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John G. Wright

The Special Features of
India’s Agrarian Problem

(11 April 1950)

From The Militant, Vol. 6 No. 15, 11 April 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The agrarian problem in India assumes especially aggravated and peculiar forms owing to the preservation and reinforcement of feudal and semi-feudal conditions and regimes in the country.

In this respect India differs sharply from contemporary European countries like Rumania, Spain and others where vestiges of feudalism still survive and the agrarian problem still remains largely unsolved.

In these countries the landowning classes and the bourgeoisie are closely integrated and an equilibrium of class rule is established through a bloc of two classes. India is ruled by a bloc of three classes – the English imperialists, the feudal princes, the native bourgeoisie. This combination is far more unstable and far less flexible.

What is equally important is that in the backward European countries there is a degree of differentiation among the peasantry: their rural areas contain layers of middle-peasants side by side with an agricultural proletariat. Large scale agricultural enterprises while rare nevertheless do exist. Essentially the same thing was true of the former Czarist empire, just as it is true today of Japan. Even in a semi-colonial country like China the dissolution of feudal and semi-feudal relations, the integration of the landowners with the native bourgeoisie, and the differentiation among the peasantry long ago reached stages far beyond the conditions surviving in India today.

Large-scale farming is virtually unknown on this subcontinent. There are only the beginnings of an agricultural proletariat. As for a stratum of land-owning peasants, the English did for a time play around with the idea of fostering such a formation but nothing ever came of it.

In Czarist Russia the ruling classes (under the Minister Stolypin) attempted to forestall the agrarian revolution by the introduction of reforms which would permit the development of small-landowners, and thus provide a social base for the regime in the countryside. Although the serfs had been emancipated and although only vestiges of feudal conditions actually remained in Russia, the attempt proved abortive. The very same phenomenon is to be observed today in Japan.

However, the measures applied in Czarist Russia and in Mikado’s Japan are revolutionary by comparison with the “reforms” instituted by the English or those advocated by the native Indian bourgeoisie. These “reforms” come down in all cases to nothing more than promises to alleviate the burdens of the Indian peasants through slight lowering of taxes, rent, usury rates, etc.

In other words, the agrarian problem is far more acute in India than in any other major sector of world economy in the epoch of imperialist decay. This distinguishing feature of the Indian revolution will undoubtedly play a vital role in the development of events. What will be the general trend of these events?

The closest approximation to the condition of the Indian peasantry is to be found not in such countries as Czarist Russia, or Rumania, or Japan or even China but rather in a country like France of 1789, i.e., on the eve of the Great French Revolution. The likelihood therefore is that the unfolding Indian revolution will combine in a complex way the features of the Great French Revolution (1789–93) with those of the Russian Revolution (1905, February 1917 and October 1917).


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