Re: [OPE-L] Caste system

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Mon Feb 19 2007 - 05:09:52 EST

Why have the political measures - special representation in parliament
etc, failed to uplift the dalits?


I have only read to the middle of Ranganakayammas book so far, but my
guess at the moment would be that the problem lies in the mode of
production. Unless both the mode of material production and the
relations of production are changed the position of the dalits will only
change slowly.


By mode of material production I mean the contrast between manual
production and production by machine industry, by relations of
production I mean a change either to a society fully dominated by the
law of value or preferably to one of associated production.


The traditionally restricted occupations of the dalits appear to be
manual trades and manual labour of the most menial and dirty sort. Over
time, the development of capitalist society tends to eliminate manual
labour and replace it with mechanized production, and as such it tends
to eliminate those very branches of the division of labour upon which
the dalit social role was defined. The dalit branches of the division of
labour seem to correspond to a feudal level of development of the
productive forces.


Every society has to allocate  human labour in the abstract into
different concrete activities. In feudal society this allocation
typically occurs by birth, in capitalism it is achieved by the law of


In feudal society the rate of change of the forces of production is
slow, thus there is an unending cycle of production within which a
hereditary principle of the division of labour can function. This just
makes it possible. The fact that it does so function also depends upon
there being an economic interest on the part of the dominant classes in
society in maintaining this division of labour - the point that
Ranganakaymma brings out about the caste system being in the interest of
the upper castes.


In bourgeois or civil society on the other hand there is an incessant
change in the structure of the productive forces. Resources are
constantly having to be re-allocated between different branches of
production, and this is regulated via the law of value on the market.
Commodities that are in demand rise above their value, this then directs
labour and resouces into the that branch of production. 


Abstract labour, which rests on the potential of a human being to learn
any activity and transfer to it, exists in all societies, for without it
no division of labour would be possible, but in pre-capitalist societies
it is masked. Marx remarks, that it is only when human equality reaches
the status of a commonsense prejudice, that the secret of value as
congealed labour could be revealed. Thus, only with the onset of
bourgeois civilization could value be understood, though the phenomenon
goes back to antiquity.


There is thus at the abstract level a contradiction between the logic of
bourgeois society and the logic of feudal society. Reading the quotes
from Ambedkar  in Ranganakayammas book, he appears as a classic
progressive bourgeois reformer - he reminds me of Abraham Lincoln,
calling upon the logical principle upon with bourgeois society is based
- 'all men are created equal', and using this against the ideas of
Ghandi which are revealed to have strong feudal elements. 


But consider what the impact of Lincoln was. He prevailed agains the
slaveowners in America in a military way. He utterly crushed them in
war. Ambedkar  had no such success against the landowning classes in
India. But even with that success by Lincoln, what was the fate of the
black people of America. Were they raised up from slavery to the full
status of free citizens?


No they were not. What happened was that the slave mode of production
was replaced by share-cropping, a semi-feudal mode of production. During
this period the blacks, became in effect a depressed caste in American
society, a position which would have fossilized were it not for the
development of the productive forces. It was not until the 1960s that
the blacks were able to rise up in struggle to win full democratic
rights in the land of the free.


Why did it happen then?


It happened because the old mode of production based on manual field
labour was abolished by the introduction of machinery. The
share-cropping class was liquidated by mechanization and migrated to the
cities to become an urban proletariat, subject to the law of supply and
demand for labour power. At this point they rose up to demand the same
rights as any other proletarian because their particular and depressed
social role had now been abolished.


This  could only be won by a fight, and the most that they won was
equality as proletarians, they remained exploited as such, but there was
a change from the old relations of production.


It is evident that the capitalist forces of production are still much
underdeveloped in India today compared to the US in 1960. This, within
bourgeois society, must be at the root of the continued existence of the
dalits as a caste. Any socialist transformation would also have to
transform the forces of production, to raise them to at least the level
of advanced capitalism.







Paul Cockshott <wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK> wrote:

        I have read through 'Marx on Caste' which you suggest, and
started on 'Buddha is not Enough, Ambedkar is not enough either, Marx is
a Must'. I am enjoying reading it. It is good knockabout stuff in its
criticisms of Ambedkar which seem mostly fair. The one I am not sure
about is her criticism of Ambedkars analysis of Sati.


        He explained this as arising from the attempt by the Brahmins to
mainatain endogamy. Widows, as surplus women, he claimed, would have
endangered this by potentially marrying into other casts, there being no
men of their own caste available to marry. Ranganayakamma replies 'what
about the surplus men', could the widows not have married widowers?


        I don't think this is an altogether valid criticism of Ambedkar
since male life expectancy being less than female life expectancy,
society tends to have more widows than widowers. One also has to take
into account the statistical effect of living in small village
communities. In such communities the likelihood of surplus men and
surplus women balancing, even with equal life expectancies would be
rare. Some communities would have more Brahmin widowers some would have
more widows. But even if we grant that Ambedkar had identified a real
problem for the upper castes, Sati would not have been the only
institution that could have been arrived at to maintain endogamy:
tolerance of polygamy and polyandry would also deal with the occurrences
of surpluses of men or women of a particular cast.



        From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of
        Sent: 14 February 2007 15:11
        Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Caste system


        Comrade Jerry,

        May I suggest two more references relating to 'Caste question'?

        One is a book and another an article. Both are by Ranganayakamma
and I did the translation (into Indian English).

        Title of the book:

translation of Ranganayakamma's Telugu book which underwent five
editions so far and is ready to go for sixth print since 2000. [The
English version is in paper back, pages 421, price:$10. postage free.]

        Title of the article:

        MARX ON CASTE. This is also a translation of a Telugu article
which Ranganayakamma wrote and appended to the Telugu version of her
book. The English version of the article is available in the website <> 

        You have to look under 'Articles'.
        This is for information of those who might be interested in the
caste question.



        glevy@PRATT.EDU wrote:

                Paul C:
                The above is a links page for sources on caste,
including struggles
                against caste, in India and elsewhere. Includes both
Marxian and
                non-Marxian sources.
                In solidarity, Jerry

        B.R.Bapuji, Professor,
        Centre for Applied Linguistics & Translation Studies,
        University of Hyderabad, Central University post office,
        HYDERABAD-500 046. (Phone:91-40-23133650 or 23010161).
        Residence address:
        76, Lake-side Colony, [End of Road opposite to Madapur Police
Station],Jubilee Hills post, Hyderabad-500033.
        (Phone: 91-40-23117302)



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B.R.Bapuji, Professor,
Centre for Applied Linguistics & Translation Studies,
University of Hyderabad, Central University post office,
HYDERABAD-500 046. (Phone:91-40-23133650 or 23010161).
Residence address:
76, Lake-side Colony, [End of Road opposite to Madapur Police
Station],Jubilee Hills post, Hyderabad-500033.
(Phone: 91-40-23117302)



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