[PDF] National Emergency, 1975 | India

In this article we will discuss about the cause of national emergency, 1975 in India.

On June 28, 1975, President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declared national emergency in the country, which remained in operation for a period of 19 months. It was declared at a time when emergency due to external aggression of 1971 was already in force.

One of the main causes responsible for the declaration of 1975 emergency was that certain persons were inciting military and police not to obey the orders of the government and interrupt normal functioning of government working. In 1974, an agitation was launched in Gujarat by some opposition parties making it difficult for elected legislators to perform their duties towards the electorates.

They were made to resign in many cases. Not only this, but the central government was forced to conduct fresh elections in the state. In the state there were also many cases of looting, violence and arsons. There was also an agitation in Bihar which aimed at getting the State Assembly dissolved.

The agitators in Bihar in their programme included boycott of school and college examinations, gherao of elected MLAs and also their social boycott, formation of parallel Legislative Assembly, paralysing of work in government offices, non-payment of taxes, boycott of courts and incitement of military, police and public servants.

In May 1974, opposition parties instigated railway employees to go on strike making them realise that a powerful and successful strike in railways could bring the industries to a standstill and make the people of India starve.

The opposition parties in November, 1974 formulated a plan to gherao the Parliament, though the proposal was subsequently abandoned and instead these parties decided to hold massive demonstrations throughout the country, for which organising and coordinating committees were also set up in the country.

Not only this but opposition parties decided that these will create obstructions in Parliament and a willful campaign for denigrating the government and the Prime Minister was started. In the wake came the murder of the then Union Railway Minister L.N. Misra at Samastipur.

Attempt was made at the life of the then Chief Justice of India as well. In fact, an atmosphere of violence and hatred had been created, which made democratic functioning of the government difficult. Opposition parties also formed a national co-ordination committee under the chairmanship of Late Jaya Prakash Narayan for launching a movement of Bihar type throughout the country.

When Allahabad High Court judgment in Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi election case came declaring her election invalid, opposition parties wanted that she should immediately resign, forgetting that as a citizen of India, she also had a right to appeal to the Supreme Court, against the High Court decision.

The opposition parties even threatened to launch a mass movement against the Prime Minister, if she did not resign all at once.

It was in this atmosphere of threat, violence and agitation that national emergency was proclaimed in the country, with the help of an ordinance, under Article 352 (1) of the constitution. Emergency proclamation was subsequently approved by the Parliament.

Emergency is a radical remedy for solving political ills of the country and ensuring that structure of the constitution and country’s social and political systems were not disturbed violently to the disadvantage of the country. In order to make emergency provisions effective some immediate steps became necessary and unavoidable.

Some of the political parties were banned and thus these were refused the right to carrying on their political activities. Several opposition leaders and workers were arrested and put behind the bars. There was also censorship of press in India for the first time after independence.

This was justified by the then Prime Minister when she said that, “There is freedom of expression and debate in democracy but can systematic and virulent character assassination without any basis in fact be indulged in the name of democracy?”

She also said, “We have to resort to press censorship because some newspapers had become total partners of the opposition front and were sapping morale, inciting violence and even advocating murder.”

Maintenance of the Internal Security Act was passed to check speedily and effectively activities of anti-social elements like black marketers, hoarders and profiteers, so that the prices did not shoot up and essential commodities were made easily available to the common man. Right of the people to move the courts of law for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights was suspended in the national interest.

Twenty Point Programmes:

A comprehensive economic programme, commonly known as Twenty-Point Programme was given to the country on 1st July, 1975, for increasing production, ending poverty and unemployment. But it was made clear that only sustained efforts could take the nation forward. Stress was laid both on individual as well as national discipline.

Twenty-Point Programme of Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi included:

(1) Continuance of steps to bring down prices of essential commodities, streamlining of the production, procurement .and distribution of essential commodities, and strict economy in government expenditure.

(2) Implementation of agricultural land ceilings and speedier distribution of surplus land and compilation of land records.

(3) Stepping up of provision of house sites for landless and weaker sections of society.

(4) Making bonded labour and beggary illegal.

(5) Plans to be prepared for the liquidation of rural indebtedness, legislation for moratorium on recovery of debt from landless labourers, small farmers and artisans.

(6) Review of laws on minimum agricultural wages.

(7) Five million more hectares of land to be brought under ground waters.

(8) An accelerated power programme and erection of super-thermal stations under the central control.

(9) New development plans for the growth of handloom sector.

(10) Improvement in quality and supply of people’s cloth.

(11) Socialisation of urban or urbanisable land ceiling on ownership and possession of vacant land, and on the plinth area of new dwelling units.

(12) Special squads for valuation of conspicuous construction and prevention of tax evasion, summary trials and deterrent punishments to economic offenders.

(13) Special legislation for confiscation of smuggler’s properties and action against misuse of import licenses.

(14) New schemes for worker’s associations in industry.

(15) National import scheme for road transport.

(16) Income-tax relief to the middle class exemption limit to be raised to Rs. 8,000/- per annum.

(17) Supply of essential commodities at controlled prices to the students living in hostels.

(18) Supply of books and stationery at controlled prices.

(19) Introduction of new apprenticeship scheme to enlarge employment and training, especially of weaker sections of society.

(20) To ensure speedier movement of goods and passengers.

Whether emergency was essential or unavoidable is now a matter of the past. Similarly whether during this 19 months period the nation achieved less or more is again a matter of controversy, because on such a matter with which not only India but whole of the world was very much concerned, was sure to be controversial.

Whereas on the one hand the Congress party maintained that during this period law and order situation improved, industrial production went up, there were no strikes and lock-outs, international prestige of India went up, national discipline touched new heights, etc., the opposition characterised it a dark period in which there was press censorship, intelligentsia and opposition was suffocated, right of expression was denied and independence of judiciary was take
n out and so on. It was during this period that family planning programme was also started on large scale basis, throughout the country.

But the fact remains that President used his power, which was given to him under the constitution and that such a power could be used again as well. Forty-Fourth Constitution Amendment Act has, however, made certain changes under which an effort has been made to regulate the power of the President to issue emergency in the country, which can now be issued only when there is armed rebellion.

Upload and Share Your Article:

[PDF] Period of Commissions and Round-Table Conferences in India

In this article we will discuss about the period of commissions and round-table conferences at the time of British government in India.

British government in India was under heavy strains and quite confident that unless the present Act was modified to the satisfaction of Indians, the situation was not likely to improve. Under the Act of 1919, it had been provided that the British government would set up a commission in 1931 to decide about the extent of political dose to be given to the people of India by modifying the existing system.

But it was forced by the circumstances to set up such a Commission in 1927. It was known as Simon Commission.

It was boycotted everywhere and at most of the places the demonstrators were mercilessly lathi charged. This all Whiteman Commission came to the conclusion that dyarchy should be abolished from the provinces and entire provincial administration should be given to elected Ministers responsible to the legislature.

The government should continue to look after rights of the minorities and that the central government should not be made responsible to the legislature. It was also suggested that the frenchise should be liberalised, legislatures enlarged and the new constitution should be so elastically framed that it developed by itself.

It also recommended enlargement of Provincial Legislative Councils and Constitution of a Provincial fund to ensure adequate financial resources for the provinces without infringing their autonomy. At the Centre there should be bicameral legislature consisting of Federal Assembly and Council of States.

It was of the view that Federal Assembly should be enlarged and should include elected members of Provincial Councils. It preferred federal rather than unitary system for India. It also proposed Council of Greater India to discuss matters of common interest. The Commander-in-Chief need not be a member of Viceroy’s Executive Council.

It was of the opinion that High Courts should be placed under the administrative control of Government of India. Sindh should be separated from Bombay and Burma from India. It also favoured Indianisation of army and extension of franchise.

The report did not find favour with Indian leaders. It failed to accept the demand of Indian public for introduction of responsible government at the Centre. Indirect election to central legislature and retention of communal representation Too was disliked by Indians.

A.B. Keith is of the view that Indian leadership should not have rejected this report out and out., “If it had been accepted, die British government could hardly have failed to work on it and responsible government in the provinces would have been achieved much earlier than it could be under any other later scheme.”

Nehru Report:

British government had all along been challenging Indian leadership that if they felt dissatisfied with what was being given to them, they should come out with a scheme which should be acceptable to all the sections of Indian public opinion. When India rejected Simon Commission recommendations, this challenge became still more meaningful.

In order to meet the challenge an All Parties Conference was convened in Bombay on 19th May, 1928 which appointed a sub-committee with Pandit Motilal Nehru as its chairman to frame a constitution for India. The Committee pleaded for immediate Dominion Status for India, felt dire necessity for provincial autonomy, favoured abolition of communal representation and proposed a federal polity for India.

It also recommended a bicameral system of legislature and also setting up of a Supreme Court, as the court of appeal in India. It also recommended that the Governor-General should act on the recommendations of the executive government.

The report was accepted by almost all the sections of Indian public opinion except by the Indian princes and extremist Muslims. It recommended same constitutional status for India in British empire as was enjoyed by the Dominions of Canada and Australia.

In the bicameral legislature Senate was to consist of two hundred members to be elected by provincial councils for a period of 7 years. The House of Representatives was to consist of 500 representatives to be elected on the basis of universal adult franchise. Its normal life was fixed at 5 years.

The Governor-General was to appoint Prime Minister while other Ministers were to be appointed by him on the recommendations of Prime Minister. Defence budget was to be subject to the vote of House of Representatives.

Governor-General was also to appoint a Public Service Commission. The judges of the Supreme Court were to be appointed by the Governor-General in Council and could be removed only on the recommendations of both the Houses of legislature.

It recommended that provincial councils should be constituted on the basis of adult franchise for a normal term of five years. The executive authority should vest in the Governor and his Council consisting of five Ministers.

It also recommended 19 Fundamental Rights to be embodied in the Constitution itself. It discarded communal or separate electorate but in Muslim majority provinces some seats were to be reserved for the Muslims.

The report had mixed reception but on the whole it proved to be a comprehensive document which contained aspirations of people of India. It provided basis for further discussions by national leaders during freedom struggle.

Jinnah’s Fourteen Point Programme:

In order to protect the Muslim interests Mr. Muhammad Ah Jinnah gave his own fourteen point programme. He also suggested federal system of government and autonomy for provinces. He, however, stressed that all legislatures should have adequate representation for minorities and in central legislature Muslim representation should not be less than 1/3 of its total strength.

There should be adequate share for the Muslims in the constitution of all services and there should also be adequate safeguards for projection and promotion of Muslim culture. In every cabinet should have at least 1/3 Muslim Ministers.

Both Nehru Report and Jinnah’s fourteen point programme provided sufficient input to British government. No less importance can be attached to Simon Commission, in so far input to the system is concerned.

In 1929, Gandhiji, along with some other leaders met the then Viceroy, but all were disillusioned and found that the British government was in no mood to give Dominion status to India. Accordingly it decided at its Lahore Session, held in that year, that complete independence of India would be the goal of national struggle in India.

Tri-colour was hoisted on the midnight of December 31, 1929 and January 26 was fixed as the day for the celebration of independence.

Disobedience Movement:

In order to check violence in national struggle, Gandhiji started civil disobedience movement in 1930-31 in which the people were persuaded not to pay taxes to the government. He also undertook his famous Dandi March on March 12, 1930.

As expected the government followed repressive measures to check the spread of the movement. National leaders of the Congress party and others were arrested and their number rose to about 60,000.

Some of the main demands at the time of Disobedience Movement included reduction of land revenue by 50%, abolition of sales tax, reduction in military expenses by at least 50%, reduction in the salaries of British officers, abolition of CID Department and protective tariff against foreign cloth.

Dandi March which started on 12th March, 1930 under Gandhiji from Sabarmati Ashram covered a distance of 241 miles and reached Dandi to break salt law. On April 5,1930 it reached Dandi where salt law was defied.

The programme included picketing of liquor shops, and leaving of government schools, colleges and services, etc. The response was very favourable. The Muslim attitude towards the movement w
as, however, not very co-operative.

In the words of Coupland Mr. Jinnah believed that, “We refuse to join Mr. Gandhi because his movement is not a movement for the complete independence of India but for making the seventy millions of Indian Musalmans dependent on Hindu Maha Sabha.” There was, however, complete confusion in the country and movement cheated serious law and order problem for the administrators and executive authorities.

In between George Solocombe, Dr. Jayakar and Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru tried to bring about a solution to the problem, but failed. Ultimately the British government decided to convene a Round-Table Conference in 1930 to find a solution to Indian political problem. Indian National Congress decided to boycott the same.

Obviously such a conference which had no representative from a national organisation could achieve nothing.

While discussing the nature of the Conference Brails-ford once said, “In St. James Palace there did assemble princes and untouchables, Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus and Christians, spokesman of landowners, trade unions and Chamber of Commerce, but Mother India was not there.” Though the Conference went on deliberating for quite some time, yet as expected nothing substantial came out of it.

Upload and Share Your Article:

[PDF] Essay on Antonio Gramsci: Bio, Life and Political Ideas

After reading this article you will learn about the bio, life and political ideas of Antonio Gramsci.

Life and Time of Antonio Gramsci:

One of the most controversial yet original Marxist thinkers in the post-Lenin generation is Antonio Gramsci. He was born in 1891 in a village called Ales in Sardinia of Italy. His mother came from a well-to-do family.

His father was an ordinary government employee. He once became the victim of political conspiracy and lost his job.

The last and the very small source of livelihood were lost and almost starvation greeted Gramsci and other members of his family. A further misfortune fell upon him. Due to an accident in his childhood certain parts of his body were damaged and due to this he was hunchbacked and his proper physical development stopped.

Ignoring all these handicaps he began to study in ordinary educational institutions. Antonio Gramsci was a voracious reader and at the same time meritorious.

Ignoring all impediments he with indomitable energy studied socialist literature and other subjects. Antonio Gramsci completed his secondary standard and winning a scholarship got himself admitted in Turin University. Two factors sowed the seeds of socialist thought and philosophy in his young mind. His elder brother was a socialist and this encouraged him to be socialist.

While a student at Turin University he came in touch with the famous Italian Communist Palmiro Togliatti. Apart from this many of the professors of the University were socialist-minded. The First World War started in 1914 and during the war period Gramsci garnered enough knowl­edge about socialism.

Besides Togliatti several other persons influenced his thought and Benedetto Croce was one of them. Though influenced by Croce (1866-1952) he was not at all a Crocean. He was again influenced by another philosopher Antonio Labriola (1843-1904).

Initially Labriola was a Hegelian and after studying Marx’s writings extensively he came to be known as a Marxist.

His best known book is Essays on the Materialist Conception of History. He propagated Marxism in Italy and practically introduced the basic tenets of Marxism to Italians. His most famous concept is “philosophy of praxis” and Antonio Gramsci was attracted to it.

Practically Labriola’s philosophy of praxis was made by Antonio Gramsci on the central plank of his analysis about Marxism. Besides Labriola Croce was another Marxist whose thought created a good impact upon Gramsci. He was so much influenced by Croce that Gramsci called himself a Crocean.

Upon the thought system of Gramsci we find an influence “Council Commu­nism”. During 1915 to 1925, in several parts of Europe and particularly in Italy, Council Communism became very popular.

Leninist model of party was looked with askance by many. That is, many were not willing to treat Leninist party as a model to fight against the bourgeoisie. The workers of many European states formed councils.

The members of the “Council Communism felt that only through the formation of council the working class can intensify its struggle against bourgeois rule.”

McLellan says, “The Council Communists saw themselves as returning to Marx in their assertion that the proletariat was the first class in history to be able to achieve self-emancipation”. The propound­ed of Council Communism advocated that the workers’ best weapon is to form councils and make it an instrument of fight against the capitalist.

The council strongly advocates for mass strike and propagate the methods that will raise the level of workers’ consciousness and spontaneity. A good number of Marxists lent their support to it. Turin Council Movement was a very important incident that guided Gramsci’s political career. Gramsci was considerably influenced by the Bolshevik revolution and revolutionary activities that engulfed Russia.

In 1917-18 Gramsci was inspired by the activities of the Bolshevik Party and he thought that Bolshevik type of movement could be launched in Italy to save it from the unprecedented crisis created by World War I. Particularly the economic crisis was so severe that the common people were absolutely helpless.

The workers formed militant councils and organizations to fight against the authority. The workers had practically very little faith on the trade unions as well as their movement and for that reason they formed factory councils. The militant factory councils were first formed in the metallurgical industries of Turin.

Some people are of opinion that the formation of councils and to convert them into weapons of struggle was the product of Gramsci’s brain. He thought that traditional trade unions could not be relied upon, because the time had changed and new as well as effective weapons had to be found out.

Antonio Gramsci has clearly expressed his opinion unequivocally in the following words:

“The actual process of the proletarian revolution cannot be identified with the development and activity of revolutionary organisations of a voluntary and contrac­tual nature, such as political parties and trade unions. These organisations arise in the sphere of bourgeois democracy and political liberty”. Gramsci emphasized that the capitalists have changed their way of exploitation and at the same time the management of factory. So the workers must change their weapons of struggle against the bourgeois exploiters.

The conception of Factory Council constitutes a very important part of Gramscis political life or his participation in the political movement in the era of agitation against economic crisis. We have noted it earlier.

Let us see what Mc Lellan thinks of it. He says – “The Factory Councils were central to Gramsci’s conception at the time of revolutionary transformation of Italy. The main task of the Council was to change the attitude of the mass of workers from an attitude of dependence to one of leadership” Gramsci treated the “Factory Council as the new proletarian state in miniature”.

This is really a new aspect of Marxist thought and its application in practice. Because before Gramsci the renowned Marxists emphasized on the class struggle led by workers. Gramsci believed that the setting up of Factory Councils would substantially revolutionize the liberation movement of the workers.

In his assessment the formation of Factory Councils will play crucial role in building up a socialist society because these rejuvenate the workers. But his assessment was not up to the mark. That is, it was not possible for workers to look after the technical aspects of production.

Workers or their councils did not have the expertise of managing a factory whose core was technical knowledge. It is said that the Factory Councils to some extent resembled the Soviets of Russia. But Gramsci had limited knowledge about the functioning of Soviets.

As a result, Gramsci’s concept of Factory Councils and its special role in proletarian movement could not achieve success. Luxemburg and several other Marxists were not hopeful about the success of Factory Councils.

“The failure of the Turin Council movement in late 1920, his growing acquaintance with the realities of the Soviet Union and his concern of the rise of Fascism led Gramsci to modify his views”.

Political Ideas of Antonio Gramsci:

1. The Intellectuals:

One of the important contributions of Antonio Gramsci in Marxist thought is his conception about intellectuals and their role in bourgeois society. Analysing Gramscis viewpoint Mc Lellan (Marxism after Marx) says that Gramsci was primarily “The theoretician of the superstructure”. Gramsci said that intellectuals are very impor­tant in a capitalist society, they play
a vital role.

In his Prison Notebooks he says that the intellectuals are very active and they play vital and very often critical role in society. Their views are considered important and many educated people follow them. In his words – All men are intellectuals but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals. Each person, beyond his professional duty and function, is a philosopher, artist.

He carries with him his own view regarding politics, economics and many other subjects. He forms his own opinion about these and propagates them, tries to convince other persons about what he thinks.

Antonio Gramsci says that the intellectual contributes to sustain a conception of the world or to modify it. In this way the intellectual brings about a new mode of thought.

The intellectuals have enough power to attract the attention of other people. In their thought and action they demand that they are progressive and this mesmerizes the common people. They are influenced and try to follow the intellectuals. In this way the intellectuals build up their attractive image in society. Gramsci has divided the intellectuals into two broad groups traditional and organic.

The traditional intellectuals regard themselves to be autonomous of social classes. The traditional intellectuals demand that they embody a historical continuity above and beyond socio-political change. By propagating this view the traditional intellectuals want to prove that they are neutral and they try to maintain their neutrality.

This builds up a glazy or attractive image and common people are easily attracted to them. Writers, philosophers and social scientists fall within this category. Organic intel­lectuals belong to a particular class and in all issues they support their own class.

The intellectuals play very important role in moulding and modifying the views of people. Particularly the views of those persons who are not definite about their own opinions.

In other words these intellectuals exercise important power over the people of society. Since an organic intellectual belongs to a class he always endeavours the people of his class.

The organic intellectuals articulate the collective views or opinions and they finally form a collective consciousness regarding political, social and economic affairs or issues. The aim of the organic intellectuals to build up a collective opinion about the economic and political aspects of society.

Kolakowski says that the proletariat wants the “organic intellectuals” because these intellectuals do not simply analyse the social, political and other aspects of society, but they also use “the language of culture to express the real experiences and feelings which the masses cannot express for themselves”.

That is, the real function of the organic intellectuals to provide the leadership and guide the proletarians in their struggle against the bourgeoisie. In the view of Kolakowski the term “organic intellectuals” is a very favourite term of Gramsci and he very frequently used it.

Antonio Gramsci did not use the term in any narrow and restricted sense, rather in a wider sense. He used the term in the sense that all the social classes have their own intellectuals and they in one way or other guide the members of their own classes.

These intellectuals explain the social and political issues to the members of the class which help to form opinion. This the intellectuals do in the background of class interest or from the standpoint of the class. This is a very important function.

“The fact that” observes Kolakowski, “the intellectuals appeared to form a separate metier (trade, profession or occupation) of their own, as opposed to being the mouthpieces of a particular class standpoint, inclined them towards idealistic philosophies which asserted the complete autonomy of intellectual activity”.

So we find that the intellectuals play a very important role in moulding the entire thought system of society. In practice they do not always support the particular standpoint of interests of people but in a clandestine way they try to bring the view in the lime­light.

The problem, however, is the working class has no organic intellectuals because this class has not been able to produce such intellectuals to support or propagate its own views in regard to economic and political matters.

“The task of the organic intellectuals was to draw out and make coherent the latent aspirations and potentialities already inherent in working class activity” Gramsci studied the various aspects of capitalist society and after that he formed the opinion about the role of the intellectuals.

Due to the important role of the intellectuals the capitalists have been able to strengthen the structure and other aspects of bourgeois society. Because of the vital role of the intellectuals the bourgeois society has been able to withstand all sorts of onslaught against it. This is one of the vital points of Gramsci.

2. Hegemony:

Antonio Gramsci has elaborated the role of intellectuals and this he has expressed through his much debated concept hegemony. The dictionary meaning of the term is; leadership or domination or dominance by state or group over others.

When Gramsci used the term he specifically meant that in bourgeois society the intellec­tuals dominate over the political and other spheres and justify their own views or ideology which they represent.

The intellectuals propagate the bright aspects or importance of particular ideology and in this way the ideology plays dominant role.

In his The Prison Notebooks Gramsci makes the following observation “a new homogeneous politics-economic historical bloc, without internal contradiction”. He further observes – “the dominant group is coordinated concretely with the general interests of the subordinate groups, and the life of the state is conceived of as a continuous process of formation and superseding of unstable equilibria between the interests of the fundamental and those of the subordinate groups equilibria in which the interests of the dominant group prevail”. This is, in short, the definition of hegemony.

Antonio Gramsci observed that the intellectuals of the historically progressive class exercise powers through the technique of domination over the individuals. These intellectuals (in various ways) influence the members of society to which they belong and in this act they use academic ideas and concept. They are against the application of force, but apply reason, ideas, views and method of persuasion.

Thus the purpose of the intellectuals is to exercise power of attraction mainly to influence the general public. Gramsci observes that there are several groups of intellectuals or many intellectuals and not all of them are interested in influencing others. Few or only a dominant group take initiative in influencing masses of men.

In this venture, it is generally found, generally one group of intellectuals plays the dominant role and other groups are subordinated to the powerful group. In this way the hegemony of one group is established.

The intellectuals of a dominant group control the intellectual activities of the society. There may exist small or less powerful groups of intellectuals but they are incapable of exercising power over others. This is what is called the theory of hegemony.

Gramsci’s theory of hegemony is not any concocted story or an imaginative one. He thoroughly studied the political and administrative systems of several mature capitalist countries. Jacobinism represented the French bourgeoisie. By exercising intellectual power the Jacobins were able to influence the peasants of France.

Again, the capitalists of USA have their own intellectuals and many of them are lavishly paid by the capitalists. These intellectuals act as the spokes-persons of the capitalists and they propagate the political and economic views of capitalism.

That is they present the
bright side of capitalism before the mass of men and in this way common people are influenced. Gramsci also studied the concept of hegemony in the background of America’s capitalist system.

He observed that in USA the intellec­tuals exercise their power over the people to bring the importance of capitalist system in the limelight. We have already stated that Antonio Gramsci was directly associated with the Turin Council Movement in which he found that the ruling class obtained the consent of subordinate groups and classes to accept the domination.

Characteristics of Hegemony:

Hegemony plays a very important role in the whole thought system of Gramsci but according to Kolakowski he has used the idea in senses more than one. Sometimes hegemony implies political power and the authority uses coercive means over the masses to ensure obligation. The hegemony or overall dominance comes out of the coercion. But this does not always happen.

The authority applies other methods to establish its overall supremacy over the society. Gramsci is of opinion that in a parliamentary system hegemony comes out of the combination of force and consent. That is, the political authority tries to receive obligation or approval through democratic means such as consent or formation of public opinion or large scale public discussion.

In such a situation the government uses various organs of public opinion. Force is rarely used. In all democratic systems this is normally found.

It has been found that the intellectuals and the groups or societies formed by them generally use cultural means and sociological ways. The intellectuals influence the common people by way of dissemination.

The important intellectuals spread academic or educational ideas and concepts, their importance or bright sides among the general public. In this way the powerful group of intellectuals culturally or academically dominates common people. This is also a type of hegemony.

Explaining the precondition of the emancipation of the working class Gramsci has asserted that only through the seizure of political power this can be attained. But this is not an easy task. By it the cultural hegemony is to be achieved.

In simple language, the cultural hegemony means the particular culture of the working class must dominate. In sociology it is called cultural socialisation. Kolakowski in this connection says – the working class could only conquer by first imparting its world- views and system of values to the other classes who might be its political allies – in this way it would become the intellectual leader of society, just what the bourgeoisie had done before seizing political control Gramsci has repeat­edly emphasized this essential precondition for the attainment of political power. Not only this, the bourgeoisie has applied the same technique for the sustenance of its control over society and power.

Another aspect of Gramsci’s hegemony is there is “material basis” of hegemony, and according to well-known interpreters of his doctrine this is reforms and compromises. The bourgeoisie is quite conscious that the strict adherence to its own ideology and views about economics, politics, culture etc. may cut a sorry figure. Compromises with the opposition may be required and this attitude is quite realistic.

Some of the views of other classes or groups are accommodated into the views and approaches of the bourgeoisie. It has been truly observed by a critic that the “hegemonic class in Gramsci’s definition is truly political because it goes beyond its immediate economic interests to represent the universal advancement of society”.

Antonio Gramsci understood quite well that any proliferation of interests and outlooks will ultimately lead to the numerous divisions of society. The capitalist class for that reason adopts a very realistic approach. The capitalists always adopt a middle path. It is the view of the capitalists to avoid way of severe conflict and intransigency.

Other Aspects of Gramsci’s Concept:

Gramsci’s theory of hegemony occupies a very important place in Marxist thought system; even some say that it is his “most important contribution to Marxist Theory”. This assessment is quite true. Before he was imprisoned and during his imprisonment he observed that hegemony of class or groups had important position. It helps to capture power, to hold or perpetuate power.

During the period of 1924-1926 Gramsci carefully thought the particular or crucial role of the bourgeoisie in the capitalist society and finally he arrived at a conclusion that the proletariat could capture political power through establishing its own hegemony. For that purpose it must ensure its own social basis.

An interesting aspect of Gramsci’s theory is he suggested adopting caution. He thoroughly studied history, particularly Machiavelli and many others. He felt that the application of force was not enough. That is, a group or class may be superior in respect of military force. But that cannot enable it to be the owner of authority or power.

The class or organisation must be able to establish its supremacy in the fields of intellect, morality and mass support. The class or group must provide intellectual supremacy.

Generally the dominant class adopts one or the other method and makes compromises. Adamancy is generally avoided. Through the method of consent and compromises the most powerful class builds up its own domination. What Marx and Engels called the ruling class Gramsci called the hegemonic class.

The concept of hegemony has been called by many as “fabric of hegemony”. It is woven by the intellectuals who have great network of wide organisation. So we can say that mere attainment of hegemony is not sufficient for capturing political power.

Antonio Gramsci also dealt with sectarianism while analysing hegemony. He said that the working class, for the purpose of attaining hegemony, must take an approach of an entire society. That is the working class must give priority to the interests of whole society, not the interests of any particular section.

The working class must create a confidence in the minds of the people of all sections that it is capable of achieving fulfillment of the desires of all groups and classes. Without this the hegemony will never be a reality.

The intellectuals belonging to the working class have a very important role to play, but above all they must be broad-minded. He has said that in the case of hegemony a particular class or a group of intellectuals may play a vital role, but this must not exclude the prospective role to be played by others.

What Antonio Gramsci emphasizes is that a particular group may be in leadership, but that is not all. Though Gramsci did not rule out the role or importance of force, he was against its random use.

A critic has viewed Gramsci’s theory of hegemony from a realistic point of view. We quote few lines: “A fully extended hegemony must rest on active consent, on a collective will in which various groups in society unite”.

It is true that without hegemony the working class will never be able to achieve supremacy. But hegemony is not something which will fall from the sky.

The working class must make protracted efforts. Apart from this, certain ingredients are essential. The electronic and print media must be used for the purpose of propagating the views of the working class. But the fact is that in a bourgeois society these two powerful agents of public opinion are under the full control of the ruling class.

In the field of hegemony what would be the exact role of the party? Gramsci was quite aware of the importance of a party. Although he did not regard party as the vanguard of the proletarians, party can effectively shoulder the burden of propa­gating the views or ideology. But he differed from Lenin on several aspects regarding the role of the party.

Antonio Gramsci said that the primary responsibilit
y of a party would be to propagate the ideology of the working class.

Commenting on the importance of party viewed by Gramsci Mc Lellan makes the following observation: “Gramsci had broader view of the party than Lenin, since he conceived of it as deeply committed to an ideological and cultural struggle as well as the seizure of the state power he advocated a party that was an educational institution offering a counter-culture whose aim was to gain ascendancy in most aspects of civil society before the attempt was made on state power”. Mere dissemination of the drawbacks of bourgeois society is not enough.

The interpreters of Gramsci’s philosophy think so. During his Turin Council Movement he observed that the party must give them proper leadership, but the workers or agitators must rise to the occasion spontaneously and consciously.

Achievement of success must not be treated as a gift; it is a hard-earned object. Kolakowski has drawn our attention to an important drawback of Gramsci’s concept.

He says that without destroying the bourgeois culture how is it possible to establish proletarian culture. Even if the proletarians are able to capture power before establishing the hegemony of its culture will it is possible for the working class to destroy the bourgeois culture? In this vital matter Gramsci’s analysis fails to provide satisfactory reply.

3. Civil Society, State and Revolution:

Another notable contribution of Gramsci to the development of Marxist thought is his conception about civil society. Marx and Engels in their The German Ideology have sporadically analyses it. But their analysis is incomplete in the sense that they did not analyse it from different standpoints.

In the thirties of the last century Gramsci focused his attention on the importance as well as its role in a bourgeois society and after that a number of scholars have shown interest in Gramsci’s view.

A recent scholar (Joseph Famia Civil Society and Marxist Tradition Published in Civil Society edited by Sudipta Kaviraj and Sunil Khilnani Cambridge University Press 2002) says: “Economic reductionism is not a charge that could be levelled against Antonio Gramsci who alone of Marx’s eminent disciples—tried to develop the concept of civil society”.

In the first few years of the 1930s Gramsci observed that in the bourgeois system the political organisation which is popularly known as the state plays important role in the whole gamut of political system.

The capitalism and its supporters do not always play rational role. Its chief objective is not to make people moral or ensure general material progress of society. Profit-making being its soul objective it aims at removing the thorns that exist on its way of attaining objective.

How the bourgeoisie performs its role created high interest in the mind of physically-handicapped but mentally alert Gramsci.

After comprehensive analysis of various aspects of bourgeois society, he raised the issue of the survival of the capitalist society. To put it in other words, Marx thoroughly scanned the capitalist’s society and drew the conclusion that because of its inherent contradictions the capitalist would collapse.

Antonio Gramsci observed that capitalism did not follow the prediction of Marx. Gramsci was a true Marxist and because of that he did not jump upon the conclusion that Marx was wrong.

Rather, he started on investigation and formed certain conclusions on the basis of his investigation. One such conclusion is his theory of hegemony which has been discussed. The other is Civil Society.

The answer to Gramsci’s question ‘why did capitalism survive’ lay in the objective condition that existed in a capitalist society. In his Prison Notebooks he writes one that can be called “Civil Society” that is the ensemble of organisms commonly called ‘private’ and that of ‘political society’ or the state.

These two levels correspond, on the one hand, to the function of ‘hegemony’ which the dominant group exercises throughout society and, on the other hand, to that of direct domination or command exercised through the ‘state’ and juridical government.

According to Gramsci the civil society includes various religious and non-religious organizations such as churches, political parties, trade unions, aca­demic institutions, press, publishing houses etc.

All these institutions and organi­sations disseminate the ideology and views of the dominant (economically and politically) class. The dissemination is carried out in such a way that the subordinate or weaker classes do not get the opportunity to propagate their views among the masses of men.

The process of dissemination is carried out intensively and uninterruptedly and practically the powerful or dominant class succeeds in estab­lishing its hegemonic status. In this way the dominant class establishes its all-round superior position. The dominant class in this connection performs another function.

Antonio Gramsci uses the term civil society in different ways. Sometimes he says that the civil society is outside the state, that is, it is not a part of state. But in many places he says that the state comprises both political society and civil society. This means that the civil society is part of the state.

Explaining Gramsci’s stand on the concept of civil society Mc Lellan says “Civil society denoted for Gramsci all the organisations and technical means which diffuse the ideological justification of the ruling class in all domains of culture.”

This implies that civil society generally performs cultural functions and in this way establishes its hegemony. But the activities of the civil society are not confined within the cultural sphere; they are spread over other spheres. The organs of the civil society are like the trench systems of modern warfare.

In war the army can destroy only the outer superstructure of the enemy state. It cannot destroy the entire defensive system. In the political system the same thing happens.

There is a political organisation which we call state and there is a social organisation what is generally called the civil society. In all capitalist structures or systems there exists a second line of defence.

In a capitalist society the civil society is always active and provides all sorts of protection to the state. In all capitalist states numerous changes occur. But due to the active role of the civil society these changes cannot destabilize the capitalist structure. Gramsci treats the civil society as the most effective organisation which provides protection to the state.

If there were no civil society the capitalist state would have collapsed. Modem critics are of opinion that Gramsci’s concept of civil society is full of contradictions and this is due to the fact that the central idea of the concept is derived from Hegel and this he applied for analysing Marx’s ideas.

4. State:

Though Gramsci gave special emphasis to civil society and its hegemonic status in the whole gamut of politics he was well aware of the importance of political society or organisation or state.

In 1931 Gramsci wrote:

“This study (Notebooks) also leads to certain determinations of the concept of State which is usually understood as political society” He treated the state as an embodiment of coercive power used against the masses to ensure their unconditional obligation towards the political authority. Even, he did not treat the state as equilibrium between different forces that are quite active. But according to Gramsci there is a close relationship between state and civil society and Antonio Gramsci observed that. But this did not happen everywhere.

He cited the East of Russia and noted this in his Notebooks. In his opinion the State in Russia was all powerful and civil society was primordial or, to some extent, p
rimitive. He also called the Russian state gelatinous Gramsci has exposed the exact nature of the Russian state or the states of other Western countries in the following words.

“The state was only an outer ditch behind which there stood a powerful system of fortress and earthworks”. We thus find that in the developed capitalist societies there existed two separate areas for state and civil society and, because of this difference; the strategies for revolution must be different.

Antonio Gramsci thought that in primitive societies the state was always on the frontline in the social system. There was civil society, but its existence was not important at all.

In this situation all sorts of revolutionary activities must be focused towards the state. That is, the state should be an object of attack. But where the civil society plays an important role, the purpose of the revolution should be to attack the civil society.

According to Gramsci, the war against the state and the war against the civil society are quite different. Before starting revolution the revolutionaries must take care of it. If they failed to study the different positions or importance of state and civil society their action will be in jeopardy. This means that Gramsci was against any simplistic strategy or procedure in war against capitalism.

He also warned that the Leninist method of war against capitalism was not suitable for every situation. In other words, the revolutionaries must distinguish between the crucial position of state and civil society and after that decide the course of action or nature of strategy.

In the thirties of the last century the world witnessed the Great Depression in the mature capitalist countries and the communists were jubilant at it. They prophesied that capitalism would collapse and naturally there was no need of permanent revolution.

Antonio Gramsci shared this view, that is, he did not subscribe to Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. Gramsci not only opposed permanent revolution, he at the same time supported the Stalinist stand regarding socialism in one country.

Antonio Gramsci said that if too much importance is given to the idea of permanent revolution then there would appear inertia or disinterestedness on the part of revolutionaries of some countries.

Naturally it would be better to concentrate on the revolution of a particular country. Though Gramsci opposed Trotsky’s idea of permanent revolution he agreed with his views on Fascism. Both viewed fascism as a petty-bourgeois movement. Fascism consists of a mass organisation of the petty- bourgeoisie.

Upload and Share Your Article:

[PDF] Essay on Socialist Revolution: Meaning, Concept and Development

After reading this article you will learn about of Socialist Revolution:- 1. Meaning and Essence of Socialist Revolution 2. Concept of Socialist Revolution 3. Development.

Meaning and Essence of Socialist Revolution:

Cornforth writes:

“The principal conclusion of the materialist theory of the laws of social development is that of the historical necessity of the socialist revolution.”

So it is historical necessity that the socialist revolution will appear at a definite stage of social progress.

It is generally maintained that the socialist revolution is the most radical social revolution in the history of class society, a mode of transition from the capitalist socio-economic foundation to the communist foundation. The socialist revolution is, therefore, a great leap forward from capitalism to socialism. It is also a qualitative leap.

The meaning of these two adjectives is that socialism in all respects is different from capitalism. The society as a result of socialist revolution changes and changes qualitatively. Moreover, these qualitative changes are decisive.

Some Marxists call the socialist revolution a gigantic leap. It surpasses all past record of social changes. It does not envisage a simple change of political power. The whole state machinery is overhauled.

Concept of Socialist Revolution:

Marx’s concept of revolution is completely different from the bourgeois revolution. The latter aims at the change of government while both the base and superstructure remain unchanged.

Marxian revolution envisages a radical change of society. In The German Ideology Marx and Engels have said:

“In all previous revolutions the mode of activity always remained unchanged and it was only a question of different distribution of this activity, a new distribution of labour to other persons, while communist revolution is directed against the hitherto existing mode of activity, does away with labour and abolishes the rule of all classes with the classes themselves, because it is carried through the class which no longer counts as a class in society, is not recognized as a class, and is in itself the expression of the dissolution of all classes, nationalities etc. within present society”.

Marx and Engels have called the non-socialist revolutions or bourgeois revolu­tions as the revolutions of minorities. These were conducted by the capitalists or other petty bourgeois groups with the sole purpose of achieving limited and class objectives. The workers or peasants never participated in all these revolutions. A minority revolution cannot bring about general welfare of the society and in that sense the early or previous revolutions were always incomplete.

The pertinent question which may be raised at this stage of analysis is why did not the proletarians participate in revolutions? Marx’s answer is they were not organized and prepared for a revolution. For that reason the bourgeois revolutions of earlier epochs achieved success.

The workers were divided and the necessity of a revolution was not fully realized by them. Moreover, the bourgeoisie controlled both the base and superstructure and used the media for the propagation of their own ideology.

The proletarians were deprived of it. It was also a factor of the success. Above all, the state as an instrument of exploitation was always in favour of the bourgeoisie.

Engels wrote a long Introduction for Marx’s Class Struggle in France just before his death, i.e., in 1895. This Introduction is important for several reasons. A part of the Introduction deals with the nature of bourgeois revolution Engels wrote, “Allrevolutions up to present day have resulted in the displacement of one definite class rule by another, but all ruling classes up to now have been only minorities in relation to the ruled class. One ruling minority was thus overthrown; another minority seized the helm of state in its stead and refashioned the state institutions to suit its own interests.”

Lenin was also quite aware of the difference between bourgeois revolution and socialist revolution. According to Lenin, one of the fundamental differences between bourgeoisie revolution and socialist revolution is that, for the bourgeois revolution, which arises out of feudalism, the new economic organizations are gradually created in the womb of the old order, gradually changing all the aspects of society.

The bourgeois revolution faced only one task—to sweep away, to cast aside, to destroy all fetters of preceding social order. The socialist revolution, according to Lenin, is quite different. The task of the socialist revolution is to set up new organisations and organisational relationships. It must perform certain complicated positive or constructive work for setting up of a new society.

Since socialist revolution does not aim at a simple change of government, its actions are far-reaching. It has to face the resistance from reactionary elements and counter-revolutionary force.

Analysing from this angle Lenin had said that all the previous bourgeois revolutions were very easy. The feudal lords or nobles were in decaying conditions.

They had not enough capacity to resist the attack of the bourgeoisie or to check its growth On the contrary; the position of the proletariat is different. The fight of the proletarians is a fight against the bourgeoisie, against the state which is an ally of the bourgeoisie and all other allies. At a single revolution all these cannot be annihilated. Revolution, that is why, is permanent.

There are also other differences. For example, when the bourgeois revolution began to emerge there was a feudal society; but in the womb of that society then arose a powerful capitalism with all its potentialities.

So the bourgeoisie got a ready- made form prior to revolution. On the contrary, the socialist revolution started its task with a clean slate. The superstructure was under the domination of the capitalists. So a favourable condition for socialist’s revolution was either absent or almost absent.

Still another difference is that the purpose of the previous revolutions was never to destroy the antagonistic class relations, but simply the replacement of one class by another. Whereas the socialist revolution proceeds with the avowed purpose to destroy all class antagonisms and the exploiters.

The old state machinery is not completely smashed, it is kept temporarily and subsequently it is replaced by a new one and, finally the state withers away. Here is an important aspect of difference.

After every bourgeois revolution the state becomes more and more powerful, the socialist revolution makes its annihilation precipitated. But it takes time. For this reason the socialist revolution is permanent, the bourgeois revolution is temporary.

Development of Socialist Revolution:

It has been observed by Sheptulin that a socialist revolution does not limit itself of the destruction of the old, historically out-dated order; its mission is to create new forms of property and new production relations that could not arise within the old society based on private property. Hence the destruction and construction both are simultaneously performed by the socialist revolution.

This construction is of a new or better society. Socialist revolution signifies a new social order where there shall be no classes and class antagonisms. Unlike preceding revolution, the socialist revolution does not view itself as being the last. It envisages dynamism and change change towards better and better society or social system.

As a first step towards better society or developed social order, the socialist revolution proceeds assertively to destroy elit
ism and all its manifestations. In every capitalist society few elites rule the nation and control the economy in the name of the majority.

The socialist revolution’s first attack falls upon the elites. They are dislodged from power. The adherents of socialist revolution deny that few have the exceptional ability which the majority claims. Aptheker says, “This denial of elitism will apply also to varying endowments of talents or capacity.”

The post-revolutionary society is opposed to elitism as well as racism. Racist tendencies, ideologies and activities have no place in a society created by revolution. Racism is outlawed in all socialist societies. Revolution does not recognize groups based on race. Socialist revolution abolishes all classes and groups.

There shall be only one class in a socialist society and that is the proletariat. Racist groups are outlawed. The protagonists of socialist revolution say that racist feeling is a product of capitalism. Capitalism in the name of democracy also creates small national groups.

The ulterior motive of capitalism is to divide society into small groups and to encourage the in-fighting. Lack of consolidation and strength enables the capitalists to harvest benefit. The golden rule of capitalist society is divide and rule.

Developed society created by socialist revolution does away with the so-called golden rule. It is a better society based on the principles of brotherhood, goodwill and co-operation. Spontaneity dominates everything.

The better society a product of socialist revolution is full of promises. It has released all the productive forces from the grip of capitalists. Larger amount of goods and commodities flood the society.

Scarcity and poverty are banished. In capitalism profit motive always worked behind the production of commodities. Welfare of the people was scantily treated. In capitalism there was always an apprehension about the availability of necessary articles. The better society removes that apprehension root and branch.

Aptheker says; “The socialist revolution has torn from the grasp of imperialism large area of the “backward” world and has in a matter of few decades transformed them into remarkably productive areas, challenging the advanced capitalist nations for productive supremacy.”

Frequent crises and contradictions are the characteristic feature of capitalism Socialist revolution removes all these contradictions and crises and ensures an uninterrupted growth of economy.

It also frees society from fear of war. The capitalists select war as the only way of setting disputes. War, in fact, is inevitable in capitalist system. For the sale of commodities the capitalists subjugate foreign territories and this creates attrition between the capitalist countries.

The war, therefore, is a natural consequence. Socialist revolution by abolishing classes and class antagonisms draws a final curtain over colonialism and also on war. Along with the possibility of a war-free society the wastage of scarce resources resulting from unhealthy competition is stopped.

People’s consciousness about the destruc­tive society, with consequences of war, reaches a highmark.

“In place of old bourgeois, its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all” say Marx and Engels in the Manifesto.

Upload and Share Your Article:

[PDF] Karl Marx’s View on Production Relations

After reading this article you will learn about the features of production relation as observed by various political thinkers

Marx has drawn our attention to a very important aspect of production relation. In his opinion it is never static. Commodities are produced. But in a dynamic society the demand for particular commodities is not static. From time to time the demand for commodities changes and corresponding to this production as well as produc­tive system also change.

Stalin has observed that changes in the mode of production inevitably call both changes in the whole social system, social ideas, political views and political institutions.

In a word, change in production relations calls forth the change in the whole social system and political order. To put it in other words, the production relations constitute the central part of the whole social fabric.

Change in production relations is accompanied by far reaching changes. If this is the position or characteristic of production relation then we can safely say that the history of the development of society is the history of the production relations and the history of the productive forces.

Another feature of the production relations is that its changes and development entail changes and development of productive forces. Productive forces are, there­fore, mobile and revolutionary. They are the most important elements of production.

“Productive forces of the society change and develop and depending on these changes and in conformity with them, men’s relations of productions, their economic relations, change.”

This is one aspect of the dialectical change. Another side is, relations of production influence the development of the productive forces. The development of the production relations is dependent upon the development of the productive forces.

Again, the former also react upon the latter. We can say both relations of production and forces of production are dialectically connected.

The above feature should not lead one to assume that the action and reaction between the two are always proportionate. It may so happen that the production relations lag behind the productive forces.

Here may crop up contradiction. But Marx has stressed that this lagging behind is temporary.

Let us put the matter in the clear language of Stalin:

“However much the relations of production may lag behind the development of productive forces, they must sooner or later come into correspondence with the level of development of productive forces. Otherwise we would have a fundamental violation of the units of productive forces and production relations within the system of production as a whole.” There will be crises and disruption.

Another feature of production relations is that the rise of new productive forces and production relations does not mean that correspondingly a new system will emerge and the old system will be completely destroyed.

It takes place within the old system. It takes place not as a result of deliberate and conscious activity of man, but spontaneously and unconsciously of the will of man.

This is due to the fact that man has no freedom to choose one mode of production or another. Productive forces and production relations of every generation are bequeathed to the next generation and it is so part and parcel of the economic and social system that the next generation cannot part with it.

Another interesting thing about the dialectical relationship between the two is that when a new method or technique is introduced nobody knows about its repercussions.

Man is forced to adapt himself with the new method. So, in the productive system, man can hardly claim any independence. To sum up in simple language, the productive system and productive forces of any particular age are not the exclusive properties of that particular age. The knowledge and experience about production of a particular age is carried over to the next period and this process is a continuous one.

Each form of production relations exists as long as it provides sufficient scope for the development of the productive forces. But gradually relations of production come into contradiction with the developing productive forces and become a brake on them. They are then superseded by the new relations of production, the role of which is to serve as the form of the further development of the productive forces.

Marx observes that people never give up the productive forces they have brought into being, but this does not mean that they do not give up the production relations. In order to get better fruits of civilization men form new relations.

The recent interpreters such as G. A. Cohen have wanted to establish a “primacy thesis.” Its central idea is that the nature of a set of production relations is explained by the level of the development of the productive forces embraced by it.

Though the primacy thesis implies that the changes in productive forces bring about changes in production relations, yet some changes in productive forces are too limited in scope to have that effect. Nor is it possible to provide a general statement of how much productive power must increase for a consequent change in production relations to occur.

Marx and Engels have studied the relationship between productive forces and production relation in a different way. They have said that this relationship differs from age to age. Under the primitive communal system the means of production were socially owned.

The system was free from antagonism between the two. Primitive people worked in common and enjoyed the fruits of their labour in common. They had no experience of any exploitation.

Antagonism between productive forces and relations of production, Marx and Engels has said, first surfaced in the slave society because the owners of slave were also the owners of sources of production and simultaneously they owned the workers of production. The slave owner was the sole authority of the slave. He could sell, purchase and even kill him.

Such relations of production corresponded to the state of productive forces of that period. In the slave period there also appeared the exchange of products between individuals and societies, accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few and concentration of the means of production in the hands of the minority.

The basis of production relations under the feudal system was that the feudal lords owned the means of production. But like slave owners they did not fully own the workers of production who were serfs.

The serfs were comparatively free. The feudal lords purchased the labour of the serfs .They were given wage or certain amount of land for their own cultivation and use.

They were also allowed to enjoy few rights. Notwithstanding, there was no perceptible improvement in the relation between productive forces and production relations. This was mainly due to the fact that feudal lords were the owners of the sources of production and the serfs were not well-organized and adequately conscious. But the rise of political consciousness led the serfs to demand for more rights and liberties which the feudal lords were not prepared to provide.

An antagonistic relationship between feudal lords and serfs became inevitable. The exploitation also assumed greater dimensions. Sporadic fighting’s became the order of the day.

In the words of Stalin:

“A class struggle between the exploiters and exploited is the principal feature of the feudal system.”

The Industrial Revolution completely changed the economic and political scene of the society. The means of production were controlled by the few industrial magnates. The age-old cottage and small scale industries were faced with extinction and in many cases were destroyed.

Streams of people from the countryside flocked to the towns and cities in search of work. Before Industrial Revolution there were agri
cultural workers or farmers and feudal landlords.

When there was no cultiva­tion the agricultural workers or cultivators were engaged in off-season business activities. There were also people of small business. But after Industrial Revolution the society was primarily divided into two main classes’ industrial workers and the owners of capital or industries.

The industrial workers subsequently came to be known as proletarians. Rader in his Marx’s Interpretation of History writes “under the spur of technology, the forces develop more rapidly and in direction incompatible with the relations of production”. But the intense antagonism between the two classes did not surface at the primary stages of Industrial Revolution.

The progress of industrialization intensified the conflict.

Rader observes:

“The conflict between forces of production and relations of production intensified until a period of revolutionary upheavals, the social relations are reorganized so as to harmonies with the productive forces.”

In The German Ideology Marx and Engels wrote “all collisions in history have their origin in the contradictions between productive forces and forms of intercourse.” This was true for all societies except primitive communal society.

When this conflict between the relations and forces of production occurs, it signifies that the present society has exhausted the possibilities for developing productivity and that the time for revolution is drawing near.

We have so far seen that Marx and Engels had an idea of the conflict between relations of production and forces of production. But some recent critics have come to the conclusion that from Marx’s writing we cannot be sure of the contradiction. This suspicion or opinion, whatever may be, centres around an observation made by Marx in Wage, Labour and Capital. Men produce commodities by cooperating among themselves. From this observation it is easy to conclude that social relation is part of productive forces.

That is, there is not always contradiction between the two. One may overlap another. “Social relations are to be counted among the productive forces. There is an overlap between the relations and forces, because both include the organization of the work process and division of labour among the working personnel”.

Gordon Leff remarks:

“If there is no actual distinction between forces of production and productive relations, the contradiction between them is not the motive force of change.”

Rader does not agree with this opinion of Gordon Leff. According to Leff there shall be extreme contradiction between the two or there shall be no contradiction at all. This is not correct at all.

The conclusion of Leff is unfounded. Marx has said that the contradictions between productive forces and production relations are sometimes found, but not always. Under normal circumstances, when the economy expands, production relations are productive forces. The cooperation between the two accelerates the economy.

We have analyzed the important aspects of historical materialism because it constitutes the central aspects of Marxist philosophy. Harold Laski in his Communist Manifesto – A Socialist Landmark has said that this concept is not free from defects. But it is at the same time true that it has explained the social change in a correct Way.

Harold Laski and many other critics have said that if we want to enter into the depth of social change and related issues the historical materialism is the most potent means.

The changes that are taking place in a society must be viewed or analysed from the standpoint of materialism. Lukacs says, “Historical materialism did not exist for its own sake, it existed so that the proletariat could understand a situation…armed with this knowledge, it could act accordingly.”

Upload and Share Your Article:

[PDF] Short Bio of Gracchus Babeuf (1760-1797)

This article provides short bio of Gracchus Babeuf.

Gracchus Babeuf was an eighteenth century socialist thinker who propagated the basic ideas of socialism. He believed that only socialism could save toiling masses from all types of misery and hardship and in this respect he was at par with Saint- Simon.

Immediately after the French Revolution he jumped upon the task of propagating the socialist ideas. Upon the socialist ideas of Gracchus Babeuf and his co- socialists there was a clear influence of Rousseau. Of course all the revolutionaries were inspired by Rousseau.

Gracchus Babeuf and his followers wanted to set up a society in which there would be no exploitation and private property because they believed that the system of private property sanctioned by the state and possessed by the capitalists was the root cause of corruption and inequality.

Let us quote few lines from Kolakowski’s monumental work; Main Currents of Marxism. Gracchus Babeuf and Babouvists took their philosophy in the main from Rousseau and utopianists of Enlightenment and regarded themselves as the successors of Robespierre.

Their basic premise was the idea of equality as Bounarroti wrote:

“The perpetual cause of the enslavement of the peoples is nothing but inequality and as long as it exists the assertion of national rights will be illusionary”.

In Babeuf’s judgment, though the French Revolution brought about an end of despotic rule in France, its success in ending the capitalist system was nil. But so long capitalism would continue to exits emancipation of people would remain a distant hope.

The constitution of 1793 proclaimed the right to equality and Babeuf demanded that that must be translated into reality. It must be removed from the confinement of the constitution.

Gracchus Babeuf and his followers were convinced that the forcible removal of the despotic ruler could ensure a free, fair and equal society. So in Babeuf’s philosophy we find an endorsement of armed revolution.

In order to reach the final goal his followers preferred secret activities and on that ground they were generally called conspira­tors. The fearless conspirators would be endowed with undaunted spirit.

Under the Directory a conspiracy hatched by Babeuf and his followers was detected. He was tried and guillotined in 1797. In this way the life of a revolutionary and a Utopian came to an end.

The students of Western political thought, especially the socialist thought, will remember Gracchus Babeuf and his comrades for their bold step and firebrand leadership. They revolted against autocratic rule and openly challenged the anti-people policies of the government and powerful ruling class.

Gracchus Babeuf dreamt of a future society which will be free from exploitation though the dream never saw the light of sun.

Kolakowski sums up the importance of Babeuf and Babouvist in the following language:

“The Babouvist movement is important because it reflected for the first time a conscious conflict between the revolutionary ideal of freedom and that of equality. Freedom meant not only the right of assembly, but the abolition of legal differences between estates of the realm but also the right of every man to carry an economic activity without hindrance.”

Gracchus Babeuf and Babouvists assumed that the poverty and sufferings of the workers were due to the luxury and excessive consumption of the rich people. The privileged classes enjoyed the wealth depriving the larger section of the society. If the wealth were distributed properly among all the people, the ideal prosperity for all would then appear.

The early socialists including Morelly and Mably based their socialist principles on the normative theory. They said that every man had identical right to whatever nature provides.

Sometimes they supported their view with the help of quotations from the New Testaments and sometimes with the help of materialism. But the argument was always that the inequality of consumption was to be done away with.

What is the contribution of Babeuf? He, at a very tender age, was guillotined. But with his death the movement for socialism or communism did not end. The movement rather gathered momentum.

Marx and Engels were inspired by the Utopian socialism. He was the first revolutionary. The term “socialism” may be associated with the names of Saint-Simon or Fourier or Owen, but communism is identified with the name of Babeuf.

He disliked to confine himself within the boundary of democracy and wanted to embark upon the vaster field of communism. In fact, the revolutionary movement started with Babeuf. He failed, but not his ideas.

Upload and Share Your Article: