Tribute to Raj Narayan Arya

This tribute of comrade Raj Narayan Arya, was written by the eminent historian of the Trotskyist movement in India, Charles Wes Ervin. We publish this, in remembrance of comrade Raj Narayan, a veteran of the BLPI, and a prominent labor leader in North India. Lal Salaam comrade !

RAJ NARAYAN ARYA, a veteran of the Trotskyist movement of India, passed away in
Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, on June 9, 2014 at the age of 88. Born in a little rural village, he
joined the Bolshevik Leninist Party of India (BLPI), the first all-India Trotskyist party, when he
was 18, and he remained committed to revolutionary Marxism for the rest of his life. When he
was just 20, he pioneered the BLPI’s trade-union work in industrial Kanpur. He earned the
respect of the workers through his leadership of several jute and textile unions and his role in
major strikes, including an 80-day general strike in 1955. He was elected secretary of the
federation of textile unions in Kanpur.

Raj Narayan was only 22 when the BLPI merged with the Socialist Party of India (SP), an
ill-conceived and botched experiment in “entryism.” Raj Narayan was one of the first of the
former BLPI cadres to call for an exit from the SP. When his appeals to the Trotskyist leaders
went unheeded, he left the SP on his own in 1950. Though isolated in Kanpur, with no
resources, he resolved to start rebuilding a party.

That proved to be a long, hard struggle. He had to fight comrades who proposed opportunist schemes that required a watering down of the Trotskyist program. He became the standard bearer of “orthodox Trotskyism” in the Indian party.

Raj Narayan matured into a Trotskyist leader through these internal party struggles. He played a key role in ensuring the survival of the Trotskyist program and party in India – an achievement that has never been duly acknowledged. In this tribute I will delve into those behind-the-scenes struggles, using unpublished documentary sources, in order to wrap context around his life and give him the credit that is his due.
Although largely a self-taught Marxist, Raj Narayan made significant contributions to the Marxist understanding of India, particularly on the national question and role of caste. He produced a Trotskyist newspaper, Mazdoor Kisan Kranti, for ten years and published books and pamphlets. In the 1980s he started to translate Trotsky’s writings into Hindi. He authored and published a three-volume biography of Trotsky, the first of its kind in Hindi.

I met Raj Narayan Arya in 1974, during a yearlong sojourn in India, when I was researching the history of Indian Trotskyism. He invited me to come to his home in Kanpur. What I had anticipated would be a single interview turned into three days of discussions. He was a warm, soft-spoken, reflective man who was always fair in his assessments, even when talking about those who had led the movement astray. He had a large archive of party documents, which he invited me to peruse. I stayed up late every night, copying extracts from the letters and internal party documents longhand into
my notebook, as photocopy services were virtually non-existent in India in those days except in a few major cities.

After I returned to the US, we corresponded regularly. When I was writing my book on the BLPI in the 1990s, I sought his input often. He always answered my questions, corrected errors in my drafts, challenged some of my interpretations, and filled in gaps that no one else could.
When his health started to fail, I urged him to write his memoirs. He demurred. “My work for the movement was not that important.” That was Raj Narayan – always modest to a fault. He finally relented and sent me two long, handwritten letters with his life’s story. All the quotes in this tribute, unless noted otherwise, are from those letters.

Upbringing in a traditional village

Raj Narayan was born in a small village in the Ghazipur District of the United Provinces, about 30 miles northeast of Varanasi, near where the Gomati flows into the Ganges. His father, Sri Prayag Lal Srivastava, was a junior clerk for the District judge at Gorakhpur. As his name indicates, the family was Kayastha (upper-caste). In the ancient Hindu social order Srivastavas were literate scribes who worked for the government as record keepers. But his parents followed the teachings of the Arya Samaj, one of the Hindu reform movements that rejected the caste system.

“The Arya Samaj had a very deep influence on my life from childhood. Most of the people of my village were poor, lower-caste farmers, but my family treated them as equals. I had no notion of caste hierarchy.” Growing up in this typical village, Raj Narayan was oblivious to politics. Although the Arya Samajists tended to be nationalists, his father and uncles, being government employees, were loyal to the Raj. “Even the upper castes, in daily contact with cities and government officials, did not attach much importance to Congress, which was spearheading the freedom movement.”

He went to the village school, where instruction was in the local vernacular languages. In 1939 he graduated at the head of his class. His parents wanted him to continue at an English-medium school, since that was the ticket to a government job. They sent him to live with an uncle in Gonda, a town in the foothills of the Himalayas, where he attended the Government High School.

Glimpse of the bigger world beyond

In high school he was exposed to politics for the first time. “I was befriended by two classmates whose families were regular readers of English newspapers. In the mid-day recess I listened eagerly to their talk about recent events.” Like so many youth at the time, they worshipped Subhas Chandra Bose, the radical nationalist leader who had upstaged Gandhi and became President of the Congress in 1938. Bose saw the onset of the war in Europe as a golden opportunity to launch an all-out war for freedom. “I agreed with Subhas. I felt that satyagraha [Gandhian non-violent resistance] was ineffective. I no longer supported Gandhi.”

In 1940 Raj Narayan first heard about Trotsky from the newspaper reports of his assassination in Mexico: “The papers gave details of the cooperation of Lenin and Trotsky, and how Stalin seized power after Lenin, exiled Trotsky, and eliminated all of Lenin’s comrades in the ‘thirties. At that time I was interested only in the Indian struggle for independence. But these seeds were planted in my mind.”
In March, 1941 he attended a meeting of the Arya Samaj in Gonda. “Being disgusted with caste names, I dropped my caste name, Srivastava, and adopted the general name ‘Arya’ used by the Arya Samajists. Thus, I rejected idolworship, caste hierarchy, and male supremacy much before I became a Marxist.”

A harrowing first experience in politics

After graduating from high school with honors in 1942, he was admitted to the Kali Prasad Intermediate College in Allahabad on a scholarship. But his parents couldn’t afford the room and board. An uncle secured a place for him at the Kulbhaskar Ashram, which provided free room and board for boys from poor families. The ashram was connected to the Arya Samaj and was a beehive of political discussion.

In August, 1942 the Congress passed the historic “Quit India” resolution, calling for mass civil disobedience with the goal of getting the British to set a date for independence. The government arrested Gandhi and most of Congress high command. Street protests erupted in Bombay the next day. Hearing the news, the student union in Allahabad called for a protest march to the District Magistrate’s office. Raj Narayan decided to participate.

“As we approached the District Magistrate’s office, I saw the District Magistrate and the Superintendant of Police on horseback facing us. A dozen policemen had their guns pointed at us. There was a bang. A student fell just in front of me. I saw blood. The student leaders shouted ‘Lie down!’ But the boy at the front [of the march] who was holding the Congress flag remained standing. The District Magistrate rode towards him with revolver in hand and shot him dead. That was my first experience in politics.”

An unexpected rendezvous

A few days later a classmate, Keshava Prasad Lal (1925-2006), asked Raj Narayan if he wanted to meet “my leader.” He led Raj Narayan to the rendezvous. There he met Onkarnath Shastri (1908-2000), one of the first Trotskyists in India and a founder-leader of the BLPI. Raj Narayan had never met a Communist, much less a Trotskyist. “Shastri gave me a leaflet, titled ‘Turn this imperialist war into civil war!’ I didn’t understand the meaning of ‘civil war’ but I liked the fact that Trotskyists supported the Quit India movement, while the Communists didn’t.”

As the protests spread and intensified, the schools and colleges were closed indefinitely. Raj Narayan had to return to his village. When he arrived, he was astonished to find that his family, who had never taken any interest in politics, wanted to join the “Quit India” struggle. “We had a railway line near the village. We went there and cut the telegraph wire that ran along the tracks.” They were all caught. His father and uncle were sentenced to 18 months in jail. “I was tried, but given my youth, I got whipped with a cane and released.”

When he returned to college, he didn’t know how to contact the BLPI. Onkarnath Shastri had been arrested. Raj Narayan joined the student wing of the Congress Socialist Party at the college. In June, 1944 he graduated with high marks in chemistry and physics and entered Allahabad University.

Contact with the BLPI

Shortly later, he got an unexpected visit from a young BLPI member, Sitanshu Das (1926-2010), who had been jailed for distributing subversive flyers in Jamalpur (Bihar).

He had heard about Raj Narayan from another young Trotskyist who landed in the same jail. “He told us more about Trotskyism and gave us pamphlets that the Calcutta BLPI comrades had published. I read them eagerly.” Not long after that, two leaders of the BLPI – the Ceylonese expatriates Colvin de Silva (1907-89) and Leslie Goonewardene (1909-83) – visited Raj Narayan and his comrade-classmate. In July, 1945 the BLPI center in Calcutta dispatched Hector Abhayavardhana (1919-2012), another Ceylonese expat, to train the two new recruits and guide their work in the Congress Socialist student group at the university. They recruited an influential student leader who helped form a BLPI group on campus. Keshava Prasad was then dispatched to Kanpur to start a BLPI group there.

And so when Abhayavardhana left three months later, Raj Narayan was left pretty much on his own.
Raj Narayan received literature from the BLPI in Calcutta from time to time – leaflets and the party’s journal, Permanent Revolution. But that was his only link to the party. So, while he was learning his Trotskyism at a literary level, he had no real training in Leninist party organization and functioning. I have absolutely no doubt that he would have matured faster and risen to greater heights if he had the experience of working in a party organization.

Finding his calling

After earning his BSc in 1946, Raj Narayan wanted to pursue an MSc in zoology, but he couldn’t get the financial support he needed from his parents. “I decided to go to Kanpur and work with the workers.” He got a job as a lab technician at the Royal Ordnance Factory on the outskirts of Kanpur. “I was not in touch with the party center in Calcutta.” At that point the BLPI didn’t have the financial or organizational resources to send reinforcements to Kanpur or maintain a regular internal bulletin.

In 1947 the Ordnance union called a strike against layoffs. At dawn on April 8th Raj Narayan joined the picket line at the factory gate. He was one of the first to be arrested.
“In the jail I started introducing myself to all the workers. I came upon two workers, one a Socialist, the other a Communist, debating the August [Quit India] struggle. The Socialist was supporting the August Struggle, the Communist was defending the CPI for supporting the government. I asked the Communist worker how that support actually benefitted the Soviet Union. He was nonplussed. The union leaders, who were sitting nearby, wondered who I was. The Communist union leader said, ‘Oh, he must be a Trotskyist.’ So, for fun, he started calling me ‘Trotsky’. The workers in the jail spread the word that ‘the Ordnance Factory workers are following Trotsky’.”

When the strike ended, he went to the factory gates twice a day to talk to workers as they were arriving and leaving.

“I took up residence in the [factory workers] housing colony at Armapur Estate and began to take part in meetings of the union. I recruited several Bengali workers in my group.” When the British factory managers tried to get him thrown out, the union ranks rallied to the defense of “Trotsky.” He was elected to a new committee that the union had established to organize and mobilize the unemployed ordnance workers. The BLPI newspaper reported his successes.
Raj Narayan was a born leader. Totally lacking caste and class prejudices, he could mingle and talk freely with anyone. At age 21 he had found his calling.

First national conference of the BLPI

When Raj Narayan was released from jail after the Ordnance strike, he learned that the BLPI was preparing to hold its first national conference two weeks later. Though he hadn’t seen any of the pre-conference discussion bulletins, he packed his bag and took the train to Bombay to represent the Kanpur unit of the party.

Raj Narayan had never been to a party meeting before, much less a national gathering. For the next four days he listened to the party’s top leaders debate critical issues facing the party. It was exhilarating but also intimidating; “I was then still raw politically.” According to the minutes of the conference, he spoke only a few times and abstained on several votes. When he did vote, he followed the majority line.

The “biggest test” of his life Just one week after he returned home from the conference, the whole political situation changed dramatically. Mountbatten announced on June 3, 1947 that India would be partitioned and the “transfer of power” would occur in ten weeks, not in twelve months, as formerly announced. The announcement triggered panic and more pogroms. “The biggest test that I ever had to face as a Marxist was the communal madness.”

The communal poison was infecting the labor movement. In Kanpur Raj Narayan could see the ominous change at his factory. Local Hindu communalists were inciting the Hindu workers against the Muslims, saying that any Muslim worker who supported Pakistan should be expelled.

“I decided to intervene and take a public stand of class solidarity. I approached the president of the union, who was a Muslim, and got a notice signed for a public meeting at the factory gate. The Hindu communalists threatened to attack me if I held that meeting. On that day, the Muslim workers gathered around me and we walked to the gate together. I told the meeting that the Muslims who had opted for Pakistan had done nothing wrong. ‘They are welcome to live with us as long as they want. Let us say good-bye to them when they go.’ I reminded all the workers of our slogan, ‘Workers of the World, Unite!’ I said that workers everywhere are our brothers. This stand of mine calmed down the workers in the factory.”

Into the slums of “Red Kanpur”

In 1948 the BLPI asked Raj Narayan to leave his job at the Ordnance Factory and move into the city to work with a group of party contacts at the J. K. Jute Mills in Darshanpurwa. He took a teacher’s training course and got a job teaching science at a school, where was given a small place to live on the grounds. Every day, after he finished teaching, Raj Narayan went to the jute mill and held Marxist study classes.

The Congress ran the union. As an outsider, he couldn’t intervene in the factory committee. He took a bold step. “I suggested to the workers in the mill committee that they leave the INTUC [the Congress federation] and get their committee registered as an independent union under the Trade Union Act. They did that, and I was able to start working with this committee.”

After a while his father paid him a visit. He was upset that his son was spending all his time and money on political work and wasn’t interested in getting married.

“My father insisted that I marry, and so one month later I married the village girl that he had chosen for me. Her name was Kamala. She was 13 years old. He thought that with a wife, I would no longer be spending my pay on the party. He never realized the importance or significance of my political activity.” Their life was frugal. “We lived in a simple house without flush toilet facility.” True to his Arya Samaj upbringing, he treated his wife as his equal. With his support, she went to school and became a nurse.

An existential crisis in the party

In 1948 Raj Narayan attended the BLPI’s second national conference as delegate from Kanpur. The party was facing a new era. The mass anti-imperialist struggle was over, and the Socialist Party (SP) was pulling out of the Congress in opposition to the Nehru government. A faction in the BLPI argued that the Trotskyists should enter the SP, win over the radical workers to their program, and then exit and re-form the BLPI stronger than before.

Raj Narayan supported this proposal, known as the “entry tactic.” The SP leaders, not being babes in the woods, told the BLPI that they were “suspicious of this unity move.” They said the SP would not tolerate any factional activities. Reporting back to the party, the BLPI leaders reassured the ranks
that they would “form a secret nucleus in Bombay to guide us at every step, and if anything went wrong, they’d pull us out of the SP.” And so the BLPI folded its tent and the members joined the SP as individuals with no clear plan of action.

Call to end “this fatal step”

When he joined the SP in Kanpur, he found no signs of radicalization in the ranks. In fact, he found very little political activity at all. “There was not much to do.” As for guidance from the secret “nucleus” in Bombay, “I never heard from them.” So he improvised. “I wrote a pamphlet in Hindi, ‘Why we should have a revolutionary program,’ and gave it to the Socialist activists, but I failed to get a response.”

In 1950 he sent a confidential letter to the BLPI leaders in Bombay:

“It is fatal to build the SP and to create a rival…Occasional murmurs and discontents [in the SP ranks] cannot justify this fatal step. I have also mentioned the dangers of remaining within an alien class party, especially in a period of lull and for a long period…We are going to expose ourselves to the full blast of an alien class influence.”

Unbeknownst to him, a group of former BLPI members in Calcutta also had called for an exit from the SP. But the senior Trotskyist leaders refused to reconsider, insisting that “the struggle inside the SP will ultimately arise. In 1950 Raj Narayan resigned from the SP. About the same time the Calcutta dissidents – a group of about 20 cadres, including a number of trade unionists – also left the SP. The majority of former BLPI members, however, remained inside the SP in various stages of activity and inactivity.

Initial efforts to reunify the Trotskyists

At that point there were three Trotskyist groups functioning in India: the Calcutta group, which had just left the SP, and two small groups in Bombay. Raj Narayan decided to visit each one – a big commitment, given that he had a job, a 15- year old wife, growing trade-union responsibilities, and little money to spend on party work.

In June, 1950 he went to Calcutta for a month. He stayed with Keshav Bhattacharyya (1925-2013), one of the brainy Marxist leaders of the group of about 20 ex-BLPI members. They had revived the BLPI’s newspaper, Inquilab [Revolution]. They were very good at Marxist theory but terrible when it came to the practical tasks of party building, like holding regular meetings and conducting study groups for their contacts. They were basically a discussion group. They didn’t have even one full-time party organizer.

Raj Narayan next went to Bombay, where he met the leaders of the Mazdoor [Workers] Trotskyist Party and the Bolshevik Mazdoor Party. The former had never been part of the BLPI; the later was a splinter. They were already working towards Trotskyist unity. In June, 1952 Raj Narayan participated in the conference where they merged to form the Mazdoor Communist Party (MCP). He was elected to the Central Committee and helped write the Policy Statement. The MCP revived the BLPI newspaper, New Spark, and declared in the first issue, “Only the program of revolutionary Marxism – the Fourth International program – can provide the basis for the development of a party.”

Defection of the old BLPI leadership

The Socialists went into the 1952 general elections with sky-high hopes. They were buried in the Congress landslide victory. Stunned, the SP leaders merged with a breakaway party of Congressmen. The Trotskyists in the SP were now free to hoist their own flag. Instead, they resolved to “hold aloft the banner of the Socialist Party” and “rebuild the party of Democratic Socialism in India.”
Why would Trotskyists pledge to rebuild a reformist party? Evidently, they couldn’t bring themselves to abandon “entryism.” The leaders of the Fourth International didn’t help matters; the British, American, and Ceylonese Trotskyists applauded their decision to rebuild the old SP.

This was a symptom of how they were beginning to deviate from the course that Leon Trotsky had set for the Fourth International. In 1953 Raj Narayan went to the conference of the rump Socialist Party that was in the hands of the former BLPI leaders. He was astonished to find out that most had themselves become reformists.“To my surprise, I found that our leaders had become non-defencist. They ridiculed the idea of the defense of
the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers state. They had lost faith in the world revolution. So there was a struggle, and they were expelled.” After the Shachtmanites departed, the remaining Trotskyists cast off the cloak of social democracy and renamed their group, “Socialist Party (Marxist).” Raj Narayan joined the SP(M) and took a place on its Executive Committee.

The lure of centrist regroupment

After the stunning Congress victory in the 1952 elections, the two largest parties to the left of the CPI – the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) – attributed their defeats to “left disunity” and issued a joint statement calling for a merger of all “non-Stalinist and non-Socialist parties” on the basis of “the tenets of Marxism Leninism.” A number of smaller parties jumped on the “left unity” bandwagon.

Raj Narayan wanted to press ahead with a Trotskyist unification. But his comrades in Bombay and Calcutta found this merger prospect enticing. “There appears in our comrades a craze for getting into some big party,” he wrote. “Even if there were only two of us [Trotskyists], we should call ourselves a party and work towards that goal.”16 Unfortunately, his comrades diverted their energies into this PWP-RSP merger initiative.The PWP and RSP staged a Marxist Unity Conference in January, 1955. 17 The Bombay Trotskyists (MCP), the Calcutta group (now called the Communist League), and the SP(M) participated, and Trotskyists were given six seats on the 20-member Provisional Central Committee, tasked with “evolving a procedure for bringing about a merger of the separate parties and groups represented in the conference.”

Raj Narayan didn’t get directly involved. At that point the textile mill owners in Kanpur were demanding greater productivity. The political parties that controlled the unions were at odds. Raj Narayan teamed with a senior local labor leader to bring all the textile unions into a single union – the Suti Mill Mazdoor Sabha. Raj Narayan was elected secretary. “The new union – the Sabha – called a strike for May 1st , 1955. The leaders were arrested and sent to jail. I, too, was jailed.” The strike lasted 80 days and blocked, for the moment, the employer offensive.

Meanwhile, the Left Unity initiative stalled. The Provisional Central Committee spent the next two years trying to draft a program that would satisfy all the motley parties. In a letter to his comrades Raj Narayan argued:

“The different parties were yet not clear about Stalinism fully, and even while criticizing Stalinism formally, followed its politics of the Government of Democratic Unity…they found large areas of agreement with the Social Democrat and the Stalinist opinions on Kashmir, Goa, Five Year Plans, India’s Foreign Policy and T.U. [trade union] and peasants’ movements.”

As the 1957 elections approached, the PWP and RSP decided to field their own candidates. The merger was put on hold. The Trotskyists had wasted more than two years trying to broker what could only have been an unprincipled lashup of centrist parties. Worse still, they had lost cadres and strength in the process. In Bombay, for example, while the Trotskyists were naively working for the merger, their “partners” were undermining them in the labor movement. “The cadre of the old MCP,” one leader lamented bitterly, “has been decimated, isolated and destroyed.”

A call for unity

At this point Raj Narayan stepped forward again and appealed to his comrades:
“Let us finally make up our minds that no bigger merger is possible in the foreseeable future and hence we shall no more run after mirages…Let us tell them [the rest of the Left] that instead of running after illusions of half-baked unity just now, we are consolidating Trotskyists to contribute in clarifying our stand and laying a sound basis of Left unity if it ever comes about. Our emphasis, therefore, should not be on agitation for bigger merger but on political discussions and clarifications of our stand and opposing our policies to that of the Congress and other Lefts. We should aim at promoting understanding and not unity.”
Initially the Bombay and Calcutta groups were reluctant to give up on a centrist merger.
But when nothing materialized, they resumed the process of Trotskyist unity. Raj Narayan attended the meeting in Calcutta in November, 1957, where the representatives of the three groups – the Bombay MCP, the Calcutta Communist League, and Raj Narayan for the SP(M) – agreed to form a new party, the Revolutionary Workers Party of India (RWPI). He was elected Convenor of the Provisional Coordinating Committee, which would prepare for a unity conference in March, 1958.

At this meeting there was a debate over whether the new party should be called Trotskyist. Raj Narayan and the Bombay group were strongly in favor, while the Calcutta group was opposed. According to the minutes, “While the Committee accepted in principle the need to associate the party openly with international Trotskyist movement, it was decided to postpone the issue till the merger conference.”
In the interim Raj Narayan was authorized to contact the Fourth International, which was then divided into two camps – the majority, following the line of the International Secretariat in Paris (IS), headed by Michel Pablo, and a minority, calling themselves the International Committee (IC).

Contact with the Fourth International

In March, 1958 Raj Narayan sent a letter to the IS, with a copy to the British section of the IC, setting forth the position of the Provisional Coordinating Committee:
“We deeply regret the split in the World Trotskyist movement and we shall try our best to prevent the Indian Trotskyist movement from splitting in its wake. We shall keep most friendly contact with each wing of the Trotskyist movement, individually and collectively, and we shall allow supporters of both wings within us. The merged party [RWPI] shall follow the line of either of these wings on its merit – according to its own majority view. We shall discuss the question of affiliation in due course amongst ourselves and whatever the result, we shall not allow the unity of the Indian Trotskyists to be broken up on this question.”

Two months later he sent another formal statement to the first international conference of the IC:
“Indian comrades shall never hesitate to express their opinion on all the points of controversy, but they are not prepared to divide themselves on such points. They consider that the differences are not so fundamental that separate existence of the two wings is necessary. I, therefore, appeal to this gathering on behalf of the Indian comrades to seriously consider and find out ways and means to heal up this wound and democratic organizational safety for future.”

An Indian version of “Pabloism”

In January, 1958, while Raj Narayan was making preparations for the unity conference, the Calcutta group dropped a bombshell. They wanted to postpone the unification. They claimed they had just reached “complete agreement” on merger with a “political front” of left parties in West Bengal, and “we would not like our own unity to stand in the way of this bigger unity.”26 Raj Narayan fired back: “We must not postpone the actual integration of the Trotskyist parties.

We must start functioning as one party, with a united centre, a united program, and a united organization.” The Calcutta group then insisted on having an internal discussion of “party perspectives.” The Calcutta comrades ridiculed the idea that only a Trotskyist party, fighting for the program of the Fourth International, can make a revolution.
“The course of events, especially the international events, will more and more compel the more conscious elements [in other left parties] as well as the different honest revolutionary groupings to adopt a fundamentally Trotskyist position…let us not close the door against them by insisting that they must openly swear by Trotskyism here and now….to swallow the whole thing hook, line and sinker. …On the contrary, by making unreasonable demands in the initial period we will be spoiling these excellent opportunities and in reality, hampering the growth of a vigorous and healthy Trotskyist movement in India.”

In other words Trotskyists should water down their program, get into a big centrist party, and eventually the objective forces of History will take care of the rest. That is pretty much what Pablo had been saying since 1950. After four months of tortuous exchanges in the internal bulletin, Raj Narayan and the Bombay group told the Calcutta comrades that they were going ahead with or without them. The Calcutta group offered a compromise: if the new party accepts “the principle of a bigger unity,” then they would “leave it to the new party to define the exact basis on
which unity with such elements may be attempted in future.” Raj Narayan agreed.

A promising new beginning

The Revolutionary Workers Party of India (RWPI) was launched in May, 1958. The Statement of Policy declared that the RWP “takes its stand wholly and unreservedly” upon “Leninism-Trotskyism,” but also will work for “the consolidation of all Marxist forces in India” on a three-point “basic program.” 30
The IS in Paris sent a congratulatory message to the conference, urging the RWPI to act as “part and parcel of the World Party of Socialist Revolution which is our Fourth International.” The delegates weren’t ready to reciprocate. Based on his previous communications with the IS and IC, Raj Narayan proposed that the RWPI not “align ourselves with either wing [of the Fourth International] organizationally and denounce or the other. We should rather be out of
both and help in uniting the two wings.”
Ernest Mandel of the IS wrote to Raj Narayan: “Your analysis of the split and its aftermath seems to me rather heavily weighted in favor of the International Committee and strongly one-sided.”32 Raj Narayan replied: “We feel that real unity can proceed only when the differences have been thoroughly discussed as within a single organization. To break the present stalemate it is necessary to create a third force to start a thinking uninfluenced by the accidental association and subjectivity…The Indians are in agreement with the SWP’s Militant, and not the IS, on the questions of Kerala, Tibet and the Sino-Indian border dispute. [However], no Indian comrade, including myself, has yet taken a stand on the split [of 1953].”

The RWPI got off to a good start. Many former cadres scattered around India rallied enthusiastically. Party branches were formed in Bombay, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Calcutta, Nadia, Murshidabad, Barrackpur, Madras, Sholavandan, Madurai, Thevaram, Tuticorin and Kerala. The Bombay branch produced the party’s newspaper, The Militant, and political journal, New Perspectives, and staffed the small central office on Cleveland Road in Bombay. Raj Narayan contributed seminal articles on the national question in India and authored what became the party’s line on the Chinese incursion into Tibet.

A disastrous “Pabloist” merger

Shortly after the founding conference the Calcutta group informed the Central Committee that they had reached “basic agreement” with the Revolutionary Communist Party of India (RCPI). Given the background of this party, Raj Narayan was skeptical. The RCPI had originated in the late 1930s as a dissident Communist party that criticized aspects of Stalinism while rejecting the program of the Fourth International, in particular the Trotskyist analysis of the USSR. In 1948 the party split when a faction started what was a disastrous armed uprising in Bengal and Assam. This group, led by Sudhindra Nath Kumar, continued to use the name RCPI. This was the RCPI remnant that the Calcutta group said
was in “basic agreement” with Trotskyism.

Raj Narayan suspected that the Calcutta comrades, in their eagerness for merger, were downplaying the differences:

“We were very much dependent on the reports of our own comrades of Bengal on whether there would be an openminded discussion on the question of the USSR.”

In August, 1958 a delegation from the RWPI met with the RCPI in Calcutta. The RCPI proposed immediate unity;

the RWPI declined, stating that the differences on the USSR would have to be overcome first. The Calcutta comrades continued the discussions. A year later the RWPI Central Secretariat noted that “attitude toward the Soviet Union” still remained a bloc to merger.

In December, 1959 the RWPI and RCPI announced that they had reached agreement on a unity program.37 Raj Narayan, who had not been involved in the discussions, suspected that the Calcutta group had pushed through this deal. Whether or not that was the case, the IS in Paris hailed this unity of “revolutionary Marxists.” That is not surprising.

The unity program could have been written by Pablo himself. On the key question of Stalinism, the unity program pledged to support “those efforts of the leading parties of the Workers States” that were “ensuring continued better living conditions and wider democracy for the masses, wider socialization and complete elimination of bureaucracy.” That was a call for Khrushchevite reform, not political revolution to oust the Khruschchevs in Moscow, Peking, and Belgrade.

The RCPI blows up

The merged RCPI was an unstable bloc between the two sides. The Trotskyists kept their newspaper, the Militant, while the RCPI continued Janasadharan [Common People]. The Militant talked about permanent revolution; Janasadharan talked about “peaceful co-existence with capitalism” and “socialism in one country.” Before long the RCPI majority in the Political Bureau demanded that the Militant stop being a mouthpiece for Trotskyism.

The differences came to a head during the India-China border war in 1962. The Nehru government whipped up jingoist feelings towards the “aggressor” China. The Militant came out solidly for the defense of People’s China. The principal historic leader of the RCPI publicly supported the Nehru government. The Trotskyists demanded that the RCPI Political Bureau repudiate his stand. When they refused to do so, the Trotskyists protested and resigned. This merger was an unmitigated disaster. The Trotskyists hadn’t recruited anyone from the RCPI ranks and ended up losing a number of their own cadres. “They [the Indian Trotskyists] were disorganized,” Raj Narayan later wrote.

“They maintained contacts among themselves but they had no formal organization.”

Struggle over future course

In June, 1964 a meeting of Trotskyists was held in Bombay “to evolve the future organizational perspective.” Raj Narayan stood for the immediate formation of a full-fledged Trotskyist party. The majority of Trotskyists who participated in the conference took the same position.
Despite the fiasco with the RCPI, the Bengal Trotskyists wanted to continue entryism. This time around they set their sights on the new pro-Peking faction in the Communist Party, which they claimed was going to either “crystallize as a whole into a genuine revolutionary party or provide the necessary cadres for forging such an organization.” Therefore, they called for “total entry into the CP” and integration with this faction.

Raj Narayan rejected the Calcutta proposal: “once the two groups [in the CPI] split, they will become homogenous again and only the fools can think of making entry.” 43 But he also differed with those comrades “who put the blame for the failure of the Trotskyist movement in India on the entry tactic,” which is “one of the great contributions of Trotsky to Marxism.” Raj Narayan urged his comrades to re-think why the Trotskyist movement had made such little progress. In his view they had failed to apply the approach that Trotsky had set forth in the foundational document of the Fourth International – the “Transitional Program.”

“At the best, we put this item [transitional demands] in our party programs and let it remain there as a piece of adornment. Those of us who engaged in mass fronts and organizations busied themselves with day-to-day economic problems and struggles. Our trade unionists also contested cases of dismissal, permanency, promotion, bonus, wage increase and the like or led struggles on these issues. All that they can claim for themselves is that they were more militant, less compromising, and carried on their activity in a spirit of class struggle rather than that of class collaboration…

We preached Trotskyism, pure Marxism, and presented brilliant analyses of national and international
situations, and in this also we were nothing different from the rest. Here also we followed the traditional political practice. We did nothing by way of organizing movements on the basis of the Transitional Program.

The result was, as visualized by the founders of the Fourth International, a complete failure. We failed because we had not grasped the essence of Trotskyism…

We can grow only through mass movements and the only movements which can grow today are movements
based on Transitional demands…and such movements can be organized only when we act as an independent
group.”

The departure of the Calcutta entrists

While this debate was bubbling, the Communist Party split, and the pro-Peking faction became the CP(Marxist). The Paris secretariat of the Fourth International (the two wings had reunited in 1963) thought the CP(M) was more “left” than the official CP. They dispatched a senior representative to India. His advice: “all comrades who can do it should, in my view, enter the Left CP. The Left CP will be the real force in the left for a whole period, and we should make all our best [efforts] to work in it, or to associate or build it where it does not exist.”

With that stab in the back, the Bombay group, with the support of Raj Narayan, issued a call for a Trotskyist unity conference one month later. The Calcutta group bid them farewell and applied for membership in the CP(M). The CP(M) leaders, being savvy Stalinists, admitted only the Trotskyist trade unionists, who had mass bases in Titagarh and Baranagar. Left hanging, the remaining Trotskyist intellectuals started a journal, Jana Ganatantra (“Peoples Democracy”), in an attempt to influence the CP(M) and later the Maoist split. The group soon became moribund.

The Socialist Workers Party

Raj Narayan attended the founding conference of the Socialist Workers Party of India (SWPI) in August 1965. He was elected to the Central Committee and helped write the new program, which was based on the original BLPI program of 1942.

He started to contribute regularly to the SWP’s new journal, Marxist Outlook.
At the founding conference the delegates voted to seek affiliation with the newly re-united Fourth International. Raj Narayan supported that decision but on the condition that the SWP also call for an international discussion and resolution of all those issues that had separated the two wings since 1953, i.e., the policy of “deep entryism,” the supposed “decline” of Stalinism, the Sino-Soviet split, the lessons of Algeria, the character of the Cuban revolution, etc. The result was a five-page letter to the United Secretariat that read more like a polemic than an application. The new FI leadership, however, preferred to sweep all the “old differences” under the rug. So, as Raj Narayan
realized, the seeds for future discord were there from the start. In affiliating to the United Secretariat the SWP was opening itself up to revisionist neo-Pabloist politics and renewed factionalism that would corrupt and eventually destroy the organization.

The nemesis of the old Indian Trotskyists

In 1967 the SWP recruited an energetic former youth leader of the CP(M), Magan Desai, who had a following in Baroda (Gujarat). He became the SWP’s first and only full-time party worker. “At the next national conference of the SWP, Kolpe made the mistake of making him [Magan Desai] the General Secretary. He had not been in the party long enough to be known well. Then he started to take over the
party. He forced out Murlidhar Parija, who had been the general secretary first of the RWPI then the SWPI. He moved the party office from Bombay to Baroda. He took control of Marxist Outlook and then applied to the government authorities in Baroda to change the name to Red Spark under his ownership. He insisted on changing the party name to Communist League. He then started a vilification campaign against Kolpe. He [Kolpe] left the party. The older members of the party began to doubt his bona fides.

I met Magan Desai in Baroda in 1973 and can attest to this assessment. Desai denigrated veteran cadres like Raj Narayan as “worn out” and “parasites.”50 He was completely enamored with the American SWP. As I looked around his party headquarters, I could see that there was more than politics involved in this relationship. The SWP was sending large quantities of books, pamphlets, and newspapers for him to sell. Desai was using the proceeds to support himself and finance the party. In a party with a meager dues base these funds gave him power. Raj Narayan subsequently saw for himself: “I was persuaded to attend a party conference in Baroda in 1976, where I witnessed his cliquish ways.” The following year, “I too was expelled.”

Using the Transitional Program as his guide for trade union work

In 1978 Raj Narayan took a leading role in another landmark strike. The workers at the Swadeshi Cotton Mill were agitating for payment of overdue wages. About 150 were arrested, and the management closed the mill. The union leaders at the mill refused to organize support for the families of the jailed workers. “I mobilized worker activists of all political parties and unions of the Swadeshi Mill and organized a committee. In this work I was pitted against the entire trade union bureaucracy. But they could not find even a dozen workers to stand against our Mill Committee. We not only provided relief to the families, we also led delegations to the state and Central government offices demanding that the mill be re-opened and all the mills of that employer be nationalized.”

Raj Narayan, following the Transitional Program, organized democratic workers committees. “In my functioning as a trade unionist, I always went beyond the Executive Committee and discussed every question publically in open meetings, to which all activists, even ordinary workers, were invited.”
During this time, he earned a doctorate so he could teach at a higher level. He wrote his dissertation on “Marxist Critics of Shakespeare (1950-75)”. He subsequently became a senior lecturer in English at the Pandit Prithi Nath College, which was affiliated to Kanpur University.

Forming a new party in Kanpur

In 1980 he joined the Kanpur branch of the Revolutionary Socialist Party. He had good working relationships with these militants going as far back as 1946. He joined on the condition that he could freely voice his Trotskyist views and still publish the Mazdoor Kisan Kranti. He contributed articles to the RSP paper, Krantiyug [Revolutionary Age]. He eventually won over the local RSP leader and most of the cadres.

In 1991, when the RSP gave electoral support to the Janata Dal, a bourgeois party, he and his recruits split and took the name RSP(Marxist). They took an openly Trotskyist position. The RSP(M) functioned for ten years but folded when its local leader of longstanding died.

Translating Trotsky into the vernacular

In 1984 Raj Narayan embarked on an ambitious new project – translating Trotsky’s key writings into Hindi. He wrapped up Mazdoor Kisan Kranti, retired from his teaching job at the P. P. N. College, and resigned from the Suti Mill Mazdoor Sabha. He started a publishing house, Socialist Prakashan, to publish these in Hindi and Urdu.

Raj Narayan produced a three-volume biography of Trotsky in Hindi – the first of its kind – modeled after the classic trilogy by Isaac Deutscher. He also wrote a history of the Russian Revolution and a summary of the first four congresses of the Comintern in Hindi.

In this period he delved deeply into the origins and role of the caste system – a subject that had interested him since his youth. “In the 1980s I got a book by the Marxist historian, Ram Sharam Sharma, who documented the formation of the castes in ancient India. Later still, I found a thesis of the Fourth Congress of the Comintern on the Negro question and my view on the caste system became final.” He subsequently published two studies: Caste System Through History and Present Tasks: A Marxist View (1997) and Brahmin and Brahmanism: A Historical Survey (2001).

Personal setbacks.

In 1997 his wife died from cancer. It was a huge emotional blow. He wrote and published a book of poems in her memory. Then, in December, 2001 he had to return to Allahabad for a medical operation.
In 2003 Raj Narayan reached out to an old Trotskyist comrade, Somendra Kumar (1926-2006), who lived in
Samastipur (Bihar) and had developed his own local Trotskyist group. Together they started a newsletter, News and Views. But enthusiasm and dedication don’t deter Father Time. In 2007 he wrote, “I am almost 82 and almost immobile.” Somendra Kumar died that same year.

As his health continued to deteriorate, he moved in with his younger son, Sunil Kumar Srivastava, in Allahabad. Unfortunately, he had to jettison his archive – an irreplaceable loss of documentary history. Raj Narayan spent what energy he had on mentoring several younger trade-union militants in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. “I am trying to catch younger people to pass on my experience. Anyway, we have to begin anew…I am trying to form a Coordination Committee of Trotskyists. The move is entirely in the hands of the younger generation. I am acting as a guide.” Raj Narayan sent them all his unpublished books and articles in Hindi with hopes that they’d publish them.

In 2011 he wrote, “I am nearly a physical wreck. I can’t read even old and familiar books, nor write a few pages.” By 2013 he was lamenting, “It is not possible for me now either to read something for an hour or write anything, even one page.” When he could no longer hold a pen, he started dictating his letters to his grandson, who keyed them into email messages to me. Modern capitalist technology had come to our rescue!

Despite all his infirmaries and political setbacks, his messages always were positive. He liked to say, “Hum honge kamyab ek din!” [We will succeed some day!]. “I hope the tender plant will grow strong” In March of last year I received what turned out to be his last email.
“I am not well. Very freezing cold since December 13th, right up to the first week of March. I developed chest congestion, dry cough, shook me badly for three weeks. I am weak both physically and mentally.”

Then, in his typical way, he changed the subject and spoke hopefully of the trade-union militants he had been mentoring.
“I have tried to train and educate these young men on a firm political basis. They have already published my Hindi translation of Trotsky’s Transitional Program for the Fourth International. I hope the tender plant will grow strong.”

In his letters he had always used the old Indian communist salutation, “Lal Salaam” (Red Salute). This is my Lal Salaam to a remarkable man who dedicated his life to the working class and the fight for a socialist revolution.

[Citation/reproduction of the content in this article:
citation: “Charles Wesley Ervin, “Raj Narayan Arya (1926-2014)” ]

Understanding 1947 (part 1)

The formation of India and Pakistan in 1947 is a crucial question for the Indian left. Few historical questions are as pertinent, and at the same time few are as divisive. The formation of the Indian republic raises a number of questions which concern the very foundations of capitalism in India and in that context turn a searchlight on the true historical character of the transfer of power which took place on the 15th of August 1947.

Some questions central to our understanding of the events preceding and taking place at the point of the transfer of power on 15th of August 1947 are :

a) Was India’s independence in 1947 a revolutionary event?
b) Were the events of 1947 and the year immediately preceding it ‘peaceful’? And was the independence struggle as a whole ‘peaceful’?
c) How did the transfer of power affect the development of capitalism in India and Pakistan? Did they both subsequently fall to foreign imperialism? If so why so? If not why not?

I will tackle these questions in sequence.

a) Was India’s independence in 1947 a revolutionary event?

Let us first understand what we mean by ‘revolution’. Real socio-economic revolutions that change the face of history only take place when an old worldwide mode of production has outlived itself. That is to say a mode of production affecting human society as a whole – like slavery, feudalism, and capitalism. When the foundations of such a system become wholly rotten, and when the precursors of a new mode of production are emerging ever stronger, revolutions break out that sweep away the ruins of the old system and usher in new societies based on the new forces of production and new relations between the people working with them.

Revolutions are an outburst of social energy channelling the creative forces of the new system to break the chains of the old mode of production, like slavery or serfdom. They are opposed in a life-and-death struggle by the decaying, destructive forces of the old system which seek to prolong its life. In short, a true social-historical revolution can only be an epoch-making change in economy and society bringing with it the change of one mode of production into another. A deep historical revolution of this kind is not simply a regime change from one kind of government to another be it democratic or dictatorial. Even the bloodiest rebellions or coups d’état fall short of this historical significance if they produce no change in the underlying mode of production. Fascist regimes still operate on a bourgeois capitalist economic basis, so Nazi Germany was no revolutionary creation. A true revolution is a process which overthrows the economic and political dominance of the old ruling class and replaces it with the rule of the formerly oppressed class – as happened when the slave-owning rulers of the ancient Roman Empire were ousted during the rise of feudal Europe, and the feudal rulers of old Europe were thrown aside in bourgeois revolutions such as those in England in 1649 and France in 1789.

For instance, in bourgeois revolutions, the ruling class of feudal lords were overthrown by the political mobilization of the oppressed proto-bourgeois serfs and traders. In their place the bourgeois class seized power and wielded it through its political representatives, be it the New Model Army in England or the Jacobins in France. These revolutions were the midwives of history and opened the way for the capitalist transformation of European society. Frequently however, the aftershocks of these world-shaking revolutionary events only involved the transfer of power from one group of special interests to another in the new ruling class. This is most certainly evident if we compare the so-called Glorious Revolution of England in 1688 to Cromwell’s revolution some decades earlier. The Stuart monarchy restored by parliament in 1660 was turfed out unceremoniously for wanting its pre-Cromwellian power back, and was replaced by a new, tame bourgeois monarchy imported from Holland.

As the revolutionary Soviet economist Eugene Preobrazhensky wrote in The New Economics in 1926, the bourgeoisie did not come to be the ruling class without first creating the economic pre-conditions for its power. For centuries, the bourgeoisie were city traders and bankers subordinate to the feudal elite, but over time they grew stronger and began to undermine the economic independence of the aristocrats, who were ultimately unable to prevent the bourgeoisie from directly claiming power. Parliament was its preferred mechanism for rule in place of aristocratic or absolute despotism. This gradual piecemeal trajectory of the bourgeoisie’s rise to power influenced the character of its revolutions, which were essentially national and became more and more cowardly with time – looking over their shoulders in fear at their ostensible allies in the working class and poor peasantry. There were clear limits to the Liberty, Equality and Fraternity they were prepared to introduce, and compromise with the defeated aristocracy to hold down the workers and poor people of town and country became the norm. Thus we see even today that the UK which was the first country to undergo a bourgeois revolution continues to harbour a monarchy which is a relic of its pre-capitalist past and constantly reminds us of the limits of capitalism’s ability to effect profound social transformations.

The socialist revolution presents a striking contrast to the bourgeois revolutions of old. Where the bourgeois revolutions open the way for the transformation of society along capitalist lines, the socialist revolution opens the way for the transformation of society towards the communist mode of production, in which those who work and produce the wealth also own the means of producing it, and associate freely and equally to plan and distribute this production. The two kinds of revolution are similar in that a socialist revolution the current ruling class i.e the bourgeoisie in capitalist society, is overthrown by the oppressed class in capitalist society, i.e the proletariat.

The economic basis for the existence and organization of the proletariat is not created by the proletariat but by its class enemy, the bourgeoisie. Large scale mass production and monopoly capital lays the foundation for the unification and political organization of the proletariat on a national and international scale, as well as for a future socialist economy. What the proletariat does create of its own, is its own independent political organs and the organs of power with which to overthrow the bourgeois in power. Imperialism is clinging on to outworn and unmanageable social relations in an age of transition to socialism, making the imperialist epoch a period of crisis, war and revolution. The global contradiction of the instruments of socialism existing, yet not being in the hands of working people in power, gives the socialist revolution an unprecedented social explosivity and the economic stakes involved are unparalleled, and makes the political tasks of the proletariat that much more complex. All this gives our revolution a much clearer political and social character than the bourgeois revolutions preceding it. There can be no compromise between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie like there was a compromise between the monarchy and the republican bourgeoisie in England.

In the 20th century however, we have witnessed a peculiar development brought about by the historic twist of a bourgeoisie incapable of consummating the bourgeois-democratic transformation of society. In Russia these contradictions were resolved by the socialist revolution which carried out the bourgeois-democratic transformation of Russian society in its march to complete the socialist transformation. While we insist that this is the case, we must be very clear that much of the bourgeois-democratic transformation involved in this process was stopped or reversed by the Stalinist counter-revolution in the Soviet Union after the death of Lenin and the Stalinist bureaucracy’s takeover of the state.

Since the emergence of imperialism in the late 1800s, however, we have witnessed a twist in this historical development of the forces of social production. Conditions in the world economy have contrasted so starkly with conditions in individual countries that bourgeoisies in backward countries have not been able to bring about a bourgeois-democratic transformation of their society at the national level. In Russia these contradictions were resolved by the socialist revolution which implemented historically necessary bourgeois-democratic reforms in Russian society as an integral part of its drive to carry out the socialist transformation. The extremely contradictory character of this process means that although this conclusion is inescapable if we are to understand the phenomenon of the Soviet Union, it is far from self-evident, and we must be very clear that much of the progressive bourgeois-democratic content of the transformation of society was stopped or reversed by the Stalinist counter-revolution in the Soviet Union after the death of Lenin and the Stalinist bureaucracy’s takeover of the state.

The problem of understanding the challenges posed to the working class and its peasant allies by the incapacity of the bourgeoisie to bring about necessary democratic change was resolved by Leon Trotsky when he formulated the theory of Permanent Revolution in 1936. The theory makes it clear that the economic and political domination of the world by imperialism means that the bourgeoisie has lost its revolutionary potential and will never again be capable of leading let alone consummating a bourgeois-democratic revolution.

The implications of this conclusion are huge. It means that fundamental political, economic and social change will never ever be achieved by any political force under the leadership of a bourgeois political formation. Any working class party claiming otherwise is deceiving the class and leading it to inevitable failure, as did Stalinist Communist parties backing the leadership of bourgeois forces in Popular Fronts. This was demonstrated to catastrophic effect in China in the 1920s, where the Chinese CP supported the leadership of the Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-Shek, and by the similarly suicidal policies of the Communist party in Indonesia in the mid-1960s.

Since the second world war there has been almost universal left-wing backing for bourgeois or petty-bourgeois nationalist leaderships in anti-colonial and anti-imperialist liberation struggles, and in complete accordance with the theory of Permanent Revolution the vast majority of these movements have led to little more than career opportunities for these leaderships coupled with continued poverty and oppression for the working class and peasant masses. The degeneration of these non-proletarian leaderships and their opportunist and superficial socialist masks has been sometimes slow and gradual, but always complete and counter-revolutionary. Two powerful examples of disastrous betrayals lauded as successes by left-wing forces refusing to accept the perspective of the Permanent Revolution are Nicaragua and most particularly South Africa. Just how criminally betrayed the working masses in South Africa have been by the bourgeois leadership of the ANC, including the fake saint Nelson Mandela, was illustrated just last month on 16 August 2012 by the Marikana massacre. Over 34 demonstrating miners were shot dead in cold blood, most of them in the back. This slaughter continues the tradition of bloody class repression in South Africa, and is the black bourgeoisie’s own Sharpeville massacre.

In the light of these developments, the historical tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution clearly fall upon the working class and its peasant allies, who are compelled to embrace the bourgeois revolution as part of the socialist revolution. The two historical transformations thus move together in sync rather than as two distinct processes. At the same time, however, the specific tasks of the combined revolution in each country vary widely since the social and economic preconditions are different from context to context.

In the context of pre-independent India i.e the time of the Empire of India, the over arching
objective of the Indian struggle was to achieve independence from British rule. Along with this, the prime social objective would have to be the abolition of monarchism in the princely states and a radical redistribution of land under the slogan of land to the tiller. Furthermore, a bourgeois-democratic revolution would aim to abolish all social impediments to capitalist accumulation and development, such as caste divisions and landlordism. So the question of whether 1947 constituted a revolutionary transformation of Indian society basically boils down to the question of whether these necessary aims of the bourgeois revolution were achieved.

The transfer of power from the British Monarchy to the Indian parliament began on 15 August when the rule of the monarch ended and India came under the leadership of the governor general. This was accompanied by the partition of the Indian sub-continent between the Indian republic and the republic of Pakistan. Alongside these two large divisions there existed a series of princely states with six of the largest states asserting their independence from both Pakistan and India. These six states were Balochistan, Kashmir, Tripura, Junagadh, Travancore and Hyderabad. Four of these six states were annexed to India, while Balochistan was annexed to Pakistan and Kashmir is still being contested.

Abolition of Monarchy and self-rule

The transfer of power mandated that the princely states had the choice of either acceding to India or Pakistan — asserting their independence was not an alternative. The formal completion of the transfer of power occurred on 26 January 1950 with the abolition of the post of governor general and with it the complete withdrawal of the rule of the British Monarchy. In parallel with this development was the absorption of approximately 500 princely states into the Indian republic along with the abolition of their respective monarchies. In compensation for abdicating their powers to India however, they were granted privy purses. The princely states which sought to make a stand against either India or Pakistan were crushed, and Hyderabad, Kashmir and Balochistan were made an example of what would happen to monarchs trying to stake their independence. The privy purse concessions were eventually abolished by Indira Gandhi in the 70s.

Abolition of landlordism and land reform

The social changes effected after 1947 included the complete abolition of absentee landlordism and of zamindari in India, along with a distorted and incoherent effort at land reform. Although they were incoherent and distorted, however, the land reforms did pave the way for the penetration of bourgeois land laws into the countryside and the large-scale destruction of petty production there. In this way they initiated the present proletarianization-led development of Indian capitalism, in which tens of millions of small independent farmers are driven into debt and destitution, lose their property (i.e. become proletarianized, owning nothing but their power of labour), and are forced to migrate into the slums of the bloated cities and join the reserve army of the unemployed. This process is universally but falsely referred to as ‘urbanization’, a term that completely conceals the historical class dynamics of what is taking place.

Economic independence

Later on, the nationalization of leading banks under the pretext of ‘social control’ and the ‘Indianization’ of foreign owned companies ensured the security of nascent Indian capital against the forces of foreign capital and gave local capital a dominant role within the territories of the Indian republic. All of these changes took place in the first 3 decades after 1947 and under the political leadership of the Congress party which was the preferred political choice for the Indian bourgeoisie.

Given these changes, it seems that the Indian bourgeoisie through its foremost political representative the Indian Congress party was able to achieve most of its natural bourgeois goals. But such a view only scratches the surface of things without regard to the forces working under the surface.

Beneath the surface

Apologists of the Indian bourgeoisie argue for the ‘strength’ and ‘civility’ of these ‘gradual and peaceful’ changes, and put India on a pedestal as an inspiring example for other countries. Equally superficial apologists on the left try to use India’s historical successes, such as the successful eviction of the British and the social and political transformations that secured some basic bourgeois-democratic needs, to debunk the theory of Permanent Revolution. These views are not only unhistorical, but are outright reactionary and a million miles from the struggles of the oppressed masses, the working class and the poor peasantry against capitalism and imperialism.

All the progressive social transformations which have taken place in India from 1900 to the present have been achieved by the force of class struggle both within India and outside it. The Congress party for its part, was not formed with the aim of liberating India from colonial bondage but simply to act as a steam valve and mediator between the struggling Indian masses and the British imperialists. Up to the first world war their methods never moved beyond prayer and petition against the British. Only later do we see an economically burgeoning Indian bourgeoisie becoming bold enough to demand Tanganyika in East Africa as an exclusive colony under its administration. Along with this, we see the emergence of an organized proletariat in India along with large scale mass production, and the social impact of the Russian revolution which brought about profound changes in land relations and provided the inspiration for democratic struggles world wide.

The rising tide of class struggle forced the Indian Congress party to take a much more radical stance against the British, kicked forward by the actions of revolutionary communists like Bhagat Singh. The radicalization of peasant struggles and the emergence of a strong working class movement saw the growth of the Indian Communist party (CPI) and later on the emergence of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India (BLPI) which peaked in 1946. All of this compelled the British safety valve which was the Congress party to orient itself much more towards the masses so that the Indian bourgeoisie and its British patrons would not be harmed in their propertied interests. Simultaneously however, the strengthening Indian bourgeoisie also demanded their pound of flesh from the British. The British were willing to grant any concession to the Indian bourgeoisie and its political representative the Congress party because of its formidable ability to pacify the Indian working class and peasantry. For its own part the Congress party, which cared chiefly for landed interests in India, didn’t hesitate to hijack the power of the peasant and proletarian struggles emerging in India to pressurize the British. The unsurpassed pacifier Gandhi was the supreme manifestation of this parasitical politics (as the other saintly Congress hero, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, has been in our own period).

Despite their best efforts the Congress party could not hold back the rising tide of class struggle which at its core demanded the immediate and realization of the overarching objectives of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, namely:

1)national liberation from colonial rule,
2)comprehensive land reform,
3)the eradication of landlordism, and
4)the abolition of the princely states and their monarchies.

Three major upsurges helped pave the way for the accomplishment of these goals between 1940 and 1947. The first of these was the Quit India movement which mobilized the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie primarily in Northern and Eastern India, in which large tracts of land were forcibly appropriated by the landless and poor farmers from the clutches of the rural elite. Following this was the formation of the Indian National Army by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and the student led mobilizations in Bengal, which attacked the militarist foundations of the British empire. Finally, the peak of class struggle saw the naval uprising in 1946 in all major ports of the Indian empire, with a mass mobilization of workers, students and peasants across the sub-continent.

By this time, the British had lost the loyalty of the Congress party and the Indian bourgeoisie it represented, which had grown bold enough to go on its own. The Congress party for its part was on the verge of losing the support it among the peasants and students that Gandhi and his protege Nehru had so painstakingly built up. Although practically all bourgeois political formations in India sided with the British against the mutiny, it was only the Congress party actively colluded with the British in crushing the uprising in Bombay. Of course this ‘service’ would not come free.

The Congress however, were more afraid of a prospect which worried the British imperialists as much as it did them. What if the Indian masses were to rise up and expropriate the capitalist system itself? What if a socialist revolution accompanied the inevitable democratic revolution? The entire Asian continent would become non-capitalist if expropriations in China were followed by the once-Imperial Indian subcontinent.

The theory of Permanent Revolution has been confirmed time and again when bourgeois democratic revolutions have gone hand in hand with the socialist revolution in the absence of a revolutionary bourgeoisie. However, in the post world war period we have witnessed the peculiar development of deformed and deflected revolutions. This in itself is not beyond the understanding of revolutionary Marxism. Lenin in Two tactics of Social Democracy had foreseen the possibility of such a deformed revolution occurring in Russia, should the forces of the revolutionary working class and peasantry be inadequate to secure a complete victory over capitalism. In context of the permanent revolution this would imply that a Socialist revolution though initiated in the mould of a bourgeois-democratic revolution, would be halted midway by a compromise with reactionary elements in society preventing its further transition from the democratic to the Socialist level. Either that or, a healthy socialist revolution would be deformed by absence of worker’s democracy and the whole revolutionary process would become subjected to the rigid control of a counter-revolutionary bureaucratic clique ruling from the top.

Thus, depending on the objective situation a Socialist revolution may take place and yet be deformed. The result of such a deformed revolution would be a compromise with reactionary elements which would leave important democratic needs of the bourgeois revolution unsatisfied. However, even a deformed revolution would achieve some progressive goals and blunt the edge of the socialist revolution. A similar kind of situation holds in China, where a successful yet deformed socialist revolution leaves many of the fundamental needs of the socialist revolution unsatisfied, but still presents a formidable obstacle to the full counter-revolutionary world programme of imperialism.

In India’s case, the indigenous bourgeoisie was faced with a working class on the cusp of a revolutionary mobilization and its erstwhile British Imperialist protectors in retreat, and had to compromise with reaction to both stifle the revolution and ensure the very survival of India as a capitalist state. Likewise, the forces of British imperialism felt directly threatened by the rising tide of revolution across Asia and were ready to defend the social system of capitalism in the world’s largest continent at any price. Having lost their political hold over India, the British were forced to salvage whatever they could to preserve the remnants of an imperialist economic presence in the continent. So the two leading forces of reaction, the British and the Congress, schemed with minor bourgeois leaders like Jinnah of the Muslim League to bring about a partition of the sub-continent. This would constituted a deep enough compromise with the objective of complete anti-colonial emancipation to destroy the revolutionary process unfolding in the sub-continent and in Asia and to preserve their respective positions. This despicably divisive compromise created the republic of India and the republic of Pakistan at an untold cost in human suffering and backwardness for more than half a century to come. And into the bargain they blessed 500 or so princely states and their rotten monarchies, like so many pieces of dung scattered over the marble floor of a shopping mall.

The Indian bourgeoisie was more adept at securing its interests than its less capable counterparts in the chopped up political botchery of Pakistan. Following the withdrawal of British rule, most of the princely states were absorbed into the Indian republic and their monarchies abolished. This was because the Indian bourgeoisie was feeling the strength of the masses and felt compelled to make a series of concessions to the working class and peasantry in the form of industrial welfare, the nationalization of core industries, and the abolition of landlordism and of the monarchies in the princely states.

However, the core demands of a democratic revolution either remained untouched or were implemented in a deformed manner. Thus, land reforms were implemented but in a zigzag and piecemeal way leaving most of the peasant population destitute and pauperized while encouraging the fragmentation of land holding, a development which created one of the principal sources of primitive capitalist accumulation in the Indian republic. At the same time, independent India gave rise to a new land-owning bourgeoisie who made the most of the penetration of capitalist land laws into the countryside to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor peasantry. For the same reason, caste divisions were allowed to persist, notwithstanding their formal abolition in the Constitution. Thus, the Indian bourgeoisie left pre-capitalist fetters in place where they served its political goal of keeping power, while it removed them where it felt they hobbled its own freedom of movement. As was the case with the annexation of Goa.

To sum up, we must emphasize very strongly once more that the social and political strength which enabled the Indian bourgeoisie to complete certain elementary tasks of the bourgeois revolution was not its own. The strength surging through modern India does not belong to the bourgeoisie, which falsely lays claim to it, but to the bourgeoisie’s bitterest enemy the working class and its ally the poor peasantry.

In Pakistan, deliberately truncated at birth, some partial concessions were made to the peasantry in East Bengal (renamed East Pakistan after 1947) in the form of the abolition of Zamindari. Bourgeois-democratic reform stopped here, however. A powerful and influential semi-feudal elite was alarmed at the rapid progress India made in abolishing feudal relics, and huddled around the military institution in that country. The anachronistic and medieval leadership of the country found shelter under the auspices of a rising US imperialism, just like Saudi Arabia, and joined CENTCOM after the Kashmir war. This empowered the pre-capitalist elite and stunted the development of the capitalists of Pakistan as they took over less capital from the British than their Indian counterparts, and were correspondingly less powerful. After partition most of the industrialized and resource-rich provinces lay in India as did most of Britain’s military industries and Imperial infrastructure. India inherited naval power, which Pakistan did not have. All of these factors worked to cripple Pakistan, whose semi-feudal elite were horrified by the class struggle taking place worldwide and did whatever they could get away with to remain in power. The Pakistani bourgeoisie tagged along as willing running dogs to this militarist class of rulers, while acting as a safety valve to vent out peasant and petty bourgeois frustration from time to time. India simply exacerbated Pakistan’s hopeless situation and sped its absorption into British and American imperialism. This is still the case today. The mechanism of Partition continues to operate, with all its devastating consequences for the working people of the subcontinent.

It is now clear what the dynamics of 1947 truly were. The revolutionary process in India was born and grew not because of the bourgeoisie but in spite of it. The bourgeoisie was forced to take up a radical position and come closer to the line of revolution simply to save its own skin. This was an act of betrayal in which they had the fullest connivance of British imperialism acting behind the scenes to destroy the Indian revolution, and in a larger context to stop the Asian revolution from reaching India. The Indian bourgeoisie usurped power from the poor peasants and workers it pretended to represent, and has since then been wielding power with their manufactured consent. But to manufacture and keep this consent they had to make concessions. These led to some of the major changes demanded by the bourgeois revolution, but also prevented a complete combined revolution. At the same time a huge portion of the Indian subcontinent in Pakistan was thrown open to foreign imperialism and left perennially hostage to semi-feudal relics from the past. In other words, Indian independence in 1947 appears in many ways to be a deformed Socialist revolution, stunted at the democratic level. It has allowed the Indian bourgeoisie to become obscenely rich, and to bask in wealth and power nationally and internationally, while the masses of South Asia who create all its wealth languish in desperate poverty and crushing backwardness.

Article on Vinayak Purohit

We received this article from Charles Wesley Ervin from the USA , author of a book on the history of the Indian trotskyist movement . This is an obituary of Comrade Vinayak Purohit who was a veteran of the BLPI in India.

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Vinayak Purohit (1927-2009)

Veteran Indian Socialist and Prolific Intellectual

By Charles Wesley Ervin
October 10, 2010

wes_ervin@bellsouth.net

Dr. Vinayak Purohit in March 2007.
Photo: Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)

I have received belated news that Dr. Vinayak Purohit, the veteran Indian socialist intellectual, died last December in Pune at the age of 82. Vinayak had been involved in the left movement since 1942, when at age 15 he joined an underground Trotskyist group fighting the British. In 1948 he went into the Socialist Party of India along with his Trotskyist comrades in what turned out to be a fruitless effort to steer that party to the left.

In 1956 Vinayak joined the new, militant Socialist Party that Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia launched to revitalize the movement. In 1962 Vinayak played a key role in bringing a historic motion of no confidence in the Nehru government to the vote in Parliament. After Lohia died in 1967, his Socialist Party disintegrated, leaving Vinayak adrift. He became an independent political journalist, well known for his biting attacks on just about every politician and party.

But Vinayak Purohit was not a man who lived by politics alone. He steeped himself in the rich culture of India. He became a music, drama, art, architecture, and film critic. In mid-life he earned a PhD in art history. He also wrote plays, made a film, and designed an immense architectural monument, the Gitai Mandir in Wardha. He wrote fluently in English, Gujarati, Hindi, and Marathi.

I interviewed Vinayak once, in 1974, when I was starting to research the history of the Trotskyist movement in India. I renewed contact with him in 2004, as I was finishing my book, Tomorrow is Ours: The Trotskyist Movement in India and Ceylon, 1935-48. His politics had changed dramatically (and in my opinion, for the worse). Having “moved through Marxism and Trotskyism,” as he put it, he evolved his own very nationalistic brand of what he called “revolutionary democratic-socialism.”

In 2005 Vinayak published, in pamphlet format, the first chapter of what he envisioned to be an open-ended autobiography, which he aptly titled “A Life of Surfeit and Overflow.” He published two more chapters in 2006 and 2008. He died while preparing the fourth. Unless otherwise indicated, the quotes in this article are taken from these pamphlets.

Family Background and Upbringing

Vinayak Purohit was born in Calcutta in 1927. His father, Kailashnath Jagannath Purohit, was a wealthy, London-educated Gujarati businessman who ran a successful auditing firm. He was a deeply cultured man whose interests ranged across history, literature, classical Indian music, art, and politics. He was also a nationalist who surreptitiously contributed money to the clandestine Bengali revolutionary groups who terrorized the British officialdom in those days.

A child of affluence, Vinayak grew up with servants in a bungalow on Ray Street in Bhowanipore, which then was a posh residential area of South Calcutta. A stone’s throw away was the ancestral home of the nationalist leader, Subhas Chandra Bose. Vinayak was privately schooled at Bhowanipore Gujarati Shala, which his parents had founded, and then at St. Xavier’s Collegiate School, a prestigious Jesuit institution. Driven by curiosity even as a boy, he read books from his father’s vast library, including studies of the Irish, Turkish, Persian, and Chinese nationalist movements and Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution.

In 1938, after his father died prematurely, the family moved to Bombay. Vinayak attended a progressive Montessori school in Vile Parle from 1939 to 1942 and then entered Elphinstone College, which was like the Harvard of India.

In August 1942, as Japanese forces pushed through Burma, Gandhi called upon the Indian people to commence a non-violent mass struggle to force the British to “quit India.” The panic-stricken British government arrested Gandhi and the top-echelon Congress leaders. Vinayak, who was then 15 years old, went to a protest demonstration in Shivaji Park. A policeman clubbed him and left him on the ground with a fractured skull. As he joked later, “the hole in the skull allowed my brain scope for expansion.”

Vinayak threw himself into the tumult of the Quit India revolt. In December 1942 he was arrested for “attempting to burn a policeman alive” while leading a torchlight procession.

Recruitment to the Revolution

As the protests subsided, Vinayak joined an underground cell of militants who were trying to keep the movement going. One of them recognized that this young hothead had real potential. He arranged for Vinayak to meet two Trotskyists, introduced as “Comrade Rup Singh” and “Comrade Dias.” Only later did he learn that they were actually Philip Gunawardena and Colvin R. de Silva, the two main leaders of the Trotskyist party in Ceylon (Lanka Sama Samaja Party) who had come up to India to help build a Trotskyist party, the Bolshevik Leninist Party of India (BLPI).

Vinayak recalls being “bowled over” by the articulate speech of the duo. They put their brainy 15-year-old recruit through a crash course in Marxism.

“The most memorable lesson that I learnt from Philip [Gunawardena] was his description of the comprador bourgeoisie as a ‘squad of Tuppiahs.’ This is the Sinhala term meaning the trained monkeys used by coconut growers to climb the tall trees and harvest the monthly crop of coconuts.”

This contempt for the Indian elites who aped Western culture or enriched themselves as agents of the imperialists became one of his core values for the rest of his life.

Into the Underground

The clandestine BLPI group in Bombay became his new family. He lived in one of the party’s communal flats in Bombay with a half dozen or more other young comrades. That made him prey for the police, who were combing Bombay, looking for the Trotskyists. Before dawn on July 15, 1943 the police raided their hideout and he was jailed in the Worli detention camp.

After his release seven months later, on the basis of his youth, he went back into the underground to continue the struggle. He found shelter in the slums with members of the Forward Bloc (followers of Subhas Chandra Bose), who were very sympathetic to the Trotskyists. He continued to study.

“I remember that I had begun to read the Encyclopedia Britannica in the Mumbai University Library from 1944 as though they were a set of novels, from cover to cover.”

Detour into the Socialist Party

In 1948 Vinayak joined the Socialist Party along with the rest of his Trotskyist comrades. The BLPI had made that decision only after a prolonged internal debate. Vinayak had been part of the faction in the BLPI that wanted to merge with the Congress Socialist Party. His rationale was that the BLPI, as a tiny party, new to the scene, would have better prospects as a Trotskyist ginger group within the Socialist Party, which had recently withdrawn from its mother organization, the Indian National Congress, now the ruling party of independent India.

The Socialist Party assigned Vinayak, who was then 21-years-old, to serve as secretary of one of their unions, the Bombay Press Employees’ Union. Though a novice to this kind of work, he learned quickly. As he recounted in his memoirs, he earned a reputation as “a fighting firebrand.”

However, the entry into the Socialist Party didn’t work out as he had expected. The Socialist leaders were too savvy to allow the Trotskyists to recruit to their own ginger group. No factional activity was allowed. As a result, the Trotskyists started to sink into the quicksand of the Socialist Party.

Dead End

In 1952, after their humiliating rout in the General Elections to the first Lok Sabha, the leadership of the Socialist Party decided, on their own, without calling a party conference, to merge with a breakaway group from the ruling Congress Party. Vinayak and his comrades opposed the merger, called a conference of dissidents, and tried to keep the rump Socialist Party going.

While the rump party had pockets of strength in Madras and a few other areas, Vinayak was isolated. In 1952 he “retired hurt from politics” and moved back to Calcutta. One of his father’s associates hired him as a clerk at the National Insurance Company. His health deteriorated. He described this period as “my darkest days of political isolation and abject destitution.”

The Break with Marxist-Trotskyist Politics

In 1956 Vinayak, eager to end his isolation, joined a new Socialist Party that had just been formed by Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, the veteran freedom fighter and old Socialist warhorse. In joining Lohia’s party, Vinayak made a definitive break with the Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist politics of his youth. Lohia was a radical nationalist who rejected Marxism as a White European ideology that was at best irrelevant to India. But he was a powerful orator, a charismatic personality, and a creative thinker. He gathered around him a team of talented, ambitious socialists, including Vinayak.

Vinayak became a regular contributor to Mankind, the journal that Lohia launched in 1956, and through his new trade-union connections, resumed his support work in the powerful Socialist trade unions in Bombay. By the ‘sixties the Lohia Socialists (as they were then called) had become the main left opposition to what Vinayak regarded as the “comprador” Nehru government. In 1962 the Socialists tried to topple the Congress government through a no-confidence motion in Parliament. Vinayak played an important, albeit behind-the-scenes role in mustering the support the Socialists needed in Parliament to get the motion on the floor for the vote.

All that came to an abrupt end when Lohia died prematurely in 1967. His Socialist Party quickly disintegrated. Once again, Vinayak was left isolated.

“I would occasionally feel and suffer acutely from this sense of separation and isolation, but on the other hand, I was so absorbed and was in such a headlong rush to develop all sorts of other capabilities and occupations that I hardly had the time to dwell on this loneliness.”

A Headlong Rush into the Arts

Like his father, Vinayak was a connoisseur of the arts, especially Indian music. As in politics, so too in music, he was fanatical and a fast learner. In 1956 he became the North Indian Classical Music critic for the premier English-language newspaper in India, the Times of India.

In 1971 Vinayak entered the PhD program at Bombay University, supporting himself by running a small advertising agency. Four years later he submitted his dissertation, The Arts of Transitional India: Twentieth Century, a 1,600-page tour de force covering history, aesthetics, and philosophy.

In 1971 he wrote his first play in Gujarati, Steel Frame, which was an indictment of the corrupt bureaucracy of independent India. (The title is a reference to the well-known phrase that was used to describe the Civil Service in British India.) He followed that with Tribheto, which took up the theme of the criminal bourgeois; Amina ane Teno Zamano, which deals with the criminalized politician; and Byalis, an extended parable of the Quit India movement. He wrote Sociology of Art and Politics (1989-92) and Sociology of Indian Film (1990).

The Revisionist Historian

Meanwhile, Vinayak was reading deeply in Indian history. He presented a series of papers at the annual sessions of the Indian History Congress from 1979 to 1982. These were provocative broadsides aimed at just about every school of thought – from the old British Imperial historians to the so-called Marxists (the Stalinists).

He started by attacking Marx and his thesis of the “Asiatic Mode of Production.” Marx had recognized (in my opinion, correctly) that pre-colonial Indian society seemed to have little in common with the chaotic feudalism of Europe. In order to explain the relative stability of “Asiatic society,” he posited that these societies must have been based on self-sufficient villages where private property in land (and hence class differentiation and struggle) hadn’t developed. Citing a huge body of historical evidence to the contrary, Vinayak argued that this hypothesis isn’t tenable.

But that raises the following question: If pre-British India wasn’t like feudal Europe, and if it wasn’t an “Oriental Despotism” based on an Asiatic Mode of Production, then what was it?  Vinayak answered that question by reversing the terms of the analogy. In his view, the benchmarks for measuring historical progress were the great civilizations that flourished on the Asian landmass for several millennia, not the poor, backward societies of the peripheral western peninsula of Asia, now called Europe that arose much later. In other words, we shouldn’t be asking if Asia had been feudal like Europe. We should be asking if Europe had been feudal like Asia.

Vinayak developed this seminal insight in the next three papers he presented to the Indian History Congress. In brief, he argued that India had evolved from a hunting-fishing-food-gathering society to a pastoral society in the period 7000BC to 4500BC; that the pastoral (or Vedic) society developed into a feudal society by 700BC; and that this feudal society went through four distinct stages prior to the arrival of the European colonialists.

“We had a feudal period which extended over 2,500 years. Indian feudalism was the most prosperous, the richest in export surpluses, and the most powerful that the world had ever known. It was precisely because it was so overwhelmingly strong that capitalism could not win against such an adversary. Capitalism triumphed in Europe from the 11th century onwards precisely because European feudalism was petty, divided, weak and poverty-stricken. The International Feudal Chain broke at its weakest link in Europe!” (Mankind, May 1999).

On the basis of this line of thinking, Vinayak rejected Marxism as hopelessly Eurocentric. I think he threw the baby out with the bath water. His theory is intriguing and deserves further study. And if it turns out to have merit, then I see no reason why this interpretation couldn’t replace the antiquated theory of the “Asiatic Mode” and thereby strengthen, rather than invalidate, Marxism in its totality.

His Credo

In an article in Mankind (October 1997) he wrote the following lines, which seem to me to be a fitting tribute to the man:

“I am an atheist. I do not believe in any god who is going to guide us. I am a humanist. I know that we must be guided by what is essentially human, that is within all of us. We are masters of our destiny. We can do that which is good for all of us. There are thousands of arguments – economic, political, sociological, biological, cultural – in favor of socialism. But the most overwhelming are the arguments based on ethics, morality, decency, fairness, justice, aesthetics and truth! This side of the question can never be lost sight of. The case for socialism is really very simple. It is a moral choice.”

Vinayak made his choice at age 15 and he lived it to the end.