could have agreed to disagree, dropped the effort at working together to create a new party and waited for events. Being both young and impatient, we were so keen on projecting socialism on the political map of India and thus “developing the anti-imperialist struggle” that we decided to sweep these differences under the carpet, and to go ahead without resolving this doctrinal difference. Masani concluded that this approach was “rather opportunist” and “wrong” because disagreements were “bound in the course of time to boomerang.”3 To a certain degree, Masani’s views about the CSP explain the broader situation among Indian Marxists. As Narayan observed, Left unity “was really a problem of coming together of the Communist Party and the Congress Socialist Party.”4 According to Masani, communists considered “all groups of nationalists and even democratic socialists as ‘social fascists’ with whom no cooperation was possible and whose influence among the people had to be undermined.”5 Again, Masani’s views about the communist conspiracy inform his assessment. In practice, as with the personal arrangement between Narayan and Masani, the CSP and Communist Party of India (CPI) joined forces on the basis of compatible platforms and tended to overlook differences, at least for the time being. To allege, as Masani did, that communists entered the united front seeking to undermine the CSP position robs communists of motive and denies the relevance of their ideological orientation. Simply put, communists who joined the CSP worked diligently to forge a united front. E.M.S. Namboodiripad stated that the notion of a conspiracy was simply faulty: This idea of somebody having some sinister plan to capture that organization [the CSP] is absurd. People were changing. They had their own independent thinking. People like us [communist converts] who, though much later, could simultaneously resist the CPSU [Communist Party of the Soviet Union] and the CPC [Communist Party of China], how could somebody capture us unless it was through the process of our own political experience and exchange of political views? Namboodiripad explained that the attempts to forge the united front constituted a period of “intense discussions, intense searching of the minds”

United front as mass activism  37 among all persons involved. “The result,” he observed, was “that some ideology got the upper hand, some ideology went behind.”6 Additionally, ideological confusion facilitated both the exchange of ideas and the permeation of communist ideology: socialism and communism tended to be interchangeable terms, especially once communists joined the CSP.7 For converts to communism, communism simply made more ideological sense at that time than the CSP’s socialism. Regardless of the outcome of the united front, initially, both parties altruistically sought to reach an accord. In “The Anti-Imperialist People’s Front in India,” Dutt and Bradley outlined a notion of the united front that emphasized communist integration into the national movement. The duo hypothesized that the Congress existed as a popular united front against imperialism. The Congress, however, remained controlled by bourgeois and conservative elements: Middle class values frequently conflicted with mass interests and popular revolutionary urges. Consequently, Dutt and Bradley suggested that the CPI’s primary function should be to displace the Congress’s bourgeois leadership by joining forces with the Congress’s socialist wing. Such a united front, they predicted, would transform the Congress from a bourgeois democratic movement into an authentic anti-imperialist struggle.8 The communist plan of action expressed the notion that reformism obstructed national revolution. According to this scheme, reformists “must be smashed” and the masses won over to communism. Communists could entice rank and file Congressmen to communism by demonstrating “by actual experience that the reformists are not capable of defending and fighting for even their immediate interests.” Reformists would be challenged to put their rhetoric into action. “Genuine left tendencies within the reformist ranks,” the party statement declared, “must always be supported as against the right.” Radical tendencies should be encouraged, “welcomed, supported and led into right channels.”9 From 1928, Indian communists operated according to a premise framed by the Sixth Congress of the Communist International: India’s bourgeoisie was strictly reformist in its outlook and consequently was inherently hostile to the class interests of the country’s masses. India’s bourgeoisie exhibited “a special vacillating compromising tendency which may be designated as national reformism,” and communists therefore sought to expose the bourgeoisie’s “half-heartedness and vacillation in the national struggle and their bargaining and attempts to reach a compromise with British imperialism.”10 Decisions made by the Congresses of the Communist International informed propaganda issued by the Communist Party of Great Britain, a significant channel for communicating Marxist viewpoints about Indian nationalism. One party publication warned that the Congress “cannot develop into a party of mass national-revolutionary struggle unless it emancipates itself entirely from the influence of bourgeois politicians.”11 Benjamin Bradley defined India’s bourgeoisie as an exclusively “counter-revolutionary force

38  United front as mass activism sabotaging the revolutionary anti-imperialist struggle.” Bradley concluded that bourgeois leadership sought to “side-track, localize, disorganize and, finally, betray the revolutionary struggle.”12 Another publication declared that India’s bourgeoisie attempted to utilize mass support to wrest concessions from imperialism, but was trapped by its own class interests: Fearing the imperialists above, and trembling at the prospect of a revolution from below, it has to maneuver always for a position in which it will appear to be revolutionary, and so be the leader of the national emancipatory movement but as far as real mass actions are concerned it hesitates a thousand times before it takes a single step forward.13 Succinctly summarizing the bourgeoisie’s predicament, Dutt and Bradley suggested that vacillation occurred when bourgeois interests conflicted with class interests of the masses.14 Communists and socialists increasingly functioned according to a general Marxist–Leninist ideology, which defined the nature of Indian nationalism and Congress leadership according to class tendencies and interests. Both factions agreed that the country’s bourgeois leaders tended to compromise with imperialism to protect their own class interests. Both parties sought to challenge and overcome the vacillation inherent to Congress leaders’ bourgeois outlook. The two groups of radicals found common cause in opposing reformism and advocating for direct action and anti-imperialist struggle. Writing on behalf of his comrades as the chief architect of Left unity and very much echoing communist opinions, Narayan charted India’s political development along a Marxist–Leninist timeline to explain the immediate relevance of the united front. Narayan explained that although Congressmen presumed to represent the masses, they remained incapable of taking steps “to organize and canalize the discontent and lead the peasants to any sort of struggle with the ruling powers.” For their part, the masses understood “only one form of struggle—direct action,” a mode with which Congressmen were unfamiliar.15 According to Narayan’s hypothesis, the Indian bourgeoisie remained a fractured and ineffective anti-imperialist force. Furthermore, bourgeois interests supported maintenance of the status quo rather than a revolutionary transformation of society. Narayan claimed that the bourgeoisie “was nearly completely at the mercy of imperialism and could not develop against it.” Consequently, India’s bourgeoisie was hamstrung by its own development: “If it is not revolutionary as a class, it cannot, naturally, lead the other classes into action.”16 Narayan’s views remained remarkably consistent throughout his efforts to achieve Left unity. In 1936, he published Why Socialism?, which perhaps most concisely expressed socialist impressions of the Congress and its leaders. Narayan suggested that by integrating day-to-day mass economic interests into the national movement, socialists intended to “discover the root cause

United front as mass activism  39 of the malady” and to “check the very growth of inequalities.” He claimed that the extant Congress program “falls far short of these ideals.” Its political agenda, he maintained, “leaves the economic structure of society intact.”17 According to Narayan, the Congress leadership’s class outlook explained this shortcoming. Congress leaders, Narayan claimed, “grudgingly and vaguely” acknowledged that the national movement ought to pursue freedom from both imperialism and “the indigenous system of exploitation.” But he critically observed that “the Congress after talking of ‘revolutionary changes’ buries its head in the sand.”18 The explanation, quite simply, was that “the Indian bourgeoisie is not in a position to play a revolutionary role” because it depended on imperialism—its ties to imperialism “completely destroy its revolutionary character and prevent it from becoming anti-­ imperialist.” Narayan also suggested that the bourgeoisie failed to transform the national movement into a mass movement because it merely sought mass support “by placing alluring slogans and programmes before the masses, which, while not touching its own interests, appear sufficiently attractive” to workers and peasants.19 Consequently, the Congress’s bourgeois leadership remained impervious to establishing “any united front of the masses.” Its class outlook paralyzed it and produced “a sterile policy—leading not to the defeat of imperialism, but to a series of weak-kneed compromises with it.” He insisted that bourgeois control of the national movement meant that “the anti-imperialist struggle can only end in limiting, checking and thwarting the struggle itself.”20 “No politics,” Narayan professed, “can be above class interests.” Expanding this claim, he hypothesized that the anti-imperialist struggle might be transformed by effectively drawing the masses into the struggle for “the masses only are anti-imperialists and the others are counter-­revolutionary.” He proposed a straightforward means of overcoming bourgeois class interests: Freedom from exploitation must be placed in the forefront. Their immediate economic exploitation must be kept before them in its true perspective, as a part of the working of imperialism. They must be helped to develop a vigorous struggle against this exploitation; and the larger struggle against imperialism must be made to grow out of it as a logical consequence. According to Narayan, constructing an “economic front of the masses” would generate an authentic anti-imperialist movement. He insisted that class organizations should be created among peasants and workers to “organize their struggle against oppression and exploitation.” He predicted that class consciousness would evolve into “anti-imperialist consciousness and solidarity which will lead them finally to defeat imperialism.”21 Narayan hypothesized that the CSP constituted an important part of “the vanguard of the national movement.” He observed that the Congress “is an anti-Imperialist organization and its immediate task is to fight Imperialism

40  United front as mass activism and defeat it.” In this context, the CSP’s role was “to develop this fight” by strengthening the masses, by drawing the Congress closer to the masses and by transforming the Congress into “a real anti-Imperialist body.”22 According to Masani, considerable communist effort was spent working “to belittle the role and inspiration” of the Congress. Communists allegedly asserted that the Congress’s ideology and emphasis on non-violence as a means of achieving liberation “prevented it from embracing the broadest front of all who supported the national struggle.”23 The reality of the situation, at the moment when the united front coalesced, was decidedly different. The CPI’s statement about the “Tasks of the Movement” emphasized the notion that the Congress was “not a political party of the Indian bourgeoisie.” Instead, it defined the Congress as a national movement of the country’s petty bourgeois elements “under the leadership of the bourgeoisie and other reactionary elements.” Although Congress leaders were “thoroughly reactionary and counter-revolutionary,” common Congress members were “objectively revolutionary” and could be enticed to embrace a revolutionary anti-imperialist program. The party statement chalked out a plan by which communists might “capture the leadership of the Congress movement,” thereby positioning themselves to “transform it into an effective instrument of the Indian National revolution.”24 Communists were urged to reverse trends toward isolation, which merely left all the country’s true anti-imperialist forces vulnerable “to the tender mercies of the bourgeoisie.” Communists were urged to facilitate class differentiation within the Congress by placing their alternative platform before the rank and file, thereby radicalizing it. Communists were reminded that the “left wing must be supported as against the right wing and must be pushed further and further towards the left.” According to emerging communist views about the united front, the CSP amounted to a “radical tendency within the Congress.” It must therefore be supported by active participation in it. It must be kept as loose mass organisation within the Congress itself and must not be allowed to grow into a solid party governing all the activities of its members, must not be allowed to usurp the role of the C.P., or obscure the necessity of its formation and active work.25 This statement revealed one of the fundamental contradictions of the united front: socialists perceived the CSP as a party of Marxist Congressmen while communists viewed it as a platform of left unity within the Congress. The CSP’s Meerut Thesis of 1936 formed the theoretical framework for the party’s work within the Congress and for forging the united front. Regarding the former concern, the thesis stated that the party was founded by radical Congressmen who “came to believe that a new orientation of the national movement had become necessary” and “who had come under the influence of, and had accepted, Marxian Socialism.” Noting the fragmentary nature

United front as mass activism  41 of Marxist forces at the moment of the party’s founding, the thesis recommended “a fusion of the emerging Congress Socialist Party with the groups previously existing.” Such consolidation entailed a radicalization of the national movement: The immediate task before us is to develop the national movement into a real anti-imperialist movement—a movement aiming at freedom from the foreign power and the native system of exploitation. For this it is necessary to wean the anti-imperialist elements in the Congress away from its present bourgeois leadership and to bring them under the leadership of revolutionary Socialism. This task can be accomplished only if there is within the Congress an organized body of Marxian Socialists. In other words, our Party alone can, in the present conditions, perform this task. The thesis concluded that success of this venture required the coordination of “all the other anti-imperialist forces in the country.” It recommended that the party might adopt “an anti-imperialist stand on Congress platforms” to help evolve an anti-imperialist program.26 The CSP national executive offered communists the opportunity to work with and join the CSP, assuming that the communists would reciprocate.27 Instead, communists entered the CSP and assumed influential positions in the party organization while preserving the integrity of their own group. Therein lay socialist allegations about fracture work and ulterior motives. Socialists approached the united front from the attitude that the two parties might merge into a single cohesive unit; although communists concurred, they sought to influence and further radicalize the ideological orientation of socialists. Namboodiripad cited the Meerut Thesis as the foundation for forging the united front. He claimed that the Meerut Thesis “stated definitely that the CSP should attempt to unite all the revolutionary forces, including the Communists.” As with the other founders of the CSP, Namboodiripad insisted that the CSP “was the appropriate body through which we could work towards the Left politics.”28 Curiously enough, in his discussion of the course of the united front, Masani scarcely mentioned the Meerut Thesis, preferring instead to illustrate how communist activities perverted the altruistic intentions of CSP leaders.29 Part of the misunderstanding arose because communists perceived the CSP as a Left coalition that could be radicalized, not a petty bourgeois party within the Congress. Contrarily, socialist leaders insisted that their organization was a coherent party, not a Left front, and consequently, assumed that communists would be absorbed by the larger, dominant faction of socialists. Misperceptions ran amok throughout the founding days of the united front. Narayan used the third CSP conference of December 1936 to explicate CSP goals vis-à-vis the united front. He lamented the reluctance among Congressmen to “evolve a higher and more effective form of struggle.” He warned that if “this sort of mentality persists, the Congress will find itself

42  United front as mass activism completely ineffective.” He recommended establishing closer meaningful links with anti-imperialist elements: To put it briefly, the Congress must take hold of the developing mass unrest and forge it into a mighty weapon against Imperialism. Narayan concluded by presenting the notion that the party’s task was providing “an organized direction to our movement,” guiding the Congress “nearer the masses” and transforming it into “a real anti-Imperialist body.”30 At the end of 1936, the CSP national executive expanded and clarified the foundations laid by the Meerut Thesis. In its Faizpur Thesis, the CSP declared that the party’s “chief task” was “the creation of a powerful National Front against Imperialism.” It maintained that the struggle “now has to be widened, integrated and raised to a higher stage of intensity.” The thesis declared that at its present stage of development, the Congress remained inconsistent and ineffective: It does not yet embrace the broadest possible sector of the masses, whether organized or unorganized, and still stands aloof from their dayto-day struggle for the satisfaction of their pressing immediate needs. The thesis announced that “all anti-imperialists in the country” must “bring together and unite all anti-imperialist sectors” and “build up a mighty front against Imperialism,” comprising “the broadest possible sector of the masses.” Consequently, it proclaimed the CSP’s intention to transform the Congress into “an all-embracing united front against Imperialism.” Acknowledging the Congress’s successes in generating national unity thus far, the thesis announced that the CSP would “find means to assist and extend that unity to a still wider front.”31 Enhancing the united front of socialist forces remained a vital component of the CSP program for strengthening the anti-imperialist struggle. The Faizpur Thesis proclaimed that the CSP strongly supported “unity in the Socialist ranks,” and it hypothesized that success required “a united lead” to be given “in all spheres of anti-imperialist activity.” Seeking to avoid the pitfalls of ideological sectarianism, the Faizpur Thesis suggested that “the minimum that is necessary is agreement on the immediate tasks and line of action.” It recommended that all socialist forces might “work together till the time we are in a position to form a united party.” It also suggested that consolidation among the leadership cadres and understandings among political leaders would assist in efforts to achieve unity.32 CSP–CPI collaboration was based on the premise that both organizations constituted genuine Marxist parties. Although socialists recognized specific ideological deviances between their views and those of the communists, they assumed that these differences would be resolved over time: “there

United front as mass activism  43 would be no purpose served in trying to solve all the possible problems at the start.” Conversely, communists diligently preserved their organizational and ideological independence and, furthermore, deliberately obstructed CSP attempts to influence the country’s trade union movements, which, to that point, had been communist strongholds.33 Interestingly, united front programs appeared to deliberately avoid concrete policy statements. Instead, they tended to emphasize vague and ill-defined concepts, thereby circumventing specific methodological and ideological issues. Whether programs originated from communist, socialist or Congress perspectives, the amorphous terminology was designed to enhance collaborative potential and broader unity, again fulfilling the principle of the united front. Difficulties emerged once the associated parties focused on specifics. Policies and practices undermined the intent of the united front.

Communist methods The communist approach to the united front entailed collaboration with Left groups on the basis of a common minimum program: We should immediately enter into a pact with the CSP and Royists for joint enrolment of members on a joint platform of struggle for the united front policy from within the INC and for a struggle against the reformist policy of parliamentarianism and class-collaboration and repudiation of mass struggle.34 Communists did not work to convince Congressmen of the virtues of communism, but instead advocated the logic of complete independence for India—­authentic anti-imperialism meant that semi-collaborative programs proposed by entrenched Congress leaders should be vigorously combatted as should all attempts to dilute the implications of complete independence.35 Although they continued to criticize Congress leadership and programs, communists moderated the venom of their message. Communists bemoaned the fact that the Congress did not represent all anti-imperialist elements, but rather was based on “restrictive individual membership.” Its outlook was not anti-imperialist and “prevented it from embracing the broadest front of all who supported the national struggle.”36 For their part, Dutt and Bradley also criticized Congress programs. They claimed that Congress leaders pursued bourgeois objectives that neglected the masses and they observed that the Congress constitution excluded the masses. They maintained that Congress programs avoided direct action and that, in practice and in principle, national leaders “acted as a brake” to mass activity.37 Dutt and Bradley inquired: “Is not the national Congress,

44  United front as mass activism as many of its leaders claim, already the United Front of the Indian people in the national struggle?” The answer to this question aligned with socialist views: The National Congress has undoubtedly achieved a gigantic task in uniting wide forces of the Indian people for the national struggle, and remains to-day the principal existing mass organization of diverse elements seeking national liberation. Nothing should be allowed to weaken the degree of unity that has been achieved…. We on the Left have many times criticized sharply the existing leadership and tactics of the National Congress. We have found many decisions and policies … disastrous to the true interests of the National struggle and equivalent to surrender to imperialism. We have traced the decisions and policies to the existing dominant bourgeois leadership whose interests often conflict with the interests of the masses and with the interests of the national struggle. Dutt and Bradley insisted that worker and peasant organizations constituted “the most important force of the national struggle,” but remained “outside the National Congress.” They maintained that the Congress could become “a ‘real’ anti-imperialist front embracing all genuine fighters for freedom” only when the mass organizations were unified and incorporated into the Congress on the basis of their class demands.38 Consequently, communist work amounted to weaning masses and classes away from the Congress’s bourgeois leaders. Dutt and Bradley observed that although the Congress might actually provide an avenue for achieving the united front, it alone was inadequate for the task. They also noted that although the Congress might be transformed into the ideal united front, such a transformation could only be achieved by communist leadership operating within the Congress.39 The CPI political bureau instructed party members to forcefully push for collective affiliation of organized labor and peasant unions with the Congress. They were ordered to join the Congress and operate among the national movement’s rank and file “by mobilizing them under our leadership” on the issues pertinent to the united front. The instructions also emphasized that “only when independent activity outside the INC is intimately linked up with work inside” would “the demand for collective affiliation” become “irresistible,” and then “the formation of a united front with the INC and its local organizations” might occur.40 Communists, then, operated within and external to the Congress. The communist view of the united front transcended the Congress, which conceptually became a foundation for the united front. The communist version of the united front envisioned a communist-inspired Congress collaborating with communist-­ dominated unions; the political movement would merge seamlessly with the social movement and the entire nation would coalesce into an anti-­ imperialist united front.

United front as mass activism  45 This viewpoint derived from Comintern theses about anti-imperialist movements and decolonization. Initially, debates considered the nature of nationalist struggles, distinguishing between a “bourgeois-democratic liberation movement” and “revolutionary movements of liberation.”41 As Lenin admitted, the distinction was essentially meaningless: “There is no doubt that every nationalist movement can only be a bourgeois-democratic movement.”42 Nevertheless, it highlighted differing opinions about the extent of capitalist development in the colonies and, more importantly, about the class-conscious orientation of nationalist leadership and the extent to which communists might cooperate with their class enemies. The distinction distilled into a consideration of the class composition of nationalist leaders. Throughout the 1920s, communists concluded that they might cooperate with petty bourgeoisie leaders who authentically expressed proletarian class interests, who truly represented the masses they claimed to lead. Communists might ally with the politically advanced petty bourgeoisie to galvanize and radicalize the national movement, thereby preventing its deterioration into a bourgeois–democratic movement.43 Communists, while remaining organizationally independent from the preeminent nationalist party, could join it and form an opposition block within it, thereby obstructing the tendency to lapse into bourgeois nationalist reformism.44 As the united front began to coalesce, communists retained their independence, but ideologically oriented themselves with socialists, according to common Marxist–Leninist fundamentals. The new communist strategy insisted that “tactics of united front with various organisations and sections of people on specific issues and purposes must be followed rigorously and diligently.” Work within the Congress strove to expose the vacillation and counter-revolutionary tendencies of reformism. The socialist faction within the Congress would be consistently supported, yet guided along “proper lines” through sympathetic criticism to prevent this radical element from succumbing to stagnation and isolation. Communists would remain active in the country’s trade union movement, consolidating their current influence while capitalizing on opportunities to expand their leadership of the movement. The plan called for forming new communist-inspired unions, training party cadres and penetrating non-communist unions. Similarly, communists were instructed to form peasant organizations, founded upon immediate, local demands. Communists should engage in local struggles to secure limited demands rather than concentrating exclusively on the ultimate demands of the country’s peasantry. Through such work, local interests might democratically come to influence national programs. The ultimate goal of communist activity was to establish “as many points of contact with the oppressed masses as possible” because neglecting the masses “leaves to door open to the reformists and reactionaries to mislead them.”45 P.C. Joshi theorized that British imperialism fostered the forces of reaction, employing them “against the rising peoples’ movements.” Joshi insisted that “freedom cannot come as a gift from imperialists.” The colonial peoples

46  United front as mass activism of the world had to “win their own freedom.” He maintained that mass mobilization that created class consciousness was the key to forging the united front. It would highlight “to an extreme measure the conflict between the imperialist Government and all sections of the people.” Joshi suggested that although the foundations in India existed, the country’s bourgeois leaders, “whilst not surrendering to imperialism, paralysed the movement through inactivity and stalemate,” perpetuating “a state of suspended animation.”46 Joshi insisted that the Congress was “the premier political organisation of our people” and that it represented “the greatest national unity” in the country to date. He maintained that parallel to this fact, the CPI strove to achieve “the broadest possible mobilisation in a united front” of all anti-­ imperialist forces. He insisted that unifying these popular organizations in a joint anti-imperialist front “will be the widest mobilization of India’s unity.” Joshi complained that although the people were spoiling for a fight, the national leaders produced only a policy of “blind drift.” The solution was to cease “plaintive pleading to the British Government,” seize the initiative and take deliberate steps “to forge the new might of our national unity.”47 Communist attitudes toward parliamentary activity were remarkably straightforward, more so than the convoluted CSP viewpoint. Communists rejected constitutional reforms, but recognized that elections represented an avenue for educating the masses. Whether from the legislative podium, the union hall or the street corner, communists emphasized the imperative need for political education. That said, the CPI was illegal, and communists could not stand for election on a communist ticket. Additionally, communists were too numerically insignificant to obstruct moderate Congressmen’s increasing interest in a parliamentary program. Marginalized by circumstance from utilizing the legislatures to advance the cause of world revolution, communists declared their opposition to legislative work. Constitutional reforms amounted to a “slave constitution,” which would establish “the dictatorship of the capitalist class.” Communists declared that they would only support candidates who were “honestly intent on wrecking the Constitution and replacing it by a Constituent Assembly.” Unquestionably, communist hostility to constitutionalism meant unremitting opposition to office acceptance, what communists dubbed as joining “the ranks of the slave masters.”48 Communists consciously worked with socialists to radicalize Congress programs. The united front did not rely on a common Marxist ideology, but rather relied on common objections to the direction of the national struggle. Communists, conceptually in harmony with their socialist comrades, intended for the united front to entail a radicalization of nationalism, which might lay the foundations for a free India, based on communist values.

Socialist activities From its founding, the CSP attempted to organize peasants and workers. The party joined existing working class organizations and entered into a formal agreement with the All-India Trades Union Congress (AITUC).

United front as mass activism  47 It assisted in the organization of labor unions in the country’s industrial areas and orchestrated notable and successful strikes to secure worker demands.49 It attempted to strengthen provincial-level connections to the AITUC and instructed CSP workers to involve themselves in “industries particularly which are politically strategic.” Where AITUC branches did not exist, socialists were instructed to form arrangements with alternate unions, subject to national executive approval.50 In his presidential address to the All-India Congress Socialist Party (AICSP) conference in May 1934, Narendra Deva observed that “the responsibility for carrying on the struggle for national independence is more and more devolving upon the masses.” However, he maintained that the masses were unprepared for this responsibility. Peasants remained incapable of organizing or developing the common interests inherent to class consciousness without external inspiration. Peasants’ sole mode of political expression was “spontaneous peasant rising.” Deva claimed that “only the revolutionary intelligentsia” could organize the masses “for disciplined action.” He suggested that promoting an anti-imperialist class consciousness necessitated “an alliance between the lower-middle class and the masses.” He insisted that propaganda and organization were the crucial ingredients for developing class consciousness and explained that such propaganda meant a direct economic appeal to the workers and peasants. This appeal was logical: Just as the purely economic movement of the working class is irresistibly growing into a political movement, in the same way the purely political movement of the Congress is unconsciously developing into an economic movement for the masses…. The needs of the situation demand a new orientation of policy and outlook. Deva proclaimed that the labor movement must be linked with the Congress’s political campaign and through the Congress, connected with the peasants’ struggles and with the petty bourgeoisie. These classes constituted the country’s “real revolutionary elements.” He predicted that these classes, united as one, would win independence. The duty of socialists, therefore, was coordinating these anti-imperialist forces, ensuring that all shared the same ideals. This task would be achieved by “bringing into our fold workers and peasants” through “political education, by carrying on day-to-day agitation amongst them on economic issues and by making them politically conscious.” He advised socialists to join existing labor unions and kisan sabhas and to launch new ones where none existed. He insisted that “action should be our watchword” because only active struggle could produce class conscious anti-imperialist elements.51 In “India and Socialism,” Narayan comprehensively explained several measures approved by the CSP. One slogan stood out: “All power to the masses.” The task meant helping masses to claim “conscious control and direction” of social progress, thereby asserting their “superiority over the

48  United front as mass activism present disordered ‘social order.’” Ultimately, class consciousness would reach a crescendo in which representative government would become revolutionized through collective affiliation of workers’ and peasants’ unions. Narayan concluded by remarking that the power to secure independence meant “we shall have power to do almost anything.”52 Socialist views about the united front permeated their work among labor and peasant unions. In February 1935, Narayan invited delegates to participate in a conference of trade union representatives sponsored by the CSP. This assemblage considered methods for “bringing about unity in the Trade Union movement.” Narayan’s invitation insisted that the CSP was not staking a claim to union activity, but rather sought to discuss possibilities for unity of action.53 Narayan then worked behind the scenes to encourage the Red Trade Union Congress (RTUC) to participate and to persuade anti-­ communist labor leaders to permit RTUC involvement. He simply stated that excluding the RTUC “appears to be against the spirit of Unity” that conference organizers sought to achieve.54 Then, the CSP national executive issued injunctions against socialists who were active union organizers. Party leaders announced their opposition to “the policy of ‘rival unionism’” and instructed activists to obtain permission from the national executive prior to inaugurating a rival union. Party leaders announced that CSP union policy should involve influencing reformist unions from within and forming revolutionary unions where no unions previously existed. Politically, socialists within unions were permitted to “work in cooperation with the group that is nearest to it politically.”55 In short, in the labor movement, socialists and communists operating under the CSP umbrella should work diligently to forge the united front. In January 1936, Narayan summarized socialist performance in the labor movement, optimistically predicting that “it seems to be only a matter of time for unity to become a fact.” By way of analogy, Narayan anticipated that unity in the labor movement might “only be a prelude to a hitherto unrealized intensification of the struggle of the working class.”56 Socialists also diligently worked to “organize the peasantry on a proper basis.” The CSP national executive instructed provincial branches to establish contact with peasants in a manner “quite different from that of the Congress.” The socialist approach was “an economic approach,” designed to “link up the political struggle with the present economic struggles of the peasants and vice-versa.” In locations where economic issues appeared to be nonexistent, socialists were instructed to undertake further investigation and, more importantly, to launch propaganda to popularize socialist goals. According to the CSP plan, socialists intended to “organize those grievances and develop on their basis a militant agrarian movement.”57 In fact, socialists depicted the kisan movement as perpetuating “an admirable united front with the Congress.” Through kisan sabhas, socialists attempted to radicalize the Congress’s parliamentary program through “friendly and constructive criticism,” which, in practice, described public

United front as mass activism  49 demonstrations against unpopular laws and on behalf of immediate relief measures. Per the united front concept, public agitation would radicalize and strengthen the national movement.58 In practice, euphemisms such as organization and mobilization meant agitation and demonstration, modes of building class consciousness. Socialists were “actively engaged” in “fomenting conflicts and strikes.” Such actions entailed creating an awareness of class interests, which stimulated efforts “to secure early redress of their grievances.” Political education and mobilization meant that the masses “have a feeling that now something can be done for them.” The process was activism, at its root: To sit quiet will be to devitalize the Congress programme and in the end the whole work would degenerate into nothing else than constitutionalism, which we have to avoid. For socialists, the united front meant stimulating grassroots activism, motivating the masses to take part in their own economic liberation and making local, provincial and national governments accountable to the people.59 It meant “ceaseless agitation.” It meant demands for rent reduction, for price fixing, for sanitation improvements. It meant permitting “initiative” to “grow from below.”60 Consequently, the socialist interpretation of Leninist tactics entailed democratization of the masses and organization along class lines—a united-front-from-below. Having chalked out a united-front-from-above, socialists and communists in the CSP began constructing a united-front-from-below. For example, a week prior to the Armistice Day of 1934, the CSP national executive attempted to orchestrate nationwide anti-war demonstrations. The celebrations were, according to Narayan, “a good opportunity for us to raise the anti-war issue and do some propaganda for our views on the matter.” Provincial CSP branches were instructed to organize meetings at which speeches would be made and the CSP’s anti-war resolution would be read to the crowd. These instructions explicitly emphasized that speeches could criticize Congress leaders “for not paying heed to the question of war and not considering the resolution that our Party had given notice of.”61 Similarly, the CSP attempted to orchestrate an all-India day of protest against the detention of political prisoners. Once again, this was an issue that “has been rather neglected by the country,” and the demonstrations would attempt to galvanize public opinion on the matter.62 Narayan drafted a resolution to be considered by the Working Committee and the All-India Congress Committee (AICC), and although the original day of observation was postponed, its delay afforded more deliberate organization of its observance.63 Concurrently, socialists remained perfectly aware that the primary objective of the united front was to displace non-socialist Congress leaders. Narayan wrote that socialist propaganda should “influence the rank and file of the Congress,” a crucial emphasis because “much of the future of

50  United front as mass activism our party depends upon our success in this task.” He reminded propagandists that unity was the basis of the united front: “Nothing should be done which may antagonize the genuinely nationalist elements and drive them to join hands with the compromise-seeking right wing.” Contrarily, he recommended drawing “the militant nationalists” closer to the united front, advancing beyond the goals of the Congress’s “compromising moderates.”64

United front platform In practice, socialists and communists forged the united front by focusing on the premier political issues. As Narayan observed, united front activity involved joint action “only on specific issues.”65 Even at its origin, limits to shared common ground constrained the effectiveness of the united front. The minimum common program emphasized a platform of collective affiliation of worker and peasant unions, agitation external to Congress work and objections to the Government of India Act of 1935 and constitutionalism, in general. Socialist and communist delegates to the Congress introduced these radical concerns into AICC meetings and annual Congress sessions, and consequently, these efforts radicalized Congress programs. The proposal for collective affiliation of mass organizations and the demand for external agitation were integrated premises. The principle behind both notions was that the Congress movement should be transformed into an authentic anti-imperialist front by integrating the day-to-day demands of the country’s most consistently anti-imperialist forces: workers and peasants. The transformation would be effected by generating the class consciousness inherent to class demands, thereby politicizing and mobilizing the masses. The communist approach required mobilization along communist lines. Its effort was couched in terms that referenced the united front: Will the proletarian forces become a solid front fighting united for the day-to-day demands of the workers? Will the proletariat succeed in establishing organic, direct relationship with the general anti-imperialist movement? Will the working class in the course of the anti-­i mperialist struggle be able to assume its historic role as the leader of the anti-­ imperialist struggle? The victory of communism would be the victory of the united front. The communist viewpoint indicated that the “extent that we can successfully answer these questions” will be based on the extent to which communism could take hold of the Indian masses.66 A successful revolution equaled the success of the anti-imperialist struggle. The socialist perspective remained more amorphous. Socialists insisted that because the Congress deliberately maintained the limits set by the Karachi Resolution, “it would be inimical to the interests of labour to come

United front as mass activism  51 within the ideological influence of the Congress.” Consequently, the class consciousness of the labor movement ought to develop independent of the direction of national leaders, but should complement it—the political activism of labor “must come with a full political consciousness and on its own programme and with its own leadership.” Trade unions should not be considered “as appendages to the Congress,” but “must be separate from the Congress and part of one countrywide trade union movement.” Socialists worried that the labor movement would lose its individuated interests if linked too closely to nationalism. They concluded that an independent, affiliated labor movement would advance the Congress’s economic orientation.67 Narayan maintained that socialists “must break the spell of national unity” by organizing workers’ and peasants’ unions. Class organizations, he theorized, were revolutionary instruments and would become the “uncompromising organs of class struggle.” Through unions, the masses might collectively be brought into conflict with imperialism. Narayan advocated for consolidating the country’s labor movements and kisan sabhas into centralized and integrated organizations that could then be allied with the national struggle. Concurrently, he recommended developing a classbased political organization for the masses that would forge economic and political demands into an anti-imperialist front. He insisted that as long as the Congress retained its bourgeois connections, it could not become an authentic united front: So the first thing the Congress must do to become an organization of the masses, is to declare that it does not represent the bourgeoisie; and that it stands as much against them as against imperialism. Such a transformation was the only means to “convert it from a bourgeoisie body into a mass organization.”68 Part of this envisaged transformation involved a push to authorize the collective affiliation of labor unions and kisan sabhas. Narayan recommended replacing individual membership in the Congress with district-level collective representation: In other words, it should be given a sort of a Soviet constitution from the bottom upwards. A District Congress Committee ought to represent the peasant unions, the labour unions and other functional organizations of the anti-imperialist classes in that district. The higher bodies may be indirectly elected or through a combined direct and indirect method. Such a constitutional alteration, Narayan maintained, would structurally transform the Congress into a mass organization by authentically representing class interests at all levels.69 Narayan expanded this point in December 1936 at the annual CSP conference. He observed that the Congress organization remained “too restricted

52  United front as mass activism and narrow” with its individual membership. He complained that a “national organization speaking for the whole nation cannot remain so restricted,” but must “include the widest possible section of the people.” Narayan rhetorically asked, “Is there no other way of recruiting larger sections of the masses into it?” Narayan’s solution was straightforward: There are in the country many peasant and labour unions…. We ask that a provision be made for giving these organized sections of the masses collective representation in the Congress, thereby broadening the organizational base of the Congress, beyond calculations. He maintained that such a move would assist the Congress in “moving closer to the masses and identifying itself with them.” He predicted that collective affiliation would enable the Congress to “soon be in a position to lead the masses to a last and successful fight against imperialism.”70 Organizing labor and peasant unions involved agitation and demonstrations to build up the class consciousness needed for organizational coherence. Narayan hypothesized that constructing an authentic, united anti-­i mperialist front involved both “conversion” and “disruption.” He surmised that the nation’s bourgeois elements, however, would remain immune to conversion. Anti-imperialist elements within the Congress were capable of conversion to Marxism and its theories about class conflict. Conversion entailed mobilization which, in turn, involved demonstrations, protests, agitations—­the basic components that demonstrated the development of revolutionary class consciousness. Confronted with instability, the bourgeoisie would “cling to the bourgeois programme” and its mantra of preserving national unity. Agitation was necessary to influence the petty bourgeois elements, which were susceptible to conversion; it also paved the way for the eventual and inevitable break with the Congress’s bourgeois leaders. Narayan concluded that the task of the united front, then, was to “ripen the anti-imperialist elements for a final break” with bourgeois nationalism, thereby toppling the “national reformist movement under bourgeois leadership.” At that critical moment, peasants and workers would “assume the leadership” and exert their influence “on the development of the anti-­ imperialist movement.”71 Narendra Deva also emphasized the imperative of developing mass organizations. He claimed that the multifarious class interests within the Congress frequently overwhelmed the demands of the masses, which then became indefinitely postponed as subsidiary to the greater nationalist cause of political independence. He claimed that kisans could not democratically express themselves in Congress committees and that their interests were lost in the dialogue about national interests. Unions, therefore, were vital to articulating the class interests of the masses. They exerted “revolutionary pressure” on the Congress so that national leaders paid attention to mass demands. Deva recommended that Congressmen should spearhead

United front as mass activism  53 the organization of sabhas and unions so that these bodies were not controlled by “others who may direct the movements into wrong channels and cause irretrievable loss to the national movement” through anti-national or communal rivals to the Congress.72 Rammanohar Lohia succinctly summarized the purpose of mass mobilization. He suggested that radicalization of the national struggle meant transforming “the technique of freedom struggle into daily resistance” against imperialism. It meant creating a “permanent spirit of revolt,” distinctly different from reformism. National freedom, he declared, meant challenging the immediate economic condition of the masses, including miserable wages, exorbitant taxes, excessive rent payments and, more generally, peasant indebtedness. Demands for economic change would be the engine that drove anti-imperialism.73 United front initiatives for collective affiliation and mass organization experienced stiff opposition. Congress leaders fretted that such an association between the Congress and labor and peasant unions would infect the Congress, transforming it into “the cock-pit of the clash of class interests.”74 This anxiety was revealed in the proposed constitutional revisions associated with the Congress’s Mass Contacts Program. The Lucknow Congress declared its intent to “make the Congress a joint front of all the anti-­i mperialist elements in the country” by stimulating “closer association between the masses and the Congress organization.” Mass contacts intended to integrate the masses into Congress decision-making and to ensure that Congress policies directly represented mass interests. Mass contacts also anticipated constructing “closer cooperation with other organizations” of the masses. The Lucknow Congress appointed a Mass Contacts Committee to propose recommendations about how such linkages might be forged, including, almost as an afterthought, “proposals for such amendment of the constitution as may be considered necessary.”75 Collective affiliation was immediately pertinent to proposed constitutional revisions. Narayan was one of three prominent Congressmen appointed to the Mass Contacts Committee. He prepared a lengthy memorandum about the program, the role of the masses in the national movement and constitutional revisions to more immediately integrate the masses’ interests into Congress decisions. His report cogently outlined the full scope of united front activities. He divided this problem into three integrated issues: expanding the Congress to increase its potential activism, developing mass organizations and bringing the Congress “and the organizations of peasants, workers, youths and others, which aim at freedom from Imperialism, closer together so as to make the Congress a joint front of all anti-imperialist elements in the country.”76 Regarding the first part of the overarching problem, Narayan complained that primary committees and membership remained “largely inactive and hardly play any part in the determination of Congress policies.” He regretted that local branches of the Congress “are not live organizations responding to

54  United front as mass activism the needs and problems of the masses.” Consequently, superior committees made all the decisions on behalf of the masses, failing to seamlessly integrate mass interests and day-to-day concerns into Congress programs. He recommended that local committees should acquire greater opportunities for taking the initiative. Narayan proposed that members “must be given opportunities to take direct part in the discussions during the formative period of policies and programmes.”77 His recommendations emphasized greater local activism, a gateway for collective affiliation. Activism was the key to securing independence because it alone could prepare the country for direct action. He then broached the subject of closer association between the Congress and the masses. He suggested that the Congress’s day-to-day work among the masses drew considerable popular support due to its “spirit of service,” but could be expanded “in every way to the masses, taking up every cause which touches them.” He recommended that this goal could best be achieved by organizing peasants into unions. This course was vital to enabling the anti-imperialist masses to fight their enemy because peasants required classbased organizations to fight for their specific class interests—Congress committees could not undertake this task because they represented multiple classes and interests. Narayan anticipated that peasant associations would augment local Congress committees by better integrating “vital day-to-day needs” into national programs. Yet the two had to remain mutually exclusive to prevent peasant interests from being suborned to multi-class issues. Similar activities had to involve the labor movement and the working class. Mass organizations would not operate independently of the Congress, but would be associated with the latter’s political program through “a joint plan of action” and by “joint meetings, demonstrations, campaigns, and so on.”78 Narayan very carefully constructed the most vital portion of his recommendations: his proposal for collective affiliation. His observations revealed his impressions about the Congress as a united front against imperialism. Narayan proposed establishing “a joint platform of agreement with the peasant and labour organizations on a national level as well as local basis.” He deliberately suggested ways by which closer collaboration with the organized masses might integrate and appropriate the urban middle classes, thereby alleviating bourgeois anxieties about mass radicalism. The entire process of joint front, according to his recommendations, involved activism, meetings, discussions, hashing out the little conflicts and concerns at the local level: a general process of homogenization that facilely integrated mass interests. Congressmen would organize the peasant and labor movements, harnessing them to the Congress while constantly remembering that peasant and proletarian movements had to develop according to mass interests “and not of a programme imposed from the outside.”79 Radicalized Congressmen predictably supported collective affiliation. For example, Namboodiripad wrote that providing representation to trade unions and kisan sabhas “is the proper method of co-ordinating their

United front as mass activism  55 daily struggles with the freedom movement.” He recommended automatic Congress membership for all members of class organizations.80 Under the leadership of the peasant activist N.G. Ranga, the Andhra Provincial Zamindari Ryots Association resolved: “There must be functional representation to the workers and peasants through the unions and the associations in the Congress.”81 Such organized anti-imperialist forces could be affiliated with the Congress. After the Lucknow session, members of the CSP Executive Committee adopted a scheme for collective representation of mass organizations. Trade unions would be permitted to apply for representation to District Congress Committees (DCCs), the only requirement being that the union must pass a resolution endorsing the Congress creed. The union would pay a fixed fee based on the number of members for whom representation was requested. Workers would receive twenty-five percent of membership to DCC executive committees and would be permitted to send one delegate for every 1000 members to Provincial Congress Committees (PCCs) and the annual Congress session. For election purposes, unions would receive exclusive constituencies for their representatives.82 Immediately after publication of this decision, Dinkar Mehta explained it. He dismissed the basic arguments that the Congress already represented the masses. Mehta insisted that the country’s laboring class “should enter the Congress in such a way that it can influence the latter in the direction it desires.” Mehta argued that unions constituted “organs of struggle both against Capitalism and Imperialism.” He also issued a very precise warning: The working class should be conscious that it is not going into the Congress on any invitation of the reactionary leadership of the Congress, to serve the purpose of the latter, but in order to come into closer alliance with the anti-imperialist masses, to offer an effective revolutionary Socialist leadership to the struggle. Consequently, collective affiliation was necessary to provide this single class “with a single voice.” A unified expression of class interests, thus articulated, would then stimulate unified political leadership allied with the national campaign.83 In May 1936, the Mass Contacts Committee received a memorandum from the South Indian Federation of Agricultural Workers and Peasants. This document asserted that the task at hand in combating British imperialism was “the achievement of complete unity and harmony between all anti-­ Imperialist and revolutionary organizations.” It insisted that “a united front between the Congress and the Organization of Workers and Peasants is not only highly desirable but inevitable.” Although the federation recommended close relations between the Congress and mass organizations, it also desired to avoid “a complete fusion between them.” Separation would secure the Congress’s political aims while concurrently enabling mass organizations

56  United front as mass activism “to seriously stand up for the class interests of the peasants and workers,” thereby guaranteeing “mass control over Independent India.”84 Another proponent of mass activism maintained that the Congress constitution had “still further to be democratized” before the Congress could “become the real representative of the masses.” This individual dismissed claims that affiliation would promote class hostility, instead suggesting that such arguments only created an artificial division between the Congress leadership and the country’s masses. He insisted that “class representation will inevitably strengthen the Congress.”85 Congress leaders quietly contained the potential impact of the Mass Contacts Program by paying lip service to its intent while delaying substantive accomplishments. Although DCCs tended to favor radical outcomes of mass contacts, provincial units supported more conservative results. Many reports received by the AICC office emphasized that collective affiliation could potentially harm the Congress. The Kerala PCC warned that cohesion in the Congress “will be considerably reduced if peasant and labour organizations as such are given representation.” The Bombay PCC reported that most Congressmen opposed affiliation on the grounds that it would create antagonism within the Congress. The Bihar PCC ­report simply asserted that “special representation of peasants and labourers will weaken the Congress as it will enhance class antagonism.” The G ­ ujarat PCC warned that union affiliation would reduce the ­Congress’s direct membership, and the Congress would become subordinate to the trade unions and kisan sabhas: It is obviously impossible to run two organizations with different ideals with the same membership. There will either be complete incapacity or unnecessary and continuous internal conflicts which would prevent workers from doing any useful work. This PCC report predicted that the two parties would form rival unions and sabhas, creating enmity and disunity. It anticipated that special representation would exaggerate class conflict within the Congress, weakening it and debilitating the national struggle.86 The Bengal PCC dismissed the need for collective affiliation. It maintained that mass organizations could easily transform themselves into local Congress committees by adopting the Congress creed and by enrolling additional Congress members. Furthermore, the report opposed direct affiliation of unions because affiliation would not eliminate potential clashes between the Congress and parallel organizations and because “special representation will create class antagonism and will weaken the Congress.”87 One DCC report defended the Congress’s top–down approach. It claimed that “there is very little political consciousness in the masses.” It also emphasized that “the Congress is the only body that honestly tries to stand by them” and consequently insisted that “it is their duty to help and support the Congress.” The report argued, “much cannot be expected of them.”

United front as mass activism  57 They do not understand history or economics or politics. They have got their own grievances and life is not easy for them. They are victims of superstition and evil social customs. Due to their general lack of political awareness, the masses could scarcely be expected “to understand and discuss political and social theories, and principles.” The report recommended working to help “them to live better and on easier lines.” Similarly, a second report endorsed introducing representation in the Congress through mass organizations “provided it is regulated in proper way.” Restrictions proposed by this report included guarantees that organizations “must have a creed or ideal not opposed to the Congress creed” and that these unions must be affiliated with either the All-India Trade Union Congress or the All India Kisan Conference. All union representatives would also be required to sign the Congress creed, and the membership of all such affiliated unions would be liable to scrutiny by DCCs and PCCs, which “for sufficient reasons” should be authorized to refuse representation.88 Collectively, these reports highlight mistrust of radicalized labor and peasant unions. They dismiss the masses’ ability to comprehend national questions. They reject the notion that the Congress ought to pursue a line alternate to what it had been pursuing. They rhetorically counter the united front claim that the Congress was not an authentically anti-imperialist organization. Eight months after the Lucknow Congress initiated this endeavor, a Faizpur Congress resolution reiterated “the desirability of increasing the association of the masses with the Congress organisation and of giving opportunities to the primary members to initiate and consider Congress policies and programmes.” It merely created a committee to consider constitutional revisions and instructed PCCs to undertake steps for the “more efficient and more responsive” reorganization of the Congress.89 After the general elections, Working Committee members recommended converting the Congress’s election machinery into local branches, “so that primary Committees should exist in as large number of villages as possible.”90 Slowly, mass outreach took a backseat to parliamentary work, receiving a further setback at the Haripura Congress, which appointed a committee to consider indirect election of delegates, Congress membership qualifications, the feasibility of proportional representation and constitutional amendments associated with these issues.91 Once the elections were concluded and the parliamentary program was underway, Congress leaders overlooked mass contacts because their priority was using Congress ministries as leverage against imperialism. Constitutionalism blunted the activism of the united front.

Constitutionalism With Congress leaders apparently preoccupied by the legislative program, united front initiatives sought to curb the dominance of parliamentary activities. Considerable agreement between socialists and communists existed regarding the proper anti-imperialist attitude toward contemplated

58  United front as mass activism constitutional reforms for India. Narayan remarked that “Wreck It is a realistic slogan” that “defines concretely” India’s attitude toward constitutional developments. Narayan suggested that the Congress should “follow a fighting and constructionist policy in the legislatures in order to tear it up into shreds and make its working impossible.” He speculated that a wrecking policy inherently meant that constructively working according to the terms of the new constitution would be counterproductive and anti-nationalistic. A wrecking policy also meant that Congressmen would refuse to form ministries under the new constitution. Narayan recommended organizing mass demonstrations to clearly protest against British-sponsored reforms and to demand the formation of a constituent assembly to frame an Indian constitution.92 United front attitudes about legislative work corresponded with a straightforward wrecking policy—an overtly oppositional program in legislatures that might ultimately evolve into extra-constitutional direct action by the masses. Congress statements declared that the Act was simply unacceptable. Working Committee members condemned the White Paper proposals for constitutional development in India.93 They also rejected the Joint Parliamentary Report based on the White Paper.94 The Lucknow Congress demanded that the Act be withdrawn and replaced by a constitution framed by a constituent assembly.95 The Election Manifesto also declared that the Congress “rejected in its entirety the constitution imposed upon India by the New Act.”96 The Faizpur Congress reiterated the Congress’s opposition to the Act and declared that “any cooperation with this constitution is a betrayal of India’s struggle for freedom.”97 Even when conditionally authorizing the formation of Congress ministries, the AICC vowed that the Congress’s legislative program was designed to combat the Act, to create deadlocks with the Indian government and to “bring out still further the inherent antagonism between British Imperialism and Indian Nationalism, and expose the autocratic and undemocratic nature of the new Constitution.”98 Collectively, these statements articulated the Congress’s unmitigated hostility to proposed constitutional reforms. United front architects fundamentally opposed constitutionalism and the principle of collaboration implied by the Government of India Act. Narayan declared that the Act “is only a new fetter of slavery and as such must be resisted and broken to pieces.” He warned that the “slave Constitution cannot be wrecked merely by an electoral victory.” The masses ought to be mobilized to resist the imposition of the Act and to substantiate the Congress’s demand for a constituent assembly. Elections, then, served a purpose, so long as they deliberately sought to “help organize that mass opposition.”99 Narendra Deva observed that every aspect of the parliamentary program diluted nearly all Congress initiatives. He suspected that legislators might work on behalf of their constituents, but would neglect establishing direct contact with the masses. He expected that parliamentarians would raise the slogan of constituent assembly in legislatures, but he complained

United front as mass activism  59 that their version of this body was a drawing room committee rather than a democratically elected assembly of the people. Deva claimed that in this instance, while retaining the slogan, constitutionalists “have vulgarised the whole thing.” He announced that “it will be injurious to the best interest of the Congress to allow the establishment of an out-and-out reformist party within the Congress.”100 Deva also described the new constitution as “a united front of imperialism and forces of native reaction.” He insisted that the Act was “designed to suppress the freedom of the people.” Once the Congress rejected the Act, “the thing that really matters is to see how this policy of rejection is carried out.” Deva proposed offering “determined resistance and obstruction” to ensure that the constitution could not function. He surmised that rejection was the only “way that we can expose the hollowness of the constitution and compel its suspension.” He told his audience that they must immediately mobilize public opinion against constitutionalism, in favor of a clear-cut wrecking policy.101 Communists adopted a complementary attitude. They also rejected the Act as a “slave constitution” and vowed to unrelentingly combat its inauguration: To-day the focal point of imperialist attack on India is the new constitution. To free ourselves from the new bondage should be the main flank of our political struggle. To concentrate all our forces, to mobilize all our energy to fight the slave constitution, that is the task which confronts us. Communists agreed that Congress candidates should contest elections established by the Act. However, they objected to reformist constitutionalism, and proposed transforming the election campaign into “a weapon to forge an anti-imperialist United Front.”102 The united front operated in clear contradistinction to constitutionalism. “Direct action and constitutionalism,” Narayan observed, “are incompatible.” He condemned constitutionalism because it sought to “work the constitution for what it is worth” and noted that “the Congress long ago gave up its belief in constitutionalism.” He insisted that constitutionalism implied that the Act contained some merit when the Congress wholly condemned it. He claimed that constitutionalism amounted to a collaborative policy with imperialism when the Congress sought to overthrow imperialism. Constitutionalism, he suggested, contained a hidden danger that enabled imperialism to recede “into the background keeping all the leading strings in its hands,” with Congressmen governing provinces on behalf of the imperial authorities. He rejected the notion that the Act promoted responsible government in provinces because allegedly responsible ministries “would be the mechanism” through which Indian “vested interests will become a façade behind which imperialism will continue its rule.”103

60  United front as mass activism Narayan maintained that if constitutionalism amounted to a fruitless collaboration with imperialism, the only alternative was to neutralize the Act through non-cooperation against it. Congressmen might tour the country using “whirlwind propaganda” to emphasize “the one issue of wrecking the constitution, on the ground that it has been thrust on us forcibly and is a mischievous device for our further enslavement.”104 Legislatures might be used “only in order to strengthen and support the revolutionary work outside.” The Congress ought to follow a revolutionary legislative program that would “inflict constitutional defeats on the Government,” associate legislative work with the day-to-day struggle of the masses and expose and obstruct imperialism. Such a two-front initiative entailed sending Congressmen into legislatures while concurrently “organizing the grievances of the masses outside.” Correct constitutional methods required coordination with a “strong labour and peasant movement outside.”105 United front activities stalled parliamentarianism for a brief period of time, and the Congress incorporated radical notions about a revolutionary legislative program. Working Committee members obliged legislators to maintain close and ongoing contact with their constituents and to serve the masses. As the Congress Election Manifesto explained, “activities in the legislatures should be such as to help in the work outside, in the strengthening of the people, and in the development of the sanctions which are essential to freedom.”106 Working Committee members also reminded Congress legislators that “their sphere of activity is not confined to the legislatures, but includes their constituencies.”107 In April 1937, a Working Committee resolution restated that “parliamentary work is but a minor part of the national programme” and maintained that independence could only be achieved through the “sustained efforts” to implement Congress activities outside legislatures. Parliamentarians were instructed to “establish living touch with the electors” and to “carry the message of the Congress” to the people.108 Even in its decision to accept office, the Working Committee insisted that ministries should be used “to further in every possible way” Congress activities outside assemblies, especially the constructive program.109 Nevertheless, despite all such qualifications and restrictions applied to constitutionalism, radical opposition only delayed the acceptance of office, only suspended the dominance of a parliamentary program. The lure of office proved stronger than the threat of grassroots activism. The united front failed to restore the post-Civil Disobedience Congress’s shattered morale or to reorient the Congress towards direct action.110 *** A resolution generated by the Bengal Socialist Party in October 1936 clearly articulated the fundamental goals of the united front. One of the main purposes of the united front involved “the task of presenting a united front to the slave constitution.” Mobilization was the key to articulating

United front as mass activism  61 the nationalist demand to repeal the Government of India Act in favor of Indian independence. However, the conference observed that “all the anti­imperialist forces in the country are not yet organised on a common front against imperialism,” and it insisted that creating “such joint people’s front” was the primary task of the country’s radical elements. Furthermore, the resolution described the Congress as “the widest possible basis for the creation of such a people’s front.” Efforts to form the united front had to occur within the Congress itself. The resolution stated that the united front could be created by consolidating all the country’s anti-imperialist forces within the Congress organization, which could then be linked with those operating outside it. It recommended forming contact committees to coordinate operations between the CSP and non-Congress anti-imperialist organizations.111 The united front explicitly targeted the Congress. Narendra Deva concisely explained the relationship between the CSP and its parent organization. He complained that Congress leaders had “hitherto not paid adequate attention to the question of reaching the masses with a correct approach.” The united front would generate a “new orientation of policy” in the Congress based on “recognition of the fact that there are definite classes to whom an economic appeal has to be made.” However one may criticize and denounce the Congress, it is the only broad platform of anti-imperialist struggle in India, and it is the only center to-day from which such a struggle can be conducted. It is the broad arena of mass struggle where workers and peasants can receive political education and enlarge their influence and prestige. Consequently, political mobilization entailed organizing the masses on a class basis so “they can be effectually used for an anti-imperialist struggle.”112 Charles Mascarenas, one of the organizers of the CSP and a disciple of M.N. Roy, wrote that the CSP was created because its founders recognized the need to enable the Congress to “become a truly anti-Imperialist body.” The party was formed to unify the country’s anti-imperialist elements and to coordinate their political activities. Regarding the Congress, Mascarenas argued that the CSP functioned to “create an alternative platform whose basic philosophy was the philosophy of scientific socialism.” Based upon a common appreciation of the Congress’s defects, which were attributable to its bourgeois leadership, Mascarenas proposed applying “a correct set of tactics arising from a proper appreciation of the realities in the country.”113 The united front, then, provided alternative tactics, programs and activities that were designed to secure economic and political emancipation. Socialists and communists discovered the foundations for unity in mass mobilization and anti-constitutionalism. They seized the opportunity to collaborate and tentatively began a process of ideological homogenization, intending to transform bourgeois-dominated nationalism into an authentic anti-imperialist movement. The class organizations of the masses would

62  United front as mass activism expel the Congress’s bourgeois leaders, expose the vacillation of the parliamentary program and seize power through direct action. United front partners agreed that their activities would deliberately target the Congress. With this spark of unity, socialists and communists were now prepared to initiate the transformation of the Congress into India’s united anti-­ imperialist front.

Notes 1 Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 5, 10. 2 Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 11–13. 3 Masani, Bliss It Was, 42–43. 4 Narayan, Towards Struggle, 182. 5 Masani, Bliss It Was, 42. 6 Interview with E.M.S. Namboodiripad in A.G. Noorani, “Communist Memories,” Frontline 28, no. 25 (December 2011). http://www.flonnet.com/fl2825/stories/ 20111216282509000.htm (accessed 24 June 2013). Hereafter cited as Namboodiripad interview. 7 In their discussion of the CSP in Orissa, Padhy and Panigrahy relate that “‘Socialism’ means ‘Samajvad’ and ‘Communism’ is ‘Samyavad’. But, at the time, they did not see any difference between the two.” Padhy and Panigrahy, Socialist Movement in India, 75. 8 “The Anti-Imperialist People’s Front in India,” (accessed 21 May 2014). 9 “Tasks of the Movement,” AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 10 Thesis on the Revolutionary Movement in the Colonies and Semi-Colonies, 25, 35. 11 Communist International, 468–69. 12 Benjamin Bradley, “The Background in India,” Labour Monthly, vol. 16, no. 3 (1934), http://www.marxists.org/archive/bradley/1934/x01.htm (accessed 21 May 2014). 13 M. Muzaffar, “India’s Fight Against the India Bill,” Labour Monthly, vol. 17, no. 5 (1935), http://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/sections/ britain/periodicals/labour_monthly/1935/05/x01.htm (accessed 21 May 2014). 14 “Anti-Imperialist People’s Front in India” (accessed 21 May 2014). 15 “Fifty Years,” Congress Socialist (28 December 1935). 16 “Fifty Years,” Congress Socialist (28 December 1935). 17 Narayan, Why Socialism?, i, 5, 26. Emphasis is original. 18 Narayan, Why Socialism?, 24–25. 19 Narayan, Why Socialism?, 136–37, 139. 20 Narayan, Why Socialism?, 136–37, 141. 21 Narayan, Why Socialism?, 143–44, 151–3. 22 Presidential address, CSP conference, 23 December 1936, JPSW, vol. 2, 130–31. 23 Masani, Bliss Was It, 121–122. 24 “Tasks of the Movement,” AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 25 “Tasks of the Movement,” AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 26 Meerut Thesis, 20 January 1936, Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47. 27 Narayan, Socialist Unity, 34. 28 Namboodiripad interview (accessed 24 June 2013). 29 Masani, Bliss Was It, 122–32. 30 Presidential address, CSP Conference, 23 December 1936, JPSW, vol. 2, 126–31. 31 Faizpur Thesis, 24 December 1936, Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47. 32 Faizpur Thesis, 24 December 1936, Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47.

United front as mass activism  63 33 Narayan, Towards Struggle, 171–72. 34 Circular from the Politbureau to the CPI Central Committee, 25 July 1936 in Masani, Communist Party, 63. 35 Masani, Communist Party, 63. 36 Masani, Communist Party, 60–61. 37 “Anti-Imperialist People’s Front in India” (accessed 21 May 2014). 38 Masani, Communist Party, 60–61. 39 Masani, Communist Party, 60–61. 40 Circular from the Politbureau to the CPI Central Committee, 25 July 1936 in Masani, Communist Party, 62–63. 41 SCCI, 478, 574. 42 SCCI, 109. 43 Advance Guard, (1 November 1922). 44 Advance Guard, (1 December 1922). 45 “Tasks of the Movement,” AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 46 P.C. Joshi, The Indian Communist Party: Its Policy and Work in the War of Liberation, (London: Communist Party of Great Britain, 1942), 6–9. Emphasis is original. 47 Joshi, Indian Communist Party, 16, 20, 25, 30. 48 “The Indian People in the Slave Market,” The Communist, (February 1937). 49 General Secretary’s Report, 20 January 1936, JPSW, vol. 2, 92. Terms of the trade union agreement are found in Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 122/1932–39. 50 Circular to CSP provincial secretaries, 13 November 1934, JPSW, vol. 1, 88. 51 Presidential address, AICSP conference, 17 May 1934, CSP, 48–51, 63–64. 52 Jayaprakash Narayan, “India and Socialism” (1936), CSP, 172, 191–92. 53 Circular to secretaries of trade unions, 26 February 1935, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 122/1932–39. 54 Narayan to S.V. Ghate [no date], JPSW¸ vol. 1, 112–113; Narayan to V.V. Giri [no date], JPSW, vol. 1, 113; Narayan to AITUC general secretary [no date], JPSW, vol. 1, 114. 55 Circular from CSP national executive to CSP provincial secretaries, 31 August 1935, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 2/1934–39. 56 General Secretary’s report, 20 January 1936, JPSW, vol. 2, 92–93. Narayan’s circular of 31 March 1937 sought to reiterate the notion of unity in the trade union movement, having found outcomes “far from satisfactory.” Circular to CSP provincial secretaries, 31 March 1937, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 2/1934–39. 57 Circular to CSP provincial secretaries, 13 November 1934, JPSW, vol. 1, 88–89. 58 “Statement on the Ban by some District Congress Committees on Kisan activities of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati,” JPSW, vol. 2, 181–183. 59 Speech at Madras, 23 November 1937, JPSW, vol. 2, 178–81. 60 “Rejoinder to Rajendra Prasad,” Searchlight (19 January 1938). 61 Circular to CSP provincial secretaries, 4 November 1934, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 2/1934–39. 62 Circular to CSP provincial secretaries, 23 February 1935, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 2/1934–39. Narayan’s invitation to participate was published the following day. “Appeal to Observe All India Detenu Day,” Congress Socialist, (24 February 1935). 63 Circular to CSP provincial secretaries, 28 March 1935, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 2/1934–39; “Appeal to Observe Detenu Day,” Bombay Chronicle (2 April 1935). 64 Circular to CSP provincial secretaries, 16 January 1935, JPSW, vol. 1, 104–5. 65 Circular to CSP provincial secretaries, 28 March 1935, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 2/1934–39.

64  United front as mass activism 66 “Anti-Imperialist People’s Front in India,” (accessed 21 May 2014). 67 “Reply to the Critics of the Congress Socialist Party,” Bombay Chronicle (3 June 1935). 68 Narayan, Why Socialism?, 154–55. 69 Narayan, Why Socialism?, 154–55. 70 Presidential address, CSP conference, 23 December 1936, JPSW, vol. 2, 128–29. 71 Narayan, Why Socialism?, 156–58. 72 Presidential address, All-India Kisan Sabha, March 1939, ASAND, 116–18. 73 Presidential address, Bihar Socialist conference, 5 December 1936, CSP, 255. 74 Presidential address, CSP conference, 23 December 1936, JPSW, vol. 2, 129. 75 Lucknow Congress resolution, “Congress & Mass Contacts,” 14 April 1936, AICC Papers 31/1936. 76 Draft Note on Congress Mass Contacts Programme, JPSW, vol. 2, 134–35. 77 Draft Note on Congress Mass Contacts Programme, JPSW, vol. 2, 135–40. 78 Draft Note on Congress Mass Contacts Programme, JPSW, vol. 2, 140–42, 144. 79 Draft Note on Congress Mass Contacts Programme, JPSW, vol. 2, 136, 144–45. 80 Reports on Mass Contacts, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 116/1936. 81 Rmendesawara Sharma (Andhra Provincial Zamindari Ryots Association) to Jairamdas Doulatram, 14 June 1936, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 116/1936. 82 “Workers’ Representation in the Congress,” Congress Socialist (9 May 1936). 83 “Workers’ Representation in the Congress,” Congress Socialist (16 May 1936). 84 Manga (South Indian Federation of Agricultural Workers and Peasants) to Jairamdas Doulatram, 18 May 1936, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 116/1936. 85 K.K. Sinha to Jairamdas Doulatram, 19 June 1936, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 116/1936. 86 Reports on Mass Contacts, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 116/1936. 87 Reports on Mass Contacts, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 116/1936. 88 Reports on Mass Contacts, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 116/1936. 89 Faizpur Congress resolution, “The Congress Constitution & Mass Contacts,” 28 December 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 90 CWC resolution, “Mass Contacts,” 1 March 1937, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 91 Haripura Congress resolution, “Constitution Committee,” 21 February 1938, AICC Papers 1/1938. 92 “Statement to the Press on the New Constitution,” Bombay Chronicle (3 December 1934). Narayan suggested that effigies might be burned at these public meetings. 93 CWC resolution, “White Paper and Communal Award,” 18 June 1934, AICC Papers G-31(i)/1934. 94 CWC resolution, “Joint Parliamentary Committee Report,” 29 October 1934, AICC Papers G-31(ii)/1934. 95 Lucknow Congress resolution, “Government of India Act,” 14 April 1936, AICC Papers 31/1936. 96 AICC resolution, Election Manifesto,” 23 August 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 97 Faizpur Congress resolution, “Elections & Constituent Assembly,” 28 December 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 98 AICC resolution, “New Constitution,” 18 March 1937, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 99 Presidential address, CSP conference, 23 December 1936, JPSW, vol. 2, 129–30. 100 Presidential address, AICSP conference, 17 May 1934, ASAND, 156–57. 101 Presidential address, Gujarat Socialist Party conference, 23 June 1935, ASAND, 17, 19, 22–23. 102 “Transform the Elections into Mighty Anti-Imperialist Demonstrations,” pamphlet issued by the CPI Central Committee, 5 December 1936 in Masani, Communist Party, 64.

United front as mass activism  65 1 03 104 105 106 107 108 109 110

111 112 113

“British versus India,” Congress Socialist (21 March 1936). “British versus India,” Congress Socialist (21 March 1936). “British versus India,” Congress Socialist (28 March 1936). AICC resolution, “Election Manifesto,” 23 August 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. CWC resolution, “Extra-Parliamentary Activities of Congress Members of Legislatures,” 1 March 1937, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. CWC resolution, “Work Outside Legislatures,” 29 April 1937, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. CWC resolution, “Office Acceptance in Provinces,” 8 July 1937, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. In May 1934, Narendra Deva observed that the Congress was “demoralised and dejected” and witnessed a prevailing “defeatist mentality.” He insisted that the task at hand remained developing “ways and means to resuscitate and reinvigorate the Congress.” He claimed that mobilizing the masses and providing them with “proper leadership” was the only avenue for achieving national freedom. Presidential address, AICSP conference, 17 May 1934, ASAND, 157–58. Resolution of the Bengal Socialist Party conference, 3 October 1936, CSP, 234–35. Presidential address, Gujarat Congress Socialist Conference, 22 June 1935, CSP, 102–3. “The Meerut Thesis,” Congress Socialist (28 March 1936).

3 United front within the Congress

In July 1938, M.R. Masani published a reply to a query about whether the Congress Socialist Party’s (CSP’s) work inside the Congress limited its independence and success. Masani’s straightforward answer was: “The Congress Socialist Party is not inside the Indian National Congress.” Masani defined the CSP as “an independent political party not affiliated in any way to the Congress but it makes primary membership of the Congress a pre-condition to membership of the Party.” The CSP also functioned “within the Congress as a group.” Emphasizing the party’s independence, Masani argued that it “owes no organizational allegiance to the Congress” and was “free to take any step it likes.” Masani observed that Congressmen who belonged to the Congress “as individuals are subject to Congress discipline.”1 In addition to working to transform the Congress into the united front, leftists campaigned to draw the Congress as a whole toward adopting united front programs. This tactic entailed attempting to radicalize Congress programs by introducing explicitly socialist resolutions for discussion and approval at All-India Congress Committee (AICC) meetings and annual sessions. Socialists and communists articulated precise programs, which in part worked to contain constitutionalism while preparing the country for direct action. Proposals also intended to more deliberately draw the masses into the anti-imperialist campaign per the leftists’ conceptualization of transformation and a united front. Communists and socialists agreed about the premise of the united front as the basis for a common platform of action within the Congress. Both parties perceived the Congress as having been dominated by its bourgeois, reformist leadership. Furthermore, both groups agreed that the liberation campaign must overcome such class limitations to achieve its ultimate objectives. Nevertheless, they quarreled about the extent of bourgeois domination and about how to best challenge reformism within the Congress. This foundational disagreement belied the unity that united front advocates sought to develop. United front strategies also foundered methodologically. CSP founders established a coherent organizational unit within the Congress, which had its own party discipline and structure. This tactic raised concerns about

United front within the Congress  67 dual loyalties and ulterior motives. CSP leaders insisted that their objective within the Congress was challenging the reformist national leadership, overthrowing bourgeois domination of the liberation movement. This approach inflamed suspicions about leftist intentions. Moreover, by working within the Congress to alter its programs, socialists and communists remained vulnerable to complaints that their activities violated Congress discipline. Working within the Congress, in fact, created tensions about divided loyalties, with the self-proclaimed vanguard of the anti-­i mperialist campaign attempting to transcend the limitations of bourgeois ideology and tendencies. These tensions generated mistrust among Congress leaders regarding radical activities, especially with leftist success and influence at the grassroots level. Consequently, the united front within the Congress became a battleground to determine the direction of the nationalist campaign. United front partners proved ill-prepared to fend off their opponents among the Congress leadership.

Working inside the Congress Socialists intended to employ the May 1934 AICC meeting at Patna to clarify several of the Congress’s semi-socialist programs—especially the Karachi Resolution on Fundamental Rights2—and to challenge parliamentarianism within the Congress. Delegates at this socialist conference declared that the Karachi Resolution could only be a starting point for achieving meaningful economic freedom. Consequently, socialists insisted that “it is necessary that the Congress should adopt a programme that is Socialist in action and objective.” The delegates then outlined nine specific socialist policies, including both general and detailed objectives. The delegates agreed to propose a resolution at the AICC session, clearly articulating the CSP version of united front work: The A.I.C.C. recommends the method of organizing the masses on the basis of their economic interests as the only effective method of creating the mass movement and the organization by Congressmen of Kisan and Mazdoor Sanghas, and the entry into such Sanghas where they exist for the purpose of participating in the day-to-day struggles of the masses and with a view to lead them eventually to their final goal. Moving this resolution at the socialist conference, Masani declared that legislative work must fulfill three conditions: the legislative program must be sanctioned by an open session of the Congress, not by the AICC or by the Working Committee; the Congress must divorce itself from parliamentarianism by appointing an independent oversight committee for all legislative work; and legislative work must be socialist in its focus. Masani maintained that such conditions shielded the Congress from pursuing “constitutionalism without any mass programme.” He recommended that

68  United front within the Congress the CSP should prevent the Congress from degenerating into “responsive co-operation” with British imperialism.3 A thesis, circulated among CSP executive committee members, highlighted several difficulties that might be expected while working within the Congress. According to this perspective, socialists could “never hope to capture the machinery of the Congress by purely parliamentary methods.” Consequently, this thesis recommended exposing “the follies and reactionary policies of the Congress High Command, without deliberately irritating the rank and file.” It also explicitly declared that the Congress ought not to be split along socialist and non-socialist lines because such a maneuver “will either bring down upon us outlawry from the Government or the Congress.” According to this thesis, the only plausible direction lay in mobilizing the masses and offering leadership to mass organizations. The thesis predicted that, by developing strength among the masses, “we shall have captured the machinery,” which would free socialists to “mould the Congress into a Soviet of the representatives of the revolutionary classes and a true instrument for the attainment of independence and Socialization.”4 By July 1935, a more precise thesis appeared. It defined the CSP as “the vanguard of the Independence movement.” It announced that socialists’ primary function ought to be influencing the rank and file while concurrently avoiding activity “which may antagonize the genuinely nationalist elements and drive them to join hands with the compromise-seeking right wing.” Socialism was, according to this document, the logical outcome of the nation’s freedom struggle: “Under present world conditions, it would not be at all difficult to bring those who are really fighting for the independence of the masses to accept Socialism.” This thesis insisted that socialists must not isolate themselves from the Congress. While the document posited that “there is hardly anything in the present programme of the Congress which is of interest to us,” it proposed that socialists should emphasize radical portions of the Congress program, including implementing the Karachi Resolution, observing Independence Day, issuing propaganda against constitutional reforms and expressing demands for a constituent assembly.5 Socialists resolved to persuade the Congress to develop closer links with the masses through its economic programs. Socialists promised to combat constitutionalism, drive the Congress toward revolutionary action against the Government of India Act and prevent India’s involvement in a war to preserve British imperialism. They intended to integrate the Congress into the struggles of States’ peoples and to convince the Congress to demand the release of political prisoners. They insisted that the Congress should adopt “a minimum programme for the peasants and workers,” and they maintained that the Congress should actively be involved in fostering the growth of mass organizations.6 From the earliest organized days of the CSP, united front advocates pledged to combat constitutionalism. They fought against “a drift towards sterile constitutionalism” involving inevitable compromise with groups

United front within the Congress  69 hostile to complete independence and direct action. By confronting constitutionalism, socialists perceived themselves as preventing “complete abandonment of the struggle for independence.”7 Between the AICC meeting of May 1934 and the Bombay Congress of October 1934, the Congress high command increasingly appeared to favor constitutionalism. Responding to “a large body of members who believe in the necessity of entry into the Legislatures as a step in the country’s progress towards its goal,” the AICC resolved to form a Parliamentary Board to “run and control elections of members to the Legislatures on behalf of the Congress.”8 Working Committee members then called upon all Congress committees and Congressmen “to render all such assistance as is within their powers to make the work of the Congress Parliamentary Board successful.”9 As the elections to central and provincial legislatures approached, Working Committee members reiterated their reminder that all Congressmen were duty bound to support the Congress Parliamentary Board. Congressmen were also told that they were not permitted to sponsor any candidate who opposed Congress policy and were expected wholeheartedly to support Congress candidates.10 The CSP resolved to boycott elections to the legislatures and appointments to parliamentary boards of all sorts.11 Although they rejected parliamentarianism, socialists insisted that they did not seek to obstruct the parliamentary program, but only operated according to the premise that legislative work could not achieve independence. Legislatures might be used only as a platform for nationalist slogans, as a vehicle for galvanizing mass support or as forum for enacting laws for rural uplift. Socialists opposed the Congress’s parliamentary program because it provided “a platform to those elements who had hardly ever had strong faith in the method of direct action.” It equaled “the handing over of the Congress to the forces of re-­action.” Socialists opposed constitutionalism because “the Congress will be turning its back on the goal of independence as a result of the Constituent Assembly,” and socialists pledged to strive to “prevent such a catastrophe.”12 Another united front focus, the demand for a Constituent Assembly, emerged out of the Congress’s response to constitutional developments. In June 1934, the Working Committee declared, The White Paper in no way expresses the will of the people of India, has been more or less condemned by almost all the Indian political parties and falls short of the Congress goal if it does not retard the progress toward it. The Congress executive announced that the Congress could only accept “a constitution drawn up by a Constituent Assembly elected on the basis of adult suffrage” with certain safeguards for minorities, as necessary.13 Socialists insisted that the demand for a constituent assembly should be

70  United front within the Congress kept foremost among all legislative work to best prevent parliamentarianism from disintegrating into reaction and collaboration with imperialism.14 None of these issues were particularly contentious. Nevertheless, Working Committee members resolved to control this apparently hostile trend, to contain its dynamic spread, to blunt its radical demands and, in particular, to dilute its pungent critique of parliamentarianism. In June 1934, the Congress high command condemned socialism: Whilst the Working Committee welcomes the formation of groups representing different schools of thought, it is necessary, in view of loose talk about confiscation of private property and necessity of class war, to remind Congressmen that the Karachi resolution as finally settled by the AICC at Bombay in August 1931, which lays down certain principles, neither contemplates confiscation of private property without just cause or compensation nor advocacy of class war. The Working Committee is further of opinion that confiscation and class war are contrary to the Congress creed of non-violence. At the same time the Working Committee is of opinion that the Congress does contemplate wiser and juster use of private property so as to prevent the exploitation of the landless poor, and also contemplates a healthier relationship between capital and labour.15 The resolution produced considerable vociferous criticism by socialists. Four founders of the CSP issued a statement responding to the “deliberate offensive” represented by the resolution. They denied indulging in loose talk. They insisted that all mention of confiscation of private property was accompanied by remarks about compensation. They outright dismissed the Working Committee’s remarks about advocating class war, noting that “to speak of the necessity of creating a thing which is ever present is meaningless.” Because class conflict existed, they insisted that the debate was not about its existence, but should focus on whether the Congress would back “the side of the oppressed or the oppressor.” The statement dubbed the Working Committee resolution “a challenge” and promised that the CSP would “accept this challenge and put forth our utmost energy to have this reactionary resolution rescinded and our programme adopted by the Bombay Congress.”16 Jayaprakash Narayan delivered a terse complaint to the AICC office in July. He declared that socialist agitation could not be defined as “loose talk about class war or confiscation of private property” because Working Committee members were perfectly aware of the CSP program, which had been delivered to them shortly after the socialist conference at Patna. He criticized the phrase “loose talk” itself, noting that Working Committee members likely interpreted socialism to be “loose or irresponsible.” He concluded that while Congress leaders might disagree with socialist theory, “it would hardly be dignified” for them “to speak of the ideas contained in

United front within the Congress  71 this science as loose talk.” According to Narayan, the Working Committee condemnation of class war was equally specious: The Working Committee seems to think that socialists in their wickedness are planning to set class against class & bring unnecessary disunion and discord in the country. Narayan reassured Congress leaders that class struggle had “existed before Marx discovered it and raised it into a first class sociological doctrine.” Socialists, he argued, merely insisted that “we must fight on the side of the oppressed” in the campaign to terminate class conflict.17 Working Committee members responded by attempting to clarify the intent of the resolution, insisting that “the resolution was not intended to criticize any party or its programme but was intended to affect individuals engaged in the loose talk referred to in the resolution.”18 At the All-India Congress Socialist Party (AICSP) conference in October 1934, party leaders once again criticized the Working Committee’s “uncalled for and misleading” resolutions about class warfare and property confiscation. The delegates at the conference declared that “participation in the class struggle and advocacy of expropriation of property are not in any way inconsistent with the Congress creed.”19

Discipline Three significant factors—the performance of the CSP at the Bombay session in October 1934, socialist demands and the apparent dominance of the Congress’s parliamentarians—aggravated controversy. As Narendra Deva observed, the immediate task was “to devise ways and means to resuscitate and reinvigorate the Congress.”20 Socialists planned to use the Bombay Congress session to initiate this task. Meeting prior to the Bombay session, delegates to the AICSP session resolved to facilitate the organization of unions “for the purpose of participating in and developing the day to day economic and political struggle of peasants and workers.” They sought to develop “a powerful mass movement for the achievement of independence and socialism.” They promised “active opposition to all imperialist wars.” They refused “at any stage” to support “negotiations of constitutional issue with the British Government.” Socialists demanded the creation of a constituent assembly for framing an independent Indian constitution. The conference also passed resolutions emphasizing that “political freedom must include the real economic freedom of the starving millions,” that India’s future constitution would be based on specific socialist principles, that the Congress should boycott any imperialist war and that Indian independence entailed abolishing the Princely States.21 More controversially, the conference criticized “the concerted attempts of the right wing to take back the Congress to the old discredited path of

72  United front within the Congress constitutional agitation and to convert it into an instrument of the Indian upper classes in their bargains” with imperialism. It declared that the Congress’s parliamentary work should “be based on the theory of the revolutionary use of the Legislatures.” This concept required legislators to serve as “the representative of the exploited masses of India and in no other capacity,” insisted that parliamentary work would be closely linked to “the activity of the exploited masses outside” and prohibited the acceptance of office unless conditions amounting to full, responsible self-government were satisfied.22 At Bombay, socialists pressed for the Congress to adopt the CSP program, but experienced difficulties impressing Congressmen with their views. They opposed entering the legislatures, pushing instead for mass mobilization and direct action. They objected to membership restrictions based on the wearing of khadi and compulsory spinning—during discussion, Narayan described these qualifications as “an attempt to fritter away the energy of the Congress.” They proposed that the Congress creed be revised, replacing the statement that the Congress’s goal was independence using “all legitimate and peaceful means” with the more radically emphatic “mass direct action of a peaceful nature.” They attempted to delay consideration of the new Congress constitution, suggesting that the document might be more widely circulated and discussed prior to its ratification. Practically every socialist amendment was rejected by majority vote and, in some instances, simply ruled out of order and closed for debate.23 The Bombay Congress authorized a new Congress constitution that clearly demarked the boundaries within which the united front might operate. Article III emphasized individual membership, stating that any person of age who submitted a written declaration that he or she supported the Congress’s primary object of securing the country’s complete independence “by all legitimate and peaceful means” was eligible for membership.24 Individuals, not collective organizations, were the foundation of the Congress. The united front sought to transform this arrangement by emphasizing collective affiliation. Article V further limited potential membership, placing restrictions on voting privileges and circumscribing eligibility for office holding. Only a member who “has been continuously on a Congress register for six months prior to the date of the election” could vote. Radicals who had recently joined the Congress could not begin to influence it until the next elections. No Congressman was eligible for election to Congress offices unless he or she habitually wore khadi, “performed manual labour continuously” and was “not a member at the same time of any other parallel committee.” This third stipulation essentially disqualified high-ranking socialists and communists from holding Congress offices because these individuals staffed the CSP national executive and were most likely to stand for election to Congress office. More ominously, Article V also specified that No person who is member of any elected Congress Committee shall be member of any similar Committee of a communal organization the

United front within the Congress  73 object or programme of which involves political activities which are, in the opinion of the Working Committee, anti-national and in conflict with those of the Congress.25 Although this clause targeted narrowly communal organizations, which the Congress high command deemed anti-national, it more importantly inferred exclusion of all such allegedly anti-national groups. For socialists and communists to actually implement the united front, they were obliged to abide by Congress discipline, at the risk of being excommunicated as anti-nationalists. The new Congress constitution contained provisions that essentially retained a Working Committee monopoly on decision-making. Article IX stipulated that the departing Working Committee was responsible for framing the draft program and for submitting it to the Subjects Committee—­in actuality the AICC—for its consideration. Although the constitution provided that at least one day was reserved for unofficial resolutions moved by delegates in the open session, restrictions practically stifled initiative from below: All such proposed resolutions had to have the written support of at least twenty-five delegates; the motion had to be submitted to the president before the beginning of the day’s session; the motion had to be discussed by the Subjects Committee before being considered by the open session; and the unofficial resolution had to receive the support of at least one-third of the Subjects Committee members before it could proceed for discussion before the larger Congress body.26 Similar restrictions were placed upon special sessions of the AICC.27 The AICC, however, was central to the success of the united front. Article XI of the Bombay constitution permitted the AICC to “affiliate to the Congress such organizations as it may deem necessary provided such organizations are calculated to further or assist the object of the Congress.”28 If socialists and communists could capture the AICC, they could initiate collective affiliation of mass organizations and could significantly alter the direction of Congress policies, making the organization ever more responsive to the needs of the masses. Article XI reinforced socialists’ perceived need for collective affiliation and, in fact, justified their demand for it. Socialists expressed their frustration with the conservatism of the Bombay Congress. Narayan objected “strongly to the manner in which reactionary elements” were afforded “prominence in the Congress.” He perceived that the Congress was “almost being handed over” to these groups and individuals. Additionally, he disapproved of “the humiliating manner in which the Congress is being driven” into legislatures. Constitutionalism, he mused, was inconsistent with Congress ideals. He also objected to the subtle “manner in which the idea of a Constituent Assembly has been degraded by making it dependent on the consent of the British Government.”29 From the moment of their first entry as a political force, united front advocates expressed a line militantly dissident from that which was outlined by

74  United front within the Congress Congress policies. Also from the outset, CSP leaders clearly expressed their intention to depose the Congress’s veteran leadership. Working Committee members responded by further restricting the field of operations for united front advocates. Once the Bombay constitution authorized the Working Committee to take action against indiscipline, in January 1935, Congress leaders framed a series of disciplinary rules, targeting subordinate committees and prominent Congressmen. One resolution empowered the Working Committee to take action against Congress committees and members of Congress executives or elected Congress committees. Indiscipline remained only vaguely defined as a committee or individual that deliberately acts or carries on propaganda against the official programme and decisions of the Congress or deliberately disregards or disobeys any orders passed by any higher authority or by an umpire, arbitration or commissioner duly appointed and which it is [its/his/her] particular duty to obey. Additionally, these rules permitted Provincial Congress Committee (PCC) executives to take disciplinary action against their subordinate committees and against members of primary committees. Provincial procedures mimicked those itemized by the Working Committee.30 The new disciplinary mechanisms attempted to curb perceived disunity by emphasizing obedience. United front advocates found the entire situation problematic, especially for a minority opposition bloc within the Congress, seeking to alter the overall focus of the national movement. Narayan immediately claimed that the rules violated the Congress constitution: “As far as I can see in the new constitution, there is no general provision for taking disciplinary action against an individual Congressman or a subordinate Congress Committee.” More significantly, Narayan objected to the notion that propaganda against existing Congress programs constituted indiscipline. He fretted that the “unhappily worded” phrase was “too sweeping and ambiguous” and “would virtually muzzle all criticism.” Narayan predicted that it would also stifle all activities external to the Congress, such as the organization of worker and peasant unions. Narayan worried that none of these acts violated the Congress creed or were anti-national or communal in purpose, yet any or all could arbitrarily be deemed an instance of indiscipline. He expressed anxiety that “the vague disciplinary powers would not be utilized to check the genuine, militant elements in the Congress.”31 Congress leaders ignored Narayan’s warnings. In December 1936, Working Committee members expanded the scope of disciplinary rules. The Congress executive authorized itself to take disciplinary action against any Congress committee that overtly opposed Congress programs through propaganda or that openly disregarded or disobeyed orders issued by superior committees. It could now take action against any member of an executive body or elected committee who openly criticized and campaigned

United front within the Congress  75 against Congress policies or who disobeyed direct orders. It could now discipline any individual Congressman who disobeyed instructions from a superior committee, who was involved in fraudulent electoral activities “or who deliberately acts in a way which, in the opinion of the Working Committee is likely to lower the power and prestige of the Congress.” The resolution also authorized PCCs “to take disciplinary action against their subordinate committees and members of any Congress Executive Committee and members of primary committees within their province.”32 Disciplinary rules certainly targeted socialists and communists within the Congress who allegedly engaged in anti-Congress and anti-nationalist activities. Moreover, disciplinary mechanisms threatened the fundamental purpose of the united front. For example, Narayan complained that the Nagpur District Congress Committee (DCC), with PCC approval, declared that a political conference orchestrated by socialists, labor activists and other anti-imperialists was “anti-Congress.” Narayan defended the conference, observing that it certainly could not be called anti-Congress with organizers who were prominent provincial Congressmen and “who can in no circumstances be expected to entertain anti-Congress feelings.” He insisted that Congressmen were free to “assert their right to freedom of opinion.”33 More importantly, Narayan intimated that disciplinary action contained ulterior motives: It meant committing to the sterile path of constitutionalism. He suggested that the Congress’s newfound emphasis on discipline was intended to drive socialists out of the national movement. Calls to reject the Government of India Act were deemed breaches of discipline. The labor movement’s conference also became an instance of indiscipline. Narayan noted that only anti-constitutionalists were subjected to disciplinary measures.34 Discipline proved problematic for CSP members who attempted to conform to disciplinary rules while concurrently working to transform the nationalist movement. Reflecting about the Congress high command’s early response to socialist indiscipline, Masani recalled that the CSP “got off to a bad start” with Vallabhbhai Patel, “a strict disciplinarian.” According to Masani, Patel “had naturally found our leftist deviation and our criticism of Gandhiji and the Congress extremely impertinent.” Patel also remained concerned that while socialist activities might be altruistic, “we were allowing ourselves to become a front to be exploited by the communists who were using us as a channel of infiltration into the Congress.” Patel described socialists as the “sappers and miners of the Communist Party,” once the united front began operations. According to this depiction, socialism might have been tolerated, if not for the extreme Marxism introduced into the equation by the united front’s inclusion of communism.35 Allegedly, discipline was meant to contain the extent of communist infiltration rather than stifle socialists’ progressive views. Masani might well have cited the general radicalization of the Congress in 1936 and 1937 as evidence of the tolerant attitude exhibited by Patel and his Working Committee colleagues toward socialism, but such a statement would have ignored the purpose of the united front.

76  United front within the Congress The united front’s entire raison d’être emphasized radicalizing the national movement and displacing the entrenched Congress leadership. The CSP intended to wean the Congress from its bourgeois orientation by supplanting perennial Working Committee members, and socialists recognized that success depended on the party’s ability to influence rank and file Congressmen.36 Discipline tended to limit these activities. Narayan defended the need for such fraction work within the Congress as well as CSP activities outside the Congress. He remarked that a minority could not hope to “capture the Congress by merely moving resolutions in the A.I.C.C.” He observed that the Congress’s constitution prevented the success of such tactics as did parliamentarians’ control of decision-making. The solution, he suggested, was organizing the masses on their day-to-day struggles and emphasizing “some particular issue” that might “capture the imagination of the masses.”37 In short, the united front intended to organizationally and psychologically prepare the masses to engage in direct action against imperialism.

Socialism in the Congress CSP foundational documents carefully avoided discussion about converting Congressmen to a socialist ideology. Instead, party members resolved to orient the Congress in a progressive direction by incorporating socialist-­ inspired resolutions into Congress programs. Nevertheless, disagreement abounded about the extent to which socialists might recruit Congressmen to socialism through propaganda and activism. Initial public statements made by socialists were charged with aggressive rhetoric. Speaking to a student association at Bombay in July 1934, Masani asserted that “socialism was the proper weapon” for the independence struggle. Socialism, he claimed, transformed the utopianism of complete independence into “practical politics.” To the same audience, Purushottam Trikamdas declared that “socialism was a new but surer method of achieving success.”38 Trikamdas remarked that leadership for the Congress must “be created from among the workers and peasants, on the Socialist basis of the struggle.”39 The CSP’s preliminary constitution declared that “The object of the Party shall be the establishment in India of a socialist state.”40 Narayan argued that socialists “believe that the Congress cannot become a strong revolutionary body unless the right wing, compromise-seeking elements are driven out of it.”41 Communist rhetoric employed a similarly aggressive tone. One communist pamphlet defined Congress leaders as counter-revolutionary and reactionary. It declared that Gandhi and Gandhism were “the curse of the national movement and must be immediately overthrown.” It speculated that the Congress rank and file “can and must be won over to a revolutionary anti-imperialist programme.” This document then outlined a plan of radical action. Significantly, the pamphlet declared that individual Congressmen

United front within the Congress  77 should be “recruited individually into the Party” and should be “asked to continue their work in the Congress as Party fractions.”42 The hostility demonstrated toward socialist proposals at the Bombay session tended to check radical rhetoric. After Bombay, united front advocates generally revisited the tenor of their campaign and, indeed, began redefining the CSP’s purpose within the Congress. In February 1935, Sampurnanand distributed a thesis, which emphasized that radicals should not attempt to ideologically capture the Congress. He insisted that the Congress should not be divided into socialists and non-socialists, but rather socialists might expose the counter-revolutionary and reactionary nature of Congress programs. Socialists could more constructively “mould the Congress into a Soviet of the representatives of the revolutionary classes and a true instrument for the attainment of independence and Socialization” if socialists attempted to “raise some important issue connected either with labour or the Peasantry and create an agitation.”43 A circular issued in July by the party’s national executive observed that rather than belabor socialism as the ultimate goal of the national campaign, socialists might more constructively emphasize militancy and direct action as a foil to constitutionalism and reformism.44 According to this revised outlook, Marxism informed a foundational perspective about the nature of the anti-imperialist struggle. This outlook governed ways in which united front advocates might persuade the Congress to adopt more authentic anti-imperialist programs, especially those which promoted mass activism by emphasizing the relevance of the masses’ day-to-day struggles and interests. United front rhetoric remained militant, but its expression began to de-emphasize ideology. Nevertheless, although radicals deliberately attempted, for the most part, to dilute their Marxist messages, propagating the ideology remained an essential aspect of the campaign to develop the united front. The Meerut Thesis, for example, outlined a specifically Marxist outlook in its attempts to “wean the anti-imperialist elements in the Congress away from its present bourgeois leadership and to bring them under the leadership of revolutionary Socialism.” Nevertheless, this document emphasized that party members “should take only an anti-imperialist stand on Congress platforms” and should not “make the mistake of placing a full Socialist programme before the Congress.” Somewhat ambivalently, the Meerut Thesis concluded that socialists were permitted to propagate Marxism from an exclusively CSP platform.45 The Faizpur Thesis more explicitly explained the party’s mode of developing “an all-embracing united front against Imperialism.” The task at hand was broadening the mass character of the Congress, helping to “transform it into a powerful anti-imperialist front.” Marxism appeared in this document’s articulation of the party’s “alternative program,” taking immediate mass demands as the basis for struggle and forming workers’ and peasants’ unions. The Faizpur Thesis only partially redefined the role

78  United front within the Congress of Marxism in this alternative program by asserting that the party was responsible for ensuring that the masses claimed their “historic role in the national movement.”46 These limits imposed on the propagation of Marxist ideology artificially truncated the ability of socialists and communists to effectively provide alternative leadership or to develop mass consciousness to contend against Congress leadership. The attempt to avoid discussion of socialism while emphasizing the implementation of programs rooted in Marxist ideology no doubt caused considerable confusion among audiences—and, indeed, among united front advocates—and triggered consternation and anxieties among Congress’s leaders. Promoting Marxism without explicit reference to Marx diluted the potential of developing a coherent class consciousness that might develop non-Congress foundations for a national united front. Marxism might have cogently generated mass activism, which might have obliged Congress leaders to accommodate in a meaningful way the day-today interests emphasized by united front rhetoric. Instead, Congress leaders circumvented the impact of Marxism by appropriating the cause and rationale for united front, more or less absorbing aspects of united front grassroots activities and equally containing more extreme elements.

Lucknow session Delegates to the CSP’s annual conference at Meerut in January 1936 passed a series of resolutions, which formed the foundations for united front activities. The CSP program included unrelenting opposition to the Government of India Act and a declaration that “the only course open for the Congress is to adopt such measures as will make the working of that Constitution impossible.” Specifically, delegates to the CSP annual conference resolved that the Congress should forego forming ministries where the Congress had secured an electoral majority because, according to the socialist perspective, ministries “would among other things be a step towards the working of the Constitution, would create confusion in the ranks of the Congress and false illusions among the public and divert or dissipate the forces of direct action.” The proper course should be creating deadlocks to compel suspension of the constitution.47 A second resolution considered ways in which the socialists might “make the Congress a truly anti-imperialist body.” This document recommended revising the Congress constitution to better afford “adequate representation of workers, peasants and other exploited classes through their class organizations.” Such amendments should provide for functional representation of labor and peasant unions and expansion of the powers and initiative of the Congress’s local branches. The resolution also proposed that Congress activity “should include as its chief items the organization of the workers, peasants and other exploited classes on the basis of their economic demands in their respective class organizations.” Additionally, the CSP conference

United front within the Congress  79 called upon the Lucknow session “to decide unequivocally against participation in any war in which the British Government may be involved and to prepare the country for resisting it actively.”48 Most significantly, delegates to the Meerut conference opined that “there is urgent need for the co-ordination of all the anti-imperialist forces in the country.” The CSP conference acknowledged the preliminary successes in developing the united front thus far and “reaffirms its desire to continue these efforts leading to the ultimate unification of all these forces.” Delegates concluded that only such consolidation could achieve the country’s complete independence from imperialism.49 To convince Congressmen about the bankruptcy of parliamentarianism, socialists organized demonstrations to protest ministries. Party leaders orchestrated an “Anti-Ministry Day” for 8 March 1936, and the CSP national executive instructed party cadres to “take a personal interest in the preparations for the Day.” Additionally, Narayan proposed that an Anti-Imperialist Conference be held during the Lucknow session, which was intended to further develop “a United Front of anti-imperialist elements.”50 The Lucknow Congress session of April 1936 in many ways marked the high-water mark of the united front. The session passed several resolutions that complemented the united front agenda. It condemned the “widespread and intensive suppression” of civil liberties by the Indian Government, highlighted by: bans inflicted on Congress and national organizations; arbitrary seizure of property; the ongoing enactment of ordinances; proscription of books and periodicals and press laws restricting free speech; and “the detention of large number of people for indefinite periods without charge or trial.” This resolution claimed that suppression had become “the normal feature of British administration in India today,” and the Congress promised to “continue to face the situation with courage and fortitude.” The Lucknow Congress also vowed to oppose India’s participation in any war for imperialist purposes. The session framed an agrarian program, which encouraged PCCs to frame recommendations that would be used by Congress leaders to outline a comprehensive all-India agrarian program.51 This session passed a resolution rejecting the Government of India Act “in its entirety” because it “in no way represents the will of the nation” and was designed to perpetuate British domination. The resolution stated, No constitution imposed by outside authority and no constitution which curtails the sovereignty of the people of India and does not recognize their right to shape and control fully their political and economic future can be accepted. The Lucknow Congress declared that the only viable alternative was a constitution framed by a constituent assembly elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage. This resolution also permitted Congressmen to stand for election to provincial and central assemblies and promised to frame an

80  United front within the Congress election manifesto upon which Congressmen would campaign. Having committed the Congress to some kind of parliamentary program, the Lucknow Congress postponed a decision about ministries: The question of acceptance or non-acceptance of office by Congress members elected to the legislatures under the constitution having been agitated in the country the Congress, in view of the uncertainties of the situation as it may develop, considers it inadvisable to commit itself to any decision at this stage on the question…. Temporarily abdicating responsibility for resolving the issue, this resolution announced that the AICC would decide the issue “at the proper time.”52 L.S. Goonewardene suggested that at Lucknow, the socialists “put forward an alternative policy for the overthrow of Imperialism based on the ideology of Socialism.” He declared that this initiative attempted to define a clearly articulated revolutionary policy and to generate a revolutionary socialist outlook within the Congress. According to Goonewardene, socialists challenged bourgeois reformism within the Congress “on concrete issues,” namely office acceptance. Goonewardene wrote that, at Lucknow, Instead of focussing [sic.] attention on the Ministry question which, after all, concerned only the tactic of the struggle, the party had an opportunity of drawing attention to its fundamental programme and policy. He maintained that this approach was correct because it demonstrated to bourgeois leaders that there “were considerable anti-imperialist elements in the ranks of the Congress, who could be weaned away from the bourgeois leadership of the national leaders by a firm stand against the reformist proposal of office acceptance.” According to Goonewardene, the stand taken by socialists at Lucknow was significant because it attracted the “confidence of all anti-imperialist elements of the Congress.”53 Masani celebrated the Lucknow Congress as “the beginning of a new phase in our politics.” He praised the radicalism inherent to Congress resolutions about mass contacts, the agrarian program, the opposition to war and the rejection of the new constitution. Masani observed, The promise of Lucknow filled even pessimists with hope and it was felt that the phase of defeatism had ended for good and a new phase of intense activity to build up a United Front of all the radical and anti-­ imperialist elements under the leadership of the Congress was in sight. Masani also acknowledged the persecution experienced by socialists working to develop the united front based on the Lucknow Congress’s recent radical directives.54

United front within the Congress  81 The Lucknow session introduced CSP radicalism into Congress programs, providing, in the words of Charles Mascarenas, “a synthesis of revolutionary theory and revolutionary practice.” The new direction indicated that “active forces and potentials of a new class are now penetrating the national movement.” According to Mascarenas, the significance of the moment was found in “a new system of thought, a new method of work, a new slogan” inspired by scientific socialism.55 For all intents and purpose, the Congress’s new direction heralded a reinvigoration of the national struggle.

Manifesto and ministries In an editorial dated 5 September 1936, Asoka Mehta remarked that the country’s workers and peasants supported CSP efforts to transform the Congress into “a genuine anti-imperialist organization.” He observed that the Congress was “slowly responding to our demands,” and he cited a section of the Congress Election Manifesto as evidence of this transformation.56 The coordination of anti-imperialist forces envisioned by united front architects appeared to be underway by the autumn of 1936. The concepts encompassed by the united front influenced the Congress’s election campaign and the content of public pronouncements during electioneering. The Election Manifesto outlined the platform upon which Congressmen stood for election to provincial legislatures. The manifesto appealed to mass interests while also essentially mirroring the united front program. To some extent, this vital component of the electoral campaign ironically conveyed the sense that the process of transforming the Congress was underway. The manifesto rejected the Government of India Act, declaring that “independence cannot be achieved through these legislatures” while paradoxically placing the Congress’s campaign platform before the electorate. It asserted that only a government established by a constituent assembly was acceptable to the people of India, but it declared that Congressmen would stand for election “to prevent the operation of forces calculated to strengthen alien domination and exploitation.” The document promised that Congressmen would not “cooperate in any way with the Act,” but rather intended to enter legislatures “to combat it and seek to end it.” It vowed that Congress legislators would adhere to the policy of rejection and would challenge British imperialism within the assemblies. Somewhat ominously, the manifesto introduced the notion that while the Congress found the Act’s provincial autonomy objectionable, the federal scheme suddenly assumed prominence with its alleged intention “to perpetuate the domination of imperialist interests and the feudal interests of the states over the whole country and prevent all progress towards freedom.”57 The Election Manifesto began radically, insisting that India’s struggle for freedom was incomplete “and must continue till India is free and independent.” It declared that the masses, “in the grip of an even more abject

82  United front within the Congress poverty and destitution,” demanded “a radical remedy,” and it proclaimed that “only independence can give us the power to solve our economic and social problems and end the exploitation of our masses.” It complained that the Indian government responded to the advances of Indian nationalism with “intense repression” and “the suppression of civil liberties.” It warned that war threatened to engulf the world and vowed the Congress’s opposition to India’s participation in an imperialist war. It resolved that legislative work would remain secondary to work outside the legislatures. It declared the Congress’s intention to “work for the establishment of civil liberty, for the release of political prisoners and detenus and to repair the wrongs done to the peasantry and to public institutions during the course of the national struggle.” It stated that the Congress supported reforming rent and revenue systems as well as other rural relief initiatives. It announced that the Congress sought to secure “a decent standard of living, hours of work and conditions of labour” for India’s industrial workers. It vowed to address the treatment of political prisoners and declared the Congress’s intention to “change the whole basis of the prison administration so that every prisoner might be treated in a humanitarian and rational manner.”58 The manifesto clearly expressed united front intentions, noting that “a joint front is necessary” to secure independence. “Every party and group,” the manifesto announced, “that stands aloof from the Congress organization tends, knowingly or unknowingly, to become a source of weakness to the nation.” The manifesto insisted that the Congress “offers that joint national front which comprises all classes and communities, bound together by their desire to free India.” To further emphasize this depiction, the manifesto maintained that activities auxiliary to legislative work would be undertaken for the further “development of the strength of the people and the forging of sanctions to enforce the people’s will.”59 Socialists praised the manifesto, which “though not a Socialistic document in its entirety, had a strong Socialist bias.” Socialists understood that during the Congress’s election campaign, they would strive to ensure that the Congress entered legislatures “with the express purpose of wrecking them.” After all, every Congressman’s “duty was to wreck it.” Socialists resolved to support a wrecking policy by “developing mass-consciousness and organising the masses.”60 Nevertheless, Narayan expressed reservations about the urge to accept office. He denied that ministries could ameliorate poverty and unemployment, noting that “we would have to remain in office as long as possible” to achieve this goal. Narayan maintained that accepting office under a constitution that the Congress deemed objectionable “leads to a watering down, vulgarisation and distorting of even the present Congress ideals, moderate as they are.”61 Speaking at a socialist conference in Kerala, Sampurnanand also expressed his consternation with these developments. He observed that although the decision to accept office remained postponed for the immediate future,

United front within the Congress  83 constitutionalists had maneuvered the entire Congress into a position in which “only one decision is possible, and that, a decision in favour of office acceptance.” Sampurnanand urged his audience to “wake up people from lethargy” to combat bourgeois reformism. He insisted that the “tinkering reforms” of constitutionalism could never construct socialism.62 Communists remained more reserved, expressing concern that the slogan of constituent assembly as expressed by Congress leaders remained barren of meaning to the masses. Communists argued that the practical demand for constituent assembly—“the right of the Indian people themselves to decide about their constitution”—accurately encompassed “the real demands of the masses for democratic rights.” Communists insisted that the slogan itself remained “revolutionary because it cannot be carried out unless imperialism is overthrown.” However, in the same breath, communists warned that the slogan would “remain a lifeless phrase unless it is accompanied by a practical mass struggle for all democratic rights.” According to the communist perspective, “independence and the Constituent Assembly can plainly only be secured by a revolutionary struggle.” Praising the “revolutionary struggle for democratic liberties,” they celebrated the demise of “passive resistance.”63 Such optimism quickly dissipated, once the election campaign began. In November 1936, Asoka Mehta warned about the negative effects of elections and the assorted “pacts and compromises” used by the Congress to secure electoral majorities. He observed “an attempt to drag the Congress towards constitutionalism,” which invariably would lead the Congress into office. He lamented the “drift toward the policy of working the reforms” as well as the “slow but sure drift to the Right that is going on in the Congress,” which could only mean “abandoning the policy of wrecking.” He insisted that only the Congress rank and file could successfully counter this counter-­ revolutionary trend.64 Also in November, the CSP national executive complained that compromises with non-Congress elements revealed that “the reigning consideration in the selection of candidates is somehow to secure a majority for the Congress Parties, possibly with an eye to the formation of ministries.” Reports have been received in certain cases of the adoption of titled gentlemen who at the time the Congress was engaged in an open struggle with Imperialism had sided with those who ordered firing and lathi charge and the shutting up of the bravest men and women in the Country. This leads to passing over, on petty pretexts, such as lack of funds, of the claims of genuine Congressmen with records of long and brave service to the cause of our country’s independence. The CSP executive resolved that such actions fatally diluted the potential for direct action. Furthermore, the executive committee ruled that such maneuvers “take all meaning and purpose out of the election campaign and drive

84  United front within the Congress us ultimately to working of the Reforms.” Socialists urged Congressmen to remain vigilant and “to bring pressure on their provincial committee so that only such candidates are adopted as are genuine Congressmen.”65 Meeting at Faizpur in late December, delegates to the CSP annual conference passed a series of resolutions designed to advance the successes scored at Lucknow. The resolution about war resistance observed that “jealousies and antagonisms between rival Imperialisms” bred “feverish military preparations” and pushed the world toward war. Celebrating the Lucknow Congress’s opposition to India’s participation in an imperialist war, the CSP conference declared that “the Indian people must now prepare for this crisis with a view to utilise it for securing their freedom and striking a blow for peace and progress.” One resolution urged the Congress to support the party’s demand for a nationwide hartal to “resist the imposition of the unwanted Constitution” and as a demonstration of the people’s “determination to launch a powerful mass movement” for the destruction of the Act. Other resolutions protested police repression, expressed sympathy for striking railway workers, supported active participation of Untouchables in the national campaign, expressed sympathy for victims of flood and famine and deplored oppressive conditions of tenancy, appointing a committee to investigate “the correct methods of agitation and legislative measures necessary for amelioration” of the masses’ economic plight.66 More significantly, because elections and office acceptance dominated political discussions at the end of 1936, the CSP annual conference passed a resolution about the constitution and elections. Socialists reaffirmed their “unequivocal opposition” to the Act and vowed to wreck its operation. They declared that “revolutionary parliamentarianism is an integral part of the struggle for national freedom,” which meant that elections must be “backed up by mass action.” Socialists maintained that the elections afforded an excellent opportunity to approach the masses and to explain to them “the effectiveness of revolutionary parliamentary tactics.” They praised the “robust and militant tone” of the Election Manifesto, but with the same breath, insisted that it should “voice more completely the immediate economic needs and demands” of the masses. They also petitioned the Congress to include in the manifesto “a categorical declaration that Congressmen elected to the Legislatures will in no circumstances accept ministerial offices or otherwise take or share responsibility in carrying on the foreign administration.”67 United front advocates celebrated the success of the Faizpur session of December 1936. One resolution condemned the “unjust and inhuman policy” of “keeping thousands of Indian in detention for indefinite periods without charge or trial.” Another resolution condemned the suppression of civil liberties, reiterating the complaints made at Lucknow and declaring that the Congress “stands for full personal, civil and democratic liberties in the whole of India.” The Faizpur session expanded the Lucknow Congress’s agrarian program, declaring that the immediate preliminary steps to framing an all-India program included adjusting rent and revenue rates, assessing

United front within the Congress  85 agricultural incomes, abolishing feudal dues and levies, introducing cooperative farming schemes, removing burdens of rural debt, forgiving arrears of rent and recognizing peasant unions.68 This session also reiterated the Congress’s resolve to warn the country about fascist aggression and heightened war danger: Since the last session of the Congress the crisis has deepened and fascist aggression has increased, the fascist powers forming alliances and grouping themselves together for war with the intention of dominating Europe and the world and crushing political and social freedom. The Congress is fully conscious of the necessity of facing this world menace in cooperation with the progressive nations and peoples of the world, and especially with those peoples who are dominated over and exploited by imperialism and fascism. Once again, the Congress vowed to refuse to participate in any war that protected imperialist interests.69 Furthermore, the Faizpur Congress initiated a mass contacts campaign for “increasing the association of the masses with the Congress organization and of giving opportunities to the primary members to initiate and consider Congress policies.” This resolution announced the formation of a Working Committee sub-committee to “consider the introduction of suitable changes in the constitution.” The resolution also instructed PCCs to establish local Congress committees and to encourage primary committee members to meet at least twice every year. The stated purpose of this initiative was to accomplish “this task of bringing our national organization in close touch with the daily lives and struggle of the people.”70 Faizpur Congress delegates also considered the primary political issues of legislative work, ministries and parliamentarianism. One resolution unequivocally rejected the Act again, stating that “any cooperation with this constitution is a betrayal of India’s struggle for freedom.” This resolution vowed to combat the Act, inside and outside the legislatures. It declared that the only alternative to this imposed constitution was one framed by a constituent assembly, and, once again, the Congress deferred any decision about forming ministries until after elections to provincial assemblies. In the meantime, PCCs were instructed to consult with DCCs and local Congress committees, and PCCs were also asked to provide their views to the AICC office. One other resolution, designed to demonstrate India’s resolve to resist the Act and the people’s “determination to launch a powerful mass-movement for its destruction,” called for holding a hartal on 1 April 1937, the inauguration day of the unwelcome new constitution.71 In December 1936, Asoka Mehta wrote that “the most important question before the country to-day is the pulverisation of the unwanted Constitution.” He insisted that the constitution could only be wrecked through “a militant programme and mass mobilization” against it.72 In January, Mehta celebrated

86  United front within the Congress the “onward march” toward direct action framed by the Faizpur session. He wrote that the Congress’s call for a hartal to protest the constitution “raises our struggle against the Constitution to a higher stage.” He observed that the resolutions about elections and the constituent assembly employed “stronger words and has a firmer tone than at Lucknow.” He declared that Congress leaders now recognized that the demand for a constituent assembly could only be effective when “backed by powerful mass pressure and struggle.” Mehta insisted that Fazipur resolutions were “effective in developing and organizing our offensive against imperialism.”73 Mehta highlighted the Congress resolutions about mass contacts and the kisan program. Although, in Mehta’s opinion, neither statement was fully adequate, they “usher in a new chapter in the annals of the Congress” because they took the first step toward the Congress’s involvement in the day-to-day struggles of the masses. Mehta declared that the kisan resolution “embodies the urgent demands and aspirations of the peasants,” and he predicted that democratizing the Congress in the coming year would strengthen it.74 Despite such buoyant optimism, Mehta expressed concerns. He cited an editorial from Amrita Bazar Patrika that questioned the sincerity of the Congress’s turn to the masses: The Congress inspite of its eagerness to enlist the sympathy and co-­ operation of the masses, had not yet deemed fit to incorporate in its programme the removal of the actual grievances under which the masses of our countrymen laboured. Resolutions advocating the formation of peasant and labour unions under Congress guidance had been unanimously passed at the plenary sessions of the Congress successively for a number of years, but very little had actually been done, to give these resolutions a practical form…. It was feared that the Congress might land itself in the midst of a class struggle by following such a line of action. Mehta insisted that identification with mass concerns entailed engaging in class struggle. He warned that avoiding class conflict and the theme of “undivided united front” should not “be allowed to become convenient cloak for stifling—even sabotaging—our struggle.”75 Mehta insisted that in the upcoming year, “the political lethargy must be dispelled.” He warned that the Faizpur resolutions would not by themselves overcome “a disturbing tendency towards ossification.” He recommended mobilizing the masses. He also called upon socialists to “implement the Congress resolutions” and to “goad Congress committees into action.” Observing that the “Faizpur spirit is the spirit of mass mobilization,” Mehta argued that passivity and inertia “must be ruthlessly fought” to fully realize the spirit of mobilization and resistance.76 Narayan reveled in the “notable success” of the Faizpur Congress due to the “definite,” and potentially permanent “check that it gave to the forces

United front within the Congress  87 of the Right.” He predicted that “henceforth the Left will steadily grow till it comes to dominate the Congress.” He based this prediction on the observation that “many of the official resolutions were themselves the product of Left propaganda and leadership.” Narayan confidently claimed that when Congressmen began to fully deliberate office acceptance, “the Left will succeed in convincing the Congress that the only course consistent with its ideals and declarations is to reject offices.”77 The entire political situation began changing shortly after the Faizpur Congress session as the urge to form ministries gained increasing currency. In February, the Bengal CSP’s national executive protested against creeping constitutionalism. One resolution about ministries declared that forming ministries “implies definite responsibilities to support measures of repression and additional burdens on the over-taxed people of India.” By way of contingency, should the Congress form ministries, the Bengal resolution recommended framing a precise program to govern the conduct of ministers and, ultimately, prepare the country for struggle against imperialism. Specifically, they emphasized that ministries should pursue a practical program based on a dozen specific points, including: releasing all political prisoners, withdrawing legislation that suppressed freedom of the press, repealing anti-labor legislation, implementing a system of unemployment insurance, guaranteeing minimum wage levels, reducing land revenues, restructuring the land revenue system and abolishing the Permanent Settlement, enacting a “progressive industrial and agricultural policy,” introducing universal adult suffrage and free compulsory primary education, reducing administrative expenses, nationalizing key industries and pursuing the creation of a constituent assembly.78 These points were, of course, based on an initial united front premise about the revolutionary use of legislatures closely linking parliamentary work with the economic demands of the masses.79 Also in February, the CSP national executive objected to Gandhi’s reported attitude about Dominion Status, stating that qualified acceptance was “in clear opposition to the creed of the Congress and the pledge of independence.” It warned that such statements could only breed “confusion in the minds of the people and dim the great goal that the Congress has set before it.”80 However, at that moment, socialists only dimly realized that the purpose of such contradictory statements was to generate confusion. Confusion enabled the parliamentarians to press their advantage at the Congress’s executive levels. March 1937 found Masani complaining about conditional acceptance of office. He observed compromising machinations in the scheme. He suggested that Congressmen might find themselves unable “to work ourselves up into a fit of righteous indignation simply because the Governor refuses to give the desired answer.” According to Masani, conditional acceptance meant “an immediate deadlock or else an assurance by the Congress leader that he will keep in abeyance his programme of wrecking the Constitution.”81

88  United front within the Congress One socialist pamphlet described offices as a “breach of faith with the masses.” This document observed that the question of ministries was “not an isolated issue,” but instead was “an indication of the whole approach of the Right to the national struggle.” The Right while talking of complete indipendence [sic.] stands for Dominion Status; while talking of wrecking the constitution, it stands for working it in order to reform it. These are the implications of office acceptance which are absolutely contrary to the whole spirit of the Congress election manifesto and resolution on the election. The pamphlet declared that accepting offices was “the road to constitutionalism and compromise with imperialism.” Socialists resolved to “see that the Congress does not take a false step from the line of consistently developing mass struggle against imperialism.” They intended to “mobilize all the forces against this compromising policy,” expecting to “do it in time to influence the decisions of the A.I.C.C.”82 On 18 March 1937, the AICC committed the Congress to a parliamentary program. Its resolution authorizing the formation of ministries in Congress-­ majority provinces began with typical anti-imperialist idioms that rejected the Act and demanded the formation of a constituent assembly. It followed with the grandiloquent claim that the “electorate has, in an overwhelming measure, set its seal on this policy” of rejection, and it proclaimed that “the New Act therefore stands condemned and utterly rejected by the people.” It then proceeded to emphasize that the Congress’s parliamentary program was predicated by the Congress’s rejectionist policy, that all legislative work had to be undertaken in accordance with “the fundamental Congress policy of combating the New Constitution.” Having reaffirmed nationalist hostility to constitutional reform, the AICC, almost as an afterthought, authorized the formation of ministries in Congress-majority provinces provided the leader of the Congress party in the legislature is satisfied and is able to state publicly that the Governor will not use his special powers of interference or set aside the advice of ministers in regard to constitutional activities.83 The new policy deliberately deployed united front rhetoric that condemned the Act while carefully addressing socialist concerns about unbridled constitutionalism. But its intent, irrevocably, proved collaborative. E.M.S. Namboodiripad declared that the decision to conditionally accept office was a “Great Betrayal.” Namboodiripad maintained that parliamentarians never observed the spirit of the Election Manifesto and, instead, merely paid “lip service to it, ignoring the basic ideas that underly the manifesto.” He observed that in Kerala, his home province, the manifesto omitted the Congress’s agrarian program. Furthermore, Namboodiripad

United front within the Congress  89 observed in Kerala “a deliberate policy of avoiding really militant slogans and correct explanation of the revolutionary programme outlined in the manifesto.” Namboodiripad complained that Kerala candidates did not participate in Congress Committee functions, with one candidate refusing to participate in Congress work “because the organisers of it were not, in his opinion, ‘persons of integrity and status.’”84 The Government of India Act was inaugurated on 1 April, with Congress parties boycotting office and holding out for guarantees from governors. Governors refused to make public promises about special powers and appointed interim ministries. A Working Committee resolution issued on 29 April declared that British reassurances “are utterly inadequate.” A second Working Committee resolution proposed holding demonstrations to protest interim ministries. This document also emphasized the now-­ familiar line that parliamentary work was “but a minor part of the national programme,” recommending that in the interim, Congressmen should engage in mass contacts activities and promote the Congress’s constructive program. A third resolution banned members of Congress parties from associating with “the so-called ministers who have been unconstitutionally appointed.”85 To socialists and communists, the deadlock appeared to herald the demise of parliamentarianism. The British would not accommodate the Congress demand and the Congress could not back down from its position to form ministries. Apparently, the only exit strategy available to Congress leaders was resorting to direct action. Asoka Mehta declared that the Indian Government’s unwillingness to accommodate Congress requests denoted “the utter hollowness of the new Constitution.” He witnessed popular enthusiasm at a fever pitch, anticipating a “bold lead from the Working Committee.” But once again, according to Mehta, the Congress leadership vacillated, permitting “a maturing crisis to peter out,” a “sad denouement of a crescendo moment.” Mehta observed no calls for mobilizing the masses, no inspiration to launch direct action based on the agrarian program, “no lead to implement the new orientation of the Congress.”86 However, Gandhi’s public statements about the situation facilitated reformism. In mid-April, he remarked that the Congress’s parliamentary program was designed “not to give but to take co-operation.” More ominously, Gandhi emphasized that the Congress was “not going into the Legislatures to paralyze them.”87 In a follow-up speech, Gandhi stated that Indians “have come to feel that swaraj will be more quickly obtained” through parliamentarianism. Explaining this point, he insisted, If I accept office it will be to gain swaraj…. He who considers it improper to accept office with a view to wrecking the Constitution will naturally not accept office. But if we come pledging ourselves to truth, non-violence, fearlessness and unselfishness and accept Ministerships

90  United front within the Congress on our own conditions, we can win the battle of swaraj and establish a constitution of our own making in place of the present one. However, he very carefully minimized parliamentary work by maintaining that only the constructive program—work outside the legislatures—could achieve swaraj. Consequently, he suggested that Congressmen should “very clearly declare that our work is constructive work and that we are going into Parliament for furthering that work.”88 In a newspaper interview, Gandhi also surmised that through ministries and parliamentarianism, the Congress might “make a substantial advance by that method towards its unequivocal goal of complete independence in so far as it is constitutionally possible to make that advance.”89 In late May, Asoka Mehta declared that Gandhi’s statements were “pregnant with dangerous potentialities for the future” that signaled “the dangerous drift in Congress politics.” He observed the Congress being “dragged back with all the subtlety of legalistic enunciation to the rejected path of compromise and surrender.” Mehta emphasized that the Congress had consistently rejected the right of Parliament to determine India’s constitution and had equally determined that only a constituent assembly could frame free India’s constitution. Mehta argued that abandoning “this fundamental basis of the Congress and the people’s struggle for national independence is tantamount to a betrayal.” He concluded with a warning: “When the leaders fail, the people will have to raise their voice and push on with dynamic organisation for the overthrow of Imperialism.”90 Mehta produced another editorial in which he announced that the Indian Government could only conciliate Congress demands “by abdicating their authority.” Mehta declared that the original conditions had become diluted by Congress leaders’ subsequent statements, which “seriously affected the Congress attitude towards the constitution.” He then warned that socialists would “resist such an orientation.” Rather than capitulate to the insidious machinations of Congress parliamentarians, Mehta insisted that Congressmen reject the constitution and prepare for direct action. According to Mehta, the British Government spurned the Congress’s attempts to compromise, and now resistance remained the only option for challenging the unwanted constitution.91 Presiding over the Kerala Congress Socialist conference in June 1937, Yusuf Meherally lambasted parliamentarianism. He observed that Gandhi had long ago taught the Indian people “not to hang on the words of the British statesmen and see in their vague promises the salvation of their country.” He complained that recent developments in the Congress made it seem that “Gandhiji had been trying to make them unlearn the lesson.” He criticized the “unfortunate impression” that “influential Congress leaders were keen on scaling down the conditions for office that they themselves laid down.” Meherally suggested that, because the British government rejected the Congress’s terms for forming ministries, “the Working Committee at its next meeting should proceed to terminate this period of drift” and inaugurate

United front within the Congress  91 “the next phase in the struggle for rooting out of the Constitution,” namely, preparing the country for “the mass struggle which must be launched in the near future.”92 Socialists and communists underestimated constitutionalism and Congress leaders. They expected that rejectionist support would continue unabated and, given time, increase. They accepted, at face value, Working Committee statements that emphasized that “parliamentary work is but a minor part of the national programme” and that independence could only be achieved through sustained nationalist activity outside the legislatures.93 Likewise, they supported policies that obliged parliamentarians to “keep in constant touch with the people” and “consult with them and report to them from time to time.”94 They became complacent about a parliamentary program that declared that Congressmen entered legislatures “not to cooperate with the new Constitution or the Government but to combat the Act and the policy underlying it” and that proposed a revolutionary legislative tactic of non-cooperation.95 They were lulled into a stupor by Jawaharlal Nehru’s denials about “how undesirable it was for any Congressman to talk in terms of ministries before the question was decided by the A.I.C.C.”96 However, Congress leaders proved unwilling to continue what they perceived to be a policy of drift. As Nehru privately observed, the decision to accept office, “though unfortunate in many ways, had become inevitable and it was not possible to resist it.”97 Working Committee members ruled that the “situation created as the result of the circumstances and events that have occurred” since March 1937 suggested that the Congress’s demand for non-interference would be respected by governors. It declared that “delay in taking a decision at this stage would be injurious to the country’s interests.” For the sake of national interest, the Working Committee authorized provincial Congress party leaders to form ministries in Congress-majority provinces.98 United front advocates were thunderstruck by this decision. The entire CSP position was overthrown and socialists now could only “hope that even with office-acceptance the objective” of wrecking the constitution would dictate legislative activities.99 Nevertheless, socialists struggled with the demoralization accompanying this defeat. Asoka Mehta wrote that office acceptance “opens wide door to further compromises.” With Provincial Autonomy in place, Mehta suspected that discussions about “forming Congress government at the Centre will soon start.” More disturbing for the united front, Congress parliamentarians had “already started talking about ‘Swaraj without struggle,’” which Mehta dubbed “a dangerous illusion.” Accepting office negated any possible intensification of the struggle for the time being, but Mehta was concerned that “this evasion will slowly evince tendency to become chronic.”100 In July, the Communist Party of India (CPI) passed a resolution about Congress ministries, which declared that every vote cast for the Congress “was a vote for a struggle against Imperialism—and against compromise,

92  United front within the Congress against working the Constitution for petty gains.” The document maintained that Congress leaders failed to seize this initiative: On the one hand the rightwing leaders of the INC, wanted to harness the enthusiasm of the masses to win mass support for their reformist policy of diverting the struggle to the constitutional plane…. In the months which followed the inauguration of the Constitution the attention was diverted to constitutional issues. The masses were being prepared for the acceptance of ministries by Congressmen. On the other hand the entire leftwing was not strong enough to turn the initiative of the masses to account on its own…. While it succeeded in mobilising considerable mass support for the policy of not accepting office, it failed to link its anti-Ministry agitation with a concrete alternative plan of developing mass struggle against the Constitution. The resolution condemned Congress leaders’ failure to utilize the Indian government’s refusal to grant concessions for forming ministries as an opportunity to launch nationwide protests against interim ministers, the Act and imperialism.101 This resolution also criticized united front strategy. It observed that, for their part, leftists were unable to develop the situation into the context for a united front. This paralysis occurred because communists were not influential enough to implement their viewpoint that “the struggle against the acceptance of office could only gather force on the basis of a concrete struggle against the Constitution.” The resolution declared that socialists “took the sterile view that the refusal of Imperialism to give assurance was a substitute for their own struggle against the acceptance of ministries.” According to the communist perspective, the anti-ministry campaign lacked inspiration and was withered and defeated: The reason for the ineffectiveness of the left is to be sought in the way in which the whole issue of ministries was posed and in the manner the anti-­m inistry agitation and struggle was carried out. The whole question hinged on how the struggle against the Constitution was to be carried out. The controversy at bottom was between the forces of reformism and of revolution. Communists complained that objection to offices “was generally posed in a sterile, negative way.” Rejection was never linked to plans to mobilize the masses against the Act.102 Communists proclaimed that the “crying need of the moment” was Left unity. They announced that the Congress’s “policy of capitulation must be fought concretely” through mass activism: Every strike struggle, every mass demand of the peasantry, every act of repression of the government official, must be made the object of

United front within the Congress  93 mass demonstrations, of mass deputations to ministers and to Council Houses. “This,” communists insisted, “is the only way to raise the struggle against the Constitution to a higher level to combat the danger of diverting the struggle to reformist channels” and to “smash the illusion of pure parliamentarianism.”103 Asoka Mehta supported a less aggressive line. He announced that in the changed circumstances, the task for the united front was to “make a dangerous experiment as innocuous as possible.” He recommended turning more deliberately to mass mobilization as a means to strengthen legislative work. He also predicted an inevitable outcome: We are confident that before long the country will realise the unwisdom of office-acceptance. Time is not far off when the people will once again take to direct action trek. We would desire to carry the entire Congress in that direction—but the ultimate outcome will be determined as much by the will and work of the right-wing as those of ours. Mehta also warned that if the Congress’s experiment with office should lead away from the path of struggle, “we will be compelled, even at the risk of imperiling the unity of the Congress, implacably to oppose such a move.” Backing this threat, Mehta urged his readers to “see that the combative part of the Congress programme is not allowed to become a dead letter.” He anticipated that such vigilance could be achieved if radicals “throw ourselves in the work of organization of masses and constantly strive to bring mass pressure on the Congress governments.”104 Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya lamented the decision to form ministries. She observed that defeat in the office acceptance debate “brings home to us the painful fact, that the Left is to-day still in a weak and disorganized position.” The solution, she argued, was a long-standing remedy—accelerating the pace of the struggle by “organising the masses, mobilising their opinion and preparing them for the fight by giving them a clear conception of the real objective of complete freedom.”105 In August, Asoka Mehta wrote an editorial stressing the need for vigilance. He warned that socialists must remain alert to attempts to wed the Congress to constitutionalism and reformism. He highlighted a contradiction in public statements that revealed “opposing mentalities” about ministries, and he requested that the Working Committee frame an all-India policy for ministry conduct “to prevent an otherwise inevitable rot.” He also recommended using ministries to “create a psychology of struggle among the people.” According to Mehta, ministries should “create a new climate” to break down “barriers between the governors and governed.” He predicted that such a connection would strengthen the liberation campaign.106 Mehta’s sentiments about vigilance became CSP policy when, in August 1937, the CSP national executive passed a resolution about office acceptance. This document insisted that the duty of all Congressmen was to enable

94  United front within the Congress the parliamentary experiment to seize opportunities that might bring about intensification of the struggle for liberation: Those opportunities lie both in securing such immediate relief for the peasantry, workers and other sections of the people as can be got by legislative and administrative action and in exposing the irreconcilable conflict between the demands of the masses of our people and the British and Indian vested interests entrenched behind this Imperialist Constitution. The resolution declared that Congress ministries afforded opportunities for “widening the basis of the Congress” and for developing trade and peasant unions.107 Members of the CSP national executive also exaggerated the relevance of direct action—a strategy of united-front-from-below. They sounded an alarm about a growing “mentality” that permitted “the contradiction between the British Government and the Congress” to be “blurred,” an outlook that only advanced “the illusion that Swaraj can be won without further mass struggles.” The national executive called for Congressmen to combat the growth of such a mentality, urging subordinate Congress committees to “be increasingly active in popularizing” Congress programs and to “bring pressure to bear on the Cabinets to implement the Election Manifesto” by “mobilizing public opinion behind it.”108 Socialists also responded by launching a direct attack against the Congress’s parliamentary program. At the AICC session that ratified the unconditional acceptance of office, Masani tabled a resolution that criticized the conduct of Congress ministers. This document complained that not all political prisoners had been released by Congress governments and that the ministries relied on the “repressive provisions of the law” designed to perpetuate British rule. Masani’s resolution called for “the complete implementing of the Congress Election Manifesto” by “the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners” and insisted that Congress ministries take “immediate steps or the repeal of all repressive laws.”109 The AICC deferred decision on Masani’s proposal, referring the matter to the Working Committee, which recorded its “approval of the work done so far by the Congress Ministries.” This Working Committee resolution also appealed to all Congressmen to “create an atmosphere of peaceful and disciplined action in the country” and instructed subordinate committees to take disciplinary action against Congressmen who opposed this policy.110 At the same moment, Working Committee members declared that recent activities of one component of the united front, the Bihar Kisan Sabha, “run counter to the basic principles of the Congress” by “creating an atmosphere of violence.”111 Congress leaders’ tolerance of the united front was reaching its limit. Discipline and unity became the rhetorical device for undermining

United front within the Congress  95 united-front-from-below. Nehru’s tongue-in-cheek statement to the press made at the moment the Working Committee authorized the formation of Congress ministries circumscribed the extent of further radical influence: “Every decision of the Working Committee is a right one. Just as the king can do no wrong, the Working Committee also can do no wrong.”112 Nehru insisted that Congressmen must maintain discipline now that the decision to accept office had been made.113 He intimated that the decision was “inevitable,” noting that in the end, “it was not possible to resist it.” He suggested that anyone who continued to disagree with the decision was free to withdraw from the Congress, but he contended that everyone desiring to remain Congressmen must submit to discipline.114 *** The united front suffered a tremendous setback when the Working Committee authorized the formation of ministries. United front advocates had found common cause in the anti-ministry campaign and in the ideology of constitutionalism as bourgeois reformism. Deprived of this common platform of action, socialists and communists began quarrelling about what had gone wrong with their campaign, and they squabbled about how the united front might respond to dramatically changed circumstances. Once the Working Committee authorized the formation of ministries, socialists and communists assumed the role of watchdog for the Congress’s parliamentary program. Nearly one year after ministries were formed, Narayan issued a circular encouraging provincial CSP branches to collect evidence that ministries “have undertaken some labour and peasant legislation and also some measures of general relief and reform.” Each provincial executive was instructed to prepare “a report on the working of the provincial autonomy in your province, its achievements, shortcomings, judging them from the point of view of the Congress programme.” Provincial parties were also asked to describe their efforts to influence the decisions and actions of ministries.115 Given this new orientation, socialists and communists attempted to criticize Congress ministries, ensuring that amelioration efforts were genuinely pursued by Congress governments and guaranteeing that Congress legislators upheld Election Manifesto pledges. This decision weakened the united front program. Being the moral compass for a legislative program diluted radicalization because, as socialists had insisted for the previous several years, a legislative program could not lead to direct action against imperialism. Being the conscience for parliamentary work undermined the effectiveness of united front activity because socialists and communists orchestrated public demonstrations by peasant and labor organizations to notify Congress ministers about popular dissatisfaction with the course of legislative efforts. So many united front activities were directed at constitutionalism that when radicals were outmaneuvered in their attempts to curb

96  United front within the Congress the so-called drift of moderate policies, they were bereft of the foundations for the united front within the Congress. With the inauguration of ministries, Congress leaders increasingly came to depict their organization as the united front of the country’s anti-imperialist forces, robbing socialists and communists of the conceptual common ground for the united front.

Notes 1 “Within the Congress?,” Congress Socialist (2 July 1938). Emphasis is original. 2 Nehru remarked that this resolution indicated “a new outlook in the Congress” and amounted to “a step, a very short step, in a socialist direction.” Nehru, Autobiography, 266. At the Andhra Provincial Socialist Conference in February 1935, T. Viswanatham suggested that the Karachi Resolution amounted to “an ill-digested, although genuine, attempt to reconcile several forces which were present and which could not be controlled.” It was a beginning for socialist efforts to “infuse real socialism in the Indian National Congress.” Presidential address, Andhra Provincial Socialist Conference, 19 February 1935, CSP, 91. 3 Proceedings and resolutions of the All-India Socialist Conference, 17 May 1934, CSP, 40–42. 4 “Our Role in the Congress,” February 1935, AICC Papers 3/1935. 5 Sampurnanand’s Thesis, 5 July 1935, AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 6 General Secretary’s report, 20 January 1936, JPSW, vol. 2, 91. 7 AICSP resolution, 30 September 1934, CSP, 70. 8 AICC resolution, “Congress Parliamentary Board,” 19 May 1934, AICC Papers G-31(i)/1934. 9 CWC resolution, “Parliamentary Board,” 13 June 1934, AICC Papers G-31(i)/1934. 10 CWC resolution, “Congress & Coming Elections,” 30 July 1934, AICC Papers G-31(i)/1934. 11 AICSP resolution, 30 September 1934, CSP, 70. 12 Purushottam Trikamdas’ speech, All-India Socialist Conference, 21 October 1934, CSP, 75. 13 CWC resolution, “White Paper & Communal Award,” 18 June 1934, AICC Papers G-31(i)/1934. 14 Pushottamdas Trikumdas’ speech, All-India Socialist Conference, 21 October 1934, CSP, 75. 15 CWC resolution, “Socialist Programme,” 18 June 1934, AICC Papers G-31(i)/1934. 16 “Statement on Congress Working Committee Resolution,” Bombay Chronicle (23 June 1934). 17 Narayan to J.B. Kripalani, 20 July 1934, AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 18 CWC resolution, “Regarding Resolution No. 13 of 18–6–34,” 30 July 1934, AICC Papers G-31(i)/1934. 19 AICSP resolution, “Class Struggle and Confiscation of Property,” 22 October 1934, Brahmanand Papers 9/1940. 20 Presidential address, AICSP conference, 17 May 1934, CSP, 67. 21 AICSP resolutions, 22 October 1934, Brahmanand Papers 9/1940. 22 AICSP resolutions, 22 October 1934, Brahmanand Papers 9/1940. 23 Shankar, Socialist Trends, 78. 24 Article III § (a) of Bombay Congress constitution, Indian Annual Register 1934, vol. 2, 208. The quote appears in Article I of Bombay Congress constitution, Indian Annual Register 1934, vol. 2. 208.

United front within the Congress  97 25 Article V § (a), (b) and (c) of Bombay Congress constitution, Indian Annual Register 1934, vol. 2, 209. 26 Article IX § (g)–(i) of Bombay Congress constitution, Indian Annual Register 1934, vol. 2, 212. 27 Article XI § (e) of Bombay Congress constitution, Indian Annual Register 1934, vol. 2, 213. 28 Article XI § (i) of Bombay Congress constitution, Indian Annual Register 1934, vol. 2. 213. 29 “Basic Ideas of the Congress Socialist Party,” Bombay Chronicle (13 August 1934). 30 CWC resolution, “Disciplinary Rules,” 18 January 1935, AICC Papers G-31(ii)/1934. Article XII authorized the Working Committee to “frame rules and issue instructions for the proper working of the Constitution and in all matters not otherwise provided for,” to “superintend, direct and control all Congress Committees subject to review by the AICC” and to “take such disciplinary action as it may deem it against a committee or individual for misconduct willful neglect or default.” Article XII §(e) of Bombay Congress constitution, Indian Annual Register 1934, vol. 2, 213. 31 Interview to the press, Bombay Chronicle (19 January 1935). 32 CWC resolution, “Disciplinary Rules,” 11 December 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 33 “Statement on Nagpur Divisional Political Conference,” Bombay Chronicle (19 October 1935). 34 “Statement on Nagpur Divisional Political Conference,” Bombay Chronicle (19 October 1935). 35 Masani, Bliss Was It, 96. 36 Circular to CSP provincial secretaries, 3 May 1935, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 2/1934–39. 37 “Statement on Sampurnanad’s Circular Letter,” Bombay Chronicle, (14 May 1935). 38 Clipping from The Sun (25 July 1934), AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 39 Clipping from Bombay Chronicle (25 July 1934), AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 40 CSP pamphlet from Patna Conference, 1934, AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 41 Clipping from Searchlight (17 July 1935), AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 42 “Tasks of the Movement,” AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 43 “Our Role in the Congress,” February 1935, AICC Papers 3/1935. 44 “Sampurnanand’s Thesis” The Pioneer (5 July 1935), AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 45 Meerut Thesis, 20 January 1936, Brahamanand Papers 3/1936–47. 46 Faizpur Thesis, 24 December 1936, Brahamanand Papers 3/1936–47. 47 “Meerut Resolves,” Congress Socialist (1 February 1936). 48 “Meerut Resolves,” Congress Socialist (1 February 1936). 49 “Meerut Resolves,” Congress Socialist (1 February 1936). 50 Circular from Masani, 23 February 1936, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 7/1936–51. 51 Lucknow resolutions, “Suppression of Civil Liberties,” “War Danger” and “Agrarian Programme,” 14 April 1936, AICC Papers 31/1936. 52 Lucknow resolution, “Government of India Act,” 14 April 1936, AICC Papers 31/1936. 53 “The Socialist Stand at Lucknow,” Congress Socialist (6 June 1936). Emphasis is original. 54 “First Fruits of Lucknow,” Congress Socialist (22 August 1936). 55 “The Meerut Thesis,” Congress Socialist (28 March 1936). 56 “A People’s Front?,” Congress Socialist (5 September 1936).

98  United front within the Congress 57 AICC resolution, “Election Manifesto,” 23 August 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 58 AICC resolution, “Election Manifesto,” 23 August 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 59 AICC resolution, “Election Manifesto,” 23 August 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 60 K. Lingaraju’s welcome address to the Andhra Socialist Party Conference, 26 September 1936, CSP, 244. 61 “British versus India,” Congress Socialist (28 March 1936). 62 Presidential address, Kerala Congress Socialist conference, 14 June 1936, CSP, 218. 63 “The Indian National Congress and the United Anti-Imperialist Front in India,” [no date], Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 38-A/1945. 64 “Stop This Drift to the Right!,” Congress Socialist (7 November 1936). 65 “Socialist Conference at Faizpur: Central Executive’s Decisions,” Congress Socialist (7 November 1936). 66 “Socialist Conference Resolutions,” Congress Socialist (9 January 1937). N.G. Ranga, Swami Sahajanand Saraswati and Indulal Yagnik were appointed to the CSP tenancy inquiry committee. 67 “Socialist Conference Resolutions,” Congress Socialist (9 January 1937). 68 Faizpur Congress resolutions, “World Peace Congress,” “Spain,” “Detenus,” “Suppression of Civil Liberties” and “Agrarian Programme,” 28 December 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 69 Faizpur Congress resolution, “War Danger,” 28 December 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 70 Faizpur Congress resolution, “Congress Constitution & Mass Contacts,” 28 December 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 71 Faizpur Congress resolutions, “Elections & Constituent Assembly” and “Hartal on April 1, 1937,” 28 December 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 72 “Issues Before Faizpur,” Congress Socialist (12 December 1936). 73 “The Faizpur Congress,” Congress Socialist (9 January 1937). 74 “The Faizpur Congress,” Congress Socialist (9 January 1937). 75 “The Faizpur Congress,” Congress Socialist (9 January 1937). 76 “The Faizpur Congress,” Congress Socialist (9 January 1937). 77 “Notes on the Faizpur Congress,” Congress Socialist (9 January 1937). 78 Bengal CSP Executive Committee resolution, 20 February 1937, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 7/1936–51. 79 AICSP resolutions, 22 October 1934, Brahmanand Papers 9/1940. 80 “Resolutions of the Central Executive,” Congress Socialist (6 March 1937). 81 “No ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement,’” Congress Socialist, (13 March 1937). 82 “United for Struggle against the Slave Constitution,” [no date], Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 38-A/1945. 83 AICC resolution, “New Constitution,” 18 March 1937, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 84 “On the Great Betrayal,” Congress Socialist (20 March 1937). 85 CWC resolutions, “Congress Ministries,” “Work Outside Legislatures” and “Contact with Non-Congress Ministries,” 29 April 1937, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 86 “Wait and Watch in Excelsis,” Congress Socialist (1 May 1937). 87 Speech at Gandhi Seva Sang meeting, 17 April 1937 in Mohandas Gandhi, Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 65, (New Delhi: Government of India), 1976, 65, 100, 105. Hereafter cited as CWMG. 88 Speech at Gandhi Seva Sang meeting, 20 April 1937, CWMG, vol. 65, 117, 120–21, 132. 89 Interview to Associated Press of India, [after 20 May 1937], CWMG, vol. 65, 176. 90 “Beware!,” Congress Socialist (29 May 1937). 91 “No Dilution of the Delhi Stand!,” Congress Socialist (12 June 1937). Emphasis is original.

United front within the Congress  99 92 Presidential Address, Kerala Congress Socialist Conference, 20 June 1937, CSP, 280. 93 CWC resolution, “Work Outside Legislatures,” 29 April 1937, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 94 CWC resolution, “Extra-Parliamentary Activities of Congress Members of Legislatures,” 1 March 1937, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 95 CWC resolution, “Congress Policy in the Legislatures,” 1 March 1937, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 96 Statement to the press, Bombay Chronicle (17 June 1937). 97 Nehru to V.K. Krishna Menon, 19 July 1937, SWJN, vol. 8, 111. 98 CWC resolution, “Office Acceptance in Provinces,” 8 July 1937, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 99 “A New Lease of Life,” Congress Socialist (10 July 1937). 100 “A New Lease of Life,” Congress Socialist (10 July 1937). 101 CPI resolution, “Congress Ministries,” July 1937, The Communist (July 1937). 102 CPI resolution, “Congress Ministries,” July 1937, The Communist (July 1937). 103 CPI resolution, “Congress Ministries,” July 1937, The Communist (July 1937). 104 “A New Lease of Life,” Congress Socialist (10 July 1937). 105 “Responsibility of the Left,” Congress Socialist (31 July 1937). 106 “Uniform & Militant Policy,” Congress Socialist (14 August 1937). To showcase the contradiction in mentality, Mehta offered statements made by Shrikrishna Sinha, Chief Minister of Bihar, and Nehru. Sinha reportedly “emphasized that the methods of struggle for freedom had changed and the Congress was now the Government and the people must work for a peaceful transference of power.” Nehru reportedly stated that acceptance of office was merely a starting point for the broader struggle: “The real fight had not begun and these were only preparations.” 107 “The Congress in Office,” Congress Socialist (14 August 1937). 108 “The Congress in Office,” Congress Socialist (14 August 1937). 109 AICC resolution, “Implementing of Congress Programme by Congress Ministries,” 31 October 1937, AICC Papers 31/1936. 110 CWC resolution, “Implementation of Congress Programme by Congress Ministries,” 1 November 1937, AICC Papers 31/1936. 111 CWC resolution, “Kisan Sabha Workers in Bihar,” 1 November 1937, AICC Papers 31/1936. 112 Interview to the press, Hindustan Times (9 July 1937). 113 “The Working Committee and Office Acceptance,” Hindustan Times (9 July 1937). 114 Nehru to V.K. Krishna Menon, 19 July 1937, SWJN, vol. 8, 111–12. 115 Circular letter, 11 March 1938, Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47.

4 Congress as united front

Jayaprakash Narayan announced at a provincial socialist conference that “the most important role that we have to play at present is in connection with the freedom movement.”1 United front activities sought to revolutionize Indian nationalism, to displace the dominance of bourgeois constitutionalism and replace it with direct action to secure independence. Radical Congressmen generally agreed that “the Congress cannot become a strong revolutionary body unless the right wing, compromise-seeking elements are driven out of it.” For radicals, the Congress’s post-Civil Disobedience return to the assemblies revealed the urge among the Congress’s more reactionary and moderate elements to abandon “the risks of the deepening struggle for independence” in favor of comfortable legislative trappings where they might pursue the limited benefits of parliamentary work.2 According to M.R. Masani, socialists proposed “a change in the objective and modification of the method” of the anti-imperialist struggle.3 Significantly, the united front directly responded to developments made within the Congress and to Congress programs. Logically, because united front activity strove to transform the Congress into an authentic anti-­ imperialist organization, socialist and communist influences began to affect Congress programs. United front partners intently focused on policies that might initiate the desired transformation, especially collective affiliation and external agitation and the countering of the apparent tendency toward constitutionalism in the Congress. Yet Congress leaders opposed the proposed transformation and sought to limit socialist and communist influence. The united front proved to be a lethargic, contentious process. Advocates expected that transforming the Congress into the united front entailed ideological discussion. They intended to introduce socialist programs to assorted levels of Congress committees, letting Congress workers sort out ideological details so long as the basic premises of socialism were acknowledged and accepted. “We merely place our views before the Congress and the country,” wrote Narayan, and “through the most proper and legitimate methods, expect to bring the Congress to our point of view.”4 According to united front rhetoric, constitutionalism and reformism only debilitated national liberation. At an early date, Narayan explained that

Congress as united front  101 parliamentary work “is the last programme which can prepare us for our next and final struggle.”5 With Congressmen increasingly emphasizing the relevance of a parliamentary program for fulfilling nationalist objectives, socialists and communists found common cause in the campaign against constitutionalism. In fact, consistent joint efforts to overthrow the reformism inherent to constitutionalism marked the only valid foundation for united front cooperation.

Office acceptance After 1934, the Congress overwhelmingly focused on political considerations. Economic concerns were ultimately of secondary interest and were perceived by Congress leaders as a means of generating public support for Congress programs. When authorizing Congressmen to stand for election, a strictly political activity, the Election Manifesto emphasized the importance of economic issues: The Congress has always laid stress on the development of the strength of the people and the forging of sanctions to enforce the people’s will. To this end it has carried on activities outside the legislatures. The Congress holds that real strength comes from thus organising and serving the masses. Nevertheless, the manifesto inaugurated a strictly political program by which Congressmen would contest seats for provincial and central assemblies. It minimized the economic issue by insisting that only independence could solve “the vital problems of poverty and unemployment.” Moreover, the manifesto prioritized the political over the economic by explicitly stating that the “fight for independence” required voters “to give every support to the Congress in the elections.” Legislative majorities would position the Congress “to fight the Act” and struggle for independence.6 To transform the Congress into an authentic anti-imperialist united front, socialists and communists maintained that they must overcome the reactionary tendencies of constitutionalism. Constitutionalism drew the leaders away from the masses and into legislative councils. It downplayed the social question in favor of political accommodations. Articulating the rejectionist viewpoint, Jawaharlal Nehru predicted that constitutionalism and office acceptance would prove “fatal for the Congress” because legislative work would undermine the Congress’s revolutionary temper. He also speculated that accepting offices would oblige Congressmen to cooperate with imperialism, to provide moral support for foreign occupation and, significantly, to assume responsibility for the exploitation of the Indian people.7 In March 1937, Nehru warned that the Congress could in no way benefit the Indian people by assuming office: But we could do some other things. We can take upon ourselves the odium and responsibility of keeping the imperialist structure functioning, we

102  Congress as united front can become indirectly responsible for the repression of our own comrades, we can take away the initiative from the masses and tone down their fine temper which we ourselves have helped in building up. He insisted that only negative consequences would accrue from constitutionalism, a gradual acceptance of reformism. Nehru promised that “the people will not allow” the Congress to adopt constitutional reformism.8 Indian communists operated according to an outlook framed by the Sixth World Congress of the Communist International in 1928. The theses on the revolutionary movement in colonies declared that India’s bourgeoisie exhibited “a special vacillating compromising tendency which may be designated as national reformism.” It also insisted that India’s petty bourgeoisie exemplified the “half-heartedness and vacillation” of the country’s bourgeoisie, which favored reformism to revolutionary activity. Delegates to the Sixth Congress assumed that radicalized petty bourgeois politicians would be subsumed by the Congress’s prevailing bourgeois outlook and would therefore merely become tools of the dominant class. The communist perspective insisted that the Congress must reject its bourgeois outlook and permit the masses to control their own liberation struggle. Communists therefore strove to expose the bourgeoisie’s “half-heartedness and vacillation in the national struggle, their bargaining and attempts to reach a compromise with British imperialism.”9 British communists then promoted these ideas. One British communist publication warned that the Congress “cannot develop into a party of mass nation-revolutionary struggle unless it emancipates itself entirely from the influence of bourgeois politicians.”10 Benjamin Bradley defined the bourgeoisie as an exclusively “counter-revolutionary force sabotaging the revolutionary anti-imperialist struggle” through its compromises with British imperialism. He anticipated that the Congress’s bourgeois leaders would betray the liberation movement.11 Another British communist suggested that Congress leaders merely criticized the Government of India Act, but “beyond that they do not want to go” because they remained anxious about “the revolutionary actions of the Indian people.” As evidence, the author offered the following observation: But while our brave Congress leaders, comfortably sitting in the Assembly, talk about ‘imperialist domination and exploitation’—strong phrases to come out of the mouths of Congress leaders—one looks in vain in the speeches of these gentlemen for even a verbal declaration that they stand for the complete independence of India outside the British Empire, let alone as to how that independence is going to be achieved. The author mused that Congress leaders only expressed “the bankruptcy of their political leadership” and “a deliberate and conscious attempt on their part to retard, check, hinder and mislead the mass-struggle in India.”12

Congress as united front  103 This communist assessment of Congress constitutionalism then praised socialists for their refusal to participate in elections to assemblies. Nevertheless, the author noted that socialists could be faulted for their role in the emergence of constitutionalism because they “criticise the Congress leadership up to a point, but when it is a question of following a real revolutionary line of anti-imperialist struggle we find them, in effect, doing exactly the same as the Right Wing of the Congress.”13 As members of the country’s petty bourgeoisie, they permitted themselves to be dominated by the Congress’s bourgeois leaders by imposing limits on their revolutionary activities or on those of the masses. This last observation, however, considered socialist activity from a distance, neglecting socialists’ engagement with an ongoing critique of the Congress’s parliamentary program. At an early date, Narendra Deva warned that the nation could not remain content with a constitutional program or with the constructive program because both perpetuated the “false belief that such activities will by themselves lead to mass action.” Instead, he insisted that the situation “continues to be revolutionary,” not lending itself to the reformism inherent to constitutionalism.14 Socialists resolved to use annual Congress sessions and All-India Congress Committee (AICC) meetings to transform the Congress. They framed and proposed resolutions imbued with a spirit of socialism as the correct and democratic means of altering the outlook of Congressmen. They pushed toward united front goals by proposing items from the socialist platform and by attempting to amend official resolutions framed by the Working Committee. The paramount concern from 1934 to 1935 was overcoming the debilitating demoralization affecting the Congress, keeping the organization’s fighting spirit piqued and ready for action. This focus on morale and continued direct action entailed the outright rejection of legislative work.15 Essentially, socialists adopted the communist tactic of united-front-fromabove, which entailed submitting Congress Socialist Party (CSP)-sponsored resolutions to the Working Committee for its consideration.16 The basic socialist attitude toward ministries was framed by the All-India Congress Socialist Party (AICSP) conference at Bombay in October 1934. While denigrating the Congress’s turn to constitutionalism, the conference proclaimed that the Congress should only make use of legislatures in a revolutionary manner. It announced that using the present structure for all its worth was, in principle, a worthless policy for several reasons: legislative and executive systems established by the Act were “intended solely for the purpose of facilitating and intensifying the exploitation of the Indians masses”; acceptance of office created the “dangerous illusion that the imperialist State machine can be utilized for the good of the masses”; and an organization striving for complete independence “must necessarily remain in the opposition until complete independence is an accomplished fact.”17 Socialists promised to boycott assembly elections and to decline to serve as members of any parliamentary boards.18

104  Congress as united front By the spring of 1935, as parliamentarianism appeared to gain currency within the Congress, socialists more vociferously condemned it. Narendra Deva continued to warn about the seductive nature of constitutionalism. He noted that Congress legislators were “significantly silent on the question of acceptance of office,” and he observed that the entire legislative program “was conceived in a spirit of working the Reforms.” Deva warned that “a favourable atmosphere is being silently created for the working of the reforms and the mind of the nation is being steadily prepared step by step for the acceptance of such a policy.” He anxiously recognized that the “silence that is being maintained on all sides” subtly strengthened constitutionalism.19 Resisting constitutionalism meant rejecting the Government of India Act in its entirety and preventing the Congress from accepting offices. The Congress rejected the White Paper and the Joint Parliamentary Committee report. Disregarding this opposition, Parliament proceeded to frame a new constitution for India. Interestingly enough, the Congress only protested the Act after its promulgation, and its initial response was lukewarm. Rather than condemn the Act, demand its repeal or refuse to acknowledge Britain’s right to impose a constitution on India, the first responses by the Working Committee and the AICC considered how the Congress would respond to the Act once it was put in operation—it accepted the Act as an accomplished fact. Rather than reject imposition of the Act, Working Committee members considered the heavily debated issue of offices: Having read the resolution of several Congress Committees relating to the acceptance or non-acceptance of office under the new constitution, this Committee is of opinion that any decision on the question would be premature at this stage and should be left over for the next session of the Congress. It declares that any expression of opinion on the question by individual Congressmen does not represent the view of the Congress.20 In October 1935, the AICC reiterated and affirmed this indecisive position, noting that “it is not only premature, but also inadvisable and impolitic” to decide the issue so far in advance. The AICC declared that “it sees no objection to the question being discussed in the country.”21 Socialists remained suspicious of any mention of offices by the Congress high command. Masani perceived too flagrant a willingness to accept a moderate parliamentary program and honestly work the new constitution for all it was worth. Masani described how “certain forces within the Congress had been preparing for acceptance of offices.” He claimed that the Congress rank and file certainly “would not stand for a policy of working the new constitution for what it was worth” if anyone bothered to solicit their input on the matter. But he suggested that because constitutionalists dominated the Congress’s highest echelons, “there could never possibly be a free and frank discussion on the subject.” He warned that “open discussion of such an important question might be shirked till such a late state as would

Congress as united front  105 make it impossible for the rank and file to express an opinion on the matter.” Tellingly, Masani predicted that Congress workers “would be stampeded into a decision made by the leaders on their behalf.”22 Socialists concluded that the issue must be considered in depth and at great length, with the pros and cons of office acceptance thoroughly discussed, before a decision was made. Rajendra Prasad, the Congress president, was fully aware of such sensitivities and deliberately attempted to avoid committing the Congress one way or another. Prasad remained neutral on the subject and attempted to mediate between parliamentarians and rejectionists. However, his ambivalence heightened the tension because, until the issue was decided by the Congress, the rank and file and leaders might have influenced the eventual direction of nationalism. For its part, the united front meant trying to nudge the Congress toward direct action by consistently opposing constitutionalism. When interviewed by the press, Prasad suggested that Congressmen could express their personal opinions until the Congress decided the matter. But the newspapers exaggerated or deliberately misrepresented Prasad’s statements, further inflaming the antagonists’ hostility.23 One of the leaders of the legislative faction, S. Satyamurti, insisted that “the present policy of the Congress—that is, capture of the legislatures by Congressmen—clearly includes capture of all positions in the legislature.”24 Prasad privately censored Satyamurti, suggesting that the Congress’s prominent officeholders were, in fact, not permitted to express their views unabashedly.25 Then, in August, the Working Committee issued its ambivalent objection to the Act with its lackluster ruling that any decision about offices was premature.26 Prasad followed this decision by publicly stating that the next Congress session “must lay down a programme which would result in the actual rejection of the Constitution and not its acceptance in a round about way.”27 He also privately requested that Working Committee members refrain from engaging in any debate about offices.28 This informal ban was intended to discourage controversy. It aggravated the situation. Sardar Sardul Singh Caveeshar, a non-­ socialist Working Committee member who opposed offices, resigned from the Congress executive to protest Prasad’s ban and to free himself to criticize parliamentarianism. He claimed that, with the extent of public and private conversation about offices, the Working Committee’s neutrality was utterly meaningless.29 Caveeshar protested that the ban only affected the anti-­acceptance camp, as demonstrated by the intensive pro-offices propaganda spreading throughout the country. He insisted that a rejectionist policy meant rejecting the Act: “There should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the Congress will not work any constitution, directly or indirectly, unless such a constitution is framed by it or has its approval.”30 Next, the CSP supported an Anti-Ministry Committee of Congressmen. This organization was headed by Caveeshar, who initiated an all-India speaking tour to oppose office acceptance. The party attempted to schedule

106  Congress as united front speaking engagements for Caveeshar, and the CSP national executive instructed provincial secretaries to cooperate with anti-ministry mobilization, insisting that “every attempt should be made to put life into it.”31 Socialists added to the clamor about resisting insidious constitutionalism. They suspected that the Congress’s “policy of drift,” regarding office acceptance, “is strengthening the constitutionalist forces and thus weakening the Congress.” They maintained that opponents of office acceptance should unite to “give an organized lead to the country,” so that the Congress as a whole would be prepared to reject the “suicidal” parliamentary program. They proposed holding an all-India conference of like-minded Congressmen to prevent the acceptance of office and to propagandize their cause.32 Narayan added to the criticism by expressing his “genuine surprise” that debates about office acceptance had “so rapidly become a matter of practical Congress politics.” He surmised that when elections were first considered, “most Congressmen would have been scandalized at the mere suggestion” of forming ministries. The last twelve months, he declared, had revealed a “change of mentality” and a “serious deterioration of the spirit of the Congress under the ministrations of the Parliamentary Party.” He also opined that the entire approach to the issue had been bungled: A question of such importance must needs be discussed thoroughly months beforehand, so that the public and particularly the would be Congress delegates, may form their opinion in the matter. It is incumbent especially on our leaders to take the public in their confidence and place before it their arguments for and against. According to Narayan, Prasad’s ban of any dialogue among leaders was objectionable, with Congress leaders refusing to lead, abandoning the initiative to constitutionalists. Narayan suggested that the issue should be freely discussed, with Working Committee members involved to the fullest extent.33 Narayan’s article “British versus India” encapsulated and detailed united front complaints about office acceptance. This piece began by discussing the constitutional situation and the Government of India Act, “a device for the further perpetuation” of imperialist domination. He observed that the Congress rejected constitutionalist methods and “embraced direct action as its basic policy.” “Direct action and constitutionalism,” he observed, “are incompatible” because direct action was essentially extra-constitutional, obviating any honest attempt to work within the confines of the Act. He suggested that only one proper course of action could be pursued: The Congress has decided to reject the new constitution. Does it not follow as a natural corollary that the Congress policy should be to carry out the decision of rejection, by forcing the governor to continue the administration by the exercise of his special powers?

Congress as united front  107 According to Narayan, the problem inherent to debates about office acceptance was that the terms of the debate diluted anti-imperialism. The discussions considered whether the Congress could gain advantages from elections and constitutionalism, neglecting “the root of the problem”—­ British imperialism in India.34 Narayan insisted that the national movement would not benefit from collaborating with the Act. He observed that the new constitution “creates the fiction of responsible government,” a “subterfuge” that sought to “destroy the directness and keenness of the Indian struggle.”35 Constitutionalists perpetuated this deception by acknowledging that benefits might be gained from accepting offices. Congressmen would appeal to the electorate “with a programme of petty reforms.” The election campaign contained the context for the “watering down, vulgarising and distorting of even the present Congress ideals, moderate as they are.” Narayan predicted that Congress legislators would “compromise with non-Congress groups” to secure legislative majorities, and such compromises would flood the Congress with vested interests, which were hostile to the masses.36 Narayan proposed rejecting the path of constitutionalism, “forcing the suspension of the constitution” and highlighting the primary issue of Britain versus India. He deduced that a policy of rejection logically correlated with the Congress’s demand for a constituent assembly, making the latter more than an empty slogan or “mere bluff.” He recommended direct action as an inspired campaign to “wreck that constitution by making its working impossible.” He suggested that the Congress’s parliamentary program must support “mass activity in the shape of an economic agitation of peasants, workers and other exploited groups.”37 In March 1936, Dinkar Mehta warned that political discussions within the Congress were being manipulated by the Congress’s bourgeois leaders. Mehta reminisced that parliamentarians had been “mainly instrumental in taking the wind out of the last struggle, and dragging the country towards a compromise with Imperialism.” He maintained that the issue of office acceptance has been introduced by the bourgeoisie “to suppress and sabotage the struggle of the masses” by fully committing the Congress to a bourgeois program of ministry making. “Acceptance of office,” Mehta observed, “is essentially a bourgeois programme—a programme of a party of the vested interests.” The whole ministerial apparatus is such that its working by popular representatives can only turn such representatives into henchmen of the Government, and spread illusions among the masses that the Imperialist apparatus is capable of doing some good, giving some relief to them. Mehta condemned the parliamentarians’ “latest trick,” “stealing the phrase, ‘wreck the Constitution’ from the Socialist Congressmen,” adding that “they throw dust in the eyes of the people by saying the Constitution can

108  Congress as united front be wrecked by accepting offices, that is by working the Constitution.” He warned that by seeking to utilize the existing structure, parliamentarians “will only betray the cause of the people.” He also worried that once the bourgeoisie committed the Congress to office acceptance, “it will not be possible to change the legislative programme so as to reflect the needs of the masses.” According to Mehta, the only solution to the pending political crisis was that the Lucknow Congress session must reject offices “and in this act must purge itself of all the reactionary elements that find shelter” in the Congress. Such a purge would transform the Congress into “a real ‘United Front’ of the forces fighting for freedom.”38 Socialists objected to what they perceived as an orchestrated attempt by “certain highly placed Congress leaders to whittle down the declared policy” of rejection. They regretted that the Working Committee constantly postponed the decision when, according to the socialist viewpoint, rejection meant “declaring categorically that no Congressman can accept ministerial offices under the Constitution.” Socialists complained that parliamentarians were “agitating for acceptance of office and thus virtually dragging the Congress” toward cooperation.39 Nehru also willingly waded into the brewing storm about office acceptance. Nehru delivered a speech in London in February 1936, indicating his support for the united front. Nehru complained that India’s bourgeois leaders appeared much more committed to a bourgeois–democratic revolution than to the economic emancipation of the masses. He remarked that “a number of upper middle-class people sit down and, instead of talking in terms of economics, they discuss the question of offices in the new Constitution and who will be appointed to them.” He also observed “a desire to share in the spoils of office, in patronage, and so forth, which the new Constitution might bring.” The masses, he claimed, “obviously” were disinterested in offices, but he predicted that mass participation would prioritize social and economic issues. He then proceeded to outline for his audience a few socialist-inspired solutions to economic problems.40 Already elected president for the Lucknow Congress, Nehru made statements clearly aligned with the united front concept only two months prior to this session. Even before Nehru’s election as Congress president, advocates of Left unity celebrated his radical leadership.41 Speaking to delegates at one annual CSP conference, Narayan praised the “splendid lead Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru has given.” Narayan observed that Nehru “has ceaselessly stressed the necessity of the Congress moving closer to the masses and becoming a joint front of all the anti-Imperialist forces in the country.”42 The transformation of the Congress appeared to have begun in earnest.

Lucknow session One month prior to the Lucknow session, R. Palme Dutt and Ben Bradley released a statement, observing a bifurcation within the Congress. Leftists

Congress as united front  109 in the Congress pressed for “a line of irreconcilable struggle against imperialism,” for a program influenced by socialism and for the organization of workers’ and peasants’ unions. Contrarily, the Congress’s right wing elements sought accords with groups, parties and individuals external to the Congress “who have abstained from participation in the common struggle and stand for cooperation with imperialism.” Dutt and Bradley insisted that “the first need” of struggle was “the unity of all the anti-imperialist forces in the common struggle.” They very clearly delineated national unity from unity of anti-imperialist forces: The former term denoted an abstract unity, which included compromising and reactionary classes, while the latter ideal involved unity of “all the popular masses who suffer under imperialist rule.” According to Dutt and Bradley, the minimum criteria for establishing anti-­ imperialist unity were “a line of consistent struggle against imperialism and against the existing slave constitution” and “active struggle for the vital needs of the toiling masses.”43 Nevertheless, Dutt and Bradley insisted that “the National Congress, as it exists at present is not yet the united front of the Indian people.” They observed that the Congress constitution excluded the vast majority of the mass population. They claimed that Congress programs did not coherently express the country’s anti-imperialist urges. They insisted that the Congress’s leadership remained incapable of employing authentic anti-­i mperialism because it “does not at present draw out and guide mass activity, but rather acts as a brake upon it.” They proposed a straightforward solution of establishing “a united front of the Congress with all the existing mass organizations.” They maintained that the Congress should articulate a clearly anti-imperialist program that fully integrated the political and economic demands of the masses. Dutt and Bradley recommended that “every effort should be made to clarify questions of programme and tactics in the Congress Socialist Party” to facilitate the growth of the common anti-imperialist front.44 The suggestion that CSP programs and policies might need clarification struck at the root of the issue. While Dutt and Bradley suggested that common foundations made the united front a plausible reality, they also observed ideological and programmatic limitations inherent to Congress socialism. They recognized the paramount need for ideological homogeneity among leftist elements, but they equally expressed anxieties about the possibility of such homogenization. At Lucknow, Nehru set the tone for the Congress’s radical phase with his presidential address. Nehru outlined a program based on his personal views about the united front, warning the delegates that many of his colleagues in the Working Committee “do not agree with the views that I am going to express.” He insisted that “there can be no common ground” between Indian nationalism and British imperialism, inferring the need to renew direct action. He complained that “if we remain within the imperialist fold,” then compromising and reformist bourgeois tendencies will triumph: “We

110  Congress as united front will remain cribbed and confined and allied to and dominated by the reactionary forces and the great financial vested interests of the capitalist world.” He predicted that without direct action, exploitation of the masses would be perpetuated and “the vital social problems that face us will remain unsolved.”45 Nehru then considered class consciousness and the Congress. While he recognized the necessity for bourgeois leadership in the Congress, he maintained that the country’s middle classes remained divorced from the people. “Our policies,” he complained, “are governed far more by the middle class outlook than by a consideration of the needs of the great majority of the population.” He proposed that Congress leaders “must look more and more towards the masses and draw strength and inspiration from them.” “The Congress,” he announced, “must be not only for the masses, as it claims to be, but of the masses.”46 Most significantly, Nehru’s presidential address criticized constitutionalism. He remarked that “the Act has to be rejected and combated,” claiming that it would not establish the conditions to inaugurate a constituent assembly. Nehru preferred direct action to parliamentary work, to prepare for the moment when Indians possessed the power to fulfill the constituent assembly demand.47 For Nehru, opposing the Act entailed the rejection of constitutionalism. He insisted that accepting office negated the Congress’s rejection of the Act. He claimed that forming ministries “would inevitably mean our cooperation in some measure with the repressive apparatus of imperialism,” a situation that would make Congressmen “partners in this repression and in the exploitation of our people.” He predicted that offices could be accepted with Congressmen championing mass interests, but ministers “could do very little to give actual relief” because ministers “have to follow the rules and regulations of our opponents’ making.” He suggested that the only alternative was to enter the assemblies, seeking to throttle them “by creating deadlocks in them.”48 Similarly, Nehru considered direct action. He dismissed the “talk of a militant programme and militant action,” observing “no near prospect of them.” He urged patience: Our business to-day is to put our house in order, to sweep away the defeatist mentality of some people and to build up our organization with its mass actions, as well as to work amongst the masses. The time may come, and that sooner perhaps than we expect, when we might be put to the test. Let us get ready for that test. Nehru insisted that the Congress “shall not look for opportunities” to begin direct action. It was not the time to express slogans about agitation and direct action. He predicted that Congress leaders would launch civil disobedience when the situation warranted it.49

Congress as united front  111 The Lucknow Congress’s lengthy resolution about the Government of India Act and the Congress’s parliamentary program flatly rejected the new constitution. The resolution insisted that “no constitution which curtails the sovereignty of the people of India and does not recognize their right to shape and control fully their political and economic future can be accepted.” It declared that a constituent assembly was the only acceptable alternative to the Act.50 Outright rejection of the Act did not equal unrelenting non-cooperation against it. Circumstances required a flexible program: In view of the fact that elections for their Provincial legislatures under the new Act may, according to official statements, take place before the next session of the Congress, this Congress resolves that in such an event candidates should be put forward on its behalf to contest such seats in accordance with the mandate of the Congress and in pursuance of its declared policy. The Lucknow Congress promised to produce for the electorate a manifesto “explaining the political and economic policy of the Congress.” It also permitted Congressmen to stand for election, opening the door for constitutionalism.51 However, if the Lucknow Congress confirmed the trends evolving over the past two years, it also checked constitutionalism to a considerable degree. It mandated that provincial election programs must be approved by the Working Committee. It dissolved the Parliamentary Board and appropriated its functions for the Working Committee, authorizing the Congress executive “to organize elections to legislatures as well as to guide, coordinate and control the activities of Congress members in Legislatures.”52 At the end of April, the Working Committee appointed its own parliamentary committee.53 The Lucknow Congress also issued its ambivalent statement about accepting offices, leaving the issue “to be decided at the proper time by the AICC after consulting with the Provincial Congress Committees.”54 Such a statement indicated that the united front, unless it began to influence the AICC in a meaningful way, would be circumvented when the critical decision about office acceptance was made. The AICC and Provincial Congress Committees (PCCs) constituted the influential factors in this decision, with the former soliciting and acting upon the recommendations of the latter. Socialists and communists, to prevent further constitutionalism, needed to influence PCCs and the AICC. Rejectionists could not pursue the united front agenda in such a straightforward manner. Restrictions to parliamentarianism originated within the Working Committee. To further curtail legislative work, united front advocates needed to penetrate the Congress executive, to pursue a unitedfront-from-above approach. Although Nehru accommodated radicalism by

112  Congress as united front appointing three socialists to his Working Committee, this body continued to be dominated by perennial Congress leaders. Because it constituted such an exclusive enclave, the Working Committee remained immune to united front activity and, in fact, moved to suppress all united-front-from-below tactics involving trades union and kisan sabha agitations and activities. Communists and socialists warmly supported Nehru’s apparently candid advocacy of the united front. One communist pamphlet speculated, The bourgeois leadership is no longer united in its reformism, it is disintegrating. In his Presidential address Nehru’s anti-imperialist voice stammered on some vital points, yet it was full-throated on several others, it was a clearer anti-imperialist call than had ever been made from the Congress chair. Nehru’s was an approach which stood in opposition to all that the orthodox Indian National Congress leadership has stood for so far.55 Both parties acknowledged Nehru as the country’s most prominent leftist. Both wholeheartedly supported his intention to steer the Congress toward socialism. Masani related that communists suggested that Nehru might provide “leadership of the United Leftist Forces.”56 One socialist praised Nehru’s direction of “an attack on the old shifting, hesitating, illogical, all-compromising, and bankrupt Gandhian policy.”57 Masani extolled Nehru’s “characteristic zeal and dynamic personality,” which was “galvanizing the Congress organisations into activity.”58 Narayan praised Nehru’s persistent efforts to revise perceptions that socialism was inherently anti-­ national.59 Subhas Chandra Bose depicted Nehru as “the only one to whom we can look up to for leading the Congress in a progressive direction.” Bose expected that Nehru’s vigorous leadership might “save the Congress from demoralization and bring it out of a rut.”60 L.S. Goonewardene, a socialist from Ceylon, celebrated the CSP’s attempts “to expose the reformist leadership of the Congress” and to steer the Congress into “a clear cut and avowed revolutionary policy.” For Goonewardene, the Lucknow session marked a milestone in the party’s efforts to transform the Congress into “a genuinely anti-imperialist organization representative, not of the compromising bourgeoisie, but of the class interests” of the majority of the nation’s denizens. He insisted that socialists were well positioned to expose the fallacious notion that Congressmen could reject the Act while condoning office acceptance. Exposed for their opportunism, Congress leaders would lose prestige, and the socialists would acquire “the mantle of the revolutionary traditions of Congress.” According to Goonewardene, success occurred when the Working Committee deferred a decision about offices until a later date. Goonewardene predicted that Lucknow would initiate the process of weaning the Congress rank and file from the influence of the Congress’s bourgeois leadership.61

Congress as united front  113 Masani declared that the Lucknow Congress “marked the beginning of a new phase in our politics.” The session terminated stagnation and defeatism. It denoted that “a new phase of intense activity to build up a United Front of all the radical and anti-imperialist elements under the leadership of the Congress was in sight.”62 Despite considerable celebration by socialists, Narayan described the Lucknow session as “a disappointment.” He complained that the “old junta took advantage of the fact that it had the Congress machinery in its hands.” Nehru’s revolutionary proposals were opposed by the majority of Working Committee members; the latter operated without considering the viewpoints of the Congress rank and file or of public opinion, which supported Nehru’s line. Although disappointed, Narayan was satisfied because the Congress produced resolutions about war, mass contacts, the agrarian program and civil liberties in India, albeit in a “mutilated form”; these steps constituted “a very appreciable advance” toward a united front program.63 Masani also considered assorted disappointments that lingered after the session. According to Masani, the “craze for majorities” unleashed “renewed talk of rapproachment” between the Congress and non-­Congress politicians. Masani warned that such “elements, once they get into the Congress and through the Congress into the legislatures, will try in every way to dominate Congress politics.” Masani also warned that failure to express unrelenting opposition to imperialism would render mass expectations unfulfilled. Masani argued that the masses craved a radical lead from nationalist leaders, and he predicted that the struggles of the masses to address their day-to-day concerns would generate “that leadership of a new type which will correctly express the significance of the peasant and his demands.”64 Notably, the advances at Lucknow scarcely achieved the appreciable goals of the united front. Narayan complained that Congress leaders misdirected radical efforts by raising the issue of socialism: At the Lucknow Congress, practically every one who opposed the amendments advocating wrecking of the new Constitution and refusal to form ministries under it, started with some such remarks, “We assure our Socialist friends”, “We warn our socialist friends”. As if acceptance of office had anything to do with Socialism and as if it was socialists alone who were opposed to it. Narayan surmised that “the bogey of Socialism” was raised to “cover up certain political issues” and to “create a prejudice in the public mind against those who dare raise” these issues—“on every issue Socialism was dragged in.” Narayan also observed that: All the dust and tumult of controversy that were raised at Bombay, Jubbulpore (A.I.C.C.), Madras (A.I.C.C.) and Lucknow were due not to any attempt on our part to persuade the Congress to accept Socialism.

114  Congress as united front All the abuse, the criticism, the ridicule that we have had to put up with, arose because we dared to criticise the Parliamentary Board, the Labour Franchise, to demand that the Congress turn its attention a little towards the international situation and consider the fact of developing danger of war; that it declare its policy clearly on the issue of acceptance of office; that it give representation to organized workers and peasants; that it take an active part in the economic struggle of the masses and in organizing them. Succinctly, Narayan remarked that these issues preoccupied radicals prior to the Lucknow session, “and these are the issues that remain thereafter.” The goal remained uniting “all genuinely anti-imperialist classes on one front against imperialism”—“not a socialist but a broad anti-imperialist programme.”65 With Congress leaders more resolutely pursuing a constitutionalist program, united front partners partially reassessed the purpose of the united front. The ultimate goals remained unchanged: radicalizing the national movement, displacing the Congress’s bourgeois leadership by organizing the masses, preparing the people to begin direct action against British imperialism. However, radicals now assumed a flexible attitude toward parliamentarianism—­since it was now central to Congress policy, socialists and communists intended to ensure that it complemented extra-­ constitutional work and that it remained revolutionary in its intent. Having failed to prevent the inauguration of a legislative program after the Lucknow session, united front advocates tried to circumscribe the scope and influence of legislative work.

Nehru’s ambiguous role Socialists eagerly anticipated a radical lead from Nehru. At this moment, Nehru echoed united front attitudes about office acceptance by warmly adopting an ardently rejectionist viewpoint. He declared that those who supported office acceptance as a means for wrecking the Act pursued a “dangerous” line.66 In October 1936, he plainly stated that offices “will lead to cooperation with British imperialism, giving a moral support to imperialism, taking responsibility for the misdeeds of imperialism.”67 Nehru also publicly echoed the principles expressed by supporters of the united front. In April 1936, he declared that peasants “have to be organized on the basis of their day to day struggle” by forming peasant committees in every village, which then could link with the Congress, “which would then be a really powerful mass organization.” “Power,” he maintained, “should thus go upwards from below.”68 The Congress’s turn to the masses was meant to correct “a mentality among the people of depending entirely on some leaders instead of depending on the power derived from the masses.”69 He wondered if “the fate of the masses is to be decided in the drawing-rooms

Congress as united front  115 of lawyers,” and he insisted that the country’s major issues—poverty and unemployment—could only be addressed by the masses themselves.70 He insisted that the people would recognize their power, once the Congress emphasized their day-to-day demands.71 Speaking at Bombay in May, Nehru urged his audience to form an anti-­ imperialist united front.72 He indicated that as Congress president, he sought “cooperation with all the other parties who are anti-imperialist in outlook,” and he hypothesized that the Congress might more deliberately collaborate with the trade union movement and the country’s kisan sabhas. “The Congress,” he observed, “is prepared to cooperate with anyone who is anti-imperialist.”73 He proposed renewing direct action, appealing to “the waverers and the weak not to weaken the independence front.”74 At this moment, Sampurnanand warned against relying on Nehru as an agent of the united front. Sampurnanand addressed the “alarming fact” that the CSP “seems to have gone into hibernation.” He observed that socialists abdicated their day-to-day responsibilities, anticipating that Nehru would “do our work for us.” This will not do. He is not a member of our party and cannot speak for us. It is no part of his business to strengthen our party organisation. As President of the Congress his hands are partially tied and he has probably to speak the language of compromise where his intellect would lead him otherwise. Sampurnanand reminded his audience that socialists had only initiated the transformation of Indian nationalism; the process remained incomplete. He reminded his listeners that the purpose of the united front was to unify the “genuinely anti-imperialist bodies in the country, inside and outside the Congress,” all of which were “absolutely united in their objective of removing the incubus of imperialism.”75 For a few months after the Lucknow session, Nehru appeared to be pushing Congressmen toward transforming the Congress into the united front. But his personal agitation received a hostile reception among assorted Working Committee members who disagreed with his socialism and with his proselytizing about the united front.76 Gandhi formed clear insights about Nehru and the Lucknow session, observing that Nehru was “extreme in his presentation,” but “sober in action.” Gandhi concluded that Nehru would not initiate conflict in the Working Committee and would “accept the decisions of the majority of his colleagues.”77 Nehru’s colleagues in the Working Committee adjusted internal disagreements. One month after the Lucknow session, Patel began discussing the possibility of a break with Nehru.78 At the Working Committee meeting in June, seven Working Committee members tendered their resignations to permit Nehru “the fullest latitude to work without feeling hampered in any way” by their inclusion as committee members.79

116  Congress as united front Gandhi mediated the crisis, insisting that “all wrangling should cease and no resignations should take place.”80 He reminded Nehru that the latter was elected president for his ability to give the country a radical lead, not for his socialism.81 Gandhi’s closing remarks, regarding the evolution of the united front, proved especially poignant: “Whatever happens, you must not be in the opposition.” He warned Nehru to avoid taking control of the socialist wing and advised him to bridge moderate and radical Congressmen.82 Nehru’s role in the Congress underwent a radical transformation. The former socialist advocate now depicted himself as “bridging the gulf between the old leaders and the new Socialist group.”83 Most significantly, Nehru “attached importance to a larger unity.”84 He rejected the full notion of the united front, insisting instead that national unity was the paramount concern. Instead of praising socialism in public, Nehru adopted the more moderate political goals of bourgeois democracy, which the CSP had previously rejected. A chastised Nehru’s remarks in the autumn of 1936 clearly indicated a less contentious tone. In October, he instructed workers and peasants to join the Congress rather than form their own organizations: But it is patent to anybody who has eyes to see that the only effective organization which has the strength to fight and the courage to fight for freedom is the Indian National Congress. If any of you want to do anything effective in this fight it is up to you to strengthen the National Congress in this fight. Therefore if you, as the organized workers of the country, want to take your part in this fight for Indian independence, it is necessary for you to join in this political struggle of the Indian National Congress.85 He told railway workers that that the labor movement should “throw its full weight with the national movement.” Only by joining the Congress could workers and peasants “build a joint and impregnable front against British imperialism.”86 In fact, Nehru maintained that the Congress was the country’s united front: For the fight for independence a joint front is necessary. The Congress offers that joint national front which comprises all classes and communities, bound together by their desire to free India, and end the exploitation of her people, and build up a strong and prosperous united nation, resting on the well-being of the masses. He intimated that a unified nation was a united anti-imperialist front, insisting that every party or organization “that stands aloof from the Congress organization tends, knowingly or unknowingly, to become a source of weakness to the nation.”87 The only solution, then, was to join the Congress and to strengthen its anti-imperialist struggle.

Congress as united front  117 In hindsight, Masani described his frustration with Nehru’s ambivalence: When “faced with a difficult choice, he would be non-aligned!”88 Masani surmised that Nehru’s ambiguity was a deliberate move to retain socialist support “while doing everything possible to help those who opposed them within and outside the Congress.”89 Masani concluded that “Nehru was an opportunist who thought about his own position first and then about everything else.”90 Regardless of Masani’s reservations, at the end of 1936, socialists still expected Nehru to lead the united front. The CSP executive resolved that the party welcomed Nehru’s reelection “so that the radical tendencies in the Congress may be strengthened.” Socialists also expected that Nehru would enable the Congress to adopt the CSP program of anti-constitutionalism, rejection of ministries, affiliation of labor and peasant unions and opposition to participation in a foreign war.91 Socialists appeared unaware that by the end of 1936, Nehru had become an advocate of forming a united front to achieve the limited goal of political independence. By November, Nehru admitted that “the actual working of the socialist state cannot be introduced in India till after we are independent, and even then it will probably take some time.” He concluded that the ultimate goal of socialism “is far,” and India “cannot get it suddenly.”92 Nehru abdicated leadership of the united front to retain his position in the Congress. As Vallabhbhai Patel once “bitterly complained” to Masani, Nehru “sat on the fence on delicate issues and maintained his popularity.”93 Madhu Limaye criticized Nehru’s populism: He is not satisfied with being the leader of his own Party. He wants national consolidation with himself as the leader…. He would always seek to blur the lines that divide parties, programmes and ideologies. A clarification of these things would identify him with one particular programme and group of interests and would thereby cut him down to proper size. This deflation of his personality is what he is seeking to avoid. Limaye described Nehru as an “extremely clever power-politician who knows how to clothe defense of the existing order with progressive phrase-making.”94 Subhas Bose described Nehru’s support for both Gandhism and Marxism as “incomprehensible.”95 Although Nehru’s ideas appeared radical,” Bose remarked, “he acted moderately”; his “head pulls one way and his heart in another direction.”96 By August 1937, Bose expressed his frustration with Nehru’s vacillation, writing, “I wish he would give us a lead.”97 Masani unflatteringly described Nehru as possessing “something of the fickleness of a woman,” explaining that Nehru tended to evade an issue by “putting off the evil day when a choice has to be made.”98 Masani also claimed that Nehru’s decisions reflected a desire to avoid having “his public image dimmed.”99 Nevertheless, Masani confided that he “was more than willing to overlook

118  Congress as united front the ambivalence” of Nehru’s thinking as long as Nehru appeared to support socialism for India.100 Due to Nehru’s ambivalence, socialists and communists were deprived of a crucial collaborator with their cause. They had become a vocal minority in the Congress, an irritant, and their message about the united front was increasingly being delivered to an audience that was immune to their rhetoric. Direct action and an alternative to the status quo succumbed to the policies of the moment. Constitutionalism reigned supreme once the elections were finished. By March 1937, the Working Committee, having solicited input from provincial Congress leaders, began to consider conditions that might permit the Congress to form provincial ministries.101 By July, the Working Committee unilaterally authorized provincial party leaders to form ministries where the Congress party was the clear majority in the legislature. This decision was brought to the AICC for ratification in October—three months after ministries were formed. Much to the dismay of socialists and communists, the AICC endorsed the Working Committee’s decision.102 Radicals abruptly discovered that legislatures could not be used to transform the Congress into the united front. Although elections established unprecedented contact with the masses, which the Congress claimed to lead, the bourgeois moderate urge to secure office and legitimately work within the confines of the constitution proved too much of an attraction. Elections could never lead to direct action; the course of events proved radical anxieties.

Congress as united front With a Congress president and growing numbers of Congressmen identifying with communism or socialism, the Congress as a whole began to frame resolutions inspired by the principles—if not explicitly by radical practices—of the united front. Congress leaders wholly supported the national unity implicit to the united front. They concurred with their radical colleagues that the Congress might coalesce into a powerful anti-imperialist movement. However, Working Committee members applied their own interpretation of the concept, thereby diluting radicalization efforts. Socialists and communists used the CSP conferences at Meerut and Faizpur to frame theses that stipulated the purposes and outlined the activities of the united front. These sessions also framed resolutions that might be introduced into annual Congress sessions. Through these programs, they sought to transform the Congress and wean it away from its bourgeois leadership. Meeting at Meerut in January 1936, socialists and communists framed united front policies. The session’s president, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya, observed that conditions were ripe for framing “a suitable programme on immediate economic demands of peasants and workmen,” which would intensify

Congress as united front  119 “the fight on a class basis,” connecting it “with the larger struggle for freedom.” The united front, then, entailed emphasizing day-to-day struggles in the context of anti-imperialism. Chattopadhyaya predicted that any other form of united front “amounted to a betrayal of the masses.”103 The most significant discussion from the first day at Meerut was the CSP resolution about constitutional reforms. Sampurnanand moved a resolution that rejected the Act and urged the Congress to “wreck the new constitution.” It also insisted that Congress legislators must “press for certain demands of the masses,” including abolishing land revenue systems, introducing graduated income taxes, abolishing landlordism, establishing minimum wages and expanding civil liberties. Sampurnanand predicted that if the Congress entered legislatures intending to make good on limited opportunities presented by assemblies, the decision would transform the situation into one amounting to “Indians fighting Indians.” Legislatures, he recommended, should be employed “only for wrecking the constitution.” R.A. Khedgikar, General Secretary of the All-India Trades Union Congress (AITUC), also opposed the Act, maintaining that the Act’s arbitrary labor electorate actually intended to “divide workers into two groups, one in favour of working the constitution and the other against it.” R.K. Khadikar predicted that standing for election to assume office would create “the most undesirable alliance” for securing electoral majorities in assemblies. He revealed that some parliamentarians had already approached landlords to gain their support in the upcoming elections. He insisted that continued silence in the face of such machinations would be “suicidal,” intimating that Working Committee members had already decided to accept offices. Finally, the AICSP passed resolutions “strongly opposing the acceptance of office by the Congress” and opposing India’s participation “in any war.”104 On the second day of the Meerut conference, delegates considered twenty resolutions, many of which covered united front activities. Yusuf Meherally and Achyut Patwardhan moved a resolution that insisted that Congress legislators should work to overturn oppressive ordinances and should “link the struggle of the masses outside with the struggle inside Councils.” One item, moved by Sampurnanand, proposed revising the Congress constitution “so as to include adequate representation of the exploited classes.” Rammanohar Lohia moved a resolution “urging the party to sponsor a resolution at the next Congress session for democratisation of the Congress.” Another resolution proposed organizing peasants into kisan sabhas to strengthen the all-India peasant movement. One resolution declared the CSP’s solidarity with workers’ struggles. R.A. Khedgikar then proposed the orchestration of a Labour Week to demonstrate the CSP’s sympathy with workers and their organizations. One resolution denounced “the formation of an alliance between Congress and reactionary and vested interests.”105 The AICSP session at Faizpur in December 1936 followed a similar pattern. The AICSP resolved to observe a general strike on 1 April 1937 to protest the unwelcome inauguration of the Government of India Act. A

120  Congress as united front second resolution demanded the immediate release of all political prisoners and the repeal of laws that suppressed civil liberties. A resolution about war praised the Lucknow Congress’s stance against participating in an imperialist war, but intended to push the issue further by refusing “to volunteer or serve in any war, make financial contributions or to subscribe to war loans.” This resolution also insisted that any “imperialist war should be utilised by India for securing her freedom.” Lohia’s resolution about the Government of India Act unequivocally condemned the constitution. It also announced that socialists should employ the election campaign “to further their cause” and “to promote their struggle for independence.” Supporting this last resolution, Narendra Deva suggested that electioneering along correct lines— rejecting the act and promising to wreck it—might “signal the country’s victory in the fight for freedom.”106 CSP work on this front achieved mixed results. At Lucknow, Nehru supported several CSP-sponsored resolutions, especially mass contacts and opposition to war. However, the socialist campaign stalled when confronted by majority opposition: in particular, the socialists’ rejection of the Act and of ministries as well as their proposal for collective affiliation. Although the Congress discarded outright rejectionism, it integrated socialist platforms, such as a wrecking policy in assemblies and the demand for a constituent assembly to replace the Act. Similarly, the Election Manifesto incorporated specific socialist demands, such as emphasizing agrarian reform, demanding improvements to working conditions, insisting upon equal rights for women and minorities, releasing political prisoners and opposing India’s participation in an imperialist war.107 Once again, at Faizpur, the Congress high command incorporated CSP attitudes about war, agrarian reform and mass contacts, but circumvented the more contentious socialist requests for collective affiliation and the outright rejection of offices.108 Apparently, as Girja Shankar suggests, the “‘Old Guard’ was giving away gradually” to persistent socialist pressure.109 At Faizpur, socialists celebrated the optimism of this transformative moment. Asoka Mehta predicted that the Faizpur Congress would establish “the basis for the revival of militancy in the country.” The country’s “defeatist mentality” was being washed away. At Faizpur, Mehta observed a “wider united front than before”: The united front not merely covered a wider range of political opinions but it was also becoming more integrated. At Lucknow, one witnessed bitter clash between the two wings of the Congress. At Faizpur, tho neither side was compromising its fundamentals, a greater common-ground was discovered. Mehta attributed these successes to socialist methods. “The Congress,” he wrote, “is responding more and more to the Socialist lead,” enabling the Congress to “come out of the political bog” and arresting “the drift towards constitutionalism.”110

Congress as united front  121 However, the optimism of this transformative moment dissolved almost overnight. Socialists and communists tended to disagree about whether the Congress could actually serve as the united front. Socialists supported the notion that they could transform the Congress through collective affiliation and democratization. Communists theorized that the Congress, as a multi-­ class organization, could only be a partner in a united front of authentic anti-imperialist forces, at least until the campaign for freedom was won or until the anti-imperialist Congress rank and file overthrew their bourgeois leaders. Socialists fixated on the concept of transforming the Congress into the united front. For example, Asoka Mehta considered the Congress’s transformation in the context of the Election Manifesto and the Congress’s election campaign. Mehta observed that the manifesto’s advocacy of the united front was a significant benchmark, but was only a beginning: Much greater transformation is needed. But the straws are blowing in the favourable direction. We must re-double our efforts to bring about an early consummation of a People [sic.] Front thru the Congress. Mehta insisted that collective affiliation would be the most viable instrument for a meaningful transformation. He noted that without such integration of mass interests, “Congress right-wingers may sabotage our efforts for an integrated Congress by accepting such a ‘half-hearted and half-headed’ united front.” Mehta proposed a straightforward remedy: “Exert pressure on the Congress” by supporting class organizations, thereby accomplishing “an early transformation of the Congress into the powerful, well-knit, broad-based, popular anti-imperialist organization.”111 Communists criticized socialist tendencies to employ slogans—“Transfer all power to the producing masses”—as shortsighted and premature. Communists maintained that the united front should not employ slogans, which were merely “left slogans on paper” and which could only become “live demands of the masses at an advanced stage of their political struggle.” India’s masses did not yet possess the appropriate class consciousness, which could only be developed by “pursing the fight for these immediate demands and against local and particular grievances to a mighty All-India struggle for Independence.”112 Communists also maintained that the Congress could not be the united front. They proposed a loose alliance, which included the Congress, the CSP, the Communist Party of India (CPI), the two major all-India trade union organizations and peasant organizations. They insisted that the success of the united front entailed jettisoning the notion that “some one of the participants is bound to get control of the united forces.” The united front was and always would be defined as “the forces concentrated for a united thrust at the chief enemy—imperialism.” It was, simply, “a fusion of anti-­ imperialist forces.”113

122  Congress as united front The communist D.K. Bedekar observed an increasing polarization occurring within the Congress: To-day, as never before, the issues fought out within the Congress are so directly related to the daily economic and social life of the masses, that discord on such vital issues has assumed the form of disintegration. War-resistance, peasant demands, or the question of affiliation of class-organizations, these and many such vital issues are polarizing the Congress in two hostile camps—one pro-imperialist, the other anti-imperialist. For Bedekar, such divisiveness equaled radicals’ “final rejection of the slogan of National Unity.” According to Bedekar, the abortion of such an outdated sense of national unity meant “the rejection of the view that the Popular Front can be realized thru and within the Congress.” Although the Congress’s left wing constituted an important ideological core of the united front, Bedekar argued that the People’s Front combined the Congress’s political campaign with the masses’ economic struggles through their class organizations.114 Bedekar dismissed the notion that collective affiliation in the Congress would construct any popular front. He argued that the Congress and the popular front functioned according to distinct ideas because both possessed “historically and concretely defined meanings.” Noting the distinction, Bedekar wrote, The Congress, with its organization and leadership can never be changed or transformed into united Front organization of different classes, because it denies the existence of class conflict. The Congress, like the Corporate State, is based on the denial of classes, while the Front is an open alliance of the exploited classes, waging class-war against Imperialism and its allies. Bedekar also cautioned against the plan to transform the Congress into the united front, observing that “there is grave danger of its being exploited by the Right-opportunists, who are always too eager to harp on their bureaucratic slogan of preserving ‘Congress’ prestige.” Bedekar insisted that proper tactics entailed “keeping before us the words of Pandit Jawaharlal, ‘the essence of the joint Popular Front must be uncompromising opposition to Imperialism, and the strength of it must inevitably come from the active participation of the peasantry and workers.’”115 Regardless of such theoretical quarrelling, socialist influence inspired Congress leaders to intensify and expand the scope of the anti-imperialist campaign. For example, the Congress attempted to contribute to the international united front. It sought to establish links with Indians abroad and “with international, national, labour and other organizations abroad with

Congress as united front  123 whom cooperation is possible and is likely to help in the cause of Indian freedom.” Consequently, the Congress authorized the formation of a foreign department to pursue such goals.116 It formally conveyed its greetings to the World Peace Congress, which had been formed to oppose fascism and war and to abolish “the domination and exploitation of nation by nation.”117 The Congress also recognized the threat to world peace played by fascism and supported “the necessity of facing this world menace in cooperation with the progressive nations and peoples of the world, and especially with those peoples who are dominated over and exploited by imperialism and fascism.”118 The Congress declared that “to establish world peace on an enduring basis, imperialism and the exploitation of one people by another must end.”119 More directly in tune with the practices of the united front, the Lucknow Congress declared its intent to establish closer association with India’s masses and their organizations. The Mass Contacts campaign was framed as the instrument for developing linkages with the masses “so that they may take greater share in the shaping of Congress policy and in its activities, and the organization might become even more responsive to their needs and desires.” The Congress proposed to cooperate with peasants’ and workers’ organizations, thereby transforming the Congress into “a joint front of all the anti-Imperialist elements in the country.”120 Responding to the notion that the united front ought to mobilize the masses on immediate economic issues, the Congress proclaimed its willingness to combat the country’s “appalling poverty, unemployment and indebtedness” by removing foreign exploitation and by establishing “a full All India Agrarian Programme” to address identified economic concerns.121 However, these programs were not radical in their purpose. The Congress organized the masses to achieve a democratic revolution, not to effect social transformation: The Congress stands for a genuine democratic State in India where political power has been transferred to the people as a whole and the Government is under their effective control…. To this end the Congress works in the country and organizes the masses, and this objective must ever be kept in view….122 Congress leaders channeled the mobilization inherent to these programs into political campaigns, emphasizing that political freedom must precede economic emancipation.123 In fact, where mass mobilization threatened to overflow carefully constructed confines, Congress leaders warned that they would not tolerate situations in which mobilization contributed to “creating an atmosphere hostile to Congress principles and policy.”124 The emergence of the peasant and labor movements heightened anxieties among Working Committee members. Congress leaders persistently encouraged peasants and workers to join the Congress, to organize and agitate

124  Congress as united front for their needs under the Congress’s anti-imperialist umbrella. The Mass Contacts program was intended to facilitate this integration. However, Congress leaders’ impressions of what best suited kisans and workers paid lip service to the day-to-day concerns of the masses and scarcely addressed, even neglected, the pressing issues confronting rural and urban masses. Narendra Deva complained that the Congress’s day-to-day programs amounted to “window-dressing” without solving “even a single immediate demand.”125 Consequently, the development of peasants’ and workers’ unions increasingly came to be utilized by their members as the organized expression of local interests. United front advocates consistently supported the development of independent mass organizations as instruments for waging the anti-­i mperialist struggle. The united front program entailed the political organization of peasants and workers into class-based units that might work alongside the Congress while applying ever-increasing pressure to radicalize the anti-­ imperialist campaign. Contrarily, to Working Committee members, these activities appeared redundant to Congress work. After all, the Congress was the country’s premier mass organization: At Karachi, it enumerated peasant demands, and at Faizpur, it outlined its agrarian program. The majority of Working Committee members opposed the formation of separate peasant and labor unions and agreed that these rival organizations undermined Congress prestige when Congressmen participated. Consensus within the Congress high command was that union agitation exerted undue influence through intimidation and the coercive threat of violence, acts that violated Congress principles and discipline.126 Working Committee members responded by issuing disciplinary injunctions against radical Congressmen involved in kisan sabha and labor union activities that appeared to counter the Congress’s national agenda. In December 1936, a Working Committee resolution expanded the Congress’s disciplinary rules to cover any Congressman who, “in the opinion of the Working Committee,” acted in a manner “likely to lower the power and prestige of the Congress.”127 This ruling meant that every socialist or communist who, if a Congressman, criticized Congress policy and who was, most importantly, perceived by the Congress high command to have acted in a manner detrimental to the Congress was liable for disciplinary action. The regulation was a thinly concealed attempt to curb recent mobilization of kisan sabhas and labor unions and to blunt radicals’ incessant criticism of the parliamentary program. The new rules scarcely restricted their intended targets. In October 1937, Vallabhbhai Patel privately complained about sabha activities, noting that such “rival organizations are bound to destroy the Congress prestige.” The radicals, he warned, were “waiting for a time when they could displace us,” and he recommended that the Working Committee “must face this issue fairly and squarely”—any delay and “we will not be able to control the situation created by them.”128 Working Committee members then moved to address the participation of Congressmen in kisan sabha activities,

Congress as united front  125 passing a resolution that declared that the Congress “cannot associate itself with any activities which run counter to the basic principles of the Congress.” Sabha organizers were reprimanded for “creating an atmosphere of violence,” and provincial executives were authorized to enforce discipline against Congressmen found to be damaging Congress prestige by fomenting class conflict.129 This decision reflected the widespread opinion among constitutionalists that “there is far too much criticism of the Congress ministries,” which tended “to weaken the party machine as a whole.”130 Patel aggressively recommended deliberate steps to counter radical infiltration of the AICC and the Congress: “eliminate all the anti-­ Gandhi elements” from delegate rosters. He declared that socialists and communists “have taken undue advantage of our toleration,” and he announced his determination to take a stand against CSP–CPI activities.131 Congress leaders’ hostility built to a crescendo at the Haripura session, at which the Congress as a whole reiterated that it “will not countenance any of the activities of those Congressmen who as members of the Kisan Sabhas help in creating an atmosphere hostile to Congress principles and policy.” Provincial Congress executives were instructed to “take suitable action wherever called for.”132 In addition to formal restrictions applied to radical activities, Congress leaders facilely appropriated the united front theme of unity. Narayan complained that Nehru unequivocally stated that “the immediate issue before the Congress” was “independence and how to achieve it.”133 Nehru insisted that achieving the goal of independence entailed “strengthening of the masses, and of the Congress organizations through them,” thereby developing the “real strength” needed for liberation.134 Mass participation, he suggested, meant that the Congress “offered the widest basis for this joint front.” His conceptualization of the united front emphasized national unity, and he warned that unity was the key to successful struggle: “If any weaken this front, they do so at their own peril and to the injury of the nation.”135 He insisted that Congressmen “must concentrate on political independence and that alone.”136 Regardless of revolutionary rhetoric, socialists agreed with Nehru’s priorities. The Meerut Thesis warned that socialists must not “make the mistake of placing a full Socialist programme before the Congress.” It also cautioned against obstructing Congress programs. Socialist activity meant transforming the Congress through the “strengthening and clarification of anti-imperialist forces.”137 The Faizpur Thesis also acknowledged that independence took precedence, emphasizing that the purpose of united front activity was to prepare the country for the struggle to secure independence. Even the alternative program proposed by the Faizpur Thesis focused on the political issue while seeking to link day-to-day economic concerns to the struggle for political liberation.138 Unwittingly, socialists set the stage for the failure of the united front by admitting that independence must precede social revolution.

126  Congress as united front Nevertheless, Narayan criticized the premise that any discussion of socialism must be delayed until after independence: Independence first, then anything else! Do not raise remote issues. Let us put our shoulders to the immediate task! First things first! Narayan complained that these slogans failed to actually accomplish objectives for securing independence. “It is a pathetic naiveté,” he wrote, “to believe at this stage of our struggle that merely by repeating that meaningless phrase, ‘first things first’, we will have solved all the problems that face us today.” He claimed that placing socialism, communism and independence “in water-tight compartments” and denying that “any relation exists between them” debilitated the struggle for independence. Consequently, he claimed that “socialism and the organization and consolidation of socialist forces are of the utmost importance to the national movement.”139 Masani expressed similar sentiments, writing that the country’s major issue was not political freedom, but was “undoubtedly, the economic prostration of the peasant.”140 Ironically, Narayan criticized Congress leaders for attempting to delay discussions about important issues. He suggested that the critical concern should be “the problem of developing and shaping a strong and effective instrument and method for conducting the struggle for independence.”141 Although his remarks may very well have applied to Congress programs, Narayan remained blinded by the conviction with which he sought to forge Left consolidation—“first things first” applied equally to the united front, which ignored controversial issues for the sake of superficial unity. *** Radicals experienced difficulties in their attempts to achieve the basic goals of the united front. They were obliged to trail behind Working Committee decisions because they fundamentally failed to seize the initiative by securing a clear majority of delegates to the AICC and annual Congress sessions; without such numerical strength, the Congress could never become the anti-imperialist front that radicals imagined it might be. For example, as the Working Committee was preparing to condone the conditional acceptance of office in early 1937, Narayan wrote to the members of the CSP national executive. Two statements emphasized radicals’ inability to anticipate events. In one circular, Narayan scrambled to formulate united front policies for the AICC: In view of the fact that the dates and venue of the Working Committee have not been announced, it is not possible for me to fix the time and place of our meeting. I am writing, however, to ask you to be prepared to attend the meeting at short notice—most probably telegraphic— some time during the second half of February.142

Congress as united front  127 For one of the most critical upcoming AICC sessions, a meeting that likely would decide the fate of the office acceptance issue, Narayan proposed formulating CSP policy on the fly. Additionally, Narayan observed, “The most important problem we will have to consider at the meeting will be the ways and means of fighting the Constitution.”143 In this instance, events already moved well beyond a mere consideration of the Congress’s response to the Government of India Act—elections throughout the country were winding down with the Congress winning legislative majorities, and Narayan intended to discuss how the constitution would be opposed. At the decisive moment, as the AICC resolved to conditionally accept office, all the socialists could do was attempt to amend the Working Committee resolution.144 Masani spoke in opposition to the proposed policy. He recalled, I made one of the main speeches for the opposition to acceptance of office. If the Congress really wanted to destroy the Constitution, would they be asking for an assurance that they should be allowed to work in peace within it, I asked. If ministerships were really so desirable, why were the tallest of their leaders, who were next only to Gandhiji in influence, so reluctant to take office themselves? I rejected the plea that the country was not ready for direct action.145 While moving the CSP amendment to the AICC resolution, Narayan simply reiterated his longstanding conviction that “acceptance of office will be a blunder.” He criticized a wrecking policy that authorized the formation of ministries, and he lambasted empty rhetoric that proclaimed that “we shall make whatever use we can of the constitution and through it prepare for the final struggle.” He maintained that the policy was contradictory and illogical.146 In response to the AICC’s decision, the CSP national executive released an ineffectual statement that sought to salvage the situation, noting that its defeat did not correlate with the premise that “the Party’s work in this connection has yielded no fruits.” The united front prevented the Congress “from being dragged further towards Constitutionalism.” It helped develop a platform for legislative work that was truly revolutionary “and provided slogans which are today accepted by the entire Congress.” The statement vowed that, in the future, the CSP would “exercise greater vigilance and see that the country does not drift into reformism” and promised that the party “will always act in such a way as will convince the masses of the futility of Constitutional action and will prepare them increasingly for direct action.” The united front’s defeat clarified its tactics. Now, the CSP intended to “adopt an attitude of critical co-operation in the parliamentary work of the Congress” to guarantee that the legislative program fulfilled its fundamental objective of “combating and ending the slave Constitution.” Additionally, united-front-from-below initiatives would be employed to “exercise a continual pressure from below on the Congress cabinets.”147

128  Congress as united front At this moment, Narayan and his comrades of the united front abdicated the initiative and failed to understand extant circumstances. Narayan observed a “weakness in our position which must be set right immediately.” Having invested so much effort in elections and the parliamentary program, the Congress was “unprepared” for direct action. Narayan resorted to the principles of the united front as a solution: Today, our work, more than ever before, is outside the Legislature. We must bend all energies to perfecting and extending the Congress machinery, in bringing it ever nearer to the masses, in organizing the masses for their daily struggle for bread, in mobilizing the youth of the country…. Let us make the Congress an irresistible force.148 Narayan hinted, but failed to recognize, that constitutionalism was too entrenched to be derailed by rhetoric or that Congress leaders were too committed to the legislative program to contemplate any resurrection of direct action. Additionally, satisfaction of the Congress’s conditions for office acceptance was to be determined by the Congress legislative party leaders, the parliamentarians. Moreover, the condition of non-interference overtly implied that Congress ministers would abandon the policy of combating the Act in favor of one that emphasized the normal day-to-day functioning of provincial administrations. The Congress proved impervious to the transformative efforts of the united front. At the Lucknow Congress, Nehru brought three socialists into his Working Committee.149 From April 1936, leftists adopted a united-front-from-above tactic through which the three socialist infiltrators sought to influence the Congress’s decision-making from the apex of the Congress organization. At the same time, CSP rank and file worked to organize peasant and labor unions, thereby pursuing a united-front-from-below tactic to oblige Congress leaders to respond to the day-to-day economic demands of the country’s masses. The CSP terminated this dual approach in February 1938 at the Haripura Congress. The CSP national executive decided that Masani would be among the socialist members of the Working Committee, replacing a party member from the previous cabinet. The president-elect, Subhas Chandra Bose, agreed to this appointment. However, Vallabhbhai Patel objected to Masani’s nomination, alleging that Masani had been involved in controversial indiscipline in the Bombay PCC. These allegations disproved, the truth was revealed: The real objection to me was that if I was taken into the Working Committee it would help build the Congress Socialist Party and weaken the right wing of the Congress in Bombay city, which Vallabhbhai said they could not afford. Bose acceded to Patel’s objections and asked the CSP to cooperate. Narayan told Bose that “in these circumstances the Socialists would withdraw from

Congress as united front  129 the Working Committee as they were not prepared to allow other people to dictate their nominees.” This decision terminated the CSP experiment with composite leadership.150 All that remained was a united-front-frombelow. But with options thus circumscribed, communists and socialists competed to dominate the mass organizations utilized for this strategy. In retrospect, Masani concluded that this decision “at that point of time was unfortunate.”151

Notes 1 Presidential address, Bengal CSP conference, 21 September 1935, JPSW, vol. 1, 175. 2 Statement to the press, Searchlight (17 July 1935). 3 Opening address, Andhra Provincial Socialist conference, 19 February 1935, CSP, 90. 4 “Comment on Vallabhbhai Patel’s Speech at Bombay,” Searchlight (25 July 1934). 5 “Comment on Vallabhbhai Patel’s Speech at Bombay,” Searchlight (25 July 1934). 6 AICC resolution, “Election Manifesto,” 23 August 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 7 Speech at Calcutta, 6 October 1936, SWJN, vol. 7, 495. 8 Presidential address, All-India Convention, March 1937, SWJN, vol. 8, 124–25. 9 Revolutionary Movement in the Colonies and Semi–Colonies, 25, 35, 37. 10 Communist International, 468–69. 11 “The Background in India,” (accessed 21 May 2014). 12 “India’s Fight Against the India Bill,” (accessed 21 May 2014). 13 “India’s Fight Against the India Bill,” (accessed 21 May 2014). 14 Presidential address, AICSP conference, 17 May 1934, ASAND, 157–58. 15 In his presidential address to the Patna socialist conference in May 1934, Narendra Deva insisted that the CSP should reject constitutionalism because it tended to “run counter to the revolutionary policy of the Congress.” Presidential address, All-India socialist conference, 17 May 1934, CSP, 38. 16 For example, several months prior to the October 1935 AICC session at Madras, the CSP submitted its resolutions to the Working Committee, notably, the socialist response to constitutional developments and the socialist condemnation of alliances within legislatures. Narayan’s telegram to Prasad, 1 August 1935, JPSW, vol. 1, 153; Narayan to Prasad, 20 August 1935, JPSW, vol. 1, 153. 17 AICSP resolution, “Reactionary Policy of C.P.B.,” 22 October 1934, Brahmanand Papers 9/1940. 18 AICSP resolution, “Socialists and Assembly Elections,” 22 October 1934, Brahmanand Papers 9/1940. 19 Presidential address, Gujarat Congress Socialist conference, 22 June 1935, CSP, 107. 20 CWC resolution, “Offices under the New Constitution,” 1 August 1935, AICC Papers G-31(ii)/1934. 21 AICC resolution, “Offices under the New Constitution,” 18 October 1935, AICC Papers G-31(ii)/1934. 22 Presidential address, Kerala Provincial Socialists’ Conference, 27 May 1935, CSP, 95. 23 See: Marguerite Rose Dove, Forfeited Future: The Conflict over Congress Ministries in British India, 1933–1937, (Delhi: Chanakya Publications, 1987), 83–84. 24 S. Satyamurti to Vallabhbhai Patel, 21 May 1935 in Dove, Forfeited Future, 84. 25 See Dove, Forfeited Future, 85. 26 CWC resolution, “Offices under the New Constitution,” 1 August 1935, AICC Papers G-31(ii)/1934.

130  Congress as united front 27 Hindu (3 August 1935) in Dove, Forfeited Future, 86–87. 28 Prasad to Sardar Sardul Singh Caveeshar, 7 September 1935, AICC Papers 30/1933. 29 Caveeshar to Prasad, 2 September 1935, AICC Papers 30/1933. 30 Caveeshar to Prasad, 16 September 1935, AICC Papers 30/1933. 31 Circular to CSP provincial secretaries, 4 June 1936, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 5/1936–46. 32 “Joint Statement by Narendra Deva and Jayaprakash Narayan on Office Acceptance,” Bombay Chronicle (31 August 1935). 33 “Interview on Acceptance of Ministerial Offices by Congressmen,” Searchlight (18 September 1935). 34 “British versus India,” Congress Socialist (21 March 1936). 35 “British versus India,” Congress Socialist (21 March 1936). 36 “British versus India,” Congress Socialist (28 March 1936). 37 “British versus India,” Congress Socialist (21 March 1936). 38 “Ministry—A Bourgeois Programme,” Congress Socialist (28 March 1936). 39 Resolutions of the Sind Congress Socialist conference, 18 July 1936, CSP, 241. 40 Speech to the Indian Conciliation Group, London, 4 February 1936 in Jagat S. Bright, ed., Important Speeches of Jawaharlal Nehru, second edition, (Lahore: Indian Printing Works, [no date]), 299, 313–14. Hereafter cited as ISJN. 41 B. Subba Rao’s welcome address, Andhra Provincial Socialist conference, 19 February 1935, CSP, 89. 42 Presidential address, CSP conference, 23 December 1936, JPSW, vol. 2, 129. 43 “Towards a New Clarification,” Congress Socialist (14 March 1936). 44 “Towards a New Clarification,” Congress Socialist (14 March 1936). 45 Presidential address, Lucknow Congress, 12 April 1936, Jawaharlal Nehru Papers, Writings/Speeches, No. 207. 46 Presidential address, Lucknow Congress, 12 April 1936, Jawaharlal Nehru Papers, Writings/Speeches, No. 207. 47 Presidential address, Lucknow Congress, 12 April 1936, Jawaharlal Nehru Papers, Writings/Speeches, No. 207. 48 Presidential address, Lucknow Congress, 12 April 1936, Jawaharlal Nehru Papers, Writings/Speeches, No. 207. 49 Presidential address, Lucknow Congress, 12 April 1936, Jawaharlal Nehru Papers, Writings/Speeches, No. 207. 50 Lucknow Congress resolution, “Government of India Act,” 14 April 1936, AICC Papers 31/1936. 51 Lucknow Congress resolution, “Government of India Act,” 14 April 1936, AICC Papers 31/1936. 52 Lucknow Congress resolution, “Government of India Act,” 14 April 1936, AICC Papers 31/1936. 53 CWC resolution, “Parliamentary Committee,” 29 April 1936, AICC Papers 31/1936. 54 Lucknow Congress resolution, “Government of India Act,” 14 April 1936, AICC Papers 31/1936. 55 “Anti-Imperialist People’s Front in India,” (accessed 21 May 2014). 56 Masani, Communist Party, 65–66. 57 “The Socialist Stand at Lucknow,” Congress Socialist (6 June 1936). 58 “First Fruits of Lucknow,” Congress Socialist (22 August 1936). 59 “Issues Before and After Lucknow,” Congress Socialist (23 May 1936). 60 Bose to Nehru, 4 March 1936, Jawaharlal Nehru Papers, Correspondence vol. 9. 61 “The Socialist Stand at Lucknow,” Congress Socialist (6 June 1936). 62 “First Fruits of Lucknow,” Congress Socialist (22 August 1936).

Congress as united front  131 63 Interview to the press, Bombay Chronicle (15 April 1936). 64 “First Fruits of Lucknow,” Congress Socialist (22 August 1936). 65 “Issues Before and After Lucknow,” Congress Socialist (23 May 1936). 66 Address to the AITUC, 18 May 1936, SWJN, vol. 7, 237. 67 Speech at Madras, 6 October 1936, SWJN, vol. 7, 495. 68 Speech at Nagpur, 25 April 1936, SWJN, vol. 7, 211–12. 69 Interview to the press, The Tribune (3 June 1936), SWJN, vol. 7, 276. 70 Speech at Lahore, 29 May, 1936, SWJN, vol. 7, 269. 71 Speech at Sultanpur, 27 June 1936, SWJN, vol. 7, 299. 72 “Appeal for an Anti-Imperialist United Front,” Bombay Chronicle (16 May 1936). 73 Speech at Chowpatty, 19 May 1936, SWJN, vol. 7, 245. 74 Speech at Delhi, 28 May 1936, SWJN, vol. 7, 267. 75 Presidential address, Kerala Congress Socialist conference, 14 June 1936, CSP, 219–20. 76 Bhulabhai Desai to his family, 2 April 1936 in M.C. Setalvad, Bhulabhai Desai, (New Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1968), 168–69. 77 Gandhi to Agatha Harrison, 30 April 1936, CWMG, vol. 62, 353–54. 78 Patel to Prasad, 29 May 1936 in P.N. Chopra (ed.), The Collected Works of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, vol. 6 (Delhi: Konark Publishers, 1994), 35. Hereafter cited as CWSP. 79 Prasad and others to Nehru, 29 June 1936 in Jawaharlal Nehru, A Bunch of Old Letters, (New York: Asia Publishing House, 1960), 188–91. The signatories were: Rajendra Prasad, Vallabhbhai Patel, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, JB Kripalani, Jairamdas Doulatram, Shankarro D. Dev and Jamnalal Bajaj. 80 Gandhi to Nehru, 8 July 1936, CWMG, vol. 63, 127. 81 Gandhi to Nehru, 15 July 1936, CWMG, vol. 63, 145. 82 Gandhi to Nehru, 30 July 1936, Jawaharlal Nehru Papers, Correspondence vol. 24. 83 “From Lucknow to Tripuri,” in Jawaharlal Nehru, The Unity of India: Collected Writings 1937–1940, (New York: John Day Company, 1948), 96–98. 84 Nehru to Gandhi, 5 July 1936, Jawaharlal Nehru Papers, Correspondence vol. 24. 85 Speech at Perambur, Madras, 6 October 1936, SWJN, vol. 7, 500. 86 Speech at Tiruchchirappalli, 16 October 1936, SWJN, vol. 7, 527–28. 87 Speech at AICC session, Bombay, 22 August 1936, ISJN, 121. 88 Masani, Bliss Was It, 145. 89 Masani, Bliss Was It, 88. 90 Masani, Bliss Was It, 145. 91 “Socialist Conference at Faizpur: Central Executive’s Decisions,” Congress Socialist (7 November 1936). 92 Speech to Congress Socialists, 7 November 1936, SWJN, vol. 7, 544. 93 Masani, Bliss Was It, 97. 94 Limaye and Mehrotra, Age of Hope, 126, 156. 95 Bose to Satyendra Nath Majumdar, 22 February 1934 in Sisir K. Bose and Sugata Bose (eds.), Netaji Collected Works, vol. 8 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995), 55. Hereafter cited as NCW. 96 Bose to Kitty Kurti, 23 February 1934, NCW, vol. 8, 56. 97 Bose to Rammanohar Lohia, 5 August 1937, NCW, vol. 8, 215. 98 Masani, Bliss Was It, 44, 51. 99 Masani, Bliss Was It, 178. 100 Masani, Bliss Was It, 88. 101 AICC resolution, “New Constitution,” 18 March 1937, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. A Working Committee resolution in March 1937 declared that a decision about accepting ministries would be made by the AICC after the Working Committee

132  Congress as united front

102 1 03 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123

124 1 25 126 127 1 28 129 1 30 131 132

“has received the recommendations of provincial and local committees.” CWC resolution, “Ministries,” 1 March 1937, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. AICC resolution, “Ratification of Working Committee Resolution on Office Acceptance,” 31 October 1937, AICC Papers 31/1936. Presidential address, AICSP conference, 19 January 1936, CSP, 211–12. AICSP resolutions, 19 January 1936, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 5/1936–46. AICSP resolutions, 20 January 1936, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 5/1936–46. AICSP resolutions, 24 December 1936, Brahmanand Papers 9/1940. See Shankar, Socialist Trends, 105–6. Refer to Shankar, Socialist Trends, 109. Shankar, Socialist Trends, 109–10. “The Faizpur Congress,” Congress Socialist (9 January 1937). “A People’s Front?,” Congress Socialist (5 September 1936). Emphasis is original. “The Indian National Congress and the United Anti-Imperialist Front in India,” [no date], Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 38-A/1945. “The Indian National Congress and the United Anti-Imperialist Front in India,” [no date], Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 38-A/1945. “People’s Front and Congress,” Congress Socialist (3 October 1936). “People’s Front and Congress,” Congress Socialist (3 October 1936). Emphasis is original. Lucknow Congress resolution “Foreign Department,” 14 April 1936, AICC Papers 31/1936. Lucknow Congress resolution “World Peace Congress,” 14 April 1936, AICC Papers 31/1936. Faizpur Congress resolution, “War Danger,” 28 December 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. Haripura Congress resolution, “Foreign Policy & War Danger,” 21 February 1938, AICC Papers G-6/1938. Lucknow Congress resolution “Congress & Mass Contacts,” 14 April 1936, AICC Papers 31/1936. See also Faizpur Congress resolution, “The Congress Constitution & Mass Contacts,” 28 December 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. Lucknow Congress resolution “Agrarian Programme,” 14 April 1936, AICC Papers 31/1936. Faizpur Congress resolution, “Elections & Constituent Assembly,” 28 December 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. The Faizpur Congress declared: “The Congress is convinced that the final solution of this [economic] problem involves the removal of British imperialistic exploitation.” Faizpur Congress resolution, “Agrarian Programme,” 28 December 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. Haripura Congress resolution, “Kisan Sabhas,” 21 February 1938, AICC Papers G-6/1938. “Kisan Sabha in Uttar Pradesh,” Congress Socialist (28 November 1936). Patel to Prasad, 2 October 1937, in Valmiki Choudhary (ed.), Dr. Rajendra Prasad Correspondence and Select Documents, vol. 1, (New Delhi: Allied Publishers, 1984), 103. Hereafter cited as RPCSD. CWC resolution, “Disciplinary Rules,” 11 December 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. Patel to Prasad, 2 October 1937, RPCSD, vol. 1, 103. CWC resolution, “Kisan Sabha Workers in Bihar,” 1 November 1937, AICC Papers 31/1936. B. Shiva Rao to Prasad, 2 November 1937, RPCSD, vol. 1, 117. Patel to Prasad, 21 December 1937, RPCSD, vol. 1, 141. Haripura Congress resolution, “Kisan Sabhas,” 21 February 1938, AICC Papers G-6/1938.

Congress as united front  133 1 33 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142

“Issues Before and After Lucknow,” Congress Socialist (23 May 1936). “Congress and Socialism” (15 July 1936), EMI, 38–39. “Congress Presidentship” (20 November 1936), EMI, 70. “Congress and Socialism” (15 July 1936), EMI, 39. Meerut Thesis, 20 January 1936, Brahamanand Papers 3/1936–47. Faizpur Thesis, 24 December 1936, Brahamanand Papers 3/1936–47. “First Things First,” Congress Socialist (26 December 1936). “First Fruits of Lucknow,” Congress Socialist (22 August 1936). “First Things First,” Congress Socialist (26 December 1936). Circular to members of the CSP national executive, 4 February 1937, JPSW, vol. 2, 152. 143 Circular to members of the CSP national executive, 4 February 1937, JPSW, vol. 2, 152. 1 44 The CSP amendment stated: the A.I.C.C. is of opinion that the acceptance of Ministerial offices by Congressmen is inconsistent with the policy adumbrated above and would weaken the struggle for national independence. The A.I.C.C. deprecates the idea that the Congress Ministers can, within the framework of the Government of India Act, secure an appreciable amelioration in the condition of the exploited and oppressed section of the people or any substantial political or economic concessions for them. On the other hand the acceptance of responsibility without the transfer of any real power will make the Congress Ministers a party to repression and exploitation which is implicit in the imperialist regime and will thus discredit the Congress in the eyes of the people. The A.I.C.C., therefore, decides against acceptance of Ministerial offices by Congressmen. AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. Narayan’s amendment was defeated by nearly a twoto-one margin. Masani, Bliss Was It, 102. 145 Masani, Bliss Was It, 102. 146 Speech at AICC meeting, 17 March 1937, JPSW, vol. 2, 159–60. 147 “Statement of National Executive of the C.S.P. on Acceptance of Offices by the Congress,” Congress Socialist (27 March 1937). 148 Interview, Bombay Chronicle (31 March 1937). 149 Text of the resolutions adopted by AICC, 15 April 1936, AICC Papers 31/1936. 150 Masani, Bliss Was It, 117–19. 151 Masani, Bliss Was It, 119.

5 Conflict about unity

In a recent interview about the united front, Puchalapalli Sundarayya, leader of the Andhra Congress Socialist Party (CSP), was asked when conflict between socialists and communists had become readily apparent and what the reasons for this conflict might have been. Sundarayya replied, “Right from the beginning, from 1934 itself, this conflict had been there.” He observed that communists criticized socialism as “contradictory in words.” He concluded that communism and socialism were incompatible ideologies: “They decided to remove us and we also found that it was difficult to convince a good chunk of them.”1 Somewhat ominously, the Faizpur Thesis related that “the line of development and the scope of organization have not been clearly laid down.” It promised to expand membership in the CSP by including more Congressmen, more workers and more peasants without prejudicing “the Marxist basis of our party.”2 On the lofty basis of Marxism, socialists and communists could cooperatively expand the scope of the anti-imperialist struggle. Although the principles of the united front were willingly acknowledged by all participants, after December 1936, socialists and communists turned to sorting out specific ideological discrepancies. Once the parties emphasized ideological homogeneity, problems quickly surfaced. Histories of the united front frequently devolve into a summarization of M.R. Masani’s Trojan horse theme or punctuate the socialist view of the situation with selections from Jayaprakash Narayan’s reminiscences. Seeking to explain developments, scholars tend to showcase the inevitability of the united front’s disintegration. Consequently, they uncritically accept onesided socialist sources about India’s experiment with Left unity. They emphasize disunity to the neglect of unity. Bipan Chandra and his co-writers observe that “doctrinal disputes and differences” caused Left disunity.3 Sumit Sarkar relates that the “rapid penetration of the rather amorphous” CSP by the “dedicated and disciplined Communist cadres” debilitated the “broad unity” of the united front strategy.4 Padhy and Panigrahy relate that factionalism in the CSP was a consequence of communist fraction work. They assert that communist strategy “was to enter into the C.S.P. and then capture the whole organization.”5

Conflict about unity  135 R.C. Chowdhuri devotes an entire chapter to communism in India, but largely narrates the Masani line by suggesting that “communists had infiltrated the ranks of the CSP and captured many important positions.” Chaudhuri highlights the significance of the secret documents, dismisses professions of allegiance as disingenuous and describes “an attempt to capture the National Executive.”6 A more balanced assessment of conflict within the united front effort is certainly warranted. Given the volume of analysis devoted to the destruction of Left unity, this chapter does not consider the united front’s disintegration in detail. Instead, in the context of increasingly acrimonious allegations and accusations, the chapter assesses persistent attempts from the parties’ pinnacles to solve the lingering conundrums of Left unity. As such, it complicates the dominant narrative about socialist–communist relations by highlighting that while, at local levels, socialist and communist cadres engaged in ideologically internecine quarrels, CSP and Communist Party of India (CPI) leaders continued to articulate paths for constructing the united front. Consequently, as conflict between socialists and communists increased, terms such as disruption, indiscipline and unity assumed considerable prominence within ideologues’ rhetoric about united Marxism. Such terms reflected concerns about organizational cohesion that betrayed a disconnection between united front principles and practices, a consequence of CSP and CPI leaders’ reluctance to consider specific points of disagreement for the sake of the concept of unity. Although the united front was challenged by external opponents, its effectiveness was neutralized from within. Fundamental doctrinal differences remained unresolved and, indeed, unbridgeable. Padhy and Panigrahy observe that socialists and communists were ideologically similar and that the “real difference between them centred on national interest,” with socialists operating as nationalists while communists worked internationally.7 This distinction was echoed by E.M.S. Naboodiripad, who explained that the basic difference between communists and socialists was that the former, members of the Communist International, possessed an international outlook while socialists remained narrowly national and mired in an Indian expression of social democracy.8 Again, socialist assumptions about Marxism in general contributed to considerable confusion about communism. Socialists assumed that they might purify Marxism by collaborating with communists, clarifying doctrinal differences and consolidating into a more cohesive Marxist party; disputes could be worked out in due time, homogenizing India’s Left movement.9 According to E.M.S. Namboodiripad, conflict arose when the two factions attempted to frame a specific program for the united front. He claimed that socialists presented their thesis, and then communists presented “the alternative,” which was not a full-fledged communist program, but one “which we thought would be acceptable to the socialists.” Namboodiripad explained that conflict with the CSP arose because leading social democrats

136  Conflict about unity in the CSP—M.R. Masani, Asoka Mehta, Yusuf Meherally and Achyut Patwardhan—­maintained that “this communist line was a wrong thing and that it should not be allowed.” Communists in the CSP recognized that socialists dominated the decision-making, “did not insist too much on it” and accepted the majority view.10 Masani presented a more hostile depiction of events. Because of their association with the CSP, communists infiltrated the Congress and “were able to influence to a certain extent the ideological content of the resolutions placed before the Congress.” Once in the Congress, they utilized national and provincial Congress committees “for pushing the communist line of action.” At Congress sessions, their proposed amendments to Working Committee resolutions “indicated the communist line,” alterations that were strictly communist “except where agreed drafts were reached through the United Front machinery.”11 However, Left unity was an elusive ideal from the inception of the united front. As early as August 1935—even before the united front was formally inaugurated—CSP leaders received warnings about fissures forming within the Congress’s radical wing. The CSP national executive revealed that it possessed proof that M.N. Roy’s followers attempted “to enter the Party with the purpose of liquidating it.”12 Additionally, in early 1936, a Roy group circular appeared, denying that the CSP was a socialist party and recommending that it should become merely a Left forum within the Congress.13 Fraction work was inherent to the working arrangement of the united front: While all participants readily agreed that the Congress was not yet a true anti-imperialist front, they pungently disagreed about exactly what constituted the truest expression of anti-imperialism. The parties collaborated so long as they retained their exclusive independence. Of the partners in the united front, only CSP leaders blithely ignored the potential disruption caused by Left sectarianism; socialists overeagerly sought to forge Left unity. In December 1936, shortly after the latter’s release from prison, Jayaprakash Narayan approached M.N. Roy for a discussion. The pair discussed the situation in India. Narayan was “anxious” to determine the extent to which cooperation was possible. Narayan found Roy “to be in a much larger measure of agreement” with the CSP than expected, and Narayan observed that “points of difference were not material, at least not now.” Narayan’s depiction of the encounter relentlessly conveyed the potential for the united front in positive terms, expecting that Left unity was indeed practicable and achievable—he was to do much of the talking, he resolved to persuade Roy to participate, he found considerable agreement on the broad issues, with minor ideological points to be cleared up at a later date.14 As the example illustrates, Narayan consistently operated under the impression that homogenization was possible and anti-imperialism could effectively be radicalized. He deluded himself about the potential for ideological disagreements—although the partners could agree on the goal, they quibbled about means and eventually feuded about the nature of their collaboration and the united front.

Conflict about unity  137 According to some participants, the smooth working relationship established in 1934–35 quickly deteriorated. Both Masani and Narayan reminisced that within the first year of united front operations, the CSP national executive received reports about communist attempts to capture CSP organizations. Masani wrote that “complaints began pouring into socialist headquarters” about shady communist activities.15 Narayan observed that these reports indicated that communists were attempting to disrupt the CSP and capture its local branches.16 In Bombay, Masani and Meherally expelled two communists from the CSP for indiscipline.17 More significantly, events throughout 1936 indicated to socialists that communists did not altruistically participate in the united front. Nevertheless, Narayan clung tenaciously to the notion of Left unity. In hindsight, he admitted that socialist leaders “thought we were well on our way towards socialist unity” and “thought that as the movement grew it would be able to solve its problems as they arose.”18 For his part, Masani observed “a great deal of waffling” occurring at the national level.19 To some extent, the united front disintegrated because of flaws inherent to the CSP. Within a year of the party’s founding, Narayan observed “one weakness in the Party which we must take serious note of and remove as early as possible,” a defect that undermined the homogeneity Narayan sought to achieve with the united front: I refer to the lack of the spirit of solidarity within the Party. Members have not shown the spirit of discipline and loyalty to the Party that socialists are expected to possess for their organization. Many members have shown an indifference enough to have justified their removal from the Party. Many others seemed to be using the Party to further the policies of outside groups and parties. This lack of oneness of purpose and solidarity has been one greatest weakness and it must go if we are to grow.20 If indiscipline existed in the CSP from its inauguration, then alleged communist attempts to capture committees and ideologically convert CSP members fit seamlessly into this undisciplined status quo. Disintegration was inherent to Left consolidation.

Cracks in unity After the Faizpur session, Narayan continued to adhere to united front tactics. He celebrated the “definite” check to the “aggression” of the Congress’s right wing, and he predicted “that henceforth the Left will steadily grow till it comes to dominate the Congress.” As evidence, he cited the assorted resolutions that “were themselves the products of Left propaganda and leadership.” He over-optimistically prophesied that “the Left will succeed in convincing the Congress that the only course consistent with its ideals and declarations is to reject offices.”21

138  Conflict about unity Concurrently, broader Left unity began to erode. With the press speculating about the possibility of a rapprochement with the Royists, Narayan explained that “there is a keen desire on both sides to work together and co-operate fully in furtherance of the anti-Imperialist movement.” Roy had not yet fully committed his group to the united front, citing differences between his party and the CSP, but Narayan optimistically expected that “they would be gradually resolved” and hoped that “we may be able to work as if we belonged to the same organization or one party.” He suggested that Left unity might be achieved through “a constant attempt to minimize differences and to keep the points of agreement in the forefront.”22 However, in this instance, divergences outweighed the common ground. Masani suspected that Roy could not be trusted. According to Masani, Roy allegedly told Congress leaders that “he was the only man who knew how to fight Jawaharlal Nehru and the socialists effectively.”23 Masani’s impressions revealed a certain unease, which permeated united front activities. Narayan blindly attempted to forge Left unity, which meant overlooking potential shortcomings among partners. He operated too altruistically in the ardent hope that a homogenized Left would emerge out of the united front. Others among the socialist leadership appreciated trouble brewing, but succumbed to Narayan’s “passion for socialist unity.”24 Early misgivings and uncertainties were aggravated by indiscipline in the CSP. In early 1937, the national executive received reports that socialists in the United Provinces “are agreeable to join the Congress Ministry if it is formed.” Narayan released a statement confirming that if the Congress “decides to form Ministries there cannot be any question of any member of the Congress Socialist Party joining them” because CSP policy emphasized “uncompromising opposition to the idea of acceptance of Ministerial office.”25 In Bombay, another incident revealed indiscipline in the CSP. One Royist, Dr Shetty, was nominated to the Bombay Provincial Congress Committee (PCC), but “withdrew from the contest, without event informing the Party Executive, thus ensuring the victory of two right-wing candidates.” During the elections to the All-India Congress Committee (AICC), two other Royists “betrayed the party” to engineer Masani’s defeat in AICC elections: The Roy Group had evidently entered into an unholy pact with the Congress officials to keep a Socialist out of the A.I.C.C. and to ensure the success of four right-wing candidates. Deepening the shock, CSP co-founder, Charles Mascarenas, was discovered to be a party to the scheme.26 Instances of indiscipline among socialist ranks altered the context of Left homogeneity. Unity precluded the possibility of gradually resolving nagging ideological disputes because CSP members were expected to adhere to the defined party line. Obedience overrode the possibility of discussions to

Conflict about unity  139 negotiate differences and instead, exaggerated the need to clarify the primary party program. The next interruption of the united front’s working relationship occurred as a consequence of the walk out of M.N. Roy’s group from the CSP. The Maharashtra CSP experienced twenty-six joint resignations from the party, alleging what S.M. Joshi and N.G. Gore described as “nothing more than a rehash of the familiar Royist tirade against the C.S.P., full of ideological perversions and factual mis-statements.”27 Royists departed the CSP over the course of a few weeks with each resignation accompanied by “wild allegations against the Party.” The 17 July issue of Congress Socialist published one such statement from the Bengal CSP, signed by sixteen departing Royists. The statement claimed that the CSP “has drifted towards a wrong channel, a necessary corollary to its wrong name and ideological confusion.” The document distinguished between “preaching Socialism and raising the slogan of socialist leadership.” It emphasized that socialists ought to properly work to convert the Congress into a “real anti-imperialist organization and not a Socialist organization.” The dissenters complained that while the CSP proclaimed a united front, practically, it “divided the Congress into Socialists and non-Socialists.” They insisted that the demand for socialist leadership could only occur at a later stage of the national struggle, once the class character of the struggle could determine its leadership. Indians, they asserted, fought to establish a national democratic revolution, not a socialist revolution, and the former could only be influenced by socialists, but could not be led by them. The defectors related that the CSP was not even a “real Marxist party” because “there is no place for constitutional Marxism which the C.S.P. is trying to develop.” This effort only produced contradictions, which prevented the CSP from functioning “as a Marxist party in the real sense of the term.” The condemnation also included the charge that the CSP “has now turned into another sectarian group” because its leadership expelled members in Bombay and Calcutta and because of “the sectarian attitude of Com. Masani,” who refused to cooperate with the Trade Union Congress for the May Day celebration.28 These Royists insisted that “these are not isolated facts but have deep roots.” They maintained that perpetuating these defects only weakened the national struggle. They insisted that “the only way of correction” was to pursue the united front: “Strengthen the Congress as an anti-imperialist organization with a genuine anti-imperialist leadership, under proletarian influence, which can only be brought about by the active participation of the working-class in the national struggle.”29 Asoka Mehta published a reply to this statement in the same issue of the party organ. He argued that the slogan of socialist leadership was introduced to effectively integrate the anti-imperialist struggle within and external to the Congress. Mehta championed the CSP’s attempts to develop “a sustained opposition, alternative leadership, in the Congress,” observing that “significant resolutions of the Congress bear the impress of the Party.”

140  Conflict about unity Mehta’s rebuttal concluded with the remarks that the Royist allegations were “flimsy, conveniently vague and deliberately misleading,” statements lacking “concrete and substantiated evidence.”30 Masani, as acting general secretary of the CSP, published the party’s indictment of Roy on 26 June 1937. According to this statement, Roy had orchestrated a “secret meeting at which he issued a fatwa for the disruption of the Congress Socialist Party through the methods of ‘resignations’ in one province after another.”31 Once the CSP executive committee denounced Royist conduct, provincial CSP leaders initiated their attack against similar indiscipline. From Bengal, Akil Krishna Bose observed that Royists “attacked the very existence of our Party.” Bose recommended issuing an executive committee statement against Roy, expelling Royists from the CSP, critiquing Roy’s theoretical position, clarifying the CSP’s role within the Congress, revisiting the Faizpur Thesis and considering ways and means for generating activism among CSP cadres while rallying the Congress rank and file.32 Gunada Mazumdar, also from the Bengal CSP, considered the Royist challenge as a symptom rather than a precise problem. “The real conflict,” according to Mazumdar, was “C.S.P. members belonging to other groups.” He also witnessed difficulties with united front activities, with “our ultraleftist comrades outside the C.S.P.” failing to respect united front agreements. He observed that the spirit and intent of the Faizpur Thesis “is hardly followed or respected by our own Comrades.” According to Mazumdar, Bengali socialists resented united front work, were increasingly engaged in opportunism and colluded with “the most undesirable elements.”33 In August 1937, Narayan bitterly summarized the disintegration of this portion of Left unity. The statement, presented to the annual CSP meeting, foreshadowed the degeneration of the united front. Narayan related that until 1936, the CSP and Royists had functioned amicably. Nevertheless, he hinted that the national executive suspected that something was misaligned with the relationship, having discovered “an alleged Royist circular,” which instructed the group’s members to work to dissolve the CSP, a document disowned by the group. Once Roy was released from prison, “he issued certain statements and made certain remarks in his speeches which appeared as veiled attacks on the C.S.P.” When challenged, Roy professed his loyalty to Left unity. Consequently, Narayan reported, It was with a great shock that the Executive learnt at Delhi that Mr. Roy had gathered his camp followers and issued instructions to disrupt and break up the C.S.P. and that a scheme had been evolved for the purpose. The scheme was that the Royists were to resign from the Party in such a spectacular and public manner and at such suitable intervals as to give the impression that the C.S.P. was gradually breaking up. Narayan ruefully remarked that the consequence of Roy’s actions was “the disruption of the process of Left unity which the Party had initiated and

Conflict about unity  141 successfully carried out so far.” Narayan declared that the Roy group’s actions proved that Roy and his followers were “an enemy of the Left and of the radical forces in the country.” He described the attempted disruption of the CSP as “a great disservice to the cause of the masses and a blow to both the national and socialist movements” because it sought to “discredit the leadership of the Left” and to “disrupt the Left movement itself.” “This attempt,” Narayan stated, was “reprehensible.”34 He observed that the CSP could not tolerate “people whose declared object is to destroy the Party” among its ranks. But he clung resolutely to the concept of Left consolidation: “Once outside the Party we are always ready to work and co-operate with the Royists.”35 Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya lamented the moment, highlighting the general disorganization of the Left. She observed, “The disruption and dissensions amongst the Leftists are not only regrettable but pitiable.” She denigrated the basic fact that when they should have been uniting to achieve monumental goals, radicals in India became “lost in the maze of theoretical fights, losing the precious moment which should be sternly seized.” Equally significant, Chattopadhyaya noted that the united front contributed more to promoting socialist disunity than it did to constructing anti-imperialist unity: To-day when the Right elements are sliding into Constitutionalism the field is wide open to the radicals, who have it for the mere asking. Will they seize it or repeat the failures of the past? For don’t let us forget the fact that had there been a strong united Left activity at work these last three years, India’s history would have been very different. Chattopadhyaya maintained that if the united front had successfully promoted anti-imperialist unity, India might very well have been on the verge of a social revolution “instead of in the danger of being absorbed into the imperialist machinery.”36 Communists joined the condemnation of Royist conduct. One CPI resolution explained that since his release from prison, Roy “has taken up a line of activity which in practice amounts to the disruption” of the united front. The document condemned Roy for “using Marxian phraseology to cover up and reinforce the compromising tendency of the rightwing leadership of the INC.” It claimed that Roy attempted to isolate the Congress’s genuine anti-­ imperialist elements through tactics of disruption, which only weakened the united front he claimed to support. The CPI resolution declared that Roy was “acting as the splitter of the Unity of struggle against imperialism by spreading ideological confusion, by slandering the C.I. and its sections, by casting aspersions on the Soviet Union and by disrupting the C.S.P. by unscrupulous methods.”37 This communist resolution declared that the ideological struggle against Royists would become “one of the tasks of building up” the united front and

142  Conflict about unity Left unity. Disruption could never be contained if ideological confusion remained unchecked. Communists concluded that the campaign against Roy “must be carried out on all concrete issues which clearly bring him out as the disrupter and saboteur of the united front.” Critiques of Royists should emphasize Roy’s disruption within the CSP, his opposition to collective affiliation, his attacks against communists and, especially, “his support to the compromising moves of the extreme right.” The purpose of counterattacks against Roy was “to clear the path of building up” the united front. The resolution declared, “In opposition to M.N. Roy we must come forward as defenders of left unity and of the CSP and must strive to strengthen it by overcoming its failings,” thereby making the CSP “the organisational expression of left unity.”38 Interestingly, in its defense of Left unity, the resolution defined the CSP as merely an expression of Left unity, not a genuine Marxist party of Congressmen. One communist writer wrote a piece titled “Royism in Action,” which began with the declaration, “Ever since his expulsion from the Communist International, Roy has openly and deliberately followed a policy of disruption of the Left forces, vulgarization of Communist slogans and vilification of the Comintern.” Instead of joining the ranks of those who were trying to radicalise the Congress so as to make it into an effective instrument of anti-­Imperialist struggle he declared that the Congress itself was already the United Anti-Imperialist Front. Instead of waging a sharp struggle against the Capitulatory policy of the Congress Rightwing he launched his attacks against the Congress Socialist Party. This author maintained that Roy’s primary complaint, about parties within the Congress hindering the development of the united front, only applied if those parties worked to divert the Congress from its anti-­i mperialist trajectory. The author defended CSP tactics, noting that the party fought Congress leaders about anti-imperialist issues and never preached socialism within the Congress because it hampered the development of anti-­ imperialist unity.39 Sundarayya also challenged Roy in print. Sundarayya emphasized that the fundamental ideological dispute between Roy and Marxists was “whether trade unions and peasant unions can participate in the political struggle of the nation and whether those unions can voice forth the political demands of workers and peasants.” According to Sundarayya, the dispute boiled down to collective affiliation. Roy opposed it because workers and peasants would be subject to Congress discipline. Socialists and communists supported it because these unions “support the Congress as far as it goes, but reserve the freedom to go further even without the Congress.” We do not understand how Mr. Roy can advocate, that workers and peasants should join the Congress, if its decisions are against them. Does

Conflict about unity  143 he think that workers and peasants individually can safeguard their interests better than when they are represented by their organisations? Sundarayya argued that “without collective affiliation it is futile to expect Congress to give the first place to the demands of workers and peasants over that of capitalists and rich landlords.” He insisted that without collective affiliation, the Congress could not become the “United National Front which alone will guarantee the successful development of the struggle for National Independence.”40 Royist resignations revealed a foundational weakness in the united front. Through the middle of 1937, the campaign’s raison d’être was to short circuit constitutionalism and guide the anti-imperialist forces toward direct action. While socialists and communists all too willingly and inflexibly rejected parliamentarianism, Royists found value in holding offices. While united front advocates demanded collective affiliation of unions with the Congress, Royists favored individual membership. They objected to the CSP definition of the Congress as the united front, claiming that organized parties within the Congress hindered the united front’s development. Socialists and communists decreed, according to their Marxist–Leninist terminology, that Roy had succumbed to the very sort of petty bourgeois vacillation that they sought to defeat. They lacked the foundational common cause to continue as allies with the Royists. Fraction work obviously disrupted Left unity and strengthened the opponents of Indian radicalism. The paramount difficulty for CSP leaders was that they attempted to forge Left unity using democratic methods. Narayan noted that the CSP “willingly admitted Royists into it and established friendly relations with the Red group.”41 Masani described how he remained opposed to communist methods, despite his “starry-eyed” admiration of the October Revolution. Contrarily, he described Narayan as “a staunch believer in the dictatorship of the proletariat, whatever that may mean.” With this fundamental ideological inconsistency revealed at an early date, Masani and Narayan agreed to overlook their differences. They were “so keen” to introduce socialism in India and to develop the anti-imperialist struggle that they “decided to sweep the differences under the carpet, and to go ahead without resolving this doctrinal difference.” In hindsight, Masani stated that their “ignoring a fundamental disagreement was wrong, and bound in due course to boomerang.”42 Masani’s observations spoke volumes about the nature of the united front. The partners overlooked and avoided intense debates and disagreements in the present for the sake of Left unity in the future. This proved to be an unmitigated weakness of the united front.

Revising definitions The Roy Group employed united front tactics to seize control of the CSP from its petty bourgeois leadership. Roy’s attempted disruption aggravated socialist suspicions about fraction work within the united front by

144  Conflict about unity communists who might utilize similar approaches to undermine socialism in India. Moreover, the united front failed to achieve its primary political task: the rejection of constitutionalism. Now, the partners increasingly began to turn inwards, examining the reasons behind this failure and assessing the means by which Left unity might be further consolidated. With this transition away from the original arrangement, socialists and communists descended into hurling reciprocal accusations because they began to disagree about the purpose and nature of the united front. The heightened hostile environment shattered the united front. Interestingly, Madhu Limaye recounted that in early 1937, the CSP and CPI “functioned in unison” on most united front issues. He suggested that communists had moved closer to the socialist viewpoint, having found common ground on the broader issues confronting the country.43 The partners appeared to have effectively curtailed constitutionalism and could begin working more conscientiously to prepare the masses for direct action and fulfill the aims of the united front. The months prior to the Congress’s conditional acceptance of office marked the pinnacle of Left unity. The sudden primacy of the Congress’s legislative program eroded this ideological cohesion. With socialists and communists opting to boycott ministries, all that remained was extra-parliamentary organization among the masses. However, because the CPI retained considerable independence with its members integrated into the labor and peasant movements, rivalries regarding control of mass organizations erupted into outright acrimony. At this juncture, members of the two parties began re-conceptualizing the meaning of the united front. Socialists emphasized the CSP program of attempting to influence the Congress, thereby transforming the entire nationalist movement into an anti-imperialist united front. Communists, however, introduced nuances to the original meaning, intent and purpose of the united front. At a moment when they appeared poised to seize the initiative, united front partners began questioning their common purposes. The communist united front agenda was guided by a very concrete perception of the CSP. Communists defined the CSP as “an anti-imperialist block within the Congress” and as representative of “the petty bourgeois revolt within the Congress.” Communists were tasked with ensuring that Congress socialism “develops on proper lines and does not meet with premature death or stagnation.”44 Such an observation betrayed a significant tension, operating under the surface of Left unity: Socialism, according to the communist viewpoint, operated under assorted incorrect assumptions and was prone to errors. Communists discovered one flaw in the CSP slogan of “All power shall vest in the producing masses,” first articulated at the Patna socialist conference of 1934.45 Communists also found this mistake perpetuated by Narayan’s Why Socialism?, which they viewed as an anti-imperialist campaign based on “the slogan of the elimination of all exploiters.” For their part, communists maintained that it was “a mistake to demand that the National

Conflict about unity  145 Congress adopt this slogan.” Communists argued that India had not yet reached the appropriate stage of development at which such slogans might represent “the conscious demand of the masses.” Instead, communists suggested that the concepts inherent to the slogans could be popularized by developing class-conscious workers’ and peasants’ organizations. By enabling the masses to fight for their own democratic and economic liberties, “all the forces allied in the struggle against every form of imperialist exploitation” might coalesce into a coherent and powerful anti-imperialist front.46 Communists in the Congress essentially devoted themselves to fraction work, exposing the vacillating reformism of its bourgeois leaders and correcting the missteps taken by its radicalized, petty bourgeois elements. Communists operated under the assumption that a united front with socialists “will be very helpful as there are distinct possibilities of radicalizing them.” Under no circumstances were communists expected to tolerate the CSP coalescing into a coherent political party within the Congress—“It must be kept as loose mass organization within the Congress and must not be allowed to grow into a solid party governing all the activities of its members.” The CSP must not be “allowed to usurp the role” of the communist party.47 Building on this negative perspective, a communist pamphlet, published in March 1937, maintained that “further development of the united front movement” remained restricted by “certain incorrect interpretations of the tasks of the anti-Imperialist front.” This document criticized the emptiness of the united front slogan, noting that the demand for democracy, social justice and constituent assembly “will remain a mere phrase if this demand is not closely linked up with the daily struggle for the democratic rights of the people.” The pamphlet insisted that democracy, in practice within the united front, would transform a situation that was “particularly favourable for the organisation of a United anti-Imperialist front,” noting that “the idea that one or another of the participants has the right to exploit the united forces, that one or another of the participants must win at the expense of the others must be discarded.” The document proclaimed that “freedom of propaganda” and “the right to defend their point of view in a business like way” should be the essential principle guiding united front activities.48 The pamphlet then contradicted itself by insisting that the socialist viewpoint about socialism in India exhibited flawed logic. Communists observed that socialists incorrectly insisted that the only alternative to imperialism was socialism, that socialism equaled complete independence. Communists maintained that “whether our Socialist friends realise it or not Socialism will never be realised in India or anywhere else without Soviet Raj.” Communists defended this position by noting that any apparent contradiction between Soviet Raj and socialism existed “only in their minds” due to “an over-­preoccupation with theory divorced from practice.” According to communists, socialists studied Marxism in theory, but remained “unable to apply it to the practical questions confronting the working class.”49

146  Conflict about unity The pamphlet also declared that independent India could not immediately transform into a socialist republic. It insisted that a realistic appreciation of the situation meant that “the working class is not in a position to set up Soviet Raj as its own immediate aim.” This realization suggested that India must experience a bourgeois–democratic revolution, which explained why the united front must be anti-imperialist in its purpose—political freedom must precede economic emancipation: Only when we have launched ourselves into serious day to day mass work shall we be able to understand how to advance a genuine mass policy for the anti-Imperialist movement related to the burning needs of the masses at the present time, and shew to all other sections of the anti-Imperialist movement what working class fight really means. Consequently, this pamphlet argued that the immediate task was mobilizing the masses “on the basis of the demands which are intelligible to them, for which they have not the capacity and the urge to fight.” Nevertheless, it maintained that connecting the “partial struggles of the vast majority” presented communists with “the possibility of developing the widest possible United National Front.”50 As Congress leaders maneuvered the Congress into ministerial offices, communists began to demarcate themselves from their socialist allies. Socialism could not be the immediate rationale for mass mobilization because the masses were unprepared for this step, which circumvented the natural stages of social development. Harnessing local grievances to the independence struggle would not create the united front envisioned by socialists because the purpose of the front misaligned with the development of class consciousness. The united front, then, could not achieve socialism in India, but could only advance the country towards it. Nevertheless, common ground remained. Communists and socialists remained wedded to the notion of developing the class consciousness needed to forge a united anti-imperialist campaign. They agreed that activism was the appropriate mode of nationalist activity, that only direct action could topple imperialism. They agreed that the people must inherit political power through a constituent assembly. Nevertheless, they continued to quarrel over how these common aims might be achieved. In March 1937, the CPI released a statement about the united front. The document declared that the Congress, CSP, CPI, All-India Trades Union Congress (AITUC), National Federation of Trades Unions (NFTU) and peasant sabhas constituted the foundations for the united front, but it also remarked that the campaign should not be limited to these anti-imperialist elements: “Certain organisations of the Indian merchants and industrialists not to speak of the students’ and other radical organisations” should be drawn into united front activities. Communists maintained that exclusion of petty bourgeois elements was illogical because the united front was not

Conflict about unity  147 tasked with constructing socialism in India, but rather sought to overthrow imperialism. Consequently, all enemies of imperialism could be utilized for the short-term, common goal of developing “a genuine United National Front against British Imperialism.” Communists now suggested that doctrinaire notions about class domination should be discarded and replaced by an attitude of mutual cooperation for the cause. Independence must precede any discussion of socialism because “the free Indian people, having thrown off the yoke of Imperialism must themselves, on the basis of the widest democracy, decide what system, what Constitution, what Government they want.”51 According to Masani, at the meeting of the CSP national executive in March 1937, a secret communist document was read to those in attendance.52 The document declared that the CSP was not an authentic Marxist party and was, in fact, merely a “political party which is today dominantly petty bourgeois in composition and is led by a group of socialists and socialistically oriented individuals.” Lacking ideological focus, the CSP was “organisationally controlled by one group of socialists who are attempting to run it as a legal ‘Marxist Working Class Party’ with a rigid discipline.” The document declared that the CSP was not a “socialist party of the working class but rather the growing organisational expression of left unity.” It was not a disciplined class-oriented party, but rather a platform for Left unity.53 The document criticized “the dominant group in the CSP” for attempting to subject the entire membership “to the rigid discipline of a one class party, to impose upon it its own theory of socialism and its own interpretation of united front.” It complained about disciplinary action taken against “Marxists suspected of Communist leanings” and observed that CSP leaders excluded communists from executive membership “while groups who are not Marxists and who carry on disruptive work within the party, but who are not honest enough to openly voice their disagreement with the leading group are retained.” The circular suggested that the attempts of this leadership clique to dominate the CSP hindered the growth of the united front. It declared that the CSP must “open its doors to all active anti-imperialists who accept the aim of socialism,” and it insisted that the platform of unity should emphasize: the Congress as the basis of united front, with the minimum program based on the Election Manifesto and the Faizpur resolutions; permitting organizational independence of workers’ and peasants’ unions; a campaign for collective affiliation to transform the Congress into the united front; and the admission that the CSP was merely “the organisational expression of left unity.”54 This statement, then, repudiated the foundation for the united front, which maintained that the CSP and CPI were genuine Marxist parties sharing a common urge to develop genuine anti-imperialism. It decried a leadership that stifled ideological homogenization through disciplinary action against individual party members. It denounced an anti-communist outlook among highly-situated CSP members, especially Masani, but also

148  Conflict about unity several other members of the CSP national executive. Through references to CSP leaders’ inchoate ideological orientation, it alluded to the petty bourgeois tendency to compromise with and capitulate to bourgeois domination. Communists in the CSP executive, dubbed “Trojan Horses” by Masani, “denied their communist allegiance.” Masani asserted that communists “shammed shock and indignation at the ‘discovery’ of such a statement.”55 Namboodiripad denied any knowledge of such circulars distributed to CSP provincial cadres.56 The CSP national executive responded to this document by emphasizing unity. Its statement attempted to draw CSP provincial secretaries’ attention to an apparent “lack of solidarity and homogeneity in our Party.” The executive’s missive observed that “this fault has grown more serious.” The circular also forwarded a resolution framed by the CSP national executive, which stated, The Committee feels that fraction work is being carried on in the Party at the instance of certain elements both in the ‘Roy Group’ and the ‘Red Group’ and reaffirms its policy of combating such factionalism on both sides, if necessary by resort to disciplinary action. The executive defined fraction work as: creating “a compact group or groups hostile to the Party leadership with a view to capture or break up the Party”; libeling or discrediting the CSP and persistent attacks against CSP members that were designed to suborn their authority. CSP leaders resolved to enforce restrictions on enrollment of members of both groups, ordered provincial secretaries to “scrutinize provincial lists” to identify ineligible members and instructed provincial executives “to exercise vigilance” and take disciplinary action against those found guilty of fraction work.57 However, the executive also ruled that organizing groups “of differing opinions with genuine aim of revising Party policies is permitted.”58 The CSP executive’s circular to provincial secretaries did not diminish perceived communist indiscipline. In August, socialists issued a second statement to more effectively counter communist allegations. The document declared that “any attempt to drive a hard and fast demarcation between the national and socialist revolutions in India is wrong in principle and misleading.” It celebrated the socialist experiment with Left unity: We recognised then that it was extraordinary to have members in our Party who are also members of and owe allegiance to another group. Yet, since we were eager for and working towards the development of a united Socialist party, we took recourse to that anomalous procedure, much at the risk of confusion in our ranks due to conflict of loyalties and discipline. Admission into the CSP acknowledged that the CSP was a Marxist party. Admission also necessitated a promise to respect differing ideological perspectives and to avoid engaging in fraction work.59

Conflict about unity  149 Due to the “very serious” situation created by the communist statement, the CSP executive resolved “to refuse admission into its membership to any members of the ‘Red’ group and others who accept the Statement issued by them.” Communists could be permitted into the CSP once “consultations are held and these points are cleared up.” Yet, on the verge of a breach with the CPI, socialist leaders hesitated: “It should be understood that even if the decision to stop admission of such members, till discussion has cleared up the situation, becomes a permanent decision, the united front will continue unchanged, unless something else happens to disturb it.”60 For his part, Masani criticized the decision to merely reprimand and enforce discipline while blithely permitting communist infiltration to continue. He claimed that “it was widely felt that there was no alternative but to expel the communists.” However, the national executive refrained from disintegrating the united front. Communist activities continued to be tolerated. According to Masani, “socialist naiveté” exposed entire provincial organizations to communist infiltration.61 According to Narayan, communists responded to these revelations by issuing a statement, what Narayan described as “a sort of comic anti-climax.” The document “categorically stated that the Communist Party considered the Congress Socialist Party to be a true revolutionary party,” and it maintained that “socialist unity could be brought about only by the unity of the two parties.” Narayan asserted that no one was fooled “by this comic volte-face,” and he implied that the true rationale for the statement was “that the Communist Party was in fright.” Narayan suggested that communists feared that reorganization of the CSP would obstruct the communist take-over of the CSP. According to Narayan, the CPI announcement was intended to soothe anxieties about communist activities and to neutralize opposition to the communist program by once again championing the slogan of socialist unity.62 Communists responded by appealing to democratic practices. They protested against a “heresy hunt” against their party members. They alleged that new communist applicants were deliberately denied membership in the CSP. They claimed that the CSP national executive threatened communists with expulsion from the CSP for having dared question party policy. They suggested that, given the tensions, “united action is practically impossible.”63 Namboodiripad surmised that CSP leaders tolerated communists so long as the latter remained “a small group,” but he maintained that by 1937, “the Communists were gaining far more than they had imagined.” He speculated that because of this growing influence, Masani began warning Narayan about communist disruption.64 Sundarayya reminisced that a section of CSP leaders, headed by Masani, insisted that the “communist line was a wrong thing and that it should not be allowed.” They flatly rejected a communist interpretation of the united front and of Left unity, giving rise to “our main conflict.”65 Narayan extended yet another olive branch to communists: He massaged the ideological rationale for the united front, partially accommodating communist viewpoints. He admitted that socialists had too ardently emphasized the

150  Conflict about unity socialist nature of CSP opposition to Congress resolutions when they should have been developing a concrete anti-imperialist attitude: Our failure has been due largely to the fact that we have sought to emphasize group differences and have identified in our thinking the dominant group with the Congress. Here also is a definite problem before us. Instead of giving the impression of advocating group policies we should so act as to further the Congress programme itself. Finally in our characterization of rightism, we should remember that the term rightist as applied to Congressmen means only those whose activities repudiate independence and the struggle for independence. Narayan declared that labels should be avoided as they only promoted irritation. The so-called rightist, he suggested, “does not on that account deserve to be called names but rather requires to be convinced through experience and understanding.” He maintained that “we must do everything possible to remove such fatal misunderstandings.”66 Although in this instance, Narayan referenced ideological divisions within the Congress, his analysis equally applied to CSP–CPI relations within the united front because he perceived the Congress as the united front. Narayan alluded to the possibility of multiple groups within the united front accommodating conflicting viewpoints for the common cause. Rather than condemning specific programmatic points, he thought that socialists and communists should seek to hammer out the broader plan of action. Rather than resorting to ideological catcalls, he thought that socialists and communists should tolerate differences within Marxism. His call for Congress unity equaled a cry for united front homogeneity: Success of the united front required socialists and communists to transcend the sources of their mutual misunderstandings. However, the conduct of Congress ministries remained a practical point of contention for both socialists and communists. In January 1938, Asoka Mehta complained that the Working Committee “sought to justify the sins of omission and commission” of Congress ministries, which was a violation of civil liberties. He questioned whether the latest examples of reformism and collaborationism indicated “an attempt under way to transform the Congress from being the organised expression of the will to freedom of the entire Indian nation to becoming a mere political party.”67 Contrarily, Dutt and Bradley wrote that Congress ministries might advance the liberation struggle by recognizing “the growing strike movement and peasant demonstrations as the growing movement for national liberation, and therefore to assist in strengthening and building” workers’ and peasants’ unions, “recognising them as the most important sections of the national movement.”68 Munshi Ahmed Din wrote a rebuttal of communist perceptions about the socialist anti-ministry campaign. He stated that socialist opposition was based on three principles: parliamentarianism would divert the Congress

Conflict about unity  151 from mass struggle and direct action; Congress ministries would tarnish Congress prestige because they could not implement the pledges made in the Election Manifesto and office acceptance would lead the Congress along the path of reformism because Congressmen who supported offices never opposed the Act and instead “meant to work it.” Ahmed Din also insisted that opposition exclusively did not rely on principle: But, we did not stop at merely opposing the parliamentary digression, we also presented them with a practical programme of work—the formation of peasants and workers’ unions and their collective affiliation to the Congress, and an extensive programme of mass-contacts. Ahmed Din claimed that opposition to ministries failed because the dominant Congressmen neglected radical programs, such as mass contacts and the agrarian program, because they “were too busy with their legislatures to think of any work among the masses.”69 According to Din, conflict with Congress ministries occurred because “the masses are always hard task masters”: They demanded the fulfilment of the pledges so easily given. They poured in their thousands into the ‘Congress Durbar’ with complaints and grievances. They wanted these to be redressed, and, so, the tention [sic.] grew. The demonstrations and protests, which were formerly held against the bureaucratic government, were now being held against the Congress in office. The Revolutionary Congress was turning Reformist. Din observed a paradox in the situation: “The masses demand struggle and fight; the Congress Ministries are working for minor reforms.” He suggested the standard united front strategy: The Congress should quit ministries, enlist mass support and launch an unrelenting campaign to overthrow imperialism.70 The discussion about united front attitudes toward ministries intensified at the beginning of 1938 because socialists and communists anticipated that the Haripura session might afford an opportunity to reverse the drift toward constitutionalism. They prepared to battle the Congress’s bourgeois reformers and once again found common ground for a unified campaign. However, the constitutional crisis immediately prior to Haripura derailed this growing momentum. Once again, socialists and communists set to mutual recrimination as a mode of identifying the next foundations for collaborative action.

“Unity” Once they lacked the galvanizing centripetal incentives of combatting constitutionalism and reformism, socialists and communists engaged in rhetorical debates about definitions and tactics. Emphasizing unity was

152  Conflict about unity not at all about united anti-imperialist campaigns and only considered the united front as the contextualization of the meaning of unity. Instead, debates about unity referred to organizational discipline—contests between individuals lacking access to party machinery and those party members who dominated it. Unity, Left unity, as expressed during ideological squabbles from 1938, re-envisioned the united front as a coalition of leftist forces. During this debate, CSP and CPI leaders adopted the same varieties of petty bourgeois vacillation that they had observed among Left nationalist leaders. At this moment, this process of ideological homogenization occurred on the pages of Congress Socialist. Sajjad Zaheer, communist member of the CSP national executive, declared that the CSP should house all “Marxist trends in India.” He stated that unity in principle could effectively be achieved by unity “in actual practice” by the “two main Socialist trends in the country.” He criticized the tendency to exclude communists from the CSP, which he claimed hindered “the task of the C.S.P. to realise the leadership of the working class in the national struggle.” He urged socialists to permit all Marxists into the CSP, creating the foundations for the kind of “strong, well-knit, well disciplined” party needed to inaugurate socialism.71 In January 1938, Masani discussed socialist unity in an article, which touched off an intense debate about the nature and purpose of the united front. Masani alleged that communists defined possibilities for collaboration based on a working class party’s relationship to the Soviet Union. Masani suggested that communists opposed socialist parties opposed to the Soviets. His article alleged that communists operated according to a doctrinaire view that accepted “a charter of infallibility for the Soviet Government as a condition for socialist unity.”72 Sajjad Zaheer challenged the notion that communists demanded adherence to an orthodox line. He claimed that communists promoted freedom of criticism, but qualified his statement by observing that “no true Socialist to-day can allow the slandering of the U.S.S.R. and of giving support to Trotskyists.” According to Zaheer, constant criticism was the lifeblood of communism because it exemplified “freedom to fight the constant infiltration of bourgeois ideology in the working class.”73 Zaheer disputed a misrepresentation in Masani’s article. Masani allegedly asserted that “a single mass party of the proletariat can only develop through the growing influence of Communism in the working class movement,” meaning that socialism must be absorbed by communism. Zaheer replied that “it is the Communists who have taken the initiative in forging the united front of the working class.” He chastised Masani: We shall, however, be acting as enemies of the working-class if we judge these things in terms of party gains. The only true criterion of judging a policy in such cases is, whether it increases the strength, the organisation, the fighting capacity, the material gains of the working-class; whether it steels them to fight better for Socialism; whether, to-day, it

Conflict about unity  153 deals a blow at Fascism and imperialism; whether, it gains allies for the working-class in other exploited classes and breaks their isolation. Zaheer claimed that Masani’s views corresponded with “certain European Socialists, those who have always opposed the line of Marx and Lenin in practice.” Zaheer insisted that Masani’s outlook promoted disunity.74 Zaheer also aggressively challenged Masani’s support for provincial CSP resolutions, which alleged that communists were trying to capture the CSP and that communists in the united front promoted disunity instead of unity. Masani concluded that on the grounds of both allegations, communists should be expelled from the CSP. Zaheer insisted that party discipline should be applied on a case-by-case basis rather than be “directed only against those whom Comrade Masani, in his present feverish state of mind, chooses to call ‘Reds.’” Zaheer maintained that discipline should apply equally to all CSP members, regardless of ideological affiliation: In fact it will be all to the good if we examine the record of all party members from time to time and see how far they have carried out our programme, whether they have deviated from the party line and whether they have tried to build up the party. He opposed Masani’s efforts to initiate a heresy hunt, to disrupt the united front and to establish “an espionage machinery to detect the Reds in the C.S.P.” Zaheer insisted that, rather than expelling communists, they should be “freely admitted in our Party, on condition that they abide by its discipline.”75 Purushottam Trikamdas published a reply to Zaheer on 12 March. Trikamdas began by asserting that Zaheer applied a double standard to Masani’s observations about Soviet orthodoxy: I should have liked to know whether Com. Zaheer would like to accept the test as it stands. He has been one of those who have always resented being told by the powers that be that the Congress Governments are sacrosanct and can do no wrong. Does he propose to subscribe to the proposition that the Soviet Government can do no wrong? Trikamdas defended the democracy inherent to the united front, questioning how, if communists vigorously objected to unorthodox Marxism, they could possibly engage in forming a united front “which includes known traitors.” Trikamdas dismissed Zaheer’s reference to Trotskyism as “the cheap method of dismissing criticism by calling slander and trying to discredit any critic by calling him a ‘Trotskyist.’”76 Regarding the united front in India, Trikamdas defended Masani’s complaints about communist fraction work: To understand the role of the C.S.P. requires clarity of political vision. Those who have understood this have given their unflinching adherence

154  Conflict about unity to the principles underlying the Party programme. The elements we tried to absorb we have hoped would act similarly. Instead we found that quite a number of persons who have got into the Party after apparent conversion to the party point of view had really come in, not as comrades, but as agents of a foreign power (I do not mean a foreign government) whose sole task and pleasure was to do that contemptible type of work known as fraction work which satisfies perverse natures. Trikamdas wrote that excluding communists from CSP membership was unfortunate, but was unavoidable due to the tactics allegedly employed by communists. The Party is entitled to protect its greener members from merely donning a fashionable red, to protect the immature from molestation, assault or seduction at the hands of agents provocateurs. Trikamdas insisted that continuing admission of communists meant that “any chance of real socialist unity might become more remote.”77 According to Trikamdas, the quarrel amounted to communists insisting upon an orthodox Marxist viewpoint. He recounted that, despite differing perspectives, the CSP permitted communists to join the party and actively worked with them to build socialist unity. He claimed that socialists could not be blamed if, after two years of attempting to achieve homogeneity, they excluded communists from CSP membership because original differences remained unresolved.78 Intermittent editorials in Congress Socialist inflamed the controversy. One writer commented that Zaheer appeared “more concerned with vilifying Com. Masani and blindly defending the line of the Communists” than he was with “honestly essaying to suggest a way for achieving unity.” The author insisted that the communist viewpoint amounted to a declaration that “Communists are the only monopolists of working class welfare.” This writer claimed that communists appeared to use the term “Unity” as a slogan, “caring little for the substance,” and concluded that, for communists, unity equaled conforming to communist doctrine.79 On 19 March, Asoka Mehta also replied to Zaheer’s remarks. Mehta began by emphasizing that the “desire for unity in the Socialist ranks is shared almost universally,” and then he asserted that Zaheer’s article included a “string of misrepresentations and vituperations.” Mehta defended the policy of excluding communists from the CSP, and he observed that socialists “who have opposed the admission of the Reds to our Party have systematically been maligned as anti-Unity.” Mehta claimed that the facts refuted this allegation.80 Mehta reminded his readers that the CSP was “the first Socialist Party to develop the People’s Front line,” even before communists adopted it after 1935. According to Mehta, the socialist perspective, since the CSP’s

Conflict about unity  155 inception, was that the party “stood for the unity of Socialists and for the united front of all progressives and militants in the country.” He recounted that Royists and communists were freely admitted into the CSP, “the only political organisation in the world to make the bold experiment of admitting, in its desire to achieve unity, members of other groups into its ranks.” However, according to Mehta, communists apparently never worked to achieve the unity desired by socialists: If the Reds desire organic unity between their group and our Party, we are prepared to discuss the terms of such a merger. But under the specious plea of unity they want to retain the independence of their group and at the same time annex strategic position in our Party also. This seems to be a strange way of achieving unity! Mehta observed that the communist demand for admission was one-sided: Socialists were not permitted to join the CPI, yet communists insisted that their members should be admitted into the CSP. If our refusal to admit Reds to our Party deals ‘a severe blow at the C.S.P., at the United Front of Socialists and at the building up of United National Front against imperialism’ how much more criminal is the insistence of the Reds to preserve the independence of their group and not merge completely into the Party to strengthen and build up which they ever seem to be so eager! Mehta alleged that the double standard existed because communists maintained that their party had “a historic role to play” as “the architect and competent receiver of the Indian Revolution.” He asserted that this role could be fulfilled “only if the role and character of the C.S.P. are changed.” According to Mehta, this observation revealed the true purpose of the communist campaign to transform the CSP into a platform of Left unity: “The Reds admitted into the Party will have to work for this transformation or cease to be Reds.” Mehta insisted that, to achieve this objective, communists actively conspired to capture CSP branches: At Faizpur Conference a deliberate attempt was made for capturing it. A comparison of the voting figures at Meerut and Faizpur are very enlightening. Further admission of Reds would facilitate this process. Mehta concluded that the present situation left two choices: socialists and communists would merge into a single political entity or they would function as independent parties. Regarding the merger, Mehta wrote, “then let us get down to terms for such a merger.” If communists opted to retain their organizational independence, socialists remained perfectly willing to ally with communists to achieve united front goals. “Either decision,” Mehta

156  Conflict about unity noted, “is compatible with ‘unity’ and ‘strength’.” Nevertheless, Mehta warned that communists could not “retain their independence and undermine ours.”81 Gunada Mazumdar waded into the controversy by observing that Masani and Zaheer had both “missed the real problem.” Mazumdar asserted that the abstract ideological quarrel was completely irrelevant to the organizational difference between socialists and communists. He insisted that the CSP was a Marxist socialist party, which had emerged out of historical necessity. Mazumdar asserted that the CSP “did not deviate from revolutionary socialism at any stage nor did it attempt to present a new interpretation of Marxism.” He also claimed that the CSP “has always stood for unity” and worked to achieve organizational unity with the CPI. Mazumdar defended the decision to ban communist admission as postponing this urge to achieve organizational unity.82 On 2 April, Masani engaged with the discussion. He claimed that the charges and counter-charges “led to a certain amount of clarification on the relationship between the Socialist and Communist groups.” He further discussed the nature of the CSP, whether it was a Marxist party or a platform for Left unity: Is it or is it not a genuine Socialist Party? If it is, as every loyal member of the Party must believe, then it must be a party of the working class, the Party of the Indian working-class, so far as its members are concerned. And if it is a party of the working-class, then it must have the homogeneity and the strict discipline that a Marxist Socialist Party must have, such a discipline as Communist Parties throughout the world expect from their own members. Masani claimed that communists “did not recognise the genuineness of our Party” as a Marxist party. He recalled that the CSP had originally been defined by communists as a social–fascist party, then a Left maneuver of the bourgeoisie and, now, “predominantly petty bourgeois in composition led by a group of socialists and socialistically orientated intellectuals.” According to Masani, these definitions avoided labeling the CSP as a genuine Marxist party so that the CPI could retain for itself the title of working class party.83 Masani considered the “organizational monstrosity” posed by dual party membership, which was permitted for purposes of homogenizing the united front. Calling it an “unfortunate expedient,” Masani remarked that the experiment “may speak well of our zeal for unity and of our trusting natures, but not of our political sagacity at that time.” Masani observed that communists within the CSP were confronted with an impossible situation, especially if the CSP was not defined as a Marxist party: Is he to co-operate in its attempt to set itself up as a rival Marxist-­ Leninist Party of the working-class … or is he to sabotage this attempt

Conflict about unity  157 by insisting on broadening its basis and relaxing its discipline so that his other Group may penetrate it further and dominate it from within and without? Masani maintained that only socialists “who have doubts about their own Party” could justify belonging to two parties simultaneously. He announced, “Asoka Mehta hit the nail on the head when he asked if the ‘Reds’ were prepared to merge their party in the C.S.P. and to liquidate their group.” Masani asserted that this option was the only feasible means of achieving unity, but he did not remain optimistic: “I shall strive with all my heart for unity, but I do not feel the time is ripe for it.” He noted that “the temperamental difference” arising from divergent viewpoints and different methods could “be removed in course of time by unity of action and rubbing shoulders in joint endeavours on specific issues and tasks.” He argued that conflicting viewpoints about the Congress and working within it were problematic; for communists, he asserted, “the acceptance of Congress loyalty and discipline is made with mental reservations.” Attendant to this issue was the fundamental perception of the Congress “as the joint front of the anti-Imperialist sections of the people.” He asserted that the communist desire to transform the CSP into an anti-imperialist platform merely violated loyalty to the Congress by setting up the CSP as a potential rival to the Congress.84 Reflecting on the lessons learned by the present controversy, Masani wrote that “the necessary first step to organic unity is the building up of unity of action on every possible issue where it is possible.” He insisted that the cornerstone to such unity was “a strong and united Congress Socialist Party”: If our Party is to remain the spearhead of the struggle against Imperialism, it must become a more homogeneous entity, speaking with one voice on all essentials, presenting one front to all other groups and organisations. Masani observed that fraction work and divisiveness “can only reduce a Party to a state of paralysis and stagnation.” At the end of Masani’s article, the editor of the weekly, Asoka Mehta, added, “The controversy is now concluded.”85 The perspectives showcased the difference between a composite united front and an alternative united front. Socialists, as Congressmen, strove to generate national unity while communists remained invested in radical unity that might displace the Congress’s bourgeois leadership. Focusing exclusively on Left unity only destabilized national forces and developed an anti-imperialist rival to bourgeois Congress leaders. Left unity violated the original principle of the united front, which sought to develop nationalist unity and cohesion among all anti-imperialist forces, regardless of

158  Conflict about unity specific class orientation. Conversely, communist unity remained exclusionary, according to the class consciousness of its constituent elements. It emphasized the line of alternative leadership designed to supplant bourgeois dominance, thereby transforming the Congress. Further complicating the situation, to remain Congressmen, socialists and communists alike were expected to promote national unity. The tensions inherent to the competing conceptualizations of unity obstructed its practical realization. This theoretical debate about unity revealed several inconsistencies among united front advocates. They disagreed by whom unity should be generated. They quarreled about national unity versus Left unity. More significantly, unity as a slogan for resistance increasingly became meaningless rhetoric with its overuse. *** Narayan observed that the accumulating evidence about ongoing communist disruption confronted socialists with two alternatives: they could formally merge with the CPI for the sake of socialist unity or they could develop “a completely homogeneous Congress Socialist Party” by purging all non-CSP members. Clinging to the notion of unity, Narayan supported a half-hearted attempt “to explore” the possibility of “a common ideological basis” between the CSP and the CPI.86 The situation prompted Narendra Deva to pen “The Problems of Unity” in April 1938. In this piece, he outlined socialist goals for the united front, stating that socialists “desire to build up a powerful anti-imperialist front” for achieving independence and to establish “a democratic regime wherein the economic life of the people would be organized on socialist lines.” He insisted that achieving this objective required “unity in socialist ranks” and suggested that socialists and communists close ranks to avoid dangers inherent to Leftism in India: the “danger of the Party getting over-absorbed in the national movement.” He also claimed that the CPI’s involvement sought to overcome “its isolation from the national movement and exclusive absorption in the working class movement.” He suggested that both dangers “presented the possibility of the neglect of the immediate task of emancipating the country.”87 Deva hypothesized that the working relationship between the CSP and CPI contained organizational flaws: It is obvious that an individual, at a time, can be loyal to only one Party and accept its discipline. Socialist unity can, therefore, be realized either by dissolving all the existing, except one, socialist parties, and make it the forum of unity, all socialists joining it. He insisted that such an organization must permit “internal democracy and intra-party criticism.” He further hypothesized that without such an accord,

Conflict about unity  159 the solution to socialist unity meant dissolving both the CSP and CPI and then constructing a new Marxist party. According to Deva, the problem with socialist unity was that communists refused to give up their independence, which meant that the united front could be but a “fighting alliance” between the CSP and CPI. Policies between the parties could be coordinated only through top-level negotiations.88 However, Deva noted that the problem with unity was that “Communists are responsible” for socialist suspicions about communist motives. The evidence revealed that These activities of the Communists suggest that they cannot tolerate the influence of any party except theirs, in the working-class movement. If they desire to co-operate with the socialists on every front, the expression of such a desire should be to cry halt to activities that seek to weaken the influence of socialists among the workers. If they fail to do this, the Congress Socialists must conclude that the Communists desire to enter their Party, not to realize socialist unity, but to increase their influence in the Congress and Kisan movements. Deva maintained that socialists must remember that “the C.S.P. is a political party and not a joint front, a national parliament, embracing various sections and classes like the Congress.” He suggested that the ongoing demand to permit communists to join the CSP indicated a “desire to convert it into the platform of left unity.” The CSP, he claimed, was “a political party with its distinct ideology, programme of work, approach and discipline.” He maintained that there never had been, nor never could be, a “party of socialist unity”; such a notion was merely “a contradiction in terms.” Deva proposed that the demand to include communists amounted to an attempt to transform the CSP into “a broad platform of Left unity wherein the communists would get ample opportunities to increase their influence.”89 He insisted that the united front consisted of two independently functioning Marxist parties, which operated according to a working arrangement, designed to achieve common objectives. His remarks attempted to circumscribe Narayan’s obsession with homogenization and were intended to sound the alarm about communists’ ulterior motives. Writing a short time after this episode, Narayan maintained that the CSP national executive recognized the communist ruse, but “still held fast to the objective of unity.” Communists were still permitted as members of the CSP, and “the Executive refused to face the situation.” It “clutched” at the slogan of “unity in action” as a last-ditch attempt to assess communist motives. However, Narayan observed that this reluctance to expel the communists stimulated “a career of sheer drift” for the CSP.90 In a general sense, despite fundamental differences, Left unity still remained a feasible goal for socialists and communists, in principle. As Namboodiripad observed, although socialist leaders supported a rapprochement with the CPI,

160  Conflict about unity they opposed a “full-fledged communist approach.”91 Even when presented with evidence of the alleged communist conspiracy, Narayan remained wedded to the notion of socialist unity. He claimed that clearing up the doctrinal differences would, in fact, sponsor unity because “we would know exactly what our differences are” and could then “build up a more homogeneous and disciplined party.” Moreover, Narayan sought to avoid the disunity that plagued international socialism, describing his anxiety to “avoid that suicidal division of the Socialist movement which has brought ruin to the movement in the West.” Narayan persistently operated under the illusion that “there are no internal circumstances or conditions to justify such a division.” “Left unity,” he averred, “is impossible anywhere in the world today without Socialist unity.”92 Masani, for his part, expressed his frustration with Narayan’s persistence. He described how he was horrified at this refusal to face facts. His [Narayan’s] attitude seemed to be like that of the ostrich which was supposed to dig its head in the sand so as not to see approaching danger. We who were responsible for influencing the minds of thousands of young men in the country could not afford the luxury of refusing to face the unpleasant truth. According to Masani, Narayan “would not look at anything that told the truth” about communism. Despite all the evidence, Narayan “could not make up his mind to give up communism.”93 He obstinately supported “a pro-communist line” and obtusely failed to “learn the lessons that communists had so obligingly presented.”94 In 1941, Narayan reminisced about socialist unity, hypothesizing that it was the most important issue for advancing socialism. He described how the CSP sought an accommodation with the CPI because socialists “believed that if unity was desirable and was to come in the future, it could not be possible by fighting each other but by trying to work together as far as possible.” He also identified a fundamental flaw in forming the united front. According to Narayan, The Communist Party believed in itself as the only true socialist party with a right to exist, and treated all others as enemies. The Party, on the other hand, stood for immediate co-operation among all the socialist groups and the eventual growth of a united socialist party. For Narayan, the foundational premise for the united front remained intact, but socialists had miscalculated because they expected that “in the course of joint work differences would wear off and mutual confidence would increase, the united socialist party of India would emerge into being.” According to Narayan, the flaw in this logic was that socialists “would have been right in thinking thus only if all the other parties were equally serious and honest about unity.” He claimed that throughout united front

Conflict about unity  161 operations, communists refused to refute their “monopolistic and sectarian attitude” and “had really no faith in socialist unity.”95 Because socialists and communists expended considerable energy attempting to defeat constitutionalism, the united front lost this priority once Congress ministries were formed. While foundations for unity remained—­e specially regarding civil liberties and opposition to war— the united front’s primary raison d’être was obliterated, and ongoing opposition to forming ministries was mooted. Congress calls for national unity trumped the united front agenda of Left unity, pulling socialists and communists in different directions because members of the two camps disagreed about the Congress as the united front. Consequently, the ultimate rationale for united action no longer existed because ministries deprived it of anti-constitutionalist purpose. Lacking common cause, united front advocates found fewer reasons to cooperate and equally found opportunities to criticize each other. Ideological biases, then, eroded the united front premise that socialists and communists might achieve ideological homogeneity through common action. Devoid of the fundamental purpose for the united front, its proponents continued to search for new foundations for cooperation, but only found reasons to object to the activities proposed by their partners. Although most socialist leaders were now openly hostile to any rapprochement with the CPI, communists were not expelled from the CSP, and some semblance of the united front still remained in operation. Masani observed that the CSP conference at Lahore “showed how near the communists were to capturing the entire organization.” The united front was not formally terminated until 1940, once communists were finally expelled from the CSP.96 In fact, the CSP and CPI continued to actively collaborate along common activities relative to the Congress and its policies.

Notes 1 Interview with Puchalapalli Sundarayya in A.G. Noorani, “Communist Memories,” Frontline 28, no. 25 (December 2011). www.flonnet.com/fl2825/stories/ 20111216282509000.htm (accessed 24 June 2013). Hereafter cited as Sundarayya interview. 2 Faizpur Thesis, 24 December 1936, Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–1947. 3 Chandra et al., India’s Struggle for Independence, 307–8. 4 Sarkar, Modern India, 370. 5 Padhy and Panigrahy, Socialist Movement in India, 78–81. The quote appears in endnote 18 found on page 88. 6 Chowdhuri, Leftism in India, 101–6. 7 Padhy and Panigrahy, footnote 20 on page 90. 8 Naboodiripad interview (accessed 24 June 2013). 9 Narayan, Towards Struggle, 170–71. 10 Naboodiripad interview (accessed 24 June 2013). 11 Masani, Bliss Was It, 126–27. 12 Circular from CSP national executive to CSP provincial secretaries, 31 August 1935, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 2/1934–39.

162  Conflict about unity 13 Jayaprakash Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” in O.P. Ralhan (ed.), Socialist Movement in India, (New Delhi: Anmol Publications, 1999), 232. Hereafter cited as SMI. 14 Interview to Press, Bombay Chronicle (7 December 1936). 15 Masani, Bliss Was It, 124. 16 Narayan, Towards Struggle, 171. 17 Masani, Bliss Was It, 124. 18 Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 239. 19 Masani, Bliss Was It, 124. 20 General Secretary’s Report, 20 January 1936, JPSW, vol. 2, 93–94. 21 “Notes on the Faizpur Congress,” Congress Socialist (9 January 1937). 22 Interview, Bombay Chronicle (20 February 1937). 23 Masani, Bliss Was It, 98–99. 24 Masani, Bliss Was It, 89. 25 Interview, Bombay Chronicle (23 February 1937). 26 “What a Week!,” Congress Socialist (6 March 1937). 27 “Joshi & Gore Expose the Disrupters,” Congress Socialist (8 May 1937). 28 “Vague and Wild Allegations,” Congress Socialist (17 July 1937). 29 “Vague and Wild Allegations,” Congress Socialist (17 July 1937). 30 “Vague and Wild Allegations,” Congress Socialist (17 July 1937). 31 Masani, Bliss Was It, 99. 32 Akil Krishna Bose to Narayan, 9 July 1937, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 3/1935–52. 33 Gunada Mazumdar to Narayan [no date], Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 3/1935–52. 34 “Reply to Communists and Royists,” August 1937, Brahmanand Papers 9/1940. See also “C.S.P.’s Reply to Roy,” Congress Socialist (28 August 1937). 35 “Left Wing and Congress Elections: A Rejoinder to the Searchlight,” Searchlight (4 January 1938). 36 “Responsibility of the Left,” Congress Socialist (31 July 1937). 37 “Resolution on M.N. Roy,” July 1937, AICC Papers 41/1936. 38 “Resolution on M.N. Roy,” July 1937, AICC Papers 41/1936. 39 “Royism in Action,” The Communist (May 1937). 40 “A Reply to Mr. Roy,” Congress Socialist (16 October 1937). 41 “Reply to the Communists and Royists,” 9 August 1937, Brahmanand Papers, 9/1940. 42 Masani, Bliss Was It, 43. 43 Madhu Limaye, Communist Party: Fact and Fiction, (Hyderabad: Chetana Prakashan Ltd., 1951), 31. 44 “Tasks of the Movement,” AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 45 Slogan is found in the constitution framed by the Patna Conference, AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 46 “The Indian National Congress and the United Anti-Imperialist Front,” [no date], Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 38-A/1945. 47 “Tasks of the Movement,” AICC Papers G-23/1934–35. 48 The Communist (March 1937). Emphasis is original. 49 The Communist (March 1937). Emphasis is original. 50 The Communist (March 1937). Emphasis added. 51 The Communist (March 1937). Emphasis is original. 52 Masani, Bliss Was It, 124. 53 “Statement on the C.S.P.,” Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 32/1938–47. 54 “Statement on the C.S.P.,” Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 32/1938–47. 55 Masani, Bliss Was It, 124. 56 Naboodiripad interview (accessed 24 June 2013). 57 Circular to Provincial Secretaries, 31 March 1937, Brahmanand Papers, 3/1936–47. Emphasis is original. The circular was also published in Congress Socialist of 10 April 1937.

Conflict about unity  163 58 “Fraction Work Cannot be Permitted,” Brahmanand Papers, 9/1940. See also “Party News,” Congress Socialist (10 April 1937). 59 Statement of the AICSP Executive Committee, August 1937, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 26/1937–39. 60 Statement of the AICSP Executive Committee, August 1937, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 26/1937–39. 61 Masani, Bliss Was It, 124. 62 Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 242–43. 63 The Communist (June 1937). See also Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 154–65. 64 Naboodiripad interview (accessed 24 June 2013). 65 Sundarayya interview (accessed 24 June 2013). 66 “Lessons of Haripura,” Congress Socialist (26 February 1938). 67 “Cold Comfort,” Congress Socialist (15 January 1938). 68 “Prospect and Retrospect,” Congress Socialist (19 February 1938). 69 “The Change of Front,” Congress Socialist (19 February 1938). 70 “The Change of Front,” Congress Socialist (19 February 1938). 71 “The Immediate Need: Left Unity,” Congress Socialist (5 February 1938). 72 “Unity is Strength,” Congress Socialist (5 March 1938). 73 “Unity is Strength,” Congress Socialist (5 March 1938). 74 “Unity is Strength,” Congress Socialist (5 March 1938). 75 “Unity is Strength,” Congress Socialist (5 March 1938). Emphasis is original. 76 “What Price Unity?,” Congress Socialist (12 March 1938). 77 “What Price Unity?,” Congress Socialist (12 March 1938). 78 “What Price Unity?,” Congress Socialist (12 March 1938). 79 “Blindly Defending the ‘Red’ Line,” Congress Socialist (12 March 1938). 80 “Who Stops Unity?,” Congress Socialist (19 March 1938). 81 “Who Stops Unity?,” Congress Socialist (19 March 1938). 82 “Socialist Unity,” Congress Socialist (19 March 1938). 83 “Unity that Is Strength,” Congress Socialist (2 April 1938). Emphasis is original. 84 “Unity that Is Strength,” Congress Socialist (2 April 1938). 85 “Unity that Is Strength,” Congress Socialist (2 April 1938). 86 Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 244–45. 87 “The Problems of Unity,” Congress Socialist (9 April 1938). 88 “The Problems of Unity,” Congress Socialist (9 April 1938). Emphasis is original. 89 “The Problems of Unity,” Congress Socialist (9 April 1938). 90 Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 243–44. 91 Naboodiripad interview (accessed 24 June 2013). 92 Masani, Bliss Was It, 124–25. 93 Masani, Bliss Was It, 133–34. 94 Masani, Bliss Was It, 132. 95 Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 230, 235–36, 238–39, 241. 96 Masani, Communist Party of India, 71.

6 “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”

Socialists and communists continued their alliance for the sake of the united front, but neither side attempted to bridge the growing chasm. In fact, M.R. Masani deliberately provoked communists, despite his later assertion that “he made friendly but firm criticisms” of the Soviet system, Soviet foreign policy and “the necessity of adhering to democratic and clean methods for the achievement of a socialist society.”1 Outmaneuvered in their efforts to defeat constitutionalism, united front advocates settled down to homogenize anti-imperialism, and their attempts to develop ideological cohesion only backfired. Left unity remained the ultimate goal of the united front, but it unraveled amid sectarian quarrels. Mutual suspicion left the partners pursuing Narendra Deva’s notion of a “fighting alliance.”2 Despite increasing acrimony, members of two independent parties collaborated in pursuit of common united front goals. Unable to obstruct the inauguration of Congress ministries, united front partners cooperated regarding the conduct of Congress ministries, an objective directly linked with opposition to parliamentary work. Additionally, socialists and communists campaigned for Subhas Chandra Bose’s reelection as Congress President, an overt attempt to displace bourgeois leaders. Although united front advocates successfully achieved a certain measure of unity in action, the ideological rift remained irreparable. Congress ministries, parliamentarianism and reformism remained crucial to an alliance between socialists and communists. Both parties attempted to expose ministry misdeeds. The attitudes of both groups originated from foundational attitudes toward constitutionalism and the Election Manifesto. The point of contention lay in whether the campaign against ministries was pursued for rhetorical or practical purposes. Socialists operated on a rhetorical plane, operating within the Congress to correct the lapsed behaviors of legislators and to utilize ministries for revolutionary purposes. Communists acted according to practical considerations in which public demonstrations expressed immediate mass demands. Through a rhetorical strategy, socialists sought to develop legislative work into a more authentic mode of anti-imperialism. Conversely, communists campaigned against Congress ministers, whom they regarded as proto-lackeys of imperialism.

“Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”  165 Regardless of perspective, agitation itself was the crucial issue, with the debate centered on the purpose of agitation. Prior to the Tripuri session, Bose presented himself as an opponent of reformism and constitutionalism. Socialist and communist support helped secure his reelection. His reelection appeared to herald a successful radical coup within the Congress. However, Congress leaders outmaneuvered Bose’s attempts to initiate direct action and defeat reformism. At the decisive moment, communists backed the move to seize control while socialists preferred supporting national unity to Left unity. Tripuri and its aftermath demonstrably exaggerated incompatibilities among united front partners. More generally, the denouement of the united front exhibited infighting, in which a minority group attempted to persuade the majority to revise programs and policies. The minority communists attempted to generate support to transform their outlook into the majority perspective. The majority socialists attempted to preserve the status quo. The final act of the united front replicated the very same united front strategies that socialists and communists consistently attempted to employ to transform the Congress. Consequently, the disintegration of the united front was attributable to assorted and conflicting transformative activities. Ongoing collaboration continued because the principals agreed upon the basic principles that constituted the foundations for united action. Although defeated in the campaign to oppose parliamentarianism, they remained in accord about the imperative of combating constitutionalism and reformism within the parliamentary program. They agreed that Congress ministries should implement the pledges made in the Election Manifesto. They insisted that the Congress should embrace direct action and a president who rejected reformism. They assumed that, with appropriate top-level direction, perhaps the transformation of the Congress might still be effected.

Turning point: Lahore AICSP session and after Although Asoka Mehta declared a conclusion to the controversy about unity that raged on the pages of Congress Socialist, Masani’s presidential address at the annual Congress Socialist Party (CSP) conference at Lahore in April 1938 resurrected it. He presented his views about national and international issues and intended “to evoke a response from like-minded comrades in the Party” as a way to “re-examine the fundamentals of our socialist creed and the basis of our revolutionary faith.” He observed “the growth of a spirit of dogmatism and intolerance” among Indian socialists and declared that this development was “characteristic of adherents of organized religions.” He castigated this trend: To my mind, the socialist movement loses its soul, ceases to be that dynamic force which is to overthrow kingdoms and systems of society in the interest of the masses of the people on the day on which it becomes

166  “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance” an organized religion, with its Popes, its Cardinals, and its Jesuits, its Censor and its Index. He warned that “Lenin rightly declared that religion was the opium of the people,” a statement that applied equally “if we allowed socialism or communism to degenerate into a religion.”3 Masani’s observations clearly targeted the CPI. International socialism was obliged to sympathize with the Soviet Union as “one of the important bulwarks of the socialist forces throughout the world.” But Indian socialism must not follow dictates issued from Moscow—that trend toward institutionalization and orthodoxy preoccupied Masani: Must we also consider it our duty to endorse each and every act of the Soviet Government or the Communist Party of Russia? Must we also consider it our duty to smother all criticism and give undivided support? Masani rejected this premise, declaring that Indian socialists possessed a right and a duty “to study and comment on, if need be to criticize, the actions and policies of the Soviet Government.” He observed that Russia might be a socialist inspiration, but maintained that many developments occurring there were “not essentially socialist.”4 Masani then explained the nature of the CSP. He remarked that the party “must act as a homogeneous team” and “must develop its discipline to the highest levels” to sustain its revolutionary character. He insisted that organizational unity was essential for operational cohesion because “internal conflicts lead to paralysis and stagnation.”5 He also considered the CSP–CPI relationship. He challenged certain communist perceptions of the united front: The C.S.P. is not a platform for a united front. The anti-imperialist united front is in the Congress. The C.S.P. is not a mass party. The mass organization is the Indian National Congress. It was not a front for communist activity, nor was it a petty bourgeois party, subject to communist united front tactics. Masani declared that the CSP was a revolutionary party comprised of “a determined group of conscious socialists who will act as a compact party and guide the bigger movement and the mass organizations.” Communist infiltration and attempts to capture CSP branches illustrated “the old disastrous drifts and sectarianism,” and Masani predicted that such infighting facilitated “dismemberment and disruption.”6 Masani’s remarks set the tone for the proceedings at Lahore. The conference passed a series of resolutions about Federation, Congress ministries and the international situation as well as items discussing non-­Congress ministries, communalism, British policy in the North-West Frontier Province and

“Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”  167 repression in the Punjab and Bengal.7 The resolution objecting to Federation called for “unflinching determination to resist” its imposition and outlined a program for fighting it: organize mass resistance by emphasizing day-to-day struggles, neutralize the bureaucratization of Congress governments, develop Congress and non-Congress movements to challenge non-Congress governments, propagandize the theme of constituent assembly as the only alternative to the unwanted constitution. The resolution also vowed to undertake “a nation wide mass struggle including a no-tax and no-rent campaign and a general strike on a national scale” if the Indian government attempted to impose Federation.8 The resolution about Congress ministries served as a warning to counter rhetoric about using ministries to advance the national campaign. The document stated that the ministerial crisis at Haripura should have illustrated the ultimate futility of constitutionalism. It also declared that a constitutional crisis “can be successfully met only by developing the strength of the people.” It insisted that ministries should be guided exclusively by the desire “to develop the strength of the people for the purpose of combating and ending” the Act: This object can be achieved only by giving maximum relief to the masses through legislative and executive action, by encouraging mass agitation and developing mass struggle, by strengthening the Congress and other mass organisations and by destroying as far as possible the grip of the administrative machinery set up by the British Government in the country by bringing it under popular control. The resolution also declared that although the CSP opposed accepting office “and still holds to that view and though it believes in the necessity of vigilance and criticism it not only does not intend to embarrass or create difficulties for the Congress Ministries but desires to strengthen them.”9 Significantly, the conference also passed a resolution about “Socialist Unity.” This item emphasized the need for “the integration of all socialist forces in the country,” and it served as a reaffirmation of the CSP’s “burning desire to bring into existence a single united socialist party in India.” Nevertheless, it revealed “many obstacles at present in the way of such unity,” particularly “the inability so far of socialists with diverse groups and party attachments to work together smoothly and in a spirit of co-operation and comradeship.” It urged all socialists to remove such impediments through “unity-in-action.” It also insisted that the “primary task” of party members was to “strengthen the Party itself as a Marxian socialist party.” More immediately, the resolution endorsed the national executive’s decision to deny future admission of communists into the CSP, diluting the ban somewhat by explaining that “the most essential condition for the birth of a united party in India is unity between the C.S.P. and the ‘Red’ group.”10

168  “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance” While moving the unity resolution, Jayaprakash Narayan insisted that the CSP “strived from its inception for unity in socialist ranks.” He maintained that the CSP “was the pioneer” for evolving the concept of the united front, working closely with assorted Marxists to advance “mutual association and co-operation.” He recalled that the ban against new communist admission into the CSP “did not mean breaking off of friendly relations with the C.P.,” but merely indicated that “the C.S.P. and C.P. cadres are not working in unity and harmony.” According to Narayan, the crucial issue was the meaning of unity: It is no unity where an independent party exists even after the united party is formed. … The question of unity is thus more complex than the raising of the facile slogan of ‘all socialists inside the C.S.P.’ suggests. Narayan then cited “the absence of unity in action between the cadres of the two parties” as the primary obstacle to unity. Through unity-in-action, the partners would be positioned to iron out abstract, ideological differences.11 Asoka Mehta described the resolution about unity as the “piece de resistance” of the conference. He related that communists, for weeks prior to the conference, belabored the slogan “All Socialists Inside the C.S.P.” He stated that concurrently, communists waged an unrelenting campaign “to give the impression that in the leadership of the C.S.P. there were opponents of unity.” According to Mehta, this resolution “settled the controversy regarding admission of Communists in the Party”: The Lahore Conference thus rejected the misleading slogan of ‘All Socialists inside the C.S.P.’ raised in interested quarters and reaffirmed its resolve to remain a homogeneous and disciplined Party. It repelled the idea that one individual can at the same time be a loyal member of two political parties. While rejecting this false conception of Unity, however, the Conference laid down the correct and realistic approach to ultimate Socialist Unity. This realistic approach was, according to Mehta, the resolution’s emphasis on removing obstacles to unity and on the primary task of members being the development of the party’s independent initiative.12 In hindsight, Masani offered his impressions about the conference. He explained that the Socialist Unity resolution addressed organizational problems “concerning the composition of the party and its relations with other Left groups.” He stated that the national executive “felt that under the guise of ‘Socialist Unity’ an attempt was afoot by the Communists to capture the C.S.P.” He declared that the resolution “decisively rejected the plea of the Communists for their admission into the C.S.P.” Masani also described how the CSP, as “pioneers of unity,” succeeded in “repelling the Communist Party’s attack on leading Socialists as opponents of unity.”13

“Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”  169 According to Masani, communists moved a resolution to admit all CPI members into the CSP without qualification or reservation. Masani claimed that this united-front-from-above tactic proved unsuccessful. He celebrated the outcome that, instead of admitting communists, the conference unanimously reasserted the CSP’s goal “to bring into existence a single united Socialist Party” through a more deliberate merger of its socialist and communist membership.14 Masani wrote that communists in the CSP were incensed by his statements and were concerned about the effects of the speech upon the CSP rank and file. According to Masani’s interpretation, communists “decided to strike before the tide turned against them” and attempted “nothing less than complete capture of the CSP.”15 With less dramatic emphasis, Congress Socialist reported that “election of office-bearers and the Executive Committee caused a certain measure of excitement.”16 Delegates to the conference at Lahore were charged with electing seventeen members to the CSP national executive. Logically, founders of long-­standing repute—Narayan, Masani, Yusuf Meherally, Narendra Deva, Achyut Patwardhan, Rammanohar Lohia, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya— were elected as officers. At least four well-known communists—E.M.S. Namboodiripad, Dinkar Mehta, Sibnath Banerjee and Sajjad Zaheer—also found positions on the executive council. Namboodiripad and Dinkar Mehta shared four joint secretary posts with Masani and Meherally. Additionally, no fewer than two substitute members—S.S. Batliwala and B.P.L. Bedi—of a total of five substitutes were known communists.17 Election of the executive marked the alleged communist take-over attempt. Masani recalled that two lists were produced for consideration, one proposed by Narayan and the other by communists. Narayan’s list included many individuals from among the usual CSP leadership clique and reserved one-third of the executive seats for communists. The communist version retained Narayan as the party’s general secretary, but supplanted the old guard socialist leaders in favor of communist members of the CSP. Masani described the moment: The communists evidently hoped that J.P. would agree to become their prisoner. In this, however, they were mistaken. In great agony, J.P. reluctantly agreed that the communist move to capture the Party must be defeated. … There was intense lobbying on both sides and nobody knew which side would win.18 According to Masani, the “authentic leaders of the CSP” argued that accepting the communist list would force a split in the CSP, and the threat evidently worked: When the votes were counted, Narayan’s composite list won by a narrow majority. As Masani recalled, the proceedings indicated “how near the communists were to capturing the entire organization.”19 Puchalapalli Sundarayya interpreted events at the Lahore conference differently than did socialists. Sundarayya observed that at the session,

170  “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance” socialists presented their program, and communists presented an alternative that was not communist, but “which we thought would be acceptable to the socialists.” The majority of delegates supported Narayan and the socialists, at which point the communists accepted the majority decision. Regarding elections to the national executive, Sundarayya explained that communists merely desired “to have more representation on the National Executive.” He denied any desire to “dominate” the executive, insisting that “we wanted to develop stronger contingent so that we could influence the day-to-day work.” Sundaraya recalled that Masani and Mehta strongly objected to any larger communist membership on the national executive, and Narayan misunderstood communist intentions and submitted to anti-communist maneuvers.20 Despite conflict, the Lahore conference denoted an accommodation between CSP and CPI leaders. Communists sought to introduce programs more closely aligned with their conceptualization of the united front while socialists doggedly attempted to preserve original arrangements. With members of both parties ill-positioned to dominate, they resorted to an earlier default in which temporary alliances might enable the achievement of united front goals. Stung by events, the founders of the CSP more openly produced pungent critiques of Soviet Russia and its attitude toward world socialism. One of the more contentious issues discussed was Stalin’s show trials of alleged counter-­ revolutionaries in the Russian communist party. Masani observed that Stalin’s purges “were destroying not only the old Bolsheviks but a large part of the communist leadership.”21 Such closed-mindedness smacked of the orthodoxy Masani criticized at the Lahore conference. In May 1938, Rammanohar Lohia produced an article about Russia, which revealed the imperative “to emphasize the democratic and humanistic essentials of socialism.” He proclaimed that Russian communism ought to be more democratic and humane.22 In their critique of the Soviet system, socialists highlighted one of the fundamental flaws inherent to the united front. Communists approached socialism as if the Russian model was the preferred form of socialism whereas Congress socialists tolerated a certain amount of heterogeneity among Marxists. The purge in Russia constituted its own form of homogenization by eliminating variable socialisms. It institutionalized socialism, making it doctrinaire, inflexible and authoritarian. The united front mode of homogenization, however, sought the same goal through different means. It strove to construct consensus, but nevertheless attempted to encompass all socialisms. The very intent of unity required the elimination of heterodoxy, dissent and deviance from the norm, yet socialist and communist ideological independence precluded the possibility of such common fundamentals. The united front sought to achieve an unrealizable ideal.

Ministries and modes of critique Socialists and communists found common ground when criticizing the conduct of Congress ministries, those paragons of constitutionalism and

“Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”  171 bourgeois compromise. However, the two groups approached the common topic from conflicting perspectives, undermining the effectiveness of their fighting alliance. Socialists pursued constructive criticism by mass organizations to ensure that Congress ministries implemented the platforms outlined by the Election Manifesto. Communists developed more demonstrable agitations, protests to coerce ministries into attending to mass demands. While socialists complained about Congress ministries’ repressive actions, communists actually created conditions in which repression was deemed necessary by Congress governments. These contrasting modes of critique set the stage for detention and disciplinary action by Congress authorities and disrupted united front activities. United front work included radical programs, such as the release of political prisoners and the expansion of civil liberties. United front advocates celebrated the Congress’s adoption of their perspectives about releasing political prisoners and overthrowing laws that curtailed civil liberties. They praised the Election Manifesto for including these priorities.23 They then oriented the campaign itself at two distinct, but related political levels: non-Congress ministries and Congress ministries. The conduct of non-Congress ministries afforded a convenient foil for Election Manifesto principles and Congress resolutions about the parliamentary program. Congress governments were presented as the popularly elected antitheses to non-Congress ministries. CSP reports and Congress Socialist ran regular announcements about arbitrary arrests and repression. In one instance, Masani recalled that whereas CSP resolutions expressed satisfaction regarding the conduct of Congress ministries, particularly regarding the release of political prisoners, delegates to the Lahore conference “denounced outright the reactionary policy followed by the non-Congress administrations.” Socialists were instructed to “expose the reactionary character of those Governments and to bring about their downfall.”24 The government in Delhi drew special attention from socialists. Party publications showcased Delhi as “the scene of the worst repression in the country,” resulting in a general strike, orchestrated by the Delhi Congress Committee, which protested the ongoing arrest, internment and externment of political activists. In Delhi, a high-ranking socialist, Satyavati Devi, assumed a central role in socialists’ publicized campaign against non-­Congress authorities. In November 1937, Devi received a court order prohibiting her from participating in public processions or meetings because she “is acting and is about to act in a manner prejudicial to the public peace.” The ban remained in effect for three months.25 A socialist newsletter revealed that Devi’s appeal motion had been dismissed by the Punjab High Court, and she was imprisoned.26 United front advocates also eagerly watched for Congress ministries to begin releasing political prisoners and expanding civil liberties. Socialists and communists began critiquing Congress ministries about their inconsistent implementation of Election Manifesto pledges. They sought to combat constitutionalism generally and, more specifically, attempted to mobilize

172  “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance” public pressure against Congress ministries to implement the manifesto.27 Over time, rhetoric generated by united front partners increasingly focused on police surveillance. Very subtly, the campaign to guarantee the purity of Congress parliamentarianism transformed into a verbal condemnation of the repressive conduct of Congress ministers. As soon as Congress ministers assumed office, Congress Socialist began repeatedly running accounts of misconduct. On 17 July, the weekly announced, “Though the Congress ministers are getting into saddle—even getting into stride—in six provinces the Government machine is functioning as soul-lessly and ‘satanically’ as ever.” A socialist in Cawnpore was detained for shouting Congress slogans, and S.M. Joshi was arrested in Poona for distributing anti-war leaflets.28 Asoka Mehta noted that the Madras government announced its intention to “take all steps necessary to prevent any dissemination of class-hatred.” He suggested that civil liberties should mean the right to express all ideas, with government interfering “only when the ideas are sought to be translated into action.”29 The Bombay ministry perpetuated these restrictions by continuing the ban against all working class and communist organizations.30 Mehta observed that Congress ministries dallied when considering the release of non-Congress political prisoners.31 In September, Congress Socialist complained that the Bombay Government neglected to initiate vigorous steps to address “acute famine conditions in various parts of the Bombay Presidency.” The paper noted that officials “dismiss famine conditions with indifference,” and it caustically remarked, “Where people usually starve famine conditions are normal, it is only when they die or revolt that the Government is goaded into action.”32 Congress Socialist criticized the Madras government’s arrest of S.S. Batliwala on the charge of sedition as well as its unwarranted search of Namboodiripad’s abode.33 Then Krishna Pillai was arrested “for taking out a procession of strikers, evidently against a prohibition order” issued by the Madras ministry. Socialists objected to Congress ministries issuing bans and prohibition orders that diverged from established policy. They also insisted that “no member of the A.I.C.C. should be arrested for any political charge, by convention, by a Congress Government without the permission of the A.I.C.C.”34 Assessing these developments, Asoka Mehta wrote, “Office-­acceptance to the right-wingers is no longer a tactic of struggle.”35 Near the end of October, Mehta predicted that the Congress “must review the events of the last fifteen weeks” to scrutinize the conduct of Congress ministries. He insisted that ministers “must emphatically be reminded that they are there to further the Congress policy of wrecking the constitution thru mass action.” He maintained that ministers must permit mass interests to guide their decisions and, consequently, must tolerate the masses expressing their demands through demonstrations and protests.36

“Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”  173 Masani wrote that forming ministries raised hopes that Congressmen “could move freely and speak freely in those territories.” He noted that the recent experiment with offices exploded such expectations: And so to-day, within a few weeks of the formation of Congress Cabinets, meetings to protest against arrests and to demand release are again becoming a common feature of our political life and people are almost settling down to an acceptance of this phenomenon as to something which, if rather deplorable, is nonetheless inevitable! Masani declared that three months in office revealed an unrelenting tendency to compromise with imperialism, a tendency clouded by confusion about the purpose of government. He posited that Congress ministries were not popular governments, but rather were formal appendages of British raj: If once that lesson were driven home, we would not have the humiliating spectacle of Congress Ministers like Mr. Raman Menon talking of maintaining law and dealing sternly with law-breakers. Nor would we be left gasping at the spectacle of Congressmen being prosecuted for ‘bringing into hatred and contempt the Government established by law in British India’ by a set of Ministers representing a political organisation whose very objective is the overthrowing of that Government itself! Masani insisted that for an organization pursuing complete independence from imperialism, “there can be no such thing as Sedition.” For the Indian people, independence meant the right to frame and administer their own laws. They also reserved the inalienable right “of a people conquered and kept in subjection by force of arms” to revolt against foreign domination. Masani suggested that if Congress ministers accepted these Congress principles and rejected governing on behalf of imperialism, “then let them by all means resign and terminate this sorry chapter.”37 Parliamentarians asserted their dominance at the Calcutta All-India Congress Committee (AICC) session at the end of October. This session ratified the Working Committee decision to accept office.38 Additionally, it sidestepped united front partners’ attempts to rollback constitutionalism. Masani introduced a resolution that praised ministers’ efforts to release political prisoners, but it noted that “there are still several political prisoners in provinces where Congress Cabinets exist,” and it expressed concern that “in many cases steps have not yet been taken to repeal repressive laws, even those which authorise detention without trial.” The resolution criticized recent use of these statutes and resolved: The A.I.C.C. calls for the complete implementing of the Congress Election Manifesto in this connection by the immediate and unconditional release

174  “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance” of all political prisoners by Congress Cabinets and for the taking of immediate steps for the repeal of all repressive laws.39 Socialists asserted that the resolution criticized actions, not ministers. During debate about the resolution, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya described her personal experiences: We have been feeling oppressed by the way we have been shadowed by the C.I.D. in Madras. If the matter is allowed to go on it will undermine the trust in the Ministry and, therefore, it is but right that we must discuss this matter in the open House. Jawaharlal Nehru explained that the Congress creed equaled sedition: “It would be absurd for any Congress Ministry to charge any one for Sedition.” Ministers defended their actions, noting that they were merely “trying to establish the right type of National Government.” Vallabhbhai Patel reassured AICC delegates that he “made elaborate inquiries,” which remained inconclusive, and he opined that “the House cannot apportion blame without knowing the facts.”40 The AICC referred Masani’s resolution to the Working Committee for its decision. Rather than censor ministries, Working Committee members, “after full and careful consideration of the situation in the various provinces and the difficulties inherent in the present position,” recorded “their approval of the work done so far by the Congress Ministers.” Congress leaders then took steps to protect ministers from radical critique by insisting that the people should “adhere to the Congress policy of non-violence and to discourage all incitements to violence.” They authorized Congress committees to take disciplinary action against Congressmen “who offend against the Congress policy.” Regarding government coercion and violations of civil liberties, Congress leaders absolved ministers of any wrongdoing: “In spite of every desire to avoid it, coercive action may become necessary, and in such cases Ministries will inevitably have to undertake it.”41 Despite being outmaneuvered at the AICC session, socialists declared the ministry resolution a success. The resolution itself was not thrown out and was discussed. Referral to the Working Committee implied that Congress leaders would review ministry conduct and “draw up a comprehensive scheme for uniform and co-ordinated action.” Socialists declared that the CSP could depart the AICC session “legitimately proud of its achievements.”42 Socialists deluded themselves regarding these outcomes. Socialists’ attempt to overturn repressive rule by Congress ministries was short-circuited by reference to difficult circumstances confronting ministers. Socialists’ efforts to make ministers accountable to the people were derailed by the Working Committee mandate to abide by strict non-violence, backed by the threat of disciplinary action. Socialist acceptance of central oversight of parliamentary work legitimized it and permitted its entrenchment.

“Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”  175 CSP leaders diluted their opposition to constitutionalism. National executive members reminded ministers that they “would be failing in their duty” if they “did not forthwith release all political prisoners and restore in every other manner open to them full civil liberty.” CSP leaders maintained that ministers should dutifully enact relief initiatives to address economic burdens of the masses. They recommended initiating deliberate steps to strengthen peasant and labor organizations. They reminded ministers that Congress governments should not be accepted as appendages of imperialism, and they urged ministers to overcome tendencies to “discourage the popular and mass agitation and criticism regarding their parliamentary programme.”43 Nevertheless, united front partners persistently sought to ensure that ministries remained responsive to day-to-day demands while concurrently developing the foundations for future direct action. They resorted to popular demonstrations, militant activities which prompted criticism from parliamentarians about radical attempts to embarrass ministries. Asoka Mehta insisted that organized and disciplined mass meetings were designed to strengthen ministers’ ability to combat the constitution and launch “a fresh offensive against imperialism.” But the Ministers seem keen to ‘govern.’ They are eager to convince the powers that be about their ability to ‘govern.’ This is not the perspective of combating and ending the constitution. All the difficulties have flowed from this change in the perspective of Congressmen in office. Mehta declared that mass demonstrations were not directed at ministers, but targeted the imperialist system, which prohibited economic relief. He suggested that ministers could perceive such protests as attacks against Congress governments only if the ministers “have developed the unfortunate mentality of identifying themselves with the Government.” Mehta concluded that ministers opposed demonstrations because they “do not want a mass movement.” Radicals who pushed for direct action, then, appeared as “inconvenient nuisance-causers.”44 As Congressmen prepared to meet at Haripura for the annual session, Asoka Mehta complained that the Working Committee opted to condone ministers’ conduct, insisting that the people must develop “a completely non-violent atmosphere in the country.” He maintained that while the Congress ministries worked to expand civil liberties, the Working Committee cautioned the people not to use these expanded freedoms to demonstrate for their demands. He suggested, A new conception of civil liberty is being evolved. You have liberty— but only so long as you are civil! Mehta also highlighted the paradox in which workers’ and peasants’ unions were permitted to struggle for their demands, conforming to the “necessity

176  “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance” for extra-parliamentary organisation and action” described in assorted Congress resolutions, but Congress leaders “frowned on” such action “in practice.”45 Mehta insisted that because the Congress represented mass interests, its leaders now could not take deliberate steps to stifle the expression of those interests. Advocates of the united front were gearing up to challenge this paradox as the constitutional crisis broke in February 1938. The ministerial crisis at Haripura initiated a renewed debate between communists and socialists about the prevalence and rationale for the Congress’s parliamentary program. The Haripura session’s resolution about the situation highlighted the specific united front priority of releasing political prisoners. In fact, the resolution declared that the resignations occurred in Bihar and United Provinces precisely because governors interfered with Congress ministers’ attempts to release prisoners, per promises made in the Election Manifesto. The resolution also insisted that “there can be no freedom for the country so long as this Act is not ended and a constitution, framed by a Constituent Assembly, elected purely on the basis of adult franchise, takes its place.”46 The Haripura session also issued a terse warning against demonstrations. Referring to inflammatory speeches made immediately following the release of several Kakori prisoners, the Haripura resolution condemned indiscipline: The Congress has always discouraged unseemly demonstrations and other objectionable activities…. The Congress has given during the past few months ample evidence of its desire to take service notice of indiscipline and breach of the code of non-violence that the Congress has laid down for itself. Nevertheless the Congress invites the attention of Congressmen to the fact that indiscipline in speech and action, calculated to promote or breed violence retards the progress of the country towards its cherished goal. Furthermore, the Haripura resolution expressed the Congress’s disapproval of hunger strikes as a method of securing the release of political prisoners. The Indian people were reassured that “Congressmen will continue their efforts to secure the release of detenus and political prisoners by all legitimate and peaceful means.”47 Narayan observed a “spontaneous closing of the ranks” during the Haripura session, with all elements—constitutionalists and rejectionists— joining as one force to determinedly face the crisis: a “great demonstration of national unity.” Nevertheless, Narayan also surmised that Haripura launched “a new chapter in the relations between the ‘right’ and ‘left’ wings”: We saw that even while we pledged our undivided support in the moment of crisis and action, there was suspicion, bitterness, hostility. Sardar Vallabhbhai’s attack, Mr. Jairamdas’s and Mr. Bhulabhai’s remarks

“Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”  177 about ‘left’ and ‘right’, Mr. Kripalani’s veiled threats, all pointed to a much deeper estrangement than was expected and signalled a bitter and determined fight that is bound to prove ruinous for Congress. Narayan recognized that “such a background of suspicion and hostility” complicated cooperation. He now insisted that “no effort should be spared to bridge the gulf,” noting that this new orientation involved a reassessment of united front activities within the Congress: The priority should no longer be “what progress we as a sectarian group are making in the Congress,” but rather should emphasize “what progress the Congress as a whole is making as a result of our efforts.”48 He also called for united front advocates to put principles of unity into practice pragmatically, which would make significant strides toward “clearing up this misunderstanding and so modifying our activities that no cause is given for misunderstandings to arise.”49 Essentially, Narayan urged caution. He recommended not alienating constitutionalists by using hostile propaganda and slogans or by orchestrating demonstrations against Congress ministries. He counseled finding ways to discover common ground, rather than emphasizing points of opposition. Narayan urged patient work within the Congress, instead of vituperative, vocal condemnation and militant opposition. Socialists and communists committed themselves to orchestrating mass agitation external to ministries that would both guide the conduct of Congress ministries and thwart the adoption of parliamentary methods by the Congress. In this campaign, united front advocates agreed that the expansion of civil liberties afforded a unique opportunity to generate Left unity. The united front, then, using united-front-from-below tactics, intended to ensure that Congress ministries implemented all sections of the Election Manifesto and, more abstractly, that ministers adopted the revolutionary use of ministerial authority. By the time the CSP met for its annual session at Lahore in April 1938, socialists had adopted a much more hostile attitude toward Congress ministries. Several resolutions proposed for the conference issued harsh verdicts regarding the conduct of Congress governments. One resolution declared that the CSP “views the working of the Congress Ministries with grave misgivings, in view of their record in office.” It explained that the prosecution of S.S. Batliwala in Madras and the arrest of a prominent socialist in UP under the charge of sedition illustrated “the mentality with which the Congress Ministries are trying to work the government,” in clear violation of the principles behind the acceptance of office. The resolution stated that such conduct “exposes very clearly the co-operative temper of the Congress Ministries,” which now appeared to avoid deadlocks and constitutional crises in favor of merely governing.50 A second resolution criticized attitudes prevalent in Madras, where “Congress Ministries have begun to consider the Provincial Constitutions along with its Bureaucratic machinery as something desirable and to be worked, instead of treating it as something

178  “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance” abhorrent to our people and to be wrecked.” Such views revealed an urge to settle into governing, to abandon any desire to topple the Government of India Act or treat ministries as a temporary expediency.51 A third resolution condemned Congress ministers’ attitudes toward kisan sabhas and trade unions. This document alleged that the Congress’s constitutionalists, “with Administrative powers in their hands, are beginning to indulge in the suppression of class organisations in a manner in which even the Imperialist government seldom dared.”52 Another resolution condemned ministers’ attempts to suppress popular demands out of a desire “to show good results and to show that it was all quiet under their regime.” Ministers sought to dilute popular expressions of grievances and “consider the maintenance of quiet as their sole duty,” which contradicted the principles underpinning a revolutionary use of legislatures.53 Another proposed resolution condemned Congress governments’ attempts to detain communists when practically all other political prisoners were released. It declared that “it is to be noted with regret that communists have not been released in any Congress Province.” Such attitudes endangered all efforts to achieve a united, nationwide, anti-­ imperialist front.54 These resolutions clearly indicated an oppositional attitude through their antagonism toward ministries and constitutionalism. However, they clearly mistook radical expressions of hostility for actual, practical radicalism. Through their hostility, they confused opposition for radicalism, assuming that the former equaled the latter when, in reality, their frequently proclaimed radicalism stemmed from their attempts to wean the Congress from its bourgeois leadership by initiating direct action. Although protests against Congress governments conceivably were modes of direct action against bourgeois mentalities, the ultimate purpose of the united front became diluted through such small-scale initiatives. These complaints, in fact, speak to a more generalized flaw in united front logic—opposition and criticism could never be synonymous with direct action or, for that matter, any action that afforded an alternative to the parliamentary program.

Tripuri Congress At the end of 1938, socialists and communists again found new common ground for the united front regarding the Congress. Its rank and file might still be weaned away from its bourgeois leadership. It might still become the political organization for articulating the masses’ economic demands. It might still be redirected from the barren path of constitutionalism toward direct action. What the Congress needed was to re-engage with its transformation was bold, radical leadership. In November 1938, Narayan privately complained to Nehru that “politics in India had fallen into a rut.” He suggested that “things are slowly happening which are converting the Congress from a democratic organization of the millions of the down-trodden people into a hand-maid of Indian vested

“Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”  179 interests.” He claimed that Congress governments’ relations with the labor movement was “an eye-opener” that intended to “bind the workers’ organization hand and foot and deliver them to the employers.” He complained that the Congress organization was “largely defunct” or had been “reduced to election machines,” and he lamented that most of Nehru’s radical programs—­ democratization, mass contacts, the agrarian program, rejectionist policies—­had been suborned to legislative work. He proposed “redefining the socio-economic goal of the Congress” to reverse these trends.55 Narayan’s letter to Nehru was a call to action—Narayan asked Nehru to “go further and take a hand in moulding and developing” the peasant and labor movements. Narayan claimed that the country’s socialist movement alone sought to fulfill the “undoubted urge towards social freedom that exists among the overwhelming majority of the people.” He stated that the CSP had established the foundational aspects of socialism, but he insisted that the country required Nehru’s lead to accomplish the task: “You alone can do it if you only spared a little time and thought for it.”56 Nehru, however, was inclined to remain “detached at present” and avoid association with “a new venture.”57 Nehru’s reluctance to openly challenge Congress moderates left socialists and communists seeking alternative leadership to guide the united front. The opportunity to displace long-standing Congress leaders was presented to socialists and communists with the reelection of Subhas Chandra Bose as Congress president. Bose emerged as a radical alternative to the Congress’s bourgeois leadership. In an interview with R. Palme Dutt, published in January 1938, Bose maintained that with constitutionalism invariably running its course, the united front agenda was proving to be a viable alternative. Bose stated that the “next stage of the national struggle will be a further growth of mass consciousness at an increasing tempo,” which meant developing “the Party organisation on a broad anti-imperialist front.” He supported “broadening further the mass basis of the National Congress as an all-inclusive national front” through collective affiliation of labor and peasant movements. He maintained that the two-fold purpose of the Congress should be securing political independence and founding a socialist regime.58 When elected Congress President for 1938, Bose hinted that the parliamentary program was merely “an experimental measure” and “should not lead us to think that our future activity is to be confined within the limits of strict constitutionalism.” Instead, he suggested that parliamentarianism might be contained by declaring “our uncompromising hostility towards the proposed Federation,” and he insisted that the Congress must “fight Federation by all legitimate and peaceful means—not merely along constitutional lines—and in the last resort, we may have to resort to mass civil disobedience.” Additionally, he declared that he supported the collective affiliation of mass organizations with the Congress “to bring all progressive and anti-imperialist organisations under the influence and control of

180  “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance” the Congress.” He stated that he agreed with “the general principles and policy” of the CSP as a vehicle for exerting leftist influence in the Congress and for preparing the country for the inevitable transition to socialism. He also addressed united front concerns about foreign affairs and political prisoners. His concluding remarks appealed specifically to socialists and communists, urging them to combine their strength, thereby democratizing and reorganizing the Congress “on the broadest anti-imperialist basis.”59 Bose earned radical support by proposing an alternative to the parliamentary program and by promising to renew direct action, even if it meant civil disobedience in protest of constitutional reforms. He appeared to give the Congress the radical leadership that socialists and communists desired. In 1939, Bose depicted himself as a radical alternative to the Congress’s entrenched leaders. He referred to “the progressive sharpening of the anti-­ imperialist struggle” and cited “pressing requests from Socialists and non-Socialists” to campaign “on the basis of definite problems and programmes.”60 He indicated that the president symbolized the Congress’s programs and policies and promised that his leadership would articulate strict opposition to constitutionalism.61 Bose criticized Congress leaders who had allegedly been maneuvering toward acceptance of Federation, and he vowed to oppose any form of compromise between the Congress and imperialism.62 Bose won re-election in 1939 by a narrow margin, and he paused for a moment to consider the outcome and its implications. Outlining a basic united front framework, Bose asserted that Assuming for argument’s sake that the result of the election implies a victory of the left, we should stop to consider what the leftists’ programme is. For the immediate future the leftists stand for national unity and unrelenting opposition to the Federal Scheme. In addition to this, they stand for democratic principles. He reassured his opponents that “there will be no violent break with the past in the Parliamentary or in the extra-Parliamentary sphere.” He urged the softer united front line of more deliberately fulfilling election pledges and rallying the country behind the cause of independence.63 One contributor to Congress Socialist remarked that Bose’s election “may be interpreted as an expression of discontent with the working of the provincial autonomy.” This author noted that Congress ministries complacently operated within the confines of the constitution: In addition, we have observed a very dangerous tendency to replace the British by Swadeshi apparatus of repression. The Ministers have shown themselves quite anxious to suppress all radical elements and thus carry on the King’s government, whose main function is to maintain law and order.

“Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”  181 Furthermore, according to this author, parliamentarians very deliberately sought to “enslave the whole Congress organization for the exigencies of office and perhaps for a definite attempt to build up a constitutional front.” The writer suggested that the vote censured such reformist tendencies. Simply put, Bose’s re-election indicated “an unmistakable swing towards the left.”64 Rumors about a possible Right reaction to the election swirled tumultuously. The CSP National Executive met shortly after the Tripuri session and released a statement about Bose’s election. This document announced that socialists supported Bose because he was “an eminently suited candidate and because there has been a large measure of agreement on political questions between him and the Party.” The National Executive statement announced that “no effort should be spared to maintain that unity which, despite ideological differences, has been the main strength of the Congress.”65 Supporting the cause of unity, National Executive members unanimously resolved that a Left bloc should not be formed within the Congress. United front objectives remained unchanged: “We desire Socialist unity and unity in the Congress ranks.” The members anticipated that a formal Left bloc might “hinder the realization of the other vital unities.” They insisted that the planned transformation of the Congress was “slowly being accepted” and maintained that a Left bloc would only subvert unity by crystalizing “two mutually incompatible divisions”—those who accepted and those who rejected the socialist platform.66 Bose’s presidential address at the Tripuri Congress afforded an opportunity to outline a united front agenda. He indicated that the international situation and the threat of a European war afforded a golden opportunity for the Congress to challenge British imperialism. Bose called for a turn to direct action: In my opinion, therefore, we should submit our national demand to the British Government in the form of an ultimatum and give a certain time-limit within which a reply is to be expected. If no reply is received within this period or if an unsatisfactory reply is received, we should resort to such sanctions as we possess in order to enforce our national demand. The sanctions that we possess today are mass civil disobedience or Satyagraha. And the British Government today are not in a position to face a major conflict like an All-India Satyagraha for a long period. Bose asked, “What more opportune moment could we find in our national history for a final advance in the direction of Swaraj, particularly when the international situation is favourable to us?”67 Socialists responded favorably to Bose’s proposals. One writer highlighted Bose’s discussion of British intransigence and the looming threat of war: He draws our attention to the fact that Britain wants to put us off indefinitely so long as the tension in Europe continues. He very pertinently

182  “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance” asks if we are going to sit with folded hands and wait on the pleasure of England and fight when the enemy considers the time and ground favorable. Socialists eagerly expected that India might “respond to the President’s call to seize the present opportunity to win our Independence.”68 Bose won the election with socialist and communist support. His opponents in the Working Committee, who commanded the majority membership of the executive, began a non-cooperation campaign against him. At the Tripuri session, Congress moderates mobilized to discipline the Congress’s left wing. The Congress passed its National Demand resolution, which solemnly rejected parliamentary reform and insisted that “the principle of self-determination must now be applied to the fullest extent to India.” The National Demand appeased leftists, calling upon provincial branches to prepare for a national struggle by “promoting unity and seeking to eliminate disruptive forces and conditions” and by relying on the well-tread policy of working outside legislatures.69 Narayan latched onto the National Demand as a termination of constitutionalism. With the limited scope of the parliamentary experiment completed and with the Federation about to be imposed on India, he insisted that “we have no option but struggle and immediate struggle, and we must quickly get ready for it.” He also suggested further mobilizing workers and peasants to facilitate the transformation of the political struggle into the united front against imperialism.70 Later, during debates about the resolution, Narayan insisted that despite ideological differences with the Congress’s moderate leaders, socialists “would adopt a united strategy against the enemy and struggle along with the Congress.”71 The Tripuri session also approved the notorious Pant Resolution—so termed because it was moved by Govind Ballabh Pant, chief minister of the United Provinces—which affirmed the direction of Congress programs, implying that no deviation from the status quo was necessary and which stated that the Working Committee could not be constituted without obtaining Gandhi’s “implicit confidence” in its membership and policies.72 The Pant Resolution, according to Masani, “put the Socialist Party squarely on the spot.”73 Socialists moved an amendment to the Pant Resolution, which declared that the Working Committee should be appointed in consultation with Gandhi rather than with his approval.74 Speaking in support of the amendment, Narayan noted that although in the past, socialists had disagreed with Gandhi, they recognized that Gandhi’s leadership was necessary. Narayan declared that the CSP “is as anxious as ever to maintain a united front in the country, and Mahatma Gandhi has approved of it.” Narayan insisted that unity was the critical concern as international tensions grew, and he emphasized that every Congressman must “prepare the country to face the coming crisis.”75 The predicament divided the CSP. The Congress right wing continued to dominate the Working Committee, but now Bose and the left wing were poised to displace the moderates in the Congress high command. Bose’s

“Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”  183 immediate followers, with the CPI, the Roy Group and assorted groups and individuals disaffected with the Gandhian leadership, prepared to seize control of the national movement. Roy corresponded with Bose, observing that Bose’s re-election indicated that “the majority of the Congress has lost its confidence in the old leaders” and that Gandhi “has been defeated.” He suggested that the Congress “must be given a new leadership, entirely free from the principles and pre-occupations of Gandhism,” and he recommended forcing a split with the “defeated right wing”—the old leaders would “decide whether they want to remain loyal to the Congress, or leave it.”76 The moderates resigned en masse from the Working Committee and refused to cooperate with Bose except on their own terms.77 Narayan, speaking on behalf of the CSP, could do little more than express “shock” at the resignations, which “sought to knock the bottom out” of the unity that the united front strove to achieve. Narayan backtracked from his previously expressed intentions to wean the rank and file away from the Congress’s bourgeois leaders. He maintained that It is the height of illogic to contend, on the one hand, that the Congress represents all sections, classes, communities and interests and, on the other, to demand that only one group of Congressmen should decide its policies. It is natural that the decisions of such a wide national organization should represent a compromise between all the multifarious interests which make it. …. Thus every vital decision of the Congress has represented a compromise. He proposed that the Congress must act in a unified manner and in close collaboration with organizations outside the Congress “which may have objectives in common” with it.78 With the country apparently on the verge of direct action, unity was essential and every step should be taken to secure it, to strengthen the struggle, to achieve the goal. At this critical moment, the CSP balanced between incompatible goals of national unity and the united front. Narayan and the communists within the CSP wanted to align the party with this so-called Left Bloc, thereby supplanting Gandhi and his colleagues. Leading socialists, including Masani, Meherally, Patwardhan, Lohia and Mehta, objected to openly allying against Gandhi; they preferred a middle ground—not siding with either faction and “acting as a cementing element between the Gandhian majority in the Congress and the Congress President.” Masani observed that if the CSP sided with Bose, the Gandhians would be driven out of the Congress with the “unthinkable proposition” that the entire nationalist movement would be delivered to the communists and Bose. He also surmised that if the CSP supported the moderates, Bose would be forced out of the Congress. Narayan was unprepared to divide the Congress in any manner, and proved reluctant to antagonize the communists as he still remained an advocate of “the concept of the ‘Left bloc of progressive forces.’”79

184  “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance” In the midst of heated debate about the Pant Resolution at the Tripuri session, Narayan presented the CSP position: It vowed to remain strictly neutral. He declared that although the CSP supported Bose’s candidacy for president, “the election was not between the Leftists and the Rightists,” and the party desired to avoid any such rift-causing controversy now. Narayan stated that in the ideological tussle between Left and Right, the CSP “has made it clear that it has no intention of taking sides.” He declared that for the sake of unity, the Working Committee must be “formed and should function as per the wishes and directions of Mahatmaji.”80 The following week, Narayan published an explanation designed to abolish the confusion about the party’s abstention. He cited the “need and importance of unity in our ranks,” and he declared that socialists avoided driving Gandhi and the moderates out of the Congress. He explained that socialists did not oppose the Pant Resolution because they agreed that “it was in the interest of the Congress and the national movement as a whole that the Working Committee should command Gandhiji’s implicit confidence.” Conversely, they did not support the resolution “because we were unable to accept all its ideological implications.” Unable to support or oppose the Pant Resolution, socialists opted for neutrality and for unity.81 Immediately after the session, socialist leaders presented a lengthy justification for neutrality. They related that socialists sought to broker a deal between Bose and the Working Committee members. They explained that the Pant Resolution was a consequence of ministers’ pressure on Working Committee members to resolve the presidential impasse. They narrated that socialists accepted the resolution’s confirmation of long-standing Congress principles, but rejected the portions that sanctioned past Working Committee conduct and required Gandhi’s approval for Working Committee membership. They recalled that communists agreed with this attitude. They proposed amendments, which diluted the antagonistic language of the resolution and all of which were rejected. They explained that, having exhausted all compromises, the CSP vowed to abstain from voting. They insisted that communists also agreed to remain neutral, but mischievously betrayed this agreement: At the last moment, however, they somehow changed their mind and decided to oppose the resolution, thus for the first time in the Session creating a breach in the unity in action which had been maintained till then. Finally, socialists declared that the Pant Resolution did not, in fact, denote a victory of Right over Left, but rather demonstrated “the victory of the principle of joint front for which the C.S.P. has always stood over fractiousness on both sides.”82 Masani disputed charges that socialist neutrality equaled “‘vacillation’, ‘cowardice’ and even ‘betrayal’.” He criticized communist assertions that the

“Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”  185 CSP’s stand regarding the Pant Resolution revealed “the logical outcome of its policy of vacillation” or its “policy of drift, bargain and compromise.” He maintained that socialists only voted for Bose “as one whom the entire Congress should select in preference to the other candidate.” Masani observed that, contrarily, communists were among the vanguard calling for Bose’s reelection. He recalled that although socialists attempted to mediate the crisis, neither group proved willing to bridge the distance separating them, especially since the ministerial faction sought “a solution based on trial of strength.” Masani explained that, unable to mediate, socialist leaders’ opinion “now swung overwhelmingly for abstention.” Neutrality, then, freed the CSP from a Left bloc based solely on the notion of alternative leadership.83 Masani criticized communists for their inconsistent conduct during the Tripuri session. He revealed that communists initially agreed to the CSP policy of neutrality. He recalled how “at the last moment, on the floor of the house, we were informed that the Communists had reversed their decision and decided to move amendments and oppose the resolution.” Defending the socialist line, Masani maintained, We at least did not shout ourselves hoarse over Subhas Babu’s re-­election and then develop cold feet, we did not go all out for a Left bloc and then, when we saw how it functioned at Tripuri, draw back in pained surprise at the ‘disruptive and opportunistic moves’ … of our Left allies; … we did not decide early in the morning to abstain from the vote in the plenary session and then, when the debate started, move amendments and vote against the resolution. Masani declared that at Tripuri, socialists could only be faulted for waiting “too long to gauge the solution.” He claimed that by failing to recognize that the Pant Resolution was, in fact, a middle ground “and a return, though grudgingly made, to joint working,” socialists were guilty of accentuating the growing factionalism within the Congress.84 Given an opportunity to seize control of the Congress leadership, to wean the rank and file away from the bourgeoisie, to eject the moderates and constitutionalists from the nationalist movement, socialists cringed at the implications. They preferred postponing destruction of the Congress’s bourgeois orientation for the sake of unity. Communists bitterly described socialist neutrality at the critical moment as “a victory for ‘Masani and Company’ because everyone knew that the Gandhians could out-vote Subhas and the communists if only the Congress Socialist Party abstained.”85 At Tripuri, socialists revised the purpose of the united front. They declared that communists, Royists and Bose’s supporters misunderstood the situation: These comrades believed that the C.S.P. was formed to ‘capture’ the Congress and hence, were impatient to drive home the advantage gained by

186  “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance” Subhas Babu’s re-election. They forgot that the Party had always stood for carrying the entire Congress (i.e., to as great an extent as possible) with it and not to run away with its organization. They clung to the outworn conception of alternative leadership and failed to realise that the stage has arrived where the Congress could survive only through composite leadership that was increasingly becoming complementary. Socialists related that communists’ “distressing display of indiscipline” at Tripuri revealed a critical situation. Unity, they now proposed, could only be achieved “by ruthlessly turning away from adventurism, by standing up against ultra-Leftism and pulverizing the mistaken, if not mischievous, theory of incompatibility.”86 Socialist leaders immediately received complaints about the party’s stance at the Tripuri session. One public statement observed that the Pant Resolution amounted to distracting anti-imperialist forces from “launching a counter-offensive” against British imperialism. It criticized socialist leaders for sacrificing “our forward program of action” for the sake of a mediocre sense of national unity. According to this statement, socialist leaders overlooked the basic issue that while neutrality expressed opposition to alternative leadership and to the Pant Resolution, “the Royists and Subhasites were vehemently opposed to Pant-resolution.” Without full Left unity, neutrality could only be inappropriate because it disrupted Left unity. The statement insisted that socialist leaders should have urged “the entire left to become Neutral” and, failing this maneuver, should have openly opposed the Pant Resolution.87 The statement also observed that neutrality “has given rise to internal crisis in the CSP.” The rank and file responded with outrage. Such discontent, the statement suggested, remained symptomatic of “a contradiction between the ideological foundation of the CSP and its organizational position”—­ ideologically, it was a party of the proletariat, but organizationally, it remained an expression of Left unity. According to this document, the solution meant democratizing the CSP, resuscitating links between party leaders and the rank and file and establishing socialist unity. It insisted that only through Left unity could the CSP seize advantage of the Congress’s National Demand and lead the country in a meaningful direct action campaign.88 In the Punjab, the CSP rank and file simmered with bitterness directed toward socialist leaders. B.P.I. Bodi and Munshi Ahmed Din described a situation in which “the vacillating leadership, has by its wrong tactics seriously injured” the CSP. Mubarak Sagher observed “a tense resentment in the whole rank and file of the CSP against the CSP High Command.”89 Socialists in Central Provinces expressed contempt for the National Executive’s post-Tripuri policy, dubbing it “one of hesitation, suspicion and want of determination.” They maintained that, due to such “weak and indecisive policy the C.S.P. failed to play its proper role for which in the main the Party had come into existence.” Furthermore, they deplored the National

“Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”  187 Executive’s tendency whereby “decisions affecting vital National issues should be taken by a few at the top and the Party be committed in advance to policies which normally and as a matter of principle demand consideration and decision of the whole Party.” Socialist leadership also displayed preferential treatment regarding such heterodoxies within the party: The Committee views with grave concern the leniency shown to certain important members of the National Executive, who remained neutral in the subjects committee on the Pant Resolution after all their amendments moved by the Party were defeated. This neutrality was in direct contravention of the definite mandate to vote against the Pant Resolution in case the amendments were not accepted by the Right Wingers. If the National Executive could take a lenient view of this neutrality on the part of important members we fail to understand why the same leniency was not shown to those who were definitely for opposing the Pant Resolution as it stood. They concluded that this episode revealed that toleration of “right tendencies and showing no mercy to left tendencies within the Party is positively harmful to the Party solidarity.” They surmised that the party could not continue as “the focal point of attraction and inspiration for all the left forces in the Congress and the country unless and until the C.S.P. clears up its position” and adhered to a consistent policy, based on its founding principles.90 Bengali CSP cadres essentially rebelled against the National Executive. Gunada Majumdar reported to Narayan that prominent communist CSP members had publicly criticized the party’s stance at Tripuri. Bengali protesters called for deposing the CSP’s “fascist leaders” or, adopting a milder tone, merely “changing the CSP leadership and thus saving the Party.” Majumdar described such comments as “treachery and indiscipline,” and he opined that the party could not tolerate “our members to attack the Party with impunity.” Concluding, Majumdar remarked, “We cannot have a strong socialist party without unity in our ranks.”91 The Surma Valley CSP executive committee adopted a resolution insisting that the CSP actively supported Bose’s reelection “on the basis of a forward policy of Congress and upon a plan of action for implementing that forward policy.” It maintained that the Pant Resolution deliberately sidetracked the country from its campaign against imperialism and should also be actively opposed for “definitely curbing the democratic rights of the Congress delegates.” It declared that Surma Valley socialists, having examined Narayan’s explanation for the party’s attitude of neutrality, found the justification “unconvincing” because “the National executive has neither voiced the majority of the Congress Socialist delegates to Tripuri session nor has it considered the urgent task of maintaining left unity inside the Congress.”92 Members of the Dacca District CSP drafted a statement, which they desired to serve as a thesis to “initiate discussion on a scientific line and pave

188  “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance” the way for recouping the damage done.”93 The document opposed neutrality because the rationales for neutrality “appeared to forget the basic principles of socialism and contradict even the Meerut and Faizpur theses.” Furthermore, the Dacca socialists objected to neutrality because, in their opinion, the Pant Resolution “was inspired by no desire for the United Front, in the name of which the Socialist Party adopted neutrality”: On the contrary, it disapproved of United leadership, as Mr. Rajagopalachari made it clear, at Tripuri and after Tripuri, and, as in effect it is going to prove now, the resolution contemplated no compromise between ‘incompatible groups’. The very attitude of the Old Guards on the resolution betrayed that they had not given up their ‘We or they’ stand, their non-co-operative tactics as exemplified by their resignation. Dacca socialists then inquired, “What exactly is the value of that United Front in which a partner make all the others yield to his voice of un-reason, and of undemocratic avowals, under the threat of non-co-operation?” They declared that the CSP “cannot but fight such veiled attack on the United Front.”94 Collectively, these complaints revealed the ways in which heterogeneity sponsored fragmentation in a united front bereft of its central reason for existence. Many of the long-standing points of discrepancy—Left unity, Left consolidation, reactionary leftist leaders—emerged in the assorted volleys fired at socialist leaders in the wake of Tripuri. Complaints about undemocratic practices referenced issues emerging from the urge to achieve homogeneity as did charges of favoritism for moderate socialists among the party leadership. Condemnation of drift was a consequence of the party’s inability to disrupt constitutionalist tendencies within the Congress, and, according to the critics, the Pant Resolution epitomized parliamentarianism and reformism. The Tripuri episode revealed an identity crisis in which communists—whose membership was scarcely tolerated within the CSP— challenged a reformist socialist leadership that sought to accommodate the Congress’s arch-constitutionalists. More directly, Bose’s reelection and CSP neutrality at Tripuri illustrated a certain want of confidence among socialist leaders, which promoted drift and hesitation regarding united front work. Socialists who campaigned on behalf of Bose as a radical candidate proved unwilling to break with Congress leaders who refused to permit Bose to serve as president. At this moment, socialist leaders sacrificed Left unity for the possibility of a national united front. They chose transformation of the Congress from within—a top-down united front—while tending to abandon the more general united front, comprised of elements within and external to the Congress. After Tripuri, the united front lost its relevance. Ironically, Narayan depicted socialist actions at Tripuri as a paragon of Left consolidation and, equally important, national unity: Clearly forces were at work in the Congress which were working for chaos in the name of “leftism” and these would have been strengthened

“Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”  189 if we yet opposed the resolution. We felt more strongly the need for unity and the necessity of Gandhiji in playing his due and unique role in the Congress. Narayan suggested that socialist neutrality effectively combated the forces of disruption. He surmised that the Tripuri Congress amounted to a new level of Left unity: “Throughout the session of the Congress but for one exception the Socialists and Communists acted together, thus establishing for the first time Socialist unity in practice.” Additionally, in a remarkable trick of self-delusion, Narayan accepted the status quo as the norm, noting that the Congress “has been functioning on the basis of certain fundamental policies,” that the CSP had been working within that framework and that Congress policies “have so far been accepted by us and therefore they create no new fetters for us.”95 Masani added that neutrality was a compromise between two sides that could not reconcile their views, and he observed that the compromise was necessary to preserve Left unity: “If each side had stuck to its own position, it would have meant a parting of ways and two socialist parties would have come into existence.”96 Considering events in hindsight, Narayan simply defended socialist neutrality by observing that socialists always followed “the principle of composite leadership” among socialists and non-socialists; such heterogeneity reinforced national unity.97 Masani privately commented to Narayan about Tirpuri and about Bose’s unsuccessful challenge to the entrenched leadership. He suggested that diverse support for Bose’s candidacy drew generally from the concept of Left unity, but he complained that this impulse was inspired by the Roy Group and communists who desired to generate Left unity, in which the CSP was but one member of a diverse bloc of leftist elements in the Congress. He remarked that many socialists “felt far from enthusiastic” about Bose’s would-be leftist takeover. He admitted that those harboring such suspicions lacked “the guts to come out openly against the move” and were unwilling to oppose the will of the majority of socialists who supported Bose as a leftist candidate. According to Masani, the path toward an amorphous Left consolidation was reinforced by developments at Tripuri, where socialists “found ourselves in the toils of this idea of holding with the rest of the ‘left.’” At that moment, CSP leaders were obliged to choose between splitting the Congress or unity; Masani recalled that he and several other members of the national executive recommended supporting the Pant Resolution, but were overruled in favor of the party’s neutrality regarding the issue.98 Socialist neutrality meant that Bose failed to command majority support in the Congress and was unable to form a Working Committee that fulfilled the requirements outlined by the Pant Resolution. Unable to solve the predicament, Bose concluded that the only solution was to resign as president.99 By supporting Bose’s candidacy, socialists took a significant step toward weaning the Congress away from its bourgeois and reformist leadership. By failing to back him at the critical hour, socialists abdicated the initiative to the moderate Congress leadership.

190  “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance” *** The CSP national executive met at Bombay in June 1939. At this meeting, “practically every member, excepting those who belonged to the Communist Party expressed the view that it was high time to check the drift and stop internal disruption.”100 Masani, Lohia, Patwardhan and Mehta threatened to resign in protest of communist infiltration and of policies, which were permitted as a consequence of “an obsessional longing for unity.” The four socialists observed that “the Party has developed close collaboration with the communists”: so close that, in fact, that the CSP’s “initiative is no longer independent.” They protested that the CSP “was faced with the threat of being swallowed up” because it was “less closely organized and much poorer” than the CPI. Their resignation, then, was designed to enable select socialists “to follow their natural bent” of closer affiliation with the CPI.101 Masani, Lohia, Patwardhan and Mehta expressed their frustration with the CSP’s drift, with the stalled united front and with the CSP’s inability to coax the Congress into a direct confrontation with British imperialism. Nevertheless, Narayan still tentatively clung to the alluring notion of Left unity. Lohia, Patwardhan and Mehta were coaxed into withdrawing their resignations, but Masani remained convinced that he had to “step aside from party politics.” Lohia briefly attempted to persuade Masani to reconsider, insisting that the CSP “must revive on proper lines or else the Left will be thoroughly disrupted.”102 Lohia and his socialist comrades failed to realize that Left unity was no longer practicable; divergent viewpoints crystallized differences between the CSP and CPI. The CSP executive was prepared to issue a ban against the CPI and to expel “all communists and others who belonged to any other party.” After a lively debate, the final decision was left to Narayan, as CSP General Secretary. Once again, he proved reluctant to precipitate a crisis that might fragment Left unity. Narayan recalled, I gave a sort of compromised decision. I fully accepted the ideal of a homogeneous Congress Socialist Party, but advised that communists who were already members of the Party should not be expelled, as that would lead to much bitterness and mutual destruction. Narayan’s compromise amounted to continued toleration of communists within the CSP, but their activities would be checked by retaining “control of the Party in the hands of genuine members.” Deemed a corrective, the decision only complicated the situation by “not making a complete break from the policy that had led the Party into such a morass.”103 Although the CSP–CPI split after Tripuri further antagonized the factions, some elements of the united front continued anemically. Most significantly, Narayan clung tenaciously to the notion of consolidation with communists and Bose’s Forward Bloc as an avenue for pursuing united

“Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”  191 104

front aims. Narayan also collaborated with P.C. Joshi in a series of attempted united-front-from-above initiatives, designed to patch over disintegrating Left unity. They published an appeal to legalize the CPI, which fit with the Congress’s demand for increased civil liberties. They recommended a day of protest against the ban on the CPI and an opportunity to declare the nation’s support for increased civil liberties. They proposed holding meetings and demonstrations to demand legalization of the CPI.105 The following year, the duo issued another statement, proposing a celebration of “Communist Party Day”—a demand for “the right of organization.” In this instance, they claimed that legalization “would be an asset to the anti-imperialist movement,” and they appealed to “every Indian who cares for freedom of opinion and association” to celebrate the day.106 In another instance, Narayan and Joshi publicly appealed for working class solidarity. They proposed undertaking activities to generate further unity between the labor movement and the Congress, urging workers to undertake “greater efforts in participating in all national political demonstrations under the Congress.” They predicted that enhanced Congress–labor unity would enable the working class “to play its right role as the builder and initiator of the united front of the people in the coming struggle against imperialism.” The statement included an appeal to celebrate May Day with demonstrations protesting against reactionary developments in India and abroad, stifling “disruption from the Right,” containing constitutionalism and overcoming “drift and avoidance of nationwide mass struggle.” Narayan and Joshi recommended that only through “all round unity” could the Congress fulfill the National Demand by preparing the country for the upcoming struggle. May Day 1939 would be a national demonstration of solidarity.107 Narayan and Joshi carried this limited, high-level unity into the issues surrounding Bose’s resignation from the Congress presidency. In April 1939, they released a statement that proposed postponing the upcoming AICC meeting until Gandhi was available to mediate between Bose and his opponents. They recommended forming a “composite committee symbolizing the united leadership.” Unity, they insisted, was “doubly imperative,” given the national and international situation, best enabling the country “to strike at the root of Imperialism in India and to prepare for a nationwide struggle.”108 Regardless of such limited cooperation, after Tripuri, socialist rank and file rebelled against an apparently wavering leadership. In such conditions, united-front-from-below could not be pursued. Consequently, all that remained were select high-level points of compromise. However, although socialist and communist leaders might have always been willing to reach accommodations on behalf of their parties, the general membership remained irresolutely hostile and suspicious. Tripuri inaugurated a period of stagnation for the united front, one in which collaboration regarding very precise common goals could still be momentarily achieved, but it was equally a moment after which Left unity, as the practical realization of united front, became a remote memory and an unfulfilled ideal.

192  “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”

Notes 1 Masani, Communist Party of India, 71. 2 “The Problems of Unity,” Congress Socialist (9 April 1938). 3 Masani, Bliss Was It, 128–29. 4 Masani, Bliss Was It, 129. 5 Masani, Bliss Was It, 130. 6 Masani, Bliss Was It, 130. 7 “Resolutions of the Lahore Conference,” Congress Socialist (23 April 1938). 8 Lahore Conference resolution, “Federation,” 13 April 1938, Brahmanand Papers 9/1940. 9 Lahore Conference resolution, “Congress Ministries,” 13 April 1938, Brahmanand Papers 9/1940. 10 Lahore Conference resolution, “Socialist Unity,” 13 April 1938, Brahmanand Papers 9/1940. 11 “We are the Pioneers of Unity,” Congress Socialist (23 April 1938). 12 “Lahore Calling!,” Congress Socialist (23 April 1938). 13 “AICSP Foreign News-Letter” (1 May 1938), Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 3/1935–52. 14 Masani, Bliss Was It, 130–31. 15 Masani, Communist Party of India, 71. 16 “Annual Conference of the C.S.P.,” Congress Socialist (23 April 1938). 17 “Resolutions of the Lahore Conference,” Congress Socialist (23 April 1938). 18 Masani, Bliss Was It, 131. 19 Masani, Communist Party of India, 71. 20 Sundarayya interview (accessed 24 June 2013). 21 Masani, Bliss Was It, 135. 22 “The Russian Trials,” Congress Socialist (7 May 1938). 23 See, for example, “A People’s Front?,” Congress Socialist (5 September 1936). 24 “AICSP Foreign News-Letter” (1 May 1938), Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 3/1935–52. 25 Order against Satyavati Devi, 18 November 1937, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 3/1935–52. Satyavati Devi was a member of the CSP National Executive and a significant figure of the Delhi CSP. 26 “AICSP Foreign News-Letter,” [no date, after July 1938] Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 3/1935–52. 27 “The Congress in Office,” Congress Socialist (14 August 1937). 28 “The Week,” Congress Socialist (17 July 1937). 29 “The Fire is Aflame But—” Congress Socialist (31 July 1937). Emphasis is original. 30 “The Week,” Congress Socialist (7 August 1937). 31 “Uneven Progress,” Congress Socialist (7 August 1937). 32 “The Week,” Congress Socialist (12 September 1937). 33 “The Week,” Congress Socialist (9 October 1937). 34 “The Week,” Congress Socialist (16 October 1937). 35 “Not Out to Fight Government,” Congress Socialist (16 October 1937). 36 “Calcutta Meeting of Crucial Significance,” Congress Socialist (23 October 1937). 37 “By Law Established,” Congress Socialist (23 October 1937). Emphasis is original. 38 AICC resolution, “Ratification of Working Committee Resolution on Office Acceptance,” 31 October 1937, AICC Papers 31/1936. 39 AICC resolution, “Implementing of Congress Programme by Congress Ministries,” 31 October 1937, AICC Papers 31/1936. 40 “Congress Week in Perspective,” Congress Socialist (6 November 1937). 41 CWC resolution, “Implementation of Congress Programme by Congress Ministries,” 1 November 1937, AICC Papers 31/1936.

“Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance”  193 42 “Congress Week in Perspective,” Congress Socialist (6 November 1937). 43 The C.S.P. Reviews Record of Ministries,” Congress Socialist (13 November 1937). 44 “Govern!,” Congress Socialist (20 November 1937). Emphasis is original. 45 “Cold Comfort,” Congress Socialist (15 January 1938). 46 Haripura Congress resolution, “Ministerial Resignations in UP & Bihar,” 21 February 1938, AICC Papers 31/1936. 47 Haripura Congress resolution, “Ministerial Resignations in UP & Bihar,” 21 February 1938, AICC Papers 31/1936. The Kakori prisoners were convicted in 1925 of terrorist conspiracy. The first group of these revolutionaries was released in August 1937. 48 “Lessons of Haripura,” Congress Socialist (26 February 1938). 49 “Lessons of Haripura,” Congress Socialist (26 February 1938). 50 Punjab CSP “Resolution No. 1,” [no date], Brahamanand Papers 6/1937–39. 51 Punjab CSP “Resolution No. 2,” [no date], Brahamanand Papers 6/1937–39. 52 Punjab CSP “Resolution No. 3,” [no date], Brahamanand Papers 6/1937–39. 53 Punjab CSP “Resolution No. 4,” [no date], Brahamanand Papers 6/1937–39. 54 Punjab CSP “Resolution No. 2,” [no date], Brahamanand Papers 6/1937–39. 55 Narayan to Nehru, 23 November 1938, Jawaharlal Nehru Papers, Correspondence vol. 37. 56 Narayan to Nehru, 23 November 1938, Jawaharlal Nehru Papers, Correspondence vol. 37. 57 Nehru to Narayan, 2 August 1938, JPSW, vol. 2, 295. 58 “On Congress and the Constitution, Fascism and Communism,” 24 January 1938, NCW, vol. 9, 1–3. 59 Presidential address, Haripura Congress, 19 February 1938, NCW, vol. 9, 3–30. 60 Statement, 21 January 1939, NCW, vol. 9, 67. 61 Statement, 25 January 1939, NCW, vol. 9, 72. 62 Statement, 27 January 1939, NCW, vol. 9, 83. 63 Statement 4 February 1939, NCW, vol. 9, 89–90. 64 “Tasks Before Tripuri,” Congress Socialist (19 February 1939). 65 “Undivided Loyalty,” Congress Socialist (26 February 1939). 66 “No Left Bloc,” Congress Socialist (26 February 1939). 67 “Britain Cannot Face Conflict,” Congress Socialist (19 March 1939). 68 “The Tripuri Tangle,” Congress Socialist (12 March 1939). 69 Tripuri Congress resolution, “National Demand,” 12 March 1939, AICC Papers G-89.1939. 70 Speech at Tripuri Congress, 11 March 1939, AICC Papers G-25/1939. 71 Speech at Tripuri Congress, 11 March 1939, AICC Papers, G-25/1939. 72 Tripuri Congress resolution, “Reaffirmation of Congress Policy,” 12 March 1939, AICC Papers G-89/1939. 73 Masani, Bliss Was It, 145. 74 “Amendment to G.B. Pant’s Resolution at Subjects Committee Meeting,” Hindustan Times (10 March 1939), JPSW, vol. 2, 238. 75 Speech at Tripuri Congress, 9 March 1939, AICC Papers G-25/1939. 76 Roy to Bose, 1 February 1939, NCW, vol. 9, 280–81. Emphasis is original. 77 Masani, Bliss Was It, 144. 78 “Don’t Change Basis of Congress,” Congress Socialist (5 March 1939). 79 Masani, Bliss Was It, 144–45. 80 Speech at Tripuri Congress, 12 March 1939, AICC Papers G-25/1939. 81 “Statement on the Congress Socialist Party’s Neutrality on G.B. Pant’s Resolution,” Searchlight (18 March 1939). 82 “Tripuri Preserves Congress Unity,” Congress Socialist (19 March 1939). 83 “Turning Success Into Defeat,” Congress Socialist (26 March 1939). 84 “Turning Success Into Defeat,” Congress Socialist (26 March 1939). 85 Masani, Bliss Was It, 145.

194  “Unity in action” and the “fighting alliance” 86 “On Rails of Struggle,” Congress Socialist (19 March 1939). 87 Statement, 17 March 1939, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 10/1936–47. 88 Statement, 17 March 1939, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 10/1936–47. 89 Mubarak Sagher to Narayan, 17 March 1939, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 25/1937–39. 90 Resolutions, CP & Berar Provincial CSP [1939], Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 14/1935–37. 91 Gunada Majumdar to Narayan, 20 March 1939, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 25/1937–39. 92 Resolution passed by the Surma Valley Congress Socialist Party, 30 March 1939, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 25/1937–39. 93 Kalipada Gangopadhyay to Narayan, 31 March 1939, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 25/1937–39. 94 Thesis statement by Dacca District CSP, 31 March 1939, Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 25/1937–39. 95 “Statement on the Congress Socialist Party’s Neutrality on G.B. Pant’s Resolution,” Searchlight (18 March 1939). 96 Masani, Bliss Was It, 146. 97 Narayan, “Gandhiji’s Leadership and the C.S.P.,” CSP, 326. Interestingly enough, Girja Shankar adopts Narayan’s phrase “composite leadership” to describe a phase in CSP relations with the Congress. Shankar separates this collaborative phase from the strategy of “alternative programme” in which socialists attempted to supplant the Congress’s bourgeois leadership. Shankar, Socalist Trends, viii–ix, 91, 103–26. 98 Masani, Bliss Was It, 149–50. 99 Statement at AICC meeting, 29 April 1939, NCW, vol. 9, 107–9. 100 Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 245. 101 Masani, Bliss Was It, 147. 102 Masani, Bliss Was It, 154. 103 Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 245. 104 Masani, Bliss Was It, 146. 105 “Legalisation of the C.P,” Congress Socialist (12 March 1938). 106 “Legalise C.P.I.,” Congress Socialist (19 March 1939). 107 “On Threshold of Struggle,” Congress Socialist (30 April 1939). 108 “Joint Statement by Jayaprakash Narayan and P.C. Joshi on the formation of Congress Working Committee,” 18 April 1939, JPSW, vol. 2, 304–5. Gandhi, at that moment, was involved in a limited satyagraha campaign in Rajkot.

7 Twilight of the united front

Despite the accelerating disintegration of Left unity, leading socialists and communists compulsively continued to search for causes that might unite Left forces under the banner of the united front. As war clouds gathered, threatening a global conflagration, new attempts to achieve meaningful Left unity appeared along several fronts. These fitful attempts at achieving the united front failed in part due to the irreconcilable differences between socialists and communists. Subhas Chandra Bose offered himself as a viable candidate, able to consolidate the country’s leftist elements. United front partners found that they could not agree about how to proceed regarding Bose’s proposals. More significantly for united front architects, opposition to war became a rallying point, with socialists and communists united against India’s participation in an imperialist war. Having successfully incorporated anti-war perspectives into Congress programs, united front partners sought to preserve the principles inherent to war resistance. Although they experienced little difficulty sustaining anti-war attitudes established at Lucknow and reiterated at Faizpur, by 1939, socialists and communists grew increasingly concerned that the gathering war clouds would provide the Congress’s bourgeois leaders with an opportunity to accommodate imperialism. The beginning of the European war bred strident demands from united front partners to non-­ cooperate against imperialist war. As Congress leaders began maneuvering the organization toward qualified support for the British war effort, socialists and communists, sensing united front principles once again being betrayed by bourgeois vacillation, more vigorously campaigned to resist and obstruct Indian participation in the war. Nevertheless, last-ditch efforts to construct the united front could not be achieved because the rationale for Left unity no longer existed. While common cause could be found in anti-war protests, opposition to war was but a small portion of the earlier, more comprehensive intentions behind forming the united front. United front advocates now sought qualified unity—­ limited cooperation in a fighting alliance regarding select activities rather than ideological homogenization that sought to displace the country’s bourgeois national leadership. The denouement of the united front was marked

196  Twilight of the united front by failure because the original foundations for unity no longer existed or were no longer viable nor valid. Residual bitterness from Tripuri poisoned the fighting alliance. Although all parties expressed the need for Left unity, few attempted to pursue a common united front agenda, settling instead for relatively incompatible interpretations of united front programs. Socialists remained wedded to the concept of Congress-as-united-front and sought to employ united front programs to curb Congress leaders’ bourgeois tendencies. Communists resorted to developing a united front external to the Congress as an overt challenge to bourgeois domination. Even regarding opposition to imperialist war, socialists and communists adopted differing and essentially incompatible perspectives. After the Tripuri session, socialists and communists no longer pursued a grand scheme for transforming the Congress into an authentic anti-­ imperialist movement nor for unifying the country’s anti-imperialist forces through Marxist ideology. At this moment, united front advocates merely responded to changing circumstances. They now sought isolated opportunities for collaboration rather than cooperatively advancing forward with purpose toward direct action. Drifting, united front advocates lost the initiative, and as initiative passed beyond their control, the united front became increasingly deprived of its rationale.

Forward Bloc and Left unity Limited, top-level accommodations between the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) and Communist Party of India (CPI) became a revised form of united front, one in which varied parties loosely cooperated with each other regarding common issues, but remained fully independent. The fighting alliance distinctly revised previous notions of the united front in which collaborating partners were more interdependent than independent. Bose, although maneuvered out of the Congress presidency, recognized the moment as an opportunity to assume the leadership of Indian Leftism by supplanting Jawaharlal Nehru as the chief radical of the Congress and by rallying leftist forces under a single banner and leader. Bose understood that the CSP functioned as a party within the Congress, seeking to transform the latter into the socialist version of the united front. He also certainly noticed that the majority of Congress delegates were dissatisfied with the Congress’s apparent drift and were inspired, generally, by radical sentiments. He proposed harnessing this widespread attitude, forging a new Left unity in the country, and he formed the Forward Bloc as an umbrella organization to express this new ideal of Left unity. Bose insisted that a new direction was required. He depicted the formation of the CSP as “a big Left Wing revolt” against Gandhism and against the Congress’s “swing towards parliamentarianism.” He maintained that events throughout 1938 and 1939 clearly indicated that the Congress’s right

Twilight of the united front  197 wing leaders had adopted an attitude of “no compromise with the Leftists.” Bose alleged that Congress leaders “would not hesitate to circumvent” the Congress’s resolution against war, “should they find it necessary or convenient to do so.” He insisted that their “vacillating and compromising attitude” toward the parliamentary program and toward the Congress’s response to war “presaged a breach between them and the Leftists.” In a direct appeal to socialists and communists, Bose vowed to combat constitutionalism: Congress Ministries in the provinces were formed in 1937 and neo-­ Constitutionalism reared its head in a menacing form within the Congress in 1938. Ever since then, the main task of Leftism has been to fight this ‘Frankenstein’ created by the Congress itself. How to stem this drift towards Constitutionalism, how to create afresh a revolutionary mentality, how to face the war-crisis in a bold and adequate manner, how to bring the Congress back to the path of uncompromising National Struggle and how ultimately to establish Leftist ascendency in the Congress—­these have been the main problems of the Leftists since 1938. Bose complained that the urge to reinvigorate direct action had been suppressed by parliamentarians who “have had a taste of power” and who were “anxious to monopolize it for themselves.” This outlook, he claimed, heightened the right wing’s compulsion to “beat down all opposition within the Congress,” thereby retaining control.1 Bose maintained that the solution to India’s problems could be found in consolidating the country’s leftist parties, and he proclaimed that the Forward Bloc intended to achieve this goal. He proposed that all Left parties might join the Bloc “while retaining their separate identity.” He anticipated that the Forward Bloc would “reconvert the Congress into a revolutionary organization and bring it back to the path of national struggle.”2 Bose claimed that the Forward Bloc was analogous to Gandhism in the Congress and could hypothetically be perceived as “the ‘anti-thesis’ of the latter.” Whereas Gandhism anticipated “an ultimate compromise” with imperialism, the Bloc represented unmitigated anti-imperialism. Whereas Gandhism was supported by vested interests, the Bloc sought mass support for direct action. Although Gandhism advocated for national unity, Bose dismissed unity that sacrificed principles or convictions as “worthless,” the foundations for “inaction,” amounting to “nothing but weakness and cowardice.” Bose insisted that Left unity was desirable and, indeed, necessary to overcome the deeply entrenched status quo, legitimizing the reason for forming the Forward Bloc.3 Commentary about the formation of the Forward Bloc expressed dissatisfaction with both socialist and communist leaders. The formation of the Forward Bloc, then, afforded an opportunity among the “many in the Congress who are neither Socialists nor Communists but who have no faith in the Gandhian leadership and programme.” Radicals who did not belong to

198  Twilight of the united front the CSP or CPI remained without any means “to act in an organised manner and effectively unless we have a Party of our own.” Organizers intended for the bloc to challenge the CSP for leadership of Congress radicals, appropriating portions of the united front agenda and organizing provincial and district committees “on the same lines as the C.S.P.”4 Forward Bloc founders declared that this new radical party responded to the inability of socialists and communists to assimilate all the country’s radical elements into a single ideological force. For those individuals not drawn into the CSP or CPI, Tripuri “has meant the total defeat of the Left.” Observing that the sum of radical activity amounted to an “existing policy of drift,” these disappointed radicals expected that Bose’s election at Tripuri “would open a new chapter of advance and would mark the end of the domination of the Right Wing.” Instead, the events that transpired after the election frustrated those hopes due to the apparently timid and vacillating decisions of CSP and CPI leaders.5 The rationale for forming the Forward Bloc remained rooted firmly in the notion of alternative leadership. At the founding meeting, immediately after the Tripuri session, nearly “every speaker spoke strongly against the domination of the Congress by the ‘Patel Clique.’” According to one assessment of this meeting, everyone in attendance agreed that Leftism lacked “bold leadership.” Dissatisfied leftists were allegedly prepared “to follow any leadership that appears to them to be waging a consistent fight against the Right Wing.”6 Lacking clear ideological foundations, the Forward Bloc’s founding principles remained imbued with opportunism and implied a clash of personalities at the apex of the Congress. Beyond merely articulating rhetoric about Left unity, Bose and his immediate Forward Bloc supporters attempted to frame a cogent, point-bypoint plan for achieving unity. The target of Forward Bloc activity was, of course, the Congress, intending to enable the nationalist campaign to adopt the Forward Bloc program. Communalism and corruption were to be defeated. The Congress would seek to liberate the Indian people from the “influence of vested interests and from the domination of the Congress Ministries” by emphasizing democratic practices within the Congress and by radicalizing and empowering local Congress organizations. The Congress’s parliamentary program would be “implemented more vigorously and with a radical, revolutionary mentality,” which would dilute collaborationist tendencies. The Congress should actively support workers’ and peasants’ struggles for economic emancipation. The Forward Bloc plan also adopted an explicitly united front platform, noting that the Congress should actively cooperate with “other anti-imperialist organizations,” actively intervene in the struggles of the States’ peoples, offer unrelenting hostility to Federation and strive to prevent India’s involuntary participation in an imperialist war. Additionally, this plan insisted, “Steps should be taken from now to prepare the country for an early resumption of the national struggle for complete independence.”7

Twilight of the united front  199 Most non-socialist Congressmen responded to the Forward Bloc with unconcealed antagonism. One unofficial resolution, submitted prior to the June All-India Congress Committee (AICC) session at Bombay, urged a ban against political parties operating within the Congress. This document observed that public pronouncements made by socialists, communists, Royists, members of kisan sabhas and newly minted Forward Bloc adherents “are full of hatred, anger and violence against those who hold Gandhian views.” These ideologues, by their statements and actions, only damaged Congress prestige. Therefore, the proposed resolution insisted that “no party be allowed to exist within the Congress and that no Congress name be allowed to be used by any party.”8 On behalf of the National Executive, Jayaprakash Narayan informed Bose that “members of the C.S.P. were not free to join the ‘Bloc.’” Narayan observed that the CSP would remain “friendly and would co-operate with it where there was agreement in policies.” He also warned that Bose had apparently begun “moving in a manner which will make such friendliness difficult to preserve.”9 Congress Socialist merely announced that CSP members were not permitted to join the Forward Bloc, but that the party’s attitude toward Bose’s group would remain “friendly.”10 An editorial in Congress Socialist criticized the Forward Bloc, noting that Bose had formed the group because its members lacked “confidence in the present High Command of the Congress.” This editorial suggested that Bose “would replace one set of individuals by another in the higher command of the Congress,” noting that such a move “must inevitably lead to disruption and disunity rather than to the radicalisation of the Congress.” It declared that the CSP “stoutly opposed” replacing one leadership clique with another, predicting that such a development would divide the Congress into “warring groups and factions.” Instead of creating factions within the Congress, the editorial recommended that Bose might radicalize the Congress “by joining hands with the Socialists whose emergence and impact have been responsible more than anything else for the rapid transformation that the Congress has undergone in an ideological sense.” The document ended by preaching about unity: “What is needed is not a bloc which may form the basis of a future party, but a programme of immediate united radical action,” which could only appear “when such action has an ideological basis.”11 Initial socialist responses to the formation of the Forward Bloc were neutral or negative. Narayan declared that the CSP “would not oppose it and would co-operate with it to the extent it agreed with its policies.” Narayan defended this ambiguous position by declaring that the CSP opposed “any organisational crystallisation of the Left Wing which would only check its growth and lead to a struggle for power within the Congress.”12 C.K. Narayanswami described the bloc’s formation as “not a happy move,” observing “no fundamental conflict with the present policies and programmes of the Congress.” He suggested that the move threatened to divide the Congress into “two

200  Twilight of the united front antithetical factions,” a situation “fraught with suicidal consequences to the development of the revolutionary struggle.”13 Some CSP members perceived this development as a renewed attempt to achieve Left unity.14 Writing to P.C. Joshi, Swami Sahajanand Saraswati suggested that the country could not “do without some such bloc or platform.” He wrote, “The more I think over it, the more I become convinced that some such thing is essential if we want to achieve our objective.” Saraswati maintained that “if we still hesitate in this most timely opportune and wise move and fail to support Mr. Bose the future of the country is doomed.”15 Joshi deliberately downplayed the ideological significance of the Bloc by reiterating united front principles. He insisted that the group’s leadership presented themselves as leftists for whom “the main issue is the anti-Right struggle before there can be the anti-imperialist struggle.” He declared that the notion of alternative leadership was “disruptive,” noting that the struggle against Rightist leadership must be conducted “not blindly but concretely from issue to issue,” always remembering that the Congress’s entrenched leaders also belonged to the united front. Joshi also suggested that the means of overcoming Rightist maneuvers involved “moving the masses not against the leadership but from issue to issue” and emphasizing the themes of unity and struggle through organizational work among the masses. He declared that leadership changes could occur “only through a real shift among the masses and in the course of struggle.”16 Joshi also criticized the attempt to form a separate leftist party within the Congress that was comprised of all radical elements. He maintained that forming a bloc “must be a voluntary union of parties,” which functioned “by agreement of all the constituents.” He argued for patience, noting that Left unity “can’t be rushed through” without fragmenting radical forces and disrupting anti-imperialist elements.17 Joshi then addressed insights gleaned from the Forward Bloc. He argued that the bloc had been formed due to “genuine Left discontent.” He complained that socialists and communists “have lagged behind in our job” of mobilizing all radical elements with precise political slogans and organizational coherence. He complained that the CSP could have evolved into a mass socialist party but for “the stand-offish sectarian” attitudes and “organisational jealousies” of socialist leaders, which had produced the current situation where socialist leadership was divided along a Left–Right axis and “the rank and file is in revolt against the whole top.” Joshi recommended convening a Conference of Left Parties where “serious consultations may be held and agreement sought to be reached.” Such collaborative endeavors, he surmised, might establish the foundations for practical unity.18 However, Bose’s published letters to Gandhi during the Tripuri crisis aggravated socialist suspicions about the Forward Bloc. Bose blamed CSP neutrality for radicals’ failure to secure a majority during the session, noting that socialist commitment to his plan to commit the Congress to direct action would have meant that “we would have had a majority in the

Twilight of the united front  201 open session.” Bose wrote that the CSP possessed “a small following” with “several provincial branches having revolted against the official leaders, because of what is called their vacillating policy.” He predicted that the “large section of the C.S.P. will move with us in future, in spite of what the top leadership may do.” He also observed that many rank and file socialists were now prepared to abandon the CSP’s “policy of vacillation.”19 Gunada Mazumdar wrote a response to the criticism leveled at the CSP for its attitude toward the Forward Bloc. Mazumdar insisted that the “slogan of a Left Bloc and ‘national unity through left unity’” had found their origins in communist rhetoric throughout the disintegration of the united front. Now, Mazumdar noted, renewed discussion about Left unity tended to highlight the premise that “the main task of leading and organising the struggle for national independence will not be achieved unless the organised ‘Left’ bring in all ‘left’ Congressmen into a common fold, a leftist bloc.” Conversely, Mazumdar maintained that the formation of parties within the Congress violated all united front rationales: The presumption that ‘Left Unity is the basis of national unity and constitutes the one condition of overcoming the capitulatory tendency and preventing a suicidal compromise’ … cuts the very basis of our idea of united national front with the present leaders of and a section of bourgeoisie within the Congress. Furthermore, Mazumdar opposed developing the Left wing as alternative leadership to the Congress’s bourgeois leaders: Either we must believe that the entire so called Right Wing has already gone over to or are earnest for a Capitulation with our enemy or we must think of a united leadership with them in our struggle against Imperialism. According to Mazumdar, Left activity within the Congress should not equal replacing bourgeois leaders, but rather involved developing the united front: working to “build up a really effective anti-imperialist front, to linkup the partial struggles of the workers and peasants with the main political struggle inside the Congress” by consistently emphasizing anti-imperialist programs. The goal was to develop an atmosphere of “uncompromising struggle against Imperialism.”20 Mazumdar then paused to consider the meaning of the phrase, Left unity. He argued that socialists and communists provided the national movement with “the correct perspective and lead”: No amount of provocation deflect them from the right path and goad them to create a division in the national forces. In all spheres we therefore find that it is the Marxists and other unattached socialists who, only can give a proper lead and unify the forces for struggle and action.

202  Twilight of the united front Mazumdar suggested that the socialists and communists who backed the Forward Bloc performed a disservice to the united front. He wrote that any alignment with such unpredictable and undisciplined individuals produced only “undesirable results.” He observed that providing leadership to the anti-­ imperialist struggle explicitly did not entail capturing control of the Congress: If that were not so our efforts to make the working class potentially the most revolutionary class and making them the vanguard of the anti-­ imperialist struggle would be futile and meaningless. A minority has and can lead a struggle and a movement, if it has a clear vision and correct leadership. Mazumdar emphasized that the Forward Bloc sought the capture of the Congress organization, not the radicalization of the movement. Mazumdar insisted that socialists and communists “must refuse to be associated with any such disruptive move.”21 If initial socialist responses to the Forward Bloc were openly antagonistic, general communist impressions of the Forward Bloc remained suspicious, if not hostile. One assessment observed that the bloc’s founders “can hardly be called Leftists” and the “overwhelming majority of them are just disgruntled Rightists,” further describing them as “unprincipled careerists.” Communists expressed concern that the policies of drift pursued by Congress leaders and by united front advocates would generate support for the Forward Bloc if its leaders expressed radical rhetoric, which appealed to the masses and the dissatisfied Congress rank and file. The “chief danger” of such a development, communists cautioned, was that rank and file radicalization would be misused “by a group of careerists and ambitious leaders for their own aggrandizement.” Forward Bloc demagogues, then, would challenge the united front as the platform of anti-imperialism by drawing support from the country’s anti-imperialist elements.22 Communists concluded that the formation of the Forward Bloc was not “the expression of a radical trend in the Congress,” but instead reflected “a device to utilise this trend (by means of Left slogans) for factional purposes.” Communists vowed to avoid association with “Left adventurist slogans” and reiterated the need for Left unity, promising to “work in co-operation with it as far as possible” without disrupting the united front. They insisted that a fighting alliance with the Forward Bloc “must not be considered a substitute for Socialist unity.” Consequently, communists declared their intention, as their “first and foremost consideration,” to pursue the united front with the CSP, noting that any united front with the Forward Bloc “must be on the basis of united Front between us and the C.S.P.”23 Communists suggested that the Forward Bloc’s campaign against constitutionalism and the Congress right wing afforded a potential foundation for united front work. They recalled that Congress leaders had initiated the parliamentary program “simply to wreck the constitution and prepare the

Twilight of the united front  203 country for a fight.” They maintained that opposition to the Congress high command was justified insofar as Congress leaders remained either reluctant or unprepared to launch a struggle against imperialism. Communists declared their intention to seize control from the reactionaries who “are ruling the country today.” They reminded their audiences that “these things cannot continue.”24 Bose’s proposal for Left consolidation meant that communists, socialists and Royists would all submerge their individual party identities into Forward Bloc unity. However, Bose’s Forward Bloc undermined the conceptual necessity for the united front. The Forward Bloc sought to replicate the purpose of the united front and, as such, was deemed unnecessary by socialists and communists. To the leaders of the CSP and CPI, the Forward Bloc appeared, for all intents and purposes, to be another leftist party that further fragmented Left unity, despite its rhetoric about promoting leftist cohesion. In late April 1939, Narayan and P.C. Joshi formally responded to Bose’s scheme by protesting against “disruption from a section of left in the form of the slogan of ‘alternative leadership.’”25 Narayan then declared that the CSP opposed “any organizational crystallization of the Left Wing which would only check its growth and lead to a struggle for power within the Congress.” He observed that the Forward Bloc’s policies were Congress policies, save where Bose opposed the Working Committee. Consequently, the CSP opposed the formation of the Forward Bloc: The Party thinks it is not wise to divide Congressmen as Congressmen into groups. This might sound queer coming from the C.S.P. But the Party by bringing socialist Congressmen together has not divided Congressmen as such. The CSP sought to advance the cause of socialism in India by pushing Congress policies beyond their bourgeois limitations. Blocs within the Congress, Narayan observed, only divided unity and stalled political initiative. Consequently, Narayan declared that the CSP would not join the Forward Bloc, but would cooperate with it where the two parties were in agreement.26 Narayan and Joshi also issued a statement that dismissed Bose’s notion of Left unity. They observed that the National Demand “remained a dead letter” and that “imperialism and the forces of reaction are on the offensive.” They declared that Congressmen must prepare the country for the upcoming struggle against imperialism and must end the stalemate between left and right wings: Congressmen “must join hands, not in opposition to the others, but in order to give effect” to the National Demand. The Congress, they declared, was the platform for coordinating the activities of conflicting political viewpoints, thereby achieving national unity. Narayan and Joshi complained about “exclusive and sectarian” attempts to achieve unity, labeling the Forward Bloc “an ill conceived attempt” that

204  Twilight of the united front would likely obstruct Left unity or give rise to factional infighting within the Congress. They predicted that a Forward Bloc would not succeed because Left unity within the Congress required “the voluntary co-operation and co-­ordination of all the Left groups, parties and individuals” based on “a common and united programme and policy, jointly discussed and evolved.” Consolidation entailed “embracing and drawing together as wide section of the Congress as possible,” thereby driving the Congress more deliberately toward direct action. Bose’s proposal simply did not fulfill these aims.27 Narayan and Joshi countered with their own proposal for Left unity. They insisted that the first exploratory step for a meaningful Left unity was a conference that represented all of the country’s leftist groups as well as all Congressmen who supported preparation for direct action. This conference, then, would consider the “machinery for Left consolidation” and would chart out common policies and programs. Distancing themselves from Bose’s Forward Bloc proposal, Narayan and Joshi recommended that whatever decisions were reached, the paramount issue remained “maintaining the unity of the Congress” and “achieving a united leadership that would move the entire forces of the nation against imperialism.” Their version of Left unity entailed collaboration among all elements who opposed constitutionalism and drift and who supported direct action and the National Demand. Additionally, their tentative program reiterated the planks of the united front platform: opposition to India’s involvement in war, development of the States’ peoples’ struggle, further collaboration with workers’ and peasants’ organizations and democratization of the Congress. Finally, they proposed that any machinery of Left consolidation could not entail “the formation of a rigid organization or a new party.” The idea was to facilitate cooperation and identify common ground without the slightest intention of limiting the independent initiative of any Left party or group. Consolidation, they concluded, required preventing splits in the Left wing and in the Congress itself—they claimed to support “positive political initiation and action” as opposed to mere opposition to Congress leaders. Consolidation, then, should involve all “pro-struggle forces inside the Congress” regardless of ideological orientation, once again working to transform the Congress into an adequate instrument for advancing the anti-imperialist struggle.28 As socialist leaders began guiding CSP cadres toward more concrete demarcation from the Forward Bloc, top-level socialists wrote about the issue. C.K. Narayanswami declared that the bloc presented “no fundamental conflict with the present policies and programmes of the Congress.” He argued that presenting the situation in terms of “such illusory slogans as ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ consolidation” obfuscated the basic tasks performed by socialists. He claimed that the CSP radicalized the Congress precisely because socialists did not drive Congressmen into watertight ideological compartments. He observed that If opportunistic, compromising and corrupt elements have joined forces with the Old Guard and for the moment seem to have gained a hold over

Twilight of the united front  205 the Congress, we cannot overlook the fact that adventurist and disruptionist forces have sought refuge under radical slogans. Narayanswami suggested that the solution to the present predicament lay in formulating precise programs, thereby developing “the units of struggle” and riveting “national attention on the struggle itself.” “Pressure from below,” he concluded, “if it is strong and determined enough, can never be resisted.”29 Rammanohar Lohia penned an article about ideological divisions within the Congress. He claimed that “Congressmen differ as to when and where direct action may be resorted to and in regard to the frequency of its application,” but everyone agreed that direct action was necessary—especially after the Congress passed its National Demand resolution at the Tripuri session. He argued that the Congress’s major groups remained revolutionary because all “are advancing and the difference among them lies in their type and rate of advance.” He insisted that no single grouping within the Congress remained unwilling to support the actions of any of the other factions—­no group had “become a deadweight on the organisation.” Based on this analysis, Lohia concluded that talk about splitting the Congress could only “produce a stalemate in political life,” with competing factions neutralizing the effectiveness of their opponents, themselves and the entire national movement.30 Socialists, then, resolutely rejected the foundational premises for the Forward Bloc. Nevertheless, Forward Bloc advocates continued their campaign to construct Left unity. One of the Forward Bloc’s founders, K.F. Nariman, wrote to Narayan in June 1939, declaring that the Forward Bloc represented the practical consolidation of the country’s Left elements. Nariman asserted that leftists should hold a conference to discuss mutual aims and cooperative means for preparing the country for struggle. He agreed that “consolidation of Left forces must be based on voluntary co-operation and co-ordination on a common and united programme and policy.”31 Nariman acknowledged to Narayan that the Forward Bloc mailing list included members of the CSP: I am sending circular letters to several members, whose names have been supplied to me. It is possible that some of them may be ‘Socialists’. Please do not misunderstand that I am trying to approach them direct in spite of your executive decision. Nariman disingenuously defended his action, noting that because he did not “know the names of all your members, such mistakes are likely to occur, though inadvertently.” He also asked Narayan to clarify whether the CSP would permit individual socialists to join the Forward Bloc, despite the appearance that the National Executive had issued an injunction against members of the CSP.32

206  Twilight of the united front Nariman undiplomatically outlined a crucial disintegrative aspect of the united front, about which socialist leaders remained very suspicious. Socialists had just experienced events that they described as communist infiltration and fraction work. Nariman, by declaring his intention to recruit from among CSP cadres, implied further fraction work. For socialists, Forward Bloc leaders phrased eloquent slogans about Left unity, but in practice, worked diligently to undermine unity by promoting sectarianism and factionalism. Consequently, the Forward Bloc’s formation encountered suspicious hostility from socialist quarters. Communists found the inability to forge Left unity a disservice to the revolution. An editorial in National Front declared that Left consolidation was the only solution, but lamented leftists’ inability to rally. Communists criticized Bose for adopting “a line of Left Opposition,” which was expressed “as a blind reaction to the disruptive moves of the Right,” but neglected any meaningful attempt to recruit mass support. The editorial declared that Bose’s “oppositional line does not help but harms the cause of the Left.” The article especially condemned socialists’ recent neutrality regarding the leadership crisis and initiatives for establishing newfound Left unity. When the entire Left was attacked by the Right, socialists remained neutral. The article declared that CSP neutrality throughout the current crisis was “the surest way to hand over the Left to ‘Left’ disruption and itself become a Centre party.” The document maintained that neutrality was “not even good Leftism, let alone Socialism.”33 For communists, the solution could be found in Left consolidation. Unity with Left nationalists was necessary to prepare the country for struggle. Leftist drift could only be checked with “a truly socialist lead”: Such initiative can only come from the united action by the Socialists and Communists. We seek unity with you. We desire a single Socialist Party which will end socialist division and crown our joint efforts of to-day. Communists warned that “no effective step is possible” without Left unity. They advocated for aggressive united action as effective “resistance to Right disruption.”34 The apparently senseless and quixotic urge to develop Left unity drove M.R. Masani, Lohia, Achyut Patwardhan and Asoka Mehta to offer their resignations from CSP offices on 29 June 1939. Collectively, they protested against the extent of communist infiltration. But privately, Masani objected to recent and unwholesome expressions of Left unity containing few genuinely Marxist principles. Ironically, he embraced the old communist statement that the CSP was not a Marxist party: In my view, the Congress Socialist Party has ceased to be a party. It has become increasingly a platform for socialist unification from one

Twilight of the united front  207 point of view and socialist squabbling from another…. I think it must be conceded that it has ceased to satisfy many of the essentials which a Marxist socialist party is supposed to possess. Masani cited ongoing admission of communists into the CSP as the cause of this ideological disintegration, noting that enrolling communists in CSP ranks “was bound to disrupt the party unless indeed it led to the complete absorption of the Communist Party in our Party.” He expressed his “very serious doubts” that such absorption would ever happen, contrary to Narayan’s expectations, and he suggested that the CPI tendency to take instructions from the Communist International or the Communist Party of Great Britain precluded the possibility of any merger. Communists’ admission into the CSP only “handed over the rank and file of our Party to communist influence.”35 Because the CSP no longer functioned as a party, Masani suggested that Leftism might yet be saved by reorganizing the CSP. He recommended implementing “a process of differentiation and sifting among those who today are its members,” a homogenizing process to purge the CSP of communists and of those “who are not prepared fully and loyally to accept the basis of the Party as a reorganized Party.” Such reorganization might have derived from the party’s original founding principles in that common viewpoints and ideology might have differentiated socialists from communists. Communist influence in the CSP was too insidious, pervasive and corrosive to be further tolerated: So far as I am concerned, I have fundamental and far-reaching differences with the Communist Party and I can never conceive of working with the Communists in the same political party. If the siren call of unity proved too influential to be resisted, Masani suggested merging with the CPI. He hypothesized that, due to the extent of communist influence, this proposal “would probably find no great difficulty in arriving at terms of merger” with the CPI.36 According to Masani’s recollections, he retired from the CSP because he was frustrated by communists labeling him as an obstacle to Left unity. He maintained that “it is much better that we cease to be such obstructions and allow the dominant tendencies in the Party to follow their natural course.” He resigned because he sympathized only with “the dominant tendency on vital matters” and because his objections to communist influence in the CSP increasingly amounted to “a constant source of irritation and conflict.” He withdrew because he remained unwilling to serve as a leader of a party adhering to policies with which he disagreed.37 Masani blamed Narayan’s “noblest intentions”—the goal of Left unity— for the predicament of Leftism in India: Unity had been flawed from the very beginning. Masani claimed that the blind pursuit of unity blurred distinctions

208  Twilight of the united front between socialists and communists, but he insisted that blurring a boundary, “which undoubtedly existed and which for some of us still exists,” permitted the communists to engage in their intrigues and their campaign of disruption, “which has been the basic policy of the Communist Party from the day our Party was formed to the present day.”38 The united front and Left unity were the cause of Left disunity and communist maneuvers; Masani suggested that the CSP might distance itself from the slogan of unity—he suggested that Left consolidation inside the Congress “always appeared to me to be not only undesirable from the national point of view but also impractical.”39 At the Delhi Socialist Conference in July 1939, Narendra Deva discussed the issue of Left unity. He observed that “confusion has arisen in the ranks of the Congress Socialist Party” and stated that “groups had taken advantage of this confusion and, as a result, the party was passing through a crisis.” Deva admitted that the CSP had “largely lost its character and has become a platform.” He maintained that due to the confusion and crisis, “the Left was weak and divided and at present no section could initiate and lead the struggle single-handed.” He claimed that unity was the key to preparing the country for the struggle, and he offered the CSP’s response to the Pant Resolution as evidence: Their stand of neutrality was the only correct attitude consistent with their policy. Opposition to the Pant resolution, if it had succeeded, would have brought about disunity and they would have been held responsible for it. If there was no unity today in the Congress, Congress Socialists were not to blame.40 Deva’s remarks afforded precise insights into the workings of the united front. It strove to achieve unity, but drew short of splitting the Congress for the sake of unity. The concept of blame paralyzed socialist leaders—they were accused of disrupting national unity, and they froze. They deliberately avoided ousting moderates, parliamentarians and Gandhians because socialists sought to avoid blame for splitting the Congress. Herein lay a crucial paradox of the united front: Socialists desired to prepare the country for direct action to overthrow imperialism, but the only way to achieve this goal was to displace the Congress’s bourgeois leaders. Socialists proved reluctant or unprepared to take this drastic step. Narayan finally began to come around to the notion that the united front was becoming unworkable. In July 1939, he confessed that five years of united front activity had proven futile. The country, he maintained, remained unprepared for launching a direct assault against imperialism: I have no hesitation in saying that the necessary preparation for that struggle has not yet been made. Even the Socialists have organized neither the peasants nor the labourers properly. In fact we have no influence or control over the peasant and labour organizations.

Twilight of the united front  209 As the united front disintegrated after five years of intending to mobilize the masses, its advocates resurrected well-worn slogans about organizational work. Narayan now also more fully capitulated to the Congress line about unity, clearly distancing the CSP from the united front: We must condemn all attempts at creating a split in the Congress on minor matters and trying to organize groups for the main purpose of fighting or overthrowing the present Congress leadership. Such an approach virtually amounts to treachery. Unity in the Congress and unity in its leadership are most essential for the Congress to continue to wield the influence it has hitherto done.41 With war appearing ever closer and with talk about direct action increasingly preoccupying Congress leadership circles, socialists lacked the conviction to carry through the implications of the united front. Weaning the Congress from its bourgeois leadership necessitated a split, once the CSP assumed the majority role. However, with the promise of direct action in the foreseeable future as a product of composite leadership, socialists retreated from the implications of their slogans. Disregarding previous statements, Narayan now insisted that the CSP “has always acted with a view to influencing the Congress policy” rather than as a party seeking to displace Congress leaders.42 At this critical moment, Narayan confused both the united front’s intent and mission; he and his fellow travelers abdicated the initiative, hoping that moderate leaders might guide direct action.

War protests Opposition to war persisted as one of the strongest elements of the united front. The Lucknow Congress resolution declared that India would refuse to participate in any imperialist war.43 The Faizpur Congress resolution highlighted the threat posed by fascism to world peace and again vowed that India would not participate in a war that protected imperialist interests.44 As in the campaign against constitutionalism, united front partners emphasized preservation of the principles inherent to the Congress’s anti-­war program. At the Faizpur annual conference, CSP members maintained that any war crisis should be used by the Congress to secure Indian freedom.45 Remarkably, regarding this issue, united front advocates produced statements and undertook activities that replicated the unsuccessful attempt to defeat the Congress’s acceptance of parliamentary work. Equally relevant, struggling to overcome bourgeois tendencies to accommodate imperialism should have generated unity, but only created further disputes. Significantly, united front attempts to defend anti-war principles undermined the ability of socialists and communists to prevent future accommodation by Congress leaders, especially once the European war began.

210  Twilight of the united front Opposition to India’s involvement in an imperialist war was a significant slogan of the united front. Yet at the critical hour, socialists and communists developed opposing attitudes toward India’s involuntary involvement in war. E.M.S. Namboodiripad explained that the different responses to the war confirmed his personal drift away from socialism.46 Opposing attitudes encouraged fragmentation. Communists initially questioned the utility of principles as a challenge to India’s involuntary participation in an imperialist war. An April 1937 article of The Communist insisted that “opposition to Imperialist war or resolutions to turn it to the advantage of our struggle for National Freedom are not enough.” It insisted that these declarations should be transformed immediately into a concrete plan of action to prevent the masses from being unprepared for resisting an imperialist war: Immediate action, however, is necessary if this plan to thwart Imperialist wars and to turn them into our own national struggle, is not to be a mere dream. The effect of ordinances and Martial Law will be totally to stifle all activity unless we have our anti-war organisations functioning well in advance. This piece warned that Congress leaders could not be trusted to implement the Faizpur Congress’s anti-war resolution because “there are powerful factors at work to wean them away to the side of Imperialism.” To counter this anticipated betrayal, communists proposed a whirlwind of local activity in opposition to war, which would “by its very nature conflict not only with Imperialism, but with all those vested Indian interests which are in greater or lesser degree parasites of Imperialism.”47 This communist pamphlet also suggested that opposition to war created the basis for the united front “because it is in just this manner of war that the weaker and more compromising elements are liable to back out of the struggle and to let the masses down.” The author cautioned, The struggle of Unity amongst the anti-Imperialist forces is apt at times to become hazy and to lose that sharpness of outline, without which no struggle can come to anything. The reasons for this are partly organizational and tactical. More often the real issues become blurred because we never think of what the masses are wanting or how their immediate demands provide a basis for Unity. Either we waste precious time squabbling over ultimate and theoretical differences in ideology, and never approach the immediate needs at all; or else, in trying to formulate wide and general principles that can offend no one, we issue slogans for the United Front which, their very vagueness and generality, are incapable of being translated into immediate mass action.

Twilight of the united front  211 Mass mobilization against war, then, should be geared toward enabling the masses “to be ideologically prepared to resist the war demands of Imperialism.” The author argued, The essence of United Front action is that it should be on immediate agreed demands that can be put into action at once; that are positive; that are genuinely agreed demands, and that do not interfere with the ultimate objectives of any of the parties who agreed to the common platform. The author declared that the Congress’s opposition to imperialist wars was “common ground, about which there can be no argument and no disagreement.” Opposition to war was an immediate demand, which could generate the united front through the circulation of anti-war propaganda. “To do this,” the author claimed, “is to make a reality of the United Front.”48 In April 1939, Lohia declared that no event, condition or statement had altered the country’s anti-war outlook: Our policy in regard to war is not an open question. It has already been decided and the decision has been finally expressed in successive resolutions of the Congress. India must resist Britain. There is not even a remote hint that this decision is not final. Lohia announced that a perspective other than “unhedged resistance” was inappropriate and only introduced an element of confusion by diluting the goal of complete independence and by suggesting that the Congress might collaborate with imperialism. He recommended that while the Congress prepared to initiate direct action in fulfillment of the National Demand, Congressmen should resist the urge to “mark time,” waiting for the upcoming war. Instead, he proposed that the Congress must oppose war in pursuit of Indian freedom, world freedom and “for vindication of the non-violent method.”49 Congress Socialist then strove to elevate India’s commitment to anti-war resistance. The periodical noted that Congressmen only undertook passive opposition to war, and it declared that “this position should be concretised by measures of active resistance.” The publication noted that Indian troop movements proceeded and the British government was developing legislative measures and legal amendments, which would be introduced during a war crisis. Congress leaders neglected to respond to any of these developments. The newspaper suggested that Britain’s European entanglements necessitated a formulated plan regarding how India might respond to an imperialistic war.50 In June, Lohia published a plan for war resistance, which socialists hoped would influence Congress policies. He maintained that the demand for complete independence emphasized an uncompromising challenge to

212  Twilight of the united front imperialism: “Complete freedom excludes any notions of bargaining or exchange; it excludes the possibility of Britain agreeing to free us and our agreeing to support Britain in a war.” Lohia argued that India’s desire for world peace meant that Indians could never agree to support war based on imperialist rivalries or which perpetuated imperialist domination. Indians, he claimed, sought to overthrow a system of exploitation and “thus to create a condition in which the rest of the world may also be freed from imperialism and wars.” He insisted that the Congress’s non-violent methods showcased a sense of justice and equality, qualities which might lead nations toward disarmament and peace.51 Practically, Lohia recommended several steps for implementing a meaningful anti-war program. He recommended forming war resistance subcommittees at every level of the Congress that would propagandize against war and initiate organizational preparations for resistance. He proposed orchestrating regular demonstrations to sustain popular opposition to war. He advised initiating an anti-recruitment campaign to obstruct the use of Indian resources and leveling economic sanctions against vital war supplies. He suggested that the Congress might develop its volunteer corps as war resisters who might undertake the day-to-day operations of practical resistance.52 Lohia concluded his plan by considering unity. He alleged that Congressmen who showcased internal quarrels or who exaggerated internal divisions “are not really serious in their resistance to war.” He noted that disunity would only produce “an enfeebled India opposed to a war-making Britain.” He admitted that the success of war resistance “depends upon the extent of internal Congress unity.”53 For their part, communists simply iterated their long-standing opposition to war—only the socialist viewpoint had changed. Communists insisted that the anti-imperialist struggle took precedence over the international fight against fascism. Although India’s campaign for liberation was relevant to global conflict, the country continued to diligently oppose imperialism; fascism was an issue to consider after liberation.54 Communists maintained that Indians could legitimately participate in the war “only if they enter the war with complete control over their army and their foreign policy.” Freedom would enable India to support the British campaign against fascism.55 Until the war began, opposition to war existed only as a theoretical exercise. Congress resolutions expressed moral objections to involuntary participation in an imperialist war. United front partners, especially socialists, remained willing to accept this policy at face value, instead of engaging in practical activities that expected war. They complacently permitted Congress leaders to guide the course of developments and consequently found themselves unprepared to short-circuit the kinds of accommodations with imperialism that they encountered. When the war began, the Working Committee quickly reiterated its disapproval of imperialism and fascism and condemned Nazi aggression in Europe. Working Committee members declared that cooperation with the

Twilight of the united front  213 British war effort “must be between equals by mutual consent for a cause which both consider to be worthy.” Consequently, India’s involvement in the war revolved around principles: If Great Britain fights for the maintenance and extension of democracy, then she must necessarily end imperialism in her possessions, establish full democracy in India, and the Indian people must have the right of self-determination by framing their own constitution through a Constituent Assembly without external interference, and must guide her own policy. To clarify the situation, Working Committee members invited the British Government “to declare in unequivocal terms what their war aims are in regard to democracy and imperialism and the new order that is envisaged.” Equally important, Congress leaders declared that any announcement of war aims must include a statement about “how these aims are going to apply to India and to be given effect to in the present.”56 Masani recalled that in early September 1939, Narayan concluded that regardless of the Congress’s response to the war, the CSP “should lead a mass campaign against imperialist war.” Masani wrote that the Working Committee’s response to the war crisis was disappointing. He and Narayan opposed this decision and issued a joint statement that declared the CSP’s “unconditional resistance to war.” They insisted that the CSP “cannot conceive of any gesture or concession on the part of the British Government which would justify support to this war.” They promised to push this line at the upcoming AICC session, which would consider the Congress’s response to the crisis.57 The AICC, however, scarcely advanced beyond the Working Committee resolution. It declared its opposition to “all imperialist wars and to the domination of one country over another,” but suggested that the British Government might secure Indian popular support for the war effort with appropriate accommodation of Congress demands. More important, it merely endorsed the Working Committee’s request for a declaration of war aims. The AICC reminded the British Government that the Congress expected a clear statement about Indian independence, and it reiterated the demand for “present application” of independence “to the largest possible extent.”58 Essentially, Congress leaders settled down to negotiate terms that might lead to a meaningful step toward independence. Previous anti-war resolutions and the National Demand were completely ignored, and socialist views were deemed incongruent with the Congress’s response to the war crisis. Equally important, Congress leaders emphasized the importance of unity during a period of crisis. Immediately after the war began, Nehru argued that Congressmen must obey Working Committee decisions and maintain national unity. He stated that the Working Committee “has given a lead” to India, and he insisted that Congressmen “must abide by this lead in letter

214  Twilight of the united front and spirit and not say or do anything which goes counter to it.” Overcoming the crisis necessitated discipline, which Nehru claimed “is always necessary in a fighting organization such as ours.” Defining opposition as “folly,” he declared that Congressmen were “expected” to “abide by this discipline of the Congress and act within its direction.” He recommended putting the Congress organization “in a proper trim for disciplined action whenever this is required of us.” Regarding the “loose and undignified language” used by some Congressmen, Nehru warned his audience, “I trust this will stop.”59 Socialists responded by capitulating to Congress unity. Members of the CSP National Executive decided to “submit to the Congress decision” by adopting “a kind of neutrality vis-à-vis the war.” Masani expressed his disappointment with Narayan’s “vacillation” and willingness to suborn socialist aims to national unity. Masani once again retired from the CSP – the “final proof” that he did not belong in “a party which did not know its mind on fundamentals.”60 More significantly, by adopting a neutral attitude, the CSP adopted a defeatist mentality, trailing along behind a Congress leadership, which promised to take action, but which only intended to proceed with direct action when it was fully prepared. Socialists no longer advocated for the united front, having abdicated their role of radicalizing the national movement. The socialist decision to submit to the will of the Working Committee left the field open for communists. According to Masani, communists denounced the war as an imperialist campaign and “were cashing in on the anti-­war sentiment.” Once again, he attributed ulterior motives to communist activities. He claimed that communists sought to “monopolise the advantage of an anti-war stance,” thereby gaining popularity at the expense of the Congress and the CSP. According to Masani, the entire communist attitude toward the war was a political maneuver.61 Communists could “pose as genuine revolutionists and anti-imperialists.”62 The Congress’s wait-and-see policy sharpened differences between communists and socialists. Socialists more directly aligned themselves with the Congress viewpoint while communists challenged the Congress’s latent support for imperialism. Communists claimed that the Congress had abandoned popular interests and progressive programs. They asserted that the Congress resorted to compromising with imperialism, and they proclaimed their willingness to oppose this trend; the Congress decision meant “relentless struggle against and exposure of Gandhism as a political line,” it meant “sharpest opposition to Gandhian leadership” and it meant “isolation of that leadership and determined effort to smash its influence.”63 Communists launched a campaign to mobilize the workers and peasants and to impede war production and the war effort. They also criticized Congress leaders and socialists. They depicted Gandhi and Nehru as “saboteurs of Indian independence and agents of imperialism.” They claimed that socialists were “henchmen of Gandhi” because they proved

Twilight of the united front  215 unwilling to defeat the Congress’s compromising policies.64 They alleged that Narayan supported the Gandhian attitude toward war because Narayan’s policies were motivated by a “desire to be elevated to the Congress Working Committee.”65 One communist pamphlet proclaimed that the CSP “has made its final break with Marxism and has completely gone over to Gandhism.”66 In November 1939, Narayan related that at this moment, when the nation ought to be unified, the CPI sought to disrupt national unity: It desired to appear before the masses—workers, peasants, students (above all students, mark you)—as the sole revolutionary party in the country. It could brooke [sic.] no competition, and when power came to be seized it wanted no shareholders at all. The Communist Party uber alles! Narayan caustically observed a certain communist “megalomania” in which “other parties must perish, i.e., their hold over the masses must be destroyed.”67 Narendra Deva also criticized communists. He observed, “These people are most undependable. They play a double game.” He remarked that Narayan “has now become very stern” and intended to meet with P.C. Joshi about the deteriorating relations between the CSP and the CPI. Deva suggested that the only remaining response was “a complete break with them,” opining that it was “simply impossible to work with such indecent and unscrupulous people any more.”68 Unmitigated communist attacks against the Congress and the CSP terminated the united front. Narayan’s response to the Forward Bloc and Left Consolidation Committee set the tone for the final break. In July 1939, Narayan observed that national unity was the crucial component to the national struggle. He condemned attempts to disrupt unity and insisted that even at the height of socialist opposition to Congress policies, the CSP had only ever “acted with a view to influencing the Congress policy.”69 By implication, by denigrating socialist and Congress leaders, communists violated the spirit of unity and the intent of the united front. Socialists issued a statement emphasizing the CSP’s willingness to cooperate with the CPI as “a sister revolutionary party.”70 However, they “finally saw the futility and the dangers of trying to work with the communists.”71 At its meeting in March 1940, “when no other alternative was available,” the CSP national executive expelled communists from the CSP. Narayan described the move as “merely an elementary organizational measure, long-overdue,” justified by the notion “that a party may have no one as a member who is a member or an instrument of a hostile party.”72 Rather than engage in a fruitless campaign of charge/counter-charge, Narayan preferred to attempt to explain the CSP approach to the war. He

216  Twilight of the united front wrote that CSP policies were based on the notion that the country must be prepared to launch a national struggle against imperialism: Our only crime, therefore, is that we continue to insist on the unity of the Congress as the only guarantee of national unity and a national struggle. Our further crime is that we insist that unity of the Congress involves the unity of its leadership, because we cannot, particularly in such a crisis as the present, split the leadership and keep the Congress together. Our still further crime is that we are being guided not by what is good for the Congress Socialist Party or for that heterogeneous and vague thing called the left, but by what is good for the whole the left and right together. Narayan suggested that relations among the country’s radical segments had reached “a dangerous point when the certain sections of the Left have begun to look upon themselves not as a wing of a body, but as a whole body itself.”73 This attitude only promoted disunity when the need of the hour was unity. Narayan stated that the CSP loyally supported the Congress because “there is no other consolidating factor in our social or political life.” He observed that The Congress represented and still represents, and from all appearances, will continue to represent (much as the communists may dislike the prospect) the widest, the strongest front against imperialism in India. Only the Congress could effectively lead the nation in its struggle. Narayan noted that while labor unions, kisan sabhas, student groups and other mass organizations remained important anti-imperialist weapons, none of these “in their present stage of development can hope to fight imperialism with any degree of success.”74 Therefore, supporting the Congress was the only available option at the moment. Despite his intention to avoid controversy with the communists, Narayan could not resist criticizing communist maneuvers. He observed that for the past several years, communists had advocated “the theories of united leadership and united front.” “Now,” he wrote, “when the hour has arrived to put these theories into practice,” the “gutless revolutionaries are scurrying away.” He noted that “on the eve of struggle our Communist theorists have thought it wise to fling their theory to the wind and concentrate on attacking the present leadership.” Narayan concluded that the communist approach merely sabotaged the upcoming struggle against imperialism.75 From that moment forward, communists roundly condemned the Congress’s apparent policy of drift. P.C. Joshi succinctly declared that neutrality arose from “an attitude of negation and inaction”; it was a “policy of bargaining, not of struggle.” Joshi claimed that the Congress’s policy of

Twilight of the united front  217 drift abandoned all initiative and neglected popular mobilization in favor of requesting “imperialism to change the shape of things for them.”76 Joshi also attacked the Congress leadership for its ambivalence and indecisiveness. He claimed that “the more democratic section of the leadership,” represented by Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad, the Congress president, understood that the war was an anti-fascist war. Joshi agreed with their appreciation of the situation, but he objected to the Congress’s “half-way house position,” which merely marked time while perpetuating the stalemate and drift. Joshi noted that Congress leaders deepened the stagnation by abandoning the initiative to imperialism while refusing “even to think of mobilising the people.”77 Joshi observed that the Congress’s war policy remained essentially symbolic, whether “symbolic opposition to imperialist rule” or “symbolic sympathy for the peoples of the world.” The predicament remained that it was not India’s war: “It was the war of others before, it remains the war of others now.” Joshi complained that They see the changing world but offer no changed policy for the nation. They leave the movement where it was—in the position of stalemate, instead of leading it forward. They proclaim India’s helplessness, when the need is for India’s action. They wait upon events when we can change events.78 Congress leaders’ indecision paralyzed the entire nation, perpetuating a policy of blind drift and giving rise to the “humiliating spectacle of plaintive pleading to the British Government to release us if it is Freedom’s war.” It might have been “a people’s war for all other people,” but, for India, it could not be a people’s war “because we are not free.”79 Joshi criticized Left unity among parties whose “only consistent thread” had been anti-communism. The Royists promoted a “policy of disruption on the national and labour fronts.” The CSP deviated from revolutionary progressive forces by supporting “the negative pacifism of Gandhi”: To them the war is still an imperialist war…. Just at the moment when wide sections of the Congress see the futility of passive resistance, the Congress Socialist Party want it continued. The Forward Bloc followed “no consistent policy at all,” per the “unprincipled opportunism” of its founder. Joshi proposed that a “single step—the winning of a National Government and democratic liberties—would end the era of our enslavement.” He recommended abandoning the Congress line that the war was not India’s to fight, a policy that reduced “our patriots to the role of onlookers” instead of “fighters for world freedom.” He suggested deliberate mobilization of the people to support “the war of liberation for themselves” as well as the “war of world liberation.”80

218  Twilight of the united front Narendra Deva explained the need for national unity and sparred with communist critics of the CSP. His counterattack emphasized unity and complained that communists “cannot go on claiming that they stand for an immediate struggle” while pursuing sectarian policies among the nationalist left wing—“very few Congressmen and their followers will agree to accept them as comrades in the struggle.” Deva maintained that the push for an anti-imperialist struggle and an anti-war position were interrelated because the “only sound policy” involved preparing the Congress to fight. He insisted that the Congress should lead the upcoming campaign and that all nationalists should “move the whole Congress onward to a struggle,” not causing disruption among nationalist ranks as communists had done through their constant critique of the Congress’s anti-war stand. Deva hypothesized that a crucial part of preparation was creating “a suitable atmosphere” for struggle. He parroted the Congress line about national unity: Internal conflict and controversy should be ended and appeals for unity and discipline in our ranks should resound in the country. This is the path of success. Any other course would be detrimental to the cause we hold dear. The alternative is disunity, demoralization and defeat. Logically, if radicals sought to maneuver the Congress toward direct action against imperialism, “we cannot carry on a crusade against its leaders.” Communists should desist from suggesting that Congress leaders “want to avoid a struggle at all costs.” Communists should stop “accusing them of wanting to compromise with British Imperialism.” Communist attacks indicated “the way to sabotage a struggle.” Moreover, communists should refrain from attacking the CSP: Insidious propaganda of a false and vicious kind is being carried on particularly against Congress Socialists. We have been described as Mensheviks. We are said to have surrendered to Gandhiji and the High Command. Our appeal to join the struggle under the leadership of Gandhiji has been deliberately misinterpreted to mean abject surrender to Gandhism. Deva maintained that communist propaganda only created confusion and distrust among the masses at a moment when the focus should be on initiating “the necessary preparations for a struggle.” “Such a propaganda,” Dev concluded, “defeats its own purpose.”81 The debate between Joshi and Deva revealed communist objections to CSP drift. Communists, at this moment, proposed utilizing the mass support and influence accrued by the CSP and CPI over the previous years. According to Joshi, communists were prepared to take the next drastic step regarding the evolution of the national struggle: jettisoning the Congress’s bourgeois leaders, seizing control of the movement and securing India’s liberation. Socialists retreated from the precipice at a critical moment.

Twilight of the united front  219 The debate about war exposed socialist submission to Congress leaders’ depiction of the Congress as the country’s most feasible united front. While communists now insisted that work external to the Congress was vital for securing social justice, socialists opted to emphasize that the Congress could be transformed into an authentic anti-imperialist front. The premise for the united front was now fundamentally irrelevant. Intending to work within the Congress, socialists once again focused on criticizing the intent and purpose of Congress programs. Deva questioned the Congress’s depiction of the war as a struggle against fascism. He insisted that the war manifested itself as “a struggle of two imperialisms for the redivision of the world.” He claimed that representations of the war as a fight to preserve democracy “belong to the realm of charlatanism or stupidity.” The war, Deva observed, was fought against Germany, not against an ideology: It has not become a war against fascism. As such imperialist democracy cannot be expected to kill its blood brother which is fascism. The present war does not aim at the destruction of imperialism and, therefore, cannot lead to the destruction of fascism which it its child. Deva maintained that the alleged fight to preserve democracy from fascist aggression amounted to “lying propaganda” because he insisted that imperialism and fascism would mutually “flourish.” “The satiated powers,” he suggested, “want to maintain the status quo and preserve their class interests.” In war, he hypothesized, people were “urged to sacrifice themselves for the bourgeoisie.”82 Once CSP leaders supported the Congress’s war policy, socialists once again assumed the role of watchdogs, attempting to mitigate compromising tendencies. The March 1940 Ramgarh Congress session explicitly declared that “the Congress cannot in any way, directly or indirectly, be party to the war.” It resolved that the resignation of Congress ministries “must naturally be followed by Civil Disobedience,” and it urged Congressmen to work to prepare the country for the upcoming campaign.83 A month later, a Working Committee statement reinforced the perception that direct action “was inevitable in the future.”84 However, in June, Congress leaders began maneuvering the Congress out of its inflexible anti-war policy. The Congress executive ruled that the issue of national freedom was intertwined with “maintenance and defense of the country.” More significantly, Working Committee members confirmed that although the Congress would continue to adhere to the principle of non-violence for the national struggle, it could not unreservedly uphold this ideal.85 Next, Working Committee members demanded the formation of a national government that would be responsible for defense.86 At the end of July, the AICC expressly stated that “while the Congress must continue to adhere strictly to the principle of non-violence in the struggle for independence, it is unable, in the present circumstances, to declare that the principle should be extended to free India’s national

220  Twilight of the united front defense.”87 These resolutions signified Congress leaders’ transition toward qualified support for the war effort. More precisely, the demand for a national government betrayed constitutionalists’ willingness to overturn the Congress’s long-standing guiding principles for the sake of accepting office through negotiations with the British government. Once again, radicals perceived that the moderates were attempting to avoid direct action when the Congress had resolved that direct action was the only remaining recourse. Members of the CSP national executive responded to this new development by reminding the Working Committee that socialist support for the Congress’s war policy was based on “the belief and hope that the call for preparations for mass civil disobedience would soon turn into direct action itself.” The new line, however, destroyed “any hope of resistance to the war,” and it permitted “actual support for the war, which the Congress stands pledged to oppose.” Socialists insisted that regardless of the content of any British proclamations about India, “Britain would remain an imperialist power and the war an imperialist war.”88 Once again, socialists perceived that the old enemies of compromise and reformism must be challenged. They protested against any compromise or collaboration with the British war effort. Instead, they proposed pursuing a policy that “devoted all our energy to preparing the country” to seize power from British imperialism. They declared that the Congress must “resist the irresistible temptation” of office when such a move would prove counterintuitive to the national struggle.89 The Viceroy’s statement rejected the Working Committee’s offer to form a national government and support the war effort. Working Committee members had revealed their subterfuge in this desperate grasp for office at the center, criticizing the British government’s unwillingness to part with power “even for the immediate purpose of securing co-operation in war efforts.” Rebuffed in this attempt, Working Committee members appealed to Gandhi to lead the nation in a satyagraha campaign, but insisted that direct action would be limited: It would only protest British infringements of civil liberties in India.90 British intransigence forced the Congress into direct action. By this point, with the Left fractured and its leaders the targets of government repression, radicals achieved the direct action that they desired, but without directly influencing the direction of events. Communiqués exchanged between the secretary of state, the viceroy and Working Committee members attempted to compromise for the sake of the British war effort. Having no recourse, Working Committee members maneuvered the Congress into the Individual Satyagraha campaign, protest activities distinctly different from the socialists’ envisioned direct action struggle for liberation. The course of events clearly demonstrated that socialists and communists no longer influenced policy, but merely objected to it when it failed to conform to their ideals. Radical involvement in the Congress had come full circle in its attempt to combat reformism, having sequentially attempted to curb constitutionalism and prevent Congress support for the war. However,

Twilight of the united front  221 disunity within the united front prevented the partners from exerting the high-level pressure needed to fully transform the Congress or to overcome its leaders’ bourgeois compromising outlook. *** The root issue for the success of the united front was trust: The members of both parties needed to expect that their opposite numbers altruistically pursued identical goals. Once suspicion entered the equation, mistrust gained currency. The issue of trust appeared even in the original preliminary agreements between the elements of the trade union movement. The participants agreed to cooperate on specific issues about which they found common ground, and all joint action was expected to be predicated by five specific conditions: 1 There shall be no mutual criticism in speeches or by distribution of leaflets, at joint functions. 2 There shall be no abuse of each other, nor imputations on the motives or honesty of either party. 3 Before every joint action there shall be joint agreement regarding the terms of resolutions and slogans, carrying of banners and flags, and distribution of leaflets and literature. 4 There shall be no advocacy of violence or non-violence by either party at joint functions. 5 At joint functions there shall be no appeal for support to either party or to enroll members or to draw any exclusive advantage to either party.91 Socialists and communists agreed that the united front could succeed if the partners refrained from proselytizing and if criticism was not perceived as criticism, but rather as a dialogue about common concerns. However, mistrust bred antagonism. According to socialist reminiscences, communist participation in the united front violated all of these conditions, rendering it inoperable. Suspicion grew to such an extent that during the Quit India movement, well after socialists formally dissolved the united front, CSP leaders charged communists with collaborating with British imperialism. Masani alleged that communists had labeled underground resistance leaders—­predominantly socialists—as fifth columnists and “Party members often considered it their duty to spy on” socialists. He went into considerable detail to prove these charges, producing CPI documents as evidence, including proof that the Communist Party of Great Britain ordered the CPI to collaborate with imperialism. Masani simply dubbed them “traitors.”92 Socialists and communists began their bickering at the moment that the united front began to become irrelevant. They failed to obstruct constitutionalism and instead resorted to nagging about the intent of the parliamentary program and to criticizing the conduct of Congress ministries. They failed

222  Twilight of the united front to propose direct action as a viable alternative to legislative work and their demands for a national campaign foundered when challenged by the counter-­demand that the Congress was unprepared for civil disobedience. They failed to secure collective affiliation for kisan sabhas and labor unions with the Congress, and consequently, the class-conscious agitations staged by these organizations came to be increasingly labeled as anti-national by a Congress leadership hostile to the united front’s goal of class-based mass mobilization. Socialists and communists failed to convince the general population that socialism afforded a brighter future because Congress leaders adopted the mantra that political emancipation must precede any social reconstruction. Their failures left few alternatives other than turning to specific ideological questions to seek ideological homogenization. Congress leaders’ wholesale appropriation of the foundational principles of the united front also undermined the proposition that radical leadership afforded an alternative to the status quo. The united front intended to unify the country’s mass constituencies, the authentic anti-imperialist elements; the Congress satisfied this objective through the Mass Contacts Program and through the all-India election campaign. The united front sought to draw the masses’ day-to-day interests into the national program; the Congress fulfilled this demand by framing its agrarian program and introducing legislation in provinces, which tentatively attempted to address the most pressing peasant and worker needs. The united front sought to transform the Congress into an authentic anti-imperialist movement; Congress leaders depicted the Congress as the united national front, challenging imperialism. By the end of 1939, the novelty of the united front had worn off. Its advocates had previously scored some significant successes, but these limited victories were strongly offset by the more important and incomplete task of transforming the Congress. The fundamental problem confronting the united front was that while the parties agreed on the major common objectives, they disagreed with particulars. The purpose of the united front was to influence the Indian people, to wean them away from the domination of the Congress’s bourgeois leadership. Unable to achieve this goal, the united front foundered. Without common ground, the united front was no longer a feasible prospect. It remained an unfulfilled ideal.

Notes 1 “Forward Bloc—Its Justification” (1941) in Sisir K. Bose and Sugata Bose, (eds.), The Essential Writings of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 270–72, 274–75. 2 “Forward Bloc—Its Justification,” Bose and Bose, (eds.), Essential Writings, 276, 281 3 “Forward Bloc—Its Justification,” Bose and Bose, (eds.), Essential Writings, 276, 283–84. 4 “On the Proposed Radical Party,” [no date], Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47. 5 “On the Proposed Radical Party,” [no date], Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47. 6 “On the Proposed Radical Party,” [no date], Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47. 7 Resolution No. 5—Programme, 23 June 1939, Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47.

Twilight of the united front  223 8 Unofficial resolution from M.S. Kannamwar, 15 June 1939, AICC Papers, G-38/1939. 9 “Subhas on the C.S.P.,” Congress Socialist (21 May 1939). 10 “Party News,” Congress Socialist (14 May 1939). 11 “Forward To…?,” Congress Socialist (7 May 1939). 12 “Why C.S.P. Does Not Join ‘Forward Bloc,’” Congress Socialist (21 May 1939). 13 “Whither National Struggle?,” Congress Socialist (11 June 1939). 14 J.N. Mitra to Narayan, 23 May 1939, Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47. 15 Swami Sahajanand Saraswati to P.C. Joshi, 21 May 1939, Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47. 16 P.C. Joshi to Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, 25 May 1939, Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47. Emphasis is original. 17 P.C. Joshi to Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, 25 May 1939, Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47. Emphasis is original. 18 P.C. Joshi to Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, 25 May 1939, Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47. Emphasis is original. 19 “Subhas on the C.S.P.,” Congress Socialist (21 May 1939). 20 “The Forward Bloc,” Congress Socialist (4 June 1939). 21 “The Forward Bloc,” Congress Socialist (4 June 1939). 22 “On the Proposed Radical Party,” [no date], Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47. 23 “On the Proposed Radical Party,” [no date], Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47. Emphasis is original. 24 Satnarayan Saraf to Narayan, 6 June 1939, Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47. 25 “On Threshold of Struggle,” Congress Socialist (30 April 1939). 26 “Why C.S.P. Does Not Join ‘Forward Bloc,’” Congress Socialist (21 May 1939). 27 “Towards Left Consolidation,” Congress Socialist (18 June 1939). 28 “Towards Left Consolidation,” Congress Socialist (18 June 1939). 29 “Whither National Struggle?,” Congress Socialist (11 June 1939). 30 “Congress Should Split—Loose and Dangerous Talk,” Congress Socialist (18 June 1939). 31 K.F. Nariman to Narayan, 9 June 1939, Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47. 32 Nariman to Narayan, 9 June 1939, Brahmanand Papers 3/1936–47. 33 “Cement Left Unity,” National Front (30 July 1939), Jayaprakash Narayan Papers, Publications 130/1939. 34 “Cement Left Unity,” National Front (30 July 1939), Jayaprakash Narayan Papers, Publications 130/1939. 35 Masani, Bliss Was It, 148–49. 36 Masani, Bliss Was It, 150–51. Emphasis is original. 37 Masani, Bliss Was It, 152–53. 38 Masani, Bliss Was It, 149. 39 Masani, Bliss Was It, 149. 40 Presidential Address, Delhi Socialist Conference, New Delhi, 2 July 1939, CSP, 315–16. 41 Speech at Lahore, 11 July 1939, JPSW, vol. 2, 260–61. 42 Speech at Lahore, 11 July 1939, JPSW, vol. 2, 261. 43 Lucknow Congress resolution, “War Danger,” 14 April 1936, AICC Papers 31/1936. 44 Faizpur Congress resolution, “War Danger,” 28 December 1936, AICC Papers 42(ii)/1936. 45 “Socialist Conference Resolutions,” Congress Socialist (9 January 1937). 46 Namboodiripad interview (accessed 24 June 2013). 47 The Communist (April 1937). Emphasis is original. 48 The Communist (April 1937). Emphasis is original. 49 “Not an Open Question,” Congress Socialist (9 April 1939). 50 “The Week,” Congress Socialist (30 April 1939). 51 “A Plan for War Resistance,” Congress Socialist (11 June 1939).

224  Twilight of the united front 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92

“A Plan for War Resistance,” Congress Socialist (11 June 1939). “A Plan for War Resistance,” Congress Socialist (11 June 1939). National Front (3 April 1938) in Masani, Communist Party, 276. National Front (2 October 1938) in Masani, Communist Party, 276. CWC resolution, “War Crisis,” 15 September 1939, Indian Annual Register 1939, vol. 2, 226–28. Masani, Bliss Was It, 155–56. AICC resolution, “War Crisis,” 10 October 1939, Indian Annual Register 1939, vol. 2, 231. “Not Out to Bargain,” 9 September 1939, ISJN, 164. Masani, Bliss Was It, 156. Masani, Bliss Was It, 156. Masani, Communist Party, 77. The Congress Socialist Party and the War (March 1940), in Masani, Communist Party, 276. Masani, Communist Party, 78. Narayan, “Gandhiji’s Leadership and the C.S.P.,” CSP, 325. The Congress Socialist Party and the War (March 1940), in Masani, Communist Party, 276. Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 248. Narendra Deva to Yusuf Meherally, 11 December 1939, SMI, 296. Speech at Lahore, 11 July 1939, JPSW, vol. 2, 261. Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 248. Masani, Communist Party, 79. Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 248–49. Narayan, “Gandhiji’s Leadership and the C.S.P.,” CSP, 326. Narayan, “Gandhiji’s Leadership and the C.S.P.,” CSP, 327–28. Narayan, “Gandhiji’s Leadership and the C.S.P.,” CSP, 329. Joshi, Indian Communist Party, 20–21. Joshi, Indian Communist Party, 26–27. Joshi, Indian Communist Party, 27. Emphasis is original. Joshi, Indian Communist Party, 25. Emphasis is original. Joshi, Indian Communist Party, 30–33. “The Indian Struggle,” (March 1940), ASAND, 41, 43–45. “The War: Imperialist or People’s?,” ASAND, 53, 55. Ramgarh Congress resolution, “India and the War Crisis,” 20 March 1940, Indian Annual Register 1940, vol. 1, 228–29. CWC resolution, “Satyagraha,” 19 April 1940, Indian Annual Register 1940, vol. 1, 244. CWC resolution, “Political Situation,” 21 June 1940, Indian Annual Register 1940, vol. 2, 175–76. CWC resolution, “Political Situation,” 7 July 1940, Indian Annual Register 1940, vol. 2, 176–77. AICC resolution, “Wardha Statement,” 28 July 1940, Indian Annual Register 1940, vol. 2, 195. AICSP Executive Committee’s statement, 27 July 1940, CSP, 346–47. AICSP Executive Committee’s statement, 27 July 1940, CSP, 347. AICC resolution, “Satyagraha,” 16 September 1940 and CWC resolution, “Satyagraha,” 14 September 1940, Indian Annual Register 1940, vol. 2, 212–13, 221. Masani, Communist Party, 55. Masani, Communist Party, 82–84. On page 279, in footnote 9, Masani referred to a letter penned by R. Palme Dutt, which articulated the policy the CPI was expected to follow: “Maximum mobilization against fascism; full co-­operation in practical action with all who oppose fascism, irrespective of political differences; no action of the present rulers so long as they stand by the alliance to resist fascism, should deflect us from this line.”

8 The “pioneers of unity”1

Effectively, cooperation between socialists and communists from 1939 on was accidental or incidental—it was not attributable to the deliberate design of united front architects. The Quit India campaign mooted final rationales for cooperation because the Congress adopted direct action. Socialists who participated in the Quit India campaign as August Revolutionaries emerged from prison unrepentantly opposed to the communist opportunism exhibited during Quit India’s revolutionary moment. More generally, post-war posturing by members of the two camps destroyed all lingering possibilities of renewing attempts to establish the united front. Although plausible revolutionary flash points—e.g. the Bombay naval mutiny or revolutionary activities within Princely States—which might have prompted coalescence around mass activism, did occur, after 1939, the erstwhile partners scarcely attempted to consider whether the most superficial cooperation was even plausible. Immediately after the final, formal breakup of the united front, once socialists and communists overtly exchanged mutual recriminations, Jayaprakash Narayan, Narendra Deva and other socialists began revising the narrative about the united front. Narayan, incidentally, attempted to address “a persistent attempt by enemies of the Party to misrepresent the whole case.”2 Socialist leaders disowned the two parties’ shared attitude about homogeneity. Instead, socialists claimed that communists had never altruistically pursued unity, and this revised viewpoint then dominated historical assessments of the united front moment. In the pamphlet, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” Narayan announced, “No question was of more interest or greater importance to the socialist movement than what might be described as the question of ‘socialist unity.’” He wrote that from its inception, the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) worked to “bring together all these local and national groups in order to form one united socialist party.” He blamed “the sectarianism and disruptiveness of the other parties, particularly of the Communist Party,” for the failure of this endeavor. Narayan supposed that whether Royist, communist or any other brand of Marxist, “every other party that came along” sought to capture the CSP “so as to take advantage of the position it occupied”

226  The “pioneers of unity” within the Congress. He also condemned “the ridiculous idea held by every miserable little party that it alone was the real Marxist party, and that every other party had therefore to be exploited, captured or destroyed.”3 Narayan reminded his readers that “wide differences” always existed between socialists and communists. He explained that, given such obvious differences, the purpose of the united front was “trying to work together as far as possible.” He also insisted that, undoubtedly, if the Communist Party of India (CPI) had “worked in the same spirit and really desired unity, there would have been a very different story to tell today.” Narayan maintained that socialists operated under the assumption that “as the movement grew it would be able to solve its problems as they arose, and that there would be no purpose served in trying to solve all possible problems at the start.” He claimed that this outlook would have enabled the socialist movement to fully mature “only if all the other parties were equally serious and honest about unity.” Narayan maintained that communist tactics made practical unity impossible.4 Narayan declared that communist slogans about unity were merely a ruse to access positions within the CSP and the Congress. He argued that communists had never abandoned their “monopolistic and sectarian attitude.” He insisted that the CPI “did not believe in socialist unity because it recognised no other socialist parties.”5 After the collapse of the united front, Narayan asserted that communists were confronted by a predicament. They were ordered by the Communist International to join the CSP and work with and within the Congress. Narayan observed that communist ideology obliged communists to supplant all rivals and assume the leadership of national forces: The communists were anxious to get into the Provincial Congress Committee, the Executives, the All-India Congress Committee, possibly the Working Committee. With their own resources it was impossible for them to get anywhere near them. To gain access to the Congress’s organizational hierarchy, communists joined the CSP. Furthermore, Narayan alleged that communists joined the CSP deliberately intending to capture it or dismantle it, thereby eliminating a rival organization from within. But, in order to gain admittance, they had to accept the slogan of socialist unity, for otherwise there was no reason why the Congress Socialist Party should have let them come in. Narayan concluded that communist efforts to promote the united front were merely “the smoke-screen of unity” behind which they plotted the destruction of the CSP.6

The “pioneers of unity”  227 In his revised narrative, Narayan insisted that communists never pursued genuine unity. They entered the CSP for the purpose of undertaking fraction work, to sabotage socialist unity. In this connection a point is often made in Party discussions. Why was the Communist Party alone able to do fraction work? Why could we not do the same? For two simple reasons. Communists had the opportunity of doing it, because we had given them a place in the Party. We had no such opportunity, because we had neither the desire nor the occasion to enter their party. Secondly, and this is the more important reason, fraction work is contradictory to unity. We believed sincerely in unity; therefore, the question of fraction work did not arise at all. According to Narayan, socialist unity was impossible because communists never intended to permit the CSP to dominate India’s socialist movement. Unity failed “because the Communist Party did not want unity.”7 Narayan attributed the disintegration of the united front to the communist compulsion to perceive their party as “the sole revolutionary party in the country”: It could brooke [sic.] no competition, and when power came to be seized it wanted no shareholders at all…. It was a magnificent ambition, clearly in accord with the Marxism that the Communist Party understands. The natural corollary of this thesis of megalomania was that other parties must perish, i.e., their hold over the masses must be destroyed. Narayan explained that throughout attacks by the CPI, socialists “wished it no ill-will” because they were “prepared to co-operate with it as a sister revolutionary party.”8 Deva also discussed unity in a piece titled “Problems of Unity.” He began with the straightforward observation that building a “powerful anti-­i mperialist front” necessitated “unity in the socialist ranks.” Echoing Narayan, Deva insisted that communists obstructed unity: The CSP has from its inception strived for unity of all Socialists. But, in the past, the attitude of our Communist friends towards the Party and its efforts for unity was not merely one of indifference but of open hostility. They tried to discredit the Party by denouncing it, among other things, as a social-fascist party. Unwilling to accentuate the differences among the socialists we refrained from answering back this campaign of calumny and vilification. Despite our forebearance, the Communists, with characteristic obstinacy, persisted in their antagonism and the CSP could not succeed in uniting all the Socialists.

228  The “pioneers of unity” He recounted how socialists sought to establish a close working relationship with communists. He explained that “our Communist friends were not prepared to concede the Marxist character of our Party.” He maintained that communists remained unwilling even to establish “a fighting alliance” with socialists: While on the one hand, they are clamouring for the admission of Communists to the CSP, on the other, we find them actively trying to out the Socialists from the leadership of the workers’ organisation they have built up with tremendous efforts and wherein they gave the Communists opportunities to work. Deva suggested that communists “cannot tolerate the influence of any party except theirs, in the working-class movement.” He concluded that communist activities “intensify the miasma of suspicion and affects even those who desire to preserve united front in some form or another.”9 Expressing similar sentiments, in April 1941, Purushottam Trikamdas wrote, “The inclusion of the Communists only resulted in endless discussions and we had to bear silently the fractionalist and disruptive tactics going on under our very eyes.” Trikamdas insisted that the positive effect of the united front was that “there will be no hankering left in our hearts that might have been had the experiment not been made.” Socialists had merely lost a few years in the monumental task of building socialism in India, but, according to Trikamdas, they were better positioned to achieve this goal than they otherwise might have been.10 Narayan concluded that the united front experiment was “misconceived and the fundamental difficulties were not understood.” He admitted that allowing communists into the CSP proved “a grievous mistake” because it obviously violated “all sound principles of organisation.” He claimed that such a “disastrous experiment” only created “internal confusion and conflict.”11 Such revised united front narratives wholly neglect the foundational notion that homogenization itself required conflict. The original attempt to homogenize involved developing ideological cohesion and confronting rhetorical and ideological inconsistencies. Homogenization necessitated that communists, socialists and opponents of communism—especially M.R. Masani—fight for the hearts and minds of the undecided Marxist middle ground.

Compatibility issues To what meaningful extent, then, were disparate notions of the united front compatible? If Masani’s viewpoint was authentic—and he cut to the root of the issue—then the matter distilled to a choice between “scientific socialism and dogmatic or authoritarian socialism.” Masani surmised that “we have to prevent Socialism from being made into a dogma, almost a religion.” He then cited Lenin’s statement about religion as an opiate, noting

The “pioneers of unity”  229 that “his words would certainly apply to socialism or communism, if we allowed socialism or communism to degenerate into a religion.”12 Consequently, no one single path to socialism existed, and it should be permitted to evolve according to local circumstance, not per the so-called, tried-andtrue Russian model. Collaboration should account for variation and should be democratic, not authoritarian, in its function and organization for the latter defeated the intent and purpose of social democracy. To a certain extent, Deva concurred. Socialism, he claimed, “alone stands for fullest democracy”: Democracy of the capitalist order is a sham democracy. Political democracy is meaningless and farcical unless it is accompanied by economic equality and unless is stands for the economic emancipation of the masses. We want fullest democracy for the vast masses of our people and not only for the ruling classes. The organizers of the united front intended to coordinate similar-thinking groups that sought to “remove all inequalities in the matter of economic life.”13 According to Deva, socialists attempted to “build up a powerful anti-­i mperialist front” to fight for independence and to found “a democratic regime wherein the economic life of the people would be organized on socialist lines.” Per his viewpoint, the “socialist objective can be realized only through the struggle for democracy.” “In colonial countries,” Deva observed, “the national struggle is a democratic struggle.”14 Consequently, any united front forged by socialism “stands for full democracy.”15 Ironically, E.M.S. Namboodiripad asserted that the socialist attitude towards communism violated the democratic intent of the united front: Ideally, communists would have been permitted to democratically express their viewpoints, even at the risk of alienating socialists. Namboodiripad claimed that “Masani and his friends were going against the line laid down in the Meerut Thesis by organizing a witch-hunt against the Communists.”16 According to Namboodiripad, the doctrinaire outlook of social democrats within the CSP fractured the united front. However, democracy violated the unity that the united front sought to forge. Unity denoted homogeneity, centralized direction and authoritarianism. Masani objected to these last two characteristics. He insisted that the CSP should “act as a homogeneous team,” and he argued that because the CSP was a revolutionary party, its leaders could not tolerate “internal conflicts that inevitably lead to paralysis and stagnation.” Distinguishing principle from practice, he maintained that the CSP was “not a platform for a united front” nor was it “a mass party.” The Congress was both the nation’s united front and its mass party. The CSP, he claimed, was a “determined group of conscious socialists” within the Congress-as-unitedfront who “will act as a compact party and guide the bigger movement.” The party must act as a go-between between the Congress and the masses,

230  The “pioneers of unity” but “cannot do so if it spends most of its time looking within, trying to resolve its internal conflicts and contradictions.” A party focused inwardly, he predicted, would perpetuate “dismemberment and disruption.”17 While Left unity remained an admirable, yet elusive goal, according to Masani, it should not be mistaken for the united front. The CSP was but one constituent element of the pre-existing united front; its task, then, remained as originally conceived—­to guide the Congress and the nation towards anti-­ imperialism and socialism. The flaw, from the inauguration of the united front, was the desire to achieve Left unity. Communists and socialists even negotiated the founding of the front, placing crucial issues on the backburner until they could be resolved or, as events unfolded, until these concerns became insurmountable and divisive predicaments. Although the CSP and CPI shared a common appreciation for Marxism, tellingly, Masani revealed his personal discomfort with the party’s ultra-Marxist leanings. He recalled that several members of the national executive opposed the declaration that the CSP was a Marxist party. He confessed, “I left the meeting with considerable mental reservations about the character of my own Marxism.” Nevertheless, he admitted that Narayan’s “passion for socialist unity” proved insurmountable in the moment; Masani found that “swallowing Karl Marx, beard and all, was not too painful an operation.”18 Although Masani remained consistently preoccupied by the implications of an informal alliance with the CPI, his expressed discomfiture was exceptionally revealing. Here was one of the chief architects of the united front who objected to the foundations upon which CSP–CPI collaboration was possible. Granted, he objected to the communist tendency to replicate the Russian model, and he opposed Narayan’s brand of Marxism on specific ideological principles, but nevertheless, his doubts about the possibilities of cooperation informed his suspicions about communist motives. His views amounted to heterodoxy within the CSP, an indication of the ultimate implausibility of the united front’s efforts to achieve ideological homogeneity between the CSP and the CPI. Ultimately, incompatible ideologies bred mistrust. Masani’s suspicions became aggravated by reports about communist activities. Namboodiripad flatly dismissed the premise that any communist conspiracy to capture the CSP existed. He related that he consistently shared his views about communism with top CSP leaders: I had told JP that I was keeping contact with the Communist leaders and I also told him that on many of these issues on which there were differences, I was with the Communists. I did not disclose the fact that I had become a formal member of the party. Namboodiripad also related that several members of the CSP national executive “were known to be Communists” and that “even Masani knew about it.” The so-called process of capture entailed an “exchange of political views” in which communists emerged with the advantages. Consequently,

The “pioneers of unity”  231 the alleged communist takeover involved normal democratic “influence exercised by the Communists.” According to Namboodiripad, Masani only referred to successful communist influence as evidence that communists deliberately sought to disrupt and capture the CSP.19 Complaints about communist influence and infiltration occurred because the CPI was illegal. Communists could not operate openly, so they worked within other Left parties and mass organizations to achieve their goals, all the while maintaining a strict organizational independence from these affiliated groups. Considering this situation, Overstreet and Windmiller observe that because the CPI was illegal, it relied on front organizations to link with anti-imperialist elements. The authors likened front organizations to “transmission belts” through which communist ideas might be transmitted to disparate class constituencies. According to Overstreet and Windmiller, a front provides a vehicle for “advanced indoctrination,” a “missionary society” through which the CPI attempted to increase its influence.20 The CSP, workers’ unions and peasant organizations all fell under the concept of front organizations through which communists sought to inspire the masses. Because the CPI was illegal, communists operated under the aegis of associated organizations. Allegations against communists evolved out of this necessity, in which communists and socialists sought homogeneity, but only the latter were legally permitted to function. Illegality surreptitiously sponsored secrecy and greater organizational coherence to the detriment of the united front. Communist views again reflected a persistent continuity. In 1924, Joseph Stalin discussed the relationship between the communist party and mass organizations. He correctly observed that the masses had organized into assorted organizations for struggling against capitalism. All such bodies were “absolutely necessary for the working class,” but largely remained unaffiliated with the communist party. According to Stalin, the party accepted the task of “centralizing the leadership of the struggle of the proletariat,” thereby transforming non-communist organizations into auxiliaries of the communist party and into a “transmission belt linking the Party with the class.” Communists in these auxiliaries would strongly influence their ideological orientation, working “to persuade these non-Party organizations to draw nearer to the Party of the proletariat in their work and to accept voluntarily its political guidance.”21 Thus, by joining forces with non-communist organizations, the communist party might influence the members of these affiliated groups; ideological homogenization remained a central, but often ignored component of the united front. Practically speaking, communist attitudes about the CSP mirrored the CSP’s relations with the Congress. In May 1936, Narayan wrote about the relationship of the CSP to the Congress, attempting to dispel perceptions that the Congress socialists sought to convert the Congress to socialism: It may appear strange that those who profess Socialism should say that they do not want to raise the issue of Socialism in the Congress. This

232  The “pioneers of unity” may look like a ruse, a camouflage. It is neither. Our policy is dictated by the simple consideration that an organization the task of which is to unite all genuinely anti-imperialist classes on one front against imperialism needs not a socialist but a broad anti-imperialist programme.22 Narayan maintained that the principle behind CSP work was not socialism, but rather unified anti-imperialism. Incrementally, the CSP would alter the outlook of Congressmen and the masses, thereby radicalizing anti-­ imperialism. Nevertheless, the socialist viewpoint attempted to radicalize the progressive non-socialist elements of the anti-imperialist movement. This perspective was neatly encapsulated by Narayan in his assessment of Congress Socialist and CSP propaganda: The publication should avoid sectarianism, should evolve into “a natural channel for the expression of all radical thought” and, most especially, “must become the rallying centre, the unifying agency, of the entire socialist movement in the country.”23 According to Namboodiripad, communist perceptions about the CSP and the Congress mirrored socialist views about the Congress. Communists pursued “as nearer an approach to the communist understanding of socialism as possible so that a united socialist movement could develop.” Namboodiripad reminisced that “slowly and slowly, the whole socialist movement could be incorporated” into united front programs. He explained that communist cooperation with the CSP entailed introducing “more and more radical views” and encouraging “more and more the line that we wanted them to adopt.” He suggested that such influence was intended to “advance the general anti-imperialist movement.”24 Consequently, just as there was no question of incompatibility of the CSP working within the Congress, similarly, there could be no difficulty with communists working within the larger CSP to influence its ideological orientation. Admittedly, the communist approach to the united front remained more doctrinaire than that of the socialists, but such a development was unexpected, given the CPI’s more doctrinaire outlook—the CPI was a tightly knit illegal party comprised of members with a common, relatively clearly defined ideology while the CSP was a coalition of radicals possessing assorted socialist viewpoints. The better-organized CPI would logically acquire the upper hand. Moreover, as Girja Shankar observes, the CPI benefited from external funding and organization while the CSP depended on meager domestic sources. Communist propaganda literature freely permeated the CSP, quickly influencing the rank and file.25 The original Congress Socialist briefly struggled to stave off its demise, expired, and then was resurrected at the end of 1935.26 Even after the CSP propaganda resumed, it struggled to sustain operations.27 In January 1937, Narayan requested subscriptions to the Congress Socialist to facilitate socialist propaganda, noting that support for the party’s periodical “has been far from satisfactory.”28 He reiterated this appeal in March 1937, during the pinnacle moment of united front activities.29 Inevitably, communism exerted its more coherent influence over the more heterogeneous CSP.

The “pioneers of unity”  233 Indeed, socialist leaders constantly pestered their subordinates about organizational concerns. For example, nearly two years after the party’s inauguration, Narayan complained to CSP provincial secretaries that “very little activity on the part of our members is to be seen.” The united front required “sustained work, both in the way of agitation as well as labour and peasant organization,” but CSP workers consistently fell short of this mark. Narayan encouraged subordinate branches to enroll new members to make the CSP “strongly represented at the next Session of the Congress.” “Work in this direction,” he prompted, “is absolutely essential.” He proposed that the ultimate purpose of the party’s enrollment campaign was to remove delegate selection processes that socialists found objectionable, replacing them with the CSP’s collective affiliation scheme for labor and peasant unions.30 In another example, in June 1936, the CSP general secretary instructed provincial secretaries to complete a questionnaire about what electoral machinery was in place to support trade union candidates to central and provincial legislatures. Provincial branches were queried about who should be nominated, and they were instructed to predict the possibility of electoral success.31 By the end of July, the CSP national executive had failed to receive replies from its subordinate committees.32 Socialists preached about a coherent program, but failed to orchestrate one that might unify existing CSP constituencies, let alone disparate elements of the Left. Party restrictions and local emphases limited the united front’s effectiveness. Unity required a coherent plan of action. Local variation prevented ideological and organizational coherence.

Limitations of Marxism Socialists represented their party as a homogeneous Marxist organization. However, others perceived the CSP as merely a forum for Left unity, not as a coherent Marxist party. Consequently, these groups argued that “the Party should not at all be developed as a socialist party but as the left wing of the Congress” and suggested that the Congress Socialist Party, as a socialist party, should be liquidated.”33 Communists, in particular, as well as Leninism defined the CSP as either a forum for Leftism or as a petty bourgeois party that could be influenced from within by the CPI. After all, the Comintern line recommended working “inside the organizations which take part in the Indian National Congress, facilitating the process of crystallization of a national revolutionary wing among them,” meaning that the CPI should cooperate with “one element of bourgeois nationalism,” the Congress Left wing, as represented by the CSP, to displace the Congress’s moderate bourgeois leaders.34 The Dutt and Bradley thesis reiterated the notion of two wings in the Congress.35 Given these conflicting socialist–communist perspectives, the foundations for homogeneity became moot. This mistaken outlook regarding homogeneity was inherent to the two essentially incompatible ideologies involved with both parties adhering to

234  The “pioneers of unity” a kind of orthodoxy that excluded alternate viewpoints. With such irreconcilable differences, the united front’s ideal of homogeneity was unrealizable. Part of the problem arose from Narayan’s attitude about avoiding the mistakes of Western socialism and his determination to improve upon it.36 Narayan’s overemphasis on unity undermined the potential of the united front. The difficulty originated in the initial purpose of the united front—unifying all radical elements as a pressure group that might influence Congress policies, thereby weaning the Congress rank and file from its entrenched bourgeois leadership. However, in practice, the united front was designed to prepare the country for direct action, to seize power from imperialism and to redirect nationalist energies from the lethargic path of reformism and constitutionalism. Direct action required national unity to succeed and, ultimately, Narayan and the socialists proved reluctant to force a split in the Congress by displacing the bourgeoisie. Unity implied homogeneity, which in turn enabled communists to influence the CSP. Masani observed that the CSP afforded communists a channel for infiltrating the Congress, the CSP, the kisan sabhas, the labor movement and the youth movement. He maintained that the CSP was an avenue for communists to “infiltrate into positions of importance in the national forces.”37 But his assessment disingenuously considered the purpose of the united front. Communists had to be admitted into the CSP and the Congress for homogenization to succeed. Left consolidation could only be accomplished through high-level interaction, which hypothetically might overcome ideological differences and articulate a common platform. The purpose of the united front was Left consolidation that might then influence the Congress; admission, association and collaboration were all crucial elements of this process. However, this compulsion to achieve Left unity blinded Narayan, Masani and others to the inconsistencies inherent to the CSP–CPI relationship. Because socialists and communists agreed to disagree on vital concerns for the sake of Left unity, these differences were allowed to simmer and fester. As the CSP statement about its Marxist orientation revealed, It follows that the Party’s own programme must be a Marxist one; otherwise, the Party will fail to fulfill its task and leadership. Marxism alone can guide the anti-imperialist forces to their ultimate destiny. Equally important, this statement maintained that party members must “fully understand the technique of revolution and theory and practice of the class struggle, the nature of the state and the processes leading to the socialist society.”38 Fully understanding Marxism and its implications involved a dialogue among party members, an exchange of ideas to clarify misunderstandings. Indeed, the process of homogenization, as Namboodiripad revealed, entailed an element of ideological conversion, one in which socialists were woefully unprepared to engage.39 The effective spread of

The “pioneers of unity”  235 communism within the CSP, consequently, inflamed suspicions about continued collaboration. Furthermore, socialists’ and communists’ Marxist perspectives inherently limited the united front’s ability to influence India’s masses or the Congress’s rank and file. The brand of Marxism–Leninism that founded the united front assumed that nationalist policies reflected specific class interests. Nationalism’s class orientation, then, was assumed to pursue reformist tendencies inherent to the bourgeoisie. Consequently, the united front was designed to combat collaboration and bourgeois vacillation. This premise proved problematic because of the illogic underpinning the united front’s purpose: The united front functioned within a reformist structure—the Congress—which automatically strove to limit its ability to alter that structure. Moreover, once that structure appropriated the united front’s radical impulse, socialists and communists found themselves bereft of room to maneuver. The success of the united front required altruistic motives on the part of its participants. Regardless of intentions, the effects of homogenization bred suspicion on the part of socialists, which in turn became outright hostility to a perceived communist take-over. Once Masani produced documents alleging that communists were attempting to capture CSP units, the concept of homogeneity splintered and the rationale for Left unity began to disintegrate.

Relationship with the Indian National Congress The other insurmountable obstacle was found in the united front’s relations with the Congress. Socialists and communists both defined the Congress as a national movement that was dominated by the bourgeoisie, but had begun to incorporate the country’s disparate and disunited anti-imperialist mass elements. Both parties employed Leninist conceptualizations of anti-­ colonialism to help define the Congress and determine the extent to which the CSP and CPI might work with or within it. Moreover, these perspectives clearly articulated a precise continuity of Leninism. Narendra Deva succinctly outlined the socialist perspective: “A socialist will never refuse to join the fight for independence carried on by the lower middle class if he can thereby overthrow foreign domination.” He claimed that because imperialism sought to collaborate with zamindars and capitalists, the CSP might forge an “alliance between the lower middle class and the masses.”40 For communists, Wang Ming maintained that the CPI should broaden the anti-imperialist struggle by consolidating its control over the petty bourgeoisie, the proletariat, the peasants and the national bourgeoisie. Dutt and Bradley reiterated this recommendation.41 Common ground for the united front, then, was found in the attempt to unify the class enemies of imperialism and its junior partners, the zamindars and capitalists. The specific continuity of Leninism that permeated united front activities was not whether or not the Congress constituted a bourgeois movement

236  The “pioneers of unity” or party. In fact, M.N. Roy incorrectly and consistently overemphasized this fundamental issue. Roy defined the Congress as a “political organ.” He insisted that a mass-based party was “an indispensable necessity.”42 He compartmentalized the Congress’s bourgeois leaders as a party within the Congress.43 Instead, consistency appeared in the united front’s endeavors to mobilize the masses on behalf of anti-imperialism; it was the act of mobilization that mattered most. Through mobilization, the united front, in Lenin’s terms, might “render assistance to the bourgeois-democratic liberation movement” by radicalizing the movement itself.44 Socialists and communists agreed that the united front was designed to organize the masses and gain their representation in the Congress, thereby transforming the national movement into an authentic anti-imperialist struggle. The key component was how the masses were to be mobilized and integrated into the movement. Nevertheless, the united front’s efforts to wean the masses away from bourgeois leadership proved futile. In June 1936, during the heyday of the Congress’s radical moment, Sampurnanand complained to the delegates of a provincial CSP conference that the Lucknow Congress, widely celebrated as a triumph for united front advocates, might have been only a limited success. He surmised that “the success has not so much been won by us as handed over to us by the group opposed to us, for reasons that suited it best.” He suggested that the Congress’s acceptance of socialist resolutions was a feint, intended to appease socialists into condoning parliamentarianism. “On this resolution” about the Government of India Act, Sampurnanand observed, “they were adamant.” Accepting socialist programs, he claimed, attempted “to draw attention away” from the actual socialist agenda, replacing it with misrepresentations of socialism and “election propaganda.” It was meant to dilute the demand for a more comprehensive anti-imperialist program and to set the stage for accommodating a full-blown legislative phase.45 Additionally, the Congress’s willingness to adopt the principles of the united front—unified anti-imperialism—essentially aborted the imperative for Left consolidation. Once Congress leaders assumed the mantle of radical programs, the rationale behind a united front influencing the parent organization was mooted because, in effect, socialists had transformed the Congress’s orientation. Once this mission was hypothetically accomplished, CSP–CPI collaboration became redundant and disintegrated among ideological bickering. To a considerable extent, the radicals’ united front succumbed to its own limited successes. Moreover, socialist attempts to forge a united front with the CPI were undermined by the very outlook that defined socialism’s relationship to the Congress. A minority faction within the broader organization sought to transform the ideological outlook of the majority of members. Collectively, CSP’s efforts were designed to combat a “rather complacent view of things,” to radicalize the masses for the nation’s “immediate task” of securing independence and responding to “a crisis which has called up a resurgence of revolutionary activity,” and which “demands a new technique,

The “pioneers of unity”  237 46

new slogans, new forms of struggle.” In a sense, the united front fundamentally attempted to shake Congress workers out of their complacency, prepare the nation for direct action and secure the nation’s destiny. It sought to combat the “typical middle-class way of looking at things” and to overcome an outlook that threatened to make the Congress “completely ineffective.”47 For assorted reasons and in part because of the stillborn united front, radicalization of the Congress failed. However, the Left’s tendency toward doctrinal homogeneity as a source of unity precluded the possibilities of a successful united front. The purposes of the united front could not transcend internecine ideological quarrels, and efforts to forge the united front established the conditions for the fragmentation of the Left. Ultimately, the Congress was a poorly suited object of transformation. In their deliberations about the nature of the Indian nationalist movement, communists precisely identified the Congress’s insurmountable defects. A British communist assessment of the late-1920s Congress reported, In this advanced stage of development it is no longer possible for the bourgeois parties to force themselves on the masses as the leaders of the national revolutionary struggle. Neither is it possible to impress them with the revolutionary slogans of independence unless they are accompanied by an effort at revolutionary actions. With the independence slogan the bourgeoisie endeavours to keep under the influence of the bourgeois leaders the Left nationalist elements composed of the mass of the petty bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia. This assessment concluded that the bourgeois Congress would attempt to dominate the advanced and revolutionary elements, and in such a situation, the left wing within the Congress would capitulate to bourgeois control.48 This communist analysis from 1928 remained valid throughout the 1930s. The socialist viewpoint regarding CSP work inside the Congress amounted to a united-front-from-below strategy, which confused activity with purpose. Its purpose was to radicalize nationalism and prepare the country to challenge imperialism. United front activities focused on unifying disparate classes and interests into a cohesive anti-imperialist front that might neutralize the bourgeoisie. It could not achieve its purpose through its activities because the rank and file remained unwilling or unprepared to jettison Gandhi and the entrenched nationalist leaders. The united front was also obstructed by the nature of Indian nationalism, by its purposes and goals. So long as independence remained in the forefront of the national struggle, social revolution automatically became relegated to non-national status, an issue that free India might have considered, but which remained irrelevant to the immediate national struggle. Emancipation from imperialism required forging a united front on Congress terms, one in which national unity was the paramount consideration. Class conflict, ideological deviance and economic demands were labeled as sources of disunity by Congress

238  The “pioneers of unity” leaders. Moreover, the Congress could not be transformed from within as anticipated by socialists and communists due to the disciplinary measures, which emphasized obedience to the national leadership. How could national leaders be displaced by communists or socialists if discipline implied that every instruction issued by the Working Committee must be obeyed for the sake of national unity? The united front’s goal of radicalization foundered when challenged by a hostile Congress leadership emphasizing national unity and discipline. Additionally, the Congress’s apparent willingness to adopt radical programs subverted the united front. For all intents and purposes, throughout 1936, the united front appeared to score successes, coaxing the Congress into adopting a rejection of the Government of India Act, indefinitely delaying the acceptance of office, proposing a comprehensive agrarian program, undertaking steps to democratize the Congress, declaring the Congress’s opposition to India’s involvement in an imperialist war. Indeed, successes gave rise to the impression that the Congress was undergoing a transformation, that radical pressure was weaning the rank and file away from the bourgeoisie. However, the Congress’s appropriation of radical issues further debilitated the united front because moderate Congressmen appeared to have been radicalized and deliberately or unintentionally began to neutralize the intention behind forming the united front. The meaning and relevance of the united front became subsumed by an overarching notion of national unity, displacing the fundamental leftist consolidation that the united front attempted to achieve. By incorporating and utilizing the slogans of the united front, bourgeois leaders undermined the united front’s original purpose. Once begun, this process of dilution proved unstoppable. By 1951, the concept of the united front dramatically changed to the extent that it lost its original meaning—Madhu Limaye proposed a discussion among opposition parties about forming a United Front as “the alternative to Congress rule” and as a challenge to “the Congress policy of drift and inaction.” Limaye suggested that this united front must be based on “long term policies and programmes” that “will pull our country out of the present mire.”49 Evidently, the term had become such common parlance that it defined a political arrangement to score electoral successes, despite the fact that much of the rhetoric continued to linger. Moreover, the success of the united front was jeopardized because it had meandered from its original intent. Narayan’s assessment of Masani clearly illustrated its original purpose: the former noted that Masani “disagreed with the communists violently, but was prepared for honest cooperation with them as between two independent parties.”50 Masani distrusted the CPI. His attitude precluded the possibility of homogenization, and his viewpoint clearly revealed a flaw inherent to the united front: Socialists and communists consistently perceived themselves as members of separate, independent parties, collaborating to achieve limited common goals. This

The “pioneers of unity”  239 original working relationship evolved into processes of homogenization, influence and so-called capture, all of which were relevant to achieving consolidation and unity. However, socialists and communists could never agree on specific, practical issues, retaining their independence while working toward interdependence. Consequently, because the two parties disagreed on important fundamental grounds, unity could not be secured in a comprehensive and meaningful manner. The united front might have succeeded if socialists and communists had broken all ties with the Congress, but the leaders of the two parties remained reluctant to force a split in the Congress, thereby debilitating the national movement. United front advocates grossly misdiagnosed the situation. In a broad sense, although radicalized by the united front, the Congress remained immune to its transformational efforts. The Congress was not, nor could it ever have been, a true united front.

Notes 1 “AICSP Foreign News-Letter” (1 May 1938), Jayaprakash Narayan Papers 3/1935–52. 2 Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 230. 3 Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 231–32. 4 Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 236–37, 239, 249. 5 Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 241. 6 Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 252–53. 7 Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 253–54. 8 Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 248. Emphasis is original. 9 “Problems of Unity,” Congress Socialist (9 April 1938). 10 Foreword to “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 229. 11 Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity in India,” SMI, 253. 12 Masani, Bliss Was It, 128. 13 “The Constituent Assembly,” ASAND, 26. 14 “Problems of Unity,” Congress Socialist (9 April 1938). 15 “The Constituent Assembly,” ASAND, 26. 16 Naboodiripad interview (accessed 24 June 2013). 17 Masani, Bliss Was It, 130. 18 Masani, Bliss Was It, 89. 19 Naboodiripad interview (accessed 24 June 2013). 20 Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 406, 441. 21 Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 366–67. 22 “Issues Before and After Lucknow,” Congress Socialist (23 May 1936). 23 Narayan to Asoka Mehta, 13 December 1935, JPSW, vol. 1, 185. 24 Naboodiripad interview (accessed 24 June 2013). 25 Shankar, Socialist Trends, 142. 26 Narayan to Asoka Mehta, 13 December 1935, JPSW, vol. 1, 184–85. See also General Secretary’s Report (1935), AICSP conference, 20 January 1939, JPSW, vol. 2, 93. 27 Circular to CSP provincial secretaries, 14 December 1935, JPSW, vol. 1, 185–86. 28 Appeal to support the Congress Socialist, 25 January 1937, JPSW, vol. 2, 151. See also: Appeal to contribute to the Congress Socialist, 22 January 1937, JPSW, vol. 2, 150.

240  The “pioneers of unity” 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50

Circular to CSP provincial secretaries, 31 March 1937, JPSW, vol. 2, 167. Circular to CSP provincial secretaries, 4 June 1936, JPSW, vol. 1, 109–10. Circular to CSP provincial secretaries, 4 June 1936, JPSW, vol. 2, 113. Circular to CSP provincial secretaries, 28 July 1926, JPSW, vol. 2, 115. Narayan, “The Problems of Socialist Unity,” CSP, 232. Georgi Dimitrov, “The Offensive of Fascism and the Tasks of the C.I. in the Struggle for the Unity of the Working Class Against Fascism,” in Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 158. “Anti-Imperialist People’s Front in India,” (accessed 21 May 2014). Masani, Bliss Was It, 125–26. Masani, Communist Party of India, 68. CSP statement, 20 March 1936 in Masani, Bliss Was It, 89. Namboodiripad interview (accessed 24 June 2013). Presidential address, All India socialist conference, 17 May 1934, CSP, 36–37. Overstreet and Windmiller, Communism in India, 157–58, 161. “Ourselves,” Vanguard of Indian Independence (15 February 1923). Overstreet and Windmiller, Indian Communism, 60. The Second Congress of the Communist International, Proceedings, 478. Presidential address, Kerala Congress Socialist conference, 14 June 1936, CSP, 218–19. Presidential address, CSP conference, 23 December 1936, JPSW, vol. 2, 125–26. Presidential address, CSP conference, 23 December 1936, JPSW, vol. 2, 126. The Communist International Between the Fifth and the Sixth World Congresses, 468–69. Limaye and Mehrotra, The Age of Hope, 30–31. Narayan, Socialist Unity and the Congress Socialist Party, 24.

Bibliography

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Bibliography  243 Ralhan, O.P., ed. Congress Socialist Party. New Delhi: Anmol Publications. 1998. Ralhan, O.P., ed. Socialist Movement in India. New Delhi: Anmol Publications. 1999.

Published interviews “Interview with E.M.S. Namboodiripad” in A.G. Noorani, “Communist Memories,” Frontline 28, no. 25 (December 2011). www.flonnet.com/fl2825/stories/ 20111216282509000.htm. “Interview with Puchalapalli Sundarayya” in A.G. Noorani, “Communist Memories,” Frontline 28, no. 25 (December 2011). www.flonnet.com/fl2825/stories/ 20111216282509000.htm (accessed 24 June 2013).

Secondary sources Bagchi, Santanu. Ideas on Socialism and Social Justice. New Delhi: Kanisha Publishers. 2002. Bakshi, S.R. Jayaprakash Narayan: His Socialistic Ideology. New Delhi: Anmol Publications. 1992. Balaram, N.E. A Short History of the Communist Party of India. Trivandrum: Prabhath Book House. 1967. Bandhu, Deep Chand. History of Indian National Congress (1885–2002). Delhi: Kalpaz Publications. 2003. Bhargava, G.S. Leaders of the Left. Bombay. Meherally Book Club. 1951. Bhasin, Prem. Socialism in India. New Delhi: Young Asia. 1968. Bhattacharjea, Ajit. Jayaprakash Narayan. New Delhi: Vikas. 1978. Brown, Judith. Modern India: Origins of an Asian Democracy. Delhi: Oxford University Press. 1985. Chakrabarty, Dipesh. Rethinking Working-Class History: Bengal, 1890–1940. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 1989. Chandavarkar, Rajnarayan. Imperial Power and Popular Politics: Class, Resistance and the State in India, c. 1850–1950. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1998. Chandra, Bipan. Essays on Colonialism. New Delhi: Orient Longman. 1999. ———. Nationalism and Colonialism in Modern India. Delhi: Orient Longman. 1979. Chandra, Bipan, Mrdula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, K.N. Panikkar, and Sucheta Mahajan. India’s Struggle for Independence, 1857–1947. New York: Penguin Books. 1989. Chatterjee, Partha. “More on Modes of Power and Peasantry” in Ranajit Guha, editor. Subaltern Studies II: Writings on South Asian History and Society. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. 1983. ———. “The Nation and Its Peasants” in Vinayak Chaturvedi, editor. Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial. New York: Verso. 2000. ———. The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories. Delhi: Oxford University Press India. 1995. Chaudhuri, Asim Kumar. Socialist Movement in India: Congress Socialist Party. Calcutta: Progressive Publishers. 1980. Chopra, P.N., editor. India’s Struggle for Freedom: Role of Associated Movements, volume 3. Delhi: Agam Prakashan. 1985.

244 Bibliography Chowdhuri, Satyabrata Rai. Leftism in India, 1917–1947. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave. 2007. Damodaran, Vinita. Broken Promises: Popular Protest, Indian Nationalism and the Congress Party in Bihar, 1935–1946. Delhi: Oxford University Press. 1992. Dandavate, M.R. Evolution of Socialist Policy and Perspectives. Bombay: Lok Mitra Publications. 1964. Dove, Marguerite Rose. Forfeited Future: The Conflict over Congress Ministries in British India, 1933–1937. Delhi: Chanakya Publications. 1987. Dutt. R.C. Socialism of Jawaharlal Nehru. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications. 1981. Dwivedy, Surendra Nath. Quest for Socialism: Fifty Years of Struggle. New Delhi: Radiant Publisher. 1984. Fellman, Gordon Allan. Indian Socialists and Jayaprakash Narayan. Unpublished dissertation, University of Chicago. 1963. Ghose, Shankar. Socialism and Communism in India. Bombay: Allied Publishers. 1971. ———. Socialism, Democracy and Nationalism in India. Bombay: Allied Publishers. 1973. Gopal, Sarvepalli. Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography, volume 1. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1976. Guha, Ranajit. “Discipline and Mobilize” in Partha Chatterjee and Gyan Pandey, editors. Subaltern Studies VII: Writings on South Asian History and Society. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. 1993. ———. Dominance without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1997. ———. Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India. Delhi: Oxford University Press. 1983. ———. “Historiography of Colonial India” in Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, editors. Selected Subaltern Studies. New York: Oxford University Press. 1988. Gupta, Asha. Socialism in Theory and Practice: Narendra Deva’s Contribution. New Delhi: Gitanjali Publishing House. 1987. Gupta, D.N. Communism and Nationalism in Colonial India, 1939–1945. New Delhi: Sage Publications. 2008. Gupta, Sunil Kumar. Gandhi-Jawaharlal Confluence. New Delhi: Oriental Publishers & Distributors. 1976. Haithcox, John Patrick. “Left Wing Unity and the Indian Nationalist Movement: M.N. Roy and the Congress Socialist Party.” Modern Asian Studies, vol. 3, no. 1 (1969): 17–56. Haynes, Douglas E and Gyan Prakash. Contesting Power: Resistance and Everyday Social Relations in South Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1992. Hill, John L., editor. The Congress and Indian Nationalism: Historical Perspectives. Wellesley Hills, MA: The Riverdale Company. 1991. Iyer, V.R. Krishna. Indian Socialism: Perspective and Prospects. Bangalore: Raghothaman Smaraka Pratishthana. 1983. Kagalkar, Pratibha. Nehru: A Study in Indian Socialism. Bombay: Himalaya Publishing House. 1992. Kapoor, Ravi Shanker. More Equal than Others: A Study of the Indian Left. New Delhi: Vision Books. 2000.

Bibliography  245 Kapoor, Suneera, ed. Thought and Vision of Jawaharlal Nehru. New Delhi: Anamika Publishers. 2005. Kochar, R.C. Congress and Socialism: Economic Programmes and Policies. Delhi: Anamika Publishers. 1997. Kumar, Kapil. Congress and Classes: Nationalism, Workers and Peasants. New Delhi: Manohar Publications. 1988. Kuracina, William F. The State and Governance in Colonial India: The Congress Ideal. New York: Routledge. 2010. Lakhanpal, P.L. A History of the Congress Socialist Party, 1934–1947. Delhi: Hope India Publications. 2012. Limaye, Madhu. Galaxy of the Indian Socialist Leaders. New Delhi: B.R. Publishing Corporation. 2000. Lourdusamy, Stan. People’s Liberation: Characteristics of Parties, Movements and People’s Struggles in India. New Delhi: Indian Social Institute. 1985. Low, David A. “Congress and “Mass Contacts,” 1936–1937: Ideology, Interests, and Conflict over the Basis of Party Representation” in Richard Sisson and Stanley Wolpert, editors. Congress and Indian Nationalism: The Pre-Independence Phase. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1988. ———, ed. Congress and the Raj: Facets of the Indian Struggle, 1917–1947. London: Heinemann Educational Books, Ltd. 1977. ———. Rearguard Action: Selected Essays on Late Colonial Indian History. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Private Limited. 1996. Mahendru, K.C. Congress and the Freedom Struggle: Gandhi and the Congress Socialist Party, 1934–1948: An analysis of their interaction. Jalandhar: ABS Publications. 1986. Markovits, Claude. “Congress Policy toward Business in the Pre-Independence Era,” in Richard Sisson and Stanley Wolpert, editors. Congress and Indian Nationalism: The Pre-Independence Phase. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1988. ———. Indian Business and Nationalist Politics, 1931–39: The Indigenous Capitalist Class and the Rise of the Congress Party. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985. Mechery, F.A. and Maneesha Tikekar. Indian Socialism: Past and Present. Bombay: Himalaya Publishing House. 1985. Mehrotra, Nanak Chand. The Socialist Movement in India. London: Sangam Books. 1995. Misra, B.B. The Indian Political Parties: An Historical Analysis of Political Behavior Up to 1947. Delhi: Oxford University Press. 1976. Mookerjee, Girija K. History of the Indian National Congress (1832–1947). Meerut: Meenakshi Prakashan. 1974. Moore, R.J. The Crisis of Indian Unity, 1917–1940. London: Oxford University Press. 1974. Nanda, B.R. Socialism in India. Delhi: Vikas Publications. 1972. Overstreet, Gene D., and Marshall Windmiller. Communism in India. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1959. Padhy, K.S., and P.K. Panigrahy. Socialist Movement in India. Delhi: Kanishka Publishing House. 1992. Pai. M.R., ed. Socialism in India: A Commentary. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. 1967.

246 Bibliography Pradhan, Benudhar. The Socialist Thought of Jawaharlal Nehru. Gurgaon: The Academic Press. 1974. ———. The Socialist Thought of Mahatma Gandhi. New Delhi: GDK. 1980. Prakash, Chander. The Political Philosophy of M.N. Roy. Ph.D. Thesis, Lucknow University. 1957. Prakash, Gyan, ed. After Colonialism: Imperial Histories and Postcolonial Displacements. Princeton: Princeton, University Press. 1995. Prasad, Bimla. Gandhi, Nehru and J.P.: A Study in Leadership. New Delhi: Canakya Publications. 1985. Prasad, Rai Akhilendra. Socialist Thought in Modern India. Delhi: Meenakshi Prakashan. 1974. Rao, V.K.R.V. Indian Socialism: Retrospect and Prospect. New Delhi: Concept Publishing. 1982. Reddy, G.K.C., ed. Fifty Years of Socialist Movement in India: Retrospect and Prospect. New Delhi: Samta Era Publication. 1984. Rose, Saul. Socialism in Southern Asia. London: Oxford University Press. 1959. Rothermund, Dietmar. The Phases of Indian Nationalism and Other Essays. Bombay: Nachiketa Publications Limited. 1970. Rusch, Thomas A. Role of the Congress Socialist Party in Indian National Congress, 1931–1942. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Chicago. 1955. Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books. 1979. Sarkar, Bibek. Nationalism and Marxism in India: A Quest for People and Power, 1920–1940. Delhi: Kalinga Publications. 1990. Sarkar, Jagannath, A.B. Bardhan, and N.E. Balaram, editors. India’s Freedom Struggle: Several Streams. New Delhi: People’s Publishing House. 1986. Sarkar, Jayabrata. “Power, Hegemony and Politics: Leadership Struggle in Congress in the 1930s.” Modern Asian Studies, vol. 40. no. 2 (2006): 333–370. Sarkar, Sumit. Modern India, 1885–1947. Madras: Macmillan India. 1983. Sathyamurthy, T.V. Social Change and Political Discourse in India: Structures of Power, Movements of Resistance. Delhi: Oxford University Press. 1998. Setalvad, M.C. Bhulabhai Desai. New Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. 1968. Seth, Sanjay. Marxist Theory and Nationalist Politics: The Case of Colonial India. New Delhi: Sage Publications. 1995. Shah, Sonal. Indian Socialists: Search for Identity. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. 1994. Shankar, Girja. A History of the Congress Socialist Party. Jodhpur: Kusumanjali Book World. 1995. ———. Socialist Trends in Indian National Movement: Being a Study of the Congress Socialist Party. Meerut: Twenty-First Century Publishers. 1987. Sharma, Shalini. “‘Yeh azaadi jhooti hai!’: The Shaping of the Opposition in the First Year of the Congress Raj.” Modern Asian Studies, vol. 48, no. 5 (2014): 1325–1388. Singh, Govind Narain. Socialist Ideology in Congress: A Critical Study. New Delhi: Shikha Publications. 1985. Singh, Radhir. Marxism, Socialism, Indian Politics: A View from the Left. Delhi: Aakar Books. 2008. Sinha, L.P. The Left Wing in India: 1919–1947. Muzafarpur: New Publishers. 1965.

Bibliography  247 Sisson, Richard. “Congress and Indian Nationalism: Political Ambiguity and the Problems of Social Conflict and Party Control” in Richard Sisson and Stanley Wolpert, editors. Congress and Indian Nationalism: The Pre-Independence Phase. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1988. Sitaramayya, B. Pattabhi. The History of the Indian National Congress. volume 2. New Delhi: Chand Publishers. 1969. Srivastava, U. Capitalism, Socialism and Indian Politics. New Delhi: Kunal Books. 2011. Staley, S.R. “The Rise and Fall of Indian Socialism: Why India Embraced Economic Reform.” Reason, vol. 38, no. 2 (2006): 44–47. Tandon, P.D. Leaders of Modern India. Bombay: Vora. 1955. Tomlinson, B.R. Indian National Congress and the Raj, 1929–1942: The Penultimate Phase. Toronto: MacMillan India International. 1976. Weiner, Myron. Party Politics in India: The Development of a Multi-Party System. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1957. Wilson, James. “Gandhiites and Socialists: The Struggle for Control of the Indian National Congress, 1931–1939.” Ph.D. Thesis. University of London. 1977.

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Index

All-India Congress Socialist Party (AICSP) conferences: at Bombay (1934) 22–23, 71–72, 103; at Faizpur (1936) 84, 118–19, 155, 209; at Lahore (1938) 161, 165–66, 168–71, 174; at Meerut (1936) 31, 78, 79, 118–19, 155 All-India Trades Union Congress (AITUC) 25–26, 46–48, 119, 146 “The Anti-Imperialist People’s Front in India” 28–29, 37–38, 43–44, 233, 235 anti-ministry campaign 79, 92, 95, 105–6, 150–51 anti-war platform 23, 25–26, 49, 68, 71, 79–80, 82, 84–85, 113–14, 117, 119–20, 122–23, 161, 172, 181–82, 195–97, 198, 204, 209–15, 217–20, 238 Banerjee, Sibnath 169 Batliwala, S.S. 169, 172, 177 Bedekar, D.K. 122 Bedi, B.P.L. 169 Bodi, B.P.I. 186 Bombay Congress constitution (1934) 72–73 Bombay Congress session (1934) 69–73, 77, 113 Bose, Subhas Chandra 9, 22, 112, 117, 128, 164, 179–90, 195, 198–200, 206; CSP supports re-election 164, 180–82; criticizes CSP neutrality 200–1; forms Forward Bloc 196–98; proposes Left consolidation 203–4 bourgeois reformism, critiques of 6, 8, 13–18, 20–22, 26–27, 29–30, 35, 37–41, 43–47, 51–52, 54, 61–62, 66–67, 76–77, 80, 83, 95, 100, 102–3, 107–10, 112, 114, 116, 118, 121, 143–48, 151–52,

156–58, 164, 166, 171, 178–79, 183, 185, 189, 195–196, 201, 203, 208–9, 218–19, 221–22, 233–38 Bradley, Benjamin 27–30, 37–38, 43–44, 102, 108–9, 150, 233, 235 Caveeshar, Sardar Sardul Singh 105–6 Chattopadhyaya, Kamaladevi 93, 118–19, 141, 169, 174 civil Disobedience 9, 20, 23, 28, 60, 110, 179–81, 219–20, 222 collective affiliation 44, 48, 50–56, 72–73, 100, 120–22, 142–43, 147, 151, 179, 222–23 Communist International (Comintern) 4–5, 14–16, 19, 22, 25–27, 29–30, 37, 45, 135, 142, 207, 226, 233; Seventh Congress’s decision 27–28; Sixth Congress’s proposal 17–19, 37, 102 Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) 3–4, 17, 25, 37–38, 102–3, 221, 237 Congress Election Manifesto 58, 60, 80–82, 84, 88–89, 94–95, 101, 111, 120–21, 147, 151, 164–65, 171–73, 176–77 constituent assembly, 23, 46, 58–59, 68–71, 73, 79, 81, 83, 85–88, 90, 107, 110–11, 120, 145–46, 167, 176, 213 CSP National Executive 47, 72, 126–27, 136–38, 140, 147–48, 152, 168, 175, 186–87, 189, 199, 230, 233; alleged communist takeover at Lahore 135, 169–70; decisions of 22, 41–42, 48–49, 77, 79, 83–84, 87, 93–94, 106, 128, 148–49, 159, 167, 181, 190, 205, 214–15, 220

250 Index Deva, Narendra 9, 12, 169, 225; anticipates break with communists 215; considers Left unity 208; debates P.C. Joshi 218; discusses CSP relationship to Congress 61, 71, 235; discusses founding principles 21, 26; opposes parliamentarianism 58–59, 103–4, 120; organization of unions, 47, 52–53, 124; “Problems of Unity” 158–59, 227–28; refers to a “fighting alliance” 159, 164; supports opposition to war 218–19; united front as democratic front 229 Din, Munshi Ahmed 150–51, 186 direct action 9, 20, 23, 38, 43, 54, 58–60, 62, 66, 69, 72, 76–78, 83, 86, 89–90, 93–95, 100, 103, 105–7, 109–10, 114–15, 118, 127–28, 143–44, 146, 151, 165, 175, 178, 180–81, 183, 186, 196–97, 200, 204–5, 208–9, 211, 214, 218–20, 222, 225, 234, 237 Dutt, Rajani Palme 27–30, 37–38, 43–44, 108–9, 150, 179, 233, 235 Faizpur Congress session 57–58, 84–87, 120, 124, 137, 147, 195, 209–10 Faizpur Thesis 42, 77–78, 125, 134, 140, 188 Forward Bloc 190, 196–98, 203, 205–6, 215, 217; responses to its formation 199–203; statement by Jayaprakash Narayan and P.C. Joshi 203–4 Gandhi, Mohandas 20, 75–76, 87, 89–90, 115–16, 127, 182–84, 189, 191, 200, 214, 217–18, 220, 237 Gandhism 9, 20, 76, 112, 117, 125, 183, 185, 196–97, 199, 208, 214–15, 218 Goonewardene, L.S. 80, 112 Gore, N.G. 139 Government of India Act, rejection of 19, 23, 50, 57–60, 68, 75, 78–81, 83–85, 88–92, 101–8, 110–12, 114, 119–20, 127–28, 167, 236, 238 Haripura Congress session 57, 125, 128, 151, 167, 175–76 individual satyagraha campaign 220 Joshi, P.C. 45–46, 191, 200, 203–4, 215, 216–18 Joshi, S.M. 139, 172

Khadikar, R.K. 119 Khedgikar, R.A. 119 Lenin, Vladimir 14–15, 35, 45, 153, 166, 228, 236 Leninism 7, 13, 35, 38, 45, 49, 143, 156, 233, 235 Limaye, Madhu 12, 117, 144, 238 Lohia, Rammanohar 53, 119–20, 169–70, 183, 190, 205–6, 211–12 Lucknow Congress session 4, 53, 55, 57–58, 78–81, 84, 86, 108–9, 111–15, 120, 123, 128, 195, 209, 236 Madras Ministry, CSP complaints against 172, 174, 177 Masani, M.R. (Minoo) 9, 75, 126, 128, 136, 138, 149, 152–54, 156–57, 170, 228–31, 235, 238; AICC resolution against Congress Ministries 94, 173–74; anti-communist assertions 20, 25, 28–30, 36, 40–41, 214, 221; condemns Stalin purges 170; criticism of CSP National Executive 149; criticizes Congress Ministries 94, 171, 173; critique of Royists 140; defends CSP neutrality 184–85, 189; describes foundations for united front 25–27, 76, 100; differences with Jayaprakash Narayan 35–36, 143, 160; discusses CSP relationship to Congress 66, 100; discusses Nehru’s leadership 112, 117–18; exposes communist infiltration 147–48; expresses admiration for USSR 20; hindsight depictions of united front 1–2, 4–7, 9, 13, 25–26, 27, 29–30, 129, 134–39, 161, 214, 230, 234; mistrust of M.N. Roy 138; observations about Lahore conference 168–69; observations about Lucknow session 80, 113; observations about Tripuri session 182–83, 189; opinion about unity 143, 152, 207–8; opposes acceptance of office 87, 104–5, 127; propagates socialism 76; provokes communists 164; resigns from CSP 190, 206–7; responds to Sajjad Zaheer 156–57; revolutionary use of legislatures 67–68; speech at Lahore AICSP session 165–66; supports “unconditional resistance to war” 213 Mascarenas, Charles 61, 81, 138

Index  251 mass contacts campaign 53, 55–57, 80, 85–86, 89, 113, 120, 123–24, 151, 179, 222 Mazumdar, Gunada 140, 156, 201–2 Meerut Conspiracy Case (Meerut Trial) 14 Meerut Thesis 30, 40, 41, 42, 77, 125, 188, 229 Meherally, Yusuf 90–91, 119, 136–37, 169, 183 Mehta, Asoka 81, 86, 89, 136, 157, 165, 170, 183; assesses Election Manifesto 121; assesses Faizpur Congress resolutions 85–86, 120; criticizes Congress Ministries 93, 172, 175–76; critique of Royists 139–40; observations about Lahore conference 168; opposes Congress Ministries 150; opposes parliamentarianism 83, 85–86, 90; rejects offices 91; responds to Sajjad Zaheer 154–56; threatens to resign 190, 206 Mehta, Dinkar 55, 107–8, 169 Namboodiripad, E.M.S. 36–37, 41, 54–55, 88–89, 135–36, 148–49, 159–60, 169, 172, 210, 229–32, 234 Narayan, Jayaprakash 2, 72, 74–76, 79, 95, 100, 125–29, 137, 169–70, 183, 187, 205, 209, 232–34, 238; admits difficulties with unity 207–8, 215, 228; appeals to Nehru 178–79; attempts to preserve Left unity 159–61, 190–91; attitude about Forward Bloc 199; blames communists for failure of Left unity 160–61, 216, 227; communicates with union leaders 48; considers Left unity 22, 30–31, 36, 39–40, 50, 159, 168; conversation with M.N. Roy 136, 138; criticizes Royists 140–41, 143; defends CSP neutrality 188–89; defends socialism 70–71, 76, 100; delivers presidential address, Third AICSP conference 41–42; describes communist disruption 215; describes purpose of united front 12, 231–32; differences with M.R. Masani 35–36, 143, 159–60, 214, 230; discusses collective affiliation 51–52; explains CSP position at Tripuri Congress 182, 184; expresses admiration for USSR 20; hindsight depictions of united front, 2, 6, 9, 134, 136–37, 207,

225–27; member of Mass Contacts Committee 53–54; observations about Faizpur Congress 86–87, 137; observations about Haripura Congress 176–77; observations about Lucknow Congress 113–14; opinions about communist infiltration 149–50, 158; opposes bourgeois reformism 38–39, 50–51; opposes conditional acceptance of office 127; opposes parliamentarianism 57–60, 73, 100–1, 127, 138; organization of unions 48–49, 51–52; praises Nehru’s leadership 108, 112; purpose of propaganda 49–50; reaction to Working Committee resignations 183; recommends revolutionary use of legislatures 58; rejects Congress acceptance of offices 82, 106–7; statement about Left Consolidation (with P.C. Joshi) 203–4; supports National Demand 182; supports national unity 208–9, 215–16; supports “unconditional resistance to war” 213; Why Socialism? 38–39, 51, 144–45 Narayanswami, C.K. 199–200, 204–5 Nariman, K.F. 9, 205–6 National Demand 181–82, 186, 191, 203–5, 211, 213 Nehru, Jawaharlal 4, 9, 22, 25, 95, 114, 120, 125, 128, 138, 174, 178–79, 196; criticizes parliamentarianism 91, 108–10; early ideas about socialism 19–20; emphasizes discipline 95, 213–14; opposition to his radicalism 113, 115–16; propagates socialism 108; rejects offices 101–2, 108; supports united front 108–15, 117–18 parliamentary program, opposition to 23–24, 43, 46, 48–49, 57–58, 60–62, 67–72, 76, 79–80, 84–85, 87–91, 93–96, 100–1, 103–8, 110–11, 114, 119, 124, 127–28, 143–44, 150–51, 159, 164–65, 171–82, 188, 196–98, 202–3, 208–9, 221–22, 236 Patel, Vallabhbhai 75, 115, 117, 124–25, 128, 174, 198 Patwardhan, Achyut 119, 136, 169, 183, 190, 206 Pillai, Krishna 172 Prasad, Rajendra 105–6

252 Index Quit India campaign 221, 225 Ramgarh Congress session 219 Ranga, N.G. 55 Red Trade Union Congress (RTUC) 26, 48 Roy, M.N. 13, 15–18, 22, 61, 136, 138, 140–43, 183, 236 Royists (Roy Group) 6, 43, 136, 138–43, 148, 155, 183, 185–86, 189, 199, 203, 217, 225 Sagher, Mubarak 186 Sampurnanand 24, 77, 82–83, 115, 119, 236 Saraswati, Swami Sahajanand 200 Soviet Union 36, 141, 146, 152; as inspiration 20, 25–26, 51, 68, 77, 145; socialist criticism of 152–53, 164, 166, 170; Stalin Purges 170; united front against fascism 26, 29 Sundarayya, Puchalapalli 134, 142–43, 149, 169–70

transformation: by displacing bourgeois leaders 37, 50, 76, 100–1, 158, 165, 182–83, 185, 196, 208, 233, 236–38; by mass contacts 50–56, 72, 121, 182; evidence of success 80–81, 112, 115, 120, 181, 199, 236; ideological 2, 7, 17, 21, 53, 76, 100, 116, 150, 231, 236; of the Congress 13, 21–23, 29, 37, 39–40, 42, 44, 59, 61–62, 66, 75–78, 81, 100–1, 103, 108, 115, 118–23, 125, 128, 144, 147, 158–59, 165, 178, 182, 188, 196, 204, 219–22, 236–39; of CSP 155, 157; of society 13–14, 21, 38, 145–46 Trikamdas, Purushottam 76, 153–54, 228 Tripuri Congress session 165, 178, 181–91, 196, 198, 200, 205 United Front Agreement for Joint Action 25, 221 Zaheer, Sajjad 152–54, 156, 169