Social Scientist. v 14, no. 159-60 (Aug-Sept 1986) p. 40.


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KAPIL KUMAR*

Ideology, Congress And Peasants In 1930s Class Adjustment Or Submission ?

FROM THE time the Indian National Congress entered the ph^se of mass politics and mass struggles till the coming of independence one crucial question which bothered the British was, what would be the attitude of Congress towards the agrarian issues—particularly the no-rent demand of the peasantry ? The official literature reveals the concern over this issue for it was the peasantry which provided the bulk of man power for the Congress in the course of the freedom struggle. To analyse the Congress attitude towards the peasants and gfse versa we have to take into account the various roles of the Congress—as a platform, as an organised political party, in the course of mass movements and while in power (1937-39). This relationship in the light of the Indian National Movement (INM) has been studied by historians of various schools—Nationalist, Colonial, Marxist, Liberal, Subaltarn, etc. The most recent analysis has been put forward by the Neo-Nationalist historians while discussing the 'long term dynamics' of the Indian National Congress1. One can take issues with them on various aspects but I shall confine myself to the peasant question.

It has been argued by Bipan Chandra that the INM was basically the product of the "central or priiftary contradiction' of colonial India, the contradiction between colonialism and Indian people2. Thus, according to him 'inner class contradictions had to be seen as secondary and therefore subordinated to the primary contradiction ; they had to be seen as contradictions within the camp of the people and class struggles based on them had to be waged in a non-antagonistic fashion'. He asserts that the 'Congress, and in particular Gandhi, practised the strategy of class adjustment' and the INChad 'no class essence.' In his analysis the interests of the Indian people are projected as a whole against colonialism (one would like to know the attitude of princes and landlords vis-a-vis colonialism when independence was in sight); Nationalism as the sole ideology of the Congress which ^never laid down any ideological condition for joining it', 'Marxism found a ready welcome and no strong anti-Marxist intellectual* current

*Lecturer in History, Kirorimal College, Delhi University, Delhi.



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