The Socialist Phase of Indian Freedom Struggle (1928-1947)

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The impact of the policy seemed to pan India level but that was not true with all the individuals living in the sub-continent. The people who don’t agree with the policies of Mahatma Gandhi took to the other method or ideologies to continue with the Indian freedom struggle, one of them was Socialist ideology.  The failure of early nationalists including the moderate, extremist & Gandhiji in appreciating the needs & aspirations of peasants & workers forced them to look towards other ideologies. The quest for alternative pushed the poor and working-class towards socialism.

The moderates deliberately avoided class issues to maintain unity among various sections of an Indian nationalist. Because issues concerning peasants were against the interest of landlords & issues concerning workers were against the interest of the capitalist class. The extremist was under impression that the attainment of Swaraj would act as a panacea. So there, the focus was on getting self-rule from the British.

Gandhiji believed in the idea of the change of heart & trusteeship. He thought that the landlord & capitalist act as trusty their heart will change & exploitation realized their mistake. These ideas in the principle of early nationalists didn’t appeal to the poor and working class. The growth of the modern industry created favorable conditions for rising of socialism because the working class was being exploited in factories like their European counterparts the Indian workers gradually developed faith inefficacy of socialism.

Socialist Avadh Kisan Sabha
Avadh Kisan Sabha

The growth of nationalist awakening in the poor and working-class was also responsible for the emergence of socialism. By the opening decades of 20 century, several nationalist-oriented peasant organizations emerged in India in form of “Awadh Kisansabha” (1918), “Ekta movement” (1921), UP Kisansabha (1920). Trade unions such as AITUC (1920) had also emerged. This nationalist awakening pushes the poor and working-class into the fold of anti-British struggle & as their participation in the National Movement increased socialist ideas also gained popularity.

The success of the Russians Revolution of 1917 also played an important role in rising of socialism. This revolution formed socialism from theory into practice because for the first time socialist state came into existence. As a result of the success of the Russian revolution, the popularity of socialist increased throughout the world & this impact was seen in India as well.

The great depression (1929-39) also played role in populating socialism in Indian Leaders because the capitalist world was relying on under-serve crisis socialist the Soviet Union was growing rapidly. The success of soviet socialist eco-convince Indian Leaders like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, that socialism was the solution to India’s problem & the world’s problem.

Failure of Gandhian Movement such as the Non-Cooperation Movement, Civil Disobedience Movement, in attaining declared objectives also pushed the poor and working-class towards socialism. Non-Cooperation Movement was launched in August 1920 with the promise that Swaraj shall win within the first year. But the movement was suddenly withdrawn by Gandhiji in February 1922 as a result of the Chauri Chaura incident the poor and the working class felt disillusioned because even after struggling for 18 months there no was a trace of swaraj in the ground.

Picture depicting Mahatma Gandhi suspending Non-Cooperation movement after Chauri Chaura
Picture depicting Mahatma Gandhi suspending Non-Cooperation movement after Chauri Chaura Incident

In the same way, the Civil Disobedience Movement was suspended suddenly by Gandhiji in March 1931 through the Gandhi-Irwin pact. These repeated failures of am convinced the poor and working-class that the solution to their suffering lay in socialism. The role played by leaders like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, and Jayprakash Narayan & Acharya Narendra Dev etc. was also crucial to the spread of socialism in the National Movement.

These leaders formed the Congress Socialist Party as a group within congress in 1984 to push congress towards socialism.

Nature & Character of Socialist Phase in National Movement

Socialists were progressive in nature, they were egalitarian in outlook. They were democratic, secular, and colonial. It was mass –movement, part India movement, Multi-class movement. Extremely radical in outlook because socialist wanted the complete formation of Indian socio-economic structure.

Socialists were non-violent in outlook but their attitude towards non-violence was pragmatic. They didn’t want it as a limitation of India’s struggle against British rule. Socialist was not happy with the idea of political freedom only. They believed that political freedom would meaningless in absence of social & economic freedom.

Socialists had no faith in Gandhian strategy Struggle truce-struggle & Pressure-compromise-pressure. They wanted that national movement shall be a continuous sustained struggle. It must not be suspended/withdrawn fill the time objective was not attained.

Significance of Socialist Phase in National Movement

The rise of socialism in the National Movement marked the beginning of a new phase in the history of India’s struggle against British rule. Because socialist’ ideas, principles, methods, and objectives were far more radical than the earlier leaders. The rise of socialism infused new energy into the National Movement because the socialist leaders strongly committed to upliftment & liberation of masses.

National movement assumed the character of all-out war. This resulted in the emergence of socialism because the socialist had no faith in the Gandhian strategy of Struggle truce-struggle & Pressure-compromise-pressure. They believed that the anti-British struggle must continue incessantly till the time its aim was not realized.

This new approach was visible in the Quit India movement which was never suspended/called off. The National Movement assumed the character of the true Pan India movement as a result emergence of socialism. The earlier leaders including Gandhiji were not in favor of extending the National Movement into native states.

While speaking in Belgium session 1924, Gandhiji opposed the extension of the National Movement into a native state because he believed that the condition of the native state was different from that of British India. In 1939, congress decided to extend mass movement into a native state when S.C. Bose was president & for the first time the National Movement assumed true pan India character when congress launched the Quit India movement. It was the first extremist National Movement extended to the native state.

The social base of the National Movement was greatly widened by the emergence of socialism. The Poor and working-class had started participating in the anti-British struggle in large numbers during the socialism phase because socialist philosophy was by their aspiration. The rise of socialism gave a new objective to the National Movement because at Lahore in December 1929 congress adopted the goal of “Poorna Swaraj” that was to include socio-economic freedom along with political independence.

Non-violence was no longer a limitation of the Anti-British Struggle because under influence of socialism even Gandhiji had started practicing Non-Violent within practical limits despite many violent incidents during the Quit India movement Gandhi refused to suspend the National Movement. He held the British responsible for these violent incidents.

In 1945, congress adopted a resolution provided for the abolition of Jamindaris. The rise of socialism created immense native pressure on British Rule & as a result of this British Rule came to end in India in 1947.

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