The Indian Bourgeoisie. A Political History of the Indian Capitalist Class in the Early Twentieth Century by David Lockwood
Book CoverBook Flyer from Tauris: By the time India gained independence, its leading industrialists were closely aligned with the leadership of the Indian National Congress. This was despite the fact that the Congress regarded itself as a socialist organisation and, as was the fashion of the times, believed socialism to be best implemented through a state-run economy. Why did the Indian bourgeoisie accept this? Why did Indian capitalism tie itself to the new state – and remain there until the reforms that began in 1991? In this political history of the Indian capitalist class, David Lockwood seeks to answer these questions. He traces the development of India’s capitalists from their early conviction that the British state would provide, through their later adherence to Congress and their eventual acceptance of a state-planned economy. Throughout, the account considers the implications of these developments for the concept of the bourgeois revolution. The scenario is not confined to the Indian case. Lockwood argues that the events in India were part of a world trend in which the completion of the bourgeois revolution has been held up by the domination of states – beginning with the First World War and only starting to fade in the late 20th century.
Lockwood’s Original Book Proposal:
1. Synopsis: By the timeIndiagained independence, its leading industrialists were closely aligned with the leadership of the Indian National Congress. This was despite the fact that Congress loosely regarded itself as a socialist organisation and, as was the fashion of the times, believed socialism to be best implemented through a state-run economy. In fact, the Indian bourgeoisie accepted this – indeed it welcomed the prospect with the publication of the Bombay Plan in 1944. Indian capitalism tied itself to the new state – and remained there until the reforms that began in the late 1980s.
This book seeks to apply the concept of the bourgeois revolution to Indian historical developments in the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. It is premised on the idea that the freedom movement constituted the initial stages of the Indian bourgeois revolution. But that movement did not produce the political triumph of the Indian bourgeoisie. Instead, it resulted in a post-Raj state-dominated society, to which the Indian bourgeoisie seemed only too willing to submit. Was this because the Indian bourgeoisie was weak? Or had it managed in some way to bend the Congress leadership to its will? This is a political history of the Indian capitalist class that seeks to answer these questions. It traces the development ofIndia’s capitalists from their early conviction that the British state would provide, through their later adherence to Congress and their eventual acceptance of a state-planned economy. Throughout, it considers the implications of these developments for the concept of the bourgeois revolution.
The book draws on both Indian British primary material – the papers of Indian businessmen, those of the Congress, the records of the India Office and of the Government of India. It is written in a style that is both comprehensible and engaging for the specialist and non-specialist alike.
The Introduction will work back from a snapshot of the current Indian bourgeoisie to its position under the state-planned economy. Contrasting the two, it will initiate a discussion on how and why the bourgeoisie subordinated itself to Congress and why the situation changed so dramatically from the late 1980s. The Introduction will also explain the theoretical tools that will be employed in the book and examine the concept of the bourgeois revolution.
Chapter One: Indian industry and Industrialists before 1914
- The emergence of industry. Case study: Tata Steel.
- Early state intervention by provincial governments.
- The changing attitude of the Government of India to state-aided industrialisation.
- Self consciousness and self organisation of the bourgeoisie: the Industrial Conferences and relations with the Congress.
Chapter Two: War
The demands placed on the Indian economy by the British war effort were enormous. As in all belligerent countries, reliance on the market economy could not meet the needs of prolonged industrialised warfare – the economy had to be directed towards those demands. To this end, vigorous state intervention was required. In measures similar to those taken inBritain, the Government of India established a centralised Indian Munitions Board which, by war’s end, was controlling significant sections of the Indian economy. The Indian bourgeoisie accepted and indeed welcomed such developments since they saw in them the potential for boosting Indian industrialisation and providing protection forIndia’s infant industries after the War.
Chapter Three: State Industrialisation
This chapter will begin to identify a divergence of interest inIndiabetween the British Government and the Government of India.Britain’s interest in its Indian empire was, by the time of the Great War (and, some would argue, for some time past), primarily a military one. Lord Salisbury’s caricature of an ‘English barrack in theOrientalSeas’ (1882) still applied.Indiawas an important base for British military operations to protect its interests in the East – Near, Middle and Far. Reflecting this, the enthusiasm for industrialisation on the part of the Government of India was militarily inspired – and the initial willingness of the British government to allow the Government of India to initiate plans in this direction was similarly motivated.
What unhinged this consensus (enthusiasm inNew Delhi, compliance inLondon) was the now almost forgotten ‘Mesopotamian Affair’ – a failed assault on theOttoman Empire, the responsibility for which was given to the Government of India and the Indian Army command. The result was a debacle of epic proportions. Both the British Government and the Government of India acknowledged that events in Mesopotamia laid bare serious shortcomings inIndia’s capacity to function either as an ordnance centre or as a base for British military operations in the East. But the conclusions drawn by the two governments, and the remedies that they advocated, were quite different. For the Government of India, the problem was the structure of the Indian economy. The solution was industrialisation, led by the state – a common reaction by states both during the conflict and in the post-war period. ForLondon, it was the entire structure and system of the Government of India that were at fault. Political restructuring was the answer for the British Government, specifically decentralisation and provincial autonomy. And it was these that sounded the death-knell for state-driven industrialisation.
Chapter Five: Industrialisation Abandoned?
Once hostilities had ceased, the Government of India maintained much of its enthusiasm for state industrialisation, despite the now lukewarm response coming fromLondon. This chapter will in part examine the changing attitude ofBritainto the empire – from the industrialisation of separate parts to a system of ‘imperial autarky’. Meanwhile, the Indian bourgeoisie was similarly enthused by the Government of India’s post-war plans for state-driven industrialisation. They certainly expected state intervention to continue. Such hopes were destined not to be fulfilled. But as they faded, the demands of the industrialists for state intervention did not fade with them. Instead, they rose to a strident campaign – a national and political campaign – for protection for Indian industries and financial autonomy forIndia.
Chapter Six: Protection
As Indian industry surged forward, it increasingly demanded protection from foreign (and especially British) competition. The political strategy of Indian business to this end will be examined. The waning enthusiasm of the Government of India for state-aided industry will be followed through the cases of protection for the Indian steel industry in 1924 (which it supported) and the proposed development of an Indian merchant marine in 1929-30 (which it did not).
Chapter Seven: The Indian Bourgeoisie and Congress
- Evolution of Congress policy towards industry and industrialists up to the establishment of the National Planning Committee (consisting of representatives of Congress and of industry) by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1938.
- Realisation by Indian business that neitherBritainnor the Government of India would pursue or support Indian industrialisation. A new (and independent) state was needed for this.
- Increasing disenchantment towards the British on the part of Indian business and its evolution towards and within Congress. Case study: Birla.
Chapter Eight: World War Two
- Resurgence of state-industrialisation once again under the pressures of war.
- British government’s rediscovery of the effectiveness of state-run economies.
- Industry remains loyal to Congress: it can see the new state coming into being.
Chapter Nine: TheBombayPlan
3. Subject and Rationale. No previous study has attempted to apply the concept of the bourgeois revolution to nineteenth and twentieth century Indian history. There have been few studies of Indian capitalists and those that have been undertaken have tended to dismiss them as a political or class force. Claude Markovits, for example, argues that, ‘by 1930, the business communities of Indiawere still a very heterogeneous lot, and … could hardly be called a capitalist class in any accepted sense of the term.” (Indian Business and Nationalist Politics 1931-39, 19) A recent exception has been Aditya Mukherjee’s Imperialism, Nationalism and the Making of the Indian Capitalist Class, 1920-1947 (2002), which takes the stand (shared by this author) that Indian capitalists were a self-conscious class, enrolling in the national movement in order to further their class interests as well as those of the nation, as they saw it. Such is the nature of the bourgeois revolution. There is a lively historical debate around the Indian capitalists and their role under the Raj (and afterwards) – in which this study will play a part and make a unique contribution.
4. Markets: The primary market will be those generally interested in Indian history: specialists, students and general readers. It particularly targets:
- Those concerned with reinterpretations of the Indian national movement
- Those interested in the role of the Indian bourgeoisie within it
- Those interested in the general concept of the bourgeois revolution