Manifesto of the PWA

By the middle of 1935, the final manifesto of the Progressive Writers Association (PWA) was ready. Zaheer returned to India with the document and circulated it among prominent Indian literary figures. The manifesto found an immediate champion in Premchand, one of the most highly respected figures in Hindustani literature, who published its Hindi translation in the October 1935 issue of his journal Hans (Swan). Subsequently, the English version of the manifesto was published in the February 1936 issue of London’s Left Review. The text of the manifesto was as follows:

Radical changes are taking place in Indian society. Fixed ideas and old beliefs, social and political institutions are being challenged. Out of the present turmoil and conflict a new society is emerging. The spirit of reaction however, though moribund and doomed to ultimate decay, is still operative and is making desperate efforts to prolong itself.

It is the duty of Indian. writers to give expression to the changes taking place in Indian life and to assist in the spirit of progress in the country. Indian literature, since the breakdown of classical literature, has had the fatal tendency to escape from the actualities of life. It has tried to find a refuge from reality in spiritualism and idealism. The result has been that it has produced a rigid formalism and a banal and perverse ideology.

Witness the mystical devotional obsession of our literature, its furtive and sentimental attitude towards sex, its emotional exhibitionism and its almost total lack of rationality. Such literature was produced particularly during the past two centuries, one of the most unfortunate periods of our history, a period of disintegrating feudalism and of acute misery and degradation for the Indian people as a whole.

It is the object of our association to rescue literature and other arts from the priestly, academic and decadent classes in whose hands they have degenerated so long; to bring the arts into the closest touch with the people; and to make them the vital organs which will register the actualities of life, as well as lead us to the future.

While claiming to be the inheritors of the best traditions of Indian civilisation, we shall criticise ruthlessly, in its political, economic and cultural aspects, the spirit of reaction in our country and we shall foster through interpretive and creative work (with both native and foreign resources) everything that will lead our country to the new life for which it is striving. We believe that the new literature of India must deal with the basic problems of our existence today — the problems of hunger and poverty, social backwardness and political subjugation, so that it may help us to understand these problems and through such understanding help us to act.

With the above aims in view. the following resolutions have been adopted:

• The establishment of organisations of writers to correspond to the various linguistic zones of India; the coordinations of these organisations by holding conferences, publishing of magazines, pamphlets, etc.

• To cooperate with those literary organisations whose aims do not conflict with the basic aims of the association.

• To produce and translate literature of a progressive nature and of a high technical standard; to fight cultural reaction; and in this way, to further the cause of Indian freedom and social regeneration.

• To strive for the acceptance of a common language (Hindustani) and a common script (Indo-Roman) for India. [This demand was later dropped in appreciation of the India’s multilingual structure–ed.]

• To protect the interests of authors; to help authors who require and deserve assistance for the publication of their works.

• To fight for the right of free expression of thought and opinion.

3 Responses to “Manifesto of the PWA”

  1. Thanks for visiting my blog – this has also allowed me the opportunity to visit this interesting blog – liked the posts and the topics that you write on.

    On the progressive writers’ movement, what is the source of this post?
    cheers and let’s stay in touch

  2. Thanks a lot for reminding me about the sources. I shouldn’t have missed that in the first place.

    I have taken this manifesto from the book ‘Anthems of Resistance: A Celebration of Urdu Poetry’ by Ali Husain Mir and Raza Mir. An Urdu copy of the manifesto delivered by Munshi Prem Chand to the first conference of the PWA in 1936 is available on the Marxist Internet Archive

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