Thoughts on economics and liberty

Subhash Chandra Bose’s dictatorial (fascist) + ultra-socialist (communist) vision for independent India

I’ve discussed Bose’s ideas in the past, here. This is Chapter 18 – in full – from Volume 1 of his book: The Indian Struggle.


As the life of the present British House of Commons will come to an end in 1936, the Constitution Bill for India will certainly be put through Parliament before the next General Election. There is at present a keen controversy going on in England between the supporters of the White Paper and the Conservative Diehards led by Mr. Winston Churchill. For India, the controversy has no interest whatsoever. As we have already seen, the White Paper contains precious little, and few people in India will be sorry if the scheme is whittled down further, as seems likely, or suffers complete shipwreck. What really interests India in connection with the White Paper is the fact that it leaves no room for co-operation for those who may feel tired of the prolonged struggle and would like to settle down to some useful, constructive work. The policy of the Government, therefore, will help to keep up the present opposition.

The Government hope to stifle or ignore the Nationalist opposition in the country with the help of the minorities — the Moslems, the Depressed Classes, the Indian Christians and the Anglo-Indians. But will they succeed? It is probable that for a time a large section of the different minority communities in India will be under official influence. This will be their return for the concessions made to them in the Communal Award. But this position cannot last long. The Communal Award has at best given these communities better representation in the Legislatures under the new Constitution. But the new Constitution will give no power to the Indian people as a whole or to any section of them. It will not, therefore, take the representatives of the different communities in the Legislatures long to realise that though the Government gave them seats, they did not give them power. Seats in the Legislatures are only meant for a few. These few can retain their hold over the general public, only if they can do something for the betterment of the entire community. That will not be possible, since no power will be actually transferred to the people. When the different communities realise that their representatives are not able to do anything for them, they will cease taking any interest in the Legislatures and popular discontent against the Constitution will begin to grow. This discontent will be further augmented by the economic crisis in India — and even if an improvement takes place in Great Britain or in any other country, it will not have any repercussions in India. The Indian economic crisis is only partly an effect of the world crisis. It is also an independent phenomenon, being due to a large extent to exploitation of India’s resources and of the Indian market by foreign, and especially British, industries and also to her inability to modernise her industrial system, in order to cope with foreign competition. An improvement in the Indian economic situation will necessitate, therefore, not only an improvement in the world economic situation, but also a modernisation of India’s industrial system.

There are other reasons why the help of the Indian minority communities will not be of much avail to Great Britain. Firstly, among the Moslems there is a large and influential section who are Nationalists and who are as anti-Government as the Nationalist Hindus. Their influence is not likely to suffer eclipse, but will probably increase in the days to come. Secondly, among the Depressed Classes, the majority even today are supporters of the Congress. The Congress propaganda to abolish untouchability altogether will certainly bring more members of the Depressed Classes into the fold of the Congress. Thirdly, the Indian Christian community can no longer be labelled as pro-Government. In their annual conferences they have repeatedly condemned separate electorate and advocated joint electorate. In recent years there has been a remarkable change of feeling among the younger generation of Indian Christians. On the religious side they have begun to resent the domination of European Christians and they demand a national church for themselves. On the political side, the younger generation of Indian Christians is becoming rapidly pro-Congress. In 1930, when the writer was in prison in the Alipore Central Jail in Calcutta, among his fellow-prisoners there was a fine set of young Indian Christians who had joined the civil-disobedience movement, and they were typical of the awakening in their community, fourthly, so far as the Anglo-Indians are concerned, a distinct change is visible. Till recently they were the loyal supporters of the Government and the henchmen of the British. They looked upon England as their spiritual home and themselves as British in everything except in the pigment of their skin. The Government, too, gave them special facilities and privileges — not granted to Indians. But things are changing now. Anglo-Indians have been made statutory natives of India under the law of the land. The leader of the community, Lieut.- Col. Sir H. Gidney, addressed an appeal to his community the other day asking them to look upon India as their home and to feel proud of India. Feeling is steadily growing in the community that they should no longer try to hobnob with Britishers, but should throw in their lot with children of the soil. Fifthly, so far as the non-official Britishers are concerned, they can hardly do anything more for the Government in suppressing the Nationalist movement. There has long been close co-operation between the Government and the non-official British community in this matter — but in spite of that, the Nationalist movement has been making headway. In the days to come, the influence of the non-official British community is likely to diminish rather than increase. In Bombay, for instance, business supremacy has already passed into the hands of the Indians. In 1932, the British firms in Bombay had to pass a resolution, expressing sympathy with the Nationalist movement in order to save themselves from a crushing and effective boycott. The Ottawa Pact and the Indo-British Textile Agreement represent the last attempt.of the non-official British community to maintain the status quo — but how long can they stem the rising tide of Nationalism?

Thus, according to human calculation, it appears certain that the Government will be able to permanently weaken the nationalist forces in India by placating the minorities. No popular upheaval is, however, possible till the promulgation of the new reforms. Thereafter it will take a few years — probably two or three — for the people to be completely disillusioned. Then there will be the beginning of another mass upheaval. What exact form this upheaval will take, it is difficult to determine at this stage.

During the next few years the inner conditions of the Congress will be somewhat unsettled, that is to say, no party will be sufficiently strong to be able to suppress the others. The Socialist Party in the form it has assumed today — cannot make much headway. The composition of the Party is not homogeneous and some of its ideas are out-of-date. But the instinct that has urged the formation of the Party is right. Out of this Left-Wing revolt there will ultimately emerge a new full-fledged party with a clear ideology, programme and plan of action. It is not possible at this stage to visualise the details of this Party’s programme and plan of action — but one may attempt to give the bare outlines:

1. The Party will stand for the interests of the masses, that is, of the peasants, workers, etc., and not for the vested interests, that is, the landlords, capitalists and money-lending classes. [Sanjeev: Sadly, Bose didn’t understand that the system of freedom allows for total economic mobility; there are no “fixed” peasants, nor “fixed” capitalists]
2. It will stand for the complete political and economic liberation of the Indian people. [Sanjeev: obvioulsly Bose didn’t understand the meaning of economic liberation: socialism is the enemy of economic liberty]
3. It will stand for a Federal Government for India as the ultimate goal, but will believe in a strong Central Government with dictatorial powers for some years to come, in order to put India on her feet.
4. It will believe in a sound system of state-planning for the re-organisation of the agricultural and industrial life of the country.
5. It will seek to build up a new social structure on the basis of the village communities of the past, that were ruled by the village ‘Panch’ and will strive to break down the existing social barriers like caste.
6. It will seek to establish a new monetary and credit system in the light of the theories and the experiments that have been and are current in the modern world. [Sanjeev: here he is probably referring to Keynesianism]
7. It will seek to abolish landlordism and introduce a uniform land-tenure system for the whole of India.
8. It will not stand for a democracy in the Mid-Victorian sense of the term, but will believe in government by a strong party bound together by military discipline, as the only means of holding India together and preventing a chaos, when Indians are free and are thrown entirely on their own resources. [Sanjeev: Here Bose enters the fascist space quite clearly]
9. It will not restrict itself to a campaign inside India but will resort to international propaganda [Footnote: In 1920, when Mahatma Gandhi took charge of the Congress, he abolished the Congress Committee in London and its paper India which represented the only organ for propaganda for India outside her shores. Recently a change seems to have come over him. In January 1932, just before his arrest, the Congress Working Committee, at his instance, issued an appeal to the nations of the world for sympathy for India in her struggle for liberty.] also, in order to strengthen India’s case for liberty, and will attempt to utilise the existing international organisations.
10. It will endeavour to unite all the radical organisations under a national executive so that whenever any action is taken, there will be simultaneous activity on many fronts.

A question which is on everybody’s lips in Europe is: ‘What is the future of Communism in India?’ In this connection it is worth while quoting the expressed opinion of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, [Footnote: It should be made perfectly clear that this is Pandit Nehru’s personal opinion arid not the opinion of the Indian National Congress. Nor does his popularity imply that his views find acceptance among the rank and file of the Congress — just as Mahatma Gandhi’s unprecedented popularity does not imply that his followers wear loin-cloth or drink goat’s milk.] whose popularity in India today is, according to the writer, second only to that of Mahatma Gandhi. In a Press statement issued on December 18th, 1933, he said: ‘I do believe that fundamentally the choice before the world today is one between some form of Communism and some form of Fascism, and I am all for the former, that is Communism. I dislike Fascism intensely and indeed I do not think it is anything more than a crude and brutal effort of the present capitalist order to preserve itself at any cost. There is no middle road between Fascism and Communism. One has to choose between the two and I choose the Communist ideal. In regard to the methods and approach to this ideal, I may not agree with everything that the orthodox Communists have done. I think that these methods will have to adapt themselves to changing conditions and may vary in different countries. But I do think that the basic ideology of Communism and its scientific interpretation of history is sound.’  [Sanjeev: This is one more strong evidence of Nehru’s ideology of collectivism]

The view expressed here is according to the writer, fundamentally wrong. Unless we are at the end of the process of evolution or unless we deny evolution altogether, there is no reason to hold that our choice is restricted to two alternatives. Whether one believes in the Hegelian or in the Bergsonian or any other theory of evolution — in no case need we think that creation is at an end. Considering everything, one is inclined to hold that the next phase in world-history will produce a synthesis between Communism and Fascism. And will it be a surprise if that synthesis is produced in India? The view has been expressed in the Introduction that in spite of India’s geographical isolation, the Indian awakening is organically connected with the march of progress in other parts of the world and facts and figures have been mentioned to substantiate that view. Consequently, there need to be no surprise if an experiment, of importance to the whole world, is made in India — especially when we have seen with our own eyes that another experiment (that of Mahatma Gandhi) made in India has roused profound interest all over the world.

In spite of the antithesis between Communism and Fascism, there are certain traits common to both. Both Communism and Fascism believe in the supremacy of the State over the individual. Both denounce parliamentarian democracy. Both believe in party rule. Both believe in the dictatorship of the party and in the ruthless suppression of all dissenting minorities. Both believe in a planned industrial reorganisation of the country. These common traits will form the basis of the new synthesis. [Sanjeev: This is the MOST DIRECT AND BLATANT STATEMENT ABOUT HIS INTENT THAT BOSE PROVIDED. No one can possible – ever – claim that Bose wasn’t a fascist-communist.]That synthesis is called by the writer ‘Samyavada’ — an Indian word, which means literally ‘the doctrine of synthesis or equality‘. [Sanjeev: What can be clearer than the DOCTRINE OF EQUALITY?]. It will be India’s task to work out this synthesis.

There are several reasons why Communism will not be adopted in India. Firstly, Communism today has no sympathy with Nationalism in any form and the Indian movement is a Nationalist movement — a movement for the national liberation of the Indian people. (Lenin’s thesis on the relation between Communism and Nationalism seems to have been given the go-by since the failure of the last Chinese Revolution. – [Sanjeev: Here Bose recognises that in some countries where it has been implemented, such as Russia, traits of nationalism – even imperialism – have been added to the mix.]) Secondly, Russia is now on her defensive and has little interest in provoking a world revolution, though the Communist International may still endeavour to keep up appearances. The recent pacts between Russia and other capitalist countries and the written or unwritten conditions inherent in such pacts, as also her membership of the League of Nations, have seriously compromised the position of Russia as a revolutionary power. Moreover, Russia is too preoccupied in her internal industrial reorganisation and in her preparations for meeting the Japanese menace on her eastern flank and is too anxious to maintain friendly relations with the Great Powers, to show any active interest in countries like India. Thirdly, while many of the economic ideas of Communism would make a strong appeal to Indians, there are other ideas which will have a contrary effect. Owing to the close association between the Church and the State in Russian history and to the existence of an organised Church, Communism in Russia has grown to be anti-religious and atheistic. In India, on the contrary, there being no organized Church among the Indians and their being no association between the Church and the State, there is no feeling against religion as such.[Footnote: Further, in India a national awakening is in most cases heralded by a religious reformation and a cultural renaissance.] Fourthly, the materialistic interpretation of history which seems to be a cardinal point in Communist theory will not find unqualified acceptance in India, even among those who would be disposed to accept the economic contents of Communism. Fifthly, while Communist theory has made certain remarkable contributions in the domain of economics (for instance the idea of state-planning), it is weak in other aspects. For instance, so far as the monetary problem is concerned, Communism has made no new contribution, but has merely followed traditional economics. Recent experiences, however, indicate that the monetary problem of the world is still far from being satisfactorily solved.

While, therefore, it would be safe to predict that India will not become a new edition of Soviet Russia, one may say with equal strength that all the modern socio-political movements and experiments in Europe and in America will have considerable influence on India’s development. [Sanjeev: Here Bose is referring mainly to fascism but also to KeynesianismOf late, India has been taking and in future will continue to take, more and more interest in what goes on in the outside world.

To come back to the Congress. The present controversy between Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Madan Mohon Malaviya is of passing interest as the issue is a very minor one. Neither the Congress Nationalist Party nor the official Congress Parliamentary Party has a role to play in future, because both of them are heterogeneous parties without any clear ideology or programme. It only remains to consider the future of Gandhism in India. It has been urged sometimes that Gandhism is an alternative to Communism. This idea is, in the opinion of the writer, erroneous. Mahatma Gandhi has given the country (and may be, the world) a new method — the method of passive-resistance or Satyagraha or non¬violent non-co-operation. He has not given his country or humanity a new programme of social reconstruction as Communism has — and the alternative to Communism can be only another theory of social reconstruction. No doubt, the Mahatma has condemned the ‘machine civilisation’ of the modern world and has eulogised the good old days when men were content with their cottage industries and their wants were few. But that is a personal belief or idiosyncrasy. Whenever he [Gandhi] has expounded the contents of Swaraj, he has spoken in the language of Mid-Victorian Parliamentarian Democracy and of traditional capitalist economics. [Sanjeev: Bose exaggerates here, but it is true that Gandhi was not a communist revolutionary: he is best described as deeply confused- see my response on Quora]. The ‘Eleven Points’ which he enunciated in 1930 as connoting his ‘substance of independence’, will be unreservedly accepted by any Indian industrial magnate. One could, therefore, say that the Mahatma does not intend pulling down the modern industrial structure if he were to get political mastery over his country, nor does he desire to completely industrialise the country. His programme is one of reform — he is fundamentally a reformist and not a revolutionary. He would leave the existing social and economic structure much as it is today (he would not even abolish the army altogether) and would content himself with removing the glaring injustices and inequalities against which his moral sense revolts. There are millions of his countrymen who accept his method owing to the pressure of circumstances, but not his programme of reconstruction, and who would like to build up quite a different India if they had the power. As has been already indicated, the future of India ultimately lies with a party with a clear ideology, programme and plan of action — a party that will not only fight for and win freedom, but will put into effect the entire programme of post-War reconstruction — a party that will break the isolation that has been India’s curse and bring her into the comity of nations — firm in the belief that the fate of India is in-dissolubly linked up with the fate of humanity. [Sanjeev: on this one can agree with Bose, but his idea that this should happen through socialism was wrong; India simply has to become a free market capitalist economy and re-occupy its predominant place in world history]

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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One thought on “Subhash Chandra Bose’s dictatorial (fascist) + ultra-socialist (communist) vision for independent India
  1. Raj

    What a long, arduous journey. John Adams, at time of the Revolution, spoke the words: “Posterity, you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. Make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

    One only wonders what fruit may come of our trials and sincere pain and suffrage for years and even decades (in your case) now.

    I do this as I do know deep down, this is what I ought to do — a duty. But I cannot say the road has been soft.

    It has given me great peace within, but pain, anxiety, suffering and a longing for hope and comfort all abound in the mix.

    God bless us all! God bless Our Country!


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