December 29, 2019

General Statement of the Meerut Accused

EIGHTEEN communists among the accused in the Meerut Conspiracy Case decided to address a general statement to the court elaborating the principles for which they are fighting. The general statement originally a document running over 400 pages was formally introduced by RS Nimbkar on December 2, 1931 and completed on January 18, 1932. SA Dange, gave a separate statement, as he was not a member of the Communist Party at that time (suspended from the Party for indiscipline). The general statement of the accused is the first detailed exposition of the ideas of Communist Party in the country and show how farsighted was their thinking. Below are some excerpts from the general statement.

“When British capitalism came to India it represented a social system in advance of the feudal system still prevailing in India at that time, and consequently its work in India included some progressive features. It achieved certain of the steps, both constructive and immediately destructive, characteristic of the bourgeois democratic revolution. But even at that time it included also some reactionary features….It has also strengthened and maintained a large part of the already obsolete system of feudalism which it found in the country, which constituted a great obstacle to social and cultural advance. The effect is that its policy is now wholly a reactionary one….it is in relation to both industry and agriculture a definite fetter upon the advance of the productive forces, while in regard to the social and cultural standards of the people its policy is certainly, and in part consciously, an obstructive and reactionary one.

“Revolution is therefore the prospect before India – either soon or less soon, but inevitably at some time. What will be the nature of this revolution….it must comprehend the following principal elements:
1. “The most obvious is that it will secure national independence; political independence which involves the overthrow of British rule and the establishment of a completely independent national State, and economic independence, which means the expropriation of all foreign debts etc. Only in this way can this ruinous exploitation of India be stopped, and the way prepared for a general advance of the productive forces.
2. “All the feudal and semi-feudal institutions in the land system (landlordism) and in the State (the Indian States) will be abolished completely. As we have seen these are part of the imperialist exploiting system, which must go when that system goes. But they further constitute a tremendous obstacle to the advance of agriculture and the rural population, and so must be abolished.
3. “It is clear that the revolution must be a popular one. In the circumstances of India at present, it cannot be confined to a mere replacement of one exploiting ruling class by another. It must achieve some form of popular democratic rule and the opening up for the people of immediate possibilities of advance in the matters which touch them nearly, in sanitation, health, housing, education, and social and cultural advance generally.
4. “In short, the revolution in India will be of the nature of the bourgeois democratic revolution, modified by the conditions of a colonial country”.

Explaining, who will lead the revolution, the Statement said: “the classes which will carry through the revolution are the working class and the peasantry, supported by the petty-bourgeoisie, and although the bourgeoisie will inevitably oppose the revolution”.
The Statement further explains why they consider the present stage as the bourgeois democratic revolution and not that of the socialist revolution.

On what the Communists intend to achieve during the bourgeois democratic stage of revolution, they state:
“It will be in essence a typical bourgeois democratic revolution, achieving at the same time independence from imperialist rule and establishing, not the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie but the rule of the masses. The instruments of economic power, the transport system, railways, docks etc., the banks and financial concerns etc. at present in the hands of the imperialist bourgeoisie will be nationalised and the foreign debts and other obligations will be repudiated. In view of the inevitably hostile attitude of the bourgeoisie, the principal industries at present under capitalist control, whether foreign or Indian, must be nationalised without compensation. Likewise, all foreign trade will be nationalised. The smalled industrial and trade organisations, handicrafts, small retail businesses etc. will be allowed to work under their present ownership with strict control against the excessive exploitation of the workers, and swindling of the public. The elementary demands of the workers – a legal minimum wage, the 8 hour working day and five and half day week, special insurance such as provision of employment, old age, sickness, etc., proper compensation and labour protection laws and the like, will be enforced. The land will be nationalised, the landowners expropriated without compensation and security of tenure given to all actual cultivators. Land revenue will be assessed on a sliding scale on the basis of production. An income-tax, graded, on all large incomes will be enforced. Agricultural debts will be canceled or reduced; the rate of interest legally limited to a reasonable figure; State aided sources of credit will be made available; all under the direction of the village and district peasant councils. At this time the agrarian revolution will take only the first step, just as the revolution generally is of the bourgeois democratic type. The second step of the agrarian revolution in which the poor peasants and agricultural labourers overthrow the leadership, and divide the land, of the richer capitalist peasants, will not take place generally, though in certain circumstances and places the relation of class forces may lead at once to this further stage.

“A popular workers’ and peasants’ army will be created, and the prohibition on the carrying of arms by the masses reversed. Measures to secure a rapid advance of education, to improve the general state of sanitation, health and housing, the emancipation of women, and the ‘depressed’ sections of the population, and the other minimum social needs of the masses, will be set in motion, the different races and communities of the country will be harmonised by system  of federation, with cultural and administrative autonomy for all regions and substantial minorities, so far as they are found to desire it; generally a policy of advancing the industry and means of communication of the country and developing its natural resources under State control, will be put in force, as the only means of guaranteeing a rising standard of life for the population.

“The State which will be set up will be democratic, participated in by all except those who definitely support the counter-revolution. Freedom of association and discussion will be instituted for the masses for the first time in the history of the country….The leading classes in the revolution, the workers and peasants will naturally exercise a decisive influence on the course of policy and development. It will be ‘democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants’. The form of the State will not be parliamentary on the usual model. Such a type of ‘representative’ machinery can only lead to the reassertion of the interests of the bourgeoisie, and hence to complete counter-revolution. The organisation of the State must be based on the organs of the masses, councils of the workers in the factories, docks, mines, railway centres, etc. of the peasants in the villages; of the working class housewives, the small traders, the handicraft workers, etc., by occupational groups in their localities….”

On the question of women, the Statement said: “The subjection and exploitation of women is only one aspect of the subjection and exploitation which is the lot of the great majority even of the men of the human race. It must be solved on class lines, not on sex lines….the Party in its work has to undertake….(i) the establishment of complete equality between the sexes within the working class movement, and the abolition of prejudices in the matter among the working class, (ii) the recognition of housewives as a category of workers – producers of human race – of the highest importance, and the encouragement of struggle by them for the improvement of their position, (iii) the drawing of working women into the active working class fight against capitalism, especially against their usual position of undercutting men workers”.

To achieve these tasks the Statement called for the building of a strong and determined Communist Party.