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Sep 23, 2013

Comparative Study

Comparative literature means, “a study of similarities,(P. 111)” “studying all literatures, with linguistic rigour and historical (P. 111)” comparison. It is to find similarities between two or more incongruent text or characters to develop bigger perspective than the mere criticism. We can compare folk or oral literature, Diaspora and Dalit or Tribal literature with each other for maturity of our thoughts, and this will be possible only through Comparative literature.
Indian poetics has often been identified with Sanskrit which “distinguishes modern literature from the literature of earlier periods (P.23).” Sanskrit was job of past and the modern poets are in the hunt of Western theories. The escape of Indian poetics from Sanskrit begins with the maturing of Indian Languages. Imagination loose its grip as the modern Indian movements like Dalit writing, Women writings, modern folk writings started in India. Now the literature is under the impact English Russia, French and Germany.  The modern critics accept this impact and trying to re-read the text and trying to represent the literature of dalits, Muslims, adivasis and women. These re-reading writers force us to rethink about our society, ethics and aesthetics. In this sense, modernism replaced the simile and the metaphor with symbolism and realism.
Indian Novelist are imitating the colonial model to construct a theory English Novel. The essayist, Alfred Lopwz, tells feels “the arrival of the postcolonial in such an array of non-aligned critiques of colonial cultural imperatives (P.83)”. To understand the thematic structure of Indian Novel I am quoting the words of character Jamie says:
Look into my face. My name is Might-Have-Been   
I’m also No More, Too Late, Farewell?         
                                    —O’Neill. Long Day’s Journey into Night. P. 148
For it the novelist first chooses a subject then he has to construct his plot whether artificial or natural. In this sense, Premchand divided the novels into two categories—Idealistic and realistic. He prefers “realistic Idealistic novel” because when it is written to gain some social, political and religious aspects it falls from its standard.  Narayan based the structure of novel on feudal social structure with Indian Rajas, and also includes some myths, rivers and forests with topographical sceneries. Apart, the theory of novel should reflect the multi layered reality of India but new novel is only “metro novel” and have nothing to do with the lower and even lowest classes and with their problems. All in all, there is no single theory for Indian novel as they are written in different regional language. “Only Indian Novel is considered to be post colonial by the academics”. (P.33)
The best comparative literature comes if we compare feminist text. The Feminist writings are discovering the past from women’s angle in male dominated society of India. After independence a new enlightened middle class women is both subject and object in Indian Literature. The use of body imagery, and emphasis on female against the set norms are seen in current literature. Strom in Chandigarh, Heat and Dust, Voices in the City, are only a hint of that.
Book defines intercultural criticism with the sign words “I- Thou-I” and for Derrida its meaning is “absence, critical emptiness (P. 41)” or they represents. Its perfect example is Kipling’s 1901’s novel Kim and herein hero asks Mahmood Ali, his friend and a horse rider, “What am I? Mussalman, Hindu, Jain or Buddhist?” The criticism here presented is about democratic trend with mixing of another culture as seen in A Passage to India (1924) by Forster.  In the culture and intercultural connection we come to know that characters are changing their religion for salvation which never comes to them as to the heroine, Madeline, in Rao’s Serpent and the Rope, becomes Buddhist and asks her husband Rama to marry an Indian girl, and this finally leads to divorce.
The literature of a country remains incomplete if its local texture/ logical structure (term by J.C. Ransom) is ignored, in this sense, tribal literature add literary discussion in India. The language, folk-lore, ceremony,  all are totally different that is why Henry Reman observes:
Nowhere in the world is the present evolution of comparative literature as dynamic and constructive as in India. (p. 172)
these societies had a sense of pride for their cultures. The themes of native identity are their main concern. Dalit, in doing the same in literature what the oral poet P.I. Sonkamble says:
                        When we were tearing you were tearing us   
                        Now we tear you while you tear. (The Cracked Mirror, P.22)
In India, New Comparative Literature not has deep roots. It is always in “War of position” among new literature (p. 184). Need of the time is that “comparative study must come to grips with ... its own methods of analysing ‘culture and ‘context’ in order to construct literary histories.(p.189)” . In lack of it, as Charles Bernheimer puts in “Comparative Literature in the Age of Multicultural” (1988) comparative literature has nothing new to offer.
Comparison gives goods opportunity for judging how history contributes to modern knowledge. “The merger of the two is the need of the time, and this approach is termed as “Comparative Cultural Studies.” Indian literature of different languages offers limited view of history in an underdeveloped manner. So a compendious bibliography needs to be compiled. Communalism based comparative cannot help to achieve international standard as Report of HRD Ministry of India, 2005, shows. (P. 193-94)
Comparative literature can be made strong with Interiorization (term by W.J.Ong). To judge the interior side or images of factual non-fulfilment which lead to enriched imaginative fulfilment of a literary text is called Interiorization. In Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn we have the lines “Heard melodies are sweet but those unheard are sweeter” suggests the beauty that eventually becomes truth not a fact of life but of literature. Again the lover, who is eagerly hoping to kiss the lady remains unrealized but realised possibly. For this reason songs are sung not “to the sensual ear,” but “to the spirit.” Milton’s “On His Blindness” is a protest against God’s blindness to human limitations but at the end blindness is removed by thinking “they also serve who only  stand and wait?” the poem is on whose blindness: Milton the man, or Milton the poet, or Milton’s God, or Milton’s reader? Similarly in “Paradise Lost” begins with the intention of “justifying the ways of god to man” but it is exposure of the unjustness of God to man.  Milton’s opposition of autocratic tendencies put him for a time of the side of Satan, against God, thereby this declared intention “to justify God’s ways.”
Comparative literature have the power to compare cultural and intercultural discourse. In the culture and intercultural connection we come to know that characters are changing their religion for salvation which never comes to them as to the heroine, Madeline, in Rao’s Serpent and the Rope, becomes Buddhist and asks her husband Rama to marry an Indian girl, and this finally leads to divorce. Here also East-West encounter is not fulfilled and the question of ““present” or “absent” or both are replaced unproblematically (p. 45).” Its perfect example is Kipling’s 1901’s novel Kim and herein Kim asks Mahmood Ali, his friend and a horse rider, “What am I? Mussalman, Hindu, Jain or Buddhist?” here Buber comments, Kim trying “willing to unwell or absent himself” by becoming the “Chela” of Tibetan lama and to use the words of Derrida, Kim “suspends his accomplishment or fulfilment of ‘desire or will’” by adopting Buddhism.  The criticism here presented is about democratic trend with mixing of another culture as seen in A Passage to India (1924) by Forster.
One crisis of Indian Comparative Literature is that features of colonialism are still yet to come. In “”New Literature,” the Dalit, the Gramin, Tribal and elitism etc are hidden behind modernism. Vedic tradition of discouraging analysis and comparison continues in different disguise. Perhaps this is main reason of the weak development of Comparative Literature in India. On other hand, our Comparative Literature is Euro-America-centric. The novel should reflect the multi layered reality of India but new novel is only “metro novel”. It has nothing to do with the lower and even lowest classes and with their problems. Indian literature of different languages offers limited view of history. It is in underdeveloped process. So a compendious bibliography needs to be compiled. Communalism based comparative cannot help to achieve international standard as Report of HRD Ministry of India, 2005, shows. (P. 193-94). It fails if it not shows local topography. It must have the qualities to judge the interior side.

The Book Studies In Comparative Literature: Theory, Culture And Space floods light on the different aspects of Comparative literature: where it is strong and weak, how it can be more strong as compared to the literature of America, Canada, Russia, England and China. The book also suggests, for wider reorganization literature must include Qawwali, Gazal, or Song as Salman Rushdie did in “The Midnight’s Children” with the song “Mera Joota hai Japani” translated in novel as “My Shoes are Japanese.”  Indian Veda must not be forgotten in this regard as each must compare Indian writings with it. Indian comparative literature is literature of high order but only the right comparative critics and criticism is the need of the hour. Some of the best writers were kept out of comparative literature in lack of it, so a close re-reading is strongly needed of the older texts like Pothery Kunhambu’s saraswativijayam (re-reading by Dalip Menon); re-reading of Kalidasa’s Abhijnana Sakuntalam by Romila Thapar’ re-reading of Chandu Menon writings by M.T. Ansari; and of  Kumaran Asan’s writings by S. Saradakutty.

Based on Studies In Comparative Literature: Theory, Culture And Space
Edited by
Jancy James
Chandra Mohan
Subha Chakraborthy Dasgupta
Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee

Sep 17, 2013

Marx and India

Karl Marx and India
Dipak R. Basu
Historical and political writings in India on Karl Marx suffers from misinterpretations and ignorance. Indian historians have so far ignored the writings of the Marxian writers of the Soviet Union and have followed a pro-British tradition.

Key Words: Marx, India, History
There are two types of historians and writers in India. The first type who claim them..:" selves as Marxists are in reality pro-British historians. The other types of writers, who are openly anti-Marxists, may not know anything much about Marx. In this article, some of the writings of Marx about India are analysed to prove both of the above observations. A number of writers in India (N. S. Rajaram, M. S. N. Menon, Ram Swarup and others) have recently made adverse comments about Karl Marx and Marxism, which are not doing justice to Marx or Marxism at all. The impression one may get from these writers is that Marx was an anti-Indian and Marxism promotes discriminations against both India and its civilization. These writers have based their wrong idea about Marx by calling a number of Indian historians as Marxists.

In India, some recent historians from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) , Romila Thaper, Satish Chandra, K. M. Shrimali, K.M.Pannikar, R.S. Sharma, D. N. Jha, Gyanendra Pandey, Irfan Habib, Arjun Deva, and Musirul Hussain, are called Marxist historians. However, a closer look at their writings would show that they are not Marxian but loyalist of the British historical traditions, which are antiMarxist, and anti-Indian.

Western historians influenced by the British Anglo-Saxon tradition, beginning with James Mill in mid-19th century, Max-Mueller, Drummond, and most recently Ferguson, Allchin, Ruthermund, and their Indian counterparts in JNU and AMU, have specific ideas, which does not follow either the methodology of Marx or what Marx wrote about India.

Marx on India:
Karl Marx was a great admirer of India. He wrote a number of books (The British Rule in India, The First War of Independence, Notes on Indian History) and a large number of articles on India and the British rule. He is the first person to call the so-called Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 as the First War of Independence of India. Marx's admirations and sympathy for India are reflected in his writing when he has compared India to Italy, one of the t wo (Greece being the other one) foundations of European civilization. He wrote: "Hindostan is an Italy of Asiatic dimensions, the Himalayas for the Alps, the Plains of Bengal for the Plains of Lombardy, the Deccan for the Apennines, and the Isle of Ceylon for the Island of Sicily. The same rich variety in the products of the soil, and the same dismemberment in the political configuration. Gn New York Daily Tribune, June 25, 1853 and London, Friday, June 10, 1853).

Nationalist writers of India are wrong to categorize Marx as "Euro-centric supporter of colonialism". N. S. Rajaram, in his book 'Profiles in Deception', wrote, "Marxism, the last of the Euro-centric doctrines was also the last refuge of the surrogates of colonialism". Ram Swarup wrote, in an article, Indo-European Encounter: an Indian Perspective, Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research, Vol. VIII, no2, pp75-96), that" ... the Eurocolonial-missionary forces triumphed, represented by soldier scholars like J. S. Mill, Hegel, Macaulay, Marx and many others". The ideas of Marx and John Stuart Mill are exactly opposite  to each other. Hegel was a German philosopher, who has nothing to do with British colonialism or Missionaries. Marx was severely anti-colonialist and wrote vigourously against the British colonial oppression in India.  Karl Marx in 'The British Rule in India' wrote:

"There cannot, however, remain any doubt but that the misery inflicted by the British on Hindostan is of an essentially different and infinitely more intensive kind than all Hindostan had to suffer before. They destroyed it (India) by breaking up the native communities, by uprooting the native industry, and by levelling all that was great and elevated in the native society. The historic pages of their rule in India report hardly anything beyond that destruction. "

"Did they not, in India, to borrow an expression of that great robber, Lord Clive himself, resort to atrocious extortion, when simple corruption could not keep pace with their rapacity? While they prated in Europe about the inviolable sanctity of the national debt, did they not confiscate in India the dividends of the rajahs, who had invested their private savings in the Company's own funds? The devastating effects of English industry, when contemplated with regard to India, a country as vast as Europe, and containing 150 millions of acres, are palpable and confounding. "

Many writers in India (for example N. S .Rajaram in his book, Profiles in Deception, p 186, published by Voice of India press) have misquoted Marx by saying that Marx made some derogatory remarks on India by saying that India had no history. However; what Marx wrote in this matter is as follows:

"Indian society has no history at all, at least no known history. What we call its history, is but the history of the successive intruders who founded their empires on the passive basis of that unresisting and unchanging society. Arabs, Turks, Tartars, Moguls, who had successively overrun India, soon became Hindooized, the barbarian conquerors being, by an eternal law of history, conquered themselves by the superior civilization of their subjects." Gn New York Daily Tribune, 1853)

These words demonstrate Marx's admiration for Indian civilization. He was sad that there is no social or cultural history of India written at that time in 1853. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Swami Vivekananda, and Rabindranath Tagore also have expressed the fact that there was no history of development of Indian culture or society. Before the invention of the Aryan invasion theory and the discovery of Mahenjodaro, the starting point of Indian history in the books published in 1850 was the Alexander's invasion of India followed by invasions after invasions. There was no Srinivas or Ramesh Chandra Majumdar in those days. Rabindranath Tagore wrote in his essay "Varatvarsha", that in our history books, we can read only mayhem and bloodshed caused by the Mughals, Pathans, Huns, but there was no explanation how among these chaos we had Guru Nanak, Tukaram, and Sri Chaitanya.
Karl Marx similarly criticized historyas written by the British in those days, and went ahead to write Indian history in the way he wanted.

There are two distinct methodologies in history writing. In the Anglo-Saxon methodology history is only description of events. In the Russo-German methodology, history is the theory and analysis of events. Karl Marx, as a German educated in Berlin University, was opposed to the Anglo-Saxon methodology and has enhanced the Russo-German methodology into what we call today the Marxian methodology of history.

Marxian Methodology in History:
A historian cannot be called Marxist unless he or she would follow Marx's method on history, which is based on his philosophical idea of 'Dialectical Materialism'. "Dialectics" is a philosophical method rooted in the writings of famous German philosophers Hegel and Feourbach, which emphasize theory behind all historical events, rather than just narrations of events as the British historians do. In 'dialectics' nature is an integral whole in which all objects and phenomena are interlinked, inter-dependent, and inter-conditioned. Nature is always in a state of continual motion and change, of renovation and development. A Marxist historian follows this basic philosophy while writing history.
According to Marx, social and historical development has economic roots. If there is a contradiction (or dialect) develops in the economic system, social and historical developements follow. Thus, a historian following Marx's methodology must explain these economic contradictions in history rather than just narrating invasions after invasions or about kings and emperors.

The historians following the British tradition describe India as an inferior civilization, always poor, always defeated and fragmented. Both James Mill in 19th century (in The History of British India) and Gunner Myrdall in 1970 (in Asian Drama) said that India is a civilization without any quality. According to the British historians, whether MaxMuller in 19th century or F .R.Allchin and Bridget Allchin in 21st century, everything in Indian civilization was borrowed starting with the Sanskrit language and the Aryan civilization, which were both of foreign origin. Civilization in India, according to them, was imported by the successive conquerors whether Mongols, Arabs, Turks, Persian and Europeans. As Sarvapalli. Radhakrishnan wrote, "the West tried its best to persuade India that its philosophy is absurd, its art puerile, its poetry uninspired, its religion grotesque and its ethics barbarous." [in 'Indian Philosophy', Vol. II, Allen & Unwin, London, 1977, p.779J] The British historians glorify the Muslim rule in India and dismiss the Hindu period as myths and fantasy. They dismiss the Marxian analysis of the British oppression of India. They emphasize the improvements in administration, construction of railroad, universities, abolition of 'Sati' and 'thugis' from India and ultimate peaceful transfer of power to Gandhi-Nehru. In that history, there was no freedom movement in India, no man made famines, no transfer of huge resources from India to Britain, no destruction of Indian industries and agriculture by the British rule, but only a very benign and benevolent British rule in India.

Marx has explained how British rule has transformed India from a prosperous selfsufficient country to a country of destitute and famines. This transformation is the historical process of evolution from feudalism to capitalism, as described by Marx and Engels. "Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones" (in The Communist Manifesto). For India, it meant destruction of her self-sufficient village economies along with both Indian industry and agriculture because of the free trade with Britain, excessive tax collections and absence of any public works.

Later Ramesh Chandra Dutta has elaborated this thesis of Marx in his book 'The Economic History of India', published in 1902. Dadabhai Naoroji (Poverty and Unbritish Rule in India. First published in 1901) in his writings and lectures in the British parliament has followed Marx's analysis of India extensively to demonstrate how India was devastated through the British rule. British historians totally reject these. Recently they are trying to justify imperialism in terms of expansion of civilization to these dark areas of the world and establishment of economic progress. These types of arguments of Nial Ferguson and Michael Ignatief, both Professors of history in Harvard University, are being reflected by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, vice-president of the IMF Anne Kruger, and various Anglo-American historians, economists and policy makers.

They found a number of Indian intellectual who are prepared to propagate for their master. Deepak Lal in his books, In Defense of Empire and Hindu Equilibrium, has justified both the British rule and the exploitative economic system imposed upon the developing countries by the Western nations. Meghnad Desai, in The Cambridge Economic History of India, explained the Bengal famine of 1943, where at least 5 million people were starved to death by the British policy, in terms of speculations by Indian traders only and thereby whitewashing the crime of the British. Meghnad Desai also has reduced the number killed in Jaliwanwala Bagh massacre from 3500 to about 380. It is an insult to Marx to call this type of historians and economists as Marxists, as their ideas are totally opposite to what Marx thought about India.

Karl Marx and Swami Vivekananda:
It is unknown in India, but Karl Marx and Swami Vivekananda had similar views on the historical cycle of the world. According to Marx the world history has four cycles starting with primitive communism of tribal societies, then feudalism, capitalism and ultimately socialism followed by advanced communism. For Marx the history is deterministic, these cycles are bound to happen due to the contradictions or dialectics in the existing system. In Karl Marx, "Changes occur in society because of contradictions in prevailing ideology, in its social, economic and political order. These contradictions arise from hostilities between the social classes" (in A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Progress Publishers, Moscow).

Swami Vivekananda similarly divided the world history into four cycles, starting with the Age of the Priests, Age of the Warriors, Age of the Merchants as we are now in and ultimately the Age of the Worker, which is coming. With each cycle, society rises to higher and still higher stages and is perfected.

The contradiction in the society according to Vivekananda is as follows, ".. At a certain time every society attains its manhood, when a strong conflict ensues between the ruling power and the common people" eVivekananda, Collected Works, vol. iv, p.399). In the new Age of the Workers, "just distribution of material values will be achieved, equality of the rights of all members of society to ownership of property established and caste differences obliterated" (in Vivekananda, Collected Works, vol. vi, p. 343). Sri Aurobindo also has expressed similar views on history.

How Marxist historians look at India:
The view of the Marxist historians in the Soviet Union should be considered seriously if we want to know the Marxian view of India. The opinion of the historians of the Soviet Union, following Marx's methodology, was exactly the opposite to that of the Anglo-American view on India.

The Institute of Oriental Studies of the USSR Academy of Sciences in Moscow did enormous amount of works on India and other Asian countries. The institute is also highly influential politically. Yevgeny Primakov, a great scholar on Middle Eastern history, was the director of the Institute during the 1970s. He was, also at that time, a member of the Polit Bureau of the Soviet Union-the highest decision making body of the country, when Brezhnev was the General Secretary. He later became the foreign minister and the prime minister of Russia in 1998. The Institute has produced a large volume of research works of great merits on every aspects of India. Soviet historians were aware of the falsification of history of the developing countries by the Western historians and their followers like the historians of JNU and AMU in India. Soviet historians said, "The philosophical heritage of India is extremely rich. Progressive thought springs from the depths of centuries of history. Modern Indians have a great deal to be proud of, to guard, and to hold sacred. Guarding the heritage means also relentlessly denouncing falsifiers of history such as Harry Barnes or Jacques Chevalier, who do everything they can to denigrate the spiritual culture of the Oriental people, including Indians" [in World History: Studies by Soviet Scholars, published by the USSR Academy of Sciences] Harry Marnes wrote An Introduction to the History of Sociology published by the University of Chicago Press in 1948. Jacques Chevalier wrote, Histoire de la pensee, published by Flammarion, Paris in 1955. Both gives a very distorted and derogatory picture of Indian and Asian civilizations, similar to what the British historian James Mill wrote in his book 'The History of British India' in the 19th century.

Marxists historians and intellectuals of the Soviet Union have interpreted Indian history and philosophy according to the Marxian methodology and tried to relate Indian thought to that of Marx-Engels-Lenin. However, there was no insult or derogatory remarks anywhere, but praise for the ancient India and pre-Muslim period of the Indian history. Indian History Congress, controlled by the JNU-AMU historians, has accepted a proposal recently that there should not be any excavations in India in historical monuments of religious significance, demonstrating their fear of truth. Soviet archeologists however excavated the basement of the world's oldest official Christian Church, nearly 2000 years old, in Yerevan, Armenia to find out a temple of Mitra, the god of the Rig-Veda. For ancient India, "The cosmic hymn of the Rig Veda is, in our view, fundamentally a realistic work with strong elements of spontaneous materialism and dialectics. The Vedic literature has a great significance for the study of the forms of social life in ancient India" [in Vladimir Brodov's book 'Indian Philosophy in Modern Times' ; Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1984J.

Ivan Diakonov in the book Early Antiquity (published by the USSR Academy of Sciences) has collected the works of the scholars of the Oriental Institute on ancient India, which in spirit follows the work of Ramesh Chandra Mazumdar, denounced as communal historian by Irfan Habib. About the Muslim period of India the Soviet historians wrote, describing Aurangjeb as follows: "This cold calculating politician was a fanatical Moslem and his victory over Dara Shukoh signified the advent of a policy, which stripped Hindus of their rights .. ' Between 1665 and 1669, he gave orders for Hindu temples to be destroyed and for mosques to be erected from their debris. Hindus were not allowed to wear any marks of honor, to ride elephants etc .. The heaviest burden of all was the poll-tax on non-Moslems, or jizya, introduced in 1679 ... " [in The History of India by K. Antonova, G. Bongard-Levin, G. Kotovsky, Progress Publisher, Moscow 1979, p. 255).

The historians of JNU and AMU will certainly dispute that view about Aurangjeb and other Muslim emperors of India. Jamia Milia Islamia historian Mussirul Hassan said (India Partitioned, Oxford University Press, 1985) that Muslims came to India first to Malabar Coast peacefully, but Karl Marx wrote in his book 'Notes on Indian History' the followings: "Mussulman Conquest of India: First Arab entry into India A.D.664 (year 44 of the 28 Hegira): Arabs reached Kabul; in the same year Muhallab, an Arab general, raided India, advanced as far as Multan".

Modern India was summarized by the Soviet historians in the following way:

"Progressive thought in India in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th century is characterized by the following features. "

"Direct links with the historical destiny of the country, with the search for the solution of political and economic problems and for the ways of the country's democratic transformation (Dayananda Sarasvati, Swami Vivekananda, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sri Aurobindo and others) "

"Anti-colonialism. Links between the theory and practice of the national liberation struggle and the condition of the masses (Vivekananda, Tilak) . "

"Distinct rudiments of the ideas of petty-bourgeois Utopian socialism (Vivekananda)."

"The struggle between two historical tendencies, the liberal and the democratic, as an expression of two paths of the country's capitalist development, reformist and radical. "

"The progressive trends aimed at connecting philosophy with real life, with the practice of the national liberation movement, reorienting traditional Vedanta in such a way as to strengthen its ties with all spheres of life, private, social and international." (in V. Brodov' s book, Indian Philosophy in Modern Times, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1984)

Russian historians have emphasized various popular uprisings against the British rule in 18th and 19th centuries including the revolt of the Sanyasis mentioned in Ananda Math of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, the revolutionary movements in the 20th century, the role of the ideology of Tilak, Vivekananda and Tagore, the revolt of the Indian Navy in 1946; but dismissed Gandhi-Nehru and the endless negotiations between the British and Gandhi.

On the contrary, the Western historians put emphasis on the process of transfer of power from the British to the pro-British Indian and Pakistani politicians like Gandhi-Nehru-Jinnah. The historians of JNU and AMU also put extreme importance to Gandhi-Nehru-Jinnah, dismissing every other aspect of the political and historical developments of India. Romila Thaper in her book, A History of India (Penguin Press, 1966), has dismissed the Indian revolutionaries as 'bomb throwing terrorists' in one sentence. She has spent only two sentences for Subhas Bose and the Azad Hind Fauz. It is worthwhile to remember that the Soviet Union has recognized the Azad Hind Government in 1942 and allowed Subhas Bose to open a consulate in the Soviet Union; while the British has branded him as a war criminal. British historians (the best example is The History of the Second World War written by Winston Churchill) do not mention Indian revolutionaries or Subhas Bose. Thus, these Indian historians of JNU and AMU have followed the British historical tradition, not the Marxist one.

Karl Marx was one of the greatest philosophers of the world, and he was highly sympathetic to India. Both Marx and Lenin wrote substantial amounts of India, which have inspired a number of anti-British writers and politicians of India during the days of the freedom struggle. The Soviet Union was the source of inspirations and the model to be followed by the Indian freedom fighters. The writings of Karl Marx and the Soviet historians are very pro-Indian, unlike those of the Anglo-American writers. The historians of JNU and AMU are the followers of the Anglo-American writers on India, who are by nature anti-Marx, antiSoviet, and anti-Indian.

There was no shortage of pro-British politicians and intellectuals in India before 1947. They used to receive prestige and privilege due to their alliance with the British establishment. Similarly, the intellectuals of India today derive their recognitions and rewards because of their pro-Western attitude, without which they would not be able to publish in Western journals or by the Western publishers and, as a result, would not be recognized. If some academics would assert their independent opinion to pursue the truth, they would be denounced by the Western writers and editors as nationalist, fundamentalist Hindu or communal. Due to these pressures, the historians of JNU-AMU are pursuing a policy to reflect and amplify the Anglo-American opinion, which is hostile towards India and particularly towards the Indian religions. The ideas propagated by the JNU historians have their origin in the Anglo-American writings, which are not only biased but also full of ignorance, falsehood, and misinterpretations of facts (for a detail description of these Anglo-American opinion on India see the article by Avijit Bagal, Biases in Hinduism Studies, November 21, 2004). 

The JNU-AMU academics do not confront their critics with solid academic arguments but instead denounce them as fascists. It is wrong to call them as Marxists, as Marxism has nothing to do with their anti-Indian opinion. Nationalist writers of India are wrong to brand these pro-British historians as Marxists; they are also wrong to call Karl Marx as Euro-centric and anti-Indian. Marx and Lenin were internationalists and well known for their sympathy for the Indian people oppressed under the British colonial rule. Nationalist writers are also wrong to relate militant Islam with Marxism; in reality, these are opposed to each other. Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries have financed the terrorists to destroy the socialist governments of Afghanistan and Ethiopia. Saudi Arabia has also financed President Reagan's efforts to destroy the socialist movements in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico. Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and most other Islamic countries had no relationship with the Soviet Union. Socialists and Marxists cannot physically exist in .any Islamic countries. The Hanbalites and the Shafiites, the two most important schools of Islamic jurisprudence, believe that "no contract should be made with the ungodly or those who do not believe in the supreme God. They must be given only two options: accept Islam or be killed. "

Rewards for the pro-Western intellectuals and politicians are great and punishments for the seekers of truth are most severe. Rakhal Das Banerjee, who has discovered the ruins of Mahenjodaro, was expelled from the Archeological Survey of India as he has demonstrated direct links between the Indus valley civilization and the ancient Hindu civilization, thereby proving the Aryan invasion theory invented by the British colonialists as groundless. Jadunath Sarkar, by enhancing the British idea about the greatness of the Mughal emperors, received Knighthood. Romila Thaper, by repeating what her British tutors told her, received the Kluge Chair in the Library of Congress in Washington D. C. in USA. Romesh Chandra Mazumdar, even after completing his monumental works on Indian history, could not get any recognition from the British or American but denounced as a communal historian. JawaharIal Nehru, by declaring his total loyalty to the Vice-Roy Linlithgow, who has presided over the ruthless oppression during the 1942 revolt and the 1943 Bengal famine, was selected as the future prime minister of India by both Gandhi and the British. Subhas Chandra Bose, because of his anti-British attitude, was expelled from the Congress Party by Gandhi, and was declared as a war criminal by the British. Thus, it is no surprise that the pro-Western historians of JNU-AMU would pose as Marxists.

Sep 10, 2013

Development of Colonial India and the Class Roots of Gandhism

Roslavlev, U., ‘Gandhism’, Chapter IV.
Fundamental Paths of Socio-Economic Development of Colonial India and the Class Roots of Gandhism,
Nauchno-Issledovatelskaya Assosiatsia Instituta Vostokovedeniya pri TsIK SSSR, Gosudarstvennoe Sotsialno-Ekonomicheskoye Izdatelstvo, Moskva-Leningrad, 1931,
pp. 64-78
(Scientific Research Association of the Institute of Oriental Studies under Central Executive Council of USSR, State Socio-Economic Publishing House, Moscow-Leningrad 1931,
 pp. 64-78).
Translated from the Russian by Tahir Asghar
The Fundamental Paths of Socio-Economic Development of Colonial India and the Class Roots of Gandhism
Y. Roslavlev

After the analysis of the theory and practice of Gandhism it is incumbent upon us, even if briefly, to analyse the basic directions of economic and class development of India as ultimately it is in the specifics of economic development that we could find those co-relationships which conditioned the origin of the ideology of Gandhism, its flowering during the stormy days of 1919-1922 and its later decline. Consequently, in the analysis of economic specifics, configuration of Indian society and the co-relationship between its struggling class elements lies the elucidation of the question as to why such decadent philosophy and tactics could, even if temporarily, take along in its wake huge sections of the Indian peoples’ masses who were fighting not for the abstract ideals of Gandhi but for basic human existence during the epoch of imperialism and proletarian revolution. 

Gandhism – a teaching linked from beginning to end with religion and to the core idealist and metaphysical, ‘idealises’ (for definite ends) the old Indian society that was reactionary in comparison with capitalism, negates scientific proletarian socialism and class struggle as the motive force of social development, propagates passivity of the exploited and of those masses who are denied all protest and remonstration and are suppressed by the colonial rule, and ideology that plays the role of a peace-maker between the struggling forces, preaching the principle of harmony of interests and at every step camouflages the surrender of the interest of the working masses in favour of the bourgeoisie, and stands up at critical moments for the protection of the exploiting classes. 

India is not a victim of passivity; it is being terrorised by imperialism without any resistance from her own socio-economic and class forces. The first force that has always strongly resisted imperialism is the Indian economy itself and the working masses that stand by it, objective co-relationships and tendencies of her internal growth, different productive forces of India represented by definite classes, who cannot but resist the colonial regime. To the extent the Indian economy got bourgeoisified through the consequential path of capitalist development brought into life by the penetration of the British, to that extent India also developed modern class contradictions. In the first period of the struggle against imperialism the internal class contradictions between bourgeoisie and the proletariat were submerged in the deliberate united and universal national front from where, even in the first stage of political struggle and in direct proportion to its span, the character and level of participation of the masses was evident. Gradually and step by step different segments of the bourgeoisie fell out (of the national front) till in the end on the whole the bourgeoisie was not noticeable. They were so much politically discredited that the masses started to unite with the Indian working class. In the end, to the same extent to which the united national front got broken down and more class contradictions between the capitalists and the workers started to surface sharply, to the same extent, first, either overtly or covertly under the protection of Gandhist slogans and tactics, some went to the side of the reaction, and later the singular bourgeois intelligentsia, to the same extent and to well-defined stance, stood up to offer decisive and fundamental resistance to imperialism and their camp-followers, i.e. it joined the Indian working class struggling for its hegemony in the revolution. 

The Indian peasantry, though by itself comprising 9/10 of India, due to its economic strength, neither earlier nor now could independently solve the problems of Indian revolution. Under bourgeois leadership or under the leadership of those social groups akin to it, the peasantry is doomed to ‘eternal sorrow and weeping, dreaming and useless howling’ and in the best of the situations to ‘separation’ and ‘betrayal’ in the spirit of the ideology of Gandhism, but not to active and forceful actions of a revolutionary class which is explicitly not tolerated by the bourgeois Gandhian leaders. Only under the leadership of the proletariat it can play its gigantic role of the moving force of the revolution as only the hegemony of the proletariat can provide solidity and decisiveness of leadership and unity, with clear economic and political perspective of the struggle.

This is why the entire political history of India during the past period appears to us as history that is developing in these general directions. The native bourgeoisie, depending on the well-known stages of objective remonstration of productive forces of India against the imperialist politics, could periodically confront imperialism. However, now this role has come into the hands of the young Indian proletariat. A decade-long struggle was required for this transition and Gandhism as the ideology of Indian bourgeoisie is one of the stages of this struggle. 

With the occupation of India and the entry of British capital, the capitalist development of India is accelerating in an unusual manner. It developed, and is developing, side by side with the continued existence and strengthening of the colonial monopoly of British capital as the main direction of economic and political domination of Britain. British capital is destroying the Indian society based on feudal foundations. While at one place it introduces trading and monetary relations, at other places it expropriates the feudal crest, and at yet other places, depending on political understanding, preserves it, and in third places it goes for compromise with feudal interests while in almost all places placing the peasant masses under the power of the landlords or themselves becoming landlord by directly getting land rent from the peasants. 

After a number of uprisings, agrarian upheavals and for unhindered exploitation of raw materials, it entered into a certain giving in to the peasantry by creating very different forms of bequests, temporary and life-long, of agricultural taxes. It subjugated to its interests the goods exchange apparatus of the Indian trading capital, winning out of it a solid section of devoted comprador bourgeoisie. Its political economy provided a big impulse to the development of a subordinate trading capital. It constructs railway lines as the highways for the military and raw material movement. It is destroying handicrafts by separating them from agriculture and flooding the country with cheap foreign goods, forcing millions of handicraftsmen to either tramp the roads of India or die a slow death. It converts the land into its own property as an object of buying and selling, and in a very large volume expropriates the peasantry. It crushes the peasantry under the pressing machine of debt of tenancy and compulsorily confiscating its land and attaching it to the supremacy of money and rent on which in its turn dominate small but highly organised forms of capitalist organisations of auction-houses and purchasing counters. It converts agricultural regions into monoculture thereby compellingly developing the production of industrial raw material and partly of semi-manufactured material. It encourages the growth of agriculture based on big landlords and simultaneously by its agrarian politics permits amazing fragmentation of land and astonishing pressure on land leading to the pauperisation of the peasantry through their taking land on the highest rent, facing various types of most barbaric suppression and labour conditions. It keeps one third of Indian territory in the hands of the princes who are its most reliable vassals, permitting there large-scale slavery and domination of feudal social relations. It organises plantation economy on the basis of contractual semi-slave labour. Ultimately, in the end of the second half of the last century it started developing capital that in the main occupied banks, insurance, trade, transport organisations and especially as state credit, thus creating the multi-million state debt of India, that is partly encouraging the growth of capitalist production on Indian soil, further stimulating capitalist development, thus creating the modern proletariat. 

While doing all this, the British are subordinating the economy of the most far-flung corners of the country, keeping agriculture on the lowest ladders of technological development, not reorganising technologically but shamelessly exploiting and forcing the country to levels of starvation and epidemics that took away the life of millions of people, the like of which is not met with anywhere. They intensively developed raw material culture and its export abroad and thus offered before the Indian peasantry a forced path which broke the Indian masses into three basic directional elements: working force, the object of labour and production material, which went to the extent of permanent structural crisis of economic life. At the time of war it opened the umbrella of its suffocating political economy, presenting the yet unseen perspective of capitalist development. War and two three post-war decades is the period of a convulsive jump of the whole economy on the capitalist path. The proletariat grows amidst the horror of the breach of old relations, traditions, way of living, to a level that is observed anywhere else; millions of village and city craftsmen and peasants are thrown off the production process, their major portion being pauperised, only very few of them become proletarians. The bourgeoisie enriches and accumulates, the masses turn poorer and broken. A sharper class polarisation emerges. The revolution matures. 

In the first stage of British domination over India, to the extent that they destroyed the old Indian social order: society, Asian feudal despotism of the centralised type that was spread over whole of the country or separate states of feudal despotic variety, the British, in spite of their harshness and ‘piggishness’, being the ‘unconscious instrument of history’, performed, in well known but very limited sense of the word, a progressive role, pushing India on the path of capitalist development, awakening her from ‘vegetative existence’. In spite of the colossal contradictions of its politics in India in the early stages of colonial conquests, this historical, partly progressive role could be assigned to Britain. 

After the economic co-relationships of the specifics of Indian development led to the establishment of the local big industry, national bourgeoisie and the proletariat, in one word, after the well-known conditions for the independent economic development of the country were created, the British rule, in spite of the fact that it was accompanied by the construction of railway, ports, mines etc., unconditionally turned regressive and reactionary because the direction of the political economy of Britain led to the slowing down of the independent industrial development of India while protecting their colonial monopoly. It turned more intolerant when a new class entered the arena of political life, the proletariat, the only one correctly and consistently expressing protest of the productive forces against disruption of their political economy and against the obsolete social relations of production. 

The major contradictions of the present day economy of India are approximately perceptible in the following form: 

  1. Objective tendencies of the development of productive forces while preserving and further strengthening the colonial monopoly of imperialism in the economic and political spheres of the country
  2. Capitalisation of economic relations and pre-capitalist technology. 
  3. Export of finance capital and almost complete absence of the progressive effects of capitalism.
  4. Massive expropriation of the peasantry and handicraftsmen; extremely weak process of proletarianisation. 
  5. Stratification of peasantry on the basis of usurer-monetary relations and absolutely weak development of capitalist agriculture. From this emerges the growth of money lending and hoarding capital and pre-capitalist stratification.
  6. Domination of the big capital and most backward villages. 
  7. Domination of big landlords in agriculture and very small holdings of the peasants that work the land. 
  8. Domination of moneylenders and hoarders in the market relations of the village, huge accumulation of usurer-trade capital and absence of wide passages of its transition into industrial capital.
The Indian village is subjugated by landlord and usurer-trader capital while the suppressed peasantry goes on clinging to its dwarfed economy. Hence, from this emerges the possibility of the exploitation of the peasantry on the basis of pre-capitalist technology not by the sale of products of its labour – the product being its labour power itself. However, as the impoverishment reached this level of development then a large part of peasantry is forced to get alienated from his land and sell not the product of his labour power but the labour power itself, i.e. become proletariat, the usurer-trader capital and the landlords are forced to retreat to an organisation of agriculture on capitalist foundations, functioning and accumulating now not in the sphere of trading or monetary market but in the agricultural production rooted in industrial capitalist principles. However, this has yet not taken place in the Indian village, because the Indian peasantry, most widely pauperising under the impact of three forces: British imperialism, national industrial capital, local usurer-trade capital and landlords, does not find a market for the sale of his labour power, because there is no rapport between the size of the pauperising peasantry and handicraftsmen and the level of the transformation of usurer-trader capital into industrial capital and the landlords into agricultural capitalists. The reason for this symptom first of all lies in the colonial domination of imperialism. In this manner the transformation of money into capital in Indian agriculture is mainly taking place without any wide organisation by the wealthy of mechanised capitalist agriculture, based on hired labour. This is the most important characteristic of the colonial countries. 

In this manner the capital of the metropolis holding back to itself through the mesh of agricultural production of India attaches to itself the products of the peasantry, mainly through usurer-traders, landlords and exploitation by taxation, not reorganising agriculture through technology, developing productive forces not in the colonial countries but in the metropolis, forcing the colonies to creeping economic paralysis. 

Does it not mean that the capital of the metropolis is leading the country oppressed by it on to the capitalist path of development (commodity-money economy, development of trade capital, developed commercial agriculture, separation of crafts from agriculture), giving her economy a commodity-money basis and capitalist form, permitting her to take a few next steps on the path of capitalist development though only to the extent which is beneficial to the oppressing country under changing conditions of its domination (war, revolutionary movements), while preserving in all possible manner the parasitic-exploitative essence in the relationship with the colony – retarding her own very early stage of capitalist development by many decades? 

Does it not follow from it that the negative aspects of capitalism multiply in colonial countries to an extent to which level these did not replicate themselves anywhere else in any country, that this reproduction of the negative after-effects of capitalism is continuing over an extremely long period of time?

Does it not follow from it that the pre-capitalist technology of production being coincidental with commodity-money economy becomes the specific character of this agrarian country?

Does it not follow from it that now industrial development of this country is determined, first of all: by the level of quick profit from this suffering nation which is speedy and cheaper to export through railway, ports and through light industry, and secondly: through the vigour of the pressure of internal capitalistic tendencies, and thirdly: by the characteristics and forms of struggle against other imperialisms that trying to establish their domination on this given colonial country belonging to colonial monopolists like England? These, approximately are the limits of the economic development of India and specifics of her capitalism. 

The medieval economy of India with the domination of feudal and royal relationships could be formulated in the words of Lenin cited from his writings against Struve and the Narodniks: ‘Trading-usurer capital attaches to itself labour from every Russian village though not converting the producer into hired worker, takes away from him not less additional value, than what the industrial capital takes from the worker. Capitalist production starts from that moment when the capitalist stands up between the producers, even if he only buys from the independent (apparently) producer of the finished product; and from the Russian free-producers it was not only easy to find such persons who do not work for the capitalist (shop-owner, hoarder, kulak’).1

This is why one should not approach India as a purely feudal country, because ‘capital – is a well known relationship between people that is identically established both in big and small levels of comparing category’.2

Similarly it would have been wrong to look at India as a formative capitalist country, as ‘Subservience of labour to capital from trading capital to the British form takes very long and different stages’.3

If we look from this point of view on the situation of Indian agriculturist and handicraftsman then the difference between them and the proletariat of Bombay shall be that the usurer-trader capital does not directly subordinate the Indian peasant and handicraftsman through direct purchase of their working power but subordinates them as sellers of their products, binding them more strongly to the ‘usurer press’, exploiting them in most unprotected regal forms, tying them to itself as bankrupt borrowers, taking away not only their additive labour but also a big part of their essential labour, throwing them out of the production process whenever it suited them, and wrapping their consciousness with lies about ‘good wishes’ which presumably he shows towards them. 

When tremendous growth of commodity-money and capitalistic relationships during the entire British rule started to tear the linkages of the peasants and of the handicraftsmen with their profession, with land, very widely freeing them from the feudal way of production, destroying their natural life, linking them to the trader and hoarder, and in some parts of India with new landlords created by the British, raising their personal well-being by the rise in market prices in world economy, tearing them away from long-time living localities and compelling them to take loans from either usurers or from workers employed in factories, baring before them class exploitation and by this inviting them to their own complex socio-political life wherein from one side oppressed peasantry and craftsmen started to become, an active political force in the first stages of struggles and the unorganised standing up against feudal-imperialist pressures, and on the other hand, they could not conciliate with the aggressive and well-organised capitalism as it compulsively pressed them towards further expropriation, to the rule of a handful of the rich over the mass of the poor. It was then that the Indian bourgeoisie found in Gandhism that flexible weapon which was indispensable for it for its meanderings between immature revolution and imperialism. 

However, as we have seen during our analysis of Gandhism in its practice, it never reflected the objective and progressive efforts of the Indian peasantry directed to the abolition of feudal remnants in the economics and politics of the country. Gandhism never reflected the real labours of the Indian peasantry that under conditions of colonial rule, under conditions of adjustment between national bourgeoisie and feudalism and their links with imperialism, was objectively a persistent supporter of a bourgeois-democratic turn in the country. 

Most characteristic feature of Gandhism is the absence in it of a sharp revolutionary criticism of the land structure of India wherein goes on an all-sided pillage of the peasantry, its exploitation by landlords and by usury-trader capital, oppression of the government staff, of police imperialist courts and the double-facedness of the church, in one word, in its totality of a type that has been criticised by Tolstoy, who at a well-known stage, as Lenin has pointed out, expressed ‘extremely strong, unusual and honest protest against societal lies and cheatings’.4 Gandhism like the Indian bourgeoisie is very decent in its relationship with imperialism. This is why Gandhism is not like the ideas of Tolstoy; and from this point of view all comparisons between Gandhism and the ideas of Tolstoy are entirely wrong. 

The basic tactical forms of Gandhism are: boycott, civil disobedience and non-payment of taxes. As an obligatory pre-condition for its continuation it demands unconditional acceptance and practice of the reactionary tactics of ‘non-violence’. The last is put forward by Gandhism as the requirement accompanying the organisation of boycott, civil-disobedience, and non-payment of taxes and it shuns higher forms of mass revolutionary movement in the form of general strikes, armed rebellion and open revolution. Obviously, such types of organisational forms of the movement and the traitorous tactics of ‘non-violence’ flow out of the class position of the Indian bourgeoisie which, due to its class location, is incapable of leading the anti-imperialist (meaning thereby also agrarian) revolution. Even ten years ago in the conditions of an absence of an experience like that of the Chinese Revolution of 1925-1927, with serious political immaturity of the workers and peasant masses of India, this class position of Indian bourgeoisie was such an all-embarrassing factor in the determination of its political policies towards the imperialist-feudal bloc that even then, due to the ‘traitorous’ tactics of the National Congress that have been discussed by us, the movements could not be widespread (not counting the extensive boycott of foreign textiles in which the Indian textile bourgeoisie was especially interested). Non-payment of taxes is a more radical step that could be taken up by the Indian bourgeoisie and has always been taken up, and is yet being systematically taken up by the Indian peasants even in face of the opposition of the National Congress. 

Gandhi is neither Sun Yat-sen nor Kemal or Amanulla. The Indian bourgeoisie never played that role in the national liberation movement of India which in its time was played by the Chinese and Turkish bourgeoisie in the national liberation movement of China and Turkey. The path of the Kemal type of national liberation struggle consists of the fact that the bourgeoisie of this or that colonial country attains power in an anti-imperialist open revolutionary armed struggle for formal political and state independence, though not having the necessary revolutionary persistence, not solving the agrarian question, or the decisive questions that were left behind by the imperialist powers in the field of economy due to not having sufficient internal resources. Step by step they capitulate before imperialism, either openly or secretly. The Indian bourgeoisie never opted for open armed struggle against imperialism. This is why Gandhi is no Kemal and no Sun Yat-sen. Comparing Gandhi with Kemal Pasha or with Sun Yat-sen is a great deal distant from the truth as the Indian bourgeoisie manifests exactly such characteristics which they did not possess and because of its class position, it does not have. 

The Gandhian mode of relationship between the colonial country and imperialism consists in the fact that the colonial bourgeoisie of India is extremely strongly bound with the pre-capitalist exploitation of the peasantry and with imperialism; it is in a state of active conflict with the proletariat. This is why it is incapable of leading an armed anti-imperialist struggle. Hence it consciously shuns the tactics of revolutionary force, tries the corresponding path of the conscious use of mass movement while subjugating it to its own traitorous leadership, to step by step negotiate concessions with imperialism and come to ‘respectable agreement’ with them while remaining under the overall rule of imperialism that protects it from revolutionary masses. The peaceful attainment of ‘Swaraj’ is the ideal of Gandhism which means self-rule within the British Empire. The slogan of complete independence raised by Gandhism has never been seriously accepted by the Indian bourgeoisie and is only among those slogans through which, firstly, it was possible to slow down the moving away of the mass movement from national-reformism and, secondly, as a reserved price for coming to an agreement with imperialism. This is why all who categorise Gandhism as an ideology reflecting the desire of the Indian peasantry commit a big political mistake. 

It may be said that Gandhism is the ideology of the colonial bourgeoisie that exploits the revolutionary discontent of the displaced and uprooted peasantry, small producers, elements of the urban small bourgeoisie, feeding them on hatred of capitalism but at the same time being unprepared and improperly organised for struggle against well-organised financial capital at a stage when the Indian proletariat has yet not established its hegemony in the revolution, though the contradictions between imperialist and colonial countries has put the revolutionary overthrow of the colonial domination by imperialism on the order of the day. 

The life of Gandhism and its betraying manoeuverability depends on the level of the maturity of capitalist relationships in the overall economic relationships of the country and mainly from the significant role that the proletariat plays in the revolutionary movement, from the level of the political influence of the proletariat on the peasantry. The weaker the role of the proletariat, its political weightage and leadership, the stronger the leadership of the Indian bourgeoisie and the influence of its ideology – Gandhism and the more Gandhism exploits, in the interest of the bourgeoisie, the discontent of peasantry the more it betrays the latter, the more and the better it fulfills the social demands of the national bourgeoisie. In this lies the criteria and understanding of the longevity of Gandhism, its relative political capacity for survival. Even though today when the proletariat has independently started on the path of the struggle for its hegemony but yet not having its own structured organisation, it is compelled to take into account the dying but yet alive Gandhism. This is why the most important task of the revolutionary working class movement of India is to finally expose Gandhism which is a necessary precondition of the struggle for the hegemony of the proletariat and for the victory of the anti-imperialist revolution. 

Thus, the class essence of Gandhism and the class nature of its political programme and of its tactical steps is to be looked for not in the prevailing situation among the peasantry but in the situation of the national bourgeoisie and its desired direction along with all the linkages and characteristics of colonial limitations, cowardice, strong economic linkages with feudalism, with the political and economic apparatuses of the British finance capital. 
This is why Gandhism from beginning to end is a reactionary factor and a better servant of the Indian national bourgeoisie and of British imperialism.

·         Lenin, vol. 1, p. 332.
·         Lenin, vol. 1, p. 127.
·         Lenin, vol. 1, p. 371. We consider it necessary to specially underline the stipulation that, though Indian economy as a whole cannot be looked upon as purely feudal, the extremely dangerous ‘populism’ (Narodnichisto) may in practice bring incalculable harm to the revolutionary struggle. Hence, it is necessary to fight against it in the most decisive manner. However, on the other hand it is necessary to categorically reject all attempts to present India as an already established capitalist country, because even such a point of view leads to no less damaging results in the process of a revolutionary struggle. 
Besides the comments of Lenin cited by us underlining the development of the struggle and the process of transition to capitalism, the criteria for an understanding of contemporary social structure of India also is the following interesting comment of Marx:
‘Industrial capital is the only form of the subsistence of capital under which the function of capital is not only appropriation of surplus value or surplus labour but also their creation. This is why, specifically their transfer into capital determines the capitalist character of production; specific existence of industrial capital postulates class contradiction between the capitalists and hired labour. To the extent to which it embraces social production, it leads to transformation in technology, and in the social organisation of labour and along with it in the economic and historical type of the society’ (emphasis added) (Marx, Capital, vol.1, p.29). 

·         Lenin, vol. XII, p. 332.

Sep 5, 2013


“Socialist democracy is not something which begins only in the promised land after the foundations of socialist economy are created. It does not come as some sort of Christmas present for the worthy people who, in the interim, have loyally supported a handful of socialist dictators.” – Rosa Luxemburg

Leninism is, if we’re honest, never the most popular of political concepts at the best of times. Much of the wider left, from experience as much as anything, treats Leninist groups with at least suspicion and often hostility. So it’s not surprising that the crisis in the Socialist Workers Party – still ever-escalating, thanks to the leadership’s intransigence – has produced a new round of obituaries for Leninism, seeking once more to bury it.

Perhaps their most helpful assistant in jamming on the coffin lid is one Alex Callinicos, the leading light of the SWP central committee who has appointed himself the patrician defender of ‘Leninism’ against such rogues. His article ‘Is Leninism finished?’ spends most of its time laying into everyone else on the left, not least Owen Jones who we are told is, shock, in the Labour Party. There is not a moment of reflection on how things went so disastrously wrong in the SWP. Callinicos’ article does not contain the word ‘rape’, speaking only of a ‘difficult’ case. (Difficult for who? You, Alex?) It only uses the word ‘victim’ once – to refer to the SWP.

You could summarise it as ‘Leninism means never having to say you’re sorry’.

But Callinicos is playing into a fear many SWP members and sympathisers hold. He is trying, albeit badly, to appeal to those who think the leadership’s handling of this has been pretty awful all round but are desperate to see the party survive – he wants to scare them into silence by pointing to the wilderness we will all surely find ourselves in without his very particular conception of a ‘Leninist party’. Reformism! Movementism! Never mind that he is the one willing to tear the party apart in order to protect one man.

Let’s try to allay some fears. We can keep hold of the best of where we’ve been while we try to scrap the worst. To do so means looking in more detail at ‘Leninism’ as a concept and as a narrative that has been much used and abused over the decades. It means recognising that Leninism is continuously contested, constructed and re-constructed in ways that usually have little to do with the actual Lenin who lived, and thinking in contrast about what our approach should be.

Will the real Lenin please stand up?

The opposition has already done well in unpicking the various lies and distortions in Callinicos’ article, so I won’t repeat their collectively-written work. (On one level Callinicos has rapidly moved from ‘big fish, small pond’, to ‘big fish, small barrel’ – though the opposition still display good aim.) But their statement also goes further than answering his immediate argument by labelling the SWP’s current practice ‘Zinovievism’.

Their starting point is that the organisational model of the SWP today, which Callinicos claims is based on “the way the Bolsheviks organised under Lenin's leadership in the years leading up to the October Revolution”, in fact deviates from that of the Bolsheviks in all sorts of ways. As the opposition says:

“[Callinicos’] manoeuvre assumes the following equivalences: that ‘revolutionary party’ means the model of democratic centralism adopted by the SWP in the 1970s; that this model replicates that of the Bolsheviks in 1917 and the decisions of the current leadership therefore embody the legitimacy of that revolution, which we can expect to be replicated in the conditions of the UK in the 21st century…

The Bolshevik leadership of 1917 was elected individually [ie. not using the ‘slate system’ –TW]. There was no ban on factions. On the eve of the October Revolution, Zinoviev and Kamenev publicly opposed the insurrection in Maxim Gorky’s newspaper (the ‘dark side’ of the printing press, perhaps) and resigned from the Bolshevik Central Committee. They were not expelled from the Party.

The model operated currently by the SWP is not that of the Bolshevik revolution. It is a version of the Zinovievite model adopted during the period of ‘Bolshevisation’ in the mid-1920s and then honed by ever smaller and more marginal groups.”

This statement shows how brilliantly the opposition’s analysis and discussion has developed over these weeks. They locate the historic break much further back than most criticism of the central committee so far, and gently suggest that the problems of democracy that have exploded now were unfortunately reintroduced into the IS tradition in the course of the ‘turn to Lenin’.

Other critiques of Callinicos’ article have come from various angles, from Paul LeBlanc to the different approach of Pham Binh), but all make a good case that the way the SWP works has very little to do with how the Bolsheviks were organised.

In particular, when it comes to one of the issues that gets central committee supporters most worked up – whether party members should be disagreeing with each other in public or not – the critics throw back the mountains of evidence that the Bolsheviks did so constantly, in the middle of life-and-death struggles. On the horror of ‘factionalism’, the loyalists’ other great bugbear, we should listen again to Trotsky for a moment:

“The present doctrine that Bolshevism does not tolerate factions is a myth of the epoch of decline. In reality the history of Bolshevism is a history of the struggle of factions.”

Callinicos and co will not engage on this terrain of historical fact because they know they’re not onto a winner. For all the bluster about ‘defending Leninism’, they are well-read enough to be very well aware that the internal party regime they are defending is so much stricter than the Bolsheviks – despite conditions of 21st century legality! – that it is not even a caricature. It is, instead, a set of anti-democratic practices that has developed over time to defend the party bureaucracy.

(While we’re at it, the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) in France haven’t declined because they allowed factions – an analysis the central committee is putting forward to serve its own purposes. There are all sorts of political reasons for its decline, but the biggest is that the Front de Gauche has eaten the NPA’s support for lunch.)

But if Callinicos’ ‘Leninism’ is little more than whatever serves his current purposes, surely our task in opposing him is to uncover the ‘real Leninism’ by closely examining the Bolsheviks’ actual historical practice and drawing our conclusions from that?

Lenin the libertarian?
If we’re going down that road then the group who recently broke from the 1974 IS split Workers Power to focus on the Anticapitalist Initiative have done some of the work for us already. Simon Hardy’s widely-circulated recent article on the ‘forgotten legacies of Bolshevism’ is an account of the Bolsheviks’ history aimed squarely at the various cherished myths that most of the far left holds about Lenin’s theory and practice.

In these days of the hovering axe of explusions, we might note his contention that throughout the history of the Bolsheviks “despite there being some very serious arguments between members in public, and breaches of agreed positions, very few people were actually expelled”. As well as the example of Zinoviev and Kamenev publicly opposing the insurrection (as referred to in the opposition statement above), there’s also the leaders who broke discipline and caused the ‘July Days’ not being expelled, and five CC members who went public with their opposition to a decision to suppress bourgeois newspapers also not being expelled. Hardy writes:

“What do these three examples, all from the most important year of the revolutionary struggle in Russia, show us? It shows that, whilst the Bolsheviks strived for unity in practice on agreed political lines, there were many occasions when this was not achieved and people ‘broke discipline’, but no one was expelled for it.”
All this should surely be a standing rebuke to any explusion-happy central committee. And yet:
“Compare this to most Leninist-Trotskyist groups today where the CC is usually the main instigator of purges (what Lenin called an ‘extreme measure’ in post-revolutionary Russia has become normal practice for Leninist-Trotskyist groups in liberal democratic countries).”

Such contributions are certainly helpful when it comes to showing up the leaderships of all the various far left groups, and in starting to make the case against the left’s sectarianism and in favour of a more pluralistic approach. It is worth reading in full and discussing further.

Hardy’s argument in part draws on the efforts of Lars T Lih, whose weighty tome Lenin Rediscovered: What Is to Be Done? In Context represents a comprehensive effort to reassess Lenin on a historical basis. It makes a strong case that is still being debated across the international left.

But while Lih’s work is an achievement that I would never want to do down, it does encourage a somewhat scriptural approach to Lenin. It’s like we’ve got the ‘King James Version’ of Lenin, and now the task is to retranslate it and explain that Lenin didn’t really mean what the left since has generally thought he meant. While we obviously care a lot about what Lenin really said, did and thought, such debates risk reinforcing the view that there is a ‘true Leninist blueprint’ to be uncovered, if only we could figure it out.

Lenin the disciplinarian?

Before we move on, one big limitation of such an approach is that, however many sources you pore over to build your case that Lenin was keener on democracy than generally thought (and he was), there’ll always be someone waiting round the corner with a quote like this:

“the experience of the victorious dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia has clearly shown even to those who are incapable of thinking or have had no occasion to give thought to the matter that absolute centralisation and rigorous discipline of the proletariat are an essential condition of victory over the bourgeoisie.”
or this (about the Zinoviev/Kamenev incident):
“I shall, at whatever cost, brand the blackleg Zinoviev as a blackleg. My answer to the threat of a split is to declare war to a finish, war for the expulsion of both blacklegs from the Party.”
or even this:
“Dictatorship, however, presupposes a revolutionary government that is really firm and ruthless in crushing both exploiters and hooligans, and our government is too mild. Obedience, and unquestioning obedience at that, during work to the one-man decisions of Soviet directors, of the dictators elected or appointed by Soviet institutions, vested with dictatorial powers (as is demanded, for example, by the railway decree), is far, very far from being guaranteed as yet. This is the effect of the influence of petty-bourgeois anarchy, the anarchy of small-proprietor habits, aspirations and sentiments, which fundamentally contradict proletarian discipline and socialism.”
And yet, and yet. Lenin also said this:
“Criticism within the limits of the principles of the Party Programme must be quite free … not only at Party meetings, but also at public meetings… The principle of democratic centralism and autonomy for local Party organisations implies universal and full freedom to criticise, so long as this does not disturb the unity of a definite action.”
and this:
“No democracy or centralism would ever tolerate a Central Committee elected at a Congress having the right to expel its members.”
and this:
“The whole organisation is built from below upwards, on an elective basis. The Party Rules declare that the local organisations are independent (autonomous) in their local activities... Since the organisation is built from below upwards, interference in its composition from above would be a flagrant breach of democracy and of the Party Rules.”

The reality is that Lenin held all sorts of positions during his life, depending on the circumstances. He deliberately exaggerated depending on what he thought was the priority at that time, and argued tactically to try to win the argument of the day. He wrote an incredible amount of material, and we have verbatim accounts of a very large number of his speeches. This means the raw material is there to build almost any Lenin or ‘Leninism’ you want. I could have just supplied you with a grab-bag of quotes that support my own case and sent you on your way. But is that useful?

“Such is the frequency with which some of the Lenin quotes are used that I would like to make a modest proposal that would save ink and paper – a vital consideration in these ecologically sensitive times. In the logging camps of North America the lumberjacks were isolated for months on end and before long they had heard one another’s jokes so often that they gave each one a number. Thus, just by calling out the number – so long as you avoided number 37, which was too disgusting even for lumberjacks – you could get the laugh even though you had forgotten the punch line. By the same token, why not give these Lenin quotations special codes? Using a modified Dewey system we could arrive at LC17/430/2/1-5, which would indicate a reference to Lenin’s Collected Works, Vol 17, page 430, paragraph two, lines one to five. As it happens this is a very boring denunciation of the fake liberalism of the Cadet party in 1905, but it might have been an absolute cruncher like LC56/54/1/4-10. To which the only reply, and that a purely defensive one while you regroup, is LC24/623/1/1-4.”

Frequently our exchanges of quotes really are that ritualistic. Let us draw an end to that long war of quotation.

Lenin the myth

To put it simply, Lenin was not always right, whatever Stalinist mythologising may say. No one can be. And when he was right, he was right in specific historical circumstances, not right for all time. As in any life, he contradicted himself frequently, and attempting to deny that will lead to spectacular contortions. Most of the ‘Leninist’ left agrees on this in its better moments, even as it ignores it in practice.

The many problems we have ended up with today, however, are not just down to misinterpretation and misuse of Lenin. Much of it goes back to when Lenin and the Bolsheviks, after they had been forced into all sorts of changes to their previous practice by the circumstances in which they found themselves after October 1917, attempted to ‘distil’ their experiences into a ready-made model for adoption for Communist Parties across the world.

“It would be demanding something superhuman from Lenin and his comrades if we should expect of them that under such circumstances [ie. the war] they should conjure forth the finest democracy, the most exemplary dictatorship of the proletariat and a flourishing socialist economy. By their determined revolutionary stand, their exemplary strength in action, and their unbreakable loyalty to international socialism, they have contributed whatever could possibly be contributed under such devilishly hard conditions. The danger begins only when they make a virtue of necessity and want to freeze into a complete theoretical system all the tactics forced upon them by these fatal circumstances, and want to recommend them to the international proletariat as a model of socialist tactics… they render a poor service to international socialism for the sake of which they have fought and suffered; for they want to place in its storehouse as new discoveries all the distortions prescribed in Russia by necessity and compulsion.”
Nearly a century on, it’s worse than she thought. As Luxemburg points out, there was already some distortion very soon after the revolution. By the time we get to ‘Zinovievism’, it has been distorted again – and that is where we ended up with a large part of ‘democratic centralism’ as we know it. But that’s not the end of the story. Instead of thoroughly challenging this model, Trotskyists have tended to see it as ‘pre-Stalinist’ and therefore fine to adopt, with a few modifications, without accounting for how far the degeneration of the revolution had gone by the early 1920s. In 1921 Lenin was repeatedly referring to “the evils of bureaucracy” (at the same congress that infamously banned factions). As Trotsky later wrote:
“The very center of Lenin’s attention and that of his colleagues was occupied by a continual concern to protect the Bolshevik ranks from the vices of those in power. However, the extraordinary closeness and at times actual merging of the party with the state apparatus had already in those first years done indubitable harm to the freedom and elasticity of the party regime. Democracy had been narrowed in proportion as difficulties increased.”

When the SWP re-adopted a version of the 1920s model in the 1970s, Cliff would also have come to it through the prism of his own experiences in post-war Trotskyism. And, of course, that model has also been distorted many times before and since. How could it not be when you see what the Trotskyist left has been through during that time?

John Molyneux, who has sadly now turned himself into a staunch defender of the SWP leadership, wrote in 1978:

“Naturally the Leninist theory of the party, for so long defended by Trotsky, has not remained unscathed by this degeneration of Trotskyism. While all Trotskyist sects adhere to the letter of this theory, its ‘spirit’ has undergone two kinds of revision. The first could be characterised as extreme dogmatic sectarianism. In this variant the organisation, no matter how manifest its smallness and insignificance, proclaims and demands its right to the leadership of the working class. It defines itself as the revolutionary party not on the basis of its role in the class struggle but on the basis of its possession of the ‘correct theory’ and the ‘correct line’. Essentially the party is seen as separate, not only from the working class as a whole but also from the advanced workers. If, for Lenin, the party was both educator and educated, in this version of Trotskyism the party attempts to play schoolmaster to the working class. Internally such organisations tend to authoritarianism and witch-hunting and even at times to the cult of the leader. Externally they exhibit gross delusions of grandeur, paranoia and above all an inability to look reality in the face.”

How unfortunate to become your own most damning critic, as you defend the Nineteen Eighty-Four situation of people being expelled to ‘protect democracy’.

But his is not a new betrayal. If we look beyond our corner of the left in our corner of the world, internationally there are many thousand ‘Leninisms’, all claiming to be the one true interpretation – a ‘hall of mirrors’ of revolutionary parties.

Lenin the experimenter

Against the warring blueprints, we should assert that our task is not to go back and plunder history in a quest for the ‘correct’ model. If it were, presumably we would spend our days and nights poring over Lenin’s correspondence (preferably in the original Russian), until we had ‘fixed’ the party – until our conference looked exactly like that of the Bolsheviks, all our structures were precisely the same, our paper looked the same, and so on. It means thinking, like Callinicos, that revolutionary organisation works something like KFC, with its ‘secret blend of herbs and spices’. Most of the far left has gone far enough down that road already.

It will never work to attempt to condense any great revolutionary’s life and work into a particular set of universal organisational rules. This is certainly not our approach, for example, to Marxism. Instead we understand it as a philosophy, a set of tools and a method. And that was always the strong point of the International Socialist tradition – its rejection of fixed orthodoxies and products of historical circumstance in favour of using the Marxist method to look at the world anew. 

So this is a call, above all, for experimentation. We will not take everyone with us at first, but we shouldn’t fear to go ahead and start making the path by walking. As Cliff wrote:

“If there are ten people in a group, one or two will be ready to experiment, to try new things; one or two are so conservative that even a successful experience will not convince them, while the majority will vacillate between the two extremes, and will learn through experience. The key is to be part of the one or two ready to experiment, to find new ways to take things forward, and if successful, to win the majority for the new direction.”

Lenin, after many years of trying, experimenting and refining, found a model for the time and place in which he lived, the mostly-agrarian Russia of the early twentieth century. In fact the Bolsheviks insisted, against the Marxist orthodoxy of the time, that there could be not just a bourgeois but a socialist revolution in a ‘backward’ country like Russia. (And of course, theirs wasn’t a perfect model – it was one that gave us a glimpse of the potential for socialism, not a socialist world.) 

Discovering a model for our own circumstances – liberal, democratic capitalism in 2013 – will mean doing that level of systematic work again. We have a huge wealth of history to learn from, but it seems likely that what we come up with will look very different to what Lenin came up with, just as Lenin’s model was different to that of previous generations of revolutionaries. And that’s OK! Lenin was about learning from the best of the past and using it to fight for the future. That is the Leninism we need today.

There is hope on our side. Capitalism may be more entrenched, but the working class is far bigger now both in Britain and internationally than either Marx or Lenin could have dreamed of. We may have scattered, smaller workplaces instead of the Putilov Works, but we also have drastically better methods of communication. (Including, yes, the scary internet!) Saying Lenin found the one true way to socialism is like saying the sailors of history figured out everything we need to know to build a rocket. We will surely borrow some of their practices and terminology, and definitely build on their innovations in navigation, but we will need to come up with many ideas of our own.

If Marxism is a science then we need to experiment, learn, make modifications, and experiment again. We do not need a yearly schedule of doing the same thing over and over again, never learning from our mistakes, even the most awful ones. If we do that we will spend our whole lives ‘building the party’ but never see it grow, damaging the left as we chew up members and spit them out. Cliff once more: “the moment Marxism stops changing, it is dead.”

If you have ‘forty years of experience’ of Leninism, and your organisation is about the same size now as it was when you started, you’re doing it wrong
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