Bengal: Rise and Growth of a Nationality
THIS ARTICLE deals with certain issues pertaining to the national question in India in relation to political-economic developments in Bengal before 1947. I begin by introducing certain concepts and a framework of analysis without an elaborate theoretical discussion.1 The nation-state was built in western Europe in the era of capitalism. In its historical archetype, it emerged out of feudalism in the course of a national movement led by a rising bourgeoisie and culminating in the bourgeois revolution. It was a movement which reflected the demands of a bourgeois class seeking to assume control of state power as well as of the home market, both defined territorially. In fact, a national movement., insofar as it is a bourgeois movement, has as its objective the creation of a sovereign nation state.
This political movement is necessarily armed with a political ideology—a nationalism, which identifies its supporters and its opponents. It is this range of support which defines the nation, that is those on whose behalf the bourgeoisie claims to lead the struggle. Hence, the specific identification of a nation by its proponents is dependent entirely upon the nature and strength of the class which leads a national movement, its expected sources of support, its opponents and the specific historical context within which the struggle has to be carried on.