V. 33.: No. 1-2, January-February 2005 #380-381
Editorial, p. 1
"The Communists and the Present," Prabhat Patnaik, p. 3
"Frontier Gandhi: Reflections on Muslim Nationalism in India," Aijaz Ahmad, p. 22
"In Defence of Orientalism: Critical Notes on Edward Said," Irfan Habib, p. 40
"Politics of Pedagogy in Public Health," Imrana Qadeer and K.R. Nayar, p. 47
Obituary: "Sachidananda Routroy," Biswamoy Pati, p. 76
Review Article: "Empirical search for the radical roots of the Bauhs," Atis Dasgupta, p. 80 (mainly of Jeanne Openshaw's book Seeking Bauls of Bengal, published by Cambridge University Press, first South Asian edition, in 2004, pages 288, price Rs. 295
"Budget 2005-200":Towards a Pro-People & Pro-Student Perspective," p. 87
Book Review: p. 91-95, Dipankar Sinha's review of a book titled The Trauma and the Triumph: Gender and Partition in Eastern India, edited by Jasodhara Bagchi and Subhoranjan Dasgupta, Stree, Kolkata, pp. i-xi + 272, Rs. 500
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India is one of the lew countries in the non-Communist third world which still has a strong Communist movement. A major reason for this abiding strength of the Communist movement here lies in the fact of its consistent and unwavering anti-imperialism which finds an echo in the deep anti-imperialism of the masses, rooted as much in the history of two centuries of colonial rule, as in the concrete experience ot impoverishment under the current imperialist onslaught that is euphemistically called "globalization". This, as the lead article by Prabhat Patnaik argues in the current number of Social Scientist, is indeed the historic role of the Communist movement in countries like ours in the current conjuncture. With the bourgeoisie, which had established hegemony over the anti-colonial struggle, now openly collaborating with imperialism, it is not only possible but indeed necessary for the Communists to provide leadership to the nation in its anti-imperialist struggle. Of course the current conjuncture is one where the contradiction between imperialism and what is called "terrorism" has a tendency to squeeze out all other forms of political praxis. But the only way to break out of this impasse is for the Communists to play their historic role and to mobilize the masses in an anti-imperialist struggle. Patnaik discusses at length the perception that should underlie such mobilization.
Aijaz Ahmad's inaugural lecture as the holder of the Khan Abdul Chalfar Khan Chair at Jamia Millia Islamia is not only a remarkably perceptive unravelling of the enigma that was Badshah Khan, but also an overview of the entire backdrop of separatist politics against which he conducted his political praxis. Of special interest is Ahmad's contrast between the political trajectories followed by Badshah Khan on the one hand and Jinnah on the other, the former a mass leader with strong links with the peasantry and an aversion to power and pelf, who remained committed to a vision of secular nationalism till the end despite being a deeply religious person, the latter a person with hardly any mass base to start with, who, despite starting out as a secular nationalist and having very little religious sentiments himself, progressively went down the path of communal-sectarian politics precisely because of being trapped within an elite discourse. Associated with this distinction is another one which Ahmad draws
p. 2 Social Scientist, Jan-Feb 2005
between two different notions of "Muslim nationalism", one referring to Muslims who subscribed to a pan-Indian nationalism, the other to those who nurtured the idea of Muslims being a nation in themselves. Badshah Khan and Jinnah represented the two types.
The richness of Ahmad's paper shows itself in the number of questions one is left asking at the end of it. Can a homogeneous term called "nationalism" be used to cover both "Indian nationalism" and "Hindu" or "Muslim nationalism"; or does the concept of a "Hindu" or "Muslim nationalism" represent a contradiction in terms, in the sense that such non-inclusive "nationalism" necessarily entails collaboration with imperialism and hence an utter incapacity to build any nation whatsoever? (The fact that bourgeois votaries of the inclusive nationalist project also betray it at some stage to collaborate with imperialism does not negate the centrality ol anti-imperialism for any nation-building project in the third world). Likewise, in talking indiscriminately about "elite discourses of nationalism" are we not in danger of losing sight of the central fact that the Congress did mobilize people against imperialism, while the League's role was to prevent the Muslim masses from joining the anti-imperialist struggle?
Edward Said who died recently was a passionate and intrepid advocate of the cause of the Palestinian people, and, for that reason, commanded respect in progressive quarters everywhere. Many of his theoretical positions however, notably on "Orientalism", are highly contentious lor any radical scholar. In making "Orientalism" a pejorative term synonymous with a colonial discourse and placing all writers from the West, including Karl Marx, as proponents ol this discourse, Said is doing a great disservice to the very people of the third world for whom he professes sympathy. Irfan Habib's paper provides a much-needed critique of Said's views on "Orientalism".
Finally, Imrana Qadeer and K.R.Nayar show how commoditization of health care and privatization of medical education are creating an altogether new situation where the peoples' suflering and lack of information are to be utilized for the purpose of private profit-making. One occasionally hears the view that the World Bank, being concerned with development, is a rather benign entity, unlike its Bretton Woods twin, the IMP, which acts blatantly as a loan-shark. Since much ol the health-care reforms are undertaken at the behest of the World Bank, this paper should serve to dispel all such illusions.
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