Capitalists were of the following categories one that remained neutral or pro-British, one that gave financial support to the congress, one that came out in active support of the movement occasionally, and the last group that completely identified with the movement and participated in the struggle and went to jail too.
Growth of the Indian Capitalists
The growth of the Indian capital class was different and not seen in other colonial countries. The Indian capitalist grew independent from foreign capitalists and not as their junior partners or friends. The capitalist wasn’t tied up with pro-imperial interests but a large section of them argued for comprehensive reforms, cooperatives of production, finance, and marketing.
The capitalist grew during the period 1914-to 1947 due to import substitution. The Indian enterprises had captured around 70% of the domestic market. This growth which was unusual for any industry in a colony wasn’t achieved by siding with colonialists but by wresting space from them. The capitalists took anti-imperialism stands but were careful not to choose a path that would threaten capitalism itself.
FICCI was established by the capitalist class as a body for lobbying the colonial government. FICCI was treated as a guardian of trade, commerce, and industry performing in the economic sphere functions of the national government. In this process, the capitalists clearly saw the negative effects of imperialism on the home country. FICCI wasn’t merely a body created as a trade union but was to be strong enough to intervene in the politics.
Participation in the movement
The capitalists had their own ideas about how the anti-imperial struggle should be waged. They were in favor of using constitutional reforms than civil disobedience. They feared that if the movement became too revolutionary it could threaten capitalism itself. Hence when the movement was getting out of hand they tried to bring it back to constitutional opposition.
They also weren’t in favor of all-out hostility to the government as it hampered day-to-day interests.
They also joined the legislative forums not because they were interested in being a part of the movement but because they wanted to prevent black elements from joining them. However, they never accepted the government proposal blindly. They refused to cooperate with the government behind the backs of congress.
The attitude towards civil disobedience was different. Although they saw its utility in getting concessions for their class as well as the nation, they weren’t interested in protracted mass civil disobedience. But they never supported the government’s repression.
They were crucial in mediating a truce between congress and the government for withdrawing from the struggle but they never did it if the movement would be weakened.
From the above points, one must remember that the national struggle was never influenced in a decisive way by this class nor was it dependent on its support.
The capitalist class became more involved in active politics due to its growing radicalization by the left and socialists. But at no point was it driven to the lap of imperialism by this. It refused to support the public safety bill since it threatened nationalism even though the main aim was to stop communism.
British policy affecting iron and steel plants in India:
- The traditional patrons of swords and armory makers were the native princes and traditional powers of India. After the British defeated them the demand for Indian steel was reduced.
- Forest laws prevented Indian steelmakers from accessing wood to get charcoal.
- High tax by the British to access forests.
- Indian ironsmiths too preferred British imports as the tariff policy favored them over Indians and Indian steel became costlier.
- Indian entrepreneurs set up large factories to compete with the British and small-scale Indian iron smelters didn’t have those resources.