Marx's well known articles on India, written in a series in 1853, are among the most fertile of his writings , and the starting point on modern thought on the question of Imperialism.Marx's writing show the distinctive problems of Asiatic Economy, especially in India and China, the effects of the impact of European capitalism upon it and the conclusion to be drawn for the future development as well as for the emancipation of the Indian people. This close attention is given by some fifty references to India in "Capital", and the many references in the Marx-Engels correspondence.
Marx's analysis starts from the characteristics of "Asiatic economy" , which the impact of capitalism for the first time overthrew."The key to the whole East, is the absence of private property in land." ,wrote engels to Marx in June, 1853. The absence of private property in land is not originally different from the primitive starting point of European Economy, the difference lies in the subsequent development, for which feudalism had not been developed as in West.Engels answer to that question is that it lies in the climate and geographical conditions:
" The reason lies principally in the climate , combined with the conditions of the soil, specially the great desert stretches which reach from the Sahara right through Arabia, Persia, India and Tartary to the highest Asiatic uplands.Artificial irrigation is here the first conditions of cultivation, and this is the concern either of the communes, the provinces or the central Government." ( Engales, letter to Marx, 6 June, 1853)
The condition of cultivation were not compatible with private property in land, and so arose the typical "asiatic economy" of the remains of primitive communism in the village system below, and despotic central Government above, in change of irrigation and public works, alongside war and plunder. The understanding of the village system is thus the key to the understanding of India.The classic description of the village system is contained in "Capital."
These small and exremely ancient Indian Communities, some of which have continued down to this day are based on possession in common of the land, on the blending of agriculure and handicrafts and on an unalterable division of labour, which serves, whenever a new Community is started , as a plan and scheme ready cut and dried. Occupying areas of fron 100 up to several thousand acres, each forms a compact whole producing all it requires. The chief part of the products is destined for direct use by the community itself, and does not take the form of a commodity.Hence , production here is independent of that division of labour brought about , in Indian society as a whole , by means of the exchange of commodities. It is the surplus alone that that becomes a commodity , and and a portion of even that, not until it has reached the hands of the State, into whose hands from time immemorial a certain quantity of these products has found its way in shape of rent in kind.The constitution of these communities varies in different parts of India.