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This article is written by Jaya Vats, from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, Delhi. In this article, the author discusses the political domination theory of Marx Weber and its applicability in India.


In Indian society, the central role of rank and power in social hierarchy remained perpetual. The status and control of Indian society have changed more rapidly than the overall social transition, given their relative stability. Status and power reviews demand a review of the current prospects particularly after the independence of India in 1947. Given their early adherence and later their opposition to communism, Marxism, and nationalism, they have often been reduced to an idealistic anti-Marxist faction of the Indian Left from the immediate post-independence period. Arguments for social democracy should, however, be updated. Not only does their work run parallel to certain significant developments in European left-wing culture, but it also can have a profound influence on the left-wing thought culture of the early to mid-twentieth century. In particular, their ideas provide a realistic alternative to Indian decline into one-sided caste politics and provide a timely case for a left-liberal policy of speech.

Marxist’s political domination theory

Marxist reports of the domination of the political class begin with the State and its direct and indirect roles in ensuring economic class dominance. The state is emphasized for a range of reasons. One is that, since market forces themselves can not safeguard all of the conditions necessary for the accumulation of capital and are susceptible to market failure, some mechanisms are necessary to underwrite it and over the market and compensate for failures. Marxists argue that the extra-economic conditions for rational economic calculation and, fortiori, the accumulation of capital are only guaranteed when the State can ensure adequate institutional integration and social cohesion. This requires a sovereign state, which is relatively free from certain class interests and which can articulate and promote a broader, more popular national interest. Where the project respects the crucial economic core of society, the state contributes to secure the dominance of the economic and political classes. There are three main Marxist approaches to the state are: 

  1. Instrumental approach, 
  2. Strategic approach, 
  3. Structuralist approach. 

Instrumentalists see the government primarily as a neutral tool for exercising political power: any class that controls this tool may use it to further its interests. Structuralists argue that the State is irrelevant because it encompasses a prerequisite to capital and the subaltern classes. And strategic-relative theorists claim that state power is a form-determined condensation of the balance of class powers in the struggle. In the case of the state system itself, contradictions and class conflicts inevitably collide and the political agents working within it often encounter opposition from other powers within the state that fight for their transformation or their policies, or simply to control them from a distance. There is no end to political class struggle if one supports this theory. The capitalist power bloc will preserve its relative unity in the face of competition and factionalism and sustain its supremacy (or at least its dominant dominion) over citizens only through continued renewal. And it is only through undermining the strategic selectivity of the capitalist state by mass mobilization at a distance from the state, within the state, and by transforming the state that a democratic transition to democratic socialism could be achieved.

Politics in India and its development

India’s independence is one of the world’s largest mass movements. It was attended by significant parts of people headed by the Indian National Congress. Although the start of the national movement in India has been different, the movement has its massive appeal and national character under the leadership of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, which was the first time the 1857 Revolt was considered to become a collective moment. A significant number of different viewpoints have been explored in the Indian national movement. Therefore, you have colonial rule apologists in India who interpret the struggle for Indian independence as a result of the requirements in India of different elite classes to organize a “mock war,” when, in reality, there is no fundamental contradiction in Indian interests with colonial leaders. 

The nationalist authors perceive it as an Indian people movement that arose and intensified as a result of the recognition of the inherently exploitative existence of colonialism by the people. Similarly, we also have a Marxist view of the Indian revolution, coming from a common world view of Marxist conceptions of economic class inequalities and historical interpretations. The focus of this unit is how Marxist historiographers of India view the Indian national revolution. However, we will seek to briefly understand the connection of classic Marxist philosophy to the concept of nationalism before we come to an understanding of Indian nationalism by Marxists. 

M.N. Roy and R. Palm Duttwere were the first Indian scholars to pursue a Marxist Indian policy analysis. The political system and movements were sought to be connected by Roy as well as Dutt with the economic structures. Political processes were viewed as part of a complex totality. The political process, which includes only political philosophy and significant political figures, was not seen by Roy and Dutt as totally autonomous. Sudipto Kaviraj, in commenting on Roy and Dutt’s contributions, wrote: “The non-political layers of political life are more important. There has also been a systemic understanding of history, not only a random collection of unrelated and largely unexplainable occurrences but also a complete sequence of socioeconomic systems.”

Thus, the intermixtures between the economic and the political processes are highlighted in Dutt and Roy. Dutt noted that imperialism has disrupted the normal process of transition from feudalism to capitalism in India. Imperialism has slowed down economic development and has delayed and complicated the transition process. Daniel Thorner also referred to this process as de-industrialization. Dutt also lived up to the contrasting complexity of the transformation phase. In the opinion of Kaviraj, Dutt was a Marxist thinker of a higher order than M.N. Roy. Roy. Roy was opposed to the radical view that he called “reactionary” and branded the liberals “progressive.” 

However, the use of the Marxist approach by both Dutt and Roy was not free from political thought. They both, however, prefaced the application of the Marxist method to Indian politics. Later on, in the course of Indian history and politics, J.Prakash Narian, and Narendra Dev took a modified Marxist analysis. The Marxist scholarship was much later developed. Kaviraj notes that political analysis is divided into three separate paradigms from the Marxist point of view. These paradigms fundamentally distinguish the social character of the indigenous state, the bourgeoisie, and the capacity of politics. Marxist ideology at the political and the academic stages, as expressed by the various Marxist parties and organizations, on the one hand, and orthodox and neo-Marxist texts, on the other, on the other. 

The term Marxist was unknown in Marx’s day. Once Marx said, “All I know is that I am not a Marxist.” Marxism is a universal whole, a systematic philosophy of evolution, accepting both nature and human culture. Marx himself regarded his theoretical work mainly as a criticism of the political economy for the revolutionary proletariat and as a materialist interpretation of history. This formulation was formed in deliberate contrast to a subjective-idealist view. As Marx shows, the state and properties are a representation of the real circumstances.

Marxist theory and nationalization

Marxism, as a theoretical structure for the study of societies, emphasizes the material relations of production and defines different historical epochs in terms of its main contradictions based on the relations of production, called class contradictions. Thus, within Marxist theory, the primary identity of an individual is his or her class identity. Since the aspirations of Marx and Engels were focused on class struggle, they did not place much emphasis on the topic of nationalism, which means uniting people through class boundaries and blunting class consciousness. But they could not completely disregard the historical events of the period and view the numerous nationalist movements within Europe. 

Although acknowledging that nationalist movements are often orchestrated by the capitalist classes, they argued that this is a necessary step in the direction of communism, because capitalist nationalism is the champion of capitalism in feudal societies. Marx and Engels, however, did not believe that the traditionally democratic existence of capitalism in comparison to feudalism would necessarily justify the support of a national movement. Rather, they stressed the need to make a political evaluation of the national movements in each case, to determine whether or not they merit help. Thus, during the revolutions of 1848 in Europe, Marx and Engels opposed the national movement of the Slavic people, the Serbs, the Croats, and the Czechs, claiming that these movements were counter-revolutionary for democratic social reform. 

Furthermore, their support for nationalist movements, wherever they existed, was on a political basis rather than on any underlying interest that they felt existed in national mobilizations. Rather, they assumed that with the globalization of capitalism, both in Europe and across the world, the importance of nation-states and movements for national freedom would be reduced. According to Marx and Engels, the true eradication of national injustice is possible not through liberalism, but only through socialism. At a later point, however, Marx and Engels spoke about the important role played by the capitalist nationalist revolutions in bringing about democratic freedoms, where the socialist revolution was not yet feasible. 

To deal with the national problem, Soviet Communist Vladimir Lenin said that we need to make a strong distinction between two phases of capitalism. The first era is an era of vanishing feudalism and absolutism when capitalist democratic societies and state institutions are established. According to Lenin, during this time, national movements are mass movements that attract all classes of the population to politics. The second phase was the most difficult. In the second century, the bourgeois state was fully developed and marked by long-established constitutional regimes. This period is also marked by a high degree of antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeois groups.

According to Lenin, to determine whether or not to lend support to a nationalist movement presents more difficult challenges for a Marxist in the second century. He points out some crucial questions that one must seek to find answers to before taking any action. 

  • First, there is a need to see if people applying for nationality rights are marginalized.
  • Secondly, we must ask if there was an awareness among the oppressed of being a country. The fact that such a consciousness exists exposes a nation’s true existence.
  • Third, but most particularly, socialists must ask themselves whether to serve the interests of the working class by joining this nationalist movement. 

In raising this question, Lenin pointed out that in the beginning, the leadership of a nationalist movement is always bourgeois; however, this marginalized capitalist lead is always largely focused on democratic material aimed at exploitation, and operates with its minority interest. He argued that the Marxists’ unconditional support for nationalist movements is only for this particular democratic substance.

The Indian Stage and Marxism

Several studies in power politics and political parties regarding the Indian state and class structure have been presented in post-independence periods in revealing Marx’s perspective on the interpretation of politics in India. The character of the Indian State is two-fold, as its political institutions, first, inspire the oppressed to engage in the electoral process, but, secondly, the elected government can not emancipate itself from poverty and dehumanization. The truth is that capitalist political parties are funded by the lowest parts of Indian society, and that is the irony and paradox of the Indian political system. When we look at the political situation in India today, it is clear that there is conflicting coexistence between democracy and capitalism. 

In the newly edited four volumes of T.V. Satyamurthy analyses the political dynamics of the modern Indian state, the economic policies of the Indian state, India as a civil society, with particular reference to the political and economic demands of the Indian people, and the development of classes and democratic change in India. The political transition trend is discussed in the many essays found in these volumes in terms of the evolving social and cultural divides and the Indian political system’s resilience to overcome a breakup and to achieve specific political and economic objectives. The main purpose of this volume is to emphasize the difference between the ruling elite’s political discourse and the resistance of the majority of people. 

Various political movements that are opposed to the rising hegemony of India and the Congress Party have been discussed. The key theme of the four volumes is the authoritarian nature of the state. Power politics in India has repercussions for people’s increased involvement. In particular, in the post-emergency era, much of the study focuses on the rise in political contradictions and conflicts. It was argued that political science in the so-called mainstream concerned the hierarchical frameworks and the established forms and conventional social categories. Satyamurthy states that it neglected the change of castes and the vital position that existing classes played and that new classes arose rapidly. 

In favour of the Marxian viewpoint, Satyamurthy argues that, in contrast to the bourgeoisie, the traditional political theory of Marxism provides analytical tools suited to understanding the pace and degree of change under the influence of dynamic forces. Satyamurthy, however, criticizes Indian academic Marxist political scientists for suffering from simplistic reductionism and formalistic jargonism, and for failing to produce new insights. Thus, according to Satyamurthy, mainstream political science has failed to identify the ongoing dialectical trend between the conflicting social and economic powers underlying the political phenomenon, and academic Marxist political science suffers from its general inability to disassociate the dialectical framework of rigid orthodoxy of the fragmented Indian Communist movement.

Marxism and the Indian political analysis

A macro-structural study of Indian society in general and Indian politics, particularly in the early years of post-independence, was undertaken by Charles Bettelheim, using the orthodox Marxist context, with the aid of concepts such as the bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie, the proletariat, the economic base and superstructure, the public and private sectors, the surplus-value, etc. Concerning the relationship between state power and citizens, Bettelheim addresses two key points and these are:

  1. The state is an instrument of repression and bureaucratic power, how repression and power take place depends on the class tensions, the degree of growth of the productive powers, the quality of education, and the social conscience of the different classes. State bureaucracy and its employees also have an impact on the functioning of the state. Since the Indian state inherited colonial heritage, it remained largely conservative, bureaucratic, and parliamentary.
  2. The current administration has not been remodelled since the independence of state organizations. Minor reforms were unable to remove the colonial legacy. A tendency, therefore, to imitate traditional forms of self-government.

Also, as Bettelheim adopts a more or less European party model structure, he criticizes the functioning of India’s political parties. He finds the Congress Party to be a ‘centre-left-wing party,’ and the socialist and communist parties to the further left, as well as other conservative parties and personalities. However, these religious contradictions and differences with India’s political parties are not easily discernible. Such a political division is shielding the Peculiar Character of Indian political life. It encompasses many feudal and semi-feudal economic and social relations. The Indian political parties must address state problems, economic controls, and agricultural issues. It is again possible to add that since the late 1960s the Indian political scene has changed a lot. In light of the dramatically different regional policies, political permutations, and combinations at the core many of the assumptions and conclusions offered by Betelheim ‘s study should be reformulated.

Recent developments in India’s political economy have negated the hypothesis of Bettelheim about state capitalism and economic power centralization in the Indian state. In particular, economic liberalization in the last five years has not only changed the essence and importance of India’s Five-Year Plans; the character of Indian state and Indian political foundations have also changed significantly. It is becoming a very small public sector, replacing multinationals. Trade unionism is now marginally weak. No more polluting arena of jobs for the private sector. A revitalized policy, along with economic liberalization and state weakening, has also prospered. Marxist interpretation is thus pursuing a dialectical understanding of politics. Within the objective conditions structurally established by the common mode of production at a certain junction in the historical history of a society, Marx looks at politics or the political sphere. Yet Marx remained essentially illegal in his treatment of politics. 

There is also no sovereignty in politics from the Marxist viewpoint. But in a specific historical context, there is considerable autonomy of the administration. However, the state is not independent of a class-divided society’s socio-economic system. The central importance of politics is therefore perceived to be a revolution. Political as a whole is a dynamic or historical equilibrium of social powers. Politics as a whole is a domain of real choices and possibilities and is thus devoid of consistency and predictability.

Criticism and development of the theory

The traditional Marxist historiography of the Indian National Movement, which adopted a narrow class perspective and economic determinism, was criticized by several later historians such as SN Mukherjee, Sumit Sarkar, and Bipan Chandra. SN Mukherjee argued that Indian nationalism was a dynamic phenomenon with many layers and definitions and that a reductionist class analysis could not be understood. He pointed out the importance of caste as a crucial factor along with that of class and showed that traditional political languages were used simultaneously with modern ones to organize the national movement of India. 

Sumit Sarkar, another Marxist who is critical of Dutt’s model, described it as a simplified version of Marx’s class approach in his book “The Swadeshi Movement in Bengal 1903-1908 (1973)”. Though Dutt spoke of the dominance of the “large bourgeoisie” in the moderate phase and the dominance of the “small petty bourgeoisie” in the militant phase of the national movement, Sarkar showed that a strong class distinction between the two phases was difficult to create and was non-existent at the leadership level. He further suggests that Dutt’s model of Marxist interpretation has the defect of “assuming an economic motive for political action and values to be too simple or blunt”  On the other hand, Sarkar puts in the forefront the Gramscian categories of ‘orthodox and’ organic intellectuals to describe the leadership of the national movement in India. According to Gramsci, the popular Italian Marxist activist, and theorist, organic intellectuals are those who are in direct touch with the people they lead because they are directly involved in the development process. 

Whereas a “traditional, open-minded intellectual is not specifically related either to the cycle of production or to the people they lead, but to become members of other classes by politically accepting the burden of those classes. Sarkar showed that the Indian nationalist leaders were “new intellectuals” rather than “organic intellectuals, and even though they came mainly from the existing educated classes, totally unconnected with the commercial or industrial bourgeoisie in the country after the 1850s, they were able to lead the bourgeoisie politically. These “traditional well-to-do intellectuals, despite having no personal bourgeois social background, helped to push the capitalist development of the country forward.


The definition of the Indian revolution is not without question, similar to any other developments in the social and political world. India is a plural society, and the involvement of people in the national movement, shaped by its social-cultural and economic context, irrespective of the movement in which they were active, no historiographical attempt is ever productive to paint a full and overall image of the National Movement. To understand the complex complexity of an occurrence like the Indian National Revolution, we need to keep our eyes open to recognizing the interplay of different ways of combat and resistance, with different social contexts and different directions, and with specific objectives.


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