CASTE SYSTEM, AMBEDKARITE MOVEMENT AND THE TASK OF THE COMMUNISTS - SANKAR
The caste system in India is a unique system which was developed almost three thousand years back as per the Rig Vedic evidences. However, the system became rigid and institutional at the time of Manu who composed Manusmriti. Ascribing an exact date of composing the Manusmriti is difficult but according to different sources and modern researches it may be safe to assume that the period of Manusmriti is between 200 BCE to 200 CE. The socio-economic fabric of our country reveals that how much powerful an ancient system, like caste division can be in even present times that the practical politics of a revolutionary party cannot ignore its dynamics. However, a systematic study of this system from Marxist point of view was never done with due importance. Therefore, it has become a herculean task today to enter into a comprehensive study of the system. This paper, therefore, did not try to do that. Instead, the paper concentrated on the key issues related to the subject in order to understand the very nature of our social struggles which may facilitate to develop the correct strategy and tactics of our revolution. In this paper it may be fruitless to search answers. On the contrary, the paper has strove to formulate the questions. A collective effort based on the combination of theory and practice may find the answers of those.
Origination of Varna and Caste Division
Manusmriti is the most ill famous source of the ugly form of caste division against which all the democratic forces vow to fight. Manu divided the society into four varnas, i.e., Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra (Chaturvarna system) where Brahmin is in the top of social hierarchical ladder and followed by other three varnas respectively. Shudra is the lowest varna and deprived from all the rights and whose duty is only to serve other three varnas. Some of the dicta of Manu are as follow:
- In whom among the three (higher) castes the most and the best of (those) five may be he is here worthy of respect; a Shudra (is not worthy of respect on the ground of his wealth or knowledge no matter how high they are)….
- A Kshatriya who reviles a Brahmin ought to be fined one hundred (Panas); a Vaishya one hundred and fifty or two hundred, but a Shudra ought to receive corporal punishment.
- A Brahmin may take possession of the goods of a Shudra with perfect peace of mind, for, since nothing at all belongs to this Shudra as his own, he is one whose property may be taken away by his master.
- Indeed, an accumulation of wealth should not be made by a Shudra even if he is able to do so, for the sight of mere possession of wealth by a Shudra injures the Brahmin.
- If a man (of the Shudra caste) makes love to a girl of the highest caste he deserves corporal punishment.
- A woman alone (is) a wife for a Shudra; both she and a woman of his own caste (are) legally (wives) of a Vaishya; they two and also a woman of his own caste (are wives) of a Kshatriya, both they and a woman of his own caste (are wives) of a Brahmin.
We need to discuss Manu’s system more elaborately, however, before that we must understand the actual difference between the varna system and caste system. According to the varna system the Indo-Aryan people were divided into four groups. However, according to the caste system which arose from the varna system in later period divided the people in numerous subdivisions and all the divisions were placed hierarchically. These sub-divisions are rigid and are determined by birth. In the beginning the varna division was not very much rigid because it was said that the division did not take place by birth, but by the action (karma). Therefore, at the time of great epics or even after that we can see many Shudra kings ruled different parts of the country. However, after the fall of Mauryan Empire no major Shudra empire came into being.
But it does not mean that the varna system was mere a theoretical one while the caste system is practical and very much a matter of day-to-day life. Many anti-caste scholars propagate this idea which we consider not only as wrong but an attempt to give concession to the ‘sacred’ scriptures. Therefore, they put overemphasis on the difference between varna system and caste system. It is true that in the beginning the varna system was not rigid and social mobility was there unlike the caste system and this is an important difference between these two systems. However, as time passed by, the system became rigid, oppressive and a matter of day-to-day life and as the division of work spread all over the society and more and more new professions came into existence the caste system originated as a finer and all-embraced form of varna system in later period. However, It should be noted that whole of the Manu’s system is based on varna division, not on the caste division. If the varna system was mere a theoretical one then all the hatred of the dalits against Manusmriti become unexplainable.
But what was the inspiration behind the origination of a system like varna system? Let us hear Manu:
"Shaktena api hi shudrena na karyah
Dhanasanchayah shudrah hi dhanamasadya Brahmanan eba Badhate!"
i.e., even if able, the Shudras should not accumulate wealth. Accumulation of wealth by the Shudras make the Brahmins suffer. Many passages can be quoted form Manusmriti and other Smrities (scriptures of codified laws) to show that the main inspiration behind the varna division was highly economic in nature, that is, to extract the surplus production and to deprive a large section of the people from social production other than the means of subsistence only. JANASHAKTI, the central organ of presently non-existent CPIML—JANASHAKTI once took an attempt to study the caste question from Marxist point of view. The paper was published by a social organization later as a booklet. According to their understanding: “Thus the varna system which first started social making based on a primitive social division of labour and political subordination of one group by another, took the concrete shape of social division based on social division of labour to extract surplus from the toiling people and division of labourers too originated.” (Class Caste Relations: Marxist Approach). Comrade Santosh Rana also had similar understanding. He wrote, “In short, the position of an individual in social division of labour, his role in controlling the means of production, his social prestige in relation of the law, his portion of social surplus and the means of achieving this surplus, etc., are determined by his varna. The task of the Shudras was to produce surplus and the three upper varnas used to extract that. It only means, the class division in India at first expressed itself through the varna system.” (Samaj Shreni Rajniti, A collection of Essays by Santosh Rana in Bengali/ Translation is mine).
Once upon a time the West Bengal state committee of CPIM undertook the task to study the social history of our country under the leadership of Anil Biswas around the year of 2OOO and a brief outline of the study was published as a booklet in the year of 2OO3. They also reached in the same conclusion and admitted that the class struggle in ancient and mediaeval India took the form of caste struggle, however, they considered it as a barrier for the development of a classical class struggle.
Among the early communists of our country Comrade S. A. Dange first engaged in a systematic study of the history of ancient India form a Marxist point of view. Although he was influenced by a mechanical Marxist approach and tried to impose the western pattern of social development on the history of India (especially in the case of slave system), still he has left behind some important observations for us. He also admitted that although the varna system emerged in the primitive communist society of the Aryans, however, with the advent of private property the varna division took the shape of class division. He wrote, “Once that stage has been reached, private property and classes are born. The Varnas metamorphoses into contradictory classes and take the path of civil war, class war. The primitive commune dies, never to return.” (INDIA: FROM PRIMITIVE COMMUNISM TO SLAVERY/ PPH/ Page:1O1).
Professor Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya had an elaborated study on the Vedic society in ancient India. He also convincingly proved that in early Vedic period the Aryan society was a primitive form of communistic society without the class division, although, a simple form of division of work was present there. However, for the first time the Indo-Aryan society became divided into four varnas when the ill-famous Purusha Shukata was composed. It was nothing but the reflection of the emerging class division within the Indo-Aryan society.
The Rig Veda is an important source to understand the transition from classless society to the class society in India. The experts have an opinion that the Rig Veda was composed through a long time, nearly seven hundred to eight hundred years. Within this time frame the Vedic society passed through this transition. That is why we see a concept of equality of all human being (obviously within the clan) and gods too were considered as the friends of all human being (Jananam Jamih). However, in the later portion of the Rig Veda we see a work division came into being where the Brahmins had the prerogatives to maintain the connection with the gods, that is, in the ritualistic matters. The Purusha Shukta proposed a division among the Indo-Aryan people, however, it did not set up the hierarchy. It gave some indications only. The Brahmins were formed from the mouth of the Purusha. The Rajanyas were born from his arms. The Vaishyas came from his thighs and the Shudras from his feet. Many different interpretations are possible of this symbolic presentation of the division. The question arises that how far it is correct to assume that the Rig Veda determined the hierarchical places of four varnas and their duties or role in the society! Manu had his particular interpretation. He was convinced that the Purusha Shukta place the Brahmin at the top of the social hierarchical ladder, by saying that they were born from the mouth of the Purusha. For him it was quite sufficient indication that the Brahmins should own all the knowledge and wisdom in order to appear as the sole representatives of the divinity in this material world. Similarly the Rajanyas had the duty to protect the people since they were born from the arms. The Vaishyas and the Shudras were duty-bound to produce the wealth and the Shudras had a role only to serve the upper three varnas. Since they were born from the feet of the Purusha they had no right.
This interpretation of Manu was not acceptable to many admirers and followers of the Rig Veda and so called Vedic religion. According to them, by the system of Chaturvarna the Vedas only proposed a job division only, nothing more than that. Therefore, a person can be a Brahmin, or Kshatriya, or Shudra not by his or her birth but by work or karma. Ambedkar called these people as the most dangerous enemy of the dalit movement.
However, we must understand why Manu interpreted the Purusha Shukta in such a manner from the historical materialist point of view. Manu composed a literature which was called Smriti, that means, the law. But the laws are creations of the human being. The strong presence of the memory of old days of communistic society never allowed the people to accept any discrimination when it was created by the human itself. This is an important peculiarity of Indian society. Therefore, it must have been supported by the divinity. The Smrities must have been supported by the Shruti (the Vedas). Why? Because ‘the Vedas are not created by the human being, it was composed by the God’. The fatal Shruti-Smriti combine now became eligible to dictate the discrimination. Had there been no Purusha Shukta in the Rig Veda it would be difficult for Manu to justify the class division within the Indo-Aryan society which in return would make the class struggle much sharper. Therefore, today at least it can be said that the Purusha Shukta gives an important service to the ruling classes from the ancient time till today. (The whole hymn of Purusha Shukta made of sixteen verses along with annotation and notes by Wendy Doniger are given in Appendix for the advanced readers).
Now let us enter the political consequences of this development as laid down by Manu. From above discussion one thing is very clear. The varna division and subsequent caste division in Indian society is nothing but the class division in a different form. Therefore, when Ambedkar gave a call for annihilation of castes and the Communist Party gave a call to fight for a classless society, there was no essential difference between these two calls.
The Political Struggle of the Shudras
However, the early communists of our movement failed to see the matter from this angel. This is not true, as some of the critics of the communist movement always try to propagate, that the Communist Party did not take care of the Caste Annihilation movement led by Ambedkar at all. However, all the efforts of the Party were based on some half hearted understanding of the social struggles in our country. In the preface of “Who were the Shudras?” written in nineteen forty six Ambedkar said, “It is well-known that there is a non-Brahmin movement in this country which is political movement of the Shudras. It is also well-known that I have been connected with it.” Thus under the leadership of Ambedkar the political movement of the Shudras was born. When the Shudras of our country who were actually the Indian version of proletariat having nothing to lose except their chains waged a political struggle against their oppressors, it should have been a welcome development for the communists. However, the matter did not develop in this line. Instead, a bitter relation was developed between the Communists and the Ambedkarites and an unwanted rift was emerged between these two camps which helped Congress to manipulate the complicated situation prevailed at that time of nineteen thirties and nineteen forties successfully to capture the leadership of anti-British struggle in India in order to give birth a neo-colonial India after nineteen forty seven. We need to understand the failure of both the camps, the Communists and the Ambedkarites, in this regard in order to determine today’s task in the concrete social condition of Indian revolution. At first we will discuss the mental make-up of B.R. Ambedkar. The above-mentioned preface of “Who were the Shudras” written by him can be an eye opener in this case.
In that preface Ambedkar divided the ‘Hindus’ in five distinct categories. He said, “There is a class of Hindus, who are known as Orthodox and who will not admit that there is anything wrong with the Hindu social system. To talk of reforming it is to them rank blasphemy.” Regarding the second category he said, “There is a class of Hindus who are known as Arya Samajists. They believe in the Vedas and only in Vedas. They differ from the Orthodox inasmuch as they discard anything which is not in the Vedas. Their gospel is that of return to the Vedas.” On the third category Ambedkar said, “There is a class of Hindus who will admit that the Hindu social system is all wrong, but who hold that there is no necessity to attack it. Their argument is that since law does not recognize it, it is dying, if not a dead system.” He remarked on the fourth category, “There is a class of Hindus, who are politically minded. They are indifferent to such questions. To them Swaraj is more important than social reform.” Ambedkar found his ally in the fifth category, so he said, “The fifth class of Hindus are those who are rationalists, and who regard reforms as of primary importance, even more important than Swaraj.”
Ambedkar admitted that there was a fierce battle was going on between him and the first two categories of the ‘Hindus’. On the probable impact of his book, ‘Who Were the Shudras’ on the Arya Samajists he said, “The book treads heavily on the toes of the Arya Samajists…. Both these conclusions are bound to act like atomic bombs on the dogmas of the Arya Samajists.” He said further, “I am not sorry for this clash with Arya Samajist. The Arya Samajists have done great mischief in making the Hindu society a stationary society…… I am convinced that the Hindu society will not accept the necessity of reforming itself unless and until this Arya Samajists’s ideology is completely destroyed. This book does render this service, if no other.”
On the Orthodox ‘Hindus’ he remarked, “What the Orthodox Hindus will say about this book I can well imagine for I have battling with him all these years. The only thing I did not know was how the meek and non-violent looking Hindu can be violent when anybody attacks his Sacred Books. I became aware of it as never before when last year I received a shower of letters from angry Hindus, who became quite unbalanced by my speech on the subject delivered in Madras. The letters were full of filthy abuses, unmentionable and unprintable, and full of dire threats to my life…. I don’t know what they will do this time….. For I know very well that they are a base crew who, professing to defend their religion, have made religion a matter of trade. They are more selfish than any other set of beings in the world, and are prostituting their intelligence to support the vested interests of their class…. What I would like to tell these amiable gentlemen is that they will not be able to stop me by their imprecations.”
On the other hand Ambedkar admitted that he had no expectation to be able to change the minds of third and fourth categories of the ‘Hindus’. While he furnished some arguments against the third category he just simply ignored the fourth category of the “Hindus” whom he called “politically minded”. On them he only employed two or three remarks, “As to the politically-minded Hindu, he need not be taken seriously. His line of approach is generally governed by a short-term view more than by long-range considerations. He is willing to follow the line of least resistance and postpone a matter, however urgent, if it is likely to make him unpopular. It is therefore quite natural if the politically-minded Hindu regards this book as nuisance.” On the ‘Hindus’ of fifth category Ambedkar said, “The only class of Hindus, who are likely to welcome the book are those who believe in the necessity and urgency of social reform. The fact that it is a problem which will certainly take a long time to solve and will call the efforts of many generations to come, is in their opinion, no justification for postponing the study of the problem. Even an ardent Hindu politician, if he is honest, will admit that the problems arising out of the malignant form of communalism which is inherent in the Hindu social organization and which the politically minded Hindus desire to ignore or postpone, invariably return to plague, those very politicians at every turn. These problems are not the difficulties of the moment. They are our permanent difficulties, that is to say, difficulties of every moment. I am glad to know that such a class of Hindus exists. Small though they be, they are my mainstay and it is to them that I have addressed my arguments.”
From above quotations we can have a sketch of mental make-up of B.R. Ambedkar and his general political understanding. For him the Independence of the country was not that much important if the rule of the newly independent country would go in the hands of the caste-Hindu leadership. A Hindu India was no way better for him than the colonial India. Therefore, he wanted to launch a decisive battle against caste discrimination and for the annihilation of the caste system at that point of time when the struggle for independence of our country from the British rule reached at its peak. This became the point of difference between the Ambedkarite movement and the Communist movement. It is also very clear from the discussion put forward by Ambedkar in that preface that he meant the leadership of the Communist Party and the non-Orthodox leaders of Congress as “politically-minded Hindus”. Here, one can easily notice the weakness in Ambedkar’s politics which lost credibility to represent the nation as a whole and remained merely as dalit politics. The Communist Party warned Ambedkar continuously about this lacuna and urged him to be united with the mainstream of the struggle for Independence. However, the Communist Party was always apprehensive about the actual political aim of Ambedkar and thought that his politics would create disunity among the ranks of the working class and the toiling masses which in return might create harm to the communist movement in particular and the struggle for Independence in general. Therefore, while the party was sympathetic with the condition of the dalits and agreed upon the justification of dalit movement and criticized heavily the Congress leadership for not paying attention to their cause, the Communist Party did not believe the leaders of the dalit movement including Ambedkar. (See the documents of B.T. Randive on dalit movement, nineteen forty six) Thus, a space of political dialogue between the Communists and the Ambedkarites could not come into being and the warning from the CP to Ambedkar went in vain as the later saw no friendly advice in it. Therefore, the Communist Party failed to perform its historical duty.
Today a large number of the Communists will accept this fact, however, it is not enough. We must analyze why the Communist Party failed to build unity with the dalit movement. We must identify the shortcomings in the theoretical understanding of the communist practice in this question in order to understand today’s task. Otherwise again the movement will be directed by the pragmatic political understanding and we will repeat the same mistake, may be from an opposite direction.
It is a well accepted fact that the original Shudras of the Rig Veda were gradually marginalized more and more by the three upper Varnas and at one point of time started to be mixed up with the so called fifth Varna or the Avarnas who were actually the vanquished non-Aryans and formed a large section of the Indian people who are generally called as the dalits. According to a recent survey conducted by NSS nearly three fourth of the Indian population are entitled to some kind of reservation as they belong to SC, ST or OBC categories. The overwhelming majority of the dalit people in our country are landless, property-less, marginalized, socially and economically oppressed. The largest section of nearly fifty crore strong unorganized workers in India is made of by these people.
However, it must be taken into account that we are not living in English or West European condition. In Indian context this huge section of the working class is not only economically exploited but at the same time socially deprived since in our country the class division was introduced in the form of caste or varna division in order to take religious sanctity. The positive side of Ambedkar’s politics lies in the fact that he understood that without snatching the political power from the caste-Hindus, dalits could never achieve a country or society of its own. The annihilation of the caste division cannot be achieved by changing the minds of the caste-Hindus or through some patch work to reform Hindu social structure. So he declared his movement as the political movement of the Shudras.
From a Marxist point of view the political struggle of the Shudras is nothing but the political struggle of the working class. Therefore, the political formation which led this struggle must have been a party of the working class. However, Ambedkar was not a Marxist. It is not necessary for a working class party to be a Marxist party all the time. The Marxist party does not necessarily lead through its majority or organizational strength but through its clear and profound theoretical-political understanding. The Communist Manifesto says: “In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole? The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement. The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.” (The Communist Manifesto/ Edited by Frederic L. Bender/ Norton Critical Edition/ pp 67).
Therefore, the Communist Party cannot oppose other working-class parties because they don’t have any separate sectarian principles. Keeping a cooperative and friendly relation with those parties the CP must lead them to move forward by pointing out the general and long-term political interest of the working class. Now the question is did the early Communists of our country apply this teaching of the Communist Manifesto or were they were led by sectarian principles?
Instead of becoming glad to see the political upsurge of the dalits under the leadership of Ambedkar, the Communist Party became apprehensive and scared. Comrade BTR repeatedly pressurized SCF (Scheduled Caste Federation) to dismantle the dalit mass organizations under its umbrella and to work within same mass organizations led by the Communist Party.(See the above mentioned documents of BTR and also the Introduction by Anand Teltumbde of ‘India and Communism’ written by Ambedkar/ Left Word/2O17) Sometimes the organs of the party openly advocated the necessity to bring out the dalit masses from the dalit organizations in order to organize them under the fold of the Communist Party. All this activities of the party and the mentality behind those helped to develop mistrust, fear and distance among the ranks of the dalit movement. Undoubtedly it was nothing but the sectarian policy of the Communist Party. Instead of performing the labourious task to find out the general and long-term political interests of the working class and by pointing out those to the leaders of the dalit movement the party took a shortcut road of putting the organizational interest in command and did the same mistake which The Communist Manifesto warned against, i.e., to develop sectarian principles against other working class parties.
What was the general interest of the working class in India at the decisive moment of the struggle for Independence? Undoubtedly it was Swaraj—— the Independence from the British rule which Ambedkar failed to see. It was quite expected from a man like Ambedkar as he was not a Marxist and from a political formation like SCF as it was a non-Marxist working class party. The Communist Manifesto clearly said that it was the distinguishing feature of the Communists to see and uphold the general interest of the working class. However, while the Communist Party correctly pointed out the general interest of the working class to the dalit leaders but at the same time showing left-anarchist political mentality they accused and opposed and very often described Ambedkar and other dalit leaders as the stooge of imperialism. But what was the reason behind this kind of behavior of the Communist leaders towards the dalit leadership?
The answer probably lies in the fact that the leaders of the Communist Party never recognized the dalit movement as the integral part of the Indian working class movement. They never recognized the dalit leaders as the representatives of a large section of the Indian working masses. Therefore, they never recognized SCF as another working class party. So they never tried to find out the way to develop a proper relation with them. It does not mean that the Communist leaders did not know the actual condition of the dalits in our country or they had no sympathy towards the dalit movement. BTR admitted in those documents that in the Indian Railways thousands of the dalit workers received only nine rupees as DA while the workers in the garment factories of Mumbai were paid one hundred rupees for the same. The party admitted that since the time immemorial the dalits were deprived from all the rights which were absolutely essential to lead a decent life and if these people were not given equal status then an Independent India was not possible. Practically there was actually no demand of Ambedkar left which was not accepted by the Communist Party. However, when the dalits formed their own political organization in order to launch a political struggle, the Communist Party became scared and apprehensive. Actually half-hearted understanding on the Indian history and reality led the Party to commit this political blunder.
We will see how this blunder took more complicated and irreversible turn when the question of the long-term interests of the working class was confronted by the Communist Party. What was the long-term interest of the working class in the freedom struggle? Undoubtedly it was to build up a New Democratic India as a result of anti-colonial struggle. Now, the question is, was it possible under the leadership of Congress? The answer is No. Then why the Communist Party accepted the leadership of Congress in the freedom movement and never tried snatching the leadership? Ambedkar and other leaders of SCF were not against the freedom movement or freedom from the British as such. However, Ambedkars was in total disagreement of the leadership of Congress as he knew that since the Congress party used to represent the interest of the bourgeois and zaminder class of our country who were at the same time from so called higher castes then it was quite imperative that the ‘free’ India would be a prison for the dalits. Ambedkar called those freedom fighters as ‘politically minded Hindus’ and advised his fellow comrades ‘not to take them seriously’ who did not bother that outcome of the freedom movement. Unfortunately, the Communist Party placed itself in this position. Had the party been directed by the long-term interest of the working class then it became absolutely natural for it to develop a rock-solid alliance with the Ambedkarite movement in order to emerge as a potential claimant of the leadership of the freedom struggle. In that case the course of the history might change into a new direction.
Some comrades do not accept the fact that the Communist Party accepted the leadership of Congress in the freedom movement. Many documents can be cited to negate this thought. If this is done the size of the present article might be longer than it was intended. However, one can remember that as early as in nineteen thirty two there were four communist parties of the Third Communist International to write an open letter to the Indian Communists warning about the danger of accepting the leadership of Congress in the freedom struggle which they thought that the Communist in India did not care. In nineteen forty four, Comrade P.C. Joshi wrote a few letters to M.K. Gandhi and MK replied those, too. The correspondence between PC and MK is one of the important documents of the Communist Party. Replying one letter from Gandhi Comrade Joshi wrote to him, “If my own father wrote such a letter I would not respond and never would see his face. However, I am replying you because you are the father of our nation. As a patriot it goes against my duty to be angry with you even when you insult and harass us.” (English translation is mine from Bengali document)
Some comrades think that Ambedkar and other dalit leaders were against the freedom struggle as a whole, therefore an alliance with them was not possible in the movement for Independence. Again, many articles wrote by Ambedkar can be cited to negate this thought but for the time being we can be restricted in the above mentioned documents of comrade BTR in this regard. He wrote: “However, it is true that SCF never commit a crime to go against the demand of freedom. As a matter of fact Rao Bahadur Shibraj, the President of their Kanpur session clearly stated, ‘We are not against the freedom of India but we want assurance that what we demanded in Nagpur that will be accepted’.”(English translation is mine form Bengali document)
In spite of knowing all these things the Communist Party never paid deeper attention to the fact that if it was true that the SCF leadership were not actually against the freedom movement then why apparently they used to take such political position which might be depicted as against anti-colonial struggle! The party never tried to realize with enough seriousness that why the severe bitterness emerged in the relation between the dalit movement and the Congress party! The party never learned from the history of our country to understand the serious nature of the contradiction between the dalits and the caste Hindus.
On the contrary Comrade BTR tried repeatedly to convince Ambedkar and his fellow comrades about the importance and necessity of the leadership of Congress in general over the freedom movement and the leadership of MK Gandhi in particular whom the party already recognized as the father of the nation! It is true that the Communist party criticized the Congress for not accepting the demands of SCF, but it is also true that in the contradiction between SCF and the Congress the party associated itself with the later which meant that in the contradiction between the dalits and the caste Hindus the party associated itself with the later.
This strategic blunder of the party negated the merit of its criticism against Congress for not accepting the demands of the dalits. It is true that the Communist Party honestly and earnestly wanted the unity among Congress, Communist, Muslim League and SCF including all the nationalist forces against the British but they failed to realize that it could not be possible if the Congress would remain as the leader of the freedom movement. The party needed Congress as they used it as a cover and continued to work inside it. This tactical blunder negated the merit of its honest aspiration to unite all the nationalist forces against the British rule.
After seventy two years of so called Independence a serious evaluation is required regarding the relation between the dalit movement and the communist movement. By this span of time many changes took place in the Indian political scenario. Congress ruled the country for more than 6O years within these seventy two years of ‘Independence’. No significant improvement in the general condition of the dalit masses can be seen by this time. In spite of the capitalist development in India the ugly form of caste discrimination, caste oppression, and the domination of Brahmanical ideology and practices continue with same vigour. Ambedkar’s apprehensions have come true. The “free” India is actually a neo-colonial India which has become the prison of the dalits. Receiving an insignificant share of the state power by a handful of the dalit leaders does not indicate any kind of change in the condition of the dalit masses.
The dalit movement has undergone many changes. Repeated division and re-division within dalit movement has weakened the movement which only helped the Brahmanical Manuvadi ruling class to use one section of the movement against another in order to retain its domination over the country. The communist movement also has passed through many changes and within this movement, too, repeated division and re-division have taken place.
Initial lacuna in theoretical understanding has aggravated, however, from the same pragmatist outlook many left and revolutionary left organizations now are raising Joy Bhim Lal Salam slogan landing in the opposite pole in the case of relation with the dalit movement and started to preach red-blue unity. However, how far this change of position is coming from the improvement of theoretical understanding on Indian reality or comes as a result of practical-political need at the time of severe crisis throughout international communist movement, is a difficult question to answer.
However, it is interesting to see that while the party like CPI(M) is raising Joy Bhim Lal Salam slogan in different parts of the country, at the same time they support the cunning step of the BJP government of introducing economic condition based reservation. This self contradiction only raises serious doubts that they have not learned anything from the past experiences. For them the talk of red-blue unity is nothing but a short-term tactical game. Their tacit support to BJP in the political battle against TMC in Bengal again shows how easily these ‘communists’ can ally with the Brahminvadi, Manuvadi forces.
In this scenario we, the revolutionary lefts, must accomplish the long-pending task to bridge the
‘unholy rift between the dalit movement and the communist movement’ (as coined by Anand Teltumbde) in our country. We need to recognize the dalit parties as different kind of working class parties. It is true that today many dalit organizations under the leadership of Mayavati like leaders actually left the revolutionary slogan of Ambedkar, the annihilation of the castes. Instead of that they are busy to find privileges for a handful of dalit aristocrats within this caste-divided society. However, it does not mean that the whole dalit movement has lost its relevance or deteriorated in a reformist opportunist movement. We cannot forget that the same scenario is also evolved in the communist movement itself. However, it does not mean that the communist movement has lost its relevance as the revolutionary movement in the society. We can say it emphatically that if we can build the real red-blue unity based on proper understanding of the Indian condition and history, the struggle against the ruling classes of our country will have a better chance to win.
(Paper presented in Study Class) n