V.27: No.9-10 September October 1999 #316-317

Editorial Note, p. 1

"Secular and Democratic India on the Threshold of the New Millennium," Bipin Chandra, p. 3

"The Envisioning of a Nation: A Defence of the Idea of India," Irfan Habib, p. 18

"Thoughts on the Current Conjuncture from a Socialist Perspective," Prabhat Patnaik, p. 30

"Liberalisation and Hindutva: New Threats to National Unity," Prakash Karat, p. 42

"EMS on the Agrarian Question: Ground Rent and its Implications," Utsa Patnaik, p. 51

"The Politics of Culture," Aijaz Ahmad, p. 65

"Secular and Democratic Education," K.N. Panikkar, p. 70

Biswamoy Pati's review titled "Who is Afraid of Edward Said?" of Sumit Sarkar: Writing Social History, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1997, pp. 390; Rs. 495

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Editorial Note

All except one of the essays published in the current number of Social Scientist were originally presented at a seminar in Thiruvananthapuram organised on the first death anniversary of Comrade E.M.S.Namboodiripad. The lone exception is Utsa Patnaik's paper on "EMS on the Agrarian Question", which was presented at a seminar held in Perinthalmana, close to EMS's birth place, a few months after his death. Each paper in the present volume therefore is meant as a tribute to the memory of EMS, and bringing them together is a means of Social Scientist's paying its own tribute to him. The current number of the journal is designed to be a posthumous homage to Comrade EMS.

Utsa Patnaik's paper analyses EMS's views on the agrarian question based on his application of the Marxist theory of groundrent. His views were first set forth in his famous Minute of Dissent to the Malabar Tenancy Commission, which, together with the Bengal Provincial Kisan Sabha's Memorandum to the Floud Commission, constitutes one of the classics of communist writing on the Indian agrarian question. After nearly a half-century, he wrote a piece in one of the Marx Centenary volumes of Social Scientist (of which there were three), again looking at the agrarian question from the perspective of the theory of ground-rent, a piece which can also be seen as EMS's own contribution to the "Mode of Production" debate in India. Utsa Patnaik shows the remarkable consistency in EMS's views on the agrarian question over this halfcentury, and argues that this consistency in turn derives from the objective fact that, notwithstanding all the changes that have taken place in Indian agriculture, the basic democratic tasks on the agrarian front have not been accomplished.

All the other pieces deal, in one way or another, with the emergence of communal-fascism in our country: its implications, the distortions of history it resorts to in its attempt to legitimise itself, and its links with the current conjuncture. The articles are not of course exclusively devoted to this theme; they are quite wide-ranging. But this theme is one on which they all converge, and around it they make a set of points which are both insightful and instructive. Bipan Chandra's paper for instance categorically refutes the claim, which


one comes across so often, that secularism in the sense of a separation of politics from religion was rejected even by Gandhiji himself (which is supposed to show how "alien" it was in the Indian context). Irfan Habib traces the history of the "idea of India", i.e. of an inclusive notion of India transcending the particular universes of "the Hindus" or "the Muslims", or of this or that caste or region. He sees this idea taking shape and acquiring a conceptual substance over a long period, in contrast both to the communalists who deride this idea as being a mere latter-day manufacture, and to the colonial historians who (in an exactly similar vein) credit only colonialism with creating the conditions for the breaking down of particularities. The authentic realisation of this idea however requires, according to Prakash Karat, not only an ideological-political battle, but also a change in the material conditions of living of the people, the key to which lies in the democratic transformation of the agrarian relations, the unfinished task that EMS emphasised in writings spanning over half a century. An important component of this ideological battle is the struggle for the preservation and advance of secular-democratic education; K.N.Panikkar underscores the need for secular initiatives in this regard. Aijaz Ahmad draws attention to the immense brutalisation of day-to-day cultural life which has come in the wake of economic liberalisation, and which underlies inter alia the aggressive assertion of Hindutva. Prabhat Patnaik in a similar vein joins issue with those who see "liberalisation" as an antidote to communal-fascism; on the contrary, he argues, the two are dialectically related and proceed in tandem.

E.M.S. Namboodiripad fought for a secular, democratic and socialist India till his last breath. It is only appropriate that we pay our homage to him by taking up these very themes that engaged him so passionately.

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