EMS speaks at election public meeting, 1991 (Deshabhimani file photo)
Essay

The Marxist Definition: Class and Caste in ‘Creamy Layer’ Controversy

EMS Namboodiripad

The Marxist assessment of the communal problem has been that communal unity cannot be forged except on the basis of class unity bringing together various sections of the working people belonging to all the communities on the basis of a united militant struggle waged by the people against the oppressing classes. In other words, class unity of the working people against the oppressing and exploiting groups at the top was the real solution for the communal problem.

This is as true of the caste question as of the communal question. This may be illustrated by the way in which the Marxist movement in Kerala assessed and sought to solve the question of the demand raised by the backward castes for reservation in government service.

The Marxist movement in Kerala in its early days, extended full support to the demand of the backward castes for reservation in government jobs and in educational institutions. At the same time, it organized the working people (belonging to all castes and communities) on class basis.

It was the first Communist Government in the State which formulated and issued the rules according to which definite quotas were fixed for the backward Hindu castes as well as for Muslims and the Christian communities. [Read more]

R B More, 1945
Essay

Comrade R B More: A Red Star in a Blue Sky

Satyendra More, Subodh More

2017 marks the 90th anniversary of two historic struggles for social justice in India. These are the Chavdar Lake Satyagraha of March 1927 at Mahad, Maharashtra, in which thousands of Dalits for the first time drank water from the lake that had been for centuries set aside only for caste Hindus, and the burning of the Manusmriti at Mahad in December 1927. The leader of these struggles was Dr B R Ambedkar, and it was with these two movements that Dr Ambedkar first emerged as one of the champions of the struggle for social justice in the country.

The main organiser of both these struggles was R B More, who was to become a widely respected communist leader. On 11 May 2017, the 45th death anniversary of Comrade R B More, Anticaste.in republishes an essay written in 2003 by his son Satyendra More and grandson Subodh More. The essay was originally written as two articles by the authors separately, and were combined and edited by Ashok Dhawale for People’s Democracy[Read more]

Prabhat Patnaik at Stand With JNU, 9 March 2016. Photo by Subin Dennis.
Essay

Affirmative Action and the “Efficiency Argument”

Prabhat Patnaik

In this article, Prabhat Patnaik demolishes the “efficiency argument” which claims that affirmative action, including reservations, lowers the “efficiency”, or quality of output, in any sphere where it is practised. The basis for an analytical objection to affirmative action on the basis of the “efficiency argument”, he says, can only be provided by a rejection of the presumption of even distribution of talent across social groups, in favour of an alternative presumption that either talks of the all-round superiority of some groups over others (which underlies racialism and concepts like the herrenvolk), or talks of different groups having different kinds of talent (which is supposed to justify the caste system). If both of these alternative presumptions are rejected as they should be, then the analytical objection to affirmative action on the efficiency argument not only disappears, but becomes its very opposite, namely an argument for affirmative action[Read more]

B T Ranadive
Essay

Caste, Class and Property Relations

B T Ranadive

Nationalist tradition in India looked upon the struggle of the lower castes against the domination of the upper castes as a diversion from the general anti-imperialist struggle. The caste question was considered to be an internal affair of the Indians who, in spite of all the differences and inequalities among them, were expected to first fight for the freedom of the country, under the leadership of the bourgeoisie. At the same time, there was another current which held that India was unfit for freedom till the people first overcame the inequalities of the caste system. This current was represented by certain social reformers coming from upper castes whose bourgeois democratic consciousness was appalled by the monstrous iniquities of the caste system and other obscenities of Hinduism. In essence, both these traditions sought to delink the anti-caste struggles from the contemporary democratic and class struggles; they sought to circumscribe the anti-caste struggle within the framework of the existing political and economic system.

This essay by B T Ranadive makes a broad survey of both these traditions as well as certain other anti-caste currents which launched a direct attack on the inequality of the caste system. Ranadive argues that while anti-caste struggles, including those which take the form of a demand for reservation of jobs, etc, should be supported, what is called for is a deeper struggle, embracing the oppressed of all castes, against the present socio-economic system which is based on certain property and production relations which sustain both caste and class oppression. [Read more]

Ambedkar addressing a conference at Ambedkar Bhawan, Delhi, 20 May 1951
Essay

Contemporary Relevance of Ambedkar’s Thought

B V Raghavulu

(Article published in ‘People’s Democracy’ on the occasion of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary in April 2016.)

Everybody is talking about Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s life and work today. Ambedkar’s life work was to a large extent in the pre-independence period. He passed away on December 6, 1956. It was not even a decade since achieving independence at that time. And it was not even five years after the promulgation of constitution, in whose drafting he had played a major part. Though there were attempts by the ruling parties in the last seven decades of independent India to appropriate the legacy of Ambedkar to suit their interests, never were these efforts so intense as we are witnessing them today. [Read more]

EMS Namboodiripad taking oath as the First Chief minister of Kerala. (Photo courtesy: Frontline)
Essay

Castes, Classes and Parties in Modern Political Development

EMS Namboodiripad

5 April 2017 marked the 60th anniversary of the swearing in of the First Communist Ministry in Kerala, with Comrade EMS as the Chief Minister. Among the many far-reaching measures of the First Communist Ministry were the pioneering land reforms which abolished statutory landlordism and ‘jenmi’ system in the state, thus breaking the back of Brahminical landlordism and weakening “upper caste” Hindu landlordism as a whole. On the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of the First Communist Ministry, Anticaste.in republishes Comrade EMS’s landmark article “Castes, Classes and Parties in Modern Political Development”, published first in the journal ‘Social Scientist’ in November 1977. [Read more]

Essay

Dalit Resistance and the Role of the Left

Brinda Karat

A fundamental and core feature of India’s socio-economic structures is its caste system. Birth and descent determine positions in immutable social hierarchies. When Rohith Vemula penned his tragic yet passionate suicide note he described his Dalit identity as a ‘fatal accident’. And it is true. Had he been born into another caste, he would not as a child has had to witness his mother Radhika facing caste based indignities. Nor would Rohith and his sibling Raja have faced discrimination in their school classrooms. The cancellation of his scholarship, his only means of survival as a student at a top University, would not have led to the drastic action he took, thus making him a victim of an institutional murder. The institution in question is not just the callous university establishment, but in fact, the institution of caste. [Read more]

Essay

Khairlanji, then and now

Brinda Karat

Khairlanji, the name of a village in Bhandara district of Maharashtra, evokes the power, brutality and arrogance of India’s caste system and the impunity enjoyed by its most cruel practitioners. It was here, on this date 10 years ago, that Surekha Bhotmange, a Dalit woman farmer, was killed along with her two sons, Roshan and Sudhir, who was visually disabled, and her 17-year-old daughter, Priyanka. Each of them had been subjected to the most horrible violence by members of the dominant OBC caste in this area, who now employ the same upper-caste hegemonic practices and methods against Dalits that they had been victims of, and which they had once fought against. The state refused to admit that the murder of four members of a Dalit family in Maharashtra was a caste crime. Ten years later, the demand for a repeal of the legal protection for Dalits can be heard. [Read more]

Essay

Khairlanji verdict blind to dalit cause

Brinda Karat

Four years ago, Surekha Bhotmange, a dalit woman farmer living in the village of Khairlanji in Maharashtra was brutally killed along with her two sons, Roshan, the visually handicapped Sudhir and her 18-year-old daughter Priyanka. Her husband Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange escaped. The method of killing was brutal. Each was hunted down and beaten to death by a mob of men belonging to the dominant caste in the village. Recently, the Nagpur bench of the Mumbai High Court gave its judgment in the case. It held that caste had nothing to do with the killings. It agreed with the judgment of the sessions court on the non-applicability of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act) (POA). If Khairlanji was a shame and disgrace to our nation and our Constitution, the judgment adds another chapter to it. [Read more]