My name is Marc Mulholland. I am a Fellow (lecturer and tutor) in the History Faculty of Oxford University. My College is St Catherine's. I come from Ireland.

This is a blog relating to my book published in 2012 by Oxford University Press, Bourgeois Liberty and the Politics of Fear: From Absolutism to Neo-Conservativism.
Now on sale here and here. If you want 20 per cent off the price, I can arrange that! Send me a message or leave a comment, and I'll tell you how.

The thesis my book is examining was rather pithily summarised by Leon Trotsky in 1939: "Wherever the proletariat appeared as an independent force, the bourgeoisie shifted to the camp of the counter-revolution. The bolder the struggle of the masses, the quicker the reactionary transformation of liberalism." [Context is here]

However, my book isn't a defence of Trotskyism, or indeed any particular ideology. It's a study of an idea that took shape in Left, Right, and Centre variations.

This blog has tid-bits not included in the book, and other thoughts that occur.

You can see book details at the
OUP website.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Perry Anderson: Comparing Ireland and India.

There's a characteristically pellucid and absorbing article in the latest LRB by Perry Anderson, this time on Ghandi. As one might expect, Anderson is less than enamoured by the Ghandi myth. He is critical particularly of Ghandi's religious obscurantism, and of his unwillingness wage timely revolutionary war in the 1920s. In Bourgeois Liberty, I’m rather more inclined to look somewhat benignly on religiose cloaking for democracy, as diminishing traditionalist hostility to it.

Here's an interesting comparison Anderson makes between India and Ireland:
Since the mid-19th century, Britain had always stationed a much higher number of troops relative to population in Ireland than in India, with a lower proportion of local recruits: typically, a military establishment of about 25,000, and a constabulary of 10,000, for an island of 4.5 million inhabitants, less than a hundred miles from England – a ratio of 1:130. In India, 4000 miles away, where the machinery of repression mustered some 400,000 for a population of 300 million, the ratio was 1:750. Yet within less than three years, an Irish guerrilla of not more than 3000 combatants at any one time had destroyed the colonial police and effectively driven the colonial army – upped to 40,000 for counter-insurgency – from the field in the larger part of the country. Had there been any synchronised campaign in India, with its hugely more favourable balance of potential forces, not to speak of logistics, the issue could hardly have been in doubt. ... The price of national liberation was not small in Ireland: division of the country and civil war. But it was tiny compared with the bill that would eventually be paid in India.
 Of course, religiose cloaking was hardly absent from the Irish War of Independence.


  1. Irish nationalism did not do any ethnic cleansing. It even tolerated discrimination against Catholics in Dublin. Eg Guinness. The problems of Ireland is an incomplete bourgeois revolution, unity of country, full seperation of church and state etc.
    If in India Subhas chandra Bose had come out on top, then India might have broken from the Empire before religious nonsense emerged.
    On a footnote in the 30s Churchill was more concerned in keeping India than opposing Hitler

    1. I really find this logic remarkable - Anderson also makes it. Subhash Chandra Bose had neither an organisation nor a mass base in most of India. His iconic status in the nationalist pantheon is a result of his individual heroism and the symbolism of the militarily irrelevant INA. Certainly he was ideologically leftist, but he (and his ideology) have never had any significant influence in India. The sole party that today claims to endorse his ideology has precisely one parliamentary seat, which it won on the basis of its alliance with the CPI(M), and it has hardly ever had more. As leftists, surely one should look at political dynamics and not be obsessed with finding good and bad individuals? Anderson's entire analysis is characterised by a relentless superficiality, swinging wildly between excessive focus on individuals (Gandhi and Nehru in particular) and massive overgeneralisations.

  2. In the second LRB article by Anderson on India (there's a 3rd to come), he pretty much says that he doesn't think that partitition there was avoidable. (He explicitly contrasts India to Ireland: in India by the later 1940s, Britain clearly favoured Hindus / Congress, in Ireland they favoured Protestants / Ulster Unionism).