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Essays on Colonialism by Bipan Chandra

Essays on Colonialism by Bipan Chandra

Author:Bipan Chandra
Language: eng
Format: azw3
Tags: Essays on Colonialism
Publisher: Orient Longman Ltd
Published: 2018-08-26T16:00:00+00:00


In this context, the leading nationalist economists vigorously challenged the laissez-faire theory of the functions of the state. The state should, in this respect, act as the collective organ of the national will for national purposes (Ranade 1898: 32; Joshi 1912: 671–2, 748, 809; Iyer 1903: 155, app. 6; Gokhale 1916: 54–5). In an economically backward country like India the state had a special obligation to assume the task because its people had to be helped in overcoming their inherited weaknesses, their own inertia and their inferior position vis-a-vis powerful foreign competition (Ranade 1898: 87; Joshi 1912: 672, 746, 748, 785–6, 808; Iyer 1903: app. 6).

In this respect, Ranade pointed out that the colonial state had not in practice^as opposed to its theoretical posture, followed a laissez-faire policy. The government had taken a direct and active part in pioneering and promoting industrial and commercial enterprises and granting special privileges to British capitalists in India. Clear-cut examples were cinchona, tea and coffee plantations, coal mining, the iron industry and, above all, railway construction (Ranade 1898: 32–3, 86–9, 91, 94, 96–7, 165 ff.; also Joshi 1912: 699, 743, 747, 800, 809).

The nationalist demand for an active state role in industrial development was, however, not to be confused with the advocacy of socialism or even state capitalism. The purpose of state role was to make up for the deficiences of private enterprise in a backward country, to provide an impetus to Indian private enterprise, to prepare it for assuming independent responsibility, and to redress the balance in the unequal struggle between the weak Indian capitalists and the “powerful and go-ahead foreigner[s].” None of the Indians saw state intervention or ownership of industries as socialism. Joshi explicitly repudiated any suggestion of socialism “as was attempted with fatal ill-success by the Provincial Government [of France] in 1848.” Industrial development, he said, was the function and prerogative of private enterprise. And in no case, he added, should the state undertake any work which private Indian enterprise was capable of being trained to assume. Even the necessary recourse to state enterprise was to be a short-term measure. Once Indian enterprise had developed to the desired extent, state enterprise might be handed over to the native capitalists (Joshi 1912: 673–4, 698, 746–50, 753, 808, 819–26, 861–2). This was also the basic thrust of Ranade’s writings (1898: 33, 89–90, 169, 190, 193–4).

X. Nationalists and Agrarian Relations

In the agrarian field, the nationalists concentrated on the peasant-state relationship and demanded permanent fixity of a low land tax so that the peasant would have security of tenure vis-à-vis the state, thus acquiring a sense of private property in land and thereby the incentive as well as the means of developing agriculture (Chandra 1966: 408 ff.). They also emphasized the need to provide the cultivator with access to cheap and assured credit (: 483 ff.).

On the other hand, the failure to examine critically the relations between the cultivator and the landlord was perhaps the weakest link in nationalist economic thinking. With the exception of



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