[From Liberation, April 1994.]
India has been witness to a great social turmoil in recent years where the twin entities of caste and religion have played a major catalytic role. It all came to the fore after VP Singh-led Janata Dal government decided to implement the Mandal Commission recommendations on reservation of jobs to Other Backward Classes in 1990. Although Janata Dal came to power on a plank of anti-Congressism with a tacit support from BJP, the alliance soon ran into rough weather. And interestingly, the two became protagonists of two major socio-political movements in contemporary history of India. Pitted against each other, the movements were popularly known as Mandal and Mandir movements. Janata Dal, in the beginning, enjoyed a much larger support base in its crusade against corruption (Bofors). Its championing of Mandal to the exclusion of everything else, however, vastly eroded its support base and led to a whole chain of political crisis which eventually reduced it to a marginal force in Indian politics.
Mandal, if one were to believe the rhetoric of VP Singh and his cohorts, would usher in an unparalleled social revolution in India against the forces of statusquoism and obscurantism, the forces who were politically represented by Congress(I) and BJP.
In an ironic twist of history, Mandal recommendations were implemented by Congress(I) government taking, in the process, much wind out of the Janata Dal sails.
The crusader in VP Singh dies hard and now it is reduced to the ridiculous demand of a dalit President or a backward Prime Minister, irrespective of his/her ideological-political predilection. Then there is the gimmick of staying away from Delhi till a backward gets employment on the basis of reservation quota. The revolution thus has degenerated into cosmetic reforms and the movement into tokenism.
As regards reservation proper Janata Dal is now left with the options of opposing the creamy layer verdict and to pressurise for 10 per cent reservation quota for upper castes on economic criterion — a promise that V P Singh made to diffuse the anti-Mandal agitation. Neither of the options, however, can be pursued with any zeal for obvious reasons.
Political eclipse of Mr.VP Singh and his Janata Dal signalled the rise of Mulayam Singh and Kanshi Ram. Mulayam Singh claims himself to be the natural representative of backwards as compared to VP Singh, the outsider, and invoking Lohia he has couched his politics in a socialist phraseology with a greater force of inheritance and sincerity of purpose. Kanshi Ram, the rising star of dalit politics, on the other hand, invokes the legacy of Ambedkar. Armed with a radical dalit posture and anti-communist phobia he seems to be desperate to outsmart Ambedkar himself.
These dramatic events have exerted tremendous impact on Indian left and communist movement. While Mandal greatly eroded the communist base among backward peasantry in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, BSP virtually swept away the traditional dalit support of left parties in Uttar Pradesh. Under the circumstances a polemics has surfaced within the left and communist circles that calls for a new approach to the caste phenomenon in Indian society and, particularly in the backdrop of soviet debacle, to redefine the "orthodox" concept of class. Recent desertion of first-ranking leaders of CPI to Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, PWG Naxalites swelling the ranks of BSP in Andhra Pradesh and defection of some IPF MLAs to Janata Dal in Bihar bring out the gravity and the complexity of the situation.
Here I have before me a book titled Caste and Class Dynamics — Radical Ambedkarite Praxis written by one Dr. Thomas Matthew. The author makes interesting observations about the interrelations between caste and class. I shall try to unravel the puzzle of caste and class relationship in course of my critical analysis of the ideas presented in this book.
The author’s avowed aim is to achieve a synthesis of Marxism and Ambedkarism, which according to the author is "the only hope of the teeming millions of India". He takes up this stupendous job in a situation when "Marxian practice, at least the major versions, ended up in historic debacles at the world level" but "Ambedkarite praxis seems to move past its teething troubles in India". Still the synthesis is explained as "absorbing Ambedkarism in the Marxian framework" and not the opposite as one would have normally suspected from the above-mentioned contextual reference. The author’s Marxist antecedents are revealed in his acknowledgement of gratitude to Mr.K. Venu "without whose pioneering leadership in attacking Marxist fundamentalism and the concept of ‘revolutionary authority’ of leadership, it would not have been possible for me to question many Marxist dogmas". More of it later.
To proceed. The first part of the book deals with Ambedkar’s struggle against Gandhi and Gandhism. This struggle of great historical importance is narrated in Ambedkar’s book Congress, Gandhi and the Untouchables, an old copy of whose original edition the author could manage from a Delhi library. This fact is important as the author claims that there have been attempts at modifying and diluting its contents in subsequent editions.
The author claims that Dr. Ambedkar’s analysis and formulations on the ruling classes, Congress and Gandhism were quite different from the official Ambedkarite perceptions. Moreover, "his evaluation about the western parliamentary system and approving references to the Paris Commune and the soviet system exploded all theories that Ambedkar was anti-communist".
As it comes out, Gandhian approach was basically to undertake some reforms within Hinduism through what is called "constructive work" to secure the support of untouchables behind the savarna leadership of Congress in the freedom struggle. Ambedkar, on the other hand, strove for a radical restructuring of Hinduism to do away with caste system itself and to provide a political platform to the rising dalit aspirations. These two contradictory approaches of Gandhi and Ambedkar defined their relationship with each other, with other communities like Muslims and with the British Government.
Commenting on Gandhi’s economic philosophy Ambedkar wrote, "there was nothing new in the Gandhian analysis of economic ills as attributable to machinery and the civilisation built upon it. These were old and worn out arguments, a repetition of Rousseau, Pushkin and Tolstoy. His economics was hopelessly fallacious because the evils produced by the mechanised production system and civilisation are not due to machinery as such... They are due to the wrong social organisation which has made private property and pursuit of personal gain a matter of absolute sanctity... The remedy therefore is not to condemn machinery and civilisation but to alter the organisation of society so that the benefits will not be usurped by the few but accrue to all."
In his conflict with Gandhi, Ambedkar undoubtedly emerges as the foremost exponent of a radical socio-economic programme in the freedom struggle.
From Harijans to dalits — there lies the whole course of transformation in the self-perception of untouchables and none but Ambedkar had been the moving spirit behind this transformation. He was perhaps the first dalit leader, who combined with a fair degree of success the social awakening of dalits with their political assertion.
Ambedkar’s other major contribution was drafting the Constitution of independent India. He shared Nehru’s vision of a modern India and in a certain sense exhibited a greater insight than Nehru. In contrast to Nehru’s emphasis on discovery of India, he declared, "In believing that we are a nation we are chasing a great delusion. We can only attempt to become a nation-in the-making."
He opted for a constitutional state socialism, stood for a strong centre, and advocated an economic programme comprising nationalisation of land and its distribution among peasants for collective cultivation and nationalisation of key industries. He believed that such an economic programme backed by state welfare measures positively discriminated in favour of depressed classes will lead to the ‘annihilation of caste’, his ultimate goal.
His crusade for social liberation of dalits remained central to him and he parted company with Nehru when Nehru gave in to the conservative pressure on Hindu Code Bill! This further convinced Ambedkar that casteism was basic to Hinduism and dalits have no option but to break out of its fold.
And thus he embraced Buddhism which he interpreted in a modernistic sense hoping to herald a new socio-cultural awakening among dalits. In the realm of political action he envisaged the formation of the Republican Party as an independent democratic party of the oppressed classes.
Thus, Ambedkar’s crusade reached its crescendo. Unfortunately for him only his community of Mahars joined him in conversion to Buddhism and after his death his political movement represented by the Republican Party of India got splintered and appropriated by the Congress.
In class terms Ambedkar represented the petty bourgeois stratum of dalits that included the small-medium peasantry. Their particular socio-economic conditions were the basic roots of Ambedkar’s radicalism and also the source of his limitations. In given conditions he could only strive for a full-scale development of capitalism and a strong capitalist welfare state which shall be instrumental in breaking the age-old social immobility and inertia. His approving references to some aspects of communist practice and invoking socialist jargons only reveal his radical bourgeois democratic essence. This is not an indictment of Ambedkar. On the contrary, it places him high above many historical figures of his times who stood for a conservative path of capitalist development preserving the "Brahminical-Bania alliances" to use Ambedkar’s own phrase.
Ambedkar’s vacillations, compromises and ultimate recourse to a religious praxis too emanate from the same socio-economic conditions of his existence. The inherent limitations of a dalit petty bourgeois to chart out an alternative strategy of freedom movement forced him sometimes to enter into compromises with Gandhi and Congress and at other times to pin hopes on British. The alternative strategy could have been chalked out only by communists who represented the Indian urban and rural proletariat — a good majority of whom came from dalits. A close political alliance with radical bourgeois democrats of all hues must have been an inalienable part of the alternative strategy. Communist Party of India failed to undertake this responsibility. But that is another story.
Coming back to our author, he is found slipping into the quagmire of idealism while explaining the roots of Ambedkar’s vacillations and compromises. Listen to him: "It was the sincerity of purpose, the human weakness and ‘forget and forgive’ characteristic of the dalits, the oppressed, as opposed to the cunning and calculating nature of the Brahminical classes" that made Ambedkar adjust with Congress over and over again.
The author laments that "Ambedkarism remained within the confines of bourgeois democratic consciousness" for ‘it could not transcend the limit set by its peasant roots".
To transcend the limits which Ambedkar failed to do our distinguished author embarks on an adventurous theoretical journey. He starts with a queer analysis.
"Ambedkarism was not rooted in a class with total upward mobility permitting complete merger of the class or even individuals and small groups within the bourgeois system. It represented a peasant society in the process of partial proletarianisation and partial dispossession with an upper crust eagerness for upward mobility being frustrated. It was this phenomenon which destroyed all the efforts at alignment between the untouchables and the ruling bourgeoisie. This was why Dr. Ambedkar was repulsed from the ruling classes after each and every encounter with them. It provides the great potential of Ambedkarism to grow out of limits of bourgeois society."
Having thus established the potential, the author then takes at face value Ambedkar’s certain approving references on Marx, Paris Commune and Soviet system. Combined with Ambedkar’s denunciation of twin enemies of Brahminism and capitalism and his advocacy of "Socialist programme", all this is taken to symbolise Ambedkar’s journey towards communism. Even conversion to Buddhism is interpreted as an answer to the problems raised by Marxism in general and by its concrete application in India in particular. His religio-political praxis becomes a precursor to the Cultural Revolution and democratic resurgence within Marxist ideology and movement. "In some sense Ambedkar’s Buddhist resurrection presaged Mao’s Cultural Revolution". This is how our author lays the foundation of synthesis of Marxism and Ambedkarism and in later chapters accomplishes this feat with a great finesse.
The author finds to his dismay that "immediately after Ambedkar’s exit the five-year plans were launched and ‘socialism’ was adopted by the Congress. The Kaka Kalelkar Commission was set up on reservation for the backward classes. Around the same time, Nehru’s Government organised the 2500th of Mahaparinirvana of Buddha at Delhi... Cooperation with Soviet Union also increased." A strange explanation is added thereafter: "Indian ruling classes dispensed with Ambedkar after making up with Stalin."
While analysing the post-Ambedkar scenario, the author rightly observes the process of upward mobility of various backward communities.
"In Kerala a numerically strong shudra community has been upgraded as a savarna group, particularly because the Brahmin-Kayastha-Bania population is very insignificant. The Nair community, which was considered a pollutant by the ‘gods’, is almost the ‘God on Earth’ now... Another untouchable community, Ezhawas, has made much headway in socio-economic and political terms."
What is true for Kerala is also true for other parts of India in varying degrees. Land reforms and various other measures of socio-economic upliftment coupled with different varieties of anti-Brahminical mass movements led to this upward mobility of several major backward communities. In Hindi belt, the credit goes chiefly to the Lohiaite socialist movement.
Every major socio-political upheaval in society is invariably accompanied by broadbasing of the social composition of the ruling classes. Post-British India could not have persisted with the old social alliance of British rule and hence the upward mobility of certain backward communities and appropriation of its privileged members within the ruling classes was an inevitable process. Apart from sharpening backward-forward polarisation in certain states, the process brought in its wake growing class-caste differentiation among and within hitherto backward communities. A notable development was the accentuation of conflict between dalits who were mostly agrarian labourers and intermediate castes of well-to-do peasantry who benefited most from the policies of agrarian development.
The author, however, ascribes the whole phenomenon of assimillation certain dalit castes, groups and individuals within the ruling system to the "manipulative" skills of cunning Brahminical ruling classes. By dalit castes the author implies the whole spectrum of untouchables and shudra castes — in official parlance Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes — and engages himself in search of a theoretical praxis that encompasses a pan-dalit unity. He finds it in Bahujan Samaj Party.
"The republican movement foundered on the question of a united front. The party was conceived as a movement of the Deprived Classes to become the ruling class, the political aim of Dr. Ambedkar. But this would not have been possible without alliance with the political forces representing the oppressed sections. Dr. Ambedkar could not give this direction and the party also could not evolve the strategy. If at all they aligned with others it was with the Brahminical ruling class parties. The alternative strategy was to visualise the party framework itself as a coalition of all the oppressed and exploited classes and communities. This, the Bahujan Samaj Party has done. The BSP thus becomes a major theoretical advance in Ambedkarite praxis. The BSP vision is a broader platform covering the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, backward communities and the minorities. It is the most powerful theoretical answer to the Indian ruling class politics of divide and rule."
Well, how far BSP can build and sustain this pan-dalit unity of author’s choice in the face of growing social differentiation is yet to be seen; but to present a pragmatic hotchpotch as a major theoretical advance over Ambedkar is the height of theoretical absurdity. By accusing Ambedkar of failing to give the direction of alliance with the political forces of oppressed sections and rather clinging with the Brahminical ruling class parties, the author is both guilty of ahistorical analysis of Ambedkar as well as distortion of facts.
The author who had just eulogised BSP with the "most powerful theoretical answer etc." in a perfect theoretical acrobatics immediately switches over to Janata Dal crediting it with the adoption of "same (BSP) platform" while putting forward "Mandal-Masjid plank". More so, the Janata offensive that came from above created much more furore than the Kanshi Ram crusade at grassroots. Moreover, "BSP’s partisanism hardly had any friends outside the dalit fraternity (emphasis added). It was a spectacular political feat that the Janata leadership was made to adopt specific and definite social justice plank that represented the common interests of all the oppressed communities. It was the militant socialist tradition of the North Indian belt which spearheaded this ideological coup de grace."
Almost assuming the role of Janata Dal’s spokesperson the author lists various achievements of Janata Dal’s social justice plank. Awarding Bharat Ratna to Ambedkar; organising his birth centenary celebrations; proportional plan allocation for rural areas, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; considerable relief to bonded labour, contract labour and agricultural workers; (proposed) relief for organised sector workers; (proposed) right to work as a fundamental right; major relief to peasants; (proposed) massive literacy programme, some breathing space to oppressed nationalities; determined offensive against communal forces on Babri Masjid issue, etc. Bihar Government of Janata Dal comes in for a particular praise because of its extending reservations to judiciary and implementing the principle of proportional allocation of plan funds to Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes. According to the author, "The Mandal agenda came on the heels of all these measures. The political slogans and the orientation became a real threat to the forces of status quo. "And hence the conspiracy by the ruling classes to dethrone and destroy the Janata Dal". Now the question whether the Mandal agenda came on the heels of aforesaid measures or at the cost of a radical socio-economic programme — particularly to sidetrack the promised right to work as fundamental right remains far from settled. Whether these political slogans and orientations were a real threat to the forces of status quo or a device to strike a balance in the power structure corresponding to the growing socio-economic and political clout of certain backward castes — this question too remains open to scrutiny. Adoption of Mandal recommendation by Congress Government only goes to substantiate the latter postulate. Janata Dal is only distinguished by its opposition to the creamy layer concept, exposing in the process its real essence.
Our author, however, regards Mandal as the central theme that polarised not only the Indian society but the communist movement as well.
"All these (Naxalite) movements rooted among dalits have supported Mandal reservation as a democratic measure whereas all the traditional communists rooted in the urban working class have opposed Mandal". "The traditional communist parties wavered and the CPI(M) leadership and even the Indian People’s Front, a Naxalite organisation, veered round to the ‘economic criterion’ principle of the Congress and the BJP."
This is a clear case of twisting the facts to suit one’s theoretical framework. CPI went whole hog with Janata Dal on Mandal issue and even went on record opposing the creamy layer verdict and the so-called economic criterion. CPI(M) never opposed Mandal recommendations and the economic criterion it talked of was in relation to stratification within backward communities and thus it welcomed the creamy layer verdict. Indian People’s Front never veered round to the so-called economic criterion. On the contrary, it took VP Singh to task for his advocacy of 10 per cent reservation for economically backwards among upper castes. It firmly held that social and educational backwardness alone can be the criterion for reservation.
Our Party did welcome the creamy layer verdict because any measure that articulates class differentiation among powerful backward communities can only be supported by Marxists. We know that conditions had matured for the restructuring of power structure and VP Singh only played a catalytic role in that. Thus we refused to endorse Mandal as a harbinger of any social revolution and went on exposing the hypocrisy of Janata Dal, a bourgeois-landlord formation, and zealously guarded our Party’s ideological-political and organisational independence.
Our Party stuck to its position despite a powerful backlash of backwardism, despite Janata Dal’s concentrated onslaught against us in Bihar and despite the price we had to pay in the form of defection of some MLAs to Janata Dal. With the Mandal euphoria over our Party is back to the course of rapid advance in Bihar while CPI which had tied itself to Janata Dal’s apron strings faces virtual decimation of its traditional mass base, the threat of disintegration and total loss of orientation.
The author is full of praise for PWG "which called for an Andhra Bandh to protest against the judiciary’s highhandedness in the matter... and Janata Dal leaders addressed public meetings supported by the PWG on the Mandal issue." The other Naxalite group that received compliments from the author is of course MCC which is credited with leading the "dalit resistance against upper caste tyranny in Bihar". We also find the mention of Satyashodhak Communist Party which, with Marx-Phule-Ambedkar as its philosophical guide, supposedly offers "an ideological challenge to the parliamentary communist movement".
The author thus reaches the final stage of his project synthesis and there he seems to have lost all the balance. Look at this gem: "While dalit songs of revolt reverberated in the heavens, the fire and fury of the (Dalit) Panthers, Naxalites and Militants (Khalistanis and Kashmiris) got a theoretical outline. It was this emerging unity of theory and practice that Ram Vilas Paswan tried to capture through Dalit Sena and Ambedkar Centenary Celebrations."
From Ambedkar to Kanshi Ram to Ram Vilas Paswan! It’s really a fantastic journey!
The author presents certain novel ideas about caste. "While Marx saw caste as the decisive impediment to India’s power and progress, they (Indian Marxists) took caste as a matter of superstructure... Caste being a production relation does not belong to the superstructure, but to the socio-economic base. The biggest theoretical failure of Indian Marxists has been their refusal to recognise caste as part of the substructure of the society." Now, in Marxist discourse, one has definitely heard of an economic base over which all superstructure lies but never of a socio-economic base. The author himself seems perplexed over relating caste to the social as well as economic base. The dichotomy is explained in the following way:
"Here one has to distinguish between caste as an institution of permanent division of means of production and profession and caste as an attitude of untouchability and discrimination. Caste contains both these aspects, the former belonging to the base and the latter to the superstructure."
In fact, egalitarian societies got split into class societies with the rise of economic surplus and since then history of all existing societies has been the history of class struggle. In pre-capitalist societies, however, inequalities generated by the surplus were adjusted through a social stratification known as social estates. Internal cohesion among existing clans blocked the class formation in a classical sense, and moreover, socio-political formations based on extra-economic coercion perpetuated the system of social estates. In India the stratification did assume a greater permanence owing to the divine sanction accorded to the caste system and more importantly due to the coexistence of a despotic central power with the self-sufficient village communities.
Classes are rooted in the mode of production and their respective economic conditions of existence put them in hostile conflict with each other and this accelerates the process of class differentiation in society. Social estates or castes, however, regulate the mode of distribution and thus block the formation of classes as a ‘pure’ category. Class struggle permeates each and every social and political movement and thus assumes a variety of complicated forms.
Modern capitalist society accelerates this process of class differentiation and for the first time conditions are created for the self-perception of classes and open class battles. In India too the advent of capitalism and large-scale manufacturing for the first time brought a breach between caste and occupation and there arose a new class of industrial proletariat. The first generation of the proletariat despatched to plantations, mining, textile, jute etc. overwhelmingly belonged to the untouchable and shudra castes and was later joined by the members of upper castes too.
Factories were thus also the social factories which carried the potential for annihilation of caste. The conservative path of development of Indian capitalism did slowdown this process of class differentiation. The parliamentary democracy gave a new lease of life to caste stabilisation as new dominant social classes fought their battles for share in political power by invoking caste equations. And the economism and parliamentarism practised by social democrats corrupted the vision of working class as the class-for-itself. Still, in comparison to the intelligentsia which remained overwhelmingly composed of upper castes, working class is the cauldron of melting caste identities. The new era of globalisation and liberalisation has started disorganising the organised sector of workers and it is once again rising from slumber to resume its historical mission.
So, class is the basic category. In certain historical situations it may express itself in the form of castes, in other situations the two may be interwoven, overlapping and at the same time criss-crossing each other, and in yet another situation castes are disintegrated to crystallise as classes. This is how the antithesis between two proceeds, until the caste as the regulator of mode of distribution stands annihilated.
Our distinguished author, however, feels otherwise. He condemns Indian communists for mechanically applying the European categories in the Indian conditions and questions the very search of industrial proletariat in India. "Indian industrial working class, which they (Marxists) took to represent the proletarian, is not in fact proletarian. It was also a class born with a silver spoon. It largely belonged to the upper echelons of caste hierarchy. It not only had landed property in the villages and towns, but also inherited intellectual property which the masses lacked. They were not the dispossessed proletarians who had nothing to lose but chains. They were a class whose militancy and radicalism was linked with the rich peasant consciousness and ended with the Kulakisation in Rural India."
The author makes a curious distinction between Indian and Western intellectuals. "Western intellectual has nothing other than his mental labour power. In India, knowledge transcends its domain of religion and philosophy and enters the phase of material production and society. Science, knowledge and skill get separated from physical labour and assume dominance in the production... Hence declassing of Indian intellectual becomes a very difficult task." Make a head or tail of all this meaningless talk if you can. Such an unabashed praise of western intellectual, however, does signify the ‘declassing’ of Mr.Author. Western intellectuals, the possessors of so-called mental labour-power(!), have been essentially bourgeois and petty bourgeois intellectuals engaged in the service of bourgeois society. Open class battles of working class brought a split among them and a section associated itself with the working class. Marx, Lenin and countless others represent that section. Proletarian revolutions, however, encountered, and continue to encounter, a tough resistance from their overwhelming majority.
In contrast, petty-bourgeois intelligentsia in India despite its vacillations and upper caste bias joined progressive democratic and left movements in far greater numbers. The Naxalite movement in particular effected the integration of a large number of petty bourgeois youth with the dalit landless labour.
The author is greatly concerned about educated dalits gravitating towards Brahminism and turning into dalit aristocracy fostered by the bribes and privileges from the state. In explaining this phenomenon he brings in the comparison of Indian dalit vis-a-vis the western proletariat! "While the proletariat fought to regain their mastery over the tools and products of labour which they possessed in the immediate past, the dalits had been dispossessed for generations. The pride, glory and honour were fresh in the memory of the revolutionary proletariat; but the dalit battle was to regain the human personality, which was lost over generations of slavery, untouchability and thralldom. The class was vulnerable enough to fall prey to ruling class stratagems of ideological subversion and cooption." A strange logic! Everything western is good, everything Indian is bad. How come then a whole stratum of labour aristocracy the social base of social democracy arose in the west? How come a dalits in revolutionary struggles played a consistent heroic role in India? A section of labouring people always get co-opted with the system and there is nothing East-West about that. In author’s analysis, the whole class of dalits, being "vulnerable enough to fall prey to ruling class stratagems", stands condemned. Ironically, it is to this class that the author accords the leadership to what he prefers to call "Dalit Democratic Revolution".
For the author, ‘dalit’ represents all the castes and strata discriminated against by the Brahminical ruling classes. Thus, he emphasises a Dalit Democratic Revolution. Organised sector workers, intelligentsia, professionals belonging to upper castes can only be the wavering and undependable ally.
National bourgeoisie, however, constituting the emerging bourgeois elements of the backward classes and oppressed minority nationalities can of course be consistent ally, more so in the context of increasing globalisation and the growing grip of the Brahminical ruling classes over the centralised state.
Rural proletariat as well as proletarian sections in the unorganised and informal sectors belonging to dalit castes will be the leader. And of course, poor peasants or semi-proletarians as well as peasantry at large coming from dalit and shudra castes will be staunch ally.
The whole revolution has thus been turned upside down. Working class being the undependable ally whereas national bourgeoisie being the consistent ally. This revolution author claims will destroy the Brahminical social order and chart the path of genuine democracy. But the author here clearly evades the mention of social order — capitalist or socialist — that the revolution will establish.
The author thus arrives at the united front of all the backward classes and communities as against "class reductionism" and "working class centrism". This he proclaims, as the biggest breakthrough in the Marxist dogma. Biggest breaking through Marxism indeed!
Coming to the specific economic programme of Dalit Democratic Revolution, the author rejects Ambedkar’s programme of land nationalisation and its distribution to cultivators including the landless untouchables with special state assistance. The author argues that "dalits have realised that emancipation lies in ownership of land which means ‘power’ in rural India" and also "the Ambedkarite prescription of distribution of nationalised land by the state misses the essential element, people’s consciousness, that becomes a dynamic material force through direct dalit action for land". He advocates "agrarian revolution through land distribution at the instance of (!) landless and land-poor. Land should be distributed to the agricultural communities on the basis of their proportion in the population. The mode of organisation of production could be left to the democratic decision of the respective communities."
The author opposes the Ambedkar’s programme of nationalisation of key industries under the pretext that the state sector is always used in the interest of the ruling classes. He advocates rather privatisation of public sector by distributing public shares equally to the people.
The author fails to understand that it is only the industrial working class through its control over big industries which can undertake any radical agrarian transformation and also control and transform the national bourgeoisie and thus effect the transition from a democratic to socialist revolution. Leadership of working class is thus inbuilt in a new democratic revolution, new only because it shall pass over to socialism and doesn’t stop at capitalism. Rural and unorganised proletariat — attached as they are with the lower stage of mode of production can never effect this transition on their own. Their limitations are accepted by the author himself when he talks of land distribution only at the instance of landless and leaves the entire organisation of production to peasant communities themselves. It is just a programme of status quoism in the countryside to keep higher rungs of backward caste peasantry — staunch ally of Dalit Democratic Revolution in good humour.
State sector does serve the ruling classes no doubt, but it also raises the solidarity of working class at the national level and educates them in socialist consciousness in the sense that capitalist owner can be dispensed with and industries can be run by a paid management under working class control. That is why Lenin said that socialism is just a step ahead of state capitalism.
The broad united front, if at all it materialises, will inevitably transfer the leadership to the national bourgeoisie and shall only ensure the domination of kulaks of backward castes over the rural poor. The programme of Dalit Democratic Revolution is actually the maximum limit of the most radical of Janata Dal men and our author has not been able to transcend that limit.
Taking his cue from Ambedkar, the author had embarked upon building a model of revolution "on the grammar of caste society with the dynamics of class struggle". He only succeeded in building a model of reform at the full stop of class struggle with the statics of caste society.
The ambitious project synthesis was based on the one hand on rejection of economism, parliamentarism and the dogma of leadership of the industrial working class in Marxist theory and practice, and on the other on the rise of Ambedkarism from petty bourgeois peasant politics to the consciousness of liberation. In the process, first casualty was Marxism and then the radical economic vision of Ambedkarism on which alone Ambedkar, to a great extent, had based his hopes of dalit liberation.
The end product of the strenuous exercise of his mental labour power spread over 140 pages and priced at Rs. 150 has been the hybrid of K Venu and Ram Vilas Paswan at the level of theory and of Janata Dal and PWG-MCC at the level of practical politics. Many many kudos to the author for laying bare this unholy alliance which we had been hinting at for long.