Social Scientist. v 14, no. 159-60 (Aug-Sept 1986) p. 18.

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Struggle for the Ideological Transformation of the National Congress in the 1930s**

THE Indian national movement was one of the most radical of the anti-imperialist movements outside China. Its ideological development occurred between the 1880s and the 1940s based on firm anti-imperialism and a programme of social and economic reform. From the beginning, the nationalist leadership displayed a certain anti-colonial strength. It gradually generated, formed and crystallised into a clear-cut anti-colonial ideology. It evolved a clear, scientific and firm understanding and analysis of colonialism and spread it widely among the Indian people. Already by the end of the 19th century, the founding fathers of the Indian national movement had worked out a clear understanding of the three modes of colonial surplus extraction : (a) directly through taxation, plunder and large-scale employment of Englishmen ; (b) unequal trade by making India a hinterland for the production and sale of raw materials and purchase of metropolitan manufactures; (c) investment of foreign capital. They had further grasped that the essence of colonialism lay in the subordination of the Indian economy and society as a whole to the needs of the British economy and society, and that India's colonial relationship was not an accident of history or a result of political policy but rather sprang from the very nature and character of British society. This understanding of the complex economic mechanism of modern imperialism was further advanced after 1918 under the impact of the anti-imperialist mass movements and the spread of Marxist ideas. Thus the national movement arrived at, and based itself on, a correct grasp of the central or primary contradiction of colonial India, the contradiction between colonialism and the development and interests of the Indian people. Moreover, at each stage of its development, the national leadership linked its political analysis to the analysis of colonialism. The national movement was thus placed on a firm, anti-colonial ideological basis.

From the beginning, the national leadership emphasised the objective

*Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

**Parts of this paper have been incorporated in my Presidential Address to the Indian History Congress, 1985, which is being published in book form in an expanded version.

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