Essays on Marxism and Asia begins with the largely forgotten prophet of ancient Iran Zarathushtra, remembered and immortalized by Friedrich Nietzsche’s Also Sprach Zarathustra. In contrast to the infamous clash of civilization thesis, this book argues for a humanist theory of civilizations and studies the Parsis or Persians who left Iran to settle in India and make it their home. It claims that Parsis, despite being a migrant community, took strength from their Persian heritage and civilization and rose to become the architects of industrial modernity in India.
This book locates this humanist theory in the larger genre of the Asiatic mode of production with caste as its sub-text. It then takes a phenomenological reading of caste in India and says that India is afflicted by a very strange illness called ‘silent blindness’ where humanity is silenced and blinded in front of the caste apparatus. It then analyzes how capitalism and modernity fashioned caste in the image of capitalism and how the Indian right-wing imagined its fascistic politics of race and racial superiority based on the image of caste hierarchy. The problem in India has been that the liberals could not take caste seriously so as to confront it and then annihilate this violent apartheid structure. This, the book argues, has led to the rise of fascism in India. The book concludes with positing two different strands of secularism, namely liberal or bourgeois secularism which merely separates religion and the state (but mixes these when required) and revolutionary secularism which humanizes religion and politics first in order to find the human and class content in both.
The chapters in this book were originally published in Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory.
Table of Contents
Preface and acknowledgements
1. Introduction: Marxism in the Revolutionary Underworld
2. Zarathushtra in the Indian Underworld
3. Parsis and the Makings of Indian Modernity
4. Messianism and Humanism: Dilemma of an Indian Minority
5. Phenomenology and the Makings of Caste
6. On the Asiatic Mode of Production
7. Rethinking Secularism in India in the Age of Triumphant Fascism
Murzban Jal is Professor and Director at the Centre for Educational Studies, Indian Institute of Education, Pune, India. He was Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla and an Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) Senior Fellow where he worked on the ethnography of the makings of a minority community in India. He is author of The Seductions of Karl Marx (2010), Zoroastrianism: from Antiquity to the Modern Period, ed. (2012), The New Militants (2014), Why We Are Not Hindus (2015), What Ails Indian Muslims, ed. with Zaheer Ali (2016), Challenges for the Indian Left, ed. (2017), In the Name of Marx (2018), Zarathushtra and the Inmates of Paradise (2018), Yusuf and Zuleika. The Return of the Despot (2019), The Prison House of Alienation, (2019), Theory and Praxis: Reflections on the Colonization of Knowledge, ed. with Jyoti Bawane (2020) and The Legacy of Karl Marx (2020). He has also published more than hundred papers in national and international journals.