Ellen Meiksins Wood versus Karl Marx

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Tue Oct 31 16:26:51 MST 2000

>But orginal question was why British can invade India and not reverse.

It has been argued that the industries of India were far more advanced than
those up to the advent of the industrial revolution and a British author
named William Digby argued in 1902 that "before the stream of loot began to
flow to England, the industries of our country were at a low level.
Lancashire spinning and weaving were on a par with corresponding industry
in India so far as machinery were concerned; but the skill which made
Indian cottons a marvel of manufacture was wholly wanting in any of the
Western nations." (W. Digby, "Prosperous British India: A Revelation from
Official Records", 1902)

India also had a thriving iron, brass and copper manufacturing centers. Nor
was India backward in the field of naval construction. Her ships sailed the
7 seas and even as late as 1802 British warships were built by India and
England borrowed blueprints from Indian builders. (R. Mookerji, "A History
of Indian Shipping, 1926)

Neither was farming particularly backward. The British agronomist Voelcker
wrote: "At his best the Indian cultivator is quite as good as, and in some
respects the superior of, the British farmer... nowhere would one find
better instances of keeping land scrupulously clean from weeds, of
ingenuity in device of water-raising appliances, of knowledge of and their
capabilities, as well as of the exact time to sow and to reap, one would in
Indian agriculture. .. . it is wonderful, too, how much is known of the
system of ‘mixed crops’ and of fallowing." (L.S. O'Malley, ed. "Modern
India and the West", 1941)

While India was not a technical backwater, it faced Great British
imperialism as a semi-feudal society. Using its military and political
leverage as a full-fledged capitalist power, England was able to conquer
the country and prevent it from moving into capitalist modernity. If you
want to read about the particular nature of Indian society and why it had
not yet completed an evolution into capitalism, I would refer you to K.S.
Shelvankar's "The Problem of India" (1940). In any case, with the imperial
conquest of India, Great Britain was able to use this to further enhance
its position in the rest of the East, including Opium Wars and all the rest.

Louis Proyect
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