February 02, 2020

Dutt-Bradley Thesis

THE Dutt-Bradley Thesis was published in International Press Correspondence (INPRECOR), the journal of Communist International, on February 29, 1936. It was also called the thesis for Anti-imperialist People's Front in India. This Thesis was published in the background of significant international and national developments. While internationally fascism was on the ascendancy, nationally, this was the time when the Civil Disobedience Movement was called off and there was big disappointment among the younger elements in the national movement. The Congress Socialist Party (CSP), which was formed in late 1934, was very much influenced by the Marxist approach to the colonial question. With the emergence of the CSP, a non-sectarian trend of thought developed.

A substantial section in the CSP expected that the Indian National Congress would turn itself into an instrument for the struggle for socialism. The communists pointed out that the task of communists and socialists was to effectively oppose the vacillations and deception of the Congress by joining the struggles, organising the anti-imperialist elements and exposing the bourgeoisie. Through this process, the communist party, which had been opposing the entire Congress without making any discrimination between the bourgeois leadership of the Congress and its ranks, started rectifying its errors. The concept of anti-imperialist front was in fact a result of this process of rectification.

The Dutt-Bradley Theses primarily tried to answer the following crucial questions: ‘How to transform the (then existing) situation? How can we unite and mobilise a powerful movement of resistance to British imperialism and for the needs of the masses? What shall be the policy of the national representatives who are elected? What shall be the future line of direction of the national struggles to defeat imperialism?’

“The key need of the present situation is the unity of all the anti-imperialist forces in the common struggle. This is the indispensable condition for the successful fight against the existing and ever-sharpening reaction and oppression. But what is unity? Talk of unity, of the united front, is today on the lips of all. But many different proposals are put forward in its name.

“The right-wing elements, the friends of the British rulers, whose programme is one of cooperation with imperialism and entry into office….heartily welcome such proposals of unity, provided they may maintain their programme of service to imperialism, since they have no mass following themselves and only so hope to win a basis to enter office and carry out their programme. The unity with friends of the British achieved by surrendering the struggle against imperialism could only weaken the United Front against imperialism and not strengthen it.

“From this it follows that unity cannot be regarded as something abstract, but can only be unity on the basis of the anti-imperialist struggle. Much as we may desire to see unity of the whole Indian people in the struggle against foreign rule, we have to recognise that there cannot be an abstract ‘unity’ of the entire Indian population, hundred percent, all sections and classes, against British imperialism. Some sections have their interest bound up with imperialism, for example the princes, landlords, money lenders, reactionary religious and political elements which live on exploiting communal differences, elements among the merchants and wealthy classes, who favour cooperation with imperialism etc….in estimating the forces of the national struggle, we have to take into account the realities of the class structure of the population under the conditions of imperialism.
“But there can be unity of the overwhelming majority of the population against imperialism, that is, of all the popular masses who suffer under imperialist rule and of all the elements from other classes who are prepared to join in the common struggle for national liberation.

“It is clear that essential minimum basis for such a grouping is (i) a line of consistent struggle against imperialism and against the existing slave constitution, for the complete independence of India; (ii) active struggle for the vital needs of the toiling masses. This is the unity of the Indian people we want, the united Anti-imperialist People's Front for the struggle against imperialism.

“We on the Left have many times criticised sharply the existing leadership and tactics of the National Congress. We have found many decisions and policies….disastrous to the true interest of the national struggle and equivalent to surrender to imperialism. We have traced these decisions and policies to the existing dominant bourgeois leadership, whose interests often conflict with the interests of the masses and with the interests of the national struggle….this criticism against particular policies is in no sense intended as a criticism against the masses in the Congress. Our opposition to a particular leadership or to particular policies is only intended to assist the mass army of the national struggle represented by the Congress and to assist and strengthen the national struggle.

“What is needed is, without impairing the degree of unity that has been achieved through the National Congress, to strengthen and extend this unity to a broader front and to develop to a new stage the organisation and leadership of the mass struggle against imperialism.

“The first aim should therefore be to establish a united front of the National Congress with all the existing mass organisations of the trade unions, peasants’ unions, youth associations or other anti-imperialist mass organisations, in a broad Anti-Imperialist People's Front on the basis of the struggle against imperialism and its constitution and for organising the struggle of the masses for their immediate demands.

“It is essential to establish, in unmistakable terms, the aim of complete independence of India as the unchangeable aim of the Indian National struggle and therewith, the rejection of all compromise and negotiation with imperialism for half measures, cooperation in working the constitution etc.
“Further, it is essential to link up the programme of the fight for independence with the immediate political demands of the struggle against imperialism and with the immediate demands of the workers and peasants for their vital needs.

“Thus for example, such a programme should include:
1. The aim of complete independence for India;
2. Freedom of speech, press, organisation, assembly, strikes and picketing;
3. Repeal of all exceptional and repressive laws, ordinances and anti-worker laws (Criminal Amendment Act, Press Act, etc.)
4. Release of all political prisoners, detenues, and internees.
5. Against reductions of wages and dismissals of workers, for an adequate minimum wage and 8-hour day, for 50 per cent reduction in rents and against the seizure of peasant land for debt by imperialists, native princes, zamindars and money lenders.
“In order to realise the Anti-Imperialist People's Front and to carry through these urgently, necessary changes in the constitution, organisation, policy and work of the National Congress, it is essential that all Left-wing elements in the Congress should fight in unison on a common platform for these vital needs….The Congress Socialist Party can play an especially important part in this as the grouping of all the radical elements in the existing Congress. It is of the greatest importance that every effort should be made to clarify questions of programme and tactics in the Congress Socialist Party.

“It is this way the first stage of Anti-imperialist People’s Front could be built up, which is already in the common fight, stressing particularly the local, district and provincial basis.

“The question of elections is of cardinal importance for the anti-imperialist front. On the one hand, it is essential that the clear line of the anti-imperialist front, the line of consistent struggle for complete independence, against all cooperation with imperialism and its constitution and for the demands of the masses should be challengingly voiced at the elections and that the outlook of these vast sections of the national movement must not be stifled….Every effort requires to be made to prevent a splitting of the national front in the elections; but such unity should not be utilised to stifle the Left-wing forces of the anti-imperialist bloc.

“Corresponding to the existing stages of the movement, the time is now undoubtedly favourable to launch as our central slogan the demand for the convening of a constituent assembly, based upon a universal and equal franchise and direct and secret ballot.

“The realisation of a broad-based, all embracing and powerful Anti-Imperialist People's Front should rapidly open the way to new perspectives for the Indian National movement”.

The Dutt-Bradley Theses greatly helped the communist movement. It is through the interventions of the communists during this period that a lot of cadre and new generation of leaders who contributed immensely in building and developing the communist movement in the country, emerged.