The Party that wins freedom for India should be also the party that will put into effect the entire programme of post-war reconstruction : Subhas Chandra Bose
Following are the extracts from the speeches of the Congress Presidents who have placed their vision and opinion for building the destiny of India.
Subhas Chandra Bose (Haripura-1938)
I am afraid there is a lack of clarity in the minds of many Congressmen as to the role of the Congress in the history of our national struggle. I know that there are friends who think that after freedom is won the Congress Party, having achieved its objective, should wither away. Such a conception is entirely erroneous. The Party that wins freedom for India should be also the party that will put into effect the entire programme of post-war reconstruction. Only those who have won power can handle it properly. If other people are pitchforked into seats of power which they were not responsible for capturing, they will lack that strength, confidence and idealism which is indispensable for revolutionary reconstruction. It is this which accounts for the difference in the record of the Congress and non-Congress Ministries even in the very narrow sphere of provincial autonomy.
I do not know how or when this new order will come to India. I imagine that every country will fashion it after its own way and fit it in with its national genius. But the essential basis of that order must remain and be a link in the world order that will emerge out of the present chaos. Socialism is thus for me not merely an economic doctrine which I favour, it is a vital creed which I hold with all my head and heart. I work for Indian independence because the nationalist in me cannot tolerate alien domination! I work for it even more because for me it is the inevitable step to social and economic changes. I should like the Congress to become a socialist organisation and to join hands with the other forces in the world who are working for the new civilization. But I realize that the majority in the Congress, as it is constituted today, may not be prepared to go thus far. We are a nationalist organisation and we think and work on the nationalist plane. It is evident enough now that this is too narrow even for the limited objective of political independence, and so we talk of the masses and their economic needs. But still most of us hesitate, because of our nationalist backgrounds, to take a step which might frighten away some vested interests. Most of those interests are already ranged against us and we can expect little from them except opposition even in the political struggle.
Congress and Socialism
Much as I wish for the advancement of socialism in this country, I have no desire to force the issue in the Congress and thereby create difficulties in the way of our struggle for independence. I shall cooperate gladly and with all the strength in me with all those who work for independence even though they do not agree with the socialist solution. But I shall do so stating my position frankly and hoping in course of time to convert the Congress and the country to it, for only thus can I see it achieving independence. It should surely be possible for all of us who believe in independence to join our ranks together even though we might differ on the social issue.
The Congress has been in the past a broad form representing various opinions joined together by the common bond. It must continue as such even though the difference of those opinions becomes more marked. How does socialism fit in with the present ideology of the Congress? I do not think it does. I believe in the rapid industrialisation of the country and only thus I think will Tributes-Archives the standards of the people rise substantially and poverty be combated. Yet I have co-operated wholeheartedly in the past with the khadi programme and I hope to do so in the future because I believe that khadi and village industries have a definite place in our present economy.
They have a social, a political and an economic value which is difficult to measure but which is apparent enough to those who have studied their effects. But I look upon them as temporary expedients of a transition stage, might be a long one, and in a country like India, village industries might well play an important though subsidiary role even after the development of industrialism. But though I cooperate in the village industries programme my ideological approach to it differs considerably from that of many others in the Congress who are opposed to industrialisation and socialism. The problem of untouchability and the Harijans again can be approached in different ways. For a socialist it presents no difficulty for under socialism there can be no such differentiation or victimization. Economically speaking, the Harijans have constituted the landless proletariat and an economic solution removes the social barriers that custom and tradition have raised.
I think that, under the circumstances, we have no choice but to contest the election to the new provincial legislatures, in the event of their taking place. We should seek election on the basis of a detailed political and economic programme, with our demand for a Constituent Assembly in the forefront. I am convinced that the only solution of our political and communal problems will come through such an Assembly, provided it is elected on an adult franchise and a mass basis. That Assembly will not come into existence till at least a semi-revolutionary situation has been created in this country and the actual relationships of power, apart from proper constitutions, are such that the people of India can make their will felt. When that will happen I cannot say, but the world is too much in grip of dynamic forces today to admit of static conditions in India or elsewhere for long.
We may thus have to face this issue sooner than we might expect. But obviously, a Constituent Assembly will not come through the new Act or the new legislatures. Yet we must press this demand and keep it before our country and the world, so that when the time comes we may be ripe for it. A Constituent Assembly is the only proper and democratic method for the framing of our constitution, and for its delegates then to negotiate a treaty with the representative of the British Government. No, there can be no question of the Congress Party withering away after political freedom has been won. On the contrary, the party will have to take over power, assume responsibility for administration and put through its programme of reconstruction. Only then will it fulfill its role. If it were forcibly to liquidate itself, chaos would follow. Looking at postwar Europe we find that only in those countries has there been orderly and continuous progress where the party which seized power undertook the work of reconstruction. I know that it will be argued that the continuance of it in such circumstances, standing behind the State, will convert that State into a totalitarian one; but I cannot admit the charge. The State will possibly become a totalitarian one if there be only one party in countries like Russia, Germany and Italy. But there is no reason why other parties should be banned.
Moreover, the party itself will have a democratic basis and, unlike, for instance, the Nazi Party will prevent the future Indian State becoming a totalitarian one. Further, the democratic basis of the party will ensure that leaders are not thrust upon the people from above, but are elected from below. Though it may be somewhat premature to give a detailed plan of reconstruction, we might as well consider some of the principles according to which our future social reconstruction should take place. I have no doubt in my mind that our chief national problems relating to the eradication of poverty, illiteracy and disease, and to scientific production and distribution can be effectively tackled only along socialist lines. The very first thing which our future national government will have to do would be to set up a commission for drawing up a comprehensive plan of reconstruction. This plan will have two parts-an immediate programme and long period programme. In drawing up the first part, the immediate objectives which will have to be kept in view will be three-fold: firstly, to prepare the country for self-sacrifice; secondly, to unify India; and thirdly, to give scope for local and cultural autonomy. The second and third objectives may appear to be contradictory, but they are not really so. Whatever political talent or genius we may posses as a people will have to be used in reconciling these two objectives.
We shall have to unify the country so that we may be able to hold India against any foreign invasion. While unifying the country through a strong Central Government, we shall have to put all the minority communities as well as the provinces at their ease, by allowing them a large measure of autonomy in cultural as well as governmental affairs. Special efforts will be needed to keep our people together when the load of foreign domination is removed, because alien rule had demoralized and disorganized us to a degree. To promote national unity we shall have to develop our lingua franca and a common script. Further, with the help of such modern scientific contrivances as aeroplanes, telephone, radio, films, television, etc., we shall have to bring the different parts of India closer to one another and through a common educational policy we shall have to foster a common spirit among the entire population. With regard to the long period programme for a free India, the first problem to tackle is that of our increasing population. I do not desire to go into the theoretical question as to whether India is over-populated or not.
I simply want to point out that where poverty, starvation and disease are stalking the land, we cannot afford to have our population mounting up by thirty millions during a single decade. If the population goes up by leaps and bounds, as it has done in the recent past, our plans are likely to fall through. It will, therefore, be desirable to restrict our population until we are able to feed, clothe and educate those who already exist. It is not necessary at this stage to prescribe the methods that should be adopted to prevent a further increase in population, but I would urge public attention be drawn to this question. Regarding reconstruction, our principal problem will be how to eradicate poverty from our country. That will require radical reform of our land system, including the abolition of landlordism. Agricultural indebtedness will have to be liquidated and provision made for cheap credit for the rural population. An extension of the co-operative movement will be necessary for the benefit of both producers and consumers. Agriculture will have to be put on a scientific basis with a view to increasing the yield from the land.
To solve the economic problem, agricultural improvement will not be enough. A comprehensive scheme of industrial development under State ownership and State control will be indispensable. A new industrial system will have to be built up in place of the old one, which has collapsed as a result of mass production abroad and alien rule at home. The Planning Commission will have to consider carefully and decide which of the home industries could be revived despite the competition of modern factories, and in which sphere large-scale production should be encouraged. However much we may dislike modern industrialism and condemn the evils which follow in its trail, we cannot go back to the pre-industrial era, even if we desire to do so. It is well, therefore, that we should reconcile ourselves to industrialization and devise means to minimize its evils and at the same time explore the possibilities of reviving cottage industries where there is a possibility of their surviving the inevitable competition of factories. In a country like India, there will be plenty of room for cottage industries, especially in the case of industries including hand-spinning and handweaving, allied to agriculture. Last but not the least, the State, on the advice of the Planning Commission, will have to adopt a comprehensive scheme for gradually socializing our entire agricultural and industrial system in the spheres of both production and distribution. Extra capital will have to be procured for this, whether through internal or external loans or through inflation. How can we strengthen and consolidate the Congress while our Ministers are in office?
The first thing to do is to change the composition and character of the bureaucracy. If this is not done, the Congress Party may come to grief. In every country, the Ministers come and go but the steel frame of the permanent services remains. If this is not altered in composition and character, the governmental party and its Cabinet are likely to prove ineffective in putting their principles into practice. Secondly, the Congress Ministers in the different provinces should, while they are in office, introduce schemes of reconstruction in the spheres of education, health, prohibition, prison reform, irrigation, industry, land reform, worker’s welfare, etc. In this matter, attempts should be made to have as far as possible, a uniform policy for the whole of India. This uniformity could be brought about in either of two ways. The Congress Ministers in the different provinces could themselves come together, as the Labour Ministers did in October 1937 in Calcutta, and draw up a uniform programme. At this stage I should like to say something more about the role of the Congress Working Committee. This Committee, in my judgement, is not merely the directing brain of the national army of fighters for freedom. It is also the shadow cabinet of Independent India, and it should function accordingly. This is not an invention of my own. It is the role which has been assigned to similar bodies in other countries that have fought for their national emancipation. I am one of those who think in terms of a Free India- who visualize a National Government in this country within the brief span of our own life.
It is consequently natural for us to urge that the Working Committee should feel and function as the shadow cabinet of a free India. This is what President de Valera’s Republican Government did when it was fighting the British Government and was on the run. And this is what the Executive of the Wafd Party in Egypt did before it got into office. The members of the Working Committee, while carrying on their day-to-day work, should accordingly study the problems they will have to tackle in the event of their capturing political power. This brings us to the vexed problem of the collective affiliation of workers’ and peasants’ organizations to the Congress. Personally I hold the view that the day will come when we shall have to grant this affiliation in order to bring all progressive and anti-imperialist organizations under the influence and control of the Congress. There will, of course, be difference of opinion as to the manner and the extent to which this affiliation should be given, and the character, and stability of such organizations will have to be examined before affiliation could be agreed to.
In Russia, the united front of the Soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers played a dominant part in the October Revolution, but on the contrary in Great Britain we find that the British Trades Union Congress exerts a moderating influence on the National Executive of the Labour Party. In India we shall have to consider carefully, what sort of influence organizations like the Trade Union Congress and the Kisan Sabhas will exert on the Indian National Congress in the event of affiliation being granted. We should not forget that there is the possibility t hat the former may not have radical outlook if their immediate economic grievances are not involved.
In any case, quite apart from the question of collective affiliation, there should be the close co-operation between the National Congress and the other anti-imperialist organizations, and this objective would be facilitated by the later adopting the principles and methods of the former.