Social Scientist. v 23, no. 263-65 (April-June 1995) p. 1.


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editorial Note

is the lead article of the current number of Social Scientist we carry \e transcript of Professor Irfan Habib's Safdar^Hashmi memorial ?cture delivered at the end of 1994 evaluating Gandhi in the context of "ie National Movement. We consider this to be an important document:

: constitutes, whether one agrees with it or not, a clear, bold and ^rthright re-evaluation of Gandhi from within the Marxist tradition i the country. In fact it is probably the most comprehensive and far-saching sympathetic re-evaluation of Gandhi to have come out of this radition yet. Habib sees Gandhi as essentially a modem thinker, /ho, far from deriving his views from a reading of religious texts,. scribed to Hinduism principles which he thought were appropriate, nd in the process contributed substantially to a remoulding of it. He ^us accepted the position of traditional Hinduism only to undermine :, be it on the varna principle, or on the gender issue, or on monotheism. [^ so far as social reform was essential for the advance of the National tovement, Gandhfs was one path towards it, namely to work for these rforms through the language of Hinduism, while the Left's was the ther- path, the secular path to social reforms which rejected religion [together, and did not justify itself in the name of religion.

Likewise Habib joins issue with the tendency on the Left to denounce iandhi under the catch-all phrase of a "bourgeois" leader. One has to istinguish here between a person's intentions and the consequences of is actions. While the consequences of Gandhi's strategy would lead to consolidation of the bourgeois order, this would be despite his own ibjective intentions. It is also true that Gandhfs thought, anti-nperialist and subjectively anti-capitalist though it was, remained sentially within the bourgeois framework, since it could not anscend this framework to arrive at socialism. But these lalifications, these differentiating characteristics are important. abib would rather see Gandhi as representing one strand of classical >urgeois thought.

Habib's re-evaluation of Gandhi is important not just in its own ;ht; it is important because of the interpretation of the National wement which underlies it, an interpretation which is not new but is •asserted with force. Habib differs not only from the "subaltern"

Social Scientist, Vol. 23, Nos. 4-6, April-June 1995



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