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Title: A study of communist thought in colonial India, 1919-1951
Author: Jan, Ammar Ali
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 4566
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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Despite having roots in 19th century Europe, Marxism had a deep impact on the trajectory of political ideas in the non-European world in the twentieth century. In particular, anti-colonial thinkers engaged productively with Marx’s ideas as part of their struggle against Empire. Yet, little attention has been paid to the displacements and innovations in political thought as a result of this encounter between anti-colonialism and Marxism. This dissertation aims to fill this gap by studying the history of Indian communism, focusing on the first three decades of the communist movement (1921-1950). I claim that this is an ideal time period to interrogate the formation of political ideas in India, since they presented themselves with particular intensity in the midst of an unfolding anti-colonial struggle, and arguably, the birth of the Indian political. The entry of communist ideas into the charged political environment of the 1920s had an impact on the ideological debates within the Indian polity, as well as stamping Indian communism with its own specific historicity. Through a tracing of debates among communist leaders, as well as their non-communist interlocutors, this work seeks to provide a novel lens to consider the relationship between ideas and their historical actualization, or between the universal and its instantiation in the particular. Moreover, the dissertation argues that the radically different socio-political and historical landscapes of Western Europe and colonial India necessitated a confrontation with the stagist view of history dominant in the history of Western Marxism, prompting novel theoretical work on the issue of political temporality. Consequently, the relationship between necessity and volition, central to enlightenment thought, was radically transformed in the colonial world, particularly in terms of its entanglement with the problem of subjective violence. Engagement with such questions not only impacted Indian political thought, but transformed global communism itself, putting into question the concept of an “originary site” for political ideas. Thus, this work intervenes in debates in three distinct registers: Global Intellectual History, Marxist theory and Indian political thought.
Supervisor: kapila, Shruti Sponsor: Higher Education Commission ; Pakistan
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Marxism ; Colonial India ; Intellectual History ; Anti-colonialism ; Political Thought ; Communism ; M.N. Roy ; Shaukat Usmani ; Sohan Singh Josh ; B.T. Ranadive ; Tear-gas