Any patriotic Indian would be shocked to read such a narrow Eurocentric, derogatory and insulting evaluation of his country and civilisation, but not the Indian leftists. Instead of probing the sources of Marx'sknowledge about India and questioning his sweeping pronouncements, they started lauding them as ?historic?, ?prophetic?, ?original? and ?insightful?. That great litterateur Mulk Raj Anand in the preface to his edited work Marx and Engels on India (Allahabad, 1938) showered phrases like ?The insight with which Marx analyses the changes in the form of Indian society brought about by the British conquest of India?, ?the uncanny foresight with which in 1853 he prophesied? and ?with the perspicacity of genius Marx describes how the coming of Britain to India broke up this slow-moving antiquated social order? (p. 5).
Rajni Palme Dutt in his India Today (written during the years 1936-1939 but published in 1940) devoted full thirteen pages (pp. 83-95) to discuss these articles of 1853 and some sporadic references to India in Marx'sCapital and Correspondence. For R.P.D. these few references were sufficient to prove that ?Marx had continuously devoted some of his leading thought and work to India? (p. 83). An ecstatic R.P.D. wrote: ?In fact, the well known articles of Marx on India, written as a series in 1853, are among the most fertile of his writings and the starting point of modern thought on the questions covered? (ibid).
Further he says, ?These taken in conjunction with Capital and the references in the Correspondence, give the kernel of Marx'sthought on India.? (ibid p. 84). R.P.D. is in full agreement with every statement made by Marx. Posing the question, ?Does Marx shed tears over fall of the village system and the destruction of the old basis of Indian society?? R.P.D. gives a readymade answer, ?But he saw also the deeply reactionary character of that village system, and the indispensable necessity of its destruction if mankind is to advance?. (p. 91). Very approvingly, R.P.D. recounts the ?regenerating? role of the British rule in India, as presented by Marx. (pp. 92-94). Paying encomiums to the prophetic vision of Marx, R.P.D. writes, ?More than ninety years have passed since Marx wrote on India. Far-reaching changes have taken place. The main outlines of Marx'shistorical analysis still stand, and his vision into the future of India (to which no parallel can be found in any nineteenth century writer on India.)? (ibid, p. 94)
What a pathetic example of blind hero-worship and intellectual servility!
With this blind faith in the knowledge and vision of Marx, the image of 1857 Revolt could not be different from what was presented by R.P.D. and other early Left intellectuals. If, according to Marx, the British conquest of India was to be seen as the victory of a superior civilisation over an inferior one and if England had a double mission to fulfill in India: (1) The destruction of the old stagnated, semi-barbarous social and economic order and (2) To initiate a process of regeneration by introducing steam, electric telegraph and railways, modern industrialisation, as well as the western education system, then, any sudden violent uprooting of the British rule, which the 1857 Revolt really aimed at, could be termed, nothing but ?reactionary?, anti-progress and ?anti-people?. The success of such a violent outburst would have meant the disruption of the process of regeneration leading to the restoration of the old order. Therefore, the pre-1957 Left perspective of the 1857 Revolt reflected truly Marx'sperception of India in 1853.
Here it may be useful to examine the sources of Marx'sknowledge and perception of India. Interestingly, Marx'sviews on India were not known in India and Europe till 1930s. Rajni Palme Dutt was shocked when in 1927 the leading English Socialist leader Harold Laski put out the view, ?The effort to read the problem of India in the set terms of Marxism is rather an exercise in ingenuity than a serious intellectual contribution to socialist advance.? (Communism, London 1927, p. 124, cf. R.P. Dutt, India Today 1940/1997, p. 83). Soon after, the archives of Marx-Engels, set up in 1919 at Moscow by D. Ryazanov, started compilation and publication of the collected works of Marx and Engels. After the sudden demotion and exile of Ryazanov by Stalin, this work was carried further by V. Adaratsky, who in 1933 published in two volumes the Historical Writings of Marx and Engels wherein the two signed articles by Marx, discussed above, were included. But, much before that a section of Indian intellectuals and activists, swayed away by the powerful propaganda unleashed by the Russian Bolshevik Party and the 1919 Communist International led by Vladimir Lenin, under the slogan, ?Way to London goes via Peking and Calcutta? had come to believe that the coup which brought Lenin to power in October 1917 was a great ideological revolution and its driving ideology was Marxism. They had become Marxists without having read Marx. Prof D.P. Mukherji of Lucknow University could pronounce in 1945 that ?Karl Marx'splace as a historian is of the highest order.? (On Indian History: A Study in Method, Chap. 2, Indian History and the Marxist Method; pp. 9-48; Bombay, 1945, p. 18). Defending Lenin'scoup, Mukherji wrote: ? Recent researches have demolished the dishonest conclusion that according to Marx, Russia should have been the last country to achieve a revolution and it was all Lenin'sdoing without reference to the Marxian methodology? (ibid, p. 42). He fervently pleaded that ?the Marxist approach may be given a trial by our historians.? (ibid. 47)
(To be continued…)