Swarajists and No-Changers
Genesis of Congress-Khilafat Swarajya Party
- After Gandhi’s arrest (March 1922), there was disintegration, disorganization, and demoralization among nationalist ranks. A debate started among Congressmen on what to do during the transition period, i.e., the passive phase of the movement.
- Those advocating entry into legislative councils came to be known as the "Swarajists’.
The other school of thought led by C. Rajagopalachari, Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, and M.A. Ansari came to be known as the 'Nochangers’.
- "No-changers’ opposed council entry, advocated concentration on constructive work, and continuation of boycott and non-cooperation, and quiet preparation for the resumption of the suspended civil disobedience program.
- Congress and announced the formation of Congress-Khilafat Swarajya Party or simply Swarajist Party, with C.R. Das as the president and Motilal Nehru as one of the secretaries.
- The Swarajists argued for their inclusion in the councils for a variety of reasons.
- Entering the councils would not undermine the noncooperation agenda; rather, it would be like continuing the movement on a different front.
- Council work would assist to energise the populace and maintain their morale during a period of political uncertainty. The presence of nationalists would dissuade the government from packing the councils with unsavoury characters who could be used to legitimise government actions.
- The objective was not to use the councils as vehicles for the progressive transition of colonial administration, but they may be used as a venue for political confrontation.
- No-Changers argued that parliamentary work would lead to neglect of constructive work, loss of revolutionary zeal, and to political corruption.
Agree to Disagree
- Both sides also realized the significance of putting up a united front to get a mass movement to force the government to introduce reforms, and both sides accepted the necessity of Gandhi’s leadership of a united nationalist front.
- Keeping these factors in mind, a compromise was reached at a meeting in Delhi in September 1923. The elections to the newly constituted Central Legislative Assembly and to provincial assemblies were to be held in November 1923.
The Swarajist Manifesto for Elections
- Released in October 1923, the Swarajist manifesto took a strong anti-imperialist line.
- The guiding motive of the British in governing India lay in the selfish interests of their own country.
- So-called reforms were only a blind to further the said interests under the pretense of granting a responsible government, the real objective being to continue exploitation of the unlimited resources of the country by keeping Indians permanently in a subservient position to Britain.
- Swarajists would present the nationalist demand of self-government in councils.
- If this demand was rejected, they would adopt a policy of uniform, continuous and consistent obstruction within the councils to make governance through councils impossible.
- Councils would thus be wrecked from within by creating deadlocks on every measure.
- Gandhi was initially opposed to the Swarajist proposal of council entry. But after his release from prison on health grounds in February 1924, he gradually moved towards a reconciliation with the Swarajists.
- He felt public opposition to the program of council entry would be counterproductive.
- In the November 1923 elections, the Swarajists had managed to win 42 out of 141 elected seats and a clear majority in the provincial assembly of Central Provinces.
- There was a government crackdown on revolutionary terrorists and the Swarajists towards the end of 1924.
- Both sides came to an agreement in 1924
Swarajist Activity in Councils
- Swarajists lost the support of many Muslims when the party did not support the tenants' cause against the zamindars in Bengal.
- Responsivity among Swarajists—Lala Lajpat Rai, Madan Mohan Malaviya, and N.C. Kelkar— advocated cooperation with the government and holding of office wherever possible.
- Thus, the main leadership of the Swarajist Party reiterated faith in mass civil disobedience and withdrew from legislatures in March 1926.
- In 1930, the Swarajists finally walked out as a result of the Lahore Congress resolution on purna swaraj and the beginning of the Civil Disobedience Movement.
- With coalition partners, they out-voted the government several times, even on matters relating to budgetary grants, and passed adjournment motions.
- They agitated through powerful speeches on self-government, civil liberties, and industrialization.
- Vithalbhai Patel was elected speaker of the Central Legislative Assembly in 1925.
- A noteworthy achievement was the defeat of the Public Safety Bill in 1928 which was aimed at empowering the Government to deport undesirable and subversive foreigners.
- By their activities, they filled the political vacuum at a time when the national movement was recouping its strength.
- They exposed the hollowness of the Montford scheme.
- They demonstrated that the councils could be used creatively.
- Swarajists lacked the policy to coordinate their militancy inside legislatures with the mass struggle outside. They relied totally on newspaper reporting to communicate with the public.
- An obstructionist strategy had its limitations.
- They could not carry on with their coalition partners very far because of conflicting ideas, which further limited their effectiveness.
- They failed to resist the perks and privileges of power and office.
- They failed to support the peasants' cause in Bengal and lost support among Muslim members who were a pro peasant.
Constructive Work by No-Changers
- The No-Changers devoted themselves to constructive work that connected them to the different sections of the masses.
- Ashrams sprang up where young men and women worked among tribals and lower castes and popularised the use of charkha and khadi.
Gandhi Ji with Charkha
- National schools and colleges were set up where students were trained in a noncolonial ideological framework.
- Significant work was done for Hindu-Muslim unity, removing untouchability, a boycott of foreign cloth and liquor, and for flood relief.
- The constructive workers served as the backbone of civil disobedience as active organizers.
A Critique of Constructive Work
- National education benefited the urban lower middle classes and the rich peasants only.
- The popularisation of khadi was an uphill task since it was costlier than the imported cloth.
The emergence of New Forces: Socialistic Ideas, Youth Power, Trade Unionism
The spread of Marxist and Socialist Ideas
- The Ideas of Marx and Socialist thinkers inspired many young nationalists, inspired by the Soviet Revolution and dissatisfied with Gandhian ideas and political programs, began advocating radical solutions for the economic, political, and social ills of the country.
(i) Were critical of both Swarajists and No-Changers;
(ii) Advocated a more consistent anti-imperialist line in the form of a slogan for purna swaraj (complete independence)
(iii) Were influenced by an awareness, stressed the need to combine nationalism and anti-imperialism with social justice, and simultaneously raised the question of internal class oppression by capitalists and landlords.
- Communist Party of India (CPI) was formed in 1920 in Tashkent (now, the capital of Uzbekistan) by M.N. Roy, Abani Mukherji, and others after the second Congress of Comintern. M.N. Roy was also the first to be elected to the leadership of Comintern.
- In 1924, many communists—Shripad Amrit Dange, Muzaffar Ahmed, Shaukat Usmani, Nalini Gupta—were jailed in the Kanpur Bolshevik Conspiracy Case.
- In 1925, the Indian Communist Conference at Kanpur formalized the foundation of the CPI.
- In 1929, the government crackdown on communists resulted in the arrest and trial of 31 leading communists, trade unionists, and left-wing leaders; they were tried at Meerut in the famous- Meerut conspiracy case.
The activism of Indian Youth
- All over, students' leagues were being established and students’ conferences were being held. In 1928, Jawaharlal Nehru presided over the All Bengal Students’ Conference.
- Peasant agitations took place in the Rampa region of Andhra, in Rajasthan, in ryotwari areas of Bombay and Madras. In Gujarat, the Bardoli Satyagraha was led by Vallabhbhai Patel (1928).
Growth of Trade Unionism
- The trade union movement was led by the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) founded in 1920. Lala Lajpat Rai was its first president and Dewan Chaman Lai its general secretary.
- major strikes during the 1920s included those in Kharagpur Railway Workshops, Tata Iron and Steel Works (Jamshedpur), Bombay Textile Mills (this involved 1,50,000 workers and went on for 5 months), and Buckingham Carnatic Mills.
- In 1923, the first May Day was celebrated in India in Madras.
These movements could be divisive, conservative, and at times potentially radical, and included:
- Justice Party (Madras)
- Self-respect movement (1925) under “Periyar”—E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker (Madras)
- Satyashodhak activists in Satara (Maharashtra)
- Bhaskar Rao Jadhav (Maharashtra)
Bhaskar Rao Jadhav
- Mahars under Ambedkar (Maharashtra)
- Radical Ezhavas under K. Aiyappan and C. Kesavan in Kerala
- Yadavs in Bihar for improvement in social status Unionist Party under Fazl-i-Hussain (Punjab).
Revolutionary Activity with a Turn towards Socialism
- This line was adopted by those dissatisfied with the nationalist strategy of the political struggle with its emphasis on nonviolence.
- Hindustan Republican Association (H.R.A.)—in Punjab-UP-Bihar
- Yugantar, Anushilan groups and later Chittagong Revolt Group under Surya Sen—in Bengal
Revolutionary Activity During the 1920s
Why Attraction for Revolutionary Activity after Non-Cooperation Movement- Two separate strands of revolutionary groups emerged during this period—one operating in Punjab-UP-Bihar and the other in Bengal.
- The upsurge of working-class trade unionism after the War; the revolutionaries wanted to harness the revolutionary potential of the new emergent class for nationalist revolution.
- Russian Revolution (1917) and the success of the young Soviet state in consolidating itself.
- Newly sprouting communist groups with their emphasis on Marxism, socialism, and the proletariat.
- Journals publishing memoirs and articles extolling the self-sacrifice of revolutionaries, such as Atmasakti, Sarathi, and Bijou.
- Novels and books such as Bandi Jiwan by Sachin Sanyal and Pather Dabi by Sharatchandra Chatterjee (a government ban only enhanced its popularity).
In Punjab-United Provinces-Bihar
- The Hindustan Republican Association/Army, or HRA, led revolutionary action in this region (later renamed Hindustan Socialist Republican Association or HSRA). The HRA was created in Kanpur in October of 1924.
- The Kakori theft (August 1925) was the HRA's most significant action. Men boarded the 8-Down train at Kakori, a tiny town near Lucknow, and plundered the train's official railway currency.
- HSRA-Determined to overcome the Kakori defeat, the younger revolutionaries, inspired by socialist principles, convened a historic assembly in the ruins of Ferozshah Kotla in Delhi to reorganise the Hindustan Republic Association (September 1928).
- Saunders' Murder (December 1928, Lahore)- The death of Sher-i-Punjab Lala Lajpat Rai in October 1928 as a result of lathi blows received during a lathi-charge on an anti-Simon Commission procession prompted them to turn to individual assassination once more.
- On April 8, 1929, Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt were asked to throw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly to protest the passage of the Public Safety Bill and the Trade Disputes Bill, both of which aimed to restrict citizens' civil liberties in general and workers' civil liberties in particular.
- In the Lahore conspiracy case, action against Revolutionary Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru was tried. On the 64th day of his fast, Jatin Das became the first martyr. In December 1929, Azad was part in a plot to blow up Viceroy Irwin's train near Delhi. In the year 1930, a number of violent incidents occurred in Punjab and the towns of the United Provinces (26 incidents in 1930 in Punjab alone). In February 1931, Azad was killed by police in a park in Allahabad. On March 23, 1931, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru were hung.
- After Das’s death (1925), the Bengal Congress broke up into two factions—one led by J.M. Sengupta (Anushilan group joined forces with him) and the other led by Subhash Bose (Yugantar group backed him). The actions of the reorganized groups included an assassination attempt on the notorious Calcutta Police Commissioner, Charles Tegart (another man named Day got killed) by Gopinath Saha in 1924.
- Chittagong Armoury Raid (April 1930)- Surya Sen decided to organize an armed rebellion along with his associates—Anant Singh, Ganesh Ghosh, and Lokenath Baul—to show that it was possible to challenge the armed might of the mighty British Empire. The raid was conducted in April 1930 and involved 65 activists under the banner of the Indian Republican Army—Chittagong Branch. Surya Sen was arrested in February 1933 and hanged in January 1934.
Aspects of the New Phase of the Revolutionary Movement in Bengal-Some noteworthy aspects were as follows.
- There was large-scale participation of young women especially under Surya Sen. Prominent women revolutionaries in Bengal during this phase included Pritilata Waddedar, who died conducting a raid; Kalpana Dutt who was arrested and tried along with Surya Sen and given a life sentence; Santi Ghosh and Suniti Chandheri, schoolgirls of Comilla, who shot dead the district magistrate. (December 1931); and Bina Das who fired point-blank at the governor while receiving her degree at the convocation (February 1932).
- There was an emphasis on group action aimed at organs of the colonial State, instead of individual action. The objective was to set an example before the youth and to demoralize the bureaucracy.
- Some of the earlier tendency towards Hindu religiosity was shed, and there were no more rituals like oath-taking and this facilitated participation by Muslims. Surya Sen had Muslims such as Satar, Mir Ahmed, Fakir Ahmed Mian, and Tunu Mian in his group.
- There were some drawbacks too:
(i) The movement retained some conservative elements.
(ii) It failed to evolve broader socio-economic goals.
(iii) Those working with Swarajists failed to support the cause of Muslim peasantry against zamindars in Bengal.
- There was panic at first and then severe government repression.
- Armed with 20 repressive Acts, the government let loose the police on the revolutionaries.
- A real breakthrough was made by Bhagat Singh and his comrades in terms of revolutionary ideology, forms of revolutionary struggle, and the goals of the revolution.
- A famous statement of the revolutionary position is contained in the book The Philosophy of the Bomb written by Bhagwaticharan Vohra. In other words, the revolution could only be 'By the masses, for the masses”.
- That is why Bhagat Singh helped establish the Punjab Naujawan Bharat Sabha (1926) as an open wing of revolutionaries to carry out political work
- Revolution was no longer equated with militancy and violence. Its objective was to be national liberation
- Bhagat Singh said in the court, “Revolution does not necessarily involve sanguinary strife, nor is there a place in it for personal vendetta. It is not the cult of bomb and pistol. By revolution we mean the present order of things, which is based on manifest injustice, must change.”
- He defined socialism scientifically as the abolition of capitalism and class domination.