A Critique of the Contemporary Adherents of the Views of M.N. Roy, Evgeny Varga and Leon Trotsky on the Current Stage of the Revolution in India

In 1991 the possibility of the publication of a Communist theoretical and political journal was mooted. On the part of those who initiated this journal it was considered that no stable journal could be established in the absence of agreement on the current stage of the Indian revolution. It was known that the Editor of Proletarian Path and the members of the Centre of Marxism-Leninism adhered to the understanding that socialism is the appropriate stage while others for many years have upheld the need of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship. At the conference held in Patna in 1992 the Centre of Marxism-Leninism presented a paper which elaborated the view that India had been transformed into a predominantly capitalist country after 1947 so that now the socialist revolution needed to be accomplished. This was after substantial modification eventually published under the title On the Stage of the Indian Revolution.1

The Editor of Proletarian Path did not submit a paper as had been previously agreed but he expressed his concurrence with that of the Centre of Marxism-Leninism. Those who later established this journal read a paper Notes for the Discussion on the Stage of the Indian Revolution which held the view that after 1947 the Indian economy had failed to develop in the direction of productive capitalist development which might have ended the domination of imperialism and the survivals of feudalism. In consequence the programmatic perspectives of democratic revolution retained their validity. While a valuable exchange of views took place no tendency changed its basic position by the close of the discussions. The Editor of Proletarian Path considers that the logic and facts presented in favour of democratic revolution were refuted and demolished. Had this indeed been the case there would have been a unanimous view in favour of socialist revolution. Despite the divergence of views the supporters of revolutionary democracy were invited to join the Editorial Board of Proletarian Path. This offer was declined on the ground that it would not be possible to sustain a journal on the basis of sharply antagonistic viewpoints on such a fundamental question. The advocates of socialist revolution offered to publish the views of the opposing viewpoint in the pages of Proletarian Path which proposal was welcomed. With the decision to initiate the journal Revolutionary Democracy it was considered more appropriate to present the theses in an independent form rather than as a criticism of the views of the Centre of Marxism-Leninism.2 In these circumstances the fact that no critique of the views of Proletarian Path was prepared for publication is no more a breach of word or trust than the failure of the Editor of Proletarian Path to prepare a paper on his views on the stage of the Indian revolution.

Productive Forces, Productive Relations and the
Determination of the Stage of the Revolution

Proletarian Path postulates that in the determination of the stage of the revolution it is un-Marxist to consider the question of the development of the productive forces, that is of 'machines making machines or heavy industry.' For Marxists, it is averred, it suffices to take the relations of production in industry and agriculture as the point of departure.

Marx established that the level of development of the productive forces determines the economic system of society. The mode of production of material values is the main force in the system of the material conditions of society. It is this force which determines the physiognomy of the whole of society, the character of the social system, the development of society from one system to another. The mode of production is the embodiment of the unity of the productive forces of society and men's relations of production which develop in production. The relations of production, which Proletarian Path sees as its starting point, correspond to a definite stage in the development of the productive forces of society; the production relations are determined by the productive forces.3

In The German Ideology Marx and Engels stated: 'In the development of productive forces there comes a stage when productive forces and means of intercourse are brought into being which, under the existing relations, only cause mischief and are no longer productive forces (machinery and money); and connected with this a class is called forth which has to bear all the burdens of society and forced into the sharpest contradiction to all other classes.'4

The founding fathers of Marxism here clearly explain the relation between the productive forces, the productive relations and the conflict between the two which generates the collisions of classes.

In opposition to the approach of Proletarian Path Lenin took the level of economic development of Russia as his point of departure in determining the stage of revolution. In 1905 in his classic work Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution he argued:

'The degree of Russia's economic development (an objective condition), and the degree of class-consciousness and organisation of the broad masses of the proletariat (a subjective condition inseparably bound up with the objective condition) make the immediate and complete emancipation of the working class impossible.'5

Lenin was specifically countering those who were afflicted with 'the absurd and semi-anarchist idea of the conquest of power for a socialist revolution.'

The Leninist approach of taking the economic development of a country into account when determining the stage of revolution was the point of departure in drafting the programme of the Communist International which was adopted by the Sixth Congress in 1928. The programme divided the capitalist world into three principal types of countries on the basis of the development of their productive forces. Bukharin had already resisted such a schema during the course of the Fifth Congress and also to its inclusion in the Draft Programme which was presented in April, 1928. Only the intervention of Stalin in his speech on the question of the programme of Comintern at the July Plenum of the CPSU(b) in 1928, forced the hand of Bukharin on this matter.6 The programme recognised that under imperialism the uneven development of capitalism had become accentuated and had given rise to a variety of types of capitalism in different countries. The various countries of the bourgeois world were categorised into three main types depending on the level of development of the productive forces:

1) The countries of highly developed capitalism such as the USA, Germany and Britain;

2) The countries of a medium level of capitalist development which had numerous survivals of semi-feudal relationships in agriculture and which possessed to a certain extent the material pre-requisites for socialist construction: the countries of Central and Eastern Europe;

3) In the colonies and semi-colonies (India and China) and the dependent countries (Argentina, Brazil) a clear demarcation was made between the countries which had some industry and feudal medieval relationships and the more backward countries of Africa where the majority of people lived in tribal conditions, the national bourgeoisie was almost non-existent and there were few or no wage workers.

From this the conclusion was drawn that in a number of countries a number of transitional stages would be required before the dictatorship of the proletariat could be established.7

Marxism and the Question of Industrialisation in a Colonial Country

This journal has argued that after 1947 the colonial relationship between India and world capitalism has remained intact, that imperialism and the reactionary Indian bourgeoisie have retarded the development of genuine industrialization, viz. production of the means of production in heavy industry. It recognized that a certain degree of industrial development has taken place in the decades after 1947, which has led to India achieving a medium level of capitalist development without rupturing the semi-colonial relationship with imperialism.8

Proletarian Path poses the question that if capitalism has developed in India to an average level of development then it cannot be argued that imperialism has successfully retarded the economic development of India. The conclusion is then drawn that this journal does not apply the dialectical and historical science. This very question was tackled in the Colonial Theses of the Sixth Congress of Comintern in 1928:

'The entire economic policy of imperialism in relation to the colonies is determined by its endeavour to preserve and increase their dependence, to deepen their exploitation and, as far as possible, to impede their independent development. Only under the pressure of special circumstances may the bourgeoisie of the imperialist states find itself compelled to cooperate in the development of big industry in the colonies. Thus, for example, requirements for preparation or conduct of war may, to a limited extent, lead to the creation of various enterprises in engineering and chemical industry in certain of the most strategically important colonies (e.g. India).

'With the object of buying up definite strata of the bourgeoisie in the colonial and semi-colonial countries, especially in periods of a rising revolutionary movement, the metropolis may, to a certain degree, weaken its economic pressure. But, in the measure that these extraordinary and, for the most part, extra-economic, circumstances lose their influence, the economic policy of the imperialist powers is immediately directed towards repressing and retarding the economic development of the colonies. Consequently the development of the national economy of the colonies, and especially their industrialisation, the all-round independent development of their industry can only be realised in the strongest contradiction to the policy of imperialism. Thus the specific character of the development of the colonial countries is especially expressed in the fact that the growth of productive forces is realised with extreme difficulty, spasmodically, artificially, being limited to individual branches of industry.'9

The Colonial Theses reveal the circumstances in which imperialism permits a certain degree of development of the productive forces despite the fact that it hinders the independent economic development of the colonial countries: the requirements of war and as a consequence of inter-imperialist contradictions. War was one factor which facilitated industrial development in India before 1947 and the inter-imperialist rivalries, including those involving the neo-imperialist USSR after 1953, were utilised for economic development in the period of the Second and Third Five-year Plans. The industrial development which has taken place in India does not constitute industrialisation as such:

'...The industrialisation of a country means the development of the production of the means of production (machinery, etc.) in that country, whereas imperialism allows in the colonies only the development of small manufacturing industries engaged in the conversion of agricultural produce. It deliberately hinders the development of the production of the means of production.'10

On this basis this journal has held the understanding that in India industrialisation proper has yet to take place. The only exception of significance to this is admitted to be the heavy electrical industry which, however, today, under conditions of globalisation and liberalisation, is entering into collaboration with multi-national concerns.

Once capitalism had entered India the country was bound to develop capitalistically it is argued by Proletarian Path, and the authority of Marx is invoked to bolster its case. In The Future Results of the British Rule in India Marx had said that once the railways were constructed in India this would lead to the growth of the application of machinery to those branches of industry not immediately connected with the railways. From this it is considered that the industrial bourgeoisie grew and that industrialisation, howsoever slowly, took place in India. Marx indicated that the English would lay down the material premises for the development of the productive powers and their appropriation by the people. But he indicated that for the Indians to benefit from this pre-requisite conditions were necessary:

'The Indians will not reap the fruits of the new elements of society scattered among them by the British bourgeoisie, till in Great Britain itself the new ruling classes shall have been supplanted by the industrial proletariat, or till the Hindus themselves shall have grown strong enough to throw off the English yoke altogether. At all events, we may safely expect to see, at a more or less remote period, the regeneration of that great and interesting country...'11

It may be noted that the two preconditions which Marx considered necessary for the economic development of India viz. a socialist revolution in Britain or the overthrow 'altogether' of the imperialist yoke from India were not fulfilled. Marx correctly foresaw nearly a century and a half ago that the regeneration of India was a matter of a more or less remote period.

Did India Attain an Average Level of Capitalist Development After the First World War?

Proletarian Path contests the viewpoint of this journal that India in the half century after 1947 has effected the transition from being one of the more industrially advanced countries of the colonial world to the economic level of the inter-bellum Balkan states which were at the bottom rung of the medium level capitalist countries in Europe.12 It is argued that India had attained this level of development in the immediate aftermath of the First World War: the authority of Lenin, M.N. Roy, Stalin and the Comintern is invoked to support this case. Formally, of course, the international communist movement did not divide the world into three economic categories until the intervention of Stalin in July 1928, so the question must be rephrased in terms of its substance.

First we examine the views expressed on this question at the Second Congress of the Comintern in 1920. Lenin did not mark out India from the other colonial nations in his Preliminary Draft Theses on the National and the Colonial Question but here he referred in general terms to the 'more backward states and nations, in which feudal or patriarchal and patriarchal-peasant relations predominate'.13 A virtually identical formulation was carried over to the Theses on the National and Colonial Question which were adopted at the Second Congress.14 Lenin in a similar vein in his Remarks on the Report of A. Sultan Zade Concerning the Prospects of a Social Revolution in the East said that 'a large part of the population are peasants under medieval exploitation' and noted cryptically that there were 'small artisans - in industry.' From this Lenin deduced the need to adjust the Soviet institutions and the Communist Party to 'the level of the peasant countries of the colonial East.'15 A similar position obtains in the Supplementary Theses. Lenin, it will be recalled, had asserted that these were framed chiefly from the standpoint of the situation in India and other big Asian countries oppressed by Britain.16 Similarly Stalin said that they were required in order to single out from the backward colonial countries which have no industrial proletariat such countries as China and India, of which it cannot be said that they have 'practically no industrial proletariat.'17 A scrutiny of the Supplementary Theses, which had been drafted by M.N. Roy and after amendments by Lenin were adopted by the Second Congress, reveals that they do not support the case of India having attained an average level of capitalist development by this time: 'Owing to the imperialist policy of preventing industrial development in the colonies, a proletarian class, in the strict sense of the word, could not come into existence here until recently.'18

In 1925 Stalin did express the view that in some of the colonial and dependent countries of the East such as India 'capitalism is growing at a rapid rate'. The context does not suggest that India had attained the level of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Stalin was stressing that the countries of the colonial and dependent East needed to be divided into three categories according to their level of industrial development and by this logic India was capitalistically 'more or less developed'.19 In his speech at the plenum of the CPSU(b) in July, 1928 which referred to the medium capitalist countries as little developed capitalistically and having feudal survivals Stalin did not include India in this category of countries alongside the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Iberian peninsula.20 In the Colonial Theses of the Comintern in 1928 it was noted that: 'As in all colonies and semi-colonies, so also in China and India the development of productive forces and the socialisation of labour stands at a comparatively low level'.21

M.N. Roy and the Theory of Decolonisation'

It is in the literature of M.N. Roy on the colonial question that a proximity of views may be located with Proletarian Path from the Second to the Sixth Congresses of Comintern, that is in the period from 1920 to 1928. Roy argued that the industrialisation of India was taking place under the auspices of British imperialism.

In the discussion on the Supplementary Theses in 1920 Roy declared:

'During the war and immediately after it great changes have taken place in India. While formerly English capitalism had always hindered the development of Indian industry, of late it has changed that policy. The growth of industry in British India has gone on at such a pace as can hardly be imagined here in Europe.'22

At the Fourth Congress of the Comintern in 1922, Roy divided the countries of the East into three categories according to their level of economic development. Apropos of the countries of the most advanced category he was of the opinion that these 'are nearing to highly developed capitalism. Countries where not only the import of capital from the metropolis has developed industry, but a native capitalism has grown'. India was clearly intended as the prime example of this category.23 It is evident that Roy's characterisation of India as a 'highly developed capitalism' did not correspond to the views of Lenin. The Theses on the Eastern Question actually adopted at the Fourth Congress of the Comintern reveal a far greater modesty in estimating the economic level of development of the colonial countries and it closely approximated to the views of Lenin:

'The backwardness of the colonies is reflected in the motley character of the national revolutionary movements against imperialism, which in their turn, reflect the varying states of transition from feudal and feudal-patriarchal relations to capitalism'.24

In the same year in his book India in Transition M.N. Roy continued to argue that 'the interest of imperialist capital demands the industrialisation of the colonial country'.25 While it is readily apparent that the views of Roy were sharply differentiated from those of Lenin they nevertheless had an extraordinary impact on the CPGB. This is reflected in the book Modern India by R.P. Dutt26 and in the speeches of the majority of the British delegation at the Sixth Congress of the Comintern.

The views of M.N. Roy and those of the British and Indian delegates influenced by his notions on the industrialisation of India and its 'decolonisation' came under sharp attack at the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928. Prior to the Congress Roy had submitted a document entitled Draft Resolution on the Indian Question where he outlined his views.27 In this period Roy argued that the policy of imperialism was no longer to obstruct the industrial development of India but to foment it. This process had begun from 1922 when the former policy of free trade was discarded and protection was granted to Indian industries.28 Roy asserted that under conditions of finance capital it was necessary for the very existence of imperialism to industrially develop the colonies.29 As evidence of this Roy cited the rise of pig-iron and steel production between 1913 and 1926 and the increase of pig-iron exported abroad.30 The expansion of the textile industry was noted as a productive factor. Moreover, Roy drew attention to the fact that the value of the modern means of production (machinery, mill-works, railway-plants, electric-prime-movers etc.) had increased four times in the time span 1913-24.31 The political corollary to these economic developments was that India would undergo a process of 'decolonisation' by which she would approach the status of a self-governing colony such as Canada, Australia and South Africa.32

The critique of the theory of 'decolonisation' was founded on the Marxist understanding of the process of industrialisation. Marx and Engels had stressed that the special technical basis for the mature factory system was that machinery was itself produced by machinery.33 Stalin had upheld the view that in the last analysis industrialisation meant production of the means of production and the development of a machine building industry. He noted that while industry had developed in India that country did not produce the instruments and means of production. Industrial development took place in the colonies in such a manner that they remained bound to imperialism.34 M.N. Roy did not care to base his understanding of colonial industrialisation on the basis of Marxism. The production of raw materials for export, the production of consumer goods which constitutes industrial development was confounded with the production of the means of production of heavy industry, the only genuine basis of industrialisation, which neither then nor, indeed, today, as a whole has taken place in India. Contemporary India does not manufacture the means of production required for mining, oil extraction, fertilizer plants, the petroleum refineries, the petro-chemical industry etc.35

In the months prior to the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928 the theoretical and empirical critique of the Royist theories of Indian 'industrialisation' had already been performed by Varga. He noted first, that industrial development in the period 1891 to 1921 had led to increasing agrarianisation of the population in India so that the agricultural population rose by 12%. Second, he established the low percentage of the population engaged in industry in India. In 1921 only 10.7% of the population worked in industry compared to 17.4% in the Russia of 1897 and 14.6% in the Spain of 1910. Finally, Varga proved that of the industrial population in India only 10% were in the crucial sectors vital to industrialisation, the metal and building industries. He noted, moreover, that the growth of the textile industry was quite unremarkable in comparison with the rate of development in China and Japan. In short heavy industry was very weak, India remained an agricultural country.36

At the discussion on the colonial question at the Sixth Congress of the Comintern Otto Kuusinen asserted that no change had taken place in British colonial policy.37 Had it really been so that British imperialism was industrializing India leading to its 'decolonisation' then it would be necessary to revise the entire conception of the colonial policy of imperialism.38 The big engineering plants of the Tatas and the few railway works could be easily controlled by British imperialism. The existence of these enterprises did not mean 'the industrialisation of India. Industrialisation means the transformation of an agrarian into an industrial country, it means general, thorough, industrial development, above all development of the production of means of production, of the engineering industry'.39 The protective tariffs which had been slapped on for the benefit of the Indian textile industry, and which had been cited to buttress the conception that Britain was promoting industrialisation in India, were a consequence of the precarious position of British imperialism at the outbreak of the First World War in the face of unrest in India, as well as the competition of Japan and the U.S. While this measure would promote industrial development it was quite insufficient to effect the transition from an agrarian to a capitalist state. While the export of finance capital to India had increased briefly in the period 1921-23, which was supposedly promoting industrialisation, only 10% of this capital was actually invested in industry, the bulk of it went into the trading companies, banking and insurance. Indian capital had advanced in the jute industry and the tea plantations after the war. Kuusinen concluded that the British were carrying out an aggressive economic policy against the industrialisation of India which was aimed at a consolidation of the colonial regime. He anticipated that the industrial development of India would continue, although very slowly.40

Did British Imperialism Support the Industrialisation of India
During the Course of the Second World War?

British imperialism did not change its long-term policy of hindering Indian industrial development during the Second World War. In contrast Australia was permitted to establish plants manufacturing twin-engine bombers, build ten thousand ton merchant ships and produce power alcohol. This was the result of a policy which wanted to take goods gratis from India but declined to pay for them in the form of capital goods lest industrial development led India to upgrade her status from a supplier of raw materials and so compete with Britain in the Indian market. The Second World War saw falling production of vital raw materials such as coal which led several jute mills to close down because of the coal shortages.41

In a manner fundamentally not dissimilar to M.N. Roy Proletarian Path confounds industrialisation, production of the means of production, with any and every industrial development. By this sleight of hand the local Indian assembly of imported machinery and the manufacture of small precision tools is taken to be part of the process of 'industrialisation'.

An analogous error is committed with regard to the development of transport and communications during the Second World War. As part of the lend-lease arrangements for the conduct of the war British India received nearly $200 million in 1941-43 which were utilised to import machinery and machine tools, steel for the manufacture of arms and ammunition, deliveries of steam locomotives and signaling equipment.42 This assistance by the U.S. was an intrinsic part of the war-effort against Japan and it did not constitute an attempt to build up production of the means of production for heavy industry. A truer picture of the Indian industrial scenario may be seen from the situation of the iron and steel industry which is a vital component of the productive forces: if the index of iron and steel production is taken at 100 in 1939 it rose to 114 in 1940 and then steadily declined to 107 in 1944.43 This suggests that industrialisation was being hindered in the years of war. Varga points out that in the realm of transport the British did not allow the construction of automobile factories, steam locomotives, machinery or motors in India.44

Did the Post-War Sterling Balance Indicate Indian Economic Independence?

Reference is made by Proletarian Path to the huge sterling balances which accrued to India by the supply of war materials to the British at the time of the Second World War. This 'accumulated capital' it is implied supports the thesis that capitalist development took place in war-time India under the auspices of British imperialism.

By the close of the Second World War Britain owed nearly 1,030 million to India for goods and services rendered during the war against the Japanese. This sum constituted the equivalent of nearly half of the national income of India. It was the equivalent of twice the total capital invested in all industries (excepting transport) in the inter-bellum years in the iron, steel, textile, cement and other industries.45 It had accumulated as Britain had undertaken to pay India for commodities, services, labour and supplies required for the war effort. Britain deposited the amount in sterling in London but it could not be actually used by the Indian government. In effect India parted with goods without getting anything immediately in return.46 In its turn the Indian government raised rupee finance for the war by flooding the market with paper notes to the tune of Rs. 900 crores in the period 1939-45. The result was that the value of the Rupee fell by 40% by May, 1944.47 The human cost of British financial policy in the war period was borne by the Indian poor whose real incomes fell by half, and particularly by the 3 1/2 million victims who starved to death in the Bengal famine.

B.T. Ranadive, then a Politburo Member of the CPI, correctly understood that the sterling balances were not an index of Indian wealth but a measure of the forced tribute taken by Britain from India.48 India, he pointed out, was transformed from a debtor to a 'creditor' slave of Britain who was forced to give a loan by denying himself the necessaries of life.49 It is extraordinary that this sorry and sordid history is taken by Proletarian Path as an index of Indian economic development.

The views of Proletarian Path on the question of the sterling balances have an antecedent in the history of Marxist-Leninist political economy.

Evgeny Varga and the Question of the Sterling Balances.

After the war the Soviet economist E. Varga expressed the view that during the war:

'some of the colonies grew very strong economically; some colonial countries became financially independent of Britain and themselves became creditors of her'.50

On this basis Varga drew the conclusion that this signified a deep change in relations between the metropolis and the colonies: between Britain and India, the latter benefited.51 An analogous process took place in Egypt which was owed some 500 millions by Britain and so became more free in terms of financial independence.52 The war then, Varga continued, changed the political character of these colonies. As a result of the economic development of the colonies the position of the native bourgeoisie was strengthened.53

The views of Varga were contested by other Soviet economists at the joint conference of the Political Economy Section of the Institute of Economics and the Faculty of Political Economy of Moscow State University which was held in May, 1947. V.V. Reikhard stressed that the chief basis of the dependence of the colonies was capital investment, the colonies could not liberated by a purely economic process but only by the revolutionary path.54 A.N. Shneyerson expressed the view that only the forms of exploitation had changed in the colonies. The colonies had not become exporters of capital and had not exchanged roles with the mother countries. The fact that India might export capital to some measure or that a part of the shares of the English enterprises in India had been transferred to the hands of Indians did not change the fundamental position.55 L.Ya. Eventev argued that the economic dependence of such countries as India was clear from the fact that England concentrated their monetary funds in the metropolis and thereby subordinated the colonial monetary systems.56

Varga defended his views in the discussions but it is instructive to note that he upheld the view - formally at least - that the economy of the colonial countries remained basically colonial and that it was not possible to over-estimate the industrial development in India:

'It is not one and the same thing - to be a creditor or to be a debtor. Of course I write that the economy remained basically colonial. I do not at all over-estimate the development of industry in India. I even regard it as far less than many comrades who deal especially with India. Perhaps they are right, and not I. But it is impossible to deny that great changes have taken place. One cannot deny facts.'57

Further criticism took place on the stands of Varga in 1948 in the discussion on the Shortcomings and the Tasks of Scientific Investigative work in the Field of Economics, which was organised at the Institute of Economics of the Academy of Sciences. F.I. Mikhalevsky of the Institute of Economics reasoned that despite the changes which had been noted by Varga only the forms of exploitation of the colonies had changed while the power of the English financial oligarchy in India remained.58 I.M. Lemin, also of the Institute of Economies, considered that Varga had departed from dialectics and the party approach on a number of questions including that of India. Varga examined the problem of the sterling debt, squeezed out by British imperialism, as a factor which leads to independence even though this hardly indicated the decolonisation of India. While the sterling debt testified to some redistribution of strength between British capital and Indian national capital, this hardly could be said to signify the decolonisation of India. The sterling debt was utilised by the English as a means of pressure on the Indian bourgeoisie and the feudal classes. By continuing to defend his thesis Varga was playing into the hands of the top landlord and bourgeois circles in India which had bargained with British imperialism and was using the cover of an independence which in actual terms was fictitious. These classes were the enemies of the national liberation movement of the Indian people. Varga, he concluded, in actual terms argued as though there could be parity between the Indian 'debt' to England in the form of the factories and railways and the English sterling debt to India.59

In 1949 Varga accepted that his views which had been projected from 1946 onwards were part of an entire chain of errors of a reformist direction which departed from the Leninist-Stalinist evaluation of imperialism.60 In particular he recognised the mistakes that he had made in investigating the colonial problem relating to India. In actuality India could not be considered to be the creditor of Britain. Such an argument rested on the basis of a mechanical, bookkeeping approach. India continued to send significant yearly sums to Britain as return on its capital which was invested in India. This income on capital was an expression of the continued relations of exploitation by Britain of India.61

India, recognised Varga, was a semi-colony in which the bourgeoisie, because it feared the workers and peasants movements, had entered into a compromise with English imperialism. She had the possibility of manoeuvrability between England and the USA, exploiting the differences between the two imperialist powers, but India could acquire full independence only under the rule of the toiling masses under the leadership of the working class, which would end the role of the Indian landlords and bourgeoisie and their English protectors.62

Proletarian Path in its wisdom rejects the slogan of the CPI after 1947: 'Ye azadi jhuthi hai', i.e. that Indian independence was a fiction. It may be asked: had the grip of foreign capitalist investment been broken in 1947? Had genuine industrialisation, the production of the means of production of heavy industry, come to the fore in 1947? It is known that foreign investments had expanded after 1947. British capital investment in India doubled after 1947 and profits grew correspondingly.63 Despite some industrial development having been undertaken in the Second and Third Five-Year Plans, the production of the means of production of heavy industry has yet to begin in general. Proletarian Path flouts the Leninist-Stalinist understanding of imperialism. Lenin at the Second Congress of the Comintern had outlined the need to constantly:

'explain and expose among the broadest working masses of all countries, and particularly of the backward countries, the deception systematically practised by the imperialist powers, which, under the guise of politically independent states, set up states that are wholly dependent upon them economically, financially and militarily.'64

Here we find that the friends of Proletarian Path repeat some of the errors of the CPI in 1947. In June 1947 the CPI had not given a correct evaluation of the Mountbatten plan and regarded it as a certain step forward rather than as an imperialist manoeuvre; this indicated the strength of the mistakes of a right-opportunist character in this period. Later in the year the CPI correctly characterised the Nehru government as a whole as a government of the big bourgeoisie, which had entered into an agreement with British imperialism and formed an alliance with the Indian princes and landlords.65 We are told that the 1947 slogan of fictional independence is discredited. But amongst whom is the slogan discredited? It is discredited amongst those who have embraced the views of M.N. Roy and E. Varga on 'industrialisation' and 'decolonisation'. After 1953 the views of M.N. Roy and the errors of Varga were revived and resurrected by the CPSU under Khrushchev and Brezhnev and they became the foundation of the 'theoretical views' of the CPI and CPI(M) on the colonial question.

Marxism and the Prussian Path of Development from Feudalism to Capitalism.

It is reasoned by Proletarian Path that while imperialist domination remained in India after 1947 the capitalist-landlord-bourgeois 'could frame its own policies giving economic evolution the shape they desired.' It is incorrect 'to assume that imperialist domination essentially means semi-feudalism.' As a result of capitalist evolution through decades of operation of the Prussian path India has been transformed into a predominantly capitalist country.66 The Editor of Proletarian Path seems less sanguine on the existence of the predominantly capitalist character of agrarian relations in India today but he is confident that the process of transformation from feudalism to capitalist relations is 'under process'. It is apparent that Proletarian Path does not think that the question of the existence of the survivals of feudalism is of significance.

At the Sixth Congress of the Comintern held in 1928, where the colonial question was discussed at great length, it was argued that imperialism supported the survivals of feudalism.67 The economic and political interests of imperialism and the national bourgeoisie of India and China were 'so closely bound up with large ownership as also with trading and usury capital in the village that they are not in a position to carry through an agrarian reform of any wide significance'.68 These views were opposed to those of M.N. Roy and Leon Trotsky. In his book India in Transition M.N. Roy had argued in 1921:

'With the suppression of the revolt of 1857, feudalism was altogether eliminated from the political domain, notwithstanding the fact that for convenience, imperialist domination still perpetuated its hollow skeleton clothed in pomp and grandeur.'69 He further reasoned:

'The destruction of feudalism here was not the result of a violent revolution but it was the consequence of a long-standing contact with the political and economic measures of a highly developed capitalist state.'70

With reference to China it was Trotsky who denied that the survivals of feudalism were the predominating factor in the oppression in China in the 1920s.71

The Comintern in 1928 rejected the possibility of widespread agrarian reform in the colonial and semi-colonial countries but 70 years later the friends of Proletarian Path find that the Prussian path of development has led to the predominance of capitalism in agriculture.

Here the question must be raised: has the Prussian path of agrarian development in any country ended the survivals of feudalism on the path of transition from feudalism to capitalism?

In 1873, Engels argued, Germany had revealed itself as a vital industrial nation for the first time by being involved in a German national economic crash.72 Productive forces developed to such an extent that by the turn of the century Germany was a premier industrial power, and a leading imperialist power in its own right. The 19th century saw the concomitant development of capitalism in agriculture. With the abolition of serfdom in 1807 the longdrawn and partial transition began 'from above' of feudalism to capitalism. German imperialism retained pronounced survivals of feudalism well into the 20th century. Engels recorded that in 1871:

'The Junkers retained all the essential positions of power while the helots of Germany, the rural workers in these areas, domestic and wage labourers alike, remained in their previous state of de facto serfdom admitted to only two public functions - to serve as soldiers and to provide voting cattle for the Junkers in elections to the Reichstag.'73

The Junkers, the bastion of feudalism in Prussia and Germany, played a reactionary role in the First and Second World Wars. They played a big part in paving the way for the Hitler regime. Oldenburg Januschau, one of the leaders of the Junker caste, was directly instrumental in raising Hitler to power by scaring the senile Hindenburg with the assertion that Schleicher was preparing to strike a blow at the Prussian landowners.74

In Hitler's Germany the Junker landlords were real masters. They were the protagonists of predatory German aggression and the main prop of misanthropic chauvinistic ideology. The big feudal estates were strongholds of German militarism.75 Stalin confirmed the link between Nazism and the survivals of feudalism in Germany:

'the German army is a feudal army which is shedding blood for the enrichment of the German barons and for the restoration of the power of the landlords.'76

A century and a half of the Prussian path in Prussia itself did not terminate the powerful survivals of feudalism. It was the democratic forces in Eastern Germany which abolished the feudal landlords as a class through the implementation of the policy of 'land to the tiller' after the victory over fascism.

After 1861 the Prussian path in agriculture was adopted in tsarist Russia. Stalin pointed out that Russia was a semi-colonial country77 which had, before the February 1917 revolution, attained a medium level of capitalist development.78 Such countries Stalin considered were little developed capitalistically, where there were feudal survivals and a special agrarian problem of the anti-feudal type.79 Lenin had spoken of the two paths of development towards capitalism in agriculture viz. the Prussian path and the American path. He described the Prussian path as 'the semi-feudal capitalism and the landowners with its host of residual privileges, which is the most reactionary and causes the masses the greatest suffering',80 and spoke of the 'organisation of the new Russia on feudal-capitalist lines.'81 Over half a century of the adoption of the Prussian path did not liquidate the pronounced remnants of feudalism in Russia. Only the peasant revolutionary war of 1917 which seized the landlords' lands was able to do this.

We thus find ourselves in a topsy-turvy situation. Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin considered that the Prussian path maximized the preservation of the feudal admixture in Prussia and Russia. Neither in Prussia nor in Russia were the relics of feudalism eliminated through the Prussian path, but we are told by Proletarian Path that this was so in India. ln both Prussia and Russia feudalism was terminated by the seizure of the feudal estates by the peasantry, but in India we are told that without an agrarian revolution the powerful relics of feudalism have been liquidated. In reality Proletarian Path are the votaries of Trotsky who could not cognise the importance of the survivals of feudalism in China and of M.N. Roy, who considered that feudalism in India had been terminated in 1857. It is not that the survivals of feudalism have been eliminated from Indian society but that Proletarian Path has liquidated Marxism in its methodology.

This journal has also argued that the Prussian path of agrarian development has been undergone in India, but its investigation has found the existence of a semi-feudal capitalism in agriculture. The agrarian reforms which were enacted in the 1950s did not abolish feudalism but modified it. Forty per cent of the land of the semi-feudal landlords was retained in their hands. Colossal compensation was paid for the sixty per cent of land which was divested from them. Pronounced survivals of feudalism remain in the form of share cropping which is conducted in about twenty percent of the country, as well as in the form of debt-bondage. Land to the tiller was not implemented nor was the agricultural debt annulled. Agricultural indebtedness deepened in the post-reform years. The consequence of the Prussian path has been that no large-scale productive transformation has taken place. While in the north-west of India agricultural production has expanded, in large tracts of the country production in agriculture has regressed so that the net outcome has been agricultural stagnation.82 The preservation of the pronounced survivals of feudalism entails the inequality of women, including the infamous practices of female foeticide, female infanticide, dowry killings etc., the oppression of the nationalities not just in term of the denial of the use of the mother-tongue in education but also in the wars against the oppressed nationalities of the north-east of India; and the pronounced survivals of the pre-capitalist social relations of caste and tribe. The experience of the half century after 1947 in India tends to confirm the analysis of the Comintern in 1928 that imperialism and the 'national' bourgeoisie are so closely bound to large landlordism that no consistent democratic agrarian reform can be enacted.

Marxism and the Determination of the Immediate Stage of the Indian Revolution

Lenin considered it obligatory to examine the degree of economic development in the course of determining the stage of the revolution. India is a country of medium capitalist development comparable to the pre-war Balkan states such as Yugoslavia and Rumania. It is a semi-colonial country which has powerful survivals of feudalism and other pre-capitalist relics. It is a country which has yet to reach the level of economic development of the Russia of 1913. The industrial working class of India today is proportionately only half that of the Russian working class on the eve of the 1st World War.

The subjective conditions of the Indian working class today have a family resemblance with the Russian working class of 1905:

'If any workers ask us at the appropriate moment why we should not go ahead and carry out our maximum programme we shall answer by pointing out how far from socialism the masses of the democratic-minded people still are, how undeveloped class antagonisms still are and how unorganized the proletarians still are.

'Organise hundreds of thousands of workers all over Russia; get the millions to sympathise with our programme! Try to do this without confining yourselves to high-sounding but hollow anarchist phrases - and you will see at once that achievement of this organisation and the spread of this socialist enlightenment depend on the fullest possible achievement of democratic transformations'.83

The Colonial Theses of the Comintern in 1928 were more specific in its understanding of the subjective pre-conditions which are required for the growing over of the revolution from one stage to another higher stage:

'(1) The degree of development of the revolutionary proletarian leadership of the movement, i.e. of the communist party of the given country (the number of its members, its independent character, consciousness and fighting readiness, as well as its authority and connection with the masses and its influence on the trade-union and peasant movements), (2) the degree of organisation and the revolutionary experience of the working class, as well as, to a certain extent of the peasantry. The revolutionary experience of the masses signifies experience of struggle, in the first place liberation from the influence over them of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois parties.'84

It suffices to say that the debilitating effects of modem revisionism on the communist movement have corroded the fighting traditions of the working class movement in general and the trade union movement in particular; the peasant movements are limited in their perspectives in the absence of the leadership of a revolutionary communist party. In such conditions only the wildest optimist could argue that the subjective conditions exist in India at present for the immediate transition to the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Stalin, moreover, reasoned that in the countries of average level of capitalist development which are little developed capitalistically and where a special agrarian problem of the anti-feudal type exists the petty-bourgeoisie, particularly the peasantry, was bound to play an important role in the event of a revolutionary upheaval. In such countries intermediary stages were required such as a dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, which would lead at a later stage to the dictatorship of the proletariat.

This Leninist-Stalinist approach is sharply demarcated from the standpoint of Trotsky. Stalin recalled:

'In our country, too, there were people, such as Trotsky, who before the February Revolution said that the peasantry was not of serious consequence, and that the slogan of the movement was 'no tsar, but a workers' government,' You know that Lenin emphatically disassociated himself from this slogan and objected to any under-estimation of the role and importance of the petty bourgeoisie, especially of the peasantry. There were some in our country at that time who thought that after the overthrow of tsarism the proletariat would at once occupy the predominating position. But how did it turn out in reality? It turned out that immediately after the February Revolution the vast masses of the petty bourgeoisie appeared on the scene and gave predominance to the petty-bourgeois parties, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks, who had been tiny parties until then, 'suddenly' became the predominating force in the country'. Thanks to what? Thanks to the fact that the vast masses of the petty bourgeoisie at first supported the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks.

'This, incidentally, explains why the proletarian dictatorship was established in our country as result of the more or less rapid growing over of the bourgeois democratic revolution into a socialist revolution.'85

In cannot be denied that in India that the petty-bourgeoisie, including the vast masses of the peasantry, will play an important role in the revolutionary process. At present it is quite apparent that the working class has not secured the leadership over the petty bourgeoisie which is a decisive pre-requirement for the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

    References
  1. Proletarian Path, New Series, Vol. 1, No. 1, November-December, 1992.
  2. 'On the Stage of the Indian Revolution', Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. II, No. 1, April 1996, pp. 49-67.
  3. See the discussion in D.I. Chesnokov, Marxism-Leninism on Basis and Superstructure', Bombay, 1952, pp. 1-5.
  4. K. Marx, F. Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 5, Moscow, 1976, p. 52.
  5. V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 9, Moscow, 1972, p. 28.
  6. See Footnote in N.I. Bukharin, Problemy teorii i praktiki sotsializma, Moscow, 1989, p. 468.
  7. Programme of the Communist International, 1928, Bombay, 1948. pp. 43-45.
  8. Revolutionary Democracy, op. cit., pp. 55, 61-62.
  9. Theses on the Revolutionary Movement in the Colonies and Semi-colonies, Sixth Congress of the Communist International, 1928, in ed. M.B. Rao, Comintern and National and Colonial Questions, New Delhi, 1973, pp. 78-79.
  10. 'Theses of the Agitprop of the ECCI', in G. Adhikari ed. Documents of the History of the Communist Party of India, Volume III-c, New Delhi, 1982, p. 627.
  11. K. Marx and F. Engels, The First Indian War of Independence, Moscow, n.d., p. 37.
  12. Revolutionary Democracy, op. cit., pp. 60-61.
  13. V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 31, Moscow, 1974, p. 149.
  14. G. Adhikari ed., Documents of the History of the Communist Party of India, Vol. 1, New Delhi, 1971, pp. 202-203.
  15. V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 42, Moscow, 1969, p. 202.
  16. V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 31, Moscow, 1974, p. 241.
  17. J.V. Stalin, Works, Vol. 9, Moscow, 1954, p. 238.
  18. G. Adhikari, op. cit., p. 183.
  19. J.V. Stalin, Works, Vol. 7, Moscow, 1954, pp. 147-48.
  20. Ibid., Vol. 11, Moscow, 1954, p. 162.
  21. M.B. Rao ed., op. cit., pp. 79-80.
  22. G. Adhikari, op.cit., p. 191.
  23. Ibid., pp. 535-6, 544. Emphasis added.
  24. Ibid., p. 547.
  25. Ibid., pp. 363-64.
  26. R.P. Dutt, Modern India, Bombay, 1926.
  27. G. Adhikari, op. cit., Vol. IIIc, New Delhi, 1982, pp. 572-606.
  28. M.N. Roy, Our Differences, Calcutta, 1938, pp. 97-8. The section of the book which we have cited is headed On the Indian Question in the VI World Congress of the C.I. and was written in 1929.
  29. Ibid., p. 99.
  30. Ibid., p. 76.
  31. Ibid, p. 95.
  32. Ibid., pp. 104-05.
  33. K. Marx, Capital, Vol. 1, Moscow, n.d., p. 424, and K. Marx and F. Engels, Letters on Capital, London, 1983, p. 272.
  34. J.V. Stalin, Works, Vol. 8, Moscow, 1954, pp. 127-28.
  35. Revolutionary Democracy, op, cit., p. 55.
  36. Cited in Sobhanlal Datta Gupta, Comintern and the Colonial Question 1920-37, Calcutta, 1980, pp. 81-83.
  37. The major speeches on the colonial question at the Sixth Congress of the Comintern may be located in Volume 8 of International Press Correspondence for 1928.
  38. G. Adhikari ed., op. cit., Vol. IIIc, p. 477.
  39. Otto Kuusinen, 'The Revolutionary Movement in the Colonies' in ibid. p. 480.
  40. Ibid., pp. 481-84.
  41. B.T. Ranadive, 'India's Sterling Balances,' in G. Adhikari ed., Marxist Miscellany, Vol. 2, Bombay, 1945, p. 138.
  42. E. Varga, Izmeneniya v ekonomike kapitalizma v itoge vtoroi mirovoi voiny, Moscow, 1946, p. 16.
  43. Ibid., p. 215.
  44. Ibid., p. 129.
  45. B.T. Ranadive, op. cit. p. 122-123.
  46. Ibid., pp. 126-127.
  47. Ibid., p. 129.
  48. Ibid., p. 127.
  49. Ibid., p. 132.
  50. E. Varga, Marxism and the General Crisis of Capitalism, Bombay, 1948, p. 41. The article cited is not dated but it seems to have been written in 1946 or at the latest, 1947.
  51. E. Varga, Izmeneniya, op. cit., pp. 219, 222.
  52. Ibid., p. 233.
  53. Ibid., p. 224.
  54. L. Gruliow tr., Soviet Views on the Post-War World Economy, Washington, 1948, p. 20. This is a translation of the Stenographic Report of the discussion which took place in Moscow in May, 1947. It was published as a supplement to the November 1947 issue of World Economy and World Politics.
  55. Ibid., p. 21.
  56. Ibid., p. 90.
  57. Ibid., p. 122.
  58. Voprosy ekonomiki, No. 9, 1948, p. 60.
  59. Ibid., p. 65.
  60. E. Varga, 'Protiv reformistskogo napravleniya v rabotakh po imperializmu', Voprosy ekonomiki, No. 3, 1949, p. 79.
  61. Ibid., p. 85.
  62. Ibid., p. 86.
  63. E. Varga, Politico-Economic Problems of Capitalism, Moscow, 1968, p. 132.
  64. V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 31, Moscow, 1974, p. 150.
  65. A.M. Dyakov, New Stage in India's Liberation Struggle, Bombay, n.d., pp. 26-27.
  66. Proletarian Path, op. cit., p. 89.
  67. 'The VI World Congress of the Communist International', Inprecor, 16th November, 1928, pp. 1517-18.
  68. M.B. Rao, ed., op. cit., p. 76.
  69. G. Adhikari, ed, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 383.
  70. Ibid., p. 364.
  71. J.V. Stalin, Works, Vol. 9, Moscow, 1954, p. 291.
  72. F. Engels, The Role of Force in History, Calcutta, 1970, p. 68.
  73. Ibid., p. 80.
  74. E. Varga, 'Agrarian Reform in Countries of Eastern Europe', In G. Adhikari ed., Marxist Miscellany, Vol. 6, Bombay, 1946, p. 38.
  75. Ibid., p. 43.
  76. J. Stalin, On the Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, Moscow, 1954, p. 65.
  77. J. Stalin, Works, Vol. 7, Moscow, 1954, p. 199.
  78. J. Stalin, Works, Vol. 11, Moscow, 1954, p. 162.
  79. Loc. cit.
  80. V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 19, Moscow, 1973, p. 377, emphasis added.
  81. Ibid., p. 378. Emphasis added.
  82. Revolutionary Democracy, op. cit., pp. 58-59.
  83. V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 9, Moscow, 1972, p. 29.
  84. M.B. Rao, ed., op. cit., p. 96.
  85. J.V. Stalin, Works, Vol. 11, Moscow, 1954, pp. 162-63.

Click here to return to the September 1997 index.