Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 11, 2013

From an interview with Vivek Chibber’s bête noire

Filed under: Academia,india — louisproyect @ 8:17 pm

Ranajit Guha

From an interview with Ranajit Guha by Milinda Banerjee in 2010. The full interview is here: http://www.sai.uni-heidelberg.de/history/download/ranajit_guha_interview_2.2.11.pdf

MB: Have you always been so ideologically churned by Tagore and by Bengali literary culture, or is it something which has become important in your mature years?

RG: I had engaged with these in my youth as well, though these issues then were not so apparently visible. Rather, what I felt more explicitly was my passion for social justice for the poor, and Marxism was therefore attractive. Coming from a khas taluqdar [a class of landlords who were technically not zamindars, but who, like zamindars, paid revenue directly to the State in colonial Bengal] family of Barisal in East Bengal, I had witnessed the structure of zamindar-praja [the Permanent Settlement of 1793 bestowed property rights on land in Bengal to a class of people termed the zamindars. Below the zamindars were their ‘prajas’ or‘subjects’ who cultivated their land and paid them rent] relations in rural society, which left a profound impression on me. In my student days at Presidency College, Calcutta, I became a Marxist, and a member of the Communist Party. In the late 1940s, I spent a considerable part of time in Europe involved in Communist Party work. However, I also gradually started getting alienated from doctrinaire Communist Party Marxism. Experiences of the USSR’s handling of the political situation in Eastern Europe, disenchantment with the Communist Party of India’s internal factional squabbles for power, and finally the Soviet invasion of Hungary, made me decide to leave the Communist Party. Later, I became something of a Naxalite intellectual. I still consider myself to have been inspired by Charu Mazumdar’s ideas which, I think, contain a lot of validity. But Charu Mazumdar [the foremost intellectual and political leader of the ‘ultra-left’ Naxalite movement which erupted in West Bengal in the late 1960s, spread to the rest of the India, and continues to be the founding moment of the Maoist peasant insurgency of the present day] and his followers were weak in organizational capability, which resulted in the movement being crushed. I have elsewhere condemned the role of some intellectuals in Indira Gandhi’s period who supported her moves to crush the revolt and praised many of her activities, for instance, the running of trains on time during the Emergency.

The doctrinaire Marxism of the Indian Communist Party was poor in appreciation of real Marxist philosophy. They had a very simplistic understanding of Marxism and most of them had not read the original books. The disenchantment with this doctrinaire Marxism provoked me to explore the philosophical complexities of Marx, which in turn led me to Hegel. Hegel has tremendously inspired me.

[Maybe Guha should be read out of the Marxist movement for hailing Hegel, but then again Lenin studied Hegel at the outbreak of WWI to figure out what went wrong in the social democracy. But we can’t have that, can we?]

1 Comment »

  1. Is this an approving post or what? Hard to figure out why you posted it with no additional comment. You realize that this guy became “disillusioned” with Stalinist CPs only to move on to supporting the Naxalites, which are the subcontinents version of the murderous Shining Path?

    PS. There is no “real Marxist philosophy,” as Marx would tell you: “philosophy stands in the same relation to the study of the actual world as masturbation to sexual love.”

    Comment by A Book by Dostoyevsky — May 12, 2013 @ 9:28 am

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