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Book Review

Commentary on events, personalities

PROBLEMS OF INDIAN RENAISSANCE: S. A. Dange, Edited by Bani Deshpande and Roza Deshpande; Vichar Bharati Prakashan, 33, Royal Status, Dr. Bhalachandra Road, Dadar, Mumbai-400014. Rs. 250.

SRIPAD AMRIT Dange, perhaps is the only one, among the founders of the communist movement in India, whose writings contain portions that the political right-wing considers worthy of appropriation. And it was only natural that his comrades in the communist parties shunned him, in his own lifetime.

While Dange's positions on the contemporary political context — leading the CPI to support Indira Gandhi and her Congress party led to his marginalisation and that of the party (the historical blunder being the support by the CPI to the Emergency), his ideas on ancient India and his discovery of the ideals of communism in the primitive ages (and hence a glorification of the ancient culture) left him exposed to charges of having read Marxism in the most unscientific fashion.

But then, concealed behind all these is the scholar that Dange was and it makes ample sense to publish some of his commentaries on events and personalities in history. Roza Deshpande, Dange's daughter's attempt is indeed a step in this direction.

The reference about the historic Meerut Conspiracy Trials and Dange's brilliant defence by Dr. P. C. Alexander (the introductory essay in the book) presents Dange in the right context; Dr. Alexander's specific mention in this context of Dange's magnum opus, India — From Primitive Communism to Slavery which exposed him to criticisms (valid by all means) that his reading of Marx was not scientific and the pointed statement that the same book is now being released bearing the title "Vedic India'' by Roza and her husband (both of whom are closer to the Right than any of the Left platforms that Dange himself was involved in building) is indeed appropriate.

For this very reason, the collections in the book under review are worth reading and deserve critical appreciation.

After all, Dange was among those in the communist movement who were able to look at some of the national traditions, the cultural symbols more particularly, from a perspective that did not condemn all of them as being nothing but reactionary.

It is another matter that scholars could point out the un-Marxist basis of such attempts in later years.

But then the realisation that it does not help the radical cause to simply dismiss traditions did dawn upon Dange at a time when Marxists considered it their imperative to dismiss and condemn tradition (at least at the theoretical level) is worth noting.

The book serves this purpose. It is a different matter altogether that these are not the intentions that guided those who decided to put a portion of Dange's writings in the form of this book.


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