Moosa Sai Marx Tak (From Moses to Marx)

Preface and Chapter 1

Moosa se Marx Tak is one the best known writings of the South Asian Marxist and public intellectual, Syed Sibte Hasan. Sibte Hasan remained steadfast in his commitment towards Marxism-Leninism through out his life and contributed enormously in the revolutionary struggle through his pen.  For many decades, Moosa se Marx Tak was the fundamental guiding texts for the activists and students of the Leftist politics of Pakistan. Therefore, it gives me great pleasure to present the preface and the first chapter of this authoritative text translated by Syed Ehtisham (with minor editorial changes) at the Red Diary:


Marx and Engels devised the term scientific socialism for their political thought, and idealistic socialism for ‘old fashioned’ socialism, which encompassed the reformist plans which European thinkers offered from time to time. The plans had not been inferred from the conditions on the ground, but were a reflection of their subjective aspirations. Scientific socialism, on the other hand, was derived from, and logical conclusion of existing objective conditions (maroozi hallat). Its principles of evolution had been derived from a deep study of the capitalist system.

Scientific socialism refers to a social system in which all means of production-land, minerals, factories, banks, trade-are collectively owned by the society, and the produce is distributed according to the qualitative worth of the work performed by physical and intellectual cadres.

Communism is the next stage of scientific socialism, under which means of production and the produce is so advanced that the measure of distribution is not worth, but need of the people.

Foes of socialism have tried to malign it by asserting that it does not allow any personal possessions. That is far from the truth. Socialism does not permit exploitation of labor for accumulation of wealth by individuals or groups, for example control over land, minerals, manufactories and finance. Private property is sacrosanct under the feudal and capitalist systems (and supported by all religions), where as the foundations of socialism lie in abolition of such private ownership and transferring it to social ownership.

Private ownership has created so many social evils that public ownership is being promoted even in capitalist societies (nationalization of essential services and welfare). Means of production were nationalized (in the post-WW II Europe) and Asian countries.

The other private ownership pertains to items of personal use, like clothes, utensils, home, books, bicycle, radio, etc. Under a capitalist system, people do not have adequate quantities of items of personal use (even in rich societies). A socialist society, on the other hand aims to provide people with sufficient quantity of items of personal use. There is no equivalence in people’s productive or inventive capacity, so the income of each and every one under a socialist system will not be the same.

Socialism does not repress individuality, in fact it encourages it. Only exploitation of labor for personal aggrandizement is proscribed.

Chapter 1: Early Communism

Europeans ‘discovered’ America, and traveled to India in the early 15th CE. They gained great material wealth, and gained important knowledge and information. The general public was entranced by the stories of travelers, and though they contained more half truths and outright lies than facts, the general public listened to them and developed great interest in exploration of the world unknown to them and the greed to acquire wealth.

This mind set induced Sir Thomas Moore to write his classic work “Utopia”, which relates experiences of a fictitious sailor, who happened to land in a far off island, where people lived in a communist society. The same instinct led the English novelist Daniel Defoe to pen “Robinson Crusoe”, and Swift to write “Gulliver’s Travels”.

During mid-17th CE Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau wrote on the concept of social contract, which indicated that political scientists were greatly helped in their conjectures by the conditions in Asia and America.

The discoveries of new instrument and technology in the nineteenth century led to new industries and new branches of sciences. Agents of industrialists went around the world seeking raw material. With advances in the mode of travel, academics and archeologists traveled to the sites of old civilizations like Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Palestine, Mexico and Greece. They dug old sites, and found skeletons, statues, instruments, hieroglyphs, jewelry, and utensils.

They could derive the knowledge of ancient history from the finds. They also found strange birds, four legged animals, fish, sea shells, insects, flowers and plants. The most valuable were the skeletons of animals which roamed the earth millions of years ago but were now extinct.

The knowledge culminated in the theory of evolution, which shook the religious beliefs and people developed new insight into the origin of humankind.

The concept of evolution was not new. The writings of Heraclites, Empedocles, and Aristotle do offer a blurred concept of evolution. However, the Greek concept of evolution ran on a ‘ladder’ pattern: the highest rung occupied by humans, then land animals, followed by sea animals, plants and on the lowest rung was rock and earth, with no possibility of rise from one to another, and forever discrete from each other.

The creationists claimed that god had created the universe in six days, and there could never be a change in the creations. Christian clergy stated with utter confidence that the world was 6,000 years old, that Adam was the first human, who lived in the paradise, and tricked and tempted by the Satan, he ate apple/wheat, and was expelled to the earth (See Creation of Mankind by Robert Basalt).

The French scientist Jean Lamarck, was the first one to present the theory of evolution in 1809. He claimed that simple organs evolved out of non-organic material, but higher animals have evolved out of simpler animals. He proved by the example of several animals and plants that continuous use of a part of the body strengthens it and increases its mass, for example heavy laborers have highly developed leg muscles, while sailors, bakers, butchers and carpenters have highly developed arm and shoulder muscles. Swamp birds like the crane have long necks, beaks and legs. Non use makes the organs redundant over time. These changes are inherited too. He, however, believed that plants and animals have an inherent instinct to develop into the higher level. Science was not free of meta-physics, yet.

However, the definitive work on evolution was done by Charles Darwin (1809-82). The 50 years between Lamarck and Darwin and produced many scientists who proposed theories of evolution.

Darwin published his epoch making work “The Origin of Species” in 1959. It represented 28 years of investigations and analysis. Darwin had traveled the world for 5 years and had collected all kinds of birds, plants, shells, rocks and bone skeletons and on his return had studied the methods of horticulturists and animal culturists. He offered the principle of natural selection. The underlying cause of the changes was the change in weather and geographical conditions. The plants and animals which could adapt to the changes survived and others became extinct. Darwin theorized that the shape of animals and plants was not same from the beginning of time, but had changed over hundreds of millions of years.

Darwin explained ‘natural selection’ with reference to the techniques used to improve animals, plants and grain, which have resulted in increase not only in quantity but also the quality of the species. The wheat, rice and barley, we consume today were once the seeds of jungle grass.

Human being are no exception to this natural selection and have evolved from their nearest evolutionary kin, the apes. It did not remain too difficult to deduct from Darwin’s work that all live beings — plants, animals including humans — were not the creations of a ‘superior’ being but had evolved from inanimate matter.

Darwin’s work encouraged the academia to research ‘social’ evolution. In 1836, a French academic, Christian Thomas, assigned three stages to social evolution, based on the derivation of instruments of production. In his view, humans of the first period, Stone Age, made their instruments of production from stone, wood and bones. The next stage, which included of the use of metal, was known as the Bronze Age. The third was Iron Age, which continues to the day. This was an appropriate method to judge the status of development, as means of production determine human relations and societal structure.

The status of primitive human societies in the current age is akin to that of ice age animals to modern ones. Most of the societies did not adapt to changing conditions and disappeared like ancient animals did. But the study of remnants, existing in parts of Americas, Africa and South East Asia, indicate the mode of living of prehistoric man. Depending upon varying physical and geographic conditions, some subsist on wild fruit and vegetation, other are meat eaters, even man eaters, and still others keep animals and practice primitive agriculture. Some tribes are patriarchal, others matriarchal, some monogamous, others polygamous, or polyandrous. Most believe in magic and other superstitions. A few go around naked; others cover up with leaves and bark. They use stone, wood or bone equipment, and live the life of primitive socialism.
Humans have existed as such on this earth, for 1.6 million years, but anthropologic research indicates that they have always lived a communal life in units ranging from a family to a tribe or larger groups. Interdependence led to social consciousness.

Human innovations and inventions like language, use of iron, agriculture, poetry, music and craft do not have an individual inventor and have, of necessity, been the result of collective efforts. The skills developed out of collective needs and desires.

Primitive society worked on the principles of ‘primitive’ communism. Arguably the oldest such tribe is the Tasaday, a group of 100 people ‘discovered’ in 1961, in the hills of Mindau Island of the Philippines. The area is covered with dense trees and vegetation and is difficult of access. They still live in the Stone Age. Their homestead is a 50ft wide and 30 ft deep cave, and they subsist on coconut and bamboo shoots. They have no agriculture, keep no animals, and have never eaten rice, wheat, maize, and are not aware of salt, sugar or tobacco. Though they live on an island, yet have never seen the sea.

They are entirely passive, don’t have any arms, and their vocabulary does nor words for enemy, war, murder or evil. They have one word for good and beautiful which sounds like ‘mafion’. They do not follow any religion, and for art and craft, they have a bamboo musical instrument called “kobung”. They procure food together and though they have family units of parents and unmarried children, yet all live together. They take joint decisions, and women and men have equal rights.

They are healthy, of short stature, and do not suffer from tuberculosis, malaria or dental problems (Time Magazine, NY 10/18/1971 and 6/30/1975). Another primitive tribe is Wemang in Malayan forests and hills. They live in groups of 20-30, with huts spread over a wide area, and subsist on fruits and vegetation. They do have bow and arrow with which they use to hunt birds, squirrels and rats.

Several such tribes live in Americas as well. One called ‘Paiute’ live in tents and subsist on hunting and after a good hunting expedition, they celebrate with song and dance. Another Yokut lives in California. Ten to twelve families live together in big halls. After marriage, the husband moves with the wife’s family. Black foot live on Canadian-American border, hunting buffalo is their livelihood. They don’t have chiefs but listen to the health and shrewd members of the tribe.

In Columbia, South America, a tribe of fishermen by the name of Nootka live on river banks live together in groups of 100 in huts built collectively. Before the Russian revolution a tribe named Yokaghir lived in Siberia. They hunted reindeer and lived together.

In Nigeria, two tribes Yoruba and Boloki number about 2 million. They hunt and keep animals. Women do farming and make utensils. Land is joint property and may not be sold or bought. Men hunt and look after animals. The tribal chief is called Alorfin. If he gets sick, he commits suicide. If the tribe no longer wants him as chief, they harass him so much that he either runs away or commits suicide.

Eskimos, who live in snow laden plains of Canada and Finland, are the most known practitioners of primitive communism. Though the tribes live hundreds of miles apart, they have strikingly similarities in language and culture. They are no more than about 55,000 and live on Seal and Beers hunting. They wear skin garments, live in skin tents or underground homes, do know the use of fire, but eat raw meat. They breed dogs and Reindeers, and their sledges are pulled by reindeers too.

They do not have permanent chiefs of the tribe, but seek guidance from the intelligent and experienced among them. All property is jointly owned (Columbia Encyclopedia 1968, 670). Greed and selfishness are deemed the biggest failings.

Stone Age tribes live in the Indo-Pak subcontinent too. There are the Gond, Bheel, Santhal, Khasi, Mong and Pondae. They rub stones to get spark of fire, some do no farming, and live on fish and animal husbandry. Up to the first two decades of the 20th CE, people in the Frontier redistributed tribal land every 30 years.

An American Humanities professor spent many years in the 1950s among the Marri tribes of the Baluchistan. He published a book “The Social System of the Marri Baloch”. They live in small villages; every member of the tribe has equal rights on grazing grounds, water wells and streams. In some sections of the tribe, the land was still a joint holding, and it was redistributed every 15-20 years among all the males.

Gypsies of the area are called Panda, the tribal chief is called Hilk Waja, and his wife is called Waja. They have a tent, called IIaq assigned to guests, and share all material belongings and produce of the land, and proceeds of the sale of animals and crops. They have a common kitchen, eat together and live like an extended family.

The idea of this discussion is not to idealize primitive communism but the inference that definitely be drawn is that private ownership of means of production is not an eternal or sacred code of life, but is a product of division of labor for which there was little scope in primitive communism.

Without division of labor, it was not possible to increase production. Development of society and increased demand due to increase of population necessitated division of labor. The inner contradictions of the primitive communist society also required transformation of means of production to private ownership.

Now the inner contradictions of the society are so deep, that without reversion to social ownership of the means of production, these contradictions can not be resolved nor can the human society develop further.

2 Responses to “Moosa Sai Marx Tak (From Moses to Marx)”

  1. kazimalam Says:

    Moosa Se Marx Tak is a classic book — a concise account of the development of socialist theory over centuries. Sibte Hasan wrote it in an exemplary language. I congratulate Syed Ehtisham for translating its first chapter into English — and hope more chapters will follow.

    Note for Umer: Please correct the spelling of the translator’s name in the post.

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