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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.

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