Emergence of Swarajists, Socialist Ideas, Revolutionary Activities and Other New Forces



  1. Swarajists and No-Changers
  • Genesis of Congress-Khilafat Swarajya Party
  1. Those advocating entry into legislative councils came to be known as the ‘Swarajists’, while the other school of thought led by C. Rajagopalachari, Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad and A. Ansari came to be known as the ‘Nochangers’.
  2. ‘No-changers’ opposed council entry, advocated concentration on constructive work, and continuation of boycott and non-cooperation, and quiet preparation for resumption of the suspended civil disobedience programme.
  3. Congress and announced the formation of Congress-Khilafat Swarajya Party or simply Swarajist Party, with C.R. Das as the president and Motilal Nehru as one of the secretaries.
  • Swarajists’ ArgumentsThe Swarajists had their reasons for advocating the entry into the councils.
  1. Entering the councils would not negate the noncooperation programme; in fact, it would be like carrying on the movement through other means—opening a new front.
  2. In a time of political vacuum, council work would serve to enthuse the masses and keep up their morale. Entry of nationalists would deter the government from stuffing the councils with undesirable elements who may be used to provide legitimacy to government measures.
  3. councils could be used as an arena of political struggle; there was no intention to use the councils as organs for gradual transformation of colonial rule.
  • No-Changers’ Arguments
  1. No-Changers argued that parliamentary work would lead to neglect of constructive work, loss of revolutionary zeal and to political corruption.
  • Agree to Disagree
  1. Both sides also realised the significance of putting up a united front to get a mass movement to force the government to introduce reforms, and both sides accepted the necessity of Gandhi’s leadership of a united nationalist front.
  2. Keeping these factors in mind, a compromise was reached at a meeting in Delhi in September 1923. The elections to the newly constituted Central Legislative Assembly and to provincial assemblies were to be held in November 1923.
  • The Swarajist Manifesto for ElectionsReleased in October 1923, the Swarajist manifesto took a strong anti-imperialist line. The points put forward were as follows.
  1. guiding motive of the British in governing India lay in selfish interests of their own country;
  2. so-called reforms were only a blind to further the said interests under the pretence of granting a responsible government, the real objective being to continue exploitation of the unlimited resources of the country by keeping Indians permanently in a subservient position to Britain;
  3. Swarajists would present the nationalist demand of self-government in councils;
  4. If this demand was rejected, they would adopt a policy of uniform, continuous and consistent obstruction within the councils to make governance through councils impossible;
  5. Councils would thus be wrecked from within by creating deadlocks on every measure.
  • Gandhi’s AttitudeGandhi was initially opposed to the Swarajist proposal of council entry. But after his release from prison on health grounds in February 1924, he gradually moved towards a reconciliation with the Swarajists.
  1. He felt public opposition to the programme of council entry would be counter-productive.
  2. In the November 1923 elections, the Swarajists had managed to win 42 out of 141 elected seats and a clear majority in the provincial assembly of Central Provinces.
  3. There was a government crackdown on revolutionary terrorists and the Swarajists towards the end of 1924;
  4. Both sides came to an agreement in 1924
  • Swarajist Activity in Councils-
  1. Swarajists lost the support of many Muslims when the party did not support the tenants’ cause against the zamindars in Bengal
  2. Responsivists among Swarajists—Lala Lajpat Rai, Madan Mohan Malaviya and N.C. Kelkar—advocated cooperation with the government and holding of office wherever possible.
  3. Thus, the main leadership of the Swarajist Party reiterated faith in mass civil disobedience and withdrew from legislatures in March 1926,
  4. In 1930, the Swarajists finally walked out as a result of the Lahore Congress resolution on purna swaraj and the beginning of the Civil Disobedience Movement.
  • Achievements
  1. With coalition partners, they out-voted the government several times, even on matters relating to budgetary grants, and passed adjournment motions.
  2. They agitated through powerful speeches on self government, civil liberties and industrialisation.
  3. Vithalbhai Patel was elected speaker of Central Legislative Assembly in 1925.
  4. A noteworthy achievement was the defeat of the Public Safety Bill in 1928 which was aimed at empowering the Government to deport undesirable and subversive foreigners.
  5. By their activities, they filled the political vacuum at a time when the national movement was recouping its strength.
  6. They exposed the hollowness of the Montford scheme.
  7. They demonstrated that the councils could be used creatively.
  • Drawbacks
  1. Swarajists lacked a policy to coordinate their militancy inside legislatures with the mass struggle outside. They relied totally on newspaper reporting to communicate with the public.
  2. An obstructionist strategy had its limitations.
  3. They could not carry on with their coalition partners very far because of conflicting ideas, which further limited their effectiveness.
  4. They failed to resist the perks and privileges of power and office.
  5. They failed to support the peasants’ cause in Bengal and lost support among Muslim members who were propeasant.
  • Constructive Work by No-Changers-The No-Changers devoted themselves to constructive work that connected them to the different sections of the masses.
  1. Ashrams sprang up where young men and women worked among tribals and lower castes, and popularised the use of charkha and khadi.
  2. National schools and colleges were set up where students were trained in a non-colonial ideological framework.
  3. Significant work was done for Hindu-Muslim unity, removing untouchability, boycott of foreign cloth and liquor, and for flood relief.
  4. The constructive workers served as the backbone of civil disobedience as active organisers.
  • A Critique of Constructive Work-
  1. National education benefited the urban lower middle classes and the rich peasants only.
  2. Popularisation of khadi was an uphill task since it was costlier than the imported cloth.
  3. Emergence of New Forces: Socialistic Ideas, Youth Power, Trade Unionism-
  • Spread of Marxist and Socialist Ideas-
  1. TheIdeas of Marx and Socialist thinkers inspired manyyoung nationalists, inspired by the Soviet Revolution and dissatisfied with Gandhian ideas and political programme, began advocating radical solutions for economic, political and social ills of the country. These younger nationalists—
  • were critical of both Swarajists and No-Changers;
  • advocated a more consistent anti-imperialist line in the form of a slogan for purna swarajya (complete independence);
  • were influenced by an awareness, stressed the need to combine nationalism and antiimperialism with social justice and simultaneously raised the question of internal class oppression by capitalists and landlords.
  1. Communist Party of India (CPI) was formed in 1920 in Tashkent (now, the capital of Uzbekistan) by M.N. Roy, Abani Mukherji and others after the second Congress of Commintern. M.N. Roy was also the first to be elected to the leadership of Commintern.
  2. In 1924, many communists—S.A. Dange, Muzaffar Ahmed, Shaukat Usmani, Nalini Gupta—were jailed in the Kanpur Bolshevik Conspiracy Case.
  3. In 1925, the Indian Communist Conference at Kanpur formalised the foundation of the CPI.
  4. In 1929, the government crackdown on communists resulted in the arrest and trial of 31 leading communists, trade unionists and left-wing leaders; they were tried at Meerut in the famous- Meerut conspiracy case.
  • Activism of Indian Youth
  1. All over, students’ leagues were being established and students’ conferences were being held. In 1928, Jawaharlal Nehru presided over the All Bengal Students’ Conference.
  • Peasants’ Agitations
  1. peasant agitations took place in the Rampa region of Andhra, in Rajasthan, in ryotwari areas of Bombay and Madras. In Gujarat, the Bardoli Satyagraha was led by Vallabhbhai Patel (1928).
  • Growth of Trade Unionism
  1. trade union movement was led by All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) founded in 1920. Lala Lajpat Rai was its first president and Dewan Chaman Lal its general secretary.
  2. major strikes during the 1920s included those in Kharagpur Railway Workshops,Tata Iron and Steel Works (Jamshedpur), Bombay Textile Mills (this involved 1,50,000 workers and went on for 5 months), and Buckingham Carnatic Mills.
  3. In 1923, the first May Day was celebrated in India in Madras.
  • Caste MovementsThese movements could be divisive, conservative and at times potentially radical, and included:
  1. Justice Party (Madras)
  2. Self-respect movement (1925) under “Periyar”—E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker (Madras)
  3. Satyashodhak activists in Satara (Maharashtra)
  4. Bhaskar Rao Jadhav (Maharashtra)
  5. Mahars under Ambedkar (Maharashtra)
  6. Radical Ezhavas under K. Aiyappan and C. Kesavan in Kerala
  7. Yadavs in Bihar for improvement in social status
  8. Unionist Party under Fazl-i-Hussain (Punjab).
  • Revolutionary Activity with a Turn towards Socialism-This line was adopted by those dissatisfied with the nationalist strategy of the political struggle with its emphasis on nonviolence.Two strands developed—
  1. Hindustan Republican Association (H.R.A.)—in Punjab-UP-Bihar
  2. Yugantar, Anushilan groups and later Chittagong Revolt Group under Surya Sen—in Bengal
  • Revolutionary Activity During the 1920s
  • Why Attraction for Revolutionary Activity after Non-Cooperation Movement-Two separate strands of revolutionary groups emerged during this period—one operating in Punjab-UP-Bihar and the other in Bengal.
  • Major Influences
  1. Upsurge of working class trade unionism after the War; the revolutionaries wanted to harness the revolutionary potential of the new emergent class for nationalist revolution.
  2. Russian Revolution (1917) and the success of the young Soviet state in consolidating itself.
  3. Newly sprouting communist groups with their emphasis on Marxism, socialism and the proletariat.
  4. Journals publishing memoirs and articles extolling the self-sacrifice of revolutionaries, such as Atmasakti, Sarathi and Bijoli.
  5. Novels and books such as Bandi Jiwan by Sachin Sanyal and Pather Dabi by Sharatchandra Chatterjee (a government ban only enhanced its popularity).
  • In Punjab-United Provinces-Bihar
  1. revolutionary activity in this region was dominated by the Hindustan Republican Association/Army or HRA (later renamed Hindustan Socialist Republican Association or HSRA). The HRA was founded in October 1924 in Kanpur
  2. Kakori Robbery (August 1925)-The most important action of the HRA was the Kakori robbery. men held up the 8-Down train at Kakori, an obscure village near Lucknow, and looted its official railway cash.
  3. HSRA-Determined to overcome the Kakori setback, the younger revolutionaries, inspired by socialist ideas, set out to reorganize Hindustan Republic Association at a historic meeting in the ruins of Ferozshah Kotla in Delhi (September 1928).
  4. Saunders’ Murder (Lahore, December 1928)-The death of Sher-i-Punjab Lala Lajpat Rai due to lathi blows received during a lathi- charge on an anti-Simon Commission procession (October 1928) led them once again to take to individual assassination.
  5. Bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly(April 1929)- Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt were asked to throw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly on April 8, 1929 to protest against the passage of the Public Safety Bill and Trade Disputes Bill aimed at curtailing civil liberties of citizens in general and workers in particular.
  6. Action against the RevolutionariesBhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were tried in the Lahore conspiracy case. Jatin Das became the first martyr on the 64th day of his fast. Azad was involved in a bid to blow up Viceroy Irwin’s train near Delhi in December 1929. During 1930 there were a series of violent actions in Punjab and towns of United Provinces (26 incidents in 1930 in Punjab alone). Azad died in a police encounter in a park in Allahabad in February 1931. Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged on March 23, 1931.
  • In Bengal-
  1. After Das’s death (1925), the Bengal Congress broke up into two factions—one led by J.M. Sengupta (Anushilan group joined forces with him) and the other led by Subhash Bose (Yugantar group backed him). The actions of the reorganised groups included an assassination attempt on the notorious Calcutta Police Commissioner, Charles Tegart (another man named Day got killed) by Gopinath Saha in 1924.
  2. Chittagong Armoury Raid (April 1930)- Surya Sen decided to organise an armed rebellion along with his associates—Anant Singh, Ganesh Ghosh and Lokenath Baul—to show that it was possible to challenge the armed might of the mighty British Empire. The raid was conducted in April 1930 and involved 65 activists under the banner of Indian Republican Army—Chittagong Branch. Surya Sen was arrested in February 1933 and hanged in January 1934
  3. Aspects of the New Phase of Revolutionary Movement in Bengal-Some noteworthy aspects were as follows.
  • There was a large-scale participation of young women especially under Surya Sen. Prominent women revolutionaries in Bengal during this phase included Pritilata Waddedar, who died conducting a raid; Kalpana Dutt who was arrested and tried along with Surya Sen and given a life sentence; Santi Ghosh and Suniti Chandheri, school girls of Comilla, who shot dead the district magistrate. (December 1931); and Bina Das who fired point blank at the governor while receiving her degree at the convocation (February 1932).
  • There was an emphasis on group action aimed at organs of the colonial State, instead of individual action. The objective was to set an example before the youth and to demoralise the bureaucracy.
  • Some of the earlier tendency towards Hindu religiosity was shed, and there were no more rituals like oath-taking, and this facilitated participation by Muslims. Surya Sen had Muslims such as Satar, Mir Ahmed, Fakir Ahmed Mian and Tunu Mian in his group.
  • There were some drawbacks too:
  • The movement retained some conservative elements.
  • It failed to evolve broader socio-economic goals.
  • Those working with Swarajists failed to support the cause of Muslim peasantry against zamindars in Bengal.
  • Official Reaction
  1. There was panic at first and then severe government repression. Armed with 20 repressive Acts, the government let loose the police on the revolutionaries.
  • Ideological Rethinking
  1. A real breakthrough was made by Bhagat Singh and his comrades in terms of revolutionary ideology, forms of revolutionary struggle and the goals of revolution.
  2. famous statement of the revolutionary position is contained in the book The Philosophy of the Bomb written by Bhagwaticharan Vohra. In other words, revolution could only be “by the masses, for the masses”.
  3. That is why Bhagat Singh helped establish the Punjab Naujawan Bharat Sabha (1926) as an open wing of revolutionaries to carry out political work
  • Redefining Revolution
  1. Revolution was no longer equated with militancy and violence. Its objective was to be national liberation
  2. Bhagat Singh said in the court, “Revolution does not necessarily involve sanguinary strife, nor is there a place in it for personal vendetta. It is not the cult of bomb and pistol. By revolution we mean the present order of things, which is based on manifest injustice, must change.”
  3. He defined socialism scientifically as abolition of capitalism and class domination.

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