Congress under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose


The year 1927 witnessed many portents of national recovery and the emergence of the new trend of socialism. Marxism and other socialist ideas spread rapidly.

Politically this force and energy found reflection in the rise of a new left wing in the Congress under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose. The left wing did not confine its attention to the struggle against imperialism. The simultaneously raised the question of internal class oppression by the capitalists and landlords.

Indian youth were becoming active. All over the country youth leagues were being formed and student conferences held. The first All-Bengal Conference of Students was held in August 1928 and was presided over by Jawaharlal Nehru.


After this, many other student associations were started in the country and hundreds of student and youth conferences held.

Moreover, the young Indian nationalists began gradually to turn to socialism and to advocate radical solutions for the political, economic and social ills from which the country was suffering.

They also put forward and popularised the programme of complete independence. Socialist and Communist groups came into existence in the 1920s. The example of the Russian Revolution had aroused interest among many young nationalists.

Many of them were dissatisfied with Gandhian political ideas and programmes and turned to socialist ideology for guidance. M.N. Roy became the first Indian to be elected to the leadership of the Communist International.


In 1924, the government arrested Muzaffar Ahmed and S.A. Dange, accused them of spreading Communist ideas, and tried them along with others in the Kanpur Conspiracy case.

In 1925, the Communist Party came into existence. Moreover, many worker and peasant parties were founded in different parts of the country.

These parties and groups propagated Marxist and communist ideas. At the same time they remained integral parts of the national movement and the National Congress.

The peasants and workers were also once again stirring. In Uttar Pradesh, there was large-scale agitation among tenants for the revision of tenancy laws. The tenants wanted lower rents, protection from eviction and relief from indebtedness. In Gujarat, the peasants protested against official efforts to increase land revenue.


The famous Bardoli Satyagraha occurred at this time. In 1928, under the leadership of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel the peasants organised a No Tax Campaign and in the end won their demand. There was a rapid growth of trade unionism under the leadership of the All-India Trade Union Congress.

Many strikes occurred during 1928. There was a long strike lasting for two months in the railway workshop at Kharagpur. The South Indian Railway workers went on strike.

Another strike was organised in the Tata Iron and Steel Works at Jamshedpur. Subhas Chandra Bose played an important role in the settlement of this strike.

The most important strike of the period was in the Bombay textile mills. Nearly 150,000 workers went on strike for over five months. This strike was led by the communists. Over five lakhs of workers took part in strikes during 1928.


Another reflection of the new mood was the growing activity of the revolutionary movement which too was beginning to take a socialist turn. The failure of the First Non-Cooperation Movement had led to the revival of the revolutionary movement.

After an All India Conference, the Hindustan Republican Association was founded in October 1924 to organise an armed revolution. The government struck at it by arresting a large number of youth and trying them in the Kakori Conspiracy Case (1925).

Seventeen were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment, four were transported for life, and four, including Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla, were hanged.

The revolutionaries soon came under the influence of socialist ideas, and in 1928, under the leadership of Chandra Shekhar Azad changed the name of their organisation to the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA).


They also gradually began to move away from individual heroic action and acts of violence. But the brutal lathi-charge on an anti Simon Commission demonstration on 30 October 1928 led to a sudden change. The great Punjabi leader Lala Lajpat Rai died as a result of the lathi blows.

This enraged the youth and on 17 December 1928 Bhagat Singh, Azad and Rajguru assassinated Saunders, the British police officer who had led the lathi charge.

The HSRA leadership also decided to let the people know about their changed political objectives and the need for a revolution by the masses. Consequently, Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt threw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly on 8 April 1929.

The bomb did not harm anyone, for it had been deliberately made harmless. The aim was not to kill but, as their leaflet put it, “to make the deaf hear”.

Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt could have easily escaped after throwing the bomb but they deliberately chose to be arrested for they wanted to make use of the court as a forum for revolutionary propaganda.

In Bengal too revolutionary activities were revived. In April 1930, a well-planned and large-scale armed raid was organised on the government armory at Chittagong under the leadership of Surya Sen.

This was the first of many attacks on unpopular government officials. A remarkable aspect of the terrorist movement in Bengal was the participation of young women.

The Chittagong revolutionaries marked a major advance. Theirs was not an individual action but a group action aimed at the organs of the colonial state.

The government struck hard at the revolutionaries. Many of them were arrested and tried in a series of famous cases. Bhagat Singh and a few others were also tried for the assassination of Saunders.

The statements of the young revolutionaries in the courts and their fearless and defiant attitude won the sympathy of the people. Their defence was organised by Congress leaders who were otherwise votaries of non-violence.

Particularly inspiring was the hunger strike they undertook as a protest against the horrible conditions in the prisons. As political prisoners they demanded an honorable and decent treatment in jail.

During the course of this hunger strike, Jatin Das, a frail young man, achieved martyrdom after a 63-day-long epic fast. Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were executed on 23 March 1931, despite popular protest.

In a letter to the Jail Superintendent written a few days before their execution, the three affirmed: “Very soon, the final battle will begin. Its outcome will be decisive. We took part in the struggle and we are proud of having done so.”

In two of his last letters, the 23-year-old Bhagat Singh also affirmed his faith in socialism. He wrote: “The peasants have to liberate themselves not only from foreign yoke but also from the yoke of landlords and capitalists.”

In his last message of 3 March 1931 he declared that the struggle in India would continue so long as “a handful of exploiters go on exploiting the labour of the common people for their own ends.

It matters little whether these exploiters are purely British capitalists, or British and Indians in alliance, or even purely Indian.” Bhagat Singh defined socialism in a scientific manner it meant the abolition of capitalism and class domination.

He also made it clear that much before 1930 he and his comrades had abandoned terrorism. In his last political testament, written on 2 February 1931, he declared: “Apparently, I have acted like a terrorist.

But I am not a terrorist. Let me announce with all the strength at my command that I am not a terrorist and I never was, except perhaps in the beginning of my revolutionary career. And I am convinced that we cannot gain anything through those methods.”

Bhagat Singh was also fully and consciously secular. He often told his comrades that communalism was as big an enemy as colonialism and was to be as firmly opposed.

In 1926, he had helped establish the Punjab Naujawan Bharat Sabha and had become its first secretary. Two of the rules of the Sabha, drafted by Bhagat Singh, were: “To have nothing to do with communal bodies or other parties which disseminate communal ideas” and “to create the spirit of general toleration among the people considering religion as a matter of personal belief of man and to act upon the same fully.”

The national revolutionary movement soon abated though stray activities were carried on for several years more. Chandra Shekhar Azad was killed in a shooting encounter with the police in a public park, later renamed Azad Park, at Allahabad in February 1931.

Surya Sen was arrested in February 1933 and hanged soon after. Hundreds of other revolutionaries were arrested and sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment, some being sent to the Cellular Jail in the Andamans.

Thus a new political situation was beginning to arise by the end of the twenties. Writing of these years, Lord Irwin, the Viceroy, recalled later that “some new force was working of which even those, whose knowledge of India went back for 20 or 30 years, had not yet learnt the full significance.”

The government was determined to suppress this new trend. As we have seen, the revolutionaries were suppressed with ferocity.

The growing trade union movement and the communist movement were dealt with in (the same manner. In March 1929, thirty-one prominent trade union and communist leaders (including three Englishmen) were arrested and, after a trial (Meerut Conspiracy Case) lasting four years, sentenced to long periods of imprisonment.

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