The Rise of the Left-Wing A powerful left -wing group developed in India in the late 1920s and 1930s cont ribut ing to the radical izat ion of the nat ional movement . Social i st ideas acqui red root s in the Indian soi l ; and social i sm became the accepted creed of Indian youth whose urges came to be symbol ized by Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose. Gradual ly there emerged two powerful part ies of the Left , the Communi st Party of India (CPI) and the Congress Social i st Party (CSP). Seminal in thi s respect was the impact of the Russian Revolut ion. On 7 November 1917, the Bol shevik (Communi st ) party, led by V.I. Lenin, overthrew the despot ic Czari st regime and declared the format ion of the fi rst social i st state. The new Soviet regime elect ri fied the colonial world by uni lateral ly renouncing i t s imperial i st right s in China and other part s of Asia. In Bombay, S.A. Dange publ i shed a pamphlet Gandhi and Lenin and started the fi rst social i st weekly, The Social i st ; in Bengal , Muzaffar Ahmed brought out Navayug and later founded the Langal in cooperat ion wi th the poet Nazrul Islam; in Punjab, Ghulam Hussain and others publ i shed Inqui lab; and in Madras, M. Singaravelu founded the Labour-Ki san Gazet te.
Social i st ideas became even more popular during the 1930s as the world was engul fed by the great economic depression. Unemployment soared al l over the capi tal i st world. The world depression brought the capi tal i st system into di srepute and drew at tent ion towards Marxi sm and social i sm. Wi thin the Congress the left -wing tendency found reflect ion in the elect ion of Jawaharlal Nehru as president for 1936 and 1937 and of Subhas Bose for 1938 and 1939 and in the format ion of the Congress Social i st Party. It was above al l Jawaharlal Nehru who imparted a social i st vi sion to the nat ional movement and who became the symbol of social i sm and social i st ideas in India after 1929. The not ion that freedom could not be defined only in pol i t ical terms but must have a socio-economic content began increasingly to be associated wi th hi s name. In hi s books (Autobiography and Gl impses of World Hi story), art icles and speeches, Nehru propagated the ideas of social i sm and declared that pol i t ical freedom would become meaningful only i f i t led to the economic emancipat ion of the masses. In 1927, he at tended the Internat ional Congress against Colonial Oppression and Imperial i sm, held at Brussel s, and came into contact wi th communi st s and ant i -colonial fighters from al l over the world. In 1928, Jawaharlal joined hands wi th Subhas to organize the Independence for India League to fight for complete independence and ‘a social i st revi sion of the economic st ructure of society.’ At the Lahore session of the Congress in 1929, Nehru proclaimed: ‘I am a social i st and a republ ican, and am no bel iever in kings and princes, or in the order which produces the modern kings of indust ry, who have a greater power over the l ives and fortunes of men than even the kings of old, and whose methods are as predatory as those of the old feudal ari stocracy.’ Nehru developed a complex relat ionship wi th Gandhi j i during thi s period. He cri t icized Gandhi j i for refusing to recognize the confl ict of classes, for preaching harmony among the exploi ters and the exploi ted, and for put t ing forward the theories of t rusteeship by, and conversion of, the capi tal i st s and landlords. At t racted by the Soviet Union and i t s revolut ionary commi tment , a large number of Indian revolut ionaries and exi les abroad made thei r way there. The most wel l -known and the tal lest of them was M.N. Roy, who along wi th Lenin, helped evolve the Communi st Internat ional ’s pol icy towards the colonies. Seven such Indians, headed by Roy, met at Tashkent in
October 1920 and set up a Communi st Party of India. Independent ly of thi s effort , as we have seen, a number of left -wing and communi st groups and organizat ions had begun to come into exi stence in India after 1920. Most of these groups came together at Kanpur in December 1925 and founded an al l -India organizat ion under the name the Communi st Party of India (CPI). The main form of pol i t ical work by the early Communi st s was to organize peasant s’ and workers’ part ies and work through them. The fi rst such organizat ion was the Labour-Swaraj Party of the Indian Nat ional Congress organized by Muzaffar Ahmed, Qazi Nazrul Islam, Hemanta Kumar Sarkar, and others in Bengal in November 1925. In late 1926, a Congress Labour Party was formed in Bombay and a Ki rt i -Ki san Party in Punjab. A Labour Ki san Party of Hindustan had been funct ioning in Madras since 1923. By 1928 al l of these provincial organizat ions had been renamed the Workers’ and Peasant s’ Party (WPP) and kni t into an al l -India party, whose uni t s were al so set up in Rajasthan, UP and Delhi . Al l Communi st s were members of thi s party. The basic object ive of the WPPs was to work wi thin the Congress to give i t a more radical orientat ion and make i t ‘the party of the people’ and independent ly organize workers and peasant s in class organizat ions, to enable fi rst the achievement of complete independence and ul t imately of social i sm. The WPPs grew rapidly and wi thin a short period the communi st influence in the Congress began to grow rapidly, especial ly in Bombay. Moreover, Jawaharlal Nehru and other radical Congressmen welcomed the WPPs’ effort s to radical ize the Congress. Along wi th Jawaharlal and Subhas Bose, the youth leagues and other Left forces, the WPPs played an important role in creat ing a st rong left -wing wi thin the Congress and in giving the Indian nat ional movement a leftward di rect ion. The WPPs al so made rapid progress on the t rade union front and played a deci sive role in the resurgence of working class st ruggles during 1927-29 as al so in enabl ing in Communi st s to gain a st rong posi t ion in the working class. The rapid growth of communi st and WPP influence over the nat ional movement was, however, checked and vi rtual ly wiped out during 1929 and after by two development s. One was the severe
repression to which Communi st s were subjected by the Government . Al ready in 1922-24, Communi st s t rying to enter India from the Soviet Union had been t ried in a series of conspi racy cases at Peshawar and sentenced to long periods of impri sonment . In 1924, the Government had t ried to cripple the nascent communi st movement by t rying S.A. Dange, Muzaffar Ahmed, Nal ini Gupta and Shaukat Usmani in the Kanpur Bol shevik Conspi racy Case. Al l four were sentenced to four years of impri sonment. In a sudden swoop, in March 1929, i t arrested thi rty-two radical pol i t ical and t rade union act ivi st s, including three Bri t i sh Communi st s — Phi l ip Sprat t , Ben Bradley and Lester Hutchinson — who had come to India to help organize the t rade union movement . The basic aim of the Government was to behead the t rade union movement and to i solate the Communi st s from the nat ional movement . The thi rty-two accused were put up for t rial at Meerut . The Meerut Conspi racy Case was soon to become a cause celebre. The defence of the pri soners was to be taken up by many nat ional i st s including Jawaharlal Nehru, M.A. Ansari and M.C. Chagla. As i f the Government blow was not enough, the Communi st s infl icted a more deadly blow on themselves by taking a sudden lurch towards what i s described in left i st terminology as sectarian pol i t ics or ‘left i st deviat ion’. Guided by the resolut ions of the Sixth Congress of the Communi st Internat ional , the Communi st s broke thei r connect ion wi th the Nat ional Congress and declared i t to be a class party of the bourgeoi sie. Moreover, the Congress and the bourgeoi sie i t supposedly represented were declared to have become supporters of imperial i sm. Congress plans to organize a mass movement around the slogan of Purna Swaraj were seen as sham effort s to gain influence over the masses by bourgeoi s leaders who were working for a compromi se wi th Bri t i sh imperial i sm. In 1931, the Gandhi Irwin Pact was described as a proof of the Congress bet rayal of nat ional i sm. The Government took further advantage of thi s si tuat ion and, in 1934, declared the CPI i l legal . The Communi st movement was, however, saved from di saster because, on the one hand, many of the Communi st s refused to stand apart from the Civi l Di sobedience Movement (CDM) and
part icipated act ively in i t , and, on the other hand, social i st and communi st ideas cont inued to spread in the count ry. Consequent ly, many young persons who part icipated in the CDM or in Revolut ionary Terrori st organizat ions were at t racted by social i sm, Marxi sm and the Soviet Union, and joined the CPI after 1934. The si tuat ion underwent a radical change in 1935 when the Communi st Party was reorganized under the leadership of P.C. Joshi . Faced wi th the threat of fasci sm the Seventh Congress of the Communi st Internat ional , meet ing at Moscow in August 1935, radical ly changed i t s earl ier posi t ion and advocated the format ion of a uni ted front wi th social i st s and other ant i -fasci st s in the capi tal i st count ries and wi th bourgeoi s-led nat ional i st movement s in colonial count ries. The Indian Communi st s were to once again part icipate in the act ivi t ies of the mainst ream of the nat ional movement led by the Nat ional Congress. The theoret ical and pol i t ical basi s for the change in communi st pol i t ics in India was laid in early 1936 by a document popularly known as the Dut t -Bradley Thesi s. According to thi s thesi s, the Nat ional Congress could play ‘a great part and a foremost part in the work of real izing the ant i imperial i st people’s front . The Communi st Party now began to cal l upon i t s members to join the Congress and enrol l the masses under thei r influence to the Congress. In 1938, i t went further and accepted that the Congress was ‘the cent ral mass pol i t ical organizat ion of the Indian people ranged against imperial i sm.’ And,in 1939, P.C. Joshi wrote in the party weekly, Nat ional Front , that ‘the greatest class st ruggle today i sour nat ional st ruggle’ of which Congress was the ‘main organ. The move towards the format ion of a social i st party was made in the jai l s during 1930-31 and 1932-34 by a group of young Congressmen who were di senchanted wi th Gandhian st rategy and leadership and at t racted by social i st ideology. At t racted by Marxi sm, communi sm and Soviet Union, they did not find themselves in agreement wi th the prevalent pol i t ical l ine of the CPI. Many of them were groping towards an al ternat ive. Ul t imately they came together and formed the Congress Social i st Party (CSP) at Bombay in October 1934 under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan, Acharya Narendra Dev and Minoo Masani . From the beginning, al l the Congress social i st s were agreed upon four basic proposi t ions: that the primary st ruggle in India was
the nat ional st ruggle for freedom and that nat ional i sm was a necessary stage on the way to social i sm; that social i st s must work inside the Nat ional Congress because i t was the primary body leading the nat ional st ruggle and, as Acharya Narendra Dev put i t in 1934, ‘i t would be a suicidal pol icy for us to cut ourselves off from the nat ional movement that the Congress undoubtedly represent s; that they must give the Congress and the nat ional movement a social i st di rect ion; and that to achieve thi s object ive they must organize the workers and peasant s in thei r class organizat ions, wage st ruggles for thei r economic demands and make them the social base of the nat ional st ruggle.’ As the Meerut Thesi s of the CSP put i t in 1935, the task was to ‘wean the ant i -imperial i st element s in the Congress away from i t s present bourgeoi s leadership and to bring them under the leadership of revolut ionary social i sm.’ From the beginning the CSP leaders were divided into three broad ideological current s: the Marxian, the Fabian and the current influenced by Gandhi j i . Despi te the ideological diversi ty among the leaders, the CSP as a whole accepted a basic ident i ficat ion of social i sm wi th Marxi sm. Subhas Bose and hi s left -wing fol lowers founded the Forward Bloc in 1939 after Bose was compel led to resign from the President ship of the Congress. The Hindustan Social i st Republ ican Associat ion, the Revolut ionary Social i st Party, and various Trot skyi st groups al so funct ioned during the 1930s. There were al so certain prest igious left -wing individual s, such as Swami Sahajanand Saraswat i , Professor N.G. Ranga, and Indulal Yagnik, who worked out side the framework of any organized left -wing party. Despi te the fact that the Left cadres were among the most courageous, mi l i tant and sacri ficing of freedom fighters, the Left fai led in the basic task i t had taken upon i t sel f — to establ i sh the hegemony of social i st ideas and part ies over the nat ional movement . It al so fai led to make good the promi se i t held out in the 1930s. Thi s i s, in fact , a major enigma for the hi storian. Unl ike the Congress right wing, the Left fai led to show ideological and tact ical flexibi l i ty It chose to fight not on quest ions of ideology but on methods of st ruggle and on tact ics. Organizat ional ly, the Left was able to command influence over nearly one-thi rd of the votes in the Al l -India Congress Commi t tee on important i ssues. Nehru and Bose were elected Congress president s from 1936 to 1939. Nehru was able to nominate three prominent Social i st s, Acharya Narendra Dev, Jayaprakash Narayan and Achyut Patwardhan, to hi s Working Commi t tee. In 1939, Subhas Bose, as a candidate of the Left , was able to defeat Pat tabhi Si taramayya in the president ial elect ion by a majori ty of 1580 to 1377. The impact of the Left on the nat ional movement was
reflected in the resolut ion on Fundamental Right s and Economic Pol icy passed by the Karachi session of the Congress in 1931, the resolut ions on economic pol icy passed at the Faizpur session in 1936, the Elect ion Mani festo of the Congress in 1936, the set t ing up of a Nat ional Planning Commi t tee in 1938, and the increasing shi ft of Gandhi j i towards radical posi t ions on economic and class i ssues. The foundat ion of the Al l -India Student s’ Federat ion and the Progressive Wri ters’ Associat ion and the convening of the fi rst Al l -India States’ People’s Conference in 1936 were some of the other major achievement s of the Left . The Left was al so very act ive in the Al l -India Women’s Conference. Above al l , two major part ies of the Left , the Communi st Party and the Congress Social i st Party, had been formed, and were being bui l t up.
2 5 The Strategic Debate 1934-1937 Gandhi Hence, in October 1934, he announced hi s resignat ion from the Congress ‘only to serve i t bet ter in thought , word and deed. In August 1935, the Bri t i sh Parl iament passed the Government of India Act of 1935. The Act provided for the establ i shment of an Al l -India Federat ion to be based on the union of the Bri t i sh Indian provinces and Princely States. The representat ives of the States to the federal legi slature were to be appointed di rect ly by the Princes who were to be used to check and counter the nat ional i st s. The franchi se was l imi ted to about one-sixth of the adul t s. Defence and foreign affai rs would remain out side the cont rol of the federal legi slature, whi le the Viceroy would retain special cont rol over other subject s. The provinces were to be governed under a new system based on provincial autonomy under which elected mini sters cont rol led al l provincial department s. Once again, the Governors, appointed by the Bri t i sh Government , retained special powers. They could veto legi slat ive and admini st rat ive measures, especial ly those concerning minori t ies, the right s of civi l servant s, law and order and Bri t i sh business interest s. The Governor al so had the power to take over and indefini tely run the admini st rat ion of a province. Thus both pol i t ical and economic power remained concent rated in
Bri t i sh hands; colonial i sm remained intact . Provincial autonomy, i t was further hoped, would create powerful provincial leaders in the Congress who would wield admini st rat ive power in thei r own right , gradual ly learn to safeguard thei r admini st rat ive prerogat ives, and would, therefore, gradual ly become autonomous cent res of pol i t ical power. The Congress would, thus, be provincial ized; the authori ty of the cent ral al l -India leadership would be weakened i f not dest royed. As Linl i thgow wrote in 1936, ‘our best hope of avoiding a di rect clash i s in the potency of Provincial Autonomy to dest roy the effect iveness of Congress as an Al l India inst rument of revolut ion.’
The Act of 1935 was condemned by nearly al l sect ions of Indian opinion and was unanimously rejected by the Congress. The Congress demanded instead, the convening of a Const i tuent Assembly elected on the basi s of adul t franchi se to frame a const i tut ion for an independent India. The second stage of the debate over st rategy occurred among Congressmen over the quest ion of office acceptance. The Bri t i sh, after imposing the Act of 1935, decided to immediately put into pract ice provincial autonomy, and announced the holding of elect ions to provincial legi slatures in early 1937. Even i f the Congress rejected office, there were other groups and part ies who would readi ly form mini st ries and use them to weaken nat ional i sm and encourage react ionary and communal pol icies and pol i t ics. Last ly, despi te thei r l imi ted powers, the provincial mini st ries could be used to promote const ruct ive work especial ly in respect of vi l lage and Hari jan upl i ft , khadi , prohibi t ion, educat ion and reduct ion of burden of debt , taxes and rent on the peasant s. The Congress decided at Lucknow in early 1936 and at Faizpur in late 1936 to fight the elect ions and postpone the deci sion on office acceptance to the post -elect ion period. The Congress went al l out to win the elect ions to the provincial assembl ies held in February 1937. It s elect ion mani festo reaffi rmed i t s total reject ion of the 1935 Act . It promi sed the restorat ion of civi l l ibert ies, the release of pol i t ical pri soners, the removal of di sabi l i t ies on grounds of sex and untouchabi l i ty, the radical t ransformat ion of the agrarian system, substant ial reduct ion in rent and revenue, scal ing down of the rural debt s, provi sion of cheap credi t , the right to form t rade unions and the right to st rike. 2 6 Twenty-eight Months of Congress Rule After a few months’ tussle wi th the Government , the Congress Working Commi t tee decided to accept
office under the Act of 1935. During July, i t formed Mini st ries in six provinces: Madras, Bombay, Cent ral Provinces, Ori ssa, Bihar and U.P.. Later, Congress Mini st ries were al so formed in the NorthWest Front ier Province and Assam. To guide and coordinate thei r act ivi t ies and to ensure that the Bri t i sh hopes of the provincial izat ion of the Congress did not material ize, a cent ral cont rol board known as the Parl iamentary Sub-Commi t tee was formed, wi th Sardar Patel , Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Rajendra Prasad as members. Thus began a novel experiment — a party which was commi t ted to l iquidate Bri t i sh rule took charge of admini st rat ion under a const i tut ion which was framed by the Bri t i sh and which yielded only part ial state power to the Indians; thi s power could moreover be taken away from the Indians whenever the imperial power so desi red. As Gandhi j i wrote on the meaning of office acceptance in Hari jan on 7 August 1937: ‘These offices have to be held l ight ly, not t ight ly. The Congress Mini sters set an example in plain l iving. They reduced thei r own salaries drast ical ly from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 500 per month. They were easi ly accessible to the common people. And in a very short t ime, they did pass a very large amount of amel iorat ive legi slat ion, t rying to ful fi l many of the promi ses made in the Congress elect ion mani festo. Al l emergency powers acqui red by the provincial government s during 1932, through Publ ic Safety Act s and the l ike, were repealed; bans on i l legal pol i t ical organizat ions such as the Hindustan Seva Dal and Youth Leagues and on pol i t ical books and journal s were l i fted. Though the ban on the Communi st Party remained, since i t was imposed by the Cent ral Government and could only be l i fted on i t s orders, the Communi st s could in effect now funct ion freely and openly in the Congress provinces. Al l rest rict ions on the press were removed. Securi t ies taken from newspapers and presses were refunded and pending prosecut ions were wi thdrawn. The blackl i st ing of newspapers for purposes of government advert i sing was given up. Confi scated arms were returned and forfei ted arms l icenses were restored. One of the fi rst act s of the Congress Government was to release thousands of pol i t ical pri soners and detenus and to cancel internment and deportat ion orders on pol i t ical workers. Many of the revolut ionaries involved in the Kakori and other conspi racy cases were released. But problems remained in U.P. and Bihar where several revolut ionaries convicted of crimes involving violence
remained in jai l s. Most of these pri soners had earl ier been sent to kala pani (Cel lular Jai l in Andamans) from where they had been t ransferred to thei r respect ive provinces after they had gone on a prolonged hunger st rike during July 1937. In February 1938, there were fi fteen such pri soners in U.P. and twenty-three in Bihar. Thei r release requi red consent by the Governors which was refused. But the Congress Mini st ries were determined to release them. The Mini st ries of U.P. and Bihar resigned on thi s i ssue on 15 February. The problem was final ly resolved through negot iat ions. Al l the pri soners in both provinces were released by the end of March. The di fference between the Congress provinces and the non-Congress provinces of Bengal and Punjab was most apparent in thi s realm. In the lat ter, especial ly in Bengal , civi l l ibert ies cont inued to be curbed and revolut ionary pri soners and detenus, kept for years in pri son wi thout t rial , were not released despi te repeated hunger st rikes by the pri soners and popular movement s demanding thei r release. In Bombay, the Government al so took steps to restore to the original owners lands which had been confi scated by the Government as a resul t of the no-tax campaign during the Civi l Di sobedience Movement in 1930. The Congress could not at tempt a complete overhaul of the agrarian st ructure by completely el iminat ing the zamindari system. Thi s, for two reasons. According to the const i tut ional st ructure of the 1935 Act , the provincial Mini st ries did not have enough powers to do so. They al so suffered from an ext reme lack of financial resources, for the l ion’s share of India’s revenues was appropriated by the Government of India. The Congress Mini st ries could al so not touch the exi st ing admini st rat ive st ructure, whose sanct i ty was guarded by the Viceroy’s and Governor’s powers. What i s more important , the st rategy of class adjustment al so forebade i t . A mul t i -class movement could develop only by balancing or adjust ing various, mutual ly clashing class interest s. To uni te al l the Indian people in thei r st ruggle against colonial i sm, the main enemy of the t ime, i t was necessary to make such an adjustment . The pol icy had to be that of winning over or at least neut ral izing as large a part of
the landlord classes as possible so as to i solate the enemy and deprive him of al l social support wi thin India. Thi s was even more necessary because, in large part s of the count ry, the smal ler landlords were act ive part icipant s in the nat ional movement . Further, nearly al l the Congress-run states (that i s, U.P., Bihar, Bombay, Madras and Assam) had react ionary second chambers in the form of legi slat ive counci l s, which were elected on a very narrow franchi se — whi le the number of voters for the assembl ies in these states was over 17.5 mi l l ion, i t was less than 70 thousand for the second chambers. These were, therefore, dominated by landlords, capi tal i st s and moneylenders, wi th the Congress forming a smal l minori ty. As a majori ty in the lower house was not enough, in order to get any legi slat ion passed through the second chamber, the Congress had to simul taneously pressuri se thei r upper class element s and conci l iate them. In U.P. a tenancy act was passed in October 1939 which gave al l statutory tenant s both in Agra and Oudh ful l heredi tary right s in thei r holdings whi le taking away the landlord’s right to prevent the growth of occupancy. Al l i l legal exact ions such as nazrana (forced gi ft s) and begar (forced unpaid labour) were abol i shed. In Bihar, the new tenancy legi slat ion was passed mainly in 1937 and 1938, that i s, more quickly than in U.P.. More radical than that of U.P. in most respect s, i t s main provi sions were: Al l increases in rent made since 1911 were abol i shed; thi s was est imated to mean a reduct ion of about twenty-five per cent in rent . The rent was al so reduced i f the prices had fal len, during the currency of the exi st ing rent , the deteriorat ion of soi l and the neglect of i rrigat ion by the landlord. Occupancy ryot s were given the absolute right to t ransfer thei r holding on the payment of a nominal amount of two per cent of rent to the landlord. A point of radical departure was the grant to under-ryot s of occupancy right s i f they had cul t ivated the land for twelve years. Exi st ing arrears of rent were substant ial ly reduced and the rate of interest on arrears was reduced from 12.5 to 6.25 per cent . The landlord’s share in case of share-cropping was not to exceed 9/20 of the produce. Lands
which had been sold in the execut ion of decrees for the payment of arrears between 1929 and 1937 (bakasht land) were to be restored to previous tenant s on payment of hal f the amount of arrears. The landlord’s power to real ize rent was great ly reduced — the tenant could no longer be arrested or impri soned on thi s account , nor could hi s immovable property be sold wi thout hi s consent . Landlords were forbidden from charging i l legal dues; any violat ion would lead to six months’impri sonment . Occupancy tenant s could no longer be ejected from thei r holdings for non-payment of rent . In fact , the only right that the landlord retained was the right to get hi s rent which was reduced signi ficant ly. The agrarian legi slat ion of the Congress Mini st ries thus improved and secured the status of mi l l ions of tenant s in zamindari areas. The basic system of landlordi sm was, of course, not affected. Furthermore, i t was, in the main, statutory and occupancy tenant s who benefi ted. The interest s of the sub-tenant s of the occupancy tenant s were overlooked. Agricul tural labourers were al so not affected. Thi s was part ial ly because these two sect ions had not yet been mobi l ized by the ki san sabhas, nor had they become voters because of the rest ricted franchi se under the Act of 1935. Consequent ly, they could not exert pressure on the Mini st ries through ei ther elect ions or the peasant movement . Except for U.P. and Assam, the Congress Government passed a series of st ringent debtors’ rel ief act s which provided for the regulat ion of the moneylenders’ business — provi sions of the act s included measures such as the cancel lat ion or drast ic reduct ion of accumulated interest ranging from 6.25 per cent in Madras to 9 per cent in Bombay and Bihar. The Congress Mini st ries adopted, in general , a pro-labour stance. Immediately after assuming office, the Bombay Mini st ry appointed a Text i le Enqui ry Commi t tee which recommended, among other improvement s, the increase of wages amount ing to a crore of rupees. Despi te mi l lowners protest ing against the recommendat ions, they were implemented. In November 1938, the Government s passed the Indust rial Di sputes Act which was based on the
phi losophy of ‘class col laborat ion and not class confl ict ,’ as the Premier B.G. Kher put i t . The emphasi s in the Act was on conci l iat ion, arbi t rat ion and negot iat ions in place of di rect act ion. The Act was al so designed to prevent l ightning st rikes and lock-out s. The Act empowered the Government to refer an indust rial di spute to the Court of Indust rial Arbi t rat ion. No st rike or lock-out could occur for an interim period of four months during which the Court would give i t s award. The Act was st rongly opposed by Left Congressmen, including Communi st s and Congress Social i st s, for rest rict ing the freedom to st rike and for laying down a new compl icated procedure for regi st rat ion of t rade unions, which, they said, would encourage unions promoted by employers. In Madras, too, the Government promoted the pol icy of ‘internal set t lement ’ of labour di sputes through government sponsored conci l iat ion and arbi t rat ion proceedings. In U.P., Kanpur was the seat of serious labour unrest as the workers expected act ive support from the popularly elected Government . A major st rike occurred in May 1938. The Government set up a Labour Enqui ry Commi t tee, headed by Rajendra Prasad. The Commi t tee’s recommendat ions included an increase in workers’ wages wi th a minimum wage of Rs. 15 per month, format ion of an arbi t rat ion board, recrui tment of labour for al l mi l l s by an independent board, materni ty benefi t s to women workers, and recogni t ion of the Left -dominated Mazdur Sabha by the employers. But the employers, who had refused to cooperate wi th the Commi t tee, rejected the report . They did, however, in the end, because of a great deal of pressure from the Government , adopt i t s principal recommendat ions. A simi lar Bihar Labour Enqui ry Commi t tee headed by Rajendra Prasad was set up in 1938. It too recommended the st rengthening of t rade union right s, an improvement in labour condi t ions, and compul sory conci l iat ion and arbi t rat ion to be t ried before a st rike was declared. The Congress Government s al so joined the effort to develop planning through the Nat ional Planning Commi t tee appointed in 1938 by the Congress President Subhas Bose. Even though i t was under a Cent ral Government ban, the Communi st Party was able to bring out i t s weekly organ, The Nat ional Front , from Bombay. The CSP brought out The Congress Social i st and
several other journal s in Indian languages. Of part icular interest i s the example of Ki rt i Lehar which the Ki rt i Communi st s of Punjab brought out from Meerut , U.P., because they could not do so in Unioni st -ruled Punjab. Even though peasant agi tat ions usual ly took the form of massive demonst rat ions and spectacular peasant marches, in Bihar, the ki san movement often came into frontal confrontat ion wi th the Mini st ry, especial ly when the Ki san Sabha asked the peasant s not to pay rent or to forcibly occupy landlords’ lands. There were al so cases of physical at tacks upon landlords, big and smal l , and the loot ing of crops. Ki san sabha workers popularized Sahajanand’s mi l i tant slogans: Lagan Lenge Kai se, Danda Hamara Zindabad.Consequent ly, there was a breach in relat ions between the Bihar ki san sabha and the provincial Congress leadership. The Congress Mini st ries resigned in October 1939 because of the pol i t ical cri si s brought about by World War II. But Gandhi j i welcomed the resignat ions for another reason — they would help cleanse the Congress of the ‘rampant corrupt ion.’