THE Marxist camp in India has got a large battery of ?eminent? historians, who dominate the university system and control all the apex financing as well as academic institutions in this country. They are proud of their intellectual superiority and claim to pursue an open minded, scientific methodology in historical research. But I was shocked to find that none of the Marxist historian bothered to raise any question when Moscow, after the gap of a century, in 1959 published a book entitled First Indian War of Independence (FIWI) attributing the authorship to Marx and Engels of 28 unsigned articles published in the New York Daily Tribune (NYDT) during 1857-58 either as reports or as leading articles. There was no questioning about the methodology and ?sources? used by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism (IML), Moscow in determining their authorship. Later three more articles were added to this list in Vol. 15 of the Collected Works of Marx and Engels (CWME), published from Moscow in 1986. No Marxist scholar bothered to inquire why IML took 27 years more to attribute the authorship of those three articles to Engels.
I have yet to come across any attempt on the part of any Indian Marxist historian to delve into the mystery of the so-called Marx'snotebooks or into the journey of Marx-Engels? literary treasure from London to Moscow and subsequent emendations in their correspondence. I am not aware of any independent full research paper by any Indian Marxist historian, except Prof. Irfan Habib whom I shall be discussing later in this article, on the so-called Marx-Engels? writings on 1857 Revolt. They have been simply quoting few paragraphs from here and there in the NYDT articles to project Marx and Engels as great admirers of India and the 1857 Revolt, which Moscow, echoing V.D. Savarkar, chose to term it ?First Indian War of Independence?.
No comparative study of Marx'ssigned articles of 1853 and the unsigned NYDT articles on India in 1857-58 was ever done, to analyse the perceptual similarity and dissimilarity found in these two sets of articles. I do not know if Rajni Palme Dutt (RPD), who in India Today (published in 1940, nineteen years before the publication of the FIWI from Moscow in 1959) had presented a very negative image of the 1857 Revolt. Obviously Marxist thinkers those days were conditioned by Marx's1853 articles.
The great Marxist idealogue EMS Namboodripad in his bulky book on the freedom struggle of India, which was originally written in Malayalam language in 1977 and was first serialised in CPM'sMalayalam organ Deshabhimani and its English translation saw light in 1986, devotes no less than 30 printed pages to 1857 Revolt. In the introductory chapter he mentions the FIWI (1959) but in the main chapter on 1857 Revolt he does not refer even once to the NYDT articles on 1857 attributed to Marx and Engels. Only once he quotes from the FIWI (fn no 16) but that is out of a signed article written in 1853 and not in 1857.
While discussing the character of the 1857 uprising he refers to the views of Malleson, Kaye, Charles Ball, Alaxender Duff, V.D. Savarkar, Tarachand and R.C. Majumdar and S.N. Sen, but does not feel it necessary to evaluate it in the light of the so-called Marx and Engels writings.
So far I have not come across any study of the 1857 Revolt by Prof. Bipan Chandra or Prof. Sumit Sarkar. In the book India'sStruggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra and four others, the chapter on 1857 is written by Prof. K.N. Panikkar and it nowhere mentions Marx either as a theoretician or as a contemporary source. In the Volume X of the Comprehensive History of India, considered to be a Marxist venture, the chapter on 1857 was contributed by late Prof. S.B. Chaudhury who took no notice of the NYDT articles attributed to Marx and Engels.
In the ten volumes of Subaltern Studies published by the OUP the only article on 1857 Revolt, under the title ?Four Rebels of Eighteen Fifty Seven? by Gautam Bhadra (included in Vol. IV, 1985), takes no cognizance of the NYDT articles and the FIWI.
Here I must take note of the attempts made by two British Marxist historians on the 1857 Revolt. One of them Prof. V.G. Kiernan, who happened to be the guru of Prakash Karat, the present General Secretary of the CPI(M), in Cambridge University, contributed a long article under the title ?Marx, Engels and the Indian Mutiny? to the book Homage to Marx edited by P.C. Joshi and published by Peoples Publishing House, New Delhi in 1969. Kiernan was a committed Marxist, had stayed in the ?commune of the CPI? at Bombay in the year 1944 and was a personal friend of P.C. Joshi, the then general secretary of the CPI.
Being a devout Marxist he could not question the authenticity of the attribution of the authorship to Marx and Engels of the NYDT articles compiled in the FIWI. But the contradiction between Marx'sposition in 1853 signed articles and those unsigned articles on 1857 Revolt was too transparent to him to be ignored. Kiernan admits, ?It is much to be deplored that as 1853 went on, Marx'sattention was jerked away from India and modern imperialism to the far less profitable conundrums of the Eastern Question, on which he wrote for the next three years nearly three times as much as he wrote altogether on India.? (P.C. Joshi (ed) Homage to Marx, ND 1969, p. 132). But did the Mutiny really bring Marx back to India?, this question Kiernan does not raise. But he is baffled to find that Marx was soon losing his interest in the Mutiny. Kiernan writes: ?Marx, it would seem was giving up the problem in despair… He was turning away from it as if he felt that he had lost the clue and must go back into the past to recover it. He plunged into a study of fundamentals of economic theory, far removed from the hurly-burly at Delhi or Lucknow (ibid p. 136). Clue? Of what? And why was Marx losing that clue in the ?Mutiny??
Throwing light on Marx'sinner dilemma, Kiernan writes ?…the most remarkable thing about what Marx said of the Mutiny is that… although intensely absorbed in it… he said so little. It might well baffle him and throw him into a painful dilemma…? because ?on its construction side, the British mission that he (Marx) thought so indispensable to Indian progress had only just begun (ibid pp. 136). To get over his dilemma Marx, according to Kiernan, withdrew from the Indian Mutiny and devoted all his time and energy during 1857 to produce his master piece ?Pre-Capitalist Economic Formation?. Kiernan says, ?Here he had much to say about ?Asiatic Society? on the lines of the conclusions he had already been coming to about the old Indian society and its static nature, its incapacity for further evolution.? (ibid, p. 136).
In the light of this conclusion, obviously Britain had a civilising mission in India. Kiernan is clear on this point when he says, ?At times, particularly about 1853, and particularly in India, he was prepared to think of a civilising mission? (ibid, p. 144). Naturally the Mutiny of 1857 was an anti thesis of this view. While Marx wanted Britain to continue her civilising mission in India, the 1857 Mutiny or Revolt or First Indian War of Independence aimed at uprooting of the British mission and at restoration of the old static Indian society. If we attribute the unsigned article published in the NYDT in 1857 to Marx, we push him in a contradictory situation, if not, there remains no contradiction. In Kiernan'sview, ?Marx did not overcome contradiction in his thinking or between his thinking and his feeling as in 1857 on imperialism.? (ibid. p. 145). In my view this imaginary contradiction has been imposed on Marx by Moscow itself.
Similarly, Kiernan feels that Engels also does not appear to be in his real self in the NYDT articles, which have been attributed to him, because in Kiernan'swords, ?Engels was a revolutionary, but a mutineer went against the grain with him. Moreover, the opinion he had formed of the Sepoy army before the Mutiny was not flattering? (ibid, p. 139)
The second historian Eric Stokes (ed 1981) better known for his insightful ?English Utilitarians and India (Oxford, 1959) was a serious scholar who in his two later works, The Peasant and the Raj (Studies in Agrarian Society and Peasant Rebellion in Colonial India) (Oup, 1978) and The Peasant Armed: The Indian Rebellion of 1857, ed. by CA Bayley, Oxford 1986), sincerely tried to apply the Marxian theory to the understanding of the Indian society in general and 1857 rebellion in particular. He supervised nearly fifty undergraduate seminar papers for a Cambridge special subject on the Rebellion in the late 1960s and collected the material for his The Peasant Armed during the years 1963-1980. He delved deep in the original sources on the rebellion. But during this process, according to the editor Bayley, ?his perception of the key issues changed considerably.? (The Peasant Armed, p. 226). Stokes discovered that ?the Indian rebellion of 1857? was not one movement, be it a peasant revolt or a war of national liberation, it was many. The lineaments of the revolt differed vastly from district to district even village to village….? In the concluding article ?The Nature and Roots of Peasant Violence in 1857? Stokes realised, ?If we allow force to Marx'sdictum that the peasantry is incapable of leading itself and has to be led, than we have to accept some difficulty in isolating peasant action from its larger political framework? (ibid, p. 214). Significantly, Eric nowhere uses the NYDT articles as a source material for his research on 1857.
Lastly, we come to the ?eminent? Marxist historian Prof. Irfan Habib. It must be admitted, at the outset that of all the Indian Marxist historians, Prof. Habib alone has devoted maximum attention and space to these NYDT articles in his writings. To my knowledge, first use of these articles was done by him in his well documented research paper, entitled Marx'sPerceptions of India, which was prepared on the occasion of Marx'sfirst death centenary in 1983 and was published in the CPM'sjournal The Marxist, Vol. I, No. 1, July-September 1983. The later part of this lengthy research paper frequently quotes from these NYDT articles as found in the FIWI, (1959), On Colonialism (Moscow, 1959) and Avineri'sKarl Marx on Colonialism and Modernisation, New York 1969) to expound what he considers Marx'sperception of India. Prof. Habib does not feel any necessity to inquire into the authorship of these unsigned articles and in tune with his reputation as CPM'sofficial historian, he takes it for granted that if Moscow says so they must have been written by Marx and Engels.
The next major contribution of Prof. Habib on this topic is to be found in People'sDemocracy February 25, 2007. This two full pages long article under the title ?Marx and Engels on the Revolt of 1857? also treats the question of the authorship of the unsigned NYDT articles as finally settled in favour of Marx and Engels. This is really puzzling. It was on the suggestion of Prof. Habib that Iqbal Hussain of the AMU had conducted intensive research on the unsigned NYDT articles attributed to Marx and Engels during his visit to USA in 1990. His research revealed that this process of attribution was started by the IML Moscow in 1953 only. He discovered that ?the original drafts (sent by Marx) have disappeared? (p. XIV) and that ?The Tribune archives being no longer extant, it is only the surviving papers (correspondence and notebooks) of Marx and Engels that can tell us which of the Tribune'sleading articles and reports from unnamed correspondents are from Marx'spen (or from Engel'sin certain cases).? (p. XV).
Iqbal Hussain discovered also that the NYDT had two other correspondents on India?Beyond Taylor and a Polish born Hungarian nationalist Ference Aurelius Pulszky, both of whom were treated by Marx as his rival. (Iqbal Hussain (ed), Karl Marx on India, New Delhi, 2006.) Even the FIWI (end note 61, p. 231) admitted that in the opening sentence of the leading article in the NYDT dated October 3, 1857, the editors had referred to Pulszky as ?our intelligent London Correspondent? (FIWI p 99) All these facts should have been sufficient for a seasoned intelligent researcher like Prof Habib to make independent inquiry into the methodology and sources that were used by Moscow to determine the authorship of these unsigned articles and that too after a long gap of hundred years.
I am an admirer of Prof Habib'spenetrating intellect, erudition as well as ideological commitment. But as a scholar should he not rise above narrow ideological boundaries and partisan approach? A dispassionate and critical textual examination of these articles would have convinced him that most of these articles could not have been writtern by Marx or Engels. In his article in People'sDemocracy February 25, 2007, Prof Habib writes that after a point Marx ?left the task of covering the military events entirely to Engles?. But why? The earlier reports on Delhi, attributed to Marx, are also full of graphic details of town planning, fortification military formations, and strategy, and movements. All this presupposes military expertise on the part of the writer, which Marx has somewhere claimed, was not his forte.
(To be concluded)