Marx, Marxism and the Indian Context

 The principles of Marxism and the Indian communist movement

            “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling materialforce of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectualforce. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, consequently also controls at the same time the means of mental production, so that the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch.”

Marx in German Ideology[1]


Two hundred years ago (5 May 1818) in a middle class family in the German town Trier, was born a boy, named Karl Marx, whose ultimate ideal and goal was a stateless society, such ideas were apprehended so dangerous for the ‘national, interest that he became a stateless, global citizen since the age of 24.  He dreamt of and worked for a world free from exploitation and domination, a world of classless and hence the stateless society, with the slogan of the unity of the workers of the world. Marx remains the greatest revolutionary thinker, teacher and activist after Buddha in ancient India (BC 6thcentury), who envisioned and actively campaigned for an egalitarian, communitarian society, free from miseries and sufferings. Like that of Buddha his teachings shall remain relevant till the human emancipation. Here there is no scope to digress into discussion on the democratic, scientific and dialectical education based on debate and discussions inaugurated by Buddha, or the Buddhist social revolution and Brahmanical counter revolution[2].The purpose of reference to Buddha is to allude to the similarities in terms of rational, scientific comprehension of society; the vision and the worldview; and firm conviction and commitment towards creation of society free from sufferings and pain i.e. free from exploitation of humans by humans, in their respective contexts across the time and space. Like Buddha, Marx too was not only interested in interpreting the world but also to change it. He had made his activist intentions very clear in the early stage of his career. “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point however is to change it.”[3] He insists, “In practice man must prove the truth”[4]. Thus rejecting the easy way of discovering the truth through myth, revelation and authority, based on some obscure God or prophet or Hegel, the truth needs to be practically proved.

19th Century Europe witnessed many revolutions in the realms of social and intellectual movements. The common people, who entered in the arena of political theory through Rousseau[5] in the 18th century, found a profound spokesperson in the genius of Karl Marx in the 19th century as the new protagonist of the history, theproletariat[6]. In the age of inventions of knowledge, in the words of Louis Althuser, Marx invented a “new continent of knowledge”[7]. But the word continent gives a sense of imperialist colonization; in-fact he invented a new galaxy of knowledge in the form of historical materialism. His ideas are as relevant to comprehend the dynamics of the neoliberal age of capitalism and the ongoing politico-cultural discourse, as his contemporary liberal capitalism, though capitalism has taken many turns different from his projection. After all, Marx was not an astrologer, but a revolutionary scientist and activist, an organic intellectual of the proletariat, in Gramscian terms[8]. With informalization; out-sourcing and contract labor system of the neo-liberal imperialist capital, Marx’s idea of labor socialization leading to expansion of class-consciousness and unity on the basis of class interest among in huge work places with the advancement of capital, has become difficult and needs new principles and strategies for transformation of class-in-itself into class-for-itself on the basis common class interest[9]. The link between the two is the class-consciousness against the social consciousness.  That is the radicalization of the social consciousness, shaped by the epochal ideology.

Engels had commented in 1891 about some doctrinaire Marxists that a Marxist is not one who quotes from Marx’s or his writings but one who reacts in a particular circumstance, the way Marx would have reacted. Marx in delineating the historical epochs based on mode of production has repeatedly emphasized the uneven development of stages and variations of method of development. In Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte Marx underlines:

 “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.[10]

Lenin in his writings on 1905-07 revolution and counter revolution is quite categorical on the revolutionary circumstance as the necessary condition of the revolution and that the circumstance itself is no guarantee for the revolution[11]. For a revolution, concurrence of both the objective (crisis of the system) and the subjective (readiness of the contending class to take over) factors is necessary. Marxism, as it developed, unlike scriptures, is not static but a dynamic science to comprehend the world and a revolutionary ideology to change it. Rosa Luxemburg, in her celebrated essays on Russian revolution, after praising the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Lenin for their accomplishment in the peculiar, particular conditions then prevailing in Russia, had cautioned that the policies; strategies and principles should to be advanced as universal principles of international proletarian revolution[12]. But most of the parties founded under the auspices of Comintern did not heed her advice and instead of looking at it as a method adopted Russian Revolution and Marxism as models.

Application of Marxism involves, first to grasp the existing contradictions, major/minor and hostile/non-hostile and the composition of existing social forces, in accordance with the Marxist principle, i.e. the principles of historical materialism. Then the related, important and in my opinion, most difficult task is to translate; adopt and adapt these principles into a particular historical context and work out strategies to organize and agitate the oppressed for their emancipation. Among the old generation Indian Marxists, Acharya Narendra Dev made genuine attempts to translate and interpret the principles of Marxism in the Indian context with reference to Buddhism.[13] He was the founding President of Congress Socialist Party (CSP) founded in 1934, had individual members of the banned Communist Party of India (CPI) on its membership list. In fact this period of the anti-colonial struggle has been an inspiring phase of freedom struggle, from the view-point of the Indian left, in terms rise and growth of organizations and movements of peasants; workers and students.

“It was formed at the end of the last civil disobedience movement by such conges men as came to believe that a new orientation of the movement had become necessary, a redefinition, a redefinition of its objectives and revision of its method. The initiative could be taken by those who had grasp of the forces of our present society. These naturally were those congressmen, who had come under the influence of and had accepted Marxian socialism.”[14]

 Marx’s critique of capitalist political economy is based on his readings of contemporary capitalism as it was developing in Western Europe, where the bourgeois democratic movement had already abolished the feudal relations of birth qualification and economy had become the only basis of the social division. That is why Marx and Engels declare in the Communist Manifesto:

Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.”[15]

But in India, for historical reasons, the Renaissance-kind social and intellectual movement launched by Kabir and carried forward by Bhakti movement with the central theme of social and spiritual equality could not reach its logical conclusion. Also, India did not witness any bourgeois democratic movement mainly due to colonial intervention that did not allow the natural growth of capitalism[16]. In his series of articles on India for New-York Daily Tribune, Marx while deploring the colonial rule for un-scrupled  and systematic deindustrialization, he takes serious note of so-called self-sufficient village economy: “We must not forget that these little communities were contaminated by distinctions of caste and by slavery, that they subjugated man to external circumstances instead of elevating man the sovereign of circumstances, that they transformed a self-developing social state into never changing natural destiny, and thus brought about a brutalizing worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that man, the sovereign of nature, fell down on his knees in adoration of Hanuman, the monkey, and Sabbala, the cow.”[17]

 The failure of Indian communists to fulfill the unaccomplished task of bourgeois democratic revolution, subsequently led to the growth of the identity politics. In India’s present political scenario the invocation of the caste identity by a section of the forces of social justice is as big speed-breaker as the invocation of religious identity by communal forces, in the radicalization of the social consciousness, i.e. spread of class-consciousness among workers; peasants; Adivasis; Dalits; the ever expanding ‘reserve army of the work force’; and other oppressed sections of the society, so that they can lead the battle of their emancipation. The caste politics, emphasizing caste identity emanating from the coincidence of birth over their class identity of the economic positioning, is neo-Brahmanism. Neo-Brahmanism supplements and does not contradict Brahmanism, advocated by Hindutva forces that emphasizes the religious identity over the class identity based on their economic status. In fact the ruling castes have been the ruling classes also[18]. The caste and religious elements in India have been over emphasized over projected. The minor, non-hostile, mostly artificial contradictions are overhighlighted to blunt the edge of major economic contradictions[19].


Marx and Marxism

Like Buddhism became a revolutionary stream of thought in Buddha’s time itself in ancient India, so did Marxism in Marx’s life time itself and became most prominent by the first quarter of the 20th century, particularly in the aftermath of the Russian revolution of 1917, said to be the first revolution on policies and strategies, based on the Marxist principles. Lucio Colletti rightly describes Marxism as science of society and revolutionary ideology of class struggle simultaneously[20]. Marx considered science to be dynamic, not static like scriptures and hence so is Marxism that includes not only the writings of Marx and Engels as intellectual source but enriched by subsequent eminent Marxists.  Gramsci added new dimension to the theory of historical materialism, the dimension of hegemonic culture[21].


The fall of Berlin wall in 1989 sent the capitalist camp into hilarious celebration. One its spokespersons went to the extent of decaling the “End of the History”[22] in an article that he elaborated into a book after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. He argues that the other systems of state (alluding to socialist systems) have vanished because of their lacunas and inefficiencies, but the “liberal Democracy has been successful, everywhere. Hence this is “the last point of ideological development of humankind” and “thus it is the end of history”[23]. Exemplifying, the dual character of capitalism, (any class society for that matter) in terms of contradiction of theory and practice, he conceals the fact that the eternal liberal democracy he is talking about, is no more liberal but has become neoliberal.  The liberal state was a laissez-fare state, a non-interfering state, to only supervise the class exploitation. The neo-liberal state is an active partner in the ‘development’. Tata on his own could not have grabbed the land of Kalinganagar Adivasis, but needed help of governments of Odessa and India to crush their heroic anti-displace movement. It is to be recalled that on 2January 2006, the police fired at peaceful anti-displacement protest killing 16 and injuring many, another repeat of Jallianvala.[24] Latest being the Police firing at ant-pollution protesters against the Vedanta, the England based notorious corporate shark at Tamilnadu that killed over a dozen and injured many[25]. The acts of the land grab of peasantry for corporate; ‘disinvestment’ (sale) of state enterprises and services and other state policies under the subservience of the global capital, is calledaccumulation by dispossession[26] by David Harvey, which effectively is, the neo-liberal version of so-called primitive accumulation[27].  History never ends nor is there any final point of development of ideas by humankind, as the ancient Greek Philosopher, Heraclitus had said very long ago that the only constant is the change itself. Like physical history, intellectual history too never comes to a final point; knowledge is a continuous process. Both, the physical and the intellectual, dialectically unite in motion to determine the course of history and the laws of its dynamics. Ideas never end but move to create history. Marxism shall remain as long as there are class societies and consequent class struggles. “Class struggle is continuous process”[28]. All the struggles against injustices and inequality are integral parts of class-struggles. Once the stage of human emancipation, i.e. of classless; stateless society is attained, the Marxism shall become history.

Marx while pursuing his studies in law, jurisprudence and philosophy at Bonn and Berlin Universities got involved into student activism as Young Hegelians, a group of radical students, teachers and intellectuals who derived radical implications from Hegel’s theory of dialectics and turned it into critique of religion, Hegelian idealism and his flirtation with the oppressive Prussian state. There were clampdowns; rustications; terminations of radical professors[29]. Marx by the time of finishing his PhD Thesis on differences between the ideas of two ancient Greek philosophers of nature, Democritus and Epicurus[30], must have known that doors of university campuses won’t be open for him and turned to journalism. He took up the offer of editing a liberal-democratic paper, Rheinische Zeitung in Cologne and began to “prove the truth” and expose the untruth, he invited the wrath of the power that be. The newspaper was shut down. A biographical note on Marx is not intended here but through some incidents to reiterate the fact that in class societies, the ruling classes are always scared and horrified with rebellious or scientific ideas that exposes their eternal contradiction of theory and practice. They kill, vanish imprison and hound the thinker. Recent premeditated murders of rationalists Dabholkar; Pansare; Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh in India are few contemporary examples.

Marx moved to Paris in 1843 where he met French socialists and his future intellectual collaborator, F. Engels and married his longtime girlfriend Jenny. In 1841 Ludwig Feuerbach published The Essence of Christianity[31].Like other Young Hegelians Marx was also quite influenced with his materialist critique religion and Hegel’s dialectical idealism, which has been duly acknowledged by Engels. Feuerbach “forms an intermediate link between Hegelian philosophy and our conception.[32]Feuerbachian in influence is clearly visible in ‘A contribution to Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’[33]in which he reverses Hegel’s Dialectic to discover the truth by ‘turning it upside down and thus the discovery of one of the laws of dialectical materialism — the law of mutual, dialectical negation of opposites.

Marx’s un-Hegelian, philosophic journey begins with this critique, in which he opines, “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness.”[34]Hence the false consciousness of religion can be replaced only by class consciousness, i.e. by radicalizing the social consciousness, shaped by, riling class ideas, what Marx calls “the ruling ideas of the epoch”[35].  Thus by 1845 the foundations of dialectical historical materialism were firmly laid. Marx’s existence in Paris too was found inconvenient by Prussian government, which pressurized the French government too vanish him from there. From there he went to Brussels and denounced his German citizenship and became the world citizen.  In the midst of revolutionary waves all over Europe, he along with Engels wrote The Manifesto of Communist Partywith the slogan of  Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains[36]. In 1848 revolution they moved to Cologne to guide the communist league revolutionaries and Marx went to London afyr thr counter revolution, were he lived all his life in poverty creating treasure for the posterity till his death in 1883. After the revolution (Class Struggle in France[37]) and counter-revolution of 1848-51, Marx produced comprehensive review in Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1851-52)[38]from the perspective of historical materialism. In 1852, after the disintegration of Communist League, Marx went from activist-intellectual to intellectual-activist mode till 1864, when the First International –International Association of Working Men and Women was founded and he was entrusted with preparing its Address[39].

   During this ‘intellectual activist’ phase Marx devoted himself to the critique the political economy, the foundation of which had been laid down in the EPM itself, as “the anatomy of civil society has   to be found in its political economy.[40]” In the process Marx published, in 1859, A contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, whose 5-page preface has become ‘the preface’ and is a concise, comprehensive textbook of historical materialism and continued it in the 1st volume ofCapital in 1867. The other two were published posthumously by Engels. There is no scope of function, conflicts, impact and disintegration First International; I have dealt with it elsewhere[41].  Paris Commune was the most important revolutionary, historical event, the first successful proletarian revolution that Marx analytically documented in Civil war in France[42]. Marx lived in poverty enriching the world with revolutionary ideas till his death in 1883. Engels in his funeral speech had said “…… the greatest living thinker ceased to think”[43].Among others, historical materialism and theory of surplus value are two of the greatest discoveries of Marx.


The Context

One of the democratic qualities of the Renaissance (15th-16th century), preceding the Enlightenment, in Europe was the abolition of the birth qualification. The invention of printing press abolished the monopoly of clergy over the scriptures and the invention of gun powder ended that of nobility over warfare. The Renaissance also witnessed the emergence of a new species of the heroes, the hero of the finance. This peripheral Renaissance hero was going to occupy the center-stage in the next 150 years and become the Hero, as the capitalism went ahead gaining the foothold and usher into industrial age from mercantilism, under the new relations of production. An account of rise and growth of capitalism is beyond the scope of this paper, its brutalities; cunningness; treachery; and duality of standards are well depicted in many contemporary novels. Most of the liberal thinkers agreed to the new miseries and agony of the people but argued in its favor in the name good future for all.  It’s first acknowledged, spokesperson, John Locke declares that governance is a serious matter that can be entrusted with only those who have proved their worth by amassing sufficient wealth[44].

The Enlightenment (mid c. 17th – early 19th) was an intellectual revolution that emphasized the reason and utility as the basis of explanation of the phenomenal world over the tradition and faith, is concurrent with the rise and growth of capitalism. Emergent capitalism on the ruins of the variety of feudal structures needed the rationality against tradition and faith, the ideological source of the validity of the feudal dominance. And hence the Enlightenment rationally is also the rationalization of capitalism and the consequent new inequalities; forms of domination and exploitations; unfreedoms in place of old ones. Enlightenment rationality is also the rationality of private ownership of the means of production and ‘free wage labour’ with twin freedoms – a worker is free to sell his labour-power and equally free to kill himself, as capitalism has freed him from the means of labour. The celebration of individual of Renaissance humanism was not the celebration of ordinary but of spectacular, successful, extraordinary intellectuals, people with heroic deeds, women with extra-ordinary beauty and of princes. It celebrated the success and not only did not sympathize with the failures but had disdainful contempt towards ordinary people that was subsequently going to turn into haughty bourgeois contempt for the producing masses[45]. With the erosion of theological explanation of socio-historical events of the phenomenal world, in the context of transition from feudalism to capitalism, new explanations were needed.

In feudal monarchies, God was the source of validity of the authority, the religion its ideology. With the erosion of theological explanations, God vanished as the source of validity of rule. The liberal political economists, David Hume to Adam Smith, worked out a four-stage theory of development in terms of procurement of sources of livelihood — hunting, pastoralism, agriculture and commerce[46]. The four-stage theory in Marx’s hands becomes historical materialism. Classical Political economists defined the value in terms of labour time Marx took the argument further that it must belong to those whose labour time is expended into it, and hence the proletarian revolution to take back the control over the products of their labour. Marx’s economic works are critique of political economy.

Bourgeois (liberal) political theorists, beginning with Thomas Hobbes and John Lock in the 17th century took up the task of finding the replacements God and religion as the source of validity and ideology of authority respectively[47]. They found the replacement of the abstract idea of God in the abstract concept of the peopleas the source of validity of the liberal (bourgeois) state and the ideology of religion was replaced by the ideology of nationalism[48].  Liberal political economists and political theorists not only provided explanations of capitalism but also its justification and under TINA syndrome (there is no alternative), its inevitability. Marx proved that the live communities are never without alternatives. Central to liberalism is self-centered individualism and natural right to property. With exception of Rousseau’s dissenting voice most of the enlightenment thinkers fall in Gramscian category of organic and profession intellectuals of capitalism and in response Marx became the organic intellectual of the working class.[49] There is neither scope nor need of going into details of liberalism, before Marx, Rousseau produced the first critique of liberal state by dumping their contracts as contracts of slavery, agrees with Hobbes and Locke that sovereignty emanates from people but insists that it should remain with the people. Rousseau gives a romantic model of collective self-government that anticipated the theory of dictatorship of proletariat[50]. Marx challenges and rejects the liberal paradigm and provided an alternative paradigm of analysis and a new concept of rationality, the rationality of equality of basic human dignity. He inaugurated a new stream of thinking or a new school of thought that in his life time itself came to be known as Marxism, after him.  Before concluding with the application of Marxist principles, a brief sketch of key concepts is desirable. Marx himself did not use the term dialectical materialism for his philosophical worldview, yet he had begun discovering its laws from the very beginning of his intellectual journey going back to critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right followed by EPMand German Ideology; Poverty of Philosophy; Theses on Feuerbach. before moving further, brief discussions on certain key concepts, beginning with the philosophy of Marxism, seems imperative.

Dialectical Materialism

            Dialectical Materialism is considered to be the philosophy of Marxism, its world view related to historical materialism, known as its science. The term was not used by Marx himself but by subsequent Marxists to delineate the synthesis of Marx’s critiques of Hegel’s Dialectics, which he called idealist and Feuerbach’s materialism, which he called mechanical or metaphorical. For the first time the term Dialectical Materialism was used by Plekhanov, a Russian Marxist, in 1891[51]. Any new stream of thought emerges from within the existing ones, in the same way as the seeds of the new system mature in the old and germinates in the new. Marx picked up two prevalent streams of thoughts, Hegel’s Dialectics and Feuerbach’s materialism. He made them the reference point, challenged and transformed them.

According to Hegel, reality is wholly or basically constituted by thoughts or ideas and the phenomenal world is its image only. Drawing the distinction between the appearance and inner world – the essence – Hegel claims that the inner reality is concealed by, and is reverse of its phenomenal form. “By the law of this inverted world, then, the selfsame in the first world is unlike of it and unlike in the first is equally unlike to itself. …. what by the law of first is sweet is, in this inverted reality, sour; what is there black is here white[52].” In reaction to this Marx demands, truth to be proved in practice, in this world and not in the obscurities of its inversion, world of the abstract ideas. In the labyrinth of philosophical jargons Hegel obfuscates the reality transporting Plato’s World of Ideas into the vocabulary of classical German Philosophy and his Ideal state into Prussian monarchy. According to Hegel, “looked at one surface this inverted world is anti-thesis of the first in the sense that it has the latter outside itself and repels that world from itself as an inverted reality; that the one is the sphere of appearance, while the other is the inherent being; that one is the world as it is for another, the other again the world again as it is for itself.”[53] Hegel’s two worlds are not dichotomous. Appearance is the manifestation of the essence and essence is the truth of appearance. “Thus the super-sensible world, which is the inverted world, has at the same time reached out beyond the other world has in itself the other, it is to itself conscious of being inverted, i.e. it is the inverted form of itself; it is that world itself and its opposite in a single unity”[54] Through the contradiction of essence and appearance, Hegel reached the ‘distinction per say’, in the ‘form of infinity’ or ‘absolute motion’. This is the ‘ultimate nature of life, soul of the world, the universal life-blood’ which is it-self, ‘every distinction that arises, as well as that into which all distinctions are dissolved’[55]. This means that the internal distinction is self-identity and self-consciousness, if so the distinction between appearance and essence in the natural world is a reflection in the distinction between self-consciousness materiality itself becomes the inverted and the distinction between consciousness and its object is thus eliminated.

“The main point is that the object or consciousness is nothing else but self-consciousness, or that the object is only objectified self-consciousness, self-consciousness as object.”[56]

Hegel identifies alienation with objectification in terms of producing object. Consciousness is absolutely alien to itself. Objectivity therefore is alienated self-consciousness. To overcome alienation, i.e. to re-appropriate self-consciousness implies to transcend the objectivity. And consciousness is the essence, the reality; hence the process takes place in consciousness. To overcome the alienation and inversion it entails, is merely the recognition by the consciousness that the objectivity is its own inverted creation. As Marx puts it, “the appropriation of man’s objectified and estranged essential powers is therefore firstly only an appropriation which takes place in consciousness, in pure thought.”[57] Thus the notion of inversion is defined in epistemological terms, natural consequence of the process of production of thought and the simultaneous production of reality as it’s opposite.

Marx takes the inversion from Hegel and reverses the thesis. By means of their conscious practice, humans produce objective power that forms the basis for the relations of production and forces of production. Objectification of human practice is not alienating in itself but result of the lack of control over that objective power. Alienation is result of particular kind of inhuman objectification in which the men and women don’t control the results of their labour-power but are controlled by them. For Hegel, “it is not the fact that the human essence objectifies itself in an inhuman way, in opposition to itself but that it objectifies itself in distinction from and in opposition to abstract thought.”[58] For Hegel inversion is inherent in the self-consciousness and for Marx, it is an attribute of a particular social condition. The consciousness does not generate the inverted objective reality but the inverted reality generates the inverted consciousness. If the religion is the inverted consciousness of the world, it is because state and society that invented the religion are an inverted world[59].

Object has historically existed without idea and the ideas have historically emanated from the object. Newton didn’t discover the laws of gravity to pluck the apples, but like any other object apples had been falling vertically down from heights. Human beings are endowed with species specific attributes of thought and imagination. This objective observation stimulated Newton to investigate if there are any general laws about vertical fall and he discovered the laws of gravity. With sense perceived reality we could answer the only question, what?  But not the why? With what force and velocity at particular point, that can be answered now. The matter is one aspect of the reality whereas mind (thought) is the other; totality of the reality is created by their dialectical unity with priority of matter. Priority does not mean more or less importance in its role as the engine of the history.

The Feuerbachian materialism claims that the reality is wholly or basically material. In the Essence of Christianity, Feuerbach places materialism at the center. Nature exists independent of all the philosophy. Nothing exists outside nature and man and the concept of higher being/supreme power created by religious fantasies are the fantastic reflections of our own essence. Due to inability to look at the history as a process, he did not want to abolish but perfect the religion to be absorbed in the philosophy. Marx saw in Feuerbach’s criticism of religion proposing the man as the highest being for man forms a starting point for a truly revolutionary philosophy. His claim that Hegel had reversed the role of subject and predicate treating man as an attribute of thought, leads Marx ‘to turn Hegel on his head’ and his genetic method of inquiry into genesis and function of social institutions was carried forward by Marx in materialist interpretation of history[60]. Marx agrees with Feuerbach’s proposition that human-consciousness is product of its material conditions and changed consciousness is product of changed material conditions and asks him, how are the material conditions changed? According to the Newton’s laws of motion, nothing changes on its own without application of external force. This external force is conscious human effort. Thus material conditions and conscious human effort are dialectically related and the motion of this dialectical unity is the motor of the historical changes.

 “The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that therefore, changed men are products of changed circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who change circumstances and that the educator must himself needs educating. Hence this doctrine is necessarily arrives at dividing society into two parts, one of which is superior to society.

The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity (or self-change) can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice[61].

 Thus the matter is not totality of reality but its condition and basis, the dialectical unity of matter and mind i.e., material conditions and the consciousness is the complete reality or the totality of the truth. Ideas are not static but dynamic like material conditions, which they change in practice.

“The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. In practice, man must prove the truth. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking, which is isolated from practice, is a purely scholastic question”[62].

            The dynamics of history is determined by the dialectical unity of the existing material conditions and the level and form of the social consciousness. Thus first law of dialectical materialism is, the truth or reality is constituted by the dialectical unity of opposites – the object and its idea. From the above discussion we can deduce the second law regarding negation of negation. Two opposites continuously negate each other and in the process are negated by the third, a higher element different from bot but containing the elements of both. I demonstrate this to my students with the example of chemical reaction between hydrochloric acid (HCl) and sodium hydroxide (NaOH) compounds with opposite chemical qualifies, acetic and alkaline respectively, taking the chemical reaction, as the process of dialectical unity, which unties two fatal substances with opposite quality to give rise to third, the water and salt, essentials of life.

HCl + NaOH = NaCl + H2O

Engels terms Hegelian propositions: “All that is real is rational and all that is rational is real”; and “In course of its development of reality proves to be necessity”, as “philosophic benediction bestowed upon despotism, Police government and censorship”.[63] With the examples of ‘real’ and ‘unreal’, statuses of Roman republic, Roman empire or French monarchy, “destroyed by the great revolution” and thus “Hegelian proposition turns into its opposite through Hegelian dialectics itself”[64]. The revolutionary implication derived from by Engels is that anything that the change is continuous and evolutionary, quantitative changes in course of time mature into revolutionary qualitative change and anything that exists is destined to perish, capitalism is no exception.

Basic laws of dialectical materialism can be summed up as:

  • Law of dialectical constitution and contradictions of the reality in terms of dialectical unity of the opposites, of the object and its idea in an inter-causal relationship with the priority of the object. This dialectical unity of the matter and mind constitutes the totality of the reality and is the moving force of the history.
  • Law of transformation of quantity into quality; gradual evolutionary, quantitative changes give rise to revolutionary qualitative changes. Two most visible evolutionary changes in India can be seen in the realms of Dalit assertion and scholarship and feminist assertion and scholarship in the last 35-40 years. No change is just quantitative.
  • Law of negation of negation; one opposite negates the other and in turn is negated by an advanced historical development, which is different from, but, preserves the elements of, both.
  • Anything that exists is destined to perish.

It has already been a disproportionally long prelude to the main issue. And hence I must quickly wind up with description of other key concepts with as concise description as possible.

Historical Materialism


. Key to historical Materialism is economy, the basis of society. Engels in Marx’s funeral speech had also said, “Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that therefore the production of the immediate material means, and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case”[65].

As stated at the outset, Marx, Like Buddha wanted not to only interpret the world but change it also. For comprehending the world, Marx and Engels developed the historical materialism, which is known as the science of Marxism, as a theoretical tool to scientifically comprehend the society. They had already declared in German Ideology that the materialist conception of history or historical materialism was going to be the basis of their future work. “The anatomy of civil society has   to be found in its political economy”[66] Pre-Marxian social analysis emphasized the law and the politics. Marx shifted the emphasis to economics. Engels in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, describes historical materialism as a historical perspective, “which seeks the ultimate cause and moving force of all the important historic events in economic development of the society; in changes in the mode of production and exchange; in the consequent class-division of society and struggle of these classes against each other”.[67]  German Ideology (1845-46) Marx and Engels, claim to have arrived at their distinctive world view of history that is not based philosophically derived abstract ideas or dogmas of tradition and custom but the correct articulation and depiction of empirically verified facts.

Marx rejects the history of social changes in terms of monarchs, their court ladies and fellow dynasts or in terms of wars and battles. Marx attempts to locate the deeper causes of historical changes beyond the wars and triumphs, in “the mode of production of material means of existence that conditions the whole process of social, political and intellectual life.[68]” Historical Materialism is not a philosophical but empirical theory; “a set of empirical theses”[69]. In the preface, a compact para contains the essence of historical materialism.

“In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.[70]

The human beings began to distinguish themselves from animal kingdom by producing their own livelihood by laboring with hands being the first tool of labour. Henceforth, they continuously went on improving the tools of labour, owing to the simultaneous development of species-specific attributes of reason and imagination. The production is social and for social needs. Contrary to bourgeois intellectuals’ pronouncement, individuals do not exist as ‘individuals’ but ‘in-and through society’. The ‘relations they enter into are existing social relations, which with the forces of production, consisting of means of production and the labour power, constitute the mode of production. Social relations are determined by the nature of the ownership of means of productions; production itself and the distribution of the value produced. The economic structure is the base structure, on which rise the super structures but the base having determined the super, further historic movement is their dialectical unity. To a particular stage of development of material production,“correspond definite forms of social consciousness.” The above quoted 3rd thesis on Feuerbach says that the consciousness is product of material conditions and conscious human efforts lead to change in the material conditions leading to new social consciousness. The introductory quote of this paper tells us that the ruling class ideology is the ruling ideology also. Capitalism does not produce only commodities but also ideas through its ideological apparatuses that shape the social consciousness, in which the inferior is convinced that his deficiencies are responsible for his particular social positioning. Jean Paul Sartre wrote in the preface to Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth,“Not so very long ago the earth numbered 200 million people; 500 million men and 1,500 million natives, former had the word and later the use of it”[71]. Marx and Engels had warned against the economic deterministic interpretation of their view.  “The economic situation is the basis, but various elements of super structure — ……., political, juristic, philosophical theories, religious views and their further development into the system of dogmas – all influence upon the course of historical struggle and in many cases preponderate in determining their form.”[72] Marx, in the Eighteenth Brumaire, underlines, “tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”[73]

Marx and Engels have repeatedly stressed that working class would fight war of its emancipation on its own. The ruling class idea, the epochal ideology, that Marx calls false consciousness, shapes consciousness of subject classes, how are they going to emancipate themselves? They will do that by comprehending the real contradiction and getting rid of false consciousness, by equipping themselves with the class consciousness that shall be briefly touched upon in subsequent sections.

 Class-Conflict and Class Consciousness

Class and class conflict is the central concern of Marxism, “The history of hitherto societies is the history of class-struggles” became a proverbial statement within few years of the writing of Communist Manifesto. But the conflict is not discovery of Marxism. “What is specific about Marxist politics is what it declares to be the nature of the conflict to be; and what it proclaims o be its necessary outcome.”[74] Marx wrote in a letter in 1852, “…And now as to my-self no credit is due to me for discovering the classes in modern society or struggles between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the development of this class-struggle and bourgeois economists, the economic economy of the classes. What I did that was new was to prove: (1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production; (2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat; (3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.”[75] Class characterization of the members of various economic strata of pyramidal capitalist structure and case of India also the social structure determined by hierarchal pyramidal Hindu caste system. In both the pyramids, except the lowest everyone finds someone below him to look down at. The alliance between the upper strata of both the structures in Indian neo-liberal economy is not surprising[76]. By definition, whoever earns the livelihood by selling intellectual/physical labour power is part of workers collective but many harbor the illusion of being part of the ruling class. They may be characterized as lumpen-bourgeois, extending the term coined by André Gunter Frank for the Latin American imperialist agents.

Marx’s ‘discovery of proletariat’ as ‘the idea in the real itself’, a new political force engaged in a struggle for emancipation, is the basis for Marxist theory of class struggle, history and politics. Liberals before him do talk about this conflict but for them it is a ‘problem’ to be solved by good will, reason and reconciliation. For Marx, the conflict is irreconcilable as it is not a ‘problem’ to be solved but a relationship of domination and subjugation to be lessened and ended eventually, by the total transformation of the society by ending the conditions, which give rise to it. The antagonists are not the individuals, but the individuals in and through a society, members of a social aggregate — the class. “Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of inter-relations, the relations within which these individuals stand.”[77] In Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels, state, “Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. “Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — Bourgeoisie and Proletariat”. This is preceded by “In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations.”[78] In India, when the communist movement took off with formation of Communist Party of India in Tashkent in 1921 or even now “the complicated arrangement of society into various orders” of caste, and community has not been simplified and the result is the present day identity politics that has further complicated the class division and remains a huge speed breaker in the way of radicalization of social consciousness by expansion of class consciousness.

To ridicule Marx’s idea of proletariat, the French anarchist, Joseph Pierre Proudhon wrote a book The Philosophy of Poverty[79]  that did not make much impact, in response, Marx wrote Poverty of Philosophy, that is a classic.

Economic conditions had first transformed the mass of the people of the country into workers. The domination of capital has created for this mass a common situation, common interest. This mass is thus a class (in itself) as against the capital but not yet for itself. In the struggle this mass gets united, and constitutes itself as a class for itself. The interest it defends becomes class interest. Comprehension of the collective interest of the class as a whole to which one belongs is the consciousness of the class interest that makes the working class from a class in itself into the class for itself.”[80]

            It is the united struggles they evolve from the false consciousness acquired from socialization under the existing social relations and corresponding form of social consciousness, shaped by the ruling class ideas, what Marx calls  ‘the idea of the age’ as quoted above. The link between ‘class-in-itself’, a lump of mass, and a revolutionary class-for-itself is the class consciousness. But that link has been a Herculean task. It is more complicated and difficult in the Indian context owing to specific history of Brahmanical (Varnashram) feudalism sanctioned by religion, but doable[81]. Hindu caste order is many layered and sub-layered pyramidal structure like capitalism and neoliberal corporate capital is using it to its interest. As mentioned in the introduction that neo-liberal anti-labour policies; contract system and outsourcing; informalization of labour, the labour socialization plank of class consciousness becomes defunct, The only ways left are “united struggles” to make the workers conscious of the common class interest and political education. What this class consciousness is in reference to the working class? In Marxist parlance it means an understanding that the emancipation of proletariat and hence liberation of the whole society, the human emancipation, require the overthrow of capitalism along with its ideas and ideals. The will and preparedness to overthrow is its logical corollary. It is revolutionary in the sense of its radical rupture.

Working Class is a universal class, as the “previous historical movements have been movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority”. “The communist revolution would be the most radical rupture with the traditional property relations” and “with traditional ideas”[82] The transition from feudalism to capitalism was transition from one class society to another class society; transition from capitalism to communism is a qualitatively different transition, from a class society to a classless society. Revolution is a continuous process so is its countervailing process the counter revolution. Rousseau gave the call of continually bombarding the Bastille. The first phase of revolutionary experiments in 20th century on Marxist principles seems to be waning away; momentum for the new, 21stcentury phase of revolutions is building up all over owing to the pervasive discontent against the imperialist global capital.

Class and Party

The ruling classes have all the powers and privileges at their dispensation to maintain their dominance. How the oppressed, with nothing but their person at their disposal are going to undo the powerful oppressor? But the central and essential message of Marxism is it can be and has to be achieved. It has to be achieved by the class-conscious unity of the oppressed and their united struggles.

For Marx, workers can unite only in the form of a political party and in the above quoted statement Marx says that they get united in the struggles. Spontaneous, uncoordinated outpours like the Occupymovement in the US play limited role. And the goal is abolition of the private ownership. This implies confronting the ruling classes who have everything at their disposal, enormous wealth; state’s coercive and ideological apparatuses; a devoted mass base and media. But the essential message of Marxism is that it can be and has to be done. Deepening of the contradictions of capitalism resulting into crises and its impact on various super structures is, in Marxian parlances, the objective factor, which on its own, is not revolution. It also has the potentialities to degenerate into Fascism as it happened in 1930s Germany.  To bring about revolution, the subjective factor of human intervention is essential.  That is to say the working class must form their party for its transformation from ‘class-in-itself’ to ‘class-for-itself. No set ideas or ideals, ‘communists do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mold the proletarian movement.’  The workers “have no readymade utopia to introduce” and “have no ideals to realize but to set free the elements of new society”[83]  Marx’s life-long concern had been not the emancipation of working class but by its own effort. “The emancipation of working classes must be conquered by working classes themselves.”[84]Despite repeated emphasis on the need of organization of working classes he did not chalk out the form or structure of the organization. As capital is global in the sense that it is not geo-centric either in terms of source or investment and has no nation. Labour too has no nation but as the oppression takes place within national boundaries in nexus with the nation-state, the revolution would take place within the national boundaries. The revolutionaries of various nations would work out the structure and program, according to objective historical circumstances prevailing there[85].  But most of the Parties formed in affiliation with Comintern adopted the CPSU model of the Party. Form of the party is not important, important is the working class and the development of class- consciousness and its struggle for emancipation. The party is just the political expression and the instrument of class struggle to help it carrying out its own struggle. “The fact is for them class came first and party far behind. This cuts very deep and has a direct bearing on the wider question of direct and indirect exercise of popular power and on the meaning of socialist democracy”[86]. Thus for Marx and Engels, Party is means for higher revolutionary ends, but in practical politics, particularly in the context of Indian Communist Parties, the means has become the end. Lenin wanted to build a special kind of party in the special circumstance of czarist Russia closely linked with the working class, but was careful of the dangers of bureaucratization. Lenin termed the party as the vanguard of the revolution who believed that given the level of social consciousness, without a proper leadership, the working class cannot be a revolutionary force that is an un-Marxian proposition, as Marx and Engels have consistently rejected the idea of professional revolutionary groups bringing about emancipation of working class. Party’s role, to my mind, as envisioned by Marx and Engels was to help the working class being conscious of contradiction, i.e. radicalization of social consciousness by political struggles and education.

There is no scope here to discuss relationship of class and the party as it developed in Soviet Union or China, I would like to conclude this section by a comment on party line which in a way is un-Marxist rather anti-Marxist, that in place of sense of class consciousness, it inculcates a sense of party devotion and hence obstructs the process of the transformation of ‘class-in-itself’ into ‘class-for-itself’.


One of key concepts of the Marxism is ruthless criticism of everything that exists, beginning with self-criticism[87]. With due acknowledgement to Marx, in my first class, I tell the students that key to any knowledge is questioning, question anything and everything, beginning with the own mindset. “The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism of the weapon, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses. Theory is capable of gripping the masses as soon as it demonstrates ad hominem, and it demonstrates ad hominem as soon as it becomes radical. To be radical is to grasp the root of the matter. But, for man, the root is man himself”[88]. Marx applied the principle of ruthless self-criticism on his own writings. In his article on India in 1853, on the basis of available colonial material, he described the colonial rule as “sub conscious implement” of development”[89] but in 1881 he changed his views on the basis of more authentic sources and described colonial rule as blood sucker, which plundered the country without giving anything in return[90]. Marx always eagerly accepted the empirically proved concepts and incorporated them. His concepts and definitions are never the final truth and they have to be interpreted and applied in accordance with the historical context and conditions. The Communist Parties use the concept only as rhetoric but never in practice, in a real sense of the concept. Marxism is not a cult nor is it an abstract philosophy but a dynamic science. Science involves experiments and there may be an error, a scientist learns from that and makes corrections. Indian Communist Parties, despite continuously loosing grounds, are not ready to critically introspect and honour Marx’s this key concept, Self Criticism with an aura of ‘holier than thou’ belief and self-righteous’ arrogance.

Theory of Praxis

Another key concept of Marxism is Praxis. In Marxist sense, praxis refers to free, creative and self-creative activity through which humans create and change their historical, human world and themselves. A detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this paper, in short it relates to unity between theory and practice[91].


Marxism in the Indian Context

            Marx wrote in Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte:

  “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living”[92].

What were the circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past in the beginning and the journey of the Indian Communist movement? What were the major and minor contradictions? There were and are 3 major issues and corresponding contradictions. 1. Contradiction of colonial rule and Indian people as a whole. In today’s neo-liberal age of capitalism, colonial exploiting and domination has been replaced by those of imperialist global capital coordinated by international financial institutions like World Bank; 2. Of Between caste and class, economic domination combined with socio-cultural domination and subjugation sanctioned by religion, a sizable section of people was treated and are being treated untouchable, now by publicizing on-camera meal at a Dalit’s place. 3. Contradiction of capitalist and proletariat; and of landlord and peasants. Many of them overlap; the ruling castes have been the ruling classes also. Apart from these major contradictions, a fourth colonially created, artificial contradiction had emerged in the form of communalism to disrupt and derail the nationalist movement with formation of Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha. Many cities in India witnessed communal riots in many cities after the withdrawal of the Non-Cooperation movement and again after the withdrawal of Civil disobedience movement. The hate campaigns by the both the camps of religious bigotry eventually led to partition of the country with unprecedented bloodshed and exodus. Hindutva heirs of this colonial construct[93] has become so powerful that after coming to power in the center it has been dismantling all the democratic ethos and institutions, but this is not our concern here.

The Colonial Question


The Communist Party of India was formed in 1921 in Tashkent by MN Roy in Tashkent with Indian immigrants. MN Roy had gone to Moscow to participate in the 2nd Congress of the Third International, Communist International, the Comintern, as a delegate of Mexican Communist Party with his American wife Evelyn Roy. He was invited by Lenin in the committee on the colonial question and was asked to write an alternative thesis. Roy’s thesis was accommodated in the draft as supplementary thesis, though essentially is an alternative thesis. Without going into details of Lenin-Roy debate, I find Lenin’s assessment and policy guidelines were closer to reality than Roy’s[94]. Roy compared the national movement with the late development of capitalism and concluded that it would compromise with colonialism as capitalist did under the fear of the working class[95]. Roy was against joining the movement and proletariat on its own will carry out the anti-colonial and the proletarian revolutions simultaneously. Lenin characterized the anti-colonial movement as democratic and progressive in the given situation and recommended communists to join the movement while maintaining their separate identity and should try to wean away its radical elements[96]. Communists, formed Workers and Peasants Party (PPP), joined the movement and were able make their presence felt. But then came the 6th Congress of the Comintern (1928) that decided against the united front tactic and the CPI, instead of analyzing the concrete situation and decide accordingly, followed the Comintern dictate and withdrew from the movement. In the context of anti-colonial social sentiment, this action dented its credibility. Many prominent leaders of the party and trade unions including 2 members CP of Great Britain were in jail in Meerut conspiracy case[97].  CPI was banned and charged for conspiracy against British rule. 7th Congress of Comintern in 1934 resolved in favor of united front and as already mentioned, same year was founded the CSP by some young Congressmen who claimed Marxism to be their ideological source. Communists were allowed to join in individual capacity. As already mentioned, 1934-42 was the golden period for the Indian left. CSP with its student’s organizations; trade unions and Kisan unions had become a power to reckon with in the movement. It was able to ensure the victory of Subhash Chandra Bose, twice, once despite Gandhi’s open support for the opponent with emotional appeal that his defeat shall be his (Gandhi’s) personal defeat. Its neutrality led to the passage of Pant resolution that made the Congress President dependent on Gandhi for any substantial action.[98] Without going into the merit or demerit of neutrality, this implies that united front of left was able to defeat the united force of the right wing in the national movement.

War is a serious issue in itself; it cannot be solution to any problem, as underlined by Marx in his Inaugural Address to the first International with serious concern from the view point of workers’ international solidarity. Second international vigorously campaigned against the imminent First World War till 1914. Lenin gave the call of taking the advantage of the war crisis and to intensify the class-struggle asking workers o all countries to turn their guns against their own rulers. When war began most of the constituents joined the war efforts of their respective states under one pretext or the other. German Social Democratic Party (SDP) was the biggest constituent and proved to be the biggest traitor of international proletarian cause. Rosa Luxemburg   along with its other radical members quit it and formed Spartacus Club and subsequently Communist Party[99]. It is not intended to compare the CPI’s stand on war but just to point to the anti-people character of the war patriotism. CSP has been consistently carrying the anti-war platform but as soon as Hitler attacked Soviet Union CPI section of CSP split away and took began a pro-war platform. Things are different when you are making the history than when you are analyzing it as a part of posterity. It was a dilemmatic situation. Japanese forces had reached Assam. It is always enormously more difficult to fight the fascist bourgeois colonialism than liberal bourgeois colonialism. Apart from the fact that Soviet Union had joined the war against the axis power, otherwise also it was a difficult decision but had the leadership applied the principles of historical materialism more intelligently to analyze the existing situation, it would have known that their support of war would have made only symbolic difference on the cost of substantial political loss in terms of credibility. It realized the mistake and presented the self-criticism.

The Revisionism  

As a result of party’s consistent work among workers and peasants and leading their agitations on their immediate issues, the cumulative effect was revolutionary peasants uprising of Tebhaga (1946-47) and Telangana (1948) under its that was brutally crushed not by colonial, but ex-colonial Indian Army under Nehru-Patel dispensation[100]. After Telangana the left-right deviation debate, begun before 1947 intensified and by 1950[101] it became quite visible on the issue of cooperation with or the opposition of the government and eventually led to many CPI leaders to join Congress under the Kumar Mangalam Thesis, to wreck the system from within and as was historically expected, they themselves got politically wrecked[102].  The left-right rift eventually led to 1964 split on the question revolution and revisionism. The revolutionaries, CPI (Marxist), became more revisionist than the revisionist, CPI, itself. A debate on revisionism within CPI (M) itself started and became quite sharp by 1966[103]. In 1967 it joined United Front government under the leadership of Ajoy Mukherjee of Bangla Congress, the split away group of the Congress as a leading partner. Jyoti Basu was the Home Minister in that government that crushed the spontaneous peasants uprising against the inhuman exploitation by the landlords. Many middle ranking leaders welcomed the Naxalbari, left the party and joined the Naxalbari and eventually formed the CPI (Marxist-Leninist) in 1969[104]. In 1987 CPI (ML) – Liberation, also resolved to take parliament path for revolution. Each of them is subject of separate discussions. In course of time the qualitative distinction between Communist Parties and other electoral parties diminished. Cut off from the masses and mass movements, all the three parliamentary parties put together do not have even 10% of parliamentary presence as the CPI had before 1964. The parliamentarianism in communist movement shall be briefly discussed in next to next section.

The question of Social Justice

“In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations”.

            In India, there was no ‘epoch of bourgeoisie’ to split the society in two hostile camps’; ‘a manifold gradation of social ranks’ in the form of hierarchal Hindu caste-order, effectively caste slavery that still exists, though in the process crumbling down under the pressure of continuously accentuating march of Dalit scholarship and the consequent assertion, hence the audacity of arrogant and violent reaction[105]. The cracks had begun in my early student days, in 1960s-70s, but were only microscopically visible. I use the term Dalit in its literal meaning – the oppressed, which is inclusive of all the erstwhile, socio-economically and educationally deprived and culturally dominated sections of society. Hence the appropriate application of historical materialism would have been, to take note of this existing realty. Caste and caste-conflict for of manifestation of class-struggle are not just imagination are things of the history but a living reality. There is no scope in terms of time and space to deal with caste-class debate. This is just to point that the vacuum left by communists was filled by Ambedkerites of various varieties and process of the radicalization of identity politics which played a positive role in instilling the self confidence among the oppressed castes. But it has already played its historic role, it must march ahead from class-conflict into class-conflict.

Though the communists have been in the forefronts in the struggle but did not make it as a major contradiction on their agenda that led to mushrooming of various varieties of identity politics among a section of oppressed classes, who have more venom for leftism than for Brahmanism or its corporate allies. Identity politics has accomplished its historic role in terms of Dalit scholarship and assertion, now it has taken a reactionary turn, the need now is transformation of identity consciousness into class consciousness. Key to Brahmanism is personality assessment on the basis of the biological accident of the birth. Whoever does so, directly-indirectly strengthens Brahmanical values, presently championed by Hindutva forces. Many identity politics stalwarts on social media are doing the same and thereby have created a category of neo-Brahmanism that supplements Brahmanism. Both are inadvertent allies and huge speed-breakers on the way of radicalization of the social consciousness.

At the point of beginning of the communist movement in colonial India, it was a caste ridden society with Varnashram code of conduct intact. As mentioned in the introduction that in Europe, in Marx’s time, economic positioning was the main basis of social division. Unlike Europe India did not witness any bourgeois democratic revolution that had smashed the birth qualification. Had there been no colonial intervention, may be natural growth of capitalism would have taken a different path. Indian feudalism was Brahmanical feudalism with occupation based pyramidal caste system with many hierarchal divisions and sub divisions. Castes at the base of the pyramid were treated as untouchable. The parasitical upper castes had the monopoly over governance and knowledge system through which they maintained the hegemony of Brahmanism for centuries. The ruling castes have been the ruling castes also. Colonial policy of universal access to intellectual resources created theoretical possibilities of Ambedkars. In 1938 in the congress of Independent Labour Party Ambedkar had said that politically closest to his ideas were he communists. Had the CPI included the caste question in its agenda, may be Ambedkar might have joined hands with it.  The Congress leadership of the anti-colonial movement was dominated by educated upper caste people, not interested in touching the caste issue. In retrospective it was imperative on the communist movement to undertake the unfinished task of bourgeois democratic revolution and to include the caste-contradiction as one of the major contradiction along with the class and colonial contradiction. To demarcate the character of European and Indian feudalism Marx propounded theory of Asiatic Mode of Production (AMP)[106].

By mid 1980s the movement against inequality got divided into the social justice stream, basically a dignity movement and fractioned; fractured Marxist stream. The circumstance demands dialectical unity of the struggles for social justice or the struggle for dignity and the economic rights and the new consciousness shall emerge from the united struggles and non-hostile contradictions shall be resolved[107]. The friendly (non-hostile) contradiction between the struggles for economic justice and social justice would be resolved in the process of the united struggle. Any conflict between the oppressor and the oppressed is class conflict. The slogan of Jay Bhim – Lal Salamemanated from JNU agitation is symbolic expression of this illusive unity[108].  Substantial success of the land movement by Dalits of Punjab, who combined the question of economic rights of land with the question of dignity, is a model at a micro level for generalized theorization of the unity of Jay Bhim and Lal Salam slogans[109]. “There can be no caste annihilation without revolution (on Marxist principles) and no revolution without caste annihilation”.[110]

The accusation of many identity politics activists of casteism in Communist Parties is not for no reason, de-casting is as difficult as declassing, as for this one has to undergo the process of unlearning by honest introspection and ruthless self-criticism. This is subject matter of separate discourse; I have briefly dealt with it elsewhere in the context of the autobiography, Aamar Jiban (My Life) of Kanti Bishwas, the education minister in the previous CPI (M) governments in West Bengal. A Brahmin communist or a Dalit communist are paradoxical and un-Marxian notions. The leadership not only did only not take up the caste question seriously but many of them themselves have not being caste prejudices emanating from the biological accident of birth. A discussion on this is beyond the scope here; I have dealt with it elsewhere[111].


The liberal (representative) democracy termed as bourgeois democracy by Marxists is the political expression of capitalist relation of production. First critique of liberal democracy was produced by Rousseau in the mid-18th century, at the early stage of its evolution,“The people of England regards itself as free; but it is grossly mistaken; it is free only during the election of members of parliament. As soon as they are elected, slavery overtakes it, and it is nothing.”[112] In parliamentary democracy people have right to decide which section of ruling classes is going to oppress them for the next five years? In the present Indian context, we have choice of choosing from the two the competing camps of imperialist global capital, which is no more geo-centric either in terms of its source or in terms of investment. Once in January, 2007 in a seminar onglobalization and Governance in Madras University, I was asked about the qualitative difference Lenin responded to the revisionist critique of the concept of the proletarian dictatorship and support of “pure democracy.”

“The Scheidemanns and Kautsky’s speak about “pure democracy” and “democracy” in general for the purpose of deceiving the people and concealing from them the bourgeois character of present-day democracy. Let the bourgeoisie continue to keep the entire apparatus of state power in their hands, let a handful of exploiters continue to use the former, bourgeois, state machine! Elections held in such circumstances are lauded by the bourgeoisie, for very good reasons, as being “free”, “equal”, “democratic” and “universal”. These words are designed to conceal the truth, to conceal the fact that the means of production and political power remain in the hands of the exploiters, and that therefore real freedom and real equality for the exploited, that is, for the vast majority of the population, are out of the question. It is profitable and indispensable for the bourgeoisie to conceal from the people the bourgeois character of modern democracy, to picture it as democracy in general or “pure democracy”, and the Scheidemanns and Kautskys, repeating this, in practice abandon the standpoint of the proletariat and side with the bourgeoisie.[113]

Over hundred years of experience, beginning with the emergence of revisionism in the Second Internationalfrom mid-1890s[114], Euro-Communism experiments and the parliamentary history of Indian Communist movement have proved that socialism not only cannot be brought through parliamentary participation but it gives legitimacy to bourgeois institutions and leads to dilution and complication of the question of class struggle. Marx, inCivil War in France and in the preface to 1972 edition of Communist Manifesto had reiterated that the bourgeois state machinery has to be smashed, the apparatus of slavery cannot be the apparatus of emancipation[115].

The dilemma and conflict of lines with respect to cooperation with, or opposition to Congress government, had begun even before the independence. The 1949 February CPI Central Committee resolution saw a turnabout from the 1947, June (P.C. Joshi) resolution which welcomed the Mountbatten plan as a “Compromise” that the imperialists had been forced to make to the “urgent demands of national liberation movement”. However it pointed out that the forces of imperialism and feudalism were still strong. It called for a united anti-imperialist front – “unity of all from Gandhi to the Communists”.[116]  1951 All India Congress of rejected the parliamentary path in favor of mass struggles of the people, the ‘left-deviation line got adopted[117]. .Party did not participate in 1952 elections. There is no scope to various party documents and debates, two-line conflict continued and eventually it decided to participate in parliamentary election to use it as platform for the propagation of revolutionary ideas; parliamentarianism was adopted as a means for higher revolutionary end, but as has become the history now, eventually the means became the end, leading to the miserable condition of the moment by now. In 1957 election, though Congress won a whopping majority, the CPI was the biggest opposition with 27 seats and formed government in Kerala, the first elected Communist government that was toppled by Nehru government, making the first use of article 356 of the constitution, a big blot on the Nehru’s leadership[118]. The electoral history of CPI and its subsequent offshoots is not the concern here, but their transformation into pure parliamentary party cut off from masses and mass struggles. The MPs and MLAs could not and did not transform their electoral base, the number power into people’s power by radicalization of the social consciousness, shaped by the epochal ideology, as discussed above, with the reference to German Ideology.

In the modern Indian context owing to its peculiar historical positioning; the social consciousness is impacted by an amalgamation of religious; caste; tradition factors coopted by the commodity culture imparted by market forces. Economy is the basis. In 1950s-60s certain belts in eastern UP were known as red belt by electing communist and socialist representatives in the aura and political clout of Nehru and Indira Gandhi.     In course of time, the electoral bases, of many prominent Communist parliamentarians shifted to BJP reflecting a regressive move in the form of social consciousness. As has been explained in the first part of this paper, under the sub-title of Marxism, some ‘keyword’ of it are: Man makes his own history’ in the ‘circumstances given and transmitted from the past’;  class-in-itself and class-for itself; conscious ness is product of material conditions and changed consciousness of changed material conditions; to each stage of development corresponds certain form of social conscious ness; social relations and productive forces conflict with each other; revolutionary circumstance is pre-condition of revolution; working class shall fight its war of emancipation; revolution is inevitable; ..  .”   By putting them together it can be concluded that the proletariat will fight war of its own emancipation by acquiring class consciousness through united struggled and transforming itself from class in itself to class for itself. Hence the key to revolution is class consciousness, i.e., radicalization of social consciousness, first by getting rid of false consciousness of caste and community by sharpening the edge of major contradiction, the economic contradiction. This could have been done by participating in their struggle and leading them and political education that these parliamentarians and progressive intellectuals failed to do.

Unlike other political parties, a Communist Party lays more emphasis on theory,  a theoretical system of ideas which defines and analyses the evolutionary and the revolutionary progress of the political processes with a historical perspective in terms of economic development and related superstructures at various times and spaces. The guiding principles of such a theory are derived from the principles of historical materialism on the philosophical basis of the dialectical materialism, within which lie the roots of social and economic change. Change is necessary in class divided systems, the Marxists believe, which is ‘exploitative’, ‘unjust’ and clearly based on the domination of the majority by a minuscule minority, which not only controls the means of production, but also ‘power’ in all its institutional dimensions. “The state is the instrument of the ruling classes”[119]. However, the evolution of theoretical and pragmatic Marxism has gone through immense internal stress, encountered multiple contradictions and faced various questions, the answers of which it has failed to provide, or it has simply reduced them into black and white categories, in a way, the international Communist movement witnessed many tragic situations when history overtook them with an unimaginable pace and “official” revolutionaries sought immediate, and almost un-Marxian answers  to highly complex situations.

The more complex political contests became, the more they turned to simplistic reductionism. The fear of confusion tormented the Communist leadership, the fear of innovation of looking beyond the foundations of set, structured laws – an insecurity symbolic of the Freudian ‘daughter-father’, ‘son-mother’ relationship the acceptance of the “objective reality” that the world had changed, and so has the equations of the power and social relations, came very hesitantly, while contradictions diversified, multiplied and acquired more complex possibilities. Marxism remained reduced within the parameters of the basic contradiction – ‘Labour – Capital’, ‘Proletariat– Bourgeoisie. The world, thereby, became a matter of easy comprehension.

Various streams of analytical, unconventional Marxism have entered the realm of social sciences, especially after the 2nd world war, but the dominant section of the International Communist movement led by the Central Committee of C.P.S.U, remained happily submerged in the dogmatic theoretical structures of early Marxism, later reinforced by Lenin in the precarious conditions of Russia, the revolution and the aftermath[120]. The Indian Communist movement also constituted a part of the same political attitude. Since its birth in 1921 in Tashkent and its first convention in 1925, after the initial commitment to revolutionary politics, especially in the 1930’s when as part of the Congress Socialist Party[121], it consolidated its mass base in trade unions, student movements, and grass root politics in Kerala, West Bengal, Tripura, Bihar, and Marginally in Punjab, Andhra and other states, the post-colonial Communist Movement has gradually, and steadily moved towards uni-lineal political passivity and degeneration. The Marxist- Leninist emphasis on mass based politics no more troubled their conscience. The “mistakes” (which were quite a few) of the past revolutionary years were “regretted” and conveniently sidetracked. Blatant pragmatism became the fundamental premise of the bankrupt politics – ornamented with the liberal use of jargons and slogans. (Karl Marx is in heaven and everything is alright with the world).   100 years ago Marx turned Hegel upside down, over 100 year after, the Indian Communist movement has certainly succeeded in turning Marx upside down.

Since then, it has pragmatically rejected the “violent overthrow of state and ruling class power” line and opted instead for the “peaceful transition” of power, through constitutional, electoral politics. And though the conceptions of the “dictatorship of proletariat”, and “classless society” remained the ideal of its socialism and Utopia – it entered the constitutionalism of “bourgeois–parliamentary democracy” with initial hesitation and gradually with greater scientific deliberation. Passive Constitutionalism has come to dominate the communist parties of this nation, though; at least apparently, its inherent political indecisiveness and guilt conscience has been haunting them from time to time.

Theory and Strategy – The Dichotomy of ‘No Return’

One of the fundamental problems which the Indian Communist Movement has been facing is evolving a correct, analytical explanation of the Indian State, the Congress, or, the “bourgeoisie” or the political elite. Unable to place the European context of Marxism directly in the Indian situation, the dilemma of a plausible definition, and thereby a strategic attitude towards it, continued to plague its theoretical ideologues. The Indian bourgeoisie and its leadership practiced policies which could not be explained in straight forward Marxist postulates – even in its most generalized form.

In fact, the Congress determined the articulation of political decisions and channelization during periods of crisis and otherwise, whereas the Communist leadership was forced to a position where it could only react or adapt, or adopt counter positions. While they participated in the mainstream of the struggle – the leadership and strategy of the movement was firmly entrenched in the hands of the Congress. It was believed that the congress, though a mass umbrella organization with various shades of political philosophies, was essentially led by big business, feudal interest groups – who will further reinforce the class divided exploitative structure of the polity if able to acquire political power. The successive debates of Comintern Congresses further reinforced   this belief. As late as, February 1984, this doctrine reappeared in the Congress of the CPI[122].

Therefore, one has witnessed the intense Love-hate fluctuations in the relationship-between the CPI – and the “bourgeois democratic national liberation movement” (as the 2nd Congress of the Comintern termed it after the famous debate between MN Roy and V. Lenin)[123].

All future categories of the CPI are derived from this premise. And the contradictions increased many fold. Confused and pushed into the wall, the movement immersed in repeated exercises of self-introspection – but mostly, emerged, with a deeper sense of confusion. Thereby the need for reductionism and pragmatism became stronger.  Rigorous analysis was discarded. Jargons, slogans and orthodox Marxism was grasped with a drowning man’s delight, the second theoretical dilemma was related to the first. It was difficult for the Indian Communist to understand the “relative autonomy” of the political apparatus i.e. the superstructure which Nehru professed to adopt and pursue under the conception of a “mixed economy[124]

Nehru, despite the inherent problems of this framework, made an effort to transcend the stereotypes of existing societal models. His was in a search for an alternative in a country where indigenous capitalism had immense potential to grow as a subsidiary force to the public Sector which comprised the core of the economy, Nehru’s alternative was borne out of a compromise between his socialism and the right wing, extremely powerful section of the Congress.

“The transfer of power:, therefore, from the ‘white to the Brown Masters’, as the Communist preferred to call it, resulted in the further strengthening of the indigenous bourgeoisie which had a knack for innovation and experimentation in the accumulation of private profit. The terrain was now wide open.

However, Nehru’s domestic and foreign policy could not be placed in the same context as that of banana republics or puppet regimes within the strait jacket to general Marxist laws.  The Communists were not able to clearly analyze the polarizations of the Nehruvian notion of a “mixed-economy based welfare state”. In its analysis of the nation-state, the CPI was partially right and partially wrong. While on the one hand its understanding seemed correct, but on the other this correctness could not be assumed as a political finality. When stereotypes change, especially in liberal bourgeoisie democracies, the deviations are much more difficult to perceive and analysis, so multifarious they are in quality and approach. What is visible might be an “objective reality” but the hidden “”invisibility” can also be a major propellant for its concrete determinations. The subtleties of such political processes are more intricate and intertwined, the balance of forces more indirect and subject to change, the fluctuations more sharp and unexpected. Here, the trap which pushes logic on either side of the cobweb, and thereby escapes the fluctuations, becomes more authentic and vicious. Theory manages to rationalize, if it does not innovate, to reject or accept, condemn or hail.

Later, within a span of eight months it came round to the view that the Mountbatten plan was a natural “culmination of the betrayal of the revolutionary struggle”. This line continues to be reinforced even in the present state, although in certain crisis situations as in the 1962 war and 1975 emergency era a section of the CPI turned pro-congress.

Similar was the crisis of political strategy during the “people’s war” line, when Congress declared that the CPI has betrayed the movement and allied with Britain, a country which was an ally or Russia in the war against Fascism. If Russia lost the war, they believed, the world communist movement will be pushed back or even destroyed.

The second Congress of the CPI marked the stage for post war national independence, which was an integral part of the overall war against colonialism. Tactics, especially that of P.C. Joshi and the “rightists” within the CPI started governing revolutionary Commitment – armed struggle, et al. Though armed resistance or the violent overthrow of state was not ruled out, it was believed that the leadership structure of the nation should not be disturbed. Communists should mobilize grassroots opinion so as to create “pressure from below”[125]. This was a dual policy, but an important starting point of constitutional pragmatism. This was the line taken by the Comintern from 1947 to 1953, and followed by most communist parties of the world in the postwar era.

The Bombay workers strike, the Telangana, Tibhaga movements, resulted again in the sharp polarization between the state and CPI. It was no longer General Dyer Killing people in Jalianwala Bagh but Indian Generals, commanded by Nehru and Patel themselves. An isolated Telangana movement was lost over the dead bodies of thousands of workers and peasants. The “historical blunder”, as Telangana movement was later called, is perhaps the last battle the communists have fought in their quest for socialism.[126] The line changed rapidly after that and led to lesser optimism in the later years. Thus started the great debate — Is armed struggle by mass mobilization and as undertaken by the Bolsheviks and later by Mao’s Red Army, applicable in the Indian context? The polarization within the CPI sharpened. The left, center and right were clearly divided.

By the mid-fifties, in the aftermath of Talangana, the polarization within the CPI on political approach towards the Indian State became distinct. One stream of thought discarded the “adventurist” and hasty characterization of the Nehru regime. Led by PC Joshi, SA Dange and others, this line dictated a softer approach towards Nehru –the national bourgeoisie has a strong progressive element. It stated and suggested that questions of armed struggle, or direct confrontation and hostility with the government should be discarded. Instead, it argued that the “pressure from below” vis a vis cooperation theory should be applied. This line came to be known as that of the “rightists” line within the party. The other major deviation comprised a militant position led by Ranadive, Basavapunnaia, P. Sundarayia and others, which stuck to the old position that is was a neocolonial state controlled by monopoly business allied to the West and feudal interests.

Therefore, during this period one saw the party take up a position which was neither of the left nor of the right variety but that of the center – a “minority line” which was ambiguous and took no strong position on any issue.

The factionalism and power game inside the party, however, continued.  Which line will overwhelm? How long can this “false truce” sustain itself”?  The crucial questions became more pronounced, though, at a subterranean level. However, the more distinct the “internal crisis” turned, the more “left unity” became an issue. With Khrushchev, there again followed a break in the international theoretical line, which the Indian Communists had followed. The Zhdanovist’s “tow-camp” theory was discarded by Khrushchev and a period of “peaceful co-existence (even with the imperialist USA) followed.

In the Indian context, the state sprung another major surprise. Under the 2nd Plan, where emphasis was laid on heavy industry, large scale soviet collaboration was realized, both with the public and private sector. This further strengthened the “National bourgeoisie is progressive” thesis. Meanwhile, the first elected Communist Government in Kerala (1957) was toppled by the Congress Government at the Centre. The ideological confusion, now with the absence of the ‘two camp’ theory deepened. The 1962 China – India War was the final nail in the coffin of a United Indian Communist Movement based on Marxist – Leninist revolutionary principles.

While the rightists declared it as an aggression on Indian territorial independence, the left were hesitant to call it in such blatant terminology. ‘It is a border dispute, which should be resolved through negotiations’ they believed. The polarizations, having accumulated over the last two decades – between “revisionist” and “revolutionary” ideology – clearly acquired objective conditions for the split. The split was inevitable – and its roots could be traced back to the historical evolution of global and national politics Vis a Vis the left movement. It was once again a replica of the Menshevik-Bolshevik conflict. If time is a great healer, the left movement has been certainly a beneficiary. The formation of the CPI and the CPI (M) in 1964 and their gradual internalization of bourgeois politics over the years helped them accomplish themselves. While the rhetoric remained, as usual, more as a self-rationalization of militant nostalgia, the application of Marxism as a theory acquired new dimensions. Constitutional electoral politics requires different calculations, slogans, intrigues, conspiracies and power games. The connotations are certainly in absolute contrast to the militancy of the communist manifesto or the 1951 tactical document (circulated in secrecy and to a select few but later widely known), which did not rule out the inevitability of an armed overthrow of bourgeois state power.

For the CPI (M), the line, even now continues to remain, but both the left parties have been overtaken by the power game of parliamentarianism, with such remarkable consistency that despite the last semblances of revolutionary rhetoric, the Khrushchev thesis of capturing power through peaceful transitions – overpowered the political motivations and emotional sensibilities. Marxian humanism was discarded in Toto and what followed was a Comte-humanism reflected on the Congress Culture – with all its share of cold calculations, and blind miscalculations, which have since then, backfired on the movement.

The Love-hate relationship continued to flourish between the two left varieties and the Congress The premises for people’s struggle, democratic rights & consciousness, mobilizations of workers – peasants youth, women, intelligentsia and left unity, etc., automatically got geared towards one goal – electoral power.

Parliamentary politics sucked in the left so deep that the value systems practiced by bourgeois power games slowly got incorporated into it. Passivity, opportunism, and strategic silence dominated the political conscience of the left.

While history moved with its share of misfortune, brutality, and the state repression and private profit flourished famines and floods, mass killings and holocausts, even Fascism in its most blatant and naked reality, entered the polity with regular consistency, the logic of “Parliamentary Marxism” was maintained, legitimized and sustained.

Summing up in a few lines, the degenerations of Marxist Praxis, A. K. Gopalan the veteran Communist leader from Kerala wrote:

“A new life, a new environment, a new alliance – I found myself in an environment calculated to ruin a man. First class travel, comfortable chambers in the parliament, a surfeit of money, magnificent quarters – and a life devoid of heavy responsibility. All circumstances favorable to a life of pleasure. The overall framework was such that we did not feel hopeful about this much eulogized parliamentary democracy.”[127]  The Naxalbari movement in the late sixties was an inevitable outcome of this stagnation. Mainly, a split from the local leaderships of West Bengal, Andhra and Bihar supported and provided leadership to the revolutionary flame ignited by the spontaneous peasants’ uprising at Naxalbari formed the core of the movement. After an initial burst of intense idealism and honesty, the movement fizzled out into disorganized, scattered realms of political anarchy[128].

Arter Telengana, this was the second major shock to the left moment, a shock, which their ideologues had not perceived even in their most militant logic of historical materialism and protest. Looking back into the dialectics of its growth, the Naxalbari movement and the further splits in the left ideology can be clearly traced back to the organizational and ideological crisis in the party formally recognized in 1950. The crisis remained in the depths of its structure, in undercurrents which grew stronger over an accumulated period of stagnation. ‘Constitutional Freedom”, even in the divided CPI continued to be viewed by a large section as illusions, a farce and a pseudo rationalization. The crisis of constitutionalism in the left remained unresolved. The choices now remained limited within the paradigm of bourgeois politics. Mass participation became directly proportional to the number of votes required. Caste-clan calculations no longer were purely bourgeois – communal gains but also that of secular, communist forces. The state might still be the “instrument of the ruling class” – but it certainly has a “progressive foreign policy”. The CPI went so far as to declare its support for Mrs. Gandhi’s Emergency at the behest of the Kremlin.

The cycle of degeneration and perversions, as it seems, has ripened to a state – where even rhetoric is not used, nor the pretentions of raising “mass consciousness” or the workers – peasants’ unity in the democratic movement for equality, justice and freedom. While the Indian state violates the constitution as a matter of attitude the communists dip into it, with a ‘holier than the Ganga belief.

Theoretically, the left variety of parliamentary Marxism is trapped in the quagmire of no return. Its methodology needs an “epistemological break” if it wishes to restore and consolidate the essential doctrines of Marxism. A new tradition has to be built, based on the changing forces of societal complex and state power, and existential experiences directly linked to new modes of production, of class alienation, of organization and strategy. This tradition needs to respect the various streams of Marxist analysis which has flooded the theoretical market, find the reasons for its origin, its deviations from the established current, and seek more practical solutions based on humanism.

Reductionism, in a constitutional stagnation, is inevitable; it is the comfort of political hypocrisy clothed in mechanical, simplistic assessment of reality. Reductionism is categorical. It cannot transcend its own wall, its own fortress of pseudo rationalization, divorced from genuine self – introspection.

The communist movement in India, however, is not in a mood or position to enter into the trauma of self-realization


   Both the official communist parties (CPI & CPI (M) are at their peak of passivity, theoretically bankrupt, divorced from revolutionary praxis. The cobweb, in which it has entered, can now only expand further, till the point of Hegelian totality, when the cobweb, itself would transcend the dichotomy, break apart, and create, perhaps, another Telangana or Naxalbari. Till that time. There can be only a further elongation of postponement. The sky is the limit. I have used Telangana and Naxalbari metaphorically meaning new wave of revolutionary formation a new internationalism on Marxist principles, the old one seems ready to give way.

[1] K Marx &F Engels, German Ideology, K Marx & F Engels, Collected Works, (CW, hence forth) Vol. 5, Progress, Moscow, 1978 pp.  59-62

[2] डॉ बीआर अंबेडकर, प्रतिक्रांति की दार्शनिक पुष्टि: कृष्ण और उनकी गीताहिंदी समय, महात्मा गांधी हिंदी विवि, वर्धा,…/भीमराव-आंबेडकर-विमर्श-प्रति..

[3] Karl Marx, The Theses on Feuerbach, Marx and Engels, Selected Works in 3 volumes (SW, 1;2;3 henceforth) SW 1, p. 15

[4] Ibid p.14

[5]  ईश मिश्र, समाजवाद का इतिहास, भाग-1, वैचारिक बीजारोपण, समयांतर, मार्च 2017

[6]  Marx, Letter to father

[7]Louis Althuser, Lenin and Philosophy,

[8] Antonio Gramsci, Selections from Prison Notes,

[9] Marx, Poverty of Philosophy,  Progress, Moscow, 1978, p.145

[10] Karl Marx, Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, K Marx and F Engels, Selected Works (in Single Volume), Progress, Moscow, 1977, p. 96.  SW, henceforth.

[11] Extensively quoted in Ish Mishra, समाजवाद का इतिहास -8: क्रांति की ड्रेस रिहर्सल, समयांतर, नई दिल्ली, अक्टूबर 2017, pp. 38-42

[12]Rosa Luxemburg: The Russian Revolution (1918),

[13] Acharya Narendra Dev, Towards Socialist Society, edited by Brahmanand, Centre of Applied Politics, New Delhi 1979,

[14] Jayaprakash Narayan, Towards Total Revolution, Vol. 2 , edited by Brahmanand, Popular Prakashan, Bombay, 1978, p.1

[15] Marx & Engels, Manifesto  of Communist Party, SW, p.36

[16] KN Panicker, Was there a Renaussance?  Frontline,  26 Feb-11 March, 2011

[17]Marx, British Rule in India,The British Rule in India by Karl Marx – Marxists Internet Archive

[18] ईश मिश्र, समाजवाद की समस्याएं, समकालीन तीसरी दुनिया, नई दिल्ली, मई 2016; जाति का सवाल और कम्यनिस्ट, समयांतर, नई दिल्ली, अप्रैल, 2016.

[19] Anand Teltubde, The Red Blue and Saffron, (Hindi translation), समयांतर, जनवरी, 2017.

[20] Lucio Colletti, From Rousseau to Lenin, OUP, 1978

[21] Gramsci, The Intellectuals, o op.cit.

[22] Francis Fukuyama, The End of the History and the Last Man (1992),

[23] Ibid

[24] Ish Mishra, Heat and Dust on a Highway in Kalinganagar  Economic and Political Weekly , 10 March 2007

[25] The Economic Times, May 22, 2018

[26] David Harvey, The New Imperialism, OUP, New York, 2003, pp. 137-182

[27] Ish Mishra, Political Economy of SEZ, Voice  of Rsistance , New DelhiVol.2No.6, August 2013

[28] Marx And Engels, The Manifesto of Cmmunist Party, SW, pp. 36-93

[29]Y is for Young Hegelians | Socialist Review

[30]Doctoral Dissertation of Karl Marx – Marxists Internet Archive

[31]The Essence of Christianity by Ludwig Feuerbach

[32] F Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and end of Classical German Philosophy, SW PP.584-85

[33]Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right – Marxists Internet Archive…/Marx_Critique_of_Hegels_Philosophy_of_Right.pdf

[34] ibid

[35] German Ideology, CW5, PP 59-62

[36] Op. cit.

[37] Marx, Class Struggle in France, !848-1850 , SW1,pp 186-289

[38] Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis BonaparteSW , pp.96-166

[39] ईश मिश्र, समाजवाद का इतिहास का इतिहास – 5: समाजवादी अंतर्राष्ट्रीयता का दौर,समयांतर, जुलाई 2017

[40]  Marx, Preface, A contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Progress, 1984, pp. 19-23

[41] ईश मिश्र, मार्क्स और मार्क्सवाद, समयांतर, जून, 2018, PP.28-34

[42] Marx, Civil War in France, Marx and Engels, On Civil war in France, Progress, 1971, pp. 35-101

[43]Engels’ burial speech – Marxists Internet Archive

[44] Sudipta Kaviraj, Concept of Man in political Theory Part-2Social Scientist, New Delhi January. 1980.

[45] Ibid

[46] Dictionary of Marxist Thought, bop.cit. pp. 436-37

[47]Ish Mishra, Thomas HobbesThomas Hobbes (1588-1679) – Countercurrents

[48] ईश मिश्र, राष्ट्र-राज्य और राष्ट्रवाद: मिथक और यथार्थ समयांतर, जनवरी, 2018

[49] Antonio Gramsci, The Intellectuals, Selections from Prison Notebooks, pp. 4-43

[50]Ish MishraNationalism And The Egalitarian Alternatives – Countercurrents

[51] A note on Plekhanov and 2nd International

[52] Quoted in Jorge Larrain, Marxism and Ideology  from Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind, Humanities Press, 1983 p. 118

[53] Ibid

[54] Ibid p. 120

[55] ibid

[56]  EPM, p.131

[57] Ibid p. 139

[58] Larrain, op.cit. p 124

[59] German Ideology, CW5,   op.cit. pp. 490-91

[60] Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, Published by the MSAC Philosophy Group, 2008 (first published in 1841)   

[61] Theses on Feuerbach, SW pp. 28-29

[62] Ibid, p.28

[63] Ludwig Feuerbach and the End Of Classical German Philosophy, SW, pp. 586-87

[64] Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and End of Classical German Philosophy, SW. p 587

[65] Op.cit.

[66] Marx, Preface to A contribution to the Critique of Political economy (The preface, henceforth) Progress, 1984, pp. 19-23

[67] Tom Bottommore  op.cit.p. 385

[68] The Preface, Op. cit.

[69] Bottommore , op.cit. p.235

[70] Ibid

[71] Frnaz Fanon,  The Wretched of the Earth, Grove Weidenfeld,  New York ,1968

[72] Letter of Engels to J Bloch (21-220 Sept. 1890. SW p. 682

[73] Op.cit.

[74] Ralph Miliband , Marxism and Politics, OUP, 1976, p. 43

[75] Marx, Letter to Wedeymeyer, 5 March 1852, SW, p. 669

[76] ईश मिश्र, पंजाब में दलितों का जमीन के लिए संघर्ष और सामूहिक खेती…/panjab-me-dalito-ka-jamin-ke-lie-sa…, 5 March 2018

[77] Grundrisse, quoted in CB Macpherson, op.cit. p. 21

[78] SW, p.36

[79]The Philosophy of Poverty (Large Print Edition): Pierre-Joseph …

[80] Poverty of Philosophy, op.cit p.145

[81] ईश मिश्र, युगचेतना बनाम जनचेतना, जनतंत्र और संपोषणीय विकास (सं. ओडी सिंह), यूपी पीयूसीयल, इलाहाबाद, 2015

[82] Communist Manifesto, op.cit.

[83] German Ideology, op. cit.

[84]Preamble of the provisional rules of the First International, quoted in ईश मिश्र, समाजवाद -5: मजदूरों की अंतर्राष्ट्रीयता की दिशा, समयांतर, जून 2016

[85] Marx’s interview in July 1871 in The World, quoted in M Johnston, Marx and Engels and the Concept of the PartySocialist Register, London, 1967

[86] Ralph Miliband, op.cit. p. 120

[87] Bernard D’Mello, Ruthless Criticism of all that Exists, EPW, 5May 2018

[88] Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’ Philosophy of rights, op.cit.  

[89]The British Rule in India by Karl Marx – Marxists Internet Archive.

[90] Bernard D’Mello, Ruthless Criticism of All That Exists, EPW, 5 May 2018

[91]Dictionary of Marxist Thought pp. 435-440.  

[92]SW, p. 96

[93] Gyanendra Pandey,  Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India, Sage, New Delhi, 1991

[94] Sudipta Kaviraj, Split in the Indian Communist Movement, PhD thesis submitted in JNU, 1977.

[95] ibid

[96] ibid.

[97] Ibid

[98] Bipin Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, Sucheta Mahajan, KN Panicker, India’ Struggle for Independence, Penguin, 2012, pp. 273-75

[99] ईश मिश्र, समाजवाद -8, op.cit.

[100]  Report on left deviation in CPI, Historical and Political Documents of  Communist Movement of India, op.cit. 204-357.

[101] Telangana Documents,  issued by Central Committee of CPI, august 1950, Historical and Political Documents of  Communist Movement of India, Vol. 1 1943-51)  published by T Negireddy Trust, Vijayawada, 2007, pp. 449-508

[102] M. Chalapathi N. Y. Sharada Prasad, and B. R. Nanda (1982). Selected works of Jawaharlal Nehru. Orient Longman. p. 502.

[103] Presesent Situation and TasksHistorical and Political Documents of  Communist Movement of India, Vol.2 (1964-1972), op.cit.  pp. 20-26

[104]Sumanta Banerjee, In the Wake of Naxalbari: A History of the Naxalite Movement in India, Subarnarekha, Calcutta 1980

[105] Since the ascendance of present BJP led government,  In India in general and in BJP governed states  particular the numbers of cases of Dalit atrocities have multiplied. One can  find numerous reports by Google search.

[106] Marx &Engels, Asiatic Mode of Production

[107]Mao Zedong, On Contradiction (1937)

[108] Ish Mishra, The Idea of JNU and the RSS jingoism, Countercureents.Org, 4 May 2016

[109]Peasants Battle Cry for land: An investigation into Police and Landlord Repression on Land Movement of Dalit Peasants in Punjab, by Janhastakshep: a campaign against fascist designs, New Delhi. June 2016.

[110] Slogan of JNU based, Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Students Organization (BASO).

[111] ईश मिश्र, कम्युनिस्ट और जाति का सवाल, समयांतर, जून 2016; समाजवाद की समस्याएं, समकालीन तीसरी दुनिया, मई, 2016.

[112] Jean Jacques Rousseau, Social Contract, Penguin, 1986.

[113] Lenin,  “Democracy” and Dictatorship, first published in Pravda, 3 Jan 1919 in Lenin’s Collected Works, Vol. 28, pp.368-72

[114] ईश मिश्र, समाजवाद-8op.cit.  

[115] Marx, Civil War in France, SW, pp. 271-301

[116] June 1947 Party resolution (Joshi Resolution) PC Joshi Archives

[117] Statement of policy of the Communist Party of India, 1951. Historical and Political Documents of CPI op.cit.pp. 571-79

[118]Sandeep Bhardwaj, Kerala Crisis (1957-1959): First Litmus Test of Indian Democracy,…/kerala-crisis-1957-1959-first-litmus-test-of-indian-demo.

[119] Marx, Manifesto, op.cit.

[120] ईश मिश्र, समाजवाद-9: सर्वहारा की तानाशाही का सच, समयांतर, नवंबर 2017

[121] Jay Prakash Narayan, op.cit.

[122] CPSU 1094 Congress.

[123] Roy Lenin debate, op.cit.

[124]Peter Kennedy, Marxism and the Relative Autonomy of the Capitalist State,

[125] Historical and Politicalb…., pp 436-73

[126] Telangana Documents, Historical and Political… ., op.cit. pp449-508

[127] AK Gopalan, In the Cause of the People, Orient longman, New Delhi, 1972, pp. 181-82

[128] Sumanta Banerji, op.cit.

Ish Mishra, Associate Professor, Dept. of Political Science, Hindu College, University of Delhi

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