On the Stage of the Indian Revolution

The following sketch attempts to cognise aspects of the Indian society and state. It argues that the colonial relationship between world capitalism and India has remained intact after 1947 not just in terms of the continuing and deepening dependency on international financial capital but also in terms of the successful efforts of imperialism to retard the development of heavy industry, of the production of machinery by machinery. Imperialism, moreover, has preserved the pronounced survivals of the pre-capitalist production relations of tribe, caste and feudalism which are retarding factors for the development of the productive forces in India. While the semi-colonial and semi-feudal character of the country remains intact a certain degree of industrial development has taken place at a snail's pace which has led to the development of a medium level of capitalist development. In such conditions the programmatic perspective of democratic revolution remains relevant until such time as the proletariat, led by a revolutionary Communist Party, secures the leadership of the agrarian struggles. 'Revolutionary Democracy' will welcome criticism and comments of this draft outline.

Writing in 1949 the Soviet writer A.M. Dyakov argued that with the transfer of power in 1947 to the big Indian 'national' bourgeoisie and landlords that colonial dependence and the survivals of feudalism remained untouched.1 Indian industry remained in the hands of British capitalism or in the hands of the big Indian bourgeoisie which was dependent or it. India had no machine-building industry which by production of the means of production could ensure the economic independence of the country. Britain supplied the equipment to enterprises in India. In fact, the economic links of India with Britain strengthened initially after 1947 and British capital was able to recoup its position which had been weakened during the course of the Second World War. The penetration of American capital into India also expanded into Indian industry. Utilising the financial difficulties of the new government the U.S. monopolies successfully demanded, as a condition for the granting of credits, that the Indian constitution guarantee immunity to foreign capital investments in case of the nationalisation of certain branches of industry. The new ruling classes of India ensured that the land reforms which were carried out did not terminate the feudal survivals which continued to dominate in the countryside. The agrarian question and the indebtedness of the peasantry to the moneylenders was not resolved. The ruling bloc concluded an alliance with British and American imperialism which was interested in the retention of the existing relationships within India as well as the relations of India with British and t,.S. imperialism.

Did a fundamental change take place in India after 1947 which enabled it to embark upon a path of independent capitalist development?

The starting point of an analysis is the examination of the social existence forms of labour-power which is the decisive criterion in characterising the mode of production. The basic forms of labour in history have been tribal, slave, serf, the 'free' wage labour of capitalism and the genuinely free associated labour of the socialist societies. Capitalist production is distinguished from other modes of production by the fact that the commodity is the dominant and determining feature of its products. This implies first and foremost that the labourer comes forward merely as a seller of commodities as a free wage labourer and that labour in general appears as wage-labour. The relation between capital and wage-labour determines the entire character of the mode of production. The second distinguishing feature of the capitalist mode of production is the production of surplus value, which is transformed into profits, as the direct aim and determining motive of production.2 Marx stressed that the social function of the capitalist as manager and ruler of production is essentially different from the authority exercised on the basis of production by means of slaves and serfs as the capitalist is the personification of the conditions of labour in contrast to labour and not as political or theocratic rulers as under earlier modes of production.

In pre-capitalist societies the forms of labour are characterised by non-economic coercion. In these societies, and Marx specified the Asiatic peoples among whom this occurred on a large scale, the appropriation of surplus labour is 'not mediated by exchange, as is the case in capitalist society but its basis is the forcible domination of one section of society over the other. There is accordingly, direct slavery, serfdom, or political dependence'.3 The dependent, labouring, castes of India have been subjected to non-economic coercion. Members of a caste, argued Marx, entered into relations imprisoned within certain definitions:

When we look at social relations which create an undeveloped system of exchange, of exchange values and of money, or which correspond to an underdeveloped degree of these, then it is clear from the outset that the individuals in such a society, although their relations appear to be more personal, enter into connection with one another only as individuals imprisoned within a certain definition, as feudal lord and vassal, landlord and serf, etc or as members of a caste etc. or as members of an estate etc. In the money relation, in the developed system of exchange (and this semblance seduces the democrats), the ties of personal dependence, of distinctions of blood, education, etc. are in fact exploded, ripped up (at least personal ties all appear as personal relations), and individuals seem independent.4

India had firmly embarked on the path of capitalist development since the second half of the 19th century and by 1947 she belonged to the category of the more industrially developed colonies with a 'national' big bourgeoisie and a numerous proletariat.5 The formation of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat implied a clear break with the division of labour which had been inherited from the caste system of the Asiatic mode of production. Bereft of the ownership of the means of production the modern industrial working class is composed of all the main social categories of the old society, the upper castes, the labouring castes of sudras and ati-sudras, the tribes. Because of the higher organic composition of capital in large-scale machine production the industrial working class creates greater surplus value and so is the most exploited class of Indian society. Numerous survivals of the pre-capitalist forms of labour continue to exist. As early as 1928 the Communist International had observed that the exploitation of Indian workers still bore the forms of semi-slavery.6 E. Zhukov noted in 1947 that the caste system enabled Indian capitalists to pay almost 50% less wages in the areas of Bombay and Assam to the workers of the lower castes than to the unskilled labour of the higher castes.7 Indian capitalists continue to pay lower wages to the lower castes and women: in the sandstone and marble quarries in Udaipur and Rasamand today women workers receive Rs. 18-22 as daily wages, a tribal worker is paid Rs. 28, a dalit worker Rs. 35, Jat and Guijar workers, Rs. 40, and Rajput workers are paid Rs. 45.8 Work involving hard labour, such as the loading and hauling of coaltubs, tough physical condition such as working in the intense heat near blast furnaces, or 'unclean' labour such as the shelling and roasting of coir is allocated to adivasi and dalit labour.9 There is a preponderance of the backward castes, dalits and adivasis in those sections of the working class marked by lower skills, lower wages, and contract work. These sections constitute the most oppressed sections of the Indian working class.

The Prussian path of development of attempted capitalism in agriculture formed a semi-feudal capitalism which maximises the retention of the survivals of pre-capitalist tribal, caste and feudal forms of labour. In tsarist Russia when the peasantry had been deprived of the land in 1861 in most cases this actually meant not the creation of a free labourer in capitalist production but a bonded tenant who was in fact a semi-serf or even almost a serf.10 Non-economic coercion is utilised to subordinate the dependent castes in order to screw up the rate of surplus extraction. Dalit agricultural labourers pressing for the implementation of the legal minimum wage or the provision of house-sites have been subjected to upper-caste landlord violence and even burnt alive as in the Belchi and many other incidents. In Punjab which is often held up as an example of capitalist development in agriculture aside from the caste oppression of the Mazhabi Sikhs, the coercion and debt bondage of the tribals of Chota Nagpur, Bihar has been well documented.11 Nocturnal confinement, floggings and beatings have been accompanied by measures of economic compulsion and bondage. The wages paid to tribal labour are far below those prescribed by the official minimum wages. Delayed payment of monthly wages is utilised to ensure a compliant labour-force which cannot easily shift employers. In Haryana and Punjab debt bondage is structured into the wage contract so that labour is paid in installments in a manner so as to compel it to incur usurious loans from employers against future wages.12 Labourers may only transfer to another employer if the latter pays off the labourer's debts. The tendency to capitalist development promotes debt bondage as the desperate condition of rural labour is combined with a shift to cash payment.13 In eastern India the survivals of pre-capitalist production relations are manifested in the form of begar and in the widespread prevalence of sharecropping,14 characterised by Lenin as a 'direct survival of serfdom'.15 Bonded labour continues to exist. The National Survey of the Incidence of Bonded Labour in 1981 estimated that some 2.6 million bonded labourers existed in the country and noted the elements of brutal force and social and economic compulsions which led to bondage. 61.5% of bonded labour belonged to the scheduled castes and 25.1% came from the scheduled tribes.16 Higher figures for bonded labour have been given by the International Labour Organisation which in its report of 1993 estimated that five million adults and ten million children were working as bonded labour in the sectors of agriculture, quarrying, carpet weaving and domestic help.17

The Congress of the Peoples of the East held in Baku in 1920 suggested that even the establishment of the political independence of the colonial countries does not enable them to break out of the bounds of the colonial system because of the continued economic dependence on imperialism.

If the capitalist system is retained in Europe and Asia, the countries of the East which win freedom from political dependence upon the imperialist countries, being more backward industrially, inevitably remain in complete economic dependence on the latter, and, as before, serve as areas for the application of the finance capital of the European industrial countries.18

It flows from this that if the colonial countries are to become independent economically then they require to develop their productive basis by establishing big industry, and as imperialism seeks to retain its colonial system it cannot, in general, favour a policy of industrialisation. On this question the Sixth Congress of the Communist International in 1928 argued as follows:

Real industrialisation of the colonial country, in particular the building up of a flourishing engineering industry, which might make possible the independent development of the productive forces of the country, is not accelerated, but on the contrary, is hindered by the metropolis. This is the essence of its function of colonial enslavement: the colonial country is compelled to sacrifice the interests of its independent development and to play the part of an economic (agrarian-raw material) appendage to foreign capitalism.19

Why did the Comintern in 1928 stress that only 'real industrialisation' 'might make possible' independent economic development in the colonial world? Marx emphasised in 'Capital' that the general conditions which were a requisite for the establishment of production by the industrial system were not just the revolutionisation of the mining of coal and iron, the metal industries and the means of transport, the especial technical basis for the mature factory system was that machinery was itself produced by machinery.20 In the same vein Engels opined in his letter to Danielson of September 22, 1892 that 'industrial production nowadays means grande industrie, steam, electricity, self-acting mules, powerlooms, finally machines that produce machinery'.21

The problem of ensuring economic independence from world capitalism was also faced by the Soviet Union after 1917. In this context Stalin in 1926 distinguished between industrialisation and the development of any kind of industry. He held that the centre of industrialisation was 'the development of heavy industry (fuel, metal, etc.), the development, in the last analysis, of the production of the means of production, the development of our machine building industry'. This alone could safeguard the USSR from being converted into an appendage of world capitalism. That was the reason why industrialisation could not be confined to any kind of industrial development such as light industry. Citing the example of India, Stalin noted that while industry was developing there the country did not produce the instruments and means of production which were imported from the metropolis: 'that is the specific method of imperialism - to develop industry in the colonies in such a way as to keep it tethered to the metropolitan country, to imperialism.'22

In the lengthy discussions on the colonial question at the Sixth Congress of the Comintern held in 1928 a number of speakers from Britain who were under the influence of the theoretical conceptions of M.N. Roy - Bennett, Rathbone, Rothstein and Palme Dutt - strongly argued that as a result of the 'industrialisation' in India under British auspices imperialism had developed the tendency to shift the centre of production to the colonies as a result of which it was not correct to assert that the colonial countries, including India, constituted an 'agrarian appendage' of imperialism. The Comintern rejected this view, characterising it as the theory of 'decolonisation', on the grounds that while a certain degree of industrial development was taking place in India, imperialism impeded industrialisation by not permitting the production of the means of production and by supporting the survivals of feudalism in the villages. It considered that only the revolution of the workers and peasants through the establishment of the democratic dictatorship could lead the colonial countries onto the road of independence and self-reliance; industrialisation was possible only by following the path of non-capitalist development.23

Does the experience of India after 1947 confirm or deny the Comintern understanding? Certainly sectors of the Indian bourgeoisie were aware of the centrality of production of the means of production in the process of economic development. This is clear from a secret note of 1953 by Jawaharlal Nehru to the Commerce and Industry Minister, T.T. Krishnachari, where he argued against the policy of readily purchasing plant and machinery from abroad when it could be manufactured in India:

in regard to some machinery, we have no choice in the matter and we must order it from abroad, though even in such cases, except a very few, there is no reason why we should go on purchasing these articles from abroad and not try to make them at home. The usual outlook is that it is cheaper to get it from abroad than to make it here. This is false economy. Generally speaking, everything that is purchased from abroad is more expensive from the national point of view. Apart from expense, we have to develop these basic industries.24

Similarly, P.C. Mahanobilis, who played an important advisory role in drawing up the plans for industrial development in the 1950s maintained in the context of the Second Five Year Plan that it was necessary to develop heavy industry with all possible speed so that India should rapidly become free from having to import producers goods. The Third Five Year Plan stressed that self-reliance was an important part of development strategy.25

As the First Plan was primarily concerned with the development of agriculture and the Fourth and Fifth Plans were associated with a decline of industrial investment and output an examination of the framework of the Second Plan itself similar to the Third Plan, permits an evaluation of the project of industrialisation. The Draft Plan Frame of the Third Plan formed by P.C. Mahanobilis suggested a programme of planned economic development which assigned 7% to 11% of the national income for investments, of which about one-fifth would be concentrated on the building of industries which would produce the means of production under the umbrella of the public sector. No nationalisation of industrial production was envisaged, but state activity in banking, insurance and trade was envisaged as possible subsidiary measures as were land reform and policies to benefit domestic industries which were designed to create employment.

In his analysis of the Draft Outline of the Second Plan of February, 956, Oskar Lange, who served as an economic adviser to the Indian government in the 1950s, noted the departures from Mahanobilis' original conception: The Plan abandoned the strategic lever of industrialisation and economic development as the construction of industries producing means of production. This was clear from the reduced allocations of investment in the basic producers goods industries, minerals and power. The portion of investments allocated to the basic industries was reduced from 20% to 11% and the absolute level reduced to 37%. The Second Plan was founded on a division of labour between the state sector which was required to create the facilities in industry and minerals, steel, railway and electrical equipment, shipbuilding, coal and coke and the private sector which was to take charge of the manufacturing of machinery, chemicals and fertilisers. Lange concluded that the consequence of the Draft Outline of the Second Plan was that 'by reducing investment in industries producing means of production, the period of economic dependence on foreign countries and foreign capital is prolonged'.26

Despite a decade of industrial development by the end of the Third Five Year Plan production of the means of production did not in general get underway. The major exception to this was the production of heavy electrical equipment in India by the BHEL. India did not produce the means of production for heavy machinery proper i.e. mining, oil extraction and heavy engineering. These are imported from abroad.27 Instead the general engineering industry produces textile equipment, machine tools, internal combustion engines, diesel engines and refrigerators.28 Similarly, the chemical industry has not engaged in extended reproduction but has been producing consumer items such as soap, matches, artificial fibres and pharmaceuticals.29 Confirming this general picture the World Bank Report of 1984 which examined non-electrical industrial manufacturing observed that India did not supply complete economy size units i.e. turnkey projects in the fertiliser, petrochemical, petroleum refinery industries or in pulp and paper but was confined to the thermal power, cement and sugar industries.30 Indian capitalists did not follow up the possibilities offered for the production of the means of production by the camp of Soviet neo-imperialism. Neither the USSR-aided programme for the development of mining machinery under the Mining and Allied Machinery Corporation at Durgapur, nor the project to produce steel plants every seven years under the Heavy Machine Building Plant at Ranchi, nor even the plan to utilise Czechoslovakian assistance to the Machine Tool Institute at Bangalore to help Hindustan Machine Tools to engage in machine tool production received the necessary encouragement and support for them to take off. Writing in the mid-1980s the Soviet economist A.I. Medovoy justifiably commented that even though private and state investment in large-scale industry had been considerable the industrialisation of India was still at the stage of building the basis of industry: the production of the means of production.31

Industrial development was carried out in financial and technical collaboration with imperialist concerns. A Reserve Bank of India survey of 1968 found that 82% of large enterprises had been set up in this manner. Technical collaboration has been a cardinal instrument for expanding the grip of imperialism. India expended more in payment for technical assistance than on her total investments in industry. In place of a policy of self-reliance, industrial development between the years 1956 and 1969 was financed by foreign capital (See Tables 1 and 2 below). The working class and working peoples paid the cost of capitalist industrial development as capital was raised by indirect taxation and deficit financing. Moreover, a considerable portion of the surplus value produced by the working class was skimmed off by imperialism in the form of profits, royalties and interest on loans. Profits of foreign companies exceeded 1.7 billion Rupees in 1971-72 and increased to 2.5 billion Rupees by 1978-79. Between 1969-70 and 1976-77 transfers by foreign companies from India increased from 722.6 million Rupees to 1.2 billion. Between 1950 and 1979 India received 186.8 billion Rupees in loans, subsidies and food 'aid'. Some 67% of the external debt was to the United States and its international organisations, almost 12% to the U.K., and about 10% to Western Germany. By 1984 Indian indebtedness exceeded 25% of its national income with repayments and interest payment between 1950-51 to 1978-79 totalling 78.5 billion Rupees.'32 The index indicating the ratio of debt payments to earnings has soared over the last decades. Whereas the repayment co-efficient is considered to become a retarding factor for economic development after it exceeds 15-20%, statistics reveal that this has been exceeded in recent years (See Table 3.)

Table I: Net Foreign Aid and the Plans

  Debt servicing  
Plan period
Net aid as 
% of total 
Net aid as 
% of total 
plan outlay
First Plan 
Second Plan 
Third Plan 
Fourth Plan 
Fifth Plan 
Sixth Plan 
Seventh Plan 
Source: A.N. Aggarwal et al: 'Indian Economic Information Yearbook, 1990-91' 
New Delhi, 1991


Table 2: Financing of Plans: Domestic and External Sources

Rs. Crores
Rs. Crores
Rs. Crores
First Plan
Second Plan
Third Plan
Annual Plan
Fourth Plan
Fifth Plan
Sixth Plan
Seventh Plan
Source: Ibid.


Table 3: External Debt Servicing Key Indicators

Period outstanding debt stock
US $billion
Rs. thousand crore
Change in debt stock
US $billion
Debt service payments
US $billion
Total debt as:
% of GDP
% of exports
Total debt service as:
% of current receipts
% of exports
Source: 'Economic Survey 1994-95

The liquidation of semi-feudalism was a pre-condition of successful productive economic development on capitalist lines. This required a thoroughgoing land reform of giving land to the tiller and an end to the agricultural debt of the peasantry. These measures would have facilitated the formation of a domestic market and cleared the way for a large-scale productive transformation. Were much measures carried out? In reality the survivals of feudalism were not abolished but carefully preserved. The end of the zamindari system in 1956-57 terminated the rights to the land of the zamindars, taluqdars and jagirdars, who were the intermediaries between the state and the producers. The zamindars lost sixty per cent of their lands which meant that land redistribution moderated the monopoly of the landlord capitalists, and the rich peasant tenants succeeded in buying ownership of the landlords' lands while the millions of middle and poor peasants were evicted from the land where they had been tillers of the soil to join the ranks of the agricultural labourers or become tenants of their former landlords. The entire burden of the compensation of Rupees 670 crores which was given to the landlords was borne by the shoulders of the peasantry. Pronounced remnants of feudalism remained as the zamindars retained landlords for (fictitious) self-cultivation of the sir, khudkasht, or bakasht lands which came to some 64 million acres, subletting of lands continued at exorbitant rents, sharecropping continued in about 20% of the cultivated area of the country. In the ryotwari areas 'land reform' left the large landlords who had emerged under British rule and who enjoyed complete ownership rights and indulged in rackrenting of their tenants. Landlords were permitted the right of resumption and to evict their tenants on a mass-scale though a section of the tenants benefitted from a certain security of tenure and reduction in rent. Consistent land reform was not carried out. Under neither of the main tenure systems was land transferred to the tiller. Half of the agricultural labourers were thus left without any land whatsoever. Usury was strengthened in the period after the 'reform'. Between 1951-52 and 1961-62 the indebtedness of the cultivator increased from Rs. 954 crores to Rs, 1,332 crores, and doubled further between 1963-64 and 1974-75. Failure to solve the problem of agrarian indebtedness retarded the development of the productive forces. Credit facilities are cornered by landlords, traders and money-lenders so that the main creditor of 85% of the peasantry remains the money-lenders and the traders.33 The calculated retention of the survivals of feudalism means the concomitant preservation of the money-lender in the credit operation and production of the mass of the peasantry. The proposal of the Sixth Five Year Plan to limit land rent was not enacted. Attempts to implement land ceiling legislation were permitted to remain on paper. Deprived of access to land as a policy of 'land to the tiller' was not operated the agricultural labourers found that minimum wage legislation was not acted upon, wages rates were low and paid partly in kind.

The adoption of the Prussian path of development in agriculture resulted in the establishment of semi-feudal capitalism marked by the failure to develop a productive capitalist agriculture. In the feudal heartlands of India the landlord-usurer nexus remains supreme so that surplus is appropriated through tenancy in terms of labour service and share-cropping. An examination of agricultural production in the period of the 'green revolution' between 1969-70 and 1983-84 reveals that in 5 out of 14 states the growth of agricultural production lags behind the corresponding growth of the rural population. In Bihar, a bastion of pre-capitalist survivals, the annual compound rate of growth of agricultural production has been 0.5% and the annual growth rate of the rural population is about 2%.34 While the north-western region of Punjab, Haryana and Western U.P. have advanced at an impressive tempo, other areas such as Bihar, Orissa, Assam and rural Maharashtra have been sliding backwards over the century.35 The development of capitalist agriculture in the north-west through capitalist investment in the new technology, hybrid seeds, canals and tubewells suitable in particular climate, soil and crop regimes raised productivity initially but after yield-raising technical change levelled off, investment flowed back into socially unproductive forms of investment or consumption. The over-all picture of agricultural stagnation remains unchanged.

The development of a certain degree of capitalism in agriculture has not led to a shift from rent to profit as the main form of surplus appropriation in the rural sector. Under conditions of capitalism in agriculture, profits regulate production and set the ceiling on rents so that the rate of rents is regulated by the functioning and realisation of capital, thereby expressing the hegemony of capital over other socio-economic structures. In Indian agriculture rent in land rather than profits regulate production. The village rich frequently receives a greater part of its income not from profits but from pre-capitalist rent and interests on loans which are greater than the profits from farms run on capitalist lines. When the surplus production is siphoned off by money-lenders, traders and landlords, the cost of production is not a consideration as the producer is producing for personal consumption in a semi-natural economy. Accumulation from agriculture which takes place on the basis of pre-capitalist structures gets concentrated in the hands of landowners, merchants, black-marketeers and usurers and is not utilised in production but in the sphere of parasitic consumption and in the sphere of trade, the black market, usury and rent exploitation. In this manner pre-capitalist accumulation expands at the expense of industrial capital.36

Economic development in India after 1947 suggests that the notions put forward at the Sixth Congress of the Communist International in 1928 have been vindicated. In the absence of the democratic dictatorship of the working class and working peoples, genuine industrialisation i.e. the 'production of machinery by machinery', and the end of the important survivals of feudalism and other pre-capitalist remnants has not taken place. India remains an agrarian country. Nehruvian 'socialism' proved incapable of following an independent path of capitalist development. Yet it is apparent that a certain degree of industrial development has taken place. How far has this led to significant economic change?

The Programme of the Communist International adopted in 1928 argued that as a result of the uneven development of capitalism there existed in the world a variety of types of capitalism which it schematically divided into three broad categories. First, the countries of highly developed capitalism such as the USA, Germany and Britain which had powerful productive forces with small-scale production reduced to relative insignificance. Second, the countries with a medium level of capitalism, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Hungary, the Balkan countries (Stalin included Russia prior to the revolution of February, 1917, in this category), which had numerous survivals of semi-feudal relations in agriculture. And third, the colonial and semi-colonial countries (China and India) and the dependent countries (Argentina, Brazil) which had the rudiments of and in some countries considerable developed industry with feudal medieval relationships or 'Asiatic mode of production' relations prevailing in their economy and political superstructures, and in which the principal industrial, commercial and banking enterprises, the principal means of transport, the large land landed estates, and plantations were concentrated in the hands of foreign imperialist groups.37

A comparison of steel production per capita establishes that India is behind the Russia of 1913 (See Tables 4, 5). Indian steel production which has increased from 2.77 kg. per head in 1950-51 to 15.88 kg. per head in 1990-91 lags behind the 26.4 kg. per capita produced in Russia in 1913 and approximates to the per head steel production of Yugoslavia of 1939 of 15 kg. (See Tables 4, 5).

Table 4: Per Capita Steel Output, 1938 (in Kgs.)

Advanced Capitalist Countries
2 UK
3 France
4 Japan
Medium Capitalist Countries
5 Russia (1913)
6 Hungary
7 Poland
8 Yugoslavia (1939)
9 Rumania
Colonial and Semi-Colonial Countries
10 India
11 China (1949)
Source: 1-4, 'Poland A Handbook', Warsaw, 1977, p. 238; 5, Calculated from
'National Economy of the USSR, Statistical Returns', Moscow, 1957, pp. 17, 50;
6-9, Nicolas Spulber, 'The Economics of Communist Eastern Europe', MIT, 1957, p. 374;
10. 'Political Economy', Institute of Economics of the Academy of Sciences
of the USSR, London, 1957, p. 305; 11, Calculated from ed. Liu Suinian and Wu
Qungan, 'China's Socialist Economy', Beijing, 1986, pp. 479, 481.

Table 5: India Per Capita Steel Ouput 1950-51 to 1990-91 (in Kgs.)

1950-51 1060-61 1970-71 1980-81 1990-91
2.77 5.43 8.35 9.85 15.88
Calculated from: ed. A.N. Aggarwal et al: 'India Economic Information Year Book
1992-93', New Delhi, 1993, p. 15.

This suggests that India in the half century after 1947 has effected a transition from being one of the more industrially advanced countries of the colonial world to the economic level of the more backward of the pre-Second World War Eastern European States as a semi-colonial and semi-feudal agrarian-raw material appendage of world capitalism. Stalin recognised the possibility of countries at a medium level of capitalist development being placed in a semi-colonial situation: he held that Russia before the February revolution of 1917 was a country of average level capitalist development.38 He argued that it was the October Revolution 'which liberated Russia from her semi-colonial situation'.39

What is the stage of revolution in a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country with a medium level of capitalist development?

The Communist International at its Sixth Congress in 1928 recognised that the international proletarian revolution represented a combination of processes which varied in time and character: purely proletarian revolutions; revolutions of a bourgeois-democratic type which grow into proletarian revolutions; wars for national liberation; colonial revolutions. This was a result of the uneven development of capitalism which gave rise to various types of capitalism, to different stages of ripeness of capitalism in different countries, and to a variety of specific condition of the revolutionary process. These circumstances, it was argued, made it historically inevitable that the proletariat would come to power by a multiplicity of ways and degrees of rapidity and that a number of countries must pass through certain transitional stages leading to the dictatorship of the proletariat.

In the countries of highly developed capitalism such as the USA, Germany and Britain it was clear that the fundamental political demand of the programme was the direct transition to the dictatorship of the proletariat. In the economic sphere the demands would be the expropriation of the whole of large-scale industry; the organisation of a large number of state Soviet farms; a relatively small portion of the land to be transferred to the peasantry; the rapid rate of socialist development and the collectivisation of peasant farming.

Regarding the countries of medium level of capitalism it was noted that they had numerous survivals of semi-feudal relationships in agriculture, and possessed to a certain extent the material pre-requisites for socialist construction but that the bourgeois-democratic reforms had not been completed. It was suggested programmatically that:

In some of these countries a process of more or less rapid development from bourgeois-democratic to socialist revolution is possible. In others, there may be types of proletarian revolution which will have a large number of bourgeois-democratic tasks to fulfil. Hence, in these countries the dictatorship of the proletariat may not come about at once, but in the process of transition from the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry to the socialist dictatorship of the proletariat; where the revolution develops directly as a proletarian revolution it is presumed that the proletariat exercises leadership over a broad agrarian peasant movement.40

The important role of the agrarian revolution was underlined for this category of countries and it was argued that in some instances it played a decisive role; in the process of the expropriation of large landed property a considerable part of the land would be given over to the peasantry; there would be a considerable volume of market relations after the revolution; the rate of socialist construction in the countryside, initially organising cooperatives, and later in productive co-operatives, would be relatively slow.

In the colonial and semi-colonial countries such as India and China and in the dependent countries such as Argentina and Brazil it was considered that the principal task was the fight against feudalism and pre-capitalist forms of exploitation and the systematic development of the peasant agrarian revolution as well as the fight against foreign imperialism for national independence. The transition to the dictatorship of the proletariat in these countries would be possible only through a series of preparatory stages as the outcome of a whole period of transformation of the bourgeois-democratic revolution into socialist revolution, while in the majority of cases successful socialist construction would be possible only if direct support was obtained from the countries in which the proletarian dictatorship had already been established.

Is it possible then for the revolution in a country such as India to undergo proletarian revolution which has a large number of bourgeois tasks to carry out? To solve, as it were, the problems of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in passing, as a by-product of the proletarian-socialist revolution?

This very question was raised in the discussions of the Comintern and the CPSU(b) in 1928 for a country of medium level capitalist development, Poland, which was more industrially developed than Russia of 1913, and which in 1928 was far more economically developed than contemporary India.

The Polish Communist, Ring, contested the view expressed in the Draft Programme of the Communist International that the countries of medium level of capitalist development such as Poland required to go through the stage of bourgeois-democratic revolution. Ring argued that such a stage was possible and necessary in Tsarist Russia because of the domination of the big landowners and the existence of semi-feudal relations in the countryside. In Russia three political factors corresponded to this situation: First, the Tsar personified a political order which corresponded to the domination of the landowning class; second, antagonism existed between the semi-feudal landlords and the liberal bourgeoisie; and, finally, that political homogeneity existed in the country, despite a certain economic differentiation, so that the peasantry as a whole could go with the revolution and could give it the character of a bourgeois-democratic revolution.

In contrast to Tsarist Russia, Ring argued, in Poland capitalist revolution had strongly developed in the countryside, that although the relics of feudalism still existed they were not as numerous as in Tsarist Russia and were on the wane. The political order in Poland was in harmony with the wishes and demands of the bourgeoisie. The social relations in the countryside, moreover, were not homogeneous in Poland, the capitalist landlords were fusing with the bourgeoisie; considerable social, economic and political differentiation existed in the peasantry and it was necessary to carry out an energetic struggle against the kulak upper strata of the peasantry. These social and economic conditions required a socialist revolution in Poland which had the task of completing the bourgeois revolution: from the beginning it would be opposed by the landlords and the whole bourgeoisie including the kulak-bourgeois upper strata of the peasantry. Ring was ready to accept that the socialist revolution would not lead at once to a full proletarian dictatorship but that it was possible that there might be initially an 'honest coalition' with the revolutionary peasant parties.41

Similar views existed evidently in the Central Committee of the CPSU(b). Stalin defended the draft programme of the Communist International for its three-fold classification of the countries outside the USSR, denying that Poland could be categorised as a highly developed capitalist country where the demand for socialist revolution was appropriate. He argued in the following terms:

Besides capitalistically developed countries, where the victory of the revolution will lead at once to the proletarian dictatorship, there are countries which are little developed capitalistically, where there are feudal survivals and a special agrarian problem of the anti-feudal type (Poland, Rumania, etc.), countries where the petty bourgeoisie, especially the peasantry, is bound to have a weighty word to say in the event of a revolutionary upheaval, and where the victory of the revolution in order to lead to a proletarian dictatorship, can and certainly will require certain intermediate stages, in the form, say, of a dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry.'42

The peasant question in a country of medium level of capitalist development where there was an agrarian question of the anti-feudal type precluded, then, the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship and the transition to socialism as the immediate stage. Stalin recalled that Lenin had objected to any underestimation of the role and importance of the petty-bourgeoisie, particularly of the peasantry: it was this which had led to Lenin opposing Trotsky who before the February revolution had not understood the importance of the peasant question, and had argued that the slogan of the moment was 'no tsar, but a worker's government'. Furthermore, it was the support of the vast masses of the petty-bourgeoisie in Russia immediately after the February revolution which led, not as had been anticipated by some, to the predominance of the proletariat but to the parties of the petty-bourgeoisie such as the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks. The proletarian dictatorship had been established in Russia as a result of the more or less rapid growing over of the bourgeois-democratic revolution into the socialist revolution.43

The need for democratic revolution is indicated by the domination of imperialism and the big Indian bourgeoisie dependent upon it which is engaged in an intensified offensive under the slogans of liberalisation and structural readjustment programmes; imperialism has to be combatted to establish the national independence of the country. Democratic revolution is required directed against: the survivals of feudalism which engender the movements of the peasantry for land; the oppression of the nationalities which have given rise to the national liberation struggles of Kashmir and the North-East, the movements for the use of the national languages; the survivals of the caste-system by the movements of the oppressed castes; the exploitation of the tribal peoples; the denial of the rights of women; the widespread prevalence of religion and illiteracy. The formation of a revolutionary Communist Party of the proletariat, free of all revisionist trends, is the indispensable pre-condition for the working class to win the leadership of the democratic movements, particularly the agrarian struggles, which will facilitate the uninterrupted transition from the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry to the proletarian dictatorship and the socialist revolution.

A programme of struggle for revolutionary democracy requires:

1. Complete break with world imperialism headed by U.S. imperialism.

2. Democratisation of the political structure of India.

3. Recognition of the right of nations to secession and the formation of a voluntary alliance of democratic republics.

4. The protection of the rights of the minorities, the backward castes, the dalits, and the tribes.

5. The abolition of caste oppression.

6. The abolition of landlordism without compensation, distribution of land to the tiller and the abolition of agricultural debts.

7. Nationalisation of the main branches of industry, the establishment of the Eight Hour Day, the implementation of the minimum wage for all workers and employees, assistance to the unemployed and social insurance.

8. The establishment of friendly relations between India and her neighbours.


  1. A.M. Dyakov, 'Crisis of British Rule in India and the New Stage in the Liberation of Her Peoples', Bombay, 1949.

  2. K. Marx, 'Capital', Vol. III, Moscow, 1971, pp. 879-81.

  3. K. Marx, 'Theories of Surplus Value', Part III, Moscow, 1978, p. 400.

  4. K. Marx, 'Grundrisse', Harmondsworth, 1973, p. 163.

  5. Dyakov, op. cit., pp. 1-2.

  6. 'The International Situation and the Tasks of the Communist International', Inprecor, 23rd November, 1928, p. 1572.

  7. Lenin, Stalin, Zhukov, 'On the Colonial Question', Bombay, 1948, p. 29.

  8. India Home and Abroad Jan.-March, 1996, p. 9.

  9. Dev Nathan, 'Structure of the Working Class in India', Economic and Political Weekly, May 2, 1987, p. 803.

  10. V.I. Lenin, 'Collected Works', Vol. 17, Moscow, 1974, p. 112.

  11. Manjit Singh and K. Gopal Iyer, 'Migrant Labourers in Punjab', in eds. U. Patnaik and M. Dingwaney, 'Chains of Servitude, Bondage and Slavery, Delhi, 1983, pp. 230-37.

  12. U. Patnaik, Introduction to op. cit., pp. 16-17.

  13. U. Patnaik, 'The Agrarian Question and the Development of Capitalism in India', Delhi, 1986, p. 23.

  14. A. Thorner, 'Semi-Feudalism or Capitalism', Economic and Political Weekly, December 4, 1982, pp. 1966-67.

  15. V.I. Lenin, op. cit.. Vol. 20, Moscow, 1972, p. 243.

  16. Sarma Marla, 'Bonded Labour in India', New Delhi, 1981, pp. 148, 146, 17.

  17. The Times of India, 12th April, 1993.

  18. 'Theses on the agrarian question' in 'Baku: Congress of the Peoples of the East', 1920, Stenographic Report, London, 1977, p. 143.

  19. 'Theses of the Revolutionary Movement in the Colonies and Semi-Colonies', in ed. M.B. Rao, 'Comintern and the National and Colonial Question', New Delhi, 1973, p. 73.

  20. K. Marx, 'Capital', Vol. I, Moscow, n.d., p. 424.

  21. K. Marx and F. Engels, 'Letters on Capital', London, 1983. p. 272.

  22. J. Stalin, 'Works', Vol. 8, Moscow, 1954, pp. 127-28.

  23. 'The VI World Congress of the Communist International', Inprecor, 16th November, 1928, pp. 1517-18.

  24. J. Nehru, 'Note on Purchasing of Machinery and Plant', 9th November, 1953, T.T. Krishnachari Papers, Subject File 14, p.41, NMML.

  25. V.V. Desai, 'Pursuit of Self-Sufficiency. A Critique of the First Three Plans', Economic and Political Weekly, May 1, 1971, p. 913.

  26. 'Observations on the Second Five Year Plan in India', in Oskar Lange: 'Papers in economics and sociology', Warsaw, 1970, pp. 457-65.

  27. G.K. Shirokov, 'Industrialisation of India', Moscow, 1973, p. 209.

  28. Loc. cit.

  29. G.K. Shirokov, p. 212.

  30. World Bank, 'India Non Electrical Industrial Manufacturing A Sub-sector Study', n.p., 1984, p. vi.

  31. A.I. Medovoy, 'The Indian Economy', Moscow, 1988, pp. 121-22.

  32. Op. cit., p. 189, 193.

  33. Op. cit., p. 114.

  34. Pradhan P. Prasad, 'Lopsided Growth', Bombay, 1989, pp. 37, 56, 95, 103.

  35. N.K. Chandra, 'The Retarded Economies', Bombay, 1988, p. 224.

  36. U. Patnaik, 'Classical Theory of Rent and Its Application to India', Journal of Peasant Studies, Jan.-April, 1983, pp. 71-87; A.I. Medovoy, op. cit., pp. 97-102.

  37. 'Programme of the Communist International', adopted at the Sixth Congress in 1928, Bombay, 1948, pp. 43-45.

  38. J. Stalin, 'Works', Vol. 11, Moscow, 1954, p. 162.

  39. Ibid. Vol. 14, London, 1978, pp. 58-59.

  40. 'Programme of the Communist International', op. cit., p. 44.

  41. Inprecor, No. 66, 25th September, 1928, p. 1189.

  42. J. Stalin, op. cit., Vol. 11, p. 162.

  43. Ibid, p. 163.

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