Critical Remarks on Contemporary ‘Decolonisation’ Theory

In an article entitled ‘The Polemic on the Stage of Revolution in India’ the comrades of the journal ‘Proletarian Path’ (January-March 2001) take issue with some views expressed in this journal on the current stage of the Indian revolution.

Productive Forces, Productive Relations and the Economic System of Society

In our criticisms of the analyses of ‘Proletariat Path’ which defend the theses that the immediate stage of the revolution in India is one of proletarian-socialist revolution we have held that the neither the objective conditions pertaining to the economic development of the country nor the subjective conditions which arise from them in terms of the class consciousness and organizational strength of the working class and their ability to secure the leadership of the peasant masses are such as to suggest this possibility.

In defence of its theses ‘Proletarian Path’ has propounded views on the mode of production which we hold are positions not based on Marxism but correspond to an idealist misinterpretation of this ideology. We first cite the section of our article on the question of forces and relations of production such as it relates to the discussion on the present stage of the revolution in India which ‘Proletarian Path’ considers as inconsistent with Marxism:

‘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’.(1)

‘Proletarian Path’ asserts that it is ‘arrant nonsense’ as well as being an ‘un-Marxist and banal theory’ to say that the level of the development of the productive forces determines the economic system of society. ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ had cited the views of D.I. Chesnokov on this question. He argues ‘Having established that the level of development of the productive forces determines the economic system of society, while the latter calls into life a superstructure corresponding to it, Marx and Engels discovered the laws of historical development and gave to the proletariat an irreplaceable ideological weapon with the help of which they must attain victory’.(2) We consider that the views of D.I. Chesnokov derive from the Marxist-Leninist positions. Our critics invoke the authority of Lenin to argue that the productive forces do not determine the economic system of society but if the quotation of Lenin cited by ‘Proletarian Path’ is seen in its full context it substantiates the view of the centrality of the development of the forces of production in determining the economic system of society (the citation of our critics is emphasized):

‘Unlike Hegel and the other Hegelians, Marx and Engels were materialists. Regarding the world and humanity materialistically, they perceived that just as material causes underlie all natural phenomena, so the development of human society is conditioned by the development of material forces, the productive forces. On the development of the productive forces depend the relations which men enter into another in the production of the things required for the satisfaction of human needs. And in these relations lies the explanation of all the phenomena of social life, human aspirations, ideas and laws. The development of the productive forces creates social relations based upon private property, but now we can see that this same development of the productive forces deprives the majority of their property and concentrates it in the hands of an insignificant minority.’(3)

The artificial distinction which is sought to be made between the productive forces acting as the condition of the development of human society and their determining the economic system of society represents a false contraposition as is evident from Lenin’s clear understanding that the development of the productive forces creates the social relations based on private property.

Stalin also concurred with the view that the level of the development of the forces of production and particularly of the instruments of production determines the economic relations of society as is apparent from what he has to say in Dialectical and Historical Materialism on the question of the productive forces and relations:

‘The second feature of production is that its changes and development always begin with changes and development of the productive forces, and in the first place, with changes and development of the instruments of production. Productive forces are therefore the most mobile and revolutionary element of production. First the productive forces of society change and develop, and then, depending on these changes and in conformity with them, men’s relations of production, their economic relations, change. This, however, does not mean that the relations of production do not influence the development of the productive forces and that the latter are not dependent on the former. While their development is dependent on the development of the productive forces, the relations of production in their turn react upon the development of the productive forces, accelerating or retarding it.’(4)

He continues a little later on the question under discussion:

‘Consequently, the productive forces are not only the most mobile and revolutionary element in production, but are also the determining element in the development of production.

‘Whatever are the productive forces such must be the relations of production’.(5)

And further:

‘In conformity with the change and development of the productive forces of society in the course of history, men’s relations of production, their economic relations also changed and developed.’(6)

This understanding linking the development of the instruments of production, the forces of production to the economic relations and to the economic system is wholly consistent with the sense of the views of Marx. In his criticism of Proudhon he says:

‘M. Proudhon the economist understands very well that men make cloth, linen or silk materials in definite relations of production. But what he has not understood is that these definite social relations are just as much produced by men as linen, flax, etc. Social relations are closely bound up with productive forces. In acquiring new productive forces men change their mode of production; and in changing their mode of production, in changing the way of earning their living, they change all their social relations. The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist’.(7)

That the development of technology, and the productive forces in general determines the socio-economic structure is further evident from the correspondence of Engels to W. Borgius:

‘By economic relations, which we regard as the determining basis of the history of society, we understand the manner in which men in a given society produce their means of subsistence and exchange the products (in so far as division of labour exists). They comprise therefore the entire technique of production and transport. According to our conception this technique also determines the mode of exchange and, furthermore, of the distribution of products and hence, after the dissolution of gentile society, also the division into classes, and consequently the relations of lordship and servitude and consequently the state, politics, law, etc.’(8)

Clearly then the stand of ‘Proletarian Path’ that the forces of production do not determine but only condition the economic system of society cannot withstand the scrutiny of Marxist analysis. Equally incorrect is the assertion that ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ reduces the notion of economic development to the development of the level of the forces of production. It is just not so. This journal has argued, consistent with the views of Lenin, Stalin and the Comintern, that the economic development of society is the starting point in determining the stage of revolution. It is not the only point, for the subjective conditions are also to be taken into account when determining the current stage of revolution.

Lenin noted the importance of the degree of economic development, not – pace ‘Proletarian Path’ – the level of development of the productive forces in determining the stage of revolution:

‘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.’(9)

Similarly, Stalin impressed upon the importance of understanding the laws of the economic development of society in drafting the programme of the Communist Party:

‘Hence, the prime task of historical science is to study and disclose the laws of production, the laws of development of the productive forces and of the relations of production, the laws of economic development of society. Hence, if the party of the proletariat is to be a real party, it must above all acquire a knowledge of the laws of development of production, of the laws of economic development of society.

‘Hence, if it is not to err in policy, the party of the proletariat must both in drafting its programme and in its practical activities proceed primarily from the laws of development of production, from the laws of economic development of society.’(10)

Marxism and the Question of Industrialisation

In its attempt to understand the current stage of the Indian revolution ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ drew upon the classics of Marxism and the recent economic literature on India to understand the contemporary socio-economic developments. In developing its programmatic outline the writings of Lenin and Stalin, the voluminous discussions on the colonial question at the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928, the Programme of the Comintern of that year and the documentation of the Communist Party of India in the period 1947-1956 were consulted.(11) ‘Proletarian Path’ contests our reading of Marxist, Soviet and Comintern literature on the question of industrialisation under capitalism, socialism and the colonial, semi-colonial and dependent countries and the initial stage of the revolution in the last group of countries. In our elaboration of the current stage of the revolution in India we posed the question of whether or not India had broken out of the imperialist nexus after 1947 by establishing an independent capitalist economy and embarking on the path of industrialisation. In this connection we had noted that Marx in ‘Capital’ had distinguished between the prerequisites of industrialisation, the revolutionisation of the iron and coal industry, the metallurgical industry and transport and the mature industrial system in which machinery was produced by machinery itself. In a similar manner Stalin had distinguished between industrial development and industrialization, the latter he stressed was centred upon the development of heavy industry and in the last analysis of the production of the means of production i.e the production of machinery by machinery. With regard to the colonial, semi-colonial and dependent countries, of obvious importance for a country like India, the Comintern in its appraisal in 1928 noted that imperialism hindered real industrialisation which entailed the establishment of an engineering industry which might make possible the independent development of the productive forces. In its evaluation of the Indian economy after 1947 this journal had concluded not just that the colonial relationship with imperialism remained extant due to the continued dependency on metropolitan finance capital but also as India had not constructed in the main a developed engineering industry which engaged in the production of machinery by machinery, and, of course there still exist pronounced survivals of pre-capitalist relations.

Let us now look at the criticism by the comrades of ‘Proletarian Path’ of the analysis summarized above. In general terms it is asserted that the reading of Stalin’s views and the programme of the Sixth Congress of the Comintern on the question of genuine industrialization has been misread, misunderstood and misinterpreted.

It is specifically argued that, first, this journal falsely identifies the construction of machine-making machinery as the sole criterion of ‘real’ industrialisation and the development of society from feudalism to capitalism. It thereby asks the revolutionaries (it is not stated where) to await the completion of this process and keep the slogan of socialism under cold storage. Second, it is asserted that Stalin did not speak of ‘real’ or ‘genuine’ capitalist industrialisation in his speech on the First Five-Year Plan but of the importance of Department 1 in the context of socialist industrialisation. Third, apropos of the colonial world, Comintern recognized that imperialism had given rise to a variety of types of capitalism, and that it had noted the existence of considerably developed industry in the backward countries despite the absence of a machine-making industry, whereas this journal accords recognition as capitalist only to the classical capitalist countries where machinery is made by machines. Further it is emphatically denied that Stalin and the Comintern programme of 1928 had made any reference to capitalist industrialisation (in the backward world). Realising that that there could be no question of ‘real’ or ‘genuine’ industrialisation of the colonial, semi-colonial and dependent countries they spoke only of socialist industrialisation and construction.

This clearly denies the Marxist understanding on these questions all along the line. In no uncertain terms Marx said that the construction of machines by machines was the fitting technical foundation of modern industry:

‘Modern Industry had therefore itself to take in hand the machine, its characteristic instrument of production, and to construct machines by machines. It was not till it did this, that it built up for itself a fitting technical foundation, and stood on its own feet’.(12)

Marx furthermore made a clear distinction between the general conditions requisite for production by the modern industrial system, the revolutionisation of transport, coal and iron mining and the metal industries; and the technical basis of the factory system, the production of machinery by machinery:

‘So soon, however, as the factory system has gained a certain breadth of footing and a definite degree of maturity, and, especially, so soon as its technical basis, machinery, is itself produced by machinery; so soon as coal mining and iron mining, the metal industries, and the means of transport have been revolutionised; so soon, in short, as the general conditions requisite for production by the modern industrial system have been established, this mode of production acquires an elasticity, a capacity for sudden extension by leaps and bounds that finds no hindrance except in the supply of raw material and in the disposal of the produce.’(13)

Stalin makes an analogous distinction between the development in general of heavy industry and the development of the machine-building industry:

‘The centre of industrialisation, the basis for it, is 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 own machine-building industry.’(14)

Stalin evidently was compelled to counteract the erroneous understanding on the nature of industrialisation amongst the CPSU(b) membership, other that is than the big revisionist guns such as Trotsky and Bukharin, for we find him having to explain the difference between industrial development in general and industrialisation proper with examples from the period of Russian absolutism:

‘Some comrades think that industrialisation implies the development of any kind of industry. There are even some queer fellows who believe that Ivan the Terrible was an industrialist, because in his day he created certain embryonic industries. If we follow this line of argument then Peter the Great should be styled the first industrialist. That, of course, is untrue. Not every kind of industrial development is industrialisation’.(15)

Further clarifications on the question of machine production and the machine system and the role that they had as a revolutionising force in society had to be issued by Stalin in 1950 during the course of the drafting of the textbook of political economy:

‘First and the main shortcoming of the textbook, which shows a complete ignorance of Marxism, is regarding the periods of manufacture and machine production under capitalism. The section on the period of manufacture capitalism is bloated, it has been allotted 10 pages and is more prominent than the period of machine production. In fact, the period of capitalist machine production is absent. It has simply vanished. The period of machine production has not been given a separate chapter, it has been allotted a few pages in the chapter on ‘Capital and Surplus Value’. Take Marx’s Capital. In Capital, the manufacture period of capitalism occupies 28 pages, and the period of machine production – 110 pages. Also, in other chapters, Marx talks a lot about the period of machine production. Such a Marxist as Lenin in the work The Development of Capitalism in Russia paid especial attention to the machine period. Without machines there is no capitalism. Machines are the main revolutionising force which have transformed society. It has not been demonstrated in the textbook what actually comprises a system of machines. About the system of machines, literally only one word has been said. Therefore, the whole picture of the development of capitalism has been distorted.

‘Manufacture is based on the hand labour of artisans. The machine sweeps aside hand labour. Machine production is large-scale production and is based on the machine system.’(16)

Despite all assertions to the contrary there can be no doubt that there can be no talk of any country having completed the transition from feudalism to capitalism without having constructed a machine-building industry. We hope that the critics would ponder over the implications of the words of Stalin that: ‘Without machines there is no capitalism’.

As soon as the Soviet Union had restored industrial production to the pre-war levels of 1913 the task on the industrial front now became one of improving technical equipment in the old factories and building new ones. Stalin considered that in the new phase of industrialisation the USSR had to ensure its economic independence by producing its own instruments and means of production or face a situation where it would be dependent on the capitalistically developed countries:

‘Industrialisation has the task not only of increasing the share of manufacturing industry in our national economy as a whole; it also has the task, within this development, of ensuring economic independence for our country, surrounded as it is by capitalist states, of safeguarding it from being converted into an appendage of world capitalism. Encircled as it is by capitalism, the land of the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot remain economically independent if it does not itself produce instruments and means of production in its own country, if it remains stuck at a level of development where it has to keep its national economy tethered to the capitalistically developed countries, which produce and export instruments and means of production. To get stuck at that level would be to put ourselves in subjection to world capital’.(17)

Marx in ‘Capital’ had indicated that under the conditions of capitalist industrialisation in England the production of machinery by machinery permitted modern industry to build its fitting technical foundation and stand on its own feet. Stalin argued that to preserve its economic independence from world capitalism it was necessary for the socialist USSR to build its own instruments and means of production:

‘...industrialisation is to be understood above all as the development of heavy industry in our country, and especially of our own machine-building industry, which is the principal nerve of industry in general. Without this, there can be no question of ensuring the economic independence of our country.’(18)

Stalin did not need to define the essence of industrialisation in the discussion on the First Five-Year Plan as this task had already been performed by Marx in ‘Capital’. By definition industrialisation whether in a capitalist or a socialist country has to be founded upon the production of machinery by machinery. It is a question which needs to be squarely addressed. In the same speech Stalin illumines the question of industry in the colonial world. He recognized the existence of industry in these countries but noted its dependence on imperialism in a situation where there was no construction of machinery by machinery:

‘Take India. India, as everyone knows, is a colony. Has India an industry? It undoubtedly has. Is it developing? Yes, it is. But the kind of industry developing there is not one which produces instruments and means of production. India imports its instruments of production from Britain. Because of this (although, of course, not only because of this), India’s industry is completely subordinated to British industry. That is a 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.’(19)

Stalin’s remarks permit us to see the specific formulations of the Comintern programme of 1928 in their true perspective. Much is made of the fact that this programme recognised the existence of various types of capitalism in the world which is offered as evidence that the absence of the production of the instruments and means of production in the colonial-type countries is a matter of little or no import in determining their capitalist character. But the clause that is cited as proof of this assertion is followed by one that states that there exist different stages of the ripeness of capitalism:

‘The uneven development of capitalism, which became more accentuated in the period of imperialism, has given rise to a variety of types of capitalism, to different stages of ripeness of capitalism in different countries, and to a variety of specific conditions of the revolutionary process.’(20)

The programme then proceeds to analyse the variety of conditions and the ways by which the proletariat will achieve its dictatorship in the various countries, dividing the world into the countries of highly developed capitalism, the countries of medium level capitalist development and the colonial, semi-colonial and dependent countries and elucidating the principal types of revolution which were possible in each band of countries; purely proletarian revolutions, revolutions of a bourgeois-democratic type which grow into proletarian revolutions, wars for national liberation and colonial revolutions. The pertinence and value of this analysis remains today, despite the fact that it was formulated in an earlier phase of capitalism and when the existence of an advanced socialist baseland facilitated the uninterrupted transitions of the national and democratic revolutions towards the proletarian-socialist revolution, as it indicates the stages of the revolution which are appropriate to the variety of socio-economic conditions which were in existence. The programme does not buttress the view that the capitalism existing in the colonies, semi-colonies and dependent countries which possessed the ‘rudiments of, and in some cases considerably developed industry, but in the majority of cases inadequate for independent socialist construction’(21) in any way represented anything other in themselves than ‘immaturity’ in terms of social relationships.(22)

This programme has to be read in conjunction with the ‘Theses on the Revolutionary Movement in the Colonies and Semicolonies’. Both documents were adopted by the Comintern at its Sixth Congress which was held in 1928. The latter document confirms that Comintern subjected to analysis the industrial developments in the colonial world not just in relation to their potential in terms of possible socialist construction as is claimed by our critics but also in order to examine the concrete character of this development and to assess the reality of the proposition that decolonisation was taking place in colonies such as India. The Comintern found that the capitalist enterprises created by imperialism in the colonies were predominantly or exclusively of an agrarian character with a low organic composition of capital:

‘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, which, at the expense of the labouring classes of the colonial country, strengthens the economic and political power of the imperialist bourgeoisie in order to perpetuate the monopoly of the latter in the colonies and to increase its expansion as compared to the rest of the world’.(23)

Claiming that industrialisation took place slowly after the First World War in India; stating – without caring to present evidence – that Lenin had observed that India developed a medium level of capitalist development by the close of the First World War;(24) denying vociferously that the development of capitalism has any connection whatsoever with the production of machinery by machinery; the critics then proceed to argue, contrary to the facts enumerated above, that Stalin and the Comintern knowing that it was not possible could not have spoken of the development of ‘real’ or ‘genuine’ capitalist industrialisation in the colonial, semi-colonial and dependent countries but only about industrialisation in these countries with reference to socialist industrialisation and construction. It is difficult to detect the factual, logical or indeed any Marxist thread in this mesh of contradictions.

We may note that the Communist Party of India in its revolutionary days overcame the errors of ‘decolonisation’ theory such as it was propagated by ideologues such as M.N. Roy and R.P. Dutt in the 1920s in Europe or P.C. Joshi and B.T. Ranadive in the 1940s in India and arrived at a correct understanding of the role of the imperialist metropolis in retarding the process of industrialisation.

Two examples will suffice.

In their statement made before the Court in the Meerut Communist Conspiracy Case in 1931 the accused had a clear and precise Marxist understanding of the state of industrial development in colonial India; they recognised that despite the fact that India was regarded as the eighth industrial power in the world by the League of Nations the country had no machine-making industry and was an appendage of the British economy. They inter alia argued:

‘…But not merely passively but actively, British Imperialism obstructed the industrialisation of India and as we have shown, this policy persists until the present day. The British themselves have been forced to develop a transport system, to create some industry, and to permit a certain amount of industry to develop in Indian hands. India is officially rated as the eighth industrial country in the world by the League of Nations. Does this not imply progress? It is necessary to realize in what this industry consists. Indian industry is concerned with raw materials and to some extent with consumption goods, especially textiles. But it still manufactures no means of production. The iron and steel industry manufactures pig iron, rails, pipes, sleepers etc., but no machinery. The engineering industry and the big railway workshops are engaged mainly in repair work, apart from the construction of railway wagons. In short India has industries, but it is not in the full meaning of the term an industrial country. Its industry is primarily an appendage of British economy and a means of facilitating British exploitation, not primarily a factor advancing the economic life of India as a whole’.(25)

In his analysis of the First Five-Year Plan (1951-56) B.T. Ranadive posed the question as to whether the economic order inherited from the British was about to be radically changed in order to set free the productive forces of the country. He concluded with reference to the perspectives of this plan that there was no project to develop heavy industry or a machine-making industry which could be the basis of industrialisation:

‘The expectations of the industrialists, big and small, however will not be realized because the Plan does not even lay the foundation of India’s industrialisation. For, industrialisation requires development of heavy industry and also of the internal market.

‘The Plan satisfies none of these conditions. By retaining the backward agrarian relations, it hampers the development of the internal market and inevitably obstructs industrial advance.

‘By refusing to free Indian industry from the grip of foreign capital and control, by continuing its dependence on machinery imports from abroad and by its failure to lay the basis of a machine-making industry, the Plan again restricts industrial development to a few narrow fields and thus seriously harms the interests of the Indian industrialists.’(26)

After the 20th Congress of the CPSU the Marxist-Leninist view of industrialisation was abandoned in India by the theoreticians of the CPI and the CPI (M) while in the USSR it remained confined to a few specialists of the Indian economy such as G.K. Shirokov and A.I. Medovoy. Marxist-Leninists are indebted to their work as their researches establish that India did not produce the means of production for heavy machinery such as mining, oil extraction so that Indian industrialisation was still at the stage of building the basis of industry, the production of the means of production.

The denial of the Marxist understanding of industrialisation is accompanied by the repudiation of the Marxist-Leninist theory of imperialism and the transition from feudalism to capitalism. While Lenin argued that under imperialism finance capital reduced the politically independent states to financial, economic and military dependence, the expansion of the grip of imperialist investment in India after 1947 is ignored and the semi-colonial status of the country denied on the ground that political independence has been established. The achievement of political independence is presented as the necessary and sufficient evidence of the end of the preponderance of metropolitan finance capital and of the colonial system of imperialism. The partial, nominal and formal character of such political independence under conditions of imperialism is treated as an inconsequential matter. The Marxist understanding is substituted by the notion that political independence must only be recognized as a sham in much the same way as bourgeois democracy is a sham for the toiling masses.(27) This view at least correctly recognizes the reality that bourgeois democracy is a form of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Political independence is not however to be considered a sham because of the predominating control by finance capital of the semi-colonial country. The dictatorship of finance capital in the semi-colony is not to be cognised. By such slender arguments is Lenin’s theory of imperialism and the existence of its colonial system ‘annihilated’.

The Marxist-Leninist understanding of the Prussian path of agrarian development which considers it as constructing a semi-feudal capitalism is turned upside down to imply that its implementation in this country has resulted in the establishment of a capitalist India.(28) Had this in actuality been the case it would be truly remarkable because the Prussian path was not able to remove the survivals of feudalism in Prussia and Russia. Much is said about the spectacular advance of the productive forces in the agricultural sector in India after 1947. It would be instructive to learn how the notion of ‘spectacular advances’ in the productive forces could be sustained after a comparison is made with the advanced and medium level capitalist countries and the semi-colonial and dependent states; and further: why the genuine productive advances in the north-western region of India have been neutralised by the sliding back of agricultural production in other parts of the country such as Bihar, Orissa, Assam and rural Maharashtra over the last century leading to the over-all stagnation of agricultural production. The absence of a classical feudalism in India today is presumed to mean that the pre-capitalist remnants have ceased to be of any importance. In fact powerful relics of pre-capitalist forms of dependent labour (tribal, slave, caste, feudal) continue to exist in the fields and factories, retarding the development of free labour. Within the working class there is a clear differentiation between caste and outcaste labour so that hard and ‘unclean’ tasks are allotted to the backward castes, dalit and tribal labour. These last belong to the most oppressed strata of the working class which is distinguished by low skills, low wages and contract work. For a quarter of a century some critics have been chanting that the Indian communists misunderstood the reality of the character of the transfer of power: whenever it has been pointed out that despite all the changes and modifications in the economy, imperialist domination, the relations of colonial dependence and the semi-feudal character of the country remain after 1947, it has invariably, as a knee-jerk reflex action, invited the plaint that the communists consider that nothing has changed in the Indian economy and society. It was a pithy and percipient Latin American poet who was constrained to observe that since his death it was not the enemies of Marx who have changed but his ‘supporters’. The entire apparatus of theory which is utilised to assert the independent capitalist character of the Indian economy contains no novel component; it is wholly derived from the recycling of the theories of ‘decolonisation’ which were prevalent for a time in the international communist movement in the 1920s and associated particularly with the name of M.N. Roy but which achieved their most concentrated and consummate form in the theories of Leon Trotsky on imperialism, feudalism and the colonial question. This corpus of ideology was subjected to criticism and demolished at the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928 only to raise its head openly once again in the communist movement after the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU in 1956.

The ‘decolonisation’ theories of the 1920s underestimated the domination of metropolitan finance capital, the pronounced relics of feudalism and other pre-capitalist socio-economic formations; exaggerated the extent of industrial development and the trend to political independence in the colonial, semi-colonial and dependent countries. ‘Decolonisation’ theory today also theoretically eliminates all the enemies of the democratic classes in the colonial-type countries. Metropolitan finance capital ended its rule once political independence was achieved. Industrialisation and capitalism in agriculture have been largely completed under the benevolent gaze of imperialist domination. Imperialism has completed its civilizing mission. The stage is then set to declare that it is Indian capitalism ‘that is holding back the productive forces’ of the country. Voilá! Imperialist finance capital and the relics of feudalism have evaporated! Voilá! The remnants of pre-capitalist bondage of dependent labour in the factories and the fields have vanished! As in the 1920s so today many ‘decolonisation’ theorists proclaim the proletarian and socialist revolution as the immediate stage of revolution. It really does seem that nothing has changed for the proponents of ‘decolonisation’ theory.

The economic development of India suggests that it may be categorized as a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country which has achieved a medium level of capitalist development. The anti-imperialist, anti-feudal tasks of the democratic revolution are far from being completed. The revolutionaries do not sit around twiddling their thumbs while the process of industrialisation is completed before raising the slogan of socialism. An examination of the contemporary subjective pre-conditions of the revolution reveals that for a number of reasons the contemporary communist revolutionary workers’ movement in India does not exhibit a consistent independent character, consciousness and fighting readiness; it cannot be said to have a powerful position of strength in the industrial working class and the peasantry. The mass of the petty-bourgeoisie is yet to be emancipated from the grip of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois political parties, particularly of the revisionist parties such as the CPI and the CPI(M); above all the working class is far from securing the leadership of the masses of the peasantry which is a requisite for proletarian dictatorship. In circumstances such as these in the immediate period an intermediate democratic stage is required; to consider otherwise and advocate the proletarian-socialist revolution is to reproduce the century-old errors of Leon Trotsky.(29)


1. ‘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’, ‘Revolutionary Democracy’, Vol. III, Number 2, September 1997.

2. D.I. Chesnokov, ‘Marxism-Leninism on Basis and Superstructure’, People’s Publishing House, Bombay, 1952, pp. 1-2, our emphasis. This originally appeared in the Soviet journal Voprosy Filosofii, Number 3 in 1952. It was translated from the Russian by A. B. Khardikar

3. V.I. Lenin, ’Collected Works’, Vol. 2, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972, pp. 21-22.

4. ‘History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks)’, Short Course, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1952, p. 191.

5. Ibid, p. 193, our emphasis.

6. Ibid, p. 194.

7. Karl Marx, ‘The Poverty of Philosophy’, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1978, p. 102. Our emphasis.

8. Engels to W. Borgius, January 25, 1894 in Marx, Engels, ‘Pre-Capitalist Socio-Economic Formations’, A Collection, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1979, pp. 539-540. Bold italics added.

9. V.I. Lenin, ‘Collected Works’, Vol. 9, Moscow, 1972, p. 28.

10. Op. cit., p. 191.

11. ‘On the Stage of the Indian Revolution’, ‘Revolutionary Democracy’, Vol. II, No. 1, April 1996, pp. 49-67.

12. Karl Marx, ‘Capital’, Vol. I, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1986, p. 363.

13. Ibid., p. 424.

14. J. Stalin, ‘Works’, Vol. 8, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954, p. 127.

15. Loc. cit.

16. J.V. Stalin, ‘Five Conversations with Soviet Economists 1941-52’, ‘Revolutionary Democracy’, Vol. IV, No. 2, September 1998, pp. 105-6.

17. J.V. Stalin, op. cit, pp. 127-8.

18. Ibid., pp. 128-9.

19. Ibid., p. 128.

20. ‘Programme of the Communist International’, Adopted at the Sixth Congress in 1928, People’s Publishing House, Bombay, 1948, p. 43.

21. Ibid., pp. 44-5.

22. Ibid., pp. 45-6.

23. ‘Comintern and National & Colonial Questions’, Documents of Congresses, Communist Party Publication, New Delhi 1973, pp. 72-3. Emphasis in the original.

24. Moni Guha, ‘Marxist Methodology and the Current Stage of the Indian Revolution’, Revolutionary Democracy’ Vol. III, No. 2, September 1997, p. 36.

25. ‘Communists Challenge Imperialism From the Dock’, Introduction by Muzaffar Ahmad, National Book Agency, Calcutta, Second Edition, 1987. p. 76.

26. B.T. Ranadive, ‘India’s Five-Year Plan’, Current Book House, Bombay, 1953, pp. 229-30.

27. ‘Proletarian Path’, Third Series, Vol. 1, No. 1, November-December 1992, pp. 2-3.

28. Ibid., pp. 63-4.

29. ‘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’, ‘Revolutionary Democracy’, Vol. III, Number 2, September 1997, pp. 56-7.

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