The Resistible Rise of Fascism and the Challenges of the Working Class Movement in India

  • Abhinav Sinha

Dear Friends and Comrades,

The phenomenal victory of Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance on May 16, 2014 and the consequent attacks on civil and democratic rights, students movement, women’s movement and most importantly the working class movement and workers’ rights haveraised several questions, regarding the character of the Modi regime, the conditions that led to the rise of communal Fascists to power, the failure of the revolutionary Left, the role of the parliamentary Left and the Social-Democrats as well as the peculiarities of Indian Fascism and the challenges of the revolutionary Communist and working class movement. Needless to say, the present unprecedented rise of Hindutva Fascism to power must be located in the overall rise of Far Right (often Fascist) forces around the world following the beginning of economic crisis in 2007. From ‘Golden Dawn’ in Greece to ‘Pegida’ in Germany and Britain and ‘National Front’ in France, ‘Svoboda’ in Ukraine or ‘Reclaim Australia’ in Australia, the Fascist and Far Right forces have received fillip from the over-all atmosphere of insecurity and uncertainty. The recent crisis is even snatching away the long-held rights of the white-collared workers and the middle classesin the advanced capitalist countries too asthese have become economically unsustainable for the neoliberal states in the advanced world also. The rise of Modi in India or the military rule in Thailand must be situated in the global rise of reactionary bourgeois regimes, including Fascist regimes. Continue reading

Whither Social Sciences?

  • Abhinav Sinha

Friends,

As social scientists (researcher or teachers of social sciences), perhaps all of us are aware of a sense of unease, a kind of foreboding and a feeling of impending catastrophe prevalent in the corridors of departments of social sciences in the universities and colleges. It would be unrealistic to argue that this feeling of a hovering crisis is misplaced or unfounded. Social scientists across the country have been experiencing this anxiety since the mid-1990s itself for a variety of reasons. One of the most discernible reasons is the economic, namely, the increasing fund-cuts for universities and most alarmingly in the budget allocated for social science education, including research and teaching. Another cause is the state’s increasing political intervention in the institutions of higher education in general and institutions of social sciences in particular. This has been particularly evident from the attempts on the part of the present government to curb the autonomy of these institutions as well as attack the intellectual freedom of practitioners of what we call ‘liberal arts’, social sciences and humanities. I would start with a recent event of attack on the social scientists who raised their voice against rising intolerance (though this binary of tolerance and intolerance itself is an incorrigibly liberal one and highly problematic as it performs a liberal displacement of the fundamental political and ideological debate/struggle; in the words of Gilles Deleuze, it is a ‘dysjunctive synthesis’) in the country since the rise of Modi-led NDA to power. Continue reading

Whither Working Class Movement?

  • Abhinav Sinha

Indian as well as the International working class movement is facing a grave crisis today. Now it is not a matter of contention that the power of capital has dominated the power of labour ever since the fall of the workers’ states that came into being in the first part of the 20th century and especially since the early-1970s. Nevertheless, capitalism itself has not been able to overcome its own crisis since the 1970s. Right since the economic crisis of 1973, World Capitalism has not witnessed a single phase of significant boom. But owing to the policies of Globalization, the Information Technology and Communication Revolution and the ideological, political and cultural onslaughts on the working class, which was already scattered and somewhat demoralized; the capitalist system, despite its tattered state, has succeeded in preventing any meaningful resistance from the working class and also in keeping it from being organized. The working class movement today is faced with a crisis as a result of the new strategies adopted by capital for breaking the resistance of labour at the international level in the era of Globalization and for maintaining the falling rate of profit to the level of survival and our purpose is to understand this crisis so that it can be overcome. Continue reading

Problems of Indian Revolution: Prospects and Challenges

  • Abhinav Sinha

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the disintegration of the mighty Soviet Union in 1990, bourgeois think-tanks and academia of the West reveled in hysteric caterwaul. The death of Marxism and Socialism was proclaimed; the age of ‘meta-narratives’ was finally over; the last oppressiveness of the ‘modern’ was finally over, and the ‘post-modern’ had, at last, begun! The hired hack of the imperialist Rand Corporation, Francis Fukuyama, trumpeted the ultimate victory of liberal bourgeois democracy and thus, ‘the End of History.’ However, a few years back in 2007, when Francis Fukuyama was in ‘India Today Conclave’ to deliver a lecture on the challenges before the ‘New World’ (which, of course, for the likes of Fukuyama, means a world with the Anglo-Saxon axis at the helm of the affairs and neo-con czars ruling the roost around the globe!), he opined that the most dangerous challenges before the liberal bourgeois democracy today are Maoism (which was a term used for any communist group which is ‘left of the social-democrats) and Islamic Terrorism. Islamic terrorism is the Frankenstein created by Imperialism which does not have any systemic utopia to realize; it is the product of reaction and therefore does not have any positive proposal for the future, except the fantasies of an imagined past. But why was Fukuyama so worried about Communism, which according to him, was already a spent force almost two decades ago? If Socialism and Marxism were dead, why so many books, articles, etc are written every year to refute it again and again? Why the imperialist media is still untiringly waging its crusade against Communism and Bolshevik Revolution? Continue reading

Historiography of Caste: Some Critical Observations and Some Methodological Interventions

Abhinav Sinha

In almost all the cases, the entire gamut of writings, research papers and various other kinds of essays on the caste-system, begin with some sentences or phrases that have been so overused as to be rendered into cliché, and since even after getting thoroughly worn out these clichés present the reality to a certain extent, as such I would also use a few similar sentences to begin with.

Caste/Varna is one of the main realities of the Indian social life. No historian, sociologist, anthropologist, or even a political economist, can afford to ignore this reality. Certainly, the influence of casteist mentality over the Indian social psyche goes deep. However while emphasizing upon the caste system and casteist mentality, many a times common people and even the academicians and political activists have this tendency of declaring it to be the only and the single most important aspect of the Indian life and society. While doing so, in essence, they do not actually put the problem of caste and casteist mindset on the agenda of resolution, rather turn it into a meta-reality that cannot be transcended. In fact, what is inherent in such conclusions is an ahistorical view towards the caste system. Somehow caste-system is turned into a system that does not have any beginning or end, a system that is perpetual and eternal. Undoubtedly, this is not the motive of those giving such kind of statements. However, objectively, such utterances lead to such conclusions only. If we do not adopt a historical view on the caste-system, a sense of defeat sets in, which presents the caste-system as invincible. By rejecting all other struggles, “identities” and class-struggles, such an outlook makes the caste system as an integral part of Indian life and people, it converts it into its organic characteristic and thereby it is made as a touchstone for defining Indian psyche. Recently, due to existence of such primitive and totalitarian consciousness (!) some intellectuals have declared the Indian people themselves as a ‘totalitarian community’! According to them, as the project of modernity remains unfinished, there exists an undercurrent of all sorts of totalitarian trends in the society ‘from below’ (that is among the common people), which manifest themselves in the form of casteism, Khap Panchayats, communalism, etc. Therefore, these intellectuals consider that the first priority is to complete the unfinished project of modernity in India, and until this project of modernity is carried to a decisive stage, the task of bringing in a revolutionary change in the whole socio-economic structure should more or less be suspended! They are not the only ones who think this way, there are many more intellectuals expressing such and similar views. These statements are usually governed by a pre-conceived notion; the preconceived notion that it is for capitalism to complete the tasks concerning the project of democracy and modernity and in case it does not do so, it becomes the main task of the progressive forces to complete these tasks, and so long as bourgeois democracy and modernity are not fully realized, proletarian tasks may be suspended. Whereas on one hand it is true that in every struggle of making capitalism more and more democratic, a revolutionary will take part always without fail, however, on the other hand she/he would do it precisely to make the soil more fertile for proletarian class-struggle, she/he does not put on hold the pure and concrete proletarian tasks until this process gets accomplished.

However, there are those intellectuals too, who take a diametrically opposite stand vis-à-vis the stand point of the aforesaid intellectuals. These other intellectuals consider the caste-system or at least the caste-system as we recognize it today, a construct of the colonial state. These academics feel that all the identities including caste were there all along in the Indian society before India was colonized, and they co-existed (harmoniously). The colonial state under its hegemonic design constructed caste, using its ethnographic state apparatus to oppress and crush the Indian masses. Armed with the logic of Western Enlightenment, they wanted to know India better, to rule it in a better way. The type of colonial understanding that emerged about India was the product of the fusion of brahminical  and other hegemonic groups with the ethnographic machinery of the colonial state, and this is what gave birth to the caste system in its contemporary form. There existed the fetish, born out of the Enlightenment mindset, of enumerating and categorizing things, due to which the Indian populace was also classified into “logical” categories, in which caste became the foremost category. The use of caste in the Census gave further impetus to this process.

Both the viewpoints neglect the historicity of the caste system. We will deliberate on both of these viewpoints further onward in this essay.

Our foremost aim in this essay is to humbly put forward a historical understanding of the genesis of the caste-system and the changes it has been undergoing through centuries. It is not our goal to present only a critical account of different trends of the historiography of caste, simply because that can be found in any standard textbook. Neither is our goal to demonstrate that the caste system has always been in flux, because that is also an established fact amongst serious academics. Historians of ancient and medieval India have repeatedly revealed it, that the caste system has undergone significant changes during different historical periods; historians of modern India have also shown how the colonial state as well as the nationalist politics has used the caste identity and in this process how they have brought changes in the hierarchical sequence of these identities and their interrelationships. Various sociologists have brought our attention towards the mobility persisting within the caste system. So if someone in our times claims that she/he has discovered the mobility existing within the caste system, is as if they have claimed to have discovered fire or wheel all over again! It has also been said that in different ages the socio-economic context or milieu is responsible for the changes occuring in the caste system, and it is through articulation with this alone that the changes take place in the internal structure of the caste system.

Thus, it is not our endeavor here to rediscover things that have already been discovered. One of the objectives that we have in this essay is to analyze this articulation more specifically. While arguing that socio-economic factors have been affecting and changing the caste-system, it should also be clarified that, what these socio-economic factors are, and what are the characteristic features of what we are, in general, terming as socio-economic milieu and context. In our opinion, it is the dominant production relations and the dominant mode of production of any period, with which the articulation of the caste system takes place. The second proposition, that we want to put forward in this essay, is that in this mutual interaction, in the final analysis, the aspect of development of the production relations and productive forces, and class struggle plays the main role. That is to say that in the mutual interaction between the caste system and the dominant mode of production prevailing in the society the material factor of the mode of production plays the predominant role. However, this in no way means that the caste system is being determined mechanically at each moment by the changes taking place in the mode of production and production relations. That is why we have clarified at the very outset that it is in the ultimate analysis that these changes play determining role. Then it does not also mean at all that caste and class are essentially one and the same, or that class is caste indeed. Definitely, any such concept is not really talking about any articulation, rather about the complete overlapping of two distinct phenomena, and evidence from the Indian history show that except at the stage of its inception, there has never been any stage in the entire history of caste, when there was any kind of complete  overlapping between caste and class. But subsequently the gap which was produced between the caste system and class division has continued in the history till date, and in different systems of production a correspondence between the two has existed whose form has been changing according to these very different production systems. The third point that we want to make in this essay is that the caste system, during every historical period, has been playing the role of a useful ideology for maintaining the hegemony of different ruling classes.

In this way, one must accept the peculiarity of the caste system, because in the history of other societies, we do not come across such an element of continuity in the ideologies according legitimation to the dominance and hegemony of the ruling classes. Generally, in other societies, with the arrival of a new ruling class, the main aspect in the new ideologies legitimizing the rule of the ruling class has been the aspect of change. But in the history of Indian social formation, despite various fundamental changes in the ideology of caste, the core element that determines and represents it, has remained the same. Of course, while the variables on which this ideology has been applied in different social formations have completely changed, and the execution of this ideology itself has undergone fundamental changes.

Later, we will consider the origin of the caste system, the changes that it has undergone in the historical epochs of ancient and medieval India, as well as the changes in the production relations that were the fundamental reasons behind these changes and then we will also underline some basic changes in the caste system in modern India, especially in the latter half of the colonial period and in the post-independence India, and on that basis would try to substantiate our aforesaid propositions.

  • Interpretations of the Origin and Development of Varna/Caste System: Main Problems of Historiography

There is a lot of controversy among the historians regarding the development of the Varna system in its embryonic form during the last phase of the Ṛgvedic period (also known as the Early Vedic Period) and about its consolidation in the Later Vedic Period. There are several opinions prevalent among historians as to what were the main factors behind the emergence of varna system and also about the factors which played the main role in the emergence of caste (jati) later on. We will present the main views in brief, and also our opinion about them. We will also discuss later on the differences between varna and caste (jati). But the analysis of historiography must also be done in a historical manner, because the history of historiography is also indispensable for understanding the appropriate ideas, interpretations and propositions about history. Therefore, we will begin with the colonial period. The discussion about the ideas which were put forward by the native and foreign observers about the varna/caste system in the earlier periods is outside the scope of this paper. Moreover, at present such an analysis is also not needed, because systematic studies on the process of social differentiation of the Indian society broadly began during the colonial period only. In what follows, we will give a brief account of the main studies of the caste system and their interpretations during the colonial period.

  • Main Interpretations during the Colonial Period

In a way, it were the colonial administrators and scholars who initiated a systematic study of the social structure of ancient India. The foremost among the initial representative works was “A Brief View of Caste System of North-western Provinces and Awadh” by J.C. Nesfield, which was published in 1855.  Nesfield, on the basis of his studies, proposed that the determination of occupations on the basis of heredity, is the basic foundation, on which the edifice of caste system stands. According to Nesfield, it were the earlier guilds of artisans and craftsmen in ancient India that got metamorphosed into various castes. The hierarchy among them was determined by the oldness or newness of the occupation. The newer an occupation was, the higher would be its position in the hierarchy. After this, several colonial administrators and the western scholars of that era tried to define and interpret the caste system. Among them French Indologist Charles Emilie Marie Senart played a significant role. Senart was the first person to make a distinction between varna and caste. He considered the motion of varna to be more akin to that of class, while caste was an autonomous entity to a certain extent. Later, however, the castes got assimilated into the varnas. Whereas the hierarchy of castes was a real phenomenon for him, he considered the hierarchical organization described in the varnasharma system to be unreal and conceptual. Senart thinks that the brahmins included the various Indo-European lineages in the varnashrama system and had given them a subordinate status, so that their own hegemony remained intact. However, this opinion of Senart was rejected by most of the historians. But the greatest contribution of Senart was that, he made a distinction between the varna and the caste system, which was to a large extent adopted in the later day historiography.

Herbert H. Risley, the colonial administrator who started carrying out the Census in India, gave his own idea on the caste/varna system. According to him, the predominant factor in the evolution of the castes, was the racial factor. He used the nasal index (the length of nose) in order to distinguish between the Aryans and non-Aryans. The caste system got considerably consolidated after Risley started a caste-based Census, besides, it got ossified as well in its contemporary form. The influence of Risley’s racial interpretation continued till much later period, however, in the historiography of the post-independence India, the archaeological and literacy evidences have rejected this racial interpretation decisively.

After Risley the western scholar who left a marked influence on the studies of the caste-system, was the French sociologist Celestin Bougle who also collaborated with Emile Durkheim. The interpretation of the caste system which Bouglé gave, had a major influence on another French sociologist Louis Dumont’s thoughts which we will discuss later. Louise Dumont is considered to be the most authoritative scholar on the caste-system, although his ideas face intense criticism by the later historians and sociologists. For now let’s return to Bouglé’s thoughts. Celestin Bougle opined that caste-system can be identified by its three characteristic manifestations. Firstly, a hereditarily-determined occupation; secondly, hierarchy and thirdly, repulsion, i.e. the alienation of one caste from another. Bougle did not subscribe to the idea that it were the Brahmins who framed the caste-system. On the contrary, the caste-system came into being due to the socio-economic changes, the Brahmins gave it a legitimation only. The idea of purity and pollution was the main factor behind the hierarchy present in the system. Thus, Bougle completely rejected the racial interpretation of the caste-system given by Risley. Bougle’s study on the caste-system can be counted among the most serious and effective studies of his time. Bougle also accepted the idea of Senart that the varna-system is an idealized concept, while caste is a reality.

J. H. Hutton, whose book ‘Caste in India’ came into print in 1946, was the last among the foremost scholars of the caste system before 1947. Hutton considered the existing theories interpreting the caste-system inappropriate, as these did not properly grasp the reality of caste. He enumerated fifteen characteristic features of caste, prominent among them were environmental segregation, magical beliefs, totemism, idea of purity-pollution, the doctrine of Karma, clash of races, the prejudices concerning complexion of skin, and the tendency to exploit by dint of hierarchy. But there were numerous inconsistencies throughout Hutton’s theory. On one hand, he does not put any causal explanation about the emergence and development of the caste-system and on the other hand, for him caste becomes an aggregate of different social groups. Hutton was altogether unsuccessful in comprehending their interrelationships. Dumont, Pocock and all the later sociologists rejected Hutton’s theory. It was a kind of an eclectic theory that made a compilation of the different apparent manifestations of caste.

During the colonial period, some Indian scholars also made sociological studies of the caste-system. But they were somehow similar to the interpretations that we have discussed above. In 1911, S.N. Ketkar published his book ‘History of Caste in India’, in which he gave thoughts similar to those of Celestin Bougle and rejected the racial theory. In 1916, D. Ebetson published his book ‘Punjab Caste‘ which deals with the castes of Punjab. In it he stressed on the role of tribes in the emergence of castes. But the main interpretative frameworks which existed before independence were mentioned above.

Before proceeding it is important to clarify here that Ronald Inden, Nicholas Dirks and many Subaltern Historians such as Partha Chatterjee have put forward the view about the studies of the colonial administrators that they invent or imagine the caste system. It was the colonial ruling class which established the caste system in its ossified form. In order to break Indian people’s resistance, the colonial state also used knowledge and culture apart from economic and political means. According to them, the use of knowledge and culture was even more important than the economic and political factors. As per their view, caste becomes a construct of the colonialists. This entire viewpoint faces two problems. On the one hand, if your agree to it, that the caste system is a construct of the colonialists, a specimen of colonial knowledge, which was prepared to establish their dominance over the Indian people, then you become uncritical towards the pre-colonial India without saying so. Attributing each and every wrong to the Enlightenment rationality and modernity, you declare everything including imperialism, communalism, caste system, etc as colonial constructs and knowingly or unknowingly glorify the pre-British India. For example, Nicholas Dirks admits that caste existed before the arrival of colonialism in India but it was just one among various other social identities. But colonialism constructed caste as the only effective identity and classified the whole Indian population accordingly. Doing so, the Occident successfully degraded the Orient, made it appear as an inferior civilization, and projected the entire Indian population as backward and primitive. Caste was presented as an natural peculiarity of the Indian people and was condemned. But on this whole outlook it can be said that while on the one hand the colonialism did indeed play an important role in ossifying the caste system and it increased the rigidity of caste divide, it is also true that even after the establishment of colonialism there were multiple identities in the Indian society. For example, the linguistic and tribal identities, which were also used as instruments of identity politics.

Secondly, political and economic hegemony was not at all secondary in the project of colonial domination; on the contrary, the efforts that the colonialists made to understand the Indian society, in order to be able to rule it, were made precisely to make the political and economic domination possible and more effective. It was no conspiracy. In fact, the colonialists really believed that to rule India in a more effective manner, it must be understood properly. The process already began with William Jones establishing the Asiatic Society in 1784 and it continued thereafter. We may indeed argue that the colonialists tasted both success and failure in this endeavour of theirs, and they were not fully successful in understating India “in the proper way”! But to term their failure as a conscious conspiracy and a construct is to forcibly impose anti-modernity and anti-Enlightenment ideas of postmodernist, postcolonial theory and Orientalism on the Indian history. Susan Bayly, in her book ‘Caste and Politics in Eighteenth Century India’, has criticized this line of thought of Nicholas Dirks from her point of view (which we can definitely criticize), and has argued that Brahminism and its hegemony were not a product of colonialism, though they were certainly strengthened by it. The brahmins played a significant role in construction of this colonial knowledge, and the collaboration of the colonial state and native elites could be discerned throughout this entire process. The collaboration between the colonial state and the native elites and feudal classes was neither an imagination, nor a construct, but was a stark reality.

So, it is a futile effort to present the caste-related studies of the colonialists as a machination of the rationality of Enlightenment, and to show “Oriental innocence” (Ashish Nandy) as a ‘passive victim’. The celebration of the pre-colonial past by historians of Subaltern Studies and the academics motivated by Orientalism of Edward Said and post-modernism in the name of opposing modernity and Enlightenment, is a flight of imagination and a mental construct of these historians. Sumit Sarkar in his book ‘Beyond Nationalist Frames’ has shown that this cultural critique of colonialism, ultimately aligns itself with the revivalism of the extreme Right, though it superficially terms communalism also as a colonial construct (which is more accurate in this context as compared to caste). This whole logic is a circular and a self-defeating one.

  • Post-Independence Sociological Studies: Disregard of History and Essentialization of the Caste System

Suvira Jaisawal while commenting on post-Independence sociological studies in her book Caste: Origin, Function and Dimension of Change, states that these studies, in a way ignore the aspect of history. The whole stress goes into the study of the intricacies of the contemporary nature of caste, but they do not venture to delve into its origin or at least do not do so sincerely. To a great extent, this analysis seems to be correct. Since, while studying the caste system these sociologists ignore its evolution and origin, and see it in its contemporaneity only, they arrive at extremely divergent and incomplete conclusions. Undoubtedly, these studies provide several insights regarding the contemporary caste system. But, while they are unable to use these insights, historians use them.

Among these sociologists, the most renowned was Louis Dumont, whose book Homo Heirarchicus has a Biblical eminence for sociologists studying caste system, irrespective of whether they are in concord or discord with it. One of the reasons is that, Dumont’s interpretation is chiseled with great sophistry. No sharp contradiction is apparent in it. Different concepts have been made to fit in a precisely sculpted structure. As the name of the book suggests, it is about those people or communities, who do not follow the principle of equality. According to Dumont, the Occidental man has faith on the principle of equality by virtue of his individualism (Homo equalis or Homo economicus). But every society needs hierarchy. Dumont says, the moment you imbibe a value, you are in effect accepting a hierarchy. The greatest peculiarity of the Hindu society lies in that, its hierarchy is harmonious. This hierarchy, namely the caste system, has nothing to do with material and economic factors. The element that determines the caste system and even builds it up, is the ritualistic hierarchy. This ritualistic doctrine is the basic structure (as Levi Strauss means it) that is determining the reality here. Brahminical ritualistic ideology constructs the social reality in the Hindu society. The most fundamental element of this ideology is to build up an entire social hierarchy based on the logic of purity and pollution with the Brahmin at its apex, and the untouchables, at its bottom. Every caste is defined on the basis of its relationship with other castes, and consequently we get a complete structure of castes organized in a hierarchical manner. Dumont has answer also for the question about the origin of the idea of purity and pollution! He contends that this idea is that structure of fundamental values that builds reality, and it is pre-given. Such a set of values exists in every society. Hierarchy is an essential value, and every society needs it. In this sense, the caste system endows the Hindu society with such a hierarchical structure, which is uncompetitive, harmonious, unchangeable, and makes the society stable. Dumont repeatedly places these peculiarities vis-à-vis the Western society, and in a way subtly asks the question, what have the values of equality and individualism given to the Occidental Civilization? Thus, Dumont, in the words of Gerald Berreman, adopts a brahminical view of caste. It is in a way equivalent to justifying the caste-system. Dumont fails to explain the fact, in any way, though he is obliged to admit it, that with the development of industries and capitalism, caste restrictions on occupation and commensal prejudices have been weakening steadily, as demonstrated by G S Ghurye and E K Gough; the only characteristic feature that persists is endogamy. Dumont thinks that these political, social and economic changes have no bearing on the caste system, rather they get absorbed within the caste system. Dumont does not draw any conclusion from these changes. For him the Hindu society, along with its caste system and hierarchy, becomes an ideal, unchanging society. Obviously, we need not spend many words to refute Dumont’s thesis.

Javeed Alam has remarked somewhere rightly indeed, that most of such sociological ideologies are in reality designed to enter into a shadow-boxing with Marxism and the materialist dialectical historical methodology. In fact, Dumont does criticize Marx for predicting the elimination of caste with the arrival and development of railways and large-scale industries. Actually, Marx was talking about the disintegration of caste-based hereditary division of labour, and in this aspect Marx’s prediction has been proved more or less correct. Dumont thinks that since the Indian social structure is unchangeable, eternal, hence its history cannot be written. This point of view aligns markedly close with the old colonial viewpoint, to which Edward John Thomson, father of E P Thomson, has given a remarkably wonderful expression. Thomson said, India is a country singularly bereft of history. On this idea of Dumont, Irfan Habib has aptly written:

            “If such is to be the history of India, to fit a contemporary western sociologist’s image of the caste system, is it not more likely that there is something wrong with this image rather than with Indian history? It may, in fact, well be that there is a good historical explanation for Dumont’s excessively narrow view of caste. During the last hundred years and more, the hereditary division of labour has been greatly shaken, if not shattered. As a result, this aspect has increasingly receded into the background within the surviving domain of caste. The purely religious and personal aspects have, however, been less affected. (One can see that this is by no means specific to India: religious ideology survives long after the society for which the particular religion has served as a rationalization has disappeared)” (Irfan Habib,1995.Caste in Indian History, ‘Essays in Indian History’, Page 164, Tulika Books, New Delhi)

A whole lot of sociologists have studied the caste system after Dumont. They have drawn attention towards the use of casteist consciousness by the affluent elite classes born in every caste in post-Independence India, and have shown the way the caste equations are being used in electoral politics. Two aspects can be discerned as we go through these studies, that remain today as the characteristic features of caste politics. One is that, in every caste, dalits also included, there has emerged an affluent class which, in order to garner votes or to have usufruct of the resources, or to establish its monopoly over the access to them, invokes the caste-consciousness of the plebeians of their own caste. This aspect can be prominently seen in the politics of BSP, SP, RJD and parties of their ilk, and all the electoral candidates, even of the BJP and the Congress, who use their caste identity at the grass-root level, and frame caste-based equations. Eventually, when the election results are out, the different caste elites enter into mutual bargaining, deals, and negotiations, and on the basis of these exchanges, the ruling alliance is put together. In other words, in its mutual rivalry, the ruling class makes use of the caste equation. The other aspect which is the more significant, is that the electoral parties which claim to represent all the castes, the dalit caste included, are the electoral parties of elites of these castes, and these elite classes of the different castes join hands to oppress the masses and to keep the people divided and foment caste consciousness among them. Notwithstanding these important insights, the greatest shortcoming of these sociological studies is that they do not pay serious attention to the history of caste system. Leaving aside some cursory mention, the understanding of these people about the emergence of caste system and its subsequent development is inappropriate. This is the reason why they cannot give any explanation of the changes that take place in the phenomenon of the caste. Their total attention is focused on the study of the dynamics of the contemporary phenomenon of caste. But the irony is that, a balanced understanding even about this dynamics can be reached only when, one has a clear view on the emergence and development of the caste system.

It is the lack of a historical vision that does not allow the whole lot of sociologists to comprehend the dynamics of the caste-system and often the sociologists see the caste system as a static system, which consequently becomes the identity of the Hindu/Indian society, and its fundamental characteristic or logic. Something which has always been there and will be there forever. Many a times, such theorization goes to the extent of justifying the caste system, as is done by P. A. Sorokin. Sorokin has made the peristence of the caste system through ages, that is, its sustainability, the basis for its justification. His logic goes like this, the reason that the caste system still exists is that, it gives the people of the society a satisfactory hierarchy. Here also one can notice the inherent preconceived notion, that the caste system is an unchanging phenomenon that has been providing the Hindu society with a semblance of stability. In a similar vein, Nirmal Bose has also considered the the caste system to be an unchanging factor which provides stability. He thinks that, in the society the caste system saves people from getting uprooted, since it ensures them, their right over their occupations. Monopoly over occupation gives people a sense of security.

In order to look for the reasons behind the trend that is there in these sociological studies, of viewing the caste system as a static one, we cannot refer to this entirely diverse lot of sociologists. We must understand that this lacuna is actually the lacuna of the very academic discipline of sociology. The discipline of sociology was designed precisely to disprove the dialectical and historical materialistic outlook of Marxism. For instance, the sociological method of viewing the hierarchy as an indispensible necessity of every society, gives a legitimacy to the caste system also, and puts a question-mark on the goal of an egalitarian society itself, as propounded by Marxism. Afterwards, on the face of the riposte made by Marxism, the branch of sociology has also undergone through a number of changes and there have appeared a number of Marxist sociologists, who placed even Marx along with Weber and Durkheim as the founding father of the discipline of sociology. The basic prejudice or preconceived notion of sociology is a positivist prejudice, whose roots can be seen in the ideas of Auguste Comte. In this essay we cannot write a critique of the entire discipline of sociology, but this much is clear that the discrepancy present in the sociological studies of the caste system has its roots in the absence, rather a kind of conscious negation, of a historical outlook in this entire discipline. As a result, studies made, divorcing contemporaneity completely from history, gives us some valuable fragmentary insights, but fail to provide us with any consistent approach or methodology of explaining the caste system.

Other than these sociological interpretations, the study on caste system done by G. S. Ghurye also made a significant contribution. On the whole, Ghurye put stress on the racial origin of the caste-system. Besides him, there were some other sociologists also, such as N. K. Dutt, D. N. Majumdar and R. P. Chandra who supported this idea of racial origin. These people are of the opinion that, the Aryans invaded the Indian subcontinent at its north-western area, and subjugated the people of Dravidian origin. To keep these subjugated people under a structural subordination, the Brahmins constructed the theory of purity/pollution. With this theory at the base, the caste hierarchy was designed according to relative purity/pollution in comparison to the Brahmins, and thus came the caste system into being. But as Suvira Jaiswal has argued, there are no evidence to substantiate this theory. Sociologists have also debated a lot over the difference between caste and varna. Max Weber saw varna as a phenomenon akin to the European ‘estate’. Trautman declared caste to be a real phenomenon while varna was a phenomenon similar to the ‘estate’. There are sociologists who are of the opinion that varna system gives a bookish description of the caste system, which provides an idealized categorization. Castes are a real phenomenon, which, as they were born, got successively ensconced within these varnas. That is why we can witness different localized patterns of co-option of castes into the varnas, while the latter have a pan-Indian character. But one thing is common everywhere. The scale, or definition of purity of every caste or the unit of its measurement is the highest purity of the Brahmins. Which means that all the castes get their places within the caste system (hierarchy) depending on their relative distance from the Brahmins. The difference determined between caste and varna by the sociologists is also only and only the difference decided on the basis of the contemporary caste system. Nobody disagrees with the fact that these notions are different. But the way the sociologists, without developing any understanding of the evolution and development of these categories, have presented the varna system as ‘book view of caste’ and the jatis as ‘field view of caste’ is totally ahistoric. Ancient history reveals it, that at those beginning phases, jati and varna were used synonymously. But when the word varna vyavastha was used, the implication was that the classic, idealized system of the four varnas was being discussed, which was mentioned for the first time in the ‘Purushasukta’ of the later part of Ṛgveda, according to which the Vedic society was divided into four varnas – Brahman, Rajanya, Vis and Śudra. Using the word jati meant that we were talking of those tribal groups which were assimilated into the Vedic society, and depending on different influencing factors, were considered as a part of one or the other of the four varnas. But so long castes were yet to emerge, the words Jati and Varna were used synonymously. We witness use of the word jati for the first time in the period prior to circa 200 BC. Suvira Jaiswal considers that it was the period when the large-scale proliferation of castes was yet to be a wide-spread phenomenon, and the use of the word jati in the literature of the period immediately after the Vedic period, especially during the time of Buddha, was not itself a sign of a full-fledged caste system coming into existence. In effect, the word jati was still used to mean varna only. Historians are divided in their opinions about how the transition from varna towards jati took place, and to have a fair understanding, we must observe briefly the historiography of ancient India.

  • Origin and Development of the Caste System: Problems of Historiography

Suvira Jaiswal tells that both the words varna and jati are used in ‘Ashtadhyayi’ of Panini. Panini belonged to the period around circa 200 BC. In ‘Bṛhatsamhita’ of Varahamihira also jati and varna were used synonymously. But in ‘Yajnyavalkyasmriti’ there is one instance where jati and varna come with different connotations, but, several times they are used synonymously also. Clearly, till 200 BC the development of the system of castes did not reach a decisive stage.

Among the historians of ancient India, both Iravati Karve and Romila Thapar (notwithstanding having different opinions on numerous occasions) agree that the origin of caste system should actually be explored in the Harappan civilization before the arrival of the Aryans. Romila Thapar is of the opinion that, some basic elements of the caste system such as groups divided on the basis of heredity which controlled the institution of marriage, the idea of purity/pollution, and the elements of the jajmani system, were all incipient in the Harappan civilization itself. Romila Thapar concludes that the Great Bath of Mohen Jo-daro was actually meant for some ritual connected with purity/pollution. But this seems to be more like a flight of imagination based on a blend of fractured factums and evidence. Aryans are exonerated from the crime of introducing the caste system and varna system, and the caste-system becomes a natural endowment of the Indian subcontinent. That is, there is something (which is) completely Indian in the caste system. This becomes a prominent feature of the Indian way of life and system of ideas. Similar notions were forwarded earlier also. It is certainly not the motive of Romila Thapar to make an Indianized essentialization of the caste system, but on the objective plane, her thesis supports this conclusion. And the most significant thing is that, it has no evidence in its support, rather there are several contra-evidences.

If we make a perusal of the emergence of the caste system in the history of ancient India, we observe that it is inseparably linked with the emergence of classes, state, and patriarchy in the society. A consistent understanding of this history is essential because without it, the historicity of caste and the mindset connected with the caste system cannot be understood, and to us also the casteist mindset and the caste system will become a natural trait of the Indian people. A dialectical and historical materialistic interpretation of ancient Indian history, can be considered to begin with Damodar Dharmanand Kosambi. According to Kosambi one can find evidence of the beginning of the varna system at the end of the Ṛgvedic period. But, the system of castes does not grow simultaneously with it. When the Vedic civilization spread eastward from the north-western frontiers, caste emerged along with the assimilation of new tribes into the Vedic society. We will present our views on this interpretation in detail in the coming pages. Morton Klass also studies the origin of the caste system. Klass comes to the conclusion that castes originated right in the prehistoric era with the beginning of agriculture. The tribes having access to cultivable lands turned into high castes, whereas the tribes coming into this region from other areas became the lower castes. These castes voluntarily accepted their subordinate status vis-a-vis the other castes that already had the access to arable land and practised agriculture. But we can find no evidence in history to support this theory. The notion working behind this theory is that the caste system came into being with the beginning of surplus production i.e. with the beginning of agriculture. But surplus production cannot on its own create the caste system unless a Brahminical ideology also is present there. This Brahminical ideology was the ideological apparatus to institutionalize class division in the form of the system of varnas. This is the reason why caste system emerged in the north-east long after the stage of surplus production was reached and classes came into existence, when the Brahminical ideology gave this division of classes, its casteist form. Moreover, Morton Klass‘s theory of the transition from clans/tribes to castes can explain the emergence of those castes only who are engaged in production. In his schema, the origin of the brahmin caste  itself, remains unexplained. Besides, Morton Klass is also incorrect when he opines that caste system emerged almost simultaneously in the entire Indian subcontinent. Historical evidence now reveal it clearly that caste system spread in the southern and eastern India afterwards, and it acquired an form vastly different from the caste system of the north and north-western India.

Besides this, there is also a theory of the Dravidian origin of the evolution of castes, according to which, the Dravidian civilization had some elements which gave birth to the caste system. One such theory puts stress on the concept of tinai, in ancient south Indian Sangam literature. According to this, tinai is a word used to connote a region. Five tinais are mentioned which were occupied by different communities. The socio-economic conditions in these tinais were altogether different. In some places agrarian society was coming into existence, while in others, elements of the pastoral society still existed. Fishing was the mainstay of the economy in the tinais of the coastal areas. When fusion started between these societies, then people of tinais with advanced production relations started to construct higher castes. But this theory cannot properly explain the origins of the caste system. This is due to the fact that the tinais mention five different geographical-ecological regions, and the communities inhabiting these areas did not belong to a society divided into classes. The society whose characteristic feature is the caste system, is in reality a unified society with definite property relations.

Another reason that gave birth to the theory of Dravidian origin, is the theory of untouchability of the sacred communities in the Dravidian civilization. According to this theory, a holy man is actually a carrier of all sorts of impurities, and these deadly impurities resident in him are contagious. But here the relation of the pure and the polluted is just opposite to the one found in the caste system. Historical evidence have now demonstrated that the doctrine of purity/pollution can originate in many nomadic and pastoral societies, where often, according to a sociologist named Bruce Lincoln, rise priest and warrior classes. In this era of magical world outlook one class performs its role by sacrificing animals for enhancing the cattle wealth through rituals, while the other class performs the role of leadership in the process of capturing the cattle wealth of other tribes by attacking them. Other remaining classes formed the common plebeian masses. The first class forms the class of priests, and often constructs the doctrines of purity/pollution. But this class cannot by itself become the cause of the origin of the caste system. Thus, the theory of Dravidian origin also is a scheme only for which no historical evidence exists.

Kosambi’s theories on the emergence of the varna system are significant. Many ideas of his theory were later found to be inappropriate. However, his methodology presents a consistent interpretation of the existing evidence and makes on its basis, extremely logical simulations about the unknown aspects. According to Kosambi, an Aryan community had already settled in the Indian subcontinent before the coming of the Vedic Aryans. Chances are there that this group got assimilated with the remaining elements of the Harappan Civilization. When the Vedic Aryans came, the people of this group clashed with them. In Ṛgveda these very people have been called dasyu or däsa. A few positive comments have also been made about some powerful chiefs of these tribes/clans of dasyus or däsas. The term asura has been used for them. But it seems that, at that time the word asura was used to mean a deity. Because we see that it has also been used for Indra, who was the chief this-wordly (ih-laukik) deity of the Vedic Aryans. For the deities of the other-world (parlok) the word deva was used. It has been said about these dasyu/däsas that their complexion (varna) was nigrescent or dark which shows that they had undergone intermingling with the residual elements of the Harappan civilization, and this is quite possible that they mixed with the other aboriginal people as well. Many references of the clashes of the dasyus/ däsas with the Aryans are found in the Ṛgveda. Eventually, these Vedic Aryans vanquished the däsas. The meanings of the words ‘asura’ and ‘däsa’ changed with the defeat of the däsas. Since the word ‘asura’ was used for the däsa chieftains, so later the word ‘sura’ came to be used for the Aryan chieftains/gods. When the däsas/dasyus were completely brought under the subjugation of the Vedic Aryans, the modern meaning of the word ‘däsa’ i.e. a slave, came in use. These subjugated dasyus/ däsas got transformed into the Śudra caste. According to D. D. Kosambi, new production relations came into existence along with the Śudra caste coming into being and with the Vedic Civilization reaching the Gangetic plains. With the expansion of agriculture and beginning of the use of iron, the stage of surplus production was attained. During the introduction of this stage, new tribes were getting assimilated in the society of Vedic Aryans. According to Kosambi, with this, castes based on principle of endogamy came into being. Romila Thapar opines the same but in a slightly different manner. According to her, the vanquished tribes became the lower castes, whereas the victors became the upper castes.

According to Kosambi, the reference of the system of four varnas that we find in the ‘Purushasukta’ of the tenth mandala of Ṛgveda at almost the close of the earlier Vedic age, was in reality manifesting class-division only. According to him, the varna system in that primitive stage of production was indeed a symptom of class division, and what we are calling by the name varna in this stage, was actually class and nothing else. There is ample amount of historical evidence in support of this argument of Kosambi. For instance, the system of four varnas that is described in ‘Purushasukta’, does not yet mention endogamy and hereditary division of labour. That is, none of the basic characteristic features by which we identify the caste system today, were in existence yet. Ramsharan Sharma has also confirmed it.

Kosambi has considered the birth of slave labour also, as one of the origins of the emergence of class division in the later half of the period of Vedic society. Definitely, in the Indian subcontinent slave-labour has never been used to that scale in productive activities, as the scale on which it was used in the ancient Greek or Roman civilizations. But the logic put forward by Kosambi in this context, and which seems to be correct, is that the emergence of slave labour, in a primitive tribal or a nomadic pastoral society has a significance in itself, and it makes no difference, that to what extent it was used in production activities. The moot point is that, whatever be the extent to which slave labour is put into use, it is a symptom of disintegration of communal relations. The coming into existence of the Śudra varna in the later half of the Ṛgvedic period and especially in the post-Vedic period, their use as slaves, the collusion of Brahmins and the Kṣatriyas to oppress and exploit the Vaiśyas to a certain extent, and to oppress and exploit the śudras to the hilt, were the signs that class society had arrived. But we must present sufficient arguments to show that, at this primitive stage of production, there was basically and mainly, an overlapping present between varna and class.

This aspect was elucidated by the excellent historian of ancient India Ramsharan Sharma. Sharma makes it clear that a stratification/categorization was in existence, there in the Ṛgvedic age, but that could not be given the name ‘class’ yet. Slave labour was also present in the form of female slave labour only, who were not only engaged in domestic labour, but many a times they were used to replenish the depleted number of women in the victor tribes; i.e they got assimilated into the victorious tribe/caste. But neither was there surplus large enough yet, that these categories could transform into classes, nor did they acquire the traits of varna or caste,  such as endogamy, hereditary occupation (division of labour), and rigid hierarchy. In the form of slave labour, there were Śudras, who were none other than the subordinated dasyus/däsas. Their children sired by the higher varnas used to be absorbed in the Vedic society without any discrimination. The social categorization between the four varnas that came into being in the later half of the Ṛgvedic period, was not yet a varna/caste system as such, rather it was a manifestation of the embryonic class-division in the society. Ramsharan Sharma called it ‘small scale non-monetary peasant  society’, in which inequity in distribution had already started, but powerful elements of tribal society (nomadic pastoral society) were still present. Around Circa 1000 BC to 700 BC, with the beginning of use of iron, the Gangetic plain was cleared off forests, use of iron plough was started, that enhanced productivity, and the amount of surplus production crossed the threshold, creating conditions conducive for the formation of class and state. Another historian B. N. S. Yadav, submitted some new evidence in support of Ramsharan Sharma’s interpretation. He showed that this process of consolidation of class-society continued during the period extending from the 7th century BC to the 1st century AD. In this very period, new tribes got assimilated in the varna-based society and new castes came into being as a result of it. In this period another phenomenon also appeared on the scene. The hold of the Kṣatriyas and the Brahmins on the Śudras got weakened to a certain degree and the latter gradually started getting transformed into a dependent agrarian population in which previously, the vaiśyas were the majority. The vaiśyas who still pursued agricultural activities, were on the decline on the ritualistic plane and many of them started descending into the śudra varna. The rest of them went on to take trade as their occupation. Thus, there was a fall in the population of the vaiśyas and they made trade their principal occupation.

What was the fundamental cause behind this change that appeared in the varna/caste system? The principal reason behind these changes was the emergence of a new mode of production and new production relations. We have evidence of land grants from the first century AD. Brahmans were the principal beneficiaries of these land grants. However, they were not the exclusive beneficiaries and sometimes it were the kṣatriyas while in the other cases it could be the vaiśyas as well. The brahmin-kṣatriya alliance had the main sway in the state authority. During the Maurya period, this feature was clearly visible in the state power. The main function of Brahmins was still priestly activities but with the emergence of feudalism in its embryonic form and with Brahmins becoming the recipients of land grants, changes appeared in their character. They were now also emerging as landlords. The character of the kṣatriya varna was already that of warriors and landlords. The brahmin-kṣatriya alliance still assumed the role of ruling class. However, during seven hundred years from the fourth century to eleventh century AD to mature, when feudal production relations kept developing, there appeared fundamental changes in the roles of the four varnas. We would discuss more about it afterwards.

Suvira Jaiswal agrees with the description of the feudal mode of production as given by Ramsharan Sharma and B.N.S Yadav. According to her, the objection raised by Harbans Mukhia, that the then prevalent social formation could not be called feudal because serfdom did not have any significant presence, as inconsequential. Indian feudalism did not need serfs as a separate class. The subordinate status of the śudras and the untouchable castes fulfilled this need. Many times, the śudras became sharecroppers. Actually the partial overlapping that can still be seen to this day between the landless labourers and the lower castes has its roots in the times of feudalism itself. Jaiswal argues that ignoring the class functions of the caste system would be tantamount to ignoring its economic and political aspects. And if these fundamental economic and political aspects of the caste system are neglected, then nothing remains of it other than endogamy and hereditary division of labour. In such a case, caste system would become an ahistoric part of the Indian life, history and society, without any beginning or end, and hence also a natural element of Indian life, history and society. It is known to us that many ideologues and organizations who talk about dalit liberation, say similar things on this question and unwittingly naturalize the caste system. This leads towards the idealization and, in a way, legitimization of the caste system. According to Suvira Jaisawal, in the context of Indian society before the arrival of colonialism, we can find numerous evidence showing that whenever there was a relation of correspondence between the caste system and class division, the caste hierarchy got reinforced and became more rigid; on the other hand, wherever and whenever the ritualistic hierarchy present among the castes stood in opposition to the dynamics of class division, a process of fusion and fission was engendered within the caste system, which brought in significant changes in the caste hierarchy in a gradual process.

Suvira Jaisawal has criticized Kosambi, Ramsharan Sharma and Irfan Habib for making an external factor, viz, assimilation of new tribes into the folds of the Vedic society, responsible for the emergence of castes within the varna system. Whereas it is true on the one hand that the eastward expansion of the Vedic Civilization and the assimilation of new tribes within it gave birth to the castes, concurrently it is also true that if the elements of caste division (namely, the hereditary division of labour and varna division on the basis of the elements of endogamy ) did not already exist within the varna system  then the mere induction of new tribes will not by themselves give rise to new castes. According to Suvira Jaisawal, this belief that the pre-Vedic tribes used to follow endogamy while there was no such culture among the Vedic Aryans is false. She has given evidence to the contrary that with the emergence of patriarchy, the tradition of clan endogamy was on the way out, and with the imposition of subordinate status on women, the seeds of caste endogamy were sown. Moreover, we can find evidence of existence of such pre-Vedic tribes, where the tradition of endogamy was still absent. Therefore, it cannot be argued that castes based on the practice of endogamy emerged only with the assimilation of new tribes within the fold of the Vedic society. On the other hand, it was in the Vedic society along with the origin of the caste of śudras only that the process of treating certain forms of manual labour as inferior had begun. In such a scenario, when the tribes having expertise in the new kinds of productive labour were included in the Vedic society, they were included in the form of different castes and at the same time the hereditary division of labour also began. This was the reason why the entire tribe did not get transformed into a single caste. Rather what happened was that the upper priest class got assimilated with the Brahmins and other classes with the other varnas of the Vedic society. A lot of people from several tribes also got assimilated with the kṣatriya varna. In a nutshell, it can be said that the ground for castes based on endogamy and hereditary division of labour had already been existing in the Vedic society and that is why the assimilation of the new tribes into the Vedic society could become as a factor in the origin of castes. The assimilation of other tribes into the vedic varna system continued right up to the later half of the middle ages. This could not be in itself the main force behind the creation of castes. In this context the position taken by Subira Jaisawal appears to be more balanced. In all these developments, it was the internal process of class division within the Vedic society which was mainly responsible. The inclusion of the external tribes into the Vedic varna system was continued till the latter half of medieval era. It on its own could not have become the reason for the emergence of caste. Suvira Jaiswal’s stand on this subject appears to be more balanced.

If we look into the history of the period from the end of the Vedic period to the beginning of the period of ancient republics, one thing clearly emerges out. Origin of the varna system and the coming of castes into existence was an extensive and complex historical process. Several aspects of that period still remain untouched and do not have enough evidence related to them. But this much is certain that the varna system was constantly dynamic right from its inception. Even the form which the caste system assumed after the emergence of castes was also dynamic. The prime mover behind their dynamism was the changes that occurred in the mode of production and the production-relations. The varna-class overlap is clearly visible at the time of emergence of the class society. However, this overlapping could not last very long and it was bound to be ultimately transformed into a relation of correspondence.

The reason behind this is that the varna system at the moment of its inception was the ideological legitimization of the existing class relations, but it was an ideological legitimization which was peculiar in itself. In all the societies of the world, with the emergence of class rule, there evolved ideologies to legitimize the rule of the ruling class. But in India this ideology had not only taken a religious form, but got ossified into a ritualistic form. Obviously, when a ruling class under its rule uses its ideology to ossify the prevalent structure of class divisions in the society ritualistically then that ideological legitimization fails to keep itself in conformity with the motion of development of production relations and mode of production. In such a situation a gap will arise in the old ideological legitimization or the ideologically ossified form of previous class divisions and the new class divisions. Surely, this gap does not mean that there will be co-relation or correspondence between the class divisions prevailing in the society and its ideological ritualistic legitimization. What it means is that whenever a radical change in the class divisions takes place, there will be tremors in the old ritualistic structure and it will need some corresponding adjustments.

Such changes abound in the entire history of caste system and caste ideology. And these changes have taken place spatially as well as temporally. That is to say in the same era the caste hierarchies have been different in different regions. For instance, by the time the Vedic Civilization reached the societies of southern and the eastern India, the agrarian economy was already considerably developed and the status of the agrarian castes within the caste system too underwent changes. Consequently, we do not find kṣatriya and vaiśya varnas in these regions. We will discuss these later. But at present it is sufficient to point it out that one can find radical changes and diversities in the caste-system, spatially as well temporally. There is just one feature in the varna/caste-system that persists. What is it? It is that the ritualistic caste divisions which take place on the basis of class structure of any region depends on the brahamanical ideology, which in turn based on the doctrine of purity/pollution. However, the consequent caste hierarchy which arises out of it, varies in different regions based on the prevailing production relations and the production system. This becomes still clearer if we look at the changes which have taken place in the entire varna/caste system and the status of different varnas/castes along with the changes in the production relations.

  • Changes in the Status of Different varnas/castes with the Changes in the Mode of Production and Production Relations

Suvira Jaisawal has drawn our attention towards the changes in the status of the Brahmin varna/caste in the caste system. It could be clearly seen that the changes taking place in the production relations and class structure were the main cause behind these changes as well. Romila Thapar has shown that in a nomadic pastoral society the main source of income of the Brahmins was in form of gifts presented to them. This source was declared as the only permitted source of income even in the contemporary religious samhitas (codes). However, with the transition to agriculture, land grants replaced gifts of things. This practice of land grants transformed the Brahmins, who were earlier priests only, into landlords also. This brought in a significant change in the status of Brahmins. When we move onwards from the Vedic period to the history of the janapadas and then to the Mauryan period, we see Brahmins assuming the positions of the rulers also. Many such states developed whose rulers happened to be Brahmin. Now the functions of kṣatriyas, who were earlier believed to be inferior to Brahmins, were no longer treated as prohibited or lowly for Brahmins. On the contrary the status of such Brahmins was elevated in the caste hierarchy. What is surprising is that by the early medieval era those Brahmins began to be treated as inferior who used to take alms or do priestly work, and the status of those Brahmins got rose in the rank who had become rulers-administrators or landlords. Why did these changes take place? Clearly, the transition from a pre-feudal social formation to a feudal social formation, brought in fundamental changes in the status of the Brahmins. Besides, a lot of new castes came into being within the Brahmin caste. The emergence of the caste of brahm-kṣatriya, as mentioned by Suvira Jaisawal, can have three probable sources; first, matrimonial relations between the Brahmins and kṣatriyas; second, the function of kṣatriyas viz., governance-administration, being adopted by Brahmins, and third, the prior existence of the root of such a caste (brahm-kṣatriya) in the form of the Puru clan.

The way iin which the status of brahmins in the caste hierarchy and their functions as determined by caste ideology underwent changes, we can observe similar changes among the kṣatriyas as wells. New castes emerged from within the kṣatriyas which had diverse sources. For instance, we have now sufficient historical sources regarding the formation of Rajput caste which show that this caste did not possess the status of kṣatriyas varna from the beginning. This caste was formed by the fusion between the Indianized foreign elements that conquered other tribes and established their rule and the members coming from other varnas and some native tribes. This was a warrior landowning caste formed by the amalgamation of the elements coming from different sources. This caste established matrimonial alliances with the kṣatriyas and other upper castes as well which elevated their ritualistic status. In this entire process the people of this community adopted the name of rajputra which subsequently turned into Rajput.

In south India there existed no such warrior tribes. There the emerging land-owning peasant castes performed the functions of the warrior tribes. Consequently, no kṣatriya varna appeared there. When the process of state formation among the agriculture-based tribes reached a decisive stage, big regional states came into being. The kings of these states came from the peasnat communities only. And then the Brahmins from north India were in a way imported into these states. These Brahmin elements also got fused with the priestly elements within those tribes and they formed the Brahmin castes in south India. The ruling peasant castes were assimilated in the varna system as śudras by these Brahmins. However, the status of śudras here was not the same as that in north and north-western India. They were included in the śudras varna as castes because by then, śudras had become the main peasant caste in the core regions where caste system had emerged. The status of the śudras in south India was much better because they were not only an agrarian caste, but they were the ruling class as well. Thus, for instance, one such caste, vellala in south India has been referred to as the patrons/protectors of Brahmins. Since, Brahmins had the ritualistic “power”, therefore, no other caste could perform their functions. But the character of the conventional power of the kṣatriya was not other-worldly, but this-worldly, and hence the tasks which were traditionally reserved for them could be carried out by any other caste. In south India, this task was carried out by Vellala caste which enjoyed quite a high status in the south Indian caste hierarchy. Here those who were dependent, exploited and having slave-like status were termed as asat śudras. It was easier for brahmins to put forth such a proposition because long ago a distinction had been made between ‘hīna’ and ‘ahīna’ śudras in Brahman Samhitas. There were some śudras whose pollution could not be rectified, whereas there were others whose pollution was not contagious and could be remedied. It was on this basis that the Vellalas were termed as Sat śudras whose position was quite high up in the caste system while the adi-dravid castes were termed as Asat śudras whose position became similar to the serfs and extremely poor artisan castes, much like that of the śudras in the Vedic period in north and north-western India.

In Eastern India, too, such peasant castes came into being that reached the position of the ruling class. There too, no separate vaiśya & kṣatriya varnas came into being. Therefore, in Eastern and Southern India, we come across only two varnas–brahmin and śudra. In the coming centuries new castes were born within these very varnas—sometimes with the assimilation of new tribes and at other times, owing to the process of disintegration and fusion among the already existing castes. In this way, vaidyas and kayashtas came into existence in Bengal.

            Ramsharan Sharma has shown how cultivation, which was originally an occupation of the vaiśyas, became the principal occupation of the śudras. According to him, as the feudal practice of land grants started, the migration of brahmins to new areas led to the assimilation of new tribes into the varna system. These new tribes were assimilated in the śudra varna and agriculture became their main occupation. However, according to Suvira Jaiswal, with the advent of feudal mode of production, manual agricultural labour gradually became an ignoble occupation. And with this, the new peasant castes were inducted into the Vedic society as śudras and not as vaiśyas. Besides, those vaiśyas also who remained attached with agricultural occupation gradually turned into śudras. Those vaiśyas, who took to trading on the basis of accumulated agricultural surplus, succeeded in retaining their vaiśya status. Thus, with the emergence of the feudal mode of production, and the concurrent induction of new tribes into the Vedic society, the pattern of traditionally-determined occupation for vaiśyas and śudras changed. Earlier the vaiśyas were mainly engaged in farming, and a section of the poor śudras too were attached to the land as dependent cultivators. Both Ramsharan Sharma and Suvira Jaisawal have shown, how the connotation of the word ‘Gṛhapati’ was originally used to mean the chief of a tribal clan, but went through a gradual change and came to be understood as the head of a peasant family in the era of Buddha. By following the gradual evolution of this term, we can get a complete description of how the division of labour, between the vaiśyas and śudras (agriculture and trade) evolved.

Suvira Jaiswal also describes how the four varnas appeared in Maharashtra and Gujarat and how the new tribes got assimilated in all the four varnas. The reason behind it was that the spread of brahminical society, culture, and ideology had already begun before the rise of feudalism in those regions, i.e. between 500 BC & 200 AD. The change that came into the status of different varna/jatis brought in significant changes in the entire caste hierarchy as well. There are sufficient evidence to substantiate that the changes that took place in mode of production and production relations have time and again exerted pressure to usher change in the varna/caste system from within. A gap between caste and class always remained, but only a blind can claim that there is no clear correspondence between them. There have been times when this gap appears wider, and there have been times when it appears less. At a particular moment in the dialectics of production relations and development of productive forces, untouchability was born. It is imperative to understand that process too.

  • Development of Untouchability : The Highest Stage of Development of Relations of Feudal Exploitation

With the emergence of asat śudras in southern and eastern India and with the transformation of the śudras into mainly peasant castes in northern and north-western India, the Untouchables (achūt) came into existence as the most subjugated, most oppressed and exploited section of the society, who later came to known as dalits. We have already mentioned that the relegious codes had made a distinction between the hīna and ahīna śudras long ago. For example, chandal caste was counted as śudra in the varna system, but it was placed in the category of hīna śudras. On the one hand untouchability came into existence among those who were at the lowest rung among the śudras, while on the other hand, when some forms of manual labour were declared to be of extremely inferior kind during the process of the development of feudal production relations, then the element of untouchability was appended to the castiest ideology of purity/pollution. We can see that the idea purity/pollution has been present in the brahminical ideology as a variable. That is why many castes were declared to be untouchables much later. For instance, nowhere in the Vedic sources, occupations connected with leather work, or the caste of tanners and cobblers (charmakar) who did these jobs, were declared lowly or inferior. Just the opposite, it was customary to carry various materials required for the Vedic rituals, only in leather bags. It was in the 8th and the 9th century that the charmakaras were declared untouchables.

According to the thoughts of Bhimrao Ambedkar regarding the origin of untouchability, it was a conscious and deliberate act of the brahmins to make some castes untouchable; especially those who had been involved in resistance, still indulged in beef-eating and also adopted the Buddhist religion. But Vivekananda Jha has refuted this line of argument with evidence. Jha has demonstrated that the rise of untouchability had no relation with beef-eating and adopting the Buddhist religion. It was closely connected with the development of the feudal mode of production, which in order to make the exploitation and oppression of the exploited and the oppressed castes structural, gave this exploitation and oppression the extreme expression of untouchability. Some other scholars have also worked to explore the origin of untouchability, for example G.L. Hart who opines that untouchability was a product of the ancient Tamil society; N. K. Dutta considers the attitude of the Dravida communities towards the non-Dravidian communities to be the origin of untouchability; the German scholar Fürer-Haimendorf sees the development of urban civilization as the reason behind untoucability. However, Vivekanand Jha’s work on this subject is considered to be the finest. He has shown that it was not the notion of purity and pollution which made certain tasks so inferior that people performing these tasks were declared untouchables; rather, the exploitation of some classes became so naked and barbaric, that the concept of pollution was attached to their occupation and the people in these occupations were declared untouchables. As it is its wont, the brahminical ideology has given the class division and exploitation a ritualistic form. Needless to reiterate, we are not talking about overlapping of class and caste here, but religious ritualistic legitimation and ossification of the relations of exploitation and oppression that are inherent in the entire socio-economic formation. In this entire structure, as we have already mentioned, a relation of correspondence exists between caste and class.

Ramsharan Sharma, has clearly shown that the casteist restrictions and stereotypes pertaining to commensality, matrimonial alliances and untouchability too, have undergone a process of evolution and development. Suvira Jaisawal and D.D. Kosambi also have shown that there is indeed a history of the development of the idea of purity/pollution. The task of framing and propounding these ideas was done by the brahmins, both as a part of the ruling class as well as its ideologues. The function of these ideas was to provide permanence to the dominant relations of exploitation by ritualistically ossifying them. Whenever the old ritualistic structure became suffocatingly restrictive for the changes taking place in the class-equations, necessary adjustments and modifications were done in this structure. In this entire process, by the medieval period, among brahmins too, such divisions were created that some brahman castes were pauperized. In particular, there was a decline in the material and ritualistic status of those brahmins who used to live on alms and donations (dān-dakshina). Declan Quigley has mentioned the case of untouchable brahmins in his book ‘The Interpretation of Caste’. Thus, the status of the entire brahmin population too was not fixed and impervious to any change.

Vivekananda Jha has mentioned four stages in the origin and development of the untouchable castes, for which historical evidence are available. The first stage was the Vedic period. There is no mention of untouchability in the Ṛgvedic period. Even in the later Vedic period the Chandalas are mentioned as hīna śudras and a sense of repulsion is expressed towards them but there is no mention of untouchabiltiy in clear terms. The second stage was from 700 BC to 200 AD. Some castes clearly emerged as untouchable castes in this period. This is the period when slave-labour was extensively used in the economy, and the first century AD saw the rise of feudal mode of production. The third stage was from 200 AD to 600 AD. In this period, some new tribal groups were inducted in the Aryan Vedic society as untouchable castes. And the fourth stage was from 600 AD to 1200 AD which is the high period of feudalism, and this is when untouchability appears on a large scale as a phenomenon. B.N.S. Yadav has drawn attention towards the fact that villages gained significance with the development of feudal economy, and there came a system of stable and static, which did not permit any mobility to the oppressed and exploited castes, especially to the artisanal castes. For Yadav, this factor also gave impetus to untouchability since it further degraded the lowest sections of the population.

●                                

While Buddhism and Jainism challenged the hegemony of the brahmins, they failed to pose any serious challenge to the varna/caste system; rather, these religions strengthened the varna/caste system in certain respects. Irfan Habib writes that Buddhism and Jainism have rejected the religious legitimation of the caste system, but have accepted the caste system as a reality of the society. This seems to be correct because the prejudices that exist in these religions against slaves, farmers under debt, and along with them against women, is explicitly clear. When the vaiśya trading castes with their rising economic might opposed the brahmin hegemonism and entered into the fold of Jainism, elements of the caste system also in a way penetrated Jainism, because the vaiśya castes there too continued to follow the rigid conventions of caste-based occupations and endogamy. It would not be incorrect to say that today Jainism has to a large extent been transformed into an appendage of Hinduism. Irfan Habib also remarks that the emphasis on the principle of karma and non-violence by Buddhism in fact proved to be an anathema for the untouchable population, because while laying stress on these values, the occupations which were declared as lowly were generally the occupations of the untouchable castes. Buddhism also largely became irrelevant with the emergence of Vaishnava and Shaiva sects in the Hinduism and also due to the fact that it showed even more enthusiasm in prohibiting cow-slaughter. It was not due to the reason that Hinduism had re-established its claim on the notion of purity, as claims Louise Dumont; rather due to the fact that Hinduism had once more got into step with the production relations of the changing times. Seen in this way Hinduism is a remarkably flexible religion, and as Weber has said, it is actually not a religion at all in the classical sense (however, this idea is incorrect as, according to Weber whereas a religion thrives on dogma, doxa prevails in Hinduism); Ambedker, in a way was right to remark that the core value of Hinduism is the caste system. In fact, this caste system too enhances the flexibility of Hinduism. The ideology of caste has given a useful instrument to the ruling classes through all the ages. It is such a flexible ideology, which, in all ages and especially in the pre-capitalist societies, provides the ruling classes with an instrument to consolidate their rule. It gives religious legitimation to the naked and barbaric exploitation of the ruling classes, and assumes the form of ritualistic ossification. Definitely, due to this ideology there persists a difference between caste and class. But until all the economic and political registers of caste essentially disappear (as it happened with the rise of the capitalist mode of production), a profound correspondence remains between caste and class. At least the history of India stands as a testimony to this fact. The caste ideology remains autonomous from the system of class in a certain sense. And it is essential for the caste ideology to exist in that way, if it wishes to remain really effective.

If the caste ideology were to reflect the class division, then it would lose all its divinity and aura. We should not forget that caste ideology is a religious ideology, which obtains its authority from religion, through occupational and matrimonial restrictions, and on the basis of purity/pollution, to justify its hierarchy. Obviously, if we comprehend this, then it becomes easier for us to realize that caste can never perfectly overlap with class. They can have a relation of correspondence only. But definitely, caste ideology from the time of its inception to this day has been providing an enormously powerful instrument to the ruling class in different forms. On the one hand it keeps the poor toiling masses under structural subordination, and at the same time it keeps them divided among themselves in so many castes. But the caste ideology performs this task in different ways, keeping itself in conformity with different modes of production.

It is this utility of the caste ideology that made it tolerable to the rulers of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire, or rather we should say that it made itself desirable to them. Irfan Habib has shown that the Muslim rulers have not only kept themselves away from tampering with the caste system, they never even mouthed a couple of bad words against it. The only Muslim observer who has made a mild criticism of the caste system was a scientist namely, Al-Beruni. But if we leave this exception, then the Muslim rulers per-se have never objected against caste oppression and repression. On the contrary, when the Arabs conquered Sind, the commander of the army sanctioned the terrible casteist oppression of the Jatt population. Islam criticizes the Hinduism only for idol worship and polytheism. But it views the caste system with jealousy! The Quran only mentions the distinction between a slave and a free man; had it not been so, the religious leaders and administrators might have tried to co-opt this system in their own way! And in practice, the caste system has successfully made inroads into the Islamic society. The people from the dalits and the lower castes who adopted Islam came to be known as kamins, which means inferior and lowly. All of this does not mean that the caste system possesses some deadly but divine weapon that pollutes everything that comes into its contact, but itself never perishes. It only means that, in all ages the casteist ideology has presented itself to the rulers who came to India, as a readymade, extremely flexible, and useful tool for the legitimation its exploitation. In such a case, why should any ruling class shy away from putting it into use? This is the reason why the caste system remained intact as a useful ideology providing religious ritualistic legitimization to class exploitation throughout the medieval era.

  •  Historicity and Contemporaneity of Caste in Modern India: A Brief Note.

With the start of the colonial era, the caste system went through a few significant changes. The principal factors behind these changes can be observed on different levels.

At one level the contemporary form of the caste system and caste hierarchy itself was consolidated with certain changes. For instance, in 1793 when Permanent Settlement was implemented, it provided a base for the exploitation and oppression of the landless dalit castes. At the same time, the Ryotwari land settlement made one section of peasant castes, which was already showing upward mobility, owners of land. Mahalwari settlement in a way passed the control over the land to the chief of the village community. The land reforms brought by the British did not make any appreciable change in the casteist hierarchy and equations prevalent in different areas. If anything came out of it, it was that, that a thorough arrangement was made to keep the dalit population in a perpetual state of structural oppression, exploitation and repression even in the future. In some places their oppressors were the old upper castes viz. the brahmin and the kṣatriya castes (e.g. in the United Province and Northern India) and in others they belonged to the emerging peasant castes which although had the status of śudras in the ritualistic hierarchy, but economically and politically their condition had improved.

Yet another level at which the British had influenced the caste system was development of industries to a certain extent and their role in bringing in the railways. Marx had foretold that the hereditary division of labour, which prevailed in the caste system, would begin to break with the development of railways and industries. Broadly this formulation proved to be correct. The British did not develop the industries on very large scale. In a way the old industries were destroyed and some new industrial centres had developed whose task was to supply the raw material.  But among the proletariat which had grown in the industrial centres such as Calcutta, Bombay, Surat, Ahamedabad etc. the rigid hereditary division of labour was obviously not possible within it. It is true that this proletariat was largely composed by dalit and people from lower castes. But there happened to be a rigid occupational divide among these castes themselves. The process of disintegration of this rigid hereditary division of labour had begun in the British period. Surely, after independence and with the capitalist development, this process unfolded with much rapidity. However it is an undisputable fact that its seed were sown in the colonial era itself.

The third level at which the British colonial state left a profound impact on the caste system is the one which we have already discussed above. The colonial state reconstructed the whole concept of the caste system. The belief of Nicholas Dirks and other followers of Subaltern Studies like him, that caste is an Orientalist construct of the colonial state, would be a kind of subjectivism. No state can ever make a construct of any such divide from the above, unless that division has a history of its own. It must certainly be accepted that the fetish of the the British ethnographic state to count, enumerate, classify and systematize the castes did indeed shake the division and hierarchy in the castes once and made it rigid in a new way. Historians like Arjan Appadurai, Bernard. S. Cohn, Susan Bayly, and Nicholas Dirks have written profusely on this whole process. The criticism of people like Dirks by Susan Bayly, Sumit Guha and Richard Eaton is correct that he fails to see the the collaboration between the colonial state and the native elites, including the brahmins also, which led to the reconstruction of the caste system in its modern form. Nor the Subaltern historians are able to understand that the theory of construction of caste by the colonial state for the oppression of the Indian people is like a conspiracy theory which fails to explain that in reality the archives of colonial knowledge, that the colonial state had been building up, was its own necessity, i.e., the necessity of ruling in more effectively. This whole exercise was not for the project of cultural domination rather definite political and economic factors were at work behind it.

Declan Quigley has rightly termed this approach as Idealist. Quigley says that the outcome of the ideas of people like Nicholas Dirks, Ronald Inden, etc is that caste becomes a mental construct, a linguistic jugglery. This point of view a moral ‘crusade’ born out of a kind of imperialist guilt-conscience, which holds imperialism guilty of those crimes, which it simply did not commit. But these of kind of ideologies which work behind this entire exercise end up strengthening imperialism itself. Because in the present era, imperialism is in a direct alliance with the revivalist Fascist forces. They have also the same argument that it was the British who created caste and before that, in Hinduism, we had a division of labour which was based on karma only, not on birth.

It is evident that with the development of capitalism and large scale industries and with the further development of urbanization, the two aspects of caste system are moving towards an end. First, the hereditary division of labour. Determining the occupation or job on the basis of birth is now a thing of the past. The caste character still manifests itself in some occupations in the field of self-employment, for example, washermen, barbers, etc. But this is no more a rigid division of labour, which cannot be transcended. Moreover, commensal prejudices too have been broken to a large extent, because it cannot be continued in the same way in the new kinds of villages, and in the cities and towns their complete disappearance is inevitable. We may say that these two registers of caste have weakened to such as extent that in the near future they will become extinct. These two aspects are not congruent with the capitalist mode of production and production relations, therefore, with the advent of capitalism they were bound to meet this fate. We will not say it in the words of Irfan Habib that the social and economic registers of caste are fading away. But surely the two aspects of caste which we mentioned above, namely, commensal prejudices and hereditary division of labour, are heading towards the end.

There is yet another aspect which is still intact and that is the practice of caste endogamy. It is so because it does not have any conflict with the capitalist mode of production. Actually it is better for capitalism, and is in conformity with it. Even the persistence of patriarchy in a new form in capitalism is due to this very reason. And both these factors reinforce each other; that is to say, the patriarchy reinforces the capitalist system based on caste endogamy and the capitalist caste reinforces capitalist patriarchy. And these two join hands together to allow the capitalist system and the bourgeoisie to streamline its machinery of oppression and exploitation. In one aspect capitalism stands apart from all other pre-capitalist systems. It does not look for any other-worldly power to obtain the legitimation of its rule. It gets the legitimation of its rule from the ‘consent’ of the masses. This is what Gramsci names as hegemony. The rule of the capitalist class is based on hegemony and not on the direct domination. In this system the capitalist class manufactures ‘consent’ for its rule. In such a system the ideology of caste cannot be the ideology that provides legitimation to the ruling class and its rule as it used to do earlier. In fact, no religious ideology is any more able to perform this tak because the legitimation of the rule in its entirety is, by its own nature, no more other-worldly, but has become this-worldly. However, the question of caste system is not linked with the state only. Over the centuries the casteist mentality and ideology, with the various changes it has undergone, has been made to permeate every pore of the Indian psyche. The core of the casteist metality and ideology is the hierarchy determined on the basis of purity/pollution, and not a particular caste hierarchy, that prevailed during a particular historical era. This casteist ideology works in subtle forms and it does not always require invocation by the ruling classes. No capitalist ruling class can draw its legitimation from the caste ideology, but can use the caste ideology in two ways. One, to keep sections of the exploited working masses divided on casteist lines, and along with it, as a intrument to construct hegemony in its favour. We can see the naked run of this entire process during the bourgeois elections. Besides, as we have mentioned elsewhere, different factions of the ruling class in their mutual rivalry use caste equations, albeit rulers of every caste without fail, stand united against the people.

The capitalist development of agriculture has brought in many significant changes in the caste structure during the last fifty years. We can see these changes in the upsurge of the middle peasant castes.  Over the whole region from South India to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana and Punjab right up to Gujarat, it is a well-recognized phenomenon. Most of these middle castes are backward castes whose ritualistic status is that of Śudra. However, in their own areas they have become economically and politically powerful, dominating castes. All other castes, which include the brahmins and thakurs remain under their domination. We may call these castes kulak castes as well. Sociologists like Gloria Raheja, McKim Marriott etc have made considerable efforts to theoretically formulate this entire phenomenon. Raheja while making a study of a village Pahansu of Uttar Pradesh tells that in this village Gujjars are the dominant caste with all the other castes surrounding it. Here Raheja presents the theory of ‘centrality of the dominant caste’ and tells that it is the Gujjar caste that gives gifts and donations to all the other castes, but apart from kanyadaan (a ritual of donating girl performed during wedding) it does not accept any donation. Giving donations is symbolic of their elevated status. The relation of the Gujjars with other castes is the relation of authority and power, but no such mutual hierarchy is seen in the rest of the castes.

There is yet another phenomenon which we can consider as an outcome of the domination of the capitalist mode of production. It is the decline in the status of the brahmins living on alms and donations. In some places, their status has become just like that of the dalits. In our opinion, the reason behind it is that, in a capitalist society only exchange gets recognition or it is the practice offering gifts among people of equivalent status (of course, we all know that this also is a kind of exchange only, and nothing else!). With the emergence of capitalist social formation decline in the material and ritualistic status of brahmins who live on alms and donations is quite normal and it can be understood.

  •            Epilogue

All sorts of phenomena can be enumerated which have occured in the caste system with the emergence of the capitalist mode of production; the capitalist system of production would definitely not put an end to the caste system. The caste system provides it with continuity of property relations in the form of caste endogamy and also a powerful political instrument to divide the masses. With capitalist development and emergence of a massive class of proletariat, the aspect of gap in the correspondence between class and caste has increased considerably. This correspondence becomes visible only with incisive study. For instance, in the present times, this correspondence between class and caste can be seen more strongly among the class of landless peasants. But the population of the other backward castes and the middle castes has rapidly grown in the entire proletariat. But the weakening of the correspondence between caste and class has created an opportunity for capitalism to use caste ideology. While on the one hand, conditions of spontaneous breaking up of caste bonds in the working class arise; on the other hand, the ruling classes also get an opportunity to divide the proletariat on caste lines. Had this gap been small and had 80 to 90 percent of the proletariat come from the dalit castes, the scope of use of the caste ideology to divide it would have been less.

Therefore, the caste ideology is providing a powerful weapon to capitalism to divide the proletariat and, through caste endogamy,  maintain the continuity of the sacred bourgeois property. Therefore, it would be foolish to expect capitalism to put an end to the caste system. But at the same time it is also essential to understand that the caste system has not remained the same from its inception; it has been continuously changing, and the principal factors behind these changes have been the changes in production relations, mode of production, and class contradictions. It is also evident that the caste system has come into existence along with class, state and patriarchy and has become an instrument for their legitimation. Therefore, till class, state and patriarchy exist in any form, the caste contradictions, ideology and mentality too will continue to exist. Only a struggle for a classless society can be a struggle for a casteless society. This certainly does not mean that the question of caste should be pushed under the carpet till the time, the struggle for a classless society reaches completion. On the contrary, it means that from this day itself the proletariat in its struggle against capitalism, has to wage a war against all these ideologies, identities which break it, divide it and disintegrate its resistance. Without a relentless, untiring propaganda against caste and casteism the proletariat cannot be organized against capitalism and without the establishment of a socialist state under the leadership of the proletariat and without marching forward to a classless communist society, caste and casteism can never be destroyed.

Certainly, it was not a comprehensive and complete account of historiography of caste, nor is it proper to expect this from an paper. More than just presenting historical facts, our objective was to reject every kind of  reification of the caste/varna system (be it done by the post-modernists, Orientalists etc., be it done by the state, or then, done by the religious authorities, or else, by those who themselves practice identity politics on the basis of caste), every kind of its valorization, every kind of idealization, essentialization, and naturalization; to understand the caste system in its historicity and dynamism; to comprehend the essential character of this historicity and dynamism, that is to say, to understand the dynamics of production relations, mode of production, and  class contradictions; and to grasp the fact that if the varna/caste system which, through its origin and development over some thousands of years, determined by its socio-economic context and background has reached this juncture, then the same would happen in future as well.

To say that, ‘caste determines everything’ would be reductionism to the same extent, as it is to say that ‘only economic factors determine everything’, and Marx and Engels have rejected determinism of all shades in the characterization of a social phenomenon and have advocated a dialectical and historical materialist method. If it is understood that the caste/varna system has a beginning, then we can think about the projects to put an end to it in a more meaningful way. Without understanding it in its historicity, we will be either a victim of defeatism or pessimism, or else, of a pseudo-optimism which is always more dangerous than pessimism. The only objective of this essay of ours was to present in all humility, a historical understanding of the caste system, and if we have been able to present even a hazy portrait, we will consider ourselves successful.

(Paper presented in the Fourth Arvind Memorial Seminar on ‘Caste Question and Marxism’, March 12-16, 2013, Chandigarh)

The Quixotic Adventures (in self-defense) of the Fence-sitting “New Philosophers”

Abhinav.

In September 2012, we had written about the Maruti workers’ movement (https://redpolemique.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/maruti-workers-struggle-and-the-far-left-fallacy-of-the-new-philosophers-of-india/ and a slightly revised version https://redpolemique.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/maruti-workers-struggle-and-the-far-left-fallacyfantasy-of-the-new-philosophers-of-india/). These writings brought out the uncritical attitude of certain “far left” intellectuals (http://radicalnotes.com/2012/09/12/maruti-a-moment-in-workers-self-organisation-in-india/) and groups. We tried to demonstrate that the tendency of reifying and celebrating the spontaneity, indirectly belittling or rejecting the role of vanguard and ideology has actually harmed the working class movement. We were expecting to hear something in the form of criticism from these “new philosophers” of India as well as the anarcho-syndicalist groups. Finally, the wait is over! A comrade from ‘Radical Notes’ has responded at last (http://beyondcapital.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/lilliputian-leninism-a-progeric-disorder/).

We were excited about the possibility of a lively polemic as a result of this response which would not only benefit us but the working class movement as well. However, much to our disappointment, we found that there is not much to respond to this response for a variety of reasons. First, not a single criticism provided by us has been answered in the article by the comrade of Radical Notes. Secondly, instead of advancing any concrete argument, the article engages in empty rhetoric. Thirdly, the article randomly lays out quotations from different authorities ranging from Marx and Lenin to Lukacs without understanding the historical and political context in which those quotations were made. It is merely an attempt to justify its position in quite an unjustified way. Fourthly, since the author fails to answer any concrete criticism put forward by us, he finds himself obliged to misappropriate and misrepresent our positions as expounded in our article. Finally, it seems that the author in his quixotic adventure to vindicate his anarcho-syndicalist position has forgotten to read his own original article of which our articles were a critique. We will demonstrate with examples that like all such adventures this particular quixotic adventure ends tragically too.

  • A Summary of Political Quixotism of “New Philosophers” and Our Critique

Before we embark upon the criticism of the latest article by the comrade of Radical Notes, we would like to summarize our critique of the original positions put forward in the article published on Radicalnotes.com about a year ago.

Our critique began with the recognition of the fact that Maruti workers’ movement is, indeed, a milestone in the working class movement of India and any revolutionary intellectual or group would undoubtedly welcome it. However, the real task starts precisely at this juncture. We argued that undue valorization of the spontaneity of the working class movement would not lead us anywhere. For example, it was claimed in the article that in their grass-root organization at the factory floor and unionization workers had succeeded in transcending boundaries of caste and regional divide, of permanent and casual/contract workers etc. It is apparent, especially now, that the writer has made fantastic claim without properly investigating the reality; this is exactly what we mean by political Quixotism: a gap between one’s imagination and reality. Interestingly, when the Maruti workers’ movement is now on its way to a complete collapse which is precisely due to the lack of an appropriate revolutionary political intervention and the role of the vanguard, the quixotic claims of the article become even more apparent. Undoubtedly, Maruti workers in the movement made some significant progress in breaking the sectional divide between the contract and permanent workers. However, as far as the regional divide is concerned, a closer scrutiny will show that the regional groupings (Haryanvi, Rajasthani etc.) among the workers, even at the level of leadership, had been active throughout the movement. Another quixotic claim was that the workers used to exercise a considerable control over the leadership of the new union (MSWU). As is apparent now the claim holds no water. One of the principal reasons for collapse of Maruti workers’ movement is precisely the lack of trade union democracy and political transparency within the union. Neither regular general body meetings were called nor were the finances of the union open and transparent. All decisions regarding the future strategy and tactics of the movement were taken behind closed doors by some members of the leading committee and the workers were informed later about this decision and their allotted responsibilities. The common workers played no role in decision-making. Again, it was implied in the article that the July 18 incident was an outcome of a coherent plan by the workers without the intervention of any political group.This fact, the article further suggested, was hard to digest, in equal measures, for the Left organizations (because they were incapable of visualizing any coherent planning on part of the workers without the divine intervention of the vanguard!) as well as the State which tried to put the responsibility of this incident on the “Maoist” party. This is the alleged reason why the dominant perception among the Left organizations is that the militancy of the Maruti workers is a case of “reactive spontaneity.” One can witness the comrade of Radical Notes tilting at the windmills. We showed in our critique with concrete facts that it was not only the perception of the Left groups but even the workers themselves that July 18 was indeed a case of reactive spontaneity. Today, if our over-enthusiastic comrade makes the claim that the July 18 incident was an outcome of coherent workers’ planning to Maruti workers, he might find himself in a precarious situation. Isn’t this what we call quixotism? Mistaking one’s imagination for reality?

Again, our autonomy enthusiasts claim that the July 18 incident shows that the Maruti workers’ movement is not just for aggregate demands of the workers but it has conceived the project of a new social order and new production relations in an embryonic form! Again, pure quixotism! These “new philosophers” do not even feel the need to substantiate their claims with concrete argument. We do not know what exactly led them to make such a phantasmagorical claim. Our spontaneity-fetishists see a “sudden radical leap…against the encroachments of capital” in the July 18 incident! One can only thank the heavens that workers do not see the July 18 incident in this manner! The writer of the article claims that the Maruti workers’ movement is not an example of unorganized spontaneity but one of political will to transcend segmentation within the workers. Clearly, the author can only visualize the non-dialectical binary of “unorganized spontaneity” and “political consciousness”. Lenin clearly showed that there are multiple levels of spontaneity and even if the political intervention of vanguard is absent, the spontaneity develops quantitatively and becomes more class conscious. Here it is noteworthy to mention that Lenin made a clear distinction between class consciousness and class political consciousness. The working class can definitely become class conscious through its spontaneous struggles. However, this consciousness cannot become political without the intervention of the vanguard. The author of the article seems incapable to understand this nuanced approach of Lenin.

Our critique was simple. It argued that the reality does not correspond to the fantastic imaginations of our quixotic “new philosophers” as the Maruti workers’ movement despite all its potential, all its positive possibilities and all the advances that it has made, does not carry the embryo of a “new social order and new production relations” as one of the victim of political quixotism (ex)claimed in a speech. It was still an example of “reactive spontaneity” as the workers themselves admit and in no way a result of any coherent planning.

Secondly, it argued that despite not rejecting the role of the vanguard formally, the standpoint of the “new philosophers” was a de facto rejection of its role. In fact, some other articles on the Radical Notes represents this very position of anarcho-syndicalism and non-party revolutionism (for instance, see http://radicalnotes.com/2012/11/21/on-the-organisational-question-of-the-working-class/).

Thirdly, what is taken as the proof of political autonomy of the workers is not something new and does not constitute the basis to make such a bizarre claim, namely, the attempt of the workers to bridge the gap between permanent and contract workers (we also reminded that this claim too needs a closer scrutiny in the case of Maruti woreks’ struggle). Such attempts have been made by the workers themselves time and again. If, according to these “new philosophers”, this is the proof of class political consciousness of the workers then we can only wonder if they know the meaning of this term. For a proper understanding of the position of the comrades of Radical Notes and our critique we would urge the readers to refer to the links of the articles given above.

Now, we can move on to our para-wise critique of the new article on the blog Beyond Capital written by a comrade of Radical Notes who also maintains the aforementioned blog.

  • The Poverty of New Quixotic Adventures

For the convenience of the readers, we shall present a para-wise reply to the new article by the comrade of Radical Notes.

1. The first para does not contain anything significant to comment upon as it is full of rhetorical statements which are failed attempts at sarcasm. The author has superimposed his own habit of referring to Wikipedia on us because we have mentioned the anarcho-syndicalist tendencies which have an apparent and unmistakable influence on the author. In fact, in the present article he has shown again that he does have strong influence of these trends. We will show with examples in this article how these influences impact the political positions of our comrade from Radical Notes.

2. In the second para, the author has inserted a picture to help us understand how the “competing Lilliputians” tried to bind Gulliver and how, today, the “Lilliputian Leninists” are trying to bind the spontaneity of working class! The picture is really helpful and we must thank the comrade of Radical Notes for this intelligent device! His metaphorization is clear. However, the problem with the Maruti workers’ movement was not so much the competing Left organizations trying to bind the revolutionary spontaneity of the movement. It was, in fact, the near absence of any such intervention especially due to the influence of anarcho-syndicalism among workers which, in fact, was the handiwork of some anarcho-syndicalist organizations. Now, when the movement has almost collapsed, this reality has become clear in a glaring way (the interested readers may read this report about the present state of the Maruti workers’ movement: http://ahwanmag.com/A-sum-up-of-maruti-suzuki-labor-movement).

Further, the author claims that Lenin too was not consistent in his understanding of the role of the vanguard vis-à-vis the role of spontaneity and he changed his position according to the political exigencies of his time. It is true that Lenin was extremely flexible when it came to modify strategy and general tactics of the working class movement; but as far as the questions of ideology were concerned, Lenin never had, to use the phrase of the author, “spells and counter-spells.” In his attempt to prove this E.H.Carr-like representation of Lenin (a clever politician who changed his positions according to the exigencies) the author has given a quote of Lenin from ‘A Talk with Defenders of Economism.’ However, the author probably in his quest to find quotations to support his argument forgot to read the entire article and also its historical context. Let us show through quotations from the same article what Lenin meant and what the “new philosophers” are too stubborn to understand.

This article of Lenin was, in fact, written against those who belittled the importance of ideology and role of the vanguard. Lenin argues in this article that the working class is prepared for revolutionary communist political propaganda and, ironically, the vanguard is not doing it. Lenin is in no way arguing that the spontaneity of the working class (howsoever advanced) will transform automatically into consciousness or the vanguard is incapable of conceptualizing the new forms of working class spontaneity, as the comrade from Radical Notes want us to believe. He is just stating that the vanguard, though capable, is not fulfilling its duty of political propaganda amidst the working class. This article was written in response to a letter written by some comrades to Lenin expressing their disagreement with the concept of Iskra. They expressed their disappointment at the “squabbles” and schisms within the Social-Democratic movement and argued that Iskra is intensifying the tendency of disintegration (compare it with author’s metaphorization of “competing Lilliputians”). Lenin responded with vehemence and argued that the “material elements” of the movement, i.e., the spontaneous growth of the movement has reached a stage where it needs conscious revolutionary political propaganda. However, the conscious leaders (a term which clearly refers to those who are capable of performing this task) are shying away from this responsibility because they think that the working class is not ready for such political propaganda. We too, in this instance, believe that Maruti workers’ movement had immense potential for a revolutionary communist politicization but the influence of anarcho-syndicalism on certain groups involved in the struggle wasted this potential. Despite the potential that the movement possessed, it could not have been able to perform this task on its own. This has been proven by the recent developments in the Maruti workers’ struggle.

In the aforementioned article Lenin argues that an ideologist is worthy of name only when he precedes spontaneity. Only then can he view the spontaneity in a critical manner. Let us see what Lenin meant and what our “new philosophers” understood:

“The authors of the letter fall into the very same fundamental error as that made by Rabocheye Dyelo (see particularly issue No. 10). They are muddled over the question   of the relations between the “material” (spontaneous, as Rabocheye Dyelo puts it) elements of the movement and the ideological (conscious, operating “according to plan”). They fail to understand that the “ideologist” is worthy of the name only when he precedes the spontaneous movement, points out the road, and is able ahead of all others to solve all the theoretical, political, tactical, and organisational questions which the “material elements” of the movement spontaneously encounter. In order truly to give “consideration to the material elements of the movement”, one must view them critically, one must be able to point out the dangers and defects of spontaneity and to elevate it to the level of consciousness.” (Lenin, “A Talk with Defenders of Economism”, 1901, emphasis added)

Again, Lenin shows that the main problem is not some theoretical and ideological incapability of the vanguard but the tendency of spontaneity-fetishism which precludes any possibility of emergence of an able vanguard party:

“The mass (spontaneous) movement lacks “ideologists” sufficiently trained theoretically to be proof against all vacillations; it lacks leaders with such a broad political outlook, such   revolutionary energy, and such organisational talent as to create a militant political party on the basis of the new movement.

“All this in itself would, however, be but half the evil. Theoretical knowledge, political experience, and organising ability are things that can be acquired. If only the desire exists to study and acquire these qualities. But since the end of 1897, particularly since the autumn of 1898, there have come forward in the Russian Social-Democratic movement individuals and periodicals that not only close their eyes to this drawback, but that have declared it to be a special virtue, that have elevated the worship of, and servility towards, spontaneity to the dignity of a theory and are preaching that Social-Democrats must not march ahead of the movement, but should drag along at the tail-end. (These periodicals include not only Rabochaya Mysl, but Rabocheye Dyelo, which began with the “stages theory” and ended with the defence, as a matter of principle, of spontaneity, of the “full rights of the movement of the moment”, of “tactics-as process”, etc.) (Lenin, “A Talk with Defenders of Economism”, 1901, emphasis added)

Our comrade from Radical Notes preaches the Left groups not to compete like “Lilliputians” in attracting the attention of the working class and binding its initiative. The phenomenon of fence-sitting intellectuals preaching the active Left groups (irrespective of the particular political virus that they are carrying!) not to indulge in “squabbles”, “fervent polemics”  and controversies and get ideologically well-informed, more “dialectical”, learn to historicize things and keep learning from the working class spontaneity, is not new. Even Lenin and Marx wrote about it. Lenin writes in the same article quoted by our comrade of Radical Notes:

“Nor can we refrain from protesting against the astonishing short-sightedness displayed by the authors of the letter in regard to the controversies and internecine squabbles among the political exiles. They repeat the stale nonsense about the “indecency” of devoting to Rabochaya Mysl an article on Zubatov… As for the “political exiles”…note the manner in which Lassalle, who was active among the Rhine workers in 1852, judged the controversies of the exiles in London. Writing to Marx, he said:

“…The publication of your work against the ’big men’, Kinkel, Ruge, etc., should hardly meet with any difficulties on the part of the police…. For, in my opinion, the government   is not averse to the publication of such works, because it thinks that ’the revolutionaries will cut one another’s throats’. Their bureaucratic logic neither suspects nor fears the fact that it is precisely internal Party struggles that lend a party strength and vitality; that the greatest proof of a party’s weakness is its diffuseness and the blurring of clear demarcations; and that a party becomes stronger by purging itself” (letter from Lassalle to Marx, June 24, 1852).

Let the numerous complacent opponents of severity, irreconcilability, and fervent polemics, etc., take note!” (Lenin, “A Talk with Defenders of Economism”, 1901, emphasis added)

Had our comrade from Radical Notes read the complete article he would have refrained from quoting from it. And if he has actually read the complete article then we are obliged to say that he is selectively quoting out of context to prove his point in the guise of exploring the “concepts pregnant with new meanings and forms.” Consequently, he quotes Lukacs to unnecessarily emphasize that the spiral movement of history constantly create new forms and theory must keep up with this aspect of novelty. Here, we would like to point out two things. One, the author should read the whole quotation of Lukacs and inspect whether it really lends any support to his theorization of the “new.” Especially, the portion of the quotation to which our author has added emphasis is really self-defeating. Let us quote that portion: “It must unite the spontaneous discoveries of the masses, which originate in their correct class instincts, with the totality of the revolutionary struggle, and bring them to consciousness.” We have added our own emphasis to some portions of the already emphasized quote of Lukacs from his famous work Lenin: A Study on the Unity of his Thought written in 1924. The reasons are obvious. The party unites the spontaneous discoveries rather than tailing them as the “new philosophers” want it to do. Secondly, all the spontaneous discoveries of the workers’ movement are not proletarian and party unites only those spontaneous discoveries of the working class which are proletarian in nature.For instance, in the case of Maruti workers’ movement, most of the spontaneous discoveries were not proletarian in nature.To cite a few examples, the workers’ movement from beginning to its present stage of collapse, did not have confidence in their own strength and leadership capabilities. This is the reason why the movement sought the revisionist central trade unions when it was located in Gurgaon-Manesar. This continuously impeded the movement and precluded any possibility of planned and radical action. When the union leadership was disillusioned with the central trade unions and moved the location of the struggle to Kaithal, it took refuge of the leadership of Khap Panchayats which deserted them as soon as the first incident of repression occurred on May 19. Subsequently, the movement began to disintegrate and few leaders of the leading committee of the union began to harbor dreams of embarking upon an electoral career in their localities. There is neither financial transparency in the union nor internal democracy. All these “discoveries” of the Maruti workers’ union leadership too are “spontaneous discoveries” but can we consider them as proletarian? Is this the way in which the Maruti workers’ movement has left the vanguard behind? Does the absence/weakness/political backwardness of the vanguard automatically imply the creative strength and class political consciousness of the workers? Third portion of the Lukacs reference that we have intentionally quoted is for the simple reason that howsoever advanced and original are the “spontaneous discoveries” of a workers’ movement they will still need to be brought to consciousness by the vanguard, which, obviously, must analyze these new things with critical wisdom. The political weakness/absence of the vanguard is precisely what we have discussed in our article along with our critique of the uncritical celebration of the spontaneity. And this uncritical celebration is even more problematic because our fence-sitter “new philosophers” have not even probed these “spontaneous discoveries” in a proper critical way!

Now, we would like to show how our comrade from Radical Notes has not read the work of Lukacs properly from which he has selectively quoted while completely disregarding the context to prove his point as he seems to be too carried away with the idea of proving himself right. We would present a few quotations from the same work of Lukacs and we would still suggest the readers to go through this very important work (http://www.marxists.org/archive/lukacs/works/1924/lenin/).

“Naturally, even the biggest and best party imaginable cannot ‘make’ a revolution. But the way the proletariat reacts to a given situation largely depends on the clarity and energy which the party is able to impart to its class aims…the activity of the party in a revolutionary period means something fundamentally different. If the basic character of the times is revolutionary, an acutely revolutionary situation can break out at any moment. The actual time and circumstance are hardly ever exactly determinable. But the tendencies which lead towards it and the principal lines of the correct course of action to be taken when it begins are thereby all the more determinable. The party’s activity is based on this historical understanding. The party must prepare the revolution. In other words, it must on the one hand try to accelerate the maturing of these revolutionary tendencies by its actions (through its influence on the proletariat and other oppressed groups). On the other hand, it must prepare the proletariat for the ideological, tactical, material and organizational tasks that necessarily arise in an acutely revolutionary situation.” (Lukacs, 1924, Lenin: A Study on the Unity of his Thought)

Another important quote:

“Because it is the party’s function to prepare the revolution, it is – simultaneously and equally – both producer and product, both precondition and result of the revolutionary mass movement. For the party’s conscious activity is based on clear recognition of the objective inevitability of the economic process; it’s strict organizational exclusiveness is in constant fruitful interaction with the instinctive struggles and sufferings of the masses. Rosa Luxemburg sometimes came near an appreciation of this element of interaction, but she ignored the conscious and active element in it. That is why she was incapable of understanding the vital point of the Leninist party concept – the party’s preparatory role – and why she was bound grossly to misinterpret all the organizational principles which followed from it. The revolutionary situation itself can naturally not be a product of party activity. The party’s role is to foresee the trajectory of the objective economic forces and to forecast what the appropriate actions of the working class must be in the situation so created. In keeping with this foresight, it must do as much as possible to prepare the proletarian masses intellectually, materially, and organizationally both for what lies ahead and how their interests relate to it.” (Ibid)

And again:

“But the masses can only learn through action; they can only become aware of their interests through struggle – a struggle whose socio-economic basis is constantly changing and in which the conditions and the weapons therefore also constantly change. The vanguard party of the proletariat can only fulfill its destiny in this conflict if it is always a step in front of the struggling masses, to show them the way. But only one step in front so that it always remains leader of their struggle.” (Ibid)

It seems that our “new philosophers” are not only hundreds of steps “ahead” of the class, they are on a different path and in a different direction altogether!

The author has contended that we have turned the principle of party into a dogma. However, he is unable to produce a single quotation from our article to support his charge. We too believe that theory must keep up with new developments. However, this logic too should not be used in a reckless fashion or should not be turned into a dogma. All revisionists made this very claim of novelty in order to target the revolutionary core of Marxism. A dialectical materialist is always open to the new forms of resistance, new strategies of struggle and new tactics while at the same time they are firm in their ideology. One must understand the dynamic of development of any theory and principle according to changing conditions otherwise he/she might end up becoming an unintentional revisionist and opportunist.

In the last section of this paragraph the author makes a claim which does not hold. He says that they are just pleading that workers can discover something new and party’s task is to recognize it so that it does not lag behind the development of “material elements.” If one reads the original article in Radical Notes (the link is given in the first paragraph of this article) and listens to what the “new philosophers” have claimed in their speeches they would not have any difficulty in understanding that the vanguard is being preached to tail the class which, in effect, means the rejection of the theory of vanguard. The vanguard is not suggested to establish a critical relation with the working class spontaneity, but is preached only to “learn” and also not to hinder this “pure and pristine spontaneity”. We believe that though the overall political standpoint of the author stays the same, however, we can see a feeble and half-hearted attempt to discreetly change his position. We would only urge the readers to go through the article and also the links of the speeches given in our first critique.

3. In the third para, comrade from Radical Notes has again showed how to misappropriate the Leninist position in an exemplary anarcho-syndicalist way. He quotes the footnote that Lenin has added to Kautsky’s quote in What is to be done? Lenin says categorically that the argument of Kautsky, that the evolution of modern socialism is a dual process of emergence of a working class movement against the tyranny of capital and at the same time the development of modern scientific understanding of the modus operandi of capitalism and its alternative, does not mean that a worker cannot be theoretician of revolutionary working class politics. However, he/she takes part in this ideological development not as a worker but as socialist theoreticians, (as Proudhons and Weitlings. Here some basic things must be understood. The working class as a class, does not comprehend the capitalist totality by itself i.e. without the intervention of the vanguard, as our “radical” comrade wants us to believe. Even when a particular worker does contribute in developing the socialist ideology, he/she does so not as a worker but as a theoretician (organic intellectual, in Gramsci’s words). However, to borrow from Lenin, “they take part only when they are able, and to the extent that they are able, more or less, to acquire the knowledge of their age and develop that knowledge.” And even for this, the role of the vanguard is imperative. This is the reason why he says, “every effort must be made to raise the level of the consciousness of the workers in general.”

Now, lets see how our “new philosophers” misappropriate Lenin’s understanding, “In fact, Lenin’s footnote to Kautsky’s quote transforms the recognition of the “outside” into the Brechtian process of distanciation whereby the revolutionary class can comprehend the capitalist totality and critique its everyday life that would help it in designing its self-activities beyond the evolutionary guerrilla battles – and in the process create its own theoreticians – Weitlings and Proudhons.” The psuedo-intellectual play of words, invoking Brecht’s theory of epic theatre and alienation, for misappropriation of the Leninist theory of vanguard is apparent here. Right now, we cannot dwell on what are the relative positions of spectators and dramatician in the epic theatre, who is the principal agent in the process of this alienation (distanciation), what is the objective of the agent in using this device and why this metaphorization does not quite apply in this case of the relation between the vanguard and the class. However, this much is clear: Lenin’s statement certainly does not say what our comrade from Radical Notes is trying put into it.

Consequently, the author claims that we are behaving like “bourgeois outsiders” to the movement and we have “reduced the experience of the workers to subalternity.” However, once again the author does not feel the need to substantiate his claims with any evidence. Firstly, the author is not being sincere when he claims that we are making comments and criticisms from the outside.We believe that he does know that Bigul Mazdoor Dasta has been an intrinsic part of the Maruti workers’ movement since November 2012, despite our critical stand on the leadership and tactics of the movement, which we have also conveyed to the MSWU leadership. Secondly, the author and other “new philosophers” themselves have been fence-sitting intellectuals vis-à-vis the Maruti workers’ movement and the title of “bourgeois outsiders” is much more suited to them. Thirdly, there is not a single instance when we have reduced the initiative of Maruti workers to subalternity. We have given suggestions to the leadership of the movement and have also made criticism of the alien tendencies prevalent in the movement. If comrade from Radical Notes thinks that making criticism of the policies and leadership of a workers’ movement amounts to reducing it to ‘subalternity’ then he is only justifying our criticism that he is a victim of tailism and spontaneity-fetishism.

Another thing to note is that our “new philosophers” take it for granted that we are witnessing the process of emergence of “our Proudhons and Weitlings” in the Maruti workers’ movement which by all accounts is a ridiculous claim to make! Absolute quixotism! The author’s claim that we need not tell the workers that “do not confine yourself to literature for workers” because “they are not confined to it”, is an overstatement. In fact, the workers in the Maruti workers’ movement were not even getting the “literature for workers.” The entire politics of the working class was reduced to tacticizing and making plans for demonstrations. Politics came something as an addenda not as an organic part of the movement. And this apolitical character was precisely the reason for the fall of the leadership of the movement into opportunism. Had there been a proper politicizing on the part of the vanguard, the scene might have been different. It is not about the failure or success of the movement. It is about the ability of the movement to establish a critical relationship with itself, to retain the ability for redemptive activity. The movement lost this ability due to the influence of the anarcho-syndicalist organizations and intellectuals. Such forces foiled any attempt to politicize the movement from a proletarian perspective.

4. Fourth para begins with the admission that the author agrees that spontaneity should not be celebrated as it reduces spontaneity to subalternity and makes us blind to the rich political potential inherent in it. Then he moves on to his project of anarcho-syndicalist misappropriation of Leninist positions.

He argues that we denigrate the factor of spontaneity (“material elements”). Again, the author does not refer to a single quotation from our critique. In fact, since the author has failed miserably to respond to any of our concrete criticisms he has found himself obliged to erect an effigy and rain it with his arrows!

Now, let us see how the author views the relationship between the spontaneous and the conscious. According to him, there is no qualitative difference between them just a quantitative difference of degree: “…the difference between the spontaneous and the conscious “is a ‘quantitative’ difference of degree, not one of quality.” Here the ideological anarcho-syndicalism and Menshevism of the author is completely laid bare. It is precisely this argument that Lenin was criticizing. According to this understanding, spontaneity develops into consciousness through quantitative development. We, of course, know that spontaneity does have an element of consciousness. However, we are here not talking about this “spontaneous” consciousness but proletarian political consciousness which must be introduced by the vanguard. The quantitative development of spontaneity can never automatically result in class political consciousness without the agency of the vanguard. Let us see what Lenin says about this: “Let us recall the example of Germany. What was the historic service Lassalle rendered to the German working-class movement? It was that he diverted that movement from the path of progressionist trade-unionism and co-operativism towards which it had been spontaneously moving (with the benign assistance of Schulze-Delitzsch and his like). To fulfil such a task it was necessary to do something quite different from talking of underrating the spontaneous element, of tactics-as-process, of the interaction between elements and environment, etc. A fierce struggle against spontaneity was necessary, and only after such a struggle, extending over many years, was it possible, for instance, to convert the working population of Berlin from a bulwark of the progressionist party into one of the finest strongholds of Social-Democracy.” (Lenin, What is to be done?).

Elsewhere, in the same work, Lenin says that sometimes spontaneous movements do turn political. However, the maximum limit that this politicization will achieve is trade union politics.The spontaneous element can develop quantitatively only into trade unionist political consciousness. Lenin states categorically that Social-Democratic (read communist) consciousness cannot result from the quantitative development of spontaneous element. Proletarian socialist consciousness is a qualitative leap from the stage of spontaneity and this leap is not possible without the agency of the vanguard.

Clearly, our “new philosophers” have not understood the Leninist concept of the difference between the spontaneous and the conscious and have unnecessarily become paranoid about the “denigration of spontaneity”! Lenin has something to say on this paranoia too:

“And the faint smile of our constitutionalist will turn into Homeric laughter when he learns that the Social-Democrats who talk of Social-Democracy as the vanguard, today, when spontaneity almost completely dominates our movement, fear nothing so much as “belittling the spontaneous element”, as “underestimating the significance of the forward movement of the drab everyday struggle, as compared with the propaganda of brilliant and completed ideas”, etc., etc.! A “vanguard” which fears that consciousness will outstrip spontaneity, which fears to put forward a bold “plan” that would compel general recognition even among those who differ with us. Are they not confusing “vanguard” with “rearguard”?” (Ibid).

Here we can understand the infatuation of our “new philosophers” to CLR James. That is why we had mentioned the influence of Johnson-Forest tendency. Johnson was the pseudonym used by CLR James. Forest was the pseudnym of Raya Dunayevskaya. Later, the two split. James (Johnson) believed that the concept of a vanguard party has become irrelevant, while Dunayevskaya continued to believe that some kind of vanguard organization is necessary, but she too believed that the Leninist vanguard party has become a thing of the past. We cannot go in detailed analysis of this autonomist trend here.

5. In the Fifth and last paragraph the author has finally given his mitzvah to us ignorant vanguardists! He gives a quote of Lenin which ironically does much more damage to the positions of the “new philosophers”! In this quotation Lenin criticizes those Bolsheviks who mug up words and do not understand their meaning. We have shown how our comrade from Radical Notes has quoted from different works of Lenin, Lukacs, etc. to prove his point without reading the lines before and after his selected quotation. If this is not word-chasing, what is? What we have here is nothing else but passive-radical phrase mongering and pseudo-intellectualist pleas to understand the “contextual and conceptual matrices” in which Lenin said what he said!

In the end, the author gives us a quote from Marx to vindicate his anarcho-syndicalist position. However, if one reads this quote, it can be seen that our “new philosopher” friend has once again created a self-defeating instrument. Moreover, once again, the author has probably not read the entire letter and is unaware of the context of the letter. First of all, let us see what Marx says in this quotation:

“The development of the system of Socialist sects and that of the real workers’ movement always stand in inverse ratio to each other. So long as the sects are (historically) justified, the working class is not yet ripe for an independent historic movement. As soon as it has attained this maturity all sects are essentially reactionary. Nevertheless what history has shown everywhere was repeated within the International. The antiquated makes an attempt to re-establish and maintain itself within the newly achieved form.”

Firstly, we would like to draw the attention of our “new philosopher” friend to the fact that this letter was written against the conspiratorial activities of anarchists under the leadership of Bakunin within the International and not against some vangaurdist! Here, Marx has given a political metaphor for the entire process of party building: “so long as the sects are (historically) justified, the working class is not yet ripe for an independent historic movement.” However, this independence is not independence from party! At the end of the letter Marx says, The political movement of the working class has as its object, of course, the conquest of political power for the working class, and for this it is naturally necessary that a previous organisation of the working class…every movement in which the working class comes out as a class against the ruling classes and attempts to force them by pressure from without is a political movement…If these movements presuppose a certain degree of previous organization, they are themselves equally a means of the development of this organization…Where the working class is not yet far enough advanced in its organisation to undertake a decisive campaign against the collective power, i.e., the political power of the ruling classes, it must at any rate be trained for this by continual agitation against and a hostile attitude towards the policy of the ruling classes. Otherwise it will remain a plaything in their hands…” (Marx to Friedrich Bolte in New York, 1871)

We have written about the concept of Party in the time of Marx when a continental proletarian revolution was expected and how this concept of Party developed in the time of Imperialism when the storm-centre of revolution was shifting from West to East (refer to the fifth para of this article: https://redpolemique.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/maruti-workers-struggle-and-the-far-left-fallacyfantasy-of-the-new-philosophers-of-india/). However, even Marx clearly understood the need for party.

Moreover, the term “sect” is not used by Marx in this quotation for vanguard party but for the anarchist (Bakunin), mutualist (Proudhon), and sectarian (Lassalle) groups active within the International. It was used to describe how these sects had caused harm to the development of the International and how the General Council of International was fighting against these “sects” and factions. This is the beginning of the letter which has been omitted by our comrade from Radical Notes because it makes clear what Marx intends to say here:

The International was founded in order to replace the Socialist or semi-Socialist sects by a real organisation of the working class for struggle. The original Statutes and the Inaugural Address show this at the first glance. On the other hand the Internationalists could not have maintained themselves if the course of history had not already smashed up the sectarian system. The development of the system of Socialist sects and that of the real workers’ movement always stand in inverse ratio to each other. So long as the sects are (historically) justified, the working class is not yet ripe for an independent historic movement. As soon as it has attained this maturity ail sects are essentially reactionary. Nevertheless what history has shown everywhere was repeated within the International. The antiquated makes an attempt to re-establish and maintain itself within the newly achieved form.” (Ibid)

Besides, Marx also argues that until the stage of a historic independent movement (obviously, under a strong, unified working class political organization, i.e., the Party) the sects are actually historically relevant. Even if our position still constitutes a political “sect” at the present moment it does have historical relevance and justification because, apparently, the moment of “a historic independent movement of the working class” has not arrived yet.

It is apparent that the “new philosophers” have nothing to say in a manner of critique. Since they have failed to respond to our criticism they have resorted to empty rhetoric and passive-radical phrase-mongering. Despite all this, at the end we have been sermonized on the need to “do some reality check”! In any case, on the evidence of the intellectual quality of the first article of our “new philosophers”, what else could we expect?

Response to Anand Teltumbde: To the Self-proclaimed Teachers and Preachers

  • Abhinav

Anand Teltumbde has announced his judgement about us (http://sanhati.com/articles/6366/). He has called us “self-obsessed Marxists” with “frozen mind”. What can we say? As he himself admits, his stay was of a few hours and in that short time span he was able to evaluate us conclusively and then declare his judgement. However, during that same short stay, we too, were able to make some impressions about Mr. Teltumbde. We shall start with some examples and then we shall proceed to a parawise reply of Mr. Teltumbde’s article.

Of Self-obsession and Similar Diseases…

1. In his first statement during the Chandigarh seminar, Mr. Teltumbde spoke for almost 1 hour. In that long speech, he mentioned his own name at least 3 or 4 times. He began with claiming, “Ambedkarites say that Anand Teltumbde is a Marxist and Marxists say that Anand Teltumbde is an Ambedkarite”! At one point, he says, “I don’t like people who immediately agree with me”; at another, “I saw a problem of mathematics pertaining to surplus solved by Marx using algebra, but I found that it was a problem of differential equation and then I thought why Marx has solved it using algebra…then I solved it using differential equation and sent it to an international journal and that was my first article (giggles) published in an international journal…many years later when I was in IIT I found that a Japanese scientist used my method in his research.” Again, “I became a Marxist at the age of 7 and I don’t think anyone present here became a Marxist at that age.” I can give several such examples. However, above examples suffice to show what is the real meaning of self-obsession. I think, Mr. Teltumbde is perfectly honest when he says that he curses himself for having gone to Chandigarh. However, the reasons that he is giving for this ostensible self-bashing, do not seem convincing to us. We have a different explanation for this self-bashing, to which we will come later. For this moment, we would like to argue that Mr. Teltumbde should tell what does he mean by “self-obsession”. If he is going by the dictionary meaning, then definitely he needs to ponder over his own attitude.

He claims that we were not open to free and frank discussions and were not encouraging participation from outsiders to enrich our approach paper. However, he does not give any reason for this particular charge. For example, had we not been open to free and frank discussions on our approach paper, we would not have brought Mr. Teltumbde from Jalandhar (he had already said that if we want him to participate in the seminar even for a few hours, we will have to bring him from Jalandhar to Chandigarh and then drive him back to Jalandhar, the same day, in the evening) and then driven him back to Jalandhar. In our statement too, we said that we are completely open to listen to him and learn from him. We had (and still have) very high respect for him. In his stay of a few hours, he spoke for at least one and a half hour and we listened without any interruption and in the end too we offered him to stay and speak more. Had we not been open to debate and discussion on everything, we would not have gone to that extent to ensure his participation in our seminar. However, we must our high expectations about him crumbled like a cookie during his first statement; we got to hear many things to which we could not find ourselves in agreement, and so we also presented our criticism. However, I guess, Mr. Teltumbde is not used to criticism and he had problems taking this criticism. He did not say a word of disagreement in his second statement and everything that he said was to express his agreement with what had been argued by myself and Sukhvinder and also with what was written in our approach paper. I completely disagree with this charge of Mr. Teltumbde that we were obsessed with being proven correct. After his second statement also, he did not utter a single word of reservation about the way in which the seminar was being conducted. In fact, we (Mr. Teltumbde and myself) in person exchanged our phone numbers and he agreed to come to Delhi for a longer discussion. However, Mr. Teltumbde is completely silent about this in his article. We are surprised.

Parawise reply to Mr. Teltumbde’s article

We have already responded to the first paragraph above. So I will start with the second paragraph of his article.

2.  Anand Teltumbde charges us of mischief in throwing the “raw records of the seminar open for public discussion”. He believes that public is not at the same stage of understanding as that of the delegates of the seminar (so they cannot participate in the discussion!). This is a ridiculous line of argument. All over the world, the statements of participants in seminars organized by revolutionary groups or even academic institutions are recorded and put online. There is nothing “raw” about it. Had we edited the videos of seminar before putting them online, we would have faced the charge of fabrication of statements. Moreover, why Mr. Teltumbde is afraid of the “common” public? I do not think that common public is not in a position to listen to and understand what Mr. Teltumbde and other speakers said during the debate. We would urge Mr. Teltumbde to see the video again and tell us, what the ignorant “common” public would not understand. And how does this show that we do not understand the reality of caste? I mean, how does providing access to seminar debates to public is linked with our inability to understand caste? That is why, we said in the beginning that this is a ridiculous line of argument that does not lead us anywhere. We believe that not only providing common and general access to seminar debates by us, but the very participation of Mr Teltumbde in the seminar was traumatic for him, and that too, not for the reasons that he is mentioning, because he cannot support even a single charge against us with facts and details. So we would urge him to rethink his line of argument.

3. In the third para, first Mr. Teltumbde again puts the responsibility of “leaking” of his statement to the media on us and asks “can he (Abhinav) be absolved of this responsibility?” We would urge Mr. Teltumbde to learn to take the responsibility for whatever he says. He himself admits that he did say and in fact, he actually believes that all of Ambedkar’s experiments ended in a failure. Then what is the problem if a Hindi newspaper quotes it? And how does we become responsible for it? In all seminars, media is invited. It was not a closed door discussion of a Party and Mr. Teltumbde knew it. Once he had said what he said, he should not shy away from taking the responsibility rather than passing it on to somebody else. Secondly, Mr. Teltumbde puts forwards a plea to understand the context in which he “stood and spoke” there so that one can understand what he did in his second statement. However, we would urge him to make us understand that context. In his long speech, there was nothing to be deciphered or deconstructed. He said in the beginning of his speech that he found difficulty in reading the approach paper as it was in Hindi, but he managed to read the entire paper. He said that the paper was written with a brahmanical mindset and it smacks of casteism. Now he is saying that there was “only a thin line that differentiated it from casteist and brahmanist approaches”. Now, tell us Mr. Teltumbde, isn’t that a volte-face? Moreover, in his first statement, Mr. Teltumbde said that we are dogmatist Marxist. But in his second statement he said, “you said that Marxism is not a dogma, I also say that, so be it.” Isn’t that a volte-face, Mr. Teltumbde? Mr. Teltumbde said that we are trashing Ambedkar and Phule. We responded that we are not trashing them and we already acknowledged their contribution in the approach paper as well as our statements. However, that does not and should not stop us from presenting a critique of the philosophy, politics and economics of Ambedkar. There is no place of apologetics in the arena of criticism. We must call a spade a spade. To this, Mr. Teltumbde agreed and said that he too does not agree with Ambedkar’s politics and philosophy. However, in his first statement he claimed that many people do not know that Ambedkar followed the thinking of John Dewey, who was a progressive pragmatism; he argued further that Deweyan method is very akin to scientific method which tests every hypothesis (or set of postulates) on the basis of experimentation and then constructs a more advanced hypothesis (or set of postulates). He says that though he does not believe entirely in Deweyan method but it is very much akin to natural science. Then Mr. Teltumbde said that he comes from natural science background not social sciences where theories can be constructed. His statement is a de facto justification, or at least admiration for the pragmatism and instrumentalism of John Dewey. I criticized this approach of Mr. Teltumbde and argued that the Deweyan method claims to be scientific, but it is not. Because even science needs an a priori approach and world view. Then we presented a detailed critique of Deweyan method of Ambedkar. Mr. Teltumbde was nowhere critical of Deweyan method. Anyone who listens Mr. Teltumbde can understand that he is in fact admiring the Deweyan skepticism for all theory and its fetish for methodology, which is always “self-corrective”. In his second statement, Mr. Teltumbde withdrew his admiration of Deweyan pragmatism and agreed that he was one of the major pillars of American liberalism. Now, Mr. Teltumbde is saying that he only concentrated on one paragraph of the approach paper which allegedly distorted his views. Now, isn’t that a volte-face, Mr. Teltumbde?

4., 5., 6., and 7. In these four paragraphs, Mr. Teltumbde embarks upon the task of exposing our ignorance! Let us see how. He quotes our paper to show that we have put the charge of amalgamating Marxism with Ambedkarism on him, which in fact is baseless, because he has never used the word “samanvaya” (amalgamation). Mr. Teltumbde is not being fair here because since he has seen the video again (as is apparant from this article of Mr. Teltumbde), we had already responded to this argument of Mr. Teltumbde in the seminar itself. I said in my first statement that it does not really matter what you call yourself. The mechanism of naming things is always external to the things that we are talking about. It will always be the people in general who will give you names, not you yourself. I argued in my first statement that when you say that Ambedkar’s ‘Annihilation of Caste’ is to caste India what Communist Manifesto was for the working class, then you are giving a value judgement. Mr. Teltumbde said that he was using the term ‘Manifesto’ here as a generic term and he did not mean to equate ‘Annihilation of Caste’ with ‘Communist Manifesto’. However, I responded in my statement that even if you were using the term ‘Manifesto’ in a generic way, this metaphor was wrong and obviously had ulterior motives. Because if you were using it as a generic term, you could have given the example of any other manifesto like ‘Rights of Man’, or ‘Declaration of Rights of Women’, etc. But you chose ‘Communist Manifesto’! I argued that this whole metaphorization is value-loaded and whoever reads this statement of Mr. Teltumbde in the entire context knows that Mr. Teltumbde is not using the term ‘Manifesto’ in a generic way, rather, he is equating the importance of ‘Annihilation of Caste’ and ‘Communist Manifesto’, to which we, I think rightly, objected. Mr. Teltumbde’s defence (that he used ‘Manifesto’ as a generic term) was a really lame excuse. That is why Mr. Teltumbde did not utter a single word about our criticism of this analogy in his second statement.

Besides, Mr. Teltumbde accuses us of equating the division of castes to other divisions along the order of places in the production system (such as division between mental and manual labour, skilled and unskilled, etc and British and Irish workers, black and white workers). However, if you read the lines in the approach paper, we simply argued that everywhere the division of labour engenders some kind of division of labourers and Ambedkar was wrong in claiming that caste is not a division of labour but a division of labourers. Recent historiaography and evidences has now demonstrated beyond doubt that varna/caste system (a term preferred by Suvira Jaiswal, rather than simply using varna system or caste system) has its origins in the labour division which got ritualistically ossified and became a rigid division of labourers. In other places, the division of labour did engender a division of labourers but since elsewhere this division of labour did not get ritualistically ossified, it did not engender a rigid division of labourers based on birth. So the division of labourers in the case of Black/white, British/Irish is not rigid like the caste system. We have clarified this point while dealing with historiography of caste in the Approach Paper, as well as in the separate paper on the Historiography of Caste presented during the Seminar by me. But, Mr. Teltumbde has quoted us out of context to prove his point, a charge that, to our surprise, he puts on us! Mr. Teltumbde again accuses us of trashing all non-Marxist currents in the caste movements. However, we have clarified in the paper as well as in the statements that we had put forward in the seminar that it is not the question of trashing or completely adopting something. The real question is what can be learnt from Ambedkar and other currents in the caste movement and what should be criticized. Mr. Teltumbde, like always, has circumvented this real question. We have argued in our paper that the contribution of Ambedkar in establishing the Dalit identity and the sense of dignity should be acknowledged. However, we cannot adopt anything from his program of dalit emancipation, neither political program nor social or economic programs. And Mr. Teltumbde agrees on this point. So we end up wondering, what does he really object to! Because we have always particularized what we are criticizing, in all the papers that we presented in the seminar. Instead of putting a counter-critique on each and every point, Mr. Teltumbde has taken the convenient way of putting a vague charge on us, that is, we are in a rejectionist mode as regards the other currents in the caste movements. We say again and again that we are not rejecting, we are trying to establish a critical relation with everything, that is, we are trying to ascertain what can we learn from Ambedkar and what must be criticized in Ambedkar. Instead of arguing particularly about things, Mr. Teltumbde conducts a summary trial and announces his judgement on us. Now, is that an attitude of open and free debate and discussion, Mr. Teltumbde?

8. In the eighth para, Mr. Teltumbde raises the question of comparison of the ‘Communist Manifesto’ and ‘Annihilation of Castes’ about which we have already explained our position. However, he says an interesting thing to which we would like to draw your attention. He says that he is opposed to “hierarchize ideologies” which according to him is a “brahmanical tendency”. So what do we have here? According to Mr. Teltumbde ideologies or philosophies should not be hierarchized; in other words, they should be put at par! First of all, we were not hierarchizing theories. He can not produce a single sentence from the approach paper or the statements that we had presented which hierarchizes philosophies. What we presented was a critique of Ambedkar’s politics and philosophy from a Marxist standpoint. Mr. Teltumbde is at his Deweyan pragmatist best here, as he can imagine only two positions: one, of hierarchizing philosophies and two, of putting them at par, or not hierarchizing them. So where does Mr. Teltumbde stand? What is the ideological and political quality of Mr. Teltumbde’s stand? Marxist? or Ambedkarite? or something else? That is what we criticized Mr. Teltumbde for in the Seminar: this fetish for method, the method of hard science, to borrow from Dewey! And then test all theories and philosophies from the sans-theory sans-philosophy scientific method! Mr. Teltumbde forgets the basic teaching of science: you can’t escape theory; even those who claim to be purged of all theories are, in fact, putting forward a theory. In natural (hard) science too, one needs to take an a priori theoretical position, namely, the dialectical approach, otherwise they are obliged to fall in the pit of determinism or agnosticism, because at any given point, science cannot give answers for all questions. That was the tragedy of debate between the Copenhagen School (Hiesenberg and Bohr) and Einstein; a fetish for science always leads to this ‘dysjunctive synthesis’ of determinism and agnosticism. Mr. Teltumbde has actually justified our criticism of his hidden Deweyanism in his new article. So, supposedly, Mr. Teltumbde is not concerned about the “correctness or otherwise of these manifestos”. However, this supposition itself hides in itself the justification of a trans-theoretical and trans-historical super-method, as one can see. We on our part can say that everybody has a position, irrespective of his/her will and they criticize or admire anything from that position only. We criticized the theory and politics of Ambedkar from a Marxist perspective, because we believe that claiming to have a position over and above theory, in congruence with the scientifc super-method is a hollow claim. Mr. Teltumbde should clearly put forward his ideological position, because any ambiguity in this matter leads to traumatic results, as has been the case till now.

9. In the ninth para, Mr. Teltumbde, while criticizing his Ambedkarite critics, has tried to make the Deweyan thought more tolerable to Marxism and Science. Deweyan thought never aims to enrich any theory as Mr. Teltumbde thinks. It is consciously anti-theory. Dewey was skeptical of all theories all his life. For him, what matters is the pure and pristine method of the “hard sciences”; the so-called social sciences create theories, rather construct them out of nothing and so Dewey has a disdain for all social sciences. Now, this is a completely different matter altogether that Dewey himself was following a theory, the theory of pragmatism and instrumentalism which biologizes everything. For instance, for Dewey every organism lives in a context and it has to adapt and readapt constantly to survive. For Dewey, in nature the process of development does not have ruptures or breaks; it is a smooth progression in which the organism adapts and re-adapts itself according to the context. So, for Dewey, in society too, the pattern of development should not include ruptures (revolutions/revolts); the human beings should make a good use of intelligence. The state is the best mechanism to represent this good use of intelligence and reason. Violence is waste. We cannot go here in a detailed critique of Dewey. However, it seems that either Mr. Teltumbde needs to have a serious relook on the works of Dewey, or he is trying to misappropriate Dewey to make him tolerable! We questioned Mr. Teltumbde’s argument that scientists follow the same method in the laboratories. This is the method of the instrumentalists in Quantum theory who raise the slogan of “shut up and calculate”; in fact, that is precisely the slogan of cybernetics also, with which Mr. Teltumbde seems to be fascinated. In these schools, we are told to follow a trans-theoretical, pure and pristine scientific method to test and calculate without any “theoretical prejudice”, and this is precisely what Mr. Teltumbde does again and again in his latest article: and eternal disdain for theory and an incorrigible fetish for method. However, we know now that this itself is a prejudice and there is another school within the so-called “hard” sciences to which people like Sakata, Gould, Yukawa, etc. belong, which believes in having an a priori dialectical position, even before entering the laboratory. So, Mr. Teltumbde’s claim that neither is he in support of anything, nor does he oppose anything, is an unscientific claim. Irrespective of your wish and will, you always do that as soon as you make a political statement or value judgement. Such theoretical indifference or non-partisan attitude is a myth.

Moreover, we never said that Mr. Teltumbde was trashing Marx or talking about his failure. It was in fact said by the self-proclaimed well-wishers of Mr. Teltumbde, that is, the five comrades of Republican Panthers who attended the seminar, who did not utter a word during the seminar, but immediately issued a statement against us and in supposed support of Mr. Teltumbde! Besides, we are curious regarding why Mr. Teltumbde is always in the teacher-preacher mode? He claims that he was trying to sensitize (!?) people present in the seminar who were intoxicated by this or that ‘-ism’! Again, Mr. Teltumbde is at his Deweyan best. He is avert to call himself an Ambedkarite or a Marxist, or any ‘-ist’ for that matter. He is in a trans-theoretical methodological position or pulpit, from where he is supposed to sensitize us, and we are supposed to hear his sermons! Is that not a self-obsessed attitude on part of Mr. Teltumbde? We also know and do not need Mr. Teltumbde to make us realize that Revolutions happen in reality; neither in the paper nor in our statements, did we show any dogmatic or closed-ended approach to Marxism. Even, Mr. Teltumbde corrected himself in his second statement and said that he did not call us dogmatist (though he really did!) and he was referring only to the paragraphs of the approach paper that mentioned his name. But if you listen to the first statement of Mr. Teltumbde, you will find that he had not been referring to those paragraphs only; he was commenting on the paper in general, and that too, without reading it properly. What should we call this, if not a U-turn, a volte-face?

10. In the tenth para, Mr. Teltumbde argues that the distrust of Ambedkar towards Marx stemmed from Marx’s claim to a ‘grand theory’. (Such a claim was ascribed to Marxism by the postmodernists. Marx himself never claimed that he is creator of a ‘grand theory’. We will come back to this point later.) However, in the Seminar, he himself admitted that Ambedkar had not read Marxism properly and his list of books that he studied shows that he had a very supreficial understanding of Marxism and he had never read Marxist classics. Clearly, Ambedkar’s skepticism to Marxism had nothing to do with his dislike for ‘grand theories’ (Marx never made such a claim; he only claimed, together with Engels, to be the creator of the dialectial and historical materialist science of history and society). Ambedkar’s skepticism stemmed from two sources: one, his own class position and two, his academic training in the US where he became a Deweyan instrumentalist and pragmatist and in London School of Economics, where he was influenced by the Austrian school of economics, of Carl Menger. These intellectual sources are bitterly critical of Marxism. This in itself was enough for Ambedkar to become diametrically opposed to Marxism. Whenever, he strove to form an alliance with Communists, his prime mover was never the politics of the working class, but the same good old pragmatism of Dewey. Secondly, the account of Ambedkar’s political history that Mr. Teltumbde himself gives in the tenth para, bears a testimony to the throughout compromising, non-radical, non-massline and surrenderist approach of Ambedkar. We do not need to deconstruct the text of Mr. Teltumbde’s article here to show this, because it is self-evident. Mr. Teltumbde’s narrative itself shows that the Congress was always willing to co-opt Ambedkar in its political scheme. Does not this fact itself tell a lot about the politics of Ambedkar? Mr. Teltumbde seems to be in the awe of Ambedkar’s plan for so-called ‘state-socialism’ which has nothing to do with socialism! Socialism does not mean state ownership of means of production. The defining characteristic of Socialism is the class character of the state itself. As Engels had already shown in the 19th century, State capitalism (one can read socialism as well) is nothing, but capitalism pushed to extreme. Ambedkar’s economic program was a paraphrasing of Deweyan economic program, for which state is the most rational actor and therefore it should have the monopoly over economic activities and planning. We expect Mr. Teltumbde at least to be aware of this much. However, he is much too eager to perform a Marxist appropriation of Ambedkar, though in a clandestine fashion, while claiming that there is no meeting point between the ideas of Ambedkar and Marxism.

11. The eleventh para is probably is most interesting para in Mr. Teltumbde’s article. It claims that Mr. Teltumbde follows Marxist methodology (note: not Marxist theory/ideology/philosophy! The same old Deweyan skepticism for theory and fetish for method), but he would not call himself a Marxist because a lot of Marxists are dogmatic! However, Mr. Teltumbde does not mention that I criticized this position in my response in the Seminar, to which he did not say a word in his latest article. One calls himself a Marxist, or a liberal, or a post-structuralist, not because what the alleged followers of these ideologies do! Such a logic will lead us to non-sensical conclusions. One calls himself a Marxist because he/she believes in the approach and method of what he/she believes to be the Marxist approach and method. If majority of people have become indifferent to pain, tragedy, etc and have become inhuman, would you stop calling yourself a human being? No! Then why do not you call yourself a Marxist, if you believe in Marxism? However, we know the answer to this question already! Again, identifying with a theory and ideology always scares a Deweyan away! Secondly, never in the paper did we say that Marxism is a dogma and it cannot be developed. On the contrary, the major part of our paper is not a critique of Ambedkar and Ambedkarites, but of the Communist movement of India, which failed to understand the problem of caste and apply Marxism creatively in the Indian conditions. But, apparently Mr. Teltumbde had launched an attack on our paper without reading it properly.

Moreover, the iconoclasm, radicalism, etc of Ambedkar might be the personal views of Mr. Teltumbde and we might or might not differ in this regard. But our concern in the paper as well as in the entire seminar was not to analyze how deeply and passionately Ambedkar felt about the problem of caste, but what program does Ambedkar have for the solution of the problem and it is in this context that the criticism of Ambedkar put forward by our approach paper should be seen and understood.

Also, it does not matter at what age did Mr. Teltumbde become a Marxist! It does not affect the merits or lacunae of his arguments today and in any case it does not give any advantage to his logic. Kautsky was a much older Marxist that Lenin was. Does that influence the way in which Kautsky went haywire in his theorizations about Imperialism?

12. In the twelfth para, Mr. Teltumbde shows how everything that Ambedkar did for the emancipation of dalits failed miserably and goes to the extent of exclaiming, “The less said of Ambedkarite politics, the better it is.” However, he does not trace the origin of these mistakes, that is, the incorrigibly bourgeious liberal, pragmatist, instrumentalist, regressive thoughts of Ambedkar. He did not believe in the revolutionary energy of the masses, but believed in the power of heroes and specifically, the state. The reason for Ambedkar’s failure lies in his philosophy and politics and that is what we have subjected to criticism in our paper, not the intent of Ambedkar. Theoretical discourse never takes the issue of intent into consideration because this issue is a highly subjective issue. What is at stake in any political discussion is the scientific and philosophical character of a theory and its historical role. What the carriers of a theory might have felt at different moments does not matter in history, as Mr. Teltumbde himself claimed in his first statement, “individuals don’t matter in revolutions”. The conspicuous absence of a serious political and philosophical criticism of Ambedkar in any of the statements put forward by Mr. Teltumbde is troubling. He stops at mentioning a fact, that is, all of Ambedkar’s experiments ended in a grand failure. But he never asks the question “why?” Why does Mr. Teltumbde forget his celebrated scientific method here? This is a curious emission, as we can see.

13., 14., 15., 16. and 17. In these paragraphs, again, Mr. Teltumbde once again, is in his Deweyan glory. He talks about the failure of almost all great men in history. However, we would like to remind him that the task of the approach paper (and other papers as well) was not to assess the failure of men and their particular experiments. The real question is the assessment of the theory and methodology given by these men. Men fail and succeed. That does not matter much in history. The basic question is whether Marx was able to give a science of history? Whether he was able to give an approach and a method which is scientific? Obviously, Marxism is not an aggregation of the statements of Marx. Marxism is name of the approach (worldview) and the method that Marx gave. Marx might himself have failed to use this dialectical materialist method at a number of instances, for example, his theory of Asiatic mode of production, or his assessment of the British rule in India, etc. However, that does not make any difference as far as Marxist approach and method are concerned. A number of his expectations, judgements and statements were proven wrong by history. That might be called, in a limited sense, the failure of some of speculative judgements of Marx, the individual. But Marx could not be right in all his judgements (wouldn’t it be non-dialectical to expect such infallibility!?). The point here is to understand the difference between different statements of a person and his approach and method. Marx himself believed that dialectical materialism will develop with the changing world, because the basic premise of this science is to study the world in its motion. So, the theory of imperialism was developed by Lenin, not Marx, because finance monopoly capitalism came into proper existence only during the lifetime of Lenin. However, again the basic point to note here is that Lenin followed the same approach and method to study the world, that Marx had followed. So, to talk about the “failures of great men” at such a length and then claim that the failure of Marx was more catastrophic than that of Ambedkar does not make any sense. It is like the history of men, in the 17th century style, that does not tell anything about anything! Mr. Teltumbde argues that Marxism needs to be developed constantly in such a way, as if he is the first person to say so, or, as if we have said something different in the paper. Neither in the paper, nor in our statements did we say that what Marx said was the last word! We would not have felt the need to organize a 5-day Seminar to discuss any question at all, had we believed so. We have written in our approach paper about the mistakes committed in analyzing the problem of caste by Marxists and Communists. Then why Mr. Teltumbde is erecting an imaginary Marxist figure and then raining it with his bows and bayonets?

Besides, Marxism never says that revolutions are inevitable. That would amount to economism. Therefore, to try to prove the “catastrophic failure of Marx” by arguing that Socialist experiments fell down, or, revolutions did not take place, is utterly useless! The economic crises of capitalism themselves never lead automatically to revolution. Every crisis presents dual possibilities: the revolutionary possibility (if the revolutionary vanguard is in a position to lead the masses to revolution) or the reactionary possibility (Fascism). There is always a possibility of counter-revolution and all the great Marxist thinkers were aware of it, including Marx, Engels, and Lenin. So, the fact that sustainable revolutions did not take place in the twentieth century, does not show in anyway, the failure of the alleged ‘grand theory’ of Marx. Marxism gives the tool to analyze the failure of revolutions too, and a number of Marxists have subjected the Soviet and Chinese experiments of socialism to Marxist criticism and through such analyses only, that more advanced socialist experiments can be conducted. This is what Walter Benjamin called ‘redemptive activity’ of theory. Every science develops through such redemptive activity and Marxism, that is, the science of society is no exception. In such a historical movement, the failures of individuals do not matter. What matters is the approach and method given by them. Marxists have not reacted in the vein of Ambedkarites, who have been targeting Mr. Teltumbde without any substantial reason and in this respect, we completely empathize with the agony and anger of Mr. Teltumbde. However, Mr. Teltumbde himself is to blame for this ironic situation. Taking a position above ideology and theory always leads to such a mess.

Moreover, what Mr. Teltumbde claims to have said in regard of the new developments which cannot be explained from classical Marxist position was this: Mr. Teltumbde argued that Marx talked about labour-saving devices, but in contemporary capitalism, we cannot talk about labour-saving devices but labour-displacing devices. Now, everyone who has read the elementary Marxist political economy knows that every labour-saving device becomes a labour-displacing device under capitalism. Mr. Teltumbde is immensely overjoyed in his discovery; but sadly, this discovery has already been made, and even more sadly Mr. Teltumbde is 150 years late! There is not real difference between labour-saving and labour-displacing devices. Mr. Teltumbde was seriously concerned about the scenario where it would become possible to run a factory with one worker! This very fear has led a number of intellectuals to conclude that working class is vanishing from the scene of history. Such a conclusion only shows that the person in question does not understand Marxist political economy. Such a situation will only create even larger army of the unemployed which Marx had called ‘grave diggers of capitalism’. Working class is not vanishing; on the contrary it would be pushed towards revolts. Needless to say, such revolts would not transform into revolution without a revolutionary theory and a vanguard armed with such a theory. Obviously, there are new developments in the modus-operandi of Imperialism after the Second World War which need to be analyzed and understood from Marxist perspective. However, these very ever new developments have been the prime mover in the development of Marxism as the science of history and society; just like the so-called “hard sciences” of Mr. Teltumbde! What is so stupefying about this? In a nutshell, Mr. Teltumbde needs to differentiate between assessment of men and assessment of approaches and methods. From that standpoint, it can be asked whether Marxism or Ambedkar provide the correct approach and method to understand everything that exists around us. Mr. Teltumbde believes that Ambedkar had no theory and he was a pragmatist who kept experimenting with newer things. However, this itself was his theory, which Mr. Teltumbde admits, he liked! And this very theory was subjected to criticism during the Seminar. What is wrong in that? Does that amount to trashing or rejecting Ambedkar? We don’t think so.

In the seventeenth para, Mr. Teltumbde traces the ideological origins of Ambedkar. However, again, he is trying to misappropriate Ambedkar. Ambedkar’s dislike for Marxism did not only stem from his experience of Indian Communists, but his class position and his academic training. Secondly, he never used Marxism as a benchmark, as Mr. Teltumbde wants us to believe; he had called Marxism “pigs’ philosophy” which shows his clear attitude. We have criticized this attitude of Ambedkar without using the derogatory terminology used by Ambedkar. We do not find anything wrong in it.

18. In this para, Mr. Teltumbde is again in his teacher-preacher mode. He rightly points out that Ambedkar has a huge contribution in putting the question of caste on the national agenda. He is also right about the contribution of communists in this, who empirically fought militantly against caste oppression. Indian communists as well as Ambedkar failed to devise a program for the annihilation of caste. In the beginning of his article, Mr. Teltumbde says that hierarchizing is a brahmanical attitude. However, he adopts this brahmanical attitude according to his convenience. Here, he says that the contribution of Ambedkar was much greater that Communists in democratization! He does not feel it necessary to back his statements with logic and reason. So he performs another intellectual somersault and adds that he says so rhetorically because he wants communists to think about the opportunities that they have lost! Again, Mr. Teltumbde is quite obsessed with his teaching capabilities. Nobody denies the fact that there is a need to analyze the mistakes of Communist movement on the question of caste and that is what we have done in our paper, apart from a brief critique of Ambedkar. But this hierarchizing of Mr. Teltumbde is surprising and we do not agree to the hierarchy of contributions proposed by Mr. Teltumbde. At least, he should stay consistent in his approach and should not shift positions so rapidly, following Ambedkar.

19. and 20. In the nineteenth para again, Mr. Teltumbde argues in a way as if we cling to the metaphor of ‘base and superstructure’ mechanically and goes on to claim that all dalit Marxists (we’re not sure what does that mean!) have abandoned it and there has been a debate in international Marxism about this metaphor. We believe, and we have made it clear in the paper, that the metaphor of base and superstructure is an analytical tool to study any social formation and it cannot be used in a mechanical and instrumentalist fashion, as Indian communists have often done, specially while studying caste. We have particularly criticized certain communists of Indian communist movement who believed that caste belongs to superstructure. On the contrary, we have argued in the paper that caste belongs to the base as well as the superstructure. However, we can not go in detail about it; those who are interested can download the approach paper from the website of Arvind Memorial Trust and read our position. But here again, Mr. Teltumbde is erecting an imaginery Marxist figure for the purpose of bashing.

Moreover, the criticism that Indian communists failed to understand the question of caste and class was put forward by Mr. Teltumbde. We ourselves have criticized the Indian communist movement for this failure. But Mr. Teltumbde presented the matter in a way, as if Indian communists did not take up the question of caste and called it their biggest sin. We objected to this because it is factually wrong. Sukhvinder responded to this criticism of Mr. Teltumbde and criticized him for impeaching communists for what they are not guilty of. He argues in his latest article, “Surprisingly, there is no admission ever from the Marxists (regarding this mistake)”. Again, Mr. Teltumbde is distorting the facts. Our paper itself bears testimony to a bitterly critical approach towards the mistakes of the communists in understading the question of caste. In fact, a larger share of the paper is dedicated to the criticism of communist movement, rather that Ambedkar and Phule. As far as, the question of base and superstructure is concerned, one can refer to the approach paper. Our understanding is completely different from what Mr. Teltumbde is portraying it to be.

21. In this para, Mr. Teltumbde continues in the tone of teaching-preaching. He claims that it was he, who has been saying all along that castes basically seek hierarchy and cannot survive in non-hierarchical waters; under external pressure they contract together, but without external pressure they start splitting. He again claims that all caste movements have failed to note this core characteristics of caste. This again is a hollow claim. Historians like Suvira Jaiswal and R.S. Sharma have already drawn our attention to precisely these characteristics. However, like always Mr. Teltumbde is stupefied at his own “inventions” and “discoveries” and as always these inventions and discoveries have already been made and Mr. Teltumbde is sadly late! Mr. Teltumbde argues that the dalits and lower castes have to understand that its not caste identity but class identity which has the emancipatory potential and he also advises the communists to show to the dalits that they have changed. We believe that the communists can show this only through struggles and a proper understanding of the question of caste. We also believe that (and we have said this in the paper) without the participation of dalits there can be no revolution and without a revolution there can be no dalit emancipation. However, Mr. Teltumbde does not even mention that. Secondly, he again shows his skepticism for theory and ideology when he argues that there should be a convergence between the dalit and communist movements, not ‘-isms’ and such a convergence will quickly fructify into Indian Revolution. Revolution is first of all a matter of science; without a proper scientific and revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement, to borrow from Lenin. Mr. Teltumbde invokes the authority of Lenin according to his convenience. Lenin was very particular about the theory which guides the movement. Mr. Teltumbde’s Deweyan deviation is apparent once again.

22. and 23. In these paragraphs, Mr. Teltumbde presents his own alternative concept of reservation, which should be limited to the SCs only, who face exclusion at the hands of the society. The state should deploy other methods, according to him, to do away with the backwardness of the BCs and tribals. The reservation policy should not only include the public sector but the entire social sphere, which includes public as well as private. According to Mr. Teltumbde such a policy would have been free from the malaise of the present policy of reservation that has become the most potent weapon of the ruling class in dividing the people at will. Then, Mr. Teltumbde adds several more conditions to his alternative policy of reservation. He believes that in such a scheme the burden of annihilation of caste would have fallen on the society and the latter would have been obliged to do away with caste discrimination. Though, we would like to know more about his alternative vision of reservation policy, it seems to us that, first, even if the policy of reservation is extended to entire societal sphere, the dalits would not be destigmatized; on the contrary, as far as we can visualize, dalits would be stigmatized even more. But the ways in which stigma is attached to them, would become more subtle, rather than being crude and ‘in-the-face’. second, this would not in anyway, make it the burden of the society to do away with caste. Caste cannot be annihilated without the withering away of class, state, the interpersonal disparities of mental and manual labour, town and country and industry and agriculture. Even after revolution, several cultural revolutions would be required to annihilate caste. However, we are open to know more about the ‘intricate’ model of reservation suggested by Mr. Teltumbde. Anyway, that is not the point here. We would still suggest that had Mr. Teltumbde been this diligent and meticulous in adopting a more sound theoretical position, there would have been less problems. The basic question in our opinion today is that the problem is not with any particular model of reservation policy, but the policy of reservation itself. It might have been a democratic right till a certain time after independence; however, any model of reservation would only create an illusion today. Our demand should be free and equal education for all and employment for all. Only such a demand can push the system to its point of impossibility and in struggle for such a demand the caste boundaries could be weakened.

Mr. Teltumbde’s thinking is too much dependent on the role of the state, and what else can we expect from a true Deweyan! He thinks that if state implements his model of reservation, the society would be obliged to do away with caste. This is like a fool’s paradise. State can never oblige a society to think or act in a particular way. It is the concrete political, social and economic struggles that shape the ways in which the society acts, in which the state is sustained or destroyed, in which a new state is established. State through any possible kind of ‘affirmative action’ cannot oblige the society to think, say or do anything. Mr. Teltumbde did not explain even this “alternative” Deweyan understanding of reservation policy in the semiar, and now he is rebuking us for our closed-ended approach. Is that fair?!

24. In this para, Mr. Teltumbde wants to prove at any cost that our paper does not offer anything new as far as the solution part is concerned. He argues that such propositions can be found in any communist document on caste and that even Ambedkar’s proposals were more radical than that of the approach paper presented by us. First of all, unlike Mr. Teltumbde, we do not have any particular fascination with the claim to novelty. What is right, is right, irrespective of the fact that a number of people have already said it. Secondly, he only mentions the propositions which are common to any radical charter on the caste question. We have two parts in the section pertaining to our proposed program on caste question. The first deals with long term tasks and the solution of caste question by a socialist society and the other with short term tasks that must be performed immediately. We would urge Mr. Teltumbde to go through the entire section of the approach paper again to understand the particularity of our position. Our stand on reservation is not shared by any of the Left organizations. Our stand on new type of anti-caste organizations also is not shared by the majority of the communist groups.  It would be useless to mention each and every proposition here. We would request interested readers to visit the website of Arvind Memorial Trust (arvindtrust.org) and download the pdf file of the approach paper and read it. Mr. Teltumbde should compare proposal by proposal to prove that Ambedkar’s proposals were more radical, though according to Mr. Teltumbde, such a hierarchizing approach smacks of brahmanism, yet he becomes brahmanical according to his whims and fancies! We do not think in terms of “more” or “less” radical. It is question of standpoint. Anyone who reads our paper, would understand that ours is an alternative communist program of annihilation of caste, which is not dogmatic and open-ended. We never claim that our program is final and best; on the contrary, we believe that many things could be added into it or even subtracted from it. It is a humble proposal open for debate. We mentioned this in the seminar too. But Mr. Teltumbde is much too eager to prove that we have reproduced the old communist program! So we definitely cannot convince him.

25. In this para, once again the self-obsession of Mr. Anand Teltumbde is best apparent. Mr. Teltumbde argues that he has devised a practical blue print for the annihilation of caste in his book ‘Anti-Imperialism and Annihilation of Caste’. Now look at his findings, which he claims to be new and unprecedented. He says that he found that since the capitalist onslaught from the colonial period through the 1960s, the ritual castes are weakened and to speak about castes in a classical hierarchy is fruitless. Now, any student/academician/activist familiar with the modern historiography of caste knows that this finding of Mr. Teltumbde has nothing new in it. Irfan Habib in his famous article ‘Caste in Indian History’ makes the same argument. Historians like Suvira Jaiswal, R.S.Sharma, Vivekanand Jha had shown this way before Mr. Teltumbde wrote his book. So Mr. Teltumbde claim to novelty in this respect is at best hollow and at worst, a false one. The relation of caste system with rural bourgeoisie and rural proletariat also has long been established. Mr. Teltumbde is again making a false claim of novelty. Even documents of various communist groups in mention this facet of the caste system in the rural areas. How the economic interests of the kulaks and farmers express themselves in caste terms also is a known fact for a long time now. The same could be said about his “findings” about the nexus between the state and the class of the rural bourgeoisie. The fourth point of Mr. Teltumbde regarding the role of the advanced elements of society in educating the people against the evil of caste through political economy, also is an old one and has been put forward by many people including Ambedkar. However, we are skeptic about this hope of Mr. Teltumbde. Lastly, the Left is given the role of dealing “physically” with the elements who are incorrigible and participate in caste atrocities! Amazing! (The role of the Left is reduced to dealing “physically” with the perpetrators of caste atrocities while the role of teaching/preaching/sermonizing is secured for Mr. Teltumbde, because in his view, it it Mr. Teltumbde who has provided a blue-print for annihilation of caste!) To make his argument somewhat more tolerable, he says that through this role the Left can win the confidence of dalits, which will strengthen the forces of revolution and annihilation of castes. Then, Mr. Teltumbde gives his final teaching, “Do this much, and you will find yourself close to Annihilation of Castes.” To render his propositions more credibility, Mr. Teltumbde tells us that his model his supported by his own research in cybernetics! We can see Mr. Teltumbde going back, again, to his Deweyan “scientific” determinism. Whatever Mr. Teltumbde says, this much is clear: his claims to novelty are baseless and he has nothing new to offer as far as annihilation of caste is concerned.

26. In this para, Mr. Teltumbde claims that he did not retract his statements. He said that what I (Abhinav) strove to refute in my statement (the Deweyanism of Ambedkar and of Mr. Teltumbde in a different way) was not shared by Mr. Teltumbde. However, he himself admits that he liked the Deweyan method and found it akin to the method of science. This is what I refuted! I argued that Deweyan method projects itself to be the scientific method, but it is not. I have already shown in this response how Mr. Teltumbde is a true Deweyan. His whole line of argument is Deweyan in nature. Now Mr. Teltumbde is trying to show that he has no liking for Deweyan pragmatism and instrumentalism! Secondly, he did say that he agrees with what had been said by me. He said, “many good things have been said here and I agree with them.” Now, he is saying that he was referring to the paper. This is stupefying! And even if he was referring to the paper, he actually did reject the entire paper as being casteist and brahmanical in his first statement. (One can see all this in the video, the link of which is given below). Then he retracted his charge in the second statement. Mr. Teltumbde makes an amusing statement here. He says that he spoke something uncomfortably to get out of there, which cannot be construed as agreement with us! Now we leave the task of judging this bizarre statement to the readers. We would ask the readers as well as Mr. Teltumbde to see the video again. His tone in the first statement was like that of a preacher/teacher who came there to educate the ignorant Marxists. In the second statement, he “uncomfortably” expressed his agreement with “much of what had been said there” (in the paper or in my critique of Mr. Teltumbde, it does not matter, because there is no contradiction in the stand put forward in the paper and what I said). I would say the change is apparent between the tone of the first statement and the tone of the second statement itself, and it is so apparent that anyone can see it. He quotes me (“aisa mujhe dhwanit hua ki aapka comment pure paper par tha”). However, anyone who sees the video can understand that I was saying in a humble way that “yes, Mr. Teltumbde, you actually did reject our paper as casteist and brahmanical”. However, my tone could only be humble, because, as Mr. Teltumbde himself says, he is a “senior activist”! Now he can call it hallucination, or whatever he likes. But the video of the debate speaks for itself. This is very lame defence of his shifting positions by Mr. Teltumbde, to say the least.

27. In the last para, Mr. Teltumbde has bitterly rebuked the Ambedkarites who have been attacking him since his participation in the Chandigarh Seminar. However, here too it is not clear what he is defending in Ambedkar: the individual or his ideas. Because as far as thoughts are concerned, we do not know what can we learn from Deweyan pragmatism in our task of annihilation of caste. In fact, at several other places, Mr. Teltumbde himself says that Ambedkar never had a program for annihilation of caste. Then which ideas/thoughts of Ambedkar should be defended? Then again, Mr. Teltumbde shows his self-obsession and his baseless belief in the “innocence of dalits”. Let us have a look at some statements made in this para: “It is not I but you who have insulted Babasaheb Ambedkar in the process by exploiting the sentiments of his innocent people against someone (that is Mr. Teltumbde himself!) who has worked singularly for them keeping away from the camp of the ruling classes.”; “I am the one who has never shown any iota of bhakti to Babasaheb Ambedkar ulike your tribe but sincerely followed his role model in excelling in whatever I did, in standing firm on the side of the oppressed masses, securing capability of analyzing the world around us on their behalf…” Now one can see, to what extent Mr. Teltumbde is a sad victim of political Narcissism and self-obsession. He thinks of himself as the self-proclaimed hero of the dalit cause. And curiously enough, he has charged us of self-obsession!

In the end, we can only say that everyone should watch the video of our debate with Mr. Anand Teltumbde again and see the change in everything: the tone, the content, and the form. Watching the video itself is sufficient to understand the hollow claims made by Mr. Teltumbde in this article. We have given a parawise reply so that there is no possibility of confusion and all comrades can understand our refutation of Mr. Teltumbde clearly. We are again giving the link of the video for everyone’s convenience.

Link of the video of the entire debate : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYZPrNd4kDQ