National Federation of Telecom Employees-Tamilnadu
Thursday, August 21, 2014
MAINSTREAM, VOL LII NO 34 AUGUST 16, 2014 - INDEPENDENCE DAY SPECIAL
Hindutva, the Asiatic Mode of Production and Indian Revolution
Friday 15 August 2014
by Murzban Jal
Finally, in the struggle against the revolution, the parliamentary republic found itself compelled to streng-then, along with the repressive powers,the resourcesand centralisation of governmental power. All revolutions perfected this machine instead of smashing it. The parties that contended in turn for domination regarded the possession of this huge state edifice as the principal spoils of the victor. But under the absolute monarchy, during the first Revolution, under Napoleon, bureaucracy was only the means of preparing the class rule of the bourgeoisie. Under the Restoration, under Louis Philippe, under the parliamentary republic, it was the instrument of the ruling class, however much it strove for power of its own. —Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte
A closer investigation of a man’s day-dreams generally shows that all his heroic exploits are carried out and all his success achieved only in order to please a woman and to be preferred by her to other men. These phantasies are satisfactions of wishes proceeding from deprivation and longing. —Sigmund Freud, Hysterical Phantasies and their Relation to Bisexuality
Indeed the ideal Hindu must be like a rat living in his own hole refusing to have contact with others. There is an utter lack among the Hindus of what the sociologists call ‘consciousness of kind’. There is no Hindu consciousness of kind. In every Hindu the consciousness that exists is the consciousness of his caste. That is the reason why the Hindus cannot be considered to form a society or nation. —B.R. Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste
Whilst the fundamentals of this essay were drafted before the Indian Bonaparte, Narendra Modi, found that a phantasmagorical crown of eternal glory was put on his temporal head, where for the first time Indian fascism has won electoral victory in parliamentary polls with a clear majority; the terrible ghost of fascism that has become an even more terrible reality makes us ponder on the deeper structures of fascism in India. It thus explores the mass psychology of fascism in India. It also explores the historical materialist mechanisms of fascism’s recent triumph in the 2014 National Elections. Whilst it is known that the term “Hindutva” (coined by Savarkar in the 1920s when Mussolini was capturing power in Italy) is the basis for the political philosophy of Indian fascism, the deeper structures of caste-stratified Hinduism (as the religio-culture of pre-capitalist India) have not been explored at the scientific level such that a radical Left movement can uproot this anti-humanist, anti-people’s ideology of pre-capitalist India.
Besides ignoring the caste question as a struc-tural component of the mode of production in India, as also ignoring the symptomatic fetish of caste-stratified society called “Hinduism”, the greatest error of the Established Left was to become part of the parliamentary political order, forgetting that for Marx (a point which Lenin reminded us in State and Revolution), revolu-tionary politics emerges from outside the state order and against the state order. They forgot what Marx had once said that “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes”.1 They forgot that “State power assumed...the character of the national power of capital over labour, of a public force organised for social enslavement, of an engine of class despotism”.2 Despite it being well known that the state with its magical representation that “soared high above society” was merely the “greatest scandal of that society” and the “very hotbed of all its corruptions”,3 the Established Left continued to be part of this magical and corrupt hotbed. The triumph of Modi is the triumph of the neo-liberal Right-wing control of the hotbed of corruption. The Left cannot be part of this hotbed; and yet the Stalinist Established Left insists on being cozy there. They did not know that one day; the cozy bed of corruption would show its brutal face as the engine of class despotism and erupt as the triumph of fascism.
This essay is on how the Revolutionary Left needs enacting the Revolution in ways entirely different that what the Left in India had imagined. First, it will have to encounter caste within the matrix of the Asiatic mode of production, and then see modern classes emerging from this Asiatic mode, and finally fighting from outside the state mechanism. Its mobilisation shall not traverse the paths of liberal democracy. Our type of Marxism shall neither be the type common to the liberals or the Legal Marxists. Marx’s teachings are not the same as that of Peter Struve—the founder of “Legal Marxism”.
Further, the Revolution is not an Event (even of the type that Alain Badiou talks of). Nor is it the one following the laws ordained by the Stalinists. Instead the Revolution is a type of process, which involves real people with real needs. Historicism and humanism are thus its cornerstones. And since one understands the Revolution as a real human event, the articu-lation of the cultural superstructure is of great importance.
There are two basic parts of this essay: (1) of actively engaging the political and ideology superstructure of Indian fascism, and (2) of understanding the dynamics of caste-class hegemony (within the Indian variant of the Asiatic mode of production in the era of late imperialism in permanent crisis). Thus the logic of the decomposition of caste along with the neurotic recomposition of caste (from which emerges the mass psychology of Indian fascism) forms the logic of the rise of fascism in India. Two of B.R. Ambedkar’s observations of caste are located as the basis for understanding the rise of fascism in India: (1) that it is a system of graded inequality, and (2) a system of not only division of labour, but a system of division of labourers. Along with these observations, we relate Marx’s theories of alienation and the reification of society with caste-stratification and how caste-stratification becomes an Indian form of racism which finally culminates in Indian fascism.
On Freudo-Marxism as a Rational Science
We begin, however with the above quote from Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste which is a type of remembrance that ought to provoke the rational mind to discuss the almost psychotic religio-culture structure of pre-capitalist India. That Ambedkar’s words—the “ideal Hindu” is “refusing to have contact with others”—corres-ponds to Sigmund Freud’s definition of psychosis as the “complete withdrawal from reality”4, is a matter that must be stressed. And with the understanding of this psychotic withdrawal from reality, one turns to the understanding how fascism becomes popular with its racist idea of nationhood combined with its ideology of celebration of riots and wars. We are stressing on this racist idea of nationhood, for both Savarkar’s Hindutva and M.S. Golwalkar’s We or Our Nation Defined talked of the “race spirit”, implying an imagined “Hindu race” that was supposed to be in perpetual war with an even more imagined “Muslim race”.
For Ambedkar it was most certain: Hinduism as the religio-culture of pre-capitalist India had to go for any form of democracy to really survive and thrive in India. This essay thus picks up from the previous concerns ‘Why we are not Hindus’ and ‘Why we can never be Hindus’ that have appeared in the pages of this journal. It also picks up from my essay ‘Asiatic Mode of Production, Caste and the Indian Left’ that has recently appeared in the Economic and Political Weekly.5 Whilst the basis of these essays is political in a Revolutionary Marxist sense (where the entire project of “Hindutva” is criti-qued), the very fundamental point in this essay is a materialist dialectical methodology that locates Hinduism as the religio-culture of pre-capitalist India—that despite the “Protestant reform” that it has undergone to create the spirit of liberal capitalism: to borrow from Max Weber’s repertoire—has allowed Hindutva fascism to emerge victorious. This Hinduism as the symptomatic symptom of caste-stratified society turning to Hindutva fascism forms the groundwork of our analysis.
Freudo-Marxism deals specifically with ideo-logy-critique and the historicist and humanist analysis of superstructures. Unlike the Estab-lished Left that was bred on the Stalinist “reflection theory” which stated that the political and ideology superstructure was only a “reflec-tion” or “copy” of the economic base, we deal with an entirely different way of looking at Marxism, especially in dealing with the mass psychology of fascism. Thus we transform the classical Marxist theorem: the economic base determines the political and ideological super-structure into a new model: the reified-economic base of capitalism in permanent crisis determines the estranged-psychotic mind of fascism.
What one needs to do is to create scientific tools to analyse fascism in India. Freud, here, enters the scientific scene of action. What one does is that one transforms his idea of “hysterical phantasies” in the arena of libidinal economy into the arena of political economy of the ideology of fascism. Consider Freud’s own idea of phantasy. Consider how Narendra Modi, projected as “Super Modi” by the Media Industry6, is understood as the collective wish-phantasy produced by the Media Industry, but a wish-phantasy which is based however on economic scarcity and mental deprivation. Note the ideas of the “erotic and ambitious” nature in human beings in the passage below. Note what Freud calls “the delusional imaginations of the paranoiac, which are concerned with the greatness and the sufferings of his own self”.7 Try to relate this delusional imagination of the suffering character with the character-image of the superman (Narendra Modi) constructed by the Media Industry. Note also this psycho-analytic presentation: “the strange performances with which certain perverts stage their sexual satisfaction”.8 Since we are relating the idea of the delusional imaginations of the paranoiac-pervert combine with the phantasmagorical images produced of the suffering hero by the Media Industry, we say (following Freud) that this psychical structure of the paranoid-turned-hero is present in all psychoneuroses particular in hysterical phantasies.9 Taking these and relating with the fascist personality as the heroic character portrayed by the Media Industry, we turn to the consideration of the following:
A common source and normal prototype of all these creations of phantasy is to be found in what are called the day dreams of youth. These have already received some, though as yet insufficient, notice in the literature of the subject. They occur with perhaps equal frequency in both sexes, though it seems that while in girls and women they are invariably of an erotic nature, in men they may be either erotic or ambitious. Nevertheless the importance of the erotic factor in men, too, should not be given a secondary rating; a closer investigation of a man’s day-dreams generally shows that all his heroic exploits are carried out and all his success achieved only in order to please a woman and to be preferred by her to other men. These phansaties are satisfactions of wishes proceeding from deprivation and longing. They are justly called ‘day-dreams’, for they give us the key to an understanding of night-dreams—in which the nucleus of the dream-formation consists of nothing else than complicated day-time phantasies of this kind that they have been distorted and are misunder-stood by the conscious psychical agency.
(all emphasis mine.—M.J.)10
What Revolutionary Marxism has to do is relate this psychoanalytic understanding with special reference to “these phantasies of satis-factions of wishes proceeding from deprivation and longing”. Once one understands this psychoanalytic political economy of deprivation, one will able to understand why the masses consume the ideologies of the far-Right. Thus if there is the mode of production of ideas, there is also the mode of consumption, mediated by the mode of distribution of these ideas. And that is why one insists that a scientific theory of the mode of production of ideology is necessary. What a scientific theory of the mode of production of ideology does is that it probes into the deep structures of the “unconscious phantasy”.11
The tragedy is that, by and large, the Established Left in India from S.A. Dange to Prakash Karat bypassed this materialist analysis, to be deceived by forms of reasoning that have almost nothing to do with good Marxist scholar-ship, but had much to do with dubious and duplicate scholarship that grew from the cranium of the Stalinist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union since 1928. The complete drubbing of the Established Left in the 2014 National Elections is proof of their dubious scholarship. The reasons of their split from the masses are manifold: one reason being that they could not have a scientific theory of the mode of production of ideology. They could not under-stand how ideologies are produced and consumed. The other reason is that they could not understand Marx’s original theory of historical materialism, especially his theory of complex histories and his critique of unilinear historicism.
And because they could not have these two ideas that Marx himself analysed, this Established Left in India could not articulate class conjectures, especially the emergence of the modern proletariat from the decaying Indian village system. It thus could not articulate the caste-class dialectic. For the Established Left, caste and class are the two unfortunate souls that dwell in their Faustian breast. Besides inability in understanding this caste-class dialectic, they could not understand in depth the lethal character of caste and Hinduism as the religio-culture of pre-capitalist India.
This essay is consequently critical of the Established Left’s deficit analysis of caste and surplus analysis of “Indian feudalism”, an analysis that restricted caste only as a social system of an imagined ‘feudal’ India. Modern classes are almost inevitably tied down to the caste system—its decomposition and recom-position—and the Established Left has altogether forgotten this relation between modern classes and the caste system. This essay, besides taking the ideologies of Hinduism and Hindutva as the mass psychology of fascism, will also be critical of the analysis of classes in contemporary India combined with the critique of the theory of transition of pre-capitalism to capitalism in India. This critique is constituted in Marx’s original theory of the Asiatic mode of production which questions the very existence of feudalism in India. And because of the questioning of feudalism in India, this essay also questions the methodological tools in understanding the transition of pre-capitalism to capitalism in India.
This lack of understanding the nature of pre-capitalist India, this lack of understanding caste in both Indian history and the political economy of global capital accumulation, besides forgetting the consequent caste-class dialectic, has led to the misunderstanding of the nature of contem-porary popular classes, or what one may call the “basic classes” in India. These lacks have further led to the alienation of the Established Left from the popular classes. This alienation has led to a vacuum which is being filled by the Hindutva fascists. For it is this precise alienatedvacuum that the fascists have mastered. Fascism is the mastery and manipulation of alienation and alienatedvacuums.
And because concrete classes were replaced by abstract classes (according to the transcen-dental imagination of the Established Left), concrete history was replaced by abstract history. Duplicate classes and duplicate history marched onto the scene of Indian history. And that is why we are saying that the main critique is of the abstract-universal theory of history that is sacrosanct for the Established Left in India, a theory first propounded in modern times by Immanuel Kant (that laid the basis of the theory of history determined by iron laws independent of humanity) as well as the critique of the general theory of history that has its origins in Stalin’s counterrevolution and manipulation of Marxism. Remember it was Stalin (since the early 1930s) who literally banned any debate on the Asiatic mode of production. The debate on the Asiatic mode of production was officially banned in the Soviet Union in 1931. In 1933 V.V. Struve’s theory that the ancient east (like Western Europe) also had a slave owning mode of production was adopted. Though the Soviets after Stalin’s death re-opened the debate in 1964 followed in France by the works of Maurice Godelier and Suret-Canale; in India the pattern of history writing was determined by R.S. Sharma’s IndianFeudalism followed by the works of Irfan Habib that followed the Stalinist unilinear model. More recently it is Kevin Anderson who has challenged the Stalinist view by raising the importance of a more nuanced reading of Marx on non-Western societies in his Marx at the Margins.
‘Hinduism’ as a Neurotic Commodity in Neo-liberal India
What one needs to do is to put caste as the central category in Marxist historiography, caste located in the problematic of the Asiatic mode of production, caste that has yet not left us even in the age of late capitalism. And that is why we also insist that the philosophies of Marx and Ambedkar are central in this analysis. But since we talk of caste as not yet leaving us in the age of late capitalism, we also recall Freud’s theory of neurosis as the eternal recurrence of the self-same trauma. As we shall see in the course of this essay, since critics of Marx (especially those following Edward Said) found that Marx’s critique of pre-capitalist India as stagnant was some sort of hidden Orientalism based on the Eurocentric narrative, we shall be relating the Freudian critique of neurosis to critique the Indian caste system. Thus when Marx had talked of the Indian “self-sufficient communities that constantly reproduce themselves in the same form, and when accidently destroyed, spring up again on the spot and with the same name”,12 we were referring to the neurotic caste system.
Here we would like to note that Marx did not think of the so-called “Eastern world” as “timeless” and “devoid of history”. Marx not only considers the dynamics of non-European societies, but also emphasises it. Remember that in the letter to Vera Zasulich he talks of the dynamism of the Russian communes, how they are revolutionary and can directly skip the capitalist mode of production, and thus how one literally has to celebrate the archaic world.13 Likewise Kosambi too did not view the Indian village in the Orientalist phantasmagoric space of living “outside history”. Instead he says how historical materialism links the formation of caste with agricultural economy, and this in his view was a “tremendous advance in the mode of production”.14 But with this “tremendous revolution” is tied the “grimmest poverty and helplessness”.15 What Kosambi misses out is linking caste with the Indian variant of the Asiatic mode of production. There is also a lacuna in articulating the superstructural aspect of caste, not to forget his almost forgetfulness of psycho-analysis and his consequent amnesia on the relation between neurosis and caste. We, on the contrary, place this neurosis central to India.
And this neurosis I have scripted in the following tragedy: that caste survived Budd-hism, survived Islam and would soon collide with not only colonialism, but also with indus-trial civilisation and modernity, and survive these too. Our repertoire is thus based on the trio—Marx, Freud and Ambedkar. Not only do we relate the Marxist-Freudian-Ambedkarite critique of caste with domination and neurosis, but we also talk of caste as a form of an estranged clannishness and thus relate it with Marx’s theory of alienation. Consequently we talk of caste consciousness with what Hegel and Marx called (in different contexts) as the “unhappy consciousness” and the “estranged mind”. Hindutva fascism is an outcome of this unhappy estranged mind.
In a certain sense it is almost necessary to talk of the necessary Dalitisation of Marxism and consequently the necessary humanisation of the communist movement. It is also necessary to talk of a philosophical rendering of historical materialism where Marx’s idea of communism as humanism and naturalism combined with Lenin’s praxis of insurrection as art is used to deconstruct caste consciousness.
We once again stress on Ambedkar’s analysis of both caste as well as its fuzzy and phantas-magorical-ideological superstructure called “Hinduism”, where we not only present the inherent psychotic and mythical character of the ideology of pre-capitalist India (innocently called “Hinduism).16 The psychotic character was mentioned by both Marx in his 1850 articles on India, as well as by Ambedkar as the quote at the beginning of this essay shows.
Now it seems to be tragic that though Ambedkar speaks with the head and heart of a radical Marxist, the Left could simply not understand him. And despite thinkers like Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya from the Left, the Established Left could not unleash a radical historicist and humanist critique of the Indian ruling classes and its ideology called ‘Hinduism’. And since India (alongside a large part of South Asia) did not go through the process of a successful Enlightenment where humanism and science could displace superstition, rituals and anti-humanism inherent in pre-capitalist societies, one has the ghosts of inherited evils yet oppre-ssing us, where we are yet seized by the dead! The ghosts are divided into two schools—the liberal and the fascist.
We know of course that the ideology of Hindutva is a concoction and a political fairy tale borrowed more from European fascism than was ‘indigenous’ to India. Here one needs to point out that not only is this fascist theme incorrect, not only is the liberal theme of Gandhi and Nehru of an imagined liberal ‘Hinduism’ incorrect, not only is the high idealism of Viveka-nanda and Aurobindo completely wrong in trying to articulate what ‘India’ and ‘Indianness’ means, but also contemporary thinkers like Ashis Nandy alongside the now proliferating departments in American universities, who following the New Orientalists like David Lorenzen, hypostasise India as some sort of phantasmagorical ‘Hindu Nation’ that has existed from time immemorial with its idealist systems of philosophy that is resistant to secular ideals. That Andres Brevik, the butcher of Norway, also follows this line of thinking and the fact that the Nazis were readers of the Vedas and the Upanishads should not go unnoticed. Thinkers like David Frawley, a born-again Yankee neo-Hindu who in his Universal Hinduism: Towards a New Vision creates a fiction of a great and tolerant Hinduism, completely forgets that ‘Hinduism’ as a discipline is basically a colonial construct that is completely oblivious to caste stratification. One must point out that the now fashionable idea of Hinduism as an eternal religion (sanatana dharma) was born only with the nineteenth century theosophists. And that is why one insists that “the notion of ‘Hinduism’ is itself a Western-inspired abstraction”,17 an abstraction that completely forgets caste only to hypostasise a so-called tolerant Hinduism. A small history of the genealogy of the word ‘Hinduism’ is necessary.
For we have not only thinkers from Gandhi to Nandy who reconstruct this hysterical melancholia called ‘Hinduism’ in the repertoire of liberalism, or Lorenzen who constructs this imaginary discourse called ‘Hinduism’ to be taught in American and European universities.18 We now are not only accompanied by these so-called innocent inventors of innocence discourses. We have now Western academia accompanying the Indian fascists. Consider Koenard Elst, who not only wrote ideological treatises as in his infamous Decolonising the Hindu Mind, but also hate literature like RamaJanmabhoomi vs. Babri Masjid, a book that was released by the Indian fascist leader, L.K. Advani. And that is why we insist that ‘Hinduism’ is no longer an innocent discourse that can claim to be the most original Gnostic philosophy and neo-Platonism where Ananda Coomaraswamy and Rene Guenon occupy this space of Oriental innocence. It now becomes outrightly fascist, where its inheritors can only be Advani and Narendra Modi, not to forget Andres Brevik, the infamous butcher of Norway. So one may ask: what is so specific to the discourse of ‘Hinduism’ that caste, which remains at the essence of its repertoire, is almost always perpetually veiled? And since the Indian fascists want to build their phantasy on the myth of “Hindu Rashtra”, we once again chide them for their very unoriginal stupidity. At this juncture it must be noted that the term ‘Hinduism’, as is being used today, is basically a vacuous and fuzzy term manipulated firstly by the colonial state and then by the upper- caste elites in independent India. We have earlier noted in our previous essays that the contem-porary usage cannot be confused with the original Persian origins—the Achae-menians mention the people on the east of the river Sind as Hindus (Hapt Hindukan, as the Iranian Avesta calls this land19). The term then in the age of the first Persian Empire was geo-cultural. This geo-cultural usage continued till the Mughal rule in India. Contemporary usage of this term (mainly as a single religious entity) was constructed by the eighteenth century Orientalists based on the Judeo-Christian understanding of what constitutes a religion.20 If the Orientalists (especially Max Muller) imagined a unified doctrine called ‘Hinduism’, the colonial authorities used the same to create a Hindu-Muslim zone of conflict. The term for the dominant ideology of India, since Shankara (788-820 AD) began his counter-revolution against Buddhism, ought to be Brahmanism. And that is why we insist that the term ‘Hinduism’ is a fetishised cloak that veils caste and class relations. Hindutva further cloaks caste and class relations.
This fetishised reading not only encompassed the Indian Orientalists who indigenised Max Muller’s theory: from Dayanda Saraswati, Bankim Chattopadhyaya, Aurobindo and Vivekananda to Tilak, Lajpat Rai, Savarkar and Gandhi. This fetishised manufacturing of traditions was used by the Indian National Congress since the beginning of the twentieth century, which via Nehru got transformed into the Indian variant of political liberalism. What we inherit today is less of the original geo-cultural understanding and more of the geo-political inheritance of colonialism. The tragedy of India is that the radical Left (despite Phule, Ambedkar and Annabhau Sathe and the grass- root fighters of liberty, equality and fraternity) has not been able to shake off this phantas-magoria of ‘Hinduism’.
From Hinduism as the “Hysterical Sublime” to Hindutva as “Total Fascism”
We begin thus in a way with a certain kind of fury that envelope many a movement for social and political emancipation. The fury is directed at the exploiters, the counter-revolutionaries, the communal-fascists and imperialist cartels. But the fury is also directed towards the hidden ideologists and the wielders of the ideology-of-dominance, an ideology-of-dominance that has led not only to a type of ideological blindness, but also to a silent counter-revolution in India. This silent counter-revolution has been blind to the question of caste and then constructed an imaginary theme of India being a Hindu society. Our claim is that this silent counter-revolution links what Marx once called “idyllic village communities”, that have been the “solid foundation of Oriental Despotism”, that has restrained the human mind within the smallest compass, creating organised superstition, and depriving the Indian people of “all grandeur and historical energies”,21 to not only the inherent social structures of India, but also the imperialist policies of Washington based think-tanks.
What we claim is that in the complete over-hauling of the entire ideological superstructure of capitalism, the complete overhauling of the caste system and the ideological myth of Hinduism is absolutely necessary. One cannot work without the other. It is not merely that we argue against imperialism, as if imperialism exists independent of pre-capitalist social formations. One needs to link organically the relation between global capital accumulation, the Indian elites and the ideology of dominance in India. The organic linking of the relation between the economic base of accumulation of capital and the superstructure of the mass hysteria (of: “We are Hindus being swamped by Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in our own homeland”) and the corresponding stratification, superstition and backwardness needs to be studied.
One needs to link the Yankee War Industry and the Indian ideology-in-dominance. One also needs to point to the rise of fascism in India and the role of caste and imperialism in the emergence of fascism. One thus needs to claim that even the so-called holy book of ‘Hinduism’ which now the RSS wants to promote as the national book is not in any way to be confused with any sort of philosophical or ethical treatise. One needs to deny the moral claims of the Gita as it does nothing but represent the ideological upholding of the caste system. One needs to stress alongside Marx that the caste system “restrains the human mind within the smallest compass”. One needs also to emphasise alongside Ambedkar that the claim that the Gita is devoid of any message is absolutely correct.22 And what Ambedkar calls the ideology of the “justification of war” and “a philosophical defence of war and killing in war’23 that the Gita advocates is directly related to the ideology of wars and riots that the RSS actively preaches. The classical book for the Indian counter-revolution,24 as Ambedkar calls the Gita, now has metamorphosised as into the RSS’ fascist manual of taking absolute power in India.
Yet it must be noted that the contemporary version of fascism in India is backed by corporate capitalism and takes on a more lethal form than the one that emerged in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid movement. This does not imply that the early project (Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid movement) has been sidelined for an imagined development type of fascism, where just as Mussolini is said to have made the trains run on time, so too Narendra Modi is going to do the same.
To strike at the Ideological State Apparatus (now being monopolised by the communal-fascists and supported globally by the American led corporate imperialism), one needs to articulate how this Ideological State Apparatus produces not only this “hysterical melancholia” that Walter Benjamin talked of, but now the construction of what we call after Fredric Jameson as the ‘hysterical sublime”.25 There are two productions here in the ideology of the sublime. One that creates the early liberal discourse of ‘Hinduism’ (from Vivekananda to Gandhi—this version has aesthetics within its cranium), and the second sort of sublime is a fascist version where the sublime has nothing to do with aesthetics. Instead, this second version of the sublime destroys all capacities of human thinking and instead gives way to hysteria. This passage we call: the passage from the sublime to hysteria. And it is this passage that the fascists have mastered. The hysterical sublime crushes all desire for revolution.
So what is this hysterical sublime and how is fascism related to it? In my The New Militants I have talked of the production of this hysterical sublime. Let us have a look at it. It is on the one hand “the experience bordering on terror, the fitful glimpse, in astonishment, stupor and awe of what was so enormous as to crush life altogether”.26 It is also “the limit of figuration and the incapacity of the human mind to give representation”.27 But basically it is a “phantas-matic relationship with some organic pre-capitalist peasant landscape and village society”.28 In this phantasmatic representation, the mass hysteria of “being Hindu” implies a phantasy created by some sort of castration anxiety which is projected elsewhere (that is, the production of the ‘Hindu’ as the one who is crushed by the ‘Muslim’). This mass hysteria is also the master signifier of the Indian culture industry where people, who are unhappy in the unhappy home of capitalism, are served with this sense of false happiness. This hysterical sublime is thus what once Marx called the feeling of ease and strength in human self-estrangement.29 One is thus forced to say with cynicism and irony: caste has never left us. Like Freud’s eternal recurrence of the neurotic, caste returns to haunt us once again.
Dialectical and Historical-Humanist Humanism
My contention is that one cannot locate the questions of caste, its relation to the modern class system and capital accumulation which has led to the triumph of Indian fascism when one operates with the fallacious question of understanding history as unilinear history—of history determined by so-called ‘iron laws’ . It must be noted that this view of history as the march-past of “iron laws” that run independent of humanity was part of the discourse of the Second International. The fact that it was then canonised by Stalin and then converted to gospel truth seems to be ignored by even the most serious social scientists studying caste. Recall that this misinterpretation of Marx was based on the theory of inevitability of historical ‘happenings’ based itself on the almost conscious ignorance of Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and the Ethnological Notebooks. The fact that Marx almost never used the term unvermeidliche (or “ineveitable”) and that it was an almost unwitting inclusion by Engels seems totally forgotten by social science. Recall Marx’s humanist understanding of history:
History does nothing, it ‘possesses no immense wealth’, it ‘wages no battles’. It is the human, real, living humanity who does all that, who possess all that; ‘history’, is not, as it were, a person apart, using humanity as a means to achieve itsown aims; history is nothingbut human activity pursuing its aims.30
It is in this epistemic space that we claim that the classical understanding of Marxism as dialectical and humanist materialist needs to be re-thought as dialectical and historical-humanist materialism. It is in this very space that one locates the positivist understanding of history that Indian Marxists of the most serious calibre from Kosambi to R.S. Sharma and Irfan Habib fell prey to. The fact that Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and the Ethnological Notebooks are absent from their theoretical repertoire needs being stressed. The fact that even Gramsci and Lukacs are absent not to forget Raya Dunayevskaya needs also to be re-stressed. What one needs to do is link Marxism as historicism and humanism with the idea of multilinear historicism.
We have already noted that this idea of multilinear historicism which Marx had introduced in the lexicon of historical materialism lies largely forgotten. Soviet historians like S. Shmonin who advocated the idea of the Asiatic mode in 1929 were never referred to in either Marxist discussions on history or in radical politics, nor was Plekhanov’s History of Russian Social Thought (where the Asiatic mode was located) taken seriously. By 1931 there were no references to this mode in discussions in the Soviet Union. Not only was the discussion under Stalin purged—M.D. Kokin, the Soviet proponent of this idea, died in the Stalinist anti-communist genocide—but even Marxist scholars like G.A. Cohen, Maurice Dobb and Paul Sweezy made no reference to it. Likewise Edward Said thought that the Asiatic mode of production was an Orientalist intervention and Marx became a Romantic and Messianic Orientalist, condemning non-European societies to eternal backwardness.31
Repercussion of this theme of ignoring the Asiatic mode of production is that history was made to look like the infamous march-past of iron laws. According to this thesis, capitalism could only emerge from feudalism, whilst communism could only grow from capitalism. And since India is not capitalist (or not “fully developed” capitalist), communism would have to wait like the missing messiah. That there are views (Kevin Anderson is an example) that capitalism emerged in India not from feudalism, but from a complex origin determined in the last resort by the dissolution of the village communities and the primitive commune property system32 is also an idea that is largely not known. It is the Indian Maoist (albeit unwittingly) who has taken the view of tribal commune property—the ager publicus (public lands) of Marx’s Pre-capitalist Economic formations—as the pivotal force for the Indian revolution. However, since they do not locate this thesis in the larger genre of the Asiatic mode of production, their old thesis of semi-feudalism and the New Democratic Revolution are reified as the rocks to which Indian Prometheus is permanently chained. Neither the parliamentary Left nor the Maoists have ever thought that communism in India can come directly by simply skipping over capitalism. And this inability of thinking how to skip the entire capitalist mode of production has led to a vacuum from where fascism has emerged.
In this perspective of multilinear historicism one recalls Marx’s phrase that just as the history of the expropriation of the peasantry “in different countries, assumes different aspects”, so too the emergence of the modern proletariat takes different forms.33 And since it was only in England that took what Marx calls the “classical form”,34 one cannot remain enslaved to this European form of capitalism only. Nor does one, as Marx insists, pass through the dreadful vicissitudes of capitalism.35
That the articulation of the parliamentary Left who want to march with the myth of historical inevitabilities is in direct opposition to Marx’s formulation of jumps in history determined by the radical politics of permanent revolution also ought to be noted. They seem to have forgotten that the “historical inevitability” of the rise of capitalism that involves the divorcing of the producer from the means of production was limited only to Western Europe.36 One cannot impose this history onto the entire world. As Marx said with regard to another Narodniki, Mikhailovsky, there is no “general path of development prescribed by fate to all nations” where one could impose a “general historico-philosophical theory” onto the entire world.37 Recall Marx again “the supreme virtue of this (understanding) consists in being supra-historical”.38
Keeping this very important theme of multilinearism in mind, one is able to locate the complexity of Indian history. One is also able to see how Indian history keeps its pre-capitalist formations within its capitalist breast and thus hops on its two feet—one being the archaic caste foot, the other the modern class foot. And because the caste foot is ahead of the class foot one can say that, as in this sense, we are able to understand Marx’s formulation that one “suffers not only from the development of capitalist production, but also from the incom-pleteness of that development”.39 The tragedy of Indian history is that it shall be haunted not merely by the incompleteness of bourgeois development, but by the impossibility of this alleged “full development”. It is in the womb of this underdevelopment that one reads Marx’s viewing of the Oriental state as the ‘despotic’ sovereign, along with the village communities that are said to be “contaminated by caste and slavery”.40 At one level the caste system seems to echo Marx’s views of feudal Europe stuck with its idiocy and superstition. At another level it is concrete and anticipates Ambedkar’s critique of the caste system where caste not only degrades and saps the energies of the peasants and the menial castes, but degrades humanity as a whole.
But besides these two very well-known formations, Marx also talks of the communes which are said to have vitality that are superior not only to Greek and Roman societies, but also in comparison to modern societies.41 The communes thus had to be to be preserved.42 Not only were these communes to be preserved, they were to be the spring-board for direct communist revolutions. One thus distinguishes the spaces of Gemeinschaft (community) and Gemeinwesen (commune) within the space of pre-capitalist societies. Pre-capitalism is not one single, undifferentiated space. It most certainly is not destined to go through capitalism. One could jump directly from this Gemeinwesen (commune) to modern communism, whilst the site of the caste-based Gemeinschaft was fit only to be destroyed lock, stock and barrel. .
To claim that the communes were to die out due to the necessity of some inexorable law of history (rather: Law of History) was for Marx an outrageous imperialist lie. Let us put Marx’s commune at the background and re-think tribal India and the struggles being carried out there. One must note how the Indian state has declared these struggles—that is, struggles against the corporate colonisation of the Indian forests—as terrorists of the highest order. Consider then Marx as how to theorise in this space of com-bined and uneven development and how the communes could be preserved:
One should be on one’s guard when reading the histories of primitive communities written by bourgeois historians. They do not stop at anything, even outright distortion. Sir Henry Maine, for example, who was an ardent active supporter of the British government in its policy of destroying Indian communes by force, tells us hypocritically that all noble efforts on the part of the government to support these communes were thwarted by the elementary force of these laws!43
A small note on this writing of history by the Indian Left, who have totally forgotten Marx’s original contribution, is thus necessary. Irfan Habib, for instance, whilst theorising on the Marxist understanding of Indian history, mentions solely the 1959 and 1976 Moscow editions of Marx on India,44 alongside selected correspondence between Marx and Engels. The complex arguments of Marx on pre-capitalist societies are almost left untouched. Marx’s Ethnological Notebooks, first published in 1974, which include Marx’s notes on Morgan, Phear, Maine, Lubbock and Kovalevsky, are not even vaguely referred to by Habib. They are, so Habib claims, “not available to me”.45 Since Habib (and one should say all those who subs-cribe to the erroneous theory of “Indian feuda-lism”) does not take the extreme complex dialectic of the communes, village communities and the authoritarian Asiatic state as a dialectic of combined and uneven social formation, he reduces Marx to a thinker, who like the Orienta-lists before him, theorised on an “unchanging” East, calling Marx’s formulation extremely “unjust” and “highly idealised”46, sometimes also appearing as a fellow traveller of not only Hegel, but also Macaulay.47 Marx was also said to have a “mystical view of property”48 and he also worked with “inherited generalisations”,49 usually borrowed from the Eurocentric baggage of Hegelian metaphysics. One must however note that Habib is one of the most important Marxist historians and his reading has to be taken very seriously. Our response is that Marx’s dynamics of non-capitalist societies was not taken seriously enough to gauge the nature of the revolutionary forces inherent in Indian history.
Once this mode of theorisation is understood one is able to move into the readings of the question of caste in the contexts of the modes of production debate, with special emphasis on understanding non-European history. One thus re-emphasised how the question of the readings of the Grundrisse, Marx’s letter to Vera Zasulich and the Ethnological Notebooks can be kept in its scientific perspective. The caste question is analysed from this perspective of multi-linear historicism. One also analyses caste from the perspective of ideology critique and state power in India.
Now it is well known that Indian Marxism by and large shares an ambivalent relation with the caste question. This ambivalent character seems to stem from the fact that Marx’s views on the non-capitalist Western world was ignored whereby the history of Western Europe (especially the question of the transition of feudalism to capitalism in Europe) was imposed as a readymade model to be imposed on all societies. This fallacy has been disastrous for not only the Indian revolution, but also for Indian democracy, as the subject of both revolution and democracy could not be found. To talk of the industrial proletariat as the revolutionary subject independent of the concrete history of South Asia (as theorised by the mainstream parliamentary Left), or to talk of the peasants as the subject of Indian history (as the Maoists do), are abstract questions posed, questions which are independent of the real history of South Asia, thus independent of the history of social structures that comprise of castes (and if not non-capitalist communities then at least pre-capitalist communities). The parliamentary Left with their abstract theory of Indian history would turn to a form of social engineering that is totally alien to the spirit of science.
We thus re-emphasise the articulation of caste in India and the imperative to theorise on this peculiar phenomenon from a non-essen-tialist historical materialist problematic. In this sense it is in contrast to thinkers in the genre of not only the Stalinists, not only in the problematic of Edward Said and his postmodern followers, but primarily the giants of contem-porary social science, namely, Louis Dumont and Nicholas Dirks. Whilst the former seemed to essentialise caste—Habib calls his theory as the “Western sociologist’s image of the caste system”50—the latter understands caste as a modern phenomenon not belonging to pre-colonial India, but as an Orientalist fantasy and colonial construct to manage and govern the Eastern frontiers of the British Empire, even a form of what he calls a “peculiar form of modern Western nostalgia”.51 In this Dirksean sense an Orientalist reading of caste as “central symbol” of Indian civilisation52 entirely misses the point both of the colonial narrative and the political economy of imperialism. If it were the British that reified caste, as Dirks suggests,53 then the reading of caste had to change, a change that would directly challenge not only the understanding of caste from Marx and Weber to Dumont, but also challenge Ambedkar’s radical thesis.54 Dirks’ epistemic repertoire is, as must be pointed out, borrowed from Michel Foucault and Edward Said. That Dirks is silent on Foucault’s seeming contempt of the power/knowledge nexus of so-called “Western civilisation” and his fascination for Asian fascists like Ayatollah Khomeini must also be noted. In this space one raises the question: “if caste is merely a colonial invention devoid of its pre-capitalist genealogy, then would not the Dirks inspired thesis also fall in the same trap that Foucault fell into, namely of supporting Ayatollah Khomeini and Asian fascism?”
Debating the Caste Question
Let us situate this question in contemporary debates and move from the posing of these questions to a recent question that has been posed by Prabhat Patnaik which he calls “the decline of Left”, a question that he answers as a form an empricisation where the Left have not been able to champion the cause of the transcendence of capitalism. Though what is surprising is that Patnaik does not anywhere in this essay mention caste, one must note that somewhere earlier he does mention the question of caste as a central problem in Indian history and politics when referring to E.M.S. Namood-ripad.55
I shall take this question posed by Patnaik to understand how caste has to be understood as a silent counter-revolution. Now what caste as the silent counter-revolution did was relegate the Indian labour force—the artisans and the craftspeople (the Sudras and the ati-Sudras)— as the hellish other and the unclean untouch-ables. But what this counter-revolution also did was that it relegated the material practices of the Indian subaltern castes-classes and their ideologies of these material practices within the lowest order of things. The other side of the counter-revolution led to the privileging of the so-called ‘spiritualising’ character of the Brahman overlords, a ‘spiritualising’ that went from Adi Shankar and Manu to the Arya Samjis and Gandhianism culminating, on the one hand, in the conservative character of India’s liberalism and, on the other hand, to the formation of the Indian communal-fascists. The triumph of idealism over popular materialism led to the triumph of the Brahmans, a triumph that unfortunately yet stays with us.
What I will like to state is that in privileging its so-called spiritualisation and its hierarchical system, Brahmanical overlordship also institu-tionalised stagnation and thus introduced an Indian form of Confucianism. Most importantly what it did was create an institution of graded inequality that prevented revolt by the subaltern castes-classes. Since we are using the term “caste-class” we shall raise the important question: “what is caste?” So what is caste, at least for Marx whose critique of the dominant Indian class structure, comprised of this caste-class system, and was not to be seen as a West European version of class as the Indian Left has championed? For Marx, castes, as ossified and frozen classes determined by the totem of purity and anti-humanism and the taboo of inter-subjectivity, are social groups “separated from one another, without the right of intermarriage, with quite different status; each with its exclusive, unchangeable occupation”.56
And yet the question of caste as race seems to elude this definition if caste is taken only at the level of economism and viewed as mere forms of pre-capitalist social communities. What one can argue (following Phule) is that the logic of caste follows the cultural and political logic of race, or (following Ambedkar) that caste emerged with the counter-revolution against Buddhism (it is exploitation and anti-humanism, but not the European version of racism), or (as now articulated by Nicholas Dirks) that it is of very late dating, 1857 to be precise, when the British sought to administer India in a “new” way. According to this thesis of Dirks, the British started extensive ethnographical studies to ethnicise caste. The census was used as a sociological tool to administer society on ethnic lines, since the 1871 census, followed by the 1881 one.57 The issue for Dirks is how caste was able to “exercise such pride of place in the colonial imagination”.58 Caste is an “invention”, a colonial one, or even worse, a modern one.59 There are two themes that follow: one that caste has not been a trans-historical essence of Indian civilisation, “an unchanged survival of ancient India”, but the product of the encounter of India with colonial Britain.60 In this case, caste, as we know it, ought not to be confused as the core of Indian civilisation.
Contrary to Dirks, I will state that the underlying structure of Indian society is a complex structure of caste-class. Contrary to thinkers who do not view it as race (Weber is one of those thinkers), one will have to state that as varna in Sanskrit, caste implies ‘colour’. The racial reference is obvious from its etymology, whilst the class implications follow. The caste system cannot be merely seen as a social division of labor without seeing the question of race, and the racial lines of hierarchy, segregation and exploitation. But then I have also followed the Indian Fanonists (that is, the Frantz Fanon type of revolutionary politics, particularly Phule) in also identifying caste not only based on an Asian form of race-based domination, but also as we keep on insisting as a system of neurosis and psychosis, that gives birth to the cultural and political logic of counterrevolution in India and Indian fascism.
One will have to relocate this debate of caste as a form of racism and also try to understand this intellectual history. For us casteism is racism, and caste structured as an Indian form of race classification. Remember that Ambedkar did not want to give any space to the Brahmans to argue out their form of imagined superiority, by giving them the status of descendents from a European race. One should re-read his Annihilation ofCaste,Castes in India and Who were the Shudras? in the light of the Asiatic mode of production to re-think the question of casteism as racism. The Brahmans are, as we all very well know, tricky customers. For if one brings in the “race question” (of the European variety), the Brahmans would only be too happy to claim affinity with the bourgeois Europeans. Thus the Brahmans were only too happy to accept this colonial race theory to justify the Indian mode of exploitation. Therefore Ambedkar’s quote from Annihilation ofCaste—“the caste system does not demarcate racial division”61—will have to be seen in a different light from those of mainstream European sociology. For Ambedkar, Hinduism is essentially anti-humanist.62
Views on caste as race are diverse. Phule built his model of the Dalit-bahujan (the Indian subalterns) on the presumption that the upper caste Brahmans were of Iranian (Aryan) origin who conquered an indigenous tribal people. I do feel that it is necessary to mobilise this narrative to encounter the unhappy consciousness of caste psychosis. For Phule, British colonialism was a form of modern colonialism. The real colonialism, which I call the Ur-colonialism, stems from the invasion of the Iranian tribes on the Indo-Gangetic plains. Hinduism is actually Brahmanism (or Aryanism) and the colonialism of the Indian life-world. One also needs to stress that evidence of the invasion of the Rg Vedic Iranian tribesmen can be found in the Rg Veda (the first text and consequently master text of ‘Hinduism’).63 Evidence of the clash between the Avestan Iranians and the Rg Vedic tribes can also be found in the Iranian Avesta, the Collected Works of the Zoroastrians. For Phule, the upper castes cannot be considered as nationalists. Indian nationalism has to be built on different grounds—on not only non-Brahmanacal, but primarily on non-Hindu grounds. Phule’s thesis is most radical and has to be mobilised by the radical Left in India. Here I will differ with Romila Thapar who claims that Phule was influenced by Orientalism (especially by the ‘Aryan’ question).64 One must note that the word, ‘Aryan’ in Indo-Iranian literature—that of the Hindus, the Zoroastrians and the Buddhist—is primarily said to be of linguist usage. It is said not to be a racist issue. Yet things can always get complicated. Whilst the pre-Islamic Iranians called their homeland ‘Airyana Vaeja’ (or the ‘Aryan Expanse’) which later became Iran-Vej and now Iran, the specter of fascism can always however around. The contemporary hatred of the Iranian regime towards Israel is not that it dislikes imperialism, but the Jews who are considered the ‘other’ of the Aryans. Likewise for the Indian fascist organisation, the RSS, that built its ideology on the grounds of the fictitious Aryan-Hindu as the superior race, that conflicts with the imaginary ‘Semitic’ Muslims.
What we have done is equated caste with race and also claimed that since caste is understood as inherited class status that also has endogamy and the ideas of purity and pollution in its ideological cranium, then we have also claimed that this very brazen and subtle form of exclusion has necessarily to be understood as a problem of racism. In this sense Marx’s idea of relations of production have turned into Ambedkar’s idea of graded inequality, such that the analysis of classes in India does not merely have to concentrate on the type of surplus extraction, but have to analyse this surplus extraction in the structure of graded inequality.
Now graded inequality becomes not only the base of Indian relations of production, but also the base of the Indian counter-revolution. For the Indian notion of graded inequality was and is different from the European one (whether slave, feudal or capitalist), in the sense that in the European one the exploiter and exploited stand face to face. Whilst it is true that European feuda-lism had “a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank”,65 in the Indian type of inequality this complication would take an order similar to the one faced by the neurotic and the psychotic such that recognition of the exploiter and the class enemy becomes difficult, if not altogether impossible.
Keeping these points in mind we recall the apt and rather chilling metaphor borrowed from Lenin: “none of the (Indian, my insertion— M.J.) Marxists understood Marx.”66 And what for Lenin have the Marxists who have not understood Marx not understood in Marx? They have not understood the question of dialectics. They have thus not understood multilinear historicism and thus not understood the algebra of the revolution. They have not understood the logic of insurrection and thus not understood how insurrection becomes an art form. They have not understood it because their psychotic Brahman head detached from the rest of the Sudra body does not allow it.
Thinking of Insurrection as Art
It is, therefore, that one understands how the Indian Marxists, dominated by their legal and ideological fetishes, have not been able to under-stand dialectics and insurrection as art. They have not understood it because they do not want insurrection, because they want the bour-geois status quo and because like Shakespeare’s Cassius (from Julius Caesar) they not only think too much, but because they have monopolised all thinking. They thus become dangerous. Like Cassius they think, in fact think too much, think in terms of surplus thinking, thinking like surplus value, thinking that involves unpaid labour, thinking that does not merely mime the Kautskyite-Stalinist cliché “the proletariat can-not think in terms of revolution, the petty bour-geois does that”, hence not allowing anyone else to think, nor act. Surplus thinking as non-thinking is necessarily anti-praxis. It is the sign of the Indian counter-revolution that not only devoured the Indian liberals, but also the Left.
And that is why one insists on theorising on Marx’s original idea of the Asiatic mode of production with caste forming the nucleus for the understanding of social formations in India. By transforming the Marxist dictum—the econ-omic base determines the political and ideological superstructure—into the reified base determines the unhappy consciousness and the estranged caste-based mind, a Marxist imagination of radical histori-sation transforms the nature of Indian politics. And that is why we say that the Indian Left’s deficit analysis of caste and surplus analysis of “Indian feudalism” has led to the catastrophic understanding of the analysis of classes in contemporary India. It has also misunderstood the theory of transition of pre-capitalism to capitalism in India. One has to be critical of this bizarre ‘general’ theory of history that has its origins in Stalin’s counter-revolution and manipulation of Marxism. Meanwhile the necessary dalitisation of Marxism is based on the above understanding where Marx’s idea of communism as humanism and naturalism combined with Lenin’s praxis of insurrection puts an end to caste and bourgeois class consciousness. In this sense we argue for a larger philosophical canvass for Revolutionary Marxism where Marx’s critique of alienation is directly related to the Buddhist idea of Dukha. Remember, for Marx the fundamental revolution is the transformation of the state of human alienation, just as for Ambedkar one had to radically transform the state of Dukha.
Once one locates this humanist revolution we are able to turn from Lenin’s lamentation of the Marxists who cannot understand Marx to the Bolshevik thinker Carl Einstein’s theory of “absolute art” that breaks the reified world. What we now do is that we transform this idea of absolute art into the politics of permanent revolution. Permanent revolution argues for the transformation of alienation-Dukha. What this permanent revolution does is that it breaks the hegemony of reality that appears in what Marx calls the dual forms of reified object form and contemplation.67 For contemplation is always is in thrall of alienation-Dukha. The permanent revolution breaks the hegemony of this reifi-cation. It talks of human sensuous activity, or praxis itself.68 Armed with this permanent revolution it also breaks free from the scholasticism of not only Brahmanism, but scholasticism in general.69
Our Indian Left is, in contrast to the celebrator of the permanent revolution, working not only with the alienated and schizophrenic mecha-nisms of civil society and the state but also with the entire caste-class apparatus. He is not only the empiricist that Patnaik recently critiqued. He is the “stubborn empiric” as Trotsky described Stalin, the neurotic Oriental despot who has returned once again. And like the Slavic form of Stalinism, the Indian Stalinists have totally forgotten the problematic of alienation-Dukha. Their political discourses areconsequently etched in permanent decline. The Stalinists work with the brutal distortion of facts. We recall Lukács’ debunking of what these so-called “facts” (of bourgeoisdom) are, facts that are constituted in the abyss between thought and reality. “Facts”, in this Lukácsian sense, do not refer to real facts. Facts do not deal with reality but its exact opposite: the distortion of reality. This is so because the idea of dialectical totality eludes the regime of facts. This is what happens to the caste-class question when we have a complete distortion of facts coupled with the forgetfulness of the Asiatic mode of production:
During the recent years, caste mobilisation has become an important factor in shaping Indian politics. Ever since the issue of Mandal Commission reservations in government jobs for the OBCs came to the national agenda in 1989, it has left an impact on the evolution of national politics. For a Marxist and a Communist, it is not only necessary to assess this growing role of caste assertion in Indian political life but also to map out the manner in which the unity of the toilers is strengthened in order to achieve the People’s Democratic Revolution. Unless, as PS always used to teach us, we tackle with clarity this important phenomenon, we will not be able to overcome the potentially disruptive role that caste mobilisation can have on toilers’ unity. It is for these reasons that this issue needs to be addressed with all seriousness.70
Another manner of looking at the caste-class question is more critical:
However, the weakness of the democratic move-ment in India lies in the fact that struggles against caste oppression have not been carried out integrating the same with the struggles against class exploitation. These struggles have rather been conducted in isolation from each other. Struggles against the caste oppression which have ignored the class outlook have failed to make much dent against the caste system. At the same time, working class struggles conducted without any clear pers-pective against caste oppression—which erodes the unity of the working class—have failed to make big advances. Is it possible to build the unity of the working class without waging struggles against caste oppression and untouc-hability? This is a vital question thrown before the working class movement. The need of the hour is to simultaneously organise struggles against caste oppression and class exploitation and build mutual ties and links between those struggles.71
On the Dialectics of Action
It must be pointed out that Revolutionary Marxism is not reactive like the political practice of our contemporary parliamentary comrades. It does not let the upper caste-class elites (now joined by the Industrial Reserve Army of the OBCs) in the form of the fascists create mass hysteria, let them mobilise on communal grounds, let them break mosques followed by a pogrom and then by a genocide. It does not peacefully protest by passing a memorandum condemning the barbaric fascists. It actively confronts the fascists. It differentiates the active Leninist force from the reactive Stalinist force. It consequently sets the agenda for politics in India. Its philosophy is the negation ofnegation. It thus proclaims what Marx calls the “dissolutionof the hitherto existing world order” by stating “the secret of its own existence, (which is) the dissolution of that world order”.72
Just as Marx once said: “philosophy cannot be made a reality without the abolition of the proletariat, the proletariat cannot be abolished without philosophy being made a reality”;73 one now says this Marxist philosophy of humanity as humanity can be made a reality only with the abolition of the entire Indian mode of production with caste understood as class-clan-psychosis as the seed from which the terrible tree of Indian fascism has grown. But to accom-plish this philosophy of humanity as humanity, India will have to witness and activate a revolution that uproots not only the tree of fascism that has grown from the seed of caste understood as class-clan-psychosis; but also have to uproot the other counter-revolutionary weeds—from the liberals, Stalinists and other neo-cons who are actively sabotaging the Indian Revolution. But for this to happen, one will have to discard the Old Comrades and search for New Militants. These New Militants do not want to be part of the state apparatus, but want to smash the state,74 along with the smashing of the capitalist economy itself.
But then, are the present comrades ready for this?
There has been a massive demonstration of workers and employees on 12th at the call of all the central trade unions demanding a national level minimum wage of Rs.10,000/-, minimum pension of not less than Rs.3.000/- for Provident Fund beneficiaries, effective measures to control food inflation, effective measures to step up economic growth, fight slowdown and create jobs for the millions of jobless, maternity benefit for the women workers particularly in the unorganized sector.
The national Press, of course, a few newspapers and TV channels carried the news, but the attention it should have received from the national Press and media was absent. Corporate controlled media is totally unfriendly to the workers and employees. Sensationalisation of murder, rape, elopement and photographs of glamorous film starts and even paid up news will find unusual publicity but the people who really produce the wealth of the country are ignored. This is shameful and unethical act of hostility against the real producers of the wealth of the country.
It is expected the Government, being in the present position as it is, is likely to concede to the demands for a national minimum wage and at least Rs.10,000/- minimum pension to all the retired employees who joined under PF Scheme.
Whatever might be, I feel terribly upset at the hostility of the national media to the legitimate demands and movement of the joint activity of all the recognized trade unions of the country.
It is well-established that a Voluntary Retirement Scheme introduced by a company, does not
entitle an employee as a matter of right to the benefits of the Scheme. Whether an employee should
be allowed to retire in terms of the Scheme is a decision which can only be taken by the employer
company, except in cases where the Scheme itself provides for retirement to take effect when the
notice period comes to an end. A Voluntary Retirement Scheme introduced by a company is
essentially a part of the company's desire to weed out the deadwood
(ALTAMAS KABIR) (ANIL R. DAVE) (RANJANA PRAKASH DESAI)
New Delhi Dated: July 03, 2013.
C.V. Francis ...Petitioner
Union of India & Ors. ...Respondents
MAINSTREAM, VOL LI, NO 29, JULY 6, 2013
Swami Vivekananda — A Masiha of the Masses
The following article is being published on the occasion of Swami Vivekananda’s one hundred and eleventh death anniversary on July 4. On January 12 this year we had observed his one hundred and fiftieth birth anniversary.
Nineteenth century India produced a number of eminent men and women who with their exceptional intellect and wisdom enriched different aspects of Indian life. The most important among them was Swami Viveka-nanda who in a short span of life, which lasted less than forty years, stirred the entire country as none had done before. His love for his mother-land and compassion for the masses made him a legend in his lifetime. Hundred and eleven years have elapsed since the Swami went to his rest, and every year that passes is bringing fresh recognition of his greatness and widening the circle of appreciation, especially amongst the youth.
He was not a saint in the traditional sense of the term; he was a saint in action, a modern saint against shunning the scientific and materialistic outlook. He did not believe in renunciation of the world but in making it a better place to live in with dignity for everyone. The whole life of the Swami was a saga of his relentless efforts towards this direction. ‘Arise, awake and stop not till you have reached your goal’ was the mantra that the Swami imparted to his countrymen. The goal he set before them was not only the achievement of political freedom but also social and economic emancipation. Unlike other saints, he did not offer prayers to the Almighty for his own salvation but sought salvation of the poor. In the poor he found his God and referred him as Daridranaryana. He decided to dedicate his life in the service of his Narayana who was helpless, oppressed and suppressed since ages. ‘May I be born again and again and suffer thousands of miseries so that I may worship the only God that exists, the only God that I believe in, the sum total of all souls…my God the poor of all races…Him worship, the visible, the knowable, omnipresent; break all other idols.’
He exclaimed: ‘Ye ever trampled labouring masses of India! I bow to you.’
‘I do not believe in a God or religion which cannot wipe the widow’s tears or bring a piece of bread to the orphan’s mouth. However, sublime may be the theories, however well spun may be the philosophy—I do not call it a religion.’ And ‘I call a Mahatma [great soul] whose heart bleeds for the poor, otherwise he is a duratman [a wicked soul].’
Lamenting over the helplessness of the poor people, he said: ‘Oh my heart ached to think of what we think of the poor, the low in India. They have no chance, no escape, and no way to climb up. The poor, the low, the sinner in India have no friends, no help, they cannot rise… They sink lower and lower, every day, they feel the blows showering upon them by a cruel society… They have forgotton that they too are men.’
‘Our aristocratic ancestors went on treading the masses of our country under foot, till they became helpless, till under their torment the poor people nearly forgot that they were human beings. They have been compelled to be merely hewers of wood and drawers of water for centuries, so much so that they are made to believe that they are born as slaves…’
Admonishing the aristocracy for their false pride in birth and ancestry, the Swami said: ‘However, much you may parade your descent from Aryan ancestors and sing the glories of ancient India day and night, and however much you may be strutting in the pride of your birth, you, the upper classes of India, do you think you are alive? You are but mummies thousand years old… and it is you who are the real walking corpses… you represent the past tense… you are the void, the unsubstantiated nonentities of the future. Denizens of the dreamland, why are you loitering any longer?... why do you not quickly reduce yourself into dust and disappear in the air.’
Blaming religion for the pathetic state of the poor, the Swami boldly declared: ‘…No religion on earth treads upon the necks of the poor and the low in such a fashion, as Hinduism.’ He also castigated the priest for giving too much emphasis on spirituality and shunning material civilisation. He said: ‘We talk foolishly against material civilisation. The grapes are sour. Even taking all that foolishness for granted, in all India there are say a hundred thousand really spiritual men and women. Now, for the spiritualisation of these, must hundred millions be sunk in savagery and starvation? How was it possible for the Hindus to be conquered by the Mohammedans? It was due to the ignorance of the material civilisation. Even the Mohammedan taught them to wear tailor-made clothes.’
‘Material civilisation, nay, even luxury, is necessary to create work for the poor. Bread! Bread! I do not believe in God who cannot give me bread here, giving eternal bliss in heaven.’ And ‘first bread, then religion. We stuff them too much with religion when the poor fellows have been starving. No dogma will satisfy the craving hunger.’
The greatness of the Swami lies not only in his compassion for the poor but in suggesting the ways and means for the construction of a new India devoid of all kinds of exploitation and racial discrimination. He was a well-read man and had himself seen and observed the functioning of liberal democracy in America and other Western countries during his travels. Exposing the real face of the Western democratic system, the Swami explained: ‘The wealth and power of the country are in the hands of the few who do not work but manipulate the work of the millions of human beings; by this power, they deluge the whole earth with blood. Religion and all other things are under their feet; they rule and stand supreme. The Western world is governed by a handful of Shylocks. All these things that you hear about-constitutional government, freedom, liberty and parliaments—are but jokes.’
Vivekananda proclaimed himself to be a socialist and suggested a socialist system for independent India. He said: ‘I am a socialist not because I think it is a perfect system, but half a loaf is better than no bread.’ He declared: ‘Let this be tried—if for nothing else, for the novelty of the thing. A redistribution of pains and pleasure is better than always the same person having pains and pleasure.’
He declared that the future belongs to the masses: ‘When the masses will wake up, they will come to understand your oppression of them and by a puff of their mouth you will be entirely blown away!’
He wanted the upper classes of India to forget their exclusive privileges and merge themselves with the masses. ‘Let new India arise out of the peasant cottage, grasping the plough; out of the huts of the fishermen, the cobbler and the sweeper. Let her sprung from the grocer’s shop…let her emanate from the factory, from marts and markets. Let her emerge from grooves and forests, from hills and mountains…’
As Vivekananda was a monk, it was not possible for him to work openly among the masses. Besides, he was also aware of the ever watchful eyes of the intelligence forces. Hence, he chose his young sanyasins and youth to carry out the work of raising the downtrodden and to work out the transition towards a socialistic state. Using religious terminology the masses were to be awakened and organised. In his letters and lectures, he emphasised the need to work among the poor. ‘Where should you go to seek your God—are not all the poor, the miserable, the weak Gods? Why not worship them first? Why go to dig a well on the shores of Ganga?’
He questioned monks: ‘But what have we, several millions of sanyasins, been doing for the masses? Teaching them metaphysics? That is all madness…’
‘If you want any good to come, just throw your ceremonial overboard and worship the living God, the Man-God—every being that wears a human form…Neither it is work to cogitate as to whether the rice-plate should be placed in front of God for ten minutes or for half-an-hour that is called lunacy. Millions of rupees have been spent only that the temple-doors at Varanasi or Virindavan may play at opening and shutting all day long! Now the Lord is having His toilet, now he is taking His meal, now He is busy in something else… And all this, while the living God is dying for want of food, for want of education….. Let some of you spread like fire and preach this worship of the universal aspect of the Godhead.’
‘If you seek your own salvation, you will go to hell. It is the salvation of others that you must seek… and even if you have to go to hell in working for others, that is worth more than to gain heaven by seeking your own salvation… Believe me, from the shedding of our life blood will arise gigantic, heroic workers and warriors of God who will revolutionise the world.’ His feelings were expressed in the poem ‘The Living God’:
‘He who is in you and outside you,
Who works through all hands,
Who walks on all feet, whose body is all ye,
Him worship and break all other idols
Ye fools! Who neglect the living God,
And His infinite reflection, with which the world is full,
While ye run after imaginary shadows,
That lead alone to fight and quarrels, Him worship, the only visible! Break all other idols.’
Admonishing the educated youth of India, the Swami said: ‘You are thinking yourselves highly educated. What nonsense have you learnt… taking some university degrees, you consider yourselves educated! Fie upon you!... What is the goal of your education? Either a clerkship or being a roguish lawyer or at the most a deputy Magistracy…What good it will do to your country at large? Open your eyes and see what a piteous cry for food is rising in the land of Bharata, proverbial for its wealth!... Is there not water enough in the sea to drown you, books, gowns, university diplomas and all?’
He explained to them: ‘I consider that the great national sin is the neglect of masses, and this is one of the causes of our downfall. No amount of politics would be of any avail until the masses in India are once more well-educated, well-fed and well-cared-for. They pay for our education, they build our temples, but in return they get kicks. They are practically our slaves. If we want to regenerate India, we must work for them.’
He diagnosed that the root cause of all ills was illiteracy and illiteracy was due to poverty. Hence he exhorted his young followers to reach out to the masses and educate them. ‘Now if the Mountain does not come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the Mountain. If the poor boy cannot come to education, education must go to them.’ The poor should be given scientific and secular education.
He was so keen and enthusiastic to spread education among the masses that he had chalked out a plan in this context. In a letter to his disciple, he wrote: ‘I am born to organise these young men; nay hundred more in every city are ready to join me; and I want to send them rolling like irresistible waves over India, bringing comfort, morality, religion, education to the doors of the meanest and the most downtrodden. And this I will do or die.’
He asked the youth to awaken the ‘Sleeping Leviathan’, that is, the masses, who when that was realised would blow out oppression. Masses require new ideas and the duty of the youth should be to ‘put the chemical together, the crystallisation comes in the law of nature. Our duty is to put the ideas into their heads, they will do the rest.’ He travelled to different parts of the country and everywhere roused the youth saying that they had a duty towards the nation which lived in the cottage. ‘Who cares whether there is heaven or hell, who cares if there is a soul or not, who cares if there is an unchangeable or not. Here is the world and it is full of misery. Go out into it as Buddha did, and struggle to lessen it or die in the attempt. Forget yourselves; is the first lesson to be learnt, whether you are an theist or an atheist, whether you are an agnostic or a Vedantist, a Christian or a Mohammedan.’ ‘Do not wait to cross the river when the water has all run down. You must have a hold on the masses.’
So much was his concern for the masses that he often rebuked the youngsters for neglecting the masses and focusing only on the political aspect. Once he got infuriated at a gentleman from Punjab who came to hear his spiritual lecture. In those days Punjab was near famine. Instead of giving a lecture on religion, Vivekananda spoke on ways and means of providing relief to the suffering masses. To the visitor it was a wasted visit. When he expressed his resentment, Vivekananda told him angrily: ‘Sir, so long as even a dog of my country remains without food, to feed and take care of him is my religion and anything else is no religion or false religion.’
He did not only preach, he lived every moment of his life to serve the Daridranarayna. His compassion transmitted to his disciples too. In the summer of 1897 during famine in the Murshidabad district of Bengal, Vivekananda’s disciples dedicated themselves in providing relief to the suffering people. In 1898 when plague broke out Vivekananda, himself came to live in a poor locality and served the victims. His disciples, including Sister Nivedita, were seen cleaning the streets of the plague affected localities.
During his last days, many students from schools and colleges used to visit him at his Belur math to hear his lectures and to pay obeisance. He would burst like a hurricane on his audience. None could escape his magnetic influence and fiery zeal. Numerous students gave up their studies and followed the path carved out by their hero. Many Swamis of the math too dedicated their lives to accomplish the task assigned to them by their master. Within three years of his demise, Bengal witnessed a revolutionary movement in which the youth participation was prominent. No wonder during raids in school and college hostels, the government found photographs and copies of Vivekananda’s lectures in almost every room. His compassion for the masses made him the precursor of all the Left movements in India. Under his inspiration, the youth joined different streams of the freedom movement and kept on making revolutionary efforts to liberate the country and to organise and awaken the masses. Unfortunately the dream of the Swami still remains unaccomplished. The befitting tribute to his memory on July 4 would be to work for and strengthen the forces that are striving to establish a casteless and classless society devoid of any kind of discrimination and deprivation.
The author is an Associate Professor, Satyawati College, University of Delhi.