REVIEW ARTICLE / E.M.S. NAMBOODIRIPAD"
Classes and Class Struggle in Indian History
Irfan Habib, Essays in Indian History : Towards a Marxist Perception, Tulika , New Delhi, 1995, pp. x + 389, Rs. 450.00
When the Socialist-Communist ideology began to spread among our people, i(s opponents advanced two arguments against it. Firstly, that India is a land of spiritualism where materialism of either the capitalist or socialist-communist variety would not strike roots. Secondly, that conflicting classes and their struggle, which is the essence of the politics of Marxism, is alien to Indian society. Whatever social conflicts developed in India were of casteist or religious-communal character.
These two myths regarding Indian culture were exploded by the pioneers of Marxist theory as applied to the concrete conditions of India, Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya and D.D. Kosambi. In a series of original works beginning with Lokayata, Chattopadhyaya established that the struggle between spiritualism and materialism was as integral to the ancient Indian society as it was to the Greeks in Europe. He further established that in conflict were in fact two opposing classes—the exploiters and the exploited, championing spiritualism and materialism respectively. He also pointed out that the rise of Buddhism was indicative of the revolt of the exploited classes against the exploiting classes. The latter used the Vedanta philosophy in the furious ideological struggle against Buddhism. The defeat inflicted on the material philosophy championed by the representatives of the brahmana culture started the process of all-round stagnation of the arts and science which made India lag behind western Europe which had been less civilized than India in ancient times. His philosophical works thus constituted a stirring call for struggle against brahmana culture.
Debiprasad's historic discoveries concerning materialism in ancient India, which reflected the class struggle between the exploiting and exploited classes, was followed by the conclusion arrived at by D.D. Kosambi that India's socio-cultural development, like the developments in Greece and Rome, was the result of developments in
Polit Bureau, Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Social Scientist, Vol. 22, Nos. 9-12, September-December 1994