Q9. What were the impacts of Russian Revolution on India?
The socialist movement began to develop in India with the Russian Revolution. Marxism made a major impact in Indian media at the time of the Russian Revolution. Of particular interest to many Indian papers and magazines was the Bolshevik policy of right to self-determination of all nations. Bipin Chandra Pal and Bal Gangadhar Tilak were amongst the prominent Indians who expressed their admiration of Lenin and the new rulers in Russia. Some Indian students like Abdul Sattar Khairi and Abdul Zabbar Khairi went to Moscow, immediately on hearing about the revolution. The Russian Revolution also had an impact on émigré Indian revolutionaries, such as the Ghadar Party in North America.
The Khilafat movement also contributed to the emergence of early Indian communism. Many Indian Muslims left India to join the defence of the Caliphate. Several of them became communists whilst visiting Soviet territory. Some Hindus also joined the Muslim muhajirs in the travels to the Soviet areas.
The colonial authorities were clearly disturbed by the growing influence of Bolshevik sympathies in India. The Home Department established a special branch to monitor the communist influence. Customs were ordered to check the imports of Marxist literature to India. A great number of anti-communist propaganda publications were published.
The First World War was accompanied with a rapid increase of industries in India, resulting in a growth of an industrial proletariat. At the same time prices of essential commodities increased. These were factors that contributed to the build up of the Indian trade union movement. Unions were formed in the urban centres across India, and strikes were organised. In 1920, the All India Trade Union Congress was founded.
One Indian impressed with developments in Russia was S. A. Dange in Bombay. In 1921, he published a pamphlet titled Gandhi Vs. Lenin, a comparative study of the approaches of both the leaders with Lenin coming out as better of the two. Together with Ranchoddas Bhavan Lotvala, a local mill-owner, a library of Marxist Literature was set up and publishing of translations of Marxist classics began. In 1922, with Lotvala’s help, Dange launched the English weekly, Socialist, the first Indian Marxist journal.
The Communist Party of India was founded in Tashkent on 17 October 1920, soon after the Second Congress of the Communist International. The founding members of the party were M.N. Roy, Abani Mukherji, Mohammad Ali (Ahmed Hasan), Mohammad Shafiq Siddiqui and M.P.B.T. Acharya.
The CPI began efforts to build a party organisation inside India. Roy made contacts with Anushilan and Jugantar groups in Bengal. Small communist groups were formed in Bengal (led by Muzaffar Ahmed), Bombay (led by S.A. Dange), Madras (led by Singaravelu Chettiar), United Provinces (led by Shaukat Usmani) and Punjab (led by Ghulam Hussain). However, only Usmani became a CPI party member.
On 1 May 1923 the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan was founded in Madras, by Singaravelu Chettiar. The LKPH organised the first May Day celebration in India, and this was also the first time the red flag was used in India. On 25 December 1925, a communist conference was organised in Kanpur. The conference adopted the name ‘Communist Party of India’. Groups such as LKPH dissolved into the unified CPI.
Socialism as an ideology gained a nationwide appeal after it was endorsed by nationalist leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose. Radical socialists were amongst the first to call for outright Indian independence from Britain. Under Nehru, the Indian National Congress, India’s largest political party, adopted socialism as an ideology for socio-economic policies in 1936. Radical socialists and communists also engineered the Tebhaga movement of farmers in Bengal against the landed gentry. However, mainstream Indian socialism connected itself with Gandhism and adopted peaceful struggle instead of class warfare.