The Prelude (1857-1917)

Anti-British And Other Movements Upto 1917

The run-up to the initiation of the communist movement in India covered the first seventeen or eighteen years of the twentieth century. Let us, therefore, take a quick glance at the main political trends and events of this period. For almost twenty years since its formation, the Indian National Congress remained under the domination of “moderate” leaders like SN Banerjee, Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, Gopal Krishna Gokhale etc. Besides journalistic activities, they carried on some propaganda work from within the Imperial and Provincial Legislative Councils. Though these councils were utterly powerless, leaders like Gokhale (particularly famous for his regular “budget speeches”) and Mehta utilised them with great oratory to level trenchant criticisms against the government. This helped spread strong nationalist fervour among educated sections. However, their demands – within legislatures and at annual Congress conferences — never went beyond rudimentary political and administrative reforms (e.g., demand for slight extension of the powers of the councils, Indianisation of the ICS etc.) and redressal of economic grievances. Organisationally, the Congress was more of an annual three-day show for passing paper resolutions than a party with different layers of committees etc.; it had very little funds, few regular activists and only a couple or so of secretaries. The swadeshi movement Criticism of the “mendicancy” of the Moderate Congress began to develop in the 1890s and became a strong, popular trend known as the...

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Evolution of Marxist-Leninist Thought on Revolution in the East

India was certainly not alone in awakening to a protracted anti-imperialist struggle. Other peoples in the colonies and semi-colonies — popularly described at the time as “the East”, much in the same way as we now use the generic term “third world” — were bestirring themselves and the founders of scientific socialism were closely observing these from their internationalist standpoint. Thus in 1853 Marx wrote that “the next uprising of the people of Europe … may depend more probably on what is now passing in the Celestial empire [the Taiping rebellion in China — Ed.] than on any other cause that exists …”. With great revolutionary optimism he added : “as the greater part of the regular commercial circle has already been run through by British trade, it may safely be argued that the Chinese revolution will throw the spark into the overloaded mine of the long-prepared general crisis, which, spreading abroad, will be closely followed by political revolutions in the Continent. …”[1] Marx wrote these lines in his article “Revolution in China and in Europe”, published in the New York Daily Tribune. Similar views were expressed also by Engels in his “Persia and China”, an article he wrote in May 1857 for the same magazine, where he foresaw “the death struggle of the oldest empire in the world [meaning China — Ed.], and the opening day of a...

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Karl Marx And Nineteenth Century India

Karl Marx, whose interest in India was evident from such writings as the incomplete Notes on Indian History, referred to the British plunder of this resourceful country on many occasions in his Capital, e.g., “The English cotton machinery produced an acute effect in India. The Governor-General reported in 1834-35 : ‘The misery hardly finds a parallel in the history of commerce. The bones of the cotton-weavers are bleaching the plains of India.’”[1] At what rate the colonial octopus was sucking India dry will be evident from a comparison between the two halves of the century. Whereas the first fifty years saw seven famines in which about 1.5 million people lost their lives, in the second half there were 28 famines resulting in 28.5 million deaths. Within the second half, again, the first 25 years (i.e., the third quarter of the century) saw 10 famines compared to 18 in the next (i.e., the last quarter)[2]. This inhuman drainage of wealth was denounced with great patriotic feelings by early nationalists like Dadabhai Naoroji, a successful businessman and Congress leader whose Poverty and Un-British Rule in India was published in London in 1901, and Justice Ranade. However, this early economic critique of colonialism, progressive as it was for the day, naturally suffered from two basic weaknesses. In the first place, they considered the inhuman plunder of India as something alien to the...

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PART- I : The prelude — (1857-1917)

To trace the history of a movement that is European in historical origin and proletarian in character, in an Asian ‘peasant country’ like India, one has to start with an understanding of two inter-related processes : (a) the changing social structure and political milieu of India under British rule and (b) the evolution of the guiding ideology of this movement on the question of revolution in such countries. The first part of our Introduction section is, therefore, devoted to this purpose. Karl Marx and Nineteenth Century India Evolution of Marxist-Leninist Thought on Revolution in the East Anti-British and Other Movements Upto...

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