Page 59 - India's Struggle For Independence - Bipan Chandra
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|Foundations of the Congress: The Myth

And he added: ‘No one can say that the Congress has not been
true to that ideal.’ His conclusion was: ‘So this is the genesis of
the Congress, and this is sufficient to condemn it in the eyes of
the advanced Nationalists.”

More than a quarter century later, R. Palme Dutt’s
authoritative work India Today made the myth of the safety-valve
a staple of left-wing opinion. Emphasizing the myth, Dutt wrote
that the Congress was brought into existence through direct
Governmental initiative and guidance and through ‘a plan
secretly pre-arranged with the Viceroy’ so that it (the
Government) could use it ‘as an intended weapon for
safeguarding British rule against the rising forces of popular
unrest and anti-British feeling.’ It was ‘an attempt to defeat, or
rather forestall, an impending revolution.’ The Congress did, of
course, in time become a nationalist body; ‘the national character
began to overshadow the loyalist character.’ It also became the
vehicle of mass movements. But the ‘original sin’ of the manner
of its birth left a permanent mark on its politics. Its ‘two-fold
character’ as an institution which was created by the
Government and yet became the organizer of the anti-imperialist
movement ‘ran right through its history.’ It both fought and
collaborated with imperialism. It led the mass movements and
when the masses moved towards the revolutionary path, it
betrayed the movement to imperialism. The Congress, thus, had
two strands: ‘On the one hand, the strand of cooperation with
imperialism against the “menace” of the mass movement; on the
other hand, the strand of leadership of the masses in the national
struggle.’ This duality of the Congress leadership from Gokhale to
Gandhi, said Dutt, in fact reflected the two-fold and vacillating
character of the Indian bourgeoisie itself; ‘at once in conflict with
the British bourgeoisie and desiring to lead the Indian people, yet
feeling that “too rapid” advance may end in destroying its
privileges along with those of the imperialists.’ The Congress had,
thus, become an organ of opposition to real revolution, that is, a
violent revolution. But this role did not date from Gandhiji; ‘this
principle was implanted in it by imperialism at the outset as its
intended official role.’ The culmination of this dual role was its
‘final capitulation with the Mountbatten Settlement.’

Earlier, in 1939, M.S. Golwalkar, the RSS chief, had also
found the safety-valve theory handy in attacking the Congress for
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