Sunday, January 9, 2011

Commemoration meeting to pay homage to Dr. C.R. Rajagopalan, Surendra Mohan, B. Lokanadham and K.G. Kannabiran at 5-30 PM on Saturday 8 January 2011

A Brief Report of the Proceedings of the Commemoration Meeting:

The Commemoration meeting, sadly, was thinly attended but still went on quite well. Mr. Mahamood Ali presided, and the meeting started at 6 PM. I gave an introduction about all the four - especially about Brahmandam Lokanadham whom very few people know [he was an underground activist during 1948-51 movement in Andhra area and was in danger of being shot dead when caught even. Later he became a teacher and lecturer in Railway College, Secunderabad. After retirement also he worked as teacher in some High Schools or for long time in a Sitaphalmandy High School. He was a member of our Marxist Study Forum and regularly attended and sometimes spoke in our meetings. He was an erudite person and used to discuss about various facets of Marxist theory and practice.]. Later Sri Adiraju Venkateswar Rao, Sri K. Pratapa Reddy, Senior Advocate, Sri Prattipati Venkateswarlu, Advocate, Sri Kakarala, Ms. Ratnamala, Sri A. Krishnamurthy (a relative of Sri B. Lokanadham), Sri K. Narasimhachari, Advocate, Sri Kandimalla Pratap Reddy (CPI), Smt. Sandhya (POW) spoke. The President finally had some valuable words to say and I concluded the meeting with vote of thanks. Wish more people had attended the meeting but... you know things sometimes go like that.

Here we also give the rejoinder article by late Sri B. Lokanadham to Arun Shourie's vituperative article alleging what he called 'communist betrayal' during 1942-45:

About the so-called ‘Communist Betrayal’ in 1942:
Against distortions and vilifications of the
Role of the Communists during 1942-45

- B.L. Nadham.*

Sri Arun Shourie has firmly established his own place in the field of investigative journalism. He is the winner of the prestigious Magsaysay Award for his contributions in this field. Naturally, whatever comes out of his powerful and prolific pen will be avidly read by newspaper readers in general and by serious students of contemporary Indian politics in particular. So, his series of articles published in The Illustrated Weekly of India (now ceased publication long back) spotlighting the role of the Indian Communists in the Quit India movement of 1942 naturally finds wide reading public. Undoubtedly he has put in a lot of painstaking research to write these articles. To give necessary conditioning to the readers, the Editor [Pritish Nandy?] has introduced each instalment with a lot of spicy comments.

But any dispassionate reader, who reads these articles, cannot but come to the conclusion that Sri Shourie has thrown all objectivity to the winds and exhibited his deep-rooted prejudice against the communist movement. Any serious student of history can understand that he has started the series with a totally distorted picture of the world political situation preceding the outbreak of the Second World War. He totally ignored the efforts made by the Soviet Union to build a powerful Anti-Fascist Front to checkmate the Nazi menace in the thirties. In the very first paragraphs he made these astounding formulations:

1. Stalin’s policies helped Hitler to acquire absolute power and this resulted in the decimation of the German Communists.

2. The aim of Soviet Foreign policy was centred round only one point, i.e. to be left alone at home and to acquire control over Finland and the countries in Eastern Europe.

3. To achieve this aim Stalin started bargaining with Britain and France. But “the British and French Governments were indecisive and incompetent, and also weighed down by scruples of a sort - in view of the impassioned protests from eastern Europe, they could not bring themselves to handing over the territories Stalin was demanding as a price for his support.”

4. But “Hitler was not encumbered by any consideration of this kind,” and so entered into a pact with Soviet Union “styled as a non-aggression pact.”

Arun Shourie has not adduced any historical evidence to support these formulations. He has taken the readers for granted. He tries to project Soviet Union in most lurid lights and takes pain to absolve the British and the French Governments from this guilt. Without any fidelity to historical truth, he conveniently glosses over many a known fact.

The moment Hitler came to power, the banner of ‘Anti-Communism’ was raised by him. He instituted the notorious ‘Reichstag Trial’ implicating George Dimitrov who became the Secretary General of the Communist International later on. Germany and Italy entered into an ‘Anti-Comintern Pact’. By 1934, realizing the danger of Nazism and Fascism to the world, the Communist International in its Seventh Congress gave a call for a world-wide Anti-Fascist Front. In 1935, Soviet Union and France entered into a Mutual Assistance Pact against Nazi Germany. Are we to understand then that the French Government, though ‘indecisive and incompetent and weighed down by scruples of a sort’ agreed to pay the price for the Soviet Union? What happened then to the ‘impassioned protests’ from the Eastern Europe? According to Shourie, the French Government might have temporarily acquiesced to the supposed demands of the Soviet Union. But the facts are otherwise. The Pact was due to the rising crescendo of the ‘Popular Front’ movement in France. It was purely a defensive pact and the two countries entered into the pact to face a common danger. After the occupation of Austria, Hitler turned his attention towards Czhechoslavakia. France gave a guarantee to Czhechoslovakia that it would go to the latter’s assistance in case of (German) aggression. It is not out of place here to mention a very important fact. In 1938 the European political scene was dominated by the Czechoslavakian crisis. At the height of the crisis, when the German attack on Czhechoslovakia was thought imminent, the Soviet Union asked Poland and Rumania to give passage to its troops to effectively defend Czhechoslovakia. Poland refused, but Rumania agreed. Then started the arms-twisting by Nevielle Chamberlain, the then British Prime Minister, on the French Government to wriggle out from its commitments under the Mutual Assistance Pact. Nevielle Chamberlain openly declared that Britain would not involve in the war for the defence of a ‘far-away country’ i.e. Czhechoslovakia. Perhaps the East European countries were far nearer to Great Britain than Czechoslovakia for the ‘impassioned protests’ of those countries to become audible. We have to rely upon the authority of Shourie in this respect. Ultimately France succumbed to the pressures of the British Government and became a signatory to that infamous Munich Pact. Czechoslovakia was forced to accept the demands of Hitler. It was a Pact made by four powers - Britain, France, Germany and Italy to the exclusion of Russia.

The appeasement policy of Britain reached its highest water-mark with the signing of the Munich Pact. Russia was totally isolated in Europe. Its security was threatened as never before. Before the Munich Pact, Litvinov, the then Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, proposed collective security to save Czechoslovakia. This was rejected by Great Britain. Within a short time, Hitler broke his promise and occupied entire Czechoslovakia save certain provinces which notably were occupied by Poland and Hungary with their own ethnic arguments. After these developments, the Soviet Union was menaced from two sides i.e. from Nazi Germany in the West and Militarist Japan in the East. Steadily, Hitler started to assume aggressive tone towards Poland. Even then Britain dragged its feet while negotiating with Russia for the defence of Poland. Since the Revolution of 1917, Poland was very much hostile to the Soviet Union. It was one of the interventionist powers after the October Revolution in Russia and also grabbed some territories from Russia. But if it had to be defended effectively against German aggression, only Soviet Union could do it because of its geographic proximity. But Poland was too obstinate to take any help from Russia. Because of popular pressure Britain and France carried on negotiations with the Soviet Union. But they were very lukewarm, half-hearted and reluctant in their efforts. Britain sent only a minor official to take part in the negotiations. Colonel Beck was the then foreign minister of Poland. He was out and out anti-Soviet. He advanced the argument that the very alliance with Russia might provoke Hitler to attack. He found a strong supporter in Nevielle Chamberlain for his stand. Chamberlain even entertained doubts regarding the competence of the Soviet Army. All these facts can be verified and ascertained by going through important books written by some non-communist or even some anti-communist writers (e.g. see Nevielle Chamberlain, an adulatory biography by Ian Mooreland).

Under these circumstances, when Hitler proposed a Non-Aggression Pact, Russia was left with no other alternative except to accept it as an act of survival. We have to note that, during the same period, Japan was casting its eyes on Mongolia which had entered into a Mutual Assistance Pact with Russia. Ever since Hitler’s rise to power, the western imperialist powers egged on Hitler to expand to the east at the expense of Russia. In those days, Koni Zilliacus was a leftwing labour M.P. who worked in the Head-Quarters of the League of Nations for twenty years. After the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War, he left that office. Later on he authored a well-documented book under the title, Between the Two Wars. Anyone who reads that book dispassionately will come to the same conclusions as stated above regarding the international situation prevailing on the eve of the outbreak of the Second World War. It is noteworthy that Shourie had obviously thought it inconvenient for him to even cursorily refer either to the Franco-Soviet Pact or to the Munich Pact.

Arun Shourie characterized the Russo-German Non-aggression Pact as a booty pact. In his view Soviet Army’s occupation of some portion of Poland was nothing but the sharing of booty. These portions, including the Baltic States, were forcibly occupied by Poland from Russia participating in the interventionist wars (1918-21) along with other imperialist powers. Here we have to emphasize the most important historical fact that these interventionist wars were waged by the imperialist powers, along with Germany, against the nascent Soviet State in spite of their being in the state of open hostilities with Germany. This strange phenomenon can only be explained on the basis of the convergence of class interests and nothing else. For its survival, the Soviet State must make use of inter-imperialist contradictions. Obviously, the Soviet Union had to sign the Non-aggression Pact when it was proposed. The Soviet Army entered Poland only after the virtual collapse of the Polish Army and Polish resistance. In the last week of September 1939, Hitler had to accept the the so-called Curzon Line in the delineation of borders in the occupied Poland. It was almost a fait accompli. Hitler had to accept it. When Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, in his catalogue of accusations against the Soviet government, he mentioned Red Army’s entry into Poland as an unfriendly act.

Under the leadership of Mannerheim (once a general in the service of Czars), Finland served as launching pad to storm Leningrad. The Soviet Union demanded Karelian Isthmus which was vital for the defence of Leningrad. Already in the interventionist wars Karelia served as a base for attack on Leningrad. In return the Soviet government offered an area which was three times the size of Karelia. But the Finnish Government refused the offer. It was a period of ‘phoney war’ between the belligerent powers. This war was waged in winter. After the winter was over Karelia was occupied and the Finnish Government sued for peace. The Soviet Army could have easily overrun Finland if it wanted. But it did not do so. When Hitler attacked Russia, Finland was also involved in the invasion on the side of Hitler. Shourie says that it was also a share of booty. In the Nuremberg Trials for War Crimes, the second in command of nazi Germany, Herman Goering, bemoaned openly that the Finnish war was the greatest fraud in the annals of the military history of the world and misled by it Germany met its doom.

Regarding the Soviet foreign policy of that period, we cannot recommend to anti-communists like Shourie either the official publications of the Soviet Government (though well-documented) or the works of D.N. Pritt or R.P. Dutt. Strangely enough, these articles of Shourie are part of M.N. Roy Memorial Lectures delivered by him in Bombay. Shourie’s attention has to be drawn to a very lengthy address delivered by Late M.N. Roy in the Benares Hindu University reviewing the Soviet foreign policy of that period. That speech was delivered in the first months of the Second World War. The entire speech was published in the Royist weekly, Independent India. Roy fully justified the steps taken by the Soviet Government i.e. the signing of the Non-aggression Pact with Germany, the Soviet Army’s entry into Poland and the war against Finland. Even now, that speech of Roy serves to understand the actions of the Soviet Government in a proper historical perspective. Even such a rabid anti-communist like Churchill was highly critical of Chamberlain’s policies and sympathetically viewed the Soviet stand at that time (Ref: Churchill’s War Memoirs). Shourie wants to assume the role of a strong advocate on behalf of the British and French governments to argue their weak cases.

No wonder then, Shourie launches his savage attack on the Indian communists with all the ammunition at his disposal. With much glee, he tries to make much about the supposed rivalry between Pollitt and Dutt, and says that because of this ‘rivalry’, the Indian communists had to experience some ‘funny consequences’. Whether there was such a rivalry or not we are not concerned here. The way he presents these things is really amusing. In his inquisitorial fervour, he insults the intelligence of his readers. According to him, the Comintern’s instructions to the Indian Communist Party were always routed through the British Communist Party. On Shourie’s reckoning all the Communist Parties of the world are the ‘instruments of the Soviet foreign policy’. Obviously instructions will be given to all the Communist Parties, not exclusively to the Indian Party. There is no need to doubt the information given by such a knowledgeable person like Shourie regarding the routing. Shourie raises a question in his last instalment - “What was the Communist Party waiting for between 22 June 1941 and 1 December 1941?” – and answers: “They were waiting for the orders. And these, the records show, were for two reasons a long time in coming. First, Moscow itself was thrown into complete disarray by Hitler’s invasion … Once such attack began what with the terrible setbacks that the Soviet Army suffered because of what had been done to it by the Soviet Communist Party, everything was in disarray. It took time to put together the new ‘theoretical formulation’ and more important to ensure its transmission to and internationalization by communist parties all over the world.” (emphasis ours). But happily, as Shourie informs us, only one Communist in the entire world communist movement was not in disarray. Neither did he wait for the ‘new theoretical formulation’ nor for its ‘transmission and internationalization’! That was Harry Pollitt. “He switched completely the moment Germany invaded the Soviet Union.” (see Shourie’s fourth instalment). “Once again the communist parties were stupefied.” But Harry Pollitt was not. “Harry Pollitt, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain, switched immediately. He said that henceforth the communists must support and not hinder Britain’s war effort.” - That too, when “Moscow was in total confusion.” It is really tragic that poor Harry Pollitt is not alive today to acknowledge such unsolicited compliments from such unexpected quarters. We have to state that Shourie has allowed his imagination to run riot.

In his ‘holy’ anger against the communists, Shourie has used choicest epithets against them. ‘Crassly dishonest’, ‘treacherous’ and ‘cravenly subservient to oracles abroad’ are some of the salvoes used against them, taken out from his arsenal. In one respect, he has stooped so low that even the bitterest anti-communists will shudder to take recourse to such acts. Regarding the communist detenues he made some unworthy remarks: “They (Maxwell and Tottenham) knew better than the others that the communists in jails had become restive, that they were pursuing for the line that would get them out and also that the communists still at large had also reached the end of the tether.” But his crowning piece is here: “There was one difference though! Being in jail they were more receptive to a change in line that would ensure their release.” These remarks particularly refer to Ajoy Kumar Ghosh, S.V. Ghate, Sajjad Jaheer and others. The imputed motive is clear enough. They were unable to withstand the rigours of prison life and were eagerly searching for a particular line to secure their release. Ajoy Kumar Ghosh was one of the accused in the Second Lahore Conspiracy Case. In their chequered political careers their prison or underground lives did not stop with this episode. Sajjad Jaheer suffered in Pakistani prisons also. From 1948 onwards, they had to undergo much more rigours either in prisons or in the underground. Let the readers judge for themselves.

Arun Shourie has not hesitated to hide some relevant facts from the readers’ view because they are not convenient to him. He puts some facts in juxtaposition to give a thrust to his arguments and to effect a desired impact on the readers. This can be seen in these sentences: “The ban on the Communist Party, its organizations and publications were lifted on July 23, 1942. The government crackdown on Gandhiji and the Congress came on August 9, 1942.” The motive behind these writings is clearly discernible. In another page, he writes these lines: “The Communist Party of India, its committees and branches had been declared to be unlawful associations in July 1934. Its publications were banned.” But he discretely fails to mention the fact that the ban on the Congress was lifted at the same time. What a stratagem!

With great gusto, he introduced to the readers the names of Jayaprakash Narayan, Rammanohar Lohia and Achyut Patwardhan as leaders of the 1942 underground movement. But he has outrageously omitted the name of Mrs. Aruna Asaf Ali. Jayaprakash and Lohia were arrested within few months after launching of the repressive attacks by the British government. To their glory, in spite of the virtual man-hunt launched by the British government, Achyut Patwardhan and Aruna Asaf Ali successfully evaded the arrests throughout the period. They carried on the struggle under their joint leadership. They used to give open calls to the countrymen and address open letters to Mahatma Gandhi from ‘somewhere in India’. Aruna Asaf Ali met Gandhiji incognito after 1944. The British government announced a very heavy price on her head. Lord Linlithgow in his letters to Gandhiji (in jail) specifically complained against her. The important role of Aruna Asaf Ali as the leader of the underground movement can be understood by this fact. The moment Pandit Nehru came out, personally owning the responsibility for the struggle, he emotionally extended his greetings to all the fighters for freedom. Particularly extolling the role of Aruna Asaf Ali, he said: “These greetings must reach her wherever she is and the gates of Ananda Bhavan are always open to welcome her.” Dr. Asaf Ali sent a telegram to Nehru expressing his gratitude in most poignant words for that statement. But Shourie blatantly suppressed her name brandishing only Achyut Patwardhan’s name. He owes an explanation to the readers for this outrage.

Suppressio veri, suggestio falsi’ is an old saying with sinister import. Shourie faithfully follows this maxim in these articles. He shuts his eyes to the sufferings and sacrifices of the communists in the cause of freedom and expects others to do the same. In certain places he dismisses them in a light-hearted manner while intentionally suppressing some facts. He quotes this passage from the communist reply to the Congress Working Committee: “During 1943-44, if there were any political arrests for open mass activity, they were of our party workers for the anti-corruption, anti-hoarding campaigns which they organized in their localities. If you desire we can give you the exact figures.” But, in brackets, he makes this wild comment: “The party does not, of course, say that the Congress leaders were already in jail and that the others were not allowed ‘open political activity’.” Did the communists not say that the Congress leaders were already in jail? Unwittingly he himself supplies the answer when just above the quoted passage with his caustic comment in parantheses, he reproduces this another sentence from the ‘Communist Reply’“We bore our own share of repression for the anti-repression campaign and for demanding your release.” Release from what? Was it not from jails? In the same comment, one can see, he has tried to drive home that no political party was allowed open activity except the communists. All the following parties were functioning openly - Radical Democratic Party of M.N. Roy, The National Liberal Federation, Dr. Ambedkar’s All India Schedule Castes’ Federation, The Unionist Party in Punjab and, of course, Muslim League and Savarkar’s Hindu Mahasabha. With the exception of the Muslim League, the rest of the political parties were meeting now and then to find a way out for resolving the political deadlock. To verify this, Arun Shourie need not delve deep into the National Archives. In the same place, he very casually mentions this sentence written by P.C. Joshi to Gandhiji: “In these two years four of our comrades have been hanged … about 400 are behind bars and 100 are life prisoners. Is this the way the Government is helping us?” Are these not historical facts? Shourie does not bother about them because they do not serve his purpose. The hanged communists belonged to Kayyur of Kerala and were the main accused in the famous Kayyur Case. They were hanged in April, 1943 (which, according to Shourie, was the period when the communists were collaborating with the British according to the secret deal struck by them). The Privy Council in London rejected their appeal and the Viceroy also refused to give mercy. They faced gallows as the most disciplined communists fully subscribing to the Party policy. P.C. Joshi’s article, narrating his interview with those martyrs, even now inspires anybody who reads it. It is not out of place here to mention that during 1942-44, apart from the Kayyur hangings, only one (politically motivated) hanging was done in a most peremptory manner. It was of Hemu Kalani who was hanged in Karachi being sentenced to death for tampering with Railway communications. The Chimu and Ashti prisoners of Madhya Pradesh, though sentenced to death, were given mercy by Lord Wavell in 1944 in response to Mahatma Gandhi’s pleadings. Before 1942, another communist called K.P.R. Gopalan was sentenced to death but it was reduced to life sentence because of the countrywide agitation and Gandhi’s personal pleas to the then Viceroy. In the case of Kayyur prisoners, no doubt, the dismal political situation in the country between 1942-44 had its tragic impact. The question here is, how can Shourie fit this episode into his neat picture of ‘communist betrayal’.

Another serious allegation of Shourie against the communists is that they had developed name-calling into an art. He wants to exploit the sentiments of the people against the communists by drawing their attention to the ‘abusive’ terms hurled by them against Gandhiji, Subhas Bose and Jayaprakash. He says that they called Gandhiji ‘decadent’ (‘Gandhism had entered its decadent phase’ - quotation from Shourie), Subhas Bose a traitor and J.P. a vulture. At that time, it is true, that the communists had freely used these terms in denouncing the Congress Socialist Party and the Forward Bloc. It cannot be condoned or defended. The cartoons they published are also repulsive to look at. But what we have to note is that this type of name-calling was not a one-way traffic at that time. The communists were also at the receiving end. Late Yousuf Meher Ali, a highly intellectual leader of the then C.S.P., freely bandied about the words ‘bad Russian nationalists’ in characterizing the Indian communists. Not only were they called ‘traitors’ but the communist women activists were subjected to most obscene and vulgar attacks in those days by their opponents. Without any fear of contradiction, it can be said that as far as the communists were concerned, they never stooped to such low levels even under extreme provocation. Besides it should be borne in mind that these abusive terms were used when these leaders were alive and that too at the heat of intense political controversy. Anyhow, this type of political culture must be eschewed by all political parties. In this case also, Shourie tries to mislead and confuse the readers. In one place he writes: “Issue after issue of People’s War, the new organ of the Communist Party, while it railed against the British Government, heaped sarcasm, scorn, abuse on Gandhiji, the Congress, J.P. and other leaders of the underground movement and on Subhas Bose.” In another place, ridiculing the communists for their ‘theory’, he writes: “…the same theory told them later that he was ‘the most beloved leader’, ‘the Father of the Nation’ who alone could break the deadlock.” He contradicts himself in these lines. Can Shourie show even one word of sarcasm, scorn and abuse heaped on Gandhiji in the issues of People’s War after August 9, 1942? The terms and cartoons used to characterize Subhas Bose in their journals were definitely in a very bad taste and created a strong revulsion in the minds of the people. Criticizing and vehemently opposing Subhas Bose’s line of action at that time was one thing, but questioning his patriotic bona fides was another. The Communist Party made ample amends for this later on. In the last instalment, Shourie raises a very pertinent question: “Does the retrospective repudiation undo the harm done at the time?” It may not totally undo it. If the repudiation is done honestly, it will serve as a warning for them so that they may not repeat the same type of blunders. But it should not be forgotten that the political conditions at that time were very confusing and complicated. Subhas Bose was leading his Indian National Army under the aegis of the Japanese militarists. Already, the people in the countries of South East Asia under the Japanese occupation were tasting the bitter fruits of occupation. Because of the bitter memories of that bitter experience, it is notable that that generation of people in these countries organized violent demonstrations against the then Japanese Prime Minister Tanaka when he visited these countries in 1973. There is no reason not to believe that the same fate would have befallen the Indian people in case of Japanese occupation. Pandit Nehru openly declared that he would fight Bose and occupation forces with all the strength in his command.

As these articles of Arun Shourie are part of his M.N. Roy Memorial Lectures, it will be interesting and instructive to refer to the views of M.N. Roy regarding the role of Subhas Bose at that time. Immediately after the end of the Second World War, M.N. Roy delivered a number of lectures in a study camp organized by his party, which were later published under the title, ‘New Orientation’. In the course of one lecture he touched upon an historical ‘would-have-been’. He said that Hitler’s attack on Russia was a sort of blessing in disguise for the people of the world. If the attack did not occur, Russia would have remained aloof from that war. In that case Hitler’s forces would have reached India through Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan. Here Roy makes a cryptic comment: “Subhas Bose would have been ruling India as Hitler’s Gaulitier.”* Arun Shourie, please note. So, the attitude of the Indian communists towards Bose should be viewed in proper historical context. The later day estimate of the Indian communists regarding the place of Subhas Bose in history, has been beautifully summed up by Sri Hiren Mukherji in his article under the caption, Bow of Burning Gold, thus:

In the war of words which inevitably followed, Communists also sometimes, if only in sheer self-defence, used expressions which, in retrospect, seem ill-advised and even baseless. The idea of Subhas Chandra Bose having been a ‘puppet’ in fascist hands has come, on evidence later emerging, to be discarded, but at the point of time the position was unclear. The fact also of Bose having to be subject to the constraints under which he worked cannot be gainsaid altogether. If, therefore, an exchange of vituperative words had taken place then, it is better that the chapter is forgotten. The communist leadership did not hesitate later, when the real facts were beginning to be known, to tell the country that they regretted sincerely certain epithets used about Netaji and the former evaluation of his work abroad.

No man wrought for Indian freedom more than did the ‘Netaji’ - Subhas Chandra Bose. His shadow will never grow less.

The running thread of Arun Shourie’s entire series is, however, that the communists had entered into a secret deal with the British Government to sabotage the freedom movement. To substantiate this charge, he says that the communists tried to entice the British or, in another way, that they made secret approaches through intermediaries at first and later on developed a secret liaison at various levels to scuttle the ‘Quit India’ movement. The General Secretary of the party, P.C. Joshi, met the Home Member, Maxwell, secretly twice and secretly submitted a memorandum and progress reports “to justify themselves in the eyes of the government.” On the top of this he even suggests that there was a working relationship that even covered the ways of assisting in intelligence work but says that he has left out this aspect from this series of articles. So, we are not in a position to say anything about this aspect. To convince the readers, he extensively reproduces extracts from the notes of Maxwell, from the remarks of the officials of the Home Department and from Joshi’s secret memorandum and the so-called progress reports.

When the change of policy was decided, the party was an unlawful association. There can be honest differences of opinion regarding the correctness or otherwise of the changed policy. One can even go to the extent of characterizing it as ‘detrimental to the interests of the Nation’. But Arun Shourie goes too far and says that they had struck a treacherous secret deal with the British to stab the freedom movement in the back. It must be remembered that the communists had switched over from the policy of uncompromising struggle against the British government to unconditional support to the British war efforts in November 1941 on the ground that the character of the war had changed since Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union. They also declared that the Indian freedom struggle must be waged within the framework of the world-wide anti-fascist war. So they were opposed to ‘any form of struggle that practically impeded the war efforts’ and were against the practical programme envisaged in the ‘Quit India’ movement. But they proposed an alternative line suggesting the forging of National Unity for National Government for National defence. One may ridicule this alternate line as ineffective. This will come under honest political criticism. But to suggest that they were in hand-in-glove with the British, that too secretly and with unpatriotic motives, is a very serious accusation. The logical corollary of the changed policy must be to secure the legality for the party and to get all the prisoners released. Was it wrong on the part of the party to make use of the good offices of persons like N.M. Joshi to get these things done. It is difficult to understand the logic of Shourie in questioning this procedure. Sri N.M. Joshi was a liberal politician and a respected leader of the Indian trade union movement. As a member of the Central Legislative Assembly, he championed the communist security prisoners on the floor of the Assembly also. Was it not a fact that great, liberal leaders like Sapru and Jayakar acted as intermediaries between the Congress and the British government at the time of the civil disobedience movement? Shourie says that entire leadership [of the C.P.I.] was involved in this ‘deal’! What he feels about the rank and file in this regard is not clear from his writings. Has Shourie made any sensational disclosures regarding the activities of the party in their ‘secret’ memorandum or in their so-called ‘progress reports’ other than those that were not already known and published in their journals and publications? - None. When the Communists claim that they had won over some congressmen to their line of thinking, Shourie denounces it as ‘splitting the ranks of nationalists’. When they approached workers and diverted them from the path of strikes by patient persuasion, he calls it ‘disruption of strikes’. What is recorded by Maxwell from his memory regarding his interviews with Joshi, he takes it as the last word without ascertaining its veracity from the other side. It is widely known that there is a wide discrepancy between the recordings of Lord Irwin and the recordings of others regarding what exactly transpired between Irwin and Gandhiji relating to the death sentence of Bhagat Singh. Definitely such reports contain a lot of subjective colouring. We can find such subjective colouring in one of the recordings of Maxwell which Shourie takes as revealed words. Regarding what transpired between Joshi and himself in December 2, 1942, Maxwell notes:

I [Maxwell] explained to him [Joshi] that we should not get willing cooperation from Provinces if we pushed them too hard and they must be convinced that the communists would not be a greater nuisance than they were worth.

Can any one believe that Maxwell might have used these very words in the face of Joshi?! In this particular interview, Joshi pressed for the release of central security prisoners (of course, communist prisoners, that too in the month of December 1942, five months after August 9, 1942) and also similar prisoners detained under provincial orders. Clearly Maxwell was not willing to apply pressure on the provincial governments in this regard and was of opinion that they had to come to their own conclusions. Then Joshi incidentally suggested to him that he [Joshi] would “provide concise and factual memoranda of the action taken in various provinces.” Shourie calls these as “performance reports.” What do we find in these reports? 1. The Party was vehemently attacking the C.S.P. and the Forward Bloc differentiating them from other congressmen in its journals and did the same thing in the so-called ‘performance reports’. 2. They tried to win over congressmen and others by means of propaganda, persuasion and mass activity. These activities were reported in their journals also. 3. They tried to prevent strikes by direct approach to the workers through their normal political and trade union activities. 4. The running thread in these ‘reports’ was the specific demand for the release of their prisoners, with a formidable list for Bihar.

What startling disclosures has Shourie made from these so-called performance reports which were not known to the then readers of the communist publications? If he has thrown any light on this particular aspect, it would have been understandable. But he has done nothing of that sort. Even Tottenham, for whom Shourie could not hide or suppress his patronizing admiration, notes that these reports contain “a grandiloquent account of the party’s achievements with even more damning indictment of the government attitude.” Even a cursory reading of these reports reproduced by Shourie reveals nothing but a summing up of the party’s open political mass activity. Even where they referred to the so-called fifth column, they did not fail to make a material reference to the Government’s repression. For example, we find such references like these: “The former [the government] attacks patriotism itself, the latter [the fifth column] appeals to this very patriotism for its purpose.”

Shourie makes a mountain out of a molehill by reproducing an extensive extract from the notes of Maxwell relating to his ‘secret’ discussion with Joshi. If we follow the note carefully, it will be crystal clear that Joshi, even in that discussion, did not fail to project the important policy formulations which the Party was openly advocating. We come across these very significant recordings in this note:

He [Joshi] explained that he believed that in the process of winning the war many things that he regarded as desirable would become accomplished facts and that he did not fear that after the war the Allied governments would revert to the previous attitude towards world domination. World freedom would in fact be established by an Allied victory……

3. I [Maxwell] then questioned Joshi about the attitude of the communists towards the Congress and asked how he reconciled his strong anti-fascist convictions with support of the party which was more than a little inclined to make terms with Japan. He expressed his own certainty that that was not the attitude of the Congress and claimed to know the minds of most of the members of the working committee. But it was notable that he only mentioned Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad as instances of anti-Japanese sentiments. Apparently he regarded the Congress as justified in trying to obtain control of the government of the country on the ground that after 200 years of subjection they felt that they could not fully mobilize the country for war. From the memorandum as well as from Joshi’s pamphlet it appears that the Communist Party similarly feel that a ‘national’ government would be better qualified to lead the country in war. But the Communist Party of India are prepared to go, I think, a good deal further than the Congress in the way of immediate cooperation with the present government. (emphasis mine).

Now we leave it to the readers to draw their own conclusions.

Arun Shourie, like may other critics, tries to make fun of the change of policy of the C.P.I. regarding their characterization of War. He attacks it by saying that the Communist Party of India had characterized the war as ‘imperialist war’ till the German attack on Russia and only after that the party called it a ‘People’s War’. Of course, the communists believed that with the Russian entry into the War, there was a distinct change in the correlation of forces and the consequences of the Axis defeat in the war would not be the strengthening of imperialism but only the weakening of it. One may violently disagree with these formulations. But the point is that the communists were not at all an exception in this respect. M.N. Roy called it an ‘accidental war’ in the beginning. Then for sometime he demanded immediate cessation of war and conclusion of peace. On September 14, 1939, the Congress Working Committee demanded the British government to declare its specific war aims. Reacting sharply to the reply of the British government, Roy addressed a letter to the Congress Working Committee in the last week of October 1939 suggesting that the Committee should immediately declare in favour of conclusion of peace and not for the continuation of war. Only after the fall of France, and the formation of National Government in Britain under the leadership of Churchill, Roy declared it as ‘Anti-Fascist War’. It is now known that very sharp differences had cropped up among the leaders of the Congress in the first half of 1942. Pandit Nehru was on the verge of submitting his resignation to the working committee. Gandhiji went to the extent of proposing the resignation of Azad from the presidentship of Congress (see Dr. S. Gopal’s ‘Nehru’). According to Maulana Azad, Gandhiji’s policy and plan of action at that time was based upon the belief that Axis powers were going to win the war (Azad’s India Wins Freedom).

It is revealing how in the process of evolving the programme of struggle, Pandit Nehru and even Gandhiji also took care to see that actual prosecution of war should not be impeded. Gandhiji demarcated himself from Subhas Bose in the articles written by him in Harijan in the month of July 1942. In Harijan, dated 19 July 1942, Gandhiji wrote these lines: “Subhas Babu’s performance can only fling India out of frying pan into fire because Germany is under no obligation to deliver India from bondage.” (See Manmathnath Gupta, Gandhiji and His Times). In July 1943, Gandhiji quoted this passage in his letter to the Additional Secretary, Home Department. Gandhiji prepared some draft instructions for civil resisters. This document was dated August 4, 1942. As it will be highly instructive to put the record straight, let us quote the relevant passage from B.R. Nanda’s book, Mahatma Gandhi - A Biography:

A one-day hartal (cessation of all business activity) was envisaged; the day was to be observed by a twenty four hour fast and prayers. Meetings were to be held only in villages where the fear of disturbances was appreciably less than in towns. Those employed in government offices, government factories, railways, post offices, etc. were not to participate in the hartal, because “our object is to make it clear that we will never tolerate the Japanese, Nazi or Fascist invasion, nor the British rule.” Congressmen who were members of the central and provincial legislatures or municipalities and other public bodies were to resign their seats and students above sixteen were to leave schools. Salt was to be manufactured in contravention of the salt laws and the land tax was to be refused. While it was not the intention to hinder military activities, arbitrary highhandedness was to be resisted. [page 465, emphasis ours]

Later on, Gandhiji admonished some Midnapore congressmen in these words: “In 1942, the authorities became panicky. We gave them that excuse.”

From Dr. Gopal’s book we learn that Nehru was about to broadcast from the All India Radio (under the aegis of the British Government) calling upon the people not to hamper the war efforts and was prevented from doing so at the intervention of Maulana Azad. What we want to drive home is that the C.P.I. was not at all an exception in this respect. But, of course, the British Government’s sudden attack provoked people and changed the whole situation. The constant theme of P.C. Joshi’s writings throughout this period was that the government was attacking the ‘political factors of defence’ and the misguided patriots were attacking the ‘practical means of defence’. The same picture was depicted in the so-called ‘performance reports’.

Relying purely upon the secret notings of the Intelligence Bureau, the Home Department (particularly Maxwell’s and Tottenham’s notes) and the Viceroy, Shourie characterizes the British attitude to the party during 1942-43 period as the period of wary encouragement and 1944 as the period of wary neutrality. According to Shourie, in the third quarter of 1943, the partnership between the government and the Communist Party of India was at its height. Even then, according to him, the Viceroy was sceptical of the usefulness of the Communist Party. In August 1944, Tottenham writes, “the majority of those who profess allegiance to the party are not real communists at all, but merely hot-headed revolutionaries.” Mudie, who replaced Maxwell as the Home Member, remarks that “the circulation of People’s War is their most dangerous activity.” Another absurdity is, if we closely follow the articles, we have to understand that the so-called partnership worked well only at the Central level but not at the provincial level. Shourie writes, “The provinces too had never got used to the idea of taking on the communists as partners. They urged action.” It seems that Shourie had taken only those notings which serve his purpose. Otherwise, he would not have characterized the 1942-43 period as the period of ‘wary encouragement’.

Let us take the most crucial period i.e. between August 9, 1942 and December 1943. Prof. Hiren Mukherji in his brochure, Our Freedom Struggle and the Communist Party, takes information from the British Government publication on Transfer of Power: 1942-47. The dates, the comments and the authorities concerned are very revealing to the discomfiture of Shourie. On August 16, 1942, Lord Linlithgow, the Viceroy of India, prepared a memorandum, noting in it that “the telegram despatched by Mr. P.C. Joshi to the Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain, Mr. Harry Pollitt, practically lined up the communists with the Congress.”

On 5 September 1942, the Home Department of the Government of India conveyed to the Secretary of State that “the Communist Party of India is a doubtful factor and it is composed of anti-British revolutionaries.”

In October 1942, the Viceroy told the Secretary of State that “there were ‘cases of communists taking part’ in the acts of subversion.”

According to Arun Shourie, the Home Department noted the deliberations of the First Congress of the C.P.I. with delight [as] “a considerable improvement in the outlook of the communists.” But it is otherwise according to Prof. Hiren Mukherji:

In its survey of the C.P.I.’s first congress the Home Department stressed that ‘liberation from imperialist enslavement’ was its paramount aim and that ‘persistent vilification of the government’ and ‘support of the leading national figures, particularly Gandhi’ characterised its proceedings. It proceeded, with unintended humour, to formulate the judgment that the C.P.I. was ‘primarily a nationalistic party working for Indian independence notwithstanding its lip-service to internationalism’.

On September 20, 1943, the Government of India’s Home Department notified all provincial governments that communists were ‘solely interested in speedy and violent overthrow of British Rule in India’.

In conclusion, we are inspired to quote this remarkable passage from Mukherji’s brochure:

When the Communist Party of India met at Calcutta (February 1948) for its Second Congress, its credential committee reported that the delegates numbering 632 had, among themselves, spent a total of 1500 years in British Indian jails (not counting the years in prison of the Chittagong Armoury Raid life-convict prisoners whose leaders had joined the party, some of them present in the Congress to affirm their allegiance).

Who knows! Arun Shourie may say that these years of prison life in British Indian jails were also spent under the dictates of ‘their masters in Russia’!

* * * * *

* Brahmandam Lokanadham, b. 30-11-1922 and d. 25-12-2010.

* Gaulitier = the chief official of a political district under Nazi control.

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