Emergence of Swarajists, Socialist Ideas, Revolutionary activities, and Other New Forces

v Swarajists and No-Changes

Ø Genesis of Congress-Khilafat Swarajya Party

§  After Gandhi’s arrest (March, 1922), A debate started among congress men on what to do during the transition period, i.e., the passive phase of the movement.

§  One section led by C.R. Das, Motilal Nehru, and Ajmal Khan wanted an end to the boycott of Legislative councils to expose the basic weakness of these assemblies and use these councils as an arena of political struggle to arouse popular enthusiasm.

§  These leaders came to be known as the swajarists.

§  The other school of thought led by C. Rajagopalachari, Vallabh bhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, and M.A. Ansari came to be known as the ‘No-Changers’.

§  They opposed council entry, advocated concentration on constructive work, and continuation of boycott and non-cooperation.

§  C.R. Das and Motilal Nehru resigned from the presidentship and secretaryship respectively of the congress and announced the formation of congress-khilafat Swarajya party or swarajist party, with C.R. Das as president and Motilal Nehru as secretary on January 1, 1923.

Ø Swarajists’ Arguments

The Swarajists had their reasons for advocating the entry into the Councils:

               i.       Entering the Councils would not negate the non-cooperation programme; in fact, it would be like carrying on the movement through other means- opening a new front.

              ii.       Entry of Nationalists would deter the government from stuffing the councils with undesirable elements who may be used to provide legitimacy to government measures.

             iii.       The councils could be used as an arena of political struggle, there was no intention to use the councils as organs for gradual transformation of colonial rule.

Ø No-changers’ Arguments

               i.       They argued that parliamentary work would lead to neglect of constructive work, loss of revolutionary zeal, and to political corruption.

              ii.       Constructive work would prepare everyone for the next phase of civil disobedience.

Ø Agree to Disagree

               i.       Both sides, wanted to avoid a 1907-type split and kept in touch with Gandhi.

              ii.       They also realized the significance of putting up a united front to get a mass movement to force the government to introduce reforms.

             iii.       Both sides accepted the necessity of Gandhi’s leadership of a united nationalist front keeping these factors in mind, a compromise was reached at a meeting in Delhi in September, 1923.

             iv.       The elections to the newly constituted central legislative Assembly and to provincial assemblies were to be held in November, 1923.

Ø The Swarajist Manifesto for Elections

§  The manifesto of swarajist released in October, 1923.

§  It took a strong anti-imperialist line. The points put forward were as follows:-

                          i.       The guiding move of the British in governing India lay in selfish interests of their own country.

                         ii.        The real objective being to continue Exploitation of the unlimited resources of the country by keeping Indians permanently in a subservient position to Britain.

                       iii.       The Swarajists would present the nationalist demand of self-government in councils.

                        iv.        If this demand was rejected, they would adopt a policy of uniform, continuous, and consistent obstruction within the councils to make governance through councils impossible.

                         v.       Councils would thus be wrecked from within by creating deadlocks on every measure.

Ø Gandhi’s Attitude

§  Gandhi was initially opposed to the swarajist proposal of Council entry.

§  Gandhi released from prison on health ground in February, 1924.

§  After his release Gandhi moved towards a reconciliation with the Swarajists:

                          i.       He felt public opposition to the programme of council entry would be counterproductive.

                         ii.        In the November 1923 elections, the swarajists had managed to win 42 out of 141 elected seats and a clear majority in the provincial assembly of central provinces.

                       iii.       There was a government crackdown on revolutionary terrorists and the Swarajists towards the end of 1924; this angered Gandhi and he expressed his solidarity with the Swarajists by surrendering top their wishes.

§  Both sides came to an agreement in 1924 that the Swarajists would work in the councils as an integral part of the congress.

Ø Swarajist Activity in councils

§  The swarajist position had weakened because of widespread communal riots, and a split among swarajist themselves on communal and Responsivist-Non-responsivist lines

§  The responsivists among swarajists-Lala Lajpat rai, Madan Mohan Malaviya, and N.C. Kelkar- advocated co-operation with the government and holding of Office wherever possible.

§  The main leadership of the swarajist party reiterated faith in mass civil disobedience and withdrew from legislatures in March 1926.

§  Another section of Swarajists were into the 1926 elections, they won 40 seats in the centre and some in Madras.

§  In 1930, the Swarajists finally walked out as a result of the Lahore congress resolution on Purna Swaraj and the beginning of the Civil Disobedience Movement.

§  Achievements:

                          i.       They out-voted the government several times, even on matters relating to budgetary grants, and passed adjournment motions.

                         ii.        They agitated through powerful speeches on self-government, civil liberties, and industrialization.

                       iii.       Vithalbhai Patel was elected speaker of central legislative Assembly in 1925.

                        iv.        A noteworthy achievement was the defeat of the public safety Bill in 1928, which was aimed at empowering the government to deport undesirable and subversive foreigners.

                         v.       They filled the political vacuum at a time when the national movement was recouping its strength.

                        vi.        They exposed the hollowness of the Montford scheme.

                      vii.       They demonstrated that the councils could be used creatively.

§  Drawbacks:

                          i.       The Swarajists lacked a policy to coordinate their militancy inside legislature with the mass struggle outside.

                         ii.        They relied totally on newspaper reporting to communicate with the public.

                       iii.       An obstructionist strategy had its limitations.

                        iv.        They could not carry on with their coalition partners very far because of conflicting ideas, which further limited their effectiveness.

                         v.       They failed to resist the perks and privileges of power and office.

                        vi.        They failed to support the peasants’ cause in Bengal and lost support among Muslim members who were pro-peasant.

Ø Constructive work by No-changers

§  The no-changers devoted themselves to constructive work that connected them to the different sections of the masses:

                          i.       Ashram’s sprang up where young men and women worked among tribals and lower castes, and popularized the use of charkha and khadi.

                         ii.        National schools and colleges were set up where students were trained in a non-colonial ideological framework.

                       iii.       Significant work was done for Hindu-Muslim unity, removing untouchability, boycott of foreign cloth and liquor, and for flood relief.

                        iv.        The constructive workers served as the backbone of civil disobedience as active organisers.

§  A critique of constructive work

                          i.       National education benefitted the urban lower middle classes and the rich peasants only.

                         ii.        Popularization of khadi was an uphill task since it was costlier than the imported cloth.

                       iii.       While campaigning about the social aspect of untouchability, no emphasis was laid on the economic grievances of the landless and agricultural labourers comprising mostly the untouchables.

v Emergence of New Forces: Socialistic Ideas, Youth Power, Trade Unionism

The new forces to emerge during the 1920s included the following ideas and movements:

Ø Spread of Marxist and Socialist ideas

§  Ideas of Marx and Socialist thinkers inspired many groups to come into existence as socialist and communists.

§  These young nationalists, inspired by the soviet revolution and dissatisfied with Gandhian ideas and political programme.

§  These younger nationalists:-

                          i.       Were critical of both swarajists and No-changers.

                         ii.        Advocated a more consistent anti-imperialist line in the form of a slogan for purna Swarajya.

                       iii.       Were influenced by an awareness, though still vague, of international currents.

                        iv.        Stressed the need to combine nationalism and anti-imperialism with social justice and simultaneously raised the question of internal class oppression by capitalists and landlords.

§  The communist party of India was formed in 1920 in Tashkent (the capital of Uzbekistan) by M.N. Roy, Abani Mukherji.

§  In 1925, the Indian communist conference of Kanpur formalized the foundation of the communist party of India.

§  In 1929, the government crackdown on communists resulted in the arrest and trial of 31 leading communists, trade unionists, and left-wing leaders; they were tried at Meerut in the famous Meerut Conspiracy Case.

Ø Activism of Indian Youth

§  All over students’ leagues were being established and students’ conferences were being held.

§  In 1928, Jawaharlal Nehru presided over the all-Bengal students’ conference.

Ø Peasants’ Agitations

§  It took place in the Rampa region of Andhra, in Rajasthan, in ryotwari areas of Bombay and Madras.

§  In Gujarat, the Bardoli satyagraha was led by Vallabhbhai Patel (1928).

Ø Growth of Trade Unionism

§  The trade union movement was led by All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) founded in 1920 under the presidentship of Lala Lajpat Rai and Dewan Chaman Lal was its general secretary.

§  The major strikes during the 1920s included those in Kharagpur Railway workshops, tata Iron and Steel works (Jamshedpur), Bombay Textile mills and Buckingham Carnatic mills.

§  In 1923, the first May Day was celebrated in India in Madras.

§  In 1928, there were a number of strikes involving 5 lakhs workers.

Ø Caste Movements

These movements could be divisive, conservative, and at times potentially radical, and included:

               i.       Justice party (Madras)

              ii.       Self-Respect movement (1925) under “Periyar”- E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker (Madras)

             iii.       Satyashodhak activist in Satara (Maharashtra)

             iv.       Bhaskar Rao Jadhav (Maharashtra)

              v.       Mahars under Ambedkar (Maharashtra)

             vi.       Radical ezhavas under K. Aiyappam  and C. Kesavan in Kerala.

            vii.       Yadavs in Bihar for improvement in Social status.

          viii.       Unionist party under Fazl-i-Hussain (Punjab).

Ø Revolutionary Activity with a turn towards socialism

§  Here two stands developed:

                          i.       Hindustan Republican Association (H.R.A.) – in Punjab-UP-Bihar

                         ii.        Yugantar, Annushilan groups, and later, chittagong Revolt group under Surya Sen – in Bengal.

v Revolutionary activity During the 1920s

Ø Why attraction for revolutionary activity after Non-cooperation Movement

§  The sudden withdrawal of the Non-cooperation movement, left many of them disillusioned; they began to question the basic strategy of nationalist leadership and its emphasis on non-violence and began to look for alternatives.

§  Then the younger nationalist were drawn to the idea that violent method alone would free India. Thus, revolutionary activity was revived.

§  Included Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee, Surya Sen, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Chandrasekhar Azad, Shiv Verma, Bhagwati Chran Vohra, Jaidev Kapur, and Jatin Das.

§  Two separate strands of revolutionary groups emerged during this period- One operating in Punjab-UP-Bihar and the other in Bengal.

Ø Major influences

               i.       The revolutionaries wanted to harness the revolutionary potential of the new emergent class for nationalist revolution.

              ii.       Russian Revolution (1917) and the success of the young soviet state in consolidating itself.

             iii.       Newly sprouting communist groups with their emphasis on Marxism, socialism and the proletariat.

             iv.       Journals publishing memoirs and articles extolling the self-sacrifice of revolutions, such as Atmasakti, Sarathi, and Bijoli.

              v.       Novels and books such as Bandi Jiwan by Sachin Sanyal and Pather Dabi by Sharatchandra Chatterjee, a government ban on which only enhanced its popularity.

Ø In Punjab-United Provinces-Bihar

§  The revolutionary activity in this region was dominated by the Hindustan Republican Association/Army or HRA.

§  The HRA was founded in October 1924 in Kanpur by Ramprasad Bismil, Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee, and Sachin Sanyal, with an aim to organise an armed revolution to overthrow the colonial government and establish in its place the federal republic of united state of India with a basic principle of adult Franchise.

§  The most important action of the HRA was the kakori robbery. The men held up the 8-Down train at Kakori, an obscure (unknown) village near Lucknow and looted its official railway cash. [August 1925]

§  The HSRA

                       i.       The younger revolutionaries inspired y socialist idas, set out to reorganize HRA at a Historic meeting in the ruins of Ferozshah Kotla in Delhi (September 1928).

                     ii.        Under the ;leadership of Chandra Shekhar azad, the name of HRA was changed to Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA).

                    iii.       The participants include:- Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar, Bhagwati Charan Vohra and Bejoy Kumar Sinha, shiv Verma and Jaidev Kapur.

                    iv.        The HSRA decided to adopt socialism as its official goal.

§  Saunder’s murder (Lahore, December 1928)

                       i.       The death of sher-i-Punjab Lala Lajpat Rai du eto Lathi blows received during a lathi charge on an anti-simon commission procession (October 1928) led by Bhagat Singh and Shivram rajguru shot dead John P. Saunders.

                     ii.        They had mistaken saunders for superintendent of police James Scott, who was actually responsible for the Lathi charge against Lala Lajpat Rai and his followers.

§  Bomb in the central legislative Assembly (April 1929)

                       i.       Bhagat Siongh and Batukeshwar Dutt were asked to throw a bomb in the central legislative Assembly on April 8, 1929 to protest against the passage of the public safety bill and trade disputes Bill aimed at curtailing civil liberties of citizens in general and workers in particular.

                     ii.        The objective was to get arrested and to use the trial court as a forum for propaganda so that people would become familiar with their movement and ideology.

§  Action against the revolutionaries

                       i.       Bhagat singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru were tried in the Lahore conspiracy case and were hanged on march 23, 1931 for the assassination of saunders.

                     ii.        March 23 is now observed as Shaheed Diwas and Sarvodaya Day.

Ø In Bengal

§  After the death of C.R. das (1925), the Bengal congress broke up into two factions- one led by J.M. Sengupta (Anushilan group joined forces with him) and the other led by Subhash Bose (Yugantar group backed him).

§  The actions of the reorganized groups included an assassination attempt on the Calcutta police commissioner, Charles Tegart by Gopinath Saha in 1924.

Gopinath saha was hanged.

§  Chittagong Armoury Raid (April 1930)

                          i.       Surtya ssen had decided to organise an armed rebellion along with his associates – Anant Singh, Ganesh Ghosh, and Lokenath Eaul- to challenge the armed might of the mighty British empire.

                         ii.        They had planned to occupy two main armouries in Chittagong to seize and supply arms to the revolutionaries to destroy telephone and telegraph lines and to dislocate the railway link of Chittagong with the rest of Bengal.

                       iii.       The raid was conducted in April 1930 and involved 65 activists under the banner of Indian republican Army-Chittagong Branch.

                        iv.        Surya Sen was arrested in February 1933 and hanged in January 1934.

§  Aspects of the new phase of revolutionary movement in Bengal: -

Some aspects are as follows:

                          i.       There was a large-scale participation of young women under Surya Sen. These women provided shelter, carried messages, and fought with gun in hand.

Women during the phase include Pritilata Waddedar, Kalpana Dutt, Santi Ghosh, and Suniti Chandheri, School girls, who shot dead the district magistrate (December 1931); and Bina Das, fired point blank at the governor while receiving the degree at the convocation (February 1932).

                         ii.        There was an emphasis on group action aimed at organs of the colonial state, instead of individual action with an objective to set an example before the youth and to demoralize the bureaucracy.

                       iii.       Some of the Hindu religiosity was shed, and this facilitated participation of Muslims (ritual: Oath-taking).

§  Drawback of the new phase of the revolutionary movement in Bengal:

                          i.       The movement retained some conservative elements.

                         ii.        It failed to evolve broader socio-economic goals.

                       iii.       Those working with Swarajists failed to support the cause of Muslim peasantry against Zamindars in Bengal.

Ø Official reaction:

§  Armed with 20 repressive acts, the government let loose the police on the revolutionaries.

§  In Chittagong, several villages were burned and punitive fines imposed on many others.

§  In 1933, Jawaharlal Nehru was arrested for sedition and given two years’ sentences because he had condemned imperialism and praised the heroism of the revolutionaries.

Ø Ideological Rethinking

The rethinking had begun in the mid-1920s:

§  The HRA’s main organ revolutionary had proposed nationalism of railways and other means of transport and of heavy industries such as ship building and steel.

§  The HRA had also decided to start labour and peasant organistions and work for an “organised and armed revolution”.

§  Bhagat Singh helped establish the Punjab Naujawan Bharat Sabha (1926) as an open wing of revolutionaries to carry out political work among the youth peasants, and workers, and it was to open branches in villages.

§  Bhagat and Sukhdev also organised the Lahore students’ union for open, legal work among students.

Ø What then was the need for individual heroic action?


                   i.       Effective acquisition of new ideology is a prolonged and historical process whereas the need of the time was a quick change in the way of thinking.

                  ii.       These young intellectuals faced the classic dilemma of how to mobilize people and recruit them.

They decided to opt for propaganda by deed, i.e., through individual heroic action and by using courts as a forum for revolutionary propaganda.

Ø Redefining Revolution:

                   i.       Revolution was no longer equated with militancy and violence.

                  ii.       Its objective was to be national liberation imperialism was to be overthrown but beyond that a new socialist order was to be achieved, ending “Exploitation of man by man”.

                iii.       Bhagat fully accepted Marxism and the class approach to society- “Peasants have to free themselves not only from the foreign yoke, but also from the yoke of landlord and capitalists”.

                 iv.       He defined socialism scientifically as abolition of capitalism and class domination.

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