[Marxism] need reference re Marx and India

Andrew Pollack acpollack2 at gmail.com
Sun Dec 1 13:46:12 MST 2013

Thanks to all for these helpful references. And here's the link to Louis's
excellent piece which he forgot:

On Sun, Dec 1, 2013 at 2:07 PM, Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com> wrote:

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> On 12/1/13 1:54 PM, Andrew Pollack wrote:
>> An undergraduate comrade of color has come across for the first time Marx
>> on India and as is often the case on such first discovery, called him a
>> racist for his labeling of various cultures as superior or barbaric.
>> I've got a million references from MIA to provide context and to stress
>> the
>> method behind his rhetoric (i.e. showing how England prepared the way
>> economically and technically for a unified Indian independence movement,
>> which he supported).. But can anyone recommend a single online article or
>> even book which takes up this question?
> Aijaz Ahmad on Marx's India articles
> Aijaz Ahmad's "In Theory: Classes, Nations and Literatures" contains an
> article titled "Marx on India: a Clarification," which serves as a reply to
> Edward Said, who viewed Marx's early India articles as Orientalist. Ahmad's
> main goal is to show the context in which Marx's incidental journalistic
> pieces on India appear. This is totally missing in Said's treatment of the
> subject. Said quotes the famous paragraph from an June 10, 1853 Tribune
> piece that described Indian village life as superstition-ridden and
> stagnant. The model that Marx had in mind when writing this article was
> North America. Marx was entertaining the possibility of capitalist economic
> development within a colonial setting around this time. (Ahmad reminds us
> that the gap in material prosperity between India and England in 1835 was
> far narrower than it was in 1947.)
> Part of the problem was that Marx simply lacked sufficient information
> about India to develop a real theory. His remarks have the character of
> conjecture, not the sort of deeply elaborated dialectical thought that is
> found in Capital. And so what happens is that enemies of Marxism seize upon
> these underdeveloped remarks to indict Marxism itself.
> Ahmad notes that Marx had exhibited very little interest in India prior to
> 1853, when the first of the Tribune articles were written. It was the
> presentation of the East India Company's application for charter renewal to
> Parliament that gave him the idea of writing about India at all. To prepare
> for the articles, he read the Parliamentary records and Bernier's
> "Travels". (Bernier was a 17th century writer and medicine man.) So it is
> fair to say that Marx's views on India were shaped by the overall prejudice
> prevailing in India at the time. More to the point is that Marx had not
> even drafted the Grundrisse at this point and Capital was years away. So
> critics of Marx's writings on India are singling out works that are not
> even reflective of the fully developed critic of capitalism.
> Despite this, Marx was sufficiently aware of the nature of dual nature of
> the capitalist system to entertain the possibility that rapid capitalist
> development in India could eliminate backward economic relations and lead
> to future emancipation. His enthusiasm for English colonialism is related
> to his understanding of the need for capitalist transformation of all
> precapitalist social formations. His animosity towards feudal social
> relations is well known. He regards them as antiquated and a block on
> future progress. The means by which they are abolished are universally
> cruel and inhumane such as the Enclosure Acts. What he is looking for in
> this process is not a way of judging human agencies on a moral basis, but
> what the dynamics of this process can lead to. That goal is socialism and
> the sole measure of every preceding historical development.
> A few weeks later, on July 22nd, Marx wrote another article that had some
> more rude things to say about India and England as well. But here he was
> much more specific about the goal in question. He says that the English
> colonists will not emancipate the Indian masses. That is up to them to do.
> Specifically, Marx writes, "The Indian will not reap the fruits of the new
> elements of society scattered among them by the British bourgeoisie, till
> in Great Britain itself the new ruling classes shall have been supplanted
> by the industrial proletariat, or till the Hindus themselves shall have
> grown strong enough to throw off the English yoke altogether."
> So unless there is social revolution, the English presence in India brings
> no particular advantage. More to the point, it will bring tremendous
> suffering.
> Furthermore, there is evidence that Marx was becoming much more sensitive
> to the imperialist system itself late in life. He wrote a letter to
> Danielson in 1881 that basically described the sort of pillage that the
> socialists of Lenin's generation were sensitive to:
> "In India serious complications, if not a general outbreak, are in store
> for the British government. What the British take from them annually in the
> form of rent, dividends for railways useless for the Hindoos, pensions for
> the military and civil servicemen, for Afghanistan and other wars, etc.
> etc., -- what they take from them without any equivalent and quite apart
> from what they appropriate to themselves annually within India, -- speaking
> only of the commodities that Indians have to gratuitously and annually send
> over to England -- it amounts to more than the total sum of the income of
> the 60 million of agricultural and industrial laborers of India. This is a
> bleeding process with a vengeance."
> A bleeding process with a vengeance? Make no mistake about this. Marx did
> not view England as on a civilizing mission.
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