M N Roy 1922

Letter to Singaravelu Chettiar
6th June 1923

Taken from Communism in India – Unpublished Documents, edited by the late Subodh Roy. National Archives of India F261 K.W.I/P76. The Gaya conference took place at the beginning of December 1922. The MS of the programme that MN Roy wrote can be found in the MIA. The following letter found in the Security Service files was obviously intercepted by the security services copied and then sent on. – Note by transcriber Ted Crawford.

Copy of a letter dated 6.1.23 from M.N. Roy to M. Singaravelu Chettiar.

Your letter dated December 12 was received in due time. Since writing that letter you must have had some interesting experience at Gaya where non-cooperation as a political movement has received a ceremonial funeral. I am anxiously waiting from you containing the details of what took place at Gaya. So far but fragmentary telegraphic reports have reached here. Judging from them the Congress has precisely met the same fate as we have been predicting during the last 12 months. Marxism is a wonderful thing, is it not? It has made of history such an exact science. I wonder how long it will take before this modern revolutionary method of thinking is introduced in our movement. I must, however, leave the general political topics alone in this letter which concerned some practical questions. You will find our opinion of the Congress after Gaya in the A.G. and later on I will write you extensively on the question.

I am afraid you dismissed my proposal for the conference here too lightly. Perhaps I failed to make it clear to you that the Congress had been decided upon by men bigger than me and who are very anxious to find the best ways of helping the struggle you and others like you are carrying on against great odds. You agree with my idea of forming a new party, but argue we have still to do the preparatory work. You are perfectly right. And it is precisely for this purpose, for the purpose of discussing methods and means of the preparatory work that the Conference is needed. We need a press of our own; but before that it is necessary to determine upon the political question concerning the new party for which the press is needed. You can imagine how difficult it is to discuss and decide these grave political questions by correspondence of which the security is never guaranteed. Then, I suppose you do not underestimate the value of holding counsel with the leaders of world revolution about the movement in India. Let me tell you that we are entirely in agreement with your plan of setting up a press, and will do every thing to help it, but we do hold it very important that those few in India recognising the necessity of a new party not on old conventional lines, but in a new political principle and upon a revolutionary social basis, must have a Conference in order to decide about the programme and tactics of the new party. Far from thinking with you that it is “useless,” we on the contrary, believe it to be a vital thing. It is also true that we have no following in the country; but we must secure it. The forces of national revolution are to day scattered in confusion. We propose to rally them in a new party. Therefore, it is not that we have to manufacture a following. We will simply have to hoist a flag which will appeal to the imagination of those objectively revolutionary forces which could not be understood by our religious non-cooperators, nor by the rational extremists of the “pro-change” party. So we hold that objectively our party has a following. As Marxians we must say: “Had there not been a social element for such a party there would be no idea of forming it. So you need not feel (diffident in coming to a Conference because, you do not represent such a motley crew as a non-cooperating Congress. You and those who think like you are the real representatives of an Indian people and alone have the right to speak on behalf of them. Now as to the technical difficulty against holding such a conference you are also right. But these difficulties must be overcome and the means of overcoming them will be found if we are convinced that to hold this conference is essential for the future of our movement. I have seen delegates attend secret international conferences held under extremely difficult circumstances. We have had in the Communist International Congresses delegates from all the Eastern countries except India. It was not any easier for these delegates to come to Moscow. But they managed to come because they believed it was necessary. Of course, so long as there are not in India people with the same belief our Conference cannot be held. The question of paying for your or any other desirable delegates’ passage is of secondary importance. But the method you suggest is impracticable. How can I buy a return passage from this end? Then it is dangerous to buy a ticket from Thos. Cook which is a detective Agency of the British Imperialism. We must find some other way. Please suggest some way by which the money can be sent. I will advise you to consult Dange on the matter.

I must revert to the political aspect of the conference. We are agreed on the necessity of forming a new party. What is the first step to be taken in this direction. The programme of this party. I have already published the outline of programme with certain important clauses of which you do not agree. Is it not sufficient reason for a Conference in order to discuss the programme of our party? We cannot come to any satisfactory understanding by correspondence. But let us try pending the Conference.

You take exception to the “abolition of landlordism” and “agitation” against bourgeoisie. Your reasons are just those that forced Gandhi to call for the shameful retreat at Bardoli. He was faced with the problem of choosing between the financial aid of the landlord and capitalists on the one hand and the revolutionary energy of the masses on the other. The Bombay merchants and mill-owners would not pay their promised contribution to Tilak Swaraj Fund if the Congress supported the strikers and demonstrations of the workers; the reactionary middle class was so closely tied to the apron strings of the feudal lords of Oudh that it would rather see the great non-cooperation movement degenerate into a prayer association and spinning guild than to brook the revolutionary agrarian upheaval threatening the security of landlordism. Hence the betrayal by the Congress of the great mass movement that culminated in the demonstrations in Bombay and the United Provinces. These revolutionary actions of the masses were denounced as “hooliganism” in the name of non-violence. But, what was the social reason beyond this thing of non-violence? Was it not the anxiety for the vested interests of the native upper-class and the apprehension of losing the problematical support of the rich? By stoutly denouncing the revolt of the exploited peasantry and reassuring the holy rights of the feudal lords the Congress killed a great mass movement but can you say that by this reprehensible tactics the landlords of Oudh have been made any more patriotic? Or shall I ask any less loyal and reactionary? The recent controversy on the recent District Board Bill should have given us a lesson. And above this financial support of the capitalists the way in which attempts were made to manipulate the entire Swaraj fund for profiteering in Khaddar proves the real character of the patriotism of the merchants and manufacturers. No, my dear comrade, it is a mistake to put the interests of the upper classes in the first place in the struggle for national liberation. If we sacrifice the dynamic forces of mass action in favour of the financial support we will record innumerable Bardolis. It speaks very badly of our revolutionary outlook if we have not learned to recognise which is the backbone of our movement. I do not say that we should fail to enlist the services of all the possible elements in our movement. We must not lose the sense of proportion. The social character of our movement is bourgeois. Therefore the middle classes will play an important part in it. But owing to the abnormal development of our history (British conquest) Indian bourgeoisie does not today possess the same revolutionary significance as did its prototype in Europe in the middle of last century. Therefore Indian revolution will not be successful as a purely bourgeois revolution. Our bourgeois is too under-developed, too weak, too timid to lead a revolutionary struggle. They must be aided by some other social force more revolutionary. Therefore the programme of a revolution cannot be confined to the limits of bourgeois interests.

Then look to the question from an historical point of view. What will the national independence of India mean? The victory of the Indian bourgeoisie. As Marxians we cannot but laugh at the revivalist theory of those who believe that India is a special creation of God. The triumph of the bourgeoisie means the disruption of feudalism, because the latter is detrimental to capitalist mode of production. Therefore the programme of national independence objectively sounds the death knell of landlordism. Why should we not have the courage to explain this programme in such a simple language as will be within the understanding of the poor peasantry and make the national struggle of vital issue for them? Are we less revolutionary than the heroes of the Liberal League? Even thus clarifying socio-economic affiliation, and look up the tussle going on in the U.P. Council. If the Ministerial Liberals will not break away from their feudal relations they will ere long forfeit that title to lead the big bourgeoisie. The rise of the Independent Nationalist Party in Bengal is a sign of the time. Have you noticed the programme of this new political party of the liberal bourgeoisie (led by Surendranath Banerjee who has no landed interest) includes “abolition of landlordism” and many other “welfare” clauses in our programme which seems to have terrified you? It is not a Communist Programme that I have drafted. It is a simple democratic document adopted to our special circumstances. We must dismiss the hope of securing help of the landed aristocracy. The bourgeoisie must be with the National movement. They cannot leave it. Nor can they fight alone. They must have a support, so we must enter the struggle with consciousness and not as appendage of the bourgeoisie. More on this question latter.

I draw a lesson from this: It is the necessity of a Conference before the organisation of the Party can be started. We must come to an agreement among ourselves first of all. Besides the Mss. you sent, we have seen your manifesto published in the Hindu. It is very good. We will publish parts of it in the Vanguard. We will be very glad if you send some article from time to time. They can be published pseudo name. Your information about our labour leaders specially those running the T.U.C. show are very helpful. The British Labour party is extending its harmful influence through men like Chaman Lai and Baptista. We are fighting against it. The projected labour party will be a great danger. We must take the field as soon as possible in order to frustrate their danger to divide the working class in a futile economic fight.

With greetings.
M.N. Roy