Social Scientist. v 7, no. 83 (June 1979) p. 66.


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BOOK REVIEW

Bourgeois Historiography and the Peasant Question

M H SmmQui, AGRARIAN UNREST IN NORTH INDIA: THE UNITED PROVINCES (1918-22), Vikas Publishing House, 1978, pp 247, Rs 60.

THIS book starts off promisingly when, in his introduction, the author notes that "the peasantry has been a subject of much discussion among political activists and academics for a century. The ideas regarding its place in the different modes of production and its importance as support for political movements have been formulated by Marx, Lenin, Mao Tse-tung and many others.551 However, from the very start, in spite of his u^ing the name of these great revolutionary theorists as a sort of invocation, his approach is purely academic, and he fails to achieve his objective on a number of counts.

First, unlike the history of peasant movements in China and Russia, he is dealing with a peasant upsurge that was largely abortive. The study of such an upsurge of classes that have not seized state power, or a share in it, is extremely difficult, for, as Gramsci has noted, ^the history of subaltern social groups is necessarily fragmented and episodic. There undoubtedly does exist a tendency to unification in the historical activity of these groups, but this tendency is continually interrupted by the activity of the ruling groups; it therefore can only be demonstrated when an historical cycle is »completed and this cycle culminates m success. Subaltern groups are always subject to the activity of ruling groups, even when they rebel and rise up: only permanent^ victory breaks their subordination, and that too not immediately. In reality, even when they appear triumphant, the subaltern groups are merely anxious to defend themselves .... Every'trace of independent action on the part of subaltern groups should therefore be of incalculable value for the integral historian. Consequently this kind of



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