Saturday, February 20, 2010

Reply to Karandeep Singh

Karandeep Singh wrote:
sir, i saw your community dalit marxism. with dew respect i want to say that Marxism is about equality to human beings without discrimination on any basis. Dalit Marxism fails the basic concept of marxism. kindly remove dalit from it and help make India a discrimination free nation.

The due respect you were talking about is as misplaced as it was misspelled. Marxism's "basic concept" is that there is no equality. And, that there cannot be. Neither in nature and society nor in human thought. Kindly get this point right. It is fundamental to Marxism.
Things would have been simple if your idealism is practical: eliminating discrimination, by deleting words. It is also good that world is not like the MS word because someone with your well-meaning but ultimately meaningless idealist enthusiasm would delete good things along with, or even instead of, the bad ones.
I am assuming that you are sympathetic to Marxism if not much familiar with it. If so, let me argue this way: you might be aware that Marxism wants to side with Working classes as opposed to exploitative-parasitical classes. It is partisanship, not siding with the whole humanity but only a portion of it. It is discrimination. Bias. Could you accuse Marxism of bias for this? You can't, because what Marxism questions is the very ‘bias-is-bad-always’ idea. It further denies the possibility of neutrality. In other words, it is simply not possible to be unbiased, non-discriminatory, to be neutral, in anything. If such is not even possible, Marxism says, the talk about non-discrimination is mistaken or downright misleading. You might have known about this writer, Bertolt Brecht. Look up for him, if you haven't. He said something to the effect that, ‘on an uneven surface the shortest route from one point to the other is necessarily crooked.’ According to Geometry of abstract and even spaces, the shortest line between two points must be a straight one. Brecht is a Marxist and understood it and found a striking, memorable way to put this point across. In the exploitative world, you need to build a discriminatory mechanism to eliminate unfair, unnecessary discrimination. How absurd it would be to expect a doctor to give same medicine in same measure to all patients for all complaints? Marxism says we need to have a highly biased and discriminatory principles and practices to correct the existing inhuman discriminations and equally ‘inhuman non-discriminations.’ The second point is as important as the first one. Marxism is not an argument for indiscriminate actions or thinking.
For example, nationalism talks as if everybody in the nation is equal and all in a nation have common interests. Marxism says it is a ‘false ideology’ as far as it is spread by sections with vested interests and ‘false consciousness’ of those without them. Marxism says, the interests of the exploiting, the oppressing classes are different from those of the working/exploited class (including those denied work). Therefore, the idea of a common nation is absurd logically and dangerous politically. When Marxism calls nationalism a danger, it is taking only the point of view of the losers of nationalism, and, refusing the perspective of the beneficiaries of nationalism. Marxism is always already biased and open about it.
Now, let us come to your objection to calling ‘our’ Marxism Dalit. Why not?
Do Dalits have no right to be Marxists? Can’t Dalits read Marxism, practice it and develop it? You may still say, ‘you can, but not AS Dalits but as the oppressed, or the workers or simply communists. It is as absurd as the advice to earlier Marxists by liberal nationalists that “ask for more justice to the poor and the weak but do it from a nationalist point of view. Tell those in power that our fellow French men, they are suffering, let’s do something about them.’ This approach was not acceptable for Marxism then and not for Dalit Marxists today.
You might again counter it by saying that by calling ourselves Dalit Marxists we still allow caste to define our identity or self-understand and perception of others. But the point is to eliminate the caste.
Marxists want elimination of not only caste, but also nation, wage-labour, family and many more things. Yet, if you notice, Marxists are the first to take up the demand for raising the wages. Why? Is it inconsistency ?
Marxism is a philosophy of practice, it takes the permanent dynamism of everything into account, views things as part of processes and not as a fixed set of rules followed like ritual or chanting hymns. You build a movement and consciousness by taking up the issues of the toiling, oppressed and excluded people they feel and in the process of strengthening, refining the demands, aspirations.
The most oppressed community, Dalits, in the country need to be the lead-agent of change for better. Of course, no communism is worth its name if caught up permanently in a nation-state. Yet, we begin with Communist Party of India (A, B, C, D) and first work within the existing borders, however unnatural or irrational they may be, toward the final goal of communism across the globe. We are for elimination of gender discrimination but we start that process by women organizing themselves independently, separately.
There are good liberals who refuse to see criminal side of governments and capitalism, feudalism, patriarchy, caste system, plunder of tribal lives and livelihoods. Not all of them are idiots or criminals. But we reject their solutions because they think the above mentioned list of oppressive-exploitative mechanisms are in need of reformation. They cannot be. They can only be re-formulated. Marxism differs from good liberalism or liberal nationalism, philanthropy in seeing that there are certain things which we can’t be controlled for too long but can only done away with. Capitalism is one such, Caste is another. If you agree with this, it is not difficult to understand that you MUST first see, accept as real, the things you want to destroy.
We should not be like that proverbial cowardly cat. This cat, for fear of seeing humans, drinks milk eyes closed. Many Upper-Caste Communists behave exactly like this cat, they close their eyes to the reality of caste and assume that it is just in the eyes of the beholder. Caste is no more a superstition than capitalism is. Just as some pre-Marxist socialists thought oppression and exploitation was caused by the “greed” of capitalists, our own 21st Century Upper Caste Indian Marxists imagine that “caste feeling” is an inability to overcome a backward feeling. They say: forget about your caste and mine, it will go away. Somehow, they don’t say that about Capitalism or family system. Imagine telling workers, overcome your feelings being a worker, think like a human being. You will not be seen as a worker in cinema hall. All are equal there. Same movie for those in the balcony or in in cheaper, lower front-row. Probably, it does work as long as worker could still spare some money for going to movies or they are not killed for sitting in the same row as an upper-caste man.
Some of them don’t stop there. They think those of us, Dalits, are themselves to be blamed for using ‘caste’ in discussions and politics, thus prolonging it. There are people who naively believe that many people are poor because they did not study well in the school. Or, lazy people, not good at their work, not disciplined, or victims of misfortunes. Such a thing may be true in many individual cases in the immediate sense. This line of thinking is known as “blaming the victim.” Seeing and fighting against “victimization” is Marxism’s method. It wants human beings who refuse to be victimized or victimize. It says such human beings could be born in a society without triaining in victimizing or being victims or both. But, such society could be built only by asserting ourselves proudly as Muslims, Women, Workers, Dalits and Kashmiris, so on. Dalit Marxism says that Marxism in India, just like Russian Marxism of intellectuals before it gained currency among the working class, hitherto was caught up in the hands of upper-caste people and sensibilities, a kind of monopoly, similar to education in earlier times. And time has arrived now when it should be taken up by those who are proper agents of it- Dalits.

1 comment:

  1. Sir, I like to join the discussion on this thread. I believe that 'Dalit Marxism' is a distorted category which not only distort Marxism but also reactionary in nature. By reactionary one means that it pays to the interest of the business class in India.

    First, 'Dalit' prefixed to Marxism robs the Marx's theoretical framework for understanding history from the perspective of dialectical historical materialism. The fundamental definition of the oppressed (working class) as argued by Marx and Engels stem from their nuanced definition of labour. Thus for Marx and Engels, 'Slave' represent a particular form of labour that is rooted in a mode of production that is different from 'serf' rooted in another mode of production and both are different from 'proletariat' based in totally different mode of production. Fundamental to this distinction is the understanding of the notion of 'labour' attached to each in relation to the mode of production.

    Unlike 'slavery' and 'feudalism' which has no universal existence except the tiny patch of European mainland, 'proletariat' has a universal signifance as far as the form of labour embodied in it within the world capitalist system.

    In this sense, capitalism represent a break from its anterior modes of production where notions of universality embodied in the labour form is absent. We are familiar with debates centering on Feudalism and non-European world among Marxist intellectuals.

    If 'proletariat' has a universal siginifance to unite the seemingly diverse labour under a mode of production that is universal in character, it is anachronistic to think of doing away with the term for an alternative one.

    First, 'Dalit' embody no uniform labour process in India. They may represent a subjugated labour but that in itself does not explain the specificity or uniformity underlying the labour form or labour process, the crux with which Marxism engage.

    In his 'Principles of Communism', Engels was categorial in making distinction between the slave and sert, between slave, serf and proletariat. Underlying the distinction is a labour form or a labour process specific to a mode of production. By introducing such sweeping category like 'Dalit' which does not embody the uniform labour form or labour process in India and also has no legitimate reference to the theoretical nuances of Marxism, you ultimately intend to distort Marxism and in the process pay to the interest of corporate class in India.

    'Dalit Marxism' only represent a utopian (idealist) thinking that is distortive and reactionary in character.