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Mainstream, VOL LV No 1 New Delhi December 24, 2016 - ANNUAL 2016

Historical Materialism and a Relook at the “Tribal Question” in India

Monday 26 December 2016

by Murzban Jal

The overthrow of mother right was the world-historic defeat of the female sex. The man seized the reigns of the house also; the woman was degraded, enthralled, the slave of the man’s lust, a mere instrument for breeding children.
—Frederick Engels, The Origin of Private Property, Family and the State 

Much that is written about the caste system has reference mostly to the caste system among the Savarna Hindus. Very little is known about the Avarna Hindus. Who are the Avarna Hindus, what is their position in Hindu society, how are they related to the Savarna Hindus are questions to which no attention has been paid. I am sure that without considering these questions no one can get a true picture of the social structure the Hindus have built. To leave out the class cleavage between the Savarna Hindus and the Avrana Hindus is to relate to Grimm’s Fairy Tale which leaves out the witches, the goblins and the ogres. —B.R. Ambedkar, Symbols of Hinduism

On the “Tribal Question”

The “Tribal Question” like the “Jewish Question” in the nineteenth and twentieth century and now the “Muslim Question” in the age of imperialist Islamophobia, is a question of utmost importance. If we live in the age of imperialist Islamophobia where the ruling political elite have now aligned with the Zionist project of American imperialism, where Indian patriotism is measured with how much one can curse Pakistan and how much one can celebrate imaginary “surgical strikes” against imagined terrorists, we also live in the age of neoliberal finance capitalism where both agricultural lands and forests are being occupied by finance capitalists. And since the Indian state sees anyone opposing their neoliberal projects of so-called ‘development’ as terrorists, the under-standing of the “tribal question” gains utmost importance.

The “Jewish Question” gave birth to Nazism and Zionism, what would the “Tribal Question” give birth to? And since the Indian state, once headed by the liberal democrat Dr Manmohan Singh, declared the struggles of the rights of tribals in India as terrorism of the highest order (‘‘the single biggest internal-security challenge ever faced by our country’’—to quote the good doctor), and also since the Indian state is now in the hands of the totalitarian managers of global capitalism who are militarising the South Asian region and who shall very soon escalate state-sponsored violence in the neoliberal occupation of forest lands, one needs to address this “Tribal Question”.

Science at the Margins

Honestly speaking democratic politics and radical social sciences in India are at the margins. The condition of being ‘marginal’ is also like the condition of the woman that Engels talked of, seized by the patriarch and degraded as a mere instrument of lust. But the social sciences are also like Ambedkar’s narrative of the hidden Avarnas (—the ati-Shudras or those labouring communities that stand outside the Hindu four-fold caste system—those who are unknown and unspoken of). To speak of India devoid of the “class cleavage”1 between the Savarnas and Avarnas is thus like a horror driven nursery tale devoid of its witches, goblins and ogres. The witches, goblins and ogres are of course the ruling twice-born elites haunting India. One has therefore to talk of this “class cleavage” in order that the witches of Indian history may soon vaporize into the pre-history of free humanity.

In contrast to this very uncanny structure that leaves out the question of class in the understanding of the “Tribal Question” in particular and the social sciences in general, we have to create a type of Subaltern Studies inspired by Jyotiba Phule, Marx, Lenin, Ambedkar and Frantz Fanon,2 studies which are always rooted in the margins of the social sciences, but which continuously question and attack the centre of hegemonic discourses.

This is not merely because this genre of New Subaltern Studies locates itself in the proble-matic of marginalised communities, but primarily because the centre of social sciences is in the last resort determined by a form of academic imperialism and false consciousness. Colonial ethnography and the consequent government policies in independent India that grew from the cranium of colonial ethnography could be the best example of this form of academic imperialism. The study of tribes would be a good example of this academic imperialism. A ghost is haunting the Indian social sciences, the ghost of academic imperialism. And the state’s waging of war against tribal rights is a logical continuity of economic, ideological and political imperia-lism. Let us look at the ghost of imperialism. Let us also try to exorcise it.

In 2010 Kevin Anderson published his Marx at the Margins. On Nationalism, Ethnicity and Non-Western Societies.3 This work challenged not only colonial and Eurocentric discourses inherent in global social sciences, but also challenged Euro-centric methodologies inherent in anti-imperia-list and anti-elite social sciences, including some forms of Marxist studies. “Margins”, in this sense, is not only a metaphor for an overthrow of academic imperialism, but is primary an epistemic space that locates the scientific under-standing of non-Western subaltern societies.

Academic imperialism prevails in India for a number of reasons. They are:

1. The inability of the Indian subcontinent to create a class of organic intellectuals (prior to the advent of colonialism) that was free from the ideology of Caste Oligarchy and the Asiatic mode of production with its bureau-cratic state apparatus and so-called ‘spiritua-list’ ideology that prevented the growth of radical sciences and the class of radical-subaltern scientists that could have over-thrown Brahmanical caste ideology.

2. The colonial legacy in modern India where the Anglican heritage that grew from the Macaulayean contempt for Asian societies (the James Mill-inspired writing of Indian history being one prominent form of this contempt for Indian subaltern classes) divided history into the following phantas-magorical epochs: Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and British followed by the colonial-imperialist taxonomical methodologies. The Census (that first came up in 1871-2) by 1901 under Herbert Risley took a racist form since subaltern masses in general and tribals in particular were classified there as the “hostile other”.

3. The elite-nativist response to colonialism that culminated in the Hindutva school of thought.

4. The school of what I call the “Established Left” that published in the name of Marxism (or to be precise Marxism devoid of Marx) that did not take the idea of multilinear history from Marx’s original repertoire. This school then wrongly conceptualised on a universal theory of history governed by “iron laws” which divided history into the following stages: primitive communism, slave society, feudalism, capitalism.......What one could call the “Tribal Question” was concep-tualised very mechanically in this unilinear view of history. Both Marx’s way of doing philosophy as he outlined in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and his Ethnological Notebooks were not included in scientific studies. R.S. Sharma’s theory of “Indian feudalism” is taken as the basis of the Left-inspired social sciences and both the tribes and castes are located in this unilinear idea of history. In contrast to this unilinear theory of history, the most informed work on Marx’s evolution of thought with regards non-Western societies, is Anderson’s Marx at the Margins, which postulates a multilinear and non-reductionist reading of Marx where Marx is said to have “analysed the comple-xities and differences of non-Western societies, and to have refused to bind himself into a single model of development or revolution”.4

But it is not merely the case that colonial ethnography along with Right-wing nativist tradition and the Established Left understanding of history that pushed the tribal question into the backwaters of human pre-history and scientific reasoning. The master narrative that developed in the Indian social sciences was an implantation of elite Brahmanical consciousness (Georg Lukacs’ “reified consciousness” and Gopal Guru’s “theoretical Brahmans and empirical Shudras”) within the social sciences that brought about a form of “scientific blindness”. What this master narrative of caste did, that as “enclosed class” system (as brilliantly pointed out by Ambedkar in his Castes in India), it created an enclosed class of scientific reasoning.

What also happened is that the three features of the caste system were brought in the domain of the social sciences. Let us have a look at them:

1. Since caste is understood as an enclosed, ossified and petrified class that is reified as a closed clan system with its parasitical bureaucratic system, it gave birth (and still gives birth) to an enclosed process of bureaucratic thinking. While caste manifested (and yet manifests) itself as a clan system, it created (and now also creates) the structures of extreme hierarchy, where the “division of laboureres” and “graded inequality”, essential features of the caste system, gave birth (and yet gives birth) to a division within scientific thought, whereby social sciences as a holistic and unified discipline could not develop, and in these conditions can never develop. Graded inequality, the sine qua non, of caste hierarchy gave rise to graded inequality in the sciences, whereby sociology, economics, political sciences, anthropology, etc., all fell in the sway of a divided science. In this process none of the social sciences can see eye to eye. The totem of purity and the taboo of pollution that rule the ideological guidelines of Caste Oligarchy, with economic and cultural stagnation as its two main pillars, got manifested in the social sciences. Each of the social sciences disciplines imagined that it was ‘pure’. Stagnancy in scientific thought was bound to happen.

2. I have pointed out a number of times that though caste is not equivalent to race, casteism is racism, albeit racism of a South Asian variety. What happens is that a form of racism creeps into the social sciences where the idea of race and racial superiority, along with the now known pseudo-science of eugenics form the epistemic sites of its alleged scientific structure. Herbert Risley (with his 1901 Census) and all the methods of categorizing people on racial grounds formed the basis of understanding the Indian population in colonial India. Sadly independent India never challenged this racist colonial methodology. It merely supplemented the superior status of the British colonial authorities with the now imagined superiority of the caste elites. Dalits and tribals were bound to become the “hellish other” in independent India. And when asked for democratic rights, the Indian state, true to its colonial logic, classified them as terrorists.

3. Since the caste system is a form of “neurosis-psychosis” (emerging from enclosed thinking)—an idea that I have kept central to my Why We Are Not Hindus)—the creation of the ideology of “neurosis-psychosis” in the social sciences was bound to occur. This form of “neurosis-psychosis” in the sciences and the public sphere is unable to generate critical thinking and a democratic culture. This stubborn refusal to create a democratic culture pushes the understanding of tribes in India as criminals and terrorists. The main thing that this new form of cultural illness does, is that it breeds contempt for other social groups.

In fact it is this structure of (1) enclosed thinking dominated by academic imperialism and the academic rituals emerging thereon, (2) Right-wing racist nativism, and (3) academic neurosis-psychosis which dominates our under-standing of all the subaltern groups in general and the tribal question in particular. The question of “Criminal Tribes” identified by the British colonial state after the collapse of the Asiatic Mughal state and the dislocation of producing communities from the Asiatic mode of production has now to be looked from both: (1) the enclosed-ritualistic-neurotic perspective, as well as from (2) the process in which crime has itself become a mode of production.One must note how for early capitalism in India the defining of labouring communities as ‘criminals’ took place. Also note how in the present era these communities are being defined as ‘terrorists’.  

It was in 1871 that the present De-notified Tribes (DNTs), also known as Vimukta Jati, were listed under the Criminal tribes Act. This classification was a complete misnomer. For the colonial authorities “tribes” and “castes” meant the “hostile other” that they constructed in their Orientalist imagination. What they could not classify as exotic, became criminal for them. All members of these so-called “criminal tribes” had to register with the local magistrate. It was declared a crime under the Indian Penal Code if they failed to register with the local magistrate. Though the Criminal Tribes Act of 1952 repealed this notification as being ‘criminal’, or in other words “de-notified” them, they are treated as ‘hostile’ people. In slums where they usually reside, their location is marked (even by the popular classes) as “dangerous areas”. These communities are now treated a “habitual offenders”.

But what is not recognised is that the alleged ‘criminality’ constructed (even in popular imagination) is to be seen as part of the Indian capitalist economy. Note the chain of crime as economic activity which further develops accumulation of capital:

The effects of the criminal on the development of productive power can be shown in detail. Would locks ever have reached their present degree of excellence had there been no thieves? Would the making of bank-notes have reached its present perfection had there been no forgers? Would the microscope have found its way into the sphere of ordinary commerce but for trading frauds? Doesn’t practical chemistry owe just as much to adulteration of commodities and the efforts to show it up as to the honest zeal for production? Crime, through its constantly new methods of attack on property, constantly calls into being new methods of defence, and so is as productive as strikes for the invention of machines. And if one leaves the sphere of private crime: would the world-market ever have come into being but for national crime? Indeed, would even the nations have arisen? And hasn’t the Tree of Sin been at the same time the Tree of Knowledge ever since the time of Adam?5

Somewhere else I had talked of how crime and violence become essential activities of capitalism as well as forms of spectacles that themselves become reified as commodities for sale in the international market.6 The so-called “criminal tribes” of India, despite being removed from the list of criminality, remain so even in independent India. This form of spectacle created by the Indian state against the subaltern classes becomes what Walter Benjamin called the “metaphysics of the provocateur”.7 What one gets is a terrible cycle of the commoditisation process—capitalism creates unemployment, unemployment creates crime, crime recharges capitalism by recreating the police system, lawyers and the prison system. One now has the following picture where we see how capitalism necessarily creates the “estranged other”, especially the figure of the imagined ‘criminal-terrorist’. This ‘criminal’, this ‘terrorist’ as the “hostile other” is internal to capitalism. Capitalism needs this other, needs this imagined criminal and terrorist. Capitalism needs this criminal-terrorist for its very survival, as well needs it for its essential aspect of its mode of production. To recall Marx, “the criminal produces not only crime but also criminal law, and with this also the professor who gives lectures on criminal law and in addition to this the inevitable compendium in which this same professor throws his lectures onto the general market as ‘commodities’”.8 The cycle is long and necessarily intertwined. This imagined criminal/terrorist also becomes part of the Culture Industry of neo-liberal capitalism by producing “an impression, partly moral and partly tragic”, “by arousing the moral and aesthetic feelings of the public” producing “not only penal codes and along with them legislators in this field, but also art, belles-lettres, novels, and even tragedies”.9 Look at Arnab Goswami and Times Now Channel and you will see how this tragicomedy is being enacted by the neoliberal Media Industry. Secularism, so this Media Industry says, is “pseudo-secularism”. Socialism, so the ghostly voices speak once again, is nothing but an outdated ideology that can give rise only to Left-wing terrorism.

In contrast to these above motioned which have reified humanity as terrorists and ideatio-nally produced communities as ‘criminal’, what we are doing is going into the margins of ethnography. The idea of margins is important for two reasons: one that is scientific which understands non-Western societies from a multilinear view of history and thus breaks the hegemony of the positivist model that locates tribes as not a part of living history of humanity. What Marx so famously said is that one need not go into the “stages theory” of history where tribal society is located in the backyards of alleged primitivism, destined to go through capitalism to get ‘developed’. Marx says that capitalism is not an inevitable mode of production and one could skip capitalism’s “dreadful vicissitudes”.10 For one, the misinter-pretation of Marxism as the march-past of ‘iron laws’ independent of human will and conscious that was popularized by Stalinism had to be corrected, from a law-centric project to a human-centric project. Here one finds societies that are not capitalist—the pre-capitalist ager publicus (public lands) of Grundrisse—which are ‘ripe’ for the direct struggle for communism. One here recalls Marx’s correspondence with the Russian revolu-tionary, Vera Zasulich. Note how Marx is defending the ancient communes against capita-list development:

One should be on one’s guard when reading the histories of primitive communities written by bourgeois historians. They do not stop at anything, even outright distortion. Sir Henry Maine, for example, who was an ardent active supporter of the British Government in its policy of destroying Indian communes by force, tells us hypocritically that all noble efforts on the part of the government to support these communes were thwarted by the elementary force of these laws! 11

The present situation of labeling political activism in forests as ‘terrorism’ is a product of the policy of liberalisation of the economy and the fascistisation of politics. Both the liberal democrats and the fascists of neoliberal capitalism are the Henry Maines of the twenty-first century.

A Note on the Study of the “Tribal Question” in India

Alongside the above points on enclosed academic thinking, there are two main methodological streams are present in modern academics in India in relation to the study of tribes. These two methodologies historically follow the colonial taxonomical-ethnography made by the Orientalist understanding of India. These are the anthropological and sociological methods that tend by and large to be descriptive. The historical materialist method initiated by D.D. Kosambi which probably reached its zenith in the works of Sharad Patil is largely unused. Marx’s Ethnological Notebooks is of course never read. By and large it is the anthropological and sociological methodologies that are prevalent in Indian academics. That is why the colonial baggage is obvious in contemporary social sciences in India with regards the tribal question.

If sociology is a study of modern society (Gesellschaft as distinct from Gemeinschaft or “community” made famous by Ferdinand Tonnies), anthropology has inevitably the study of the “other”, to be precise the study of the uncivilized other. The subjects of study—the nomadic tribes—are either savages or barbarians. To be condemned as ‘criminal’ would be the fate of what one may call after Hegel as the “cunning of reason” of this colonial inspired ethnography. And if the tribes are not caught in barbarous conditions involved in criminal acts, then they are understood as pre-modern timeless fetishes that has somehow escaped civilisation. Even if the colonial baggage is shrugged off, a form of empiricisation is obvious. The question of authentic science of what one may call the “Tribal Question” is always missing. And this is because the question is not located in concrete history. In Indian anthropology, especially in the study of tribes, the studies of Lewis Henry Morgan are almost absent. And when Morgan is referred to it is only through Engels’ The Origin of Family, Private Property and State. Even this text would be referred only as a text highly contaminated by the Stalinist counterrevolution which claimed that all people of the world were condemned to pass through all the stages of history, just as child was condemned to become a teenager before entering into full adulthood. The followers of the “stages theory” forgot that “history does nothing”,12 that is, abstract history devoid of real people. Instead (to recall Marx once again) it is the “human, real, living humanity who does all that, who possess all that; ‘history’, is not, as it were, a person apart, using humanity as a means to achieve itsown aims; history is nothingbut human activity pursuing its aims”.13

The main problem is that the science of history is not understood as historical materia-lism where the interface between the economic base of society and the political and ideological superstructure is seen in the context of proper history itself. The scientific question thus is of the dissolution of the ancient commune (the so-called “primitive communist society”) and the understanding of the triumph of so-called ‘civilization’ with its terrible apparatuses of private property, the patriarchal family structure and the authoritarian state governing society. A proper analysis of these ancient communes, their dissolution and their survivals in modern society has to be done.

In The German Ideology Marx and Engels say that the “first form of property is tribal property [Stammeigentum]”.14 Stamm properly speaking should be read as gens (Sanskrit: gana—from whence the term “gynocracy” emerges). Any attempt to thrust a teleological reading on history, or to impose the fiction of “iron laws” of history that run from ‘underdevelopment’ to ‘development’ would be false. In the celebrated letter to Zasulich that we referred to, Marx says (quoting Morgan) that “”the new system” towards which modern society is tending “will be a revival in a superior form” of an “archaic type of society”.15 Marx continues: “One should not be too afraid of the word ‘archaic’.”16

Method: Dialectical and Historical-humanist Materialism

In the same letter Marx talks of the “vitality of primitive communes (which) was greater than that of the Semitic, Greek and Roman societies, etc., and a fortiori than that of modern capitalist societies”.17 That is why it is important to understand that the social sciences are not merely to be defined in the genre of dialectical and historical materialism, but defined such that they include humanity at its centre. Thus it is necessary to talk of dialectical and historical-humanist materialism that questions the idea of development (as automatic teleological move-ment) itself. What we need to do is to question the idea of capitalist development which by robbing tribals of their land claims to bring in ‘development’ by ‘rescuing’ them from their alleged ‘primitive’ status. But one also needs to critique the Stalinist model of unilinear history which merely replaces the word “capitalist” with the word “socialist”. For both (capitalists and socialists who have never bothered to understand Marx), tribals are essentially primitive and can only serve as museum pieces.

Probably no methodological statement could be as sharp and to the point as Antonio Gramsci when he defined science (or to be precise the science of Marxism) as historicism and huma-nism. What historicism and humanism has done is that it has taken a different look at history from that of the view of history that was present not only in the type of positivist historiography and historical methodology outlined by both American anthropologists and Soviet historians, but prevailing in global sociology.18 The reason is that in Asian social sciences, the universities could not shake off the yoke of positivist methods on the one hand, and Eurocentric models of explanation on the other hand. Either the unchallenged Anglo-Saxon models have taken roots in the Indian social sciences, or simple nativist reactions been appro-priated by Right-wing ideologists.

This is because the dominant methodology prevailing in the Indian social sciences (especially in the discipline of anthropology which has not shaken the yoke of Orientalism) is the colonial system of education that had been thrusted on the Indian subcontinent. We encounter two incorrect theoretical problematic: the positivist one and the colonial ethnographical one. Probably no other discipline than the anthro-pology of the “Tribal Question” has affected the social sciences the most.

One thus needs to stress on the transcendence of the positivist and empiricist ethnographical problematic. One needs thus to mention what Marx studied in the late 1870s and early 1880s and which came out in the form of the Ethnological Notebooks (published for the first time only in 1974 by Lawrence Krader). Marx’s Ethnological Notebooks involves quite another picture to the study of the “Tribal Question”. This new study talks of a Direct Socialism. The Indian revolution will not be a New Democratic Revolution or other such teleological species (views held by the CPI, CPI-M and the Maoists). The revolution will be a Direct CommunistRevolution where the revolutionary archaic and the modern meet as the New Modernity. Strangely in India, Marx’s radical text, the Ethnological Notebooks, is hardly referred to. Irfan Habib one of the greatest Marxist scholars had said that these Notebooks, are “not available to me”.19 Our theoretical problematic offers quite another picture to Indian ethnography, even a different one than offered by D.D. Kosambi, Sharad Patil, Virginius Xaxa, Sumit Guha and Syed Farid Alatas. Besides Marx’s EthnologicalNotebooks, the theoretical space offered by Kevin Anderson’s, Marx at the Margins (where we have a nuanced reading of Marx’s understanding of non-Western societies) opens a different perspective of understanding combined and uneven development in India. One also needs to refer to Harbans Mukhia,20 Aijaz Ahmad,21 and Iqbal Husain22 for alternative understanding of subaltern Indian history. What this new understanding will do is that it will take various sections of the subaltern masses like the nomadic communities which have been classified as (1) pastorals and hunter-gathers, (2) goods and service nomads, (3) entertainers, and (4) religious performers23 directly into the genre of Direct CommunistRevolution. They will not be appen-dages to some mystical vanguard.

Fate has been unkind to these subaltern communities and unlike Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, they get almost no protection by law. And when they confront law, they confront it as ‘terrorists’. Struggle for recognition is another factor. The state remains blind to their existence and fate. Many of these subaltern communities are located as DNTs (De-notified and Nomadic Tribes). Their condition varies from state to state. The Pardhis, Kanjarbhats, Shkilgars, Gadi Lohars, Ramoshis, Ghisadis, Dhangars, Vaddari, Beldars, Vaidus, Kolhatis, Uchalies, Ghantichors, Makadwales are left to the mercy of the onslaught of capitalism and the state that refuses to decolonize itself.

While the liberals claim that what needs to be done is to sensitize policy makers and the public at large for inclusive models of development that preserves their culture and heritage and yet emancipates then from hunger and penury, what actually needs being done is relate the modern and the archaic that we talked of earlier which heralds in Direct Communism.

It is in this recalling of the ‘archaic’ (to be precise the revolutionary archaic) that one recalls the witches and hobgoblins of history. One also recalls the spectre of communism that haunted once Old Europe. In this recalling of the spectre of communism, one will see that the latest struggle in India will be the struggle between the witches and hobgoblins led by the neoliberals and the Indian fascists, on the one hand, and the spectre of communism, on the other hand.


1. ‘The term “class cleavage” is Ambedkar’s from his proposed work Can I be a Hindu? Only one chapter was written namely, ‘Symbols of Hinduism’. See The Essential Writings of B.R. Ambedkar, ed Valerine Rodrigues, p. 105. Also see ‘Symbols of Hinduism’, in B.R. Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, Vol. 3 (Bombay: Education Department, Government of Maharashtra, 1987), compiled by Vasant Moon, p. 147-8.

2. The subaltern from the subaltern studies that I am talking of is the subaltern that Jyotiba Phule and Ambekar had talked of—the real history “from below”. It is not the school that was initiated by Ranjit Guha, nor that of Partha Chatterjee, Ashis Nandy and T.N. Madan. The school that Guha and co. represent is another rendering of history “from above”, to be precise the Bengali Brahmanical representation of the ‘other’.

3. See Kevin Anderson’s Marx at the Margins: On Nationalism, Ethnicity and Non-Western Societies (Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 2010).

4. Ibid., p. 237.

5. Theories of Surplus Value, Part I (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), p. 387

6. See my ‘Strangers in the Dark. Neo-liberalism and Maoism in India’, Critique, Journal of Socialist Theory (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group), Vol. 42, Issue 4, 2014.

7. Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism, trans. Harry Zohn (London: Verso, 1992), p. 14.

8. Karl Marx, op. cit.

9. Ibid. See also my ‘Strangers in the Dark. Neo-liberalism and Maoism in India’, Critique, Journal of Socialist Theory (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group) Vol. 42, Issue 4, 2014, p. 628.

10. Karl Marx, (1970): ‘First Draft of the Reply to V.I. Zasulich’s letter’, in Marx, Engels, Selected Works in Three Volumes, Volume Three (Moscow: Progress Publishers), p. 153.

11. Ibid., p. 154.

12. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Holy Family (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1980), p. 116. Please see also my The Seductions of Karl Marx (New Delhi: Aakar Books, 2010), p. 71.

13. Ibid.

14. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology

 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976), p. 38.

15. Karl Marx (1970): ‘First Draft of the Reply to V.I. Zasulich’s Letter’, p. 154.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Whilst the positivist methodology was critiqued by Gramsci, this critique of positivism has for some strange reasons not taken seriously in the Indian social sciences. Nor have the epistemological concerns raised by Georg Lukacs in History and Class Consciousness and later the critical philosophy of the Frankfurt School (especially Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse and Jurgen Habermas) been taken seriously.

19. Irfan Habib ‘Marx’s Perception of India’, in Iqbal Husain (ed.), Karl Marx: On India (New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2006), p. XXXIV, n. 84.

20. See his ‘Marx on Pre-Colonial India: An Evaluation’, in Dipendra Banerejee (ed.), Marxian Theory and the Third World (New Delhi: Sage, 1985); Mukhia and T.J. Byres (ed.), Feudalism and Non-European Societies (London: Frank Cass, 1985).

21. See his In Theory. Classes, Nations, Literatures (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994).

22. See his (ed.), Karl Marx: On India (New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2006).

23. See Milind Bokil, ‘De-notified and Nomadic Tribes. A Perspective’ in Economic and Political Weekly, January 12, 2002, p. 151 for certain kind of classification of nomadic tribes.

The author belongs to the Indian Institute of Education, Pune. He can be contacted at e-mail: murzbanjal[at]

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