Friday, 28 November 2014

The Caste Question in India, Ambedkarism and Stalinism

- Rajesh Tyagi/ 27.11.2014

As world capitalism approached Indian sub-continent, it found its society, at least in its mainlands, stagnant, inert and deeply divided from inside into a torrent of castes. These castes, presented themselves into an integrated social ladder, divided into innumerable steps from lowest to highest, with specific occupations assigned to each of them, according to their status in this hierarchy.

Castes at upper echelons, the superior (sawarn) castes, were repository of all land and wealth and performed social functions of higher grade, while those at lower echelons, the inferior (avarn) castes, possessed neither land nor wealth and were obliged to perform the functions of lowest grades and were declared untouchable. This system of apartheid was systematically perpetuated through binding each one to a caste in which he or she was born and would be married. The cages of castes, that were home to millions, together constituted the very skeleton of the society, that emerged out of the Asiatic modes of production, and was ruled by Asiatic despotism. No real social force existed inside it, capable to dissolve or even destabilize this society.

Intrusion of foreign capitalism, not only through escudo and pounds, but chiefly through ships and guns, broke the shell of the old Indian society, captured and subjugated it to itself and crushed all resistance. Despite this, the skeleton of old society, of which caste was prime component, was left intact. Colonialists, whether Portuguese or British, did not possess enough power to smash this skeleton, as they represented the bourgeoisie in decay in their own country and were neither capable nor interested in triggering a social revolution. They could have done crude poaching, and that only they did. India was simply stripped off its old skin. This poaching, however, meant nothing for millions of poors and untouchables, who were already living in most abominable conditions of life for centuries and were already pushed to the wall. Only upper castes were affected by it, as their domination was now subjugated to itself by foreign capitalists.

The intrusion and all later development of foreign capitalism in India did not make any significant inroads into social structures, intended at disturbing the social equilibrium, firmly founded upon the ‘caste’. Capitalism, firstly foreign and later Indian, rather adapted itself to the existing social structures and continued to built itself upon their foundation. The role of capitalism in India, both foreign and local, was thus, never in conformity with its initial radical role that it played in its youth in Europe, where it fought against feudalism with vitality and enthusiasm. By the time, capitalism touched upon precincts of Indian sub-continent it had already exhausted its revolutionary steam. Revolution was its yesterday, colonial plunder and oppression its today.

Both Stalinists and Ambedkarites, the twin enemies of revolutionary Marxism, oblivious to this peculiar role and character of capitalism in India, in their fantasy, credit capitalism with revolutionary potential and thus arrive at a common understanding that the forward march of capitalism is the panacea for elimination of caste oppression.

Unfortunately, the discourse on caste has remained stuck up between Ambedkarites, who openly support bourgeois democracy, its Constitutional regime and capitalism and Stalinists who speak up in the name of Marxism, only to cover-up the bankruptcy of their own ideas and to betray Marxism.

The question of caste in India, thus presents an unfinished discourse. Unfinished, for the reason, that the Ambedkarites have constantly accused Marxism of failing to offer any real answer and program for resolving the riddle of ‘caste’ within its analysis of society and history, based on the ‘class’. On the other hand, Ambedkarites themselves have never ever made any serious attempt to present a critique of the society that so apparently thrives upon the medieval social structures of caste. The discourse thus remains unfinished.

On the back of a century long trail of failures of the working class, nationally and internationally, a large section of false Marxists, the Stalinists, has got convinced with Ambedkarites that Marxist analysis of the society and history is insufficient in so far as the question of caste in India is concerned and it needs be supplemented by analysis produced by Ambedkar and his followers. Sections of Ambedkarites for their part, conscious of the narrow limits of Ambedkarism in explaining the dynamics of the contemporary society, have supported the attempts made by Stalinists to reconcile the two currents- Stalinism and Ambedkarism. Both claim falsely that the two currents completely hostile to each other, can be supplementary. There can be no conciliation between Marxism and Ambedkarism. Only conciliation possible, is between Stalinism and Ambedkarism, as twin enemies of revolutionary Marxism.

Stalinists, the epigones of Marxism, have failed to defend Marxism against attacks by bourgeois and petty-bourgeois currents like Ambedkarism, and have frequently attempted compromises with them.

Far nearer to petty-bourgeois Ambedkarism than Marxism, Stalinists, like Ambedkarites, propose that development of capitalism in India, liquidates the medieval social structures and consequently the caste. The fight against caste, is thus mechanically bound up for Stalinists, with growth of capitalism. They fantasize: as European capitalists liquidated feudalism, their progenies, the Indian capitalists, will be forced, sooner or later, to liquidate Indian feudalism and resultantly, the caste.

This farcical perception of Stalinists, emerges out of their equally flawed program that claims that transfer of power to Indian bourgeoisie in 1947 represents the start of a democratic revolution that has to be carried out to its end. Needless to say that this bogus claim of Stalinists, is in perfect agreement with that of Ambedkarites. Ambedkarites also look at 1947 as no less than a revolution, based on bourgeois democracy and constitutional liberties and rights. 

Both, Stalinists and Ambedkarites, thus agree between themselves that Indian capitalists are armed with potential to liquidate the medieval social structures, provided sufficient pressure is put upon them to push them to the ‘left’, i.e. carrying out a democratic revolution, hand in hand with bourgeoisie.

Revolutionary Marxists, reject this flawed understanding, commonly shared by both Stalinists and Ambedkarites. 

Marxists declare that the Indian capitalists, like their colonial counterparts in the past, are organically incapable of carrying out any of the democratic tasks, which were accomplished by their European counterparts in the distant past, as they have emerged and entered upon the political stage so belatedly in history. Instead of fighting against medievalism, the Indian capitalism has adapted to it and the two have got inseparably blended in each other. 1947, does not represent a revolution, but a counter-revolution that brought a reactionary Indian bourgeoisie to power through compromise with imperialism and medievalism. The tasks of democratic revolution, including liquidation of all oppression and discrimination based on caste, thus remained in limbo. These tasks can only be achieved through a mighty proletarian revolution that would bring the working class to dictatorship supported by the billions of toilers. Only after working class takes to power, the tirade to blow off the caste, can take off.

Rejecting the role and significance of proletarian revolution in laying the groundwork for elimination of caste injustice, Ambedkarite shouts, “you cannot have a revolution before first eliminating the caste injustice”.

This stupid misgiving of Amebdkarism, implies, firstly that the caste oppression and injustice can be eliminated without a revolution, secondly, that elimination of caste oppression is not part of the agenda of proletarian revolution; thirdly, that caste inequality can be destroyed under capitalism; and fourthly that capitalism has the necessary historic potential to wipe out the outdated social institutions like caste.

These deductions, fly in the face of all historic experience of last century. In no country of belated capitalism in the world, could capitalism eliminate medieval social institutions. On the contrary, capitalism has simply adapted these social institutions, to itself and preserved them.

Both Ambedkarites and Stalinists deny that the destiny of millions of toilers, untouchables is inseparably bound up with that of the working class and its revolution.

The program of the Ambedkarites and Stalinists has striking similarity. Both of them call upon for struggle against non-existent feudalism, and this struggle according to them can only be conducted in collaboration with ‘democratic’ bourgeoisie.

Long back in history, this ‘democratic’ bourgeoisie has taken over the reign of power in its hands from the lords of the past. It is this very democratic bourgeoisie that has preserved and consciously built itself upon the skeleton of medievalism and has supplied this skeleton its own flesh and blood.  Medievalism, stands completely enmeshed into structures of capitalism. Any fight against imaginary medievalism, would immediately transform itself into the real fight against the ‘democratic' bourgeoisie and its state. The experience of more than a century has clearly showed that this ‘democratic’ bourgeoisie has derived its peculiar and core reactionary character through this blending of two worlds- the medieval and the modern.

The advent, development and expansion of capitalism could not liquidate the system of caste, but it destroyed the economic homogeneity of castes, including the lower castes. Alike in the upper castes, thin crusts, possessing extreme prosperity, huge wealth and lands, have emerged inside the lower castes too. Amongst the vast sea of poor and deprived workers and toilers, there have emerged tiny islands of abundance and prosperity. Further to this point in history, the deprivation and sufferings, injustice and oppression, remain exclusive domain of the poor mass of workers and toilers in lower castes, with the creamy crusts in these castes turning away forever, to share big fortunes with creamy crusts of rich and elites in the upper castes. Needless to say that creamy crusts in the castes, upper or lower, are far nearer to each other, than the working and toiling masses of these castes. Taken together these two crusts, constitute the whole class- the class of bourgeoisie, that is eternally hostile to the class of workers and toilers.

Despite of his demagogy, Ambedkar, in his times represented the interests of this very crust, that had just started to take form, and therefore his misgivings and betrayals could masquerade under his political hypocrisy. Ambedkarites of our times represent the same crust.   

It is not without reasons that Ambedkarites, support the regime of capitalists through explicit support to its political manifesto- the Constitution and its farcical democracy. In fact, Ambedkarism, is the mass movement of the liberal bourgeoisie inside the ranks of lower castes. In rendering support to capitalist democracy and constitution, the Ambedkarites thus support their ‘own’ class and betray the workers and toilers who support them. Not only that, in their social status, all Ambedkarite leaders, from Mayawati to Paswan, belong to the class of rich and elites, but at every critical juncture, they had stood behind capitalist parties to resolve their crisis. These Ambedkarite leaders, the permanent servants of capitalists, teach their followers-“revolution is no necessity for elimination of caste injustice. Just march for empowerment in the present system”. “Empowerment in the present (capitalist) system” cannot be anything but empowerment of Mayawati and Paswan.  That clearly implies- leave your destiny in the hands of these leaders, the leaders of bourgeoisie, so they can betray you again and again.

Capitalism has divided the castes into heterogenous communities, between rich and poor, worker and bourgeoisie. No scope is left for conciliation and unity between the opposing classes of workers and bourgeois, rich and poor, inside, like outside, these castes. Rich and elite in all castes are already organised not only in corporates, but in capitalist parties and governments. But Ambedkarites demand that workers and toilers must shut their eyes to this historic reality. These false leaders of the caste, vehemently oppose all moves of forging unity among the working and toiling masses across the lines of caste and nationalities. They preach for unity among the caste. That means a unity between the handful of rich and elite on one hand, and vast mass of workers and poors on the other. This unity based upon conciliation of the antagonistic classes, the classes of rich and poor, bourgeois and worker, is an absolute farce, that unexceptionally puts the power in the hands of the powerful, the rich and elite. While joining hands with each other, across the caste lines, to form parties and governments in service of capitalists, these fake leaders, attempt to keep the sections of workers and poors within the cages of caste, to which they possess the golden key.

These leaders of the bourgeoisie, have repeatedly accepted their positions as hostages in capitalist parties for exchange of ministerial berths. These parties include the right-wing parties like BJP and core casteist parties like SP, that openly support caste oppression and chiefly derive their support base from dominant upper castes. The task of these leaders is to bind the mass of the poor and oppressed billions to this or that capitalist party.

No doubt that the expansion of press and media has been instrumental in bringing forth few most ghastly cases of caste oppression or injustice. But, contrary to the claims of both Stalinists and Ambedkarites, the development of capitalism in India and the reforms like reservation, have not resulted in liquidation of caste oppression or injustice. After 1947, the caste oppression has taken new forms and new roots. Alongside facing the social deprivation based on caste, the poor mass in lower castes is now subjected to a double yoke, that includes class oppression too.  The intrusion of the new regime of oppression, while keeping the old intact, has in fact, made the life more miserable than ever for the toiling mass in lower castes.

Question of caste oppression, injustice or discrimination, in our times, is not a question of caste or caste struggle. There exist no such frameworks and struggles. In pith and substance, this question is essentially a class question and thus integral part of class struggle of the proletariat. It can be said, thus, with all certainty that the resolution of caste question is inseparably bound up with political conquest of power by the proletariat, at the zenith of class struggle against the capitalists and their state.

The duty of the Marxists is, thus, to oppose any and all incidents of caste oppression. That means a zero tolerance against any discrimination, injustice or deprivation, based on caste identity. Marxists can never forget that they are the first and foremost fighters against oppression of any kind. However, no illusions should be created in the masses and attempt must be made that every such partisan struggle must be raised to a struggle against the whole regime of the capitalists. 

There is no doubt that there cannot be any question of liberation of the class, except through smashing the old social structures chiefly based upon caste. But these colossal task cannot be addressed, without transfer of power to the workers and poors. Caste question cannot even be seriously posed, leave aside its resolution, till the power remains in the hands of the capitalists, who protect and secure, through their armed state, the social institutions of the past. The fight against social oppression based on caste, would not go hand in hand with ‘democratic’ capitalist parties and leaders, as both Ambedkarites and Stalinists propose, but in direct struggle against these very parties and leaders of capitalists and their state.

Dictatorship of the proletariat is thus the necessary pre-condition for overthrow of the old society and start of a social revolution. Contrary to understanding of the Ambedkarites and Stalinists, not a changed society would put the working class in power, but the working class in power can only change the society. This demands, first and foremost, an uncompromising struggle against capitalist power. 

The question of caste, like other questions of nationality, agrarian crisis, liberation of women etc. cannot be resolved except through forcible overthrow of the present society as a whole.  This overthrow needs closest unity among the proletariat of all castes, creeds and nations. This overthrow of the old powers, the power of capitalists and landlords, and establishment of the dictatorship of the working class, would set the conditions for a social revolution that would resolve these long pending tasks, including the question of caste.

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