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Fourth International, March 1942


Larissa Reed

The Mind of India’s Bourgeoisie


From Fourth International, vol.3 No.3, March 1942, pp.94-95.
Transcribed, Edited & Formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for the ETOL.


My India, My America
by Krishnalal Shridharani
Dual, Sloan & Pearce, 1941. 607 pages. $3.50.

The author of this book is a high-caste Hindu visitor to the United States. He is an “unofficial” spokesman for the Indian hourgeoisie – the weakest of the three parasitic classes that feed upon the blood and toil of the Indian workers and peasants. The other two are the native landlords and the British imperialists.

Shridharani’s chief complaint is against British imperialism, which rules by direct force and squeezes the budding Indian bourgeoisie in Its monopolistic vise. “The British Governor General of India,” he protests, “appointed by the British Cabinet, is armed with such decisive powers that he can render the Federal Legislature impotent whenever he thinks imperial interests are at stake.” The Federal Legislature, elected under methods which provide no representation to the great masses, is the means by which the native bourgeoisie hopes to secure a larger share of the wealth and power of India.

Next to the intolerable grip of the British rulers, Shridharani complains about the native princes. Regarding these glorified landlords, Shridharani declares: “Our fight is as much against the native exploiters as against the foreign ones.” The British imperialists throw only crumbs to the native capitalists, while the “560 Maharajahs” continue to be “a group ... of the richest men on earth.” These potentates, he complains, “rule over one-third of India … and they can do anything they wish unless they become too good for the British interest” – that is to say, pit their power against the British rulers. Great Britain “has pledged herself to provide for their protection against aggression from without and rebellion from within.”

Shridharani does not propose to combat the imperialists and the landlords by mobilizing the masses, even In the form of democratic government. “The weakness of democracy,” he states, “is that every man’s son is so important that no one is important enough.” He consoles the agrarian masses with the old apology far aristocracy: “It is impossible for a suffering minority to get redress in a democracy ... a benevolent despotism, with all its limitations ... is capable of being moved by compassion, justice, pity.” Trapped by the contradictions of the present epoch of decaying capitalism, Imperalist wars and proletarian revolutions, Shridharani has nothing better than “a benevolent despotism” to offer the Indian masses!

His Fear of Socialism

For he understands that the bourgeoisie of India today cannot play the same historical role as their American predecessors, who won complete independence for themselves in an epoch when capitalism marched uphill. Shridharani reflects: “We live in times ... of blitzkrieg and blitzpolitik ... and should not forget that ... we run the risk of being too late.” Indeed, the Indian bourgeoisie has arrived too late on the historical arena in an epoch of monopoly capitalism.. In this second titanic struggle of the great imperialist powers for supremacy, Shridharani realizes that his class is impotent except to serve one or another of these gigantic contenders. Possessing all of the vices and none of the virtues of their predecessors, the Indian bourgeoisie can only obstruct and betray the revolutionary emancipation of the masses.

“The rise of socialism in India,” writes Shridharani, “can be traced to the (first) World War. Manufacturing tycoons doubled and tripled their wealth overnight ... but the plight of the workers remained unchanged. The rumbling of discontent among the proletariat, audible in pre-war days, grew louder ... in the inevitable post-war slump … the industrialists forgot the abnormal profits of war-time, and began to reduce wages, to dismiss employees.” The second World War is reproducing these tensions on an enormously magnified scale.

Shridharani “ignores” the October revolution in Russia in 1917, achieved out of the crucible of the first World War. The Russian masses combined the bourgeois-democratic with the proletarian revolution and leaped in two swift strides from Czarist absolutism to a workers’ state. This bourgeois Hindu hierarchist strives to conceal from the Indian masses the lessons of the revolutionary alliance between the workers and peasants which resulted in the overthrow of the bourgeoisie together with the feudal overlords.

“The great population of little farmers in India still blames kismet for their sufferings, not the capitalist system,” writes Shridharani – imitating Tolstoy’s fatalism, which contributed to the defeat of the first Russian revolution in 1905. Learning from this defeat, in 1917 the “little farmers” of Russia, still clinging to their ikons and fatalism, were nevertheless led to victory by a revolutionary vanguard of workers, armed with a correct revolutionary program.

“India, recently industrialized, has aproletariat too small to be the vanguard of a revolution,” says Shridharani, with false hope and deliberate deceit. The fact is that the five million industrial workers created out of the expansion of British capital, and to a lesser degree out of native capital, represent a social and political force far stronger tfian the bourgeoisie itself. They are fully capable of leading the Indian masses to a victorious Indian revolution.

Shridharani is an apostle of Gandhi’s doctrine of “non-violence,” which he offers as a substitute for revolutionary action. In his Blueprint of Bloodless Revolution, he assures the American capitalists that “Democracy has nothing to fear from a non-violent revolution” and explains in detail its operation.

“If a mighty army should march upon a free country,” states Shridharani, the inhabitants “would let the invader In without opposition.” They would “offer themselves unarmed as fodder for the aggressor’s cannon.” Thousands upon thousands of them would “voluntarily lie down a hundred deep ... to be trampled under horses’ hoofs ... iron tanks ... or soldiers’ boots.” They would say, “You can march in over a bloody human carpet or you can go back.”

In the event that the invaders are not shamed into turning back, but “march to power over a bloody carpet,” the next stage calls for “direct negotiations with the leaders of the opposition ... by a deputation composed of influential and notable citizens.” Obviously, these gentlemen are not among the thousands who have been trampled to death, but are now appearing to make a peaceful horse-trade. They begin their bargaining through “such legislative channels as might be open to them.” This is exactly the way the defeated ruling classes in Europe made deals with the fascists. Shridharani is paving the way for a similar bargain with the imperialist victor.

If the trading does not proceed satisfactorily, Shridharani’s blueprint calls for “a campaign of agitation among the people?” Possessing a freedom of action unexplained by Shridharani, the notable citizens begin “issuing pamphlets, circulating books and papers” as well as through “songs ... slogans ... group meetings ... debates radio ... cinema,” all upholding the vague program labelled “The Cause.” Further stages include “the perilous step of issuing an ultimatum.” This is “a document drawn up by the Leader with the consent of party dignitaries,” in which “the needs of the people are set forth in plain terms.” The Indian National Congress, led by propertied lawyers and subsidized by millionaire merchants and manufacturers, has proven itself very skillful at exploiting the power of the masses in this fashion. Gandhi accepts “invitations ... to the Viceregal Palace” to conclude a deal with the British rulers.

“At this point,” announces Shridharani, “selfipurification, the fourth phase ... is introduced.” This requires “fasting, public prayers, voluntary suffering and selfdenial?” This “One-Way Street named Martyrdom” is indeed a blind alley for the masses, and a bourgeois device to keep them subdued and harnessed to their native exploiters.

Shridharani exalts the author of this ‘inspired” technique of mass deception. He describes the other achievements of the “practical idealist” Gandhi, in paralyzing the masses. To serve the “economic needs” of the peasantry, he writes, Gandhi “launched his program for the revival of the cottage industries with the spinning wheel as the symbol of the movement.” In reality, this reversion to handicraft methods in an industrial epoch could not lift the peasants out of their impoverishment, but only riveted them to their barbaric state.

Between retirements, writes Shridharnni, Gandhi staged “three triumphant comebacks?’ He does not specify, however, that Gandhi came forward to betray the revolutionary struggle of the workers and peasants at each of three critical junctures. With a “natural gift for the unusual and startling,” Gandhi turned back the clock in his person as well as in his politics. Shridharani writes: “From expensive and up-to-date European suits, he has passed through a shirt and dhoti stage, and wound up with a loin-cloth.” No doubt, on the eve of the impending socialist revolution, Gandhi will come forth in the last act of the Strip-Tease of Treachery clad in nothing at all!

The End of “Non-Violence”

“In 1929 strikes occurred all over India,” writes Shridharani; “the labor movement was becoming class conscious for the first time in India’s short industrial history.” He blurts out ... “The workers … did not see the answer to their problem in the Congress” but “looked upon it as the mouthpiece of the bourgeoisie, a body financed by the capitalists of the country ... consequently they began to consolidate their ranks in unions of their own.” This grave situation, he admits, called for a change of leadership; “for a strong Congress president who could swing the youth leagues and workers behind that body.” For this change of faces, “Gandhi’s choice was Nehru.” The Indian bourgeoisie was quite satisfied with Nehru, the “thoroughbred, born of blue-blooded parents” and a descendant of “two centuries ... of culture and luxury.”

When the second World War broke out, Shridharani writes that the Indian National Congress had stated flatly: “India cannot associate herself in a war said to be for democratic freedom, when that very freedom is denied her?̵ But afterward the Congress leadership swung around to support England’s imperialist war.

Shridharani, the apostle of “non-violence,” is a little embarrassed by his approval of this capitulation, which is so obviously a “betrayal of the cause of non-violence.” With the characteristic agility of bourgeois betrayers, he turns a political somersault, and announces: “I have always regarded it (non-violence) as one of the methods, and not as the method.” The best Pathan warriors, who in 1930 laid down their arms in obedience to the doctrine of “non-violence” and who were slain by British guns, cannot, however, be recalled to life. In an earlier section of Shridharani’s voluminous book, he reprints with pride an “eye-witness’s” account of their fate:

“1. Nearly 500 men have lost their lives.

2. They all died in a strictly non-violent manner, bravely courting bullets.

3. They could have created the most terrible riot, if they were not actuated by a touching, though perhaps a blind faith in ‘Baba Gandhi.’”

Alas, they did not know that “non-violence” is only a bourgeois program for castrating the rebellious masses.

Shridharani and his class became alarmed when the war placed Winston Churchill in power. In 1935, he recalls, this “die-hard Tory” had bluntly declared: “England cannot afford to give up India” because “two out of every ten Englishmen depend on India.” Anxious to dispense with the expensive political services of the native bourgeoisie, Churchill had declared: “Sooner or later you will have to crush Gandhi and the Indian Congress and all they stand for.” The Indian bourgeoisie found themselves staring straight into two gun-barrels; between the turbulent and rebellious masses from below and the arch-reactionary power on top. To Shridharani, “the conviction was carried home that the only language Great Britain was prepared to understand was the language of military force and political blackmail.” But neither he nor his class acted on that conviction.

He Seeks a New Master

Now the specter of revolution is arising out of the visible crumbling of the British Empire. Whereupon Shridharani looks for a new master.

Shridharani rules out Japanese imperialism, whose “battle-cry of Asia-for-the-Asiatics” is only a device to conceal “its own expansionist aims” – at the expense of the Indian bourgeoisie. He prefers American imperialism. Other Indian capitalists, however, like Subhas Chandra Bose, are for the Axis powers.

“The magnitude of America’s stake in India’s future is greater than is commonly known,” says Shridharani, the servant, who has selected his new master. Raising the soiled and tattered flag of deception, he bleats: “The United States is the apex of western civilization ... the hope of the world really lies in this country, the powerhouse of democracy.” Shridharani prepares to embrace an alliance with American imperialism in the dire event that the British empire collapses and the unleashed revolution threatens to drag the native capitalists down with it.

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Last updated on 13.9.2008