KALYAN DAS GUPTA*
Marx, Chernyshevskii and the Theory of Historical Expediency in Social Transformation
THE PURPOSE of this paper is to trace the roots of what I call 'the Theory of Historical Expediency' as a framework for social transformation from one mode of production to another. As we know, Marx in the last decade of his life was making serious efforts to understand the problematics of this transformation in erstwhile backward countries, or rather in countries outside developed Western Europe. The crucial question at this stage in his mind was: would these countries have to traverse a nece&sitarian path towards the final goal of socialism as part of the process of an inexorable law? Or was there a possibility and even, perhaps, necessity of 'bypassing capitalism' as a strategy of transformation? In this endeavour he leaned considerably on the ideas of N G Chernyshevskii (1828-1889).
The revolutionary transformations that have taken place in various parts of the present-day world could be designated as the translation of 'the Theory of Historical Expediency' rather than of 'Historical Inevitability' into reality, although there are certain overlapping areas of action between these two. A theory of transformation must have its political economy, which takes account of the logical necessity of 'expediency' as an important component. It is the view of this author that Chernyshevskii provided this political economy as part of bis general theory of development, which provided the first impetus to Marx for a rethinking of his own views. Of course, the nature of the development of capitalism with its signs of relative stability in Western Europe was also a pointer to the need for a careful re-examination of his thesis of 'historical inevitability' and for an attempt to identify the domain of its applicability. In spite of the recognition of the necessity of deriving a new theory, Marx could not complete his formulation owin^ to various factors including compelling reasons of personal ill-health. In the first part of the paper a brief exposition of Chernyshevskii's theory of 'bypassing capitalism' has been attempted. While doing so, its dialectical
^Professor, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune.