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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 24, June 5, 2010

Can the Left (Communists) become the National Alternative?

Thursday 10 June 2010, by Sharad Patil

I have slightly modified the title of Chaturanan Mishra’s paper in Mainstream (May 8, 2010). There is no traditional Socialist—even Lohiaite—party in India today. All Lohiaites have formed, according to Mishra, casteist parties. No united front with casteist parties, he declares; but as the Congress or its splinters, like the Maratha Sharad Pawer-led NC, are ‘secular’, the CPs may have united front with them in order to prevent the ‘communal’ BJP from coming to power.

This shows that the CPs consider caste to be more reactionary than class because ‘caste is divisive’. He makes this point clear in his concluding remarks:
…We have to look into the problems of various castes and genuine grievances should not only be supported but we must also fight for their redressal. In the past we supported the Mandal Commission’s recommendations, the reservation formula upheld by Shri Karpoori Thakur but did not agitate for those; in fact we lost even our base when the agitation was launched by the caste leaders who thereby came to power.

In fact when the Mandal Commission sent its questionnaire to all State governments, the only State Government that did not answer was the LF Government of West Bengal. Jyoti Basu told the deputation of the SFI morcha that there are no OBC castes in West Bengal. The SFI of the JNU demonstrated against the Mandal Report. In the very first seminar on Class and Caste held in the Kalina Campus of Mumbai University, Dipankar Gupta said in the opening session that the LF governments had already abolished the caste system in their States. I asked him: “Mr Gupta, where do the SCs and STs live in West Bengal, in its villages and towns or outside?” He hesitated and then admitted: “Outside the villages and towns.” I continued with my query: “Then how do you claim that the LF governments have abolished the caste system?”


TWO papers by two Bengali Marxists have appeared in Economic and Political Weekly and Mainstream criticising the unilinearism of the Indian CPs. Both are traditional Marxists and do not seek philosophical departure. Kosambi considered historical materialism to be a tool, means to investigate past and present societies; but still he did not give up the class methodology. There was only one Marxist indologist, D.R. Chanana, who took the methodological departure in exploring ancient varna slavery in his ‘Slavery in Ancient India’. According to him slavery in ancient India was not chattel, class slavery, but communal, varna slavery. Will Mishra run him down as a casteist in historiography?

Even he could not extend his investigation to disclosing that Buddha accomplished the revolution of abolishing varna slavery. All Marxist scholars consider Buddha to be a social reformer. Only Ambedkar recognised him as the greatest revolutionary of India; but he was unable to find out which social system he abolished. S.G. Sardesai had written in despair that Indian history is an insoluble riddle!

Irfan Habib, a great historian, has blamed Buddha for ushering in the present jati system. His class methodology misleads him. Buddha only abolished varna slavery. The jati feudal states of Magadha and Kosala had arisen on the corpses of slave oligarchies independently, in the course of inexorable social development in the lifetime of Buddha. Every new exploitative society has a progressive phase because it increases production many times, by the jati society ten times, according to Kosambi. But Buddha did not praise the jati feudal society. In the Vasetha Sutta he says that there are jatis (species) in the animal and vegetation world, but there can be no jatis in the human world. He hints therein that the jati system will also have to be abolished in its moribund stage. His Dhamma was not a religion at all. It was not meant for upasakas (laymen), but was for his revolutionary Samgha of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis. He told Ananda that the Dhamma would last for 500 years, implying that a new doctrine (philosophy) would have to be created for abolishing the jati system. This is in contrast to the Marxist philosophy. The CPs still claim that even after the collapse of European socialism Marxism is applicable to the caste-class India. Here Buddhism comes to the rescue again.

The Dignaga School

THE Buddhist Mahayana added Bodhisattva to Buddha in order to take anticaste philosophical departures. Among its several great schools, the Dignaga School (+400 to +800) was the greatest. Buddha’s dialectics of universal impermanence: ‘Sabbam a-niceam’, which left the period undema-rcated, was taken advantage of by the brahmanical philosophical camp to prove the permanence of the jati system. Dignaga declared by his Kshanika-vada that all phenomena perish the very moment they came into being. Non-momentary pheno-mena are unreal! Dignaga’s Kshanikavada has been proved to be prophetic by the software. He further said that every phenomenon is ‘svalakshana’ (unique) which nips in the bud similarity of phenomena turning into identity, varna and jati turning into identity with class. Every phenomenon being unique, varna and jati have to be investigated separately in order to find out their laws of motion. By equating jati with class the CPs have lost the ability of finding out the laws of motion of the present caste-class society.

Marxism’s epistemology is circumscribed by consciousness. Mind is not homogeneous. It is dual, made up of consciousness and the sub-conscious. Christopher Caldwell proposed inclusion of Freudism in Marxist philosophy; but he was denounced by the Stalinist British Communist Party even after his martyrdom in the Spanish civil war. The Dignaga School’s epistemology of Sautrantik Vijnanavada was made up of the dual mind and with it it defeated the casteist attacks of the brahmanical philosophical camp. Can this unique struggle in Indian philosophy be called casteist?

The Enlightenment of the caste-ending bourgeois democratic revolution will not succeed without this Dignagean epistemology. And the revolution itself will succeed only when it is led by the Sautrantik Marxist philosophy.

The Left debacle in the recent Lok Sabha elections ws due to its being guided by the unilinear Marxist philosophy and its class methodology. Greater disaster awaits it in the next Assembly elections if it persists in that.

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

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