The Indian State: Its Origins and Function

(from 2017)

The title of this article is a reference to, not one, but two very important studies on state formation: Kropotkin’s The State: Its Historic Role and William Paul’s The State: its Origin and Functions. The general understanding of the State which these and many other studies provide are well known and therefore, I will only state the thesis in brief and carry on with the main part of my article that has to do with the idiosyncrasies of the Indian State and argue that the most systematic ills in Indian society and governance are result of the Feudal-Capitalist-Colonial arrangement of this State and; how the myths that still underpin many liberal discussions about the beginnings of  post-independence India still continue to  contaminate the Indian society.

It is beneficial to state on the outset that there are a few genuinely liberal strands in the formation of Indian State and to say that the countless struggles in India since the beginning of the 20th century and also post-independence have not left any mark would be utterly stupid and untrue. And although these little victories must be cherished and defended we must not forget the essence of this beast – the Indian State.


Like all other descriptive categories of social sciences the term “State” is not well-defined and within the Enlightenment-Libertarian framework it has a tendency to “make man an instrument to serve its arbitrary ends, overlooking his individual purposes, and since man is in his essence a free, searching, self-perfecting being, it follows that the state is a profoundly anti-human institution.” i.e. its actions, its existence is ultimately incompatible with the full harmonious development of human potential in its richest diversity and, hence, incompatible with what Humboldt and in the following century Marx, Bakunin, Mill, and many others, what they see as the true end of man.” (Chomsky, Government In The Future)

For Bakunin, “The State is the organized authority, domination, and power of the possessing classes over the masses the most flagrant, the most cynical, and the most complete negation of humanity. It shatters the universal solidarity of all men on the earth and brings some of them into association only for the purpose of destroying, conquering, and enslaving all the rest. This flagrant negation of humanity which constitutes the very essence of the State is, from the standpoint of the State, its supreme duty and its greatest virtue Thus, to offend, to oppress, to despoil, to plunder, to assassinate or enslave one’s fellowman is ordinarily regarded as a crime. In public life, on the other hand, from the standpoint of patriotism, when these things are done for the greater glory of the State, for the preservation or the extension of its power, it is all transformed into duty and virtue This explains why the entire history of ancient and modern states is merely a series of revolting crimes; why kings and ministers, past and present, of all times and all countries—statesmen, diplomats, bureaucrats, and warriors—if judged from the standpoint of simple morality and human justice, have a hundred, a thousand times over earned their sentence to hard labor or to the gallows. There is no horror, no cruelty, sacrilege, or perjury, no imposture, no infamous transaction, no cynical robbery, no bold plunder or shabby betrayal that has not been or is not daily being perpetrated by the representatives of the states, under no other pretext than those elastic words, so convenient and yet so terrible: “for reasons of state.”

Nation of Nobelities

The set of relations that exist in a feudal society makes it very difficult for the people living under it to conceive of a democratic society. This Feudal-Democratic binary fused with and was part of the reason for the chaotic bureaucracy and distribution of power in India post-independence. The landed minority, which most of the time also formed the “military class” of the nation, were/are a cause of rebellion but such rebellion almost unequivocally takes the form of sectarian and communal violence rather than a revolt against a social class. These psychological dispositions still underpin within a large section of Indian population – urban and rural alike.

We will return to this theme in the section on bureaucracy.

Class Allies: Indian National Congress and The British Empire

Indian nationalism and the associated movement started as the struggles of the various social classes – the national bourgeoisie, the proletariat, the peasantry, urban and rural middle-class, artisans, feudal princes, and semi-feudal landlords, etc. But during the buildup to the Second World War and during the War the Congress virtually took over the Nationalist movement. A large part of the reason for this development is the appreciable economic and social gains made by the capitalist class due to the wartime industrial boom. Also, this class was lead by groups of politicians who possessed great experience and were well organized contrary to the awakened lower layers of Indian society.

Some feature of this development was the introduction of ‘Concessions and Counterpoise’ policy by the empire to win over the vested local interests and stimulating bitter communalism and inter-provisional antagonism and; the opposition of mass movements of the lower strata by the leaders of the local capitalist class. The principle strategy of the INC became the transformation of all anti-imperialist discontent in the country. They realized that the revolutionary mass movement would not stop at ending British imperialism but also would end the Indian propertied classes.

The Bombay Plan

A small group of influential businessmen (including TATA and Birla) in Bombay drew up and published in 1944 (second edition in 1945) a plan for the economic development of India. It had the general outline of the post independence Indian economy.

To understand what the plan called for and how it’s implementation was presented – and continues to be presented, we must take a brief look at the Indian economic condition of the time.

As mentioned above the capitalists class strengthened itself politically during the War. But it was nowhere near the required sufficiency for creating Developed Capitalism in India. To overcome this formidable difficulty they had to rely on foreign financial aid in form of capital, goods and technicians. State planning, partial nationalization, state-owned enterprises were necessary since the private capital was weak. Also due to the limited foreign market and the shrinking local one they had to adopt a number of agrarian reforms to create a consumer class.

This was the gist of the Bombay Plan and it had a ready-made camouflage of “Fabian Socialism” to conceal its true class character. The fact is that Indian Economy was never socialist. In fact, Fabianism is very counter-revolutionary and dubs the most essential things necessary to the development of capitalism as Socialism, Muncipalisation, Nationalization, Trustification.

It must be noted that the marriage between the big business and the political class was not altogether happy. But they cooperated like all nation-states and corporations do all the time to fight the class enemy. But these conflicts created institutional issues that haunt us to this day. Procedural delays, unrealistic controls, reservation for small sectors fertilized the corrupt system of administration that the capitalist class created and claims to detest.

State Officialdom

Indian investigative journalist Josy Joseph after years experience with and understanding of the Indian administration concludes: “Everything in India could be bought if you could find the right middleman.”

This is a systematic result of the way Indian administrative services were structured. One of the biggest reason was the caste and religious composition of the administration. The thing that made Indian state more stable then most other post-colonial ones was almost a century of experience with electoral and administrative institutions but the practice of Ethnic (im)balance shaped these institutions heavily.

In addition to this, the result of Fabian-Capitalism on Indian Administration was the of bureaucratic despotism. To the middle-classes the extension of state ownership showed a way out of their difficulties. Due to the Civil Services Ideology “the middle-class looks upon the state as the glorified institution, as something destined to save the world” (William Paul)

Although the language of the constitution shared the language of Human Rights, in practice it could achieve little. Partly because of the reminiscence of the colonial legacy of legislation that the ruling class finds useful and under the above mentioned feudal-colonial and Fabian-Capitalist institutions it has been of marginal utility.

The Immense Cemetery of Hopes & Living Forces of The Country.

In conclusion, the Indian State like all states was created on the foundation of class, caste division, potentially fascist-totalitarianism* and capitalism that coupled with feudal-colonial institutions still continue to erode personal and social freedom of the nation.

*"The war has revealed [INC]'s true colors as the ally of fascism and reaction" 
Pillai to Maxwell, Home-Political File, NAI

Comments are closed.