When serious scholars like D.D. Kosambi tried to apply Marxian approach to Indian history, they found themselves in great difficulty. In 1951, Kosambi tried to examine Marxist approach to Indian chronology (Annals of Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Vol. 31 pp. 258-66) as presented by a Russian scholar D.A. Suleiken in 1949 and found it ?dangerously misleading? (Kosambi'sOmnibus, OUP 2005, p. 49). In his seminal work, An Introduction to the Study of Indian History (first published in 1956, sixth reprint 1993) Kosambi rejected many of Marx'sstatements about India. Kosambi wrote: ?India had never a classical slave economy in the same sense as Greece or Rome? (p. 11). Kosambi was at a loss what to make of Marx'sfamous theory of the ?Asiatic Mode of Production?. He says, ?What Marx himself said about India cannot be taken as it stands.? Kosambi, who is considered to be the father of Marxist historiography on India, emphatically rejects Marx'sview of Indian history. He writes: ?We cannot let pass without challenge Marx'sstatement, ?Indian society has no history at all? unchanging (village) society.? Kosambi says, ?In fact, the greatest periods of Indian history, the Mauryans, the Satavahanas, the Guptas owed nothing to intruders, they mark precisely the formation and spread of the basic village society, or the development of new trade centers? (ibid, pp 11-12). Kosambi was of firm view, that: ?The adoption of Marx'sthesis does not mean blind repetition of all his conclusions (and even less, those of the official party line Marxists at all times)? (p. 10). That is why Kosambi wrote a ruthlessly critical review of S.A. Dange's India from Primitive Communism to Slavery, People'sPublishing House (PPH), Bombay 1949).
Irfan Habib in his well documented essay, Marx'sPerception of India, [written on the occasion of Marx'sdeath centenary in the year 1983 and published in the inaugural issue of The Marxist, an official journal of the CPI(M), reprinted in his ?Essays in Indian History, Tulika, Delhi, 1995), reproduced again in Iqbal Hussan (ed); Karl Marx on India, (Tulika, 2006)] holds the view that ?In 1853 he seems to have taken up his starting point the (1830) descriptive elements in Hegel'sinterpretation of Indian civilization? (ibid, p. 58). Marx almost echoes Hegel'swords: ?The Hindoos have no history, no growth expanding into a veritable political condition?. Marx blindly repeated Hegel'sview that the admitted diffusion of Indian culture has been ?a dumb, deedless expansion? and ?the people of India have achieved no foreign conquests but on every occasion were vanquished themselves.? Similarly, he repeated Hegel'sdescription of Indian village community. Habib points out that Marx'sknowledge of India in 1853 was mostly confined to Bernier, Fifth Report and current British Parliamentary debates. He says that after 1867, references to India became relatively infrequent in Marx'spublished writings.
In fact, Marx'smuch advertised ?Notes on Indian History?, (posthumously published from Moscow in 1947 on the basis of some handwritten manuscripts found among Marx'spapers,) were prepared in the last years of his life about the year 1880. These Notes are based on two books?one, Elphinstone'sHistory of India first published in 1841, but Marx got its reprint of 1874 and the second one was Robert Sewell'sThe Analytical History of the British Conquest of India. (London, 1870). The notes begin at the year 664 AD, i.e. coming of the Muslims and close at Queen Victoria'sProclamation of August 1858. There is no evidence that Marx was ever able to use these notes. Marxist historian, Prof Sushobhan Sarkar in an article ?Marx on Indian History?, (written on the occasion of Marx's150th birth anniversary in the year 1968) was constrained to admit that ?Marx did not leave behind any systematic presentation of the history of India, that was never his main preoccupation. He set down his observations on certain current Indian questions, which attracted public attention.? (P.C. Joshi (ed), Homage to Karl Marx, (PPH 1968, p. 93).
Referring to Marx'schronological notes on Indian history Prof. Sarkar laments, ?The most serious omission here is the passing over of the entire Hindu epoch of our history, though it was being recovered by the European scholars of Marx'sdays? (ibid p. 98). Gangadhar Adhikari, one of the top theoreticians of the CPI, in his essay ?Marx and India? (A Communist Party Publication, 1968) says, ?Writing to Engels in those days (1853-59) Marx had somewhere said that his knowledge of India was inadequate.? (p. 17). Adhikari may be referring to a letter from Marx to Engels dated August 8, 1858, where Marx writes: ?I have written a lot for the Tribune of late so as to replenish my account a bit but I am getting damnably short of material. India isn'tmy department.? (Karl Marx and F. Engels, Collected Works Vol. 40 Progress Publishers Moscow, 1983 p. 335). This letter shows that Marx had no interest in India and whatever he wrote was written not out of conviction but in a mercenary spirit to meet his financial needs. Therefore, one is inclined to agree with the opinion of the noted historian A.K. Warder that ?Marx here is embedded in the ordinary European outlook of his day which had been codified by Hegel? according to which ?Asians are barbarians and the ancient Greeks miraculously created civilization, inherited by the later peoples of Europe?, that ?the real history and social progress, along with the philosophy, art, etc, begin with the Greeks and is essentially the history of Europe.? (R.S. Sharma and Vivekananda Jha (eds) Indian Society Historical Probings: Essays in Memory of D.D. Kosambi, ICHR, New Delhi, 1974, p. 159).
In the light of the above, is it not pathetic that Indian Leftists should still place their blind faith in Marx'sinadequate, borrowed and now outdated knowledge about India?
(To be continued)