Historical Sikh Events: History of the Ghadar Movement part 3
by Jaspal Singh
Betrayal of the Independence Struggle
In 1942 the Kirti party merged with the Communist Party of India feeling the need for unity of all the communists. After the partition of the Hindustan and transfer of the power to the Congress government, the Nehru government declared the Communist Party illegal. The communists had to go underground. This was the reward that the workers, peasants and communists had harvested. The communists had to go underground, and they thought about the wisdom of policy that the leadership of the CPI was following by supporting the Congress and Nehru government. In 1948, the Ghadarites who had joined the CPI in 1942 formed their own Lal Party (Red Party), because they did not feel that the leadership of the CPI was revolutionary, instead of revolution they felt that the leadership of the CPI was tailing behind the leadership of Congress. The Ghadarites wanted national liberation with social revolution. The leaders of both Congress and the CPI were interested in national liberation without social revolution. They were on the social democratic path. They wanted to manage the British system with Indian faces. Ghadarites were also opposed to the partition of the country on a religious basis, whereas both Congress and CPI were in the favour of dividing the country on the basis of religion and the creation of Pakistan. The Kirti party had vehemently opposed the Pakistan Resolution of the CPI in 1944, which divided the country on the basis of religion.
They also supported the Telangana uprising and the peasants uprising in Punjab and Eastern Punjab States Union (PEPSU), while the leadership of CPI was opposed to both of these struggles.
Necessity for Change
In 1952 the Ghadarites of the Lal Party once again rejoined the CPI after the change of the leadership of CPI, hoping that the new leadership would carry out the social revolution to the end and not tail behind Congress and Nehru. But these hopes were to be dashed to the ground. In 1958, the communists were elected in Kerala and formed the government and attempted to carry out serious land reforms. The Congress government headed by the Nehru government dissolved the Kerala government in 1959 at the insistence of the Landlords of Kerala. The period of 1960-1964 saw one of the worst famines in India with millions of people starving to death. It created a great wave of discontent in the country leading to the defeat of the Congress party in the 1967 general elections in many states. A peasant uprising broke out in Naxalbari, which found its resonance in many parts of the country. Baba Sohan Singh Bhakhna, the first president of the Ghadar Party declared that the aims and objectives for which the Ghadar Party had been formed in 1913 and for which the Ghadarites had made countless sacrifices. Those aims, namely the social revolution in India had not been carried out. Baba Bujha Singh, a Ghadarite who was one of the leaders of the Ghadar Party in Argentina had returned to India via Moscow, echoed his sentiment and threw his full support behind the Naxalbari uprising. And when the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) was formed, he was elected its leader in Punjab at the age of 78.
The Indian patriots, democrats and enlightened people abroad also echoed Baba Sohan Singh Bhakhna’s call and fully supported the Naxalbari uprising. In Britain the Indian Workers Association had continued its work. A meeting was held in London around the time of the "Necessity for Change Conference" in November 1967 and it was decided to reactivate the Hindustani Ghadar Party in support of Naxalbari. An ad hoc committee was formed to reorganize the Ghadar Party for the social revolution in India. Manchanda was elected its president and Hardial Bains was elected to be in charge of work in North America. When the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) was formed in 1969, the Ghadar Party became its external wing. The Ghadarites were advised by CPI(M-L) and Charu Mazumdar, its General Secretary, to propagate the cause of the Indian revolution in the countries where they were resident. Ghadarites defended the cause of the Indian revolution through their paper Chingari and also organized people against racist attacks in Canada and Britain in close connection with the Canadian and British working class:
"There were two reasons why the Ghadar Party was founded in 1913; first to achieve the true aspirations of the Indian people to defeat the British Colonialism in India and to build a free and prosperous India, and secondly to fight racial discrimination in North America and other places where fascists organized by the British Colonialists were bullying the Indian residents.The two reasons on which the Ghadar Party was founded still remain. India is yet to gain her true independence and the Indians residing in the USA, Canada, Britain and other places have yet to achieve racial equality. It is for this that we have organized the new Ghadar Party."
The Ghadarites once again raised the slogan, "Blame the Canadian State for Racist Attacks", "Unite with the Canadian People to Fight Against Racist Attacks" and they also followed the slogan "Self-Defence is the Only Way." Amongst the students and intelligentsia the Indian Progressive Study Groups came into being in Canada and the US as part of this trend. At the time of the founding of the Ghadar Party, resolutions were passed in support of the Palestinian people, people of Indo-China, against US Imperialism, black people in their struggle against racism in the USA, and the people of Canada and Quebec in their struggle against the domination of USA. They also developed close working relations with the revolutionaries from Asia, Africa, and Latin America where great uprisings had taken place. Ghadarites considered liberation of India as an integral part of the liberation of the world’s people and supported the just struggles of all the peoples for liberation, dignity and honour whether in the Eastern or Western blocks. They participated in international gatherings and conferences to exchange views and learn from the experience of other revolutionaries. In this context the Internationalist Rally held in Montreal in April1978 was very important in which revolutionaries from all continents participated. The new Ghadarites like their earlier predecessors were harassed, persecuted and attacked for their views, convictions and activities. The diplomatic offices of the Indian government also collaborated with the Canadian government in their persecution. Harsh Chaddha, a young man in his twenties was deported from Canada for his political activities. Hardial Bains was not given Canadian citizenship for more than two decades because of his political views, was denied entry into the United States, and the Indian government withdrew his Passport in 1975 which was never reinstated, while they were giving calls for his deportation to India. Like the old Ghadarites, the new Ghadarites were not frightened by these threats and attacks. They carried on doing their work.
The Modern Ghaddarite
After the assassination of Charu Mazumdar and other revolutionary leadership of the CPI(M-L), the CPI(M-L) split into various factions. The Ghadar Party worked closely with all the groups who aimed to bring about social revolution. A delegation of the Ghadar Party participated in a conference of CPI(M-L) in India in 1973 to discuss various problems of the Indian revolution. The Ghadarites emphasized the need for all revolutionaries to unite for the cause of Indian revolution.
In 1973 the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, came to visit Britain and North America. The Ghadarites organized rallies and demonstrations against her visit in cooperation with several other organizations and groups condemning the torture and killing of thousands of youth branded as terrorists and extremists in false police encounters in Punjab, Bengal, Bihar, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kashmir, etc. The Ghadarites through the pages of Chingari, Lok Awaz, and other publications brought to light the violation of human rights, political persecution, killing and torture of the Naxalites, youth, and others.
In 1975, Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency, which resulted in the dissolving of Parliament. A widespread movement in India and abroad started against this naked dictatorship. Workers, women, peasants, students, shopkeepers all were galvanized into a big storm. The CPI supported the declaration of emergency while there were others who wanted to oppose Emergency in order to come to power themselves. The Ghadarites pointed out that the Emergency was one of the symptoms of colonial rule without colonialists. They believed that the Indian people should not be fooled by this or any party that would come into power and preserve the same rule under a different name. The Ghadarites hoped that Indians would develop a people’s movement against this rule. They called upon the people to develop their unity and not be fooled by the "United Front" of Jan Sangh, CPI(M) and others because they all wanted to preserve the old rule. They brought the truth of the matter under the slogan "Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai, Chor Chor Mauserey Bhai," that both Indira Gandhi and Morarji Desai represented the same forces and that they were brother and sister in preserving neo-colonial rule. Congress and Indira Gandhi were thoroughly defeated in the elections held in 1977 and a coalition of several other parties came to power in the centre. One of the first acts of this coalition government of "restoring democracy" was the firing of striking workers of Kanpur in which several workers were killed. This act revealed how the new coalition was not interested in the social transformation of Indian society, but were perpetuating the rule of the ruling elites with hook or crook.
In October 1977 the Ghadarites held a congress in which they issued a call to all Ghadarites to return to India to further consolidate and strengthen the unity of the revolutionary forces who wanted to take up the problems of India and search for real solutions.This was the third return of the Ghadarites to India since 1913. The Ghadarites started a paper People’s Voice in India to develop discussion for the unity of the revolutionary forces. Like the old Ghadarites, they built ties and working relations with other revolutionary, democratic, and progressive organizations and forces. As a result of this work the Communist Ghadar Party of India came into being in 1980. Communist Ghadar Party declared at its founding that only the people of India, workers, peasants, women, youth, students, all the nations, and nationalities by their united forces can liberate India from medieval darkness and bring about prosperity, freedom, enlightenment and dignity to India. They would have to rely on their own forces to carry out such a transformation. They must all unite irrespective of their religious, political, ideological, caste, linguistic, and regional differences. Only they could establish a democratic India in which the rights of all the peoples will be respected and honoured. It called upon all the people of India to support the just struggles of all the oppressed and exploited abroad such as the struggle of the Palestinian people, South African people, workers struggle in Europe and Latin America, etc. It also condemned the racist attacks on the Indian people residing abroad in Britain, Canada, Australia, the US, and other places. They called upon the Indian residents in these countries to unite with the people of their countries to fight against the racist and fascist attacks.
On the cultural front, the Ghadarites also took various initiatives. Along with other organizations, they helped to organize the International Sports and Cultural Festivals in Canada, Britain and India, which were attended by thousands of people. The first international sports and cultural festival took place in Vancouver in 1981 and was attended by more than 40,000 people. It was during this festival that the first World Cup Kabbadi matches were held. In 1982 the festival was held in India and in 1983 it was held in Britain. These festivals were held under the slogan of ‘Sports and Culture in service of the people." Thousands of people participated and supported these festivals, which helped to develop friendly relations between the people of South Asia as well as with South Asians living abroad. Kabbadi teams and other sportsmen from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the USA, Canada, etc. participated in these festivals. Cultural personalities and performers from different parts of South Asia also participated. They also organized annual sports tournaments and cultural events to honour heroic martyrs such as Bhagat Singh, Mewa Singh, Udham Singh, etc., in cooperation with other groups and associations such as the East Indian Defence Committee and the Desh Bhagat Sports and Cultural Society. Just like the old Ghadaries, the new Ghadarites also conveyed their message through poems, songs, plays, dramas, stories, etc., in the various languages of India such as Hindustani, Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, and Marathi.
The Ghadarites concluded the need for the renovation of Indian society and presented democratic renewal of India as the agenda of the day. They concluded that this renewal and renovation could only be achieved by the empowerment and affirmation of the people, and it can only be built by the people themselves. They analyzed that the present political process, representative democracy, actually disenfranchises the people. Political parties have become gatekeepers of power and have usurped the power of the people, often in the people’s name:
"The parliamentary system is in deep crisis not only in India but all over the world. The party in power, Congress (I) and the party in opposition, the BJP, openly declare they will abide by nothing and they are a law unto themselves. There are other political parties who think in the same way. How else is it possible to have riots, disappearances, murders and false encounters if these parties were not a law unto themselves? The present system, besides not solving any of the problems for the benefit of the people, also appears unable to provide a smooth transfer of governance from one political party to the other. The main cause of this is not that the Congress (I) or BJP are deviants, but that the system demands the existence of such parties for its perpetuation. People are putting forward their demands and all sections of the people are discontented with the situation, but the system can not satisfy them. There is a real pressure for the creation of a new kind of party, a party which would ensure that these political parties do not keep the people out of power."
It further analyzed:
"The origin of the political system that exists in India and the roots of the crisis of this system can be traced to the Government of India Act of 1935, the transfer of power that took place in 1947 and the constitution that was adopted in 1950.While the democracy that came into being was objectively and advance for the Indian people, it did not lead to their empowerment. This was because this democracy was based on the theory of concentrating power in the executive, in order to deprive the masses of power. The role of the president of India, the frequent declaration of President’s Rule at the advice of the cabinet, the ruling party’s power to define and redefine state boundaries, the very notion of ‘cabinet rule’, are all different features of this concentration of power in the hands of the executive."
On the present social development, they state:
"Today, on the eve of the 21st century, nobody can deny that people are born to society and society has a responsibility to look after their well being. This corresponds to the modern definition of rights and is also one of the central aspects of Indian political thought. However according to present day ‘Western’ ideologues, society has no obligation to anyone except to the financial oligarchy. The so-called individual interest is given primacy over the collective interest and the general interest of society. This imposition of imperialist theories on the soil of India is creating grave complications. It is contributing to the further deepening of the capitalist crisis and causing great resentment amongst the people. The big capitalists and big landlords are using these theories to create serious danger to the very well-being of the people and the future of society."
Following the tradition of the old Ghadarites, they seek the unity of all the peoples to deal with problems facing the society:
"The critical task is to build the political unity of all workers and people of the middle strata who are opposed to the existing state of affairs, especially to the criminalisation of the polity; to the use of state terrorism; to all the attacks on the freedoms of the people; and most importantly who stand for the economic well being of he workers and broad masses of the people. Declaration of this or that phrase from the classics of Marxism-Leninism, without seeking the same afresh from the objective and subjective conditions that confront the people will not contribute to progress whatsoever."
They also point out the reason for the miserable conditions of the people of India;
"Tragically for the working class and the toiling masses of India, emancipation has eluded them. This has happened because the propertied classes have bound them hand and foot to capitalism and to the remnants of feudalism. More importantly, the communist and workers movement has been undermined by social democracy. The fact that European social democracy presents itself in the colours of socialism and communism in India. The aspirations of the propertied classes created by colonialism and imperialism have dug their poisonous claws into the healthy body of the working class movement for emancipation…"
In the realm of theoretical considerations, the Ghadarites point out the necessity of Indian theory rather than Eurocentric ideas and theories for the liberation of India from hunger and starvation, oppression and exploitation, because these Eurocentric ideas and theories had only served to enslave India, mentally, politically, and economically:
"The starting point, the first step, the most immediate question and the long-term task that appears in India for the victory of the revolutionary movement is that of theory. It expresses itself most succinctly in the necessity for Indian theory, a theory emerging out of the conditions of India."
The British colonialists attacked the Indian philosophy to the point of denying its existence or distorting it to serve their own ends by imposing irrationalism on Indian philosophy. The Ghadarites point out:
"The stagnation of the philosophy of Darshan is inextricably linked with the stagnation of Indian thought, and of the economic and political theories in our country. The Darshandharis, ensconced within the comfortable walls of Indian, America and British universities, pontificate about Indian philosophy, as if it has no relevance or link with the present conditions in India, with the illumination of the road to progress for the Indian people at this time in history. Idealist and religious interpretations are given of Darshan, to make it lifeless and useless for the Indian people. Meanwhile, deprived of philosophy and outlook to deal with the problems of today, the Indian people are left floundering helplessly, at the mercy of the bourgeoisie and imperialism."
On the task of Democratic Renewal and completing the anti-colonial revolution the Ghadarites point out:
"A thorough going anti-colonial revolution necessarily means ending the capitalist system and its democracy, which has deprived people of their economic and political power. An anti-colonial revolution, which is merely a matter of formal independence and not a social revolution has become anachronistic.
The entire experience from the time of ‘transfer of power’ to the Indian bourgeoisie in 1947, with the division of the Indian subcontinent, especially Bengal and Punjab, has proven that this has not led to deep-going transformations. On the contrary, the bourgeoisie has completely obstructed the social revolution. It has been proven that it is capitalism that is the defender of the remnants of feudalism; it is capitalism that is protecting imperialists and colonialist interests; it is capitalism that is the motor behind bourgeoisie in its globalisation of capital and production. Furthermore it is capitalism that has caused disaster in the countryside, deepening the agrarian problems, and trampling underfoot the slogan of the patriotic forces of ‘ Land to the Tiller’.
Festering at the base of Indian society at this time are capitalism and remnants of feudalism, with the superstructure of imperialism and colonial domination. This has made the conditions of life and work for the working classes and toiling masses extremely miserable. More than fifty percent of Indian people live in abysmal conditions of poverty, victims of malnutrition, ill health, illiteracy and every kind of disease. The government of India’s entire program of ‘poverty alleviation’ has concentrated on juggling the figures prove that the percentage of the Indian people living below the poverty line has been decreasing. Official figures now claim that it is less than 20% of the population. This juggling itself shows the callousness of the Indian state and its rulers, who define poverty levels on the basis of whether people receive a certain amount of calories a day. It distorts the reality that human beings can not exist on the basis of minimum amount of staple food alone. They need other necessities to ensure against malnutrition such as pulses, vegetables, milk and meat; they need potable water, sanitation, health care, proper accommodation and clothes, and a clean, healthy, peaceful and stable environment conducive to living. They need education and culture, and the satisfaction of working for their ever increasing material and cultural needs."
Ghadarites point out the need for creating and building a new system or a new society in which the needs and claims of all the members of the Indian society will be attended to and honoured:
"The Indian system needs to be renovated with a new system at the base, a system consistent with the aspirations of the working class and the toiling masses, in step with the aspirations of the working class and peoples of the world. Such a system would put the well-being of the masses at the foundation of society as the aim of the economy. Far from making this aim a policy objective, it will become the fundamental law of the land. This new system will not only be modern, and the most up to date, it will also give rise to a confederal state in which all nations and tribal peoples will enjoy full equality and freedom. They will enjoy their right to self-determination up to and including secession, without which self-determination is reduced to a mere phrase. This new system will provide full opportunity to all the nations divided by colonialism to unite if they so desire. The new system will put a complete end to the colonial legacy and India will enter the family of nations as a most progressive force."
The Ghadar movement that started in 1913 amongst the patriotic, progressive and enlightened Indians abroad has gone through a great deal of changes based on the needs of time, but continues to inspire the people.
Eighty-five years of struggle have not disheartened them. They still want solutions to their problems. Shaheed Bhagat Singh, who was greatly inspired by the Ghadarites, particularly Kartar Singh Sarabha, wrote prophetically, "Our struggle will continue as long as a handful of men, be they foreign or native, or both in collaboration with each other, continue to exploit the labour and resources of our people. Nothing shall deter us from this path."
The history of Ghadar Movement clearly bears out the truth of Bhagat Singh’s statement. It is also a reflection of the deep love that the South Asians resident abroad have for their countries, and that they are second to none in making sacrifices for the cause of freedom, dignity and prosperity. Although they may be resident abroad, due to the conditions back home, the flame of liberty of their lands is lit in their hearts and they do not hesitate to make any sacrifice for the liberation of their countries and a life of honour and dignity. The Ghadar Movement shows that they will carry on seeking solutions to the problems that plague them both at home and abroad. It also shows that the South Asians are part of their nations no matter where they are resident and they are moved by the concerns of their nations.