Courtesy Reuters

New Social Forces in India

THROUGH the familiar outlines of the Moslem-Hindu situation in India one can discern a gradual regrouping of social forces. The political deadlock and the acute economic distress of the last two years have loosened old affiliations, and the fresh alignments which are being made seem likely to alter the fundamental features of many Indian problems.

To understand the changes which are now accelerating in pace we must look back to the final stages of World War I and the following decade. Until the last year of that war there was no organized trade union in India. At about the same time, the women's movement came into existence, primarily in order to claim the right to vote under the Montagu reforms of 1919. The abolition of untouchability did not become a definite program on a country-wide basis until two years later, when Mr. Gandhi assumed the leadership of the Congress Party. Peasant associations were not formed until the onset of the depression in the early thirties, when a sudden drop in the prices of agricultural commodities prompted Mr. Nehru and his colleagues to lead a no-rent campaign in the United Provinces.

The present mood of the Indian masses is vastly different from the docile and pathetic contentment which 27 years ago Mr. Montagu assumed was an almost permanent phenomenon. On every side there has been organizing and awakening. To assess the new social forces which are shaping the future of India we shall find it necessary to examine the problems of industrial labor, of rural workers and of the depressed classes. And it is important to note particularly the rôle of the Communists in the struggle to improve economic conditions for the Indian "have-nots."


The trade unions in India actually have barely half a million members -- less than 10 percent of the number of workers in large-scale industry -- but they are more influential than the size of the membership suggests. Unionization has steadily forged ahead in the main industrial centers, except

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