Recollections and reflections

Reminiscences, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai

I first came in contact with Subhas Bose in 1923 at Delhi when the Congress was divided into two groups over the question of what was known as 'Council Entry.'...Subhas Babu, as the favourite lieutenant of Deshabandhu, was playing a prominent part in the controversy. more>>

The Situation in Europe

I decided to make a short tour of Europe once again, in order to gather first-hand impressions of recent developments. During this tour, I have been in parts of Europe, which are called 'Occupied' territories. I have been in some of the new States like Slovakia that have come into existence after the outbreak of the present war, and I have been to countries like Italy, which are actively engaged in a grim struggle with Anglo-American imperialism. I am, therefore, in a position to form a correct and absolutely unbiased picture of the situation in this Continent. While making this study tour, I have of course been able to study the war situation in general and the Indian situation in particular. Finding myself in Berlin once again I am now accepting the hospitality of the short-wave Radio station here in order to speak to you on the situation as I see it, and on our tasks at home,

It is not necessary for me to make a propaganda speech. Nor is it necessary for me to indulge in rambling utterances as men in the street are in the habit of doing. I shall speak to you as before, in a plain and matter of fact manner. People who are inclined to be impatient will naturally be disappointed that things have not moved fast enough during the last two months, and they may think that the situation remains fundamentally the same as it was in September and October last. I must tell you frankly, however, that I do not share this view. The war has reached a stage when time is working definitely for the Tripartite Powers and their Allies, and against our common enemy. Unlike the last war we find that in this war the economic blockade is working against Britain and not against Germany. Moreover, the British Empire has been steadily losing one part of its territories to its adversaries and another part to its great ally. Consequently, the longer the war lasts the more shall we see with our own eyes the rapid disintegration and the ultimate liquidation of the once vast and powerful British Empire. Despite all the efforts of the high-priest of imperialism, Mr Winston Churchill, the British Empire is going the way of all other empires of the past, and the only problem that remains to be solved is as to who will be the heirs and successors of this Empire.

We have learnt from world history that it is an irony of fate that the staunchest champions of imperialism always manage to hasten its end. Similarly, we have seen in India that reactionary and oppressive rulers like Lord Curzon always do more to rouse and strengthen the forces of nationalism than the so-called 'friends of India' like Lord Ripon or Lord Irwin. We should indeed be grateful to Providence that at the most opportune moment He ordained that Mr Winston Churchill should be at the helm of affairs in Britain. Mr Churchill's premiership is for India the surest guarantee that there will be no compromise between the British Government and the Indian nationalists, and that India will achieve her goal of independence before long. Let us, therefore, pray that he may continue to rule over the destinies of the British Empire during the hour of its final and gruesome collapse.

Meanwhile, let Liberals and Democrats like Sir Stafford Cripps, who in reality constitute a greater menace to India's independence, be thrown out because such Liberals and Democrats can only create confusion in the minds of Indian nationalists. Let imperialism based on tanks and machine-guns rule in India so that the Indian people may see for themselves what British imperialism really is, and in that knowledge refuse to have anything to do wiih Britain.

However one might judge military events during the last two or three months, there can be no doubt that for India the political situation has, during tins period, become more favourable. Mr Churchill and his colleagues have, through their utterances and their behaviour, clarified the situation once and for all. Every Indian can now understand clearly what Britain's war aims are; what the Atlantic Charter and the ‘New Order’ of the so-called United Nations signify to the poor Indian people. Every Indian is, therefore, convinced more than ever before, that for him there is but one road to freedom and that is the destruction of the gigantic British Empire. If the enemies of British imperialism help India to achieve that objective, all the better for India, for her tasks will then be so much easier. But if not, the Indian people must gird up their loins and solemnly resolve to effect their own salvation through their own efforts, sufferings and sacrifices. Between British imperialism and Indian nationalism no compromise is possible. One must perish for the other to live, and since Indian nationalism shall live, British Imperialism must die.

Friends, we see that while in Britain rank imperialists have taken charge of public affairs and are managing things.in their own way, in the United States of America, two voices can be heard. Large sections of the public are genuinely interested in Indian independence and openly criticise the American imperialists. On the other hand, the Government and those who hold the reins of power are pursuing a policy which can only be described as 'American Imperialism.' In fact, a definite school of thought has grown up in the United States of America, which loudly proclaims that the world belongs to the United States of America, and this theory of an American world-empire has already found an echo across the Atlantic, and several prominent and serious British thinkers are directly or indirectly giving their support to it. They are, however, of the opinion, that while the British should recognise and accept American supremacy in world affairs, America for her part should allow the British Empire to exist with all its dependencies and not to interfere in the internal affairs of that Empire.

The partnership of President Roosevelt and Premier Churchill is going to endure, and the President knows that Churchill, his junior partner, will go on taking orders from him so long as the future of the British Empire and its continuance depends on American assistance. The Indians should have found out by now that in actual practice they can expect no help from the so-called United Nations in their struggle for liberty, and the latest developments in Anglo-American relations more than confirm the correctness of this view. The Indian people have, therefore, to fight their own battle and any help from outside, should it be necessary, can only be forthcoming from the enemies of the so-called United Nations.

In this connection I should like to inform my countrymen all over the world that while Mr Churchill and important circles in Britain are busy preparing plans for post-war reconstruction there is no place for a free India in their scheme of things. They hope to solve the Indian problem, not by applying the principles of the Atlantic Charter to India, but by adopting radical and drastic measures in order to crush Indian nationalism, so that in the post-war world there may be a number of States in the territories that have from time immemorial been known as India, and that all States will be equally under the heel of the British. I know that some of my countrymen formerly held the view that the British Government, in view of its precarious position, would recognise the freedom of India, and thereby try to secure a useful ally in its fight with the Tripartite Powers. But I think that British strategy will now be clear to even a child of ten. The British Government, thanks to Mr Winston Churchill and to the ruling classes in Britain, will not surrender to the Indian people. Whatever surrender has to be made it will be made only to the White House. And the sacrifices that Britain will have to make to the United States will be compensated by the plight of India, which will be much worse in future. In other words, while John Bull is bled white in order to satisfy Uncle Sam, India is to be bled white in order to keep John Bull alive. Consequently, so long as the British Empire exists the future of India can only mean the most painful enslavement.

It should by now be apparent to my countrymen that the so-called United Nations are trying to develop something like a common world strategy. But, this is a poor imitation of the common world strategy of the Tripartite Powers, of the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis. In accordance with this idea of a common world strategy, of which the Anglo-Americans have talked so much the Anglo-American powers, in particular Britain, have been planning for a 'Second Front' which is to be set up in Europe as soon as possible. Unwillingly and under extreme pressure the Anglo-Americans made the experiment at several places in Europe, but in every case they met with familiar failure.

As a last resort, in order to make some show of a 'Second Front', they made an attack on African territory, which neither belonged to nor was occupied by any of the Tripartite Powers, but which belonged to the French Empire and was purposely left in the hands of the French as a friendly gesture to a defeated enemy. This sudden attack on a helpless nation and undefended territory, preceded by intrigues with some of the local authorities, is now being trumpeted from London and New York as a great military feat. Neutral spectators judge this military feat on a par with the occupation of Madagascar and Reunion Island, which also belonged to the French Empire. It is meant to hide the defeats of Britain in other theatres of war, which are of real significance to the final result of the present struggle. It is meant to divert attention from the real issues and as a sop to the Soviet Government which has been making insistent demands for a 'Second Front' in Europe.

Friends, let us now dispassionately sum up the situation as one sees it today. The Anglo-American powers have been driven out from the Far East and their own fleet now lies buried in the watery grave of the Pacific. From Europe, British power has been annihilated completely, and all talks of a ‘Second Front’ are childish dreams. All that the Anglo-American powers can now do is to seek battles and wars on the African continent at the expense of the helpless French Empire But it is Europe and Asia, and not Africa, that will decide the fate of this war. And so far as Europe and Asia are concerned, the prospect for the Anglo-American powers and their allies is as black as can be. The British authorities have raised a hue and cry by radio speeches over the landing of American troop on undefended French territory in South Africa. I wonder what sort of propaganda they would have indulged in if they had really won a battle against a superior adversary. The tactics of British propaganda prove very clearly that public morale in Britain has sunk so low that artificial stimulants in the form of such British propaganda are necessary in order to keep up the spirit of the British people. For a time the BBC was telling the world that the USA would save Britain from defeat. Then it adopted the argument that Soviet Russia would save Britain from disaster. Now it is saying that Africa would help to turn the tide of war. Never for one single occasion have I heard a Britisher say during the last three years what a great British Prime Minister once declared in another historical speech, “England will save herself by her own exertions.”

No friends, those days are gone for the British Empire and are gone for ever, and we now see with our own eyes the rapid collapse of what was once a vast and powerful Empire. I may tell you quite frankly that reviewing the war situation as a whole, in the light of the latest events, I feel more optimistic than ever before. Nothing can stand between the Indian people and their goal of complete independence. We must, however, participate more actively and more vigorously in the common struggle, having a common goal. There is one common world strategy for the maintenance and perpetuation of the old order with all the injustice on which it was based, and the answer to it is a common world strategy for the destruction of the old order and the creation of a new one.

Coming now to the situation in India I want, first, to congratulate you once again upon your achievements during the last few months. It came as a pleasant surprise to the world where owing to prolonged British propaganda, it was not expected that the unarmed Indian people would be able to put up such a brave fight against such a powerful enemy, armed with tanks, machineguns and aeroplanes. The British authorities have been trying continuously to conceal the real facts of the Indian situation from the outside world, but in spite of all such sinister efforts the whole world has been informed regularly of what has been happening in India, and what is agreeable for the Indian people is, that even in the camp of the so-called United Nations; there is a great deal of sympathy and support for India's demand for independence.

Friends, I have already stressed that we are now engaged in a common struggle against a common foe. In this struggle India and the countries of the Near East have to play a more active part in future. It is for you, who have been enslaved, that the British Empire has to be overthrown, and your responsibility is, therefore, truly great. And the responsibility of the Indian people is the greatest of all India is the corner stone of the British Empire. In fact, it is India that has made that Empire, and it is now the task of India to crush that Empire and to help in the liberation of humanity.

There is no doubt that during the course of the national struggle the Indian people have suffered much. But they must be prepared to suffer even more. The path of liberty is never strewn with roses. Suffering is still in store for our people. More blood, innocent blood will yet flow over the sacred soil of Hindustan before we can expect to be liberated. But the blood of martyrs is always the price of freedom, and hence we are prepared to pay that price. Our victory is assured beyond the shadow of doubt. Remember the slogan that I recommended to you the other day, 'Two years, and one hundred thousand lives'! We must be prepared to continue our fight for two years. We must be prepared to voluntarily sacrifice one hundred thousand lives in the course of the struggle. If we do so freedom will be ours once and for all.

Friends, some of my British listeners sitting in the offices of the BBC have been upset that I have not yet redeemed my promise to return home and participate in the final phase of our struggle. I would like to advise them to have some patience. Meanwhile, I may assure them that my pledge, given not to the British Government but to my own people, will be redeemed in the fullness of time. As sure as day follows night, the present world war will bring about a complete dismemberment of the British Empire. As sure as day follows night, India will emerge from the struggle as an independent state. And as sure as day follows night, I will live to participate in the final struggle for our liberty, not from abroad, but at home side by side with the comrades who have been bravely carrying on the fight, while I have been away on duty.

Inquilab Zindabad. Azad Hind Zindabad.