Marxist Methodology and the Current Stage of the Indian Revolution

Moni Guha

Revolutionary Democracy in its Vol. II, No. 1, April-May 1996 issue has circulated a draft sketch 'On the Stage of the Indian Revolution' advocating the strategic aim of bourgeois democratic revolution, propounding the semi-colonial and semi-feudal character of India.

There is a history behind the birth of this draft, which I would like to present before the readers, before plunging into the criticism and comment on the said draft outline.

Proletarian Path in its inaugural issue (New Series, Vol. I, No. I, Nov-Dec., 1992) issued a paper on 'On the Stage of Indian Revolution' stating its strategic aim as the proletarian socialist stage, arguing that the agrarian tasks of changing the relations of production in the main, from feudal to capitalist, is under process. Before arriving at this conclusion Proletarian Path convened a five-day conference in which the members of the present editorial board of Revolutionary Democracy were also invited. One of then could not attend due to some communication gap, but the other actively took part in the conference. He, of course, opposed the majority stand of Proletarian Path, though all his arguments in favour of the 'semi-colonial and semi-feudal character of India' were effectively refuted and demolished. At last, he gave his word of honour that he would submit a written paper countering the majority stand which the Proletarian Path should circulate so that a polemic on this vital question begin. Proletarian Path accepted his proposal. But that word of honour was not honoured. Instead Proletarian Path finds a fresh draft, after a long three and a half years, in Revolutionary Democracy where the already refuted and demolished arguments, like old wine in new bottles, have been presented and there is not a single counter-argument, even the mention of Proletarian Path's paper. Clearly this is a breach of trust and Proletarian Path naturally feels no moral and political obligation of promoting a polemic on already refuted and demolished arguments which are to be found incorporated in its inaugural issue mentioned above.

But so far as I am concerned, the case is a somewhat different one, though I am the Editor of Proletarian Path. During the birthpangs of Revolutionary Democracy one of the members of the present Editorial Board of Revolutionary Democracy in a letter requested me to send a message of greetings on the occasion of its birth. As Proletarian Path and myself, in spite of our differences about the stage of revolution, consider the Editorial Board of Revolutionary Democracy to be no less revolutionary than ourselves, I unhesitatingly complied with the request and Revolutionary Democracy published that message of greetings in its inaugural issue. Besides this, Revolutionary Democracy has published some other materials which go in my favour and reproduced one of my writings from Proletarian Path. The readers of Revolutionary Democracy may, naturally, think that I am also a votary of Revolutionary Democracy's stand on the stage of the Indian revolution. Hence this article to dispel the misunderstanding that may crop up and I hope Revolutionary Democracy will publish it and oblige me.

Revolutionary Democracy's Introductory Note Recapitulated

This article will not go into the details of the draft under discussion; it will only show how Revolutionary Democracy has strayed from the methodology of Marx and Lenin. Allow me to quote in full the introductory note supplied by Revolutionary Democracy in italics as a summarised version of the text to enable the readers afresh to be quite abreast with the methodology of Revolutionary Democracy. For a comparative study I place the methodology of Marx and Lenin also. The introductory note says:

'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 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 production of machinery by machinery. Imperialism, moreover, has preserved the pronounced survivals 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 times as the proletariat led by a revolutionary Communist Party secures the leadership of the agrarian struggles. 'Revolutionary Democracy' will welcome criticism and comments on this draft outline'.

Methodology of Marxism

1. In determining the stage of revolution Revolutionary Democracy's point of departure is 'machine making machines or heavy industry' not the relations of production in industry and agriculture. I consider this point of departure is quite un-Marxist in determining the stage of revolution.

2. In the above sketch the readers find only British imperialism and its colonial policy at work. Even after 1947 the readers find that 'imperialism (not the ruling classes of India) preserved the pronounced survivals....' etc. It is a fact that British imperialism tried its best to keep India colonial and feudal. In spite of that immediately after the First World War India became a 'medium level of capitalistically developed country' and Revolutionary Democracy cognises it. How then the policy of retardation of India's development can be a successful effort'? How could it happen if other forces, other than imperialism do not play their respective roles? Does our friend Revolutionary Democracy agree that with the development of capitalism, medium level or otherwise, feudal India transforms into semi-feudal one? And semi-feudalism is nothing but feudalism with the penetration of capitalism and exertion of capitalist market influence on the agrarian sector.

This ABC of historical and dialectical science is unfortunately missing in the thought process of Revolutionary Democracy. The medium development of capitalism in India proves that no one, however strong he may be - can shape the reality according to his own will. It also proves - as this development is neither a miracle without any causal relations, nor God's grace, there must be some other forces working behind the superficial scenario. The paper of Revolutionary Democracy cognises nothing but the elementary generalisation from direct facts furnished by such perception as they exist. Such perception is quite sufficient for everyday ordinary requirements, known as common sense. But this common sense is at best a photograph, which remains always 'intact'. A photograph of facts of economic and social life in all its diversities as they exist, even on a countrywide scale does not and can not reveal the essence, the content. To discover the essence or content hidden behind the outward appearance of the photographic immobility is the task of the science of dialectics, which our friend Revolutionary Democracy lacks miserably. If the outward appearance and the essence of the things would have been the same, Marx said, science then would have been superfluous (See Marx, Capital, Vol. 3, Moscow, 1963, p. 817) and I say everybody would have been a scientist with simple common sense.

Unfortunately Revolutionary Democracy utterly fails to understand the methodology of Marx and the meaning and significance of the remark of Marx when he talked of the British conquest of India as the 'unconscious tool of history.' Once capitalism enters India it is bound to develop capitalistically in spite of the contrary will of anybody. The objective law of capitalism is not grasped by Revolutionary Democracy.

Just see the methodology of Marx and how he analysed the objective law of capitalism. Marx says: 'I know the English millocracy intend to endow India with railways, with the exclusive view of extracting diminished expenses the cotton and other raw materials for their manufacture. But when you have once introduced machinery into locomotion of a country which possesses iron and coals you are unable to withhold it from its fabrication. You cannot maintain a net of railways over an immense country without introducing all those industrial processes necessary to meet all the immediate and current wants of railway locomotion and out of which there must grow the application of machinery to those branches of industry not immediately connected with the railways....' (Marx, 'The Future Results of the British Rule in India')

In this process the industrial bourgeoisie grew in India and industrialisation, however slow, took place. If everything remains as it is, 'intact' - I don't know how Revolutionary Democracy explains 'while the semi-colonial and semi-feudal character of the country remains intact a certain degree of industrial development has taken place at snail's place which has led to the development of a medium level of capitalist development' did not take place in any 'semi- colonial India' as the author of the draft makes us believe. It took place just during immediately after the First World War in 1914-1918. Lenin and M.N. Roy correctly observed this development and its political consequences at the Second Congress of the Communist International in 1921. Subsequently, the Sixth Congress of the Communist International specifically characterised India as a medium level developed capitalist country and Stalin said that capitalism in India is 'developing rapidly'. That was in 1928. And sixty-eight years after 1928, in 1996 Revolutionary Democracy babbles about the medium level development as if the law of motion of society remained motionless in India. During this period history has witnessed at least the Second World War, in which India was one of the most important war bases of the allied forces. One of the vital infrastructure of capitalism is transport and communication. This developed during the war to a considerable extent. India was made an assembly point. Parts of highly mechanised machineries were assembled here. As a result, skilled technical hands grew in numbers in India. Small precision tools were manufactured in India - the quality of which were appreciated throughout the world. Besides all these, through the supply of war materials India accumulated a huge amount of Sterling balance as accumulated capital. Revolutionary Democracy's 'intact' theory does not take all these into account.

Revolutionary Democracy is not satisfied with the 'snail's pace'. But the question is not of our satisfaction or dissatisfaction. The question is whether this snail's pace development brings any change in the relations of production in agriculture. Revolutionary Democracy is not satisfied with quantitative changes, it wants sweeping qualitative change. But it is not prepared to recognise that a series of quantitative changes brings a series of partial qualitative changes and a series of partial qualitative changes bring the overall qualitative change. And in this sense reforms are also, in the ultimate analysis revolutions which can change the relations of production. Did the land reforms of post-independent India change the production relations in agriculture is the question before us. The question before us is not whether this change is slow or rapid. Revolutionary Democracy does not like to tread that path.

We have seen the methodology of Marx. Now we like to see the methodology of Lenin, which is nothing but the methodology of Marx. Revolutionary Democracy is not interested to know that Lenin speaks of two types of revolution - one reformist and the other revolutionary, but both are revolution. Why is the first type also a revolution? Because, both types transform the feudal relations of production into capitalist relations of production. Capitalist development in agriculture has been accomplished both by keeping the landlord economy and by outright abolition of the landlord economy. In the first case the process of change and development is slow, at a 'snails's pace' and in the second case, the process of change and development is sweeping, rapid. Lenin says:

'Serfdom may be abolished by the feudal-landlord economy slowly evolving into Junker bourgeois economy the mass of peasants being turned into landless husbandmen and Knechts, by forcibly keeping the masses down to a pauper standard of living, by the rise of small groups of Grossbauern, of rich peasants, who inevitably spring up under capitalism from among the peasantry.... They have realised that the path for the development of Russia (read India) cannot be cleared unless the rusty medieval forms of landownership are forcibly broken up... They have given the kulaks the carte blanche to rob the peasant masses... to ruin thousands of peasant farms, they have handed over the medieval village to be 'sacked and plundered' by the possessors of money. They cannot act otherwise, if they are to preserve their class rule, for they have realised the necessity of adapting themselves to capitalist development and not fighting against it.... That path of development... calls for wholesale, systematic, unbridled violence against the peasant masses, and against the proletariat....'

The Indian ruling classes have taken this very path of capitalist development. Ruination of the peasant masses, pauperisation of the peasant masses and the creation of a group of rich peasants and a group of well-to-do middle peasantry in this process of capitalist development is their path where the development is naturally at a 'snail's pace'. Naturally, we are against this path but for all that we do not ignore the process of changing the relations of production in agriculture - rather we take note of it, which Revolutionary Democracy is not willing to do because according to Revolutionary Democracy this path keeps the relations of production 'intact'.

There is another path of development of capitalism. Lenin further says:

'The other path of development we have called the American path of development of capitalism, in contrast to the former, the Prussian path. It, too, involves the forcible break-up of the old system of landownership.

'But this essential and inevitable break-up may be carried out in the interests of the peasant masses and not of the landlord gang. A mass of free farmers may serve as a basis for the development of capitalism without any landlord economy whatsoever,...' (Lenin: Agrarian Programme of Social Democracy, 'Collected Works', Vol. 13, p. 422-3, emphases added).

It is clear from the above that slowly or swiftly by landlord economy or peasant economy the relations of production do change in the process of the development of capitalism in both the paths and our task is not wailing about the 'snail's pace' but understanding and studying to what extent and tempo the relations of production are changing and the determination of the stage of revolution. Yes, we admit, we may make mistakes in determining the degree and tempo of the change of production relations and thereby, determining the stage of revolution. Lenin also made this mistake. But we are sure that we are on the right track - we are not running after the senile theory of immobility, the theory of 'everything remains intact'.

Lenin has also proved and shown that there are three basic factors which characterise capitalism in agriculture. They are:

1). Employment of wage-labour and the appropriation of surplus value;

2). Commoditisation of the products of peasantry and thereby the market relation; and

3). Extended reproduction in agriculture through the transformation of surplus value into capital.

Proletarian Path in its inaugural issue has already shown all these through figures and tables.

In this connection it may be noted that the commoditisation of agricultural products has already transformed the contents of tenancy - while retaining the form as it is. Lenin says: 'Capitalism penetrates into agriculture particularly slowly and IN EXTREMELY VARIED FORMS.' But Revolutionary Democracy keeps itself busy with the form, not with the contents, with the essence.

Referring to Marx's Capital Lenin says: 'America provides the most graphic confirmation of the truth emphasized by Marx in Capital, Volume III, that capitalism in agriculture DOES NOT DEPEND ON THE FORM OF OWNERSHIP OR LAND TENURE. CAPITALISM FINDS THE MOST DIVERSE TYPES OF medieval and patriarchal landed property - FEUDAL, PEASANT ALLOTMENT (i.e. the holdings of the bonded peasants), CLAN, COMMUNAL, STATE AND OTHER FORMS OF LANDOWNERSHIP. Capital takes hold of all these, employing a variety of ways and methods'.

Yet Revolutionary Democracy finds only 'tribes, caste and feudalism' 'intact'.

After saying the above Lenin did not forget to warn the people like Revolutionary Democracy by saying: 'For agricultural statistics to be properly and rationally compiled, the methods of investigation, tabulation, etc.. WOULD HAVE TO BE MODIFIED TO CORRESPOND TO THE forms of capitalist penetration into agriculture, for instance, the homesteads would have to be put into a special group and their economic fate traced. Unfortunately, however the statistics are all too often dominated by routine and meaningless mechanical repetition of the same old methods.' (Lenin: New Data on the Laws Governing the Development of Capitalism in Agriculture, 'Collected Works,' Vol. 22, emphases added).

Revolutionary Democracy has resurrected the old and discredited slogan of the united CPI 'Ye Azadi jhuthi hai' [This Independence is a lie] by saying 'nothing has changed since 1947', meaning that the political independence is quite a sham one. I do not like to enter into debates over this silly question. I like to say only that the Indian bourgeoisie after coming to power in 1947 through its 'Congress Economic Reforms Committee' and 'Congress Agrarian Reforms Committee', with a view to promote capitalism in agriculture abolished all the intermediaries including the Zamindari, Ryotwar and Malguzari systems and made the cultivators direct subjects of the state through the introduction of free individual peasant farming. As a result, the landlords and the intermediaries no longer possess the right to appropriate rural surplus value from the peasantry. Is this not a great change in the relationship of the peasantry with the feudal landlords and others?

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