Capital, non-Dalits and intellectual honesty

ChandraBhan Prasad

While writing my previous column, a non-Dalit friend a Marxist and yet intellectually honest dropped in at my house.

He read the piece which dealt with Marx and Ambedkar. His face fell. He thought the Left intelligentsia was being unnecessarily embarrassed. But he could see there was very little or no difference in the programmes of the two great philosophers.

Tired and somewhat upset, my friend asked two questions. First, why did Ambedkar leave some space to private capital and second, why did Ambedkar refrain from using the term socialism, with the apparent suggestion that he didn t want to antagonise the British bourgeoisie. Does Marx use the term in his ten-point programmes? I asked. But we all know that Marx was the greatest advocate of socialism, came the reply. How do you know Ambedkar was not an advocate of socialism? I countered. But I have never heard of Ambedkar using the term, he insisted. You people never bothered to read Ambedkar, I persisted.

I placed before him Ambedkar s Volume I and asked him to consider these lines: State socialism is necessary for the rapid industrialisation of India. Private enterprise cannot do it, and if it did it would produce those inequalities of wealth which private capitalism has produced in Europe and which should be a warning to Indians. Further more, The plan has two special features. One is that it proposes State Socialism in important fields of economic life. The second special feature of the plan is that it does not leave the establishment of State Socialism to the will of Legislature. It establishes State Socialism by the Law of the Constitution and thus makes it unalterable by any act of the Legislature and the Executive.

My friend was at loss for words. He murmured, We didn t know, nobody told us. I reminded him, You people read all sorts of literature but refuse to even turn over pages written by Ambedkar! How many Marxist intellectuals possessed all 16 published volumes of Ambedkar, I wanted to know? He didn t have an answer to that either. Yet, he insisted, Why did Ambedkar leave any space to private capital?

I had no option but to turn to Mao. The Chinese Revolution probably greater than that of the Bolsheviks and comparable only to the Great French Revolution. Mao Tse Tung led the great Chinese Revolution. At the time, 1949, China was at the same level of development, or the lack of it, with the other colonial outpost India. To this, he agreed.

I put two straight questions to him. First, was the Chinese Revolution of 1949 a Socialist one or New Democratic? Second, was the national bourgeoisie not part of the ruling coalition after the revolution, and was not private capital allowed in China till 1956 when China officially went Socialist? I showed him Mao s most read document, The New Democracy where he outlines his thesis of revolution in two stages. The Socialist Revolution is to be preceded by a Democratic and Capitalist one, albeit, under the leadership of the proletariat. I finally asked, You don t have a problem with Mao when he calls his 1949 revolution a bourgeoisie one but you have a problem with Ambedkar when he allows a very small role to private capital. That, too, with a word of caution? If Mao, even after forging a coalition with the national bourgeoisie and allowing a role to private capital till 1956, remains a great revolutionary in the eyes of Indian Marxists, why cannot Ambedkar be accorded the same recognition when he so forcefully advocated the cause of State Socialism?

After hours of intense discourse, even heated ones, my friend agreed to buy Ambedkar s volumes and assured me he would read them. Watching him scratch his head with disgust and curse his seniors for having censured Ambedkar s writing, I criticised Dalit scholars for not having spread Ambedkar s literature amongst non-Dalits. I then gave him a good dinner and he left my house a more mature and serious man.

At night I wondered, How can people turn hostile towards Ambedkar without having read his books? I also thought, The varna/caste division and the exclusion of Dalits from the entire system, was the fundamental source of social conflict in India. And the fact is that Ambedkar, the only philosopher to propose a most perfect scheme to annihilate this order, is not acceptable to the very non-Dalits who claim to be desirous of change. I am always burdened by a thought if Mao had been born in India, would he have ignored the Chatur-varna order and not joined Ambedkar or would he have evolved into an Ambedkar?

I hope my doubts are proven wrong: Can a person not born a Dalit still think like a Dalit, can a person not born a Dalit ever evolve into an Ambedkar, can a person not born a Dalit ever become rational in his social attitude and intellectually honest?

Referred by:Sashi Kanth
Published on: February 21, 2001
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