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Constraints and Possibilities

Vidhu Varma

By P.C. Joshi
Manak Publications, New Delhi, 2002, pp. 414, Rs. 775.00


Ever since the collapse of socialism in East Europe and the Soviet Union the political project of Marxism has been seriously questioned. A spate of philosophies and social movements has arisen casting doubt about the relevance of Marxist theories for understanding contemporary problems.       The present volume is a revised and enlarged edition of a book first published in 1986. Twenty-two essays and articles, sixteen from the old collection and six fresh additions, have been put together for this new collection. The issues with which the book are indirectly concerned are relatively familiar. Not only have Marx’s doctrines given rise to a host of widely conflicting interpretations, but he has himself been extolled or alternatively denounced, as contributing to the advance of oppressed political regimes. Some have treated his historical prophecy about socialism as faulty and the regimes created in his name inhuman.      Although there are no provocative and startling new approaches or theories to explain the collapse of socialism, the essays have a unifying thread running through them. They address the question of the constraints and possibilities of Marxism and India’s socio-economic transition within the framework of parliamentary democracy and a mixed economy. Even though the discussion is confined to the Nehru and Indira era it has in my view relevance in taking forward the debate on socialism by focusing on three specific themes: the renewal of the Marxist project in India, class and social formation and the agenda of social justice.      The first theme highlights the intellectual challenge facing socialists in terms of relating and adapting received socialist thought and theory to Indian conditions and of innovating new perspectives, approaches and concepts suited to new times. The author is of the view that alienation between nationalist forces and socialist forces has vastly contributed towards the growing hiatus between vision and reality in India today. In the author’s view a transition from the era of missed opportunities to that of creative social praxis today requires both ideological and organizational bridge-building between the nationalist and socialist forces. Indian nationalism has a future only as a vehicle of the newly awakened urges and aspirations of the Indian masses for socio economic emancipation. Indian socialism too has a future only as a continuator of the traditions and ideals of the freedom struggle and as a vehicle of the forces of national renewal. P.C. Joshi’s most ambitious statement on Marxism ...

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