Nehru, the Indian bourgeoisie, and socialism

El 17 Nov 98 a las 23:09, ulhas joglekar nos dice(n):

"Nehru was a bourgeois leader. However, every bourgeois leader in India was not Nehru. In the conditions prevailing in Indian society, Nehru represented the most advanced bourgeois programme .Something no Indian political leader or party[Left included] has been able to surpass so far. His programme of [bourgeois] democracy, secularism, welfare state, non-alignment, science and technology has been criticized in India by various political forces from extreme left[maoism] to extreme right[fascism]."

Thank you, Ulhas, for stating these ideas. You are helping me to give some opinion on India without risking to start a flame war, something that almost happened once when I wrote laudatorily on Ghandi and a list member of Indian birth explained to me that this man had been a fascist, etc. I preferred to let the things be that time. Now I feel I can go some steps further.

I agree with Uhlas, not because I am a pundit on India but because he sees that under the conditions of India, Nehru's was the most progressive actual programme, and that this is why the Indian masses adopted it (might I also add Ghandi, Ulhas?). He was not _any_ bourgeois, he led a National Front (this term has a very different meaning in a semicolonial country like India or Argentina and in an imperialist country like France).

[Of course, Nehru did not strive for socialism and the main task of the national revolution in India, the agrarian revolution, does not seem to have taken place. This may be at the heart of the present complications of the Indian political scene.]

The problem with the Indian Left, or so it seems, is like the problem of the Latin American Left: unless we understand the main implications of the national question and propose ourselves as the boldest, more trustworthy and most sincere defenders of that cause we shall not be able to take the lead from national bourgeois politicians. It is all too easy to say that Nehru was a bourgeois. But we shall not advance a single step to power in so doing. What has to be done is to show that only through a socialist revolution can the flags the national bourgeois party waves will be safely taken to victory. The masses who supported Nehru, or Vargas, or Peron, or Sukarno, or whoever you want to add to the list, already knew they were bourgeois. They did not see any harm in it, provided the national tasks were achieved under their guidance. "Una patria socialmente justa, economicamente libre y politicamente soberana" was the motto of Peronism (a socially just, economically free and politically sovereign homeland). I am sure similar formulae will be found in similar movements all over the Third World (I do not remember the exact words now, but Sun Yat Sen had a very similar one, for instance). And in a semicolony, where lack of true sovereignty generates economic national slavery and thus extreme social injustice, this program does not sound "bourgeois". It simply sounds logical. The problem, however, is that bourgeois leaderships cannot, under the conditions of imperialism, fulfill these elementary bourgeois tasks. So, defeat after defeat, or corruption after corruption, they end up destroyed.

The only answer to this is socialist methods, and socialist measures. But while the Left will go on with the evergrey psalm ("Nehru/Peron/Sukarno/Whoever is a bourgeois") people will simply not rally under our banners. We should say, instead (and I am doing something I usually don't, that is speaking of places I know little) "Nehru was OK, but it was not enough. If we want to keep his legacy alive, we must -for example, and perhaps I am saying something stupid- do a revolution in the countryside, we must socialize the large fortunes in India, we must keep the imperialists away from our country". The "Nehru was OK and we shall defend him against the local fascists and imperialism if need be, but..." is, IMHO, the key to the door.

Last Friday I delivered a lecture on the first government of Peron. I stressed the reasons why Peronism could not fulfill and establish forever the tasks they were called to fulfill and establish. I stressed the fact that, because this was a national bourgeois movement with almost exclusively working class backing, Peronism asphyxiated any attempt at political debate within its ranks, and did not fight for hegemony over the workers _and_ the middle classes, but, on the contrary, kept them wide apart as if fearing a short circuit that would give new life to the Frankenstein, would set the monster in autonomous motion, and would surpass the limits of the bourgeois project.

There was an old man, who listened at me very attentively.

Then, when I finished, he asked to speak. "Today", he said, "you have been explaining how during the late 30s a wave of migrants from the Inland Country came to Buenos Aires and found jobs in a nascent industry. I am one of those. My parents came to Buenos Aires from Tucuman. I was very young in 1945", he went on, "but I went to May Square on October 17th. I did not know exactly why, but I felt I had to support Peron who was in prison and who had done so much good for us and for the country. Then, he was released and my father joyfully voted for him on February 1946. After that, salaries kept rising, unions were respected by the government, we had health care and education, and all the rest that we know took place (he meant the vast transformation led by Peron that modernized and enlarged Argentine industrial sector, nationalized foreign trade and banking, reverted to national hands the foreign-owned public utilities and the railroads, constructed the fourth trading fleet in the world, etc.). We were so happy, we just wanted to enjoy. And now you are telling us that this government was Bonapartist, and that we should have also waged an ideological struggle, that we workers should have not be content with the role of spinal chord Peron assigned to us, and should have taken the place of the brain in the National Revolution. Well... You may be quite probably right, but it is too much. We just wanted to live happily, we thought everything was granted". I listened to him with a knot in my throat (I don't know how do you say it in English, it's literal -and vivid- Spanish).

Then I told him: "Yes. Because nothing was actually granted, only a shift to socialism would have ensured the final victory of the national revolution". And the man answered: "Ah, if only socialists hadn't called us fascist mob! But that's what socialists meant for us in those years".

Fascist mob, nice to meet you, I am a socialist.

Yes. He was right. Socialists had called them fascist mob.

You will hardly make friend with anyone if you begin your relationship telling her or him "your mother is a cheap whore and you aren't even worth of her". Neither call that person to revolution, if you also say that _you_ are revolution.

Nehru was a bourgeois politician. Of course. But you don't advance a micromillimeter by saying this. The Nehrus need not be denounced. They need be surpassed.

As to Nehru as a Third World national leader, he was lucky in that the political convenience of the Indian bourgeoisie and the fact that India was adamant for any Asian imperialist policy against China and the USSR put him off the accusation of Fascist, a scenario Peron did not enjoy).

Where Uhlas and I disagree is here:

"I do not think 'permanent revolution', 'uninterrupted revolution', 'new democratic revolution' etc. etc. were on the agenda in India at any time in last 80 years."

This idea of taking the national flags and mixing them with socialist flags as only guarantee to carry them to victory is IMHO "permanent revolution" at its best.

And we may also debate the following:

"As regards India's failure to join middle level capitalist powers, such as Korea, I doubt if Marxism has produced a theory of economic growth which can explain differential patterns and tempos of economic growth in different regions in the world. And by that, I mean a theory grounded in Marx's Capital which can explain differential tempos of capital accumulation in various parts of the world economy. Without such a framework, it is difficult to make meaningful comparisons."

I dare believe that the traditional Leninist theory of imperialism and Amin's further work can be a very good guide on these matters. I would contest the idea that Korea is a "middle capitalist power" in the essential sense that Korea does not have a self-centered economy, to begin with.

And I would add that perhaps India could not achieve Korean levels simply because unless you are in the peculiar conditions of South Korea after the Chinese Revolution, you cannot even dream of industrialization in a Third World country, and even that industrialization will be oriented towards the world market, will not be a true "industrial revolution", and will not be able to generate the pattern of exchange between Dept. I and Dept. II that defines a full grown capitalist economy. Since Nehru did not want to develop an industrial semicolony like Korea, but he did not want to have a truly socialist India, then India did not advance to being a "power". These grey results are always the final lot of bourgeois leadership in the national revolution. Uhlas seems to be in agreement:

"In any case, the only country in the 'third world' with which India can be compared is China. It may have been possible for certain small puppet regimes in the far east[eg Korea] to attain to high rates of economic growth under certain conditions. I doubt if such options were available to Indian ruling class and I also doubt if they were desirable from the standpoint of 'subaltern' elements of Indian society."

He then asserts something that it would be more fruitful to pose as a question:

"It is easy to forget that Indian bourgeoisie is probably the only bourgeoisie in the 'third world' which has sought build its power over last 50 years through 'hegemony' rather than an exclusive reliance on force.[Just compare the history of Pakistan or Bangladesh with that of India] It may be also easy to dismiss as bourgeois, what people of India have enjoyed for 50 years, viz. universal franchise, rule of law, free press and media, multiparty system etc. etc. in what is one of the poorest countries in the world. We owe this to Nehru and national movement which he represented."

Yes, Uhlas. I agree. But the next step should be to understand why did this happen, what were the structural reasons that allowed Nehru to go on with this policy while the country is still one of the poorest in the world (that is, the basic tasks of bourgeois revolution have not been accomplished). What lessons should a socialist help the Indian masses to extract from this situation?

And, finally, I love this:

"If mere contempt was enough to overthrow bourgeois rule, capitalism would not have thrived 150 years after the Communist Manifesto."



My reference to permanent revolution was in the context of Indian realities. I don't know much about Argentina. The notion that permanent revolution is a universal law of history in 20th century seems rather dubious to me. However, I am not implying that Martov was right against Trotsky in the Russian context.

2. As regards patriotism[again in the Indian context],we have gone beyond the stage when it made sense to oppose General Motors or Toyota because they were 'foreign'. What remains of 'Left Nationalism',at least in India, is rhetoric. It has no capacity left to generate concrete solutions to economic problems.

3. By Amin, if Samir Amin is meant, then I heard him few months ago on the global economic crisis. His explanations did not go beyond the conventional wisdom about 'crony capitalism. ' The categories found in Capital, such as the rate of profit, organic composition of capital etc. were neither used nor were they critically rejected. As regards Andre Gunder Frank, I understand some one once asked him if he has read Capital. 'I have it', he apparently replied. The story may be apocryphal and my apologies to Frank if he has been misquoted. However, there is no dearth of marxists who 'have it', but don't bother to 'open it'.

4. It is the usual experience of left leaning Indians, that overseas observers make polite references to need for land reforms in India or absence of 'agrarian revolution'. This is more or less the left wing version of the belief that India is a land full of snake charmers and elephants. I am not against land reforms. However, it is essential to realise that the size of urban of population of India is in excess of 250 million, i. e. even larger than the population of the U. S. Over whelming majority of these consists of wage labourers. That Indian software exports exceed 1 billion US Dollars every year and are growing at a galloping pace. I mention these minimal indices, just to indicate that todays India is not India of Kipling as many people [including many Indians] still imagine and that Indian Left requires more advanced solutions far beyond the staple diet of land reforms or 'agrarian revolution. '


A couple of caveats before the whole mail expands.

1. I am skating on thin ice (twice as dangerous in Buenos Aires, mid-November!). I can be misunderstood as attempting to debate with Uhlas on India, which cannot be further from my intention. In fact, I find his mails very very instructive. My information on India today is avowedly scant, and I would hate it if someone supposed I am trying to lecture anyone on the revolutionary tasks in India or in Tanzania, even if my information were not scant. The only one to judge and to lecture is the one who puts her/his own skin at stake (BTW: I do not know the gender of the name Uhlas. Not that matters too much, just to know if I should write "she" or "he").

2. There are, however, some comments made by Uhlas which, IMHO (stress the _H_, please!), may be enrichened by a further deployment of my ideas.

3. So, here it is:

El 21 Nov 98 a las 12:52, ulhas joglekar nos dice(n):

"1. My reference to permanent revolution was in the context of Indian realities.I don't know much about Argentina. The notion that permanent revolution is a universal law of history in 20th century seems rather dubious to me. However, I am not implying that Martov was right against Trotsky in the Russian context."

As a rule, this is one of the things I believe it is no use arguing about. At any rate, what I meant is that India is a very good example of how "unequal (or uneven?) and combined development" (Trotsky) is the main feature of Third World countries: it may be almost a paradigm of how the most modern forms of industrial and technological production coexist conflictively but organically related with the most backward ones. Under such circumstances, "permanent revolution" just means that though a revolution will probably begin broaching the issues that arise from the permanence of the most backwards traits of the formation (namely the threat they mean for the full deployment of the most advanced ones), if it is to finally end up in a victory it will successively and perhaps at the most rapid pace pass from those starting points to those raised by the most advanced sector. Anyway, this would be to open a different thread, so will not extend.

"2.As regards patriotism[again in the Indian context],we have gone beyond the stage when it made sense to oppose General Motors or Toyota because they were 'foreign'. What remains of 'Left Nationalism', at least in India, is rhetoric. It has no capacity left to generate concrete solutions to economic problems."

Of course. I was not thinking of that. I was thinking of socialist revolution. But what I tried to mean (and could not explain clearly) is that the tasks involved in the bourgeois revolution (i.e. the establishment of a self-centered economy, thus the reference to Amin) will have to become the tasks of the socialist revolution if the bourgeois or the "Left Nationalists" cannot or do not dare to carry them on. I place little -if any- hope in "Left Nationalists" of any kind, but I place still less hope in what I would call "fake internationalists" who -frequently quoting Marx, more rarely Lenin but you will see things...- share the imperialist ideologues' vision that there are no more national questions in the Third World today, nay, that there is not and probably has never existed such a thing as a Third World...


"4.It is the usual experience of left leaning Indians, that overseas observers make polite references to need for land reforms in India or absence of 'agrarian revolution'."

This is the first time in my life that I am called an "overseas observer". In fact, I suppose I am nothing of the sort, particularly when the "observer" is considered. I am an Argentine, Latin American (and thus Third World) political struggler who is wholeheartedly for socialist revolution.

This is the collective group to which I feel to belong, whatever differences among us I feel Uhlas and I are a _we_, not a _you_ and a _me_. But OK, I admit I know little of India.

I _do_ know, however, many facts like the ones Uhlas displays on further lines, important facts that show how deeply has the capitalist mode of production developed in India. You can be absolutely assured, Uhlas and everybody, that here in Buenos Aires it is very difficult to suppose that

"[...] left wing version of the belief that India is a land full of snake charmers and elephants"

are accurate or correct.

And it is very difficult, if one has eyes to see, because while the Argentine national bourgeois movement and its no little achievements were crashed down and drowned in blood after 1976, and thus Argentine manufacture is almost disappearing, you can today see Tata vehicles on the streets of the city, you can buy Indian "handiwork" -obviously of industrial origin- wherever you go to buy, say, a mattress or a tablecloth, etc. One knows that India has developed its own nuclear programs (whatever you think on nukes, it is no little a technological achievement for a country in the Third World), and I for one knew as early as the first half of the 1980s that India was already developing very sophisticated and complex software for railroad operation and management. I have also been told that India has a very important, and in many aspects, locally built, Navy, and so on.

And it is precisely _because_ I know this that I point to the agrarian question. It is a matter of dialectics. I am not imagining even a bourgeois land reform. Uhlas goes on:

"I am not against land reforms. However,it is essential to realise that the size of urban of population of India is in excess of 250 million, i.e.even larger than the population of the U.S. Overwhelming majority of these consists of wage labourers. That Indian software exports exceed 1 billion US Dollars every year and are growing at a galloping pace. I mention these minimal indices, just to indicate that today's India is not India of Kipling as many people[including many Indians] still imagine and that Indian Left requires more advanced solutions far beyond the staple diet of land reforms or 'agrarian revolution.'"

Numbers, important as they are, sometimes are misleading.

Mind you, I know why I say this, since gathering and making numbers is my job (I work at the Argentine institute of statistics). Uhlas explains us that there are 250 million people living in Indian cities (that is, one fourth of the total population), and this is an immense fact that we should keep a sharp eye on. It amounts, however, to just one fourth of the whole population, another fact that we must also not forget.

But neither this fact, nor the amount of the software exports (impressive, but in the end, only four dollars per capita if you count the urban dwellers as a basis for calculation, and only about one if you divide by total population) are enough to make agrarian revolution recede to the backstage.

Let me expose my case: Argentina has been, from the very last years of the 19th. century, a highly urbanized country; by 1950, on a total of 17 million people there were only 5,8 million (34.2%) living either in towns of less than 2000 or in the countryside; by 1991, only 15% of the total population of 28,000,000 lived there; and ever since the beginning of the century there has been a sizable proportion of the population living in the largest cities (47% in cities over 50,000 in 1950, 67% in 1991).

This does not imply that we do not need an agrarian revolution in my country. In fact, the very size of the urban population and the very growth of a proportionally vast manufacture sector after 1930 and particularly after 1945 and 1958 makes agrarian revolution imperative _exactly in the same sense_ the growth of French capitalism made the 1789 revolution imperative: I do not know if this is the case in India, but in Argentina the agrarian question is inextricably interwoven with the question of ownership, capitalist ownership in general, and with the question of how will you fund the manufacture (and by this I mean not only hard but also soft) sector, and how will you relate with the world market.

I am sure, and Uhlas needs not to point this out, that the mechanisms by which the relationship between countryside and the urban sector is established are absolutely different in India and in Argentina. Just think that we are only 35 million people over a country that is more or less the size of India, and in some respects agroecologically similar: what among us appears as a bottleneck in our exports sector that jeopardized (and eventually stifled for a whole period) the construction of a self cenered, full grown capitalist economy, may in India be a matter of finding the means to feed the urban masses during the process of growth of the manufacture and science sectors. The details escape me. But it would be a mistake, I believe, to suppose that the growth of a strong Indian urban and manufacture sector can have other final result on the agrarian question than to further emphasize the necessity of its solution, a solution that will probably be achieved only through socialist revolution. Nay, not "probably": "only" is the word that fits best.

I did not want to propose any solution to the problems of the Indian Left. I am very far from that, since I have known in my own flesh that the effects of such advisory activity can be not only misleading but unintendedly criminal. I was not, then, proposing a "peasant revolutionary way" for India. On the contrary, I was just advancing the general idea that _precisely because_ capitalism has been developing an Indian urban sector with a large manufacture base, a revolution in the agrarian property relations is an essential task, just in the same way it was necessary to chop off the head of Louis 16th. and destroy the last remains of the Ancien Regime in order to give full swing to the development of manufacture in France.

Louis Proyect has posted, some months ago, an instructive excerpt demonstrating that the continuity of the Ancien Regime not only covered all the bourgeois development of late 18th. century France with all the miseries of a decadent aristocracy, but also _that this aristocracy would co-opt the bourgeois to their ranks and thus ... hinder capitalist accumulation itself_! This is what lies behind the distinction Jim Farmelant made between American Northern and Southern capitalisms (well, I could not be in agreement with Jim Blaut on _everything_!).

Only that the Indian bourgeoisie will not be able to accomplish these prosaic, bourgeois tasks. That is where proletarians and "permanent revolution" begin to take the lead. I am not thinking of Kipling's India (I am not even sure that this India is very well portrayed by Kipling, and this because of the ideas on Argentina distributed by our own "Anglo-indians": Borges the first). I am trying to imagine what can India, that immense, powerful, dense with culture and creativity, devastated by British imperialism and cleverly led by the most resourceful bourgeoisie of the Third World (well, not too much of a praise!) country do for a socialist revolution and for herself under the current conditions of deepening capitalist crisis.

BTW: changing focus, and since Uhlas mentioned Kipling. There were two Englishmen who really loved Argentina and gave the best account in English of what the River Plate was like: William Henry Hudson, and Robert Cunninghame Graham. Is there something like this for India? I have only read things by Saki and Kipling and -of course- Forster's "Passage...". I am afraid I will not be able to know India this way.

Regards to all,


I will quote Trotsky to indicate what I had in mind. "If you throw aside episodic accumulations, polemical exaggerations and individual mistakes, the essence of the dispute about the question of permanent revolution from 1905 till 1917 reduces itself,not to the question whether the Russian proletariat after winning the power could build a national socialist society -about this not one Russian Marxist ever uttered a peep until 1924-but to the question whether a bourgeois revolution really capable of solving the agrarian problem was still possible in Russia, or whether for the accomplishment of this work a dictatorship of the proletariat would be needed." [History of the Russian Revolution,Vol.3,page354]

I would like to know if what was true of Russia in 1917,is necessarily true of every society in the third world in the 20th century. Is it true that bourgeois revolution is incapable of solving the agrarian problem anywhere in the third world, and requires a dictatorship of proletariat? Is it possible to answer this question without a proper study of inner dynamics of each society, its balance of class forces in its concrete and unique reality? Can it be made into a formula applicable anywhere and anytime in the third world?

I am not able to understand why, say, Indian bourgeoisie, would be incapable of solving agrarian problem if it was essential to its survival and growth, if it was essential to capital accumulation in India. There were probably enough reasons why Russian or Chinese bourgeoisie was not capable of solving agrarian problems in their respective societies. This may really be the case. However, I find it difficult to generalise from Russian or Chinese experience and argue that Indian or Argentinian bourgeoisie, therefore, are also incapable. etc.etc.

And Indian bourgeoisie has been busy transforming Indian agriculture in the last 50 years, though at a pace and in a way that may not satisfy me. This it has been doing through a combination fiscal and monetary policies, through modest land reforms, through funding of research, irrigation schemes etc. And whether one calls it, Junker path or something else, is a different question. All this hardly displays a class which is incapable of solving agrarian problem, viz. creation and consolidation of bourgeois relations of production in agriculture. One could hardly call Indian bourgeoisie a ruling class if it was incapable of solving agrarian problem to its satisfaction.[About a year ago, India's finance minister, P.Chidambaram [a Harvard trained lawyer],said in a BBC interview that he can imagine Indian agriculture supplying food to 40% of world population in 20 years time. Whether this is really feasible or this is a pure phantasy, is a separate issue. However, this would certainly require further reforms in agriculture.] This is the background to my remarks about permanent revolution. I would like to suggest that permanent revolution as described by Trotsky in his 'History', may not be relevant to Indian realities.


Dear Ulhas;

I am unable at the moment to give a more comprehensive answer to this question, but here are a few thoughts.

It is true that many bourgeois-nationalist regimes attempted to initiate land reform and other democratic tasks. However, what many on the Trotskyist left fail to understand is that when Trotsky talked about achieving democratic tasks, he was talking more about the historical maintenance of these tasks, not simply their initial implementation.

In addition, agrarian reform is not the only democratic task. It is one of many -- including securing civil liberties, personal security, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as the U.S. Declaration of Independence puts it. In short, democratic tasks are the concrete expression of the ideas of the Enlightenment. In this, historically short-term achievement can happen (e.g., Chile, Mexico). But the important question to Marxists is whether or not this short-term achievement can transform into an historically maintained condition.

You capture the essence of your whole question when you say "One could hardly call Indian bourgeoisie a ruling class if it was incapable of solving agrarian problem to its satisfaction." "To its satisfaction" means "to the point where it does not adversely affect the Indian bourgeoisie's ability to make profit." An important point to understand is that, in countries like India and Argentina, reform "to [the bosses'] satisfaction" can mean that the tasks are not actually achieved. Long story short: A reform is not necessarily equal to a "democratic task".

There is a dialectical relationship between democratic and socialist tasks -- this is the essence of the Marxist concept of "permanent revolution". In certain circumstances, democratic tasks -- like democratic demands -- can become socialist tasks due to the material consequence of these tasks. For example, "Land, bread and peace" in Russia was, IMO, a socialist (transitional, in Trotskyist terms) task, even though it is generally considered a democratic task.

Why? The material circumstances in Russia at the time meant that achievement of these democratic tasks would undermine the position of the bourgeoisie. Of course, the latter would not allow that. That's why it fell to the soviets -- the proletarian dictatorship -- to implement and maintain it.

So, the crux of the issue is whether or not "land reform" is still a democratic task, in the sense Trotsky talked about in 1929. This is what we should be discussing here. Personally, I believe that is contingent on material conditions in each country. For India, I would think equality between nationalities and sexes is more of a democratic task than land reform.

I hope I'm relatively coherent here.

Martin Schreader

P.S.: Louis, anyone who has ever seriously read "Trotsky on China" would know what you're talking about. Which means I can understand why it would be a shock to many of the epigones of Trotsky (the Trotskyists).

When I began to read Uhlas´s postings on India, I thought that s/he was supposing that in that particular country there existed (still) a possibility that a revolutionary nationalist program would be carried on by a vast national front with the bourgeoisie leading the masses. Whether via a "Junker (or Italian) way" or not isn´t at stake here: Bismarck´s great historical achievement was to lead a national unification movement so ably that even though he acted in the benefit of that most awful of the landed aristocracies, the Prussian landlords, his policies _did have_ widespread popular support during the struggle for the German national unification (first against Austria, later against the France of Napoleon III: see the positions of Marx and Engels on both issues, where they somehow "recanted" their original anti-Prussianism, while Lassalle, for all his faults, had these things much clearer simply because he was acting _in_ Germany. On this, Mehring´s biography of Marx is absolutely clarifying and that is why I always recommend Third World Marxists to read it.) More or less the same can be said of the Piamontese Cavour.

Since the final years of the 19th. century, and particularly after the 1917 Russian Revolution, it was almost a matter of faith among revolutionary Marxists that though these tasks were a necessary step in the semicolonial world, in spite of their objectively bourgeois content, it would be the workers who would have to take the lead ant carry the revolution to its final end. This point came to be contested only when due to internal reasons of the USSR Stalin and Bukharin resurrected the social-democrat theory of "stages" and substituted it for the Leninist doctrine, a doctrine that was ill-fated in that it had been christened "permanent revolution thesis" by that arch-traitor, arch-enemy of Soviet Russia, arch-protofascist Jew Lev Davidovich Bronstein (aka Trotsky).

So it was very stimulating to see what I thought was a concrete reassessment of the Lenin / Trotsky doctrine in the very particular conditions of India. I said to myself "Well, Uhlas certainly knows how bold the Indian bourgeoisie can be. And in fact this bourgeoisie is the only national bourgeoisie in the Third World that managed to stay in power after independence through hegemonic practices, it was smart enough to intelligently benefit of the rivalry between the USSR and the West (and to a certain extent China), it managed to give some degree of solution to that Indian nightmare, food scarcity (a problem the British-fueled partition served to increase, since most of the grain producing Penjab fell outside the frontiers of India), and even to develop some peak technologies. This national movement under the bourgeois leadership hadn´t managed to lay the strong foundations of a heavy Indian industry, but it had not done little. As compared with the rest of the semicolonial bourgeoisies, it was a strange bird (rara avis). Maybe Uhlas´s point should be carefully considered".

I went on, reasoning like this: "In socio-economic formations where the proletariat is weak and / or its numbers are small, bourgeois and petty bourgeois nationalism, not haunted by the fear of a socialist overpass, tends to be bolder and ideologically more advanced. In Mexico, if you enter the House of Government built after the Revolution, you are greeted by an immense wall painted by Diego Rivera, and from this wall it is Lenin and Marx who look on you, underlining the classical phrase of the Manifest ("Liberation of the workers will be the task of workers themselves"). In Peru, Haya de la Torre dared to give strong "socialist" overtones to his petty bourgeois popular antiimperialism. Nehru and Sukarno would repeatedly flirt with the Socialist bloc. On the contrary", I kept reasoning, "in those countries where the working class has a larger weight, either from numbers or from the historical circumstances presiding the revolutionary process, bourgeois or petty bourgeois nationalism is particularly timid (and more often than not ideologically reactionary), and the movement tends to stick to heavy bureaucratism and to acquire a heavy-handed Bonapartist character (as with Vargas, Nasser or Peron). Now, India seems to be different. It is so overwhelmingly peasant (at least, it has been a strongly peasant country during the founding decades of Indian national bourgeois movement), that -who knows, who knows?- Indian bourgeoisie may dare to follow a Junker way in order to actually fulfill the national tasks. Or, emboldened by the ellimination of the socialist perspective for what they may think to be a whole historic period, they may be decided to follow that course. Perhaps Ulhas is thinking along these lines."

It was an interesting perspective, it would perhaps be -if Ulhas was right- the last opportunity given by human history to a national bourgeoisie to develop its own national revolution. Something worth seeing on its own awesome merits. And we are speaking of a national revolution in a country of a size and population with no paralells in history. Would we be deserved this honor, at least, we that have been given preferential seats in the show of the dissolution of the first state built on the work of a socialist revolution? Not a wonderful ersatz, but a good show at any rate. So I tuned on Ulhas.

After his different answers to the replies on the thread, however, I discovered I was wrong. Uhlas does not seem to think in terms of national revolution. S/he appears to believe that a bourgeois revolution in the countryside is the economic process whereby wage labor is generalized. This, however, has little (if any) to do with what Trotsky had in mind when he posited his "permanent revolution" thesis. Trotsky, like Lenin, understood that imperialism cannot but thwart bourgeois development in the semicolonies. Because "bourgeois development" was not for them the same thing as "capitalist development". Capitalist development would only become revolutionary in the bourgeois sense _if_ it was organically related with the quest for independence (not formal independence only), for constructing an economy that would be increasingly free of the foreign market to generate within itself the capitals necessary for reproduction (not to speak of enlarged reproduction), an economy that -because it is self-centered- can through the exchange between Sections I and II generate a self sustaining growth process, an economy where foreign trade becomes subservient of the needs of an accumulation process based essentially on domestic market, an economy where, finally, that essential law of capitalist accumulation and that essential asset of socialist revolution can operate unhindered: the decrease of the rate of profit. This is what is understood as "national revolution", this is the only task that may justify a bourgeoisie in history.

The basic precondition for all this to happen is the upkeep of an uncompromising independence: not economic, but politic. Ulhas seems, on the contrary, to suppose that it is imperalism who will develop capitalism in India. But if it ever would happen (and it may happen) this capitalism will be something different than the capitalism that Lenin had in mind when he wrote "Imperialism", and what is more important, it is not the capitalism that would help saturate the contradictions of the capitalist mode of production on a world scale and within imperialist countries. This is the old Eurocentric idea that the world market can fulfill a progressive role in the colonial world. This idea, which was abandoned by Marx quite soon after 1848, particularly due to his observation of what was British rule meaning to India, is untenable under the conditions of imperialism. It is the idea that the national question does not play a role in the struggles of the workers any more, and it is dead wrong.

Uhlas seems to believe that the current, globalizer, government of India is developing a bourgeois policy. It is not. It may be a government of Indian bourgeois. <(A footnoote: Most probably, I bet without knowing much on the country I am writing about, it is a government of the higher, most concentrated ranks of the bourgeoisie, those interested in strengthening Indian dependency and in developing strong commercial links as interlopers of the foreign capitalist powers. But this is unconsequential, because, even though the whole Indian bourgeoisie supports the current Indian government (and the article of the _Times of India_ Uhlas her/himself has posted on the list shows that _at least a fraction of the Indian bourgeoisie or petty bourgeoisie are still thinking in terms of a national Indian interest_), the class contents of this government's policy is _not_ bourgeois in the classical sense)>. The policy is capitalist, granted. But it is not bourgeois. It tends to further establish a colonial capitalism, that´s all. This, however, will not generate a full grown, proletariat vs. bourgeoisie India. Sometimes location matters. The fact that most capital extracted from unpaid labor in India is realized in the imperialist countries is adamant for the general strategy of socialists. Because it helps delaying the saturation of the contradictions of capitalism within the First World, and it does not help in the development of good conditions for socialist revolution in India.

I was wrong, then. Uhlas was not bringing to our consideration the possibility that a semicolonial bourgeoisie, in the very peculiar conditions generated by world crisis, a heavy peasant constitution of the country, and the fall of the socialist camp, would dare to head its own bourgeois revolution during our own lifetime (this was perhaps last achieved by the American bourgeoisie of the Northern states in their struggle against the _capitalist but not bourgeois_ slaveowners of the South, who made a living out of foreign trade and hindered capital accumulation within the American formation).

Hers/his seems to be the old, abstract, idea, according to which capitalism, national revolution, extension of wage labor relations to the countryside, and expansion of the industrial sector until it becomes dominant within the formation and allows the local bourgeoisie to treat peer-to-peer other bourgeoisies on the world arena are quantitative, not qualitative, phenomena. S/He does not seem to give enough attention to the question whether the surplus is realized basically in the domestic market or in the world market, and thus s/he does not consider the political question of how to build up a revolutionary national front (defending, for example, the current demands of all those who in India should now be opposing the neoliberal policies of the government, many of whom are not proletarians). In her/his rendering of facts, the national question, the question of national independence (_the_ political precondition for the building up of a self centered economy) is a blind point.

The problem with this approach is that in the best case it tends to isolate the workers of the rest of the classes, and thus carry them to impotence. While the Indian Marxists stick to Uhlas´s propositions, or while they stick to the old CP thesis of the popular front, they will be doing the work of Indian bourgeoisie or of imperialism, not the work of the Indian popular masses.

If I understand Uhlas correctly, that is.



First some preliminary remarks:1.I am 'he',and not 'she'. 2. A statement of facts or description of a process is not necessarily its endorsement.

1. Now on the term 'Junker Path' I had the following in mind: "The question now arises: when we say that serfdom must inevitably die out in Russian landownership and the whole social system in Russia, when we say that a bourgeois-democratic agrarian revolution is inevitable,does that mean that this can take place only in one definite form? Or is it possible in various forms?" "But there may be two forms of that development. The survivals of serfdom may fall away either as a result of the transformation of landlord economy or as a result of the abolition of the landlord latifundia, i.e., either by reform or by revolution." "These two paths of objectively possible bourgeois development we would call the Prussian path and the American Path. In the first case, feudal landlord economy slowly evolves into bourgeois,Junker landlord economy ...." etc.etc. [Lenin, Collected Works,Vol.13,pages, 238, 239.]This is what I mean by Junker path. And this is what is meant in India by Junker or Prussian path. Perhaps in Argentina, it implies unification of Germany under Prussian hegemony by Bismarck. I don't know. It would appear that for Lenin, there were two possibilities and two forms for changes even in Russian agriculture. He had a more 'open' conception as compared to Trotsky's 'closed' one, at least in 1907-1908. And to lump together Lenin and Trotsky as if there views were identical may not be true. There can not be any doubt that Lenin would have preferred 'American path' or 'French path', however, he did not believe that it was inevitable, he did not always believe that it was the only possible solution to the problem, that the dictatorship of proletariat alone could do it, etc. While Trotsky seems to have believed that there was only one way.

2.It is not clear what is meant by the following: "The fact that most capital extracted from unpaid labour in India is realised in the imperialist countries is adamant for the general strategy of socialists." Does it mean that most capital extracted in India is realised in the imperialist countries? I would like to know what is the evidence in support of this view. Indian capitalism has largely been built on import substitution, on development of the internal market. Indian capitalism has never gone in for export led growth. Only some handful of maoist still believe that India is semi-feudal and semi-colonial, and that Indian bourgeoisie is comprador etc.

3.There is a consensus in India[and that includes the non-maoist Left], that integration with world market in inevitable, that India should attract foreign capital etc. on mutually advantageous terms, though people may differ on pace of globalisation. Even the state such as West Bengal where the Left front led by CPI[Marxist] is in power for over 20 continuous years, the state government is soliciting foreign capital. If one considers the scale on which China and Vietnam are integrating with the world market through trade and foreign investment, efforts of Indian capitalism are quite modest. It is these post-revolutionary regimes which have gone farthest. Conversely global capitalism has shown far greater interest in these 'Marxist' economies than Indian capitalism? On what grounds can Indian Left oppose liberalisation and globalisation when their role models[China, Vietnam, Cuba] are doing the same thing on the much vaster scale? Is it being suggested that one should advocate North Korean model? Why is it that countries like China, Vietnam whose revolutions are akin to permanent revolution are more enthusiastic about integration with the world economy than Indian capitalism? Is it the case that permanent revolution has, in fact, created deeper and broader basis for globalisation and liberalisation, inconceivable to Indian capitalism? Why anti-imperialism of China or Vietnam has vanished? Perhaps, 'euro-centrism' is at work in the whole east asia? I mean, one must have some explanations. And explanations which are worthy of Marxism,and not the childish stuff about, 'betrayals', 'perfidy', 'opportunism' being congenital defects of stalinists. The Indian Left may grumble about the adverse impact of liberalisation, however it has no concrete alternatives to offer. The Left may not like the WTO but it does not know how to defy it. Can one challenge the dominance of, say, Microsoft, with rousing calls for permanent revolution, with the usual agit-prop technique? Can any amount of tubthumping, whether in Paris or Timbaktou, achieve the desired results? This is precisely the crisis of the Left in India, whether stalinist, maoist, trotskyist, social democratic, etc. that its anti-imperialism is more or less rhetorical. Whatever the phrasemongering, it can only repeat[with minor variations] what liberals have advocated. The same thing is true of the nationalist Right also. When it gets a chance to rule[as is the case now],it ends up repeating and continuing what preceding liberal governments had done.

4.Problem with the significant sections in the Left, is unwillingness to confront reality that it is bereft of any ideas about 'viable forms' of socialism in the contemporary capitalism. Consequently,some people continue to wait for Godot, believing his[or her] appearance to be inevitable. However, there is no guarantee that Pozo [or Bozo or Gozo] will not turn up on the appointed day.