History


Written by John Pickard Wednesday, 23 December 2009

with thanks: International Marxist website

Many of us know that the origins of Christianity have nothing to do with silent nights or wise men. So what are its true origins? John Pickard looks at the reality of how this religion came about – from the standpoint of class forces and the material developments of society, rather than by the pious fictions fed from church pulpits.

Foundations of ChristianityMy late father had a very wry sense of humour. At Christmas, whenever there was a reference to church services on the television, he would tut and shake his head. “Look at that”, he would say, “They try to bring religion into everything!”

I imagine much the same complaint may have been made by ancient celts, annoyed that the Christian priests were taking over their traditional Yule festival, celebrating the winter solstice. Or perhaps by Roman citizens, peeved at the Christians taking over their annual ‘Saturnalia’ festival in the last weeks of December.

Those complaining would have been right, because in the absence of an identifying date anywhere in the canonical gospels, Christians grafted their celebration of the birth of Jesus onto the existing pagan festivals. In one stroke they absorbed the pagan rites into the Christian tradition and softened opposition to the new creed.

Many practising Christians today are completely unaware of the pagan and sometimes arbitrary origins of important elements of their religious beliefs and practices. Many seriously believe the origin of Christianity lies in a ‘silent night’ in a barn visited by quiet shepherds and several awe-struck ‘wise’ men. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Materialism

For Marxists, who base themselves on the real, material world, there was a completely different reality. Last year marked the centenary of the publication of ‘The Foundations of Christianity’ by the German Marxist theoritician, Karl Kautsky. This was the first attempt to describe the rise of that major western religion from the standpoint of class forces and the material developments of society, rather than by the pious fictions fed from church pulpits.

Karl Kautsky’s book was deficient in many respects, but the main lines of his argument still stand the test today. What was especially significant about Kautsky’s book was that it was the first comprehensive attempt to describe the foundation and rise of Christianity using the method of historical materialism.

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels used the method of historical materialism and applied it to social and historical developments. In his book ‘Anti-Duhring’, Engels summarised what this meant:

“The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or estates is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in man’s better insight into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought, not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch.”

Karl Kautsky, therefore, rejected the metaphysical myths behind Christianity – the miracles, supernatural events, and so on – and attempted to describe its origins and rise through the social conditions that existed in the Roman Empire.

The classical description of the origins of Christianity is as outlined in the New Testament. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are taken as historical accounts of real events in the first thirty five years of the first millennium: how Jesus was born miraculously, how he performed miracles and preached alongside his twelve disciples, how he was crucified for his preaching and how he arose from the dead. The gospels are taken to be eye-witness accounts by four of the disciples.

Karl KautskyKarl KautskyDespite harassment, persecution and innumerable martyrs, the superior ideas of the Christians – and particularly the offer of life after death and the redemption of human sins by the crucifixion of Jesus – led to an increase of support for Christianity until it became an unstoppable force eventually recognised by the Roman Emperor Constantine. The rest, as they say, is history.

This is the ‘official’ history of the Church…and most of it is a fairy-tale. For Marxists the question has to be asked, what were the conditions in Palestine in the first century? Karl Kautsky alludes to the fact that the Roman Empire was a slave-based system in which the vast majority of the population were impoverished and lived from hand to mouth for most of their lives.

And it is true that Palestine was a society riven with bitter class conflicts and contradictions. The characteristics of the entire period were turmoil, upheaval and revolt. Overlying the class struggle was the additional factor of the national oppression of the majority Semitic population by the Romans. Within Jewish society, the priestly caste and the nobility were propped up by the Roman regime for the greater exploitation of the mass of the population.

“The fundamental conflict was between Roman, Herodian, and high priestly rulers, on the one hand, and the Judean and Galilean villagers, whose produce supplied tribute for Caesar, taxes for King Herod, and tithes and offerings for the priests and temple apparatus on the other.” (Horsley, ‘Bandits, Prophets and Messiahs’ )

The Temple priests who were paid tithes (church taxes) by the local peasantry were not a small group – some scholars number them in the thousands. The Jewish King Herod ‘the Great’, who died in 4 BCE [Before the Common Era], left a country economically exhausted from the earlier Roman conquest and subsequent taxation.

“The Jewish agricultural producers were now subject to a double taxation, probably amounting to well over 40 per cent of their production. There were other Roman taxes as well, which further added to the burden of the people, but the tribute was the major drain.

“Coming, as it did, immediately after a period of ostensible national independence under the Hasmonians (Jewish kings), Roman domination was regarded as wholly illegitimate. The tribute was seen as robbery. Indeed it was called outright slavery by militant teachers such as Judas of Galilee, who organised active resistance to the census (record of people for tax purposes) when the Romans took over direct administration of Judea in 6 CE.” [in the Common Era] (‘Bandits, Prophets and Messiahs’)

Revolts

The only contemporary account there is of this history is that of Josephus, a Jewish general who fought against the Romans during the revolt of 66 CE and who subsequently changed sides. It is clear from his histories that this whole period was one of great upheaval. There were many occasions when revolts of peasants were led by popular anointed kings (or ‘messiahs’), all of which were viciously repressed. It was not uncommon for whole towns to be razed and their inhabitants sold into slavery.

These revolts reflected the material conditions and class conflicts of the time, but they were invariably dressed up in terms of messianic revivalism and religious aspirations. Given the tradition and scripture of the Jews, these movements inevitably adopted the mantles of scriptural leaders, including, notably, Joshua. There were, in fact, many ‘Joshua’ sects at the time. (‘Jesus’ is a Romanised name which wouldn’t have been recognised in Palestine at the time). Many of these cults had a ‘communist’ outlook with property shared in common within the community.

The writings of Josephus are the only genuine surviving works written by a participant of the events. He describes what he sees as the evil influence of seers and prophets on more than one occasion, such as: “…Imposters and demagogues, under the disguise of divine inspiration, provoked revolutionary actions and impelled the masses to act like madmen. They led them out into the wilderness…” Josephus (‘Jewish Wars’) mentions by name several of the seers, ‘prophets’ and revolutionaries who stirred up the Jews, but the Joshua described in the New Testament does not appear at any point in the voluminous work of his supposed contemporary, Josephus.

The revolutionary-minded force in this period was the peasantry, which strove time and again to throw off the national and class oppression under which they laboured.

A small selection of commentaries from Josephus illustrates the turmoil of the period:

“Many [Jewish peasants] turned to banditry out of recklessness, and throughout the whole country there were raids, and among the more daring, revolts…”

“…the whole of Judea was infested with brigands…” (‘Jewish Wars’)

“Felix [Roman governor, 52-58 CE] captured [revolutionary leader] Eleazar, who for twenty years had plundered the country, as well as many of his associates, and sent them to Rome for trial. The number of brigands that he crucified…was enormous.” (Josephus , ‘Antiquities’)

Nothing could be further removed from ‘silent night’! The revolutionary upheaval spilled over into a generalised uprising in 66 CE, against the Romans and their collaborators, the Jewish ruling class the high priests of the Temple. “…hostility and violent factionalism flared between the high priests on the one side and the priests and leaders of the Jerusalem masses on the other.” (‘Antiquities’)

Siege of Jerusalem

The siege of Jerusalem, 70 CEFor the next four years there was a bloody and protracted guerrilla war followed by a prolonged siege of Jerusalem, during which the masses, fearing betrayal by the Jewish aristocracy and high priests effectively took power into their own hands in Jerusalem. One of their first acts in the revolt was the storming of the Temple and the burning of the deeds and documents relating to the debts and taxes of the peasantry. It was not surprising that the aristocracy and the high priests fled the city to the safety of the Roman lines – including Josephus himself.

Even before this revolution, Palestine had been a whirlpool of different cults and religious sects, most based loosely on traditional Jewish scripture, but often coloured by the widespread discontent with the collaboration of the priesthood and the parasitism of the Temple culture. Among these would have been the ‘Joshua’ and other messianic sects organised by a variety of charismatic leaders.

Following the bloody suppression of the revolution and the capture of Jerusalem (during which the Temple was destroyed) in 70 CE, tens of thousands of Jews fled the region and many thousands more were enslaved. Such an enormous disaster could not fail to affect the huge Jewish Diaspora, who fled from their homeland, spread round every major city in the whole Roman Empire, including the larger cities like Rome, Alexandria and the big cities in the East.

Long before the revolutionary events, all manner of sects had taken root in the Jewish Diaspora communities in parallel to those in Palestine itself. Within this lively sectarian milieu was a Joshua cult developed by Paul, with a policy of converting non-Jews as well as Jews. This sect, in effect, became the mainspring of modern Christianity by, among other things, simplifying Jewish ‘Law’ to remove the need for circumcision and strict dietary taboos.

All of the early Christian works, which were circulating from the middle towards the end of the first century – including the letters of Paul – were significantly missing any historical narrative connecting Joshua to a real-life biography. It was only later that the gospel of Mark (on which Matthew and Luke were based) was written as an allegorical description of a life, composed to match the Joshua doctrine that was becoming established. It was an expression of the growing confidence and numerical strength of this particular sect. But it was also an expression of the growing class division within the Christian community itself as it accommodated to Roman society. Of the original communistic ideas of the Joshua cults, there remain only a few hints and suggestions in the New Testament today.

It was largely in polemics with their former co-religionists, the Jews, and against the plethora of rival proto-Christian sects that the early Church elaborated its doctrine in the first decades of the second century. In parallel with the elaboration of doctrine, the Church established an apparatus to maintain itself. The evidence of the existence of a huge variety of early Christian sects has only come to light recently precisely because this apparatus, once having established itself, did its best to eliminate all others as ‘heresies,’ in the process removing most of the evidence that other strands of the Joshua cult even existed.

The question has to be asked as to why Christianity grew over the next two centuries. It was not an anti-slavery movement: slavery was ubiquitous throughout the Roman Empire and Christians possessed slaves like anyone else. There is evidence that even bishops just like well-to-do Romans owned slaves throughout this whole period.

Theological considerations were secondary. The rigid and self-perpetuating bureaucracy which had grown within the Church reflected the class divisions in society and had become an important bulwark of the class system.

“In time the discourse and sermons of the Christian leaders came to incorporate not only the formal aspects of aristocratic status concerns but also the values and ideology of the late Roman upper class.” (Salzman, ‘The Making of a Christian Aristocracy’)

Conversion

This comment refers to the period following the so-called conversion of the Emperor Constantine in the early fourth century, but long before this the Church was playing a key social and economic role on behalf of the ruling class. Many officials of state were Christian bishops or leaders. More importantly, they play a key role in the management and organisation of local government.

In so far as it meant anything in a Roman Empire facing terminal decline, they were the local government. Bishops and Church officials collected tax, distributed alms (church-based charity) and supervised local legal and land disputes. They were an unofficial ‘civil service’ on behalf of the Roman bureaucracy long before Emperor Constantine gave them imperial sanction. The Church fulfilled a social and economic function, in managing and containing an increasing proportion of the poor and dispossessed and for that reason, not because of a ‘spiritual awakening’ within the ruling class, it was allowed to grow and develop.

The Church was able to fulfil this role because it offered a safety valve for the aspirations of the masses. It gave the peasantry their only opportunity to sit in the same building with landlords and bishops (if not the same pews) and even if there was limited hope in this world, they were at least offered the promise of equality with the rich in the next. The Christians offered a messiah and ‘life after death’, in contrast to the aloof and indifferent gods of Greece and Rome.

The Church bureaucracy consciously developed policy (and theology) in its own interests, increasingly identified with the interests of the ruling class. But in its structure and outlook, it also anticipated the development of feudal society better than the decaying slave-owning state. The Church didn’t campaign for emancipation, but offered a new arrangement for exploitation.

As for the peasantry and city poor: as long as they knew and accepted ‘their place’ in the rigid class structure, for the poorest it offered a structure of alms, and support which provided respite to the worst of their poverty and insecurity. Even if watered down, it offered a sense of community. Almost uniquely in the Roman Empire, it had a limited welfare structure, moreover one that offered belonging to a national and even international church. For these reasons it had disproportionate appeal to the poor and the oppressed; indeed it was ridiculed for being a movement “of slaves and women.”

Persecution

Once it was backed by the power of the state the Church destroyed its opponents. Roman persecution of the Church in the first three centuries is greatly exaggerated, but it pales against the terrible persecution that the Church visited on all the unorthodox sects once it was backed by imperial power. Books and heretics were burnt. Theological history was re-written. Myths were piled upon myths, century after century. So much so that today even so-called ‘scholars’ treat the New Testament like a true historical narrative and not as they should as a story, no more true than ‘The Iliad’ or ‘Beowulf’.

Within a few hundred years any evidence of the existence of other Christian sects, including their pre-history in Palestine, was all but eliminated. The Church became – and remains to this day – a powerful conservative force, politically, financially and diplomatically (and at one time, militarily).

In his introduction to ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’, Marx referred to religion as “the sigh of the oppressed”. He explained that it is not spirituality, or the lack of it, which breeds support for religion. It is the alienation of the mass of the population from the class society in which they find themselves.

The crisis of capitalism is at root the crisis of a rotten economic system, but it manifests itself also as a crisis of ideas. For millions of people their hopes and aspirations are so stunted by the limits of the capitalist world that they project their hopes on to a life after death. And just as in the first decades of the first millennium, so also in the age of capitalism, new religious and messianic movements reflect the intellectual and moral impasse of a failed and failing society. Marx continued:

“…To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”

Thus he made it clear that it is not a question of religion being “abolished”. The idea is absurd. To combat superstition and ignorance, the task for socialists is to struggle against the material conditions upon which these things grow – and that means above all, a struggle against capitalism.

With capitalism facing its worse crisis after 1929, the imperialists powers are gathering in Germany to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. As like always, history has different meanings for the elites and imperialists and the people. The imperialists hailed it has the triumph of democracy and freedom, the fall of iron curtain. It shook the intellectuals and thesis like “end of history” and “clash of civilizations” emerged with deadly consequences. The people of Pakistan were affected by fall of Berlin wall and even today are paying the price. The ruling elite of Pakistan with help of CIA created religious fascist monsters to fight Jihad against communism. The Jihad which has eroded the society and state completely. The pieces of Berlin Wall were sent has gifts to the most “reactionary of anti-communists” of Pakistan the ones who created the Mujahideen and the Taliban. I saw one of them on TV an ex ISI officer who was telling tales of how he helped Taliban . He was all praises for Taliban, he told that he received a portion of “Berlin wall” as gift. After the fall of Berlin wall the first gifts of freedom we got were worse war and genocide in history of Europe after Holocaust in Bosnia. The forces of hate which socialism had controlled spilled over and once again the international community failed to stop a genocide. Next gift of freedom we got was the rise of most heinous of  barbarism since the mongols in form of Islamic fascism which threats the very foundations of civilization. All these monsters from Taliban  to Hamas were created by USA and Europe through their allies the military dictators and Mullahs in muslim world to check the rising Left wing forces. These thugs who were used to kill left wing intellectuals and leaders on orders of west are now playing havoc with civilization. No one will remember these gifts of the fall of Berlin wall in Germany today but lets me warn them through words of Derrida, the most influential European philosopher since Hegel, that these cheers of victory are meaningless!

“For it must be cried out, at a time when some have the audacity to neo-evangelise in the name of the ideal of a liberal democracy that has finally realised itself as the ideal of human history: never have violence, inequality, exclusion, famine, and thus economic oppression affected as many human beings in the history of the earth and of humanity. Instead of singing the advent of the ideal of liberal democracy and of the capitalist market in the euphoria of the end of history, instead of celebrating the ‘end of ideologies’ and the end of the great emancipatory discourses, let us never neglect this obvious macroscopic fact, made up of innumerable singular sites of suffering: no degree of progress allows one to ignore that never before, in absolute figures, have so many men, women and children been subjugated, starved or exterminated on the earth” Specters of Marx , Derrida

With these conditions Specters of Marx are haunting this globe !!!

Shaheryar Ali

The fall of the Berlin Wall: 20 years later

Written by Alan Woods Monday, 09 November 2009

With thanks: International Marxist Website

Twenty years ago as the Berlin Wall came tumbling down the bourgeoisie in the west was euphoric, rejoicing at the “fall of communism”. Twenty years later things look very different as capitalism has entered its most severe crisis since 1929. Now a majority in former East Germany votes for the left and harks back to what was positive about the planned economy. After rejecting Stalinism, they have now had a taste of capitalism, and the conclusion drawn is that socialism is better than capitalism.

The fall of the Berlin Wall has passed into history as a synonym for the collapse of “Communism”.The fall of the Berlin Wall has passed into history as a synonym for the collapse of “Communism”.The year 2009 is a year of many anniversaries, including the murder of Luxemburg and Liebknecht, the founding of the Communist International and the Asturian Commune. None of these anniversaries find any echo in the capitalist press. But there is one anniversary they will not forget: On the 9th of November, 1989, the Border separating Western from Eastern Germany was effectively opened.

The fall of the Berlin Wall has passed into history as a synonym for the collapse of “Communism”. In the last 20 years since those momentous events, we have witnessed an unprecedented ideological offensive against the ideas of Marxism on a world scale. This is held up as decisive proof of the death of Communism, Socialism and Marxism. Not long ago, it was even presented as the end of history. But since then the wheel of history has turned several times.

The argument that henceforth the capitalist system was the only alternative for humanity has been exposed as hollow. The truth is very different. On the twentieth anniversary of the collapse of Stalinism, capitalism finds itself in its deepest crisis since the Great Depression. Millions are faced with a future of unemployment, poverty, cuts and austerity.

This vicious anti-Communist campaign is being intensified during this period. The reason for this is not difficult to understand. The worldwide crisis of capitalism is giving rise to a general questioning of the “market economy”. There is a revival of interest in Marxist ideas, which is alarming the bourgeoisie. The new campaign of slanders is a reflection of fear.

Caricature of socialism

Anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall. Photo by Klaus Franke with permission from Bundesarchiv.Anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall. Photo by Klaus Franke with permission from Bundesarchiv.

What failed in Russia and Eastern Europe was not communism or socialism, in any sense that this was understood by Marx or Lenin, but a bureaucratic and totalitarian caricature. Lenin explained that the movement towards socialism requires the democratic control of industry, society and the state by the proletariat. Genuine socialism is incompatible with the rule of a privileged bureaucratic elite, which will inevitably be accompanied by colossal corruption, nepotism, waste, mismanagement and chaos.

The nationalised planned economies in the USSR and Eastern Europe achieved astonishing results in the fields of industry, science, health and education. But, as Trotsky predicted as early as 1936, the bureaucratic regime ultimately undermined the nationalised planned economy and prepared the way for its collapse and the return of capitalism.

In the 1980s, the USSR had more scientists than the USA, Japan, Britain and Germany combined, and yet was unable to achieve the same results as the West. In the vital fields of productivity and living standards the Soviet Union lagged behind the West. The main reason was the colossal burden imposed on the Soviet economy by the bureaucracy – the millions of greedy and corrupt officials that were running the Soviet Union without any control on the part of the working class.

The suffocating rule of the bureaucracy eventually led to a sharp fall in the rate of growth in the USSR. As a result, the Soviet Union was falling behind the West. The costs of maintaining high levels of military expenditure and the costs of maintaining its grip on Eastern Europe imposed further strains on the Soviet economy. The emergence of a new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 signalled a major turn in the situation.

Gorbachev represented that wing of the Soviet bureaucracy that stood for reform from the top in order to preserve the regime as a whole. However, the situation deteriorated further under Gorbachev. This inevitably led to a crisis, which had an immediate effect in Eastern Europe, where the crisis of Stalinism was exacerbated by the national question.

Ferment in Eastern Europe

Mass protests in Poland in August 1984.Mass protests in Poland in August 1984.

In 1989, from one capital to another, a tidal wave of revolt spread, overthrowing one by one the Stalinist regimes. In Romania, Ceausescu was overthrown by a revolution and sent to a firing squad. A key factor in the success of the popular uprisings was the crisis in Russia. In the past Moscow had sent the Red Army to crush uprising in East Germany (1953), in Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968). But Gorbachev understood that this option was no longer possible.

The mass strikes in Poland in the first part of the 1980s were an early expression of the impasse of the regime. If this magnificent movement had been led by genuine Marxists, it could have prepared the ground for a political revolution, not only in Poland but throughout Eastern Europe. But in the absence of such a leadership, the movement was derailed by counterrevolutionary elements like Lech Walesa.

Election poster of Solidarity featuring Gary Cooper as an American cowboy urging a vote for the party/union.Election poster of Solidarity featuring Gary Cooper as an American cowboy urging a vote for the party/union.

At first, the Polish Stalinists tried to hold the movement down through repression, but in the end Solidarity had to be legalized and allowed to participate in parliamentary elections on June 4, 1989. What followed was a political earthquake. Solidarity candidates captured all the seats they were allowed to contest. This had a profound effect in the neighbouring countries.

In Hungary Janos Kadar – in anticipation of what was to come ‑ had already been removed as General Secretary of the Communist Party the previous year in 1988 and the regime had adopted a “democracy package”, including elections. Czechoslovakia was very soon also affected and by November 20, 1989 the number of protesters assembled in Prague went from 200,000 the previous day to half-million. A two-hour general strike was held on November 27.

These dramatic events marked a major turning-point in history. For almost half a century after World War II the Stalinists had ruled Eastern Europe with an iron hand. These were monstrous one-Party states, backed by a powerful apparatus of repression, with army, police and secret police, and informers in every block of flats, school, college or factory workshop. It seemed almost impossible that popular uprisings could ever succeed against the power of a totalitarian state and its secret police. But in the moment of truth these apparently invincible regimes were shown to be giants with feet of clay.

East Germany

Of all the regimes of Eastern Europe, the German Democratic Republic was one of the most industrially and technologically advanced. The standard of life, although not as high as in West Germany, was good. There was full employment, and everyone had access to cheap housing, free medicine and education of a high standard.

Gorbachev visiting Erich Honecker in 1987. Photo by Peter Koard with permission from Bundersarchiv.Gorbachev visiting Erich Honecker in 1987. Photo by Peter Koard with permission from Bundersarchiv.

However, the rule of a totalitarian one-Party state, with its ever-present secret police (the notorious Stasi) with its army of informers, the corruption of the officials, and the privileges of the elite, were a source of discontent. Before the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961, about 2.5 million East Germans had emigrated to West Germany, many over the border between East and West Berlin. In order to halt this haemorrhage, the regime had the Berlin Wall built.

The Wall and other fortifications along the 860-mile (1,380-kilometre) border shared by East and West Germany succeeded in stemming the exodus. This action probably helped to boost economic growth in the GDR. But it caused suffering and hardship for the families that were divided and it was a propaganda gift to the West, which presented it as yet another example of “Communist tyranny”.

By the end of the 1980s the situation in the GDR was explosive. The old Stalinist Erich Honecker was implacably opposed to reform. His regime even prohibited the circulation of “subversive” publications from the Soviet Union. On 6 October and 7 October, Gorbachev visited East Germany to mark the 40th anniversary of the German Democratic Republic, and he put pressure on the East German leadership to accept reform. He is quoted as saying: “Wer zu spät kommt, den bestraft das Leben” (He who is too late is punished by life).

By now the East German people had become openly rebellious. Opposition movements began to sprout up like mushrooms. These included the Neues Forum (New Forum), Demokratischer Aufbruch (Democratic Awakening), and Demokratie Jetzt (Democracy Now). The largest opposition movement was created through a Protestant church service at Leipzig’s Nikolaikirche, German for Church of Saint Nicholas, where each Monday after service citizens gather outside demanding change in East Germany. However, these movements were confused and politically naïve.

A Monday demonstration in Lepzig in January 1990. Photo by Zumpe.A Monday demonstration in Lepzig in January 1990. Photo by Zumpe.

A wave of mass demonstrations now swept through East German cities, acquiring particular strength in Leipzig. Hundreds of thousands of people joined these demonstrations. The regime entered into crisis that led to the removal of the hard-line Stalinist leader, Erich Honecker, and the resignation of the entire cabinet. Under the pressure of the mass movement, the new Party leader, Egon Krenz, called for democratic elections. But the reforms proposed by the regime were too little and too late.

The “Communist” leaders considered using force but changed their mind (with a little prodding from Gorbachev). Events were now spinning out of control. In the following days, one could almost speak of anarchy: Shops stayed open all hours, a GDR passport served as a free ticket for public transport. In the words of one observer: “in general there were more exceptions than rules in those days”. Power was lying in the street, but there was nobody to pick it up.

Faced with a mass revolt, the seemingly all-powerful East German state collapsed like a house of cards. On November 9, 1989, after several weeks of mass unrest, the East German government announced that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. This was the signal for a new eruption of the masses. Spontaneously, crowds of East Germans climbed onto and crossed the Wall, joined by West Germans on the other side.

Counterrevolution

Faced with a mass revolt, the seemingly all-powerful East German state collapsed like a house of cards. Photo by Songkran.Faced with a mass revolt, the seemingly all-powerful East German state collapsed like a house of cards. Photo by Songkran.

The Berlin Wall was a symbol and a focal point for all that was hated about the East German regime. The demolition of the Wall began quite spontaneously. Over the next few weeks, parts of the Wall were chipped away. Later on industrial equipment was later used to remove almost all of the rest. There was a celebratory atmosphere, a mood of euphoria, more like a carnival than a revolution. But that is true of the early stages of every great revolution, beginning with 1789.

In November of 1989, the population of the GDR was overwhelmed by emotional moods – a sense of liberation, accomplished by a general feeling of elation. It was as if a whole nation was experiencing a general inebriation, and therefore was open to suggestions and sudden impulses. Overthrowing the old regime proved far easier than anyone had dared imagine. But, once having overthrown it, what was to be put in its place? The masses that had brought about the overthrow of the old regime, knew very well what they did not want, but did not have quite clear what they wanted, and nobody was offering a way out.

All the objective conditions for a political revolution were now given. The great majority of the population did not want the restoration of capitalism. They wanted socialism, but with democratic rights, without the Stasi, without corrupt bureaucrats and without a dictatorial one-party state. If a genuine Marxist leadership had existed, this could have led to a political revolution and the establishment of a workers’ democracy.

Most of the leaders of the opposition had no clear programme, policy or perspective, beyond a vague desire for democracy and civil rights. Photo by ssgt F. Lee Corkran Most of the leaders of the opposition had no clear programme, policy or perspective, beyond a vague desire for democracy and civil rights. Photo by ssgt F. Lee Corkran

However, the fall of the Berlin Wall did not result in a political revolution but counterrevolution in the form of unification with West Germany. This demand did not feature prominently at the beginning of the demonstrations. But given the absence of a clear programme on the part of the leadership, it was introduced and gradually came to occupy a central role.

Most of the leaders of the opposition had no clear programme, policy or perspective, beyond a vague desire for democracy and civil rights. Like nature, politics abhors a vacuum. The presence of a powerful and prosperous capitalist state next door therefore played a determining role in filling the vacuum.

West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was an aggressive representative of imperialism. He used the most shameless bribery to persuade the East German people to agree to immediate unification, offering to exchange their Ostmarks for Deutschmarks on a one-to-one basis. But what Kohl did not tell the people of East Germany was that unification would not mean that they would have West German living standards.

In July 1990, the final obstacle to German unification was removed when Gorbachev agreed to drop Soviet objections to a reunited Germany within NATO in return for substantial German economic aid to the Soviet Union. Unification was formally concluded on October 3, 1990.

The masses deceived

West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl with World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab in 1990.West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl with World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab in 1990.

The people of the GDR had been deceived. They were not told that the introduction of a market economy would mean mass unemployment, factory closures and the virtual destruction of large parts of the industrial base of the GDR, or a general rise in prices, and the demoralization of a section of the youth, or that they would be looked down upon as second-class citizens in their own country. They were not told these things but they have found them out through bitter experience.

Reunification precipitated a disastrous collapse in real Eastern German GDP, with falls of 15.6 per cent in 1990 and 22.7 per cent in 1991 cumulating to a one third decline. Millions of jobs were lost. Many eastern factories were bought by western competitors and shut down. From 1992, East Germany experienced four years of recovery, but this was followed by stagnation.

Before the Second World War, East German GDP per capita was slightly above the German average, and both at that time and in the GDR, East Germany was richer than other eastern European countries. But 20 years after unification, living standards in East Germany still lag behind the West. Unemployment is double western levels, and wages are significantly lower.

In the GDR unemployment was practically unknown. But employment declined by 3.3 million people from 1989-1992. East German real GDP has barely risen above its 1989 level, and employment languishes at 60 per cent of its 1989 level. Currently, unemployment in Germany as a whole is about 8%, but the figure for East Germany is 12.3%. However, some unofficial estimates put it as high as 20%, and amongst the youth even 50%.

Women, who achieved a high degree of equality in the GDR, as in other countries of East Europe, have suffered most. The German Socio-Economic Panel data for the mid-1990s indicate that 15 per cent of the eastern female population and ten per cent of the male population were unemployed.

In July 1990 the “chancellor of unity”, Helmut Kohl, promised: “In a joint effort we will soon turn [the East German regions] Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia into flourishing landscapes.” Fifteen years later, a BBC report admitted that “the statistics are bleak” Despite the capital injection of an estimated 1.25 trillion euro (£843bn, $1,550bn), the East’s unemployment rate was still 18.6% in 2005 (before the present recession) and in many regions it is more than 25%.

Halle in Saxony-Anhalt, once an important centre for the chemical industry with more than 315,000 people, has lost nearly a fifth of its citizens. Before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the “chemical triangle” Leuna-Halle-Bitterfeld gave employment to 100,000 people ‑ now 10,000 jobs remain. Gera once had large textiles and defence industries, and some uranium mining. They have gone, and much the same happened in most other state-owned industries since 1989.

Eastern GDP per capita improved from 49 per cent of the western level in 1991 to 66 per cent in 1995, since which time convergence has ceased to advance. The economy was growing by about 5.5% a year, but was not creating many new jobs. As a result the East is emptying. Since unification some 1.4 million people have moved to the West, most of them young and well-educated. Emigration and a steep fall in fertility have caused the eastern population to decline each year since unification.

It is a supreme irony of history that 20 years after reunification, people are leaving East Germany, not to flee from the Stasi, but to escape unemployment. Of course, some have done well. The BBC report says: “Grand bourgeois houses, many riddled with World War II bullet holes until 1989, have been restored to their old glory.”

Marxism revives

Like many other East Germans, Ralf Wulff said he was delighted about the fall of the Berlin Wall and to see capitalism replace communism. But the euphoria did not last long. “It took just a few weeks to realize what the free market economy was all about,” said Wulff. “It’s rampant materialism and exploitation. Human beings get lost. We didn’t have the material comforts but communism still had a lot going for it.” (Reuters report)

Hans-Juergen Schneider, a 49-year-old trained engineer has been unemployed since January 2004. He has sent out 286 job applications since then, without success. “The market economy can’t solve our problems,” he says, “big business is just grabbing the profits without accepting any responsibility.” He is not alone. A poll by Der Spiegel stated that 73% of East Germans believe that Karl Marx’s critique of capitalism is still valid.

Another poll published in October 2008 in the magazine Super Illus stated that 52% of people in Eastern Germany think that the market economy is “inept” and “rundown”. 43% would prefer a socialist economic system, because “it protects the small people from financial crises and other injustices”. 55% rejected banking bailouts by the state.

Of young people (18 to 29 years), who never lived in the GDR, or did so only briefly, 51% want socialism. The figure for people 30 to 49 years old is 35%. But for those over 50 years it is 46%. These findings are confirmed in interviews with dozens of ordinary easterners. “We read about the ‘horrors of capitalism’ in school. They really got that right. Karl Marx was spot on,” said Thomas Pivitt, a 46-year-old IT worker from East Berlin. Das Kapital was a best-seller for publisher Karl-Dietz-Verlag, selling over 1,500 copies in 2008, triple the number sold in all of 2007 and a 100-fold increase since 1990.

“Everyone thought there would never ever again be any demand for ‘Das Kapital’,” managing director Joern Schuetrumpf told Reuters. “Even bankers and managers are now reading Das Kapital to try to understand what they’ve been doing to us. Marx is definitely ‘in’ right now,” he said.

The crisis of capitalism has convinced many Germans, both East and West, that the system has failed. “I thought communism was shit but capitalism is even worse,” said Hermann Haibel, a 76-year old retired blacksmith. “The free market is brutal. The capitalist wants to squeeze out more, more, more,” he said. “I had a pretty good life before the Wall fell,” he added. “No one worried about money because money didn’t really matter. You had a job even if you didn’t want one. The communist idea wasn’t all that bad.”

“I don’t think capitalism is the right system for us,” said Monika Weber, a 46-year-old city clerk. “The distribution of wealth is unfair. We’re seeing that now. The little people like me are going to have to pay for this financial mess with higher taxes because of greedy bankers.”

Even more significant than opinion polls were the results of the recent German elections. The Left Party registered a significant advance, getting almost 30% of the vote in the East. In the East there is now no majority for the bourgeois parties. What this shows clearly is that the people of East Germany do not want capitalism but socialism – not the bureaucratic totalitarian caricature of socialism that they had before, but genuine democratic socialism – the socialism of Marx, Engels, Liebknecht and Luxemburg.

London, October 19, 2009

Written by: Ben Peck
Monday, 24 August 2009

With thanks: International Marxist Website

In the early hours of August 24 seventy years ago Germany and Soviet Russia signed a “non-aggression pact”, which divided the states of Northern and Eastern Europe into German and Soviet “spheres of influence”, effectively slicing Poland into two halves. Ben Peck looks back at what happened and explains why such an incredible event could take place – and the price that was paid.

The Stalin-Hitler pact has gone down in history as a mark of the absolute cynicism of the bureaucracy. It was a treacherous agreement that involved the occupation and division of Poland, half to Stalinist Russia and half to Hitler’s Germany. Such a move was described by the Stalinists as “defensive”. The Pact did not prevent war between Germany and Russia, but certainly helped Hitler in his war aims. It caused confusion and demoralisation amongst honest communists around the world, who for years had been denouncing Hitler as the foremost enemy of the labour movement and a threat to world peace.

Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov signs the pact. German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Josef Stalin stand behind him.Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov signs the pact. German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Josef Stalin stand behind him.Unlike Stalin, who sought all kinds of diplomatic deals with the imperialist powers in accordance with the theory of ‘socialism in one country’, and cynically sacrificed the revolution in the west, for Lenin and the Bolsheviks the guiding principle was the promotion of the world socialist revolution. This was a principle based on very concrete considerations. For a backward country like Russia, encircled by the imperialist powers, the spreading of the revolution internationally was the key to its survival and development toward world socialism.

When out of necessity Lenin and Trotsky signed the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty in 1918 it meant a strengthening of German imperialism, allowing them to take the Ukraine. The idea of a workers state dealing with capitalist nations is not precluded by socialists – each case must be weighed and considered as to how it advances the cause of the workers on an international scale. The Brest-Litovsk treaty of 1918 was forced upon the Soviet republic by Germany as its very survival was at stake. However Lenin and Trotsky saw such diplomatic manoeuvres as secondary to the only real saviour – the spreading of the revolution itself, starting with Germany.

The signing of the Stalin-Hitler pact must be seen in a different light. It marked a further break with the traditions of Bolshevism and the foreign policy of Lenin and Trotsky. As Trotsky said at the time, it was an “extra gauge with which to measure the degree of degeneration of the bureaucracy, and its contempt for the international working class, including the Comintern.”

Clearly, the rise of Fascism in Germany had had a devastating impact on the working class internationally. The mightiest and best organised labour movement in the world had allowed Fascism to triumph, as Hitler boasted, ‘without breaking a window.’ The reason for this catastrophe was the insane actions of the Stalinist Communist Parties.

By 1927 Trotsky and the Left opposition were being expelled from the Communist parties and its supporters were being hounded by the Stalinists. In face of the menace of Fascism, they raised the need for a United Front in Germany of socialist and communists. The Stalinists in Russia, having leant on the Right to defeat the Left Opposition, now proceeded to crush Bukharin and the enriched peasantry he represented. This was reflected by the ultra-left turn in the Communist International in 1928. This meant denouncing every group that was not the Communist Party as a variant of Fascism: “social-fascists”, “liberal-fascists”, and worst of all, the “Trotsky-fascists.” Such nonsense simply demoralised the workers and played into the hands of Hitler’s gangs.

The utter bankruptcy of the leaders of the German CP was revealed when Hitler was made Chancellor. They dismissed it with the declaration: “first Hitler, then our turn”! The Nazis divided and paralysed the German working class, which finally led not only to the arrest and persecution of the Jews, but also the liquidation of communist and socialist parties and all independent workers’ organisations. After this disaster, which did not even cause a ripple in the Communist Parties, Trotsky realised that the Communist International was finished and could no longer be a tool that could be used to further the cause of the international working class. A new international was needed.

German foreign minister Ribbentrop and Stalin at the signing of the Pact. Photo by Deutsches Bundesarchiv.German foreign minister Ribbentrop and Stalin at the signing of the Pact. Photo by Deutsches Bundesarchiv.At this point it is questionable whether the Stalinist bureaucracy was actively seeking to sabotage the workers’ movement as they later did in Spain in 1936, where it was clearly acting as a conscious and self-interested caste out to preserve its own position. The Spanish Stalinists acted on a line dictated from Moscow that demanded the sabotage of the revolution and the concentration of all effort on the civil war. The Stalinists were clear: “At present nothing matters except winning the war; without victory in the war all else is meaningless. Therefore this is not the moment to talk of pressing forward with the revolution… At this stage we are not fighting for the dictatorship of the proletariat, we are fighting for parliamentary democracy. Whoever tries to turn the civil war into a socialist revolution is playing into the hands of the fascists and is in effect, if not in intention, a traitor.”

This policy stemmed from their new policy of Popular Frontism, adopted in 1935 which represented a 180 degree turn. Rather than the United Front of worker organisations, the new Popular Front policy sought the unity of communists with socialists, liberals and “progressive”, “anti-fascist” capitalists. From mad ultra-leftism they swung to desperate opportunism. They abandoned all principles in order to ingratiate themselves with every “progressive” anti-fascist possible. It therefore meant the abandonment of any independent action of the working class – the only way to defeat Fascism.

At the level of international diplomacy Stalin sought to prove to the capitalist democracies that he was a reliable ally by selling out the Spanish revolution. In 1936 Stalin publicly announced that the USSR never had any such intentions of promoting world revolution, and that any such misconception was the result of a ‘tragicomic’ misunderstanding.

At this point the persecution of all opposition and political dissent inside the USSR reached fever pitch. The Purge Trials of 1936-38 drew a “river of blood” between the regimes of Lenin and Stalin. From August 1936 the world-wide Stalinist press was publishing on a daily basis resolutions from “workers meetings” speaking of the defendants as “Trotskyist terrorists” conducting their activities in league with the Gestapo!

Of the members of the Central Committee who met at the 17th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1934, the overwhelming majority had been shot or disappeared by 1938. The Purges extended far and wide. Those shot included Bukharin, Kamenev and Zinoviev, members of the Politburo under Lenin. The Red Army was purged with leading military figures murdered such as Tukhachevsky, a military genius and hero of the Civil War. In total 90% of generals, 80% of colonels, and 35,000 officers were liquidated by Stalin. The Red Army was decapitated. This fact was well noted by Hitler, particularly after the Soviets‘disastrous campaign in Finland in 1939, which played a part in his calculation to attack Russia in 1941.

Last page of the Additional Secret ProtocolLast page of the Additional Secret ProtocolLenin was fond of quoting the Prussian military theorist Clausewitz when he said that “war is the continuation of politics by other means.” The one-sided Civil War conducted against those genuine communists who remained in the Soviet Union marked the full emergence of a conscious and self-aware bureaucracy. The possible success of the Spanish revolution would have rejuvenated the aspirations of the Russian workers and undermined the stranglehold of the bureaucracy. It was no coincidence that the Moscow Trials took place at this time. If Stalin had not moved to suppress the Russian workers in blood, he would have been removed.

War was coming. The western “democracies” were not keen on a deal with Stalin. Stalin, the pragmatist, therefore sought a deal with Hitler. This was the solution, or so he thought. After the British handed Hitler Czechoslovakia on a plate, Stalin urgently needed an agreement with Hitler – whatever the cost. Within a week, the Stalin-Hitler Pact was signed. Even the pliable leaderships of the Comintern were taken by surprise. In Britain, the general secretary of the CP, Harry Pollitt, did not jump fast enough and within a few days had fallen into disgrace and was removed on Moscow’s orders.

The pact provided the Nazis with raw materials which funded the Nazi war machine in Europe, later to be turned against the USSR itself. By 1940 Russia supplied Germany with 900,000 tons of mineral oil, 100 tons of scrap iron, 500,000 tons of iron ore along with large amounts of other minerals. Soviet diplomats grovelled before the Führer in order to ingratiate themselves. In his cynical fashion, Stalin expelled each ambassador from the territories of the USSR as their countries were occupied by the Nazis armies.

In June 1941, to Stalin’s complete surprise, Hitler invaded Russia, meeting little resistance on the way. Despite the obvious signs and clear warnings, the USSR was totally unprepared and suffered heavy losses. Stalin, on hearing the news, disappeared for more than a week, declaring “All that Lenin built is lost.”

Eventually regaining his nerve, resistance was organised. The Nazi attack on the USSR delighted the imperialists who hoped that the fight on the Eastern front would mutually exhaust both sides, after which they could move in and mop up. But they had miscalculated. They had not counted on the planned economy, which, despite the waste and mismanagement of the bureaucracy, managed to increase production and shoulder the burden of the war during its darkest days. The superiority of the plan, combined with the Russian masses hatred of Hitlerism, provided the Soviet Union with the invincible fire-power needed to defeat the Nazi armies, eventually throwing them back to Berlin.

The Second World War reduced itself in essence to a struggle between the USSR and Germany, with the Allies as bystanders. In 1943, Stalin wound up the Communist International as a sop to the imperialists, but they turned deaf ears to Russia’s pleas for a Second Front. By 1945, the Red Army had shattered the Nazi war machine and defeated Hitler. This strengthened Stalinism for a whole period.

However, as Trotsky had warned, inherent within the ruling bureaucracy was a desire to restore capitalism in order to pass on their privileges to their offspring. It took 50 years for this prognosis to play out. In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and the leading bureaucrats, such as Yeltsin, embraced capitalism. The Stalinists, despite all the sacrifices of the Russian masses, had become the grave-diggers of the Russian Revolution

Mubarak Ali

Every generation has its own dreams and vision which it wants to accomplish without interference. Not imitation but freedom is required to build a new world. Therefore, an attempt should not be made to repeat but to make new history. People should be liberated from the shadows and allowed to flourish in a free society. Great leaders should be respected but not worshipped.

Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had all the qualities and characteristics in his personality which go into the making of a myth. He was reticent, reserved, kept his personal matters secret, behaved coolly and proudly and was not warm towards anybody. Thus he created a halo of awe and fear around himself.

JinnahSri Prakash, the first Indian High Commissioner to Karachi, in his book Pakistan: birth and early years gives an account of a reception which was given by the Governor-General of Pakistan, just after Independence to the diplomatic corps. It was also attended by the party leaders and bureaucrats. According to his version, Mr Jinnah was sitting at a distance alone on a sofa and called one by one those he wanted to talk to. He exchanged notes with each one of them just for five minutes. To the High Commissioner, he appeared a lonely man, averse to people. His serious and sombre expression made all those who interacted with him uneasy in his company.

This conveyed the impression that he was the final authority in every matter. The Muslim League and its leaders were merely rubber stamps. His image of being the sole spokesman of his party and people created a number of myths. For instance, the myth about his serious illness which is recounted by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre in their book Freedom at midnight fascinates everybody and compels readers to take it seriously. The version of their story is:

“If Louis Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru or Mahatma Gandhi had been aware in April 1947 of one extraordinary secret, the division threatening India might have been avoided. The secret was sealed onto the gray surface of a film, a film that could have upset the Indian political equation and would almost certainly have changed the course of Asian history. Yet, so precious was the secret that that film harboured that even the British CID, one of the most effective investigative agencies in the world, was ignorant of its existence.”

These were the X-rays of Jinnah diagnosed as a TB patient. The authors, after creating a suspense, further write that: “The damage was so extensive that the man whose lungs were on the film had barely two or three years to live. Sealed in an unmarked envelope, those X-rays were locked in the office safe of Dr J.A.L. Patel, a Bombay physician.”

On the basis of the story, Jinnah emerged as the one on whom depended the whole movement of Pakistan. The story further becomes interesting when a Hindu doctor kept the secret at the cost of Indian unity. His professional integrity was more important than his political inclinations.

In 1997, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of India-Pakistan Independence, Patrick French published a book, Liberty or death. After his own investigation, French refutes the whole story narrated by Collins and Lapierre. According to him: “The idea that Jinnah’s poor state of health was a closely guarded secret is absurd: it was referred to in the press at that time, and it is obvious from photographs taken in the mid-1940s that Jinnah was unwell.

Moreover, the reduction of the Muslim League’s wide popular backing to the whim of one man’s ‘rigid and inflexible’ attitude is indicative of the way that Pakistan history has been traduced. A second problem with Collins and Lapierre’s story is that it is not correct. Jinnah did not go to Bombay in May or June 1946, since he was busy in negotiating with Cripps in Simla and New Delhi. Nor did he have a doctor by the name of J.A.L. Patel. Although it is possible that Jinnah had tuberculosis in 1946, there is no evidence among his archive papers to support the theory.”

However, Jinnah himself on many occasions expressed the view that he was the sole creator of Pakistan. In one of his famous quotes, he said that he and his typewriter made Pakistan. The statement disregarded the efforts of his colleagues and the other Muslim League leaders in the Pakistan movement. It also downgraded the people’s participation in the struggle for a separate homeland.

There is evidence that he did not think highly of the leaders of the Muslim League. He found them mediocre and not capable of leading the nation. Perhaps, that was the reason that Jinnah, knowing his fatal illness, accepted ‘the moth eaten and truncated Pakistan’. The later history of Pakistan vindicates Jinnah’s assessment of the Muslim League leaders who miserably failed to solve the problems of a nascent nation.

The failure of these leaders has boosted Jinnah’s image as a superman. He overshadowed everybody. The nation also paid respect to him by naming universities, colleges, airports, roads, hospitals, and institutions of different kinds after him with the result that a citizen of Pakistan feels his presence every where in the country, wherever he goes.

Moreover, his image as a “Great Leader” (the Quaid-i-Azam) is presented in the textbooks to mould the mind of the young generation encouraging them to follow in his footstep. Scholars are eulogizing different aspects of his life. A film is screened to counter the film Gandhi in which Attenborough distorts the image of Jinnah. These efforts have made Jinnah sacrosanct. Any criticism of him is regarded a treason. He has become a paragon of super human virtues, beyond all weaknesses normal in human being.

The reverence accorded to him is such that mere association with him catapults a person from a humble position to the rank of freedom fighter. People take pride in their claim to have shaken hands with him (though he avoided shaking hands with people), or having seen him, talked to him, or merely attended his public meeting. The rulers of Pakistan, realizing the impact of his association, create myths of their links with him. Z.A. Bhutto claimed that as a student he wrote a letter to the Quaid – it is not known whether he replied to that letter or not, Zia’s sycophant bureaucrats discovered a diary of Jinnah (that was the time when Hitler’s diaries were discovered and later on proved false) which disappeared along with him.

Nawaz Sharif, assuming to follow in his footsteps, called himself ‘Quaid-i-Sani’ (the second leader). One such similar example is found in the history of France when Napoleon III made an attempt to revive the image of Napoleon I in order to legitimize his authority. Marx jokingly comments in The eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte that “Hegel remarks somewhere that all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” Nawaz Sharif’s self-given title proves it.

Jinnah has become such a symbol of wisdom in the Pakistani society that people visualize Pakistan with his reference. His vision, his agenda, his dream and his ideals, all remained unaccomplished because he died soon after Independence. It is commonly believed that had he lived some more years, the history of Pakistan would have been different. There are few nations which rely so heavily on one individual.

No doubt, Jinnah was a great leader of his people. He was a man of integrity and honesty, but to idealize him to such an extent as to preempt the emergence of another rank of leaders out of his shadow is strange. Every generation has its own dreams and vision which it wants to accomplish without interference. Not imitation but freedom is required to build a new world. Therefore, an attempt should not be made to repeat but to make new history. People should be liberated from the shadows and allowed to flourish in a free society. Great leaders should be respected but not worshipped.

Some times back, 31 May 2008 i wrote in my article , Nepal’s Fictitious Revolution: Goodbye King , Welcome Microsoft, few lines which i recalled when i saw great Maoist leader comrade Prachanda resigning from the office of Nepal’s prime minister.

"Azeem Tur" Prachanda

"Azeem Tur" Prachanda

Here is the man who controlled 70% of Nepal through his revolutionary armed resistance. The Nepali state had no control on 70% of the territory,the liberated region had Maoist administration, its taxation, its system. Here is the man on whose call people rose in the Capital and surrounded the Palace. During the movement one color was to be seen in Kathmandu and it was Red. The two communist parties of Kathmandu and Maoists controlled every thing. On there one call, people who were surrounding the palace could have stormed it. No, but No. With great pomp and rhetoric , king was sent home and communists saved the system. They returned the 70% of conquered territory back to the bourgeoisie. They returned their arms. Like good loyal Liberals they became part of system, the capitalist system that is.

This was called the great revolution. I unlike most communists have a problem that i have read Lenin’s State and Revolution. He wrote:

“Marx’s idea is that the working class must break up, smash the ‘ready-made state machinery,’ and not confine itself merely to laying hold of it.”

When Pakistani communists were celebrating the “revolution” in Lahore i had no hesitation in writing and declaring it a “fictitious” revolution. I knew one thing, one simple thing. There is no revolution without capture of power. The only problem for humanity is the reformist degeneration of communist leadership. The degeneration of communist parties into capitalist liberal democratic parties. They have the power, like they had in Nepal but they put it on plate and return it to the bosses with thanks. What do the bosses do, when the time comes, they strike

Dekho dur Ufak Pe---

Dekho dur Ufak Pe---

back without any gratitude. Like they did to comrade Prachanda, without any gratitude, that this man who could have snuffed out capitalism from Nepal and could have galvanized India and ushered in a new revolutionary epoch, but he choose to give up his land, his arms to the bourgoiese . They , kicked him out.

What did i say?;

“I dunno why i recall that famous speech by Michael Moore , delivered at the Oscars, ” we like non fiction because We live in fictitious times , we live in a time where fictitious elections give us a fictitious president—”

The tragedy continues, we are now having what i call “Fictitious Revolutions”, one has just occurred in Nepal, where a heroic struggle by people resulted in Communist victory but which resulted in a “revolution” where “workers” are not in control and capitalism still rules. Good bye to the King and welcome Microsoft is the Maoist agenda

Yet another of fictitious revolutions is being cooked up in Pakistan, with “Go Musharaf Go” and “Welcome Capitalism Welcome” is the policy of Pakistani lawyers and civil society

Now Prachanda has gone. Our king Mush has gone too, and our revolution has occurred too, Justice Iftikhar is back.  But change can be seen no where. Tragedy of fictitious revolutions and fictitious revolutionaries continue

Now Prachanda and the communist should wait for a genocide and civil war or become loyalist liberals in that case push people to disillusionment and face the destruction of whole communist movement of Nepal. Decades back Leon Trotsky wrote:

“In the last analysis, the crisis of humanity was reduced to a crisis of leadership of the proletariat”

In the same article Rajesh Tayagi wrote:

As a system of governance, the monarchy had already lost all its steam since the great people’s uprising of April 2006, while the forces of medieval reaction ‑ hitherto protected under the wings of the monarchy in Nepal ‑ were already adapting with Nepali bourgeois rule. Because of this, the abolition of the monarchy in Nepal as a state system, and the consequent emergence of a republic, has but a limited significance. This is in sharp contrast to the bourgeois overturns in 19th century Europe, where the emergence of bourgeois republics, represented a turn in world history. In 21st century Nepal, such a republic (although a step forward in bourgeois democratic terms) is of no real meaning and of no practical use for the people of Nepal, unless and until it puts power directly in the hands of the working class and through it the peasantry. Power would be meaningless until it is directed against the bourgeois”

Mr Tayagi wrote and these line now appear to be Prophetic :

The present turn in the politics of Nepal, presents only a caricature of the February revolution in Russia in 1917, with no October overturn in the offing, in the absence of a Bolshevik opposition. We will soon witness the same surrender of power by its Menshevik leadership, before the local reaction and imperialist bourgeoisie. We will find this leadership zealously defending the bourgeois state, law and property against the people. Unable to advance the revolution even an inch further, with every passing day, the Maoists would find themselves more and more trapped inside their false web of bourgeois democracy. Either the Maoists abandon the working people becoming open apologists of bourgeois democracy or the working people becoming more and more disillusioned, will eventually be forced to look for an alternative to the Maoists”

The tragedy continues. If anyone is interested in studying the history of crisis of leadership of Proletariat , here are three articles “Marxism and State” which deal with this question in detail.

Great Urdu write Quratulain Hyder once wrote about Faiz’s poem “ye daagh daagh Ujala” [this night bitten dawn], that it has become an anthem for her generation, i wonder that betrayal and degeneration of revolutionary leadership will make it the anthem for how many  more generations to come— we are prisoners of the dawn in Nepal and Pakistan.

Shaheryar Ali

I like to offer my red salute to communist Aitzaz Ahsan and great secular feminist Tahira Abdulla [who in her usual hysteric fiery oratory saluted Jamate Islami for fighting for free judiciary, in the fits of passion she obviously forgot the raped Bengali women, who were molested by her favorite Jamate Islami goons in 71, at the recent SPO conference held in Lahore] for granting us the free judiciary and realizing the maternal instinct of our state.[Riyasat ho gi maa’n ki jesi] Our mother like state soon after the great “Black Revolution” [This is one of the greatest revolutions of the history, last time black colored clothes were linked to a revolutionary movement, it was “Black shirts” of Mussolini The notorious march on Rome by the Black Shirts, snuffed out the week

March on Rome

March on Rome

Liberal government and brought Mussolini to power “constitutionally” in accordance with “Statuto Albertino”. This was from where we first got the word “Fascist”. Now considered an abuse and a pejorative term “Fascist” was the official name of one of the most proud nationalist movement which shook the most advance of human civilization, Europe] killed three of her sons in Balochistan. Not satisfied by her act of maternal mercy, euthanasia is an act of mercy after all; our mother state mutilated their bodies.

Now because our mother state was born a “muslim” with the slogans of La Illaha Illallah and her ancestors included the great Islamic empires, mutilating dead bodies is her family custom. You don’t believe me, of course, Jamate Islami’s text books which most of you have read don’t tell these things, the Naseem Hijazi’s novels you have read also paint a great picture of our mother state’s ancestors. Let’s not forget the PTV plays which fill us with Jihadi passion. Like let’s take one on the great great grandfather of our mother state Muhammed bin Qasim , cute Babar Ali with long hair and mild manners was not shown killing infidel Sindhis was he? Chach Nama speaks of those heinous crimes. Institute of Sindhiology has published it. After the regime change in Damascus , great hero ancestor of ours , Muhammed bin Qasim captured from Sindh [?Multan] , he was sewed in Cow’s hide and sent to Damascus, now you can all imagine what would have reached there.

Banu Qurayza Messacre

Banu Qurayza Messacre

Before our mother state was born, her uncle, great poet Iqbal saw a dream and than gave a prophecy to people in grounds of Allahabad. Uncle Iqbal doubted the genealogy of our mother state. He thought that the empires were not the true ancestors of ours. State of Madina and the rightly guided Caliphs, companions and their disciples were our true ancestors. When I was in school is got my hands on Watt’s account of Bannu Qurayza’s massacre which took place after battle of trench.; One of the most heinous acts of genocide in history. The Jewish tribe was annihilated. The crime was high treason, without making any distinction between culprits, all males were killed, women and children were enslaved Trenches were dug in Medina and men [600-900] were brought tied like goats and slaughtered. For the sake of precision trousers were removed of the growing children and those who had pubic hair were slaughtered too.

Younger children were sold as slaves and women ended up as sexual slaves [Londi]. We feel concerned why Taliban cut people throats and flog women?

I remember the chilly Friday of North Staffordshire’s summer when I had to accompany an Indian friend to the main sunni mosque of the town. After the prayer we met a group of young local lads distributing leaflets to the people coming out of mosque. I still remember the sharp and cold dagger of fear which I felt ripping my spine apart. The leaflet described the Banu Qurayza massacre in detail and urged Muslims to follow the prophet in act of slaughter of the Kaffirs. Most of these lads were the local kids I knew, saw them occasionally in Hope Street on weekend drinking and pursuing some local blond. Now they were in Hizb-ul-Tehrir , reminding muslims of deed of prophets which had been erased from collective consciousness by modern muslim reformists. I

Black flag of Islamic fascism

Black flag of Islamic fascism

remember the night of the same day when I was sitting in a cozy room with my favorite can of lager in hand, when I was introduced to a strikingly handsome local lad who was so polite and handsome that I found my self increasingly distracted by his green eyes, loosing the track of conversation and forgetting to sip my drink. I am a pharmacist, he was telling me. Today I told them that I will not dispense contraceptives and abortion medications. It’s against Islam. I said arnt you glad that we live in a pluralistic society where you can refuse to do things which are against your conscience. A shade of red , made his already pretty face prettier and his voice had a tinge of passionate anger when he spoke of the system of kuffer we are living in , because we have become Eunuchs , these white fags are cowards , we just need to stand up and this country will be ours. These white blond girls can be our slave as Allah has blessed us with these luxuries. He again repeated the incident of Banu Qurayza to shake me out of my defeatist pacifism. This was a lad who a community hero, kind and polite considered an angel at his work place. In those days I had recently written a critical paper on Hannah Arendt’s “Banality of Evil”, I made a note in my mind to retract it as I was looking at a living proof of the validity of the concept. I remember yet another Friday when he took me to the mosque in his NHS hospital. The hospital had converted the Chapel into mosque and one medical consultant was speaking, it was the Friday sermon. “Prophet said “I am the prophet of slaughter”, those who don’t support Jihad in Iraq, those who vote in this system of Kuffer are infidels, and they must have the same fate. Sheik Osama is the lord of ages—-Pluralism and multi-cultureism went terribly wrong.

Othaman and Ali were both married to Muhammed’s daughters and considered most righteous of caliphs. Founder of sunni fascist party Syed Abul Ala Maudaudi has written the detail of Othaman’s style of government, his massive corruption, what was doing to companions like Abu Dhar , Abdullah Bin Masood etc. After his murder, a section of companions revolted against Ali, Muhammed bin Abu Bakar , son of Abu Bakar , first Caliph of Sunnis was governor of Egypt from Ali’s side. Amr bin Aas, yet another companion invaded Egypt and conquered it. Muhammed bin Abu Baker was sewed in donkey’s hide and burned alive on his orders. Now these were the people who learned Islam directly from Muhammed and we are upset why Taliban are hanging people?

Yet another “Black Revolution”, which comes into my mind, is that of the Abbasids. The conquered Persians, slaves of the Arab feudals joined them in flocks; they raised “Black Flags” and stood up. The Umayyad authority was eroding rapidly due to dawa , the crowds cried listening to the stories of Kerbala. The black flags were to mourn the house of Muhammed , to avenge Hussein and Zaid , the Rose , who was crucified and whose body was not allowed to be removed from the cross. Than the day came, black flags entered the city, every Umayyad was murdered and all graves of Umayyad were dug and the remains crucified. People ask why Taliban crucified the body of Pir in Swat. Don’t they know it’s again a family tradition of our Islamic state?

I remember I once read a paper which spoke of evolution of Law in United Kingdom. The priests who spoke latin and wore black robes had monopoly on Law. After reformation, priests had to go and secular priests emerged with the same black robes who called each other “brothers”. Some say black robes to mourn the King became their symbol;

Islam and Secularism MIB

Islam and Secularism MIB

other says it helped them hide daggers in their dresses easily as the times were rough. The lawyers are the priests of the secular world. Rigid and obsessed with abstract texts like their predecessors. I once heard a line in my cultural studies class “Lawyers are the high priests of America”. Last time lawyers had our fate in their hands we ended with partition and one of the worse genocide in histories, 3 lawyers Jinnah , Gandhi and Nehru kept fighting on principles as the lawyers are trained to be and we entered into holocaust which now has a nuclear aspect.

Taliban in Long March

Taliban in Long March

Our great secular, democratic and progressive lawyers started a movement to make us enter into the utopia of modernism by boycotting the general election. “Justice”, “Justice” and “Justice” they cried, and made “Justice” the main issue of our national agenda. The prophets of democracy and constitution boycotted the parliament and refused to accept a constitutional amendment to solve the “justice” crisis. The stalwarts of legacy of Muhammed Ali Jinnah , started a long march with dherna [sit in] , the former was legacy of Communism and later was the tactic of Gandhi. Muhammed Ali Jinnah whom these people converted into an idol for their struggle never did a long march or dherna against the British, he preferred to deliver speeches in parliament and argue cases in courts. He never refused to plead a case in colonial courts saying “these courts are illegitimate”. That’s what Bhagat Singh [communist] and congressites use to do. Our lawyers were following him boycotting parliaments and courts. It was Gandhi which did a long march against the British, the famous “salt march” as it has become immortalized in history.

They wanted the court and justice of their liking and they got it by power. The prophets of constitutionalism actually got the “principle of power” approved they encouraged civil disobedience and snuffed out the illusion of state’s power. The dawn of justice came with the shameful collaboration with ISI , CIA and General Kiyani. One of the greatest ironies of history will be that a movement which was called nationalist and democratic resulted in re-establishing the principle of Army intervention in civil-political matters and encouragement of direct foreign involvement in Pakistani internal affairs.

a_nation_will_come-fromeastJustice is what Sufi Muhammed cries, he also wants his own justice, his own courts, his own law just as our lawyers wanted. Our lawyers forced the government by power of Army and civil disobedience of Punjabi bureaucracy. Sufi Muhammed has forced ANP with guns and inactivity and failure of Pak Army in Swat.

It’s the same principle at work here which our secular progressives established. The principle of power. Black is the color of flags of Sufi Muhammed and Black is the colour of his turban. For 2 years lawyers in the black robes dictated the national agenda. When the greatest looming threat to Pakistan was Islamic Fascism, Benazir Bhutto had fallen a victim to state agencies and its collaborators Islamic fascists, these secular priests created a smoke screen that greatest issue infront of Pakistan was restoration of Justice Iftikhar. They played in hands of Jamate Islami and PML-N who on their  shoulders demolished the Anti-Taliban agenda. These secular priests became the spoke persons of Ajmal Kasab and re-rehabilitated Pakistan Army and ISI and re-established their authority over democratic regime. Once they completely destroyed the credibility of the two parties who could fight Islamic fascism and Army, they started lamenting their concessions to victors.

They havnt said a single word against Army-ISI establishment who failed to fight the menace in Swat. All their guns are towards ANP and PPP. One wonders if PPP and ANP are such a great supporters of Islamic fascism why these two parties are the only parties being murdered by Taliban?. Why even after Nizam e Adal , ANP people are being murdered? Why Islamic fascism havnt striked Aitzaz Ahsan? Or Iftikhar Chaudhry or our English speaking bloggers whose only job is to defend ISI and condemn PPP and ANP?

Women in Black

Women in Black

They have cut the roots of the tree and now lament the lack of fruit. Before putting shame on PPP and ANP why don’t they say shame on the Army who couldnt block the FM station of Sufi or why General Shuja Pasha personally met Sufi in jail and brought him out? Why our glorious Army failed to defeat militants?

So, what tanks ANP has to fight? Hundreds of ANP activists have been murdered in Pakhtoonkhawa , when ANP was desperately giving SOS signals our secular priests were marching with PML-N and Jamate Islami who were telling the people Taliban are Patriots. So now enjoy the fruits of patriotism. The free judiciary released Evil of Red Mosque, yet another evil in black robes, The black Burqa . The great Supreme Court also re-affirmed the death penalty for Blasphemy, I once again salute Aitzaz Ahsan and Tahira Abdulla who restored democracy and justice through stick of General Kiyani and also restored our national sovereignty through Hillary Clinton and ambassador Holbrooke. My friend Raza Rumi called it “night bitten dawn”, so as Abbas Ather but this dawn is black. Black is this Dawn, or should I say Mirza Baidil Dehlvi is more appropriate who said “The night has passed but Dawn has not come”. Viva La Revolution, the Black Revolution———

Notes:

Illustration 1: The massacre of the Banu Qurayza. Detail from miniature painting The Prophet, Ali, and the Companions at the Massacre of the Prisoners of the Jewish Tribe of Beni Qurayzah, illustration of a 19th century text by Muhammad Rafi Bazil. Manuscript (17 folio 108b) now housed in the British Library. [With thanks Wiki]

Iluustration 2: Saying of Prophet Muhammed which forms the basis of alliance between Pakistan Army and Anti-India section of Islamic fascism . Translation : narrated by Hazrat Abdullah bin Masood (RA) that Prophet (SAW) said: “A Nation will come from the east with black flags and they will ask for some “Khair” (because of them being needy) but the people will not give them, then, they will fight and win over those people (who did not give them what they asked). Now the people will give them what they asked for but they will not accept it until they will hand it over to a person from my progeny who will fill this earth with justice just as it was previously filled with oppression and tyranny. So if anyone of you finds this nation (i.e. from the east with black flags) then you must join them even if you have to crawl over ice. This along with others is cited as evidence for alleged “Gizwa-e-Hind”. Islamic fascists of all creeds have therefor used Black Flags. Sufi Muhammed entered Swat with Black flags

3. Two verses form the inspiration for this post by great communist poet Zaheer Kashmiri which means “ Neither prophet hood nor the book has come from the sky , only thing which has come from sky is darkness—“ Second is by famous socialist poet Ahmad Faraz

Sub rasoolo’n ki kitaben taaq pur rakh du Faraz

Nafrato’n ke ye sahefe, ummer bhar dekhe ga kon

[Put all the scriptures of these prophets in the closet, who will read these texts of hate all his life]

osted by Shaheryar Ali

History and interpretation – Communalism and problems of historiography in India

by Irfan Habib*

IF one looks back at 1947 to find out in what ways it brought about changes in the approach to the medieval (that is, the post-ancient, pre-British, and, in much of earlier discourse, the ‘Muslim’) period of India’s history, a few major shifts of emphasis could, perhaps, be immediately identified.

First of all, Partition meant that the two communalist camps, Hindu and Muslim, found two different ‘national’ homes. Until 1947 there had been a running debate between the advocates of the two communities. But with 1947, the Muslim side in the communal historical debate shifted entirely to Pakistan, where in its seemingly final version, the history of ‘Muslims in India’ was now projected as a struggle for a separate nation right from A.D. 712, when Muhammad ibn Qasim entered Sind at the head of an Arab army. This was the reading of history pursued with much energy by the late Ishtiaq Husain Quraishi, and as recently as January this year the publication has been announced of a two-volume Road to Pakistan, its Vol.I comprising a 653-page account of “the period from A.D. 712 to 1858″, written by “eminent historians and scholars of Pakistan” and edited by Hakim Mohammad Said of Hamdard (Karachi).

In India, the contrary interpretation found its high priest in the well-known historian R. C. Majumdar. To him the entire period from c. 1200 onwards was one of foreign rule; Muslims were alien to Indian (Hindu) culture; the Hindus, oppressed and humiliated, wished nothing better than to slaughter “the Mlechhas” (Muslims); the British regime was a successor more civilised than “Muslim rule”; yet real opposition to the British came from Hindus, not Muslims, even in 1857; and, finally, the national movement’s course was throughout distorted by concessions made to Muslims by Gandhiji, who was so much personally to blame for Partition. This view runs like a red thread in the volumes of History and Culture of the Indian People (first volume issued 1951), published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan with financial assistance from the Government of India, and edited by R. C. Majumdar, whose great industry must extract admiration from his worst critics. (An early critic was D. D. Kosambi, who wrote that if Islam was so alien to India as the original patron of the series, K. M. Munshi, and its editor R. C. Majumdar thought, then they should have worried about their own “good Muslim professional names”!). Majumdar went on to author texts on the Rebellion of 1857 and the freedom movement in which the same stance was firmly maintained. Though after Majumdar’s death (1980), there has not appeared on the scene a historian of similar calibre in the Hindutva (or even the ’soft Hindutva’) camp, the often unproven hypotheses and inferences that he bequeathed have all become firm truths for a very large number of educated people in India.

It is not often perceived that both the Hindu and Muslim communal schools share a very large area of common ground. Both see the two religious communities as constant political entities, and, therefore, in effect, separate nations. The slogan “Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan”, raised by the pre-1947 forebears of the present Sangh parivar, was the exact counterpart of the “Pakistan” slogan of the Muslim League and both equally implied adherence to the Two-Nation theory. Often, therefore, in the historical writings of the two schools, the heroes and villains are simply interchanged, while large areas of history have been ignored by both.

THE mainstream nationalist tradition of historiography presented, in contrast, a much broader and critical view of history. This could be seen in two early works on medieval Indian history, namely, Tara Chand’s Influence of Islam on Indian Culture, and Mohammad Habib’s monograph on Mahmud of Ghaznin, both published in the 1920s. Nationalist historiography presented a consistent affirmation of the compositeness of India’s heritage. It also felt called upon to controvert the official British claim of improvement in Indian economic life that the colonial regime had brought about, in contrast to its ‘native’ predecessors. W.H. Moreland’s rather cautious statement of this case brought forth challenges from Brij Narain (1929) and Radhakamal Mukerji (1934), who presented favourable views of the economic performance of the Mughal Empire.

WITH Independence, new questions within this stream of historiography were generated. As the direct compulsions of debate with British imperialism receded, there developed a greater readiness to study the factors of change and stagnation in our past and to identify various internal economic, social and ideological contradictions. Inevitably, Marxist influences began to be felt, especially under the impact of the Soviet Union’s role in the Second World War and the lifting of the colonial ban on Marxist classics. In his Introduction to the Study of Indian History (1956), Kosambi fitted the medieval polities headed by Muslim rulers in his interpretation of “Indian feudalism”, by special reference to the process that he designated “feudalism from above”. To the cultural consequences of the Islamic intrusion he added the technological one, crediting “Islamic raiders” with “breaking hide-bound custom in the adoption and transmission of new techniques”. Almost simultaneously, in a notable 102-page text (1952), Mohammad Habib offered an interpretation of the Ghorian-Turkish conquests of the 13th century and the early Delhi Sultanate in economic terms, with much use of Marxian concepts. Although the numerous insights of both these historians remain of lasting value, their major achievement was really to pioneer the exploration of a practically virgin domain.

In the subsequent period, possibly owing to the difference in the main source-languages, there were two points to which Marxist-influenced research came separately to be directed. In his Indian Feudalism (1965), R. S. Sharma studied in detail the basic relationships in early medieval society down to the eve of the Ghorian conquests. He argued in favour of a “feudalism largely realising the surplus from peasants mainly in kind through superior rights in their land and through forced labour, which is not found on any considerable scale… after the Turkish conquest of India.” These conclusions were largely underlined for the period immediately preceding c. 1200 by B.N.S. Yadava (1973).

The other effort was directed to establishing what the later medieval class structures were like, whether different from those of the earlier period or not. Satish Chandra made an initial attempt to delineate the main features of the Mughal Indian political and social order (1959). I presented (1963) a detailed study of the agrarian system of Mughal India, in which I argued that there were two ruling classes, the centralised nobility and the dispersed landed gentry (zamindars); and that the Mughal Empire collapsed because of agrarian uprisings in which the zamindars utilised the desperation of the oppressed peasantry. In later writing (1969), I denied that the Mughal Empire had any potentialities for capitalistic development, despite a considerable presence of commodity production. The last thesis has been contested by Iqtidar A. Khan (1975), while S. Moosvi (1987) has patiently reworked the basic statistics in the Ain-i-Akbari on which all work on Mughal economic history must necessarily rely. M. Athar Ali (1966), emphasising the centralised nature of Mughal polity, and the ethnic and religious compositeness of the nobility, has argued against my thesis of an agrarian crisis in that Empire.

FROM the 1970s, historical research in Medieval India began to be influenced by two distinct but converging currents. Burton Stein (1980) applied the theory of “segmentary state”, evolved in African anthropology, to medieval South India, and this became a signal for its application, notably by A. Wink (1986), to both Mughal and Maratha sovereignty. The tendency here is to deny the historicity of the process of centralisation as well as systematisation in pre-colonial governments. The other current originated from Cambridge, with C.A. Bayly (1983), who, arguing for a continuity between the previous indigenous polities and the colonial regime, saw the operation of innovative “corporate groups” behind the Mughal imperial decline, groups that later shifted their loyalties to the East India Company. The Indian supporters of the Bayly thesis include Muzaffar Alam (1986) and S. Subrahmanyan. Neither thesis has been accepted by most Indian historians, and there has been a notable disavowal of both in the West itself, in J. F. Richards’s volume on the Mughal Empire in the New Cambridge History of India (1993).

The Indian (in part NRI) counterpart of the two western theories has been the “Subaltern” school, whose members have worked as a “collective” since 1982. Sharing the Cambridge School’s scepticism of Indian nationalism, these historians have emphasised “the cultural autonomy” of tribal and local communities, and protested against those (including such as are conveniently termed “Nehruvian Marxists”) who have assumed cultural syntheses and unifying factors to be an important element in Indian history. While the Subalterns’ work has been mainly concerned with the period of the national movement, their beliefs enmesh fairly well with the criticism of nationalist and Marxist historiography of pre-colonial India that historians like Stein and Bayly have initiated.

THAT different views on medieval India should be influenced by the individual historian’s subjective views of the contemporary world is only to be expected; these must, however, first meet the criterion of support from historical evidence. In fact, so long as new views appear and provoke a fresh or extended exploration of the historical documentation, one can only welcome the tendency not to take the given history on trust. But historical evidence must always remain the touchstone. A major problem today is that only a small and declining number of people in India have access to Persian, in which language so much of the source material of medieval India is to be found. Not only does this large body of material need to be studied, but the collection of documents in all languages has also to be encouraged, as well as local antiquarian and archaeological work. With every passing day the evidence on paper, metal or brick or stone is being destroyed. If the hand of destruction is to be stayed, the people’s interest in the country’s past needs to be aroused. In this effort all those who, without necessarily being professional historians themselves, have yet a care for all aspects and phases of our heritage, can play a most crucial part.

*Irfan Habib is leading, well-respected Indian historian. He was awarded Padma Bhushan for his great contributions to Indian history. He stood up to the BJP led project to communalize Indian History.

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