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Albert Gates

Democratic Solution of Pakistan Issue
Vital to Genuine India Independence

(16 June 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 24, 16 June 1947, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

“History was being made fast and furiously today,” said the New York Times on June 3, in describing the New Delhi conference between the representatives of the British Crown and the Hindu, Moslem and Sikh areas of India. The great sub-continent of Asia, inhabited by an estimated 400 million people, was offered a new form of settlement by the Empire which presumably is to result in the independence of the country. Thus, a new stage in the struggle for the freedom of India has been reached; it is the product of the centuries-old struggle for national independence.

The British, faced with insurmountable national and international difficulties, could no longer rule in the old way. This was clear even before the war. The war hastened the government’s decision to come to some agreement with India, lest the whole nation be lost in an intense battle for freedom. Great Britain’s position in India was threatened from external forces, as well. The United States, in hope of opening this vast country as a market for her goods, has long cast its yes in the direction of the sub-continent, publicly condemning British rule in the report made by former Ambassador Phillips. And there is always Stalinist Russia, seeking new lands to conquer and new millions to enslave.

Taking advantage of the sharp cleavage inside India between the ruling Hindus and the Moslems, a struggle which the British have incited for many years to prevent the unification of the immense population, Premier Attlee proposed the establishment of a Constituent Assembly at New Delhi and plebiscites in the disputed provinces to determine whether or not they wish to adhere to an All-Indian assembly or set up their own bodies.

Divided India

There is no dispute about the greater part of India which is inhabited by and is to be ruled by the Hindu Constituent Assembly. But the majority of the representatives at the present meeting from Bengal, Punjab, Sind and British Baluchistan have already refused to participate in a single Constituent Assembly. It is fairly certain that these provinces, which contain either Moslem majorities or are evenly divided, will vote for their own Constituent Assembly, or Pakistan.

The British ardently hope for this because it will result in a divided India. Behind the British plan is the aim of maintaining a close relationship with India after the consummation of the present proposals which have been accepted by the representatives of all the three factions. In granting the democratic right of plebiscitary decision, the British expect that the new assemblies will voluntarily accept dominion status and become part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The Empire will retain its troops in India on the ground of. the military weakness of the country. But actually, the British retention of her military forces is for the purpose of defending her immense interests against any encroachments which may come from her imperialist rivals. So long as these troops remain, they are a threat also to the achievement of Indian unity and genuine independence.

The acceptance of the British proposals by the Indian representatives elevates the struggle to a new plane. A measure of the plan is revealed in the enthusiastic support given it by Winston Churchill who praised it and its authors generously, claiming some credit for himself, since it followed the pattern of his own plan taken to India by Sir Stafford Cripps in 1942.

Socialist Policy

As revolutionary socialists we are for a complete and unambiguous independence for India; for a unified India. Whatever our opinions about the cause of the present division in the country, it would be sheer folly to disregard the deep division which exists particularly between the Hindus and the Moslems. The Moslems do not want unity with the Hindus. We believe they are wrong. If we resided in their provinces we would do everything in our power to convince them of their error and we would vote for a single assembly and for Indian unity. We would fight for a genuinely free and independent India without any ties whatever to the British Empire and we would demand the expulsion of British military forces since they could only serve as a constant threat to genuine independence and unity.

But at the same time, as revolutionary socialists, we would defend the right of the Moslems to decide their own destiny as a people. If they do not want to establish a common state with the Hindus, if they want their own state, then they have the democratic right to so decide. Any attempt to prevent the tens of millions of Moslems from exercising their democratic right of decision would represent nothing less than the assertion of the right of the Hindu ruling majority to rule against the will of millions of people. From a democratic, internationalist, socialist point of view, that would be impermissible.

It is our hope that, having achieved this further step in their struggle for independence, the Indian masses will go even further, toward the establishment of a unified and independent India, free of all ties with its still ever-present imperialist “motherland.”

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