In this article we will discuss about the Formation of Congress Socialist Party in India.
For first few years after the formation of Indian National Congress the Liberals who dominated over country’s political scene and led freedom struggle were Rightists. They had no contacts with the masses. They, believed in British sense of justice and were convinced that it was in India’s own interest to remain in British empire.
They also believed in extending cooperation to foreign masters and were strong believers in piecemeal reforms. They however, could not achieve much. The aim of India’s freedom struggle till 1929 was Dominion? Status and continued to be so till Congress passed Swaraj resolution.
There was, therefore, not much of Leftist ideology in the Congress party which was in the fore front of country’s freedom struggle. There were however, several causes responsible for the rise and growth of leftist ideology and coming together of the socialists, which resulted in the formation of Congress Socialist Party.
It may, however, be mentioned that before the formation of this party several leading Congressmen with socialist views were already functioning at regional levels.
In 1931, Bihar Socialist Party was formed at Patna and Kamla Devi Chatopadhyay, Patwardhan and Masani founded Bombay Socialist Party. At Lahore was founded the Punjab Social Party. Ram Manoher Lohia, Sampurna Nand, Acharya Narendra Deva and Kamlapati Tripathi founded U.P. Socialist Party at Benaras. In C.P. All India Working Class Party was founded at Jabal Pur.
As said earlier there were several causes responsible for the formation of the Congress Socialist Party. One important reason for this, of course, was the approach of Jawahar Lal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose and several other leaders in the Congress who had leftist views.
They were not in favour of demanding only Dominion Status but full freedom i.e., Swaraj for India. They wanted to see India a free nation. They wanted to take the organisation near the people. For them freedom struggle was not merely a political struggle but its over all objective was uplifting of the poor peasants, industrial labour and socially and economically down-trodden.
These leaders had been inspired by the progress of labour movement in England and revolution of Russia and by the progress made in the country after Revolution. They did not appreciate sudden withdrawal of Civil Disobedience Movement by Gandhiji in 1932.
They were equally unhappy because the interests of the workers and labourers were not protected in the agreement that Gandhiji signed with the Governor-General.
Not only this but the need for such an organisation was felt because communists were not flowing in the national main stream and were keeping themselves away from it. A good opportunity was provided for the development of socialist ideology in Nasik prison.
It was here that several prominent personalities of freedom movement were imprisoned. These included Jaya Prakash Narayan, Ashok Mehta, N.G. Goray, Minoo Masani, A. Patwardhan and S.M. Joshi. They felt the need of re-orient of the programme of Congress party by bringing party ‘s relationship with peasants and workers. It was in Nasik jail that sufficient spade work about the constitution of the party was done.
After release from jail Jaya Prakash Narayan convened first All India Conference of the part’ at Patn. Acharya Narendra Dev presided over its meeting. He linked future of the Congress with the party and said that the Congress party should adopt a programme that was socialist in action and objective.
The Congress party, however, did not appreciate the developments which were taking place in the party. But even then first Congress of All India Congress Socialist Party was held at Bombay on October 21-22, 1934. It was presided over by Dr. Sampurna Nand. It was at this Congress that party constitution, was adopted.
The membership was thrown open to those who were not member of any communal organisation or of any other organisation whose interests were inconsistent with the objectives of the party.
For membership of the party it was essential that the person concerned should be a member of Indian National Congress or provincial Congress Socialist Party. It was provided in the constitution that the party aimed at achieving complete independence for India by completely separating it from British empire.
It also stands for the transfer of all power to producing masses. The party will also try to organise co-operative societies for production and distribution and provide credit in unsocialised sector of economic life. Its one major objective was establishment of a socialist society.
Then the party wanted to have state monopoly of foreign trade and development of economic life of the country under state planning. It stood for socialisation of key industries and repudiation of all public debts of India.
The party also wanted liquidation of all debts owed by peasants and farmers in India and elimination of princes and landlords and other exploiters without compensation. It strongly pleaded secularism and did not support any discrimination on the basis of sex in Indian society.
The constitution of the party also provided for redistribution of land to the peasantry and providing encouragement to collective and co-operative farming by the state.
The party constitution stood for adult franchise on functional basis and realignment of right to work and maintenance by the state. Then it had a laudable objective namely that of distribution of economic goods on the basis of every one according to his needs.
The leaders of the party, however, made it clear that they would work within the Indian National Congress.
While clarifying the role of Congress Socialist Party Jai Prakash Narayan said in 1935, “All that we seek to do is to change the content and policy of that organisation so that it comes truly to represent the masses, showing the objective of emancipating them both from the foreign power and the naive system of exploitation.” They had no intention to break the Congress.
When Government of India Act, 1935, was announced Congress Socialist Party denounced it characterising it as a slavish constitution. Still the party made it clear that it wants to work within the Congress. In 1937, at its Lahore session it decided that if any attempt was made to impose federation on India it will prepare the country for a nation-wide mass struggle.
If necessary, it will give a call for nation-wide strike. It will also start no-tax and no-rent campaign as well. It also said that it will expose to the masses the limitations under which the federal set up was being imposed on the provinces. The party felt that for this it was essential that propaganda literature should be circulated.
The party also resolved that provincial administration should be controlled to neutralise bureaucratic resistance and that freedom struggle and struggle for human rights which was being carried out by Indian States. People should be supported.
It should be made as a part of country’s freedom struggle. It stressed that popular movements should be developed in non-Congress controlled provinces. The party very strongly demanded setting up of Constituent Assembly for framing constitution for India.
The party opposed the idea of accepting ministerial offices in the provinces in 1937. It also wanted that Congress party should take the fullest opportunity of British involvement in World War II. It wanted that in India anti-war propaganda should be vigorously carried out.
But the leadership of the party found itself in some difficult position when under Gandhiji’s leadership Congress support government in her war efforts with some conditions.
When in 1942 Gandhiji started his Quit India Movement, the party took active part in that. After the war instead of any negotiated settlement of India’s constitutional problem the party favoured Quit India type movement.
Jai Prakash Narayan said that, “The only way is to renew the demand for Quit India and to utilise the people in a final challenge with the foreign power.” In 1946, the party rejected Cabinet Mission Plan and also formation of interim government.
It wanted that the power should be transferred to toiling masses. It also thoroughly rejected Mountbatten Plan. But inspire of their strong opposition of the plan was accepted by the Congress party.
The party, however, could not achieve much for which several causes were responsible, some of which being:
1. Congress Socialist Party was not a homogeneous group. It had members who were poles apart from each other in ideology and outlook. What kept them together was their love for nationalism and desire to achieve freedom for India. But the party lost everything when that was achieved.
2. Congress which dominated national freedom struggle favoured Constitutionalism to which they were opposed.
3. Such prominent Leftists in the Congress as Nehni and Subhash Chander Bose could not brought within the fold of the Congress.
4. The party in spite of its assurances that it wants to work within the Congress party, tried to maintain policy of isolation from the party.
But even then the party was in a position to make the base of freedom struggle broad by involving the peasants and workers. It drew the attention of the Congress to meeting their needs and involving them in freedom struggle. Thus, they helped in making struggle for freedom as mass movement. They brought class consciousness in freedom struggle.