Record of the Discussions of Rajani Palme Dutt with M.K. Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru
(4th, 8th and 9th April, 1946)
The British Communist Rajani Palme Dutt is rightly remembered in this country for his book ‘India Today’ which is still unsurpassed as a Marxist introduction to modern Indian history finding its match and complement only in the awesome volume by A. M. Dyakov, ‘India in the Period During and After the Second World War 1939-1949’, Moscow, 1952 (in Russian). Born in Cambridge where his father was a doctor in a working class area, from early childhood R.P. Dutt came into contact with many of the legendary figures of the Indian independence movement who visited this university town A founding member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and an expert on Indian questions he was a stalwart supporter of Indian independence and made important interventions in the communist movement in this country, notably in convincing the CPI in 1946 to modify its approach to the Pakistan question. Despite his family links with India the British authorities did not grant him permission to visit the subcontinent until the time of the visit of the British Cabinet Mission in 1946. At that time he was Vice-Chairman of the Communist Party of Great Britain. While in India R.P. Dutt functioned as a correspondent of The Daily Worker and conducted interviews with the leadership of the Congress Party.
The interviews with the Congress leaders on the eve of political independence and partition indicate the political concern of R.P. Dutt to smoothen the way of co-operation internationally between the Communist movement, the democratic camp and the national movement, and, as a corollary of this to explore the possibilities of building broader links between the Congress Party and the Communist Party of India, on lines analogous to the relations in Britain between the Communist Party of Great Britain and the ruling Labour Party in the post-war period, in order to facilitate a broad programme of national reconstruction.
This task was not an easy one because of the collisions of the two parties in the 1940s on the ‘August revolution’ of 1942 which was seen by the CPI as an event which assisted the very real threat of the Japanese fascist invasion of India at a conjuncture when the international democratic forces were exerting every nerve to defeat Nazism and Fascism; and, the differences of the two on the stand to be adopted on the demand for Pakistan by the Muslim League. These differences widened as the Congress established an ‘enquiry’ into the CPI line at the All-India Congress Committee meeting in September 1945 and took the decision to bar members of the CPI from holding positions of responsibility in the Congress. Differences were marked on the refusal of the Congress Party to reach an agreement with the Muslim League which contributed to the weakening of the anti-colonial struggle against the British and the failure to create a united Indian state on the basis of a voluntary union. The interviews reveal these frictions between the CPI and the Congress: on Congress-League unity in addition to the tensions which arose from the militant role of the CPI in the revolt of the naval ratings in 1946. Sardar Patel posed these questions in the sharpest fashion.
The Congress Party did not join the international coalition against fascism on the ground that India had not been granted independence by British imperialism. In contrast, the CPI in the period 1942-44 considered that India despite her continued colonial status had to take part in the struggle against fascism along with the United Nations. The CPI called for the release of the Congress leaders and fought for the establishment of a provisional national government which would have enormously bolstered the mobilisation of the people of the country against the Japanese army which was standing at the doorstep of India (and, further, assist the fight of the Chinese people against the Japanese occupation which was led by the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China). The Indian National Army which was headed by Subhas Chandra Bose and which had the backing of Japanese fascism was regarded as functioning as the adjunct of Japan. The CPI took a leading role in the fight against Japanese imperialism and opposed the ‘August revolution’ of 1942 which was correctly perceived as weakening the national and international front for democracy and against fascism. The Congress Party in 1942 denied responsibility for the August events while sections of the Congress Socialist Party and the pro-Bose Forward Bloc whipped up national-chauvinist passions against the CPI.(1)
On the tactical line of the CPI regarding the revolt of August 1942, Patel, despite Nehru’s inflammatory charges in June 1945 that the CPI had placed itself on the ‘other side’ in not leading the 1942 ‘struggle’ and despite also the Congress measures against the CPI in September 1945, argued that the Congress leadership, after their release from jail, had determined to forge an understanding with the CPI forgetting the differences over this issue, but found that co-operation became difficult as the CPI continued to defend its tactical stand. Patel charged the CPI with denouncing Congressmen to the British and reaching an understanding with the colonial regime but without in any way considering it incumbent upon himself to substantiate his allegations. The position of Gandhi was considerably milder on this, recognising that there were reasonable grounds for the line of policy of the CPI in 1942. He did not allude to the allegations of collaboration of the CPI with the Home Member Maxwell. Nehru’s discussions suggest that he did not wish to repeat his vitriolic assault on the democratic positions of the CPI of 1942-44 in his discussions. R.P. Dutt found that Nehru did not attempt to counter his sharp critique of the tactical line of the Congress Party in 1942 and, astonishingly in view of his stand of the previous year, ‘appeared at heart to be in considerable agreement’ with his exposition. Nehru, nevertheless, was not amenable to repudiating the charges of CPI collaboration with the colonial authorities levelled by Sardar Patel despite the absence of any credible evidence on this, asserting only that they were widely believed by members of the Congress Party and the Congress Socialist Party. In this instance for Nehru in the political life of the country questions of belief held sway over matters of fact.
In the years prior to 1947 the CPI had forthrightly distanced itself from the multiplicity of constructions of ‘nationalism’ rooted in chauvinism, religion and communalism which were being advocated by the parties of imperialism, the local bourgeoisie and landlordism. The CPI substantiated the multinational character of the subcontinent on the basis of Marxist theory. It opposed the twin concepts of the ‘Hindu nation’ put forward by the Hindu Mahasabha and that of the ‘Indian nation’ constructed by the Congress Party, both of which corresponded to the interests of the pro-imperialist big Gujarati-Marwari bourgeoisie desirous of inheriting the large multinational British Indian colonial market and state. Likewise the CPI did not embrace the schema of the ‘Muslim nation’ supported by the Muslim League which obscured the reality of the existence of several nations in the project of the formation of a semi-colonial Pakistan market and state which was being advocated by the smaller minority strata of the Gujarati bourgeoisie, the landlords of the United Provinces allied to imperialism (and, later, by sections of the nascent bourgeoisie and the jotedars of Bengal who were in a position to mobilise the majority of the peasantry behind themselves under communal slogans). The reactionary ‘two-nation’ theory had been originally formulated by the pioneers of Hindu communal-fascism such as Savarkar. It was espoused in a big way by the Muslim League after the big Gujarati-Marwari bourgeoisie and the Congress Party under the leadership of Sardar Patel and Nehru refused to provide clear constitutional safeguards for the bourgeoisie and landlords of the largest minority community. It may be recalled that the Muslim League and the Congress Party had accepted the Cabinet Mission plan of 1946 which called for a unified federal India which would have weak central powers.
The CPI considered that India was a multinational country and, as is apparent from the party’s memorandum to the Cabinet Mission in 1946, argued that a free, voluntary, democratic Indian Union required to be constructed anchored on the unfettered right of each nation to self-determination. According to this each nation in India through its own constituent assembly would decide its own future as to whether it would join the Indian Union, form a separate sovereign state or join another Indian union. The CPI opposed an arbitrary partition imposed by the British while recognising that the genuine concerns of the Muslim League had to be seriously addressed in view of the mass support that the League enjoyed and in the interests of a wider Indian unity. The communists fought for a policy of unity between the Congress Party and the Muslim League to counter the attempts of the British to stall independence and to divide India. The CPI failed to persuade the Congress to accept all the implications of a free India being a family of sovereign states. Gandhi came close to a democratic position for as was pointed out by P.C. Joshi in 1944 he recognised that in the areas of Muslim majority they should have the fullest right to constitute themselves into a separate state, he further supported the call for the closest co-operation between the Congress and the Muslim League on common issues.(2) The principled and consistent democratic stands of the CPI, despite a number of flaws, failed before the adamant positions of the big Gujarati-Marwari bourgeoisie and the leadership of the Congress Party which preferred to exercise strong centralised industrial and political monopoly control in a divided India rather than to come to a compromise with those sections of the minority bourgeoisie and landlords and the Muslim League which were legitimately desirous of protecting their own economic, political and administrative interests in a united Indian state. These were the circumstances which persuaded the Indian big bourgeoisie to withdraw from supporting a unified India as envisaged by the Cabinet Mission plan and enabled Mountbatten, on behalf of British imperialism, to serially win over Sardar Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru and Gandhi for his partition project.(4) The cracks between various fractions of the Indian bourgeoisie widened with the last budget before 1947. The Liaquat Ali budget, based on the Congress Party manifesto, proposed that industry and business pay income tax on illicit war profits and suggested the establishment of a commission to ferret out and recover unpaid taxes on their black money struck at the very roots of big Gujarati-Marwari capital. The budget provoked the big Indian bourgeoisie led by G. D. Birla to exert enormous pressure on the Congress Party and Nehru and to successfully bring them to heel before the transfer of power.
It is interesting to note that during these interviews the leadership of the Congress did not care to contest the fundamental understanding of the CPI on the national question. Gandhi, Patel and Nehru did, however, assail the CPI for allegedly supporting the six province demand of the Muslim League (which implied the inclusion of Assam in Pakistan), an appraisal which was rejected by R.P. Dutt on the factual basis of the CPI documents. Similarly, the Congress leaders did not express opposition to the CPI proposals for Congress-League unity but protested against any electoral co-operation between the CPI and the Muslim League. Despite the cordial relations of the Congress Party and sections of the landlords, as with the big Gujarati-Marwari bourgeoisie, Nehru objected to the ‘electoral understandings’ of the CPI with ‘landed interests’ in the United Provinces and the North-West Frontier Province. The views of Nehru and Patel on the questions pertaining to partition, autonomy and secession which were elicited by R.P. Dutt at press conferences and interviews were published in the British and Indian press at the time and are of considerable interest in illumining the stands of the Congress Party on the brink of partition and the transfer of power.
A third impediment to amicable Congress-CPI relations to which Sardar Patel refers was the alleged use of violence by the CPI. Patel cited the example of the recent strike of the Bombay naval ratings in which he had sought to persuade the Communists and the Socialists not to call for an hartal as this would result in police firing and fatal casualties but to trust in his appeals to the British authorities to resolve the matters. As R.P. Dutt well understood, in assailing the CPI Patel did not care to mention that the real reason that the communists and socialists had declared for the strike in Bombay in solidarity with the naval ratings was to forestall the attempt of the British authorities to sink the twenty ‘mutinous’ ships which would have led to an even greater loss of life than actually occurred. Sardar Patel it was apparent was more concerned to uphold the authority of the Congress Party as the leading national organisation vis a vis the Communists and the Socialists than seeking a democratic and non-sanguinary resolution of the naval ratings strike.
The interviews reveal interesting details of the political mindset of the leaders of the Congress Party: Gandhi’s stereotyped views on the political collisions in the Soviet Union, his philosophical anarchist views on the state wherein he demarcated himself from a state under Congress Party rule and Patel’s narrow conservative constitutional approach to politics, emerge in a transparent form. Dutt had a greater empathy and rapport with Nehru in his discussions on international affairs in the run-up to the Second World War when Britain endeavoured to embroil Germany and the Soviet Union in mutually destructive strife, the possibilities presented by the Cripps mission. He also had the realistic understanding that while Nehru expressed – in words – preference for the Soviet-led democratic camp over the US imperialist bloc the Indian leader had only a tepid sympathy for the USSR.
The fundamental hiatus between the Communist Party and the Congress Party in the years prior to 1947 on a number of questions reflected the fact that in framing its policies the former took into account the requirement of strengthening international democracy and the world-wide anti-fascist front in the period of people’s war while the latter adopted a local narrow-nationalist stand. This in turn was a reflex of the differing class basis of the two parties. The CPI as a working class party could not support any policy which would weaken the Soviet Union, the only state where the working class held power, just as it could not betray the struggles of the peoples of China, Vietnam and Indonesia who were conducting resistance movements against the occupation of Japanese fascism. The Gujarati-Marwari bourgeoisie, the landlords and the Congress Party had other priorities in the Second World War. The CPI, further, was interested in democratic solutions to the national question and the Pakistan question in the interests of a wider unity of the peoples in the subcontinent and so perforce was compelled to oppose the divisive policies of imperialism, the local bourgeoisie, the Congress Party and the Muslim League which were the driving forces for partition and the consequent formation of two antagonistic semi-colonial states both of which were and are prison-houses for the oppressed nations within their frontiers.
1. See: ‘Indian Communists and the Congress’, World News and Views, November 17th 1945, Volume 25, No. 45, p. 362.
2. Cited in: Ben Bradley, ‘Gandhi-Jinnah Discussions’, ibid., 21st October 1944, Vol. 24, No. 43, p. 339.
3. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, ‘India Wins Freedom’, Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1972, pp. 157-8.
4. Ibid., pp. 164-169.
Notes on Interview with Gandhi
April 9, 1946
My interview lasted one hour from 7 to 8 O’clock. During the entire interview Mira Ben took full notes and after the first five minutes Pearylal was also present. I indicated at the outset why I attached the special importance to our talks as I felt very strongly the desirability of drawing closer in every way possible the contact between democratic opinion outside India and in particular the world Communist movement with India and the Indian national movement after the years of enforced separation and partial isolation owing to the war. Such close understanding seemed to me extremely important during the years in front of us and I wished to assure him of the consistent support which Communists had always given for the cause of India and Indian freedom over many years at a time when such a support was not always easy or popular. In his talk on all this he agreed.
Before coming to further questions we considered the possibility of any kind of statement or message he might give for press purposes. He explained that at the present time in view of the negotiations he did not wish to make any public statement on any political matters. He laughingly offered to make any statement for public purposes I might ask of him on what he described as his latest fad, i.e., nature cure, but remained firm on his desire that he would not make any public statement at the present time. At the conclusion of our interview when I again referred to the desirability of a message to the friends on the Left in England he promised to give consideration to this during the next few days and to see if he could prepare one.
During the course of this discussion of the possibility of any press interview I tried him out with one or two questions in the hope of drawing him out to some extent which he might then agree to being published. In the course of this when I touched on the problem of the unity of the Indian people and the Hindu-Muslim difficulties, this led him to rather long description of his views on the nature and course of these difficulties which he declared to be entirely superficial and due to foreign domination but insisted that this was his private view which should not be publicly quoted.
We then came to an informal talk on the present problems with special reference to the relationship of Communists and the national movement. I explained to him my viewpoint that there was no reason for any antagonism between the aims of Communism and nationalism since Communism fully stood for the aim of national independence while at the same time seeing the necessity to go further and achieve also social liberation. With all this he declared himself in full agreement. I also sought to clarify the differences of approach between his conception of Communism and ours and why we believed that the problems of wealth and poverty could not be solved by goodwill alone but required understanding of economic laws and of the consequent measures of organisation which will have to be taken. Then we come to the particular problem which arises out of the relations between the Communists and the Congress in India. He agreed that in his opinion there was no basic reason for antagonism and that the difficulties which had arisen were on the technical points. On these technical points with special reference to 1942 and to the question of Congress-League unity I examined with him the nature of the Communist Party’s policy and won his agreement that there was (sic) reasonable grounds for putting forward such lines of policy and that differences of opinion with regard to them ought not to become the basis of antagonism. However, he declared that while he found himself in agreement with this in theory his practical experience was as follows :
He had opportunity to have many talks with the leaders of the CPI, with Joshi, Adhikari and others whose names he forgot, he had agreed to their publication of the correspondence although he had not been very keen on its publication. But he found that in talking with them it was impossible to find common ground. They were very clever in arguing but there was nothing in common in their approach and he felt an impassable barrier between himself and them.
I asked him what was the nature of this barrier. He said that
it was because while the theory of the Communists might be all right, in
practice they pursued methods of secret force and used all means to secure their
ends. I asked him what he meant by this secret force and he said methods of
kidnapping and killing political opponents. I said that here he must be
completely misinformed with regard to Communists since in fact Communists have
always waged a very intent political struggle against those sections of the
revolutionary movement which believe in methods of individual killing as a
political weapon, that is, against terrorists. He said, "But has not Stalin
killed his political opponents in Russia?" I said, "You appeal (sic) to have had
an entirely different question in mind, that is, the question of the actions of
a state. Every state has its codes of laws and punishes its criminals according
to that code of laws. There is nothing peculiar to Communism in this. If the
Congress establishes its state in India it will also have its code of laws.
There is nothing peculiar to Communism in this. If the Congress establishes its
state in India it will also have its code of laws, police, army etc." "Yes," he
said "but then Congress state will not be my state." I said that Communists
entirely agreed with him in the desire to reach the stage when we could abolish
all such forms of coercion but that at the present time they like himself
recognised that state machinery was necessary and that therefore there was her
no point of difference between himself and Communists or between the Congress
and the Communists. I further asked him when he referred to this impassable
barrier between himself and Communists whether he felt such an impassable
barrier in speaking to me. He said at once that he felt no barrier whatever,
that he was able to speak quite openly and feel confidence in me. I suggested to
him that it might then by (sic) the case that this barrier which he spoke of was
not based on any firm grounds but was unconscious reflection of an atmosphere
which was in reality created by enemy reactionary forces which sought to
frighten people against Communism by hinting at all sorts of terrific things
against communists which were not true and that further it was necessary to be
very much on guard against this since all this anti-Communism was one of the
main weapons of reaction to destroy the democratic movement as it had been the
weapon of Hitler. He recognized this but proceeded to refer me to (1) Raja
Hutheesing as having been a Communist but had now come out and to hear from him
what he had to say, (2) Batliwalla, (on which I interjected that the evidence of
anyone who had left an organisation in hostile spirit could have no more value
with regard to the organisation than was the evidence of Mr. Jinnah who had left
the Congress with regard to the character of the Congress,) and (3) Masani (was
on the spot, he was known to me I said I had to declare – it was my serious judgement
– that he was politically dishonest and unscrupulous with which Gandhi
did not dissent). Gandhi then said that he had stood up for the Communists
publicly against violence and many bad things which had been done to them. He
recognized their courage and devotion. If anything I did could help to breach
the gulf he wished me well. At the same time he did not feel that he would be
able to give any useful help or advice on this matter and must refer me to
Jawaharlal. He urged that I should explore all sides of the question fully
before reaching conclusions and especially to talk with Raja Hutheesingh,
Pattabhi Sitaramayya, Sarojini Naidu and the (sic) Shyama Prasad. He urged that
I should study carefully all the facts before reaching any conclusion and that
he believed as one coming from outside I would be able to reach a fair judgement.
He hoped that my endeavour would be successful but felt that he could do nothing
Notes on Talk with Patel
April 9, 1946
My interview with Patel lasted for one hour from 9 to 10 AM. In the first part after we had exchanged greetings and he had expressed a very warm welcome from himself and other leaders I put certain questions for press purposes and received answers for cabling. In the further part of my interview we discussed practical question of relationship of Communists and the Congress. After a short introductory exchange on the importance of Communism as a world force and the desirability of a close understanding of Indian nationalism for the future international development with all of which he is in agreement, we got down to the local difficulties.
He began by saying that already at the end of their terms in jail they had discussed this question and he had expressed the view that an effort should be made on their coming out to reach a good basis of understanding with the Communists and that the issues of 1942 should be regarded as past and forgotten. However, after coming out he found that great difficulties in the way of this were presented by the Communists who insisted on harping on the events of 1942 in order to prove that they were right. Very wide popular resentment had been aroused against the Communists owing to their attitude during the preceding period since, as he stated, the Communists had denounced people to the police and had worked on a basis of understanding with the Home Member Maxwell. I said at once that I could not accept these charges as they were inconceivable in relation to Communists and that therefore it would need very serious evidence indeed before charges of such a nature could be considered. I asked him if the Communist Party leaders agreed that these facts were correct. He said that they did not but that the evidence was incontestable. I suggested to him that in that case he must put these charges on one side for purposes of our discussion since it is obvious that they were (sic) and that the alleged evidences might come from very tainted sources. He said that he wished to put all these things on one side and forget the past but that the popular resentment was great and the attitude of the Communists did not make it easy for them to smooth down this resentment.
He then came to the further difficulty which he declared to be the use of violence by the Communists. He said that undoubtedly a great deal had happened on all sides in the elections which was alarming for the future of India and extremely regretful but what he had specially in mind was a type of incident of which he had personal experience. He then proceeded to relate from his point of view the story of the Bombay Naval Ratings, how the ratings had come on strike for better food and living conditions, how they had fired from the Castle barracks against those sent to guard them with the consequence of counter-firing and deaths. Both the Communists and Socialists he said had then come to him to urge that something should be done and called for a hartal. He had told them that a hartal would be extremely dangerous in this situation and would only lead to firing and deaths. He accordingly asked them to leave the matter in his hands to handle. He then immediately rang up the Governor with reference to the firing that was going on and insisted on putting stop to it as it was a most dangerous situation. The Governor said he would make inquiries and rang back and short time later thanking me for informing him about the situation and said that he would take steps to stop the firing. Nevertheless he said the Communists and Socialists went forward with a call for hartal and distributed leaflets though the streets. The result was that 400 lives were lost. Such a situation was impossible in which the authority of the leading national organisation was not recognised and was thus openly repudiated. These were roughly the lines of this point and it was only after my questioning him on the basis of such telegraphic messages as had come to us in London that he admitted the existence of the ultimatum to the twenty ships to blow them up. Pressed on the point that there was clearly here an action of solidarity of the civilian population of Bombay to save the Naval Ratings from destruction he still clung to his constitutional position that the authority of the national movement must be left in charge and that there (sic)
With regard to the Muslim League he sought to affirm that the C.P. supported the entire six province demand of Pakistan and when I stated that I read carefully the literature on the matter and noted that they very explicitly condemned the six provinces he expressed himself as entirely unaware of this. He further stated that in regard to the elections that while they had supported the Muslim League candidates in not a single case had they ever supported the Congress candidate. I said that I was surprised to here (sic) this as I understood very definitely that apart from where they were running their own candidates in general constituencies they were supporting the Congress candidates. At this an Indian lady who was present at the latter part of the interview. possibly his wife (his daughter – handwritten noting ed. R.D.) but had not been introduced to me, intervened with great vehemance (sic), "Never once, never. They never once supported a single Congress candidate anywhere but did everything against the Congress."
Wth regard to the desirability of clearing up the controversial points at issue and exploring the possibility of overcoming the difficulties he expressed his complete agreement. When I suggested to him the very great danger for the future of the development of an anti-Communist or Red-baiting attitude in the Congress he expressed full agreement with this and said that he considered that the coming period was a constructive period in which all should cooperate. I asked him if he will consider the possibility of some informal talk between representatives of the C.P. and the Congress and he said he would certainly agree to this.
Notes on Talks with Jawaharlal Nehru
I have had three talks with Nehru on April 4th, 8th and 9th each of a little over an hour. In the first after greetings etc. I was concerned to get a public interview for press purposes and our time was occupied with the questions and answers which had since been published. The second meeting was devoted to a general review of the development of the international situation since our last contact in 1938. We covered the ground of the developments of 1936 to 46 and compared notes with regard to them. I found considerable confusion with regard to 1939, the nature of the British shift in policy after the occupation on Czechoslovakia and the significance of the Nazi-Soviet Pact as the decisive counter-thrust which destroyed the reactionary aims of the Western anti-Soviet bloc. He was inclined to take a subjective view of the British policy as merely vacillating but finally did express agreement with the basic analysis that the decisive aim of British was to promote a mutual destructive Nazi-Soviet conflict and that they logically resulted from this fact and the inability of the Left in the west to reverse this policy. On the general character of the development following 41 he showed more or less agreement and when I expressed rather sharp criticism of the tactical line of August 42 while at the same time explaining full understanding of the dilemmas that had given rise to it he did not attempt to refute that criticism and appeared at heart to be in considerable agreement with it. On the Cripps negotiations he stated that he had at the time thought that a settlement could be reached, but looking back now in the light of experience he is convinced that there is no possibility of settlement. With regard to the post-war international situation he recognises the general tendency of polarisation between Anglo-American imperialism supporting the reactionary forces in all countries and the combined defence of the Soviet Union the new democratic movements in Europe and national liberation movements outside Europe. At the same time it was clear that his tendency was to see Indians rather outside the two streams of the world situation and able to take a detached view and that while expressing preference for the camp of the Soviet Union it was a tepid sympathy which was obviously not proof against the current tendency of at any rate some degree of scepticism or possible criticism (which he would probably express more clearly when not speaking to me). In relation to Soviet policy he did however agree with the significance of the general advance of world Communism and the importance of the good basis of understanding between world communism and Indian nationalism. In general I had the impression that his contact with the international situation is undoubtedly much weaker than previously and is thinking upon it (apart from S.E. Asia) more passive than active. It would not however be correct to say that he (sic) to have the beneficial effect.
In the third interview we came to the internal questions in India and especially the relations of the CPI and Congress. He fully agreed with the general basis of the importance of a good common understanding between Communism and nationalism both in the present period of winning national independence and also in the first phase of national reconstruction which he was especially to stress following independence. We then thrashed the various difficulties which had arisen. (1) With regard to 1942 he made no attempt to attack the tactical line of the CPI and agreed that there was undoubtedly room to perfectly honourable difference of opinion on the two tactical lines involved. With regard to the charges about the denunciation to the police etc. or cooperation with the Home Member which I reported to him to have been made by Patel with the allegations of irrefutable evidence, he said there was no evidence to prove these charges but that undoubtedly considerable numbers in the Congress especially the CSP people believed them and put forward what they consider to be circumstantial evidence to establish them. He was obviously not prepared to repudiate these charges in the absence of proof but took refuge in the assertion that it is always difficult to produce any formal proof for matters of this kind and that the really important thing was the psychological bar - CPI he alleged that the policy of the CPI was that the Congress should surrender 100 per cent to Jinnah including all the demands of Jinnah, the six province demand etc. When I stated that on this matter I had examined very carefully the literature of the CPI and that this was entirely incorrect he stated that leading Communists had told him that this was the Communist policy. When challenged to give the name he said that P.C. Joshi had said to him explicitly that the Communist policy was that the Congress should accept Jinnah’s demands 100 per cent with a view to subsequently wriggling out of them. He was very definite on this assertion when I expressed considerable incredulity. He admitted that the public statements of the CPI did not correspond to this. He said that the attitude on this question was the greatest difficulty and had been enormously accentuated by the elections and their intensive campaigning against Congress candidates. He spoke of the situation in the UP where the CP has carried on the most active campaigning on behalf of big land-lords, taluqdars and the most reactionary feudal elements against Congress candidates who were tenants. He spoke also of a similar situation in the North West Frontier Province. He stated that there would be full understanding of the CP contesting its own seats which it wished to win but this fight on behalf of the Muslim League against the Congress aroused the most intense resentment of Congress feeling. (3) He expressed concern with regard to the future relations of the Communists and the Congress provincial ministries and the anxiety lest they should deliberately endeavour to exploit any difficulties with the object of causing embarassment (sic). He did not state that he himself definitely shared this view but expressed it in the usual form by saying that a number of Congressmen opposed to the Communists express this expectation. With regard to this I called his attention to our experience in England where exactly the same kind of story was spread by hostile anti Communist elements in the Labour Party with regard to the expected attitude of the Communist Party and the Labour Government and the way in which practical experience had demonstrated the incorrectness of this expectations (sic). It was obvious that much would depend on the attitude of the ministries and I stated that I had confidence that Indian Communists while protecting the interests of the workers and peasants would be very actively concerned to see the success of a broad programme of national reconstruction on a basis of the widest possible united support.
Finally he stated that he would very much like to see anything that would help to bring about a better basis between the Congress and the Communists and that he would certainly support any proposals of an informal meeting between representatives from both sides. He stated that in his view the difficulties are above all psychological and that it would need a good deal (sic) lift down the psychological atmosphere that has been created. When I called his attention to the danger for the whole future of the national movement if it were to develop along anti Communist and Red-baiting lines which always represented the technique of reaction to disorganise the democratic movement he recognised this danger but stated that there was also a very violent anti-Congress atmosphere in the Communist Party.
The general conclusion, I am inclined to state, is that while he had undoubtedly grown more aged, less elastic in his thinking and more preoccupied with the immediate issues now facing the Congress leadership it would be wrong to speak of a complete transformation which is sometimes alleged. Knowing very well his outlook in the prewar years from his very considerable fluidity and vagueness and acceptance of all kinds of influences and a tendency to be subservient to the given official policy of the machine I do not find so great a change beyond what I had expected on the basis of the political development in the intervening years and the lack of outside contact. The basis of our talks was entirely friendly and he put many questions to me with regard to the situation in England, friends in England and the various political currents in the Labour Party etc. on all of which he was obviously delighted to get the picture that I was able to give him.
As a general conclusion of the talks with Gandhi, Patel and Nehru it is clear that the possibility exists for informal talks between representatives of the Party and the Congress, but it would not probably be desirable to enter into these until the basis for these has been fully conceded. While fully recognising the strength of anti-Soviet and anti Communist currents I had not found in the Congress leadership anything like the degree of fanatical and unreasoning anti-Communism which is familiar in the Right-wing leadership of the Labour Party or in European Social Democracy. The situation is still to a certain extent fluid, and there are possibilities if we take advantage of them; although these possibilities may not last for long and the situation may harden in a very undesirable fashion if we allow it to do so. I believe that there is need for a very careful examination of certain aspects of our tactics and propaganda in relation to the general political perspective of the situation in India.
Rajani Palme Dutt Papers,
Labour Archive and Study Centre,
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