Short notes on the emergence of the left-wing within the Congress


A powerful left-wing group developed in India in the late 1920s and 1930s contributing to the radicalization of the national movement.

The goal of political independence acquired a clearer and shouter social and economic content. The stream of national struggle for independence and those of the oppressed came together. The left wing within the Congress came to be symbolized by Jawahar Lai Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose.

The left wing in the Congress owed its emergence to the developments in the twenties. The twenties saw a new group emerging in Indian national movement. This young group laid enough exposure to the outside world and with the ideological developments there.


Jawahar Lai Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose were the forces of this new group. Their exposure to international socialistic developments gave them new direction.

The emergence of modern industries and factory system gave impetus to socialistic ideas in the Congress. It led to the growth of trade unions and they came under socialistic principles.

Equally seminal in this subject was the impact of the Russian Revolution. On 7 November, 1917, the Bolshevik Party led by Lenin overthrew the despotic Czarist regime and declared the formation of the first socialist state. The new Soviet regime electrified the colonial world by unilaterally renouncing its imperialist rights in China and other parts of Asia. A lesson was driven home that if the common people could unite, a new social order free from exploitation of man by man could be established.’

Socialistic ideas now began to spread rapidly because many young persons who had participated actively in the Non-cooperation movement were unhappy with its outcome and were dissatisfied with the Gandhian principles and ideas. Several Socialist and communist groups came into existence all over the country.


In Bombay, S.A. Dange published a pamphlet Gandhi and Lenin and started the first socialist weekly, the Sociologist. In Bengal, Muzaffar Ahmed brought out Navyug, in Punjab Ghulam Hussain published Inquilab and in Madras M.Singaravelu founded the Labour-Kisan gazette.

Students and youth associations were organised all over the country during 1928 and 1929. Hundreds of youth conferences were organised all over the country during this time with speakers advocating radical solutions for the political, economic and social ills from which the country was suffering.

The Revolutionary terrorists led by Chandra Shekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh also turned to Socialism. Trade and peasant movements grew rapidly throughout the 1920s. Socialist ideas became even more popular during the 1930s as the world was engulfed by the great economic depression. Unemployment spread all over the capitalist world. The world depression brought the capitalist system into disrepute and drew attention to towards Marxism and Socialism.

Within the Congress, the left wing tradition came to be mirrored by Jawahar Lai Nehru who imparted a socialist vision to the national movement and became the symbol of socialism and socialist ideas in India after 1929. The notion that freedom could not be defined only in political terms but must have a socio­economic content began increasingly to be associated with his name.


Nehru developed an interest in economic questions when he came in touch with the peasant movement in eastern Uttar Pradesh in 1920-21. He then asked him Leisure in jail during 1922-23 to read widely on the history of the Russian and other revolutions. In 1927, he attended the International Congress against the colonial oppression and imperialism, held at Brussels, and came into contact with communists and anti-colonial fighters from all over the world. The same year he visited the Soviet Union and was deeply impressed by the new socialistic society.

In 1929, Jawahar La Nehru joined hands with Subhas Chandra Bose to organise the Independence for India league to fight for complete independence and a socialist revision of the economic structure of the society. At the Lahore session of the Congress in 1929, Nehru proclaimed – “I am a socialist and a republican, and am no believer in kings or princes, or in the order which produces kings who have greater power over lives and fortunes of men than even the kings of old.” India, he said, would have to adopt a full ‘socialistic programme’ if she was to end her poverty and inequality.

Nehru’s commitment to socialism found a cleaner and sharper expression during 1933 to 1936. he put his commitment to socialism in clear, unequivocal and passionate words in his presidential address to the Lucknow Congress in April 1936, where he proclaimed – “I am convinced that the only key to the solution of the world’s problems and of India’s problems lies in socialism, and when I use this word do so not in a vague humanitarian way but in the scientific, economic sense.

See no way of ending the poverty, the vast unemployment, and the subjection of Indian people except through socialism. This involves vast and revolutionary changes in our political and social structure. That means the ending of private property and the replacement of the present profit system by a higher ideal of cooperative service. During these years, Nehru also emphasized the role of class analysis and class struggle.


The move towards the formation of a socialist party was made in the jails during 1930-31 and 1932-34 by a group of young congressmen who were disenchanted with Gandhian strategy and leadership and attacked by socialist ideology. The efforts culminated in the formation of Congress Socialist Party (CSP) in 1934 at Bombay under Jai Prakash Narayan, Acharya Narendra Dev and Minoo Masani.

From the beginning, the Congress socialists were of view that the primary struggle was struggle for freedom and nationalism was in necessary stage in on way to socialism. Further, they wanted to work inside the Indian National Congress and asked it to lead the national freedom struggle.

They felt that Congress needs to be given a socialist direction to impart a socialist direction to the national movement. To achieve this favoured aims, they must organize workers and peasants in class organizations, wage struggle for their economic demands and make them the social base of national struggle.

One of their tasks was that the Congressmen were to be gradually persuaded to adopt a socialist vision of independent India and a more radical, pro-labour and pro peasants stand on current economic issues. This was concerned of as a process. In organization it was deeply believed to change the leadership at top.


Initially, the task was interpreted as displacement of the existing leadership, which was to be declared meet able of developing the struggle of masses to a higher level. The task was to wear away the anti imperialist elements in the Congress away from the present lay bourgeoisie leadership and to bring them under the leadership of revolutionary socialism. This perspective was abandoned. Later in favour of a composite leadership of socialists at all levels.

The emergence of the left wing in the Congress deeply influenced the Congress programme and policy. To begin with it led to emergence of a left wing ginger group within the Congress which came to be symbolized by Jawahar Lai Nehru and Subhas Bose, who floated independence for India League in 1928 to press for their views.

They gave the Congress programme a sharper anti-imperialist content which became clear when Nehru was elected President for Lahore reunion in 1929 where he declared the aim of Congress to be not Dominion status but complete independence.

Both Nehru and Subhas owing to their commitment to socialism were able to take over the president ship of the All India Trade Union Conference (AITUC) in 1929 and 1931.

The Congress was forced to accept the programme and resolution on Fundamental rights and Economic reforms to define what Swaraj would mean for masses. In this was demanded living wage for workers, special taxes on property, and state control and ownership of key industries.

Moreover, it was under the impact of left wing in the Congress that Congress passed at the Faizpur reunion a policy statement on Agrarian policy, which among others demanded end of forced labour, provision of security of tenancy and tenure to the peasants, and reduction of rents.

Further, the Congress set up National Planning Committee under the president ship of Jawahar Lai Nehru in 1938 at the time when Subhas Chandra Bose held the presidency of the Indian National Congress.

Thus, the left wing in the Congress profoundly affected the Congress programme and policy and led to adoption of socialist vision after independence.

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