Social Scientist. v 21, no. 240-41 (May-June 1993) p. 3.


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IRFAN HABIB

The Marxian Theory of Socialism and the Experience of Socialist Societies

It is a special mark of honour for me to be invited to deliver a lecture dedicated to the memory of Comrade P.C. Joshi, one of the pioneers of the Indian Communist movement. His name has come to be associated in my mind inseparably with some of my own vivid schoolboy memories of the forties: reading the news of the Red Army's defiance of Hitler: groping towards the source of its inspiration, the Bolshevik Revolution; introduction to Marxist literature, for the first time circulating in Tndia; encounter with its populariser, the Communist Party; People's War pictures of its General Secretary, P.C. Joshi ... I did not in fact see Comrade Joshi until 1954 (at Kanpur). Characteristically, he never failed to recognise me afterwards, when I met him on fewer than half a dozen occasions over the next two decades; and his affectionate friendliness was never diminished, though I could not agree with some of his views.

P.C. Joshi devoted his whole life to the Communist Movement; and he had a long, almost romantic attachment to the Soviet Union (in which, of course, he was not alone). He did not live to see the Soviet Union collapse and die, in what to many would seem practically an act of suicide. I have, therefore, felt that the theme most appropriate for the present lecture would be an analysis of the concept of socialist society as it has developed in Marxian theory, that is, in the classics (Marx and Engels), the writings of Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tse-tung, and the studies of Marxist economists, like Lange and Dobb. Very provisionally, an effort is made to scrutinise these theoretical writings and to pursue their logic. The theory is, then, sought to be checked with the historical experience of socialist societies, making free use of what we now know for certain about their past. On such a subject one can hardly claim to come up with novel illumination. My sole object is to identify and arrange the major questions. My own answers are throughout provisional and are made with much trepidation, though

* Centre of Advanced Study in History, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh.

Social Scientist, Vol. 21, Nos. 5-6, May-June, 1993



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