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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 30, July 11, 2009

Diagnosis of Left‘s Debacle Still Undetected

Saturday 11 July 2009, by Sharad Patil

A spate of articles are appearing in periodicals on the debacle of the Left in the recent parliamentary elections. They are descriptive and do not go into the correct cause. The CPM leaders attribute it to the futility of the Third Front and to the blunder of withdrawing from the UPA on the issue of the atomic agreement.

The Economic Conjecture

Kripa Shankar comes closest to the correct diagnosis in his paper in Mainstream (June 12-18, 2009). To quote him:

The Congress had enacted ceiling laws and stood for a higher share in the produce in the case of sharecroppers. The Left Front Government better implemented it and provided security of tenure. But that was not the end of the road. Half of the rural households are landless in West Bengal and the land held by the top one per cent is equal to the land held by bottom 60 per cent of the households. Land should be distributed among the landless not by lowering ceilings which has proved ineffective but by acquiring the land of the bigger landowners by paying the market price. Such households are short of labour and lease out a fair part of their land. Besides, the younger generation after getting higher education is moving out of agriculture as agriculture is no longer a paying proposition. The National Sample Survey has found that the net income of an average farmer household from agriculture per month is less than Rs 1000. Large landed households will be only too willing to sell a part of their land as their progeny will leave the villages and there will be no one to cultivate the fields ….

Though Kripa Shankar has uttered a requiem for the living CPM, he himself is a traditional Marxist like the CPM, a firm adherent of its class methodology. I have proved in my three volumes, articles and debates that in pre-British India there were only castes and communities and class was brought by the British capitalist imperialism. Since then Indian society has been a caste-class society. To which castes these one per cent big landlords belong? Dipankar Bhattacharya, a top Naxalite, told The Indian Express in 2006 that only Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee could give away his 1000 acres. From this we can conclude that this class of one per cent landlords is constituted mainly by the elites of Brahmana to Kaivarta castes. Though the LF Government denied the existence of OBCs in West Bengal, Hiteshranjan Sanyal in his Social Mobility in Bengal (1981) and Sekhar Bandyopadhyay in his Caste, Politics and the Raj, Bengal 1872-1937 (1990) had proved that West Bengal had OBCs by presenting their list. I reviewed both the books in 1992; but S. Bandhyopadhyay could not get it published in any English periodical in West Bengal. Hence, I had to publish its Marathi translation in Satyashodhak Marxvadi (November-December 1992). The CPM’s Party Congresses were passing resolutions on establishing mass bases in the Hindi belt, while Mulayam Singh Yadav, Laloo Prasad Yadav, Nitish Kumar, etc. established mass parties in the post-Mandal period. At the same time the CPM’s student organisation SFI demonstrated against the Mandal Report in Delhi and Calcutta. I had warned the CPM against this unilinear Brahmanism in my paper ‘Struggle for a New Line’ published in Mainstream (July 25, 1978) by Nikhil Chakravartty, after which my district unit resigned from the CPM.

I have used the words ‘economic conjecture’ in the subtitle deliberately. In proposing the solution for West Bengal, Kripa Shankar has taken utmost care to make it appear non-revolutionary. In acquiring surplus land of the big landholders (he avoids the term landlord) for redistributing it to the ‘landless’, he proposes that it should be purchased at market price and the price paid by the government should be returned in easy instalments by the purchaser landless. No class struggle at all. Was the tebhaga struggle non-violent? I was a staff artist in the PHQ in Bombay when the tebhaga struggle was raging in undivided Bengal. The mini-revolution of ‘Operation Barga’ was non-violent because the bargadars were made protected tenants and not owners. If the monthly income of a Bengali farmer is Rs 1000, what will be that of the landless purchaser? What will be his net income after paying those ‘easy instalments’? The objective of abolishing landlordism by redistributing the surplus land to the landless is to create a developing home market for industrialisation. Will the debtridden purchaser form a home market?

The top one per cent are inseparable from their own castes. An Indian is still born in his/her caste and dies in it. He/she still marries in his/her caste. The six characteristics of caste (jati), in spite of all modifications that have taken place in it, stays put. The rural caste system is still governed by big landlords. Their domination is rooted in their land. Their power therefore is not only economic or class, but also social, or in caste. Their ordinary caste brethren, though mainly poor, are casteist. This casteism is their social power. To sell their surplus land means relinquishing their social, caste power. Their surplus land can be acquired from them only by abolishing the caste system. That is why it is not reformation, but revolution.

Reformation and Revolution

The CPM and CPI have borrowed their forms of revolution, namely, People’s Democratic Revolution and National Democratic Revolution respectively, from the West, while the Naxalites have borrowed their New Democratic Revolution from China. It should be borne in mind that China, Cuba and Vietnam, though they are even today class societies, made their bourgeois democratic revolutions in their national way. Mao’s On Contradiction (1936) shows that he had to make a departure in dialectics from Marx and Lenin in order to succeed in making his New Democratic Revolution. But Basavapunnaiah attacked Mao’s correct departure as anti-Marxist in the Marx centenary (1983) issue of Social Scientist. I had to defend and develop Mao’s departure. Because otherwise the ‘Caste-ending Bourgeois Democratic Revolution’ would have been run down as anti-Marxist. That paper in English still remains unpublished. Again I had to resort to the Marathi translation in Satyashodhak Marxvadi.

The post-Mandal period, in which the caste crisis is intensifying and becoming the general crisis of Indian society, has forced the CPs to take cognisance of the caste system, though not in a revolutionary way but in a reformist way. On the eve of the recent parliamentary elections Prakash Karat, the General Secretary of the CPM, had declared support to Mayawati’s claim to Prime Ministership when she had changed her party’s name from Bahujan Samaj Party to the brahmanical and Gandhian Sarva Jan Samaj Party and fielded most of the dons of UP as her party’s candidates in the parliamentary elections and glorified them as ‘messiahs of the poor’. This is the reformist, parliamentary way of abolishing the caste system!

Parliamentary elections have shown that the disintegration of the caste system has reached a decisive stage. The hegemony of the elite mirasdar peasant castes like Maratha has been overthrown by the subaltern peasant castes like Mali. The mirasdar peasant castes al over India are the mainstays of the rural caste system. Uddhav Thackeray, the Executive President of the Shiv Sena, alleged that Pavan-raje Nimbalkar of the Congress was murdered by Padmasimha Patil, the MP of the Nationalist Congress and close aid of Sharad Pawar. Narayan Rane, the Revenue Minister of Maharashtra, who had crossed over to the Congress from the Shiv Sena, counter alleged that the Shiv Sena had murdered the Communist MLA, Krishna Desai! Politicians have become gangsters and gangsters politicians! India stands on the threshold of the caste-ending bourgeois democratic revolution.

Indian society is not a simple class society, but a semifeudal caste-class society. Ambedkar had rightly said that the caste-ending revolution is more difficult than the class-ending revolution. The former is more difficult also because it has not been studied at all while the latter has been far more studied. Marxism’s methodology being exclusively unilinear, class methodology, except for its historical materialism, it is ill-equipped to study non-class societies. Becoming multilinear is not enough. Its conception of human brain being homogeneous, its epistemology, though it claims to be dialectical, its logic remains formal. Material phenomena being not strictly defined philosophically, similarity leads to identity. That is why all non-class institutions are included in class, their separate investigation is not considered necessary. That is why for revolutionary change of Indian caste-class society a more adequate philosophy is needed.

Revolutionary Solution

Marxism is in world crisis. But for philosophy India need not depend dogmatically on the West. Buddha’s philosophy of Dependent Origination (Pratitya Samutpada) not only solved the crisis in contemporary Indian philosophy, but accomplished the revolution of abolishing varna-slavery. He did not accept his philosophy (dhamma) from universal impermanence. He told Ananda that his dhamma would come to an end after 500 years. The (new) jati system, he told the brahmanas Vasettha and Bharadvaja, was to be found only in the vegetable and animal world, and not in the human world, implying that it will have to be ended like the varna slave system by revolution. The Dignagean school of Mahayana acted on his bidding by creating the anticaste philosophy of Sautrantika Vijnanavada and its dialectical logic. It was dialectical because his epistemology was based on the duality of human mind, which he termed as sa-vikalpaka (consciousness) and nir-vikalpaka (subconscious). By characterising every phenomenon to be unique (sva-lakshana) he nipped in the bud the possibility of similarity turning into identity. Every phenomenon, even if similar, has to be studied separately. Varna and jati being institutions of exploitation and administration they are similar and hence identical to class for Marxists. Even Kosambi and Debiprasad Chattopadhyay take the short cut of equating varna and jati to class. According to the Dianagean philosophy, varna and jati are unique and hence they have to be studied separately. Marxian methodology is needed to study them. Hence a synthesis of these two philosophies has to be made, out of which emerges the new philosophy of Sautrantik Marxism. Neobuddhist dalits are attracted to it, because Dignaga and Dharmakirti were Buddhist bhikshus. This affinity apart, it is the most advanced revolutionary philosophy and it can solve the present revolutionary crisis of India.

Chaturanan Mishra’s ‘Rebuilding the Left and Renewal of Socialism’ (Mainstream, June 6, 2009) offers no solution to the present revolutionary crisis of the caste-class society. The paper’s ‘renewal of socialism’ is neither renewal nor creative. Like Buddha Marx himself should have proposed that this totally new society would need a new philosophy. European socialism (!) collapsed without imperialist intervention and the communist-ruled countries from China to Cuba are riding on the capitalist tiger. The main problem in building socialism that baffled Marx was the socialistic change of human mind. It is still unsolved. I am now writing my Vol IV: ‘Primitive Communism, Matriarchy-Gynocracy and Modern Socialism’. It is expected to be published by August-end.

The author is the General Secretary, Satyashodhak Communist Party, Dhule (Maharashtra).

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