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Archive for March, 2017

Workers Unite! The International 150 Years Later-Marcello Musto (ed)

Posted by admin On March - 30 - 2017 Comments Off on Workers Unite! The International 150 Years Later-Marcello Musto (ed)

Workers Unite! The International 150 Years Later
Bloomsbury Academic, New York and London, 2014. 312pp., $24.95 pb

Reviewed by Christopher Araujo


Christopher Araujo is a PhD candidate awaiting defence of his dissertation on Marx’s concept of nature at York University, Toronto.


Notwithstanding their commemorative subtitles, the Marcello Musto edited Workers Unite! The International 150 Years Later is quite different from his Karl Marx’s Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy 150 Years Later. Published in 2008, the latter is a collection of essays on the significance of Marx’s ‘Rough Draft’ by a series of contemporary scholars, including Arthur, Foster and Carver. In contrast, Workers Unite! is an anthology of excerpts from primary sources by various members of the International Working Men’s Association, including Marx, de Paepe and Bakunin. It provides an accessible sample of speeches, reports, addresses and propaganda issued by the General Council, Congresses, sections and delegates of the International. The selection of primary documents sheds light on the most significant debates within the IWMA, and Musto’s introduction attempts to situate these within the context of both the historical and theoretical development of the organization as a whole.

Part 1 contains excerpts from the Inaugural Address. Part 2 highlights resolutions adopted at the Geneva and Brussels Congresses ‒ the latter marking the demise of Proudhonism and turn toward ‘collectivism’ (see Document 3). As Musto elaborates, the mutualists held that ‘economic emancipation’ could be achieved by establishing a ‘People’s Bank’ which would lend credit at cost (19). Part 5 contains several excerpts from a mutualist report on credit, portions of which were written by the leader of the Proudhonist camp, Tolain (D25). He regarded such measures as sufficient to enable workers to build alternative structures of power outside of the apparatuses of the State. During the early years of the IWMA, the mutualists wielded their considerable weight in obstinately opposing ‘state intervention in any field’, the use of the ‘strike as a weapon’ and ‘socialization of the land’ (19-20).

The selections in Part 3 touch upon questions such as the length of the working-day and female labour. It also contains several documents on the effects of machinery upon the worker, including an interesting speech by Marx (D7), as well as reports by the anti-Bakuninist Eugene Steens (D8) and the mutualist convert to anarchism Pierre Fluse (D9). All three highlight the emancipatory potential of machinery, as well as its dehumanizing reality when concentrated in the hands of the capitalist. In a bourgeois economy, Marx argues, the introduction of machinery only serves to lengthen the working-day and depress wages, leaving the worker ‘physically deteriorated’; in a higher form of society, it would enable an increase in free-time for ‘mental culture’ (103). Freed from the confines of capitalism, Steens likewise suggests that machinery would ‘render life sweeter’ through a ‘constant diminishing of the hours of labour’, facilitating the ‘full emancipation of the worker’ (109).

Part 4 pertains to issues about the efficacy and significance of trade unions, with important pieces by Marx (D12), the anarchist Jean Louis Pindy (D17), as well as the syndicalist and communard Eugene Hins (D18). While cautioning against the reformism inherent in many unions, Marx characterizes these modes in the organized struggle against capital as ‘engender[ing] the material conditions and social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society’ (121). In a similar vein, we find Pindy referring to the IWMA as providing the outlines for the ‘commune of the future’, i.e., a ‘federation of free producers’ (133-4).

Another prominent name encountered for the first time in Part 4 is Cesar de Paepe, who, aside from Marx, arguably exerted the greatest influence over the theoretical development of the International (18). He appropriated mutualist ideas about credit (D23), but, as we learn subsequently in Parts 7 and 8, he also broke with them and the anarchists on the question of the State (D39, 45) and the collectivization of land (D33, 36). According to Musto, de Paepe, on account of this eclecticism, was initially able to play a ‘mediating role’ between Marx and the Proudhonists (42). Although he later joined the autonomist International, he opposed its abstentionism and advocated for a Lassallean Volksstaat (D41) against Bakunin (D78) and Guillaume (D40, 76). Also appearing in Part 7 is the Critique of Bakunin’s Politics, an excerpt from a text composed by Marx, Engels and Lafargue (D38). I suggest these documents be read alongside those in Part 13. This gives us a sample of reports and essays by Marx, Engels, Sorge, Guillaume and Bakunin which speak to this rift between the anarchists and communists over working-class parties, the State and the political emancipation of the proletariat.

Part 6 contains a short, but interesting, exchange between Marx and Bakunin on the abolition of the right of inheritance (D29-31). The will of the latter ultimately prevailed, making Marx’s report the ‘first report of the GC not approved at an IWMA Congress’ (162).

Parts 9 through 12 turn the reader’s attention toward the formation of an IWMA foreign policy. Parts 11 and 12 focus on the Irish and American questions, with the majority of the excerpts written by Marx. Part 9 contains selections from Marx’s The Civil War in France, and the documents in Part 10 give us an outline of the anti-war views entertained by key figures of the International. Although there is also a speech by the great turncoat of the Paris Commune, Tolain (D51), the most influential position was formulated by de Paepe (D49-50). As Musto notes, his views ‘became the classical position of the workers’ movement: that wars are inevitable in a capitalist system’ (18). Marx’s Addresses on the Franco-Prussian War are also highlighted in Part 10 of Workers Unite! (D54-55). After the Paris Commune, Marx’s ‘top priority’ in the IWMA was to ‘help the workers’ movement express an independent position, far from the nationalist rhetoric of the time’ (29). This is why, Musto suggests, he commended the leaders of the Social Democratic Workers Party (Liebknecht and Babel) for being the only two parliamentarians to vote against the war budget which funded the invasion of France (30).

At the end of Workers Unite!, I was left wondering just how well it satisfies one of its stated aims of being accessible to a non-academic audience. While Musto’s introduction provides a balanced historical synopsis, it does not provide an adequate account of the theoretical positions of the individuals behind the primary documents. Each of the excerpts contains a short biographical footnote on its author(s), but these, too, are often bereft of the relevant information required to allow non-scholarly readers to situate the debates between the various factions of the association within their appropriate theoretical context.

Notwithstanding this shortcoming, the value of the sourcebook is considerable for those interested in the philosophical development and historical practice of the IWMA. Of the 80 primary documents, 33 have never been published in English before (xvi). Both Musto’s otherwise erudite introduction, and his selection of excerpts, give us a glimpse into the life of the first International which ultimately challenges orthodox interpretations of the role which Marx played in shaping its outlook.

His introduction dispels the myth that the organization was as numerous, well-financed or influential as both its proponents and opponents claimed at the time (6-9). It also questions the still all-too commonplace assumption that the IWMA was ideologically cohesive, and that it was dominated by Marx either organizationally or theoretically (3-4, 6). Rather, Musto repeatedly emphasizes that it was a diffuse body, both philosophically and structurally (13, 19, 21). It was composed of British trade unionists, Owenites and reformers, Belgian syndicalists, French mutualists, Italians influenced by Mazzini and later Garibaldi, as well as Spanish and French anarchists led by Bakunin. Throughout all the phases of its development, the Marxist camp was arguably always in a minority. That he was able to ‘secure peaceful coexistence of all these currents’, and around a ‘programme so distant from the approaches with which each has started out’, was ‘Marx’s great accomplishment’ (4).

As such, Musto underscores that wherever consensus was forged on the social, political and economic questions of the day, it was, at times, due to Marx out-manoeuvering or convincing his opponents. More often, they came to acknowledge his foresight by the pure persuasion of events. Musto contends that such was the case with the decline of the mutualism. It was the ‘workers themselves’ who, ‘more forcefully than any theoretical discussion’, were ‘sidelining Proudhonian doctrines’. The ‘proliferation of strikes’ and self-organization of the workers ‘convinced the mutualists of the error of their conceptions’, especially on the ‘need to socialize the land and industry’ (20-21). From the Brussels to the Basel Congresses, he argues that these movements virtually ‘eradicated Proudhonism’ (23). Hence, on issues such as credit and land ownership, Marx eventually won the day. Quoting the words of Eccarius, Musto argues that, in these instances, Marx was just ‘the right man in the right place’ (5).

At other times, however, Musto stresses Marx’s strategic missteps, especially during the intrigues with the autonomist factions of the International. The ‘victory’ over abstentionism at the London Conference ‘proved to be ephemeral’ because Marx was unaware of the ‘grave repercussions’ he had set into motion (38). Thereafter, whenever consensus was formed among competing factions, it was often in direct opposition to him. Yet, according to Musto, even Marx’s organizational failures, like his successes, only hastened the force of events. Marx’s ‘miscalculation’, beginning with his support for Vailliant’s Blanquist Resolution IX in London, only ‘accelerated the crisis of the organization’ (41).

As a whole, Musto’s even-handed introduction, and his selection of primary documents, leaves us with an impression very different from the orthodox conception of the ideological make-up of the IWMA and the part Marx played in shaping it. Workers Unite! illustrates that Marx was not a rigid dogmatist whose ostensibly authoritarian personality stubbornly refused to bend on doctrinal principles. As Musto puts it, the ‘orthodox Soviet view of Marx’s role in the International’ would have us believe he ‘mechanically applied’ a political philosophy worked-out within the ‘confines of his study’ (6). On the contrary, Marx’s organizational experiences in the association ‒ especially with issues around national liberation, and the Paris Commune ‒ enriched his vision of socialism. But Musto is also right that those experiences did confirm something essential to some of his earliest political writings: if only the workers of the world would unite, they might cast off their chains.

16 February 2017

Note: This article is for educational purposes. Its reproduction, in any form, can be had with the permission of the author/publisher whose original link ,from where it is reprodced, is given above.

Debating the world revolution-John Rose

Posted by admin On March - 30 - 2017 Comments Off on Debating the world revolution-John Rose


A review of John Riddell (editor and translator), To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921 (Brill/Haymarket, 2016), £39.99

To the Masses is the last volume of a hugely ambitious project to make the proceedings of the (four) congresses of the Communist International held during Lenin’s time available in English. It’s an extraordinary achievement for John Riddell, a Canadian revolutionary socialist historian and activist. With good reason the publisher can boast of “this newly translated treasure of 1,000 pages of source material…supplemented by an analytic introduction, detailed footnotes, a glossary with 430 biographical entries, a chronology, a comprehensive index”. The volume also includes 32 appendices which portray behind the scenes exchanges between delegates at the congress. A brief review cannot begin to do justice to a resource like this. It will justifiably demand the attention of generations of professional and amateur historians, socialist activists and curious general readers who want to deepen their understanding of the desperate struggle to internationalise the world’s first socialist revolution in Russia in October 1917.

Readers may know that one debate above all dominated proceedings, the so-called “March Action” in Germany 1921 and the “theory of the offensive” that underpinned it. It was an event that came close to destroying the newly founded German Communist Party (KPD) and certainly contributed to the failure of revolution in 1923. This journal has discussed the theory of the offensive many times but the combination of scholarly devices described above exposes it to a powerful new light. Its seductive appeal carried, at least superficially, both political and intellectual authority. Three examples demonstrate this, beginning with one of its unlikely roots: the Polish-Soviet war of 1920.

In spring 1920 the Red Army had not only repelled a Polish invasion of Soviet Ukraine but had begun to chase the Polish army back to Warsaw. A year later Trotsky described the expectation among the Bolsheviks that this might have been the trigger for a “landslide of revolutions”, led by workers in Germany and Italy. Of course, it was a dangerous illusion but it inspired an article by Nikolai Bukharin in the Comintern’s world journal, headlined “The Policy of the Offensive”. As Riddell notes, it “drew on precedents from the French revolutionary wars of the 1790s to make the case that Soviet advances could spark revolution beyond Soviet borders”. The theory of the offensive, open to flexible interpretation, was born.

The emergence of the theory coincided with a major contradiction that Lenin would also address in 1920 in his pamphlet “Left-Wing” Communism. The sudden growth of mass based communist parties, involving tens of thousands of newly recruited workers with very high revolutionary expectations, just as the wider revolutionary tide was receding. The theme of the 3rd Congress, To the Masses, like Lenin’s pamphlet, carried the implicit warning: don’t bypass the masses. With glorious hindsight, this might seem obvious, but the sheer excitement and novelty, the energy and expectation, the pressure of and from so many new revolutionary workers to act now could seem irresistible. Lenin’s dictum that “without revolutionary theory there can be no successful revolutionary movement” had never been more urgent.

And there was also the insidious but again seductive appeal brought to Germany in March 1921 by one Comintern delegate, the loathsome Béla Kun, which can be summed up as: The Russian Revolution is disintegrating. German comrades must act now to rescue it. Kun denied it but To the Masses conclusively confirms its authenticity. (Loathsome justifiably describes Kun who told Lenin that Clara Zetkin, his major opponent at the congress, was suffering from senile dementia and she should commit suicide).

Lenin’s task at the congress was to win the argument against the theory of the offensive, but at the same time to manage the argument, because of its potential to blow the congress apart, splitting the German Communist Party and indeed the Comintern leadership. Not just Bukharin, but Comintern chairman Grigori Zinoviev was also implicated.

Zetkin’s nearly ten thousand word recollection of her conversations with Lenin (appendix 3i) makes absolutely compelling reading. Convincing her would test the strategy. Zetkin, a formidable figure at the congress, was a close comrade both of Rosa Luxemburg and her successor as leader of the German Communist Party in 1919, Paul Levi. Levi had been expelled from the party for opposing the March Action as well as the irresponsible way he had opposed it. Lenin now launched his own offensive, we might even call it a charm offensive, to bring both sides together once the argument was concluded. There would be an attempt to create a path back for Levi, even though he was detested by many in the German party. At the same time, the other side must not feel too “humbled and embittered”. Zetkin recalled Lenin’s words to her:

You and your friends will have to accept a compromise. You must rest content with taking home the lion’s share of the congress laurels. Your fundamental political line will triumph…

The congress will wring the neck of the celebrated theory of the offensive and will adopt a course of action corresponding to your ideas. In return, however, [the congress] must grant the supporters of the offensive theory some crumbs of consolation…in passing judgement on the March Action, we will focus attention on the way that proletarians, provoked, fought back against the lackeys of the bourgeoisie” (p37).

Chivalry aided compromise in the German delegation. Zetkin had clashed with her German comrade Fritz Heckert over the March Action. The following day was her birthday and Heckert presented her with a bouquet of flowers—it was Lenin’s suggestion: “Comrade Heckert, you pursued a wrong policy in Germany, for which you have good reason to be angry. Clara merely told you the truth about your policy. Maybe not all her words were appropriate, but yesterday you attacked her bitterly and unjustly. Make up for it with a bouquet of roses today.” And yet an editorial comment casts a shadow over the compromise: “in a congress notable for its candour and controversy, almost nothing was said in criticism of the Executive Committee of the Comintern’s record”.*

This debate might have dominated congress but we should not lose sight of its wider significance. There was the sheer majesty of the event itself which lasted three weeks and was attended by 600 delegates from 55 countries, including China, Palestine, the United States and Australia. An enormous effort went into providing translation and written recording facilities with the extremely limited technical means then available. It is no exaggeration to say that this was international working class democracy in action; delegates together represented millions of workers from across the world.

You can dip into this extraordinary book and track any number of arguments, with Manabendra Roy from India insisting that the Congress’s concluding theses recognise not just anti-imperialist struggles but the role colonial possessions played in stabilising international capitalism. British Communist delegate Tom Bell warned against over-reliance on “past…formulas” partly in response to a speech by Leon Trotsky. There was the “open letter” strategy with demands designed to rally workers in all left wing parties, the forerunner of the united front and a direct counter to the theory of the offensive. Karl Radek introduced the idea of transitional demands. Georg Lukács, philosopher and Hungarian comrade of Kun, contributed to the March Action debate. Alexandra Kollontai, not just reporting on the Communist women’s movement, but also representing the Workers’ Opposition in Russia and opposing the Bolshevik government’s New Economic Policy.

There was also a catastrophic omission: no debate on the left’s failure to resist the rise of Italian fascism. There is a comprehensive article to be written, with the new material drawn from To the Masses, about the way some Comintern leaders, again under the misguided influence of the theory of the offensive, concocted a split in the Italian Socialist Party. This led to the birth of a frankly deformed Italian Communist Party, incapable of resisting the rise of Benito Mussolini. The To the Masses editorial introduction pulls no punches on this issue:

[The congress] theses on tactics and strategy made only brief mention of the need to resist fascism. Zinoviev’s closing remarks revealed the Comintern leadership’s ignorance of conditions in Italy: he hailed the Communists’ leading role in a united anti-fascist action in Rome, unaware that the Italian Communist Party had stood aside from this initiative (p30).

There are also tantalising insights that help explain what we now know to be the thunderbolt of the 20th century: the rise and fall of soviet communism.

Trotsky to Congress:

I can now reveal this secret, since we are now demobilising (after the civil war victory). During the period when we were fighting on four fronts, our army numbered 5,300,000 men, of which no less than three-quarters of a million were skilled workers. That was an extremely heavy and unbearable loss for the economy (p117).

It had also drained the soviets—tens of thousands of those workers had been local soviet leaders. Workers’ soviets, vibrant revolutionary democratic institutions without historical precedent, rooted in the productive process, would not revive.

*Compromise or cover-up? Tony Cliff and Pierre Broué certainly thought cover-up. For an important perspective see Ian Birchall’s review: https://johnriddell.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/review-an-essential-resource-on-communisms-early-years/

Note: This article is for educational purposes. Its reproduction, in any form, can be had with the permission of the author/publisher whose original link ,from where it is reprodced, is given above.

Trotsky on the Labour Party-Tony Phillips

Posted by admin On March - 30 - 2017 Comments Off on Trotsky on the Labour Party-Tony Phillips

“In passing across a narrow and unreliable bridge, a small but reliable prop may prove one’s salvation. But woe to him who clutches at a rotten prop that crumbles at a touch—for, in that case, a plunge into the abyss is inevitable”—Leon Trotsky, 1927.

The surge in support for Jeremy Corbyn, his election and then re-election as leader of the Labour Party is unprecedented in the history of the party.2 Never before has the Labour left been in such a strong position, enjoying the support not only of the mass of the membership but also of the leaders of most of the trade unions. But a situation of dual power has arisen with most of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) continuing openly to oppose their democratically elected leader, despite his overwhelming mandate. Just 18 months ago it appeared that the Labour Party was firmly under the control of the neoliberal heirs of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Suddenly it has taken a dramatic left turn. This unprecedented situation raises major questions for revolutionary socialists. Does it change our previous analysis of the party? What does it mean for the fight against austerity? And how do we relate to the hundreds of thousands of Corbynistas flooding into the party?

A good place to start in answering these questions is the writings of Leon Trotsky. As part of the collective leadership of the Communist International, the world organisation of revolutionary socialist parties in the years after the Russian Revolution, Trotsky played a leading role in the debates on how the newly formed Communist Parties should relate to mass reformist parties in the advanced capitalist countries. In the run up to the General Strike of 1926 he produced Where is Britain Going? his classic analysis of the crisis of British capitalism, the labour movement and the prospects for socialist revolution. From the late 1920s until the end of his life, he challenged the disastrous Stalinist leadership of the world’s Communist parties and guided his supporters—organised in the Left Opposition and later the Fourth International—in laying the basis for a revolutionary Marxist opposition to Stalinism around the world, including in Britain. Then as now the attitude of revolutionaries to the Labour Party, which commanded the loyalty of the vast majority of class conscious workers in this country, was crucial.

This article looks at Trotsky’s views on the roots of reformism in Britain, the nature of the Labour Party, the ideas of its leaders, both right and left, and revolutionary strategy and tactics in relation to the party. In conclusion, it considers briefly the understanding of reformism developed by writers in the International Socialist tradition (in which this journal stands) where it differs from Trotsky’s. Finally it looks at the relevance of Trotsky’s analysis for revolutionary socialists in Britain today.

Labour and British imperialism

Trotsky’s starting point was the position of British imperialism in the wider world and how that impacted on the British working class and its leadership. He pointed out that Britain was the oldest capitalist state in the world (with the possible exception of the Dutch Republic) led by the richest, most experienced and cunning ruling class. Unlike in France, where the later bourgeois revolution had completely smashed and swept away the institutions of feudalism, in Britain the monarchy and the House of Lords had survived into the 20th century, but had been subordinated to capitalism and adapted to the purposes of the bourgeoisie. Following Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism,3 Trotsky argued that the ruling class had used the super-profits from its vast empire to buy off a narrow upper layer of the working class, dominating it ideologically through religion and the empirical philosophy of the radical bourgeoisie and politically through parliament and Britain’s conservative version of bourgeois democracy generally. Lenin called this layer the labour aristocracy. Trotsky believed that this explained the conservative worldview of the trade union leaders and the leaders of the party they had founded. For Trotsky “the strength of the British bourgeoisie lay in its maturity, its wealth, its world power, the crumbs which it shared with the upper strata of the working class, thereby demoralising also the weakened masses”.4

However, as Trotsky pointed out, by the early 1920s British imperialism was in decline. It had temporarily come out on top in its fight with Germany for control of the territory and resources of the world in the First World War and had even added to its colonial possessions through the sharing out of the defeated Ottoman Empire’s Middle Eastern territories with France. But the United States had overtaken it as the most advanced economic power and was now challenging it militarily through its growing naval strength as well. Britain had entered the war as a creditor nation but had ended it in debt to America with the dollar replacing sterling as world capitalism’s reserve currency. Britain had lost many of its overseas markets through the shift of the economy during the war to munitions production and Germany’s U-boat campaign against merchant shipping.

This was the background to the increasing attacks on the working class after the war and the explosion of militancy that followed it. Trotsky argued that the crisis of British capitalism threatened to undermine the material roots of the Labour Party and trade union leaders in that the ruling class was no longer able to buy off resistance with minor concessions as it had done throughout the 19th century. The rising militancy of the working class contained the potential for the leadership of the Labour Party and trade union leaders to be thrown off and replaced by a mass communist party:

It became clear during the final quarter of the last century that Britain was being elbowed out of her position of world domination: and by the beginning of the present century this had produced an internal uncertainty and ferment amongst the upper classes and a deep molecular process of essentially revolutionary character in the working class.5

In Where is Britain Going? Trotsky argued that the revolutionary potential of the working class had been clearly shown by a huge strike wave in the years immediately before the war, the Great Unrest. This unprecedented wave of class struggle had been brought to a halt by the outbreak of war in August 1914, only to spring up again in the last two years of the war culminating in the upsurge of 1919 when Britain appeared to be on the brink of revolution.6

What sort of party is the Labour Party?

For revolutionaries of Trotsky’s generation, the Labour Party was a new and unusual phenomenon. Unlike other mass reformist parties of the world, which had been mostly set up by socialists, the Labour Party had been established by the trade unions in 1900 as the Labour Representation Committee to defend the interests of the trade union bureaucracy in parliament. In its early years it had tailed the bourgeois Liberal Party. Unlike the German SPD or the French SFIO, it did not adopt any socialist policies until 1918 when it agreed the famous Clause 4 of the party constitution committing it to “common ownership of the means of production”.7 Trotsky argued that the LRC was not really a party at all but more of a federation consisting of the unions, the Parliamentary Labour Party and affiliated parties and societies, most importantly the Independent Labour Party (ILP), which provided most of the Labour Party’s early leaders, but also the nominally Marxist British Socialist Party and the Fabian Society, a middle class ginger group. As Trotsky put it in 1906, “the Labour Representation Committee…can in no instance lay claim to the role of the central committee of a workers’ party. It is a special organ, promoted for the most part by the trade unions with the object of independent labour representation in Parliament”.8

In 1918, as well as adopting Clause 4, the party turned itself into a mass membership organisation for the first time, establishing constituency Labour parties which the leadership hoped would marginalise the increasingly militant membership of the trade unions and the pacifist ILP. Speaking on behalf of the leadership of the Comintern at its second congress in 1920, Lenin rejected the idea put forward by a British delegate that the Labour Party was simply a party of the trade unions:

The concepts “political department of the trade unions” or “political expression” of the trade unions are erroneous. Of course most of the Labour Party’s members are working men. However, whether or not a party is really a political party of the workers does not depend solely upon a membership of workers but also upon the men that lead it, and the content of its actions and its political tactics. Only this latter determines whether we really have before us a political party of the proletariat. Regarded from this, the only correct point of view, the Labour Party is a thoroughly bourgeois party because, although made up of workers, it is led by reactionaries, and the worst kind of reactionaries at that, who act quite in the spirit of the bourgeoisie.9

Lenin captured the highly contradictory nature of the party in that, despite the fact that its members and those who voted for it were overwhelmingly working class, its leadership was committed to the interests of British imperialism and maintaining the capitalist system. Trotsky went on to build on this analysis in the stormy years leading up to the General Strike. This period saw Labour win mass working class support, replacing the declining Liberal Party as the main opposition to the Tories, entering government for the first time in 1924 and beginning to entrench itself in local government.

For Trotsky the Labour MPs who led the new party and the trade union leaders were very closely linked:

The Labour Party which in Britain, the classic country of trade unions, is only a political transposition of the same Labour bureaucracy. The same leaders guide the trade unions, betray the General Strike, lead the electoral campaign and later on sit in the ministries. The Labour Party and the trade unions—these are not two principles, they are only a technical division of labour. Together they are the fundamental support of the domination of the British bourgeoisie.10

Trotsky believed that both the Labour Party and the trade union leaders were rooted in the labour aristocracy meaning that they had a material interest in supporting British capitalism through the receipt of crumbs from its table. He argued that:

The leaders of the Labour Party represent essentially the bourgeoisie’s political agents. For the fact is that there are periods when the bourgeoisie rules through agents like Curzon (who was the British Viceroy of India) but there are also moments when it is compelled to move to the left and govern the masses through [Labour Party leaders Ramsay MacDonald, Arthur Henderson] and others.11

However, reflecting the other side of the contradictory nature of the party as identified by Lenin, Trotsky argued that: “there is no other country in the world where the class nature of socialism has been so objectively, plainly, incontestably and empirically revealed by history as in Britain, for there the Labour Party has grown out of the parliamentary representation of the trade unions, ie the purely class organisations of wage labour”.12

Trotsky believed that the fact that the Labour Party was supported by a political levy paid by millions of workers through their trade unions was of enormous significance. In Where is Britain Going? he argued that “in the compulsory, anti-Liberal, ‘despotic’ collection of the political levies there is contained, like the future stem and ear in a grain of wheat, all those methods of Bolshevism against which MacDonald never tires of sprinkling the holy water of his own indignant narrow-mindedness”.13

The Labour Party leadership and the trade union bureaucracy were fighting a desperate battle against the rising class consciousness of the workers. Labour had played no role in the Great Unrest while the union leaders had been temporarily swept aside. The leaders of those struggles were syndicalists who rejected what they called political action (ie standing for parliament) partly in reaction to the passivity of the early Labour MPs. Trotsky argued that the foundation and growth of Labour into a mass party was at once a sign of the growing power and consciousness of the working class and at the same time a product of its conservatism. On the positive side, he argued that “a special Labour Party arose as an invaluable historical conquest which nothing can now take away”.14 However, he argued, the conservative nature of the party was a reflection of the consciousness of the broader working class, not just the labour aristocracy. The working class had become disillusioned with the Liberal Party and transferred its loyalty to Labour but without losing all of its illusions in Parliament and the possibility of winning real reforms in a period of declining British imperialism.15

Labour’s replacement of the Liberals as the main opposition to the Tories was a product of the slaughter of the trenches, growing worker militancy and the impact of the Russian Revolution, but it was also a product of the subsequent defeats. The election of the 1924 Labour government followed Black Friday in April 1921, when the rail and transport unions’ leaders abandoned the miners, and the employers’ lock-out of the engineering unions the following year. These defeats of the most militant sections of the class brought the post-war upsurge to a close. The election of the second Labour government of 1929 followed the General Strike, still the worst single defeat in British working class history. As Trotsky put it, “Paralysed in the sphere of economic action, the energy of the masses was directed onto the political plane. The Labour Party grew out of the earth itself”.16

The election of the first Labour government inspired an increase in militancy with an unofficial docks strike and a strike on the London buses and trams. The government opposed both strikes and made secret preparations for a scabbing organisation that would later be used by the Tories during the General Strike. Trotsky referred to the “deeply compromising character of the first Labour government”.17 He regarded the Labour Party leaders as equally complicit with the TUC in the betrayal of the General Strike: “In calling off the great strike, the leading politicians and trade unionists went hand in hand”.18

The ideology of Labour

Trotsky devoted much of Where is Britain Going? to an examination of the ideology of the Labour Party leadership and its roots in British history and capitalist society. He argued that the prevailing ideas of the ruling class were refracted through the ideas of the Labour Party and trade union leaders: “the outlook of the leaders of the Labour Party is a sort amalgam of Conservatism and Liberalism partly adapted to the requirements of the trade unions, or rather their top layers”.19 There was no doubt, as Trotsky noted, that the crisis of the Liberal Party in the early 1920s brought in an influx of Liberal intellectuals to the Labour Party, most of whom had not significantly changed their ideas, but the conservatism of the leadership had much deeper roots. While the leaders of the mass reformist parties of Germany, France and other countries at least paid lip service to Marxism, the ideas of the Labour Party’s leaders owed more to the British bourgeois radicals of the 18th and 19th centuries. MacDonald and even leaders of the Labour left such as George Lansbury based what Trotsky sneeringly described as their “numbskulled conservatism”20 on non-conformist Protestantism. They shared the arrogant and insular disdain of the bourgeoisie for “foreign” ideas such as Marxism, worshipping parliament and the monarchy.

Trotsky devoted much of the second chapter of the book to a withering critique of MacDonald’s political philosophy. MacDonald advocated what he called “social solidarity”, ie a denial of the conflicting interest between workers and capitalists and the class struggle, and argued for class collaboration. He was a pacifist who had verbally opposed but not actually fought against Britain’s involvement in the First World War. But his pacifism was one-sided, excluding workers fighting back against the bosses even in self-defence. As Trotsky pointed out: “the social solidarity that MacDonald preaches is the solidarity of the exploited with the exploiters, that is, the maintenance of exploitation”.21 MacDonald’s ideas were about channelling the anger of workers through the capitalist system rather than challenging it, let alone overthrowing it. Trotsky ridiculed MacDonald’s Christian socialism: “Our sage is an evolutionist, that is to say he believes that everything is changing and with God’s help is changing for the better. MacDonald does not believe in leaps except for one that happened 1,925 years ago!”22 Trotsky concluded that:

MacDonald lacks class consciousness, while [the fact that] the leaders of the bourgeoisie have such consciousness is absolutely beyond doubt and it means that at present the British Labour Party is walking without a head on its shoulders while the bourgeoisie does have such a head—with a very thick skull and an equally solid neck at that.23

Trotsky argued that the backward nature of the Labour Party leadership’s ideas was rooted in the early development of British capitalism. The insularity and arrogance of Labour Party leaders in relation to foreign labour movements were related to the fact that the British bourgeoisie was the first capitalist ruling class. It had no precedents to look to which forced it to develop its own methods and ideology and led it to look down on other later rising bourgeoisies, feeling that it had nothing to learn from them. This was the root of the empiricist outlook inherited by Labour Party leaders and its adherence to the ideas of the 18th and 19th century radical bourgeoisie, rather than Marxism, Trotsky believed.

Trotsky noted that the middle class gradualist ideas of the Fabian Society had an influence in the party leadership, including the slightly more left wing ILP, out of all proportion to its numbers. He argued that this was an expression of bourgeois pressure on the workers’ movement. Like the rest of the leadership’s ideas, Fabian gradualism was a hangover from the past. “The vulgarly optimistic Victorian epoch when it seemed that tomorrow would be a little bit better than today and the day after that a bit better than tomorrow has found its most finished expression in the Webbs, Snowden, MacDonald and the other Fabians”.24 In their 1923 book The Decay of Capitalist Civilisation leading Fabians Sidney and Beatrice Webb argued that the capitalist system must be changed but it “may be by considerate adaption made to pass gradually and peacefully into a new form”.25 Sidney Webb believed in what he called “the inevitability of gradualness”.

The demolition of this view was a central argument in Where is Britain Going? Trotsky argued that the development of capitalism in Britain had been far from gradual. The ruling class denied its own origins in the English Revolution of the 17th century to deny the possibility of workers’ revolution in the 20th century. Trotsky devoted a whole chapter of his book to England’s bourgeois revolution, highlighting Oliver Cromwell’s resort to armed struggle to overthrow the feudal aristocracy, culminating in the execution of the king and the installation of a dictatorship of the radical wing of the bourgeoisie to safeguard the gains of the revolution through the Rump Parliament backed up by the New Model Army.

Trotsky also drew attention to the Chartists, the first revolutionary workers’ movement in world history, and its dominant physical force wing. Even the political reforms of the 19th century had been driven by revolutions in Europe and America and fear of them spreading to Britain. As recently as 1920 the Liberal-Tory coalition government had introduced insurance for the unemployed “to forestall a revolution”.26 Having explained the conservatism of the labour movement, Trotsky argued that this was not a permanent state of affairs and believed that given the growing crisis of British capitalism and attacks on the working class, revolutionary consciousness would deepen and broaden:

To be sure, there exists a prejudice that the British working class supposedly lacks a revolutionary temperament. There is a subjectively nationalistic theory that the history of a nation is to be explained by national temperament. This is rubbish… Whoever knows the history of the British people and the British working class…will know that the Englishman has a devil inside him.27

This had been shown very recently in both the Great Unrest and the struggles of 1917-21.

Trotsky on the Labour left

In the run up to the General Strike there was a shift to the left in both the ILP and the trade union leadership. The so-called Red Clydesiders, ILP MPs such as John Wheatley, James Maxton and Davie Kirkwood were increasingly influential. The editor of the ILP paper New Leader, H N Brailsford, even wrote the introduction to the English edition of Where is Britain Going? to Trotsky’s chagrin. But Trotsky was as scathing about the Labour left as he was about the right, arguing that it shared all its reformist illusions. Its policies were rhetorically more radical, but its means of achieving them were the same. He predicted that “those who will in all probability form the first substitutes [for MacDonald, etc], people of the ilk of Lansbury, Wheatley and Kirkwood, will inevitably reveal that they are just a left variant of the same basic Fabian type. Their radicalism is constrained by democracy and religion and poisoned by the national arrogance that ties them spiritually to the British bourgeoisie”.28 He did not believe that the left offered any real alternative to the right, arguing that “the left muddleheads are incapable of power; but if through the turn of events it fell into their hands they would hasten to pass it over to their elder brothers on the right. They would do the same with the state as they are doing now in the party”.29

Trotsky questioned whether the left could ever really take control of the party, arguing that:

The extreme rights continue to control the party. This can be explained by the fact that a party cannot confine itself to isolated left campaigns but is compelled to have an overall system of policy. The lefts have no such system, nor by their very essence can they. But the rights do: with them stands tradition, experience and routine and, most important, with them stands bourgeois society as a whole which slips them ready-made solutions.30

He believed that “the weakness of the lefts arises from their disorder and their disorder from their ideological formlessness. In order to marshal their ranks, the lefts have first of all to rally their ideas”.31 He pointed out that George Lansbury, one of the key leaders of the Labour left, shared the pacifism of MacDonald. He may have been more sincere in this than the hypocritical MacDonald, and had led the successful struggle of Poplar Council, winning real gains for workers by using the Town Hall as a rallying point for mass action, but his pacifism meant in practice admitting defeat in advance. Trotsky argued that “to renounce liberating force amounts to supporting the oppressor’s force which today governs the world”.32

Trotsky believed that in certain circumstances the Labour left was actually more dangerous than the out and out imperialists such as MacDonald and Thomas in that they misled the workers, providing left cover for the right only to betray the workers equally badly when the crunch came. He argued that in reality the left challenged the system no more than the right and in fact propped it up: “The ‘left’ criticises the government within such limits as do not interfere with its role as exploiter and robber. The ‘left’ gives expression to the dissatisfaction of the masses within these limits so as to restrain them from revolutionary action”.33 He continued that “the ‘left’…is the useful, appropriate, necessary, succouring ballast without which the ship of British imperialism would long ago have gone down”.34 Despite being the minister responsible for local government in the 1924 Labour administration, Wheatley did nothing to help Poplar Council in its struggle to redistribute income from the rates35 from the rich Tory controlled boroughs to the impoverished working class areas. The left did not prevent the right working with the TUC leaders to sell out the General Strike.

Reform or revolution?

Trotsky went on to point out the limits of democracy in Britain, despite the illusions of the Labour Party leaders both left and right. Workers in Britain had only won the right to strike and the vote through struggle. Britain in 1925 was not a democracy even in the formal sense. Trotsky pointed out that women under 30 and men under 21 were still denied the right to vote. Parliamentary constituencies were rigged so that one Tory vote was worth two Labour votes. This was not to mention the survival of the monarchy and the House of Lords. Even if Britain itself had been perfectly democratic, it continued to rule over millions of subjects in colonies such as India who had no democratic rights and who were shot down when they tried to fight for them.

Trotsky believed that serious change in Britain, as in every other capitalist country, would only be won through mass struggle and ultimately revolution: “We have shown above that the present British Parliament forms a monstrous distortion of the principles of bourgeois democracy and that without adopting revolutionary force one can hardly obtain in Britain even an honest division of parliamentary constituencies or the abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords”.36 It was only 11 years since the Tories in alliance with the Orange capitalists of Ulster and the army high command had threatened the then Liberal government with civil war if it agreed to Home Rule for Ireland, he reminded his readers. There was every reason to expect a similar reaction if a Labour government attempted reforms that threatened the interests of the capitalist class: “the Conservatives…would do everything in their power to sabotage all the measures of the Labour government by means of the Civil Service, the judiciary, the military, the House of Lords and the courts”.37

A Labour government that was serious about fighting for its supporters’ interests would be forced to challenge the institutions of the capitalist state and big business and could expect a huge response from the workers:

A workers’ government created by parliamentary means would be forced to construct new revolutionary organs for itself, resting on the trade unions and working class organisations in general. This would lead to an exceptional growth in the activity and initiative of the working masses. On the basis of a direct struggle against the exploiting classes the trade unions would actively draw closer together not only in their top layers but at the bottom levels as well, and would arrive at the necessity of creating local delegate meetings ie councils (soviets) of workers’ deputies. A truly Labour government, that is to say, a government dedicated to the end to the interests of the proletariat would find itself in this way compelled to smash the old state apparatus as the instrument of the possessing classes and oppose it with workers’ councils.38

Trotsky understood that workers’ mass self-activity could not be turned on like a tap—it needed political preparation:

but heroic promises to put up lightning resistance in the event the Conservatives should “dare” and so forth are not worth a rotten egg. One cannot lull the masses day in and day out with claptrap about a peaceful, painless transition to socialism and then at the first solid punch on the nose summon the masses to an armed response. This is the surest way of assisting reaction in the rout of the proletariat. To prove equal to a revolutionary repulse, the masses must be ideologically, organisationally and materially prepared for it. They must understand the inevitability of a sharpening of the class struggle and its turning at a certain stage into a civil war. The political education of the working class and the selection of its leading personnel must be adjusted to such a perspective. The illusions of compromise must be fought day in and day out, that is to say, war to the death must be declared against MacDonaldism.39

Revolutionaries and the Labour Party

Helping to build a revolutionary party that could challenge the grip of the Labour Party leaders and trade union bureaucrats and lead the working class to power was the purpose of all Trotsky’s writings on Britain. As he put it in Lessons of October, published in 1924:

Without a party, apart from a party, over the head of a party, or with a substitute for a party, the proletarian revolution cannot conquer. That is the principal lesson of the past decade. It is true that the English trade unions may become a mighty lever of the proletarian revolution; they may, for instance, even take the place of workers’ soviets under certain conditions and for a certain period of time. They can fill, however, such a role, not apart from a Communist party, and certainly not against the party, but only on the condition that communist influence becomes the decisive influence in the trade unions. We have paid far too dearly for this conclusion—with regard to the role and importance of a party in a proletarian revolution—to renounce it so lightly or even to minimise its significance.40

The first three decades of the 20th century had seen a dramatic radicalisation of the working class and repeated demonstrations of its power and militancy. The trade unions and the Labour Party had grown in strength, but as Trotsky pointed out, this was both a help and a hindrance in the struggle for socialism. The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) was founded in 1920 and did not really get off the ground until the following year. It faced a huge challenge in building mass influence, let alone leading the British revolution. The second congress of the Communist International in 1920 not only debated the nature of the Labour Party, but the relationship of the new Communist Party to it. Lenin pointed out that the British Socialist Party (BSP), the biggest component of the CPGB, was affiliated to the Labour Party and was able to publish its own publications and freely criticise the leadership. He argued therefore that the CPGB should also affiliate:

We must say openly that the Communist Party can be affiliated to the Labour Party if it is free to criticise and to conduct its own policies… In the case of the Labour Party it is a question of the advanced minority with the great majority of British workers. All trade union members participate in the Labour Party. It is a very unusual formation of a kind that is not found in any other country… The BSP can openly say that Henderson is a traitor and still remain in the Labour Party… This is so important for the whole movement that we absolutely insist that the British communists must form a link between the Party, that is the minority of the working class, and the remaining mass of the workers.41

The CPGB duly applied to affiliate but was repeatedly turned down. In its early years Trotsky also argued that British Communists should enter the Labour Party and fight to stay in it. He wrote in Where is Britain Going? that the CPGB could replace the ILP as the leading political force in the Labour Party. But such hopes were dashed by the anti-Communist witch-hunt that followed the General Strike which saw the final expulsion of Communists from even individual membership of local Labour Parties and the disaffiliation of those local parties that resisted.42

By this time Trotsky was in growing conflict with the Stalinist faction which was increasing in power in Russia and the Communist International. For the first time the policies of Communist parties internationally were being deliberately subordinated to the interests of the bureaucrats in the Kremlin rather than the interests of world revolution. This first became apparent in Comintern policy in Britain and China which were connected in that the Kremlin feared war with Britain over its intervention in China—where revolution was raging between 1925 and 1927. At the time Russian trade unions and the TUC were allied in a body known as the Anglo-Russian Trade Union Unity Committee (ARTUUC) which the Stalinists hoped would help prevent Britain attacking Russia.

Comintern president Grigori Zinoviev had told its fifth congress in 1924:

In England, we are going through the beginning of a new chapter in the labour movement. We do not know whither the Communist Mass Party of England will come, whether only through the Stewart-McManus door [the CPGB] —or through some other door. And it is entirely possible, comrades, that the Communist Mass Party may still appear through another door—we cannot lose sight of this fact.43

For Trotsky, it was clear that Zinoviev’s “other door” was the TUC or the Labour Party. This revealed dangerous illusions in the left rhetoric of the Labour and trade union leaders at the time and a search for a shortcut to building a mass Communist party. The Comintern instructed the CPGB not to criticise its newfound allies in the TUC or to warn of the possibility of a sell-out of the miners so as not to jeopardise the ARTUUC. This was a disaster, particularly in the run up to and aftermath of the General Strike, as was the Kremlin’s refusal to break with the ARTUUC after the sell-out. It prevented the CPGB from becoming the alternative leadership among the most angry workers when the TUC called the strike off. Comintern leader Nikolai Bukharin wanted to “leap over” the CPGB, but for Trotsky there was no substitute for the struggle to build an independent revolutionary party, no matter how difficult that was in the short term.

In 1927 Trotsky was expelled from the Comintern and then exiled from the Soviet Union. For the rest of his life he saw fighting the counter-revolutionary influence of Stalinism in the international labour movement and passing on the experience of the Bolsheviks to a new generation of revolutionaries as his most important work.

Trotsky did not mince his words when analysing and criticising reformism. However, he was not a sectarian. He proceeded from the overall interests of the working class, strongly advocating that revolutionaries should work alongside reformist leaders and their followers while relentlessly criticising them. Some of Trotsky’s greatest writings are contained in four pamphlets published by his followers in Germany between 1930 and 1932 in which he urged the Communist Party to form a united front with the mass reformist SPD against Hitler who posed a mortal threat to the whole working class.44

Trotsky argued that the united front tactic could not only unite the class against its enemies, but enable revolutionaries to undermine the influence of the big reformist parties and win a mass audience. Revolutionary socialist parties should propose agreement on launching common struggles to the leaders of reformist parties and trade unions around key issues affecting all workers. The one proviso was that the revolutionaries should maintain their political independence and freedom to criticise. The broad unity hopefully achieved would boost workers’ confidence to fight, and through the common experience of struggle revolutionaries would gain the opportunity to prove the superiority of their politics in practice. As the theses of the third congress of the Comintern on the united front had stated, “workers awakened to activity long to achieve unification of all workers’ parties and even of the workers’ organisations as a whole hoping in this way to increase their capacity of resistance to capitalism.” The theses continued: “The Communist vanguard can only win if new layers of workers become convinced through their own experience that reformism is an illusion and that compromise in policy is fatal”.45

Trotsky argued:

The struggle for the united front has such importance in Britain precisely because it answers the elementary requirements of the working class in the new orientation and grouping of forces. The struggle for the united front will pose the problem of leadership, that is of programme and tactics and this means the party. Yet the struggle for the united front will not itself solve this task but will merely create the conditions for its solution. The ideological and organisational formation of a genuinely revolutionary, that is of a communist, party on the basis of the movement of the masses is conceivable only under the condition of a perpetual, systematic, inflexible, untiring and irreconcilable unmasking of the quasi-left leaders of every hue, of their confusion, of their compromises and of their reticence.46

In the 1930s Trotsky advised his British supporters that “the Labour Party should have been critically supported…because it represented the working class masses”.47 He told them that they should say to Labour supporters: “The Labour Party will deceive you and betray you, but you do not believe us. Very well, we will go through your experiences with you but in no case do we identify ourselves with the Labour Party programme”.48

Throughout the last decade of his life Trotsky struggled for ways in which his embattled and tiny band of supporters around the world could break out of their isolation from the working class movement. One of the ways in which he argued that they could do this was through the tactic of so-called entryism. Trotskyists would openly enter leftward moving centrist groups such as the ILP in Britain, which in 1931 had severed its ties with the Labour Party. In the case of the ILP Trotsky believed that his supporters could win real influence in what was by then a small organisation.49

For most of the time the more modest aim for Trotskyists was to find an audience for revolutionary politics and recruit to their ranks. Only in the case of the French SFIO was the entryist tactic attempted with a mass reformist organisation, albeit with limited success. Trotsky’s argument for this was that French society in 1934 was experiencing a period of rapid mass radicalisation due to the threat of fascism, including the growth of the left inside the SFIO. Trotsky did, however, suggest that his British followers should join the Labour League of Youth, the Labour Party’s youth wing, as a way of making contact with young workers.50 For Trotsky entryism was never a principle but a short-term tactic which should only be undertaken when it was possible for revolutionaries to be open about their politics, organise openly and publish their own papers. The ultimate aim was always to build an independent mass revolutionary party.51

The relevance of Trotsky’s analysis today

Trotsky’s writings are a rich source of insight for us today. His portrait of the Labour leadership has strong echoes with recent times—the pomposity and sanctimoniousness of Tony Blair and his Catholicism, his propping up of the monarchy following the death of Princess Diana and his worship of imperialist aggression are strongly reminiscent of Trotsky’s portraits of MacDonald, Thomas and co. The grovelling of successive Labour Party leaders to Rupert Murdoch and their twaddle about “British values” echo the class collaboration and nationalism of Labour leaders of the 1920s. Just as Labour chancellors in 1924 and 1931 slavishly accepted the need to balance the books, the vast majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party of today accepts the neoliberal orthodoxy of the ruling class lock, stock and barrel. Regrettably we were reminded recently that the Fabians too are still with us by Stephen Kinnock and Rachel Reeves’s disgraceful Fabian Society report aping UKIP’s racist policies on immigration. Kinnock said: “we must recognise that having concerns about the impact of the dynamic of immigration, as separate to immigrants, is legitimate”.52 From the “inevitability of gradualness” of Sidney Webb to the neoliberalism of the PLP today, the common thread between Trotsky’s time and today is that much of the leadership of the party uncritically accepts the prevailing ideas of the capitalist class in theory and manages rather than challenges the capitalist system in practice. Reading Trotsky’s writings today shows the golden age of a militant working class, socialist Labour Party before the arrival of New Labour to be a myth.

However, as brilliant and prescient as Trotsky’s analysis was, it is too crude to reduce the roots of reformism to the material interests of a labour aristocracy. Lenin and Trotsky argued that an “infinitesimal minority” of workers had a conflicting interest with the mass of the class.53 They believed that they enjoyed better wages and conditions than the mass of workers thanks to the super-profits of imperialism and that this was the basis of reformism. Tony Cliff demonstrated that this is not in fact the case. There is no evidence that the profits of exported capital benefit only a minority of the working class although they may affect general wage levels. There is no conflict between the interests of skilled and unskilled workers. The better the state of the economy, the narrower the differentials tend to become. So the existence of a labour aristocracy is a myth; all workers have an objective interest in the common struggle to defend and improve their pay and conditions.54 Even in Trotsky’s lifetime highly skilled workers such as engineers on the Clyde and Berlin metal workers were often the most militant and revolutionary. It is worth noting here that Marx also did not identify any qualitative difference between skilled and unskilled labour: “the distinction between skilled and unskilled labour rests in part on pure illusion”.55

Trotsky believed that the decline of Britain as a world power would undermine the grip of reformism as British capitalism would lose the ability to buy off the upper layer of the working class. Sadly, despite Britain’s much reduced role in the world today, reformism is very much with us, hence this article. The labour aristocracy theory does not explain the prevalence of reformism today in its many forms in countries such as Egypt, Brazil or South Africa which are not imperialist powers. More generally Trotsky argued in the Transitional Programme:

In an epoch of decaying capitalism…in general, there can be no discussion of systematic social reforms and the raising of the masses’ living standards; when every serious demand of the proletariat and even every serious demand of the petty bourgeoisie inevitably reaches beyond the limits of capitalist property relations and of the bourgeois state”.56

But as Cliff pointed out, the long post-war boom led to a revival in reformism in Britain and elsewhere on the back of rising living standards for all workers. In his writings on Germany, Trotsky argued that in a period of crisis reformists are prepared to give away all the reforms won in the past to defend the interests of capital. They are not even prepared to defend the bourgeois democracy on which they depend if the fight to do so carries the risk of workers going further and taking things into their own hands.57 Chris Harman argued, however, that the continuation of reformism since the return of economic crises shows that the survival of reformism is not dependent on the ability of the system to grant reforms.58 The Corbyn phenomenon, like the rise of left reformist organisations across Europe, also shows that, contrary to many predictions on the left, reformism as a political current is able to renew itself and provide a popular focus for working class anger.

Trotsky was correct to refer to the division of labour within the British labour movement between economics and politics, between the trade union bureaucracy on the one hand and the Labour Party leadership on the other but tended to lump them together in many of his writings. The present conflict between the Parliamentary Labour Party and most of the trade union leaders over support for Jeremy Corbyn shows that while their interests may coincide in the sense that they both want to see a Labour government, there is a conflict between the austerity lite favoured by the PLP and the interests of the workers that the trade union leaders need to at least look like they represent. The trade union bureaucracy is a conservative social layer with a distinct interest in negotiating the terms of the exploitation of the working class under capitalism. It has no interest in a level of struggle that could marginalise it, let alone the overthrow of the system that would make it redundant. The professional politicians that make up the PLP, on the other hand, are insulated from the direct pressures of the working class. They have a material interest in the continuation of bourgeois democracy through the parliamentary gravy train, not to mention the more subtle malign influences that come with membership of this elite club.

The mass support for Corbyn is an enormously exciting and welcome development. It has massively increased the audience for socialist ideas. It is a reflection of the anger with austerity and the political elite and the widespread desire among working people for real change. The Labour left rejects austerity while the PLP in essence accepts it. The Labour left has far more support inside the Labour Party today than it had in the 1920s and 1930s in spite of, or perhaps because of, the much lower level of class struggle in Britain today. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell’s views appear to be more radical than those of the Labour left leaders of the 1920s. Lansbury’s pacifism, for example, would doubtless have prevented him from supporting the struggle of the Palestinians today, as Corbyn does. McDonnell flirts with Marxism, while Kirkwood and Wheatley based their views on the New Testament. But Trotsky’s analysis remains completely apt when he said that the ideas of the Labour left may be formally more radical than those of the right, but their means of achieving them are the same—they are therefore doomed to fail without a massive increase in the level of class struggle. While sincerely supporting strikes and campaigns against austerity, Corbyn and McDonnell believe that real change can only be won through parliament. The content of Corbyn’s programme for government as announced so far, while very welcome, is not particularly radical and would have been considered mainstream Labour fare before the advent of New Labour. Likewise McDonnell’s economic policies only amount to the most moderate Keynesianism and only appear remotely radical in comparison with what went immediately before. Corybn’s promises to renationalise the railways, increase public spending, safeguard the NHS from further privatisation and cuts and repeal the Trade Union Act would all be very important reforms if they could be delivered but would not transform Britain by themselves. Labour’s 1945 and 1974 election manifestos, for example, contained far more thoroughgoing demands for change.

Lansbury’s theoretical feebleness did not stop him leading one of the most dramatic and successful struggles of the 1920s as leader of Poplar Council. Poplar remains to this day the only Labour council to have taken on the Tories and won, mobilising the mass of working class people in the borough and beyond in the process. No one on the Labour left today has led anything like this or even remotely considered it. Labour councils have played a disgraceful role in recent years in pushing through cuts that hit the poorest in society in particular, the very people that Corbyn is pledged to support. Labour authorities such as Haringey and Southwark in London, for example, are systematically demolishing council housing, one of Labour’s greatest historic achievements, and driving out working class tenants only to replace them with yet more luxury homes for the super-rich. Corbyn clearly does not support Labour councils pushing through Tory austerity and privatisation but has not publicly opposed it. He has rightly expressed his support for teaching assistants in County Durham who have voted to strike against savage pay cuts pushed through by the local Labour council, but he has not criticised the council, let alone tried to use his influence to reverse the pay cuts. The conduct of Labour councils is something that much of the Labour left prefers not to talk about, partly because their electoralism means that they do not envisage the sort of mass resistance necessary to beat the cuts, and partly so as not further to upset the right.

There are some parallels between Momentum, the new organisation of the left within the party, and the ILP, although unlike the ILP Momentum does not have the status of being a separate party affiliated to Labour.59 The ILP moved sharply to the left during the 1920s, ultimately breaking with Labour altogether in 1931. But, despite claiming to be a revolutionary party for a period in the mid-1930s, in reality it did not break from left reformism and went into a steady decline, being squeezed between the Labour Party and Stalinism. Momentum expressly states on its website that it is “committed to supporting the Labour Party winning elections and entering government”, with no mention of support for extra-parliamentary struggle.60 Like the ILP, Momentum is a contradictory organisation, varying enormously in its political orientation from area to area. There is a fight within the organisation between those who want to see it as an active campaigning body and those who see Momentum supporters as passive cheerleaders for Corbyn. The primary focus of the leadership is on fighting the right within the party structures over issues such as increasing the number of seats on the NEC representing ordinary members. This is a further illustration of how electoralism hampers the fight against the right by failing to look seriously to the struggles outside the party that can really put the right on the back foot and deepen support for Corbyn and the left in society as a whole. There is a danger that the preoccupation with elections and inner-party manoeuvres could reinforce passivity rather than advance the struggle against the Tories. Trotsky would have described Momentum as “centrist”, ie radical in words but reformist in practice.

In practice the Labour left reflects the separation of politics and economics, the division of labour that Trotsky talked about, that has dogged the labour movement historically both in Britain and internationally. Politics is seen in the most narrow sense as the responsibility of MPs and local councillors while economics is regarded as the exclusive preserve of the unions. There is no concept of mobilising the economic power of the workers to bring political change. For a left wing leader of the Labour Party to enjoy the support of the leaders of the big trade unions is unprecedented. However, that support is highly conditional. Unite leader Len McCluskey has made it clear that his union supports the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons, while scrapping it is a key principle for Corbyn. Corbyn’s need to keep Unite on board, not to mention the PLP, has led him to appoint two successive shadow defence spokespersons who both quickly stated that they support Trident renewal. The Unison union disgracefully dragged its heels over balloting the Durham teaching assistants for strike action until rank and file pressure forced its hand, something that Corbyn was again silent about, presumably in fear of further alienating general secretary Dave Prentis. The latter has made a number of cryptic statements about the need for unity in the Labour Party that appear to be directed more at Corbyn and his supporters than the right. Despite the overwhelming support for Corbyn among Unison activists, the union’s representatives on the party’s NEC have voted with the right on several occasions; history shows that the union leaders will move against a party leader that does not represent their interests.

Trotsky believed that the Labour left could never lead the party. The election and then re-election of Corbyn appear to disprove that. But the right remains a serious barrier to the Corbyn leadership, let alone a Corbyn government. As Trotsky argued, the role of the PLP and the trade union leaders is in reality to prop up the capitalist system, not overturn it. The commitment of the PLP to the interests of big business and not those of its working class supporters is very clear. Deputy leader Tom Watson, the leader of the attempted coup against Corbyn last summer, told the Labour Party conference in September that “in the past, big businesses were too easily cast as predators…we ended up sounding like we were anti-business; anti-prosperity; anti-success. We’re not and we never have been. Capitalism, comrades, is not the enemy. Money’s not the problem. Business isn’t bad”.61 The continuing coordinated attempts by the establishment—the Tories and the mass media including the BBC—in alliance with the PLP to block Corbyn and discredit him at every turn also shows this. The PLP enjoys significant power because of its autonomy within the party structures, which it has enjoyed since Labour was founded, and because MPs cannot be held accountable between general elections.

But the most crucial weakness of the left, which is what Trotsky was actually talking about, is political not structural. In other words the left’s reliance on winning elections to achieve its goals means that it feels forced to make concessions to the right to maintain party unity which it regards as essential to win power. Like the left ILP leaders of the 1920s, Corbyn is anxious about challenging the PLP too strongly. For example, he felt obliged to agree to campaign for Remain in the EU referendum to appease the PLP. Support for Leave would have challenged the grip of the racist right on the Leave campaign and enabled the left to connect with millions of disaffected working class people who, in the event, were left to the tender mercies of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. The right feels no such inhibitions. The PLP leaders have made it abundantly clear that they would rather lose the next election than win it with Corbyn as leader. Defending Labour’s neoliberal agenda of recent decades is far more important to them than forming the next government. The fact that the anti-Semitism row broke out the week before the London Mayor election was no coincidence. The coup attempt after the Brexit vote was prompted by fears of a snap general election. The right feared this not because they believe that Corbyn is an electoral liability, as they claim publicly, but in reality because they thought that Corbyn did in fact have a chance of winning. They will continue to fight to prevent a Corbyn government. Will he be able to stand up to these pressures? The signs so far are not good.

As the record of Labour in power shows, not to mention the experience of Syriza in Greece and Hollande in France, even the most radical-sounding reformist government can succumb very quickly to the pressures of managing the capitalist state. As Trotsky made clear, a parliamentary majority does not bring real power. A Corbyn government that sticks to its guns would be subject to major economic disruption by the Bank of England, big business and institutions of international capitalism, blocking and sabotage by the civil service, systematic attacks by the mass media and ultimately the threat of overthrow by the state. There have already been threatening noises from the army top brass over Corbyn’s opposition to Trident. As Trotsky argued in the 1920s, the only way a Corbyn government would be able to stand up to these pressures is by mobilising its working class supporters in the streets and the workplaces.

We are living in a period in which the level of struggle is a lot lower than it was in the 1920s. Where is Britain Going? was written when Britain had just been though two of the greatest periods of working class struggle ever seen in this country. Trotsky knew that Britain was heading for a major confrontation around the coal industry so his perspectives for the struggle, particularly the prospects for the growth of the influence of revolutionaries, were very optimistic. Sadly he was proved to be wrong by the role of Stalinism and left reformism, particularly that of the left trade union leaders. But while the power of the bosses lies in the boardrooms and the deep state, the power of the working class remains at the point of production. As Trotsky argued, the mobilisation of that power requires political preparation with clear and principled leadership which seeks to encourage it, not hold it back. It means encouraging and supporting every struggle big and small in the here and now—not waiting until a Corbyn government is under attack. It is already clear to some of Corbyn’s more thoughtful supporters that the treacherous behaviour of the PLP and its ability to continue to defy the will of the majority of Labour Party members would make it impossible for the party to provide that leadership, whatever Corbyn wishes.

Revolutionary socialists need political clarity and clear principles on the one hand and tactical flexibility on the other. To take forward the struggle against austerity, fight for real change and build the revolutionary organisation we need, we have to relate to the hundreds of thousands inspired by Corbyn while telling the truth about how we can win a socialist transformation of Britain.

Whether revolutionaries should seek to do that by entering the Labour Party or not is, as Trotsky argued, a tactical question rather than one of principle. But the Labour Party of today is not the open federation of Lenin’s time, when a Marxist party such as the BSP could affiliate and openly argue its politics, including criticising the leadership with impunity. Even in the 1920s that space was rapidly closing. Today it is not possible for revolutionaries to enter the Labour Party while being open about their views as the PLP’s witch-hunt of Momentum shows.

Revolutionaries will be far more effective by using the tactic of the united front that Trotsky contributed so much to developing. By applying the principles of the united front laid down by the third and fourth congresses of the Comintern, and in Trotsky’s writings on Germany in particular, we can work with Corbyn supporters in the trade unions, in the fight against racism in all its forms, in campaigns in defence of the NHS and council housing and against cuts and seek to prove in practice where the power lies to win real change in Britain. The Corbyn phenomenon has created more opportunities for united front activity. But the application of the united front tactic depends on the existence of independent revolutionary organisation with which membership of the Labour Party as it is currently structured is incompatible. As Trotsky concludes in Where is Britain Going?: “The Communist Party must develop and come to power as the party of proletarian dictatorship. There are no ways round this. Whoever believes there are and propounds them can only deceive British workers. That is the main conclusion of our analysis”.62

Tony Phillips is a member of the SWP based in Walthamstow in London and a Unison trade union branch secretary working in the fire service.


1 Quoted in Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p222.

2 Thanks to Alex Callinicos, Esme Choonara, Donny Gluckstein and John Rose for their helpful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this article.

3 Lenin, 1977, pp144-146.

4 Trotsky, 1974, volume 1, p22.

5 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p8.

6 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p8.

7 Quoted in Cliff and Gluckstein, 1996, p72.

8 Trotsky 1974, volume 1, p165.

9 Publishing House of the Communist International, 1977, volume 1, pp183-184.

10 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p248.

11 Trotsky, 1974, volume 1, p184.

12 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, pp47-48.

13 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p104.

14 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, pp113-114.

15 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p114.

16 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p8.

17 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p118.

18 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p198.

19 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p36.

20 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p118.

21 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p47. Emphasis in the original.

22 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p44.

23 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, 46.

24 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p57.

25 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p55.

26 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p65.

27 Trotsky, 1974, volume 1, p171.

28 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p42.

29 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, pp136-137.

30 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, pp137-138.

31 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p138.

32 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p60.

33 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p210.

34 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p210.

35 A predecessor of the council tax levied by local borough councils to fund services.

36 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p69.

37 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p75.

38 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p69.

39 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, pp79-80.

40 Trotsky, 1988, p252.

41 Publishing House of the Communist International, 1977, volume 1, p70.

42 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p119.

43 Quoted in Cliff, 1993, p169.

44 Trotsky, 1971.

45 Riddell, 2012, p1165.

46 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p136.

47 Trotsky, 1974. Volume 3, p117.

48 Trotsky, 1974, volume 3, p118.

49 Trotsky, 1974, volume 3, pp86-87 and 88-89.

50 Trotsky, 1974, volume 3, p122.

51 Hallas, 1982.

52 Kinnock, 2016.

53 Quoted in Cliff, 1982, p109.

54 Cliff, 1982, pp108-117.

55 Marx, 1983, footnote 1, p192.

56 Trotsky, 1938.

57 Trotsky, 1971, p143.

58 Harman, 2003.

59 Thanks to Donny Gluckstein for this comparison.

60 Go to www.peoplesmomentum.com/about

61 Sparrow, 2016.

62 Trotsky, 1974, volume 2, p123


Cliff, Tony, 1982 “The Economic Roots of Reformism in Neither Washington Nor Moscow (Bookmarks).

Cliff, Tony, 1993, Trotsky, volume 4: The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Star, 1927-1940 (Bookmarks).

Cliff, Tony, and Donny Gluckstein, 1996, The Labour Party: A Marxist History (Bookmarks).

Hallas, Duncan, 1982, “Revolutionaries and the Labour Party”, International Socialism 16 (spring), www.marxists.org/archive/hallas/works/1982/revlp/index.htm

Harman, Chris, 2003, “Reformism Without Reforms”, Socialist Review (September), www.marxists.org/archive/harman/2003/09/woreform.htm

Kinnock, Stephen, 2016, “We Must Develop a New Approach to Immigration and Freedom of Movement”, in Facing the Unknown: Building a Progressive Response to Brexit (Fabian Society), www.fabians.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/FABJ4808_Europe_Report_130916_WEB_2.pdf

Lenin, V I, 1977 [1917], “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”, in Selected Works (Progress Publishers), www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/imp-hsc/

Marx, Karl, 1983, Capital, volume 1 (Lawrence and Wishart).

Publishing House of the Communist International, 1977 [1921], Minutes of the Second Congress of the Communist International (New Park Publications).

Riddell, John (ed), 2012, Towards the United Front, Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922 (Haymarket Books).

Sparrow, Andrew, 2016, “Labour Conference: Tom Watson says Capitalism is not the Enemy—as it happened”, Guardian (27 September), www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/live/2016/sep/27/labour-conference-jeremy-corbyn-tom-watson-says-party-must-prepare-for-fourth-industrial-revolution

Trotsky, Leon, 1938, “The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International: The Transitional Programme”, www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1938/tp/tp-text.htm

Trotsky, Leon, 1988 [1924], “Lessons of October”, in The Challenge of the Left Opposition (Pathfinder), www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1924/lessons/

Trotsky, Leon, 1971 [1933], The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany (Pathfinder).

Trotsky, Leon, 1974, Trotsky’s Writings on Britain, volumes 1-

Note: This article is for educational purposes. Its reproduction, in any form, can be had with the permission of the author/publisher whose original link ,from where it is reprodced, is given above.

1917: The View from the Streets – ‘The only guarantee of Polish independence is international solidarity’

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Maria Koszutska (1876 – 1939), theorist and leader of the PPS-Left
John Riddell’s Marxist Essays and Commentary website — One hundred years ago, on March 17 (4) 1917, the following appeal calling on Polish workers to support the Russian Revolution and fight for Polish independence was adopted at a rally of Polish socialist workers in Petrograd.

After the outbreak of World War One, the bulk of Poland (which had previously been ruled by the Tsarist government) came under German occupation. By 1917, roughly three million Poles – many of whom had been evacuated from Poland on the eve of the German invasion – found themselves under Tsarist rule. In response, Polish socialist parties began organizing the large groups of displaced Polish workers in industrial cities like Petrograd and Moscow.

Little is known about the initiators of the following appeal. Given its simultaneous stress on class struggle, internationalism, and Polish independence, the authors were likely members of the revolutionary Marxist Polish Socialist Party-Left and/or the far left wing of the Polish Socialist Party (Revolutionary Fraction).[1] Whereas most Polish nationalists and the moderate leaders of the Polish Socialist Party (Revolutionary Fraction) had throughout the war sought to promote Polish independence through a pact with German or Austrian imperialism, the following appeal makes the case for why national liberation could only be won through the struggle and solidarity of the international working class.

Selection, translation, and annotation by Eric Blanc.

To the Polish workers and soldiers in Russia

Comrades Workers and Soldiers!

The Russian proletariat took the lead in the fight for the overthrow of the Tsarist government and the establishment of a People’s Republic in Russia.

It toppled the despotic colossus, which for decades oppressed its own people and subordinated foreign nations, which headed the reaction in all of Europe by readily helping all the oppressors of Europe suppress the peoples’ liberation movements. For decades the Tsarist regime has been fought by Polish workers, who marked the road towards freedom with their warm blood and the suffering and tears of mothers, sisters and wives.

You comrades, both male and female, pressed forward, always constantly forward. This path led to the Tsarist gallows, which sacrificed as victims our brothers Ossowskich, Kunickich, Kasprzaków, and Okrzejów.

In your fight you were alone in the country; the propertied classes because of the nature of their interests could muster only collusion with the minions of the Tsarist government. And your only allies in the arduous work of creating a brighter tomorrow were the Russian workers, who struggled hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder with you, next to the proletarians of the other nations oppressed by the Tsarist government.

Comrades! Today already we hope that our country will gain freedom and independence. Remember that we will not receive an independent Polish Republic from the governments and the bourgeoisie of Europe; remember that the oppressors of the peoples cannot be liberators; remember that the political independence of our country can be built only on the power and cooperation of the peoples; remember that the only real guarantee of the independence of the Polish people is not diplomatic acts and congress decisions, but the international solidarity of the peoples.

Comrades! Today you must fulfill your proletarian duty, your class and national interests. You must fulfill your duty to the Russian democracy, you must offer all your power and strength to help the Russian proletariat lead the so-bravely begun struggle to a victorious end and thus contribute to the victory of the proletariat of all nations. Since the fall of Tsarist rule in Russia undermines the existence of all bourgeois governments, it is a harbinger of the victory of democracy internationally.

Long live the Russian People’s Republic!

Long live the Polish People’s Republic!

Long live the international solidarity of the proletariat!

Long live socialism!

Polish socialist-workers in Petrograd

March 4 [17] 1917.

(Published in Archiwum Ruchu Robotniczego, Volume V, Warsaw 1977, pg. 273-74.)

[1] Note on the Polish Socialist Party: In 1906, the Polish Socialist Party (PPS) split. The majority of the party sided with the left wing, which stressed mass action, the need for empirewide revolution, and an alliance with Russian workers in particular; this organization henceforth called itself the Polish Socialist Party-Left. The minority was more hesitant about this orientation towards Russian socialism, stressing instead the struggle for national independence and armed struggle; this organization became the Polish Socialist Party (Revolutionary Fraction).

In 1917, the far left of the PPS (Revolutionary Fraction), unlike the rest of the party, was based out of central Russia and upheld a mostly internationalist orientation. The PPS-Left was consistently committed to internationalism and revolutionary Marxism and went on to co-found the Polish Communist party in 1918 together with Rosa Luxemburg’s party.

Other leaflets in the “1917: The view from the streets” series

1. “Down with the war; long live the revolution!” (December 1916, Bolshevik-influenced students)

2. “The day of people’s wrath is near!” (c. January 20, 1917, Mezhrayonka)

3. “Only a provisional government can bring freedom and peace” (February 6, 1917, Mensheviks)

4. “For a provisional revolutionary government of workers and poor peasants.” (February 15 [2]), 1917, Bolsheviks)

5. “Women’s Day in Russia 1917: A day to prepare for victory” (March 6 [February 21] 1917, Mezhrayonka)

6. “For a General Strike against Autocracy” (March 12 [February 27], 1917, Mezhrayonka)

7. “Soldiers, take power into your own hands” (March 14 [1], 1917. Mezhrayonka)

A note on Russian dates

The Julian calendar used by Russia in 1917 ran 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar that is in general use today. In the “View from the Streets” series, centennial dates are reckoned by the Gregorian calendar; dates are given with the Gregorian (“New Style”) date first, followed by the Julian date in parentheses.
Note: This article is for educational purposes. Its reproduction, in any form, can be had with the permission of the author/publisher whose original link ,from where it is reprodced, is given above.

1917: The View from the Streets #5 – Women’s Day 1917: How a women’s protest strike launched the Russian revolution

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John Riddell’s Marxist Essays and Commentary website — One hundred years ago today, on or about March 6 (February 21), the Petrograd Mezhrayonka (Interdistrict Committee) distributed the following leaflet regarding International Women’s Day (IWD).

Although the origins of IWD were in the United States, German Social Democrat Clara Zetkin proposed in 1910 the annual celebration of the holiday on March 8 (February 23 in Russia). The holiday was first celebrated on this date in 1911 in Germany and several other European countries. Russia followed with a small demonstration in 1913, but IWD was overshadowed in Russia by May Day and the anniversary of Bloody Sunday (January 9, 1905).

In 1917, Russia’s various socialist groups failed to unite behind common slogans for International Women’s Day and therefore were unable to carry out a joint action. Without a printing press at the time, the Bolsheviks did not issue any leaflets for IWD.

According to historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, the Interdistrict Committee intended the leaflet below to educate workers rather than provoke rebellion. None of the male socialists expected that on this holiday, women workers would provide the catalyst for the February Revolution, which would topple the autocracy.

The Interdistrict Committee members wanted to rally all Revolutionary Social Democrats in order to present a united socialist front against the war, the autocracy, and liberal attempts to draw workers into a patriotic effort to support the war. During 1917 the Interdistrict Committee fused with the Bolshevik current.

International Women’s Day was preceded by food shortages. Then, on the morning of March 8 (February 23), a fuel shortage in Petrograd stopped bakeries from working. Women (or their children) who had stood in line for hours had no bread to buy. Anticipating the cries of their children hungry for food, women workers reached the limit of their patience. Women textile workers went on strike and appealed to metalworkers to join them. Radical socialists quickly decided to add slogans against the autocracy and war to the calls for bread.

In this way, unexpectedly and on a commemorative day that most radical leftists treated as of minor importance, the February Revolution began.

Translation and annotation by Barbara Allen.

– – – – –

Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party.
Proletarians of all countries, unite!

Working women comrades! For ten years, women of all countries have observed February 23rd as Women Workers’ Day, as women’s “May First.” American women were the first to mark this as the day to review their forces on it. Gradually, women of the entire world joined them. On this day, meetings and assemblies are held at which attempts are made to explain the reasons for our difficult situation and to show the way out of it.

It has been a long time since women first entered the factories and mills to earn their bread.  For a long time, millions of women have stood at the machines all day on an equal footing with men. Factory owners work both male and female comrades to exhaustion. Both men and women are thrown in jail for going on strike. Both men and women need to struggle against the owners. But women entered the family of workers later than men. Often, they still are afraid and do not know what they should demand and how to demand it. The owners have always used their ignorance and timidity against them and still do.

On this day, especially, comrades, let’s think about how we can conquer our enemy, the capitalist, as quickly as possible. We will remember our near and dear ones on the front. We will recall the difficult struggle they waged to wring from the owners each extra ruble of pay and each hour of rest, and each liberty from the government. How many of them fell at the front, or were cast into prison or exile for their brave struggle? You replaced them in the rear, in the mills and factories. Your duty is to continue their great cause – that of emancipating all humanity from oppression and slavery.

Women workers, you should not hold back those male comrades who remain, but rather you should join them in fraternal struggle against the government and the factory owners. It is for their sake that war is waged, so many tears are shed, and so much blood is spilled in all countries. This terrible slaughter has now gone into its third year. Our fathers, husbands, and brothers are perishing. Our dear ones arrive home as unfortunate wretches and cripples. The tsarist government sent them to the front. It maimed and killed them, but it does not care about their sustenance.

There is no end in sight to the shedding of worker blood. Workers were shot down on Bloody Sunday, January 9, 1905, and massacred during the Lena Goldfields strike in April 1912. More recently, workers were shot in Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Shuia, Gorlovka, and Kostroma. Worker blood is shed on all fronts. The empress trades in the peoples’ blood and sells off Russia piece by piece. They send nearly unarmed soldiers to certain death by shooting. They kill hundreds of thousands of people on the front and they profit financially from this.

Under the pretext of war, owners of factories and mills try to turn workers into serfs. The cost of living grows terribly high in all cities. Hunger knocks at everyone’s door. From the villages, they take away cattle and the last morsels of bread for the war. For hours, we stand in line for food. Our children are starving. How many of them have been neglected and lost their parents? They run wild and many become hooligans. Hunger has driven many girls, who are still children, to walk the streets. Many children stand at machines doing work beyond their physical capacity until late at night. Grief and tears are all around us.

It is hard for working people not only in Russia, but in all countries. Not long ago the German government cruelly suppressed an uprising of the hungry in Berlin. In France, the police are in a fury. They send people to the front for going on strike. Everywhere the war brings disaster, a high cost of living, and oppression of the working class.

Comrades, working women, for whose sake is war waged? Do we need to kill millions of Austrian and German workers and peasants? German workers did not want to fight either. Our close ones do not go willingly to the front. They are forced to go. The Austrian, English, and German workers go just as unwillingly. Tears accompany them in their countries as in ours. War is waged for the sake of gold, which glitters in the eyes of capitalists, who profit from it. Ministers, mill owners, and bankers hope to fish in troubled waters. They become rich in wartime. After the war, they will not pay military taxes. Workers and peasants will bear all the sacrifices and pay all the costs.

Dear women comrades, will we keep on tolerating this silently for very long, with occasional outbursts of boiling rage against smalltime traders? Indeed, it is not they who are at fault for the people’s calamities. They are ruined themselves. The government is guilty. It began this war and cannot end it. It ravages the country. It is its fault that you are starving. The capitalists are guilty. It is waged for their profit. It’s well-nigh time to shout to them: Enough! Down with the criminal government and its entire gang of thieves and murderers. Long live peace!

Already the day of retribution approaches. A long time ago, we ceased to believe the tales of the government ministers and the masters. Popular rage is increasing in all countries. Workers everywhere are beginning to understand that they can’t expect their governments to end the war. If they do conclude peace, it will entail attempts to take others’ land, to rob another country, and this will lead to new slaughter. Workers do not need that which belongs to someone else.

Down with the autocracy!
Long live the Revolution!
Long live the Provisional Revolutionary Government!
Down with war!
Long live the Democratic Republic!
Long live the international solidarity of the proletariat!
Long live the united RSDRP.
Petersburg Interdistrict Committee

Published in A.G. Shlyapnikov, Semnadtsatyi god, volume 1, 1923, pp. 306-308.


Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, The February Revolution: Petrograd, 1917, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1981, pp. 215-18.

Barbara C. Allen, Alexander Shlyapnikov, 1885-1937: Life of an Old Bolshevik, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016.

Other leaflets in the “1917: The view from the streets” series

1.    “Down with the war; long live the revolution!” (December 1916, Bolshevik-influenced students)

2.    “The Day of People’s Wrath is Near!” (c. January 22 [9], 1917, Mezhrayonka)

3.    “Only a provisional government can  bring freedom and peace” (February 6 [January 24], 1917, Mensheviks).

4.    ‘For a provisional revolutionary government of workers and poor peasants’ (February 15 [3], 1917, Bolsheviks)

A note on Russian dates

The Julian calendar used by Russia in 1917 ran 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar that is in general use today. In the “View from the Streets” series, centennial dates are reckoned by the Gregorian calendar; dates are given with the Gregorian (“New Style”) date first, followed by the Julian date in parentheses.
Note: This article is for educational purposes. Its reproduction, in any form, can be had with the permission of the author/publisher whose original link ,from where it is reprodced, is given above.

1917: The View from the Street #6 – Culmination of the Russian February Revolution ‘For a general strike against autocracy’-

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John Riddell’s Marxist Essays and Commentary website — 100 years ago today, on March 12 (February 27) 1917, Socialists in Petrograd distributed the following appeal for an insurrectional general strike to bring down tsarism. That day, the culmination of the Russian February revolution, witnessed the crumbling of tsarist power.

The day after the demonstration by women workers on March 8 (February 23), more than 200,000 striking workers marched into the center of Petrograd. Large numbers of students and middle-class professionals joined the demonstrations on March 10 (February 25). Soldiers at first hesitated to forcefully remove demonstrators, but on March 11 (February 26), some soldiers followed orders to shoot at demonstrators, killing hundreds.

As the senior member of the Russian Bureau of the Bolshevik Central Committee in Petrograd, Alexander Shlyapnikov encouraged workers to win soldiers over to their side during the first days of the February Revolution, but felt that armed struggle by socialists against the government was premature. Preferring direct armed action, the Bolshevik Vyborg District Committee scorned Shlyapnikov’s position as denying the revolutionary character of the ongoing demonstrations.

The Petersburg Committee of the RSDRP called for Bolsheviks to take practical measures to organize and accelerate the pace of revolutionary developments. Yet the Interdistrict Committee (Mezhrayonka) of the RSDRP may have had the most influence upon radical socialist workers and soldiers during the February Revolution. It encouraged workers to prolong their strike and called upon soldiers to defend workers against the tsarist police’s attacks.

The mutiny of the Volynsky regiment on March 12 (February 27) set an example for other soldiers to join the revolution. The February Revolution culminated that day, as Duma liberals formed a committee that would become the nucleus of the Provisional Government, tsarist ministers resigned, and socialists formed the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.

The following proclamation of the Petersburg Interdistrict Committee was distributed on March 12 (February 27), 1917.

Selection, translation, and annotation by Barbara Allen.

–     –     –    –    –

Proletarians of all countries, unite!

Comrade workers! They are shooting us down! Workers’ blood has been spilled on the streets of Petrograd! Hungry people rose to struggle, but the tsar made them eat lead. Just as on January 9, 1905, when the servants of the autocracy shot down workers who went to the tsar for justice and mercy, on February 25-26 they shot down hungry workers who went onto the streets to protest hunger and the reigning arbitrariness.

Comrades! They have committed a terrible, senseless, monstrous crime. During these days of the people’s rage and also of merciless retribution against them, we were helpless against the policemen and handfuls of soldiers who were loyal to the tsar. We could not fight back against their blows or take a life for a life. We were unarmed. Our fists were clenched in impotent rage. They beat us with their swords, their horses trampled us, and the defenseless people fled with hatred in their hearts toward the enemy.

Comrades! During these difficult days, the working class saw more clearly than ever before that without strong, powerful, proletarian organizations, fighting detachments, and without the army’s support for the people, we won’t break the enemy and destroy autocracy. Likewise, we learned during these days that our brothers the soldiers do not always obey orders to carry out fratricide. We hail the Cossacks who chased the mounted police from Znamenskaya Square. We hail and give fraternal thanks to the soldiers of the Pavlovsky Regiment who shot at a detachment of mounted police near the Cathedral of Resurrection.

Soldiers are beginning to see the light. They understand that their enemy is not the starving, oppressed people, but the tsarist autocracy. During these difficult days for workers, only part of the soldiers, students, and citizens supported us. The State Duma, which is not truly representative of the people, is criminally silent. While the stones cry out for vengeance, the State Duma is deaf and blind to the people’s woe.

Comrades! Not only do they shoot us down, but they also cast us onto the streets to suffer hunger and destitution. Putilov and Trubochnyi factories have been shut down. Fifty thousand workers have been deprived of a morsel of bread!

Comrades! Whoever still has a conscience and is neither a slave nor a pitiful traitor to the workers’ cause will hear our appeal and will join us to unanimously protest merciless international war.

Comrades! Bring activity in the city to a standstill. Let all the factories, mills, workshops, and printing presses come to a halt. Let the electricity go out. We summon you to a general strike of protest, to strike a blow against the despotic autocracy. We, the Social Democratic Bolsheviks and Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries, summon the proletariat of Petersburg and of all Russia to organize and feverishly mobilize our forces.

Comrades! Organize underground strike committees in the mills and factories and link districts to one another. Collect funds for underground printing presses and for weapons. Get ready, comrades! The hour of decisive struggle approaches. We will not fear General [S.S.] Khabalov [Commander of the Petrograd Military District], who dares to call us traitors. It is not we workers who betray the people, but those traitors and murderers the [V.A.] Sukhomlinovs [War Minister] and the Khabalovs. The State Duma and the liberals betray the people.

Comrades! Khabalov orders us to go back to work on the 28th, but we summon you to struggle and to a general strike!

Be brave! All for one and one for all!

Long live the general political strike of protest!

Always remember our fallen brothers!

Down with war!

Down with autocracy!

Long live revolution!

Long live the Provisional Revolutionary Government!

Long live the Constituent Assembly!

Long live a democratic republic!

Long live the international solidarity of the proletariat!

Petersburg Interdistrict Committee of the RSDRP

Published in A.G. Shlyapnikov, Semnadtsatyi god, volume 1, 1923, pp. 337-338.


Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, The February Revolution: Petrograd, 1917, University of Washington Press, 1981, pp. 258-261.

S. A. Smith, Russia in Revolution: An Empire in Crisis, 1890 to 1928, Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 101-102.

Rex A. Wade, The Russian Revolution, 1917, Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 29-45.

Other leaflets in the “1917: The view from the streets” series

1.    “Down with the war; long live the revolution!” (December 1916, Bolshevik-influenced students)

2.    “The day of people’s wrath is near!” (c. January 20 [7] 1917, Mezhrayonka)

3.    “Only a provisional government can bring freedom and peace” (February 6 [January 24] 1917, Mensheviks)

4.    “For a provisional revolutionary government of workers and poor peasants”  (February 15 [3], 1917, Bolsheviks)

5.    “Women’s Day in Russia 1917: A day to prepare for victory” (March 6 [February 21] 1917)

A note on Russian dates

The Julian calendar used by Russia in 1917 ran 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar that is in general use today. In the “View from the Streets” series, centennial dates are reckoned by the Gregorian calendar; dates are given with the Gregorian (“New Style”) date first, followed by the Julian date in parentheses.


Note: This article is for educational purposes. Its reproduction, in any form, can be had with the permission of the author/publisher whose original link ,from where it is reprodced, is given above.

Plebiscite, Kashmir and Sher-i-Kashmir-Khalid Bashir Ahmad

Posted by admin On March - 18 - 2017 Comments Off on Plebiscite, Kashmir and Sher-i-Kashmir-Khalid Bashir Ahmad

Was Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah ever serious about the plebiscite as an instrument to resolve the Kashmir issue?
On November 13, 1974, when Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah mended fences with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and reached an accord with her for return to power, his point-man, Mirza Mohammad Afzal Beg, who till then had led on his behalf a mass movement for a UN-mandated plebiscite under the banner of the Mahazi-i-Rai Shumari [Plebiscite Front], justified his leader’s ‘homecoming’ by dismissing the people’s two decade long struggle as “wandering in wilderness”. Such categorization of mass sacrifices left behind a bad taste; for it came from the very leadership people had blindly followed and jumped en-masse into the fire of hostile circumstances. Abdullah justified his political about-turn as a ‘change in the strategy while the goal remained the same’. However, on February 24, 1975, while he was taking oath as Chief Minister, his words, for many, sounded like the last post at the funeral of plebiscite in Kashmir.
Right from 1948, when the Security Council passed a resolution for holding a referendum in Jammu & Kashmir to determine its political future, the people of Kashmir have looked up to the United Nations for holding the promised plebiscite. For two decades, beginning 1955, the people of Kashmir ran an organized, vigorous and sustained mass movement for holding of a plebiscite. At one stage, it seemed so close to be happening that the Press Officer of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP), M. D. Capite, in a letter dated April 25, 1949 to M. L. Bhardwaj, Deputy Principal Information Officer, Government of India, asked if facilities like radio stations, community receiving sets, sounds trucks, printing of pamphlets and posters, and 16 mm and 35 mm film projectors were available for publicising the plebiscite in Kashmir. “The reason I am asking these questions is that I am trying to get an idea of what equipment – radio, films, printing – we must import from Lake Success to compliment the equipment and facilities that are already here,” Capite explained. In the subsequent years, however, a rigid stand of both India and Pakistan on the withdrawal of their armed forces from Jammu & Kashmir prior to holding of a referendum blocked the implementation of the UN resolution on plebiscite.
The movement for plebiscite was carried out under the patronage of Abdullah who had been ousted from power in 1953, and was now in and out of prison, while Beg, his lieutenant, assumed the leadership of the movement. In the process, many people were killed, thousands arrested and families destroyed. To the people’s credit, they stood firm behind their leadership despite trials and tribulations. Slogans like Rai Shumari foran karo (Hold plebiscite at once), Jis Kashmir ko khoon se seencha woh Kashmir hamara hai (Kashmir that we irrigated with our blood belongs to us) and Yeh mulk hamara hai iska faisla hum karaingay (This country is ours and we will decide its future) rent the Valley’s air during those years. The Plebiscite Front leadership successfully turned a massive public outburst over the theft of Holy Relic from the Hazratbal Shrine in December 1963 into a mass agitation for release of Abdullah from jail.
Officially, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah never associated himself with the demand of a plebiscite. Neither did he assume the leadership of the Plebiscite Front nor registered himself as its basic member. In contrast, when he assumed power again in 1975, the first thing he did after disbanding of the Plebiscite Front was to obtain membership of the revived National Conference and taking over as its President. Earlier, through 1930s-40s also, he had headed the Muslim Conference, the National Conference and the State People’s Convention. Out of power, he officially remained at an arm’s length from the Plebiscite Front while in power he was averse to holding of plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir. His Government came down heavily on those who pursued this goal during his rule, and even used against such people the draconian Public Safety Act, originally enacted by him to tackle timber smugglers.
One of the oft-repeated arguments to justify Abdullah changing course in 1975 is that the dismemberment of Pakistan in the Indo-Pak War of 1971 had convinced him about futility of pursuing estrangement with India. That, however, is an oversimplified view of facts. In pursuit of his politics, he had never countenanced Islamabad as a factor beyond having reconciled to her control over a part of the territory of Jammu & Kashmir. As Prime Minister, his official correspondence with the Government of India [for instance, letter dated April 14, 1950 addressed to Vishnu Sahay, Secretary for Kashmir Affairs, Ministry of States] is an indication of this, where he refers to the territory as ‘Azad Kashmir’ [Free Kashmir]’ and ‘Azad territory’ like Pakistan would call it. Other than the years of plebiscite movement when Pakistan qalmay, dirmay, sukhany [through written and spoken word and money] helped him in Kashmir, the country did not factor in his politics. Her dismemberment and turning into, what he called, “a moth-eaten and lame country” only offered him an excuse and an expressway for his outreach with India, the desire of which, however, had taken root earlier.

Before the fall of Dacca (as Dhaka was spelled then) when East Pakistan had revolted against Islamabad and India was supporting insurgency there, Abdullah had told Balraj Puri that he thought he should start the process of dialogue with India even if it took “its own time.” Puri, as a first step, suggested him to issue a statement in support of India’s Bangladesh policy. “India was at that time prepared to pay,” what Puri observes, “the maximum price for support to Bangladesh. Since Sheikh Sahib was the tallest Muslim leader of the subcontinent, his support was most valuable”, Puri wrote in the weekly Mainstream. Abdullah asked Puri to draft a statement for him on these lines which he did. However, on his advisor’s suggestion, he held back from issuing such a statement at the last minute.
Abdullah’s supporters also cite the Simla Agreement of 1972 between India and Pakistan as a reason for his looking towards New Delhi. They argue that the Agreement shut the doors on the demand for a plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir. However, what is missed here is that the Simla Agreement kept the Kashmir issue open for resolution through bilateral dialogue between the two south-Asian neighbours while in the Indira-Abdullah Accord, as Indira Gandhi informed the Parliament, Abdullah had accepted the finality of accession of Kashmir with India, and thus stamped the option of plebiscite out for all the times to come.
Was Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah ever serious about the plebiscite as an instrument to resolve the Kashmir issue? In his voluminous memoir of 73 chapters, he talks about everything under the sun related to Kashmir and its turbulent history but steers himself clear of discussing plebiscite or the long struggle of people for it. A study of Kashmir history throws up some interesting details. When the Security Council passed resolutions on Jammu & Kashmir, Abdullah had already moved into the corridors of power under the still existing shadow of Maharaja Hari Singh. A plebiscite in the Princely State would have undermined his authority as a vast majority of people outside the Valley of Kashmir – both Muslims and Hindus – did not accept him as their leader nor subscribed to his politics. Within the Valley also, a section of people did not like him for his pro-India stand. An impartial vote under the aegis of the United Nations was sure to be lost by India and he knew that very well. Further, Pakistan had raised objection to his being in power while a vote on the future of Jammu & Kashmir was taken, alleging that he was partial towards India. Abdullah apprehended that the Plebiscite Administrator might “turn out to be a parallel or over-riding authority” while he himself administered Kashmir. He thought if he was removed from the Government, it would be construed as “a victory of Pakistan” before the plebiscite was actually held.
Interestingly enough, at one stage in 1952, his close associate and representative in the Indian Parliament, Mohammad Sayeed Masoodi, had sold to Jawaharlal Nehru the idea of holding a plebiscite limited to the Kashmir Valley so that “all the evils associated with a plebiscite limited to the Valley could be satisfactorily avoided”. Abdullah was always confident of his wide support base in Kashmir while a referendum in the whole of Jammu & Kashmir would be altogether a different ball game. Masoodi made this suggestion in a meeting Nehru had convened in New Delhi on August 18, 1952 where, besides the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee and others, D. P. Dhar was also present. Before the start of the meeting, Nehru called in Dhar to have a brief discussion on the proposed talks with the UN representative on Kashmir, Dr. Frank P.  Graham. Dhar suggested that “the provision of a plebiscite limited to the Kashmir Valley should be dropped completely for very well known reasons and substituted by arrangements other than a plebiscite.”
While the United Nations was deliberating on the future of Kashmir through an impartial plebiscite, Abdullah announced convening of the Constituent Assembly to decide the issue of accession of Jammu & Kashmir. The move was vehemently opposed by the Anglo-American bloc in the United Nations. Nearer home, Iran also objected to it as an impediment in reaching to a peaceful settlement on Kashmir dispute. Concerned for “greater cause of uniting all Muslim and Asiatic countries together in a powerful unit’’, Iran was watching developments in Kashmir with unease. The Chairman of the Parliament of Iran and a prominent Shia cleric, Abul Qasim Kashani, sent various telegrams to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, urging them to resolve Kashmir dispute. In one of his long telegrams, Kashani appealed Abdullah to “make a bold and determined contribution by voluntarily withdrawing your proposal to proceed with the Constituent Assembly”. “This step”, he argued, “I am sure will help considerably in creation of congenial atmosphere so necessary for initiating negotiations for a peaceful and a satisfactory solution of this most important problem.” In his response dated August 15, 1951, Abdullah justified his decision to convene the Constituent Assembly to “take the initiative into their [people’s] own hands” as “a fair and just solution was not likely to be effected soon through the Security Council.” The Constituent Assembly “is the only way out of the present impasse”, he wrote to Kashani.
The decision to convene the Constituent Assembly was seen as a deliberate move to hamper efforts of the international community for holding a free and fair plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir.  In October 1951, ahead of a meeting of the Security Council on Kashmir in Paris, where Abdullah was also to participate as a non-official member of the Indian delegation, he forwarded a draft of his proposed speech to the Government of India for approval wherefrom it returned with some changes. One of the changes made by New Delhi was to keep the provision of a plebiscite open. While Abdullah readily accepted other changes, he resented the commitment of the Indian Government to plebiscite. In a communication addressed to G. S. Bajpai, Secretary General, Ministry of External Affairs, on October 30, 1951, he objected to keeping the offer of a plebiscite open, arguing that “the pronouncement by the Constituent Assembly on the question of accession would lose its effect if an element of uncertainty is introduced in sharp terms again in regard to its finality.” Citing the argument of “My colleagues”, he impressed upon Bajpai that “a specific mention of the plebiscite offer would not be desirable as that is bound to have psychological reaction among the people here… I regret this part has been dropped in the final draft. The rest of the changes have been duly incorporated.”
Abdullah also did not take kindly the Indian representative Brajeshwar Dayal’s assurance to the Security Council that so far as the Government of India was concerned, the convening of the Constituent Assembly in Jammu & Kashmir was not to sabotage efforts of the Security Council to resolve the Kashmir issue or impede in any manner the Council’s way. Dayal’s assurance to the Security Council annoyed Abdullah to the extent that “I thought it useless to discuss the issue of accession in the Constituent Assembly because the country with which we wanted to ratify our decision to accede had on international level expressed her inability to accept the decision.” Quoting a Persian couplet, Abdullah lamented over India behaving like “my beloved who fulfills everybody’s wishes; drinks wine with me and offers prayers with the pious.”
If there was any doubt about Abdullah’s stand on the plebiscite, it was soon removed by a communication of his Government. On January 19, 1952, his Private Secretary, R. C. Raina, in a letter to D. P. Dhar, then in Paris, spilled the beans. Raina wrote: “The Consembly [J&K Constituent Assembly] has appropriately come into the picture now and there is no doubt that it will come in for a good deal of drubbing [at the Security Council]. This is all the more reason to stress its importance in order to play down the plebiscite.”
That gives an idea about the views of the Lion of Kashmir on plebiscite till 1953, when as the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir he was ousted from power and arrested. However, by 1955, when it appeared that neither the Government in Kashmir nor Prime Minister Nehru were inclined to set him free, much less reinstate to the position of power, his colleagues and supporters embarked on a new political strategy. On August 9, 1955, exactly two years after his arrest, they launched the Mahaz-i-Rai Shumari to fight for a popular plebiscite to decide if the Jammu & Kashmir should remain part of India, join Pakistan or become independent. In simple words, the Mahaz, questioning the accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India, declared holding of plebiscite as the core of its political struggle. The organization started functioning effectively from 1958.
For twenty years, during which the Mahaz-i-Rai Shumari spearheaded the movement for holding of plebiscite, people of Kashmir offered huge sacrifices. In between, Abdullah was released from jail in 1958, then re-arrested and freed again in 1964, again arrested and then released in 1968, then banished from the State and ultimately set free in 1972. As a caged bird, he observed through these years a smooth transition of power taking place in Jammu & Kashmir among his once junior colleagues (Bakshi, Shamsuddin, Sadiq and Qasim). The years in jail were not easy and long separation from his family ‘in trouble’ back home was one difficult aspect of it. However, he kept himself busy with different activities including gardening, playing badminton and raring poultry and sheep of which “some I brought with me on my release”. As a prisoner at sub-jail Kud in Jammu province, he once had a dream during which he entered a splendid palace, met a person, took him around and showed him the bathroom of the castle. “Pointing to the mirror, I told him that it has been brought from Switzerland. Passing through the corridor, I went inside several rooms. In one of the rooms, I saw golden chairs and thought it to be the Crown Chamber. As I was coming out of the room, my mother-in-law put a fine soft shawl on my shoulders”, Abdullah later wrote in his autobiography. Did the dream prove seeding of the event that ultimately unfolded itself on February 24, 1975?
Soon after his release in 1968, Abdullah convened a meeting of the State People’s Convention at Srinagar to which he invited prominent socialist leader of India, Jayaprakash Narain. Besides Narain, leaders of other political parties of India including the Indian National Congress, the Jan Sangh and the Communist Party of India also participated in the Convention that Abdullah described as “a beginning of a new era of accord with India and gave enough hint of a send-off to the fifteen years of struggle [the Plebiscite Movement].” What followed was a public meeting at Hazuri Bagh [now Iqbal Park] in Srinagar where Narain unraveled the plot. He dismissed the demand for a plebiscite as “redundant”. However, he was greeted with hostile slogans by people. Next day, he addressed a press conference where he openly termed plebiscite and return to the pre-1953 position as “impossible”. Significantly, he offered his services for a rapprochement between the leaders of Kashmir [read Abdullah] and the Government of India to reach a solution “within the constitutional framework of India”. In this connection, he underscored the role of the People’s Convention as “crucial.” This, according to Munshi Mohammad Ishaq, former Plebiscite Front leader, was “the voice of Abdullah’s heart”. Following the Convention, the Front decided to contest the State Assembly elections which it would boycott earlier. Abdullah wanted that “our party also participates in elections” and even tried very hard for it by sending from Delhi, where he was detained, “messengers and emissaries to convince sympathizers of the party to contest election.” Since none of his men was prepared to jump into the electoral fray, Abdullah sent his wife, Begum Akbar Jahan, to Srinagar for actively campaigning for an independent candidate, Shamim Ahmad Shamim to ensure the defeat of her husband’s bête noir, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad in the Parliamentary Elections of 1971.
The Indira-Abdullah Accord, “a milestone event” from the Indian point of view, was preceded by negotiations between G. Parthasarthi and Mirza Afzal Beg, the two emissaries of Mrs. Gandhi and Abdullah, respectively. The talks were held behind the back of the people of Kashmir and some veteran leaders of the Plebiscite Front including its senior Vice-President, Sofi Mohammad Akbar. In between signing of the Accord and oath taking, Beg convened a meeting of the leaders of Plebiscite Front at Mujahid Manzil where a pamphlet was distributed about the Accord. Akbar, a long time associate of Abdullah and his staunch follower, was taken aback. There were some murmurs and within 15 minutes or so, Malik Mohiuddin, an aide of Beg, took the pamphlets back from the participants but Akbar refused to part with the leaflet. Terming the Accord as a sellout and a fraud on the people, he got up in anger, hastily collected his bedding from an adjacent room allotted to him as the party’s senior Vice-President, and left for his native place, Sopore, never to look back.
Abdullah had assured people that he would take them into confidence before reaching an agreement with New Delhi and proceed further only if they approved of it. However, what they were informed about was that he had entered into an accord with Gandhi and was taking over as the next Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir. The development was received in Kashmir with a feeling of shock and bewilderment. To show their rejection of the Accord, a complete and unprecedented shutdown was observed by people in the Valley on February 28, on a call given by the then President of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhuttoo. Ironically, however, a week after assuming power, Abdullah entered the Valley to a grand public reception. Days later, when a group of students led by Ghulam Mohiuddin Sofi called on him at his private office to know reasons for his quitting the resistance movement, he lost his cool and had them chased away by his staff.
Known for drawing prickly caricature of leaders and coining pungent slogans, Kashmiris reacted to the ‘burial of plebiscite’ with a peppery catchphrase: Raishumaeri beren dabas¸Aelve Babas Mubarak. [Congratulations to Potato Patron for locking plebiscite in a box]. Pertinently, Abdullah had at one point in time asked people of a rice deficient Kashmir to eat potatoes to pursue their dream of self-reliance. His detractors gave him the nickname of Aelve Bab. A powerful caricature by ace cartoonist Bashir Ahmad Bashir was published in the Srinagar Times in which a bowing Abdullah with his qarraqul cap donning head in his hands was shown offering it to Indira Gandhi for coronation.
During his last years, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the Sher-i-Kashmir, was believed to be remorseful. Within two years, the ruling Congress Party, with whose support he had become the Chief Minister despite describing a few years ago its leadership and workers as “worms of a gutter” and calling for their social boycott, pulled the rug under his feet leaving no option for him but to quit the office. He felt betrayed as none of the promises made to him during the talks on the Accord or after its signing were met by the Government of India. He had to be contended with the designation of a Chief Minister, like any other of his counterparts in about two dozen states of India, compared to that of the Prime Minister that he held before his ouster from power earlier.
In spite of assurances contained in the Accord, New Delhi did not review any of the Central Laws extended to Jammu & Kashmir after 1953. Indira Gandhi tersely told him that “the hands of the clock cannot be turned back”. Before his demise, a hurt Abdullah is said to have dictated to his amanuensis some ‘revealing’ things for his memoirs, Aatash-e-Chinar (Fire of the Chinar) which, however, did not find space in the book that was released four years after his death on September 8, 1982. His supporters later sought to float the perception that he wanted to have the struggle for a plebiscite revived. A former leader of the Plebiscite Front, Hakim Mohammad Yusuf, claims that soon after the Accord, Abdullah had confided in Sofi Mohammad Akbar that New Delhi had betrayed him once again and that he (Akbar) must continue with his struggle for plebiscite. Akbar’s close associate, Advocate Mohiuddin Mandloo rejects this as a “travesty of facts” and recalls that the senior separatist leader never forgave Abdullah for ‘betraying people’s trust’ and fought till his death for the right of self determination of Kashmiris under the banner of the Mahaz-i-Azadi (Freedom Front) which was launched in 1977 with him as its President.

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Remembering Che on the 50th anniversary of his assassination-James D. Cockcroft

Posted by admin On March - 17 - 2017 Comments Off on Remembering Che on the 50th anniversary of his assassination-James D. Cockcroft


2017 is the 50th anniversary of the CIA-ordered assassination of Che Guevara. In light of a recent upsurge in denunciations of Che and the Cuban Revolution, it is important to separate fact from fiction. Here are 5 important points to take into account, all in historical context, drawn from countless reliable sources, especially the References at the end of this article.

1) There is a burgeoning school of professional Cuba bashers, including some self-proclaimed leftists, who in effect seek the overthrow of the Cuban Revolution. Apparently expecting perfection, they tend to see ONLY the failures of the Cuban Revolution and its historical leaders. In so doing, they distort the truth beyond recognition and base their arguments on such outright lies as describing Che as “an ardent Stalinist” wedded to “authoritarian ways,” or the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) as “spying on and controlling people,” when in reality they were and continue to be key institutions of the evolving and by no means perfect participatory socialist democracy the young revolutionaries (Fidel age 33, Che age 31) set about trying to establish in 1959 in the face of ongoing U.S. aggression abetted by diehard supporters of the overthrown Batista dictatorship — and now, 58 years later, by maintenance of the economic blockade, control over Guantánamo, acts of terrorism, military threat, a sophisticated cultural offensive, and the budgeting of “dissidents” (mercenaries), CIA agents, and NGOs inside Cuba, not to mention the mendacious slanders spewed forth by the mass media of disinformation, including some of the social media.

2)  Che understood the centrality of politics impelled by ethics where subjective factors prevail, leading to the rapid conversion of Cuban society into a giant school of reclaiming Cuban culture and ethical values — hence the literacy and “voluntary labor” campaigns, the advances in education, medicine, people’s participation, agrarian reform, housing reform, and so on that converted idealistic goals based largely on the thoughts of Martí, Mella, Guiteras, and other revolutionaries in Cuban history into evolving on-the-ground realities that even in one’s wildest dreams had never appeared possible!

3) Rejecting the use of capitalist methods to fight capitalism, Che and Fidel used the methods of dialectical Marxism-Leninism to implement the maximum possible option: make a socialist revolution of national liberation that would transform institutions and social and human relations through an organized and conscious “praxis” that — despite errors recognized publicly by each of them and their successors — continues today.

4) As known at the time and revealed in collections of Che’s writings after his assassination ordered by the CIA in 1967 (e.g., the Che Guevara Publishing Project by Ocean Books), Che repeatedly warned about the dangers of not seeing the deficiencies of “existing socialism” and of mechanically copying Soviet manuals and methods, observing that the “intransigent dogmatism of the Stalin era has been succeeded by an inconsistent pragmatism…returning to capitalism.” He saw the actions and proposals of the Cuban Revolution as “clashing with what one reads in the [Soviet] textbooks” and contributed insightful Marxist critiques of both capitalist and socialist societies and their theories.

5) Che, like Fidel, was profoundly committed to the cause of peace, but unfortunately had to take up arms to move the world closer to that ephemeral goal. To make a world without war possible, Che gave his life, even as Fidel did. We can learn much from their examples.

Arnold August, Cuba–U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond (Canada: Fernwood Publishing, 2017)

Che Guevara, Critical Notes on Political Economy (2007) and Philosophical Notebooks: Writings on Marxism and Revolutionary Humanism (Ocean Books, 2008) http://www.oceanbooks.com.au.

Fernando Martínez Heredia, “El pensamiento del Che en la Cuba actual” at CubaDebate, November 25, 2013.

James D. Cockcroft, Praxis (bilingual poem in homage for Fidel Castro Ruz) at  http://www.jamescockcroft.com/ ; Forty years ago I was walking [bilingual poem in homage for Che Guevara, in Cockcroft, WHY? POR QUÉ? POURQUOI?, 2nd ed., Canada:  Hidden Brook Press, 2012]; Cuba and other chapters in Cockcroft, LATIN AMERICA: HISTORY, POLITICS, AND U.S. POLICY (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/International Thomson Publishing, Second edition, 1998), in Spanish as AMÉRICA LATINA Y ESTADOS UNIDOS HISTORIA Y POLÍTICA PAÍS POR PAÍS (México & Buenos Aires: siglo veintiuno editores, 2001; con una nueva introducción del autor, La Habana: Instituto del Libro, Ciencias Sociales, 2004)

Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith, Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder (OR Books, 2011). Read my review of Who Killed Che? in Monthly Review.

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Civilian Drones and India’s Regulatory Response-ANANTH PADMANABHAN

Posted by admin On March - 17 - 2017 Comments Off on Civilian Drones and India’s Regulatory Response-ANANTH PADMANABHAN

Unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as UAVs or drones, have decentralized airspace access, allowing agriculturists, construction workers, and other civilian users to integrate aerial monitoring into their daily work.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as UAVs or drones, have decentralized airspace access, allowing agriculturists, construction workers, and other civilian users to integrate aerial monitoring into their daily work. This technological revolution comes with a set of concerns, impinging as it does upon the proprietary, reputational, and security interests of individuals. An appropriate regulatory response and new policy recommendations must go beyond the current regulatory intervention in India.

Key Insights on Civilian Drones
Advancements in fields such as automation, robotics, miniaturization, materials science, spectral and thermal imaging, and light detection and ranging have resulted in drone-enabled solutions in areas as diverse as the agriculture, power, infrastructure, and telecom sectors, as well as crowd and disaster management.
UAV activity will impact proprietary interests because common law has not clearly demarcated the commons from owned airspaces. It will also raise huge privacy concerns, considering the potential deployment of drones for massive data capture and analytics.
No clear guidance exists on the liability standards for midair collisions and injury to property or persons in the event of untoward incidents.
In the absence of clear common law rules, Indian states could well step in to regulate UAV activity through a patchwork of rules, resulting in a version of drone federalism as already witnessed in the United States.
Policy Interventions for a Growing Drone Industry
Despite the promise of UAV technology, Indian regulators have not come up with a framework that unequivocally supports the deployment of drone-enabled solutions. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which is India’s civil aviation regulator, should not be the sole voice on framing such regulations unless it builds sufficient competence internally to appreciate the paradigm shift in aviation brought on by unmanned aircraft.
Though the present draft guidelines issued by DGCA purportedly safeguard citizen interests, several conflict points have gone unidentified or have been cursorily touched upon by these guidelines. A deeper examination of UAV activity, its real world impacts, and its qualitative difference from manned passenger aircraft operations is immediately required to identify the real loopholes and impingement of proprietary, reputational, and safety interests by such activity. It is not advisable to leave these concerns to courts to adjudicate on a case-by-case basis as regulatory ambiguity can disincentivize innovators.
India could witness a situation where multiple states regulate UAV activity through a patchwork of rules. To avoid this, the central government must immediately review possible aspects of drone activity that invite inconsistent rule-making and stipulate a consistent policy in line with the interests of innovators.
Ananth Padmanabhan
Carnegie India

More from this author…
Let the Drone Industry Take Off
Let Justice Flow
A Larger R&D Budget Won’t Secure a Quantum Leap For Innovation in India
The recent spurt in automation technology, combined with advanced design, mapping, and visualization techniques, makes possible today something that was unimaginable even a few years ago—a highly accurate and mobile eye in the sky. Add to this the ongoing advances in robotics and deep machine learning and the possible applications of drones suddenly appear limitless. In fact, many unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) used by hobbyists today seamlessly incorporate a dazzling variety of technologies—Wi-Fi communications, rechargeable batteries, small high-resolution digital cameras, GPS receiver chips, accelerometer chips, and other miniaturized electronics—in a much better way than the UAVs used for military and intelligence missions, and provide imaging and sensing from a perspective not easily achievable by manned systems.1

These technological advances—coupled with innovations in manufacturing, including 3-D printing, autonomous repair systems, and wing coating—have led to a massive expansion in the potential market for UAVs. Together, these changes have turned drones into extremely proactive devices that can support such disparate activities as repair work on high-rises and harvesting operations on farm land, and with significant improvements in efficiency and cost. A comprehensive report on UAVs by the U.S. Department of Transportation identified five key subsystems that will heavily influence market expansion in this space: airframe; propulsion; communications, command, and control; sensors; and information processing.2

Barack Obama’s use of drones for targeted killings resulted in UAVs coming under a cloud and elicited severe criticism against their military use.
In a recent report, Goldman Sachs estimates the total global spending on drones over the next five years to be around $100 billion, of which $11.2 billion is projected to be generated by the construction industry.3 By 2020, the market for drone jobs in the United States alone will be $1.3 billion for construction and $1.4 billion in agriculture, according to the report.4 What cannot be ignored is that UAVs have crucial applications that can enrich such core public sectors as infrastructure, transport, and agriculture.

Widespread use of drones, however, also triggers a number of concerns. The primary concern is over the use of drones as lethal weapons. As pointed out by the human rights activist Medea Benjamin, the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States played an instrumental role in the perfection of allied technologies that would make drones function better. Unfortunately, the Barack Obama administration’s use of drones for targeted killings resulted in UAVs coming under a cloud and elicited severe criticism against their military use, by Benjamin and others.5 Additional concerns, especially from a civilian perspective, relate to questions of privacy and property infringement along with a host of other legal issues, including the conditions for drone usage by law enforcement.

This paper first maps the current state of UAV technology and its varied civilian uses in areas as diverse as agriculture, photography, infrastructure, and disaster management. It then examines the extent of drone use in India, and some of the start-up activity in the area of drone-enabled solutions and UAV technology.

The paper then transitions from the descriptive to the analytical, parsing out the proprietary, reputational, and security interests of individuals affected by UAV technology. In the absence of clear-cut judicial guidance or legislative intervention in India to address most of these concerns, the paper examines previous debates in the United States and regulatory responses in other jurisdictions as referential tools. Building on this comparative exercise, the paper offers important recommendations for India’s policymakers to ensure safe and dynamic deployment of UAV technology.


Unmanned flying operations are more than a century old, and it is useful to trace their path through history, even if briefly. The United States’ resort to lighter-than-air balloons during World War I for reconnaissance purposes slowly transitioned to the use of light airplanes in combat during World War II.6 Manned combat aircraft became more sophisticated during the Korean and the Vietnam Wars,7 but it was the post-Vietnam experimentation with transmitters capable of sending real-time video back to ground units that truly dictated the future course of unmanned aerial systems.8 When the U.S. drone program hit a roadblock in the form of resistance and skepticism by pilots of manned aircraft, Israel-backed research and development efforts in UAVs and unmanned aerial systems (UASs)—which are the ecosystem of pilot stations, command-and-control links, and other technical components and support needed for UAVs to fly—became all the more important in the drone development story.9 The military application of drones found its watershed moment during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm when UAVs provided direct support to ground forces in combat for the first time.10 At about the same time, Japan’s early foray into the UAV space started paying returns by the 1990s, when private Japanese entities such as Yamaha began deploying drones for a wide range of commercial applications.11

The Teal Group, an American defense consultancy, has been tracking the UAV industry for more than a decade, and its market projections for the civilian UAV market continue to grow with each annual report.12 Until 2015, the report projected the total market expansion, that is, it did not separate military and civilian use except to the extent of earmarking percentages for military, consumer, and civil cumulative use. However, 2015–2016 appears to have been an inflection point in the growth of civilian use of drones, as the organization has built on its experience of the past twelve years to prepare separate reports for military and civilian use. The 2016 report on civilian use estimates that nonmilitary UAS production will increase from $2.6 billion worldwide in 2016 to $10.9 billion in 2025, a 15.4 percent compound annual growth rate. Construction is projected to lead the market for commercial use of drones, followed by agriculture.13

A 2016 report estimates that nonmilitary UAS production will increase from $2.6 billion worldwide in 2016 to $10.9 billion in 2025.
Several companies and even some individual farmers are now using UAVs to perform precision agriculture. The low-cost combination of a quadcopter fitted with a camera is a powerful tool in the hands of these farmers to conduct effective surveillance of the growth and decay of crops, and thereby target the application of water, fertilizers, and pesticides to specific portions of a farm that need greater attention. This solution offers better resolution than satellite imagery and is far cheaper than crop imaging with a manned aircraft.

Most of the software used in the drone is open-sourced from communities working in this space, and thus avoids hefty licensing fees. The multispectral images taken by airborne cameras can capture data from both the infrared and visual spectrum, thereby highlighting differences between robust and weak plants.14 Ranchers can use the technology to survey fences and identify diseased cattle, and fishery managers can employ it to combat illegal fishing vessels.15 In Western Samoa, it has been used to create open-source, location-based visual data on coconut farms.16 In Nigeria and Bangladesh, these solutions have accelerated the planning, design, and construction of rice irrigation systems and the establishment of irrigation scheduling.17 A team led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics is using drone technology in Western Africa to secure land tenure information and thereby guarantee land use rights to small-holder agriculturists.18

Similarly, drones are revolutionizing investment monitoring, maintenance, and asset inventory in the infrastructure sector, particularly in energy, roads, railways, and oil and gas. They improve the speed and quality of the design process by providing high-resolution videos and images, as well as site data, to investors and engineers, enabling 3-D modeling that can create digital terrain models for more accurate contract valuation.19

They can add considerable value to the monitoring of construction job sites by simply capturing detailed images for daily progress reports, thereby allowing site supervisors to avoid issues such as improper sequencing that may lead to performance delays. With additional knowledge of orthomosaic photography and photogrammetry, technicians can use drones to create site survey maps that provide a foundation for work plans, including georeferenced cut-and-fill and earthwork hauling operations.20

Over time, drones could carry 3-D printers as part of the payload and execute actual repair work, instead of passively transmitting information.
Over time, drones could carry 3-D printers as part of the payload and execute actual repair work, instead of passively transmitting information.21 The telecommunications industry has started using drones for maintenance enhancement because they are much safer than manned operations in carrying out tower and antenna inspections. In a T-Mobile pilot project, drones took fifteen minutes to test antenna masts at a stadium, compared with the one week needed to achieve the same outcome through traditional methods.22

In the mining industry, drones can facilitate digital models of current work progress and detect changes in the mine structure, thereby enhancing safety and bringing down costs of controlling processes. Progress in 3-D scanning technology can improve the mapping efficacy of drones in underground settings.23

The transport sector will also be affected by drone technology, as both private companies and the public sector have started experimenting with drones for delivery of e-commerce packages, medical supplies, and industrial spare parts,24 and during disaster management.25


The immense potential of drones has led to their increasing adoption in India, too. Though both the industry and the market in India are at a very nascent stage at the moment, there is immense growth potential for both. A major thrust will be given by the willingness of the present Indian government to use drones for a variety of purposes, including crop mapping and surveillance of infrastructure projects, pushing the projected value of the domestic industry to approximately $421 million by 2021.26

The variety of applications is already deeply diverse:

Indian start-ups are assisting in the 3-D digital mapping of the Raebareli–Allahabad highway, as part of the road-widening project executed by the National Highways Authority of India. The data gathered by UAVs is turning out to be extremely useful in the computation of compensation for those whose property rights are affected by the project.
Similarly, Indian Railways is planning the bidding process for 3-D video mapping of the entire dedicated freight corridor network of 3,360 kilometers (roughly 2,000 miles) using drone technology.27
The state-owned Power Grid Corporation of India has obtained approval from a committee representing the Ministries of Defense, Home Affairs, and Power to use drones for monitoring project development. The organization believes that this can render the monitoring of projects in hilly terrains particularly cheap and efficient.28
Recently, one of India’s leading power transmission companies sealed a deal with a global player to use large-scale, long-distance drone flights for inspection of utility assets.29 In a country with a power transmission network of more than a million circuit kilometers witnessing annual double-digit growth, drones can potentially help in avoiding grid blackouts.30
The ability of drones to monitor surface integrity, take measurements, and assess wear and damage has prompted the National Thermal Power Corporation to consider their deployment for solar panel inspection, predictive maintenance, and surveillance and intrusion detection in solar power plants.31 Drone-powered execution of infrared detection in solar photovoltaics can have monumental positive benefits for India,32 as the country attempts to achieve its stated goal of 100 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2022.33
Coal India has applied for permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Civil Aviation to start using drones for aerial surveys of coal blocks that come up for exploration, in order to assess the extent of greenery to be restored after mines are closed.34
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has already been relying on the delivery and tracking capabilities of drones to handle disaster relief and rescue in India.35 Similarly, during elections in the State of Chhattisgarh, the Central Reserve Police Force used UAVs for patrolling an area of 40,000 square kilometers and providing round-the-clock surveillance.36 The Government of Uttar Pradesh has used drones for maintaining law and order at the Kumbh Mela festival in Allahabad, and so have the Mumbai police during the grandiose Ganpati festival.37 Drones helped the New Delhi police identify seventy bags of bricks stocked for use as projectiles by rioters during the Trilokpuri riots in 2014, and they could take preemptive action.38
Equally fascinating is the fact that a lot of these uses have been spearheaded by Indian start-ups:

Netra, the UAV used by the NDMA during the Uttarakhand floods, was jointly developed by the Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO) and IdeaForge, a start-up created by five graduates of the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai.39
Quidich, founded in 2014, has slowly transitioned from an aerial photography services provider to an organization involved in disaster relief operations as it was after the Nepal earthquake in 2015,40 and it has also helped Indian agriculture through image-processing algorithms that analyze aerial footage.41
NavStik, a Pune-based start-up, has launched an indigenous platform, Flyt, for commercial drone makers, which bundles its operating system (FlytOS) and computer system (FlytPOD) to facilitate the creation of custom drone applications by third-party developers.42
Aarav Unmanned Systems has been providing faster and cheaper land-surveying solutions for the construction industry and utility companies,43 while Airwood, a Chennai-based start-up, is offering agricultural production management solutions using drone-facilitated data collection and predictive analytics.44
Omnipresent Robot Tech has worked with a major medical college in New Delhi to prototype air ambulances to deliver medical supplies to remote areas,45 and helped Jabong, a fashion e-retail company, to test drones for product delivery in its warehouse at Manesar, Haryana.46
These are just a few of the names in this space.47 While Indian start-ups are on course to take advantage of the opportunities offered by this industry, the lingering question is whether India itself is ready to take advantage of their vision and enterprise.

The initial response of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Indian regulator, to the security concerns posed by UAVs was to issue a public notice forbidding any nongovernment agency, organization, or individual from launching a UAV in Indian civil space for any purpose whatsoever.48 This knee-jerk reaction, though worded as an interim measure pending full consideration of the issue and the framing of appropriate regulations, disrupted the business operations of several Indian start-ups. Companies such as Airpix, a drone services and consultancy start-up, and users such as housing.com, an online housing portal, had to discontinue aerial photography services and use.49 A pizzeria’s home-delivery service using a drone was immediately locked down by the Mumbai police.50

While Indian start-ups are on course to take advantage of the opportunities, the lingering question is whether India itself is ready to take advantage of their vision and enterprise.
Comparisons with drone usage in other countries do not make for a compelling argument in the regulatory space because each society and its needs are so varied. Yet, it is difficult to ignore the reality that SZ DJI Technology Co. Ltd. of Shenzen, China, founded only in 2006, had by 2015 grown big enough to control 70 percent of the global commercial drone market and an even higher percentage of the consumer drone market, with an estimated revenue of $1 billion.51 No Indian start-up has gained traction anywhere close to this size in the UAV space. It took the DGCA about sixteen months from its earlier ban to finally come up with draft guidelines for the operation of UAVs, but as discussed below, these guidelines do not reveal much foresight. The fundamental approach of the Indian regulator has been to play catch-up in this space, rather than work with the UAV industry and frame appropriate regulations for a constantly evolving technology and business model.52

A decentralized airspace, as brought on by the advent of consumer UAV technology, has implications for three kinds of interests: property, privacy, and life.
Before tweaking the existing civil aviation regulations and force fitting the UAV industry within the older paradigm of the Aircraft Act and Rules and other strictures, it would help to understand the drastic and disruptive shift in use of airspace caused by the technological advances in the UAV industry. Broadly speaking, a decentralized airspace, as brought on by the advent of consumer UAV technology, has implications for three kinds of interests: property, privacy, and life.Nation-states and regulators have to think carefully about all three.


“The sky has no definite location. . . . There can be no ownership of infinity, nor can equity prevent a supposed violation of an abstract conception.”
—Judge Haney, in Hinman v. Pacific Air Transport Corporation53

The many types of civilian UAV use outlined above, and some of the recent high-profile incidents involving drones, including the inadvertent incursion and crashing of a hobbyist drone on the White House lawn in Washington, DC,54 illustrate the decentralization of airspace brought on by UAV technology.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recorded several near-collisions between small drones and manned aircraft in recent years, many of which occurred during takeoffs and landings at busy U.S. airports.55 To understand these concerns better, it is necessary to appreciate the ambivalent character of airspace in traditional property discourse. The most frequent justification offered for private property—the tragedy of the commons—argues that property goes to waste when left open to unfettered use by all and sundry. To avoid this, the institution of private property is employed to centralize access to property, and then to secure this exclusivity of access through common law tools, such as penalties for trespass and nuisance, as well as regulatory measures, including the registration of property and the recognition of title.56

This section of the paper focuses on the American response to these concerns because the United States is one of the few common law jurisdictions in which such issues have been addressed comprehensively by the courts.

Long before the recent surge in UAV activity, the advent of manned aircraft had challenged traditional notions of private property in the context of airspace use and ownership. In a 1936 case, Hinman v. Pacific Air Transport Corporation,57 the appellants sought to use the civil action of trespass to restrain airline companies from flying above their property. Their contention was that as landowners, their rights extended to as much of the airspace as they could reasonably be expected to use and occupy, and that the upper limit of such expectation would certainly not be less than 150 feet above ground level. Because the defendant airlines were flying at altitudes less than 100 feet above the appellants’ lands, they were alleged to be committing trespass. Rejecting this contention, the Circuit Court of Appeals held that the air, like the sea, was by its nature incapable of private ownership except in so far as one may actually use it.58 However, any use of airspace by others that was injurious to the owner’s land or constituted an actual interference with its possession or beneficial use was considered a trespass. Thus, the court shifted the meaning of trespass—which in the case of land, would require only a showing of factual intrusion—to require injurious intrusion in the context of airspace. This view did not, however, fully resolve the complicated question of ownership of superjacent airspace—lying just above the land—as seen from the subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decision in United States v. Causby.59

In the Causby litigation, decided in 1946, the respondent landowner alleged that frequent army flights over his land at low altitudes amounted to a constitutional taking of property, for which he was entitled to compensation. The proximity of the land to the airport, coupled with the sound and fury of the planes, forced the owner to give up his chicken business.60 The U.S. government countered that the flights were in the navigable airspace, that is, above the minimum safe altitudes as statutorily prescribed, and hence would not amount to a taking. The government also contended that the landowner did not own any superjacent airspace unless he had subjected it to possession by the erection of structures or other modes of occupancy.61

In its ruling, the Supreme Court first laid out the general principle that the ancient common law doctrine—cujus est solum ejus est usque ad coelom (he who possesses the land possesses also that which is above it)—would not apply in the modern world to extend ownership over land to the periphery of the universe. Otherwise, the court pointed out, every transcontinental flight would subject the airline operator to countless trespass suits and clog the courts.62 However, it distinguished the case from an easy application of this general principle, on the basis that the owner’s residence was rendered uninhabitable and that neither actual physical occupation by the owner nor physical displacement from possession by the intruder were required for the land to be diminished in its value. The majority opinion also made a technical distinction between the glide path during takeoff and landing and the navigable airspace, and held that the minimum safe altitude stipulated by the Civil Aeronautics Authority would not apply during takeoff and landing operations63—a distinction that drew a dissenting opinion.64 The court concluded that “an intrusion so immediate and direct as to subtract from the owner’s full enjoyment of the property and to limit his exploitation of it” would amount to a taking,65 but did not determine the precise limits “of the public domain.”66 This deliberate omission on the court’s part to clarify the extent of the “immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere” to which the landowner ought to have exclusive control resulted in leaving open the issue of ownership of the space sandwiched between the ground and 500 feet above ground,67 the latter being the point from which the navigable airspace would statutorily commence.68

Though this decision was rendered in the context of takings law, the principle laid down therein was subsequently incorporated by the Second Restatement of Torts,69 which said in part that aircraft flight over the land of another would amount to a trespass only when (a) the craft entered into the “immediate reaches of the airspace next to the land,” and (b) it caused substantial interference with the owner’s use and enjoyment of the land.70 This principle has specifically been applied in the case of trespass claims involving overhanging encroachments,71 and could equally apply to drones.72 In the 2015 case of Rivera v. Foley,73 a U.S. District Court judge endorsed this approach, and held that a journalist who used drones to capture images from a crime scene was “effectively trespassing.”74 Similarly, tort claims grounded on nuisance might also apply against drone users. Despite drones not causing high levels of noise and dust, they could potentially constitute a private nuisance if the million-drones-in-the-sky dream were ever realized.75 For such a claim to succeed, landowners would have to satisfy the dual test of substantial and unreasonable interference caused by drones flying over or in close proximity to their property.76

The above property-related concerns arise in the context of UAVs as flying machines. In addition, UAVs today represent data in action. The combination of data analytics algorithms, multispectral and thermal imaging, volumetric measurement capabilities, and advanced mapping technologies makes UAVs aerial information-gathering platforms.77 This capability, however, brings along with it serious privacy concerns, which in the United States has both constitutional and common law dimensions. The constitutional dimension largely arises when drones become a tool for investigative searches and the recording of evidence, since the legality of the search or of the digitally captured evidence could be challenged on the ground of violation of privacy. Though the issue has not come up before the Supreme Court in the specific case of drone use, the court’s views on privacy concerns clashingwith investigative use of other, possibly related, technologies is instructive.

Drones could run into trouble over privacy infringement as they get increasingly used by the media to gather news and information.
In Florida v. Riley (1989),78 the issue involved a Fourth Amendment challenge to the legality of a warrantless search conducted by a police helicopter that flew 400 feet above a residential greenhouse for purposes of tracking contraband.79 The Supreme Court dismissed the challenge, holding that police personnel traveling in the public airways at this altitude need not obtain a warrant to observe what was visible to the naked eye.80 Similarly, in California v. Ciraolo (1986),81 the Supreme Court held that it was unreasonable to expect marijuana plants to be constitutionally protected from being observed with the naked eye from an altitude of 1,000 feet. On the other hand, in Kyllo v. United States (2001),82 the court held that the use of thermal imaging devices to search a residence was constitutionally improper. Interestingly, the court was influenced considerably by the fact that these devices were “not in general public use” when the surveillance happened.83 In United States v. Jones (2012),84 the court disallowed unauthorized searches that make use of radio transmitters and receivers, high-resolution digital video cameras, and location-tracking devices. While the jurisprudential basis for these decisions is quite complex and falls outside the scope of discussion here,85 the court’s assessment of “reasonable expectation of privacy” within the Fourth Amendment context could result in potential invalidation of drone-powered investigative solutions that offer enhanced intrusive capabilities.86

In addition to provoking constitutional issues when deployed by law enforcement, drones could also more generally run into trouble with the civil wrong of privacy infringement as they get increasingly used by the media to gather news and information. The tort of privacy infringement, tracing its origins to a seminal article by Samuel D. Warren and Louis D. Brandeis,87 has evolved into four separate categories. Drone activity would best fit within the category of “intrusion upon the plaintiff’s seclusion or solitude, or into his private affairs.”88 To establish this claim, though, plaintiffs must show intent on the part of drone operators to intrude into their affairs.89 The tort can, however, apply even to claims against nonphysical intrusions that stay clear of actual trespass into the plaintiff’s premises,90 and to situations where the collected information is not disseminated subsequently to third parties,91 thereby lending sufficient flexibility to the law to adapt to evolving techniques of drone surveillance and data collection.92 The “reasonable expectation of privacy” is an important aspect here, too, though it is not entirely clear whether the standard to determine such expectation would be the same as that in the context of the Fourth Amendment issue.93 Courts will also generally look at whether the intrusive conduct qualifies as “highly offensive to a reasonable person,” and whether there are overriding First Amendment guarantees against the regulation of the media that permit the intrusion.94

Finally, drones can cause physical injury as a result of midair collisions and crashes. This raises the issue of the optimal trade-off between the negligence standard and the imposition of strict liability for such unfortunate incidents. In the case of manned aircraft, early legal developments considered the technology hazardous enough to impose strict liability for all ground damage caused by overflying aircraft. However, with time, some courts have rejected the strict liability approach and put onus on the plaintiffs to demonstrate negligence on the part of the aircraft operator, though it is difficult to conclusively say that the present legal standard requires a showing of negligence in all circumstances.95

In any case, courts need not necessarily adopt the same approach to UAVs, considering the huge variance in the weight and payload of these devices and the consequential dangers they pose. Similarly, the duty of care owed by aircraft operators to each other may influence courts in adopting a negligence standard for midair collision losses suffered by fellow aircraft operators.96 However, strict liability imposition is dependent on showing that the activity in question is “not one of common usage,” and “creates a foreseeable and highly significant risk of physical harm even when reasonable care is exercised by all actors.”97 UAVs are certainly not as common in usage as manned aircraft, and the very fact that they are not manned could be used to establish the foreseeable and highly significant risk of physical harm.98 Thus, the eventual choice between negligence and strict liability standards will heavily depend on multiple factors, including the altitude and character of airspace, the manner of operation such as line-of-sight versus beyond-line-of-sight, and the technologies integrated into the UAV to avoid collision. This choice will not only help adjudicate disputes between private parties but also direct the growth of a robust drone insurance industry.99

The on-the-ground response in the United States has been a patchwork of state laws to tackle concerns about drones, resulting in constitutional questions regarding the federal preemption of these laws.
The above mapping of the property, privacy, and injury concerns raised by drones only shows that no conclusive responses are now in sight. But before looking for substantive answers that will largely emerge as the technology evolves, it is key to ask an important procedural question: Who should decide on these issues?

Some commentators have expressed optimism in the ability of courts to respond effectively through common law adjudication,100 that is, on an evolving case-by-case approach. But others believe in the stipulation of a comprehensive rules-based framework that does not leave much scope for judicial interpretation.101 Even in the case of the latter, there is considerable divergence of opinion, with some commentators largely trusting the ability of states to address these concerns on a local basis,102 and others weighing more in favor of a federal policy.103

The on-the-ground response in the United States has been a patchwork of state laws to tackle these concerns, resulting in constitutional questions regarding the federal preemption of these laws by the Federal Aviation Act, the Airline Deregulation Act, and other federal statutes.104 Currently, thirty-one states across the country have enacted UAV/UAS laws, regulating or at least considering regulation of a wide range of issues such as trespass, privacy, insurance, and commercial, governmental, and recreational uses.105 In fact, privacy counts as one of the most significant areas where state intervention has occurred in the United States. Twenty-two states have passed privacy protection laws, including the requirement that law enforcement obtain a warrant for UAS use, except in exigent circumstances such as destruction of evidence, immediate flight of a suspect, or imminent danger to an individual. The laws also provide for the criminalization of UAV use for “peeping tom” activities by nongovernmental operators and expand the definition of harassment to include certain drone uses near locations enjoying a reasonable expectation of privacy.106 Nevada and Oregon have provided for trespass claims against UAS operators who continue to fly at less than 250 and 400 feet, respectively, over an owner’s property after receiving prior notification from the owner that they are not authorized to do so.107

Another interesting trend in many of these state-level attempts is the identification of important public benefit uses of drones and the balancing of privacy and property concerns over these uses. For instance, Florida’s legislation, which prohibits the use of drones to capture images, provides for exceptions to this prohibition when the UAV use is for property appraisal in computing property taxes, operating and maintaining utilities, assessing vegetation growth, or monitoring the environment.108 Even states that restrict the use of UAVs by governmental agencies provide for exceptions such as search and rescue missions, particularly during disaster relief operations, leading to the patchwork approach to drone regulation.109

The nuances of these laws notwithstanding, this overall approach, if one could take the liberty to brand it so, represents one way to regulate technology in a federal setting, and poses questions to similarly placed federal nations, such as India, as regards the ideal stance for regulating UAVs. But before detailing the Indian approach, it is important to map the global regulatory response to security concerns posed by UAVs.


The issue of airspace security, in contrast to the concerns discussed above, goes beyond the realm of individual rights to the formation and maintenance of a collective system to prevent collisions and casualties. Globally, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has taken the lead in stipulating minimally acceptable standards for UAV operations through the release of Circular 328 and the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) Manual. Circular 328 was ICAO’s initial attempt to communicate its perspective on the need to integrate UASs in nonsegregated civilian airspace.110 An integral part of its thinking has been the presence of a remotely located pilot who takes on the fundamental responsibilities of the pilot-in-command in a manned aircraft.111 A progressive document, it envisages full integration of RPAS with manned aircraft subject to alternate technological capabilities to recognize aerodrome signs, visual signals, terrain and weather complications, and other aircraft or vehicles.112 The RPAS Manual provides guidance on the technical and operational issues connected with the integration of RPAS in nonsegregated airspace,113 including type certification and airworthiness approvals, RPA registration, responsibilities of RPAS operators, RPAS operations, detect and avoid mechanisms, air traffic control communications, and remote pilot stations.114

Some commentators have critiqued ICAO’s efforts in this area primarily on the basis that they are heavily tilted toward integrating large unmanned aircraft into the manned aircraft space without a clear assessment of whether higher regulatory compliance costs and insurance premiums might dissuade airline companies from making such a transition. They have also added that the ICAO program is ironically quite indifferent to the regulation of small UAVs, which likely pose safety risks for larger manned aircraft.115

Regulations Around the World
At the national level, different countries have tried out varying regulatory models. In Singapore, the new UAV guidelines, part of the Unmanned Aircraft (Public Safety and Security) Act, are extremely permit-heavy and have strict restrictions on the movement of drones in mainland Singapore.116 While hobbyists who use drones weighing less than 7 kilos need not obtain a permit, all users of UAVs above this weight require one of three permits.117 An Operator Permit is granted by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) to an applicant who establishes capability in ensuring safe operation of the UAV. An Activity Permit is granted for a single activity carried out by the UAV at a specific area of operation. Other permits are required for different activities that come under the jurisdiction of various agencies. Additional permits will be required if there is a discharge of objects from the UAV, photographs are taken of a protected area, or if the UAV is flown in Special Event Areas as declared by the Ministry of Home Affairs.118 While details of a speed limit and training facilities are not mentioned in the act, it criminalizes certain behavior associated with drone use, such as carrying dangerous materials while flying, as mentioned in section 9, and photographing a protected area by using photographic equipment on board the unmanned aircraft, as provided by section 8.

Comparatively, in the United States, the new UAV regulatory framework has given civilians a much faster route for flying UAVs. It substitutes the previous rules, which prescribed a compulsory pilot’s license for the UAV operator, with far fewer restrictions.119 The present FAA rules specify that all civilian UAVs relying on automatic permissions—as opposed to the specific permissions on a case-by-case basis—must weigh less than 25 kilos, must remain within visual line of sight, cannot be operated at night, and cannot fly more than 400 feet above the ground.120 Thus, the rules appear to restrict innovative UAV uses, such as Amazon’s delivery drones, that would require beyond-line-of-sight operations.121 However, UAV operations have been permitted within most airspace with air traffic control clearance,122 and the FAA also appears to be slowly but cautiously permitting the testing of beyond-line-of-sight operations.123

Australia’s new federal legislation aims to differentiate between low-risk and high-risk RPAS, and uses their weight to classify them.124 Certain low-risk RPAS can operate without licenses and permissions, thereby providing a business opportunity for commercial enterprises that use drones lighter than 2 kilos.

Drone laws in Poland dispense with registration for drones lighter than 25 kilos but insist on an operator’s license when the drone is heavier.125 The operation of UAVs for commercial purposes requires the pilot to obtain a certificate of competence, which applies to both line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight operations.126 However, the latter is permitted only in segregated airspace.127

In Canada, UAV operators require a special authorization except when the UAV is below 35 kilos and used solely for recreational purposes.128 Safety guidelines include flying only during daylight and in good weather, keeping the UAV within the operator’s line of sight, and not flying within 9 kilometers of an airport, higher than 90 meters above the ground, or within 150 meters of people, animals, buildings, or vehicles.129 For UAVs weighing 25 kilos or less and being used for nonrecreational purposes, applicants are required to take liability insurance and fly only in daylight.130

In the United Kingdom, a person in charge of an unmanned aircraft with a mass of more than 7 kilos cannot fly the aircraft without specific permission, or at a height of more than 400 feet except in some very limited instances.131 In addition, the operator must be reasonably satisfied that the flight can be made and cannot drop an article or an animal from the aircraft so as to endanger people or property.132

In Israel, meanwhile, no specific UAV rules are in place, as the country uses its civil aviation law—including its licensing, registration, and operational requirements—to regulate UAVs.133 However, under rules issued by the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel, UAVs cannot be flown in populated areas below 5,000 feet, except during takeoff and landing or with prior approval.134 In the absence of prior approval, the rules also disallow the simultaneous remote operation of more than one UAV by the same operator from the same remote pilot station.135

China has tried to assimilate the leap in technology into its regulatory framework, as seen from its rules applicable to civil unmanned aircraft that weigh no more than 116 kilos.136 Apart from a division of the weight range into four subclasses—0 to 1.5 kilos, 1.5 to 4, 4 to 15, and 15 to 116—the rules have a separate category for plant-protection UASs. Integrating the technological evolution of the Internet of things into the regulatory structure, the rules stipulate an online real-time supervision system that includes a “UAS cloud” and an “electronic fence.” The cloud is a dynamic database management system that monitors flight data in real time, and the fence is a software and hardware system that earmarks specific areas as prohibited zones and automatically restrains aircraft from entering. UAVs weighing above 4 kilos must integrate these systems.137 A chapter in the rules stipulates the qualifications to be a UAS cloud provider. The rules also allow beyond-line-of-sight flying, though they give air route priority to manned aircraft. This is possible primarily because of the integration of the cloud and the fence into UAV flying operations. The UAS cloud system is also expected to provide a level playing field for new UAS operators to access safety instructions and other relevant information.138 With the parallel proposal to further open up low-altitude airspace for civilian use,139 China seems to be imbibing the ICAO agenda in full spirit and aiming for complete integration of manned and unmanned aircraft.

Thus, while countries vary in their approaches to drone regulation, there are some common concerns that most of them address: the weight and identification of the craft, the competence of the operator, and altitude or spatial restrictions.

India’s Regulations
The Indian draft guidelines, issued in April 2016 by the DGCA, also deal with these issues. As per the guidelines, UAVs have been categorized by weight into four classes: micro, which is up to 2 kilos; mini, exceeding 2 kilos but less than 20; small, exceeding 20 kilos and less than 150; and large, exceeding 150.140 All UAVs require a Unique Identification Number (UIN) issued by the DGCA.141 A UIN can be granted only to a citizen of India or to a company that is incorporated and has its principal place of business in India, with substantial control vested in Indian nationals.142 The UIN is a positive security measure with which any UAV operating in India can be tracked and identified. However, permitting primarily only Indian nationals to obtain a UIN would impede economic growth and technological progress.

The procedure and documentation for granting a UIN is already quite elaborate, requiring address and identity proof; information concerning the purpose of the UAV’s operation as well as its specifications, flight manual, and manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines; character verification of the operator by the local subdivisional police; and permission from the Department of Telecommunications to use the radio frequencies required for the UAV’s operation. Moreover, all civilian UAV operations at or above 200 feet in uncontrolled airspace for any purpose will require an unmanned aircraft operator permit (UAOP) from DGCA, while operation of civilian UAVs in controlled airspace is restricted.143 UAVs can enter controlled airspace only with the prior approval of the air navigation service provider, which will be in the form of an airways clearance.144 In addition, all UAV operators have to ensure that the UAV is flown within a 500-meter visual-line-of-sight during the entire flight.145 With these precautions in place, it may be redundant and restrictive to exclude foreign players from obtaining a UIN.

The UAOP is valid for two years and is not transferable.146 A UAOP is not required for civil UAV operations below 200 feet in uncontrolled airspace that is clear of restricted areas, for model aircraft operating below 200 feet in uncontrolled airspace, or for indoor flying for recreational purposes.147 This is a constructive step to free up civilian use of UAVs, particularly at educational institutions where students could tinker with the technology and innovate further. For all UAV flights above 200 feet, the UAS operator has to inform the local administration, the air traffic service unit, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, and any aerodrome operators, if applicable, both prior to and following the operation. The operator also has to file flight plans containing information about the flight, performance characteristics of the UAV, the number and location of remote pilot stations, payload, and insurance coverage for liability.

The guidelines also mandate UAV operators to carry out safety assessments of the launch site and maintain full control over the site of operation. This is integral to airspace security because UAV technology—which relies on a closed loop of radio communications between the remote pilot station and the UAV and is thus less prone to man-in-the-middle type of attacks—is highly prone to attacks at either end of the loop. By infiltrating either the UAV or the command-and-control facilities at the pilot station with malware or bugs, bad actors could gain control over the UAV and play havoc with its operation.

The guidelines also stipulate the training requirements for remote pilots. They should be above eighteen years of age and have a thorough training equivalent to that undertaken by the crew of manned aircraft or by the holder of a private pilot license. The training should also include preparation for a flight radio telephone operator’s license. In addition, remote pilots are required to undertake thorough practical training in the control of an unmanned aircraft in flight, including simulated flight training, so that they can build capabilities not only in controlling the UAV throughout its aerial operation but also for its safe recovery in the event of an emergency or system malfunction. These training requirements are not applicable to recreational flying and the flying of micro UAVs.148


In a federal system, three regulatory components are required to ensure that the government promotes the progress of a given industry: (1) identification of all possible concerns, both from an individual rights and collective security standpoint, that can bring the industry under the scrutiny of regulators; (2) framing of clear rules that optimally balance these concerns with an efficient and competitive functioning of the industry marketplace; (3) unification of the laws applicable to the industry so that there is uniformity in regulatory practice throughout the country.

The first flaw in the Indian approach to UAVs is that all possible concerns have not been identified with care and sagacity. The guidelines take a very airspace-centric view, with little acceptance of the reality that what the present consumer UAV technology does is substantively different from competing with manned aircraft for high-altitude airspace. Ironically, the guidelines overtly restrict UAVs from operating in controlled airspaces but in all other respects regulate them with the primary intent of avoiding collisions. In doing so, the guidelines lose sight of the fact that in low-altitude spaces, the probability of conflict is actually a lot higher between landowners and UAV operators.

In low-altitude spaces, the probability of conflict is actually a lot higher between landowners and UAV operators rather than between high-altitude aircraft.
These issues could range from trespass and nuisance concerns to privacy infringement and liability for injury. The guidelines make cursory reference, if any at all, to these concerns. Guideline 10.4, for instance, states that the privacy and protection of personnel/property/data shall be given due importance. Guideline 11 provides that the UAOP shall not immunize the UAS operator against any rights or remedies that property owners and residents may have with respect to any personal injury or property damage caused directly or indirectly by the UAV. Guideline 12 mandates all UAOP holders to carry insurance for the liability that they might incur for any damage to third parties. Under Guideline 6, prior written permission from the land/property owner, whose space is used for takeoff/landing operations, is required to obtain a UAOP in case of UAV operations below 200 feet.149 Apart from these rather indirect references to core individual-level rights and interests, the rules provide no guidance on how to resolve conflicts of the kind outlined above.

Unfortunately, Indian courts have not had the opportunity to provide much guidance on these issues either, primarily because the Indian aviation sector has always been highly regulated, with strict limits on the zone of operation of manned aircraft. In addition, aviation technology never went through the legacy phase in India that it did in the United States, where many of these conflicts were addressed by the courts. The few judgments that exist in India seem to point in the direction that ownership of airspace over a surface extends to such a limit as is necessary for the ordinary use and enjoyment of the land and the structures on it.150 The statutory vesting of streets with the municipal authorities means only that the authorities are vested with so much of the airspace as would be reasonably necessary for them to adequately manage the street as a street.151

In Indrachand Jaju v. The Sub-Divisional Officer,152 the Gauhati High Court had to consider whether a structure (chajja) built over a government-owned stream amounted to an encroachment and trespass. The court vaguely observed that “it may be that the law recognizes no right of ownership in the distant airspace at all or at least no right of exclusive use but merely prohibits all acts which by their nature or their proximity interfere with the full enjoyment and use of the surface.”153 However, the court then went on to distinguish intrusion by aircraft from intrusion by other objects. In its view, the former was regulated by statute, and therefore, “the Rule generally is that no action shall lie in respect of trespass or in respect of nuisance, by reason only of flight of an aircraft over any property at a height above the ground, which having regard to wind, weather, and all the circumstances of the case is reasonable, or the ordinary incidents of such flight.”154 It is unlikely that the court envisaged low-altitude airspace, and aircraft presence therein, when considering its ruling. If anything, the court’s observations support the view that the scope of individual-level rights challenged by UAV technology should not be left to courts and common law adjudication.155 In the interests of certainty and clarity, much needed for the organic growth of any new-tech industry, it is imperative that legislative action be directed toward laying down the scope of property rights over low-altitude airspace.

The few judgments that exist in India suggest ownership of airspace over a surface extends to a limit as necessary for the ordinary use and enjoyment of the land and the structures on it.
Similar is the case with privacy and injury concerns. In the context of law enforcement, Indian courts have not particularly frowned upon illegally obtained evidence, except in narrow situations where there was “compulsion” placed on the accused to part with the evidence.156 In Yusufalli Esmail Nagree v. State of Maharashtra and RM Malkani v. State of Maharashtra,157 the Indian Supreme Court held as admissible a secretly tape-recorded conversation in which the accused incriminated himself, on the grounds that since the conversation was entirely voluntary, and the accused had not been compelled, tortured, or threatened to make an incriminatory statement, it was not in violation of Article 20(3)—the right against self-incrimination—of the Indian Constitution. Thus, the right of privacy was not enough to eliminate the evidence from the record.158 This point is affirmed more strongly in State of Madhya Pradesh v. Paltan Mallah,159 where the court ruled that weapons obtained during an illegal search are admissible unless the accused would suffer serious prejudice.The court also created a distinction between offering “personal testimony” and “furnishing evidence” through the production of physical objects, thumb impressions, handwriting samples, and other bodily substances, immunizing the accused only against compulsion to part with testimony and not evidence.160 In short, if law enforcement were to use UAV technology to surreptitiously gather evidence, Indian courts are unlikely to bar such evidence as the state of law now stands.

Privacy has fared better in India as an independent right within the context of conflicts between citizens inter se. Two broad conceptual trends can be discerned from a reading of Indian cases on this point. One is the constitutionalization of privacy as part of the right to life under Article 21, and the other is the evolution of privacy as a separate tort claim in the Indian context. The first trend started not too long after independence, through two seminal decisions by the Supreme Court: Kharak Singh v. Union of India and Govind v. State of M.P.161 In the former case, the court, when deciding on the constitutional validity of a police regulation that authorized surveillance of an individual with a criminal past, held that secret surveillance of the individual’s residence to maintain a record of his visitors was valid but domiciliary night visits were not. However, the dissenting opinion, which subsequently set the march of the law in motion, held both practices invalid, reasoning that the entire life of the individual was made an open book, with his every activity closely observed and followed, resulting in a violation of the right to privacy—“an essential ingredient of personal liberty.”162 This was followed by Govind, holding that constitutional rights and freedoms guaranteed that the individual, his personality, and those things stamped with it shall be free from official interference except where a reasonable basis existed for intrusion.163

Privacy has fared better in India as an independent right within the context of conflicts between citizens inter se.
In R. Rajagopal v. State of Tamil Nadu,164 the court carefully distinguished this trend from a separate need to establish violation of privacy as a basis for independent tortious claims, though branding both aspects “two faces of the same coin.” In the words of the court:

A citizen has a right to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, child-bearing and education among other matters. None can publish anything concerning the above matters without his consent whether truthful or otherwise and whether laudatory or critical. If he does so, he would be violating the right to privacy of the person concerned and would be liable in an action for damages.165

Interestingly, these observations came in the context of the state’s attempt to clamp down on the publication of a serial killer’s autobiography, relying on his privacy and the potential defamation of state officials as the rationale for its action. It can be reasonably argued that this factual foundation—conflict of free press with privacy and reputation—has led to a heavy focus on the disclosure of private and confidential information as an independent tortious claim,166 and less of a focus on the intrusiveness of certain practices that may affect privacy though not making the gathered information public.167 This distinction has great application in the case of UAV technology, because concerns about the intrusiveness of the technology are no less serious than those relating to its ability to illegally gather and publicize private data.

Concerns about the intrusiveness of drone technology are no less serious than those relating to its ability to illegally gather and publicize private data.
As a final point on this theme of incomplete identification of interests affected by UAV technology, scholars have argued that the heavy influence of public law principles has stunted the growth of private law in India.168 This is particularly important after acknowledging that the civil justice system is broken and trials take a long time to complete. Therefore, the clarification of principles applicable to the resolution of individual-level disputes has not happened in a consistent and coherent fashion. In matters such as apportionment of liability and award of damages, courts have confused private law concepts such as responsibility and risk with public law ideas of fairness and equity.169 In their concern to provide immediate, short-term benefits to litigants, Indian courts have ignored the substantive growth of tort law, manipulated tort law principles to suit the adjudicative structure that works faster, and created additional problems such as moral hazard and claim impersonalization.170 These shortcomings make it all the more important for the legislature to intervene and at least stipulate a coherent substantive legal structure to resolve the property, privacy, and injury concerns raised by UAV technology.

This leads us to the issue of unifying the legal norms to address the above concerns. Naturally, one must start with asking whether there is a possibility of disunity in such norms, considering how the Union government and the Indian Parliament have exclusively occupied lawmaking and norm-setting for the aviation industry. On the face of it, Entry 29 of List I, Schedule VII of the Indian Constitution, dealing with airways, aircraft, and air navigation, vests such exclusivity with the central government. However, many of the concerns identified above are claims under the law of tort, and can well fit within Entry 8 of List III, Schedule VII dealing with actionable wrongs. In such a case, till the point when the Union intervenes and occupies the field in question, states can continue to make their own laws and regulations balancing the property, privacy, and injury concerns of citizens with the rights and autonomy of UAV operators. Equally pertinent, but with even more far-reaching regulatory implications, is the fact that rights in or over land are included in Entry 18 of List II, Schedule VII thereby vesting exclusive jurisdiction with the states to make laws regarding the same. A strong argument can be put forth that the issue of ownership over low-altitude airspace falls within this entry and not Entry 29 of List I. This view could in turn result in a patchwork of rules and regulations, with the operation of UAVs falling within the Union’s exclusive jurisdiction, the scope of ownership of airspace superjacent to land falling within the states’ exclusive jurisdiction, and the design of privacy, trespass, and other civil claims coming within the jurisdiction of both.

Therefore, it is imperative that the government of India begins a serious exploration into the individual-level concerns highlighted in this paper, most of which have been ignored by the current guidelines, and move to occupy the regulatory field in its entirety, leaving little room for the states to initiate their own collection of rules. At this point, a nascent UAV industry would not be able to bear the huge regulatory compliance costs associated with diverse state-level rules, or even worse, the possibility that a stray incident somewhere would compel one or more states to restrict the technology itself. Such an outcome would be detrimental to the realization of the technology’s promise and full potential.


Three important exercises are required to be undertaken by the central government when embarking on a more comprehensive regulatory framework.

The first is to take another look at the Aircraft Act and Rules and critically examine how much of this framework is indeed applicable to the current UAV technology. A lot of force-fitting of new technology into an established framework happens simply because the actors involved in creating the regulatory structure are influential in the old order but cannot think beyond its constraints and parameters. To a large extent, the DGCA guidelines suffer from this problem, as seen from the reluctance to provide a road map for beyond-line-of-sight UAV operations, full integration of unmanned aircraft into both controlled and uncontrolled airspace, and the deployment of technological advances that can actually address several security concerns associated with these revolutionary changes. Disruptive technologies cannot grow under the watch of regulators who protect the very industry that is being disrupted.

Disruptive technologies cannot grow under the watch of regulators who protect the very industry that is being disrupted.
The second exercise is to be less of a regulator and more of a facilitator. As UAV technology grows exponentially both in market terms and scientifically, regulators necessarily have to work with the new industry and understand the full potential of the solutions they are deploying on the ground.171 It is only when closely working with the industry that regulators can truly grapple with both the collective security concerns posed by the technology as well as the concerns over individual rights that may come up. It is quite probable that part of the current inability of the DGCA even to flag some of the major concerns highlighted in this paper is a result of not closely understanding the technology, its deployment on the ground, and its potential.

The third, and related, exercise is to ensure that while UAV use in defense and civilian spaces may be kept separate for regulatory purposes, Indian start-ups and other private players are provided abundant opportunities to deploy drone-enabled solutions and technologies for defense use. The long history of technological innovation speaks to this need to involve private players in defense tech because of the multiplier effects of technology incubated within the defense innovation system. The Internet, the global positioning system, and autonomous vehicles are more popular examples in this narrative. The Indian Ministry of Defense’s procurement strategy should therefore actively promote innovation by competent private players and Indian start-ups through defense contracts awarded for UAV solutions.

What is clear at this stage is that the DGCA is either unwilling or unable to effectively respond to the challenges posed by civilian drones. Its approach to UAVs shows a proclivity to superimpose older technology, such as radio-based communication and control structures, onto a newer, more agile technology that could possibly address airspace security concerns using a wholly different set of inputs and systems. The DGCA should not be the sole voice in framing the necessary regulations until it can demonstrate an appreciation of the paradigm shift in aviation brought on by unmanned aircraft. For that reason, the government of India should create a task force in which the DGCA is just one of the participants.

Though the draft guidelines issued by the DGCA purportedly safeguard citizen interests, several points of conflict have gone unidentified or have been only cursorily touched upon. A deeper examination of UAV activity, its real-world impact, and its qualitative difference from manned aircraft operations is required immediately to identify the loopholes and possible impingement of proprietary, reputational, and safety interests by such activity. Regulatory ambiguity in this regard can disincentivize innovators.

It is also possible that much like the United States, India could witness a situation in which multiple states regulate UAVs through a patchwork of rules. To avoid this scenario, the central government must immediately review aspects of drone activity that could invite checkered rule-making and stipulate a consistent policy in line with the interests of innovators.


UAV technology, primarily directed toward military usage in its infancy, has exploded in the last few years as a powerful tool with consumer and commercial applications. As outlined in this paper, these applications are as diverse as agricultural oversight and power-line monitoring. The miniaturization of hardware required to provide support functions for drones—such as navigational guidance, mapping, and image capture—has resulted in a revolutionary decentralization of the airspace. Today, anyone can fly a drone with a little investment and some basic understanding of technology. This opportunity, however, comes with its share of problems, which can broadly be categorized as individual rights concerns and collective security concerns.

Today, anyone can fly a drone with a little investment and some basic understanding of technology. This opportunity, however, comes with its share of problems.
As this paper shows, regulators around the world have adopted a range of approaches to address these concerns. Worries about individual rights have led to a patchwork of rules in a federal setting such as the United States, something that India can learn from and possibly avoid. However, the Indian regulatory response in the form of the recent DGCA guidelines leaves a lot to address because of its hopelessly incomplete identification of legal issues. And much remains to be done to weave into the regulatory structure the kind of oversight needed to integrate advanced technologies that can resolve airspace security concerns. These shortcomings raise a basic question: Are industry regulators ever in the best position to oversee industry disruptors?

It therefore becomes necessary for the central government in India to move beyond existing regulatory paradigms. It is also necessary to ensure that the DGCA’s role in the deployment of drone technology becomes more facilitative, as opposed to its current obstructive stance. Only if this were to happen would India transition in a smooth and efficient manner to the next wave in UAV technology, involving fully autonomous drones and beyond-line-of-sight operations.


1 Bart Elias, “Unmanned Aircraft Operations in Domestic Airspace: U.S. Policy Perspectives and the Regulatory Landscape,” Congressional Research Service, 2016, 4–5.

2 U.S. Department of Transportation, Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Service Demand 2015-2035: Literature Review and Projections of Future Usage (Cambridge, MA: John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, 2013), 19.

3 Sally French, “This Is How Most of the World’s Businesses Will Use Drones,” Market Watch, March 18, 2016, http://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-is-how-most-of-the-worlds-businesses-will-use-drones-2016-03-18.

4 Rebecca Wilson, “The Global Market for Commercial Drone Operations,” Skyward, May 2, 2016, https://skyward.io/infographic-the-global-market-for-commercial-drone-operations/.

5 Medea Benjamin, Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control (New York: OR Books, 2012); Robert Sparrow, “War Without Virtue?,” in Killing by Remote Control: The Ethics of an Unmanned Military, ed. Bradley Jay Strawser (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 84–105; Murtaza Hussain, “Is Drone War Normal?,” Salon, August 6, 2012; Nick Turse and Tom Engelhardt, Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001–2050 (n.p.: Dispatch Books, 2012).

6 James J. Cooke, The US Air Service in the Great War: 1917–1919 (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1996); and Andrew Ten Eyck, Jeeps in the Sky: The Story of the Light Plane (New York: Commonwealth Books, 1946).

7 John David Blom, Unmanned Aerial Systems: A Historical Perspective (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute Press, 2010).

8 Ibid., 39. Unmanned aerial vehicles have charted a longer course in history, though, as seen from the Austrian raid on Venice in 1849 using pilotless balloons armed with bombs; the Kettering bug, developed as part of a secret project during World War I; and the subsequent deployment of “Lightning Bugs”—the modified Ryan Firebees—in the Vietnam War. See “The History of Drone Technology,” Fortuna’s Corner (blog), May 28, 2014, http://fortunascorner.com/2014/05/28/the-history-of-drone-technology. John F. Keane and Stephen S. Carr, “A Brief History of Early Unmanned Aircraft,” Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest 32, no. 3 (2013): 558–71.

9 Blom, Unmanned Aerial Systems, 72; Mary Dobbing and Chris Cole, “Israel and the Drone Wars: Examining Israel&r9quo;s Production, Use and Proliferation of UAVs,” Drone Wars UK (blog), January 2014, https://dronewarsuk.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/israel-and-the-drone-wars.pdf.

10 Blom, Unmanned Aerial Systems, 79.

11 Laurence R. Newcome, Unmanned Aviation: A Brief History of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Reston, VA: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2004).

12 “UAV Production Will Total $93 Billion,” press release, Teal Group Corporation, August 19, 2015, http://www.tealgroup.com/index.php/teal-group-news-media/item/press-release-uav-production-will-total-93-billion.

13 “Teal Group Predicts Worldwide Civil UAS Production Will Total $65 Billion in Its 2016 UAS Market Profile and Forecast,” press release, Teal Group Corporation, July 8, 2016, http://tealgroup.com/index.php/about-teal-group-corporation/press-releases/129-teal-group-predicts-worldwide-civil-uas-production-will-total-65-billion-in-its-2016-uas-market-profile-and-forecast.

14 Chris Anderson, “Agricultural Drones,” MIT Technology Review, May/June 2014, https://www.technologyreview.com/s/526491/agricultural-drones/.

15 Faine Greenwood, “Drones on the Horizon: New Frontier in Agricultural Innovation,” ICT Update, April 2016, 3–4.

16 Ephraim Reynolds, “Counting Coconuts With Drones,” ICT Update, April 2016, 20.

17 Quan Le, “A Bird’s Eye View on Africa’s Rice Irrigation Systems,” ICT Update, April 2016, 6; and Raul Zurita Milla, “Transforming Smallholder Farming Through Remote Sensing,” ICT Update, April 2016, 19.

18 Ibid., 18.

19 “Clarity From Above: Global Report on the Commercial Applications of Drone Technology,” PricewaterhouseCoopers, May 2016, https://www.pwc.pl/pl/pdf/clarity-from-above-pwc.pdf, 5.

20 Colin Snow, “The Truth About Drones in Construction and Infrastructure Inspection,” July 2016, Skylogic Research, http://www.interdrone.com/construction_drones_2016?portalId=369936&hsFormKey=16473006207f1bfed9e0872fae4f0493&submissionGuid=8fa7da22-2602-49cd-a690-5130255145f7#main_form.

21 “Clarity From Above,” PricewaterhouseCoopers, 6.

22 Ibid., 14.

23 Ibid., 19.

24 Ibid., 8–9.

25 Bruce Shipkowski and Dake Kang, “Use of Drones for Disaster Missions Put to the Test,” Associated Press, June 24, 2016, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/284d4f4f12234858b08e6c9625f38208/use-drones-disaster-missions-put-test.

26 “Propelled by Increasing Defense Spending, India Is Poised to Emerge as Key Potential Market for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs),” press release, 6WResearch, February 2015, http://www.6wresearch.com/press-releases/india-unmanned-aerial-vehicle-uav-market-2015-2021-share-news-forecasts-trends.html.

27 Shantanu Nandan Sharma, “How Various Ministries Are Exploring the Use of Drones for Effective Infrastructure Creation,” Economic Times, June 26, 2016, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/science/how-various-ministries-are-exploring-the-use-of-drones-for-effective-infrastructure-creation/articleshow/52919438.cms.

28 Shreya Jai, “Eye in the Sky: Drones to Monitor Power Projects,” Business Standard, January 20, 2016, http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/eye-in-the-sky-drones-to-monitor-power-projects-116012000482_1.html.

29 “Sterlite Power to Use Drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs) for Power-Line Monitoring in India,” EnergyInfraPost, August 8, 2016, http://energyinfrapost.com/sterlite-power-sharper-shape-use-drones-power-line-monitoring-india/.

30 Ibid.

31 Rahul Wadke, “With Drones, Energy Firms Get an Eye in the Sky,” Hindu Business Line, June 16, 2016, http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/companies/with-drones-energy-firms-get-an-eye-in-the-sky/article8737622.ece.

32 Electric Power Research Institute, “Utilizing Unmanned Aircraft Systems as a Solar Photovoltaics Operations and Maintenance Tool,” Transmission and Distribution World, August 2015, http://tdworld.com/site-files/tdworld.com/files/uploads/2015/06/epriuav.pdf.

33 Katherine Ross, “India Charts a Roadmap to Achieve Ambitious Solar Targets,” World Resources Institute, May 31, 2016, http://www.wri.org/blog/2016/05/india-charts-roadmap-achieve-ambitious-solar-targets.

34 Debjoy Sengupta, “Coal India Plans to Use Drones to Conduct Aerial Surveys of Exploration,” Economic Times, February 11, 2016, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/indl-goods/svs/metals-mining/coal-india-plans-to-use-drones-to-conduct-aerial-surveys-of-exploration/articleshow/50938224.cms.

35 Neha Sethi, “Drones Scan Flood-Hit Uttarakhand,” Livemint, June 24, 2013, http://www.livemint.com/Politics/ZDib5YWR1G2Mcuth1kbwyO/Drones-scan-floodhit-Uttarakhand.html.

36 Monika Chansoria, “Proliferated Drones: A Perspective on India,” Center for a New American Security, June 2016, http://drones.cnas.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/A-Perspective-on-India-Proliferated-Drones.pdf.

37 Nidhi Singal, “Flying Outlaws,” Business Today, October 25, 2015, http://www.businesstoday.in/magazine/special/technology-special-2015-unmanned-aerial-vehicles-have-huge-potential/story/224416.html.

38 Pranav Dixit, “Something in the Air: Drones Finally Making a Comeback to Indian Skies,” Hindustan Times, April 6, 2015, http://www.hindustantimes.com/tech/something-in-the-air-drones-finally-making-a-comeback-to-indian-skies/story-Ka0UCL1nwB9ONoRU4Nuw4M.html.

39 Singal, “Flying Outlaws.”

40 “Drones for Disaster Management (Nepal Earthquake),” YouTube video, 01:53, posted by “Quidich Aerial Filming,” August 20, 2015, accessed January 30, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYrhAoX2H8I.

41 Dixit, “Something in the Air.”

42 Asish Das, “Startup From India at the Forefront of Commercial Drone Technology!,” Startup Journal, June 26, 2016, http://www.thestartupjournal.com/navstik-labs-commercial-drone-technology/.

43 Tanvi Dubey, “Aarav Unmanned Systems Is Mapping the Future With Its UAV Technology,” Your Story, December 9, 2015, https://yourstory.com/2015/12/aarav-unmanned-systems/.

44 See Airwood official website, http://www.airwood.in/.

45 Dixit, “Something in the Air.”

46 Manoj Sharma, “The Age of Drones: Flying High From War-Torn Iraq to Riot-Hit Trilokpuri,” Hindustan Times, November 3, 2014, http://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi/the-age-of-drones-flying-high-from-war-torn-iraq-to-riot-hit-trilokpuri/story-KyMCQUZ8.

47 Vishal Krishna, “Drones Are Coming Near You,” Tech Circle, October 7, 2014, http://techcircle.vccircle.com/2014/10/07/drones-are-coming-near-you/; Sushil Reddy, “Drones Are Here to Stay. Here Are the Startups Seizing This Space,” Your Story, May 12, 2015, https://yourstory.com/2015/05/startups-seizing-drones-aviation/; Mayukh Mukherjee, “Drone Age: Bengaluru Duo Off to a Flying Start,” Deccan Chronicle, last updated February 23, 2016, http://www.deccanchronicle.com/150429/technology-latest/article/drone-age-bengaluru-duo-flying-start.

48 File No. 05-13/2014-AED, Public Notice, Office of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, October 7, 2014, http://dgca.nic.in/public_notice/PN_UAS.pdf.

49 Malavika Murali and Krithika Krishnamurthy, “Companies Hit as DGCA Bans Use of Drones to Provide Services on Security Fears,” Economic Times, October 30, 2014, http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-10-30/news/55595447_1_drones-the-dgca-airspace.

50 Anirudh Rastogi, “Civilian Drone Industry: Are Indian Regulators Sleeping on a Gold Mine?,” Huffington Post, July 15, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.in/anirudh-rastogi/civilian-drone-industry-are-indian-regulators-sleeping-on-a-gol/.

51 Shashank Srinivasan, “Let’s Open Up the Skies for Drones,” Hindu Business Line, October 19, 2015, http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/lets-open-up-the-skies-for-drones/article7780964.ece.

52 Ananth Padmanabhan, “Rethinking the Role of Regulators,” Livemint, July 27, 2016, http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/40gz3gvI7QEw6u8IedVK7N/Rethinking-the-role-of-regulators.html.

53 Hinman v. Pacific Air Transport, 84 F.2d 755, 757 (9th Cir. 1936).

54 Dan Gettinger, “Domestic Drone Threats,” Center for the Study of the Drone, March 20, 2015, http://dronecenter.bard.edu/what-you-need-to-know-about-domestic-drone-threats/.

55 Craig Whitlock, “Near-Collisions Between Drones, Airliners Surge, New FAA Reports Show,” Washington Post, November 26, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/near-collisions-between-drones-airliners-surge-new-faa-reports-show/2014/11/26/9a8c1716-758c-11e4-bd1b-03009bd3e984_story.html.

56 Henry E. Smith, “Exclusion Versus Governance: Two Strategies for Delineating Property Rights,” Journal of Legal Studies 31, no. S2 (June 2002): S453–S487.

57 Hinman v. Pacific Air Transport, 84 F.2d 755 (9th Cir. 1936).

58 Ibid., 758.

59 United States v. Causby, 328 U.S. 256 (1946); hereinafter, Causby.

60 Ibid., 259.

61 Ibid., 260.

62 Ibid., 261.

63 Ibid., 262–3.

64 Ibid., 273.

65 Ibid., 265.

66 Ibid., 266.

67 Ibid., 264.

68 Troy A. Rule, “Airspace in an Age of Drones,” Boston University Law Review 95 (2015): 168–69. Some scholars have argued that Causby did not actually endorse a “fixed height” theory wherein anything above a certain height would be part of the public domain, particularly relying on the majority’s observation that were the minimum prescribed altitude very low, such as 83 feet, the court would examine the validity of the regulation that prescribed such a low limit. See Colin Cahoon, “Low Altitude Airspace: A Property Rights No-Man’s Land,” Journal of Air Law and Commerce 56, no. 1 (1990): 171–72.

69 The American Restatement of Torts, Second is an influential treatise issued by the American Law Institute that summarizes the general principles of tort law in the United States.

70 Restatement (Second) of Torts § 159 (1965).

71 Jordan M. Cash, “Droning On and On: A Tort Approach to Regulating Hobbyist Drones,” University of Memphis Law Review 46 (2016): 695–729.

72 Rule, “Airspace in an Age of Drones.” The rule interestingly argues that even a sui generis rule could be crafted for drones, which differentiates them from aircraft and treats them as more akin to projectiles. In the case of the latter, absence of the landowner’s consent results in absolute liability for actionable trespass rather than a conditional liability built on a showing of the dual factors listed in the Second Restatement of Torts.

73 Rivera v. Foley, Civil Action No. 3:14-cv-00196 (VLB), 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35639 (D. Conn. March 23, 2015).

74 Ibid., 25.

75 Michelle Bolos, “A Highway in the Sky: A Look at Land Use Issues That Will Arise With the Integration of Drone Technology,” University of Illinois Journal of Law, Technology & Policy 2 (2015): 422–23.

76 Ibid.

77 Timothy M. Ravich, “Courts in the Drone Age,” Northern Kentucky Law Review 42 (2015).

78 Florida v. Riley, 488 U.S. 445 (1989).

79 The Fourth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution declares: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

80 Florida v. Riley, 488 U.S. 445, 450 (1989).

81 California v. Ciraolo, 476 U.S. 207 (1986).

82 Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001).

83 Ibid., 40. See also the decision of the court in Dow Chemical Co. v. United States, 476 U.S. 227 (1986), holding that the use of an aerial mapping camera to photograph an industrial manufacturing complex from navigable airspace would not require a warrant under the Fourth Amendment. Here, the court acknowledged that “surveillance of private property by using highly sophisticated surveillance equipment not generally available to the public, such as satellite technology, might be constitutionally proscribed absent a warrant.” Ibid., 238.

84 United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945 (2012).

85 Andrew B. Talai, “Drones and Jones: The Fourth Amendment and Police Discretion in the Digital Age,” California Law Review 102, no. 3 (2014): 729; Timothy Takahashi, “Drones and Privacy,” Columbia Science & Technology Law Review 14 (2012): 72.

86 Ibid., 113–14.

87 Samuel D. Warren and Louis D. Brandeis, “The Right to Privacy,” Harvard Law Review 4 (1890): 193.

88 Cash, “Droning On and On,” 725–26.

89 Ibid.

90 Ibid., 726.

91 Ibid., 727.

92 Ibid., 727–28.

93 Clay Calvert, Charles Tobin, and Matthew Bunker, “Newsgathering Takes Flight in Choppy Skies: Legal Obstacles Affecting Journalistic Drone Use,” Fordham Intellectual Property, Media, and Entertainment Law Journal 26, no. 3 (2016): 561–62.

94 John Villasenor, “Observations From Above: Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Privacy,” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 36 (2013): 457–503.

95 Geoffrey Christopher Rapp, “Unmanned Aerial Exposure: Civil Liability Concerns Arising From Domestic Law Enforcement Employment of Unmanned Aerial Systems,” North Dakota Law Review 85 (2009): 623–36.

96 Ibid., 638.

97 American Law Institute, Restatement (Third) of Torts § 20 (2005).

98 Rapp, “Unmanned Aerial Exposure.”

99 Daniel North, “Private Drones: Regulations and Insurance,” Loyola Consumer Law Review 27 (2015): 352–65.

100 Cash, “Droning On and On,” 695–761; Benjamin D. Mathews, “Potential Tort Liability for Personal Use of Drone Aircraft,” St. Mary’s Law Journal 46 (2015): 573.

101 Rule, “Airspace in an Age of Drones.”

102 Michael L. Smith, “Regulating Law Enforcement’s Use of Drones: The Need for State Legislation,” Harvard Journal on Legislation 52 (2015): 423; Margot E. Kaminski, “Drone Federalism: Civilian Drones and the Things They Carry,” California Law Review Circuit 4 (2013); Rule, “Airspace in an Age of Drones.”

103 Robert H. Gruber, “Commercial Drones and Privacy: Can We Trust States With ‘Drone Federalism’?,” Richmond Journal of Law & Technology 21, no. 4 (2015); Bolos, “A Highway in the Sky”; Ray Carver, “State Drone Laws: A Legitimate Answer to State Concerns or a Violation of Federal Sovereignty?,” Georgia State University Law Review 31, no. 2 (2015): 377.

104 Villasenor, “Observations From Above.”

105 Amanda Essex, “Taking Off: State Unmanned Aircraft Systems Policies,” National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Foundation, 2016, http://www.ncsl.org/Portals/1/Documents/transportation/TAKING_OFF-STATE_%20UNMANNED_%20AIRCRAFT_SYSTEMS_%20POLICIES_%20%28004%29.pdf.

106 Ibid., 14–15.

107 Ibid., 15.

108 Ibid., 19.

109 Ibid., 21–22.

110 “Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS),” International Civil Aviation Organization, 2011, http://www.icao.int/Meetings/UAS/Documents/Circular%20328_en.pdf, 2.

111 Ibid., 3.

112 Ibid., 16.

113 “Manual on Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS),” International Civil Aviation Organization, 2015, http://www.wyvernltd.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/ICAO-10019-RPAS.pdf.

114 Ibid., 1–9.

115 Brian F. Havel and John Q. Mulligan, “Unmanned Aircraft Systems: A Challenge to Global Regulators,” DePaul Law Review 65 (2015): 115–18.

116 “Unmanned Aircraft (Public Safety and Security) Act,” Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, 2015, http://www.caas.gov.sg/caasWeb2010/export/sites/caas/en/PDF_Documents/Legislation2/UMAct2015.pdf.

117 Ibid.

118 Ibid.

119 “FAA Regulation, Part 107,” Federal Aviation Administration, http://www.faa.gov/uas/media/RIN_2120-AJ60_Clean_Signed.pdf .

120 Ibid.

121 Martyn Williams, “New FAA Rules Mean You Won’t Get Amazon Drone Delivery Anytime Soon,” PC World, June 21, 2016, http://www.pcworld.com/article/3086790/legal/new-faa-rules-mean-you-wont-get-amazon-drone-delivery-anytime-soon.html.

122 Ibid.

123 Trevor Mogg, “Amazon’s Delivery Drone Team Will Like the Sound of This Significant FAA Decision,” Digital Trends, September 1, 2016, http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/amazon-faa-drone-rules/.

124 Government of Australia, “Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998, Amendments to Part 101,” https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2013C00316/Html/Volume_3.

125 Government of Poland, “Aviation Law Act, 2002,” http://www.dziennikustaw.gov.pl/DU/2012/933.

126 Ibid.

127 Ibid.

128 Transport Canada, “Canadian Aviation Regulations,” https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/acts-regulations/regulations-sor96-433.htm.

129 Ibid.

130 Ibid.

131 UK Civil Aviation Authority, “Air Navigation Order 2016 and Regulations,” August 2016, https://www.caa.co.uk/News/Air-Navigation-Order-2016/.

132 Ibid.

133 Israeli Civil Aviation Authority, “Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority Law,” http://caa.gov.il/index.php?option=com_docman&view=download&category_slug=2015-10-13-06-39-02-7&alias=4452-2005-1&Itemid=669&lang=he.

134 Ibid. The Civil Aviation Authority of Israel has now published a draft proposal for the registration of UAVs, wherein it aims to maintain a register of all UAVs based on proof of ownership.

135 Ibid.

136 Jun Wei et al., “China Launches First Operational Rules for Civil Unmanned Aircraft,” Global Media and Communications Watch (blog), Hogan Lovells, January 21, 2016, http://www.hlmediacomms.com/2016/01/21/china-launches-first-operational-rules-for-civil-unmanned-aircraft/.

137 Ibid.

138 Ibid.

139 Fang Yan, Matthew Miller, and Siva Govindasamy, “China to Further Open Up Lower Altitude Airspace for Civilian Use,” Reuters, May 17, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-airport-idUSKCN0Y8101.

140 “DGCA Draft Guidelines,” Government of India, Office of the Director General of Civil Aviation, 2016, http://www.dgca.nic.in/misc/draft%20circular/AT_Circular%20-%20Civil_UAS(Draft%20April%202016).pdf.

141 Ibid.

142 Ibid.

143 Ibid.

144 Ibid.

145 Ibid.

146 Ibid.

147 Ibid.

148 Ibid.

149 Ibid.

150 Lakshmanan v. Ayyasamy, (2011) 6 MLJ 544 (Mad. H.C).

151 Gunendra Mohan Ghosh v. Corpn. of Calcutta, AIR 1947 Cal. 95; Moti Lal v. Govt. of U.P., AIR 1951 All. 257.

152 Indrachand Jaju v. The Sub-Divisional Officer, (1988) 1 GLR 1.

153 Ibid.

154 Ibid.

155 In this case, the High Court ultimately concluded that the airspace above the stream belonged to the Government, which had every right to fill the space with the contents it liked. Therefore the “chajja” would amount to an encroachment.

156 See Selvi v. State of Karnataka, (2010) 7 SCC 263.

157 Yusufalli Esmail Nagree v. The State of Maharashtra, AIR 1968, SC 147; and RM Malkani v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1973, 1 SCC 471.

158 Aparna Chandra and Mrinal Satish, “Criminal Law and the Constitution,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Indian Constitution, ed. Pratap Bhanu Mehta (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2013), 804–5.

159 State of Madhya Pradesh v. Paltan Mallah, (2005) 3 SCC 169.

160 Kathi Kalu Oghad v. State of Bombay, AIR 1961 SC 1808.

161 AIR 1963 SC 1295; and AIR 1975 SC 1378.

162 AIR 1963 SC 1295.

163 AIR 1975 SC 1378.

164 R. Rajagopal v. State of Tamil Nadu, (1994) 6 SCC 632.

165 Ibid.

166 See Mr. “X” v. Hospital “Z,” (1998) 8 SCC 296 (nondisclosure of patient information); KJ Doraisamy v. Asst. Gen. Mgr., State Bank of India, 2006 (5) CTC 829 (disclosure of customer information by banks); Burlington Home Shopping v. Rajnish Chibber, 1995 (35) DRJ 335 (theft of proprietary mailing lists and other business sensitive information).

167 In the case of such practices, the court has favored a regulatory approach rather than trying to flesh out a privacy claim for damages. For instance, see People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India, (1997) 1 SCC 301 (safeguards against improper telephone tapping), and District Registrar v. Canara Bank, (2005) 1 SCC 496 (holding amendments to the Stamp Act authorizing officials to go on a fishing expedition against individuals to be constitutionally invalid).

168 Shyamkrishna Balganesh, “The Constitutionalisation of Indian Private Law,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Indian Constitution, ed. Pratap Bhanu Mehta (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2013), 680.

169 Ibid.

170 Ibid.

171 Padmanabhan, “Rethinking the Role of Regulators.”

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Politics behind the scenes-A.G. NOORANI

Posted by admin On March - 17 - 2017 Comments Off on Politics behind the scenes-A.G. NOORANI



Author: Edited by Lionel Carter
Publisher: Manohar Publishers and Distributors
Pages: 1,000
Price: Rs.3,500
A two-volume compilation of British despatches to London from India and Pakistan in the year after the twin dominions won independence shows the former colonial bosses knew what was going on in both nations. By A.G. NOORANI
LIONEL Carter was a member of the team that produced the 12 volumes of Documents on the Transfer of Power in India, which the British government published. He brought to bear the same exacting standards of selection and annotation in the 14 volumes on Mountbatten’s Report on the Last Viceroyalty, Reports by Governors of United Provinces and Punjab, Partition Observed (August-December 1947) and the two earlier volumes, companion to these, comprising Weakened States Seeking Renewal. All were published by Manohar with exquisite care. These volumes are sold in a box, as were the ones on Weakened States. One wishes Carter would do a similar work on Kashmir in the British archives for the period between 1946 and 1950—on papers of the British Resident in Srinagar, the High Commissioners in New Delhi and Karachi, and at the headquarters in London. He would render a service hard to estimate, for the discourse is saturated with partisanship all round. His objectivity and integrity are beyond question.

The volumes under review provide a fascinating portrayal of the times. Occasionally, they prod one to ask whether anything has changed fundamentally. The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the Congress, communists, secularists, India’s Muslims, Islam in Pakistan and Kashmir form the subjects of the despatches. India’s Governor General Lord Mountbatten was in close touch with the British High Commissioner Sir Terence Shone, and his Deputy, Alexander Symon. So were they with the High Commissioner in Pakistan, Sir Lawrence Grafftey Smith. Through Mountbatten, India’s former rulers knew what was afoot.

Maurice Zinkin, ICS, held that Jawaharlal Nehru was a bad Foreign Minister for India but would have been a good one for the West. He was wrong. Nehru’s ideas were woolly. Shone took a visiting Foreign Office official to Nehru on May 2, 1948.

“On the Japanese peace settlement Pandit Nehru was non-committal and full of doubt. He seemed concerned lest a conference to consider a Japanese treaty should lead to further estrangement between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. On the other hand he had no suggestions to offer as to what should be done if there was no peace conference.” Russia’s Nikita Khrushchev told him that the Soviet Union was wrong in not signing that treaty.
On the CPI

There is a detailed report by Shone to London, dated June 18, 1948, on the Communist Party of India’s (CPI) second party congress in Calcutta. “Immediately preceding it in Calcutta was the South East Asia Youth Conference (about which separate reports have already been sent) which was almost entirely Communist in character and was attended by a number of foreign Communist delegates. These later naturally formed the closest contacts with the leaders of the Communist Party of India and played their full share in the complete reversal of former party policy which was the dominating characteristic of the party congress itself. The party’s enthusiastic support for ‘Nehru’s National Government’ gave place overnight to an extremist programme aimed at their immediate overthrow as representing a ‘Government of national surrender and collaboration’ which was supporting the Anglo-American bloc. This volte-face in policy necessitated some scapegoat and it took the form of change in the party’s secretary. P.C. Joshi, a moderate Communist (if such a relative term can be applied to any Communist at all) who had held this office since the period of cooperation with the government during the latter part of the war, was replaced by a complete extremist in B.T. Ranadive. The estrangement between Russia and the Western democracies certainly seems to have been one of the causes of this major change in Communist tactics as was to be seen from the lengthy resolution explaining it.”

Ranadive harmed a powerful CPI, which the brilliant P.C. Joshi had built. “During the CPI’s legal existence for the last five and a half years, it has infiltrated into different organisations, secured numerous sympathisers and supporters, strengthened its position financially and politically and above all has perfected its propaganda ‘apparatus’. Its literature and party organs are printed in almost all the Indian languages and reach the masses in the remotest corners through the party units. In short, it is a mass party having firm bases among the workers, peasants and students and is trying hard, with some measure of success, particularly government servants, to get a hold on the middle classes. The Com. [communists] have succeeded in maintaining a high pitch of discontent and disaffection among the workers. They have been helped to do this by the general conditions prevailing in India. The high cost of living, the great need for reforms, the preoccupation of the Central government with constitutional, foreign and other affairs, inter-dominion relations, provincial jealousy, local maladministration—in fact the birth struggles of a new nation plus difficulties that all countries are experiencing after the war. The CPI’s underground machinery was ready in case of firm action by the government, and they have claimed that all the provincial and district centres had in existence ‘technical apparatus to guard against the government offensive and feed the party’s frontal activities’. As a preliminary measure, they have removed all important and confidential papers of the party to ‘secret dens’.”
The ban on the RSS weakened it only for a while. It had wide support in the country, outside its own ranks.

Radicalism in Pakistan

In Pakistan, the mullahs asserted themselves even when Mohammad Ali Jinnah was alive. Grafftey-Smith reported from Karachi as early as on May 5, 1948: “There have recently been signs, particularly in the West Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province, of increasing influence on the part of the Maulvis, and a vocal section of opinion in Lahore and Peshawar has been pressing for the introduction of a fully Islamic regime with the Shariat legal system. I enclose copies of letters received from Stephenson in Lahore and Duke in Peshawar in answer to an enquiry about the real impetus behind this movement and the possibility of it being encouraged by the Pakistan authorities as an offset to increasing discontent among labour and the poorer peasant classes.”

From Rawalpindi a British diplomat reported as early as on June 20, 1948: “If Pakistan is so anxious for British or American assistance it must prove itself capable of benefiting from it. At present the only reasonably effective organisation seems to be the Army, and that is really British-controlled. The civil administration here is corrupt and nepotic and I do not imagine it is much better anywhere else.”

Indian Muslims suffered twice—in 1947 over the partition and in 1948 on Hyderabad. The Muslim League leaders were inept. Comments by Shaffee Mohamed to a British diplomat, on May 8, 1948, revealed a lot: “Although he had been in the forefront of the Congress movement in South India for many years and did not regard himself as suspect by the Congress leaders here, nevertheless he, like a good many other South Indian Moslems, felt some nervousness about his and his co-religionists’ future in India. Moslem influence in politics had gone, and it was much less in business than it had been. Here I should say that whereas Moslems amount to only about 7 per cent of the population in this area their influence in business has hitherto been very much greater. In the hide and skin trade, for instance (which is important in South India) they once had, for obvious reasons, a virtual monopoly. Now however Hindus are creeping in and take about 15-20 per cent of it. Mr Mohammed also said that even Maulana Azad and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai had expressed to him a similar feeling of nervousness about their future, notwithstanding their position as Cabinet Ministers.”
A report from New Delhi on July 27, 1948, said: “Madras is not the only province in which arrests of Muslims for allegedly pro-Pakistan or pro-Hyderabad activities are going on: these have taken place on a considerable scale also in other provinces, notably the United Provinces and Central Provinces and Berar. While we have no evidence that any centrally inspired policy exists for the harassment of Muslims in India (indeed public pronouncements by Pandit Nehru, for example, have been all the other way), there can be little doubt that if the present tension over the Kashmir and Hyderabad issues continues or deteriorates it will furnish an excellent opportunity for the harassment of Muslims by communally minded subordinates, with or without the connivance of Provincial Ministers. Congress governments have in the past acquired a reputation for anti-Muslim activities: in the Central Provinces, for example, the Premier, Pandit Ravishanker Shukla, is known as a bigoted anti-Muslim and even prior to 15 August 1947, the position of Muslim government servants in that province was difficult.”

Punjab and Kashmir

Even in 1948 Sikhs had begun to demand a Sikh State, as Shone informed London on May 19, 1948: “From time to time during the last two months Sikh leaders have been stressing the need for the delimitation of the boundaries of the East Punjab, in order to make it a Punjabi-speaking (and thus a preponderantly Sikh) Province.”

Predictably, Kashmir occupies a large part of the reportage. All were agreed that in a plebiscite Kashmiris would opt for Pakistan—British residents in Srinagar (page 178); Indians who spoke in confidence; a visiting British diplomat (ibid); two officials of the High Commission, after a visit (page 242); British and missionaries (page 303). Indira Gandhi was of the same view. Kashmir was never India’s emotionally; both distrusted each other.

In 1948 Nehru decided to renege on the plebiscite. A despatch records what Sir Girija Shankar Bajpai, Secretary General of the Ministry of External Affairs, told Canada’s High Commissioner on June 28, 1948: “No Indian government could now afford to relinquish Kashmir in the face of public opinion and Bajpai appeared to think that the offer of a plebiscite might be withdrawn at least for the whole State. Mr Kearney gathered that the Indian government intended to hold firmly to the areas in which they were established, particularly valley of Srinagar and Jammu. If there were a plebiscite at all it could only be held by areas which would presumably result in some going to India and others to Pakistan. Bajpai had also apparently mentioned the independence of the State as a possible alternative.”
As for Sheikh Abdullah’s colleagues, Richard Symonds reported: “Almost all the members of the government both individually and in the groups had told the members of the U.N. [United Nations] party that they were in favour of an independent Kashmir. They were very apprehensive, however, lest their views might become known to the Indian government. On their return from Karachi the main U.N. Commission for India and Pakistan had been considering this possible solution, but almost all of them were very scared about it. The members of the Kashmir government had also told U.N. party that Sheikh Abdullah on behalf of the National Conference would be prepared to meet and talk with Ghulam Abbas on behalf of the Muslim Conference. Sheikh Abdullah himself and Afzul Beg (the Revenue Minister and a comparative moderate) were the prime movers in favour of this.”

Thus even in 1948 no Kashmiri supported accession to India. That included Sheikh Abdullah.

Note: This article is for educational purposes. Its reproduction, in any form, can be had with the permission of the author/publisher whose original link ,from where it is reprodced, is given above.

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