India Yesterday: Development and Revolution (Part 1 of Three-Part Series)

Front page of The Times of India on 15 August 1947, carrying news reports on the first Independence Day. - See more at:
Front page of The Times of India on 15 August 1947, carrying news reports on the first Independence Day. - See more at:

 Front page of the Times of India on August 15, 1947.

Front page of The Times of India on 15 August 1947, carrying news reports on the first Independence Day. - See more at:
Front page of The Times of India on 15 August 1947, carrying news reports on the first Independence Day. - See more at:

By Paul Le Blanc


[This article was inspired by a recent tour of India by the author, in the summer of 2015.  A second and third article – “India Today” and “The Struggle for India’s Future” – will be published shortly. Read more articles by Paul Le Blanc.]

India is pivotal to the future of the global capitalist system.  With a land-mass roughly comparable to that of the European continent, but with almost twice as many people (more than 1.2 billion – close to 18% of the global population), India’s economic growth rate trends at three times that of the United States.  It was, along with the People’s Republic of China and the United States, responsible for 80 percent of international economic growth in the early months of 2015, and is said to be the world’s fastest growing economy, already the world’s seventh largest economy (measured by Gross Domestic Product) or the third largest economy (by purchasing power parity).[1] 

Over 500 million laborers and their families – often beset by multiple forms of oppression interwoven with grinding poverty and the “routine” exploitation associated with the profit system – are at the heart of this dynamically growing capitalist economy.  Just as it played a vanguard role in overcoming the old colonial order that devastated a majority of the world’s peoples in the twentieth century, India may well play a central role in the wave of future revolutions that must occur if we have any hope of moving beyond the destructive dynamics of capital accumulation, although at this historical moment we seem very far from any such transformations.

“Revolutionary internationalism” is not really a charitable slogan, nor can it be properly understood as a slogan at all – it is a necessity for those who wish to understand and change the world.  The modest survey offered here is designed to provide some of the history of this massive and complex land, and some information on current realities there.  It will conclude with a focus on revolutionary currents existing in today’s India that are reaching for a socialist future.  There is much to be learned about such things that can have value for those struggling for a better world across the face of the Earth. 


In this essay, as we focus on India, we will touch on the dynamics of how history “works,” the strategic dynamics of revolutionary struggle, and the impact of capitalism in both advancing and thwarting liberation struggles – all of which have implications going far beyond Indian specifics.


Dialectics of Historical Development


More than any country on the planet, India is a land of uneven and combined development – an amazingly fluid and contradictory totality from its earliest beginnings, right down to its geographical specifics.  It is the largest piece of a vast South Asian “sub-continent,” with high mountain ranges, vast plains, deep river valleys, lush coastal areas, deserts and forests and jungles, and especially with a rich diversity of peoples and cultures.[2]


The Neolithic revolution, with the shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture, hit different parts of this subcontinent in different millennia, with transitions from Stone Age to Bronze Age to Iron Age unfolding at varying times in one place or another.  Adding to the amazing diversity were ongoing infusions and migrations of peoples, and periodic invasions and conquests – drawing new peoples and cultures into the mix. 


From its earliest history there was a panoramic succession of civilizations, kingdoms, empires, with various segments coming together into centralized entities to endure for a century or two or three, only to collapse and fragment.


“The sub-continent as we know it today never formed a single political or cultural unit in pre-modern times,” Perry Anderson has recently observed.  “For much the longest stretches of its history, its lands were divided between a varying assortment of middle-sized kingdoms, of different stripes” – one Buddhist, another Hindu, a third Muslim, separated from each other by intervals of 500 to 1000 years, and each occupying only sizeable chunks of what we now know as India (the very name coming from outside the country, from the ancient Greeks who used it in reference to peoples around and beyond the Indus River).  Variety is a hallmark even of conversation within India.  While there are four major language groups, the Indian Constitution identifies twenty-two officially recognized languages.  According to census data, in fact, there are 30 languages spoken by more than a million native speakers, with 122 spoken by more than 10,000.[3]

Economics of Civilization


Civilizations in India seem to follow a certain pattern that can be seen throughout the ancient world.  The wealth of society, and the underlying economic surplus, is produced by laboring majorities – mostly peasants, but also skilled workers (artisans and craftsmen) and less skilled laborers.  With the rise of civilizations, powerful minorities seek to exploit such labor and to use such wealth to develop society in ways that will enhance their own wealth and power.  


Long-ago histories of ancient civilizations sometimes extol the “wise” rulers who held their own greed in check.  If enough wealth can be kept by a majority of the people (those who labor), this stimulates economic diversification, generating the creation of greater wealth for society as a whole, coupled with improved living conditions and the encouragement of creativity, the development of the arts, science, technology, the development of public works and services (roads, bridges, canals, irrigation systems), creating more prosperity – all in an upward spiral.   This seems to have been the case under the early democracy of ancient Athens and the enlightened despotism of India’s Buddhist emperor Ashoka.[4]  Of course, the policies imposed by benevolent emperors seem ultimately and invariably to be undone by their successors.  


Students of history have traced what happens when the opposite trends develop, with more and more of the wealth being siphoned off by wealthy and powerful elites.  The laboring masses get less and less, while the powerful elites live increasingly lavish lifestyles, intent on displaying their power and importance with incredibly expensive monuments and palaces, expanding their power through increasing and expensive armies and conquests.  Deprived of resources thus diverted, public services diminish, economic development stagnates or declines (as do living conditions for the majority), the economic surplus produced by laboring majorities shrinks, and the consequence of diminishing wealth means that elaborate power structures of the greedy elites cannot be sustained, and so inevitably erode and collapse.


This pattern was repeated more than once in India.  But the collapse of empire does not always mean the collapse of all the gains of civilization, and as new power structures crystallize and grow, they benefit from the accumulation of previous cultural and technological development.  Layers of development-decline-residue-redevelopment built up over time to shape the complex reality that would become known as India.


A defining occurrence came with the influx of the Aryan peoples from the north and west – nomadic masses who kept herds of animals but without highly developed agriculture.  Their Vedic religion would be a major source in the crystallization, roughly 3500 years ago, for what we know as Hinduism.  This religious ideology included war-like gods, reflecting the importance of warriors in the Aryan culture.  There were class divisions, with priests and warriors at the top and, as usual, laborers being the great majority.  As the Aryans, in territories they entered, absorbed the agricultural patterns of the original inhabitants, the lower class became known as cultivators, and the conquered peoples came to be referred to more simply as toilers.[5]


These social layers evolved into what has become known as castes, a social hierarchy ordering marriage and social roles of those who occupy the different strata within it. The four major castes included Brahmins (priests, educated ones, sometimes rulers), Kshatriyas (warriors, sometimes rulers), Vaisyas (farmers, merchants, traders), and Sudras (toilers, servants, skilled and unskilled laborers, sometimes peasants).  Below this bottom category were layers of “outcastes” and “fallen ones” who might be called Chandalas or patitas; in modern times, they have been referred to as Dalits (untouchables, associated with what were considered impure occupations – cleaning streets, latrines, and sewers; garbage removal; contact with animal carcasses, whether as butchers or leather workers).[6] 


Economic and technological developments, as well as urbanization, generated the development of sub-castes within this general framework, incorporating new occupations – carpentry, metal smelting, spinning, weaving, dyeing, etc. Over time, as many as 3000 sub-castes would come into being.  Caste status became hereditary and increasingly rigid, subject to strict rules and prohibitions. 

Belief Systems and Material Realities


The caste system also became tightly integrated into the crystalizing belief system that came to be known as Hinduism.  In contrast to idealized and religiously dogmatic understandings that see a straight line from ancient older Vedic religion to more recent Hinduism, serious scholars find greater complexity and fluidity, with various converging currents and developments.  It is certainly the case that Hinduism is a religion that incorporated various regional and local deities, mystical narratives, holy belief systems, and cultural specifics into itself, with thousands of gods as manifestations of the Divine Spirit (although the Big Three would be Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva).  Infused with notions having to do with circles of life (reincarnation) and the impartial principle of moral cause and effect (karma: what you do now, in this life, will determine your future incarnation), Hinduism could for some provide a pathway to spiritual development but for many became a recipe for keeping people in line: if you are low-caste or untouchable, you should live harmoniously, obediently staying “in your place” in order to come back in a higher life-station – or otherwise come back in a far worse situation, even as a rodent or insect.[7]


Yet the growing complexity of social and economic development naturally generated an ongoing evolution of perceptions, ideas, and belief systems – often in sharp contradiction to those associated with early Hindu ideology.  New belief systems and religions crystallized, succinctly described in Chris Harman’s People’s History of the World:


The best known of these sects were to be the Jain followers of Mahavira and the Buddhist followers of Gautama.  They had certain points in common.  They opposed blood sacrifices and animal slaughter.  They counterposed ahimsa (non-killing) to warfare.  They rejected caste distinctions – their founders were not Brahmans.  They tended to stress the need for rational understanding of events and processes, in some cases dispensing with the old tales of godly adventures and exploits to such an extent as to border on materialism and atheism.[8]



In fact, despite widespread efforts to repress them, philosophically materialist orientations rejecting Vedic, Hindu and other religious belief systems were deeply rooted (associated with the labels Cārvāka, Lokāyata and Bṛhaspatya), and related to these secular approaches to reality, scientific inquiry flowered.  Absorbing and further developing scientific contributions of Greece and Rome, Indians effected a veritable revolution in mathematics, with the development of the decimal system, the concept of zero, the understanding of π, breakthroughs in geometry and trigonometry, and more.  Such developments were absorbed into the Arab world, thanks to ongoing trade with the Middle East, and this filtered into Europe especially in the wake of the Crusades, which eventually fed into the European Renaissance that inaugurated what some historians call “Modern History.”[9]


The common Hindu strategy of incorporating other belief systems into itself did result in the cooptation of various other religious challenges, although some Buddhists and Jains would continue to maintain their own distinctive orientations.  Yet for reasons deserving greater examination than is possible here, the dominant social structures and ideologies succeeded in preserving themselves and closing off promising paths of scientific and social development.  According to Harman, “what had been a region of rapid change and intellectual ferment for centuries became characterized, for close to 1,000 years, by inward looking villages, religious superstition, and fragmented, warring, parasitic kingdoms.”  Identifying the caste system with such stagnation, he adds: “One product was the fully formed system of a multitude of castes encountered by Muslim and European conquerors in the next millennium.”[10]


Harman’s reference to “Muslim and European conquerors,” it can be argued, is problematical.  One conquest is defined by religion, the other by geography.  Since the Europeans in question were predominantly Christian, why not refer to them as “Christian conquerors”?  More useful, however, would be to not allow the “other” conquerors’ religion to obscure their geography: we are identifying influxes or invasions from several different parts of the world.  Nehru notes that it was the British who referred to a “Moslem” period of Indian history, but that this actually involved a series of Afghan, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Mongol (or Mughal) interventions and infusions.  This brought cultural and technological innovations, generating greater economic surpluses (thereby intensifying struggles over who would secure the benefits of such surpluses).[11]     


The triumphant invasions – and the creation of the great Mughal empire – added a new layer to India’s development. This brought dynamic new influences, greater centralization, and (after unsuccessful efforts at forced Islamification) the compromises and adaptations with Hinduism and other aspects of indigenous culture that would be required for durable rule over vast stretches of India.  Over time, and more organically, varieties of Islam also became rooted and influential among the Indian peoples.  Also becoming part of the mix was the development of new religious perspectives, such as Sikhism (proclaiming “there is no Hindu, there is no Muslim, there is only one Creator, the uncaused Cause of all”), and the later appearance of small groups of Christians – drawn to the teachings of missionaries from the West.[12]        


Yet in Western Europe, something that, materially, was far more transformative than Christianity would soon have a explosive impact on India, and the entire world – the development of the most dynamic form of economy in human history: capitalism.  Karl Marx, in the Communist Manifesto of 1848, had emphasized the revolutionary role played by this new mode of production – capitalism – in the destruction of European feudalism. Five years later he predicted a similar scenario for India.  There is a debate among Marxist scholars here.  For a long time, Marxists associated with the Communist Party, including in India, following a rigid schema, superimposed on all human history:


primitive communism --> ancient slave civilizations--> feudalism--> capitalism.

Many historians have more recently insisted that despite the existence of landed elites and peasant masses, “feudalism” as manifested in Europe did not exist in India; there are indications that Marx would have agreed with this, which is why he spoke of an “Asiatic mode of production” inconsistent with the development schema through which much of Europe’s history can be understood.  Some refer more simply to a tributary society or a tributary mode of production.  Eric Wolf and those following him use such terminology to refer to all non-capitalist economies which have evolved beyond kinship-based cooperative societies, and which instead involve predominantly agricultural producers of economic surplus who have that surplus taken from them, through political means, by powerful minorities.  This process takes place across continents (and even European feudalism could be termed a tributary society). Samir Amin and those following him – seeming to reach for a more satisfactory formulation of what Marx termed “Asiatic mode of production” – see a centralized state as the entity that extracts surplus from laboring majorities (largely through some form of taxation), using the new “tributary” term to specify that.[13] 


Regardless of terminological questions, in civilizations arising in India (as is the case with civilizations in general), we see history taking the form of powerful minorities extracting economic surplus from laboring majorities.  And the fact remains that the development of capitalism on the sub-continent did not arise organically within those civilizations.  Instead, this took place thanks to India’s absorption into the British Empire, which in turn would (as Marx put it) “dissolve the hereditary divisions of labor, upon which rest the Indian castes, those decisive impediments to Indian progress and Indian power.”  Yet Marx saw no automatic progress for the Indian peoples in all of this.  “There cannot remain any doubt,” he wrote, “but that the misery inflicted by the British on Hindustan [India] is of an essentially different and infinitely more intensive kind than all Hindustan had to suffer before.”  Surveying “all the civil wars, invasions, revolutions, conquests, famines,” in pre-colonial/pre-capitalist India, and acknowledging “strangely complex, rapid and destructive” aspects to be found in the earlier catastrophes, Marx nonetheless identified something qualitatively new and pernicious that capitalism would introduce for the quality of life experienced by the vast laboring majorities – the degradation and devastation of the traditional village economies.[14] 


At the same time, the dramatic and devastating transformation of material realities would help to generate dramatic alterations in the realms of ideology and consciousness.


Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism


It had been the historical “changing mosaic of mostly regional rulers” (as Anderson aptly puts it) that facilitated the invasion and growing dominance of foreign capital.  Britain’s East India Company tentatively inserted its nose, tongue and fingers into the Indian polity in the 1600s, but within a hundred years it was able to push through with both hands and arms, head and torso, legs and feet.  Nor did it stop with that – in harness with the British government, playing various fragments of the Indian elites against others, manipulating generally quite willing Indian princes, making and breaking deals, it brought more and more of India under its domination.  “India’s segmented society and denationalized governments did not constitute a serious challenge to the British,” explains Indian historian B. B. Misra.  “Indian troops conquered the country for the British.” The East India Company’s expensive corruptions, over-reach and mismanagement set the context within which there arose the extensive and bloody uprisings of 1857, which generated far bloodier reprisals by British military forces.  The British government re-established the “order” of British domination by taking ownership and control of India into its own hands.  India would become “the brightest jewel in the crown of the British Empire,” in the words of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, as he moved to make Queen Victoria “Empress of India” in 1877.[15] 


While British troops were essential for this conquest, the buying up and utilization of Indians in the British Empire’s military forces (over 200,000) and police forces (150,000 by the 1880s) was no less essential.  As Anderson has stressed, “if the British could gain and keep a firm grip on such a vast land-mass, it was because they could count on its multiple fragmentations – ethnic, linguistic, dynastic, social, confessional [religious].”  Other forms of collaboration were no less essential.  Two-fifths of India’s territory, with 20 percent of its population, was left in the hands of princes, mostly Hindu, consistently patronized and scrutinized by the British overlords.  The rest was under direct British rule, but here landlords (Hindu and Muslim) “were beneficiaries of the colonial regime, not a few having originally acquired their properties through its good offices, and all enjoying its protection in their exploitation of tenants and laborers beneath them.”  The consequences for millions of Indians would be fatal.  Historian Mike Davis has noted that between 1875 and 1902, famines caused death by starvation for 12.2 to 29.3 million people, while in the same period Britain continued to export food from India.[16]  Of course, the British imperialists had no desire to exterminate the Indian peoples, whose living labor was seen as a resource for profitable exploitation – the unfortunate exterminations taking place can be chalked up only as “collateral damage” in the expansion of the global capitalist order.


The capitalist dynamics that drove Britain forward to penetrate and then dominate India are unique among economic systems and empires in human history. 


“The ancient economic organization of the Indians – the communist village community – had persisted in its various forms for millennia and had undergone a long, internal history, despite the political storms that had raged in the ‘lands of the clouds,’” Rosa Luxemburg wrote in her classic The Accumulation of Capital (1913).  Viewing the persistence of the peasant village economy over the course of multiple pre-colonial transformations, she commented: “Then came the British, and the blight of capitalist civilization accomplished in a short time what millennia, and the sword of the Mughals, had failed to achieve, namely the complete destruction of the entire social organization of the people.”  While modern research suggests greater complexity in India’s pre-colonial peasant villages over the millennia, it also corroborates Luxemburg’s description of the destructive impact of the capital accumulation process.[17]    


Describing how British imperialism first “artificially created a landed aristocracy in India at the expense of the ancient property rights of the peasant communities,” and then moved to “protect the peasants from these oppressors and to bring this ‘illegally usurped land’ into the possession of British capitalists,” Luxemburg observed that “the British were the first conquerors of India to show a gross indifference toward the works of civilization that formed its public utilities and economic infrastructure.”[18] 


This was quite natural for capitalism, given “the ravenous greed, the voracious appetite for accumulation, the very essence of which is to take advantage of each new political and economic conjuncture with no thought for tomorrow, [which] precludes any appreciation of the value of the works of economic infrastructure that have been left by previous civilizations.”[19]   


In a similar vein, Lenin had observed as early as 1908 that “there is no end to the acts of violence and plunder which goes under the name of the British system of government in India,” generating “abject mass poverty, such chronic starvation among the people.”  He observed that “the most Liberal and Radical personalities of free Britain . . . become regular Genghis Khans when appointed to govern India, and are capable of sanctioning every means of ‘pacifying’ the population in their charge.” 


Approvingly pointing to the British working-class socialist Keir Hardie, who visited India to agitate for people’s “most elementary democratic demands,” Lenin commented that “the whole British bourgeois press raised a howl against this ‘rebel.’”  He concluded “there can be no doubt that the age-old plunder of India by the British, and the contemporary struggle of all these ‘advanced’ Europeans against Persian and Indian democracy, will steel millions, tens of millions of proletarians in Asia to wage a struggle against their oppressors,” adding “the class-conscious European worker now has comrades in Asia, and their number will grow by leaps and bounds.[20]


Modern Revolutionary Struggle


“The British became dominant in India, and the foremost power in the world,” as Jawaharlal Nehru has pointed out, “because they were the heralds of the new big-machine industrial civilization.” These capitalists advanced a transformative mode of production and complex of technologies, and also brought into being (both with the modern working class and masses of exploited colonial peoples) what “represented a new historic force which was going to change the world, and were thus, unknown to themselves, the forerunners of change and revolution,” according to Nehru, who added: “And yet they deliberately tried to prevent change, except in so far as this was necessary to consolidate their position and help them in exploiting the country and its people to their own advantage.”  The influx of ideas from Europe provided tools for many of the Indians who now sought to liberate their land from imperialism’s grasp.  The language of civil liberties, democratic rights, nationhood and national self-determination – and in some cases the vocabulary of anti-imperialism and socialism – entered into the conceptualizations and rhetoric of Indian freedom fighters.[21]


The central force in India’s liberation struggle came to be the Indian National Congress, formed in 1885, by 1914 having established itself as a permanent and significant element in Indian national life.  Initially, as Nehru commented, it was largely made up of representatives of India’s “new professional classes” – whom he described as “English-educated classes in the subordinate services and the learned professions, both looking to the British power for advancement and both influenced in varying degrees by western thought.”  There was also the small but growing sector of Indian businessmen – initially “merchants who were really middlemen of British trade and industry, profiting by the leavings of that industry.”  But soon some began investing in manufacturing as well.  Among these sectors there “grew up a spirit of revolt against the rigid conventions and social framework of Hindu society.  They looked to English liberalism and institutions for inspiration.”  As time went on, “a new type of leadership appeared, more aggressive and defiant and representing the much larger numbers of the lower middle classes as well as students and young men,” influenced by the Irish and Russian revolutionaries who had no interest in compromising with the oppressive powers-that-be, but instead were dedicated to overthrowing them.[22]


Missing from Congress, at this point, were the masses of the Indian people. Nehru conveys mixed impressions of early twentieth-century peasants.  “The peasant starved, yet centuries of an unequal struggle against his environment had taught him to endure, and even in poverty and starvation he had a certain calm dignity, a feeling of submission to an all-powerful fate.”  Yet Nehru also sensed that the dignity could give way to something else.  “The peasantry were servile and fear-ridden; the industrial workers were no better,” he remembered.  “I remember visiting some of these slums of industrial workers, gasping for breath there, and coming out dazed and full of horror and anger.  I remember also going down a coal mine of Jharia and seeing the conditions in which our womenfolk worked there.  I can never forget that picture or the shock that came to me that human beings should labor thus.”[23]


Such people as these responded to Mohandas Gandhi at the dawn of the twentieth century’s second decade.  They identified with his rejection of the “Westernization” that had separated nationalist intellectuals from the masses, and with his embrace of a spirituality and simplicity that were deeply rooted in India’s popular cultures.  He believed that mass consciousness (linked to personal consciousness) and mass mobilizations (linked to personal action) would be keys to liberation.[24]  Nehru recalled:


He was like a powerful current of fresh air that made us stretch ourselves and take deep breaths; like a beam of light that pierced the darkness and removed the scales from our eyes; like a whirlwind that upset many things, but most of all the working of people’s minds.  He did not descend from the top; he seemed to emerge from the millions of India, speaking their language and incessantly drawing attention to them and their appalling condition.  Get off the backs of these peasants and workers, he told us, all you who live by their exploitation; get rid of the system that produces this poverty and misery.  Political freedom took new shape then and acquired a new content.  Much that he said we only partially accepted or sometimes did not accept at all.  But that was secondary.  The essence of his teaching was fearlessness and truth, and action allied to these, always keeping the welfare of the masses in view. . . .  Gandhi was an odd kind of pacifist, for he was an activist full of dynamic energy.  There was no submission in him to fate or anything he considered evil; he was full of resistance, though this was peaceful and courteous.[25]



Gandhi’s influence transformed Congress. He had greater clarity than most about the centrality of mass action, and he demonstrated the ability to carry out mobilizations in 1919-21, 1930-31, and 1942-43 (each more massive than the last). 


There were others in the independence movement who were further to the left than Gandhi, and not inclined to accept his doctrine of non-violence.  One was the early Communist M. N. Roy, “along with Gandhi one of the two most original and significant political thinkers in India in the twentieth century,” according to historian Kunal Chattopadhyay.  Roy’s efforts to explain Bolshevism elicited Gandhi’s outright rejection.  “Insofar as it is based on violence and a denial of god, it repels me,” the Mahatma responded.  “I am an uncompromising opponent of violent methods even to serve the noblest of causes.”  Gandhi asserted: “I desire to end capitalism almost if not quite as much as the most advanced socialist or even communist.  But our methods differ, our languages differ.”[26]


Far more popular than Roy, and for a time rivaling even Gandhi, was the youthful revolutionary romantic Bhaghat Singh – a brilliant intellectual and writer, blending a heady mix of Marxist, anarchist, and other radical influences – who sought to forge links between the national struggle and the class struggle.  He was involved in an assassination of a British official to avenge the killing by British authorities, during a nonviolent protest, of the elderly and highly esteemed Lala Rajpat Rai.  For this Singh himself became a martyr at the age of 23 in 1931.  The director of British intelligence commented that Singh’s “photograph was on sale in every city and township and for a time rivaled in popularity even that of Mr. Gandhi himself.”[27] 


But Gandhi had more staying power.  As Perry Anderson emphasizes, Gandhi was “a first-class organizer and fund-raiser – diligent, efficient, meticulous – who rebuilt Congress from top to bottom,” with an effective organizational structure ensuring national cohesion, “not to speak of an ample treasury.”  Some of Singh’s followers ended up in the Communist Party of India, and others helped form the Revolutionary Socialist Party – but neither of these came close, in size and influence, to Congress under Gandhi, which contained an incredibly diverse range of social and political forces.  Within Congress’s broad tent, there was a significant formation called the Congress Socialist Party, “combining Marxists, Fabians, and other socialistically inclined Congress members,” as Soma Marik describes it, although Gandhi proved quite adept at helping to contain their influence.[28] 


Largely under Gandhi’s leadership – although with substantial input from others – the Indian National Congress spearheaded a national liberation struggle that finally brought an end to the British colonial domination of India.


Strategy for Independence


The common “understanding” of the Indian independence struggle is incoherent – perceived either as “a mere conglomeration of different struggles,” or simply as the manifestation of Gandhi’s “principles such as non-violence,” but “without an overall strategy,” as historian Bipan Chandra has put it.  That would have proved incapable of freeing India from colonial oppression.  As Chandra indicates, that triumph would have been impossible without a clear analysis of the situation in colonial India and without a sophisticated and multi-faceted strategy on how to get from the oppressive “here” to the hoped-for “there.”  He concludes that the strategic orientation of the national movement under Gandhi’s leadership “has a certain significance in world history comparable to that of the British, French, Russian, Chinese, Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions.”  In his theorizations of Indian nationalist revolutionary strategy Chandra makes use of Marxist conceptualizations developed by Antonio Gramsci, and he adds, intriguingly, that “India’s is the only actual historical example of a semi-democratic or democratic type of state structure being replaced or transformed.”[29]


            This brings us to the analysis of the situation, which saw that while repressive and violent force was decisive in maintaining British power, an essential element involved the acquiescence of the Indian population – maintained through “certain rules of law and codes of administration” interlarded with possibilities of self-expression, participation, and advancement for major sectors of the population.  The British colonial regime maintained a “legal authoritarianism” that – “semi-democratic, semi-authoritarian” – sought to promote beliefs that (a) British colonialism was benevolently helping to “modernize” India, (b) that “the Indian people were too weak and disunited to oppose them successfully,” and (c) that the colonial regime was invincible and “would crush all opposition except to the extent that they permitted it,” this phrase we have italicized referring to “semi-democratic” policies with which the British colonial rulers sought to buttress their domination of India.  (Chandra stresses that the specific Gandhian-nationalist strategy might not have been effective in different contexts, such as those in which authoritarian violence was not limited by any legal or other constraints.)[30]


            In the face of this, a basic strategic perspective was developed to “struggle for the minds and hearts of men and women so that nationalist influence would continuously grow among the people through different channels and through different phases and stages of the national movement.”  Geared not to reform the colonial regime but to overthrow it, this strategic perspective alternated between illegal actions and phases of functioning within the legal structures maintained by colonial regime.[31]  The strategic perspective was animated by four basic objectives: 1) bring the masses of people “into active politics and political action”; 2) “erode the hegemony or ideological influence of the colonial rulers inch by inch in every area of life”; 3) “undermine the hold of the colonial state on the members of its own state apparatuses”; and 4) “constantly expand the semi-democratic political space, and to prevent the colonial authorities from limiting the existing space, within which legal activities and peaceful mass struggles could be organized.”[32] 


            A major aspect of the strategy was “the long-drawn out character of the hegemonic struggle” which Chandra describes as “Struggle-Truce-Struggle” (S-T-S).  An intensely active period of “vigorous confrontation with colonial authority” (marked by mass actions and civil disobedience) which, after political concessions were secured, would be followed by a longer and – in some ways – more passive period within which, however, “intense political and ideological work was carried on among the masses” in part to build consciousness about the inadequacy of the reforms that were won, leading to another upsurge of active struggle with the authorities.  The so-called “passive” periods included “extensive tours by leaders, organization of public meetings on an extensive scale, and the organization of workers, peasants and students and youth and their struggles, mostly by the left-wing, during the late 1920s and the 1930s.”  The dynamic was “an upward spiraling one,” with both phases of the movement utilized “to undermine colonial hegemony, to recruit and train nationalist workers, and to build up the people’s capacity to struggle,” and with each stage representing “an advance over the previous one.”  Any reforms won were not seen as helping the colonial system to work better, but to undermine it and bring it down.[33] 


            Noting that “the political struggle was perpetual, only its forms underwent change,” Chandra emphasizes, at the same time, the need for the two phases:


The nationalist strategy, under Gandhiji’s leadership, was based on the assumptions that by its very nature a mass movement could not be carried on or sustained indefinitely or for a prolonged period, that a mass movement must ebb sooner or later, that mass movements had to be short lived, and that periods of rest and consolidation, of ‘breathing time,’ must intervene so that the movement could consolidate, recuperate and gather strength for the next round of struggle.


Seeking to “increase the people’s capacity to sacrifice and face colonial repression through ideological work,” the nationalist leadership “recognized the limits of their capacity to suffer,” and it “also based its tactics on the fact that the colonial state was not yet . . . in disarray,” but still had “considerable capacity to crush a movement,” which also dictated the need for the movement not to reach beyond its current strength.[34]


            Another element in the strategic perspective involved an understanding of the different components that are essential elements of any revolutionary movement.  Along with the commitment to building a mass movement, there was an understanding that “a mass movement needed a ‘standing army’ or ‘steel frame’ of wholetime political workers” – what are sometimes referred to as cadres, those who have the political understanding and the organizational skills required for “organizing and mobilizing the masses.”  Chandra notes that “the national movement produced thousands of these wholetime workers who devoted their entire lives to the freedom struggle.”  Yet the movement’s “real striking power could come only from the masses.”[35] 


            This crucial point – the absolute necessity of mass action – was related to a central tactical precept (and for Gandhi, a central moral precept) of the movement: “he adoption of non-violent forms of struggle enabled the participation of the mass of the people who could not have participated in a similar manner in a movement that adopted violent forms.”  In addition, “non-violence as a form of struggle and political behavior was also linked to the semi-hegemonic, semi-authoritarian character of the colonial state and the democratic polity in Britain.”  The non-violent breaking of British colonial laws would either generate violent force on the part of the authorities (causing them to be seen as brutish), or would result in their inability to enforce their own laws.  Either way, the nationalist movement would win – “the hegemony of colonial rule or its moral basis was destroyed bit by bit.”[36] 


In contrast, the resort to revolutionary violence would provide a justification for the government in “launching a massive attack on the popular movement,” with a consequent “heavy repression, it was believed, [that] would demoralize the people and lead to political passivity.”  It was believed that “mass movements in which millions participate . . . have to be, by their very nature, non-violent.”  Chandra concludes that even if the non-violent mass struggles were suppressed, repressed, compelled to compromise, or “defeated in terms of their stated objectives of winning freedom,” the fact remained that in terms of undermining the hegemony of the colonial power and building up the hegemony of the national struggle, such efforts constituted “great successes, and marked leaps in mass political consciousness.”[37]     


Although he withdrew from the formal leadership of Congress in 1934, Gandhi had helped set the stage for its becoming a powerful electoral force when the 1935 Government of India Act offered limited self-rule, for India, while keeping it within the Empire.  Nehru and his party took advantage of the new opportunity.   The membership of Congress soared from 470,000 in 1935 to 4.5 million by 1938, as it ran and won election campaigns, with 8 out of 11 provinces coming under Congress rule.  This gave immense authority to the independence struggle.  The Second World War “intervened,” along with the massive civil disobedience campaign designed to compel Britain to “Quit India!” — in some ways interrupting and in other ways accelerating the independence process.[38] 


“British rule was more thoroughly discredited than ever in the eyes of the Indians,” according to one Indian journalist on the scene, who added that “psychologically they had begun to look upon their struggle against Britain as a contest in which they were sure to win.”  While 37,000 Congress members and supporters languished in prison, British authority sank even further for demonstrating utter inefficiency in allowing war-time food shortages to escalate into a full-scale famine in Bengal during 1943-44.  Almost five million people starved to death, with many millions more crippled by malnutrition.  Some Indians were rallying to an anti-colonialist Indian National Army in Japanese-occupied Burma, viewed as heroes by many in their homeland.  And in the war’s immediate aftermath, the Communist Party of India was making visible gains in trade unions and peasants organizations, as well as electorally, and seemed well on its way to becoming a force to be reckoned with.  The conclusion of World War II saw an upsurge in which radical nationalists, Socialists, Communists, and Trotskyists played vital roles in struggles of youth, workers, peasants, and even some military forces.[39]


Giving way to Congress appeared to be the best option to increasing numbers of British policy-makers.  Two years after the conclusion of the Second World War, independence was finally grasped. 


And yet there were contradictory qualities afflicting Gandhi and Congress – one having to do with religion, the other with economics.  Together they undermined much of the promise of the triumphant revolution. 


Although Gandhi’s religion was crafted by the man himself – including aspects of Jain-influenced Hinduism and elements of Tolstoyan Christianity – he believed in it sincerely and deeply, seeing it as the core of all he did in the realm of politics.  In many ways open, inclusive, and tolerant, it was also marked by certain rigidities and a cultural narrowness.  This was true of matters having to do with gender, sex and sexuality, but even more crucially in the way Gandhi defined India’s struggle for independence.  Despite his sincere desire to have the Congress-led nationalist struggle seen as all-inclusive, for Gandhi (as Perry Anderson notes) “Hinduism was indigenous to the subcontinent and peculiar to it,” while in his mind “Islam was neither,” and this sensibility inevitably colored much of what he said and did, grating against the sensibilities of colonial India’s substantial Muslim population.  Congress proved unable to “bring itself to confront its composition as an overwhelmingly Hindu party, and accept the need for generous arrangements with the Muslim party that had emerged opposite it, dropping the fiction that it represented the entire nation.”  The result was that a great many of India’s Muslims rejected Congress, formed their own organizations and struggles, and called for their own Muslim country – all fiercely opposed by Gandhi and his co-thinkers.[40]         


This contributed to a terrible catastrophe.  In 1947, a hasty British pull-out was yoked to the last-minute partition into separate Muslim and Hindu countries, Pakistan and India, with millions of people suddenly caught in “the wrong place.” The result was a horrific tidal-wave of popular violence in which masses of people slaughtered each other at the dawn of independence, with a death-toll of perhaps one million men, women, and children, the rape of more than 75,000 women, and the devastating displacement of more than 10 million people (some still living in refugee camps or precarious conditions more than six decades later).  The sizeable Muslim remnant inside India has, to a large extent, endured in second-class citizenship.[41]  At the same time, India and Pakistan have remained in a state of armed hostility and border disputes, sometimes bursting into military conflict, ethnic violence and terrorism, with added tension flowing from the acquisition of nuclear weapons by both sides.


And then there was the question of socialism.  An immensely popular leader of Congress’s left wing, Jawaharlal Nehru (being groomed as the future leader of Congress), had unambiguously explained the link between socialism and independence in addressing India’s Trade Union Congress in 1929:


It is the system that is wrong, the system that is based on the exploitation of the few and the prostitution of labor . . . which is the natural outcome of capitalism and imperialism and if you would do away with the system you will have to root out both capitalism and imperialism and substitute a saner, healthier order. . . . It will not profit you much if there is a change in your masters and your miseries continue.  You will not rejoice if a handful of Indians become high officers of the State or draw bigger dividends, and your miserable conditions remain. . . . You want a living wage and not a dying wage. [42]



In 1937 he insisted that “the only key to the solution of the world's problems and of India’s problems is socialism,” emphasizing: “I see no way of ending the poverty, the vast unemployment, the degradation and the subjection of the Indian people except through socialism.  That involves vast and revolutionary changes in our political and social structure, the ending of vested interests in land and industry, as well as the feudal and autocratic Indian states system.”  In later years Nehru emphasized more than once that genuine democracy and genuine socialism are inseparably linked.  On the one hand, “even a complete nationalization (so-called) of industry unaccompanied by political democracy will only lead to a different kind of exploitation, for while industry will then belong to the state, the state itself will not belong to the people.”  On the other hand: “If there is economic inequality in the country, all the political democracy and all the adult suffrage in the world cannot bring about real democracy.”[43]  


Although Gandhi was Nehru’s mentor, this was not part of his doctrine.  As critic Randhir Singh later noted, “Gandhi’s political theory and practice (non-violence, trusteeship, satyagraha, etc.) had no room at all for any genuine economic structural change.”  According to biographer Bikhu Parekh, Gandhi believed “a society’s wealth consisted in the character of its members, not in the quantity of its material objects, and the purpose of its economic arrangements should be to create the necessary economic basis of the good life.”  While his economic thought was vague, Gandhi reached for what he called trusteeship, in which, as his biographer has explained, “a rich man was allowed to retain his property, but was expected to hold his wealth and personal talents in trust and to use them for the service of society.”  The biographer adds: “Gandhi conceded that such a voluntary form of socialism or ‘renunciation’ was rare, and that only one of his many capitalist friends had come close to it.”  Policies based on genuine socialist perspectives, on the other hand, were quite unacceptable to wealthy Indian entrepreneurs – particularly the Birla family and others like them, ardent nationalists in Congress, strong supporters and good friends of Gandhi.  It was similarly unacceptable to other key Congress figures, and to Gandhi as well.  Nehru was given a choice.  He could hold on to his socialist views, by all means, but not try to lead Congress into socialist direction, and then he could soon become the leader of Congress.  Or, if committed to an actual struggle for socialism, he could split from Congress and from Gandhi, and move to the margins.  Nehru gave in.[44]  


Dilemmas of Independence


Independence was finally won, with Congress at the helm and the eloquent, compromised Nehru as the liberated country’s first Prime Minister.  While Nehru may have been keenly aware of limitations inherent in liberation as designed by Gandhi, the way things turned out seem to have been a revelation to Gandhi himself.  Shortly before his death he confessed: “I do not understand how all these terrible things are happening in our country . . . What mistakes have we made, for we must have made mistakes?  Otherwise how could all these things happen?”[45]


Aging Marxist critic Randhir Singh, one of Gandhi’s contemporaries, looked back on it all and reflected that “we know of Gandhi’s love and concern for the Indian people which to him meant, above all, the impoverished peasantry of India – ‘the semi-starved masses – slowly sinking into lifelessness’ as he once put it – a love and concern (rather paternal in nature, always fearful of people straying from the ‘right’ path) which was possibly the most distinguishing feature of Gandhi’s social philosophy.”  Gandhi’s vision was that the peasant would be empowered in the liberated country, “yet it was not Gandhi’s peasant but a Birla who inherited India in 1947, along with, of course, communal violence [between Hindu and Muslin], the partition, and much else that Gandhi did not want.”[46]   


“Democratic” India – deeply flawed in ways that Nehru had once warned about – employed socialist rhetoric to fashion policies that, in fact, crafted what the Marxist Singh termed “a state-supported India-specific capitalism,” enjoying significant modernization for some and a “significant degree of economic growth,” but with “nothing much in it for the common Indian people.”  This corresponded to the perceptions of others as well.  “Our economy and social structure have outlived their day and it has become a matter or urgent necessity for us to refashion them so that they may promote the happiness of all our people in things material and spiritual,” Nehru complained in 1952.  “We must aim at a classless society based on co-operative effort, and opportunities for all.”[47]  But there was no way for Nehru’s India to achieve that. 


Sympathetic historian Stanley Wolpert has observed that urban growth has been accompanied by the fact that “three-quarters of Kolkata’s families live in single-room squalor or unsheltered out of doors, without running water or adequate lavatory facilities.  Yet it is the first Indian city to have expended a fortune on a mile of modern subway, in the best part of its posh Fort district.”  He adds that “every major city of India faces the same proliferating problems: inadequate housing, transport, sewerage, water, schools, and hospitals,” and that “India’s democracy . . . [has been] subject to private pressures and purchases, favoritism and nepotism, bossism and corruption of very political variety.”[48]


A recent report specifies realities that would have horrified Gandhi and Nehru, occurring as they do over half a century after the triumphant independence struggle to which they had devoted their lives:


The Indian state has a unique co-existence of contradictions as the prevalent government practices do not reflect the values enshrined in the Constitution.  The widespread discontentment among the people belonging to varied castes, sub-castes, tribes, regions, religion and gender reiterates this fact.  The state is increasingly gaining an image of the perpetrator of violence for withholding the justifiable demands of its citizens.


The growth of the Indian economy following the liberalization [the neoliberal economic turn] in 1991, has been at the cost of marginalization, exclusion and the expropriation of a vast section of the society.  Industrialisation required access to land and natural resources, which were seized by expropriating the actual rights holders. . . . The state collaborated with private parties to perpetuate further violence upon its populace.  The ruthless treatment of workers in the manufacturing and construction industries further reveals the lack of humanity, an intrinsic element of capitalism in a neo-liberal regime.  The state abandoned its regulator role and allowed capital to maximize profit by the exploitation of labor.[49]



We must explore elsewhere and in greater detail the remarkable developments and dilemmas of modern-day India, which – in a manner fully consistent with the dynamics of “uneven and combined development” – have made that country a central component of the global capitalist order.[50] 


Also worth examining is the rise and development of the force that was closest to providing a revolutionary alternative to the Congress mainstream, the Communist Party of India.  As it turned out, the CPI proved quite unable to surpass Congress’s influence in the struggle for independence, or – related to this – to provide a consistent revolutionary leadership.  Such explorations can provide a framework for comprehending the complexities of the revolutionary left in India today, which may open up future possibilities. 


In all of this, we will find illuminating peculiarities to match those suggested in this survey of India’s history.  Comprehending such current realities, as well as present-day struggles of India’s revolutionary activists, will provide rich insights for those in all countries who hope to create a world of the free and the equal.    


[1] “Economy of India,” Wikipedia,; Ankit Panda, “IMF: India Will Be Fastest Growing Major Economy by 2016,” The Diplomat, January 21, 2015,; “World GDP,” The Economist, June 13, 2015  (all accessed 13/07/2015).

[2] Much of the background information for this summary history is drawn from Stanley Wolpert, India, Fourth Edition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), a valuable introductory text.

[3] Perry Anderson, The Indian Ideology (London: Verso, 2013), 10 11; “Languages of India,” Wikipedia, (accessed 13/07/2015).

[4] On ancient Athens, see R. K. Sinclair, Democracy and Participation in Athens (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), and Ellen Meiksins Wood, Peasant-Citizen and Slave: The Foundations of Athenian Democracy (London: Verso, 1997).  On Ashoka, see Wolpert, 35-36; Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India (New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, 1999), 132-135; D. D. Kosambi, An Introduction to the Study of Indian History (Bombay: Popular Book Depot, 1956), 188-199.  Book-length studies can be found in Romila Thapar, Ashoka and the Decline of the Mauryas, Revised Edition (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1997) and Nayanjot Lahiri, Ashoka in Ancient India (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 2015).

[5] Wolpert, 27-29.  Also see Nehru, 245-248, 250-256, Kosambi, 75-135, Kumar Goshal, The People of India (New York: Sheridan House, 1944), 17-20.

[6] Wolpert, 111-121.  Also see Kosambi, 91-96, 237-243, Goshal, The People of India, 55-57, and Irfan Habib, “Caste in Indian History,” Essays in Indian History, Towards a Marxist Perception (London: Anthem Press, 2002), 161-179.

[7] Wolpert, 68-77, 79-80; Kumkum Roy, Kunal Chakrabarti, Tanika Sarkar, The Vedas, Hinduism, Hindutva (Kolkata: Heinrich Boll Foundation and Ebong Alap, 2005); Kunal Chattopadhyay, “In Defense of Secularism,” Economic and Political Weekly, February 4, 2006, 405-407.

[8] Chris Harman, A People’s History of the World, From the Stone Age to the New Millennium (London: Verso, 2008), 50-51; on Buddhism and Jainism, also see Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya, Indian Philosophy: A Popular Introduction (New Delhi: People's Publishing House, 1972), 122-159.

[9] Wolpert, 182-183; Nehru, 115-117, 216-221; Harman, 52; Chattopadhyaya, 101-105, 185-199. 

[10] Harman, 52-53. 

[11] Nehru, 237-245; Wolpert, 38-43; Habib, “Forms of Class Struggle in Mughal India” and “The Economic History of Medieval India: A Survey,” Essays in Indian History, 233-258, 367-409.

[12] Wolpert, 68-109; Goshal, The People of India,18-19, 58-59; Kosambi, 340-343.

[13] For an invaluable, wide-ranging anthology on the “Asiatic mode of production,” see Anne M. Bailey and Josep R. Llobera, eds., The Asiatic Mode of Production, Science and Politics (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981).  For different approaches regarding the concept of “tributary mode of production,” see Samir Amin, Unequal Development (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1980), Eric R. Wolf, Europe and the People Without History (University of California Press, 1982), John Haldon, The State and the Tributary Mode of Production (London: Verso, 1994), Irfan Habib, “Processes of Accumulation in Pre-Colonial and Colonial India,” in Essays in Indian History, 259-295, and Neil Davidson, “Asiatic, Tributary, or Absolutist?” in We Cannot Escape History: States and Revolutions (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2015), 57-66.

[14] Marx cited in R. Palme Dutt, India Today (London: Victor Gollancz, 1940), 97; Karl Marx, “The Future Results of British Rule in India” (1853), Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 12 (New York: International Publishers, 1979), 217.  This and much more of relevance can be found in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, On Colonialism (New York: International Publishers, 1972).  Also see Habib, “Marx’s Perception of India,” Essays in Indian History, 14-58.

[15] Anderson, 10, 11; Denis Judd, The Lion and the Tiger: The Rise and Fall of the British Raj, 1600-1947 (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2004), 94.  See also Goshal, The People of India, 71- 146, and Kunal Chattopadhyay, “India, Great Rebellion of 1857 (the Sepoy Revolt),” in Immanuel Ness et al, ed., The International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, 1500 to the Present (Malden, MA and Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), Volume IV, 1685-1692.

[16] Anderson, 11-12, 14; Davis cited in Arundhati Roy, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to the Grasshoppers, new edition (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2015), 162, but also see Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts (London: Verso, 2000), 25-58, 159-175, 311-340.

[17] Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital, in The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg, Vol. II, ed. by Peter Hudis and Paul Le Blanc (London: Verso, 2015), 267-268. See Nehru, 303-304, but also Habib, “Social Distribution of Landed Property in Pre-British India” and “The Peasant in Indian History” in Essays in Indian History, 59-160.

[18] Luxemburg, 269-270.

[19] Ibid., 270.

[20] V. I. Lenin, “Flammable Material in World Politics,” Collected Works, Volume 15 (Moscow: Progress

Publishers, 1973), 182-188.

[21] Nehru, 312, 313, 319; Barbara D. Metcalf and Thomas R. Metcalf, A Concise History of Modern India, Third Edition (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 114-120.

[22] Judith M. Brown, Modern India: The Origins of and Asian Democracy, Second Edition (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1994), 173, 183, 184, 188, 189; Metcalf, 136-137; Nehru, 319-320, 353.  See also Anderson, 14-15.

[23] Nehru, 356-357.

[24] See Joan V. Bondurant, The Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict, new revised edition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), and M. K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha) (New York: Schocken Books, 1961).  For a critical, informative account, see Kunal Chattopadhyay, “Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand (1869-1948),” International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, 1500 to the Present, Volume III, 1324-1332.

[25] Nehru, 358, 360

[26] Kunal Chattopadhyay, “Roy, Manabendra Nath (1887-1954),” International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, Vol. VI, 2876; Sibnarayan Ray, In Freedom’s Quest: A Study of the Life and Works of M. N. Roy, Volume II: The Comintern Years, 1922-27 (Kolkata: Minerva Associates, 2002), 111-112; Bhikhu Parekh, Gandhi (New York: Sterling, 2010), 130.

[27] “Bhagat Singh,” Wikipedia, (accessed 20 July 215); Kunal Chattopadhyay, “Bhagat Singh,” in International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, Vol. VI, 3041-3042; Soma Marik, “Indian National Liberation,” International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, Vol. IV, 1710;

[28] Anderson, 17; Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukerjee, Aditya Mukerjee, Sucheta Mahajan, K.N. Panikkar, India’s Struggle for Independence (London: Penguin Books, 1989), 296-310.

[29] Chandra, et al, India’s Struggle for Independence, 505, 516-517.

[30] Ibid., 506. 

[31] Ibid., 507.

[32] Ibid., 507-509.

[33] Ibid., 509-510.

[34] Ibid., 510-511.

[35] Ibid., 511.

[36] Ibid., 514-515.

[37] Ibid., 516.

[38] Anderson, 46-47; Nehru, 416-495.

[39] On the Communist Party of India’s activities from World War II to Independence, see Eugene D. Overstreet and Marshall Windmiller, Communism in India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959), 171-251.  On militant insurgent activity leading up to 1947, see: Kumar Goshal, People in the Colonies (New York: Sheridan House, 1948), 227-228, 232, 237; Metcalf, 209-210; Harkishan Singh Surjeet, March of the Communist Movement in India (Calcutta: National Book Agency, 1998), 58-60; Asoka Meta, “Nationalists, Socialist and Communists in India,” The Strategy of Deception: A Study in World-Wide Communist Tactics, ed. by Jeane J. Kirkpatrick (New York: Farrar, Straus and Co., 1963), 122-124; K. Damodaran, “The Tragedy of Indian Communism,” The Stalinist Legacy, ed. by Tariq Ali (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2013), 352; Kunal Chattopadhyay, “India, post-World War II upsurge,” in International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, Volume IV, 1704-1708.

[40] Anderson, 18-31, 139; Brown, 190-192, 236-239, 330-337; Metcalf, 162-165, 196-197, 207-217.  Also see Kathryn Tidrick, Gandhi: A Political and Spiritual Life (London: Verso, 2013).

[41] Anderson, 53-102, 144; Brown, 338-340; Metcalf, 217-223; “Partition of India,” Wikipedia, (accessed 13/7/2015); Marik, “Indian National Liberation,” 1711.

[42] Nehru quoted in Wolpert, 190.

[43] Nehru quoted in Wolpert, 210; Nehru quoted in Tariq Ali, The Nehrus and the Gandhis, An Indian Dynasty (London: Picador, 2004), 53-54; Nehru, 502.

[44] Ali, 57, 85, 87-88; Anderson, 42-43; Parekh, 129-130; Randhir Singh, “Talking of a Few Forgotten or Forbidden Things,” in Marxism, Socialism, Indian Politics: A View from the Left (Delhi: Aakar Books, 2008), 229; Charles Bettelheim, India Independent (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1968), 130-131; Chandra, et al, India’s Struggle for Independence, 375-385, 519, 524-528.

[45] Gandhi quoted in Singh, 230.

[46] Singh, 229.

[47] Ibid., 228, Wolpert, 194.

[48] Wolpert, 141, 143-144, 145, 193, 194.

[49] South Asia Alliance for Poverty Education, Crises, Vulnerability and Poverty in South Asia, People’s Struggles for Justice and Dignity (Katmandu, Nepal: Sthapit Press, 2013), 17.

[50] Key works include: Aseem Shrivastava and Ashish Kothari, Churning the Earth: The Making of Global India (New Delhi/New York: Penguin/Viking, 2012); Achin Vanaik, The Painful Transition: Bourgeois Democracy in India (London: Verso, 1990), and Achin Vanaik, “Subcontinental Strategies,” New Left Review 70, July-August 2011; Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (New York: Random House, 2012); Arundhati Roy, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to the Grasshoppers, new edition (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2015).  Also relevant is Vijay Prashad, Neo-liberalism with Southern Characteristics: The Rise of the BRICS (New York: Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, 2013) – referring to Brazil, Russian India, China, and South Africa, rising capitalist economies challenging U.S. and Western European hegemony.


Submitted by Paul Le Blanc (not verified) on Fri, 10/16/2015 - 02:23


At the conclusion of the paragraph between those ending with footnotes 12 and 13, there is supposed to be the following diagram which somehow didn't get produced -- but here it is:

primitive communism --> ancient slave civilizations--> feudalism--> capitalism