Social Scientist. v 11, no. 120 (May 1983) p. 33.


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G K LIETEN^

The Civil Disobedience Movement and the National Bourgeoisie

BY AROUND 1930, the Indian business class had developed from the earlier compradore position to a financial and industrial community in its own right, particularly in Bombay, and increasingly felt the need for economic and financial, if not political, reforms. At the same time, it was confronted by a reasonably developed working class and benefited from mercantile activities within the British Imperium. Together, these factors constituted contradictory influences which imbibed the emerging bourgeois leadership of the nationalist movement with its dual character. In this article we shall focus on some events in the crucial years 1930-19J2 in order to illustrate that the Indian business class in Bombay, i e, the big traders, financiers and entrepreneurs, were rather on the side of the colonial administration than on the side of the nationalist forces, leave alone on the side of the anti-imperialist struggle of the working class. As such, the evidence pertaining to the whole period of the civil disobedience movement (CDM) is a clear rebuttal of the ingenious formulation, long-term struggle—short-term compromise— long-term struggle (S-C-S), which has recently been introduced by some historians. Historical evidence rather points in the direction of a C-S-C, attitude of the Indian business class.1

At the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress (INC) in December 1928,Gandbi reappeared in the national movement and threw in his weight against a resolution by the communist delegates calling for full independence. Gandhi succeeded in pushing through a less radical version, promising a civil disobedience movement (within one year) if dominion status was not granted.

At the Lahore session the following year Puma Swaraj was declared as the aim of the nationalist movement. B Chatterji has argued, confirming the position taken much earlier by R P Dutt,2 that Gandhi had a double purpose, namely, to unify the Congress movement and at the same time to discipline the rising militancy of the left wing: "Paradoxically, his solution to control the growing tension in

•Nijmegen University, Netherlands.



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