The National Struggle, 1929-34
During the spring and summer of 1929 India watched and waited. The first puff of the wind of action came from Britain itself. The general election of May returned a Labor government to power with Liberal support. The new prime minister, Ramsay Macdonald, was a known friend of Indian aspirations, and many Labor members were in close sympathy with Congress leaders. But Labor had not an altogether free hand, since it depended for its majority on sixty Liberal members who were, with their leader Lloyd George, notably more cautious. During the summer the viceroy, Lord Irwin, took leave in Britain for consultations with the new government. He had traveled far since he acquiesced in the appointment of the all-white Simon Commission. He was now convinced that Congress was a force to be reckoned with, with which a settlement would eventually have to be made. The National movement was real and growing, and therefore repression was no real answer. The Mahatma was neither a harmless eccentric nor a trickster, but a man of magnetism with a compelling moral force who could rouse Indians. He could release the springs of incalculable forces as no one else could. Yet he was a man of peace. Why not settle with Congress early rather than late and deal with a man who seemed providentially provided to save India from violent revolution? Irwin was a deeply religious man, and Gandhi's moral approach to politics made a deep impression upon him. He was yet to show the resolution and skill which was to turn this dream of rapprochement into a reality.
During the summer Irwin reached agreement with the Labor leaders and with his party leader Baldwin, who on Indian matters spoke for the more liberal wing of the Tories. These men recognized that the Congress was now a major factor in Indian affairs. There remained an important section of Conservative opinion and some rightist Liberals who still regarded Congress as a doctrinaire middle-class club and Mahatma Gandhi